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Because my online experiences aren’t strange enough …

A few days ago I posted a blog about Cupid being a jerk. Apparently he wasn’t ready to end his antics just because it was Valentine’s Day, so he gave me another story to add yet that night:

As if my online dating experiences weren’t strange enough: A few hours after I posted this, I received an email on one of the online dating sites I use. It was from a profile I’d not seen – there was no photo, but it had been filled out somewhat, more than many, actually. The email said, simply, “No longer with [insert ex-boyfriend’s name here], I see.” Except WITH the ex’s name – something I think I included in one, maybe two blog posts at least a year ago, if not farther back.

I responded, “Nope, I haven’t been for a while. Who is this?”

The person said his identity didn’t matter and wished me luck in my search. I asked again who it was, he responded again that it didn’t matter.

The next morning the emails – and the profile – were gone. Deleted by the original sender.

And, for now, so is my own profile. Hidden by me.

Eerie.

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Hey, Cupid, back off

It seems somewhat fitting that I would choose today, Valentine’s Day, to end a more than two-month absence from this space. While many of my friends are getting ready to go to dinner, or spend a romantic night at home, I’m sitting in my chair, feet kicked up, ignoring my pouting Newfoundland, who thinks she needs attention and writing a blog.

And I’m perfectly OK with that.

Actually, given the messages Cupid has been sending me lately, I am more than OK with that.

from Cafepress.com

from Cafepress.com

Yes, I’m going to go on another rant about online dating – but before I do, I’ll concede that it’s not all bad. I’ve met some seemingly decent guys online in the past, and I know an awful lot of people who have found and maintained very good relationships online. I think that’s awesome.

But I’ve got to be honest – I think I may have done something once upon a time to really anger Cupid, and he’s just not letting go. At. All. I mean, really, you know it’s bad when you relay a story of Cupid throwing things around on social media and a friend of 20+ years responds by saying if anyone else had told him the story, he’d know they were talking about me.

Yeah. Cupid’s feud has been that long.

First, there’s the activity I’ve been getting on the online dating sites. I’ve actually had quite a few conversations lately – and I know it’s probably partly due to the fact that Valentine’s Day was on the horizon and no one wanted to be alone. Many of the guys have been decent, I’ve not gotten together with anyone yet because none of the conversations have gone that far.

But those aren’t the guys Cupid is trying to derail me with. Oh, no, those are the ones I’m sure snuck past his watchful gaze and managed to get an email out. The ones Cupid has sent my way include:

  • A two-time convicted felon who got out of a life sentence for international drug dealing by turning on another inmate.
  • A two-time convicted felon release just months ago after two sentences for burglary.
  • A man with a foot fetish who is constantly asking for pictures of my feet – with my nails painted – because they’re so large and he loves big feet. (I swear, I’m not making this up.)
  • A guy from one of my chat groups (whom I’ve never met) who wanted to get together for a threesome. I told him I wasn’t even interested in a stranger twosome.
  • A man who was 5’6″ and living in St. Paul, Minn., who got offended when I told him first that he was too far away and then, when he persisted, that he was too short.
  • A man who, when I asked what his idea of relaxing is, said he dreamed about brushing my hair.
  • The guy who asked if I owned Molly’s Cupcakes, because he wanted to taste the frosting from my lips (seriously, dude, get a better line).

And that’s just in the last few weeks.

I know it’s not just the guys – I did a freelance story on the 40+ crowd turning to online dating, and was told by two men, both in their 50s, that women are just as bad. One of them went to pick up a woman for a dinner date, and she invited him in and took off her clothes. The other talked of women who were having a hard time keeping their story straight from day to day – their lives seemed to change with the turning of the calendar page.

Cupid is on a roll.

Then there’s the things that are happening in real life, not on the computer. Running into reminders of old relationships. Still having to tell people – six months later – that we broke up.

And this. This takes the cake, Cupid, and has made me not only draw the line, but begin to prepare for war:

The other day I was walking in to my doctor’s office – just a follow-up from a small procedure I had done over the holidays – and was checking in at the receptionist’s desk. There were four clerks seated for the two clinics located on that floor. As the clerk I was working with was pulling my file up in the computer, I looked down the line.

There, at the end, was an ex-boyfriend. Not just any ex-boyfriend, but the one ex-boyfriend who makes my skin crawl just thinking about him. The one who was writing a book and, I found out later, got together with me because he thought my connections could help him. The one who, when I introduced him to a very good friend of mine who has written more than a dozen books herself, created a fake name and email account to send her messages, flirting and even asking her out. The one who tried to apologize, and then decided he could become a life coach, and asked for my recommendation on LinkedIn. Twice.

OK, Cupid. Game on.

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I won’t be the first course when the zombies come

zombieI am not a runner.

I’ve said it for years. Sometimes I wouldn’t mind being a runner, occasionally it even looks like fun. But it involves one thing I really don’t like: running.

I love to walk – I could walk for miles. My regular walking route when the weather is nice is 2-3 miles, and sometimes I’ll push it to twice that without even really thinking about it. I love to ride my bike – not RAGBRAI-style riding, but taking a leisurely 5-, 10-mile ride. I like using the elliptical, stretching, Zumba – it’s not that I don’t like exercise.

I just don’t like running.

Lately, though, I’ve found myself on my walk and fighting the occasional urge to just … run. I quickly talk myself down from the ledge – I’ve never been a runner, not even when I played softball or basketball, and that was 25-30 years ago. I’ve got bad knees. I’m a former smoker. Walking is just fine.

But tonight …

Tonight I ran.

Don’t get excited, all you marathon runners out there. I ran – but it was only maybe an eighth of a mile. I was out walking with Mia and she had a bounce in her step because we’d just been wrestling in the apartment a few minutes before. Her pace picked up, then picked up some more, and suddenly I just ran.

It wasn’t far, and it wasn’t fast. But it was a run. I was a bit out of breath, but not horribly. Honestly, I probably could have gone a little farther. I imagine this is how the “Couch to 5K” program works. I felt good.

And I now know that in the event of a zombie apocalypse, I may not be the last person caught – but I also won’t be the first.

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Sometimes ‘goodbye’ is all you need

“But the wild things cried, “Oh please don’t go – we’ll eat you up – we love you so!”
And Max said, “No!”
The wild things roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws but Max stepped into his private boat and waved goodbye.”

— Maurice Sendak, “Where the Wild Things Are”

* * * * *

BoatI said “goodbye” to someone today, and in a way I felt a lot like Max getting on that boat.

My “someone” wasn’t and isn’t a monster, but like Max and his Wild Things, he is someone I’d had great adventures with, laughs, funny moments, thoughtful moments. We shared our lives and our families for almost three years, and when it ended a few months ago, we talked about being friends. That’s really what we had been for most of the time we were together, we reasoned, so how hard could it be?

We never really got the chance to find out. Shortly after we broke up, my “someone” met a new someone. “It was a surprise, totally unexpected,” he told me.

I was – and am – happy for him. The more time that passes since we ended it, the more I’ve come to realize we were a good fit as friends, but not as romantic partners. As much as we were alike, we were also different, and in ways that would eventually have mattered.

We still talked about being friends, but I knew even as we talked it wouldn’t happen. He would mention getting together for dinner – and I reminded him that his new someone might not appreciate it. The fact that we’d been romantic partners, no matter how much we know now that it was more like a friendship, will always get in the way when either of us has a new “someone.” It would for me – if I had a new someone in my life, I doubt that he would understand my wanting to go to dinner with a recent ex-boyfriend, and I know I would not be at all understanding if he wanted to go to dinner with a recent ex-girlfriend.

And I began to see the signs, and the signs began to bother me. Where once, even after breaking up, we’d instant message or text each other occasionally, they just stopped. He stopped “liking” my posts and pictures on Facebook. Pictures of the two of us together started disappearing from online photo albums. There was just … nothing.

I began to feel bitter and resentful, and then reminded myself there was really no reason to feel that way. I, too, have moved on, in different ways. I, too, know that the end was a good thing.

Can we be friends? I don’t know. Maybe. He’ll always be important to me, and his family will always be in my heart. I’m sure if I were to run into him we would be civil – friendly, even. But for now, anyway, that’s all there is.

So today I said “goodbye” and wished him well.

And got into my private boat and sailed away, ready to face the next adventure.

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My car is out to get me

JalopyIt’s no secret women – particularly single women – have a love/hate relationship with their car. Oh, sure, it’s a grand mechanical masterpiece that gets us from here to there, carries our children and friends, totes all of the loads from shopping and moving and picnics and ball games.

But some devilish imp full of mischief lies underneath. It’s almost like the Bad Child, the one who seems nice and polite and sincere on the surface, but who spray paints graffiti on your garage when you’re not looking. It’s the part that makes the car put off a God-awful noise that persists until you take it to the mechanic, and suddenly it’s gone, or that makes it burn gas so incredibly fast – until you’re trying to empty the tank so you can use your Fuel Saver card to the get the maximum benefit.

I’ve had my car for a little more than two years and it’s served me well – a handful of trips to Chicago, one to Denver, several to Galena and Cuba City, and countless trips to Carroll and Altoona to visit family. It’s the first car I’ve had with remote start, which I have come to absolutely LOVE in the Iowa winter, and the remote lock and entry helps me find it when I can’t remember where I’ve parked.  There have been no major repair issues, and I’ve had it serviced regularly. It’s a good car.

A few weeks ago I was at a friend’s house later than I should have been on a “school night,” and I pressed the unlock button on the key fob as I walked to my car. When the car knows you’re coming (because the doors have been unlocked) the headlights and interior lights come on for safety – so you can see your way to the car and see inside. This time, though, the passenger headlight didn’t come on.

Great.

Normally I wouldn’t have worried too much about it – but I live in a smaller city, about 18,000 people, where the crime rate is low and the police force gets bored. I’ve lived here for four years and have had five run-ins with officers on patrol: twice when I was driving my son’s old car and got pulled over for the light over the rear license plate being out, once for driving a friend’s SUV in the middle of the day to pick up a piece of furniture and she had a headlight out, once for not using a turn signal and once when my now-ex-boyfriend and I were on the sidewalk next to my apartment with my dogs at midnight one night and he had a bottle of beer – and an officer pulled over and made him pour it out.

Needless to say, driving into my community with one headlight out at 11 p.m. made me just a little nervous. Fortunately, it wasn’t my turn to be pulled over.

The burned-out bulb bothered me, though. I live across the street from a mechanic’s garage and I know they’d replace the bulb – but I never seem to have enough time in the morning, and they’re closed by the time I get home after work. So last week I went to the store and bought a bulb ($22! Holy cats!) and planned to change it myself.

Except I don’t know how. And I couldn’t figure it out. And my car didn’t have the owner’s manual – which presumably would have told me how to do it – when I bought it. And I didn’t think about Google.

For 13 days that light has bothered me. Every time I unlock the car when it’s dark, the shadow of where it should be taunts me, like a classroom bully: “Nyah nyah nyah, you’re going to get pulled over!”

I hated that light.

Today my son’s car is having issues so I took a last-minute vacation day to help him take care of those. Since I was home, I took the car across the street to have them change the bulb. They were busy at the time and told me to come back in a half hour.

A few minutes after I got home, my phone rang. It was the mechanic – none of my lights were out. They all worked. They. ALL. Worked.

I told him it had been out for nearly two weeks, and how I’d come to discover it was out. They hadn’t tried the key fob yet, so he told me they’d try that and I could come get it in about 10 minutes. When I went over, the new bulb was still in the package, still in the bag.

And the old headlight was shining brightly at me.

Sometimes … I really hate that car.

 

 

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“All representatives are busy helping other customers. Please remain on the line …”

dT8xa6GTeIt really shouldn’t be so hard to give the Internal Revenue Service my money.

I mean, if they don’t want it, I’m more than happy to hold onto it. But I know they do want it, and if I don’t move heaven and earth to get it to them I have no doubt they’ll move a few firewalls from my bank account to take it themselves.

Let me explain first by saying this: I am not a tax evader. I pay taxes with every paycheck – even a little more than is required – and file my taxes diligently before April 15 every year. Every. Year.

What I am, though, is a single mom (even though the “kids” are now young adults and one lives on his own) living on a single person’s budget (child support ended when The Youngest turned 18, college or no) and someone who can generally find a place to put any extra income that comes my way.

That said, in 2009, 2010 and 2011 I ghost-wrote or co-wrote three books, and received healthy advances for each of them. Those checks were very nice to get, especially since I still had two teenagers in high school for the first two of those years. Those checks helped with school expenses, clothing, car expenses as the kids got older, and just bills in general.

They were very, very nice to get.

What those checks didn’t do was pay their own taxes. There were no taxes taken out of them (think “contract worker”) and I failed to set anything aside. With any of them.

To say I took a beating when it came time to file taxes was an understatement.

I set up a payment plan the first year, and it was so easy that when I forgot/neglected to set anything aside with the second book, I extended my plan. By the third book extending the plan just seemed like the right thing to do.

The payment plan wasn’t a big deal, just a set amount paid every month. The IRS sends me a ticket stub, I send it back with a check. Easy peasy.

Easy, that is, until you’re late. The IRS doesn’t like you to be late.

What happens when you’re late – even a day late, I’ve since learned – is that you only get so many of those before the IRS determines you’re in default. When you’re in default, they stop sending you the payment tickets. When they stop sending you the payment tickets, you have no real address to forward your payment, and you can’t go online to set up a payment plan or pay on your existing plan because, well, you’re in default.

So … I was in default. And I didn’t want to be. I wanted to pay the IRS the money I owed, and I really, really, REALLY didn’t want them just taking it out of my paycheck or my bank account.

I scoured the website for a contact number. I called the local office only to be told, via message, that that office doesn’t offer live telephone help. I scoured the website again. And again. Finally I found a toll-free number (well, it’s the IRS, so I’m sure it’s only kind of free) and called. After going through six (or was it seven?) prompts to get me to where I needed to be, I received a message telling me my expected wait time is “15 to 30 minutes.”

Yeah. Right. This is the federal government, after all.

A mere 57 minutes later, I heard a click on the other end of my phone (“Oh, God, no, please don’t disconnect!”) and then a ringing. Then Brian or Mike or Steve, Badge No. XYZ, came on the line to see what he could do to help.

“I just want to give you money, but I don’t know how to do it,” I said.

I highly doubt he gets many of those calls.

In less than 20 minutes, Brian or Mike or Steve, Badge No. XYZ had me set up with an online payment plan, an extended due date and a free pass for October (“… although you’re certainly welcome to make any kind of payment you want in October, if you’d like.”).

It really shouldn’t be that hard to give the IRS my money …

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Online dating: Do I, or don’t I?

Online datingI can’t do it. I just … no.

No, this isn’t me whining about my breakup – I mean, yes, breakups suck, but if you do them right they’re a growing process that doesn’t have to end with bitterness and hate. That’s what I hear, anyway – this is the first one I’ve had that’s following that plan.

What I’m dreading now is entering the whole dating scene again. I’m not looking to jump into another relationship, and who knows if I’m really even looking to date anyone right now. But I have been scoping things out on the digital sites and I’ve gotta tell ya’ – it’s kinda scary out there.

On a whim. when I was mad at my ex-boyfriend (breakups are a huge blow to your ego – there’s going to be some anger, even if it’s fleeting), I filled out a profile for one of the online dating sites I used to be on, added a few pictures and posted it to go live. Then I took a look around at some of the men who were on the site.

The majority of the photos were ones I’d seen before – when I was on the site three years ago. I’m not saying they were the same men – they were the same pictures. One complaint I heard from several men the last time I was “out there” was that women posted old photos, or didn’t look like their photos when doing in-person meetings, so I found it particularly interesting that a lot of men – and I mean a lot of men – are still using the same photos from three or more years ago.

Then came the emails. I swear sometimes there’s a code in something I post – a code even I don’t understand or see – that tells men if they have any kind of odd line or strange way of approaching women, I’m the one they should try it out on, just to see if it works. “You look like you’re nice – we should go out sometime.” “What kinds of things turn you on?” “How do you feel about …?”

Ugh.

I hid my profile, thinking maybe I just wasn’t ready yet – it hasn’t been that long and I’m in no hurry. Then I remembered all the great stories I was able to tell (like this one, and this one, and even this one) and thought, if nothing else, it’s a conversation starter. Maybe I should let the profile be public.

But, wow – I’m really not looking forward to it.

 

 

 

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