No Almost About It

Similar to the dating scene in New York, when you find something that’s incredibly tasty, surprisingly no-hassle, and relatively inexpensive in the city – you keep coming back for more. Such is the story of Corner Bistro.

Tucked away in the West Village at West 4th and Jane, Corner Bistro is the definition of a hole-in-the-wall joint. It’s dark, even mid-day, only accepts cash, and you’re lucky if your waiter does more than grumble at you. It is always, always packed – as it should be. Out of any burger I’ve had in my life, it is the absolute best. It even beats my dad’s – and to pin the olive on top of the bun, their signature burger is a mere $7.

When I discovered this well-known, not-so-hot spot, I instantly became hooked. A week or so ago, when I found myself with a craving for their menu, I gathered three friends and caught the train downtown. A few Blue Moons, three orders of burgers and fries, and an hour worth of catching up later, my friend J decided the next destination would have to be a gay bar less than ten mini-village blocks away.

Happily filled with booze and burgers, the crew trotted toward a hidden address, bumping into Sarah Jessica Parker along the way. While we were appropriately star-struck, it didn’t last long – this is New York after all. If you didn’t pass a celebrity here or there, then you obviously are not going out enough and spending far too much time in your far too small apartment. On the way, we stopped by a pet store to admire the $1,000 frenchies, the $1,200 Cock-a-Poos or Bossi-Poos or Cava-Poos, and then finally made it to the one place to admire the trendiest of all – the Village Drag Queen. With eyelashes curled to the 9′s, liner that goes on for miles, and a push-up that pushes whatever-that-is higher than my ladies are resting – this Mr/Ms was a force to be reckoned with.

Not to mention, s/he was the Bingo keeper. Yes, gay bar bingo. Apparently, sweets, it is the newest thing.

It is also a serious game, even if the commentator walks around flirting with anyone who doesn’t have a vagina, which luckily for him/her is the majority of those in attendance. When I casually asked a neon-wearing gaggle of gay men where to get Bingo stampers, they promptly informed me they brought their own and that I could find golf pencils on my table. Oh, well excuse me  - I thought i looked pretty slammin’ in my blue sweater dress and heels, but apparently not. At least in terms of gay bingo, anyways.

My group pitched in together and bought three cards to split amongst the four of us. We decided if we happened to win the $1,300 jackpot, we’d split it evenly. A few days before, I had given in to the pleas of one of my closest friends to watch The Secret, which is great for giggles, if you feel inclined. While I think the message is true- tell the universe what you want, believe you’ll get it, and you will – the documentary was not well-done. With beer and three mimosas swirling in my tummy thus making my lips a little looser, I encouraged my friends to believe we would win the money. I figured if I’m going to lead my life by a secret I already knew, why not let my friends in on it, too? In my early evening haze, it seemed like a strategic approach to gay bingo.

Twenty minutes later, we were one little box away from winning. By this time, I had told them my reasoning and all of us were suddenly on board, convinced that by having faith, we suddenly had a super weapon against the rest of the players. We had intentionally placed the universe on our side. As if we were waiting to meet our unborn child or on that phone call, offering us our dream job, we lingered on the bingo board, each gripping our inadequate pencils and drinks eagerly.

And then Mr/Ms Village Drag Queen called B9. A man with a high-pitched voice and a blue stamper screamed “Bingo!” We needed B8. We almost won. We almost had the universe at our fingertips.

But what good is almost? The Southern saying, after all, says almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. There are rare  things in life where not hitting the goal, but getting close to it, is just as powerful as reaching it.

In thinking about our loss, I considered all of the things I’ve experienced that were best defined by almost. Mr. Idea was almost the right guy for me, minus a few vastly important characteristics and interests. I almost had that national freelancing gig at a consumer publication, but my tone wasn’t right for the mag. I almost fell asleep at midnight, at one, at two, but couldn’t stop stressing out from my overflowing to-do list. I almost ran five miles, but I gave out at 4.8 out of nothing but utter boredom. I almost achieved that toe curling orgasm, but couldn’t get right there, right where I needed to be.

Almost: It is almost worse than failing in the first place because you know how near you were, and yet, so terribly far away. And yet, it is a word I use constantly.

“Yes, I almost went to that show, but…” “Oh, I almost went out with him, but…” “Well, I almost got that byline, but…” “I almost signed up for that race, but…” “I almost came home early, but…” “I almost initiated The Talk, but…”

Almost, but what? Is almost an excuse or something that we actually experience? If something doesn’t work out, if we don’t sincerely care to do something, if something is not quite what we want, if something is not within reach – then it doesn’t work out, we don’t do it, we don’t have what we want, and we don’t reach it.

It isn’t a matter of almost, it is a matter of fact.

But it doesn’t mean almost doesn’t count – in fact, I’d like to think it always does. Thinking about almost is a way to realize our worth and what we’re capable of. If we just about got there, if we just about found the right person, if we were the forerunner for a great Bingo board win, if we knew we probably could have gone longer and harder – then we know what we’re made of. We know and we believe what’s inside of us – because if we can just about get there, one day, we can definitely get there. No almost about it.

(That is, as long as we have a fancy stampy thing)

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Thank You, Mr. Wrong

As it usually is on Monday mornings, yesterday the downtown train to Chelsea was packed. I’m one to stand near the door and let others grab a seat, a gracious tactic that usually results in a quicker exit and entrance. This quarter past eight in the morning decision landed me squished between an elderly man reading The Times and a pair of matching tourists, complete with fanny packs and “I love NY” shirts and all.

Nearing my stop, my cart started to disperse and as I turned to catch a spot closest to the parting doors, I caught a whiff of an old familiar smell. Unable to keep myself from turning away, I subtly followed the scent to find the trail. A few mini steps clockwise, I came face-to-face with a 15-year-old with shouting headphones, who was not amused by how uncomfortably close I was to his sideways-cap.

Embarrassed, I grinned at him (he didn’t return one to me) and left the subway quickly as I couldn’t keep my head from buzzing with memories Axe Deodorant Spray. Scent is, after all, the strongest sense tied to memory, and for me, that scent will never represent anything or anyone but Mr. Faithful. My very first boyfriend, my puppy love, the man whose heart I shattered, and the dude who I lost my virginity to.

And that same fragrance takes me back to all of those things – laying with belly buttons touching as I wondered if sex would get better; if he was the man I would marry, if I would be the one who ended up with her high school sweetheart; if this was what real love felt like; if I would ever meet anyone I felt as strongly about. If it got better than this.

But if I could have reassured  my 15-year-old self about how much I had to look forward to and how much love I was actually capable of giving and receiving, I would have never worried. I would have enjoyed those moments of innocence, toes dipping into the warm lake at twilight, gleaming into the eyes of a guy, who three years later, would be far removed from my life.

Because in those hot summer nights and the cold winter evenings we spent together as two kids, feeling what we thought was love for the first time –we were each other’s right person. If you would have asked me a few months into our relationship – maybe up to the first year, even – I would have told you I’d go the rest of my life smelling that Axe spray every morning and be perfectly content.

Or when Mr. Fire introduced me to gnocchi – something that always reminds me of him when I see it at the grocery store – in his tiny kitchen in our tiny college town. Dancing  (and sliding) in our socks to Dave Matthews, laughing, sipping wine we were too young to buy, and our hearts racing in anticipation of the love we hadn’t made yet. With those wild eyes that always seemed to get me – he rubbed his nose against mine, scooped me into his arms, spun me around, and dipped me toward the ground, playfully asking: “Do you trust me?” In that instant – I would have proclaimed to the whole world I would trust him with my everything, would have given him anything, and would have said whatever I needed to say to stay in his grasp forever.

In thinking about this ever-elusive Mr. Right character – I’ve thought about all the guys who didn’t fit the bill. All of the ones I loved or the dudes he didn’t fall for me as fiercely as I intended them too, and all of the suckers in between.

Because while Mr. Curls, Mr. Faithful, Mr. Fling, Mr. Idea, Mr. Disappear, Mr. Unavailable, and Mr. Rebound all have names specific to my experience with them – their ultimate titles are all the same: Mr. Wrong. Even if at one time, they had the opportunity be Mr. Right or were Mr. Right Now when they stood by my side.

I’m not convinced there is only one right companion for every person, but I do think it’s important to remember the guys who weren’t right. The Mr. Wrongs, after all, will never be completely gone – because if they were, then what would have we gained from their love – or lack of? Would we be able to understand what works for us and what doesn’t? What it takes for someone to be what we need and what will never measure up to fulfill us?

How can we know when it’s right if we don’t know what it feels like when it’s not?

The Mr. Wrongs ended up not to be the men I decided to lead with, but they all served their purpose. I’ve learned the lessons I’ve decided they’ve taught me and with all of them, I’ve released the “what could have been” thoughts that always attach themselves when love goes astray. I’m not interested in rekindling any flame that’s burnt out, bur rather excited about what’s next.

Because if history truly does repeat itself, then I’m lucky. I’m blessed to be strong enough to overcome heartache, to choose what I need over what I want, and to be loved by a few incredible men. And though at the time, I didn’t always realize what was waiting for me is better than what I’ve felt before – I know it now. And without dating, loving, losing, and leaving the Mr. Wrongs, I would never have the confidence that a Mr. Right – or maybe a few Mr. Rights – await for me in the days, the months, and the years to come.

It is sometimes those unanswered prayers that are answered against what we thought we longed for, those memories that were once bittersweet but are not just fond, and those men who were right at one time – that teach us more than the one who ends up being right, right now. They may have broken our hearts or steered us in the wrong direction or we could have stepped all over them on the way to our own happiness and personal gains – but without them, we wouldn’t be one step closer to finding the love that doesn’t bite the dust.

So, thank you Mr. Wrongs – for a lot of things, but mainly, for being wrong.

The Design of the Universe

Last night, the moon was the closest to the Earth it has been in the last 18 years.

And according to my astrological mother, it fell at 29 degrees Virgo, and because that’s my sun sign…that’s a good sign. The next two weeks as the universe twists and turns as it always does, the people I meet, the opportunities I’m given, the decisions I’ll make, and the places I’ll go will dramatically influence my life. It will be a time where I’m forced to the front of the stage, put on the chopping table, made to change my tune, and turn toward the light. The next fourteen days are the most important dates of 2011, so far, for me, specifically.

No pressure, or anything.

I’m not sure how much I buy into astrology but it has always been up for discussion at the house that built me. I don’t know if it is part of the materials that have made me into a person or if I really trust the stars with my destiny – however, sometimes it has merit I can’t deny. Maybe because she’s my mother or because she’s an astrologer with a sixth sense, but my mom is rarely wrong about my life.

More often than not, she’s completely right. Even if at the time, I don’t want to admit it or walk away from the guy she says is bursting with red flags. Her first question when I meet someone is never about his name, what he does, what he looks like, or how I met him. It is always: “When’s his birthday?” She often pesters for the exact time (on a birth certificate) because astrology in its technical state isn’t accurate without it, but I continue to remind her it’s a little awkward to ask a guy such a personal (and odd) question on the third date.

Astrology is far more complex than reading your horoscope in the paper or signing up for an email newsletter that’ll let you know if the planets endorse a major investment or a trip to Brazil. While we all know our main sign, if you believe in astrology (or are entertained by it), you will know you have a handful of other signs that make up the pieces of who you are. For example – my sun is in Virgo and the sun represents the essence of who I am. However, my Venus is in Leo and Venus represents how I am when I’m in love and when I’m in the home. So really, if I wanted to “predict”  love-to-be by reading horoscopes, I should read Leo instead of Virgo. The rest of the planets all represent different faucets of life too – like Mars is indicative of my career and my sex drive, and Mercury is higher learning and travels.

Bear with me – I realize this sounds crazy.

My mom says adults don’t come into their charts fully until the reach 25 – an age where I guess, everything just falls together. Up until then, we may not relate to the planets or buy-in to how they transition our lives day-in and day-out. I don’t lead my life on the principles of astrology but I’ll agree with mama that I have reached a place where I identify more with the ways of the universe than I ever have before.

But for me, the beauty in the zodiac isn’t in reading something that’ll make me relax about a situation or be fearful of a planet that’s in retrograde (I’ve yet to figure out what this means exactly), but it’s the idea that really, nothing is completely explainable. Even with the the compartments of the solar system all representing different things and ideologies, my mom and all of her friends will always emphasize the strength of free will and that astrology is merely a guide. It’s an outline, but not the whole story.

The universe is specifically designed but so are we.

When a relationship ends or when we’re passed by for a job that we were certain was perfect for us, or friends grow apart – we can blame it on the tides turning or the sickening slow rotation of the planets. Some of us may blame it on fate – though I’ve yet to determine where I stand on the validity of “supposed to” or “meant to” be. A vast majority often blame it on other people, outside sources, and sometimes, in a blue moon (or a very close one), they may even take the responsibility themselves.

But what I decided, while walking through Williamsburg, keeping an eye on the sky that apparently, was created for me for the next two weeks – was to live. To realize that not everything has an answer or a reason – in fact most things don’t. To know that the path I picked may not be the right one or the one to bring me the most happiness – but there is always a chance to take a right. Or a left. To understand that who I am right now, in this instant, typing this blog, and preparing for the day ahead, is not who I will be a few months from now or a few years.

And regardless if I’m in a city where seeing the stars is rare or surrounded by an illuminated and dotted sky in the South or maybe in the Middle East, they don’t all shine for me. Or for you. But they glow as a reminder to all who look up only to close their eyes and make a wish, that all is moving . All is growing, changing, and adapting – no matter if the planets are in Virgo or Taurus or Pisces. The stars let us know the world is alive.

And so are we.

The Blackberry on the Bedstand

Like a penny and piece of paper that’s not wasted – a relationship has two sides to it. If it takes two to tango, there is always the guy’s side to what went awry, the lady’s opinion – and then there’s the truth.

While we may never know the real reasons behind why our past loves burnt out or why the connections faded between our current man and his last girl, it isn’t so much a question of what happened after, but what went on, during.

And it’s easy – once all is said and done – and we’ve moved on to brighter and better futures that may have us single or taken, to speculate the past and give it a definite reason. It may be simpler to determine that the girl who laid with a man we’re seeing wasn’t anything like us or wasn’t right for him – hence why she’s not in the picture, and we are. But like it gets the best out of felines, curiosity also has a way of sneaking its way into our minds, too.

I mean, who was the last girl? Is there a way to meet her or know her, without actually doing it? Would we like her if we did? Why do we care who she was or why it ended? Does their past really affect our future? Is this inquisitiveness healthy?

When I went to meet Mr. Possibility after his long stint overseas, he stood waiting patiently on the LIRR platform above me. When he smiled at me, a flash of intensity struck thru my heart in an instant. I knew I missed him but I also wondered what in the world I was walking up to. When we embraced, it was one of those moments out of a trite romance novel, where you rush to one another and the man kisses your forehead, your cheeks, your nose – and all at once, you remember what it felt like before he left.

Following a welcome home party of sorts and an intense conversation, I found myself, again, entangled with him, falling asleep to the sound of our joint breath. When I woke up the next morning, still intertwined with this severely jet-lagged gentleman who was peacefully knocked out, I noticed his Blackberry on my bedstand.

In all of the time he stayed over before, he always placed the contents of his pockets, including his phone and nifty pen he never forgets, right next to where we slept. When I needed to know the time or use a light to navigate the mess that is my apartment, I’d often use his dated 3G to do so.

But this time, as I blinked my eyes open and thought to reach out and determine how much damage those last shots had done, I found myself unable to move. Suddenly, his Blackberry seemed dangerous.

I have never been a gal to go through anyone’s phone – especially a man I’m seeing. I’m private (believe it or not) with my own cell and selective about who I save in my address book, so I’ve respected the same preference with others. I also tend to believe if you go looking for trouble, you will find it. Even if it’s in a picture or a text from three years ago that alludes to something you’d rather not know or something that even matters.

And while it never dawned on me, even that morning, to flip over his phone and parade through it, I also couldn’t bring myself to touch it.

I realized, not for the first time really, but in a profound way – I’m not the first to lay here. I’m not the first to touch that phone or be stored in it. I’m not the first woman he took a picture of, sitting across from him at a café in the Village. I’m not the first texting conversation he’s had for a straight eight-hour period. That Blackberry isn’t just a Blackberry on my bedstand – it’s all of the beds he’s laid in with women I don’t know.

As I’m staring, attempting to muster enough courage to look at the time, he reached across me, kissed the curve of my neck, grabbed the phone and said he couldn’t believe we’ve slept so late. He haphazardly placed the phone back and pulled me closer into him, wondering if I slept well. And with the phone light illuminating my room, I started to wonder about the girls before. Maybe when they say happily ever after, they are referring to the end of dating or the end of previous relationships – but do they ever really go away? Is there truly an after, when you know the before?

If all of the he’s and the she’s we meet make us who we are, then those we date are made up of the same influences. They just come in different forms and with varying faces. But when it comes to love – while I may show and tell, I don’t like to share. What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours – even if what’s mine, used to be yours.

Mr. Possibility’s Blackberry may keep every woman he’s known – maybe even the ones he could be exploring – but if I consider them part of the equation, there may be no way to add up parts that lead to love. If we remain stuck in what was, there is no opportunity to create a could be that can be.

However – in the spirit of feminism (or maybe just the matter of female language), it’s best not to condemn the women who once held a man’s heart. Without knowing them, without their angle of their relationship, there is no way to determine the pieces of the puzzle that eventually didn’t fit together for them. In most cases we will never know and it will never matter – but if he loved them and he loves you, there is a good chance you are quite similar. Or that you’re vastly different. Either way, it doesn’t make or break the relationship; it just gives a different perspective to the past. Because maybe, if for whatever backhanded twist of the universe, we did come face-to-face or word-for-word with the woman he was once with, we may find ourselves not only liking the gal, but considering her a friend. After all, if we all have some sort of a type, so do the dudes, even if he doesn’t categorize it that way in his Blackberry.

A phone, for all intents and purposes, keeps our lives together. It makes everything and anything easily accessible, especially with the technology available to those who can afford expensive policies. But what a phone doesn’t hold or isn’t able to access is the life of the person when they are without it. When buttons aren’t dialing, when texts aren’t being sent, when calls aren’t being made.

When the Blackberry is on the bedstand, the man is in the bed. Without his phone, without reaching out to the world outside of the frame that contains you and him. And within the space, within the perimeters that make up a bedroom, lives a relationship (where it be exclusive or not).

And while within reach is every woman he’s loved or the ones he could be with one day, for a moment, a year, or a lifetime – the only one that matters is you. Because eventually, within a few minutes, the light goes out on the berry. The room dims as it was. And it is there, in the dark or in the rays that make up the morning, that you figure out if you’ll be just another number stored away for safe keeping and bittersweet memories. Or the one who remains on speed dial.

Regardless, just like it’s near impossible to not have a cell phone, it is just as improbable for a man to not have a past. The question is – can you accept it? Embrace it? Or will you stare blankly, afraid to know what’s stored in the memory, the database, and the heart of someone who is just within reach.

Silly Little Thing Called Luck

As many bloggers and magazine outlets will say today: I don’t consider myself lucky in relationships. In fact, I’ve considered myself unlucky in the game of love – never one to get the hearts, clubs, or diamonds; only the spades.

Nevertheless, while I could write about the fact that love is probably the factor of a little faith and the luck of great timing – I’m not committed to the idea. I’ve yet to determine what I think the best prescription for finding true love is and I’ve honestly reached a point where it isn’t the priority, but rather something I trust will be in my cards eventually. Maybe.

However – in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, tribute must be paid to those Irish things that have brought me much joy over the years. And perhaps, even a little bit of that silly little thing called luck.

Claddagh ring

My hometown is this beautifully hippie and new age town tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is a mecca for up-and-coming bands, artists, and the beat of the streets beats “come as you are.” Growing up in a contradictory town: Southern and accepting of different cultures and orientations, made me an investigator of international affairs, as well as a curator of my own background.

Following my junior year of college, I finally jumped on the Claddagh ring ban-wagon and bought a fancy one (by fancy, I mean more than the $10 one on the side of the street. This one had a real stone with a real personal meaning) from a local artist in downtown Asheville. And since I signed my name to charge it, I never took it off. Not to shower, not to cook, not to do anything. To me, it was symbolic of love in my life – where it be romantic or self. A few guys cleverly turned it around when they asked to be exclusive, but somehow, it only felt  right when it was displaying my single title to the world.

Because even when I find love, it doesn’t mean I’m not open to any other expression of admiration from other sources. So really, my heart is always open. Funny thing is though, a week after I started writing this blog, I tucked away the ring in my drawer, having decided I didn’t need anything that defined me by my relationship status. I may sport it again, but if not, it’ll always remind me the universe is always giving love – as long as we’re perceptive enough to see it.

Fitzgerald’s Pub

Today, I’m not much of an Irish pub kind of girl. Maybe I’ve grown out of the feel or prefer live music or dancing to darts and rugby, but if given the choice, a place with “O’Connor” in the name wouldn’t be first on my going-out list. However, when I interned in the city and was without a friend to my name, the bartenders at this joint in the Flat Iron district became my instant pals.

I’d come in after a long day at the mag or hostessing at a restaurant in Times Square and there they’d be to greet me with their lovely Irish accents: “Lindsay, darling! Give the girl a Guinness, will ya?” I’ve never cared for Guinness but in my naivety, I was flattered by their gesture and always accepted anything they gave me. We’d sit watching baseball (which I know next-to-nothing about), talking about their wives, and dissecting my Southern/Irish roots. Without these entertaining nights, I wouldn’t have had as many dates that summer (somehow, I was always hit on at Fitzgerald’s) or felt like I had a place to just be myself. Now, I take guys there to see how they respond to something so special to me – and of course, to get the opinion from the same bartenders, who after several years, are still serving up the pints. They told me then and they continue to reiterate it every time I stop in: You wear your heart on your sleeve, lady. Don’t ever let that city harden ya.

So far, I haven’t.

Jerry from P.S. I Love You

When I saw this movie in the theaters with my friend L, it was a few days before Christmas and intolerably cold for North Carolina. She brought in a blanket she had stored in her car and we watched the midnight showing with it sprawled across us. Ten minutes into the film, we both started bawling our eyes out…and didn’t stop until the credits rolled.

Now, I know it’s a rom-com like all of the other ones that dazzle our televisions and trick us into believing in serendipitous meetings that end in an honest, everlasting love (though, if you listen to J.Lo, don’t make it your first dance song). But something about Gerald Butler as Jerry captivated me. The movie illustrated that relationships are far from perfect. And most of the time, we treat the ones we love the most with the most critical eye and unforgiving mentality. But even when we’re unforgiving and profoundly ridiculous with the people we care about, if they are worthy of our good and our bad – then they’ll see through it and love us regardless. Just as Jerry did with Holly after she threw a shoe at his face. (I’m embarrassed to admit I did the same to Mr. Idea – and he was less than thrilled).

Now, I don’t expect my husband to schedule out letters before he goes six-feet under – but I do know I will only end up with someone who accepts me for me, flaws, obsessions, and all. And maybe if the heavens humor me, I’ll find a guy who is as go-lucky as a leprechaun and does a little Irish strip tease in suspenders for me, too.

Lucky Charms

My household growing up was void of sweets and anything that was remotely bad for the body. It was only on holidays, special occasions, birthdays, and sleepovers that my mom cracked and bought potato chips or cookies, otherwise, I considered peanut butter and celery sticks just as good as Dunk-a-Roos (remember those?). However, one day at summer camp as a kid, I discovered the goodness that is Lucky Charms.

I begged and pleaded to have a box at home and even offered some of my allowance money to cover the $3 cost. She remained firm for a while, but eventually gave in and bought Lucky Charms once in a blue moon for me. I’m not too much of a cereal eater in my adult life, but if I pick something purely for the taste, I still pick the charms.

And yes, I always leave the marshmallows for last.

Leprechaun in Alabama

This is a real newscast. These are real people. Enough said.

Tall Brunette

And especially for this St. Patrick’s Day, I’m a fan of a newfound friend and Gchat companion. She has Irish roots and lives in the Northwest and we may be polar opposites – but her clever advice and wit always brightens my mood. Not to mention, the gal’s fiercely talented in artistry, penning, and otherwise. Go check out her blog and stay tuned for a podcast from both of us.