Memoir Monday – Blind Dates


I was twenty years old and sharing a loft apartment in Toronto with my friend Carol. Carol was working for a travel company. I was working for an insurance
company. Carol began dating a fellow named Chris, who was originally from Jamaica. Because I wasn’t seeing anyone at the time Chris felt it his duty to find me a boyfriend, and so began a procession of men of various backgrounds.

The only thing I remember of the first one is that as he approached the car when the three of us went to pick him up at his apartment building I turned to Carol and
said, “My God he’s too old!” He was smartly dressed in a shirt and tie and dress pants, but I couldn’t get past his obvious age difference. Chris said he was Greek. I don’t remember his name. I don’t remember where we went or what we did. It was not a memorable evening.

Then there was Norbert the Norwegian. He was tall and blonde, very good looking. Chris brought him over to our apartment one summer evening. After we all chatted
for a bit Norbert asked me if I’d like to go out with him for a coffee. Being naive, I agreed. The place he chose was a hotel coffee shop and it wasn’t long before the topic of conversation turned to sex and he was suggesting we go upstairs to get a room. I wasn’t that naive! He finally agreed to drive me home, but he said he had to pick up a few groceries along the way and drop them off at his apartment. He thought I should go in with him. I waited in the car. When he came back he told me to close my eyes, then he touched my lips with his finger and I opened my eyes. He took me home.

Next came Simon, a young Chinese fellow. Simon was alright I think. Again I don’t remember much about our double date with Carol and Chris. Chris must have brought him to our apartment, and I guess Simon thought that after that we were dating, because the very next night he showed up at our door expecting to spend the evening with me. Carol was studying for an exam she had to take at work the next day and was not impressed with Simon’s presence in our small space. I finally had to ask him to leave. I never heard from him again.

The next weekend Chris had a friend visiting him from Jamaica and thought he and I would make a good match. We all got dressed up and went out on the town. Bernard was tall and broad shouldered and very black. He grinned a sparkling white smile when he saw me in my rather short dress. Like I said, I was naive. We weren’t in the car for five minutes until he was urging me to sit closer to him. He played with the necklace around my neck and kept trying to feel me up. I spent the whole evening pushing him away. We went to one night club where everyone was black. I was the only very white person in the place, Carol being of Chinese descent with light brown skin. All eyes seemed to be on me and I wasn’t sure what the attitude was about me being there with a black man. It was 1970 and such things were still a rarity. After a couple of dances, we left. Back at our place pictures were taken and Bernard took every opportunity to snuggle up to me. I was so relieved when they finally left.

Not long after that Carol and Chris broke up and I didn’t have to suffer through any more blind dates, for awhile at least.

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Memoir Monday (a day late) – The Emergency Room


By the time I’d put the parking ticket into the car window and followed Jim into the emergency room, he was already seated inside the glass cubicle having his vitals checked. I thought that was a good sign, but I was wrong.

As I approached the waiting area I caught a glimpse of a scraggly looking young man occupying the first chair, a chair that was behind a post making it out of view of the reception desk.

I took a seat near the check-in area and pulled out my book and water and settled in to wait for Jim. When I looked back around he’d disappeared and it was two hours before I would see him again. Other than the boy behind the pillar, I was the only one in the waiting area. The TV was on, but muted. Within ten minutes, however, I was drawn away from my book by the sounds of people gradually filling up the other seats. I heard a small baby crying and sounding croupy. I turned to see a woman sitting in the cubicle where Jim had been, holding and rocking this little red-faced infant. Beside her stood a young girl of perhaps 8 or 9.

A forty-something woman sat down in a chair opposite me and began to cough a loud hacking cough that made me want to run for cover. I was already fighting a cold and had no wish for more.

A young couple that looked to be in their late teens sat in the two chairs beside the TV and snuggled up for a bit, then moved about the room. The boy was tall and thin and wore black baggy clothes including the required jeans that hung half way down his legs. He carried a set of keys in his hand and ventured back and forth to the outside from time to time. The girl was a little chubby and wore her reddish hair pulled up into a very short pony tail. Her clothes were tight and the jeans low below her rolling waist. From their conversation it appeared that they were waiting for someone.

I went back to my book but was soon distracted again by a constant clicking noise across the room. Looking up I saw a man holding a plastic bottle of water in one hand and the lid in the other. Although I couldn’t be certain I thought that the sound was the result of his clicking the lid between his finger and thumb.

Another woman sat down beside me and began rummaging around in her purse. I glanced up occasionally to see her twisting a pen apart and putting it back together. When the teenagers left their seats, she moved over to take one of them.

The clicking man left and the woman with the baby sat down in his place. She and her little girl began to play a game with pen and paper, hangman perhaps. She too seemed to have a terrible cough. I was surprised when I looked at her face. Her weary face made her appear almost old enough to be the grandmother rather than the mother.

Another man strolled past me to take up a seat on the other side of the TV. He was neatly dressed in gray slacks and a beige summer jacket, but he carried a rather beat up duffle bag. Between the handles lay a paint spattered brown leather jacket. His dark hair was cut short and he looked to be maybe in his thirties or forties. He looked worried and got up several times to walk around then returned to his seat. After about an hour he left. When I looked back to the line now forming in front of the cubicle I saw that he was in it. I wondered why he’d waited so long.

The scraggly young man emerged from behind the pillar carrying a duffle bag and a garment on a hanger covered in cream coloured plastic. He wore a dirty looking great
coat over dark coloured jeans and t-shirt. Beneath a like-wise colourless toque his fuzzy dirty-blond hair protruded. He circled past me then headed for the door. A few minutes later he returned empty handed and reclaimed his position behind the pillar.

A middle-aged woman arrived next and took the now empty seat next to the TV. She was carrying an extra jacket and purse. CNN was on the TV and from time to time I’d been looking up to catch some of the news. The news apparently didn’t interest this woman. She picked up the remote and changed the station to something that looked like Degrassi Junior High. She looked around smiling, as if  expecting that someone else might be pleased with her choice. No one responded. When that ended she once again changed channels, this time bringing in the soap opera “The Young and the Restless.” Again she looked around, seemingly wanting to share her knowledge of the program with someone. By now the teenage girl was sitting by herself in the chair opposite me and was soon caught up in the story. The two exchanged their knowledge and opinions.

I was realizing that all of the people sitting there were, like me, waiting on someone who was being treated.

I turned once again to see if Jim was anywhere to be seen. He wasn’t, but I caught sight of two uniformed police officers escorting a battered and bearded man through a door by the cubicle. His wore only jeans and a t-shirt over his thin body and his hands were handcuffed behind his back.

Beyond the line I could hear someone being told that his or her OHIP card was coming up as invalid. Either they were hard of hearing or they didn’t understand because it was repeated several times.

At last I felt Jim’s hands on my shoulders as he leaned down and whispered, “Where have you been?”

Memoir Monday – The Beginning of Online Dating


In three days I’ll be back in British Columbia visiting with friends and family. It won’t be the complicated and exhausting trip that I took last year because I’m not trying to visit everyone in one trip this time. I’ll spend most of it with my daughter and grandchildren. I may or may not have anything new to write about while there, but I will try to do my Memoir Mondays, by sharing some of the memories of the various stages of my life, as I have written them over the years, in no particular order.

At one time I thought I’d write a book about online dating. The following is the first chapter, written more than fifteen years ago. I’d be grateful for your feedback, good or bad.

The Online Dating Trap (One Woman’s Perspective)

A few years ago, with a need to fill a void left by the passing of my life partner, I stepped out of my comfort zone and joined the game of online dating.  I tentatively posted my profile on one of the sites and began reading those of others.

It was a few weeks before I got even a bite, but once things began to move it turned into one hell of an emotional roller coaster ride.

 I soon found it to be an addictive pastime that brought with it the desperate urge to turn on the computer to check e-mail messages the minute I walked through the door, no matter how tired I was or how stressful a day it’d been.  Sometimes this brought relief to the stress; other times it increased it to dangerous levels.

 Chapter 1


Gerard

Gerard was the first one to respond to my posting.  He sounded very excited in his first e-mail, expressing how interesting I sounded and how much we had in common.  We started exchanging a few e-mails, and then tried the chat online, but it wasn’t working very well.  Finally, I just gave him my phone number and he called me.  We chatted for nearly an hour about travel and hiking and outdoor activities, all things that we both enjoyed.  We did indeed sound very compatible, so we arranged to meet for coffee in a couple of days. In the meantime, we exchanged more e-mails.

He revealed that he was retired from a position in Human Resources.  He had moved from the bigger city about four years ago.  He’d been divorced for two years.  He had no children and had no desire to have any at this point in his life.

When the time came for our meeting, I was feeling nervous, but confident.  I believed I had a lot to offer the right person.  I entered the coffee shop and looked around the area, but could see no one that matched Gerard’s description.  Rather than sit at a table, I figured I’d be easier to spot if I were standing, so I got into line to buy an Icedcap.  Then I saw a tall, slim man in faded blue jeans heading in my direction and scanning the crowd.  I stepped out of line and approached him.

“Gerard?”

“Yes. Judy?”  He extended his hand.  “Nice to finally meet you”

I was impressed.  Although he had described himself as “no movie star”, he really was quite attractive despite his thinning grey hair and beard.  He had beautiful blue yes that looked straight into mine.

We picked up our coffee and found a quiet table to begin our attempt to get to know each other.

Another hour passed.  Being rather shy with new people I tend to do more listening and observing.  I let Gerard do most of the talking.  He had lots of questions.

“Do you like to read?” he asked.

“Yes I do,” I replied, “but I haven’t had time to do much for quite awhile except for the motivational books I’ve had to read for my sales job.  I’d like to start reading for pleasure again though.”

Although I was an avid reader, I could think of neither titles nor authors of books I had enjoyed reading before my life had become so hectic. He suggested an author that he enjoyed and I thanked him.  I tried to make a mental note of it.

Do you like wine?” said Gerard.

It amazed me how many people were wine drinkers.  For years I’d sipped at various types that were handed to me, just to be sociable, but unless it was a very sweet brew, (which it usually wasn’t) I didn’t really care much for it.  I decided this time to be honest. “No, I don’t really like it.  I don’t care for beer at all either.  I don’t drink much, but if I do, I prefer a mixed drink”

“Oh.  I make my own wine. I enjoy spending my evening sitting with a good book and sipping a good glass of wine.”

Damn!  “That’s ok.  I don’t mind if other people drink, just as long as you don’t drink too much.  You don’t do you?”  I stammered.  I quickly explained that I’d once dated someone who made his own wine and drank so much of it that I suspected he was an alcoholic, then I gave myself another mental kick.

At times he caught me off guard, unable to give a quick answer, which he seemed to expect, but being a romantic optimist, I wasn’t too concerned. I thought that once we’d gotten past this first awkward meeting, we’d spend more relaxed time together when we’d naturally discover more details about each other.   I was a little disappointed when he suddenly said he had to leave to get back to painting his house. He didn’t suggest another meeting, but said we’d do some more e-mailing. Still, I went home smiling.

But it was a few days before he agreed to meet again, this time for a walk in a park.  Another hour spent chatting.  Again he had more questions.

“I like to go on long hikes.  Have you done much hiking?”

I had already told him during our first phone conversation about my experiences hiking for two days while in Thailand, so I didn’t want to repeat myself.

“Yes, I was a Girl Guide leader for 10 years and led the girls on many nature hikes,” I replied.

“But you didn’t take them on day long hikes, did you?  That’s my kind of hiking,” he countered.

We climbed up a grassy knoll and he suddenly stopped and pointed to the ground.

“What’s that?” he asked.  Before I realized what it was he was pointing to and could recall the name of the wild flower, he’d already answered his own question.  “It’s Chickweed.”

We passed a cultural building and in the window hung a large Dream Catcher. He asked me what it was. I was happy to explain it to him, although I was surprised that he wouldn’t have known. Was that another test?

At the time I didn’t notice it, but in retrospect I saw that he seemed to be testing me and trying to find fault.  He was even a little sarcastic.  The next day he sent me an e-mail saying that he didn’t think we were compatible, that I didn’t share his interests.  When I questioned him about that he complained that I didn’t like wine, I didn’t read much, I didn’t like opera (I’d answered that question by saying I  hadn’t had the opportunity to go to an Opera, but was open to new experiences), I didn’t like to hike or canoe. Except for the wine, none of it was true. It became apparent that he had “interviewed” me the way he would someone applying for a job. He’d expected certain answers to his questions.  When I didn’t answer quickly or fully enough, I lost points!

I was devastated.  It was a real blow to my ego because never before had I been so bluntly rejected. I knew he was wrong about me, but still it took me a few days to start believing it again.  Dating had certainly changed a lot in the past five years and this online dating thing was a whole new ball game.

Memoir Monday – Remembering My Dad


In the photo album there is a picture of my mom and dad and me standing on a hill in front of the cottage.  I was probably about two years old.  I look at the picture and feel Dad’s hand holding mine, yet I don’t really remember much from when I was that young.

Dad, Mom & Me

I remember going with him on insurance calls.  One recollection was of a boy/man who I think was celebrating his 21st birthday.  He had a very large head and a body so tiny that he lay on a pillow on the kitchen table. Today I’m still not sure if this is true or it was a dream.

I remember sitting on Dad’s knee in the big overstuffed chair in the living room while he read to me from my storybooks or a “comic” book.

When I was a little older Dad would come home from a week of deer hunting sporting a rough unshaven face and playfully give me a whisker rub.  One time that I remember, he brought a deer home and had it hanging in the garage.  I remember scolding him about that.

I remember having lipped him one morning before going to school and receiving a spanking that left me sobbing. Only once.

I remember laughter.

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I remember him driving me to parties and always being available to pick me up after if I needed a ride home.

I remember him giving me my first driving lesson and afterwards suggesting that I take Driver’s Ed at school.  I remember him being proud of me when I passed and the examiner told him I was a “good little driver”.

I remember going fishing with him for rock bass and perch at our cottage on the St. Lawrence River; and waking up to the smell of  fish frying for breakfast, Dad having been out early to catch pike.

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I remember boat trips to Alexandria Bay to buy Tootsie Rolls and Poppycock. I remember him teaching how to drive and dock our boat, and later allowed me to take my friends out myself.

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I remember how he came to my rescue when a friend and I were stranded with a broken down car in Belleville; and when I’d had enough of Toronto and wanted to move back home; and when the wedding rings didn’t fit and he took me to the Consumers Distributors store to exchange them, only to learn it was too late to get them resized in time for the wedding. The next evening he took me to his favourite jewellery store to buy replacements. I wonder what he would have thought when Brian and I broke up.

I remember him always being there for me if I asked, but not interfering if I didn’t.

I remember his confusion, the sadness of moving him into a nursing home; stopping in on my way home from work to see how he was and finding that he didn’t speak but took hold of my hand and walked me through the halls.  I remember his no longer having control over his bodily functions or understanding of social ones.  I remember taking him to the doctor when he broke his finger, and visiting him in the hospital when he broke his hip, and crying at his bedside because I knew from his vacant stare that he didn’t know who I was or why he was there.

And finally I remember getting the call when we were in Vancouver for my niece’s wedding, the call that informed us that the father who had mentally left us five years earlier had now left us physically as well. He was 82.

I don’t go to the cemetery to pay my respects; I don’t put memorials in the newspaper.  But I do remember and miss him.

 

I don’t remember saying “I love you, Dad” nor do I remember him telling me that he loved me, but I knew that he did and I hope he knew that I did.

Memoir Monday – Delivering Newspapers


I wonder how many people get a newspaper delivered to their door these days? I know there are some, but they are usually delivered by car. Are there “paperboys” (or girls) anymore? It’s been a long time since I’ve noticed any.

When I was a kid, every neighbourhood had a paperboy. I don’t think it was something girls did back then, but I remember helping out a couple of times:

I was outside on the verandah of our white clapboard house, wearing my brand-new, brown sandals, when my brother, who was nine years older, picked up his bag of newspapers and asked if I wanted to help him deliver them.

newspaperbag

“Yes!” I cried with delight and ran down the steps.

I didn’t notice that the sky was becoming a little dark, but my mother did.

“Change your shoes, Judy.  It’s going to rain and you’ll get your sandals wet!”

Too late! I was already headed down the street chasing my brother.

Robert handed me a newspaper and told me on which doorstep to place it, while he did the same on the other side of the street.

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It wasn’t a big route and we were finished in about half an hour. But before we made it home, the clouds opened with a burst of rain that was soon pelting down on us and swirling in huge puddles on the street and sidewalks. I splashed home as fast as my little legs would carry me, but much to my mother’s chagrin, my new sandals were now soggy, and I got a tongue lashing. I don’t remember how the sandals fared after they dried out, but I suspect that they stayed together and I wore them until they no longer fit me.

I remember another time when I was walking home from somewhere, older then, when another paper boy stopped to ask me if I could deliver a paper for him on my way by a particular house. Being shy and unquestioning, I took the paper and knocked on the door, but no one answered. I must have been told to deliver it directly because I remember that I didn’t know what to do with it. I vaguely recall taking it home and asked my dad.  He told me that the boy shouldn’t have given it to me, but he made sure it got delivered.

Memoir Monday – A Story About Online Dating


While looking through some of my early writing, trying to find something for Memoir Monday, I found this short piece that I thought you might like. I have many more about this topic I could share, if there is enough interest.

Smart, Smarting, Smarter

A few years ago, with a need to fill a void left by the passing of my life partner, I stepped out of my comfort zone and joined the game of online dating.  It’s an addictive pastime that brings with it the desperate urge to turn on the computer to check e-mail messages the minute you walk through the door, no matter how tired you are or how stressful a day it’s been.

On one such day, a month or so after my initiation, I received a message from “Wayne”, in Sarnia.  I lived in Kingston at the time, a four or five-hour drive away.  The geographical distance between us gave me a moment’s hesitation, but being a curious sort who’d rather not close a door without first investigating what’s behind it, I responded.  He asked me to add him to my messaging contact list, and I obliged. From then on, every time I logged onto my computer, there was Wayne, looking for me!  If I wasn’t online, he sent me e-mail.  For a full week, fingers flew across the keyboards several times a day in an exchange of lengthy chats and e-mails.  Excitement began to build.  We compared all of our likes and dislikes, our visions and desires for a future relationship, our personal values. I wasn’t ready to throw caution to the wind just yet, but if he was being truthful, there seemed to be emerging a strong foundation for further development.  He revealed that he’d been married twice before and shared his story of how both wives had taken advantage of his generous nature.  I sympathized with him, but also recognized a possible red flag.  He was quick to dismiss my concerns about the geographical distance between us.  Distance could be overcome and worth the effort if it meant finding your soul mate; we could meet in Toronto since he was there twice a month on business; he could meet me at the bus station if I didn’t want to drive.  By the end of the week Wayne was certain that he was ready to meet me, and the sooner the better it seemed.  I was convinced to give it a try.  We talked about possible dates.

Then the penny dropped.

Wayne’s profile included a picture; mine did not.  Although I’ve been told that I’m an attractive woman, I’m not very photogenic. I had already discovered that sharing my not-very-flattering images too early could bring the “dating” to an abrupt end.   However, Wayne kept urging me to send him a picture, since I knew what he looked like while he had only my written description. I finally gave in.   Not happy with any photos in my file, I chose one randomly, attached it to an   e-mail, and hit SEND.  Almost immediately I had a stinging response.

“Thanks for the picture.  Unfortunately it didn’t give me that I want to meet her kind of feeling.  Good luck in your search”.

Ouch!

This ouch would have sent me spiraling into depression and self-doubt a few months ago, but now, after shaking off the shock, I chuckled to myself and added him to my growing list of “jerks”. If I’d judged him solely on his photo, I never would have responded to his first message.

I was finally beginning to see how fickle some men could be.  Obviously I was better off without this one and I was thankful that I hadn’t wasted a trip to Toronto.

Memoir Monday – Brockville Miss Teen Centennial Queen


Walking  stiffly down the runway, (which was really the dock at St. Lawrence Park) I was feeling very self-conscious in my green-striped swimsuit and high-heeled shoes, my hair piled high in curls on the top of my head.  My sash fell off my shoulder, but I couldn’t move my hands  to slide it back into place.  I just kept walking towards the judges’ table.  I looked at the one familiar face there, that of Norm, a friend of my sister.  I gave a feeble smile.  He smiled back.  I don’t remember making my way back up the ramp, nor what happened next.  When was the judging done?  What did we do while we waited?  Obviously we changed into our dresses at some point, and must have done the walk again. I don’t remember any of it. I know that I eventually joined the line of other contestants, all anxiously waiting on the runway in front of the judges for the names of the winners to be called – Miss Congeniality, Fourth Runner-up, Third Runner-up, Second Runner-up, First Runner-up, and finally Miss Teen Centennial.

It was the summer of 1967, Canada’s Centennial year.  I was a very shy seventeen year- old, greatly lacking in self-confidence.  What was I doing here?  The pageant was sponsored by the local Kinsmen Club, and my neighbour was scouting for contestants.  He approached me once and I was flattered, but declined. The second time, I agreed without thinking about what was involved.  I guess even then I knew that I had to push myself to move out of my comfort zone.

My sponsor was to be one of the local pharmacies.  We were required to make appointments to have our pictures taken by the local newspaper, and to have our hair done for free at one of the beauty salons.  I needed a new dress and swimsuit and shoes.  My older sister was recruited by my mother to take me shopping. Why would she not want to take me herself?

We had a fun time doing the stores, looking for bargains. We came home with the modest green and navy striped one-piece swimsuit, a simple, form-fitting shift-style dress in a satiny tapestry of pastel colours, and a pair of white (I think) high-heeled shoes.

Why are there no pictures?

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I made my hair appointment. I took myself down to the newspaper office for the photo shoot and interview. A few days later, I got a request to go back. She told me the pictures didn’t turn out very well. When the newspaper arrived with my picture and bio I was very devastated. The picture was terrible! My eyes seemed to bug out from my face. Could it have been better than the first one?! I think Mom might have kept that, but I insisted it be destroyed.

One evening all the contestants had to meet at the park to go through the stage plan. My boyfriend at the time walked me over and proudly assured me that I would be a winner.

On the morning of the pageant, I got my thick, brown hair piled onto the top of my head. The stylist was quite chatty and he commented that only one of the contestants had failed to make a hair appointment. He figured she wouldn’t have a chance. The whole contest was based on looks. I spent the afternoon sitting in the sun at the cottage, working on a tan.

There was a lot of chatter and excitement in the change room before the pageant. Someone didn’t have gloves; someone loaned her extra pair. We fussed with our hair and makeup and offered each other encouragement. We draped our white satin sashes over our shoulders. We admired each other, and silently assessed our own chances. We were asked to fill out a secret vote for Miss Congeniality, and then it was time to line up for our walk.

“Miss Congeniality goes to Miss …” The girl who shared her gloves.

“Fourth Runner-Up, Miss…”

“Third Runner-Up, Miss …” I think this was my distant cousin, Paula, who I thought was most likely my stiffest competition. My excitement began to build. Maybe I could be a winner after all.

“First Runner-Up, Miss …” My heart was pounding.

“Miss Teen Centennial Queen, …” The winner was the girl who didn’t get her hair done; the one who appeared in her everyday plain brown swimsuit, and flat shoes; the one who didn’t fret about how she looked.

Maybe they weren’t judging only on looks. Maybe self-confidence played a role too.

As we walked past the spectators, back to retrieve our belongings from the dressing room, I heard a few comments that helped lift my spirits.

“You should have won!”

But I didn’t and I moved on. I had never before considered myself to be a Beauty Queen anyway, but it was exciting to think about for a short time.

Many years later, when I met Norm again at my niece’s wedding, he apologized to me.

“I really thought you should win, but I couldn’t convince the other judges.”

I smiled. “Thanks, Norm. That’s alright.”