The 23-Year-Old

You know a date wasn’t great when you turn down an invitation for dinner because you’re thoroughly exhausted from the conversation.

I had high hopes for The Italian. Since I’m taking Italian language classes and going to Rome in April, I was excited when I came across a Milan transplant with gorgeous eyes and a sexy accent. But an hour into our date, as he talked so much that he still wasn’t finished with the first glass of vino rosso Italiano yet, I couldn’t stomach the thought of another two hours to get through dinner.

Luckily my friend G and E were up for a far less sophisticated evening at a Southern-style college bar called Brother Jimmy’s. It isn’t exactly the classiest crowd but the drinks are cheap and the food reminds me of my life below the Mason Dixon. As we drank our $5-you name it concoctions far faster than the Italian, we noticed a young group of tall, handsome guys attracting the attention of every girl in the establishment.

Look how they are surrounded so quickly! Are we so starved for attractive men that we flock to whatever semi-decent one we see? I asked, half-appalled and half-formulating a blog post in my tipsy head. The three of us, all different ages (and all incredibly single) discussed the situation while laughing and ignoring everyone else.

A half-an-hour later, after the bartender joined in our humor and gave us free bottom-shelf rum shots, one of the guys found his way to me.

Need a drink? He asked as he bumped into me, quite purposefully. I looked at my completely full glass and smiled, Thanks, but I think I’m alright for now. He grinned back and said, I saw you watching us, what conclusion are you drawing?

The three of us explained our theory and he played along, calling his one extremely tall friend (6’6″!) a “chick magnet” and how he was more just along for the ride. He was goofy and casual, but still acted unsure of himself. Maybe it was the alcohol – or maybe it was the fact he was 23. Though a two-year age difference doesn’t seem like quite that big of a deal, so much changes in your twenties, it can feel like a lifetime ago that you were that early-20-something. I noticed how boyish he was and yet, how he tried to build his confidence around me. It was charming.  Against my better judgment, I found myself enjoying his hand on my knee, his slightly inappropriate jokes, his seemingly soft lips.

Well shit, I think he’s cute, I thought as he bought another round and waved off his friends goodbye to spend more time with me.

Another hour passed and the night went on, my friends bid me farewell and I stayed behind. As the bar cleared out, we danced to old music and attempted to speak Italian to one another, and he wrote me a poem that didn’t rhyme but was sweet. He asked for my number and out to dinner the next night – but he was 23 and my expectations weren’t high for his level of seriousness but there was a click.  A spark.

A something.

And then there was kissing. Lots and lots of kissing. The kind of kissing you do in high school before you have gone past second base. When magic swells on your tongue and every touch is heightened – 10 years ago by anxiety and anticipation, and now, by liquor and pipe dreams. By the time I finally went up to my apartment – alone, for the record – it was 4 am and I sighed for the hangover I knew I would have the next day. A 25 year old head is much different than the 23 year old one, but apparently no wiser…

It wasn’t even noon before he cancelled dinner, and by 2  p.m. he gently told me I was a sweet girl, but he didn’t want to waste my time. And even though I knew the outcome was likely, I was disappointed. Connection feels so rare after so many years of dating, that when it comes, it’s hard not to hold onto it with all that you have.

But even though The 23 Year Old’s presence in my life lasted all of a few hours, he brought out something in me:

My soft side.

My voice was calmer, my shoulders relaxed. I wasn’t thinking about my never-ending to-do list or my worries over everything I want and all that I don’t have yet. I was flirty without being overbearing, and I let myself just enjoy the moment, as fleeting and unimportant as it was. I listened more than I spoke and I let him ask me to dance instead of inviting him myself. I put down my guard and I didn’t check the time, allowing myself to giggle and twirl into the early hours of the morning. I didn’t run over a mental checklist to see if he matched all of the qualities I want in a partner, I was just myself and let him be himself.

And it was nice.

It was really nice to simply let go of all the dating drama. It was nice to feel soft and vulnerable, open and hopeful again. Though there won’t be an actual date with this bachelor, sometimes you need a young-something to remind you to not be so jaded. To not think the worst of people. To go with the flow. To say “yes” to another drink, even if you say “no” to a sleepover. To smile without wondering if it means anything and let it mean whatever it does in that moment.

To remind you to have hope in love and in men, but mostly in your ability to love. Even if all you love is the splendid fun of a chance encounter of the Brother Jimmy’s kind.

For the Luck of a Cupcake

Once upon New York last night, I went to an Irish pub in midtown.

Somehow, some of the best places to go in the city are unknown establishments who entertain great prices and even better company. The only way to find such hidden locations is to stumble upon them, unexpectedly and without scouting the best, the trendiest, or the hippest places listed on New York magazine’s picks of the week. For my friend Cat and I, who simply wanted a glass to celebrate the fact it was almost Friday, a tucked away bar on 54th and 7th, seemed to do the trick.

After attending an event where champagne, celebrities, and mini-burgers were plenty, we braved the winter and ice with cupcakes-to-go in tow. Never ones to shy away from foreign affairs, when we noticed shamrocks and happy hour specials, we gleefully agreed to grab a glass (or two) at this unknown pot-of-possible-gold that would free us from the unbearable cold.

Luckily, we found seats to give our high-heeled legs a rest and to even more of a surprise, an authentic Irish man with pretty blue eyes and a crooked smile, greeted us merrily. Me being the undeinable flirt and confident lady I am, requested a Merlot and Cat decided upon her signature drink, a ginger ale and vodka. Partly because it was his duty and mostly because he found my panty-hosed limbs sexy, this could-be leprechaun watched me as I sipped my vino while he paced the bar, waiting on an opportunity to integrate me.

That chance came when he so cleverly asked, “If you give me what’s in that box, the drinks are free.” Not one to submit to plays-on-words or pickup lines, I let him know the cupcakes in my “box” were mine, and I’d be damned if he had one of my precious baked goods. After all, I did decorate them myself.

He looked disappointed, but still took the round on himself.

Still not cured from some of my love addict qualities, I decided a sly 20-question game wouldn’t be too ridiculous. Perhaps, I’d be super smooth about the whole see-if-you-meet-my-non-negotiables test and he wouldn’t even notice my journalist attributes. Even amidst my random questions while he was serving the other patrons, he always made a point to stop by and see how we were doing. And of course, to give the rhyme to my latest riddle. Once we were half-way finished with our first drinks of the evening, the Irish man decided to start asking questions for himself.

In a cupcake and Merlot haze, I somehow managed to tell him I was not only an editor and a writer, but a blogger about the three words every man seems to be intrigued by: love, dating, and sex. Or possibly, just the latter.

Suddenly, this man was full of perplexities himself – what do you write about? Do you call guys out for being bad in bed? Do you talk about your own experiences or just the general experience of being a single person? Have you ever had sex with a man who wasn’t American? Would you?

Maybe it was his rather cute dimples, the insanely sexy accent or the fact he has a tongue piercing (oh where the mind will go…) – but I replied with class to each question, never lying, never exaggerating, but only answering with as much dignity as I could. Once he seemed satisfied with my words and I gave him the URL to the site, I asked him what brought him to New York, my favorite destination on the planet.

With a michevous grin, he simply said, “Well, my wife.

Flabbergasted and attempting not to show it, my friend and I swallowed our sip, turned to one another, and strategically raised an eyebrow. I smiled and said, “How lovely. Now, what does she do?” He told us she was in fashion but didn’t get specific, and thus, I became suspicious. He couldn’t sincerely be married – he was far to charming, far to susceptible to blushing when he looked my way, and too, well, available to be…. unavailable. After all, I do know what a Mr. Unavailable looks like – maybe a little too well. Not to mention – he wasn’t wearing a ring and his fellow co-workers were smirking while toasting.

Determined to get to the root of the lie I was convinced he was telling, I questioned: “Well, I’m in magazines and pretty familiar with the fashion industry. Who does she work for? What does she do?” As his Irish cheeks started to match my red coat, he stuttered, “She, uh, designs clothes. Ya know? She cuts them out.” Instantly catching on to his trick, Cat and I grinned towards each other and waited for the moment where this man, in his many mysterious ways, admitted he wasn’t in fact married, but as single as a New York late 20-something male gets.

Impressed with my ability to call him out on a game I’m sure he’s played many times, he filled up my wine glass (much to the dismay of my perfectly-planned-out self’s ways) and asked if I loved my city and if I was satisfied with my life. Becoming more and more tipsy and less and less inhibited, I started not only giving him The Look, but accepting the red, red, wine he was pouring, and the more personal questions he was proposing.

I wasn’t assured he was exactly my type – or at least the sort of man I usually agreed to date. From what I could tell from his location behind the bar, he wasn’t very tall, but taller than me. He obviously didn’t have an typical career, but was living by the hours of drinking and partying as a bartender (this was later soldified, when I asked him what else he did and he responded with, “This.”). And of course, I’ve never actually been serious with an European or anyone from another country, though I’ve always been romanced by the idea of courting one.

With this Irishman, nothing was certain and without knowing much about him – anything seemed plausible. Due to his charms, his careful way of never letting my drink be less than half-empty, his clever wit, and piercing blue eyes – I decided he’d be Mr. Maybe. He could be my type, or not. His accent could make my panties drop, or not. Our shared admiration for baked goods could be a flirting component, or not.

Nevertheless – I realized that for once in my life, I was okay with the uncertain. With the potential, with the things I couldn’t predict, with the pressure I refused to place on myself, dating itself,  a stranger, or with the relationship I’m finally not desperately wanting. I’m okay without having a “yes” or a “no” – and dwelling in the maybe seems like an opportunity I’ve often passed up. The gray may be hazy, but sometimes the things you can’t see or define are the very things you end up needing the most.

And so, when Mr. Maybe asked how a man could make it into the inevitable life and blog of Ms. Tigar (or Mr, depending on which post you read), I gave him a hint of the sincere smile that’s somewhere rooted inside of me and said, “Take her out for a cupcake, since she doesn’t give away ones she gets for free?” Obviously interested in the prospect of icing and baked flour, Mr. Maybe let me know his day off was on Wednesdays. I returned by offering I got off work at 6 p.m., and gave him my card. Just in case, you know.

Once I paid my tab that didn’t even come close to reflecting what I consumed, locked eyes again with Mr. Maybe, and cheek-kissed my friend good-bye, I walked to the subway with a little extra step. I’m not sure if it means I’m at a new step or I’ve unfolded a new chapter in my journey but something about a simple evening with careless flirting rejuvenated my spirit. Perhaps it was the sight of a new possibility or just the pleasure of being a lady who knows what she wants (and how to get it). Could be the joy that comes from prancing through the city, even in negative degrees, and loving it just the same. Or even the warmness a great glass of wine gives you – especially when it didn’t come out of your tiny paycheck.

Or it could be the easy and simple feeling of knowing that your life is no longer dependent on finding all of the answers. Of defining the exact right path, the next move that’s planned and mapped out. But rather, it’s finally not about existing and waiting for the next love, the next chance or the next opportunity, but more about living and taking all the comes (or doesn’t) with acceptance and stride.

Or perhaps, being thankful for the luck a cupcake can sometimes bring you…or the Irish bartender that you hope actually does put your number or email to good use. And who takes you out for something frosted and delicious? Maybe, just maybe.

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.

The Look of Attraction

It is quite simple to catch a man’s attention. In fact, I’d like to think I have almost nailed it to a science.

My friends in college always picked me as the ringleader who would entice the group of eligible (or not) bachelors to our group so we’d get free drinks or mostly meaningful chit-chat to make us feel like we shaved our legs for something that night. Maybe it’s because I’m confident or brazen, but I’ve never been afraid of walking up to strangers. Honestly, as a journalist – it’s a big part of my job description. If you can’t ring a source or someone you’d like to interview, then what are you going to do, sit at your desk all day long?

Really – the act of gaining a man’s intrigue is an easy task that so many make incredibly difficult. Regardless of what you’re wearing, if you have a brand new zit on your chin, who you’re with, or where you are – it comes down to body language. Or, as I was taught: The Look. I can never reveal where I learned this trick, but I can almost guarantee it will get you and your ladies a round of drinks within twenty minutes, about 80 percent of the time. Sure, that’s a low B, but how many A+ men do we really meet anyways?

You do not have to be at the bar or a place where alcohol is served, but it usually ups your success rate a bit – I’m not a huge drinker myself, but a warm wine haze almost always make you feel sexy and a little bolder. Say you’re sitting at a table during happy hour with your gals and you see someone you’re attracted to. Leaving insecurities and caution in the wind where they belong, you lock eyes with this person and then cut your glance back towards your friends. Regardless if you’re engaged in the conversation or not, you smile, widen your eyes, and join in. Continue to do this for say, five minutes. And then, with a drink in your hand, you meet his eyes again, smile, and toast the air with your beverage of choice. Then you completely ignore him. That’s it. Done. In about five to ten minutes, you’ll be greeted with his friends, offered a round,  and then the flirting begins.

Now – for a long time, I used The Look everywhere. As much as I was addicted to love, I was also addicted to The Look. Amazed by how easily it worked, how simple it was to do, and how men reacted to it almost exactly how I hoped each time – I wanted to continuously put it to the test.

But when I woke up and decided putting all of my focus and attention on luring in a man was no longer how I wanted to live my life, I realized some things had to change. The first time I hit the bar since starting the journey, I found myself questioning why I was so impressed with The Look in the first place. Was it having the power? Was it being able to save money? Was it that a stranger’s eyes on me made me feel sexier than when they weren’t? Was there really anything wrong with doing The Look constantly?

No – nothing at all. That is, except for the twenty percent of the time when it didn’t work out as well as I anticipated. And when that happened, my opinion of myself exited the bar almost as quickly as I moved tables to escape from the guy who didn’t return my interest. Who didn’t feel the need to approach me or my ladies from across a darkened, crowded hot spot in midtown, even with my tightest jeans, highest heels, and attempting my most seductive glance.

Or maybe in a nutshell, when following the laws (and the look) of attraction, landed me far away from the mystery man I wanted to meet, and consumed in the self-defeating thoughts of “what’s wrong with me?

The Look  is usually successful because it plays with the basic fundamentals of attraction: first you see them, then you give them a hint of intrigue, ignore them to let them know you’re happy and fun (who wants to date someone who’s miserable, right?), and just when they think you’ve lost your taste for them, you give them a subtle hint, that no, you are still thirsty. Thus, they are encouraged to grow a pair and come see if they can pair up with you, for the hour, for the evening, or for maybe more.

But sometimes, as I’ve realized, there are other factors involved. Sure, no one likes to be turned down or rejected in any sense – where it be in love, their career, or at the bank. But for a long time, I took it personally when a man didn’t find himself drooling over me or hoping to fill up my cup. Now I see it as just another experience, another lesson, or really, just as some fun. Who knows what’s going on in the mind of someone – maybe he’s taken, maybe he’s just met someone with possibility, maybe his  heart is broken, maybe he’s gay, maybe he’s dealing with love addiction, or maybe I’m not his style of lady. Regardless, it doesn’t make me ugly, uninteresting, or no deserving of a good flirt at a trendy bar – it’s just how the levels of love and attraction work.

I’ve placed no rules on myself for this path to self-love, so I haven’t refrained from The Look, nor have my friends stopped begging me to do it when we all go out. The only difference is…I don’t take it as seriously. Or really, I don’t take myself as seriously. And somehow, when you stop placing pressure on yourself, on the success of your glance, or on the man himself – somehow, the odds of The Look working… go up.

Because instead of acting like you’re fully engaged and enjoying your friend’s company – you actually are. Instead of acting like you don’t care if the man comes or if he doesn’t, you actually don’t. And instead of toasting the air to entice him to come over, you’re saying cheers to yourself and to the laws of attraction, that somehow, never seem to lose their intrigue.

PS: Confessions of a Love Addict is considering a Q&A Sunday where Lindsay answers questions from your own stories about the journey of self-love (and the men along the way). If you’re interested, send her an email.