The Non-Negotiables

I make incredible demands on myself.

Some may call me a perfectionist, others may coin the term “over-achiever”, and I can’t even begin to count the amount of times someone has told me they envy my bravery. But to me, none of these titles really fit who I am because I’ve never thought twice about pushing myself to the extreme or shooting for my dreams – no matter how unattainable they may seem. To me, the most terrifying risk is not giving the things that matter the most, my everything. I’d rather fail a thousand times than to never try once. My expectations are undeniably high for what I hope to achieve and where I want to go in life.

And the same level of elevated standards applies in my relationships, too.

In the past, as I would go on and on to my friends about a date gone awry, a relationship that fizzled quicker than it boiled, and how for whatever reason, it was impossible for me to find someone who wanted to stay on the same page as me – most of them, either out of frustration, wisdom, or from what they thought was the right thing to say, advised: “Well maybe you shouldn’t expect so much.”

Is going into a dating situation or even the start of an official relationship without any expectations the best solution? They say if we don’t really anticipate much, we’ll be happy and pleasantly surprised with anything we get…right?

Well, I don’t know about you – but I can’t seem to wrap my head around this idea. If we don’t have standards, if we don’t insist upon certain qualities or things that are absolutely non-negotiable, wouldn’t we only attract men who are completely wrong for us? Or even worse, end up with someone who isn’t right for us, but could be perfect for someone else? Or vice versa? Wouldn’t we miss out on someone who we don’t feel the need to change?

I believe there is this thin line between having unrealistic images and hopes for what a relationship or person will be, and demanding what you will and will not settle for. That regardless of how wonderful someone looks on paper or in person, if they don’t meet what we know we need to be fulfilled and happy, then entertaining a love affair is wasteful of our energy, heart, and time. Sure, men are people too, but so are we – and we have personal standards that we shouldn’t (and probably can’t) shake.

So yes, I have expectations, and no, I’m not willing to lower them just to be deemed someone’s girlfriend, have someone give me a Valentine’s Day card, or find my match that I’ve always been told I can’t live without. (Though, I’m pretty positive I can).

My ten non-negotiables are actually quite simple, in my opinion, anyways:

Ya gotta be employed

And legally, for the record. You could be a millionaire or make what I make, as long as you have a job and you’re not sleeping on your mother’s couch or in your childhood bedroom. If I’m going to be an adult, I want to date one, too.

Ya gotta be taller than me

I’ve only dated guys over six-foot, but I’m not opposed to seeing if a 5’10 man would fit my fancy. The only thing is I love high heels and always will; so if I can’t wear my highest ones and be at least a little shorter than you, I’m not interested. May be superficial, but absolutely true.

Ya gotta be self-sufficient

As in, it is not my responsibility to transform you. That’s up to you, bud. I don’t want to fix you, I don’t want to mend your every worry, your every self-defeating prophecy, or your every case of blue balls. I also don’t want to control every conversation or lead you through discussions – you should have opinions and charisma inside of you already, that are not because of me. Life is full of bumps and I’ll sit in the passenger seat, but you’re in the driver’s.

Ya gotta want to have sex (and it has to work)

Think all men are sex-crazed maniacs? They really aren’t, and I’ve dealt with the ones who never want to do the deed, who can’t seem to make it rise to the occasion, and who just don’t have a clue what they’re doing. At our age, we should know better. And if we don’t, we should make an effort to learn.

Ya gotta be honest

Being charming and funny are also recommended, but above all other things – you have to be genuine. A big part of my job is searching and revealing the truth, so I value it. Even if it hurts me, even if it isn’t pretty, even if it changes my mind about you – just tell me. I’d rather know than to be fooled or oblivious. And you should remember the one person you should never get on the bad side of…is a journalist.

Ya gotta have your own world

I’m not one of those ladies who wants to be the center of her man’s universe. Sure, I like to be doted on, admired, and reminded that I’m beautiful (who doesn’t?) – but I’m also very independent. Even when I’m married, I’m going to need some nights with the girls and nights just by myself. You gotta have buddies and interests and hobbies that have nothing to do with me, please.

Ya gotta have energy

I’m a fast walker, a fast talker, and always a gal on the go. While I enjoy a lazy  Sunday afternoon and will gladly sit through sports with you (as long as you’ll return the favor by going to a show), I mostly want to be doing something. And whoever I’m with, should challenge me mentally along the way. So if you’re going to date me, you’re going to have to keep up with me – this may mean you’ll need to have Red Bull within reach.

Ya gotta let yourself go

I don’t think I’m God’s gift to men – and I know you’re not God’s gift to women. But, we could be sent from the heavens to meet one another. So please, don’t take yourself too seriously. You don’t have to be the best dancer and you don’t have to sing on key – but if you can’t have fun in our living room or at a concert – I’m not going to crave having fun in other parts of the house.

Ya gotta be open-minded

Yes, I want you to have your own opinions, but I also hope you are tolerant of those things you don’t believe in, don’t like, and of those who are different from you. Brownie points if you’re addicted to community service and volunteering as much as I am.

Ya gotta like NYC, the kiddies, and the puppies

Sure – I’m not at the point where I’m ready for children, but I can’t be with someone who doesn’t want them…ever. Also, I can’t rationalize picking a mate who hates the city I adore. As for the puppies – who doesn’t love them? I mean really?

Maybe I’m being too stubborn and overly ruthless – though those qualities have served me well in my career – but when it comes to finding love, I choose to believe that I’m worthy of the best. And when or if I meet Mr. Right, he’ll know that he has someone who is more than precious – but irreplaceable, because I hold myself, him, and our love to great expectations.

And that will never be open to negotiation.

PS: I’m curious to what your non-negotiable list. Comment below or email me and I’ll tweet them!

Flirting With Fire

Growing up as a fireman’s daughter, I was taught to steer clear of many things. Open flames, matches, fireplaces, ovens, and campfires, along with anything flammable. My father warned that fire, when it runs wild and uncontrollably, can destroy all in its tailwind.

And in those worse case scenarios, where flames engulf people – it could leave their skin, their touch, their feelings…numb.

As a child, the reality that if I played with fire and couldn’t stop it from growing, then I’d run the risk of not being able to feel my fingers was terrifying. Or maybe my toes, if they got too close to our woodstove. Or my elbow, if I accidentally dipped it in boiling water. Though I was (and still am, really) fascinated with the beauty of orange embers circling the air, I was very cautious and careful with how closely I teased their enticing flames.

But then, as all children do, I grew up.

And instead of literal blazes, the fire that I not only flirted with, but ignited and kept alive, was more in the form of men. These men, who at times lit up my life, and then also extinguished my hopes – were a lot more difficult to resist than the fires I was attracted to a decade before.

Maybe I should have known better and listened to my father, but I ended up proving him right. Sometimes, when you get too close to dangerous warmth and it burns you, a part of your heart and a fragment of your soul, feels like it dies. There have been moments, weeks, months, and even years, if I’m honest – where I was convinced the connection I had with one man, would never be sparked again in another. That because I was burned, I had these scars, these wounds I was still licking – and my heart wasn’t capable of allowing someone else in. Or my body wasn’t ready to make magic with another guy, until the ashes from the previous one were lost in the breeze.

But to have that passion and the velocity that can only come from intensity, is it worth flirting with fire? Is it worth risking the numbness we have all felt and we all fear? Is there a reason they don’t offer “grown-up” fire safety classes?

My newest co-worker, H, is what most people would identify as firery. She is brazen, bold, and when she walks into the office, she makes it known. She sits behind me and throughout the day, I hear her sales calls where she makes jokes with clients, and I’m constantly giggling at her energy. She has a way of lighting up the room – even on a Monday, and that’s saying a lot.

Last week, this firecracker pranced in and declared that she was jealous. One of her male friends had introduced her to his new girlfriend at a benefit they were attending, and at the point where she was to reach for his gal’s hand, she found herself dumbstruck and for a reason she’s yet to determine, she felt the green envy monster creeping its way out. Now, maybe this means she has feelings for her friend that she didn’t notice previously or she wasn’t prepared to know he was taken, regardless; experiencing jealousy wasn’t a bad thing for her – but a good thing.

With excited expressions and gestures, she said “I haven’t felt jealous in such a long time! I had forgotten what it felt like to feel like this…and it feels so good to feel something.”

At first, I was a little confused by the statement – as every dating book and article in any magazine I’ve read advises us to steer clear from envy, but then I thought about it. And I realized that after being numb or closed off from relationships or hiding from the opportunity for something more, there comes a point where we realize, we can feel again. Often times, when we’re not even trying or looking for it.

While physical flames that run rampant and uncontainable through forests and tend to piss Smoky the Bear off are irreversible, the fires we build with men we love can be destructive, but not permanent.

Sometimes, all it takes is a second, a glance, an encounter, or a simple brush against your hand – for you to recognize those third-degree burns, maybe weren’t so third-degree after all. That maybe, the band-aid can be taken off and you don’t need to run yourself under cold water, trying to put out the burning around your heart. Because perhaps, without realizing, you’ve healed yourself.

A large part of this journey and why I decided to embark on it in the first place was that I knew I needed to let go. Since I started dating at 15, there were (and admittedly still are), lesions from lost-love that I couldn’t let mend. Places in my heart and in my attitude that were scorched from the many men who I thought would love me endlessly, and merely turned out to be just another chapter in the book I don’t know the ending of.  And the saddest part about it was that I wasn’t even interested in repairing the burns. Somehow, my battle wounds gave me comfort as much as they gave me pain. In some respect, using the excuse that “I’m just numb” to any relationship, to any possible love, protected me from taking a chance. And if I did happen to go out on that limb and it broke, I could simply claim, “Well, this is just what happens to me. I find the fire, but it always gets put out.

Well – not anymore.

Because now, I know I can feel. And I know I can be burned. But more importantly – I know I can survive. Just because passion can grow and then wither away in an instant, it doesn’t mean it isn’t worth feeling it in the first place. Nor, can anyone, regardless of the burn degree or how widely the fire spreads – be forever numb from the flames.

No matter how hard we try or fast we run or how careful we are above our stoves or while making s’mores – the fire will always catch up to us. And if we’re lucky, we know that maybe fire isn’t such a bad thing but more so, a friend. Perhaps if we allow it to glow, first inside of us, giving us the courage to blaze new trails alone – one day, the love we’ll find – in ourselves or with a man, could be powerful enough that we stop being afraid of the flames. And maybe flirt with them, just one more time.

P.S. If you’ve linked to Confessions of a Love Addict, let Lindsay know for the “Support” page. Email her.

Ciao Bella 2011!

I’m a big fan of making lists – for my groceries, for things I have to do, for things I’d like to do, for people I need to call, for blogs I need to write, emails I must return, ideas to pitch at work, qualities in a man I’d like to find…and the list goes on and on (pun rightfully intended).

Every year before this one, including 2010, I have made a quite lengthy list of resolutions that I wanted to fulfill before December 31. More often times than not, I almost always complete this list, like a good schoolgirl, checking everything off in red pen.

But lately, as I’ve been attempting to decide what I should seek in 2011 – I’ve found myself drawing one huge giant blank. Sure, I could probably stand to lose five pounds (but then, would I have boobs?), I could save more money (but, then would I have such a saucy collection of heels?), I could write more (but I write everyday), I could vow to drink less (but I live in New York),I could decide once-and-for-all that this will be the year I find love (but, that’s out of my hands), and I could have a more optimstic viewpoint (but, I’m happy as I am).

And then, it occurred to me – really what I’m doing with this journey, with this blog, is one multi-step resolution in itself that is simply to be the person I want to be. To be someone who is self-sufficient, obsessive-free, and confident in herself…regardless of a man. For so long, I’ve let all of the guys- from Mr. Fire and Mr. Fling to Mr. Idea, Mr. Unavailable, and Mr. Disappear, control not only my perception of love and its infinite confusions, but also my opinion of myself. I’ve allowed their choices, that ultimately do not have anything to do with me, let me feel like I wasn’t good enough to be picked as their partner. Or that some woman was always better than me or had something I simply could not offer. And for whatever reason, I wasn’t “good at relationships” – when in reality, relationships aren’t something to place on your resume. I’ve placed “meeting The One” on my life’s checklist, when I know in my heart, it should not be a box to check – and even worse, I’ve punished myself for each and every single thing that’s gone wrong in a relationship, allowing the men to have countless “get out of blame” free cards.

And so while it wasn’t the start of a New Year when I started this journey in September, it was then that I made a resolution to release their grasp, and the power of negative thinking, and let myself walk confidently in the direction of a healthy relationship – with myself. Past be damned, I’d rather have today, and the all of the hope for a tomorrow I can’t even imagine.

So for 2011, I’m moving on to Step 5I have admitted to a higher power, to myself, and to another human being the exact nature of my wrongs. Not exactly sure how I’ll go about this one -but as I always do, I figure it out somewhere along the way, have no doubt.

And in addition to moving forward with this path that I’m so enjoying taking as a single woman, I’m also doing something that’s simply for me, without a goal in mind. Or at least one that’s intimidating. I’ve spent the majority of my life saving up for my move to New York and because of that, I haven’t been able to travel as often as I’d like. And of all the places I’ve always wanted to go, Italy tops the list (sorry Irish heritage, but I’ll get there).

Something about the elegant and sexy way they talk, how they drink gallons of wine like it isn’t a big deal, how food and company are meant to be enjoyed for hours beyond end, and there is an endless amount of pasta, pizza, and bread – not to mention the country is shaped like a shoe – makes me long for an extended visit.

For my 25th birthday, I will go to Italy for a month, alone (or perhaps with another single gal pal or two) – and see all that there is to see: Rome, Sicily, Florence, Venice, and Capri. And step one to catching the flight to Italy is learning the language, just as I’ve always wanted to do, so I signed up for classes at Scuola Italiana in the lovely Greenwich Village.

I don’t know much Italian yet, though I think I’ll be able to learn pretty easily (if not, Rosetta Stone it is!) – but I do know “Ciao Bella!” and that will be my mantra for the year: always greeting myself and others with beauty and excitement, no matter what bumps in the road, or men, who may get in the way.

And because Italians are simple with their greetings – keeping “hello” and “goodbye” the same – I may be forced to say “Ciao Bello!” to the men who just don’t measure up to what I need.

Ciao bella amantes fino a domani! (Goodbye beautiful lovers – until tomorrow)

New York, How Do I Love Thee?

As I sit in the Charlotte airport, waiting for my flight back to my city-sweet-city, I find myself recalling the year that’s passed. Of every year I’ve had, 2010 was my very best one.

When years come to a close, the natural thing for anyone to do is to think about what happened, what they can learn from it, and determine what they should work towards in the months to come. I could go through a long list of all of the amazing dreams of mine that came true this year, how I survived a very difficult breakup with Mr. Idea, or how I got myself in shape and started a blog that somehow has made it across the web. Even more easily, I could share the insight I’ve gained from the several ups and downs, the men of Manhattan I’ve started to date, and the growing pains that come with finally being 110 percent on your own.

But if I really think about what 2010 has meant to me, why this year is so paramount in comparsion to any year previous, it is because I finally settled in, drew up roots, signed papers, and secured a zip code in the place that I know was meant for me. This year was everything grand and difficult because it was the year of New York.

Now, being the best year yet doesn’t mean it was all smooth sailing, easy riding, and without frustration or worry (for it was far from any of those things) – but rather, it was the first year that instead of letting something or someone decide or steer my life – I defined myself. I stopped waiting for fate to take its course, for the stars to align in perfect order, for a man to come and rescue me from the “Curse of Singleness”, for everything to be symmetrical and ideal…and I just started living.

And without any doubts of being left (or being forced to leave), without worrying about being vulnerable or destroyed, without feeling the need to protect my heart – I fell in love with this city. With this place, that is now my home.

Being away from New York for a week longer than I anticipated made me realize, more than ever, how much it means to me and how when I’m gone, a piece of me feels like it is missing as well. Today and in times of war in our history, those in love were separated by oceans, worrying about their partner’s safety, and praying to just lay eyes on them again. The men fought in battles that risked their lives, the women held onto prayers and hopes while keeping the home (and workforce)  in tact, and to keep their flame alive, they wrote letters ensuring their love and declaring their longing.

So New York, while I was in North Carolina, waiting for the storm to pass, and there you were fighting the blizzard that sneaked up on you, please know that my unyielding love for you was still strong, and sincerely, I counted the minutes until we would meet again. In thanksgiving for 2010 and all of the city-inspired blessings it gave me, let me write a letter to you, Mr. Big Apple, the first real love of my life.

Dearest New York City,

Our love story, like many, began many years ago. When I first saw your gleaming lights, heard your boisterous sounds in my pink jacket and awful haircut, I felt like I had found someone I would love. While it was the time of Disney Princesses, tennis and piano lessons, and I still wasn’t convinced boys didn’t have cooties – something about you, in all of your congestion and creativity, made me believe that maybe there was something more out there for me.

We were not serious when I left at first, but when I showed up on your doorstep the second time, for the interviews at magazines I had always dreamed of working for – I think we both knew there was something magical developing. You welcomed me back into your life, showed me just a few of the perks that would be at my disposal if I decided to stick by your side, and then with graciousness and kindness from the Publishing Gods, I was able to spend a glorious three months falling in love with you. Guarded by the security of my university’s loft, I sorted through beauty products at Cosmopolitan, pitched ideas to the many editors I admire, and felt my drive for writing grow. But through it all, the single thing that made even the worse days bearable, where I missed the simplicity of my Southern upbringing, was the look of you. I could grab my subway card, go through the front doors, and there you were, waiting to greet me with wide eyes and you renewed my spirits – no matter how low they were.

And then, with studies left to study, I had to leave you again. You were understanding and forgiving, and ensured me that before long I would be back. I promised you I would return to your glittering pavements and endless opportunities, no matter what it took, what bridge I had to cross, who I had to leave, or what price I had to pay. We both knew that destiny brought us together and that nothing could stand in our way. As I flew home that faithful August day, I let the tears stream down the cheek and said a little prayer that nothing would change in my heart or in your willingness to take me back between then and when I would return.

Sometimes, my dear, when the gods of time decide to be in your favor, prayers are answered as easily as they are pleaded. At college graduation, I wrote on my cap “New York, Here I Come”, and three months later – I did.

With three suitcases, savings I had resting in my bank account since I was 15, and all of the ambition in the world, I touched down on your streets and took off. You encouraged me to keep going when I thought I would never get off my friend’s couch and you led me around your beauty with hidden pennies of fortune and chances of success that I never imagined. You showed me new parts of yourself that I wasn’t aware of, and as I always seem to do, I fell in love with you even more.

Out of nowhere, the cards gave me a great hand and I moved into your place, well our place, on the Upper West Side. It is a starter apartment and maybe old and miniature – but I have no doubt you will do your best to give me everything I ever wanted. And my job, while not perfect and ideal, is extremely good to me and a wonderful place to begin my career. You believe in me, New York, and because of that faith, I believe in me, too. It is only up on the ladder from here, and I know you’ll be there with me through it all.

Thank you for forgiving me when I cursed your name and doubted your brilliance. Thank you for reminding me of how beautiful I am and how lucky I’ve been my entire life, just to know you. Thank you for warming me with incomparable inspiration – just by being you. Just by being the shimmering, unpredictable, faithful, and dependable city I’ve grown quite accustomed to. Thank you for taking me back when I left you and for knowing I’d always return, even when I was scared I never would. Thank you for allowing me to shine and stepping out of my way, even giving me the freedom to stomp all over you in the process. Thank you for an endless amount of dinners, shows, walks in the park, and peaceful evenings. Thank you for making me want to be a better person, a better writer, a better woman, and a better almost-New Yorker. Thank you for becoming as much a part of me as my high heel shoes, my skinny jeans, this blog, and my signature Mac lipstick.

There may be many things I’m unsure of, but one thing I know will never change, no matter what crazy journey this life takes me on, is that I love you, New York City. And I always, always will.

Can’t wait to see what’s ahead for us in 2011.

With love,

Linds


Toxic Emotions

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, except for the young woman home from NYC, hugging a toilet, and trying to figure out if she had bad tacos or caught a stomach virus.

Merry Christmas to me!

I’m a terrible sick person because no matter how independent, how successful, how self-sufficient, when I’m sick- I turn into a big, pathetic, baby. Growing up, when I would throw up or find myself feeling absolutely awful – I wanted my yellow blanket, orange juice brought to me, lots of sleep and cuddling, and to get the sickness over with as soon as possible. I can remember crying as I laid on the floor, praying that there was nothing left for me to heave up, and for me to feel a little less rumble so I could just sleep.

Now, as I lay in bed, water and trashcan by my side, trying to write as coherently as possible in between trips to the bathroom, I notice that for the first time, I don’t want any help. My parents have asked repeatably if they can bring me anything, if they can hold my hair, if they can get medicine for me, or if they can lay with me until I fall asleep. And to each response, I’ve thanked them and begged them to just leave me alone.

Sometimes, when you feel the need to let all of your messiness, all of your imperfections, all of your fears, all of everything in your tummy – the last thing you want is the company or audience of another person. When working through and processing all of our personal toxins – the best place to be is alone.

A huge portion of this journey to self-love has been learning to fall in love with who I am – even when I’m not on my A-game. When I take two steps back instead of one forward. When I allow my insecurities to rule my alluring characteristics. When I blame myself for things that are beyond my control and entirely not my fault. When what I bring to the table isn’t as substantial as what I hoped.

And weeding through the field of self-defeating and destructive mentalities has proven to be a job for no one else but myself. Often times, when we’re entering into new relationships, when we’re dating the trenches of men who come and go effortlessly – we are ignoring all of the muck we need to deal with before bringing someone into the mix.

While it is nice to have someone to pat our backs, tell us we’re wonderful and all is well, and hold us tight until we feel better – unless we sincerely release all that is brewing inside of us – we’ll never make progress in self-love or in romantic love. Because no matter how hard we try to prevent it or hope it won’t come – eventually, those toxins will take over and demand to leave. And more times than not – they will be spewing all over someone who didn’t create them in the first place.

Maybe it is growing up or developing coping skills, or this journey that continuously surprises me –  but even though I can barely keep my head above the covers to type these words, my stomach is as empty as it has been in a long time, and I can’t seem to get warm – I’m glad I don’t have someone here to trying to soothe me. And not because I’m vain or afraid of looking vulnerable – but rather, when dealing with sickness (in whatever form) independently, there comes a sense of power.

A certain strength that makes me realize I can handle most anything that comes my way, that my imperfections are my own and merely needed to be accepted by me, and that if there was a reason for it to come up, I should deal with it in a way that makes me healthier.

And most importantly, it gives me the peace of mind that almost all difficulties and bad chemicals are only temporary – that once all is gone, accepted, and I’m able to stand again, the feelings or the pain that got me so down or made me hug a toilet – were just meant to teach me something.

To help me let go of the icky, so I can find the promising. And for now, the thing that sounds the most beautiful is taking a nice long sleep with prayers that all is gone, and Christmas will be stomach-bug/food-poisoning free.