Your Story To Tell

The response to yesterday’s post completely overwhelmed me– in the most beautiful way.

I was extremely nervous to put something so private, so vulnerable, so personal out into the world. I had grown used to carrying the burden of that secret for six years and to release that weight? Wow, it didn’t seem possible.

But with your help, it somehow feels lighter.

I was showered with love and with remarks about my bravery. And my courage. I don’t know if I would pick those words to describe sharing my story, but I appreciate them dearly. I’m honored to be described in such a way. I decided to write about my own experience because I was so angered by the remarks of political figures who seem to believe they know more about rape than women who have actually been held down against their will. It’s incredible to me that we can come so far in certain areas of progress, and yet we always seem to argue about women’s rights. This isn’t “I am woman, hear me roar” — this is “I am human, I have the ability to make choices, the right to make them, and I deserve to be treated as such.

These are fine words I can type now, but it took me a long time to get there. Because when it came to my writing, my career, my public image — as a writer, an editor or as Lindsay Tigar on Facebook who went to Appalachian State, works for NBC and writes this blog — I wasn’t sure I wanted the scarlet-colored word of “rape” associated with me. Even if I’ve been writing about women’s issues since college, and mostly, about love, dating and, well sex. But consensual sex or a lack of consistent sex. Talking about the heavy, scary topics was always something I wanted to do but I wasn’t sure how to go about it or if I could even do it as well as I express what it feels to fall in love with someone.

How could I eloquently describe what it feels to fall out of love with yourself? To blame yourself for something that wasn’t your choice? To pretend you weren’t bothered when you walked past the person who raped you? To wonder if it really was your fault? How could I illustrate the thoughts that creep back into my mind every time a guy buys me a drink or when the eve of my birthday rolls around?

But then the greatest question bubbled inside of me earlier this week: how could I not talk about it when so many women need to hear that it can happen to anyone?

Yesterday alone, 15 women came forward to share their story of sexual assault, molestation or rape with me. Their words, their experiences are their own, and it’s not my place to tell them. But reading how many women, of all ages, stages, countries and walks of life, have been taken advantage of — absolutely broke my heart.

But it also really inspired me.

While we have all endured both the trauma itself and the long aftermath of mentally and emotionally processing it– we have all, also, rose above it. We’ve all made something of ourselves– some have met loyal, loving partners. Others have gone on to lead women’s groups and write about important topics, like this one. Many are incredible friends who support those who have gone through it, those who are afraid of it and those who can’t speak for themselves. Some are the strongest women I’ve ever known.

Knowing that like me, they were survivors — didn’t make me think any less or differently about them. If anything, it made me see how powerful they really are. Because being attacked — in any form — will never define their story, it’ll just be part of it.

As soon as you claim it, as soon as you let those awful words leave your lips: “I was raped” — they don’t own you anymore. They lose their power and you gain it. You don’t have to hide behind them and they certainly don’t define who you are as a woman, as a professional, as a lover, as…a person. They become words that belong to you and a painful experience that you overcame to become something stronger, brighter and more beautiful than you already are.

Thank you so, so much for making me accept that while what happened the night of my 18th birthday will always be a part of me and it is not something to be ashamed of. It’s not something I have to hide or a burden I have to bare. It is something I can now share anytime, anywhere, when you need to realize that you are many things — but alone, is not one of them. And what happened to you– it’s your story to tell, no matter how long it takes to say it.

If you’re a survivor of any form of sexual assault and you’d like to tell your story anonymously, I will publish it — without your name or any details — with your permission. You can fill out this form (I won’t even know who sent it!) or you can email me, if you feel comfortable enough. Talking about your experience will help give you power back. 

My Rape Was Legitimate

In September of 2006, I had been in college for less than a month. Everything still felt so new and exciting– I was living away from home, I was finally working toward getting that journalism degree I wanted, I was making friends and living my life.

I was never one of the gals who went to house parties in high school – I was way too focused on everything else: starting a community service club, running the student newspaper, playing tennis, applying to college. But when I went two hours away to Appalachian State, the upperclassman, who I would later realize weren’t legal drinking age either, seemed to have an endless supply of anything us lowly freshmen wanted to try. I happily indulged, bonding with my newly-found friends from the dorm, and together  — often in packs of 10 or so – we walked to house parties and took in the “college life” we thought was so cool.

But everything changed for me the night of my eighteenth birthday.

I had been casually seeing this guy who helped me get a job at the student newspaper. We had mutual friends, and I thought he was nice enough. He asked me out on a few dates which ended with a few kisses, but I didn’t feel anything romantic between us. I had just broken up with Mr. Faithful and I really didn’t want to start anything new. But he was a good, older friend and when he offered to throw my birthday party at his place, I couldn’t have been more thrilled. I brought along two of my new friends (who are still some of my dearest friends today), and we started drinking the moment we arrived.

He had bought all of us a six pack of something – I really don’t remember if it was Smirnoff or Mike’s Hard Lemonade or something else. I just know it was something easy to drink for newly-forming palettes that weren’t trained on what quality alcohol is and what it’s not. I know there were drinking games, a champagne toast, a banjo playing and a severe lack of food. My friends paired off with party guests and I walked around meeting everyone, getting kissed on the cheek by strangers because of my birthday pin and princess crown. I felt really mature and incredibly special – like I was finally having a real party and I was finally becoming an adult.

I’m not sure what time things started to become hazy, but at some point, all I wanted to do was to lie down. To this day, I still don’t know if anything was put in my glass/bottle or if I just had too much to drink, but I curled myself up onto the couch in my pink-and-white flowered dress and settled in to take a nap. I opened my eyes a few times and saw a few people from the knee down, walking around and then out the door. I noticed it get quieter and when someone put a blanket over me. I don’t really remember falling asleep, but eventually I did.

And the next thing I remember was pain. Something started really hurting.

Groggily, I tried to wake myself up to make it stop, but everything felt really heavy, especially my eyelids and my arms. I noticed the smell of sweat and wondered if it was me and if I brought deodorant with me. I was embarrassed that I might be smelly. I started to come fully awake and in what seemed like hours, but was really seconds, I realized what was happening – I was being raped.

The guy who threw the party was moving on top of me and I could feel the sweat from his forehead dripping onto mine. I didn’t know my dress had been pulled up to my stomach and I felt it crumpled against me, irritating my skin. With all the might I could muster, I pushed him off of me and he said the five words I can still hear perfectly:

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

Even though I knew I shouldn’t if I wanted to file a report, as soon as I got home, I showered. I picked the corner stall of the women’s bathroom on my floor and I sobbed until I couldn’t anymore. I scrubbed every inch and tried my best to ignore the pain when I rinsed down there. When my parents arrived around noon to celebrate my birthday, I told them everything and we cried together. I never put on a pretty outfit to go out to a fancy lunch with them as I always did for special occasions, instead, I stayed in a Gap sweatshirt the entire day. The picture of me blowing out my candles on that day is hard for me to look at – because I see the pain in my eyes that probably no one else notices. My parents asked if I wanted to press charges, my dad threatened to go after the guy (obviously), but I made the decision not to.

For a very difficult reason – I had just started at the student newspaper and I didn’t want some scandal ruining my reputation or keeping me from escalating up the ranks. I figured since he had been working there for a few years, his tenure would overpower my words, so I just remained silent. I called him out on it one time and he denied it. He’s never admitted it, and he’s claimed he didn’t remember anything from that night. But I still remember those five words of half-assed remorse that he said.

He graduated two years before me and I became a desk editor, the associate editor and I landed internships in NYC. I give a lot of credit to what I learned at that newspaper, and sometimes I wonder if I would have been as successful if I would have spoken up and called him out. I still feel uneasy about not doing anything about the situation, especially when a friend who was on staff talked about something similar happening to her with the same guy.

But what I’ve struggled with the most is the legitimacy of my rape. And what being raped says about me as a person, as a woman…as a survivor.

I was not attacked in some dark alley. The bruises I have from being raped are not visible. I didn’t bleed. I didn’t scream “No” over-and-over, only to be ignored by passerby. I wasn’t held at gun or knife point. I’ve barely told anyone about what happened to me. It took some therapy in college, some life lessons and a lot of growing up to admit to myself that I was raped. It somehow didn’t seem like it was bad enough to be called that or somehow, I was responsible for what happened to me. Maybe if I hadn’t drank so much. Or if I had decided to not go to that house party. Maybe I led him on into thinking I was into him, when I wasn’t. Perhaps I gave him a sign that I wanted to have sex, even though I never consented to the act. But as so many people have recently pointed out – rape is rape. And the victim is never to blame.

It happened and it was awful and it has changed my life. It changed who I am as a person. For a long time, I thought about it every single day. I still think of it when someone asks me how many people I’ve slept with – do I count the sex that I was forced to have? Does he count as a sexual partner? I think about it when I’m starting to get into a relationship with someone or developing feelings, and there have only been a handful of boyfriends I’ve actually told. I’ve only shared my story with close friends, some of which have also been raped, some that are shocked to know what I went through, without telling anyone. Its impact has made me incredibly interested in sex crimes — I wrote my senior thesis in sociology about human trafficking, and I cry almost every time I watch Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. I’ve searched the Sex Offenders Registry, only to find there are two convicted violent rapists within blocks of me. I carry mase when I run, just in case. I pray for it never to happen to me again.

My rape was legitimate. It was painful – emotionally and physically and personally. If only for a few moments, it took away something that belongs to me: my choice. My choice to make love or to have sex or to do everything-but. It took away my choice to let a man inside of me. It took away my choice to ask for more and to tell someone to slow down. It took away a piece of me that I’ll never get back.

But it also did something else for me: it helped make me a fighter. And if sharing my story, as difficult as it is to pen, can help another woman realize that her rape was real – regardless of what she drank, what she was wearing or who raped her – then it’s worth it. These words are worth sharing, and I’m finally ready to publish them.

No one can change what happened to me or what may have happened to you – because we weren’t given a choice. But it is our choice to move forward. It is our choice to say what happened was legitimate, and no one has the right — or the power – to say it’s not.

If you’ve been raped, the RAINN hotline will answer your call. If you want to read the letter that helped inspire me to finally write this post, read this from Eve Ensler. If you just want to share your story or talk to someone who has been there, email me. You’re not alone.

At the End of the Day

As dozens of scattered droplets, falling gently yet surely across my tired body, I kept my eyes tightly shut until the warmth made me accept the morning. I let the stream splash against every patch of skin and ring of hair, saturating the impurities and freshening the scent that’s so  distinguishingly mine. Along with the grime from these filthy pavements and soiled city streets, I let the clean wash away my worries, too. I exhaled my frustrations off my brow, the heaviness off
my heart and the ache that causes tension from my bones to my emotions. Though invisible to anyone but me, I saw the muck swirl its way down the drain, leaving me wide awake and shining in the rising sun across Amsterdam.

I let my shower cleanse it all away.

In motion with the bright beats of the pre 9 a.m. crowd, I sauntered in tall wedges from my padlock door to the closing ones of the subway. The rhythm floated through my vibrant blue hi-lo skirt, perfectly in sync with the early August breeze that’s as rare as its lovely. I let the music play as I dared to close my eyes on the subway ride, knowing that a sudden stop or a passenger with unruly intentions could cause a detour I wouldn’t appreciate. The harmonizing voices serenaded me all the way to work, singing words I yearn to hear from the man I can’t wait to meet one day.

I let the music take me to a place where my dreams have lyrics.

I listened to all of them, all around me, near and far, chatter away. About the weather (hot), about their weekends (nice), about their weeks (busy), about the men they have and wish to have (plenty!). I imagined their pink nails tapping away at the keys, putting something in motion while sipping the coffee that’ll keep them awake. I watched their lips move and their eyes light up, full of ideas and excitement, sleepiness and interest. I spoke the language of a manic Monday morning in brief sentences and tenured phrases, meant to show empathy and understanding, meant to put us both on the same page.

I let the ones I love talk away my day.

Praying that delays and rain stray, I counted the minutes until I’d arrive at my stop. I walked quickly in those wedges that made my ankles sore and promised them that soon, they’d be out of these painful pieces and into the running shoes that mold to their every curve. I breathed deeply and slowly as I rounded the first mile, watching the life of the park unfold around me. The soccer players kicked, the volleyballs bounced, the basketballs spun, the bikers did circles around me and the runners nodded as we passed. All sweating, all moving, all feeling it all roll off of us, knowing the only thing we need to focus on is one step and then the other. One more step, one more mile.

I let my run, run away with me.

I watched the couples walking back from the park — some on one end of a leash, others gripping a stroller, many just holding onto each other — and I tried not to smile. I felt nighttime arriving for the first time in months, and that green reflecting top meant to protect me, wasn’t warm enough, even after 40 minutes of jogging. I glanced from lightpost and traffic stop to those glittering eyes of a duo so obviously in love, and I tried to figure out which shined the brightest. I took my time picking up fruit from the grocery store, helping someone older and slower in front of me and striking up a conversation with the clerk who rarely gets thanked. I walked around the block, past those men sitting on stoops, those ladies selling frozen yogurt and the kind homeless man who knows me by name, and though I was sweaty with makeup running down my face and my toes tired from all their work today, I gave them all a smile. I made sure they felt noticed, even in this boisterous land.

I let my city restore my faith, again and again.

Finally, I made it back to the place I started. Trying hard not to obsess bitterly about the lack of text messages or the conversation gaps I wished weren’t so, I put away my iPhone. Hoping whatever it is, however it’s going can wait until I open my eyes in the morning, I sat down my Blackberry to let it charge. I peeled off those running clothes and shoes, I freed my face of its daily armor. I felt the crispness of my sheets, the softness of the bed I bought with the money I made doing the things I love the most. Without the fuss or the must, the paths to follow, the people to know, the city to invigorate or irritate me, without the rushing and the gushing, the loving and regretting, without all of it in between — there was only one thing left at the end of the day:

Me.

And I thanked the powers above that I was enough. That I can endure and I can slow down, I can embrace and I can relate. I can go and I can move, I can relax and I can inhale. And yet, after all that a day puts me through, time and time again, over and over — I can still be the same me that walked out that door…ready to face whatever is in front of me. And whatever will ever come my way.

He’s Out There

While you’re sitting here reading this blog, sipping on your coffee and trying to get into the swing of a new week. While you’re going through your emails that always seem to pile up over the weekend and asking your co-workers how their Saturday brunch was. This morning, when you finished that loop around Riverside Park at 7:30 a.m. and you watched the Manhattan skies melt into shades of pink and tones of orange over the rising sun. Last night, when you finally fell asleep after watching too many things on Netflix and having one too many popsicles to soothe your newly root-canaled tooth.

In every moment of each part of your day, of your week – of your entire life – there has been a man living his life, too.

He’s been catching the train uptown and down, going to the gym on the other side of town. He’s been thumbing through his Blackberry at the crack of dawn, checking on the status of a project and replying when it’s urgent (and when it’s not). He’s been having some beers with his group of friends – from college and beyond – watching the Olympics and laughing at the same joke he’s heard for years. He’s been worried and excited for the future, he’s overslept and he’s not been able to fall away. He’s experienced countless things you’ve yet to hear about and has wrinkles around his eyes that you’ve yet to see.

But he’s been somewhere in this city, or somewhere in this world – thinking of you from time to time.

Like when that pretty girl he fell so despairingly in love with broke up with him suddenly. Or when someone he used to bar hop with, picking up ladies and enjoying the single life, proposed to his girlfriend. Maybe it was when he saw his dad lean over to his mom and plant a kiss on her cheek and she returned the gesture with a smile that tells the tale of the decades they’ve spent together. He thought of you when he became an uncle for the first time and held this new life, this tiny little human in his hands and realized it wasn’t just another baby in a stroller, but it was a new person related to him. And then again when the temperature dropped well below freezing and he laid alone in his bed, in his apartment, on that street he paid a broker to live on, and wistfully longed for someone to hold. For someone to really, truly, completely love him.

It’s the same place where he’s wondered, just as you have in scattered moments that are more frequent than you’d care to admit, if that special someone really exists for him.

Is there a beautiful woman who is successful and independent, but loving and thoughtful? Does she have those long, glorious legs that always get him going? Will her smile stand out among the rest? Will he really know that she’s the girl when he’s dated so many in the past and never had a clue? What will they share in common? Will she run? Will she cook? Will she be able to hold a conversation just as easily as she can sit peacefully on a Sunday afternoon, watching something mindless and sharing a beer? Will he be able to see that future he wants, that family he craves – with her? Will she be what he imagined or will she be something more? Or maybe just something different?

What if she’s already crossed his path and he didn’t realize it? Could he have missed his chance – or is it still there? Where is she?

Where is he?

Is he twenty blocks away or across the park? Has he even moved to New York at all – or will he ever? Was he a little off or did something to turn my tastes away and I overlooked this man? Does he turn left in the mornings and I turn right? Is he in the next train or the next building – in the local elevator and not the express I always take? Is he away on business or busy starting one of his own? Has he seen me and not be able to work up the courage talk to me? Have I noticed him and thought I’d never have a chance to be his? Has he made me laugh in passing or is he a face I know, but never considered more?

Is he reading this very post right now?

On any given day, every single day of the week – I couldn’t begin to count the people I pass. Or the strangers I talk to briefly or make eye contact with. How many handsome strangers I share a smile with or a fleeting second that instantly escapes from my memory. In a city that’s full of mostly people you don’t know, but hundreds you see constantly – how do you ever know if any of them will end up being something more? If you did happen to meet someone or see someone who would ultimately become your someone, would you even remember your brief encounters?

In many ways, the anonymity of the city can be overwhelming – and frankly, pretty lonely. But in some sort of magically odd way, it’s that same disguise that can inspire you. Because while you may not know their names or take note of the spark that flew as the train took off or the light turned green – you know that in just another minute, you can feel it again. The energy, the electricity of the streets makes you realize that opportunity exists everywhere. Possibilities are actually quite endless and enduring – if you’re open enough to let them happen.

And if you believe one simple thing – he’s out there. Somewhere. Right now. He may be breathing the same air, looking at the same spot in that big blue August sky, wondering where you are, too. He could be half-way around the world or literally next door. He could be a block away or someplace really far away. Regardless of where he is or where he’s going – the comforting truth is that yes, yes, yes — he is out there. And one day, out of nowhere…he’ll find his way next to you.

A Tale of Two Psychics

Once upon a time after a boozy brunch with J, I had the bright idea to see a $10 psychic in Soho. J is oddly into metaphysical ideas, just as I am, so he happily obliged — even if it was the mimosas motivating him to go. Her name was Nicole and her eyes were so blue they were almost transparent, and as soon as I sat down she asked:

Who is Mr. Possibility who broke your heart last year? (Though, she said his name, not his blog alias).

Stunned – I answered her question as briefly as I could, since my mom advised never to give much information to a psychic if I wanted an accurate reading. She continued to shock me with her revelations: I was a writer, I moved to NYC from the South, I recently traveled to a tropical place, I generally was pretty happy and things would only get better for me. She also noted that I would meet the man for me within three months, marry in three years and have three children.

I left her tiny studio, unable to piece together words and scared that if I said such incredible things out loud, they would surely not come true. A week later, I enticed my group of friends to see her, promising we’d get frozen yogurt afterwards if they’d reveal all she outlined. When they came out with wild eyes, crazily sharing what this now infamous woman said about their lives, I started to think that maybe, just maybe she had some merit about her.

Ironically enough, the very next day, I was invited to see a more well-known medium and psychic, Thomas John, for my job at iVillage. (Read my post about it here!). Scarily, his words almost matched hers – even to the letter. They both predicted that the guy I’d end up with would begin with a certain letter in his name (not necessarily his first name, but maybe his middle, last or a nickname). (I’m a little too superstitious to share what it is – but you better believe I’m looking out for it these days and should I end up with a dude with that name, I’ll spill it.)

Following his reading – where he named specific family members and detailed events from my past, along with some pretty amazing predictions for my future – I could barely think about anything else at dinner with E. And because she’s lovely, she put up with my ramblings through an entire pitcher of sangria. Now that almost a month has passed since the week of the psychics, I’m still almost as excited as I was then. I can’t say that I believe each and every single thing they said or promised will actually come-to-be, but I will give them props for one, huge turnaround in my dating life: I’ve got my mojo back.

Maybe it never quite left exactly, but I’m noticing my head a bit higher, my eyes mighty wider, my thoughts more romantic and my spirits brighter. It may be the shimmer of the July sun, the way my heart seems to be expanding or just the way I’m growing beyond things that used to haunt me – but the past month, I’ve felt so different, so new…

…so me.

I hope the psychics are right about most of the things they predicted for my life – but I also realistically know that they won’t be entirely accurate. And for that, I’m thankful – and so looking forward to whatever happens tomorrow, next week and ten years from now. It’s the element of intrigue paired with the notion that so many things are out of your control and out of sight, that gives you hope. Because, if you would have asked me a year ago where I’d be today — I couldn’t have illustrated the beautiful state I’m in now. I wouldn’t have been able to predict everything – the good, the bad, the stressful, the incredible – that happened since last summer. I do believe psychics have gifts and that some things are predestined by something greater than us all, but most of our future and nearly all of our happiness is dependent on us. And if you exude goodness, if you have faith in the things that mean the most to you, those things happen in some oddly perfect way that will catch you by surprise (even if you are looking out for one single part of the alphabet daily).

I will say – to their astonishing credit – I did meet someone in July. But it’s only time’s sweet rhythm that will tell if he’s just another guy or if he is indeed, this Mr. July that the tale of the two psychics predicted.

Oh, Pretty Lady

Pretty lady, you’re so lovely tonight. You’re twirling and whirling around in my head, and though I can’t reach out to feel your effortless magic, I bask in your beautiful shine. Pretty lady, you encompass all of my wild dreams and you are so much more and so different from who I pictured you’d be. Pretty lady, I tried to envision your stare so many times, I swore I tasted your kiss on the rims of wine glasses I toasted with cheap substations of you. They never measured up, they could never compare. Pretty lady, I’ve been wondering when you would show up in those tall heels with those long legs and that look. With your look — the most enticing one I’ve ever known. I’m so glad I had the courage to talk to you.

Pretty lady, you were worth the chance.

Pretty lady I love the way you dance. In my mind, on that floor, in these streets. I love your words and the way you use them, both as daggers and as dreams, sharing and inspiring with each careful, calculated, caring phrase. Pretty lady, I long to caress that simple curve on your hip that leads to places I constantly crave. To places I need to explore, places I need to savor, places I aim to know as well as my own. What’s behind those eyes of yours? Those intense depths of matter — piercing right through me, tearing into all the pieces I thought were shattered. Turns out they were never quite broken after all. Pretty lady, your games aren’t games but tantalizing, exciting, alluring puzzles that make you into the imperfect masterpiece you were created to be. Created for me to
cherish. Pretty lady, you challenge me with one glance, with a single sentence, with the way you hold your fork, with how you show what you feel without saying a word.  Pretty lady, where did you come from and why did you decide to lay here with me, right now on this lazy afternoon watching the planes take off over the skyline? Have you been in this city all along?

Pretty lady, you were worth the wait.

Pretty lady, I hope you will say yes. I hope I get out everything I need to say, everything I feel and all that I want for you. For me. For us. For those babies I can’t wait to meet. I hope I can tell you how you’ve changed my life since that day we met at that dark bar on that summer evening, when you were wearing the dress. That dress I couldn’t wait to get off of you. Pretty lady, don’t start crying until I ask you, don’t touch my face how you do  — in that way you do — or I will not be able to resist you. Pretty lady, let me be the man to give you those things you thought were impossible, let me prove to you that yes, there are men. There are men like me who love women like you.

Pretty lady, you were so worth the highest price.

Pretty lady, you wear white so right. You were made for that dress and if I don’t stop sweating, your hands are going to fall right out of my grasp. Pretty lady, just keep looking at me, just take one step in front of the other. Just keep moving. Breathe my darling girl. Don’t you know I love the way you walk? I can’t believe there are only moments before I can call you my wife. Pretty lady, you have never looked more stunning — even if the cake is all wrong and the colors are a little off, and your uncle showed up embarrassingly intoxicated. I don’t see anyone but you on this day, at this time, when you say those two words I want to hear. My baby, you’re so lovely. You’re so full of life.

Pretty lady, I’m so in love with you.

Pretty lady, dream this little dream with me — the one where we make it after all. It’s the one you wrote on ruled paper with pencil, just in case it could never be true. Pretty lady, let’s go to places we’ve never been and meet people who live differently than us. I want to watch you experience something, some land, some life for the first time — I want to see the surprise and the encouraging intrigue light your eyes. Pretty lady, let’s make memories we will tell our kids and take photos their kids will show their friends about their crazy grandparents who dared to change the world. Who loved each other against all statistics and figures. Who chose love when it was easy, and more importantly, when it was not.

Oh, pretty lady, you will be worth whatever I have to do to find you. So don’t give up on me, my love, and I won’t give up on you.

Just Look Up

After a Friday night date with a guy that went from HowAboutWe to How About Not, I could not have been more excited to go out with a man who rarely disappoints me: my handsome British gay husband, J. He’s charming in a way that’s modest and when in doubt, he challenges me to be bolder than I really am. And he always reassures me that I really need to show off my, um, assets.

Freshly primped from frozen yogurts, mimosas and cheap pedicures with a gal friend, I headed downtown to try a Tibetan restaurant with J. We sat by candlelight with nervous chatter circling us as we caught up on the basics: work, love and play. His boyfriend was traveling, I am (happily) boyfriend-less; he just started a new job that’s rewarding, yet overwhelming, I’m almost to my one-year anniversary at the best place to work (like, ever); and we decided we’re both up for an adventure – as long as it doesn’t cost anything. After all, calories and savings shouldn’t matter from April to August, right?

We bargained down a pitcher of red sangria that while it showed up hot, was actually decent and refreshing. In between sips and conversation, J got that mischievous look on his face. It’s the one I instantly recognize, letting me know he’s brewing trouble in his flirty mind, prepared to pounce on an idea he’ll talk me into, eventually. I grinned at the curve of his lip, as he quietly teased: It’s July tomorrow. 

Oh, July, I smiled in return. The magical month that my mother and J predicted something big would happen. Something that would change my life and my attitude, something that comes in the form of tall and sturdy, handsome and loving. For whatever reason – as predicted by the stars and the Brits – apparently, this is the month when I’m going to meet someone. Maybe the someone, or maybe just a man to push me away from being a cynic and toward being the romantic optimist I’ve always been. Obviously, I’m not opposed to such a chance encounter, as most single girls in every city aren’t – but I’m also not actively – or desperately – searching for it.

Oh J! Maybe something will happen, but I’m putting no pressure on myself, I replied as I took another bite out of a dish that I still, have no idea consisted of. There may be cute straight boys at the bar we’re going to next, he kindly reminded me. I rolled my eyes in return, careful to miss his stare, knowing he’d see right through my nonchalant attitude and notice the doe-eyed dreamer that is careful not to play in the New York streets. At least not while anyone I know is watching, anyway.

After opting for a traditional dessert even though I was heading for the beach the next day, J and I caught a cab to the Lower East Side for martinis and mayhem with his old roommates. The bar was dark and disheartening, full of ladies decked out for a night of intrigue, but finding the well was dry once they arrived. J kept me company, and I casually flirted with the bartender, enjoying an ounce of attention before calling it a night for my early ocean wakeup call.

I waited for J to finish the cigarette I don’t approve of before finding a yellow chariot to whisk me away to the Upper West Side. Sometimes, even if it’s not too late to take the subway, it’s simply too hot and muggy to stand idly anywhere on pavement that only attracts more heat. As I watched J strike up conversation with a friend from years ago, I casually glanced at my phone, in my purse (to make sure I wasn’t leaving anything), at my wedges… until something inside of me said: Look up.

And so I did – only to find the biggest, brightest full moon I’ve seen since living in North Carolina. I quickly interrupted J and motioned to the sky. His mouth dropped too, his speech fell silent and we tried to capture the beauty of it — but our iPhones only produced a blurry, colorful image, that if you squint in the right way, kind of looks like a separated rainbow.

J lost interest and headed inside, as I slowly raised my hand, still gawking at the beautiful sphere resting in the sky. A cabbie arrived, friendly and missing a few teeth, and asked Where to tonight, Ms? I gave him my Amsterdam cross streets and settled in for the fifteen-minute ride uptown, expecting him to cut to the West Side highway where he would avoid traffic and drunken pedistrians attempting to cross the street, often unsuccessfully and not during the allotted 10-second time frame.

But he didn’t. He took the East Side: giving me a view of the moon, the whole ride home.

I sat backwards (sorry, mom!) in the car, watching the moon disappear and reappear in between buildings as we sped toward my Manhattan home. I tried to keep my eye on it, even when we went through brief tunnels and when the towers were so tall that it had to climb the sky to reach the top. I  left my Blackberry and my iPhone in my bag, I didn’t go through a mental checklist of everything I had coming up, I didn’t dwell on the past or think too heavily about what’s coming up next.

Instead, I just looked up.

The next day, my dear friend M and I fought the waves as the tide rolled in late afternoon, enjoying the simple reminders of being a kid during the hottest days of summer. Just as the lifeguard forced everyone out of the ocean because the water was getting angry, M said, Wow, look up, Linds! Look how pretty that is. I followed her direction to see a pink and blue patterned sunset starting to roll into view, so warm and so inviting, that I longed to reach up to feel it engulf me. Only wearing an itty-bitty bikini, I couldn’t capture the memory anywhere I could save (or Instgram) it, but I closed my eyes to remember that moment. To remember looking up.

And tonight, waiting for the downtown 1 train at sunset following a much-needed run at the gym, I peered above the track across from me and saw my pal the moon, again. Along with it’s soft, alluring friend, the multi-colored sky, and I smiled, thinking that in the first two days of July – the month I’ve been hearing about — I’ve been attracted and compelled to look up. More so than I have in months.

So, I decided that just for a month, I’ll try to make it a habit.

Instead of caressing my phone or paging a book on the morning commute, I’ll look up at the faces I often ignore. Instead of popping in headphones as soon as I have a moment to myself outside of the office, or calling up my family, I’ll look up to feel the energy of the city and it’s inhabitants around me. Instead of being enticed to spend a night in by myself, catching up on the Netflix I don’t really need to watch, I’ll look to my friends, the ones who are wildly taking opportunities as spontaneously as they come. Instead of glancing away from the man who sometimes notices me in Starbucks on the corner of 15th and 9th, I’ll meet his eyes. Instead of focusing on the hurdles and troubles of dating in the city that doesn’t sleep unless you sleep with it, I’ll look to see the good in every experience, even the dates that don’t turn into mates. Instead of trying to examine the past for much more than it was ever worth, I’ll look at all the things that are surely before me.

Because I’ll never know what’s right in front of me until I… just look up.