Sunday, February 27, 2011

Defining "Normal."

Recently, I'd been experiencing some friction with my roommate. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but I had a sneaking suspicion part of it had to do with the fact that she recently entered a bona-fide, label-ready relationship with the guy she's been seeing for the past two months. Maybe it was the fact that he was so willing to commit to something so freaking early on, or maybe it was the fact that she could now bandy around the term "boyfriend" and not have to stick with qualifiers like "the guy I'm seeing" (which to me, calling someone your "boyfriend" seems abhorrent if not for the fact it's just so much easier than the latter), but suddenly, our relationships with guys seemed to be affecting our relationship with each other. Was I jealous? Were we "cheating" on each other? Why was her relationship suddenly making me question mine?

Granted, her relationship has its issues, too. I've found her moping in bed when her plans fell through, just like she's found me moping in bed when my plans with TGIS fell through, and there are things about my relationship that I wouldn't trade for things in hers like labels or meeting the parents for all the money, steak, and peep-toe pumps in the world. But it made me wonder, especially in a world where all we seem to do is want the things that we don't have: How much do other people's relationships affect our perceptions of our own?

While I adore her boyfriend, seeing him around was a painful reminder that things with TGIS were suddenly ambiguous. The last time I'd seen him, he'd brought up tentative plans for drinks and a late-night movie, and dinner the night after. I never ended up hearing back from him about that, even after I texted him to see what his plans for the evening were. A few days later, we had a conversation about space both literal and metaphorical in our relationship, and how with distance and different schedules (he works odd hours; I'm a full-time college student with a part-time job,) it's sometimes not conducive to seeing each other for a few days. He told me again, straight out, not to worry if he didn't get back to a message or text ASAP, and though we were communicating perfectly clearly about our expectations, things still felt a little stunted, without much reason.

If only it really WAS as easy as a guy saying "don't worry," and you could stop worrying. Instead, I started thinking back to previous relationships and how in the past I've watched a guy go through the same distancing maneuvers, only to completely distance himself from me and our previous relationship and suddenly become one of those people who never returns your calls and never texts you back, seeming to suddenly enter Witness Protection. And the more I saw my friends, random strangers on the street, and my professors with their S.Os, the more I started to realize it wasn't just a day or two not seeing each other-- it was now over a week, something that had never happened in our relationship before. While the perfectly sane side of me knew that in the overall scheme of things, not seeing each other for over a week is perfectly fine, perfectly normal, the neurotic, Nervous Nelly side of me kept reminding me that it wasn't normal for us to go this long without him asking to come see me-- we're more of a see-each-other-twice-a-week, at-least-text-every-day couple. I asked my friends to use their relationships as a sounding board to give me advice or a breath of fresh air and a better grip on sanity. But despite all the (different-- no two responses were the same, which was probably the most frustrating part of it all,) feedback I was getting, once I started comparing and contrasting my relationship, to itself, to my past, and to other people's, it opened up a whole new can of questions and wormy doubts. Was this really better, or was I just driving myself crazy? Or, crazier?

By Day 9, I was most definitely in the "crazier" camp. I stopped bringing TGIS up in social situations, because if his absence was his way of telling me we were through, I didn't want to lead on like I was still seeing someone. I was a doomsday cloud of oracle-like beliefs that he was now The Guy I'm No Longer Seeing. I resigned myself to picking up some of the slack in my Single Girl life again, started going to the gym again, spent 8 hours in bars one night with the girls meeting some of the oddest men I've ever had the distinctly unsure pleasure of meeting, went to dinner with my best guy friend who nearly made it worse by bringing TGIS up and telling me that he really liked him from when they met, and made a big (read: truly and magnificently pathetically large) dent in my Netflix instant queue. And then, the other morning, at 4 AM, I got a text from TGIS, responding to one I'd sent him nearly 8 hours previously, telling me that he'd be able to come up and see me again soon. And last night, the dearly departed ghost returned to my doorstep. Huhn.

It was a little awkward at first, and I felt tremendously relieved when he kissed me "hello" as usual and acknowledged the fact it had been over a week since the last time he'd seen me. "I worked two events this week," he told me, and I suddenly found myself looking at him like he had suddenly sprouted a third head (think about it...). To me, "I'm working" is a perfectly acceptable, concrete reason to be busy and absent, and if I had heard that instead of "my schedule doesn't allow it," 6 days ago, I would have been so much less of an emotional little mess. I'm a word person, obviously. To me, the difference between "working and needing time with the guys" and "my schedule" is the fact that a schedule can include things like seeing other women, assiduously ignoring me, and moving away and enlisting in the Israeli army. Isn't it funny how the specifics of communication, even when you're communicating well in the first place, can make all the difference in the world to a girl?

This morning, as he left with everything right in the world again, I realized that what really matters when it comes down to your relationship is keeping a fine balance between the "normals"-- what's normal for you, and what's normal for other relationships. We're constantly comparing our own to other people's, or other standards. But as my very wise father told me, "No two relationships are the same. They're different people, different situations." At what point should we just breathe, and let it be?


...Oh, and part of my general bad attitude and issues with humanity? The fact I hadn't gotten laid in awhile. I completely forgot about that inconvenient little fact until I woke up this morning feeling like a Disney princess ready to burst into song and bake cookies for the world and had a fabulous conversation with my roommate and made plans to get margaritas out tonight. Ta-da! Maybe all it really takes to get back to to actually screw what everyone else thinks and re-define it, for yourself.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Thanks, But No Thanks.

I went to the gym today.

Ended up working out next to a guy my friend sleeps with.

Later, he asked her if we'd be down for a threesome.

I started going to the gym again, and all I got was this offer for a stupid threesome.

It was the most exciting thing that's happened to me in a week. Because I'm about 75% sure TGIS is The Guy I'm No Longer Seeing.

Now is when you may want to tune into other relationship blogs, because I'm pretty sure this one is going to hell in a handbasket, watching The Ugly Truth and No Strings Attached on the journey down.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

But How Do You KNOW?

"How do you know when you want someone to be a part of your life?"

This is one of my favorite questions to ask people who are part of a couple-- I've asked my mom, my friends, my older friends who are engaged or married, sales associates, random people I've met while in line at the supermarket, the woman behind the counter at my favorite take-out Chinese restaurant who always compliments my diamond ring and I always compliment hers (it's a ritual, just like getting my special lo mien there), my cousin's wives, my coworkers, some of my exes I still talk to...basically, anyone I feel I can get an answer out of.

The answer is always different, but it always involves a "defining moment" or "feeling"-- something that made them realize that the person they were with wasn't just A Person; they were Someone. For some, it was the way their partner laughed or slept or snored that was uniquely them that they fell in love with-- for others, it was a grand gesture-- an engagement-- or a small gesture-- bringing them soup and tissues when they were sick-- that made them start to seriously think about that person as a part of their life, or someone they wanted to be a part of their life.

As for me, I knew I wanted to be with TGIS one night when I accompanied him outside while he had a cigarette. (Before I get any questions asking me how that works now that I've quit, he smokes Marlboro's, the smell of which turned my stomach even when I was a smoker, so that's the only way it works, thank god.) We were standing in the parking lot behind my apartment, looking at the moon and breathing clouds of smoke (his, real; mine, from the cold,) when a faint noise caught my attention. It sounded, inexplicably, like distress, coming from the below the parking lot's back fence, maybe in the ditch, or in the neighbor's backyard. Thoughts of rape instantly flashed through my head, and I turned to ask TGIS if he heard it, too.

He had, and unlike some other men, he didn't ignore it, or brush it off as nothing. Instead, he started walking toward where the noise was coming from, making sure that I was not far behind him. We got to the edge of the parking lot, and waited, silently, finally able to hear clearly, a woman's voice and a man's, arguing, before they stopped. "Someone's beating their girlfriend tonight," he said, and lingered at the fence, waiting to see if the noises would start again, but they didn't. He seemed loathe to leave, but after another 5 minutes in the gentle snowfall, all was still and silent, and I was cold. As we turned back to go inside, that's when I knew-- this was a good man. If he was willing to stop, investigate, and intercede on behalf of a stranger, I knew he'd do the same for me, in a heartbeat then, and I wanted him in my life.


Monday, February 21, 2011

2011: A "Space" Odyssey.

I know I said I wouldn't do it, and I promised as much in about three different languages to about half a dozen people, but I broke first. Maybe it was from watching too much SATC over this very long long weekend and watching Carrie put herself out there and say "Women's magazine advice be damned; this is how I really feel!" but finally, yesterday afternoon, I snapped when I saw TGIS was online (yet still unheard from), and reached out first.


I said "Hey." I know, STUNNING opening line, but I decided it was better than "Are we not talking?" or something equally confrontational and jumping-to-conclusions-esque. We chatted a little bit about totally meaningless things, all the while, I was waiting for him to say something, ANYTHING at this point, from "Sorry I've been out of touch-- I've been busy nursing African orphans back to health, but now that we're back in touch, I've been meaning to ask you-- would you like to move to Zimbabwe with me and save the world?" to "After some careful deliberation about what you look like when you sleep and the way you have a habit of inhaling sharply when you laugh, I've decided to end things with you. Never talk to me again, please," so then that way, I would at least be put out of my misery. And when neither of those extremes presented themselves, I then decided to cut to the chase and say, "So, I tried to get a hold of you the other day."

He said, "Oh yeah? My bad, I've been kicking it with the guys all weekend. You know, I obviously like hanging out, and I have a lot of fun with you...but if I don't respond to a text or message or whatever, then just don't worry. We spend a lot of time together, which I enjoy...but I also need my space, too."

Oh. Space. Alone time. Time to be the "uno" instead of the "duo." Well, I'll be damned.

So I said, "I totally get that."

Which, for the record, wasn't a lie, because after he explained everything that I needed to hear for the past 3 days, I really did understand. And, surprisingly, felt fine with it. Space, I can do. I give great space. Let me know you need space and, believe me, I won't be nagging you. I love space. I love space so much I've now started sleeping diagonally in my queen-size bed when he isn't here sheerly because of the fact I CAN. So long story short, all I really needed, in fact, was to hear that he needed some space to start actually enjoying my space.

...Why must he be so smart? And why must I be so easy to read?

I think the inherent issue here is that anytime I start to realize that I really like having someone in my life and, in fact, really LIKE someone, I start to panic that they're going to leave me. Like Madison mentioned, I have a really bad track record of this actually happening to me, so it's not an unfounded fear, and as soon as something in my current relationship starts to happen like it has in a previous relationship, it sends me into a spin. At which point, I start to look for signs of deterioration-- like silence-- so that I can at least cut ties and jump ship first before my ass gets dumped and I get burned, again. (This may be something worth addressing with TGIS at some point, as I really don't want to throw everything away, but my behavioral norm is to do so as soon as I start feeling like someone may be pulling away, themselves.) Is it fair to my current relationship? No. But it's all I know. That whole slippery, tricky "trust" thing has to be at work here, and while it may not be my strong suit, I'm trying, hard, especially now that it's apparent TGIS has caught onto this one.

Again...damn. Nothing like being outsmarted at your own game. Or neurosis.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Should We WANT To Lose Ourselves?

We all know the sayings: Lose yourself in the moment. Lose yourself in your work. Lose yourself to find yourself again. But should we want to lose ourselves in the first place? Lately, I've been wondering what good can come from losing oneself. I hate that moment in a relationship when you suddenly realize that you're not happy being alone anymore, or, at the very least, have come to expect that someone else will be around to entertain you. And when that's not the case, then that thought becomes an obsession, and it's like you're suddenly a half of a Siamese twin severed, who feels like they've lost their identity, or what was special about them. In many way, identity theft may be kinder than the moment in which you find yourself realizing you're losing yourself, or, at least, losing the things that used to make up your life or define you as an individual or Single Person.

The existential crisis started around 56 hours ago (and counting). Thursday morning, I was woken up by a text from TGIS, and we continued correspondence from afar until about 5 o'clock that night, after which, I haven't heard from him since. (Granted, I haven't been trying very hard, but that's because A.) I'm under the severe impression it's just better not to nag, and B.) I've always thought it gives you a better symptom of your relationship to see when he finally gets back around to you.) One day was fine. But when I woke up this morning, I felt odd, disoriented. And that's when I realized it was because I'm so used to waking up beside someone. Noon came, and I found myself still in bed, because no requests for brunch out had been made. By this evening, I was in full-out obsession mode about not only the state of my affair, but also, about what the FUCK I was supposed to do with myself and all this free time that had suddenly (and unwelcomely) been found on my hands. So while I may not be neuros-ing about it all over him, I found an outlet for it elsewhere: With my girl friends. Obviously. Because some things never change, even if your established weekend routine suddenly does.

I'm in my twenties. I'm so close to having my Bachelor's Degree in hand I can almost feel it; I paid for the insanely expensive and insanely luxurious Ralph Lauren sheets on my bed myself; I'm paying down my credit card; and I'm giving a presentation at a national writer's convention in Boston in March. My life is pretty fabulous, and yet, all it takes is two day's worth of silence, and I find myself acting like I'm 16 again, trying to occupy myself by making a list of things to do with items like "Wash dishes," "Moisturize entire body," "Watch a 'thinking' documentary to try to get my mind off of 'thinking' about the fact it is a weekend and I don’t believe it without another person here: Sexual Intelligence; Wild China; Food, Inc.; or Prehistoric Predators, Season 1," "Find some way to make a palatable drink with Skyy vodka, the dregs of orange juice, whipped cream that’s lost it’s whip, and anything else in the fridge, all while really just wanting a nice glass (or bottle) of wine," and "Try not to 'wine' anymore." It made me wonder: Do our lives really still revolve around boys?

Once upon a time back in sophomore year of college, my mother thought my friend Madison was secretly my lesbian lover. I can see why she might have thought that-- we spend an uncomfortable amount of time talking to each other. Mostly, I think, it's because we usually have equal levels of confusion in our lives, and think about things similarly. So it was Madison I turned to when asking, "Why do I always panic like this if I don't hear back from a guy for like, I'm not shitting you, two days? I mean, it's TWO DAYS. My sane self knows this. However, my relationship self is going mental. What I want to know is, why do I FREAK out?"

And then Madison said something very true, yet not very heartening at all: "Because you haven't had good luck with similar situations in the past."

Touché, my dear, and good fucking lord, there is no hope-- I'm done for.

I am not the only one who seems to be wondering about the ramifications of losing yourself for someone else. Madison has her own issues, too. "The problem is that I've always known that [I was letting him use me like a doormat]. I just kind of let it happen. And that's not me at all. And that's why I'm ashamed."

And that's when I hit my epiphany in our conversation: "Secretly, I think we're all ashamed at things we do in relationships or non-relationships with other people. Look at me-- I've forgotton how to be ok with being suddenly alone. I think there's something about wanting to be with another person that makes us crazy and makes us forget and sacrifice parts of ourselves because we want something else SO MUCH."

It's all so terribly ironic, because as I was driving home on Wednesday night after bringing TGIS back to his hometown, I was smugly reminiscing on this relationship versus past relationships, thinking to myself how you can be the person you're supposed to be and want to be when you're with the right person. Give me 56 hours of silence, and I'm still the confused little mess I was a year ago, give or take a different man, situation, and a few relevant learning curves. Look how far I've gotten on the road map to finding myself.


So what about you? How have you learned not to lose yourself, or how to occupy yourself when you'd rather be doing something with someone else? Do you think that we're more willing to sacrifice parts of our lives and our selves if the payback of having the love of someone else is an option? Comment below and tell me what you think-- who knows, we might be able to solve all our relationship issues and neurosis together. Wouldn't that be a freaking miracle? What would the world do with so many more sane people?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Something All Women Need To Know:

What a funny coincidence I'd write a blog post about considering the ramifications of having a baby THE SAME DAY that the U.S House of Representatives passes a vote to cut federal funding from Planned Parenthood.

It's called the Pence Amendment, and you can read more about it here, here, and here.

Normally, I'm not one for politics, but this is absurd. Americans, you think that supporting other people via welfare sucks? Great, then how about you don't take away the preventative measures that stop young women like me from ending up on it? Without access to free or cheaper birth control, young women stand a greater risk of not being able to afford or going without the contraceptive, therefore, increasing their risks of winding up pregnant and needing the tax payer's support on welfare. Without screening procedures, STDs will spread, and it won't just be women affected. Cancer, UTIs, and other infections and illnesses will go undetected. True, abortions are a service that Planned Parenthood offers, but it only accounts for 3% of their services, and no federal funding has ever supported it. And more to the point-- do you REALLY think it's ok for a woman to have her rapist's baby because it was THAT MUCH HARDER for her to get an abortion? How about your kid sister when she sleeps with a guy and fucks up and doesn't use a condom, or, for those in the House, your daughter or granddaughter? I was a teenager once, too, and I made some stupid decisions that I was lucky not to have to pay for. The younger women of our generation shouldn't have to pay for them either. They should-- and WE should-- be able to have all the access they need to making the right decisions, for themselves, and the rest of society. We don't need more teenage mothers. We don't need more people spreading STDs and AIDS because they don't know about it. We don't need women to be pregnant who want or need not to be. What we DO need is EVEN BETTER preventative methods and our rights continued to be upheld.

It's the only responsible thing to do. I can't believe this is even an issue. Sign the petition to help stop it in the Senate.


Bringing "Baby" Out Of The Corner.

A few weeks ago, I was surprised. It wasn't a good surprise, though it wasn't a bad surprise, either. It was the kind of surprise that takes a minute to sink in and then makes you decide how you feel about it. It was the kind of surprise that makes you reconsider if you're a right-to-life supporter, or a pro-choice defendant. Let's be clear, here: I am in a monogamous relationship. We have sex. I take birth control. I get my period religiously on the afternoon of the second day of the green pills, between the hours of 2 and 6 PM, always. But occasionally, a girl takes antibiotics or accidentally misses a day of the population control pills and finds herself sitting on the toilet, counting the days back on her fingers, wondering when, WHEN is she supposed to start worrying that there's something more to the bloat than water-weight? In short, could she be...gulp...knocked up?

Now, I am not the most child-friendly person in the world. As an only child, I never had to deal with younger siblings, so I always felt awkward growing up when someone handed me their baby brother to hold while they wrestled him into his socks and shoes. Of course I babysat in my teens-- but only for children over the age of 7; it was a strict stipulation. In the beginning of my twenties, I found myself nannying for a family with three children, ages 1, 6, and 9. Primarily, I spent the most time with the baby while the two older kids were at school, and I promptly found myself falling in love with Patrick and his Tonka Trucks. The Diaper Genie and I bonded. I started carrying around the necessities of life in my purse. I strapped a baby seat into the back of my Civic. At the local rec center, I earned the nickname the "Sexy Nanny" after an unfortunate incident involving a string bikini and teaching Patrick to swim (flailing baby limbs were involved). I got used to fending off questions if the blonde-haired, blue-eyed, pointy-eared little boy was mine. I decided, for the time being, that I was ok with babies-- as long as they were Patrick. (He was the man in my life.) But once it becomes a possibility that you might have found yourself incubating one of your own, you have to start asking yourself the hard questions: Could I do this? Would I want to do this?

As I pondered these thoughts, something strange occurred to me: I am no longer a teenager. I successfully made it out of the danger zone of having the social stigma of "teen mother" attached to me. I'd give birth at 22, a perfectly acceptable age to procreate. I'd have graduated college. I wouldn't even be showing by the time I accepted my diploma. I'd have nine months to decide what I was doing, where I was living, and establish a steady job (or more likely, jobS). I could still attend grad school, could still travel, could still move from Burlington to New York or Boston or Virginia or god knows where. I could still do all these things I wanted to do with my life-- it might just take a little more time, but I could do them. IF I wanted to.

I found myself touching my belly at random moments, as if I could learn about my state of affairs through touch osmosis. I got properly freaked out when TGIS curled around me one morning and started rubbing my stomach, then looked up at me and, out of the blue, said "Babies?" in a voice that sounded suspiciously similar to some kind of abstract hope. I hadn't told him; hadn't said a word, not even to my closest girl friends yet, but at that simple question, told him he better pray not, all while wondering if by some bizarre physiological design, he knew when he had hit the winning round of insemination and was able to commune with the budding baby. I excused myself to the bathroom and stared down my pelvic region for a good 10 minutes, looking for some kind of sign. The only one I got was that I needed to start going to the gym again.

Though I ended up getting my period a few days later (the operative part of that word being "late"), it still changed something in me to have seriously thought about the repercussions that getting pregnant at this point in my life could have. Instead of being cut-and-dry, I now was finding myself with options, which in turn opened the possibility if I were to actually want a baby at some point in time up to me. It wasn't anything I'd really ever considered before, other than a few other times when having an abortion was the only option I had even thought of. But now, that wasn't my only option. I had new ones opening up to me. And that was the first time in a long time that I realized that I was, in fact, growing up. And I found that that idea was more scary to me than the thought of another life-form growing inside of me.


P.S-- I cannot stake claims on the impossibly adorable little bundle of joy at the top of the post. That is Steve Ward of VH1's "Tough Love" fame's nephew, and I think he is THE MOST unFUCKINGbelievably adorable child I have EVER seen. I have a massive baby-crush on him, and if I could get a promise that a child of mine would come out looking like this, I’d have one. Tomorrow. Before 8 AM. ASAP. This child makes my biological clock HAMMER. Ughghjjaksfhsadfkhkjsabdfkhasdfkkasjdfbasfdkj. I’m in LOVE.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Freaks and Closet Geeks.

There are some things that are sacred to women: Chocolate. A pair of heels that fit perfectly and would never pinch, even if you walked 50 blocks in them. A perfectly made cocktail. Sleeping in on the weekends. Happy hour with your closest friends. How our mother will always be one of the first people we call with news. The four-letter words S-A-L-E and L-O-V-E. And closet space.

A few weekends ago, wading knee-deep in down from a comforter that's apparently determined to molt in time for spring, the guy I'm seeing took one look at the floor in the corner of the room he normally puts his clothing in, and winced at the gathering tumbleweeds of feathers residing there. "Do you have someplace I can put my stuff where it won't get down on it?" he asked, and I froze, like I was suddenly subject to the 10 degree weather outside. There was someplace he could put his things, but I really didn't want to think about it. How could I tell him that my closet is like my personal kingdom, where I am ruler of all labels and ruling regent of all spatial reasoning, keeping the tank tops separate from the dressy shirts from the cardigans, without sounding like a total freak of nature?

In the end, I ended up pushing aside the hangers and clothes on the hanging rack so that he could have easy access to put his bag and jacket on the shelf underneath, but my clothes looked so forlorn, pushed to the side like unloved stepchildren. I'd like to blame what happened later on the fact that I was overtaken with thinking about my black mesh dress pressed up against my woolly Italian sweaters and getting pulled on by their fibers, but actually, there's no excuse for what happened next.

Sometimes, we can all go a little bit crazy. As far as it may be from us, our past is still our past, and as much as we dislike to have it tarnish the golden views of our present or future, it sometimes does. I live in eternal fear of the One Reoccurring Theme of my dating history: That I am merely a placeholder until some thing or someone else better comes along...that while logic states I, an obsessive-compulsive, nymphomaniac, time-consuming, giving, impulse buyer of gifts, needer of needy men, should be more than enough for one man, but if there's one thing my history has taught me, it's that I am remarkably replaceable, and that I tend to be the entrée-- there's always an appetizer or dessert on the side.

But while I've served as the main course, it's important to note that there's a lot of things that I've never done before that I suddenly find being a "normal" part of my life: I've never had someone else's toothbrush and towel residing in my bathroom, other than a roommate's. I've never eaten out so often together or gone out as a couple. I've never slept as many consecutive nights with someone as I have been doing recently. Only one other man was ever even allowed into my house to stay overnight, and that was one time, so I understandably am not used to someone living with me nearly a third of the time. So you better believe I've never had reason, cause, or practice to give away a drawer or a shelf for a man to use as his own. The strangest part of all is, I actually really love all of it. (I seem to have come a Very Long Way since the girl who went through men in under one month like Brawny paper towels.) None of this actually feels strange until I take a mental step back, look at my current life, and assess the Big Picture. Which I did the other day, while simultaneously having a VERY spectacularly large fret about putting all my eggs in one basket and shirts on one shelf and worrying about the possibility of other women fucking my toothbrush-and-towel present reality over. And so I did something when the opportunity arose after he left that I'm not very proud of, at all, and took my last deep breath of sanity, and momentarily dove off the deep end. I freaked.

I knew it was wrong. I knew what I was doing was like stealing, or at very least, breaking and entering, even though the metaphorical doors were already unlocked for me and I didn't touch anything; didn't open any Pandora boxes. All I had to do was use the two eyes I was born with, but even that, I knew, was too much. I surfaced when I didn't find anything that I seemed to be looking for-- there were no illicit messages, no secret trysts set up, no whiffs of another woman's perfume or lip gloss smudges. There was nothing of cause for concern. In fact, what I did find made me feel even worse than what I imagined finding something that I was looking for would make me feel: Instead, there I was, my name staring myself right in my face, not erased or replaced-- the messages a sane women had written being saved by the man who was doing her right, as she let her inner freak flag fly postal. I felt worse about myself than I have in years. I vowed at that moment to lock the super-freak in me up in the closet and never let her out like that again.

As a silent mea culpa, I cleared away my tank top shelf and consolidated some of my hanging rack for his stuff in my closet --like he had asked for the other night-- at 3 in the morning in a "retribution-for-my-wrongs" fit, all while mentally begging for forgiveness, and finally letting him, and trust, into my life...for real. I figure, in my world, giving him a part of my precious clothing space says "I'm sorry; and I'm showing it by proving I love you more than I love my tank top collection" far more than anything else I could ever say or do.


Monday, February 14, 2011

1+1= What Do You Mean, I'm Not Single Anymore?

For one of the world's happiest Single Girls, some of the weirdest moments of being in a relationship again aren't the big things you'd expect, like handing out your key or finding another person sitting at your kitchen table for breakfast in the morning when you surface from your coffee cup, but the little things that are hard to get back into the swing of again.

Take, for instance, the fact that dating can make a perennial Single Girl look like the most spoiled creature this side of the Mississippi, just for not realizing the social gap between the two statuses. I realized about two weeks into dating the guy that I'm seeing that I was always forgetting to say "thank you" when he took me out and paid the bill, something that would have shocked and horrified my mother, who raised me better than that, and definitely shocked and horrified myself. I realized it wasn't a sign of being ungrateful-- the exact opposite in fact, because I was so, so grateful-- it was just foreign to me. Not only had no other guy ever taken me out on dates, routinely or otherwise, but I was just used to paying the tabs and not having to thank anyone. I'd paid my own way for so long, it was hard to get used to the concept of having to thank someone else to do it for me. And that was just the tip of the iceberg of moments I started noticing that seemed...well, for lack of a better word...a little unreal for me. I spent my entire girlhood before getting all jaded and sarcastic and single dreaming about the little, mundane things that make a relationship seem so magical-- asking him how he takes his eggs, packing his lunch, TiVo-ing his favorite shows-- and now that they're happening in real life, I have to ask myself...Am I really cut out for this? Can I be part of a duo without losing my uno?

Sharing space is one of those things that's hard for me to get used to. Not only am I obsessive-compulsive, but I'm also an only child. I'm used to my space being my space, and things being juuust so. So when TGIS (The Guy I'm Seeing,) asked if there was someplace he could put his stuff where down from my molting down comforter wouldn't get on it, like possibly a shelf or drawer, I'm pretty sure I looked at him like he had three Cerberus heads. Remember that episode of Sex and the City when Aidan moves in and tells Carrie that she should make room for him in The Closet? It felt like that. Like someone had just asked me to realign my kingdom's borders, and even for love of them, money, or a relationship, I was unwilling to concede any space. Until I royally fucked up, and realized that having someone who wanted tangible space in my life was maybe more important than having three shelves for my shirt collection and worth making my tank tops live with my t-shirts. Needless to say, I gave him a shelf. (Some of it was partly an ulterior motive-- him having a place to leave clothing means I get to sleep in big, perfectly worn-in shirts that smell like Man. Which I must admit is one of the things I miss most and long for when I'm single.)

Being single is hard to stop being used to. I was extremely confused when I started noticing that girls downtown were giving me more dirty looks than I was previously used to, but a few weeks ago, I watched a pair of small blondes in Frye boots no older than 18 look from a spot beside me to giving me the hairy eyeball, and when I looked to my right, I finally got it: There was an attractive man there. He was walking beside me. We were obviously together. We were going out for brunch, where we'd sit together, and I wouldn't flirt with the host as he sat us, and the guy with me wouldn't flirt with the waitress when she came to take our order. At the end of the meal, he's pay for it all, and would kiss me as we walked out the front door, after I thanked him, and he told me, "Anytime." I had become a Lady Who Brunches. We have a weekend routines; a routine the likes of which I've never been a part of, short of a few Girl's Hungover Brunches Out With An Ungodly Need For Coffee that I've been a part of in the past. We have other routines that are new for me to get used to, which feels novel sometimes, and downright strange other times when I find myself in a room full of strangers, watching the Super Bowl with them instead of a few streets over, with my own group of dudes belching craft brew burps and smoking inside. We spend time with his friends, and I'm not always around to spend time with all of mine all the time because of it anymore. It's the push and pull of balancing two people's lives in the time that you share together. I consider it like taking a hiatus to cement foreign affairs. And my friends? They understand, most of the time. Men may come and go, but your girls know that they're forever.

The other thing that became blatantly obvious were the things that constitute my SSB, or Secret Single Behavior: Never before had I thought about how much time I spend naked or in various states of undress until he commented on it one day, mentioning that it was one of his favorite reasons for spending time at my place. It was flattering, but something I read in Cosmo years ago tickled my memory-- maybe being nearly naked all the time, in situations not related to sex, isn't the best for the fact it gradually desensitizes someone to your body, and while this may be a great tactic for friends and roommates, I'm pretty sure we always want the guy we're seeing to be excited when he sees your bare body, not thinking, " must be laundry day."

There are also those moments during your day as a Single Girl that you never think of being odd or a Big Fucking Deal until someone else is watching you, like wearing your wet hair up in turban after the shower, mascara running all over your face until you wipe it off and apply a new coat; doing your make-up in front of him and how hard it is to keep your hand steady with the eyeliner while he's giving you the eagle eye from across the room, undoubtedly wondering if you're going to poke your own eye out, because that's what it looks like to him; the way you expend your arm over your head and stick your armpit out to put on deodorant (is it just me, or is that like, really, really weird to watch or have someone watch you do?); or all the other awkward moments for another person (who you'd like to still consider you sexy for at least a while longer,) to watch you become apparent. There is one time I wish I was single more than anytime else, and it's NOT when I find myself shaving my entire body for the 3rd time in a week-- it's when I'm trying to furtively apply deodorant and realize he just walked back into the room as I'm hunched over with my arm slung in my shirt like a sling, Secret Clinical Strength hidden underneath like a concealed weapon. And then I have another war/peace moment when he takes it from me and uses it himself-- on one hand, that's your armpit hair in my speed stick. On the other hand, you're secure enough in your masculinity to use my "fresh powder scent" shit. Awwwww...

I never thought that “Carissa, which toothbrush is mine?” would be one of the most frequently shouted questions across the apartment, in a bass register, not in Alli's voice. I never really thought about the fact that there could even BE a third toothbrush on my sink. But it is now. And I deal with it some days better than others, but no matter what reality I'm currently in, single or not, I think what's the most important thing to remember is to not lose the Single Girl even if you have a man-- to do your own thing sometimes, and don't be afraid to strut your stuff into the bedroom post shower with your Queen of Sheba towel turban proudly crowning your head, if that's the only way your hair is going to get dry-- we can't be sexpots all the time. And just because you have a man now doesn't mean you have to jump every time he says "pop"-- sometimes, doing your own thing and meeting up later after he has time with his boys and you go to a friend's party by yourself is sexier than being together the entire night, because he gets to see a glimpse of her, who you used to be, and who you will always be at your core: the independent Single Girl. Be your most fabulous self-- always. Remember, the name of the game is "Uno," after all.


Hush-- Staying Silent.

I don't think there's ever a worse time for a girl to start crying than after having sex while still in bed with her lover, and yet, that's where I found myself the other day.

It wasn't him, not at all, and it wasn't me, either-- it was my past. My past is a bit colorful. As may have been previously stated, I haven't always had the best taste in or luck with men. One of my past relationships manifested this trait physically-- I was manhandled (quite literally) in a way that's left me with some residual emotional scars and idiosyncrasies, which seem to pop up at the most inconvenient times. A classic sign-- I'm loathe to actually call it "abuse," which of course means that I'm in denial about it and it was, in fact, abuse. I just hate to think of myself-- me: loud, dominating, confident, and proud-- as a victim. I don't consider myself a victim-- just someone who was too young, too naive, and too inexperienced to do something about it. And because of these facts, I've almost never admitted to it or talked about it.

I was smothered; I was uncomfortably pinned; I was choked. I was shaken. I was slapped. None of these were things I asked for-- they were things that just happened, for no rhyme, and no reason. And now, a perfectly wonderful man who treats me like a princess and would never think of purposefully hurting me has to be the one picking up my pieces after I spooked at finding myself in a situation completely non-related that my mind interpreted quite differently, and sent me spinning off into a panic attack the likes of which I haven't had in quite awhile.

Maybe it was the weight of someone on top of me, while holding me down. Maybe it was the thought I had that linked this feeling with pain. Maybe it was just because I'd been having nightmares lately, and was particularly susceptible to feeling overwhelmed. But for whatever reason, I suddenly found myself fighting furiously to get out from under and away while breathing like a winded racehorse. He touched my back to ask if I was ok. I nearly screamed at him to give me space. We both took a few minutes to calm down and process, and once I realized what had happened, and what I had done, I scooched across the bed, threw my arms around him, and started crying with my face screwed up against his chest. He was lovely about it, telling me that I didn't need to tell him the full story; that he understood, even if he didn't understand everything, because we all have our own skeletons in our closets. He let me cry, rubbed my back and kissed my head, and let me work it out of my system. And once we had both calmed down again, we had sex again, possibly the most reaffirming and reassuring act that I can think of.

Please, listen to me-- if you have been mistreated in your past, please, please find some way to let your current partner know. I know it's hard, and I know it can seem at times unnecessary or excessive or like a cry for attention, but if you care about the person you're seeing, they deserve to know about your issues and emotional well-being before you find yourself hyperventilating and sobbing onto their chest like I found myself. You can only be a victim as long as you stay silent, and as long as you let yourself be thought of as such. Instead, learn to grow through the experience for the hard lessons it teaches you-- how to be in tune with your emotions, feelings, and relationships with other people. And even if this isn't something that you've been through yourself, remember-- if I can be a victim of abuse, anyone can be a victim of abuse. The best thing you can do for someone with past issues is to be there for them and try to understand what it is that makes them panic or feel a certain way, and to work through it, together.

To all the other people with "colorful pasts" out there, please know-- you're not alone, and there is someone out there who will be patient and willing with you, because that's the way it's supposed to be; I promise.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Countdown to V-Day.

Be A Sexy Secretary: All women in relationships live in fear during the week before February 14th that the guy they're with is going to completely forget that it's actually a beloved (and despised) national holiday. While I may not be the most organizationally-forward person when it comes to remembering important dates myself, I've met far more men that are actually worse than I am at remembering what they're doing on any given Tuesday, let alone a holiday that only comes once a year. So, if you want to give him a (very) friendly reminder that his presence would be greatly appreciated (and most probably reciprocated) on that day, play a little dirty: Send him a sexy picture reminder. Most the women I know (myself included) never wait to the last minute to stock up for V-Day, and I, the Underwear Queen, more than anyone else knows how painful it can be to have brand-new lingerie sitting in your closest, waiting to be worn until the proper day. HOWEVER, there's a way to justify getting dressed up early. No one wants to be a nag-- be sexy instead! If you take a photo or two of you in your Valentine's Day best and text it to him a day or two before with a message like "Hope to see you Monday night!" or "Unwrap me for Valentine's Day?" chances are, he'll actually remember to be there, and maybe even remember to get you a lil' sumthin'. I promise-- it won't ruin the surprise. And if you really don't want to show him all the goodies yet-- wear another outfit, but use the tactic.

(NOTE: Be smart about what you share. If you're nervous or shy, if you haven't been together long, if you don't trust him, or if he has a record of "sharing," either abstain from the photo and send a purely textual message, or make sure that your face and any other distinguishing marks aren't visible in the photo.)

All Wrapped Up (In Love): Speaking of lingerie and sexy little things, I shamelessly recycle the tissue paper they wrap your items in at Vickie's as gift wrap for other people's gifts, and the silk ribbon bag handles to tie them or make decorative bows. It's eco-sexy. Plus, hilarious to see the look on a guy's face when you hand him something wrapped in pink.

V-Day Made Easy, For The Fellas: Hi. Let me take this moment to remind you, this coming Monday, February 14th, is Valentine's Day. I know. It sucks. I'm sorry. You may want to remember that or keep that in mind. Now let's suck it up and get serious about this shit.

If you're seeing a girl, dating a girl, in a relationship with a girl, playing a girl, sleeping with a girl, engaged to a girl, married to a girl, or, hell, if you even KNOW a girl, expect that she got you something. Please know that "don't get me anything" RARELY actually means "don't get me anything" when coming from a woman's mouth. Expect that she will probably be expecting or wanting something in return. DO NOT expect that you have to be left in the dark about what to do, or that it has to cost you a small fortune, the price your left kidney will fetch on the black market, or your future child together's college education. The good news is, there are some inherent things that men do that drive us ladies wild, in a good way. I'm particularly partial to the freshly washed man-- just this morning, I told the guy I'm seeing when he walked back into the bedroom from taking a shower that him with a towel wrapped around his waist and nothing else on but body hair is one of my favorite sights in the world. Give me about 10 minutes of concentrated and uninterrupted staring at that, and I'm good for the day. (Yes, we objectify you too.)

A few things other than the time-honored toweled man that will satiate your lady's desire for romance and surprise on V-Day, ranging from costing you nothing to things that will cost you a little bit of dignity or a chunk of change (lucky girl!):

- Whatever it is, first of all, surprising us with it is always a good idea. A smart woman is very rarely actually surprised. If you can pull it off, you can charm her.

- Cook for her. It doesn't matter what you cook-- you could be Anthony Bourdain whipping up lamb ribs with a mint/tarragon aioli, or you could be a college boy stirring the contents of a box of Kraft mac n' cheese on the stove top, but whenever a woman sees a man standing in a kitchen, holding a cooking utensil, and doing something with food, it makes you look like Arthur pulling the sword out of the stone and hits us in a very primal spot. I think it's called Instant Love.

- Clean up a little, both personally and physically. Shower. Shave. Find a fresh pair of socks. And if she finds you folding her laundry (separate lights from darks or whites from colors, and when in doubt, DON'T DRY IT IN THE DRYER UNLESS IT'S 100% COTTON!) or holding the handle of a running vacuum, I guarantee you-- Best Boyfriend Award for WEEKS.

- I know some of us (myself included) will tell you that chocolate and flowers are over-played. Some women (including myself) are bullshit. What we DON'T like are generic bouquets and Russell Stover heart boxes. Go for her favorite bunch of flowers, or something bright and colorful, and Godiva. My dad got my mom and I classy, understated roses (Mom's, red; mine, the cream-colored ones with the pink or purple tips-- god, I love them,) and gourmet chocolate every year. Our abiding love for him is a good Exhibit A as to why unless she says "I'm allergic," flowers still do something special to every girl. And if you do go for the dozen red roses with baby's breath and red foil box, yadda yadda yadda...unless she's a Grade A bitch, she'll still appreciate the effort you put in, anyway.

- Jewelry is always good. Always. I say this as a jeweler's daughter and sales associate who watched hundreds of men pour in the shop's front doors every year, not as a woman. Here are a few tips I learned in the trade for making sure she actually will like what you drop money on:
1.) Take note of the kind of jewelry she wears regularly. Is she a ring person with one on nearly every finger? Or are bangles and bracelets more her style? Does she only wear the necklace her dead grandmother gave her on her deathbed, and would never think of taking it off in favor of another? Does she have an earring collection, or does she even have pierced ears? What's her favorite gem or birthstone? Is she a silver or gold girl? What's her style? While I may have grown up with precious stones and tennis bracelets, only a small percentage of the jewelry I wear every day is real-- the rest are souvenirs from places I've traveled (rings from Italy and St. John's,) a signature dichroic glass pendant on my necklace that I will almost NEVER take off, and bangles that I'll switch in and out depending on my mood and the look I'm going for-- either wood or cheap metal ones. Scoping what she wears everyday and what's in her jewelry box will give you a good idea as to the type of jewelry she likes to wear and what she'd get the most wear out of-- if she wears the same 2 rings every day, a ring may not be the road to go, but if she mixes and matches necklaces or earrings, those would probably be safe to get her something new. It doesn't even have to be expensive-- the majority of the jewelry I treasure cost under $50-- it just has to be her.
2.) Make sure it's the right size, especially for rings. When in doubt, snag a ring that she won't miss for a day to take it in and match what you're buying up with the right size.
3.) Get it gift-wrapped. Unless you were an origami CHAMP in elementary school, it's probably best to get someone at the store to do it for you.
4.) If it's in a square box-- be it a ring, earrings, or pendant-- give us a minute to catch our breath when you give it to us. We're pre-conditioned about square boxes...we're sorry, we can't help it, just bear with us until we start breathing regularly again.

- Can't go wrong with a few things: Victoria's Secret gift card. Books, movies, or tickets to a show she's wanted to see. A candlelit bubble bath drawn up and waiting for her when she gets home (cheesy, yes, but classic for a reason-- this is the holiday of romantic Velveeta moments). A mix CD or playlist that you compiled for her. Dinner and a fairly nice restaurant and a move. Drinks or cocktails at a lounge-- dressed up. A hand-in-hand walk after dark. Massages. Sex. Cuddling. Or going out drinking in moderately decent clothing, followed by a drunken stumble home in the dark while holding each other up, some messy foreplay, sex, and not falling asleep snoring directly afterwards. That works, too. Hey. We're not all gooey and mushy.

- Good god, hold the plushy toys and cards, unless you're dating jailbait. If you are, make sure to have her back by curfew. Also, please go register with your local Neighborhood Watch chapter.

- Fix something for her-- her car, her computer, the floor in her apartment that needs to be redone, the old paint in the bathroom that's chipping and needs a fresh coat. Whatever you're naturally good at, lend her your talents.

- Tell her she's gorgeous. The best thing you can do for us is really just to tell us that you like us. That we smell nice. That we're pretty. That you like being with us. That you think you're lucky. That you'd do a lot for us, like brave the hordes at a flower shop at 5 o'clock on the 14th because you suddenly remember that we love Gerber daisies. That she looks slammin' in whatever she bought for the occasion. Laugh at the pink wrapping paper. Kiss her "thank you." Say "thank you." Be genuine with her, and she'll fall for it faster than she ever would for a dozen red roses. (...It's still a good idea to have something small. Just sayin'-- don't shoot the messenger.)

Hope that cleared some things up for you, and best of luck with getting lucky.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The 3-Month Hitch

During Glamour's yearly poll of thousands of men on issues regarding love and sex and relationships, one polled member commented on the fact that it takes the average man between 3 and 6 months to decide that he wants to commit to a serious relationship. Obviously, to people like my mother and like, all other women on the face of the Earth, this doesn't make much sense, because, after you've been seeing the same person for the last 3 months, you just assume you're in a serious, committed relationship, right? Wrong.

One of the most frequent questions I get asked when people are asking me for advice is, "How long should I wait before I ask him to be serious/committed/my boyfriend?" This question usually comes within rapid succession of starting to see someone on a regular basis, because if there's one thing we know about women, it's that in our thinking, the equation goes: "time together + sex = hormonal bonding = relationship on lockdown, now, please." Some girls believe that after a month, you know what you want out of a relationship, and that the two month marker is the time to have The Talk. You know what talk. You've wanted to have The Talk after the first month into a relationship, I promise you. It's when your friends are bothering you if he's officially your boyfriend yet. If you have keys to his place. If you’ve met his friends or family. If you’ve had The Talk yet. Even if you weren’t thinking about it previously, hearing so much feedback almost brainwashes you into thinking the same way; you want to nail that shit down and have everything in neatly labeled little boxes like "Monogamous" and "Committed" and "Boyfriend." You want to know he's not just killing time with you until something else or someone else comes along. You want to know EXACTLY what you're doing together. Believe me, I know what I’m talking about, because not even I—the utterly casual/take-things-one-small-step-at-a-time girl—am immune to it. The more I’m asked if someone is my boyfriend, the more I itch to make him my boyfriend, if for no other reason than to stop the henpecking and make a more honest woman out of myself. I hate society for this reason.

But the fundamental problem is that your beginning months together as a couple are like a trial period to the rest of your relationship. You're still learning things about each other, getting to know the quirks and nuances of co-existing with another person. Things come up in this time that make, break, or shape how you feel about each other— you may not be able to deal with his constant throat-clearing without needing to leave the room for a 5 minute breather, and he may have a big beef with the fact that you steal the covers at night. It's a time of discovery, enlightenment, and compromise— NOT a time of solid relationship status. Even Patti Stanger, the Millionaire Matchmaker, suggests a 90-day trial to commitment, after which time, it's time to shit (in this metaphor, "shit" meaning a really unflattering synonym for deciding to do it proper,) or get off the pot and cast yourself back into the dating pool to try again.

There are so many more "little talks" that need to happen before the Big One that let you discover if you even NEED to have it. There's the "Do we like each other enough to continue seeing each other?" talk, usually after the first few dates. Then there's the "Here are my deal breakers" unveiling, usually done with each other in installments labeled along the lines of Religion, Politics, Lifestyle, Family, and Friends. Next comes a period of reconciliation about things like who drives and who pays the tab at the bar or restaurant and what pet names are appropriate and which aren't. And then there's the precursor to The Talk— the "Are we monogamous?" discussion. These are all important steps to gradually work through, and I can promise you, it'll take longer than a month to get through them. And do you know what skipping them— the necessary groundwork to any functional, grown-ass relationship— or rushing through them makes you look like? A crazy, needy woman who always needs to be in a relationship. Not flattering. So do your homework, hun.

Three months is the perfect amount of time in which to decide if you want to turn seeing someone into a serious, committed relationship. In three months, you should be able to assess how compatible you are, if you have the same goals and objectives, if the way they take their coffee is going to infuriate you every morning for the rest of your time together, if the sex is still as exciting as it was in the beginning and looks like it still will continue being exciting and fulfilling, and where you see this relationship going. You can date, meet each other's friends, get in fights, make up, sleep together, sleep in the same bed together, develop a routine for how you spend your time together— are you a stay in or go out couple, or a little bit of both?—, discover what aspects of the other suit and complement your own personalities, and get to learn each other's pet-peeves and deal breakers. You even have time to go on trips together, learn how the other deals when one of you gets sick, and possibly even meet the family. If you feel like you can't wait three months before jumping into an official relationship, I'd ask you to please look up the differences in the dictionary definitions between "love" and "lust."

So, the next time you feel the itch to break out The Talk and after a month, control yourself, girl. Wait it out a bit. Maybe, if you give him the time he apparently needs to make the decision on his own, he’ll even bring it up to you, which is just about the most romantic (can we guess what the word of the week is sponsored by?) thing that I can ever imagine happening. This may be one of those times when the man is right, after all. Give both of you some time (preferably around 90 days), and it'll all work out the way it should be, organically.


Friday, February 4, 2011

Bringing Sexy Back

I frequently spend downtime at my job chatting with the guy I'm seeing when there's no clients, no pressing inter-office business, and no other busy-work to be done while I'm sitting at the desk, awaiting inter-collegiate emails. However, work and play overlapped in a way I didn't see coming yesterday that left me feeling a little shook not only about how my job and interests bleed into my personal life, as well as how "comfortable" isn't always a good thing in a relationship, despite the connotations of warmth, bliss, and utter lethargy. The conversation that started it all (lightly edited for content, clarity, and privacy,) is as follows:

He: "My friend who you met at ____ has been in one of they're videos."
Me: "Really? And yo' grammar. It's outta control."
He: "You can bug me about it, but I don't give a shit."
Me: "Good grammar is sexy."
He: "If I thought I still had to make sure I was being "sexy" for you online then I would, but I REALLY don't feel obligated to go back over every sentence I type right now, especially since I'm doing a couple things at the moment."
Me: "Real romance never dies. Proof-read so I can think more about jumping your bones and less about proper usage."

I work in a writing center, and I'm a professional writer. I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about the English language (and occasionally, other languages, so holla to you, French and Italian), and it's something that's obviously important to me. The guy I'm seeing knows this. It's no secret to him that I decided to give him a chance after he used the word "microcosm" in a comment on my Facebook wall-- he literally had me at "the world in miniature." Which is why it was such a bummer for me to see the wrong "their/they're/there" in something he typed-- when he was still working on winning me over and wooing me, everything he wrote to me was flawlessly edited for maximum correctness, and if he slipped, he'd immediately correct it. He knew I have a hard-on about grammar, so he put the time in to make it all look appealing. It meant a lot. To me, good grammar is sexy. Words are sexy. Which brought up the question today-- At what time is it ok for the sexy to stop? Is it ever really ok?

Granted, he has a point in the fact that we've now been seeing each other more or less for three months, and together for two, and it's hard not to feel comfortable with someone when they're leaving their clothing, their beer, some food, and have a toothbrush in your apartment, but I would hope that someone would always want to be sexy for me, regardless if we've been together for two months, or two decades. When the sexy stops is when the taking-for-granted comes in, and no one likes to admit when sexy changes from something that you do inherently as a means to an end (getting laid), to something that falls by the wayside because you're now comfortable with someone (and now getting laid regularly). As Carrie said in "The Drought"-- "There's a moment in every relationship where romance gives way to reality." And it blows. But does it have to? Does the sexy really ever have to stop?

True, it's a lot of work to maintain, but that's what makes a relationship go from "work" to "magical." So what if you have to spend a few more minutes proof-reading something? I'm not going anywhere. And so what if you've woken up next to me with sex-hair, or seen me in the shower with mascara running all down my cheeks? Just because I'm comfortable enough with someone that they've seen me looking pretty bad doesn't mean I still don't bust hump applying make-up, choosing the right outfit, and doing my hair for a good hour before I see them, still. Right now, it's still all smooth legs and thongs. But what if I decided I was comfortable, and let the romance die? What if I stopped shaving my legs regularly and started wearing more cotton full-coverage bikini underwear? I'm pretty sure there'd be some protests, if not some full-on Egypt-scale riots. Because really, those are two things I definitely DON'T do to keep it sexy for him. And both take more time and effort than using spell check does.

I don't mean to gripe, and I think at this point, we all know how deliriously pleased I am most of the time with the new beau and consider myself a very lucky girl, but I just think that this example illustrates the differences in men' and women's ways of thinking better than nearly anything else. To me, the romance, the effort, the spark (if you will,) in a relationship is really important...nearly as important as the good grammar I get paid to look for. If that means that I'm going to have to put in a little more work to keep things fresh and exciting and sexy, then yes, I'm going to do it. To me, comfort is letting you use my laptop without hovering over your shoulder paranoid you're going to go through my search history, or leaving you the keys to my apartment, not burping in front of you and occasionally being caught wearing something from Vickie's cotton college dorm-wear PINK line instead their Sexy Little Things collection. So, I don't think it's ever ok to think that comfort with someone equals the fact that they're a sure thing and let the sexy slip away, because if grammar is the first thing to go, it begs the question of what the next thing to slack will be. The sexy needs to be nurtured, in moments like the Hollywood Kiss that took me by surprise one random night when he grabbed me and dipped me for a kiss (in the Top 3 Most Romantic Moments Of My Life, for sure), or when you spontaneously reach for the whipped cream in the supermarket or the new pair of underwear he's never seen before, or that random moment at 2 AM last night when he texted me, just to say "hi" and ask how I was doing. The sexy is what takes a relationship from normal to fireworks, and you best believe that I'm a fireworks kind of gal. I love fireworks. Almost as much as I love the Oxford comma.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Growing Pains

There are some things in life that are just naturally painful. Root canals. Cute shoes that are unfortunately too tight. When your friend pinches you to shut up after you say too much. Spider bites. And talking to your exes about your current relationships.

I may have been clear in the past that just talking to your exes in the first place is probably painful enough, as you've got some colorful history, and sometimes, it's just easier to pretend it (and that person) doesn't exist. But there are some exes that you can't just wish away or out of your life, because, let's face it, at one point, you loved this person, and even if you've since fallen out of love with them and/or moved on, you still bump into them, or you still have mutual friends with them and still occasionally wander through each other's social lives. Or they still keep showing up on your cell phone's screen.

A few weeks ago, I was riffling through the kitchen cupboards on a raccoon-like rampage at 2 AM for something sweet when I heard my text ringtone go off back in my bedroom. Thinking it was the current boy, as we share insomniac tendencies and are prone to late night conversations, I grabbed a chocolate chip cookie, and ate half of it in the time it took me to take my sweet time getting to my room, grabbing my phone, and sauntering back into the kitchen to prepare a response. When I flicked the screen's lock up and saw my ex's name instead, I froze. Cookie crumbs dropped from my hand, as well as the pit of my stomach, not to mention anything about my previously ravenous appetite. I texted back, more incited with his extremely casual text than anything else, and had to take a seat when I realized I was dizzy from this sudden turn of events. Our conversation quickly boiled down to him asking if I'd come over (and believe me, SOMEONE wanted to enjoy some cookie that night other than me), but other than establishing the loss of desire to finish the rest of my cookies and being saved from my sweet-tooth, it also established some odd revelations:

1.) I was able to turn my ex down, something I previously did not know I was humanly capable of. I deserve the Congressional Medal of Honor for this. You may not think so. You don't know my ex.

2.) This meant I liked the guy I am currently seeing a lot more than I previously realized. Oh. OH.

3.) In the moment of having to explain to my ex that I would not be coming over this time, or any other time in the foreseeable future, I felt a sudden wave of extreme tenderness and empathy toward him. It can't be easy, I thought, to reach out to someone you haven't seen or spoken to in awhile, let alone slept with, and admit that you need them for one of your basest desires. I certainly know how hard that is for me, and knowing that I was about to be turning him down made me feel incredibly caring toward him, in a totally platonic way. It made me wonder, what is the least painful way to talk about your new relationship with your exes?

It feels odd to be sympathetic with your ex, and nearly even protective of their feelings again, especially if you haven't interacted with them for awhile. But there I was, finding myself asking how he was after telling him I was seeing someone else, wanting to make him feel like it wasn't a total loss to go out on a limb, wanting him to know that even if he lost the girl, he hadn't lost the friend, instead of saying, "I wasted a year on you, to have to cheat and lie and use me, and now, NOW you expect me to roll over from a guy who's actually treating me like a princess, just because you finally decided on your own accord that you want me?" like I would have wanted to a few months ago, when I was still raw and fresh and sure that I would never heal, that I would never find someone to right the wrongs. Surprise.

A half hour after his initial text and being turned down, he surprised me by texting back and asking if my new S.O was a good guy. I told him he was, and thanked him for asking. I thought this was a good move. I thought it was classy. And then I got another text from him last night. And this time, I had to be firm about it and tell him clearly that I was currently monogamous with someone else, even after he offered so gentlemanly to pay for my cab fare over to his place (the first time he ever offered to pay for anything in the last year and a half we've known each other in a romantic sense). "Well, if you wanna take me up on that let me know. Anytime, probably," he told me, and it was suddenly like I was back in Italy and had to be very straight-forward about the fact that nothing was going to be happening, while still being polite as to not start an international incident.

"Thanks for the offer, but I'm pretty happy right now."

Strange, as he used to be the person I was thinking of while gently turning other men down. I was caught in a sudden kaleidescope of time fragments, thinking about how I used to hold out on other guys for him; how he and I had our own falling out; how I was now holding out on him in favor of another man, while at the same time learning how to put aside my feelings of disappointment and disgust about our dissolution in favor of seeing him as a real person again, a real person who went out on a limb with no promise of a safety net, whose feelings could be crushed, who was trusting me to at least let them down gently-- which, to my surprise, I found myself doing as I thought of him as my friend and the man I once loved for reasons I once knew well, and not just an X in a box for "been there, done that." Oh, how times change. And how YOU change.