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.