by Jennifer Miller
There he was standing tall wearing dark grey trousers and a linen shirt revealing just enough. She instantly recognized him from his photo. Subtle, but effective, and even better in real life, she thought. The streets were surprisingly mostly empty and he had picked a romantic little trattoria with a few empty outdoor tables. She noticed two wine glasses on the table and was regretting wearing her tennis shoes. She really should know better… comfort over style is the incorrect formula in Italy! Part of her wanted to keep walking despite his allure, but then he looked up noticing her offering her the perfect smile. Instantly she felt at home despite being halfway around the world.
He stood and reached out his hand. When her hand touched his she felt this instant current that pulsed through her entire being. She reminded herself to breath. Suddenly he pulled her in wrapping his arm around her and she forgot how to breathe a second time. Nothing had prepared her for this moment it was like those old movies-lovers finding each other after the war. He released her, but she would never forget his embrace. “Ciao” she managed to exhale, staring at his luscious lips wondering what he tasted like. The night was young, she thought.
Shall I keep going? I wrote this for my fan club who was asking what happened to Ms. Jennifer! I really appreciate the invitation and I realize I don’t want to disappoint, but the truth is my life has become rather quiet, but isn’t that just a polite way of saying boring? Boring! Oh God, I don’t want to live a boring life, that sounds worse than death! Instead of making out with some Italian hunk, I’ve joined the multitudes of watching “Love is Blind.” I’ve always preferred playing sports rather than watching them, but here I am sitting in my very non-sexy pjs on my chaise lounge, I imported from Florida (not Italy), with my pit-bull, Link, sitting at my feet. And I’m happy. What happened to me? It’s partly discovering I hate people. I know that’s a gross generalization, but I do. Not everyone, of course, but a lot of them. Dogs are a better option. They love fiercely and demand oh so little. There is no BS when it comes to dogs. No pettiness, no ego, no dick energy. It’s pure and simple and easy. Love, plus food/water… that’s it.
So, have I lost my edge? Am I destined to become one of those boring old people who talks about their aches and pains? I’m afraid of that so I’ve pushed hard to make myself relevant and my life purposeful.
I’ve been thinking lately more about “capitalism” and how the whole goal is about consumption (and insecurity) which has nothing to do with compassion and creativity/beauty which are the guiding principles I want to live by. And I hate people who buy the lie. When I used to care I was caught between my soul knowing and still trying to fit, but fit into what exactly? Something I don’t admire or agree with?
But now that I’m older I’m invisible—no longer an object of desire or an object of consumption! What I do care about is the precious heart of a dog. I care about the trees, the old people, the children. I care about the flowers, the mountains, and the seas. Everything that is beautiful without an agenda. Why buy into this crazy, manic consumption, power, ego driven agenda that doesn’t GIVE A SHIT ABOUT YOU? I also hate the youth-based obsession. Still, I want to be a radical old person, not a boring one!
I’m starting to understand more my recluse father. Here I was trying to find someone for him to date or to have a social life, but now I get his why bother attitude. I wanted him to be more connected to the world, I suppose you could say “fitting in,” but why? He spent his young life teaching privilege, white kids trying desperately to hold on to them, before they got lost or succumbed to this culture of greed and dominance, but you get tired of holding on. Maybe he wasn’t giving up like I originally thought, but more of a seasoned acceptance. I get that now and why I’m caught between feeling liberated and obsolete. What is the cost of this acceptance it’s not the resignation of “going gentle into the good night,” it’s leaning into the solitude with open arms.
But I don’t want to disappoint my fan club. And what about my adventurous spirit? I have to admit it took a hug beating with my last “adventure” I had with an artist from Atlanta. It didn’t just end with an abnormal pad smear, which shit on my “adventurous spirit”. It was another round of “dick energy” that could give a shit about me as a fully bodied human being. That certainly didn’t help, but it’s more than that.
The fantasy has died. He lied to me, but I lied to myself. He wasn’t “the one” (despite his perfect resume) and men who want the pussy (preferably without complications) have no time for a whole human being. They live in a world of sound bites and fractured connection like a high-speed train that never stops. Remember “time is money” and the swipe culture knows there is always something “better” waiting.
But I’ve finally learned it’s not about me. If women would only understand that (yes, it IMPACTS us), but knowing this would save so many women. Our insecurities, fear of loneliness and buying the lies are killing us. I listened to a woman yesterday who stayed with a man for 32 years who beat the shit out of her (repeatedly) and despite her protests the police were finally called and he went to jail. “Why?” She wants to know now. Why did she stay with him. Because our drug fantasy is that some man (something outside ourselves) can rescue/save/love us better than we can know/love ourselves. If we get obsessed with them, we don’t have to feel what we are feeling or look deeply inward. Dick energy isn’t just about getting off, it’s the ego jacking off to the power of control and invincibility. Even when the dick is soft that illusion doesn’t need Viagra.
Getting older softened this lie of buying your way into love and acceptance. You can’t cover up the imperfections (you can try with surgery) so it seems the answer is simply to get off the train. But then what? I no longer need to make myself (even if I still could) desirable. I’ve replaced my youthfulness, with trying to stay relevant and worthy. Getting off that train leaves me sitting around petting my dog, Link. How is that possibly enough with all that needs to be done in the world? I can’t just take up space! I fight against being useless (and ugly!)—the plight of an old person. But it’s getting easier. Besides, Link likes it when I sit on the chaise lounge with nothing else to do but pet him!
Aren’t we covering up the real lesson of life: compassion, tolerance for ourselves and others and, the oh so difficult, letting go. It starts with letting go of our youth and the admiration. I went to the French Quarter Fest (alone) and I think some young guy was hitting on me. I’ve gotten so used to being invisible so I wasn’t quite sure. He asked me if I smoked weed or maybe he asked if I was 420 friendly (thank God I knew what that meant). No, I confessed, but I think it was more about him wanting to hang out. I wasn’t invisible in that moment. Funny, sometimes, now I actually prefer being invisible. Maybe it’s even a relief. I don’t have to do, or say, or look a certain way. I can be lost or I can dance and be seen, but it’s just not about the OTHER anymore. And there is great freedom in that choice and not buying into the NEED, the lie of the romance, or the insecurities of becoming obsolete.
When I occasionally still go these groovy youth-based events instead of feeling on the outside, I’m realizing I don’t want to get in anymore. What is there that I haven’t already explored? Besides, why do I want to be somewhere where my wisdom isn’t recognized? They just don’t get it. The key is not needing the “fix” (admiration or affirmation). It’s the “begging for a bone” energy I walked through with my whole life. I get it, growing up with alcoholic parents, no wonder why I needed something always outside myself because I was invisible. A man, a new purse, a new experience. But I’ve learned these aren’t really “adventures” they are buying something some else told me I needed.
Still sometimes I mourn my adventurous self. I was supposed to go on a cruise in Italy, but I got COVID. Honestly, I was mostly relieved. Doesn’t that sound crazy? Maybe it was more about the pacing of these adventures. I love to travel, try something new, to keep me “young,” but I also have to understand the pace. Sometimes it is too much. Sometimes I prefer quiet (she whispers in a hush tone)!
My dog, Link, (along with my last dog, Nola) showed me there is no working for love. We don’t need to beg for love from another human being. Love yourself the way your dog loves you. I had the sweetest conversation with my daughter recently. She gets it. She understands this need for romantic love (it’s all about clinging to this notion we’ve been fed since we were little). I don’t need a man, or a new pair of shoes, and never did. Instead, she reminded me I really have everything I need/want. I have friends, I have my dog, and I have her and my family and she “will take care of me when I’m old.”
That last part is troublesome. Has the desire to be sexy been replaced by the fear of being hideous and unwanted? Regardless, I still don’t want to be a burden. There is a reason for that fear. After all we do throw away old people left and right. We are not measured by our wisdom and experience… just the opposite. Kind alike dogs locked away in a cage or “put to sleep.”
My daughter recognizes that deep seated fear of mine of being useless. What good am I? But it’s not about doing-it’s about being. So, can I go against the gain and just “be” kinda like my dog, Link? He doesn’t earn love; he just IS love.
I’m in the question how to be dynamic and vital while simultaneously “doing nothing.” My foray into social justice has reminded me that I need to keep” reality” at a certain distance. I need to maintain my own “privilege” and boundaries. I actually have the advantage that I can (now) have quiet peace (and recognize that is not the same thing as “boring”). There are some advantages of aging. Discernment is one. It’s not to say I won’t ever relapse, but for now my feet are firmly planted on the ground and I have everything I could need or want. How sweet to have a daughter that reminds me of this.
Link is also reminding me it’s time for his walk. Maybe he is a bit more demanding than I gave him credit for! Time to get my butt off the couch! Simplicity, I’m learning, is not synonymous with boring! Oh, but wait for it, and I promise I’m not making this up! Just when I got comfortable in my pjs and getting all my excitement from watching “Love is Blind” I got an unexpected message!
“Is this Jen?”
Curious? Yes, but there was no name so I wasn’t about to respond. I don’t think I own anybody money, but you never know. I did google the area code. Well, I said I was curious, remember! It was an area code from Colorado. I don’t know anyone in Colorado.
But then a second message came: “It’s Peter B. Oh, hell, yes, I remember Peter B! It’s been a long time, but, oh my God, it was kinda like the Italian man above– my body certainly remembered! Ya’ll will have to wait to see how that story unfolds. Maybe I will be watching less “Love is Blind” because I will be busy (wink. wink).