10 Things I Learned About Being Single

I’ve been divorced for a few years now, so I think it’s time to offer up some advice to those of you who may find yourselves newly single, especially if it’s been a while.  First of all, congratulations!  Secondly, don’t panic.  I’m here for you.  You’re going to be fine.

10 Things I Learned  About Being Single

Make your space your own. You’re probably on a budget, but that’s ok.  If you want to put up a Blade Runner poster in your dining room, no one can stop you.  Yes, I really do have a Blade Runner poster in my dining room. And also the one with the UFO that says,” I want to believe.”  Buy the bright purple sheets and the dishes that don’t match if they make you happy.  You may have no one to welcome you home but your teddy bear, so give him a place of honor so he can greet you properly.

Men expect to pay on dates.  Last time I was dating was college, and everyone was poor, so dates usually involved splitting the check. Since that time, I graduated (several times), took time off to raise children, and currently make a good deal less than most men do. So I’m not going to complain about a man picking up the check.  If you really want to pay your way, be prepared to offend your date.  He will take it as a sign you do not want to pursue the relationship.  But you should make bad dates pay, too, so at least you get dinner.  You can always reject them through text later. There may be some regional variation here.  Please let us know if everyone goes dutch where you live.

It’s ok to do things by yourself.  If you’ve never been to a movie or a decent restaurant by yourself, it’s time to indulge.  It won’t be as awkward as you think it will be.  Everyone else will be minding their own business, and you won’t have to share the popcorn.

While you’re at it, take a trip by yourself.  Even if it’s just a mini vacation.  Take the opportunity to speak to strangers on motorcycles with frightening tattoos  and sleep in the very middle of the hotel’s King Size bed (or the biker’s bed; I won’t judge). Wear something slinky to the hotel bar and your pajamas to breakfast the next morning.

Men are not condom savvy. What is up with that, guys?  It would be nice if men took care of this little detail on their own so they got the brand and size they like, but don’t count on it.  Prepare to pack your own and to speak up and ask him to wear one. Practice in front of the mirror.  “Sheath it or shove it.”

Do you remember when you first left home and you got to eat oreos and cheese out of the can for dinner and no one would know?  You can still do that! Only now it’s better because you can also have tequila.

Go out on dates with men who don’t seem right for you.  Last time you chose for yourself, you sucked, didn’t you? So give the guy who is too young or too old or too short or drives a Gremlin a shot at showing you a good time.  Unless you want to stay home with Mr. Fluffernutter.  You can always stay home with Mr. Fluffernutter.

There are things you loved that you gave up  when you were partnered. This is the nature of compromise, but you don’t have to compromise anymore, so take some time to remember what those things were and reincorporate them into your life.  For me it was the color green, loud synthpop, and rotel.  You can (and should) put rotel in everything.  It even goes with oreos and cheez whiz. And tequila.

Meeting men is really hard.  You probably don’t want to hang out where single men hang out (I still don’t know where that is), so concentrate on making friends who you like and let them set you up.  Also, try online dating.  See A Year of Online Dating PinkDogDem Style. 

Parking is way better than when you were 16.  And seriously, what is the cop going to do if you get caught, call your Dad? He’s not going to ground you from Florida.


An Open Letter on Dating While Fat

Dear Fat Girls:

I just ran across another one of those Dating while Fat articles on Salon.  You’ve read them, right?  Usually written by body-positive feminist bloggers.  It’s an important topic that we don’t talk about enough.  I’m not really that comfortable talking about it myself, but I’m going to.  Not because these articles reflect my experience, but because they don’t.  I do not want you to expect to be treated like dirt because of your size.  You should not expect it.  You should not tolerate it.

I am not immune to the negatives of skinny culture.  Sometimes I look at myself in the mirror, and I don’t like what I see.  Sometimes I see a picture of myself that makes me feel ugly.  Sometimes I get out of the shower and sit on my bed in a towel and look at myself below the knees and think how lovely my calves are because I don’t carry extra weight there. These are real things.  I do not let them define me.

What I want you to know is that pretty much everyone has pictures they want to burn, mirrors they want to break, and some physical features they like better than others.  This will probably happen to you. And to your skinny classmate.   You can both choose not to dwell on your own flaws.  Seriously, find something else to do.

This article, like others I’ve read, talks about how difficult it is to date when you are fat.  She’s not lying.  What I want you to know is dating is difficult.  For everyone. She says that men reject her because she’s fat.  What I want you to know is men will reject you for all kinds of reasons, and you will reject them.  It’s part of the dating game.

Yes, it has happened to me.  I do a lot of on-line dating which makes Dating while Fat especially tricky.  I’ve never had a man tell me straight out he did not want to be with me because I’m fat, but I’ve had two dates in particular (one of which involved me driving to Arkansas) where this horrible awkwardness started as soon as he saw me, and so I think that is what it was.  But I didn’t ask, so I don’t know for sure.  These were unpleasant experiences.  But what I want you to know is that there have also been times (more than twice) where I have gently rejected a man because I was not attracted to him.  I can’t point to one physical feature that turned me off.  It wasn’t because he was too short or too hairy or too bald, and these are things men worry about.  (I’m waiting for the Dating while Hirsute article.)  I’m not sure why I wasn’t attracted to them, really, but I don’t think that the fact I don’t know makes me a better person.  What I want you to know is that mutual physical attraction is really important.  And it can be tricky.  It may be trickier for you than for some.  Don’t let it stop you.

After the Arkansas fiasco, I’ve learned to be more upfront about my size with men I would like to meet.  Yes, this is an awkward conversation.  What I want you to know is what men like is women who are confident in their own bodies.  If you are not, fake it until you make it. Most of them do not expect your body to be perfect. They don’t even know what thigh gap is.  I don’t say, “I’m fat. Is that ok?”  I say, “I’m a DDD, and the rest of me matches.”  I have yet to have a man back down after I’ve said that.  It’s all in the presentation.

Dating while Fat articles often caution you against men who have a preference for larger women.  They say these men are perverts, fetishists, broken somehow.  This has not been my experience at all.  I will tell you the details when you are older, but my experiences with men who prefer larger women have been overwhelmingly positive, and they were otherwise normal men with all the flaws and strengths of other men.  I want you to know that a man who prefers bigger women, who treats you with respect, who makes your palms tingle, may be a great partner for you.  I also want you to know that there are other men who really don’t care one way or the other, and they can be great, too.

There are men who do care, I suppose.  Who do not want to date a larger woman.  Do not worry about these men.  No matter how cute he is, a boy who is not attracted to you is not someone you want.  It is ok to stay home and watch Netflix or read a book or play dress up with your cat rather than give a man like that one minute of your time. Even if he is an otherwise nice guy.

A man who is not attracted to you is not quite the same as a man who is ashamed of you.  This article talks about that, too.  And I’ve heard this story from other women-about the man who likes your body but will not be seen in public with you, the man who will take you to bed, but not to Denny’s.  The man who will be rude to you in front of his friends but thinks you look just fine naked.  This has never happened to me.  Never.  And every time I hear this story, I’m just horrified.  What kind of man would do that?  Not one you want.

If this ever happens to you, I am so  sorry. But what I want you to know is, and if I could make you believe one thing, it would be this: anyone who treats you like shit for any reason is not worth a single tear.  A man who would treat a woman this way has bigger problems than your fat will ever be.  If a man is ever unkind to you, and there will probably be a time when one is, it will be everything about him and nothing about you.

What I want you to know is that you are just as beautiful as you think you are, and that dating can be a wonderful and frustrating journey.  And you should expect to be treated like the strong, interesting, intelligent woman you are.  Any man who believes differently is dirt beneath your feet.  Treat him accordingly.



The Unbearable Loneliness of Being

I woke up feeling lonely.  I think it is because Spock Jr. just turned 18 and got a driver’s license and a car. He now visits me when he feels like it as opposed to living with me half time by court order.  He prefers his Dad’s house, he says.  I suspect it is because of the 4000 square feet of living space and meat-stocked refrigerator and faster internet, but he says it’s because in the apartment in which we share a wall, I snore.

Last night we had burgers and watched Labyrinth.  “That was cheesy,” he said.  He meant the movie, not the burger.  Somewhere, I have failed. He is a man now and unlikely to change his opinion of Labyrinth.

What do I do now?  Every moment of my life for the past 18 years has been intertwined with his very breath.  He is looking for a job and getting ready to go to college (where he’s received a full scholarship) like the independent autonomous person I always wanted him to be.  Trust me. There were days when he was little and kept getting lost on field trips that I was not so sure this was going to happen.

What is loneliness?   I think it’s fear.  It’s fear of the loss of a part of yourself.  The sense that something is missing and you’re not getting it back.  Letting go is not an active choice.  You can’t wake up in the morning and say I’m going to let go today.  It’s something that happens to you, a gradual process that lessens the pain just a little. I’m not sure there is a way to speed this up, but talking about it seems to help.

You’d think your subconscious mind would be onboard with the lessening of your suffering, but mine is a real bitch.  She often sends me dreams of people I have lost.  And I have to go through letting go all over again. The other night she sent me to a party where I ran into a former lover.

“I have birthday gifts for you,” he said.

He handed me a really ugly necklace, a book of maps (I am hopeless with maps), and a headband made of amethyst that must have weighed 12 pounds.

“How perfect,” I say.  “So thoughtful!”

“That problem we had,” he says, “the one that keeps us apart, we still—“

“No!  Shut up. Shut up. Shut up.  I just want to touch your face before you disappear.”

And then he did.

I woke up aching and afraid.  Aching with the knowledge that he is missing from my life and will not return.  Afraid because I don’t know if I will ever again feel how he made me feel.

I am one of the lucky ones.  My life is full, and this feeling will fade if not disappear completely.  I will learn a new normal with a half empty nest. And someday I will survive letting go of Nyx, too. There will be other lovers and other losses.  Such is the human condition.

But today my chest is tight, and it hurts.  I have nothing to do but let it wash over me.  Tomorrow may be a little better.  So I will fill today with a flurry of activity.  I will try to get some sunshine.  I will take my vitamins. And I will text my son and tell him I love him.  He will think I’m cheesy. A little bit of letting go will happen.