A Choice Just For Me

I recently attended my first talk show as an audience member. Going to live or pre-filmed shows has always seemed like the New York tourist experience to me – something you do when you’re staying at the Mariott and you rise at an unreasonable 3 a.m. hour to wait in the cold (or hummidity or rain) just to catch a glimpse of Regis & Kelly. I’m also not the biggest fan of television in general – I don’t have cable and I only use Hulu for a handful of sitcoms.

But when your company offers you the chance to leave the office for four hours, take away an armful of freebies, and have the chance to meet (or view from afar) a celebrity – I thought, why not? Due to privacy restrictions, I can’t reveal which show I attended, but it was geared toward cooking and the host was quite the villain in the kitchen.

Before being seated and organized in the rows based on the color of our clothes, audience members completed forms asking basic information. With my blue blouse I prayed would pop on camera and my pencil skirt, I attempted to fill out the yellow sheets across my hosed-legs. (For the record, without a clipboard, this is a task in itself.)

As I’m going through the questionnaire, I happily check “single,” give my email address, let them know how often I view the show (never, woops!), and how many people are in my household – one of their inquiries caught my interest.

In your home, who decides ‘what’s for dinner’?

Now, I realize when a brand and a show is built by developing the quality of life inside the home, this is an appropriate question to ask. It’ll let those who finance and develop new products determine if me, the ever-clapping, cheerful audience member, not only cooks for her family, but has one stiletto forcefully over her (and whoever she resides with) wallet.

As I confessed I was the one who decides what I place in my stomach each and every night, it occurred to me how many simple, unimportant decisions I make every day as a single woman. These choices do not initially shape my immediate future and in the grand scheme of my life, I’ll probably forget tens of thousands of the day-to-day decisions I arrive at. From what time I set my alarm and if I actually listen to its obnoxious tune, to what I buy at the corner market and how I manage my money- I shape my life, and everything in it, primarily considering myself and my future.

And one day, whenever I enter into a relationship – and most likely, marriage at some point – all of these simple actions, these considerations that don’t actually seem like concerns at the time – will stop being so me-focused, and more we-geared. Though at times I may desire a relationship, the thought of losing such an innocent independence and having to interject another person’s tastes and desires into each step I take – sounds exhausting.

When we’re in a relationship, when we fall in love, when we seek to find a suitable suitor – must we leave our independence on the table to cook up a couple?

I’ve been in a slew of wonderful and incredibly confusing relationships – some of which I left and others that ended much earlier than I hoped they would – but through them all, there’s been a trending complaint of each man: You just don’t need me enough. You don’t need me, you’ll go on to do these things you want and you’ll forget about me.

I think one guy even warned me I’d become cold, bitter, and heartless when I moved to New York. I think sometimes natives would prefer me to take on those qualities – but I doubt my Southern graces will ever allow hopefulness to completely leave my core fundamentals.

Nevertheless – when it comes to my hesitation to give away my single standards, is it because I’m afraid to give my heart away or to lose the independence I often take for granted? Is it because sometimes my jealousy and my lust outweigh my drive and the courage it takes to say when enough, is enough? Or is it because I see and know so many women who stop needing themselves, stop making an effort to have alone time, or to focus on their own self-growth, the second a man enters into their life? Without a doubt, I’ve made a dude the center of my universe before – but it isn’t a mistake I’d like to make again.

I’m not sure if a relationship can be defined as successful – if so, how would we measure it? By the number of children it produces? How long it lasts? How you come out of the hard times and celebrate those moments you know you’ll never find again? I can’t say what I think makes a relationship worth the trouble or worth the potential pain at the breaking point – but I do know that a relationship is one institution – where it be fireworks set a blaze or not – that needs compromise. And more so – it needs more than one person deciding how the course is run. Or how dinner is made. Or how much effort, understanding, compassion, and passion is needed to make the relations continue to be relatable.

A lot of times, the moment a relationship ends or fails or doesn’t last – it’s because one of the pair, lost themselves along the way. They stopped developing and entertaining those things, those beautifully unique interests and qualities that while they may attract the other person, they don’t belong to them.  Those independent and true-to-self notions belong to you. To me. To every single woman who after watching Runaway Bride decided she needed to know what kind of eggs she likes, without the advice of her man’s tastebuds.

The choices I make today are choices just for me. My daily schedule, my intake and my outake, the trains I board and the ones I depart, the runs I make a mile longer just because, and the extra hours I put into work because I can – are all decisions I’m allowed to be selfish about. All determinations I’m entitled to make. And for now, I chose to be single. I choose to never let any man – or person – dictate my everything, anymore. Even if he thinks that makes me undateable because I don’t seem to need him. Maybe he’s right, but I’d rather have a partner who values my love for him, my desire for his presence in my life, then my inability to function without him.

And one who appreciates that what’s for dinner isn’t nearly as important as what’s cooking not only in our kitchen, but in the food from our individual souls that we both bring to the table.

Men Are People Too

Perhaps this isn’t breaking news to the rest of the world, but yesterday, I had an ephinany that caught me off guard (in a good way): Men are people too. Not just meant to be boyfriends, lovers, husbands, dads, businessmen, bosses, uncles, or other male-oriented titles – but just people. Like you and like me.

I promise I’m not crazy (well, at least not yet), but I’ve always viewed men as my counterpart, as these illusional characters that weave in my life, capture my heart, and ultimately leave or have the ability to crush my spirits. They are these creatures who I fall in love with, can’t stand, or believe could turn into my Prince Charming. They’ve been useful for buying dinners, teaching me how to kiss, and entertaining me with their “maleness” – but unlike the gals who are “one of the guys” – I’ve been the lady who can never seem to have a male friend.

Probably because I can’t seem to treat a man as casually as I treat a woman – and possibly, because I integrate them verbally and internally.

Much like when conducting an interview, when I meet a new male prospect, I usually determine if I’m interested or not within the first five minutes. If I’m honest – I’m actually very businesslike when I’m intrigued by a man and I’ve developed quite a habit of screening someone before I even really know more than his name and a few basic facts.

Usually, as I’m half-way listening, partly observing, and conniving just a tad – I go through a series of questions in my head: “Alright, so if I wore my super, super tall high heels, would he still be taller than me?” “Can I get close enough to see if he smells bad?” “Is he speaking intelligently? Is he holding a conversation?” “Am I really already bored?” “Is he making crude, inappropriate jokes that are racist or sexist?”  “Does he have long fingernails? Ew, gross.” “Is he interested in me or just focusing on himself?” “Is he shy? I totally can’t stand timidness in a man.” “Does he always tilt his head to the side like that when he thinks he’s being funny?” “Is he actually funny or is he trying entirely too hard?” “Am I coming across that way to him? How does he view me, anyways?”

…and the rambling thoughts goes on and on.

I don’t know if I can blame my career or my Virgo birthday as the source of this analytical approach, but I’ve done it from the time I started dating. While it may not be the best way to go about getting to know someone, I’ve been pretty good at trusting my gut – and if right from the bat, I don’t see a spark of fascination, I’ve thought it best to not waste my (or their) time. At this point, I really don’t need (or want) to lower my standards for another Mr. Temporary, Mr. Rebound, or Mr. Smother just for the mere fact I’d like someone to go on fancy dates with. Truth be told, finding a date is never really a difficult task. It’s actually being attracted enough to agree to a second take that’s an obstacle because often times, I’m fully-in or totally-out before the appetizer even arrives.

As I continue on this journey, I’m seeing myself develop more and more confidence. While I have my off days (or weekends) -overall, I’ve not only admitted those parts of my personality and mindset that are negative and change them, but also realize what it is that I want out of a relationship…and what I don’t. More so, I’ve learned to stop taking what people say to heart and to decide for myself what I think and how I view my own interactions. I mean, after being told you’re too picky, not picky enough; that you’re too old to meet a “sweetheart” and too young to get married; that you’re far too independent for your own good, and then too dependent on the likes of a man – at some point, you just gotta start tuning out the outside voices and listen to your gut.

And while I’d say my instincts more often than not steer me in the right direction, in my overly premature and dissecting way of deciding my opinion of a man, I could have missed out on some could-be loves. But maybe more importantly, I could have walked right past some dudes who would make wonderful friends, because instead of viewing them as humans, as potential platonic companions, I was only interested in what they could offer me romantically. And if I didn’t like what they brought to the table, I wrote them off and quickly moved onto the next eligible candidate.

But if I take off my emotional hat and put on my realistic one- when it comes to finding someone who I want to spend the rest of my life with – or maybe just a few dates – don’t I want to be with a dude who I view as a friend? Sure, passion and mystery and intrigue and all of those butterfly-inducing qualities are high in importance for me – but at the core of my desires, and when I picture my future, don’t I want someone who I can just talk to? Who will get me? Who I feel comfortable enough to be myself around?

Someone who makes mistakes, who may not say the right thing at the right time but is his own person, someone who may not be the next Dane Cook, but is charming, someone who challenges me, but isn’t impossible – someone who, like me, isn’t perfect – but human?

Love addict tendencies, like romanticizing every single man who walks past me on the street or who I’m introduced to by mutual friends, may be enjoyable in the moment (fun to pretend at times, right?) – but aren’t suitable for long term anything. Where it be friendship or relationships. I may size up my prey and determine if they’re worthy of the fight, but does that mean second impressions can never change my mind?

If I stopped treating men for just what I think they can give me: love, sex, reaching the top shelf, opening tight jars, and checking off a box on my life’s to-do list, and instead took every casual encounter at a bar, on the morning commute, or at the deli around the block at face value – maybe I’d be able to take some pressure off.

And perhaps if I took a step back and instead of wondering what it’s like to be his lover, I’ll imagine what it’s like to just be his friend.

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