These Years of Freedom

Almost three years ago, I wrote a blog about a date with freedom.

I still remember that day vividly, and in my memories of moving to NYC and making it feel like home here, it’s one of those experiences that stands out. At the time, I was severely unhappy at my job at the business mag, friends with Mr. P (whom I called Mr. Unavailable) but making out with him on occasion, still talking to my ex, Mr. Idea, worried about developing friendships, a tad bit freaked out by my Harlem address, and attempting to write a blog about learning to love being single.

Three years later – I’m in a totally different place. My life has changed in ways I could have never predicted. And in ways that I didn’t know or didn’t really see until this weekend.

Friday was my last summer Friday (media folks get days off when the weather is nice because we spend endless amounts of time glued to the computer), and I made up my mind that not only would it be productive, but it’d be a day just for me. I woke up around nine, grabbed a coffee and the pup, and read in the dog park while she played for an hour, followed by a much-needed jog in the park. Then I walked from my apartment to the Jacqueline Onassis Reservoir to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I had been craving some Monet and O’Keeffe, plus they had a Civil Rights Photography exhibit I’ve heard rave reviews about. To top off the afternoon, I headed to literally the top of the museum, where the rooftop view is arguably one of the best in the entire city. I drank a glass of white wine slowly, thoroughly enjoying it to soak up the last of the August sun before heading back across to the west side, only stopping for 30 minutes for a power nap on the Great Lawn.

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It wasn’t until I was riding the bus to my friend J’s apartment for a girl’s night out a few hours later that I realized my date with freedom three years ago seemed like such a big deal, such a huge stepping stone in my journey and in this blog, and “my date” today — which was quite similar — didn’t feel like anything important, at all.

Instead, it was just life.

My life as a single girl in New York City. Where on any given day, each and every choice is based on what I want. What I’m in the mood for. Whatever time I want to get out of bed or however long I want to run or hang out in the park. Whatever amount of money I want to spend or save, whomever I want to accept a drink from – or an invitation to dance – at the bar on any night I decide to go out. There are not grocery lists or budgets that I make with anyone else or decisions that require consultation. I can spend Thanksgiving in Paris or Rome if the mood strikes, or take a trip with another single gal to the Caribbean just because I’d like to. I have zero rules and only a few commitments and responsibilities that are part of my everyday routine. However long or short this anti-relationship status might be, it will be the only stretch of time when I can be as selfish and stubborn as I’d like. It’ll be the only time I’m this independent, this self-sufficient, this… alive on my own.

After so many heartbreaks and road blocks and experiences, I’ve learned that I’m not dating freedom — instead, I’m just free.

As much time (and energy and heart) that I’ve spent wanting, aching and hoping for love, I’ve forgotten just how much I do love this independence. Even though most single women fear being sentenced to bad (and worse sex) forever, there is something quite special about being a 20-something that hasn’t settled down yet. It’s easy to take it for granted, especially when you’d trade in a night in with the dog for a night in with a man, but if the last three years are any indicator of how quickly life can change, then it’s time to start cherishing these precious moments. And savoring them. Indulging in time and travel alone, trips to the museum and drinks for one outside underneath the street lights and siren sounds. Because there will be a moment when I look back at weekends like this past one — where I spent every second really, truly letting go and letting life fly — and miss these days.

When I look back at brunch in the park with the family that I’ve made in this beautiful city and remember when we were all taking it day by day. When we didn’t have to think past 5 p.m., where Saturday was simply spent laying in the sun and drifting to sleep to the sound of your best friend’s laughter. When our dogs (and maybe our mimosas) felt like our babies. When we worried about so many silly things that won’t mean anything in just a few years. In such a short period of time that we can’t even imagine it right now.

There will be a time when I remember what it was like to be free — and hopefully when I do, I’ll be proud that I soaked it up for all it was worth. I hope I’ll remember that I did what everyone should do: really, truly live as wildly, as beautifully as I can.

I hope I remember being almost-25 and taking so much time and investing so much love… into these years of being… free.

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Sexually (and Mentally) Liberated

A few years ago, I was lying out in Sheep Meadow, alone in the company of a bathing book (trashy one you wouldn’t otherwise read), when a man on a bicycle approached me. I was underage and pretending I wasn’t with permission from a fake ID that somehow worked, though it featured a girl who was blond and green-eyed, quite the opposite of me.

Classily sipping on a mimosa out of a paper bag and ignoring the fact my chest was turning red, Mr. Bicycle jumped down, shirtless and sweaty, and asked my name. With little makeup on and even smaller concern about it, I chatted with him for half an hour or so until he claimed he had a late lunch to get to. Per his request, I slipped him my number and went about my tanning afternoon, not that interested in him but intrigued enough  hope he called.

Skip to a week later and I’m sitting across from Mr. Bicycle on our second date at a place on the lower east side that’s dimly lit and offers food that’s not only overpriced, but overcooked, too. I’m not a picky eater unless I’m paying for it, in which case I want to get the best sizzle for my steak, but since Mr. Bicycle was forking over dough for the bill, I politely downed my dinner with a smile.

Half-way through, I decided that Mr. Bicycle has potential and was someone I would agree to a third date with. We hadn’t kissed yet, but I wanted to. I wasn’t ready to have sex with him, but I figured he was pretty good and pretty blessed in that department, based off his mannerisms and his build. I didn’t know much more than the basics about him: age, background, occupation, his affinity forPeru, his dislike of Asian food. Unlike me, he actually resembles my fake ID (which I hadn’t told him is fake), eyes as green as Sheep Meadow and blond locks that fall effortlessly around his face. He also has dimples, which time and time again, seems to be a feature on a man I continuously attract.

The night was coming to a close and the city was in an unusual state for a July evening, the humidity wasn’t suffocating and the streets were not buzzing in activity or tourists. For once, New York rests and while it was the second date and Mr. Bicycle had no promise of anything really, I rest happily in the smirk that comes with a date gone well. He asked to walk me back to my apartment, to make sure I got there safely like a gentleman, and I let him. As we approached my doorway and I reached for my keys, he pulled me into him and kissed me sweetly and passionately.

It would have gone down in my book or in this blog as the best first kiss of all time, if what came next didn’t happen. After the 45-second-or-so lip lock, I smiled up at him and turned to open my door as I said, “Thank you for a great evening, Mr. Bicycle.” He stopped me, turned me around and looked me dead-in-the-eye.

“Aren’t we going to go upstairs and f***?”

Stunned and taking myself as “not that type of girl,” I immediately became offended and plainly dismissed his advance. I fidgeted with my key in a rush to get inside and away from this guy who was so inappropriate, when he asked yet another uncalled for question: “C’mon, Lindsay, aren’t you sexually liberated?” I ignored him and stepped inside ad I told him again to have a nice evening, before I ran up the many flights to my apartment, consumed with disgust.

I recently told this story to a friend and as I went about what I usually portray as an unfortunate series of events, I found myself not relaying it without as much style as I usually do or with as many convicted statements like “Can you believe he did that on a second date?” or “What a f***ing a**hole, right?”

No, instead I found myself finding the story….quite commonplace. I mean, what girl hasn’t encountered a guy who has no class attempting to get in her pants? It’s not like every man doesn’t try at least once, anyway – right? If he doesn’t, we question his orientation in a heartbeat – those poor nice guys just often don’t make the cut. While I didn’t want to sleep with Mr. Bicycle that night, had I wanted to – should I have felt bad for doing so? Was he out of line for proposing sex – perhaps. Could he have gone about about it a better way - definitely.  But is it wrong for him to act on sexual urges? Nah.

It took me a few years, a few partners, and a few earth-shattering orgasms for me to change my tune a bit. Or maybe, it took until I did what Mr. Bicycle spotted I hadn’t done yet: sexually liberated myself.  

I was never raised or taught to “wait until marriage” to have sex, though I was brought up in the church. I think my mother is more realistic and she just warned to be careful and to make sure I trusted the person I was giving a “special part of myself to.” I have always valued my private and special parts and I think thus far, I’ve been rather selective of who gets to explore them.

But I’ve also stopped judging myself for having desires. I’ve stopped holding myself back and placing rules and restrictions on myself that are based off nothing but what I think I should do or what I think is acceptable by standards I haven’t even defined.  I’m in awe of my friends who are sincerely sexually liberated -the ones who demand their sexuality to be respected and make no excuses for the lives they lead or the beds they’ve laid.

Maybe I shouldn’t be envious – maybe I should see sexual liberation as an act of opening your mind, not spreading your legs. It’s more about giving yourself permission to say (or scream) yes; it’s about trying new things without basing your decision on outside perceptions, but by what you’re comfortable with and what you want. It’s about valuing yourself as special, as you are, and deciding what special (or just foreign, tanned, and ripped) people you want to share those special spots with.

Too much emphasis is put on our numbers, who we do or don’t sleep with, and what that says about us. When in reality, all sex says about any of us is that we’re…human. There is no better sexual awakening or liberation than realizing that what you feel, what you want, and what you do is exactly what you were made to feel, to want, and to do. So feel it, want it, and do it – in whatever way makes sense to you. Because to have successful sex or successfully let yourself go to enjoy that sex – the first person you have to release…is you.