Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Dating Someone with Kids - Not Recommended

Due to my last posting, on what I have learned in relationships, I have been asked to expand on the "dating someone with kids" issue. I will generalize here, to keep things as private as possible.

I would first like to acknowledge that my favorite blogger, one who writes career advice, consistently reveals all sorts of personal information, including her sex life. If you think I am bad, at least I don't think I do anything inappropriate like that.

Now, onwards to dating a dude with kids. Don't do it. The first problem is that there are no rules anywhere, as far as what is suitable, and what is not. For example, if you all go on a vacation together, do you tell the kids that you share a bed when you stay in a hotel room, or do you lie, and hide it from them? This is always a concern for single parents with children. Should you role model and lie, or should you be truthful? What if the kids find out you are lying?

I am not only speaking from experience as a person who dated a single parent, but I am an adult child of a divorced family. In a divorce, I think kids really start to question their parents' sincerity. I feel like parents do lose a little trust when there is a divorce, because everyone is looking for someone to blame.

So, you have the whole "no rules," trust issue.

Now, if you know me, and follow my blog, it is evident that I am opinionated. It is very hard to date someone raising children, when you can't agree with their parenting style. I can tell you that no two people are going to agree on their child rearing skills at all times. It becomes difficult, though, when they are not your own kids, and you really do not have a right to contribute any advice on how they should be parenting. You will end up just watching, and having to disagree, and this can be very hard. If your boyfriend allows their kids to watch tv before they have finished their homework, and you think the child should be focusing on their schoolwork, you really cannot say anything. It is a pretty helpless feeling. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

The "sharing" part is a pain, as well. I imagine it is very hard for the parent, too. Sometimes you want to just spend some quality time with your man, and not even tell anyone where you are, and what you are doing. Unfortunately, they are a parent, and they have to be there for their kid. They can't really "escape," and at times, they can't be there for you at all. On a positive note, that's a sign of them being a good parent.

There is always a chance that the kids will dislike you. Who knows what they hear from the other parent. This can make for a very uncomfortable situation. You can begin to dread being around them, and they can dread being around you.

As a single person with no children, you may assume "parental" responsibilities, such as getting up with the child during the night, coordinating their social schedule, or driving them to and from school. You end up "jumping" into parenthood. If you are young, and end up doing this, you may feel that you have grown up very fast - faster than your friends who are still living the "single life." You give up part of your youth.

You know that when you are in relationship, there are things you are going to disagree on, whether it is your taste in music, your religious beliefs, or whether or not you want to settle down, but this adds another issue that can be avoided by not dating someone with children.

Again, these examples are not personal nor specific. If you want to be spontaneous, and make things easier on yourself, make sure he doesn't have kids. Do paternity testing, if you have to! (Only joking).

This certainly has nothing to do with Janie in Madison, but I can reassure you that while in Madison, I intend to be without stepchildren.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Everything I Learned About Relationships

People who know me, know that I am always thinking, dissecting, and analyzing. In the past few months, there has been a lot of time for introspection, and I have ruled out what to look for and not look for in a relationship. I really haven't been single since I was twenty-two, and I am not proud of this. The importance of getting to know yourself and have a sense of independence are important, and I am going to tell you that I have to work very hard on the independent part - believe it or not. I know, I know, you are thinking "You just up and moved 500 miles," but just read on, and read my rules. I am going to write this from a female's point of view, but this does apply to males, as well.

Again - I am NOT an expert on dating. I am sharing what I have learned. If you don't want to read this whole entry, please, read rule number eight, because I think it's the best rule.

1. Do not live in the same city as your significant other's parents. (Or yours, if you can help it - sorry, Mom and Dad)

The first month I lived in Madison, I joked that I needed a man whose parents are both deceased - but not when they were too young, and it couldn't be a tragic death, because I didn't want to deal with the baggage. Preferably a dude whose parents died of old age, and he dealt with it in a healthy manner.

I prefer to have a private relationship. What you and your boyfriend are up to at any given moment is none of his parent's business. I don't want them too involved. Period.

2. Don't date anyone who has been married before.

Now, this obviously applies to women of my generation. If you are forty-five, and looking for a dude, keep your options open. For women my age, there are enough problems to work on in a relationship, why add an ex into the mix? Enough said.

3. Don't date anyone who has children.

I am going to elaborate on this a little, because even though this is obvious, I have given advice on this topic before, and I don't want you to come crying to me about the kid issues, when I could have said, "I told you so." (And this has happened). Do you want to share your dude with his kids? How about when you don't agree with his child rearing, but it's not your job to say anything? Did you ever think that the kids could hurt his feelings, which in turn, hurt yours? I could probably write a twenty page essay on this rule, but you get the hint.

4. Friends are First!

I think a lot of us have made the mistake of putting a guy before your friends from time to time. I know it's very exciting in the beginning of a relationship, but your friends will be there for you always, and the dude may not. Do not cancel plans on your friends because you haven't heard from the new guy in three days, when he suddenly asks you on a Friday night to meet in an hour for drinks. He will still be there tomorrow, and he can wait. Play hard. You can always meet with him at the end of the night, anyway.

Especially if you are in a new place, it's very important to keep your friendships with your girlfriends strong. Do not rely on a guy for your social life. What if he breaks up with you? What if he travels a lot for work? It is so important to have that sisterhood, and I think a lot of people move to cities, meet someone, and rely on that one person for their entire social life. BIG mistake. Who are you going to have when he is gone? It is also healthy to have a life outside of the one you are forming in your dating life.

5. Do not rely on a guy all of the time.

When I used to have a car problem, or needed a picture hung, or got sick, my first thought was, "Call Boyfriend." Not anymore. Especially if you are just starting to see someone, BE INDEPENDENT! Don't even let him know you had a problem, unless he calls you. Again, I think it's unhealthy to start to become dependent on a guy. (Maybe Madison is getting to me). Because of my "independence," I have learned how to jump start a car!

6. Don't date any type of workaholic.

Do you want to be informed on November 5th that the next three weekends are out for your social life because he has to study? Forget it. Don't do it. If you want to wake up on a Saturday morning, and decide to go for a day trip which includes a trip to a winery, forget a workaholic.

Fortunately, our generation is more about working to live, not living to work, so if you are around my age, and dating someone around our age, you should be ok.

Spontaneity is key. This brings me to rule number seven......

7. Date someone your age!

I finally got it, you guys! After years of dating people in different "decades," I see the significance in dating someone my age, and I will never go back. You can remember the same movies, songs, cartoons, toys, technological advances, have the same goals, are in the same place in life, the energy level is the same, etc.

8. Ask them what their ideal day is.

This is the best thing I have done. I have asked the "What's your relationship with your parents," and all that other garbage, right off the bat. But, I have found the way to really know if you are compatible, is to find out what they want to do on their birthday, or what their "dream day" would be. For example, when asking this, I exchange my day, by saying,

"I go for a run, then take Scout to a state park, and hike for a few hours, then see an exhibit, or stop at some historical site on the way back (spontaneous, again), and then wine and a good meal are included."

If they are not interested in doing something outdoorsy like that, or being with my dog, or having a little wine, and doing some fine dining, we are not a match. Their ideal day has to match up with yours.

I hope you find these tips helpful. I had to work hard to condense this, as I have a lot I can say about the "dos" and "don'ts" of dating. Again, I am not an expert. I am a twenty-eight year old, never been married woman with a little "experience."

If you think you are "stuck" in a dried out, dull, relationship, please read my "Getting Unstuck" entry, and get out there, and date around.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Feminism, 2008

After graduating from an all-girls, progressive private school, a liberal arts college, and now living in an extremely tolerant town, I feel more strongly than ever about the idea of keeping your last name. This conversation has come up a lot in the past few years, specifically with college friends who were getting married, most of whom chose to keep their names.

Over the summer, I attended a southern style, traditional wedding. While being asked to fill out the check on the day of the ceremony, I hemmed and hawed on how to fill it out. I finally decided that it is 2008, and the bride probably would have some trouble cashing it, should they cash it that week, if I did put his name on the check. So, I made it out to Mr. Groom and Mrs. Bride. Then, I snickered, knowing damn well that this conventional woman was going to be irritated by the way I wrote out her check. This was confirmed when I went to the wedding, a few hours later, and for the first time in my entire life, saw a bride being given away by her father, only. Her mother was escorted by someone else... Old fashioned, much?

I think a lot of people do not understand the meaning of "Mrs. Smith." When we refer to someone as "Mr," we are referring to a gentleman in a formal fashion. By calling someone "Mrs," This really means "Mr's," as in "Mister's lady." So, you are no longer a person, but a possession of Mr's. Ms. solves this problem, and was popularized in the 1970s. With Ms., we don't know your marital status, and why should we?

Sometime in my pre-teen years, my parents received a letter in the mail, addressed to "Mr. and Mrs. Robert Winston." My whole family was appalled. They pointed at it, making comments, stating, "Why did he write that? Doesn't he know that women don't go by "Mrs. Tom Jones anymore?" This is also another possessive and outdated format. I will never be "Mrs. Tom Jones." Did women completely lose their independence and identity? In this day and age, addressing something in that format can be offensive. I am not saying that my family was angry, or insulted, but I do remember the kid who wrote it, and I will never forget it....

Let me be clear in saying that I support you if you choose to take your spouse's surname (especially if you are the guy!). You can do whatever you want. I imagine if my last name was awful, I would change it, too. My mom's generation wasn't hot on keeping their maiden names, (although, I am proud to say, a lot of her relatives did)! I suppose it would be fun to have a "new name" after all of these years. But remember, you can also do what a lot of my high school and college professors did - combine the names. How about turning them into one name? Take my sister, for example. Say she had chosen to combine Winston with Lebarron. They could have been the LeWinstons. Classy, right? (They each have kept their last name).

A challenge may come when you have children. I always assumed my nephew, Sebastian, had a hyphenated name. When I finally asked, I guess they thought the whole Sebastian-Winston-Lebarron- I forget his middle name- would have been too long, so he has Lebarron. What some people do is give the father's last name to one child, and the wife's to the other. I would recommend that. In fact, I know someone who did that. And yes, there were a lot of rumors in college that these two brothers were half brothers, because they had different last names, but once it was explained, everyone thought it was pretty cool.

While explaining the definition of "Mrs" to my Madison born cousin, he said to me, "Oh right. I remember that now. I had some teachers in school who would get mad if we didn't call them 'Ms.'" Now that, I have never heard of, but, it's a liberal town. I imagine Madison probably has more couples combining their names, or women keeping their names, or men taking the women's names.

If I am ever crazy enough to get married, I would certainly keep my name, but I don't look down upon you if you don't. It's the name I was given. Being that there are currently only five of us, who bear this name, and my dad is the only male, we will have to carry it on the best way we can.

Please remember one thing. Ladies, try not to let people call you "Mrs." Remember that when they call you that, you are an object.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Living Alone

In 2002, I signed a lease with two friends, and shared a three bedroom apartment near Boston. By October, I was dreaming of living by myself. I was twenty-two, and naturally, had never experienced a home of my own. It wasn't until October of 2003 that I finally lived by myself. It didn't last long. It was a crappy area near MIT, and my tires got slashed twice in two weeks. That put me back about $500.00. I hated it.

I am embarrassed to say that I really haven't lived alone since then until now. And the timing couldn't have worked out better, because I HAVE to be left alone when I throw up, and yesterday morning, at 5 AM, I woke up with the stomach flu. The first 4-5 hours were spent on the floor of the bathroom, and every time I changed positions, I got sick. Every time I stood up, this also induced vomiting. I was held captive to the porcelain bowl - a horizontal woman.

I don't know why I have to be by myself when I am sick, but I have always been that way. I remember kicking my family out of the room when I was a teenager, telling them, "I am nauseous, and I need you to leave." They graciously obeyed my request.

A few months ago, my friend was deathly ill, and when I came by to check on them, I stayed as far away from them as possible. Later on, they asked me why I didn't help them, as they grasped on to the toilet. "What did you want me to do?" I asked. "You could have stroked my back, or something," they replied. "Really?" I thought. I explained that I need my solitude when feeling this ill. I just assumed they wanted the same. Weird. So some people want an audience during this feeling of awfulness?

In the past, nobody would have even known I was sick. There would have been no reason for anyone to find out. Living by myself, here in Madison, I had one major problem- since I couldn't really get up without getting sick, I couldn't take my dog out. So, before I knew it, I had about 5 offers from 5 different people, asking if they could help. I am not used to this. It just goes to show how good people are. My phone was beeping all day long. It was nice to know that after living here only three months, I knew I could get help if I needed it.

There is a real sense of "having everything at your fingertips" here. I feel really close to everything in Madison. I don't think any one thing or person is more than four miles away from me. And by thing, I mean bars/restaurants/stores/museums/concert venus etc. It is reassuring to know that.

I don't wish this stomach thing upon my worst enemy. I hope you all stay healthy. And remember, if you ever need anything while you are hugging the porcelain gods, I will be there, but if you want me to rub your back, you better communicate that, otherwise, I will stay as far away from you as possible.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Cleveland, I Love Thee!

OK people - Cleveland isn't so bad. I promise to never say negative things about it again. I dedicate this entry to the highlights of the city that I have enjoyed, through the years. My Cleveland.

Before I do this. I want you to know that I take full responsibility for the choices I have made. When I woke up on a Thursday in April of 2004, and decided to leave Boston, that was my decision, and I chose to go back to Cleveland. I do not blame anyone for the path I have taken, except myself.

Cleveland felt very calm when I came back from Boston. I could finally look people in the eye again. Clevelanders are generally friendly and outgoing. In fact, I recall going to a movie once, and sitting next to a mother/daughter, and getting to know them before the movie started. There are plenty of cities where you just don't do that. A lot of people are welcoming and you can make friends pretty easily there.

My favorite thing about Cleveland is the lack of traffic. There is never any planning that needs to take place before you get groceries or leave work. No sitting at a bar for one drink, until 7:30, to wait until the cars clear the highway. It makes life so much easier. I used to say that when I sat in traffic for forty five minutes, each way, I lost an hour and a half of my life that I will never get back. This is the truth. You won't be wasting away your life driving around my old town.

The other wonderful feature of this city is that it is so reasonable. As a real estate agent, I would tell out of towners that you could probably buy your "dream home," (depending on what your taste is...) for under $400K. How many other places can you do that? Even though the housing market is what it is, Cleveland has always had reasonable housing. My New York side of the fam can't get over the prices there.

I always utilized the Metroparks system, taking my dog there for a hike in the fall, winter, spring, and summer, and have also enjoyed many Saturday morning runs along the Chagrin River. In the fall, driving along Chagrin River Road was one of my favorite rides. It's simply gorgeous. The Metroparks exist throughout the entire city of Cleveland, and there are so many things you can do there. Besides running and hiking, I have cross country skied, sledded, read, waded in the river, and watched teenagers partake in illegal activities....

Believe it or not, Cleveland does have a fair amount of culture. I always made an effort to see the traveling exhibits at the art museum. This art museum is better than a lot that I have been to. They get some really famous exhibits. Most recently, I saw the "Arms and Armour" show. I learned all about jousting and the history of knights - something I missed out in in elementary school.... (I probably wasn't paying attention).

I am not much of a horticulturist, and I have a HORRIBLE green thumb, but walking through the Botanical Garden is pleasurable. Just this past year, I went there probably three times. If nothing else, it makes me appreciate flowers, and plants, and I can actually label some plants when I see them now, which I never cared about before.

I could go on about the culture I have experienced. I am not going to lie and say I have been to every museum, but come to think of it, I have. I even went to the History Museum when I had the day off. The Science Museum has a great Omnimax. I still want to see "Everest." The last film I saw there was about cave diving. Of course, there is the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Did you know the rumor is that "We Built this City" is about putting the Hall of Fame in Cleveland?

There really is plenty to do in Cleveland, and it has its' perks. Check out Little Italy, or Slavic Village, go shopping at the Farmer's Market in Shaker Square, or drive about 40 miles outside of the city, and visit Amish Country. Make a little day trip out of it, while gas prices are descending, thanks to the financial crisis. Supply and demand, man.

Cleveland, I really do love ya!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Time to Live

To me, the difference between Cleveland and Madison is pretty drastic. Now you have to understand that I grew up on the East side of Cleveland, and the West side of the city is also very different. Keep in mind that when I refer to Cleveland, I am referring to the East side, not the West.

As I have mentioned before, one of things that drew me to Madison was the appreciation that people here have for the outdoors. It still blows me away that after 14 years of running on and off, a lot of it in Cleveland, Ohio, I hardly ever saw any other people exercising outside. Maybe it was my route, who knows? But more so, I always observed that the Clevelanders I knew do/did not care about exposing themselves to nature.

Yesterday, I went to a restaurant for brunch. As I got near the place, I saw a Lexus SUV (remember, SUVs are not very popular here), with an Ohio plate. Big surprise. As soon as I spotted it, I surveyed the restaurant for a "Cleveland looking" person, and I found her immediately. She had colored blond hair, she was wearing all black, she was probably 55 or so, and I am sure a UW mom. She looked like she was in pain. You know that look I am talking about? She just looked mean. Like everything that could go wrong was going wrong in her day.

I happened to eat at this same place for lunch a few days before, and the restaurant filled up with smoke. Nobody seemed to care. Everyone continued their conversations. The Madison locals all appeared to be happy with their little liberal lives. As I made this observation, I said to my friend, "If this was Cleveland, people would be complaining, if not leaving right now." And trust me, upon exiting, they would exclaim, "I am never coming back here again!" But, oh no, not these Madison folks. Life is good for us.

I am going back to the Cleveland looking woman, who was probably connected to the Lexus SUV. The place was jam packed, and she was sitting outside (shocking, because most Clevelanders like to stay indoors all year round and hibernate). There was a line out the door, and I saw her continue to come into the restaurant, pushing her way through the line about a half a dozen times. And then, I figured out what she was doing.... she was complaining! I overheard her approach an employee with a ramekin, and she said, "The leaves are going crazy outside, and they keep on blowing in here! I don't want this any more!" She then handed the ramekin to the employee, and the worker looked pretty confused. It appeared that she had never heard such a complaint in her life. I was uncomfortable witnessing it. How can you sit outside and be disgusted with the leaves? Talk about shallow.

And so, I must say, I certainly do not miss these kinds of superficial people, who do not appreciate the beauty of what God, or Mother Nature, or whoever, has given us. This is my favorite time of year, and I am sucking up every minute of outside time that I can get.

A little advice for you, if you are anything like "Cleveland Lady," Life is too short to get upset about bad service or leaves blowing in your ramekins. You will find that there are more serious problems to face, such as your money getting stuck in an account where the bank has gone out of business, or watching your loved one lose all their hair during chemotherapy. It is important to appreciate everything you have, and that includes the trees turning colors, or a butterfly landing on a plant (as I observed while running the other day). Take in these moments. You never know what will happen tomorrow.

Monday, October 6, 2008

For the Love of Running

After fourteen years, I have finally found myself looking forward to running. Now that I live down town, I have this fantastic running route. For the first time since I started running, I have lost myself in it. Ironically, my first run ever was in Madison in 1994. My friend and I were visiting, and she knew how to jog, so I went with her. I had no idea I could do it. We just kept on going. I believe anyone can run, but you have to enjoy it. I have never enjoyed it. Not until now. For someone who doesn't have an addictive personality (ok, stop laughing, maybe I do), I am addicted to running, but strangely, have always dreaded it.

People have occasionally asked me how I can make myself do it. Once you get into it, if you don't do it, it's a bad day. You feel guilty. Who wants to feel guilty? In 2003, while living in Boston, I decided to train for a marathon. A marathon is 26.2 miles. That is just what it is. I can tell you the whole history of the marathon, if you want to know. There is also a fantastic movie called, "The Spirit of the Marathon," which documents some amateur and some professionals training for the Chicago marathon.

When I reflect on my run in the marathon, I get very emotional. I didn't then, but I do now. In 2007, my sister ran the New York marathon. I flew in to watch her. As I got off the subway, and entered the street, searching for my sister, tears streamed down my face. It was a beautiful moment, all of these people who all experienced the same grueling training, pushing their bodies to do things God did not intend to put us on this planet for. I completely connected with, and understood their feelings. It was also beautiful because there are few times I have ever been surrounded by so many people, in a large city, who have all come together for a joyous event, in a city that was terrorized. I cried a lot that day. I felt for the runners, and I think it was the first time that I ever realized what I had accomplished four years earlier.

When watching the "Spirit of the Marathon," I had the same reaction. I cried and cried. I brought tissues, (which I used, unlike when I saw that awful "Nights in Rodanthe" crap). Some of the people documented said things I could really relate to. These were my top 5 favorite questions, when I was training/post race:
1. Are you running it on Saturday and Sunday?
Yeah you moron, most people try to do 26.2 every day, you didn't know?
2. Oh, a marathon! What is that, 5 miles?
Do you never read or pay attention to the media?
3. Oh a marathon! What is that, 10 miles?
(see above)
4. Are you going to try to win?
Yes, most first timers beat out the African sponsored elite runners, you didn't know that?
5. What time are you going to be done? I am going to be in town that day and I thought we could meet for lunch? (This was my favorite one)
Oh, you know, this is my first marathon, so I am sure I will be in tip top shape to have lunch with you! How about offering to come watch me, you ding dong!

I could literally not put any weight on my foot after I ran it. Absolutely none. I had to elevate it and ice it, and my knee was all messed up, too. In fact, three weeks before I ran it, I had a sprain, and was told to stop running, if I ever wanted to run in this marathon. Do people really think that after running close to 30 miles, (if they even know how many miles it is,), for the first time, beating out the elite, that I am going to be out and about, wanting to meet up for lunch?

Again, off on a tangent. I get emotional about it. Since I have started my new route, it includes a brief trip through the Capitol Square, then along the lake, then along a bike trail, and finally, through campus. If you want to know this route, let me know, and I will show it to you. After fourteen years of running off and on, I have finally found myself looking forward to this time of introspection.

Going through down town, you can people watch, and admire the Capitol. Once along the water, what's not to love? The bike path always features all sorts of fitness lovers/anti-car people. And my favorite part - the campus. I get to see what is in style, and reminisce about my college days, that I am so reliving right now. I love to see what the girls are up to. I also note kids doing the walk of shame, smoking in their pajamas on the couches of their porches, text messaging, and my favorite: the sorority girls who try to look "bad" but "good." These are the girls who wear really tight sweats, Northface jackets and UGGS. Everything is trendy, but they pretend they are in their sweats. They have heavy eyeliner on, but their hair is pulled back. It's a combo of sweats/designer crap. Should I be wearing that when I am hungover? (By the way, I decided to get rid of my gray hair, finally!)

This route is great. I lose myself in my thoughts, but make sure to "come back" when I hit the campus. I have never before asked myself, "did I already cross that one road?" until I started running in Madison.

I love it so much, I manage to do it on Saturday mornings, usually after boozing it up on Friday nights. This past weekend, I was out until bar time, managed to have that macaroni and cheese slice of pizza I told you about, then got home at 2:52 AM. Set the alarm for 8:00 AM (I like to get to the farmer's market before 10), and hit the pavement like I was a million bucks.

Again, I have Madison to thank for actually making me love running.

And just a quick note of advice, music is KEY! You must have some type of music to listen to when running. When I increased my running to 6 days a week, over 2 years ago, it was because I got an MP3 player, and I have every motivational song you can think of on there.