Please welcome M. Hill, who was voted by our viewers this past month as the most visited profile. M has written one of the most entertaining books I've read in a long time, The Ones That Got Away, which is a humorous memoir of twenty-five plus years of dating and relationship experiences. Think Bridget Jones Diary meets Sex and the City. M.'s book will be enjoyed by anyone who is in the dating pool, but also by women world wide who have ever tried to understand men or who have asked, "Why would he do that?" Women who are contemplating marriage are likely to gain the most valuable advice from this book. More than anything, M. believes that women shouldn't "settle" just so they won't be alone, and that any relationship worth keeping should enhance a woman's life, not just ensure she won't be home alone on a Saturday night.
PDB: Congratulations, M., on grabbing the top hits this month on the PDB. As you know, but our readers do not, your book began attracting a lot of attention from the moment it hit the PDB front page, collecting many hits even before the book was available for sale. It appears as if "dating" is a topic many can relate to.
M: Thank you. I do agree with you. Dating is a relatable topic – across the board. It’s the one thing we all do, and my story spans from thirteen years of age to forty. It’s probably safe to say there is a little of something for everyone in my book. Someone had asked me what I thought was an appropriate age for a reader of my story, and initially I said 18 and older. But since then, the daughter of a very good friend of mine has been on a mission to get a hold of my book. Jill is only 14 years old – just one year older than I was when I suffered my first broken heart. So I’ve been giving this some thought. Now certainly my stories mature and get meatier than adolescent heartbreak, and while some may be deemed inappropriate for someone Jill’s age, I think there is a chance after reading the end of Chapter 3, she may not rush into losing her virginity, and that would be a good thing. I certainly did not romanticize the experience (although it makes for a funny story a couple of decades later). My tales may even help her further down the line with some of the jokers she’s bound to encounter; so who knows, I think I’ll let her mother make that call.
PDB: I know you've chosen to remain somewhat anonymous due to the candid content of your book, so I can't share your photo. However, just to clear up any misconceptions that we're not talking about a hard-up spinster, I'd like to share one of my favorite passages in the book where you describe yourself...
"I asked one of the young high school boys who worked there if Wayne was around. He told me Wayne was in the back doing paperwork and went to get him. As the kid disappeared, I heard him yell, “Hey, Wayne, there’s a lady out here to see you!”
Lady? That went over like a fart in church. Lady? Was he kidding me? I looked down at myself for assessment—a moment of reflection. I was wearing Keds. I was in Levis—size 4, I’d like to add. I had on a white T-shirt, and my hair was in a ponytail. Lady? How the hell old did he think I was? When he reappeared to tell me that Wayne would be right with me, I said, “Thanks,” and yelling after him, I exclaimed, “and I’m only in my thirties—early thirties!” It was probably true that I was at least twice this child’s age but… lady? I don’t think so. Wayne thought it was amusing."
M: Thanks for that. I can remember that scene like it was yesterday. I’m somewhat modest, but I can comfortably say that most people say I am nice looking – although I like to go with ‘okay looking.’ It’s pretty sad that if I were homely, people wouldn’t wonder, probably, why I was alone. They’d just say, “Oh, look at that poor woman… so homely, must be why she’s alone.” Never mind the fact that even homely people can be beautiful inside.
PDB: M, I know that you’re vocal about our stereotypical beliefs about women and marriage. While it is apparently perfectly fine to be a successful, unattached bachelor, you've found that women are held to a different set of standards.
M: It’s true, and I just touched briefly on it, if I were unattractive there would be fewer questions, I think. So you have someone (me) who is ‘okay looking,’ successful, has a decent personality, is involved, and… alone. It doesn’t add up. When asked about my marital status, if I said, “divorced,” people would accept that without blinking an eye. Or worse, if I said, “widow,” they’d say, “Oh, that’s too bad,” but they’d accept it. For some reason, to answer with, “single, and not really even looking anymore,” just seems to make people uncomfortable. I think that’s due to the fact that for most people, they don’t like to be alone.
PDB: Have you fought with the "It's Saturday night and I don't have a date" syndrome, and how did you overcome it?
M: I may have struggled with that at some point. Generally I would say that after a relationship ends, after being accustomed to a certain pattern of behavior, that’s when I think it would hit me. But it is a definite non-issue for me now. Just last Saturday night (to say night is almost a stretch), at 8:36 p.m. I washed my face, brushed my teeth, and changed into some lounge wear – I was done for the day, and thrilled! I distinctly remember thinking, Thank God I am not getting dressed to go out right now. Honestly, I think I’d rather stick needles in my eye.
PDB: You've been clear in encouraging women to find a man who adds to or enhances her life.
M: There has to be give and take. Not just take. For me, it seems that men are huge takers. Here’s a little side story. Just recently I was in an ice cream parlor with my niece and nephew, when in walked a young couple, obviously out on a date. She was in a cute little sundress and strappy sandals, and he was dressed, very nicely, in creased pants and a dress shirt. She ordered a single scoop of ice cream, in a cup. The kid behind the counter handed her the cup and said, “That’ll be $1.69.” She looked to her ‘date,’ at which point he said, “Oh…, I don’t have any money.” I thought to myself, Oh, honey, cut him loose. C’mon, you’re on a date and you don’t have two dollars?!? I wondered if she paid for dinner. Why we, as women, sell ourselves short, I’ll never know. I realize that there are feminists out there who would take offense to being treated to a scoop of ice cream, but I don’t subscribe to that. I’m comfortable with myself and my abilities and am not in the least bit threatened over an ice cream cone. I would love to find a man that would like to take care of me, not that he has to, certainly, but it would be a refreshing change to find one that would, at least, like to. Some men just seem to be looking for mothers. I’m not interested in that. Aren’t there any well adjusted, self-assured, confident men out there – out there and who aren’t already married to other women?
PDB: In the book, you talk about several dates where the best thing you could have done was "abandon ship" (or date, as it were). Can you offer suggestions on the best way to do that? Is it better to end the date early? Or stay it out and learn from it for the next time?
M: This sounds like a question directly related to blind dates; so I can, of course, share some suggestions. 1. Keep it casual – just a quick drink. If the drink goes well, you can always extend the time together. 2. Always meet somewhere – drive your own car. These two gems are a must for blind dates. Now let’s say you’ve had a couple of dates, and there just isn’t any spark. Why continue? Just cut your losses and move on. When he asks for the subsequent date, simply say, “Oh, I’m sorry, I don’t think so.” It is best to get out the minute you know you’re not interested (if you don’t, you may find yourself marrying the guy one day). That spark is either there or it isn’t, simple as that – it is not going to develop over time.
PDB: Can you offer some good date-picking criteria - or perhaps the opposite, when to let that date "get away"?
M: It all goes to chemistry. It’s either there or it isn’t. As I just mentioned, if it’s not there for you, it will not develop. Now here’s the tough part, it may be there for you, and not be there for him. And if it’s not, it will not grow or develop within him either – walk away.
PDB: I have heard you speak out about women who "settle" and that most women know before they get married when they are making a mistake. What are some signals a woman might have to alert her to this wrong, and how does she correct it before it's too late?
M: I think you know in your heart when it’s wrong. That’s when you have a decision to make, but do not kid yourself into thinking once you’re married, it will get better. It won’t. It will get worse. You’ll end up resenting that person because they’re not the right one. I don’t mean to come off like Johnny Doomsday here. It’s just that if you’d like to have that ‘you complete me’ moment from Jerry Macguire, and you’re forcing in a puzzle piece that doesn’t fit quite right – just to complete the picture, well, what do you think your life will be like? When I ended my engagement, I couldn’t believe how many women said they knew on their wedding day they were marrying Mr. Wrong, not Mr. Right.
PDB: If you could offer men five successful dating tips, what would they be?
M: Let’s see…
1. Don’t ask, “When was the last time you had sex?”
2. Don’t talk all night about your ex.
3. Don’t share restraining order stories (they are not funny – ever).
4. Postpone the date if you have a weeping sore on your face.
5. Iron your shirt.
PDB: I don't want to end without touching base on your writing process. Could you tell our readers a little bit about how this book came about and the process you used to write it?
M: I had a lightning bolt flash of inspiration. My opening sentence came to me – and I sort of explain that in Chapter One, then the title, then, like dominos, the whole story fell out in my head. I began to write immediately. Initially it just poured out of me, but I did occasionally hit some stumbling blocks. In those instances, I’d sometimes put on music from a specific year, look through photo albums, or just go for a hike and let thoughts and feelings resurface. Of course there were also those moments in the shower where a particular word or memory would come to mind; then I’d have to tip-toe out of the shower, soaking wet, to record whatever little nugget came to mind on a Post-it. Ah, the Post-it note. I may be able to live without a man, but I don’t think I could live without the Post-it. The people who truly know me would concur.
PDB: Thanks for sharing with us today. If you'd like to read an excerpt from M.'s book, click the Amazon.com buy now link below and click to "Search Inside the Book," or click on M's profile link, and choose her "Links" tab where you can find a click over to her blog. I know you'll say as you're laughing to yourself, "Oh, migod, I can't believe that actually happened," when you read about "Sonny."