You Know That Guy

All of my friends know him. And probably a little too well. They know his shape and the way he moves in his sleep, all of his best moves in bed. They know the way he likes his eggs and his go-to drink of choice. They could probably recite both his personal and professional resume, without having to dig way back into the memories they keep. Or the ones they’ve imagined so vividly, they almost seem so real, they’d go on record to defend them.

All of my friends know that guy… and so do you.

We all have one: that guy that was the hardest one (ever, ever) to get over. He’s the one who got under your skin when you were too young, too naive, too inexperienced to know any better. He’s the guy who introduced you to something at a pivotal point in your life. After a bad breakup, post-huge move to a brand new city, following the worst year you’ve experienced. He could be the first guy you slept with where you actually understood — and omg — felt a go-numb-in-your-toes orgasm. He’s the guy that treated you terribly, possibly cheated on you, left you hanging on the edge of possibility for months (or years), couldn’t meet any of your needs, couldn’t step up to the plate, called you up at midnight and randomly showed up at your door, so drunk he could barely stand. He’s the guy who knows you so well that he knows how to push every button, linger on each and every heart string and for lack of a better phrase, emotionally torture you. And tangle your lives together, long after you’ve separated.

That guy might not mean the harm he inflicts (though he could be rather manipulative at his core), but he always finds a way to stick around. He might actually love you in the silly, twisted, strange way that he can, but the love you deserve is bigger and frankly, easier than a chaotic relationship (and the on and off months of sex that follow). Without realizing it — because I bet it happened rather quickly — you’ll wonder how you lost yourself in this man. In all of the questions and the embraces and the fever-filled texts and emails and voicemails and mornings waking up naked, hating yourself a little more

But try as you might, with every ounce of dignity you have, you pull yourself out of it. You find the strength (and let go of the crushing fear) to walk away, promising yourself there must be a greater love out there for you, somewhere, somehow. You will refuse to settle. Or maybe that guy left you. Perhaps for someone else, maybe for another country. He could have pushed you to your limits, until the breaking point was simply non-negotiable. However it ended with that guy – it didn’t just end the second you deleted him off Facebook or blocked his email.

It kept going on. Because you let it. Because you wanted to feel something instead of nothing. Because the (select few) good times where everything felt right, where his arms held you tight, when you caved under his façade – are so much easier to remember than the times that he hurt you. Over and over again.

Over and over again, you’ll play through it all. Over and over again, you’ll cry and then you’ll stand up. You’ll say you won’t do anything and you’ll do everything you swore you would never do… again. You’ll give into the fear that perhaps there isn’t anything better out there, and he’ll play off your terror in a way so subtle you won’t detect it until someone points it out. That guy will haunt your romantic dreams long after he’s gone, long past the time when you were together, in a scary, confidence-busting way. And you’ll watch him do it. You’ll probably sleep with him. You might even find a day where you give up  that anyone will ever mean as much – or make you feel so much – than that guy. Because that guy has you addicted to the story. To the drama. To that fragile piece of silver lining that make you wonder that maybe, just maybe, it could all work out one day.

That guy is a pretty obvious one for me and two years since we “broke up” – his emails still sit in my inbox. His phone number appears in my voicemail. He’s still here on these pages and occasionally on my mind more than I’d like. I blame it on a lot of things, like that he’s my last point of reference in a relationship. That he was my first (and only) adult love. That we really had something special.

But really, he’s just that guy for me.

He’s just that one guy that we all have to get past. And even though I have a pretty fantastic life, there’s nothing like clinging to the past that can bring a girl down or make her lose her thunder. If you ask people who found a way to release that guy from their life, they’ll tell you about how they met someone else and it got better. Or how they finally were tired of the constant production. Or how they had to block everything, threaten until they were out of breath and ignore every tempting invitation. Or how they finally realized they were never going to get that guy to be anything close to what they wanted.

We all have that guy, in whatever shape or form, age or stage he comes (and ultimately leaves). And for me, the biggest breakthrough, the thing that’s helped more than anything else on moving on past that guy is reminding myself he’s not the last guy. And if I can move from North Carolina to New York, lose my first job to find the dream job, find a way to survive and thrive in a city that gets a kick off knocking you down, then I can let go of that guy. I can leave him in the dust, in the torn notes, the pages I’ve penned, the hours, the days, the years I’ve lost and in the empty promises that were never filled. In the love I wanted so badly to feel in return that remained rather unrequited, and simply, never enough.

Because that guy can do a lot of things, including breaking your heart so many times you lose count, but he can’t break your hope. Unless of course, you let him.

There Are Guys

There are guys who are so very, very wrong for you.

But they feel really good. They’re intoxicating with spirits that are so complicated it’s incredibly sexy. There are guys who love being by your side but feel at least an arm’s reach away. Guys who are not just good at games but the art of the chase is so ingrained into their personality that frankly, they don’t even know they’re playing anymore. There are guys who dig that attention, who get off on the fight but can’t get off on when it’s actually right. There are guys who keep you lingering, but will never learn how to hold you in a way that eases you how you need.

There are guys who will never fall in love.

Because they are selfish with their emotions. There are guys who lead a life free of obligations, void of romance and well, they’re fine with it. They don’t crave it. There are guys who will never be satisfied sharing a bed with just one woman or only being fawned after by one girl. There are guys who may think the idea of happily ever after seems alluring, but not enough to work for it. Not enough to settle into something of substance. There are guys who want to be taken care of without having to return the favor. Without having to do any labor for anyone else at all. There are guys who see women as prizes, not as partners.

There are guys who won’t call you back.

They’ll say they will. There are guys who take you by surprise at some bar at some place and you exchange some choice words that make you think there is more to be found. But there’s not. There are guys who want what they want when they want it, but won’t ever give you what you want. There are guys who know how to make a move without flinching a heart string. There are guys who will be everything you ever dreamed of over a 12-hour period, only to disappear into the land of forgotten, never-to-be-understood jerks that don’t know better. Or if they do, they can’t be bothered. Or they don’t know how to express themselves.

There are guys who will say all of the right things.

And it’ll make you really want to believe in them. There are guys who may think those poetic words they speak come from a place of sincerity, but really, it’s just scripts they’ve mastered. Lines they’ve memorized that sound really great. There are guys who are so shattered themselves that they like the way forever sounds rolling off their lips. There are guys who know what you want and think they can be it, so they say what it takes for you to trust. There are guys who play house by using language that makes you think they can see a future with you. A whole lifetime together. There are guys who are so afraid of hurting you or seeing you cry that they will truly say anything to avoid it. Even if it’s three words they don’t actually mean. And maybe — probably — never will.

There are guys you can’t get out of your head.

Because they won’t get out of your inbox. Or your voicemail. There are guys who hold on for the sake of keeping a hint of a hope that  maybe-this-could-work-out. But it won’t. It’s not supposed to. There are guys who like to keep a good girl in his back pocket or on that backburner, just far enough to give her space to partially let go, but never enough to where she loses the far-fetched dream that he’ll come back around. That he’ll be different. There are guys who may care but their intentions are so cloudy, so jaded that they can’t tell you how they feel because they don’t know. But even if they aren’t sure of how in love — or not in love — they are with you, they’ll never tell you. Because then you may just become another ex-girlfriend left getting the bitter aftertaste out of her mouth. Out of her heart.

There are guys who will never be more than friends with benefits.

No matter how much pillow talk and bacon-and-eggs you share together. Even if he remembers how you take your coffee and gets it for you in the morning. There are guys who enjoy the comfort and the curves of a woman’s body but can’t navigate past the breasts to find the heart. There are guys who know to go harder and go faster and hit the buttons you love the most — but when they say that a relationship is off the table, they mean it. There are guys who may touch you so tenderly you can’t possibly understand how there isn’t anything more than sexual tension sparking between you. But there’s not. Not for him. Not for these guys.

There are guys who break your heart over and over.

Because you let him. Because it feels better to feel pain than to feel the vast void of the unknown. There are guys who come in and out of your life, sweeping under places you sealed, knocking down protection you built up, encompassing the heart that’s still fragile from the last time he was here. There are guys who will take you up on any invitation at any hour and come with the right words, the right kiss, the perfect excuse and you’ll believe him. You’ll believe it again and again. There are guys who can’t say no but what’s worse, they also can never say yes.

But there are also guys who want to be better.

Somewhere out there, anyway. There are guys who have grown tired of playing on the streets and at the bar, and want to trade their slacker attitude for slacks and a tie. There are guys who are tired of all the bullshit, just like you are. There are guys who have actually learned from their mistakes and from the girls they’ve wasted because they just weren’t ready. Or they couldn’t care enough to love them. Ones who want to come home to something. To someone. There are guys who are working on themselves so they can be worthy of the likes of someone as wonderful as you. There are guys who want to be bolder to meet your needs. Who want to be everything you desire. There are guys who want to be generous with words that mean something, who want to be committed to something longer than Saturday night. Something deeper than your sheets.

There are lots of guys out there. You’ve met them. You’ve slept with them. You’ve loved them. You’ve trusted them. There are after all, a lot more guys than there are men. But some guys, at least, are working on becoming men.

And trust me there are men. And it’s the men you need to meet. It’s the men you will love one day. That is, once they’re finished being guys.

Feelings Know Best

My friend A has a sense of adventure that I admire as much as I fear.

She galivants around the world — by herself — hitch hiking and talking to strangers who quickly become stories in her never-ending journal of interesting conversations that seriously, no one else has. She is truly a curly-headed wonder woman who takes risks and creates a bucket list of things she actually ends up doing.

I consider her one of my strong-willed and fiercely independent companions — someone who praises me for having the balls to walk away from something wrong for me and then telling me an obscure fact about elephants a beat later. She’s not traditional but she does believe in traditions of great families, like the crazy one she comes from, and though she doesn’t care for those vulnerable pieces that make her beautifully gushy and maternal in all the right ways, I love it about her.

But she’s afraid of feelings. Actually, she says she’s not good at them.

And I’d have to agree. She has emotions — overpowering, vivid, passionate ones — that when she articulates them can sensationally take your breath away. But it’s a rarity when she lets it all out, when she makes herself tender enough to shed a layer of her sturdy walls — the ones meant to protect her and everyone she knows. Her emotions can overwhelm her in a way that she can’t process in the second the moment happens. And then the moment turns into a memory and then she has enough time to feel the feelings without avoiding them, and then that memory becomes a new fascinating, gripping tale she tells you.

The truth is, I wish I was like A. I wish I could think before I speak. I wish I was brave to tackle uncharted territory and I wish I was bad at feelings.

Because frankly, I’m almost too good at them.

Which is why Dr. Heart made it to this blog. Or why I developed faith in him before getting to honestly know him. In this case, I let the heart lead the head and the head found reasons to steer the heart away.

I hearted too soon.

As I often do, but this time, I went with my gut and the lessons I learned a little too hard from Mr. P and I got away from a negative nelly before he got the best of me. I also learned an important lesson about my own heart after prematurely naming someone a love doctor before truly getting to know his heart and seeing if it actually matched and beat along with mine.

I didn’t let feelings really develop before calling them emotions. They were, in all actuality, just thoughts. And while those are quite powerful demons when they want to be, when heart strings and brain waves work together, something wonderful happens. When they don’t, nothing really can ever work.

Those feelings, whatever they may be, they must be given time to foster.

Regardless if you’re good or bad at feelings, it you’re afraid of them or crave them, if you express them way too often or not at all — you have to have them.

And through relationships and anything else that’s tied closely to those pesky little butterflies that direct so many of our decisions, you have to feel your way to figure out which direction is best.

You have to try to fail, you have to cry to swell, you have to hope to cope, and you have to think you know, only to find out that you, well, don’t. 

I’m not sure what’s next for me and whatever mister I muster the courage to welcome into my life, my bed, my never, ever giving up soul — but if anything, I’m not worried. I can feel my way through and figure it all out with those feelings.

Just like I always have, just like A has, even if we verbalize them differently. Even if being bad or good at feelings doesn’t really mean anything — the most important thing about those annoying, constant and sometimes fascinating flutters, is that after every disappointment or struggle or relationship that never actually became such a thing after all… You still have them. You still let yourself feel them.

You let them figure it all out. After all, good or bad, they do know best.

So Very Worth It

In a few weeks, I’ll celebrate the third anniversary with the city I love.

It’s seen me through for better and for worst. It’s pushed me out of a love I hoped would last and into days I never wanted to end. I’ve seen it transform itself and me with it’s ever-changing, ever-beautiful ways. It’s still like living in a dream, but it’s more like living in an interesting world I created. That I achieved. That against the odds, I found and made for myself. The streets don’t scare me anymore but they do entice me. I don’t feel like I’ve finished all the things I came here to do but I know I’ve done quite a lot in not a lot of time.

I flow better with the rhythm and the speed of the people and with buildings that surround and challenge me. I’ve given into wearing black, yet I still let my colorful intentions radiate. I understand and have experienced the harshness of the land and the field I’ve decided to pursue. It hasn’t always been easy, not at all, but it has always been a journey, with every step and certainly every stumble. Not matter if there was something — or someone — to break my fall or… nothing at all.

I’ve dated and fallen in love with the natives here — men I used to refer to as businessmen, but now adequately equate as investment bankers or financial traders, even though it all seems like all business (and all cold-hearted) to me. I’ve fished on all the dating sites that I can and I’ve met a few good ones among the constant crash of terrible matches. I’ve tried my hand at the bars on the east and those on the west, but I’ve settled into neighborhoods that fit me better than the rest.

I’ve learned to judge in ways I’m not proud of, but I’ve also developed opinions that I now stand firmly beside. I’ve left the island only to feel in my bones that I would never feel as much at home as I do in this strange place. I’ve missed trains and opportunities, passed by strangers who could have used my help and given too much of myself to someone who didn’t really need it. Or want it. I’ve been embarrassed of ignorance in a city so full of brilliance, and I’ve savored my Southern roots for all that they’re worth and all that they’ve made me. I’ve missed people I’ve yet to meet and hungered for days I have never lived but I’ve also finally learned to settle into the skin and the place I’m in.

I never knew for certain that I would make it here in New York, an urban jungle that determines making it anywhere else in the big old world with all it’s big old cities. I didn’t doubt my abilities or my talents or my humble, caring attitude that I still believe gets me further than anything else. It’s even more powerful than the sound of my heels clicking miles before I appear. I wondered if I would become anther listless writer, another hopeless dreamer who lost her way somewhere between New Jersey and Queens. I didn’t know if I could convince someone to give me a chance or if I could even survive on the minimal salary that I knew would come with my very first big girl job.

But I did believe I should try.

Even if failed to a disappointing demise and had to tuck my Tigar tail and catch a flight to the bittersweet Carolina, I knew I had to give it a go. Remorse I could live with, regret I could not.

It all worked out– as I imagined it possibly would. And I worked myself out in the process. It’s easy and probably sensible to argue that these changes and these growths were mainly due to my age — so much happens in the years between when you’re old enough to buy a beer and when you face the big three zero. But I have to give credit to the city that made me brave. That made me a fighter. That knocked me down and encouraged me to never stay sitting for too long.

I often wonder if I’ll stay here in this island forever– if New York is where I’ll want to raise my children, should I be lucky enough to have them. I think about the days when I’ll move in with a man into a (nicer!) apartment and when I make more money to do more things, and yes, give me more responsibility and accountability. Though I feel like so much has happened on these avenues and in those changing wintry or steamy seasons, if I’m really honest, it’s really just begun.

And the beauty of not knowing my fate with my sweet and seductive city is just like not knowing my fate with anything else: it’s a little scary. But it makes me hopeful more than it makes me anxious. If so much good has happened and I’ve been able to move past the bad to find the parts that I can learn from — surely what’s ahead of me is even better than what’s behind me. Perhaps the heartaches and headaches and growing pains are far from over — but I do think that a love, an apartment, a moment with my wonderful Manhattan are silver linings I’ll one day be able to experience.

No, moving to New York has never been completely, totally perfect. Not my life here, not the dating adventures I always blog about. But you know what? That’s what makes it so amazing. That’s what makes it — and will always make it — so very worth it.

I Don’t Really Miss You

I don’t miss you. Not really.

I think  that I miss you because I’m terrified — petrified even — of never meeting another you. Actually, I don’t honestly want to meet someone like you– I want to meet someone better. A man who can love me without doubt, someone who knows he wants to be with me and who doesn’t make excuses why it’s not the right time or he’s not in the right place. I want someone who is gloriously happy like I am, not shamefully sad and despairingly bitter. I felt pieces of your heart because I dug them out, not because they were readily available. Those pieces were terribly tender and dark.

But I imagined them rose colored.

I prayed for them to change, to let me hold them. Just for a minute. I prayed for you to love me unconditionally as I felt for you. I wanted you to love and want me — to not be able to live without me so much that it ached. So much that you ached like me. That you swallowed goblets of tears almost every single day for the past two and a half years since the day we met. Since the day I fell for you… Stupidly. Crazily. Instantly.

That’s what I miss, I think.

Not you exactly — but the me who fell for you back then. It was a me that believed people, men could really change. It was a me that had patience beyond measure, hope against any prevailing odd. It was a me who put up with more than she should to love the boy she hoped could.

Could love her. Could be the one. Could be different.

Now, I’m harder. My shell is tougher and it takes quite the effort to break through. My guard is up, along with my expectations and what I’m willing to accept and what I’m not afraid to walk away from. In some odd twist of my personal dynamic, ever since you, I’ve hungered to be single more than I’ve desired to be with someone.

Because the next someone, whoever he is, wherever he may be– has to be the final someone. After you, my heart isn’t willing to risk again. It’s not bursting and vibrant enough to take a chance on being shattered or dissolving into a darker shade of red. It’s finished being the forgiving gal at home and it’s ready to be completely swooned.

No, I don’t miss you. Not really.

I don’t miss the longing and the pain you brought to my life — though I’m sure, it was never intentional, my dear. I don’t miss staring into eyes that never could look back with sincerity. I don’t miss their hollow depths that I searched for any void to tell my otherwise. I don’t miss the back and fourth, and the desperate feeling of being disposable and not worth fighting for.  I don’t miss feeling like you were always so far away, even when you were lying naked next to me. I don’t miss feeling like I had to always be the positive one, the woman who was always ready and there to please, not the girl who needed something in return. I don’t miss the endless curiosity for change and the sunken feeling that nothing would.

Not really, anyway.

But I do miss being able to love so freely and with such naivety. I miss the me that still believed. The me who was beautiful in all the ways that only a girl fresh to the city, fresh to reveries about a man whose possibilities were actually illusions. I miss the me who used to love you. The me who held onto silly, frivolousness hope.

And now, the only hope left is that I’m able to love someone else a little more. I don’t miss you, not really. But I miss the me before you. Really, I really do.

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