Mermaids and Rearranging Furniture

After six months of online dating, here are some of my key findings…

Finding #1: Men in Arizona are a gun-toting bunch. We’re talking arsenals of 15 +  firearms. When I asked several men why so many (a typical California-liberal chick question), I was told that every gun is for a different purpose. One guy, a real sweetheart and a self-described libertarian, insisted the democrats most definitely want to take away his guns. He also wasn’t keen on the COVID-19 vaccine, fearing his DNA would be forever altered.   

Finding #2: We are chemical beings, and also spiritual beings, which may or may not be one and the same, considering the universe is made up of, well, chemicals. And, our brains deliver dopamine (a chemical compound) at seemingly breakneck speed when we’re “attracted” to someone. Attraction is not grounds for healthy romance. It’s a start, but not a “sign.” A better sign, if there is such a thing, (I prefer to call it intuition), might be one’s waking and nighttime dreams. 

To wit: The man who elicits a waking dream of you, a mermaid trying to swim away, but she can’t because she and her gorgeous, blue fin and tail are wrapped tightly in his net. The unseen fisherman (he lives two hours away in the desert) is attempting to haul you into his port or onto his dry-land boat, or whatever.  

Or: the dream you have about another guy after your first phone conversation, suddenly appearing in your studio apartment and rearranging your furniture while you try not to sleep with him on the first date. This dream probably says more about my libido and attempt to manage it early in the dating process, than about the guy.

Finding #3 Long-distance dating isn’t for me.      

I had been told this was a tough road to hoe, by people much wiser than I, but I got to experience it firsthand.  I’d get super-excited about a new person — their laugh, their New York accent (I’m a sucker for people from Buffalo and Long Island), their hot-dude-gym-rat, physique, the wall-to-wall books behind them on FaceTime calls (yes, books are hot).  But then, before even meeting the person in the flesh, and communicating virtually for a couple of weeks (what a frustrating experience), or meeting them once, it became abundantly clear this person wasn’t for me.  

Finding #4: Follow my intuition, even when it’s telling me things I don’t want to hear, like “this situation and person are a repeat performance your x’s.”  I think it’s more a matter of what my body is telling me about whether or not this thing will “work,” and me, listening. And listen, I have.  I’m here to tell you, it’s not always easy.  Because it means practicing patience and trust (not exactly exciting), and entertaining the possibility that a healthy romantic partnership may not be in the cards for me right now.        

I’ve dumped bumble and the site is leaving me alone. refuses to take “no more, thank you,” for an answer.  I’ve turned off my profile, ticked all the boxes to quit sending me alerts, and still, they email and email me with all the amazing possibilities for the perfect match. Their persistence reminds me of the Scientologists I met on the street when I was seventeen, who were still mailing me fliers ten years after I’d decided not to join their cult.  Maybe that’s commitment? I doubt it. Match probably just wants to keep the net ready, so they can haul me in and we can start the dating game all over again.      

Red Flag Dating

My friend Dan compares online dating to driving in the Indy 500. Digital technology speeds up everything. All the likes and ignored messages, the feelings and triggers, and the red, and sometimes green, flags. Dan estimates somewhat facetiously there are 30 red flags, and they may be different for each person. The only way we can recognize these flags is through practice.

Recently, I made a week-long pit stop from match, to catch my breath and consider the red flags so far.

There have been red flags so obvious they’re comical, except they’re not, because we’re talking about another human being with a history and a heart and hopes and strengths and weaknesses, just like me.   

Take the guy who asked during our second conversation, “Want to hear something weird?”

“Sure, I mean, yeah, I guess,” I replied. 

“I sleep on my couch every night.” 

“And why is that?” I asked (curious voice). 

“I like it better than the air mattress in my bedroom even though it has a layer of memory foam on top.”

I pictured him sliding around on that contraption and said, “How interesting.”

Then he told me he falls asleep at night in front of the same World War II movie and he’s looking for a woman who can give him a good polishing.

“Well hopefully you’ve done some of your own polishing,” I said, laughing.

“I guess, I have.”

He also mentioned COVID-19 virus was created in a lab in Wuhan.  

“Actually, that’s a conspiracy theory,” I said.

“It is?”

There was a long pause.  “Well, this has been a lovely chat,” I said.   

I was supposed to meet another guy for coffee after we had two phone conversations. During our first chat, he told me when he’s interested in a woman, he takes down his dating profile. I asked him why.

“Because I don’t want her to think I’m cheating on her.”

His reply struck me as a little odd and a lot premature. Two days before our Saturday coffee date, I get a text: “I’ve deleted my entire profile. Just want to confirm coffee on Sunday.” I was so floored by his announcement, I didn’t notice he was confirming the wrong day. On Saturday, I waited at the café for 18 minutes and thought he’d stood me up. The whole thing just felt, well, wrong. 

Red flags go both ways. I suspect I waved one for the first guy I ever spoke to from match, when I intimated that Tucson is more liberal politically, hence my decision to move here versus more conservative Phoenix. He had just told me he works as an engineer for a defense contractor.Or maybe his red flag was me being a creative type in graduate school who had to take remedial math in college. He never replied to the text I sent the next day telling him I enjoyed our conversation and would be interested in speaking again. I felt rejected for all of an hour. 

In the balance, I’ve seen a few green flags, too. I had several dates with one guy. We went on some walks, had coffee, and visited a farmer’s market. The physical attraction was there right away. He was handsome, fit, a good conversationalist, and eager to spend time with me. However, soon it became apparent he wanted to move a lot faster than I was comfortable with.

Photo by Sunsetoned on

Whenever I graciously said no to a date, he acted understanding yet under the surface, I sensed irritation, as if I wasn’t going along with his agenda. There was also the issue of his recreational drug and alcohol use, which I have no judgement about in theory. Longer term though, a nightly wine drinker would be a problem for me as a clean and sober person.  

After a lot of careful thought and consulting with Dan and a couple of women with a LOT more experience with dating, I thanked the faster-moving gentleman for his company and wished him luck finding a romantic partner. He replied in kind. Communicating this was harder and easier than I thought it would be. I suspect he’d come to the same conclusion. For all I know, my “go slow” may have been one of his red flags.

Was I disappointed this guy didn’t work out, or that this week, the cute rock-climber, gardener who seemed sensational on paper, turned out to be a dud conversationalist? Of course. But I’m relieved, too. A woman needs to get off the track for a few laps and take time to consider the waving flags

Be Home

There is nothing wrong. There is nothing to fix or figure, or render more than what it already is, although mind tells me, tells you, do not rest but rather, run. Do not celebrate, but rather, worry. Mind is diversion, to this, to that. And it does not mean to lie to us; it does not mean for me and you to abandon our love, ourselves. It simply knows struggle far too well to risk letting go.

That is why from time to time, I close my eyes (and why you must, too) and say to God and Life (they are one and the same, you know) not in words but in your own version of surrender to the cacophony and ritual of thoughts, “Take me home.”

All of my life (like you), I have pushed, prodded, and performed in roles no one but me (in the end) assigned. But what if, what if, a cup of tea, a pen, a bird’s call, the rub of breath against empty space, and the gathering day, were enough? What then?

The celebration is this: the sound of your heartbeat in the cavern of everything you think you know, tossed into the fire. Watch all of this burn. Be warm. Be home.

Discerning Likes

My first week on is an awkward, bumpy ride, not unlike junior high school. I get some likes. I like one guy back.  I like two people, without them liking me first. One guy, I message. He’s into fishing, so trying to be funny, I tell him I’ve only been fishing once, many, many years ago. I stood up in the boat, causing my friend’s brand-new fishing pole to fall, irretrievably, to the bottom of a deep and muddy lake. The friend forgave me and now we laugh about it. 

The fisherman on match does not message me back. Maybe he thinks I’m a ditz. Maybe I’m too old. 

In the meantime, another guy messages me. “Hello. How was your weekend?” Not particularly creative, but what the hell. I reply that my weekend was fantastic, raving about the Tucson Botanical Gardens’ Day of the Dead Exhibit. He responds the next day. He likes the butterfly exhibit at the Gardens. I reply, probably too eagerly, and agree, you can’t go wrong with butterflies.  I look at his profile again and discover he lives two hours away, in Phoenix. I hate Phoenix.  I let this one go. 

I make a phone date with a guy from another country. His message to me is kind.  He gives me his phone number and when I call him at the agreed-upon time, he doesn’t answer. I do not leave a message and decide to give him ten minutes to call me back.

His English is so-so and the only word of his language I speak is the capital city of his country, which probably is pronounced differently than I think it is. Still, I agree to go to coffee. He shows up ten minutes late for that.  As he walks towards me, the doubts are mounting that this anything close to a match. He’s tall, which I like, but also at least forty pounds overweight. The flip-flops with the flannel shirt are a strange combination. He sort of looks like he just crawled out of bed, not in a sexy way.

He is looking for a woman “where our thoughts are in harmony.” He asks if I believe in God and how long it’s been since I’ve dated, and looks shocked when I tell him it’s been years.  “Are you conservative?” He doesn’t mean politically conservative. I suspect he thinks I may be a prude. 

Mostly he talks about growing up in his country and coming to the U.S. knowing very little English and no people.  His parents were farmers. They raised ten children; this guy is smack dab in the middle of the pecking order. His dream was always to come to the United States.

There is not one ounce of chemistry between us. 

However, I’m wary of too much shared chemistry, like with David, also the name of my first three boyfriends. This fourth David looks very interesting. His profile says he was raised by a single mom (a smart Southern woman), wolves, and his grandparents. He’s looking for a “sun goddess,” which I’m pretty sure I’m not, even though I love the sun.  There’s also the little red flag of his description himself as a wild ride, which my inner teenager feels quite ready for. 

I message him, something clever about wolves being better at raising their young than humans are.  I tell him I’m less bohemian than he’s looking for but I could be described as having “sixties” sensibilities.  He messages me back right away.  He likes me already (!), based on my profile . A jolt of electricity goes through me, seeing the exclamation point and his phone number. It’s the same feeling I’ve gotten before, when someone isn’t the least bit available emotionally. Ken Page, author of Deeper Dating, calls this an “attraction of deprivation.” But I’m keeping an open mind, and damn, it feels good to be liked so quickly.     

I go back to look at David the Fourth’s profile that night, to read it more closely before I call him in a few days. It’s been taken down. There could be multiple reasons for this but my intuition is screaming, “Don’t call this guy.” 

I listen to that voice now. There are other fish in the vast sea of — a whole lot of them of different stripes and sizes. I’m in no hurry to catch “the right one.” For the time being, it’s all about discernment and practice.    

Mother as Artist in Alice Walker

Alice Walker relies on the feminine, creative energy of “Mother” to paint a striking picture of not only what her characters look like — but how their physical features and personality traits inform the story. A close read of both her fiction and essays reveals this as one of the most moving aspects of her work

In her much-studied short story “Everyday Use,” Mama, Walker’s narrator, describes herself as “large big-boned woman with rough man-working hands,” who “wears flannels nightgowns to bed and overalls during the day… and [who] can kill and clean a hog as mercilessly as a man.”  The reader understands immediately this is a woman of grit, a survivalist, and a matriarch who knows who she is, and is not. In this instance, the woman her daughter Dee wants her to be, “a hundred pounds lighter, my skin like an uncooked barley pancake…” 

Walker’s description of both of Mama’s daughters, through her observant narrator, creates a powerful juxtaposition between them, and establishes the complexity of the two worlds (embodied by Dee’s visit) in collision. We first meet Maggie as the narrator imagines she will appear until Dee leaves: “She will stand hopelessly in corners, homely and ashamed of the burn scars down her arms and legs, eying her sister with a mix of envy and awe.”  This imagining stirs the reader’s curiosity about the fire, as well builds tension around Dee and her visit. 

The comparison of Maggie to a lame animal and the way Maggie carries herself, is a full tableau of Maggie’s physicality — and more importantly, conveys the psychological effects of the fire and the subsequent family dynamic.  Dee has been untouched by this, and during the fire the narrator describes her “standing off under the sweet gum tree… a look of concentration about her…” 

Dee’s visiting-day dress of “yellows and oranges enough to throw back the light of the sun,” recalls the earlier image of Maggie’s dress “falling off of her in little black papery flakes.”  The image of Dee’s hair, “two pigtails that rope about like small lizards,” is somehow primal and sinister, and perhaps evocative of Dee’s motives. 

Walker captures Dee’s boyfriend, whom the narrator has never met, with a few, simple, yet telling details. He is “short, stocky fellow with hair to his navel is all grinning,” suggested a more “cultured” urban life Dee is leading, which the narrator doesn’t trust; and Dee’s attempt to cast off her past, and still grab those parts of it that please her.  

In her essays, Walker is equally skillful. For the lesser figures, it’s as if she snaps a Polaroid or applies the exact, light brush strokes. Her companion Charlotte Hunt in “In Search of Zora Neale Hurston” is “a large pleasant-faced white woman in dark glasses.” Mrs. Patterson is a handsome, red-haired woman in her late forties, wearing orange slacks and gold earrings,” and has “penny-brown” eyes.  We meet Rosalee, “a stocky black-skinned woman in her thirties, wearing a green polo shirt and white jeans cut off at the knee.” As Walker interacts with her, we hear her voice, too: “Rough, pleasant, as if she is a singer who also smokes a lot.”

Walker’s more detailed portraits of Mrs. Moseley and Dr. Benton in this essay serve a dual purpose: Spark our curiosity about Hurston along with Walker’s, as well pay homage to the people in Hurston’s world, before she died.   The image of Mrs. Moseley is one of my favorites.

Initially, Walker uses light brush strokes: A neat lady in a purple dress and white hair, frowning. Mrs. Moseley gets out of the car, and it’s here that the full image unfolds. We are seeing Mrs. Moseley as Walker does in real time: “A thin, sprightly woman with nice, gold-studded false teeth, uppers and lowers.” The use of italics with “straight” and hand on her hip, in addition to the “well-shaped legs,” tell the reader this woman is not your average “old lady.” Rather, she’s a force. 

To describe her own mother, Walker relies primarily on her mother’s garden in In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens. In the one mention of her mother’s character, Walker concedes her she may not even appear as such: “She seemed a large, soft, loving-eyed woman who was rarely impatient…”

For Walker, the garden is mother as artist: “…so brilliant with colors, so original in its design so magnificent with live and creativity…”