Monday, June 27, 2011

Why do some married men not wear rings?


I just returned from a week of what’s been dubbed, “Spring Break for adults” – the Cannes Lions Festival (the advertising one, not the glamourous film one). It was my first time there, due to my new job, representing my production company.

It was a blast (and the reason I couldn’t write a new blog last night, let alone form a coherent thought).

I had been warned. “You’re going to have the best time. It’s bonkers!” not to mention, “You’re so going to get hit on!” and “You’re definitely going to hook up with a French dude.”

The first two of the above happened. And when I got home, everyone seemed to want to know if the third thing transpired.

I guess it’s assumed, if you’re single and semi attractive (although I don’t think that even matters), that having a romance in Cannes is as easy (and allowed) as having a gelato after dinner or cigarettes when you don’t normally smoke.

(Disclaimer: The topic of this post can easily bring me to it’s close cousin, “Why do people cheat?” but I won’t go down that path here. This post is more about the prequel; the crumbs at the top of the treacherous infidelity path.)

It seems that being single has nothing to do with it either. I have never met so many married men without wedding rings on. I have never met so many men I had wonderful conversations with, where I thought something more than just a fling might develop, only to discover that they are married, with kids (I had to ask).

What is this about?

This behavior is not new.  I’ve just never seen it in such a concentrated form, where it seems permissible.

By the way, I don’t judge it. You never know what is actually going on behind closed marital doors, and the weight of despair on someone’s mind. This opinion of mine stems from having had some experience. Because when I was married, in the subconscious stage of unhappiness - where I hadn’t voiced it aloud, or even to myself – was in retrospect guilty of concealing my marital status too. While I always wore my ring, and never attempted to stray, there were definitely times where I’d meet an attractive stranger at a party and “I” would escape from my lips, rather than “we.” ie. “I moved to Los Angeles…” or “I had people over for dinner…” Looking back, I’m mortified at my behavior, as subconscious and uncalculated as it was. Looking back, it was a major marital satisfaction barometer, and a harbinger of what was to come.

Why do we this? For some, it’s ego. I believe that some of the men (and probably women too) who were at Cannes without their rings on, probably wanted to see if they were still attractive and worthy of being hit on. It doesn’t mean they were planning on cheating (although some do, of course…there were magnum size bottles of Rose on every table). And some people have been married so long (as I was), that a fantasy develops – a romantic yearning – of what it might be like to be single; to be free to flirt and go with the romantic and sexual wind without consequence.  It is human nature.

A friend of mine, when I told her about one particular married man who came on to me, after admitting he was married but on his way to divorce, exclaimed: “What an asshole!”  I beg to differ. “He can do whatever he wants,” I replied.  “I’d be the asshole if I went there, knowing the truth. It’s up to me.”

Do I have a point? Or am I too forgiving - perhaps too empathetic – because I understand how compromised (or even distorted) people’s emotions and behavior can be when they are unhappily married?

Perhaps I am just naïve. Perhaps I prefer to be. Us single women, who are still hopeful about our prospects and optimistic about marriage (me included), would like to remain enclosed in the naïve bubble, rather than get a glimpse into how rampant infidelity actually is. Having it confirmed, or worse, being the instrument to it, can only lead to disappointment, depression, and sometimes shame.

I think in this case, the phrase “ignorance is bliss” applies, and now that I’m back in the bubble that is my single life in NYC,  I choose to cling to its clichéd wisdom.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Can logic get in the way of love?


This question has been cropping up lately, in various forms. It wasn’t a consideration when I was in my twenties, and surely not when I decided to marry my ex-husband. Once we were committed to one another, the goal was to make it work, despite our practical differences and sometimes what seemed like insurmountable obstacles, such as financial issues and a difference in our short term goals.

The goal to make it work – that decision – goes a long way. It’s the fuel in the relationship gas tank, at least for the first few years, and for some, it can keep the relationship running for infinite miles. And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, especially in marriages that are working on some level – and especially when there are children involved.

But is practicality, the glue for many marriages, ironically a commitment preventative for singles or divorces? Is it different when you’re in your thirties or forties, when you’ve experienced enough to spot the impracticalities of a relationship early on? Do you obey the stop sign, or do you listen to your heart that’s screaming “go!” and floor it?

Car metaphors aside, are we overthinking? Does knowing too much, does logic, get in the way of our emotions? Is it used as a defense mechanism that blocks us from giving something a chance to develop, or does it protect us from wasting our time and getting hurt?

I stayed in on Friday night, and after pretending to watch “Dark Knight” (perhaps to pay the late Heath Ledger respects, except he didn’t look like I remembered him), I found myself watching the last half hour of “The Bridges of Madison County” (sob). I read that book over ten years ago, when I was embarking on the marriage journey, and even back then it filled me with romantic yearning. What was Francesca going to choose? The practical - her life, home, and family that she had invested in, the only life she knew? Or was she going to throw it all away for her one true love, despite its apparent infeasibility? Clint Eastwood’s character says, “This kind of certainty comes only once in a lifetime.” For him, an unmarried maverick, the decision was simple.

I don’t think it was a coincidence that I happened upon this film at this time. Now that I’m back to being single and meeting potential long-term mates, practical considerations seem to be more flagrant than ever. After all, they are the required facts on an online dating profile. Is the guy age appropriate, does he live in New York? Is he divorced, does he have children? There’s a reason this checklist exists, and a reason why we choose to contact that person, or click “next.”

But what happens when you meet someone you really like, who defies the checklist? Do you throw logic to the wind, and go there anyway? It’s likely that the next guy I fall for will be the opposite of a young cub: older, divorced, and who already has children.
What if he doesn’t want to have any more kids - when I do? Would I be an irrational fool to attempt the potential for love, or an even bigger fool to turn my back on it? 

You could say that I’ve already been there, with my past two young cub relationships. I acknowledged our potential issues, but chose to obscure them, in order to give things a chance. It’s no big surprise however, that the practical got the best of us. It’s no big surprise that my relationship with a guy eleven years my junior could ultimately not go the distance. Or that he’s now dating a girl fourteen years my junior; more appropriate for him and his life stage. It’s no surprise that my recent relationship stalled only four months in, when I knew going in that our timing and needs were not in sync.  I don’t regret these relationships, but I can conclude that while love existed, it could not transcend our practical differences. 

In the end, Francesca chose her family. After her death, she left a letter (had there been texting back then, the whole story - perhaps the whole love affair - would have turned out differently) to her children: “I gave up my life for you.”

I’d seen this movie before, and I knew how it was going to end, but yet this line surprised and saddened me. Did she really give up her life – and true love - for what made sense, and did she regret it?

Does it have to be one or the other?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

June gloom


I scanned through my old posts tonight, hoping they’d spark a new idea, and I noticed that I only wrote two last June, instead of four or five. I wonder if there is a connection as to why I’m feeling stumped on this particular week.

As a blogger, we choose to put ourselves out there. When I’m feeling strong, when things are good, it’s a lot easier to write an honest post that still manages to conceal the private stuff that is too risky to share, especially when I’m aware of exes, co-workers, close friends, and people I know reading it.

People ask me how I do it. “Isn’t it tricky to promote your own blog to people - to new friends, including potential future mates?” The answer is, absolutely. It is tricky. You could say that I, or any writer or blogger, takes a chance each time she directs someone to a public journal of sorts that exposes her vulnerabilities, conflicts, and history. Isnt that the stuff that people should discover about you over time, if they (and you) want to?

Yes. But then there are the readers I don’t know. Who come here (and comment, or email me privately), who notice when I don’t post. Who thank me for putting their feelings in words; who thank me for giving them strength. Or even for entertaining them on a dreary Sunday. So each and every time I feel uninspired, or hesitant to share what is going on with me, I push myself anyway. Or I just write about mom, to escape writing about myself (thanks mom!).

So tonight, I got nothing. I’ll call it June gloom. I think it is a combination of my most recent break up sinking in, after all the distractions and flirtations have disappeared,  my birthday and the inevitable self-evaluation it triggers, combined with a hectic month of work related events. It’s been one of those weeks where no matter how many times I tell myself that my life is good, and full, that I am fortunate, the words stay stuck in my head. They don’t seep inward and influence my emotions.

Or maybe it’s just that time of year.

What do you all think? Should bloggers be sharing, even when they are wary to, or have nothing to say?



Sunday, June 5, 2011

Disappointments in love: are we ourselves to blame?


Wisdom comes with age, right? But what about immunity against disappointment, and even heartache?

How many relationships have we found ourselves in, that when they fall apart, we tell ourselves, “I knew this was going to happen.” Well, if we forecasted its demise, or even its lack of sustainability, then why do we go there to begin with?

Except for my marriage, which going in, I naturally did not doubt its promise for longevity, I’ve since been in other relationships where I knew there were major obstacles at the start. My last two ex-cubs, by sheer virtue of our age and stage in life differences, were unlikely pairings, not to mention other obvious reasons. Did I recognize that the obstacles were there at the onset? Yes. Did I plow through regardless, hoping that love would conquer all? Probably. Was I still surprised and upset when my initial doubts proved correct in the end? Absolutely.

I’ve also had some false starts in the past few years, where I met a guy who I crushed out on instantly (infatuation fever is my chronic condition, and I accept it). We had a lot in common and shared the same values. One of them lived in Israel, but I convinced myself that we could “Skype it out.”  Another lived closer, on this continent, just a few hours away. “Give it a chance,” friends said. “At this stage in your life, and in his, it’s hard to find someone you’re compatible with. Who is nice. And who isn’t taken.” I think what they also meant, but didn’t voice to me was, “At your age, especially since you’re divorced, you have to be even more open to compromise (read: settle?).   

So with these hopeful mantras in mind, I decided these relationships must be worth exploring. Even though somewhere deep down I sensed they didn’t have legs to bridge all that distance (which goes beyond just the geographical.)  And after only a few months of feverish sexting and phone calls, those relationships (if you could even call it that) were extinguished as abruptly as they had been ignited.

So then why go there?  Is it (pop quiz!):

A) Hopeless romanticism: We think that if we try hard enough, if we love enough, we can overcome the barriers.
B) Fear that the right thing - the right click - will never come along, so we have to nurture the bird in hand, even when it’s a squirmy little f*cker.
C) Naïve optimism: a belief that we can inhabit the moment and just enjoy it (ie. the “you only live once” excuse.)
D) An exaggerated sense of our own resiliency, where we think, “I won’t get attached. I won’t be hurt. And even if I do, I can recover quickly.”
E) Lack of any other options calling, texting, or even thinking about us. So the compromised option is looking even more appealing.
F) All of the above.

You can probably guess which answer I’d pick. (Yes, a big fat “F,” like my 9th grade History tests).  I think it’s a combination of many factors.  And it doesn’t necessarily get easier with age or wisdom. The disappointments don’t hurt any less, but I know that at least for me, they don’t last nearly as long.  

A friend told me something that resonated with me, which she heard from her mother: “Love never killed anyone.”

Personally, I interpret that to mean: “Go there.”  Can’t we be optimistic and romantic, and embrace the opportunity for love whole-heartedly, regardless of apparent obstacles? As long as we are aware that they exist?

Because even if you think you know - you never really know if you don’t try. Right?