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 Blackberry on the Bedstand

Like a penny and piece of paper that’s not wasted – a relationship has two sides to it. If it takes two to tango, there is always the guy’s side to what went awry, the lady’s opinion – and then there’s the truth.

While we may never know the real reasons behind why our past loves burnt out or why the connections faded between our current man and his last girl, it isn’t so much a question of what happened after, but what went on, during.

And it’s easy – once all is said and done – and we’ve moved on to brighter and better futures that may have us single or taken, to speculate the past and give it a definite reason. It may be simpler to determine that the girl who laid with a man we’re seeing wasn’t anything like us or wasn’t right for him – hence why she’s not in the picture, and we are. But like it gets the best out of felines, curiosity also has a way of sneaking its way into our minds, too.

I mean, who was the last girl? Is there a way to meet her or know her, without actually doing it? Would we like her if we did? Why do we care who she was or why it ended? Does their past really affect our future? Is this inquisitiveness healthy?

When I went to meet Mr. Possibility after his long stint overseas, he stood waiting patiently on the LIRR platform above me. When he smiled at me, a flash of intensity struck thru my heart in an instant. I knew I missed him but I also wondered what in the world I was walking up to. When we embraced, it was one of those moments out of a trite romance novel, where you rush to one another and the man kisses your forehead, your cheeks, your nose – and all at once, you remember what it felt like before he left.

Following a welcome home party of sorts and an intense conversation, I found myself, again, entangled with him, falling asleep to the sound of our joint breath. When I woke up the next morning, still intertwined with this severely jet-lagged gentleman who was peacefully knocked out, I noticed his Blackberry on my bedstand.

In all of the time he stayed over before, he always placed the contents of his pockets, including his phone and nifty pen he never forgets, right next to where we slept. When I needed to know the time or use a light to navigate the mess that is my apartment, I’d often use his dated 3G to do so.

But this time, as I blinked my eyes open and thought to reach out and determine how much damage those last shots had done, I found myself unable to move. Suddenly, his Blackberry seemed dangerous.

I have never been a gal to go through anyone’s phone – especially a man I’m seeing. I’m private (believe it or not) with my own cell and selective about who I save in my address book, so I’ve respected the same preference with others. I also tend to believe if you go looking for trouble, you will find it. Even if it’s in a picture or a text from three years ago that alludes to something you’d rather not know or something that even matters.

And while it never dawned on me, even that morning, to flip over his phone and parade through it, I also couldn’t bring myself to touch it.

I realized, not for the first time really, but in a profound way – I’m not the first to lay here. I’m not the first to touch that phone or be stored in it. I’m not the first woman he took a picture of, sitting across from him at a café in the Village. I’m not the first texting conversation he’s had for a straight eight-hour period. That Blackberry isn’t just a Blackberry on my bedstand – it’s all of the beds he’s laid in with women I don’t know.

As I’m staring, attempting to muster enough courage to look at the time, he reached across me, kissed the curve of my neck, grabbed the phone and said he couldn’t believe we’ve slept so late. He haphazardly placed the phone back and pulled me closer into him, wondering if I slept well. And with the phone light illuminating my room, I started to wonder about the girls before. Maybe when they say happily ever after, they are referring to the end of dating or the end of previous relationships – but do they ever really go away? Is there truly an after, when you know the before?

If all of the he’s and the she’s we meet make us who we are, then those we date are made up of the same influences. They just come in different forms and with varying faces. But when it comes to love – while I may show and tell, I don’t like to share. What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours – even if what’s mine, used to be yours.

Mr. Possibility’s Blackberry may keep every woman he’s known – maybe even the ones he could be exploring – but if I consider them part of the equation, there may be no way to add up parts that lead to love. If we remain stuck in what was, there is no opportunity to create a could be that can be.

However – in the spirit of feminism (or maybe just the matter of female language), it’s best not to condemn the women who once held a man’s heart. Without knowing them, without their angle of their relationship, there is no way to determine the pieces of the puzzle that eventually didn’t fit together for them. In most cases we will never know and it will never matter – but if he loved them and he loves you, there is a good chance you are quite similar. Or that you’re vastly different. Either way, it doesn’t make or break the relationship; it just gives a different perspective to the past. Because maybe, if for whatever backhanded twist of the universe, we did come face-to-face or word-for-word with the woman he was once with, we may find ourselves not only liking the gal, but considering her a friend. After all, if we all have some sort of a type, so do the dudes, even if he doesn’t categorize it that way in his Blackberry.

A phone, for all intents and purposes, keeps our lives together. It makes everything and anything easily accessible, especially with the technology available to those who can afford expensive policies. But what a phone doesn’t hold or isn’t able to access is the life of the person when they are without it. When buttons aren’t dialing, when texts aren’t being sent, when calls aren’t being made.

When the Blackberry is on the bedstand, the man is in the bed. Without his phone, without reaching out to the world outside of the frame that contains you and him. And within the space, within the perimeters that make up a bedroom, lives a relationship (where it be exclusive or not).

And while within reach is every woman he’s loved or the ones he could be with one day, for a moment, a year, or a lifetime – the only one that matters is you. Because eventually, within a few minutes, the light goes out on the berry. The room dims as it was. And it is there, in the dark or in the rays that make up the morning, that you figure out if you’ll be just another number stored away for safe keeping and bittersweet memories. Or the one who remains on speed dial.

Regardless, just like it’s near impossible to not have a cell phone, it is just as improbable for a man to not have a past. The question is – can you accept it? Embrace it? Or will you stare blankly, afraid to know what’s stored in the memory, the database, and the heart of someone who is just within reach.

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.

A Case for Unsettling

Most of the fodder I get for this blog comes from conversations I have…or ones I overhear. One of the blessings of living in a city is the surplus of people and their oblivious nature regarding who is listening to their words. Or really, the sense of comfort everyone seems to have with strangers, friends they’ve know for five years or five minutes – the city doesn’t sleep and it’s people are unmindful in admitting who they’ve slept with.

Perhaps in a time to come, I’ll be the same. But for today, I’ll just write about it.

Recently, a friend of mine and I were walking through the village, discussing what the best of friends discuss best: sex and love. Unafraid and uninhibited by the fear of judgment – we spoke openly and freely, carelessly and candid. Both of us, in our own respect, have each had our fair share of experiences and as it always seems to do when two 20-somethings discuss the perils of Manhattan mating, the rhetoric inevitably turns to questions. Well, what do you think? Do you think marriage is an illusion? What constitutes as cheating? Do we ever really know the people we are in relationships with? What is all this love stuff, anyways – and how in the world do I make it go away? (But wait, do  want it to?)

My friend has this ridiculous obsession with chocolate chip cookies, but not the ones as big as the ones that are as big as my face and sold in trendy bakeries off of Waverly and Perry. Nope, they prefer those 50 cent goodies we all carried in our lunchboxes in grade school. As cheap and chewy as these suckers are, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stopped to grab them -or the number of instances I’ve given in and asked for a bite. Maybe two.

Nevertheless, as we’re walking through the Bodega, in search for this prized commodities, I ask, “Well, sex is one of those things that can’t be compromised. If it isn’t good, if your drives don’t match, then you can’t seriously stay in the relationship.” Still in search for the cookie-that-must-be-bought, my friend replied, “Yes, I feel that way. But not everyone needs passion.” Astonished by this revelation, I reply, “What’s the point in being in a relationship if you’re not madly in love? Why give up your opportunity to meet someone you could be crazy about to be without someone who is mediocre?”

Excited to have found a few packs and distracted by the cashier, they matter-of-factly stated: “Think about it – they get along fine, the sex is somewhat good, and they are ready to get married. So they do. I mean, it saves on rent.”

And thus is the mantra for settling in New York.

I may have a few unreasonable expectations about the man I ultimately want to be with – like the fact I’ve never dated under 6’0″. But I’m well aware that some standards are not actually qualifications, but preferences. Sure, there are non-negiotables (I won’t date someone without a job or with a heart that’s described lack-luster at best) – but most things can be compromised. Especially if the person actually finds a way to throw me a line or show me a move I’ve never seen or felt before.

However, as much as I realize and accept my ideal man may turn out to be far from the image I’ve constructed in my mind – if there’s one thing I won’t settle for, it’s love. He may be in a profession I would never have pictured myself intrigued by (truth be told, I’ve stuck to businessmen pretty consistently) or sport a look that’s never made me take a second look. He may not come from the background I’d prefer and we may not share some of the syncing interests I’ve had with boyfriends of the past. He may not be the wildest I’ve had or the man to push me to my furthest limit. He may not give me hell or the giggles.

But he, whoever he is, will be unlike any love I’ve known before. I will not place a price on passion or release those desires into a land where they’ll never be fulfilled.  Because, at least when you’re single, there’s always a hope for something that’s better than the one before. And if you’re tied down when you’d rather be with someone who is your real partner- your eyes will wonder. Along with your hands and your mind. Or worst of all, your heart. And by settling for less than you desire to fill a need that’s ultimately void – you waste their’s and your’s time. Not to mention, the prospect of making a cut where it is unjustified and penetrating wounds that could take longer to heal than the length of the phoney relationship.

So here’s a case for unsettling: why should I lock myself into something I know I’d one day leave? Why would I be with someone who checks off boxes but doesn’t give me that intensity or doesn’t grow with the same steady velocity that I do? Why stick around and ditch the single status for something with an expiration date? If it’s sour going in, it’ll be unbearable when it leaves.

And while there may be things that I’ll dismiss in order to allow a promising person into my life, if I don’t know they are the person for me, I won’t stick around for the purpose of settling down. Because frankly, the idea of lowering the level of love I’d like to find is more unsettling than being alone.

Oh, The Lady You’ve Become

You’re moving to the city you always knew would be home.  And yes, my darling, you’ll be going alone. There will be many limitations, but no limit to what you’ll do. Or how difficult it will be to let go of all you knew. But this town built for millionaires and struggling artists alike, will change more than your address, it’ll change you. You do have those brains in your head and those kickin’ heeled-kicks on you feet, but realize you’ll have to make an effort to remain true.

Because when you first land on Northern ground, you won’t know it then, but you’ll go many places.

You will turn the heads as much as you’ll turn your back in an effort to forget the most charming of faces. On a plane, train, or automobile, you’ll find yourself going above and under water. And not just the waters to the east and to the west, but in ways you’d be ashamed to tell your father. When time moves slower than you had hoped and living on a prayer has left you penniless and broke, don’t sweat. There are opportunities and chance encounters on the next avenue over, and you’ll be thankful to the company you’ve kept. The ambition and fear of regret that brought you to Manhattan will keep you afloat, but it’s your heart that will make you shine. And shine you will my dear, and up that ladder you will climb.

To put on hats you anticipated too big or too small. And skyscrapers you were once convinced were too high and would cause too much of a fall. But on you will go and with each day you’ll grow. Not just into the woman you wanted to become, but into someone you’d be happy to know. The shoes won’t always fit, the zippers won’t always zip, and out of vanity there will be many parties you’ll miss. Because the image you see in the mirror may not be what you see in your pretty head, but pretty it is. So you’ll hold it high and you’ll march on. On and on.  You may worry and you may fret, you may be filled with less hope and more doubt. But you’ll soon rest easy knowing, yes, you’ll always find a way to figure it out. But you’ll still go left when you know you should go right. You’ll lose your heart to some stranger a time or two, and you’ll give him all of your might.

Because even with a pen in your hand and a byline in print – there are certain feelings the glossies can’t make. And that sweep-you-off-your-feet kind of love isn’t always something you can describe and certaintly nothing you can fake. But in the game you’ll play, there may be a charade of players dressed in charm, and nice guys disguised in armor that doesn’t fit your taste. You will date and you will sometimes mate, but most of all you’ll blame it all on fate.

And that little magic will bring you to your knees and wake in places you thought were dead. You will fall head over heels and heels over head. It’ll make you linger on each and every word he said. It’ll make you believe, beyond any reasonable doubt or higher education you achieved, that this feeling, this preciousness can never come to be again. You’ll conclude that while you’ve laid in lust before, this is unlike any romance that’s ever been.

Oh, my sweet, the people you will love.

And though it is a promise I’m sure you’d rather me not keep, you won’t just love once. Or twice or thrice.  You will fall in love on accident and on purpose, with mostly the naughty, but sometimes the very nice. You will change your opinions to fit his, you will let yourself be a fool. And that wildly beating heart, will again be forced to dive back into the pool. And so you’ll swim to chase the fish you’ve always heard were plenty and you may catch the tails of a few. And those you’ll try out for size, place them in your life and maybe in your memories of love, but at some point, you won’t like the view. You’ll grow tired and weary, frustrated with the love you’ve lost and the love you’ve yet to find.

And that’s when you’ll change your mind.

You’ll decide that if love is what you aim to achieve, it is time to start to believe. But not in happily ever after by waiting for prince from the storybooks – but accepting that it is you who will meet your needs. You’ll pick up the pieces of what you shattered, take the blame where it’s due, and forgive the mistakes that were made. And slowly, with a lot of work and more patience than you thought you had, those worries will fade. And even more you will change.

Choices will weigh more heavily than the ones you made the day before. And those adult like things like groceries and buying hosieries will stop seeming so much like a chore. They will become normal and commonplace, part of the routine you’ll make for you. And for the first time, you won’t let what you want be compromised for some dude. No matter how deep the dimple or blue the eye. Because you’ll realize your worth, your hope, your future is in your own rhyme. In the life you create. With maybe, a little help from Captain fate.

And though today is your something-year anniversary of when you packed your bags and moved to the city, the places you’ll go and people you’ll love will continue to grow way past plenty. Your days are always numbered and your twenties certainly won’t last forever, but you’ve found your footing and your balance against every odd. With every disapproving and encouraging nod.

So relish, my love. Thank those powers above. Go out and let your passion play. Listen and appropriately ignore all of those warnings I say. Because, today is your day. Have some fun and celebrate the lady you’ve become.