I didn’t have the absolute best dating luck in the beginning.  The first girl I ever made out with committed suicide.  My first REAL girlfriend cheated on me while I was laid up for the summer with a broken ankle.  I got engaged to my second.  But she was settling for me.  Once she got accepted to Harvard Divinity School for her graduate degree she moved away and called the engagement off less than a month later.  My third serious girlfriend broke up with me while I was in a month long residence course in the military.  We were sequestered in a section of Ft. Bragg, NC, cut off from the rest of the world.  Of course, she didn’t really tell me that she was breaking up with me.  This was early in the days of usable cell phones, when they were becoming affordable and small and not everyone had one yet.  I sure didn’t.  So we communicated a lot via old-fashioned mail.  One day the letters started coming back to me.  It wasn’t until I graduated the course that I finally got her on a landline and got some answers.

Years later she tried to get in touch with me.  We haven’t been super close, but we check in from time to time.  A couple of times she wanted to get back together, but I could just never trust her again.  I can’t really explain it, but she was kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back.  After that I definitely turned turtle and I don’t think I ever opened up as much or was as sappily, openly romantic again.

When I was a kid, I was way more painfully shy, awkward and introverted than I am today.  I was a senior in high school before I really ever asked someone out.  And those “asks” probably didn’t go well.  I think my Dad knew, but didn’t have a clue what to say to me.  He was always on the extroverted side: no such thing as a stranger, just a friend he hadn’t met.  And apparently he was a little bit of a player back in the day so he just couldn’t relate.  I never really moped about it much, but once he felt the need to try and cheer me up a bit.  I actually think it was when I didn’t make a basketball team in junior high and his pep talk had nothing to do with dating.  He just admitted that he grew up gawky and awkward and had to get by on his personality.  He told me to hang in there, that when I was 30 I’d be a catch.  When I was 13 or 14 that wasn’t a helluva consolation.  I can remember when I was finally in my 30s and things didn’t really get better, thinking I’d been cheated!

That girl texted me today.  She’s working for a florist and doing all these arrangements for Valentine’s Day.  She’s single, so that’s a special kind of hell.  “You did a lot of cute romanticy things for me when we were dating.  I appreciate those things so much more now.  It’s been years since anyone tied my shoes.  And years since anyone did anything really romantic for me.”  Now to be clear, I don’t have a creepy foot fetish.  She’s 4’11” and had tiny feet.  I used to love to tie her little sneakers for her.

Anyways, it was…  something.  A weird validation or something.  I’m not happy to see her life as the big mess that it is.  Yeah, there’s a petty part of me that is happy that the woman that broke up with me way back then now wishes she had someone like me.  But it’s more a validation that the work I’ve done over the years is good.  Getting over the things that happened in the past and opening up and making myself vulnerable is essential for connecting with people, for making good, lasting relationships and reconnecting with that goofy, romantic side of me is fun.



Holiday Cheer

I’m normally a pretty happy-go-lucky guy.  I’m generally somewhat slow to anger, then it flares, then it generally passes quickly.  Some of that may be a result of being a people pleaser, I’m not entirely sure.

Anyways, that’s just to say that it’s not like I’m sitting around mopey, staring at my belly button or anything.  I’ve got decorations up, shopping done and I’m looking forward to Christmas day and seeing my son open his presents.

But Christmas has lost some of its “magic”.  I think this is normal for adults.  Sure you can focus on the religious aspect and be humbled by it, but it’s also easy to see the money flying out of your checking account with every gift, to get cranky by long lines in stores and to flip someone off because they cut you off in the parking lot.  You know Santa isn’t real and you know that most gifts aren’t going to leave a lasting impression on you.

I had travel plans for the holiday that fell through at the last minute.  I’m scrambling to make some new ones in order to take advantage of having the week between Christmas and New Years off, but I was a little bummed by the change in plans.  I was laying in bed Saturday morning, totally planning on being a bum and staying inside and catching up on binge watching TV shows and napping.  My son was at his mom’s house and nobody was expecting anything from me.  Normally that’s my definition of a perfect weekend.

As I was laying in bed, I grabbed my phone and started checking social media.  On FB a friend of a friend was posting about their issues.  We’d been dumped on the night before and her little car couldn’t handle the snow and got stuck right outside her house.  She was sick and couldn’t make it to the drugstore.  I drive a jeep and I enjoy being a little kid and laughing when I go driving in the snow.  So I bundled up and headed out in the 5 degree (F) to get her meds.  She’s a single mom who is trying to do right by her kids and is struggling financially.  So on the way I stopped and got iTunes gift cards for her daughters, a Target gift card for her for when times are tough and take-out for lunch.

While I was driving around town a former co-worker who moved out of state called me.  Her son was flying into town to visit friends and she was worried about the weather.  He’s in the Army and still considers Denver home, even though she moved away.  His friends are cops and got called in to help deal with all the snow so he didn’t have a ride.  She was tempted to have him take an Uber or the bus.  I offered to pick him up but she said no, she didn’t want to impose.

After I dropped off the meds and food and Christmas presents to the friend-of-a-friend my former worker texted and asked if I’d still be willing to pick up her son.  I was on the same side of town as the airport, he needed to go back towards my house so it was easy.  I wandered around shopping for a couple hours then picked him up.  He was a great kid and it was fun to spend a 45 minute drive talking Army with him, and just hearing how excited he was to see friends and flirt with girls.

Sunday started about the same.  A friend called and asked if I wanted to meet them for brunch and to go see the Costumes of Star Wars exhibit @ the Denver Art Museum.  As I was getting ready and checking social media, single mom was on FB again.  Friends were offering to help but I sent her a message saying that if she needed anything else I’d be near her later and I’d check in with her before I went home.  After going to the museum and saying good bye to my friend I called her.  Her showers weren’t draining in her brand-new home.  So I ran by home depot, picked up a disposable snake to pull hair out of the drains and some drain-o and got her and her kids dinner.  Got her squared away and went home.

Short story made really, really long?  It was a super fun weekend.  I loved being able to bounce around and help people with no expectations of anything in return.  It really made me feel like Santa to be driving around in the snow.  And it was great to see people really grateful, not that I was doing it for gratitude, but compared to giving a co-worker a gift that you both know is lame and the false enthusiasm from it.  I think I was actually singing or whistling Christmas carols everywhere I went.


Happy Ending

A couple of months ago I posted this.

I’ve gotten pretty good at making candied bacon and it really makes me happy.  And of course I want to be obnoxious and share/rub my happiness in everyone’s face.  So I was making some a couple of weeks ago and took some photos of the process and posted them on Instagram without a lot of explanation.  I’m actually “friends” on social media with someone from that school, all that time ago.  She posted a comment on one of the pics about being curious to see what I was making and what the final result would look like.  So I sent her a video that someone else made that roughly matched my process on FB messenger and she said something about loving bacon and it making everything better.

I sent back a smart-alecky comment about how even thought it’d been decades since we’d hung out, that I knew I always liked her and she replied, confessing to having had a huge crush on me back in the day when we went to school together.  That rocked me back for multiple reasons.

It’s funny.  For the most part I like the way I am now, and the coping mechanisms I’ve developed over the years.  They’ve gotten me through some really tough times in good humor.  Over the last couple of years, I’ve made changes to things, took the time to reflect and see what was still helpful, and what wasn’t, but that didn’t mean that I’d hated what I became at any point.  I just used painful situations to stimulate growth.

But there are some times in my past, particularly my childhood, that had become 2-dimensional in my memories.  I use them as stories to illustrate a point or as a punchline in a joke and have become numb to the true feelings in the moment, or blind to the context of the entire situation.

That school was the first time we’d moved that impacted me like that.  The moves before then were before I was in school, before I could be the “new-kid”.  The family was the nucleus of my social circle, so moving wasn’t impactful before then.  That move, that school was the first time I was bullied and mocked.  It was were I started developing those coping mechanisms, where I started retreating into myself (interesting question – they say that introvert/extrovert isn’t a binary condition, it’s a scale and everyone possesses some level of both, it’s just a question of where they land on the scale.  Is it nature or nurture?  My experiences would say it’s a little of both).  So I tell stories of that to explain why I’m me to people, focusing on some of those bad things that had happened.  But I’d forgotten that I’d made some good friends there, had some good times, learned things I loved that have become a part of me over time.

She was a really cute, shy girl back then.  I’d remembered her over the years, but I’d forgotten having a crush on her too, and forgotten the times we’d played together and had fun together back then.  I really appreciate her telling me that, and making me pause and remember the good times.