I Hide My Chocolate

Midlife observations

Tag: Dating

All The Single Ladies

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Hey Romeo, Don’t Post Naked Pictures!

The other day, a young woman in my life posted a photo from an online dating site of a mostly naked man opening his door to potential girlfriends. I mean potential sexmates. The young woman’s caption was a sarcastic salute to the pitfalls of online dating. She got me wondering. It does seem difficult for young people to forge deep and committed relationships. Of course, if all the guys are immature and unattractive and think posting a naked picture of themselves will entice a mate, then, well, whatever, I have no words.

I feel for the beautiful, smart, funny, ambitious, adventurous, deeply caring young women in my life who would like to be in a relationship.  There really is no one good enough for them. Wait, what? How can that be? Surely my son will be a good, honest, sensitive, loyal, loving young man. Someday. There must be some good men out there! Have they buried their goodness under pressure to showcase their sexual prowess? Online? It’s difficult to let your personality shine when you have to sell yourself with a fabulous photo or catchy caption or impressive profile.

I met my husband on a group skiing trip. The group was a bicycling club in my area that skied in the winter. Although I spent 10,000 hours in grueling ballet classes as a teen, I was not a sports-oriented athlete. Discovering outdoor activities as an adult was a bit of a revelation and a fun way to be social. I met a variety of congenial people. And I met my husband. There was the shock wave of eye contact and the frisson when we shook hands and more body language and subtle contact when I maneuvered a seat next to him at dinner. We were able to get a sense of each other in the company of mutual cohorts doing an activity we both enjoyed. It was very conducive to romance.

Of course, in my day, I suppose the common way to meet people was at a party or at a bar. This too can inspire that eye-lock across the room and lead to romance, or a one-night-stand with an immature Romeo looking for just a sexmate. Maybe things haven’t changed very much. I certainly had better luck meeting people through friends and activities. Luck in the sense that it was safer, and the other person was generally a potentially good fit.

I caught a tip in a men’s magazine counseling guys on how to meet a woman at the gym. The advice was to go slow. Identify a woman who was open and smiling and not just intent on her workout. Then make one comment about the gym and go away. Then, next time, bring up a movie and see if she responds in a way that invites dialog. Then, next time, invite her out on a date. Slow, gradual, over several encounters. The magazine explained that men tend to come on too strong which turns off the woman and shuts her down. Yes! Hey Romeo, don’t post naked pictures of yourself!

Out of curiosity, I started asking people I know how they met their significant other. A few had stories of friends who had met online, but most of the people I spoke to had met their mate through a friend or on a trip or through an activity. We all expressed relief that we did not have to figure out online dating and deal with the anxiety around what to post and how to meet someone compatible. Some of the young women say that online dating has been a fun way of bonding with other young women, laughing at the ridiculous options. The men have buried their goodness under pressure to showcase their sexual prowess or financial success or intellectual achievement or whatever is trending at the time. Honestly, the women have too. Buried their real selves. Under a protective layer that they think is worth presenting to the dating world.

I hope the young people I love form deep connections with lovers and friends. Most of the young people in my life were brought up with parents in traditional and committed relationships and strive for that themselves, or think they should strive for that. They are all quite capable and independent and, I hope, happy. It is possible a traditional marriage with children is not going to happen for them. Certainly not with Romeo and his ilk.

Let’s face it, marriage is hard and not for everyone.  But there are so many ways to create a loving life with deep connections. There is more and more support for single people embracing their autonomy. 44% of adults over 18 are single and many prefer it that way. More and more co-housing communities are being created. But it can be difficult to go against traditional social norms, especially if that’s how you were brought up. And if you want to have children, it really is smoother to embark on that adventure with a partner.

How to find that mate? Well, not only do you need to be yourself, but you need to be open to another person’s self. And maybe, just maybe, it’s time to get off social media and take up some social activities.

Cartoon Credit:  Rob Cottingham

When Backpacks Made The Outfit

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Now We Are Seventeen (and a Half)

Now We Are Six

When I was One,
I had just begun.
When I was Two,
I was nearly new.
When I was Three
I was hardly me.
When I was Four,
I was not much more.
When I was Five,
I was just alive.
But now I am Six,
I’m as clever as clever,
So I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.

– A. A. Milne, 1927

Ah! The first day of school!  So full of promise.  Remember?  This year, I will be organized and brilliant.  This year I will be friendly and popular, a role model.  This year I will be new and different, the amazing me I aspire to be.

When you are a 17-year-old girl entering your senior year of high school, the stakes are high.  Where else to play out your dreams of being a better, bolder you than with your outfit?  The first day of school outfit.  Remember?

It was simpler when a cute backpack gave her all the confidence she needed.

I should have asked her what she was going to wear.  But I didn’t want to attach too much importance to The Outfit.  I’ve spent my life thinking that if I looked right, then I would be successful and people would like me.  I imbued my outfits with so much importance.  I don’t want that for my daughter.  I want her to know she is beautiful, completely and thoroughly, inside and out, regardless of what she wears.  I want her to know she is loved, completely and thoroughly, regardless of what she wears.

Besides, she is more creative with fashion than I ever have been.  She watches fashion in music and entertainment and is keenly aware of who is wearing what and what looks stylish and flattering.  She is my style consultant these days, not vice versa.  (Though she cares what I think.  Still.  Thank God.)

Besides, I believe that at 17 you should be trying on different looks, different personas.  You don’t know who you are at 17.  Now is the time to practice being independent and grown up, especially during your senior year of high school when you have the safety net of a home base.   I purposefully did not ask her what she was going to wear.

When she came downstairs that morning, I paused.  Long enough to think.  But I didn’t think.  I went to blurt-out mode instead.  In my sternest MOM voice, I proclaimed:  “You can NOT wear that to school.  Those are hooker stockings.”  Really.  I said that.  “Hooker” is hardly even in my vocabulary but it poured out of my mouth.  (Ironically, they are my stockings.)  Who was that woman I turned into in that moment?  What happened to all the wisdom I’ve accrued over the years?  What happened to putting myself in her shoes and gently suggesting that her outfit was not appropriate for daytime nor for school?

I don’t want to face the fact that my little girl is beautiful and sexy and ready for a boyfriend, or at least a date.  I don’t want to remember some of the outfits I wore to high school that make me cringe now.  I remember, at the height of my thinness, wearing skinny jeans and stiletto mules.  I wanted to look sexy.  My mother said I looked cute.  I didn’t want to be the mom who was clueless about her own daughter, the way my mom was.  I want to give my daughter support and freedom to explore.  And yet…I lashed out.  Frightened, embarrassed, protective.  Don’t make the same mistakes I made!  Don’t be too sexy!

Don’t be too sexy.  Ah, that is the crux of it.  The judgment about looking too sexy.  Smart girls use their heads, not their bodies.  The judgment about being too sexy.  Good girls have more worthy activities to pursue than dating boys.  The fear.  The fear inherited from my mother’s stabbing.  The fear I’ve buried from my own murky memories.  Did that really happen?  I am not sure.  But judgment and fear – of sex, of food, of all things pleasurable and delicious – is not what I want to pass on to my daughter.

My nasty, thoughtless judgment merely solidified her own uncertainty about her outfit, her anxiety about the day and the upcoming year.  She didn’t defy me.  Another 17-year-old daughter might have said, “You can’t tell me what to wear!”  My 17-year-old rushed upstairs in tears and changed her clothes (to an amazing, adorable, and appropriate outfit, by the way).  I apologized.  She apologized.  We gave each other space.  But there’s no taking those words back.  No getting that day back.

How many days, how many years would I like to get back and do over?  We don’t get them back and we can’t do them over, but we can learn from them so that the next day, the next year, is better than the last one.

When we circled back to speak about the day, it was her half-birthday.  I gave her Rosemary Wells’ Voyage to the Bunny Planet (thank you my friend for the suggestion), where the day that “should have been” gets reimagined.  She said that she was sad that she would never have that day back, the happy and confident first day she had dreamed of and hoped to memorialize with a photo.  She shared her dreams for a fun and social senior year, in spite of the rigors of an AP-heavy workload and the anxiety of applying to colleges.  And then she confided that she wishes she could hang on to being 17 forever.  I too want this time to last forever.  To hold my girl close.  To magically turn the bad days into good ones.  But it is her time.  Her time to grow up, to become a woman, to figure out what makes her happy, what interests her, who she is.  Fly, beautiful girl!  Find your passion.  Live your life.  Don’t let me hold you back.

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