Being Valued, Being Wooed: a letter to Madi

Being Valued Being Wooed

A co-worker once wistfully told me she’d married her husband because he picked her up at the airport, holding a bouquet of balloons and an engagement ring.

small heart and key“What else could I do?” she asked.

The surprise proposal made her completely forget that a week before, when she was knocked out by a miserable cold, he’d expected her to join him for happy hour with his colleagues so he’d have a ride home. A familiar sort of selfish request, with no regard for her health, or for that matter, safety.

Now this man was handsome, charming, smart, and from time to time successful, but all in all, he was no catch. I later learned she finally left him, taking their two kids and accepting full custody, knowing she’d never get a dime from him for any part of their life together. She got tired of being second best. But it took a long, long time.

Madi, you asked us how you’ll know how a man is going to treat you after you’re married. I guess, in a way, you don’t. But there are clues. Clearly, if he doesn’t treat you the right way now, get out. It isn’t going to get better. If he seems to be trying too hard to get you to like him, give it some careful thought. There should be more than that.

The best advice I can give you is this: Never, ever forget the foundational importance of being valued. If being with that person makes you feel free to express who you are, even to fail, you’re on the right path. It may or may not end up leading where you want it to go, but remember that path.

There’s settling for less-than-perfect, which you have to do, and there’s settling for hell-on-earth, which you should never do.

I have a close friend who for years knew she wanted to be married and have a family. She surefire wasn’t going to settle, though. It took her a long time and frankly, some good therapy, to get to a point where she was ready to meet the right man.

Cupid be true Sky background © Pakhnyushchyy - DollarPhotoClub

I remember finally, long into this, she called me and said, “I feel like I’m in the right place now, but I’m not even meeting men. At least before I could always meet bad ones.”

I told her, “Your outside hasn’t completely caught up with your inside yet. You know what you want and you’re sending out signals to the wrong guys saying, ‘go away.’ You just haven’t started sending out signals to the right guys saying, ‘Well, hello there.’ ”

Okay, I didn’t say “Well, hello there.” But that was the gist of what I said and it struck a chord with her. In fact, she told me later it meant a lot.

You can guess the rest. She met her husband shortly after that and now they have two kids, a boy and a girl. She didn’t settle. It took a long time, longer than most, but if she’d gotten married before that, she would have settled, because that was the way it worked in her life.

Madi, you were wise to ask us this question. Listen to the other ladies; they have a lot more experience than I do. There’s wisdom in the words of many.

Image Credits: (Hearts as Balloons) ©Andreka Photography – Fotolia.com (Key to my Heart) © GraphicStock.com; (Sky background) © Pakhnyushchyy – stock.adobe.com

The Letter (sigh)

Heart drawn on rainy-streaked window

When I was 36, I moved from Minneapolis to Nashville for a relationship. I distinguish “moving for a relationship” from “moving for a man.”

It was a decision I made because it was what I wanted to do, and not because I was one of those women who would sacrifice anything for the man in her life. I’d made big moves before, so I knew what I was getting into. In fact, I was looking forward to the change and opportunities.

But overall I wasn’t content in Nashville. I broke up with that boyfriend a year after my move, and made only one true friend in the three years I was there.

Still, something special did happen, a seemingly small event, but one that lifted my spirits for years. I wish I could go back in time for this simple reason: to save that letter.

It was January,

Sad love heart symbol background

a few months before Mark and I split up, and I knew our relationship was coming to an end. Still, I wasn’t going to go out with anybody else until it was officially over, no matter how appealing he might be.

No matter how appealing he might be.

The apartments I lived in at the time were nice, but they didn’t have a washer & dryer hookup in the units. Instead, there were a handful of washers and dryers in the mail room. To avoid the crowd, I did my laundry early Saturday mornings. I didn’t dress up by any means — sweats, no makeup, my hair looking like a bird’s nest. I think I even wore slippers. I did take a shower and brush my teeth (my concession to public sensibilities), and likely wore my contacts out of habit. But it was not a moment to capture in either mind or photo.

A man started showing up at the same time, somewhat older than me, and very kind. We’d talk, but I’m not a morning person, and generally I was there to throw my laundry in and haul back to my apartment. I barely noticed him.

Then one day I got a letter,

in an ordinary office envelope, written on plain yellow ruled paper. The return address was the apartment in the building next to mine. I was curious, and a little nervous. Who on earth?

adobestock_125247617-convertedIt was the gentleman who’d been doing his laundry at the same time I was. Turns out it was no coincidence he showed up every Saturday morning for weeks on end. Despite my scarecrow appearance and nominal conversation, he wanted to get to know me.

It was the warmest, most heartfelt letter I’ve ever gotten, ending with an invitation to dinner.  It made me feel treasured. I kept that letter for years, and today I have no idea what happened to it.

I spoke to him the following Saturday and told him while I truly valued his letter, I wouldn’t be comfortable going out with him since I was still dating Mark. He suggested coffee, but I knew how Mark would feel about even that casual of a meeting (despite the growing distance between us), and I knew how I would feel about it, too. I told this gracious man if I ever broke up with my boyfriend, I’d look him up.

By the time Mark and I did split, the man had moved away.

I don’t regret not going out with him. I believe in honoring the relationship you’re in, even if it’s rocky. Tempting yourself isn’t wise.

If I could go back in time, I’d travel to the moment I decided to throw away that letter (if indeed I did, perhaps it was tossed accidentally) and save it instead as the rare gift it was.


Image Credits: (car) © James Group Studios Inc — Adobe Stock; (window) © robsonphoto — Adobe Stock; (letter)  © vladwel — Adobe Stock

Hey, Cupid! Over here! I SAID OVER HERE!

On occasion well-meaning friends will say, “I just don’t understand why you’ve never gotten married. You’re so blahdadeblah and blahblah!” Come to think of it, it’s almost always my newer friends who say this…hmmm…

Cupid's StruckWell, yes, I am all those things, but I’m also something else: really slow on the uptake. Always have been. I do not pick up on clues from or about men, and since I don’t, I’ve never had any experience in responding to them. My imagination doesn’t even go there.

I need a good wing man, but typically those who might fill that role are so stunned or amused by my oblivion they don’t step up.

I’ve been chatting with a really nice man at my church lately. Nice, good looking, successful. (You don’t know how remarkable it is I’m aware of all those things and their “value.”) Today, it’s quite possible he threw out the hook for going out to lunch after the service. I just stared at it. In all fairness, it’s been a long dry spell.

As he was walking away, I cried out inside. Bad enough I missed my chance, but it probably stung for him, and looked like rejection.

It wasn’t. It was sheer stupidity on my part.

This comes close on the heels of meeting a man who, as it happens, was also introduced to a friend of mine several months before (not for a set-up or anything, just in the course of the day). I mentioned to her I’d talked to him for a little while (it actually was a long while), and her eyes lit up.

“What?” I asked.

“He’s a good-looking man,” she said, with a raised eyebrow and knowing nod.

He is? I thought about it, and darn if she wasn’t right. Now, we all know the relative value of looks in a relationship, so it’s important to note this guy is pretty nice, too. Charming. I did notice that, although it had taken some time to register.

I had had plenty of time to flirt with him, but it’s just as well THAT didn’t happen. Like I said, those skills are not highly refined. I might end up looking like a sad character on a popular sitcom.

I have before. I know, we all have. But for most it ends up alright and another stage of relationship mortification begins.

It’s more likely than not I’ll never see that second man again, and I have no idea if the first man can be convinced it was me, not him. Sounds like a line.

So Cupid, a little extra help here. You’ve been doing pretty good, is it too much to ask for another chance with someone of the same ilk?

Hey, you little fat-cheeked pixie, don’t just fly away! Get back here! NOW! DAMMIT CUPID! Okay. Be that way.

Uh, yes, oblivion perhaps isn’t the only thing keeping the men away.

Cupid Take Aim
Wait, wait, before you shoot that arrow…must love cats!  I’m not giving up Walter and Mimi!

 

 

Image Credits: (Clouds) © Pakhnyushchyy – Fotolia; (Heart Background) © karandaev – Fotolia; (Cupids) © vectorartisfree.com

how to pretend you care about football

Cesar and me are ready for the game!So you’ve been invited to a friend’s house to watch the football game on their ginormous TV. Everyone is going, and you don’t feel like sitting at home alone.

I’ll never be an expert, by any definition, of any sport, but I do have some expertise in pretending to care.

First, a little insight into my own level of knowledge of the game of football, and then a few tips for getting through enjoying the game, or at least letting your friends think you do:

Some years ago,

I was late for my first date with a man who ended up being my boyfriend for an eternity. “I’m so sorry,” I said as I sidled up next to him at the bar (classy date, huh?). “I just had to watch the end of the football game. I know it’s only pre-season, but so-and-so is back from injuries and I wanted to see how he’d do.”

Condescending look. “That’s okay,” he said, “How did he do?”

I went into a two-minute recap of a game it turned out he’d watched in its entirety at that same bar. As I spoke, he had a look of increasing surprise, and when I finished he said, with a tone of incredulity, “You really do know football!”

So I know a little. However, I could have grasped only one fact about football — where the fifty-yard line is — and he would have been equally amazed. My point being, you’re probably not facing great expectations, and I can help you meet them.

50 yard line US Football s
Damn right you should be impressed.

Okay, that’s tip #1, illustrated. The fifty-yard line is smack-dab in the middle of the field going the long way. Once you’ve got that one down, here’s how to further pretend you love the game:

#2 Wear team colors

in some sort of tacky fashion. Mismatched socks will do. This will take a little pre-game research, but it’s important if for no other reason than you shouldn’t be wearing the other team’s colors.

#3 Bring a beastly yet delicious snack treat

and call it your “traditional football (name of food).” Don’t over-think this one. Remember, football fans love melted Velveeta cheese mixed with canned chili. The bar is not set high.

#4 Listen to the others gripe about the game,

and take your cues for shaking your head and saying, “you are SO right about THAT!” This tip is a little tricky since someone may ask a for a follow-up, so only do it if you dare.

#5 Every time you hear someone on TV say,

“it’s first and ten…”  yell, “FIRST AND TEN! DO IT AGAIN!”

(If someone points out the other team has the ball, smile sheepishly and say, “just another chance for our guys to sack the quarterback.” What that answer lacks in logic it makes up for with perceived quick thinking and advanced beginner knowledge.)

#6 Forget it.

You’re not fooling anyone. Take out your cell phone and text all your real friends about how bored you are.


Image Credit: (football field, w/o writing) © gomolach — Fotolia


where I am, who I am

(c) Belinda Ostrowski

Apparently, by modern definition, I am a cat lady.

I have two, and according to a recent New York Times article, that’s all it takes. Back in the day, it was somewhere in the double digits. Okay, maybe less than that, but having two cats then was called being a pet owner.

Walter Kitty
Walter, the cat who melts in your lap

So now, add “cat lady” to never married and avid knitter. Let’s not forget I lived with my mother for a time. Laughably, I fit a stereotype I can only hope is now as outdated as the former definition of “cat lady.”

If not, so be it. I fit it on paper only. I’m not to be pitied or mocked. Yes, I do get lonely at times. Everybody does. I remind myself then how many people my age are single for one reason or another, or worse yet, in bad marriages. Quite frankly, my situation is better than many, and not worse than most.

It took me years…

…to genuinely realize I’m valued and appreciated by others, and how essential true friendship is to contentment in life, how key it is to have people around me I can relax with and not fret about whether I’ve said or done the wrong thing.

I’ve learned to stay away from people who make me feel bad, whether or not it appears to be their fault. Sometimes I’ve taken the blame for things I’m not responsible for and find myself crashing and burning trying to right a wrong situation when the blame lies elsewhere.

In the past, and to a lingering extent still today, I tended to focus on the negative and be suspicious of sincere offers of friendship. What’s more, I always believed it was impossible for a man of worth to love me. Now, I apologize to any man out there who may have wanted to date me but didn’t because of the wall I put up. I never considered it this way before, but that’s a pretty rude attitude on my part.

I’m a bit offbeat, and happy about it.

There is somewhat of a dichotomy here, a flip side to that deeply held insecurity. On my best days, after a little mirror time, I’m confident in my appearance. I know I’m personable, kind, and empathetic. As one former boyfriend once told me (and although he meant it as a slam, I took it as a high compliment), I’m also a bit offbeat, and happy about it. In other words, I do have a fair amount of confidence in myself when I call on it.

That growth in attitude doesn’t change what I’ve done to get me where I am today. I can walk out the door, spinning on my heels with the belief I’m a brunette heartbreaker with the intellect and wisdom of, well, None Other, and thinking, men, I challenge you to be strong enough to take me on. (I have to clarify – I absolutely do not do that, and if I did, I can guarantee you with my next step I would, characteristically, slip on a banana.)  It wouldn’t instantly bring me what I may desire at that moment.

Here’s the thing:

I like cats, love mine, and I love to knit.  I wouldn’t give them up, the cats or the yarn, just because they might make me look laughable to someone cocky enough to think he or she will never be an object of scorn.

I am where I am because of who I am, along with the choices I’ve made and the choices made for me, twists and turns in life I have no knowledge of because they took place before they could be visible. I’ve made the life I have the way it is in part because that is the life I’ve wanted.

I believe in the power of subtle changes…In the meantime, I’m content.

A few years ago I had a glimpse of what it would be like to have someone in my life to be a support when I needed it most. I’ve handled sad and difficult situations on my own for so long that having someone by my side was new to me. It turned me around in the way I think about relationships, and I started to open up to the whole idea of something permanent.

Of course it doesn’t change the route I’ve taken to get where I am today, the reasons why and the consequences thereof. Being open to something doesn’t mean it will or even should happen, and I’m still not sure what I ultimately want. I have a comfortable lifestyle created from living alone.

Some of my family who have always been there -- and always will be.
Some of my family who have always been there — and always will be.

Yes, there are days when I sink into sad thoughts, but I know enough to realize a little time and maybe a good night’s sleep will bring me back to myself.

I believe in the power of subtle changes. In the meantime, I’m content with what I’ve been given, the friends and family who never fail me.

Just don’t expect me to ever change how I think about my cats. Only two, mind you, only two.