Nothing to Do With You

One of my favorite places inNew Yorkis a sushi place in the Flatiron district. I used to live in that neck of the city when I interned and they sweetly never carded me when I was underage, making me a regular. Also because if you spend $20, you get unlimited wine – that’ll hook a gal anytime.

I continuously return to this joint, even though I’m well over age and can afford more than a Jackson for dinner because it holds such great memories for me, and each time I return, I make some more. Case in point, Friday evening with a group of my lovely ladies, catching up after weeks of not being able to sync our busy schedules. As we go through our lives, telling the best stories from the time we missed, we somehow stumble our way to talking about relationships.

Tends to be inevitable, I suppose. At the table, two of us are in relationships, the other three are single. And while we disagreed on some things, one trend we all found to be true was best summed up by my friend, K:

“I don’t care how intelligent she is; even the most-together of girls completely loses her mind when she’s in a relationship.”

I don’t think we lose all balanced thinking – but there is something about dating someone or being exclusive with a man that does something to our ability to rationalize. We place meaning and emotion into every word, movement is an indication of how our significant other feels. What’s more important than what he does is what he doesn’t do. Say he usually places his hand on the small of your back and then one afternoon, he doesn’t – suddenly, we’re concerned he isn’t into us or he’s pulling away or keeping something from us. When in reality, he is most likely preoccupied by things that have nothing to do with you.

Come to find out a man’s world does not, in fact, revolve around their girlfriend. And if it does, he probably shouldn’t be dating her and make a valiant effort to go find a life for himself.  Similarly, does our every mood depend on the men we date or boyfriends? Let’s hope not. There are (and should be) many things in our life that matter that don’t involve our partners – we should have things that are independent of a dude.

Even though we feel this way, it is incredibly difficult not to assign meaning behind actions we see as signs of disinterest or growing away from us. I could outline all of the ways I’ve been guilty of reading into things far too much, but in an email my friend R (from yesterday’s post) sent me describes it perfectly:

A Sunday Monologue

By R

Me: Working all day on Mother’s Day. Twelve hour shift that ended up lasting thirteen. Had already been planning on inviting myself over to his house to stay the night. In need of action and company.

Him: Working a twelve hour shift in the kitchen (yes, he’s a chef and I LOVE it). Good mood in the morning. By mid-dinner shift, he won’t look at me, won’t touch me, and won’t even smile at me.

Me: Feeling a little upset about it, then feeling even MORE upset that I AM upset about it because that means that I’m letting him get to me.

Him: Closes up early, impervious to a couple jokes I tried to make earlier to cheer him up. Puts on his jacket and starts to leave without saying good bye.

Me: “Hey, Mr. Sex Buddy.”
Him: Turns around. “Yeah.”
Me: “You headed out for the night?”
Him: “Yeah.” Gives me a hug.
Me: “You okay?”
Him: “It’s a long story. Just call me and I’ll tell you about it later.”
Me: “Okay. Good night.”
Him: Leaves without a second glance.

Me: Feeling mildly crushed that I won’t get to hang out with him that night. Then, feeling very angry at myself for feeling upset. Start telling myself that I’m being ridiculous and I need to suck it up and that silly, stupid stuff like THAT is why I don’t date. No dating. Dating, bad. Sadly…sex, very good, therefore I must put up with dating and gushy feelings. Blech.

Girl talk with friends. They tell me to call him and still ask to come over. I say no. They continue to encourage the calling. I start freaking out over what I’m supposed to say when I call him, because what if I invite myself over and he says no? How do I gracefully escape from that rejection. He was in a reallllly bad mood. He probably won’t want me coming over. But I want to go SO bad. Does that make me clingy? Do I call? What do I say? How do I phrase what I want to say?

My blood pressure continues to rise.

Finally make it out of work and I’m so nervous that my heart it literally racing and my hands are shaking. I continue to hate/chastise myself for acting this way and I keep telling myself to stop caring so much and just go home and forget the whole night, but it doesn’t work.

I call him. He answers. He still sounds upset. Says he going to ride his motorcycle for a while and he’ll call me in 20 minutes. I try to find an opening to see if he wants me to come over, but I can’t find one so I don’t ask. We hang up.

I start driving home and try to call you. You don’t answer so I call S. I hyperventilate on the phone to her, she tells me to calm down and that he’ll call and I’m not being clingy like I say and that I need to come have a margarita with her. I continue to screech about how much I hate dating and what it makes me. S tells me to shut up.

I turn around to go meet her. I’m still babbling about how stupid it is that I feel this way and that’s its too early and that I don’t want a relationship and “this is why I DON’T. LIKE. TO. DATE.” I call myself ridiculous and stupid and really, truly hate feeling the way I’m feeling because I know I feel that way because I’ve let him in. I feel that way because I like him, and I’m scared to.

I feel clingy for wanting to be with him, I feel stupid for letting my feelings be dependent on his feelings (I’m fine until he’s upset, then I end up upset). It’s reminiscent of how dependent I became on Mr. Coward and I need to stop and I hate, hate, hate this feeling.

I calm down slightly when I get to the restaurant to meet S. She gives me a hug. I immediately order a margarita. He calls. Exactly 20 minutes.

Me: “Hey.”
Him: “Hey!”
Me: “Feeling better?”
Him: “Definitely. I feel a lot better.”
Me: “Good, I’m glad. I’m sorry you were upset.”
Him: “Yeah, we’ll the managers did _______, and the other chef I was working with today was acting like ________, and he yelled at me for ________, and I just wanted to get out of there.”
Me: “Well, I’m glad you did. You want some company?”
Him: Stunned silence for a second. “Yeah! I would love some! Are you still at work?”
Me: *Clears throat* “Um, yeah.”
Him: “Great, I’ll see you soon then.”

I feel so relieved, too relieved to even be angry at myself for feeling so relieved that he called. I talk to S for a few minutes, finish my margarita, leave a four dollar tip on a six dollar tab and go to his place.

It Is Scary to Care

My friend R recently started a no-strings attached, friends-with-benefits type of relationship with an old pal from high school. Having been through a hell of year and in dire need of a few (or many) orgasms, she agreed to release some tension with a person she’s always sorta had a thing for, but more importantly, someone she’s comfortable with.

Though R is in North Carolina and I’m in New York, we’ve maintained a close friendship – often sharing every intimate detail of our personal lives with one another, no barrier too gruesome or risqué to cross. And since both of us are rather open, our conversations tend to be a tad dramatic and almost always wildly entertaining. Since she’s been with the Sex Buddy, I’ve received phone calls and text messages, asking for advice and describing her romps.

But this morning, the chat I received was less about hanky-panky, and more about something far more intense than any hard-on or sexual dilemma: feelings. She claimed she almost hyperventilated before they spent the night together because she realized she was starting to like him, as opposed to just liking his down under action.

Maybe When Harry Met Sally’s assumption that men and women can never truly be friends is accurate or maybe it’s another indication that sex messes up even the most nonchalant courtships, or maybe it’s a truth that dates way past either of the aforementioned: it is scary to care.

There’s always that turning point in a could-be relationship where ends stop being loosely tied and emotions connect on a level that neither can prepare for. There is a period where you can place your heart on hold and enjoy the moment, until those moments increase, along with tension and the need to let your heart off the hook, and onto your sleeve. And that’s when brevity turns into the hope of longevity; and defining what you have or what you’re working toward starts to take over those crazy-girl parts of your brain, and thus, you find yourself hyperventilating while texting your friend.

Because when feelings develop, fears and questions come along with them: what if he doesn’t feel the same way? What if I get my heart broken? What if this is all too-good-to-be-true? How does he view me? What if he cares more and I end up breaking his heart? Is he seeing other people? Do I care if he’s seeing other people? Does he care if I am? What are we????

I don’t want to count how many times I’ve entertained these thoughts with different men at different points in our pseudo-relationships. I’ve laid in the arms of guys as they play on their Blackberrys, wondering if they were texting the girl they’d share the same bed with the following night. I’ve put off “The Talk” in hopes eventually the dude would beg me to be his forever and ever, and I’d never have to have a proper conversation defining what we were doing and what we were. I’ve held everything I felt, especially what I didn’t want to feel, inside for so long that without a notice, in the middle of a sunny, beautiful July afternoon, I inappropriately exploded a fury of frustration over Cobb salads and sangria.

And that’s the worse part about being scared to care – if you don’t let yourself do it, you’ll end up scaring the person you care about away. Or worse yet, scaring yourself so badly that you never end up caring in the capacity you’re capable of or that you deserve.

There is no denying that falling in love and willingly giving parts of yourself to another person is terrifying. I have a theory that to truly be in love with someone, you have to be not only brave, but be a tad crazy, too. No rational, independent person would place their trust, their heart, and perhaps their life and future in the hands of someone who has no tangible obligation to stick through the thick-and-the-thin with you. Being vulnerable isn’t a pleasant feeling, but if you can get through the initial pang that your heart could be ripped out of your chest – you’ll find something equally scary but comforting too. Or at least it tends to be comforting for me, anyway.

When you do put yourself out there, when you do allow feelings to grow, become stronger and more connected; when you give away pieces of your soul and place work into a relationship when it faces conflict, and when you take a chance on love – you don’t know if it will work out. You can’t predict and you can’t place your bests in a space where safety is guaranteed – but you can place a wager on yourself.

And if history does repeat itself, the fact of the matter is that even if you’re scared to care – you’ve been scared to care before. Even if you deeply in love and you notice how perfectly you match with someone else – you’ve felt that way before. And even if whatever you hoped for doesn’t come to be – you’ve been let down before, too.

So you overcome the fear. You fall in love. You revel in the magic. And if you have to, you overcome the heartbreak. Because no matter how scary it is to care, it is even scarier to never care again because you’re afraid of doing something…you’ve already done.

The Love She Needed

She was 24-years-old, just out of a relationship that dragged her down for far too long, and months away from starting flight attendant school when she met him. At some smoky bar in the Smokey Mountains of North Carolina, he stood in all white, his top unbuttoned, and her in a black jumpsuit I wish she would have kept from the 80’s so I could wear it now. It was love at first sight in every cliche sense of the saying for him, and she couldn’t have been less turned on.

She thought he was arrogant and a damn Yankee and she didn’t want to go out with him. He pursued her for six months before she finally gave in and four months later, they were married. I guess when you know, you just know – but for my mother, knowing has been a gradual process that’s often sneaked up on her.

Especially when it came time for me to arrive in the world, three weeks early, at 6 pounds, 1 ounce, and the same big blue eyes I have today.

She calls herself the “reluctant mother” -always hesitant of every move she made in fear she would somehow damage me or not live up to the parent she wanted to be. Though she grew up with three little brothers and a big sister, she didn’t develop an interest in having children and she wasn’t a natural around them. At her baby shower, she had no idea what a receiving blanket was and when I was born, her sister and mother stayed with her for over a week to teach her the basics of baby-ing.

Up until I was six months old, she was convinced I didn’t like her and that I preferred my father’s care of hers. But then, at a department store as she was trying on shoes while keeping one hand on my belly, to make sure I was still inhaling and exhaling, I cooed at her. Startled that something was wrong, she quickly looked to see if I was okay, and she said I just smiled up at her with such a sincere love that she realized for the first time that she was a good mother and that her daughter loves her. It isn’t the only time she’s felt my love, but in more ways than one, she says I forever changed her. She needed to have me, to soften, to relax, to stop taking herself as seriously, and to realize perfection isn’t mandatory, especially in parenthood.

And as I’ve grown, I’ve realized that I need her, too.

I’ve tried to put into words dozen of time, through many blog posts, articles, and stories how I feel about my mom. If any love is profound and remarkable, it is the love I feel from my mother: it is one that’s consistent, undeniable, unconditional, and derives from a place so deeply embedded in my soul that I think I’d be lost without her. You would think writing about such a relationship would be an easy task since it is such a simple reliable sort of love – but that’s far from the case.

The bond my mother and I share is undefinable and no amount of sweet sentiments or colorful stories could give it justice. Nor could I fully describe what I see when I look at her or how painful it is to not be able to call her up for lunch or for shopping trips throughout the year.

But what I can say is that this woman, whose beauty radiates from the inside out, is my very best friend. She is the first person I call, no matter if the news is sour or sensational. When I’m upset and need to calm myself down, I silently whisper the same words she would use to soothe me. When I can’t sleep, I scratch my own head, as she would do when I would have trouble resting. When faced with a difficult decision, her advice I take the closest to heart, and while dating, I wonder what my mother would think about the man before becoming seriously invested. I tell her just about everything in my life, even those things she may not want to know the details of.

And while I’m so very thankful that I grew up in a home full of love and laughter, with a mother who sang “She Drives Me Crazy” by The Fine Young Cannibals when cleaning, I look forward to the memories my mother and I have yet to create. Like when I take a special guy home from New York to meet her. Or when I get that dream job and I hear her excitement match mine, as she’s been my greatest fan my entire life. Or when I stand in a room with all of the women I love the most and she helps me into a wedding gown. Or calling her in the middle of the night to ask her questions about my own baby and hearing my child call her “Grand Mommy”, as she’s already decided that’s what she’ll be called. And when I start to age or approach  menopause, I hope I’ll have my mother to answer my questions and assure me to keep my faith strong, stay with my husband even when I’m having crazy mood swings, and to remember how beautiful I am.

Through it all, through all these experiences, and all the years to come, there may be things I worry about and struggles I have to face. I may lose my footing and lose my balance and my heart, and I may switch directions before finding the best route. But while there may choices I make that aren’t the best or men I date that don’t deserve me or pain I face that no one can erase but me – there is one love that will never change.

Maybe that’s why it’s called a mother’s love – it is one of those rare and angelic things that we’ll never quite understand until we’re mothers ourselves. But we do get a taste of it if we’re lucky enough to see ourselves through our mom’s eyes, and if you live your life seeing yourself the way she sees you, you’ll always feel beautiful and if she can see herself through yours, she’ll feel the same.

I love you mom, I can’t wait to see you in a month!

A Sweet Longing

The last week or so, I’ve been feeling a little homesick.

While this may break my mother’s heart (I apologize in advance, Mama), I don’t miss home all that often. I’ve come to find that home is where you make it and who you make it with, so really, right now, my home is inNew York, in the company of my friends, and in the lights of the city.

But nothing really replaces your mom. Or your dad. Or the smellNorth Carolinaeludes with the arrival of summer. Or the quiet that comes from an old country road where the only noise prohibited is the sweet melody of song birds in the morning. And no matter how many years I’m away from NC or how many friends I make or how many roots I try to plant  in the pavement, holidays are tough away from the place you always spent them.

They say the mark of a successful parent is when they raise their child to be a mature, functioning, self-sufficient, and happy adult who can handle life without them. I’d say my parents have achieved this feat and I would think that all great parents want their children to turn into capable adults who create an existence that brings them joy, prosperity, and love, of course – but part of growing up is moving on.

If you’re the product of a very happy home with a supportive, loving family, and a community that encouraged success and bigger things than what sweet littleCarolinacan offer – the process of moving on means letting go of where you were to establish where you are. And it isn’t easy. I love my background but I’m confident my future has just as much possibility, if not more. But making that possibility feel just right is a process in itself.

I do consider myself an adult and I am completely independent of my parents for all of my financial needs and wants. I don’t depend on them for anything more than a daily phone call and to be there should I want to spend an outrageous amount of money flying south for a weekend. But there are times, like when I miss them that I feel like I’m less of an adult.

Maybe it is a misconception on my part to think that longing to see your family makes you more of a child and less of a grown-up, but when you travel away from home, as children should – when do you stop missing where you come from? Or not really where, but who?

I think part of the appeal of a relationship or the desire to one day get married comes from the hunger for a home. Especially if you came from a healthy and happy home – why would you not want to design the same foundation? And maybe we think by finding that sense of security or making plans for the future, we’ll stop missing what we had to leave behind to get to where we wanted to be. Maybe we think that sadness that surprises us from time-to-time will stop coming around. Maybe we think by finding love, the love of our childhood home won’t be something we wish we could capture and carry around with us, should a day ever be nothing but doom-and-gloom.

I’m not there yet, so I can’t argue effectively, but I know that nothing compares to my mother’s embrace or the smell of her perfume that lingers on you after. Or my father’s infectious laugher that burns his face and fills in the lines of his wrinkled cheeks. You can’t capture the same smells of bacon and eggs in the morning paired with instant-coffee, or the sound of the washing machine constantly running while my dog scratches at my bedroom door.

And not being able to see your parents on Easter or Mother’s Day or Father’s Day – because it isn’t sensible to fork over $300 in such a short period of time, just sucks. Or knowing the baby cousins you left will only see you once or twice a year, meaning you won’t watch them grow, is sad. Or that you only get to hug your family for a week at a time, maybe twice or three times a year, hurts.

There really is no place like home, no matter how sweet your new one is.

Sexually (and Mentally) Liberated

A few years ago, I was lying out in Sheep Meadow, alone in the company of a bathing book (trashy one you wouldn’t otherwise read), when a man on a bicycle approached me. I was underage and pretending I wasn’t with permission from a fake ID that somehow worked, though it featured a girl who was blond and green-eyed, quite the opposite of me.

Classily sipping on a mimosa out of a paper bag and ignoring the fact my chest was turning red, Mr. Bicycle jumped down, shirtless and sweaty, and asked my name. With little makeup on and even smaller concern about it, I chatted with him for half an hour or so until he claimed he had a late lunch to get to. Per his request, I slipped him my number and went about my tanning afternoon, not that interested in him but intrigued enough  hope he called.

Skip to a week later and I’m sitting across from Mr. Bicycle on our second date at a place on the lower east side that’s dimly lit and offers food that’s not only overpriced, but overcooked, too. I’m not a picky eater unless I’m paying for it, in which case I want to get the best sizzle for my steak, but since Mr. Bicycle was forking over dough for the bill, I politely downed my dinner with a smile.

Half-way through, I decided that Mr. Bicycle has potential and was someone I would agree to a third date with. We hadn’t kissed yet, but I wanted to. I wasn’t ready to have sex with him, but I figured he was pretty good and pretty blessed in that department, based off his mannerisms and his build. I didn’t know much more than the basics about him: age, background, occupation, his affinity forPeru, his dislike of Asian food. Unlike me, he actually resembles my fake ID (which I hadn’t told him is fake), eyes as green as Sheep Meadow and blond locks that fall effortlessly around his face. He also has dimples, which time and time again, seems to be a feature on a man I continuously attract.

The night was coming to a close and the city was in an unusual state for a July evening, the humidity wasn’t suffocating and the streets were not buzzing in activity or tourists. For once, New York rests and while it was the second date and Mr. Bicycle had no promise of anything really, I rest happily in the smirk that comes with a date gone well. He asked to walk me back to my apartment, to make sure I got there safely like a gentleman, and I let him. As we approached my doorway and I reached for my keys, he pulled me into him and kissed me sweetly and passionately.

It would have gone down in my book or in this blog as the best first kiss of all time, if what came next didn’t happen. After the 45-second-or-so lip lock, I smiled up at him and turned to open my door as I said, “Thank you for a great evening, Mr. Bicycle.” He stopped me, turned me around and looked me dead-in-the-eye.

“Aren’t we going to go upstairs and f***?”

Stunned and taking myself as “not that type of girl,” I immediately became offended and plainly dismissed his advance. I fidgeted with my key in a rush to get inside and away from this guy who was so inappropriate, when he asked yet another uncalled for question: “C’mon, Lindsay, aren’t you sexually liberated?” I ignored him and stepped inside ad I told him again to have a nice evening, before I ran up the many flights to my apartment, consumed with disgust.

I recently told this story to a friend and as I went about what I usually portray as an unfortunate series of events, I found myself not relaying it without as much style as I usually do or with as many convicted statements like “Can you believe he did that on a second date?” or “What a f***ing a**hole, right?”

No, instead I found myself finding the story….quite commonplace. I mean, what girl hasn’t encountered a guy who has no class attempting to get in her pants? It’s not like every man doesn’t try at least once, anyway – right? If he doesn’t, we question his orientation in a heartbeat – those poor nice guys just often don’t make the cut. While I didn’t want to sleep with Mr. Bicycle that night, had I wanted to – should I have felt bad for doing so? Was he out of line for proposing sex – perhaps. Could he have gone about about it a better way – definitely.  But is it wrong for him to act on sexual urges? Nah.

It took me a few years, a few partners, and a few earth-shattering orgasms for me to change my tune a bit. Or maybe, it took until I did what Mr. Bicycle spotted I hadn’t done yet: sexually liberated myself.  

I was never raised or taught to “wait until marriage” to have sex, though I was brought up in the church. I think my mother is more realistic and she just warned to be careful and to make sure I trusted the person I was giving a “special part of myself to.” I have always valued my private and special parts and I think thus far, I’ve been rather selective of who gets to explore them.

But I’ve also stopped judging myself for having desires. I’ve stopped holding myself back and placing rules and restrictions on myself that are based off nothing but what I think I should do or what I think is acceptable by standards I haven’t even defined.  I’m in awe of my friends who are sincerely sexually liberated -the ones who demand their sexuality to be respected and make no excuses for the lives they lead or the beds they’ve laid.

Maybe I shouldn’t be envious – maybe I should see sexual liberation as an act of opening your mind, not spreading your legs. It’s more about giving yourself permission to say (or scream) yes; it’s about trying new things without basing your decision on outside perceptions, but by what you’re comfortable with and what you want. It’s about valuing yourself as special, as you are, and deciding what special (or just foreign, tanned, and ripped) people you want to share those special spots with.

Too much emphasis is put on our numbers, who we do or don’t sleep with, and what that says about us. When in reality, all sex says about any of us is that we’re…human. There is no better sexual awakening or liberation than realizing that what you feel, what you want, and what you do is exactly what you were made to feel, to want, and to do. So feel it, want it, and do it – in whatever way makes sense to you. Because to have successful sex or successfully let yourself go to enjoy that sex – the first person you have to release…is you.

Can You Channel Peace?

I haven’t really breached the surface of my career. I feel lucky to be employed doing what I want to do in a market that’s undeniably competitive and difficult to penetrate. I enjoy the freedom I have to write this blog and freelance occasionally, and that while it is a small contribution to the world, it is my own, and I stand by it happily. I’m young and I see my future as limitless and ripe with opportunities and chances that I can’t even imagine, but will shape my life in ways I’ll never understand.

Though I’m pretty set on the path I’d like to take – I don’t have tunnel vision so severely that I would never think of doing something else. I’m not blind to the fact that sometimes the things you least expect or the choices you never thing you’ll face, are the ones that fundamentally change you into the you you’re meant to be.

Part of the reason I feel confident that I could sincerely do anything I put my mind to is because I’ve learned not to define myself by what I do. Sure, editing and writing are a huge part of my day-to-day and pastimes that not only bring me joy but money, too. But I’m not the only talented writer. And I make mistakes as an editor (I’m sure there are dozens across this blog but I forgive myself, I hope you do, too). The beautiful truth about the career I’ve chosen is that even if it wasn’t my career – I could still write. I would still seek out ways to be published. I could be anywhere in the world and have a byline in New York. They aren’t really mutually exclusive of one another.

Where I live, what I do, and who I am isn’t dependent on being an author, a journalist, or a blogger – if that was the case, WordPress and the other platforms wouldn’t be successful. Online magazines wouldn’t attract readers from all regions of the world and no one would lust after the rare travel writer who is paid to have lavish globetrotting adventures, dining at the finest, and staying in the room with the best view and service.

I’m not afraid of not being a writer or not having the dream job I’ve wanted for literally decades now. In fact, when it comes to my career or my ability to string together sentences, I have no doubts. Being a writer is part of who I am, but not the entirety of what makes me function. After all, if a writer leads no life, if they don’t read others, if they don’t find new people and experiences to observe, if they don’t make themselves into a modern-day anthropologist of some subject matter – what would there be to write about anyway? I’d imagine their stories would be quite boring.

Perhaps as boring as I feel my blog is becoming.

I’m not looking for compliments or reassurance – I know a good thing when it’s good and I know a once-sweet thing when it turns sour. In a lot of ways, this space has been a place for me to handle my own identity crisis as a 20-something. It has been a place for me to answer the tough questions in my own language, on my own terms, and in my own time. And now, over six months later, with less than six to go, I find myself at a crossroads.

I started this blog unhappy, dissatisfied with my life, and unable to enjoy my life as a single gal. I was not a mess but I wasn’t together, I wasn’t closed off, but I wasn’t incredibly open. I wasn’t syncing as well as I wanted to with the rhythm of the streets and New York was still idealized instead of realized.

But that’s not exactly who I am now, on a rainy May 4 afternoon, frantically writing this post while attempting to eat a leftover burrito, chat on Gchat, and enjoy my lunch break before getting back to work. No, this Lindsay is different.

She’s not that much older, but she’s wiser. She isn’t exactly single, but she isn’t consumed by it. She has found comfort in the ways that matter: in her relationship status, in her city, and most importantly, in herself. She ventures into the heartbeat of buildings and the people and the sounds that surround her, and instead of worrying about money or worrying about moving up or worrying about things that don’t quite matter right now – she’s settled in today. She’s found a confidence in herself that isn’t defined by links and published posts, by boys and boo-hooing over them, by being the most beautiful or the most sought after.

So what’s next? What now? With still four more steps to go and a personal commitment to write daily for a year – where do you turn a niche blog when your niche changes? Or expands? When what you love to do, who you want to love, and where you love to be are all working in a loving cohesion with one another, where do you seek more love?

Or is love really the answer to all of those questions left unanswered in my heart? Or do I have that many questions that pester me at this moment, anyway? Or maybe it is just one simple question that’s plagued me for months now: why does it become difficult to write about love on a blog about dating and self-love, when you’re dating and you’ve found love within yourself? Shouldn’t it be easier?

Could it be that the best fodder comes from…pain? Struggle? Outright, irrational despair? How do you channel peace to get your groove back?

The Bravery to Be Me

I attempt to be eloquent as a writer and a lady as a person – but certain experiences are appropriate for being inappropriate. Such is the moment when you look at yourself in the mirror, accept your flaws and conclude that what the world thinks and how they judge you causes you to only think one thing: “They can all go f*** themselves.

Pardon my language or don’t – doesn’t matter. I usually don’t use such a word (I somehow still taste soap in my mouth when I do) but stepping out of the shower yesterday, I was flooded with the beautiful self-assurance that I’ve often craved.

As I touched on yesterday, when you “live” with someone, you can’t really hide much. To be at home, you must be at home – and leave those doubts and worries at the door. I can’t (and refuse) to go to bed with makeup on to cover my acne that has followed me into my 20s. I can’t stop going to the gym or running around the park because I’ll look sweaty and red when I return. I can’t not do those me-touch-up things that aren’t exactly attractive or sexy: shaving my legs and keeping a self-pedicure schedule. I can’t not exfoliate or have a wet head of hair when I go to bed.

And when you’re alone, when you have no one to watch you or to answer to, your behavior is different. You accept yourself more – you pick and nudge at your problem areas but don’t obsess. You walk around naked. You drink out of the carton if you don’t feel like washing a dish (or at least I have, once or twice). You eat things you normally wouldn’t admit to eating. You leave a pile of dirty laundry about your floor and a dozen pairs of shoes lying haphazardly in your apartment from weeks of coming home and kicking off the kicks. You stand on one foot, in lingerie and a green masque, drinking red wine, listening to Florence+ the Machine, and plucking your eyebrows without giving a second thought to anything – especially how you look.

Some of these things I wouldn’t necessarily do around anyone – man or girlfriend. But being in the company of someone else each night and every morning, when you’re the least done-up or covered-up, charges you with challenge to accept your imperfections without making excuses for them.

As I finished up in the shower and spent an excessive amount of time in Mr. Possibility’s bathroom, desperately craving some pampering time, I realized not just how comfortable I was becoming with him, but how comfortable I am with me. And really, the latter makes me happier than I could ever be about the progress of a relationship with a man.

It has taken me a lot of time to come to terms with myself – to really see myself for who and what I am, without making excuses, without comparing myself to other women. I still have off days, I still feel incredibly short when standing next to a statuesque blonde, and I still pray for clear skin each night. But overall – I like who I am. I find myself to be beautiful. I’m not the best and I’m not the worst, but I have something to offer that’s more powerful than perky breasts, long slender legs, and hair that fall just right.

And that’s the bravery to be me. In front of anyone – even the guy I hope finds me the most attractive or the women I’m jealous of. With or without my “face on,” with or without looking airbrushed and radiant, with or without those five pounds that nag my hips – I’ve found a peace within myself, within my looks, within my heart that gives me beauty from within.

So take me as I am, find me lovely or loathe me. I am who I am and I take me as I am, as I go. And if you aren’t a fan or see my flaws as a deal-breaker, I won’t use any more profanities than what I have already in this post, but I will use the phrase that will forever remind me of this blog and this period of growth in my life: frankly, my dears, I do give a damn…about me, but not about what you think.