Wednesday, July 25, 2018
A friend of mine’s daughter has grown tired of waiting to meet Mr. Right in the aisle at Target and has gotten the courage to join an online dating site. I understand her plight completely. At the age of 46, I faced the same dilemma and started my online dating adventures.
I wish my younger counterpart much luck, and may she have discernment as she navigates the murky waters of cyberdating. In my book, Leave Him?, the chapter Dating Denise gives those who may have had a few years since dating a humorous view of the new way to shop for a mate.
As I sat in my swinging chair on the huge front porch of the old building that I now called home, a fall breeze caught my hair and cooled me off a bit. I was in a familiar position with my laptop perched on my knees as I spun around amongst the flowers carefully planted in the many pots. I should have been doing my schoolwork. Instead I clicked on the dating site icon. Had I really stooped so low as to have to shop for a man this way? What happened to the romantic notion that you have a destined meeting with the perfect someone at the grocery store in the produce aisle? I knew that I was a little too old, at forty-six to wait years for destiny to find me a relationship, so I had decided to join the rest of the single world and cyber-shop for a date. Really, I had no choice. My circle of influence had shrunk considerably. No decent single male in my old friend circles would consider dating the one who had left Mark, and the new people I met came from my interactions through going to college again and student teaching. My peers had become twenty to thirty-year-olds, not people I wanted to have a relationship with.
As I logged in, I explored the site for the first time. I saw that it worked much like Autotrader. I could set different parameters and limits. I wanted someone within driving distance—no more than a hundred miles away; I wanted someone close to my age— forty-five to fifty-five, and that was pushing it, most of all I wanted someone who was fun to be with and wanted adventure—I didn’t see a button to press for that.
Hopefully the bio I had written when setting up the account would help with that part. I had spent hours the night before crafting the perfect depiction of myself and my desire for adventure. With a final click, I began my search.
The whole process seemed a bit superficial as I scrolled through the photos with a few lines of their bio, I did feel as if I were shopping for a used car. This one looked pretty nice—how many miles, oh, I mean years does it have on it? After eliminating ten profiles, one caught my eye. He was a nice looking guy in a grey T-shirt, arms crossed and smiling, standing on a balcony overlooking the ocean somewhere. I read the bio where he talked about being an airline mechanic and offered to take someone for a ride on his jet skis for a casual date. He said he was looking for someone to have fun with. I clicked through the other pictures he posted. He was cute, and I did want to have fun—riding jetskis would be fun. I thought back to my only experience with small watercraft bouncing off the water in the Gulf of Mexico with a tiny James seated in front of me. That was fun.
I saw a button that said, “Add to your favorites?” I wanted to save this one for a possibility. So, I clicked the favorites button and closed the laptop. That was enough for one day.
The next afternoon I had a few minutes to shop for a man, so, as I twirled in the swing, I logged in. The website had sent me my daily suggestions. As I perused the new profiles, something shocking happened. A chat window appeared. Someone was trying to instant message me, and I was able to see by the tiny profile photo that it was the guy I had saved to my favorites.
“Hello, Denise Reid. How are you today?”
With shaking hands, I typed a response. I hoped that I was talking to an authentic person, not someone trying to take advantage of me. We chatted back and forth for a while, and he asked if he might have my phone number to call me. A little later he called. He seemed legitimate and sincere, plus surely the airline makes their employees pass a background check, so he can’t be a convicted felon. He wanted to meet me for dinner on Friday night. Well, if I were going to date using this method I needed to start sometime, and I did want to ride on those jet skis... A date it would be.
I took the necessary precautions for someone to report me missing if need be. When I was on my way, I called Leigh. I told her we were eating at Longhorn in Newnan. She told me to call her when I was on my way home. I was halfway there when I realized that I might not know him if I saw him, so I called him.
He laughed at my last minute thought and said, “I’ll be the one-legged man sitting at the bar waiting.”
We had both talked about concerns of people not really being like they appeared in their glamour-shot profile pictures.
As I walked into the darkness of the restaurant from the bright, sunny, late-August light, my eyes adjusted. He was sitting at the bar watching me come in. His black Columbia shirt brought out the darkness of his salt and pepper colored hair. As we were seated at a table, I was better able to look at my evening’s date. I noticed that he had piercing blue eyes behind his glasses. He told me to order whatever I wanted, that the night was on him.
He said, “You didn’t misrepresent yourself on your profile pics, in fact, you are more beautiful in person.”
During dinner we talked about small things, because I had already decided to wait to tell my ugly story until I knew someone better. When we finished eating he asked if I would go with him to buy a candle at Ashley Park. He picked out a couple of Yankee Candles and offered to buy me one. I opened the jars and sniffed, trying to find the perfect scent. I settled on a purple one with lemon-lavender scent. We walked around the shopping areas and he reached out and took my hand. So this was what people did on Friday nights...this could be fun, but it was so weird to be starting over at my age.
When we got back to where my car was he leaned over and kissed me. I would have to say that was my worst kiss ever. It wasn’t that I wasn’t attracted to him. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to kiss him. It wasn’t that I thought I shouldn’t kiss someone else. I just felt the need to slow the process down. I wondered if dating as an adult would always feel this way, or if I would adapt to this new way of life. I still resented being put in this position. On the ride home I had a nice cry with familiar red-hot tears, but I knew I was one step closer to adult relationship again.
The sun glared down on me as I ran errands before my next adventure. I called my brother to aid in the recovery of my body if something went wrong.
“Hey, we are going jet skiing at Lake West Point this afternoon. I want you to know in case I die or something.”
There was a pause before my much younger, now wiser-than-me, little brother answered.
“I’m sure you will be fine if you don’t fall off and drown. If he were an axe-murderer, he would have probably killed you on the first date. The biggest danger you will have is that there are stumps you could hit since the water is so low.”
“Great, now I have to worry about that in addition to riding jetskis with a person I barely know.”
“It will be fine. Call me when you get back.”
Following my date’s directions, I drove into the subdivision and drove up his driveway for the first time. These were nice houses...this would be fun except for the nerves I must face.
He pointed to a spot on the side of the driveway for me to park my car. I got out with my bag of essentials in hand.
“Hey, you ready to ride? You can put your stuff in the back seat. We will get set up on the beach where we can pull the skis up on shore. There is a bath house there to change in. The weather is perfect today. Let’s get some sun.”
As we drove for almost an hour, we talked a little more in-depth. He had told me about his marriage and its demise on our first date and had also told me that he had a live-in girlfriend who had recently left. I could tell from his tone and matter-of-fact account that his feelings about his wife were long gone. He told me that the marriage had cost him years of happiness and a lot of money, but the divorce was worth it for him. The long ride would have been the perfect opportunity to share more of my story, but I wanted today to be a fun day, and bearing my soul didn’t sound fun.
As I let him carry most of the conversation, I noticed a distinct difference when his conversation moved to his ex-girlfriend. He tensed up. Lines on his forehead deepened. He talked a little faster. All of this pointed to a more recent and deeper wound, maybe even one that had not been given time to heal. Oh well, I’m looking for fun, not instant deep relationship.
Dave let me out to change into my swimsuit at the bathhouse. Walking up the sidewalk to the bathroom I had a revelation. I probably should have thought of it before now, but as I glanced down at the tote bag in my hand I realized that I am going to be on my second date with this man in my swimsuit—not a great thought.
I pulled up the swimsuit and crammed my shorts into the bag as I took a critical look at what I could see of me in the tiny bathroom mirror. I had been working on reshaping my forty-something, two grown kids body for the past eight months and had lost fifteen pounds and rearranged a few more, but I still had a way to go. Oh well, you can’t have fun if you are too afraid to come out of the bathroom, can you? I slapped on some courage and my sunglasses and walked out the door.
The rest of our ride to launch the boats consisted in a crash course in watercraft safety where I was told to remember that you don’t have brakes and be careful as you are riding them up to the shore, to look for stumps because the water is a little low. I kept my false sense of confidence and assured him that I had ridden jet skis before, I just left out the ‘it was only one time in Florida with a guide showing us what to do’ part of the story.
With the life-jacket on, I managed to mount my boat then start the engine. I turned the boat in slow circles until he got on his boat and motioned me closer to him. He yelled, “Follow behind me until you get the hang of things.” He revved the engine and took off down the lake. I gave my boat the gas and followed behind.
I couldn’t help but smile as I felt the surge of the boat at my control. The speedometer reached seventy-two miles per hour as I bounced across the waves. The adrenaline coursed through my veins as I balanced staying on the seat and going as fast as possible. This was fun!
It was as if this experience with the wind pushing against me, yet me flying ahead anyway was what I was doing now with my life. All of the times of waiting, times of watching others, times of yearning, all of the shoulds, and oughts, and musts coming against me, but finally an urging to live was winning out. I was beginning to put into action Jonathan Swift’s quote, “May you live all the days of your life!” I had spent so many days watching that now, with the sun shining brightly I vowed out loud, “I want to make every day count and not say what if about anything!”
Dave turned a circle in front of me slowing his boat down. I coasted up closer to him. He smiled and said, “You said you could ride and you can. I’ve taken other people who claimed to know how and they ended up in the lake after a minute or two. Let’s circle back and you take the lead.”
After turning a couple of donuts, I pulled out of the circle and blasted back in the direction of the dock. This was living!
Purchase Leave Him? by Denise Reid at
Wednesday, July 18, 2018
As I was writing my book Leave Him? I felt the need to do a little research in order to be authentic; after all, how can you accurately describe something you have never personally experienced? I went to the store and asked for a can of Bruton Scotch Snuff. The packaging looked much like I remembered although the container was now made of plastic instead of the tin of years ago. I had observed my great-grandmother ‘take a dip’ every time I saw her as I was growing up.
To a young girl ‘taking a dip’ looked a lot like eating dirt and the spitting that was required afterward, done as discreetly as possible into a jar kept out of sight, was still appeared nasty-not something I wanted to do. As a kid, I was more inclined to try smoking, making my own cigarettes out of a brown paper bag rolled around a weed called rabbit tobacco; it was a cleaner habit. I had smelled of Grandma Pate’s snuff, but I never tried it.
It took a bit of courage even as an adult to rake the brown powder in between my lip and teeth- all in the effort of research. The things we writers must endure. As the powder moistened the power of the snuff was released. I held it in my mouth long enough to figure out what it tasted like and pondered the appeal it must have had on a woman in her eighties. I then had what I needed to write the following scene, but you can bet that I was not interested in adopting dippin snuff as my new vice.
AN EXCERPT FROM Leave Him? available for sale at Amazon.com in print or ebook:
The hours passed more slowly when a body got too old to stay busy. The slow ticking of the clock and less need for sleep gave plenty of time for the mind to wander. Ella didn’t take having a mind that could wander for granted. She had seen many who lived to see their eighties lose all their sense. She looked down at her wrinkled hands as she sat in her chair.
“These hands cause me much pain. Every time I move my fingers the pain shoots up my arm to the shoulder. It feels like knives are stabbing through it, if my hands rise at all.”
Fighting the pain, she reached over to the side table to get her snuff can. She opened the lid of the Bruton Scotch Snuff can, put the wooden paddle in and withdrew enough for a dip. After a few seconds the familiar earthy taste filled her mouth. Her thoughts were a little clearer, and her heart beat a little faster.
The morning sunlight brightened the otherwise dreary room. Her eyes had gotten so bad that she couldn’t see to sew or read. Plus she could hardly walk in the house, let alone walk in the yard alone. The metal walker helped her balance and get up and down, but it proved so cumbersome she had no way to get it down the steps by herself.
Remonda, the youngest of Roselle’s kids, was the only one still living at home, so the house was a lot quieter than it had been when all of her five children lived with them. Ella Mae had grown accustomed to the noise of the teenaged girls fussing with each other and the younger Gary and Remonda playing. With Remonda gone to school during the days and Hoyt and Roselle working, the silence seemed to surround her. Ella Mae thought about that. These past few years were the first she had really been alone, and they dragged out since there was nothing to do.
She still cooked every now and then, but mostly she just sat and dipped snuff. She thought back to the first time she tried slipping the brown powder between her teeth and lower lip a few years after she had left Harvey…
She opened the door to see her friend Sally’s broad smile and twinkling eyes. Her hands were behind her back. “I’ve got something for you. It’s gonna be great.”
Ella Mae reached for her friend’s arm, but she twisted away from her. “Not yet. You gotta come out on the front porch and sit in the rockers with me.”
It was a warm, early summer day, and Ella Mae had been working in the house most of the morning with her mother. She wanted to get the gardening done in the afternoon and knew she would be bending over about a thousand times, so sitting a spell would be a welcome change.
She sighed a bit and looked at Sally. “Well, you gonna show me what you got now?”
Sally smiled again as she unfolded the top of the small brown paper bag and reached in and pulled out a can of Bruton Snuff.
“I think this is just what you need to calm yourself when you think of Harvey. I read about it in the paper. The advertisement says that it has a soothing effect, plus it is supposed to be good disinfectant for the mouth.”
Ella Mae smiled at Sally. “You beat all I ever seen, always searching for a cure for Harvey Pate. I’ve seen women dip that stuff and spit that brown slime on the side of the street. Why do you think I need to take up that habit?”
“Awe, those ole women you saw doing that were just unrefined. You and I are going to be sophisticated dippers. The advertisement in the paper showed one woman using this wooden paddle like this one to put the snuff in her mouth while another woman, wearing the prettiest dress, carefully spit into a small jelly jar. I got everything we need to try it. See.” Sally pulled an empty jelly jar out of the bag and sat it on the floor between them and then she reached in and found a small wooden paddle that she sat in her lap.
Ella Mae laughed out loud.
“See, it is making you feel better already.”
She smiled. “You make me feel better, Sally. You always make me feel better. I don’t know what I would’ve done without you. You have been the one to get me to take another step all my life.”
“Awe, now I just do for you what you would do for me. Ain’t that what we’re supposed to do?”
Sally twisted the top of the can of snuff until it came off. The sudden loosening filled the air with an unexpected brown powdery cloud that flew up Sally’s nose. Ella Mae watched her friend’s nose wrinkle and her eyes squeeze shut as she let out a huge sneeze.
Ella Mae laughed and said, “Well, that stuff has already got you good. I’m not sure we need to go puttin it in our mouths if a sniff of it can do that.”
Sally sneezed again, gathered her composure, then explained, “I just didn’t expect the top to come off like that and the can to be so full. It smells pretty good. Here take a whiff.”
Ella Mae carefully held the can under her nose just far enough to see what the contents smelled like.
“It’s not that bad, just different, like cinnamon. Looks like dirt though. I have memories of making mud pies with my sisters when I was little and remember them tricking me into taking a bite. I hope this tastes better than that.”
“Well, I’ll be brave and go first to prove it’s okay.”
Sally plunged the wooden paddle into the snuff then carefully slipped the powder between her lower lip and her teeth. Ella Mae watched her friend smile then say, “Come on you try it.”
Ella Mae followed her example then the two of them rocked waiting for the presumed effect. As her mouth’s juices moistened the snuff, she felt her heart start to beat a little faster. A small calming started, maybe it was taking a minute to rock and just breathe or maybe there was something to this snuff stuff after all.
Purchase Leave Him? by Denise Reid at
Wednesday, July 11, 2018
Last night I had a version of a reoccurring nightmare that I have had this time of year every year that I have been a teacher. It always happens about this time of summer- the time where you have forgotten what an alarm clock is for.
The plot of my dilemma is always the same. I start out by forgetting to go to school on the first day back. I then discover my plight, but too late to ever make it there on time. I then begin my mad dash to get there in my car, which goes pretty well since I usually speed there every day (don’t tell the law enforcement officials what kind of car I drive). The problem happens when I arrive.
In every dream, they (the administration of the school) have always moved my room to a location I have never been before, and I cannot find it. I am already late. School started an hour before, and I am guilty of the unpardonable sin for a high school teacher- I left my students alone, unattended.
Every high school teacher is taught the importance of supervising our students at all times. Some hall duties for teachers are given so that students will not find a corner stairwell an attractive place to really get to know one another, if you know what I mean. In my dream I am imagining my first block students pairing up in the four corners of my room (wherever it is) making babies.
This is where the dream starts getting unbelievable. I am scrambling through crowded halls (they wouldn’t be crowded if class had begun), getting instruction from students as to which way to go (you never show weakness to a high-schooler, always pretend to know what you are doing even when you don’t), and I am having to crawl through small open windows to gain entrance to the hall outside my room (that’s just ridiculous). Panic has set in by this point and I am physically sweating, trying to finally get to my destination, hoping to sneak in without notice, even though I’m an hour late.
I finally get there and open the door to find an administrator asking where I’ve been. At least he had maintained order enough to avoid my being personally responsible for all those babies conceived by unsupervised students connecting while under my care. He (it is always a male principal that I’m a little intimidated by) asks me again, “Where have you been?”
I have an argument going on inside myself. Do I tell him that I was attacked by zombies on my way there and one of them ate my phone (because I certainly should have called) before I broke away from them and managed to hitch a ride with another person who escaped and was headed right by the school (because I would never let a little thing like a zombie attack keep me from my job), or should I just tell the truth and throw myself on his mercy? Sleeping me is apparently a very moral me who never lies, so I tell the truth and always wake up with a gasp before I hear the outcome. Will he fire me or not?
I will probably have this dream again before school starts this year, so I have decided to try and find out what about it is so traumatic to me. If I were psychoanalyzing this dream I would say that the person has authority issues, a fear of failure, and the feeling of being given impossible tasks but expected to overcome. Since I am pretty familiar with the subject in the dream, I would say that about sums it up. So I guess when I go to sleep for the next few weeks, I will think about positive experiences with authority figures, tell myself I am okay even if I don’t succeed, and that I can do anything I try, or maybe I’ll try the zombie excuse next time and see how that goes. Sweet dreams!
Friday, July 6, 2018
I am reading a book that has got me thinking. I am always reading a book or two; in fact, I probably like reading better than writing- it is certainly less work!
Anyway, back to the book I’m reading. It features a character about my age who decides after a friend’s death that working for the American Dream isn’t quite worth it. She calls her secretary at her New York City law firm and tells her she won’t be coming in, gets in her Maserati, drives until she runs out of gas in the country, and buys the run-down country house that is for sale (amazingly right in front of her) and never goes back again.
She comes to the conclusion that all of our working for things just isn’t worth it, and she chooses to stop.
As I float in my backyard pool on a perfect summer afternoon, I spin around, look at the way too big for two people house that I live in and wonder about her conclusions.
You see, I can ponder these things perhaps like not many others can. For I truly know what it is like to have and to have not. Less than ten years ago, I was forced to sell our modest home and move three adults into into a one-bedroom rental property that had ceilings that even I, with my 5 foot 2 inch frame, could touch. I remember looking around and crying for my modest home I had lost. During those times of reinventing myself money was scarce to say the least. Taking odd painting jobs, cleaning for people, and living off student loans were the ways to my means.
I don’t remember those times and think of them with fondness. Call me materialistic, but worrying how you are going to survive doesn’t make one more pious. You see in the land of fiction you can create an unlikely world for your characters. The character I’m reading about doesn’t worry about money. She has plenty of that. She is just choosing not to spend it to better her living conditions- roughing it, so to speak.
I didn’t look at my time of poverty and need as a voluntary trip where I just decided to do without. I didn’t choose my time of need, it chose me, and to be honest I didn’t like it much. Maybe some could have looked at it differently. Survived it better. Embraced it fully and went with it.
I’m not saying that I couldn’t do it again if necessary. I survived the first time. But I am saying that if I have to pick, I’d choose to work to maintain what I have, which to most of the world would be considered excess. I do know that it is. People live with far less.
It has been said that money can’t buy you happiness, but I would say it can buy you a little piece of mind. Anyone that has ever wondered how they are going to pay the light bill will agree that having enough money in the bank helps you sleep better at night.
I’m glad to read about the character, Rosie’s choices- reading always helps you think, evaluate, and grow. It is through reading that I can learn to empathize with another by really seeing what they endured. I will say that writing about some of my hardest experiences in my memoir was a daunting task. Sharing things that I don’t admit to most people I know, let alone to strangers was terrifying at first, but I realized that if I didn’t dare to tell others the story it would have never been known.
Check out my book Leave Him? available at Amazon.com. It is currently sale priced at $2.99 for the Kindle version and $12.99 for a print copy. You may read it and not agree with the character’s (ah, my) choices, but it will help you understand some things from another point of view, which is always the reason for reading!
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