The Things a Man Can’t Give Me

After spending an unjustified amount of time on Tumblr one Sunday afternoon, I happened to stumble upon an adorable photo. Of course, I have a certain affinity to this creature (or really any miniature animal), so I quickly updated my Facebook proclaiming I’d like to be the owner of a baby tiger.

Expecting to receive a few comments from my friends who kindly entertain my ridiculousness, I hopped in the shower, determined to get my day started instead of wasting it away in front of a 15″ laptop screen. Twenty minutes and one Beyonce sing-along under the water later, I did what every Gen Y does: tapped my phone back to life because being without it for such a “long” time made me feel disconnected.

On the screen was a new text from the man I was seeing at the time and though we were not serious, I really dug him. He was one of those who always had something interesting to say and never failed to surprise me. This message would prove the latter: Check your email.

Unsure of why he would send something to my email instead of just calling or telling me, I opened up Gmail to find no message from him. Confused, I sent a question mark in response (so explanatory, I know), and he responded with: You wanted a baby tiger, didn’t you? Becoming more perplexed with these cryptic messages and the fact he was stalking my Facebook mid-day, I glanced back at my accountant and noticed an email not from him, but from the WWF. He couldn’t give me an actual baby tiger, but he could adopt one from Africa in my name. And so, he did – just like that. The certificate was sitting proudly a click away and the snuggly and stuffed version came a few weeks later.

So apparently men can give you the nearly extinct animal you mindlessly requested in a status update. And they can leave notes in jean pockets, taped behind a closed door you rarely open, and on your mirror so you never forget how beautiful you are. They can buy you that necklace or that ring you intently gleamed at in the back of Vogue. They can purposefully leave the apartment for the unimportant fact that they’re out of orange juice and you always drink a tall glass each morning.

And when they’re not supplying your tummy or your jewelry box – men can give us many splendored things. When you can feel a man really loves you, it’s powerful. After all, we’ve met the ones who never care at all. Hell – we’ve slept with them. Possibly dated them for six months, just in case something changes. It’s after that disaster we learn to notice when a guy comes along who is all hands-and-feet on deck. We start to think they give us feelings we always say we’ve never felt before, until we do, again. They indulge us in reassurance and constant confidence boosts. They don’t make us wait and they don’t make things harder or faster than what we prefer – unless we ask for it, of course. They support us as equally as we encourage them, and when like grows into love and love into content – they weather the changes because they’d rather stick around than find something simplified elsewhere.

It’s true – men can give us so many things.

But I’m starting to realize there are more things men can’t give me. Partly because they aren’t capable of it, but mostly because I wouldn’t want them to. There are certain parts of my life that I don’t invite a man into and there are pleasures I derive when I’m alone that don’t always match the fulfillment a man returns. There are outings and doings that keep me positive and feeling alive that I’d much rather do without the presence of anyone. There is a cache and a sense of independence that comes from paying everything on my own, shopping at my own accord and saving up for that pair of shoes that even if someone offered, I’d never let them purchase on my behalf. There is a power in knowing nearly every single item in my apartment came from money I made by having a resume I worked hard (and mostly for no pay) to build. There is a satisfaction I get from marching the streets, making eye contact with a stranger or two, and continuing to walk when they get the hint I’ll slow my pace for them – but I don’t.

And without a man, without the consistent reminder that someone in this world at the very least finds you tolerable – you learn how to keep yourself going. You learn the difference between being a constructive critic and being way harder on yourself than anyone else would be. You notice changes in your mood and you become aware of what makes you happy, what tickles your tastebuds, and what disgusts you. You have ways to shed joy and hope into your life that no other person – even the most attractive and engaging ones – could ever replace. You depend on yourself without considering there is a safety net or a body to break your fall. You decide the best answer to your questions aren’t “call mom” or “call Mr. of Right Now” but really are not even an answer at all, they are also a question: Well, what do you want to do?

Those things, no matter how insignificantly silly (like my need of wine in the bathtub while listening to Rhapsody in Blue and reading for the 100th time, Jane Eyre) or superbly worthy (like my need to not have anyone advise me on where my money is going unless I’m paying them – with my money – to instruct me) – are still possible to find when you’re dating a man. Even when you’re madly in love with him.

But you have to fight for them. Because while the dudes can be rather charming and sweet, and give us endearing reminders that we’re loveable, they become one hell of a distraction. Perhaps a beautiful one, but a distraction all the same. I mean, baby tigers may not be a match the baby diamond earrings we scrambled just enough money to buy for ourselves, but which one will mean more to us if the relationship ends? And which is a girl’s best friend (RIP, Liz)?

One of the many troubles of being single is longing for those things we know a man can give us. Those things we’ve found before and have now become afraid are forever lost. But when love takes a chance on you again, you may just find yourself missing those things purposefully just for you, and you only. You may have to keep yourself grounded as you are effortlessly swept away.

Because instead of turning our attention away from me and steering it toward a he the has the potential to become a we- we’ve gotta learn how to have the me, have the he, and have the we, without losing all three.

Meet My Boyfriend

The thing I get asked the most by friends, readers, and fellow bloggers is: How do you write every single day?!

The answer has consistently been rather simple – it is easy. Partly because I consider myself someone who was lucky enough to always know what they were meant to do, and also due to the mere fact that I write about my life. And what else could be more natural to do than recording, dissecting, and describing every-day adventures? Or better yet – what could be more entertaining when those experiences primarily relate to relationships – something that everyone, no matter their demographics, can understand and relate to.

And while I write about personal experiences, most of the ideas that turn into blogs come from outside sources. From eavesdropping on two friends at the gym, by graffiti stained on my building, by a penny I kick across the pavement, by an exchange I witnessed that was only meant for that couple, by something I feel that I can’t explain, by a sighting or a viewing, by an argument or a profession. I try to listen while I linger, ask more questions than I make statements, and try to put myself in the shoes of strangers. Or the ones I know best – after all, fodder is frequent from my friends.

Unsurprisingly, as our pals often know us better than we know ourselves, this is where my claim of fluidity and simplicity in blogging becomes objected. As in the case of my friend J.

On Sunday, over burgers at one of my New York favorites, Corner Bistro, a group of us were catching up, drinking Blue Moons, and taking in more calories than the rest of the week allowed. I met my friend J in a way that can only be described as fate by the Internet –through a Meetup group that I was hesitant to join. However, it turned out producing five of my closest pals in the city, some of which are starting to get to know me pretty well. As J is telling me about her latest dating adventure and how the scene is different than the laid-back and sunny market in California where she’s from, I must have looked at her too hard because she said:

“You’re writing your blog right now in your head, aren’t you?” Stunned she could detect the writing wheels turning, I smiled a 4 p.m.-and-tipsy grin, and asked, “Um, how did you know that?” She took a sip of her wine (not a fan of beer), she laughed and replied, “Well, you know when you really like someone and they bring you happiness, you think about them all the time? Even when other people are talking to you?” I nodded. “That’s kind of what your blog is now. The blog is your boyfriend.”

Interesting.

A relationship, much like a blog, depends constant attention. You have to put in effort to make it work and be understanding when glitches out of your control cause trouble (like WordPress’ meltdown last night). The longer you’re with someone, the more people know about the person you’ve become exclusive with, and the more energy you put toward something – the harder it is to let it go. You become committed and involved, engrossed in what-could-be, and needing to know that person feels the same way. And if you’re anything like me before I started the blog, you become quite obsessed with the man of loving opportunity.

So, is my friend right? Maybe I have made this blog into my boyfriend. Or into an entity outside of myself, even though it’s primarily about me. I’m connected to it, I give it daily attention, I take time out of my schedule to make sure it is functioning, growing, and giving me what I need. But what is it that I need from a blog? If you asked me a few months ago, it would have been similar to my response to what I want from a relationship: something that helps me grow, gives me guidance, and lets me say whatever I want to say, without passing judgment.

However, like every relationship that experiences change with tide, waters have been rough with me and my boyfriend, the blog.

For a while, as much as I was writing about my exciting life, the majority of it was spent at work and at home. The weekends were sometimes full of outings and doings, but I had the energy and the dedication to put into the pages of this blog because it was my main concern and central source of entertainment. But like I’m learning to let love fall lower on my list of priorities, as my life started to become…well, a life – the less time I’ve had to focus on blogging.

My calendar has started to fill up, event invites continue to roll in, my friends rightfully demand my attention and my evenings, I’m running more, I’m planning trips, I’m further investing into the potential return of Mr. Possibility’s possibilities, and above all else, I’m still focusing on me. The 12 Steps continue to help me guide through the emotions that used to throw me. The essence of the blog is still alive in my life, but the availability I used to have to give it love is gone.

So do I stop writing? Do I break up with my boyfriend because he doesn’t fit into the life I’m making for myself? Do I put an end to the love I once found because I’d rather turn my attention to seemingly bigger and better things?

Nope.

Because when a relationship experiences trouble or things outside of the union start to expand and rise, that’s when you test how the connection. The commitment, the loyalty. That’s when you realize that love will never be everything that defines you or all of the things you’re made of. That’s when you remember the relationship that makes it – the one that’s worth all the hassles and frazzles – is the one you can maintain, even when the rest of your life becomes fuller and happier. I can’t make a man – or a blog – my everything. But if I can remember that love is just a part of life and this blog is about my life – the inspiration to pen another post will come just as easy as it once did.

As long as I just live, that is.

The Men Who Never Ruined Me

When you’re a New Yorker-wannabe who sports heels in 20-degree snowy weather while attending a college ripe with country-fied hipsters – you develop thick skin pretty quickly. And when those not-so-Southern graces finally land you in city places – that durability only gets tougher.

Or when your job is to criticize and analyze, and thus those around you do the exact same, and your dreamland also happens to be the Land of Hard-Knocks –being resilient is an essential part of survival. It isn’t survival of the fittest, but survival of the wittiest – the ones who can not only take a punch but challenge another one to even try and make them fall.

And while this thick skin has given me opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise and strength that always makes me push forward -the layer of power is actually quite shallow.

They say the first cut cuts the deepest but I’d like to think that every love has the chance to penetrate the most pain. And to be honest – the older I become, the better ability I have to sincerely love someone. Not to mention the better I know myself, so the people I date I’m more compatible with and the relationships, more serious and impactful.

But yet, amidst the qualifications and healthy self-growth, I’ve found myself unable to fully develop that protection against the men who come and often leave my life. No matter how hard I try or how much I hold off on being vulnerable and emotionally open to someone – somehow, if the chemistry and the man are right, they’ll find their way in. Often times, easier than I’d like to admit.

And when that happens – when love gets under my skin – I automatically set myself on guard. I become a protector of my heart like the fragile item it is; a soldier unsure if I’m fighting for the single or the taken team.  Because  this person, who I let creep in, has this ability to crush me, and if I let them dig their way in deeper – I may never recover.

Because doesn’t everyone have the man who ruined them?

The guy who made our skin tingle in ecstasy, caused us to lose our breath when he pulled away in the middle of an exchange, and gave us what we thought was the gut-feeling of just-right, the ever just-so. But then he left. Or things fell apart. Or he met someone else. Or we stopped being what he wanted or realized we never were close to his idea of a dreamgirl, regardless if he was our image of fate.

I’ve met many men who have broken my spirits and damaged my pride. There have been a few that for a matter of time after we parted, I lost my faith in finding love. I’ve cursed a couple names, I’ve taken all the blame and placed it all away, and there is one I don’t go a day without thinking of. They’ve each hurt me in their own respect, some by their doing and some by my own actions.

And I’ve also been guilty of manipulating and leading-on men who merely wanted to see me happy. My intention was never to be deceptive, but it’s difficult to tell someone that they aren’t what you want, that they don’t give you what you need, and that you’d rather try your luck in singleness instead of sticking around with them. Are these the men who we break? I’d like to think not, but that’s easier to say when you’re the one in control not the one receiving harsh, blunt force to your core.

But regardless of which spectrum I shine or burn out at – I don’t believe I’ve ruined someone. And all of the he’s of yesterday are all the men who neverruined me. The ones of today and tomorrow will never make me damaged goods either. It’s simply impossible.

Will I be hurt? Will I find myself buried in sadness and fear of never stumbling across the love of my life? Will I ache and cry, crumble and fall? Will I allow myself to love and be loved, to give and make love? Will it all be less than and more than I can take?

I hope so.

Because the thing about having thick loving skin is to build up the resistance, to be wiser about who we give enough power to leave a scar – we have to experience the bad. Without the pain, there is no persistence. Without the pressure, hope never develops its place. Skin can’t be durable if it is never tested. Hearts can’t be trusted if they never allow themselves to trust. You can’t experience love until you fall madly and severely in lust. You can’t appreciate a man worth your time if you don’t date a guy who wasted not only your time, but you, too.

And we can’t assure ourselves that being emotionally battered is out of the question if we’re never faced with a love that has the power to destruct. Not only our emotions, but what we think, what we believe, and where we stand. Until we come across a man who will change us for the better, he’ll never have the opportunity to damage us for good.

But even when this love rears is beautifully disastrous head; when we realize the strength someone has over us, the tight grip they hold on our hearts without really trying, and the skin they’re making softer by the hour – we should enjoy it. Savor it. Experience it for all that it offers and all the hope it gives us, even if they are left unfulfilled in the end.

Because there are chances worth taking. Mistakes worth making. Promises worth breaking. Life worth chasing. People worth dating. And at the end of it, if we can remember we’re worth all of those things too, that we’re people worth loving, who are worthy of a chance, that we are the women worth breaking a promise for, and we are the ones with a life that’s worth a great chase- then we won’t find ourselves ruined if something goes wrong. Instead, we’ll find ourselves seasoned, experienced, and with a new man who never ruined us to add to the list of the love we’ve had, lost, and found.

And, if we’re lucky, we’ll also have a little thicker skin for the next one who comes our way.

 

Silly Little Thing Called Luck

As many bloggers and magazine outlets will say today: I don’t consider myself lucky in relationships. In fact, I’ve considered myself unlucky in the game of love – never one to get the hearts, clubs, or diamonds; only the spades.

Nevertheless, while I could write about the fact that love is probably the factor of a little faith and the luck of great timing – I’m not committed to the idea. I’ve yet to determine what I think the best prescription for finding true love is and I’ve honestly reached a point where it isn’t the priority, but rather something I trust will be in my cards eventually. Maybe.

However – in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, tribute must be paid to those Irish things that have brought me much joy over the years. And perhaps, even a little bit of that silly little thing called luck.

Claddagh ring

My hometown is this beautifully hippie and new age town tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is a mecca for up-and-coming bands, artists, and the beat of the streets beats “come as you are.” Growing up in a contradictory town: Southern and accepting of different cultures and orientations, made me an investigator of international affairs, as well as a curator of my own background.

Following my junior year of college, I finally jumped on the Claddagh ring ban-wagon and bought a fancy one (by fancy, I mean more than the $10 one on the side of the street. This one had a real stone with a real personal meaning) from a local artist in downtown Asheville. And since I signed my name to charge it, I never took it off. Not to shower, not to cook, not to do anything. To me, it was symbolic of love in my life – where it be romantic or self. A few guys cleverly turned it around when they asked to be exclusive, but somehow, it only felt  right when it was displaying my single title to the world.

Because even when I find love, it doesn’t mean I’m not open to any other expression of admiration from other sources. So really, my heart is always open. Funny thing is though, a week after I started writing this blog, I tucked away the ring in my drawer, having decided I didn’t need anything that defined me by my relationship status. I may sport it again, but if not, it’ll always remind me the universe is always giving love – as long as we’re perceptive enough to see it.

Fitzgerald’s Pub

Today, I’m not much of an Irish pub kind of girl. Maybe I’ve grown out of the feel or prefer live music or dancing to darts and rugby, but if given the choice, a place with “O’Connor” in the name wouldn’t be first on my going-out list. However, when I interned in the city and was without a friend to my name, the bartenders at this joint in the Flat Iron district became my instant pals.

I’d come in after a long day at the mag or hostessing at a restaurant in Times Square and there they’d be to greet me with their lovely Irish accents: “Lindsay, darling! Give the girl a Guinness, will ya?” I’ve never cared for Guinness but in my naivety, I was flattered by their gesture and always accepted anything they gave me. We’d sit watching baseball (which I know next-to-nothing about), talking about their wives, and dissecting my Southern/Irish roots. Without these entertaining nights, I wouldn’t have had as many dates that summer (somehow, I was always hit on at Fitzgerald’s) or felt like I had a place to just be myself. Now, I take guys there to see how they respond to something so special to me – and of course, to get the opinion from the same bartenders, who after several years, are still serving up the pints. They told me then and they continue to reiterate it every time I stop in: You wear your heart on your sleeve, lady. Don’t ever let that city harden ya.

So far, I haven’t.

Jerry from P.S. I Love You

When I saw this movie in the theaters with my friend L, it was a few days before Christmas and intolerably cold for North Carolina. She brought in a blanket she had stored in her car and we watched the midnight showing with it sprawled across us. Ten minutes into the film, we both started bawling our eyes out…and didn’t stop until the credits rolled.

Now, I know it’s a rom-com like all of the other ones that dazzle our televisions and trick us into believing in serendipitous meetings that end in an honest, everlasting love (though, if you listen to J.Lo, don’t make it your first dance song). But something about Gerald Butler as Jerry captivated me. The movie illustrated that relationships are far from perfect. And most of the time, we treat the ones we love the most with the most critical eye and unforgiving mentality. But even when we’re unforgiving and profoundly ridiculous with the people we care about, if they are worthy of our good and our bad – then they’ll see through it and love us regardless. Just as Jerry did with Holly after she threw a shoe at his face. (I’m embarrassed to admit I did the same to Mr. Idea – and he was less than thrilled).

Now, I don’t expect my husband to schedule out letters before he goes six-feet under – but I do know I will only end up with someone who accepts me for me, flaws, obsessions, and all. And maybe if the heavens humor me, I’ll find a guy who is as go-lucky as a leprechaun and does a little Irish strip tease in suspenders for me, too.

Lucky Charms

My household growing up was void of sweets and anything that was remotely bad for the body. It was only on holidays, special occasions, birthdays, and sleepovers that my mom cracked and bought potato chips or cookies, otherwise, I considered peanut butter and celery sticks just as good as Dunk-a-Roos (remember those?). However, one day at summer camp as a kid, I discovered the goodness that is Lucky Charms.

I begged and pleaded to have a box at home and even offered some of my allowance money to cover the $3 cost. She remained firm for a while, but eventually gave in and bought Lucky Charms once in a blue moon for me. I’m not too much of a cereal eater in my adult life, but if I pick something purely for the taste, I still pick the charms.

And yes, I always leave the marshmallows for last.

Leprechaun in Alabama

This is a real newscast. These are real people. Enough said.

Tall Brunette

And especially for this St. Patrick’s Day, I’m a fan of a newfound friend and Gchat companion. She has Irish roots and lives in the Northwest and we may be polar opposites – but her clever advice and wit always brightens my mood. Not to mention, the gal’s fiercely talented in artistry, penning, and otherwise. Go check out her blog and stay tuned for a podcast from both of us.

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.