The 23-Year-Old

You know a date wasn’t great when you turn down an invitation for dinner because you’re thoroughly exhausted from the conversation.

I had high hopes for The Italian. Since I’m taking Italian language classes and going to Rome in April, I was excited when I came across a Milan transplant with gorgeous eyes and a sexy accent. But an hour into our date, as he talked so much that he still wasn’t finished with the first glass of vino rosso Italiano yet, I couldn’t stomach the thought of another two hours to get through dinner.

Luckily my friend G and E were up for a far less sophisticated evening at a Southern-style college bar called Brother Jimmy’s. It isn’t exactly the classiest crowd but the drinks are cheap and the food reminds me of my life below the Mason Dixon. As we drank our $5-you name it concoctions far faster than the Italian, we noticed a young group of tall, handsome guys attracting the attention of every girl in the establishment.

Look how they are surrounded so quickly! Are we so starved for attractive men that we flock to whatever semi-decent one we see? I asked, half-appalled and half-formulating a blog post in my tipsy head. The three of us, all different ages (and all incredibly single) discussed the situation while laughing and ignoring everyone else.

A half-an-hour later, after the bartender joined in our humor and gave us free bottom-shelf rum shots, one of the guys found his way to me.

Need a drink? He asked as he bumped into me, quite purposefully. I looked at my completely full glass and smiled, Thanks, but I think I’m alright for now. He grinned back and said, I saw you watching us, what conclusion are you drawing?

The three of us explained our theory and he played along, calling his one extremely tall friend (6’6″!) a “chick magnet” and how he was more just along for the ride. He was goofy and casual, but still acted unsure of himself. Maybe it was the alcohol – or maybe it was the fact he was 23. Though a two-year age difference doesn’t seem like quite that big of a deal, so much changes in your twenties, it can feel like a lifetime ago that you were that early-20-something. I noticed how boyish he was and yet, how he tried to build his confidence around me. It was charming.  Against my better judgment, I found myself enjoying his hand on my knee, his slightly inappropriate jokes, his seemingly soft lips.

Well shit, I think he’s cute, I thought as he bought another round and waved off his friends goodbye to spend more time with me.

Another hour passed and the night went on, my friends bid me farewell and I stayed behind. As the bar cleared out, we danced to old music and attempted to speak Italian to one another, and he wrote me a poem that didn’t rhyme but was sweet. He asked for my number and out to dinner the next night – but he was 23 and my expectations weren’t high for his level of seriousness but there was a click.  A spark.

A something.

And then there was kissing. Lots and lots of kissing. The kind of kissing you do in high school before you have gone past second base. When magic swells on your tongue and every touch is heightened – 10 years ago by anxiety and anticipation, and now, by liquor and pipe dreams. By the time I finally went up to my apartment – alone, for the record – it was 4 am and I sighed for the hangover I knew I would have the next day. A 25 year old head is much different than the 23 year old one, but apparently no wiser…

It wasn’t even noon before he cancelled dinner, and by 2  p.m. he gently told me I was a sweet girl, but he didn’t want to waste my time. And even though I knew the outcome was likely, I was disappointed. Connection feels so rare after so many years of dating, that when it comes, it’s hard not to hold onto it with all that you have.

But even though The 23 Year Old’s presence in my life lasted all of a few hours, he brought out something in me:

My soft side.

My voice was calmer, my shoulders relaxed. I wasn’t thinking about my never-ending to-do list or my worries over everything I want and all that I don’t have yet. I was flirty without being overbearing, and I let myself just enjoy the moment, as fleeting and unimportant as it was. I listened more than I spoke and I let him ask me to dance instead of inviting him myself. I put down my guard and I didn’t check the time, allowing myself to giggle and twirl into the early hours of the morning. I didn’t run over a mental checklist to see if he matched all of the qualities I want in a partner, I was just myself and let him be himself.

And it was nice.

It was really nice to simply let go of all the dating drama. It was nice to feel soft and vulnerable, open and hopeful again. Though there won’t be an actual date with this bachelor, sometimes you need a young-something to remind you to not be so jaded. To not think the worst of people. To go with the flow. To say “yes” to another drink, even if you say “no” to a sleepover. To smile without wondering if it means anything and let it mean whatever it does in that moment.

To remind you to have hope in love and in men, but mostly in your ability to love. Even if all you love is the splendid fun of a chance encounter of the Brother Jimmy’s kind.

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I Let Myself Let Go

I let myself miss you today.

I rolled over mid-morning, groggily hoping you would be lying next to me. I kept my eyes tightly shut, and behind them I saw your mouth slightly open. I smelled your skin so close to me. I imagined the sunlight from the west cascading over your bare chest. I imagined the weight of your arm across my naked body. I ran my fingers in sweet circles around your face, until you wrapped your hand around mine and buried me in your grasp. You kissed the side of my head and wished me to sleep for just a little longer. Just for another hour.

I let myself miss you today.

I heard you call from the kitchen to wake me up. I felt the wind come through the open bedroom door. Happily smelling bacon and eggs, I wrapped the sheet around me and hobbled to see you standing in boxer briefs in front of the stove. You turned your head just enough to meet my grin, and you wished my morning well. Satisfied from the night spent with you, yet hungry for the energy I lost while love making, I sniffed my way toward you, kissing your back and letting you seep through me. You rushed me to the couch, where you brought me orange juice and a meal, and together we watched whatever we could find, ignoring the set as we talked over it. I sat Indian style, you sat so close our knees touched and for no reason at all, you kissed my makeup-free cheek and called me beautiful.

I let myself miss you today.

I split that pitcher of coconut mojiotos you love so much, watching you chew on the sugar cane as you talked about the political spectrum I’m really not that interested in, but I’m interested in making you happy. I let you have the last dumpling. You kept your hand permanently on my knee in that little booth in that little corner of that little bar in Little Italy. I watched the dimples cave around your mouth. You didn’t even catch your breath before you complimented my blues in the sunset, and you said those three words that I’m so insanely terrified I’ll never mean again with anyone else. I squeezed your hand – and then your crotch – and you smiled, feeling that closeness. I watched your mischievous side come out and I instantly couldn’t wait to play with it.

I let myself miss you today.

I asked if you preferred the green or the red peppers in your stir fry, and you stuck your tongue out at me in response. I scrunched my nose to protest and grabbed each, commenting that we’d have colorful food, and you’d like it. You put another vanilla yogurt with Crunch in the cart and I pushed it along, thinking about the dinners we’d cook, the nights we’d share. I imagined your hair graying and that gym-made body turn into a beer-full tummy. I wondered what we’d say about these days, the ones where New York was our playground and everything felt right because we were side-by-side. I considered if I’d always love you this much, if it was possible to love anyone more than I did on Aisle 2 of the Krasdale, watching you debate two boxes of rice. You turned my way and asked my opinion. I went with the brown to keep you healthy, and in return, you rubbed your cheeks against mine and said those damn words that I wish I could hear just one more time.

I let myself miss you today.

I ran from the uptown station to my apartment, feeling the chilly April rain bounce off my skin. I turned the key to the place I share with four others, and collapsed into the bed I used to share with you. I couldn’t pinpoint where they came from or why, six months later, they still come at all, but they fled anyway. I tasted their salty solutions as they rested on my lips and I covered my face in embarrassment. I knew I had washed them dozens of times before, but I buried myself in the sheets, somehow determined to smell you again, or at least to remember. I thought of all the parts of myself I can’t repair, the feelings I can’t replace, and the me that I can’t recreate without you.

You weren’t here today, but you were with me. In these dirty streets and in their dazzling illusions of perfection. In that skyline view that you first showed me as I stood up through your sunroof on the BQE. In those bittersweet pictures where our eyes matched, along with our heart and our hopes. In those fragrant flowers on the street, in those drinks that I need to be a little stronger these days. And especially on these rainy days, where I wake up and decide that today, I’ll let myself miss you. I’ll let myself remember when we were happy and so was this city, both in the shine and in the downpour. And then before the night comes around to bring me another dawn, I’ll let that furious faith dissolve.

And then I’ll decide that today, I’ll let myself… let go. Because while I can’t forget, and certain Sundays (or Tuesdays), I may go back to another time, there’s only one place for you and I, now. Maybe it’s on those streets, in those drinks, in those memories or in those days.

But it’s not in the new places I find without your guidance or company, not in the cocktails I toast with my friends, not in the life I’m creating for myself, and not in this day. Not in the day I decide to let you go. Even if I miss the you I thought you were.

Someone Like Me

The night I broke up with Mr. P, my best friend M had made the commute from the Upper West to the Lower East to keep me company since I knew no one at the party except Mr P’s sister. She arrived ready to dance and drink whiskey while I sipped on my hot tea, fighting the onset of an awful cold.

When the clock struck ten, two hours past the time Mr. P asked me to arrive for his friend’s birthday, I gave up hope he would show and any sadness I felt turned into bitter hostility. Too angry to move, I sat firmly in between his brother-in-law and an old friend, both of which expressed concern for Mr. P. In return, I shrugged an innocent grin, attempting to disguise my frustration. Seeing my blatant annoyance, M grabbed my hand and made me dance in the little black dress that was wasted on the evening. It’s your birthday weekend! she reminded me. You should be enjoying yourself!! I couldn’t help but smile and groove with her demands, especially since she wouldn’t let me even if I tried.

After a few songs, I returned to the table to hydrate when I caught a glimpse of Mr. P entering the bar and significantly intoxicated. He stumbled his way to me, muttered halfhearted apologies and laughed at his lateness. I responded with silence and rejoined M on the dance floor who mouthed: Are you okay? I shook my head No but continued to sway my hips, so M continued too, and there we grooved without saying a word, though saying everything, as best friends usually do. When the music faded into Adele’s Someone Like You, we looked at each other and it was clearer than it had ever been before that the last straw was breaking, or passing out on the bench at a dive bar downtown — either way I wanted to look at it, the answer was there. I’ve never been one to let pop culture define much of anything for me, but the words rang too true and too bittersweet for me not to take note. M hugged me and we danced and sang the whole song before I tapped Mr. P awake to try to talk some sense into him. Or at least give him the option to make up for his mistake. When he denied my offer, I refused the relationship.

I wish I could say that was that and I’ve easily moved on and let go of him without much hesitation at all. I wish I could declare my complete independence and that I’ve started dating someone I’m crazy about. I wish I could say I never think of him or respond to his emails or calls. I wish I could say I’m stronger than what I really am, less prone to stinging heartache than I’ve been before. But the truth is, that song still makes me sad. And it’s not the only thing that does.

When I stumble across places we frequented together or when I find something funny I think he would like. Or when it’s cold in my room or my family asks about him or I run into a mutual friend who still, four months later, didn’t realize we split. And for a while I was letting all of those things, all those places, all those reminders keep me from doing or going. I’ve gradually started reclaiming my New York and the stuff I love by dissociating it with a relationship or with the idea of a love that never was nourished enough to bloom. Recently though, those steps forward have become more like long, strong strides.

When discussing an upcoming solo ski-tubing trip with my friend K, she mentioned hand-warmers and I was instantly brought back to last Christmas when Mr. P bought $100 worth of hand-warmers for his family members. My immediate reaction was to express my distaste for them and how they bring back visions of a happy Mr. P I sometimes miss. Being the practical gal she is, K attempted to convince me that something meant to keep me from freezing has little to do with a sour relationship and a lot to do with survival on a mountain. A few hours later when I caught the train to the gym, I thought about K’s valid point and then chronicled some of the things I’ve stopped doing since I broke up with Mr. P simply because the actions remind me of him: cooking stir-fry (his favorite), wearing lingerie (no one sees it but me), buying yogurt (we used to sit together on the couch in the mornings eating it), wearing the coin necklace he gave me that I love and I even feel odd glancing at my Blackberry on the subway because it’s something he always did.

Really Lindsay? You don’t do all of those things because of some guy? Seriously? It’s time to do things for you. 

And so after my run, I stopped by the grocery store for rice, peppers, chicken and yogurt and I went to the Victoria’s Secret semi-annual sale because one of my 50 things is investing in matching sets. When I got home, I put on my new lingerie, sported the charm I love and cooked enough stir-fry to last me for days. He may have dictated my life while he was part of it, but now that he’s not, any ownership of memories or things, places or dishes have now switched back into my hands.

Mr. P taught me some great lessons but probably the best one is something he never sought to teach: how to stand up for what I want in love. He knew his weaknesses and his inability to emotionally commit, and when I finally saw it too, I realized how little I stand up for myself when I’m deep into a relationship. And that was my greatest downfall – I was so busy trying to find someone so perfect that I did everything I could to be the perfect person they wanted, and forgot about what I really wanted in my pursuits of happily-forever-and-ever. I let things that have nothing to do with a man have everything to do with him. I allowed myself to compromise what really mattered in my heart just to hold a fraction of his. And the pay off was nothing special or different – it was just another story to tell, another failed courtship to put in the books and build myself up from. Another reason for my friend to drag me out into an anonymous crowd to dance away my aching as I try to forget the shadow in the corner.

Adele may hope to find someone like her ex and a part of me wants to find parts of Mr. P in someone else too but the main thing I’m looking for is a man who is someone like me. Someone who is thoughtful and considerate, mature and ambitious. Someone who doesn’t need fancy dinners but likes them, someone who wants to travel and create a home at the same time. Someone steady and stable but surprising in the ways that matter. Someone equally as romantic and dependable, stubborn and generous. Someone who is no where close to wanting a relationship but still believes in the powers of fate he’s yet to understand.

Someone who is looking for someone like me.

A Little Thanksgiving Hope

Thanksgiving has always been an odd holiday for me. I’m not sure my quaint family-of-three ever knew how to handle it — my mother’s siblings always did their own thing with their respective mates and we never traveled up North to share the feast with my dad’s side. Most of the Thanksgivings I remember centered around my mom, my dad and me — maybe my grandmother would join, but more often than not, it was just us.

We’ve always had the same things: mushy mashed potatoes that I love so much I ever-so-elegantly scoop with my fingers when no one is looking, baked mac n’ cheese, brocoli & cheese casserole, rolls, cranberry sauce from the can, rolls from another can and green beans (not the casserole, but the frozen kind). We never dressed up for it, though I insisted a few years to be a tad fancy when I was a teenager out of vanity. I never helped cook until I took up baking in high school and then I was determined to bake a mean apple pie every year. To this day, my dad requests one to be sent to him.

It’s a little too pricey to fly to North Carolina twice in a six-week period, so I spend Thanksgiving with my friend E, who hosts a pot-luck type dinner for all of the out-of-staters who stay in-city for the holiday. Sometimes we call it Tanksgiving (ahem, a lot of wine is served) or I’ve heard it called Friendsgiving, where we try to recreate those fabulous dishes our parents or aunts seemed so good at fixin’ up. It’s always a good time and usually a night that ends early, offering a mandatory sleep-a-thon until early Friday morning.

This year isn’t really different, but it sure does feel that way to me.

After getting off work early, I rushed home to turn on some Frank Sinatra and enjoy having my five-person apartment all to myself. I completely destroyed the kitchen making a mac n ‘cheese and an apple pie (of course!), then I cleaned it before going to bed, frankly just out of fear that if something happened to me, I couldn’t have anyone finding the apartment a total disaster. Everything was fine and fine was my attitude, but Ol’ Blue Eyes didn’t get me in the festive mood as he usually does. My dishes turned out great (I always take a little nibble) and I tweeted and Facebooked about looking forward to stuffing myself way past the point of being able to wear a sweater dress, but something was off.

With my hair done-up in a high bun, a glass of orange juice to keep me company and an iPhone on 20 percent battery, I sat down to write Christmas cards. After a few, I put down the pen and sighed, annoyed at my disposition and wondering what was bothering me. Do I miss my family? Do I think I should be spending it with them? Is it that I thought I’d be spending it with Mr. P and his family? Do I feel bloated from the miniature dish of macaroni I made myself? What’s wrong with me?

 Too frustrated to write sweet sentiments or to even sit down, I got up and paced my apartment, trailing my hand along the hallway, gawking at my room like it was the first time I saw it. And that’s when it hit me: nothing’s wrong, I’m not sad or upset really — I just long for a home.

The city itself feels like home, I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. I’ve somehow gathered an incredible group of friends that feel like my family-away-from-family. I’m so incredibly thankful that I’m one of the lucky ones who landed a job she loves and looks forward to going to everyday. I’m healthy and fit, attractive and intelligent, and mostly I’m surrounded by the positive energy of all that I’m involved in and all who love me. But it’s a funny thing living in an apartment complex with strangers you met on Craigslist that somehow turned into friends — as much as you try, it’s not like having a family or building a home.

I’m far too young to think about such things, I’m told. I shouldn’t worry about the future or the husband I’ve yet to meet, the kids I’ve yet to procreate. I have so much living and learning, exploring and traveling ahead of me, I shouldn’t want to settle my roots for years to come. I have the freedom of coming and going as I please, doing as I wish and being totally selfish with my choices, my money and my actions.

And for once, I do actually enjoy the single life — but as much as my career, New York and my fabulous friends are important to me, I sometimes wonder what my future would look like sans marriage or children. Would I finally buy a house somewhere outside of the city all on my own? Or maybe an apartment that I could decorate as I desire? Would I freeze my eggs and revisit them at a time when I was ready, even without a man? Where would I spend Thanksgiving? With my friends and their husbands, or back home with my parents? What would my life look like?

A year ago when I was writing this blog, those thoughts would have angered me. I would have convinced myself that those were negative, love-addicted notions that have no place on this space. I would have been upset that I wasn’t stronger, or even worse, I would have let those fears dominate my thinking and cried myself to sleep on Thanksgiving Eve. But this year, they’re just thoughts. Nothing more, nothing less — just ideas of what my future could or couldn’t be.

Because you know what? Being a strong woman who’s happy (and totally thankful) for her life doesn’t mean that she doesn’t crave happily ever after with a man. (Even if she’s unsure of what the “after” refers to, really.) It doesn’t mean that romantic fantasies are far-fetched or detrimental, they are just part of what we hope tomorrow brings. It doesn’t make us weak or less together or successful, it just makes aware of what we want while knowing that should that not come, we’d be fine otherwise. It doesn’t make us silly because we dream of sharing memories with a man who wants to make memories and have anniversaries, holidays with us.

The Thanksgiving memory I wish to recreate is a memory that was never mine — but something I watched on home videos of my parents. It was my second Thanksgiving and I was strapped into a booster seat, nibbling on baby corn and wearing an adorable brown and red dress (thanks Mom!), with the camera set up to get the whole dinner scene. The tape rolled for nearly an hour-and-a-half, my parents just had to capture the first Thanksgiving they thought I’d remember. I sat and watched the whole segment once, and my favorite part had nothing to do with how I giggled at my dad impersonating a turkey or my icky-face at cranberry sauce (I still make it) — but at an intimate moment not meant to be captured:

My father reached across the table and grabbed my mother’s hand as he said: “You’re so beautiful. You’ve given me the best life and a beautiful daughter. You’re the love of my life.”

So today, I’m thankful for so many things, but one of those happens to be that I have the courage to believe that one day, those words could be spoken to me.

Beer, Broccoli and Brownies

You know it’s time to do your laundry when you’re left with only Christmas-themed boy briefs you’ve had stashed for oh, I don’t know, ten years, that you never can seem to throw away. Or when your pile of laundry is competing with the height of your dresser. And you’ve worn the same dress more than a few times, though it’s 90-degree weather and every single possible inch of your body sweats in ways you didn’t know it could.

You know it’s time to actually get some sort of tan for the summer when you’re my friend M, who while on a day date with a cute, preppy, tattooed bachelor of an unknown age, you hold your arms out like a bird to attempt to get some color. Oh, and he calls you out on it and you blush sheepishly. Or when it’s mid-July and your legs glow in the sunshine, instead of glistening.

You know it’s time to actually stick to your exercise schedule when you try on pajama pants that were once super-baggy on you, but now are a little snug. Or when you see yourself in a mirror with four panes and think, “Oh, I just look larger because I’m in between the sections” and then discover, that no, that’s no exaggeration, that’s reality. Or when you weigh yourself at multiple places and even if you subtract five pounds off for water weight, clothes and bloating – you’re still a little heavier than what you’d like to be.

You know it’s time to go to the grocery store when you’re sitting around on a lazy Wednesday afternoon, hungry and busily working on a tight deadline, and you gotta’ find something easy to make. And so, you settle on some Brooklyn lager, brownies from two weeks ago, and fresh broccoli steamed with butter. Along with a bag of Sensible Proportions that quickly loses its senses. Or you start drinking out of the orange juice container in your undies because it’s too hot to dress and too much effort to wash a dish in the air conditioner-less kitchen.

Or is at these times that you learn the most important lesson of all? Self-acceptance.

That laundry can wait when there are career-advancing things to do or free happy hours that don’t break your bank and allow you to make memories you won’t forget. That while a healthy glow looks lovely on our 20-something bodies, at 50, we’ll be thankful for pale skin that wrinkles less and looks younger. That an extra five pounds never turned away a man before and if it did, then he wasn’t a man we wanted to be around to begin with. That crazy food concoctions sometimes turn into interesting conversations and giggles that make the strangeness less strange.

Because I may not be the most dedicated laundry lady, the cleanest, the smallest, the most beautiful, or the best chef – but I’m me. And if I want to eat broccoli and brownies with a side of beer, then, you know what? I will.

Daily Gratitude: I’m thankful that in the shadow of everything that’s wrong, there is always something that’s right.