This morning I’m standing in the bathroom looking at a can of shaving cream on the counter while I’m brushing my teeth. That can of shaving cream gets me thinking that even the most loyal of my readers are going to stop visiting me here if I don’t start writing again.
It’s no secret I get distracted. I should probably come clean and say it’s likely more a case of being self-absorbed. Because when you can’t see beyond the end of your nose, you stop paying attention to what’s going on around you. And that’s the death knell for your writing if what you write about is the world that goes on around you.
The current self absorption, indicated by that can of shaving cream, isn’t a bad thing at all. However, unlike my luminous blogger friend PENolan, I lack forthrightness that could enrich my own stories, even behind this veil of faceless internetdom. That missing candour is the thing that will always keep me a few steps outside the realm of GOOD memoir; but I carry on.
One thing PE and I do share is recent adventures in online dating. Me, I’ve called 2011 "The Year of Dating Fearlessly.” I wasn’t afraid exactly – though dating at my age is not for the faint of heart. PE blogs openly and humorously about her dating adventures; I do not. Maybe I should. Maybe if I’d written about it more I’d have learned how to do it better.
PE may or may not have told her dates about her blog, but I always did – it always came up. My obsession with personal stories is part of who I am; it forms how I see. And pointing a bloke to my blog is a quick way for him to understand me in an initial sort of way. So I didn’t feel free to write about the fellas that came in and out of my life, even though most of them weren’t much interested in reading the thing anyway and would probably never know.
I ventured into the Year of Dating Fearlessly with purpose last December because over time it got so much easier to not date at all because of the chances of really finding a connection with someone seemed more and more minimal as the years passed. I don’t mind my own company; I’d rather be alone with me than be with someone simply for the sake of not being alone. Being alone was never my preferred state though, and so around this time last year I determined I’d gotten too sensitive about all the dating failures and that sensitivity had turned into complacence. I was about to turn fifty; the chances of staying complacent for the rest of my life were probably increasing with every day.
Outside of complacency is my dislike of first dates. Some people think bad first dates are inevitable, and you just need to move on to the second date or even the third in order to really know if you click. The Year of Dating Fearlessly was about me soldiering on through as many bad first dates as it took to get to some good ones. And there were some pretty good ones, as well as some really bad ones and all manner in between.
If I learned anything in the Year of Dating Fearlessly it was something that I really knew since I was a teenager: my judgement is pretty good. If the first date isn’t good, then the second one isn’t likely to be so either. What a good first date comes down to is talking. Not just talking – communicating. Communicating is what gets you to a good second date.
What a good first date with lots of communicating comes down to is chemistry. I believe in chemistry – I’ve had it in the past and I want it. It’s more than shared interests that instigates communicating. If all the atoms are jumping in the same direction then there’s a mutual WANT to share and WANT to know and that’s what makes one conversation lead to three others in the space of a half an hour.
And it’s all those atoms jumping in the same direction that issue that YES suddenly discovered in what starts as a polite little hug and turns into an electrical current that stops time for a moment.
So where does all the PE style candour come in? More forthrightly, when does a new person become a bloggable member of your world?
It might start when he leaves things like, say, shaving cream in your bathroom because he knows he’ll be around needing it again soon, and suddenly, bad first dates are the furthest thing from your mind.
The other day I go down to the atrium for a cup of tea and a quick read. Not long after I sit down an old guy sits near me. His wife follows right after, fiddling with a bag and says, “so you’ll just wait here until I get back?”
“Yeah! I’ll wait here,” he snaps as she walks over to a medical office.
The man’s voice is as craggy as that of his demeanour. He looks to be in his late 70s, but perhaps the demeanour ages him. He flips open a cell phone and calls someone’s voicemail and complains about what he calls an unfair charge and demands, as a 35 year customer, that the charge be rescinded.
I’m annoyed. I came down here for a few alone moments with my book and it seems I’m going to have to listen to this guy’s private conversations. As I’m considering finding another place to sit, the man connects with someone else, presumably a friend.
“Listen Jimmy I don’t want to make you mad or insult you or anything, but I need to talk to you about what you said to Dotty the other day…
“Listen, when you told me, in front of her, that I need to talk to her nicer, you made my life a living hell. Now every goddamn time I open my mouth she’s on me for not talkin’ nice to her…
“No… listen, I’m not mad, but you gotta know what she’s like! You have no idea. When you see her, when she comes by, she’s all nice and sweet. When it’s me and her, my life is HELL.”
And then he starts to up the tone – and the ante.
“Ya, ya, but wait. You really don’t know her. You don’t know what she’s like at home. She LIES.
Wait, wait – here she comes.”
The offending Dotty returns and fusses in her bag again and her craggy man has magically switched his voice over to a conversational tone and is talking about the Blue Jays and the weather. She returns to the medical office and the agitation is back.
“Your words are now written in stone man. EVERYTHING I say to her makes her fucking jump all over me saying I don’t talk nice to her and she deserves fucking better and all that. She's a BITCH.
He’s like a pot coming to a boil. Sitting at the edge of his seat his voice gets louder and I get more uncomfortable, wishing I could say “Yo, buddy – I’m right here! I didn't need to know this!”
“Nobody knows how she talks to me. She’s nice when everyone else is around but with me. Well… no… listen, really… Jimmy… Jimmy! She’s a BITCH. I have to be so fucking careful and it’s impossible to please that woman. Maybe if someone gave her a hundred thousand dollars or somethin' she’d just fucking leave…”
Finally the Craggy One seems to notice he’s not alone and walks away to another area to finish convincing Jimmy of Dotty’s double personality. His voice has raised up another notch and I hear regular crescendos of the emphasising the wrath of Dotty because Jimmy said the Craggy One should speak nicer to her.
I think about the years that have passed in the life of Dotty and the Craggy One and wonder when it was that love turned to such bitterness. I wonder if they’ll, at some point, look back on their lives together and see any value in their days turning over, seasons evolving into the next, and their having grown old together, choosing each other to finish out their lives with.
I go back to my office think I’d still like to grow old with someone. Whoever you are – let’s not let it come to that, ok?
Rational Heart – 1
Imagination – 0
I’m working at my desk, which overlooks a fenced-in playground within a park behind this house. The fenced-in part is where the kids play. The rest of the park is where the dogs play with their humans.
A mother and a kid just walked into the playground and the kid’s posture plainly exhibits disinterest. As they get inside the fenced-in area, the mother claps her hands together several times as if to say “chop chop, go play!”
The kid just stands there in the middle of the playground as if to say “I will not play.” The mother walks up and stands over him talking, seemingly urging him to play because he then walks over to a swing and hangs forward over it and rocks it back and forth listlessly. After three or four rocks, he stands up and pushes it and watches it sway until it stops. I’d be bored myself if I didn’t recognise this marvellous war of wills.
More talking from the mother gets the kid to climb up onto a climbing structure. He then stands in the peak of the thing, facing 45°away from his mother. (I’m thinking that if he didn’t want her to see his face he’d have his back to her.) Every now and then he jumps up and down a few times. I can’t tell if he’s attempting to have fun and play by jumping up and down as part of some imaginative process or if he’s having a temper tantrum (“I will not play”) and the jumping up and down is reinforcing his opinion on this whole playground idea. From the vantage point of my desk in my diningroom a few hundred feet away he looks like a prince trapped in the turret of a castle.
After ten minutes or so of the standing on the peak of the climber, the mother walks over and collects the kid and they walk off, him skipping happily and holding her hand.