I was blessed to spend Valentine’s Day 1990 in Hawaii, and it was there that I discovered what was, to me, the most beautiful place on earth: Kalapana Black Sand Beach. Located on a remote part of the Big Island, it was not a tourist spot, and its isolation and sparse population allowed one to truly absorb the landscape. My words can never do justice to the beach’s vista of sky, sand, surf and coconut palms; indeed, these photos only hint at its treasures. One of its most unexpected delights was the flock of chickens and roosters that skittered through the grove of palms. I have been fortunate to see nature’s majesty in many locations, but no place has ever touched my soul, my spirit, quite like Kalapana did that day.
I feel doubly blessed to have visited when I did, as a few months later the volcano Kilauea erupted and its lava flow swallowed the beach. Now, some 25+ years later, the ocean is again turning Kalapana’s lava to sand. As Lao-Tzu said, “Water is fluid, soft and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield…this is another paradox: what is soft is strong.”
There is a lesson there for all of us… Happy Valentine’s Day.
For obvious reasons, many people are thinking and talking about love and romance today, me included. My Twitter pal Mollie, who is single, wrote a lovely blog piece on what she is looking for in a relationship (molliewallace.wordpress.com), which inspired me to do the same.
As background, I’ve been in love a couple of times, but I’ve never married, and it’s been a while since I was involved with anyone. For me, being single is a mix of chance and choice, with perhaps a dash of fate. I’ve been accused many times of being “too picky,” but when it comes to love and attraction, you either feel it or you don’t. When I am alone, I enjoy the person I am with–most of us know from experience that it’s far lonelier to be with someone else with whom we have no connection, than it is to just be by ourselves. I was surrounded by divorces and unhappy relationships growing up, and I think that made me determined that I would never settle. I’m also not someone who has ever actively sought to meet men–no Match.com or Tinder for me. I’ve always believed that the thing to do is live my best life, and if I’m out there living it, what’s meant for me will find me.
But what do I want? As I’ve gotten older, the list has gotten shorter, and the criteria more important. The only true nonstarter for me is a smoker. Clearing that hurdle, these are the qualities in a man that I value most:
1) Creativity, with his head and/or hands. Whether a man is a painter or musician or writer, a furniture-builder or another sort of craftsman, I’m drawn to people with imagination…people who can look past reality to see possibilities. I’m (cursed to be) a Pisces, so I’m a dreamer and an idealist, and I’ve learned that men who don’t share these traits usually don’t mesh with me.
2) Funny and possesses a good sense of humor. This is one of those traits that is crucial, but hard to describe. Either someone makes you laugh, or they don’t. They see humor where you do, or they don’t. I’m reminded of the Seinfeld ep where Jerry falls in love with a character played by Janeane Garafalo, who is basically a female version of himself. When someone points that out, Jerry agrees: “I’ve swept myself off of my feet.” That’s kind of what I’m looking for.
3) Intelligence/sensitivity. I couldn’t care less whether someone has a college diploma. In fact, I’ve met some very unintelligent, uninteresting people with advanced degrees. However, I could never be with someone who wasn’t smart…able to reason and think critically, and take an interest in the larger world. Spirituality and political and social issues are important to me, and I want to be with someone who is also engaged by those things. Hand in hand with this is someone who is also in touch with his feelings, and willing to share them.
4) A healthy attitude about money. I have dated a spendthrift, and a miser. Both were equal turn offs. I (believe I) have a healthy attitude about money. I have no debts and have always been a responsible saver/investor, but I also don’t hesitate to treat myself to things that enhance my life–be that food and drink with good friends, travel or personal luxuries. A partner who doesn’t have similar financial beliefs is a recipe for disaster.
5) Chemistry. Ah, the most elusive trait of all. We either feel it or we don’t. With the exception of (the exceptional) Jamie Dornan, I don’t have the tastes of the masses. I mean, I went to college with Brad Pitt, and I thought he was “okay”–cute, but just not my type. (Nor I his, needless to say!) But I do have a physical type, usually guys with brown hair and brown eyes. And nice forearms and hands make me swoon. Chemistry–to me–is both that can’t-keep-your-hands-off-of-each other physical desire, and a spiritual/emotional connection. I want my lover to be my best friend.
6) He has to want me. As I mentioned, I’m a Pisces. If you believe there is something to astrology (as I do), then you may know that Pisceans are intuitive and nurturing. We are sensitive and love to take care of others in every way possible, and in my past, this always manifested as me doing all of the giving. I take full responsibility for it; I was drawn to black holes of emotional need, and they eagerly took all of the nurturing I gave. But there was no reciprocity. Now, I recognize that flaw, and anyone I choose to be with in the future will have to really want me, and demonstrate the same.
There are many other, more superfluous, things I could add to the list: I love music, love to travel, to cook, to hike, to watch sports, and someone who shares those interests would be great, but the core values and traits above are my priorities.
I have a lot of female friends in their 30s, 40s and 50s who, like me, are single and (mostly) never married. They are all bright and attractive women. I think ideally, we’d all like to be in relationships. I would. When you get right down to it, we are really only here on earth for two reasons: 1) to love others; 2) to use our lives for some good purpose. I believe people operate at a higher frequency and have more to give when they love, and are loved. And I wouldn’t be a romance novelist if I didn’t believe in the fulfillment that a romantic partnership can offer. Through knowing and loving another, we discover more of ourselves, too. I certainly want that for myself, and everyone else. That said, anyone who has ever picked up an issue of Cosmo has seen the stats and statements on the odds of a 30+ woman finding love: “The odds aren’t good, and the goods are odd.”
So, for me, I plan to keep my heart open, but never settle. I’ve read a lot of HEAs, written a couple, and even seen a few in real life, so I know they do exist. In the meantime, I have to be true to myself. We all do. Chance. Choice. Fate.
On my next blog post: What I Learned about Love and Relationships from Studying Porn.