"Carolyn's stories are like a cozy blanket, a pair of stretchy pants, a lifetime movie, and a pint of ice cream to come home to after a DUMB! dating experience. It makes you breathe a sigh of relief and think "Phew! Its NOT just me!!!!!!". -- Ozlem (my hairdresser)

Love the blog Carolyn!! Just read every entry - it's all great! really interesting and a lot I could relate to-- it's hard for me to imagine you having any trouble meeting guys, but I love the honesty and openness of your voice.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Barking Up the Wrong Tree

"Your relationship with your father directly affects your decisions about your romantic partner," said James, a long-time friend who has been married for 35 years. "It's as simple as that and it's the most fucking complicated thing in the world," he continued. "Great," I thought, "I'm screwed".

In the 70s, cocktails swirled and emotions simmered just below the surface. Quiet lives of desperation were housed on every block, including ours. For better or worse, couples married young and discovered later if their decision was a life sentence.

For anyone on the outside, looking in, I had a decent childhood. We lived in a nice house in the suburbs of St. Louis. Money was tight, but I had my own room, my siblings and I went to private schools and there was always a box of Hamburger Helper in the cupboard. But, you know what you learn and I certainly didn't grow up learning what a loving, supportive relationship looks like in my dysfunctional family.

Dirty dishes and clothes piled high, as my mother sipped white wine, painted and listened to soap operas on TV. I imagine she suffered from depression, wondering how she went from a beautiful debutante and college co-ed to a mom with 6 kids and an unfaithful husband.

My father was really sarcastic. He came in with a smile and jabbed you with an insult. Sharpest tongue won in our family. It was every man for himself. We were trained to expose the weak spot, divide, go in for the kill, conquer.

Normal every day occurrences were land mines for emotional survival. Even the car ride to school could be an emotionally taxing ride. One particular morning when I was ten, I was running late, trying to straighten my frizzy hair. My dad was in the car with my siblings, honking the horn repeatedly. I lifted my head from the ironing table and unplugged the appliance. The horn blasted again. I ran through the kitchen to the back door, past my mother, who says without looking up from her fashion magazine, "Try putting on some lipstick."

As my dad sees me round the corner, he honks the horn again for emphasis. I cram into the back seat with my brothers. "All this time in the bathroom for that?" he shouts, angry for making him wait. "Great!" He throws the car into reverse and screeches out of the driveway. "I think you look pretty," says my oldest brother. "Don't lie to her," says the other. "Yeah, she might believe you!" chimes in my sister. My father turned around and smacked my brothers on their legs, "Shut up!" he says, "The world needs brains too."

Talking about men and failed relationships was easier to swallow eating Kaya toast and Thai rice noodles at The Street on Highland. James was giving me advice about how he has been able to keep his marriage going for 35 years. "You have to learn how to love and trust, especially if you didn't have that as a child."

I've spent my entire adulthood studying relationships and how to build one. I watch how couples respond to each other. All of my happily married friends had strong male role models in their life, and in most cases their own parents are still married. Love, support, trust and guidance was (and still is) a part of their lives. My friends Tom and Susan met each other later in life and I am constantly inspired by how lucky they feel to know each other. I hope one day to have that same experience. What a wonderful feeling it must be to have someone in the world who knows you deeply, understands your strengths and weaknesses, still loves you and wants to know you even deeper.

I thought about Mike (Fool Me Once) and I asked myself why am I trying so hard to get to know this person who doesn't want to be known? And then I realized he's emotionally unavailable for me just like my father was. On a subconscious level, I was familiar with this territory. What I grew up learning was seeking love, acceptance and understanding from a man who was incapable of giving it, and here I was falling right back into the same mode, reaching out to Mike for the same emotional connection I never received from my father. Hadn't I invested enough time and money in therapy over the years to have moved on from this shit? Am I really 44 and still dealing with father issues? Ugh...

If I didn't grow up learning what it's like to be in a loving, supportive relationship, I certainly wonder if I will ever be able to recognize a man capable of such a relationship.

If eyes are the window to the soul, then I will heed my friend's same advice he gave for me walking the red carpet, "Just keep your head up, and look into people's eyes."

I do not know if deep love is attainable for me, or if I find it, it will last 'until death do us part'. But what I do know is that I am willing to take that risk for as long as I am living on this planet.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Fool me once...

Ugh... why did I fall for it again? I've been on a couple of dates recently, but I haven't met anyone I'm interested in and, since I've been working on a production, my work life has been really busy and stressful. So, late one night, when I was lying in bed, unable to sleep, I heard my cellphone beep with a text. I am not a fan of texting and I typically text only for work-related reasons, or to let someone know if I'm running late. So, I had a pretty good idea who was writing me this late at night. I saw Mike's name on the screen.

"What are you doing?" it read. I had finally gotten the 'idea' of Mike ("Dating Sucks") out of my system. I really liked him but he had flaked on me too many times. I didn't want to open that door again by returning his message so I didn't reply. He texted me again, "Oh, I see," he wrote. Really? Did he? I rolled over. Damnit, now I was wide awake and I knew I would not be falling asleep anytime soon.

I am compulsive about returning emails and texts, whether they are work related or personal. I am consistent in business, and with my close friends and with family members. I do what I say and my friends are the same way. We know we can count on each other. Our word is good. However, sometimes I forget that most people aren't wired the same way and that many people are inconsistent and flakey. I had grown accustomed to Mike's flakiness, and he was used to my consistency. So, when I stopped returning his texts, it didn't take him long to figure out I was pulling away.

The next morning Mike actually dialed 11 digits and called me (lol!). My friend Dennis was right. "If a guy is interested, I guarantee you, once you stop texting him, he'll call you." The only problem was I stopped texting Mike because he was all talk and no action. He was constantly pulling at my heart strings with his complimentary words, but consistently falling short on action :( But, I suspect he liked having me around. I am "the real deal," according to Mike, a honest counterpart he can trust vs. the superficial, materialistic world in which he skims along the surface.

"Did you meet someone?" Mike asked. What an odd question. This guy flaked on me half a dozen times. Why would he care if I met someone? "Here we go," I thought. Mike was toying with me again.

Dennis told me a couple of weeks ago, "Listen, Carolyn, if a guy wants to get to know you, tell him he can talk to you on the phone or make some time to see you in person. You can't get to know someone through text messages." Such a simple sentence that makes so much sense. I had been accommodating Mike's wishes and not being true to myself. When I asked Mike why he didn't like talking on the phone, he told me that he didn't like being in a position where someone could ask him a question he didn't want to answer. "I'm kind of a pussy that way," he said.

I was happy talking to Mike so another week of texting and late night conversations took place. I knew I was descending into what would certainly be disappointment for me again. But what if it wasn't? We made plans to get together yesterday, and as I was driving back to L.A. from Palm Desert Saturday afternoon, my cellphone beeped with three consecutive text messages. If Mike was consistent with one thing, that was flaking on plans. I didn't have to reach for my phone to actually read his texts to know he was canceling. When I arrived home three hours later, my thoughts were confirmed. The first message was him canceling, the second message was him apologizing and the third message was him saying he would call in 'a bit' to profusely apologize and that I can't dare be mad because he "kind of had no choice with this one." Btw... he never called... lol!

Any decent guy who needs to cancel plans would have picked up the phone, explained the situation and offered to arrange for another time. Easy. Everyone feels good. Done deal. But the self-described phone pussy clearly does not have the emotional maturity to discuss an easy matter over the phone.

Isn't the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? Since Mike has been consistent in flaking on plans, I cannot possibly be mad at him for staying true to his own behavior. However, I am upset with myself for allowing myself to be in this same position yet again. I had given far more credit to Mike than he deserved. I was clearly looking in the wrong place for a mature relationship.

"Carolyn, love isn't perfect or easy," says my married friend Ivan, "You are eloquent and compassionate and charismatic, with the right values. Anyone who gets to grow old with you is lucky as hell... and because someone will". Now those are words based on a twenty year friendship that I can hold onto and thankfully, march forward. Thank you Ivan. I really needed to hear that. :) :) :)