Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My Level-5 Boyfriend

I wrote this article a few years ago. For those of you that have read The Laptop Dancer Diaries, this explains the origins of FB and how he got his nick-name. I was inspired to post this after reading Dave Taylor's post: How do you refer to "the person you're seeing" when you're an adult?

My Level-5 Boyfriend

At my workplace, we have what’s called a “leveling tool.” It’s basically a document that describes the responsibilities associated with each job level. The tool is used to help determine if a promotion is in order. As I re-entered the confusing world of dating after the breakup of my 20-year marriage, I wished I had such a tool that would help navigate me through the uncharted territory upon which I was embarking. How would I know when I was ready to move to the next level, and would my progression match that of my new boyfriend?

I use the term “boyfriend” loosely. First of all, there’s the age factor. Surely there must be a more sophisticated word that can be used once you reach middle-age. “Gentleman caller” and “beau”, though romantic, sound too Victorian. “Lover” is too personal for my taste. And none of these titles is entirely appropriate until you and the object of your affection have established exactly where you are in the relationship. I’ve dated the same man for a year and a half. We have a monogamous relationship. Yet, use of the word “boyfriend” is practically as taboo as bringing up the dreaded L-word. Perhaps it implies more commitment than my male friend is ready to accept.

The early infatuation days of our relationship were blissfully happy for me as I was rescued from the emotional rejection I’d felt from my divorce. I was as excited as a love struck schoolgirl. A few months later, however, I noticed the reluctance of my boyfriend (yes, I’ll go ahead and call him that…he’ll probably never read this, anyway) to progress up the commitment ladder. Being a typical male, “relationship talk” was something he conveniently avoided. I decided to make it easy for him by creating a relationship leveling tool. With such a tool in hand he would simply have to inform me of his current level and whether he’d be trying for any “promotions” in the foreseeable future.

Let me explain something about the leveling tool I’m about to disclose. Every person is different and what might seem like a major step for one person might not be such a big deal for someone else. Sex is probably the biggest example of this. For some people, sex is in no way a statement of commitment. Others feel sex should be saved for marriage. Most of us are somewhere in between depending on a myriad of circumstances. So although I originally created the Commitment Leveling Tool with the best of intentions, I’ve come to realize that my interpretation of what constitutes commitment and how it should progress is very personal and unique. When I originally authored this tool I had about 20 levels including such trivialities as “Not embarrassed to fart in front of one another.” However, I’ve narrowed it down to what I think of as the 10 primary levels.

Commitment Leveling Tool

  1. Flirt and hope for a positive reaction
  2. First date
  3. Kissing and progressively more
  4. Decide you want to date exclusively
  5. Sex!!!
  6. Introduce your friends, families, and kids
  7. Say 'I Love You'
  8. Go on vacation together
  9. Talk about a future together
  10. Get married.

I was quite pleased with our progression up to Level 5. However, once there, we seemed to be in a holding pattern. I was certainly more than ready for Level 6. In fact, I had talked to my friends, families, and kids about my infatuation way back at Level 1. Why was this so difficult for my so-called boyfriend? When I showed him the leveling tool, he suggested that he was so committed that he was ready to vacation with me, skipping right over Levels 6 and 7 and going straight to Level 8!

Here we are, over a year later, still somewhat stuck at Level 5. Yes, we have done a couple of long-weekend trips, and I have met a few of his friends. I wonder if the plateau we reached has anything to do with sex. Perhaps if we were back in Victorian days when sex didn’t come until AFTER marriage, there would have been further progression up that commitment ladder. Could it be that once The Big Level 5 (Sex!!!) was achieved, there was no longer any incentive for my boyfriend to advance further?

I rationalize that certain levels are more about personality than commitment. My boyfriend is very private and seems to have his life compartmentalized. He does not want to mix his work life with his personal life or his love life with his family life. I have often felt hurt that he has not included me in his family events. I’ve sometimes wondered if he were to die suddenly, if his family would even know to invite me to his funeral. I believe they know he’s dating someone, but they’ve never met me.

Although remaining hidden from my boyfriend’s family causes me much distress, I’ve concluded that an invite to a family function is tantamount to a marriage proposal in his mind. Once I understood this, I stopped pushing. I’m ready for Level 6, but if family introductions are his version of a Level 9 relationship, then I don’t want to go there quite yet.

When I’m not worrying about “going to the next level” I’m totally happy with our relationship. We have fun and enjoy each others’ company. He is my friend, my confidant, and my lover. However, we both still stutter when using the word “boyfriend.” Whether that is because of our ages or our commitment level is not entirely clear.

If I revert back to my unabridged 20-level tool, there are things we’ve done which have implied increased intimacy. We have become more comfortable with each other and yes, he has farted in front of me, although it was met with a great deal of embarrassment. I still am not ready for that level. I now teasingly refer to him as FB (Fart-Boy) rather than BF (Boy Friend). It seems to be the more appropriate moniker.

As the months have passed, met with my periodic frustrations at our lack of forward movement, I’ve come to the realization that it’s unlikely that we will ever reach the higher levels of this scale. I’ve asked myself if I can be happy staying at Level 5. Often times I think Level 5 is perfect. I have more time to pursue my own interests and I do not have to deal with the compromises that more established couples are faced with. We still go out at least once a week and that date is met with excitement and anticipation. Whenever I see little signs of intimacy…times when I see my boyfriend stepping out of his comfort zone for me…I get the warmth of feeling loved, whether or not he is saying the difficult L-word. He always respects me and has been there for me whenever I’ve needed him.

The advice columnists, Dr. Phil, and authors of “He’s Just Not That Into You” would all tell me not to settle for anything less than love. Unfortunately, I have trouble even finding a potential for a Level 1 relationship, let alone someone I think is going to make it to Level 10. The notion of finding my soul mate is very romantic, but realistically, I don’t see many prospects out there. Admittedly, I’m picky, but if the purpose of moving on is to avoid settling, then why start out settling in the early stages of dating?

At some point I will decide I want more and will risk venturing out to find it. When I give up all hope of any forward movement with my current relationship, the stagnation won’t be enough to sustain it. I doubt many men would stay in a relationship if they felt there was no chance of reaching the “Sex Level.” I cannot stay in a relationship if there is no chance of reaching the “Love Level.” But for now, I can enjoy a Level 5 relationship with a sprinkle of higher level activity. A serious boyfriend so soon after a divorce is probably not on Dr. Phil’s prescription list either. A Fart-Boy will do just fine.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Looking for Love

Do you remember these Leisure Suit Larry games by Sierra? They were great. I compare a dorky guy that tries to pick me up in Cancun to Leisure Suit Larry in my book, The Laptop Dancer Diaries.

Less than two months until the release date -- February 26, 2010! The book is a journal, starting with a New Years resolution to find love. I went about it in a very methodical way, with a series of dates starting with Mr. January. I don't want to ruin the story for you, but I'll tell you that I did end up falling in love with Mr. December. Phew! And I learned a lot about love in the process!

One of the things I learned is that love shows up in unexpected places. Often the "target" of my love, the man I thought would be Mr. Man-Of-The-Month, did not end up being "right." We get thrown a lot of curve balls in dating. We think someone is perfect and then they turn out to be gay, married, psycho, or... just not that interested in us. Then we get insecure, wondering if it's because we're too old or not pretty enough. Or maybe someone thinks we're perfect, and we just can't seem to reciprocate those feelings. Yes, maybe it's because they're the ones who are too old or too ugly or too-just-can't-put-your-finger-on-it-but-you-find-them-annoying. Even though we know it's shallow to judge people on these things and we hate being judged ourselves, we can't help it. No matter how much we wish we were attracted to them, we're just not.

I discovered this "judging" we all do is associated with finding a romantic partner. We are searching for lust and attraction. Let's face it, if we're going to be fondling this person, we don't want to feel nautious when we look at them. But lust and attraction are different from love. So this year, my resolution is to search for love every day. It's present in every person we meet and every experience we have. We can find it in that excited smile of a friend who's sharing good news with you, that dog (in my case, a very disobedient dog) who jumps into her "down position" to please you, that sunrise that takes your breath away as you're out for a morning run.

Stories of love may not be as entertaining as dating stories, but they're a lot safer when you're writing a blog. So I've decided to try and blog each week about "love stories" and I invite you to do the same. If you want to get the full scoop on dating, you'll have to get the book! Or come join The Laptop Dancer Diaries FaceBook Fan Page to discuss dating, love, relationships, and ...

Monday, May 18, 2009

Fun Racers

When I told my son-in-law I'd run across many Leukemia and Lymphoma victims, at first he thought I literally ran across them! (I am a bit of a clumsy runner!)And we seriously almost did trample a few people last weekend as we ran through the streets of Denver doing crazy stunts, solving puzzles, and scavenging for things like an oncologist's business card or pina colada ingredients. We were participating in the Mile High Amazing Race! Here's a photo of me with my teammates posing with some bald mannequins -- one of the many items on our list of things to do. This is the third year of the race and it is, without a doubt, the best race ever. I absolutely love the fact that it combines three of my favorite things: crazy competition, fun, and raising money for a good cause!

Knowing that one of the checkpoints would be dedicated to fund-raising, I asked if we could come to the race with donations in hand. Sun Microsystems (where I work) will double any employees contributions with their matching gifts program and I wanted to take full advantage of that. The race director said, "Absolutely!"

Our first donation was $500 from a friend who's son is in remission. I have run several events for Leukemia and Lymphoma, and each time this man -- someone I barely know -- has donated $500 for the cause. Last year, I'd apologized for asking him...I didn't want him to think I always expected $500 or was taking advantage of his generosity. He said, "I'd be upset if you DIDN'T ask me!" He not only donates, but then forwards my email on to his family who also donates!

This attitude was so inspiring to me that I decided this year I would raise at least another $500 and challenged my teammates to do the same. Even though many of us are facing layoffs, people opened up their wallets and their hearts. Our team of four raised over $3500 for Leukemia and Lymphoma in less than one week!

As we handed in our stash at the fund-raising checkpoint, we brought tears to the eyes of one woman as she gave us hugs for our efforts. And when we got to the checkpoint where we met the survivors -- the little kids who have been struggling with Leukemia and their parents -- we felt proud that we were able to make a difference. (And, Chris, we did not run across them, run into them, or run over them. We just got to play with them.) It is so easy to take our health for granted, but when you see the victims and the families, you just want to do whatever you can do to help.

I think fund-raising is something everyone should do with pride. Too often, we are afraid to ask for money -- afraid of putting people on the spot. It's uncomfortable. But unless you ask, you don't get to experience the incredibly generosity of others. You don't get to know how absolutely heart-warming it is when people give freely. If you ever have a chance to do fund-raising, don't apologize or feel embarrassed about asking people to help. Feel proud and excited! And when you're on the other side, feel honored at being asked! There is no way that any of us can contribute money every time we're asked for a donation, but we can always smile and say 'good luck.'

To all of you that have donated and supported me in my many fund-raising efforts, you will never know how deeply moved and grateful I am for your generosity. Whether it's a 'good luck' wish or $500, it truly does make a difference. It has changed my life. And it's saved the life of others.

Thank You

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tumor Humor - Part 3

I call my doctor to report a splitting headache and some numbness in my face. It's outside of office hours.

“In case of emergency, hang up and dial 911.”

Though I feel hesitant, I call 911 and explain the situation.

“We're going to send someone over to check it out.”

Five minutes later the paramedics arrive in flashing ambulances. I hope the neighbors aren't watching.

There isn't one guy, there are six. And they are all really, really cute! This is like some personal bachelorette party complete with Chippendale men. Is this a dream? I half-way expect these guys to start dancing! They're all there in uniform being very attentive, taking my pulse and blood pressure. I'm sure my heart rate must be going up a bit! If I'd known I was going to get this kind of attention I would have called 911 a long time ago and made sure I was wearing something other than sweats! I didn't even put on makeup!

“I didn't expect so many of you!”

I wonder if it would be inappropriate to take a picture.

As five of the cuties are gathered around asking me questions, a sixth goes upstairs. Apparently, it must be protocol for someone to go up and check your medicine cabinet to find out what kind of drugs the poor victim is on. Not that I don't want a cute guy in my bedroom, but I'm not prepared. My room is a mess! And right in the area where the vanity is--where my prescriptions are stored—is where I've left my underwear---dirty underwear! Inside out!

That's not all.

My little stash of drugs includes none other than--I'm embarrassed to say-- vaginal cream antibiotic. Lovely. A vaginal infection is just what I want to discuss with some hot, young paramedic.

Tumor Humor - Part 2

When I suddenly started seeing double as I was driving my son to school on Friday, I knew that something was really wrong. The fact that I can barely remember the drive, other than the strange sensation of “waking up” at a light with a flat tire, was unnerving, to say the least. This one couldn't be explained away as “just one of those things.” Everything else that was unusual—dizziness, insomnia, sensitivity to cold, weight loss despite eating loads of chocolate (yay!), my love of Laptops – these things have been more pronounced than usual, but haven't warranted a huge amount of concern.

When I called the doctor to tell her I had experienced double-vision when driving, she wanted me to come in immediately for an MRI. Yippee! VIP-treatment! Mental note: When seeking quick medical attention, you are taken much more seriously when you complain about double vision, than when you complain about mood swings.

The MRI did reveal a small growth on my Pituitary Gland. The doctor was not surprised because this was consistent with her recent blood work findings. The Pituitary Gland sits right behind the optic nerve, so it's not unusual to experience double vision with this type of growth. The doctor set me up with an endocrinologist and a neurologist.

She assured me there were no brain tumors. The Pituitary Gland isn't technically your “brain” and this growth could most definitely be treated. “If you have any other unusual neurological problems, be sure and call me right away.” she told me.

Unusual neurological problems? Well, that's a big bucket load of possibility! People have told me my whole life that I have a very strange brain! It would be unusual for me to act normal! The fact that I'm now completely paranoid about a brain abnormality is exactly the way my normally abnormal brain works!

So last night when I had a splitting headache and my lower jaw felt numb, I was sure it was another brain malfunction.

Tumor Humor - Part 1

This morning I'm taking some sick time from work. This is kind of silly because I'm here, typing on my laptop, which is all that is really required for me to “work.” The most physically taxing part of my job is the energy required to get up and go to the bathroom. However, we get five sick days a year, and I can't remember ever taking one. I can work from home and I'm addicted to email. Even when I'm legitimately sick, I manage to check my email, just to make sure I'm not missing out on some late-breaking information. I want to keep up on any schedule changes for the Team Happy Hour, for example.

But yesterday, I went to work, despite the recent diagnosis. I tell my co-workers in an ominous, scary way that I have a “brain tumor” in order to solicit the most sympathy. People look at me in horror! “Oh my God! You will be in our prayers! What are you doing here?” I figure I might as well milk this sympathy for all its worth. “Yes.” I say in a brave, resolved voice. “God will see me through this!”

A pituitary gland tumor (or, if I'm drop the melodramatics, it's really just a growth, and not very big) is almost always benign and treatable. They can either remove it through the nose (a very unique booger) or maybe even treat it with drugs or radiation. I'll find out more today.

The exciting thing is that this can explain so much! Everyone blamed my dizziness on my blond highlights! And all that scatter-brain behavior? It all makes sense now! The pituitary gland controls all the hormones. As any female can attest, we have enough trouble with our hormones even when things are working normally! Apparently, my hormones are completely out of whack, and NO, IT'S NOT BECAUSE I'M PERI-MENAPAUSAL! AHHHHH! I'M GOING TO CRY IF ANYONE TRIES TO CONVINCE ME OF THAT!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Who Needs Money? - Bowel Cancer Research

Last November I met Ian Usher, this guy that's traveling the world accomplishing 100 goals in 100 weeks. He's really quite a fascinating character and I've been following his blog with interest. When I told my 14-year-son about him...all the cool places he's going and things he's son's first comment was a very matter-of-fact: "He's going to run out of money." Note to self: Stop worrying about money...or at least stop talking about worrying about front of Scotty!

My son's not the only one that mentions the little issue of money when I rave about Ian's adventures. People want to know if he's independently wealthy. How in the world does one afford to take off for 2 years and travel the world? I'm sure it's a question that Ian gets asked a fact, I asked him that myself when I talked to him.

His budget approximately averages out to $100/day, he told me. And a lot of what he's been able to do has been due to the generosity of people he meets. Reading through his blog, I saw that it's often through serendipity that he's met just the contacts to help him fulfill some very unique goals that often require very specialized talents!

One of the most incredible of these meetings happened 2 days after I'd met Ian on Thanksgiving Day. He told me he was meeting a juggler that would help him accomplish his "juggle with fire" goal. I had pictured a street vendor who was probably just making ends meet. "Juggler" doesn't sound like the kind of job that pays well. I pictured Ian and the juggler sitting around with a can of spam on Thanksgiving Day, maybe throwing around some burning turkey legs. I read his blog the next day and saw that the juggler was world famous! Thanksgiving was spent at this outrageously gorgeous mansion in the Santa Monica mountains!

But my surprise and awe at the stories I read on Ian's blog aren't about wealth in the monetary sense. They are about the generosity and spirit of all of those that are helping him to accomplish these goals! I admit to feeling a tad guilty after I read about it all that I met him purely for selfish reasons. I didn't help him accomplish any goal...he helped me with one of mine! And, he bought me a drink at a very posh LA bar to celebrate afterwards.. Undoubtedly out-of-budget when one is traveling around the world on $100/day. It struck me that Ian neither boasted of his fame nor complained about any disappointments or worries of money.

There is one goal I thought maybe I could help him with. (Well...two, if you count the "Mile High Club" but... I wouldn't really call myself experienced in that area unless he's talking about a hike...) I have some experience with fund-raising (as anyone that knows me can attest.) Ian's Goal #81: is to raise $50K for Bowel Cancer Research. (Put Ian Usher in the "Name of Event" field.) His father died of Bowel Cancer and today, Jan.22, is the Anniversary of his death.

I know that these days most of us are worried about money. We're worried about the economy, the value of our houses and investments, and our jobs. But isn't it heart-warming to see people reaching out to someone they don't know, either to give or receive? It can even be as simple as a smile (but even better to donate money to a worthy cause.)

I hope you'll consider it!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Out With the Old, In With the New

I have a lot of difficulty “letting go”...whether we're talking about a relationship or an old vase, I just am not good about getting rid of stuff. My ex is the opposite. When we were married, some of our biggest arguments were about throwing away old stuff. He would go through a room and just throw away anything that he thought was old or imperfect. “If it hasn't been used in a year, you don't need it”, was his motto. I, on the other hand, attached sentimental value to every object. The ticket stubs to movies, the silky nighty I wore on our honeymoon that had become worn out and lace-torn, the beautiful vase gotten as a wedding gift, now held together with hot glue.

So, 5 years ago, when my ex left (out with the old, in with the new), perfectly in character, he said he'd rather have cash than the house or any of the “stuff” within. This worked out perfectly for me. Though it's not easy to afford or maintain this big house, I get to hold on to all my glorious “stuff”. I even had trouble getting rid of the piece of driftwood found in Mendocino that we'd put on the bed to symbolize we'd felt disconnected... like we were “drifting” apart. (Although I admit to being tempted to throw that one through the window of his new house with a note that said, “your new wife might want this”.)

Without my ex around any more to throw away all my precious junk, my kitchen-cabinet-cleanup project is long overdue. My idea of making spaghetti sauce is heating up a jar of Prego so this is more kitchen than I deserve, but I still love it. Taking everything out, one cabinet at a time, I discovered all kinds of “treasures”. Cooking gadgets that I have no idea how to use. Holiday molds that release the jello into a unique shape causing guests to think “what the heck is that supposed to be?” I found another kind of mold, too....on an ancient sandwich left in one of the 10 Bolder Boulder lunch bags that I've collected. Ah...what memories. I found all the baby cups that Scotty used to drink chocolate milk from that have since been chewed up by our dog, Chloe. I found 3-kids worth of elementary art projects and I also think "What the heck is that supposed to be?" I even have a bunch cheesy stuff from MY childhood like my “St. Louis” souvenir cup and saucer.

Let's face it... I'm not just sentimental, I'm a packrat. I can't stand to throw away something that is too old or worn out or sentimental to give to charity, but still has some value (supposedly). I think the weirdest thing I found was something that looked like a urine specimen cup. It was still in a plastic container (unused thank goodness!) but I must have thought the container might come in handy some day when I stuck that little treasure in my food storage cabinet. I have to admit, it was one of the few items in there that actually had a lid that I could find. There were quite a few lids with no corresponding containers as well! Almost everything was stained and weathered from years of use. “Tupperware” was “special” according to my mother. (I can't believe she actually asked if she could take some of these sorry containers, saying I could send her the lids if I found them in my cleanup. Now you can see where I got my packrat behaviors from.) My son asked me if I was going to give them to the homeless... Um... No. I don't think homeless people want old and dirty food storage containers to store all their leftover food in their live-in “refrigerators”. What my Mom didn't want, I actually put in the trash. Thanks to Walmart, I was able to replenish my supply for less than 20 bucks. It may not be “Tupperware” but it's clean and has lids.,

I found lots of mugs that were the ex's... Far Side, “I Love My Daddy”, Enginerd... He drank a lot of coffee, so coffee mugs were a standard gift. I boxed them up to send over. Most likely he will throw them all away. I'm proud that I either gave away or threw away a lot of old stuff, too. But I'm keeping a few of the old things. The “I Love My Mommy” mug will never go out of style.