Wayback Wednesday- Mission To Marry Part Two

This post continues the story of my quest for love and marriage that I started last week.  I recommend that you read last week’s post ( Wayback Wednesday- Mission To Marry (Part One) – Terri LaBonte- Reinventing Myself in Retirement ) first. In full disclosure, I wrote this essay 10 years ago, so specific facts (for instance, ages, shared life experiences, etc.) are no longer accurate.

The realization that it was okay if I ended a relationship because the man just was not the person I wanted did nothing to stop my search for love and marriage.  I took a moment to remind myself that I wanted more than a husband.  I also wanted happiness.  Then, I decided to up my game.  I attended an adult education class called “How To Meet The Right Person.” At the end of the class, I signed up for private lessons from the instructor.  Imagine!  I was plunking down $75 a week for private tutoring in the art of meeting people who might like the real me and I might be able to enjoy without twisting my personality into a pretzel.

My dating guru suggest some strategies and gave me some assignments.  He even set me up on some “practice dates” with other clients.  In one situation, he sat at a nearby table and gave us feedback about our presentation and dating skills.  I almost expected one of those electronic score boards that you see in the Olympics.  At any minute, I figured a blinking “2.1” would come up on the wall in the restaurant to tell the whole world how far away I was from a perfect “10”.)   It was all incredibly stressful and emotionally draining.  I was still experiencing all these situations as me trying to fix myself to be good enough for this man rather than realizing I was supposed to be deciding if this man was good enough for me.

Just as I was summoning courage to discontinue my private dating lessons and cut off the guru’s $75 per week, he made one last suggestion.  He mentioned a singles dance he thought I might attend.  The event was what I referred to as “the pudgy people’s dance.”  It was sponsored by an organization that celebrated women with “more ample” figures.  I was little skeptical and, to be honest, more than a little horrified that the “secret” that I am overweight was out of the bag.  Still, I told myself, if I was going to pay this guy $75 a week, I should at least try to get my money’s worth. 

The night of the dance, I entered the room tentatively.  Within minutes, I was surrounded by gentlemen of all sizes, ethnicities, and ages asking me to dance.  I relaxed.  I had fun.  I talked to people.  I set down my worries about not being good enough, since this bunch seemed to think I was plenty good enough.  I stopped trying to be the woman trying to attract a husband and started being one of the gang. 

That night, I met a wonderful man.  A man who, specifically, is wonderful for me.  We both loved movies and had some of the same favorites.  We both loved Las Vegas.  We both enjoyed some of the same music.  We both had similar religious values.  We both were financially sound.  We both had successful lives with career, family, and friends.  We each had interests that we did not hold in common at the time, but that we could grow to enjoy together in the future. We were both wildly attracted to each other. 

It has been almost 16 years since that night.  We are still together.  Between us, we have lost three parents since we met, weathered illnesses and surgery, gone through job changes, and shared the sorrow of saying good-by to my elderly welsh corgi.  We work well together as a team and we play so joyfully that I cannot imagine how my world would keep moving should he not be in it.  He moved into my tiny, one-bedroom, one-bathroom condo nine years ago.  He has filled every inch of that small space with love. 

No, I still do not have the husband for whom I worked so hard.  I suppose you could say that my mission to marry has been a failure.  Now and again, there are times- when I watch a wedding on TV, or a friend gets married, or I am feeling a bit “not lovable enough to marry”- when I still dream of a proposal and of a wedding.  After all, if nothing else, there is something kinda ludicrous about calling a man your boyfriend when you are 52 years old and the “boy” in question is 60. 

More often, though, I understand that my mission to marry didn’t really fail.  Sometimes, on a mission, you do not accomplish what you wanted, but you do accomplish what you needed.  I may not have the husband, but there is no doubt in my mind that I have the happiness.

What are your thoughts?  Have you also experienced a “mission to marry?”  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have a HAPPY day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

PS   For those of you who want to receive automated email notifications every time I post new content, please read Bonus Blog from yesterday.  I think I’ve figured out how to fix the glitch. 

Wayback Wednesday- Mission To Marry (Part One)

This begins a two-part essay that will be the last in my “Wayback Wednesday” series.  In full disclosure, I wrote this essay 10 years ago, so specific facts (for instance, ages, shared life experiences, etc.) are no longer accurate.

After my husband dumped me (or, as I prefer to think of it now, “released me for good behavior”) nearly seven years into a bad marriage, I stumbled through a serious of unfortunate relationships.  I was engaged for about half an hour to a lithium-resistant fellow on disability for his bipolar disorder.  I spent several years dating a guy whose idea of a romantic birthday gift was a rain gage.  I had dinner with a thrice married man and his young daughter nearly every night for a couple of years.  I was imagining a married life in which our little threesome would be a happy family.  He was imagining me babysitting his daughter while he dated other women. 

Eventually, I came to the same sad conclusion that women have been coming to for centuries.  There’s gotta be a better way to run a love life. 

Although I never would have admitted it, I was always one of those women who defines herself too much by her relationship status.  Oh, in the light of the “real world,” I said all the right things.  I grew up in the first blush of the modern feminism movement.  I graduated college in the eighties and went blithely into the workforce, wearing shoulder pads in my polyester business suits.  I knew that my happiness and power were supposed to come from within me and they were within my control.  I knew a modern woman was supposed to concentrate on her own career, her own interests, and her own personal growth.  I knew I was supposed to believe that, if I did all those things, love and marriage would take care of themselves.

However, in the darkest part of my soul, I doubted.  I doubted so loudly, I could not hear all the wise, conventional axioms about modern womanhood I knew I was supposed to believe.  No matter how strongly a voice inside me tried to insist, “you should be yourself and make your own happiness” and “when the time is right and you are ready for it, love will find you,” an uglier voice rebutted vociferously.  That ugly voice said, “no one will ever fall in love with you” and “you are not normal or adequate enough to find a husband and have children.” That ugly voice won the shouting match, I am sorry to say.

Therefore, when a boy I met in high school asked me to marry him (largely because he wanted sex and good Catholic girls didn’t put out without at least an engagement ring,) I accepted.  My acceptance of his proposal mystified everyone who knew me.  The common opinion was that me getting engaged to this guy defied all logic.  It did not defy logic at all.  When you are certain that no one will ever want you and you are sure that the only way to be happy is to get married, it is perfectly logical to accept a proposal from pretty much anyone.

As you might imagine, given its genesis, the marriage did not work.  Eventually, my husband left me and I was again alone.  His departure convinced me that the secret was out that I was “too” something or “not enough” something to enter that “young girls club” of marriage and family that I read about and saw on television.  I was too ugly or too inept or not sexy enough or not nurturing enough or something.  I did not know how to fix any of those things.  I also did not understand that the only way to fix them was within myself and not by snaring another man.  My campaign began in earnest.  I was on a mission to marry. 

For the next several years of my life, I tried numerous techniques to find love.  I tried personal ads in the newspaper.  For all you youngsters out there, this was the primeval equivalent of internet dating.  I tried joining clubs.  As it turns out, all the clubs I chose seemed to be already populated by many single women.  Not that there aren’t men out there who enjoy ceramics-painting and small art house theater, but it seems clubs centered around these pursuits are often magnets for desperate women who just need to get out more.  I tried going to singles dances.  I experience some success with this activity because the venues were usually dimly lit.  I am sure I would have fared better in that environment if my appearance did not so readily remind single men of the “before” pictures in TV commercials for various self-improvement products.  I tried hanging out at church after services.  Shame on me for using the House of the Lord as a spiritual singles bar!  It didn’t work, anyway.  I tried flirting with men at work, which was just plain terrifying.  I even tried joining a professional video dating service.  I do plead a certain amount of innocence on that one.  I won the membership in a drawing.  It would have been gut-wrenching to actually pay for something so unsuccessful.

I remember going to one singles dance sponsored by a club at a church.  I found myself to be the belle of the ball that night.  I danced constantly and had masculine company at every turn.  Several asked for my phone number.  One invited himself to my upcoming 35th birthday celebrations.  I had a line of admirers to walk me to my car at the evening’s end.

The next day my mother called me.  “So, how did it go?” she asked.  I paused and asked tentatively, “Does Daddy like me?”  “What?!” she replied, “Of course he likes you.”  “Well, so does every other 70-year-old man in the country,” I replied.  It says something about my state of mind that I was considering trying to lure one of these lovely gentlemen twice my age down the aisle. 

This incident highlights a hallmark of that place in my life.  I thought I was taking control of my own fate and doing things that would get me what I wanted with such single-minded ferocity… a husband.  How could I look slimmer?  How could I present as sexier? How could I make small talk more easily and breezily? How could I appear more “normal” and subdue my naturally childlike (and now, can I say… charming?) personality?  And, above all, how could I hide my addiction to all things Tinker Bell?

The real story is that I never really did think about what I wanted.  I was always too busy plotting to figure out how I could present the traits the single men out there wanted and how to hide the parts of me that I suspected would be unappealing to a prospective husband, I never bothered to evaluate the men who I were so sure were evaluating me and finding me wanting. 

When I hit my wall after parting company with the guy who bought me a rain gage for a birthday present, I realized there had to be a better way.  I realized that, while the break-up with Mr. Rain Gage had been mutual, it was I who initiated it.  Why did I initiate it?  He was a perfectly nice man.  It just occurred to me that he wasn’t what I wanted! It was a novel concept.  I was alone, not because I was somehow lacking or because the potential husband saw past my façade and realized I wasn’t what he wants.  I was alone because the man I was seeing wasn’t what I needed.  I realized it was okay.

To be continued….

Terri/Dorry 🙂