The challenge of finding love

jose at pulitzer01

My sweetie, making photo history by photographing the Pulitzer Prize journalism judging — his idea!

 

By Caitlin Kelly

In the romantic sense, anyway.

I see a lot of anguish among my friends who are single, no matter their age. One is desperate to have children but has no partner. Another has had her heart broken a few too many times.

Another already knows men her age insist on dating women decades younger.

One of my Sunday morning pleasures is reading The New York Times wedding announcements, aka the social box scores. I admit it — my mother’s wedding and both of mine made the cut. And, for every kindergarten teacher marrying an investment banker, or a Harvard-educated physicist marrying a former White House speechwriter, there are a few fun couples you just want to cheer for, like the 71-year-old therapist and mandolin player who married an 80-year-old — and met him while sharing their love of vintage Porsches.

I married for the first time at 35 and he bailed after barely two years, re-married to a colleague within a year. He was “perfect on paper” — a tall, handsome, medical student who played clarinet and guitar and also loved to travel. But it was not to be.

Divorced (no kids) for six years, I had plenty of time to re-think who or what I most wanted — as I missed being married. One of my hopes (realized!) was to find a partner who was interesting, well-traveled, accomplished yet also modest. In New York, that’s almost impossible; I was way out of most leagues, not having an Ivy degree, let alone several.

In those years I dated a computer geek of Greek origin, a ship’s engineer and a Jewish man whose parents’ first question to me was: “Are you Catholic?” (No.)

I met a few charming liars, as anyone does when meeting people on-line. Even a convicted con man. Terrifying!

Then I wrote about online dating — still a novelty then — for Mademoiselle, a now-defunct national women’s magazine. My profile headline read, truthfully: Catch Me If You Can. Jose, now my husband, liked the challenge and we met and…that was it!

 

rhiney

In sickness, surgery and in health…

 

We would never have met any other way, as he lived 30 miles south of me in Brooklyn and worked full-time, an odd schedule, at The New York Times. The day he was to have moved in with me was 9/11.

Yes, the 9/11.

Our first few years weren’t smooth. We loved one another, but were tough, prickly, set in our ways and, typical of successful journalists, extremely competitive. Whew!

But we’ve also always been quick to laugh, to hug, to forgive. We share a ferocious work ethic. We love to mentor and entertain, to share what we have with those we love. Our sofa is well-used by visiting younger pals.

We love to travel, whether in a tent (rarely!) or an elegant city hotel. We both have spiritual practices — mine, Episcopal church, his Dzogchen Buddhism; you can see his mala beads on his left wrist below and the stained glass of the tiny wooden church on Toronto’s Centre Island.

 

5th-anniversary

September 2011

 

It’s never easy or simple to find a great match, especially later in life as career and education and children enter the picture and each of which can make a commitment more challenging.

I was unhappily single for years in Toronto because I knew I really wanted to move to New York — and who would move with me, legally? It all worked out (moved here with first husband who I met in Montreal), but who knew at the time?

I’m so grateful for how it worked out.

How have you found romantic love?

It’s V-Day! 14 Years in, 14 reasons my marriage (whew!) still thrives

By Caitlin Kelly

JRLCAK WEDDING01

The image is our wedding, in September, 2011, late afternoon, in a small wooden church on an island in Toronto’s harbor.

We met in March 2000, online, and after our first date at a lovely French bistro in midtown Manhattan, that was it.

We couldn’t really be more different. Jose — an American, the cherished only son of a small-town Baptist minister, loves routine, security and familiarity. I — Canadian, the oldest child of a film-maker father and journalist mother, globe-trotters both — live for adventure, new experiences and spontaneity.

But we’re still delighted to have found one another.

Here are 14 reasons why:

We laugh our asses off

People look at us on the commuter train, where everyone else is quietly reading the paper, or snoozing, or texting. What’s so funny? Anything, really.

We talk to one another, every day, a lot

His workday — as a photo editor for The New York Times — is crazy-hectic, with six scheduled meetings every single day. He juggles assignments for photographers, staff and freelance, literally across the world, and speaks to dozens of editors and reporters. Sometimes he’s even emailing at 3 a.m. to a guy in China or India. But we chat, even for a minute or two, several times every day. I want to hear his voice, share a triumph and connect. When we’re home, our computers are (mostly) off and we eat our dinner by candle-light and catch up. Studies have found that the average couple speaks very little during most days. I find that really sad.

We have very different interests

I’m a culture vulture, forever seeing museum and gallery shows, theater and dance, coming home from the library with a pile of books. He’s a devout Buddhist who meditates every morning and reads his texts. But we have enough overlap and mutual curiosity about one another’s interests.

We share a ferocious work ethic

God, that man works hard! So do I. As I write this, it’s another major blizzard here in New York and he’s working from home. We attach to our computers and phones and go. He’s seen my freelance workday up close, and knows how intense and focused it is. We are both career journalists who started selling our work to national outlets while we were college undergrads. We enjoy our work and know why it still matters, to us and to the larger world.

We have one another’s backs

He has verbally taken both of my parents to the woodshed when needed, hotly defending my needs and concerns when I just couldn’t seem to do it myself. I’ve done the same for him with neighbors or anyone, anywhere, who disrespects him. He is Hispanic and has been mistaken for a manual laborer, when wearing his casual clothes. The man has a Pulitzer prize. I tell people that. He tells them about my accomplishments. We are absolutely one another’s best advocates.

We both have spiritual lives, individual and shared

He is a devout Buddhist, who had an altar and prayer flags hanging in his Brooklyn apartment when we met. I’ve been attending a local Episcopal church since 1998. We’ve attended one another’s services and appreciate and respect our individual traditions and choices. I’ve seen, and been touched by, how connected he is to his guru, Lama Surya Das, now a friend of ours, and we’ve invited our church ministers home for dinner.

We treasure our friendships

I love his loyalty to friends. We keep our friends close, even when they live many miles distant.

We take care of one another

After my left hip replacement, in February 2012, Jose took three weeks’ vacation time to stay home and nurse me. He made an enormous list of all my pills and exercise schedule and stuck it on the wall. He cleaned my wound, all 12 staples of it. I make our home as clean and attractive as possible: candles, fresh flowers, pretty linens, a beautiful table for mealtimes. I make us delicious meals, when I can muster the energy. I even brush and polish his shoes, much to his embarrassment. It’s just care. It’s what a good marriage is about.

We’re not scared to have a (loud, scary) argument

This was a big step for us. We fought like crazy for years when we met: stubborn, mid-life, long divorced, battling for recognition and respect in a dying and difficult industry. It’s not easy to allow someone new into your life after you’ve already had a few decades of one. He also grew up in a family that never (visibly) argued. It’s almost all mine did. That was an adjustment.

When we do, we know it doesn’t mean the end

That was another big step. For a variety of reasons, I’m a little (OK, a lot) freaked out by possible abandonment. He never once stomped away in silence or shut me out for days or weeks, as some men might. While we were dating, we both left one another’s homes in fury but we also made up the next day, after we’d cooled down. Just because we fight sometimes doesn’t mean we don’t love one another deeply.

We save a lot of money for our (we hope!) shared future

I save 15 percent, which I hate. He saves 10 percent. I want a comfortable retirement. The only way toward that is saving a shitload of money.

We play together

We love to play games — golf, Scrabble, Bananagrams, gin rummy.

We both survived lousy first marriages and want this to be our last

Once you’ve tasted the bitter fruits of a nasty marriage and even nastier divorce, marriage can terrify you. It scars you and scares you. It’s expensive and miserable and confidence-shaking. Why even bother doing it again? My maternal grand-mother married six times — maybe eight — we lose track. My parents’ marriage busted up when I was seven and my mother never re-married or even lived with another man. You have to really want to be married and do the work it takes to stick around.

We know we have a lovely thing going, and tell one another this often

We both say thank-you a lot, and mean it. I never take him for granted. Life is too short to waste it being horrible to the person you have taken vows with.

How about you?

How’s your love life these days?

Matchmaking Mom Launches New Site — Date My Single Kid

A heart-shaped Faberge picture frame with a po...
Image by AFP/Getty Images via @daylife

This week marked the launch of DateMySingleKid.com, whose site offers a photo of its creator, Geri Brin, and her 31-year-old single son, Colby. He looks like a nice guy, cute.

Does he really need his Mom’s help?

From the National Post:

As the New York entrepreneur behind FabOverFifty. com, she decided to add a dating component to the website–not for her women readers, but for their sons and daughters. Unlike sites such as Lavalife or eHarmony, Date My Single Kid asks moms to upload photos of their adult children along with a brief profile; then, if another mom thinks she’s found a good match, she’ll send a message. “The goal is mom-to-mom communication,” Geri says. Date My Single Kid, which the Brins insist wasn’t created for the sole purpose of finding Colby’s future wife, went live on Tuesday. Within 48 hours, it had 200 profiles uploaded. Although many a thirtysomething guy would find it embarrassing to be set up on a date by his mother, the Brins think this system has its advantages. “Say you’re into gardening,” Colby says. “You might not think that’s cool or manly, so you leave that out; but your mom might mention it and it shows your sensitive side, and a girl might find that attractive.” Then again, mothers don’t always know best. “She casts a wider net than I maybe would,” Colby says about his mother’s broad search criteria. “Her main requirements are just age and gender.”

My family was always pretty laissez-faire when it came to my dating life. My parents, long divorced, were often far away, traveling or living many times zones distant. It wasn’t the sort of family that spent a lot of time vetting my beaux. (Might have helped.)

Only once did my Mom introduce me to a guy she’d met, an IBM salesman (yes) named Bob, from a small town in Saskatchewan. Bob had a closet filled with (yes) white shirts and dark suits and a BMW that (help me) he called his Beemer. (What can I say? It was a summer fling.) He was good-looking, smart, had a decent job. But, once we got past this approved exterior, there wasn’t a great fit. He did manage to piss off all my friends at a dinner party by calling them (accurately, but still) limousine liberals.

Has your Mom ever found you someone to date? How did it work out?

Foxy Bohemian Seeks…Anyone? Glamour Magazine Teams Up With Match.com

Image representing Match as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

The one sure thing about on-line dating is what a crazy, weird, overwhelming search it can be. Now Glamour magazine is “extending its brand”  to create Glamour Matchmaker, with match.com, reports The Wall Street Journal:

The courtship was smooth. Glamour magazine approached dating site Match.com and within weeks they were readying the launch of Glamour Matchmaker, a dating service featuring men selected by the magazine’s staff from the sea of singles on Match.com.

It was a good fit, the two sides say—70% of visitors to Glamour.com are single or divorced…

Glamour Matchmaker was hatched by Glamour’s business staff as a way to get a firmer hold over the roughly three million women who visit Glamour.com every month.

When Glamour approached Match.com’s business development team, the dating site’s executives saw an avenue to legions of affluent, single women with men on their minds, says Match general manager Mandy Ginsberg.

When women log onto Glamour.com’s Glamour Matchmaker page (tagline: “And you thought your mother was picky”), they’ll find selected candidates organized by personality types created by Glamour staff, like “foxy bohemian” and “adventure seeker.”

Glamour staffers will decide on personality types and pre-set qualifications for each, then use Match.com’s sorting technology to funnel men already on Match.com to the site. Foxy bohemians, for example, would have jobs in the arts, though executives from Glamour and Match are still hashing out the details before the site’s launch, planned for mid-July.

The funniest part of trying to find that needle in the haystack – aka love – on-line, is the endless looking and sorting. I met the sweetie on-line, reduced to an adjectival string: Mexican-Navajo-Buddhist-Republican-golfer. How could I possibly resist? (No, he’s not very Republican.)

If we had been truthful, I think we would have ended up in the bin marked “Eccentric Workaholics” or “Francophiles With Issues.” Or “Overworked and Underpaid” — that’s a big category and probably overfilled.

It’s next to impossible to sum yourself up in a tidy phrase, so maybe it’s for the best if the ladies over at Glamour do the sorting. Now, if they can weed out all the liars…

Quick! Get Marrried!

Wedding cake with hearts and roses on the buff...
Image via Wikipedia

Getting married is still the most important thing you can accomplish?

Are we living in 2010  — or 1810? Maybe 1610?

From the op-ed page of The Wall Street Journal:

Daters are ravenous for advice to order the chaos, even if it comes from a book, like “Marry Him,” that berates them or, like “Committed,” claims that marriage is a terrible institution for women (though the author gets hitched by her memoir’s end).

“People are desperately looking for order out there, because they want to be in committed relationships,” says Jessica Massa, 26, who is developing WTFIsUpWithMyLoveLife.com, an interactive forum to help young people make sense of their relationships or absence thereof. “But the lack of signposts and guidance is making it very hard to get to the point where you end up in one.”

You live together, but only until one of you gets a great job offer in London. You go out to dinner and a movie, but aren’t even sure if it was an actual date. There is no longer that social urgency that pushes couples to the next stage.

The more pressing dating issue for young women today is not that they are skeptical about marriage or too choosy, but that their potential spouses are in less of a hurry to tie the knot than they are. A 2005 poll, “Coming of Age in America,” which surveyed 18- to 24-year-olds, found that women had the edge on eagerness: 55% said they’d like to be married in the next five years, compared with only 42% of men.

Adam Rich, 29, editor of Thrillist, a daily email blast targeting young men, says all this ambiguity is obscuring the traditional march to marriage and giving guys more leeway when it comes to casual dating. “This whole set of cliché indicators—call a girl to ask her out for drinks, then later a dinner date—are becoming less the dating norm. What if he Facebook messages her to meet at a wine bar where they share small plates? Where does that put them on the roadmap to the altar?”

Beth Bailey, the author of “From Front Porch to Back Seat: Courtship in Twentieth-Century America,” thinks this might be an unprecedented time in the history of dating and courtship. “The lack of rules and structure in dating means it’s become more difficult than it’s ever been to get to the place where marriage seems like the obvious next step,” she says.

Help me out here, please.

I mean it.

Why do the next steps have to be “obvious”? To whom? Your parents? Your friends? Your siblings?

Is it because — one can only assume — we are all in a time of such horrifying political and economic insecurity? Go for the gold, as it were (“Put a ring on it”), to ensure something, somewhere will actually be there tomorrow morning or the day after that? Which, as every divorced or unhappily married person well knows, is the the saddest bit of fantasy imaginable.

A familiar prison isn’t much comfort.

I was married, miserably, for two years. I knew on my wedding day it was a bad idea, but wanted more than anything to make it work and tried my best. Like many women by that point in my life, I wanted to be a wife, dammit! I was worn out from independence, making hard and unlovely career choices, my own chronic ambivalence about lifetime commitment, the loss of my family, friends and country to move to the U.S. for my husband.

I loved him deeply; that failure — of my own will to walk away from what I knew was a poor, if deeply powerful, comforting and seductive choice — haunts me still.

I now live with my partner of 10 years, who also had a short, early marriage many years ago. We did get engaged in 2002, so long ago I forgot when it was, (at midnight, on Christmas Eve, I remember that bit), but I haven’t once seriously sat down to pick flowers or invitation styles since then. Life — with recessions and orthopedic surgeries and my mother’s illness and my stepmother’s death from cancer, the gain and loss of several staff jobs, producing two books — continues to intervene. No one’s going anywhere, last time I looked.

A wedding always seems to me like one more thing to fuss over, an addition to our busy, committed lives that keeps falling to the bottom of our long mid-life to-do lists. We do not have kids nor ever planned to. Would I feel any more “married” the next day? One day I’ll find out.

I do understand that imperative to the altar, to take legal responsibility for children — but few others.

We made the biggest commitment (beyond kids) imaginable to me this week — co-signing a mortgage and deed to a shared home. It doesn’t get bigger than that in my world. Finding another secure and affordable home in New York? Terrifying thought.

So, instead of reaching for a pile of six-pound bridal magazines, my priorities this month include re-newing my green card, filing my claims for a writers’ legal settlement in Canada, getting the car fixed so the exhaust doesn’t rattle anymore. Tugging on my partner’s sleeve to get him to the altar, (when it’s my feet dragging), seems a waste of valuable time and energy, something we have increasingly less of in this economy and failing industry, one whose woes scare the hell out of me almost daily.

These days, I feel like we’re already in the same boat, rowing as hard as our arms allow. Yes, we are headed in the same direction, that much is clear. It is not a great time to work  (or love) at cross-purposes, that’s for sure.

But why are Americans — and such young ones — so totally obsessed with getting married? “Closing the deal” as if your partner is (are they?) a real estate transaction?

Weddings, beyond city hall or your living room, are emotionally and financially costly, often five or even six-figure events. So are divorces.

If you must have something concrete, figure out your co-hab agreement. Then chill.


V-Day Love Tips: The NYT 'Modern Love' Editor Offers His

Happy Valentine's Day
Image by elbfoto via Flickr

What does it take to find and keep true love?

For Valentine’s Day, the editor of The New York Times‘ ‘Modern Love’ column, which runs each week in the Styles section, Daniel Jones weighs in:

You’d think by now we would have an iHeart app that takes our quivering insecurities and converts them into kilowatts that can be sold back to the power company. We don’t. I’ve been sitting in this editor’s chair for five years. Tens of thousands of strangers have told me their love stories in letters, essays, phone calls and dinner conversations. It’s not a pretty picture….

If I were Spock from “Star Trek,” I would explain that human love is a combination of three emotions or impulses: desire, vulnerability and bravery. Desire makes one feel vulnerable, which then requires one to be brave.

It’s been ten years next month since I met my sweetie. He found me on-line, after I posted a profile (Catch Me If You Can, I titled it, honestly) and a photo that had been taken professionally for a story I wrote for Family Circle in which I wore silk, pearl earrings, a blazer — not exactly my normal attire. I was writing about on-line dating for Mademoiselle, a now-defunct Conde Nast women’s magazine.

He referred to himself, in one of his initial emails, as a “Mexican/Navajo/Buddhist/Republican/golfer.”

Republican?” said my Dad.

We had our first fight before our first date when he told me he planned to wear jewelry (pinky ring? bling? gold chains?) to that date and I freaked out. Luckily, he stayed the course, encouraged that he made me laugh so hard on the phone that I (so sexy) snorted.

He was, and remains, a very different sort of person than I — super-organized to my spontaneous free-spiritedness; a hovering, nurturing Jewish mom to my frostier, hyper-independent WASP tendences; a devout Buddhist who still comes to church with me, happily walking beside me up the aisle when we are asked to bring the wine and wafers to the altar for Communion. He’s seen me through two orthopedic surgeries (so far), a brain scan (there is something in there, we have proof), family dramas that included my mom’s enormous (now safely gone) brain tumor.

I doubt he signed up for any of this –who does? It’s all romance and roses and hopes and fantasies. Then reality hits. Then, in my mind, love becomes a deliberate decision, an active verb.

It is rarely dull. I can’t stand dull. Yet, for all our unchanging volatility and tedious workaholism, we’re still addicted to French bistros, the weekend FT and one another. We still make one another laugh, usually daily, so hard I think my head will explode.

I’ve never spent a decade with anyone. Never thought it possible.

Here’s to the next one.

On-Line Dating Looks Easy. It's Not.

The On-Line Handbook
Image by Tom T .

Pick screen name. Write witty and alluring profile. Post 10-year-old photo of you thinner/with hair. “Forget” you’re married or have kids. Dating on-line is easy, right?

As if.

As someone who met her sweetie on-line, back when online dating was deeply declasse 10 years ago — while (of course) researching a story for a women’s magazine — I’ve seen the ugly reality of what guys on-line (and women) turn into when detached from the computer. All BS all the time. Luckily, I was pretty straightforward, then as now (“Catch Me If You Can” read my profile headline) and he wasn’t, thank God, a liar or married.

Bizarrely enough, we worked for the same paper, he staff, me freelance, and would never have met otherwise. So I’m a fan of on-line dating and its possibilities.

Here are six ways you can totally blow it. Read ’em and learn.

The World's Largest Singles Festival — Three Weekends Left!

Blarney Castle, County Cork, Republic of Ireland.
Image via Wikipedia

This photo is of Blarney castle, but no joke — if you head to Lisdoonvarna, a tiny town in the west of Ireland, until October 4, you’ll meet more available men, (you will be way outnumbered if you’re female), than you think might even exist. Many come from Europe, some from the U.S., as do women, flying into the west of Ireland, to Limerick airport; the town is 38 miles north.

More than 5,000 people annually attend the world’s oldest and largest singles festival, from August 28 to October 4, cramming the two streets of a town so small the bank arrives every week on wheels.

They line the sidewalks, throng the pubs, dance with abandon, many determined to leave with a girlfriend, maybe even a wife. The 150-year-old festival — which I attended and wrote about for the Washington Post — is truly a little nuts in the level and ferocity of male attention it offers. If you’re arriving from a place like New York City, where even if you’re Cindy Crawford-esque, speak fluent Urdu and have a Phd in nuclear physics, someone is bound to deem your ankles too fat, Lisdoonvarna’s brand of open-armed acceptance is sort of refreshing. For a few lovely Irish days, at least, what New York Times writer John Tierney famously dubbed the Flaw-o-Meter — the internal critic that deems all potential mates never quite good enough — is dialed way, way down.

I managed to knock the mirror of my rental car  — (if you think driving on the left is tough, try parallel parking) — into the street there and, as though I were a Jane Austen heroine dropping a glove or hankie, half a dozen men gallantly and eagerly rushed to help me. Pregnant women in NYC can’t even get a subway seat! Walk down the stairs of your hotel in the morning and a sea of guys stares up at you with undisguised appreciation. It’s sort of fun, sort of exhausting.

While the city slickers drive in from Dublin, Cork or Belfast, the festival, and town matchmaker Willie Daly (who I interviewed), really offer a time-honored method to meet women, lots of women, for busy, hardworking bachelor farmers who — as one told the BBC this week — never meet any women month to month, let alone year to year. When I was there, some stood miserably in the corner of each room, shy and tongue-tied, their rough hands and choppy haircuts and thick tweed jackets signaling their rural and resolutely unpolished status.

It’s not your smooth-talking eHarmony crowd, that’s for sure. But there’s a joyful quality (amid the scary drunks) to happily admitting you’re single-and-looking, as are a few thousand others there for the same reason. No one pretends to be perfect nor rushes though six-minute speed dates like some nasty job interview.  The age range is also refreshingly human, from locals in their 20s to still-hopeful men and women in their 70s or beyond. With dances on all day, lots of pubs, beautiful countryside views and comfy hotel sofas you can settle into for a cosy chat with a likely prospect, you can stay the weekend and enjoy a beautiful place that just happens to be, for a brief few weeks, a target-rich environment.

If for nothing else, go for the craic!