Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Let Your Past Make You Better, Not Bitter

The dating world as a twenty-something (ahem) divorced woman is rather significantly different than I remember it being at age 18. A key difference is that now nearly everyone out there has a buttload of baggage and emotional scars up the wazoo. Some of the scars are more obvious--four previous divorces, a criminal history, still living with his mama... And some of the scars are less obvious but nonetheless real.

This shouldn't surprise anyone. Life beats us all up. To some extent, scars are evidence that we've actually LIVED, that we didn't just sit on the sidelines and watch things happen; we jumped in and really engaged with life in all its bloody, messy glory.

The problem is, too many people define themselves by their scars. They are still wallowing in past heartbreaks or nursing old grudges or proudly wearing their martyred hearts on their sleeves so all the world can see just how badly they've been mistreated by life. It goes without saying that it's not terribly attractive, in terms of the dating game. Beyond basic attraction, though, it's a big, huge red flag for a long term relationship.

Let me put it bluntly--
There are very, very few absolute dealbreakers for me about your past. There are things that definitely raise question marks, and there are things that will certainly remind me to take my time and be wise. However, even the worst stories sometimes have reasonable explanations, and sometimes, to be cliche, bad things happen to good people, so I generally avoid passing automatic judgment until I have enough information to decide whether this relationship--and you--are good for me or not.

I am much, much less interested in what wrongs were done in your past, by you or to you by someone else. I'm much more interested in what you've done with them. I'm interested in all the ways that you have overcome, forgiven, picked yourself back up, and moved forward. Courage, compassion, wisdom, strength, understanding--these are all priceless mementos from a spotted past. Refining of virtues is extremely attractive.

Even more, it gives me a good sense for how you'll handle the hits that life will throw us, should we decide to share our lives together.

I'm not interested in sharing my life with a victim, a martyr, a bully, a whiner, or a self-righteous prig. I'm not looking for perfect--I've got scars of my own. I'm hoping for someone who likes being better, who chooses to learn from the past without being defined by it. I prefer happiness. I'd like to be with someone who shares that choice.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Someone (Not) Like You

Okay, I admit--I'm a huge Adele fan. Love the voice, love the face, love the writing talent, love the unique & genre-bending music.

But lately a few too many friends have been loving on this song, and I've just got to quibble with the message.

"Never mind, I'll find someone like you..."

Seriously???

Girls (and guys)--here's the deal: when a relationship ends, THERE IS A REASON! Sometimes you don't know what the reason is, sometimes you know and it sucks, sometimes you are the reason, sometimes it's complicated, and sometimes it's painfully simple. But the reality is, whether you like it or not, there is a reason that things don't work out.

If the best you can hope for is to find someone else just like the person who broke your heart, you are in sad, sad shape and I'm not sure that anything I can say will get through to you.

Let's take a best case scenario and assume that Mr. Perfect is absolutely EVERYTHING you ever wanted in a guy. I mean, EVERYTHING. You would marry him and have his babies in a heartbeat. You wouldn't mind his sweaty socks on the floor and his toothpaste in the sink and you would gladly devote the rest of your life to offering slavish love and adoration because if anyone on earth deserves it, he does. The only teeny problem is that, for whatever reason, Mr. Perfect doesn't feel that you are Ms. Perfect-for-Him.

It is fine and absolutely healthy to say that you want to find someone very much like him, with all of his good and wonderful attributes that attracted you in the first place. But for your own sake, and that of those who love you, put an addendum on there that he has to be all that AND totally head over heels in love with you.

Even better, be open to meeting someone who is even more incredible and more perfect for you than Mr. Almost-Perfect was. Tell yourself--and really believe it--that things didn't work out because something even better is waiting around the corner.

I have been fantastically blessed in my life to know many, many extraordinary men. I've been blessed to date many extraordinary men, casually and seriously, for varying lengths of time. I've been blessed to know great men as friends, to enjoy working with good men as professional colleagues, and heck, I'll admit it--sometimes to crush on fabulous men from afar :). I totally get pointing to someone awesome and thinking, "that's what I want," whether it's one particular trait that really jumps out at you, or the whole package deal.

With any relationship, no matter how casual or intense, my constant prayer is that it will be for good. I know that I can't completely avoid the messiness and sometimes pain that come when expectations don't match up or feelings aren't reciprocated. I also know, thanks to all those extraordinary men I've known, that I can always come away a better person for knowing them. I can always come away with a better sense of what I truly want in a relationship...and in rare instances, a better sense of what I don't.

I can honestly say that I've never walked away from any relationship--whether I was the one ending it or the one being dumped--and thought, "Now if I could only find someone just like him..." Even the very best of them.

I'd hate to think that anyone was ever pursuing me because I reminded them of a previous love interest. Gah! I'm just self-centered enough to want to be loved and appreciated for my own sake, thank you very much. I'm assuming that guys feel the same way. I don't mind in the slightest if someone tells me that I'm very kindhearted, just like their favorite ex-girlfriend, or that my laugh reminds them of the girl they crushed on in sixth grade. Those are safe, innocent comparisons when kept in context. But if the sole aim is find someone like a near-mythical part of their past, I'll pass.

With all due respect--and great affection--for the men in my own past, this is why I hope to find Someone-Rather-Similar-But-Not-Quite-Like-You. Because, let's face it--things with us didn't have a happy ending, and eventually, I'd really like to be with someone who can create that happy ending with me.

Planning for that bright day sure as heck beats sitting around whining about finding someone like you.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Word to the Wise

When you are interested in going out with a single mom of young children, your chances drop drastically when you criticize her children's behavior, followed later by comments about how they need someone to "straighten them out."

While you might have convinced yourself that your motives are purely altruistic and kind, what you are really saying is 1.) she's a bad mother, 2.) she is incapable of rearing them, 3.) their perfectly normal child behavior is a problem for you because you don't know a dang thing about kids, and 4.) you trust your judgment on the matter far more than you trust hers--which is slightly odd, given that she's known the kids a heck of a lot longer than you.

Trust me, there won't be a first date, because she's already seen how this one will play itself out.

And on the odd chance that a single mom happens to pop by here, and has been seduced by this asinine line, and is feeling flattered that a guy cares enough about her and her kids to help shoulder the load and "straighten them out," I am tempted to say that you get exactly what you deserve for being such a moron...but your kids do not. Do all of you a favor and get out while the getting's good.

#whyiamstayinghomethisweekend

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I Found My Man!

Meet Benedict Cumberbatch, my new celebrity boyfriend. Move over, Hugh Jackman; this guy is actually available (until he meets me...).

He might possibly be the most brilliant actor ever. Serious, serious genius. He deserves to be far better known for his impressive body of work. I cannot remember the last time I laughed out loud in sheer delight over the absolute perfection that an actor brought to a character. "Brilliant" doesn't do it justice, but I can't think of a better word. Brains and talent are so irresistibly sexy.

Five minutes with my bff Google elicited the following: he is single & available, after recently ending a 12-year relationship (See??? This could actually happen!). He wants kids, preferably soon (Ah, Bennie, my man, I have the four most adorable kiddos on the planet! Insta-family for you. Our love was practically written in the stars. We can be the next Brangelina). He was recently named the GQ Best Dressed Actor of the Year (Mmmm....this could be a problem. As anyone who knows me IRL knows, the only chance I stand of winning a Best Dressed contest is if the other contestants are bovine, and even then, it's iffy. Wonder how he feels about being the better dressed partner in our relationship?)

Ah, wuv. True wuv.

Quit snickering--it could really happen! ;)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Top 10 Most Romantic Songs EVER, Plus A Few More

10.) Groovy Kind of Love, by Phil Collins. Maybe it's the tempo. Maybe it's Phil Collins' mellow voice. Maybe it's the improbable lyrics that somehow work anyway. This song just makes me melt.

9.) Rhapsody on a Theme by Pagannini: Opus 43, variation 18, by Sergei Rachmaninoff. Even without that classic romantic film "Somewhere in Time," this piece would still be at the top of the charts for romance. Jane Seymour & Christopher Reeve just bump the wistful, yearning, bated breath factor up a notch.

Honorable Mention: You Are My Home, written by Frank Wildhorn, performed by Linda Eder, from "The Scarlet Pimpernel." Take out the fact that it's a brother-sister duet, and you've got a perfect romantic Broadway song.

8.) Nessun Dorma, from Puccini's "Turandot", performed by the incomparable Andrea Bocelli (who makes this list TWICE, might I add). I don't know what it is about Puccini + Bocelli, but it just makes everything right with the world.

7.) Nobody Does It Better, by Carly Simon. This song gets bonus points for summing everything up perfectly & succinctly. It's exactly the way you want to feel about that special someone.

Honorable Mention: Look Heart, No Hands, by Randy Travis. You knew I'd sneak some country music in here. Along with John Michael Montgomery's Home to You, this is one of my favorite ballads. I'm a sucker for Randy Travis' voice, and I like the imagery of this song, plain & unpretentious as it may be.

6.) All of My Life, by Barbra Streisand, from the movie "The Mirror Has Two Faces." Not actually in the movie, this little gem is hidden in the credits. I just like it, that's all.

5.) Reaching back to my trailer trash roots, Shania Twain ties with The Woman in Me, and You've Got a Way. Hokey, not too high on brain power, riddled with cheap cliches...and I can listen to them over and over and over and over and over and over...

Honorable Mention: Five for Fighting's 100 Years. I can't decide if this is actually a romantic song, but I like it, and I'm choosing to read it romantically, so there you have it.

4.) Can't Help Falling In Love, the Elvis Presley piece, performed by Andrea Bocelli. Seriously, what is it about Bocelli's voice??? And there is something about this simple little tune, with simple little lyrics, that just makes me smile.

3.) Lady, by Kenny Rogers. I am so embarrassed to list this one. Especially toward the top of my list. Believe me, I didn't want to do it. It first hit my top ten list when I was about 14, and it's just been stuck there. But Kenny Rogers is soooooo icky! I went back & reviewed it several times, trying to convince myself that his general nastiness ruins the song. I couldn't do it. Even knowing he's a blecky old perv, and even though this might be the only Kenny Rogers' song I can stomach, it still just gets me every time. Hanging my head in shame now...

Honorable Mention: In a tie for the most upbeat, toe-tapping romantic songs, Waterloo by ABBA, and Run to You, by Lady Antebellum. Lady A makes me smile; Waterloo makes me laugh out loud. Warm fuzzies all the way around.

2.) Anne's Theme, from Anne of Green Gables, composed by Hagood Hardy. I love this song. Did you get that? I LOVE this song. I so love this song. Who needs a man--I could fall in love with this song. Everything good in the world is wrapped up in the song.

Honorable Mention: (have to sneak one more in!) Unchained Melody, by the Righteous Brothers. This song just screams--if scream is the right term--candlelit dinners and walks in the rain.

1.) Unexpected Song, by Andrew Lloyd Webber, performed by Bernadette Peters (though the Sarah Brightman version isn't too bad, either). It's really a toss-up which song gets to be number one, but I'm going to go with this one. It just seems to nail the wonder & magic of falling in love and finding that person you never thought you'd find.

What about you? What are your top romantic songs?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Something That Makes Me Sad

While it's probably not huge in the minds of other people, I'm always conscious of that big 'ol red letter stamped on my chest identifying me as one THOSE people. One of those people whose stroll down the aisle of wedded bliss somehow derailed into a painful mess that eventually ended up painful enough and messy enough that only divorce could offer a chance for cleanup and healing.

So, understandably, I am extremely reluctant to offer marital advice in any way, shape, or form. Don't get me wrong--there are times when I think married people should listen long and hard to those of us who have survived spectacular marital implosions. Nothing like a wreck victim to scare you into following the speed limit and wearing a seatbelt. But, cautious of how it will be perceived, and sensitive to the fact that no one, sometimes not even the two people involved, ever really know the heart of another's marriage, I generally refrain from advice.

Today I am breaking my rule.

I'm not so much offering advice as I'm begging all you married people out there to do me one little favor. Pleading with you, even.

Be nice.

That's all. Just be nice to each other. Especially in the way you talk to each other and about each other.

This is not hypocritical advice. Regardless of what went wrong in my marriage, one thing that went right is that we were polite. We still are. Believe me, the gloves are off, neither of us has any vested interest in maintaining more than cool civility, but we most definitely do have that. One friend calls us the most civilized divorced couple she knows.

That breaks my heart. Our no-frills generic politeness should be the norm, not the high end. But I know what she means. I assume you do, too. Divorced couples aren't generally known for their positive relations.

Speaking to those of you who are married, whether happily, miserably, or somewhere in between: when I hear you call your spouse names, belittle him, make fun of her, give sarcastic or unfeeling responses to innocent questions--something in me just curls up and dies. And I'm not even the target of the comments.

Words have power. Words, especially words that are repeated over and over, for long periods of time, can wound souls and damage relationships beyond repair. It's not just a joke, it's not just kidding, and it's not just harmless fun. It's not okay when you're really, really frustrated, or when it's really, really justified.

There was a point when I felt like calling my ex-husband every scummy, horrible, rotten word I'd ever heard. There were times I could have unleashed the full fury of my carefully honed sarcasm and extensive vocabulary to make him feel just as lousy as words could do, to drive my point home with total precision about just how I viewed him and what our marriage had become. Don't think I wasn't tempted.

But in those darkest days of our marriage ripping apart, I realized that it really wasn't about him at all. It was about me. It didn't matter if he truly WAS the epitome of every bad thing I thought. It didn't matter if he fully, 100% deserved whatever I shot his way. The real issue was whether I was the kind of person who resorted to name calling, insults, yelling, mocking, and verbal abuse.

I decided that I wasn't.

I'm not polishing my halo here. I'm sharing this because a.) if I could bite my tongue under extreme duress and in circumstances serious enough to warrant divorce, you can keep your lips clamped when he forgets to pick up milk or she gets yet another speeding ticket, and b.) I'm daring you to do the same. I'm daring you, right now, to decide that you are not that person. You are not a whiny, screechy, bitchy, naggy spouse.

In a perfect world, the closest, most supportive relationship we each enjoy would be with our spouse. In a perfect world, we would hear nothing but kindness, love, and gentleness from that person. I realize that may be asking for too much.

So, how about just following the old adage that if you can't anything nice, don't say anything at all.

Don't recite a list of your husband's faults to your visiting teachers. Don't make fun of the way your wife speaks or dresses or dances. Don't speak to your husband like he's a child--an especially slow, intellectually stunted child. Don't lash out and shout at your wife over really small things that don't matter. Or big things, for that matter. Don't make snide comments implying that she's not smart enough to catch your clever humor. Don't use sarcasm to address issues with him that should be brought out openly and objectively.

Be nice.

Regardless of what your spouse does, or how much he or she does or doesn't deserve it, be nice anyway.

Regardless of how you were brought up, and what patterns you observed, and what habits you've created in your own marriage, be nice anyway.

Regardless of how funny it is and how much your spouse doesn't mind your humor, be nice anyway.

"Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren [and sisters!], these things ought not so to be." --James 3:10

I can't say it any better myself.

Be nice.

Please.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Update Which Is More of a DOWN-Date

On the Uber-Fabulous Dating Contest:

Nothing.

Nadda.

Zip.

As in, not a single one of you came through with a man. Even those of you who swore, prior to my posting the contest, that you'd set things up with every barely-legal-age or possibly-gay-but-who-can-tell man you knew.

I've gotta say, I do better on my own. And that's saying something, because available, non-creepy men are nearly as rare as Hailey's Comet. Yet once in a blue moon they do turn up, which is better than the JA Dating Challenge did, where never in a blue moon did anyone turn up.

I do have to give Michelle props for at least trying. It wasn't her fault that every guy she found had a criminal record and/or was on a sex offender registry. At least she tried.

Anyway, that's the update, which needed to get out of the way so that I could move on to bigger and better things that I've been postponing posting because I knew I needed to follow-up on the burning question you all had as to whether Mr. Hottie showed up in the JA Dating Challenge.

That would be a no.

Onward and upward to bigger & better things!

Stay tuned...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Let's Get This Party Started!

Win a fabulous romantic getaway, compliments of The Jane Austen Experiment!

The downside of dating during the middle years of life is that a potentially fun activity like dating becomes more like ongoing mutual job interviews, a two-sided dance of scoping each other out as a) prospective life/financial/spiritual/house/intellectual partners, b) potential stepparent material, c) potential bed (sex--let's face it, that's what it really is)mates, and d) potential ex-spouses. That last one is only when I'm feeling cynical.

This has got to change. I've just got to have more FUN with this dating thing.

Therefore, I am sooooo thrilled to announce a new Jane Austen blogger contest, with fabulous prizes (thanks to wonderful sponsors).

It's called the Who-Can-Set-Wendy-Up-On-The-Most-Fun-Date Contest, and here's how it works:

I will go on 15 dates arranged by YOU.

I will blog about each and every one of these dates. After the 15th one, YOU, my wonderful blog readers, will vote on the top 5 most fun dates, as portrayed in my blog posts.

From the top 5, I will select a third, second, and first place winner who will win 3) a $25 Bath & BodyWorks gift card, 2) a $50 Lowe's gift card, and 1) a two-night stay at Somewhere Inn Time Bed & Breakfast + a $50 gift certificate to La Jolla Groves restaurant. How fun is that???

Just to be clear, the winner is the person who arranged the date, NOT the guy who went on the date. He already gets the prize of a date with me :).

Set me up with someone you think will be FUN. The dates will be judged purely by how fun they are. Don't knock yourself out trying to find someone compatible. This is not about finding my soulmate; this is about having a great time.

The fine print:
  • Each person may only arrange up to 3 dates.
  • Preference will be given to people who are directly known to me in real life (i.e., I trust your arranged date more if you are my long-term friend/acquaintance/relative.
  • All prospective dates must be male, heterosexual, between the ages of 18-65, legally single (all divorces final and deceased spouses 100% completely deceased), and free from any criminal record.
  • I reserve the right to decide which dates are accepted and refrain from posting about a specific date for any reason.
  • Each date must sign a consent form allowing me to post pictures on my blog and acknowledging that the date experience will be written, posted publicly, and judged online.
  • Each date may designate a pseudonym in order to maintain privacy, if desired.
  • These are traditional gender role dates. He plans & pays for the date. I show up, be pretty, and have fun. As a side note, some of the very most fun dates I've ever been on have been extremely low budget. Creativity and a sense of humor are worth far more than an upscale restaurant.
  • I reserve the right to substitute prizes of equal value in the unlikely event that something unforeseen occurs.
  • Dates will be arranged as convenient within my schedule and that of each prospective date, with no guarantee of the 15 designated dates happening within a certain time period. They will also be arranged in any order I choose.
To enter, get the guy on board FIRST, then email janeaustenblog@gmail.com with details on the prospective date and YOUR contact information. I"ll be in touch.