One Night Stand-less

I’ve never had a one night stand.

While not all of my sexual encounters have been in the context of a relationship, I’ve known each of the guys far longer than the evening and at least trusted them somewhat. Yes, I’ve embraced a few friends-with-benefits-strings-loosely-attached relationships and I’ve stayed over at a guy’s place the same night I met him. But those sleepovers were PG-13 at best – I always kept my boundaries and my walls strong and tall, protecting all parts of myself – body and soul – from harm.

For a while I was overly concerned with what I would say to my future husband when he asked about my sexual resume or inquired about a number that remains private, unlike most things on this blog. I wanted to be proud of what I told him and I wanted him to view me as someone who thought before she leaped into the beds of strangers or spread her legs for Manhattan. I wanted to feel honorable and somewhat pure, though I passed up the virginity card nearly ten years ago.

But then that stopped mattering to me so much. Instead, I became more interested in what I felt like. If I wanted to makeout with the tall drink of water in the corner of an Irish pub, then I’d do it. If I wanted to have sex with someone I met on the first night, I’d do it. This is my body, these are my morals and my choices, and if I can stand confidently behind them, then what did it matter what my husband thought? He wasn’t around for those evenings because it wasn’t time for me to meet him, so that part of my past didn’t include him. As long as I was sexually safe and emotionally smart, then I could be what I wanted to be and well, do who I wanted to do.

And by the time I finally reached a point where I thought that maybe, just maybe, I could have that steamy one night stand I fantasized about, I met and started dating Mr. Possibility, and a few months later we implemented exclusivity, deleting the option of a fling from my New York itinerary.

Now don’t get me wrong – I’m very happy with Mr. P and I’m not lacking anything I think I’d find in a one night stand, but it is something I’ve always wondered about. As a 20-something, it almost feels like a rite of passage before we reach 30, where suddenly worries about fertility and wedding rings become priority over the “Oh my god, I’m three days late, but he didn’t finish inside of me, does that mean I could be pregnant??? Should I buy a pregnancy test?” text messages we send our friends now.

I have more than enough time before I turn the big 3-0, but I wonder if I have it in me to actually execute the infamous one night stand. Almost all of my friends have done it, some more than others, some just because they wanted to try it, and some because they really dig it. A few of my friends are rather empowered by it – claiming their sexuality as their own and sleeping with whoever they damn well please, and best of all, demanding an orgasm out of it. These women are so sexually liberated that it makes me blush and envy the way they view sex. I mean, they can actually sleep with someone without trusting the guy, without knowing his last name, where that scar on the left of his knee came from,  if he has brothers or sisters, if he likes chocolate ice cream instead of vanilla, or if he has any intentions of a relationship or is this just sex?

Maybe that’s what has always held me back – the idea of just sex.

My girlfriends who dig the one night stands like them because they’re not messy like relationships. They don’t come with rules and commitment. They don’t require compromise or a phone call the next day or a birthday present. They don’t grow, they begin and end with spontaneity. They don’t need care and concern to function, they don’t need reassurance or someone calling you beautiful. They just take two willing participants who at that moment, in that apartment or that bathroom or during that vacation – who want to just have sex.

But in my mind, which is probably far too relationship-oriented for this discussion to begin with – one night stands aren’t like that. When I envision my unrealistic notion of what a one night stand entails, I picture sultry kisses that can’t be stopped, conversation that is steady and fervent, and warmth radiating from my lips all the way down my body. I see a chiseled chest and my bare stomach, sweat rolling down places that are only sexy when you’re naked, and I feel the irresistibleness  of a man’s weight on top of me. I see white linen sheets with the light of a candle competing with the summer air and the undeniable smell of raw sex on me as this man calls a cab to my apartment the morning after. I hear myself saying “Stop, don’t tell me your name. It’ll ruin it,” as I blow him a kiss and give him a playful wink out the window as he watches me leave, wondering what could have been, but both of satisfied with the anonymity of it all.

I know the more realistic snapshot is a drunken couple stumbling out of Joshua Tree in Murray Hill, draped over one another as the guy with greased hair attempts to wave a ride while the girl giggles because she can’t think of anything else to do. I know they involve stumbling into things on the way to the two-bedroom shared with three roommates with jack-hammer sex that’s barely decipherable in your memories, and ultimately end with texting your friends to ask if you should get the morning after pill, even though you’re on the pill. They must involved a long hot shower, or at least I think it would for me.

I suppose I haven’t had a one night stand and denied every opportunity to change that because I want them to mean something. I want it to go down in my book as an encounter I needed to have to fulfill my appetite, not as a last minute decision I made because Mr. Tequila thought it was a good idea. But if I want a one night stand to mean something, doesn’t that go against what a one night stand is?

Isn’t a one night stand just a stand-in before you find the guy who lasts longer than a night?

Daily Gratitude: Today, I’m thankful for rain. It’s been a while, dude. 

Practice Makes Patience

For 12 years once a week, I took piano lessons. I actually wanted to take voice lessons, convinced I could be as talented as the Go Go’s (the first cassette my mom gave me from her stash), but once my teacher, Mrs. A, heard me sing – she persuaded my mother into piano. After some practice and an understanding of notes and measures, I could switch back to training my voice for be the next Whitney Houston.

Eh, never did return to voice and now that I can hear myself without blinded childlike certainty, I think piano was a much better fit.

I caught on pretty quickly and after a year, had my very first recital. I never did fall in love with piano, but I loved being able to perform and I grew quite attached to Mrs. A – she served as one of the most precious mentors in my life as a kid. She was tough with a stroke of kind and I admired her endlessly. She encouraged me to try harder, to go for a piece that was out of my comfort level, and complimented my courage.

But one thing that Mrs. A never liked was my practice skills. My mom wasn’t a fan either, considering she was paying for piano lessons. When I would refuse to practice for the alloted 30 minutes a day, claiming I had something to do, a bike to ride, a swing to sway on, a friend to visit across the street, she’d drag my 7-year-old self back into the house and sit me down at the piano she and my father graciously bought. If I didn’t practice, she’s stop paying for lessons and I just couldn’t have that – I wanted to be that singer. Or at the very least, I wanted to have another recital and hang out with Mrs. A some more.

Practice never came easy to me. I’d rather just go for an hour a week and play through the chords while Mrs. A instructed me. Sure, I knew that the more I practiced, the better I’d get, but I figured I’d get better eventually anyway. For a while I was convinced Mrs. A didn’t notice when I hadn’t spent any time in front of the piano. If I just played with confidence, even when the key was flat or I missed an entire measure or my beat was off, if I pounded the keys hard enough, if I held my head up high enough and made my back perfectly straight, she’d think I was brilliant. She’d think I had slaved over the black-and-white noise makers for hours upon hours.

I soon discovered playing loudly doesn’t mean playing well, it just means you’re pushing way too hard to make up for a lack of confidence. And Mrs. A could see right through it.

While I stopped taking piano lessons when I landed my first internship, choosing writing over music (though I can still read music and I’m thankful for that), I haven’t ceased to overdo my insecurities with an unfaltering ego. Or rather, when I’m upset or unsure about something, I try to push it so far out of my mind or dwell on it so deeply that it either goes away or it haunts me. I can knot up my stomach with a single thought, I can be my own cruel critic, and if given the opportunity, I can devise the worse possible outcome if I let my mind get the best of me.

And when I feel like something, someone, or the essence of who I am is slipping away, I grab onto it for dear life. I pull the pieces together next to my heart, just like I did with those scattered notes on the piano. I hadn’t seen those measures before because I failed to practice and though I’ve felt lost before, I’ve never practiced learning to find my way, so everything feels new when it falls apart. And just as I did in front of Mrs. A, I still feel vulnerable and fear disapproval, no matter what kind of happy face I may put on.

Unlike piano, there isn’t a set course of rules for life or for love. Things are sometimes out of key and things fall flat when you’d like them to be sharp. Sometimes you push yourself before the measure and while I’d like there to be a metronome to steady my rather-chaotic pace, the only beat I can really listen to is the one that’s in my heart.

That beat, my heartbeat, isn’t something I can fake. It’s not something I can ignore or push aside or beat with a silly ego. And keeping it in check, listening to it, and believing in its rhythm is something that must be practiced each and every single day. Practice doesn’t make perfect because perfection is quite honestly a beautiful allusion – but with practice, comes patience. And with patience, some understanding, and mastering the art of feeling it out instead of forcing it, sometimes, life makes one hell of a lovely melody.

Daily Gratitude: I’m thankful for my roommate’s keyboard that she let me play today. How I’ve missed it! 


Beer, Broccoli and Brownies

You know it’s time to do your laundry when you’re left with only Christmas-themed boy briefs you’ve had stashed for oh, I don’t know, ten years, that you never can seem to throw away. Or when your pile of laundry is competing with the height of your dresser. And you’ve worn the same dress more than a few times, though it’s 90-degree weather and every single possible inch of your body sweats in ways you didn’t know it could.

You know it’s time to actually get some sort of tan for the summer when you’re my friend M, who while on a day date with a cute, preppy, tattooed bachelor of an unknown age, you hold your arms out like a bird to attempt to get some color. Oh, and he calls you out on it and you blush sheepishly. Or when it’s mid-July and your legs glow in the sunshine, instead of glistening.

You know it’s time to actually stick to your exercise schedule when you try on pajama pants that were once super-baggy on you, but now are a little snug. Or when you see yourself in a mirror with four panes and think, “Oh, I just look larger because I’m in between the sections” and then discover, that no, that’s no exaggeration, that’s reality. Or when you weigh yourself at multiple places and even if you subtract five pounds off for water weight, clothes and bloating – you’re still a little heavier than what you’d like to be.

You know it’s time to go to the grocery store when you’re sitting around on a lazy Wednesday afternoon, hungry and busily working on a tight deadline, and you gotta’ find something easy to make. And so, you settle on some Brooklyn lager, brownies from two weeks ago, and fresh broccoli steamed with butter. Along with a bag of Sensible Proportions that quickly loses its senses. Or you start drinking out of the orange juice container in your undies because it’s too hot to dress and too much effort to wash a dish in the air conditioner-less kitchen.

Or is at these times that you learn the most important lesson of all? Self-acceptance.

That laundry can wait when there are career-advancing things to do or free happy hours that don’t break your bank and allow you to make memories you won’t forget. That while a healthy glow looks lovely on our 20-something bodies, at 50, we’ll be thankful for pale skin that wrinkles less and looks younger. That an extra five pounds never turned away a man before and if it did, then he wasn’t a man we wanted to be around to begin with. That crazy food concoctions sometimes turn into interesting conversations and giggles that make the strangeness less strange.

Because I may not be the most dedicated laundry lady, the cleanest, the smallest, the most beautiful, or the best chef – but I’m me. And if I want to eat broccoli and brownies with a side of beer, then, you know what? I will.

Daily Gratitude: I’m thankful that in the shadow of everything that’s wrong, there is always something that’s right.

Love Me That Much

Today, sitting on the boardwalk at Long Beach with Mr. Possibility eating the unhealthiest lunch you could imagine (Italian ice, nachos and hot dogs with a side of Red Bull and Vitamin Water), I was so distracted by an elderly couple a few benches down, I hardly heard a word Mr. P said.

The couple, probably in their late 80s, wearing matching yellow polos and khaki pants ate chocolate ice cream cones while they watched the kiddos (yeah, us 20-somethings) frolic on the beach below. It appeared the woman wasn’t completely there, as a nurse aid sat feet from them, observing sorta-intently. But the couple talked, the woman laughed. The man looked at her with love in his wrinkled eyes. She smiled up at him. And ice cream dripped from her chin to nearly her knees, staining her Land’s End-inspired attire.

He didn’t notice at first and neither did the nurse (who was now engaged in an intense conversation on her cell phone in Spanish), but then he saw the destruction. He grabbed his own napkin and opened it to reveal the clean part inside and started rubbing her face before he realized he just didn’t have enough. He looked over at the concession stand and then at the nurse helplessly, probably thinking he couldn’t leave her alone but needed to get something to clean up the mess.

Maybe it’s my Southern manners or my tender heart that leads me to tears during Animal Shelter commercial with Sarah Mclahlan singing, but I instinctively stood up in the middle of Mr. Possibility going on about something (as he usually does) and ran to get a handful of cheap quality paper towels. By the time I reached them, the nurse had came to the rescue but without proper tools. She looked relieved when I showed up with my gift and thanked me profusely. I grinned at the couple and they returned the gesture to me.

“It’s good ice cream, isn’t it sweetie?” The man asked his wife. She nodded sweetly and looked up at me, maybe trying to find words, maybe  unsure of what was going on. I wished them a good day at the beach and the man labeled me a “kind young woman” as I walked away to rejoin Mr. Possibility and his miniature pile of nachos.

Though we enjoyed the rest of the day by the shore and now both have sunburns to show for it (apparently an Irish background doesn’t serve anyone well in the blistering sun), as we caught the LIRR back to Penn, I couldn’t get the image of those woman’s eyes out of my head. They were light blue and freckled with specs of green, just like mine. There were lines and ages spots lining her lashes like liner, but she still breathed an air of youth and naivety. She was beautiful in a way someone can only be beautiful once they’ve loved a lot, lost a lot and have found a peace within themselves and their lives. It’s not a beauty I’ll ever claim, but maybe some 20-something will see that same luster in me one day.

Looking over at Mr. Possibility as he reads his second book of the summer, holding his bookmark (a picture of us) in his hand, I thought about age. Could I love someone through decades of trials? Through career and baby bumps, mortgages and struggles, carpooling and soccer games, ballet lessons and retirement funds? When they start to lose their hair or when it turns nearly all gray instead of wisdom-inducing highlights? When their belly competes with Santa’s, when sex isn’t as passionate or frequent, when illnesses strike, when miscarriages happen, when kids grow and then leave, when houses rot and things and people fall apart?

And will someone love me that much?

To sit by me on a bench as chocolate ice cream dribbles down me and still want to take care of me? To protect me and stand by me, no matter how many wrinkles I sport or when the time comes that my boobs rest near my knees? To see me through menopause and the battle to keep myself in one piece, as I’ve read in dozens of magazine is something that’s difficult with a house full of kids and a husband who needs more attention. To support my career and support me if it doesn’t go exactly as planned – or if it does, to not be intimidated by my success? To hold my hand when I feel unsteady and one day, when I need it to even walk? Will someone see through the age and still be able to picture the same face they fell for when I was 20 or 30-something, full of vitality and courage, unbothered by the world and uninterested in its damnations?

I don’t know the story behind that couple. I don’t know if their romance was fiery and complicated, or if they were high school sweethearts or letter writers from some war. I don’t know if they have children or if those children have children. I don’t know where they’re from or why they decided to sit on Long Beach on a Friday afternoon, right before the clouds encompassed the never-ending blue sky.

But I do know that regardless of where my life takes me, how many magazines I write for, how many loves I have, or how many days I spend at the beach, listening to the sound of the ocean and feeling the sand crinkle between my toes, one day many, many moons from now, I hope to be standing by the side of a man who would rather eat ice cream with me and think about all the love we have and the memories we’ve created – like the time I showered myself in a chocolatey mess – than be anywhere else in the world.

Daily Gratitude: I’m thankful for those Louie Armstrong moments that just keep coming. 

An Idle Imagination

In times past, I’ve never enjoyed idle time. Something about actively not doing anything made me feel lazy, unproductive, and well…bored. If I don’t have a to-do list that’s as tall as I am or a million things to keep my attention and drain my energy, then what am I doing with my life? Wasting away into a quiet oblivion, destined to be a failure that lives in one of those huge, rent-controlled apartments in Greenwich with a half-dozen cats, a garden, bookshelves full of steamy romance novels, all alone knitting and drinking tea? (Well, add in a lover and being the author of a few of those novels and maybe that doesn’t sound too bad…)

But lately with a lot more tim eon my hands and a new reason to explore opportunities, I’ve found myself with more idle time than what I know to do with. My first instinct, of course, is to fill it up with coffee and drink dates, classes, aerobics classes, freelancing, and cleaning sprees. But after a while of filling up my days with time slots and blocking off designated periods to do designated things, it occurred to me that really, idle time with no obligations – except to myself – is a great way to think of new things. It’s a great time to consider things I never took into consideration. It’s a good time to figure out what I want, what I need, what I desire, what’s most important, what’s happening, what could happen – and the differences between all of those.

Idle time is a great way to…imagine.

To stop doing everything just as I did it. Even if my choices have led me in different directions than I expected, maybe I could be making better decisions. Maybe I could be a better person. Maybe I could be happier or stronger or full of more spirit. Maybe I could be a more knowledgable writer who takes greater risks that reap more reward and of course, more shortcomings. Maybe I could be a better friend who slows downs and listens when her friends needs them, who is supportive and more readily available, and who actually returns phone calls, emails, and text messages (I’m sorry). Maybe this blog could be better or maybe I don’t want to blog at all. Maybe I want to live in New York – maybe I want to take a year off and move to Australia for the hell of it and to fully experience going down under.

Maybe idle time gives me freedom to dream and to imagine all of the things my life could have, if I stopped for a moment. If I stopped filling it up with all of the things I have to do because of who I am – maybe who I am is different from the person I imagined. If I stopped being dead-set on one career path and imagined all the innovative ways I could do what I love, make money doing it, and broaden my skill set.

Maybe if I stopped doing because that’s what I’ve always thought got me places and started imagining because that’s what I feel like I doing – I’d imagine myself doing and being something more than what and who I am.

Daily Gratitude: I’m thankful for unexpected opportunities. No matter how scary they may be.