Friday, September 28, 2012

The Love Boat Sailed without Me. (Bugger.)

”I find it immensely incomprehensible that I have such beautiful and talented children both of whom are totally charming, who have been given everything we could afford, not to mention time, effort and a fair amount of dedication, and neither of them can find happiness at 33 and 34 when your Father and I had been married for 10 years by the time we were your age.  Is it really so much more difficult these days or are your expectations so much greater now?  It's a puzzle for which I can find no solution.”

This was the email from the Motherland that got the cogs a-turning this week.  The words swam in front of my eyes—no, I wasn’t drunk—and have been grimacing at me like ever-buoyant synchronized swimmers since.  “IS IT REALLY SO MUCH MORE DIFFICULT THESE DAYS OR ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS SO MUCH GREATER?”  It is a puzzle, isn’t it?  Not just a personal one, but I look to my fabulously single, independent, go-getting female friends and we are much in the same boat, rowing as hard as we can against the tide, and still the good ship Happy Union sails further off into the sunset, every month more of our few remaining egg passengers jumping overboard.
Egg Overboard!

It’s not that we don’t want to catch up, climb aboard, be thrust against the rigging and sail away.  We are willing.  We are capable.  So what keeps us anchored in the row boat not the Love Boat?  And have we had enough of this metaphor yet?

Lordy, this whole discussion make me a Milestone Failure!  Is this like when Paediatricians monitor a baby’s progress: the motor skills, the cognitive skills… all that stuff that I have caught strains of when mothering friends hum over their child’s development.  Do I need remedial class to get me up to speed?  Am I… a relationship retard, doomed to never graduate?


I think not.  So, in my defence Mum, here’s my take: 
Greater Opportunities + Risen Expectations x Social Media Misinterpretation + Fear = ...........................................Relationship Fail.

It isn’t 1962 before the contraceptive pill was widely available; or 1968 when the Civil Rights movement gained the vote for African Americans; or the 70's, 80's and 90's where few women could ever dream of earning salaries like their male equals.  Sure, did women have jobs?  Did you have jobs, Ma?  I know you did, I know you worked hard, but the options available to you were limited, weren't they?  Teacher?  Nurse?  Receptionist?  Retail?  Things HAVE CHANGED.  There's Oprah!  

Seriously though, the playing field is evening out and women can be million entrepreneurs too.  I know, I work with largest group of female self-made millionaires in the US.  I think too, there is immense pressure to be self sufficient, to fly the nest, to "make it in the world," to escape the unenviable label "Gold digger."  Was there so much pressure then?  There certainly wasn't Kanye West.

I do know some who rely on parents or partners, but most of the women I know don’t have that luxury, and frankly, I wouldn’t take it if I did.  I feel it is a matter of honour to be able to support oneself, and on the dating market, does a man really want to shackle himself to financial dead weight?  A woman certainly wouldn’t.  In fact, a potential date having a job is an essential criteria for many of women, myself included.  Not to support me, fuck that, but having someone in your boat who doesn’t help row makes being an Olympic team hard frigging work.

So, as career women, we do have other focuses that sometimes—and I know this is hard to believe—do not revolve around a penis.  Now, I do think this can hinder relationships.  Some want to feel needed, but instead feel unnecessary; some are intimidated, instead of impressed; some view it as a competition, and not a team sport; and that is sad.  Come on guys!  

Personally, I love a hard worker.  I believe if a chap puts effort into giving his best at work, he is going to be primed to achieve at all things, and will put effort in with you—of course, this notion can completely backfire if he uses up all his “effort” and saves none for anyone else, but I think of effort as a renewable fuel.  

There are some jobs, of course, that are mutually exclusive to having a relationship, that is a choice.  That is about priorities, and when man or woman excludes a potential partner over work, well he just didn’t care enough to make a change.

I do work bloody hard.  I do have obligations, but if you ask me out, or invite me over, and I want to date you, I will move heaven and earth to be there. 

Opportunities are not just limited to career, either.  The World is that much more accessible now.  We travel, we adventure, we meet people far, far away; all those years parents were busy getting settled down, my generation has spent traveling, working, damaging their liver, possibly picking up a strange tattoo or STD.

And in seeing this bigger picture of the world, in being more connected than ever, our horizons have broadened and expectations have risen.  I don’t think my expectations are unreasonable, but I do know what I won’t put up with.  I have seen and read of relationships of my parents generation and back further, that were certainly not happy marriages, but partners settled and put up with it.  My generation doesn’t have to.  Life is too short.  Unhappy?  Fix it by all means, but if it is unfixable, move the fuck on.  I sound very laissez faire there don’t I, like marriage is something you can dispose of like a lemon of a car?  I don’t wish to.  I think marriage is a wonderful thing.  The Parental Unit have been going strong for 42 years, and *nausea alert* are still each other’s best friend.  Aw.  But there were rough patches.  I remember sitting up in my fleecy pink nightdress listening to them, and I wonder, if divorce hadn’t held such a big stigma then, if it wouldn’t have caused such an almighty, unacceptable family stink, would they still be together?  I know I don’t settle with mediocre, because life is a waste if you wake up every morning next to someone who doesn’t even see you anymore.

Then there is the added naughty little pixie: social media.  Now, I love social media, I do!  For reaching people and maintaining contact, for building a platform, no writer could, or should be without, but can that naughty pixie bite you in the arse?  Oh baby, I have the scars!  Writing a blog, can be an effective way to scuttle trust, intimacy and commit relationship suicide.  I have perfected the impossible: serial suicide!  

Blogging has also helped to identify those who really support me and those who don’t give a shit.  When someone I am dating, but might not be on a sure-footing with, comments about my blog, it is such a wonderful feeling to know that he has taken the time to actually read what I think!  Maybe he's just scanned it to see if I have mentioned him again.  I don’t care!  He’s read it!  Or bits of it.  And I could just kiss his face off!  When he doesn’t read that’s a sure-fire sign, he doesn’t want me enough.

Texting has got me into an unnecessary black hole of miscommunication.  How can it be that a service that is designed to help one communicate, only seeks to royally misfire when it is in my hands?  A cell phone in my hand is a bit like a grenade. 

In my mind, Texting Eleanor is hilarious!  She is witty!  She can be ambiguous!  She can be sexy!  She can, with just a little diminuitive on his part, unravel her heart and surprise herself for doing it.

What I have been told by recipients: Texting Eleanor is cold!  She is disinterested!  She will die alone with a collection of ferrets, scary porcelain dolls and a drawer full of battery-operated appliances!

HOW CAN THIS GAPING CREVASSE OF MISINTERPRETATION OCCUR?  I had to chuckle when a friend, with whom I had a brief dalliance, posted this on FB. 

Had it not been for gross misintrepretion of text silence, and general assumption of disinterest, we might have rowed together for a lot longer than we did.

For all the “time, effort and fair amount of dedication” that my wonderful mum put in to training me into a socially acceptable individual, she did teach me to keep my heart guarded, and you know what, sorry Mum, but I think this has only succeeded in confusing and infuriating.  

From an evolutionary angle, if a male is surrounded by females and he has to work hard for the attention of one, versus those who don’t “play hard to get,” it’s not worth his time to convert one when he could be having relations and furthering his genes with the others.

The Southern Carrie Bradshaw, Mandy Hale, The Single Woman, said, in an interview to this week,  "I think men really are as simple as they proclaim to be and women want to make them more complicated, because we tend to be more complicated. We tend to be over-thinkers and over-planners, and we always have something deeper going on that we may or may not be willing to share.”  

Maybe we, as women, need to shuck this corset of mystery and just bloody well say what we mean!  I know I don’t ask out right.  I hint and cross my fingers that he will pick up on a cue, because it's more romantic.  But, Oh dear God burn my macaroons and fill my shoes with puppy poo, he may NEVER get it!  I may die old and alone, and out of batteries, because I am waiting for him to interpret my subtext.  So, Mother, I am going to start asking for what I want.

For some, learning to ask and diving in, can get easier with age—I hope so for me; for some it gets more difficult, due to age-related FEAR.   Let’s face it, at 30+ we’ve heard the horror stories: the so-and-so or whoever being raked over the divorce court coals; the spouse who turns into Mr. Hyde; the philanders, the cheats, the home-wreckers, the traitors, the pool boys … all these ghouls described with relish around the bar, or café, or camp fire, to inspire caution and fear.  But it’s a Catch 22 isn’t it?  At a time when you really biologically need to be giving it all, pulling those oars with all the strength you can muster to track down that ship on the horizon, you stop rowing.  Because wouldn’t it be awful if you tried and failed?  Wouldn’t it be tragic if you didn’t catch up with the boat and everyone saw you miss it?  Fear is paralyzing.  It's better to look cool, right?

Wrong!  I am casting aside fear *wipes hands* *throws over shoulder.* I'm blocking my ears to the horror stories *la la la, I can't hear you* and I’m making my own story.  And there will be great career advances, adventures and, I am sure, miscommunications in between.  However, if I can try to be direct, forget the fear, and just keep my eyes wide, my heart open, my intentions honest and efforts renewable, maybe my little row boat will eventually catch up.  And when it does, maybe it won't be such a puzzle, maybe every piece will fall into place, exactly as it should.


  1. Eleanor--I loved every moment of this! Remind me to tell you the "pants in the bed" story! Rest assured that for every moment you've spent reflecting on the aforemention, there is a girl who settled, living vicariously through someone like you. My opinion...come to Texas!!

    #southinyourmouth (Figuratively!!)


  2. Soooo funny! xo Have a great weekend and don't burn and crumpets OR macaroons for that matter!