Mr. Creepo and the Boyfriend Card

My first and favorite romance, New York City, has been quite the tease lately.

Monday, the day that reminds us our lovely weekend is over, the sky opened up and revealed an easy, sunny and lustful day where my red sweater dress was entirely too much. And then, as we transcended from one extreme to the other, Tuesday through Wednesday were unbearably cold. We finished the week with temperatures that enticed Spring’s arrival.

So on Friday, in an effort to encourage my lover in his warm embrace, I dressed for the occasion in a tight, light blue dress, thin leggings, and my old forgotten friend, The Open-Toe Stiletto. Perhaps my outfit was a tad inappropriate for mid-February, but I’ve never been one to adhere to regulations, where they be imposed by the Fashion Week goddesses or not. However, my attempt to tempt the heavens to keep the weather airy and breezy…backfired.

My favorite morning café, where the coffee is self-serve and in actual pots instead of economy-sized drippers, is merely a block away from the magazine – but those 40 or so steps can seem like a lifetime, when you spent a night almost completely absent of sleep. Not in the mood to discuss anything with anyone, I avoided eye contact on my narrow-focused path to fuel up for the day – but one man, with his bald head and short-stature, sought to match my pace.

Listening to the click of my heels, anticipating the pick-me-up I was getting ready to pick up, I barely noticed this at least 45-year-old whisper loud enough over my shoulder, “Excuse me?” Automatically turning on city-slicker mode, I quickened my pace, confused by this businessman walking way too close for a stranger. Especially one who was obviously way older than me.

I’ve just gotta say, you’ve got it together. From your heels to your hair, everything is spot on. Right on. I’ve never seen someone so beautiful, so together at 9 a.m. Great job,” this man complimented. Still exhausted, but gracious enough to give him a smile and a simple “thank you,” I continued toward my destination. But Mr. Creepo wasn’t finished yet.

He pulled his way closer to me as I nearly stumbled into the brick building to my right and a flash of fear wondered, “Nothing can happen in broad daylight in Chelsea, right? I mean, it’s a Friday morning, not 3 a.m.”  As if he thought I was somehow intrigued by him, he bargained with a wink, “If I promise you to do everything right, and I mean everything, will you just give me your number?

Caught off guard and slightly afraid, I straightened my posture, jerked my head around with a glare only possible from extreme-tiredness and blurted the first defensive semantic that came to mind: “I’m sorry, I can’t. I have a boyfriend.”

When the door slammed behind me and I made a distinct effort not to watch the man continue past the cafe, I caught my breath, flattened my hair from the wind, and there, in the entrance, scrunched up my forehead, utterly confused. Not necessarily by Mr. Creepo, but by myself.

Why is it that when I’m uninterested in someone or feeling insecure or unsafe, I automatically throw out the boyfriend card? The you-best-leave-me-alone or my big, bad man will come and show you what he’s made of and what I mean to him? How is it that being taken, having someone to watch over us – where it be the truth or a little white lie – makes us feel like whoever it is that’s bothering us, will back down?

Is commitment protection? Or is it just easier to say you love someone else instead of get-the-hell-away-from-me?

After nearly spilling my coffee all over my clingy dress (alright, well perhaps a few drops dribbled down) – I burst into the office, ready to share my story with my editor and J. By this time, I had a shot of energy from the Columbian blend and was being far too outrageous than what pre-10 a.m. allows.

“I am appalled by Manhattan men! Seriously, who is this creepo who thinks it is okay to just march up to me, interrupt my morning, and tell me he’ll do ‘everything right?’ He doesn’t even know me or what would be right by my standards. And he complimented everything from my heels to my hair – gross! He may not be old enough to be my father, but he could be some twice-removed uncle. Easily,” I discussed in disgust with J, who plainly nodded along, while adding in his own tidbits of experience with the street gawkers.

Tossing my hair and sighing heavily into my fat-free crème cheese and half-bagel, my co-worker H, the witty sales associate who’s timing is always on-point, matter-of-factly said, “Linds – let’s be real. If he was wildly attractive, young, and said all of those things, you would have smiled and probably given him your card.”

Sassy in my own respect, I replied, “Not if he was going all Biz Markie on me telling me he’s got what I need.” She laughed, agreed, but threw in one final chip: “Even so, you wouldn’t have told him you were in a relationship and if he would have asked to buy you that coffee you’re drinking – you would have allowed him.

Ah, the gal’s got a point.

I tend to find myself a pretty confident and incorrigibly honest with most everyone and everything in my life. I have my moments of blatant insecurity, but for the most part, I’m pretty straight-forward and as a Virgo, a tad critical – in the most loving of ways. But when it comes to being hit on and purposefully sought after by someone I’m not interested in – I almost always play the card of taken, instead of being direct and letting a guy off the hook by showing him he had no chance at hooking me.

Bluntly put – I hate rejecting guys.

I’m not a fan of hurting anyone’s feelings, even the hearts of those who’ve mangled mine, and also – I don’t want to be argued with or attempted to be persuaded, when I can tell in five seconds my interest is lost. Or it never really arrived in the first place. Especially when it comes to men, who for whatever reason, think it’s appropriate to go after women 20 years their junior. This girl, Mr. Creepo, is not a gold digger and will build a mountain on her own instead of hiking up a trail of deceit.

Though I realize my double-standard, as H so cleverly pointed out, I also know what is crossing the line for me or popping my personal space bubble. And regardless if Mr. Creepo had been a foot taller with a full head of hair and subtracted a dozen candles off his last birthday cake – anyone who tells me they’ll do everything right isn’t Mr. Right in my book. I’d like to think I’ll end up with a guy who is far from perfect – and perhaps even far from perfect for me – but rather, a human being who doesn’t declare his sexual righteousness within the first ten seconds of seeing me.

Next time, instead of using an imaginary boyfriend as a defense, I’ll try to take the higher road of honesty and say, “Sorry, buddy. You aren’t strong, dark, handsome, and available in a 20 oz cup for $1.75. And really, that’s the only thing that’s right by me, right now.”



And the Storm Will Rise

There are certain things people say that you’ll never forget: the first time a man tells you he loves you (even if he’s merely a boy at the time), when someone ridicules you publicly, or when you have a heart-to-heart with your mom, not as your mother, but as your friend. I remember each of these moments in my own life, but if someone were to ask me my favorite, most memorable phrase anyone ever said to me, it’d be:

“Well you’re like a Southern summer storm in the middle of August, aren’t ya, now?”

I can’t tell you the woman’s name, but it was a friend-of-a-friend at some family reunion I attended in North Carolina when I was 17. Having only been in my presence for about ten minutes, this older lady decked out in pearls and with nails so perfectly manicured you’d think she lived in a salon, literally nailed who I am in fifteen words.

For those of you who have not had the privilege to experience a thunderstorm in the Southern region of the United States – I hope you do someday. They are beautiful. Out of nowhere, unforgiving gray clouds encircle the endless sky, enticing bursts of sound and light in every direction. The rain with a scent so intoxicating, so vibrant you yearn to step outside to inhale as deeply as you can. But, if you’re educated by the ways of the countryside, you dare not step off of your porch, but allow the storm to capture your attention from afar. Leaving the security of your steps would be quite risky and with the aging Oak trees swaying helplessly in the sweeping winds, you can only imagine what they could do to you, the barefoot and sticky with sweat observer you are.

And then, almost as easily as the storm came, it leaves. Its noise, its electricity, its saturation, and its perfume trail off into a space beyond the Blue Ridge mountaintops you’ve never crossed. It is only then, when the branches rest from their dancing, the daffodils face the sun as it breaks through the clouds, that the real beauty reveals itself.

As everything comes back to life and still at the same time, and the color returns to the fields and the atmosphere…an echoing silence that’s as vivid and consuming as any sound on the Earth, captures the Southern afternoon. It’s simply quiet.

Perhaps the lady didn’t know what she was saying to me when she called me a summer storm, but something tells me that with her accent and the way she sipped her sweet tea – she did. When a relationship comes to a close, when a man leaves me before I’m ready to be left, when I don’t hear from a guy who I was convinced was intrigued by me, or when I feel like I failed at something I thought I deserved, I hear her words ringing loud and clear in my head.

Am I really as messy as a summer storm? Or is love the storm we all chase after, but never quite catch?

When I’m falling in love, I see myself enveloped in a tornado, shaking around aggressively, feeling the rush of lust wash away all of my fears, all of my insecurities, and capture me in a breeze I can’t (and don’t want to) fight. Instead of hiding behind a door, I dodge through it. I tease the storm with my laughter, with my ever-believing, ever-childlike spirit, and I feel unbreakable, unstoppable, and full of a fire I know could never be drowned with rainfall.

Until of course, I hear the thunder.

Or it shakes the ground so violently that mud splashes up against my calves. And lighting strikes a breathless few feet away from me, and though they say it never strikes twice, I start to remember what it’s like to feel the sting of heartbreak, to have that feeling in places you didn’t know existed that tells you “It’s over. It’s just so over.”

And like the same sweet child who ran to escape the unexpected summer rain and the disaster that often followed it, I dive back into my safe place with my hair and my cheeks damp, my mascara creating paintings on my face, and as if I wasn’t soaked enough – I cry. As if I wasn’t messy from the outside free-for-all I just came from, I shield my eyes with my grimy-hands, smearing the wetness even deeper. So deep it feels like it becomes ingrained in my blood and pours out of the hole that I hoped wouldn’t be put in my heart…again.

When I love, I love intensely. I love powerfully and profoundly. I make no excuses for how I feel and I give away pieces I should probably keep to myself – but I do it willingly. I do it with the rush of a hurricane, the destruction of a tsunami, and the intensity of a volcano erupting.

And I do it over and over again. With each and every single man who is lucky enough to be loved by the likes of a Southern summer storm.

In going through this journey, as raging and unpredictable as it seems to be, I thought I may lose some of my splendor. Some of that unyielding optimism that makes me believe my Mr. Right (who may be a Mr. Northern Storm, perhaps) exists, of that passion that helps me string together words and fight my way out of any disaster. I thought maybe, that tailwind that so many men, so many friends, so many people have often said they get mesmerized by…would leave with the addiction.

But then I realized, the best part of the storm isn’t the storm itself, but the calm that follows it. As much as a mess in a dress I am at times, especially when I’m drowning in a flood of new love, being a little cyclone means I find my peace eventually. I accept that no voyage, where it be one I travel alone or with a first (or fifth) mate, is ever safe from rocky waters. That while the storm will always rise, it will also fall – and it is there, you test your lungs and your legs out for size. And with the same strength that made the winds blow, the rain fall, and the leaves rattle and shake in all of the relationships I’ve experienced, I’ve been just as sturdy to stand after they were over.

To stop being a hot mess for a hot minute. To ring the water out of my hair and wipe away the stains on my knees, in between my toes, and on my fingertips. To step out of the drenched clothes and slip into something dry and warm. To open that backdoor and feel the summer breeze float through my ringlets.

And let myself inhale not only the end of the storm, but the colorful promise illuminating the sky. The one that makes you remember no matter how much hell a storm gives you or how much hell you are – there is always something waiting in the horizons you can’t see, in the cityscapes you always wished were in your view, but never quite were.

That somehow, no matter how detrimental the raging waters or how threatening the daunting clouds were – we’d never trade them for anything. Because without the storm, we can’t appreciate the sweet stillness that comes with the sun.

P.S. Confessions of a Love Addict is making Valentine’s Day more about the single ladies and less about flowers that’ll die in a day. Submit your Valentine here.