Inside Out


Dreams and Winter

This morning the pale wash of sunlight called to me, similar to the tiny darting birds in the tree outside my window during the the last few days of rain, that I watched in subdued delight, cold even in all my layers of clothing.

From gloomy days of damp and wet cold, clouds and fog; to  nascent light traveling determinedly from the sun’s winter home, the fragile warmth could not be denied. I slipped into my sneakers and out I went, walking on the sunny side of the streets until I reached the lake.

Sometimes you get so used to being cold that just looking out the window can make you colder. The heart needs to pump, the lungs need air, limbs need to stretch and push against the resistance of the atmosphere.

Often it’s much warmer than I think out there, despite appearances. Weather, like people, has secret places of brightness, warmth, cold and damp.  Whenever I go outside, something is revealed. I usually snap a photo or two of anything that catches my eye, something on the ground, a drop of water on a renegade blooming flower, a tree in some sort of gorgeous undress. But today I just walked, breathed deeply and tried to flow positively into the air and people all around me.

Last night I dreamed a strange and engrossing story.  I’m currently at a point where my dreaming life is as meaningful to me as the hours I’m awake. Most of the dream is gone.

But there was a tall and big man, who was some type of farmer who with his employees had brought over hundreds of animals to this place I was for us to observe. We could pet and pick up any animal we chose. I remember all kinds of cats, iguanas and fantastical creatures too. Something like a small elephant seal that lived on land, was furry and slithered around like a snake. I liked the farmer very much, he had long dark hair that fell in his eyes, huge knowledge of the natural world and strangely, had hands that were more like hoofs attached to his arms. I was attracted to him. He read and praised a story or report I had written.  When it was time for him to leave, his employees started gathering up the animals, although they couldn’t catch them all. No one seemed to mind. They said they would return to the wild.

I recently read in another blog, a question the blogger had found in another blog that he thought was fascinating. It was something like, ‘if I reveal myself to you, will you reject me?’

That’s a thought I’ve always had in my head. I think it’s taken me this long on this journey to stop thinking about possible rejection and reveal myself to myself and by doing that, show myself to others. Some will come, some will go and certainly both have happened.  What is most fascinating to me is the unconscious or repressed component in that hiding or presenting another self. We don’t know until we know.

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Mavericks, Half Moon Bay

I grew up in a beach town in Florida where surfing was a huge part of everyday life and the culture. Sebastian Inlet, 25 miles south, was called the small wave capitol of the world.  When I moved to California, the Mavericks surf contest was beginning.  I had heard of ”Mavericks” through the years as this mystical location in northern California where mythically enormous waves were surfed far off the beach.

A few years ago I drove to Half Moon Bay to see for myself, it was my birthday. I took the day off ; this was my gift to myself. It was spring, not the time when the monster waves roll in, but that was ok, I wanted to see where it happened, when there were no crowds.  I’d considered going to the contest a few months earlier, but the logistics were daunting, for little reward: tremendous traffic descending on a tiny hamlet, no practical viewing place, no ability to really see the surfers  without binoculars, as they’re half a mile out at sea. (Which is why almost 40,000 people watched live streaming online on Saturday).

I had directions but they didn’t jive with what I was finding. I found beaches and jetties and saw surfers, but it wasn’t the other worldly Mavericks.  I stopped in a surf shop and was given a little homemade flyer on a 3 x 5 colored piece of paper with a hand drawn map.

I felt like I had passed an ancient test and now the key to continue my quest was pressed into my palm.  I counter intuitively followed the map, winded around and through what seemed to be part beach neighborhood, part surf and warehouse district, to arrive at a dead end.  There were no signs saying Mavericks just ahead.

I parked and walked and walked on a trail along a tranquil and picturesque marina for about a mile and came to a beach.  Ok, another beach.  I asked someone who pointed me towards tcliffs which were to the right of the horizon and said it’s beyond those.  The cliffs were literally at the end of the world, that world.  It really was like being in a fairy tale. Did this place exist?  What did she mean beyond the cliffs?  Beyond the cliffs was only the sea.  The cold Pacific. Exactly right. I walked to the cliffs, walked out on the rocks alongside them and gazed out, imagining the epic feats and drama that have and will take place there.

What makes a fellow human able to conquer doubt, fear and reason and surf a 20, 30 or 50 foot wave, again and again?  How is it possible that the ferocious, feral and authoritative power of the ocean can be reined, tamed and made into poetry for a few seconds by a tiny incredible human?

What must it be like to have a mind that free? When I think of the things in life that stop me; when I’m filled with dread or doubt and uncertainty; and then I think of these guys on these waves, I just have to shake my head and take another step.


More pictures at www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/object/article


Confronting my Muse

I see words being thrown, like paint on a wall sized canvas by an eclectic pale outcast in paint splattered clothes that were once the good clothes. Her mad long hair winds and wanders, knots and untangles with a mind of its own.

It’s me, staring at that huge canvas, slinging paint like stones; but at my laptop, fingers pounding keys, bruised by the assault. Paint can be thrown; my words can be pounded, freed from rock like sculpture.

These words inside of me; I’ll rip them savagely from my mind, heart and gut. I’ll annihilate anyone that even hints in the softest lowest of whispers that my words cannot be liberated; even if it’s me, I’ll banish that false self over and over. Why the reinforced doors and windows? That leaves only a keyhole for my words to ride whatever tiny draft may be blowing that day. I can’t let my words suffocate.

I will do the thing I love best. I’ll entice my words to flow thickly like honey from a bottomless jar. Soothing, sweetening, easing the words out so my fingers can then pound the keys. This is what my inner self wants from me.

Can I convincingly coax myself to be the me I know, the one who is released with words, inspired visually, spiritually and my moving breath and body? Can I shake off the traps of envy, judgement, neediness, lonliness, and insecurity? Can I stop trying to appease them, beg them, or pay them off? Can I live freely? Can I live through my freed words?

Yes. The answer is yes.


Hello and welcome Shiva

At that place where scared, excited and hopeful meet.

If the first half of my life was spent not trying too hard so not to fail, can I turn it around like that? (snap!)

I no longer fear failing, so why not? Trying sucks, just do something. Alot.


Warm hats

I recently discovered the fantastic world of Russell Edson and felt a door open. This is my humble homage to him. Hopefully the first of many inspirations.

Warm Hats

Three small men in jeans, belts, plaid shirts and sneakers, run around the lake every day at lunch,

gray smoke curling from their portals-eyes, nostrils, ears, mouth and third eyes.

Their hands are cupped in front of them, held out from their bodies, thumbs crossed over their palm bowls.

Nestled in these bowls are tiny nascent living gifts with fragile wispy bones

and membranes thinner than sighs.

A child sings in the grass while her mother knits warm hats on the bench.

She watches them run by every day.

One day, she jumps up and runs after them laughing, trying to catch the gray smoke, like bubbles.

The men delight in the child’s laughter and slow down a little.  She dances in front of them and swiftly yet gently puts a little warm knit hat over their cupped hands, shielding their gifts.

They thank her and speed up again.


Story of a Corporate Employee

originally written 1/27/10

 

You get a job and want to feel you’re part of the company and that you’re contributing to its success. You want to believe there is a culture in place that you agree with. You want to believe that the HR department has compassion for their human resources; you want to respect what they do. You want to believe that people know who you are and what you do.

You work hard and try to learn new skills on your own; to negotiate and manage on your own. You don’t always hit the mark but you keep on.  It’s a fact, that the company doesn’t teach their human resources new skills. But they do appraise you yearly. They judge you. It’s supposed to be about your job performance, but it always ends up as you. Your job performance is ‘this’ because you are ‘this.’ They tell you what you’re good or bad at.  And that is the final word for the year. You can’t be too good, because then there’s no room for improvement, so the bad is emphasized. You’re scored and your raise is based on that number.

Years go by. Some years, you’re on fire and can do no wrong. Other years, you’re just in the background. It’s usually a little mixed up. If the year comes that you’re out of favor with the ever revolving upper management, it’s only a matter of time before you’re reading up on Cobra.

You stick it out the best you can because you need the paycheck and benefits.    You begin the process of reclaiming yourself back from the corporation; you wonder how and why you allowed it to happen at all. On any given day you’re ignored, condescended to or micro-managed by your manager and your team. It feels like high school, 30 years later and in reverse. The sloppy overweight women who chase the free food around the building, straighten their hair at their desk each morning or come back from lunch red eyed with slack smiles, are on top, and you are not. You try and talk about it, using various approaches; your eyes aren’t even met when you speak. It’s ok, don’t worry about it, you hear. And then, doors are shut with you trapped inside forcing you to listen to people who don’t know you say terrible strange things about you. You’re not going nowhere in this company, you’re going straight down and then out. Re-organization. Upper management draws up a new org chart, with all the geometrical shapes you recognize from junior high school, although you can name only a few.   Your job is taken away and divided among three people; you’re given an entry level job doing something that will be outsourced in four to six months.   It’s announced in a departmental meeting as if it’s good news. And you just have to sit there.

You rework your budget and plan for every contingency. Your true friends are wise, funny, and inspirational and they help you see the big picture. You don’t quit, which surprises upper management. You stick it out, you suck it up, you work, you smile, you collect your pay and catch up on all your doctor appointments. You stay extremely healthy. You have fun with your friends, do your entry level work and leave every day after exactly eight hours have passed. As yearend approaches, you begin taking personal items home, so when it’s time to go, you can git. And when that blow is delivered, you’re poised, you’re present, a calm Mona Lisa half smirk half smile on your lips. Later that night, of the day you were fired, you have a real smile on your face. The road is wide open and you’re on it.

Where will you go? How will you travel? You know more now about what to avoid and what to seek and cherish. You know that faith is a bridge between imagination and manifestation. Bon voyage.

 

 

 


Ode to Mom

originally posted 5/9/09

When I was about 5, my mom ran down a dock and jumped into a lake to pluck out a 3-year-old kid who had fallen in. Now a top tale in the family folklore, this episode also lent skepticism to later life-long claims that she didn’t know how to swim. Oh, she knew how to swim like a ‘mom’; head held high, neck elongated to keep her hair dry, arms part breast-stroking, part doggie paddling, but it was very rare to see her in the water, be it the ocean or the pool. She liked soaking up the sun and if she got hot, she would just dangle her legs in the water while sitting on the ledge, to which of course we would cling to for the ride. At the beach, she showed us how if we stood where the waves just end, eventually our feet would be buried in the wet sand. This still entertains and captivates me when I’m at a warm beach.

I remember Mom setting me up on the sofa in the family room when sick with all the necessary provisions; Kleenex box, trash can, green plastic bowl, just in case, books, magazines, Sucrets and Vicks. She’d bring me warm ginger ale, toast, tomato soup and tea. Once past the danger zone, but not well enough to return to school, she would reluctantly and I’m sure feeling guilty, go back to work. On her lunch break she would come home bearing gifts: the latest editions of Tiger Beat, 16, and MAD, and the newest Peanuts book. It was a luxurious feeling; soda and a grilled cheese sandwich, no other kids around, mom just focusing on me. With all that and the soaps and talk shows on TV, it was a blissful reprieve.

Trashy magazines meant for older kids, adult TV, soda, the house to myself, this was truly a mysterious heaven even though my throat was sore and my nose stuffy. When the other kids returned home from school; this secret mom-created-world vanished abruptly as the siblings brazenly changed the channel to what they wanted to watch and eagerly flipped through my new reading material. Everything shifted and being confined to the sofa seemed unnatural amidst the usual noisy family routines; it wasn’t special after three o’clock.

Mom and Dad threw great parties; for a long stretch of years they had an annual holiday party and a couple of dinner parties a year. Dad handled the heavy lifting and the bar; it was mom’s food that got people excited, it was legendary. She made it all herself. A variety of roll-ups- tasty pastries wrapped around bacon, olives, water chestnuts or Vienna sausages; spinach balls, crab spread, chili con queso, so hot it made you cry, bowls and bowls of shrimp, Swedish meat balls, sweet and sour peppers, bread bowls with ham or spinach or crab dip, all kinds of chips, crackers, breads, nuts, crudités. And to top it off, tiny rich desserts like mini cheesecakes, cream puffs, and three layer brownies. Nothing ever ran out.

At first, the oldest took the youngest away for pizza and a movie, as we got older we stayed. We kept the bowls filled, replenished ice, cleaned ashtrays and threw away empty cans. During our college years, we became part guest, part help; we graduated to bartenders, our friends stopped by. The first stop was always the dining room where the overflowing tantalizing spread laid waiting. Even the clean up, in our family meant lingering over each item, savoring just a few more bites before wrapping them up and putting them away.

Every time I moved, mom would drive over and take me shopping for necessities and help me decorate. I remember once, when I was going for a romantic look, sitting on the floor of my new place with her, completely surrounded by a huge assortment of dried flowers and raffia that we had bought that day. She’s always been great with crafts and she instantly started putting bouquets together, but it wasn’t the feel I was going for. I showed her my vision, more of an organic spread of long branches and a few flowers and she took it and ran with it. We stayed up late, sitting on the floor, talking, laughing, cutting stems, tying flowers together and finding the best places for them.

In one of my places, the bedroom closet was covered in a mangy raggedy carpet. Mom said, we’ll just cut it out. I may have come to that on my own, but for mom to suggest this in my rental, to violate the rental, was cool and the stamp of approval. We went out; bought a carpet cutting utensil that I didn’t know existed and she got right down and started slicing sections out. Done. I was oozing with admiration; I hadn’t often seen this ‘to hell with the rules’ side of her.

I live too far away now for her to drive over and have lunch or resolve my residence snafus. But we still enjoy talking about it as if it could happen. Even now, middle aged, I love saying, I wish you could come over and help me tackle these blinds, or the funky open space that the removable baseboards cover or don’t, or make me a grilled cheese sandwich when I’m sick. And she always says, I’ll fly right out; you just tell me if you need me. We love these conversations.

Last summer, I protested the illegal Iraq invasion with her and her group, standing with our signs on a corner at a busy intersection.

Mom is one of the oldest members and I say this with no bias, one of the most beloved. I have a picture of her holding her sign on my Facebook and it’s my most commented-on picture. In addition to her own, she has many honorary kids and grandkids earned from decades of remembering birthdays and mailing cards right on time. Whether she has met them or not, the children of her kids’ friends get birthday cards from Mrs. Joseph every year. These cards are anticipated and taken for granted at the same time; and appreciated more than she’ll ever know.

Mom is opinionated, passionate, witty, idealistic, generous, intelligent and loving. She is a bleeding heart liberal. She will tell you what she thinks. She will bring you food for many occasions. She is genuinely interested in people and what they do and say. I don’t know how much a child can completely know their mother, but the person I’ve known my whole life, through all the years is a strong, funny, sweet and compassionate woman, a loyal friend and a fantastic mother.

 

 


Bad Date

originally posted 5/18/09 12:46 am

I started writing this early this morning while nursing lower back spasms.  How did I get those you ask?  Well, I got them by not trusting my inner voice and my perceptions; by hoping  (giving it a try?) that a person would present a part of themselves I hadn’t seen yet–after spending a couple of hours face to face and 4 phone calls.  I got them by thinking maybe those people were right that said they thought he was sweet, considerate and gentlemanly by saying he’d come to Oakland and I could pick the restaurant.   I got them because I told myself it would be an adventure at the very least and who knew what could happen in the course of the night.  Etc.

From the first phone call to the end, this guy never acted like we were going on a date or were on a date.   It was more like grabbing a pizza with a coworker who’s not necessarily a good friend.

On Thursday I called him and said I would BART into the city so he would be able to pick his favorite place in North Beach to take me to dinner, which was what he originally asked me out for.  He said OK.  He had no idea where the BART stations were in SF, which I thought was odd.  Told him I’d come into the Montgomery station, I had to tell him it was on Market, he asked if it was near Embarcadero, etc, etc.

I didn’t hear from him after that, as to what restaurant he had picked or any type of confirmation.  I wore nice jeans, pretty top, coat and boots; kind of standard fare.  I called him when I got on the train, he was on his way.  A few minutes after I arrived, I called again to let him know I’d arrived.

Where are you? He asked.

At the corner of Montgomery, Market & Post  (yes, the three converge).

I don’t see you, he said.

Where are you? I asked.

On Market.

Market and what?

I’m on Market.

What cross street?

Embarcadero.

I told you I’d be at Montgomery and Market.

I’m there, I don’t see you, where are you?

You’re stressing me out; I’m at Montgomery and Market.

I’m here, I don’t see you–you’re not there—– I’m just about there, ——here I am, —–there you are—right on time.

I got in the car but in my mind I was walking (running) downstairs back onto the train. I knew I had made a mistake.  He started a long nonstop commentary of how hard it is to drive on Market (it is) and how annoyed he was that he couldn’t turn around to get back to Embarcadero (can’t take a left, could have turned right).  Like an old man. (shades of the phone conversations)  He didn’t know how to get back to Embarcadero and that’s how he knew how to get to North Beach. (We could have turned right and winded through).   I said, I could have gotten off on Embarcadero if you had told me that was your touch point.  And he said, no, you had your heart set on Montgomery.  (HUH?)    I said, Embarcadero is the stop before Montgomery, they’re all lined up.  He said he didn’t know the downtown area.  I said, I thought you knew San Francisco like the back of your hand (what he said) and he said not downtown, but North Beach and the Marina.  I said, we’re right down the street from North Beach.  We are?  Really?  He asked.   Everything I said, and I mean everything, he would repeat the first part, pause and then say ‘really?’

I’ve been on dates.  I’ve been on first dates and dates with someone I’ve been seeing a while. I’ve been with men who are nervous.  I’ve been nervous.  I think I can honestly say this is the first time I’ve been on a FIRST date where there was no attempt made to put his best foot forward, to flirt, seduce, impress, discover,  empathize, connect, etc.   There was no sense of romance, possibility, nothing.  Perhaps he had wanted to get out of it too but thought it was polite to not cancel, I don’t know. Or, this is just how he is.  Again, my mistake.

He finally got onto Mission, we got back to Embarcadero and into North Beach which is the quirky, charming old Italian part of the city, just up from Chinatown-many, many Italian restaurants, bars, a section of strip joints, coffee places, City Lights bookstore, history, lots of people.  There are parking garages and parking lots that you pay to park in– parking is always an issue in any city I’m sure.  So, here is where my aching back comes in.  He was looking for parking and drove past at least 4 lots smack in the center and said he didn’t see any lots; and then parked one block up from Embarcadero on Broadway, about 6 blocks from North Beach. There was obviously a lot of available street parking here.  I was then, officially  pissed off.  We trudged up, me in 4 inch heels, yes, up, a steady incline. No one around.  I said, this is pretty far from North Beach and he said it’s only about 6 blocks. And he was laughing.  He said, I thought you said you liked to hike.  Don’t you like to exercise?  He was rude. I have stomped around this city a lot, I love walking around SF.  Not hills in 4 inch heels.  A few blocks of course, of course.  But not like this. I was actually a little winded.

 

We got to the place he chose, called Tommaso’s, kind of hidden away between strip places, and it was packed, so it’s obviously good, but it’s a tiny one room place, the downstairs dining room was stuffed with people at what looked like communal tables; there’s a teeny waiting area inside- off the street with about 15 people jammed in and people outside the door.  There’s no bar area to get a drink while you’re waiting.  It’s a super casual place.  He couldn’t believe it was so busy, said the last time he was there, there was no one.  I said, well, it’s Saturday night.  And he said, I didn’t know it would be so crowded, it wasn’t when I was here before on a Saturday, it was empty.  I asked what time he had been there and he said it was before 6, he had beaten the rush.  Sigh.

Neither one of us wanted to stand there and wait.  He was tremendously disappointed because the food apparently is excellent; he had starved himself all day for it.  (When I got home I looked it up on Yelp, and most of the reviews say the pizza and food is to die for, but that it is always crowded, always a line, wait around 30-45 minutes if not an hour)  First date choice?   Well, that was his plan.  The big planned evening.  He had no second choice.  I was done with his planning.  His planning was a lie, a myth, a fantasy, a complete failure. He said let’s just walk around and find a place.  He didn’t seem to have eaten at any we walked by (I had) and he didn’t seem interested in any that were more than just super casual. Have you eaten there? (pointing);  yes;  you have?  Really? He chose a little one that had families in it, groups of friends, very small, bright lights, cramped; a corner Italian diner.  Not romantic or charming or quirky; a place to get food.  You like garlic, really?  (He doesn’t, I thought it was a given what with Italian being his favorite.)  I sat against the wall; he had to push the table closer to me so that he could fit in the chair. We were both kind of squinched up.   We chatted.  About the cars getting towed off Broadway since it was after 8–that fascinated him.  The server brought us bread then disappeared. He kept saying, I wonder why no one is waiting on us.   I didn’t want to take charge; and gave him ample time to react but he didn’t.

After 20 minutes, I knew that he wasn’t going to flag down a waiter for me or himself.  I caught the waiter’s eye, made the universal sign of we need drinks and food, he rushed over, apologetic, took our orders, got our drinks, got our food, and was reasonably attentive after that.  My date acted like nothing was out of the ordinary.

We  talked.  He supervises plaster work for large construction jobs, was married for 4 years, divorced for 3.  He did not want to discuss it.  Him to me:  You were married young?  Really?  For 2 years? Really?  At one point, he made a comment with a look that I believe was completely racist and told him so, and he just kind of accepted it. He said he goes to many, many mixers. Talked about his lack of sleep and sleeping pills; I of course advocated yoga, natural remedies, stop stressing about sleep, have a drink, stay up later, read a book, etc. (continuing from our 1st phone call).  The only trace of humor and laughter came when the table of friends-3 women and a guy, in their 30’s -next to us and I started chatting about St. Patrick’s Day.  They had been partying during the day, had big funny glasses and hats that they pulled out and I had laughed and commented on them. They were thinking about going out again and said there was the greatest little Irish pub we should go to, they were probably going, I forget the name, tucked in next to the Chinatown arch, which I thought was the coolest.  Who would ever think you’d find the best Irish pub on the edge of Chinatown?  My date didn’t join in the conversation and looked uncomfortable to boot.  But it was the only socially authentic conversation I had the whole night.

Meal over.  Walked downhill–much worse than up, to me, in heels; feet hurting; yet slightly energized because it was almost over.  He talked about how cold he was.  Dropped me at Bart, and then said the first and only thing that you normally say and hear on a date-call me when you get home.  When I got home, boots off, I texted him, said thank you and sleep tight, he wrote back and said thank you too.

It was nice being in the city and seeing so many people out and having fun.  Hopefully next time it’s me.

 

 


Cougar Mixer

Odd as it sounds, it’s a godsend to have a friend who wants to drag you to a Cougar Mixer. Yes, the older woman younger man themed mixer has arrived. You need someone who won’t let you cancel and to laugh with  before, during and after. In a committed relationship, she was curious to see what it was like and to be my wingman. We read up and tried to imagine how it would be. We figured there would be way more women than men and had been warned they would be predatory. We guessed that the men would be awkward young guys who for various reasons were not dating women their own age; and the horny set, who believe that all of us were just dying to get laid. We were prepared.

Or so we thought. We were caught off guard when the frazzled valet parker told us there was no room left in the parking lot but we could park on the street. Looking for any reason to bail, I suggested we just leave and get a drink somewhere, but my intrepid friend would hear nothing of it. As we wound our way out of the parking lot, following a long trail of cars, each with one or two women in them, we could see another line of cars creeping in, unaware of the lack of parking, also each with one or two women in them. Unless the men had all gotten here early and grabbed the parking, there were no men.

We parked and walked up the street to the restaurant. Neither of us had the nerve to ask the hostess which way the cougar mixer was, so we stood there looking around until she cheerily sang out, ‘Here for the singles party?’ Yes, we confidently said and went the way she pointed and got in line. There seemed to be just women in line, except one 30ish guy right behind us, who seemed unwilling to meet our eyes. Hmm, I worried, were we not cougar material?

The line was moving slowly, so I decided to go to the restroom, before entering the den, (pun intended). I left the line and asked the big cute bouncer where the restroom was and went the way he pointed after we both smiled bravely at each other. As my friend had chided me though, I wasn’t here for the help.

When I got back to the line, we were next to enter, which we did, and if our mouths were hanging open, it was because we were slammed with the fact that the room was full of gray and silver haired men-men in their 50’s, 60’s and yes 70’s. Apparently the rules had not been enforced, or there were some elderly ladies on the prowl. If an event was billed to younger women, would middle aged and older women attend in droves? I don’t think so, but maybe that’s not good cougar thinking.

A grinning 70 year old in a leather bike jacket, after giving us cuts in line to the bar must have felt the connection had been made and cashed in on the favor. Leering, he asked me to tell him all about my Italian heritage (I’m not Italian) while rubbing his hand all over my back and shoulders like he was cleaning a mirror. I nimbly twisted away, tried to answer him, but when he continued polishing me, I firmly said No, No, NO (it took all three) before that old hand reached my ass. He never stopped grinning.

One of his peers was another to avoid. Tall, in a suit, longish braids, licking a lollipop. Maybe he was trying to quit smoking, but, old creepster at the rave is not a good look for anyone.

Still waiting, we met one young guy, who was the right age, but had a sad story. He had come with the cougar he was all ready in love with. They work together and she felt they shouldn’t be involved because of that. She told him that it would be better for him to find another cougar, so they both had a reason for being here. He spoke very precisely and kept looking towards the area where she was. I wish I had asked him where they worked.

Finally, with our much needed wine in hand, we moved to another area to check out the prospects. Once our eyes had adjusted to the older guys, it was easier to pick out and assess the younger ones. There were precious few in their 20’s, which was fine by me. I was actually glad to see men who looked to be in their 40’s, and there were scattered about like empty wine glasses, some in their 30’s. Due to proximity and not much else, we started chatting with a man in his 40’s or 50’s who asked us how we had heard about the mixer, which is a very popular if unoriginal opening line. We dutifully said the newspaper and my friend politely asked him how he had heard about it. Confidently laughing, he said his friends had told him about it, urging him to go because there would be lots of horny women. When I coldly mentioned it was a mixer for women and younger men, he laughed and asked if he should leave. Charmed, I stepped away and unfortunately took it out on the harmless nebbish looking man (early 40’s) that I was now standing next to, nibbling from his paper plate of greasy looking pot stickers. He swallowed and said I caught him with his mouth full and I smiled and said I wasn’t trying to catch him. Not nice.

I did catch my friend’s eye; she was finishing up practicing her wingman skills on the guy waiting to land a horny cougar. I was willing to abandon the fantasy of finding another Ashton Kutcher, and we moved on, more relaxed.

And that’s the thing. You have to be open, quick and able to have a lot of conversations, with just about anyone you make eye contact with. You need to know if and when to move on so you can talk with as many men as you find interesting and attractive. It felt a little frantic to me. I did look around and try to make eye contact and smile across the room, but while doing that, others are approaching at the same time. I felt defensive and self protective; I could sense the same in many of the other women, who had come in groups and were now just chatting among themselves. We had been informed that the women were predatory, which we didn’t see.

There was one woman there who it seems has been working on making herself the official cougar. She had been mentioned in the newspaper article. She had on a short tight red sequined dress, which looked out of place at 8:00pm on Thursday night and doubly wrong at the same time, as she had on no makeup. If you’re gonna go glam, you can’t go half way, kitten.

The bottom line that most everyone seems to agree with is that single mixers are very useful and can be fun, if awkward. I do like ones like this that don’t have corny participation games. We singles just need a big crowd of our own kind looking to meet others, with a bar. We know how to talk, flirt, and pick out who we like. Concerned friends will urge us to go out, be out, do things that are interesting and they say we’ll meet people. And that’s good advice, you can’t sit home every night and sometimes you do meet someone. But at those various events, you have to figure out if there are other singles and many times there aren’t, if there are, there certainly isn’t a packed room of them. We like the numbers.

I did end up having good conversations with two guys that held promise (the bouncer wasn’t actually the help or a bouncer). I know there were more men I could have talked with if I had a better strategy to work the  room. I would definitely do this again; I’m better prepared, as long as my super skillful wingman girlfriend is up for it.