Things I like: Diversity, variety and eclecticism. Music, all kinds. Art, black and white photography, books, writing, films, good conversation. Chocolate. Intimacy. Sensuality. I love to travel, and I'm lucky enough to have visited many fantastic places and had many enriching experiences, but there are so many places left to see. I'd love to hook up with someone with an unquenchable wanderlust and a valid passport. I like the beach, the country and the city. I like going to concerts; museums and galleries, movies, restaurants, and staying home with a good book or a new CD. I work out regularly, not obsessively.
Things I'm not: Particularly traditional. A big sports fan. A golfer, a hunter. A big drinker. Expecting dinner on the table or my shirts ironed. A big TV watcher. Corporate. Compulsive.
2/22/2015 - It's all gone by so quickly. The body ages around the spirit of the person I once was—who I have been my whole life. I seem to be suffering from arrested development in childhood and teenage life.
When I was young I never imagined that being old would be like this. As a I child I looked at my parents and other "old" people and assumed that what I saw is how it would be: They were serious adults, sometimes easily irritated old people who complained about "that racket those kids are making in the parlor." Who kvetched about the way teenagers looked and the music they listened to, what the world had become, and their ever-increasing list of aches and pains. I never imagined then that parts of the person I was at 5 or 13, 17, 21, or in my young adult life would still be there inside as the exterior slowly lost the battle against the inevitable changes time demanded. But here I am, somewhere in the last quarter or third of my life—if I’m lucky—with a number of boarders living in my 60-something house.
There's the little kid who fights bedtime and longs for languid summers embracing that puppy-crush I has on Ann, the girl who lived down the block. Or the lithe, neighbor’s granddaughter who came to visit, with her ethereal air and wispy blond hair that would sometimes grace my cheek when our heads were close together, as we bent down to smell the honeysuckle and a generous summer breeze saw fit to reward me. Was it a certain kind of soap, a lotion, or perhaps perfume? She smelled like sweet musk; she smelled like heaven. I bathed in her sillage, eyes closed, entranced, as she scampered off at her grandmother’s calling. Still now I sometimes smell a fragrance reminiscent of hers when I’m in a crowd; I still get the flashback of the trance and I try desperately to follow the scent, and find its owner in hopes of learning the flavor’s name, or perhaps I secretly hope to look up to see that it is that same girl, now grown, still beautiful, lithe and wispy, and waiting for me to say the things I could not when we were children.
Yes, inside me is the imprint of the kid who fell in love with the teenager music I first heard—Elvis, “he’s a clown, that Charlie Brown,” pop and jazz, Stan Kenton, Gilberto, the theme from A Summer Place, Patsy Kline and the other sounds that billowed out of the radio; the Peer Gynt Suites my mother played for me, the soundtracks and songs she loved—Camelot, Never on Sunday—the big band music and 40’s crooners on scratchy, thick, fragile Columbia and RCA 78s. That kid still reminds me of what I felt the first time I saw Monet; watched Somebody Up There Likes Me, read A Child’s Garden of Verses, and wrote my first stories. All these heart desires have stayed and evolved. As much as I may have denied them at times in my life, music, art, writing and reading are still the sirens to which I am drawn.
The adolescent and the teenager are still in residence. The kid—one of millions—whose life changed February 9, 1964. The long-haired teenager, constantly fighting with his father, spending solitary hours reading: On the Road, How to Talk Dirty and Influence People, Soul on Ice, The Way of Zen, and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. That suburban “bohemian” hippie kid whose best times were spent with others of his kind, sitting in friends’ rooms or basements finding inspiration from what we’d rolled up in Zig Zags or stuffed into a cheap corncob pipe. Sitting around listening to The Rolling Stones singing songs they learned from American Black bluesmen, which, ironically, were brand new to us white kids. Marveling over Sgt. Pepper, debating when The Yardbirds were best: Clapton, Beck, or Page? Talking ‘bout girls who were hot, the ones we’d “do,” which we were sure “put out,” and ignoring the reality that for the most part it was all talk of the unattainable.
The late teenager and early 20s guy is here. The feelings, heart rushes, and exhilaration of young romance, lust, infatuation, and love are still real, close and intact. He still longs for those things. He remembers the tenderness of the heart and the unexpected joy and surprise of finding out that the girl who ignored him really liked him and was hoping he’d ask. He still thrills at the memory of those first times we touched. When fingers found fingers. The pent up anxiety and eager excitement building up to a kiss, with all the hope and expectation that it would be as amazing as we’d hoped and dreamed. He’s the guy who still closes his eyes so he can recall yours…the way they looked, the way they changed to that soft, near-narcotic glow as we’d pull back from embrace and look into each other’s eyes expecting to see that warm invitation, that sense of simpatico that let both of us know that we were safe, wanted, needed, desired. The look of love that reveals the unspoken understanding that previously unimaginable passion is flowing between us, like a circuit, like something we think is new and being discovered for the first time. And he also remembers the pain of heartache that you can’t imagine will end. These were among the harder life lessons.
Then there are the others me’s of later years and different experiences who are there too. And whether we acknowledge them or not, they exist for most all of us. Our experience almost necessarily includes the fodder that becomes wariness, then jadedness, which sets off the caution alarms and puts on the breaks. We go through experiences multiple times and the charm and mystery of the first time dulls. We forget the thrill of that first kiss. The purity of initial attraction is obscured by the past times we’ve experienced it and the fact that it didn’t last. We parrot clichés: been there, done that. While some of us climbed corporate ladders and raised kids we put relationships on auto pilot and too often we are surprised when one day they’ve flown away. We’ve suffered betrayals by colleagues, lovers, and those we thought were our friends. The losses and disappointments we suffer leave cuts in our psyche, some larger than others, some that can be put away and contained, but they nonetheless remain.
Our expectations may not have been realized. We are given the lesson over and over that life really is unpredictable, but sometimes it takes a long time to learn. We tell ourselves what we need to so it makes sense: there are no coincidences, all things happen for a reason, God works in mysterious ways, we attract what comes into our lives, we attract certain types of people based on the vibe we put out into the universe. We watched The Secret, read The Celestine Prophecy, did the Landmark Forum, took The Course in Miracles, tried to “empower” ourselves, grab and commandeer the steering wheel of our fate. We try to make it all make sense. We want to believe that by changing our attitude, becoming more aware, asking God, our higher power or the cosmos for what we want, we’ll finally get to happy ever after. Maybe, maybe not. But we have to have these beliefs and stick to them even in the face of overwhelming, conflicting evidence. After all, if we’ve based our self-image and road map of our lives on what we believe and somehow our beliefs turn out to be untrue, well, where are we then, what are we to believe, who are we?
Our beliefs about relationships are dense microcosms of what we’ve come to believe about the rest of our lives. They vary from person to person, often rearrangements of the same themes: we have to love ourselves before someone can love us, we can’t change others, or we can change others, but people let us down eventually, friends with benefits is no good, men just want one thing, people lie to us, cheat on us and it’s nearly impossible to find someone who will be true; passion fades (yet so many of us are dying for it); women eventually lose their charm, sex becomes predictable and boring, then nonexistent. Those things our companions did that were so quirky and cool in the beginning get on our nerves over time, and eventually we want something or, more to the point, someone else.
Are all these thoughts, feelings and beliefs true for all of us? The answer is a combination of, of course not, and I don’t know. Here’s what I think I might know: We aren’t going to be here forever; relationships are challenging at best. We all have idealized versions of what we want and when they fail to materialize a lot of us continue our journey looking for them as the clock of our lives ticks on until it ticks out. I really do believe it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. And sure, in most cases I might just as well substitute lust and infatuation for love. Sometimes they all look the same at the time; it’s only in retrospect, after they’ve ended that we tell ourselves they were something other than what we thought, something other than love. After all, how could it have been true love if it ended?
I’ve experienced the ecstasy and agony of love and relationships. And, yes, I have my regrets and things I would have done differently given what I learned—opportunities missed, ones I stayed in too long, others I gave up on too soon, and plenty where had to accept the things I couldn’t change—but that’s simply not possible; all I can do is hope to apply the lessons learned to what’s left of the future. Yet over the broad sweep of my relationships, I’m grateful and thankful for what I’ve had, what I experienced and felt, painful as the endings may have been.
We want guarantees. We want assurances. If most of us are honest we are still hoping for a late show of the happily-ever-after story. I read in women’s profiles the complaints about serial daters, about guys who lie and cheat, men who are emotionally unavailable, unreliable, too quick to want to hop into bed, and afraid of commitment. But there are no guarantees other than the fact that one day, if we live to be old enough, we will no longer be able to have full-fledged relationships. Sexuality and intimacy will be a thing of the past. Many of us who are alone now will remain and end up alone in the end. We may not be able to have everything we think we want and deserve. Those who hold out may end up with nothing, and that may be thoroughly acceptable. They’ve been through too much to pay the price of heartbreak later for the lust, love and pleasure they might have now. Yet there are those of us who continue to search, hope, and try, knowing full well that the heart is indeed a lonely hunter.
Long ago I tried to accept that I might not get the perfect love I envisioned: someone with whom to share love and trust, someone who seemed to instinctively understand me and me her, one person worthy and safe enough to expose my vulnerability to; someone who met all my intimate needs just as I did hers, and that somehow that passion remained alive forever. I feel foolish when I think too much about one “soulmate.” Logically I accept that there may be countless people we might consider soulmates or companions, and that may well change throughout our lives and who we are at any given time. There are great, often intense, sometimes very deep pleasures and experiences to be shared with someone else. If we add up the hours and minutes, most of us spend more time brushing our teeth, than we spend making love, caressing, having sex, sharing intimacy, screwing, whatever you want to call it. Does that mean that that is all there is? Does it have to be wanton? How can it be meaningless? Does experiencing that too soon guarantee no guarantee for the future? Does spending time really getting to know someone before intimacy assure that they will stay with us if after consummation the intimacy isn’t satisfying? Is there any better chance of that “friend” foundation keeping us together than there is of great intimacy assuring that we will have enough else in common or complement outside of bed to keep us going? Is it the failure of either—a lack of friendship first or unsatisfying sex—that ends a burgeoning relationship an intentional betrayal? Probably not.
We’re at a time in the world and an age in our lives where we are not just still searching for answers for conventional long-term relationships, but many of us are exploring our options. There are diseases to consider, preferences to negotiate, and the collective baggage of a generation to navigate for those us in this age group. Some of us look to alternatives outside of the relationship model we inherited from our parents. Given the divorce rate of their lives, and certainly of ours, common sense would have us at least question the wisdom. Our lives are more complicated. We were the first generation to have the luxury of asking ourselves if we were happy. Happiness can be mercurial; there are those who claim it is a state of mind and a decision one makes. I believe that and I don’t.
Ultimately I think it all comes down to this: I can wait for what appears to be perfection with the promise of forever, or I can wade back into the water, be as honest and present as I can in the moment, give what I can give, appreciate and honor the beauty, gifts, and moments of bliss that are given, and realize that even if it doesn’t last and a lover isn’t there until the last breath, it’s ok. The odds were against it anyway, but at least I can take that last breath remembering the love I’ve had.
1/2015 - I just saw the movie Her, which came out a year or so ago. Apparently it was considered a bold statement. In it, a guy falls in love with an operating system that is represented by a female voice and has the AI that gives "her" many human emotions, insights and feelings.
What struck me more than anything was the fact that the relationship dialog was so well written and authentic to so many relationships between men and women. It could just as easily have been virtually any long-distance or online-only relationship. The only real difference was that in this case there was no illusion or pretense of ever having a real-world meeting, because, again, he knew from the start that she was just an operating system.
The movie portrayed them as "dating." He had a little handheld device with a camera that allowed "her" to see where he was and more or less "be with him." Through an earpiece he could talk to her. It was really not that far away from a relationship based on something like Skype with a mobile device.
Part of what came across was that even this circumstance wasn't "safe" from the emotional entanglements of a real-world relationship. She could sense his distance, distraction, vulnerabilities, joy and anger, just as real people do in both the real world and online real world of real humans. Given that we have everything but touch, and physical presence, why is it sometimes more appealing to live without those things? I think that anyone who has been in a "serious" long-distance romance or relationship has probably experienced these emotional complications, but again, without the fulfillment of all the wonderful things that being with someone physically brings.
Is what we really crave emotional closeness and connection? If the physical presence too much? Is it the fear of complications that come with sexuality? The fear that the real world will ruin the illusions of possible perfection that long-distance love provides? Oh well, just some things to ponder.