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Miss Independent

There’s a woman in our singles group that I can’t quite figure out.

I don’t get why she’s single.

It’s as if a winning Powerball ticket were alive and walking around in the world and nobody stopped to claim it.

It baffles me. It’s confusing as hell. And it’s the surest proof that everything we are told about relationships, desirability, and being loved is bullshit.

I think we’ve all known that woman, right? Unspeakably beautiful, successful, intelligent, fun, caring, truly the total package. And sometimes women will talk about men being intimidated by them and I know a lot of people think that’s just ego talking, but I don’t know how else to explain it.

Are men truly that threatened by a woman who knows her own worth? Who insists on being treated like the Queen she is? And if that’s the case, where have we gone so horribly wrong? Because she’s exactly the perfect embodiment of what every man claims to want. And there she is. Still single, (and not upset about it at all, BTW. Because she is a Queen).

Some part of me wants to shake every man within a certain radius and tell them to wake the hell up, your dreams are waiting; right.over.there! so why aren’t you talking to her? Part of me instinctively knows the futility of this.

I don’t know what else to do so I pray. I hope. I wish. I want to believe. And I wish her to have all the happiness she spreads to others so effortlessly.

But on a fundamental level, this whole phenomenon just challenges my concepts of life and love in some really difficult ways.

I don’t know where to go with that, or how to make peace with it.

I Will Try To Fix You

There are moments when I look at all the incredible women in our group and I feel so confused. I’m not sure why they are single. If I were a man, there really isn’t a one I wouldn’t find remarkable and want to get to know better, so why? Why are there so many men who just sit on the sidelines?

In those more jaded moments I’ve joked that I should create an app called trophy wife rehab. Maybe all we need is a man with the means and a high novelty seeking quotient to get us back on track. We’re badass, cute as hell, maybe a little nip/tuck, a personal trainer and a chef to come in a couple of times a week to shop and prep healthy meals, and we’d be set. And if the guy moves onto the next woman, who cares! We’re already right where we want to be.

Yes, it’s ridiculous and a little sexist and highly offensive. But I’d probably jump at it (or better yet, a marriage proposal from a nice Canadian gentleman, because appropriate health care is really all I’m after). Every woman I’ve mentioned it to laughs and says “sign me up!”.

It lifts my spirits in the moment. It’s always good for a laugh.

But there’s an undercurrent there that I’m very uncomfortable with, and terribly confused by.

I wonder, in a world where all anyone wants is to be loved just for who they are, why do we chase such superficial relationships?

Why do we demand for ourselves what we refuse to offer to others?

Am I the only person flummoxed by this dichotomy?

You Were Always There For Me When I Needed You Most

I get a ping, and after some roaming around the block and a few false starts, an unspeakably handsome Englishman (who shares a name with my youngest, and I share a name with his daughter, hello Kismet!) gets in. He tells me we are picking up his friends.

Two more shockingly adorable young brits get in the car and we’re off. And I’m about in heaven because they could just chatter the whole way to their hotel and I’d be happy as a lark.

But the delicious accents aren’t all that’s worth telling here. Nor were their very notable looks. They were charming, highly intelligent, and funny, with such impeccable manners that they were simply a joy to have in the car.

Me, being the bigmouth that I am, I was full of questions and they were for the most part very talkative. Particularly the young man in the seat next to me.

Being from LA, and hearing them talk a bit, I had a suspicion they were musicians and had played one of the larger venues that night. They were also much closer to my son’s age than mine, and I mostly listen to passengers’ music if any, so I’m not really conversant in what the kids are listening to these days.

Finally I couldn’t take the curiosity anymore (major violation of native Angeleno standards, but when in Denver… was my rationale), and I asked, “so what band/performer?”. The young man in the front seat says “well, that’s ….. …… back there, innit?”. And I gasp “no”… and they go “so you know his music”? And I say “that song” and they go “that song” and proceed to tease me about my utter lack of knowledge about his music (in a completely charming and friendly way, no malice intended).

Inside I’m kicking myself because I can’t remember the name of that damn song. Because I’ve got it saved on Pandora, I love it, it’s breathtakingly beautiful and for someone who’s spent her entire adult life married to the same man, only to have her entire world crumble to pieces… That song is both too hard for me to listen to, and in those moments when I feel stronger and happier, I listen and I believe again in love. I believe that people really do feel as I feel and that all can really be right with the world, and that the heartache I see too often around me doesn’t have to be the norm.

But I couldn’t remember the title because every time I hear it the tears flow freely from my eyes and I’m too busy experiencing it to worry about things like remembering words.

Which, let me tell you, that’s a rare occurrence for a singer. Usually we’re all about those words, yo.

There aren’t many songs that impact me with quite that level of emotional intensity, and here I felt like I left this young man with the impression that his music was unremarkable, when nothing could be further from the truth. That song destroyed me in the most beautifully epic way the very first time I heard it.

I’ve been kicking myself ever since.

Talent like that truly deserves to be honored, even if it violates my LA “code”.

And young men that remarkable in every possible way deserve to know they are admired, even if it’s by a lady old enough to be their mother.

Maybe especially by a lady old enough to be their mother. It is certainly my fondest wish that I’ve raised my sons as well as these young men were clearly raised.

You’re One Of My Kind

I always joke my type never asks me out.

This is my type (my apologies to his lovely fiancee, and best wishes for their future).

I’m usually asked out by this type.

Which, cool, how someone looks is pretty darn close to the bottom of my list.

But I know there must be the male equivalent of me out there, who’s list of priorities is a lot more about the quality of time we spend together and a lot less about conventional ideals of beauty.

At least in theory.

The thing is, where exactly would one find such a person? Tinder? Right. Pretty much all dating apps are out, and they are a narcissist playground anyway. Speed dating? Probably not, for many of the same reasons. Our singles group has been a great blessing, but Denver has all the image/body consciousness LA gets accused of, and little of the diversity or body positivity. I love watching love blossom all around me, I’m open to finding it for me, and yet it’s highly unlikely in that group.

At least not the kind of relationship I’m holding out for.

I had been caught up in this cycle of dating just to keep honing my “be more social” skills but I just can’t anymore. I don’t think it’s fair and I don’t think the benefits outweigh the costs.

But it begs the question, in a world where so many of us are average, why is it that most resources are directed toward the already extraordinary? Why do the rest of us feel the need to sideline ourselves as if we don’t belong? As if we don’t have just as much right to pursue happiness?

What nonsense.

Be loud and proud, folks. Whatever your quirks.

Everyone has them.

We’re Gonna Get Married

Paul and Ashley hopped into my car Thanksgiving Eve. I asked how their evening was. There was a tinge of meh in Paul’s response, which I quipped about. He said “well, she’s happy, happy wife, happy life”. Ashley looks at him and says “wife”? And he says “well yeah, someday”.

We chatted a bit, and turns out her brother (his friend) isn’t on board. And they both respect his opinion, so they are waiting for him to come around. But I joked “darn, I thought I was finally going to check that Uber proposal off my list!”. They decided to make my simple rideshare dream come true then and there (okay, not for real, folks). And Paul spontaneously launched into the most charming, beautiful, and utterly endearing proposal I’ll probably ever witness (since, you know, I’m no Ashley).

Fake or not, it was a privilege to witness the moment and swept both the ladies in the car off their feet for a moment.

They are an adorable couple with the world at their feet. I’m crossing my fingers that brother/friend comes around and soon, because these two starting a life together just makes me smile.

Sometimes just seeing all the good in the world is all it takes to renew your faith in humanity.

Controversy

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I typically shy away from the political. Partly because I have too many causes that are too dear to me, and fighting for them, (and the welfare of those I love), already takes more hours than I have in a day. Partly because I’m a bit of a perfectionist and take the responsibility to be accurate seriously. Partly I’m sure due to a journalism class I took years ago taught by a very old school journalist who focused a great deal on the ethics of journalism.

The whole #MeToo thing and the ultimate fallout has been weighing on me. From Corey Feldman (You’re destroying an industry! Wait, what? Who cares about kids, don’t destroy an industry!) to the flood of posts in my social media feeds that made it clear that the estimates of sexual assault survivors were insanely low, to the response from Louis CK (and the backlash from Lena Headey), I can’t stay silent.

I have to say, that when I reread Louis CK’s statement through the lens of Ms. Headey’s retort, there’s probably something to her accusations of narcissism. Although, narcissism is high among performers already. Is that really surprising? What I take more to heart is, that amid a sea of denials, threats, evasions, and other atrocious behavior among the accused, his statement does stand out for its unflinching admission of his behavior and strongly worded admonitions about how far his behavior deviated from the standard he wishes he had held himself too. I don’t wish he stopped at “I was wrong and I’m sorry.”. And I suspect he’ll even take Ms. Headey’s critique as he backs away from the public eye to take time to listen.

But I’m bothered that we can’t come to grips with the fact that these actions would only be committed by flawed people in the first place, or that the one who truly tried to use their platform for a greater purpose seems to be the target of the most vitriol.

Beyond being confused and confounded by the turns this story takes, I keep grappling with why victims hide and predators don’t. I see this repeated in life again and again. Survivors call themselves weak for daring to love, to trust, to give, only to find they loved, trusted and gave to the wrong person, and predators flaunt themselves in full public view.

I don’t know how to make sense of that topsy-turvy realization.

It’s just horribly distressing.

I Say A Little Prayer For You

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I think one of the reasons some passengers have such an impact on me is because I love differently than some people.

I was never one of those people who knew what career I wanted to pursue. I’m not sure I had any concept of myself as someone who had choices in that realm. But I loved science and became fascinated with heritability when a high school psychology teacher sparked an interest in Psychology Today.

Eventually a family friend who is a physician made the old joke about “What’s the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist? About $75/hr!”. I started to research medical school and the more I learned, the more enamored I became.

One fear I had was that admonition about not getting attached. I wasn’t sure that was something I could pull off. Another family friend was a nurse, and she wasn’t someone who embraced the “don’t get attached” advice. Patients often became a part of her non-work life. And as patients sometimes do, they would occasionally exit the mortal world.

I asked her once, how did she get through that? She said she went to the chapel and she cried and prayed and grieved, and then new patients came in needing care. They needed her to care for them just as openly, with just as much concern.

That helped me make peace with the idea of working in a clinical setting and dealing with the losses that every physician faces. While I never got to put the idea to the test, it definitely impacted how I approached being a foster parent. The one thing I was very clear about, is each child deserved to belong, to be fully loved, to have a parent (in the day to day sense). No qualifiers. Their experience should not be impacted by my fear of losing someone I had come to love. So I put my heart on the line with every child, and when they left I prayed for the best, did my best to demonstrate confidence in the plan the state had developed for their future, and sent them off with a wish for a wonderful future. I cried, and I grieved, and then more kids came needing love and someone to embrace them (and at times, their parents).

I think some of that shapes my experience with some passengers. When I sense that someone needs a compassionate ear, I’m not afraid to offer whatever they may need, to open up my heart. I know that separation is nothing to fear, and I hope to model, even for a brief time, a depth of connection not everyone has experienced. I’m not a platitudes and superficial smile kind of person.

Recently I saw a Facebook post from Glennon Doyle about her “love letter“, in a somewhat non traditional sense. I had to laugh because it was exactly how I conceptualized this blog. These were my “love letters” to the passengers I connected with, shared surprisingly intimate moments with, and came to care for in a shockingly small amount of time. I felt those connections deserved to be honored in some way, and my wish for a wonderful future for people I so admired needed to be set free to come to fruition somehow. As always, for me, the way to breathe life into those visions for the future and resolution of the past is through the written word. It’s how I so often process the complexities of life.

If in the process I could inform, entertain, or inspire others… well, even better

Let Me Stop You There

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The other night I picked up a couple from a club. They were both chattering up a storm, and then started to talk about him getting hit on by some gay men at the club. They both went to great pains to reassure me they weren’t homophobic. But these men were being rather disrespectful to his lady friend, and painfully forceful with him.

We talked about it a bit and he just kept circling around to “they just wouldn’t give up, no matter what I said, or did, they would not stop hitting on me! I’m not a piece of meat and I’m just not interested!. Find someone else!”.

Finally the irony was too unbearable, “So in other words, you, a straight, white male have just been initiated into the world of catcalling/rape culture.”.

Stunned silence, and then they both start laughing.

“Omg! She’s right! You know what it’s like now!”.

“For real, that’s crazy! So that’s what it’s like?”

Then more seriously: “Wait, that’s what it’s like?”

Yes sir.

That’s exactly what it’s like.

I think we may be on to something here…

Why You Look So Sad?

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My cousin held me tighter as we hugged and whispered “you look so sad”.

She’s right, I do, I thought later. The decades of a dysfunctional marriage had taken a toll, but the three and a half years trying to salvage it were a whole new level of destructive. By the time I saw her during a Denver vacation last summer I barely looked alive. There was no light left in my eyes, I looked as burdened as I felt. It’s a phenomenon that gets endlessly discussed on various support groups I participate in. Before and after pictures are often shared, hope for those still finding their way out, proof of progress for those who have a more distant perspective.

I couldn’t deny the reality of what she said but it still came as somewhat of a shock. I hadn’t seen her in years. I thought I did a better job of hiding it. I was grateful she said something, knowing that I have three pairs of eyes watching all the time, learning both how to be a partner and what to expect from one. If I didn’t find the courage to face the truth and value myself and my contributions, I was running the risk of them meeting the same fate. Knowing I was still building the path that would in some ways shape their future gave me the courage to advocate for myself, to ask for what I needed, and to not compromise my own welfare.

Over the last few months I’ve made it a point to try and look my best, to find the joy in nurturing myself again. I love playing with colors, even if I’m not always comfortable with it. So coloring my hair, indulging in the occasional mani/pedi, and a budding makeup addiction have been a way to invest in myself. Those investments had a measurable impact on my earnings (for the better), and garnered endless comments from my loved ones about how much happier I look.

I spent so many years convincing myself that spending anything on me was frivolous and essentially stealing from my kids. Of course, I was also unaware what the true root of our financial problems were. I believed what I was told, that it was all my fault and if I just sacrificed more and more everything would be fine. It became a way of life, and I have to admit, it’s uncomfortable still to spend money on myself. My first instinct is always to sacrifice what I want and need for the welfare of my family.

It’s another one of those unhealthy patterns I’d like to break. I’m hoping to learn to model better and more consistent self-respect for my boys. I need to remember the risk of feeling the need to ask them why they’re so broken someday is very real.

Knocking On Heaven’s Door

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August is the month of my Mother’s birth so she has been on my mind a lot lately.

Tonight I picked up a passenger who was raised by his grandmother, who, unfortunately, left far too soon.

My heart breaks for him. Losing a parent (whatever title they go by) is incredibly hard. The younger you are, it seems, the harder it is.

Sometimes these rides are painfully short. Sometimes I wish I had more time to say something helpful, more time to think of something that might soothe, heal, perhaps even miraculously resurrect the dead. In this case, this young man was so lost and adrift without the one person he could always count on, who shaped his whole life.The person who in many ways was his whole life. We don’t have any safety nets to catch people like him, to help protect them from falling through such massive cracks. Wishing his Grandmother were still here to be his rock is the only solution that seems possible. It’s as horrific as it is implausible.  

Sometimes the pain of the people I drive around is so palpable it’s almost unbearable. When these people (as wounded people often are) are so very kind, so very compassionate, simply driving them home at the end of a night feels like a failure, a missed opportunity.

Sure, that’s the job, and I truly love what I do. I just hate sometimes that it’s all I can do, that being a safe ride, and hopefully a friendly presence is all I can offer.

To this young man especially, life had not been especially kind. This kind of conscientiousness, work ethic, integrity, that gets rewarded, right? We live in a meritocracy, where one’s efforts are justly rewarded.

If only that were so.

He deserved magnitudes better than the endless string of crappy hands he had been dealt.

The injustices of this world are maddening.

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