Getting Right Sized

Up until now I have shied away from online dating.

It didn’t fit my sensibility, how I imagined meeting someone.  The magic, romance and serendipity of a chance encounter whacking me over the head and shaking me to my core.  Entirely unexpected and gorgeous.

My body today...moving and joyful in Africa.
My body today…moving and joyful in Africa.

I recently changed my mind, thinking it might be helpful to, at the very least, see who is out there.

I’d been noodling on the idea for a little while.  Then I found myself sitting across the table from my divorce buddy – the man who walked side-by-side with me through the dissolution of both of our marriages – and thought, “I could grow old with you.”

I’ve been here before with him.  He didn’t share the sentiment.

At that moment I realized I had been fishing in a barrel – albeit unknowingly.  If I wanted different I had to do different.   Beginning with looking for someone who, at the very least, appears to be available.  (Unlike my most recent, fast, woefully unavailable, flirtation.  Core shaking and lovely, but impossible.)

Last night I began an online dating profile.  I didn’t get very far – stymied on the first screen.

Question: What is your body type?

Answer: I don’t know.

Several I could rule out: Big and Beautiful, Full Figured, Heavyset, A Few Extra Pounds, Stocky.  What about “About Average?”  At risk of sounding, hm…not right sized…I don’t think of myself as “About Average.”  At all.  Period.

(When I mentioned to the aforementioned divorce buddy that I needed to shave my head before leaving on our cross-country drive from Seattle to Chicago, he asked that I consider not – instead letting my stubble grow.  “I find it best to blend in when in Montana and the Dakotas.”  “I have never blended in,” I responded.  “I know.”)

That left me with Slender, Athletic and Toned, and Curvy.

I picked Curvy, filled out a couple of more screens – offering up that I am a liberal, Libra, entrepreneur who would selfishly treat myself to something special should I be blessed with a financial windfall – and went to bed.

I told my friend Kendall about the experience this morning.  When I told her I chose Curvy, she told me I chose wrong.

My body (and my relationship status) as it once was.
My body (and my relationship status) as it once was.

But what about my hips?  My breasts?

Curvy implies extra weight, Rubenesque, she explained.  “You are not.”  When one of our regular Weight Watchers members walked through the door, she posed the question to him.  “Definitely not Curvy.”

This was news to me.  For most of my life I would have chosen,  A Few Extra Pounds, Full-Figured or, at best, Curvy.  I forget that was more than 12 years ago.  Thirty-five pounds ago.  A breast reduction ago.

Seems my brain is still busy trying to catch up with my body.  This isn’t the first time.

A couple of weeks ago I bought a new pair of winter boots.  Like a kid, I wore them right out of the store – tromping home through the snow, giddy.  When I arrived at my apartment 20 minutes later, I had blisters on both ankles.  They were too big.

I cursed myself for being 44 and not knowing what size shoe I wear.

I went back the next day, head dipped, shoe box in hand, to see what, if anything, the store could do for me.  They began by measuring my feet.

Six.  A little less than six actually.  But the boots were a six and one-half.  And sometimes, I’ve been known to buy a seven.  (These shoes usually ended up in a friend’s closet or at GoodWill.  Now I know why.)

The right-size boots.
The right-size boots.

They didn’t have my boots in a smaller size, so I purchased a different pair – red leather and suede, treated for winter, with a lug sole.  The salesman gave me $50 off for the “inconvenience” of having gotten the wrong size.

I always think I am bigger than I am.  Even when I was bigger.

Like the time I picked a fight with a guy a foot taller than me at a bar.  Drunk and messy, he swung his girlfriend around the dance floor, continually knocking her or himself into someone else.  Often me.  Next I knew, I watched myself running into him, full force, slamming him into the wall.

He spun around, ready to fight.  He looked around, and then down.  When he saw me, he appeared confused.

He grabbed my wrists in one paw, and held a fist with the other, while his girlfriend screamed and I shrieked, “Get a bouncer.”  I hadn’t counted on this.

He got kicked out of the bar that night.  I was lucky.  I think about my brother telling me to not start something with my mouth that I couldn’t back up with my body.  I had forgotten.

So I changed the body type on my profile to Slender.  But that is all.  I’m still not certain about all of this.

In the meantime, I’m working on getting “right sized” – physically, emotionally and spiritually.  Seeing myself as I truly am – good and bad. Neither better than or less than.  One of the pack.  Perhaps even, “About Average.”

Artist Date 49: Content In My Role As Second Tenor

I am a second tenor.

rain 2
Lake Street Underpass, by Errol Jacobson

So says Steven, who I met on Thursday at the Palette and Chisel, at the opening before the opening of my friend Errol’s art show, “City” – Artist Date 49.

Steven is a member of the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus – the beneficiary organization of 20 percent of tonight’s sales.  He is introduced to me by the Kent, the Executive Director, who is introduced to me by Stephanie, Errol’s partner.

We are chatting when he gets the nod that it is show time.  He grabs my hand and says, “Come on, let’s go.”

“I don’t sing.”  I protest, remembering my friend Teresa insisting the same when she was asked to audition for Beach Blanket Babylon in San Francisco.  “Can’t you just belt something out?”  So she did – the theme song to the Flintstones.  She didn’t make it past the first verse.

“Of course you do,” Steven says.  “You are a second tenor.”

He does not push further, but instead, joins his colleagues at the piano.

When he finishes, I ask him how he knows I am a second tenor.  “Easy.”  Everyone who claims to not sing is a second tenor.  It is an easy range to sing, he explains.  And there are lots of them – second tenors – so it is easy to be one among many.

2013-11-21 18.47.21I love the idea of me – a straight, Jewish girl who can’t carry a tune – surrounded by gay men singing Christmas carols.  It seems somehow “right,” although certainly not congruent to the notion of “one among many.”  I have weaseled my way into more unlikely settings.  But I am pretty certain he was jesting.

He reminds me of the chorus’ upcoming holiday shows, and invites me to come watch open rehearsals on Sunday afternoons – both potential Artist Dates (Stephanie mentioned my practice to Steven and Kent when she introduced us) – then warmly takes my hand in his and bids me adieu.

Tonight is actually the second Artist Date Stephanie has “invited” me to– the first being her and Errol’s home in Bucktown, which was highlighted in a garden walk this past summer.  I am humbled and touched by her interest.

However, I notice that tonight, unlike most of my previous Artist Dates, stirs up very little in terms of thoughts, emotions and memory.  I am decidedly – without having made a decision – present.

I notice the chicken satay and Vietnamese spring rolls.  The brownies and fruit pastries from Alliance Bakery.  All of which I avoid.

The mild flirtation from the bartender who tells me I look like a character from a show on A&E.  “But much better looking,” he says.  I smile and tell him I do not have a television.

Errol’s paintings.  So much rain.  Like tiny kaleidoscopes sliding down windshields.  It is wet outside tonight.  And cold.  Winter is coming.

back lit
Back Lit, by Errol Jacobson

I am drawn to the saturated colors of “Backlit,” “Shadows” and “Days End.”  Purples and Yellows.  And I tell him so.

My friend Dina asks if I recognize where “Backlit” is painted.  I do not.

It is Paris.

She can tell from the roofline, she explains, using a fancy term I don’t know to describe the classically Parisian use of attics.

Dina lived in Paris 30 or so years ago.  I always imagined I would live there.  Or New York.  Or that I still might.  They feel familiar to me – they always have.  And I’ve never been lost in either one.

Yet, right now in this moment, I feel no desire to be anywhere but Chicago.  In spite of its cold, dark, rainy-ness.

I am driving my friend Leslie home and I mention that the man I asked out for coffee via Facebook has not responded.  It has been more than two days and I am surprised by his lack of contact.  It seems out of character.  Mostly because I think he is a man, and not a boy.  I am a little disappointed, but nothing more.  I’ve made no investment.  The crush diminishes.

“And then there were none,” I tell her.

And for once, I don’t mind.

Up until now, life without some sort of love interest felt sad. Somehow lacking.  The crush, the flirtation, gave me a sense of hope.  Of possibilities.

But I don’t feel sad right now.  Absent is the familiar pain stemming from the fear that I will be alone.

Frankly, I am a little stunned.  I am afraid to give this experience a voice.  That I will jinx it.

All I know is, right now, my life feels full.  With friends.  With art.  With possibilities.  And I am, blessedly, not particularly troubled by what I lack.  And by moments too far ahead.

It is as it was promised to me, that I would find contentment where I am right now.  Content in my role as a second tenor.  One among many.  Easy.

Love Letter to My Farnow, From the Dancing Queen

Farnow, new and old. Martin, Tim and I.

The side of my face is pressed to yours.  I feel your beard against my cheek.  The bone of your right pelvis against my own.  Your leg gently, but firmly, straddling mine.

You dance tango.  But we are not dancing tango.

No matter, it is the sexiest dance I’ve ever had in my life.  I’m certain of it.

I have not danced like this in more years than I can count.

I am referring not only to the leg between mine.  Or the man, 10 years my junior, to whom it belongs.  But to the friends surrounding me.  My farnow, the Kiwi word roughly translated as “family of choice.”  Farnow I’ve known for 20 years.  Farnow I’ve known for just 20 minutes.

We are dancing to Patti LaBelle.  Donna Summer.  The Cure.  New Order.  All of us.  Like we did in Detroit.  In San Francisco.  When I was 20-something and it didn’t feel like “a thing” to stay up late to go dancing.

I am sweaty.  Low to the ground.  All hips and legs.  I feel vital.  Sexy.  Alive.

“You are in a very good place,” my friend Steven tells me.  He is right.  I am.

But not for the reasons you think.

This isn’t a story about sex.

Steven and I.  Old Farnow.
Steven and I. Old Farnow.

This is a story about recognizing another one of my teachers.  About the universe tapping me on the shoulder, inquiring exactly where I am with the old idea I tossed into Lake Michigan – along with stale bread. the ritual of tashlich – on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, just a few weeks ago.

The day I muttered, “I let go of the idea that I am only good for sex.”  Over and over, like a mantra.  The notion being that I might be attractive to men for more reasons than this.

Prior to my marriage, I used my sexuality like a calling card.  A year outside of its dissolution, I’m not sure what is.  Or if I have one at all.

Earlier in the evening, we did a different sort of dance.  Flirty.  My ass to your ass.  My back to your chest.  Your leg between mine for the first time.

“Is this ok?” you ask.  Yes, I nod.  It is more than ok.  I cannot stop grinning.

And then…you are sitting on a stool, no longer dancing.  I am not quite sure what has happened.  I think it has something to do with the girl sitting next to you, but I am not certain.

I do not want to interfere with anyone’s real life.  I am on holiday.  This flirtation is fun.  But I do not want to hurt anyone.  So I leave it be.  I leave you be.  Mostly.

I dance with Steven and Tim.  Anja and Derek.  Anne-Marie and Tom.  Everyone but you.  I ask G-d to help me to be to be present to the people who are with me and not to worry about those who are not.

Later, when you are alone, I apologize for possibly getting you into trouble with a girl.  You insist I have not.  But that you are certain I am one to get into trouble.  You are teasing me.

I tell you it is incredibly sexy when you reach down between your legs to tap on the cajon – the box drum – which I saw you do the other night, playing music with my friend, Tim.

I notice you don’t drink.  Neither do I.  We talk about living life feeling everything.  “EVERYTHING,” you say slowly, emphatically, with a knowing smile.

We talk about G-d.  That yours is like Star Wars, “The Force.”  That mine is magic, poetry and serendipity.  The kind of stuff I couldn’t think up myself.

You ask me about my work.  My Judaism.  My writing.  We talk about your music, the religion of your upbringing, and our friendship with Tim.

I tell you I enjoyed dancing with you.  You smile and reply that you enjoyed talking with me.  I am flummoxed.  It is as if the universe is asking, “Remember your taslich mantra?  The one about being attractive for other reasons…Are you paying attention?”

Anne-Marie and I.  New Farnow.
Anne-Marie and I. New Farnow.

We dance that slow, sexy dance, and say goodbye.  I kiss either of your cheeks, feeling your beard against me again.  I ask if I will see you again on this trip.  “G-d willing.  Allah willing,” you say, and list a couple of other names for G-d, but I do not hear them.  I am touched by your response.

And you are gone.

I go back to the floor and join my farnow and dance until DJ Gerry can play no more.  I think about you whispering in my ear that I could surely tango.  That I am a good dancer, but I must know this already.

I do not see you again.  I am a little bit sad, but not at all surprised.  It isn’t necessary.  I have received your teaching.

I want to tell you this.  And that my meeting you is a wink from the universe – is G-d.  But I do not.  It seems too intimate.  Too much.

So I blog instead.  My sober artistry.  A kind of “love letter,” sans stamp.  Destination: Dublin, Ireland.  I sign it,

“Until ‘the force’ conspires for us to meet again.  In gratitude, Lesley.”

Artist Date 39: Story of O (pen)

This Yom Kippur, this Day of Atonement (or At One Ment, depending on your school of thought), my Rabbi spoke about being open, and staying open – vulnerable.  To change.  To transformation.

story of oThis is a story about open.

I am anxious to write it.  It is so tender, so personal.  And yet…I have given voice to seemingly every other experience in this year following my divorce.  Specifically regarding the season of suggested “not dating,” and the process of creatively romancing myself on a weekly basis vis a vis, the Artist Date.

I am standing in front of a wall of condoms.  It is 11:30 a.m.  I need supplies.

I pulled into the Pleasure Chest on the way home from leading a Weight Watchers meeting – Artist Date 39.

I took a lover last week.

We are in wildly different places in our lives.  Not surprisingly, we want and need wildly different things.  And we are wildly attracted to one another.

He’s younger than I – which is brand new to me.  He captured my attention with a flirty quip in regards to my Artist Dates.  Something like “I’m not sure what these entail…but I qualify as an artist (I think), and I am free tomorrow.”  (Insert flush across my cheeks, across my chest, here.)

But I wasn’t.  Or the next day.  Or the next.

Until Rosh Hashanah night – the same date my divorce was final last year, on the Hebrew calendar – when the gods saw fit for me to tell a new story.

The days leading up were ripe with sexy texts and suggestive emails.  And our nights together made good on what had been promised in words.

Yummy.  Naughty.  Playful.  And then, Over.

“We can’t do this,” we agreed.  That while decidedly delicious, an ongoing entanglement couldn’t meet either of our more pressing needs.  And might even cause us harm.

Usually I would be devastated by such a fleeting romance.  But I’m not.  I see it all as a gorgeous transition.  A little poke (no pun intended) from the universe that I have opened myself up just a little bit more.  To sex.  To love.  To possibilities.

That’s not to say that I don’t miss the attention, being pursued, and getting to know someone new.  Yes, he is in fact, another artist.  Darling.  Smart and sweet.  But not “the one.”  At least not now.

This is new to me too.  Not trying to make him “the one.”

I used to insist, “this time is different.”  Until my friend Teresa gently pointed out, “It’s always different…and it never is.”  She was right.  It was the same story over and over.  Me believing that he, whomever he was at that moment, had the power to make me beautiful, desirable, whole.

My young artist didn’t make me those things.  He merely held up the mirror.

Being an addict, I (of course) want more.  But I am not acting on those desires.  I am respecting our decision.  Respecting him.  Respecting me.  Respecting us.  And trusting there will be more, with someone (s) else.

And so, I find myself standing in front of this wall of condoms, not for “us,” but for the future.

There are the usual suspects.  Trojans.  Kimono.  Durex.  Latex and non-latex.  Flavored.  Ribbed.  Knobbed.  And some I don’t know.  Plaid boxes.  Sir Richard’s.  Sounds fancy.

sir richardsI am certain any will do.  But for some reason, I decide to call in the experts.  I walk over to the glass counter.  On the other side is a woman with a mess of red curls, funky glasses and a great big smile.  Her name is Sara.

I tell her I need some help.  That I haven’t bought condoms in a while.  That I recently took my first lover since my divorce.  The first man I’ve been with, other than my ex, in 15 years.

“Congratulations,” she says.  “On the divorce.  And the lover.”

She comes around the glass and we walk over to the wall together, where she educates me on the finer points of my choices.  I am reminded of the years I spent at wine tastings, discussing the subtleties of nose and terroir.  Sara approaches our conversation with the same mix of knowledge, passion and joy.

This is what she tells me:

Latex isn’t what it used to be.  It no longer smells like Goodyear Tires when the foil is ripped open.

Stay away from the Trojans.  Too thick.

Pleasure dots are nice for both.  There’s a little pouch on the underside that creates friction.

One brand is nice.  Doesn’t taste bad.

“I’d stick with these,” she says, gesturing to Skyn, Kimono, One and Sir Richard’s.  “Or you might want to consider a sampler pack.  Includes a couple of dental dams and latex gloves.”

She leaves me to shop and reminds me she is available if I have any questions.

So many choices.  I remember coming home from Rwanda last summer, standing in front of the yogurt selections at Whole Foods and bursting into tears – overwhelmed by the abundance.  I feel a little bit the same way.

I pull down a couple of boxes and choose a variety pack from Sir Richard’s – purple and grey plaid.  Made in Boulder.  For each condom purchased, one is donated in a developing country.  A little altruism with my orgasm.  Nice.  I also grab a small box of non-latex Skyn.  I don’t have a latex allergy but, someone else might.

I take a quick spin through the aisles before I leave.  DVDs.  Vibrators.  Strap Ons.  Lube.  I grab a bottle of Sliquid and meet Sarah at the register.

She excuses herself from the couple she is assisting with harnesses.

She nods approvingly at my choices, runs my credit card through, and slips a flyer listing free workshops in the bag.  All of them have passed.

Before I leave, she tells me that she divorced more than 15 years ago, and more than made it through.  “I learned how to advocate for myself sexually,” she adds.  “It’s been great.”

I believe her.  Both on the advocating and on the great.  I’ve already opened myself to it.

When You See Yourself…or, Memory is Tricky

black beautyI stopped calling my ex by his name in writing.

It happened a little while ago, when a friend casually asked me if he minded being named.  I didn’t know.  So, I asked.

He said it didn’t matter.  But I stopped anyway.  As a show of respect.  To allow him to retain his anonymity among those who don’t know him, or me, or “us.”   And quite possibly, as another way of letting go.

I have a habit of inserting lost loves names into conversation, just to make them real.  To keep it, them, alive.  I didn’t think I was doing that with my ex – but maybe I was.

I started thinking about naming people.  I don’t do it often.  When I do, I ask myself why, and how they might feel about it.

Some people love it.  It brings attention to their art.  Or it feels like an honoring of our relationship.  On occasion, it has led to a burgeoning friendship, like with a local actress to whom I owe a phone call.

But for others, it has caused pain.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend took exception to the moniker I had assigned him.  He called me out on it – citing the sometimes negative connotations associated with it, per Wikipedia.

I was devastated.  I adore him – perhaps too much so, sometimes.  After receiving his email, I phoned him immediately.

I did not pause – even though I know better.

I got his voicemail and I left a message.  I said I regretted causing him any pain, that it was never my intention.  I shared my interpretation of the moniker.  I told him that he was my teacher.  That he inspired me.  And I told him I loved him.

That was about a month ago.  I haven’t heard a peep.  I am letting him have his space, his own experience.  This is new for me.

Something similar happened between my mother and me.

I had written about my over-emotional nature as a child – recounting a story that took place in the dollar movie theatre.   She remembered the situation differently than I.  She too called me out on it.

This time I did pause.  And because the harm was done electronically, I made amends in the same way.  I told her I was sorry that my writing had caused her pain, just as I had done with my friend.

This time the result was different.

It led us to a conversation about memory.  How tricky it is.  How three people can see the same accident and yet each remembers a different color, a different make car.

call of the wildA few weeks later I received a package in the mail from her.  Inside was a vintage copy of Black Beauty that she found in an antique store.  Actually, it is two books in one.  Black Beauty on one side.  The Call of the Wild on the other.

The memory in question was in regard to The Black Stallion, but I got it.  Completely.  I was touched by her sweet gesture, her way of letting me know we are more than fine.

A couple of days ago I posted a blog about exs.  One of them commented – favorably.

I wrote to him, “I trust you recognized yourself.”  He did, and we began chatting — online.

We too talked about memory.  About the last time we saw one another, on Venice Beach.   I had just returned my roller skates.

I remember him calling my name.  Going to him.  And him asking if he could see me.  I remembered him kissing me.  He didn’t.  He remembered me angry.  I didn’t.

I asked him what happened between us.  I never understood.  I had asked before but he never answered, and I didn’t push it.  This time he told me.

He told me that I awakened something in him.

He told me how he remembered me. Kind.  Open.  Dirty.  Loving.

He told me our time together mattered, that I mattered.  That I was important in his life, as he had been in mine.

I asked him if we might speak.  Moments later we were.

I had forgotten what his voice sounded like.  Seventeen years had passed since we had last spoken.   I felt a strange sense of relief mixed with joy.  As if to say, “Oh, there you are.  Of course.”   As if he had been there all along.  Which in some ways, he had.

A flood of memories came rushing back.  Hazy.  Not completely formed.  Together, we tried to put together the pieces.

We talked for about an hour, tripping down memory lane.  Talking about our lives today.  The time in between.  Slipping in the occasional flirty quip.  We were always like that.

I wanted to tell him I loved him, but I didn’t.  Instead, I let him know that he is in my heart and I am grateful to know I am still in his.  It is more accurate.

I feel like a piece fell into place in my life.  And a peace, as well.