Where do the years go? My peeps and I share this lament often, making us sound, well, our age I guess. I blinked and it was 2018, the Year of the Earth Dog according to Chinese astrologers. What’s that mean for me, born in the Year of the Snake? According to said astrologers, it will be a serene year for me, and as a single Snake, I will “feel mature enough to engage in a serious new relationship.” Hmmm, is that with a boyfriend–or with the new radiologist I’ll see this month for my osteoporosis screening?
I’ll keep my eyes peeled for that serious new relationship, but I’m not really one to live by Confucius says. I discovered that one’s love possibilities narrow due to some pesky deal breakers–I’m a gal who learned to listen to her gut the hard way. Deal breakers come in all shapes and sizes, and may seem like simple, innocuous details in the beginning. But I make my living noticing details, things that others may gloss over or discount as meaningless. A writer’s job is to “show” the reader a place, thus allowing them to sense the feel, the sound or aroma of it through words. There is so much deliciousness in the details–but that damn devil resides there, too.
What are some of the delicious details in your lives, dear readers? I’m a softie for touch and smell: Remembering the warmth of the pillow where my special someone’s head lay one night; my darling daughter’s, DD’s, soft, unlined cheek as it brushes mine when she leans in to hug me goodbye; the gentle stroke of a former sweetheart’s fingers in my palm as my arm rested upon his in the darkened movie theater; or the aroma of my simmering chicken and noodles wafting throughout the house while outside, a cool rain douses the warm desert dirt. As the damp scent slips inside through the open window, I delight in my version of olfactory nirvana.
I wrote a list of deal breakers after my broken deal with mr. invisible. We made our way through the world coupled for decades, and I divorced him when he threatened to take me down with his addiction. It was only then that I began to trust my gut as I became hyper-aware of the little twinges and tiny red flags I’d managed to ignore as they labored to pierce my subconscious. But once my gut and I connected, it was like the fastest, clearest Wifi signal in the world if the world was run by someone other than Spectrum Cable (sorry, but your service in the desert is pretty dismal right now, Spectrum!). I digress.
There have been a handful of romantic relationships post-mr. invisible, the shortest a single date (his best line during our very laborious two-hour dinner was, “Nice earrings;” be still my heart!), while another man made it into my datebook for a full quarter on the calendar. I pined away over one silver-haired idiot a couple of years ago until my bff JP said to me, “He’s just not that into you.” The pining stopped after I figured out ol’ silver hair was juggling multiple women when he asked what theaters I frequented–lest he run into me while he was out with another one of his ladies. Then, there was the I’M just not that into HIM guy–he had a lithe quality in his movements, thus I wasn’t feelin’ any strong male pheromones from him that made me want to go in for a kiss.
I’ve seen a myriad of garden variety problems in between–challenges ranging from height, to terminally-ill ex-girlfriends, to what I call “all-about-me syndrome,” to the frumpy flannel shirt guy who suggests a nice restaurant and when he sees the bill, asks to go dutch “to make me feel equal,” to early-onset dementia (that guy somehow thought I had a dog after numerous discussions of why I don’t have a dog, that I’m a cat person, and that I can’t even keep a cactus alive…much less a dog).
My deal breakers are bigger and heftier, though, than the nuisance of a bad shirt or a lack of chemistry. When deal breakers appear, they shine as bright as a cop’s spotlight into a carload of criminals:
Addictions of any kind, including sex, pills, booze, other women, cigarettes;
Controlling behaviors/jealousy about my friends, my time or my family;
Abuse, either physical or verbal, including screaming matches;
Neediness, asking for more than I can give; and
Homophobia since I live in a gay community, love my gay friends and am two degrees of separation from every gay man in this town, or so my peeps say.
I followed the advice of all my friends when I began to date in earnest, holding back on the part of me that likes to peek around corners, see the future, make some sort of plan. I worked hard to stay in the moment on dates, and it worked: I had fun and laughed louder than I ever did with invisible. I felt desired and appreciated, feelings I thought I’d never experience again, and on more than one occasion, the very thought of seeing my date and holding his hand brought tears. Delicious details for sure.
But, my senses now work 24/7, so night after night, phone call after phone call, there was one devious detail that unraveled what I thought was a strong relationship with a future. I heard it the first time we spoke on the phone, I heard it the last time we spoke and sad to say, I heard it during many of our other phone conversations. I heard the crystal clear clink, clink, clink of ice cubes in a bar glass, as he rocked it in his hand, back and forth, right and left, to chill the vodka.
I know how to pick ’em, I think, these guys who are seduced by other lovers. While this particular brand of Russian may not wear hooker boots and cheap perfume like mr. invisible’s flavors of the day, she’s just as deadly.
When I looked at myself in the mirror after those phone calls, I saw a face that wore the look of concern, with the apostrophes between my eyebrows etched just a tad deeper than the day before. But the Linda who looked back at me is the new, improved post-mr. invisible version, and I knew what I had to do: Never again will I let anyone add one more goddamn line to my face because they care about someone–or something–more than they care about me.
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