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Dating in NYC – The Dreaded Ghost

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People ask me all the time why I’ve decided to label myself as feral and completely leave the dating pool.  I admit my self-classification as “feral” is tongue-in-cheek.  It’s just my way of fully embracing my single identity.  A number of things have made me disillusioned about dating in the Big Apple.  The worst thing I’ve encountered more than once though is the dreaded ghost.  It’s not a wandering spirit or aberration who hasn’t made peace with the afterlife.  A ghost in terms of dating is a partner who’s decided to simply walk away with no contact or explanation after an intimate encounter.

The worst example ghosting happened to me years ago.  The man was someone I knew well, or at least I thought I did.  To protect his identity I won’t reveal anything about him – his age, occupation or any physical characteristics.  I’ll simply call him Kevin, although that’s not his real name.

Kevin worked with me in a situations where we were often stuck together for 12-14 hours at a stretch.  We weren’t close friends but we could talk easily and had decent chemistry.   He was always a bit flirtatious but things accelerated for some reason after we knew each other about three years.  I worked with Kevin in a freelance situation so I didn’t see him on a regular basis.  I was definitely attracted to him but I was extremely unsure about the situation since we sometimes worked together.  He was also  bit younger than me, but most single men I encounter are at least 8-10 years my junior if not more.  He made it clear that he just wanted to hookup.  I wasn’t sure about it but I hadn’t had sex in forever and the only offers I was getting at the time were for casual sex from total strangers.  At least I knew Kevin.  I remained hesitant and Kevin went so far as to call me on the phone and talk me into it at length.   I was impressed that he called me as it seemed no man in New York City knew that phones could actually be used to make phone calls.  Most men sent texts usually filled with smut and the occasional dick pic.  A phone call seemed old school and classy.

The plan was made.  He picked me up from a job I had we went back to his place.  He treated me politely and friendly as he always had in the past.  The sex was intense and over the top.  The build up of three years had sort of worked its magic.  As soon as things were done, he turned away from me as if I was toxic waste.  I was a bit shocked as I wasn’t expecting cuddling afterward but his body language was extreme.  Not one molecule of his body was touching mine.  It was as if I wasn’t there.  The first few moments were incredibly awkward.  I decided to break the tension by mentioning something personal about him.  I saw a sports jersey that was hanging in a prominent position in his bedroom and asked him.

“What’s that from?  Are you on a team or something?”

He responded.

Why are you asking that?  I’m not going to tell you that.

It was as if a switch had gone off in his brain and he was punishing me for having had sex with him.  I lied there wondering how I messed up this situation so badly.   I never did this.  I hated hookups. I had known this man for years.  When he was convincing me to do this with him he kept me on the phone for over an hour.  Now he was treating me as if I had crawled into his window uninvited.  A feeling of dread passed over my body.   I felt like I wasn’t even there anymore and that I was somehow floating above the bed.  What the hell just happened?

Some pleasantries were exchanged.  He apologized for not being able to give me a ride home.  I insisted on taking the subway anyway.   I walked myself to the subway stunned and sickened.  The whole experience was 100% consensual but he made me feel like I was a used Kleenex he tossed after masturbating.

I waited a few days and sent him a text about a gig I knew he had coming up.  I wished him well.  There were no heart emojis or anything romantic.  He was short and brusque back.  I thought maybe I was reading too much into it.  Maybe I was projecting things on him that weren’t there.  I waited a few days and sent a couple more texts only to get blanked over the next week or so.  I kind of snapped and started sending him pleading messages.  I just wanted a response, any response.   I wasn’t professing my love to him, I wasn’t expecting an instant boyfriend.  I had no expectation that we would start dating.  I was just reaching out.  I’d known him for three years.  I thought he was my friend.  The whole thing felt like some epic Madonna/Whore test that I had failed miserably.  I’m not sure if I was supposed to continually spurn his advances or go full Jezebel and ask him for a three-way with a woman I picked up on OKCupid.

He never responded again.  Since my divorce I haven’t exactly had the greatest track record dating but my experience with Kevin was by far the worst.  My head was filled with the same thoughts bouncing back and forth through my skull for days.

How could he do this to me?  He knows me.   I’m not some stranger off the street.  What the hell is going on?  Why is he treating me like garbage?  What’s wrong with me?

It wasn’t that Kevin was some great prize or that I wanted a relationship with him.  I was just shocked that he treated me so horribly.   Without hesitation that experience has been the worst consensual sexual experience of my life.  It wasn’t abuse just inconsiderate and callous.  I played the whole incident over and over again in my mind trying to figure out what I had done wrong to make him treat me this way.  I decided that it didn’t matter.

Of course I did run into him again a few months later in work-related scenario.  As soon as I saw him he looked right at me.  I diverted his gaze.  I decided in the moment to act  like I had no idea who he was.  If he was going to treat me with such disregard I’d do the same.  His response was not surprising as he kept staring at me from across the room.  I’m not sure how he was expecting me to react.  What was I supposed to do? Run up to him and embrace him?  Ask him what he was up to the past couple of months?  I just wanted him to disappear.  Finally near the end of the job I was being ushered by my supervisor right next to where he was standing.  I could feel his eyes burning into mine but I refused to make contact.  When things got to the point of absurdity I turned to him and said simply “Hey Kevin” and kept walking.  I didn’t even make eye contact.  If he had tried to talk to me I would have just nodded and walked away.

The hardest part of it was not blaming myself.  I dissected and analyzed everything I said and did in the time I spent with Kevin trying to figure out what caused him to be that way.  Ironically the whole experience would have been much easier to get over if Kevin was a total stranger.  In his mind I was just garbage and if I wanted to be treated better by men I would have to go back to my old standard.  A guy would have to ask me out on a proper date and put some effort forth.  If they wanted a no-strings attached sexual situation then they could ask someone else.  I don’t judge others who live that lifestyle it’s just a bad fit for me.

Things haven’t gotten much better.  I’ve been ghosted since my fling with Kevin.  I wish I could say there was some sort of magical set of clues that would indicate when a seemingly grounded man will emotional disappear but I’ve got none.  I’ve sadly learned to expect it.

I never saw Kevin again and I’m glad I haven’t.  If I did see him he’d simply be someone I have no recollection of meeting much less having sex with.  Feral life suits me better anyway – no attachments, no commitments and no expectations.  I’d rather have nothing than the dreaded ghost.

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Dating in NYC – Potential Girlfriend or just a Piece of Ass?

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This is a question that we all must ask ourselves at certain times of our lives.  Am I a potential girlfriend to this man who I am seeing?  Or am I just a another piece of ass?  These things can get blurry.  It seems men over 35 are less likely to just jump into a commitment right away.  This might appear to go against conventional wisdom as younger men have less responsibility and don’t want to settle down.  But younger men will at least bond quicker, men in their early forties are beaten up a bit and scarred.  Men who have lived a life, have also had their egos bruised, hearts broken, trust shattered so they are less likely to give their hearts and emotions over to a new woman as quickly as a younger man might.

Some men are upfront and tell you right away that they are not looking for a relationship or a commitment.  I respect men who are upfront.  I don’t date them, but I love the honesty.  If a woman wants to get involved with no major commitment, and maybe even see a few other guys on the side, it is her choice.  Not every woman wants a relationship, and this situation might be perfect for both parties.

But then there are men who realize that a woman won’t waste her time with a hook-up artist or a non-exclusive relationship.  This type of guy doesn’t want a relationship, but still wants a woman around.  Instead of being direct he will string the her along.  He’ll never say:

“This is a relationship”

but also never say

“This is just something casual”

Some don’t even realize what they are doing, they just want to keep seeing a woman but with boundaries that are comfortable for them.  So they will dodge and weave to avoid creating a situation that will lock them down or leave them emotionally vulnerable.

I got stuck in a bad relationship that was similar to this.  I hasten to even call it a relationship now.  Instead I say “I tried to date this guy” because honestly that is how it felt.   After what I went through I now look for the following warning signs that I am in that nether region of somewhere between girlfriend and a piece of ass.

  • Refuses to talk about what the relationship is or where it is going
  • Refers to you as a “friend” – even though you are sleeping with him
  • Won’t introduce you to his friends, or get you more involved with his life
  • Won’t talk about anything overly emotional
  • Only communicates via text message or email – no phone calls
  • Doesn’t show you any emotional vulnerability – unless complaining about his ex
  • Keeps conversations and correspondence about surface topics

I thought that my guy was an exception, because when I was actually with him, he was warm, affectionate and he treated me as if I was a girlfriend.  Snuggling up to a piece of ass might seem like a good idea, but it just ends up confusing the woman.  I really liked him, so it took me a while to figure out that is all I ever was, just a sexual plaything that relieved the boredom and gave him a thrill from time to time.  And even though I was corresponding with him on a daily basis, the correspondence was still just surface and it wasn’t emotionally satisfying.   I grew tired of hearing about his daily workout routines, and the occasional bitching about his ex-wife because that was mainly all he was open about.  He never set up dates, he never saw me on my terms and didn’t go out of his way for me in any way shape or form.

He did send me many mixed messages in regards to his two children, whom I never met.  He would tell me that his son liked a photo of me, or his daughter thought a dress I was wearing in a photograph was pretty.  He also kept me clued into their struggles, challenges and joys.  Talking about his kids just gave me a false sense of hope that I might become more important in his life.  What I misunderstood was his kids were important to him, where I was not.

Ultimately I was between the world of a casual fling and girlfriend.  I hated the existence so I broke it off.  I made excuses for this man for months, he was upset from his divorce, he was being overly cautious, he was afraid to get hurt and on and on.  Because I allowed him to contact me when he felt like it, and see me when it worked for him I was enabling his emotionally distant behavior.  I had become my own doormat, and he was walking all over me.

My last relationship lasted nine years.  Since then, I sort of forgot how to date.  The last time I was single I was only 27 and the process seemed so much easier, the men less complicated.  Now that I am older and wiser I have to learn to see these signs sooner and cut my losses.  If a woman just wants a sexual relationship with no strings attached, it is usually not incredibly difficult to find.  I am holding out for something bigger and more meaningful, and I have no idea if I will find it.  I do know though that I am never putting up with being treated like that again.

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Dating After Divorce – Why is it so difficult in your late thirties?

I decided to re-write this blog post because it was one of the single most popular articles I have ever written.  As I noticed how many reads it was getting everyday I decided that I hated it and wanted to redo it.  Until I got divorced,  I was completely unaware of the realities of dating in New York city after age 35.  It is tough out there, for both genders but it is especially difficult for a divorced person.  Going out on dates is nothing like coming home every night to a spouse.  I think the original piece was so popular because there are so many lonely people wondering why something that seemed so easy when we were younger is now next to impossible.

When I was in my twenties, dating seemed so much easier.  Men and women didn’t have such exact standards, long-term compatibility issues weren’t discussed and everyone seemed so much charmed by each other.  I see it now in my friends who are about 10 years younger than me.  There is a look of hope and optimism in their eyes that is rare in most of us pushing 40.  Even if they have had major heartache,  a younger person is less likely to have had the soul crushing experience of a divorce.  And very few 25 year olds have had long-term relationships, most are simply too young to have had dated anyone for 10 years or more.  People in their twenties are generally more innocent and less jaded, so they are willing to take more risks and have greater hope in another person.  Then ten years later they get divorced, or break off a long-term committed relationship and end up single again and soon discover how things have changed.  When I go out with age appropriate men I find that for some of them,  everything becomes a deal breaker.

Deal Breakers

  • Undesirable neighborhood
  • Lives too far away
  • Occupation
  • Past marriage or marriages
  • Social group or friends – not compatible
  • Pet allergies
  • Drinking habits – or in my case that I am not much of a drinker
  • Diet, exercise habits, hobbies etc.
  • A date reminds them too much of their ex.

I have to admit I do it myself, I am no longer so idealistic or starry-eyed when faced with a potential mate.  When I was 25 I could see myself dating someone who worked in a bookshop and had ambitions of becoming a playwright.  Now if I meet the same man at age 38 I am more concerned about why he hasn’t gotten his act together.  If he has had plays produced then that is one thing, but if he is still dreaming of the “day” when this will all happen I can’t really take him seriously.

Personality Problems

  • Socially awkward to the point that they have extreme difficulty connecting with others
  • Too selfish and self-centered and have never had a long-term relationship
  • The type of person who doesn’t want a relationship and wants to stay single
  • Severely damaged from past relationships
  • So set in their ways to allow another person to become a part of their life
  • A serial cheater or abuser who goes through partners like kleenex
  • Too immature to have a relationship

Children

To some men, once women hit their late thirties they are simply less desirable because they are less fertile.  It is especially frustrating for me as I have had multiple female relatives reproduce without extreme medical intervention into their forties.  What makes things even more difficult is that many men and women in their late thirties have children from a previous relationship.  So one partner might be completely finished having children and never want more, while another partner is desperate to have children of their own.  And of course compatibility issues arise with a new partner if the partner does not get along with their children.

Work

Generally speaking as we get older our jobs and lives get more demanding, not less.  So the man who worked in a bookshop in his twenties is now working at a publishing house pulling 60 hours a week with staff underneath him.  Everything is more complicated and the free time needed to nurture a new budding romance is almost nonexistent.   Or if one person keeps nontraditional hours, they will have a difficult time trying to date someone who is 9 to 5.

I now totally understand how a 45-year-old can look into the eyes of a 25-year-old and think they have found heaven on earth.  Sure they won’t have much in common and the age difference may eventually drive them apart, but instead of seeing a realistic mirror of themselves back they see a romantic ideal.  The younger person is simply less likely to see huge compatibility issues before they start.  How could that not be intoxicating?   Of course there are always exceptions, with wise 22 year olds and total naïve idiots who are 50.  I don’t mean to brush with that broad of a stroke, but there is a reason the average age of marriage in the United States is 27 for women and 29 for men.  The late twenties are the perfect time to start a family and to build a life, and still be idealistic enough to think that it will all work out.

A depressing as all of this is, I must find hope.  Before I would get wrapped up in someone knowing very little about them only to discover they weren’t right for me.  Now I have age and experience, I know what kind of man I am looking for and what I can offer to a new partner.  The problem is finding that other person.  Armed with a microscope instead of a rose-tinted lens I am more likely to make better choices for myself.  It just makes finding that needle in a haystack so much harder.

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