What About Me?

A month ago, I was sitting at a place I didn’t want to be at in Murray hill, drinking wine I didn’t want to drink, waiting on a man I didn’t know if I wanted to date.

I was passing time and nursing my one glass because I didn’t want to leave the place and be forced to sit outside his building where Lucy would die of thirst. Mr. Unexpected had some sort of test that night and Lucy had a grooming appointment the next morning a few blocks from his apartment, so it made sense that I would sleep over… but as I tried my best not to obsess over when he would text that he was out, I wondered what the hell I was doing.

On paper and mostly in person, Mr. Unexpected and I really connected. The sex was great. He made me laugh. He was honest. The chemistry was there but there was also a big ole’ thing missing that I knew, he knew and probably even Lucy knew if we had a way of asking her. I couldn’t put it into words then, but a month later after a weekend of silence to “clear our heads” and “decide what we both wanted,” I found myself sitting across from yet another man who couldn’t give me what I wanted.

But there was one big difference in this mini relationship – and that was me.

In the past, I was willing to put what I wanted so far on the back burner that I started to forget what I needed, and thus, my needs were never met. In the past, I was willing to wait around for a man to get his act together enough to let go of his own self-imposed boundaries and mental blocks to fall in love with me. I was willing to be that rockstar in bed, but also that patient, kind, comforting lady in waiting – never applying too much pressure, and yet keeping the intensity there to keep his interest – and his hunger – lingering.

As I saw myself start to do that with Mr Unexpected while he figured out his job, his apartment, his past and our future, I said literally out loud in the middle of the lake this weekend on a jet ski where no one but the water bugs could hear me:

What about me?

What about the stress that I’ve had this year? Both for great and frustrating reasons – if that wasn’t keeping me from being able to let go in love, why would I be with someone who couldn’t manage it? If I didn’t want to take it so incredibly slow that we didn’t meet one another’s friends, that we didn’t even become Facebook friends, much less Facebook official – why was I drumming my fingers and holding onto a prayer that he would come around? If I was ready to move forward and ready for some romance, ready for some verbal something that would take us past drinks and dinner – why did I find myself walking on eggshells, wondering if asking about spending a Saturday together was too much?

Or maybe the biggest question that rang loud and clear as my phone remained silent the entire four days I was gone… Why was I investing so much in someone I had known a mere two months and he wasn’t willing to really, truly invest in me?

What about me?

The truth was there: I had partly fallen for Mr Unexpected based on my own expectations for what I thought he would become. Once the job thing worked out. Once he was more comfortable. Once he started to open up to me. Once he was settled. Once…it wasn’t all about him anymore.

So when it all came to an end with Mr Unexpected over red wine at a bar in midtown, us both putting off the inevitable conversation we didn’t want to have, things took an unexpected turn. I listened as he explained everything he had concluded this weekend, that he was in a bad place, that he needed to focus at work, that he had so much going on and couldn’t be the man I wanted and needed. That I was great (absolutely) and that he respected me (he should) and that he hoped I wouldn’t hate him (I don’t). The funny thing is that I had came to the same resolution too, having decided that anyone who needs space right after we met and made things official is not someone that I want to be with. I had also came to the conclusion that while someone might be willing to be exclusive with you, those words only give you a sense of commitment – they don’t promise that they will actually do what they need to make a relationship work.

And it was then that I knew I had two choices: I could ask him to work on it, to give it a chance, to not walk away. I could promise him I’d be more patient and I’d be understanding. I could tell him that we had something worth fighting for.

But then I’d be sacrificing myself. I’d be setting my expectations way too low. And I wouldn’t be listening to my heart. Because while I was disappointed that the guy I really liked – and really saw a future with – wasn’t up for the challenge of a new relationship (and obviously wasn’t falling in love with me), all I wanted to do was to run out of that bar and back into my single life. 

Back to where the opportunity to meet someone who could give me what I wanted was somewhere out there, waiting for me to go on a date with him. Back to when I was asking myself what I wanted, instead of focusing on what would make someone else happy.

As we walked out, I remembered the conversation we had on our first date and I asked him, “Do you think my expectations are too high? Do you think that I want too much?” He smiled at me, grabbed my hand and said, “No, not at all. You just want love, Lindsay. That’s what everyone wants.”

He’s right. I do want love. And frankly, that’s not too much to ask for. And it’s definitely something not to settle for.

 

 

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You Never Know

I’ve now been seeing Mr. Unexpected for a while now, and though it hasn’t been long in the scheme of things, it is the most time I’ve spent with someone (who could be a someone special) in almost three years.

And even though I’ve written hundreds of blogs about dating, and even though I’ve given advice to basically everyone I know, and even though I’ve been down this uncertain road before…

…it still feels like the first time I’ve ever had, well, a crush on someone.

They say a lot of things get easier as you age and hopefully, through experiences, you earn wisdom. They also say that the point of going on dates and meeting new people is to figure out what you want, what you’re willing to accept and what type of relationship you desire. And I’ll agree with all of those things – but there are certain truths that I believe never change. Often, they are the ones that we analyze or the ones we question. They are those knots in the pit of your stomach that you always call butterflies and that you secretly teeter between hating and appreciating. They are those feelings that bubble up inside of you – and you look at them – spiraling around in your pretty little head and you (not so eloquently) think:

Why is this so fucking scary?

Before three years of endless, terrible dates (and the poor decision of sleeping with an ex for half of that time), I probably wouldn’t have thrown in a curse word, but my Southern upbringing and manners lose this time ’round.

The matter is: when you’re really starting to like someone, when you’re really seeing all of the good stuff come out, when you really watch them surprise you and you watch them dismiss what you always perceived as crazy – and they view as honest and great – it all feels a little unreal. Too good, too soon. Too much, too easy to be real. Too all of these things to make any sense, and then if you’re like me, you find yourself back at the computer screen you stared at a heaping handful of years ago, looking at your blinking cursor and remembering.

Remembering all of the blogs you have already written about being vulnerable. Reading your own archives of advice on how to let yourself trust. Reading your own words about not believing in the worst, but preparing yourself for it. Soaking up the tips you penned a while back about relaxing during this honeymoon stage, savoring the beginning of getting to know someone and the start of sleepovers at his place and my place. Indulging in bed together, getting to know another body that you’ve suddenly grown very fond of. I read my sentences about listening to the words men say instead of what I want to hear, I read about taking things slow, but standing up for what you want and being brave enough to ask for it, when you feel ready.

And even though I’ve written everything that I’m now re-reading to remind myself… I’m still anxious. I’m still afraid that it’ll all fall apart before it actually gets started. I’m scared that it won’t last or that it’s not as big as I think it is. And yet, I’m excited and well, thrilled to have met someone that I genuinely feel comfortable with and honest-to-goodness can see turning into something.

But there is always that voice in the back of my mind, the one that’s always been there, saying:

You never know. It could go amazingly or it could crash-and-burn and I’ll be writing the post-mortem of a romantic beginning that ended before it got past the first chapter. You never know.

But maybe this is where those growing pains in my early 20s have paid off: I know that I’ll never know.

And better yet, I accept it. I expect it. I know that unexpected things happen along the way. Because just as uncertain and unpredictable as being single and finding love is, the same could be said about apartment hunting. Or career opportunities. Or the health of your family. Or your ability push yourself to be a better person. And a softer one. You never really know what’s going to happen. You can save money and spend it all with two European trips, a big move and an (incredibly annoying) broker’s fee. You can write what you think is the best article you’ve ever conspired, and then when it’s published, the words don’t even look like your own. You can spend your time analyzing and harping over every little thing he did or didn’t say, wondering what the meaning is between the texting, the emails, the dates, the sheets, the everything…

…or you can just experience it.

And hope for the best. Dream of what you really, really want to happen. Go about your life, just as you have, just as you will – and keep that little prayer tucked away that a Mr. Unexpected will find his way into it. Because just like you never know if it will go sour – and you’ll be having a date with your best friends and Mr. Pinot and Cupcake – you also never know if it could all go right.

And no amount of dating and failing, protecting your heart, reading advice articles, texting your friends or thinking the worst possible thoughts will change the outcome. You never know what will happen…

…and that’s the best part about it.

Because no matter if it’s Mr. Unexpected or someone else, there is always possibility out there, always a chance, always a something to surprise you. And the one thing that you can know – is that whatever happens (or doesn’t), whatever comes your way (or leaves), whatever experience you face (or hate) – you can make it through. You can be happy.

And you never know, you might just have someone pretty great on your side somewhere along the way.

5 Things I’ve Learned Being Single for 3 Years

After a productive Sunday of running, cleaning, dog walking and meal prepping – what I really wanted was a glass of wine. What I really needed was to write.

So as most responsible adults do, I did both.

After the hostess said she’s hold a table for 10 minutes for us, Lucy and I raced down to Toast, one of my favorite Upper West Side hangouts. I ordered some Pinot just as the sun was setting and the half-moon was making it’s debut in the June sky. And though I had deadlines to meet, articles and galleries to edit, plans to make and blogs to write – I took a moment and just looked up.

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And for the first time, in a very long time, I felt so comfortable, so happy, so secure in my own skin, I impressed myself. Here I was, 25-years-old and having dinner by myself on a Sunday evening, outside in the city that I love, with a pup that catches the attention of every single person that walks by. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have had the confidence or the independence to sit alone and enjoy a meal.

Much less, sit pretty for more than two hours.

In fact, in the years – almost three now! – that I’ve been single, I’ve learned just about everything that I wanted to learn when I first started this blog. And while 2013 pushed me to the extreme in every are of my life, 2014 has proven the true power of hope. And of faith. And of believing in the unknown, just like I’ve always had the courage to do.

Writing about being single doesn’t give me an advantage as much as it puts me at a disadvantage in dating – everything I think, feel and have experienced in my love life is splashed across the internet, well-read by many and quoted by some. But while I hesitate to share my last name too soon into getting to know someone, I’m never embarrassed by the path it took to get here, and the things I’ve learned about being single along the way.

To name a few…

1-    (I Hate to Admit This) But It’s Fun to Be Single (Sometimes)

Not always and not mostly, but sometimes having zero obligation to someone else is not only convenient – it’s liberating. There are days when I don’t wake up until 11 a.m., don’t talk to anyone (but Lucy) and don’t think twice about being selfish with my plans. And if I happen to meet someone that I click with – it’s surprising and it’s interesting. At least for a few dates, anyway. And if it’s not, I know I have many beautiful parts of my life – friends, travel, a rewarding job, an exciting place to live – to enjoy instead.

2-    Friends Are So Much More Important Than Men

Yes of course, once you get married, things change. But while we’re all dating, mating, attempting to relate to one another and figuring it all out as we go, the friendships you cherish are the ones you invest in. While everyone is on their own path and going through different things, having women that you connect with on a daily basis not only makes you feel less crazy, but reminds you of all the reasons you’re wonderful, too. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned while being single – that I’m determined to carry on once I meet someone – is not letting a man monopolize my time. You can’t become so consumed with one person that you forget about the special ladies who helped you become the person you are.

3-    For Heaven’s Sake, Don’t Settle

Seriously though, don’t. It’s so incredibly tempting when a man is just about right. Or just about turns you on. Or is just about what you’re looking for. Or just about makes you laugh. Here’s the thing: the man you ultimately end up with won’t be everything you’re looking for. But when you meet him and get to know him, you won’t list all the reasons he’s wrong. You might see that he’s not quite as tall or quite as romantic or quite as successful as you would have hoped, but you’re able to see past it. If you have to convince yourself to date someone, you shouldn’t be dating him.

4-    You Really Can Do Anything

Not that you can’t once you’re in a relationship, but there’s something about doing everything by yourself that’s so satisfying. Like paying for and carrying groceries and laundry, budgeting, watching Game of Thrones, booking vacations (and going on them), and everything else – when you’re single, you figure out just how much you can do, without help from anyone. I will surely look forward to the day when I can score a great one bedroom that I split with another person (whom I also share a bed with), but for now, I’m really happy with where I am. And really enjoying the great arms I have from the heavy lifting.

5-    Men Are People, Too

Some are dogs. Some will lead you on. Some will never let go. Some will break your heart and some will inspire you. But more than they are lovers or could-be husbands or boyfriends, or that person that buys you flowers and likes how you look naked, they are people. People with stories. With strengths. With weakness. With a history and a hope for the future. With different motivating factors and different nationalities. They are very simply, just people. And when you’re looking for one of those people to date, they should not just be some idea in your head – they should be someone that you value and respect– as a person. Not as a man or a lover or a partner. But as a person.

And hopefully, they’ll think the same of you – because more than you’re a single woman or a girl who works in digital media or a girl with a dog in New York City or a girl with a blog or anything else- you’re a person. A person who is living – and thriving – independently.

Finally. Happily.

 

 

He Loves You

You will wear blue on your first date – that dress from Calvin Klein that you got on sale at TJ Maxx, that your best friend made you buy because it makes your eyes pop. It will take every last single ounce of energy you have to actually leave the comfort of Netflix and takeout to join a stranger – yet another stranger for drinks at a place far too many subway stops away. You’ll wear flats and change into heels. You’ll put on that lipstick that promises to stay on past infinite drinks and hours (but really never does). You will answer the same questions with the same answers, you will smile on cue and you’ll never miss a line. Until you do. Until something feels different. Until something – or someone – puts you off your game. Throws you off an edge. Challenges you to put yourself – and that tricky little heart – out there more. One date will turn into another, which will turn into texts and phone calls and more dates, and more words and more touching and more feeling. More, more, more! It will all start to feel like more than before, than what you thought you were still capable to experience with an open heart and lofty imagination. You will become a lighter version of yourself, wondering when the other shoe will drop, when the dark demons in his closet will make their grand appearance, when the texting will cease to continue, when all of the everything will crumble. As it has. As it does. As it… hasn’t, so far? You will keep holding your breath until…

…he loves you.

You will change your Facebook status and he won’t mind. It might not mean much to him but the switch is enough to help you rest a little easier, knowing that cyberspace received the memo that he is taken. That you are, too. You will feel strangely uncomfortable bound to something committed and monogamous, a term that hasn’t entered your vocabulary in such a long time, you may have to look up the definition to remember it. You will have sleepovers and he will meet your friends. You’ll add him on Gchat. He’ll change your name to “Blue Eyes” in his phone, because that’s what he calls you. You’ll challenge yourself to go a couple of days without mentioning his name to your friends – mainly because you hear the annoyance in their replies – not because you have ran out of things to share. You will notice things of his left behind at your apartment, things that are so ordinary they should be insignificant but as his watch lays next to your perfume, his toothbrush next to yours, they feel so much more powerful – so oddly romantic – that you have to stop yourself from looking at them. You will go away for the first time and he will introduce you to his parents. You’ll let him walk your dog all by himself. You’ll talk about next year like it’s guaranteed, and you’ll pretend you don’t think about the bigger things that every relationship columnist (including myself) will tell you to never speak of until the time comes. Your heart will finally experience all of those things it was always promised but never believed would happen. You will feel those tingly, giddy, ridiculous things that you never wanted to be that girl who smiled like that over some guy. But you are. Because that guy – that man you’re falling for…

…he loves you.

You will wonder if you moved in together too quickly or if the beautiful rush of the beginning could cause an ugly crash at the end. You will compare yourself to every relationship, every right thing or wrong thing that you’ve perceived in your mind to determine love, until you really can’t take the pressure anymore. You will study his face in the way you did when you first met – when you used to count his freckles and admire his long eyelashes – and instead, you’ll try to find that glimpse of attraction that used to make you weak in the knees. You’ll wonder how those original images of perfection faded into something so everyday, something so routine that you can’t (honestly) remember the last time you made love. Or had really hot, dirty sex. You will do your best to stomach the envy you harbor over those girls who still get to feel those butterflies, that precious new-beginning anxiety that is so terrible in the moment, and so seemingly beautiful when you look back at it, now. Now. Years into your relationship. Years into love. Years into answering questions about who will do the dishes and who will pick up the rice and who will buy the dog food this week. Years into building a life with the man that you think – that you truly, really know – is The One. So why isn’t it magical all the damn time? Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be if…

…he loves you?

You’ll reach a happy place. It won’t come all at once, like life often does, but instead it’ll gradually manifest into something so powerful that you don’t need to label it to enjoy it. You will let go of those notions that you held so dear and you’ll trade them for the reality. The reality of watching reality TV and splitting a six pack with pizza on a Saturday night in your pajamas because there are no needs for the frills anymore. But you won’t forget about those frills, either. They are there in the back of your mind, in the corners of your memories, in those stolen moments that you still have from time-to-time when you take a weekend away. In those brief seconds where you see him from across the bar and his glance doesn’t catch you first, but you catch that feeling you had when you first met. You’ll find yourself amazed at how much you really do love him, how much he really does get you going. How much the deeper love is harder and less exciting than the superficial one. But it’s better. It’s so much better. It’s the love that’ll last, you tell yourself. It’s the love that makes you a better person, a better woman, a better lover. It’s the love that’ll make him get down on bended knee and ask you that question you haven’t been asked before. The question he’ll pop because…

…he loves you.

You will close your eyes and when you open them, you’ll be standing on the front porch – or the front ledge – of the home or apartment you bought. You’ll look behind you and see the children conquering their destruction, the laundry piling up in the living room, the boobs sagging a bit more every day. You’ll scroll through your old Facebook photos and you’ll see yourself laughing with your friends at a warehouse party in Brooklyn. Back when you had time to host a monthly Supper Club, back when your income was split between a little savings, a lot of wine and even more traveling. You’ll see the man you married, the hunk of a guy that your mom admired and your dad approved of, and you’ll see his hair graying. Or falling out. You’ll watch him manage a budget and manage a screaming baby – and he’ll never seem sexier to you (even if neither of you have the energy these days to get it on). You’ll wonder if you should have another baby. If you can afford one. If your body can take it. You will collapse into bed at the end of yet another exhausting day, sure that you’ll maybe steal four hours of sleep – if you’re lucky – and you’ll feel his body press up against you. And he’ll remind you. Just in case you forgot. Just in case you need to hear it. Just in case you’re feeling out of touch and out of your mind… that…

…he loves you.

You will not meet this man – not today, not tomorrow. You won’t meet him next month or next year. You won’t meet him in a sweet, unusual way or online. You won’t meet him because you try really hard or because you put yourself out there every single Friday and Saturday night, hoping for the best, working the room with your hips. You won’t meet him because you pray for him or because you want to or because you absolutely can’t imagine spending another year 100 percent single, 1,000 percent alone. You won’t meet him because it’s the right time or because you drop those 10 pounds or because you’re ready. You won’t meet him at all if you don’t accept that yes…

…he loves you.

Because you are worthy of love. That you are worthy of waiting for the right person. That you are worthy of the best of it all – the thrill of the start, the luxury of the longevity. That you are worth more than those guys you’re dating, the jerks you’re putting up with. That you are worth more than what’s in your past and who has crushed you. That you are worthy of someone truly special, someone truly a match for you, someone who truly loves you for those things that make you, you. That before there will ever be a man who loves you through the good, the bad, the wrinkled, the messy, the sloppy, the tension, the arguments, the lackluster, the magical – you have to know you are worthy of him.

And even if he hasn’t said it, even if you haven’t met him, even if you’re still working on believing he exists (we all are). Know that there is a man. There is that man for all of us. And he will love you.

How to Stop Looking

When you’re dating, people in (and frankly, out of) relationships have a lot of advice to give on how to turn that single status upside down.

Some folks will tell you to give up, let it go and watch the magic unfold. Others will say that when you least expect it, a man will just appear in your life. Others will claim the key is playing hard to get and never act interested (even when you really, really are). They will tell you not to worry and to put yourself out there more (because all those dates you go on apparently aren’t enough). They will reassure you that you’re wonderful and men are silly not to latch onto your hip and claim you as their very own (because that’s healthy). So many ways to look at being single – and so many words of um, wisdom that feel anything but helpful, and mostly, infuriating.

But of all of the things people tell you – the worst piece of advice to stomach are these six little words:

“It happens when you stop looking.”

But wait? How can you date without looking?

Isn’t the point of playing the field and sorting through all of the jerks and the could-be great guys… is that you’re looking? If you’re saying “yes” to drinks with Mr. Maybe-I-Could-Feel-Something-Big, it’s likely you’re not just doing it to pass time. Surely, you don’t endure the truly terrible experiences without the glimmer of possibility that one could turn into one of those really amazing first dates. If you are signing up for Tinder and Hinge and OkCupid and Match, going on Grouper dates and letting people set you up with strangers – aren’t you looking? If you’re not looking, then you’re not dating, right? Aren’t they one in the same? So how can the love of your life (or of the next few months or years) waltz into your life if you’re not going on dates, or well, looking out for his grand entrance?

I never understood the difference until recently, while out to brunch with my friend C. In between sips of mimosa and listening to jazz in the West Village, I said: “I have so much going on in my life that’s bringing me joy and getting me excited: a new job, possibly a new apartment, a trip to London, summer trips and marathon training. It’s not that I wouldn’t be open to a relationship, it’s just that I have so much more to focus on. Meeting someone would be great and fun, but it’s not the priority. It’d just be a really nice addition, not a necessity.”

And that’s when it hit me: there’s a difference between looking and being open.

When you’re looking, everything feels rushed and pressured, like you’re attempting to meet an imaginary deadline to meet someone before your time runs out. When you’re looking, a guy that really seemed like he would work out and somehow, he didn’t – would be disappointing and possibly, devastating. When you’re looking, you put more weight on every word he says, every texts he sends, every thing he does or doesn’t do. When you’re looking, drinks with friends are never just a catch-up with the girls, instead, it’s an eye-prowl of the establishment, checking for any available men. When you’re looking, you fill your calendar with maybe’s and you stop committing to plans – just in case someone great comes along. When you’re looking, you’re anything but relaxed.

And that’s what people mean when they give you the advice to stop looking. If you’re constantly seeking, you won’t find what you want because you’re so focused on the chase that you never notice your prey. And you never give any spark time to grow. Or to bloom. The shade of your hand keeps it hidden because the pressure is just too heavy.

The difference between looking and being open doesn’t feel that contrasting. In fact, I hadn’t even realized it until I looked at my life and noticed my own big changes. If we’re being honest, I haven’t been looking for love in quite some time.

Instead, I’ve just been open.

I’ve filled my days and nights and weekends with the things I actually want to do, regardless if a man is involved or not: brunch and flying trapeze, picnics in the park, long runs at dusk, dog play dates, trips abroad and trips just an hour away, trying new cocktails with old friends, and going to old staples with new friends. I’ve been focused on experiences and adventures instead of romance and happily-ever-after. I’ve said “yes” to dates that I thought could really go well, and when they didn’t, I’ve let them go with such ease that I forget just how many I’ve gone on. I’ve spent time and money saving for what I want, and I haven’t considered anyone else in the process, instead, I’ve just enjoyed the dreams of what my life could be, the places I could go, the things I could see.

With all things that could happen, I’m open. I’m curious. I’m excited.

And if some man does come along, it won’t be because I looked for him. Or sought him out in desperate attempts or with elaborate, calculated plans. Or because I put on that one dress that hugs in all the right places. Or because I said the right thing or replied in the same way, or went out with the sole purpose of finding him.

It’ll be because of what happens when apparently, I’m not looking, not expecting it and not trying so hard and not giving up, and letting go.

Or ya know, just when I’m myself. And open to whatever is next.