I want to learn what life is for
I don’t want much, I just want more
Ask what I want and I will sing, more of everything
Barbra Streisand, Everything
Last fall was the last time I slept with someone and a question arose unbidden in my brain the morning after. The morning after a mediocre and slightly awkward sexual encounter with someone I trusted and even was quite fond of: How can I be a 50-year old woman and still not know how to ask for what I want? Actually, that’s not it. How is it I could be 50 and still not know what I want?
It has now been almost two and a half years ago that I voluntarily and painfully extricated myself from a destructive and drama-filled relationship. I was so certain then of what I didn’t want in a mate ever again that I wrote down in my journal a list of my deal breakers and deal makers for any future relationship.
What I want: Kind, stable, educated and thoughtful with a decent sense of humor headed the list. Someone who is interested in the arts, informed about current events, spiritual, a good listener. Ideally, too, a liberal foodie who listens to NPR. (When I briefly did online dating, that was my litmus test question – do they like NPR, not like it, one guy asked me what is NPR? and that spelled doom for him, sorry) Other dealmakers: cares about social justice issues and wants to create community with others through connection and compassion. Someone who has something to say, isn’t emotionally crippled (that one is hard to tell until you’re really inside the relationship but it’s critical), who cares about their health and a little about fitness but won’t yell like a drill sergeant and make you do forced marches at o dark thirty; is good with kids but doesn’t still have little ones at home. And they have to be past wanting any more of them! Likes cats (and dogs, too but publicly or even secretly prefers cats). Someone who loves to hike, travel, and sing and dance, live music and movies.
Dealbreakers: I am glass half-full, so this list is shorter but vital:
No alcoholics or druggies – I am too easily swayed and get too invested too quickly in “saving” people with problems, so this is my number one steer-clear.
Inability to think ahead or plan. Yes, I know YOLO and all that, but being able to plan ahead is a sign of responsibility and that you care enough to commit to a Saturday with me two weeks from now.
Travel for a living. Whether you’re a truck driver, or businessman or soldier … I have decided I need someone who is around more to be my partner in crime. Too much time away from one another makes those everyday intimate connections too tenuous and too fragile.
Must be able to deal with my somewhat eccentric and slightly judgmental family, including of course my own darling children. No further explanation required on this one; they are pretty lovable overall.
After my last disappointing and disastrous love affair, I waited a goodly amount of time before getting involved again and I was not the pursuer in any way. For once in my life I was too heartbroken to stop looking at the pain and dissecting it and trying to learn from it to move too quickly.
In her memoir Liar’s Club, Mary Karr describes her mother – “My mother didn’t date, she married.” This is me, at least three times it was. My sister once teased me that it wasn’t necessary to marry someone just because you wanted to sleep with them. For me, who has lily-padded her way from relationship to relationship her whole life, 11 months without even a meet and greet with someone new made me feel like an exile. But I know I was healing and thinking and the time to myself did change me. Now I am hesitant and realistic about my prospects. I hate the term settling but we all make choices to avoid loneliness, not to be confused with being alone. These are not the same. I am one day at a time becoming more ok with the pleasure of my own company.
What I want: I want to be the center of attention, want to be praised for my talents. I want to be of value to my friends and family and my significant other.
What I want: I want to be respected for my brain. I want to be loved and beloved, and on occasion be told I am pretty (cute is ok, I guess, but not as good as pretty) and that my skin is nice or I have a cute ass or a nice smile. I want to be desired – for both my body and heart. I want to make love in a way that’s more than scratching an itch, but rather quenches thirst and soothes fears and makes a bold statement of being there for someone.
What I want: I want someone who doesn’t mind taking care of me a little – lets me get drunk and loud every now and then and takes me home and puts me to bed without complaint, brings me flowers because he loves the way it lights up my face, takes me for drives in the country and takes me dancing and surprises me with a mystery hike or a dinner, a concert or a play, the gift of his time.
What I want: I want someone who will go to church with me – AND wants to talk about the sermon and what it means to him. I want someone who will read my writing, or even better listen to me read it AND wants to talk about it – asks me questions, gives good feedback. I want someone who shows interest in who I am and who I am becoming. I want someone who has the humility to be sorry, who cares for God and the beautiful nature he has so generously given his children, and wants to get out there and marvel at it. I want someone who is not afraid of the intensity of me and will let me love them.
I do know that not finding this person might be somewhat my fault. To my chagrin, I find I am not familiar with kindness, a lack of guile as disconcerting as a tick under my skin. Surely I don’t want to be neglected or patronized or told what to do, but why then am I drawn to men who are emotionally unavailable and arrogant, men who have a wild streak and I think are wonderful but end up making me cry and lose sleep? Someone who uses his knowledge of my heart and the vulnerability of my secrets to cut me to the bone, to betray me.
But it’s just me in all my midlife crisis angst. Now I have a great little house of my own, filled with pictures and memories and clutter. But I’m not sure how it would be to share it. I have work, my writing group, my family, my Pilates buddy, my church volunteering, my occasional drinks with friends. I know I am self-centered and guilty of believing I am the only one in a relationship whose feelings can get hurt. But it is my right to “set the tone” as my mother always used to say. I am still not convinced I am loved despite my faults.
What I want: So despite the fact that I have prided myself on being open to a relationship, how open am I really? The other side of my bed is always filled to capacity with books, magazines and cats. There is this intimate, romantic fantasy of how great it is to curl up and spoon with a man curled liked a question mark against your back, his arm thrown casually over your breast or resting on your leg. In reality, I have terrible night sweats and about five seconds with a man’s heat against my back and I’m throwing off covers and moving away. And the snoring, dear God I have never been so ready to throttle someone. Road rage, hell, this is Bed rage. Murderous bed rage. My comeuppance has been to find out I am also a snorer of the third dimension of hell. Is this what happens when you get old? I understand the idea of separate bedrooms so much better now.
I am older now and the dream of having an intact family has faded away and gone, and if I’m honest I was never exactly a domestic goddess anyway. But a companion for the journey? Yes. I cannot find the motivation to cook for one, but I love cooking with someone or even on occasion, for someone. Does it sound crazy to say we could just read in the same room and glance up and smile at one another periodically? Or to binge-watch Netflix together.
What I want: Beyond significant-other issues, what I want is to more readily remember that 99.9% of what I really want is already waiting patiently inside me in the land of being still and introspection. I should go visit that place more. I want to think less about what I want and more about what other people need and be of greater service to them. I want to know – every single day – that there is limitless capacity for love in this world and I can find a way to be a part of that. I want to stop living inside my phone and my head and other people’s opinions. Daily prayer. Explore the wonder. Honor my body with good healthy food more often and make time to work out or at least walk. I think that’s all I really want. Is that so much to ask?