I Know Better

The second I saw him, I knew this night was a waste of a brand new dress from Urban.

I really did know better. I really had been here before. This, actually was precisely the reason I stopped going on online dates. It was why I deleted all of those accounts. I had met too many people who seemed like Mr. Everything on paper, er, on screen, only to spend five minutes before searching for the closest exit. But after a few months of duds met in real life, not the digital romantic playground, I decided to give it another go, let myself give clicking yet another chance to help me find someone I just might click with.

But again, I knew better. I knew how this likely would play out. And I was right.

We had spent the last few days texting up a storm. He seemed interesting enough– educated, tall, from the Midwest, new to the city, likes running and has a dog. He remembered to follow up and was somewhat funny, at least iPhone to iPhone. He suggested margaritas on Friday night near our respective apartments, and I didn’t need much convincing. It was raining when I arrived, appropriately five minutes late, and I saw him standing with an umbrella.

He wasn’t six foot. My shoulders were wider than his. He couldn’t make eye contact and didn’t hold the door open for me. He isn’t actually living in the city, but interning. He couldn’t hold a conversation longer than I could exhale out of nothing more than utter frustration. He didn’t ask about what I did or what I like to do, or anything at all, frankly. He kept talking about how he likes to get drunk, whipped through his drink in a hot second, and I quickly came up with an excuse to leave. As I walked back to the restroom, I stopped the waitress to ask for our check and something in my step, or maybe my tightly-sealed pursed lips, made her sense something wasn’t quite right. With a thick Queens accent she asked if everything was okay and I jokingly whispered that yes, except that I was on the worst date in a very long time.

She laughed as she offered, “I’ve been there. I’ll bring you a shot, on the house.” When I returned to my seat, there was a tequila and lime waiting. Without explaining to the terrible date, I took it down in one swift swoop, and I left that heaven-sent waitress a 35 percent tip in return.

After awkwardly leaving my date (without physically running away), I stopped at a place on my block for a drink. It wasn’t even 10:30 at night, and feeling ten years older than what I really was, I decided having an extra pint would satisfy my FOMO. Or at least, drown it. Plus this particular bar attracts a younger crowd that’s not common to the Upper West, and I wasn’t about to waste flawless makeup and a sexy dress on that pitiful example of a date. Maybe at the very least, I thought, I’d flirt with a stranger and feel like the night meant something after all. The only place at the busy bar was smack dab in front of the tab, smushed between two couples and looking over the discarded plates of naked chicken wings and leftovers of spinach and artichoke dip that someone didn’t finish. I took a deep breath and said my P’s and Q’s to sandwich myself in between, and as if I was a regular, I asked for their signature pilsner.

I really did try my best to salvage whatever night I had by looking interested in the game that was on. Or smiling at the very few men that were without women — and without wedding rings — at the establishment. I tried to look away from my phone, even as it lit up with words of encouragement and frowny faces from my friends about my no-good, terrible date. But with a little more than a gulp to go, I grew tired of the woman to my right throwing her hair in my face as she laughed at jokes that weren’t amusing, and the duo to my left who seriously couldn’t keep their eyes or tongues off of one another. I gave the scantily dressed bartender a dollar and headed — okay, hurried — to the sanctuary of my apartment.

And though I write about relationships and I’m generally level-headed and somewhat realistic about the dating scene in this city, the flood of disappointment, of frustration, of total annoyance came over me the second I was finally alone in that elevator, heading up to the 7th floor. I melted onto my bedroom floor, not even taking off my high-wedged heels, not even turning the air conditioner up in a scorching tiny space that’s only bearable because of the low setting I maintain for Lucy while I’m away. She jumped into my lap and cuddled herself around my arms, as she usually does, and with that first warm embrace all night, I let myself cry.

Just a little.

I let myself spiral around the tornado of  what if’s and the waves of jealousy over my friends, who spent their Fridays at concerts and beaches and double- dates and dinners with men that they not only love but men who undeniably love them back. I let myself curse that stupid bus where I met the last stupid guy I cared for, and somehow, I’m stupidly still affected by the aftermath of our breakup. I let myself mull over the fact that it’s been two years since I broke up with that guy, and two years since I’ve given a second-thought to or had butterflies with anyone else. I let myself consider what my life would look like or how it would feel if I was in fact, single and never married, never had  children. I let myself believe that I could muster up the courage to find a way to be happy flying solo, forever.

And then I let myself dream about that gentle, safe harbor that I often imagine when I’m feeling desperate, it’s my happy place where that handsome man, whoever he is, lives with our blue-eyed children in a brick estate with a thick, green lawn, where plastic-y toys, tiny shoes and love are spread about the house. I let myself shed that black cloak of professionalism and realism that I wear in the city that doesn’t value romance or blush-colored ideas about love —  because focusing on bigger, worldly issues is respected much higher than matters of the heart. Or of emotion. I let myself think about the things that a girl my age is far too young to think about when I have so much living, so much life ahead of me. I let myself let go of those fears that being happy in a relationship isn’t possible or that relationship is so far away that I shouldn’t waste time worrying about it now. I let myself believe that my next great love — possibly even the love — is actually much closer than what I predict. I let myself let it all go as I let myself fall apart…

Just a little.

And then I picked myself up off the floor and washed my face. I buried myself in my new white down comforter that I’m brave to buy with a dog. I settled into the stillness of the night, the quiet that’s so rare in Manhattan. I looked outside at the building tops that I’ve grown accustomed to, and I spread myself out in my Queen oasis that I’ve become comfortable sleeping alone in, often in the dead-center of the bed. And though I know better, I decided that tomorrow was another day. And the day after it, another chance. Perhaps the one that follows, another man. And even if I know better than to believe in love after so many signs pointing to never-happily-ever, I’d rather have faith in what I don’t know than in the thoughts that bring me to the harshness of a hardwood floor on a Friday night.

I do know better, but I don’t know enough to give up.

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A Great Love Story

I always considered myself lucky. I’m someone who was raised in an open, honest and understanding home by two parents who not only loved me, but loved each other dearly. I watched my dad surprise my mother with flowers and unexpected dinner dates and I stumbled across letters my mom left for my dad all over our house. They made each other coffee, stood by each other no matter what they were going through, and though it wasn’t always perfect, to me – they were (and are) the perfect couple.

I grew as the witness and the product of a great love story. Of one of those timeless tales we all read about or watch on the silver screen, but never believe they exist. But they do – in their own special way. He was captivated from afar, she resisted initially, but ultimately gave in. And while they only dated for a month before getting engaged and moving in together, within three months they were married, and happy they’ve remained for over 25 years.

And because of their love, because of what I’ve always looked up to – I’ve never expected anything less for myself. I’ve always thought that relationships were supposed to be like that – open, understanding, romantic, passionate and simple. Maybe simple isn’t the best word because life is far from that, but the love should be easy. Loving someone, being with someone, being committed and dedicated – those things should be the simplest part of life.

But while we all know the detriment of a torn family and the realities and commonality of divorce, what about those of us who never experienced such awful things? Are our standards different or our expectations far too high? Do we only see the happy side of marriage and ignore the difficulties that two people can’t always overcome? Divorce isn’t always the best option, but there is no doubt that sometimes it is inevitable if either party wants to actually be satisfied. If you can’t be joyous together, staying put for the sake of anything is an awful idea.

That’s not reason not to try though, right? Isn’t the risk of loving more important than never loving at all? In a time where marriage continues to be postponed later in life, commitment is delayed until demanded and relationships are limited to a sex date here or a six month stay there – where has all that love gone?

Where are all those great love stories? Do they happen anymore? Do guys really fall madly, completely, entirely, magically, profoundly in love? Do they still pursue women to the ends of the earth? Do they still see us and become so intrigued, they have to have us? Do people get married, stayed married and actually take it serious before the age of 35? Or is that just asking too much? Is it unrealistic to believe that someone could love me the way my father loved my mother?

Should I accept that love has changed in the past three decades? Most every relationship I’ve had has been messy and complicated, difficult to endure at times and almost always ending in some form of heartache. I’ve loved and it hasn’t been returned, I’ve stood by someone when I should have walked, and I haven’t always returned love to those who wanted it. I’ve accepted less than what I deserve, admitted it and yet still continued to be part of it. I haven’t felt the kind of love that my parents seem to have – and I’m getting closer and closer to the age my mother was when she met my father.

And the older I get, the more men I meet and date, relationships I enter, and boyfriends I wonder if I should be dating, I try to decide if I need to have a great love story to have a great love?

Do those of us who come from happy homes want the same thing so badly that we look for it in all the wrong places? Or do we try to imagine and create it out of nothing? Do we value romance and meet-cutes over what it takes to make a relationship stable and reliable? Or are we lost somewhere between the two extremes, trying to figure out what’s really settling and what’s just wanting more than what’s available?

And if it’s not available here, can we find it elsewhere? Or would we just happen to find another lost cause? Another lost love on the way to what we hope will be the great love?

 

The Great Compromise

While everyone else was updating their Facebook about Shark Week, I was counting the days until Mob Week would end. After the rest of his species, Mr. Possibility, the late-bloomer discovered The Godfather. And all of its sequels. Over and over again for seven days.

He wasn’t doing anything wrong per se – he was acting like any other dude acts when in the presence of Al Pacino. You know – repeating quotes, analyzing the dynamics of the mob, asking me what I thought about “mob wives” and in almost every conversation we had with anyone else, The Godfather or the mob would ultimately come up. While The Godfather ban wagon passed a while ago, Mr. Possibility apparently just got on and now realizes why so many teenage, college-aged and middle-aged bachelors have posters on their wall.

I realize that by deciding to spend the night at his place, in his space, with his television, I’m subject to watch whatever he wishes. If I would have asked, I’m sure he would have changed the channel – but I never requested the favor. Though I’ve seen the movie(s) several times due to my father’s taste for the films, I found other ways to preoccupy myself while he sat mesmerized at the television. I even entertained conversations and made mob jokes with him, attempting to participate in something he found that he liked. But all of that went out the window yesterday when we laid around after a long night out celebrating my recent success, watching The Godfather…

…for four hours. Foooour.

In this time, I managed to clear out my email, do a load of my own laundry, take a shower, fix lunch, go for coffee, tidy up a bit, and write a blog or two. He did a few things, but mainly remained glued to the television. There was some snuggling and some talking, but when it came time to leave to make a party in the Hamptons for his friend, it was suddenly important that we rush out the door. However, I needed to drop by my own apartment before heading away for the evening. This was fine with Mr. P until we hit traffic on the bridge and he said, “Well, you had all day long to go home, why did you wait until now? We’re never going to get there on time.”

I’m usually pretty calm tempered, easy to get along with – but this comment brought out the sassy in me. “Didn’t you ask me to stay over today? To hang out with you during the day before going out?” I calmly asked. He nodded, rolling his eyes at the cluster of automobiles in front of us. “And didn’t I offer to go home and get things while you relaxed?” He sighed and nodded again. “And didn’t you ask me not to?” He looked at me, obviously annoyed. “And didn’t we watch The Godfather for the 100th time this week?” “It hasn’t been 100 times! It was on today, so we watched it. You watched it too.”

I think you can probably guess where this conversation went.

After he realized I was right and properly apologized, I thought how relationships are all about the great compromise. They’re about developing a deeper understanding for someone else. They require at least a form of unconditional love and to work, you need to trust and nurture one another. They’re about learning to forgive and being there as a supportive force for your partner in the good times and in the bad. In sickness and in health, in every last stinking situation, no matter how much you’d like to smack them across the face, stomp all over their things, slam the door, and throw in the towel. Or throw something forcefully at them while driving down the Long Island Expressway.

Relationships sound fine and dandy from the outside, but on the inside they sometimes require a lot of work. And the ability to be patient with someone who can infuriate you easily. Maybe it’s that thin line between love and hate, or the difficult task of being mature enough to keep a level head when someone you care about has moments of insincerity. We all have them, we’re all human, so why do we expect our lovers to be perfect? Arguments happen, differences are important to compatibility, and if you have the ability to overcome the tiffs, then your relationship has a chance. Especially if you can forgive someone for making themselves late because of a silly movie and then blaming you for having needs, too.

He made up for it today though – sweetly changing the channel to a Sex & the City marathon, handing me a glass or orange juice, and asking me what the hell Carrie was wearing.

To Call it Home

Yesterday, I joined the happy tourists with sneakers and fannypacks at Rockefeller Center. I was feeling especially happy and particularly pretty, and as it rarely does in August, New York was cool enough for me to sit for a while without sweating my weight. Just as it blew the flags of every country, the city breeze tossed my hair and dangerously ran my skirt up my leg. I barely noticed anything around me though – other than the fact that I was so damn happy, I could barely stand myself.

Though my level of obsession with NYC has been out of hand since I was seven, it isn’t always easy living here. There are reasons why Frankie says if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. He doesn’t just mean in showbiz or in being successful in the career you pick for yourself, but just surviving. The cost of living is significantly higher than most hometowns newcomers come from, and while you save money by buying groceries, those groceries are not only more expensive, but far less appealing than the dozens of restaurants that send amazing scents into the streets every minute. To make it here, to start on the journey that makes you a New Yorker, takes a lot of patience. It requires you to fail continuously, to succeed randomly, and to trust in whatever process is happening.

Sometimes, you find yourself sitting alone in the small room you pay so much money for, staring at your dwindling bank account, fearful of what the next few weeks will hold, and you wonder why in the world you came here. Those thoughts are hard to shake when you feel like you’re at the end of your rope or your heart is starting to get that city-toughness you hoped it never would. I’ve faced them – if I had not decided to major in journalism, if I had stayed in North Carolina, if I had gone another path, if I had never moved more than an hour away from the house that made me, what would my life be like? Would I be married with children? Would I have an actual mortgage and responsibilities that aren’t selfish at their core? Would I be a different person?

Would I be happy?

Maybe I would be. Maybe if different things fulfilled me. Maybe if I never had the feeling that I was destined for something much greater than what I can even imagine – maybe then. Maybe if I hadn’t grown attached to taking chances and barely getting by. Maybe if I hadn’t braved the city and fell in love with it. Maybe then I would have been happy in the country. Maybe I could convince myself to find peace in the ordinary, without striving for the extraordinary.

At those low times, I can almost believe that moving back to where it’s easier seems like the right decision. But then those high times come. Then that phone call that I had been praying for actually comes through. Then the city captures me in midtown, sending friendly smiles and good weather my way. Then that smile that I was missing for months becomes impossible to erase. Then the answer that I was waiting for becomes the answer I really wanted, even if I tried my very best not to get my hopes up.

And then, there I am, playing the part of a walking cliché, listening to New York, NY in my new shoes, making eye contact with handsome strangers and grinning a grin that came from my own hard work. There I am, looking around at the city that knocked me down a few times and realizing it wasn’t up to New York to make anything happen, even if ole’ blue eyes makes it sound that way.

It’s always been up to me to make my life what it is. The city is just there for some moral support and some really killer inspiration. It’s what it is, it’s New York - and it’s worth every struggle, every downfall, every dollar lost, every everything – to call it home.

The Way it Goes

I could write about how happy I am, how much thankfulness I feel in the deepest part of my heart, how difficult it is for me to sit still for any amount of time out of pure excitement, or how long I’ve been waiting for a day like yesterday to arrive. Let me tell you – when I do write about it, when I do have the patience and the stillness in my fingers to write about it, it’ll be a killer blog. It’ll be one of those that I know the second I publish it that it’s going to get a lot of hits and tons of comments. I’ll feel it pour out of me swiftly and easily, the kind of writing that is more like therapy…than well, therapy.

But it isn’t time for that now. Now is the time to celebrate with my friends at a bar in meatpacking with my favorite shoes and a sexy number. It’s time to toast to having patience and believing in the very best, no matter what sets you back at first. Because if you really have a gift, if you really have faith in yourself and what you can do – there may be moments where you feel inadequate or even times when you fail, but because you’re you and you know how great of a thing that is to be – you’ll always find your way.

And sometimes, the way it goes is a way that surprises you. Unexpectedly and quite beautifully. But most importantly – perfectly.