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.

Tequila vs. The WTF Moment

I once went to a free open bar at a joint in Murray Hill. This was before I discovered this particular part of New York is breeding ground for frat guys who never wanted to leave college and still enjoy beer pong more than making a career or adult life for themselves. Even in school, where I was in a sorority and I thoroughly enjoyed Greek life, I never dated or slept with a guy in a fraternity. There has always been something about their Solo cup-decorated apartments, perfectly styled hair (or looks that resemble the Biebs), and stained Ralph Lauren Polos that turned me off.

Imagine that.

Nevertheless, when a friend found booze for free on PulseJFK and invited me to come, I followed in suit, high heels and push-up in tow. Fast forward to midnight, way past the penniless power hour: picture my friend with smeared red lipstick and crusted mascara, sucking face at the corner of the bar with a guy I believe was named Todd. And then there’s me, turning on the charm with a dude who told me he worked for MTV. I’d say what he did for them, but instead of telling me, he told my tequila – which is gladly no longer with me.

At this point in the night, my friend lets me know she’s going home with Todd, who claimed he was one of the Mets. She later confirmed he was, but more of a benchwarmer than an actual athlete. Still fairly new to Manhattan and as broke as an early-20s gal can get, I asked her not to leave (I didn’t want to pay for a ride home). Obviously not one of my closest companions, she encouraged me to go with the MTV man and said she’d text me when she arrived in Hoboken with Todd. I responded with a half-drunken smirk, followed by thoughts of how much I felt sorry for her that she was leaving for dirty Jersey.

Even knew to the city, I knew that wasn’t a favorable ending point for an evening. (Don’t believe me? Ask anyone who takes the PATH at night).

As I watched her exit into the rolling crowds of the M.Hill, Mr. MTV turned his attention to me and asked if I needed another drink. I refused while nodding my head in agreement. Intrigued by my drunken stupor, he welcomed more company from the liquor that not only heats me up, but makes everyone around me instantly hotter. And thus, in the next 20 minutes, I fell for Mr. MTV.

In the bits and pieces I remember, I imagined him opening doors (both literally and figuratively) for me at his company and attending fancy parties ripe with celebrities. I may have devised a fantasy where he introduced me to Ryan Reynolds at rooftop gala in the middle of June, where he instantly found me irresistible and I left Mr. MTV in a dramatic exit as I whisked away to Paris. Perhaps Rome. Hell, I’ll settle for Madrid, if need be.

Mr. MTV, noticing my inability to focus as he enthusiastically bragged about his corner office (or was it a cubicle with a view?), whispered, “Do you want to go back to my place?” Before I could comprehend, tequila (who knows this dude better than I do, apparently), nodded yes.

In barely enough time to grab my bag and cardigan, I found myself hailing a cab, hand-in-hand with Mr. MTV. “I live, like, really close by, in Union Square,” he reassured. Unable to comprehend my coordinates (or to really care), I again, allowed tequila to control my motions by giving him a slurred, encouraging grin. In what seemed like an eternity but probably equated to ten minutes, Mr. MTV had us heading cross-town to an apartment he lived by himself. Somewhere between allowing him to cram his tongue half-way down my throat, telling me to relax, and he does this sort of thing all the time -I woke up.

I could give it an eloquent name, but in all fairness, it was simply a WTF moment.

As Mr. MTV is chatting with the driver, I looked out my window to catch a glimpse of a familiar landmark and realized what I was doing. As if it was in slow motion, I looked down to see my hands, still stamped from the beginning of the evening. I wiggled my fingers to make sure they still had feeling. I was glad to find, they did. I checked to see if I had everything with me that I started with and minus an earring, I thought, “Good job, Linds. All together.”

But then the sobering side of me argued, “Um, no. Look again. You’re a hot mess. Where are you going?”

So, without a word to Mr. MTV or gaining enough courage to look at him, I shouted to the cabbie to stop. Maybe the driver had been in this situation enough times, but he pounded the brakes immediately. Without hesitation, I threw open the door, stumbled my way ten steps across the street, shot my hand in the air, and magically, another yellow-and-black carriage swept me away to a place much better than the place I was heading: home. Alone.

Sometimes it is easy to know when it is time to walk away.

Unfortunately, most of the relationships that leave the most damage aren’t created and ended in a matter of hours. They are often the ones that are a collection of times where we depend on our staying graces as much as we peer over at our boots-made-for-walking, and the ones that Katy Perry claims are measured by fluctuating temperatures. They are the ones encompassed by exhaustion and often leave us, just as I was in my tequila haze, one hell of a mess. And though we know it is so not right and against our better judgment, we always stick around. Because somehow we think – or we convince ourselves- there’s a way for it to work out. If we can only get over one thing, if we can only be brave enough to stick around while he makes up his mind, or if we can establish a scenario where he’ll miss us. That’s when we will be justified in our one-night stand or our shouldn’t-have-lasted-as-long-as-it-did.

Maybe for some couples the patience pays off and the rewards are plenty.

But most of the time, tequila (or denial) comes in the form of syrupy romantic notions that against all other rational thought processes, tells us to keep going and going, when really, it’d be best to steer away from another tall drink of complication. Because while shots in a glass can be difficult to swallow, a shot to the broken heart and at our swollen pride, burns much longer. It is only when the rose-colored glasses are removed and the love drunk haze wears off that we see a relationship or a man for what he really is: a bad idea that’s best left on Saturday night (or in the past), where he belongs.