Valentine’s Day

I have a complicated relationship with Valentine’s Day. The day brings a feeling of dread each year, which can probably be traced back to my high school years. In grade school things were easy, I gave and received cards from all the boys and girls in my classroom. The teachers had a rule, if you planned on giving any cards, you had to give them to everyone. The least liked child got as many cheesy heart cards as the most liked. Nobody was left out. This probably ended in third grade or so. Then we basically ignored the holiday for several years.

In high school, Valentine’s Day got harder. I was an under-the-radar sort of guy, which was fine by me. I didn’t really get bullied, but neither was I in with the cool crowd. I could never work up the nerve to ask a pretty girl to dance. The term wallflower may have been invented with me in mind.

As a freshman, I was introduced to a school tradition. A week before Valentine’s Day, one of school clubs sold single roses to be distributed on February 14th. You could send them as a secret admirer or with a note proclaiming your everlasting love. Boys sent them to girls; girls sent them to boys. I suspect some people sent them to themselves. As the school day started, Cupid’s helpers would rush through each homeroom bestowing roses. Most got one, some of the popular kids got several. If you got a dozen you were a valentine prince or princess. In four years, I never got a single rose, but neither did I ever send one. I’d just shrink at my desk, waiting for first period to start.

Almost 40 years later now, I trepedatiously open up my mailboxes, both virtual and real. Has anyone thought to wish me happiness and love today?

Wait! Nevermind me, I wish any who might read this a joyful day full of chocolates, roses, love and lust. We all deserve it.

#valentinesday #highschool

#middleaged #manspov

#middleageddating #lastfirstkiss #love #aging

#love #sex

#autobiography #memories #writing

When the Wheels Come Off

When the wheels start to come off, take your foot off the gas pedal. It’s a great piece of advice, come to think of it, and so I took my foot off the gas pedal. I switched it to the brake, but found it depressed right down to the floor with no corresponding decrease in speed. I was careening, heading towards a crash.

Within a couple of months of joining Plenty of Fish, I had managed to complicate what should have been a fairly simple endeavor: find an attractive woman who found me attractive in turn. And by attractive, I don’t just mean physically, but in the myriad of ways we humans entwine our romantic selves with our mates, whether you think it’s chemical, electrical or our very souls.

I had gone out on several dates with women I had considered pretty from what I saw in their pictures. I dated one I wasn’t at all attracted to physically, but who just seemed so happy and robust I wanted to see if I could set aside the physical and be subsumed by her sheer joyfulness (I could not).

Online dating can become a sort of addiction. I’ve read quite a bit about this; I’m not alone in falling into this trap. I was messaging multiple women, literally texting down a list, trying to keep the names straight. I’d sometimes have to ask for a picture to be sent because I could no longer remember which Kathy from POF I was messaging. God forbid, I gave a woman my number and she’d text some time later without telling me who it was. I’d have to try and draw out personal information surreptitiously and go back to the dating site and try to cross-reference. Sometimes, I’d get it wrong and be called out on it: “Um, you’re confusing me with one of your other women.”

It was exciting at first. I found affirmation there. Maybe I’m better looking than I thought, more interesting, funnier. Let me introduce myself, I thought, get to know each other. With time and better acquaintance, I figured most would see through me. What I found was the addiction became all-consuming. It took all my time, all my thought. And really, it didn’t make me feel better. But when you’re speeding down a hill in a car and the wheels start to fall off, there’s only one thing to do. Crash.

#middleaged #manspov

#middleageddating #lastfirstkiss #love #aging

#love #sex

#autobiography #memories #writing

The Rightest Wrong One

Of the many men she liked

She liked me the most

Not to say she liked me lots

Just a bit more than those

She looked to the east

When the sun set west

And said, I love you some

But could not love you any less

Of an evening, I’d go for a kiss

She’d turn and offer her cheek

But hug me so tight and warm

I thought maybe I could speak

Of love, but stood in hush’d confusion

As I was only the rightest wrong one

for ML

#middleaged #manspov

#middleageddating #lastfirstkiss #love #aging

#poetry

#autobiography #memories #writing

The Shortest Day

From sunrise to sunset, today is the shortest day of the year. We’re having torrential rains today so the day will seem even shorter. Despite the gloominess, it always brings to my mind a question my father would ask each year of my uncle. My father was and remains a man of very dry humor. He rarely laughed when a small smile or slight chuckle would suffice, but that was not to say he didn’t find many things funny. His blue eyes twinkled with mirth, even as he suppressed all other outward signs.

My Uncle Bob, on the other hand, found almost everything funny. He grinned and smiled and laughed out loud. He was wonderfully bald like a medieval monk and had a thick mustache beneath his wide nose, which curled up at the ends when he smiled. Now my Uncle Bob was not really my uncle; him and his wife were just very dear friends of my parents and I grew up calling them aunt and uncle. Their children were like cousins to me, at least until I realized I was terribly attracted to one of the daughters (a story for another time perhaps). Their house in my hometown was the neighborhood clubhouse. Everyone was welcome there.

My father and Uncle Bob were work partners in construction. Each day for decades, Bob would drive to my house and they would alternately drive into Manhattan, where they would work all day together on various construction sites. They spent more conscious time with each other than they ever did with their wives. They did this for decades. For their last several years, I joined them. They listened to the oldies station day after day. They discussed the Mets or the football Giants, depending on the season.

Bob was a fully functional alcoholic. I suspect he’d take a few heavy pulls of vodka before leaving his house each morning. My father and I ignored the smell of it, as he got into the car. One day he had a case of the delirium tremens as he was parking the car and hit the gas pedal when he was trying for the brake and vice versa. He had to go to rehab once or twice in those years. He’d come out 30 days later as cheerful as ever and start drinking again soon after. My Aunt Peggy, his wife, had an uncanny ability to find out whatever bar he spent his after work hours in. All in the days before cell phones and laptop computers. I was there once when the bartender -in a city saloon we just happened to choose- picked up the phone, listened briefly, and asked out loud, Is there a Bobby **** here? Bob took his turn listening, hung up, and said like a chastened child, I have to go home now.

Every year, on the day after the Winter solstice, my father and I (me in the back seat of the car) would wait patiently for Bob to arrive and settle himself in the front passenger seat. We’d drive a bit and my father would inevitably turn towards Bob and ask him in all seriousness, Is it me or are the days getting longer? Bob would just smile, having heard it dozens of times before, and its vernal equinox equivalent (Is it me or are the days getting shorter?)

#middleaged #manspov

#middleageddating #lastfirstkiss #love #aging

#wintersolstice #vernalequinox

#autobiography #memories #writing

Stegosaurus Mama

I saw a mother and her two young sons, each riding a scooter, on their way to school on Amsterdam Ave in Manhattan this morning. The mother was young and athletic, her sons maybe in first and second grade, neatly dressed in a casual fashion. The mother had a stegosaurus backpack strapped to her shoulders, presumably her younger son’s. The elder boy carried his own spiked version, both quirky and cool. They were gliding up the sidewalk in v-formation, the mother in the front. She glanced side to side as they zipped through the intersection, alert for errant cars. All three dipped simultaneously every ten feet or so to kick off the sidewalk and pick up their speed. I watched them for a block or two, growing smaller, slowing, dipping, kicking off, darting ahead again with the mother looking side to side every so often. I hoped the boys would always remember their mom just so.

#middleaged #manspov #motherhood

#middleageddating #lastfirstkiss #love #kissing #aging

A Bright Yellow Sun

If each year is a page in my book of life, I turned another leaf over today. I think that way. My life is a book. I am it’s protagonist. Sometimes I’m the hero, often I’m the villain.

Each year is a page. The first few are blank, of course. I didn’t have a thought in my head besides, I’m hungry, I’m tired, I shat myself. The last few, I suspect, will be much the same. Maybe the next few pages after my first are rudimentary drawings. Caveman-like renderings of stick figure me and family members by an A-frame home and a bright yellow sun. What next? A noun followed by a verb. A few pages later, I’m beginning school now. I’m conscious of a world beyond my family, my neighborhood. I know Vietnam is a thing. I’ve heard the Beatles.

Paragraphs next. What is important to me? Actually, what is beyond important? What are my obsessions? I think about girls. Perhaps there are pages, whole years, when I think about little else but a single girl. When I was 11 years old, the girl was named Angela. At 14, I couldn’t get Linda off my mind.

The pages are filled. Time passes. Here’s page 27: I’ve been dating a young lady for some time. I propose and we marry. The sentences show thought. The paragraphs are complicated. The page stands out. It’s important. Seven pages on, a son is introduced. 4 years later, Pleased to meet you, my daughter. The next dozen pages barely involve me at all. I write about my children. Then, two years of divorce.

Here I am at page 56. The book is more than half filled. Way more, if I’m honest. I think back. I’m not happy with this book. I wonder if there’s still time to write better pages. Will my last page be a simple drawing of a man and a woman beside an A-frame house with a bright yellow sun behind it?

#middleaged #manspov

#middleageddating #lastfirstkiss #love #kissing #aging