Jennie Orvino’s Blog: Piece of Mind
I visited Beer Baron with a friend on a recent late afternoon and enjoyed a Henhouse hazy IPA called “Language Creates Reality.” (Excellent). That moniker reminded me of a news report I’d heard earlier about the dairy industry’s appeal to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for guidance on “The Labeling of Plant-Based Milk Alternatives (PBMA).”
It seems that when the agency solicited public comment (over 13,000 received) “consumers generally understand that PBMA do not contain milk and choose PBMA because they are not milk.” My emphasis added.
There are nutritional differences between dairy milk and soy milk, oat milk, and other PBMAs. However, it was not clear that the dairy industry wanted nutritional comparisons on a label. My sense is that dairy producers would prefer that PBMAs not use the word “milk” on their packaging at all. (This controversy came up locally in a 2021 lawsuit by Miyoko Creamery, a company that produces plant-based butter and cheese, against the California Department of Food and Agriculture.)
Imagine that instead of going into the local coffee bar and ordering a soy latte, you’d have to say, “I’d like a latte with soybeans processed to resemble a dairy beverage” or “I’d like a coffee foamed with almonds (cashews)(macadamia nuts) pulverized with water to resemble the extract from a cow’s mammaries.” Starbucks (and so many others) would be severely inconvenienced by having to change and expand their menu boards.
And could we even say “latte”? (In Italian, latte=milk… not “dairy milk” according to my Living Language Italian-English dictionary.) Which goes to my point: LIVING LANGUAGE.
The way we speak and understand is ever evolving through language, which is ever evolving. I think the word “milk” can be safely applied to anything with characteristics one could call milky.
Maybe we don’t want to consume animal products (a topic for another time), but don’t we crave certain textures, colors, a thick and sensual liquidity that can be understood with the shorthand of these four letters: M I L K ?
Dairy industry leaders, please give us consumers some credit! NPR has a whole program on this use of “milk.” See “No Cow Needed: Oat and Soy Can be Called Milk, FDA Proposes” The article notes that “Fortified soy milk is the only plant-based food included in the dairy category of U.S. dietary guidelines because of its nutrient levels.”
Public comment is open through April 23, 2023, on docket number FDA-2023-D-0451 at this website. You can weigh in on the Guidelines for Labeling PBMAs, or simply just think about how language usage can transform meaning and, (as the Henhouse Brewery beer notes), “create reality.”
P.S. In the past, lawmakers in dairy states have tried to get bills passed that would require the FDA to enforce a federal standard that defines “milk” as the product of “milking one or more healthy cows.” This reminds me of the push for a definition of marriage as “only between a man and a woman.” Again, a topic for another time.
In the weeks from Thanksgiving to the eve of New Year’s Eve, circumstances have allowed me to watch more movies than usual. Taking advantage of a first month free subscription to Hulu, I was able to follow up on the 4-out-of-4-star reviews of Good Luck to You Leo Grande. For two and a half viewings.
The always-wonderful Emma Thompson and gorgeous to look at and listen to Daryl MacCormack, tell an intimate story with a big payoff—nothing less than a woman’s erotic coming of age. After years of perfunctory non-orgasmic marital relations, this sixty-something widow, pseudonym Nancy, has hired a sex worker, pseudonym Leo, for a hotel room tryst.
With wry comedy and touching authenticity, they create a relationship over several encounters, including conflicts and surprises. The woman asks for what she wants (down to a creating a written list of never-before experiences) and a compassionate and expert professional facilitates her desires. But ultimately, Nancy learns that she is responsible for her own pleasure, her own big O.
It’s a shame this female directed and written twist on the rom-com is not more easily accessible, but you can read an accurate review in 50 Best Movies on Hulu and find a discussion about it on Joan Price’s blog. Watch Leo Grande trailers here.
I don’t know what the fictional Nancy paid for Leo’s company, but I would gladly run up a considerable tab to have an evening with such a lover. I’ve thought of this possibility a lot over my 23 years of living single. More from sex educator Joan Price: “She wants transactional sex with a man who prioritizes her pleasure, who will serve her without his own agenda, and whose youthful appearance will turn her on.” Sounds good to me.
The next film I wanted to check out before the Hulu free trial ended was I’m Your Man, a German language film directed by Maria Schrader, starring Dan Stevens (British actor you might know from Downton Abbey, Beauty and the Beast) and Maren Eggert; it explores technology as a balm for loneliness and as a source of intimacy. This topic has been treated before in such films 2013’s Her.
I was interested in I’m Your Man because of the premise: Alma, a researcher at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin agrees to be part of a three-week program where she will advise for or against the ethics of a new technology—the creation of lifelike robots algorithmically programmed to be one’s perfect partner. This is a leap beyond the gigolo experience! For Alma, her custom man is “Tom,” a handsome, witty, blonde specimen designed to evolve, through trial, error, and conversation, to become ever more aligned with her desires. We don’t get this background, but she undoubtedly filled out a basic requirements questionnaire!
Like the first film I talked about, I’m Your Man is an ideal romantic comedy, that, according to one review, “Hits the sweet spot of story, actor chemistry and tonal execution.” Tom’s initial programming has him prepare Alma a candle lit bath with rose petals, strawberries and champagne, as well as himself in a bathrobe waiting for her. When she opens the bathroom door, he says, “93% of German women find this exceedingly romantic.” She replies, “I’m in the 7%.” With the new information duly noted, Tom takes to the bath himself, sipping bubbly and tasting a berry.
What I found fascinating was both the ethical dilemma Alma grapples with, and the increasingly human characteristics of Tom as he adjusts his behavior to a stream of incoming data gleaned from his human interactions. When Alma attempts to use him when she is wildly drunk, he does not allow her to do so, “knowing” she will regret it in the morning. The scene ends when Tom tenderly tucks Alma, fully clothed, into bed.
Don’t we often hope that our spouses, lovers and friends will pick up on our clues or specific requests for the sake of deepening intimacy and harmony? For those of us who have been searching years for a romantic match, isn’t the idea of acquiring someone compatible at last, even if “artificial,” at least somewhat compelling?
I loved how this deluxe model that was able to access a virtually endless database of romantic cliches gradually evolved to an exceptionally appealing and sophisticated companion. I’ll have to admit I was touched when Tom says to a woman in a bar who wants to kiss him, “You’ll have to ask Alma. I belong to her.”
Tom was not just a voice (as was the object of Joaquin Phoenix’s desire in the film Her) but a physical presence, seen as “nothing” to a herd of deer who surrounded him during a walk in the woods, but ever more emotionally and physically viable to Alma. “I don’t need to eat, but I clean my teeth and take care of my body,” Tom informs this woman who has reluctantly embarked on the experiment. In one scene, an angry Alma challenges Tom to show her how anatomically correct and functional he is. When he drops his pants in her apartment kitchen, she exclaims, “Is this supposed to be the c*#k of my dreams?!” He replies, “Apparently.”
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande and I’m Your Man were just two of the cinematic treats I enjoyed in the past month. A film-loving friend recommended another Hulu offering, the 2-part, Normal People, which put me through an emotional wringer and added Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar Jones to the people I could watch day in and day out on screen.
Comments on my select list of narrative and documentary will have to be saved for 2023. Wishing for us all inner and outer peace in the coming year
Not 2020 or 2021, but it was the holiday season of 2022 that my daughter dubbed “Covid Christmas.”
For her family it meant positive tests for husband, son, and finally, herself. Maybe the symptoms were not severe—thanks to vaccinations—but still, the isolating, not feeling well, and the specter of lasting effects was plainly there.
For me, it meant postponing a visit with my only child and grandchild, taking walks and watching movies on Christmas Day, and then waiting for the indicator line on rapid tests when a friend I’d spent time with reported a positive.
Nothing tragic, just inconvenient.
I have to say what’s bothering me most about the summer, fall and winter of 2022 are new-to-me ailments without a cause. Head and neck pain (“feels like my head is not screwed on right”) that seems unaffected by chiropractic, physical therapy, exercise. Then, the supposedly unrelated bouts of vertigo over seven months; the most recent lasted a week.
The community of the vertiginous is larger than I knew, with almost everyone I mention it to either knowing someone afflicted or has experienced it themselves, and worse than I (like when driving a car or hiking in the wilderness). I could read at times, watch television, or walk around (albeit feeling like I was on the deck of a rolling ship.)
I scared myself on morning when I thought I might faint (living alone, who would find my body?) My doctor advised sitting on the floor when something like that happened to avoid injury from falling. “When you wake up, call 911,” she said.
The vertigo ended after doing the Epley maneuver twice on the sixth day. After a 48-hour respite, I “caught” the first cold in three years, starting with a sore throat and still continuing with a persistent cough. All this distracted a bit from the headache (I was taking plenty of meds), yet on Dec.20, there I was rolling into the MRI tunnel, still seeking answers.
Are the doctors and technicians on vacation? Six days later, no results, not that Dr. W. expected anything “bad” to show on the MRI. But I’d still like to know. Is it muscular? Stress? Old age? Friends have recommended Feldenkrais body work, Acupuncture and Chinese herbs…
I just want to be able to play pickleball full out, without ailments I’m not accustomed to interfering with the pleasure of my newfound sports addiction—the pandemic’s outdoor substitute for the indoor intimacy of partner dancing.
To get through the period from Thanksgiving to today, I’ve indulged in two main escapes, 1) the “beach read” novels of Elin Hilderbrand (I enjoyed: Barefoot, What Happens in Paradise, Troubles in Paradise) before I’d had enough, and 2) films, including an excellent Netflix documentary miniseries, The Last Dance, which fascinated me, who is not a basketball fan, for 10 episodes.
More about the film faves of December in my next post.
I’ve been remiss in posting here because tomato, apple and fig harvests overtook my spare time and a stream of writing jobs kept me busy for weeks. One friend who lives in Colorado is doing her part regarding November’s mid-terms by working through party politics to get her almost-unbelievably awful congressional representative, Lauren Boebert, defeated.
Besides voting (lucky to live in California where the secretary of state’s office called to tell me that my mail-in ballot was on the way!) I pondered what I could do to help. What first came to mind was to share the message I received from Senator Bernie Sanders – a great man who never stops working for you and me.
“…In my view, while the abortion issue must remain on the front burner, it would be political malpractice for Democrats to ignore the state of the economy and allow Republican lies and distortions to go unanswered. This country has, for decades, faced structural economic crises that have caused the decline of the American middle class. Now is the time for Democrats to take the fight to the reactionary Republican Party and expose their anti-worker views on the most important issues facing ordinary Americans. That is both the right thing to do from a policy perspective and good politics.
“We have more income and wealth inequality than at any time in the modern history of this country, with three people owning more wealth than the bottom half of our nation. Is there one Republican prepared to raise taxes on billionaires, or do they want to make a bad situation worse by extending Trump’s tax breaks for the rich and repealing the estate tax?
“Today, 60% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, and millions work for starvation wages. Is there one Republican in Congress who is prepared to raise the federal minimum wage to at least $15 an hour?
“The United States pays, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. Is there one Republican prepared to allow Medicare to immediately begin negotiating prescription drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry and cut the cost of medicine by half?
“We have a dysfunctional healthcare system which, despite being the most expensive in the world, allows 85 million Americans to be uninsured or underinsured. Is there one Republican who believes that healthcare is a human right and supports universal coverage?
“We remain the only major country on earth not to guarantee time off for moms who have babies or need to take care of sick children. Is there one Republican who supports at least 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave?
“The list goes on: childcare, housing, home health care, college affordability. On every one of these enormously important issues the Republican Party has virtually nothing to say to address the desperate needs of low and moderate income Americans. And what they do propose will most often make a bad situation worse.
“I believe that if Democrats do not fight back on economic issues and present a strong pro-worker agenda, they could well be in the minority in both the House and the Senate next year.
“And it’s not only the long-term structural crises that Democrats must address. It is the outrageous level of corporate greed that we now see every day that is fueling the inflation hurting so many people. While the price of gas has soared over the last year, the five big oil companies made $59 billion in profits during the 2nd quarter of this year alone and are spending $88 billion on stock buybacks and dividends to benefit their wealthy shareholders.
“While global food prices soared by over 33% last year and are expected to go up another 23% this year, billionaires in the global food and agri-business industry became $382 billion richer during the pandemic.
“While we continue to pay, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, 3 of the largest pharmaceutical companies in America – Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and AbbVie – increased their profits by 90% last year to $54 billion.
“While 46% of Americans either skipped or delayed the healthcare they need because they could not afford it, the six largest health insurance companies in America last year made over $60 billion in profits.
“What do Republicans have to say about corporations that are charging Americans outrageously high prices, while enjoying record breaking profits? Does one of them have the courage to consider a windfall, profits tax? Absolutely not.
“Whether it is extending the $300 a month child tax credit that expired in December that slashed the child poverty rate by over 40%, or increasing Social Security benefits, or expanding Medicare to cover dental, hearing and vision or making childcare affordable, the Democrats must stand with the working class of this country and expose the Republicans for the phonies that they are.
“None of what I am suggesting here is “radical”. It is, in fact, extremely popular. It is what the American people want. If we close this critical midterm campaign with a clear, unified vision to meet the needs of working families, to take on corporate greed, and protect a woman’s right to choose, we will begin to rebuild the trust between Democrats in Washington and the working families of this country. And we’ll win the election.”
I’m writing an article on Seniors in the Workplace and today I’ve heard from two wise men–Noam Chomsky and Bernie Sanders–who make me feel good about those of us over 75 who are still paying attention. I hope you, whatever your age, will do so too.
In my August 9 post, I reviewed A Breviary for the Lost: Poems for the During and After by Loren Niemi. The following excerpts from my 2012 memoir, Poetry, Politics & Passion, parallel portions of his book and fill in a bit more about our political history and friendship. The following paragraphs are found in PP&P’s first section, “My Life in the Peace Movement” pages 25-33. Copies still available!
The College of Saint Teresa no longer exists, having gone the way of many all-female educational institutions. In the mid-1960s when I attended, it was located in Winona, Minnesota, a little town nestled between tree-covered limestone bluffs and the Mississippi River, about 120 miles from the twin cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
During my upper-class years at the College of Saint Teresa, I was aided and abetted in my “subversive tendencies” by a 19-year-old named Loren Niemi. He lived at the Christian Brothers scholasticate at St. Mary’s, the all-male college that, in the manner of the times, was counterpart to my all-female school. When we met, I was unaware of his seminarian status; I knew only that he was taking classes in Saint Teresa’s art department. We lingered for hours in what was demurely called The Tea House, a literal vine-covered cottage that served as the CST campus café. Our conversation spiraled around painting, poetry and politics and it didn’t take me long to become captivated.
Then, as today, the pretty boys were often not as attractive as the smart, articulate ones who appealed to that biggest sex organ, the brain. Loren, with his prominent nose reminiscent of a wise-cracking cartoon bird, his dark-rimmed, scholarly glasses and lanky build, was not handsome. However, his rebellious mustache and intense blue eyes were winsome, and the way he loved to yak—about things of substance—that was damn appealing. In the first months of our friendship, what I did with Loren was mostly in the manner of steadying the ladder while he secured “Out of Vietnam NOW” posters on light poles out of reach of the campus police. Later, as we each amassed a litany of transgressions that threatened (at least his) continuation in school, we became each other’s mirror, confidante and inspiration.
In my files marked “L. Niemi,” among pages of mimeographed and typed letters, poems, slightly off-color drawings, and even a Valentine, I’d found the following, handwritten in paragraphs randomly scattered over the page:
Got tossed out of the Education Department. The selection committee decided that I was too immature, too imprudent to be trusted in the classroom. What it really means is that I am too honest and too radical for them to feel safe. No student teaching, no education courses, nothing at all. It’s like having one of your balls shot off. It hurts you know!
Loren showed me today, 38 years after our first cup of coffee and 34 years after last seeing each other, a photo of me sitting among the easels and canvases in the college art department, looking over my shoulder at the camera with an impish smile. He has it in a pocket-sized album, created perhaps in honor of the project he is now working on, a “novelized memoir” called “Bad Brother.” He proposed this Minnesota-to-California visit “so we might spend a day thinking together about those turbulent times (1968-71) to see how they shaped and informed who we were and who we have become.”
He taped our conversation on his old Sony cassette player and I recorded on my digital mini disc recorder. “You lived in the row of candy-colored duplexes on Erie Street. They looked like cupcakes that were left too long in a bakery window.”
He was talking about the summer of 1968, when I moved to Minneapolis for 3 months, ostensibly to be in near Sandstone Prison for visits with Bob my fiancé, who resisted the draft), but I think I really wanted to be in the city where Loren lived.
“Once I came over to your place after driving cab all night, and flopped down on your puke-green couch with a terrible headache,” he said. “You lay down on top of me with an aspirin between your lips, kissed me, and shoved it down my throat with your tongue.”
This I did not recall.
“In the afternoons, we’d sit in the back yard drinking beer. You read me obscure poetry and teased me with an unbuttoned blouse.”
This sounded vaguely familiar.
But what I remember for sure are the eight hours I spent at a job Loren secured for me at his father’s commercial laundry and linen service. I stood under a conveyer from which drawstring bags of soiled hotel tablecloths and sheets swayed like chubby ballerinas. After pulling the string to drop the laundry onto the table before me, I sorted, hoisted, smelled it all. I had sympathy for the women of color who were my co-workers, but not enough commitment to find out what this kind of manual labor was truly all about.
“Uh uh, I said well before the day’s closing whistle. “No thanks. Absolutely not.”
I punched out for my first and last time, and within a few days landed an 8-week job ushering delinquent preteens through field trips at a summer day camp.
In the meantime, students raised hell in the streets of Paris, as the Summer of Love was followed by the Summer of Riot. Our hopes rose with presidential peace candidate Eugene McCarthy, and then plummeted with the murder of Robert Kennedy and television images of the bloody batons of Chicago police outside the Democratic convention.
During our mutual interviewing about our joint past, Loren continued to ask: what would be the hardest thing to admit? What do you not want me to know about you? Besides spending his life in community organizing, teaching, and public policy work, Loren is a professional storyteller and author. He signed his book, Inviting the Wolf In: Thinking About Difficult Stories with: “For Jennie. Tell well, tell often, tell true.”
I’m having a hard time writing an “objective” review of the latest book penned by my long-time friend Loren Niemi. It would have been easier to describe how useful to me as a writer have been his prose works on storytelling—The New Book of Plots and Inviting the Wolf In: Thinking about Difficult Stories. I recommend these to anyone who writes, or anyone who wants to live an engaged life and tell the truth about it.
A Breviary for the Lost is in another vein; it is a memoir in poems about a time of personal, spiritual, and psychological upheaval, within circumstances of political and moral challenge. I met Loren when we were both college students and he was a fledgling member of the Christian Brothers, a Catholic religious teaching order. The time we shared most directly was the late 1960s and early 1970s, although our friendship has matured and endured to this moment.
Loren’s book is formatted with first-person poetry providing the main, introspective narrative on the left-hand pages, and sidebars (numbered like footnotes) on the right-hand pages providing expansion and commentary in the third person. By choosing this inside-outside way of organizing, the author adds complexity and humor to his story. In sidenote  we find these lines: “Poverty/Chastity/and Obedience. He was good at/ One of them.”
A breviary is a prayer book, organized by the canonical hours beginning in the night and early morning (Matins and Lauds) and ending at sunset and end of day (Vespers and Compline). In case you’re curious, the poems that mention Jennie O. appear in the “first hour of daylight” (Prime) section.
I wonder if the “for the Lost” part of the title, refers not to the author, but those who were lost to war, lost to economic exploitation, racism, mis-education, faulty communication and just plain neglect. Loren did, of course, lose people who were important to him, both in the religious community and the political and artistic communities of which he became a part. He remembers them here and also in his volume of “ghost stories,” What Haunts Us (winner of a 2020 Midwest Book Award for paranormal fiction).
I recommend A Breviary for the Lost as an easy and insight-producing read. It takes you to unfamiliar and sometimes intimate places where you will be forced to question your own beliefs and aspirations.
The language of his poetry is deceptively simple. A favorite poem is about the young Loren finding a well-used pipe in the pocket of a winter coat donated to the brothers. He would return to that dusty basement “Just to smell the sweat of other lives/ and hold that pipe, trying to imagine/ who and what, when, and where/ it had been before it arrived at this/ pause in a Novitiate storeroom.”
Musings like this, ordinary as they seem, became the wellspring of subsequent stories, both easy and difficult, that have spilled from the keyboard, lips and heart of Loren Niemi. Check him out.
A Breviary for the Lost: Poems for the During and After. By Loren Niemi. Calumet Editions, Edina MN. First Edition July 2022. Can be ordered and subsequently reviewed at Amazon.com.
In Part 2 of this post, I will excerpt several sections from my 2012 memoir that tell a little more about my relationship with this poet, artist, professional performing storyteller, activist and teacher.
In my last post, I encouraged everyone, single or not, to create an online profile, for the introspection and self-knowledge it could provide. Because creating it forces you to brag about yourself, reading over the profile can lift you up when you’re feeling insecure or a little blue.
Here I share my coach-approved dating profile, along with a postscript that she didn’t quite approve.
SELF SUMMARY. Brains and beauty! I’m generous (with my time and contributing to causes I believe in), open-hearted, sweet and sensual. I know how to love, to listen, to be present. I’m vital, witty, have a great sense of fun. Like my grandmother, I am a fine Italian cook with the ability to make you feel at ease. I’m a writer/poet, journalist, dancer, avid film viewer, live theater goer, jazz fan. I enjoy lively discussions, reading in bed, and lounging on sunny beaches like Kamaole in Maui.
WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR. Seeking a partner, collaborator, lover and companion, who, like me, is politically progressive and interested in doing work that benefits the human community. I want a kind, responsible person who is affectionate, respectful of women, aware, fit, and well-versed in the arts of love. He matches me in some ways, provokes me in other ways. We support each other’s creativity, interests and aspirations. An intimate connection that has chemistry, shared values, and openness to personal growth and transformation is sure to thrive! We can walk and talk for hours.
WHAT I’M DOING WITH MY LIFE. Freelance writing for Bay Area publications and my own blog. Helping various non-profits by writing grant proposals. Participating in my neighborhood council. Creating a sustainable yard and beautiful garden with drought-tolerant and pollinator-friendly plants. In season, you might share with me a taste of apple juice, pear sauce, dried figs, or fresh tomato Bolognese pasta.
IN ACTION. I’ve lately taken up pickleball at our local parks and manage to draw my grandson away from his computer games to join me on the court. Caring about my body, eating well and exercising makes me happy, keeps me strong and ageless. All kinds of dancing, taking classes in yoga, weight training, stretch and balance is a great antidote to life’s inevitable stresses. It is also wonderful for making friends and creating community.
BOOKS and MEDIA: When I’m writing creatively, I go to poetry and novels for inspiration. Most recently-read nonfiction: Unthinkable, by Jamie Raskin and John Nichols’ Coronavirus Criminals and Pandemic Profiteers. Most recently-read banned book: The 1619 Project (Still working on this one). Three novels in a row by Jeanine Cummins: American Dirt, The Crooked Branch, The Outside Boy. Among the magazines on my nightstand are The Nation, The New Yorker, Poets & Writers. I listen daily to KPFA Pacifica radio.
GOOD AT: Listening, asking questions, articulating, noticing, organizing, keeping a journal, producing, writing, maintaining a clean and welcoming home, working out regularly, partner dancing, rabble rousing, reviewing films, keeping in touch, networking, random acts of kindness, making love.
The first thing people notice about me: Leo energy and presence, my smile, my curly hair.
An ideal date: Champagne tasting on the terrace at Domaine Carneros in Napa, complete with local charcuterie and cheeses. I did this once on my own when writing a feature on their female winemaker.
I spend a lot of time thinking about: The current state of war and peace in the world; ways to combat voter suppression; how to mitigate climate catastrophe. As a former elementary school teacher, I think about keeping books in the libraries, sex education in the classroom and allowing teachers the freedom to tell the whole truth of history. I also spend a lot of time thinking about how an ecstatic love affair would be a terrific balm right about now.
Message me if: You are a bit wild, articulate, funny, curious, affectionate and emotionally intelligent. You don’t like to spend a lot of time texting but want to connect with the “vibe” of a person through interacting in real time, first phone and then in person.
The most private thing I’m willing to say about myself. This OK Cupid question had me thinking. . . even up to this moment. Of the 101 possible answers my dating coach might not have recommended, I’d pick this one: “My perfect match is attractive (as well as attracted) to me; loves how I look, smell, taste and feel; and responds to my arousal with expertise and tenderness. I want to be with someone who makes me feel alive.”
Knowing who you are and what you want is the starting point for all the books I’ve read and workshops I’ve attended on Conscious Dating. However, I think anyone—married, partnered or single—can benefit from the exercises I did to “get ready to get ready” to write an online profile.
Make a list of what you want to be, what you want to do, what you want to have. Don’t censor, maybe time yourself for five minutes on each inquiry. Next, write out your personal values (examples: peace, connection, service, creativity, honesty) and follow by putting an asterisk by your top five. My choices were: communication love, personal growth, self-care and humor. Then write the top values you would like to share with your life partner. My choices included some of the same from the previous list (love, communication) and others (dependability/reliability, emotional intelligence, sexuality).
To get further into my subconscious, I eschewed words and used pictures torn from magazines and photos to express what I felt was my “life purpose.” Some teachers have called this work mind mapping, or visualization or dream boarding. I have made dozens of these in my life; for example, my Jubilación collage depicted what I wanted to experience after my retirement from a full-time job. While reading Katherine Woodward Thomas’ book Calling in THE ONE, I made a collage on that theme with that title.
What came out of all this was the formulation of my purpose statement: to inspire creative expression and encourage transformative political action for the good of all and survival of planet Earth.
What do all these preliminaries have to do with creating an online dating profile? It helps one discover one’s values and hopefully find a partner who shares at least some of those values. This introspection leads to discovering the “deal breakers” – those things you won’t accept in a potential partner if you want the relationship to last. Because liberal/progressive/radical politics has been central to my life since I was 18 years old, one of my deal breakers would be a potential partner who didn’t respect my political views.
Putting up a thoughtful dating profile is an act of vulnerability that is not encouraged by the limited character counts required by some sites (I am subscribed on three of them). Our Time allows 15 photos but only 200 characters for each descriptor. In my recent experience, only one out of 10 guys maximize their word count in describing themselves and tend to post photos with sunglasses on. Those willing to show their eyes and write a bit more are the ones that attract my attention.
The main advantage of the free version of OK Cupid is that it allows a generous word count for self-description and provides an array of (sometimes stupid) questions to help find a high percentage of “match” with another member who answers the same questions. I used the profile I wrote for OK Cupid as the text base from which to pull for two other sites.
In my next post, I’ll include my coach-approved profile and…some of the items she wouldn’t have approved.
If I found a sweetheart
we’d be in the honeymoon phase
until I turned 80;
when the 7-year itch arrived,
I’d be 83;
and chances are, when I hit 86—
the age predicted I would die by my yoga horoscope—
we’d be contemplating splitting up anyway.
I’m thinking of adding to my dating profile:
with realistic attitude about the long term.
With me, you won’t have a golden anniversary
but the honeymoon phase
will be amazing
and include the best sex you’ve ever had.
If I found a sweetheart
by Memorial Day or the 4th of July,
when my next cake and candles rolled around,
I’d have a cutie on my arm.
And if the plague has passed,
we could take a trip to Italy’s Amalfi Coast.
How wonder full to have
a mutually passionate pact
to love, honor, respect and communicate in truth.
I know it will be crazy, with worlds colliding,
fire, flood, discouragement and growing pains…
but I’m in, I’m in for all of it.
This poem of mine is one of four accepted for the Redwood Writer’s 2022 anthology, Crossroads. More information on the book here.
My visceral response to the complimentary session with Dr. W. convinced me that the longing for an intimate partner which I couldn’t seem to shake was legitimate, and that my desire possible to fulfill. I’ve used therapists and creative counselors all my adult life. Giving myself six sessions with a relationship coach seem an appropriate 75th birthday gift.
At this link is a video of “If I Found a Sweetheart” with a background of collages I created to “call in the one.” The Jennie who did this performance was feeling pretty bad-ass and confident.
After I expressed dissatisfaction, in a previous post, with my foray into online dating, kind folks have offered suggestions for other sites to try, such as Bumble (which requires the woman to make first contact) or eHarmony, the site where friends who just sent me their wedding invitation made their connection. Thank you all for caring.
I suppose that cookies tracing my online activity account for the ads I’ve received for numerous dating gurus who offer their services, their free eBooks, their seminars, support groups, etc. I am not disparaging the relationship/dating industry. I confess that in the distant past I paid an embarrassingly hefty sum to a useless matchmaker (see my 2012 book, Poetry, Politics and Passion for the essay “Make Me A Match.”)
The question I ask today is: do I have the heart—and the stamina—to peruse even more virtual meeting venues or is there another way to find single, sane, age-appropriate potential partners who match my values and aspirations?
I started my current “Partner Project” with hope. In April 2021, I attended a wine tasting in Mill Valley for single professionals with the intention of finding eligible bachelors a little farther afield. The evening had two highlights: I convinced two Tesla owners to cease their conversation about their beloved vehicles to join me and two other women at a table; and, I scored a coupon for a free consultation with a Relationship Coach and Love Mentor who co-sponsored the event.
Like all of us, I lived through the fear of catching a deadly virus, the fallout from an economic shutdown, months of social isolation, tension overs masks and vaccinations, and political upheaval I could not have imagined. In January, I decided it was now-or-never. I called the relationship coach I’d met the year before and set up a ZOOM appointment.
Near the end of our conversation, Dr. W. led me through a visualization exercise. She first had me close my eyes and imagine a year hence if nothing had changed in my life. What was I doing and how did I feel? Then she asked, “What if you found your match, the lover and partner you have been seeking? Describe in detail where you are. What do you see, smell, touch, feel, taste?”
I relaxed enough to experience sensorily a cliffside terrace overlooking a sun-drenched beach beneath an azure sky. I was sitting across a bistro table from a person who holds my hand and gazes into my eyes.
“What is your companion saying?” Dr. W. prompted.
“I love you. I’m so glad I met you. I’ll be with you to the end.”
After I said those words aloud, I began to cry from the depth of my soul. Fat tears drenched my face along with cleansing sobs that proved to me that I’d touched upon “my truth.” When I looked toward the computer screen, I could see that my coach was crying too.
[TO BE CONTINUED]