Dave.

It’s been two months since I have posted here; I’ve written on scraps of paper and random digital documents, but between stress and varying degrees of grief and loss, I’m stuck after a paragraph here and a paragraph there. But I didn’t want today to end without sharing a little about someone who was important to me. The harder topics can wait a bit longer.

I’d like to tell you about my friend Dave.

He loved watching basketball.

He loved good food. Like, really good food. Like, when he and I went out to eat, I always felt underdressed and out of my league. He never made me feel that way, though.

He loved the arts.

He loved creating art. He was so wickedly creative.

He was a gifted choreographer. So gifted, that to this day, the only production of “Oklahoma” I’ve been able to sit through was one he choreographed. And that includes the film version *and* the PBS version with Hugh Jackman.

He saved me from quitting my job, when I was certain I would never be good enough. He assured me I was.

He gave the best hugs.

He knew how to get the best out of people.

He was a lively lunch companion.

He had the impish-iest of grins, and loved to tease.

He never yelled at me for missed notes in the dozens of songs I played for his students. And one year, when I was certain I could not play the end of “We Both Reached for the Gun” any faster, he grinned his impish grin and said, “Yes you can Jules, this is easy.”

He was one of the few people in my life who called me Jules.

I had a crush on him most of the time we worked together. I think it was hard for anyone to not have a crush on him—he was so charming, and made me feel like I was the most important person in the room, as I’m sure he did for countless others.

He took the leap into grad school the year before I did. I’m not sure I’d have had the courage to go if he hadn’t taken the risk first. Who leaves a secure teaching job to follow their dreams? Dave does.

He wasn’t perfect, as none of us are.

He hurt my feelings from time to time.

He made me angry.

He made me sad.

He was human, and I adored him.

Last week when I learned just how sick he was, I crumpled, but hoped I’d be able to see him.

Today, I am crushed at the news of his passing.

This week, I’m going to a right fancy restaurant and will savor every bite of a well-prepared meal. I will watch a musical (but not “Oklahoma”) and pay special attention to the choreography. I will share stories with friends about things I loved about him, and things that drove me crazy about him. And going forward, I’ll try to take pieces of his best, most supportive qualities, and do the same for those in my sphere of influence.

Love you, Dave. Rest in peace.

A Note about Heartbreak

I told a friend recently that writing and being vulnerable is sometimes like having food poisoning–you know that once you puke you’ll feel better, but you also don’t want to puke. So consider this post as me having a touch of food poisoning. But also, I’m hoping this might be a survival guide for someone else.

Anytime I have my heart broken, I turn to past relationships and try to figure out how long it took for me to no longer be sad, because I just want to stop being sad. But I never do find a conclusive time span, so this time, I tried something different.

I’ve always believed that my heart never fully repairs from being broken; that little shards of my heart will always belong to men I’ve loved. As a visual exercise inspired by Mari Andrew, I realized that’s not fully true. Behold: sketches of my heart from 1991-2019:

This one wasn’t in my book, FYI.
This one took a good three years to heal.
1998-2000 was ROUGH.
This guy.
Look at who isn’t here anymore…

Every time I drew a new version of my heart, I reflected on how much of my heart truly still belonged to these people. I was actually surprised by my 2019 heart–that really, of all my relationships, there’s only two that still hold space in my heart, and that somehow my heart regenerated over the scars of the other breaks.

The other piece that struck me was how much of my heart I still had to give after every heartbreak. When I’m in the middle of it, when I can’t see more than the next tissue before the next tear falls, when I feel actual real pain despite not having any visible bruises or scratches or breaks, I forget that there is still space in my heart to love the people who are still in my corner.

And boy, did those people show up last month.

It’s time for me to get up off the mat. I have big goals for September that I’ll write about another time, maybe. But for now, I’ll just leave this here, and maybe a heartbroken someone will stumble across this someday, and draw iterations of her heart, and realize she will heal and she still has plenty of love to give.

Not Resigned; Empowered.

“You have a lot to offer and should not resign yourself to being solo forever.”

Everything up to that sentence was perfectly fine: no romantic connection, different places emotionally. I completely agreed with his assessment, and I appreciated the forthright honesty as opposed to the usual ghosting that happens after a date–in this case, two dates.

But that line, that last line, was a gut punch of mansplaining. A right jab of pointing out I’m not completely repulsive followed by body blows of judgment regarding my choice to be single.

To be fair, I bungled the conversation in which he asked how I felt about relationships (not usually first or second date fodder in the first place, but here we are…). I tried to be honest and told him I didn’t really see myself married, and that I was okay with that. I told him that half the U.S. population is single, and isn’t it better for me to be okay with myself as a person, than to keep hoping for someone who would “complete” me?

He agreed.

But that last line of our last interaction said differently: “You should not resign yourself to being solo forever.”

It’s the connotation of the word “resign”–in this context, it signifies a defeat, not an empowered choice. And while I’ve felt defeated about my relationship status plenty of times in the past 25 years, I feel anything but defeated now. The implication that my qualities are wasted on myself, that I should offer up the different elements of my being for a man to appreciate is insulting.

It took the best therapist on the planet plus two of Brene Brown’s books and pages of scrawlings in my journal to finally arrive where I currently am. Happy. Complete. No longer constantly doubting where I live or my career choices or whether my life has any value on its own.

I didn’t respond to the offensive part of his last text; I acknowledged we were on the same page and thanked him for his honesty.

But for the record: I didn’t resign myself to being solo forever. Instead, I finally started living a life I could be proud of.

 

A Hard Truth.

Every fall I get a bit of a hankering for a boyfriend. Not a husband, since I’ve never had one of those, but for a boyfriend. I’m not sure I’m really the marrying kind anyway, but a lack of male companionship starts to gnaw at me just the same.

It gnaws at me on nights like last Friday night: I met Stueve and a former student for a bit of “how’s life” time, and I had to drive to the Old Market.

I hate driving to the Old Market on Friday nights because so. many. people. and parking make me break out in hives. I enjoy being there, I enjoy the people watching and the different places to hang out, but I hate driving and parking there. I wouldn’t have hesitated to agree to a meetup if I didn’t have to drive and park.

Maybe I don’t really want a boyfriend–maybe I want a chauffeur or car service. Hm.

Anyway.

In past hankerings for a boyfriend, I turned to online dating, which never turned out good (see my book for more on that) but I don’t know where else to turn, really. It’s not like UPS ships men to my door.

Enter dating apps.

Friends raved about Tinder, but it seemed like a hookup app, and I don’t want a hookup. But then I started to hear scuttlebutt about a different app called Bumble, which seemed like a classier version of Tinder. Hearing about Bumble coincided with my yearly yearning for a boyfriend, so I thought I would give it a try.

Here’s how it works: I open the app and a man’s photo appears. I can scroll down and see more photos (sometimes) and a brief bio (less of sometimes). If I think I might like to meet him, I swipe right. If he has also swiped right on me, a message appears: BOOM! You’re connected! And I have 24 hours to send him a message.

During a swiping rampage, I swiped right on a man who would not be a good fit for me and I saw BOOM! You’re connected!

And I panicked.

That’s when I realized that for three days I’d been swiping the wrong direction. I’d swiped right on dozens of men I didn’t like, and left on a handful of men I did like. And after the aforementioned swiping rampage, I was out of profiles to swipe.

Adding to my failed foray in the dating app world is this: those dozens of men I’d swiped right on–men I didn’t like for one reason or another, men I judged as being not good enough for me–didn’t swipe right on me either.

Later that weekend, a couple more profiles popped up so I looked at them, and this time I swiped right on a man who seemed interesting. BOOM! You’re connected! And I didn’t send a message right away because, well, fear. When I opened the app a couple of hours later, he was gone, which meant he unmatched me.

And then I realized the problem with me and men: they don’t like me.

Stop what your brain is doing right now. Seriously, stop. your. brain.

Stop thinking “Oh, come on, that’s not true <insert trite statement about finding love here>” and sit with me in this truth: men don’t like me. Let it sink in your brain, let it challenge everything that romantic comedies since Shakespeare have taught you, let it fly in the face of “there’s a lid for every pot.” Maybe I’m a lidless cast-iron skillet.

Men don’t like me–and that is okay.

This is a radical notion for some to accept, that I can be okay with the fact that men don’t like me. It doesn’t make me a bad person. It doesn’t make me less than. It doesn’t mean I lack value, doesn’t mean my life is worthless.

It means that I fall into a category of women that, for whatever reason, men don’t like.

Plenty of people don’t like me–as a teacher, this truth has provided me enough callouses on my thin skin, which allows me to say “men don’t like me” without breaking down into a puddle of nothingness. And the more I say it, the more it makes sense and the more normal it feels. The problem isn’t the dozens of blind dates, the money wasted on dating websites, or even a dating app–the problem is that I’ve been conditioned to believe that my life as a single woman is a problem. It’s not.

When I take the time to examine my life, I bask in the following truths:

I have a career that I enjoy, a career that has provided me opportunities that sometimes challenge and frustrate me, and just as often enrich and delight me. I have friends to lean on. I have ten nieces and nephews to spoil and love, siblings and parents who have my back. When I clean my apartment and flop down on my couch, I feel satisfaction, peace and happiness at the space I’ve created as a sanctuary.

Men not liking me seems like such an minor sliver of my life’s happiness pie-chart, that the proportion of time and money I’ve spent the past 25 years trying to make them like me feels like the ultimate waste.

I don’t plan on making the same mistake for the next 25 years. And for that, Bumble, I thank you.

A Quick Note to B.

Two posts down, someone identified only as B left a comment:

“Would you marry a man under 5’6″?”
I shared this comment with my lunch crew, and it was enough of a conversation piece that I thought I’d respond with a whole post instead of just a comment.
So, B, here’s a long answer to your question.
Over time, I’ve had a list of things I really didn’t want in a partner. Some superficial, some a bit more complicated.
At first, it was baldness. I didn’t want to marry someone who was already bald. Until one night, I went out with a man who was bald, and he was so sweet and I had such a wonderful time that I actually contemplated not moving away, as I was scheduled to within a month of our date. At the end of the night when he asked for a second date, it killed me to be honest and tell him I was moving. I only thought it was fair, to both of us really. Since then, hair quality hasn’t been an issue.
Next, I couldn’t imagine marrying a man who’d been divorced. Until I met a man who’d been divorced, and he was funny and clever and so smart and I loved talking to him to the point that I drove to Colorado to meet him in person. While he never talked to me again after meeting me in person, I no longer found divorce to be a stumbling block in dating.
As accepting as I was of divorced men at that point, I still wasn’t wild about marrying a man with children. Until I met a divorced man with children and fell in love with him. The breakup was devastating, but I had spent months picturing myself building a life as a stepmom, and it no longer bothered me. I’m thisclose to being okay with marrying a man who has grandchildren…but I’m not anywhere close to a point where I’m ready to be called Grandma. Nope nope nope nope.
All this is to build a case for the height question. I’ve only ever dated two men who were my exact height or shorter than me. I’m 5’3″. The first man was my height exactly, and he was quite nice and really cute, and we played racquetball for our date (which I loved) but I was an immature BYU freshman, and the timing just wasn’t right for anything to materialize. 
The second man, shorter than me, was a jerk.
So, B, I suppose the answer to your question is this: I’m sure I could marry a man who was 5’6″ or shorter, if he was kind and funny and treated me well and could love my flaws just as much as he loved my strengths.
Were you asking for a friend?