My Two-Week Stint as a Cougar: A Cautionary Tale of Dating a Multi-Level Marketer

kissingIt has been a long time since I’ve blogged and I have realized that there are so many stories to tell, I have become a bit overwhelmed with which adventure to share first. As none of the stories floating around in my head have yet to be written down, I decided to take the photo-album approach and start with the most recent. This story may be a little lengthy, but as it has many lessons in it, you may find it worth the read.

My friends and I have a joke that when one of us is obsessing over an issue or person, we say it’s time to let it go and “put it/him/her in the box.” It’s our code for go ahead and vent it for the last time, and then never speak of it again. At any rate, this is my therapeutic way of keeping me from hunting down an asshole and castrating him. OK, a little over dramatic and maybe out of line, but I’m a woman, what can I say? He definitely needs to go in the box.

To preface this story, if you’ve never had any experience with a multi-level marketing company, aka, MLM, aka, direct sales or direct-marketing, feel free to Google it now…I’ll wait…They are companies such as Mary Kay, Pampered Chef, Amway, Juice Plus and the list goes on. This blog is not a platform about the dangers and/or wonders of these types of businesses. Make your own opinions and judgments, this is just my story…the story of how I got suckered in and manipulated by a smooth-talking, charismatic, good-looking, twenty-eight year old asshole.

It starts out on a warm summer Thursday night. Ironically it is the night that would have been my 15th wedding anniversary if I hadn’t ended my marriage five years ago. I need to go out; I need to be seen. I am wearing a fun/sexy sundress, having a decent hair day, made-up and ready to go on a date. The only catch is the guy isn’t sure if his kids are going to be spending the night with him or not. Fair enough, kids come first in my book. So, as I wait to hear the outcome of our evening, several girlfriends “twist” my arm into grabbing a drink with them for ladies night. I figure I might as well start the night off since I’m dressed and ready. If he cancels, at least I’m already out with good friends.

A few drinks in (and now being joined by one of my friend’s husband, our now token male), I receive a text from my potential date stating that he can’t go out because his children are spending the night after all. As aforementioned, I’m completely OK with the situation until I read the follow-up text; “Sorry, but I can’t sneak away because my girlfriend just showed up.” WTF?!?! (Note: this will be another blog down the road).

Side note: I should mention that at this point, it has been five months since I have had really satisfying sex. There was a quick night in the middle of this time span, but I’m not even sure it is noteworthy enough to write about or mention much more than the fact that it happened (ouch, but true). Needless to say, my 38 year-old libido is ready to explode. Not that I am justifying my actions, but it does provide a little necessary back-story.

My appalled friends order me another drink as they decide to make it their mission to find me a replacement for the night. Now mind you I am in a group of four married women and now inebriated token-male spouse, who not only is providing entertainment, but he decides to take it upon himself to bring over a young man we were ogling earlier. As it turns out, this drop-dead gorgeous guy is married, but his also very good-looking friend happens to be single. Hottie-McHottie brings his friend over, and to my complete mortification, I am introduced as, “The single one out of all of us.” That isn’t embarrassing or anything (insert eye-roll). The two of them join us and we all carry on varied conversations. As it turns out, the single friend and I share a birthday, only his is a decade before mine! Suddenly I feel a bit cougar-ish, but I don’t really care at this point because he is incredibly attractive, extremely witty and let’s face it, after essentially five months of celibacy, I was just fine with having some fun. Even his slight arrogance is appealing.

As the night wears on, we find out they are both part of a multilevel marketing business that sends people on their “Dream Vacations.” For those of you who have any experience with MLM businesses or the people in them, sometimes they can come across as, well, pushy. However, this guy seemed to be the anomaly. In fact, he was being quite cryptic about what he does for a living.

Side-note: this is a proven tactic to spark someone’s curiosity.

When I ask for a business card, he gives a long heart-felt speech about how he finds cards to be impersonal and a waste of paper, as most people throw them out. An environmentalist; score! He has strong beliefs about when making a connection, whether it is personal or in business, it’s better just to exchange numbers and put them directly into your phone. As I’m listening to this guy talk, I realize that he is probably way too young. How could he possibly be interested in a woman close to 40?  At some point, our token male leans over to me and whispers, “You can do so much better than this guy. Find someone real.” Deep down, I know he is right, but he is drunk and let’s face it, I’m in need of some action, and soon.

The night winds down, he takes down a few of our phone numbers, and we all go our separate ways. As I lay in bed wide awake at 1am, I receive a text saying how much fun he had hanging out with all of us and we should do it again. We end up continuing on with an hour-long texting conversation until we both pass-out mid-sentences at some point.

The next day, I feel excitement wash over me as he sends a text saying good morning.  Not only that, but I find out I am the only one he texted. The faint, little voice of reason says this is not a good idea, but she is soon squashed by the booming voice of my ego. We continue to text for a week or so, flirting, making sexual jokes and being very playful. I keep telling myself that 28 is way too young and I should just walk away, but Ego just cannot seem to let it go. I’m drawn in by the fact that he has a 9 year-old son. I decide this gives him street credit and maybe a bit of maturity. Despite my slight annoyance with his text-only conversations (so typical of the millennial generation), I decide to continue my pursuit.

We finally meet up for coffee a week and a half later. I find out he has a little more depth than I expected, and I convince myself that we could potentially have an intellectual connection. He doesn’t seem to want to discuss his business or “pitch” me, but curiosity of how you sell vacation in an MLM business takes over. I ask a few questions, but he doesn’t really want to get into it and casually suggests that I should go to one of his presentations. Then he hits me with the mother of all MLM lines, “I don’t need anyone else on my team at this point, I just think you could use an extra stream of income and would be really great at it! It’s really your call.” Phew, that relieves the pressure, as this language is designed to do. Of course at this point, I am completely unaware of this tactic.

Steamy scene from the Notebook

One can only fantasize.

We sit through a torrential down-pour huddled under an umbrella at Starbucks. It was a complete romantic cliché movie moment, minus the fact that he spends a large amount of time texting.  Apparently he has a vast down-line, because he is quite successful in this company. So, I confiscate his phone and pretend that it isn’t a big deal. When he puts his arm around me for the traditional coffee-date-side-hug, I feel my entire body tingle. I let my ego win, yet again, and decide to pursue another date.

Trying to set this up, however, seems to present a challenge as he has some meeting or presentation almost every night. My kid-free nights are running out and I’ll be damned if I’m going to wait another two weeks! I allow myself to be persuaded to go to a meeting where he is presenting, which would be followed by a date of some sort. Or so I thought…

After making a conscious effort to be ready on time, he shows up 40 minutes late. He can’t be bothered to come to my door, but I am graced with a phone call (one of the first ever), announcing his arrival. I am beginning to think he wasn’t aware that a cell phone can be used to make actual voice calls. I probably should walk away at this point, but Ego says, “Nope! He looks too sexy and you spent too much time primping to walk away now.” Libido chimes in, “You shut me down for way to long, so let’s just see where this goes. ”

I sit through his long hour and thirty minute presentation, half paying to what’s going on and half enamored with his charismatic charm. Ego chimes in, “That’s right people! I came with the hottie on stage and I’m taking him home with me too! I may be just about middle-aged, but I’ve still got it!” The parts that I pay attention to actually seem fairly interesting. Who wouldn’t want to travel at wholesale prices? There’s some mention of an intro fee and monthly fees, which are waved once you sign up additional people, blah, blah, blah, but at this point I’m incredibly exhausted, extremely hungry and ridiculously horny. My mind is no longer able to focus clearly. As he wraps up and sits down next to me,  he leans in with a seductive crooked smile and bright blue eyes,  and asks if I’m in. Sure, sounds good. I’ll do it; can we just get out of here and feed me in every way possible?

Before I know what I agreed to, I’m being handed paper work, but I only start filling it out in hopes that we can escape this exhausting place and finally get to our date. By the time we get to a restaurant, it’s after 10 and now I really need a drink. My head is pounding, stomach grumbling and all he wants to talk about is getting my paperwork done and logged-in. I tell him I don’t have my credit card, hoping he will drop the sales pitch, but now I’m too fried, buzzed, and hungry to carry on with normal date conversation. It is probably around this point that I make the decision to let all inhibition go and unleash the cougar.

After dinner I invite him inside under the pretenses of getting my credit card, but really at this point, my plan is that of attack. We start kissing, which leads to touching, which leads to under the clothes kind of touching. But then he stops. He pauses for a deep breath, and says that we can’t do this if I intend to do the business. It is up to me to make a choice; sex or potential income. Really?!? Those are my options? In this moment, all I really want is sex, but then he cleverly adds that once I don’t need his help anymore and my business is off and running,  we could then pursue this course of the relationship. Choosing sex now seems a bit slutty. Ego informs me to go ahead and say yes to the business, because we can still seduce him, if not now, then later. That way we get both needs met! The realization that he is way too young seeps in again, and I imagine there is a chance I will get bored after a few months anyway. I might as well see if I can make a go at the business and save the sex for later.

I do next what any rational cougar would do; choose to become a network marketer, and still try to attack him. I can tell he is conflicted as we vacillate between kissing passionately and “no, we really can’t do this.” He seems to be OK with the current touching and kissing level as long as actual sex isn’t on the table. He says I made the right decision, yet doesn’t feel the need to zip up his pants just yet. I suddenly turn into “the guy” using all of the lines women generally roll their eyes at and become disgusted. “Oh come on, just for a sec? How ‘bout just the tip?”

After fooling around for a while, I give up my full body assault. He really is trying to be somewhat professional. Maybe he hasn’t fully succeeded at that, but he is trying, despite me throwing various naked body parts at him. I’m too tired for this battle, so I cease and desist. He leaves around midnight, walking a little funny, but in my mind, that was his own fault.

I wake up the next day feeling a little conflicted and embarrassed about the whole situation. On one hand, it doesn’t bother me that my cougar instincts took complete control. But now that he is going to be training me, would the fact that we have seen naked bits and pieces get in the way? I ask him to meet me. It feels necessary to see him in person to apologize for my behavior and assure him that I will be able to keep everything on business level (for now). However, now he is too busy and can’t possibly meet me in person. I am given instructions to watch a training video and text 20 people with the message “coffee?”

As I mull over the training videos and presentations, reality begins to sink in. What the fuck did I just sign up for? The language that I am to use to dupe people into watching a presentation not only does it sound deceitful, but it is language I would never ever use. OK, maybe I can get around it and add my own touch. No! You have to do it this way or else no one will meet you for coffee! I’m instructed to be vague to my closest friends, deceive them into a coffee date, where they will be ambushed with a presentation, and I have to do this 20 times in the next week! Wait, how much did I pay for this? Did I seriously just sign up for something without reading the contract or doing the research? Of course you did! You let your deprived sex-drive and ego run the show! Logic, discernment and basic brain function took a serious back seat to the prospect of sex with a 28 year-old!

As my breathing becomes erratic and panic sets in, I try to spin this positively. OK, so I got myself into this. At least I can start to travel at inexpensive rates and maybe even take my kids somewhere special. I begin to research their travel search engine to see what kind of vacations I can find and watch more videos hoping that I can turn this into something useful. Every video exudes an obnoxious MTV spring break-like scene with a plethora of 20 something year olds partying at the pool, on the beach, in Vegas or in a hot tub, etc. They are all waving the characteristic blue sign “You Should Be Here!” No I shouldn’t! I don’t want to spend my vacations with 2000 other network marketers! I don’t want to party until I am sick and have no stomach contents left! And I certainly don’t want to waive that ridiculous blue sign around and post it all over my Facebook page. And then it occurs to me how they sell cheap vacations. They mass-book a resort so you can travel with 2000 of your closest friends. I am officially speechless and filled with intense regret.

I try to call MLM-guy to talk me down from hyperventilation, but his “millennial” issue comes up again. Only have time for texting. I finally get a hold of him, but he only has a few minutes before his next call. I begin to express my concern about lying to my friends and how angry they would be. He belittles my concerns with, “your friends are no different from the 400,000 other people’s friends in this company. When you tell them that you don’t care whether they join or not, it takes the negativity away.” In a flash, I understand that I have been completely taken. All of the tactics I am now being trained to do are the same ones he used on me! I replay the course of events of the past week. Not only did he act like he didn’t care, he acted vague so I wouldn’t get my questions answered. He even tried to get me to attend a presentation earlier in the week disguising it as a date. Even giving me the “choice” of the business or sex was a manipulation of sorts. He subtly worded it in the, “You can have your cake and eat it!” sort of way. Do the business now, and then you can do ME later!

He finally gives me five minutes of phone time late Saturday night, and when I question him, he is annoyed. I pathetically ask how much I invested when under the influence of my hormone-driven state. I feel like an embarrassment and disappointment to my Virgo sign. I have NEVER given my credit card to someone or for anything not knowing what I was paying for. $365! To say that I am horrified is an extreme understatement. I can’t decide if I am more upset with myself for being such an idiot or the fact that he is handling my naivety like a complete asshole! I tell him that I had in my mind it was somewhere around $100 and he snidely replies that it was only shown on 5 slides during the presentation. Right, the presentation I was half paying attention to and half drooling over his biceps. On the verge of tears now, I can’t speak. He tells me he has a conference call and we hang up.

The next morning I text, “I can’t do this.” Surely this warrants a phone call. Nope!

“Haha why is that?” He texts.

“It’s just not a good fit for me.”

“Why do you think that?”

Could you please pick up the fucking phone and call me!!!! is all I can think, but I politely respond, “Hard to explain via text.”

Knowing I most likely won’t be graced with the melodic sound of his voice, we get into heated discussion using  book-length texts. When he sends me the most back-handed compliment anyone can possibly give, where he essentially tells me I am a quitter and a horrible role model for my girls, I can’t help but wonder if he has some marine background. It was like he was breaking me down and sort of trying to build me up. “You suck, but you’re so amazing at strong at the same time,” is the message I get. I plea my dissatisfaction of his lack of in-person time given to me, and he tells me that he gave me a couple of hours and my excuse mindset needs to go.

He gave me a couple of hours of his precious time??? Wasn’t that a date?

After a fair amount of bullshit, I really have no patience for this text argument to continue. So, I simply reply, “Thank you for your kind words and couple hours of your time. I already sent an email resigning,” hoping my severe sarcasm comes across beautifully. No response. He’s realized I am not longer worth any time or energy, so he doesn’t bother to reply.

I feel used, frustrated, but probably more than anything, I am mad myself. How could I let myself get so carried away over a guy; especially one I didn’t see much of a future with? Deep down, I think I said yes to the business because I wanted to get out of the presentation and get him into my bed. Turns out that was a bad plan. Ego crashes and burns and it hurts.

The next day I receive my marketing materials with my awesome blue “You Should Be Here” sign. I just want to throw it in the trash. The playful side wants to take a naked picture with the sign and text it to him, but the fact that he is completely ignoring me starts to anger me so much, that I quickly dismiss the idea. I receive a mass text from him reminding his team about some great big meeting that night. I respond with a “thought you weren’t talking to me ;), deciding to be civil and a little playful to show that there’s no need for hard feelings.

No response.

I send another text the next day politely asking what I should do with the marketing materials and if he had any use for them.

No response.

And now my “crazy” begins to set in. You know we all have it, some keep it under control much better than others, but it’s there, hiding deep in the shadows, ready to escape with the proper trigger; a woman scorned and all. Who the hell does he think he is ignoring ME!?! Why won’t he just talk to me? And why should I care?

Uh oh, here she comes…my irrational wounded fourteen year-old self, looking for approval and love. I send some other kind of angry idiotic text, not truly understanding it’s purpose. No response. Now I just feel pathetic. Why must you do this crazy, irrational, wounded teen-aged version of me? And then it occurs to me…Ohhhhh, that’s who was in the driver seat that night at the presentation, not the 38 sex-crazed cougar (well maybe she was there a little). It was the  teen who believes, if I say yes to the business, then he will like me and will want me.

I think I’m going to be ill.

Why does she continue to engage with this asshole who clearly isn’t worth an ounce of her energy? Why is she so triggered when he doesn’t respond? What could he possibly say to rectify the situation? An “I’m sorry” will only draw her back into the toxicity. When will she learn that she doesn’t need anybody’s approval? Self-worth and love does not come from another person, let alone from an egotistical douche bag. It comes from within.

Clearly she and I still have some work to do, but that’s OK. I can’t sit here and beat myself up for this mistake. She and I send one final request to take us off the group list after another mass text is sent and hopes that will be the last of it.

I’ll chalk this one up to a multi-level learning experience (pun intended):

  1. No more dating men under 35, no matter how pretty they are.
  2. Don’t go so long without sex.
  3. Maybe more appropriately, learn a new way to channel unexpressed sexual energy so that the libido and/or ego aren’t making poor decisions.
  4. Never, under any circumstances date someone in a multilevel marketing business unless you truly have a desire to participate in that life style.

My money has since been refunded. I’ve shredded the blue sign into several million pieces and recycled the rest of the materials. I’ve written my long-ass therapeutic story.

I can now forgive myself and let it go.

But one last thing… click: “unfriend.” MLM guy is officially in the box.

You Should Be Here Gets Shredded

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