A Word About Dick Pics

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Ahhhh, The Dick Pic. A relatively new tool (ahem) in the single (?) man’s arsenal of … um…courtship strategy.  Or an opportunity for perverts to cast a wider net. Or a novel approach for the exhibitionist. Whatever, but The Dick Pic has become a thing. (ahem)

For those of you who aren’t in the know, i.e. haven’t been in the dating world for the last 10 or so years, you may be wondering, “Why would anyone want to send, or receive, a pic of a dick?”

It’s a fair question.  And I’m not sure I can answer it. But, let me give it my best shot. (…ahem.)

First of all, for those of you who have not dated in the last ten years, do I need to tell you dating has changed? Like – a lot. Texting, Facebook, Snap Chat, Match.com, OkCupid, Tinder., Bumble – these things have changed the landscape completely. So when I dipped a toe in the pool six years ago, I couldn’t have known what to expect. I ventured into the world of online dating and I kept it a secret. There was a stigma attached to meeting someone online. It was the equivalent to taking out a personals add in the 90s.

But smart phones and technology put online dating on the Fast Track. The inter-webs have virtually transformed the way we seek and find relationships. There are so many dating apps and websites, the stigma has all but disappeared. “Where’d you meet him?” On Tinder. On Match. Eharmony. OkCupid. Bumble. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are over 7,000 dating sites online, and of the 54 million single people in the US, about 49 million have tried online dating at some point. It’s a massive industry with annual revenue in the billions. (for more amazing online dating statistics, go here)

And not only that, but 17% of marriages in the last year started online, and one-fifth of committed relationships also began online.

So, where do the dick pics fit in? I don’t know why, but some men seem to find it exciting to “show the goods”. Is it a form of harassment? Absolutely. Are these men exhibitionists? Perverts? Predators? Maybe. Hard to say.

I just wonder, do they really think, “Hey, I know! A dick pic will win her over! Wait’ll she sees THIS!”

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SPOILER: Not. Won. Over.

I still remember the first Dick Pic I received. I’d been emailing a man from Plenty of Fish. He was nice and seemed interesting, and we decided we’d meet for dinner. We moved off the site and started texting. Here’s what I recall:

Him: Where shall we meet?

Me: How about (Local Restaurant with amazing flatbread)?

Him: *dick pic*

Me: stunned emoji face

Him: Sure, that sounds great. 7:00?

Me: You just sent me a pic of your dick. Did you mean to do that? 

Him: I just thought you’d like to see what you’re getting.

Me: AT DINNER?

Him: …

Me: I think I’ll pass. I’m afraid I’ll reach out to shake your hand, and…

This wasn’t a so-called hook-up site where we’d began chatting. There hadn’t been any flirting or any reason to think I’d somehow signaled him to send a pic of the goods. It was 100% unsolicited. It was the first – but not the last – dick pic I’ve received over the last six years. There has even been a dick video over skype. That was…neat.

If you do a quick google search of “Dick Pic” you will find a whole culture appears to have popped up around the phenomena. (Okay, I did that one on purpose…) There are sites JUST FOR DICK PICS. It has its own hashtag! #dickpic is a thing! There are Tumblr accounts, Twitter accounts – even a “Critique My Dick Pic” page (I am not including that link. You’re on your own, there). You can find How-To advice (How to Take A Dick Pic That Actually Looks Good), Cautionary Tales (click here), and an app that apparently lets you locate the men sending them, ostensibly to put an end to the unsolicited variety.

A word here about “sexting” vs. #dickpic. There is a difference between consenting adults sending one another sexy texts, which may or may not include pictures or videos, and the kind of dick pic I bring up here. Couples at any stage of dating, courtship, or even commitment may find that technology can enhance their sex life and you’ll get no judgment from me.

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For the most part, I’ve handled (I just can’t stop with the puns) the dick pics I’ve received and carried on, not feeling particularly threatened or even assaulted. Over time, it got the point that it wasn’t even surprising. I usually just delete the offender. Or I might say, “Oh, sorry, you sent  a pic but I can’t quite make it out.” Let them worry about what I mean.

But I have to imagine that many women are deeply offended and even traumatized by receiving such a pic. For anyone with sexual abuse or assault in her past this could be a trigger. Not that any of us want that dick pic. But sending out random dick pics for shock value is not just ballsy, it’s an odious use of technology. But I suppose that’s the point for some of these offenders.

And you don’t need to tell me that #dickpic is part of the #metoo conversation. But that’s another post.

So, the moral of the story? If you’re a woman and you’re dating for the first time in a while, you’re probably going to get a dick pic at some point. Or, maybe not. Maybe by the time you read this, the #dickpic will be passe.

I won’t be sorry to see it go.

And if you’re a man reading this here’s the message: if you’re wondering if a dick pic is a good idea? Let me help you out. No. No. No. Never. No. Thank you. But, no.

 

 

 

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Destination Unknown

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Just returning from Writers Conference, and I’m simultaneously coming down from the high and nursing the exhaustion that accompanies these types events. This was my fourth- and easily most valuable – conference. Every year, I gain some nugget of wisdom that rejuvenates me, rekindles my inspiration, reminds me why I love this particular brand of creativity. And this year, I left feeling utterly hopeful.

I always say tutoring pays the bills but writing feeds my soul. It’s true. Although I find my day job immensely rewarding, it’s the writing that sets me free. This has been more and more true over the last 6 years as my life has taken a number of turns. When my children were little, I found it tricky to carve out time for creativity. But as they grew and my marriage fell apart, I (happily) embarked on a new path. The call to create never left me. It waited, patiently, for me to be ready. 

As I build my tribe and learn more about this process, the take-away for me this year is this: the destination is unknown and it’s not even the point. No one sits down knowing how to write a best-seller (except maybe Jonathan Maberry). If you’re only looking at that as your endgame, you’re missing the point. I don’t sit down and write every day because I think I’m creating the next Harry Potter. Or that my brilliant prose will surely and certainly be noticed and hailed by Oprah. (Okay. I’m lying. I might fantasize about that a little bit…)

I write because I love it. I love creating. I love the challenge. I love that it’s not easy, that it’s fun, that I can make something original and tell the story that’s unique to me. And maybe some people will think, hey, that’s cool. And maybe no one will, but the point is I enjoyed the process.

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So much of what I’m learning about writing and my creative process I can apply to life in general. We humans can be a little “Once I get (fill in the blank), I’ll finally be happy.” Or, “If I only (lost ten pounds, had a million dollars, made partner, had a cute boyfriend, got married, wrote that bestseller, lived in Italy…) life would be complete.”

Right?

Dear Reader, you don’t have to admit it to me, but do you have a fill in the blank? A thing you’re thinking will solve all your problems if and when you finally get it?

Between the wish and the thing, are you enjoying the life you’re living?

I listened to a podcast a few weeks ago that asked this very thing. I’m nodding along…yeah, that makes sense, and yeah, I do a pretty good job of enjoying life without having everything I want. But then, he specifically used dating as an example. And I’m all “screeeeeeech”.

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Hmmmm. Dating. Dating? I have to LIKE dating? Because this is a process I can’t say I love. Especially: online. Sure, there are aspects of it that are fun. And I have met some great people – two of my best friends in the world actually grew out of online connections. But, mostly, I find online dating a chore.

So I struggled with this one. And it kept nagging at me. To be clear, I don’t think “finding the one” will be the answer to all my prayers. I don’t need someone to complete me or fix me or make all my dreams come true. But, I simply don’t enjoy dating.

But wait. Who says the process of being single is exclusively about dating? And which parts of the process do I actually like?

I love that there is something to look forward to. That I don’t know what’s coming, but I’m excited. Almost like waiting for Christmas! I like that it could happen any time, and won’t that be a lovely surprise? I like that my plans are my own. I can decide to go out, or I can decide to stay home. I can stay up late, or go to bed early. I can sleep-in, or get up early (usually I sleep in…) I can watch TV, or not. I can decide I’m gonna run in the morning, and then decide to roll over and turn off the alarm. I can plan a trip to wherever I want to go. I can go out with my friends as much as I want. (Well, not really, cause I have kids, but still). I can sleep diagonally in my bed. I can pick the restaurant, the movie, the concert, the whatever. I can eat hummus even though that sometimes – okay, always – results in some unpleasant after effects. I can watch Friends more than any human probably should, but I can do it and no one can complain (except my kids, but this is Mama’s House).

You get the point. I’m getting a lot out of my journey and I can and will continue enjoying all of this, partner or not. (Okay, maybe I shouldn’t watch Friends so much, and maybe I won’t always get to pick where we go. I’m not unreasonable. And maybe no hummus because that’s embarrassing. But most of the stuff stays.)

Well, would you look at that?  In my quest to learn more about writing, I learn about life. And that’s kind of cool.

Between the wish and the thing, life lies waiting. Destination unknown.

 

 

 

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Right Where I’m Supposed to Be

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Things have been a little rough for my girl lately. She’s 13 and as if that wasn’t bad enough, she’s been having a hard time with someone very important in her life. I’ve watched her struggle for a year or more with how to deal with it. I’ve listened to her express sadness, anger, frustration, confusion, and hope. I’ve seen the result of her efforts backfire, and I’ve witnessed her making hard choices.

Because it’s a situation in which I can’t totally intervene, I’ve tried to give her the tools to deal with it. I’ve suggested ways to approach the problem, encouraged her to set boundaries and ask for what she wants. I tried to offer ways she might handle the potential reaction of the individual.

But neither of us expected the response she got. And then I watched my little girl cry, heartbroken that someone she adores appeared to be turning his back on her.

What an age to learn that lesson. To learn that the people we love are sometimes incapable of loving us back in the way we need. To learn that someone you thought you could count on can’t actually be counted on.  To learn that expectations are a heartbreaking thing to have.

It’s painful to watch your child learn life’s hard lessons, isn’t it? But I gotta say, I am incredibly proud of my girl and how she handled herself. She expressed herself articulately, she asked for what she needed, and she offered a possible solution to the problem. She avoided speaking in absolutes, and she tried to “meet halfway”, asking for a little time to work things out, together.  And I’m sorry to say that the recipient’s response was no where on the scale of empathetic or compassionate, leaving little room for a productive conversation.

My girl has persevered, with lots of talking and encouragement, because I believe this relationship should be saved if at all possible. I don’t want her to look back and regret a rash decision – but she’s been done about 100 times.

I have to admit that one of my fatal flaws is that I give too many chances, I allow for too much, I keep searching for that good I know is there. I keep hoping that thread I’m holding on to will be enough, and that at any minute, the realization will dawn on the object of my hope ~ and they will see! At last, they will realize and the light will get in and we can have a break through and everything will be okay!

And while in this case I am still holding on to hope for her that things can and will get better…well, sometimes you have to let go of people who don’t have the capacity to love. Or, at least they don’t have the capacity to love you. 

This is someone who does, indeed, love her. But I need my girl to know that this says nothing about her worth, or rather a lack of it. This is just a person who is operating at capacity – he is loving her the way he is able to. It’s her choice now to accept that or not. And that’s a brutal lesson for a thirteen year old, isn’t it.

Recently, and directly related to this situation, I made the decision to let go of someone who once mattered very much to me. In fact this woman was very important to me and I loved her a lot.  But the simplest way to say why I let her go is that she didn’t have room for me  in her heart, and that was no longer okay with me. I will always be appreciative for the relationship we once had – or that I thought we had – but our time is done. And that’s okay. When it’s time to let go and you do, it’s an incredible gift to yourself.

Wisdom comes from experience, and when you allow yourself to learn from your past, you get a lot better at walking away from things no longer meant for you. I’ve never been terribly good at this. I sometimes SUCK at it. But the past two years have given me lots of opportunity for practice – and realizing I can actually disengage from toxic people rather than continue to place myself in their path has been freeing. Kind of like this:

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I don’t know how my daughter is so wise without the benefit of experience.  Then again, plenty of people have a lifetime of experience, yet no wisdom. There have been big lessons for our little family of three in all this, and I am learning as much from them as they are from me. What I do know is that I’m not worried about my kids and who they are becoming. I’m proud of them, I respect them, I believe in them and I trust them to trust themselves.

What I also know is that I am right where I am supposed to be.

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Polly + Ben

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He’d fallen asleep in the recliner again.

It had become his custom since he’d moved the ugly brown chair that Polly hated from his den into the bedroom to be closer to her. He hadn’t slept next to her in months. Not since the night she had woken, shrieking and terrified at his presence; the night he’d become a stranger.

He now had to sneak in about an hour after giving her the sleeping medication. He would curl up in the recliner and watch her for a while, reflecting on their decade together, letting the comforting memories wash over him and ease him to sleep. Ten years had not been nearly enough.

Each morning, he would awaken early – well before she – and slip silently from the room. He would make his way to his den to work for a few hours before hearing the sounds of her stirring, but he’d wait for her to call to him. “Curtis, I’m up. Are you there?” she would call.

Ben had no idea who Curtis was, but he had long ago given up trying to figure it out, or trying to convince her he wasn’t Curtis. It had driven him crazy for a while, but no one – not her parents, not her brother, not even her best friend – could recall a Curtis from her past. Most likely Curtis was a character from one of her novels, and Ben had to satisfy himself with that explanation.

Ben would help Polly comb her hair and get dressed. Then he would help her get settled in one of the three spots she liked to spend her day. If she wasn’t tucked into the tiny breakfast nook in their kitchen, you could find her in her favorite chair in the living room, writing furiously in one of her notebooks. And, if the weather was nice, she liked to be on the back porch overlooking the garden. Always, she had notebooks and pens, and always, she wrote and wrote and wrote.

When she spoke, it was of a past that no one else was a part of. She didn’t recall her childhood or her parents. She didn’t talk about memories from when her children were little. She didn’t recall her first marriage, her divorce, or her years as a single mom. And she didn’t speak of meeting Ben. She spoke instead, it seemed, of the lives of her characters; the lives of the women she had created in her books. Their stories had become hers, embroidered into the fabric of her memory. She recalled these memories as fondly as if she were recalling her own.

Ben wanted so much to hear her recall the night they met, to talk about their courtship and how they’d fallen in love – “like long time lovers on short notice”, as she used to say. He wanted to hear her talk about the night she knew she was falling for him. It was the story she had most loved to tell, the one that she would have told until she was an old woman; the story that in its umpteenth retelling would have someday had their kids rolling their eyes.

Polly had delighted in recounting how she had emphatically decided she would NOT go out with Ben. They had dated the previous fall and while it hadn’t ended badly, when he came sniffing around again in spring, she had been resolute – smug, even.

“I really believed there was no way he was getting another chance with me – and then he asked, and he barely had the words out before I was saying yes!” Polly would laugh, shaking her head. “I kept thinking it would fizzle out or that he’d let me down, but he just kept coming around. Then we had the night, where we stayed up talking and laughing til like 3 in the morning. And that was when I knew he had won my heart…”  She always said this mawkishly, turning her head sideways and blinking her big green eyes at Ben. Of course Ben knew she really meant it. To Ben, Polly was the perfect mixture of sexy, sassy, and sappy, and he adored her for it.

Polly and Ben had found refuge in one another, slowly letting go of the ghosts of relationships past as they learned to trust and be trusted, maybe for the first time. Polly had been Ben’s second chance at happiness. He had fallen slowly but completely, and no one had ever loved him as well as this woman had. She’d been his partner in every sense, and their love had been fun, and silly, and crazy in all the right ways. He ached to have her back even for a moment. Just to tell her and have her understand how much he loved her, still.

Sitting across from her now as she sipped her tea, he resisted the urge to reach out and brush her hair out of her eyes. Just then she looked up at him. “Curtis, can you bring me my notebook?”

“Sure, Buttercup,” he replied. And suddenly, she was there. A glimmer of his Polly flashed in her eyes at the sound of his pet name for her. He watched her face relax. She tilted her head towards him, a small smile on her lips. Then, just as quickly, her eyes clouded with confusion and the furrow returned between her brows. She lowered her gaze and fidgeted with her toast. These moments of lucidity never lasted long, but oh, how he craved them.

As Polly picked up her pen and began writing – page after page of nonsensical prose – Ben retreated to the den. He crossed the room to the bookshelf that held the photos and albums Polly had treasured, tiny glimpses of their life together, a chronicle of their journey. He looked at his favorite photo – one from early in their courtship. They sat side by side on the beach, a bonfire blazing in the foreground. Polly, bundled in a puffy jacket and beanie, was leaning towards Ben and smiling radiantly at the camera while Ben’s gaze was focused on her.

As he studied the photo, smiling at the memory of that night, he heard the door. He turned and Polly was there. She was watching him, smiling.
“Whatcha looking at?” she asked.
“Us,” he replied.
“Let me see,” she said as she came to stand beside him.
“Oh, this is one of my favorites,” she said, taking the bonfire picture from the shelf. “Remember that night? We were trying to act like we weren’t sweet on each other. I don’t think we fooled anyone.”

Ben, grasping at the moment said, “No, it’s all over my face how much I loved you, Buttercup. I still do. I always will.”

Polly turned to look at him, her eyes shining. She took his face in her hands and kissed him. “You know, you’ve always felt like home to me. Always. I’m so glad you asked, Ben. And I’m so glad I said yes.”

As she turned to go, Ben held on to her hand and said hopefully, “Polly?”

But the moment was gone. She had already drifted away.

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Hope Is The Thing…

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I’m a romantic. I cry at the slightest sentimental gesture. I cry when I read Nicholas Sparks books. Those sappy, formulaic, manipulative damn stories make me weeeeeep.  And I believe, really believe that there is love like that in this world. Can you blame me? My parents have been married 50 years, and yep, they’re still happy.

To make things worse, I feel like love is mystical. Magical. I look for signs, check my gut for a sense of “knowing” – and often I’m right. Often enough to make me really wrong sometimes, if that makes sense.

I am not a woman who falls easily. Actually, strike that. I am not a woman who easily finds someone for whom I am willing to fall.  In other words, someone has to be pretty special for me to give up what I’ve got going on my own.

But….but…when I find someone I like…

Well. Then I fall. And it should be noted that I have NO GAME. I put all my cards out on the table when I’m excited about someone. I am realizing this is maybe a fatal flaw, but I don’t think I know how else to be. If I like you, you know it. There isn’t any bullshit here. Period.

Recently, I met someone I liked. And he liked me back. We were sorta crazy about each other. And sorta fast. And, as mentioned, I have no game. As I also mentioned,  this doesn’t happen often for me. In the last six years, I can count on ONE HAND the number of men who piqued my interest. But this guy – I got really, really excited about this guy. There seemed to be a level of connection that I haven’t experienced in a while. This kind of connection is rare, indeed.

SPOILER ALERT: It burned up almost as quickly as it began. So, what’s my point in telling you this?

I supposed I am calling myself out a little. The truth is, when I fall, I fall HARD. And I fall FAST. And maybe that’s why I am starting to feel jaded. Maybe even slightly hopeless.

My dear, dear, dear friend, Johnny, pointed out to me that there seems to be this paradox in me. I am genuinely good on my own, happy to stay single until I meet the right fit. Yet, I also really, really want to find that right fit. I tend to “know” instantly if I’m into someone (and know equally instantly when I am not), and because of that, I can take it to be some sort of magical, romantical intervention when I connect on a deeper level with someone. I’m all BEHOLD! AT LAST! HE HAS ARRIVED! You guys, I’m too willing to believe that someone “could be it” just because I like him right away. That’s a problem.

This was hard to admit, but Johnny was right. Of course, officially, I blame Hollywood. And Nicholas Sparks. And my parents. But that doesn’t change the fact that I allowed myself to get a little carried away in this case. Is it possible that I might have run this guy off with my…let’s call it “enthusiasm”, shall we? It takes two to tango and he was right there with me for a bit… but, in the interest of personal growth, I guess I’d better consider that I may have come across a little too eager.

But here’s the thing. How do you reconcile what your heart really wants with the cold, hard truth that you may never get it? I’m asking you, Dear Readers, how do you make peace with not getting something you deeply long for? How do you put the deep desire of your heart on the shelf, and be really okay with maybe never getting it? I always say that I am planning as if it will just be me from here on out, but I don’t really mean it when I say it. I mean, I guess I sort of mean it. I just don’t really believe it will be that way.

To be clear, I don’t feel even a little bit incomplete. I love this life I’ve made for myself and my children. I’m happy. And still, this one thing I deeply desire remains elusive – and there are no guarantees that it will ever come to be. But, I don’t know how to be okay with that. I will always want it, even if I’m 82. (and THAT is when you can call me a cougar. Not before then.)

But, isn’t it true that in life there are many things completely out of our control that we have to just accept?  We learn to deal with shit we aren’t happy about and carry on. That’s just life. Right?

I suppose the task is to find a balance between hope and acceptance. I could argue that this is the task for us all, regardless what your heart’s desire is. We have to deal with so much loss and disappointment in this lifetime. It can be hard not to become jaded or hopeless.

I admit, I felt hopeless for about 13 hours this week. How could I get my hopes up about someone I barely knew? Well, because I’m a romantic, and I think romantic love is mystical and magical and I guess I’ll never really stop hoping for it.

See? I’ll be dammed if that little flame didn’t start to flicker and build itself inside me again. F’ing hope. What are we going to do with her?

What would we do without her?

 

 

 

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