This Baby Loves Her Back

My boobs were bigger when I was 10 years old than they are now.

Something happened the summer before I started middle school — my mom let me shave my legs for the first time (at our lake house in a bikini, terrified of cutting myself), acne snickered at my skin and well, every top I owned suddenly was a bit too small. And though I had always waited quite impatiently to look like a real woman, when those curves arrived sooner than expected, I wished they would go away.

Having an inappropriate body for a young girl brought all sorts of things — unwanted attention from older guys, untrue rumors at school because surely if my body looked sexual, I must also be sexual in nature. The truth was I found myself wearing a 32 D-cup and sincerely had no idea what to do with such a massive and speedy physical transition. I hadn’t “french kissed” a boy and yet I had a chest to insinuate I was ready for quite more than that.

Sixth grade was really the first year I started cursing my own body. I was too heavy on top. My stomach pooched more than the other girls in gym class. I couldn’t run as fast because my breasts were too heavy. My skin was speckled. My teeth weren’t perfect and I didn’t want braces. The other girls were prettier. They were skinnier. They didn’t have awfully huge knockers that I hated so badly I kept them only in sports bras for years until one of my friends demanded I wear a proper underwire freshman year of college.

Throughout my many growing body pains, my pants and dress size fluctuated too. Following a stressful period my sophomore year of high school, I gained close to 20 pounds and kept it on until I graduated. To compensate for my insecurity, I covered up the extra weight in loose-fitting clothing and cardigans to cover what I saw as embarrassing rolls in every place. When I went off to college, I not only had to walk — uphill, literally in snow — everywhere I went, but I discovered a newfound love for running, too. The thing that triggered my actual shedding of the baggage around my midsection and thighs wasn’t anything healthy though — it was the depression I fell into following that terribly awful thing that happened on my 18th birthday.

And then I was thrown into a dark world of strange feelings about my body.

Not only was it slowly shrinking due to quite a loss of appetite and desire for much of anything, I also felt foreign to my own limbs. And maybe more devastating to me, that power I had always felt sexually since I lost my virginity to my high school sweetheartfaded. I didn’t want to be naked and I really didn’t want to be touched — unless it was a touch of love. And love was pretty much void for most of college. I didn’t know how to get back all of that fire that got me through everything, so I took the advice of someone special and I faked it until I made it. I led one of the sections at the student newspaper, I volunteered, I became an orientation leader and I went on dates with men I knew I’d never actually care about. And inside, I felt like the ugliest person alive. Like this body I had, was damaged or broken, that it wasn’t worthy of what I once thought it was.

But after lots of counseling and even more determination to pull myself back up, I found myself interning in New York and starting to finally feel beautiful. Or maybe glamorous is the right word. My bra was not only significantly emptier but my waist and heavy heart was too, making me feel unstoppable and vibrant in a city that mostly defines itself by beauty. Or at least being surrounded by it, that is. But when you spend your time trying to be social and liberated and basking in the light of a bright new chapter, you also start drinking more. When I returned to finish my last year-and-a-half of college, I found myself staring at yet another number on the scale I didn’t like and pulling out those hefty bras I thought I could throw away.

And so this pattern continued pretty frequently over the next five years… until last summer.

Mr. Possibility was still in my life — in and out — and though he did help me get over my intense hatred of my acne (“Those are only your freckles!“), he didn’t do much for my body image. His love (and constant praise) of those 5’10-and-up skinny, long-legged gals made my shorter, curvier, womanly frame feel unworthy. Unappreciated. Not good enough for any successful man in New York. While almost every guy I’ve dated (Dr. Heart included) has adored the little extra I’ve always packed, I’ve never felt quite comfortable having them like it so much. If it jiggled or wiggled or moved at all, surely it’s not an attractive sight for a man to see.

But in the sweltering heat of the July sun, after a knock-down, drag-out fight that ultimately kicked Mr. P out of my life for mostly good with the shocking slam of a taxi cab door — I made a decision to be beautiful.

Scratch that — to feel beautiful. To embrace my beauty. To accept it. To know it’s there.

And as much as falling in love with myself is more than my mirror’s reflection, a positive, accurate body image is part of the courting, too. I got back into running after a long-delayed absence, I starting drowning myself in water, I went on Accutane to get rid of 15-year-old acne and I stopped comparing myself to every girl that I saw.

That last one was the doozy.

I had been measuring myself up against every pretty lady I passed, wondering if she had all the things I wanted because her thighs were the size I wished mine were. Or her skin had never seen a bad day. Or her teeth were aligned so symmetrically it blinded me. Instead of seeing perfection in everyone around me — and ignoring my own shine — I started reminding myself about how superbly awesome my body is.

And maybe more importantly — how incredible it will be one day.

Now, it can run 6 miles and not be out of breath. It can make it through an intense Pilates session and hit the pavement minutes later. It can endure the brutality of the city and stay in step with the fastest New Yorkers who push by. It’s hand can comfort a puppy who has a nightmare in the middle of the night. It can hold the head of a friend in need or embrace a celebratory moment. It can rock out a black mini and a red dress, and then look equally good — and damn it, curvy as hell — in tight workout pants and t-shirt an hour later. It can curl and go straight, it can go natural or pageant-faced and be just as pretty. Even if the beauty is in the fruitful flaws.

But one day — it’ll even be better. It’ll produce life. It’ll carry a baby. It’ll give birth to that baby. It’ll grow and stretch and sag and wrinkle and change and with all of that, it’ll just get more astounding. It’ll get lines and have scars that hold meaning — ones that were caused by things I survived. Or memories that were worth every bit of pain. It’ll be touched by a man worthy enough to be loved by me for the rest of his life. It’ll be held delicately because it’s precious and one of a kind.

And it’s mine.

So why not love it? Why not be madly in love with it? Big boobs, freckled cheeks, a baby-got’s-back rear end, frizzy hair in all-weather and everything in between belongs to me. And to me, all of it is beautiful.

Advertisements

Falling in Love on Fridays: The Best Decision I’ve Ever Made

This week’s Falling in Love on Fridays comes from one of my very best, dearest friends, Renee. We became friends 7 years ago while in high school and she quickly named herself (or maybe I named her?) my protege. But in the years that have passed, she’s definitely not in my shadows — she shines brightly all on her own. In fact, she’s rather radiant — both inside and out. She’s not only a talented writer, an insatiable explorer and truly a lover at heart (though she’s stubborn about it) — but she’s a courageous birth mom and incredible friend, too. She writes letters to her son Liam on her blog Letters to Little Man. Her posts almost always make me cry (that’s a lie, they always do) and the photos of her adorable tot are just… addicting. I feel lucky to call her one of my favorites and thankful she’s there to tame my SOSes (there are often a lot of them!). Her story below is about meeting and falling for her wonderful boyfriend that I’ve yet to meet, but have only heard great things about. It’s an important reminder to trust the process of love… and though you may fight it, whatever is meant to be, will surely work itself out. (Submit your own Falling in Love on Friday blog hereand read past submissions here.)

The Best Decision I’ve Ever Made
The first time he told me he loved me, I hyperventilated. That doesn’t sound romantic, but oddly enough, it ended up that way. We were only three weeks into our official, exclusive “boyfriend/girlfriend” status and it had only been one month and three days since our first date. Nobody falls that fast without suffering from the impact, and I wasn’t looking to become a casualty.

But then again, I was never “looking” for the things I ended up finding. He was a prime example of that.

The night of our first date, I almost cancelled on him. Even though I had accepted his invitation just the night before, by the morning I was already plotting excuses not to show — I don’t feel well. Something else came up. My mother made a surprise visit. He didn’t need to know that my mother only lived 20 minutes away and that I saw her every Sunday when I drove over to do my laundry.

I caved in and went anyway, though I showed up to our date fifteen minutes late. Not to be fashionable – I wasn’t that strategic when it came to dating. My only plan for the evening included being gone by 9:30 at the latest. An hour and a half and we would go our separate ways.

But I was wrong, as I almost always am when it comes to love. We were there until after 11 o’clock that night, a three hour first date. He kept offering to let me go if I had somewhere to be and I kept turning him down. It was the first time in a long time that I had said no to leaving instead of staying.

We happened quickly after that. He kept asking me on dates and I kept saying yes. He kept making promises and I kept being pleasantly surprised when he didn’t break them. We relearned a lot of things in those first few weeks. Like how nice it was to look forward to seeing someone. Like how it feels to have your heart in your stomach every time you get ready for a date. Like how to trust again.

I fell like I’d never fallen before – intensely but comfortably. We may not have been ready, but bravery took over and endorphins kicked in — we were goners before we’d even noticed, and no amount of force could have stopped the power of takeover. I lost count of how many times we told each other,

“I’m scared of how much I like you already,” because nothing that good could possibly be true. And then the “L” word dropped, like one of those nuclear bombs that leaves widespread damage years after the fact.

“I’m falling in love with you.”

Oh no. Not ready. Mind racing. Words failing. Panic building. Just…breathe. Breathe. In for five, out for five. In…and out.

Then came The Speech.

The one about what love means to me and what my last one did to me. About how I don’t take it lightly and it shouldn’t be said lightly because when you say it, you should mean it. About how he couldn’t possibly know me well enough to love me – good me, bad me, angry me, stubborn me. He hadn’t even met all of me yet.

It was one of those times where you try to talk someone out of loving you before they can do it themselves. He was the first man I’d fallen for in ages. When something like that happens, self preservation kicks in and you realize that if it’s going to end, you’d really rather it be your idea.

And yet, less than twelve hours after the speech had been spoken, it went from “I’m falling in love with you” to “I love you.” I gave him points for boldness and he gave me a look of hope and longing and meaning, as if he saw me in a way that no one else could. He was literally in a cold sweat by the time he got the words out, but he got them out. Despite all of my warnings, he said it.

But I didn’t hyperventilate that time. Instead, I said it back.

And we’ve said every day since.

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.

The Great Chase

I tend to take nearly everything my mom says to heart — but one particular tale always sticks out in my mind. I have no idea when she first used it as a learning lesson or how the topic came up, but it goes a little something like this:

Before my mom met my father (in a totally adorable way), she dated a man off-and-on for seven years. (Yes, seven!) He was several years older than her, unfaithful, self-centered and manipulative. He was emotionally abusive, always thought he was right and she was wrong, and though she knew he wasn’t the right guy, she stayed around far longer than she should have. Once she finally ended the relationship on her own terms, she came out of it with bruised confidence, no desire to really jump into another relationship and with one regret that haunts her to this day: not getting her Bachelor’s degree. At 21, when that guy gave her the choice between finishing school or being with him, she picked him. She has an associate’s in business, is a well-known astrologer in our town and is now going back to school to be an esthetician, but she often wonders what life would have been like if she had become a teacher or a psychologist. Now (though I disagree), she thinks it’s too late and too expensive to go back and try again.

And so, since I was a little girl, she’s instilled this notion in me that no man would make you choose between what you love and loving him. She made me promise that I’d finish school before even considering getting married and that I would never let a guy control the dreams I decided to chase. I’ve stumbled across old notebook-paper books bounded by string, where I depicted my future life (in crayon) and it always read, “I’ll go to school, become a journalist and then get married.” Yes, this was me a few decades ago.

I’ve been lucky that I’ve yet to meet a guy who ever asked me to choose between my career and him. Instead, they just left before they could grow attached to me. When Mr. Fire and I ran into each other at a bar in my college town before I graduated and I asked why he left, he said that he knew nothing was keeping me from New York and that he couldn’t compete with that. He continued to say that his current girlfriend lets him be the star and that I would always outshine him. Mr. Idea doesn’t like the idea (pun intended) of relationship writing and thinks all things within a union should be private (probably because of his many hangups behind closed doors), so I knew he would instantly balk at this blog. Mr. Possibility was as supportive as he could be, though I don’t trust the opinion he probably shared with everyone else but me. None of these men asked me to stop going after the career I wanted, they just didn’t get themselves involved, or if they started to become part of it, they made their getaway or pushed me to the point of letting them go.

I get it, I really do. Dating a dating blogger can be a lot of pressure, though most men think they’re worthy of a feature before doing anything that really merits inclusion. I understand that a writer’s life is often public, especially if you’re someone like me, who enjoys honesty to its fullest degree, even if that means being vulnerable and descriptive in ways that don’t always shed the brightest light on everything. And while I see the risks I take in writing this blog or pursuing a career where, ultimately, I hope women read what I write and are inspired to accept and love themselves, I would never stop doing what I love to find love. I’d like to think that the person for me is strong enough to handle an ambitious, tenacious and hard-working woman who knew what she wanted and did all that she could to get there.

I’d like to think that most men aren’t intimidated by successful women these days, but that’s far from the truth. I’d also like to think that women don’t judge other women for following a career instead of following a man, but sadly, that’s not accurate either. When I broke up with Mr. Idea, one of my good friends (who is now married), told me that since I couldn’t make it work with him, I probably wouldn’t find the right guy until at least 28 (gasp!). My grandmother (bless her heart) is proud of all that I’ve accomplished, but still asks about guys and babies every time I see her. When something doesn’t work out with a dude or a date goes sour, all of my paired-up pals always reassure, “Don’t worry, the right guy’s out there, you’ll meet him soon.”

If you read this blog, you know that I want to eventually meet someone to share my life with. I’m candid about the fact that yes, I do want to get married and yes, I do want to have children – but I’m also in no rush at all. I’d rather be single for the next 20 years than to settle for someone just because I feel like I have to get married. I knew I wasn’t alone in these thoughts, but recently, this whole thought process was played out on my news feed.

A friend of mine posted this quote from Lady Gaga, “Some women choose to follow men, and some women choose to follow their dreams. If you’re wondering which way to go, remember that your career will never wake up and tell you that it doesn’t love you anymore.” The post received comments, one which was, “but… if you go home and throw a tantrum to your man about work he’ll stay around… if you go to work and throw a tantrum about your man… bye bye career.” And then later, “I hope you haven’t given up on men yet.”

So because she posted a quote that basically said, “Go after your dreams, be who you want to be, don’t follow around a man, don’t depend on a man for happiness” – she’s suddenly given up on love? Quite the contrary, I think. The thing is – if we chase our careers, if we go after those things, whatever they may be, that bring us joy and make us feel like we’re contributing something, then ultimately, the man will be there too. And he won’t ask you to not write about love, to not go to law school, to not make more money than he does, to not be more successful, to not be the star of the relationship. He’ll only ask you to come as you are and let him do the same.

And if you don’t meet a man like that? Luckily, you’ve surrounded yourself with the things you love, built an existence that’s fulfilling and beautiful, traveled to the places you’ve wanted to see, and above all, been brave enough to never settle for less than what you want – in anything.

Especially though, in terms of yourself.

Because men leave and stay, careers grow and they change, but the one constant through it all will always be you. These things aren’t mutually exclusive of one another, as so many believe, it’s just that they don’t depend on each other to make either work. You can have a career without love, love without a career, or a love and a career, but more than anything, you have to have yourself.

And if you can be satisfied that you chased what you wanted instead of following someone else’s direction, you’ll be able to handle the ups and downs of your career and of your relationships. The Great Chase isn’t about a dude or a degree – it’s about always chasing a better you.

I Wanna Be Made

In my sorority, I was known as the girl who was going to New York, who interned at Cosmo and was forced to stand in the back of the rows at recruitment because I couldn’t (and can’t) clap on the off beat. At the college newspaper, I was the bubbly intern turned reporter turned lifestyles editor turned associate editor for content that was never taken as seriously as I wanted to be – mainly because I never projected myself seriously – a lesson I’ve come to cherish in my professional career. In my family, I was the oddball cousin who went against the norms of the rest, who went to college, achieved a degree and headed to chase a dream instead of racing down the aisle and into labor.

And in my circle of friends, from the start of college until right up until…um, now – I was the ambitious, fearless, friendly, and confident gal who could do anything. Anything that is except keep a man. Or as my best friend A’s said after a particularly rough breakup: “Why can’t you ever just make it work with someone? Where do you find these guys?”

I tried, I really did. With each of them – Mr. Fire, Mr. Rebound, Mr. Idea, Mr. Fling, Mr. Smother and the rest – to make it work. I logged overtime in baking, cleaning, sporting sexy lingerie and being readily available to pet or to sex-away worries and stress. And then I was too available. I’d attempt at playing the game I was so good at, the book that I could write now on how to attract a man (and perhaps I will write it) and how to get him to approach you. I’d lure one in, hold him captive in my mystery until the subtlety gave away to reality, and there I was exposed, naked in all forms reasonable (and unreasonable), waiting for him to accept or reject my affections. But I was always something – too good for them, not good enough. Too much to handle or far too needy. Swimingly sweet or a wannabe-New York-bitch with an agenda. I told them what they wanted to hear and then all of the things they didn’t. I was this and that, that and this, over and over again, up until I graduated from college, fled the mountaintops to rooftops, ended things with Mr. Idea, and decided New York would be different.

I could make it work in New York. I would make it work in New York. This was where I was supposed to be – the rest of those dudes, stuck in North Carolina, stuck in finance jobs they consider big money and big deals in Charlotte – they just weren’t for me. They may had walked all over me resentlessly and maybe I had let them on numerous occasions – but not anymore. I was in New York and if I could make it here, I could make it anywhere.

And so dating turned into a challenge. It became a sport I played throughout the week, developing new tricks and tactics along the way. I had a strategy, I figured out my best angle, my best feature. I found ways to cover up flaws and discovered sentences that all men like to hear, regardless if they’re Jewish, Italian, single, married, straight, flamboyant, consistently hard or hard-of-hearing. I mastered The Look, I signed up for free online dates for the weeks when I ran low on a free dinner evenings, and when it all became too much, I’d take a night off with Chinese and Merlot, watching Hulu in my panties.

But then I would start to like one of the many bachelors. I’d grow a little attached, I’d find some element of them attractive and irresistible, and then atlas, I’d have hope that I could make it work with one of them. I could be the woman they wanted me to be, I could be all of those perfect, dreamy qualities they always imagined a woman would be. If they’d let me, I’d take my sweet Southern grandmother’s advice to be a lady in the living room, a chef in the kitchen, and a well, you fill in the blank, in the bedroom. I’d find a way to keep them close to me, to make them fall in love with me and then I’d actually make it. I’d have one of those relationships that works and I wouldn’t be that girl anymore. I wouldn’t be the one of my friends who was scarily always single, yet never lacking a date.

That was all fine and dandy until the men would resist. Until they’d have excuses or let me know they only wanted to sleep with me and if I wasn’t looking for something casual, I should look elsewhere. And so I would, but I always found myself in the same situation again and again, until I had a moment of realization. I tend to have the best of these when I’m walking the streets sans iPod or when I’m in the shower, left to only the device of my rambling thoughts. And that’s where I was, curled up in an old Victorian tub that needed to be scrubbed, my arms wrapped around my legs, crying and wishing I could just make it work. Just once, I begged to some unnamed wise character of the universe. If I could just make it one time, I wouldn’t need a second chance. I’d get it right and that’d be that. I wouldn’t have to feel so disposable, so unwanted and undesirable if I could just make it work. Just once!

Looking up at the running water turning cold, it occurred to me that I wasn’t working. I was functioning, sure. I had a small pool of friends, a job in the industry I adored, a pseudo-studio in the pseudo-Upper West Side.  On paper, my jagged pieces didn’t seem so rough around the edges. I seemed like any semi-adjusted girl who was somewhat new to the city, discovering what she liked and didn’t like, and making the rest up as she goes.

But did I want to make it up? Did I want to have to make something work with someone? Did I want to wear makeup to cover up the dark circles left from late night fights, not late night romps? Did I want to have to work so diligently, so intensely, so patiently to make a relationship last through the beginning stages? Is this what love is made of? If it is – why do I want it so badly?

Or could it be that what I wanted -what I still want – is to make myself? Not go looking for myself in the beds, the eyes and the empty promises of men who are saved and then deleted from my phone? Could I not make anything work with a man because I wasn’t working? Because I wasn’t a whole person, I wasn’t made up into the woman I wanted to be, into the me I knew I was meant to become? Had I allowed love to race to the forefront of my priorities and lost myself somewhere in the laps in between?

I had. And so, without knowing what else to do, I did the one thing that brought me comfort: I wrote. I wrote and wrote, I thought and thought, I chatted with my best friends and I picked the brains of the mentors I trusted the most. And I came up with this blog, a program of freeing myself from love addiction. A gradual way to detox myself…from myself. So that I could start anew, clean and unbothered by my tireless pursuit to make something out of nothing with men who should have never meant anything.

Nine months, nine steps, a new boyfriend (yes, I said it. Let’s move on, now), a well-read blog, a new apartment, a new sense of self, a new group of friends, a few freelancing gigs, one failed attempt at learning Italian, one deceased Beta fish (RIP in Giorgio), and a few lovely trips later – here I am. Not trying to make anything work. Not praying for things to work out perfectly and ideally. Not imagining my life or my love life as detrimental or possible to be classified into classified sections of “dateable” and “non-dateable.” Not hearing A’s words ringing continuously in my head when Mr. Possibility and I have a disagreement.

Nope. I’m just making myself into me. Into the me I want to be at any point, on any given day, without any notice or prerequistices. Because the thing I’d most like to be made into is the best version of me that I can be.

My Never-Ending Story

I like my men tall, charming, and successful. I’m not picky about industry, though the majority of the dudes I’ve been involved with have been in the business sector. I’ve dated American and foreign, and a month younger than me to ten years my senior. I’ve fallen for a man in a minute, while some have had to grow on me. They have all been different in the matters that matter, but they have one distinctive common quality:

They’re all storytellers.

Some of them took this trait to the extreme – telling little white lies instead of entertaining tidbits, but most just had the art of captivating me with their tales. With inviting body language, energetic hand gestures, and wildly vivid eyes that change as the story continues – I’ve always had a knack for picking men who have factual (or at least I hope) anecdotes and want to tell me about them. The attraction I have to a storyteller may be due to my career or the fact that I try to listen more than I speak, but I think it could even be more juvenile than that. As simplistic as it may seem – I just like stories.

As a child, I became so fascinated with storybooks  and reading that I eventually started writing my own. They were bound with string and detailed the adventures of my childhood pets, Wilma and Indiana (after Indiana Jones, of course). Or about day-to-day errands, vacations, or what I learned in school. Though my life has changed since I was seven years old, I haven’t stopped cataloging what I experience or how I feel – it is the reason I have dozens of diaries and the reason this blog exists. So maybe a storyteller attracts another storyteller – even if the way they express their affairs differs.

Nevertheless, while the loves of my life have been talented in giving the whole story and always in a little-over-the-top way, I have always had trouble with one part of storytelling.

The ending.

Every writer, every speaker, every anything that delivers a message must have some sort of conclusion in mind. We all enjoy the beginning, the obstacles, the intrigue, and the passion that goes in the rising plot – but the question is always, what happened? Or how does it all come together? Does the guy get the girl? Does the girl find that man she thought she wouldn’t find? Does the lady land the job she wants? Does the man find something to bring him happiness that’s not his career? Did he cheat again? Did she forgive him? Does she die of some unknown disease? Does he get out of the tangled web of destruction? Do they live happily ever after?

No story is complete without an ending – or is it? Is there really such a thing as an ending at all?

In the next few months, my life will be changing, as I’ve observed it does in continuous three-month cycles. The start of May I will move into a new apartment – though because it is a New York market, I’ll have no idea where exactly I’ll be until a week before. Mr. Possibility will return yet again from a stint overseas and the plot we’re writing in our interesting story will continue to thicken as time and talks progress. I will travel extensively this summer with projected international trips and a homecoming to the South to attend my first of five weddings this year. And then there will eventually be an end to this blog. I’ve set a goal for a year of writing daily – which would make my last post on September 19.

Maybe with all of these transitions happening -leaving an apartment I loved, the final return of a man I adore, going on those trips I always lusted after, and knowing there will be a day without Confessions of a Love Addict – I’ve been thinking about endings. They say all good things come to a close – but I’d like to think that actually things really do last forever. And not in the sense that with each ending comes a beginning, but that anything that was ever important or significant doesn’t just leave you because it’s presence isn’t as prominent.

All of my storytellers are not acting across from me at the dinner table or sharing my bed as they once did – but I remember their stories. I remember their faces and they way they could make me laugh in all the right places. I remember what it felt like to fall in love with each of them and how it felt to fall out. And those apartments I’ve had over the years – from King Street in North Carolina to Manhattan Avenue in NYC – I remember the addresses. The keys have changed, the people who visited me have too, but there are certain things that never do.

And those are the stories.

Maybe that’s why I find myself as a modern-day historian – as all journalists are – documenting the world and my world as I see it and experience it. Remembering what was is the reason I’m where I am today, and why I’ll make it where I’m going tomorrow. The characters and the analogies adapt to our settings and the verbs that keep us going, but our stories remain. Chronicled in the back of our hearts where we keep the most intimate details, on the URLs of WordPress, or packed in cardboard boxes in our childhood homes – whatever we’ve experienced isn’t just deleted from our histories. It doesn’t end because those stories make us us. They give us the background for our foundations and the flashbacks we constantly entertain and learn from.

So why did I worry about happy endings with each of my storytellers? Why did I think I would have an ending at all? My story, much like the stories of every woman, every man who has ever been, isn’t based on the final sentence on the final page of the countless novels that make up my journey. It’s not about the moment when everything is concluded and decided, or when my future husband and I tell our story of how we met or got married or had children. Or when I achieved the corner office or the byline that I sought after. Or how the pieces finally came together and that was that.

Because my story is ever evolving, ever-changing, and never-ending. And it certainly isn’t concerned with such an ending, when it is only just beginning.

Finding (and Un-Defining) a Faith for Me

Coming from a ruthless, unforgiving Southern Baptist background in the heart of the infamous Bible belt – once my mom was old enough to leave the church, she went as fast as she could in her early 80’s up-do and pumps.

Wanting to find a religion that would not only suit the words she read, but the spirituality she craved, she tried all sorts of different options as a 20-something. She dipped her toes into all of the waters her past congregation would have found unholy, and submerged herself into learning what she could about what other people believe and why it means so much to them. By the time she met my father, she was active at the Unity Center of Christianity – where they would eventually marry – and a few years later, when I made my grand entrance into the world, she wanted to place some structure on my faith. And so, like she always had before, she prayed for a sign from God about where to go to find that open-minded, yet not too liberal, mindset she craved.

As the heavens always seem to do, they delivered an unspoken guidance to my family.

And so, I was raised in a tiny-church-that-could on the winding back roads of Western North Carolina. My mother swears the first time we went to look at what would be our home, she drove past this hidden chapel and her bones told her this was the place to give her blue-eyed little girl a proper upbringing. Or as proper as one can get with my low-key parents, anyways.

This Methodist church taught me the basic fundamentals of good and bad, guided me through adolescence, and hosted my piano recitals during my childhood. It was there that I met my very first best friend, became a Girl Scout, learned how to make (and appropriately destroy) sloppy Joe sandwiches, and how to jump rope. The backyard of this church, along with the basketball ring I never grew tall enough to touch, is as familiar to me as the address I still write on my tax returns.

Once I passed my driver’s test, my mom stopped forcing me to attend church. She encouraged me to seek out my own beliefs, figure out who (or what) I wanted to worship, and what morality I wanted to base my life upon. Trusting I was mature enough to handle the exposure of diverse religions and ideologies, she suggested a few different places to give a shot. She even offered me gas money.

And so I started on a pilgrimage to find an undefined faith that fit me.

I attended a Catholic mass, where I learned the art of rising and standing (over and over) and how to respectfully decline communion because I was not confirmed. I tried out a Pentecostal church, where though they seemed incredibly passionate about their faith, I found myself a little frightened by the use of a language I couldn’t understand (and wasn’t convinced they could as well). I visited a Synagogue, where while beliefs are slightly different, they have a certain majesty to the depth of commitment and tradition that other fundamentals do not have (or at least express). I took a shot at meditation in my mother’s meditation room and my youthful, easily-distracted nature kept me from falling into any realm of anything. Unless Ancy Land counts, that is.

Now quite some years later, I find myself unsure about religion. I’m not Catholic. I’m not setting snakes free, unafraid of their poison. I did not convert to Judaism. I have yet to figure out how to meditate, even at the yogi-endorsed locations of the Lower East Side. I am still, technically, a member of the Methodist community- but I do not go to church regularly. Sometimes I feel like I should and I love hearing the bells on my walk to the gym Sunday mornings. At some point, I will attend one of those Gospel services around my Harlem neighborhood  -the fire eluding from them is simply intoxicating, not to mention they gave me free cake last summer.

To be honest, I’m not sure what I consider myself. I hear people toss around words like “spiritual” and “religious” over cocktails and o’dourves constantly, without giving it a second thought. Maybe a byproduct of my mother’s curiosity, but I’ve read countless books and asked people the ideas behind their belief systems and as adults who are not forced into stockings, socks-with-bows, and Sunday-best dresses, how we decide about a being above.

This blog is not about religion. But it is about love. I’m not a theologian, I’m not ordained by any church, or accredited by a university – but if there is one central theme I discovered in my quest to find my own ideology, it is love. The name of their savior or where or how its followers practice their rituals shouldn’t be a question, but rather if they are leading a life that’s based on a belief of an unconditional love. If they have a dedication, an honor, a profound respect, and continuous committment to a love they trust will never turn its back on them. That even when relationships fail, wars are declared -in our homes or around the world, when jobs are lost, when money is tight, when disasters strike that we can’t understand, we can trust in a higher power to be present.

When no one else will listen, when no one else is around, when no one else proves dependable, when no other sentence can ease our troubled mind – something we can’t see, but we can somehow hear and feel, appears.

I do believe in God. But I’m probably not the best devotee and I certainty don’t visit his blog everyday. I feel awkward praying and usually end up writing instead of speaking. I’ve always been more loyal before a test, when I’m scared, or when I anticipate the departure of someone or something I’d like to stay. But on days like today, where I commence in the rules of Lent, regardless of the lack of my Catholic-ness, I can’t help but feel a sense of connectivity. In an odd way I’ll explain at a later date, I think he/she (not sure which gender I’d like to assign to God, if any at all) has a gentle way of guiding my life -through things I stumble upon, from pennies that seem to fall from the blue abyss, and by giving me who I need, when I need them. I’ve felt alone, I’ve been depressed, I’ve wanted to find a man to give me love – but I’ve never felt abandoned  by a power beyond myself.

I’m not sure it is a relationship I can define or one where I give more than I take, yet it soothes me when other efforts do not. I believe that something, more dynamic than a human, and in a place away from this planet, has my best interest at heart. And while I don’t always get those things or those people who I want, I am challenged with accepting the simplicity of my needs that always find themselves met. And the strength I derive from a silent plea or praise in the middle of a busy New York train that lets me know I’m heading in the right direction, and I’m safe.

My sacrifices for Lent – no more Diet Pepsi and cutting back on the makeup – have the intention of making me a better, healthier person in the spirit of Christian traditions. And while I can never be guaranteed the way I lead my life, the decisions I make, or the company I keep will grant me a happy afterlife or an upgrade in my second life – I’m at least going to do this act of love. Not only in the honor of the holy-whomever, but in the name of the better me it is helping me to become.

PS: Jennifer from Cincinnati, OH completed Love Addict’s survey and won a fabulous glass from Lolita and perfume set fromPacifica. Love Addict will be doing another giveaway soon, so make sure to take the survey for your chance to win! Congrats Jen and thanks for reading!