The Good, The Bad, and The One for Me

Motorcycles aren’t my thing. Really. I know they are quite popular among the Southerners I grew up with, but they’ve never oiled my engine. The savage beast inside of me is not tamed by the musings of a musician with a sleeve of tattoos and a knack from strumming strings with precision. A detailed rap sheet or a scent that attracts bar fights aren’t things I’d put down my dream man’s checklist – and they’d be a red flag in a hot minute. I’m not impressed by the number of shots a dude can down or how many women have been nailed up against his bedpost. I really don’t care how fast he can drive his car, no matter how expensive it is.

I’ve never really wanted to date the bad guy. You know – the one who’s flawed around the edges and rough with me. A player or a gangster, a homeboy or unattractive unemployed artist have never caught my eye or held my attention. I may not be entirely specific about what type of person I desire, but I know he doesn’t fit the bad boy protocol.

Well, at least in the traditional sense, anyways.

I have a knack for attracting unavailable men with miles of baggage and disclaimers. Those who make entirely more money than what I would know what to do with and the ones who avoid commitment in ways more clever than my own. They don’t walk on the wild side, but they bring out the wild little freak in me who over analyzes everything to death – with the help of friends over Gchat, Merlot, and mass text messaging. They don’t put me down, but my self-assurance can leave as easily as they have seemed to do, and I’ve admittedly been a doormat a few times, allowing them to walk all over me in the process. They are not crazy or dangerous in any sense, but they make my heart feel like it’s in harm’s way and I go a little crazy for each of them, each time.

A few years ago, as I was describing my most recent opposite-sex induced dilemma, my mother exclaimed, “Lindsay – where do you meet these guys? They are so complicated and have such odd hang-ups. Don’t you ever just date a nice guy?”

In my own defense – I’ve tried dating the really good guy. The one who, on paper, would seem like the best fit for me. Someone who is tall, attractive, comes from a great family, makes a decent living, likes what he does, answers when I call, responds to emails and text timely, doesn’t question his desire to be with me, takes me to nice places, and compliments my eyes. He says all of those things I want to hear, exactly when I want to hear them, and he is never too much, too invasive, too needy, or too anything. He’s just fine.

And that’s the problem.

I’d classify myself as an equal-opportunity dater, give or take a few non-negotiables that I’d never lower my standards for. I do tend to give most everyone a chance -or at least a drink – and see how I feel before writing them off into never, ever land. But generally speaking, I’m a middle-ground kind of girl: I really don’t care for the bad boy in the rock band, but I also don’t find myself gleaming at the guy who has everything together. Or at least the versions of together I’ve met so far in the game.

Does a man need to have visible flaws for me to be attracted to him? Do I confuse passion with a disaster waiting to happen? Am I lured in by an unfinished project, rather than a sturdy hunk of a man? Do I overcompensate the importance of a personality, of a man who makes me laugh, who keeps me on my toes, and continuously guessing? Do I think for a relationship to be successful, it needs to be work? Is a stubborn, charming challenge more alluring to me than one of those easy, simple, All-American boys?

Or is that we all just attract the company we keep? Or the people we really are?

If I’m a little messy, if I’m a gal who will snap back the wit as quickly (if not quicker) than its spewed, if I’m a woman who needs constant intellectual engagement – is that what I’ll find in return? If I’m still haunted by the ghost of past-love, will I inevitably meet men who can’t shake the lingering what-if’s from their last girlfriend? If I’m attempting to figure myself out and see what Manhattan has to offer all in the same breath – will I meet a multi-tasker, just like me?

I’m nor the good girl or the bad one. I’m not the down-and-dirty, hardcore gal, but I suppose I’m not strawberry shortcake and lemonade, either. I can be messy, I can be indecisive, I can be all over the place – so why wouldn’t I be intrigued by a man of the same manner? After all, isn’t imitation the highest form of flattery?

The nice guys are always irritated by the women who won’t give them a chance and will say they always finish last in the pack. The bad guys on the other hand, don’t really seem to give a damn who finishes where. Maybe the reason I find myself searching in the gray area between the one with wings and the ones who gets high enough to think they have wings – is because I’m search of myself. I’m always looking for answers, so I want someone who is willing to think a little more out of the box. I’m going to get upset and I’m going to be less than polished and classy at times, and I need to be around someone who accepts me as I am. I’m not an extremist but I also would never be satisfied by a life that’s painted with mediocrity. Any investment I’d make with my money would be on something that I felt was worth the risk or the time, but part of the thrill, is in making the wager. If I don’t feel like I have something of value, by my own standards, something that I would hate to lose, why would I go for it at all?

Maybe the good guys are meant to show us what we should want, while the bad ones are designed to tease us with what we shouldn’t. But they each show us the life we don’t want to have forever, and are merely ideas of futures we’ll never experience. They show us the different sides, varying scenarios we’ve imagined, but they also give us a reflection into our own psyche. At whatever point in our life we’re at, that’s the partner we’ll decide to pact with. The way the good guy gets the girl or the bad guy steals her away- isn’t based on the men themselves, but the woman who choses what’s best for her, right then, right at that moment. There’s no way to determine if she’ll go left or right – or go straight into the army of middle ground again.

But somewhere, between the ones who brings me to my knees and the one who would get on their knees for me- is the man, who is good for my life, bad for the attention-span, but perfect for me.

PS: Jennifer from Cincinnati, OH completed Love Addict’s survey and won a fabulous glass from Lolita and perfume set from Pacifica. Love Addict will be doing another giveaway soon, so make sure to take the survey for your chance to win! Congrats Jen and thanks for reading!

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Falling Into Like

Baby dolls and Barbies turned into Backstreet Boys and Bon Bons. Sleepovers and truth-or-dare transformed into cell phones and driver’s licenses. Crushes became lovers. Bubblegum was replaced with Mike’s Hard lemonade. Worries of missing a curfew outweighed stress over class. Kids grew into adults, while parents tried to remain young at heart. High School prepared us for college, but being away for school never prepared us for the big world we’d eventually dive (or be pushed) into. Broken hearts and tear drops intensified into Merlot-induced waves of anger, depression, and hopefully, acceptance.

And like became love.

I can remember moments during middle school, when the boy band or the boy in the band – had all of the power in the world to overtake my every thought and fill up pages in my notebook. Mr. Curls served as the main obsession during my three-year span in junior high and more than I cared about classwork, fitting in with the popular girls who were allowed to wear mini-skirts, or the boobs I wasn’t sure how to handle yet – I wanted this dude to like me. And I wanted him to not only care about me – but I wanted the whole school to know he picked me, he was with me, and no other gal could steal his attention. While today, I’m sure young ladies and lads update their Facebook status at the ripe age of 12 years old, in my time, saying you were together meant you held hands. Preferably down the hallway between class change or at the mall, while my mother waited in the food court for us to finish our “date.” I scribbled we’d be together forever on my composition book, but really – I just wanted to know that someone, especially him, liked me.

If we all stopped focusing on the love, on The One, on how wealthy a man is, how clever or witty he is, how strong his background or his lineage is, how well he takes care of himself, and where he sees himself in five years -would relationships be much easier? What if instead of contemplating the prospect of a relationship itself and determining if there is a future, we just focused on whether or not we liked the guy? And if he liked us?

How have we all forgotten the importance of falling into like?

Of all the men I’ve dated – Mr. Buddy aside – I haven’t been friends with them before we decided to make our relationship official. Whatever relationship we developed was never based on a mutual understanding, share interests, or a history of experiences together that eventually turned into something more. Instead, from the moment I met them, spent a few days getting to know them, or going on dates – I was more or less ready to try out the girlfriend role. The title of friend never interested me and while I may have liked who they were, it was never as much of a priority as my ability to love them, and they love me in return.

Somehow, between being a boy-crazed pre-teen and a 20-something wading through the dating pool of Manhattan, I lost sight of getting to know a person and turned my priority on getting to know a boyfriend.

I won’t discount the importance of passion, intrigue, and mystery when meeting someone who could grow into a partner. We all, regardless if we claim to be interested in the nature and intensity of love, want to have a great story to tell when an outside source asks us about how we met our significant other. Perhaps Harlequins and rom-coms have destroyed our ideas about what encounters should be. Maybe we all believe they should be romantic and by chance, where both parties involved instantly have a connection, and in the very best scenario, one of the two or two of the two, just know the other person was always meant to be theirs. My parent’s story has swayed me into the mindset that a man should gaze at me with endearment, find me the single most beautiful creature he’s ever known, and chase me into the great unknown endlessly, just for a chance to be by my side.

While those stories are wonderful and ever intriguing, maybe a cardinal mistake I’ve made is not taking the time to really get to know someone before I started dating them. To figure out what they are really like, what makes them tick, what brings them happiness, which parts of their personality they hid away at the beginning to entice me to stay, and who they are when they aren’t enthralled with the idea of me, but me as my most honest self.

Though I make a sincere attempt to never regret anything, in hindsight, a lot of unnecessary pain with Mr. Idea and others, could have been avoided if I would have been their friend first. If I would have figured them out before figuring them into my life. If I would have taken a step back and made an effort to determine if they are someone I would chose as my friend, before being faced with the decision of having them as a mate.

I’m well-aware we don’t have the opportunity to control who comes and who leaves our lives, or how we feel about them from the initial meeting – but instead of ruling out all of the maybes because they don’t have that spark or that thing that I’ve always thought I needed, perhaps I should try being a friend. Try falling in like before I let myself fall in love.

The Man Who Had Me at Hello

Two weeks into my New York adventure, I fell in love with a tall, classy, blue-eyed man.

At the time, I was applying to jobs all day and night, and in between refreshing Ed2010 and Mediabistro, I was scouring for affordable apartments that still made New York, NY the end of my address. Perhaps, I hadn’t gained some of that New York toughness or was creeped out by small empty spaces instead of the wide ones I was used to, but the thought of going all over the city, especially to Harlem and Morningside Heights, alone…was terrifying. Still being incredibly fresh to my new location and dying to have a home to call my own, I reached out to friends for advice. My friend A suggested I contact his friend – an assistant at the Lincoln Center.

And so, desperate for someone to apartment search with me (and well, protect me from the crazies I could encounter), I reached out to A’s friend, who gladly accepted the role as shopping buddy. Even though I had never met this man, I liked how friendly and helpful he was and willing to escort me, when at the time I was nothing but a stranger to him. I set up appointments for a Saturday afternoon and texted him the night before to let him know the times and locations – to this day, he still wants to make sure I’m safe whenever I go out alone and insists on walking me to my door or the subway when we’re out late together. And yes, this means he is still part of my life.

Ironically enough though, early on that Saturday morning, as I was drying my hair in my friend’s bathroom, he texted me to let me know that he was unexpectedly called into work and I should try to reschedule the appointments. Completely frustrated and now a little scared, I slammed down the hair dryer, plopped down on the side of the tub, and started crying. Here I was, a mere 14 days residing in my dream city and not only did I not have a job, but I didn’t have friends and I was now certain I’d be shot and killed in some slimy place I didn’t even know how to get to unless I Googled. After quite the hissy fit, I reached for my phone to call my mom, and saw that this man had texted me multiple times to ask me how he could be there for me and how he didn’t want me to be afraid. Humbled by his kindness, I thanked him for his time and suggested that maybe once I got my feet on the ground, we could go out to dinner. He responded with, “only if you text me as you go to these apartments, before, during, and after, so I know you’re okay.”

And so, with this gentleman in my pocket, I braved the streets and headed out to find my first New York place. In all honesty, it was a indeed creepy and when I exited the train at one of the locations, there was blood on the platform. Instead of exiting, I just turned on my heel and decided, surely, that was a sign to not go see the listing. I didn’t care if it was only $600 a month, utilities included. Though I saw some odd ones, eventually I found my cozy, tiny apartment and a week later, I was offered my current job…and well, here we are.

But to get to where I am now, I could have never done it without this man. When I had no one to depend on, no one to lay my trust in, no one who really even cared too awful much – he demanded to keep me safe. Even if it was just by guarding his Blackberry in case I didn’t text in an appropriate amount of minutes. Once all was settled, we did end up actually meeting when he invited me to a show, free of charge, at the Lincoln Center. An Opera, to be exact.

When I laid eyes on him, on the second floor mezzanine, in a black suit -I knew he would be someone I’d love. His smile, so endearing, so sincere, so enticing, caught my attention even in the crowd of strangers And as he casually sipped his champagne and made small talk with party guests, I slowly walked up to him, and he simply turned his head, locked eyes with me, and said: “You must be Lindsay. You’re as beautiful as A said you were.” Blushing to the color of my wine, I swore I almost stumbled in my three-inch heels.

A few nights later, we met in Union Square at a Thai restaurant we now call “our place.” He brought an expensive bottle of prosecco to celebrate my new job and new home, but the waitress (and the manager) refused to let us drink it with our food unless we forked up $20. We in return, refused, and discussed current events, popular culture, North Carolina, and because I’m “me” and he’s “him” – our conversation also turned to love. Watching him attempt to eloquently eat his noodles with chopsticks and bear his heart to me, with all of its many cuts and rips, I knew I had just found one of things I came to New York in search of. That man, who against all odds, through any circumstances, or in your worse and best of moments – will love you unconditionally. And yet, will also always be honest to a default and let you indulge in your silly-girl-freak-out moments (that perhaps aren’t that silly, after all). That man, who you can be yourself with, who you can come-as-you-are to, and even drink fancy wine out of plastic cups in the park instead of paying for someone else to uncork the bottle for you.

I had in fact found the required accessory to make any fabulous New York outfit and life complete: my gay husband. Or as I lovingly (and sincerely) call him, Mr. Hubby.

Now, I knew from the get-go that Mr. Hubby was not interested in me as a sexual creature (although he does admire my lovely lady lumps when they’re pushed up or on display), but it didn’t stop me from falling for him. You see, there is something unique in a hubby/wifey relationship – it is mutually understood that if we weren’t attracted to the same tall, dark stranger, we’d probably be literally married by now. In fact, we’d probably be bunking in Brooklyn with a completely gorgeous art-deco kitchen, and I’d walk around in pearls, as he smokes a cigar and drinks brandy in a parlor room, listening to Glee’s soundtrack and randomly bursting into song and dance. We’d also own a few recording and publishing companies, and be the smokin’ powerhouse couple that everyone is jealous of.

He easily and swiftly became and remains, my very best New York friend. We have the best kind of friendship that’s open, non-judgemental, and welcomes each and every little flaw. We’ve gone dancing and boozing at bars with 75-year-old bartenders, cuddled in the same bed when the commute seemed like too much, and hosted a BYOP party (Bring Your Own Pumpkin), as I wore an apron and he cared my pumpkin for me. He tells me when a dress isn’t flattering and also when I look, as he says, “damn sexy“, and I’m there to encourage pinstripe suits and the bottom he has that would charm the pants off anyone. And of course, we’ve spent many of lunch breaks over coffee or Greek food, both tearing up over a man who played a little too rough with our hearts, while the other told us not only what we wanted to hear, but what we needed to hear. If I’m honest, he has a Mr. Possibility of sorts (though I’d prefer to call him Mr. Idiotic), who continuously makes a mess of Mr. Hubby’s emotions, and yet, the connection there is impossible to ignore. Of course, I can relate, but I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of Mr. Idiotic. I do, however believe one day, he’ll wake up and see what he’s missing in Mr. Hubby.

Because if anyone knows how special, how irreplaceable Mr. Hubby is, it’s me. He, like me, is an artist – only he has the unbelievable quality of not only making something, but demonstrating beauty in the creation. He sees and presents the brilliance of emotion through movement, through words, through friendship, through his voice, and of course, his contagious smile. Though he can’t always see what is ahead of him, I’m as sure of his success and his happiness, as I am of mine. His dreams are only outnumbered by his friends, all of which can’t help but adore him. I feel blessed to be picked as the Mrs. – yet I think fate had a little hand in the serendipitous meeting.

I’m still not convinced that when I meet or go out with Mr. Right, I’ll just know he’s my match, but when that does happen, I hope he knows that I’ve already been married for some time now, and he has some pretty incredible shoes to fill. He has to live up to the man who had me at hello.

You May Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger

Right now, as I write this, and as you, whoever you are, reads this, a new life will take his/her first breath. Someone else will die. A woman will meet the man she will marry. Another woman in a courtroom will be face-to-face with the guy who attacked her many years ago. A child will finally take that first independent ride on their bicycle, without the training wheels. Some 16-year-old will look lovingly at their driver’s license. A middle-aged woman will pick at her gray hairs and analyze her wrinkles in a magnified mirror. Someone will say “I do.” Another couple will sign their divorce papers. A college graduate will land in New York. Someone else will leave the city in haste. A man will miss his train. A daughter will get the news her father has cancer. Someone will be given a few months to live. A man will witness a miracle. A woman will break her heel. Someone will be given their dream job. Two people will chat from across the world, while a couple will lay side-by-side with a world between them.

And then there’s me, sitting cross-legged in the middle of the downtown train, looking around at all of those around me, fascinated thinking of how quickly, how frequently life goes through highs and lows. And along the way, we see and sometimes meet people who shape the way we see the axis turn. I mean, who are these people I see everyday? The woman with the pretty coat and the red boots – what did she do this morning? The old man in the corner, reading his paper, looks so tired, why? The young, tall, attractive guy two seats down isn’t wearing a ring, but is he single? The teenage girl listening to her music so loudly I can hear it three-feet away, what is she struggling with?

Even though I do not know any of their names, here we are, connected, in this single moment because we decided to board the same train, at the same time, on this incredibly snowy Thursday morning. I’ll never say life is measured by the moments that take our breath away – but I will say sometimes, in the middle of an ordinary day, an unexpected revelation comes over you.

Like, how most every relationship is fleeting, but yet, sometimes the most significant of ones are merely based on a connection. And sometimes, a coincidence. It’s that realization – that as easily as someone can come into our life, they can simply, just leave. Just like the strangers on the train who I shared the same air with, held the same rail, smelled the same things, and then simply exited on my stop, completely forgetting their faces.

Maybe the reason a relationship is so scary and seems so necessary for happiness is because we know how easily it can just slip from our grasp. And so, finding the one person who we will never have to worry about leaving or losing a connection with, no matter what curve ball we’re thrown or diagnosis we’re given, becomes an endless search.

It’s like trying to find someone in a city of millions who you were intrigued by, but weren’t brave enough to ask their name. Where does one even begin? For a while, I’d say the bar, at the gym, taking a class you’re interested in, the park, or actually, at work - but with the knowledge that relationships are in fact, so fleeting, I think it’s more important to start with a connection you’ll never be able to fully break – the one that connects you to you.

Being sans-man is one thing, but when you feel like you’ve lost the essence of who you are – it’s time to stop looking around at the strangers, including the one you’ve become, and start realizing that people come and go, both lovers and friends, and before we can offer anything to anyone, even someone we’ve never met – we’ve got to offer the best we have to ourselves. If we get so lost looking for the handsome stranger we want to meet, we become darkened to who we are. Faces we’ll never see may surround us, but the worse thing we could ever be – are lost in our own reflections, relying on someone else to recognize us. Or a connection to bring us back to where we started. If this journey has taught me anything so far, it’s that the one person I can never give up on, never let go of, and never forget is me - and I simply can’t be a stranger to myself.

Because until (or if) we do meet this magical Number One man, every love, every spark, every could-be -is probably simply temporary. They are fleeting feelings that at times may seem so incredibly permanent we can’t stand to hold them. But, the ones that light us will pass, just like the ones that sought to destroy us. Much like the thoughts that come with being single, like “What if he isn’t out there?” or “Why can’t I just meet one decent man in this whole damn city?” or “Could I really be okay if I never got married?” Yet, when we do meet someone with possibility, gone are the worries of being stranded in our single boat, and a new set of question make their way to the shore: “Am I settling?” and “Could I really see him in the long run?” and “Is this how it is supposed to feel?” or maybe perhaps the worse of all, “What if he doesn’t feel the same way?”

But in between the ups and the downs, the yes’s and the no’s, the consistent and the inconsistent, the strangers I pass who turn into lovers, and the lovers who turn into strangers -I have to be secure enough to sit in the middle of a busy train, content with the knowledge that no matter how many avenues I have to cross, people who have to leave, or bumps I have to endure – I’ll still be just fine.

Before I know it, something or someone, or an ordinary moment will come along, and there life goes again  in its extraordinary splendor: forever, beautifully, changing, and preparing me for the next stop along the way. And on I will go, single and secure, ready for any fleeting (or maybe permanent) tall, dark, stranger I may pass.

Good Enough for Who?

Sometimes, I can be a little much – for a friend, for a man, or even for my mom. I’m outrageously impatient, incurably stubborn, and intoxicatingly optimistic. When I pick a new project, go after a job, or a date – I won’t give up unless I absolutely have to or I am turned away.  I can go weeks without washing my dishes, cleaning out my fish tank, and if you ring me, I probably won’t pick up the phone…and it’ll take me a while to return your call. I get lost in thought mid-conversation, I’m not always understanding, and at times, I’d rather be alone than with the company of anyone else.

I’m far from perfect and I don’t always do my very best to be a better person, but overall – I think I’m more than an average human being. I have qualities I believe to be attractive, admirable, and honest. Though my 5’4”-ness would never allow me to be a model (nor would my problemsome acne from time-to-time), I find myself to be blessed with beauty, both inside and out.

And even though I realize what I have to offer and that I am a person of goodness, kindness, talent, and passion – for a very long time, I always wondered what was wrong with me, that no man (or at least the ones I wanted) found me worthy of love?

I mean, it had to be me, right?

We’re advised to never compare ourselves to others, but I think part of human nature is to size ourselves up to those we are a tad bit jealous of. To fight the envy, we try and determine ways we have a one-up on pre-determined competition. And though I find myself seeking to have perfect skin, a perfect body, a perfect sexy disposition and attitude – the thing I desire the most that other women have…is a man. Or rather, a man who loves them.

It isn’t that I put myself above anyone else – but there are these girls, these women – who are just not that great of people. They do not have things going for them. They are not full of charisma and grace. They are not kind to others, nor do they feel the desire to help the unfortunate. They are not intelligent and they don’t demand excellence on themselves or those in their life. They are the type of ladies that my group of friends can’t stand, who we shy away from at the bar because they’re spilling their drink everywhere with their boobs popping out.

And yet, for whatever reason, these are the same females who have a man who adores them. A man who is successful in every aspect of his existence. Who is full of charm and is dependable beyond his means. Who without reasonable doubt, should be the standard of a man who is attracted to someone who is not ridiculous, but commendable.

Why do the girls we hate tend to be the ones who date the men we want the most? How are they worthy and I’m not?

After a particularly devastating breakup, I discovered the man I thought would be my next love, was Facebook official with a girl…I couldn’t stand. During the duration of our courtship, he consistently made fun of her for being a “groupie” of his friends, joked at her lack of common sense, and one night, because she was so intoxicated, she had to sleep on his couch, while he and I shared his bed. She was open (and proud) that college was merely a way for her to get her Mrs Degree, and she had no outside interests other than consuming large amounts of alcohol and finding a boyfriend. She was, in all shapes and forms, the complete opposite of me.

So when he fell in love with this chick – and for the record, is still dating – I was stunned. I couldn’t believe or understand why he would go from one extreme to the other, and even more – why he would find her valuable as a partner, and not me.

Perhaps the trouble with unrequited love, other than the fact that’s one-sided, is the rejected party always feels the need to blame themselves. Surely, if this man who we find to be the answer to our “wish-list” in a partner just doesn’t seem to feel like we’re his match – it has to do with us, right? If somehow we just changed who we are, if we weren’t so intimidating, if we weren’t so damn independent – maybe, we’d be what he wanted. We’d be the girl who got the guy – instead of the she we despise.

Instead of pleading with the relationship gods or cursing them all together – I finally concluded that his choice to stray away from me and into the incredibly open arms (and legs) of this gal wasn’t because of a flaw in me, but rather, a flaw in the could-be relationship. I was blinded by romantic illusions and even though I saw him as this ideal boyfriend, he obviously wasn’t. Because if he couldn’t fall for me, support me, and decide to be with me for who I was – it simply wasn’t meant to be. And perhaps, he and the chick are, just like one day I’ll be meant for someone more up to my speed and up to the challenge that I am.

It took me a very long time (years, if I’m honest) to reach the point where I was happy for my ex and his new girlfriend. I’ve never added her back on Facebook, but seeing pictures of them together or reading the sweet exchanges on his wall doesn’t bother me anymore. After a while, I had to sincerely refrain from stalking her via web once I reached an unhealthy level of journalistic research about someone I didn’t even really care for. Maybe a turning point was when I slightly considered signing up for Spokeo to find hidden information – and yes, I realize this makes me grade-A crazy. She is still not a person I would choose as a friend – but what’s more is I finally realized he is no longer someone I would pick as a mate.

Time has a funny way of changing things and if I’ve learned anything from the tears and the cheers to true love – it’s that the best thing about life is that it always changes. Even when there seems to be no possible way for anything to go worse, something or someone comes along to give you hope. When you’re convinced fireworks are impossible to ignite again, your heart opens up to a possibility. And when you’re feeling like your love, your company, your presence is undesirable or not good enough – a strike of confidence compels you towards something much greater: to the point where you know, without a doubt, that what really defines your worth is not a man, jealousy, or other women – but rather, yourself. And nothing, no one, no defeat, no rejection – can ever make you lose your value…unless you let it.

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The Me Who Got Away

I’ve been blessed to love a few good men in my lifetime. And by a few, I mean three.

The word ‘love’ isn’t something I throw around casually – though it seems to be a word to describe me, according to my friends. Even in my most intense love addiction moments, I know how important and potentially harmful those three little words can be when they’re strung together and dangling in between two people. In the past, when I became brave enough and there was no way to escape that lovin’ feeling, I willing proclaimed and gave my heart to each of these men. Two reciprocated, while one was quite unrequited – but the all-consuming feeling I possessed, didn’t change in the least. Though it may sound cliche and against any independently geared mindset – when I’ve fallen in love, I’ve gone balls-to-the-walls without holding back, and allowed myself to be emotionally available because I didn’t feel like I had a choice. And really, with these three characters, I never quite cared if my decision was revoked by the masters of fates, anyways.

Each of them, in their own way and right, swooped in, and within a short amount of time, I found myself completely infatuated with this man who so easily became a vital part of my existence. In looking for patterns in past relationships to help make the future less complicated and heartbreaking, I’ve discovered the men I’ve loved have all viewed me in a similar fashion.

They’ve all crowned me with the title of “The One Who Got Away.”

And no, this isn’t by my own interpretations or inferences, but months after the relationship came to a close, they informed me of their regret, of their thoughts of “what could have been”, and how above all other things, wished me the very best in happiness…and in love.

Mr. Faithful, the high school boyfriend and very first love, was devastated when I broke up with him a mere three days into the college experience. After I crushed his heart for a chance to date Mr. Rebound, and then karma broke my heart in return, I went crawling back to Mr. Faithful.  He refused round two…until we crossed paths a year later, and attempted to rekindle the flame that was lit outside of Biology class, four years before. Though it ultimately didn’t work out, in one of our final conversations he said, “Linds, I hope you know you’ll always be the girl I compare everyone else to. You’re the standard. You’ve raised the bar. And I know this is dumb, but I think you’ll be the one girl I could never really get a handle on.

A few months later, I started seeing Mr. Fire, and found myself blind-sided by this rugby player who played the game as well as he played with my heart. Though we never officially slept together, dated, or shared sweet-nothings – our connection was something both of us have determined as “unlike anything else.”  He ended whatever-we-were-doing out of the blue, and then we  ran into each other before I graduated at a bar. And as if he knew I needed to hear “why” I wasn’t what he wanted (and the girl he was on Facebook with a day later, was), he smiled at me, pushed the hair out of my face, and took a deep breath. I gave him a puzzling look, and he said: “I was afraid of not having anything to offer you and I should have just sucked up my pride and took the chance that I could make you happy. Tigar, when you move to New York and make big things happen, know that to me, you’re beautiful. You’re the girl who got away and I will always wonder what could have happened between you and me.”

And last by not least, my most recent ex-boyfriend, Mr. Idea, who though I loved the idea of, I also did love him and what we shared. Even as complicated, messy, and toxic as it was. Over Christmas, when I wouldn’t grant him the second chance he thought he deserved, he asked if he wasn’t good enough for me.  I quickly rebutted his statement by letting him know that we were both great people, but not great together. In a rare moment where he allowed himself to be vulnerable and off of his incredibly high-horse, he said, “I want you to be happy and I’m sorry I can’t contribute to that happiness anymore. You’ve been the love of my life and I’m so thankful to have known you. I guess, Linds, you’ll be the girl who got away, huh?”

While I’m completely flattered by each of their sentiments and will always hold the conversations and intimacy close to my heart, if I’m honest with myself, when I fell in love with these guys, I felt like I lost myself. I became so enthralled, so indefinitely invested in these partnerships, that I let me get away. The me who valued her independence, her alone time, her confidence, her ambitions – disappeared and these men became the most important element of my life. My priorities were damned and they were deemed deserving of all of my attention.

To their credit, they never asked me to change. They never discouraged my vibrant personality or my fearless determination to become a writer in New York – but when I was with them, whatever they wanted, whatever they needed , from pancakes to cleaning their apartment – became my responsibility. Even if they didn’t ask me to do them a favor, I showered them with all of the affection and attention in the world. Friendships and family ties became strained, my work quality fell, and I can distinctly remember standing in Mr. Idea’s bathroom, looking at myself in the mirror, and wondering: “Who are you, anymore, Lindsay? Are you really the girl who is defined by her boyfriend?’

So now, a few years and experiences stronger, I’ve realized my tendency to do this in a relationship. I’m well aware of my mothering-like qualities when I fall in love, even if in the dating scene, I’m far from a mommy-dearest. And this journey, in all of its ups and downs, has helped me to know how important it is to keep yourself in tact, even when butterflies are swarming your head and tickling your tummy.

This, of course, is easier said than done. A large part of the reason I allowed myself to become lost in my partner was out of fear. With Mr. Faithful, I was so afraid of being alone that I attempted to go back to him, even when I knew he wasn’t the man for me. Mr. Fire appeared to be everything I had ever wanted – and was somewhat stunningly unattainable - and to keep him, or lure him into committment, I wanted to please him. And Mr. Idea came into my life when everything else was uncertain and before a dramatic change, and I wanted nothing more than to have one steady thing. So if I had to comfort him, put him first, and bake him cupcakes constantly, I’d do it, so I wouldn’t have to face myself and my apprehensions.

Basically, fear of singleness swallowed up my faith in who I was. And instead of finding myself again, I sought to seek a new definition in a man I loved. That if love was truly the answer to all of my problems, how could I not make a man, my everything?

There is a fine balance between being in love with a person and still being able to be in love  with and focus on yourself. Even though relationships are give-and-take, the giving shouldn’t always be towards your partner by taking away bits of who you once were before you met them. True love, who is deserving of attention and three fine words, will want you to keep yourself as much as you want to keep them.

And if being the lady who slipped away means I must lose myself, then I’d rather be the woman who even if she destroys a relationship or picks girl’s night over date night, or isn’t accommodating or agreeable, she is still, above all other things, herself.

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Flirting With Fire

Growing up as a fireman’s daughter, I was taught to steer clear of many things. Open flames, matches, fireplaces, ovens, and campfires, along with anything flammable. My father warned that fire, when it runs wild and uncontrollably, can destroy all in its tailwind.

And in those worse case scenarios, where flames engulf people – it could leave their skin, their touch, their feelings…numb.

As a child, the reality that if I played with fire and couldn’t stop it from growing, then I’d run the risk of not being able to feel my fingers was terrifying. Or maybe my toes, if they got too close to our woodstove. Or my elbow, if I accidentally dipped it in boiling water. Though I was (and still am, really) fascinated with the beauty of orange embers circling the air, I was very cautious and careful with how closely I teased their enticing flames.

But then, as all children do, I grew up.

And instead of literal blazes, the fire that I not only flirted with, but ignited and kept alive, was more in the form of men. These men, who at times lit up my life, and then also extinguished my hopes – were a lot more difficult to resist than the fires I was attracted to a decade before.

Maybe I should have known better and listened to my father, but I ended up proving him right. Sometimes, when you get too close to dangerous warmth and it burns you, a part of your heart and a fragment of your soul, feels like it dies. There have been moments, weeks, months, and even years, if I’m honest – where I was convinced the connection I had with one man, would never be sparked again in another. That because I was burned, I had these scars, these wounds I was still licking – and my heart wasn’t capable of allowing someone else in. Or my body wasn’t ready to make magic with another guy, until the ashes from the previous one were lost in the breeze.

But to have that passion and the velocity that can only come from intensity, is it worth flirting with fire? Is it worth risking the numbness we have all felt and we all fear? Is there a reason they don’t offer “grown-up” fire safety classes?

My newest co-worker, H, is what most people would identify as firery. She is brazen, bold, and when she walks into the office, she makes it known. She sits behind me and throughout the day, I hear her sales calls where she makes jokes with clients, and I’m constantly giggling at her energy. She has a way of lighting up the room – even on a Monday, and that’s saying a lot.

Last week, this firecracker pranced in and declared that she was jealous. One of her male friends had introduced her to his new girlfriend at a benefit they were attending, and at the point where she was to reach for his gal’s hand, she found herself dumbstruck and for a reason she’s yet to determine, she felt the green envy monster creeping its way out. Now, maybe this means she has feelings for her friend that she didn’t notice previously or she wasn’t prepared to know he was taken, regardless; experiencing jealousy wasn’t a bad thing for her – but a good thing.

With excited expressions and gestures, she said “I haven’t felt jealous in such a long time! I had forgotten what it felt like to feel like this…and it feels so good to feel something.”

At first, I was a little confused by the statement – as every dating book and article in any magazine I’ve read advises us to steer clear from envy, but then I thought about it. And I realized that after being numb or closed off from relationships or hiding from the opportunity for something more, there comes a point where we realize, we can feel again. Often times, when we’re not even trying or looking for it.

While physical flames that run rampant and uncontainable through forests and tend to piss Smoky the Bear off are irreversible, the fires we build with men we love can be destructive, but not permanent.

Sometimes, all it takes is a second, a glance, an encounter, or a simple brush against your hand – for you to recognize those third-degree burns, maybe weren’t so third-degree after all. That maybe, the band-aid can be taken off and you don’t need to run yourself under cold water, trying to put out the burning around your heart. Because perhaps, without realizing, you’ve healed yourself.

A large part of this journey and why I decided to embark on it in the first place was that I knew I needed to let go. Since I started dating at 15, there were (and admittedly still are), lesions from lost-love that I couldn’t let mend. Places in my heart and in my attitude that were scorched from the many men who I thought would love me endlessly, and merely turned out to be just another chapter in the book I don’t know the ending of.  And the saddest part about it was that I wasn’t even interested in repairing the burns. Somehow, my battle wounds gave me comfort as much as they gave me pain. In some respect, using the excuse that “I’m just numb” to any relationship, to any possible love, protected me from taking a chance. And if I did happen to go out on that limb and it broke, I could simply claim, “Well, this is just what happens to me. I find the fire, but it always gets put out.

Well – not anymore.

Because now, I know I can feel. And I know I can be burned. But more importantly – I know I can survive. Just because passion can grow and then wither away in an instant, it doesn’t mean it isn’t worth feeling it in the first place. Nor, can anyone, regardless of the burn degree or how widely the fire spreads – be forever numb from the flames.

No matter how hard we try or fast we run or how careful we are above our stoves or while making s’mores – the fire will always catch up to us. And if we’re lucky, we know that maybe fire isn’t such a bad thing but more so, a friend. Perhaps if we allow it to glow, first inside of us, giving us the courage to blaze new trails alone – one day, the love we’ll find – in ourselves or with a man, could be powerful enough that we stop being afraid of the flames. And maybe flirt with them, just one more time.

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