La Donna E L’ombrello

Even though I booked a trip to Paris and to Rome, in all honesty – I was far more excited about visiting Italy than I was to see France. Not only because mostly everyone warned me that Parisians were rude to Americans, but my ever-growing love affair with everything-Italian (it’s food, it’s colors, it’s language, it’s men) made me more enticed with Roma than ole’ Parie.

So you could imagine my surprise when after a flight from Paris to Milan and then Milan to Rome, a train ride from Fiumicino – Leonardo da Vinci airport to our hotel – I tried to hide the fact that I missed Paris.

Our hotel in Paris had been pristine and easily accessible, while our Roman pad was off the beaten path and due to the train traffic, we couldn’t keep our beautiful Italian doors open at night. The metro had been seamless in Paris – much nicer and easier than NYC’s subways – but with only two paths to take in Rome, we navigated mostly everything by foot (which wouldn’t have been a big deal, if we weren’t 6 days into our trip and covered in blisters). The streets of Paris were clean and every turn we took, we saw a new beautiful building, while in Rome, trash was scattered about everywhere and peddlers sold anything they could get their hands on.

But after settling in to our hotel in Rome, I vowed to give it a chance and my mother did the same, we had come all this way to Italy and we had both always wanted to go, and so onward we went. The sweet clerk gave us short-cut directions to pass by shopping and end up at a gorgeous church before eating locally. We happily went on our way, and though we had mostly encountered kind, helpful people in Paris (who wanted to hear all about New York City), the Romans we met were unfortunately (and astonishingly)…

…very rude.

While trying on shoes or clothes, the Roman women would look us up and down before rolling their eyes and saying something we couldn’t translate. When waiting in line to gain admission, a hustler who received a “No grazie” with a smile from me, responded with, “Stupid American.” And after we walked around in circles, trying to find the said short-cut that we shortly forgot, we tried to stop by a restaurant, but were shoved into a windowless (and rather smelly) basement dining room. When we asked if we could sit outside instead, the owner turned his nose to us and walked away.

It had only been a few hours in Rome, and already, with sore feet and weakened spirits, we felt like ordering room service and buying a bottle of vino instead of going about town…

until we stumbled across a hidden, dark bar on the corner or a street we didn’t recognize. Exhausted, I suggested we go in to get some dinner (it was nearly 10 p.m. and we hadn’t eaten since 1 p.m.) and some wine (obviously) before calling a cab.

We were prepared to be greeted with bitterness from the bartender, but instead, we met Davide. (For the rest of our trip, we would reference him as the “Archangel Davide” who rescued Rome for us.)

As we sat down and ordered the special (a panini and a glass of wine for 6 euro), Davide came over to explain the map that we couldn’t read to get back to our place (probably because our hotel wasn’t actually on it!). And then, after we expressed our difficult day (after such ease in Paris), he mapped out our three days for us, giving tips on places to go away from tourists and how to avoid being scammed because we were American.

And then we started talking about New York – a city that he’s always wanted to live in. I told him about my life and this blog, how I was able to gain a solid footing and make friends, what parts of towns I like and don’t, and encouraged him to reach out to me if he needed any help whatsoever.

(By the way, 30-year-old Archangel Davide was one of the most attractive men I’ve ever laid eyes on.)

He went to tend to other customers here and there, but always came back and sat with my mom and I, talking about Rome and New York, and with every sip, I found him just a bit more irresistible.

I really like the paintings you have here, I told him, gesturing to the one above my head.

My friends and I used to have another bar called ‘La Donna E L’ombrello,’ named after a local artist who uses that as his signature, Archangel Davide said, pointing to each of the paintings in the bar.

What does that translate to? I asked, only able to pick up ‘La donna’ (woman) from my Italian classes.

‘The woman with the umbrella’, he places a woman in each of his paintings holding an umbrella, you always have to look to find it, he said.

My mom and I beamed, laughing of the irony of my own nickname as the girl with the umbrella before I released myself from underneath it and re-designed this blog. There was no doubt in either of our minds’ that we were meant to get lost and find this establishment.

Because of Archangel Davide’s advice, the rest of our trip was truly incredible: gorgeous views and gardens, churches that are literally awe-inspiring, incredible food and paths that didn’t confuse us. By our last day, we both had fallen in love with Rome, and promised to return to Italy again to see other parts like Venice, Florence, Pisa, and of course Tuscany – where Archangel Davide has a home.

As we walked home that first night from Davide’s bar, we stumbled across an entrance covered in wisteria – a flower you see all over Rome. The scent was intoxicating and we both stopped to take it in, feeling tipsy and mesmerized by the beauty. I hopped up on a ledge (thank you red wine courage) and picked two pieces that we kept in our hotel room to fill it with fragrance. And as one of my gifts to myself, I bought a print from a local artist of a door frame in Piazza Navona, covered in wisteria. It reminded me of my mother and I’s experience in Italy: the door to the home is closed, but window above it is open.

Sometimes you have to stumble around and have opportunities taken away before you find what you were supposed to find all along. And of course, it’s never quite about the destination or crossing things off your list, instead it’s about the experience, and the adventures, the people, the lessons you meet and learn along the way. Rome wasn’t at all what I expected it to be – but I’m so glad I took the chance and followed my heart (and passport) to explore it.

And by the way, Archangel Davide added me on Facebook. And is hoping to visit New York this year.

 

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Heart Open, Feet On the Ground

I waited anxiously outside of my favorite sushi restaurant, cursing myself for showing up early for yet another date. I knew being fashionably late was sexier than being on time but I hated missing a deadline, even one that was more about sake than sentences.

I tried (and my friends convinced me) to ignore my gut. Everyone said to give it a chance, to keep myself grounded and not to make judgements. After so many men who disappointed or were more interested in what it felt like to be in between my legs instead of in between my heartbeats, I was more than a little hesitant.

He could be different, I reminded myself. He could be something more, something better, I told myself. Every joint and fragment in my knees wanted to run downtown to meet my girls for a drink instead of waiting for this 6’4″ tall drink of water to arrive.

But I stayed.

And I sang my little “love is not dead” mantra until I saw him walking toward me from 20th street. I immediately turned away, acting like he could catch me by surprise, just like he did the night we met a week earlier.

On the 34th street uptown platform. I really do have some luck on public transportation, don’t I?

I was coming home from a night in with my kind friend, A, who offered to help me with my taxes. In exchange, I bought her dinner and brought Lucy so she could have a play date with A’s dog. It was 11:30 p.m. and it had been a very long day, so I was playing with my phone and tired, when I heard someone ask if they could pet my dog.

I turned on bitch face and turned my head, only to realize it was a handsome guy reaching for Lucy. I smiled, instantly wishing I would have at least put a little makeup on. We struck up conversation and had things in common (like talking to strangers on the train and taking philosophy classes), and we got off at the same stop on the Upper West Side. As we were about to part ways, he asked for my number and texted me 10 minutes later.

I was instantly intrigued.

After meeting up for drinks midweek and feeling that spark, we now found ourselves going out on a Friday night, and I found myself scared to death to like someone. But then he showed up in front of me. I smiled…

…and he pulled a single long-stem red rose from behind his back. Swoon.

Okay, maybe I shouldn’t have been so worried about this, I thought to myself silently. We talked and talked, laughed and laughed, danced and sang karaoke, staying out until nearly 4 am. I’m never one to lose track of time, but I did. And I liked it. After so many online dating profiles and dates gone wrong or sour, here was someone I met in real life and I actually liked in real life.

After our second date, we texted constantly, planning our third meet-up together. He watched my favorite movie (Roman Holiday), he remembered things I told him about my family, my friends, my preferences, my interests. We started talking on Gchat and he was excited when I announced I found an amazing new job (more on that later). I was enjoying the smoothness of the conversation and the sweetness he exuded until…

… on a random night while watching Netflix, his texted turned dirty.

I’m not one to shy away from sex talk, but if I see the possibility for a relationship, I try my best not to rush or to ruin the fun by putting too much pressure on it. I don’t want to talk about getting off with someone before I’ve had a chance to figure out their intentions. I felt that little rumble of clarity come back to my gut- the one that was there before date 2- that said he was probably not interested in more. His thoughtful actions might have steered me differently, but this ploy to discuss getting naked was reminding me of my initial reservations.

I quickly veered the conversation, but felt hesitant about another date where he might push things too far, too soon. It’s not that I have rules on when to sleep with someone – it should happen when it feels right – but I didn’t feel that way, just yet.

I mean, it had only been a week and a half, right?

When things didn’t go all the way on date three, our rapid, interesting and fervent conversation turned to silence. No “make a wish!” text message at 11:11, no asking about my day or my night, no discussing date four. The furthest we got in a texting or Gchat was about Snapchat and then one quick: “I had fun last week!” followed quickly by “You have really great boobs.” If the red flags weren’t flying sky high, I’d try to ignore them but they were there, bright and waving at me.

And so, I finally cut through my politeness to kindly ask what the f*** was going on and if his initial interest in me had changed. To which I received a text message that – for lack of exact words – said: “I’m looking to have fun, be intimate and play, but I don’t want to be monogamous or just see you. It’s just not where I am in my life right now. But if you’re up for that, cool!”

Did I mention that he’s 34?

So, here I am, back to the drawing board after a barely two-week-whatever-that-was. Was I disappointed? Yes, a little. Was I invested? No, not really. Does it annoy me? Obviously. But more than anything else, I surprised myself. In a way that I didn’t think I was capable of anymore.

I’ve now been single for about two-and-a-half years and it hasn’t been easy – in fact, it’s been one of the most frustrating parts of my life. I often wonder what I’m doing wrong or if I just pick the wrong guys or if because I want it, the way of the universe just won’t give it to me until I’m uninterested. I’ve been afraid that all the men I’m actually attracted to, aren’t attracted to me, or the guys that I’m drawn to, just never want relationships, they just want to get laid. But what I’ve been most scared of it my ability to feel something. After so many failed non-relationships that ended before they ever started, my guard is up. My faith in men is not very strong.

But I do have hope. And I am able to let myself feel something. It might be with some trepidation each time, but I still do it. So I might be a bit bitter and fairly frightened, but I haven’t given up. I’m still standing up for what I want and refusing to settle for anything less than what I know I deserve.

As my friend J advised me as I talked about this past dating experience: Keep your heart open and your feet on the ground. And I might add – and keep on walking toward whatever is surely waiting for you in the future that you can’t quite see.

Not yet anyway. Not yet.

Falling in Love On Fridays: With Love, From Singapore

This week’s Falling in Love on Fridays post comes from someone I used to work with, J. Bubbly and sassy, this marketing gal made meetings more interesting and after-work drinks funnier. She moved back to her home country, Singapore after a brief stay in the States and continues to have a long-distance relationship with the love of her life that she met while here. Read her sweet story that just might make you go on that date you’re dreading tonight. If you’d like to submit your own Falling in Love on Friday story, click here.

With Love From Singapore

I decided to take the big leap to New York City to pursue a gradaute degree and follow my true passion for media three years ago. Yearning for excitement, I traveled 9343 miles away from my island home of Singapore, leaving behind the familiar smells of tropical palm trees and blue-green jeweled waters speckled with memories of my young 23-year-old self. I looked to the big city that promised so much – vowing that my education and career would be priorities for the next few years. Relationships and love were the last things on my mind especially when I wasn’t sure how long I’d stay in the US for.
For anyone who’s made a drastic move to a new city, it quickly dawns on you on how overwhelming it can be. Even though I spent the first year burying myself in school and venturing into different boroughs on the weekends, discovering what it meant to be a true local in NYC, things got lonely. Coupled with long winters that I wasn’t used to, I decided to give online dating a shot. I heard it worked for some but was still very apprehensive about this unconventional way of meeting people.
I was what you’d call a non-committal online dater. Browsing profiles and briefly replying to messages but rarely agreeing to actual dates. Having not been in a serious relationship for about four years, there was still a big part of me that treasured the freedoms of being single, especially in a place like New York.
Until I met D.
From the onset, D and I didn’t seem like we had much in common and was unlike any others I usually dated. He was quiet, meticulous and low-key. I was sociable, passionate and enjoyed going out. We worked in completely different industries and our shared interests seemed minimal – eating, snow boarding and were of the same religion. After 10 days of texting (yes, 10!), D finally asked me out.
Our first coffee date turned into a dinner in Korea Town because we were both working late. To someone who’s new to online dating, I was pretty sure a dinner date wasn’t exactly a smart idea. What if we had nothing to talk about? What if it became clear that we had no chemistry after five minutes? Oh boy. I was nervous and had a friend on speed dial should I need to make the S.O.S. call.
Thankfully I didn’t have to. The list of things we had in common grew longer as we tucked into fragrant kimchi and bulgogi (not the most romantic of first date meals but we were both famished that day). We had the same sense of sarcastic humor and although he was Vietnamese and I was Chinese, we connected with Asian jokes and history. Interestingly, we both came from a family of five siblings, D was the eldest of three girls and two boys, while I was the third of a set of three boys and two girls. The date seemed to be going well until we bid farewell. I expected an indication that the date was a hit, like a “I had a nice time, we should do it again soon” or perhaps even a hug. Instead, it was abrupt and I walked home feeling more confused than ever. That night, there was still no follow-up text from D and after a call to rant with my best friend about how badly the date ended, I fell asleep thinking,“Oh well, can’t help it if there was no attraction from his end.”
Surpsingly, D got in contact with me and asked me out for a second date… and a third. By the fourth date, it was clear that our relationship was growing and I shared my concerns with D about my permernance in NYC, not wanting to lead him on should I have to move to another city. I expected that any other 28-year-old would run for the hills, but D unassumingly reassured, “I’m in this for the long haul.” That night, we held hands for the first time while taking in the majestic views of Manhattan’s skyline along the Hudson River.
Seven months later, D and I are still going strong. We’ve since then taken snowboarding trips and met each others families. Given my job prospects, I’ve had to make a hard decision to return to Singapore, leaving behind everything I love about NYC. As disappointed as I am to not have spent more years working in the city like what I set out out to do, I gained so much more with my unexpected relationship with D.
His generosity and stability are the perfect complement to my sponateniety for life. What I lack in number skills, he makes up for. What he yearns in elegant writing, I provide. We stay grounded and honest, and go to bed every night saying how grateful we have been to have found each other. We rarely have difficult moments, but when we do, they are almost always because we wish we got to spend a few more precious moments being in the same location.
Even though being away from each other is not ideal, D and I are plowing through – because that’s what you do when you find your other half.
Happy 29th Birthday D! Can’t wait till I next see you.

You Can Do Anything

I wondered if everyone who warned me about the dangers and lasting effects of forcing my wide little feet into heels every day had some merit in their concern as I hobbled back into my Harlem apartment in 2010. It smelled like marijuana and though I bought the cheap air fresheners from the Duane Reade around the block (a pharmacy I had never heard of), the scent was far too overpowering to ignore. The big box my mom sent me from North Carolina sat in my “kitchen”, or rather the furthest left portion of my 400-sq-feet room that amazingly cost $850 a month. I had spent the day going to interview to interview, scouring through every possible magazine masthead I could, emailing to meet up for coffee and praying to the job gods to give me their blessing. I had only lived in New York for two and a half weeks and most of my savings were gone thanks to a security deposit and first months rent. I started my hostessing gig in a week if I didn’t find employment before then. My parents couldn’t help. I was 150% on my own. I was terrified. And I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream. I wanted the city to welcome me with the open arms I always thought it had somewhere buried underneath it’s tough exterior and soiled streets. But instead of falling apart, I repeated my mantra:

You can do it, Lindsay. You’re a Tigar. You can do anything.

Putting the dirty details of my existent and non-existent dating life on the internet was rather a bold decision, I told some girl I met through a new friend I didn’t know well enough yet. The girl was “obsessed” with my blog and I felt a little naked in front of her – considering she knew about my last one night stand the boy who broke my heart in college, and yet, I had no idea what she told me her name was 10 minutes ago. I should be thankful for my job, I reminded myself the next morning while writing a blog about taxes for small business owners. It was a challenging subject matter, and my salary (barely) covered my expenses, but I longed to do what I already did for free: write things that will help women feel less alone. I knew how to get from point A to point B, but the thought of keeping up a popular personal blog, working 9-6, dating, attempting to make friends and applying for a new job seemed daunting. I had done it before when I moved here a year ago, I reminded myself. My drive didn’t seem quite as high but I knew that passion could never really be put out. After all, I repeated:

You can do it, Lindsay. You’re a Tigar. You can do anything.

It was as if the city knocked the air out of me on the ride up Broadway to the Upper West Side. The cabbie had asked if I wanted to take the highway, but I said I preferred to pay a little more and watch New York wind down on that Sunday night. We had been broken up for six months then, but never stopped sleeping together. Even though I acted like I wasn’t seeing him drunkenly or haphazardly, dangling my heart in front of him as he pushed it away. As always. But then the last shoe dropped and something inside me woke up – was this really the love I wanted? Was this the type of relationship I would encourage my friends, my readers, the strangers in the street to have? It wasn’t – and I gave him the choice to make it better. Pick me and work on it, or get out of my life. He wouldn’t decide – per usual – so I made the choice for him. But as I cried silently and the driver ignored my sobs, I felt the fear building up. What if that’s as good as it gets? What if I don’t meet anyone? What if I can’t feel it again? To keep from sobbing from that pit in your heart few people ever touch, I sang my song:

You can do it, Lindsay. You’re a Tigar. You can do anything.

Your knee doesn’t really hurt, you’re just listening to the pain instead of focusing on the finish. Remember philosophy class? What you give your attention to grows – focus on something else to distract yourself. I decided to think about complicated things as I pasted mile 8 on the West Side Highway last Sunday. Only 5.1 more miles to go to complete the NYC Half-Marathon that I didn’t have time to train for with everything. With my dad’s 5th surgery in one year. With the uncertainty surrounding my future. With my dire need to get laid after quite the dry spell. With a trip to Europe so close I can see it, but can’t get excited about just get. Not until my dad is fine. Not until my finances are balanced and my taxes are paid. Not until I finish this race, with my ears freezing and my joints aching with every step. But if I can just keep moving, I know I’ll be home napping before I can think. I know what to tell myself:

You can do it, Lindsay. You’re a Tigar. You can do anything.

Just when you think the sunshine that always defined you was withered away into the clouds that just keep surrounding you, a little ray shines it’s way through. People always warned me that finding my way on my own would be hard. That dating wasn’t easy in this city. That careers are flaky and my industry is shaky at very best. That friendships would require work and diligence, patience and understanding. That loving yourself and believing in the good gets easier and harder as you get older, as you experience more things and question, well, everything. And at times, it all seems impossible. It seems stagnant and unreal. Scary. Like all that you worked so hard for, all that you wanted, all of those magical things that you imagined growing up would never come true. And sometimes, they don’t. Other times, they do. Most of the time, they work out just how they’re supposed to – without you realizing they ever came to be at all.

But of all the struggles and the dilemmas your adult life puts you through, of all of the trouble, and all of the unanswered questions left spiraling in your mind, if you can remember one simple truth that’s true for you, that’s true for me, that’s true for everyone:

You can do anything.

That is, my dear, if you never stopping believing that you can. That you already have. That you always will.

Falling in Love On Fridays: Tomorrow or Ten Years from Now

It’s no secret that I’m a little skeptical about online dating. Though I’ve technically been a participant in the love interwebs for years (off and on), I’ve yet to find what I consider someone I’m into enough to date long term. I know that statistics show that lots of people meet their significant others online (1 in 5!) but I just haven’t found much success and often feel like throwing in the towel. But my friend from college, J, makes me want to give it another try. She’s recently engaged to a man she met online and their story will make you get on Match for an hour tonight. No joke. Oh – and just try not to cry during the proposal video. If you want to write your own Falling in Love on Fridays post, click here.

Tomorrow or Ten Years from Now

After getting dumped by my boyfriend of two years, I had given up on love.  I would go out, flirt with guys at the bar, and then go home disappointed, realizing that there were no good men out there. I felt like a sad imitation of the gals from Sex and the City: Hopelessly romantic and also a little hopeless… After one of my nights with my girl friend Lillian (and way more than my half of the bottle of wine), I decided it would be cathartic to create an online dating profile. That way, my not-completely-sober self rationalized, I could highlight my best qualities, something I don’t often do in my self-critiques and realize how awesome I am.

I created a profile on a religious dating site, mainly because the guys my friends found on regular dating sites turned out to be absolutely horrific. Immediately, I was receiving messages and emoticons from guys, some of whom were too old, a little creepy, and just so, so wrong for me. It made me laugh a little, though, and I felt better about myself, realizing that at least somewhere out there, guys thought I was worth pursuing.

screenshot

I took a break from the site and retreated to the beaches of North Carolina under the pretense of house sitting for a friend. She was visiting her boyfriend over the 4th of July holiday, so I had 4 days by myself, with only her dog and my dog to keep me company. I laid out, got some sun, read, wrote, and just allowed myself to accept where I was in life.  Like most of my trips to the beach, the salt water washed away my worries. Here I was, surrounded by thousands of tourists, with no one sitting next to me. No one talking to me. I was alone among the masses, and I felt more at peace than I had in a long time. I finally accepted that it was okay to be alone, and that refocusing on improving myself was now a priority.

I drove home refreshed, realizing that for the first time in a long time, I was freed from my insecurities, from my unhappiness. I was me once more, made whole by the sand, sun, and surf. It had been a month since I had joined the dating site, and I thought to myself, “Give it one more go.” After all, I was back to myself, the type of girl who could look on something like a dating website as an opportunity and not necessarily a last resort.

I had a few messages from a few different guys, but none of them really caught my eye. So I did what any girl would do: Scroll through the guys in my area until I found a cute one and then stalk him. I wasn’t planning on messaging anyone, since I still just had the “free profile” that wouldn’t let me send messages, but it was fun to “browse” the available men. One page down, then another.It was interesting seeing the men in my demographic and how varied they were. And then, I saw him. Tall. Good looking. Not too old. Not already divorced. Professionally successful. To say I fell in love with a picture and profile is a stretch, but it was close.

guy

My newfound sense of purpose gave me the courage to bite the bullet and send my first message, something I equated to walking up to a guy at a bar. Really, was there any difference between me approaching a stranger at my local watering hole and sending a message through a social forum? No, I told myself, there wasn’t. Plus, if he immediately rejects you or doesn’t respond, you don’t have to slink away in front of his friends and a bunch of random strangers. I typed out my short message and hit “send” before I lost my resolve. Then it was time to sit back and wait…

A day later, as I was checking my email, a notification message from the site popped up. The mysterious “Brad” had responded to my message. Thrilled that my first foray into online dating had resulted in at least a consensual message, I clicked open my email and read his brief message which was punctuated with tons of questions. What did I do? How did I like NC? Where all have I traveled to? I eagerly replied, answering each question in depth, wanting to give him the fullest version of myself. I hit “send” again and felt a sense of hope. Hope in my newfound freedom. Hope in this conversation with a stranger. Hope in myself.

We officially had our first date at a minor league baseball game, way better than the coffee date that was originally planned. He changed it last minute due to my love for the sport. We laughed. We ate hot dogs. We danced and sang to “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” We stood next to my car, and he pointed out the stars to me.  Then we went on a second date. Then we had lunch. And then… and then… The days turned into weeks. The weeks turned in to months. He met my friends. I met his. Then he met my family. And then I met his. We started speaking about the future, marriage, kids, family, all the things you plan for in your head when you’re with someone you love. And every time we talked about it, every time he got nervous thinking about the future, I’d tell him the same thing: “I’ll marry you tomorrow, and I’ll marry you 10 years from now.”

dancing

For the first time, I didn’t need a ring to define my relationship. I knew I had found the one, the guy who could make me laugh until I cried and who could cure my tears with laughter. So many people say, “I knew he was the one…” and I finally knew what they meant. It didn’t matter to me how long it would take. Our friends started asking about engagement, proposals, the possible future wedding. And as always, I’d tell him, “I’ll marry you tomorrow, and I’ll marry you 10 years from now.”

We celebrated Christmas. We celebrated New Years. We went dancing and cooked dinners for each other. Each and every day, I woke up feeling happy. He didn’t define me. He still doesn’t. I was finally in a place where I was comfortable with myself, and I found someone who loved me for me. All my faults and failures, he accepted. Through his loving me, showing me how someone else could view me, he allowed me to learn to love myself, and for this, I will be forever grateful to him.

proposal


People get cynical when it comes to online dating. I knew I was. For months after we started dating, people would ask, “So, how did you two meet?” and Brad and I would both exchange a look. I was the only one able to tell the story with a straight face because to both of us, it was still so ridiculous. We’re old-fashioned, and we met through the internet? But somehow, in this crazy mess of life, we found each other. In the end, the means of how we met don’t matter. Boy meets girl. Girl falls for guy. It’s a story as old as time.