There is SO Much Love in the World

On Thanksgiving – and always – I feel so incredibly blessed for this little life of mine. If you would have told me five years ago that I’d be living in one of my favorite parts of New York, working at a job that I really love, writing for a dozen or so magazines and have an incredible group of friends, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. Sometimes I want to pinch myself that nearly everything I’ve wanted has worked itself out… beautifully. Surprisingly.

Perfectly how it was supposed to.

Now of course, there are things I’d like and things I dream of. There are Thanksgivings I imagine with my one-day man, and there are certain visions and luxuries I’d like to be my reality one day, but in this moment, sitting in my PJs with Christmas music playing, my pup at my feet and my roommate cooking in the kitchen, I’d say life is pretty damn good right now.

So thank you. Thank you for showing me just how much love there is in this world. There is SO much, I can’t ever explain.

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Call This Girl

Once upon a time on a Saturday night in New York, four brunettes met in the East Village for champagne, whiskey sours and tequila. The foursome knew better than to mix their alcohol – they were all past the age of 21 – but they danced and laughed and accepted free drinks as they were presented.

(They would regret that choice in 12 hours over coffee and bagels, but that’s neither here-or-there.)

Off they went into the irresistible New York night, wearing black but painting the town red with their lips and their winter-burned cheeks. A cab was hailed, a fair was paid, and this Upper West Side lady stepped out into this unfamiliar land that she avoids past- 8 p.m. on the weekends because the commute is just far too strenuous. But the clock almost stroke 12 by the time she left the chill to embrace the warmth of a beer hall…

… in Brooklyn.

A place she frequents more often as her friends flee Manhattan for bigger apartments and smaller rents, who leave the familiarity of the west and the east, midtown and downtown, to explore the industrial, artistic ruins of another borough.

She knew the train ride home would be more than an hour, but when in Brooklyn, one might as well embrace the grunge and order a beer. So in her mini and heels with a blue plunging neckline – looking damned out of place among checkered-shirts and Vans – she wiggled into a table, thinking that as we all get older, so will girls’ nights out, picking the comfortable locations instead of the sparkling ones. Three years ago, they probably wouldn’t have stepped foot in such an establishment, but the atmosphere is calm and mature, sharp and smart, and she felt more relaxed than she would have pinned up against a wall with loud, blaring music, charging $15 a drink.

Maybe it’s just the place she could meet a mate.

A Pilsner pint later, she managed to leave the table – in a somewhat ladylike fashion while straddling a bench- to find the nearest restroom…. quickly. But in her mad-dash in her tall boots, she rushed right past four or five tables, weaved in between giggling girls and ran smack dab into a guy.

A tall, handsome, blue-eyed man with a nice button-up and a nicer smile.

But before she could flash her own pearly whites or say something witty, he beat her to get the first words out: “Wow.  You’re intimidating.”

She gave him a confused look with a half-laugh, anticipating a punch line, and when he just repeated himself, she formed a rebuttal: “I’m not. Not really. I’m very sweet.”

“No, you’re intimidating.”

“Why?”

“I mean, look at you. I’m at a loss. You’re so intimidating,” he said, yet again. And with that, she gave him her best playful grin and tried to walk casually into what she thought was the bathroom door.

It wasn’t.

It was a painted door next to the Ladies Room. (Whoever decided that must have wanted to watch tipsy girls, like herself, attempt to walk through an imaginary door. Naturally, only in Brooklyn would the irony be appreciated.)

A few minutes later, the Lady of Intimidation forgot all about the tall stranger who labeled her a vixen before meeting her, but he didn’t forget: as she headed back to her friends, he was standing waiting for another encounter. After some clever banter and the exchange of the basics (what neighborhood, where are you from originally, what do you do), he inquired about the lady’s number.

And though it was almost 1 a.m., she couldn’t exactly recall his name and she didn’t intend to date another guy who lived across the east river, she decided if he really thought she was intimidating, she’d live up to it.

“You’re not going to remember this conversation tomorrow or me, you know.”

“How could I possibly forget?”

“I think beers number 4, 5 and 6 will probably contribute to the downfall of your memory.”

“See, intimidating.”

“But I’ll give it a shot, give me your phone.”

Then, even though it’s not quite her personality to be so incredibly forward, she saved her phone number under the name, “Call This Girl.”

“So all you have to do is read it and well, follow instructions.”

“I like that. I really like that. I won’t forget.”

And then the girl with her liquid courage, curly locks and flushed cheeks, stood on the tip-of-her-toes, kissed him, turned and returned to her friends, feeling empowered, happy and more like herself than she’s felt in a long while. The next day as she described the brief encounter to her friends and roommates, she discovered that she didn’t really care if she heard from Mr. Tall Drunk Man or not.

She didn’t care if he actually looked at his phone the next day and decided to take a chance on cheeky girl he found a bit foxy (or Tigar-y?). She didn’t overanalyze if she said the right thing or didn’t, if she came on too strong or if not sassy enough. She didn’t hover over her phone (or turn it off), waiting for a text message from a stranger she worked up in her head to be more.

Instead, she just savored one very small, yet one very, very important thing: she got her dating mojo back.

It might have taken more than a year, a few too many cocktails, dozens (upon dozens) of terrible dates, wasted tears and angry Gchats – but on a chilly January night in all places — Brooklyn — she teased the next chapter of dating in New York… and it flirted right with her. 

And perhaps, when the lady tells the city to call her, it might just remember her number.

This Valentine’s Day, write a self-love letter to yourself and it’ll be published (anonymous or not) on Confessions of a Love Addict! And you enter yourself to win a prize pack of beauty products and a Home Goods gift card! Learn more here. Submit here

Again.

My first winter in New York was my favorite one. I was a few months past 22 and a few years away from being slightly hardened by the city. Then – while I was writing the inaugural posts of this blog – I was captivated by every first that I experienced:

My first time seeing snow in the city. The first time I realized I was falling in love in New York. The first time I went home for the holidays, feeling much more grown-up then I actually was. The first time it really, truly felt like Christmas and magic unfolded all around me.

Even though at the time I was actually rather miserable at my job and fighting off stomach-worry-pains over Mr. P and his fleeting fidelity, and even though I barely made any money post-taxes, there was a gentle happiness that I almost always felt. Because I was still new, because the city still had it’s freshness about it, because I knew there was still so much to accomplish and so much to achieve, so much to enjoy and so much to learn – I didn’t think too far ahead. I didn’t miss anything in my past and I though I wondered what was next, I knew I had time to make mistakes. I still had time to figure it all out and come up with an escape route or an alternative direction if I needed it. I had picked New York and yes, it had picked me right back, but I hadn’t conquered it yet. It didn’t belong to me – I was still it’s visitor, waiting to be accepted, waiting to feel like I was at home.

Three years later, Manhattan is my address. It’s where I’m registered to vote. It’s where my dentist and my dermatologist are. My home is lived in and worn, my dog leaves her paw tracks wherever she goes. My most frequently called friends live no more than a few blocks or subway rides away, and I have memories in almost every neighborhood on the island. I can get from point-A to point-B without a map (most of the time) and I have areas that I almost flat-out refuse to go to (looking at you Murray Hill). I am settled and I feel extremely comfortable on these streets, at my grocery store, at the coffee shop where the barista knows my order and invites me to her birthday party. And this winter, I saw all the sights, yet again – from the shops at Union to the skaters at Rockefeller – and though it wasn’t the same simple happiness I used to feel, it was still something.

Something older, maybe. Something jaded, just a bit. Something… new.

There has been so much change, and yet so very little change this year for me. Though I’ve loved my job, I’ve been aching for new challenges. Though I love my city, I’ve wondered what’s next and what else is out there for me to explore. Though I love my friends, we’re all on different pages and listening to different songs, trying to figure out our own quarter-life crisis without belittling each other’s. Though I love the warmth of the Upper West Side, I long for the excitement (but not the pricetag) of downtown. Though I love most of what I’ve created and discovered here, I’ve felt so incredibly bored most of 2013 that everything felt common, uninteresting, redundant.. and just so not like how it used to.

But I think that just means – finally! – I’ve arrived in New York. It’s actually my home now. My life is firmly cemented here. My roots have started to spread. Because after all of that hard work of moving here, applying wildly for a job, looking widely for a man, smiling pretty and joining clubs to find friends, locating an apartment and saving money since March of 2010…

…I get to do it all over again. And again.

And I’ve been fighting it. Hard. Because it was so much work to build friendships, to meet Mr. Possibility, to get my first job and my second one, to explore a new part of town, to find new groups and new clubs and new things to try. But I was happier when I was open. When I put myself out there and I challenged myself to do something different. When I wasn’t afraid of failure, when I wasn’t terrified that I was running out of time.

Because that is what time is: always circular, always moving, always changing. That’s the part everyone forgets to tell you: your 20s are for learning the good, hard-working skills that you’ll use the rest of your life.

You learn how to make friends so you can enrich the friendships you have, and make new ones as the old ones fall and grow apart. You learn how to find a job so you know how to hire new people, how to keep your current one and how to make a move when the time is right. You learn how to date so you know what you like and what you don’t, with the hope that someone will one day fit your bill. You learn how to cook, manage your money, manage your time, manage your expectations and everything else, so you never forget your independence.

You don’t just learn things once – you keep learning again and again so you can keep growing.

And so, even though this winter isn’t my first and won’t be my last in New York, it’s the first one in my new cycle. My new beginning in the city I fell in love with so long ago. It’s time to go back to where it all began, so I can remember how to move forward. It’s time to find that drive that made me do everything I could to get a step ahead or at least a toe into some door. It’s time to find that energy that was rich and powerful. It’s time to find that softness again that made me see the good in people, and especially in men. Especially in my friends. Especially in me. It’s time to find that beauty in the process, not in the destination.

It’s time to walk away from everything that fell apart, so I can start building an even better tomorrow… again.

Picnic for One

On the tiny border of North Carolina and Georgia, there’s a small town called Hayesville. If you’ve driven through it, I hope you didn’t blink – because you may have missed it, if you did. It has one flashing traffic light, a courthouse nestled in the middle, a few grocery stores and barbque pits, and inhabitants that gossip as quickly as they speed.

But it does have one very beautiful redeeming quality – Lake Chatuge. A man-made manifestation, this wavy glory is where I learned to swim, ski, sail, knee and wake board. It’s banks taught me how to kiss boys on hot, sticky summer nights. In fact, it’s the place where I spent most of my summers and all of my Independence Days. It’s where my family is right now, cruising under the sun, glancing behind the boat, remembering when I used to make them go faster and faster so I could try a 360 on a pressing water-bump.

When I think of the 4th of July at my lake home, I always see endless lines of foods from our potlucks with neighbors in the community, and I remember my sunburns so vividly on my shoulders and cheeks that I swear my skin still resonates warmth. I can feel my hair wet and tangled, void of shampoo or product for days because A – it didn’t matter, and B- I was too young to care about such frivolous things. I can see the fireflies in Mason jars, hear the tree frogs humming and the sound of illegal firecrackers illuminating the sky from some cottage in the deepest, darkest part of the woods.

And of course, I remember the constant urge to be free.

I didn’t want a curfew and I wanted boobs. I didn’t want to drive the golf cart around our gated community, I wanted to have a real car with a real license. I didn’t want wine coolers, I wanted to have a glass of real wine with my mom. I didn’t want to hold hands by the lake, I wanted a boyfriend who I could make out with like I saw in movies. I didn’t want to be instructed on what to do, what to wear, or who to see. I wanted to shave my legs and go places all by myself, with my own money, on my own time.

I thought time passed slowly then, and I wish I thought the same now. I’m still wondering where May and June went, and I find it hard to believe I’ve been as “free” as I always wanted to be for quite some time now. And though there are moments when I wish I could tuck my Tigar tail and hop a flight home, run into my parent’s arms and have them fix everything – freedom is just as sweet as I always thought it’d be.

I don’t go to lake houses anymore, but I frequent rooftop parties and throw my own Bubble-Q’s (champagne and BBQ, duh!). I don’t have to be home at any particular time, though I inflict a midnight bedtime on myself most nights. I have boobs and I like them, but sometimes wish they’d stop getting in the way of every physical activity I enjoy. I have a driver’s license I only use to buy alcohol with, and I do drink Merlot out of nice glasses, for free, most of the time. I do make out with my boyfriend, plus some – but we hold hands, too. No one dictates what I wear or what I do, though my friends’ input is appreciated for both of those things always. I don’t shave my legs as often as I probably should, but I’m allowed. And all that food – well, now I put together what I can, and instead of big picnics with family and neighbors, I quite enjoy picnics for one.

Where I gather cheese and grapes, pretzels crisps, orange juice, and maybe a sliver of dark chocolate and sit, alone in my apartment. With no one around, no one to hold a conversation with, no cell phone nearby or computer in site, I just enjoy the company of myself, the serenity of my little picnic for me. And I pretend I’m a sophisticated adult, sitting in her breakfast nook wearing Dior like it’s normal, drenched in pearls, with my Loubies tossed off under an antique table. In the background, I hear the sound of my husband’s voice talking to our children and outside, I hear laughter and taxis singing the chorus of the city in a harmony that only an outsider, like me, can appreciate. My face is freckled with the imprint of a sun that didn’t burn and the fridge I can see out of the corner of my eye is tattooed with fingerpaintings from the two year old, photos from my wedding day, and the title page of my very first book.

Next to me lay dozens of magazines I worked for or freelanced with for a period of time, and as I think about how I’ll spend my day, I’ll remember back when I sat in my Upper West Side apartment in my 20s, young in my career and in my spirit, dreaming of the day I’d be independent of the worries of my future and what it would become and who I would grow into. When I sat with feet stained with dust from old floors and my roommate’s music blasting in the background, writing a blog I’d one day look back at and grin.

Because those maybe were the days when I was the most liberated, I just didn’t know it yet.

Daily Gratitude: Today, I’m thankful for picnics for one, and I’m sure, that I’m returning home from the countryside.

The Bravery of a Fool

There are not many late-night, frantic, and ridiculous phone calls between women discussing the unpredictability of the typically predictable male that don’t involve questions concerning being a fool.

The adages are plentiful – only fools fall in love and everybody plays the fool without an exception to the rule. And the negativity behind this term is not just in a noun, but also a verb – fool me once, shame on you – but fool me twice, shame on me. While women may want to be beautiful and irreplaceable, a vixen, and maybe an officially official girlfriend – one phrase they never like to adopt is being the fool of a man.

Maybe I’m being too cliche in my perspective of this definition. But to me, a fool is someone who knows there is a chance for destruction with a man who has a reputation or has warned you of his troubles, and yet, against any recommendation or any red flag waving in the vast unknown – they willingly pursue and maybe even commit to such a character. Perhaps it is a lack of judgement or an inability to be prudent with those they date or open their legs for – either way, I think it’s a title we’ve all claimed at some point. Most of us, probably well knowing the role we were accepting before we took the stage.

But why would anyone want to be a fool for anyone? Wouldn’t we rather stay logical and collected, calm, and in control of the love we decide to share with only a someone who is willing to offer us the same? Isn’t being in a relationship only worth the wager if you know that while the stakes are high, there are two players playing on an even-playing field?

Call me crazy – but I agree to be in love, you must be a little foolish. It is not an easy task to openly offer up your heart, your emotions, and your hope to a person who may or may not handle such precious things with care. With a simple slip of the mouth, slip of the pants, or slip into a stranger’s bed – a man who you once trusted with your most intimate self could leave you waiting in the wings, covered in not just the dust of his speedy exit, but the residue of his countless lies. Sure,  all of these things are possible and no, they don’t always happen. But they could and they do. If such pain is plausible, we’d have to be irrational to rationalize love. Right?

Or is it that the thinnest line isn’t between faith and fortune. Or between flattery and fumbling.  Or loving and lusting. Or what we want and where we are. Or the beginning and the ending. Or  making love and making the dirty. Or exclusive and free.

But rather – the most blurred connection is between being a fool and being brave.

And if I follow the absurdity of fairytales or the blatant reality of my parent’s example of a relationship that can endure the test of time and health – being brave is the quality that made the dues payable. But to be courageous, one must always be a little asinine, or we wouldn’t realize what we were risking. And really, the largest investment we make in a relationship isn’t even in the person – however dreamy he may be – but the liability is in ourselves.

We must be brave enough to fall in love and absurd enough to trust someone other than ourselves with our most valuable assets. Because once they are out in the open, in front of the court to see and ridicule, there is not always a guarantee that a prince charming will ride our way. More often than not in times that are Millennial instead of Medieval – the knight’s armor is less than shining and more shunning. After all, the fool is not the princess or the lady in waiting or even a maiden of the most prestigious court. This character is rather the one who entertains, the one who hides their own face in an effort to bring joy to the lips of others. But the fool is no fool to her antics or her charm, to her words, or to the price she could pay for being honest or sarcastic. She knows the chance she takes, she knows the pieces that could shatter – but she does it anyways.

Because what we forget about being a fool is that to be one, you must realize your own value. And you have to know that if the crowd doesn’t take to what you present, you know there is safety and shelter in your own care. And in that power comes the ability to accept being a fool and knowing that though we get a wild card to play a prank on a friend on this day each year, there is never a holiday for deceiving ourselves.

Rather – it is something we do constantly, time after time, man after man. We convince ourselves he will be different. That it will be easy and just as we imagined. He will do those things we always wanted him to do. He will surprise us. He will love us unconditionally, if such a love is reasonable. We fool ourselves into falling in love again. And again. We accept the burden it carries when it doesn’t work out as anticipated and we bow to our audience, to the fates who tricked us again, and we go backstage to prepare for the next show.

For the next brave attempt at the foolish ways of love.

My Love, My Valentine, Myself

When I started this blog nearly six months ago, I thought about what I would write on this day. On a day that for many years consisted of endless tears, intense jealously, and consumption of far too many calories. On a day where my self-proscribed “love addiction” reached all-time levels of ridiculousness.

I wondered what my life would be like at the time, if I would be recovering in healthy measures and learning to put myself before any man who was or was not in my life. I considered the option that I could have a boyfriend at the time, but when I started this journey, I hoped (for once) that I would be single when St. Valentine’s Day reared its compulsively pink and glittery head.

Because if you’re going to learn to love yourself single and stop defining your worth by the likes or dislikes of a man, I think spending today, even though it is just another Monday, alone is a necessary hurdle to leap over. Even if you stumble and cupid’s arrow knocks you down instead of fluttering your tummy with undefinable somethings, you still have to make the jump.

So, with a lot of acceptance, laughing, crying, and dates – I find myself exactly where I hoped to be on this day of love: romancing myself. And since I know what fits my fancy the best and what brings me the most joy of any pleasure on this Earth, then I can undoubtedly do the one thing that sweeps me off my feet more than anything else…writing.

However, I didn’t realize the process of composing a love letter to myself would be as difficult as it turned out to be, especially since I’ve been writing for nearly a decade, often daily. Somehow, putting into words how I feel about myself, the things I love that are specific to me, and the thankfulness I have to be in a relationship that’s minus-one – was challenging.

Luckily for me, I had the encouragement, the inspiration, and of course, the love from all of you. Your letters to yourself warmed my heart in ways a man never could never attempt to do. Sometimes, there is no better feeling than knowing that by doing the thing you love the most, you help others learn to love the things that make them irreplaceable and beautiful.

On Valentine’s Day or any other time of the year, I hope you all remember that loving yourself, choosing yourself, standing up for yourself, and deciding to be your own best friend, your own greatest fan, your own lover – is better than any bouquet of anything, everything in an overpriced blue box, and any dinner for two, you could ever experience. After all, flowers will wither, chocolates will crumble, and February 14th will come to an end, but no matter how much someone melts your heart or takes a bite out of it, though you may wilt, no man will ever determine your ending. Your happy ending begins and concludes with you.

Happy Valentine’s Day, addicts! I love you all for your continuous support and sweet words of encouragement. Go paint your city, your town, or you countryside red.

“My love, my darling, You’re my very best friend, my ray of sunshine. My girl. You stand by me when I can’t stand. You remind me that I’m more beautiful than I realize, stronger than I can comprehend, and braver than I thought possible. You make me laugh when everything feels like it’s crumbling. You’ve shown me that imperfections are really not flaws, but the things that make me, me. Sometimes, I can’t believe how far you’ve come. Literally, living your dream and often time pinching yourself because you can’t believe it actually came true. But, want to know what’s funny – it didn’t just come true, you made it your reality. You’ve never been afraid of taking risks, of asking questions, of putting yourself out there, and going after and standing up for what you believe. It is your bravery, your spirit, your kindness, and your compassion that make me love you so. You really are the whole package – petite, but hell in heels. Shapely and fit. Lovely brunette with piercing blue eyes and sometimes, a quite witty sense of humor. You’re intelligent and proud, but not narcissistic and condescending. You really do love people, people of every shape and form. People you’ve known for years, people you’ve never met, people you’ve read the words of, people you passed on the subway, people who you have not loved you in return. But most importantly, you love me for me, no exceptions or excuses. I hope you know how much I love you in return. You give and you believe in love freely, and you’re learning not to let it be everything. You’re always honest with me, I can trust you more than I rely on any single thing on this planet. You are the person I want to wake up to each and every single day and look at before I fall asleep. Your optimism, your faith that all turns out as it should, makes me believe the future we have together is never-ending. I’m so thankful that on Valentine’s Day you decided to choose me, to love me, to be loyal to me, and shower me with your beauty and your ever-shining light. Thank you for all you’ve given me these 20-something years – I can’t wait see what you do next. Know that no matter what happens, no matter where we go, no matter what rocky waters we may endure, I’ll be here for you, today and always. Go get ’em Tigar!” -Love Addict, New York, NY

“Although you spent the last three valentines with her, it’s time to move on…. don’t dwell on the past and find a new love this year!” – Dating a Lemon

“I love how you always have an enthusiastic attitude about everything. You find the good out of every situation. You are strong, independent, and have passion which is incredibly sexy in a woman. I do not need a man to make me happy because I get along just fine without one, I have never settled for less and I am not going to start settling for less now. What makes me a fearless, fabulous female is my independence and that I value my own worth and put my needs before the needs of a stranger in my bed (Old self would have done that but new self laughs at the idea of a man she barely knows in her bed). I am happy to be flying solo this Valentine’s Day because I am happy with myself and would rather be by myself eating chocolate bon-bons and watching horror flicks then in a loveless relationship any day.” – Emily, Asheville, NC

“Do you remember your last Valentine’s day? When you spent an hour waiting for your (now ex-) boyfriend, before walking 40 minutes to his house in heels, where no one answered the door? Even though it turned out to be an okay-ish day (watching “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy” isn’t really my idea of romance, but oh well), that’s not going to happen any more. You’re better than that, because you no longer need a man to feel complete. You have a great personality, long legs, a kick-ass wardrobe and mind-blowing curves. You are strong and independent. You’ve got the whole package: intelligence, sexiness, wit and not to forget, 32 pairs of fabulous shoes. The fact you’re alone on Valentine’s day does not say you’re lonely, It only says you’re not prepared to settle for anything less than your dream guy. You deserve so much more than all those guys you’ve given the chance to stand at your side. So, this year have a little fun on your own. Take this day to start believing how truly fabulous and amazing you really are. Have a wonderful Valentine’s day. You don’t deserve anything less. Love, Me. P.S. Happy Valentine’s day to every love addict out there. You are truly amazing too!” –Cassandra, Rotterdam, Zuid-Holland

“This Valentine’s Day, as I spend the night convincing myself that I’m happily single, I’ll remind myself of the one word that drives me and it won’t be so bad – fearless. I’m fearless of my independence, fearless of getting hurt, fearless of my flaws, and fearless of falling in love. I’m ready to take on the challenge of finding the emotion every girl dreams of feeling and I’m not afraid to take on every little thing that’s thrown at me along the way.” – Chelsea

“Hmmm. You know I have a hard time thinking of things to say to you. You tend to just think up things all on your own to make yourself have a brighter day. Which is probably what I love most about you. You are an amazingly strong women, the stuff you think up in your head is like “Sunshine, Lollipops & Rainbows,” not to mention a little bit of “Be Happy,” and “I feel so Pretty,” also not to mention the way you screw up lyrics and smoosh together songs. I’m glad to spend my days with you forever and always. As you remember to treat each day like a “New Design” and not a story going “Over and Over Again.” Btw, you are the bees knees of pretty ladies, don’t let yourself feel otherwise. Love Always and Forever, Me, Myself, and I.” –Shay Rae, Fort Wayne, Indiana

“You’re in your twenties and have lived in various amazing places. You’ve suffered great losses and yet you’ve managed to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and dive head first once more. You’ve dated a number of men and have learnt a lot. You’ve been treated terribly but you’ve still managed to forgive, not regret and cherish the experience. Over the years you have taken your life back for yourself and have learnt that you can do and achieve all that you want without a man. You’ve learnt that you need to love you before he can love you. I’m happy to be alone this Valentines Day because you’ve shown me that I don’t need just one day for me to appreciate myself; I have 364 other days.” –KruRai, Gaborone, Botswana

“You know what I love about me? I love my heart–it knows no bounds or limitations, it just loves people unconditionally…no matter how hurt I’ve been in the past. I love my wit & sense of humor–I am ridiculously funny, and I think that is awesome. I love my interests & talents, and how they fuse together to make one incredible individual. I love my fashion sense, I love my compassion, I love my ability to give amazing advice. Physically, I love my freckles, my curves, and my naturally wavy auburn hair. Mentally, I love my ability to reason and use logic. I love my laugh. I love how I handle confrontation. I love my silliness, my surprising skills at Nintendo 64, my cooking talents, my absence of shame or regret, that I can drink most people under the table, and my lack of modesty about how incredible I am. I don’t need a man because my happiness doesn’t come from ANY other individual–it comes from me. My happiness doesn’t depend on someone’s opinion of my body, my talents, or my character. I don’t need a man because I am surrounded by incredible people that can do all the things I can’t: I have girlfriends that I can talk to about anything, will take me out to dinner “just because”, and are more fun than anyone else on the planet. I already have a strong base of incredible men in my life, who will always be there to squish spiders & help me move large furniture (as well as remind me that I am beautiful & an incredible woman). I don’t need a man because I have an incredible family that supports me & loves every little thing about me. I don’t need a man because, simply, I don’t have time or energy while I’m focusing on my new job, new apartment, and new city. What makes me fabulous? I think all of these things do. Being completely self-assured & hopeful about the future is a big deal, even if you’re only 23. Given the things I’ve been through, witnessed, and experienced, optimism seems kind of silly–I’m not optimistic, I am 100% positive that good things are going to happen for me in every part of my life, and this includes falling in love. I am still so young and there are so many people out there to meet, there’s no time to be focused on what ISN’T happening right now. Being able to see that there are good things ahead makes me a different kind of fearless, and I am proud of that. Also, Beyonce is married to Jay-Z & STILL talks about how fun it is to be single. Given that Beyonce is fucking fearless & fierce, doesn’t that mean all single gals have something to do an incredible dance about? I think so.” – Michelle, Washington, DC

“Can you believe you’re spending this Valentines Day in London? Not too shabby of a suburban Canadian girl. Two years ago, you were just an anxious 18 year-old high school senior. You couldn’t wait to get going in life but wasn’t quite ready to leave the home you grew up in. A lot has happened and changed since then. Just look at what a whirlwind these last 12 months have been. You worked for that big Internet company, studied abroad in Paris, branched out in the international photography community, and now live in the United Kingdom. I know it’s been challenging at times, like the week when you got no sleep trying to juggle work, school, and photography, having to build a nest for yourself each time you moved to a new city, all the holidays you celebrated away from family and friends, and that first birthday you spent completely alone. Despite all of that, and perhaps even because of all of that, you’ve become stronger – more confident, more certain, more humble, and, most importantly, more fearless. You’ve learned to make new friends anywhere you go, embrace all the opportunities that come your way, and stay grounded with the endless love and support of family and friends. Some day you’re going to look back on this year of endless travels and exciting opportunities and realize you are living the life. Keep dreaming big and don’t wake up too soon. Love, TZ.” –Tracy, London, England

“This will probably be the only Valentine you get this year, apart from the annual pity card from your mum, though even that this year may not be there now you have drifted back home. By now your used to valentines alone, to seeing others receive gifts and mocking them (without a hint of jealousy – you wish) but this year will be different, because this year for the first time you actually love you and that is enough. For the first time this year you have realised that you actually quite like who you are. This is a big step and its taken 3 years of friendship from some pretty great people to get you there. So today be thankful that they are there, have been there and will be there. That they too realise that you need to be you, alone, until someone turns up who allows you to be you as well as being an us. They don’t judge you for pushing away J and R, for dashing their hopes for your romances and you have stopped judging yourself now too. So embrace this new happiness, keep defining yourself apart from others and please keep being the best friend i have. With or without a man i promise to keep loving you, not return to the self loathing that has plagued many a past memory. I love you and you love me so happy valentines. I’m happy you’ll always be mine.” –Anonymous

“Happy Valentine’s Day! Year number 14 on my own (with 1 oops in there somewhere). Congratulations for being such a strong woman, to make it on your own. While men are nice to have around, and every year I hope, will this be the year I get roses?, I think, I can buy roses myself. I can hang a picture, I can mow my yard, I can even change the headlight on my car. So while I think we all secretly wish for Mr. Right to find us before Valentine’s Day (so we can receive the chocolate and roses) celebrate that you are the fabulous woman you are; call a girlfriend, who also is waiting for Mr. Right, and go out to dinner; take each other a rose and share a heart-shaped box of candy while watching one of those girlie movies that men don’t really care for anyway. And enjoy being You!” –Anonymous

“You’re beautiful inside and out. You’re worth more than you think and you deserve more than you get. You don’t need another half to make you whole, you do damn find out on your own. Be proud of yourself and your accomplishments, you did it without a man’s help. Valentine’s day is about love, who’s to say you have to spend it with a man? I love myself, therefore, my valentine is myself.. the only person who will never let me down.” –Katie, Cleveland, OH

“You are fabulous. You’re fabulous when you’re single, you’re fabulous when you’re with a man, and you’re fabulous even when you make mistakes. Live it, learn it, love it. xoxo Cat.” –Cat, New York, NY

“One day someone will fully appreciate you for all that you are. Someone will love you for being strong, forgiving and understanding the way you love those things about yourself. Until you find someone who adores you for those things instead of feeling challenged or threatened by them, then you’re better off single and in love with yourself.” –Suzanne, Canton, OH

“You rock because you know what it takes to make yourself happy…adventure and the company of people who contribute to your dreams. A man is like a good accessory. It completes the outfit but doesn’t break the look when it’s not there :)” –Brittainey, Des Moines, Iowa

“I just want to say what an honour it is to get to know you. After being surrounded by people all week, I look forward to spending some quiet time alone with you, whether it be a quiet evening on the couch with a glass of wine, or a run along the river, or a play in the park with the hounds. Taking time to listen to your fears and your aspirations. Making plans for the future, understanding what makes you happy, is time well spent in my book. I observe with a little touch of awe, your strength to deal with the tough times with your chin up and a wide smile for those who need it. It is truly a pleasant surprise to take stock and see how far you have come, despite the setbacks. You strive to face your flaws with dignity and whilst I know you consider it somewhat a failure to have those imperfections, I remind you that it is an admirable trait to humbly forgive those who hurt you- even if it does take a year or two (or longer). You have every right to feel pleased that you have not given up hope for one day again feeling that rush of excitement coupled with the warm glow of a steady, secure love. You have the right to be proud that you have not settled for the company of a man who treated you poorly, regardless of how completely you loved him nor how crippling at times the loss of that love has felt. You have the right to be proud that you have not settled for the company of a man who adored you, but with whom you could not summon the heart-swelling emotion which you know he deserves in return. And so it is that this Valentine’s Monday, you have the pleasure of spending the evening in the company of someone who understands you, who loves you and who will never leave you. Truly, the very best of company- mine! Happy Valentine’s Day!” –Serene, Perth, Australia

“I love your boldness, independence, undying love and compassion for others, and your ability to put anyone in their place. Yes, you have your flaws, but each of them is a blessing. They make you who you are. Love them. Cherish them. Your confidence is your best feature. If men and women alike cannot appreciate it, and run scared instead, then take it indirectly as a compliment. Compliments are wonderful, as you know, but you are responsible for your own happiness. So, no long face today because you have the best Valentine in the world–yourself. You will always be there for yourself for better or for worse. You love unconditionally. You’ll never walk out, or cheat. And when the day is done, you will be all that you need to stand on your own two feet and simply be. You are a peaceful warrior. Good things are still to come. At the end of the day, you are going to be perfectly fine being solo. You made your own dinner reservations. No one was late. The meal (and the wine) will be pure bliss. You will still get your chocolaty goodness and flowers, but without the drama, stress, and embarrassment (maybe). You get to be yourself, in your pajamas, in your hotel room (you can thank work later) without a care in the world. Sounds like the perfect day to me.” –Nelson, Lexington, VA

“Dear Darling Valentine, You totally deserved the creme suede lounge you just bought yourself for your new apartment (and the black satin robe that goes with it). Who wants a man when you’re working with something like that? Looking forward to laying with you in luxury, <3 FT.” –Cady, Durham, NC

“I love that you’ve come this far. I love that you didn’t let your past determine your future. You don’t need a man to shape the most important few years of your life, while being a 20 something year old. That’s what friends, vacations, and credit cards are for. You’re fabulous because you can stand strong on your own, and lead a career more promising than any guy you’ve been with. Being single this Valentine’s Day will be one of the best because ‘After all, the company of confidence is much better than the company of a coward.'” –Anonymous

“I shouldn’t feel any less special or loved on a day where love ought to come from everyone, everywhere. I may be single, but let’s be honest, we all have dozens upon dozens of Valentine’s, and each is as important and special as any significant other. Sure I won’t be getting “up close and personal” with any of these people, but I wouldn’t be who I am without them. I wouldn’t be where I am without them. And it has to be said, there’s nothing like getting roses from my dad every single year without fail. Now that’s commitment.” – Anonymous, Canada

“You never tell yourself that you are amazing, even though you are. Despite all of the social pressures, you have lived a truly unique life. Somehow, you have managed to experience and accomplish more things than most people will in their lifetime. Valentine’s Day has never been happy occasion in the past, but why be so hard on yourself just because one facet of your life isn’t the usual? If you look closely, living outside the lines has been the motto for your 28 years. You are beautiful, hilarious, and refuse to compromise on what you want out of life. Take today, and celebrate this beautiful life you have made for yourself and the amazing woman that is unfolding before everyone’s eyes. Don’t let anyone make you second-guess yourself or the choices you are making right now. You are surrounded by love no matter where you go!” -Kelly, Phoenix, AZ

“For the first time since middle school, you’re happy to be single on Valentine’s Day. Your recent trip to Israel helped you discover more about you in 12 days, than you knew in the past 25 (almost) years. Congratulations on being able to laugh off the mushy stuff. Enjoy this day as it was meant to be, sharing life, love, and happiness with your closest friends.” –Sharon, Massachusetts

“Dear Blonde, Do you love yourself? Check YES or NO. Wait a minute, honey. Don’t make a move just yet. I know you’re wanting to pick up a cute pink pen and place a great big mark next to “YES”, but it seems lately that you haven’t really been SHOWING yourself much love. No, not that kind of self-love. The emotional kind. The good stuff. Most days, you’re a happy-go-lucky single girl out to even the score. I see you check yourself in the mirror some mornings, I’ve seen the wink and smile. You’re awesome and you know it. Your blonde hair shines almost as bright as your personality. You’re witty, you’re passionate. I’l be honest, this version of yourself? IRRE-FREAKIN-SISTABLE, honey. But some days, there is no look in the mirror. No wink, no smile, just a sigh. Listen, I know you’re worried. What if karma is punishing me in some weird way? I mean, you weren’t a great girlfriend sometimes. Yep, you’ve made mistakes with relationships. But honestly, Blonde, who hasn’t? It’s time you stop beating yourself up over things that happened in the past. It’s been a long time. You’ve changed. Everyone that knows you can tell how absolutely fabulous you’ve become! And on the days that you’ve got the wink and smile, you know it too. So, repeat after me: “I AM THE BLONDE, AND I AM FABULOUS!” Now, once you believe that, feel free to pick up the pen and check yes. XOXO, The Blonde.” -The Blonde

Much love to Tall Brewnette for this lovely Valentine!

A Dive Into the Unknown

As a huge adrenalin junkie who absolutely adores all things fast, dangerous, and super-high (heels included) – when I was given the opportunity to go bungee jumping last year, I gladly accepted the challenge.

The experience wasn’t in some exotic land off of a waterfall or a bridge into tropical waters – but rather, just part of the attractions at a North Carolina stupidly-small town that catered to the country-bumpkin in all of us. At the time, I was dating Mr. Idea and it was the only “weekend getaway” he could afford. Nevertheless, I was excited to be with someone who was willing to take the plunge into a large blow-up pillow from the top of a 65-foot tower.

We climbed a winding staircase chatting and mentally preparing ourselves for the moment when we turned the corner, caught a glimpse of the cascading mountains in the distance…and all of the people who looked super tiny below us. We took our place in line, and because it was one of the items on my ever-flowing bucket list, I wanted to go first. Mr. Idea stood behind me, tickling my waist, and pulling me into him – and I noticed a girl, probably around 13, royally freaking out in front of me. After a few minutes of observing her, I gathered that not only was she alone, but she really, truly did not want to nose-dive off of this platform like I did.

I pulled away from Mr. Idea, patted her shoulder, and asked if she was alright. She instantly burst into tears, said her dad was waiting below, and she thought she wanted to bungee jump, but now is terrified. My southern comfort came out as I wrapped my arms around her, reassured her that if she didn’t want to jump, she certainly didn’t have to, and that I was sure her dad would understand what she called “wasting his money” (Had he minded, I would have gladly given him the $25 fee that I paid). She tucked herself away in my chest and asked if I would walk her back down the stairs. Mr. Idea rubbed my back and asked me if I wanted him to wait, and I told him to just go on without me. Now, I was invested in this scared teen.

The closer we got to the ground, the more she started the breathe, and the less she cried and held on to me. By the time we reached the first level, her father had walked up to meet her, and hen she laid eyes on him, she spurted out apologies between sniffles. He just picked up all 95-pounds of her, consoled her, and ran his fingers through her hair. He then thanked me and she waved good-bye as they walked away, seeing me as this stranger who came to her rescue. I watched them leave for a minute before making my way back up the tower, my legs and my heart heavy from the exhaustion. And once I finally made it to the edge and the instructor was checking all my straps and buckles and giving me pointers and direction- I finally realized what I was doing.

I looked down at the ground with crowds watching, including Mr. Idea who successfully completed his jump and was now shouting up words of encouragement. I looked over at the instructor-dude, who did not look very charming or college-educated, or even like he cared too awful much, and wondered if I was comfortable placing my trust in him. I looked down at the many clips and cords wrapped around me and the wires attaching me to the tower and questioned if one of the never-fail contraptions, had ever, well…failed.

Clearly noticing I was spacing out, the instructor asked, “Ms., are you ready to jump?

Now, nearly two years later, I open my eyes and see myself on a slightly different platform that’s not as elevated, but the stakes seem even higher. My palms are just as sweaty, I find myself searching for intriguing excuses to turn around, and the support that promises to protect me from plummeting – seems a little shaky.

In every dating situation where imagining a future doesn’t seem so far fetched – there comes a point where you feel yourself on the edge of an emotional cliff and you have two decisions: to jump or to leave.

Once you’ve experienced this pivotal call of heads or tails, love or fail – you know what it feels like to be falling for someone. You can feel your lips curling at the thought of them, your mind wondering into their direction, your heart anticipating the next time you’ll see them or hear from them. You can feel it when you’re enveloped in their arms, reading an e-mail written just for you, or when you meet their eyes.  More than likely- your friends and family notice a difference too, and if they are anything like mine, they are inquisitive into the glow behind your beaming cheeks.

And with this realization that you are falling and you know you must decide if the jump is worth the possible destruction – you become scared shitless. (Pardon my language, but it is really the best way to describe it).

Evaluating the risk becomes a personal strategy and mental coping mechansim where you make deals with yourself: “Okay, if I do act like I really do like him, if I do tell him how I feel, and he rejects me – I’ll still be okay. I will still be able to get up, go to work, and make that happy hour on Thursday. I’ll be cool. And who knows, he may even feel the same way! He could be falling too! ” But then, your emotional side takes over and pleads: “But it will hurt!! OMG, Lindsay, don’t you remember what it felt like? You’ll want to go home, crawl into bed, and those 10 pounds are gonna come back with all the cake you’ll be downing. It isn’t worth it.”

But does love or the chance of it, always have to be so black and white? Does it always have to be to fall or to protect? To take a deep breath and move forward or tuck your tail, throw up your flag to surrender? To walk forward or to walk away? To be the girl who needs to be escorted down 65-feet or the girl who takes a step off the platform, no matter how scary it is?

Is it impossible to fall into shades of gray?

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t falling for Mr. Possibility and I’d also be telling a white lie if I didn’t admit it makes me a little uneasy and fearful for my heart that has experienced a fair share of breaks. But, as I’m realizing with this journey – not everything can fit into one of two categories. Not everything needs a big red bow on it of approval or a scary red “x” of rejection. And in terms of love – where guarntees are never made – falling into the unknown is just part of the game. Plus – regardless if it is in the form of cords and cables, or friends, margaritas, or strangers on tall platforms – we will always have some type of support to back us up if we need it.

So while hesitation is rightfully-justified when we’re about to take a plunge (the instructor had to count to three twice for me) – there is no better feeling, no better thrill, no better rush than the moment where you decide that regardless of the outcome or the final destination, diving into the unknown is less risky than turning around and always wondering…if you should have just held your breath, said a prayer, and jumped in.