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…and a little complaining about men.

I was looking up photos of clothing for another reason altogether when I came across a photo that reminded me of a Valentine’s Day nearly a decade ago.

The last time I had a date on Valentine’s Day, I was getting ready to go out. I had kicked off work early. Since I recall what I was doing at the time, that means this was about 2007. I had had a few dates with the guy already, but it had only been a couple of months, perhaps less, since we had first met. Since my birthday falls towards the end of the year, then comes Christmas, New Years and Valentine’s Day in quick succession, all days that men can’t stand because they’re afraid you’re going to hit them up for presents and expensive dinners, I usually assume if I’m single at the end of November I can dismiss the possibility of meeting anyone until March. So, I was quite surprised that someone actually contacted me on the dating site where I’d posted a profile a month or two earlier at the end of the previous relationship. I had been finding that men my own age were turning their noses up at me and was, at that time, trying out the philosophy “if you can’t beat them, join them,” and started dating men who were older. This man was thirteen years older than I was.

Being the kind of woman that would rather die than be accused of being a gold-digger, I’ve always pretended that days like Christmas and my birthday barely existed, I didn’t bring up the approaching holiday. A few days earlier, he phoned and asked if I had plans for Valentine’s Day. No, I did not. Would I like to meet for dinner? Yes, I would.

The past times that we got together, we met around seven. I decided to surprise him with a little role reversal and went to a specialty shop to buy him a box of fancy chocolates. I headed home and started to get dressed. Since it was Valentine’s Day, I wanted to make sure I looked, well, sexy. I had showered and was putting on my makeup dressed something like this:Woman in bra, tanga, garter belt and stockings.Somehow, I realized that he never told me a time or a place to meet. I phoned him. He answered and said he’d get back to me. About a half an hour went by. Needless to say, I slowed down a bit, but I continued to get dressed, more or less. I was thinking of calling again when the phone rang. He said he had to work. The guy I was dating before him had, the year before, had a therapist’s appointment. On Valentine’s Day? Wouldn’t your therapist think it was a good sign if you cancelled to be with a woman? Choosing your therapist over your girlfriend on Valentine’s Day is itself a sign of poor mental health, don’t you think?

If I had dropped hints about the day, I would have understood. But, dammit, this was his idea. He came up with it entirely on his own. Here it was, now going on eight o’clock on Valentine’s Day and I was, very literally, all dressed up with no place to go. I took myself to a local restaurant rather than sit in and eat the box of chocolates. I should have expected it, but I was not the only person eating alone in that place.

I might have even forgiven him, but you know what? A few days later he phoned. “What are you doing this weekend?” No apology. Nothing. Just like everything was hunky dory. Talk about feeling taken for granted. I told him I was busy that weekend. And I was busy the weekend after that. He sent me a few emails puzzled about what went wrong. I didn’t answer them.

I had never made a fuss over Valentine’s Day, so even when I was single it didn’t really bother me. For some reason, it bothered me this year. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself last night.

I’ve always had a bit of a lingerie fetish. Well, maybe “fetish” is too strong, but I like pretty underthings. The picture up top, I believe is a British company.

My favorite company is Chantal Thomass. I was reminded that the bra I bought two years ago, a little polka dot push-up number with a matching thong and waist cincher with garters, recently had the underwire poke through the fabric. It can probably be repaired, but it’s on its way out. No one ever saw it except me.

They have a new collection out now. This looks kind of cute.

Model in bra and panty.

I’m feeling a little bit glum and self-pitying at the moment. There’s a line in The Rocky Horror Picture Show when Magenta says, “We ask for nothing.” Frankenfurter replies, “And you shall receive it. In abundance!” I’ve always felt that my relationships with men were a little bit like that. Sometimes I think that it’s exactly because I’m not demanding that men undervalue me. It’s a bit of psychology. People value what they have to work for and don’t value what comes easily. By not asking for much, I unintentionally give men the impression that I don’t value myself highly. That’s not quite correct. The truth is that I’d rather be alone than act like a demanding bitch.

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I don’t quite know why I’m crying tonight. I’m having a hard time breathing. Suddenly I’m put in mind of something I read while trying to look for information on the internet the other day. It was something to the effect of depression being when your problems exceed your resources for coping with them.

This feels weird. I originally put up this blog to write about politics, society and related subjects. Somehow, it’s turning into some weird document of my ongoing breakdown.

So, after about two years of hibernation and dodging my problems, I’ve started trying to tackle some of the underlying causes. They’re not going to improve on their own, that’s for sure. Unfortunately, coming out of hibernation also causes emotional volatility. After all, I went into hiding for a reason.

What are my tangible problems? Nothing terribly original, I’m afraid. My career’s in the crapper, I’m living in a town where I know almost no one, I have no social life, no love life, I’ve gained weight and I feel unattractive. Unfortunately, all these things interact with one another, so fixing one without working on the others goes no where. Without a decent, steady job no one wants to date you.

Most recently, the loneliness has really been getting under my skin. So I set out to change that. I put an ad up on Craigslist. It wasn’t as crazy as what I said the other day, but it was still crazy enough that it got flagged and taken down. I looked at the rules for Craigslist and couldn’t figure out which one I’d broken. Nothing said that desperate, depressed people were barred from looking for a significant other. In the meantime, it was put back up. I guess the moderators there came to the same conclusion. Quite a few men wrote, concerned that I wouldn’t get the sort of responses I wanted. Well, I got hundreds. After a while I couldn’t keep up with them, so I only read the first hundred or so. The vast majority were actually quite nice. On average, the responses were no more rude than when I’ve put up nice, socially acceptable ads.

I wrote back to several people who for some reason or another struck me as promising, generally that meant near my age and seeming to share some sort of interest. I struck up a short exchange with one man. He phoned and we agreed to meet.

My ad had made it clear that I was lonely and looking for company, that I would be open for more but that I wasn’t expecting more. It was getting towards dinner time and I thought about suggesting a bite to eat, but I didn’t want to come off like I was expecting a man to buy me dinner or jump through a million hoops, so I suggested a pub that is located between his place and mine and threw a couple handfuls of nuts in my mouth.

We had a really nice time. We talked while sitting at the bar for at least an hour, maybe two, then we went to his place. When I got home that night, I realized that for well over two years I hadn’t had a long, in-depth, ambling conversation with anyone other than my sister and my mother. I thought to myself, no wonder I’m going nuts. That’s just not healthy. I also thought back and remembered one point in the evening when I was shirtless and draped over his lap. We were talking and while we were talking he was fondling my breasts. It’s funny because it’s hard to say whether I’m uncomfortable with my body or not. With some men I am, and I want the lights out before taking off my clothes, and with some men, I’m not. I took it as a good sign that I was feeling so comfortable with him. I feel slightly uncomfortable talking about someone else, so I’m leaving out details, but I felt we had a lot to talk about. In any case, he drove me home and said he hoped to see me again soon.

He contacted me. Because I’ve always been told that men are afraid of clingy women, I would have never contacted him first. I made it clear that I wanted to see him again and any more would have felt too pushy.

Tonight, by coincidence, we were meeting around dinner time again and I thought of asking if he wanted to eat together, but again I was afraid of being too demanding and made myself an early dinner. I’m just always so afraid of being one of those demanding women. Admittedly, he wasn’t feeling well when I arrived and things seemed slightly awkward all night. The previous time, we didn’t engage in vaginal penetration and I was eager to get him inside me. When we were fully undressed and lying on his bed I tried to kiss him and he pulled away. He said it was too intimate. That made me really uncomfortable. Establishing intimacy was part of the point of wanting to kiss him. Then he said that he felt that we didn’t have enough of an emotional history between the two of us to have sex. Since I’d already performed fellatio on him the first night and had been licking and fondling him earlier in the evening, this struck me as odd. The first night seemed fine to me and we had even less of an emotional history then. In order to alleviate the awkwardness, I asked if he wanted to talk about it and we spent some time talking about his ex-girlfriend. Then he commented that he had to get up to go to work in a few hours. I got up and put my clothes on and I was crying as I was leaving. He made no move to comfort me or even ask why I was upset. He seemed to think that the crying came on suddenly, but it had been building up ever since he refused to kiss me. He walked me to my car. I asked him for a hug before getting in and leaving and I can’t help wondering if he would have done or said anything at all if I hadn’t asked.

I have no idea if he wants to see me again. I’m not sure I want to see him again if he does.

A decade ago, or even five or six years ago, this would have been no big deal. It would be just one date that went awry. Maybe there would be a little bit of a puzzle about what was different between the first night and the second. But I don’t have the emotional resilience that I did then. I’m not sure if I feel like taking a chance and writing to any of the other men who wrote to me, and I’m not sure when I’ll feel like going on a date again. I’m unlikely to meet someone by chance since I haven’t in several years.

So, I’ve been crying and I’m not exactly sure why. It feels like a rejection, but not a big crushing rejection, more like a slow grinding away. I feel like I’m running out of resources. I don’t have the emotional resources to engage in normal dating. Maybe I should put the ad up in the casual encounters section and just have one night stands and not even hope for anything more.

Towards the end, he said something about his attitudes towards sex changing, but I really didn’t understand what he was talking about. It’s hard these days to find someone who is open and excepting about a woman being a sexual person outside of marriage without being treated badly.

I don’t know that I ever want to marry again. I don’t want live the rest of my life without intimate contact with another human being. I have the distinct feeling of drowning and being unable to breathe.

My attempts to get an exchange going in the comments haven’t been successful, but I’ll try again anyway.

Have you ever had a potential significant other reject you primarily because you were an atheist?

Yesterday, I posted a story about a man. His mother was very much trying to fix us up, with big hints about marriage and grandchildren. It was a long-distance situation and, following a couple of dates, he sent me regular emails. Some of them contained inspirational, spiritual messages. Eventually, I had to tell him that I was an atheist. He cooled dramatically at that point and within a few weeks communication had ceased. Now, he never told me that my atheism was a reason, perhaps he met someone else, but it was the only conflict we had had. Certainly, it didn’t help.

Another time, a man I met at a singles event phoned for a date. As it happens, Easter was that coming weekend and he asked what my family was doing. I said that I was an atheist and no one in my family was religious, so we were doing nothing. He hemmed and hawed and said that he couldn’t fix a specific date at that moment but he would call me back, which he didn’t. Remember, he had phoned me, so this was a major u-turn in the direction of the conversation.

I’m never really sure how much atheism has had an effect on my love life. On the one hand, received wisdom has it that male atheists are more numerous than females and several men have nearly jumped up and down in delight when I’ve said I was also an atheist. On the other hand, atheists are a minority and stereotypical gender roles make it seem to me that it’s easier for atheist men to date theist women than for atheist women to date theist men.

In any case, I’ve had great difficulty maintaining relationships with men who are not atheists even though I’ve tried on several occasions. Usually, things go smoothly for a few months and then the man starts pointing out miracles or times in his life when he feels that God has intervened. Eventually, we start arguing. Theoretically, I don’t care what religion a man is, but, since in the past things have not gone well, over time I’ve come to significantly prefer other atheists.

So, what about you?

Mr. West Coast came to the East Coast to visit his family. My outfit probably bordered on the costume of a cartoon hooker, but I wasn’t going to let what happened to me the last time happen to me this time. My dress was a fire red stretch faux suede number, backless, with a halter neckline  and mid-thigh hem. On a hot summer day with a pair of flat sandals it might have looked a little bit sexy. In the evening with a pair of black patent leather boots and fishnets…? I wasn’t pushing good taste the way I usually did, I catapulted right on over it. The outfit screamed, “Please, fuck me,” which was fine by me because that was exactly what I wanted to scream. Admittedly, it would have been less tasteless on my part if his family hadn’t been there.

I saw the ever so brief surprise on his mother’s face when I showed up, but she smiled and was welcoming and hid it well. She had given me some big hints that she wouldn’t exactly cry if wedding bells were in the future. After all, she was the one who had given me Mr. West Coast’s email a few months earlier and had more or less arranged for both of us to be here this evening. Mothers always loved me and were trying to fix me up with their sons, and I’d known his mother since before I knew him, so I wasn’t too worried that one tasteless outfit would hurt her opinion of me. When we spoke on the phone earlier that week, Goody Goody, seemed to be oddly surprised that her brother was flying all the way out from California to see her in a play. “Gosh, he never did that before,” she’d said. She even suggested that I see the play on a different night so she and I could spend time together. “I don’t know why my mother got the two of you tickets for the same night! That’s going to be so awkward.” In fact, now that I think about it, Goody Goody’s mother had been quite shrewd. One of her best friends from high school would be there as well, which meant shortly after the play was over Mr. West Coast and I could take a powder without attracting too much notice.

As we sat side by side in the theater waiting for the play to begin, I said, “I had such a crush you when I was fourteen.” This shouldn’t have been news to him since I snuck into his room once in the middle of the night to fuck him. That usually gives a guy a hint, but still I wanted him to know that I hadn’t forgotten.

“I’ve had a crush on you since I was four,” was his reply.

“Huh? Your parents weren’t even married when you were four.” His family was a composite family. His mother and father each had children from previous marriages, like the Brady Bunch.

“No, but they were dating. We would go with my father to visit Mom and I remember always hoping that little girl from next door would stop by.”

I pretended to remember this because it only seemed polite, but in fact I didn’t. I had no memory of Mr. West Coast until he hit puberty. Then, all of a sudden, there he was, Goody Goody’s little brother.

He rested his arm on the back of my chair. I felt his fingers lightly brushing my bare back. The outfit started feel a lot less ridiculous.

After the play, Goody Goody said to me, “Westie is so sleazy. Don’t think you have to be nice to him for my sake.”

I almost laughed and I thought to myself, “Oh, don’t worry, this entirely for my sake and I plan on being very, very nice to him. Nicer than you can imagine.”

Back at my apartment, a few hours later, we sat on the sofa and talked while touching. I don’t know how we got onto this subject, but at some point he made a comment indicating that he believed that I had had too many sexual partners. “What do you think is normal?” I asked.

“I don’t know. The last woman I dated, I asked her and she said…”

I interrupted him. “Let me guess. Three. There was her steady boyfriend in high school. They dated for several years. After a number of months together, maybe a year, they had sex. It was very serious and they were very much in love. Of course, it didn’t work out. They were far too young. Then in college… she had a steady boyfriend throughout most of college. It was very serious. They talked about marriage. Eventually, after dating for a long time, they had sex. Of course, it didn’t work out. They were far too young. Then there was a they guy she dated for several years in her twenties. She really, really thought they were going to get married. They were very much in love, but it didn’t work out.”

He was taken aback and didn’t try to hide his surprise. “Yes, how did you know.”

“That’s the socially acceptable answer. If we were still in our twenties, the answer would be two. Now, we’re in our thirties and saying she hasn’t had sex for over a decade doesn’t sound believable, so she has to add one more.”

“But maybe,” he said, “it’s the truth in her case. Maybe so many women say that because that really is the typical behavior.”

“Really,” I said. “First of all, you think girls don’t talk to each other? Secondly, let me ask you, how many months did it take her to go to bed with you?”

He looked uncomfortable now. “Not months. Weeks, maybe. About three dates.”

I reminded him that I’d had a crush on him when we were young. “So, I don’t think you’ll take this as an insult from me, but do you really think you’re that much more seductive and charming than all the other men she dated?” In fact, I was being polite. I didn’t state what he and I both knew. Being short myself, a man’s height isn’t an important characteristic to me, but I know what other women say to me about height and I know what my short, platonic male friends have been through. At five foot five, Mr. West Coast probably had more difficulty with women than the average man, not less.

“I’m not that much more promiscuous than the average woman, but I’m a lot more honest.” I said, finally. I climbed on his lap and straddled him and gave him little kisses on his face. “If I have to be someone I’m not to please a man, then I don’t want to be with him.” With that, I lifted my dress up over my head.

He put is hand between my legs. “I’m surprised,” he said. “I expect that you’d be shaved.”

“Huh?” This was the first time I’d heard of this.

“Or at least trimmed. Actually, I’m glad you’re not completely shaved, but I like women who are trimmed, and maybe shaved a little bit.”

“What on earth are you talking about?”

“Most women shave their pubic areas. You look like you haven’t done anything.”

“That’s because I haven’t.” I said. This was a weird conversation, because I’d never heard anything like this before and I didn’t exactly consider myself sheltered. I’d had sex with dozens of men over twenty years and no one had ever before taken an interest one way or another in my pubic hair. “Are you telling me that Miss I’ve-only-ever-slept-with-three-men was shaving her pubic hair? God, you’re naive. When I’m not expecting to wind up in bed with a man, my legs might not even be shaved.”

“Okay, okay. Let’s not talk about her.” He pushed me back onto the sofa. My legs were dangling over the edge. He slipped to the floor onto his knees, spread my thighs and put his face between my legs. I was expecting any second to feel his tongue, but instead I heard, “Where do you keep the scissors?”

“Huh? I don’t know. There’s a pair of small scissors I use for trimming my nails on the first shelf of the medicine cabinet.”

“I’ll be right back.”

He returned with the scissors and a small comb that I also kept on that shelf. He knelt down between my knees again. “You don’t mind, do you?”

“Hey, whatever turns you on.”

Never let it be said that I’m not nice.

A few weeks later I got an email. Mr. West Coast had just finished a short stay at Esalen. “You were right,” he wrote. “Most women were au naturel.”

I made a couple of references recently to a friend who no longer returns my emails. I didn’t write any details about him because, I’ve always had the feeling that he was a private person and wouldn’t appreciate any obvious references, even though I’d never use his name, or anyone else’s, without permission.

Since he was the last close friend I had on whom I could rely, this leaves me without any substantial emotional support besides my sister. This evening, I was half-tempted to reach out to a few people I don’t know well in an attempt to… well, honestly, I don’t know. An attempt at reaching out for the sake of reaching out, I suppose. So, I guess this blog is a weird mess of different stuff anyway, so some awkward emotional self-exposure couldn’t harm it any.

We met through a dating site. My experiences on dating sites have been far worse than my experiences dating the old-fashioned way. That wasn’t what I expected. At first, I thought internet dating would be perfect for me and I was the first among my friends to try it when there was still a stigma attached. Oddly enough, that period was actually okay, if not as great as I’d hoped. You see, there are a few ways in which I am not in the big fat middle of the bell curve and I thought that the internet, by allowing a person to contact  more people than only those in one’s own narrow socio-economic, and regional, group, would allow me to meet people who may share some of my less common characteristics. Okay, as long as I’m confessing to embarrassing things, I might as well admit that I once joined Mensa because I was lonely. Okay. Whew. That’s a lot off my chest. Please don’t hate me because I used to belong to Mensa.

Yeah, so I thought that the internet might be a way to meet some really smart guys who might just also be available, and I might even be able to weed out the ones who just want to hold hands and cuddle without having to date them for six months first.

Well, since then I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why internet dating works so poorly, and if anybody with the requisite skills would like to collaborate on trying to create a totally different type of dating site based on some crazy notions I have, there’s a contact form on my about page, although I should tell you that everyone to whom I’ve described my idea says that we’d get no users. Anyway, back to me…

One of the problems with dating sites is that you have to put down a whole list of requirements, height, weight, age, hair color, eye color and… location. So, I put down “anywhere,” which perhaps isn’t quite true, but it has enough of an element of truth. There are probably places I wouldn’t go for anyone, but for the right person I could go pretty far, especially now that I’ve gained experience and have realized how few and far between those right people are. One of the people who kept popping up on the little list of “people you might want to meet” was a programmer/journalist from Germany a couple of years older than I was whose profile made me laugh a little. Prior to internet dating, many of the men I dated were younger. After the rise of the internet, when your age would be pasted right next to your face, I found that approaching a man who was born six seconds after I was would get me a response of, “You seem wonderful and I bet you’ll meet a wonderful man soon, however, I want to meet a younger woman.” Actually, I’ve gotten that from men as much as ten years my senior, all the while being approached by guys fifteen years younger in person. Now, why couldn’t any of those young ones have had something in common with me? Meanwhile, this guy had something about age I could relate to. He wrote something to the effect of, “Your IQ must be at least 120 plus our age difference.” That might sound weird, but that’s a little bit how I feel about it, although I might say 135 plus our age difference. I’m not against dating older or younger men, but the further they get from my age, the more we need to have in common. If a sixty year old man, or forty, sends me an email saying, “You’re cute. Let’s meet,” I think to myself, “Let’s not.” However, if someone the same age sends an email saying, “We have X, Y and Z in common,” then I think it’s great. Also, since there was no upper limit on IQ, I figured it implied smarter was better. Men who feel that way frequently like me, so I was encouraged. So, I wrote. Actually, I wrote, “Boy, you’re easy.”

He wrote back.

Partly, I kept writing because the men in New York City who were contacting me seemed to be demanding to a crazy extent. I wasn’t tall enough, rich enough, young enough, educated enough- why date a kinda cute girl  (well, middle-aged woman) next door when there are so many twenty-year old neurosurgeons who moonlight as exotic dancers just waiting to cater to all the emotional and sexual needs of a horde of IT professionals who realized at forty that playing hard to get isn’t a good idea when no one’s chasing you… but I digress.

So, M. seemed, by comparison, relatively normal. He was vulnerable, imperfect and grumpy by his own admission. He only had one photo posted, and that was a head on shot that showed nothing but his face. In fact, it looked like an id photo might look, although it wasn’t. He clearly wasn’t hideous, but it wasn’t enough information for my interest to be based primarily on his appearance.

So, did I actually think something romantic could develop with a man living on another continent? Yeah, I confess, I did. You see, I’m not that into monogamy, although I confess I haven’t given it much thought in a few years. However, the idea of having a man who was a friend and lover, yet seeing him once or twice a year, was not in the least bit inconceivable to me. I can conceive of many things. I don’t have a preconceived notion of what a relationship should be.

Our early emails, and by early I mean the first six months, were beyond flirtatious. We had very frank discussions about what we would be willing to do with a partner in bed. There were even a couple of things he told me he had always wanted to try but none of his previous girlfriends were willing. I told him that, if we ever met, we I would try them with him. For the record, one was something I’ve done and another was something I haven’t done.

As I already said, I could see that he wasn’t perfect, and he had been single for an unusually long time. Meanwhile, I continued to write to other men and go out on the occasional date.

Finally, I asked if he would like to visit me in New York. I did phrase it as a chance to visit New York and stay with a friend, mainly because “fly to the other side of the ocean and see if we find each other physically attractive” seemed a bit high pressured. I figured, once he arrived we could play it by ear. I’m at least as good as the average person at telling if someone is interested in me and I could trust myself to not throw myself at him in a way that would make us both dreadfully uncomfortable. In fact, with me, and I suspect with M. as well, if there’s a danger it could be that we might each be too reticent.

He wrote and told me that he did not like to fly and an eight or nine-hour flight to New York sounded like pure torture. However, there was no reciprocal invitation and he didn’t sound exactly filled with regret. Suddenly, it hit me, the painful way it only does when you realize it though disappointment, that I had developed quite a degree of affection for him. I called it a crush, because I didn’t know what other word to use. “In love” is too specific. Without meeting in person, I don’t know if I could truly fall in love. In any case, I suddenly realized that the possibility of anything more romantic than our flirtatious emails was highly unlikely. I threw myself on the bed and sobbed and wondered if it was too painful to be friends. I think I might have cried a couple of days in a row and then I decided that I could work through this disappointment and we could, in fact, be friends. Over the course of the next year, the flirtatiousness faded to the background, although every once in a while it would return.

That was four or five years ago. We have continued to write frequently, although the regularity has varied. There have been times that he’s fallen silent for a long time, but when I’ve written to ask if he was okay, he’ll write a short note saying that he’s fine but work is busy, etc. He suffers from depression and I do worry a little, although he hasn’t had a major episode in years.

So what events could have led up to this recent rupture? Since he hasn’t written, if something has occurred on his end, I can’t know. I was long, very long, in returning an email to him. When I finally did, I did not hear from him quickly, but that in itself was no surprise. Then I wrote an email asking if he was okay. No response. Then I wrote another that was a little bit more blase and chatty. No response. Then I wrote a pleading one. Then an angry one. Then, this evening, I wrote a whiny, tearful, pathetic one. If he had asked me to stop, I’d be bordering on being a stalker.

It’s been too long now for him to be on vacation.

Is he alive? Is he ill? Those sound too melodramatic and feel too much like denial.

So, basically, I feel as if I lost my best friend.