Monthly Archives: October 2005

The match game

THURSDAY, OCT. 27 — A few blogs back I mentioned that friends concerned about my bachelor status – and no doubt baffled by stories from my last relationship — urged me to consider online dating. When I did, I found my ex-girlfriend’s picture ("Just another pretty face?").

Nevertheless, I found that I kept returning to and Yahoo personals, loneliness prevailing over my native resistance to the concept of online dating. In fact, one of the reasons I signed up this week with was to prove something to myself. There’s a history of contrariness in my family, a sense that we’re just a little better than others, that we do things differently.

There is value in such thinking. It encourages invididuality, self-reliance and an aversion to the herd mentality. But it can also ignore a fundamental truth. Namely, that we have far more in common with each other than in what separates us, and signing up was an antidote of sorts to that legacy of contrariness.

But there was also another reason.

I saw a picture of a woman who reminded me of someone I had a lovely encounter with more than a year ago. It took place in a Whole Foods store where the temperature seemed just a few degrees above freezing. It was July, and she wore tights and a sleeveless top.

I asked if she was cold; she said she was, but tried to block it out. We moved on, but crossed paths twice more, each time exchanging smiles. When I got to the checkout area, she was already checking out and as our eyes met, she let her hair down, shook it out and smiled.

Now, I may be slow, but I’m not stupid. "Damn," I thought, "I should get her number."

But instead of running out the door, I went through checkout, paid and went outside. She was gone, of course, and I’ve been kicking myself ever since.

Considering that I was still in a relationship at the time, I consoled myself that I’d done the honorable thing. But that lost opportunity has haunted me, especially coming out of a situation where I was the third or fourth priority.

So I sent an email to the woman on entitled "Do I know you from the dairy section?" and remarked what a coincidence it was that we were both English majors. But so far, no reply. Either she’s not interested or she chdecks her email infrequently.

In the meanwhile, with 450 hits in four days, I’ve had no shortage of interest. Apparently I am fresh meat.

As a correspondent from Atlanta put it, "most of the gentlemen sent to me were very much recycled." This woman’s first message in its entirety: "hi, you sound like a compassionate, grown up man. very interesting and in short supply. i would like to talk to you. e-mail me."

I’ve also been called "extremely handsome," "good-looking," "very interesting," "adorable" and "splendid." While that might be music to some, I don’t consider myself adorable, splendid or extremely anything. What I do notice is that only a few paid attention to my insistence on a partner who has been doing the work – freeing herself of old beliefs, the rubbish that keeps us from fulfilling our potential.

One who did get it lives not within the 50-mile radius from Atlanta I specified, but 300 miles away in Tennessee. Other emails came from geographically challenged correspondents in California, Florida, North Carolina and a remarkably unattractive woman in Guangzhou canton, China.

I’ve also been having relationship flashbacks. To a woman who admitted to being a Leo, I wrote: "I recently broke up with a Leo and the biggest problem we had was that the relationship was always about her. In reading your profile, there’s only one sentence about the man you’re looking for. The rest is about you."

The next morning, I sent her an apology, explaining that I’d written that after "a little too much truth serum" – nearly four glasses of wine. It appears she has forgiven me: she sent her phone number anyway.

I chided another woman for a photo that made her look stern and disagreeable. She responded that we were probably not a match: "I look too much like you. I could be your sister."

That got my attention. I wrote back that there were laws about things like that. She thought that was amusing and sent more pictures, some of them very flattering. I made another joke, asked for more particulars, and warned her I was a high-risk guy.

So far, no reply. Stay tuned.

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A season for the unexpected

Thursday, October 20 – It’s a glorious afternoon on the patio at Starbucks. Temperature close to 80, nice breeze, flawless sky. A few minutes ago, an old gaffer hobbled up, winded and feeble, and muttered something. I nodded, and he sat heavily in the other chair at my table. We’ve never met, but I’ve heard the baristas call him Marshall. When they realized I was buying him a coffee, they wouldn’t take my money. Come to think of it, my Americano or the oatmeal-raisin cookie were on the house, too.

It seems to be the season for the unexpected.

Two weeks ago, I auditioned for a commercial as a tennis player. The client was a medical center in Florida. But before I left for the audition, I got word about another audition the next day for the same client. The second was for a man who would be picnicking with a woman.

There were four or five others actors at the first audition when I got there, and all played competitive tennis. I played a lot as a kid, but haven’t played competitively since I was 15, and hadn’t touched a racket in years. In fact, until I unzipped the cover, I thought my racket was the old wooden Bancroft I used as a kid. I was pleased and relieved to discover it’s actually a white ceramic Prince with blue gut strings and a blue grip.

The audition consisted of me swinging at imaginary tennis balls in front of a camera.  Ordinarily it’s not easy to relax at auditions. At the first audition I ever attended – also for a medical facility – I botched a line in the script by referring to the center’s high quality "car care." In fact, there are people in the business who charge serious money – it’s a cottage industry, really – by promising to teach actors how to relax at auditions, and get the part.

But in this case, being asked to do something requiring action and a measure of hand-eye coordination brought out the kinetic joy in me. I swung away, hitting forehands and backhands, announcing some of the shots, and took a few jabs at net for good measure.

In my mind, I had nothing to lose. One of the real tennis players was going to get the part, and there was always the audition the next day. I could easily imagine myself eating strawberries with a pretty woman.

But on my way out, the casting director said that since I’d auditioned for the tennis, I couldn’t try out for the picnicking role. Clients don’t want to see people auditioning for more than one part. When I got home I sent my agent an email lamenting that I’d gone to the wrong audition.

Three days later, she called to say I’d gotten a callback — a second audtion. This time the casting director was joined by two women from the advertising agency, the cameraman and a photographer.

I was to portray a man who’d had knee replacement surgery, and had healed so well he was playing tennis again. In the interest of verismilitude, I pointed out the scar on my right knee, the legacy of two surgeries on the same  cartilage.

Then it was more imaginary tennis. Along with forehands and backhands, they wanted to see me jump a couple times, speed up, move forward and back, the session ending just as I prepared to backhand a studio floor light.

Again I’d been relaxed and went home content. Two days later, I got the part.

We shot the job at a sunsplashed resort on a lake, and it was harder than I expected. I hit hundreds of shots, all from a crouch, but I enjoyed it and everyone seemed pleased.

And yet if I had gotten my way, if I had succeeded in my limited wisdom and desire to control the situation,  I wouldn’t have gotten either role. The couple they picked for the picnic were 10-15 years older than I.

Instead, I let go of expectations, had fun and got the part.  I also collected a check that – another surprise – was several hundred dollars more than I expected, enough to push back my deadline (see "Deadline for a dream") for ending this quixotic adventure another month.

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Deadline for a dream

THURSDAY, OCT. 13 — A mockingbird in a tree near the front door welcomed a gorgeous morning with an ecstatic song while a small plane overhead hummed backup. For days, my thoughts have been obsessed with a failed relationship, but the fever appeared to have past, and I stepped into the cool morning with other concerns.

Money, mainly.

My reserves are within $15 of the figure I set that would end my adventure, this quest for passion, purpose and authenticity, and trigger the search for a job, no matter how mundane.

That’s not what I want to do, of course, but it’s been a few years now. Refinancing has kept me going while I’ve developed projects and hacked away at the self-imposed obstacles to succeeding at self-employment. Based on the evidence, I’m not there yet.

But I may be close. I had a dream over the weekend in which I stood up to my raging, domineering father and forced him to back down, a first in this or any other world. The next morning, I got up and roughed out the first chapter of a book I’ve been wanting to write for years.

Monday, emotions over the relationship I wrote about last week peaked with a catharsis that led clear back to my mother. When I went back later to read last week’s blog, the charge I had on it was gone.

Also, I have several thousand dollars coming for work I’ve done in the past two months. That would move me back above the low-water mark, and just this morning I booked another job.

In other words, things appear to be shifting, and on that basis I can justify hanging in there a little longer. But this is where it gets tricky.

Up to this point, my motivation, my obsession, really, has been to clean up my act, and I think I have. What hasn’t shifted, what I still seem to lack, is a powerful drive to succeed like the one that fueled my father.

His motivation was easy to understand: he grew up in the Depression, failure and ruin all around him. I think it terrified him. In fact, I think it terrified his entire generation, and rightfully so — an enemy without uniform that could strike anywhere, any time.

My reaction to my father’s rigid, imperious manner and his demands – study hard, get good grades, etc. – was passive-aggressive: I did enough to get by, no more, and thus set a pattern for life.

But I was never really satisfied. I knew things weren’t quite right. I knew I could show up a lot better than I was, which probably explains why I’ve always been a spiritual seeker. It blossomed in Honolulu in the mid-’80s when an elderly Hawaiian lady became my spiritual teacher. And I have no doubt that it was that same energy that made me feel like I was going to explode if I didn’t leave and do something meaningful with my life.

A layoff took care of my departure, and the work I’ve done since has been about reclaiming my power and being the person I was meant to be. But other than writing that chapter the other day, I can’t say I feel like I’ve reclaimed anything yet.

Meanwhile, trees bud, leaves form, fill out and begin to wither. Bills pile up, savings decline.

I awoke the night before last pondering the absurdity of my financial status, the lack of health insurance, the barren love life, and had a sudden impulse to grab something and smash things. Just whale away until I could neither stand nor lift my arms.

That’s the piece in me that’s angry, appalled and deeply frightened at what I’ve done. But the moment passed, as they always do, and I don’t know whether it’s denial or spiritual maturity. 

Maybe it would be a good thing to go out in the woods and go wild, hammering rocks and trees and earth until I fall  down in exhaustion. And then come home and refresh my memory as to why I’m doing this.  

Maybe. But my hope is that whatever it is that never settled for the status quo and always knew I could do better is still active and will keep leading me in the right direction. Assuming, of course, that this is the right direction. I have another month – maybe two – to find out.

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Just another pretty face?

Dear georgiapeach,

I saw your picture on and had to write. (By the way, I’ve changed your online name to preserve your privacy.)

I’ve been single since January, and haven’t been dating. But friends think I need to get out and insisted I look online, so finally I did. And there in the midst of a drooping bouquet I saw your lovely face. I was amazed at how much you resemble my ex-girlfriend.

She was sweet and good and kind, and I had high hopes for us, but she never quite had time for a real relationship. She had two teenagers, so she had reason to be busy. But a lot of that busyness seemed habitual rather than necessary, and very often it seemed downright chaotic.

And there was always a crisis in her life. If it wasn’t in her family – and she had genuine concerns – then it was a friend’s daughter, or her daughter’s ex-boyfriend, or an old classmate, and so on. There was always something to distract her, and after she’d told me about it each evening on the phone, she’d say her daughter needed her or she was tired, and she’d hang up.

Every time that happened, my heart sank. I had things I wanted say, too. Usually they were small things, something that happened that day, but sharing is a form of intimacy, and I value it highly. And there were times when I did share with her that she didn’t seem very interested.

I didn’t complain. I didn’t want to add to her burdens. There were a few occasions when I disagreed with her openly,  but she always got angry and I decided it wasn’t worth the tension. So I kept it to myself.

Eventually I realized that the relationship was mostly about her, and I had no one to blame but myself.  I kept thinking that I had given and done so much – I drove her every week up to Tennessee for close to a year so she could see her daughter – that it would even out. That something would shift, and she’d start caring more, tuning in to who I was and what I was about.

And we did have our moments. We danced one night to a Sinatra CD in the living room of a lake house while our friends chatted on the porch. But we didn’t string enough of them together to make it work.

Two years ago, I began doing some healing work that helped me drill down to the beliefs that were running me. Many of them were lies: I wasn’t good enough; I wasn’t smart enough; I wasn’t creative; I couldn’t have what I wanted, etc.  I grew up fearful and insecure, a people pleaser with little notion of my worth.

I also discovered that unconsciously I’d been trying to fix every woman I got involved with so she in turn would fix me, make me feel whole. But no matter how long those relationships went on – and one lasted 11 years – it never worked.

The reason, of course, was the lies, the false beliefs. My girlfriend’s deep self-doubt led her to play the victim, always in reaction, reeling from crisis to crisis rather than taking control of her life. I played the victim, too, never secure enough to speak up, unable to have a genuine, adult relationship with healthy give-and-take.

So when I saw your picture online, I was shocked and hurt and angry, and not just because those earrings look like the ones I bought for her birthday. I was angry at myself for playing the victim, for putting up with all the disappointment and frustration without speaking up, for hoping things would change, but doing nothing about it for so long.

When I started cleaning it up, I understood that we can only fix ourselves, and suggested she do some work, too. But it made her angry. She thought I was finding fault, but what I was saying was we’ve all got "stuff," and our lives are better when we deal with it.

The night we ended it, she said, "It just wasn’t a good time for me to have a relationship." But we talked from time to time, and had dinner a few times. Just a month ago, we spoke by phone and she insisted on taking me to dinner. Clearly she was reaching out, and I’ll admit that while my hope was running on fumes, I hadn’t given up.

Hence my shock when I saw your picture. If you’re shopping yourself on the world’s largest online dating service, you must be primed for action. Heck, I’d like to go out with you myself, but you remind me too much of her. Too bad. We might have been great together.

In closing, I can’t  decide whether to wish you luck in finding what you want or in getting what you need. How about both?



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