10 Reasons Why I Could Never Be A Cougar

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I enjoy surfing long into the still of the night.

Channel surfing, that is.

Hours after the hubster is gently…okay loudly…very, very loudly snoring next to me, my insomnia has me flipping through 300-and-something channels in search of something suitable to watch until I’m sleepy enough to join him in dreamland.

Many times in my late night TV travels, I’ll come across a commercial for a website for called cougarlife.com.

Now, in case there’s some confusion, this particular site isn’t dedicated to informing the masses about the instincts and habits of some sleek and powerful mountain cats. No, this is a site dedicated to the human variety of cougar; middle aged women in search of men half their age or significantly younger in the interest of pursing a sexual relationship.

When I see these commercials I admittedly shake my head and roll my eyes.

I’m a happily married Christian woman, and for those reasons alone I could never bring myself to do what these ladies do,  but of course it still makes me think…what if I weren’t? Could I commit to becoming some cradle-robbing baby chaser under a different set of circumstances?

I decided that no matter what type of life I chose to lead, the answer would be still be no. I could never become a ‘cougar’, no matter how desperate for male companionship I became, and here are some reasons why:

1. Who’s Lynyrd Skynyrd and what’s an 8 track?

Come on…Freebird? Sweet Home Alabama? No? Okay kiddo, you just go back to listening to the ‘Flying Meatmonkeys’ or whatever drivel is streaming through those buds in your cute little ears.

Its called common ground…or in this case, lack thereof. To be able to connect with someone on even a physical level, there has to be some key element that we can both relate to, some sort of chemistry, a conversational spark. Coming from completely different eras, I don’t think that the Golden Gate could even bridge this generational gap.

2. Club hop? I couldn’t even club hobble anymore.

Generally speaking, the younger crowd tends to get their kicks indulging in whatever social scene that nightclubs have to offer, and it’s the best place to go if you’re on the hunt for young, available, easy men. I used to frequent the clubs when I was young, as did all of my friends.

I, however, grew sick of the partying scene and grew up somewhere in my late 20’s. Now I have maybe 2 or 3 drinks a year and only dance at weddings.

I can’t really say this fact bothers me much, either. When my husband and I go on our yearly cruise, there’s always several young drunk people making complete idiots of themselves, and it always makes me think, “Man, did I used to act that foolish, too?”

3. I was graduating high school when your mother was begging for an epidural.

I don’t know how these women can overlook a fact that to me just seems, well…twisted. If this is the case, I am literally old enough to be your um…hot older sister…and as such, I should be offering you some snippets of wisdom and life advice, not trying to get into your pants. Seriously though, as a mother figure, I should be looking out for you, rather than trying to pick you up in some shady bar or on some equally shady website.

I doubt I’d even be able to live with the guilt that came afterward if I were to pursue an encounter with someone that many years my junior.

4.That’s someone’s son for Heaven’s sake.

Maybe one has to have a male child to actually get this, but I’m capable of putting myself in a parent’s position here. Someone, somewhere, has tried to raise their darling baby boy with a hint of morality. While the fact that he’s out chasing women old enough to be his mother holds some indication that they’ve failed in their endeavor, I’d still have to ask myself if I’d want my son involved with a much older woman.

I’d be lobbing snowballs at Satan before I’d ever let that happen.

5. My parents would be so proud.

My parents are still both very much alive and very quick to offer advice when they deem that I’m screwing up my life. They did their best to raise me with certain ethics and moral standards that set me apart from oh…hyenas and vultures, and while I may not always adhere to the way they’d like to see me handling my life, I think I do a pretty good job at being the upstanding citizen that they raised me to be.

While they may not know exactly what unsavory activities I’d be involved in if I chased after men half my age, the guilt would still be there. I was raised better than that, and knowing that my behavior would be going against every value that my parents tried to instill in me would be a terrible testament to their legacy. I’m not sure I could forgive myself for that.

6. Age is just a number you say?

I get disgusted every time I hear this statement. Granted, I’ve mostly heard it from men in my lifetime, but there has to be some degree of this line of thinking to be able to pursue a man half one’s age.

You see, age does matter. The progression of time in a person’s life equates to a greater level of stability and wisdom brought about by years of experience; emotional, mental, social, etc. Well, at least in most cases it does anyway.

By the time a woman reaches 40, even 30, she should be smart enough to understand what are or aren’t healthy relationship habits, and she should have the ability to distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable social behaviors…like chasing after men half her age.

7. That’s like, hashtag, hella cray cray G.

You, young sir, sound like a moron.

With the passage of time I’ve learned that speaking in full sentences with real words has it’s social advantages, like oh…people with some measure of intelligence can understand you.  I can’t get to know someone and carry on a stimulating conversation with street slang, and it’s a huge turn off to boot. Heck, I don’t even know what half of the words in the vocabulary of today’s youth mean. This blowout’s about to turn up, huh? You want to try that sentence again in a way that my old, lame self can understand?

On the flip side of the coin, young men that try to sound overly intelligent in an effort to impress an older woman appear equally as ridiculous. I don’t listen to indie-rock, don’t drink iced mocha-chinos, and have zero interest in progressive politics. While you blindly believe that you’re hipster ways will impress me, I’m just grateful that my hips are still my own.

8. We could go back to my place, but my parents might still be up.

For oh-so-many reasons, I don’t even need to expound upon that sentence. No woman wants to hear that, whether the guy is 21 or 40. I’d imagine there’s more of a chance of hearing it from the younger crowd, though. By 40, if a man doesn’t have some sort of financial stability and a place of his own, he should be far too embarrassed to even be out trying to pick up women.

9. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

There are so many more productive things that I could do with a Saturday night than go out and try to pick up a man- any man, let alone one that’s half my age. It’s called having a sense of responsibility. My laundry isn’t going to do itself, my kitchen won’t clean itself, my blog won’t write itself, my kids could probably feed themselves but I don’t think reddi-wip, nila wafers, and processed cheese slices qualify as a well balanced meal, and I’m sure there’s a new episode of something on TV that I won’t want to miss.

10. Oh my aching back.

While a man in his early 20’s may pride himself on his 2 hour stamina, I pride myself on being able to go 5 minutes without hearing anything crack. So sorry, tiger. I couldn’t keep up with you even if I were a cougar.

And there you have it.

I’ll leave the pursuit of younger men to those older women who just don’t seem to know better…or simply don’t care, in pursuit of other avenues in life…

Like having respect for myself as a seasoned woman.

 

To Know-It-All’s Everywhere:

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You know everything already, so you must know who you are.

On second thought, I’d wager that you probably don’t.

I’m referring to you, the one standing in my personal space informing me how I should be performing the task that I’m currently involved in because you happened along while I was doing it. As you frequently reiterate that you’re ‘oh-so-qualified’ to do so because you spent 3 years working at some place that makes you an expert, you don’t seem to notice my blank stare and occasional “mmm hmm’s”, thus signifying that I mentally zoned out somewhere after “You know, you should…”

That’s called unsolicited advice, and short of stamping “no solicitation” across my forehead, I don’t know of a way to make it clear that my knowledge reserve doesn’t need your 2 added cents unless I come right out and tell you. Then, I run the risk of being just as rude as you often are, so my best course of action seems to be avoidance of you altogether. Something tells me you wouldn’t get the hint then, either.

Still don’t know who you are? Okay Let me provide another example for you.

You’re the one that always has to meet an exciting tale of someone else’s with one of your own. Instead of just smiling and asking interested questions of the story teller, the first words out of your mouth after the conclusion of their amusing anecdote or harrowing tale are something along the lines of, “That’s nothing. There was this one time I…” or, “Oh, I’ve done that before…”

Congratulations. Your need to seek attention just made you a terrible friend. If, in fact, there are people out there that even consider you their friend.

Look around you. Do you see a plethora of people rushing to hang out with you, or is your dog the only one that willingly comes within 5 feet of you? Do you wave at an acquaintance from across the grocery store only to watch them promptly turn and walk in the opposite direction and pretend not to notice you? Do people almost never return your phone calls unless it’s work related?

Take a quick whiff of your armpits. Don’t look at me like that, just do it. Still fresh as a daisy?

Unless you curled your nose up in disgust, I doubt foul body odor is the problem here.

I hate to break it to you smarty pants, but you are likely a prime example of a Know-It-All.

Don’t worry, though, I’m here to help.

Here’s my unsolicited advice to you, Advice Guru:

Zip it.

Even if you’ve been there and done that, as always seems to be the case, try not to offer a solution if a solution isn’t needed. Assess the situation. Is the person doing just fine on their own without your advice, even if they aren’t doing something the way that you normally would? If so, then leave them to it and just stay out of their way.

Offer your advice if, and only if – you see them struggling, or if they come right out and ask. Even when they are struggling and could use some help, give some thought to the way you’re approaching a person when you give your advice. Never offer your advice in an attacking or accusing manner. Responses like, “If you would have just done it like this…” or “No, no, no. Not like that…” aren’t going to win anyone over. You’re only succeeding in making the other person look stupid.

Try something more along the lines of “Those things can be really difficult. Mind if I show you a trick I learned that might help?” If you make it seem like you’re genuinely showing interest in or concern for a person rather than simply trying to show them up with some vast knowledge that you think you have, people will start to welcome your presence instead of avoid you.

Next…

Learn to be a good listener.

Everyone wants their moment in the spotlight. It’s human nature. However when you’re the one trying to steal everyone else’s act, nobody is going to want you in their show. Be, or at least pretend to be, interested in what someone else has to say for a change. Ask questions. Respond with things like, “Wow, that’s amazing!” or, “How funny that that actually happened!” Then when you feel the need to chime in with a story about something similar that happened to you, bite your tongue. Let them have their moment. It isn’t always about you.

If you simply can’t bite your tongue, at least hold it for a minute. Share a good laugh with them over their funny story, or give a consoling hug if it’s a sad tale. Pat someone on the back for encouragement and tell them they did the right thing, or tell them that you feel for their difficult situation. Whatever the case, don’t be quick to rush in and make their moment about you. Consider the timing. Offer your own tale of similar humor or difficulty once the other person has had the chance to fully discuss their own situation first.

Then…

Ask yourself what your intentions are.

Are you genuinely trying to be helpful, or are you just full of yourself? Are you merely seeking the attention that interjecting at that particular moment is going to bring you? Do you care about other people and what they have to say, or do you only care about your own point of view? Do you think that there might be more than one way to accomplish something, or is your way the only way? Will any harm come from not correcting someone? Are you just looking to start and argument? Show off?

Whatever the case may be, sometimes its best not to say anything at all if you run the risk of coming across as a complete know-it-all.

Silence may be golden…

Recognizing when to be silent is priceless.

 

 

It’s a Man’s Job So Some Woman’s Gotta Do It

1175005_608687255820204_1173494709_nI always thought that gender stereotyping was a thing of the past. I mean come on; the women’s lib and feminist movement has been huge and only grows stronger with each passing decade since what…the late 70’s? Sure, we don’t burn our bras in protest anymore, but we’re living in a day and age where mothers raise their daughters to firmly believe that they can be and do anything in this wide, wild world if they just set their minds to it.

I wasn’t necessarily raised as one of those women; the ones that are encouraged to get out there and grab life by the short and curlies. I can’t recall a time when I was ever told, “Honey, you can do anything that a man can do. Go get ‘em, girl.” As a matter of fact, in my household, there was a distinct gender division in that there were mom chores and dad chores. I haven’t seen my dad wash a dish, touch a vacuum (unless it needed fixing), or do a load of laundry in all my 39 years on this planet. In turn, though, I’ve never seen my mom fix a fence, install an in-ground sprinkler system, fire up the grill, or hop on the riding mower. My parents have always had their gender specific roles firmly in place, and it works for them.

Yet no one ever told me it was entirely a man’s world, either. I grew up blissfully oblivious to any knowledge that there might actually be a distinct difference in the career paths that males and females are expected to follow. People were just that to me; people. I had never truly thought that having breasts made any woman less of a man.

Flashdance paved the way for this line of thinking. Jennifer Beals starred as Alex Owens, a welder in a steel mill by day and an exotic dancer by night. You can’t blur the line dividing what is or at least what was perceived to be two completely gender-based roles in the workplace much more than that, right? Women had come far enough by that time that they could wear a hard hat or a welding mask without anyone giving it a second thought. At least it made sense in my mind that things had become that way.

So at 18, fresh out of high school, I found myself working on an assembly line in a fire alarm factory. To me, it was a job, plain and simple. I helped build and create. I operated heavy machinery.  I learned to work a soldering iron until I became so adept at what I was doing that the job required little to no thought on my part. I was clearly doing what probably would have made every member of our once gender divided society elicit a collective gasp 50 years prior. Yes, we had definitely come a long way. Or had we?

After 10 years of factory work, I moved out of state. I eased into the role of what was once expected of a woman; being a stay at home mother and housewife while the man of the house shuffled off to his 9 to 5. These days, though, no one even bats an eyelash at those roles being reversed. A man sitting at home changing diapers and watching soap operas while the lady of the house heads out the door with briefcase in hand isn’t all that unheard of anymore. That line hasn’t just been blurred; it seems to have been erased altogether with the turn of the century.

In many households now, though, the male and female adults both have to work, and with the economy having taken a dump, this soon became the way it had to be in ours.

So, I found myself unable to continue sitting on my fat duff eating potato chips, drinking Mountain Dew, and watching Netflix all day while my husband went out and brought home the bacon. It was time for me to either rejoin the workforce or go hungry.

Fortunately, though, I didn’t have to look far for a job. My husband is a property manager with plenty of work opportunities around the 96 unit complex that he runs for a guy to make money. This guy started painting apartments for him a little over 3 years ago.

So, among the many titles that I already held, such as Mother, Wife, Lover, Homemaker, Bunny (my husband’s pet name for me, don’t judge) Superwoman, and God’s Gift to Mankind (too far you think?), I also now held a new title; Commercial Painter.

I quickly found that I was amazing at this new venture. Maybe it’s the artist and perfectionist in me, or maybe I’m just a natural, but either way, the apartments that I paint look far better than the rest and are rented out at a much quicker rate. Potential renters will even comment on the amazing paint job when they view a finished apartment, and my husband will beam with pride as he explains that it’s his wife’s handiwork that they are seeing.

I leave work every day a complete mess, though. There will be paint in my hair, on the backs of my arms and legs, and all over my clothes. Rather than ruin every t-shirt and pair of shorts or sweatpants that I own with paint splatter, I simply reuse the same 5 or so shirts and pairs of pants until they either get holes in them or are so caked with paint that they’re stiff enough to stand up on their own. Even then, whether or not they get retired to the trash can is debatable. It is, however, safe to say that I’m never a totally gorgeous sight after a long hard day of painting.

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Once in a while after work, I’ll need to make a quick run to the store or my husband and I will stop for a bite to eat at a fast food place or even an extremely casual sit down place like Denny’s. I’ll enter these public places amidst the stares, glares, and disgusted looks from other patrons and think to myself, “What? It’s just paint people.” Then I’ll hang my head in shame, and silently wonder if I should maybe think about retiring the work clothes that I’m currently wearing and opt to destroy something else in my closet.

Recently, though, when I was out and about running errands, I came across a couple of guys in paint spattered work clothes walking through one of the stores that I had stopped at. I smiled a knowing smile at them. These were my brothers in battle. My kindred. They, however, had something that I didn’t:

Man parts.

I realized the full impact of that fact when I looked around and saw that no one in the place gave these guys in all of their paint smeared glory a second thought. They were just a couple of men in their work clothes; the same work clothes that I often wear as people stare and glare in my direction everywhere that I go.

Why did it matter that they were men and I wasn’t? Did people automatically assume that these guys could accomplish a task better than I could because what we do for a living is somehow predetermined by society to be “man’s work”?

Then it hit me. Apparently we haven’t come as far in this equal rights day and age as I had assumed. Gender stereotyping is still alive and well. I get “the look” because many people’s one-track minds aren’t completely ready to give in to the idea of a woman doing a man’s job.

So in protest to this injustice, I’m not going to wear makeup. I’m not going to get my hair done. I’m not going get a manicure or a pedicure. I’ll walk around in shorts and a t-shirt. I might not even shave my legs for a while.

In other words, nothing’s going to change.

Still, though, I am WOman.

You won’t hear me roar, but you might see me steal your job.

Bacon Nation

Daily Prompt: 2100

The language of the future: what will it be like? Write an experimental post using some imagined vocabulary — abbreviations, slang, new terms.

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There’s this new Facebook game going around in which you’re encouraged to replace one word of any movie title with the word bacon.

This of course only works with movie titles that are more than one word long, as my son and I soon discovered.

The boy, being 11 (almost 12) decided that this is now his new favorite game, and on our drive home from work yesterday, he started musing to himself over this whole bacon bit of fun. I, of course, added my 2 salty cents, and before we knew it, we were embroiled in a contest to see who could come up with the most amazing bacon movie title.

I was admittedly in the lead with “Mr. Magorium’s Bacon Emporium” and “Percy Jackson and the Bacon Thief”, both of which he found uproariously funny, until he, after about 20 seconds of silence and some careful, face scrunching consideration, blurted out, “Harry Bacon”. We both laughed the remaining mile home. I conceded. The kid won by a landslide.

Then I got to thinking about this amazing little game and the awesomeness of bacon. What if bacon becomes so big, that someday, we’ve replaced every adjective and verb with the word bacon, just like the Smurfs always did with the name of their race. Bank tellers would send us off with a smile and encourage us to, “Have a bacony day!”

What if bacon became currency?! Bacon bits could be spare change, of course, and our wealth could be counted in terms of how many slabs we have. Okay maybe that wouldn’t work; we’d always be eating up our assets.

Bacon could become so huge, though, that it replaces all other amazing things in life. Like hugs and kisses. Can’t you just see yourself holding your arms out to your spouse as they walk through the door, saying, “Come on over here and give me some bacon.”

What? It could work.

There’s a whole bacony world out there, just waiting to be explored. I’m betting that bacon will become so big someday,  that I can almost taste the future.

Just some food for thought.

You, Me, and My OCD

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Yes, I suffer from a mental disorder. Honestly, I bet 99.9 percent of the world’s population suffers from some sort of snafu up in their cranium in one form or another. Maybe some just aren’t as prominent as others.  Or, perhaps they simply remain undiagnosed.

Do you suffer from PMS or sometimes just get sad or irritable and really can’t pinpoint why? Well, there you go; you could be bi-polar.

Do you alphabetize your DVDs, make sure your socks are matched and folded before you put them away, or check again to make sure your door is locked before you go to bed at night? Then congratulations, I’ve just diagnosed your OCD.

Has something ever shot out of your mouth and immediately afterward you thought, “Did I just say that? That couldn’t have been me!” Bam. Multiple personality disorder.

So you see, whether you pay much attention to it or not, most of us suffer from a mental disorder in one way or another.

Mine just happens to have been diagnosed by a doctor. I guess that makes a difference in the grand scheme of things when it comes to how the world looks at you, right? Perhaps it shouldn’t, but believe me, it does.

I generally don’t talk about my mental illness to people that I’ve just met if I can help it. My husband, however, likes to throw it out there in casual conversation like it’s a truly interesting discussion piece. Who knows, maybe it is. That doesn’t change the fact that spreading the word to people I barely know gets under my skin nonetheless.

This isn’t because I’m ashamed of my disorder or the way I think. I know it’s “not normal”, sure, but I don’t think I’m some sort of terrible person because of it. I don’t want to go bury my head in the sand or hide out in a dark room because, Heaven forbid, people know.

No, I honestly don’t like to mention it much because people tend to get ridiculous about it.

No one should feel the need to talk to me like I’m a ticking time bomb. Don’t think I didn’t notice that your voice went up 2 octaves in my presence and that you’re addressing me like a child because you don’t want to rock the boat. I have a mental disorder. I’m not an idiot.

I don’t know if other people that have been diagnosed with OCD can relate, but I’ve been faced with all kinds of stupid remarks or reactions when my little (okay, big) mental issue is brought to the surface.

“What, you mean like that hand washing thing?” This is one of my personal favorites. Thank you for the ignorant stereotyping. Your lack of knowledge is duly noted.

People with “that hand washing thing” only make up a small percentage of those suffering from OCD, which is defined as:

An anxiety disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), or behaviors that make them feel driven to do something (compulsions).

So yeah. It naturally must be “that hand washing thing”, even though OCD can present itself in pretty much any way that a mind with some sort of imagination can conceive.

Mine happens to lean more toward the compulsion side that the obsession side of the disorder. I have an immaculately spotless house because dust, dirt, loose hair, fingerprints, and a plethora of other things can give me anxiety attacks. I say the word can, because over the course of the past few years since I decided not to walk through my life in a drug induced stupor, I’ve had to work really hard at combatting this thing and I’ve experienced a great measure of success. There are things that used to send me into anxiety fueled fits of rage that I am now able to overlook.

It’s been a huge struggle, though, let me tell you.  I’m still not “cured” by any stretch of the imagination, and maybe never will be, but I have made some huge strides in several areas thanks to some family-inflicted cognitive behavior and exposure therapy. This basically boils down to my husband putting his foot down over certain things that I would do, even at the risk of my mental anguish, before I drove the rest of the family crazy. Yes, I resented this for a while, but I got over it.

Sometimes, when you don’t have a choice in the matter, all you can do is try not to totally flip out, cope, and move on. I have realized that anxiety levels can’t stay intensely elevated forever. It’s like a bad high. You have to come down sooner or later, and as soon as I realized that I would eventually come down, things started getting better.

As much as I’ve worked hard to overcome certain obstacles though, it just makes it worse when people, who know exactly what my OCD entails, throw this little gem at me:

“Wow. You should come clean my house!”

Umm…no.

You see, you’re assuming that I, in some way shape or form, enjoy this behavior. I don’t. Not at all. Doing what I do and feeling what I feel is like a ball and chain around my neck that I can’t ever take off. It’s a huge weight on me all the time. By suggesting that I branch out and take this behavior outside of my home, you’re essentially implying that I should give up the only small sense of freedom that I currently enjoy, because when I am able to step out of my home, I am also able to breathe and relax.

Which brings me to my next point:

Stop apologizing for the condition of your own home when I walk through the door. Okay, so your place is a little messy. So what? Are you honestly under some false assumption that this will cause me to freak out to the point that I’m hyper-ventilating into a paper bag while I stand in your living room?

To be honest, your mess is like a breath of fresh air to me. I’m living vicariously through your stacks of junk mail piled up on the kitchen table and the dust across the top of your entertainment center because I can’t be that way but wish I could.

You wouldn’t know it though, because you won’t come to my house.

For different reasons, people are terrified of visiting my home. This is either thanks again in part to my husband spreading the word about my anxiety disorder, or the fact that I will bend over backward to over-correct my nervousness when we have visitors so that maybe people won’t notice it. Then, my obsequiousness just scares people, so I can’t win either way.

My in laws won’t visit because I make them uncomfortable. My family won’t visit, either. I can honestly admit that it hurts worse knowing they won’t come, than it would working through my anxiety with a house full of people. It makes me feel somewhat unloved when those closest to me refuse to help me get better at the risk of their own discomfort, or mine. Isn’t family supposed to be there to help us work through our issues?

This is why I adore my best friend. She’s the only one that seems to get this. Maybe it’s because she herself suffers from Bi-polar disorder, so we’re kind of like 2 screwed up peas in a pod. She will make the 5 hour pilgrimage from her house to mine occasionally, and I love her for loving me enough to stay with me despite my issues. She knows all about my anxiety, and guess what? If she sees me get nervous, she’ll talk me through it. That’s a true friend. Other than her and my husband, I don’t seem to have many of those, but not for lack of wishing there were more. People that understand are hard to find.

So I say this to those who don’t know how to handle a person with a mental disorder:

You can get to know us. We don’t bite. We’re honestly not all that different from you, we just have heightened emotions at times, and tend do things that others might not consider to be normal. Then again, who’s to say what genuinely defines normal?

We are who we are. People, just like you. Your perception of us won’t change a thing.

To the Single Girl From Mrs. ‘Been There, Done That’

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I have been a happily married woman for close to 11 years now. Okay, well, maybe not always happily. Sometimes I wish the man came with a remote control that I could use on him to oh…I don’t know…mute his snoring, make him stop using the top of the laundry hamper as a table, or get him to pay attention to me when I’m talking to him.

At any rate, I love the big lug, and had to endure the same process of luring him in, trapping him, and caging him that every other red blooded woman that doesn’t live in a country with arranged marriages has to go through. Sometimes I think arranged marriages might even be easier than this whole “looking for love” ordeal. At least then you know you’ll have a mate regardless, right?

I personally had to venture out into the big, wild world and repeat stage one of this process several times until I finally caught my keeper, though.

While those tales of high school sweethearts that have known no other and are now celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary are wonderful stories, they’re few and far between. For those women that aren’t living the ultimate fairy tale, well, there’s a process to go through to get from “How do you do,” to “I do”. A process that might make competing in a triathlon pale by comparison. A process that some have even given up on after several failed attempts. A process that strikes fear into the hearts of women and men alike all over the world.

The dating process.

Now, I have single friends. Several of them. Friends that I love dearly and wish nothing but the best for. I sit back and listen to their tales of dating woes time and time again, and, well, I admittedly grow weary of hearing them. Not because I already have my special someone, so I’ve now become selfish and incapable of being sympathetic to the lonely plight of the single girl, but because every fiber in my body wants to tell them exactly what they’re doing wrong.  That would make me a bad friend and a bad listener, though. Wouldn’t it?

Then I got to thinking. Maybe, just maybe, I’d be a better friend if I were to finally (wo)man up and lay it all out straight for them. I’d hate to lose anyone as a friend, but I can’t sit by and watch some of them ruin their chances at happiness time and time again anymore without saying something, even at the risk of angering them.

So, I’ve decided it’s time for an intervention. Not only for my dear single friends that I feel need a little schooling from someone who’s been there, done that, and emerged victorious, but for single girls everywhere.

Consider class to be in session. Feel free to take notes as we go.

Lesson #1: Keep Your Goodies to Yourself.

Being A Christian woman, I could go on and on about the biblical ramifications of sex before marriage, but you’ve likely heard it all before at some point in your life, so I won’t.

From the point of view of your average, reasoning being, here’s what’s wrong with jumping into bed with a guy on the first, second, or even fifth date.

Every relationship in the world is built on trust; man and woman, landlord and tenant, employer and employee, and so on.

When you almost immediately give up the one thing that seals the deal and finalizes an intimate relationship with a man, you’ve completely blown it in the trust department, and here’s why:

“Well if it was this easy to get her into bed, who else is she out there sleeping with? I don’t want a girl that gets around.”

Yep, your credibility as a trustworthy woman just went right out the window for 3 minutes of fun. You’ve now been demoted from filet mignon to about the level of a hot dog.

Now, while a lot of men may see nothing wrong with throwing themselves at anything that bats an eyelash or flirts a little, this isn’t generally a quality that they’re looking for in a woman. Seems like a double standard, I know, but it’s simply human nature. I can guarantee that “a girl that sleeps with me on the first date” isn’t anywhere on a guy’s list of what he wants in a wife

So, turning your first date into a booty call isn’t winning him over. While it may have “been awhile” for you, and those hormones and pheromones and any other sort of ‘mones’ may be so thick in the room that you can cut them with a knife, you need to keep your self-control in check if you genuinely want things to work out.

You’re an adult, you can do this. I can guarantee he’ll still respect you in the morning, and if he does walk away when you don’t give it up on the first date, well, it’s pretty obvious that he wasn’t serious about a relationship with you to begin with.

Then you can simply chalk it up to a ‘bullet dodged’ and move on.

Lesson #2: Find a New Body Wash.

Look, ladies, if I can smell it on you, I can pretty much guarantee that he can, too.

Desperation.

While most men suffer from selective hearing and vision problems, they have a sense of smell keener than a bloodhound on a raccoon trail when it comes to unwanted emotional female baggage. They can smell the stench of desperation from a hundred miles away, and this will almost always send them running in the opposite direction, because with desperation, comes clinginess.

Just ask any man if they’re looking to give up any and all sense of freedom that they currently enjoy to a clingy woman. I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to figure out what his answer will be.

Here’s a great way to gauge your level of desperation:

How often does he text you first? Are you almost always the one sending the first text and then just sitting there, phone in hand, checking your screen every 10 seconds until you receive a text back?  Then, when he doesn’t send a text back after about 10 minutes, are you texting him again just to be sure he actually saw the first one?

If this sounds like you, girl, you need a hobby.

While he may be the hottest thing since fire and you genuinely hope a relationship with this guy is in your future, blocking out all other thoughts but him from your mind is not only unhealthy for so many reasons, it going to cause you to blow it in the end. You need to redirect your focus into other things and let nature take its course if you want this relationship to work.

Lesson #3: Slow Your Roll.

This still falls under that whole desperation category. If you’re mentally hearing wedding bells after the first phone conversation, you need to take a deep breath and go watch a movie on Lifetime or something. You’re getting attached too quickly, which will make for a huge let down and mental anguish on your part should things not work out the way you had anticipated. Don’t let your mind get ahead of the game. You haven’t even passed go and collected your first 200 yet, but you’ve already sent yourself to mental jail. Here’s your get out free card:

Knock it off.

Though waiting is one of those things that sucks to a generation that wants instant gratification, you don’t have much of a choice if you truly want things to work out. Patience is a virtue, and there’s no better time than when you’re dating someone new to be virtuous.

Also, it’s great that you had a wonderful first date and plan to see him again, but your second date or second lengthy phone conversation is a bad time to throw out the fact that you’ve had 30 failed attempts at relationships already and you’re just looking for lifelong commitment. There are challenges on Fear Factor that are likely less off-putting to a guy than this bit of information. Even if he asked you what you are looking for in a relationship, it’s still a bad idea. Why? Because he’s likely just gauging your answer to see what kind of mess he’d be stepping into should he choose to get involved with you.

This would be a good time to play it cool. “Well, I just figured I’d go with the flow and see what happens.” Is always an acceptable answer when faced with what your future relationship plans are. Stifle your need to divulge too much information too quickly.

Save your expressions of undying love for this guy and your constant text affirmations that he’s always on your mind for a couple of months down the road, too. Hook him with your personality first, before you start throwing the cutesy shmootsy hearts and flowers junk at him.

Just have fun for now. Enjoy the companionship. That’s what phase one in a relationship is all about.

Lesson #4: Don’t Be THAT Girl.

After a person has heard, “I think I’ve found the one” for the 12th time in a 3 month span, it tends to grow tiring. Then, like ‘the boy who cried wolf’, no one’s going to want to listen when you genuinely have found a lasting relationship.

I was happy for you the first time. And the second. I was even happy for you with the third guy that you fell head over heels in love with after two dates and a romp in the bedroom. We’re coming up on oh…I lost count how many now…occasions of this very same pattern repeating itself and I am becoming emotionally numb here.

I get it; I do, because I adore my man. You want to shout your joy from the rooftops and tell everyone how amazing this new guy is. Do yourself a favor, though, and keep it on the down low for a month or two until things actually do start to get more serious. Then, once there’s some indication that he’ll be sticking around for a while, by all means, share your good news with the rest of the world. I’d love to hear about how into him you are when you get to that point.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind hearing about how a date went. If you want to talk about how he’s a nice guy, and that you went out and shared a few laughs over some slices of pepperoni, by all means, tell me all about it and share some information about him. I don’t mind at all. It’s watching you go completely off the rails for each new guy that comes along that I’m having a hard time with. Hopefully you can understand.

For those of you that I know personally, and those that I’ve never met, I mean no offense. I’m just calling it as I see it. Don’t think I haven’t been right where you are now. I have. It just so happens that along the way, I learned some valuable lessons in playing my cards right. That’s why I can say with pride that I’ve enjoyed nearly 11 years of marital bliss now with a wonderful man.

It all boils down to one thing; limits. They’re put in place in many situations to keep us safe. Speed limits, drinking limits, dosage limits…dating limits.

Ladies; if you’re looking for a meaningful relationship, yet you find yourself changing love interests more often than you’re changing underwear, it may be that you need to set some tighter limits in this game called love.

If you’re only betting on the queen of hearts, don’t bet everything you’ve got. Wait until you have a full house to go all in.

That’s just my 2 cent anti.

Too little, too late

Weekly Writing Challenge: Backward

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While I laid there staring up toward the ceiling on the cold operating table, the blinding surgical light overhead stabbed into my retinas like a thousand sharp needle jabs. The anesthesia had been administered, and it was just a matter of time before I lost consciousness. “Count backward from 10,” the nurse had said, and so I did.

Ten, nine; I was terrified. I felt cold, so very cold, inside and out. Eight, seven; the nurse smiled down at me. At least, I believe it was a smile. The corners of her eyes creased and her cheeks arched in a smiling manner, but her mouth was covered by a surgical mask. She held my trembling hand in hers as a calming gesture while she waited for me to drift off. It did nothing to steady my nerves. Six, five; tunnel vision had started to set in. A chilly darkness gnawed at the edges of my periphery. It wouldn’t be long now. Four, three; my eyes felt dry. I finally closed them as I let the effects of the anesthesia wash over me. Two. A deep, black void rolled in. One never came. My final thought as I drifted off into oblivion was:

Please stop. I’ve just made a terrible mistake.

I had never intended to get pregnant with my son. I had, however, stopped taking my birth control pills because my insurance wouldn’t cover the monthly cost of the drug, and I was convinced that I couldn’t keep up with the mounting financial strain it put on my wallet. I was intending to just ‘be careful’.  Use condoms and such. Great in theory, but we all know how well that works out in reality, right?

I was already a single mom. Well, sort of, anyway. It was in the respect that I wasn’t married at the time. The apartment was mine, and the boyfriend moved in with me, thus making the bills my problem. While maybe slipping me a few bucks here and there if he was feeling generous, he wasn’t a huge help when he would disappear on weekend long drinking binges every time he received a paycheck.

It was during a trip to Vegas that it happened.  Wait. What? Vegas? I thought you just said you couldn’t afford birth control. Why were you traipsing off to Vegas?

Well, the best answer I can give for that question is that I was young, stupid, and didn’t have my priorities in order. Tax time came, and when I got that check in my hot little hands, I just couldn’t wait to go off and spend it. Vegas seemed like the fitting place to do just that.

Thus, the trip was booked; for me, and the boyfriend. Okay, stop right there. You just said he wasn’t much help because he went off to drink away his paycheck, yet you decided to take him to Vegas? Where’s the logic in that?

Revert back to my comment about being young and stupid.

Off we went to sin city, and during a thoughtless night blurred by the effects of ingesting massive amounts of alcohol, and being enraptured by a buffet of wild, unbridled night life, careful didn’t happen, and Cameron did.

I knew the deed was done before I even urinated on the little white stick that would reveal my fate.  I had been overly tired for 2 weeks straight upon my return from the trip. I would drag my carcass home from work, flop on the couch in a drooling heap that would drift in and out of consciousness, and stay there until it was time to get up and do it all over again. Occasionally I would slither into bed when I bothered to stir. I don’t even recall now how my daughter got fed during those first couple of weeks. Either he did it, or I stumbled into the kitchen in a half dazed stupor and opened up a can of something that Chef Boyardee had been kind enough to cook up in advance.

Now, the first time I had gotten pregnant shortly after we started dating he had been happy about it, because we were okay then, but I miscarried about a month and a half later. Our relationship proceeded to turn to crap about a year after that. He started going out to bars and parties without me, often disappearing straight out of work without even coming home to change and clean up first. So I would either sit at home and stew, or I would get a sitter and do the same with a few of the girls from work, often hoping we would end up at the same bar so that he could see that I had decided to still go on with my life without his presence.

He wasn’t happy when he found out about this pregnancy. “How’d that happen when you just stopped taking your birth control pills last month? That stuff stays in your system for a while,” was his response. “Well, you know, a woman is more fertile the month after she goes off the pill,” was mine. He retorted with, “You’re full of sh*t, I aint never heard of that.” He had never heard this common knowledge bit of information; therefore it must not be true. Being a woman, I never knew what I was talking about and he never took anything I said seriously anyway. He’d never hesitate to tell me to shut up or call me stupid. Thinking back on it now, he had so many emotional issues and hang ups that he had to belittle me to bring me down to his same level of despair. It worked.

I don’t know what made us stay together when we were both clearly miserable. The sex wasn’t even that good anymore. It could have been fear of starting over, or maybe being alone. I really couldn’t say, but I can tell you with absolute certainty that our relationship was over long before it was officially over.

I remember the whole discussion scene over “what to do about it” vividly even now. We had taken his nephews and my daughter to Chuck E Cheese that day, and we discussed options over slices of greasy, barely warm peperoni as the kids toddled off with their buckets of tokens. Actually it was more like argued options, as arguing was all we ever did by then. The “a word” came up. It was an option, after all, and I had already done it twice by then.

The first time, I had gotten pregnant by a pothead that I knew from high school. We dated for about 3 weeks. I knew it wouldn’t be a lasting relationship after 2. I was not even fully divorced yet and was still hurting from the split. A second child was not something I was even willing to consider then. So I committed the unthinkable; I killed my unborn child and wailed face down on my living room floor most of that night, until head aching, eyes swollen shut, unable to breathe through my nose, I finally passed out from exhaustion. That scene played out exactly the same for several nights to follow.

The second time I did it, I was with him. I had already known by that time that I didn’t want to be saddled with him for the rest of my life, and I had caught the pregnancy so early that the clinic didn’t have to do an invasive procedure to end it; they simply gave me a shot in the rear end and a pill to stuff up there after I got home. I had convinced myself that because of the ease with which the termination occurred, I wasn’t actually committing murder. It wasn’t far enough along yet for it to be murder. I know better now, but back then, there was hardness in me. I don’t know if it was a hardness that was brought about as a response to his, or if life kicking me repeatedly when I was down was to blame. It was there nonetheless.

Was.

I can’t go back and change what I’ve done today, but I have changed my heart. I’ve become a Christian since, and have sought forgiveness. Though I try not to beat myself up over the past atrocities that I’ve committed, I’m still human, and the pain still creeps in from time to time.

Knowing the pain that stemmed from the aftermath of an abortion, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it a third time. My body had been through enough. My emotional state had been through enough. My fragile psyche had been through enough.

So my life went on with a growing belly. An undeniably growing belly. Undeniable for me, anyway. It took him a good 6 months before he would even acknowledge that I was pregnant. Then, slowly, he warmed up to the idea and started buying a few baby things here and there with the money that he didn’t go out and drink up. It wasn’t much, but it was a start.

He was there for the birth, but he was drunk. I recall my father looking at him with disgust as he laughed, joked around, and stunk like a hobo. I also remember him telling me that I’d better not have to have a C-section, because then my stomach would “turn into oatmeal” and he wouldn’t want me anymore. Big loss there, right?

My squalling, red-faced, baby bobble head came into the world at 11:56 pm on October 18th, 2001. I call him my baby bobble head because when he was born, his head was enormous. I don’t just say that in gest. It caused quite a bit of concern with doctors for a good long while, and he had to go in for frequent checkups so that they could monitor his head growth. He also had to have extensive physical therapy because he couldn’t hold his massive head up or roll it from one side to the other while sleeping, so the side that he favored to sleep on was becoming flat and misshapen. He was also born with hypothyroidism, for which he was immediately put on medication, which resulted in frequent trips to an endocrinologist and more doctor bills.

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All of this was naturally my fault. He already had one son that was born perfectly healthy, so it had to be me. Several years of drinking and dabbling in every illegal substance known to man couldn’t possibly have led to any abnormalities in his child. No, it had to be my fault because I was on a low dose of Prozac during the last half of my pregnancy, since he just made me so very upset and depressed all the time, and my blood pressure was through the roof.

I had told my doctor during one of my regular checkups toward the end that I was done.  I had my girl from a failed relationship already, now I was having a boy with a man that I silently loathed a vast majority of the time, so that was good enough for me. One of each was perfect I thought. Why would I want to risk having another child in the future with yet another man? Imagine what people would think of me. Three kids, three different fathers. Slut, trash, tramp; those were just a few of the descriptive words that came to mind.

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I believe my exact words to the doctor were, “Snip it, burn it, rip it all out if you have to. Just break the baby making machine beyond repair, please.”

He scheduled me to have it done the following morning after delivery, since I would already be in the hospital. Then I would have time to heal from the birth and the surgery all at once. It was a done deal.

Never again. No more babies.

I realized that fact in a cold operating room just as black oblivion enveloped me. Never again would I get to experience the thrill of feeling a baby kick for the first time. Never again would I have the attention of people rubbing my belly and taking burdens from me out of care and concern. Never again would I bring a life into this world. Never again would I get to feel that first wave of overwhelming love wash over me as I stared down into the eyes of my newborn son or daughter.

Drifting off into unconsciousness as a surgeon readies his scalpel is a terrible time to reach the realization that you might have made a mistake. As the barely audible number two left my dry lips in a raspy whisper just before the darkness overtook me, that’s exactly what happened. Two. Too many bad decisions made to bring me to this point. Too much worry about what the future held. Too quick to act without thinking it through.

Too little, too late.

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