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.

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You Can Fall Apart

A few weeks ago an article went viral on how to cry in New York.

Like anything that makes fun or sheds light on the city, I opened it, knowing I’d relate to whatever it said. I laughed at the tips – wear sunglasses and have a good song to really get you in the sobbing mood – and I liked the link my friend shared on Facebook.

And then on Friday, after a particularly stressful day, I found myself overwhelmed with my ever growing to-do list and as I talked to my mom (our nightly ritual on the two block walk to the train at night) – and I felt them.

The tears start to well.

I pressed into the receiver, complaining about the stress of doing taxes and how freelancing makes everything complicated and expensive. I expressed my anxiousness over the half-marathon I was running on Sunday (that I ended up rocking!). I talked about how guilty I felt about being jealous of my friends and their sweet boyfriends that surprise them with dinner reservations and a night out dancing – just because. I basically screamed into my iPhone that it wasn’t fair that for the past two and a half (and counting) years, I haven’t felt a lick of any emotion toward any man. My list went on – far too melodramatic to continue here – and as I kept going, I couldn’t hold back the sadness anymore.

I stopped in front of a party supply store and turned away from the people passing me on the street to hide my embarrassing, splashing drops, and my mom tried her best to comfort me with euphemisms and words of encouragement.

I got off the phone, finding it too difficult to talk, and stood there, collecting myself in the cold weather, praying no one I knew walked past me. I had cried in New York – like I have many times before – but I didn’t have sunglasses this time. Or a song to listen to. Or even tissues.

I avoided eye contact and kept my head down on the train home, willing myself to just make it to the UWS before collapsing on my bed, Lucy greeting me with her worried face and diligently licking away the salty mess. And though the article was right about ways to go about crying in New York, I’ve always found it hard to fall apart.

Certainly in public and often times, not even alone.

Somehow, letting it all come pouring out feels like opening the flood gates to something I don’t want to reveal or even see for myself. Why open the doors when denial feels so warm and protective? If I let the stress build and then I admit that it’s heavy, I fear I won’t be able to pick it up again, paralyzed by the thoughts themselves.

Falling into negativity doesn’t wash away the despair, it just heightens it.

And so, I mostly keep it together. I sing little mantras in my head for when I’m nervous. I remind myself that most everything is temporary and the best thing about life is that it always changes. I hold my head high and I try to count the things I’m thankful for instead of rhyming the things that make me bitter. I believe in the great tapestry of the universe and that I will never be dealt a hand so bad that I can’t handle it. I try to place my faith in the goodness, the boldness, the kindness of the world – and of this city – and thus, by merely having hope, I have strength in my heart.

But sometimes, like on Friday, the best possible thing I could do for myself was to let it go. To allow the thoughts to race through my mind, dangerously close to the edge of reason. To watch myself spiral wickedly out of control, witnessing my emotions like an outsider, seeing the adult tantrum take form, and eventually, end.

Because the thing about falling apart is that once you do it, you feel lighter. Those damning feelings don’t read as threatening anymore. Anger, jealousy, fear – whatever was building within you – go from boiling to simmering to frozen. Sure, there may be messy tissues and mascara-stained pillow cases, but once you’re finished, once you really release it, you’re you again.

And the world can see it.

Everyone around sees the weight that lifted. Your eyes are clearer, your head is not as cloudy, you’re smile is more generous. And perhaps, you attract something – or someone – just by releasing the tension you were clinging to for far longer than you needed to.

So you can fall apart. You can let it all hang out. You can lose control and have a meltdown. You can curse the world and fear your future. You can watch everything crumble and break, and you can bend yourself to the negativity. You can cry your eyes out like you have so many times before.

But then, you have to get up.

And though you may fall apart again and again and again – what’s more important is how many times you pick up the pieces and put yourself back together. The mark of a person is not how many times they have suffered or failed or been disappointed, but how many times they have said, “Okay, I’m done. Now what?”

So go ahead. Cry. Let it out. Let it go. And then figure out what comes next. Because trust me, there will always be something more – something better – to come.

Has It Always Been Love?

My back felt wet against the grass, the mud oozing onto my mother’s dress. It wasn’t made for my 8-year-old self, but it was ideal for my wild imagination. It was one of those fall nights that still felt warm, where the fireflies still danced across the backyard, where you could smell a fire burning somewhere beyond the mountain range, but you didn’t need to feel it to keep your breath from showing in the air. The sun was setting and my stomach was growling, ready for something fried and something green, the common supper staple of North Carolina, a state I called home, but not a state where I would live one day.

I looked up at the rich, deep blue Southern sky, counting the stars – one, two, three, three hundred, infinity – and trying to find the Little and Big Dipper because my grandmother once told me it was good luck if you could find them both fast. I always made the same wish when I did: I want to be in loveIt was on that green field with a farm to my left and a trailer park to my right, that I did all of my pretending. In that tree with that swing, my name is carved along with every boy I loved until the eighth grade when we moved. Underneath the back porch that was full of cobwebs and potential rattle snakes, I painted hearts with red paint, believing that if I kept drawing what I wanted, I’d see him some spiraling down our gravel driveway, ready to take me away. To where, I never knew but that’s how the fairytales ended.

Sure, I sometimes was a princess in my never-ever land, but most of the time I was much more than that: I was Lois Lane and Superman was coming to my rescue while I got the story to press on time. I was the female-version of Indiana Jones, running circles around my childhood home, pretending a giant bolder was chasing me. I was Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, all sass and red lipstick, oblivious to the plot line, and desperately in love with Richard Gere. I was Princess Buttercup and I just knew my Wesley would roll down that giant sledding hill in front of my house yelling, “As you wish.”

I didn’t need to know what it felt like to be in love as a kid – I was already in love with love.

I wrapped the long phone chord around me until my legs were stuck together and wobbled to the washing machine to close the pantry door. I needed privacy to listen to my very first crush talk about his very first guitar and how he was playing in his first band and that it was going to be epic. So epic. I didn’t pay attention to most of what he said, but I loved the way he said it. Especially when I imagined those curly black locks that seemed to shape into a floating bowl around his head. He was different than what I was used to and he hung out with a crowd that wasn’t my kind, but I was smitten.

We met on a school field trip to Camp Greenville and when we sat down at this chapel at the top – appropriately called Pretty Place – he rested his hand on mine and smiled. It would take me a month to talk to him, six months of obsessing and doodling his name on my notebooks, and a year until we finally were more than friends. And on some very cold January night while a friend slept over and we played Dream Phone, he asked if I’d be his girlfriend. After carefully putting him on mute, I screamed so loud that our motion light came on outside in the driveway. And now, two-whole-months later, we were holding hands outside of class and going to dances together. We had nicknames and he gave me a Valentine’s Day card that my mom put in my baby book for safe keeping. He kissed me before he caught the bus and I went to meet my parents, and though I always wanted more time alone, we were allowed to walk the mall downtown together for an hour on Saturdays.

It was love. He was love. I didn’t need to fall in love, I just knew.

I could hear him screaming my name from far, far below. His head was bopping in and out of water so clear you could see the catfish at the bottom, waiting for their chance to feed at something or for a fisherman to take a chance to feed them. I knew I couldn’t actually see his grin from way up here on top of this bank, covered in Georgia clay mud – the reddest you’ll see this side of the Mississippi – but I could feel it looking up at me. My high school sweetheart’s love was so effortless and sweet – he treated me like I was as delicate as the honeysuckle bushes, something to be savored because it only lasted so long. From the time I slipped my number in his pocket outside of biology class, inviting him to my dad’s annual smokeout to when he kissed me harder than anyone had in our clammy basement on a futon that smelled like mildew, I knew he’d be mine. I knew he’d be someone so very special in my life that I didn’t bat an eyelash before telling him so.

And now, he was telling me to grab that rope and swing into the lake where my family was all waiting for me. I wasn’t afraid of heights – but I was terrified of this fall. The ground had turned my feet orange and my hands were caked in it from the climb up. What if I didn’t let go when I was supposed to? What if I let go too quickly? What if I wasn’t strong enough to run and jumpYou can do it baby, I love you! Come here right now! 

I jumped.

But I didn’t fall – I splashed right next to him and he helped me onto the boat, rubbing his skinny little arms around me to keep me from shivering, even though it was the dead of July. I loved him – and I didn’t need to fall to feel it, I just needed to leap.

I stepped out of the fancy car that he called for me, leading to a destination that was meant to be a surprise. But I had studied New York for the past 15 years, so that wasn’t quite possible. We were at Lincoln Center, right at sunset, and he was wearing a tailor-made suit while I was trying to rock a dress that was on sale at TJ Maxx. My feet felt unsteady, both in these heels and in this city. It was becoming everything and nothing like I had imagined, consistently mesmerizing and demoralizing me, every other block – but I kept at it anyway. Especially since he – this blonde-haired, blue-eyed, 6’4″ man – was there to support me if I couldn’t make it. I had grown accustomed to him in the way I felt comfort seeing stars, something so rare in a place with energy from every other direction but up. He was something to wish upon – someone still in the making, someone I could play make-believe about in my mind, imagining the time when he decided to step out of his frog disguise.

Maybe tonight was when he’d do it: why are we here? I inquired as he led me up the steps to the fountain in the middle that was bursting with water, sparkling with little white lights. When we made it, he twirled me around as we locked eyes and he dipped me, just so my hair caught a runaway droplet, and kissed me. You said in one of your blogs that you wanted to be kissed here as the sun was setting.

Had I? I wondered as he led me to destination two of our ultra-romantic date – dinner and then a staycation at the penthouse of The Empire Hotel. I didn’t remember crafting such words, but how could I possibly remember everything that I’d ever written? I watched the taxis that night wearing a robe that costed more than my rent from the window while he slept, questioning what it feels like to be in love. And how to know when you’re falling, without actually… well, falling.

Two-and-a-half years later, I’m still figuring out the answer.

Because though I’ve known love and I’ve craved it… I don’t know if I’ve ever been in love with anything other than, well love.

This Valentine’s Day, write a self-love letter to yourself and it’ll be published (anonymous or not) on Confessions of a Love Addict! And you enter yourself to win a prize pack of beauty products and a Home Goods gift card! Learn more here. Submit here.

Call This Girl

Once upon a time on a Saturday night in New York, four brunettes met in the East Village for champagne, whiskey sours and tequila. The foursome knew better than to mix their alcohol – they were all past the age of 21 – but they danced and laughed and accepted free drinks as they were presented.

(They would regret that choice in 12 hours over coffee and bagels, but that’s neither here-or-there.)

Off they went into the irresistible New York night, wearing black but painting the town red with their lips and their winter-burned cheeks. A cab was hailed, a fair was paid, and this Upper West Side lady stepped out into this unfamiliar land that she avoids past- 8 p.m. on the weekends because the commute is just far too strenuous. But the clock almost stroke 12 by the time she left the chill to embrace the warmth of a beer hall…

… in Brooklyn.

A place she frequents more often as her friends flee Manhattan for bigger apartments and smaller rents, who leave the familiarity of the west and the east, midtown and downtown, to explore the industrial, artistic ruins of another borough.

She knew the train ride home would be more than an hour, but when in Brooklyn, one might as well embrace the grunge and order a beer. So in her mini and heels with a blue plunging neckline – looking damned out of place among checkered-shirts and Vans – she wiggled into a table, thinking that as we all get older, so will girls’ nights out, picking the comfortable locations instead of the sparkling ones. Three years ago, they probably wouldn’t have stepped foot in such an establishment, but the atmosphere is calm and mature, sharp and smart, and she felt more relaxed than she would have pinned up against a wall with loud, blaring music, charging $15 a drink.

Maybe it’s just the place she could meet a mate.

A Pilsner pint later, she managed to leave the table – in a somewhat ladylike fashion while straddling a bench- to find the nearest restroom…. quickly. But in her mad-dash in her tall boots, she rushed right past four or five tables, weaved in between giggling girls and ran smack dab into a guy.

A tall, handsome, blue-eyed man with a nice button-up and a nicer smile.

But before she could flash her own pearly whites or say something witty, he beat her to get the first words out: “Wow.  You’re intimidating.”

She gave him a confused look with a half-laugh, anticipating a punch line, and when he just repeated himself, she formed a rebuttal: “I’m not. Not really. I’m very sweet.”

“No, you’re intimidating.”

“Why?”

“I mean, look at you. I’m at a loss. You’re so intimidating,” he said, yet again. And with that, she gave him her best playful grin and tried to walk casually into what she thought was the bathroom door.

It wasn’t.

It was a painted door next to the Ladies Room. (Whoever decided that must have wanted to watch tipsy girls, like herself, attempt to walk through an imaginary door. Naturally, only in Brooklyn would the irony be appreciated.)

A few minutes later, the Lady of Intimidation forgot all about the tall stranger who labeled her a vixen before meeting her, but he didn’t forget: as she headed back to her friends, he was standing waiting for another encounter. After some clever banter and the exchange of the basics (what neighborhood, where are you from originally, what do you do), he inquired about the lady’s number.

And though it was almost 1 a.m., she couldn’t exactly recall his name and she didn’t intend to date another guy who lived across the east river, she decided if he really thought she was intimidating, she’d live up to it.

“You’re not going to remember this conversation tomorrow or me, you know.”

“How could I possibly forget?”

“I think beers number 4, 5 and 6 will probably contribute to the downfall of your memory.”

“See, intimidating.”

“But I’ll give it a shot, give me your phone.”

Then, even though it’s not quite her personality to be so incredibly forward, she saved her phone number under the name, “Call This Girl.”

“So all you have to do is read it and well, follow instructions.”

“I like that. I really like that. I won’t forget.”

And then the girl with her liquid courage, curly locks and flushed cheeks, stood on the tip-of-her-toes, kissed him, turned and returned to her friends, feeling empowered, happy and more like herself than she’s felt in a long while. The next day as she described the brief encounter to her friends and roommates, she discovered that she didn’t really care if she heard from Mr. Tall Drunk Man or not.

She didn’t care if he actually looked at his phone the next day and decided to take a chance on cheeky girl he found a bit foxy (or Tigar-y?). She didn’t overanalyze if she said the right thing or didn’t, if she came on too strong or if not sassy enough. She didn’t hover over her phone (or turn it off), waiting for a text message from a stranger she worked up in her head to be more.

Instead, she just savored one very small, yet one very, very important thing: she got her dating mojo back.

It might have taken more than a year, a few too many cocktails, dozens (upon dozens) of terrible dates, wasted tears and angry Gchats – but on a chilly January night in all places — Brooklyn — she teased the next chapter of dating in New York… and it flirted right with her. 

And perhaps, when the lady tells the city to call her, it might just remember her number.

This Valentine’s Day, write a self-love letter to yourself and it’ll be published (anonymous or not) on Confessions of a Love Addict! And you enter yourself to win a prize pack of beauty products and a Home Goods gift card! Learn more here. Submit here

I’m in the New York Post Today!!!

I tell ya, this little blog sure does bring some interesting opportunities for me. The latest interesting development? Being named New York City’s Most Eligible Single in the New York Post in their Sunday edition today.

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According to a study by PlentyofFish.com, men online are searching for the following:

-A 25-year-old
-Dog owner
-Been in one long-term relationship (at least three years)
-Catholic
-Social drinker
-Able to commit
-Thin and fit

And apart from the Catholic qualification (I was raised Methodist), I fit the bill.

Though I definitely don’t feel like the most idealist single that ever walked the glittering streets of Manhattan, I’m honored (and utterly surprised) to be named such a lucky, solo-leading lady. From the interview with the Post to a super-fun photoshoot that required a brand-new red dress (worth every penny), the last week was a whirlwind of an experience.

I don’t know what it is, but something tells me that 2014 might just bring a lot of these unexpected – and totally amazing – chances for me to put myself out there and really own being single. And writing this blog. And encouraging women to stand up for themselves.

And of course, love who you are.

Because regardless if you meet the findings of some study about what’s attractive, enticing and “ideal” -the most stunning, incredible part of anyone is their confidence. Whoever you are, own it – and know that one day, someone (surely) fall for it.

If you’re in New York – go buy the post today! If you’re not, check out this link, while I go blush for the next 24 hours. Some outtakes from the shoot below:

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This Valentine’s Day, write a self-love letter to yourself and it’ll be published (anonymous or not) on Confessions of a Love Addict! And you enter yourself to win a prize! Learn more here. Submit here