My Holiday Letter

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Ahh…. the holidays: an often-dreaded time for singletons. One of the offending hallmarks (no pun intended) of the season is, of course, the holiday letter. When a single person receives a family holiday letter, it can serve as a reminder of her or his not-intact family. A recent Washington Post Solo-ish article titled I love your family but I dread your joyous holiday letters captures the emotions a divorced or widowed person might feel upon reading this well meaning but accidentally hurtful correspondence.

Turnabout is fair play. So, enjoy my singles version of a holiday letter while slurping Nadia’s Cod, Coconut Milk, and Cilantro Soup (recipe below).

Play some appropriately themed music while you’re cooking.

Note that, unlike other “family” letters, you don’t have to read about the exploits of multiple related people.

December 2016

Dear Friends,

I hope this holiday season finds you well and that you and your loved ones are sheltering in place – and by the fire – after the storm of the election. We need all the love we can get during this time of national emotional upheaval.

It’s been a wild ride for me this past year as well. Oh, no, I don’t mean that literally I’ve found a wild ride…though I have been searching for one.

Let me share with you some of the highlights from 2016:

  1. Four hundred first dates! Yes, in fact, I may have reached that milestone after four years of divorce. But who’s counting?
  2. A banner year for bad breath! Why is it that so many men fail in the oral hygiene department? This year I learned to stock 10 varieties of mints and gum in my purse and car – just in case I encounter a case of Mr. Frisky with Halitosis.
  3. Athletic accomplishments: No swim team for me…but I did overcome my fear of deep water. Now I can hang out at the community pool after my laps and try to meet men.
  4. Dance competitions: Even better than a middle school dance competition, I completed a basic introductory hip-hop class without requiring orthopedic surgery or acupuncture. Then there was the tango class I took with a short, heavily accented instructor. I couldn’t hear him over the loud music so I invented my personal version of the tango, which looks more like a bull stamping its foot before charging.
  5. Academic achievements: There are no grades or tests for adult education classes at community college so I can’t humble brag about being on the Dean’s List. On the positive side, my Spanish and writing classes revealed the added benefit of making new friends and possibly meeting men. A win-win amigos.
  6. Travel highlights: Spain and Ireland. For the single woman, Spain wins. See: Tinder in España.
  7. Something new, something borrowed, something blue. No wedding for me, fellow partygoers. As a single woman, new refers to new dating photos and a revised profile. I borrowed my daughter’s jeans to wear on a date and the blue for this non-bride refers to Miles’ classic Kind of Blue album, great music for contemplating your single life.
  8. Local field trips: I expanded my repertoire of solo outings, enjoying “just me” excursions to happy hours, museums, and concerts.
  9. Breaking down barriers: I ignored any perceived age and race barriers and went out with men of various ethnicities from age 50 to 69.
  10. Benefits of non-Mindfulness: I learned to relax into the cycle of the dating life and look to the future: Dry spells are followed by false bounty but eventually you date a guy – though he might have bad breath (see #2).
  11. Plans for 2017: I bought 3 red dresses in 2016 so I’m starting my Valentine’s Day dating search now!

 

2016 Bonus: Nadia’s Cod, Coconut Milk, and Cilantro Soup

Ingredients:

2 pounds cod

Olive oil

1 cup thinly sliced leeks (white parts only).

1 large red pepper, chopped

2 fresh tomatoes skinned and chopped (optional)

2 cans light coconut milk

1-cup vegetable broth

1-pound package frozen yellow corn

½ cup minced cilantro

¼ cup fresh lime juice

Cilantro and fresh sliced avocado for garnish

Heat olive oil in large pasta or soup pot. Add leeks and and sauté until translucent. Add chopped red pepper and continue sautéing a couple more minutes. Add tomato if using. Cut cod into 2” pieces (not too small because they will break up anyway) and add to mixture. Sautee a couple of minutes and then add coconut milk and vegetable broth. Cook 5 minutes and then add corn. Cook on medium (low bubbling of mixture) for another 8 minutes.  Check cod to make sure it’s cooked through (opaque not translucent). Add salt to taste. Stir in cilantro and lime juice. Heat for another minute.

Serve over jasmine rice. Garnish soup with sliced avocado and minced cilantro.

Note: If you don’t have leeks, you can substitute Vidalia onions (1/2 to 1 large chopped onion depending on your preference).  Quantity of leeks or onions, peppers, and tomatoes  can be varied depending on your preference and any food allergies.

Frozen defrosted cod works well in this recipe. You can even use partially defrosted cod. Just make sure you thoroughly cook it in the broth/coconut milk mixture.

Until next week, happy dating or not dating…and happy cooking!

XXXOOO

Nadia

Giving a Bad First Date a Second Chance

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Happy Thanksgiving week! I’m busy eating leftovers so please enjoy this guest post by Julie Weinberg.

I never give a bad first date a second chance. It’s a rule I established long ago in my eight years of post-divorce dating. It stemmed from a series of bad second dates following bad first dates. I asked myself, why bother? I thought my gut reaction during a first date was pretty accurate so I just went with that.

I recently had an experience, though, that has me wondering if my rule is perhaps too rigid. My shift in position is based on an interaction rather than a date but I think the principle applies. Here’s the scenario.

I arrive at a meetup.com happy hour–wait, stop the story. You’ve never heard of meetup.com?! Finish reading and commenting on this post and then immediately go to meetup.com where you will find a bonanza of like-minded people of all age groups who share your interests and plan events around them. Whatever your hobby or favorite weekend activity (comedy clubs, bird watching, hiking, canasta, you name it), you will find groups of people making plans to do it. Best yet, it is almost always FREE!

Back to my story. While spending three weeks visiting the San Francisco Bay Area on vacation, I go to a meetup.com happy hour at a yacht club. Last interruption. Note: I am not even from the Bay Area but I searched meetup.com and found what I thought would be a really nice way to spend an evening when I had nothing else planned. I swear I am not getting paid by meetup.com to promote their site; I just think it is a fabulous resource for singles looking for fun things to do. On to the story…

I walk into the restaurant and meander over to an organized looking group of about 20 people and confirm it is my meetup group. I plant myself at a table of seven or eight people and sit next to an attractive gentleman. After he exchanges pleasantries with everyone at the table for a few minutes, Mr. Attractive turns his attention to me and we dive into a more private conversation. I like him. He’s quite funny and captivating. I am thinking I would definitely like to go out with him.

During a lull in our conversation, another man at the table makes a comment about his experience on match.com and now everyone joins in the conversation because we all have online dating stories. We talk about profiles and I say, “I am brutally honest in mine” and Mr. Attractive says, “That’s a red flag for me. Someone who says she is ‘brutally honest’ really just means to me she’s a rude bitch.”

The table gets quiet. I burst out laughing because I can’t believe how rude Mr. Attractive is being to me, right there in front of everyone. I excuse myself to go to the bathroom and, in my head, rename Mr. Attractive to Mr. Rude. Another woman also excuses herself, and we bond when she says, “I can’t believe what a jerk that guy was.”  We spend the rest of the evening getting to know each other and, despite Mr. Rude (or really because of him), I now have a girlfriend in the Bay Area.

A week later, while still in the Bay Area, I attend a big singles mixer at an extremely posh hotel. Two hundred plus people are in attendance. About an hour into the event, guess who comes up to me? That’s right. Mr. Attractive/Rude. I couldn’t believe it. Why would a man who announces to the world that he thinks I am a “rude bitch” be so bold as to make a second attempt at getting to know me?

Being a direct and honest midwestern girl, I cut him off and say, “I am not sure what you are thinking here, but after how rude you were to me last week I really don’t want to chitchat with you now.” He is flabbergasted. He has no idea he was rude and he wants to know what he said that made me feel that way. We proceed to spend the next hour dissecting the conversation, me telling him how I took his comment and he explaining what he meant. During this evening’s conversation, he is again engaging, funny, and apologetic. I start liking him again. By the end of the evening, he asks me out.

I was leaving the next day so the date didn’t work out but we agree to stay in touch and see each other the following month when I am back in the Bay Area.

More importantly than a potential date with Mr. Attractive/Rude, this experience got me to think about my “no second date” rule. By limiting a guy to a single coffee date, am I missing out on getting to know a really great guy? Maybe I am being too harsh. I am not sure, but over the course of the next few months I may soften my stance to see what happens. Stay tuned.

*To learn more about Julie, visit her website julieweinbergbooks.com or purchase her book, I Wish There Were Baby Factories.  

Until next week, happy dating or not dating.

XXXOOO

Nadia

Fairytale Lessons for the Dating Life

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Hopeful romantics often daydream about a fairytale ending to their dating story: marrying that prince who finally found you – the woman who lost one Ugg boot in the mall or being awakened with a great kiss from that other prince whose lip mastery breaks the unfortunate spell of the bad kissers.

Aside from the happy endings, are there lessons from fairytales and fables that apply to the beginning, middle, and endings (not always happy) of dating and relationship stories?

Let’s ponder this while enjoying a light arugula salad in expectation of overindulging at Thanksgiving.

Little Red Riding Hood: You might think the dating moral of this story is – don’t ever talk to or interact with strangers. Not a realistic goal for someone trying to meet their “one.”

Consider this updated moral for dating purposes: be smart when encountering strangers: pay attention to visual or other signs that you might be interacting with a scammer. Rely liberally on Google image search or veracity, an image search app for your cell phone. Use all available security tactics.

The Fisher and the Little Fish: A small gain is more valuable than a large promise. Another way to say this: be satisfied with what you have.

This is a perfect tale for the online dater who meets someone he or she really likes but can’t stop window-shopping for a possibly hotter/better/thinner, etc. match. I’m not talking about early in a relationship when it’s prudent to keep your options open. The moral applies when someone in an exclusive relationship that is working goes online to see if there’s someone “better” out there. 

The Two Goats: It is better to compromise than to come to misfortune through stubbornness. This is a perfect fable for relationships and no updating of the moral is needed

The Little Mermaid: Try new things and activities outside of your comfort zone. Getting outside of your comfort zone may be needed when you are creating a new life after a divorce or the death of a spouse. You’ll find yourself in new social situations and trying new activities or hobbies. Regardless of whether your goal is to meet people or to enhance your creative life and sense of accomplishment, sometimes you may need to take a leap even if it’s scary.

Brave: Be brave. See The Little Mermaid. Bravery, of course, is a close cousin of stepping outside of your comfort zone. 

The Salt Peddler and the Donkey: Two can play the same game.

Let’s say you like a guy but he’s an erratic communicator with long gaps between texts or calls, invitations on short notice, and an occasional date cancellation. You could certainly ghost him – and be justified – but sometimes, guys need a dose of their own medicine.

This “revenge” scenario calls for you to be strong and have a few other male possibilities keeping you busy.  If Mr. Poor Communicator texts you after a week’s silence, don’t reply for a week. If he cancels on you, reschedule and cancel on him. You get my drift. This may seem petty, not worth your time, etc. True. And, although, you’d rather Mr. PC be a better communicator and boyfriend, this tactic may be surprisingly satisfying.

The Mice in Council: Many things are easier said than done. Finding the one – or one of the ones – certainly seems to fall into this category. 

The Three Wishes: Think carefully about what you really want in life and plan ahead. Make a list of must have qualities in a partner and check your profile to make sure you reflect (or have) those qualities. Evaluate each new man you go out with and ask whether he possesses those qualities. If not, move on.

The Hare and the Tortoise: Slow and steady wins the race. Don’t give up! It may take awhile but keep on working the dating life. Take breaks as needed, try new sites, discontinue sites that aren’t working, and try new activities to meet men in real life.

Oh, and you don’t have to be a princess to have a happy ending.

Until next week, happy dating or not dating. And Happy Thanksgiving!

XXXOOO

Nadia

Ten Favorite Things: Fall 2016 Edition

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In need of a little mood lift this week? Browse through my latest list of favorite things and enjoy, chill out, be inspired, or just escape from the persistent rain of depressing news.

This list should be read while munching on arugula salad with manchego, apples, and caramelized walnuts.

  1. Ten Most Relaxing Songs Ever

Feeling an overwhelming desire to relax? An article in Inc.com by Melanie Curtin describes neuroscience research on songs that produce the greatest state of relaxation. Weightless, one of the songs tested, reduced study participants’ overall anxiety by 65 percent. Curtin created a public playlist of the songs on Spotify.

  1. RockMyRun

On the other side of the music spectrum, there’s RockMyRun, a smartphone music app that is anything but relaxing – but in a good way. The app is DJ curated and tested with and by athletes to provide tunes that increases your exercise enjoyment and performance. There are thousands of music mixes to choose from. The ROCKSTAR Premium Membership is ad-free and allows you to save stations and personalize the music to your heart rate, steps, or personal preference.

This is my go-to music app at the gym.

  1. The Bitch in the House: 26 Women Tell the Truth About Sex, Solitude, Work, Motherhood, and Marriage, Cathi Hanauer (ed)

How did I not know about this book? This collection of essays describing the modern woman’s struggles with relationships, sex, marriage, parenting, and career is beautifully written, searingly honest, and intensely personal. I was struck by the incredible variety of experiences women have. As editor Cathi Hanauer says of the authors, “Their pieces reflect, in a chorus of different voices, the elations and disappointments of our lives as fervent and ambitious women today.”

  1. The Bitch is Back: Older, Wiser, and (Getting) Happier, Cathi Hanauer (ed)

I read the first Bitch book right after the sequel was published so I didn’t have to wait 10 years to find out what happened to nine of the original writers. These writers, plus 16 new contributors, offer their thoughts on love, sex, work, family, independence, aging, body image, and health. “It’s a book about choices – specifically the choices today’s bold, deep-thinking, impassioned women make as they approach and pass through midlife—and about what we might gain, and give up, with each choice, “ writes Hanauer.

  1. Kind of Blue, Miles Davis

If you’re a jazz fan, you may know this album inside out. Often described as a masterpiece, and one of the top jazz albums of all time, the music matches my mood lately.   If you’ve never heard it, you’re in for a treat. See: NPR’s Jazz Profiles.

  1. Meetup

I’ve been talking about Meetups since day one of this blog. This website and app geared to bringing people together over common interests continues to be a favorite of mine. Meetups are a great way to make friends, experience something new, or just have a good time. I have joined so many Meetups that on any given day when I don’t have specific plans, I can search on the site or app and usually find something to do. It’s not a small enterprise: 28.46 million members in 179 countries.

  1. Eventbrite

I first learned of Eventbrite years ago when I received a party invitation from a friend. She used the free event-planning site/app to send out invitations and manage RSVPS.

What I didn’t realize initially is that a number of organizations post their events on Eventbrite for publicity purposes (and in some cases ticket sales). The Eventbrite service is free to use if you are hosting or sponsoring a free event.

From a consumer’s perspective, Eventbrite is a great resource for things to do. You can search activities by category, location, date, and price. Diversions include concerts, festivals, seminars, sports events, wine tastings, and singles parties. In addition to events in the U.S., 16 countries are represented. If you’re travelling, check out what’s happening during your trip.

  1. Power Bank for your phone or tablet, EasyAcc

This portable power bank saved me on a recent trip to Europe. If you’re out sightseeing all day, you don’t want to stop the fun to charge your phone or tablet. It’s also useful when you’re out and about in your hometown – or just hiking in the woods for the day. This model is not the lightest power bank you can buy, but it packs a wallop of charge. Check it out!

  1. Being Erica

Being Erica is my new favorite binge-worthy show. Erica is a young woman who feels like her life is a failure due to poor choices she has made in the past. She starts seeing a therapist to deal with her regrets. The twist? The therapist has the ability to send her back in time to relive and, in some cases, change crucial events. This four season CBC series ended in 2011. However, it seems very timely – even edgy.

I recommend it – especially if you enjoy stories about time travel. Being Erica is available on Hulu.

  1. Watching, New York Times

Watching, a new TV and film website from the New York Times, provides recommendations on what to watch across streaming services.

It’s free to subscribers and to those who register with the Times (also free). Check off what you’re in the mood for and the site spits back some recommendations. I did this and found Being Erica (see #9).

If you enjoyed this post or any past ones, subscribe to get regular e-mail delivery. Follow me on social media too:

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Until next week, happy dating or not dating.

XXXOOO

Nadia

 

Touch

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Human Touch, Springsteen

This week’s Modern Love column got me thinking about touch…not that I ever really stop thinking about this important sense. When you’re single and don’t have a steady relationship, it can be a regular topic of consideration.

The subject of touch calls for comfort food and what better choice than a seasonal pumpkin recipe from Ruth Reichl’s book Comfort me with Apples.

You’re thinking, Nadia is talking about sex. Well, yes, and no. Certainly touch and sex are intertwined. Although I guess technically you could have sex with minimal touch, you can most definitely have touch with no sex.

In the Modern Love column, the writer, a single mother, longs for touch – but realizes it is the emotional closeness and intimacy with another that touch can (but doesn’t always) bring that she most desires. She finds that touch – both non-sexual physical touch and non-physical “moments of touch” – are not substitutes for a lover but “real” things in their own right.

When you have a lover, all kinds of sexual and non-sexual touch are available from the menu.

But when you are in between partners, your friends and family, and even strangers can offer physical and emotional moments of non-sexual touch. Hug a friend and/or family member. Shake hands with someone you’re introduced to. Pat an acquaintance on the back for a job well done. Beyond these options, there are ways to supplement the physical non-sexual touch you need. You may keep these up even after a lover magically appears from one of your matches.

Massage by a trained massage therapist can be a great way to not only help with those aches, pains, and muscle spasms but also to fulfill that human need for touch. Shop around for the right therapist who matches your temperament and is sensitive to your direction. Local schools of massage therapy can make this “luxury” affordable. Hire a less expensive recent program graduate who is fully trained and professional just inexperienced in the business aspects. If you have never had a massage, you may feel shy or unsure during the first session but a good therapist will ease your concerns and make any needed accommodations.

Getting your hair done – particularly having your hair washed and head massaged – is a relaxing way to acquire “touch” time. Manicures and pedicures also provide moments of touch.

Cuddle parties are another source of non-sexual touch. I only recently heard of these events. At first, I assumed they were some type of group sex venue but they appear to be legitimate workshop/social events run by trained facilitators who ensure a safe experience of giving and receiving non-sexual and fully clothed touch. I can’t personally vouch for cuddle parties. If you’re intrigued, check out cuddleparty.com for more information.

Finally, I’ll share a variation of the cuddle party with you as described by a man I went out with once. Mr. Q was separated and obviously conflicted. He was in an on-again/off-again “cuddle” relationship with a woman. This woman, fearing emotional involvement with a separated man, chose not to have sex with Mr. Q but met him periodically to cuddle – without clothes on. I don’t know exactly what happened during those encounters and the “relationship” may not have been technically platonic. However, it worked for this “couple.”

I like to think that moments of touch are like calories you need to feel humanly full. Enjoy those calories in whatever recipe works for you…massage, hugs, personal or official cuddle parties.

Until next week, happy dating or not dating.

XXXOOO

Nadia

 

 

Selective Hearing, Avoidance, and Fear

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What scares you?

It’s almost Halloween…a good time to think about what scares you in life and in relationships.

And you thought I was going to talk about ghosting. Been there, done that. Tired of that topic. Let’s ghost ghosting.

We’ve talked about fear before but I’d like to probe how fear changes behavior. And while we’re talking, let’s eat some aubergine (eggplant) lasagna – much better for you than candy.

Have you ever been talking to your significant other/partner and heard or observed something unsettling but didn’t want to address it directly because you were afraid of the resulting discussion? Perhaps the topic raised a question and you were afraid of the answer. Instead of communicating, you entered into a fear-based behavior: avoidance. It’s related to selective hearing.

Just like a child can selectively NOT hear a parent telling her to stop watching TV and do homework, I know there have been times when I did not “hear” what a man said because I knew it would make me angry and I didn’t want to be angry at that moment or I suspected it would force me to deal with an issue I did not want to deal with.

So, I tuned out and pretended I never heard that, or he didn’t say it.

It’s easy to bury anger or confusion when the real emotion is fear: fear of what might happen if there is a real conversation. You wonder whether you’ll be hurt emotionally or if the relationship will be irreparably damaged. Perhaps you fear an unsettling truth that will be impossible to swallow.

You know the end to this story…eventually you have to address whatever it is. It might be examined in an open discussion or you might address it by leaving the relationship without fully probing the issue(s).

I’d like to make a case for being fully in the moment…ditching that selective hearing and dealing with the issue or comment immediately: head on, feet first (and whatever other clichés apply). I’m not talking about something minor that you can let slide. It’s the bigger issues that need to be addressed in a timely fashion.

Soapbox suggestion: Cultivate awareness. Be present in the moment. That way when you hear something that needs to be dealt with you can immediately tamp down fear and tackle that difficult issue.

So step away from that cell phone, look your man in the eye, and face whatever it is.

Let me know what happens.

If you liked this post or others, subscribe to get the latest post delivered to your mailbox.

Until next week, happy dating or not dating.

XXXOOO

Nadia

 

Strength in Solitude

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A few years ago – soon after my divorce, my daughter and I took a beach vacation. As we walked along the soft white sugar sand of the Gulf Coast, I saw a woman of about 80 strolling purposefully with her dog.

“I wonder if that will be me some day – walking alone, not with a partner,” I wondered aloud, thinking how sad that would be.

My daughter, responding to my words and mood, said, “What’s wrong with that? She looks happy. It would be o.k.”

At that moment, I couldn’t believe such a scenario would be okay. But I could now.

Let’s chew on that while devouring some of Jamie Oliver’s potato cakes with smoked salmon.

The beach memory was triggered by a temporary change in my current living situation. A couple of years ago, my son, like so many adult children, returned to his parental home (or half of it given the divorce) to pursue a second college degree as an entre to a new career.

There’s more to his story just as there’s more to the story of what happens when adult children live with their parents, but that’s not on today’s blog menu. I will say that, for the most part, the arrangement works well.

But the situation prevents me from truly living alone, something I wanted and needed to do after my divorce. Other than a random week or two here or there, one or both of my children have lived with me except when they were in college. And during that period, I was married so the house was not empty. Going back in years, I went from living with my parents, to living with college roommates, to living with the man who would become my husband.

So, I skipped that whole part of life called “being single and living alone.” And I was both eager to experience it and a little nervous as well. How would I navigate living alone and would I be lonely? Fast forward to a couple of days ago when my son left for a week’s vacation to visit a friend.

Finally, I could invite some friends over for dinner while having the house truly to myself. And I could see what it would be like to live alone while in a pretty good place – healed from my divorce, stronger, and more centered than ever before.

This temporary break in shared housing got me thinking about solitude, being alone, loneliness, and all variations of that theme.

I’ve always been someone who enjoyed a certain amount of time spent alone – whether reading, writing, taking a walk, or going for a drive with music blasting. But it’s not something I want to do 24/7. At a certain point in my day, I start to feel lonely and need to be around people.

For more on the balance between solitude and company, see the wonderful Brain Pickings blog post on experiencing at least one prolonged period of solitude in life.

After I divorced, I needed to learn not only how to be without a partner but also how to be independent – to rely on myself for everything from adding oil to the car to tightening a loose toilet seat (thanks You Tube). A solo road trip no longer seemed liked a scary impossibility. Solitude helped build strength. Strength begot resilience.

All of this doesn’t mean I want to be alone.

There is nothing more important to me than finding one of the ones, a partner to love and share life with.  The crucial thing is to live well and to be happy while searching for that special person and to never stop searching – even if you’re the oldest person on Match, Bumble, and Plenty of Fish.

Until next week, happy dating or not dating.

XXXOOO

Nadia

 

Resources:

https://www.brainpickings.org/2015/06/22/desert-solitaire-edward-abbey/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200307/what-is-solitude

https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/199801/the-call-solitude

http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/10/27/suggestions-for-savoring-solitude/