Comforting Words: 01/2008

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

DOF 5: Sex on My Mind

I really should be packing at this time or at least reading the book sent to me in preparation for the meetings.

Since last night, I have been trying to rally myself to focus on the things I need to do in order to catch my red eye flight to Toronto and be reasonably intelligent at the 4-day long meeting I am attending.

My list of to do’s look something like this:
 Get Angello stuff together to take him to the kennel
 Do some laundry to have enough clothes to take with me (I am one of those persons who pack for every minute of the day when going on a trip!)
 Read at least the highlighted chapters of the book the meeting planners sent to you
 Water the plants and fill up the fountain
 Call Dr. B and make sure he remembers to pick up Angello from the kennel as scheduled
 Change email notification at work so that people know you are away for a few days and not waiting for responses from you
 Start packing so that there is no last minute rush

Well, it is now Wednesday morning and except for calling Dr. B, everything else will be done on the fly!

Why am I procrastinating? That is not my usual style but I have other things on my mind, give me a break.

What could be so important that all these very urgent things are left undone?


I have sex on my mind.

This all started with a smile last week. Well, actually the smiles have been coming for a couple weeks now but only last week I smiled back. And now, my ‘to do’ list is getting shafted as sex has taken over my focus.

Three of my friends upon reading this post will be laughing but will also know what this is all about as I called them to get their opinion on – sex.

Let me explain.

Regular readers know that I have been doing a series on Dating Over Forty – DOF I like to call it. My interest in doing this series, which started at the prompting of my man-friend Lance, really has to do with my continuing commitment to share my journey. If sharing my story helps one – I am way satisfied.

Speaking of satisfied let me get back to the main point – sex.

So here I am a woman DOF, who is using all the available resources that allow someone of my age and newly single to get back into the dating scene. Being totally averse to the bar and club scenes, the internet has been a valuable resource for me –so too have been a couple friends who have been trying to hook me up.

Now at forty, with a 20 year old daughter, have travelled a fair portion of the world, been through ‘stuff’ – both healthy and not so healthy – divorced and ‘dumped’ – I have been around the block a few times one could safely say.

Therefore imagine my surprise when I received this smile and finally decided to smile back only to later learn that the individual do not believe in sex outside of marriage!

Being as I am truly practicing not being judgmental – lest I be judged – I put aside my immediate reaction which was “You f….. liar! That’s just a nice line to get l… .” Yes, unfortunately, my vocabularly is limited sometimes and my place of employment has helped to colour it even further :(

All non-judgmental I pursued the conversation, only to find that the individual was serious! Themselves over 40 years old, divorced with kids, this person seriously wanted to date for whatever period, then marry and only after marriage have sex. I asked, “Are you serious,” probably sounding like some randy sl.. but who cared? I could not believe what I was hearing.

“Yes, I stand on the biblical teachings on this issue!” was the forceful response I got. This stumped me even further as the individual had only minutes before listened to my entire life story – gore and all – and said they were cool with my journey. It just was not making sense to me.

How can you be such a biblically righteous person and be cool with a woman whose journey included rape, battering, pre-martial sex, same-sex relationship and consensual sex outside of marriage, yet would hold a hard-line (pun intended) on fornication?

I quickly ended the conversation, saying “Okay, I have to go now, talk to you later,” and for the rest of the day played this conversation over and over in my head. That is how sex got a hold of my mind.

By the following day, I came to my conclusion but wanting to ensure that I was not being judgmental or ‘out to lunch’ about this issue, I decided to check in with three persons.

The first one thought the individual might be impotent and wanted to trap someone in marriage before they figured that out. The second, Anni, after she picked herself off the floor, thought that this was a religious nut who wants to convert me so was saying the right things about my past but let the proverbial cat out of the bag when it came right down to it. And the third, my gentle giant R., thought this was a ploy – to sound like a nice person and then there would be hell to pay when Jezebel (me) got them into bed before marriage!

Bottom line was – all my ‘consultants’ agreed that this was one person to run from as fast as I could. I loved what Anni said – “You are no goddamn teenager! That’s something an 18 year old would say but for a woman of our age that’s ludicrous!”

Is it really? Is fornication such a silly notion in the year 2008?

I thought about it – hence my luggage still not being packed and the plants dying from thirst – trying hard to find some merit in this person’s position. My conclusion is, Anni is right. Fornication or to be more politically correct – not engaging in pre-marital sex might be a value we need to instill in our children and young people. Actually, let me adjust that statement somewhat.

Pre-commitment sex is the real issue. Regular readers know my love and adoration for Bishop John Shelby Spong. I have read all his books, met him in person twice and have his autograph – am I a fan or what? The first of his books that I read was a life-saver for me.

“Living in Sin: A Bishop Rethinks Human Sexuality,” saved me from the years of condemnation and feelings of shame that I had inflicted on myself – as society had judged me or told me that I was unclean, worthless and not pure.

It was not my fault that since the age of two I was the target of male fantasy to have sex with a minor. Neither was it my fault that a man thought it okay to rape me – as I was his property. But try telling that to a teenager and worse yet, try convincing an adult who has lived all of her life feeling this way.

And so for years, even while in a long-term relationship, I silently lived with the shame and guilt – afraid to share the pain that I was going through even with my dearest because I felt no one would really understand…and in fact even my closest really did not.

The healing process started for me when I read that book of Bishop Spong and his understanding of sexuality and sex within a committed relationship. That healing deepened when I was able to sit across from him (back in Jamaica) and in less than 15minutes poured out my desire to be a spiritualcounsellor but the shame I felt about my past. His words to me placed me squarely on the path that I now trod.

Sex only after marriage does not guarantee a successful marriage. The divorce statistics prove that. Equally, sex before marriage (or even before a true bond and commitment has developed) – consensual or otherwise – changes the nature of the relationship and brings challenges with it.

I do agree that sex is not the be all and end all of any relationship and therefore whether one continues to engage in a particular relationship should not be determined solely on the basis of sex. But I also agree that sex without commitment is merely lust and involvements started on that basis will not end in a long-lasting and committed relationship.

That is what I eventually shared with this individual. I sat at my computer and did what I do best – I wrote a long email explaining my position that:
(1) I have no desire, at this point in time or in the near future, to get married to anyone regardless of the gender;
(2) we are sexual beings and sexuality is part of our DNA and therefore it would be hard for me (and for anyone) to deny and repress such an essential part of their ‘beingness’;
(3) having ‘been around the block,’ as many times as I have, asking me to either not express who I am at my core for someone who I truly care for and love would be the real sin.

As Anni said, I (nor you DOF’s) are not teenagers, although one have to wonder about some of us. I think I can differentiate between lust and when two people have spent time really getting to know each, time and effrot getting in touch with each others deepest feelings and emotions, and based on those things make a commitment to share the journey for however long life allows.

I received a equally long reply, filled with biblical quotes of judgment and condemnation. The ‘pus’ [cat] was let out of the bag finally! I had a good laugh and then thought – this has to be written; this is Part 5 of the DOF series!

Now I am going to throw a few pieces of clothing in a bag ( I will not be making any fashion statements on this trip :), put the book I should have read weeks ago in my hand luggage to read on the flight tonight and go to Toronto and pretend to be wise (ha-ha).



Photos as usual are courtesy of Renato

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, January 13, 2008

DOF 4: A Woman with a Past

Torn between getting dressed and going to the grocery store or writing this post – my final decision is obvious.

It is another Sunday morning that I woke up to … not another human face on the pillow next to me -- Angello, my dog.

If he was not sick and slowly leaving my life this scenario would probably be depressing. Who wants to wake up to a dog every darn morning?

As a child growing up in Kingston, Jamaica, on a couple of occasions I heard a particular song by the National Folk Singers. At the time the significance of the words did not truly resonate with me – now it is a totally different story.

All the words of this folk song escape me now – the vital ones I recall: “Before me go married and go hug up mango tree…mi’, mi’ will live so mi’ one!”

Despite the seeming ‘sadness’ of my waking up to my dog – as the song says – it is much preferably to being ‘married’ and unhappy!

I have both a tendency and a propensity to read several books at the same time and right now I am going through three:
1. Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self by Sarah Ban Breathnach
2. The Mastery of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz
3. The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness by Stephen R. Covey
The first two I am reading maybe for the third or fourth time but this is my first read of Covey’s latest.

All three books have a common theme – one that I recognize as applicable to the single life.

Once upon a time – I hope – it was an horrible thing to be single. Women over a certain age (20) without a partner (read as man) were considered ‘spinsters’ – what an awful word!

Until the advent of the pill and the subsequent sexual revolution – a woman of my age (40+) and status (single, divorced or widowed) would be put out to roost.

It is the fact that this has not only changed but women like myself, especially those of us who are DOF’s (Dating Over Forty) are now celebrated that makes me so excited by Breathnach’s book – to the point of recommending it (and her other one – Simple Abundance that I also read about thrice) to all women and even men.

The entire book, a collection of essays, is a treat but it was the one on “Becoming a Woman with a Past,” that had me saying “Amen, Alleluia!”

I am a Woman with a Past and so is every one of you who have survived life challenges – in their various forms. Breathnach writes: “There is nothing more alluring, intriguing, and romantic than being perceived as a woman with a past. Except, of course, knowing that you are one, which makes you glorious. Magnificent. Powerful."

I love it! The thought and more so the knowledge that I am (and you are) a Woman with a Past is so empowering it is almost scary. In fact, it is scary for many who you meet as a woman DOF. Well, that has been my experience at least.

Potential dates do not know what the hell to make of you as a Woman with a Past! What do you do or say to a woman (or man for that matter) that enters a room knowing that she is glorious, magnificent and powerful – wounds and all?

My experience has been varied – in person, on the phone or through internet dating sites. However, several things are common. And this is where Ruiz book comes in. He calls what others do – those who do not know what to do with you – as shooting their poisoned arrows at you. They try to change you in some way or another, from their place of fear and brokenness – although they would never admit this.

“You are too this; you are too that; you shouldn’t say this; you should be like that,” are just some of the things they will shoot at you to convince you that you have no right to be glorious, magnificent or powerful.

Ruiz advice to you/me – Women with Pasts – is “you have to accept yourself and love yourself just the way you are. You are what you are, and that is all you are. You don’t need to pretend to be something else.”

Over the last few months of my stepping out as a DOF, there have been so many opportunities for me to fall back into the old trap – distrusting who I am meant to be. As a single person on the proverbial market, everyone wants to have a piece of you – in more ways than one.

I remember a minister back in Jamaica saying that if you give everyone a piece of you – what will you have left for yourself? “Nothing,” would be my response. Dating Over Forty does not have to be compromising yourself and who you have grown up to be – absolutely not.

In fact the opposite is true. It is your past and who you have become that has probably made you single in the first place but it is also what has made you a priceless commodity.

My lesson in this regard is – do not sell yourself short! Do not settle – because you wake up to your dog on a fine, relatively warm for January Sunday morning!

Covey’s book is written largely with a management focus in mind; however, as he himself noted, the principles can and ought to be applied to daily living and relationships. I am reading this one slowly because of this comprehensive approach – figuring out how to “walk” these principles in all areas of my new life.

One point that grabbed me by the short and curlies had to do with expressing one’s voice. Covey teaches that you must find your own voice – meaning your own style of expressing your uniqueness – then help others to do the same.

Part of being able to do this is living by your conscience – you know that still small voice in all of us that whispers to you when you are supporting life or destroying it. This is what Covey wrote:
“People who do not live by their conscience will not experience …internal integrity and peace of mind. They will find their ego attempting to control relationships. Even though they might pretend or feign kindness and empathy from time to time, they will use subtle forms of manipulation and will even go so far as to engage in kind but dictatorial behaviours.”

Reading this, I first had to admit to myself – “been there, done that.” After releasing the negative energy of being in that place and asking for forgiveness, I was then able to see how this played out and continue to play out in my life now. Actually, less so now than before as I am able to ‘suss’ out those people who have tried to enter my space in recent months whose true purpose was to test my will to become the best human being that I can be.

As a Woman with a Past and one who is DOF (or man, never forget that it applies to both genders), you have to be so attentive to these “players,” I like to call them. Their talk is sweet. They pretend as if they have it all together and that you are a nincompoop because you speak your truth openly and without hesitation. Their wish would be that you just do as they say or recommend because they have ‘stuff’ and you do not.

My question to them has been – “Who told you that I want to be a mini-you?”

And so, my wish for all Women with Pasts (and men) is that as we continue to date, we never let go of who we are.

Quoting again from Breathnach and extensively so to close this post:
“…Authentic success is something much, much more…” than surviving the betrayal of someone loved and trusted.

“Authentic success is …. Surviving the betrayal of someone you loathed and tormented. Yourself.”

How do we stop betraying ourselves – even as we try to date?

“By stopping it, that’s how, just stopping it. Today. By praying right this moment for the courage to learn how to transform the self-loathing into loving every day through your passionate choices.”

My passionate choice is to be the glorious, magnificent and powerful Me.

What’s yours?



Works Cited:

Breathnach, Sarah Ban: Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self, 323 – 325
Covey, Stephen: The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness, 82
Ruiz, Don Miguel: The Mastery of Love, 81

Photographs, as usual, courtesy of Renato

Labels: , ,