I Let Myself Let Go

I let myself miss you today.

I rolled over mid-morning, groggily hoping you would be lying next to me. I kept my eyes tightly shut, and behind them I saw your mouth slightly open. I smelled your skin so close to me. I imagined the sunlight from the west cascading over your bare chest. I imagined the weight of your arm across my naked body. I ran my fingers in sweet circles around your face, until you wrapped your hand around mine and buried me in your grasp. You kissed the side of my head and wished me to sleep for just a little longer. Just for another hour.

I let myself miss you today.

I heard you call from the kitchen to wake me up. I felt the wind come through the open bedroom door. Happily smelling bacon and eggs, I wrapped the sheet around me and hobbled to see you standing in boxer briefs in front of the stove. You turned your head just enough to meet my grin, and you wished my morning well. Satisfied from the night spent with you, yet hungry for the energy I lost while love making, I sniffed my way toward you, kissing your back and letting you seep through me. You rushed me to the couch, where you brought me orange juice and a meal, and together we watched whatever we could find, ignoring the set as we talked over it. I sat Indian style, you sat so close our knees touched and for no reason at all, you kissed my makeup-free cheek and called me beautiful.

I let myself miss you today.

I split that pitcher of coconut mojiotos you love so much, watching you chew on the sugar cane as you talked about the political spectrum I’m really not that interested in, but I’m interested in making you happy. I let you have the last dumpling. You kept your hand permanently on my knee in that little booth in that little corner of that little bar in Little Italy. I watched the dimples cave around your mouth. You didn’t even catch your breath before you complimented my blues in the sunset, and you said those three words that I’m so insanely terrified I’ll never mean again with anyone else. I squeezed your hand – and then your crotch – and you smiled, feeling that closeness. I watched your mischievous side come out and I instantly couldn’t wait to play with it.

I let myself miss you today.

I asked if you preferred the green or the red peppers in your stir fry, and you stuck your tongue out at me in response. I scrunched my nose to protest and grabbed each, commenting that we’d have colorful food, and you’d like it. You put another vanilla yogurt with Crunch in the cart and I pushed it along, thinking about the dinners we’d cook, the nights we’d share. I imagined your hair graying and that gym-made body turn into a beer-full tummy. I wondered what we’d say about these days, the ones where New York was our playground and everything felt right because we were side-by-side. I considered if I’d always love you this much, if it was possible to love anyone more than I did on Aisle 2 of the Krasdale, watching you debate two boxes of rice. You turned my way and asked my opinion. I went with the brown to keep you healthy, and in return, you rubbed your cheeks against mine and said those damn words that I wish I could hear just one more time.

I let myself miss you today.

I ran from the uptown station to my apartment, feeling the chilly April rain bounce off my skin. I turned the key to the place I share with four others, and collapsed into the bed I used to share with you. I couldn’t pinpoint where they came from or why, six months later, they still come at all, but they fled anyway. I tasted their salty solutions as they rested on my lips and I covered my face in embarrassment. I knew I had washed them dozens of times before, but I buried myself in the sheets, somehow determined to smell you again, or at least to remember. I thought of all the parts of myself I can’t repair, the feelings I can’t replace, and the me that I can’t recreate without you.

You weren’t here today, but you were with me. In these dirty streets and in their dazzling illusions of perfection. In that skyline view that you first showed me as I stood up through your sunroof on the BQE. In those bittersweet pictures where our eyes matched, along with our heart and our hopes. In those fragrant flowers on the street, in those drinks that I need to be a little stronger these days. And especially on these rainy days, where I wake up and decide that today, I’ll let myself miss you. I’ll let myself remember when we were happy and so was this city, both in the shine and in the downpour. And then before the night comes around to bring me another dawn, I’ll let that furious faith dissolve.

And then I’ll decide that today, I’ll let myself… let go. Because while I can’t forget, and certain Sundays (or Tuesdays), I may go back to another time, there’s only one place for you and I, now. Maybe it’s on those streets, in those drinks, in those memories or in those days.

But it’s not in the new places I find without your guidance or company, not in the cocktails I toast with my friends, not in the life I’m creating for myself, and not in this day. Not in the day I decide to let you go. Even if I miss the you I thought you were.

The New Yorker Test

Teetering in five-inch heels I got from a discount Dillard’s store in North Carolina, I waited patiently for my friend N on the corner of 50th and 9th, nervous about spending the evening with strangers. But when you’re fresh to the city you love and dying to make friends, you grin and bear it, and if you’re smart, garnish yourself with tawdry jewelry and a push-up bra since you’re hanging out with an ensemble of fabulously gay men.

As he always does, N greeted me with his gracious Southern smile, admired my womanly-curves and hooked my arm as he led the way. A few hours — and a pitcher of mojitos — later, I found myself far from nervous and close to falling madly in love my new-found posse of gorgeous men who will never want to have sex with me. After they grew bored of the first joint, we stumbled North to find our next place and the inevitable question was asked: how long have you been in New York?

Even through the haze of alcohol and cheesy-goodness, I knew this was the determining factor that I brought upon myself — because I had done something that wasn’t characteristically city like. Perhaps it was the brightly colored dress I was wearing or the way my speech becomes lazier as the night continues, making my North Carolina vernacular no longer disguisable. Or maybe it was the cheerful attitude that made me starry-eyed over the Empire State building, or rather, my willingness to admit my splendor for Manhattan instead of an empathetic defiance.

Three months, I replied cautiously, sure of the criticism that would follow, or worse, tips for success that I’ve heard countless times. Or warnings of how I may fail if the city rejects me – just what I want to hear when my savings account is dry. To my surprise though, this tall, dark-haired man with eyes lined with liquid ash didn’t do anything but nod knowingly and say, Ah, I remember that time. If you’re lucky, you’ll never lose that love for the city. I haven’t and it’s been ten years. So, I’m a New Yorker now.

Curious to why a decade determined your status as a Yankee, I asked about his time frame. He didn’t offer much of an explanation, other than that’s just the way it is, that if you can hang out in this place for that long, you must be dedicated or ready to move cross-country. Since he was the former, he considered himself part of the crowd that avoided the rolling crowds, who knew how to order a proper bagel, who could catch the train right on time and has permission to shed judgment on, well, anything that’s not New York.

If I go by his standards, I still have eight years until I’m officially a New Yorker. But I disagreed with him then, and I still do today — on the anniversary of the day I moved here.

What it means to be a New Yorker changes depending on who you talk to. One of my editors, E, says it’s when you walk down any given street and say I remember when that coffee shop used to be there, but now it’s down on fifth. If you can comment on the ever-changing storefronts that scatter the terrain — only a handful making their mark and staying put — then you’ve been here long enough to recall some sort of New York history. If the fact that I still mourn the first place I discovered large iced lattes for only $1.50 (I know!) and curse the laundry mat that there’s now, then I’m a New Yorker.

My friend B says it’s when you pass by the constant barrage of interestingly-dressed individuals (to put it politely), street performers and arguments without pausing because it seems normal. After you observe the city and its people for even a short while, you see how every character has its place and how we all create the brilliant tapestry that makes it such a one-of-a-kind destination. Everyone has a place here, and if you come prepared to make it here, you’re probably an artist of some sort, so those who are just trying to express themselves in their own way, don’t seem odd to you – they are actually, inspiring. If B’s theory is accurate, then I’ve been a New Yorker since day one.

J – a London native with an adorable accent – says it’s when you stop needing to look up directions because you can navigate the train system. Or more importantly, you know exactly where to stand so you always get off closest to the exit you need. While I’ve mastered the art of knowing where the doors open and close, and which cart is designed for my stop – I still have to Google how to get from point A to point B when I’m off the grid system and into the scary streets of the Villages and boroughs, where numbers stop and actual street names return. So, this way, I’m not a New Yorker.

Originally from Seaford, NY, but now a born-again North Carolinian who never lost her Northern ties, A says you’re a New Yorker when seeing a rat doesn’t faze you. Ironically enough, when I interned in New York, I didn’t see one rodent the entire three months I was here. And then, when I bought my Metrocard the day I moved here and caught my first train, a family of little monsters scurried on the tracks. It didn’t bother me then because I had been waiting to actually see one, instead, I smiled in delight that they actually existed. In this sense, I suppose I’m a New Yorker – a tad crazy and all.

If I want to be approved by the How I Met Your Mother crew, I’d have to steal a cab from someone else, cry on the subway and kill a cockroach with my bare hands. I admittedly have been that girl sobbing on the train – both sober and not, but I haven’t stolen a taxi from anyone (I’ve given mine up before, though) and I refuse to ever get that close to a cockroach – gross! So maybe I’m not worthy to be a New Yorker on television (though I’d really love to meet Jason Segel.)

Then there are others, like my friend R says you’ve made the official transition when you realize how fast you walk, or as N says, when you notice your own voice sounding different because the nasal tones have rubbed off on you. Since I pride myself on my pace — even in heels — and the fact that you wouldn’t know I was from North Carolina unless you asked (or I was tipsy), I get a few more points toward being a New Yorker by these standards.

But just like they each had those I’m part of the city, now epiphanies- which I like to call Louie Armstrong moments — I had my own not too long ago.

Next to my gym, there’s a Dunkin Donuts coffee that I always go to after my morning run. Not for a doughnut, but for my favorite iced coffee, ever. I consider it a treat for dragging myself out of bed on Saturday and Sunday, hangover or no hangover. When I walked in this particular afternoon, there was a long line that I patiently waited through, not one to give up on something as precious as the best coffee in the world. As I approached the counter, I saw my iced coffee waiting on me – complete with a dash of skim milk and three Splendas, just as I like it. I giggled at how predictable I was as the lady I always chat with after my runs asks about my weekend and slides over my made-to-order java. After I paid, I grabbed a straw to head out and the man behind the counter said sweetly, “Have a nice day…in New York.” He smiled his toothless grin and I returned the gesture, knowing full well that now, my day will be pretty great.

And that was it – I realized I was a regular.

When you first move to the city, you’re so enthralled with this story you’re creating: The girl who moved to New York to make it big! The girl who could make it in NYC, so she could make it anywhere! But after a while, not only does the story become your reality, you stop writing the pages because you realize it’s not just about you anymore. And you’re not just part of your own story – you’re a piece of everyone’s life around you, regardless if you call them friend, neighbor, co-worker, ex-boyfriend, editor or stranger.

To those at that Dunkin Donuts, I’m the girl who comes on the weekends for iced coffee, no matter the weather. To the woman I ride the elevator with in the mornings, I’m the young lady who kneels down to pet her dog, Domino. To my friends, I’m not the gal who moved to be a writer, I am a writer, but also someone they can talk to, someone who makes at least a small part of their life in New York better because I’m here.

My friend K says anyone who pays New York City taxes is a New Yorker – you don’t have to be here a certain amount a time or experience anything, because the beauty of this city is that it’s different for everyone. My version of New York, the story that I create and the chronicles that I’m part of, will never be the same for anyone but me. And though I may be a tad biased, I think it’s a love story…for anyone. Even the New Yorkers who have lived here their whole lives, especially if they stay on the island or its boroughs.

The pages, the characters, the chapters, the settings and the plot change depending on who you’re talking to –like with any love story. Some romances are short lived and feverish, others are those complicated tales that end up changing your life and your perspective. For others, it’s all about the passion and for most; it’s mainly about the timing. But it’s a love story, all the same.

And when you finally see how your story and all the stories around you connect in such a subtly powerful way, that’s when you’re a New Yorker. That’s when you know you’ve made it here. That how you know you’re home.

Happy Anniversary New York, I love you more than I ever have before!

My top 10 favorite pictures from this year in the city…

Overlooking the skyline from Mr. P's old place in Brooklyn.

August 2011 - So happy to be at my dream job!

Met a new amazing friend this year, A.

Admiring the skyline with two of the greatest girls in the world, M & A.

Goofing around at Lucky Shops after a lovely New York brunch.

No evil allowed at Thanksgiving in the city. But plenty of wine, obviously.

M moved into the Starter Apartment -but also into my heart. The city wouldn't be the same without her!

Happy New Year 2012! Not about kissing a guy at midnight - but about being with the gals!

No New York, of any decade, has ever been complete without friends.

Girls Can Be Girls

As I write this blog in my steamy living room, my NYC best friend M is hugging a bag of ice. No, I’m not exaggerating – she’s literally curled up on the couch, one arm over some $1.99 cubes left over from my Bubble-Q from many weeks ago. We just spent the day phone-less and one-kitten-richer, laying out in the overcast and logging miles at the gym. We picnicked with chicken salad and burnt turkey sandwiches, Vitamin water and orange juice while reading trashy magazines and witnessing a breakup in the park, complete with the girl spitting on her boyfriend out of spite.

We traveled from one of our apartments to the other and though they are only about 10 blocks apart, when there are hills and 90-degree weather, it feels like miles. We walked her kitty around on a leash in bikinis, decided to skip the showering ritual for the day, and settled in for a night in to save money, cooking tacos and choosing Criminal Minds over Sex & the City, perhaps showing our maturity or just that we’ve seen Carrie & pals way too many times to matter anymore.

You k now how they say the best things come when you’re not looking for them? How love will find you when you don’t want it or the dream job throws you a line when you thought they ignored your bait? Or how those couples who try and try to get pregnant and can’t, suddenly, one day, see the line appear on a $10 test?

I think friendships are like that too – the best ones come when you least expect them. And if you’re lucky, you settle right into happily-ever-girlfriend, sharing stories and chatting about hopeful futures while bitching about things in a language that only women can understand. Being the type of crazy and ridiculous that we’d never show to our boyfriends or acquaintances, families or even our one-day husbands.

Because these types of friendships are rare, where girls can be girls and that’s okay. In fact, where it is encouraged and celebrated.

M and I were in the same major in college, in different sororities, and in separate social circles. We knew of one another and had a class together (though neither of us can figure out which one), and though we never were friends in real life, Facebook kept us connected for four or so years. And so, when she reached out to me about her big move with Milo her kitten (and my god-kitty), I was more than willing to help her find her footing in New York. It felt like a scene out of Pay it Forward, me handing over the keys to my first apartment to someone in the communications field from North Carolina who happened to be a bubbly brunette with blue eyes, too. I was transitioning from one stage of my life to the other and so was she, and if I could assist along the way, I would without hesitation.

What I didn’t anticipate was how much she’d help me.

And not just about finding the right career path or how to uncover the hidden happy hour gems of Manhattan – but she became the missing piece of my the puzzle of my adult life. She’s the best friend, the girl who I can be a girl with and not think twice. We’re enough alike to relate but different enough to compliment one another, and we remind each other to let loose while also taking a healthy dose of reality from time to time.

We all put a lot energy as we put into attempting to figure out men, analyze our relationships until we’re out of breath and annoyed with the sound of our own voices – but what we forget to concentrate on is how valuable our friendships are. Without women to stand to be our side, to tell us when we’re out of line and we’re on target, to be there with puppies, tequila and cupcakes when things go wrong – we’d be far more lost than if we happen to part from yet another man who didn’t deserve us.

Instead, let’s be worthy of healthy friendships. Let’s be the best friend we can be instead of figuring out how to match our boyfriend’s schedule with ours. Let’s make the women in our lives priorities and let’s be the lady who keeps that old saying true, “Girls rule and boys drool.”  (I mean, isn’t that still accurate?)

Because, yeah we may marry a boy one day, but if we don’t have someone to be a girl with, to complain about our husbands and talk about sagging breasts and the memories of when we had nothing to do all day but browse around the Upper West Side with empty pocket books and youthful spirits – then that marriage will never last anyway.

Men may capture our last names if we allow, but as for me and what I consider soulmates, I think I believe in destiny more because of the friendships I have, not the men I sleep with, love, and obsess about. Those men may leave, but my girls, my soulmates, will smack me silly all the way through that relationship and the many more to follow.

Be True To Yourself

My very first girlfriend in New York is a gal named E.

We went to the same college, though she’s seven years my senior, so at different times. When I moved, I emailed anyone and everyone I could, asking for job leads and to introduce me to people they knew in New York. As desperately as I wanted to be an editor, I also didn’t want to be alone in my favorite place either. A college newspaper alumnus put me in contact with E and ironically, on the day I was offered my first job, E and I had plans to meet for dinner and drinks.

As a designer who has pieces currently available at Anthropologie and an impeccable sense of style, E may be tiny in stature, but she’s big in heart and personality. When we first met, I was amazed at the easy flow of the conversation and by her tenacious spirit; not to mention she shared the same affinity for the city as I do – a quality that will never be old to me.

We now have drunken memories and inside jokes, trips we’ve taken and friends we’ve introduced one another to – but she’ll always be the first lady I called a girlfriend on this island. For that reason, she’ll always be part of my life.

And also because she’s totally, always, completely herself. She never makes excuses and she does what she says she’ll do, doesn’t do what she says she won’t. Call it stubborn, I call it brilliant and beautiful.

Case and point, this Sunday when E, M, R, and I headed to Long Beach for a day of bathing and bubbly goodness. The weather could not have been more perfect and though the day started with M’s mad dash to catch the departing train (she made it with a minute to spare), it was the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon: burning our skin into a nice shade of pale/tan and chit-chatting in girl speak. After four hours of laying out, cheeseburgers the size of my face, and ice cream cones overly priced at $3.75 for a single scoop, we caught the train back to Penn.

To pass the hour trip – which we were never charged for luckily enough – we decided to play “Would you rather?” in true mature, 20-something fashion. Of course, this was my idea as I can’t stand idle quietness during any trip, unless its 12 hours long or something absurd like that. Does that make me an obnoxious traveling companion? Probably so. But does that make for good conversation? Totally.

Someone proposed the question of: “Huge diamond or designer dress?” We all traded a very large rock for the gown, but my friend E added in: “You know, I have no desire to have a wedding.” Disgusted, my friend R stammered, “Whaaa? How could you not want a wedding?? You don’t want to have a big party and get married in front of all your friends and family?”

Calmly, E replied, “I want a reception to celebrate, but I don’t want a wedding. I don’t have any need for it. I’m more concerned with the marriage.” R continued to quiz her, asking if she wanted a wedding dress (sure, but it doesn’t need to be white or long, just nice), and who would be her witness (you can have friends and family in the courthouse), and if something had happened to her to wreck her dreams of having a wedding (nope).

R and E are obviously very different and at times, I’m surprised they get along with one another – but as M and I sat and listened to their conversation, I felt a certain affinity for E. Not wanting to have a big, ol’ fat wedding – Greek or not – isn’t the norm today. Especially in an age where the grander the wedding, the better, and if you’re not registered at three places you’re damned, and if you don’t have a wedding website, all of your friends on Facebook are annoyed they can’t stalk you (even if you haven’t talked for years). People go into debt for weddings, they take out loans, and they become bride and groom-zillas. Couples break up because they plan a wedding. Women go into depression after it because there is nothing spectacular left to look forward to.

But that’s where the wedding industry has it wrong and where E has it right: it’s not about the wedding day. It’s about all the days that follow it. It’s not about being the bride, it’s about learning to be yourself while being a wife.

And in her true self, she spoke that simple wisdom so many tend to forget, and maybe something I’ll eventually have to remind myself of should that happily-ever-after ring my buzzer. As for E, I have no doubt she won’t have a wedding with a man who is much himself as she is herself, and I can’t wait to drink her signature Jack & Coke at her non-reception…reception.

The Girl Who Came Before

A few months ago at a wine bar in Chelsea, I nervously fiddled with my phone, texting some friends who thought I was crazy, and rightfully so. I mean, I was meeting the ex-girlfriend of a guy I had dated, a woman who I had heard time-and-time again “I was just like.” I had read her blog, followed her Twitter and knew her name – but I didn’t know her. I only knew second-hand information, the words of someone who had been hurt and disappointed, but yet was a someone I cared deeply for.

So why was I here, sipping wine with a lovely, tall brunette who was chatting away and reminding me more and more of myself by the minute? Well, maybe Mr. Something-or-Another was right. Could it be true that there was another me out there and we both happened to deliberately move to New York to be editors? To live in tiny apartments, happily (well, most of the time) meet and date Manhattan men, go sailing on the weekends, chase pigeons, and share a certain dislike for pickles? (Though I can eat them fried – but I’m Southern, so I’m allowed.)

The similarities were startling at first, but as time passed and a friendship developed, it stopped being so strange. Emails turned into Gchat, texting into being Facebook friends, drinks into events and figuring out the things we have in common that the Mr. never discovered.

Before meeting her –we’ll call her K – I had an idea in my head of what she would be like. I, too, had her up on a pedestal of this unattainable, heart-breaking dreamgirl. But what I have learned from her was the exact lesson she hoped I would when she reached out to me the first time: that she wasn’t that maneater at all. She was like me – another lady in New York who dated a guy and it didn’t work out. There are two sides of every dating story and then there’s the truth, but there’s also truth in the fact that if people really have a type, there’s a good chance you may like the girls a guy used to be with. Hell – you may even be similar to them, so why build them up to be something more than what they are?

Now, K is a magazine mentor, but more importantly, a friend. I like to think of her as my dose of reality and a voice of reason when I worry about my career, about boys or really, about anything. She has a strong grasp on the city, often serving as my go-to for recommendations when I’m planning a night out. In a lot of ways – she’s where I see myself in a few years and chatting with her, as the Mr. always predicted I would, gives me some hope for the New York life I’ve yet to live.

Today, as we were talking, we stumbled across the topic of my blog and she said something that stuck with me: “It’s funny, reading your blog. I think you’ll be interested, reading it again in a few years. You’re going to have all the same realizations over and over again in different situations.”

A little over two years older than me, K has experienced everything and more that I’ve written about on these pages. And some topics I haven’t posted, but we’ve discussed (I may get to chatting about more risqué topics eventually). And while going through a 12-step program to cure a love addiction I diagnosed myself with seemed like a great idea nine months ago, K and some other friends and characters have taught me that maybe, I misdiagnosed myself.

Could it be that I’m just normal? That K, too at my age in the situations I faced, perhaps acted the same way? Felt with the same intensity? Or any of my other friends who happen to be 20-something women who want to find love as much as they run away from it? Anyone who has ever been disappointed by a man or has fallen in love with the wrong one, as K said, “over and over again”?

It isn’t love addiction – it’s being a woman who experiences normal feelings, thinks thoughts similar to the gal next to her and has characteristics like the girl who came before her.

We may not all have a twin – physically anyway – but if you look, or if you happen to meet a reader who figured out your blog’s riddle – you may realize a comforting notion that if you’re going through it right now…you’re not the first. You probably won’t be the last, either. Addicted to love or just growing up learning lessons you’ll learn again – rest assured there’s someone close by who’s right there with you. And someone who has done it before and someone who will do it again.