Let’s get to the statistics and date-a shall we?
Here’s how it went. After The Leaving, but before the divorce, I didn’t date. Something about my face made it easy to fly under the radar, I made no advances and no one, except maybe that one time… (I saw you, I just wasn’t ready), made a move. No one asked me out, no one but maybe that guy flirted with me. I fought for my marriage. I tried. I analyzed my wrongs and accepted responsibility, but I was only half the equation. I didn’t own what wasn’t mine. I couldn’t ignore his parts. I begged to work on it, fight for it, try for it. But he did not want it… or rather, me. So we began “friendly” divorce proceedings. We retained the same lawyer. It was cheap (or as cheap as ripping apart a family and union that’s supposed to last forever can be), quick (90 days to make “ ‘til death do us part’ the biggest lie I ever told), and easy (or as easy as knowing life would never be the same). We didn’t fight, no alimony, little parenting planning, minimal division of assets.
I grieved. I didn’t want it, but as a recovering addict I knew a prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference...
If even God won’t change the heart of a man against his will, who was I to think I could? It was over. The baby was dead. So, I washed my face and… I started to swim!
Some people are OK being alone. Not me. I’m made for communion, community, companionship. I’m a companionable soul. I want to be in a relationship as soon as possible… as long as it makes sense. Rebound relationships do not make sense, but in listening to my single friends, I learned they kind of seem to be the norm, especially after long-term relationships. I speculate that we’re used to being paired up; we feel “off” being alone and seek to fill the void quickly. I didn’t hear too many rebound relationship success stories so it was important to me to avoid one. I spotted my cairn, one year away, and hiked to it.
I had goals for dating:
1) Have fun! Sew some (pure) wild oats! (If I’m single I might as well have fun, right?!)
2) Avoid rebounding
3) Be open to a relationship if it makes sense
4) Meet good guys
5) Do fun stuff
6) Abstain from sex
7) Did I say have fun?!
I opened my online profile two weeks before I was divorced. I wish I waited but I knew it was going to hurt so, I started talking to guys. It felt good, after months of feeling rejected, abandoned and unwanted, to be interesting and maybe even chosen. I was new, the guys were all over me and most were quite kind, respectful and fun.
Over the year I met several men online, and there they stayed. I’ll include their comments and online behaviors in the analysis, but they were never “real-life.” My best guess is that there were about two dozen online conversations. I can’t be more specific than that.
I can tell you more about the real-lifers…
In one year’s time I went out with thirteen men. There was no sex, no petting, not much of anything... and when this information was fully realized two real-lifers bailed, so props to the good guys who really are willing to meet and hang out with a respectable woman!
Three of the thirteen were disqualified from further dates when they confessed they were separated and not actually divorced.
Nine were met online. Four were from real-life interactions.
Ages ranged from mid-twenties to mid-fifties with a mean age of ~42 years old.
Four were only seen once for either a walk or a cuppa coffee.
Five were privileged with more than a hug but far less than getting lucky … one was a surprise kiss I didn’t see coming that still makes me smile, and I can’t believe you snuck that in yo! ;)
One pushed the boundaries too far and was disqualified... and I still wish we could have an adult conversation about what happened.
One was an addict that ought not have lied to another addict.
All left an impression and I am grateful and flattered for their time, attention and attraction to me.
My favorite dates, not surprisingly, included the outdoors:
Cuddling by a bonfire for a ridiculous number of hours,
Wine, cheese and praise songs under the stars, on a full-moon night, in the snowy mountains of Leavenworth,
Hiking various mountains and trails in Wenatchee, Peshastin and Leavenworth,
Geocaching for the ever illusive Mr. Gadget cache “Oh let me shine upon you 2”
Walking and running on the Loop
Enjoyable inside dates happened too. There were movies, bowling, hockey, live bands, book and Bible readings, food… sooooo much food, and drinks, lots of drinks... coffee and alcohol were the usual but there was that one kombucha time, which scored points for its uniquity! Hands down, my favorite inside date was fooling my friends by picking up a “stranger” at a bar in my red dress… maybe someday they’ll forgive me, and to you sir, that was the best idea EVER!!! I'm so down to do that again, if ever the chance presents itself!
For the most part men were happy to accommodate my tastes and desires but I sure did like it when they took the lead and I just had to figure out how to follow their footwork!
There were so many moments of joy, fun and happiness that I’ll treasure. They were wonderful, fun, smart, kind, gentlemen. It was fun but it was exhausting and usually I was too much… or not enough but nonetheless, I learned a lot and I hope I share what they taught me with utmost respect for these good men that took time with me.
This one is going to be tough, and long. No need to read it, but the words must be written before I present too many more of my thoughts and opinions on dating, relationships, sex and spirituality. Before I can take you through my year of dating, complete with my plan, rules, dates (I mean data presentation) and man-alysis, I need to go back... way back, and get out of the way, a bit of my sexual history in order to explain some of my viewpoints, perspectives and boundaries that I’ve set as I wander in the Middle.
But first a comment to my family and request to any who do read this:
To my family, should you read this please know I in no way mean to dishonor or disrespect any one except the offenders, and even in that I will speak the truth and whatever disrespect or dishonor it garners is because of their actions. This post will include my perspective of the events; the results of my perception have led me to become the woman I am with the beliefs that I have. Should any of you like to speak to the words that follow I absolutely welcome the dialog and will not judge, blame or condemn you for anything that was done or said or not done or said. In the same way I hope that you all can be understanding enough to let me get this out. It is time.
To my readers. Thank you for reading every blog that you have. You never cease to amaze me. I’m not famous by any means but that so many read so often humbles me… That you share your encouragement, stories and thanks with me is a bigger blessing that I know how to handle, thank you. This post, is highly personal. I’ve tried to always request, accept and appreciate constructive criticism and reviews and have swallowed down the nasty criticism like gristle on steak. I do not want to keep anyone from expressing any opinion in public or in private (by all means if you want to post a review good or bad on Catching Tatum please do!) but I would ask for this post to please remember this is my soul I’m sharing. This is not a character, this is not an issue of structure or arc, this is my life, and one of the most sensitive areas of it. If you want to criticize, please be sensitive of that. I welcome and ask for comments and dialog. Let’s talk openly and honestly about sex, the stereotypes, the dogma, the cultural shifts and trends. Let this be a safe place to speak about the issues. Let’s use this as a catalyst to reach into dark places and expose evil but please be gentle if at all possible.
So here we go... What needs to be said is that my parents were divorced. My father had custody and I was raised in a staunch, Pentecostal culture. My mother saw me regularly and lived a wild lifestyle which included drugs and alcohol and questionable acquaintances. One of these acquaintances violently sexually assaulted me before I was five years old. His approach was what society pictures a pedophile to be, angry, evil, threatening; but this is actually an A-typical pedophile MO. Most pedophiles are, “kind,” “love kids,” and are unassuming and groom their victims with trinkets and secrets. I was blessed to always know my predator was evil. I knew he meant to take what he wanted, make me do what he wanted, how he wanted it done because he threatened to kill my little brother if I ever told. The most horrid memory I have of the whole thing is not of the acts themselves but of my baby brother crying and me being desperate to do the act correctly so he could live.
His threat insured that I knew, and have known evil, from the beginning of memory making but, it didn’t keep me from telling. However things happened, I don’t know, but the man was extinguished from my life, the physical injuries healed, the incident under rug swept, the emotional wounds, untreated, remained.
As is typical for a child who is sexually assaulted at a young age, I acted out in sexually inappropriate ways. I was reprimanded frequently for doing “bad things.” There was never a reason why I ought not masturbate in public, other than it was wrong. There was never a reason for wearing panties to bed other than my private parts should be covered up. There was no counseling as far as I’ve ever known or remembered. I imagine that the incident was so emotionally painful and difficult to digest that everyone preferred to pretend it never happened... and so we did.
Later in my childhood/adolescence I was wearing something that might have been considered provocative and a family member took it upon himself to fondle me. I froze. I couldn’t believe it was happening and I didn’t know what to do, so I did nothing. I let it happen. I said something about it later to my brother, and it turned into a HUGE family fight and I ended up recanting what I said to make everyone shut up.
At this time self-harm (a typical expression in children who are sexually abused) as well as drugs and alcohol became a prominent part of my life.
And then… I let it happen again another time! It was the same kind of deal, I was wearing something I probably shouldn’t have been wearing in a place I probably shouldn’t have been wearing it and this same family member did the same thing again and again I froze and again let it happen. I knew the guy liked porn, I knew he spoke crudely of women, including me... and I knew I was wearing the wrong things. So this time I didn’t say anything at all to anyone ever, I just got high.
After that I made sure to avoid that guy as much as humanly possible, to keep myself covered as much as possible and to keep my mouth shut because it just made things worse. I used a lot of drugs and alcohol and self-injury methods to forget about it. My behavior was erratic, but my grades were good and the teachers at my school, especially the second most amazing man I’ve ever known, my guidance counselor, Dr. David McDolald watched out for me. This man, a good man, worked with my family to get me into counseling. It helped. Even though I showed up high on more than one occasion, I’m grateful for the counseling. I learned techniques in those counseling session with Nancy that I still use to this day. I learned to go to a safe place when I’m stressed; for me that was the tree lined banks of the Stillagaumish River. I suppose that was when I truly fell in love with creation.
Then I started acting out sexually. My first chosen sexual experience occurred just after I turned fourteen and by the time I was fifteen I decided I was going to forget the bad guys once and for all. I wanted to erase or replace what they did but I didn’t have a boyfriend and didn’t necessarily want one so, for lack of a better term, I profiled boys at my school and picked a handsome young man who didn’t run in my circle of friends. I took some time to befriend him, I told him what had happened to me and that I’d like to have good sex to replace the bad sex. I was a cute girl, he happily obliged, and he did much to heal a wounded part inside me. I can’t and won’t advocate for sex outside of marriage, and I honestly wish, even with the abuse, I would have understood how sacred my body was, but I didn’t. I was a lost child trying to bandage up a gaping wound. I did what I thought would fix it and I chose a good guy to help. He did right by me. Right or wrong, good or bad, I will ever be grateful to him for showing me a better kind of sex and intimate touch.
Up to this point I’d never used condoms or birth control. I remember “blah, blah, blah” in health class so I didn’t pay attention. I think the Pentecostal upbringing convinced me that I ought not have sex so I kind of ignored the teaching because it didn’t pertain to me. And then I did have sex and… it just happened once, or twice, or ummm yeah... you get the idea. It was likely during this time I contracted HPV (genital warts) and herpes but because I had no out breaks I didn’t know. So, that’s way more information about me than I want anyone really to know, but here’s why I say it... Kids, adults, everyone reading this, if you’re having sex with multiple partners practice safe sex!! Whether it applies to you or not, whether you’ve ever had an outbreak or not, whether you can have kids or not, learn how to use condoms and don’t have sex with multiple partners without them. Gents, you can carry STDs dormant in your body your whole life and pass it on over and over and over again. Cover it up! Ladies, we’re usually more unlucky and tend to see outbreaks with most all STDs more often than men but not always. We live in a socitey with an STD epidemic. We’ve made a vaccine for HPV because upwards of 75% of the reproductive-age population has it. Herpes is super easy to spread and there is no cure and up to 20% of 14-49 year olds have it (actually CDC says this is probably understated due to those who do not show symptoms). This article from 2014 sites 20 MILLION NEW STD outbreaks each year (http://www.livescience.com/48100-sexually-transmitted-infections-50-states-map.html)!!! Obviously if you have one, you’re not alone, but don’t spread it. And if you don’t have one, why take the risk? I’m done preaching. Do it God’s way, or be safe doing it your own way.
Moving on… As I entered adulthood my sexual explorations took a dark turn. I’d rather not go into the details. Suffice to say I am appalled by memories of things I did and saw, participated in and watched. Before that time I’d known both scary, bad sex and better, gentler sex. I knew what I was doing was not right, but it’s hard when you’re walking down a road with others to be the one to stop and turn around. Then before you know it you’re in a pit, ten feet deep scratching at the sides to get out, but the demons with you keep pulling you down. It’s kind of like there’s no way out and so you sort of give up or give in and stop even trying to pretend you’re a good kind of person. I let drugs take over my life, I was self-harming, I was participating in illegal and illicit activities of all kinds and I was absolutely, unequivocally, hopelessly miserable.
This is where God steped into my life. He gave me a second chance. I took it and I knew a big part of the cleansing and healing for me would revolve around my sexuality. I knew my libido was higher than most girls and my affinity for sex would likely get me in trouble again so I decided, upon pledging my life to Christ, to also make a pledge to not be alone with any guy for a year. It was a tumultuous year. It was full of purging bad thoughts, memories, ideas and visions from my mind and replacing them with whatever was true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. There were a handful of occasions that I spent time with my first ex-husband alone, it was also the first time I ever recall actually saying no to sex and having my words respected. He wasn’t happy about it but he respected my words and for that I’m grateful. It taught me I didn’t have to give in to every request and that even if my voice was small, it could still be heard.
The lack of sexual activity was exceptionally difficult. I had become very used to sexual touch, whether good or bad and my body, like it hungers and thirsts, craves sexual release. I had always practiced self-stimulating behavior and didn’t stop but I had a horrible sense of guilt about it at first because “the church” seems to demonize masturbation. I think it’s a very personal and private issue and I think, like anything else, it can be misused, but I do not think it is sin, nor have I found any place in the bible where the ACT of masturbation is noted as wrong, condemnable, punishable or sinful. (I think I’ll be so bold as to challenge anyone who questions me to prove me wrong on this.) At that time, as at this time in my life, while I practiced (and currently practice) abstinence, masturbation is a regular part of my life and I think I’m pretty open about it, and I think it makes a lot of people uncomfortable, but I think it’s a subject worth exploring, especially within the church, instead of condemning.
Then I met he who left me. We did not wait. While we were married I always felt a little sad that we didn’t but it didn’t bother me too much because we were supposed to do that whole “til death do us part” thing. Well, that didn’t work out so good and now I see that he was just another guy that followed the same pattern. I want them, or I want sex, so I sleep with them. It’s what I knew. I want a man so I give him what I know they all want, or a man wants/takes my body and I’m powerless or frozen to resist. And now that he’s left, the what if is… what if I would have abstained? Would he have stuck with me through it or would he have left before we had lives and children intertwined? Is this the big test to see who stays and who leaves? Is this why it’s a big deal to God? I’ve been abstinent for nearly two years and dating for a year of that and I absolutely guarantee you it’s a HUGE deal in the minds of men, and me.
But I want this. I actually asked for this. I remember writing the scene in Catching Tatum where Justin and Tatum are in bed together and she has the choice to make love to him or not. I wrote out the choice she made then remember looking heavenward, in my lovely little writing room that I miss so much, and saying out loud to God that I wish for once in my life I would have waited to put out. It was wistful prayer at the time, I was married to the guy I thought was my partner for life and the chance was lost to me.
But here I am. The longest I’ve gone without sex since my early teens, frustrated, so sexually frustrated but resigned and resolved to walk this out. To test myself: Am I stronger than my physical urges? Am I more than just an animal operating on instinct? Do I exist on a higher level? Can my mind, soul and spirit overcome the base desires of my body, or am I slave to it? To test men: Will anyone wait with me? Does anyone not pressure or beg, manipulate or push too far? Who is master over their body and not slave to it? Because if he can’t even master himself, how can I possibly trust him enough to be safe with him for the rest of my life? See, I don’t want just any man. Any man will take my body and satisfy his animal urges. I know this, life and men: good men, bad men, gentlemen and sadistic men have proven this to me time and time and time again. They will all take my body if I give it and sometimes even when I do not. I’m done having it taken. I want to give it to he who will not leave me. I’m not a virgin, certainly not pure, but I am new and for this time, I can choose to wait for him. I’m more than a body, I am a beautiful mind, a precious soul and a spirit in communion with the God of all creation! I will gladly share a little bit of all that’s in me with any man bold enough to hang with me for a while, but I’ll reserve the best of me for the last man I will ever love. I belong to him, and I wait for him. He’s looking for me and he’ll find me, or… maybe he is already looking out for me and just needs to figure stuff out, so I wait... And while I do I guess I’ll write about a lot of sex and dating, cause while I do not want to be single for long, it does have its moments of awesome.