The Ex from Tex(as)

You know that saying about how you shouldn’t take a dip in the company pool when it comes to dating? (Or maybe the more succinct way of putting that is not to shit where you eat.) Well, I’ve broken that rule many, many times. How are we as adults supposed to meet anyone? And my field was traditionally dominated by men, so it was like shooting fish in a barrel.

I was in the same extremely small department at a large bank (280,000 employees worldwide) for nine of my eleven years with the same employer, and I saw a lot of changes in personnel and practices. My seat was in Arizona; my boss was in California, her boss was in Texas, and we had team members in Mumbai, India. It was decided that our group would add two more people in Texas to take calls from managers and give it the very important name of Escalation Desk so as to give the impression that fires would be lit under the people handling time-sensitive problems. We added these two people at a time that I was doing the work of 2-3 people and another co-worker, also in Arizona, was being pulled to perform special projects.

One of the two people was Mr. Texas. He and another woman were located in our Texas office, and for almost a year, they sat idle because managers weren’t calling in for expedited assistance. After my Arizona teammate and I consistently asked for overtime to complete our work, the boss decided it was time to train the Texas people in our jobs. That was how I met Mr. Texas.

He was infuriating because he was not the type of person to offer help – he preferred to just sit at his desk and do nothing. When we would have our weekly phone-in meetings, he would not participate, and if he was forced to answer questions, Mr. Texas always sounded like we were disturbing his nap.

My work group was pretty relaxed, and it was not rare for us to spill some personal info on our conference calls. We also traded pictures of volunteering and life events. When I finally saw a picture of Mr. Texas, he didn’t look anything like what I thought he would (though I don’t know what I expected at that point). He is about 6’4″, very muscular, and very tan. After he heard some of the team members tease me about my dating woes, Mr. Texas started privately conversing with me on the company instant messenger. We had quite a few “Me too!” revelations about our dating experiences. Eventually we traded phone numbers and started talking and texting during our off hours.

I still remember the first phone call. It was awkward as hell. Here I was talking to this co-worker who drove me crazy with his laziness. I’m not even sure if he picked up on that about me, or if he did, if he actively chose to disregard it because chasing a piece of ass was more important. Obviously I didn’t let that stop me either – I love tall men, especially handsome ones.

We graduated to sexting and hot and heavy phone sessions. I miss those days! It was like making out, or as close as two people could get to that while a whole state separated us. Mr. Texas and I planned our first encounter, which involved him flying over to Arizona and us getting a hotel room (because I had a roommate). At some point it was revealed to me that when he was 15, he and his friends were stupid – they were playing jumping on and off trains, and wouldn’t you know it, his leg got caught under a train. Mr. Texas only had about 4 inches left of his right femur and wore a very long prosthetic that strapped around his hips. He walks very stiff legged because he does not have enough of his femur left to maneuver a leg with a working knee joint.

Mr. Texas and I had a great first weekend together. It was not a hindrance at all that he was missing a leg, because it actually made room for me if I wanted to get my face in his junk. He was very muscular because he was a serious weightlifter. Mr. Texas’ skin felt just like what I imagined one of those hunks in a beefcake calendar would. I was still very self-conscious about my lack of hair, so he never saw me with my wig off, but the fact that two people with prosthetics actually hooked up was hilarious to me. The only time I had to look away for fear of cracking up was when he got up in the middle of the night to pee. Mr. Texas did not strap on his leg just to go a short distance to the bathroom, but instead he hopped there. Imagine this if you can, but this 6’4″ guy was hopping on one massive tree trunk leg across the room to the toilet. I guessed that he kept on his tighty whitey underwear expressly for the same reason women wear sport bras when they are active – his choice of underwear probably kept his dick and balls from bouncing around.

I made the trek to his state the next visit. He has a very large white cat with some black patches named Sugar, and of course I’m deathly allergic, so we got a hotel room. At the end of my visit, we sat on his couch and watched some TV to kill time in between having to check out of the hotel and go to the airport. I had my head in his lap, gasping and growing hives like weeds all over my face and neck. Sugar came over and at first tried to “clean” my hair (my wig!), and when she started getting frustrated by the long fibers, she completely sat on my head. Mr. Texas thought it was rip-roaring funny and refused to shoo her off of my head. By the time we left for the airport, I had looked like I was punched in both eyes and I was snotting copiously, which wasn’t at all attractive.

We took turns visiting each other, alternating who paid for the plane ticket and who paid for the hotel. It was harder to be snappy with him at work because we had been intimate, though I tried hard to remain neutral if someone else in the work group would fight with him. We even talked marriage; he’s never been married, and neither have I, but it was something we discussed as a possibility for us down the road. Mr. Texas was twelve years older than me and held onto this idealized wedding for about thirty years. I remember it had something to do with having twelve groomsmen and twelve bridesmaids, and he wanted the ceremony to be in his parents’ church (which also happened to be where Chuck Norris would attend) – they were hardcore southern Baptists.

Unfortunately, I started feeling like he wasn’t emotionally invested in me. He seemed uninterested in my life away from work and didn’t have much to say to me when we weren’t banging. Mr. Texas also used to complain that the claim “spiritual but not religious” was not a valid belief system; you either attended church or you didn’t – and I didn’t! That shot his big church wedding to pieces.

So one week when I felt like a single woman anyway because of his disinterest, I called it off. Unfortunately, two days later the bank laid him off.

I didn’t hear from him for a couple of years, but then he started texting me again. This time around I know there is no emotional connection at all, he just likes talking about his penis and where he’s going to put it. Mr. Texas also sends pictures of his fat sassy cat Sugar, sometimes even videos of her purring, always signing off by saying that he’d like to pet my kitty. In a way it’s flattering, but in another way it’s exhausting. He doesn’t have any concept at all of what I’m going through. I can’t get excited about Mr. Texas and his dirty talk when my abdomen feels like it’s being stabbed for six hours straight.

What I wouldn’t give to be able to fly to a lover again.

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It’s Raining Johns

This weekend I received two random friend requests on Facebook, both men claiming to be named John. One had no friends listed, his background pic was of an army unit crouching on the ground and his individual photo was of a guy who was about 26 with full sleeve tattoos. There is nothing listed like his hometown or location, only that he is divorced. The second was of a guy who looked middle aged and had about 8 “friends,” all women, and his cover showed him getting into the European driver’s side of a luxury car. Before I accepted their friend requests I did a reverse lookup of their photos to see if they were borrowed. No hits, so I accepted, which is pretty out of character for me. Wouldn’t you know it – they both hit me up within 20 minutes of each other to introduce themselves 24 hours after I accepted their requests.

John #1 (Army): where are you from..
Me: I’m from Minnesota. My page contains a ton of info, but yours has none.
J1: who told you that my is none
wow nice to meet you, I am from Austin,Texas and I am currently stationed now in Afghanistan for peace keeping we need you prayers..
Me (cringing at the prayers reference): I have a friend in Austin. Are you Army, or Marines?
J1: Are you married and you have any kids? and what are you doing for a living……and how old are you
Me: I am not married and don’t have kids, it wasn’t my destiny this life. I’m 41.
J1: i am single divorce my ex cheated on me and i have 1 grown kid and one adopted son…….i am 42 now
Oh I see, would you like to get remarried again…?
Me: I’ve never been married.
J1: i have been in afghanistan fro 14years now
oh Okay, would you like to be in love again..?i am looking fro the right women to get in love with again ….how about you …how about you
Me: Well, the love question is a tough one. I am not sure how this brain disease is going to play out, and because it’s so rare, the doctors don’t know either.
J1: why don’t you want to be remarried again or be in love with someone again
Me: Quite frankly, I don’t know if I will ever be well enough to date again.
J1: that will never be true
Me: You are optimistic? I have had 10 surgeries in 4 years, the doctors have decided to stop operating on me for now.
J1: why dont he operating on you

Okay, at this point I’m thinking there’s a little Google Translate going on!

Me: Because all of the operations have failed to fix the problem. So are you using your Facebook page strictly to find romance?
J1: no i don’t use it
(Except for now??)
J1: i am looking fro the right women to get in love with again ….how about you …
Me: I’m not into women.
J1: why not?
Me:  I’m just not. I see tatts on your profile pic. Where have you been getting them done?
J1: there is no tatts on my profil pic

(I can see that the guy in the picture has tattoos from his shoulders all the way down to his wrists, full sleeves)
Me: I am on a laptop and can see pictures on a larger scale, it looks like you have full sleeve tatts. Is that not correct?
J1: there is not some thing like what you are saying to me
Me: I can see the top of the bicep in the picture.
J1: dont make me to be came angree with you
Me: So you don’t have tattoos?
J1: yes i have but first i did not know what you were saying..What are you looking to meet on here..?
Me: I’m not looking to meet anyone on Facebook. I’m also not doing internet dating.
J1: why
Me: I’m not well enough to date right now.
J1: why dont you want to be in love with me or any one
Me: I have to concentrate on my health right now.
J1: i no thta you have to concentrate no your health now but you can be in love wells concentrate no your health
Do you have Yahoo Messenger Id were we can get to know more about each other..?
Me: I’m sorry, I don’t use Yahoo messenger. I can’t put any energy into dating right now.
J1: Oh Okay, can you go to http://messenger.yahoo.com/ and download it now..?
I was hoping that it was lights out soon for him, since it was about midnight his time when he messaged me…if in fact he was where he said he was.
Then John #2 hit me up:
J2: Hello C____ . you have a good and nice name , i really like you so much to be your and i will like to be friend, Have interest i knowing more about you, am a nice good and honest person 49 years of age . hope to hear from you soon .
Me; Hello John, where are you from?
J2: Am from Brazil but i live in Californian
Me: I noticed you were getting in on the European side of the car in your cover photo.
J2: I took the photo when i was in England , do you like the photo
Me: It’s a great action photo.
J2: Lol … you look pretty

How old are you if i may ask ?
Me: Thanks. I’m not on Facebook to date or make hookups though, just be warned.
J2: Why do you say that ?
Me: Well, I usually don’t accept friend requests from people I don’t know because I post somewhat personal stuff.
J2: But why do you accept me , don’t you like me ?
Me: I am always open to making new friends, but there are some things I post on Facebook that people who don’t know me wouldn’t understand.
J2: I understand that so very well, i don’t get into people stuffs i just like the person you are and i am looking for friendship that’s the reason why i send the request
(Yeah, right!)
J2: Am 49 years of age  How do you see me ? But right now am in Africa for work
(Ah ha – there it is!!)
Me: What are you working on there?
J2: I work as an Contractor and right now u got a work of roads so am making it and directing am also the Supervisor.
what do you do for a living ?
Me: I am not well enough to work now. I’m not sure if I will be able to work again. I have had 10 brain surgeries.
J2: Ohh so sorry to hear that what has gone wrong with your brain ?
Me: It is a rare disease – so rare that I might be the only one with it – and none of the doctors know what it is or what to call it. They have tried 10 operations and have decided for now to stop operating.
J2: How did it go on with you ? Qhat are the observation, i think you are on good track right now and i don’t think there is something wrong with you but i may not understand please explain
Me: You mean, how did I become sick?
When I am upright, the fluid in my brain presses on the nerves that lead to my face and also puts pressure on my brain stem. My face becomes paralyzed and I can’t see, and it also makes me very dizzy and unable to walk.
J2: and how do you get along ? does that have any problem with the way you talk or send message ?
Me: I can’t drive or walk great distances. When I lay down, the fluid moves away from the nerves that it presses on, so I can see nearly perfectly again. So in order to do anything, I have to be laying down flat.
J2: i can send you some african herbs and will heal you but it’s cost
Me: lol – no thank you, no herbs necessary.
J2: You don’t believe in herbs ?
Me: That would be like throwing parsley down your clogged drain.
After that, crickets.
This just reminds me of a Family Guy episode that a friend sent me a long time ago – it has to do with a guy insisting that a few minutes with his penis would cure a woman of all of her problems. I am convinced that is the universal belief around the world.

Get Me to the Greek!

Back in 1999, I was working at a very large law firm in downtown Cincinnati that specialized in representing mortgage companies where borrowers had filed bankruptcy or fallen into foreclosure. I was in the accounting department for the first year, and was responsible for providing payoff and reinstatement figures to borrowers, their attorneys or their prospective new lenders. We handled around 11,000 cases a month, so as you can imagine, it was a fairly large firm and we were very busy. It was a horrible place to work because of both the premise of working for the “enemy” (mortgage companies) when borrowers had fallen on hard times, plus the office manager was a tyrant – there were about 325 of us paralegals who worked under her eagle eye, and she had no qualms about firing people she didn’t like. Do you know how we knew someone was fired? At 4:45 pm, she would announce over the loudspeaker that she wanted to see a particular person in her office, and then immediately after that she would announce that she wanted the supervisor in charge of computer access to call her too. It was hell.

But on the flip side, my co-workers and I had quite a bit of fun. I made some long-term friends who I am still in contact with now. Oh, and if you didn’t know it already, attorneys know how to PARTY. We took over a lot of happy hours. There were all kinds of shenanigans.

One person that I became close with, whom I will nickname Marry Me, was a very pretty young woman with DDD breasts (she didn’t want to lose weight because they would deflate) who did a lot of partying. She was also hopeless when it came to men. Marry Me would spend a night or a day with a guy, and either he wouldn’t leave her place or she wouldn’t leave his, and within a week and a half she was convinced she was in love and they were going to get married. At about the two week mark the guys would dump her and she would be a wreck, and she missed many days because she would call in sick after a breakup.

It’s difficult to imagine now, but back in 1999, we still only had email and Yahoo or MSN messaging. To get a picture from a camera onto a computer was a major feat. Internet stalking wasn’t a “thing” yet – and neither was Google, so she or I would have had no way to figure out just how many of these guys were felons or drug addicts, etc.

We would field about 70 calls in the course of a workday, and Marry Me received a call from a broker whom I will nickname Nice Try. She was between men at that point and decided she liked his voice, so she immediately started flirting with him. She would find excuses to call him (normally we would only talk to borrowers or third parties once, twice tops), and very quickly they started emailing and calling during off hours. Marry Me quickly progressed to phone sex with this guy. Nice Try told her that he had a daughter that did not live with him, and he described himself as being a little overweight with hair that was thinning on top. He was older than us by a good 15 years, but she still felt very connected with him. Unfortunately, he was living in Cleveland, which is a four-hour drive from Cincinnati.

Marry Me started talking about moving in with him and becoming a family with him and his daughter. This was over the course of three weeks. I finally convinced her that before she kept making plans, she ought to meet Nice Try first. I also thought that she shouldn’t go alone (especially since she didn’t have the best track record with men). So we made plans to go up to his condo, and encouraged him to invite a few friends so we could get a feel for his life in general.

All the way up there, we sang Ricky Martin’s “Living La Vida Loca” at the top of our lungs while Marry Me tried to calm her nerves. She was convinced she was meeting her soul mate. I think she may have even told him she loved him. When we finally pulled up to the condo late that Friday night and knocked on the door, we were greeted by Nice Try – who was about 400 lbs. and bald. I’m not even sure if he was honest about his age; I think the only thing he was truthful about was his address. Marry Me was devastated. She was also immediately grateful that I didn’t allow her to make the trek alone and made me promise not to leave her side. Nice Try did successfully round up a few friends to join us, so we immediately did some shots at the condo before going out and toasted to “new friends.”

We went to a bar to dance and drink. Marry Me was gulping down shots like they were Kool-Aid. Nice Try kept trying to grab her hands while we were dancing and pull her close, but then she would grab my hand and hug on me. One of Nice Try’s friends was The Greek, whom I previously mentioned in Three is a Crowd. He immediately understood the situation and offered his support to us. At the end of the night, Marry Me had lost count of her drinks. When it was closing time, we stood outside to regroup, and Nice Try was trying to force Marry Me to make out with him – he was very grabby with his fat fingers and sloppy meaty lips, and Marry Me managed to get out of his grip and run for the side of the building. I followed and she sobbed that she had made a huge mistake. I told Nice Try that she was feeling sick and that he shouldn’t try to make out with her anymore. The Greek stepped in and said that we were driving with him in his car and he would take us back to the condo.

The Greek had obviously not planned on this – the car he brought that night was his Porche, which only had a small little shelf as the “back seat” which was the ultimate middle finger to any couple contemplating having children. Marry Me was in the front and I was wedged in the back sitting sideways. The Greek told us that he wouldn’t leave our sides and that he would sleep on the floor of our room so that nothing happened, and that because we had already planned to be there the whole weekend, he would love it if we stayed the second night at his place in one of his spare bedrooms and he would take us out in style. Of course we jumped on it. Marry Me and I were relieved that the weekend wasn’t a bust after all.

Nice Try was very, very disappointed that Marry Me wasn’t going to sleep with him that night. Instead Marry Me and I shared his daughter’s full size bed and The Greek slept on the floor, as promised. There was another woman in our group who was friends with Nice Try and The Greek and she slept in his bed with him – she was 90 lbs. tops and didn’t take up much room, but by the next morning, we were all sorry for her. Nice Try had horrible sleep apnea and snored loud enough to rattle the windows. He sounded like he was choking and gagging all night and none of us got restful sleep.

I jumped into the shower the next morning while everyone else went downstairs for breakfast, with the exception of Marry Me – she was nursing her hangover. Unfortunately Nice Try saw this as his opportunity to make his move. About five minutes into shower time I heard this loud crash, but I just thought someone had dropped a pan or something while whipping together the food. When I came out of the bathroom, Marry Me was awake and watching me closely. I absentmindedly sat on the bed to put on my socks, but something didn’t seem right…and then I realized that I was not sitting on a flat surface, but one that was slanting. Nice Try had sneaked into our bedroom and climbed into bed with Marry Me and tried to kiss her and feel up her triple-D’s. The bed broke. He BROKE HIS DAUGHTER’S BED. After laughing so hard we were crying, Marry Me and I hurriedly packed and told The Greek we were ready to leave.

The Greek was true to his word. Marry Me and I were given the largest guest bedroom which featured a king size bed. He took us out that Saturday night to a Portuguese restaurant with excellent food, and then we went down to The Flats to party the night away. We were relaxed and relieved. No one tried to grope us, including The Greek and his friends.

When we were ready to leave Sunday to drive back to Cincinnati, The Greek asked if he could keep in touch with me. Our many calls evolved into a long-distance relationship for about nine months, and I drove up to see him or he visited me in Cincinnati on a regular basis. I always chuckled to myself about scoring a boyfriend from that trip.

Unfortunately, our relationship was not destined for the long term either. Being a more worldly and older man (late 30’s at that point), he was always looking for something better, including how to satisfy his appetite sexually – he felt like he had done it all already. I certainly learned a lot from that relationship.

The Professor

Yesterday I received medical records from St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix for all of the 10 surgeries I had there, plus numerous visits in between to the ER. The packet included one entire ream of paper with printed chart notes, EKG readings, surgical notes, allergies, and even my signature on some documents. What they didn’t print out on paper they included on a disc for me. Now that I have to set up a whole new team of doctors to help me through this Magical Medical Mystery Tour, I figured it was best to keep track of things and distribute them myself instead of relying on others to gather the info. It’s a plus that I have a laser copier/fax/scanner/printer here at home so I make sure everyone gets what they need.

Some things were a little tough to read. For instance, nearly every time I told the neurosurgeon or the ER staff that my shunt wasn’t working like it should have been, they would tell me that everything looked fine in my scans and that it must be “something else.” After I would beg and plead with the neurosurgeon to do another surgery so I could function again, he would again tell me that everything was fine and he couldn’t say exactly why I had symptoms, but he replaced everything. One of the times was in February of 2013; Dr. N. was out of the country teaching in Japan, and I went into full failure – face drooping, blurred vision, fatigue, vertigo, and I was walking funny, like a cat with anesthesia from a vet wearing off. One nurse told me to go to the hospital four miles away from my house to see if they could treat me for headache. That hospital ended up doing a nuclear shunt study, which they had NEVER done before – I had to tell the radiologist where to inject the nuclear material in my shunt under live x-ray – and they kept me for six days. At the end of the six days they told me the study was “fine” but opted to transport me to St. Joseph’s because Dr. N. was back in the country. I was at St. Joe’s for another six days, during which time Dr. N. did another surgery on me. Now that I’m seeing what was in the report, Dr. N. actually agreed that the shunt flow was sluggish. It wasn’t my imagination and everything was not “fine.” Suckage. I wish they would trust me more when it comes to knowing what’s going on with my body.

I remember vividly the first day I went to St. Joseph’s when I was still trying to get a diagnosis. At that point I had been to at least a dozen doctors over the course of 10 months. I waited to go to the ER until the day after my birthday – I wanted to have a really good dinner out with friends, because I knew I was probably going to have to go through a little hell. At the time, I was dating this guy I will refer to as The Professor, and he accompanied me to the hospital.

We met through OKCupid. It seemed like he and I had a lot in common. He was educated and was planning his first trip to Europe. His picture was just a face shot, and I could only make out that he was smiling and that he had dark hair. We met in January after exchanging some friendly notes; in person, I was a little startled because he had on blue jeans with a bright white belt and bright white shoes, and the pants were sitting high up on his very rotund belly. The Professor’s hair was also dyed dark brown, which was unfortunate – because the very large bald patch in the back shined through like a pink baboon’s ass. I still wanted to get to know him because I’m much more attracted to brains and a certain amount of worldly experience, and so we fell into dating exclusively.

The differences in our beliefs and backgrounds became apparent over time, as they usually do with anyone you date longer than one night. First, he grew up in the middle of small town Indiana – and was exactly like the people I so desperately wanted to get away from in the little town of 300 I lived in in Minnesota for five years. He was strictly a meat-and-potatoes, salt-and-pepper guy – he refused to eat any vegetables or try anything that had flavor. He hadn’t ever even seen a bagel until he was 24!!! To him, those were exotic. He worked at the law library on the main campus of Arizona State University (ASU) and held a bachelor’s degree, but was re-enrolled for his Master’s. However, ASU let him teach one class: Critical Thinking (hence the use of his nickname “The Professor”). We would laugh over some of the things his freshman and sophomore students would come up with in who exactly they hated in the world but couldn’t explain why. But what really bothered me is that he was in his mid-40’s and his mommy was giving him cash every time he got an “A” grade on a paper, and then he’d get a bigger amount if he got an “A” for an entire class. He bragged about how easy school was for him and how smart he was. I would ask him why his mom was paying him for good grades when he had just said how easy it was for him to get high grades. He did not like that question.

The Professor was also a big fan of comics. I helped him to make a transcript of some of his interviews as he was a contributor for an online publication for comics fans. The Professor would brag about how he was a much better interviewer than anyone else, but after putting together some transcripts for him, clearly he struggled with having an actual conversation and he was asking all of the artists the same exact questions. He was just talking to hear himself talk. I am not a fan of comics myself (despite many artists trying to get me hooked), so having to sit through that stuff was a little tedious.

When The Professor talked about his trip to Europe, I really had to bite my tongue. He was likely going to be scared by some of the cuisine (though in England he would fit right in because everything is boiled), but even more importantly, it was going to be a BICYCLE tour. I knew his weight was going to hold him back; when we were simply driving in the car or watching a movie, I could hear him constantly gasping for air and groaning with the effort. The Professor was a mouth breather and sounded like a monster from a horror film. He also had terrible allergies but refused to take allergy meds because he didn’t want to be a “pill pusher.” I found an OTC brand that dissolves in the mouth and he was in heaven. Even the brands that do not have dissolving tablets manufacture incredibly small tablets, so it’s nothing to swallow them. And since when is taking allergy medicine being a “pill pusher”?

Lastly, The Professor refused to wear antiperspirant or deodorant because he said he didn’t like how it felt. He was about 350 lbs. and like everyone else in a super hot city like Phoenix, he sweated profusely. One time when we sat outside of a restaurant after a meal and enjoyed the sunset, he put his arm around me, and his sweaty pit rubbed that sour smell all over all over my shoulders and wig. I hate having to wash my wig more often than is recommended because the fibers and cap wear out faster.

We had connected at a time when my symptoms were somewhat dormant; I could still see while sitting upright and still drive. However, when I became sicker and sicker and still had to deal with our differences, I debated sending him on his way. It was just exhausting. I am not good at projecting a poker face.

The Professor was with me after I spent a week in St. Joseph’s when the group of doctors filed into my room and told me they decided to operate on me. I cried like a baby after they left the room, and The Professor held my hand and tried to comfort me. But the next week when I was home again waiting to be cleared for surgery, I decided it was time. We sat down on my couch and I held his hand and told him that I didn’t think we were compatible. He told me he expected me to break things off because I would sometimes look at him like he was an idiot. I honestly can’t remember most of the exchange, but I do know that I ended it with telling him that I thought he ought to re-think his stance on deodorant. The Professor then said he didn’t use it because he was allergic to it, and I told him that just because he was allergic to one brand didn’t mean he would be to all brands – I broke out in hives from Secret products, so I went and found one that didn’t do that to me. I also called out the fact that he told me previously that he didn’t like it, not that he was allergic to it, and that’s a big difference.

Last year, when I was having a particularly rough night with pain and medication, I sent an email to The Professor saying that I was sorry about the way that I ended things with him and that I wished him happiness. I didn’t hear back from him, but after doing some searching on Facebook, I confirmed he’s up to about 400 lbs. and is engaged. Good for him.

Hey, Peter Pan, I’m Going Home Now

An article was posted in a local paper about a woman, an attorney for a meat packaging plant, who was trying to adopt a teenage girl out of the foster system and provide her with a stable home and a brighter future. She had never met the girl but rather read about her, and something in her was motivated to change her life completely to give this girl something she had never had before. The woman went through parenting classes for a year in order to learn how best to help this girl who had suffered neglect and abuse. The article bemoaned the fact that though this woman had jumped through all of these hoops, the state was dragging its feet on placing the teenager with her simply because of bureaucracy and red tape.

I shouldn’t read the comments section of ANYTHING published ANYWHERE, I know. But I did, and it was just as frustrating as I expected. Instead of the commenters being outraged about this teenaged girl’s case not being accelerated to be adopted by this woman who obviously wanted to give her stability, structure and love, the majority of the commenters left nasty statements about this woman’s hair and weight. This woman, an attorney, had a bright turquoise streak of hair at the front of her otherwise “normal” brown hair, and she was overweight. I did not receive any intelligent replies to questions that I asked that were to the tune of, “What does her appearance have to do with her being able to provide a loving home to this child?” Some people told me that I was stupid if I couldn’t see it, others said she obviously lacked self control. One young woman remarked that the turquoise in her hair shouldn’t be allowed in someone her age. I have to say that that really got to me.

The first and obvious problem I have with all of these trolls is that this woman is clearly intelligent – her company is obviously not bothered to be represented by legal counsel who happens to have an unusual color in her hair – and financially stable, and strongly committed to giving this girl the best possible start to her young adult life after being mistreated and neglected for so many years. Second, why is she “too old” for something fun like putting a turquoise streak in her hair?

Over and over I’ve seen advice columns about what not to wear over ages 30/40/50. (One of the funniest items was advice not to wear “suntan” pantyhose, because no one is going to believe you have a suntan after 40.) There are some things I agree with, like it’s weird to see an middle-aged woman trounce around in sweatpants with “PINK” written on the ass. Then there’s the whole class of women who think their only value in this life is to compete with their daughters (and even their granddaughters) for the attention of men, so they dress in tank tops and short shorts that would normally show up on a 14-year-old. But a turquoise streak? Maybe it’s because my father was a hair stylist, or maybe it’s because I have always been a little rebellious, but I think the day I swear off experimenting with color in my life is the day I die. I haven’t worked up the balls to get a blue wig, but I’m getting there. And I’m 41.

So this leads me to the next question:  At what age or event did you feel as if you were truly a grownup? I posed the same question on my Facebook page and received interesting answers. Of course there were a bunch of men who declared that they still hadn’t grown up, all over the age of 40. One man said it was the day his eldest daughter was born. One woman said that her wedding day made her feel like an adult; another said it was when she gleefully anticipated canning, making bread from scratch and putting out a big spread for the holidays. One woman said, “34, maybe?” Obviously this is a small sampling, and is by no means scientific, but I think it enforces the concept that you are only as old as you feel mentally. And this attorney with the brightly colored streak in her hair obviously was not giving in to old age and mediocrity just yet.

For me, I felt like an adult at 16, because it was my first year living away from home. From that point on, I threw myself head first into the world, paying bills (on time!) and finding new places to live around the country without seeing them in person first. Creating a circle of truly close friends is a totally different playing field when you aren’t in school anymore.

Lastly, I am pondering this because I think it demonstrates the challenges of dating. I, as a 41-year-old woman who hasn’t lived at home since I was 16, have felt like an adult for that amount of time. I might want blue hair, but I think that’s a shout-out to my artistic tendencies, not my level of maturity. None of the women claimed that they still hadn’t “grown up” and the majority of the men said they were never going to “grow up.” So whose job is it to change in order to make a relationship work and endure?

(Title by Patty Griffin, first line to her song “Peter Pan”)

Youth is Wasted on the Young

The summer I was 19 was a magical time. I don’t mean that everything fell into place perfectly and I knew what I was going to be when I grew up, but rather that I had a lot of firsts and I wasn’t burdened by disease. I had all of my beautiful, fine, soft hair and had no inkling that in four years I would be sidelined by fibromyalgia or that a weird brain disorder was looming over me.

I had managed to make it through my first year at university with my virginity intact. A couple of guys had tried to talk me out of it but failed. I certainly wasn’t holding onto it for a special occasion – I did not have any grand illusions that I was saving it for marriage or anything misguided like that. But by the time I finished that first year of college, I decided to let go of a few things, including going back for a second year, as well as that nagging virginity. I moved back to Mackinac Island and lived above the busiest bar on the island – very much a departure from the “Virgin Vault” the previous summer – and there was a constant whirlwind of many, many people to meet, both workers on the island and visitors.

Within the first week I was introduced to a guy who managed to get my knickers off within the second hour of becoming acquainted. At this point I just wanted to get it out of the way because I had heard too many stories about how it was painful the first time. Well, I didn’t have the experience of a hymen being torn or dealing with blood. Unfortunately, the guy didn’t believe that it was my first time because of that, and he was pretty rough (and also a bit drunk). I ended up with a lot of bruises. We went through a lot of condoms. We finally fell asleep in my bed (the bottom bunk in a 4-bed room), and I woke up in the wee hours suddenly startled by the fact that I couldn’t remember his name. I knew it was four letters, that was all. In his drunken slumber he kept elbowing me in the face while he rubbed his mug vigorously, so that was a zero sleep night. Not the best first time, but at least I got it out of the way – and thanks to his choice in seduction music, I still can’t listen to “Ziggy Stardust” to this day, even though I adore David Bowie. A few weeks later he came back for a repeat performance but I turned him down.

This was the year that I became acquainted with a lot of foreign workers. Within the first three weeks on the island, I knew them all. They represented England, Germany, Austria, Spain and Portugal. I got to make out with one of the Austrians, my first foreigner. He was very relaxed with sleepy eyes and permanent pot high. I imagine he’s some sort of public official back home now, he just had to get some partying out of his system.

About two months into my time on the island I did what a lot of seasonal workers did and got a second job. I was hired to be a hostess for a restaurant (now closed) and managed to also be designated as the karaoke host. For any of you that have worked restaurant jobs, you know that a lot of bed hopping goes on. This was my first foray into this business so I didn’t go hog wild. However, I did manage to catch the eye of two men. The first was M. He was tall with long, dark curly hair. When I think of him, I think of the saxophone player with the oiled up muscles and long hair that appeared in “Lost Boys” (see the picture immediately below). M. bounced back and forth between Naples, FL and Mackinac Island to cash in on patrons parting with big tips while on vacation. Normally M. was very crabby; I chalk this up to him being in his mid-30’s and having to work with youngsters like me. But at some point he lightened up and started flirting with me, and eventually worked up to asking me back to his place. It was my first time with an older guy, especially baggage like his – he had an ex-wife from England and a baby, and he was deeply wounded from their divorce. M. was passionate and strong. He also wanted to jump into a relationship. I wasn’t so sure because he was older, he was still planning on leaving at the end of September, and I simply did not have a lot of dating experience. I still remember the walk of shame back to my apartment in the early morning. My hair was tangled, my mascara and eyeliner were everywhere but on my eyes, I was wearing the previous day’s clothes…and wouldn’t you know it, some customers I had helped the previous day were the first people to see (and recognize) me.

TimCapello

The next night he wasn’t working, and all of the sudden a British waiter, S., became very flirty with me. He talked me into going back to his place that night. I know, I know – two nights in a row, different guys – slow your roll down! But again, I was largely inexperienced with dating and flattered that another handsome man found me attractive. S. had blue eyes and dark wavy hair, and his features reminded me of a much cuter Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. He gave me a massage with the best smelling body oil I still haven’t been able to find since and we put the Sade album “Love Deluxe” on repeat to sleep to the rest of the night. S. was brooding and dark, and confessed that he was still hurt by his recent breakup with his long-term girlfriend, Jackie, who was supposed to be traveling with him while they worked their way around the world to Australia. We talked about the possibility of me taking her place and the logistics of trying to earn cash without a work visa. The next morning when we woke and cuddled, I informed him that I had been intimate with our co-worker the night before our night together. S. explained to me that M. was outright rude to him simply because his accent reminded M. of his ex-wife, and that this would likely cause problems at work, but I would have to decide between the two of them.

S. was talking about a future with me; M. only wanted to forget his past. That night, all three of us happened to be working at the restaurant. M. was very excited to see me – he was dressed up and wearing cologne and a huge smile. M. and S. took turns hanging out at my hostess station and flirting but keeping away from each other. I was torn. I still cringe from this, but I finally made up my mind and told M. that I had decided to date S. M. was hurt and angry, and he had every right to be – there was no way he could have known what I was up to the night after we had been together. I am still not convinced that I made the right decision and I wonder how different things would be now if I had gone the other way.

S. and I had our share of fun. One of my best memories with S. is that a co-worker offered to let us use her car to take a trip to a city two hours away from the island. S. insisted on driving first because he had made it a point to get an international driver’s license, but after a few scary turns into oncoming traffic, he pulled over and begged me to drive. We spent the day shopping in Traverse City and then headed back. The co-worker failed to tell me that her car was leaking transmission fluid. When I got to Mackinac Bridge, the fifth longest suspension bridge in the world, the car suddenly began to decelerate, despite me having the gas pedal to the floor. S. woke up in the passenger seat when cars began honking at me. He was yelling at me to stop slowing down, and I was yelling that I wasn’t doing it on purpose, something was wrong with the car. We made it across the bridge going 10 mph and ended up coasting into the first parking lot off of the bridge, which happened to be a hotel. We had missed the last ferry and so had to stay there for the night. S. did the best thing a boyfriend has ever done, which was go out and buy tampons for me at a convenience store because I was not prepared for my period to start that night. He also scored a pizza for our dinner.

S. and I dated until the very end of the season before the first snowflake fell. Instead of taking me with him across the globe, though, he broke up with me. He was still hoping to reconcile with Jackie and was convinced he would see her in Australia. I still remember the day he left. The main street was very quiet and it was an overcast, windy day. I was watching out my window onto the street because I knew which ferry he would be taking, and there he was walking his slouched-over British walk with his big travel bag on his shoulder, not looking anywhere but straight ahead. I wanted to yell goodbye to him but instead watched him as long as I could before he disappeared into the ferry while I cried big, fat tears.

Now that I am older and bed-bound, I lament the fact that I will never have the opportunity to choose between S. and M. again.

(Thank you to George Bernard Shaw for the title quote.)

Would You Like Some Mayo With That?

Today I made a trip out to a new neurologist with my mom’s friend as the getaway driver. He was recommended to me by my sister’s employee because he was a great help to her family member, who was also suffering from some mysterious neurological issues (but after only 10 minutes he figured it all out). I went in with my usual folder of about 100 pages of documentation. After chatting with him for about 45 minutes and getting a brief neuro evaluation, he determined I should go to the Mayo to be seen by numerous doctors so they could try to get to the bottom of it. Those were the magic words I was waiting for. I already have my hotel picked out down there! I found out after I booked the appointment that this particular neurologist was trained at the Mayo and he still has an “in,” so they can’t turn down his referral. So I stumped another doctor but it was not a pointless visit – I am finally getting my foot in the door.

I am relieved that this particular fight to be seen by some of the world’s leading experts on issues with CSF is finally over, but I’m already looking ahead – and I know that this is the last stop for me. If they can’t figure it out, there’s no where else for me to go. Also, maybe this time someone will write me up in JAMA and put their name on this condition. I’m tired of having to explain why I have placeholders for the disease names.

Rubbernecking

Whenever I listen to the album “Happenstance” by Rachael Yamagata, I am reminded of a guy I dated who belonged to the big social group that I mentioned previously. We bonded over our love of all things music (with the exception of Christian, contemporary country and rap) and at the end of one date we sat in my car and listened to the album from front to back – he was impressed with the range of styles of songs included on that one disc. He was a recruiter for a small music and sound tech school. The only way I can describe his appearance is that he looked like the love child of Chris Farley and Guy Fieri; henceforth I will call him Chris Fieri. He was mostly bald and the remaining hair he had he dyed fluorescent blonde. He was outgoing and enthusiastic – sometimes without being aware of social cues. I thought it would be nice to date someone who was inherently social rather than introverted because I love to get together with various personalities and it would be great to not have to worry about him wandering off to a corner by himself.

Chris Fieri and I went on a series of dates over the course of a few months. I even made him a part of my birthday celebration, and the best gift he could have given me turned out to be absolutely fantastic camping chair that I have now used for years to go to outdoor concerts. We went to movies and dinner dates, and then joined back up with other people from the group for shows and bar outings.

One time he invited me to the Wrigley Mansion to watch his friend play a show. This friend was a guitarist and it was a great night for music; also included in the audience were a few others including the former drummer for the Gin Blossoms. At one point it was eight guys and myself in our little group. However, I could tell that this crowd ran at a different pace than I did – most of guys had well-groomed eyebrows and the same style of button-down shirts with embroidered designs over one shoulder as if they had an elaborate underlying tattoo that could not be contained by fabric alone. I am more the type that I am not constantly concerned with my appearance and can only truly relax if others around me are confident in themselves rather than overcompensating.

The Wrigley Mansion’s stage was tiny, only enough room for the guitarist and a percussionist. The Mansion’s version of packed is not your normal night club’s capacity; packed for them would be 75 bodies. As the set progressed, more of Chris Fieri’s friends showed up, including a shorter guy with a gorgeous girlfriend. The guy looked like he got into fistfights all of the time fending off his girlfriend’s admirers. The original eight guys of my group found excuses to be near her and compete to be the loudest/wittiest to get her attention. It was strange to watch because she did not give any one person attention, but instead found another guy in the bar and repeatedly turned and smiled at him while her boyfriend wasn’t looking. I kept thinking to myself, “How could Shorty be missing this??” Finally, more women made it into the bar area to check out the music. Well, Chris Fieri gave up on trying to get the one girl’s attention and went tripping after the other girls. And when I say “tripping,” I mean tripping. He launched himself at them without having a solid concept of inanimate objects like tables and bar stools that were nearby, and hooked his foot on the leg of a stool and almost did a full frontal body splat.

All of his buddies saw this too. A few of them turned to me, looking uncomfortable, and said, “I thought you two were together.” They could tell I wasn’t thrilled. After the end of the second set I was at the foot of the stairs leading up to the second floor of the bar area, and Chris Fieri came over to me and put his arms forcefully on my shoulders as if he was trying to drive my feet into the floor and sloppily kissed me. I couldn’t easily fend him off because he outweighed me by at least 150 lbs, but I did wipe my mouth with the back of my hand as soon as he was done and told him I was outta there. Immediately he went on the defensive and said, “Are you mad because I talked to other people??” I knew that trying to reason with a man who had had about five drinks too many would be a challenge, but I told him I wasn’t bothered by that, I was upset that he was trying to pick up other ladies right in front of me. Then his Chris Farley voice came out and he started bellering that everyone was talking to other girls and that he only did what everyone else was doing. So I said, “Fine, pretty sure you don’t need me here for that,” and I retrieved my car from the valet.

The next day he called me and told me the same thing – that everyone else was trying to pick up women, so he was just doing what they were doing. I told him even his friends were embarrassed by his behavior and it wasn’t my imagination. I didn’t go out with him again, even after being pushed by another group member who had taken pictures of us together and posted them on MySpace – and strangely enough, four years later again on Facebook – with the caption, “Where are these two?” I had to ask him numerous times to take down the pictures. It was obvious that Chris Fieri was trying to be “cool” like the rest of his buddies.

It’s human nature to notice attractive people around you. We are drawn to those who have perfectly symmetrical features, just as we subconsciously recognize symmetrical patterns in spider webs and leaves that grow on plants. However, the way that you handle that attraction is what sets you apart from the rest of the animals. Chris Fieri learned the hard way that it doesn’t matter if everyone else is rubbernecking; he’s not going to win points from me for tripping over furniture to chase down other women while I’m standing next to him. I can’t imagine the woman with the shorty boyfriend lasted long in their relationship either; she was obviously a trophy, and he was clearly someone to pass the time while she looked for a better option.

A fellow blogger posted thoughts this week on disconnecting from social media; she found that she was much more likely to multi-task or have online ADD, jumping from one project to another without completing one first. She also lamented the fact that she didn’t have the attention span required to read a whole book like she used to, but instead sought out short  and efficient text. How does this relate to dating rubbernecking? It’s everything. We like short paragraphs in personal ads, we cut off a date after 30 minutes if we feel zero attraction, we look at other people and mentally undress them while distractedly answering “Yes” or “No” to the dates sitting across from us.

It’s a lot harder now to not rubberneck. Our constant state of distraction is the bane of our love lives.

100 Dates

When I moved to Phoenix in 2003, I didn’t know anyone. Not a single person. I also didn’t have a place to live or a job, but thankfully I did have some money in savings, so those two things kinda took care of themselves. Creating a new circle of friends was a huge challenge, though. The first job I landed was as a traveling trainer; I flew to cities all over the U.S. to train loan officers and processors on the new software that was being implemented for a large mortgage company. This meant that sometimes I would only be in Phoenix for 20-48 hours total before I had to fly out again – long enough to do laundry and repack. I also didn’t know my way around Phoenix at all – this was long before cell phones were able to navigate and navigational systems were hugely expensive. I thought the perfect way to juggle all of this was to go on dates.

My reasoning was this: 1) I could meet a lot of people; 2) It would force me to learn the city; 3) I wouldn’t have to buy groceries that might spoil while I’m on the road. I used LavaLife to shop for men and make plans for when I’d be back in Phoenix. I booked breakfast, lunch and dinner dates. Occasionally – rarely – some of them got second dates.

One that did was Don Juan. He was a slick Mexican guy with a BMW, and turned out to be my introduction into the world of “Netflix and chill” before it was a thing. He was soft-spoken and had the appearance of a teddy bear. Make no mistake, though – he was dirty, dirty, dirty. But it got a little old being FWB, because I wanted to get out and actually do stuff in my new city. One of the few nights we were out I was driving and flashed my lights at a driver who forgot to turn his lights on, and Don Juan yelled at me, saying “Guera (pronounced “wetta”), don’t flash your lights! Are you trying to get us killed?? That’s a gang signal!” Most of the areas in Phoenix cleaned up a lot by the time I moved there, so I didn’t immediately see why he was so freaked out. However, from that point forward, I could always hear his voice in the back of my head when I reached for my lights to flash them at another unaware driver.

Another was Earl. I had a soft spot for Earl because he was a ginger, he had a deep voice and a sarcastic sense of humor. We only went out a few times because he was another one who told me I must be a big whore because I went on lots of dates. I get a little bucky when I am accused of something like that – what’s wrong with going on dates? I didn’t even hug most of them, much less share my bed. However, I did file away his occupation in my memory bank, because a year later I got him to make a job offer to a friend.

There was one week that I had three dates with three different guys from Minnesota. The first one was a hockey player from Minnesota. You’d think that we would have a lot to talk about because of some common interests…but NO. He was not a big talker. We found out on the date that we actually had a mutual acquaintance in Phoenix, but that conversation didn’t go far either. He asked how I knew her, I asked how he knew her, and that was that. He had pretty hair and pretty eyes, and I’m thinking he was used to skating by on his looks. Ha ha – SKATING! I didn’t even mean to make that funny.

The second guy from Minnesota invited me over to his place for dinner. However, dinner was really just “Netflix and chill” while his black lab threw himself enthusiastically into the pool in the back yard over and over. (His neighbor thought that HE was doing belly flops into the pool.) There was no dinner in the deal.

The third guy from Minnesota met up with me for a date that Saturday night. This one was a good one. We met in August of 2004. He was tall, handsome, had a deep voice and was very, very calm. We entered into an arrangement where we would meet up for a dinner on a Saturday night whenever we were both home (he traveled a lot for work too), so he became Mr. Saturday Night. Though it was not a traditional love match, we kept in touch for years and would meet up every once in a while because we were so comfortable with each other. Oh, and we dearly loved to laugh! We would laugh for hours. He told me that I would always have a special place in his heart, and I told him the same. I took him to an event without knowing it would be the last time I would see him, because if I had, I would have wished him well. Mr. Saturday Night decided to let go of his past relationship with an emotionally abusive alcoholic and open himself up again to finding love. There was no space for me because I was the transitional person. I will always be grateful to him for being accepting of me, twisted wigs and twisted humor and all, especially since I have encountered so many men who have not been able to live with what was hiding under the prosthetic. I know that he was successful in finding his match because he sent me a note on Facebook telling me he was taking her to Minnesota to meet his family; I took it to mean that he was closing the door forever.

I learned many things on these 100 dates:

  1. There are a lot of McRoads in Phoenix:  McKellips, McClintock, McDowell, etc. Makes it difficult to navigate with only a paper, accordioned map.
  2. Being nervous adds no value. After going through so many first dates, it’s really tough to make me get stage fright.
  3. People from California tend to not be reliable because they make plans and break them if something better comes along or they are very late. Be prepared to hear about how great California is repeatedly.
  4. Internet dating is still blind dating. No one has screened the other person for you, though – you are on your own in that department. I’m not even certain that all of them were unmarried at that time even if they claimed it to be true.
  5. Guys who say over and over again that they are nice guys and complain about not getting any dates is a red flag; usually the guys that claim this don’t actually like women, but rather just see us as these things that can service them.
  6. “Netflix and chill” is appropriate after, say, four months together, but not four minutes or four hours. I still wanna go on real dates.

Not Sick Enough?

September often signals everyone buckling down to business again in Minnesota because summer vacations have wrapped up and everyone is back to school. My mailbox has been stuffed every day with paperwork too – mostly having to do with filing for medical assistance and getting all of my records sent to me by various facilities. I’m not even trying to get housing or food assistance. I braced myself for a challenging week.

It started out nice enough. My uncle helped me to connect with a stylist who has a lot of experience cutting wigs (both synthetic and human hair), so I finally got some really pretty pieces to go incognito when I feel up to it. Monday night to Tuesday afternoon a friend visited from another state, so you know I had to scrub my toilet for that. Today I was supposed to be wheeled around the state fair, but that outing was canceled due to rain. It’s probably good that I stayed home anyway.

My first call of the morning was from the Maryland office for Social Security benefits, notifying me that my request for disability was rejected. I know, I know, 80% of cases are rejected the first time, and I’ve been telling friends the same thing when they have asked about filing. I still wasn’t prepared to hear it about my case. I used to never cry, but now that I get anxiety because my brain is being crushed, I cry over everything – the Sarah McLachlan ASPCA commercials, the dogs greeting their vets coming home from war, the fact that I have to get another new mattress after only 4 months because I’ve worn this one out already…well, you get the idea. The lady who called me was not unsympathetic and probably gets upset people on the phone all of the time, but I’m guessing it’s not how she wanted to start her day either. She told me to file the request for reconsideration within 60 days of the date of the letter being sent to me and that the next person might view my 300+ pages of documentation differently. I was so choked up that I could hardly speak. You know when you hang up and you think of all of the things you could have articulated or asked? Yeah, that.

After I pulled myself together again, I called legal aid for my county and the attorney I spoke to confirmed that I should file the request for reconsideration. After that if I had to request a hearing, I would have to secure my own attorney – and no one wants these cases because the attorney doesn’t get paid if I don’t win my case. It’s discouraging to hear things like this because I’m having a hard enough time trying to be my own advocate with the health care professionals who are supposed to be helping me to find out what it is that’s going on. I envy the people who live in countries that don’t demonize their citizens for becoming sick and needing assistance.

I’ll see my new neurosurgeon tomorrow to talk about the possibility of another surgery now that I have jumped through all of his hoops, and I’ll meet a new neurologist on the 15th of September. Who needs a job when you have to coordinate everything for your very own Carousel of Crap?