Cut to the Chase, Part II

I generally consider myself a pretty good judge of character, but within the past year, I realized just how wrong I can be about a person.

A year or so ago, I found out that Charles, whom I had been involved with off and on in the past and who had told me repeatedly that he’d want me to be his woman if he worked here, had found himself a girlfriend. I found this out because he posted something on Facebook, which she replied to in a way that definitely implied that they were together. I sent him a message asking about it, but he never replied {but it showed that he had read the message — thank you, Facebook, for that handy feature}.
I sent him another message, angry that he didn’t even respect me enough to respond to my first one. Still no response. So I sent him an angry, final message, saying he wasn’t the man I thought he was. My parting shot was to ask how he’d feel if one day his daughter {who is now only 5 or 6 years old} was treated like this by some guy, stringing her along, calling her baby etc, when she was nothing to him but a convenient screw. He never responded in any way, and I unfriended him and washed my hands of it.

What I forgot was that we are connected on LinkedIn. I’m not very active on there, so it had slipped my mind. A day or two ago, I got an e-mail from LinkedIn with update notifications about various people in my connections, including one for Charles, saying he was celebrating three years at his current job, which happens to be about 45 minutes from where I live. THREE YEARS. Which means that he found a job back here while he was still involved with me, yet continued the charade of saying he was working out of state, contacting me every few months or so, etc as if he happened to be in town visiting his kids.

I feel like such an incredible chump for buying it for so long, and for actually believing there might possibly be a future with this dirtbag. I truly thought he was different, that he was genuine and sincere. I’m disgusted with the way he strung me along, pretending to care for me and getting me emotionally invested in his life and his problems. I considered responding to the LinkedIn message {you can reply kind of like on someone’s Facebook wall} but there’s no point. He’s not worth another second of my time or energy, and I’ve got someone a million times better than he could ever hope {or pretend} to be.

I’m sure he’ll have the nerve to act surprised and angry if/when some guy treats his little princess like a piece of ass someday. But in reality, all she will have done is find a so-called man just like her daddy. Karma’s a bitch, buddy.

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My Funny Valentine

I want to start with a disclaimer: If you’re anti-Valentine’s Day or just totally over all the mushy-gushy stuff, you might want to stop reading. No, really. This was, hands down, the best Valentine’s Day I ever had, all thanks to my wonderful, silly, romantic man. I’ve never truly had a valentine before. Yeah, I was married, and I’ve had boyfriends on Valentine’s Day in the past, but it was never the romantic holiday I always hoped it would be… Until now.

We had the whole weekend planned out. Rico would come up Friday after work and we’d go to a birthday dinner for a close family friend of his. Then Saturday, we’d cook dinner together at my place rather than deal with the madness of trying to get a table at a restaurant on Valentine’s Day. Then, on Sunday, we planned to go for Mongolian bbq {one of our favorite spots} for lunch before he had to head home. Simple enough, right?

I was very distracted and flustered in the week leading up to our big weekend. I had decided to make him a scrapbook {something he really likes and appreciates} filled with pictures, movie and song quotes, and text boxes I created telling him how I felt about him. I had things like, “The first time you kissed me, I felt_______________.” I also had my daughter take a couple of really cool pics of me in my hat and claw hand from my Halloween costume {Freddy Krueger}, so I could put them in there.
I was really excited to give it to him and worked on it feverishly every night after work to make sure it was done before he got there. I had taken that Friday off and planned to get all the last-minute stuff done that day — cleaning, washing my linens, getting my nails done, wrapping his gifts, etc. Little did I know…

On Thursday after work, I headed home as usual and got comfy in my room. I had the scrapbook in front of me and my bed was covered with scraps of paper and pictures. I had a page and a half left to go before it was done. I was on the phone with him as I worked, and he said he was out doing some running around and that when he reached his final destination, he was staying in for the night. Maybe an hour later, he said he had reached his final destination and playfully said, “Why don’t you come open up the door for me?” I thought he had arrived at his house, and playfully said, “Ok, hehe, be right there…” and kept working on the scrapbook. He made a few similar comments, then finally said, “Are you gonna come open the door?” I froze, scissors in my hand, and said, “What are you talking about?” He hadn’t arrived at his own house but at MINE. I panicked, looking around the room at the mess, the unwrapped gifts, the clothes everywhere…I wasn’t ready! I quickly threw on a pair of jeans and ran downstairs where he was waiting. I threw open the door and jumped into his arms while he laughed at me for not realizing what he had been up to. I couldn’t believe he was here a whole day early and I’d had no clue! I made him wait a minute while I hid everything as fast as I could. We went out and grabbed some Chinese food, then I locked myself in my room for a few minutes to finish the last page of the scrapbook. He had made me a big heart-shaped chocolate chip cookie and used frosting to write my name on it. He had also burned a CD of romantic music for us to slow dance to.

The next morning, after allowing ourselves to be lazy getting up, we exchanged presents. In addition to the scrapbook, I had also bought him a red bundt cake pan and a basting set {his ex had taken his when they’d split up and he was really wanting new ones}, which he was really excited about. He gave me an amazing card that he had made and written himself, a box of candy, a beautiful bible with a case for it, and an Android tablet, which blew me away. He was so cute about all of it, smiling and chuckling as I oohed and aahed over everything. Instead of all my planned cleaning etc, we had a great day together. I took him to lunch at one of my favorite spots, then we went for ice cream at a little place where we had gone when we first started dating. That night, we got all dressed up {I had found an amazing dress to wear} and went to the birthday dinner, which was a lot of fun. I felt sexy and was proud to walk in on his arm. His godsister {the birthday girl} was really cool, and we promised to get together soon.

Saturday {Valentine’s Day} was also my niece’s birthday, so we decided to stop by my parents’ house before going on with the rest of our day. Rico went downstairs to warm up my car, then shoveled my driveway while I finished getting ready. When we got to my parents’ house, he and I shoveled their driveway as well {his idea}. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the fact that he did that. Just always thinking of other people and helping out when he can. But I digress… The weather was terrible — white-out conditions all the way there, so we ended up staying for a few hours til it cleared up. Rico finally got to meet my brother and sister-in-law, and we had a really good time hanging out with my family, having lunch and birthday cake, before heading on our way.

Rico cooked an amazing dinner of tarragon chicken and vegetables while I made a brown sugar pound cake. I decided to treat it like a date and put on my little black dress for dinner. We ate and drank and laughed and kissed and fooled around and had a great time. It was a wonderful night, staying warm inside while winter raged outside.

Sunday, we did go to Mongolian bbq as planned and had a great lunch before he left to head home. The weekend ended waaaaay too soon, but it was wonderful, and it was the best Valentine’s Day
I ever had. I’m truly in love with this man and still can’t believe how blessed I am to have him in
my life.

This Man

Miles away,
he sleeps.
My mind can’t rest.
Each smile and laugh,
each touch of his hand.
Can it be?
He calls me beautiful
and I’m blushing,
falling.
Arms tight around me,
espresso eyes on me.
He took my smile
and filled it
with laughter.
Each kiss,
each moment —
I am his.

This Christmas

It’s crazy how much can change in the space of one year.

This time last year, I was involved with Michael, looking forward to him flying up on the 26th and ringing in the new year together. One bout of pneumonia, two bouts of bronchitis, two attempted breakups, one successful breakup, a bit more personal and emotional growth, one fateful Halloween party, and one amazing man later, and here I am — MUCH happier, much more at peace, and much more content, plain and simple.

I learned to truly listen to my gut, which I had kind of tuned out for a year and a half. I regained my self-respect, and I decided, once and for all, to stop putting up with shit from people. When I was finally able to step out of my situation and see that it wasn’t working, that I was being played, and that I deserved much better, it was liberating. I became my own hero, rescuing myself from yet another dead-end relationship, and having the wisdom and nerve to walk away from a toxic situation. Initially, Michael tried to get in touch with me a few times. He left a couple of long voicemails saying he didn’t like where we were {sorry, sweetheart, there is no we anymore} and that he hoped there was some chance that we could get back to the way we used to be. I’m sorry, what way is that? The way I blindly accepted your bullshit? Or the way I let things slide even though I knew you weren’t being honest with me? Or maybe it was the way I kept taking you back, even though my gut was screaming at me to cut my losses and run in the opposite direction. His last voicemail was the day after Thanksgiving. He had texted me a random Thanksgiving meme, and apparently I was supposed to go weak in the knees and come running back. His message said he had hoped I would have called him on Thanksgiving. Honestly, I was thankful not to still be dealing with that clown.

I haven’t spoken to him in more than a month. I blocked his number on my phone so that his calls {there have been a few, but not in the past couple of weeks} would go straight to voicemail. I’m hopeful that he has finally gotten the message through his thick head and will leave me alone. It’s a blessing, actually, that he lives so far away because the chances of him showing up on my doorstep are slim to none, especially since he now has custody of his kids.

I’m looking forward to this Christmas with childlike anticipation, not because of presents, but because I’ve found someone who makes me happy in such a simple, good way. It’s not about money spent, but rather the time spent together, the joy of seeing each other, and the happiness of just being with someone I fit with so well. A couple of weeks ago, Rico came up for the weekend and we had so much fun. He actually met my parents, who both really liked him {I wasn’t surprised}. This feels more real every day. We spent the weekend cooking together, watching movies, introducing him to my favorite pizza place, people watching, looking at Christmas lights and displays, holding hands, and just enjoying each other.  I think, that’s what it really boils down to. We’re living out loud, in the moment, happy with each other and excited to see where this goes.

Finding Him

Last year, I wrote a post describing my perfect man. Since then, I’d have to say I’ve added a few more items to the wish list.

For instance, he’d have no problem telling people he’s involved with me. He’d be honest and not give me cause to question things he says. And he’d actually keep his word, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant.

Ironically, one year and one day after writing that post, I think I’ve actually met him. Rico, whom I met at a Halloween party last month, has exceeded any expecations I’ve allowed myself to have of late. We’ve talked every day {multiple times a day} since meeting a little over a month ago. I’ve gone down to see him once, and he’s coming up this weekend for his second visit. We’ve already made plans to spend New Year’s Eve together, and we seem to grow closer every day.

His kisses curl my toes and I smile every time his name appears on my phone. His deep voice is enticing, and it feels just right when I rest my head against his chest. He’s funny and sweet and so much like my carefully thought-out description from a year ago that it’s almost like I conjured him out of my blog and into existence. He’s kind of the anti-Michael, and such a refreshing change from what I’ve tolerated for the last year and a half. And from what he’s said about his last couple of relationships, I’m a much-welcome change from what he’s tolerated as well. My friend Ace apparently had it right with this one. We get along so well and laugh all the time. Rico is the perfect combination of sexy, sweet, sensitive, and silly. He very willingly posts pictures of us together on Facebook, has told his close friends and family members about me {and I’ve met some of them}, and keeps his word. I genuinely trust him, which doesn’t come easily for me. We fit.

I know the relationship is ridiculously new, but he has already made me happier than I’ve been in quite a while where romance is concerned. I think we’re off to a very promising start!

A Long Time Coming

As I mentioned in my last post, recently I finally ended things with Michael for good. I tried to end it two or three times before, but he always managed to keep me on the hook. The problem was, I had so many reservations about him and our relationship that I knew there was just no way it would ever work out.

First, there was the distance. He lives several states away and I truly couldn’t see any way he’d ever relocate up here. His kids, his job, his church, and his various activites were all there. My daughter is in the middle of high school, so there’s no way I was going to force her to move to another state right now. Plus my family and her dad are all here. That would be unbelievably selfish on my part to do that to her. I’m not one for ultimatums and wasn’t about to demand that he relocate. And I think, to be honest, I didn’t really want him to relocate.

Second, and most signficicant, was the dishonesty, which went on for most of our 16-month relationship. I put up with lies from my ex-husband for far too long, and I sure wasn’t about to put up with it again. First, he was dishonest about talking to other girls on Facebook {I knew for a fact that he had, on at least a few occasions}. Then he was dishonest about the Christmas gifts that supposedly got lost at the airport and arrived a month or more after Christmas.

He was supposed to come up for my birthday in July, but suddenly said he had to work. I don’t know of anyone who is able to cancel an airline reservation with such short notice and get any money back, but he claimed to do both. He said he had a gift and a card for my birthday, but even after he knew he wasn’t coming, he never put anything in the mail for me. I would have been happy with just a card, but nothing ever showed up. I was not in a great mood for most of my birthday because of it. I brought up the gifts he supposedly bought several times, but he never put anything in the mail. He claimed that the gift was still in his suitcase and that he’d bring it on his next visit. He did end up coming to visit over Labor Day weekend, and even though I knew it sounded petty and childish, I asked about the gift. He said he ended up bringing a different suitcase and forgot the gift. In my heart, I knew he was bullshitting me. I knew it was all lies.

On the last day of his visit, we stopped at the grocery store for a few things. When I was at the checkout, he said he wanted some pop and walked back to get it. I checked out and waited for him. As he approached the checkout, I saw that he had one or two greeting cards in his hand {I swear it looked like a yellow envelope and a hot pink one}. I didn’t say anything about it because he had bought cards once or twice for me before and left them in my room when he left. But after he left, I never saw any cards. I asked him about it, and he said he had hidden it {suddenly now it’s just one card?} and wanted me to find it. I looked EVERYWHERE for that friggin card… nothing. I asked him about it again, and he said that if I didn’t find it soon, he’d tell me where it was. I had this feeling there was no card in my house and told him as much. He insisted that there was one. After another week or so, I asked him to please just tell me where it was because it was driving me crazy. And he said he couldn’t remember where he had left it. My heart sank.

There was also the issue of him never going public about our relationship. He had a million reasons why he felt justified in keeping it private {or secret}, but it just felt to me like he wasn’t willing to publicly give up his bachelor card. At one point, he actually changed his Facebook status to “In a Relationship,” but he never specifically said it was with me.

This guy, this asshole, who claimed to be so in love with me and wanted to marry me, was doing nothing but stringing me along, feeding me lie after lie after lie, and I was overlooking it. I would hear myself telling these things to my friends and realized how outlandish it all sounded. I knew that if any of my friends told me the same things about guys they were seeing, I’d be thinking they were being played. So why was I putting up with it myself? No more.

I could feel myself becoming more and more distant, and I knew this just wasn’t going to work out. I think the final straw was when he went through some serious personal drama. His kids were removed from his ex-wife and put in foster care because his daughter had a {single, not plural} bruise from an argument with her brother. Michael was forced to move into a larger place, take a psych eval, and have supervised visits, even though he wasn’t even present when the incident occurred. It just all sounded extremely fishy to me. I wondered if there had been previous incidents because removing the kids to foster care over one bruise seemed so extreme.

He told me that on one occasion when he and his ex-wife were meeting with a counselor about getting the kids back, she wouldn’t shut up and kept running her mouth. He kicked her under the table to get her to be quiet. On another occasion, he was the one getting all fired up, and she tapped his hand to calm him down. That sure didn’t sound like the behavior of a divorced couple. Red flags were popping up all over. He said one day that he had called her to tell her off because he blamed her for all that was going on. I asked what her response was and he said she looked like she had been slapped. Looked. I asked if he had seen her in person since he said that, and he said that it was just a figure of speech, that he meant she had sounded that way. How do you sound like you look like you just got slapped??? The following day, he said he actually went over to her house to tell her off again.  I suspected that he was only saying that to cover his tracks about the previous conversation that had supposedly happened on the phone. I had heard enough. I flat out told him I didn’t believe him and raised all kinds of questions I had about the whole ordeal. He swore he wasn’t involved with her and that he really was divorced but I wasn’t buying it. Things were definitely coming to a head.

I finally ended things once and for all, telling him not to call me because I had nothing left to say. He has tried to call and text a few times, professing his love and saying he misses me. I haven’t responded. He even went so far as to say he had posted a few things intended for me on his Facebook page. Really? I dump you and unfriend you and NOW you want to post stuff for me?? Too little too late. It’s done. It needed to be done months ago, but I finally saw him for what he was — a slippery snake whom I could NEVER trust. Good riddance.

 

A Halloween to Remember

It’s been quite some time since I wrote anything, partly because things were very up and down with Michael {yes, I was still in a long-distance relationship with him}. But things have been kind of coming to a head for a while, and Halloween weekend was one for the books. I’ll have to write a whole separate post on the official {no, really} end of that affair. But for now, I have to tell the tale of the Halloween party.

Stacy and I go to it every year, and it’s always a good time. Usually, I have a hard time picking a costume, but this time I decided to go as sexy Freddy Krueger. Odd, I know. But I really liked the costume, complete with hat and claw hand. The party started out like any other, drinking a little, catching up with friends, etc. A guy dressed as a clown wandered over and started talking to us. He was very sweet and could actually hold a conversation {a rarity at many of these gatherings}. We talked to him off and on, and also walked around mingling with other people. Stacy noticed that one guy {who’s not even worth nicknaming} kept following us around. He’s given her trouble at parties before, following her and even grabbing her boob once {after which she kicked him square in the grapes, which he seemed to like}. Anyway, after he very obviously shadowed us for a half hour or so, I walked over to him and pointed at him with my Freddy claw and told him to leave Stacy alone. He played dumb, but I told him again to leave her alone, waving my claw hand for emphasis. I walked back over to Stacy, who found it quite hilarious that I was suddenly a badass when I was dressed like Freddy Krueger. Wouldn’t you know, within minutes of me telling him off, I think he left the party entirely, never to appear again for the rest of the night! I didn’t know I could be so intimidating with a plastic claw hand and some hard cider in my belly.

I'm a bit curvier than the girl in this pic, but you get the idea.

I’m a bit curvier than the girl in this pic, but you get the idea.

A little while later, I noticed a very good-looking guy in a cowboy hat. I didn’t remember ever seeing him before, and then I saw him talking to my friend Ace. I casually walked over and Ace introduced me to his friend Rico. As soon as I heard the name, I remembered a conversation from months before where I had asked Ace, if he was going to pick a guy for me, what kind of guy would he pick, and he had said that if his friend Rico was single, he’d be perfect for me. Hmmmm… I continued on my way, and a little while later Ace said he questioned whether Rico was still attached because he had only mentioned his kids, not his girlfriend. I asked him to find out if this gorgeous guy was single, and as it turns out, indeed he was {happy dance}. I asked him to put in a good word for me. Shortly after, who comes walking over but Rico, looking right at me and smiling. He asked if I wanted to go for a walk so we could talk. My feet were killing me from my high-heeled boots, so we ended up sitting on a couch in the lobby near the door to the party. We talked for a little while and he seemed like a really cool, down-to-earth guy. This was promising! He asked for my number, and I got his, and he left soon after, saying maybe we could talk the next day. I was on cloud 9!

I went back into the party and hung out talking to the clown {whose name turned out to be Jonah} for a while. A girl dressed like a devil wandered over and asked if I’d been to many of these parties. I said yes, I come every year. She said this was her first time, so we all chatted for a few minutes. She was telling us how she and her boyfriend had gone to a couple of other clubs before coming to this party, and she pointed him out across the room. She said he thought I was cute, and wanted to know if I was interested in joining them. Ummmmm….no! I politely declined, saying that really wasn’t my thing. She was very embarrassed and walked away. That was a new one!

I actually got a lot of compliments on that costume. Some people thought I had made it myself. One very drunk girl came over to me at one point saying she had been looking for me because she wanted to show her friend that “Freddy got a booty!!!” {She yelled that across the bar. Too funny.}

Anyway, fast forward to the following morning. I texted Rico to let him know we were getting on the road to head home, and asked if I could call him later that day. He replied back and said definitely. Later that afternoon, when I finally got home, unpacked, and cleaned up, I called him. We talked for an hour, and he said he was glad I called instead of texting because it seems like all people want to do these days is text. Later that evening, we talked for another hour. I was really digging him, and could see why Ace had thought we’d hit it off. The next morning, I texted just to say good morning, and we ended up talking and texting every day. As it turns out, my daughter was to be with her dad that following weekend, so Rico and I made plans to meet. I was really excited to see him, and he planned a whole day of things for us to do on that Saturday. No guy had ever done that for me before!

I drove down and spent an awesome weekend with him, getting to know each other, talking, laughing… It was amazing. We went apple picking, to a wine tasting, and out to dinner, plus splashed around in the hot tub and pool. He introduced me {as his girl — swoon} to his brother, his cousin, his sister, and his mom, and he even posted pics on Facebook of the various things we did. After one week, he was putting me out there, calling me his girl…a very welcome change from Michael and his self-declared privacy issues, who refused to do the same after nearly a year and a half! We talk every day, multiple times a day. This weekend he’s coming up to spend the weekend with me, and I can’t wait. Needless to say, I’m all smiles these days. Stay tuned…

Who’s That Girl?

When I first got divorced, I was so starved for physical contact and attention that I soaked it up like a sponge. I was flattered by the attention I got and loved feeling sexy and pretty, even if there was ultimately no emotional connection behind it. My confidence grew. But little by little, it started to not feel so good. I started to realize I was nothing more than a piece of ass to most of these guys, and that was the opposite of the progress I was attempting to make in my life.

I started being more choosy in whom I spent time with. I stopped responding to the booty calls that once made me feel wanted and desired. I decided that being alone sometimes on the weekends was preferable to feeling cheap and nameless.

A week or so ago, I ran into Eric at the grocery store. I’ve bumped into him a few times before, and every time, he wanted me to go somewhere to hook up. Every time I said no. This time, though, I was disgusted. I initially tried to just be nice and walk away, but he kept appearing in whatever aisle I was in, making comments and looking me up and down. The final straw was when he actually pressed up against me and said, “See, you got my dick hard.” I quickly walked away from him and he said he was going to wait for me in the parking lot. That really scared the hell out of me. Thankfully, he was nowhere in sight when I left, and I texted him saying to leave me the hell alone. He replied back saying I was crazy for thinking he was being anything but nice and that he only hooks up with pretty girls. Whatever, dude. Those ‘pretty girls’ can have your nasty self.

That incident made me realize just how far I’ve come. A few short years ago, I very likely may have gone and hooked up with him anyway. A few short years ago, I just wanted to feel wanted.

I’ve mentioned before how I’ve kind of given myself a gradual makeover since my divorce. Now I hardly recognize myself. A few weeks ago, I was walking down the hall at work feeling pretty good in a cute skirt and top with wedge heels. I suddenly had this surreal moment of seeing myself through the eyes of myself from 9 or 10 years ago. If someone had shown me back then how I’d look and feel now, I would have never believed it. If the me from 10 years ago, in comfortable baggy jeans and shapeless t-shirt, had seen the me of today,  not only wearing clothes that fit properly, but wearing heels and makeup (voluntarily!), I would have assumed it was a mistake. Without realizing it, I’m slowly becoming the me I always longed to be but never thought I could be. I’m confident enough to wear more girly clothes, to show a little leg, and to feel ok in my own skin. Several years ago, I heard someone say, “Whatever it is you are — tall, short, skinny, fat, black, or white — own that.” I think now, I’m finally living by that advice.

Last year I went to my class reunion and decided to wear a maxi dress that made me feel sexy and pretty. At the previous reunion, I wore jeans and a casual top, hoping to blend in and go unnoticed. This time, I wanted to feel good. Sure, I’ve gained some weight since we graduated from high school, but so what? Lots of girls from my class have put on a few pounds. I walked in there feeling great and was surprised to realize I really didn’t care if my classmates noticed my weight. I saw that several of the other girls were wearing clothes that covered them up (like I used to wear), hoping to conceal their larger middles or more ample behinds. None of them looked comfortable or confident. I walked in there and owned who I am and I felt amazing. Maybe they thought I looked good, maybe they didn’t, but I had a great time and felt unstoppable, and it made all the difference.

 

 

Many times, my friends have said my ex-husband must see me now and wonder what happened. I never looked or acted like this, even in my twenties when I weighed considerably less. There’s much to be said for shedding one’s skin, dumping one’s baggage, and looking forward. I used to look back with disdain for my old self. I was embarrassed at how much I had let myself go and how I didn’t care at all about how I looked. But now I realize I needed to go through that to get here. The old me is someone to be proud of, doing the best she could with a shitty situation. Now I embrace that old me and hope that she would be proud of the new (and still improving) me and know that she helped me get here.

I know all of this might sound incredibly conceited, but really, I’m in awe of all I’ve accomplished. I’m a better me in pretty much every area of my life: my job performance has drastically improved, my general attitude has improved, and I’m definitely a much better mom now. So no, I won’t apologize for tooting my own horn occasionally because for the first time in a very long time, I feel like I have something to toot about.

 

Where Will the Nice Guy Finish?

Dustin is a guy I’m good friends with who is the eternal ‘nice guy.’ He’s good looking, sweet, and funny, and a good Christian with good morals, but he makes terrible choices when it comes to dating.

First there was Stephanie, a girl he met at work. They dated for a while before he decided to take the plunge and propose. He went shopping, selected what he thought was the perfect ring for her, worked up his nerve, and said those four little words so many girls would love to hear: Will you marry me?

Stephanie threw a fit.

She was appalled at the engagement ring he had bought for her. The ring that he had saved up for, carefully selected, tucked in his pocket, and nervously offered to her in exchange for her hand in marriage was apparently NOT what she would have chosen. She threw such a fit that he took the ring back and took her shopping for what she really wanted. Now, being the somewhat prideful person I am, I would have taken the ring back and kept walking. But no, Dustin loved this girl and wanted her to be happy. I knew right then that if they stayed together and actually did get married, that he’d be spending the rest of his life trying to keep this unappreciative brat happy. But he’s my friend, and I was trying to be supportive, so I kept my thoughts to myself. She lives about an hour from work due to custody issues with her son, so Dustin {who had been living 10-15 minutes from work} moved in with her and assumed the role of father and provider, taking care of household repairs, cutting the lawn, and anything else she wanted him to do. The day she found out he was Replublican was a tense ride to work. She’s a diehard liberal and couldn’t tolerate his differeing views. The day he told me, somewhat sadly, that they had broken up, it took everything I had not to jump up and yell, “Hallelujah!!”

He felt bad just up and moving out on her, so he stayed for another month or so, continuing to cut the grass etc, helping her with expenses, and sharing her bed. Yup. I don’t know if he was hoping they could work things out or what, but for some reason he had trouble completely walking away.

The next object of Dustin’s desire was a friend of his from high school, whom he’d always had a thing for. She found him on Facebook and they began messaging back and forth. She was in the very early stages of a messy divorce, but he was still willing to see where things went. He actually drove 10 hours to visit and see her in person, only to find out she was nowhere near ending her marriage and that her husband was a very controlling and jealous nut. Needless to say, Dustin hightailed it back here, safely away from any further drama.

Most recently, he fell for his neighbor, a cute little blonde who immediately caught his eye. They both had dogs, so they began going for walks together and getting to know each other. After several weeks, they began dating and he couldn’t have been happier. Unfortunately, however, things very quickly went awry. They had only been officially dating for a week or two when they went to a bar one night. His girlfriend excused herself to use the restroom, and he became concerned when 15 or 20  minutes went by and she hadn’t come back. He started walking around looking for her, and found her in the back room of the bar, sitting on some guy’s lap and making out with him. Oh, and she was totally drunk.

Now, if this had been me walking in on such a scene, I would have simply left. No argument, no discussion, no hysterics, no anger. I would have left her there to find her own way home, and that would have been the end of the relationship. But Dustin, being the nice guy he is, went over to her, said, “You’re drunk, we need to go,” and began escorting her out. When he stopped to pay the bartender, she told him she had put drinks for all her ‘friends’ in the back room on his tab, and he actually paid it! All $85 of it. Again, I would have paid for my own drinks and left her there to sort it out herself.  When he was telling me this whole story, he said that from now on they’d need to stay home to drink because she couldn’t handle her liquor. -sigh-

They dated for another month or two after that before he decided she wasn’t ‘the one’ after all, and he broke up with her. Well…technically. She was still his neighbor, and while they were dating he had given her his key so she could walk his dog for him during the day while he was at work. After they broke up, she continued walking the dog for him, and they occasionally spent time together, watching movies or God knows what else.

Recently, still-single Dustin started growing his beard. Initially, it was short and looked nice on him. But he began growing it into something of Duck Dynasty proportions. His boyish good looks are now partly obscured by hair, and I’ve heard more than one person refer to it as ‘girl repellant.’

He’s still a terribly nice guy and would gladly give any of his friends the shirt off his back. I’d love to see him find a nice, churchgoing girl whom he’d be proud to bring home to Mama and who wouldn’t walk all over him or screw around on him. I know that someday, he’ll make some lucky girl very happy. But first, Dear Dustin, that beard has got to go.

Worth Fighting For

Back in January, I ended things with Michael. I felt strong and empowered and sure of what I wanted and needed. I ended things, or so I thought.

His initial response was about what I expected. He was angry and hurt and didn’t understand where all of this was coming from. I blocked his number on my phone and removed myself from his Facebook. As far as I was concerned, this chapter was closed. What happened next, I did not see coming. After a few days of me barely responding to his e-mails, except to reiterate and justify my feelings, his tone changed. He began telling me how much he loved me and that he didn’t want to lose me. He went back to the beginning of our relationship and mentioned reasons why he had fallen in love with me in the first place.

At first, I was prickly. I stood my ground and wouldn’t let his sweet words break me down. I couldn’t figure out why he was so persistent and why he was wasting his time on what I thought was a lost cause. After a week or two, I read one of his e-mails, and something suddenly occurred to me. Michael was fighting for me. This man, who wasn’t getting much hope from my responses, wasn’t giving up on me, or on us. In my life, I’ve never had a man fight for me before. I was married for close to 20 years, and the only time my ex-husband did anything even remotely like fighting for me was when it was way past the point of no return. When he suddenly realized how much our marriage had deteriorated, it was too late. I had nothing left to give. I felt nothing anymore. Yet, here was Michael, a man I’ve known less than a year, texting me and e-mailing me every day. He was still calling and leaving voicemails, even though I still had his number blocked. This man loved me enough to fight for me. The walls began to crumble.

I unblocked his number and we started talking. We hashed out much of what had been bothering me and began to reconnect. Things haven’t been perfect, but I feel like we gained some kind of understanding through it all. We’re still not on each other’s Facebook, and that is still a sticking point, but we’re a work in progress.

He’s been amazingly sweet in the past few months. One night shortly after we started talking again, he surprised me by having 4 orders of chocolate lava cakes delivered to my house from the local Domino’s. He eventually did send a box full of Christmas gifts for my daughter and me. In February, he was told by flowers.com that there was no way to guarantee that anything could be delivered to me on Valentine’s Day, so he called directly to a flower shop near my house and made sure I would get flowers that day. And earlier this month, he knew money was tight for me and surprised me by wiring money to help get my daughter’s glasses, which I probably wouldn’t have been able to afford for a few paychecks. But it’s not all material things that have melted my heart. When I doubt myself, he shows me all the ways that he sees me as an amazing mom and a beautiful woman. He’s quick to list all the things I do, showing me that maybe I need to give myself more credit sometimes. Above all, he makes me feel loved every single day. No man has ever done that for me before.

You might think I’m an idiot for giving him another chance, and who knows if things will ultimately work out between us. But I think there’s something to be said for his actions. He could have easily said, “Screw it, there are other fish in the sea,” and deleted my number. He didn’t give up on me, and that means something to me. For the first time, I see myself as someone worth the trouble and I don’t feel so alone. He knows I’ve been through some things relationship-wise, and he’s understanding and patient. The distance is still an issue, but he’s coming back to visit in a couple of weeks, so hopefully we can make up for lost time, since his last visit was kind of a bust. He saw me at my absolute worst when I was sick, but he’s still here. That means something. For now, we’re taking baby steps, and I guess all we can do is see where it goes…