The Whole Package

I see three cute men around my age within five minutes at the old post office. Not just cute, but interesting-cute: shaggy hair, craggy faces, possible artists or musicians or professors of philosophy or enlightened entrepreneurs. They even smile at me as they juggle briefcases and packages and slide boxes along the marble countertop. I should hang out at this post office more often.

Usually I do not see that many older men, especially all at once, who appeal to me and who are not wearing wedding rings. It is a dwindling parade. Sometimes I sneak a peek online using a code name like Lola. I select Women Seeking Men A Certain Age+ with hope in my heart. The search results are mixed and often disappointing. Appealing men want younger or taller women, or both. Even unappealing men want younger women. Men with whom I might have interests and values in common do not appeal to me physically, not that I’m looking for perfection. Some, I’m sorry to say, look as if they have been drinking beers on the beach for 50 years and not moved a toe or their heads out of the sand.

Of course it’s a numbers game. The more we look or put ourselves out there, the more men we “interview” on dates, the more we increase our chances of meeting one who is right for us. My own forays into online dating have so far not yielded anyone I want to continue dating. I asked one successful realtor how he transitioned into his career from being a CPA. “Oh, I had time to do soul searching when I was in prison for embezzling” was his answer. Another warm and friendly man was a successful artist, but about 300 pounds. He had not posted full-body shots of himself, and as nice as he was, I couldn’t quite picture myself in the bedroom scenario. Well I could, but it was not a pleasant picture.

For many I know, including family members, online dating has worked well and yielded soul mates, so I don’t discourage anyone from trying it. The thing is, I’ve realized I don’t really want to look anymore. I’ve learned to live alone in a contented fashion, to relish the solitary life. I have friends, family, cats, and work I enjoy. I live in a friendly neighborhood in an apartment I love with an ocean view and lots of light. There is room for a man, but I don’t want one enough to be out at night or on my lunch hour interviewing anymore. I’d rather meet someone in the day-to-day living of my life, and if I don’t meet anyone, I am okay with that too.

Like many women my age, I take care of myself, both physically and financially. If I do meet a man, I’d like a companion, a real companion, not someone to take care of me and boss me around, and not someone who needs a lot of care. Not someone with a lot of extra packages, or baggage.Luggage

Whether faded canvas, or beat-up cardboard, or even beautiful designer leather, too much baggage is too much baggage. It bruises my shins and hurts my shoulders to hoist up. It’s disheartening and noisy when a full ensemble tumbles from a man’s closet.

I am leery of those men who carry little, however. A sleek body, a sleek wallet, a sleek cell phone. As if there’s no room for anything extra. Nothing can get in, nothing can stick, nothing gets carried for long. There’s no place to put my hands, to hold onto.

What I can handle is a man with a rumpled duffle bag or a backpack or an old briefcase. It says to me, I have some stuff here I might have to tell you about, but it’s mine to carry and I won’t hurt you with it. I can put it down anytime, maybe next to yours. Let’s have some fun. And I promise, I won’t hog the remote control. (Fat chance, say my coupled friends.)

It goes perfectly with rumpled (or maybe even no) hair, a bit of a pot belly, intelligent eyes, a kind smile, and a kindred spirit.

Maybe it’s time I walked back to our post office before it moves. The old building is being sold. I should get over there and smile at the men with packages before it gets turned into a bar or a Mexican restaurant.

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Bite Me. Bad Behavior Sound Bites

Waiting room. Fox News blaring. My personal version of Hell. Trapped with the yelling heads. Everything is wrong, wrong, WRONG! No good in anything.

Another waiting room. A reality show. The sound is muted but subtitles are on and blast across the screen in capital letters. Family members blowing out the words from angry faces. MY MOTHER’S BOYFRIEND IS TOO YOUNG. AND HE’S A NO-GOOD CHEAT.

Bad behaviorWaiting in line for a bagel. A big, older man comes up too close behind me and looms down over me. “What’s good here?” he asks. “I like the cinnamon-raisin bagel with peanut butter,” I tell him. “I’d like a redheaded, hot mama,” he says. “Well, you can’t have this one,” I say. “I didn’t think so,” he answers.

Waiting in line at Starbucks. At least half a dozen people in front of me. A woman breezes in and walks straight up to the counter. Two or three people tell her there’s a line. “Oh, I’m just here for a cup of coffee,” she says. There is silence for a few shocked seconds, then we all say, “So are we!” The woman stomps out.

More bad behaviorWaiting in line in a discount store. Extremely long and close lines. A woman in the next line keeps ramming her cart into me. The woman behind me tells me the thin pretzels are good with the ranch dressing. The woman in front of me puts down her basket in line and walks away. She returns a couple of minutes later with two additional items, picks up her basket. The woman in back of me says, “Boy, I’ll have to remember that trick the next time I’m in here. Save my own place in line.” The woman in front of me turns around and says to her, “Ma’am, I just went nearby for one or two things. I’m very busy and I have to get back to work. And I don’t appreciate your sarcasm.” I decided not to roll my eyes, give the peace sign or say that I had to get back to work too.

A man stands with his young daughter in the middle of the sidewalk. He sees me coming, gently guides his daughter to the side. “We have to watch for people, honey,” he says to her. He smiles at me as I pass by. I smile back. He gives me hope.

Dear Abby

Dear Abigail Van Buren. I know you’ve been dead a few months now. You enjoyed a long and successful career dispensing advice to those who wrote to you as Dear Abby. Your twin sister Eppie did the same as Ann Landers.

I wish you were still alive because I need your advice. How do I get people to stop giving me advice? I’m serious. I mean unsolicited advice, advice I don’t want or need. People wrote to you because they wanted to hear your opinion, right? I mean, you didn’t just call up folks or knock on their doors and announce I’m here to tell you how to run your life, did you? Hopefully, you didn’t do it to your children either.

There are probably several qualified columnists or talk-show psychologists I could ask today for advice. But many I do come across are flippant or flagrantly rude. They lack your comforting wisdom and class. They make a mockery of human life by turning every situation into a trailer park side show, lacking compassion and humor.

I am older now and have earned my emotional stripes, my peace of mind. Unless someone is being really rude or bugging the shit out of me, I have no desire to give anyone a piece of my mind. Unless I am asked for an opinion or a recommendation, I try not to offer advice to my friends or family. And I don’t want any either, thank you!Looking

For example, recently I told several friends I am looking for a new place to live and asked them to keep their eyes and ears open for me. To be fair, I’ve received some good For Rent leads. But the advice … !!! Have you thought of talking to a realtor? Have your walked around the neighborhood? Have you looked online at ads? Blah, blah.

Give me a break! How do you think I landed in my current home or the 10 others I’ve enjoyed in the last 40 years? Do you honestly think the magic moving wizard flew past my window and gave me a lift on his carpet to the home of my dreams? Who do you think did the work of looking, calling, walking, driving, signing rental forms, paying security deposits – not to mention hiring a truck or mover, securing boxes, cleaning, packing, unpacking, cleaning, keeping cats calm, waiting for the gas, electricity and cable? All while working full-time?

The same goes for other areas of my life too. Unless I am taking a class or ask for specific feedback, I don’t want to be told what to feel, eat, wear, move (as in body parts), read or write. I think I understand why people do it. They think they’re being helpful and don’t like to feel powerless when confronted with something they may not know.

Advice HoveringFor example, someone recently asked me for book recommendations on a certain subject and I had none. Part of me wanted to suggest she Google or look on Amazon or in a bookstore in an attempt to feel I was helping, but I stopped myself. That would be insulting to her years of experience as a professional, as well as her intelligence.

Nothing about my own life has been easy. I’ve worked hard for more than 40 years, I raised two children alone, I turned to outside help (groups, counseling, reading) when I needed it. I learned almost everything the hard way. I’ve come through with grace, strength, humor and profound gratitude. I don’t have energy left over to run anyone else’s life. Nor do I have patience for those who think they know how I should run mine.

Thank you, Dear Abby and Ann, I knew you’d understand.

Spam, Spam, Spam

Spam, spam, it’s been around so long I forget where the name came from. Oh yes, the semi-fake ham in a can that Monty Python served up in their 1970 Spam Sketch. That was 43 years ago, 33 years after Hormel invented their “spiced ham.”

I don’t eat spam anymore, but I feel as if I’m being force fed the online kind. It’s everywhere. No sooner do my gastric bypass filters get rid of some spam when more arrives.

Turning on my computer and logging into other worlds, I hold my breath. The Internet is slightly slower today because the spam creators and the spam fighters are battling it out, star wars in cyberspace. But soon the new spam arrives in my little computer world – by email and morphed into ads on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google (maybe a cousin of spam, like deviled ham?).

My email spam has evolved from earlier messages urging me to increase the size and performance of my penis and accept the lottery winnings in Nigeria. I guess they’re permanently relegated to the cyber dust bin.

So now some new and strange ones are sneaking through. Some in French! “Bonjour madam …” Porquoi? Is it because I’ve browsed Tahiti? Are all the bored Parisian marketers tired of their long lunches?

Messages from friends, supposedly through Facebook or Linked In. “Maryann has endorsed you.” Really? The real Maryann, or the web robot? What am I supposed to do with this information? Endorse back in a mutual endorsement frenzy?

Messages from strangers …

“Hey Stranger, a friend of mine told me I could find someone like you in the area for a discrete meeting …”

“Hey cutie, I’d love to meet you.”

“Hello from BOOBS!”

“I’ve lost my pussy! Can you help me?” I don’t know what to tell her. I haven’t seen it and I don’t care to.

Suddenly ads on my Google search and Facebook pages. I’m looking for something I’m researching or reading through political rants or photos of food and someone’s dinner and there will be an ad. Movies with flying or fighting characters. Pest removal, with bugs that scurry across the screen. (The first time this happened I, a bugphobe, almost had a heart attack.) Lotteries with bouncing balls. Peanut butter. And for Spam, of course, since I researched Spam for this essay.Spam Spam

It’s getting so I’m feeling bombarded with a cacaphoneous kalaidescope of colors and sounds. If they were 3-D, they’d be punching me silly instead of merely turnng my brain and eyeballs into tilt-a-whirls.

I know this is all part of the new marketing strategies using social media. As a marketing copywriter, I’m guilty myself of trying to optimize web copy using words that search engines will pick up. And in my own blog, the web powers that be grab some of my words and link them to ads.

The upside of all this targeting marketing and information gathering is that we often do see ads that provide helpful information. While we can protect ourselves with certain privacy settings and filters, we can’t expect total isolation unless we go offline. As long as we use computers, we are fair game.

Are these new hunter gatherers like the drones of the cyberworld? And how many messages do they have to bombard us with before our computers explode?

When that day comes, I’m moving to Tahiti and I’m not taking my computer or my iPhone.Spam Blue Balls