People Who Need People

Almost a month ago I wrote about my friend Mel’s launch into the world of online dating. Well, it is early days yet but it is going really well.

I didn’t want to jinx it by talking about it too early – and in fact, it probably is too early to make any assumptions about the future – but both Mel and I are old enough (and cynical enough) to suss out a genuine guy from a player.

James is a lawyer. He does a lot of human rights work (which instantly appealed to me). His wife died ten years ago when they were both in their early thirties. She died from anaphylactic shock. Apparently she had developed an allergy to peanut oil and didn’t realise until she ate something cooked in it. By the time James got her to the hospital she was unconscious. She never woke up.

I am aware of people dying from anaphylactic shock and it is a horrible, awful thing. Can you imagine, however, not knowing you were allergic to the thing that is going to kill you? There is no possibility of salvation.

When I heard of James’ tragic loss I was initially worried. Mel has had a lot of tragedy in her life. I suppose the greatest thing she has had to deal with is that she is a rape survivor. On a daily basis she has to face a lot of demons. After her first date with James she spoke of his warmth, his sincerity, his good humour. But she also mentioned the demons lurking behind his eyes. The immense sorrow. She could tell after spending one evening with him that he had grown accustomed to loneliness and that in some ways he embraced the draw of it.

Maybe deep down I am a nasty person but I hoped that after the first date they wouldn’t see each other again. I guess I have seen too many people hoping their shared moments of tragedy would form a bond between them that was unbreakable and that, in turn, that bond would act as a barrier against further tragedy; only to see them sink further into the mire.

James didn’t date for ten years. He was enshrouded in grief. His wife was the love of his life. One morning he woke up and realised he was sick of the only voice in the house being his, so he tentatively began dating again.

He had a few unsuccessful encounters, which discouraged him briefly. But his sister saw Mel’s profile on the dating site and urged him to act. And they rest, as they say, is history…..

I see a difference in Mel. Her eyes sparkle, she holds her head high. There is sunlight everywhere she looks. I had almost forgotten the buoyant feeling the first burst of love can bring, the feeling that life is not as bad as you thought after all.

She says she is ready to be happy. At long last. She does not believe the tragic imprint of  James’ loss nor of her own is indelible. She believes the mark of it will make them appreciate the good times they will have because they know those times can be fleeting.

Even if things turn sour she feels she can now walk through the day with her fear diminished. She has glimpsed little shoots of hope climbing up through the rocks, reaching, ever-reaching, for something to grasp and cling to. Little shoots which, if nurtured could grow into something extraordinary. Which, maybe one day, might transform themselves into an entire field of flowers.

30 thoughts on “People Who Need People

  1. Great post Selma – you give me hope as I set out on the road of dating for the first time since my husband died. James sounds like a lovely guy. I get absolutely his sudden sense of being fed up being alone in the house. That’s what happened to me, completely out of the blue. After being a haven for me for nearly three years, now it feels like a prison, and I cannot wait for my first date, good or bad. I send hugs and luck to Mel and James. I’m so glad they are seeing those little shoots of hope (and I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll see some soon too!)


  2. i would prefer to be in a relationship with someone i know has had similar degrees of pain or disappointment.. i feel off balance if someone i think is “normal” is pursuing me,, as i feel like there is no way we could ever be on the same plane…

    i hope the best is in store for both mel and james,, as it sounds as if they both deserve a little piece of happiness……


  3. I think they may be some kismet happening here. I think your friend has found a keeper. I really hope he’s the man that is meant for her. Sounds like they both deserve some good times and happiness after all the grief. Good luck Mel!!!! 🙂


  4. Well, here’s the thing … back when I’d never lost someone dear to me, I often felt uncomfortable around someone who had.

    Now, I can say something like ‘I know how you feel; believe me, this will pass!’ It’s hard to explain, but when my cousin died a couple of years ago, I’d just lost my brother, and his family and mine sort of comforted each other. So, if they’ve both experienced loss, but stopped hurting a little … ??? I hope so, anyway.


  5. Oh, I am so excited for your friend. Though I understand your reservations, I agree with Paisley that perhaps its better for someone to have experienced similar pain. I’m crossing my fingers and toes, and sending well wishes your friend’s way.


  6. I too think that having some shared experience base, especially with the kinds of sudden loss/pain you write of for Mel and James, can make it easier for two people to form a bond where it might otherwise be quite difficult – even impossible.

    The risk which you articulated so well, is quite real – the shared pain can so quickly become a trap. Such a difficult line to walk, but ultimately worth taking the chance; IMO safe isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Lovely post Selma, and my best to your friend!!


  7. “I see a difference in Mel. Her eyes sparkle, she holds her head high.” – Oh, I’m so happy for her! I’m sure it will be okay, Selma. It seems so right. I wish them both the strength to heal and much happiness to follow.


  8. PUDDOCK – and I send hugs to you. Oh, how I hope your first date goes well. I know it’s scary but Mel has taught me that just the fact that you’re making the break and trying to change things does wonders. She describes herself as being in ‘self-imposed seclusion.’ And now she is sick of it. She says going on dates is like ‘spring-cleaning the mind.’ All the best to you.

    PAISLEY – you know, you are right. I think I’ve been looking at it in the wrong way. Someone ‘normal’ may not necessarily understand the dark moments. Mel has said the same thing. I am so sorry you and Mel live at opposite ends of the world because I am sure you would get on like a house on fire.

    GERALDINE – I know it sounds hopelessly romantic but I do believe in kismet. I have seen evidence of it a few times and the wonder of it is startling. I hope you’re right, Geraldine, I really do.

    TRAVELRAT – thank you for your wise words. You are completely right. Shared experiences can forge a bond, for sure. I think I worry too much.

    HOLLY – I realise now I have been looking at things back to front. I guess I have been thinking of my sister’s experience – three marriages to three ‘broken’ men which just ended up in complete disarray. I feel if she had married ‘normal’ men she wouldn’t have encountered the problems she’s had. But Mel is a different kettle of fish, entirely. And James is ‘normal’ – he’s just been sad for a while. I have a feeling everything will be fine. Thank you.

    KAYT – oh how nice to hear from you. I have missed you.’Safe’ definitely isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Sometimes stepping out into the wide blue spaces can open up possibilities you never imagined.

    DAOINE – thank you for your kind wishes. You are brilliant. XX


  9. I have almost died from anaphylactic shock TWICE. Thats why I have to go for allergy testing every six months. I am forever developing new allergies.

    Poor Jim. I cant imagine how painful that must have been for him to deal with.

    I am very excited for MEL. She is giving me hope that I may even try online dating again. I think “dating my computer” might be getting old!


  10. MELEAH – oh, that is terrifying. So you develop allergies to things you weren’t allergic to before? You are a marvel for coping with that. I really take my hat off to you. I can’t imagine how stressful that must be.

    I’m excited for Mel too. I think it’s a sign that you should have that conversation with your computer. You know the one – ‘it’s not you, it’s me?’ LOL. I hope you give dating a try again. You deserve every happiness.


  11. I’m terrified if allergies too, I carry an epi-pen with me all the time, I’m allergic to nuts but the weird thing is that I have always eaten Kraft peanut butter and nothing had ever happened. One day I was out with friends at a cafe and had a carrot cake and had a severe reaction at the cafe that they brought me to the hospital and that is how I found out I was allergic to nut (the carrot cake had nuts) even the doctor found it amazing that peanut butter never did anything to me – which shows how processed that stuff is, but he told me stop eating it since I was playing with fire because maybe one day I would get a severe reaction.

    Well back to your friend I am so glad for her – I guess there are some good people out there on-line. I have not had success on it but maybe once my life gets back on track (you know what I’m talking about) like you said maybe I’ll meet someone at school or hey I’ll give on-line dating another try. I wish her all the luck in the world!


  12. There is something to be said for the broken seeking the broken. Yes, sometimes it can be dysfunctional. But sometimes the only people who will truly get you, and be loyal to you, are the ones who have suffered pain on a similar level.


  13. Hi again Selma,

    Nothing to add re: this post but I am writing with a warning for you and your readers re: incoming links on WP (perhaps other) blogs.

    A couple of days ago, I clicked on an ‘incoming link’ at my poetry blog. The link was to the ‘Altoona Mirror’ or so I thought. Immediately, my computer went wonky, with a bunch of screens coming up, warning me of a virus being on my computer. It turned out being 3.

    Yes, I did clean them off successfully but it was really strange and unpleasant. I don’t know if this was just a coincidence but it didn’t seem like it was. So, be very,very careful of links you click on, coming into blogs. It could have been a lot worse. I have alerted WP to the problem too. Hackers….don’t they have anything better to do with that kind of mind-capability? Sad, isn’t it!!! 😦


  14. Basket of Figs
    Bring me your pain, love. Spread

    it out like fine rugs, silk sashes,

    warm eggs, cinnamon

    and cloves in burlap sacks. Show me

    the detail, the intricate embroidery

    on the collar, tiny shell buttons,

    the hem stitched the way you were taught,

    pricking just a thread, almost invisible.

    Unclasp it like jewels, the gold

    still hot from your body. Empty

    your basket of figs. Spill your wine.

    That hard nugget of pain, I would suck it,

    cradling it on my tongue like the slick

    seed of pomegranate. I would lift it

    tenderly, as a great animal might

    carry a small one in the private

    cave of the mouth.

    — Ellen Bass

    All the best to Mel and James. And thanks for another great post.



  15. How exciting – and how wonderful to hear about the spring in Mel’s step. If nothing ever comes of it, a big hug to her for putting herself out there, and for the sunshine in her life today.


  16. Love should always be given a second chance, in my opinion. Countless second chances, in fact. Even when, at the moment, I’m terrified to believe this myself. If Mel’s happy today, isn’t that what it’s all about? I share in her happiness, for as long as it lasts. And I sincerely hope it does last long enough.


  17. TBALL – you poor thing. It’s incredible how many people are allergic to nuts these days. It scares me. Once your life gets back on track (and I know it will) you should give online dating a try. I have an entirely different view of it now. Isn’t it amazing how one person can change your perspective?

    ANTHONY – absolutely. So much in life is a gamble. Something as inconsequential as crossing the road can be a gamble. But we have to take the risk, don’t we? Otherwise our lives remain stagnant.

    CRAFTY GREEN – Oh, I hope so too. Wouldn’t it be nice?

    INGRID – you are completely right. Shared experiences are so important. So glad you stopped by.

    GERALDINE – Holy Spyware! Nothing like that has happened to me yet but my hubby got a virus last year and it destroyed his motherboard. It was such a drama. Hope you have managed to fix everything up!

    DAVID – once again, a beautiful inclusion from you. If I could write like that my life would be complete. Thank you.

    NANNA – it is like a little ray of sunshine whenever I hear from you. I hope you are doing well. I know Mel will appreciate your kind thoughts.

    CHRIS – with you 100%. Too many people say – ‘That’s it, I’m through with love.’ But what if the man or woman you meet unexpectedly turns out to be the one? How sad if you let them go.There’s always light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to love. Now I’m sounding like a romance novelist, but you know what I mean. XX


  18. I hate to sound crass here, but I actually think that the fact that he lost his wife is a good sign when it comes to his ability to be in a committed relationship. I say this not because I think his tragedy was a good thing, but because most people who reach middle age and have always been alone probably don’t really want to have a committed relationship. Certainly there are exceptions. It’s just that the people I know who are well into adulthood and have never established a long term relationship with anyone are people who either don’t want one or who are unable to be in one. Again, there are exceptions, it’s just a pattern that I’ve noticed.


  19. LINDA – oh, I hope so too. It would just be fabulous!

    RICHARD – you are spot on. My hubby and I have a few male friends in their 40s who are single, who have never been married or in long-term relationships. Many of them like being bachelors but the others are in the kind of mindset where they couldn’t possibly accommodate someone else. So they remain single. The more I think about it the happier I am that James was married at one time.

    KAREN – me too. Wouldn’t it be luverly?


  20. DAOINE – I know. David is a master at tracking down the most beautiful pieces of writing. If I was a publisher I’d employ him as my chief researcher. No one could top him!


  21. Hi Selma–everyone here has said it beautifully, GOOD LUCK TO MEL & JAMES!
    btw, I was NEVER allergic to peanuts, until 7 ago, when I suddenly developed welts and redness, for no apparent reason. I went to hospital, and the doc there diagnosed it as an allergy to strawberries, or peanuts(two things I’d eaten within 24 hours of the outbreak).When I later woofed down a miniature “Dove” dark chocolate bar and became itchy and had trouble swallowing, I checked the back of the bag, and saw in tiny print:
    Allergy Warning : this product was processed in a facility which processes peanuts.
    The reason people can suddenly develop allergies is that our body chemistry changes as we age. Also, if we suddenly begin eating something we SELDOM ate before, you can develop an allergy by becoming over-sensitized to it(in my case, I HATED peanut butter as a child, never ever ate it. Some years ago, I began eating LOTS of Thai food, which contains peanuts in several dishes, and/or peanut sauce.The hospital doc said that could’ve caused it, too.)
    I’ve been advised to get an epi-pen. Which I should do!


  22. LISA – that is awful. I wasn’t sure why people suddenly became allergic to things they weren’t allergic to before but the body chemistry changing as we age totally makes sense. That is just alarming. Get that epi-pen straight away. I can’t bear to think of you having an allergic reaction and not being able to do anything about it.


  23. It seems very difficult to pinpoint how allergies develop. It intrigues me – maybe if I live to a ripe old age and get bored I might begin a PhD in allergy research (add it to the list).

    There seems to be one line of evidence suggesting that overexposure can cause allergy, as in the case of an increase of peanut allergies where pregnant women eat a lot of peanut butter sandwiches or crackers (as opposed to war years when peanut butter was a luxury), and also people who suddenly develop allergies to chemicals after years of using heavy duty chemicals to disinfect their homes.

    Then the other line of evidence is underexposure, where the body has no immunity to the allergen, and is suddenly exposed and vulnerable. This seems to be the case with developing hayfever when visiting a new country, or being allergic to an animal you’ve never encountered before, or eating something for the first time that prompts an allergic reaction.

    I wonder if we’ll all soon be carrying epi-pens “just in case”. Do they require a prescription?


  24. DAOINE – that is so interesting. I think you should add ‘researcher’ to your to-do list. You would look good with a white coat and a clipboard!


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