You’re Never Going to Meet Someone

You’re never going to meet someone online.

Not when your profile looks like that — how old are those photos? No selfies. No professional pictures. Look like you’re having fun. Lots and lots of fun — you don’t want to come across too serious. Don’t give away too much in your personal description. You should be witty and quick, but not like you’ll outsmart the man. Never be intimidating. But guys online, are they worth it anyway? There has to be something wrong with them, why else would they need to resort to clicking through women on the web? What an awful love story that would be to tell your kids — Dad messaged Mom and Mom replied and then you went out for drinks in the West Village. Nah, don’t meet someone online. Meet them the old fashioned way.

You’re never going meet someone like they used to back when.

No one just runs into someone at a coffee shop, strikes up conversation and magically falls in love. You don’t just fall down in front of some guy on some bus at some airport and figure out you live close to each other. Close enough to go on a random date and randomly start a relationship. It doesn’t happen that way anymore — dating is work. It’s strategic. You don’t just see a handsome person and figure out you have something in common and go from there. You have to do everything you can to find anyone worth anything. Don’t be silly and unreasonably optimistic. You’ll be single forever if you do that.

You’re never going to meet someone if you spend a lot of time in your apartment.

You’re so young! You have so much energy! You have endless time to find the right person — so you should be going out all. the. time. That happy hour, go. That event your kind-of friend invited you to that has free drinks, make sure to RSVP. Mingle. Flirt. Strike up a conversation with anyone who seems remotely interesting. Don’t go home after working non-stop at work, instead, find a reason to stay out. To find a dude who is also prowling the town. He’s looking for you too, don’t worry. But you won’t meet him if you spend all your time at your humble abode.

You’re never going to meet someone if you keep going to bars.

What kind of people are in bars? Not the type of men that you’d want to settle down with. They’re drunks. They’re irresponsible. I mean, c’mon, they chug Bud Light for $8 a pop. Or worse, they actually like PBR. They still dress and act like they’re in college. How do they go out every single night of the week and still manage to be productive at their jobs? Why would you want to end up with someone who goes to bars all the time? Who doesn’t know it’s important to spend some time at home, relaxing. No, you should meet someone at a gallery opening. Or through a mutual friend. Maybe by joining a co-ed kickball team or going to a comedy club. Meet some sophisticated gentleman who is better than those jerks in Murray Hill. You live in New York — there are so many ways to meet guys, just not one at a bar. That’s gross.

You’re never going to meet someone if you put so much focus on your career.

I know, I know, it’s important. I know, it’s why you decided to move hundreds of miles away. And yes, you love it. Yes, it’s demanding and you love every second of the fast-pace, challenging and exciting environment. It fulfills and intrigues you, sure. But no guy wants to be with a girl who works so hard. Who cares so much about her career and where she’s heading. They want a woman who can compromise. Who will make an excellent, loving mother. You definitely can’t have both — even if you see women at your job who rock the office and the home every day — no, you can’t actually do it. If you keep pulling long hours and working from home on the weekends when you’re supposed to be off, no man will be interested in you. When will you ever have time to take care of his needs?

You’re never going to meet someone if you aren’t impressive.

You should be able to stand on your own two feet confidently, successfully, totally alone. You should have an awe-worthy resume and a rich, fulfilling life that involves travel and expertise, impressive qualifications and background stories that’ll entice anyone who will listen. Wear nice things. Have a refined taste in your wine, your culture, what you believe and what you like to do. Take those expensive classes and learn to speak more than one language. You have to stand out from all of the other women who really, really want his attention. You have to be different and you simply can’t be ditsy or someone who puts what he wants over what you’re trying to achieve.

You’re never going to meet someone if you’re so picky.

Does he really need to be tall? Or have an amazing career that pays well? Who needs a full head of hair or a steady paycheck? Who cares if you have the same upbringing or moral standards? Maybe you’re not that attracted to him and maybe he doesn’t actually stimulate you (at all) — but he really, really likes you. He’s good enough, isn’t he? You could make yourself really into him — just think of all that he could provide. Or all that he could be someday. He could be a fixer-upper project — someone that you mold into who you want. Right? You keep passing up perfectly good guys because you’re not falling in love with them. Or turned on by them. How will you ever settle down…if you never settle on someone?

You’re never going to meet someone if you don’t raise your standards.

You stayed with that guy who was wrong for you… for so long. And then you pined over him for a year after the relationship fizzled. How could you put up with that? Why would you lower what you want? You should wait for a man who treats you right. Who you’re crazy about. One that is more wonderful than you could ever imagine. You’re so special, why would you be with someone who is terribly boring and ordinary? Or doesn’t really get you going. You should be more selective about who you date — why do you give everyone a chance? Not everyone deserves a second of your valuable time. Silly girl, you deserve better.

You’re never going to meet someone if you don’t try harder.

Every time you leave your apartment — you could run into the man you’ll marry. He’s out there, after all. So you better put your best face forward and dress in a way that’ll lure him in. Always be prepared to meet your destiny and always anticipate that something could happen in an instant. Your whole life could be completely different six months from now but if you don’t open your eyes and your heart to let change in, it’ll never happen. You’re not trying hard enough. You’re not putting yourself out there. You think you are, but are you really? Are you really putting yourself out there? Are you really ready to receive love?

You’re never going to meet someone if you try so hard.

You’re doing everything you can to find the right guy: you’re going out all the time, you’re online dating, you’re loosening your preferences and you’re raising the stakes. But guys will sense that. They can smell desperation. They know that you’re putting so much out there that you’d really just go with the first man who expressed interest. You should be more mysterious. Try being aloof and disinterested. Unattached. You have to come across as confident and happily single — not a girl who is looking for someone. Nope, you’re just fine, just by yourself. Until you meet the right guy and then you’ll change everything you are to fit into his life.

You’re never, ever going to meet someone. Not like that. Not like this.

Just because you do everything right or what everyone tells you that you should do, doesn’t mean you’re going to meet the right man in the right way at the right time. But if you really do want to meet someone, the best thing you can do is whatever feels right to you.

And more importantly, by being exactly who you are.

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How I Met Dr. Heart

At the start of the year — yes only a few weeks ago — I made a big commitment to myself (pardon my French, mom) to cut through the bullshit of dating.

I simply had enough of the game playing. The silly rules that everyone follows, yet everyone hates. Guys who are just in it for sex (pun intended). Ones who have deep-rooted issues they can’t overcome, ones who judge my intelligence because of my little white dog. Dudes who lie and those looking for merely a caretaker or a piece on the side instead of a partner. Men with no drive, those with an ego too big to fit in the restaurant, never mind the tiny table where we sat.

No, I wasn’t trying to rush through the fun dating process or the perks of being a single girl, but I found myself not only irritated at the whole concept, but incredibly frustrated, too. And for 2013, sure I was challenging myself to say yes more, but I was also learning how to detect the pending demise of a relationship before it even became anything that resembled a courtship.

So, when I received a generic message from a handsome guy online a few days after the New  Year, I snapped back a sassy response, not expecting to hear from him again . When he replied almost instantly, addressing my “You must send this same message to dozens of women, does it ever work out for you? ” snarky remark with a handful of questions about my interests and basic NYC stats (the job, the location, the place you come from) — I took a second glance at his profile.

I responded for a while before feeling like it was too much work and put down my phone. The next day though, this guy returned to ask me for a drink. A little surprised by his diligence, I replied with a simple “Where?” and when he gave me a blanked, not specific-response of “In the city somewhere”, I became real annoyed. Surely, I knew we’d meet in the city we both lived in for a date — I mean, c’mon.

I wrote him off as someone who didn’t put in much effort or care too much about impressing me, and left him hanging without a word. I even went as far to actually tell him as much (yes, really) the following day when he asked me if I was interested. 

But of course, because I’m me and can never be as much of a badass as I actually think I am, my guilt for being rude to this probably-kind stranger, got the best of me. I wrote to him a mini-apology, explaining my turn-offs and agreed to meet him for that drink…

…which ended up being a six-hour first date. And an eight-hour date the next day. Then three more dates that week. And now he’s sitting next to me studying for an exam he’ll take on Friday, as I write this blog about him.

About the exciting new person in my life: Dr. Heart.

Heart because he’ll one day be a cardiothoracic surgeon, and because it’s his heart that makes me so attracted to him (not his messaging skills, obviously). It’s one that reminds me of my own and one that’s quickly stolen my attention.

But I almost didn’t go out with him.

I’m thankful that I did and he’s glad to know that I’m actually rather sweet in person, instead of the blunt gal I portrayed in cyber space. While I was trying to avoid another heartache or a guy who just wasn’t worth my time, I also judged someone who truly is quite wonderful based merely on how they interact on a dating website flooded with many crazies and a few goodies.

If we keep searching for the perfect how-I-met-your-father story — we miss out on a different kind of tale. It’s one that’s not tall and possibly flawed in the right places, but just as perfect as an imperfect guy. It’s one that involves dog park dates, a man who isn’t ashamed to hold my hand and does what he says he’ll do when he says he’ll do it. It’s one about a guy who likes to call you instead of texting you and sees through all of your charm to find your spirit. It’s one about a girl who, despite her past and the odds against her, somehow, in just a week or so, let herself open her heart up to someone whose whole career is about fixing that precious organ.

Only in my life that probably reads a bit like a movie at times, would I, the Love Addict, meet someone like Dr. Heart. Maybe he’s just what I was looking and hoping for. Maybe the voice telling me to go out that Friday night was meant to lead me to him. Or perhaps it was the new moon or it’s just the beginning of something that could be really amazing, and as I always do, I’m putting the carriage before the horse.

But it feels right. And actually, really, really great. Even if I had to learn a valuable lesson about snap judgments and listening to that intuition to say yes. Because yes, there are still some pretty remarkable guys left out there — if you’re willing to look past that one little thing that might not be ideal to see all the things that are.

The New Yorker Test

Teetering in five-inch heels I got from a discount Dillard’s store in North Carolina, I waited patiently for my friend N on the corner of 50th and 9th, nervous about spending the evening with strangers. But when you’re fresh to the city you love and dying to make friends, you grin and bear it, and if you’re smart, garnish yourself with tawdry jewelry and a push-up bra since you’re hanging out with an ensemble of fabulously gay men.

As he always does, N greeted me with his gracious Southern smile, admired my womanly-curves and hooked my arm as he led the way. A few hours — and a pitcher of mojitos — later, I found myself far from nervous and close to falling madly in love my new-found posse of gorgeous men who will never want to have sex with me. After they grew bored of the first joint, we stumbled North to find our next place and the inevitable question was asked: how long have you been in New York?

Even through the haze of alcohol and cheesy-goodness, I knew this was the determining factor that I brought upon myself — because I had done something that wasn’t characteristically city like. Perhaps it was the brightly colored dress I was wearing or the way my speech becomes lazier as the night continues, making my North Carolina vernacular no longer disguisable. Or maybe it was the cheerful attitude that made me starry-eyed over the Empire State building, or rather, my willingness to admit my splendor for Manhattan instead of an empathetic defiance.

Three months, I replied cautiously, sure of the criticism that would follow, or worse, tips for success that I’ve heard countless times. Or warnings of how I may fail if the city rejects me – just what I want to hear when my savings account is dry. To my surprise though, this tall, dark-haired man with eyes lined with liquid ash didn’t do anything but nod knowingly and say, Ah, I remember that time. If you’re lucky, you’ll never lose that love for the city. I haven’t and it’s been ten years. So, I’m a New Yorker now.

Curious to why a decade determined your status as a Yankee, I asked about his time frame. He didn’t offer much of an explanation, other than that’s just the way it is, that if you can hang out in this place for that long, you must be dedicated or ready to move cross-country. Since he was the former, he considered himself part of the crowd that avoided the rolling crowds, who knew how to order a proper bagel, who could catch the train right on time and has permission to shed judgment on, well, anything that’s not New York.

If I go by his standards, I still have eight years until I’m officially a New Yorker. But I disagreed with him then, and I still do today — on the anniversary of the day I moved here.

What it means to be a New Yorker changes depending on who you talk to. One of my editors, E, says it’s when you walk down any given street and say I remember when that coffee shop used to be there, but now it’s down on fifth. If you can comment on the ever-changing storefronts that scatter the terrain — only a handful making their mark and staying put — then you’ve been here long enough to recall some sort of New York history. If the fact that I still mourn the first place I discovered large iced lattes for only $1.50 (I know!) and curse the laundry mat that there’s now, then I’m a New Yorker.

My friend B says it’s when you pass by the constant barrage of interestingly-dressed individuals (to put it politely), street performers and arguments without pausing because it seems normal. After you observe the city and its people for even a short while, you see how every character has its place and how we all create the brilliant tapestry that makes it such a one-of-a-kind destination. Everyone has a place here, and if you come prepared to make it here, you’re probably an artist of some sort, so those who are just trying to express themselves in their own way, don’t seem odd to you – they are actually, inspiring. If B’s theory is accurate, then I’ve been a New Yorker since day one.

J – a London native with an adorable accent – says it’s when you stop needing to look up directions because you can navigate the train system. Or more importantly, you know exactly where to stand so you always get off closest to the exit you need. While I’ve mastered the art of knowing where the doors open and close, and which cart is designed for my stop – I still have to Google how to get from point A to point B when I’m off the grid system and into the scary streets of the Villages and boroughs, where numbers stop and actual street names return. So, this way, I’m not a New Yorker.

Originally from Seaford, NY, but now a born-again North Carolinian who never lost her Northern ties, A says you’re a New Yorker when seeing a rat doesn’t faze you. Ironically enough, when I interned in New York, I didn’t see one rodent the entire three months I was here. And then, when I bought my Metrocard the day I moved here and caught my first train, a family of little monsters scurried on the tracks. It didn’t bother me then because I had been waiting to actually see one, instead, I smiled in delight that they actually existed. In this sense, I suppose I’m a New Yorker – a tad crazy and all.

If I want to be approved by the How I Met Your Mother crew, I’d have to steal a cab from someone else, cry on the subway and kill a cockroach with my bare hands. I admittedly have been that girl sobbing on the train – both sober and not, but I haven’t stolen a taxi from anyone (I’ve given mine up before, though) and I refuse to ever get that close to a cockroach – gross! So maybe I’m not worthy to be a New Yorker on television (though I’d really love to meet Jason Segel.)

Then there are others, like my friend R says you’ve made the official transition when you realize how fast you walk, or as N says, when you notice your own voice sounding different because the nasal tones have rubbed off on you. Since I pride myself on my pace — even in heels — and the fact that you wouldn’t know I was from North Carolina unless you asked (or I was tipsy), I get a few more points toward being a New Yorker by these standards.

But just like they each had those I’m part of the city, now epiphanies- which I like to call Louie Armstrong moments — I had my own not too long ago.

Next to my gym, there’s a Dunkin Donuts coffee that I always go to after my morning run. Not for a doughnut, but for my favorite iced coffee, ever. I consider it a treat for dragging myself out of bed on Saturday and Sunday, hangover or no hangover. When I walked in this particular afternoon, there was a long line that I patiently waited through, not one to give up on something as precious as the best coffee in the world. As I approached the counter, I saw my iced coffee waiting on me – complete with a dash of skim milk and three Splendas, just as I like it. I giggled at how predictable I was as the lady I always chat with after my runs asks about my weekend and slides over my made-to-order java. After I paid, I grabbed a straw to head out and the man behind the counter said sweetly, “Have a nice day…in New York.” He smiled his toothless grin and I returned the gesture, knowing full well that now, my day will be pretty great.

And that was it – I realized I was a regular.

When you first move to the city, you’re so enthralled with this story you’re creating: The girl who moved to New York to make it big! The girl who could make it in NYC, so she could make it anywhere! But after a while, not only does the story become your reality, you stop writing the pages because you realize it’s not just about you anymore. And you’re not just part of your own story – you’re a piece of everyone’s life around you, regardless if you call them friend, neighbor, co-worker, ex-boyfriend, editor or stranger.

To those at that Dunkin Donuts, I’m the girl who comes on the weekends for iced coffee, no matter the weather. To the woman I ride the elevator with in the mornings, I’m the young lady who kneels down to pet her dog, Domino. To my friends, I’m not the gal who moved to be a writer, I am a writer, but also someone they can talk to, someone who makes at least a small part of their life in New York better because I’m here.

My friend K says anyone who pays New York City taxes is a New Yorker – you don’t have to be here a certain amount a time or experience anything, because the beauty of this city is that it’s different for everyone. My version of New York, the story that I create and the chronicles that I’m part of, will never be the same for anyone but me. And though I may be a tad biased, I think it’s a love story…for anyone. Even the New Yorkers who have lived here their whole lives, especially if they stay on the island or its boroughs.

The pages, the characters, the chapters, the settings and the plot change depending on who you’re talking to –like with any love story. Some romances are short lived and feverish, others are those complicated tales that end up changing your life and your perspective. For others, it’s all about the passion and for most; it’s mainly about the timing. But it’s a love story, all the same.

And when you finally see how your story and all the stories around you connect in such a subtly powerful way, that’s when you’re a New Yorker. That’s when you know you’ve made it here. That how you know you’re home.

Happy Anniversary New York, I love you more than I ever have before!

My top 10 favorite pictures from this year in the city…

Overlooking the skyline from Mr. P's old place in Brooklyn.

August 2011 - So happy to be at my dream job!

Met a new amazing friend this year, A.

Admiring the skyline with two of the greatest girls in the world, M & A.

Goofing around at Lucky Shops after a lovely New York brunch.

No evil allowed at Thanksgiving in the city. But plenty of wine, obviously.

M moved into the Starter Apartment -but also into my heart. The city wouldn't be the same without her!

Happy New Year 2012! Not about kissing a guy at midnight - but about being with the gals!

No New York, of any decade, has ever been complete without friends.

Little Miss Too Much

So this is the point in the blog when I admit that once upon a time, I competed in pageants.

Now, before you go imagining Toddlers & Tiaras, I was far from your average beauty queen. I won a handful of titles but mostly enjoyed having permission to dress up for no particular reason at all. The older I became and the more of a feminist I grew into, I realized how parading oiled up half-naked across a stage and being quizzed on my current events knowledge with a pound of makeup on my faces can seem a little contradictory and not give me the best image of integrity. And while I did attend school with the infamous Ms. South Carolina (I met her, she’s actually quite smart), pageants taught me how to be comfortable on stage, how to own my power when I’m nervous, and how to fake a smile even when I’m shaking.

Most Photogenic Winning Photo 2006/NC Pageant

When I first expressed interest in this tired Southern tradition, my mother -who is far from the Débutante; she’s everything but - couldn’t understand why I would purposefully encourage someone to judge me. I was raised to believe everyone has their own level of loveliness and by words of the renowned Ms. Eleanor that no one can make you feel inferior without your consent. Fearing I’d compare myself to the other contestants and lose some of my self-worth and value, or worse - develop an eating disorder of sorts, she wasn’t easy to convince. She eventually gave in, seeing the potential confidence and public speaking ability it could give me. However, I had to vow to be honest and to remember beauty is as beauty does, and while it may only be skin deep, I’d have to keep my head high and not fall too hard into the pageantry world.

And while I was part of this microcosm, more than the elegant dresses, the spray tans, and the dazzling crowns that still have their place in my childhood bedroom, being a so-called title holder taught me how to think on my feet. Or really, in 4 inch sparkly shoes. It has been a while since I traded in my mermaid dresses for a voice recorder, and my economy-sized hairspray for a higher, modern hemline – but throughout my journalist career and adult life, being able to think quick and speak elegantly is well worth any dues I paid as a pageant girl.

However, as a 20-something fielding cascading lines of bachelors who strut the streets and trains of Manhattan – while I often play the part of judge, picking the contestant who is a winner in my book, sometimes, I feel like I’m back up on that stage, lights shining, and gracefully fighting for a title. In the past, that title was always Ms. Girlfriend or when my overly premature and idealistic self would take over, Ms. Love of His Life or better yet, Mrs. Right.

But the one title I always felt like I claimed without trying (or was it trying too hard?) was Little Miss Too Much. All those lessons about thinking on the spot flew out the door and putty I become in the hands of the man of the hour.

Whenever I started to like a guy or date him regularly, I always developed this fear of being “too much.” We’re instructed by the women older than us, by our friends who have been there, by everything female that surrounds us that guys are easily intimidated and deathly afraid of commitment. I won’t deny either of those statements, even if they are rather generalized. However – in an effort to prevent the stepping-on-the-loafers of men who I hoped would eventually deem me worthy to be their girlfriend and tie up their loose ends with other ladies – I held myself back. I acted uninterested when I was highly intrigued, I bit my tongue instead of speaking my mind, I held back my frustrations and my longings instead of expressing what I felt, when I felt it. Because while men want to sleep with the beauty queens and date the women who hold the highest title, I had never met a man who wanted to date Little Miss Too Much.

That is, until I did.

When I decided to date above the curve, to raise my standards, and demand more out of a partner, I stopped worrying about being too much to handle. And in return, I found guys who wanted someone just like me – who may be outspoken and demanding and opinionated – but they find it beautiful and inspiring. Because really, those apprehensions come from insecurities and also partly derive from the remains of men who exited without a notice or didn’t care to stick around when the going got going - or got tough. From the dudes who prefer women to be their escorts about town and hang quietly and nicely on their arms, without pressuring or condoning or challenging them. They are the ones who would never fit the bill of what it means to date a woman who has things going for her, who wants to be with someone who not only encourages her thoughts, but engages in wild conversation with her.  They are the guys who are too little for a girl who is seemingly “too much.”

And those emotional outbursts or those topics that make our blood boil don’t grant us the title of the crazy ex-girlfriend or the gal who pressured a man into a relationship, with no avail. There really isn’t such a thing as being too much unless there is also such a thing as being too human. Because if we didn’t worry from time to time, if we didn’t let certain things crawl under our skin because we were passionate about them, if we didn’t desire to only be with someone who only wanted to be with us – then what would be the point of attempting anything? Or developing opinions, tastes, and desires? Or deciding how you’ll give world peace to the nations, as every pageant coach instructs you to stay abreast of?

Now, when I’m dating and when I’m with Mr. Possibility and I feel the need to test the waters that I normally wouldn’t have waded for fear of sending a potential partner sailing away- I instead make quite the splash. I don’t make excuses for why I’m upset or why something they say rubs me the wrong way or if I don’t agree with a viewpoint they stand firmly about. I don’t pretend to be someone I’m not just to be crowned Ms. Irresistible. I’ve learned they’re competing to be center stage in my life as much as I am in theirs.

Because while pageants may have given me great balance and the ability to bullshit when need-be, they also showed me to be my greatest and most forgiving fan. If you trip, you trip – and you keep walking. If you stutter, you stutter -and you pause and move on. If you lose, you lose – and you try again.

And if you feel like you’re being too much, you put even more out there and give a little extra kick to that hip. Because no one – not even a pearl-ridden Southern girl with hair almost as high as the heavens – makes excuses for being herself.

My Eye is the Beholder

My southern upbringing, every journalism class I ever took, and each article written about what to do on a first date or when attempting to pick up a dude, have all taught me an important lesson:

Always look someone in the eyes.

Seems simple enough and typically, I’ve followed this rule of thumb throughout my love and career life, and I have always utilized its full effect from across dimly-lit parties in midtown. Somehow when striking up a conversation or luring someone into your presence is easier when you not only come across as confident and secure, but when the other person feels like they can trust you. Maintaining eye contact is a non-verbal way of saying, “Hey you, I’m listening to you. I’m understanding what you’re saying. Keep looking at my baby blues and keep talking – you can feel comfortable around me.”

I’ve never been coy or shy and at times, I could probably use a little more reservation, but keeping a friend, a man’s, or a source’s attention hasn’t been a difficult task for me. Those who know me would credit this fact to my outgoing personality, the self-assurance I carry as easily and frequently as my purse, and to my fearless, relentless spirit. But perhaps there is a secret weapon that gives me an extra burst of boldness:

Makeup.

Now, before I start sounding like an infomercial promoting any beauty brand who offers me free loot -let me say I’ve had a love affair with makeup since I was a little girl. I remember my mom sitting at her antique vanity with one of those porcelain mirrors that had a handle, powdering her face, rubbing lotion on her hands, and spraying perfume in selective places. I used to lay across her bed after I finished getting dressed for school and just admire her morning routine. She was (and still is) the most beautiful lady I had ever seen, and I wondered when I’d finally be able to have my own set of blushes, eyeshadows, and have that imprint in my lipstick that defined the curve of my lips. Before my dad and her would go out for dates, she’d always let me dab a little of her signature smell from Oscar de la Renta on my wrist along with a little shimmer on my eyes – and I’d always feel like I was really, truly, a woman. Even if I was only ten.

Little did I know at the time that my mother was wearing more than sparkles and orchid-pink lip color, but she was putting on makeup to hide what she perceived as flaws. As a young girl, makeup never meant anything more than playtime and a symbol of being a grown-up who was allowed to wear such lovely things every day. Really, it wasn’t until middle school that I realized these toys were actually needed to cover up problem areas. Or as I’ve always not-so-lovingly called them: zits.

I’ve never had incredibly bad skin, but throughout high school, college, and even now – I have breakouts that I can’t quite predict or fully prevent. It wasn’t until recently, about a year ago, that I finally gave in and tried Proactiv. I’m not one to shamelessly promote anything because I know everyone’s skin, life, opinions, and tastes are different – but for me, this has been the only formulation that’s actually been a solution. I’ve tried antibiotics, topicals, dermatologists, everything you see on beauty and health shelves, and Proactiv has been the one to give me actual results. It dries out my skin something fierce, but I’d still pick a little tenderness over a face freckled with pimples.

Even so, before I tried this product and reaped of its rewards -I spent over a dozen years dealing with problematic skin. And thus, all of the times I popped and applied pressure that made my issue worse – left me with some scars. To anyone but me, these not-so-ghostly-shaded reminders of past problems aren’t that noticeable. However, being the admittedly somewhat-vain lady I am, I’ve tried everything I can find to mask them.

Why? Because when I’m not covering what I see as imperfections and I’m out in public, especially when talking with guys, I feel like instead of looking at me in the eyes, everyone is staring directly at the things I believe makes me look…ugly.

Recently, I had the opportunity to have champagne and cupcakes with Julianne Hough, best known from Dancing with the Stars at an event for Proactiv (see, I really am a huge fan). With her puppy Lexi in tow, she shed some advice not only about clearing up skin and her road to success, but she said something that stuck with me: when you don’t have to worry about something on your face, you turn your attention towards yourself. Or, basically, focusing on inner beauty becomes more important than outer beauty.

Sure is easier said than done when we’re all our worst critics. Right?

As I left from the event a tad tipsy and overly bubbly, I thought how every man I’ve dated has always told me that I shouldn’t wear as much makeup, that I was simply beautiful without all of the gunk. Most of the time, this sentiment has pissed me off and made me feel like they were trying to boss me around -but perhaps I was just missing what they’re saying. I mean, they had all seen me totally naked- emotionally, physically, and makeup-less, so they could have a point. Plus, they are dudes and when they have a zit or two, it isn’t as popular or socially acceptable for them to buy some Maybelline. Maybe its true that we all have flaws, that we all can’t be airbrushed before we leave for the day, that leaving our insecurities at the door isn’t always possible, but if we turn our attention inwards instead of caking on the confidence outwards – we’d eventually feel better about all of the things that make us, us. Even if that happens to be a few leftover marks from bumps months ago.

With that in mind, I decided to be a little brave and shy away from my drawer full of makeup. Well…not completely, but mostly. Instead of my regular ritual, I merely applied a dab of concealer under my eyes and around some redness, a swipe of mascara and chapstick and headed outside. At first, it was difficult to hold my head up walking past strangers on my block, but being the zealous lady I am, I decided that I had every right to be proud of who I am, even if my scars felt like they were on display for Manhattan. Pushing myself further, I went to the grocery store to return a movie and buy some goodies for the week, and underneath the floursencts that seem to place a spotlight on my face – I started making eye contact.

And you know what? Handsome men still flirted with me. Middle-aged guys still basically fell over themselves to open doors or help me. A woman even complimented me on my blue eyes. The glimpse of my reflection in the frozen food isle didn’t scare me.

Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but often times, my eye is primarily the chief beholder who determines how beautiful I am. And maybe, all this time when I thought makeup was making me pretty…it was really who I am and how I acted that gave me a glow. That radiance I have that others seem to notice, must not come from a bottle or from being a model, but from just being me. Pesky pimples and all.

P.S. Confessions of a Love Addict is celebrating Valentine’s Day a little differently this year. We’ll make it more about the single ladies and less about flowers that’ll die in a day. Submit your Valentine here.