Hearts & Flowers

hearts

Valentine’s Day in high schools is somewhat like Halloween, only worse because the only most popular students are smothered with hearts and flowers. 

It’s a steady stream of Student Government kids waltzing in and out of classrooms, delivering long-stemmed carnations and short-versed Valentine prose to the fortunate few who gleefully add the new blooms to their growing bouquets.  The rest of the class smile forced smiles, grateful that Valentine’s Day happens only once a year.

Many English teachers, knowing that classroom interruptions were imminent, assigned poetry writing on Valentine’s Day — usually a combination of Loving Lyrics and Venomous Verses. 

Your hair is as golden as the sunlight on a summer’s day…

Your breath is as foul as cow patties in a heat wave…

Not in my class. 

I decided early on that my job also included doing my best to prevent pregnancies among my hormonal students. So why not take full advantage of Valentine’s Day to re-enforce the message?

The lesson plan was fairly simple.

I’d keep the girls inside and send the boys into the hall. 

Round I Directions were given separately to each group:  Brainstorm all the qualities you look for in a partner and have a scribe write down all those qualities.

They went at it, oblivious to the other group and completely unconcerned about what the other gender was up to.

Round II:  Now, agree on the top ten qualities and then put them in order of importance.  Again, write them down.

That took some time, debating the numerous qualities and then putting the ten in the order of importance.  I won’t say the lists were predictable, but they were. 

Year after year, predictable.

Once the lists were finished, the young men were brought back into the room.  I then asked one person from each group to write their list, in the order of importance, on the chalkboard.

And waited patiently for the predictable response.

The girls listed, more or less in order of importance: integrity, ambition, responsible, a sense of humor, kind, and so on down the list, with a smile or eyes completing their to ten.

The boys looked at the girls’ list, looked at one another and realized they had probably blown both the assignment and any future social life.

The boys’ list? 

As I recall, it was pretty much a draw between tits and ass, or ass and tits, in the top two positions, followed closely by legs, figure, sexy, smile, eyes (more or less in order) and finally wrapping up with honesty.

The girls were appalled. They were seriously offended. They looked accusingly at their male classmates, yelling is this really why you guys ask us out?  The boys were now cowering in the opposite corner. The girls immediately decided to cancel all Valentine’s Day dates.

The boys alternated between looking sheepish and protesting the assignment was a setup.

It was.

It was also an exercise in left hemisphere/right hemisphere interpretation of the world, but that was lost on the girls who grew increasingly indignant, loudly vowing not to date again until they were adults and could meet more mature men.

Alas, from what I’ve read in other blogs of single young women, the maturity part probably wasn’t in the cards, but, judging from what I heard later from some of my graduating girls, that Valentine’s lesson was a gift did keep some of the girls on track, and not pregnant, for graduation and college.

 

 

 

January’s Memories

IMG_0328Januaries are difficult; the gloomy days and early nightfalls seem to linger far too long, especially with Christmas lights having long since been taken down and packed away.

Januaries are long. I’ve notice it especially since moving, given that I’ve moved farther north, not fully aware of the longer nights until smack in the midst of them.

Januaries lend themselves to still more reflection.

My blogs on dating have gathered a bit of an audience, surprisingly among young women who are struggling with the drama of dating, including one young writer who wrote a piece delightfully entitled You may be Hot, but so is Hell.

Touché.

Many of these young women are now sharing about refocusing their energy on developing female friendships. And that leads me back to Januaries and reflections.

Words fail in sharing just how important female friends are and the role they will play in your life; your female friends are the ones who will know your history, fears, hopes, successes, failures, and spirit — possibly even better than a future partner. 

In many ways, female friends will become your chosen family, your sisters.  Select them with care, nurture the friendships and, with luck, those relationships will last a lifetime, sharing in celebrations, heartaches, laughter and adventures.

Four years ago today, our circle unexpectedly lost Mimi.  She had just celebrated her 64th birthday two weeks earlier and was far too young and vibrant to have died.

Mimi had been our sister for over thirty years. The ten of us grew from being colleagues in teaching into fast friends and then realized we really had been sisters all the while.

Mimi could see through any situation, cutting right to the chase with an expressive face followed by a wry smile and her infectious laugh. And you just had to love her.

We knew Mimi as a bubbly whirlwind of activity from decorating homes to organizing parties and theatre outings, from teaching creative lessons to being an advocate for students and teachers, from entertaining family and friends to traveling around the world and hosting sister city events with Russia.

Mimi showed up to work one Halloween dressed as Wonder Woman and a tradition was born: the next two years, she convinced our English Department to dress as nuns and the following Halloween, Mimi talked most of the school’s 100 plus staff members into buying bright red and white striped polo shirts that we knew we’d never wear again.  But we all had tremendous fun playing our roles in Where’s Waldo? much to the delight and surprise of 2,000 unsuspecting high school students.

Mimi loved to share stories, especially about her two sons and, later, about her cherished granddaughter. Mimi would speak of her love for her husband, and because he was her rock, she could fly.  And fly she did.

We all loved Mimi and sorely miss her and the grace, vitality and merriment she so generously shared.

For those young women seeking friendships, I hope that you are as fortunate as our sisters have been in creating lifelong bonds.  Your friends will be far more important in your life than you could ever imagine…

 

 

 

 

 

Boring

boringMy Sister Jane came up to visit over the holidays and, of course, the late night topic of conversation turned to dating.  Or not dating, as the case may be.

I shared that, having been blogging now for a whole few months, I’ve had the occasion to read a plethora of blogs about dating experiences by women in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.

ACK!!!  We all report pretty much identical stories.  Age doesn’t seem to matter. And, that’s a pretty dismal statement.

I had also read an interview with Kristie Allie, who was back once again in the dating scene and made a plea to the more mature man:

Don’t be so freaking boring! Don’t have the life already sucked out of you.

We must have dated some of the same men.

What I found even more interesting were some of the comments by men who had read the interview. Many lacked photos of themselves, but had posted pictures of sport cars, dead fish and guns.

Yawn.

There was the man who wrote that, in his forties, he had taken up fishing, golfing, four-wheeling and how dare she describe him as boring.  Ah, hint:  those are hobbies.  Good for any man (or woman) has hobbies, quilting, gardening and painting included, but if that’s all you can talk about it on a date, boring just about fits either gender.

And then there were the men who wanted to take another nap before leaving a comment.

There were also the men who understood Alley’s comments. 

Boring is not a function of what you do but who you are. Do you strive to push yourself out of your comfort zone, and try new things? Are you always learning? Do you reach out and try to offer things of value to the people you care about? Then you will not only not be boring but you will also be the best self you can be, and get the most out of life.

Whoo Hoo!!  I’d sure like to meet that wise man, even if he is a forty-something college professor who lives 3000 miles away.

 I do wonder if the current economic situation hasn’t added to the life sucked out of you observation, at least for some of us of retirement age. I can’t tell you how many professional men I’ve met who didn’t plan and are now faced with working for the rest of their lives because they have to, not because they want to.

If that doesn’t drain life out of someone, I’m not sure what does.

Sadly, I also think these men may be the harbinger of things to come, as increasing numbers of retirees will need to rely on 401Ks, given defined benefit programs are fast becoming the safety net of the past. If Frontline predictions hold true that 401Ks are both a gamble and train wreck waiting to happen — all while underwriting increased company profits — then we can pretty much forget about boring dates.

We’ll be far too busy surviving to be concerned about the folly of coffee dates.

 

 

 

 

Women of a Certain Age

Not much has been written about Women of a Certain Age although we certainly do exist.  The few articles are usually hidden on a back page, typically next to the Obituaries, or buried deep within the links of an online format. It’s the myth vs. the reality regarding women of a certain age…women who are old, older,  um well-seasoned by life.

The definition of a woman of a certain age is apparently defined by her hormones, or lack thereof.  This county, and Great Britain for that matter, tend to lump single women of a certain age into a rather vague, grey nothingness — a spinsterhood somewhere beyond menopause, which is apparently the dividing line between maiden/mother and crone — that marks the slow, winkled descent into elder-hood and death.

Wow. Alone and asexual. Now that’s something young women can put on their calendars and look forward to.

Women who do not accept the prescribed definition are faced with a myriad of challenges. 

Single women of a certain age are labeled Cougars for doing the identical thing that men do everyday — although, I admit, men are a whole lot more successful with their marketing strategies.

Then, there is the very well-advertised, large HMO that refuses to prescribe hormones because of a woman’s age (“old” being the operative, diagnostic term) while perfectly willing to provide men of all ages with a variety of enhancement pills.

Good grief.

While we could embrace a mass exodus to France, where both men and women of a certain age enter a rather erotic phase of life, we might also consider redefining the myth with a more realistic version of entering that certain age..with a certain confidence, a certain air and a certain wisdom regarding life, aging, sexuality and partnerships.

I rather like that approach, but in the meantime, there are still those pesky assumptions that keep getting made about women of a certain age…

A while back, I had a date with an older gentleman — I’m saying older because his whole demeanor was old although he was only a couple years older than I.  We sat down with the prerequisite coffee and began the conversation.  He told me about his car, his daily routine and the stress of keeping up on a recent walking tour in Europe.

Then, he lowered his voice, confiding that he had problems “down there” and he looked downward.

I looked down at his feet, given all the walking hardships of his European trip.

No, not my feet!

oh. I wasn’t going to look there so I refocused on his face.

He leaned in toward me, as if to share something very confidential.

It was more than a bit uncomfortable, not knowing the man and not even finished with my coffee, but there was no break with which to make my escape. He was adamant about sharing, which he did with all the confidence of a man experienced with women of a certain age.

And it doesn’t matter.  Women your age aren’t interested in sex anyway.

He smiled and leaned back in his chair. He had had just solved his problem by making it my problem.

Um. I hate to burst your bubble, but not all women of my age are finished with sex.  Many of us actually enjoy sex quite a bit.

As his bubble burst, this woman of a certain age spotted her escape, thanked him for the coffee and made a quick exit.

The Cat Lady

I’ve received a number of requests to write more about dating, more specifically dating in our more mature years…mature, of course, referring to chronological age, not maturity.  Women seem to find these posts especially amusing.

Sigh.

When I left the classroom to design, build and coordinate a school program linking mental, social and physical health services into a school campus, it was a steep learning curve because I knew little or nothing about mental and social health issues and only a bit more about physical health — typically, what the kids or I had experienced. 

English majors are pretty much equipped to do little more than write, edit, teach or open an English Shoppe.  On the other hand, most of us who teach can bluff pretty well, being only a day or two ahead of our students, so when I raised my hand to take on a new adventure, I sure looked like I was qualified.

uh huh.

First week on the job and I heard the therapists talking about Mr. Man of the Moment or The Sperm Donor — the fathers of the unborn children of the young pregnant teens who had come into the center.  Their dark humor was not much different than what had been found in my old English Office.

It seems that not a whole lot has changed with reaching the senior years, except that if one is dating within one’s age group, the woman is not going to get pregnant.  At least, that was my assumption, evidently an ill-conceived one, as it appears that the only women seriously dating are in their twenties.  I learned that from a number of articles and blogs written for the dating population.

The first bit of advice I found was a list of cautionary notes for dating older men: 

  • The Mr. Set in His Ways, AKA I have my life already scheduled and have time for you two nights a week from 8 to 10 PM.  Do not think for a moment he’ll change: Run;
  • The Mr. Commitmentphobe, from whom you run run as fast as you can unless he’s George Clooney (given he’s off the market,  just run);
  • The Bitter Angry Dude, which says it all;
  • The Flake as in I’ll call you in the morning but neglects to mention which month;
  • The Kid Guy, who uses his kids for an excuse even when the kids are in their twenties.

I’ve dated a few of these men over the years and, fair enough, these are excellent insights, except the article was written for women in their twenties dating older men.  Good grief.  Go date men in your own age bracket. Men wouldn’t consider dating anyone twenty, thirty, forty or fifty years older than themselves and neither should you.

The next article I found was written by a man who warned women that time is a fleeting commodity, at least for females, and it was followed by input from many, many men, all of whom were probably just out of middle school.  The consensus:  women in their early twenties are in their prime and a thirty year old woman who is “hot” could possibly compete, but only for a short while.

After that, it’s spinsterhood.  Women in their forties were pretty much discounted.

That pretty much puts me in the petrified forest category.

Evidently the only women who actually marry are those who might snare the male through conveniently forgetting the pill and getting pregnant.  Or, we circle back to Mr. Man of the Moment, AKA The Sperm Donor, and the conniving woman is with child and on her own.

His conclusion:  If a woman holds out for Mr. Wonderful, she’s going to be disappointed as men are no doubt having fun with (the writer only used one word, not three, although it also started with an “f” and ended with an “ing”)  a younger hot number.  The hold-out woman runs the risk of becoming “yet another 40 year old cat lady.”

Well, that certainly explains everything. 

And, on that note, Where’s BlackJack?

BlackJack Comes Home

When the original BlackjackBlackJack, the cat who came for winter, moved across the valley to a larger home with his young family, I was devastated.  I called my good friend Joanne because she and I had mutually grieved the loss of a number of animals.

Joanne listened to my Pity Party for a time before finally saying, Geez, Carla, you need to get your own cat. If you can’t commit to an animal, how can you possibly commit to a man? 

She and I had also shared our woes in dating, although Joanne had found the Love of her Life so those talks had long since ceased.

I thought about Joanne’s words as I realized how much the cat meant to me and how much he had become a part of my life.  BlackJack had been an amusing companion and he had certainly kept me entertained when he wasn’t napping. However, there was the reality that we didn’t belong to one another. He and I had both wandered in and out of each other’s lives, even if he had snuggled up to my back on cold winter nights.

As I write this, I realize this experience wasn’t really that much different than some of the long term relationships I’ve been in, which certainly gives me pause for thought.  

Regardless, Joanne was no doubt right.  I needed to commit, at least to a cat, especially as there were no men currently vying for my attention.

I knew I wanted a black male cat, having first had such great luck with the first BlackJack and then, after researching black cats online, learning that black male cats do make good companions and are pretty mellow.  They are also good at keeping your feet and/or back warm in the winter.

By winter, I had ventured onto Craigs List and, in the dead of February, there he was…a big, big black cat with gold eyes. He lived in Berkeley, a street cat that had been taken in by a young couple that already had two too many cats.

I drove up to Berkeley, took one look at the a four year old, very large black cat who nuzzled me and purred before going back to his nap. He had a jet black coat that still feels like soft velvet, inquisitive eyes and a cold nose. I knew immediately this was a cat with whom I could commit.

The two of us drove home with the newly named BlackJack howling beside me.  He didn’t know he was on the cusp of a new, pampered lifestyle.  As soon as he got in his new home, BlackJack bolted down into the basement and hid.  The good news was that I was on winter break, so I had all the time in the world to sit on the stairs in a damp basement and bond with my new cat.  The bad news was that I was still recovering from bronchitis and the damp basement did not help speed the recovery.

Nonetheless, we bonded once he got hungry.  Apparently, the key to a male’s heart may be through his stomach regardless of the species, although I quickly learned an 18 lb. cat is always hungry.

And, BlackJack is pure male. He loves food and he loves football, especially the 49ers. He stretches out on the couch and watches every play unfold with great concentration, but only during their winning seasons.  Don’t ask me how he knows, but he’s currently batting 1000 (a mixed sports metaphor, I know) and he senses exactly how the season will go by halftime of the first preseason game. This season looks particularly bad, but you already knew that.

It’s been almost 14 years that we’ve been together — take that, Joanne, I can commit — although recently, BlackJack appears to have been smitten by the siren song of a sweet young thing next door. He does come back home for meals and naps, and I have to admit, he still snuggles close and keeps my back warm on cold winter nights.

Profiles in Code

I was considering writing a book on Internet Dating Codes except it’s already been done numerous times without a lot of success. Most of us realize that the online profile narratives are written in Code and, like most things in life, men and women use very different Codes. Therein lies a great deal of the challenge of internet dating.

Online profile writing coaches — yes, there is such a job and, yes, there are many such services — tell women to keep it light.  Delete the White Picket Fences and Happily Ever Afters and use words like fun, laughter, outdoors and adventure.

Fair enough.

Then I stumbled upon a website that interprets women’s profile Codes for men.

According to that website, if a woman writes that she likes to have fun, she really wants to have sex.

If a woman writes that she enjoys laughter, she really wants to have sex.

And, if a woman writes that she likes the outdoors and adventure, she wants to hike and set up camp in the back country where she really wants to have sex.

oh.

Numerous websites note that women have their unique set of Codes:

If a woman writes that she wants to start with a friendship and see where it goes, she really wants a long term committed relationship complete with the Happily Ever After and optional White Picket Fence.

If a woman writes that you must love animals, she probably has a minimum of ten cats that will be included in the long term committed relationship.

And, if a woman writes that you must love family, she probably has her kids, grandkids and/or parents living with her and will be included in the long term relationship.  Men don’t need a Code Translator to know exactly what that means in terms of a sex life.

Other websites list the Codes used by men:

If a man writes that he is very spiritual, he is probably without a job or retirement income and is looking for room, board and a warm bed in which to have sex.

If a man writes that he is laid back, he is probably a couch potato and his only exercise is getting up for another beer or having sex.

And, if a man writes that he is seeking a woman with a specific hair and/or eye color, he is really shopping for a car.

I once got an email from a man on an internet dating site who had written in his profile that he had a lot of interests, including Sports that began with the letter S.  I thought about that and concluded that he might have meant soccer, shuffleboard, swimming, scuba diving, sailing, snorkeling, skiing, squash, surfing, skateboarding…

ok, I’m not that naive. We were both in our mid-sixties, so he probably did not mean skateboarding.

I also figured that he enjoyed sex and was being a bit creative in stating it. 

After a number of emails back and forth, we met for the obligatory coffee. 

He was a very nice, retired professional man and, in short order, disclosed his favorite S sport.

There is evidently one additional sport that begins with the letter S: Swinging.  Not Swing as in dance.  Swing as in Swingers.

Who knew?  It had simply never crossed my mind. S is for Swinging.

Holy Mackerel.

And, if you are even thinking for a split second of asking me anything, the answer was no.