From Hungover Widow to Available As Is, Debbie Weiss
This week, I’m speaking with Debbie Weiss. When Debbie lost her childhood sweetheart at 50, she was forced to take a look at her life and start asking what she needed to be happy. When she finally started dating again, she found that many of the men she encountered weren’t it - and there were enough “schmucks” out there (her word, not mine!) to write a book about it…
For more on Debbie and to order Available As Is: A Midlife Widow's Search for Love:
Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/debbieweissauthor/
[00:00:00] Kristin: Hello, and welcome to the second half of season seven of The Second Chapter. I'm your host, Kristin Duffy.
It's great to be back after a month at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and a short break. We're back to regularly scheduled programming! So be sure to hit subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts. So you never miss an episode!
This week, I'm speaking with Debbie Weiss. When Debbie lost her childhood sweetheart at 50, she was forced to take a look at her life and start asking what she needed to be happy. When she finally started dating again, she found that many of the men she encountered weren't it. And there were enough schmucks out there.
Her word, not mine to write a book about it.
[00:00:36] Debbie: Yeah. This is a big warning. My book does a lot more, but I really did wanna warn about the poor quality of these schmucks and how they try to make you think that this is an acceptable mode behavior and it isn't.
[00:00:47] Kristin: Hi, Debbie. Thank you so much for joining me today. How you doing?
[00:00:58] Debbie: I'm good, Kristin, and thank you so much for having me.
[00:01:00] Kristin: This is exciting. I'm really excited to talk about your book. I'm excited to talk about all your life changes, but sadly, I think we're gonna have to go way back in time to childhood to start to not a very wonderful experience. I feel like so many of the things that I've learned about you stemmed from your loss of your mother at age.
Sorry to start on such a down note. But could you tell us a little bit about that?
[00:01:23] Debbie: I grew up in a very, in a small Northern California town and I'm an only child and I was a normal kid living with my dad and my mom and my cat. And during the summer who was 1973, my mom started to just stay in her bedroom all the time and I didn't know what was happening.
I'd sit outside the door. I couldn't tell my dad's like, leave her alone. Don't don't bother her. And then one night he said we're going to the hospital. And that was a few months before, a couple, a few weeks actually before my 10th birthday. He never took me back in again. And then, you know, over the next few weeks, I'd hear, oh, I'd say, mom, where's mom obviously.
And he'd say well, she's in the hospital. She's not doing that well, And then finally, one day he took me out and he said, she's probably gonna die. And um, he was crying. I'm crying, talking about this. I can't believe it. And um, I said, I know she's already dead. I could just tell from his voice. And so she died four days before my 10th birthday.
And I found out later he hadn't taken me to the hospital because she'd had a heart attack when she was in there. So he didn't want me to see her like.
[00:02:32] Kristin: Yeah, I it's amazing to me at, not even quite 10 years old you had the kind of foresight to know from the way your dad spoke. Or what his face did that, that she was already.
[00:02:44] Debbie: I could tell, my dad was when I was younger he changed a lot, but he was pretty gruff. He's retired, he's a nuclear physicist. And he was certainly came from a time where the wife did the child rearing, we go to a planetarium in an afternoon or something, but he wasn't deeply involved.
And he was always pretty gruff and stern. It seemed to me when I was a kid. So when his voice was breaking. And his face was crumpling. I could tell. And also he said, mommy, I remember that too. Cuz my parents always talked to me like I was a little grown up. So when he said your mommy, that was it.
Cuz he was seeing me as a child then.
[00:03:20] Kristin: The reason I of start with this is because you've woven it. So interestingly into your book how there was a moment that kind of, you almost got stuck at that moment. You're you kind. Stayed a child in a certain way, even though you'd been treated by your parents, your whole life, almost as an adult from the beginning, which I thought was a really interesting revelation to.
[00:03:38] Debbie: Yeah I guess I probably did stay somewhat close to home. I had to keep an eye on my dad now I knew a parent could vanish. So I kind had to make sure he was close by.
[00:03:49] Kristin: And staying close to home. You ended up marrying your childhood sweetheart. Little bit about, how that all evolved meeting George.
[00:03:57] Debbie: my dad and his mother worked together at Lawrence Livermore laboratory, which is a research laboratory in Northern California. Both our parents were physicists and George's mom was very social. She had a lot of events. So when I was seven, we had to go to a pool party at their house. It was a work thing, she invited George's mom was inviting the colleagues and I was seven.
George is older man of 11. His mom introduced. George was such a well behaved little boy shaking hands in his little black swimsuit. I saw his model train set. He was just so cute. And then over the years we got thrown together at various family events. And we finally clicked when I was 17 and he was 21.
I was a senior in high school. He was a senior at UC Berkeley, majoring in engineering, and we started dating and it last.
[00:04:46] Kristin: and as far as career wise, you started out as a lawyer. How did that happen? I feel like in a family, a physicist, a boyfriend whose mother's a physicist how did you follow the direction of law?
[00:04:57] Debbie: Honestly, Kristin, that's a really short answer. I'm not very good at [00:05:00] math.
[00:05:02] Kristin: Fair enough.
[00:05:02] Debbie: I, I can elaborate a little, I was just one of those kids where my math scores were pretty average and my English scores were really high. So I was just more, I related more to words, which isn't surprising because I became a writer later.
And then, I joke that. I hated high school.
I was bullied in junior high, and I think that kids who wanna become control freak, who are control, freaks, become lawyers. I was basically pretty much of a control freak, and law seemed a good way to work with that.
[00:05:31] Kristin: but you did. I mean, from what I gather, it wasn't something that you really ever loved when you were doing it or did you have that control? Freak side. That was easy to turn on when you were a lawyer,
[00:05:41] Debbie: Okay. I'm glad nobody can see the faces I'm making
[00:05:43] Kristin: you're like oh no.
[00:05:45] Debbie: I think part of that is generational. You're being younger than I am , but I come from a generation in the us and We were yuppy. There was LA law and Gordon gecko and greed is good.
And we all wanted to buy homes. Real estate in California was not as crazy then. And somehow we wanted nice cars and we wanted security. So I looked into the law as something that worked with my skillset that would give me a lot of options. It was designed for that. I didn't have an adventurous spirit and I don't think the people I knew then were like the millennials I see now who are more into adventure, which I actually really admire.
[00:06:17] Kristin: Yeah, For me, at least. I remember we had a lot of times growing up, like at one point somebody was embezzling from my dad's company and it was, this kind of up and down with finances, my entire life. And so for the longest time, it was like, how can I do something I wanna do and actually make money.
now I'm back to that. I didn't expect to come all the way, you know, full circle, but there was this kind. I want this really creative, cool career, but I also need to make money, which I remember being such a driving thing and being similarly, I am very English driven, very creativity, driven, all of this kind of stuff.
And it was always what do you do that can make you money? So I do obviously wanna talk about George and and how your relationship continued, is the best way to put it.
So 1721, you finally finally clicked. It lasted. I know, again, in the book, I know that there was probably a few moments that you thought, oh, do I wanna date? Do I wanna meet new people? But you and George did end up together.
[00:07:18] Debbie: Yeah, I did want to, actually, when I went to college, I figured we would break up and my dad thought that was a good idea to have a more college kind of experience. My dad in some ways was ahead of his. After my mom died, he got into meditation. And I remember when I was going to college, he said, you should probably spend more time with the girls in your dorm.
He said, or later you're not gonna have women friends. So it was interesting as even back then he got the idea that I would need women, friends which I think is interesting. I did wanna break up with George actually my first year of college, because I wanted to be free to go to parties and not even necessarily meet boys, but I wanted to be free and I wanted to have a more college kind of experience, but nothing really gelled.
And George was pretty strong. I remember he physically carried me out of a fraternity party once it was really cute. It was like officer and a gentle. I'd said I was gonna go to a party with girlfriends. I'd come home. I was late. Remember I was 18 looking back. I'm not thrilled with myself, but I was 18.
I was on the UC Berkeley campus. He came in, said hi to everybody. He was a super friendly, nice guy was a sweetheart. Put me over his shoulder, carried me out like an officer and the gentleman. And it was just so cute. And I was, I matured pretty quickly after that, by the time I was 20. I was pretty sure I was going to law school and that I, my life was with George.
I never really got to go through that phase, but it also passed.
[00:08:36] Kristin: Yeah. I understand that because I feel like, I ended up married and now subsequently divorced, but spent, From the time I was, about 18 turning 19. I ended up marrying the guy that I was dating then. And it is funny because I feel like there's this thing where you have the potential.
And I guess this is why I brought your mom up at the beginning as well. But you have this potential to stay in that. I don't wanna say childhood romance cuz it's not, but you grow up, you wanna be with that person and the relationship that's the relat.
[00:09:06] Debbie: You don't change. Cause you stay with the. So like you don't become a different, you don't explore on your own as much. You don't look at yourself individually. What would I wanna do if I were single, where would I travel on my own? So you're kind of limited.
And that you are with the same person you've been with. So you don't do different kinds of things. You don't see yourself on your. Maybe you don't change that much from the person that your partner sees you as, right? Like your person, if you married so young, your husband saw you a certain way. So you probably saw yourself that way, even though you were young.
[00:09:45] Kristin: exactly. And I think that was, I remember like we didn't have kids and it was always in a weird way. It was almost hard to discuss because it felt too adult, which was ridiculous. We both had successful careers. Yeah. I know you mentioned not having [00:10:00] kids. And do you think that was kind of a thing?
Was it just something scary to talk about almost?
[00:10:04] Debbie: It felt kinda scary to talk about because I think I always did feel kind of young with George and I always felt like this is who we were. We were George and Debbie, the kids of nuclear physicists. And in some ways we stayed kids. He was a genius engineer. He was like a math, and um, us, we have SATs highest scores, 800.
He was an 800 S a T math kid. He was national merit scholar. So we were just these nerdy folks and. I don't know that we really saw ourselves as parents. I've wondered if I'd married somebody else who really wanted to have kids. If I would've possibly seen myself as a parent, but I think I still always saw myself as these people's daughter, this daughter-in-law this wife.
So it didn't feel that plus I was practicing law and I just didn't have the bandwidth,
[00:10:48] Kristin: yeah, it's funny. Cuz my sister just said to me recently, she said I should have a dog. And I said, oh yeah, I'm dog sitting to see if I have enough adult responsibility to do that. And she was like I certainly hope you would. Now this is my sister who has two dogs.
Cats is 10 years younger than me. and I was like, I'm not sure if I do because same thing, just spent so much time, not really. Growing. I don't wanna say I wasn't growing up. I'm a full-fledged adult. I've done, very adult things, but yeah I was for a long time somebody's daughter, somebody's wife and yeah.
In a weird way that responsibility level always seemed a bit scary.
[00:11:25] Debbie: It seems scary to me too. It did. I think, I always thought having children seemed like it would take an incredible amount of planning and all that. But I think honestly, I may not have had a huge maternal instinct. And part of that might have been growing up as an only child with a father, not having a mother kind of role model.
So that, that might be part of it. But I also think at another level that maybe not all women feel that deep urge to have children. I think of getting beyond the scope of this show, but it's something I certainly read. You know that not everybody feels those urges and that's good. That's okay.
[00:12:01] Kristin: and I definitely don't think you're getting beyond the scope because I think, I do wanna talk about changes that people have had beyond 35 women have had. And I think that such a big thing is coming to the realization that Hey, I wasn't a mother and I'm okay with that. Or, I was a mother and chose that over a job.
And I think that. That's a huge thing that we should be talking about as women. So it's not beyond the scope at all. And I agree with you, if I can't even take of a tear of a dog, I might not have a maternal instinct.
[00:12:27] Debbie: I could get through law school. I could, I had really high test scores. I could do this. I could handle a caseload. you know, We were homeowners. George had a very good job. And somehow when I thought about kids, it was always like, oh well, we'd have to move and we'd save our money. And college is this, and this is that.
And I would just throw so many obstacles down, but I think if I'd had a real urge to have children. I could have worked with it, but somehow it seemed insurmountable. So I'm thinking that it was more that I just didn't have that deep maternal urge
[00:12:57] Kristin: And as far as law, I know you didn't stay with it beyond what? 40, 30, 9 40. So what happened there?
[00:13:04] Debbie: Oh my goodness. Okay. , this is around 2001. Again, I didn't like to go far from home. So I wound up at a very conservative firm, which did insurance law, about 15 minutes from my home. And I didn't really, I was, I'm a suburban person. I, I didn't wanna work in a city. So I picked what was available and what offered the highest salary.
And it was an insurance defense firm and it was extremely sexist. One more time, extremely sexist. There were no women partners. When I left, there were a couple, but they were non equity, which means they could get kicked out and they did for no good reason. The first time I went to court, this old judge guy just yelled at me and now I would laugh.
I'd think, okay, he's a Dick. But then I was just mortified. It was hostile. I joked that I left law because people got to be mean to me all day. I don't like working in an adversarial setting. I'm not a gladiator. Back then, I wasn't as strong as I am now to deal with things like that, but I really didn't enjoy it.
I'd worked there well for 11 years, I was very stressed. I don't do well in stress and I asked to take a three month, take the summer off, take an unpaid sabb. Again, after 11 years, three months off unpaid sabbatical. And I didn't do a lot of litigation at that point I have, but I was doing things that were more giving opinions.
So I didn't have a lot of deadlines. And they said, no, you can't take an unpaid sabbatical. And George said, great, you quit tomorrow. We're done.
[00:14:30] Kristin: it seems like he had just such like. matter of fact, like you don't like it. It's not working for you. They're kind of assholes anyway, just.
[00:14:38] Debbie: That's right. It is, we were on the uppy trail. We had a small, cute house in our little suburb. We were looking at buying a bigger, more expensive house in the same suburb. It was when housing prices in California were going crazy before the crash, we were looking at his stock options, my salary and all this.
At one point, he looked at me and said, he said, if you quit right. We can [00:15:00] afford our life right here in this house. We have plenty of resources. We keep our savings or you move and you're a mortgage slave. And that was it and again, not having kids was helpful in that way, because we could do that.
We, we did fine on his salary and, I don't know. I've had doubts like, oh, I was a bad feminist for leaving the workforce,
[00:15:20] Kristin: but.
I also think being, in a firm that was so sexist and being miserable is not very feminist either to be.
[00:15:28] Debbie: It wasn't I always thought I'd go back and I would find another kind of law because obviously I still have a law degree that I could employ at any time, but somehow I just never went back.
[00:15:38] Kristin: I think that's okay. We should be able to explore options. I do feel like saying, you know, you have to be at the top of a corporation to be a good feminist is bullshit personally. So
[00:15:48] Debbie: I think so too. It was a time when, we were all dressed in boxy suits like men and trying to act more like men and being talked over at everything and having our opinions pretty much disregarded. And that was a difficult time. think, I like to think that more modern versions of feminism let women act like women instead of trying to act like a different version of a.
[00:16:11] Kristin: Yeah, definitely. Cuz I feel like, I mean what's masculine, what's feminine, but the minute somebody says success for women. It's like you're a bitch. If you act, like a man masculine traits, what have you. But for the longest time, that was the only way to get ahead. I would also like to think times have changed for.
[00:16:30] Debbie: we can.
[00:16:31] Kristin: So George got sick. We keep saying George was, so I think it's, pretty obvious that things didn't last forever. I feel like your story has a parallel as far as how George treated his own illness and kind of how your dad told you about your own mother's illness.
[00:16:47] Debbie: Very much very much. George was a workaholic. That was bad. He was a workaholic. He was the chief technical guy and a product, a personal finance product called Quicken, which was put out by Intuit. And that was a pretty big deal. And so he was a workaholic and then one day in 2009, he comes home after Quicken his shift.
He would not deal with this before Quicken has shipped and said, Quicken has shipped. I'm going to the hospital tomorrow. All right. People don't usually choose that, but um, was that okay? Maybe he was getting a physical and then he came home and said, they're running tests. And I said, I don't know what that means.
He said, I don't either. We're waiting a week, but we did if I recall it was an extremely long week and then he came home and he said I've got metastasized male breast cancer. And. The next thing he said is I will always tell you the truth, but I'm gonna be the only one who talks to you about it.
[00:17:40] Kristin: Yeah.
[00:17:41] Debbie: And I didn't know what that meant then, but I knew this wasn't good.
[00:17:46] Kristin: And how do you feel? I'm trying to think how I ever wanna phrase this. You now looking back on that, as you said you're stronger or you have a different outlook than you did then if it was you now, and he said that to you, do you think you would've reacted in the same way? Do you think you would've said absolutely not.
I'm gonna call the doctor right now or you.
[00:18:05] Debbie: I would've said no fucking way. I would've said I will be involved. I'm a competent person. And I was then I think I was more, seemed more girly and I was very hesitant to speak up, but I could certainly, you know, I've been a lawyer. I. Done court appearances, not well, I can talk to people.
I mean, Had a brain. No, right now I would say, no, this is, I'm not gonna be, I don't need to be involved in every single thing, but I'm gonna find out what's going on. I'm gonna go be on Google. I'm gonna talk to the doctor, this not happening.
[00:18:35] Kristin: Yeah, cuz it seems like he was really trying to protect you. But in, in all of those situations, usually someone who's trying to protect you is actually they're not protecting you at all because you didn't, you could see what was happening before your very eyes, but he wouldn't admit it to you.
[00:18:49] Debbie: Exactly. Yeah. It I think it probably caused more stress especially because, you know, he kept telling me I'm getting better and the chemo worked. He was good. He, at the time he, he started chemo and Some medications. And he did really well for about three or four years. So in a way I wasn't on the back burner.
I was always really concerned, but he functioned just as he always had. He just, didn't have hair and didn't look, always look perfect, he functioned, he kept working. He drove himself to, and from chemo, he made it pretty easy for me to think everything was okay.
[00:19:20] Kristin: And when did you finally know this? This isn't okay.
[00:19:24] Debbie: I knew it wasn't okay from the start. I mean, It's the internet and I asked him metastasized. Okay, that's stage four. I asked him, what stage are you in? He said, the hospital, he goes, do we don't do stages. It's too disheartening, but I'm not sure that's true. And I was pretty sure we were stage four.
So I always knew it. Wasn't. I just didn't really know what to do about it. And then when he was doing so well, I figured there's nothing specific to do. He was always getting proper medical care at a good facility, but then you know, about three and a half years in, he started to really, his [00:20:00] body started to deteriorate.
The cancer started to win. I should also add that, you know, I went, through his medical records. I looked at everything. I read everything. I Googled everything. It was just kind of secret. Looking back. I can't believe it, but I think and I go into this book, he was in denial about having cancer.
He was working, living normally. And I also felt that if that's what's keeping him going, I will be his cheerleader.
[00:20:26] Kristin: Because you can't, as much as you wanted to say no fucking way, or you would say that now you can't really disrespect the wishes of someone who's ill and, at that point dying as well, you have to also go along with, I guess you probably wanted to protect him in a way as well, or at least protect his wishes.
[00:20:41] Debbie: I wanted to protect his wishes. I wanted to protect his sense of.
Again, he was working pretty all the time. I couldn't really get him to take much time off, but I wanted to protect him living the way he wanted to live. I think that I felt like at the time that was the best thing I could do for him was protect what he wanted to do.
If he was coding at the time Quicken for cloud, that was very innovative. If that was gonna be his legacy, then okay. If he wanted to be cooking meals together, All that then that's what we were gonna do.
[00:21:14] Kristin: after he died, I know you started writing.
I love your name of the blog, the hungover widow. I think, there's a lot of people that could probably relate to that name, but what inspired you following his death to start writing?
[00:21:28] Debbie: I was obviously devastated and I had a lot of guilt, a lot of guilt. About caregiving for him, especially because he was in denial as he died. So my options were very limited and he didn't involve medical personnel the way he could have. And I felt so devastated. You go from having somebody, you do everything with, to being completely alone, waking up alone, going to bed alone being in an incredibly silent home and.
I didn't really see a lot of writing that talked about how I felt and including the anger and the drinking Manhattans, and then not doing anything productive.
[00:22:08] Kristin: such a good choice of drink though.
[00:22:11] Debbie: yeah, that was our drink together. So I kept on with that. And so I just started to write about how I felt.
[00:22:17] Kristin: And that eventually led to you getting a degree.
[00:22:19] Debbie: I did actually, that was pretty recent. George died in 2013 and I just kept blogging. And then I submitted stuff to publications and I joined a writing group and a writing class and met my friends in the writing class writing group or writing books. So I thought it'd be fun to write a book, but my writing I, I I wrote like a lawyer, you know, was pretty, it could be pretty flat.
In 2018, I decided to go back to school and I got a master's of fine arts and writing at St. Mary's college of California here in beautiful Moraga, California. And it was a great experience.
[00:22:50] Kristin: you don't write like a lawyer anymore because your book available as is, a midlife widow search for love. I just I've been reading it and It's taken me through so many different emotions because when I'm reading about George and what was happening as he was deteriorating, it's been so sad.
I've been in tears several times, but also some of the dates and things that you went on when you finally started dating again, have had me, sometimes shuttering in fear, sometimes laughing out loud. So tell me a little bit about the.
[00:23:21] Debbie: Okay. I joked that I wrote the book to warn other women about the poor quality of middle aged men, at least in the us,
[00:23:28] Kristin: I'm a little worried. I have to say
[00:23:30] Debbie: yeah, you should be very afraid and I was just shocked The book I wanted to do two things I want, I wanted to talk about creating a new life as a widow, but the dating part was kind of the funniest and the most evocative.
So that's kind of what came into the forefront. And it was just crazy. I was meeting these ridiculous characters and my life felt like a Fellini movie, not a very, not one of his best with this sort of bizarre group of people who said these things that made no sense to me. And they really seem like characters in a book, so I decided to start writing about it.
And then from there I got an editor and when you get someone critiquing your work, people say go deeper, more interiority. That was what my MFA professor said, which means reveal more of your emotions. What were you really thinking? So from there, I got past some of the dating stuff to what was really so hard.
What was my marriage really like? that was the hard part. I had a really great editor. She's a famous author fiction writer. And at one point I did a review of the book that she'd suggested, and I was all done. And this is good. This looks very nicely written. And she said, you know, you've missed the point.
You've completely idealized your marriage. You need to talk about what it was like to never grow up and to have that kind of marriage. So that was, that was hard.
[00:24:44] Kristin: Yeah, One of the questions I did wanna ask you. It seems so insensitive, but what positives that maybe have come out of the fact that obviously you don't want your husband to die. That you've been with for 32 years, you're 49 years old, but have there been [00:25:00] positives that have come out of everything?
[00:25:02] Debbie: In some ways. Yes. It certainly. Forced me to think about what I wanted to do. I'm a pretty inertial person and I'm very cautious following my mom's death. And with when I retired from law, I was pretty burned out. I was happy to garden and do home projects and I exercised a lot, And I wrote, I wrote for fun, but I didn't do anything real seriously.
I still don't. But I looked at what do I wanna do or what kind of life do I wanna have? And those question. The answer actually revealed themselves to me very slowly because it took me years to get over the death. I think that's another thing is people don't talk about is how long it takes to return to yourself or a different self after loss.
People seem to think it's something you can just go through, but after losing George for a while, I did start to think about what do I wanna do? I'm really isolated. I don't have women friends. So it's like, well, what are you gonna do with that? I don't have a lot of hobbies while I have to go out and start doing some different things.
I'd never left the us. George hadn't wanted to travel. So I started to do a few UC alumni tour group things. Actually, his parents took me on my first trip abroad, which was kind of them to say well, I should probably look at the world a little bit more
[00:26:13] Kristin: Right.
[00:26:14] Debbie: Ultimately deciding to try to publish and write a book and get a degree.
So that, that changed. And I also, I think I like to think I became a. Authentic less judgey person with more potential for happiness.
[00:26:28] Kristin: you do get into this little cocoon. I think you even mentioned in the book, something about wrapping yourself in a blanket, but it was like the cocoon of your marriage and everything. That it becomes easy to just say, if he doesn't wanna travel, I won't travel or he's been my life 32 years, I can only imagine how hard that was to change all of that, but yeah, that there is a growth that probably is a good thing, ultimately.
[00:26:51] Debbie: It was ultimately, you it was a good thing. It for the me that I am now, I would've stayed back then and I probably would've been okay. I'd always thought George and I would travel and do some more things together when he retired because his work was so intense. And I think it's a lesson to see that we never had that time.
And that's something I would I'd want to share with other people who were putting off living their dreams or the things they really wanna do for work, because they think there's more time but there might not be. And my current partner, I do have a new partner of four years. Now we look at our lives a little differently and not think, oh, we have this whole future.
We're also average age 60 right now, but we're also looking at. There isn't like this, you can't just put off having the life that you want or the things that you wanna do,
[00:27:35] Kristin: Yeah. I definitely remember my ex always saying that he I wanted to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. That's one of the things that's on my list. I don't even like to call it a bucket list cuz I don't want it to be like, what am I gonna do before I die? I want it to be like, what am I gonna do while I live?
And he was so like, oh, that's gonna take a long time. I can't take the time off work. And obviously we didn't stay together But I mean, I just feel like I always thought the same. I would always say you don't know what's gonna happen.
You don't know what's gonna happen in life. You don't know what's gonna happen to physical fitness. Things like that. You have to do them while you still have the chance.
[00:28:07] Debbie: Exactly now we're not, huge travelers, but it did spur like our decision to sell our homes and move in together sooner rather than later it spurred, a lot of decisions like that, because yet you don't know. If you keep putting off having a good time or enjoying your life well, that's every day, you're not enjoying your life.
[00:28:25] Kristin: Yeah, absolutely. You said something about the some of the funny things or some of the, not so funny things that some of the guys you dated said. I'd put down a quote because I loved that someone actually said one of the guys you dated actually said it will soon be time for us to become physical
[00:28:42] Debbie: That's right.
[00:28:47] Kristin: That's just one of many things that I read that I was like, oh God, they're so weird.
[00:28:52] Debbie: They're so weird, right? Yeah. I couldn't make up these people. All these people are true. I could not make them.
[00:28:58] Kristin: Did you change names to protect identities?
[00:29:01] Debbie: I change names to protect the, not so innocent. I probably should have changed a few more details in retrospect, but too late now
[00:29:08] Kristin: no, I'm glad you didn't because it was, yeah, it was the details are what make it actually so interesting. What do you think was kind of your most eye-opening dating experience?
[00:29:19] Debbie: It's odd. And I go into this in the book. But was the most eye-opening to me is I dated this guy who was old money, very patriarchal, treated me. Like I was sort of auditioning for the role of sort of half lady of the manner, but more like an administrative assistant. And I also dated another fellow who was into climate change, extremely modern considered himself evolved.
but both of them were very similar to me in the way they treated me and their attitudes about me as being this naive, stupid widow.
And that that's what struck me was the patriarchal attitudes of two men who were on [00:30:00] both such different sides of the spectrum in terms of style and ideolog.
[00:30:05] Kristin: Yeah, just sort of, oh, she's a widow. She'll go along with it. She needs to be taken care of
[00:30:10] Debbie: Yeah, and that, and both of them were really like, they wanted to be exclusive and neither of them was offering what I wanted. Which was more of a partnership and actually some joy and some, and enough time to have together, the more modern fellow was extraordinarily busy and he was like, oh, it means we only see each other.
And it's like, that's great for you cuz you could get laid very quickly once a week, but it doesn't do much for me. And I was really shocked. Nobody had any idea or interest in what I wanted. And they seemed to think that they could bull me over with oh, but will be exclusive.
It's like, that's not such a prize. I mean, I was a pretty unevolved woman when my husband died. But E even I knew that in this day and age exclusivity, isn't the ultimate gift. And it isn't a thing that women have to.
[00:30:58] Kristin: Especially after being with the same person for 32 years and. It seems only fair that you would have the chance to, I don't even mean sew your wild oat. I just mean meet different people. Understand how people's mentality works. See what modern dating is all about to say, oh you're not gonna, you can I'll give one bit away from the book, but like you can sleep in the downstairs bedroom, but I'm only gonna see you.
[00:31:22] Debbie: Right. Exactly.
[00:31:23] Kristin: that is not joy. That
[00:31:25] Debbie: No, there was no joy. There was no, it was not joyful. You can drive to see me cuz I hate where you live so you can come here and isn't that a gift In some ways it was a gift because I'd never been on my own. So it was very useful to be able to go from, I never venture out at night to, okay, I'm in the middle of this sort of city-ish area.
I'm not happy I can get in my car. I can drive myself home. I have agency. So that was, it was a gift in that way. But no, none of these things were good. None of these things were good. My late husband was a software engineer. I just wanna say, these were bugs, not features.
[00:32:00] Kristin: Right. yay. I really wanna be exclusive with someone. Actually just not an interesting person or brings me no joy. Yeah.
[00:32:09] Debbie: Exactly. Exactly. Yeah.
[00:32:12] Kristin: It seems to me, at least from the book that you became pretty, self-aware pretty quickly though. I don't know if it was the process of writing the book that really got you to the point that you were like, oh, I'm realizing all these things or was it as it was happening, you were going, wait a minute.
I know I'm going along with this, but it's not.
[00:32:28] Debbie: As it was happening. One of the things I didn't do, which is to trust my. And part of that was because I'd been married for 32 years and I'd started well in a union for 32 years and I never really dated. So I would meet these guys and I would think this seems a little off, or I don't know how much if I really like this person and I would think go forward.
Anyway, they have a beautiful home in a successful career and they wanna be exclusive. And they're hitting all the check marks that I should want. And so I didn't trust my instincts. And that's what I would tell a listener right now. If someone said what would you do differently? I'd say, trust your instincts.
You meet this guy. He thinks he's a schmuck. You don't like him. He's not gonna change. Your instincts are just fine. And that's something I learned through this process.
[00:33:12] Kristin: I mean it, yeah, some of them just seem like such jerks, but I think that's typical. I think, everybody who's in a union and kind of thinks, oh, I wonder what it's like to date now, or be on dating apps or whatever, when they read the real deal, it's oh yeah. That, like you said, the warning of, who's out there for middle aged men.
[00:33:31] Debbie: Yeah. It's, yeah. This is a big warning. My book does a lot more, but I really did wanna warn about the poor quality of these schmucks and how they try to make you think that this is an acceptable mode behavior and it isn't.
[00:33:43] Kristin: So in the book you talk about at the beginning, you had a Georgia meter in your head that was measuring, how would George act and what would he have said about this guy? You're with somebody now for four years. So obviously he must bring you joy. Was there still a Georgia meter. Do you know what he would've thought of your new partner?
[00:34:01] Debbie: You know, What's really good is there's a lot about my new partner that George would've really loved. My, my partner's name is Randall. We've been together four years, so it's not that new. And we've lived together for one. And my, my person now enjoys life. I think more than George did is not a workaholic, but like George, he has super good values.
He cares about our home. He's very loyal, but on the other hand, one thing that I have been able to do. Over time is to turn off the Georgia meter because I love my George, but he was a pretty old fashioned kind of guy. So I can, I can, I can also quiet him.
[00:34:39] Kristin: I love. There, there is such a positivity and such a growth that you've been through. And nobody wants to have to go through the kind of loss you did, but I think probably one of the biggest indicators of the fact that you've moved on and that you have this joyful life now is that you can turn off Georgia meter
[00:34:58] Debbie: Yes. Yes. I
[00:34:59] Kristin: Is that safe to [00:35:00] say
[00:35:00] Debbie: Yes, it is. Yes. I can do that. Yes. I can turn off the Georgia meter. I can turn off some of the voices in my head that are, that, imposter syndrome. Some of that I do have some of that, but having been through this, I can turn off some of it and that's, been valuable.
[00:35:15] Kristin: Available as is, is coming out the 13th of September, is that.
[00:35:19] Debbie: Yes, it.
[00:35:21] Kristin: Excellent. And we'll get links and everything into the show notes so I can make sure everybody can find it.
But I, like I said, it made me laugh. I've cried. I think it's, I think it's such an amazing book and definitely out of everything that you said in it, if you could give one piece of advice to a woman starting fresh, whether it's after loss or in their career, what would that piece of advice.
[00:35:43] Debbie: It's so basic, but for me it was figure out what it is that you really like to do. What fills your days with some joy? What makes you happy? I moved to a, town on the water because I realized I just needed to be by water. That made me happy. So I would say, figure out what it is that you really enjoy doing.
And if you're lonely, figure out how to do it with other people.
[00:36:08] Kristin: Yeah. I think it, sometimes it is so hard when you've been. Half instead of whole, you've been half of a couple. What is it that you personally like doing when you become that whole person? Again? What's your thing?
[00:36:21] Debbie: I never figured that out when I was younger. I'm not sure I figured it out yet either, but I know book promoting is maybe not it, but although I enjoy doing this, but it was very interesting. Yeah. I had really had no idea what did I like to do down to? What did I like to eat?
[00:36:37] Kristin: That's true. it's always, what should we have for dinner and where should we go on holiday if you go at all or?
[00:36:42] Debbie: exactly.
[00:36:44] Kristin: And did you bring a quote for me today?
[00:36:47] Debbie: Okay. This is it. Okay. This is my quote. This is because I did find someone and even though I'm pretty cynical on dating overall, I do think that love is possible when you're older. And this is a quote from my favorite writer, Lori Colwin it says cooking is like, love. You don't have to be particularly beautiful or very glamorous or even very exciting to fall in love.
You just have to be interested in it.
[00:37:13] Kristin: I love it. And I love the message of, falling in love again. And that it's possible.
[00:37:18] Debbie: It is possible. It's definitely possible. You just have to be, I think just a matter of being open and again, trusting your instincts and the other message I would give, especially women, my age, who are out there is don't settle for what you don't want. You know, There are so many guys saying this is the modern world.
This is what there is. No, it isn't, don't settle for things you don't want.
[00:37:40] Kristin: We do always say to my mom, oh, you'd be happy. We would love to see you with someone cuz she and my dad were separated for years before my dad died years and years. And she's kind of like, you know what. I like being in charge of the remote control and I like cooking what I want for dinner and that's what she wants.
So I definitely think, if she found the right person, that might be something, but she's never gonna settle for what she doesn't want.
[00:38:01] Debbie: And that's smart. See, I did for a while and that was, that was a mistake. I wasted some time with that. Or a learning curve. So that would be my advice is, you don't settle for what you don't want and you don't even have to settle for being someone. So many women these days choose to be on their own.
I know a lot of women, my age, who are simply I've raised my children, men are children. I don't want another child. I'm done,
[00:38:22] Kristin: I think that's how my mom feels, cuz she's kind of like, you know what? I took care of six kids. I, Basically cooked and cleaned for a husband. And I don't wanna do that again. So is there anything else that you would like to share with listeners before? I just say thanks.
[00:38:36] Debbie: I think we've done it. I'm very grateful. Thank you for having me here. And I'm so happy you liked the book. That was really good
[00:38:42] Kristin: I definitely, really like it. Like I said, I'll make sure to put all the links and everything into the notes so people can find it. And I really enjoyed talking with you today, Debbie. Thank you so much for joining.
[00:38:52] Debbie: I love this too. Thank you, Kristin.
[00:38:54] Kristin: Debbie and I spoke a few weeks ago, so Available As Is: A Midlife Widow's Search for Love is now available. For more information, check out the show notes at thesecondchapterpodcast.com or on your podcast platform.
Subscribe, review and share The Second Chapter- wherever you listen to your favourite podcasts or on podchaser.com
- If you like what we do, buy us a virtual coffee! https://ko-fi.com/thesecondchapter
On Facebook and YouTube as Slackline Productions