Thursday, December 17, 2015


In the interest of extending an olive branch, I decided to remove a post I wrote earlier this week. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

This Is What Jen in Love Looks Like

Eric at work told Whitney, "Jen seems so happy. She is smiling so much more."

Today my friend Will said to me, "You look younger every time I see you."

I said, "This is what Jen in love looks like."

I remarked to someone recently that we had been dating almost two weeks, and she seemed visibly surprised that we had been publicly canoodling in the balcony of Baldwin Hall at a recent Lyceum event.

I suppose it might seem sudden from the outside. But I have dated a lot since my second marriage ended. And then I stopped dating for a long time. So, I have been very, very single for two years, and completely date-free/celibate for 11 months of that time.

I've known for a very long time that unless I met someone with whom I could have at least as interesting conversations as I have with my small circle of friends, it wasn't going to have long-term potential. Most of those friends have openly said to me that I was never going to find what I wanted online, and they were right. I wasn't wrong about guys who go online to date pursuing sex-- I was just not meeting any of the guys who aren't motivated by sex because they don't go online. Or maybe those guys are really as rare as they seem, because Darren is definitely a first.

But back to conversations: We talk for hours. The first Saturday night we hung out, we talked from six p.m. to midnight without pausing much except to show each other videos and play songs for each other.

I was going to write about meeting Darren's parents for the first time. Except that sentence is misleading, because, as it turns out, it wasn't the first time. I went over to meet them on Thanksgiving before I went to work. I walked into the living room and saw Darren's dad and sort of squealed, "Hi!!!" and turned to Darren and said, "Darren, I LOVE your parents!" And I hugged his dad and then hugged his mom. They worked as para professionals in the junior high when I taught special ed (and far beyond me). I always loved and appreciated how kind they were to the kids and also to me. They personified helpfulness. I remember when Darren's dad told me about a particularly difficult kid, "If you need ANYTHING, you just call me."

So, we sat in their living room and caught up on all of the kids we knew and where they had ended up while Darren sat and watched us like a tennis match. It was love.

Darren knows everything about me, or at least the most everything I've had the chance to share with him so far. And I know a lot about him. And some of what we know about each other isn't pretty or perfect or even nice. We have shared deeply humiliating things with each other, regrets, fears.

One of the things I've been really aware of is the ways in which I chose separateness in past relationships. Ways in which I realized that gaps were enlarging between us, but played love chicken and let it happen. Love chicken is when you wait to see if your partner will point out the distance, will point out the gaps, will point out the times you chose to stay up instead of going to bed at the same time.

I am also guilty of having believed in the past that some behaviors or ideologies would change, in spite of the fact that there was never any indication apart from my hope that this would happen. I can't blame people for being who they are if I never fully accepted them that way and always hoped that they would change. That isn't fair to anyone.

I have learned over the years that I like being single. But right now, I am radiating happiness. Having someone I can say anything to and talk about teaching, grant writing, JC Penney, the Mormon Church, leaving the Mormon Church, religion, death, life, disappointment, grief, brokenness, strength, meditation, hope, hopelessness, giving up, despair, The Killers, The Cure, John-5, Go Down, Moses, God's Debris, love, sex, heartbreak, God, grace, our parents, our siblings, Tosh, Sting, friendship, integrity, acceptance-- I mean, everything. There isn't anything I can't say to him. I have said everything to him. We have cried in front of each other. I grip his beard in both hands and ask him sometimes, "Are you really real?" I am forty-six. I know how rare this is.

He goes to the hardware store with Chris. He goes out for breakfast with Sam. I slept in til 9 a.m. on Saturday morning and when I got up, he was cleaning the kitchen. "Do you mind if I help you with the cleaning?" he  had asked me a few days before, when I confessed that I was a nonconvertible slob.

"Are you kidding?" I said.

*          *          *          *           *          *            *             *             *          *          *          *          *

I know I'm gushing. According to Marsha at the JCP jewelry counter, I'm glowing. And I don't even care, I am unabashadly gushing. There has been so little romance in my history that I really stopped believing in it. That was hard to let go of, but then, after awhile, I was able to embrace my life without it. And I think it is really essential to be able to do that. Because it makes you so rock solid that it doesn't rock any of the foundations of who you are to be able to say, "I found someone who flips my heart inside out, and that's so rare, and I'm so lucky."

If I am actually in a coma, please make sure Christian is taking care of his blood sugars.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

How on earth I met him

"How on earth did you meet this guy?" my friend Lynn Carter asked me just now.
I said, "It's a cute story and I am going to blog about it. :-) "

This guy is Darren Pinkerton. He has been encouraging me to start blogging again. "You could even write about our relationship if you wanted to, if you need material."

It is true that he is most of the material I have lately. Otherwise, my life for the past eleven months has pretty much been Criminal Minds, JC Penney, and teaching one creative writing class.

I have had two online dating profiles for awhile now. Since 2012. I have deactivated them at times and reactivated them. But I have not dated, until now, since New Year's. And no, it is not because I have not been asked. I was just tired of not meeting anyone of substance who actually wanted to know ME and wanted to spend time with me outside of the sack. So, I just didn't date. And it was great. To boot, my doctor upped my Prozac in the winter, which completely killed my sex drive. So, I just went through a long period of slumber in which I would half-interestedly peruse each dating site for about thirty seconds a day before signing out again.

My friend Whitney at work has been encouraging me to take those profiles down for a long time now. I took them down this summer, actually, but they had been back up for a couple of months, maybe.

In the meantime, in the early summer, I bought a bicycle with a basket and began riding it to work. I had a thermos I used to take to work filled with coffee, but the thermos was too heavy for my basket. So, I started stopping at Casey's for a part cappucino/mostly regular coffee cocktail that I would put into my basket and ride to JC Penney. The Casey's by my house is farther than the one on Baltimore, and I have a tendency to spill coffee on a longer ride. So, I started going to they Casey's on Baltimore. And after I had been going there nearly every morning for the summer, in August or so, a new cashier was hired. And I thought he was cute. I could tell by my interactions with him that he was smart. And he was always really friendly. Some of his co-workers are delightfully quirky and I enjoy my exchanges with them, but Darren was always more like a peer, someone I could kind of talk to easily. And that was something I sort of tucked away. But since I began dating again after my second divorce, I always said I wouldn't date in Kirksville. And that it would take someone really extraordinary for me to do it. And I couldn't really imagine finding someone in Kirksville I wanted to date-- because I certainly hadn't had any luck with that regard to date. (See what I did there?)

But I sort of started thinking about dating again in the fall, and I started thinking about Darren as someone I might like to date. I liked the look of him. So, we started chatting more and more-- little tidbits about our day and what it was going to look like, or how many days we'd been on in a row if we had seen each other for several days in a row. When I would come in, even if he was heading to the employee break area, he would stop and ask me if I was going to be unloading a truck that day. And I'd embellish my answer with a description of how many hours the truck might be or tell him that we were clearancing or setting a sale. So, I started to think that the interest might must be mutual. But it was so subtle that I didn't even mention it to my friends. Until one Sunday when we were sitting around and I said, "Hey, I need to tell you guys about this guy I like because I'm trying to figure out how to give him my phone number." So, I told them what I just told you.

I had been trying to get Darren to come into JC Penney. "We are having a 25% off Friends and Family event," I said.

"We can use our discount with our friends this week," I said.

"I'll come in," he said to me the next morning, a Monday. And I was afraid he wouldn't.

That afternoon, I had to take my mother down to CoMo to see her rheumatologist. I needed gas and coffee, so I stopped at Darren's Casey's. When I went in he said, "Hey, are you on break?"

"No, I'm getting gas to take my mom down to Columbia."

"Oh, I thought maybe you came in to say, 'hi,'" he told me.

I held up the coupons I had brought in for him and his co-workers. "I did!" I told him. "I brought you guys coupons!"

I went and got bottled water and coffee and paid for my gas. While he was ringing me up, he asked, "So, what do you do in your off time?"

And I thought, "Gotcha!"

I said, "I watch a lot of TV," I said.

"What do you watch?"

"Criminal Minds."

"Good show," he said.

"What do you do in your off time?" I asked.

"I've been reading a lot lately," he said, and handed me my credit card receipt to sign. And my customer copy. Smooth as butter (completely uncharacteristic of me), I flipped that receipt over and wrote down my name and phone number and said, "Let me know if you want to hang out sometime."

"Really?" he said.  He beamed. I later told Chris (and then him),

"He looked like he had won the lottery."

He held up my number and said, "I'll call you."

I pointed at him and said, "Text me."

And smiled all the way to CoMo.

He texted me when I was driving back home. We made plans for him to come over that evening around 7:30. We talked for a long time. Then he was saying he had told a friend about me, so I asked if he wanted to take a pic of me to send him. Then I said, "No, I will take a selfie and send it to you."

He said, "Want to take a selfie of both of us?"

And he came over and sat by me and I snapped a pic of us (my current Facebook profile pic). He started to say something about whether or not I was comfortable with him sitting next to me, and I kissed him.

And then he kissed me.

And he was a gentleman and didn't even try to do anything else. And he wanted to see me again. He left before 10 p.m. and we made plans to meet the following evening. And we did.

There are more things I need to tell you, but I am still adjusting to my bifocals, so I'll just make a few notes here to entice you to come back for more.

Meeting his parents.

The talks.

The friends.

Sherri and Stella.