Monday, March 25, 2013

My Daughter: Probably

"We're doing probability in math class now."

I contemplated doing a master's thesis in probability and combinatorics. Trying not to show how excited I am, I say, "How do you like it?"

Penny pulls a long face. "It's so boring." She looks at me, desperation rounding her eyes. "When will it get harder and more interesting?"

Pat's Problem: The Incident

When last we met, I briefly mentioned an Incident that left me feeling bitter and angry. With a couple of weeks' distance, now, maybe I can talk about it from a relatively calm and rational perspective.

Here's what happened: I mentioned in an email to someone I know -- for maximum obscurity, let's call them Pat and avoid gender-specific pronouns -- that I'd been on a few dates with B. (This was before we decided to make it exclusive, if that matters, though I don't think it does.)

A day later, I received an email from Pat in which they said that (rephrased in my own words) a) they thought I had been making poor choices ever since Matt and I separated (that they were, in fact, embarrassed by me) and b) they recognized they couldn't control my "lifestyle" (Pat's word!), but only their reactions to my actions, and therefore c) they were no longer following me on Facebook and would appreciate it if I didn't discuss my dating life with them any more.

Now, there was a possibility that Pat would not be too happy about my dating B., for reasons that are not mine to tell, but this email felt like something much bigger than that (and illuminated something that had happened a good month earlier) -- and it completely floored me. (I believe what I said to KT about it at the time was, and I quote, "WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?") Not least because I have no idea what bad choices these are that I'm apparently making, or what morally questionable "lifestyle" I'm living.

After thinking (okay, stewing and fretting) about it for a while, I came up with a few possibilities, but none of them really make me feel any better.
  1. Pat feels I should wait until Matt and I are legally divorced before dating at all. This, I might point out, is merely a question of semantics, as Matt and I have made the firm decision to get a divorce. I'm not resting a lot of moral weight on a bureaucratic tick-mark, or putting my life on hold for it. (Especially since I can't seem to get a danged lawyer to call me back to arrange the divorce mediation.)
  2. Pat thinks it is a mistake for me to date multiple people at a time. This seems kind of unlikely, but if this is Pat's big embarrassment, then Pat needs to take a deep breath, because dating more than one person at a time is what our grandparents did. Anyway, dating casually was a reasoned decision that I came to, with what I felt were excellent reasons behind it.
  3. Pat thinks that I am (was) being sexually promiscuous in the extreme, i.e., using "dating" as a euphemism for "sleeping with" rather than the way I actually meant it, which was "meeting in a public location for a meal and/or light entertainment and (usually awkward) conversation." I expect this one is the most likely, due to my tendency to post what I assumed everyone knew were lighthearted tease posts on Facebook like, "Got a date tonight -- don't wait up!" At any rate, if this is Pat's point of pain, there's a big misunderstanding going on, because of the six or so guys I've gone on dates with in the last six months, only two ever even got a kiss out of me. But if this is it, then I'm torn between being offended Pat would think this of me and furious that they would be so judgmental over something so superficial. (This is not a contradiction. Something can be not right for me and still okay for someone else. I am constitutionally incapable of a one-night stand, but that doesn't mean I judge others for it!)
So whatever Pat's deal is, it's going to remain a problem, because there's bloody well nothing I'm going to change about my "lifestyle". (Well I've changed the bit about dating multiple people at a time, but if B. and I split up, I'll be going back to that plan, because I still think the reasons for it were strong and valid.)

And normally, I'd just say to hell with Pat and go on with my life, but it so happens that Pat is someone with whom I interact on a fairly regular basis and whose opinion is, in fact, something I value. But since they don't even want to discuss the topic any more, I can't even figure out if it's a fundamental disagreement of opinion or a misunderstanding that could be cleared up with some plain talk. (Also, the whole thing struck me as a little passive-aggressive. But I've pulled plenty of my own passive-aggressive bullshit in my life, so bitching about that would be a case of pots and kettles.)

Now it's a couple of weeks later. I'm still just as confused as I was when I first got Pat's email, but the initial wave of anger and indignation has faded. The couple of encounters I've had with Pat since then (faithfully free of dating discussion, as requested) have been even-keeled and at least superficially cordial.

So I'm beginning to regain my balance. I'm pretty happy with my life right now, after all. I debated even mentioning it here, but this blog/journal is, above all else, my own record of my life. I've gone back looking for other Incidents and been confused to find them missing, and a little sad that I couldn't even piece together what my thoughts were at the time.

So rest assured, O Internet, that I'm not letting this affect me too much. It made me angry for a while, and it stung. And then I gave it some serious thought and decided that I feel pretty good about most of the choices I've made, and that Pat's problem, whatever it is, is only really a problem for Pat.

Stay tuned for another blog post, shorter but happier, in which my daughter is, provably, my daughter.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Girlfriend Gig

I mentioned about a month ago that I was seeing a guy but that we weren't ready to make it into anything official or exclusive.

That changed, recently. So now I'm doing the girlfriend gig again, after nearly fifteen years.

We're not in love. But that's probably a good thing. We've both been burned (me more recently; him more painfully) and neither of us is quite emotionally stable enough to sustain real love at the moment. That said, we both felt like we'd come about as far as "casual dating" could take us. Continuing to date others (or even only remaining open to dating others) was beginning to feel like a cheat, an excuse to keep each other at a distance. So this exclusive dating is, essentially, an experiment to see if something deeper and more meaningful between us is a possibility.

So, O Internet, meet B., star of Penny's latest musing. (Yes, he shall remain nameless, at least for now. When I started this blog, 14 years ago, the internet was smaller, and while privacy concerns did exist, they weren't as hot a button as they are now. And my opinions about that issue have shifted somewhat over the years. I don't have too many qualms about using my real name for myself -- it's the name I'm published under, after all -- but if I were starting this blog fresh, now, I might well go with pseudonyms or initials anyway, for the sake of family and friends.)

So yeah. Exclusive relationship. It feels... weird. I have kind of forgotten how to be a girlfriend, quite honestly, and am still trying to figure out how to safely walk the vast swathes of middle ground between the casual involvement of a friend and the deeply invested and committed role of the spouse. But other than that, not much has changed -- I hadn't had a date with anyone else for about a month, anyway, so really, I've just stopped logging into OKCupid and hoping it would finally show me someone I would actually want to message (aside from my friend Greg, whom OKC assures me at least twice a week is a very good match, but really isn't, even aside from the fact that Greg has a girlfriend already.)

I hope you're not shocked and saddened, O Internet, that you're not the first one I've told. That honor went to KT, as my best and most supportive friend, and who was, not incidentally, instrumental in getting B. and me to go out in the first place. But I haven't really told that many other people, because I'm still processing it, myself. (And also because of an Incident that happened around the same time that I'm still trying to figure out how to blog about without a) infringing on someone's privacy and b) being excessively angry and bitter. It is only tangentially related to my relationship status, but it pretty effectively punched my good mood about it in the throat.)

Let's see, then; let's address some of the FAQs (if not aloud, then almost certainly in some thoughts):

- I am, kind of weirdly, not sure whether I even want it to work out, over the long run. There is a nontrivial list of pros and cons at play, and so far, the variables in the equation are shifting too wildly and rapidly for me to solve it. (But I'm actually looking at this as a plus, in light of my desire to not judge every relationship by its long-term potential. This is good now, so I'm letting it be good for now, and not dwelling on what might or might not happen later. Well... not much. Old habits are hard to break entirely.)

- Some of the "pros" in B.'s favor: He's even more of a geek than I am (though the Venn diagram of our geekery does not form a circle, which can be both pro and con). He does not put me on any kind of pedestal, but he does treat me with a level of respect and thoughtfulness that still surprises me. (Really, it's actually shocking sometimes. If this does not work out, then he will have at least succeeded in setting the bar pretty damned high for whoever comes next.) Also, he's insanely ticklish, which more or less guarantees me the upper hand in any non-serious discussion. (That's a joke. ...Sort of.)

- Some of the "cons" involve things like schedule and distance. We live almost an hour and a half apart, we have conflicting work schedules, and we both have pretty entrenched social lives. That makes it hard to fathom how much work and compromise would be required if this becomes long-term. (Hell, they're a fair amount of frustration now.)

- No, I haven't said anything about it to the kids, largely because nothing is changing for them. The entire situation is well over Alex's head (just this weekend, he decided it was time to let me know that he was not going to marry me, after all, but his friend Claudia) and I'm not sure Penny had actually understood that I was (at least in theory) dating more than one person before, so trying to clarify it for her now would probably just confuse her. Or else lead her to believe that it's more serious than it is.

What else do you need to know? Ask, and I shall answer!

(...Within the limits of taste, obviously. FAQ though it may be, O Internet, I am not telling you anything about my sex life. Feel free to imagine whatever makes you feel happiest.)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


This morning in the car, after we'd dropped Alex off at daycare I told Penny, "Just so you know, I've been dating."

Penny said, "Who is it?"

"Mostly, lately, a guy named B. You haven't met him before."

"Will we meet him?"

"Eventually, I expect. I'm not sure when, though, since he works weekends."

"That sounds yucky."

"It is, a bit."

"So... when do you go out?"

"On weeknights, usually. When y'all are with Daddy."

"Are you going to get a house together?"

"It's a little too early to tell. Probably not anytime soon."

"Do you kiss a lot?"

"Uh... Sometimes."

"Daddy and Adin kiss all the time. It's gross."

"Well, you're welcome to go into your room and not watch it."

And that was pretty much it. She moved off into a discussion of her hopes for the house Matt and Adin are planning to get together, and griping about how Matt won't let her paint her furniture, which are both old topics, at this point.

I should have remembered that sometimes she needs a little time to let topics settle into her brain.

Tonight, after dinner, as I was settling in to do some crocheting, she came into the living room. "Hey, Mom?"

"Yeah, sweetie?"

"Will you and your boyfriend get married?"


Well. That was out of the blue.


"Um. Not anytime soon."

"But! But you're dating!"

I forget, sometimes, exactly how black-and-white kids' worlds are. "Honey, we've only been dating a little while; it's too soon to even know if we'll fall in love, never mind get married. Why are you asking?"

"Because if you get married, I want to be in the wedding."

"Oh. Well, how about this: if I ever get married again, whoever it happens to be to, I promise you can be in the wedding."

"Okay." And she wandered off to watch cartoons with her brother.

It's important to maintain perspective, after all... Sometimes the motive behind a question matters far more than the question itself.