How Sweet It Is

After my company put on an event giving entrepreneurs opportunities to grow global, J and I headed to a wine store two blocks over to find some international Merlot-inspired strategies of our own.

As we listened to the sommelier, in his terribly cliché French accent, black-rimmed glasses, and v-neck cardigan explain to us the history of vineyards in lands we’ve never heard of, J and I shared a knowing smile that though we may never be well-versed in the language of vino, we can at the very least, pretend. Once we decided on a 2006 edition of something “surprisingly infused with cherry and lime in an exquisite fashion“, we stood waiting at gift wrap. Easily distracted by decorations, a smile curved its way across J’s chiseled chin and he said, “Give your sweetie a treatie!” and nodded toward a leftover Valentine’s Day sign.

Still dressed in my pencil skirt and white-billowing blouse, I tousled my hair seductively and sarcastically and asked, “What treat will you be buying me then, J?” Unable to hide the half-British, half-New York accent he pulls off so well, he quickly responded, “You’re not my sweetie, darling.”

Without missing a beat, I rose to my tiptoes (even in my four-inch Carlos), and beamed: “I’m not anyone’s sweetie!” Confused, J raised an eyebrow at me, shook his head probably thinking “silly American” and looked back to his iPhone. As he fervently put the touch-screen to the test, I glanced back at the sign and stole away a smile, just for me. And I remembered.

In college, when I felt stranded by the mountains that encircled the campus and the snow would fall taller than the top of my highest boots -I would lay on my couch, afghan carelessly laying across me and just stare out the window. I would imagine the two arms I wanted – I needed – so badly to keep me warm. To make me feel like I wasn’t alone. To wrap their body so tightly around me that I would never doubt that love, no matter how difficult or seemingly unattainable, was possible for someone like me. Someone who had yet to feel successful in any relationship or love she’d found thus far.

That longing, that thirst – carried its way to New York when I first moved – especially since my mother’s prophecy that I’d meet the man I’d marry the second I took my first step at JFK. While my career aspirations had gone as planned, the romantic component of my city fairytale didn’t resemble Cinderella in any way. Well, except maybe for the shoes.

For the longest time, regardless of where I was, who I was or was not with, or what was changing or remaining stagnant in my life – I hungered for a man. For a magical person who would take away that sting, that fear, that something that brought me so much trouble, so much physically emotional emptiness. For someone to be more than something – but everything to me. If they could take away any insecurity about my future – romantically inclined and all else – then I need not worry about it. If I had them, didn’t I have everything I would ever need?

But now, instead of looking for a sweetie to give me treatie – I’d rather have a sweetie who is my treatie. Not the my full source of healthiness or my daily dose that keeps me going or the main ingredient of my internal caloric intake – but just a special something I treat myself to. The icing on the cake, but not the concoction it took to make the dough rise. One of the sweeter parts of my afternoon, but not the thing that’ll make or break my day, my diet, or my spirit.

Isn’t that how a relationship should be, anyways? Isn’t that why we all see love as this incredibly desirable and often indescribable feeling (or choice, depending on what you believe) that brings this added glow, sweetness to our lives? Wouldn’t that passion, that certain comfort, that something incredibly beautiful, be best as something we look forward to? Instead of something that we’ve gotta have to survive?

Doesn’t a treat taste the best when we save it for something special? Or should I say someone special? And while that added spice or sugary-goodness that may or may not be good for us will be an added pleasure in our life – we have to also know the sweetest love of all is the one we’ve already found by mixing the right ingredients together to make us the irresistible women we are.

All of this time, all of those countless cold nights I spent wrapped up in an idea of what a leading man would be. All of those tears wasted on those who never deserved my attention in the first place. All of the worries about a love I was terrified I’d never find. All of those strolls through the city that never lets me down and all of the pages of any and every diary I’ve ever owned, going on-and-on about this singular thing, singular stranger, who would take away that appetite for what I thought was the miracle nourishment to make my every ache and pain a distant memory. All of this time wishing I was someone’s honey, someone’s escape as much as they were mine. All of this time I have been forgetting the simplest thing of all that never fails to hit the right spot at the right time. Even in the middle of an overpriced wine store in Chelsea:

How sweet it is to be loved…by me.

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It Just Wasn’t There: Mr. Millionaire

When I moved to New York on a rainy March afternoon, my flight was delayed by two hours, I got a run in my panty hose, and I arrived with nothing to my name, except bags and a friend’s couch on loan. Even once I moved uptown to my humbly priced and furnished apartment and accepted my job – my life in the city of dreamers was far from dreamy.

I’ve never, even in my worse of days, regretted moving to Manhattan, but for the first three or four months, I was lonely, broke, and living off visions of what I hoped my New York life would be like one day. And so, when I spent an entire week without having a drink, meeting anyone new, or chatting with a girlfriend – I gave in and joined an online dating site. OkCupid, to be exact.

I’m still not sure what I think about digital dating and it is something I’ll explore at a later date in this blog, but at the time, I honestly used it as a way to meet people. If the only thing I had to do on the weekends was to go out with BlueEyes28, then at least I was doing something other than renting Blockbuster Express movies. I wasn’t very open on my profile, I didn’t post many photos, and because I wasn’t technically “looking for love” (was a tad creeped out by the idea of cyber romance, to be frank) – I didn’t want the dudes to know that.

Come to find out, sometimes there are worse things than having no friends: awful dates with strange men. One dude who claimed he was 29, turned out to be 36, another asked me when I was ready to have children within the first twenty minutes, a very odd one cried when he talked about his late cat, and another who said he was six-feet-tall, was barely my height. So when Mr. Millionaire shot an arrow towards me on OkCupid, I didn’t have the highest of hopes.

So instead of meeting him right away, I decided to invite him to Gchat. I figured if I could determine how he responded to my interrogations, maybe he would be an enjoyable date, as opposed to a flat-out terrifying one. Surprisingly, he was very easy to talk to. And though they were just typed sentences, we seemed to click.  I wasn’t sure how much we had in common, but when he asked if I’d go to an incredibly well-rated restaurant with him, I happily agreed. I mean, I was still living off Ramen – so how could I decline an invitation like that?

I usually attempt to be fashionably late to dates, just to keep them waiting, but somehow I arrived earlier than him, gave the name, and sat down to for some much-needed water. In the ten minutes it took him to join me at the table, I admired the scene, the smells, and the glamarous people who put my H&M dress and Carlos Santana shoes to shame. The entry-level editorial assistant in me wondered, “What am I doing here? The menu doesn’t even have prices on it!”

Before I could get too down on myself, Mr. Millionaire, in his 6’5″ stature walked in the door and I gave him my best “Oh, you look different than your pictures” fake smile. He started rambling about the traffic and how he just told his driver that he’d walk a block since it was taking so long, and he hoped my commute wasn’t bad. I started to tell him the subway and walking was just fine, but refrained and settled on a nod. When the waitress arrived, he went ahead and ordered us appetizers and cocktails, without my opinion, and then turned to start quizzing me. As I went into first-date protection mode, I studied his face, his movements, and clothes and decided this German man, was in fact, wealthy. I don’t know how scientific or accurate this is, but sometimes, you can just look at someone and know they have money.

He wasn’t an unattractive man and he had a very confident air about him. Once he seemed pleased with my responses, I became brave enough to ask him what he did for a living, and the rest of the standardized getting-to-know you questions. Had he not ordered us what I was sure was a bottle of wine well over $100, I probably would have spewed it across the room when he oh-so-casually stated:

“Oh, I own my own investment company. We have offices downtown in the Wall Street area. Currently, I’m living alone two buildings down from the Empire State in a two-bedroom on the 34th floor. It wasn’t my first pick, but it’s nice. I also am the head of a charity organization that’s really important to me.”

At this point, I considered telling him that I live on the border of Harlem, in a very, very small studio that isn’t air conditioned, and I was currently mostly friendless. But before I could say anything, he looked at me and matter-of-factly said, “You have very beautiful eyes and I’m enjoying your company – you seem like you have a lot of ambition and passion. Would you want to get drinks after this?”

Even though I wasn’t sure if I was fully attracted to him, what I thought about our vastly different lifestyles, and his nearly-bald head – I did what any intrigued young woman would do. I replied, “Well, of course!

He didn’t attempt to kiss me at the end of our date, but did ask me if I’d like to come over two days later, to see his view, and maybe watch a movie. Knowing full and well what that usually turns into, I considered passing on his offer, but he was leaning into the cab, as I had always dreamed, and I did want to see what a real-life New York apartment looked like, so…I simply replied “Ok” and kissed his cheek, before the cabbie drove away.

I decided that if I’m going to be lonely in a city of millions – I should at least entertain the company of Mr. Millionaire. What harm could it really do?

If dating and relationships are meant to teach you not only about your wants and needs, but about yourself, then Mr. Millionaire showed me how very little I actually need, compared to what I thought I wanted. His apartment is unmistakably beautiful: he shipped all his furniture from Germany, commissioned artwork that featured portraits of the city, and he (or rather, his maid) kept the place immaculate. As for the view, I can’t give it justice in words as well as this photo can:

But even though he had this incredible residence and kissed me outside on his balcony for our “first kiss” as the sun set against the Manhattan skyline – something was off. As much as I tried, I just didn’t feel that indescribable connection that we all lust after and can never really find, unless we actually stop looking for it.  He wasn’t a bad guy by any means – his success, ambition, and humbleness impressed me, and he always did what he said he was going to do. It was just…it didn’t work. Maybe because there was a 10-year age difference or we literally lived in completely different worlds in the same city – but there were things about him that drove me crazy.

When we ordered takeout, he insisted on putting everything on plates and setting the table just so. When I gushed over the fact he had an actual washer and dryer in his own apartment, he admitted he sent his laundry out to be done for him. When we did watch that movie and I went to his fully-equipped kitchen to get some water – I realized he didn’t have any food, to which he casually said he only orders takeout, goes out, and hates to cook. He read my articles, critisized them, and though he said I had talent, he was more interested in the sex pieces I freelanced on the side. He didn’t seem to understand what publishing was about, nor did he really care too much. And when the World Cup rolled around, he said in passing he’d be staying in South Africa until it was over. Oh, because anyone can just pick up and do that.

Perhaps the most telling sign that I needed to stop seeing Mr. Millionaire, regardless of the many wonderous restaurants and events he took me to (and was planning to take me to) – was when he started to go past first base and my reaction was to run to the bathroom to keep myself from crying because it felt…so wrong. I used every excuse to let him know I needed to leave and instead of flirting with him from inside the cab, I sobbed in it the whole way home. Not due to him or his actions, but because I knew I was keeping him around for the wrong reasons.

While I never thought New York would be like Sex & the City (introduce me to one writer who writes one column a week and lives in the West Village and I may change my mind) – I did have this romantic idea about what my life would be like. And with Mr. Millionaire, I got to experience that. I was fancy and could order anything I wanted without looking at the menu, and I was lucky enough to go about town with an extremely gregarious gentleman.

But what I realized was designer clothes, apartments, views, and men can bring you a lot of joy – but they will never be enough for love. I really did want to fall head over $800-heels with Mr. Millionaire, yet not because of who he was, but for the idea of the life I could live with him. A life that didn’t include me worrying about money, traveling, or living arrangements. Sure, it would have been easy – but would it have been worth it?

As for me and my city, I’d rather make my own fortune than marry into it, eat Chinese food out of the container, naked in bed instead of sitting properly at an imported table, and be with someone, who regardless of how much money they make or what the view is like out their window – I can’t deny the magic between us. Nor would I ever think to pull away when he goes for a home-run.

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