On Internet Correspondence, Cordially

We play with words when we are hurting, seeking comfort, seeking peace.
Without them, we are nothing, lost souls without relief.
It is the words that bring us healing, in defiance of conceit.
A ray of hope, burgeoning before expected actions bring us peace,
That self-confessional concession, a regretful admission of defeat.

In the swift response of continued silence,
The waiting game begins. And continues.
Not wholly, but momentarily,
We stop and take stock.

Of our past loves, our future selves,
Our hurts, our joys, our pains.
We seek solitude,
To lick our wounds,
And secretly, to breathe:

The sigh of victory, hard fought but not quite won;
The loss of positioning, in a relationship sought but never certain;
The grief of guilt, the pangs of which comes in waves;
The regrets, ever-building, increasing by the day.

What does it come down to?

When one party refuses to play,
The other is left at a loss,
Uncertainties can only be held at bay
For so long, before they swirl up
Like dust mites in a dust storm.

What is the admission, if at the end of the day,
It means nothing,
Just a placating platitude,
An email lost in the fray?

To some there is no calming,
Nothing before the storm.
It is just that which erupts,
Engulfing all emotion,
A reminder that nothing is certain,
Despite all serious attempts to draw the curtain
Closed on the argument, to bring the horrible act to a close.

And in the end, the waiting is.
And is, and is, and is.
The momentum of the panic building,
A horrible tower of hell
In the wishing-it-could-be-quiet mind.

Mindfulness has long left this place,
Replaced by hurt and pain.
The seeking of comfort that can’t be,
The wishing for things that won’t be,
The aching for things that once were.

There is no single solution.
Only hope.
All fingers and toes crossed, dutifully,
The expectation pregnant in the air.

A text! The notification blaring,
A phone set to volume level high.
And yet, it brings more patience,
Nothing certain, no hope,
An empty note.

And here, I sit.
Awaiting the resolution,
Of my thoughtful provocation.
My dreams, my hopes, my love.

It is the loss
That I am expecting.
Of that which will arrive,
Soon enough through email,
A letter I’ll attempt to swallow and survive.

I imagine the end of this drama
Will soon be at my door,
And yet, in my heart,
I hope it’s the beginning of something more.

On “The Journey,” Triumphantly

It’s timely, because here we are again, exploring another rape, another assault, another gray area – this story about a CNN anchor, Ashleigh Banfield, who read the majority of the letter from victim of sexual assault during the sentencing of her attacker, filled me with hope – not because of the rape, of course, but because of the content of the letter itself.

This woman, this victim, this beautifully articulate human being, writes so purely and so beautifully – it was exactly the feeling that I felt, and exactly the feeling that I feel, continuously, onwardly, to this very day. This woman’s brave statement, and the willingness of the anchor who read that statement out loud to the public – and the network, which isn’t always known for their dedication to true journalism, is a testament to the ongoing negative effects of sexual assault, a testament to the fact that lives are changed, to the fact that sleep is lost, to the fact that everything is upsetting, to the fact that life is never the same. It is a testament to the fact that forgiveness does not come easily, to the fact that the hurt cuts deep, to the fact that the actions of another can shape your future in ways that you never imagined.

I never got the chance to write that letter, and yet, I am so grateful to this woman for writing the letter that she wrote. For me, it is much of what I never got to say, and it is a beautiful rendering of pain, reflection, and request for justice, which she will not get. But….I hope so much that people hear her words and are moved. This is beautiful. This hurts, but in the best way. It feels like solidarity. It feels like understanding. It feels like progress, even if it’s only progress because she was heard.

***

We are what we are; we are what we have experienced. We are what we choose to be. Lately, I’ve been floating on a cloud of bliss brought on by the beautiful lightness of letting go. I am choosing to be free.

A few weeks ago, boyfriend and I went to a meditative healing seminar called, “The Journey.” When he first told me about it, I was skeptical, as one is. I agreed to go, not because I thought I’d find healing, but because I was curious, or at least because certain circumstances had led me to believe that there might be something there. I had thought of situations that I knew of that were similar to the one described by the author of the book, “The Journey,” and the ever-skeptical part of me, or perhaps the ever-hopeful part, was swayed. It wasn’t until I ended up in the ER with the ovarian cyst that I thought, ah, maybe, and consented to the weekend seminar.

Even as we approached it, I thought to myself, this is ridiculous; what am I getting myself into? And I knew, because I had read the book, that there was healing and self-introspection involved, and so I had created fake issues that might need to be discovered, just on the off chance that I found myself needing to have resolved some issues, because I didn’t want to be put on the spot, panicked and nervous because I didn’t have the right answer.

Alas, it was nothing like that. Nothing like that at all. It was the best thing ever.

Despite some early resistance – which occurred even in spite of my somewhat resigned determination to be open-minded – I ended up being open-minded and enjoying the hell out of myself. I felt the feelings fully, I met new people, I even made friends. So it wasn’t so bad.

The first morning, I was nervous, shaking hands with people I didn’t know and putting on the name tag and feeling silly for having begged boyfriend to bring me paper so that I could take notes, if necessary.

We jumped into it, and I felt awkward and alone. And yet, the curious part of me who loves to learn was intrigued, and so I allowed myself to open up into it, and found myself feeling layers of feelings. I had thought about New York (my past sexual assault and work situation), but had brushed it aside thinking it wasn’t the time or place…and yet…here I was, 10:30 on the first morning of a three-day seminar, feeling layers of feelings about it.

I was ready, almost.

I felt the hurt, the anguish, the shame, and then I dropped below that and I felt a rage I didn’t know was there. I felt it deeply in my core, my lower abdomen burning with anger. I hadn’t realized that under everything, I was angry. I knew that I had accepted what had happened; I knew that I had allowed myself to feel all of the general hurt and upset, but prior to that Saturday morning, I hadn’t realized how much rage was below. And so I felt the rage. I felt it through me. I felt it rising up inside of me and throughout me, and I let it be. I accepted it. And then we broke for lunch.

After lunch, we did our first Journey process, and by that point, I had nothing. I could not, for the life of me, feel what I had felt earlier. I wanted to feel that rage, to address it, but I couldn’t. I was out, empty. I limped along, not able to conjure up the feelings that I had felt earlier, feeling like a total fraud. I guided another woman through her own process, watching tears of realization come to her face, feeling jealous that I couldn’t feel that.

I went home that night, slightly annoyed, but now more curious than ever. Not that I had been expecting an outcome, but because I had honestly felt truly deep feelings that I hadn’t been able to explore. I was determined, as I get, and the next day dawned beautifully with boyfriend and I teaching acrobatic yoga to a couple that we’d met at the seminar the day before (and whom we’d absolutely loved).

And so we did more Journey work, and in that, I went through a process known as the Physical Journey – I opened myself, and let my mind wander and my body tell me what it knew. I went to my fingertips. There, I felt them hot and swollen, dirty. I remembered the first time I had felt that way, in middle school, when I started picking at my skin, my scalp, searching for imperfections and nervously grounding myself with contact. They felt that way when I didn’t have time to wash them after recess and returned to class. I felt that time, snapshots of childhood coming up and playing out. I went back there, and my process was amazing. I felt my younger self, I loved her, I communicated with her. I forgave her for not being perfect. It was a last-minute revisiting, and in that, I found a wisdom I’d never felt, something I’d never even seen. I forgave my younger self for not being perfect; for not keeping everything together (despite her best efforts); for falling apart with no one watching closely and for not crying out for help.

I came out of that Journey feeling a quiet in my hands that I haven’t felt in ages. I felt this quiet all through my core. My body was calm. My body is never calm. Boyfriend noticed immediately. “What did you do?” he asked me. “You feel different.”

I did feel different. I felt light. I felt solid. I felt still. Still. To feel still is such a fantastic feeling. My fingers didn’t find my skin to pinch at it for the rest of the day, or for several days after that. (Actually, they haven’t been as curious as they usually are since then….my face has improved immensely, as has the rest of me. I am not tearing at myself with the same fervor as before, and I am thrilled, grateful, and peaceful.)

The next day, I called in sick to work to stay for the intensive part of the course. I’m so glad that I did.

We did several more processes, and I found myself connecting as a giver – I was able to feel and read people to whom I was “giving” the process, and in doing so, I felt so rewarded. One man exclaimed, “Holy shit you’re good!” in a very crowded, very quiet room. I was secretly thrilled.

So of course, when the afternoon came, and we were to try all of our new skills, I thought to myself, let’s do this! Let’s give up New York! And so I tried.

Oh man, did I try. I brought my old boss to this campfire of forgiveness, where you examine and converse and ultimately, forgive. And I was blocked. I couldn’t do it. I tried, and I tried, and I made it so that there was forgiveness, but it wasn’t right. I told boyfriend after (because he knew what I was up to, he’d seen the gleam in my eye), that I’d let my old boss off on a technicality. He knew I was unsettled; he was right.

On the way home, I shut down. I curled up into a tight ball and became unresponsive. Boyfriend was kind and gentle, but he knew I wasn’t all right; I knew it, too. We got home, and I took his house key and ran into the bedroom and threw myself on the bed and screamed into the pillows as though that might abate the pain that was swirling inside of me.

Boyfriend offered to do another Journey with me. Actually, he said that he knew I wasn’t done, and we both knew (“knew,” but on a deeper level of knowing) that I was ready and not done and ready — I wanted it so bad; I wanted to let go. I didn’t want to carry New York with me anymore.

And so we did. We leapt – our Journey process was nothing like the script they’d given us – it was three hours long (although for me, there was no time. It felt like a half an hour, maybe). Boyfriend held me while he guided me through a meditation that I led – he later told me that it’s a good thing he lives in a separate house and not a condo, because of my screaming and wailing, the police absolutely would have been called.

I let out my pain. I screamed; I shut down; I brought the emotion back; I held onto it. I imagined, and I re-lived, and I did the most amazing things. I cloned myself; I brought someone I had not expected to my campfire – my body knew, the wiser parts of me knew exactly what it was that I was holding onto – I ranted, raved, hated, threatened, felt, understood, cloned, felt, acknowledged, and finally, I let go, just a little bit. I burned everything. I cleansed myself in a healing firefall (which is exactly what it sounds like, a waterfall of fire – it was the water/firefall from the dream I had in February, and when I blissed through the peaceful layers to my hammock of water, it was that same water, but all water this time and no fire).

I ate a sandwich, in the middle of it, in the middle of my meditation I visited the cafe in my old office building and the woman there and her son made me a BLT (not a real sandwich, perhaps this one was just some soul food). My village – everyone who loves me, plus the cat – was there to hold me and be with me and help guide me.

Boyfriend held me through the whole thing. That, my friends, is love. That shit was not fun, nor was it easy. Might I remind you that I’m a hideous crier, so this wasn’t even slightly adorable. It was like Macbeth and Hamlet slammed together with an audio book of the Boondocks Saints – a lot of crazy shit happened, and a lot of rage. My body shook, my eyes welled and overflowed a hundred times; I screamed, I cried, I whispered, I whimpered; I begged, I conversed, I understood. And ultimately, I forgave, just a little bit. A teensy, tiny bit. 1%. Per day. For 100 days. Stupid, but doable, because I am a stubborn woman and I was not budging on the forgiveness part of it. But then I remembered I’m not a horrible person, and that I have a beautiful life, and as I let the gratitude parts of me overwhelm the desire to keep harboring the hate, the kindness won.

In the end, I was calm. In the end, I was secure. In the end, I felt peace. A thousand times peace. Safety. Warmth. Comfort. Security. Rocked gently in my dream water, my safe green space, warm and buoyant. Reassured. Cared for. Understood. Loved. Held.

I woke up the next day, and that feeling was still there. Grounded and still. I had realized what I had been holding on to, which wasn’t actually who I thought it was, and I let it go, a little bit.

I cannot explain to you the lightness that I felt, that I continue to feel. I can’t tell you how hard it was, or how wonderful, or the immense gratitude that swirls through me now. I want to, and I want to bring this gift to everyone who needs it. I want people to have the moments that I had, so that they can feel the letting go and the healing. I want people to fall asleep full, rather than full of rage. I want to share in that relief, that ecstasy, that peace. There is nothing that I want for the world than to feel that swell of hope and joy. I want to be able to give that to others, because I finally feel free of that horrible burden I’ve been carrying for so long, and I am at peace.

It feels fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. Now I can direct my energy elsewhere, and I am finally, finally, gratefully, powerfully, blissfully free.

So I’m going to start practicing – if you’re curious, or you’d like to help me practice doing these Journey processes, send me an email, a text, a call, a fb message, carrier pigeon, whatever. I’d so love to share my excitement and see if I can help with this peace-bringing business. It’s totally not as insane as mine was – you can do 30 minutes and forgive that guy for cutting you off in traffic yesterday or understand why you’re so jealous of Becky with the good hair, or whatever. I just like to go big or go home, and in this case, I managed to do both.

 

 

 

On Vulnerability, Preachily and Openly

“And you can’t feel nothing small…”

I radiate my feelings outward, the intensity of my energy palpable and present. Of course, as things are prone to equal and opposite reactions, I also feel very deeply the external – the energy of a room, the weight of a situation, the heavy meaning of a storyline.

I wonder if it is that sensitivity – the continuous consciousness of emotions – that has enabled me to exercise vulnerability as a means of connection, or rather, if it was merely foisted upon me an ultimatum of existence: either you utilize the vulnerability as a means of connection, or you can masquerade through life, choosing isolation over engagement, which to me seems a wholly distasteful option.

I’ve chosen to live a vulnerable life – one of openness and honesty, partly because I can’t help but live any other way, and partly because I feel as though eschewing vulnerability as a way of being leads to nothing but superficiality, stunting relationships and intimacy. This was a choice made a long time ago, but that said, it isn’t easy to always live that way, especially in times of insecurity.

I’ve never felt comfortable pretending to be someone I’m not; finding and acting from a place of authenticity came about some time during later adolescence/early adulthood, and I’ve found that my greatest joys, successes, and bliss all stem from moments when I was nothing but myself. Granted, it’s not always popular, or prudent, to be so much yourself, but I find that if you’d like to find the depths of the human experience, you have to dig in a bit. Thankfully, I’m also incredibly stubborn.

So what is vulnerability, exactly? The dictionary defines it being open to injury, which is exactly what it is, but also, it’s not that at all. Yes, it’s about what can happen when you lower your defenses, bringing down your walls to let other people in. For me, it’s a willingness to share feelings or experiences in order to increase intimate connection, which of course could result in injury, mostly of the emotional kind. But that’s half the adventure, right?

I’ve been working on being a better listener since I learned how to talk. (Mostly because I never learned how to stop talking, and thus, learning how to listen will always be a project on which I should focus.) I am a verbal processer, which is beautiful but also really frustrating, because combined with the ADHD and my love of information, I’m a whole bunch of output, when I should be better about attempting to increase the input balance.

I even interrupt my own sleep to talk. Last night, I woke up boyfriend in the middle of the night (accidentally, I was talking in that half-awake, mostly unconscious but really urgent, I-have-a-point-to-make-but-I’m-also-half-asleep-so-I’m-probably-slurring-a-little way) to tell him that even though we’re trying to track our sleep using his FitBit, the experiment is already compromised because of his own awareness of it. Sleep me was very concerned about sharing the Hawthorne effect with him. I think sleep him was not as excited.

However…even with that basic communication shortcoming, people have always confided in me, which is amazing because I love knowing stuff and also because I love knowing that I’m a safe space for secrets or sharing. Having a safe space is important. If you want to know someone, you have to know their experiences and perspectives, and in order to find out that there might be commonalities, someone has to start the sharing.

It’s a basic tenet of communication: you throw down information; I match and expand; you respond; the conversation continues. In order for that to be effective, someone has to get beyond the weather and get real.  It doesn’t have to start with an onslaught of depth, it can be as minute as an interest, a hobby, a passion, whatever. And you can work from there.

Vulnerability as a means of connection is curious – why don’t we do it more? I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a fear of judgement, of being seen as “other,” of being rejected. When I open up, sharing an embarrassing story or an emotional memory, having someone judge me in a negative way is the very last thing I want. Who is that person to be critical of something that is mine? Who am I to be critical of something that is someone else’s? Often, to the observer, the vulnerability being communicated is basic, simple, easily addressed or managed. But that’s not the case, and we’re foolish if we think otherwise. Life is messy, sticky; things and events and experiences adhere themselves and change our course and perspective in often unknown and unseen ways.

I think that’s part of the problem with vulnerability – sometimes you don’t have to respond. People assume that there’s a necessary or basic etiquette-driven platitude, but there’s often not. That’s why vulnerability is so different than superficial communication. It changes the conversation. Sometimes the hearing is enough. The presence of another, a subtle acknowledgement of the veracity of one’s experiences.

I’m not advocating an all-out, no-holds barred onslaught of information as a means of connection. That would be far too overwhelming.

Vulnerability is hard. I know this, because even though I sit here and preach from my ivory tower of vulnerability-as-a-way-of-life immersion, I also struggle with it. It’s like I have two levels – the first, not superficial, but also not that deep, and then the level where I lock everyone out. Sometimes I’m not even vulnerable enough to acknowledge my own feelings to myself. I think we’re all like that, at least in some ways, defiant and resolute in our thinking and unwilling to share with others.

There are 800 TED talks (not an accurate figure) about vulnerability, and countless articles touting the benefits. It’s like the new emotional kale; it’s everywhere! It’s an awesome principle, but of course, there are risks. Opening up and then being let down can be absolutely devastating. However, opening up and being embraced and accepted can be the most healing feeling, and to me, it’s part of the root of the human experience. Trusting other people sucks, but we have to do it to really, actually thrive, because the marrow of life isn’t surface-level bullshit, it’s deep and it’s gritty and it’s real. And if you want to get at the marrow, (ha, popular food of the late aughts for a thousand, Alex), you have to sink your teeth in and get ready to get real.

I’m currently out of time, because apparently, I have a job, but my roommate and I are in the process of ruminating more about vulnerability, and so perhaps we shall return with additional ideas. But for now, have the above. J

 

 

On the Cyst-uation, Femininely

It was a long week that week. It ended up all being fine, of course, but not without some unnecessary panic (per usual):

A couple of weekends ago, after a most magical evening of sunsets and whiskey and champagne and a fantastically sexy dress and a general bubble of love radiating between boyfriend and myself (definitely because of the dress), I spent several hours in the emergency room, directed there urgently after a kidney ultrasound (we were originally on the hunt for kidney stones) turned up what the imaging department assumed was an ectopic pregnancy. I knew something was up when the ultrasound technician stopped joking with me and stood up and mumbled something about a phone call, and after a very pregnant pause (ha), I was ushered into a small office and told to speak to an emergency doctor on the phone.

I tried to take a deep breath, a futile attempt at remaining open to whatever was coming. She asked me if I was sitting down (that’s never good news); I said no; she told me to sit down (again, I thought, if I remain standing, will the news become less heavy? Can I keep it at bay by remaining vertical?), and then told me that it was an emergency situation due to the fact that it was an ectopic pregnancy (for the uninformed, that’s when an egg gets fertilized but doesn’t implant in the uterus as expected – instead, it finds another place, which is dangerous and problematic). They imagined I was 8 or 9 weeks along.

I was numb, not overwhelmed, but informed and unfeeling. I had the nurse go find boyfriend, and he came in and held me, not knowing why he was holding me, but holding me nonetheless as I stood, no longer feeling as though I could be confined to chair, not yet shaking, clutching a phone, saying, “Uh huh,” and “Mmmhmmm” over and over again, robotically.

I’d stopped listening to the doctor the minute she’d uttered the words “ectopic pregnancy,” and she was attempting to reassure me that it was all right and that she’d had one at some point and blah blah blah. I froze, then, my eyes no longer focusing, my brain no longer thinking, everything shutting off; the main reactor had shut down, and the rest of my processes were losing power.

I went into handling mode, the part where I make a plan. We were going to get a copy of the ultrasound to take with us to the emergency room. I offered to take an Uber so boyfriend didn’t have to go with me. (He told me I was being ridiculous, of course he’d take me.) I cried a bit, as it settled over me. I look like Voldemort when I cry – my eyes get red and squinty and I’m cursed with a genetic predilection towards swelling in the eye-region, so the redness and the swelling join forces for the ultimate in anti-attraction.

Some people cry daintily, or prettily. I am not one of those people. I cry like a banshee when I really let it go, hiccups and snorts and the whole shebang. But that was not a let-it-go moment, instead, I just turned red and swelled, wishing I hadn’t worn mascara, excusing myself to stare at my face in the fluorescent lights of the bathroom, not feeling like I was looking at myself at all, staring into the face that wasn’t mine, but had to be, in the mirror. Alone.

He took me to the emergency room at the hospital nearby; my doctor’s office had called ahead. I made jokes the whole way over. At one point, I looked down at my flat stomach (I’ve been doing so much acro yoga and biking lately, and I’ve been proudly declaring that I’m getting “an ab” – which I totally am), and murmured, “We made a thing.” A tiny thing that was not viable, and thus was not really a thing at all, but still…a thing. I’ve never made a thing before. He repeated it. “We made a thing.” And he held my hand, or put his on my thigh, squeezing gently, reassuring me.

I sat there, numb and businesslike, alternating between attempting to breathe and fighting back tears. The guy who checked me in at the emergency room knew sign language, and I told him my favorite story about the teacher whose personal sign in the ASL dialect is a K swung back and forth to mimic the way her arm skin swings when she writes on the board. He told me that his sign was an L held against his forehead. We laughed when he told he was quite young when he picked it and that at that time, he didn’t know that it also is a common sign among kids that denotes that one is a “loser.” (It’s generally directed at the loser, by means of silent insult.) (When we left the ER, I called a goodbye, putting my hand in an L on my forehead, making him laugh.)

They hooked me up the IV quickly, dating the thing. That’s a bad sign. They don’t date the thing if you’re not going to stay. I laid there, in my jeans, stabbed in the arm and hating it. They were sending off bloodwork to figure out how far along I was, how high the hormone levels were, and if we were going to have to do surgery or if it could be handled by a pill. I changed into one of those extremely odd gowns, all buttons and strings in strange places. I think there’s got to be a better way (a better way, yeah-ah) – I’m thinking plush fuzzy bathrobes with access slits for medical procedures?

The nicest woman I’ve ever met came in and patted me on the leg and called me Honey and asked me how I was doing. I respond so well to mothering. She commiserated and gave boyfriend the “take care of her” talk and then told me that I wasn’t already adopted, she’d adopt me. I loved her immensely and immediately.

Then there was the doctor, a wonderful woman who came in and introduced herself and then said, “We’re already at panic level 100, but let’s dial it back a notch and make sure you’re actually pregnant first.” I laughed, because you’re right, here we were at threat level orange when maybe this could have been a threat level blue situation. She sighed because they’d sent the long-form blood test out instead of the short-form quick result test, so we were in limbo for the foreseeable future.

We hung out, joking about stuff. A couple weeks before, I’d been grumpy with boyfriend about everything, and had told him that I wanted him to be nowhere near me but also to hold me. He’d been very confused. That was – and remains – a completely accurate description of how I felt in that moment. I was happy to be able to say, aha! The reason I felt that insane juxtaposition of feelings was because I was pregnant. It was a nice excuse.

Alas, it was not the case. The test results finally came back: not pregnant, no ectopic pregnancy. Relief flooded through me, then confusion. So now what? As it turns out, it’s a cyst, totally normal (well, mostly). It’ll either go away on its own, or it will burst and send me back to the ER with horrible, unbearable pain, or it will grow and then they will have to surger it out of me.

We missed the gala that we had been planning on going to that night. I was disappointed, because I’d been looking forward to going. We went home instead, me exhausted and over-wrought, emotionally turbulent. I needed fifteen minutes to cry, and so that’s what we did. He laid down on his bed and his nestled me into his shoulder nook and I sobbed (the pure sobs, gulping and pulsing and hot, my entire body shaking as I let it all pass through me, out in loud wails and snorts, hot tears streaking my face). When I felt the calm settle back over me, I pushed up and off of him and went to wash my face so we could still make it to the second of our planned evening events, a comedy show, which we did. Turns out a bit of foundation and some well-placed blush with a few flicks of a mascara wand can turn even the puffiest of people into mostly gorgeous members of society.

After that, there was a deep sleep. I faded into the nothingness of unconsciousness gratefully and smoothly that night, no time allotted for lying awake, a welcome respite from the flood of things and the day itself.

On the Weekend, Happily

This weekend was non-stop, action-packed, and all-around awesome.

Friday night: date night – we went out to dinner at a newly redone restaurant. My grandma actually found it, and I found out about it when we met there for Easter brunch – such a hip grandmother that I have. When we pulled into the parking lot, I remember thinking, hmmm…this was an interesting choice, but the interior was fantastic. I asked my uncle where he’d heard about the place, and he asked me who the hottest, hippest woman I know is, and then my grandma – all 4’9” of her – just shrugs and gives me that side look, like, yep, I got this. I had a chocolate Manhattan, which was…interesting. The glass was rimmed with Nutella. Now, I am pro-Nutella all of the time, but maybe not this time. The presentation was awkward and globby, and the Nutella overwhelmed the whiskey. Although, if that’s what you’re going for, seeking to create a diabetes dampened drink, then yes, they definitely nailed it.

After sharing two small pizzas, we went late-night bowling. I love bowling, and none of my friends will ever go with me, so I was really excited when boyfriend agreed to go on a bowling adventure. I lost 4/5 games, which was frustrating, but at least I proved to be sort of solid competition. The bowling alley was busy – there were intense bowlers to our right, and a lively group to our left. At one point, there was a random lingerer just lingering at our spot. I thought he was with the other group until they asked me if he belonged to us. He did not. After a bit of back and forth, the man was eventually escorted out of the bowling alley. You know you’re having a rough night when you get kicked out of a bowling alley for being a completely odd lingerer. The music was everything I love – all sorts of upbeat oldies and Motown, as well as some of those 80s pop classics. I was wiggling and dancing, which may have resulted in the loss of my ferocity as a competitor. The stakes were high, and I’m slightly disappointed that I didn’t just absolutely crush boyfriend. Ah, well. Next time.
Saturday: My brother’s girlfriend was in town this weekend, so we had brunch near my house. It was wonderful. After brunch, we spent 20 minutes playing with a boxer puppy (oh such a sweet baby) who was tied up in the grass outside. He was so little, and so soft, and we all just melted over him. He was just getting his puppy teeth in, and was happily chomping on everything, still uncoordinated with his big puppy paws, all soft and roly-poly, happy to be snuggled.

Then we went and test-drove bikes. I’m thinking I’m going to end up being a road biker with the guys, and if that’s the case, I’ll need something more suitable for that than my vintage Belgian road bike. Ugh, which will mean that I will end up being one of those people who owns spandex bike shorts and jerseys. I’ll just channel as much Lance Armstrong as I can, which may mean that I’ll eventually have to learn how to bike in a straight line. Goals, I guess.

It was lovely, actually. The woman who sized me for a bike (54cm, apparently) was so passionate about biking, and I loved listening to her. Somehow, seeing people who are really passionate about what they do in their element makes that subject so much more interesting. The bike I rode was beautiful. It was so smooth, but also $2000 and that was the low price point. Ha, not going to happen. We’ve got a bike guru scouring the internet for potential bike frames for me, so hopefully that will turn up a nice deal.

After that, I went and met boyfriend’s god-kids. They are so adorable. We went to Dave and Buster’s (they should have just called it “The Germ and Money Pit”), and we played some games. It was really funny – at one point, I was playing one of those motorcycle driving games, but could not figure out how to get the motorcycle to actually go. I had to turn to the 4 year old girl next to me and ask her how to start it. She gave me a look that read, “Wow, you’re old AND pathetic,” and then told me how to do it. Apparently, you just have to pull back on the throttle. It was a very humbling moment. I was pleased with myself for hitting 6 checkpoints in a row, until one of the 6 year olds told me he could do it better and got on the bike to complete my race. (Just for the record, he was not better than me. I told his sister that, and she agreed. She was so sweet, telling me that even though her little brother is really great at all the video games that he plays, he is really terrible at these driving games. We watched him run into some walls before he lost interest and we moved elsewhere.)

I took him back to my house….and let him inside for the first time. I’m quite surprised we haven’t had to have a “it’s not me, it’s actually you” talk – and we laughed about how long it would be until it was socially acceptable to break up with me. I’ve been avoiding letting him into my space (I do that…I’m better off on other’s people’s turf than my own when it comes to living spaces, and since I’m rarely home, my room is a disaster area of things – pulled out and neglected, or thrown here or there. I try, sometimes, and am successful in organization on occasion, but honestly, it’s a matter of both unwillingness to cull my possessions and also a completely overwhelming feeling of not having any idea how to organize. Also, time. I spend so little time at home because I’m always on the go, and so my time at home is not spent decluttering. Instead, it’s spent trying to maybe relax a little. Or do laundry.). And so, he’s seen it. He has not mentioned it since, but I do believe that he was entirely overwhelmed. A friend of his once told me that she found him to be very judgmental about her house, and I laughed and promised her I’d never bring him home. But it is my thing – I can scrub, happily, but I will most likely always need assistance with the clutter/organization. I’m honest about it – I’m terrible at it. I’m aware of that. I need someone to guide me, to keep me on track, and then, still love me.

From there, we stopped off to meet his friends at a nearby bar – twenty minutes exactly was the time limit, because we were parked in a spot that becomes valet parking at 5pm. The valet asked me if we were valeting when we parked, and I looked at him, raised an eyebrow, and told him it wasn’t five yet – he cautioned that they tow promptly. And so, mindful of the timing, we socialized for 19 minutes. Ha. It was nice, actually, you just get to go, say hello, mingle for a minute, and then leave, as quickly as you came. It’s the perfect way to meet new people.

Then, my friend Jared needed help with modeling some clothes that he made, so we got ready for dinner and then went down to play dress up. I was laughing, because we got there, and my friend Jacob goes, “We’re playing sweatshop!” It was true – there were bits of cloth everywhere and we were throwing the finishing touches on clothes as we put them on to model. It was amazing. I do love an excuse to get all sorts of undressed, so when Jared asked if I’d model just the meggings (man-leggings), I was super keen. Downtown Denver saw a lot of me that afternoon, but it was so much fun. Jared is an architect by day and a super-seamstress by night, and he makes the best clothes. They’re so fun and the patterns are always amazing. I’m going to ask him to make me some meggings to do acro yoga in.

We were running late to meet my family for dinner downtown, so when the cab got hung up at a red light, we looked at each other and decided to make a run for it. Getting out of the cab, taking off my shoes, and booking it down a busy street was the highlight of my weekend. It was beautiful – both of us in our fancy dinner clothes, me with heels in one hand and my purse in the other, sprinting through a very upscale area. We stopped half a block before the restaurant to collect ourselves, and then walked into the restaurant cool as cucumbers. As we walked in, me laughing at the absurdity of having just sprinted through all sorts of fancy people, I told boyfriend that on the plus side, he will never be bored.

Dinner was excellent. I really love my family. My mom is my favorite human being. I was showing her some of the pictures that boyfriend got on his phone from the photo shoot, and of course, most of them were of me wearing only meggings and heels, with hands covering the rest of the things that needed covered. I love that my mom doesn’t even bat an eye. I swore to her that there were other clothes and more coverage at some point, and she just nodded, certainly thinking, “Suuuure.” My mom and aunt took the light rail downtown – I was impressed – and so we walked them back to the light rail so that they could get back home. On the way, there was another puppy, this one a baby yellow lab. I jogged up ahead so that I could stop his owners and snuggle him, too.

We ended up at a vodka bar, drinking horseradish, pickle, pineapple, and beet vodkas. Horseradish is not my cup of tea, whether it’s in regular or alcoholic form, so that was…..an experience. The owner came by and we traded jokes for a while; it made for a very nice evening. I love my brother’s girlfriend and it’s nice to be able to gang up on him for a change. Usually, it’s the other way around, with me taking the brunt of the teasing. Since I never go out with my brother, it was really nice to have a night where we were all out together.

By this point, I realized that I had lost my wallet somewhere. I am notorious for losing everything, but never the important things. Keys, always lost only briefly, mislaid but not forgotten. Wallet, never. Phone, same as the keys. Close but concealed. But to open your purse to see nothing is a very disconcerting feeling. I decided not to stress about it, and we ended up finding the wallet in the Lyft that we had taken – boyfriend drove all the way to get it on Sunday for me. The sweet relief of having your possessions returned to you intact is really such a wonderful feeling – the driver was absolutely fantastic. He had apparently attempted to contact Lyft to tell us the night before (when I lost it), and we had attempted to contact Lyft, but had been met with resistance. Once we got in touch with the driver through the app, he called me back immediately. I was so grateful. It’s nice when people are kind and honest.

Sunday, we met my dad and his wife for sushi lunch. I am disappointed. I used to love our cheap sushi place, and now it’s lost its luster. Food has gone from okay to eh, and the service has fallen apart as well. All of the things were not in line, and the lunch was a little bit of a strange situation. My dad and his wife are wonderful people, but I felt very off-kilter in that setting. Maybe it was because dad and wife were meeting boyfriend? Or the lingering effects of all of the vodka? Or…I don’t know. Ah, well, it wasn’t too bad. He was asking boyfriend a hundred million questions, and I was awkwardly attempting to keep things level while looking completely at ease. Which I was not.

We got ice cream after, and stopped into the hipster plant store just to look. I walked out with four new plants, but have gifted two of them, so I feel as though my purchases were justified. There’s this amazing book/record/comic/coffee shop on Broadway that I’d never been into, so we wandered through there. I taught boyfriend the game of picking up random books and only reading the last sentence (or two). No context. It’s really fun, if you’re in the right mood. We found a book for my mom in the humor section. It’s a comic book for cat-haters. You’re welcome, mom. You’re going to love it. I just need to wrap it.

After that, we went to Cheeseman Park to do some afternoon acro yoga. I was spacey, maybe tired, maybe just a little bit over-stimulated from all of the weekend, but I had a bit of trouble. I took a few really solid falls that afternoon, but overall, enjoyed myself. I am working on getting better at star, with is upside down and involves a headstand into it. Once I get that down, I’ll be able to do a lot more. We were also working on side star, and some transitions, and after a bit of miscommunication and recalibration, we actually made some legitimate headway there. Also – I have a girl date! I’m really excited. Girl friends are so hard to find/make/keep, and there’s a woman in the acro yoga group that is amazing. We’re going to have drinks soon and bond, which I think will be lovely.

We went back to my friend Jared’s for more modeling/fashion fun after the park. Poor boyfriend – I forget how hard it is to just jump into an established group of people. He was a total trooper, and ended up modeling several pairs of meggings/man pants, tanks, and even a tiny retro swimsuit. (I was not complaining about the last one…) It was fun. He definitely loved the lines of the clothes, and told me that he’ll be using Jared as a fashion reference in the future. We had fun, modeling business wear, meggings, and some dresses.

Then the hunger set in – we found ourselves at Whole Foods (ugh) buying steaks. Oh man, that was the most amazing thing. I love a good steak, but have no idea how to cook meat, so I was content to be on veggie duty while the steaks were prepared. I made roasted potatoes, sautéed mushrooms, and beets and beet greens. I nailed those. I was really proud of myself, because I’ve never actually sautéed mushrooms before. I browned butter – because browned butter makes everything better – and then used that and a bit of olive oil for the mushrooms. The potatoes were just cubed up and hit with some rosemary, because that’s the best things, and then I boiled the beets and sautéed the greens with a lot of lemon. We had a nice bottle of wine, and we put on his favorite classical violinist while we ate.
At one point, as were sitting there in the low light of the candles, wearing sweatpants and nibbling on the last bites of dinner, I stared off at the screen where the orchestra was orchestrating and felt a few thick tears slide down my face. Sometimes the joy just overwhelms me, and it swells up inside me and leaks out in liquid form. It wasn’t a sob, no shaking, no moments of gasping for air, just the heady thrum of contentment, encapsulated in the moment, and feeling full – of gratitude, happiness, contentment, steak, promise, and joy.

Life is beautiful. It is wild and strange and so brief. I am happy to be here, now, exploring and adventuring and enjoying.

On 55 Hours of Freedom, Springily

My 55 hours of freedom began with a dinner party. To add to the slight stress of meeting new people, there was also the panic of the location – an upscale eatery. Confident in my knowledge of which silverware to choose (learned watching Titanic – just work your way in), I selected my favorite sweater dress. It’s navy and red, short and tight enough to be alluring, and high-necked enough to be modest. Plus, you don’t have to worry about a necklace, since you’re covered. That plus tights and boots and a little bit of eyeshadow turned me into a very compelling dinner companion. I remembered to grab my sense of humor on the way out the door, and had a lovely evening. Also, I ate everything. All of the meats. It was spectacular. If all I need to do to go have entertaining conversation and delicious food is put myself together, I will happily do that any day.

When we got home, we decided that we were going to sleep in the igloo we made last week during the epic spring blizzard. (I got sent home due to a power outage at work on Wednesday, and so we spent 6+ hours building this amazing 6’ tall snow fort – the man encapsulated it on Thursday, and thus, we are now in brief possession of an immense front yard igloo.) We hauled out blankets and pillows and snacks and fell asleep in our snow cave. It was not a night of great sleep. I was cold and sore, my hips protesting about the ice below them, my body protesting about the lack of heat and the cold everywhere. At one point, I decided I’d be generous and give the man my hat (bad decision for me), and I think we woke up at least 7 times that night. Lots of pulling and rearranging.

However, on the plus side, I now know that I do not want to pursue snow-camping as a hobby, and I’m glad I didn’t have to drive to the mountains to figure that out. But it was fun. Our friends stopped by very late in the night (after we’d gone to sleep), so it was fun to wake up to a yell of, “They’re in there!” and have a late night igloo meeting.

Saturday brought cat-snuggling. Carlos has been missing me, because I’ve been a terrible cat mother lately, and so I went home Saturday morning to snuggle him. And in theory, to finish cleaning (ha, guess how that turned out?). Then there was a yoga party – we built a two-story tall snowman and had the most delicious sangria before coming home and napping hard. After the nap, we broke for Easter preparations and then made dinner (the leftovers from the steakhouse were amazing).

Easter Sunday – as usual, it was too cold to wear my Easter dress, so I selected a pink lacy shirt and jeans. I’m trying to get into softer, more lady-like colors, but I’m still not convinced. If it’s not black, I don’t know about it. Adulting is proving to be harder than I thought, at least sartorially.

We had first breakfast. I was excited to meet new family, and there were jelly beans involved (which is never a bad thing). Then we had brunch with my dad’s family, and stopped off to see my grandpa at the nursing home before we headed back home to wait for AAA to pick up my brother’s car, which had stopped working. Ha, trying to push an SUV into our busy street was quite the adventure. It got stuck in the hole next to our driveway, and so it had to hang out half in the street and half in the driveway until the tow truck driver could get there.

I brought my 9-year old to my mom’s family’s Easter dinner. She’s my favorite person – a small blonde bundle of energy. She had flowers and a card for my grandma, as well as a chocolate bunny, and she made bunny cake! (Everyone knows how to make bunny cake and I feel like it’s something I’m going to have to learn how to do – I’m into the idea of being able to garnish a cake with all sorts of additional sources of sugar, and when we were at my grandma’s house, I ate all of the Easter-flavored twizzlers off the cake while we were cutting it.) She’s so talkative! (Maybe I was that talkative at that age?) She’s headed off for Spring Break, and she goes to the same elementary school that we all went to, so we had a lot to talk about.

I wanted to show her some acro yoga, because I imagined that she’d enjoy it since she does gymnastics. As it turns out, she loved. Poor boyfriend could not catch a break. She had him going through pose after pose after pose, determined to learn more. At one, she was demanding that we do something really cool. It made me laugh to see how excited she was about it, and how determined. He told her that once she learns how to do a handstand, she can do a lot more. She was super eager, and he was a really good sport about letting her leap all over him. When we dropped her back off at her house, she made him do it all over again to show her parents. It was really sweet.

I was exhausted. 55 hours isn’t quite long enough, is it? I feel like this week is going to bring a lot of necessary errand-completion and tasks to be checked off, so I’m feeling productive and excited to leap into it.

On the Weekend, Always Belatedly

Ah, the weekends. The 9-5 grind is exactly that, a grind, and by the end of the day, I’m generally exhausted. But the weekend provides me with roughly 55 hours of usable free time – 5pm Friday to midnight Sunday – and I try to make it a point to use as much of that time as possible.

Last weekend was no exception.

My mom had asked me if I’d like to bring the guy that I’m seeing to family dinner on Friday night – my favorite meal of the year, corned beef and cabbage – and I’d immediately declined the invitation. But then I thought about it, after telling him that I’d declined his invitation without even asking him. I realized that it probably wouldn’t be too bad if he met my people, so I re-invited him, nervously.

I’m known for bringing guys home to meet the family very early on – maybe it’s the sadist in me that likes to see them sweat, or maybe it’s that I want to see how they can manage themselves. My family is quite lovely, so it’s not like it’s difficult, but I’m a firm believer that you can tell a lot about a man by the way he interacts with your family in that sort of environment. Is he polite? Does he speak up? Is he patient? I’m impatient, usually polite, and always talking, so I need someone who can be patient, polite, and match my level of enthusiasm for the conversation. I love my family, and I want them to know the people I spend my time with, and for those people to know my family. Also, free food. Plus, my grandmothers are pretty fantastic people.

To my surprise, he said yes in the very best way. A long text message string of rap lyrics. I laughed out loud when I read it, and then immediately sent a few panicky emails to my grandmother, mom, and aunt, so that there’d be another place at the table and to make sure there was enough food. (I promised to eat less, if need be.)

And so that happened. I picked him up, ten minutes late (surprise, surprise), and we made our way the four blocks to my grandmother’s house (convenient). The evening was wonderful. He talked – he may have talked more than I did! (Ehhh, probably not.) He deftly handled the faux-argument we have over the men’s side of the table (they always mess up the passing order to make sure that their buddies get the best food first – and the women always tease them about it), falling in line with the “rules” of the passing and the back-passing. He definitely got in on the good end of the back-passing – he had meat, potatoes, and cabbage before I’d even gotten the bread.

We lingered for four hours. He got to see the reenactment of the guys and my mom dropping me off at college – my uncle’s impression of me sobbing and begging them to take me back to Denver includes, “I’ll go to DU, I swear!” and is fantastically hilarious – as well as my mom’s excellent impression of the “purse carrier,” which is exactly what I’m not allowed to marry. It was a really wonderful dinner, and I felt so happy to be surrounded by such lovely people, and to come from such a loving and kind family.

On Saturday, I went to see an old co-worker, who’s now my mentor/friend. She has the most adorable two-year old son, so I was happy to play with him while we caught up. It’s so easy to lose touch with people once you don’t see them every day, so I’ve been trying to make an effort to stay in contact and not lose people just because they’ve slid out of the periphery. Also, she’s very good about getting in touch with me, so that definitely helps. I always laugh and thank her for being a part of my village (village people, I think that’s what I’m going to call my wonderful network of humans), because I’ve been to her kid’s birthday parties, her family events, and I was the first person to ever babysit for her son.

Babies are the sweetest things. He’s talking up a storm now, and he has the biggest eyes and the happiest smile. I chased him and tickled him, and his peals of laughter brought me so much joy. I love how determined they get, or how frustrated, or how giggly. There is so much pure energy and pure emotion, and as I left, he stood by the door and waved to me, over-ready for his nap. My friend texted me after I left and told me that he was out 60 seconds after she put him down.

For some reason, I was in cleaning mode on Saturday. I have been struggling to get my house under control for a while now (again, no surprise here), and I wanted to go home and do some good work. And so I did. I got my room rearranged, opened up the box that contained my new mattress and got it unfurled, foam puffing up immediately. I got more things folded and hung up and stuffed into drawers (I mean, folded, definitely neatly). I threw away trash and cleaned out the fridge. I scrubbed the sink and unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher. It was nice progress, and it felt good. My friend Gina will help me with the rest of it tonight.

Saturday night, we went to my old favorite Thai place. I’ve only ever ordered one thing there (five years is a long time to not stray on a menu, and I intend to keep up the streak) – pineapple curry, medium. Sometimes with shrimp, sometimes just extra pineapple, sometimes veggies. Always delicious. That is the food I crave on Sundays (when they’re closed), when I’m sad, or sick, or happy, or ….any time.

After that, we stopped into the PS Lounge – if you haven’t done that, you need to. Your life will get so much better. We had a few drinks there, and sat talking, oblivious to the bar around us. (Not entirely, but it makes it sound so much more romantic if I put it that way, doesn’t it?) Regardless, the conversations are so fantastic. I really like that I’ve met someone who knows stuff about stuff I don’t know. And who’s willing to tolerate the things that I love. He told me the other night that he loves that I always have something to add – actually add, a different perspective or input – to conversations. I laughed, what else am I going to do? We haven’t really disagreed about anything yet, and I keep trying to find something where we have drastically differing viewpoints…thus far, no luck.

My friend Jacob was playing at a bar down the road, so tipsy adventure me decided that we needed to at least pop in. So we did, briefly. I danced a little less than I would have liked, nervous energy coursing through my body. Bringing someone into your comfort zone is so hard. I like people. But it’s funny, because as much as I am uneasy in new places or doing new things, I’m equally uncomfortable when I’m bringing someone into my spaces, my people, my things.

Sunday morning, we woke up and went for a bike ride. He was so sweet a few weeks ago and put my bike back together for me (to be fair, he’s the one who took it apart in the first place….but I had a tangled chain somehow?), so I’ve been able to ride around with him. I’m terrified of city biking – too many people in Chicago get smashed by buses on bikes – but I’m getting better! We did 20 miles on Sunday, looping through the park on our way downtown, made a pit stop for ice cream, and then to REI (obviously), and then back around to the water treatment plant, and then back. By the end, I’d lost all of my energy, and the last few miles were me playing the mental fortitude game in my head. But I made it! There’s an uphill part right at the end, which is miserable. It’s the last big push before relaxation, and when I made it, I was overjoyed and that feeling of accomplishment (or at least, not failure) washed over me.  And on the way I ran into a couple of friends who I hadn’t seen in over a year, which was wonderful!

Ha, to make things way sexier, I wore bike shorts. And since I left my car at the Thai restaurant the night before, I had no shoes to wear other than my cheap little black flats. So between the bright orange bike shirt and short combo and the completely not bike shoes, I made a very official-looking exerciser. You know, I make fun of the bike shorts/shirt people (and will continue to do so…), but, there’s something to it. My sit bones were not even sore as a result of the padding in the shorts.

Then I went to Verizon and got a new phone. I’ve had my mom’s old iPhone for over a year now, and she had it for two years before that, and the thing was just starting to lose everything. No battery life, no storage, the whole deal. It was time. Verizon can definitely thank Lil’ Wayne for pushing me over the edge; I’d been vacillating between the iPhone 6s (or trying to wait until the 7 came out?) and an Android, and Samsung came out with the Galaxy S7, which is water-resistant (seriously, you could put it in a fish tank and it would still work – I’m so curious but not $700 worth of curious, so I’ll leave that to the professionals and try to keep my phone on dry land), and that’s what did it. I’m a bath-taker and also incredibly accident-prone, so this seems like the right choice. Also, I had an S4 once, and I loved it. Apparently, the S6 was a miserable piece of equipment, and they’ve corrected that (righted their wrongs and put things back) in the newest version, so I’m in.

We shall see. It’s been a funny adjustment, because I had forgotten everything. But alas, it’s like riding a bike. Your fingers and brain relearn the moves, and it’s been not even 48 hours and I’m back in the groove.

Then I had dinner with my mom. First dinner, to be more accurate. We ate salad and caught up for an hour or so. It was so nice. I really love my mom. Then I had second dinner with my friend Emily. Man, I really love sushi and sake. I also love having friends that you’ve known forever. It’s so wonderful to love someone who really knows you. Emily has known me since high school, and I am really happy that we haven’t let our friendship slip. She’s beautiful, smart, funny, and all of the things I love. We had a nice time, except for the fact that my dark circles threatened to swallow me whole. I had that blank, empty stare of exhaustion by the time we were done.

Finally, finally, came the sleep. My exhausted body was so pleased to find bed and pillows and blankets, and I was gone, weekend concluded. Not too bad for 55 hours, right? Errands, accomplishments, exercise, family, friends, dancing, date night, alcohol, ice cream, adventure, new technology, and babies! All of the best things. Nailed it.

On Kids’ Movies, Tearfully

It’s no secret that I’m a cryer.

I have cried at Google commercials, movies, cute internet pictures, news articles….you name it. Sometimes it’s just a misty-eyed moment, and other times, it’s a full-on sob session. I can’t help it; I’m very empathetic and my weakness is adorable things.

A few weeks ago, I was babysitting my favorite 6-year old and we watched Brave. I had never seen it. It’s a lot of things, but it’s definitely a mother/daughter movie and I had reached near-Notebook levels of tears by the end. My 6-year old was very confused as to why I was sniffling on her couch watching the mom-turned-bear trying to become a human again but also survive and not lose herself to animal instincts while still being a mother.

“Why are you crying,” she asked.

Through my tears, I tried to summarize adolescence and especially parent stress, and how no matter what you do, even if you do something really stupid, they’ll still love you. I am pretty sure she thought I was completely crazy. She won’t remember that conversation, but she’ll grow up and be a teenager and it’ll all make sense.

Kids’ movies get to me. I cried at some ridiculous dolphin movie, and The Boxtrolls, and..I should just make a list, or better yet, maybe maybe a list of kids’ movies that I don’t cry while watching…that’d be so much easier.

Anyway – not the point – tonight we watched Despicable Me 2, which is such a fantastically wonderful movie. As we got to the end, and the main character (a lovely, reformed grump who adopted 3 adorable daughters and has a giant yellow entourage of incoherent helpers) is getting married to a woman with whom he’d worked on some spy work, I see my 6-year old’s head slide into my view from where she’d been behind me, brushing my hair.

She’d come to check to see if I was crying. “Not even a little bit!” I told her, slightly too proudly. She checked my face to make sure, and then giggled and went back to brushing my hair.

Wow. You know it’s bad when even the kids think that you’re probably crying.

🙂

On Tindering, Tentatively

Note: Family members who are queasy at the thought of discussion about human sexuality/romance/all that jazz should not proceed past this point. I will take no responsibility for the intense burning in your retinas or the rise of Catholic guilt or the subtle reproaches of glaring disapproval emanating from you at future family gatherings, because you will not be able to say that I didn’t warn you. (It’s probably not going to be THAT bad, but I’m hedging my bets just in case.)

 

““Some people still catch feelings in hookup culture,” said Meredith, the Bellarmine sophomore. “It’s not like just blind fucking for pleasure and it’s done; some people actually like the other person. Sometimes you actually catch feelings and that’s what sucks, because it’s one person thinking one thing and the other person thinking something completely different and someone gets their feelings hurt. It could be the boy or the girl.”

And even Ryan, who believes that human beings naturally gravitate toward polyamorous relationships, is troubled by the trends developing around dating apps. “It’s the same pattern manifested in porn use,” he says. “The appetite has always been there, but it had restricted availability; with new technologies the restrictions are being stripped away and we see people sort of going crazy with it. I think the same thing is happening with this unlimited access to sex partners. People are gorging. That’s why it’s not intimate. You could call it a kind of psychosexual obesity.”

The above is an excerpt from an article in Vanity Fair about hookup culture. I’m nearing 28, and I’m smack-dab in the middle of a sexual revolution of sorts. I’ve been meaning to post about this for a while now, but I haven’t been able to put it all into words. And still may not be able to…but here goes:

One Thursday, I rolled into work in the morning and stood at my desk chatting with my work wife across the pre-fab bland blonde walls of our cubicles. “Oh god,” I said in dismay, “the feelings have landed.” Her face was sympathetic. “Really?” she said, and the discussion wound on, evaluating pitfalls and what it might mean to actually be having feelings. Feelings, we agreed, are the worst. Feelings make everything complicated.

I inwardly groaned when I realized I’d been infected with feelings for the person with whom I’d been sleeping. <— How horrible of a sentence is that? Dismay at the thought of actually liking someone? Distress because suddenly it’s not just skin contact and cocktails any longer? Panic because of the potential for disaster?

Of course there’s potential for disaster! The only things in life worth doing involve great potential for disaster! Not really, but for the sake of this argument, the ability to be vulnerable in a relationship is a risky move, but also one that has great potential for growth, etc. And that is important! The minute that we lose the ability to be vulnerable and to accept that this may end in horrible heartbreak and be the inspiration for the next “500 Days of Summer,” we’ve lost the most important part of human connection (besides the skin contact and endorphins, am I right?) and also a potentially lucrative screenwriting credit.

If we lose the ability to truly feel the emotions associated with romantic/sexual activity, we’ve lost the meaning, the depth, and in the end, the entirety of the relationship has been reduced to posturing and pretense, a superficial and ultimately narcissistic exercise in fleetingly empty satisfaction.

For me, life’s meaning is rooted in love and connection. There are all sorts of kinds of love, obviously, and I love them all. But there is something utterly fantastic about romantic love, and I absolutely appreciate the fact that I’m able to experience it, and would never want to lessen the impact that it has and can have on your life. It is profound. It is immense. It sears through you and shapes you. It’s beautiful, and deserves the utmost in care and appreciation.

We sit here in our digital age and wax nostalgic for the days of a simpler time, when men were gentlemen and they still called. Then we get on our apps and play the 2016 version of “Hot or Not” on Tinder while we wonder why we can’t find anyone suitable. We actively avoid getting involved with people, because we’re all too busy trying to evaluate all of our options, move upwards in terms of societal valuation of our scores, and ultimately….oh wait, what happens at the end of it? When happens when we’re not toned and fit and still hot? What happens when we are suddenly forced to rely on the content of our character? What then? What happens when the potential matches have dried up, the game has lost its luster and you’ve not attained any level of connection or progressed as a person?

There’s a lot to unpack here and I’m going to attempt to do that and then impart my wisdom (read: draw wild conclusions and dig in on them, because I can).

Here is the summary of what I’m going to attempt to discuss: communication, connection, cultural standards, the advent of the internet and its effect on sexuality and dating, expectations, exploration, and my goals/hopes/dreams (and so on, ad nauseum).

Where I’m coming from (while I may not be Raymond Carver, I’m still coming from somewhere…): I’m 27, have been actively dating since I was 15, and I’ve got over a decade of relationships and relationship failures (and successes) under my belt. It’s like the end of an NBA commercial I saw last night: “Success is just failure that hasn’t happened yet.” Foreboding, yet mostly correct.

One of my favorite quotes from well-known sex columnist Dan Savage goes something like this: you date, you break up, you date again, until eventually you don’t break up. I’ve always taken this to heart – even if I go on my last first date when I’m 80, I will have tried. I will have built a body of experiences and relationship endeavors that will have led me to find the thing that I seek. I will have loved and lost and, perhaps most importantly, learned.

I have hundreds of great stories about dating. Some of them are beautiful, some hilarious, some cringe-worthy, and all of them comprise the library that is my experience and the lens through which I evaluate relationships or potential relationships.

I’m an excellent first dater, because I’m not into the superficial conversation that generally comprises a first date. I want to know all of the things, because in finding out the deeper parts of a person, you’re better able to assess their potential as a possible partner or mate. Part of it is my unwillingness to conform to the expectations of the date as an interview mentality, because it is and it is not – the dating part of it is the longest interview of your life, and should be embraced wholeheartedly – and part of it is because I’m fantastically curious.

But then I find myself quickly losing interest, because the men I’m dating just don’t have “it.” They’re bland. They don’t hold my interest. In the early moments, I’m able to mirror my own versatility and excitement onto them, because they’re still reflecting that back, but once the mirror drops, it’s often a letdown. Tobias calls it “the sparkle phase” – normal people refer to it as the “honeymoon phase” – it’s the endorphin-filled glittery time when things are still new and we’re all still filling in the gaps of unknown information with the things that we want them to be. Once all that subsides and the routines of normalcy land, we’re left with the actual real human person and we’re forced to cope with the fact that they might actually, unfortunately, be just like us – flawed, neurotic, normal.

I always say that I want to find someone whose weird matches mine, or at least, works with mine. If we can each understand each other’s negative qualities, or even real human qualities, and still respect each other, then we’ll stand a chance of succeeding. I love my friends unconditionally. I know their flaws. But the sum of their parts as a person obviously overwhelm those flaws. Besides, if they weren’t flawed, they’d be totally boring, and I’d never want that.

I’m intelligent, pretty enough in an unusual way, and not into the whole image thing. I’m dynamic; I like a lot of things. I’m not driven by physical attraction – well, obviously a little bit – but I find that character and authenticity are far more important to me than a chiseled jawline. I need to find someone who’s driven, intelligent, kind, dynamic, flexible, willing to deal with my inability to organize and my ADHD-driven conversational patterns, and a little bit wild (a lot wild, but not too wild, you know?). It’s hard to find that blend of adult/responsibility/adventure/intelligence. Really hard.

I want to find someone who respects me first as a person and secondly as a partner. I want to be an equal, not an object. I also want to find someone whom I respect, someone who pushes me to be better, but who genuinely adores all of the things that I already am. And someone who laughs at my jokes, because I love (my) jokes. I want to find someone who’s funny, and who appreciates humor’s importance in our lives. I want to find someone to share my life with, to have adventures with, and ultimately, to maybe grow old with. (Or at least a suitable first husband.)

I seek quality. That’s why Tinder is completely overwhelming. I have to just swipe right a few times, get about 10 matches, and then sort from there. I can realistically only date a couple of people at a time. I don’t want my dating pool clouded with confusion, cluttered like my car, and ultimately counter-productive.

I’m also diligent about the endeavor. I don’t want a one-night stand, not that those are terrible. I want to explore the possibilities with a person before I bail, but I also want to make sure that I’m not settling. And that’s part of the problem.

My friend recently used an excellent analogy about cheesecake. He posits that dating is like being at the Cheesecake Factory (if you’ve been living under a rock, it’s an entirely self-explanatory concept restaurant with oddly off-putting interior decoration). Cheesecake is great, but what about this fancy cheesecake? Or that one? There’s so many to choose from, how can you just choose one? (See that earlier quote from the Vanity Fair article – “psychosexual obesity.” Pertinent.)

Well….if you don’t want to get fat, you’ll probably have to settle for fewer cheesecake pieces rather than all of them (dear lord, imagine the lactose situation you’d have gotten yourself into). Also, if we’re approaching this analogy in the manner of this NPR article, if we wait and hesitate, then the cheesecake will spoil, or be purchased by other hungry cheesecake seekers. But then again, are we missing out if we get one cheesecake and not the other? Is there a better cheesecake? What if I picked the wrong cheesecake? Arrrrghhhh! The wrong cheesecake, the horror!

This is the crux of the problem now – it’s well documented that increased availability in choices leads to more indecision and increased rumination about regret. “What if?” becomes a standard follow-up line of thinking after a choice has (finally!) been made. It’s a Millennial conundrum. We’re standing with a seemingly endless array of options, and we’re completely stagnant, unable (or unwilling) to decide for fear of missing out or making the incorrect choice. Ha. But that’s the thing about choice…

In the days of yore (anywhere from agrarian societies to pre-Industrial Revolution…or maybe even as far as the early 1900s…), we had fewer choices. There were a limited number of eligible bachelors (or bachelorettes, if you’re into that sort of thing) available for mating, and it was expected that the pairing would be mutually beneficial, befitting of your social station, and lead to procreation for the sake of posterity and lineage continuation. The finality of the match was sealed, and that was that.

Then came everything that has come since that time, including women’s rights (pesky things, women…can’t live with them, can’t live without them), the Sexual Revolution, the advent and popularity of divorce for “irreconcilable differences” (those again), and the internet (which brought us Imgur, so we’re clearly coming out ahead). All of that has led to a massive paradigm shift, and with that, different expectations for dating, mating, and the like.

Being a modern woman, I am blessed with agency in the choices relating to my sexuality and partner preferences that past generations of women have not experienced. The importance of that agency is not lost on me. I am also blessed with a healthy sense of knowledge and self-assurance as it relates to sexuality (including health, preferences, subcultures, and practices, etc.). A lot of that is self-taught. I became incredibly curious about sexuality as whole and spent a significant amount of time ensuring that I was well-informed when it came to health, in particular, but also to the other elements.

When you think about it, human sexuality as a whole is fascinating. We’re blessed with the ability to create tiny people, but it’s about more than that. The entirety of the connection and endless possibilities for pleasure is amazing. We are truly #blessed to have been gifted with these fantastic bodies and the creativity to explore them to the fullest extent possible.

We are all over the board. We like what we like. We want what we want. One of my exes always used to say that he didn’t want limit his connections with other people. I hated the way he said it, but I get it now. I finally understand what he meant.

I understand that human beings aren’t necessarily wired for monogamy. We do want to maximize the potential for procreation; it’s biological and it makes sense. But much like the fight or flight response has been dulled in our softer survival situations (fire on demand, indoor plumbing, buildings, reduced threat of mountain lion attacks, etc.), I find that there are certainly evolutionary options to consider. I think that romantic love is the highest form of love – and creating, nurturing, and sustaining a relationship with someone is a highly intense and rewarding endeavor. It transcends the more basic animal tendencies of straight procreation and evokes the will power and high-mindedness of our human experience.

That’s not to say that it might not get boring. It might. I am finally coming around the idea of increased fluidity in relationships, but not so much so that I would want to be a non-primary partner. Or even have secondary partners to actively date in addition to the main, really. I know that works out well when it works out well, and maybe at some point in the future, I’ll be happily reporting back about the navigation of that territory. But for now – I’m looking for my person.

That determination to seek partnership may stem from my childhood – the whole broken home, divorce, not happy parental relationship thing – and my subconscious need to “correct” it. But it may not. I understand the argument that marriage is a social construct, and is actually entirely unnecessary. And yet, I would like to have a person. My penguin, my lobster, my partner, whatever you’d like to call them. I think of it as a permanent adventure buddy.

I’m also not freaking out about time. I have plenty of it. As we’ve progressed with women in the workforce, delayed age of bearing children (yay birth control!), and other more modern societal norms, we’ve seen the socially created and maintained institution of marriage become less of a focus. And for that, I’m grateful. Whereas I would have once been considered a spinster due to my advanced age (ha, the advanced age of 27), now I’m only just entering my prime. I’m free to happily explore my life without the intense scrutiny that once would have befallen my adventurous endeavors.

Do I want to get married someday? I think so. Do I want children someday? I think so. But I don’t know for 100% sure. And I’m definitely not going to settle for shitty cheesecake, so if it happens, it happens. And if it doesn’t, I can still have my life and my adventures and some cats. And maybe a turtle. Who knows what will happen. The possibilities are endless!

I do think that it’s interesting to see how the dating game has changed as a result of all of the influx of technology and lowered expectations for commitment. It’s not that people are doing different things than they’ve been doing for millennia, it’s that suddenly, there’s access to information, to media, to availability.

But – much as the Vanity Fair article points out that people seem to be “gorging” themselves as a result of our ability to sudden meet and connect with potential partners whenever, wherever, however – I think that much of it is a false speculation of the true breadth of the market. There are thousands of people using Tinder within a 50 mile radius of me. I know this because I didn’t log in to Tinder for a few weeks, and Tinder sent me a notification saying that over 3,000 people had “liked” me since I last logged in. Whoa. That’s a seemingly endless supply, and yet…it is a finite and ultimately poorly represented number.

(Think of the data that came out as a result of the Ashley Madison hack…think of the disparity and misrepresentation occurring within that small niche market. Not that it’s representative of dating sites, per se, but I think that arguably, we’re all operating with the false notion that this supply is constant, consistent, and infinite, which is not the right way to approach it. Think about all the times you’ve logged in to your account online only to see, ugh, the same people you saw before. Think about the resurfacing of past bad dates, or running into an ex at the grocery store. It really is all the same concept. It’s not practical to operate on that assumption of infinity.)

As far as maximization of potential, it makes sense for men to swipe right on (which is to say, choose or like) nearly any woman. Women tend to be far more selective when it comes to online dating, and so for every time I swipe right and immediately get a match, there are equally opposite experiences on the other end. I know this because I help one of my friends with his online dating game on the regular. It’s hard out there.

Sure, the article talks about the twentysomething males who are focused on maximizing quantity, and that’s all and well. I think it’s also interesting to see the disparity between how they describe their experiences and the reality that I’m seeing when I help my guy friend. Not that he’s not getting dates, but he’s not getting 3 dates back to back in a night. I’m sure if he stepped his game up, he could. But that seems like overkill.

To me, it seems like an exercise in narcissism. I think that’s part of my criticism of online dating as a whole, and I’m not trying to excuse myself from complete and mostly complicit participation in that. I like online dating; much like all technology, it’s been able to bring people together and connect likeminded people, but it’s also brought about some worrying behaviors that I argue aren’t just relegated to online dating, but representative of a significant set of societal shifts that have occurred since the introduction of reality tv, the spread of the internet, and the increased prevalence of social media. Those behaviors include: the devaluation of commitment and connection/relationships; increased objectification of women; decline of chivalry; significant increase in brevity of and expectations for interactions; increased pressure to conform to societal expectations and engage in performative interactions as a way to demonstrate value; decreased authenticity; decreased depth of relationships as a whole; and an overall decline in etiquette to include devaluation of self and others.

The women interviewed in the article seem to discuss the way that manners have become less prevalent since the internet became the way that we date, and I agree, but also disagree. I have strong expectations for someone I’m meeting offline that I’ve met online. If we’re going to meet face to face, I won’t do it as a booty call or hookup. I expect that they will respect me, value me, and treat me as I treat them/want to be treated. Anything less than that gets a non-response from me. That and grammatical errors. I demand consideration, and so I get it. Otherwise, I’m closed for business, no longer interested in being a potential partner.

The twentysomething guys indicate that women love receiving salacious pictures. They report that women respond positively. Ha! I nearly choked on my tea when I read that. I have a friend who regularly sends me unsolicited lewd photographs. To him, it’s an expression of his masculinity, and an attempt to demonstrate value through physical appreciation. To me, it’s an exercise in utter narcissism, and does very little for me or my lady parts. I could do without them (the pictures, not my lady parts).

I think that hookup culture is fantastic, to a point. Women and men are able to engage in consensual activities that are mutually beneficial. For women, we’ve been able to cull the herd in ways that mitigate the onslaught of messages and requests for dates, and for men, they’re able to connect with women who are actually interested in meeting/engaging with them. It’s fun, it’s less oppressive than dinner on a first date, and it allows for increased adventures and decreases in pressure.

However, if one is participating in this process as a means of genuine connection, then it requires firm assertions of expectations at the outset. If you’re unwilling to accept a certain behavior, then you can’t bend on your standards, because if you do that, you’ll end up regretful. If you’re unwilling to have a hookup with no strings attached, then don’t hook up. Don’t have the expectations of something else from the beginning, because your hopes will be crushed.

That’s why communication is important. If you’re clear with someone from the beginning, and regularly touch base along the way, you’ll find that your interactions will progress far more smoothly than if you approach from a place of deceit. The autolycan nature of dating is depressing, and the fact that people are willing to lie, mislead, and misrepresent then truth of their intentions is indicative of a general lack of respect for and objectification of their partners.

I recently flipped through the book, “The Game.” I didn’t have much time, and may end up reading it in its entirety at some point, but near the end, the author is writing about meeting up with a woman who he’d hooked up with on a prior occasion, and who had just ghosted him. (Ha, ghosted. My word of week this week.) He asked her why she’d done that, and she replied that she wasn’t interested in his peacocking behavior. He wrote that during their drinks (the second time, post-ghost), he had already used so much of his material (meaning his “game”) on her that he had nothing left and was forced to actually be himself.

Surprise, surprise! I had a smug moment of “duh!” towards him when I read that. Authenticity is something I seek, and any posturing/peacocking/overtly annoying false presentation is going to drive me to near insanity very quickly. I’m not going to spend time with someone (relationship or hookup, whichever) who’s attempting to persuade me of their value without any real substantive proof. Smoke and mirrors are only just that. I want to see the man behind the curtain.

There’s another thing that’s mildly annoying about our current paradigm shift towards consistently casual dating. You start hanging out, you like each other, you keep doing that, and it’s never clarified. And then, seven months down the road, when you’re wondering where this is going, the other person is still free to be like, “Oh we’re not together, we’re never going to be, what are you talking about, weirdo?” and suddenly you’re the crazy one because you got hurt/developed feelings, etc. It’s curious, how that works. Yes, of course, no one wants to jump straight into a relationship, but I’m not willing to rule out that possibility.

If there’s emotional entanglement, the potential for heartbreak exists and is present and it’s the responsibility of both parties (or however many parties there are – I’m imagining class action lawsuit level number of parties, ha), to ensure that honesty is at the forefront and that clarity is communicated effectively.

Of course, there are hard caveats to online dating and tindering and swiping and hinging and whatever else we’re doing, bageling and bumbling, drunkenly groping for love in the darkest parts of dingy bars. It can get increasingly depressing, very quickly. The approach and results for everyone are completely different. It’s all about attitude, or so I’ve concluded. If you approach with an open mind and clear intentions, your results will be exactly as you want them to be. If you’re disillusioned, desperate, or despondent, your takeaways will reflect that.

In short – life is short. There is something beautiful about the intersection of love and sex, and even in the two on their own. We all strive for something meaningful, even if we’re loathe to admit it, and in our technology advanced society, we’re able to seek and strive so much faster than before. It’s like in movies – I have this theory that we’re far less patient not only because of the instant gratification options available to us at any given time, but also because in movies and other media, for the sake of story progression, the waiting parts are cut out or merely inserted as a montage. We don’t get to see the waiting, or the stagnation, or the things that aren’t action or explicit or explosions, and thus, we have come to expect that our own lives will progress in the same way.

However, unfortunately, that’s not how it works. If that were the case, I’d be montaging the hell out of my work week and speeding towards the action/explosions that comprise my weekends. (Of course then you miss out on the actual meat of life, and in speeding towards the ends of things, you miss the value that is the journey, blah blah, we all know that.)

It’s like everything – you get out of it what you put in.

I’m a part of a strange tide of children of divorce possessed with the unrealistic expectations for fairytale endings actively seeking our own connections in the world, unwilling to settle on something unless it’s “right,” and enjoying the hell out of the ride. Wherever I end up, whoever my person may be – if there even is one – I will at least know that in the course of my life, I’ve done the very best I can to attain adventures, tell fantastic stories, express emotions, and genuinely connect with people around me. If that’s not the best approach, I don’t know what is.