Thursday, August 16, 2012
When Honesty Is Not The Best Policy
I’ve always dated younger men, though the two men I fell in love with years ago were both older than I was by seven years. My first husband was also older. In my thirties, dating younger men was something of a joke among my friends; we called them my “babies.” They were toys to me, nothing more. I was busy raising my daughters and they really had no place in my life except for fun. And they were quite a bit of fun at that. It wasn’t an ego boost for me, since I have then and still do consider myself to be attractive. I have the attitude that men should want to be with me, so having them around was something of a novelty. Women weren’t really into dating younger men yet, this was twenty years ago. I always was ahead of the trends, and I still am.
After my second marriage ended, I wasn’t interested in dating at any level. I had to work on me. I had brought another abusive man into my life when I thought I was making a good choice in a husband. That gave me pause. He was a different type of an abuser than my first husband, one I did not recognize and by the time I did, I was in too deep. I didn’t know how to extract myself without damaging my children further. He was so sneaky in his abuse; I didn’t realize how he was tearing me down until long after we were married. By then, I had built a life with him for my children. I stayed with him, thinking I could weather his emotional, psychological and eventually sexual abuse because I am a strong woman. I thought I could bear it without it affecting who I was. I was very wrong. It took me a long time to heal from that and even longer to feel comfortable with the thought of dating again. When I did, the only form of “dating” I could tolerate was one night stands. It was my preference; it was what I could accept in my life. I couldn’t allow anyone to get too close to me for fear of losing myself again. Having a regular companion in my life wasn’t worth it.
Now here I am in my late forties. I am in my very late forties at that. I am still dating younger men, and while I have gotten older they have not. I sort of made a rule not to date anyone under the age of thirty anymore, since my oldest daughter is that age, so when I became friends with a twenty-five year old man I never considered anything more with him. We were just friends; we shared quite a bit in common. I had fun with him. He was older than his years in wisdom, an “old soul” my grandmother would have said. He was more than that; we knew each other in a previous life. He was one of my soul mates. I recognized who he was right away, but refused to believe we would have anything more than a friendship between us. After all, the age difference was great. As the friendship grew, it became clear there was more between us than just friendship. One night, we sat in my living room on the floor, across from one another and talked about it. That was strange all by itself, but we both wanted clarity on what was really happening with us. He initially thought I was about ten years younger than I am. A fifteen year difference didn’t seem so bad, but it was a little off-putting to have a twenty-four year span. So we took it slow and kept it quiet.
I didn’t tell anyone when we first started dating because I knew this relationship was time limited. We were right for each other for right now, but he had his whole life ahead of him and I had already lived a good part of mine. Besides, I didn’t want the drama my relationship with him was going to create. I knew there would be criticism, I had no idea how strong some of it would be, nor would I expect it from the people it came from. For the first few months, it was blissful and I was happy. There were rumors at work, almost from the start. I denied them and so did he. Since we worked together, we made sure not to take our breaks together, nor did we socialize much at all during working hours. Still, it seemed that people persisted in talking. There wasn’t anything we could do about it, except to ignore them.
Within days of the rumors starting, I began to get a couple of disturbing phone calls. They came up with his number on the caller ID, so I thought nothing of answering the phone at 2am. They were awful, and I was scared. I talked to him about them & we soon figured out it was another girl at work who had made it very clear she wanted to date him. There is a phone application that “spoofs” numbers so someone can call someone else without their number showing on the caller ID. She had my phone number because I gave it to her thinking we were friends. He became upset with her when she wouldn’t stop making overt advances on him and he unfriended her from his Facebook page. She retaliated by making obscene and threatening calls to me and using another man to do her dirty work. She was fired for other reasons not long after that and it stopped, but I chalked it up to a random event.
Shortly before I was to take my vacation home, I did change my relationship status on Facebook from single to “in a relationship.” Immediately people wanted to know the details. Instead of knowing what kind of person he is, the only detail that seemed to capture anyone’s attention was his age. Though his age was not an ego boost for me, it seemed to be another notch on my belt to others. Some of my friends thought he was another one of my toys and they seemed puzzled when I told them I actually cared for him. Others were concerned for me, knowing as I did that the relationship was going to end and since I did love him, I was going to be hurt. There were a few people who immediately and unceremoniously unfriended me, I guess I assaulted their sense of morality. Most of my friends supported me in my relationship with him and were happy I had found someone who brought out the best in me. Then there were my children, who were absolutely cruel to me, something I never expected from them.
My youngest refused to let me talk to her about him at all, deeming the subject “gross.” I wasn’t talking about my sexual relationship! I wanted to share with her the normal things anyone would want to talk about, what he was like, the things he did for me, how he made me laugh. When I was on the phone with him, she sighed heavily. The middle daughter seemed to be interested, but she wouldn’t voice her disapproval directly to me. Instead, she went to my eldest daughter who became the spokesperson for my daughters. I could understand them not being comfortable with me dating someone younger than two of the three girls, but they went farther than that. My eldest went so far to say that it was “morally wrong” for me to date someone that young. I live across the country, it wasn’t even as if they had to be exposed to the man I was dating. As she couldn’t convince me to immediately break up with him on moral grounds, her “logic” became more hurtful. There had to be something mentally wrong with him to want to be with me, she said. As if being with her mother meant he had to have a mental or emotional illness! Then there had to be something wrong with me, surely I was depressed. As evidence she used examples of activities I no longer participate in to indicate said depression. I wasn’t depressed, for the first time in a long time I was living and not just existing. I didn’t have the time and energy to do all the things I used to do and with asthma significantly impacting the quality of my life I had better things to do with the time I did have. She went on in this vein for about an hour, hoping I would agree to break up with him. Finally I asked “He makes me happy, I am happy when I am with him, doesn’t that matter to you? Doesn’t it matter to you that I am happy?” She replied “no, it did not.” My happiness was not as important to them as their comfort level.
Coming home from vacation was initially a relief as I felt like I was truly coming home. As we discussed what my children had said, and the feedback from others we were getting, his youth began to surface. He took what my children said to heart. He is, after all, very young and cares very much what others think of him. He is a people pleaser and wants others to like him. It was the beginning of the end for us as he simply quit calling, quit coming over, quit spending any time with me. Though I understood what had happened, it saddened me greatly that my children’s intolerance affected my relationship and I decided then and there I would not discuss any relationships any further with them, nor would I discuss how people in my life viewed the person I was dating. It was a mistake to think I could be honest in all areas of my life. People don’t want honesty; they want the illusion of you they create in their mind. I thought I had raised my children better than that, I have always shown them who I was but in their infinite wisdom of young adulthood they have chosen illusion over reality. They don’t like the reality of who their mother is; they want a more traditional version. Traditional is something I have never been.
He and I remained friends, he didn’t do anything that would have interfered in that, but I missed him. I was sad for a while. I have been dating, but it wasn’t the same. I let him in to a place no one had been in over ten years. He got to know me. I missed his companionship, I missed being free to be me with him. When you are dating someone you are getting to know, there is a significant element of illusion that goes along with it. I don’t like that. I would much rather start off with honesty than illusion but that’s not the way dating works. Since he and I began as friends, there was never any illusion. He saw me more without any make-up on than he ever did with it. I think I appreciated that about our relationship more than anything else. I missed him lying in bed beside me, his arms wrapped around me. I felt safe there. I missed watching movies with him while sitting on the floor with a pizza picnic. I missed walking the dog with him and talking about Spirit. He understood what I was talking about because he felt the same way. I missed meditating with him and sharing the things that mattered most to both of us. The frivolity of dating does nothing to begin to fill the void. Most of all, I miss laughing with him. We found humor in the most unusual things, and we got each other’s sense of humor. Life went on.
It seemed he missed being with me too because we got back together. It didn’t last long. The rumors had persisted at work and yet another young, delusional girl was falling all over herself to be with him. She was also his Facebook friend and made it clear she wanted to date him. She even had others come up to him to tell him as much and in front of me, no less. He told them and her repeatedly that he wasn’t interested but she wouldn’t give up. She cleaned his desk on his days off, she bought him sodas and other little things she knew he liked and it was really annoying. As he always does, he continued to be nice to her, but his patience was waning. Meanwhile, I was becoming sick with the asthma again but without a clear reason as to why.
She liked spraying things like hairspray, air freshener and perfume. It is common knowledge I am a severe asthmatic, but she was not on our work team when the first attack happened. When she sprayed a large amount of cheap perfume in my vicinity, we chalked it up to thoughtlessness. It caused a major attack which required me going back on prednisone to get under some semblance of control, yet I still couldn’t seem to catch my breath. After the first attack, my boss made it clear to everyone not to spray aerosols in the air. She had a different agenda, though. With me out of the way she thought she would have a chance with him. She kept spraying things, but not enough to set off an attack, just to make me sick. It wasn’t happening fast enough for her, though and the second time she sprayed a strong air freshener and set off another attack about a week later. I had to miss work after that one. A few days later, she did it again. The next day I went to my boss to ask what could be done and he said I didn’t have to worry about her anymore. I asked if he knew why she would keep spraying chemicals in the air she knew would make me sick and quite possibly send me to the hospital, my even tempered patient boss said “Because she is a mean ass bitch.”
As the events unfolded, it became clear she intended to cause me severe distress at the very least, telling other coworkers that it was her intent to kill me. They didn’t believe her, they thought she was kidding. She was not. She didn’t think she could get fired because she never laid a hand on me. The day after she was fired, a computer generated noted appeared on my door with a single word on it “bitch.” She knew where I lived. It was time to take a more defensive approach. I broke up with him this time, there had to be a reason why not one but two mentally unbalanced women were coming after me. He may not have been doing anything intentional, but he was drawing them into my life. I taped a note of my own on my door, stating the apartment and carport was now under internet video surveillance and all visitors were being photographed. I also talked at work about some strange events that were happening at my apartment and how cheap it was to install wireless cameras that fed images to my computer 24/7. I knew some of my coworkers were still in contact with her and sure enough one of them sent a text message to her almost before I could finish the sentence. It has been quiet here ever since.
There are a lot of men I won’t date because of the drama they bring with them. I won’t date a married man for this reason, nor will I date a man who is in a committed relationship with someone else. I won’t date someone who is less than two years divorced or widowed, and I won’t date anyone with children who are underage. I won’t date anyone close to my age who hasn’t stepped into the fires of marriage and divorce and I won’t date anyone who is an addict. I am thinking that men in their twenties have more drama associated with them than I care to deal with as well. At least this time when it ended, I wasn’t left yearning for what I thought we had. It ended in a way that left me free to know it wasn’t going to work regardless of his age. He was interacting with them in a way that led them to believe either I was a threat to them or that they had a claim to him in some way, whether it was real or not. I don’t know if he was leading them on or if he was really cheating on me with them and it doesn’t matter. Men of all ages like to play this game when their ego is being stroked.
If I have learned anything from this it would be that honesty is what people say they want; it’s what they say they prize but it is not what they really want. My children don’t want the mother I am, they want the mother they want me to be. For years I played the role of what a mother should be because that is what they needed to be successful adults. I left many parts of me on hold while I nurtured the children I had. That is what adults do. I put the needs of the children above any needs or desires I might have had. My honesty with my boyfriend caused the first break with him. I should not have told him why I was crying almost every day I was visiting my children. Their opinion of him wasn’t any of his business and it didn’t matter what their opinion was, it didn’t change how I felt about him. Honesty was not the best policy here, either. As far as my friends go, honesty seems to be fine with them. The friends who have remained are worth keeping and are worth being honest with. They have proven they can accept me exactly the way I am, and support me in whatever my heart leads me to. If it is with a twenty something man they know will break my heart, they will be there when I am happy cheering me on. When he does break my heart, they will be there with vodka in hand, telling me what a worthless piece of shit he is and telling me I deserved better anyway. That’s what friends are for.