The Compatibility Chronicles

Happy Monday, friends and readers!

Please join me over on my new blog as I shift into discussing the discoveries, joys, questions, and challenges of being in a new relationship for the first time since getting divorced in 2008. My days as a serial dater are over for the foreseeable future. Hope to see you over there! 😀

The Compatibility Chronicles

Meditation on productivity

What’s the first thing that springs to mind when you hear or see the word “productivity”?

Some people (my friends, who I unscientifically polled) think of work, workaholics, factories, grad school, software programs like MS Word, assembly lines, consultants out to make a buck, robots, drudgery, and exhaustion (or simply the subconscious thought that one is not being productive enough…ever).

For me, the term “productivity” is linked to business, academic, and creative output. When I teach, I am being productive. When I grade at Panera for four or five hours on my day off, I am being productive. When I am photographing images for my artistic development or gratis for a local non-profit or for money (portraiture), I am being productive. Even in purely personal terms, when I run errands, clean the bathroom, finish the laundry, change a blown fuse in my car…I am being what most people would accurately define and label as “productive” in a socially acceptable way.

Labels and definitions are on my mind lately because of what I have going with my Hard Salami. The longer we are together, the more I’m sensing external pressure to define or label what we have going. My students call him my “boyfriend,” although he is neither a boy nor my friend.

Personally, I dislike labels because once something is labeled, the label itself can impose change on a situation and not always for the better.

For instance, marriage. Once two people are “married,” they are obligated to love, cherish, and worry about, and take care of the other person…instead of just voluntarily wanting to and daily choosing to love, cherish, worry about, and care for the other person. “Obligation” and “marriage” go hand in hand down the aisle, through the garage and kitchen and into the bedroom, pervading every emotional and tangible aspect of life until (in my former marriage), the pressure of that obligation becomes too much for one person to handle. Then, snap. Done.

A life without labels seems more sensible (if a little less cleanly organized into comfortable compartments for everyone else to understand) because that way, without a clear-cut definition impressing its weight, the two people have more fluidity and flexibility to continually and voluntarily CHOOSE to be kind, be loving, be faithful, be engaged with the other person’s heart and mind. The relationship becomes more of a constantly fluctuating sea with protective sea walls, rather than the immoveable and inflexible sea wall itself.

It may seem silly, but semantics and precise terminology can be very powerful.

Back to “productivity.” If you, like me, also think of business-related situations or “getting stuff done” as the relevant and primary definition of being productive, then where does laying in bed for hours talking quietly, kissing, stroking hands and arms, and enjoying each other’s company fit in? Or gazing in awe at Picasso’s “Sunflowers” at a museum on a Saturday afternoon (not the replica – the original!)? Or daydreaming while your coffee gets cold? Or watching the ocean waves ripple, roll, and crash against the shoreline for two hours? Salami considers these activities to be “leisure time” instead of productive time, although he did make an observation that acknowledges how certain activities can be perceived as “productive,” depending on the situation and circumstance.

When did we lose our ability to consider the whimsical, the soft and romantic, the creative and the quiet activities that should bring our lives such joy and relief as productive pastimes? When did these slow-paced activities become a “waste of time” rather than “essential” to productivity?

I found myself saying, “This isn’t very productive” while Salami and I were laying in bed chattering away Saturday morning side by side, with an 80-pound pit bull (who thinks he is a nine-pound cat) leaning heavily against my leg with his head on my foot. We paused now and then to exchange a giggle, a kiss, or a hug and a smile. The moment I said it, I felt funny, like I was betraying my true self.

These are the moments that we remember, the ones that make up the sum of our lives and experiences. Our lives are not widgets. And here, I just diminished the import of this moment by labeling it “unproductive.” Fortunately, Salami immediately countered me by saying, “It’s romantically productive,” and then leaned in for a kiss.

Situationally and contextually, what is considered “productive” can change, but I would venture to suggest that most of us would not label these slower, softer moments of discovery and romance to be “productive” – certainly not in the widget-making way of capitalist-consumer society – and even in the circumstance of developing a deeper connection within a relationship.

However, I find myself wanted to have more of these unconventionally productive moments than less. Does this label me as lazy? I’ve been pushing and working hard – certainly more than 40 hours a week – for over a decade. And I’m tired.

I told Salami this weekend over sushi that I’m at a point now where I WANT to privilege my personal life over my professional. I’ve worked very hard to get where I am, I used to make decisions that would help my professional productivity but probably hurt my personal life, and now I’m ready to slow down a bit and just enjoy my life and every opportunity to  be as “romantically productive” as possible. Life is too short not to do so.

Thinking of it in a more pragmatic way, we get about 70 summers, 70 springs, 70 autumns, and 70 winters on average. I’m 40 years old. That means I have 30 springs, 30 summers, 30 autumns, and 30 winters left if I’m lucky (hopefully a few more, but this number is just more realistic).

I intend for these seasons to be personally productive. And if business, academic, and creative productivity come along, well that’s swell. But my priorities have shifted, especially now that I’ve met someone so wonderful and special and with whom I enjoy being relaxed and cozy in bed on a Saturday and Sunday morning. My first step has been to re-claim my weekends from the self-imposed grip of grading and other academic work.

In terms of being “productive” for these remaining 30-some years and seasons, I intend to make them count. Without labels and pre-definitions designed by a label-happy society if at all possible and for as long as possible. 🙂

  • The GPS made me do it

    Driving into the city on Friday, I had to navigate two turnpike exchanges. My GPS seemed to be leading me in a circle (and here I thought this device would make my life easier), so I got frustrated, took an early exit, and ended up missing the necessary ticket for the second turnpike stretch, resulting in a $30 penalty for a section that should have cost $1.

    Fast forward to Sunday night. Determined, I kissed my sweet Salami good-bye, turned on my GPS, and started faithfully following its lead around and through various neighborhoods (which was not the way it took me on the way in on Friday), ultimately landing outside an officepark and an on-ramp to the first of the two turnpikes that had no ticket booth. Not knowing the area, I didn’t know where to go and I was now about 10 miles from my honey’s home, and had made too many turns (and so was turned around).

    I didn’t just do this again. I sat at the entrance to the on-ramp warning me that this westbound entrance was for “tagholders only!” I debated what to do. I didn’t just freaking do this AGAIN! Son of a….sigh.

    I entered the turnpike, hoping the exchange where the turnpikes change numbers would have a toll booth like the one did on Friday so I could explain my mistake, gather my penalty, and pick up a ticket for the second leg of the drive.

    No such luck. The first turnpike led seamlessly into the second, no stopping. Fantastic.

    An hour later, I pulled off my exit and told the grandfatherly attendant this was the second time this weekend I had managed to make this mistake.

    He took pity on me and gave me my once-in-a-lifetime-free-pass-for people-who-can’t-seem-to-figure-out-the-damn-turnpike-system to avoid the $30 full-price charge. And made me pay the correct toll of $3.25.  I gave him a five dollar bill and thanked him profusely, shaking my head at myself for having done this genius thing TWICE in one weekend. (I called Salami to tell him I made it home and to relate my twice-in-one-weekend genius move and he also couldn’t believe it. He’s going to show me the easy way to get to the turnpike – and an entrance with a ticket booth – the next time I’m down there.)

    I’m getting a goddamn EZ Pass. Because I will be going down there again. And based on the way things went this weekend – and the fact that Salami wants me to meet his parents and family for Easter dinner (oh yes, you read that correctly) – I will probably be making many trips to the city in the future. So I will invest in this $12 little microchip stick-on box for my windshield that will simply register my charge each time I blow through the EZ Pass lane. No more $30 penalties for this Educated Crouton.

    :p Blargh.

    I will update more specifically later, but here is I how I feel after this weekend, to give you a sense of where my head and heart are. 😉 Good night, friends!

    Dream a Little Dream of Me

    The Discovery Phase

    That’s where Salami and I are currently – the “discovery phase” – also known as that limbo state between casual dating and serious relationship. But serious relationship seems to be where we are headed. And I’m not even scared! 🙂

    First things first – I mentioned the moontime issue shortly after we got back to my place on Saturday afternoon and we were playfully making out (before going out for dinner) – as a “by the way, fyi” thing – and as predicted, he didn’t care. He did understand why I would be nervous about mentioning it, though, because he knows men who would be turned off by this fact. But my Salami is a trained biologist and unafraid of normal bodily functions (thank god). So I was worried for nothing. 😉

    He also did something very “boyfriend-like” this weekend (but he is neither a boy nor my friend 😉 – he surprised me by showing up to my presentation at a local conference where I was slated to speak. Which was actually a good thing because he was one of three people in the audience and the one guy was on his laptop the entire time (oh, academic conferences, how you give me heartburn). This was seriously so sweet – not only did he show up unexpectedly (all he said Friday night was “no promises, but I might try to surprise you” and I honestly didn’t expect him because I knew he had stuff to do around his property), he listened attentively to my entire 40 minute talk AND understood what I said (smart guy…smart is so sexy).

    The other “boyfriend-like” thing he did was writing his legislators about these abominable education budget cuts that might affect my job…he made a rational argument and didn’t bring me up, but when he texted me that he did finally write to them, he said, “Told them the cuts might potentially displace the best woman I have ever met.”

    Oh my goodness. What a sweetheart. And he says things like this to my face as well – not constantly as that would be odd – but when we are laying together in each other’s arms, gazing fondly into each other’s eyes. He’s a big teddy bear despite his gruff and manly exterior. 🙂

    He’s far from perfect (who wants perfect?), but I told him I feel/sense no red flags with him. I suppose I could have counted the MS or his penchant for large and potentially dangerous dogs or not wanting to marry again as red flags, but with all of his other qualities, these issues pale in comparison. He is so kind, considerate, generous, gentle, easy to talk to, fun to kiss (among other things), skilled in bed, and willing to try new things and share unknown experiences with me that even being a gun nut doesn’t turn me off.

    Salami has a good soul.

    Now, he did tell me something on Sunday (in honor of the discovery phase that we are in) that he was clearly concerned would completely turn me off, given my tolerant, liberal, and open-hearted nature…his father is racist. His words, not mine.

    I told him that we are not our families, that my family is ALSO made up of some borderline racist/definitely prejudicial people who make assumptions about entire groups of people based on either their skin color or religions. So I know how to deal with such people because it is futile to try and change their minds – I just don’t engage and avoid conversations and subjects. I have been known to walk out of a room in mid-conversation when my uncle gets so offensive that my options are to walk away or jam a fork in his temple. Salami seemed a bit relieved when I told him all of this – I think he envisioned either me telling him to leave or a terrible argument when I meet his family. But it’s not my job to be the bigot police, especially when my man isn’t one (well, not really – but his experience with very tough and dangerous inner-city types has colored his attitude about certain people, but I did get him to stop using the word “alien” when talking about illegal immigrants. I argued that they are people and the term “alien” dehumanizes them and unless any of us understand their individual experiences, it is unfair to be so derogatory without cause. Surprisingly, he understood my point. I told him I can’t be with a racist. So I hope he isn’t one and just hiding it for my benefit. He really does seem open to considering new perspectives.)

    Saturday we enjoyed a diner dinner and went to see The Lincoln Lawyer, which was really quite good. Salami is a good movie-watching partner – just enough hand-holding and snuggling to be comfortable, but not so much as to distract from the movie. We also shared a few whispered observations, but not many – we both actually engaged with the movie.

    We didn’t get to sleep until 3 am. Mostly because we were talking. I love these early-on discovery talks when you’re just getting to really know each other, exchanging information and stories, sharing laughs and embarrassing moments in your personal histories.

    After not nearly enough sleep (hello 8am), and some serious snuggling that led to some passionate morning love-making (neither of us is a first-thing-right-after-you-wake-up-morning-sex person…we both enjoy some lazy snuggling and talking – quite a bit, actually, which is just too adorable, I know). 🙂

    Believe me, we are both asking each other if this is real and repeatedly telling each other how happy we are to have found each other. And we both agree that it is weird how natural this feels. Salami said Sunday morning, “It feels like we’ve done this for a long time.” And I knew exactly what he meant. I feel that, too. It’s as if we’ve leapt through some time warp and we’ve been together for a year, not weeks (six, to be exact). The comfort level that we share feels more like a stable, steady, relaxed, long-term relationship comfort than a brand-new, discovery-phase, six-week-old relationship that’s barely out of the dating zone. So although we both keep waiting for the other proverbial shoe to drop, we are proceeding happily and cautiously.

    Cautiously. We were wrapped in each other’s arms talking Saturday night and I told Salami, “I feel like I don’t need the walls with you.” He immediately and gently responded, “But they’re there anyway.” I laughed, said yes, and hugged him. He was very reassuring. He said he’s not going anywhere, he is my man and is in this for the long haul. He also knows that my trust will grow with time and he’s patient and willing to ride this out with me.

    Sigh. I didn’t think I would ever meet anyone this wonderful and who so obviously cares for me. This is an entirely new feeling. This is not how it felt when I met my ex-husband when I was 21. But I think that’s because I was 21 and you are a very different person at 21 and at 40. This feels richer, more real, more stable, and more heart-filling, and yes, more romantic than anything I felt in my 20s.

    Saturday morning as we were cuddled up, yawning, and waking up together, kissing and conversing, he said, “You are so good for me. You make me a better man.” And he turned my head so that he could say this while making eye contact – an indicator of seriousness. He knows my experience with men who jump the “love” gun (saying I love you on the second date – ick!) and men who seem to be into me and then yank the rug out (Bachelor #1), and he is tireless in reassuring me (only when it comes up) that he’s not those guys. At one point this weekend he said with a smile, “I don’t love you…yet” and that was very comforting to me.

    No one can truly be in love after six weeks, although I’m definitely falling for him. It may well turn into love, but we both know the complexity of love and right now, we’re just in “discovery.” 😉

    Salami also understands my hesitation to leap too far, too fast. He respects my need to take things slow on the emotional front.

    I told him a few weeks ago that I’m not good expressing my emotions verbally, despite being a sophisticated speaker and writer – I’m better at writing my feelings than I am extemporaneously expounding on the spot about them. But Salami told me this weekend after I’d told him how I felt at various points that he thought I expressed my feelings just fine. (I think it’s because it is him and I’m starting to trust him – really trust him, beneath the surface. I didn’t tell him that. Not yet.)

    This upcoming weekend should be a further test of our compatibility. I’m going to his place Friday night (meeting the dog and seeing his not-quite-finished interior – he said his joists are exposed, he owns two chairs in the living room, and his bed is in the basement on a concrete floor with area rugs – not nearly as “nice” as my place – he was worried about that, too). I don’t consider myself to be a materialistic person, although I do enjoy having a comfortable living space – we’ll see if his unfinished bachelor pad and big dog turn me off (at least he owns the property!).

    But he’s got two different local places in mind for dinner Friday night and Saturday we are spending the entire day at the big art museum in the city. Sunday we’re driving to where his boat is docked so that he can do an inventory to figure out what he needs to buy and do before he launches…he asked me in a hesitant fashion if I’d be interested in going with him.

    He didn’t think I’d really be interested, but I agreed because I AM interested – he adores the ocean and loves his boat, so I want to share in his passion. After all, he shared in one of mine Sunday – hiking. He went on a five-mile hike with me Sunday afternoon in my favorite nature preserve and was totally a good sport about it, despite it being longer and steeper than he anticipated. (I bought him dinner Sunday after the hike – I told him it was the least I could do after running him ragged up and down all those hills – he was appreciative and sweet. He’s used to paying for everything, but thanked me a couple of times for dinner. Such a gentleman.)

    I know these updates lack a snarky edge and smack of gentle romance, but I can’t help it…I’m so happy! 😀

    Moontime and blocked numbers

    How do you tell the new man you’re seeing that you’re in the middle of moontime when he’s arriving the next day for a two-day overnight visit? Very often, when we start dating a man, the cycle may never become an issue or something that needs to be addressed because he may not be around that long. Or if we don’t want to push pause on the sexual encounters and want clean sex, we can always take two straight months of birth control pills with no adverse effects. I’ve done this on vacations before.

    But I’ve been seeing my delightful Salami now since Feb. 19, 2011 (our first date), but we only started full-contact sexual play last Saturday, which means this weekend will be the first time he’s staying over, sex is on the agenda, and I’m on my moon.

    It’s been so long since I’ve had to have a conversation, however brief, about this that I’m feeling oddly nervous and embarrassed, which I also know is ridiculous because our menstrual cycles are completely natural and are (or should be) no big deal. But I also know that some men think it’s “gross” to have sex during a woman’s cycle, so even though I am a strong woman confident in my own normalcy, I have this strange twinge about saying something about it.

    I’ve actually been driving myself nuts debating with myself all week about whether I should say something or not. Should I tell him in a phone call ahead of time to give him a chance to back out of the weekend (what a horrifying thought that is)? Too late for that. I decided against that, for better or worse. Mostly because I lost my nerve each night this week when we talked – there never seemed to be a good time to throw that in there. Again, awkward.

    He’s going out tonight with some department buddies in honor of his boss’s retirement, so I won’t see or talk to him until tomorrow when he arrives late afternoon (and I’m presenting at a conference on my campus tomorrow afternoon and will be home by 3:30).

    Aside: I texted him to have fun tonight, but no drunk texting me later! (I was teasing, of course.) His response? “How little faith! No drunk texting, I would call and slur directly in your ear :D” Hee hee. He’s so funny. 🙂

    So now what? Do I not say anything at all and leave it be a surprise when we start fooling around? That seems unfair. Do I tell him as soon as he arrives? That seems awkward. Do I wait until we start heavy-duty kissing and just sort of mention it in an offhand way, as in, “Honey, just so you know, I’m on my moon, I hope that doesn’t bother you?” That also seems wimpish and uncertain and I’m neither of those things.

    Why is this so difficult and strange and nerve-wracking? What’s the best way to deal with this? Input much appreciated.

    Honestly, I’m probably worried for nothing. He’s a biologist, for cryin’ out loud, and he KNOWS a woman’s body. Trust me on that. And doesn’t seem in any way phased by the human form, so given these facts and the fact that he really cares about me, I’m guessing his response will be something like, “So?” But still, I worry.

    ________________________________________

    And to finish off with some additional (hopefully good) news – I finally blocked the Jalapeno’s phone number. I have no idea what he will get on the receiving end the next time he tries to text me (maybe nothing? maybe a “this number is no longer available”? No idea), but he has officially been blocked for the next 90 days, at which point I need to renew the block. But Mom agrees that 90 days should be sufficient to dissuade him if he DOES try to text again. Of course, if he figures out that I blocked him and he really wants to “tell” me something, he does know where I live. Sigh. Hoping that won’t be an issue.

    Happy Friday, ladies, and please give me some advice re: the moontime conversation? Or just tell me I’m being silly and shouldn’t worry about it. Thank you. 🙂

    What is a gentleman?

    A gentleman is always respectful to his lady, regardless of the situation or who might be around (or not).

    A gentleman is trustworthy and doesn’t mind progressing as slowly as the woman wants, for her comfort is of utmost importance.

    A gentleman listens to a woman, remembers what she says, and engages in all manner of conversation without judgment or derogatory comment whether he agrees with her or not.

    A gentleman is always courteous, considerate, and caring, whether playing chess, cooking dinner, or enjoying sexual activities.

    A gentleman plans ahead, pays for dinner, and carries enough cash to cover incidentals like taxis and cover charges and takes care of these things with no mention of it.

    A gentleman is honest, especially when telling a woman how he feels.

    A gentleman isn’t afraid to become vulnerable in romantic interactions.

    A gentleman consistently expresses interest in his woman’s work, hobbies, passions, friends, and life, and then acts on those expressions (ie, not just talking about hiking, but actually going hiking; not just talking about playing chess, but actually bringing over a chess board and playing a game; not just talking about wine, but actually going on a five-winery, five-hour wine-tasting tour.)

    A gentleman helps you over rough, rocky walks, rubs your lower back when it starts to hurt from standing too long, and brushes your hair out of the way so it doesn’t fall into your drink.

    A gentleman is not a remnant from a dead age; gentlemen may be rare, but they exist and are walking amongst us. And I’m seeing one. 🙂

    What a gentleman isn’t

    You’ll never guess who texted me yesterday during my delightful weekend with Hard Salami. Go ahead, guess.

    Those of you who have been following my adventures will likely be shaking your heads in disbelief because you figured out who I’m talking about.

    Text #1 (March 20, 6:25pm): “Hi this is [Jalapeno] i hope u ok and i just want to apoligize to you for evrything i said you wr amazing with me and i care i wll care about you for a long time sorry

    (My immediate thought…are you learning-impaired? Did you not get that I have no interest in communicating with you after your last insulting interaction via text with me? Go away!)

    I ignored this text because I was at dinner with my Salami and two other people from the wine-tasting adventure, was having a wonderful time, and had already determined not to respond to Jalapeno since our last disastrous text exchange, no matter how pleading or insulting his future texts. So Salami and I continued our delightful evening and were making out on my sofa when my phone beeped.

    Text #2 (March 20, 8:45pm): U don’t need to write back i m not specting that just let me know if u got mi mesage beautiful is important for me to know that u read mi worlds please

    Honestly, this guy just doesn’t get it! So now I’m back to looking around the parking lot to see if I now have a stalker. Salami knows nothing about Jalapeno, but I have a feeling if I shared what’s going on, he may well let me borrow one of his guns. He cares about me – has said it and has shown it in a multitude of ways, which is so refreshing. He doesn’t want to hurt me and doesn’t like hearing about times in my past when I’ve been the target of any hurt…so I know he would not like to see this distressing persistence from Jalapeno. But I’m not saying anything.

    Once again, I’m hopeful that Jalapeno just goes away and stops having these one-sided conversations with himself where he makes discoveries and decisions about me and then involves me after the fact.

    Sigh.

    I’m so happy I found the Salami, a real gentleman amongst men.

    P.S. I have pulled my profile off the dating sites and canceled my subscriptions, which doesn’t mean I get my money back. It just means that new guys won’t be emailing me or winking at me even though my profiles will be “active” (but not visible) for two more weeks on one site and four more months on the other. Salami has also pulled his profiles – he was on four sites. So that’s a form of commitment, sort of. 😉 Certainly a commitment that we’re willing to move forward together – just us. Definitely a gentleman’s move.

    Hard Salami update

    As you’ve noticed, I haven’t updated in awhile. That has to do mostly with the fact that things at work have gotten busy and worrisome…also, things are going very well with Hard Salami, who is a bit of a teddy bear on the inside. He’s a total tough guy in his job and other circumstances (as he’s explained), but he’s a gentle, kind, sweet, loving guy when he’s with me or when we talk.

    Case in point: last Saturday, we spent the day in the city doing various cool things and ended at a beautiful restaurant on the river where I got a glass of tokaji aszu for my after dinner drink. It was a complete fluke because what I originally ordered wasn’t available, so the server very kindly made this replacement – and let me tell you, it was one of the most decadent and delicious sweet wines I’ve ever tasted. It is known as the king of wines and the wine of kings – Google it.

    Anywho. I’ve been having a very hard week emotionally – I’m worried about my job, my colleagues’ and friends’ jobs, and the future of my university – I’m in one of those states where public employees and education are under attack. So I’ve been distraught and unable to sleep and just generally in a fearful and angry mood. Two days ago, Hard Salami informed me that he researched, located, and then drove into the adjoining state to purchase a bottle of tokaji aszu for me (for tonight) simply because he remembered how much I loved it and I’m having a rough week.

    He’s a keeper.

    But before you get all excited, he’s a keeper with restrictions and limitations on what that means. Traditionally, when a couple gets together and hits it off, despite differences (especially political ones – I just found out he listens to Rush Limbaugh! I restrained myself from hanging up on him), the usual trajectory is dating to relationship to living together (maybe) to marriage to divorce. (Sorry, I don’t believe in forever. Experience has taught me this.)

    But in our case, I’m still struggling with whether this is a relationship or not. We talked about it and neither of us is seeing anyone else, nor are we interested in anyone else. So we’ve got the exclusivity thing going. But does that a relationship make? I don’t think so. Tonight, we’re making dinner together at my place and will have sex for the first time – I purposely waited because I’m interested in something a bit more long term and he was completely amenable to waiting – didn’t even give me a hard time! So I’m looking forward to our peaceful, relaxing, fun, and romantic evening together because he makes me laugh, makes me feel like a desired and sexy woman, and doesn’t make me feel like he’s going to have sex with me and disappear. That’s important. He’s in this for the long haul – whatever that means.

    Which leads me to my question. I’ve been thinking about what long term might mean with Salami because I already know two things for sure:

    1. He doesn’t want to get married again.
    2. He owns an animal-aggressive pit bull and has made it very clear that he will always own a pit bull and no other dog or animal.

    Conversely, I’m on the fence about marriage, but know myself well enough to know that if I fall in love with a guy, I’m going to want more than just dating once a week. Maybe. As I haven’t gotten to that point yet, I’m actually unsure about this, but that’s certainly how I felt when I was 25. Also, I know that we will never live together because I love cats and have a sweetheart of a cat who I would never discard. I am willing to compromise on another creature once she passes, but she’s only about seven or eight and she’s very healthy, so will likely be around for years to come. Hence, Salami and I will never share a residence.

    Which leaves what we have right now. And no more. He lives 60+ miles away near the city, owns his boat (which he takes to the coast every weekend all summer long), owns his duplex (he lives in the lower half), owns an animal-aggressive pit bull (Blue is only eight as well and will be replaced immediately with another when he passes). He works a typical 9-5 job in the city with weekends off. I live in “the sticks” as he likes to describe it, about ten minutes from my university, my job is constant (ie, NOT a 9-5 M-F scenario), I own a cat, and I love hiking and doing cultural events on weekends. Obviously, just seeing each other once a week is about the extent of it. And this won’t ever change.

    Is this a relationship? And is this type of unconventional relationship sustainable over time? I suspect that we will never achieve any depth of emotional intimacy because we lack proximity. Usually, when you fall in love, you want to spend MORE time together and that increased time together breeds a deeper connection and a stronger bond. We won’t ever have that if proximity is the primary factor.

    So I’m going to enjoy whatever this is while it lasts. I have fun with Salami, but I feel like I need to consciously keep my emotions in check so that I DON’T get to the point where I want more…because if that happens, then I’ll have to bail since I know we can’t have more and if I start wanting more, then I’ll just feel frustrated by what we DO have.

    But maybe I’m wrong…maybe at this stage in my life, this type of unconventional relationship is just what I need. After all, I get to keep my own place (free of man hair, smells, and junk), my cat, my quiet lifestyle, and still get to go into the city for performances, concerts, and gourmet meals (or shark fishing on the ocean) with a guy who adores me and wants to do nice things for me.

    There are worse fates. 😉 But I’m certainly interested in your take on this, ladies. What do you think? Am I in a relationship now? Have I crossed over? And how do I know? Also, is this unconventional situation sustainable even without the emotional depth and intimacy that comes with proximity and increasing amounts of time together?

    Serial Dating vs. Serial Monogamy

    Hard Salami and I have engaged in a very interesting conversation about the differences between serial daters and serial monogamists, prompted by my question to him about whether he is a serial monogamist. (And my internal knowledge of what I’ve thought I’ve been doing since Jan 1.) And this was actually prompted by his revealing that one of his more recent dates (before me) seemed concerned that he hadn’t spent too much time completely independent and alone.

    I would agree with that a man not having been truly alone for at least a bit of his adult life is a warning sign of a potential lack of independence, as I understand the value in being comfortable being alone. I’ve been traveling solo since I was 19, regularly take myself to the movies and dinner alone, and hike alone by choice. But many people (male and female) are distinctly uncomfortable with being alone with only themselves and their thoughts for company for a variety of personal reasons (such as my ex, who can’t stand being alone and actively NEEDS another person’s presence to keep from going crazy in his own mind).

    Now, Salami’s last relationship ended a little less than a year ago. So he has been “alone,” for all intents and purposes for a bit, but has been actively dating. However, his friend is a serial dater (as was my Bachelor #1, I’m fairly certain).

    The Man’s POV

    Salami described (rather well, I thought) a serial dater (SD) as one who approaches dating with one end in mind – sex.  According to my HS, dating is fun but can result in a hollow experience after a while.  The serial dater, a REAL serial dater (a player) enjoys the game, likes the hunt, sets the snares and designs the traps, then Whammo!  The trap is sprung and all of the effort should culminate in a capture, a kill if you will.  There is some catch and release along the way, but the end game is often a sexual encounter.  If the chase is too protracted or the traps fail, it is time to move on to easier game.  This is the way of the serial dater.  He has no other real motive and his ends justify whatever means he employs.

    The hardcore dater misses out on many of the nuances of relationships.  The reality is that he does not desire many of those things anyway.  They are often a source of frustration, road blocks on the way to the goal. (So true – the moment my non-verbal cues indicated that I was developing feelings for Bachelor #1, he ran the other way.)  Occasionally the SD reacts rather unfavorably to certain actions and does his best to maintain distance.   He says such things as…don’t get too close…don’t be a fool, stay unattached…just have fun (and I would add, “you should still be seeing other people”).  He fears the idea of commitment of any type.  He is a perfect gentleman until the time of the kill, then he cools off and moves on.

    (Aside: Salami’s description gave me chills because this is EXACTLY what happened with Bachelor #1! But I was too green to recognize the signs.)

    Conversely, the Serial Monogamist (SM), which HS considers himself to be, has a different motive. The establishment of something lasting, something that transcends just a sexual experience is the usual end game (although sex is obviously part of serial monogamy – what fun would life be without sex?!).  Dates happen along the way, that is a must.  Dating is, however, not geared solely to the final goal of “Sticking and moving” (a guy phrase).  The SM wants to find a mate.  That mate fulfills many human needs (to HS, needs in this respect are not a bad thing) and chooses carefully trying to ensure that the person chosen has the attributes required for something long term, if not permanent.  Companionship, mental stimulation, physical closeness, a need to share, stability, a caring touch, a source of experiences, and so many other things are given and received during a relationship, things that a serial dater neither desires nor has the capacity to deliver.  The dater takes and moves on, sometimes (often) rather selfishly so, while a SM has much more invested.  While variety is the spice of life (HS assures me that I would be shocked at how often he hears that), a single source that is desired and cared about so very much can be better and if attended to properly can be better still.

    The SM invites the offer of further involvement, if, of course, all other things are in place. He is more willing to explore deeper feelings and can even become vulnerable as happens in relationships. He forsakes other advances (his eyes may check things out here and there but he understands that the woman he is with is not just for a single purpose).  He does not make sure he “gets his” while ignoring his partner, a classic SD notion.  He is willing to fight for what he and his mate may be creating, while the SD just tosses in the towel when the going gets even slightly rough.  The SM can be counted on because he seeks the same.

    The Woman’s POV

    My reaction to Salami’s rational definitions was mostly agreement. The only difference I would suggest is to the SD definition, when divided along gender lines. I just don’t think that most women SDs have sex as the end goal, but rather use serial dating as a strategy to improve the odds of finding a truly compatible partner. And even the women who aren’t interested in a relationship may not cool off with a particular guy the moment they achieve a sexual encounter.

    Also, some women might become SDs because it provides a haven of sorts against having to truly consider what might happen if the “right” guy did come into their lives…serial dating in this respect might afford a form of protection, a barrier if you will, against dealing with one’s own internal fears, doubts, and questions – just date as many men as possible, focusing on just having fun, and moving on without ever getting emotionally attached. Not getting emotionally attached means never being vulnerable, which is hard for many of us to do – especially when we’ve been burned in the past.

    I agree with his definition of SDs for men, but I think the definition needs to be more fluid and pliable for women who choose this approach.

    What do you ladies think? How would you define female SDs? And do you have anything to add to the above definitions?

    In defense of the common

    Exciting! Unique! Creative! Reflects the existence of an imagination! Proves presence of a decent job! These are my expectations for a first date. And frankly, a second date.

    Because most of the men I’ve dated this year never make it past the second date, I’ve not had to contemplate too extensively what else I want, beyond good sex and intelligent conversation. The idea that I might meet someone who I’m deeply compatible with on multiple levels (without the “help” of E-Harmony, btw) didn’t really occur to me because all of the men on my salad  bar up to this point have caused me to question, doubt, and reflect upon who they are (and who I am) and what they want (and what I want) by the second date (even if they make it past that point – take Bachelor #1 and the Jalapeno as my prime examples).

    Being taken to an expensive, hip restaurant, a hot dance club, a museum or a theatrical performance on a first (and even second) date demonstrates the effort and expense my date is willing to extend in order to impress me with his expectations, knowledge, and bank account. I truly appreciate and thoroughly enjoy these efforts, as well as the activities because this is courtship, and therefore, an expected part of the whole dating experience. If a man isn’t willing to do these things, we won’t be going out. At all.

    However, my post today involves defending the common because of my experience yesterday with the Hard Salami. While I expect to intermittently continue these adventurous types of activities (and even more variety) as we progress, I have discovered the pure, sigh-inducing delight that accompanies the most banal and common activities with a man whose company you honestly enjoy to the extent that you’re bummed when he leaves and makes you look forward to the following weekend.

    When I started this dating blog on Jan. 1 this year, I was as green as an unripe plantain. But I now find myself mellowing into a sweeter, more pliable version of my former self just two months ago. Why is this?

    Well, at the risk of sounding as cheesy as one of those sugar-coated Hollywood romance movies I like to publicly mock, but secretly watch whenever they are on (and whose existence in my DVD collection further proves my hypocrisy), my change of attitude about what I expect from dating a man is the direct result of my continued association with the Hard Salami.

    (Aside: The use of “continued association” is getting me teased mercilessly by Hard Salami because of its formality and sterility, something I realize that I deserve and it is funny to me that I’m so protective of myself and so aware of words that I chose this phrase in an email to him last week: “I look forward to our continued association, whatever that means.” As we laughed about my need to use this phrase at that point, I told him I thought it had the makings of a good inside joke. Ha.)

    Yesterday, Salami drove his requisite hour and a half to meet me at 10:30am for my Humanist group meeting. While that might be out of the ordinary for you, consider (if you are a religious person) the equivalent would be if the man you were dating agreed to drive a long way to meet you for a church service – as common as anything in a given week. Salami even told me later if the speaker and his subject matter (he was a former cult member discussing cults and mind control) hadn’t been so interesting, he wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much as he did.

    After the meeting, we elected to go to lunch alone (instead of staying and dining with the group). Did we try a unique Kenyan restaurant (like we did last week)? Or a local Cuban bistro? Or a vegan café?

    No. I drove us to a diner just outside the city.

    You can’t get any more common than a diner when it comes to foodie experiences, but I absolutely love diners – their history, their kitsch and flare, their reliable home-cooked menu options, their…commonality. We both ordered gyro paninis because while we both love gyros, we didn’t really feel like bathing in them (as is par for the course with traditional gyros), so we opted for a cleaner and more streamlined version. It was delicious. And guaranteed that we both had equally strong onion breath, requiring some breath mints and gum in preparation for the kissing later. 😉

    After lunch, I asked him if he would like to meet my cat and see my apartment, but not to get the wrong idea. He agreed and we stopped for about two minutes, where he met my cat, admired my dad’s paintings on my walls, and stroked my very unique river stone place mats, before we were on our way to my university, where I drove him around and we talked about the buildings, college education in general, and the attack on teachers in particular by many societal elements these days.

    How banal. Driving around the location where you work. And having a conversation that reflects and responds to that environment. But it was so much fun. And helped us continue deepening our understanding of each other, despite our differences (for instance, he owns six guns of varying strengths and believes the world consists of enough dangers and dangerous people to be well-armed – he has a conceal carry permit, and I’m more of an idealistic peacenik who thinks guns solve nothing and the world is full of mostly good people, despite the fact that I understand gun safety and know how to shoot.). 🙂 What’s that saying about opposites attracting?…

    After that, I gave Salami the option of a vineyard visit with wine tasting (there are nine to choose from in my area) or a visit to the wildlife sanctuary where I do volunteer editing, writing, and photography (and go to think, explore, and photograph for fun once the weather improves…it is one of my favorite local spots). He chose the sanctuary.

    (Nothing overtly exciting or imaginative about this choice or our day so far.)

    It was raining almost all day yesterday, so Salami used his giant, oversized umbrella for us to snuggle under as we walked to various locations in the sanctuary to look at the creek where the Sanctuary folks had removed a dam (he’s a water guy, so I figured he might be interested…he was). He pointed out what looked like the first crocuses of the season blooming, but upon closer examination, we agreed that those were not crocuses, but some other equally beautiful and tiny flowering plant. We stood kissing in the rain under his umbrella for quite awhile at three different spots on the path, including the section of preserved wetland at the farthest point. In between kissing sessions and walking down the path, we discussed the viability of building a house so close to the edge of a creek (prompted by our view of the neighbors’ houses abutting the creek across the way), and the importance of wetlands to flood prevention and general environmental health.

    Returning to the car, we kissed some more and then talked more, revealing more of our individual backgrounds and experiences. More kissing, pretty hot stuff. The sexual tension is definitely increasing on both sides. At one point, I laughed mid-kiss, noticing the completely fogged-over windows in my car, and said, “See? What’d I tell you? Fire and water. We make steam.” We both shared a good laugh over that and then kissed some more. It’s pretty obvious that we want each other, but this whole taking it slow plan is nice because it allows knowledge and anticipation to grow. At one point, I was leaned into him, just sharing a long, warm hug while he stroked my hair, and I said, “I feel safe with you,” which prompted him to reiterate a former statement that he promises not to hurt me intentionally. We both recognize that in the course of a developing…scenario (?)…and over time, things just happen, but we are also both committed to being consistently delicate and honest with each other out of respect for our distinct and influential relationship histories.

    Also, nothing is more common than making out in a car while the rain steadily falls, creating a soothing, relaxing vibe as the light gives way to darkness as time slowly progresses. The addition of the rain and waning light introduced a sense of romance, but making out in a car? Commonplace.

    We returned to the scene of the Humanist meeting for dinner (meetings are held at a very good local brewpub). And although he had an hour and a half drive and had to work early this morning, we enjoyed dinner, conversation, two beers apiece, and then sat in his truck until 11:15pm looking over some photos that he’d brought for me to see (of his former beloved dog who is now enshrined forevermore in a tattoo on his leg, his current dog, his best friends, his boat, and his many fishing adventures). He wanted me to see more of his life, since his life is not an open book on Facebook (unlike mine). I appreciated the gesture and information.

    I admit, I am pleasantly blind. I also admit that I am falling for this guy. In a serious, but steady and progressive way, as opposed to a lust-eyed impulsive reaction. I have no idea where this is going. But I’m really enjoying the journey. And he is already planning our date for Saturday.

    Interestingly, I told him that if he couldn’t think of anything, I would be happy to cook dinner for him if he wanted to come over on Saturday. And yes, this is my invitation to move things into the overtly sexual territory. Much to his credit and in honor of our agreed-upon strategy of taking it slow, he suggested today that we go to the flower show in the big city (something he really doesn’t like because it clogs traffic and the train with tourists, but something he knows that I want to do because of how often I mentioned it this week) followed by exploration (on foot, which means sensible shoes for this girl!) and dim sum in Chinatown, not exactly a common experience.

    While I am glad that we will share this upcoming less conventional experience on Saturday, I also maintain my new-found appreciation of the common.  Slowing down the pace of excitement and activity allows for more fervent and heartfelt exploration of each other’s thoughts, expectations, fears, and attitudes as we both have only each other to deal with, sans any distractions. After all, this isn’t a race and neither of us is in any hurry. The slower and more steadily we proceed, the greater the chance that we will both win. And isn’t that the goal?

    (I feel an Oprah moment coming on…)

    Better to enjoy the journey than rush to finish it. 😉

    “Friends” first?

    As the crab-stuffed calamari and prosciutto/provolone/Sicilian olive appetizers were delivered to our table last night (at the oldest Italian restaurant in the city), the Hard Salami and I started debating the word “friend.” Specifically, is it necessary to be “friends” first before traversing further into “relationship” territory?

    I think he was surprised by my answer, which is why we discussed this for the length of time it took to slowly consume the deliciousness spread before us.

    He says yes, I say no. And here’s why. His answer is based on the idea that two people need to develop a mutual respect, care, and understanding of each other before truly having a chance to move forward – particularly into the physical intimacy arena. So for Salami, a good relationship starts with a solid friendship and moves beyond it.

    Based on my experience, I now have a different opinion. I am still friends with my ex-husband and like to joke with him (much to his chagrin) that our friendship outlasted our marriage. But it’s true. We started as friends and were friends for about seven months before both of us were conveniently available and interested in dating each other. Our marriage was actually marked by extraordinary compatibility and yes, friendship. In fact, we became more like partners than lovers rather quickly. Oh sure, we had sex regularly for the first few years, but our lifestyle and business decisions meant that our marriage was taxed in a way that many aren’t. So our friendship held us together even when problems arose (like when he stopped taking his OCD meds and lied about it for a month, or when he started blowing off his customers and lying about that).

    And maybe this is simply a semantic issue, but words are important and to me, I don’t want to be “friends” with a man who I’m envisioning a romantic relationship with in the future. Here’s why. When I think of the word “friend,” I see my gay friend who is lonely and so sweet and wanting to find love (something that we talk about), or my best girlfriends who are struggling with academic tasks and big life decisions, or my officemate who I’m about to visit this morning so that we can have a marathon grading session. I even see my ex-husband, whom I would do anything for if he needed me. Because we are friends.

    Friend, to me, implies a platonic, non-romantic relationship. Is there mutual respect? Yes. Do my friends and I care about each other? Most definitely. Do we understand each other? Of course, even when we have different religious and political views, we do understand each other. Does a good relationship need these components? Absolutely.

    But sex makes a difference.

    I don’t have sex with my friends. I don’t spend hours gazing fondly into my friends’ eyes, holding hands with them and stroking their forearms. That would be weird and uncomfortable. But that IS what Salami and I do and it is delightful and tingling and yes, romantic. This behavior is indicative of people who are most decidedly NOT friends. The chemistry and compatibility we share is intoxicating, but tempered by our mutual willingness to take things slowly. However, I’m reaching the end of slow.

    Last night was so much fun. But we were in public the entire time, and although neither of us is opposed to PDA, we also don’t feel completely comfortable having an extended kissing session standing on the subway platform, for instance, when a bunch of college kids run by and hoot playfully at us. (That was hysterical and prompted Salami to laugh and say to me, “We’re just a couple of 40-year-old kids.”) And then he kissed me again. It was sweet and adorable, but I wished that we could have been somewhere alone. I didn’t want the night to end as fast as it had to because we both had to catch trains by a certain time.

    Do I feel a similar sense of longing to stay with my friends when they visit me or when I visit them? As though our time together is too short? Well, yes and no. Yes, in that I wish we all lived in the same town so that we could hang out regularly. No, in that I wouldn’t classify that friend feeling as “longing,” which indicates something much more heartfelt and serious.

    When it comes to a man whom I’m interested in romantically, I’m also uncomfortable with the term “boyfriend” because of my age. We may feel temporarily like a couple of teenagers, but life experience and hard-won wisdom make that patently untrue – we are adults with histories and experiences that shape our present decisions in tangible ways, no matter how young we feel when we’re together or call or text or even think about each other.

    So I think of the men I date (and Salami in particular, now that we’ve successfully had three fabulous dates over three weeks and have talked volumes in varying forms) as a potential lover, a paramour, a sweetheart, a beau. Hell, even “significant other,” as sterile as that sounds, is more accurate than “friend.” Salami is not my friend, even though we are friendly in our behavior towards one another.

    In fact, I think we need a new word. When you are in your 40s and dating, introducing a man as your “boyfriend” is juvenile and insulting. Any of the existing words that I just listed off would be more appropriate and accurate, if a bit antiquated. And we obviously aren’t there yet, but that’s where Salami and I are headed unless something truly fractious arises in the next couple of weeks.

    (Aside: I did decide last night to accept his Facebook “friend” request after holding off this three weeks. At this point, he’s earned access. My reasons are pretty simple – any man who buys new clothes for me so that he is dressed appropriately to attend a theatrical performance, puts up with my high heels when he prefers walking fast, and who is as patient, willing to explore the cultural side of life with me (new to him), and as sweet as he is deserves to be my “Facebook friend” so that he has access to more information about me, but I did admonish him to remember that I don’t consider him a “friend,” as I indicated in our appetizer conversation…something that highly amuses him, but he says he does understand what I mean). 🙂

    Where do you stand on this idea? Do men and women need to be “friends” first? Or has “friend” become an overused and misapplied concept to romantic relationships?