Saturday, November 15, 2008

Why I Don't Love You Now

I cried in the car, there next to you. We were in the parking lot at the bank, and the street lights were painting the side of your face bright yellow.

The engine was still running, and I was thinking about how the exhaust pollutes the environment just like your memory pollutes my thoughts. My head is full of poison.

You are devouring your quesadilla and bean and cheese burrito in a way you never devoured me. There were times I would’ve given anything to be a tiny dollop of sour cream on the side of your mouth. At least then, when you licked your lips, part of me would be inside you forever.

Instead, I got stuck with your taste in my mouth all the time.

But that night, in the car, with me like a limp piece of soul on the seat beside you, something changed. I spit you out.

It wasn’t easy. Four years of hanging on to every word and every hope, moving to another country to try and escape the hold you had over me, these things were not easy.

But since you just sat there, a frozen piece of flesh, something in me saw, for the first time, what you truly are. You are a man who doesn’t love me. A man who doesn’t want to feel the warmth of my skin. You don’t want me to rush into your arms after a day apart, and laugh as I tickle your earlobe. You used to look at me in a way that said everything without saying a word. You used to love me.

Somewhere, in a tiny corner of my heart, I felt it. But it was never enough. It never filled me. I was always aching, hungry and desperate for more. More never came. Only anger. And isolation. And loneliness.

So as we sat in the car, me telling you how much I still yearn for you, and you ate, quietly swallowing a piece of something that was not me, I just stopped. Everything stopped. Me loving you stopped. Me wishing you were different stopped. Me longing for a part of the past that never really existed outside my mind stopped.

And now I am done. We are done.

People who watched me falter along the way, tripping so many times over empty promises, they don’t believe me. How could they? I kept running back, every time I’d get far enough away, flinging myself into the arms of a man who didn’t want me there. And every time I’d feel that truth, I left.

“This time it’s for real,” I’d say.

It never was. But now, as I remember how cold the leather felt on my skin, how washed out the street lights looked against your mocha-colored skin, I know something has changed forever. Because there is a man here, in my new city, who doesn’t look anything like you. His smile is bright and he spends all day telling me what he likes about me. Mostly, it’s stuff about my soul and my spirit, the way I am kind to people. He notices things about me no one ever has, and when he wraps his fingers around mine, I feel like I’m on the inside of a beating heart. It feels warm and alive. There is no more heaviness. No more self doubt. No more working so hard to be noticed.

Instead, I’m just me. And I like that me. She smiles more. She feels like skipping sometimes. She doesn't feel unwanted.

She feels like she doesn't love you now. And that feels pretty good.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Spare Change

He was a terrible kisser.

I mean, like, beyond bad. I'm 31 and I've kissed a lot of frogs, but this one was toad in the tongue department. What, exactly was he trying to do with that thing?

I thought this the entire 11 hours we kissed. Well, it felt like 11 hours. It was probably a minute or two - a minute or two too much. Although I liked Surfer Dude, I wasn't sure if I could really teach a 37-year-old dog new tricks.

But when he dumped me, my heart and my tongue were crushed. "What? No more make-out sessions?" I thought.

So let's just get something straight: I'm terrible when it comes to change. What I mean is, when it comes to men, I seem to change everything about them in my head. I make them up. Here they are, live in front of me, yet I'm dreaming about a totally different man. I'm creating a fantasy.

I've done this with the last few relationships I've been in. To start, they weren't even relationships, so this alone is the first mistake I make. I create more than there really is.

The second mistake comes from the fact that I change them from emotionally barren, inattentive jerks to lovable, passionate and kind images of perfection. So when they lose interest or go away, I become devastated - the way you'd feel as if someone ripped off your left arm. That's how I'd imagine it feels to lose your soul mate and in my mind, that's exactly what I lost.

But really, I lost the fantasy. The poetic, sensitive Mr. Corkscrew really wasn't all those things. What he was, was a lust-filled Harvard man who knew his way around words almost as well as he knew his way around the curves of my body in the darkness of his bedroom. And The Mad Scientist never promised me a committed relationship. But he did buy an Amtrak ticket and a box of chocolates on his trip to KC, which I mistook for something serious. To me, chocolate is serious.

And although Surfer Dude enjoyed learning yoga, gave me 20-minute massages (that were terribly inferior, but I somehow wax poetically about now) and paid for two barf-worthy dinners out, that's all he gave me. That, and a really bad gag reflex. But here I was, for weeks, lamenting my sorry state for losing him. "He was perfect," I heard myself telling friends. "We shared the same fundamental views."

But little else. That's the thing. I changed his story in my head because it looks so much prettier.

I've finally realized just how much I love writing stories. I write my own all the time. I'll spare you the fictional version next time. And spare myself a lifetime of unnecessary editing.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Why I Love Men

Why do I do this? Get rejected from a guy and immediately go into “not enough” mode? It makes no logical sense. I know I’m a groovy chick. People like me. Men have liked me – a lot – in my short life. And somewhere deep inside, I really like me too.

Yet it’s my knee jerk reaction to being dumped. I blame it on King Kong and the slue of men I hurled myself at after his complete dismissal of me, but I know I have to start being accountable for my actions.

I really wish I didn't love men so much, because they wreak havoc at every turn. They think they want something, go after it, then change their mind. This guy I started dating, Surfer Dude, was saying things like, "I'll take you to Ikea, of course i'll help you move, I'll paint your toenails, grill you tuna I caught in mexico..." Barf.

So many men out there just do whatever and don't give a flip about what it does to someone else. I know this is a human thing. Plenty of people do this, but it's just not in my understanding of life. I don't get it. And it makes me sadder each time I see it happen - to me or someone else.

When something ends abruptly for no logical reason, it stings. You're attracted to a person, they laugh at your jokes, they don't want to leave when they hang out with you and you have to kick them out, you talk on the phone hours on end, they make promises and say things like "we will" and "next time." Why?

As much as men have confused, hurt and completely messed with my head, at the end of the day, I still struggle endlessly in this murky abyss because I love men. I love that they don't make any sense. I love that their skin is rougher, their touch calloused. I love their wiry hair and the way they smell of earth and sweat. I love their strong hands and muscular arms, the way they wrap around me with the force of a tornado, keeping me swirling around in their cloud of chaos and confusion. I love it when they look at me. The way their eyes turn to chocolate and my insides turn into molten lava. I love their warm breath, how it feels to connect at the core in a way a word or a smile never could. I am a total sucker for the idea of a man. And even more, the idea of sharing love with one. Even if they hurt me again and again, I feel like i'd give it all away for just a taste. Sometimes I wish I wasn't so darned hungry.

Conversations (in my head) On a Bus

Waiting for a bus is like waiting for a man. You keep looking around the corner, hoping the next one is going your way, will stop to let you inside, not leave you standing in the cold.

“Excuse me, sir, do you mind holding me? I’m sure the woman behind you wouldn’t mind moving. It won’t take but a moment. Just wrap your arms around the left side of my body. Brush my cheek with your wrist as you check the time. Bump your leg against mine. How about a handshake? A smile?”

Sometimes I am this hungry. My emotional stomach is growling. I guess I’m not the only one who thinks these thoughts. In her song, “Summer in the City,” Regina Spektor sings:“Summer in the city, I'm so lonely lonely lonely
So I went to a protest just to rub up against strangers”

Sometimes, when I'm standing there in the crowd, I look over at the man in front of me and move my hand so that it brushes his, or make sure I lurch forward with the bus, right into the man to my left with his groceries. And I wonder, do they need to feel something too? How cold is it in their world right now? Do they notice me? Can they hear the growling?

I don't think so. Everyone is going through their own type of hunger. We all need to be filled in different ways. Usually, my urge for touch subsides. If you don't eat for awhile, eventually you forget you're empty.

Truth or Aware

I was talking with a friend the other day and he was telling me about his male friend who is hopelessly in love with a girl he broke up with because he suddenly became terrified of the idea of forever. So instead of telling her he was scared, he just left. That’s what so many men do. And we generally have to suffer in the wake of those consequences.

Of course the guy realized his folly and decided he wanted the girl back. But she found herself another guy (good for her). So he is stuck dating a bunch of girls he doesn’t like, making them think they might actually have a shot with him.

“What should he do?” my friend asked.

“It’s simple,” I said. “Tell the truth.”

I told him – nay, I begged him – to encourage his friend to be truthful with all the girls he meets, lest he create a trail of broken hearts across the country.

“I wish a man would just be unafraid to be honest. Whatever it is,” I said. “When you meet a girl, why can’t you just say, ‘hi, I just want to sleep with you and never call you again,’ or ‘I am needy and passionate and I want something that lasts forever,’ or ‘I just want to casually date you because I’m afraid of my own shadow, let alone yours.’ Seriously. Why not give it a try? It could save us years of therapy and feelings of inadequacy.”

Even if the truth hurts, lies hurt too. And disappearing in a plume of smoke hurts even worse.

A week into my new life out West, I met a guy I thought seemed super cool. We talked on the phone for hours, hung out for hours. It seemed like it might go somewhere. So when he offered to help me move, I was stoked. Until he didn’t show up. Or call. Or text. Nothing. Made a promise, then bailed. That was his way of saying bye-bye. Funny, because he was all gung ho on communicating, being honest and me saying what I thought rather than holding it all in. I assumed he would have been the same. If you don’t want to take someone to Ikea, don’t promise to take them to Ikea. If you don’t want to help them move (or ever see them again), don’t say you’ll get your truck and be there on Sunday.

This whole truth thing is really about being aware. Being aware of your intentions and how you plan to carry them out. Being truthful to others is all about being truthful to yourself. I believe men can do this. I've seen it happen. Just not in a long time, unfortunately.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Being Your Authentic Self

What does this mean? To be authentic.

For a long time, I didn't know what this meant in a relationship sense. Now I think I do. It means be who you want to be, not who you think someone wants you to be. Say what you want to say when you want to say it. Do what feels right, not what is acceptable. Speak from your spirit. Don't let fear get in the way.

I've been afraid of love. Of men. Of dating. Of coming on too strong. Of not coming on strong enough. Of sending mixed signals. Of sending no signals. Of lipstick on my teeth. Of words in my head. Even though I'm strong and independent and pretty self aware, I've realized I am completely unfamiliar to myself when I step into a dynamic with a man. Suddenly I freeze up. I am never fully myself. Instead, I'm someone ridiculously driven by someone else's perceptions.

It took a new guy I just met to help open up my eyes to this reality. And even now, as I am trying to live the way he urged me to, I'm still running up against my familiar patterns. Should I really call him? Have I said too much? Will he think I'm clingy?

He told me not to be afraid to call him if I want to hang out. Normally, I let a man do that, as his calls let me know he likes me. When I call, I have no way to gauge that. I suppose if he said no, that would be my gauge, but I actually convince myself he might just agree to be polite so I'll never really know if he would have called on his own.

He told me he likes it when I cuss and burp. These are things I love doing and find myself holding back mostly due to decorum. He doesn't like a lot of makeup. I hate makeup. I don't know if this will go anywhere, but what it is doing so far is helping me see the ways I make mistakes when it comes to my own needs. Often, I do what feels unnatural in order to appear breezy or casual. Instead, I'm a bottomless pit of need and passion and screaming and sensitivity. I want to be filled, caressed, nurtured, intrigued and sustained. I am overwhelming in my capacity to love, but so far have never let anyone see that. I'm a gaping chasm of heart. But there's a big wire fence around my chest. Maybe I will learn to cut the damn wire.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

He Was Drunk, I Was Finally Sober

I don't want him anymore.

Those are powerful words for a girl like me. A girl who slurps up unrequited love through a broken straw. When those straws are broken, nothing really comes through, but you keep slurping anyway. You know, just in case.

But this time, I didn't want to drink anything Mr. Corkscrew had to offer.

He drunk texted me at 1 a.m. I was only two days into my new job in a new time zone and in a new bed, and needed my sleep. But there was this random stringing together of words from a number I could no longer remember (I deleted him from my phone): "Several single malt scotches into an attempt to shirk the responsibilities of life for a futile, brief moment...thinking of your visit here which brings a hot and delicious taste to the lips. Never treated you as well as I should have. Perhaps that's my legacy to impart. Still, you're an extraordinary woman."

When I finally realized who it was from, I started shaking. I had deleted his message when he tried to network with me on LinkedIn, and now he found another way to weasel into my thoughts. This one got me mad, though.

I texted back: "I am extraordinary. Seems you're the only one who failed to notice."

Of course, in his usual way, where he refuses to accept responsiblity for his actions, he replied: "There is a difference between not noticing and failing to take action."

I told him I waited six years for him to notice and all he ever gave me was words. I don't want his words anymore.

Then he said: "I realized you were quite something at the table at Bistro Jeanty all those years ago."

That's where we met. He was probably drunk then too. He painted the air with his flowery words and I was caught up in their heady aroma. I thought he was sincere. But he has never given me more than hyperbole in the six years I tried so hard to win his heart.

It has been a painful lesson in observation. Watch what a man does, not what he says. He can say a lot, but do nothing. The action is what matters.

So I sat there, phone in hand, and decided to call him. Turns out his life is a mess. He's losing his house and his car. He's got problems.

And finally, I am free of them. I felt pity for him, not desire. I felt compassion, not love.

I don't want him anymore.

But I'll keep his words tucked away in the folds of my heart. Because deep down, I like to believe he meant them. After all, I really am extraordinary. I think he always knew that.

Turns out, I was the one who didn't.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Men Who No Longer Make the Cut

I was standing at the bus stop today, musing about life. Well, about my romantic life. Same thing.

I realized that for most of my dating life, I never really knew who I was. This meant I freely gave of myself in ways I didn't realize could harm me in the long run. Turning 30 really does present a new kind of gift. You're suddenly aware of your actions. You look deeper in order to figure out what brings you the greatest joy. And from where I stand now, compromising my principles for some random penishead really doesn't seem like an intriguing plan.

So here's what I've decided to avoid, now that I'm old enough to know better:

  • Incorrect Grammar (you're and your are particular sore spots)

  • Boys Carrying Skateboards

  • Guys Who Use the Words "My mom's basement" In A Sentence

  • Dirty Fingernails (for those who aren't archaeologists or construction workers)

  • Dirty Minds (unless during a mutually reciprocal exchange)

  • Anyone Who Tries To Feel Me Up On A First Date (this is not a compliment as I was led to believe during my youth)

  • Guys Who Check Out Other Girls' Asses In Front of Me

All in all, the list is pretty easy to follow. Creating a list of the things I'm more than happy to accept. Well, no blog in the world is long enough for that.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Ready, Set, Heal

He was never my boyfriend. On a conscious level, I knew this.

But a little deeper beneath the surface, where hope lies untainted by the sharp hands of reality, I pretended he was mine.

I suppose we’re all guilty of this from time to time. What woman hasn’t, at some point in her starry-eyed past, drifted home on the tail feathers of a word or a smile? And who among us hasn’t seen our future in a pair of blue eyes, or felt our fate in the warm tentacles of an embrace?

Up until I met the Mad Scientist, I hadn’t been so lucky.

But once the moment hit, my chemistry was forever altered.

It’s been two years and there doesn’t seem to be a day that goes by when I don’t remember his goofy laugh or how he brushed back the hair from my eyes before he kissed me. I remember the taste of the lemoncello he brought back from Italy, so sweet and tart that it made my mouth turn cartwheels. I guess my heart was doing the same.

I’m in his city. Just miles from everything about him, and I am horribly wistful and deeply mournful at the same time. I don’t want to be this way. I really don’t. It aches in the pit of my stomach. It wrestles with my subconscious and tickles the lobes in my brain responsible for memory. I want a love lobotomy. I want to heal.

So how to do this?

I have, miraculously, gotten over Mr. Beer Man and Mr. Corkscrew. One down, two to go. The Mad Scientist is undoubtedly the most powerful force in my life, which explains why it’s nearly impossible to exorcise him. But I know it can be done.

It’s sort of like a marathon, I suppose. You know you’ve got a hell of a long haul ahead of you, so you attempt to pace yourself rather than try to leap toward the finish line. Slowly, you get used to the cadence and don't get so frustrated every time you see a hill. You prepare yourself for dips along the way. You know your heart’s going to race, parts of you will ache and your limbs will feel like they don’t belong to your body anymore. You will feel as though you will never make it, but you know you will. You know there’s an end.

I just want to feel like I’m getting closer to that end. It’s not that simple, but if I reward myself for the miles I’ve already run, perhaps I'll be able to see just how much stronger I've become along the way. With each step forward, I’m moving in the right direction. And though I often need A LOT of water along the way, I'm hoping to win this race. Please, God, let me win this race. Ready, set, heal!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Where's My Happy Accident?

My life is one giant coincidence. Or is it?

The Celestine Prophecy would have you believe there is no such thing. That every single thing that happens to us is 100 percent on purpose. It is simply our choice in how we perceive it. We can go on about our day, ignoring the little old lady who dropped her purse in front of us at the grocery store, or we can stop to help her pick it up. What would stopping do? Could she impart some wisdom to us that profoundly changes our lives or, in the 45 seconds it takes to help her, were we saved from walking out of the store and getting hit by a car?

I tend to believe everyone we meet is there to teach us something. So far, all the men in my life have done just that. This doesn’t mean I have always liked the lesson, but I certainly learned something. Sometimes I learn more about men, sometimes I learn more about myself. Sometimes I learn about peanut butter.

What happens when you come across something that seems too strange to be ignored? Like when you run into the same man twice in the impossibly crowded environs of London? Once, on the tube, where you both shared a seductive and lingering gaze and another, at the bustling Portobello Road Market in Notting Hill. What happens when you’re walking with your friend and you hear two men in front of you speaking German? So you look up. And there he is. The man who flirted with you on the tube two months ago. I remember feeling like Jell-O when I left the train and I remember, even more, his eyes following me as I walked away.

And now, here he was, not only in front of me, but German! I mustered up the courage to ask him, in German, if I might tell him something funny. And when I told him about our tube story, he could only smile.

That’s what I was doing when I met the Mad Scientist at the Chicago Art Institute, in the German oil painting section. When he walked away, staring at me as he did, I was sure I’d never see him. But then, 30 minutes later, when I had gone in the complete opposite direction, finding myself in a room covered in Seurat, there he was. It was August and the museum was impossibly crowded. You can barely see your feet, let alone a familiar face. Yet, you do – see a familiar face. One who ends up being the shortest, most wonderful relationship of your life.

Last night, at the Ravinia in suburban Chicago, when I walked into one of their restaurants, I saw The Beatle, a man I had met on a plane from Chicago to St. Louis about four months ago. He and I had the loveliest conversation and then we parted. I sent him one email and he sent me one. Then I saw him in this packed outdoor concert venue. Walked right into him.

Is it just me? I need to know. I feel like I must have so many lessons to learn. Why else would all these people be put before me in so many different situations?

What I’ve learned so far is this: Germans can be unbelievably sexy, whether on a train or on a crowded London street. Scientists can break your heart, and Paul McCartney doesn’t look a day over 26.

And I’m still alone. It’s okay on most days, but next time, I wouldn’t mind a lesson in how it only takes one person who you meet by accident to make you change your mind about accidents. Happy accidents.


Chicago is a vortex. A wet, sticky trap.

It’s the Bermuda Triangle of my relationships.

Even though I’m 30 miles outside the city, staying with a friend, memories of the Mad Scientist haunt my waking thoughts. Today was the first time I think I ever cried for him and it’s been two years since we first met and I discovered what it feels like to be happy. I mean, happy underneath your toenails happy. Happy in your earlobes and on every one of your nose hairs happy. Happy in your head. Happy in your heart.

And then there’s Mr. Beer Man. He makes me the opposite of happy, but I did spend my unhappiest times with him in Chicago, so it will forever be connected to his slimy self.

Mr. Saffron, who you haven’t met yet, is a heady, luxurious whiff of sexy. He is subtly sarcastic, intelligent, cultured and fabulously easy on the eyes. When I had the super-sized falling out with Beer Man a few months ago, Saffron swooped in and trotted me off to a lovely French bistro and then Navy Pier, where we watched a plume of fireworks erupting over the lake. Inside, my heart was exploding in several different colors as well, but I had to play it cool. This wasn’t a date, per se, but instead, a chance to right the wrongs from the past. After all, he was the guy who, six years ago, expected sex on the first date and showed up drunk and two hours late on the second. That was all I had to go on, so I wanted a do-over. I wanted to see if he was still “that” guy. He wasn’t. Instead, he was older, wiser and apologetic. And he was genuine.

He hugged me tightly as my bus pulled up to the curb. He waited with me until he knew I was safe and even offered to send me off in a cab with a paid fare. And on this date, he didn’t expect anything and was fully sober. Being with him definitely made up for arriving back at the beer cave, where Mr. hops head let out a potent belch when I walked in his apartment.

And now, Mr. Beatle ends up standing in front of the restaurant I went to with friends at Ravinia, a ginormous outdoor concert venue in the burbs. What are the odds that I run into a guy I met on a plane four months ago in suburban Chicago on a Wednesday night? Crazy.

So yeah, Chicago just won’t set me free. Or is it the other way around?

I can only hope I get the job I applied for in Seattle. Seems I need a change of scenery. And I definitely need a change in men!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A Wet Love Story

That's all most stories are anyway, aren't they? Soggy. Never quite as crisp and as you want. Besides it's only one story, somewhere out there in the swirling abyss of fate, that we're waiting for anyway. The one where we know the ending because we get to be in it. The one that doesn't leave us hanging on the edge of an emotional cliff. Though I'm not pining for Mr. Beer Man, I decided to make up a story that explains why he treated me so poorly. That way, it's clear that he knows it's his loss for not being able to open himself up to love. Of course, I don't love him. Never did. But I like to believe that somewhere, in the dark corner of his tiny apartment, he's still feeling the chill of my absence.

She took off her shoes to run in the rain.

Hair soaked, dress clinging to her curvaceous frame, she was laughing, even as torrents of water pummeled her face.

“Can we stay out here all day?” she asked, twirling around on her tiptoes, sticking out her tongue for a taste.

I was angry. Now I would have to find another pair of shorts, and all my clean shirts are dirty. This was supposed to be a relaxing day.

“Look at this!” she screamed. “A ladybug swimming on a leaf.”

She got excited about the smallest things. I wanted to crush the ladybug beneath my fingers.

I let her stay and play while I went upstairs and sulked. I just didn’t understand that girl. Why was she always so happy? How could she find joy in a rainstorm?

My telephone rang. It was Charlie. He wanted me to meet him later for beer and the World Cup on television.

Alexa would be gone, so I wouldn’t have to babysit her anymore. Sure, I’d go, I told him.

My door opened, and in she ran, giggling like a child, still barefoot. She was standing before me now, her dress like a piece of her own skin, her tiny breasts peeking out of her halter top.

I pretended to watch TV, but wanted so badly to pick her up and hold her in my arms. I wanted her to giggle when I kissed her, taste the rain and salt on her tongue. I wanted to tell her things I never told anyone before, because I was afraid and insecure. I wanted to look at her, really look at her, and melt from those dark eyes of hers, the ones that could pierce you like a dagger in your heart with one glance.

I wanted to tell her I loved her.

But instead, I told her she’d better start packing or she’d miss her train.

I still remember the way her smile faded. She looked so helpless. She’d wanted me for so long, wanted me to dance with her, hold her hand in the street, feed her my noodles at dinner. She wanted things I could never give her. Things I promised myself long ago I’d never give anyone.

At dinner the night before, I taught her how to crack open a crab leg and she kept cutting her fingers on the shell. She was laughing as she flipped a piece of crab across the table.

“I just ended a relationship with the wrong man,” she told me. “It was too bad because I know he loved me.”

I knew why. I told her she was easy to love, but she didn’t believe me because I’d just told her not to fall in love with me. I said I’d never be able to give her what she needed.

We didn’t make love that night. I felt cold and alone. I wanted her to touch me. I could hear the wind tapping on the window and her silent whimpers, which she tried to stifle beneath her pillow.

I didn’t help her with her bags when I walked her to a cab. She didn’t even look at me.

She smiled to the cab driver, because she smiles at everyone.

“See ya,” she said, as she ducked inside the car. We both knew it would be the last time we’d see each other.

I watched until the car looked like a speck of the sun in the distance. She was gone. Suddenly, I wished it would rain.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hitting the Delete Key

Last week I had a bit of an emotional setback. Mr. Corkscrew sent me an e-mail. Not a “Hi, just wanted to see if you’re still breathing,” like the Mad Scientist sent me when I was in London and he was on his way to Paris (but had no time to see me-ouch), but hi via LinkedIn. It was a request to connect with him, “a friend.” He plugged in my name and clicked the friend button. And if that wasn’t enough, he said, “I would be honored if you’d ‘connect’ with me.” And he put a little smiley face behind it, like he was trying to be all suggestive, yet businesslike. “Connect.” What is that, corporate talk for a roll in the hay?

I hate it when someone I’ve held on such a pedestal comes back after a year or more of me dutifully trying to regain my self respect and forget all about just how not into me he really was. And then there he is – bam. Right in my face. And usually, right in my heart all over again. I wanted to write back and tell him I tried “connecting” with him for six years and that got me nowhere. I wanted to tell him he was a big, fat, jerk. But instead, I did something I’ve never done before. Nothing.

What would it feel like, to do nothing? To not unload my hurt and confusion on his plate? Not give him the upper hand by knowing he can still manipulate my heartstrings like a puppet? Not be the weak one?

Actually, it feels pretty good.

It’s been five days and I still have no urge to hit reply. Instead, I hit delete.

This is HUGE for me. I’m a writer. I don’t not write back. And I never delete. Hanging on to old emails, old texts and phone numbers is my stupid link to the men who don’t want me. It’s a whiff of the familiar, the faint memory of a time when I held his hand, or I nuzzled my face against his neck. Looking at the names of those men made me feel like they were still in my life. Even though it was painfully clear they weren’t.

I can’t explain why I do this. Why I keep their memories around. I guess I have always kept a permanent address in the past. But things have changed. I’m 31 now, and feel a little bit taller. I like who I am just a little bit more. I recognize what I don’t want anymore. I don’t want to stay in a place where I’m not welcome.

I’m worth more than that. And I’m certainly worth connecting with people who actually want me around. That’s right, Mr. Corkscrew. You heard me. Go “connect” with yourself. You were never really that great of a networker anyway.

Things to Avoid

As a quest to become more healthy, I decided to create a list of all the things I no longer want to put into my body.

So far the list looks like this:

Things to Avoid
Refined sugar
White flour
Mr. Corkscrew, Mr. Beer Man, Mr. Oily, King Kong and the Mad Scientist

Notice I didn’t say men. I don’t need to avoid men. That was never my problem. Men from my past were the only ones who ever did me any real harm. If I could learn to eat fewer carbs (and that’s hard for me, as I’m a die-hard carb addict), then I could learn to avoid men from my past. After all, it’s not like I’m giving up protein. I couldn’t live without salmon or turkey burgers. It’s just a matter of restructuring my palate. I’ll really miss my homemade oatmeal bread and yogurt with fresh fruit. I’ll miss pistachios and cashews, but I have learned to substitute with things like sunflower seeds and raisins. And oat crackers with blackberry all-fruit jam taste pretty darned good.

So far, I’ve lost the sluggish feeling that normally accompanies a full-on cleanse. The first few days were really difficult and I wanted to jump right off the wagon. And, in the men department, I did. I went to Chicago for a drama-filled week with Mr. Beer Man. But you know, it’s been two weeks and now I’m off everything. Even when Mr. Corkscrew emailed, I managed to hold it all together.

I still haven’t gone off my new plan, and I have more energy, a lot more faith and a renewed interest in vegetables.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Standing at the Platform

It's a funny thing about trains. You always feel them coming.

When you're standing at the platform, it's easy to tell when a train is arriving. Not by any visual cues, though. You feel it. First, the ground shakes just a bit. Then, the wind begins to blow all around you, tickling your cheek and brushing up against your leg. Then, you hear it. It whistles as it lurches forward, the sound of bell and brakes dusting your eardrums at the same time. Then, you see it.

All this warning, though, before the train actually comes.

Sometimes, while I stand there waiting, I can't help but wonder if love arrives in the same way. Do you know when it's coming? Can you feel something before you actually know it exists?

I'm not sure. I like to think that anything that wonderful makes itself known to you purely in feeling and never by sight alone. After all, love is a visceral sort of thing. You feel it pulse gently through your blood, feel its elusive shock across your fingertips. You hear it in your laugh, its echoes sound like waves of warmth when you say good morning to your neighbor. Love, I think, is like a train.

It approaches slowly, and when it arrives, everything about you already knew it was coming and couldn't wait for the door to open.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Breaking Bread

“I was thinking about what you said yesterday,” Mr. Beer Man said as we were walking through the Lincoln Park Zoo. “I realized something about myself when it comes to relationships. I’m selfish.”

When I didn’t say anything for a while, he asked why I was silent. I told him it was because I had no rebuttal. I agreed.

He wasn’t surprised. And neither was I, when he said that he didn’t care.

“It’s who I am,” he said.

His comments helped me realize something very important about who I am. I’m someone who doesn’t want a selfish man. Up until yesterday, I’m not sure I really knew that.

Sure, we don’t ever consciously say we want a selfish man, but so often, that’s just what we get. We get it because we believe it's what we deserve.

In the past I was willing to accept empty relationships because I was empty. I didn’t know any different. I thought I needed very little because I got very little. Now I know better.

After being with Mr. Electrician, I realize that it’s possible for a man to be nurturing, kind, giving and warm. Selfish was never in his genetic makeup. And now, being with Mr. Beer Man, I can see the dramatic differences between these two types of men. And the differences in what I’m willing and no longer willing to accept.

The thing is, I can’t be angry about who Mr. Beer Man is. After all, he’s not. My only job is to either accept him for who he is, or go away because I want someone different.

We went to the Green Market and afterwards, found a spot beneath a shade tree that faced a pond where families floated by on boats in the shape of swans.

“You want more?” he said, holding out a loaf of French bread in my direction.

“No thanks,” I smiled, pushing the bread – and him — away.

When You Want What He Can’t Give, Take Something Else

What if what you came for was something totally different than what you thought it would be?

I thought I was coming to Chicago for a little hand holding and nurturing. I thought Mr. Beer Man was going to wrap his arms around me and kiss my earlobes, telling me it was all going to be okay.

Instead, I got cold dinner alone in a very hot studio apartment. I got him two hours late with no explanation. I got thrown about on the bed with little to no eye contact or words. I got angry.

“You want to do anything tonight?” he asked.

“Yes, I want to listen to some jazz.”

We set out for Clark Street, when he realized he didn’t have enough cash for the cover charge. We spent thirty minutes walking around looking for a bank, which gave us some time to talk. I asked him how he would describe himself as a man.

“How would you describe me?” he asked.

“Overly confident,” I said. “Self involved and driven.”

“You’ve got me pegged,” he said.

How anyone would consider him a prize with those descriptors is beyond me.

I told him it hurt that he came home late and didn’t call. He told me his job is like that and he never knows when he’ll be done.

“If you knew me, you’d know I’m not the type of person who calls.”

“Yes you are,” I said. “You are that person.”

We got into a tiff about how who he really was is different than who I thought he was, but I wasn’t buying it. I see him for the overly confident, self-involved jerk he can be, but beneath that, there’s a ton of heart. He doesn’t show it to everyone, but he shows it to me.

“I consider you one of my best friends,” he said, “and I will do whatever it takes to support you. I want to help you get through this rough patch, but I can’t give you what you need. So don’t try and think there will come a time when that changes. It won’t.”

All I really needed was for him to make me feel human. I just wanted a little tenderness and connection.

“I don’t do that,” he said, point blank. “One day when I’m ready, but only when I decide I’m ready. And that time is not now.”

Beer Man is a very focused person. When he sets his sights on a goal, it will be his, come hell or high water. And when something else just happens to be in the way of all that goal-getting, rest assured it will get trampled.

Like hearts.

He says it happens all the time. Tons of girls want things from him that he can’t or won’t give, and they end up disappointed.

I wasn’t really one of those girls, except in this situation. I had come to Chicago for a little bit of care taking. And he was the one who invited me, after all, under the auspices of being my savior.

“I want you to come here and heal,” he said. “I know you’re going to be so great one day, and I want to help you see that. Just don’t fall in love with me and you’ll be okay.”

That's where the overly confident part of him comes out. I’m not in love with Mr. Beer Man. There was a time, long ago, when I could have been, but we went in different directions with our lives and our hearts. Now, we’re just friends, but every time we meet, the friendship really grows. He frustrates me so much sometimes, but I have to realize that’s who he is.

“I don’t hide what I’m about,” he said.

It’s true. Sometimes we see what we want to see because we want something to be what it isn’t. We want something someone can’t give us, so we try hard to create it anyway.

But tonight I learned that when you don’t get what you thought it was you wanted, take something else. After all, there are always two choices in every situation — to do something or nothing.

“You’re something,” he said.

I’ll take it.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Running on Empty

He was 1.5 hours late. I had cooked a pasta dish with some of the artichoke garlic cream I'd brought back from Italy. I also made a tomato, mozzarella and basil salad.

He wasn't here to eat it, so I watched Tracy Ullman and ate it in the dark.

When he came home (without calling), I tried my best not to do the girl sulk, but he picked up on it.

"I made you dinner," I said.

"Thanks, but I never eat after work," he said.

I thought we discussed this all last night, but apparently I was back to my old ways of mixed up communication with men.

"Just know you can't ever rely on me," he said, turning the TV to baseball.

If only all men were this upfront about their inability to make us happy.

The pasta sucks. And so far, so does my impression of Mr. Beer Man. It was so much better when I only saw him for dinner and "dessert." We never had to live like real people do. And at least I could always rely on him for reservations.

Fifteenth Time's A Charm...Not!

So I've got this problem. I'm what you might call a dating recidivist. I keep making the same mistakes over and over, with the same men. Basically, I recycle my lovers. It really cuts down on the whole "So, what do you do...what's your favorite color" conversation that takes up so much darned time. By recycling, I eliminate the formalities and have a built-in familiarity system. I know what they like and they know what I like. It's comfortable, like a hug and a mug of cocoa when you have PMS.

But here's the thing: you don't need hugs and cocoa all the time. What with the availability of Midol and hard liquor, you probably don't need that junk at all. So going back to it time and time again is really like gorging your gullet with sugar and hugs that suddenly feel constricting. A chocolate-covered boa constrictor. That's what old loves are. Once you get past the sweet, shiny coating, you realize that what's underneath could actually kill you.

I only realized this now, after about the fifteenth time with Mr. Beer Man. Normally, our affairs have been short. Like a day or two, at most. When he came into town, he'd take me out for dinner, lots of food talk and, well, dessert. That was it. It was quick, easy and mutually agreed upon. We were friends with benefits.

The only problem was that I felt I was getting far less benefits than he was. Still, it was a familiar comfort. Sometimes, in a world full of uncomfortable situations and people, it makes all the difference. Now, however, as I sit in a coffee shop in Chicago, where I've come to spend FIVE days with him, I suddenly realize how constricting this all feels. It's not comfortable so much as it is annoying. I don't spend that much time with even my best friends.

I suppose I thought that all the standard rules still applied. But now I find that I'm aggravated by the fact that I get nothing really substantive from this relationship. I like the food talk, but how long is that supposed to hold a person's interest? I find it redundant and silly. I realize that I'm a slow learner. I finally let Mr. Oil Slick out of my thoughts and my heart, but that took six years. And only after Mr. Corkscrew really screwed me over (in more ways than one), did I see him for who he really is. Again, that was a long, six-year lesson. And now, with Mr. Beer Man (who I've also known about five or six years), I realize just how long it takes me to cut the strings. I suppose I'm holding on in the event that something might change. Like lightning might strike and suddenly, love and rainbows will fill the air. And there it was, all along. My perfect other waiting for me. How could I have not seen?

Easy. Because there's nothing to look at in the first place. There never was. I was just too emotionally bloated to realize that.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want

There's a song by The Smiths by this name. It's actually the part in Ferris Bueller's Day Off when Cameron is struck by a gorgeous mural of Seurat's scene of families on a beach.

I don't remember the scene, nor did I know the song until two years ago. In fact, I didn't even know who The Smiths were. But everything has changed. And now I'll never look at that painting - or love - the same way again.

I was at the Chicago Art Institute, minding my own business when love brushed across my shoulders. It came in the form of a tall, hopelessly gorgeous man, standing beside me in the German oil painting room. He was more beautiful than any painting I've ever seen. He looked like an Italian model. I looked like a heap of melted paint.

I continued to stare at the painting. He continued to linger about, spreading warm, sexy air onto the periphery of my body. I moved. He moved too. I couldn't get away from the feeling of heat surrounding me like skin. I looked up. He stared. I looked down. He walked away. I looked up, he was staring at me as he walked away. I wanted to vomit.

I was kicking myself for not being more flirtatious, but I never thought someone like that would be interested in me.

A half an hour later, the room was flooded in beauty. Before me was a white room, sun streaming in, and the giant mural of Seurat's families on a beach that moved Cameron in the film. I can see why. One thing I'm sure wasn't in the room during the film, however, was my Italian model. Standing there, in the middle of the room. He turned, just as the sun pierced his body like a dagger, yellow light surrounding his frame like a halo. And there it was. My movie moment.

He was looking right at me. And the closer I got, the closer I felt to something I'd never before experienced. Was I in heaven? Was this real?

"I saw you in the other room," he said.

"I saw you too," I said, trying not to barf.

"My name is Brian," he said, extending his hand.

"I'm..." Dear God, what was my name?

From there, he gave me his Ipod and let me listen to the song from the film. I didn't know what to be more moved by - this gorgeous man providing me with classical music, this amazing painting or the whole experience.

The song is haunting, but even more are the words, which I found online:

Good times for a change
See, the luck Ive had
Can make a good man
Turn bad

So please please please
Let me, let me, let me
Let me get what I want
This time

Havent had a dream in a long time
See, the life I've had
Can make a good man bad

So for once in my life
Let me get what I want
Lord knows, it would be the first time
Lord knows, it would be the first time

I've gotten many things I want in life, but never anything real when it comes to love. It was Brian who opened my eyes to the possibility. I didn't know what I wanted until he showed up. I wanted him.

Life doesn't always play out like a movie, though, and we don't always get what we want. Why else would they write songs about it? I think it would be nice if we could all get what we wanted when it came to love. It would sure make it all a lot easier. And a heck of a lot prettier to look at.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Runaway Single Girl

It happens every time.

Whenever I get into a relationship that I feel might be getting serious, my first instinct is to run. Fast.

I want to run to another state, or hide under the blankets for a year. I want to assume a new identity, maybe masquerade as a salsa dancer in Tijuana.

I want to date an entire football team. I want to pick up men – and some groceries – in the produce aisle of my local Trader Joe’s. I can’t imagine for one moment being tied down to anybody.

I know this is crazy. I understand how much sense this does not make.

After all, I am forever whining about the lack of real love in my life. I am hungry for a partner who genuinely cares. I want someone who calls me every day, if only to ask what I ate for dinner or talk about how funny Scrubs was.

I want this, like any normal girl. But why, when I feel it happening, do I want to run off to Tijuana with a gaggle of men?

I suppose it’s fairly obvious. Running is what people do when they’re scared.

Julia Roberts ran many times in Runaway Bride. People do it in real life all the time. They do it because facing your fears is the scariest thing in the whole world. Scarier, even, than facing jail time for, say, running out on your fiancé and telling everyone you were kidnapped.

I don’t think I’m ready to sit down and stare into the eyes of the man who has no intention of running anywhere. He’s been waiting for me to slow down long enough to tell me it’s okay to be afraid. That he’ll wait as long as it takes until I’m ready.

I wouldn’t have the heart to tell him it’s been 31 years so far, and I just bought a new pair of sneakers.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Getting Burned

I burned my tongue today. For like the fifth time in a week.

I just removed the tea from the microwave, yet I lunged for it like I hadn’t had anything to drink in years. I was too impatient to wait for things to cool down.

I’m sort of like that in the romance department, too.

When it comes to men, I like to get right in there and take a sip, regardless of the emotional temperature of the situation. It’s not that I set out to act like a fool or give my heart away to the next bidder. It’s just that I’m impetuous, excitable and foolhardy. Not once has this method ever really gotten me anywhere. And come to think of it, my feelings about tea have really taken a turn as well.

I liken it to jumping into a pool, fully clothed without remembering that you’ve got a business meeting in 15 minutes and no extra change of clothes. And it’s also January. And the pool has mold. That’s what it’s like to dive into a man without really rationalizing the situation. Yes, I know all about “sometimes you should just go with your heart and not think too hard.” I understand the importance of living in the moment. But I know that when it comes to love, many of us not only live in the moment, but also in the next fifteen moments after that. When we have a good date, already we’re thinking about the next, and the next…men don’t think that way. They are emotional snails. They gradually make it to the next step in about 16 days or so. Then another sixteen to take the one after that. We are like emotional hares. We are always trying to figure out ways to make it to the finish line ahead of everyone else.

This is not to say we’re already dreaming about nuptials or anything like that. We are just primed and ready for the courting race to begin. Once we know that this guy is cute, he makes us laugh and he’s got all his teeth, we don’t need a whole lot more to convince us to go for it. Then, after each date reveals more things about him we like, we’re hooked. That’s it. But if the real lesson to be learned from the fable, “The Tortoise and the Hare” is slow and steady wins the race, then we’ve got to start thinking more like men in order to keep up the momentum. How to do this?

Don’t ask me. I just burned my tongue…again. I’m still getting the hang of tea. I need to do more steeping before I can figure anything out about love.

Down the Emotional Rabbit Hole

Today, while cavorting around with my friend J, we stumbled into a lovely new food/hardware/kitchenware store. I was minding my own business when a smallish, though devilishly handsome, guy in a chef's coat gave me his best slow and sultry once-over on his way to the kitchen. I hadn't noticed this fella before and was really rather disinterested altogether, but now my primal instincts began to kick in and I was the hunter, sniffing out my prey. But you see, since I'm a woman, what that means is that even though I was the one pursuing, I wanted him to pursue me with equal intensity. Call me an old-fashioned hunter. It's all about being noticed.

I think that's really what it boils down to for us women. We just want to be noticed. And then once we're noticed, we want to be desired. After that, we want to be adored, then cherished, then SEEN. That is the last step in feeling fulfilled. We want a man to see us. And by see I don't mean "Yes, I see you're wearing a green skirt." I mean, "I know what makes you cry, I know that your nose twitches when you are happy and I know you wish you'd never said the word 'poop' in front of your Uncle Todd, who has irritable bowel syndrome."

We want to be known inside and out, and desired, adored and cherished for everything we are. What's worse, we're often willing to give up a great deal in order to scratch our way to the finish line, all in the hopes that our own goal will be recognized - that a man will notice us and then want to fall, the way Alice fell down the rabbit hole, into the foundation of our soul.

So even though this chef meant about as much to me as a piece of lettuce, deep inside, I was already thinking about that ultimate emotional trophy.

"I will flirt him into a frenzy," I thought, "and then he'll want to follow me home like a puppy dog."

Now don't get me wrong. I don't really entertain the idea that I have in me any sort of power that could turn a man into a puppy dog, but in these moments of pursuit, your mind tells you all sorts of silly things. Soon, he was standing next to my friend, who he apparently knew from years back, and handed her a plate of house-cured coppa drizzled in a fiery pepper jelly. He only brought one fork.

"Hey, I'm with her, I'm with her," I bellowed, trying to amp up my flirtation.

He just stared. (Note to self: Get a new power cord. Amp has apparently been shut off due to an outstanding electric bill.)

Okay, game over. Mr. Chef is not interested.

You really think I just let the game end, though? Of course you don't. Because you remember what I said up there about having all these delusions of grandeur. So you know that his avoidance of me only pressed me onward.

He did a little staring for a bit, then shuffled off to the kitchen, leaving me to sulk with my lemon mayonnaise.

As we made our way to the car, I realized something startling. So often, I'm willing to take mere kitchen scraps in order to feel just a little bit good about myself. Sometimes I'm so darned hungry to be seen that I let that be enough. Old bones and sinewy pieces of fat. That's my emotional supper. No wonder I'm never full. I guess I've got an emotional tapeworm. I keep taking whatever the next guy is willing to give me, just to fill the hole inside. But wouldn't you know, the hole is nowhere near my stomach. It's in my heart.

How do you fill your heart? And please don't say by learning to love yourself and recognizing your own special gifts. Blah, blah, blah. I need measurements here, actual tangible ingredients. Are we talking 5 cups of flour? Maybe a stick of butter? Guess I'd better start baking...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Read This if You Don’t Believe Good is Out There

You are crestfallen, quite a bit jaded and probably plenty angry.

You might even have a wall — or fourteen — built around your heart, which is feeling about the size of a pea these days.

You’re tired of crying, tired of trying, tired of lying (to yourself) and tired of dying (on the inside).

Tired of believing that man is out there. You know that man. The one they write about in novels. The one you see painted on the screen kissing Gwyneth Paltrow. The one who brings flowers, keeps his promises, doesn’t lie and really wants you. REALLY wants you. Not “I’m only pretending I think you’re a great person so I can get you in bed” kind of want you, but “I like the way you eat your oatmeal and when you hiccup after you laugh it makes me want to cradle you in my arms” want you.

He wants to support your dreams, meet your family and give you backrubs. You know, THAT man. The one you know for certain is fake. The one you don’t believe lives in any postal code outside of Narnia.

If you’re reading this far, it means you’ve been lured in by my catchy headline and don’t believe for one moment that this guy exists.

What if I told you he did?

What would you do if I promised he was real and that maybe (just maybe) one day you might find him?

I’m not willing to offer you a money-back guarantee if you don’t find him, but I’m willing to offer you a faith-back guarantee. I guarantee that the sheer act of believing will give you back all the faith that’s been trampled on, strangled out of you or completely erased from your mind. What’s the worst that could happen? You remain happy for years because you’re dreaming about something that might actually come true?

Okay, now that I’ve got you believing, you want proof that I have seen this man of which I speak. And you’d prefer that he be sitting next to me right now so that you know for sure he doesn’t leave.

I can’t do that. He’s not here. But I have seen him. I have touched him. I have loved him. I promise he exists.

He is the man who asked me eight times to marry him. The man whose heart I broke when eight times I changed the subject. He is the man who never cheated on me, cried when he realized he wasn’t “the one,” and spent countless hours holding my hand when I was sick. He loved my family. He loved my cats (even though he hates cats). He loved me. I just didn’t love him…enough.

There’s also The Electrician, who remembers every detail about my life and can repeat back every word I say to him, even when I have already forgotten. He says he cherishes my intellect and rubs my feet when I’ve come off a long shift at the pastry shop. He washes his hands a lot because he knows I’m a germ freak. And yes, he loves me in my grandpa’s baggy pj’s.

So while that guy has yet to play a starring role in any of my happy endings, he has played several supporting roles in my life, and still shows up from time to time in the form of someone like the Bike Racer, who once held me for hours when I was sad, infusing my heart with his gentle kindness, to remind me he exists. It's not like Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. That guy is real.

Sometimes he will show up when you are completely unprepared, so he goes away. Other times, he will stand at your door until you let him in. Just be prepared for what lies on the other side. All you have to change is your thinking.

Finding good is one thing. Being ready for it is something else entirely.

The Top Five Things I’m No Longer Willing to Give Up In Order to Be Happy

The Top Five Reasons Why I Shouldn’t Like The Electrician

1) He has a child (I’m not really into kids).
2) He has been divorced twice.
3) He lives in another state.
4) He has lots of emotional baggage.
5) He has dogs (I’m not really into dogs either).

The Top Ten Reasons That Overrule the Previous Five

1) He is unbelievably kind.
2) He is incredibly honest.
3) He has the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever met.
4) He is totally devoted to me.
5) I believe everything he says.
6) He always wanted to be in my life in any way he could, even if he couldn’t date me. “I would feel cheated if I didn’t get the benefit of knowing you,” he says.
7) Before he had a kid, he was willing to do anything to make things work between us. Even with a different sort of commitment in his life, he is just as willing (as is possible, given the situation).
8) He calls me every night.
9) My family loves him and he is totally natural around them. He hangs out with them and can talk to them about anything.
10) He makes me feel special.

The Top Five list is a really big one, in my mind. Back in the old days, I was first on the list. Now he’s got someone else who is top priority. And as much as I understand that, it’s hard when you don’t want kids and someone you really like has a child. You can’t have the sort of carefree life you really want.

I love to travel. I really want someone who can hop on a plane to Rome with me in a moment’s notice or take me for a long weekend in Napa. From my experience, though, the only men who have ever had the luxury of being able to do that never wanted to do those things with me (see: Mr. Corkscrew and The Mad Scientist). But The Electrician does. It’s just that he can’t.

“I wish I could be that guy for you,” he says. “I know it’s what you need.”

For a long time, I thought it was. But now I’m beginning to wonder, are the things you thought you need, really what you need? Or do you need something you never anticipated? Like someone who respects you and can repeat back everything you say in a conversation instead of someone who can take you to the best gelato shop in Tuscany? Someone who knows every curve of your face or someone who knows how to rip off your blouse with his teeth but doesn’t know the color of your eyes? Someone whose voice on the other end of the phone makes you feel warm and safe or someone who never calls when he says he will?

I used to think I wanted the unpredictable, the passionate and the carefree. Often, you have to give up so much in order to get those things.

Kind of makes me want to craft a new list.

The Top Five Things I’m No Longer Willing to Give Up In Order to Be Happy

1) My freedom.
2) My self-esteem.
3) My body.
4) My dreams.
5) Myself.

What’s your top five?

Friday, May 16, 2008

How Far Would You Go For Love?

With the exception of King Kong, my last three relationships (including the one I’m in now) have all been long distance.

The one with The Mad Scientist only lasted a few months, while the one with Mr. Corkscrew dragged on for six years. Still, I only saw him on three separate occasions within that time period, so it doesn’t really count as a true long distance affair.

I had no idea how difficult these sorts of relationships are. To think, I actually believed it would be relatively effortless with me 2,000 miles away from Mr. Corkscrew. “I love to travel and it would be good to rack up some frequent flyer miles,” I told him over coconut and banana pancakes one February morning. Seriously, I don’t like to travel that much.

It’s only been two months with The Electrician and already I’m racking up tons of mileage, hotel bills and, to my chagrin, speeding tickets, just going to visit him every other week. Really, your whole way of thinking has to change in order to make a long distance relationship work. At the very least, you have to work on your aversion to Cracker Barrel (it's everywhere and, sadly, one of the most appealing options off highway 70). I’m suddenly coveting reviews on and looking forward to finding out what kind of tiny shampoo bottles await me at each stop. What have I become?

My weekends used to be about art films, farmers markets and buckwheat crepes, and now they’re about cornfields and chain restaurants.

So far, I’ve put in about 1500 miles for the prospect of love. I wonder, is that too far or not far enough?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Inside Out

My outfit looked a little something like this: dingy grey tank top over a pair of my grandpa’s oversized blue and white checkered pajama pants. Five minutes into his visit I got hot and changed into Mickey Mouse boxer shorts and a pair of grungy white socks (my feet were cold).

My hair, which hadn’t been washed in three days, was sticking to my head, I wore no makeup and my body smelled faintly of celery. I was a walking PMS commercial — bloated, unshaven and overly self-conscious — but he was completely unfazed. His smile was as wide as the first day I’d met him six years ago, which he later told me was the moment he knew he was going to love me. I could have been wearing a little black dress and fishnets and his reaction would’ve been the same.

He wasn’t here for high fashion or good hygiene. He was here for me.


“You have always excited me,” he said, as he ran his hands down my stubbly legs. “Everyone in my life knows how I feel about you.”

I guess I did now, as I was at my least polished but in his presence managed to feel as if I was at my dazzling best.

This was foreign territory. I’d forgotten how it feels to be seen on the inside and liked for that person. No bells and whistles. No beach bronzed skin or sexy legs. No waxed body parts or coiffed hair.

Could it be that he values my sense of humor more than my ass? Are my morals more important to him than a blowjob?

Everything in me is pointing to yes. To him, who I am matters.


We are curled up, like human balls of yarn, on the couch, and I tell him I never thought we’d be sitting here, all giddy and smitten, six years after we first met (and I dumped him).

“I always hoped we would,” he smiled. “I knew you’d see things my way.”

That would be nice. His vision is much better than mine.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Better Than Pasta

Italian butts. Enough said.


Monday, May 12, 2008

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Thank You For Breaking My Heart

I don’t know how to do it. How to say it. I don’t know if I can scream it loudly enough. My lungs aren’t that strong.

But without a voice, how can you tell someone it hurts? How can you shout the pain, through your skin and your teeth and every strand of hair on your head? How do you say “ouch” in a way that means more than a paper cut or a bruise? How do you tell a man he broke your heart?

I’m not exactly sure, and I make my living from my words. I simply can’t comprehend the gravity of the human heart, least of all my own. It throbs inside me sometimes, so heavy and loud I can hear it in my earlobes. Only a few times did it strangle the voice inside my head with its tremendous pain.

Like when my boyfriend of four years called me at 2 a.m. on a Tuesday to tell me he was leaving me for a woman he met three days earlier. The chill in his voice. The deafening shrill “goodbye” makes when someone you love whispers it in your ear.

Or when Beer Man, who had me floating on a cloud made of hops and bubblegum, told me, with a quivering voice, “It wasn’t me, it was him,” and that he could only give me 50% and I deserved 100% (where do men get these crazy figures from?), the smiles that had been making my jaws ache slowly turned into a gelatinous puddle of despair.

Perhaps the worst, though, was when The Mad Scientist told me he didn’t want what I wanted. I found it all funny, considering what I wanted was relatively simple and not much trouble at all. I just wanted him to love me. I wanted him to say, “I have no clue how this is going to work. You live there and I live here and you believe in universal truths, and I spend my life trying to prove our existence on this planet with scientific data, but hey, let’s give it a go. For the first time in my logic-based life, I want to coast solely on the tail feathers of my heart.”

But he didn’t say that. Instead he said, “When I told you how busy I am, I figured you knew that meant I didn’t want anything serious.”

Mr. Corkscrew said something similar, only he admitted, point blank, it could never work. Not because of the distance, which was enormous, but because he worked 6.5 days a week and had no time for destiny. But how could I tell that to my heart when the tiniest ray of joy was beginning to tear it open? In my world, logic doesn’t play a role in love.

He never asked me if I thought it was impossible. What if I said no? What if I said I’d be willing to bungee jump off the wall of logic and plummet to the depths of possibility?

So yeah, being the owner of a heart pretty much sucks. I figure you spend a good 75 percent of your dating life cleaning up some sort of sopping mess of disappointment and devastation. And while I believe investing in a good mop is important, I also believe that investing in a resilient heart is your best bet. Despite all the cleaning up I’ve had to do, I’ve never given up on love. Not once.

Even if men have been pigs and lied to me or gawked at other women or objectified me or didn’t want me despite all my best attempts, I haven’t stopped believing men are good. My friends think me crazy. Don’t I know what’s out there?

Yes, I do.

And that’s why I persist in believing. I believe in the strength of men. I believe in their character. I believe in their kindness and their honesty. I believe in their compassion. I believe in those things because I’ve seen them, time and time again. Just when one man dashes my hopes, another one swoops in and builds me a city of hope. Just when one man makes me feel like I’m not enough, another one comes in to make me feel like I’m excessively worthy.

It’s like anything, really. People are a crapshoot. Men and women have in them the potential for so much good, but not everyone uses their potential. So sometimes you get some not-so-good examples from each gender.

Really, it all boils down to faith.

And I’ve got a surplus of it.

That’s why I decided to write about the men I know. While it‘s true that not all of them had a clean driving record, in the end they turn out to be much better than I realized. It’s like that book where you think the main character is a villain all along, but on the last page he ends up rescuing the maiden. Turns out, he was never out to get her like you thought. You were reading the book the way you expected it to be, not the way it really was.

It took me awhile, but I went back and reread all my relationships. In many cases, I even relived them. I talked to the men who had hurt or confused me, left me or used me as a sexual pawn, and I got down to business. Mostly, my question was always the same: why?

The answers I received weren’t as I expected them to be; they were honest, straightforward and, for the most part, clarifying. To think I could’ve saved myself a life’s tome of sorrow the length of War and Peace if I’d only just asked. But then, I guess that would have totally ruined the ending.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

He "Hops" From Girl to Girl: Why Mr. Beer Man Left A Sour Taste in My Mouth

In the picture, my arm is wrapped around his shoulder and I’m laughing. I’m wearing a cardigan that felt soft on my body and, after a glass of champagne, so did my heart.

Aaron is looking at me and smiling. I used to like the way he looked at me.

I suppose it’s his secret weapon. He used it the night we were sitting across from each other at a wine bar, a table full of our mutual friends, obscure Belgian beer and plates of goat cheese and olives laid out before us. I was about to bring a piece of bread to my lips when I noticed him staring.

It wasn’t a casual stare by any means. It was a deep, piercing stare that I felt in my toes. And it lasted forever. There was nothing coy about the way he looked at me. His eyes seared into my flesh and suddenly I felt hot all over. And totally self conscious. So I looked away.

But you can’t look away from a guy like Aaron for long. Thoughts of him interrupt your sleep. Imagining what it would be like to feed him a grape, run your fingers through his hair…

I decided to email him. And I got a response back minutes later saying he was waiting for me to contact him. Apparently, he’d had a crush on me since the first time we met at a party months before.

“Let’s go for a drink,” he said.

It was that simple.

But then, beginnings always are, aren’t they?

Flash forward six years and several thousand beers later, to the two of us in his L.A. apartment. I came for a visit (on his request), under the premise that he'd take me out to dinner, we'd cook together and I could get a fresh perspective on the slightly turbulent life I was leading at the time.

Turns out I got none of that. All I got was the image of him splayed out on his couch, watching sports. I opened his apartment door after a night out with a friend, and he was belching and scratching himself.

"Did you have fun with your friend?" he asked in a tone far too syrupy to be real. "He's special, isn't he?"

If I thought he had a heart in his moldy little body, I'd say he was jealous.

Years ago, after the first time his eyes seared into mine, I would've given anything for his jealousy. His passion for life, confidence in his dreams and free-spirited attitude reeled me in, hook line and sinker. Every time he'd come into town on break from grad school, we'd spend entire weekends together, dining out and staying in. He would call while he was away, telling me where he ate and what he made for dinner that weekend. We'd talk about our dreams, he'd encourage me and I'd ooh and aah about his wonderful adventures.

Never, in all that time, did he make me feel insignificant. But he did when I stood in his apartment, still wide-eyed from people watching and celebrity spotting. I wanted to tell him all about it, share a part of my world with him, just as I suppose I always wanted. But he wasn't interested.

Unless I was bent over his couch, he didn't see me at all. Not a single part.

We had dinner once while I was there. And it was only because he was hungry. I ate off his plate. There was a giant pile of crab legs before us, and as I hungrily tore into mine, I told him he was bad at being kind.

"It's not what I do," he said. "I know it's what you need, but I can't be that guy for you."

"If you can't give me what I deserve, then I don't want what you have to give me," I said, shocking myself and him once the words escaped my lips.


I really meant it. I actually believed I'm worth more than second-hand seafood and a chorus of belching. Finally.

I guess I should thank Mr. Beer Man for finally revealing his lack of heart to me. All this time, I was lured in by his culinary prowess and his passion for life. I forgot that a passion for me should also be on the list.

The picture was taken not long after we met. The way he's looking at me was real. I know he saw me for who I really was. I know he still does.

One night, when he was drunk, he told me he doesn't treat other girls the way he treats me.

"Do you think everyone deserves the same respect?" he asked. "You're different. You're not bland. You're not boring. You're interesting. You have passion. You're better."

When my cab drove off, I watched him standing there in the middle of the street. He looked sort of small. Nothing like the tough, cocky guy he tries so hard to be. He stood there until he was a speck in my rear window. I'll never know exactly what he was thinking, and the good part is, I no longer care. I do know one thing, though. You don't always have to go back to the restaurant to remember the meal. Sometimes, the memory is enough to keep you full.

Friday, April 11, 2008

We Had Fun When No One Was Watching: King Kong Held Me Tightly, Then Let Me Go

My Ipod is playing a song from King Kong. It’s the haunting instrumental that played when Kong and Ann were skating together on a frozen pond. Kong was falling and sliding around and Ann would help him up and laugh and then he would laugh (as much as a giant ape can). No one was out to kill him and he was sharing this genuine moment of joy and happiness with the woman he loved.

You can guess what comes next. In movies, just like real life, moments of purity and innocence always come to a screeching halt.

The relationship George and I shared was very much like that of Kong and Ann. At first, he wanted to steal me away from everyone and keep me all to himself. He was selfish and brutish that way, and I loved it. I was his refuge and his happy place. I made him laugh and broke down the walls he had all around him. I would’ve been his prisoner forever if only he knew how to make me feel the same.

Instead, he starved me. For so long I subsisted on the breadcrumbs of affection he threw my way. Most times I was parched and gaunt. He was depleting me of the things necessary to sustain my heart. Just like the lonely beast from the movie, George had no idea how to love.

We had our moments of quiet skating, though. Sometimes we’d steal away from our jobs and lie together on a blanket under a tree in our favorite park. We’d take our shoes off and just wrap our bodies together, silently breathing in the purity of that moment. I have a picture of him with eyes closed, face touching mine, looking so in love. He sent me an email once that said he wished he were a squirrel so that he could climb up on my shoulders and sit with me all day.

“I wouldn’t need much,” he said, “just a few acorns and you, always.”

Whenever I got sad, I’d imagine him so small and helpless, hovering against my body for warmth. I would have loved him forever. But ours was a relationship doomed from the start. We fought all the time. Mostly because he couldn’t communicate and never showed me affection. The older he got and the more wrapped up he became in his career, the less I saw him. The less he touched me or held me. Afternoons in the park were now just a silly fantasy. I was lucky if I saw him once a week for a quick meal and stilted conversation. He changed in the four years we were together. I guess it was the stress. But he withdrew into himself and I was dying. I needed intimacy. I needed to hear words of kindness and love. Instead, I heard only silence.

Today as I was taking my walk, I set my Ipod on shuffle. Just as I rounded a corner, the wind blew lightly against my cheek. It reminded me of the air on the day George and I lay huddled beneath that giant oak tree, both of us hoping that moment would never end. I remember our shoes, tangled up next to each other on the grass. Suddenly, as if on cue, the King Kong song starts playing. It’s been years since I heard that song. We watched the movie together when it first came out and were both touched by the innocence of that scene. He made me a CD for Valentine’s Day with only that haunting melody on it. He also gave me an orchid and a poem he wrote in French. He loved me. Somewhere in a place hidden, like in the forest where beast and beauty shared their last moment of freedom, he loved me. But like the movie’s final happy scene, it was destined to end.

Soon, police and helicopters surrounded the pair. People tried to shoot at Kong. He held tightly to Ann, wanting to shield her from harm.

“Go,” she cried. “Go.”

He turned to look at her, and in that moment you could see everything he felt for her and always would. There was sadness, gratitude, longing and great love. Those big eyes held so much love.

She knew. She always did.

He held her tightly, then he let her go.

And he ran off in the night somewhere far away. She knew she would never see him again, but she would never forget the good times they had when no one was watching.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Words, Not Wine, Got Me Drunk: At the Table with Mr. Corkscrew

I guess a lot of people leave their hearts in San Francisco.

Perhaps they misplace it at the Ferry Building, or drop it in the Bay as they’re trying to feed the fish. It’s a lot easier to do than I would have imagined. Mine just sort of fell out of me, after squeezing its way through my esophagus. I started coughing and wheezing, sounding like a cat ridding itself of a hairball.

I guess it was a heart ball. When it landed on the carpet in front of me, I could see years of sadness and confusion tangled inside. It was blood-stained, and there were fossilized tears at the center that looked like tiny shells in a sea of moss and dirt. I’m sure the heart ball didn’t come out just because of him, but his treatment of me during our last visit had an effect not unlike that of ipecac. It was time to vomit him out once and for all. After all, it had been six years since we started this soul-crushing affair.

We met in 2002, at a communal table in a Napa Valley restaurant. I was the bored food writer, disabling a quenelle with my left hand and heralding a Cosmopolitan with my right, and he was the charming wine buyer with a puckish smile and two inebriated companions flanked on both sides of his smallish frame. We had been passing flirtations back and forth like a roto-virus in a Kindergarten class all evening, and when the drunk guy between us got up to go to the bar, our bodies were magnetically drawn to each other. We went on a date later that week and kept in touch after I flew back home, 2,000 miles away. I held out hope that things would take off from there, that we’d build something with our words and later, our bodies and our hearts.

He would send me emails the length of War and Peace, yet his prose was flowery and superficial, scattered across the computer screen like a Japanese crossword puzzle. You know they read backwards, the Japanese. Adrian felt backwards. His heart, like his words, always seemed upside down.

I said things like “potential” and “effort,” and he said things like “capricious” and “ephemeral.”

Why, then, did I always try to keep rewriting his story? Maybe it’s because I believed that if the ending were anything like the beginning, it would be worth years of patient editing to get there. Red marks be damned, I wanted a love story out of the deal.

It seemed only natural. Even the middle read like a great novel. On my last visit to San Francisco, he took me to the symphony, for moonlit walks across the city and out for tapas. There was fried chickpeas and chili powder; poached eggs and bacon on wilted Italian lettuce; wood fired broad beans and tomatoes; and celery root puree with roasted apples and Buddha’s hand oil drizzled lavishly across the top. And there was even dessert: a warm serving of his lips, drizzled across the small of my back, his arms, a shell of skin surrounding a frozen parfait of me, now thawing into a pool of sugar-crusted hope. When I was lying in the dark, so close to him we were almost sewn together, I thought I tasted a promise — an as-yet-unknown promise, punctuated by a silent announcement of consideration.

And when he dropped me at the airport, hugging me so fiercely I thought I might explode into peanut-shaped fragments, I truly believed he had invited me not only into his city, but also into his heart.

“Next time, I’ll take you to SPQR,” he said, the gleam of a small child in his eyes.

The whole way home my mind played a symphony of “next times.” Next time I will wear that red dress with the slit. Next time I will bring him my dog-eared copy of “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.” He likes Kundera. Next time I will make him a frittata for breakfast, with sundried tomatoes and freshly grated Parmesan.

But now is next time, and he is gone. Gone to see the world without me.“Was just in Vail for my annual trip,” he wrote. “Thailand is in two weeks. My business partners don’t like me being gone so long, but ah, life is out there, waiting.”

And so am I. Sometimes I want to slap myself for being one of those dreadfully obtuse girls I normally make fun of — the ones who mold their perception of reality around the first man who pays them a kind word. I’m not that girl. I’m the fiercely independent type who shuns marriage, has no desire for children and travels the world solo. But this time was different. Something about the way he touched me, the undulating swirl of blue in his eyes…

I emailed him after several weeks of an empty inbox, asking what went wrong, and he gave his usual reply: “Intention and action are, unfortunately, two very different things for me.” Yes, they always were. I had always given in to the excuse that he just wasn’t ready. He was a successful restaurateur. He was inundated with responsibility. He had no time for someone 20 minutes across town, let alone me, who lived 2,000 miles away. His superficial words and inattentiveness told me all I really needed to know, yet I waded through the years like a cautious beachcomber, hoping the next time we met, he would look at me and know I was the time he wanted to spend.

“I don’t care if you live in Egypt,” I imagined him saying. “I would scale the pyramids to get to you.”

Okay, so a little far-fetched, but I’d at least hoped he’d throw in a line or two about frequent flyer miles or something. Good thing I’m already adept at flying solo.

Now it's time to become adept at rewriting this story by creating a plot line that doesn’t result in him finally loving me, but me loving myself enough for the both of us. You know, the antithetically obtuse girl who scales her own pyramid and realizes that love shouldn't require editing. The best kinds are always a little grammatically incorrect.

In my new ending, I want to be the girl who accepts the fact that she will never catch the man who whispered into her ear the night she wore the pink orchid in her hair, “Let’s see what happens.”

Sometimes I imagine Adrian in my arms again, the way it was when I thought we were both part of the same dream. He’d confess that he has always been afraid of me. “You’re the closest thing I’ve ever known to real,” he’d say. “And I’ve forgotten what that feels like.”

For six years, San Francisco was real to me. I loved the hills; the way the wind floats magically from the Bay and blows kisses at your face and the sound of trolley cars clanging their bells in the distance. I loved a man who lived there, too. Or at least, I loved parts of him. His cheekbones, the way they seemed drawn into his face like the curves of Lombard Street, the feel of his fingertips on my stomach, like tiny flecks of sugar on a rugelach.

And his heart. So close, but like me, thousands of miles away.