I Just Got Pinned

What does a woman do when a man who is one and a half times her weight tells her that he, for the sake of simplicity, wrestles competitively? Well, a sane woman would probably not challenge him to a duel—even jokingly. Unless, she is a former jock who grew up with two older brothers.

And unless, of course, this particular man has piercing blue eyes and that woman has seen photographic evidence of said man’s fitness and wants to experience it for herself.

That’s how I found myself with my back on the floor of the music room pinned between his legs. It was a little hard to concentrate as he told me each sequence of positions for a particular move, particularly when his leg moved between my legs and his arm grazed my chest. Forget the fact that he was focusing on how to flip me over to a position that could easily break my leg with the intent and more force.

I was too distracted by how good it felt to have our bodies, albeit clothed bodies, so close after being politely at a distance over the course of two dates. Ever the gentleman, he had given me simply a hug and flirtatious talk of more at the culmination of the first date.

He called every day of the week until date two, even if it was just for a few minutes on his drive from point A to point B. Oh, did I also mention he lives almost an hour and half away, and he’s driven out here twice to see me?

This particular morning, I was rushing to get my hair nice and fresh as it still smelled like slightly burned popcorn from the other night. I was running late as I tried to eat a late brunch, make some calls for work and send out a creative homework assignment for something I’ll let you in on later. I wasn’t even finished drying my hair under the old-school salon hair dryer and I had yet to take a shower, when he calls to tell me that he is two exits away.


He tells me he will take it slow. Still, I know there is no way he can drive slowly enough for me to be ready before he gets here. So by the time I get out of the hairdryer, my mother is helping me to get rollers out of my hair and telling me that he is in the driveway shoveling my car out of more than a foot of snow, which has accumulated over several snowstorms. While more than a foot had already melted, he had expressed serious concerns about the wellbeing of my vehicle the first date, so he has taken it upon himself to help remedy the situation. Is the guy really for real?

I hop into the shower. I change my mind on an outfit. Decide to crank it up a notch. Look at myself from different angles in the mirror, change undershirts. Decide it doesn’t look right today. Change back to the original outfit. Pop in my contacts. Brush my teeth. Fix my do. Grab my computer—there’s work to be done even in our afternoon together. Run downstairs and he and my mom are chatting easily in the living room, while watching television.

There’s no rush to end the conversation. He doesn’t look relieved, like I have rescued him from “tortuous, awkward talk with parent.” They continue chatting, and I listen until we decide what we’re doing.

Our plans for the day are unformed, so when the plan—a science museum—doesn’t look like it’s worth the short time before closing, we decide to walk the city. We talk. We share stories. We sip our drinks.

Did I tell you that the moment we got in the car, he told me how beautiful my hair looked? How it was so full of body and sexy. Yeah, it was so worth being late.

When we got back to my house, he asked me to play him my music. I am ashamed to say that working like a maniac, it has literally been many months since I have picked up the guitar and seriously played. So yes, I forgot lyrics and chord changes here and there, but he didn’t seem to mind. He asked if he could record me on his iPhone, and even though I don’t want him to capture the flubs, I let him because he says he loves my voice.

Then I give him the neck massage I offered him when he was complaining about pain there earlier. Mmm. Muscular boy who smells so good. Somehow that leads to the living room and flipping each other over in play practice of the mixed martial art of jiu-jitsu.

There was something immensely satisfying when I flipped him, even though I knew he was letting me. Because I also knew the monkey in me had the natural ability to block some of his moves when he least expected it.

I sort of knew I would love it.  But I’m not crazy enough to really get into it until I am at a more stable health status.

This time, I get a kiss good night. It’s chaste enough with my mother in the next room. But there is enough sparkle there that I know PG would turn PG13 or higher if we had the house to ourselves.

This time, I am happy to take things slow. See where things might go. He is showing me that it’s worth finding out where this might possibly lead.

Letting Down the Walls

This past weekend, Mr. E, the kids and I took a trip up to Beverly, Mass. where Mr. E’s best friend D and his family live. Their 3-story house should probably be deemed a mansion, but it was built in the late 1800s, paint on ceilings and walls were peeling in several rooms, and only one of the bathrooms was really accessible for showers and baths. Yet the home is a 15-minute walk from the ocean and has a magical charm to it.

We brought with us the 6-person tent Mr. E bought right before the kids came that we’ve “camped” out in several nights before, which gives us a cozy family feel. Mr. E can sleep with all his loved ones in touching distance, and when the kids fall asleep, we can cozy up and talk late into the night. One particular night, after we watched D’s daughter in a play recital, I was feeling especially close and lovey-dovey with Mr. E. Part of it might have been because Mr. E had the video camera to record her and I had my super-zoom camera to capture moments, and afterward Mr. E said something about imagining what it might be like seeing our own child in a play or special event like this. It weirded me out a little just because I had been thinking the same thing.

Anyway, that night after we’d enjoyed some intimate moments, I had my guard down for the first time in a really long time. “Something has changed,” Mr. E said. “You haven’t been able to keep your hands off me all day, and every time you look at me, you’re smiling. You just want to be by my side. You really love me, don’t you?”

“Hmm…maybe,” I teased.

“What has changed?” he wondered, hugging me tightly. I told him that I was finally letting my walls down. For so long, I’d been thinking I didn’t deserve to have this kind of happiness with commitment. All the men I’d been in relationships with over the last several years didn’t offer me stability with passion. It was always one or the other. Or if the men offered me both, I just didn’t feel the same connection back. That’s why it scared and hurt me so much when I felt it deep in my bones so early on that I had finally found it with Mr. E, but he eventually had to return to FDG to see if there was more to their story or not. I became scared I was wrong. I wondered if V-Man was the right one for me after all. He’d been patiently waiting all this time, hadn’t he?

Yet somehow Mr. E and I wound up back together. Both hurt and wary, but willing to give this another try. Each passing struggle made us stronger. When the kids came the last day of July, something powerful and beautiful began to flicker and now, two and half weeks later, we’re at full flame. I told him my fears of ever becoming a mother after I became so sick. V-Man was wary of having kids any time “soon”, and I began to wonder if having kids was that crucial to me any.

Yet with Mr. E’s kids, I found myself in this pseudo-stepmother role. I fell in love, and they took to me immediately. Whether we were monkeying around on the playground or riding all the rides together as a group at the indoor water park the second weekend they were here, being with them has always felt natural. I read them bedtime stories in a British accent and love how they lose themselves in the story and watch me transfixed. His almost 11-year-old son told me I was the only woman who wasn’t a member of his family that he loves. Melt. The 9-year-old daughter loves to snuggle, to touch my hair, to compliment me and want to use my hair products, to have toenails the same color as mine, etc.

I find myself stepping into discipline them when they get out of hand, in a manner that Mr. E can appreciate. “You are a wonderful mama,” he likes to say.

Now what do you think about becoming a mother?” he asked me that night in the tent.

“I know it’s what I still want,” I admitted. “And I can do it.”

“You don’t have to give up any of the things you want anymore,” he told me, stroking my hair. “You don’t have to run anymore and sabotage your happiness. You don’t have to be scared. You can have all the things you want and have ever dreamed for your life. Sure, dreams change their shape over time–when things happen and with whom they will happen change. But you don’t have to sacrifice the things that mean the most to your happiness.”

The thing is, I actually am starting to believe him. Believe in us. Someone does love me that much. Who when I try to run, writes me love songs and brings flowers. Who when I try to hide when I am sick, brings food, a movie, the kids and himself to keep me company. He can clearly see and dearly wants a future with me, and the kids are already seeing summer after summer with me here too. It scares us both a little, but in that excited “could-this-really-be-it?” way. Time will tell, of course. But I like the direction it’s taking now.

The rest of the weekend was magical. Every spare moment alone we could find together, we took full advantage of. We held hands wading in the water. I took photos of the glittering moonlight dancing on the water. We laughed and told stories with his old friends. We fondly watched all the children playing together and running around with dirt caked on their feet. The weekend ended, but we all are already looking forward to this one when we get to head up there again.

Taking A Leap of Faith

Somehow Mr. Etiquette has slipped back into my life after multiple false starts, arguments and tears. The crazy bitch FDG married her poor fiance this past Friday. Mr. E had put her in her proper place in the past. He finally said the sorry I was waiting for all this time–he’d already countless apologized for being so blind as to give me up to give her another chance, but finally, he gave me the sorry for not telling me there was a FDG in the first place those first blissful three weeks of dating. He cried, full of shame, and I resented having to bully him to get him to admit he went about our relationship the wrong way.

My mother is a paragon of forgiveness. She had much to forgive my father of in their past. I never could understand how she allowed him back into her heart. I never thought I had that kind of strength and grace in me. Maybe I underestimated myself.

Mr. Etiquette started therapy. We worked together to help write him an ad to find him a band. On my own, I came to the conclusion that, despite the V-Man being a better man than I gave him credit for, he still is not the right one for me (I think) for the long haul of life. This is harder for me to admit than I’d wish. I don’t know how much this will change the shape of our friendship.

Mr Etiquette began wooing me again. He wrote me a heartbreaking, touching poem that he read to me over Skype before it came to me in the mail, with a card. After an argument and a proclamation of my need for space, Mr. Etiquette stubbornly came to the house, Lloyd Dobler-style, knocked on the front door in the morning to no answer. He left a beautiful bouquet of flowers, another card and lyrics to songs that touched upon very pertinent issues we had been facing over the last two and half months.

The next day, under the protection of my family, I invited him over, just to see what it would feel like. Those first three weeks of knowing how right we were together had been muddled and tainted by confusion and hurt, it was so hard to know my ass from my elbow anymore. He claimed FDG was in the past. He insisted with confidence that he loved me. Those words made me shake my head, no.

The last man who had clearly told me “I love you” was an overly aggressive man who intimidated me. The last man who had sounded so sure about our future, who had declared with certainty that he wanted me to be his wife and the mother of his children, was arguably bipolar and had taken me on  the emotional roller-coaster of my life. Mr. E. had been so confused not so long ago, how could I believe his leap back to me?

When he came over, he was cautious, downright terrified of me. I watched him interact with my brother and his wife, their children. Eventually, he tentatively reached out for my arm several times. I looked up at him and couldn’t help smiling back at him. This man had more courage than anyone I’d ever come across before.

He stayed through dinner. He watched me wash the dishes. He, my mom, and I were settling down to watch the new “Alice in Wonderland” when I started having one of my really bad seizure-like episodes. I could see the fear and genuine concern on Mr. E’s face. He tried to follow my mom’s lead to comfort me. Then we all had a serious discussion about the recent appointment I had with the specialist in Boston and what were my potential paths ahead. Mr. E asked a lot of questions and said he was on board to help me however he can.

The next day, Mr. E. called, telling me he had done lots of research on my disease and shared what he had discovered. He told me to stop being stubborn and stay on top of things so I never get this bad again. It touched me how he said he was there to support me, whatever course the disease takes over time.

Later that night, he told me he loved me again. I smiled this time. He asked why I was so afraid of that word. He told me his one word definition of love: acceptance. “When I say I love you, I am saying I accept all of you, your intelligence, your strength, your courage, your beautiful heart, your sense of humor, even your stubbornness and toughness.”

Mr. Etiquette told me that from now on, he was going to tell me, “I accept you completely.” One day soon, he said, you are going to want to say it back to me. I must say I like his definition. It has a certain poetic truth to it.

His kids are coming in from Germany on Saturday for five weeks. I am eager to see him as a father because that is a role he cherishes and feels most confident in. We all have our different sides. I hope we each can show each other more of our beautiful sides again, more of that side we showed each other in those first three magical weeks together. Time will tell if that’s a possibility.

When The Tables Are Turned

In a perfect twist to my soap opera saga with Mr. Etiquette, this morning, he just found out he’s been the “other man” to his Miss Wonderful over the last 15 months. She broke things off again with him this past Sunday–in truth, there wasn’t really anything to break off besides words. In the last two weeks, she’d seen him one day for three hours and canceled every other “date” that they’d planned after that. Still, Mr. E. was crushed. He, of course, came to me for comfort, advice, etc. I was blunt with him, basically encouraging not to shed too many tears over a woman who has continually kicked him in the teeth for over the year. He seemed like he was trying to listen, even showing signs that he wanted to move on, be happy and at peace again.

Until this morning, when he decided to give things another try with Miss Wonderful, hunt down her father since he’d deleted all her numbers from his phone the day before, and put the father in the middle. He asked if he could bring some things to her father, explaining to him who Mr. Etiquette was. Dad was very confused and broke the news that Miss Wonderful was getting married…¿Cómo say what?

Obviously Mr. Etiquette is crushed, but he can’t say he couldn’t see this coming. Several times, he mentioned the gut feeling that his Former Dream Girl was seeing someone else. We talked about this on Friday night when we went to see a band, and I observed, “It is interesting that she never wants to get together on Fridays and Saturdays, and she’s totally fine with you hanging out with me on Friday nights.” She had time for everyone else throughout the weekend, but Mr. Etiquette was only deemed worthy of a couple hours late Sunday afternoons.

When FDG wouldn’t show, she would get hostile and defensive if Mr. E showed disappointment. Several of us in the know have been telling him her “anxiety” wouldn’t suddenly change her personality from sweet to bitch the way that it had over the course of the year if she really, truly loved him and wanted to be with him. Even with her anxiety she could handle the responsibilities of her job, being the maid of honor in a wedding with all the duties that entails, doing things for her family, spending time with all of her friends, so why was it only with him that she “couldn’t deal”?

My question remains why would he keep going back to this woman when he claims all he wants is to be loved by someone willing and capable of being loved, someone who respects, admires, desires him, and wants to build a life with him? Before I knew about FDG, I was capable of becoming that girl, and he knew it. He risked all that just to make sure FDG wouldn’t return to the love he thought she once was for not even 6 months over a year ago (when she got back together with her ex-boyfriend/now fiancé).

He kept saying he didn’t want to lose me as a friend, because he guessed things wouldn’t work out with FDG, and look–he was right. He got extremely jealous as I moved forward in dating, urging me not to move too quickly. He was going to come for me if things didn’t work out with FDG. Yet why would I want him? I would always know I was second-best. I know I deserve more than that.

Even more now, after she told him on Sunday after her last no-show, “please move on, please find love and get married, don’t call, text, email, or try to visit me again, I don’t love you,” he still tried to give it another chance today. He is more desperate than i thought. He is the one who needs extensive counseling, maybe just as much if not more than FDG. She is just a mean-spirited, cowardly bitch.  Mr. Etiquette is off his rocker. I feel sorry for him, but I don’t want to, to quote good ol’ Dr. Phil, “be his soft place to fall,” if it only drags me down to hell on earth as well.

Steamin’ It Up, Old-School Style

“How do you always get mascara all over your face?” my mom asked coming out of her bedroom when I came in tonight from my third date with The Brit. “Maybe you should stop wearing any mascara at all.”

“It’s raining out,” I said. She gave me a look that told me she wasn’t buying it. “And I’m always rubbing my face,” I added, which is true. It might also be because I just spent the last half hour making out in The Brit’s car in our driveway, I thought, but I knew to keep that one to myself.

“This is a bit dodgy, isn’t it?” The Brit commented, as we paused for breath, in the close quarters of his VW Bug. “D’ya think your parents are going to get upset that we’re basically parking in their driveway?” It was a good question. But his car wasn’t too big, it was dark and raining, and we were safely tucked under the cover of some lush tree branches in the side driveway. “Your dad’s not the type to come out here with a bat or anythin’, is he?”

I responded by leaning in for another kiss. (No, Jaysey818, it turns out we didn’t need a lesson at all this time.) And no, Dad wasn’t home. Otherwise, he’d have the binoculars and flashlight out the window, recon-style.

After a lovely dinner at an Indian restaurant that The Brit likes–my stomach was totally fine, thank you very much, you guys–we didn’t want the date to end quite yet, but we didn’t know where to go. it was raining, otherwise we could go for a walk. Neither of us felt like doing any drinking. The Brit thought of taking me to his place, and I could meet his cat, but he said it was embarrassingly messy right now. Most of the stores would be closing soon, but we decided we’d pop into the nearby Marshall’s just for something to do.

The Brit looked at a few shirts, asked my opinion, and then the store announced it was closing. Not wanting to be pressured by time into a sale, The Brit left without any new clothes. We shrugged, restless but lacking too much imagination, so he ended up taking me home. I did notice he parked the car in the side driveway instead of just pulling up idle behind my unused car, so I smiled as he came in to kiss me. I wasn’t prepared for how much we were going to steam up the windows.

“Perhaps we should have gone to the park for a proper parking after all,” he mused later.

This of course reminds me of Bridget Jones’ Diary, where Bridget tells Mark Darcy: “Wait a minute…nice boys don’t kiss like that.” His reply, “Oh, yes, they fucking do.”

The only unfortunate incident of the night is that I started talking about blogging. I wasn’t even drinking, I tell you. I was talking about my health blog, which covers a range of health topics, from unusual disorders to alternative medicine to nutrition transformations in schools to traveling while disabled. This was all well and good until I started babbling about my other blog; yes, this very one.

“Am I in it?” he asks. Then throughout the rest of dinner, he tries to throw in, so you talk about x in this blog, which is called y? Fishing for the name, which I refused to give. I told him there is nothing negative to report about The Brit. However, it’s too soon for him to see this side of me, or to hear way too many details about my messy dating life. If he ever earns that right, or if I ever get up the cajones to share this blog with anyone in my personal circle…that’s because I will have reached the stability in my romantic life where I feel free to be completely open about my past because it is…in my past.

I did say that I may copy my personal guide to having great sex and email it to him, however. Though I do personally (through pseudonyms) mention previous lovers, which is not a good thing. But that can be easily edited.

Speaking of previous lovers, Harlequin Hero of course informed last night that he’s coming back up here at the end of the month. Don’t know how long he’s staying but he said of course he wants to see me. And it should surprise no one that Mr. Etiquette called me while I was on my date. I ignored the numerous buzzes I received from various people during the date, but I just knew one of them was from him. He surprisingly didn’t leave a message, which only leads me to conclude he knew I was on a date. T must have told him I was “out.” Screw him and his jealousy. He only calls when things are bleak with Sara, which of course is frequent lately, especially now that we’re talking again. Might need to cut off this “friendship” deal completely.

The Brit brought up a wedding in Michigan he was invited to go to this summer. He is friends with the groom, met the bride once, but knows no one else at the wedding. He feels terrible if he says no to it, though. I was wondering if he wanted my opinion, or if he was putting out feelers if I might want to go so he’d know someone else at the wedding. Seems a bit early for him to ask, since he’s a laid-back, average-paced guy. He brought up getting there via a road trip, asked my opinion on whether I thought it’d be a decent ride, etc.  Probably was just asking since I know this part of the U.S. better than he does. The groom’s not a best friend, so I honestly think it could be fun if we were still seeing each other, but whatever. I won’t ponder it further unless he specifically asks me.

Up to Bat with The Brit

Thursday night was my first date with The Brit. Those of you who read my Twitter account may remember I was dragging my heels in the final moments. The thought of actually having to go out there and have another first date with someone new depressed me. Thinking how just last week, I was still in the arms of Mr. Etiquette, as confused as he was, I still had hope that he might be the one I could spend endless days with into the future, some day at least. But nope, here I was back out on the dating blocks less than a week after feeling as if I’d figuratively had open-heart surgery.

I gave myself the pep talk: Mr. Etiquette is moving forward with Sara. You have to move forward too. Oddly enough, this made me even more reluctant to leave the house. I just wanted to cry into a pillow, perhaps watch Bridget Jones for 947th time. I tried again: Awesome things are happening in your life. You deserve to have fun for a night, meet someone new, swoon over that British accent. Yes, this started to perk my spirits up a bit.

I had Googled The Brit. He was brilliant, accomplished, cuter and funnier than I had remembered. His obvious intelligence (yes, I shamelessly read his CV in fine detail) actually turned me on quite a bit. I hopped in the car and said, “Drive, Jeeves, drive.” Well, that obviously would have been much cooler than “Drive, Dad”–unfortunately I couldn’t drive myself with certain medical restrictions and all…

I was a little early, so I sat at a table in the corner of the bar until The Brit arrived. I watched him walk in and look around anxiously for me. He turned and immediately smiled when he recognized me. Damn, he had a cute smile. We talked about his fascinating journey from Newcastle, England to Washington state to Indiana and finally to Connecticut. He told me about his intriguing focus of research in the psychology of politicians. We, of course , talked about football (soccer). He was self-deprecating, hilarious, very open, and the accent..*swoon*.

I told him about my journey from Connecticut to California to Connecticut to Las Vegas back to Connecticut. I told him about my various changes in careers. I told him what was next for me, in the most immediate future and what stood even further ahead. He looked at me with sparkling eyes and an encouraging smile as if he was just as fascinated with me as I with him. He was only a little apologetic for being nosy and asking probing questions about former relationships and dating, and I told him i was an open book, as long as he didn’t mind me being the nosy journalist right back at him.

Before I knew it, two hours had passed, and the bar was beginning Trivia Night. My parents had already been by an hour ago, and I had forgotten to even check my cell. The Brit asked if I was up for playing, and I said sure. We decided we’d give ourselves a clever but silly moniker that the guy running the show could not pronounce for the life of him. Every other round, we changed it slightly to mock his butchering of the name. We lost every round. Instead of getting frustrated and upset that he wasn’t winning, The Brit thought it was hilarious that he, a PhD, and I, a Stanford grad, were doing so miserably on so many of these ridiculous questions. It was so freakin’ fun.

I gave him a nice hug at the end. He said he had a really nice time. He was so glad I came out.  And I couldn’t help thinking I might really like to see this guy again.

The next morning, my first official day of summer vacation, I decided to be spontaneous. All day long, there were World Cup games I had to watch, and I knew The Brit, off from classes for the summer to do research, would be watching them too. So I left him a message asking if he wanted to watch the England vs. Algeria game with me. He called back a half hour later and asked, “When should I show up?”

I nervously rushed to shower, get the downstairs a little cleaned up and threw some chili cheese dip in the oven. He arrived shortly with some German beer and as he stood there in the foyer grinning at me, something came over me as I went into hug him, I looked up at him, and he lay a big, hungry kiss on me. Wow, I totally wasn’t expecting that.

Afterward, I grinned as I showed him the first floor of the house. He was eager to see my cat, so I did. They very much approved of one another. Then we went to the kitchen, and The Brit apologetically informed me he was a vegetarian as I took the chili dip out of the oven. Argh, whoops. Fortunately, I had French onion dip he could eat.

We went to the living room, where we sat down to cheer on England. It was awesome to watch the game with The Brit. He had the skinny on all the gossip of the players, including the fact that one player had an affair with his best friend’s, another player, wife. He knew every player on the team and could give brilliant analysis on their performance. Everything he said was later repeated by the commentators.

At half time, he faced me with a big grin, and leaned over to kiss me. Who knew football was such a turn-on, but suddenly we were in full make-out mode. During the game, we sat touching, sometimes holding hands. It was sweet, but I wasn’t expecting the passion ahead. I began to laugh as the game started again. “Hey,” I said breathlessly, “I thought we were watching the game.”

It was fun and unexpected. He was sweet and tender. Best of all, he makes me laugh.

On a side note, I never know if it’s possible to train a man to be the kisser you most prefer. I think it might be possible, with compassionate coaching, what do you guys think?

When A Phoenix Rises From the Ashes

Anger was getting me nowhere. That was always the case. When I was a little girl, my brothers knew that if I got mad at them, it was only a matter of minutes, after cajoling, funny faces, and tickling, before I burst out laughing against my will, letting them back into my good graces again. I was always the first to cave in an argument.

As I got older, the sulking period grew a bit longer, especially depending on how long resentment had been building up, but that negative time was still a flash in the grand scheme of things. After a defensive eruption of harsh words, I would always wind up feeling worse after the initial high of finally getting the pent-up emotions off my chest. The disconnect always left me feeling empty. So much of my life derives meaning from connection.

Some people can hold grudges until the day they die. I have friends who haven’t spoken to their parents in years. Or who, after some harsh words said in the heat of the moment, lost their best friends forever and pride forbade them from ever making up. I never could understand it. No matter how angry I got, no matter how hurt I was over something, I always sought peace, forgiveness, or some other form of closure.

Around the middle of this week, after I got great feedback and commendation at work, very promising leads for the next step in my career, and an awesome writing project for the summer, I was riding high. I had two fabulous dates with The Brit. I was feeling inspired again. I was re-connecting with friends I’d somehow gotten out of touch with.

During one of my daily chats with Tina, the mutual German friend of Mr. Etiquette’s and mine, I spoke of how I just wanted this cloud of negativity between me and him to be behind us. It was the only thing holding me back from really being at peace with the moment. I told her I felt this urge to reach out and lay down the olive branch between us. She encouraged me, smiling, as I sent the following message:

I’m sorry if u felt I was too harsh on u. I want to let go of this negativity. Life is looking so good for me right now & I want to enjoy it fully w/o the shadow of this ugliness between us. I sincerely wish you well.

There was an agonizing five or more minutes where he didn’t respond, and then the phone rang. Mr. Etiquette popped up on the screen. I anxiously picked up. He talked, and I mostly listened for a long time. I heard his perspective. I let him say what he needed to say. I let him talk about Sara without feeling like it was competition. I listened with forgiveness and understanding in my heart.  I felt it when he said he was sorry and that he never meant to hurt me. I said I knew that, but he did. I felt it when he said he missed me and when he told me how much i meant to him and still do. He still confused me with certain words he repeated that I thought still gave hope. I told him why saying those things weren’t fair right now. He understood why it confused me, but he said he didn’t say this things to confuse me. It was just how he felt. He said he really wanted me to still be in his life in some friendly capacity. He didn’t know how we could do it but he asked me if we could try.

After our phone call ended, Tina and I continued our Skype talk. She sounded very happy that we had reconciled to the point of at least making the effort of truly being friends solely this time. Mr. Etiquette started messaging her. He said how happy he was to talk with me and glad we were making amends. He told her he was heading out to see a show. Nosy me asked where he was going. I knew he wasn’t going with Sara, since she only gives him a couple hours on Sunday afternoons right now. They are not boyfriend and girlfriend. They are just moving slowly to start “dating” again.

He told Tina where and asked if I wanted to come. He hated going to the bars by himself. I hemmed and hawed. Thought it was probably a bad idea. But I had just told Tina that the only way I could see us being successfully friends was if we had activities outside the home that kept us positively and constructively doing stuff, not over-analyzing and going into the danger zone of emotions. Tina gave her Swiss opinion. Mr. E and I both deliberated, my dad objected, but finally I decided let’s go for it.

I showed up looking killer. I didn’t intend to. I wanted to just be totally casual in regular jeans and a cute top. Until I realized I had a couple hours earlier put all my clothes in the wash. So I was left with a top I originally had bought for work (but it looked downright scandalous when I put it on tonight), and white tight jean capris. Only thing that went with those were tall wedge-type heels. I decided it didn’t hurt for him to see me looking fabulous, not broken and grieving.

He certainly approved. Unfortunately even in his casual wear, I still found my heart turning over a bit, but I tried to be as blase as possible. Of course, he wouldn’t allow it. We talked of many things. At first he sounded hopeful about Sara, her possibility for recovery. How there were things she was doing now that reminded him of the old Sara he loved, which gave him encouragement. But he admitted he was also scared. He found himself waiting by the phone. Wondering why she didn’t text sometimes. Wondering if he didn’t initiate contact, would she? Wondering if he can trust her to show the next time. I reminded him it’s still so early, she’s not yet getting the treatment she needs, and he’s got to be very patient.

He kept telling me how amazing I looked. How wonderful it was to see me. How much he missed me, my smile, my laugh, how easily we can communicate. “Things are so easy with us. I hope things can be this easy again with Sara again,” he said. Seeing me again reinforced how strong his feelings for me had been and still are. He worried if things didn’t work out with Sara, and I had moved on, he wouldn’t know what he’d do if he lost us both. He questioned whether he was doing the wrong thing, making a mistake to choose Sara now.

I told him there was no wrong choice. Even after he’s proven to himself that there is another amazing woman he was starting to fall in love with, he still can’t fully let Sara go. The only way he will ever know for sure if Sara still is or is not the woman for him is to see a) if she can and will get mentally healthy again to be the happy and wonderful girl he was blissfully in love with for 6 months b) if by then, too much time hasn’t passed that he has given up hope, and c) if they get that far, can he trust that she will stay consistently healthy enough that she won’t completely shut him out again for a year like she did and break his heart all over again. So many ifs I said.

“I have always been a dreamer,” he told me. “What if I’m just deluding myself into thinking she can ever really get healthy?” We talked for a while about the real possibilities that even with the proper medication and therapy, she might not be able to fully conquer this generalized anxiety disorder that she seems to have inherited from her mother. But I reminded him she’s starting to being proactive now and including him in her struggles. That’s a big change in the right direction.

When all the psychoanalyzing got too depressing, talking in circles, we spoke of other things, of the great things going on in my life. He sounded so pleased for me, and I was so proud to be able to share how amazing life was growing for me again even without him by my side. I showed I was strong enough to stand alone from him. I said I was dating again. That made him jealous, he admitted, wanted to know about The Brit. Tough shit. He cautioned me not to move too fast. “Like I did with you?” I asked. And then the music finally started and we got caught up in the joy of just grooving at a show together.

After the show, we talked as he drove me home: “I am a man torn between my love for two different women.” He wondered if the woman he once loved even still existed or could still exist again. Will things ever be as easy with her as they once were, as they were and still are with me? Will intimacy, whenever she allows it again, be awkward and just feel plain wrong? I told him he won’t know until he experiences it.

“There is still more than the wonderful friendship we have between us here,” he said, while we sat in my driveway, unable to leave just yet, very loosely holding hands, possibly for the last time. “You feel it too, right?” I silently nodded. “There was always so much more between us than just the chemical,” he said.

Though this night maybe should have been painful and just opening up old wounds again, it wasn’t. It confirmed to me that Mr. Etiquette wasn’t the completely asshole I’d demonized him into in my own grief over losing him. He didn’t handle things right, but who knows if I would’ve done it better in his shoes. It also confirmed to me that what we shared was real and mutual, and not something I made more of in my head. Somehow that was reassuring. So off we go to be sometimes friends. There’s too much between us now to do more than just touch base every now and then. Yet that’s okay with me now. I have found the peace and closure I needed.

When Tears Aren’t Enough

I realize that Mr. Etiquette isn’t worth my tears. It is pitiful how sick and manipulative he could be without even realizing how bad he was, how similar his mental illness is to Sara, the girl who caused him grief and anguish over the last 13 months, but he is not even worth my pity.

He claims he never was dishonest. He was dishonest by initially saying things with S were in the past, over and done with. He lied by omission, failing to tell me he was still in love with her and was just waiting for her to come around to wanting to be in a relationship again. He made me think he asked me to the baseball game because he sincerely wanted me to be with him and his German friends. I found out yesterday, from our mutual German friend, that he had in fact only asked me after S bailed on him. Two days later, he asked her to a picnic that she later also bailed on. He only became truthful when his “heart was crushed” when she told him she was no longer in love with him and asked him to stop bothering her.

He says he never meant to cause me pain. His friends and I told him repeatedly when he either hurt me or angered me by things he repeatedly did over the last almost two weeks now. He hurt his friends. He ruined our trip to Cape Cod by making it all about him and his confusion and anguish. She called and instead of not picking up the phone, he talked to her for a half hour. Then he came up to us and told us about their conversation for nearly a half hour. Then he went and called another friend to talk about her for another half hour. By then, the three rest of us were ready to go home.

One of the last nights of the German friends’ stay he called S for a “minute to schedule a talk to clear the air once and for all,” and that turned into a half hour argument. We didn’t bother to wait more than the 25 minutes he left us hanging so went to dinner without him. He acted all hurt when he came out to meet us and wondered why I was “shutting him out.” Dude, fine, bail on me, but don’t consistently bail on your friends who’ve traveled over three thousand miles to be with you.

I can’t pity even how weak of a man he is. The only reason he had the strength to finally confront Sara was because he felt buoyed by the promise of unconditional love that I had offered him. How twisted is that? (Oh, far worse.) I feel sorry for his kids to whom he cries his heartbreak over the phone. At ages 9 and 10, he tells them far too much than they should ever need to know. They know this woman has consistently hurt him for a year and a half. When here last summer, they commented on how they never knew if Sara was actually going to show up for some event, did they, since she was constantly breaking dates even then. What example is Mr. Etiquette showing his children by running back to her the moment she says “okay, now that you’re moving on, I want you.”

How can I have a soft spot in my heart for the king of manipulation? By the end of the charade of dating, he was asking even if we’ve become just friends at said point, would I still help him out in the last 5 weeks of summer when his kids come from Germany to visit? Today, I found out from our now mutual German friend that he was also hoping we could remain friends because I had all the music contacts that he needed to find a band(!). Earlier when they were still here, she yelled at him to wake up to the fact that he was hurting me,  and he replied, “I can’t think about that now. Right now, I need her here to comfort me.” Yes, comfort him through his heartbreak. He also needed me in the house so he wouldn’t be alone after they left. And I guess all that sex in the final days was trying to fuck the frustration over Sara out of him? What did I get out of all this?

A man who couldn’t stop comparing me to the other woman, even favorably. The “only area that you don’t win is that she has significantly bigger breasts than you,” he said, not thinking how this might feel like a slap. “But in all other areas, you’re perfect for me. Emotionally, spiritually, sexually, we are just perfect for one another. That’s the only area where she wins.” I know–what a dick!

By the end, the boob size had become such a obsession that he was gently trying to persuade me to consider getting a boob job. My body was perfect! But he got a huge rise sexually having bountiful breasts to play with and be a visual focal point (lazy lack of creativity?). I’m not going to lie and say I’ve never considered what it would be like to have fuller breasts, but that was when I was younger and more insecure. Frankly, I finally became happy with them; they are the perfect shape and pertness in my eyes. Harlequin Hero said they were perfection, that I didn’t need to change anything about them (he still fondly dreams of them, it turns out). The V-Man certainly appreciated the way they looked too even in clothing since I’ve regained the hospital-stay weight loss.

But I played along just because Mr. Etiquette seemed to get such a kick out of the idea. It was almost fun to envision me finally with the “perfect body” until he picked his top breasts. “Don’t hate me, but they look just like Sara’s, though maybe a little smaller.” Where’s that gun?

So it really is pointless to waste perfectly good tears on this man. What’s the point of feeling pain over an illusion? Why be hurt over a total ass who still thinks he’s “such a nice guy with everything in the world to offer, why doesn’t [Sara, ex-wife, any female] want me?”

I feel like a boiling tea kettle. I got enough satisfaction completely telling him off, in my polite pseudo-Southerner way, last night via text tirade, which allowed me to fall asleep peacefully. But I woke up raring to go for another round. I feel like kicking a punching bag. Hating that I was stupid for those first three weeks. I’ve been around the block for too long to be so duped. How could I have finally truly let me guard down again…for the absolutely wrong guy? One of my friends suggested breaking old worthless plates on the floor atop newspaper. That sounded appealing, but I don’t think that would be enough. Maybe I should hit the batting cages tomorrow. I feel most like messing around with bright paint colors and just spreading my emotions in angry swaths across a canvas.

What constructive things do YOU do to release the pent-up negative emotions when they start bubbling up inside of you?

The Other Woman

In just one hour, Mr. Etiquette will be meeting with his ex-girlfriend to hopefully, finally, get closure on the ending of their relationship. After thirteen months of her stringing him along with empty promises that filled him with hope that one day she would re-kindle the magic they’d shared for six months, she finally told him last Wednesday that she was not in love with him. This, completely surprising to me, broke his heart. Realizing that the man I was starting to fall hard for was in fact also still in love with the memory of another woman has been breaking my heart too.

For three weeks, I thought Mr. Etiquette and I were happily dancing along in the wonderful promise of a new relationship. We got along so easily and effortlessly, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. He spoke of how I scared him because of how strong his feelings for me were becoming. More frequently, he spoke of a fantasy future for us, “If we continue along this path, and we get married then…” I found the words comforting and exciting, not stifling and scary.

Because of his painful divorce, he had mentioned an old promise he made to himself about dating eight women before he could be sure about finding the right partner for him. I was girl number four, so I was aware he might need to do a little more dating. I told him I could be patient if he pursued this sooner rather than later.

Then last Wednesday came along. I found out not only that he still has love for this woman, Sara, who was the first relationship after his divorce, but that he still was actively trying to date her and had in fact asked her to the Memorial Day picnic he was going to, the day after spending a full weekend with me. She bailed on him, like she has done regularly over the last 13 months.

First, I was hurt. Then, I was angry. He’d been lying to me for three weeks! He had actually used the words, “there’s no one else I want to be dating right now,” to my face, while in his heart he was just waiting for the next time Sara would call. He defended himself by saying, “I told you I would be dating other people.” I yelled back, “Dating some unknown strangers in the future is completely different than still trying to woo this woman you are still in love with.” He refused to accept accountability for that deceit or for the hurt it caused me.

For six months, things were pretty darn great with Mr. Etiquette and Sara, until her lifelong anxiety began to get the better of her. Meeting Mr. Etiquette’s children scared her. Talking about the future scared her. His neediness scared her. Hearing about his ex-wife all the time felt like a burden (hey, Sara and I have more in common than not, don’t we?) All this on top of increased responsibilities at work caused her to pull back and tell him she needed distance. Yet she kept saying, “I can’t have you now, but later…”

I told Mr. Etiquette, if I had known all this, I would never have gotten so involved with him. I would not have closed off my other options when I did. His selfish response was that he was glad he didn’t tell me because we wouldn’t have gotten as close as we have. He told me his burgeoning feelings for me is what gives him strength to finally accept things are over with Sara. He sees that someone can give him the love he so desperately seeks and deserves, someone can love him unconditionally too. He said, in the last month, we’ve done more meaningful and special things together than he did with her for those six months. I said, so what’s the big problem then?

Denial. He never could accept that she stopped wanting him. I can’t help feeling extremely uneasy that one, he thinks mental illness is the only reason why Sara isn’t with him anymore. Two, the thirteen months of her kicking him in the head was still met with unwarranted, unconditional love from him. And three, he lied to me, by omission and by doing what he claims Sara did to him, give empty promises.

So when he talks about the future with me now or reaches out to hold me, I put my hand up to stop him. Not now. You have got to straighten this stuff out with Sara. He kept hemming and hawing, saying he’d do it when he was strong enough. I asked, when was that? Another thirteen months from now?

His beloved friend from Germany who’d been visiting the last two and half weeks and with whom I’d spent a lot of time bonding said, “I love him, but you need to protect yourself here. This isn’t the [Mr. Etiquette] I know.” This was a weak and desperate man who didn’t know how to let go of something unhealthy and move forward with something that would only bring happiness and peace.

So at least, he resigned himself to the fact that if he didn’t want to lose me, the thought of which, he said, scared him tremendously, he was going to have to figure out some way to find closure with Sara. He began writing his thoughts down and scheduled a time. She canceled the first time, yesterday, and she’s already angrily threatened to bail on today, but I hope she allows him this opportunity for closure.

Honestly, I don’t even know if this man is who I want in my life anymore. He is not who I thought he was. His own friends are afraid of the changes they see in him. I was looking to get out of drama not drown in the biggest drama of all. And yet, I find myself empathetic and at least wanting to be a friend to him. Is that part of my own sickness, or is there something more really here?

And then I can’t help but wonder, as the V-Man calls for yet another day together, if I need my own moments of closure with an ex as well. I need us to discuss if we are in fact completely over and why before I can fully and completely move forward myself. I hate all these flaws of being human, but so it is. Why does everything gotta be so complicated?

The Weight of Waiting

“You totally scare the shit out of me,” Mr. Etiquette said tonight, grabbing my hand as we walked under the light of the almost full moon. “And that’s a really good thing.”

“It is a good thing,” I agreed as we made our way along the curving stone pathway leading to the abandoned pavilion. “Unless it scares you so much that you run to the hills.”

“Which is a possibility,” Mr. Etiquette conceded.

I tried to swallow the fear in my throat. “I know.” I squeezed his hand. “I know what I signed up for.”

I know I am seeing a man still cautious as old wounds are only beginning to scar over. A man who finds it hard to trust that the good things in his life will not just disappear. A man who wonders how he was so lucky to find me, a woman who fits him perfectly in so many of the most important ways. This naturally petrifies him because it’s too soon. For many reasons, he is a man living in fear, and I respect and understand this about him.`

Lightning flashed against the clouds. In the South, we always called this colorful display following a day of unbearable humidity, “heat lightning.” There was definitely still heat in the air later as my still moist, bare legs brushed together under my flimsy skirt.

“You might just have to meet the kids when they come out in August,” Mr. Etiquette said after we had gotten back into the car. He tilted his head toward me, giving me a shy grin.

“Uh-oh, I know, scary,” I said, shrugging my shoulders in defeat.

“Last year they met Sarah, and they liked her. They had fun with her,” Mr. E said of the colleague who had previously captured his heart after the divorce but did the disappearing act constantly and would never follow through on her commitments.

“They may not like me then,” I said, twisting the fabric of my skirt in my fingers.

“They know she hurts Papa. Or that she hurt me,” he clarified. “I talk to them about things. Maybe I shouldn’t, but even my 10-year-old said, ‘We never can count on if she’s really coming or isn’t she, can we, Papa?’ during their last visit here. They don’t want me to be with someone who hurts me.” Mr. E looked at me with fondness and more confidence than sometimes sweep across his expressive face when he’s pondering big steps. “So they might have to meet you.”

i knew not to say anything. I just smiled. I didn’t want to act too excited or hopeful, though I was feeling both.

“It’s something to think about,” Mr. E said. I nodded.

Normally this uncertainty would be driving me wild. The fear of potentially getting hurt in the future might make me cut my losses now and run. When the need arises, I share my concerns and tell him my trepidations. Yet somehow, when he needs his time and space, I find myself patient and accepting. He keeps coming back on his own and letting me further in. There is more satisfaction in this than the alternative: pushing or nagging. He’s worth waiting for, no matter where the path ends.