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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Safe Sex?

Practicing safe sex.  I was perusing the Google How-To page and I ran across the headline: "How to Practice Safe Sex".  But didn't we all get that class in junior high school?  
Students, this is how you roll a condom onto a banana/cucumber/baby carrot/egg plant.  
We all learned about STD's, pregnancy risks and the proper names of boys' and girls' reproductive bits.  But I started to think: no one taught us how to practice emotionally safe sex.
Like most of you out there, I got the same spiel that mom and dad passed along.  
When a mommy and daddy love each other, they hug and kiss and the daddy puts his… 
Well, I needn't go further but you get it, right?  We were all taught that LOVE was the emphasis.  This is what couples do when they're "in love."  I think we can all agree that sex is better between two people in love; it's absolutely sublime.  And it's admirable, the emphasis that mommy and daddy placed on a loving sexual relationship.  But come on, let's get real: more often than not, we're just getting our freak-nasty on without much forethought about emotional protection.
By show of hands, how many of you were prepared for the emotional baggage that came with your first one night stand?  Or a random hook-up?  How about that guy/girl you just kinda liked?  Or a pity fuck?  How did you navigate the rules of a friend with benefits?  What about with that guy/girl who already had a girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband?  Or the mother of all emotionally unsafe sex: a 'please, I just want to forget my ex' fuck?  (Trust me: those never work out as well as you hope!)  With all of that and hundreds of other different types of emotionally unprotected sex, is it any wonder why we're all so screwed up about it?
How many times were you faced with the dreaded "dry spell" and when the opportunity presented itself, you took it without commitment, without expectation and without giving so much as a second thought to "Dear Baby Jesus, I just want to end this god-awful drought!"?  How many times after having your heart broken did you try to fuck the pain away?  How many times have you used sex as a weapon?  That is, to spite an ex with someone else, or to engage in angry sex with your lover after a knock-down, drag-out fight?  And how many times did you rush into sex with someone new because you wanted to lock them down into something more committed?  How many times did you feel a relationship unraveling and use sex as a way to hang on to your lover just a little longer?
These are the things that mommy and daddy never prepared us for.  These are the things that our teachers never taught us in junior high sex-ed class.  You know, they really ought to make condoms for that.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

When Friends Become More

Hypothetical situation - -
Let’s say for a moment that you’re me, and a friend comes to you and says that she likes you and has been wanting to ask you out but hasn't because she (a) was afraid that you would say no, (b) was afraid that it would make the friendship awkward because she thinks you’d say no, and (c) wanted to respect the space that you’re in given your recent heartbreak.  Further, let's say that you've always thought this friend was attractive but (a) that you did recently get your heart stomped on and "all the king's men" are still working on putting your "Humpty Dumpty Heart" back together again, (b) this particular friend knows all about your last relationship and subsequent heartbreak because she was not only witness to, but support system, through those moments, and (c) this friend is moving out of state to attend a scholastic program in less than 6 months.
So what would you do?  I mean, besides talk it out in therapy?
Here's what Miss-Adventures did:
I talked it out in therapy.  I discussed my fears, of which there are many.  I addressed the negatives and accentuated the positives.  I pondered upon the possibilities, the unknowns and the what-if's.  And then I stuck my toes in the water ever so slightly, and ever so out-of-character.  I mean, really, let's be honest: I am a big ol' bull in a china shop.  Historically, I have always rushed without hesitation, usually knocking over small children and breaking valuables in the process.  But this time… no way.  Like a timid house cat, I'm peaking out from behind the sofa with wide eyes, open ears and a very careful step.
Here's the thing: I'm not just terrified of being hurt again (though that's a very valid concern), I'm terrified of hurting someone that I care deeply about.  Those of you who know me know that my friends are, without question, my everything, and my lady-friends will always take a back seat.  After everything I've been through, the only thing I am completely certain of is that when the Titanic is going down (and it always does), the only floatation device out there worth hanging onto are your friends.  So when I'm faced with a friend who wants to explore a deeper relationship, my chief concern is protecting her heart, like I would any other friend.  But when my concern is protecting her heart from mine… well that gets pretty tricky.
So I'm going in slowly.  Cautiously.  Carefully.  And terrified-edly.  But I'm going in.  I'm going in without expectation, without urgency and without any plan for the future beyond our next date.  And ya know what?  I'm enjoying it.  Like, really, enjoying it.  Enjoying the little touches, the innocent hand-holding, the rush of the goodnight kiss, the occasional sweet text messages that let me know that on I'm on her mind and the intermittent butterflies that tickle my insides. 
Could it be that, for the first time, I'm actually living in the moment rather than trying to ponder the possibilities of potential?

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Peeping Tom

I met him on the steps of the local art museum, and he was cuter than I expected. We wandered the food trucks awkwardly, me coming away with a cupcake and him wolfing down some tacos on the folding chairs lining the sidewalk. Small talk came easier after that as we wandered into the museum, eventually pausing over an exhibit as he said, "So, would you like to make out later?" It was a strange question, totally out of context as we looked at art and artifact, talking about work things, so I just shrugged. I wasn't in the habit of planning my affection, and 35 minutes wasn't enough time to gauge my attraction.
We found ourselves in an interactive exhibit built out of an old hot tub. Sitting on the benches, we amused ourselves with the questions about California that the exhibit provided, before he paused to answer a text. "Sorry," he said, "I made plans after this because I didn't know if you'd be crazy. Do you want to go have a drink with my coworker and I?" It sounded like a terribly awkward situation, but a drink sounded delightful, so I agreed. Minutes later, we were being kicked out of the museum as it was closing time, and to the bar we went!
Things started to go decidedly downhill once we arrived at the bar. He was weirdly condescending and several times toed the line of outright racism toward his Latin American coworker, which made both the coworker and I noticeably uncomfortable. He finally moved past this sort of need to puff out his chest and prove himself the bigger, badder dude, and the three of us settled into a nice conversation. This soon began to be interrupted by what seemed to be, bafflingly, attempts to prove his dominance over me. It started with a sterner-than-necessary, but still what I naively thought to be innocent, request for me to sit closer to him. A few minutes later, he demanded that I change my sitting position. Moments after that, he simply reached out and grabbed my hand, placing it around his shoulders. I must have looked visibly unsure of how to proceed with this unsavoriness, as his coworker cleared his throat and said he'd be soon calling it a night.
Mr. Charming paid the tab (but not without remarking how expensive it was, prompting both of us to offer him money. He brushed it away, saying, "No, no, it's the price of living in the city!"), and we headed to his car. Upon arriving, he handed me a piece of paper with his full name, phone number, email address and street address on it. "This is in case you feel the need to verify that I'm a decent person." Oh. Okay.
He then began pressuring me to make other plans for the evening. "I don't want to go to any bars. I chose the last place, so it's your turn to choose." I stated that it was probably too late for a movie, and the only other thing open would be a bar, so we should probably just call it a night. He tried to convince me that if I wanted to, we could prolong the evening by offering me three options:
  1. Hang out in the car. Inadvisable, as cars are uncomfortable!
  2. Drive to the hills. Inadvisable, as it's chilly outside.
  3. Go to my house. No foreseen downsides!
Obviously, it's not my habit to invite people I have just met into my home, so I repeated that we should probably call it a night. He reluctantly acquiesced, driving me home. Once we arrived, in a move that I was later advised by several male friends was absolutely predictable, he stated he needed to use the restroom. I hesitantly let him upstairs, and sat on the couch while he used the restroom.
"Oh! You use the same body wash that I do!" he proclaimed as he stepped into the living room. That's odd, I thought. I'm pretty certain I closed my shower curtain before I left the house, as is my usual habit. He'd have to had intentionally looked in the shower to find it, tucked in the corner. He didn't leave me much time to ponder this as he somehow folded his nearly 6' frame inexplicably into my lap, where he proceeded to tell me everything I didn't need to know about how he conducts relationships. He explained for a good 5 solid minutes that he was exploring poly relationships, and why he was pursuing them. I politely waited for him to finish, and then gave him a terse smile, advising that I wasn't interested in nor equipped to deal with poly relationships, sorry.
Thankfully, my response got him out of my lap, but only to move onto the couch where he quickly back pedaled, stating that he'd never actually had a poly relationship, and he was only interested in them in theory. He then went on to state that all he really wanted was a family, and spent the next 10 minutes telling me all of his emotional issues, and how they affected what he wanted in his ideal family dynamic. When he was done, he looked at me and said, "So? What do you think?" As if he'd given me all of this information, and that somehow meant I was required to either except or reject him on the spot. At a loss of how to react to this (although, looking back, I should have said, "REJECT! Have a nice night!"), I shrugged and said, "Wow, that was a lot of information."
Apparently, he took this as a positive marker, because he then kissed me. I'll admit, he was a surprisingly good kisser, so I went with it a moment, and then said, "Listen. It's late. I need to be up early...." "Fifteen more minutes!" he announced. Um, what? No. This process repeated itself three times before I forcefully stood up and said, "I REALLY need to get to bed." He looked hurt, and then indignant, and finally said his goodbyes before leaving.
If nothing else, I've learned that if someone needs to use the restroom, there's a perfectly good bar across the street.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Ray of Sunshine.

It was New Year's Day, and I'd taken my recovery nap, and found myself wearing fringe with nothing to show for it. It was time to find myself some trouble to get into. So, I took to the internets to find myself a date! An hour later, I was getting pretty to head out to my local watering hole. was closed. And so was my back up. And my back up's back up. After much texting, my date and I collectively found a place that wanted to serve the thirsty people of the Bay Area on a government sanctioned holiday.
I arrived to find he had already staked out a table for us. He met me at the bar as I ordered a drink. "Would you like it on the lady's tab as well?" the bartender asked, gesturing toward the woman at the table next to ours. He shook his head, looking slightly sheepish as I, confused, offered the bartender money. "Oh!" the bartender exclaimed, "I thought she was your date!" Iiiiiiiinteresting.
Drink in hand, we headed back to the table. We made small talk, but it quickly became clear that my date had some serious social anxiety, which seemed to be increasing the more we chatted. We finally started talking about what we did for a living, and after several minutes of listening to him trash his former employer in no uncertain terms, he finally started to talk about his new solo venture.
Him: So, do you partake in marijuana?
Me: No.
Him: Not at all?
Me: No.
Him: Well, I'm starting a home business helping those with medical marijuana cards do home growing...
Mind you, I have nothing against those who smoke, it's just not my thing. When someone specifically says, "Yeah, that's not really something I'm into, you should probably change the subject to something they'd show more interest in, and try to find some common ground. He disregarded this and proceeded to go on about this new venture. For 20 minutes. Aggressively. At the first pause, I excused myself to go to the restroom, as I definitely needed a break.
Coming back to the table, I noticed that he was deep in conversation with the lady at the table next to us. Yes, the one that the bartender had thought was his date. I sat down, and he continued his conversation with her until her companion finally arrived. After filling me in without any prompting on her situation, he then asked the dreaded question: "So, how has your experience with [dating site that we met on] been?"
First of all, I hate this question. Who wants to talk about other dates when you're trying to get to know someone you just met? Second of all, it was immediately obvious that he was not merely curious or making small talk with this question. Oh, no, he had a mission. His mission included systematically destroying any potential of this date going well. The conversation (and I use that term loosely, as I quickly found it was one-sided) included such gems as:
"I just know that I could never connect with someone I met on the internet the way I could connect with someone I met in the real world."
"People on [dating site that we met on] are just looking for the next best thing. They go on dates, but really they're thinking, 'Oh, I can do better than this.'"
"I'm pretty much always over [dating site]. I'll feel optimistic for a minute and activate my profile, but then reality strikes and I just delete it. So, don't be surprised if my profile is gone soon."
Listen, I get that dating is frustrating. I get that dating sites are extra frustrating, because a lot of them are full of flakes and people that probably shouldn't have profiles up, but guess what? The last person you should discuss your hatred of a dating site and the people on it with is someone you've recently met on that site. In fact, the last person you should talk about your dating frustrations in general is someone you're on an early date with.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The May-December Romance

How much of an age difference is too great?  We've all thought about it, right?  How old is too old?  How young is too young?  I mean, even if you're not single and dating, you only have to glance around while stuck in the grocery check-out lines to find the discussion staring you in the face.  Tabloid headlines like, "Demi and Ashton", "Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones", "Madonna and (insert name of flavor of the month)."  We talk, we gossip and we silently judge those "cougars" and "dirty old men."  Come on, admit it.  You do!  You know how I know?  Because we all do.  You are not alone.
What I've noticed is that the discussion and debate rarely come up when it comes to same-sex relationships.  Have you noticed?  Does the stigma not apply to same-sex partners?  Did you realize that Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi are fifteen years apart in age?  So are Elton John and David Furnish.  So are Rachel Maddow and her partner, Susan Mikula.  And yet, it goes largely undiscussed.  Why do you think that is?  Is it because there's no gender stereotype that fits here?  That is, no dirty old man dating a bimbo?  No desperate cougar trying to recapture her youth with a young stallion?  Or is it that homosexuality is still (and unfortunately) such a controversy that focusing on age difference just seems trivial?
Anyway, I digress.  What I want to talk about is, how many years is too many? and how do we make it work?
The unofficial formula that I've often heard is: half your age plus seven years.  For example, a 36 year old's cut off should be a 25 year old (36 ÷ 2 = 18, 18 + 7 = 25).  A 46 year old's cut off is 30, a 60 year old's cut off is 37, and so on.  Personally, I think it's a silly and ridiculous formula but I think the point here is that, the older you get, the less the age difference matters.
I've been on both sides of the spectrum.  My first girlfriend was 13 years older than me, which doesn't sound like that big of a difference at my age now, but at the time, I was only 20.  Always being a precocious kid, I couldn't see what the big deal was back then.  I was (or so I arrogantly thought) far more mature than my peers, so it made perfect sense that I would fall for someone whose age matched my maturity level.  It didn't take too long for me to realize, though, that I was in way over my head.  Her 33 years of life experiences ahead of my 20 gave her a significant advantage over me and when she was done using and abusing me, she moved onto another young and impressionable girl: my best friend from childhood.  It was then and there that I vowed to never again hook up with someone so much older than me.
My my most recent ex was ten years younger than me.  In the beginning, and only for a fleeting second, I thought that ten years might be too large of a gap for my comfort.  I was in my mid-thirties and she in her mid-twenties.  I remember my mid-twenties: I didn't have a fucking clue what I was doing with my life.  I didn't have a fucking clue about love.  And I didn't have a fucking clue who I really was.  But, as I said, my reservation lasted only a fleeting second.  Because when it came to the real things, values, communication, sense of humor and common interests, I thought she was surprisingly mature.  (At least, that's how she presented herself to be.)
In the end, of course, I realized that, despite her projected maturity, what she was experiencing in her mid-twenties was exactly what I had experienced too: the not knowing who I really am, the not knowing what real love actually looks like, the not having the confidence to be really fucking honest and having a strong penchants for other people's significant others.  (Been there.  Done that.  Happy to show you the scars some other time.)  I've since moved past that sort of behavior.  Now in my mid-thirties, I know what I want in a partner.  I can recognize how special true love is and how to respect, nurture and value it above all other things.  And I was, when we met, ready for the real deal.  And now I find that I am still making the same mistakes as my peers: that is, having had my heart broken by a young, beautiful and fickle girl.  Will that experience sour me on younger women forever?  Oh who knows… At this point in my life, the only thing I'm sure of is that I should never say never.  But there are many factors worthy of careful consideration:
Long-Term Relationship Goals:  This is a biggie.  At this point in my life, I am (or was until the shit hit the fan) looking for someone to stick around permanently.  I don't necessarily need a marriage certificate (though I will fight the good fight for my right to choose that option) or children but I wouldn't rule them out either, as long as I found the right person.  I'm not looking for someone to dance and drink at the clubs with.  I have my friends if all I wanna do is go out and have a good time.  I want the whole thing: love, passion, friendship, great sex, partnership, romance and someone to come home to.  Someone in their twenties is likely just looking for someone to fill their Friday nights.
Career Stages/Financial Disparity:  I'm gonna be honest here, I couldn't give a shit about the financial disparity between myself and my partner.  As long as my partner can contribute to our relationship in a healthy and productive way, I don't care how much or how little money she makes.  But that doesn't mean it's not an issue for her.  Likewise, I don't care what my partner does for a living, as long as she is fulfilled in the career of her choosing.  But I have to admit that this thought crosses my mind when my company throws its annual Christmas parties: Can she dress herself up and can she hold her own mingling and talking with highly educated professionals?  Not everyone is up to this task.
Energy Levels:  I'm lucky.  I'm a fairly active girl.  Even when I was a heavy girl (I used to be 100 lbs overweight), I still got out, swam, skied, traveled, walked, hiked and played outside with reckless abandon.  So dating a younger girl works well for me in that sense.  But my first girlfriend (who was 13 years older and very home-bodied) had a very difficult time dealing with my hyperactive personality. 
Health Issues:  I had this conversation with some friends not long ago - if you knew in advance of getting involved with someone that they had significant and progressive health issues (e.g., type-1 diabetes, cancer, hepatitis c, etc.), would you date them?  I hated sounding shallow but I answered, "no."  The bottom line for me is that I don't want to get emotionally invested in someone when I know for certain that our relationship has a looming expiration date.  Would I want to get emotionally invested in someone who I'll likely outlive by 10, 15 or 20 years?  Would someone younger want to get involved with me knowing the same outcome?
Cultural Differences:  With my first girlfriend, she would often make references to songs, movies and singers that I'd never heard of, and television shows that aired when I was too young to understand.  Lord, I don't think that woman ever got over the '70s-'80s "heyday" of rock-n-roll (insert eye roll here).  Conversely, I'd have a light chuckle over the fact that I remember when Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video premiered on MTV and my younger girlfriend hadn't even been born yet, or that my first girl-crush was on Lynda Carter from "Wonder Woman" and hers was on Kate Winslet from "Titanic" (ok, ok, I crushed out on Kate too but seriously, who didn't?  She's gorgeous!).  And I would laugh at the fact that while I was knee deep in college-aged angsty music like Alanis Morrissette and Sarah McLachlan, my ex was lip syncing to The Spice Girls (sooooo tell me what you want, what you really really want!).  While amusing, these things never really bothered me.  In the grand scheme of things, pop culture doesn't have an impact on the important things like values, friendship, communication, etc.  That said, there's nothing like a good pop culture reference to reinforce the gap and remind you that your life experiences cannot always be relatable.  The soundtracks of our lives are just plain different when you grow up in separate decades.  And if your girlfriend is sensitive about her age, it's probably best to keep those chuckles to yourself.
So while some will say that age doesn't matter, I say: it does… but only so far as you let it.  Maturity can be the great relationship equalizer in a lot of ways.  Not everyone's maturity level matches their actual age.  I've met grossly immature women who were older than me and remarkably grounded young women who are fresh out of nappies; you just never know what you're going to get with people.  BUT you have to admit that no amount of maturity or level-headedness can ever match the wisdom that comes from actual life experiences, valuable mistakes and hard fought lessons. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Recognizing One's Own Character Arc

Who have I become?  When I really step back and think about it, contemplate it all and take it in, I have to admit: I often don't recognize myself, and I can't help but marvel at my own "character arc."
Two years ago, I started to question what I wanted for my life.  I had, at last, admitted to myself and to my partner that I was no longer happy in our relationship and that ending our marriage may be the only way for me to find what I SO longed for.  I wanted love.  I wanted romance.  I wanted wild, unadulterated passion.  I wanted it all.  (I can be such a greedy fucker!)
It didn't come easily: the letting go.  I had a comfortable life with someone that I loved, trusted and came to understand was one of my absolute best friends in the world, but it wasn't a happy marriage.  So I left: hesitantly, reluctantly, mournfully and then, eventually, confidently.  It was hard (as the unknown always is) but I knew deep down that I would be ok.  More than that - I knew that I would be happy and that I would find the love that I knew I craved.  I was heading out on a quest to find a once-in-a-lifetime love.
So I strapped on my snorkel and jumped head first into the deep murky waters of dating.  And you all have graciously come along for a voyeuristic and vicarious thrill ride.  (Bless your sick and twisted little hearts!)  During that time, I've met some unusual characters, some fantastic creatures, some heart-breakers and some amazing friends.  It's been a wild fucking journey, no?  And trust me when I tell you: you don't know the hell or the half of it.
I've been propositioned by a hot-as-hell 18 year old college student online (tempting though she was, I'm a good girl and politely declined).  I was brazenly solicited for a threesome not once, but twice. (I declined them both, of course.  What kind of girl do you think I am?).  I've been groped, kissed and hit on… by random gay men in a bar (mostly innocent, but really? gay men?).  I've been stood up, dressed down, dumped, humiliated, humbled, cheated on and used in the most unbelievably sexy ways.  It's been good, it's been bad, it's been erotic, it's been uncomfortable, it's been hot, it's been frigid, it's been confusing and it's been enlightening.  I've scratched my head, searched my heart, listened to my gut and ignored my third eye.  There have been so many lessons to take in.
What I've found is that I've become gun-shy and fiercely guarded.  I've learned that when it comes to my heart and my love, "deal-breakers" exist only in theory.  And at this moment, while taking a breather and stitching up my wounded insides, I find myself trying to know and understand the woman I've become: more vulnerable and afraid than I've ever felt in my life, more compassionate and less judgmental of those around me suffering from their own broken hearts and dysfunctional relationships, less trusting and confident of potential lovers than when I began, but also less willing to wave off red flags, ignore alarm bells and brush off ye olde Spidey senses. 
Above all, I'm constantly amazed and surprised by my own uncontrollable emotions, thoughts, triggers and memories; I'm just not the same stoic, insensitive and impervious creature I had once been.  I'm beginning to think that I suffer from some form of romantic PTSD; it never leaves me and it's the very thing that makes me wonder: who am I?  what else is lurking around the corner?  is there someone out there who can hold onto and care for this heart?  and what the fuck happened to the confident, if not blindly optimistic, romantic reconnoiterer I once was?
Which is sort of a long-winded way of informing you all: I'm still on a dating hiatus and too busy working through my bullshit in therapy to devote any useful energy to dating.  Self improvement is a long and unpredictable journey.  So I'm sorry folks, I have no new material for you to feast on.  Thank jebus for our little Nugget, eh?