Saturday, January 30, 2010

Conversations With Real, Live Girls!

If you have ever wondered what women talk about when they get together, or if "Sex and the City" was over-doing it, this is for you. Real conversation between two young women, had yesterday night. I tell you the truth; you tell me no lies.

"Honestly, I'm less concerned about that than I would be about someone studying to be a GYN."

"Hahaha, truth. But a GYN would know EXACTLY what all those peices-parts are and what they do. And you wouldn't have pregnancy scares because they control Plan B So, a GYN sounds like a good deal. I must go find one."

"And remember when you were worrying about the wayward finger that had the potential to go where no man had gone before?"

"Yes. I will never forget it. Believe me. Did you encounter it as well?"

"Yes. I think it's just natural hand positioning, possibly leverage. I think it's safe."

"Thinking back, after that night, I don't think it raised its...finger...again."

"It wasn't signing a lease there, but it subletted the space for a time."

And this is why we have girl friends.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Some Things Are Universal

If there is one big difference between American men and Italian men, it is that Italians are much more up-front about their opinion of you. Thankfully, I am usually blissfully unaware on the street when they say things to me, because my grasp of the language does not extend after ordering food. However, some things, like a graze across your ass, or "Ciao, bella"s translate loud.

Today, I was loitering outside of a store, smoking, when a very large middle-aged man wandered into my personal space and gave me a "Ciao, bella!" I was startled, yet a little pleased, as always. Then he continued wandering past, muttering to himself, and then started shouting things about "amore!" to absolutely no one.

He was stark-raving mad.

I didn't know it this verified or negated his compliment to me. I'm still questioning this.


Monday, January 25, 2010

Flight Of The Midnight Sun

As I watched the sun rise in shades of pale orange, rose, and eggshell blue over the Atlantic Ocean at 6:30 AM Euro-time, and 1 AM U.S time from the plan window, it struck me that just like watching the sun rise in the middle of my night, I am in totally strange territory. In one month, I assigned myself to living in a totally foreign country for three months. There was lots of last-minute paperwork, not much planning, and a sense of total disregard for reading any of the prepatory material. Watching that midnight sun rise, I realized that not only was I not traditionally "ready," I also have no clue what I am doing. After a brief moment in which my eyes suddenly burned with a wall of saline tears pressing against the back of them, much to my total horror and embarrassment due to my attentive seatmate watching me, it passed. I am here. I said I'd do this. I need to do this. Already, I am stretching boundaries, making new friends, and opening myself up totally to whatever new experiances find me (including a group outing planned for what will be dubbed "The World's Most Offensive Scavenger Hunt" to a park replete at night with prostitutes, transvestities, and drug dealers in effort to find the holy trifecta of a transvestite drug-dealing prostitute, just to say we met one,) and just rolling with it.

Something's different in the air over here. It's not just the 50 degree temperature. It's not the food smells, or the palm tree that grows below my hotel window. It's a different permiable attitude of "what will be, will be." I am far calmer and more out-going and humorous here than at home. It's easy to be with a group of strangers, as a stranger, when all the natives expect you to be different anyway. Don't get me wrong-- I'm still alternately scared shitless and asking myself what the fuck I've gotten myself into, but I'm pretty sure I'm in love with Florence, already.

I am pretty sure this is the craziest and most exciting thing I have ever done.

Thank you for letting me go do this. It means so much.

I miss you all.


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Ciao, Bellas!: Goodbyes Before The Great Adventure Begins

"We're not going to encourage you to cross an ocean. We're selfish bitches who like you where you are."- Samantha, Sex and the City, Season 6.

In 24 hours, I will be somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean between Boston and Italy. I have 2 bags packed fully to the brim, my student visa and passport, 3 guidebooks, 3 new novels (2 bought, 1 very contentedly borrowed,) and lots and lots of people I don't want to leave.
...And a horse. She's equally, if not more, important.

The funny thing with the people who are close to you is that you can always, always, invariably tell when they are doing something strictly for your sake and trying to hide their real feelings on the subject. There is always the person who is not so keen on your leaving who knows that they should be excited for you, and so tries to pretend to be excited for you so that you aren't worried about them, because they are worried about you, and you just start a whole circle of projected feelings.
"I'm excited."
"Good. You should be excited." (Falsely cheerily.)
"...I'm coming back, you know. Don't worry."
"I'm not worried."
"You're so worried. And I'm worried about your being worried."

I can't be excited if you're worried. I'm worried about you. Me, I could care less about. So you care about me, and I'll care about you, and we'll both pledge to be nervous but excited for each other, and in no time flat, I'll be back. Easy as pie. Chocolate mud pie. My favorite.

Some don't try to hide it. Some, like Samantha, tell it to you exactly how it is. Friends are funny. They do unexpected things for your benefit that you never expect and then you have to balance their love for you with the situation at hand to see it from their perspective. (I recently remembered the fact that when a good friend of yours says they're going to do something, they usually do it. So take them seriously, or you're going to be the one feeling your jaw drop against the desk in shock.)

"I'm inviting you to go to France, not to jail."- Alec.
"I just--"- Carrie
"Have more questions?"- Alec
"Yes. I'm not finished with New York."- Carrie, all Sex and the City, all Season 6.

You always leave for a trip sooner than you want to. Universal truth. Am I ready? No. Am I going to do my best? Yes. I may or may not have mulishly not planned some details, like, plotting points around the city in regards to the college or my apartment because, frankly, at this point, all of the paperwork and planning has left very little room for the adventure in this adventure, and I really would just like to get lost enough to have no other options than stop wandering, find a good bar, sit down, and just...let it go.

If there is one thing I have learned recently, it's that when something keeps popping up unexpectedly-- a book, a person, a place-- you better face it head-on and get over your shit, because if you don't, you're just going to waste time and an opportunity. You can't deny what is right in front of you. You can try like hell, but sometimes, it's just best to stop the fight and resign yourself to the fact that at times, things greater than your own force of nature are at work. Sometimes, it's to help you. Sometimes, it's to teach you a lesson. And other times, it's to open you up to possibilities you never imagined were possible.

When two things work in tandem, they are always stronger and more sure than one. Remember this. Find someone or something else that works at your speed, and don't give up on it easily.

"There are those that open you up to something new and exotic, those that are old and familiar, those that bring up lots of questions, those that bring you somewhere unexpected, those that bring you far from where you started, and those that bring you back. But the most exciting, challenging and significant is the one you have with yourself. And if you can find someone to love the you you love, well, that's just fabulous."- Carrie, Sex and the City, Season 6.

So here's to traveling and friends and letting go and new adventures. Speaking of, I have no idea when or how I will be getting internet access in Florence, so I'll do my best, but it may be a little while. Rest assured, I'll be back.

Ciao, bellas! I love all y'all.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Tough-Love Guide To Splitsville: What Do YOU Want?

This is pretty frank. If you're someone who gets upset easily, you may not want to read it. If you really don't want to know how women go through the after-shocks of "it's over", don't read this. If you wear perpetually rose-tinted glasses, and think true love prevails, this ain't for you.

But if you are going through a break-up, or feel lost, alone, scared, or like you need something to shake you out of it and at the same time make you feel less alone and unloved, read on, sister, or I guess to not be gender-biased-- friend. Hi. I'm not going to say "Let's hold each other while we sob," because that is so not my scene or how I do this, but I may be inclined to say, "If you need the occasional hug, I'm down for that, and in the meantime, let's curl up with a good book and chat and smoke."

So. You're now an Uno that used to be part of a Duo. Join the club. Take a seat. I'm gonna need your full attention. So stop thinking about it for a moment. I'm not going to sugar-coat any of this. I think it's about time we didn't take a "one size fits all" approach to what happens after it's over. If you really want to know how women get through this without going through boxes of Kleenex and repeatedly watching "The Notebook", this is where you want to be. I mean, that's all well and good if it's what gets you through, but not all of us operate like that. Some of us need to know what to expect if we want to get on with our lives, straight-up, no chaser.

Yes, You are Going to Lose Weight: You know how there's that very media-contrived popular image of that woman who's just had her heart broken drowning her sorrows in pint after pint of Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby? Well. I have never, ever met a woman who actually went on an eating binge and gained weight after a split. Instead, the norm I have found is that women actually lose weight. This is accomplished in one of two ways: "Do-Something" women usually throw themselves into their gym membership with renewed vigor and burn those pounds away to a leaner, more competitive self. "What-The-Fuck-Just-Happened?!" women usually get thrown right off their appetites and start to whittle away.

Let's break it down. Much to my chagrin, I recently found that when you feel comfortable with yourself and someone else, you eat. Why not, right? You know the term "comfort food"? Yeah. You're happy. You're not worried. You're probably feeling pretty secure. So you want to keep feeding that feeling, either physically or emotionally.

Well, after a split, shock sets in. It's going to happen, no matter how amicably it happens. At first, you may just forget to eat. Hey, it happens. Your mind is preoccupied elsewhere. If you're a smoker, like I am, you can easily mistake hunger for the need to smoke. Which further suppresses your appetite. Then, when you do get back around to that food thing, odd feelings may get dredged up that set you right off of eating. For me, it was disgust. Every time I sat down to eat, my mind would start wandering through what should have been closed and padlocked doors, and I would find myself so physically disgusted that I felt like I might vomit even before putting food in my mouth. I lost 6 pounds in 3 days. Not good. I don't really have 6 pounds to lose. Now, you can locate my hipbones for the first time since I hit puberty, and I'm honestly concerned that a pickpocket in Italy could just pick me up and carry me away instead of dealing with pockets.

Because I can't do this for myself, I'm going to do it for you: DO NOT THINK ABOUT IT. I don't mean the whole mess of affairs (ha), I just mean the things that happened that you couldn't have helped, one way or another. Really. Some things shouldn't be dwelt on. Don't give in to those thoughts that will never, or should never, be answered. You will never, and SHOULD never, know what it was like. You really, really don't want to know the details. So making them up isn't doing anyone any favors, least of all you, lady. And you are who matters right now.

I will say, however, that there is one up-side to losing post-disaster weight: compared to your emaciated African-child frame, your mammeries are going to look more massive than ever. It's the little wins.

Vices, Or "Why Is That Pack Empty Already?": You feel a little used and abused, so now you want to use and abuse something else, right? Alcohol. Cigarettes. Controlled substances. Give me the Stoli, and nobody gets hurt, right? Yeah. We've all been there. I'm not going to preach anything, because I am probably going to be sainted as the Patron Saint of Avoidance Through Substances. But just like the whole eating thing, one day, you're going to start to realize you're not drinking/smoking/toking/using as much as you were previously. That's when you know it is safe to start putting down the bottle/cigarette/bowl/rolled-up bill and step a little further away. And a little further away the next day. And sometime shortly, you will be able to enter civilized company again.

If you're finding this is not the case, and in fact, it's getting worse, do what any responsible user would do: have one "safe" person who knows about your problem and who you would feel comfortable having them snap you out of it, and GO TO THEM. Killing yourself is no way to get on with a better life. And plus, though you may feel hurt, there are so many other people who care about you. I bet you anything, that even if you are unlucky in love, you are incredibly blessed with amazing friends who would do nearly anything for you. I know I am. And most of the time, that unconditional love is even better than regular sex.
...Ok, so that may be a total lie, but, you know what I mean. It's more important.
......Or...ok, I just can't win this one.

Crazy-Bitch Behavior, And Why You Shouldn't Be Doing It: You may want to make a grand gesture. Usually, a pretty crazy grand gesture. But here's the problem: if you want to maintain any sense of decorum or civility with your ex S.O, you can't. No showing up on doorsteps. No beating other women up. No really pissed-off tirades or messages or letters or blog posts. Be a Big Girl. It's such a Catch-22, I know-- you really want to do something to let you blow off all that steam inside, but you'd be best off getting it out sometime when you're really not into the guy or outcome or friendship, anyway. This is what your friends are for. Swear them to secrecy, bug the fuck out, and be done with it. (Also, make them swear up, down, and sideways over your dead body or the closest bottle of their favorite beer not to send any angry letters of their own. Because having scary friends is no way to Win Friends And Influence People. Or ever have your friend and the person who recieved said Angry Letter in the same 20 foot radius ever again. Even though your friend's heart may be in exactly the right place. Make your judgement call.)

Re-Assess Your Situation-- Who Are You, and What Do You Want: Speaking of, by this point in your life, you shouldn't be with anyone who you feel like you're settling for or are apathetic about. You should be with someone who you can be totally, one-hundred-percent yourself around. You should be able to talk to them about whatever you want, and even crack horrendous jokes during foreplay without a second thought. You should not be compromising one iota for anyone else. You should not be afraid to say "this is what I like" and "this is what I don't like." You should know yourself pretty well by now, and if you don't, you should be figuring that out.

I know this sounds much easier said than done, but when you find it, you'll just know it, I promise you-- no games, no worries.

Personally, I am taking my semester abroad in Florence as a self-discovery field-trip. I can already tell you it's going to make me more independent, more confident, and more adept at expressing myself. Whatever else I learn while over there is going to be the surprise. But mostly, it's about getting away to find out who, exactly, I am. Not just who I am in the mirror, what music I listen to, what I like to eat, what I'm not a fan of doing, but what makes me come alive. What makes me scared, and how I can get over it. What I refuse to let go of. What I need to learn to admit to. And where I want to be, physically and theoretically.

What You SHOULD Be Doing: Full Disclosure: I am writing this to you in a massive Princeton hoodie, leggings, and slippers. I haven't showered yet. I haven't eaten yet. In fact, I woke up at 11 AM. Coping comes in all different guises. But what I can tell you is that right now, I am starting to get hungry for some toast. I'm planning on getting dressed to go into town and mail out some paperwork this afternoon. And I'm looking forward to a midnight Jacuzzi tonight.

It's little steps. Get out of bed. Get dressed. Go places. Keep yourself occupied. Take the time to be selfish and do what you like. Do what you want. Make no excuses. This time is about YOU. It's not about being nice or even charitable to whoever makes you feel less than stellar at the moment. The first step to surviving is to recognize what you need. Do so. Follow through. Don't rest until you get there.

A Note to Fellow Writers: I actually found this nugget in the most unlikely of places-- in one of my freshmen year textbooks from "Introduction to Professional Writing." Ariel Gore, author of "How To Become A Famous Writer Before You're Dead: Your Words in Print and Your Name in Lights," devotes a section of the first chapter to heartbreak. And no, I'm not shitting you, I found this is a required course book. This is what she says:

"When bad things happen to writers, there's always the silver glimmer of a good story. Damn, we think when we're facedown on the rain-wet pavement, nose broken and bleeding, coughing betrayal. This is gonna make a great story...Every time you expose yourself to annihilation, you come that much closer to grasping all that is indestructible in a soulful human being" (Gore, 31-32).

I bolded that last segment because I think that's the part you should focus on. Yeah, you may get a great story out of it, which, I have to admit, is the crutch that most writers and poets fall back on with biting black humor, or, like I do, get some cathartic writing out of it, but more than anything, the fact is that through the writing process after a big spill, you learn more about yourself, and what you really need. Seriously. Sit down with a notebook and some paper and start some stream-of-consciousness writing about what happened. You'll be amazed at what comes out of you: things you never said, things you did say, things you barely consciously remember, things you're writing down because you never want to forget, things you didn't know you had to say. And maybe, somewhere in that lovely chaotic mess (because I am a big fan of chaos), you may find exactly what it was you were looking for all along. Maybe it's an answer. Maybe it's a cold, hard fact. Maybe it's a new revelation about yourself. Maybe, it's where your soul really lies.

...So I took all day to write all that, and then thought...

That's kinda bullshit.

I mean, what is the most important thing right now? What is really resonating with me? It's not the fact I haven't eaten a square meal in a week. I couldn't care less. It's not the fact that I'm feeling a little like a schlub. I'm home; the cats are the only ones who can judge me, and they do that silently. And yeah, I'd really like to help other people out in the same spot I am right now, but that's not why I'm writing. It's the fact that I was rocked pretty hard. And how?

I find, usually, that the best thing that I can do when I'm stumped is to find someone else's creative content, in a similar vein to that I am working through, and watch, read, or experience it, completely open to interpretation. Sometimes, something jumps out. Sometimes, I get hit with a blinding flash of the obvious. And sometimes, I have to go through it a few times before I really get it. (Hello, "Dazed and Confused". Both the movie, and what it rendered me.) I've been watching the movie "The Women" a lot recently. Adapted from the 1936 play by Clare Boothe Luce, it features an all-star women cast (Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Candice Bergin, Bette Midler,) directed by Diane English, and focuses around the relationships between friends, mothers, daughters, wives, mistresses, and how they all intermingle in life.

The first night I watched it, I was completely raw. It was not a great experience. It hit a little too close to home and basically reduced me to a lump of nerves and totally withdrawn thoughts on the couch. That was the first night I thought, "Am I allowed to be angry about this? Can I really put aside the idea that I am supposed to be A Big Person and Do The Rational And Accommodating Thing for a moment and just...feel this?" So I did. I opened myself right the fuck up and got righteously angry.

But anger doesn't get you very far. This is not to say that you shouldn't let yourself get angry. There are some things absolutely worth getting angry over. Let me be the first to say-- there is nothing quite like those first initial five minutes after you reach a realization or see something totally upsetting in which you fume and rage and stomp around and shriek like a banshee, but you get spent very, very easily. And sometime, when you're lying there, as low as the floorboards can get, you think, "Is this really worth it? Is it really worth this emotional strain? I mean, past is past. Done is done. Don't you think you should be...I don't know...doing something instead of just lying here and being vaguely pathetic?"

This is when you ask yourself the two things that reverberated with me in "The Women":

"I've spent my entire life trying to be everything to everyone, and somehow, someone is always disappointed."

"Don't give a shit about anybody. Be selfish. Because you have to ask yourself a question: What about ME? ...I mean, after all, who are you? What do you want?"

I can't answer that for myself right now. Maybe that's the problem. On one hand, I know I never want to go through a repeat of what happened, but on the other, it's giving me the questions that I'm grappling with every day to reach on consensus on: "How forgiving am I? How much does it really mean to me? Where will I bend? Where will I break? And what do I now feel? And if you can do that, I should be smart enough to let you walk away."

You have to know the answers to those questions before you throw your lot in with someone else.

You do not have to be Wonder Woman. I give you the permission to be as completely human, and therefore, as completely imperfect and flawed and selfish as you need to be in finding those answers for yourself. That's as imperfect and flawed and selfish as you need to be, not want to be.

I once heard a young woman described as "ferocious" by one of her ex-professors in regard to going after what she wanted. That's what I want to be: ferocious. I want to be someone to be reckoned with. I want to be someone that you would not even think about crossing. And I don't ever want to be in this situation of not knowing, ever again. That's what I want most: a firm stance on what I want.

[Fabulous photo credit goes to Edahn at Check that site out for some right-on advice.]

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Most Important Relationship You Will Ever Have

Yesterday, I opened up February's issue of Glamour to read a Letter to the Editor that resonated with me as if I had written it myself. It reads as follows:

"I just finished '6 Love Talks That Bring You Closer' [December], and its message, 'If you feel it, say it,' hit me hard. Too many times I've held my emotions inside, whether for the sake of a friend or for fear of scaring off a guy. Thank you for reminding women it's OK to voice their minds, because they may not get the opportunity to do it later." -Laura Kell, Ottawa, Ontario

As I may have glossed over a couple of times here, I am One-Month Girl. For some reason, right around the time of the one-month mark of seeing someone approaches, it usually ends. Either I get bored with them, or they have finally been driven crazy enough by something that I do to leave (there are many quirks), or the connection was just never really there and we just stop calling or texting to see each other and drift apart.

Curious about how true this statement really is, I counted. Out of 9 relationships I have had, only 2 made it past one month. (The first was 6 months, but I was young and too apathetic to actually muster the energy to dump him on his ass like I should have. Really should have.)

Recently, I went past the one-month deadzone with a guy I was seeing, nearly effortlessly. The date came and went without nearly any fuss, barely noticed. It went over a month and a half, and-- surprise-- I would roll over and still be looking at the same person. I can't lie. I actually enjoyed it. Very much so. I hadn't had that experience since I was...and I'm not lying...16. And I actually liked the person I was waking up next to this time around.

As I had not found in my past "monthers," there's a level of comfort that can't be fully achieved in 4 weeks. Or, maybe, it's just my hyper-awareness of the timestamp and expiration date that makes me so sensitive. But nonetheless, it brought up the curious territory that I hadn't encountered yet before: communicating about what was going on.

Most people will tell you that at one-month in, you should start doing the discussing. Because of my brief and checkered past, I had learned one thing about being with men, and one thing only: whatever you feel, don't say it, because they're not going to be around long enough for it to matter. And so, I remained quiet about what I was feeling and what I hoped for, odd in what was an extremely talkative and open relationship. As for my fellow co-sleeper, he was far more expressive. But for every time he did something that could have warranted a glimpse into what I thought, I thought it to myself, and myself only. I never said, "I love being able to talk to you about writing and the fact that you're just as passionate about it as I am, or, in fact, I love being able to talk to you about anything intelligently and receptively," or "I love that I can ask you for an interesting book suggestion, or in the morning, if I really wanted to, I could grab something off your bookshelf and keep myself properly entertained until you wake up because YOU ACTUALLY HAVE A BOOKSHELF. WITH BOOKS ON IT. THAT I WOULD LOVE TO READ," (sorry. Good literature is something I get really passionate about. Mix it with men, and I'm a goner,) or "I love being able to just sit here and do absolutely nothing and still feel like it's all good and we're actually doing something," or even "No matter how many times she bites me, I adore your cat, even if she hates me because I am the Other Woman to her." I think, maybe, once, I told him that I loved being able to use my full vocabulary around him and not have to worry about getting lost in translation after dropping "ostracize" for the first time. I was definitely teased for using words like "fetching", and I definitely teased right back when he said "Bully for you."

"I don't think anyone has said that since Teddy Roosevelt died," I told him. My first defense to feelings and emotions is always to be blase. I may have even said the words "Well, it's been fun, kid," while I was saying goodbye before Christmas break. A.) He's older than I am, so who was I "kid-ding"? B.) Who the hell did I think I was with that line, Mr. Big?! and C.) Whenever I may have to say something that might be hard or uncomfortable, like, say, "I'm going to miss you," I stray instead into the obnoxiously trite and banal, like this gem of a parting statement.

Basically, when it boils down to it, there were lots of "thank you for's" and "I love when's" and "I don't think you know it, but's" that I never said. I, the perennial Single Girl, highly cynical, sarcastic, jaded, abrupt, and blunt, was trying to do the thing I do best, and protect myself in the advent that it all went wrong around that one-month mark. After it didn't, I should have known. I should have known that there is a difference between when you don't really care about the outcome of something or someone, and when you're actually invested in it, and that as soon as you begin to invest, either with time, or money, or feelings, you need to do that talking, no matter how scary it seems. As soon as I realized that, I should have started doing the talking.

But I didn't. Instead, I fell back on my crutch, being a "Shower"and not a "Teller." I hoped that the nights spent together and the small gestures and the fact that the steel trap I call my mind came up with a fitting Christmas/Thanks For Being Dislocated College Student Crash Central For Me gift would do the talking so I didn't have to. Let me be frank: I don't tend to soften for people. I am a little stiff and awkward. So the fact that I loosen up enough to call you "babe" and try to be as charming as possible around you and your friends means something. The fact I actually let you snore instead of just leaving and going back home means something. The fact that I got used to you snoring and the crumbs in bed from your eating means something HUGE. Though he may have been the one who said "Don't try to change me," I was actually the one doing the changing. I softened. For the first time, I dropped all the guards and was 100%, totally, completely me, "that's what she said" jokes, stupid superstitions, and all. And I didn't worry about it, something totally foreign and new to me.

Last week, it ended. After much thinking, I have decided that the phrase "But there's something I need to tell you" should be struck from the English vocabulary. As soon as I heard those words, I knew that shooting me point-blank with a .45 would have hurt less.

While we were having our extremely calm and mature dissolution conversation (I'm not being ironic here-- we actually had a very low-key walk-and-talk-it-over, a first for me), he looked at me and said, "Carissa, you never told me how you felt or what you wanted."

True on both counts. I was the one who, at the very beginning when he called me to ask what was going on, was the one who preached "casual, casual, casual." But that's just me. I'm a pretty casual girl. I don't really do dates, and I'm much happier just chilling at home with you or your buddies than going to a big party where I only know a few people, though I will pull myself up by the bootstraps and be a big girl and do things like introduce myself to your female friend after she walks in on me in your bed. (That one goes down in the books as one of the "Ten Most Awkward Experiences Of My Life." Right before that time in high school I had to hide in a shower because I thought my then-boyfriend's mother had come home early. And if this doesn't sound awkward enough, let me tell you which shower: the one in her private bathroom in her room. Can't you just see that discovery going over?)

I can't put my finger exactly on when it went from "casual" to "I'm actually seriously into this." It was somewhere between the drunk texts asking for a wake-up call to not let him sleep through class and the hours spent together just being totally at ease and yes, this is me, so I'm going to say it, the great sex, and the horrible puns I actually enjoyed and getting used to the smell of the cigarettes that I came to realize that I actually really liked this person I was getting to know. But I didn't say anything because honestly, it was exactly the way I wanted it, and I didn't want to say anything and have it change. As always, I was afraid that saying something would equate change, and maybe not for the better. I wanted to keep everything just as it was, so I kept quiet. Broken logic states that if you don't ask, you can't hear the response.

For fear of losing him, I kept quiet, and partially because I kept quiet, I lost him. Ladies, I am sharing this with you so you don't make the same mistake I did. Like Miss Kell said, "It's OK to voice your mind, because [you] may not get the opportunity to do it later." And because I am sure you will read this at some point-- babe, I'm sorry, but thank you again for coming clean and meeting with me and, actually, for everything. "Better late than never" is not true, but I hope that this speaks far more candidly and clearly for me than I could at the time.

In the end, it was amicable. There is nothing quite like getting the explanations and respect you deserve to show you the difference between the absolute asses you have been with before and someone who actually doesn't want to hurt you. Obviously, I am not thrilled that something that I thought was so good is now over, but you have to respect it when someone says "I'm not ready," and when both of you have things that still need to be worked on before things can progress or get any better. When someone has enough integrity to say to you, "I erred, and I'm telling you," you better listen, and listen hard. And when that same person tells you, "And here's what you could have done better," take it. We all have things to work on. Some of us may not even understand the things we do to ourselves or others, but only one truth remains-- you have to keep working at it. That's all anyone can ever ask of you. You can't change the nature of your beast so easily. It takes trial and error, blood, sweat, and tears, and lots of time. It's not going to be pretty, and generally, it's better if someone doesn't have to live with you through it. Believe me. I know. I have alternately been the girl who's tried to stick through a guy's abusive drug use because I mistakenly thought I could help and be the rock, and the girl who tried to keep the guy through my own major life changes that rendered us both incompatible.

In the end, I can't tell you which would hurt worse. I've never been shot point-blank with a .45, but I have been left, a lot. More, I would hazard to say, then my fair-share. If there is one thing that so many dissolutions have taught me, it's that you always learn something about yourself. Even just the act of being with someone else is an incredible learning experience. Someone else will always be able to open you up, pull all your shit into the light, and expose you far better than you will ever be able to yourself. So what did I learn? Firstly, I am potentially even tougher than I thought. What doesn't kill you will hurt, but I'll get through it, because I always do. Secondly, there is still more work to be done on myself before I take the next leap of faith.

In the end, as I said to him, the only person you can control in a relationship is yourself, and sometimes, not even then. You're never going to be any braver than you are this very second, so now is the time to do exactly what you need to do. Speak up. Tell them. Do what you need to. Make the changes that will let you live with yourself and not have regrets. When it comes down to it, the most important relationship that you will ever have is the one you have with yourself.

And I hope that that relationship only gets better from here.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Necessary Evils: G-Y-N Does Not Spell F-U-N, But Being Clean Does.

There are some things in life you just shouldn't be subjected to. The ad for sheer men's thongs of yesterday's entry, for example. Particularly horrendous in-laws. Obscene amounts of child snot (though this is manageable after one gets over the initial disgust. Believe me-- True Life: I Was A Nanny. I know. This may also be why I always have a zip-lock baggie of tissues with me. Always. Because you never know when someone else's baby is going to start leaking from the nose on you. And because I am basically like Mary Poppins with my Big Red Purse of Everything You Could Ever Want. I could entertain a child with the contents of my purse for hours [and I have] as long as you let me keep the cigarettes).

Back on topic. More unfortunate things: Running into and having to make awkward conversation with people, particularly exes or friends of your parents, in inopportune places: specialist doctor's waiting rooms, in front of the condom selection in the grocery store, any time anyone involved is blatantly drunk. (However, if it is an ex, I have a handy script for you. For doctor's offices, it goes: "Well. I guess I know where I got THAT." In front of the Trojans: "Yeah. I'm bangin' like a rabbit ready for spring. And how are you lately?" No one ever said I was tactful.) That totally unnecessary and stoke-inducing pause between when someone says "We have to talk...about who's picking up the cat," or something equally mundane. Lines at the DMV. A long winter walk without gloves or a hat. Staying on hold for more than 5 minutes. Purgatory. (One could argue the DMV and hold are lesser forms of Purgatory. I'm all for that argument and so anti-Purgatory it's not even funny. You don't just wait around after you die. Something, other than waiting, has to happen, even if it's nothing. Life is not about waiting and then going on to die and wait some more.)

But the number one thing you shouldn't have to endure? Totally pointless invasive procedures. First off, I have never had to wait so long for ANYTHING after getting naked. And at least, once you're there, get me ready by asking probing questions before you actually PROBE. This time round, there was no peeing in a cup. (Another thing I loathe. I am not a man. Peeing into and/or on things is not something that I pride myself on.) Hence, I could have toked my little self silly this morning to take the edge way fucking off instead of panicking and cold-sweating into one of those ridiculous open-back robes while being talked through that day's activities. (On the downside, this also meant no super-quick and accurate medical pregnancy test.) There was also no asking me if I was sexually active (guess the cat is out of that bag), when the last time was, about partners, etc. I mean, that's like, my bragging time. Call me immature, but after years of appointments occurring during dry spells (programmed like clockwork for the most emotionally-stunting impact like every. single. "I am alone but I really shouldn't care about it anyway" Valentine's Day,) and pregnancy tests run with me in the background going, "No, really-- it's been six months. I think even I'd have noticed SOMETHING right now. And if that comes back positive, either that sucker had some Olympic sperm, or call the freaking Pope and tell him it's happened again, and to a PAGAN," nothing makes me happier than to announce "YES" like a child who has just learned how to tie her shoes. And generally, I only let people down there for a good time, and I don't exactly call getting pried open by the Jaws Of Life "fun." Also, quit talking to me like everything is normal. This is a fucking awkward situation. If a guy I was with looked at me mid-act and said something like, "So, what are your summer plans?" or "I was thinking of repainting the walls," I'd ask him to kindly shut the fuck up with the small talk or dismount so we can talk about non-sex-related things like civilized people while not trying to accomplish the task at hand. Or...well. You know.

Can't we all just agree that if you take a look and it looks good, it's probably good and you don't need to get all up in there? I know there are few of you out there going, "Tsk tsk, Carissa-- this is exactly the sort of thinking that will wind you up dying a slow and painful death from syphilis. STDs are a serious matter. You can't just self-diagnose! Eye-balling it doesn't answer everything!" Believe me-- when I was 16, I thought I was going to be the first and only person ever diagnosed with Brazilian Vagina-Eating Disease (the country, not the wax job,) due to some young, naive--FINE, they were mostly just STUPID-- mistakes I'd made; I am all about getting a clean bill of health. (Important for both partners, people. If one of you has something, chances are, the other's gonna get it, too. It's like magnets; it's just how those parts work.) But really-- if it is a trained medical professional or specialist saying everything looks good TO THEM-- do we really need to continue to do the rest of the song and dance and swabbing? "Everything looks great!" should mean "We're stopping now." Only if you hit a "Damn, that's certainly not normal!" should it mean "Full swab ahead!" I mean, the "oww's" I am saying are not for theatrical effect. "Oww" means, "it used to be fine in there, and now you're fucking that all up!" There is no lying back and thinking of England. There is no fooling yourself about what is going on. There is just lots of squirming and manically checking the clock. Though, I am pretty sure, with catheters and all that, you guys have it much worse off. Ha. Hahaha. Small consolation prize for us being stuck with the whole childbirth thing.

My mother told me last night to stop being such a baby about it. "It's not like it's your first time," she correctly pointed out, but then she said what made my heart sing and snarky wit sensors start vibrating (...maybe this is not the best post to use the word "vibrating" in...oh well. Damage is done,) and churning. "It's not unlike anything else that goes in there."

I was practically salivating at the mouth by the time I cocked (...another unfortunate word choice...) an eyebrow at her. "I'm pretty sure I've never been with a guy with a metal penis."

Ew. Ew. Ewww.

But yeah. Getting tested is important. Do it at least once a year. Like any well-functioning machine, making sure all parts are clean and in order is para...mount. (Jesus, I don't even try, I swear.) And though it may be one of the more awkward conversations of a relationship (or evening), it really is important to make sure your friend isn't bringing other "friends" to play-- his ex who gave him herpes, the one-night stand with the clap, or some exotic STD from playing abroad. A clean bill of health in one of the most important things you can bring to a night (or nights) of fun, otherwise, well, it's not going to be fun when you have to make or receive that angry phone call, is it? So, suck it up, because if I, Miss I-Faint-At-The-Sight-Of-Needles-And-White-Coats Syndrome can do it, so can you. Make an appointment. And if you're lucky, (and clean, and someone is on some other form of preventative birth-control, and monogamous, and not totally worried about it,) maybe you can play without the raincoat. Which, I will admit, even from a woman's stand-point, is so much better. But until you see a doctor's signature or the emotional wounds from an appointment, be safe and wrap it, kiddies!

After this emotionally taxing morning, it is nap-time for this big baby.


P.S-- No Brazilian Vagina-Eating Disease yet. Thank god. In my mind, it's akin to Audrey 2 from "Little Shop Of Horrors." Sheerly terrifying.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Really? REALLY?

I normally feel like I need actual content in order to post, but I think this is honestly all the content I can handle today.

Doing my morning check of the blogs, I scrolled down SATCG to see if there were any new reactions (yes, I check those, too,) and almost died.

Why, you ask?

Well. I took a screen cap so that you, too, could experience that delightful, brief moment where your eyes send the information to your brain, it processes it, your heart stops for a second, and then you don't know whether to laugh or cry hysterically.

Men's sheer thongs are being advertised alongside my blog. I DO NOT CONDONE THIS. Not at all. Not one bit. Not even a little.

So, in the spirit of this morning, I am writing an addendum to my "Why You Should Never Say "Panties" And Why Victoria's Secret Is The Best Kept One" blog entry. It is entitled, "Why Did You Even Make Me Need To Go Here?"

"While I will admit that VPL's (visible panty lines; proven to make gay men cry and women cringe,) are something no one should ever be subjected to, sometimes, you just have to suck it up and not wear jeans so tight we can tell where your boxers bunch. Men, this goes for you. Because if there is one thing I know, and believe me, know well, it is this-- there is a place and a time for a thong, and it is not, is never, will never be, on a man. At least, on one I'm trying to get horizontal. Or vertical. Or on any plane between the two angles.

I don't know how to spell this out for you any better than that a banana-hammock is not an attractive thing. Let's face it; some people just shouldn't wear thongs. I don't see what the big deal is in the first place-- a 24-hour wedgie is not the best thing in the world. So, men, WHY would you subject yourself to that in the first place? There are no leggings being worn; no ass-hugging dresses. Or, maybe there are, and then that mystery is solved. In that case, mozel tov."

(The men's organic underwear is only slightly less upsetting, as well. Isn't it enough to eat organically and recycle? Does your ass really need to be green, too?)

That's it for the day. Going on a last-minute trip to Burlington with the Twinny!


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Can You Hear Me Now? GOOD.

Possibly one of the things that we hate most about being a woman (other than the PMS and the bloating and how hard it is to lose weight,) is that we have this innate desire to KNOW. Know what's good. Know what you're up to. Know what restaurant in town is now "hot." Know what our friend said to our other friend. Know whom is sleeping with whom. And most of all, know why you aren't calling or texting or emailing us back.

It makes me feel like such a traitor to my usually-relaxed personality when I realize I've turned into one of those harpy bitches staring at her phone like, "Um, hello? I sent you a message. RESPOND TO IT, PLEASE." Usually, I am not like this. Usually, it is my mother who is the one being like, "Have you heard back from so-and-so? When was the last time you talked to Nora? How's Matt? Have you called your grandmother lately?" while I sit in one of the barrel chairs and make the universal "calm down" motion with my hands, and be like, "Chilllllllll, mama. All in good time. People are busy. I'm not stressing, so why are you? If they have something to say, they'll call. Why would you call if there's nothing new to talk about?"

But sometimes, despite best efforts, we all succumb to this. As I outlined briefly in a recent previous post, I know that part of my personal issue with it comes from the fact that one day, there was no getting through to someone I cared about; the calls and texts and responses stopped for absolutely no reason, leaving me hurt and confused. The other part is just general woman-worry. Really, when it comes down to it, I really don't need to know THAT MUCH. Half of the texts I send are completely useless and don't demand real responses and are of the "I am bored and looking for you to distract me" variety. Which can be hard when their recipient isn't bored and isn't looking for distraction and in fact, YOU are distracting THEM.

But, the eternal harpy in me protests, really, how much time does it take to send a quick response back?

I should be the last person to be pointing fingers. Communication isn't one of my strong points in the first place, unless it suits me, as most of my friends, family, and men could tell you. I'm notoriously horrendous at A.) first and foremost, actually picking up my phone, B.) responding to messages, and C.) responding to my own texts, and yet, I find myself flipping a shit, or, ok, not really-- more accurately, cocking the eyebrow of heavy judgement and tapping my toe waiting for a timely response. It is so one-sided. I enjoy being in the wind; what I do not enjoy is the person I'm trying to get a hold of being in the wind. It's not being high-maintence-- I am not one of those girls you have to call every day, or even every other day. When this happened to me, I was baffled. You mean, people-- they actually call just to see how your day was? Really? I liked this. What I don't like is that feeling of mandatory check-in, like a telephonic prison-break. Call me every day expecting conversation time or for absolutely no reason, and you've got yourself onto the fast-track of getting sent straight to voicemail. Yes, I am guilty of it, too.

But having free time, usually something I don't allow myself because I consider it destructive in large and unstructured doses when paired with boredom, proves itself the downfall of many smart, perfectly sane women. Multiple times this break I have considered flinging the goddamn phone into a snowbank off the deck, because then, by god, it would have a legitimate reason not to ring, that I know about. (I have always been a big fan of practicing proactive offense. And proactive defense. And being passively-aggressive. It is one of my less charming and more aggravating quirks.) My advice to you is this: STEP AWAY FROM THE PHONE, and no one gets hurt. Leave it somewhere. Don't cart it around with you; the lack of ringing will be all that more apparent. Unfortunately, in East Gomorrah, my phone is the only contact I have with the outside, civilized world. I am chained to the thing I hate the most. Freud would have a field-day.

I try to be fair, really, I do. People are busy. There are far, FAR more important things to do than respond to a text, like, save children, be on vacation, not interrupt the rest of a movie theater, be out of service or like two of my closest friends be travelling internationally, be "busy" with a S.O, buy that $12 cashmere sweater before some other bitch does, actually focus on your job, give all your attention to your driving and not cause a 12 car pile-up, and celebrate a birthday or holiday with friends and family actually present and in front of you rather than staying glued to your cell phone. As Miss Molly Ford of Smart, Pretty, and Awkward noted, "People standing in front of you are always more important than a text message on your phone."

But still, like any other woman, there are times that I worry that I look like this chick, right here...

None of us mean to, I promise. None of us mean to nag, or complain, or make you feel like any less of a good friend or sibling or cousin or guy. (In fact, we are trained from the time we are still in diapers NOT to nag, because nobody likes a nag. And it's true.) It's not you-- it's us. It's us worrying why that guy never called after we gave him our number, or after a first date, or after he said he would, when really, it's clear. It's us worrying about how you used to call every day or text us for at least a half an hour every afternoon, and now that things are comfortable and you feel like you don't have worry about us running off with a new best friend/other sibling/new guy without you, you've stopped "just checking in." Well, here's the doozy: just when you are feeling comfortable enough to not have to talk to us everyday or every other day, we have gotten used to it. We've (wrongly) grown to depend on it. No one can keep that sort of instantaneous gratification up, and we are just starting to realize stamina's limitations. We're just feeling smug about the fact that we found someone who knows the importance of good communication, and then you go and pull the rug right out from under us, wrap your line of communication up in it, throw it off the wharf, and call it a day.

It's bizarre; I know. I suck at being a caring niece and granddaughter and even daughter and calling my family ANYWHERE near regularly enough, and I'm not the person my friends would ever call in the middle of an emergency for some quick action because lord knows I may not even pick up my phone or, god forbid, send them straight to voicemail, but I expect you to respond to me promptly, and what I am good at is casually staying in touch with the people, like, once a blue moon, and still having it be ok. Maybe that's what spoils me. I can not call my best friend or close friends from high school for months or even a year, and yet, when one of us finally does, we just pick it up right where we left off. Yet, with the people that you see regularly, you can't. That level of familiarity isn't there yet. You're still wondering "Does he like me? Does she like me? Do they miss me? Or are they off cavorting around town with my new replacement?" Women, as a general rule, love making worry-monsters in our brain. We're hard-wired for it. Some of us have managed to preform partial lobotomies-- years later, I'm rid of the "I'm being cheated on RIGHT NOW!" monster day-dream, but still working on sawing off the connection of the "They are having so much fun without me" one-- but we still all have that faint, wiggling suspicion that you really might be better off without us. Which would just suck.

But-- BUT-- good luck finding the woman who will actually admit to you that she is fine not hearing from you. Really. I've been thinking about this: is there any way to broach the topic without sounding like a completely whiny, insecure-- yes, nagging-- bitch? No. No, I really think there is no proactive way to approach this, save possibly the "destroying your own phone" tactic I've been contemplating, there is not. There is no possible way to say, "Um, hey, I've sent you a few text messages; not sure if you got them, because you haven't been responding to them...know you're busy, but it'd be nice to hear from you..." without sounding like a total ninny. (By the way, that is totally my speech. You can steal it if you really think it accomplishes anything. I don't think so.)

And so, women deal with it different ways. This is the one major deciding factor between Carrie Bradshaw and myself. As any half-assed Sex and the City watcher could tell you, she actually had the balls and/or lack of caring about sounding a little pushy or questioning to pick up the phone and make that sort of call. I, on the other hand, take the chicken-shit route and figure that I'll sleep on it and tomorrow, won't care so much. It works, in theory. Dorothy Parker immortalized the tango of phone hate and women best-- "It'd be such a little thing; just RING!"-- in her short story "A Telephone Call."

Parker wonders, much more eloquently than I ever could, (and most women echo,) "Suppose a young man says he'll call a girl up, and then something happens, and he doesn't. That isn't so terrible, is it? Why, it's going on all over the world, right this minute. Oh, what do I care what's going on all over the world? Why can't that telephone ring? Couldn't you ring? Ah, please, couldn't you? You damned, ugly, shiny thing. Damn you, I'll pull your filthy roots out of the wall, I'll smash your smug black face in little bits...Oh, what does pride matter, when I can't stand it if I don't talk to him? Pride like that is such a silly, shabby little thing. The real pride, the big pride, is in having no pride. I'm not saying that just because I want to call him. I am not. That's true, I know that's true. I will be big. I will be beyond little prides."

Would it kill you to call first and not wait on them? No. But it's always better if they do. Would it kill me to actually form and enunciate the words "I miss you"? Probably. So instead, I hope it's implied. Will we actually ever tell you when we've been acting like a crazy person by the phone? No. We'd voluntarily die by our own hand or painful self-inflicted torture first, screaming "I am an independent woman!" the whole way. Could we ever make that speech asking you if you've really been too busy to text? Probably not. We probably don't even need to. Deep down, we know that there's nothing to worry about. We trust you. We know that you probably won't discard us like a used tissue for the next friend/sibling/woman. Deep down, we just masochistically like to have something to fret over. When something is naturally easy, no drama involved, self-fretting is the only outlet we have. We try and hide it. Well, most of us do. This is pretty much the equivalent of letting my freak-flag fly high and proud. I hope a get a few "amens!" from ladies to back me up, here, so it's not just me. (It is SO not just me. In fact, it is RARELY me.)

So what can you do for us so that you don't have to worry that we're going Parker ourselves and sitting and staring at the phone and stewing in our own self-disgusted juices and you are secretly getting blasphemed for honestly being just busy? It's so simple. It's almost stupidly simple. When you do get two seconds, call or text back. Honestly. Nothing makes someone feel better than a call saying, "Hey, I am really not neglecting you; I really am busy." And nothing, in a pinch, fills that gap like a quick text back to let us know you really are paying attention and care and aren't off having crazy adventures with the entire kick-line of Rocket City Girls and a guy mysteriously named "Fuzz" while we are painting our nails for the fourth time for tortuous fun and trapped in the house in a blizzard counting snowflakes. We really want to look like this girl when we're talking to you, and not the other ones.

In the spirit of reciprocation, here's what we pledge to do for you:

- Always say "thanks for getting back to me," and let you know that it, and you, are really appreciated.

- Let you know how happy we are to talk to you. if we don't say it out-right, we promise to sound it.

- Not take your communication for granted.

- And never, ever lead on to the fact that two minutes before your ringtone started, we were holding our phone up and making crabby faces and mocking it like a child. "Really? Really? You're really going to play this game with me? Ring. Ring, or I will tear your face-plate apart and make your wiring squeal for mercy while I disassemble you. Ring, dammit! RI--SHIT!...Uhh, hello? Heyyy! How are you? No, no, don't worry about it; I'm really busy, too!"

So, love us. Love us, anyway. We are women; this is what we do; and we can't help it any more than you can help the fact you grow manly body hair and still think farting and poop-jokes are hilarious. And to each his or her own.


...And it just rang. I am not even shitting you. Twice during the writing of this, I got those coveted responses. People. Stop being so good. (No, really-- keep it up, please! I don't like feeling needlessly neurotic. And I can say it; you can't.) If I could fill an entire post up with the words "Thank You" and get away with it, I would. You deserve to be appreciated.