Category Archives: Love Life

A Beginner’s Guide to Being the Single Girl at the Wedding

Last summer, my best friend R, then single, had seven weddings to go to. Seven. I felt horrified on her behalf: how could she possibly withstand the trauma of attending so many celebrations of romantic love when she, herself, didn’t have any?

She shrugged me off. The weddings were fun, she said. She loved seeing the dear ones get married. She wore pretty dresses. It was no big deal.

I didn’t buy it. But this summer–with three weddings under my belt so far and one more coming up–I’ve changed my tune.

Weddings are fun. They’re fun as part of a couple: D he might not be the most talented dancer, but–with the help of no small amount of scotch–he humored me; we made friends; we had fun.

But now I’m back to flying sola, and I am here to report that R was right: actually, it’s fine. Actually, it’s better than fine. It’s awesome. So, here, a beginner’s guide to making the most:

Step One: Go alone. The morning of the wedding I called my Albuquerque friend A to make plans for transportation. “Aren’t you bringing that guy you’re seeing?” she asked. “Hell no,” I said. I explained that I had been given the option, and had sincerely thought it through. There were compelling reasons: the guy (let’s not even discuss his initial, you can guess) would have been a fun date; he would have looked damn good on my arm; in my state of relative fragility, it can seem appealing to avoid presenting yourself as conspicuously single. But then, I thought better: what if I didn’t want to get stuck babysitting him? What if there were cute boys to flirt with? We aren’t committed–why limit myself unnecessarily? There’s no question: it was the right choice.

Step Two: Wear something skin-tight. Or whatever it is that makes you feel completely, undeniably sexy. During that phone call with A, she asked me what I planned to wear. “I’m not sure,” I said. “I have a couple cute halter dresses…and this slinky thing that I’ve never worn…” “Definitely wear the slinky thing.” she replied. I started to talk like a silly woman. “Well yesterday I felt great about my body, but today I don’t feel so great, I dunno…” “Wear it,” she said. I did. I felt hot.

Step Three: Apply red lipstick. A lot of it: by the end of the night, it will come off. Not because you forgot to put it in your purse, but because by the end of the night you will have no idea where your purse is. Or, probably, your shoes.

Step Four: Flirt. Recklessly. I don’t condone leading someone on when you’re dating over a period of weeks, months or years. But for a few hours in close proximity to an open bar? It’s not exactly polite, but it’s not the worst crime in the world either. There are times for restraint–this isn’t one.

Step Five (Optional): Maybe, make out a little bit. I’m just saying, if you find yourself near a handsome guest toward the end of the night, I would not judge you for kissing him. Bonus points if he’s legitimately single.

Step Six: Wear sunglasses to the morning after brunch. And do not remove them: no one needs to see that your mascara is still creeping down your cheeks or that your eyes are extremely red because you’ve hardly slept. (It helps if, on the way to brunch, you stop to pick up a generous and resourceful friend in possession of eyedrops.) Eat bagels, drink coffee and copious amounts of things with bubbles.

Step Seven: Be grateful that you are not accountable to anyone besides your bed, your dog, and your Netflix–all of whom are expecting you for the afternoon. And enjoy all of the above.

Repeat as necessary.

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Holding Onto What Was Good

You know how it is.

One minute, I feel strong and invincible and sexy: ready to join with Pippa Middleton in effortlessly conquering the male hearts of the world.

The next, I feel small and unwanted and vulnerable: rejected by the handsome, married passenger the row ahead of me on the airplane who I’m pretty sure never saw my face; rejected by the butch bikram yoga teacher who seems concerned with everyone’s alignment but mine.

I’m trying to focus on those former moments–the strong and heady ones–and less than a week post-breakup, there are more and more coming. But still, not quite enough.

So I’m trying to hold onto something S told me, one of the most important things I’ve heard in the last few days.

“You’ve gained so much in this relationship,” she said. “I don’t want to see you lose all that just because it’s over.”

She was referring to a few things–my ability to talk more openly with my mother, for example, and my sharpened focus on certain writing projects–but mostly she was talking about my confidence.

“You’ve just seemed so secure,” she told me. “When you were with him and when you were alone. Please don’t let go of that.”

I’m working on it. It turns out that holding onto the products of a relationship isn’t easy, though, once it’s over.

The small things can feel like the hardest.

Hours after the breakup, I wrote an email to D asking for my things back–dutifully heeding my friend M’s advice to do so “without saying anything about feelings.” The next day, he overnighted them.

Before I got the package, I anticipated how hard it would be–the steep emotional challenge of separating those items I’d kept at his house–a nightgown to sleep in and a sweater, because it was always cold–from the association of him, and from the association of hurt.

But I didn’t cry when I opened it. Instead, I put both things on. (The sweater over the nightgown–as N noted, they happen to pair well together.)

“I have to reclaim these clothes,” I announced to S and N as we stood, solemn-faced, at our kitchen counter.

And of course that’s just the beginning: there’s the sight of the salad tongs in my drawer that D’s mother sent him and he passed on to me. The thoughts of spending time alone this month in Taos, where I’d long imagined being–going to readings, running B, doing crosswords–with him. The sound of the Replacements songs that I put on his mix. (I’m not listening to it intentionally–I’m not that masochistic–but I have been putting on REM, my comfort music, compulsively, and the Replacements come right after in iTunes.)

I don’t know that I’ll ever shirk these associations completely. You never really do. (Though I suppose I should admit that until D, I associated the Replacements with someone else. Something about me and Paul Westerberg, go figure.)

So yeah, the sting will lessen. Someday I’ll be mostly nostalgic instead of mostly hurt. We had something lovely, that–when the anger and sadness wears–will be worth feeling warm and nostalgic for.

But in those moments when the mere sight of a stranger’s wedding ring makes me tear up (it happened, once, in an airport–travel makes me particularly fragile), it’s hard to imagine that time coming very soon.

When I talked to M, I briefly bemoaned the mental ache of returning to the single life.

“It really isn’t that bad,” he said, in that sincere tone I could almost believe. “And you have so much going on. Just keep doing your yoga, keep writing, just keep doing your thing.”

Not the most original advice, but important nonetheless. And so I do. I thank heaven for yoga and for cooking, for unbelievably loving friends and family, for the knowledge that I am committed to being serious about writing

Of course, I’d like to find someone else who makes me happy (and, apparently, mistype) before too long. But that’s one thing I can’t control, and therefore don’t want to think about, right now.

What I can think about are those things I can control: and at the moment that means working to put distance between D and the good things–from salad tongs to self-esteem–that he came with.

And in the meantime, watch out: me and Pippa are coming. Any day now.

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How to Mend a Broken Heart: The Real Time Version

The day before before D broke up with me, I found myself reading this post on my friend Sarah’s blog–titled “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?”

(Sometimes, by the way, my womanly instincts are so trustworthy it scares me.)

Sarah is very smart and articulate, and she has lots of very smart and articulate readers who comment–making that post a true trove of wisdom and insight that I dare not rival.

However, I happen to have a broken–or at least severely ripped–heart at the moment. (Sorry to break this news–I’m as shocked as you.)

And already, I am thick into the realm of post-breakup copage. Not to suggest that I’m managing this with any superior sort of intelligence or grace, but, as of yet, I haven’t completely crumbled.

Here, my friends, is a loose list of what I’ve been doing–and what, perhaps, I might suggest for anyone whose heart is similarly, unexpectedly, broken:

(Note: Like most lists, this one is incomplete. I reserve the right to update it in future posts periodically–one thing I know about breakups is that they take more than three days to get over.)

1. Crying in public. Last week, my sister-in-law sent me a link to this essay , from the New York Times website, about the unique urban experience of public tears: both having and witnessing. She sent it to me because the writing is great, which it is. But the writer focuses on the fascination that public crying provokes–not the interaction or support. But when a hot young thing (female, but still) approached me, all red-eyed and wet-faced, in the yoga changing room (pre-class, before such signs could be taken for sweat), bearing a hug and kind words, I felt a sweet taste of much-needed comfort and warmth. Recommend. (Note: this incident did not, obviously, occur in New York–but it did happen to involve two New Yorkers. Discuss.)

2. Crying in private. You will not make friends, and you may scare your (quite easily spooked) mutt, but you must do it. A lot. She will get over it, and so, eventually, will you.

3. Eating fatty meats, and acting a little ridiculous. Hours after the incident, my two roommates and dear girlfriends, S and N, took me out for a plate of Korean BBQ. This has long been something of a tradition for S and me: whenever one of us feels any sort of vulnerable, we go out and stuff ourselves with grilled meat. It helps. Afterwards, S demanded to buy a round of “nasty” shots, and pair it with some “nasty” television. Not having a tv (or, really, the ability to produce said libation) we proceeded to the nearest bar, where we sabotaged our collective chances with the adorable bartender in order to demand that he turn on The Bachelorette. Despite the objections of the less attractive, less accommodating bar patrons, he complied. And thus, my romantic difficulties began to pale.

4. Sweating. Somehow, I managed to lose a boyfriend and a working car in the same week. Meaning, each morning, I have spent 90 minutes in severe heat, contorting my body into unreasonable and uncomfortable positions and, immediately afterwards, used same body to haul myself (along with my vintage-Schwinn-that-weights-almost-as-much-as-me), in slightly less severe heat, up the most obnoxious hill in Albuquerque. There’s nothing quite like anger to help pound those pedals.

5. Speaking of which, feeling angry. Ask anyone who’s been hurt (aka, anyone): the pain is easier to bear when there’s someone to blame. I adore D, and this isn’t his blog so I won’t get into the details of his decision (at least, not now), but I will say this: the man made a stupid choice. He had something good (me) that he could’ve held onto (at least for a while), and he let it go. For this, and only this, I feel furious. That, also, helps.

6. Drinking a lot of lattes, and, generally, doing exactly what I feel like. Normally, I get my “treat” drink, an Iced Decaf Soy Latte, approximately once a month. Now, I’m having at least two daily. I’ve worn the same shorts for three days. I haven’t washed my hair. Yesterday, I thought nothing of spending $7 for beer at a baseball game. Tomorrow, I’m going to buy myself an extremely overpriced sports bra. Hey, getting dumped is awesome!

7. Acting a little bit reckless. This was among the many pearls of wisdom that S has provided in the past few days. Immediately post-breakup, I felt the compelling urge to contact an ex. (Well,  more of a friend than an ex these days, but still: he’s someone with strong sway on my emotional state.) I wrote a text. I didn’t send it. “S is going to tell me not to,” I told N, as we took a walk around the neighborhood before S got home. But, walking to dinner, when I asked her, she didn’t. “I think this is a time when you can act a little bit reckless,” she said. “It’s kind of what you have to do.” Thrilled to receive her permission, I sent. He called. I felt better.

8. Talking to people who love me a lot, a lot. Especially those with goofy senses of humor.  My brother J was clearly very fond of D, but when I told him of the breakup, this is what he said: “Good riddance! I never liked that guy anyhow. I mean, he was from Texas. And so skinny!”

9. Thinking about why I’m really sad. Another of S’s gems was this: “Often, after a breakup, the loss we feel isn’t the relationship so much as the expectations we had for it.” So true. And if I’m really honest with myself, I’m more sad about losing the relationship than I am about losing D. And that says something. Something that leads, lastly, to this:

10. Telling myself things I need to hear. For example: D is a great guy. And I’m sure he could have made me happy. But I’m also sure that someone else can–and will–make me happier.

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On The Mythical Boyfriend, and the “Best Part” of Having One

The other day, I had a long overdue Skype date with my good friend A—the one who I was close with in DC and who, after quitting her job over a year ago, has been hopping all over the US, Southeast Asia, and now Europe.

(Sidenote: I “hear”—both literally and philosophically—those complaints about the “alphabet soup” in my last post. Forgive me for now: the initial system isn’t ideal, but I haven’t got anything better. Open to suggestions!)

A few short emails aside, it’d been a long time since we’d really caught up: I’d missed her call when she’d tried to reach me, about five months ago, before leaving her for her latest jaunt—I was on my first date with D.

“So,” she said. “What’s your favorite part about having a boyfriend?”

This caught me off guard: pretty sure no one, as yet, has asked me this particular question.

But if anyone were to ask it, it would certainly be A. This is how we talk. Like me, she’s spent most of her life without a boyfriend, save one epic live-in relationship whose rise and fall I intimately witnessed.

Several months into the “rise” of that situation, A would frequently turn to me, interrupting herself from work or exercise or unrelated topic of conversation, flare her big green eyes wide and say, voice completely flat, “I cannot believe I have a boyfriend.”

“I know,” I’d say. “It’s amazing!”

“It is amazing,” she’d reply. “It is just so strange to use that word!”

In other words, we use the word “boyfriend” as though referring to some sort of mythic or exotic species– because to us, they have been. Like Gila Monsters or wild parrots: oft talked about, occasionally spotted, rarely materializing for long.

When she asked the question—what my “favorite part” is—I stumbled through a scattered list of seemingly reasonable replies.

“It’s nice to have an intimate confidant,” I said. “And someone to cuddle with. And someone to just chill and watch movies with.” I paused. “And he cooks!”

All of which is true. But in our post-Skype email exchange, A answered the question herself: “You seem so happy and relaxed,” she wrote. “I think boyfriends are amazing for us as women. They calm us down so much!”

How’s that for anti-feminist? But bear with me. And A.

Certainly, relationships bring their share of anxiety and stress. My stubborn sleeping problems haven’t disappeared, for example. And as I’ve written, things, generally, are as they were before.

But it’s true: there is a way in which I am more relaxed then I was when I was single.

When you aren’t with someone and you’d like to be, there’s a sort of weight that bears down on you. A sense of obligation, a pressure, a sense that you always ought to be making an effort to meet someone.

At times, I found online dating a good solution for that: I could tell myself that I was “making an effort” while still staying home with popcorn and Tina Fey most Saturday nights.

But even then, I felt it. And don’t get me wrong, I am a social person. I like being around people, I like to go out—sometimes, not too often, and rarely past midnight (sorry, I’m over twenty-five and an insomniac). But I don’t like to feel like I have to. And when I was single, I often felt like I had to.

I don’t mean to imply this is true for everyone, because I know it’s not. But I always remember the Friday afternoon a few years back when, post-show, I wandered around my workplace surveying colleagues about whether I should bus it from DC to New York for the weekend just to attend a friend’s birthday party.

“Go!” One of them demanded. “You should always go to parties! You might meet your husband!”

(For the record, I did go, and—so far as I know—did not meet my husband. Or anyone else, so far as I can remember, particularly interesting. But at least I won’t have to wonder…or something.)

You see what I mean. There’s a persistent stress: a feeling that you should always be trying, that you should always be looking.

Obviously, being in a relationship doesn’t mean I’ve stopped looking forever—D and I are far from that level of certainty or commitment.

But it does mean I’ve stopped looking for now. And that, it turns out, is a very relaxing thing.

 

 

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On Feeling Like A Fraud, And Our East Coast Adventure!

During the New York stop of D’s and my nine-day, four-city Extreme East Coast Adventure, we landed for a couple of nights at my brother,  sister-in-law and niece’s Park Slope brownstone.

The day before, D had met a few of my numerous New York relatives—mother, one grandmother, one brother—but not yet F, my sister-in-law. (I feel obliged to note that, for her, this title seems distinctly weak: I have known F since she was seventeen and I was five: throughout my childhood she took to regularly supervising my backyard birthday parties—from kimonos to tie-dyes, bless her then-teenage heart.)

And that afternoon–considering F’s lifetime of childcare, it was the least I could do–D and I picked up S, my seven-year-old niece, from elementary school–and, by way of a chaotic playground on 7th Avenue and a slightly calmer stop for Italian Icies on 5th (rainbow for the kid, lemon for us), brought her home.

A little while later, D was downstairs starting a load of laundry when F walked in the house, home from an afternoon pedicure up the block.

She looked down to see S and I sprawled on the hardwood living room floor with sharpies and construction paper, books and scissors, glue sticks and stickers–but no D.

“Where is he!?” she stage-whispered, still only partway through the door.

“Huh?” I looked up, reluctant to distract from my intense focus on the startingly Herculean task S had just charged me with: drawing a cat.

“The boyfriend! I haven’t seen him and I don’t believe he exists!”

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On How Me and Kenny Chesney Made Friends

For the past two weeks, the radio in my Volkwagon has been tuned to the country music station.

I did not set the radio to this station. But I have not changed it.

I have two things to say about this:

One: there is something heartwarmingly endearing about the bizarre, brash straightforwardness of country lyrics. (“There’s only two things I want when I’m back in my double wide, and that’s a big ole brew and little ole you“? How can you not be charmed? Please. I love it.)

Two: be careful what happens when you date someone from Texas.

This weekend I drove S and N, my two roommates, to go see the new Kristin Wiig movie, Bridesmaids.

“Country station still on, huh?” N ribbed from the backseat, moments after I started the engine.

“Yeah…” I admitted, feebly formulating a defense. “D put it on when he borrowed my car and, uh, it’s just really amusing!”

For a while the comments subsided. And then, “Proud to be an American” came on.

“Wow,” S shook her head as she spoke. “Your parents would be so horrified right now. Your dad would be so horrified.”

I couldn’t help but crack up. She was right: somewhere (probably, Brooklyn) my father was drinking an expensive glass of California burgandy, listening to Glenn Miller and reading the Wall Street Journal. And somewhere (certainly, south Texas) D’s dad was drinking a can of Old Milwaukee, driving a tractor and listening, probably, to Garth Brooks.

Here’s the thing about how my family compares with D’s, that is basically all you need to know: my parents think that anyone who owns a gun should be shot (ironic, they realize) and D’s parents own a lot of guns. A lot of guns.

My family and his family understand each other just about as much as Hamas and Likud. Morocco and Spain. Yankee fans and Mets fans.

Which isn’t to say that, should they ever meet, their encounter would end in decades of violence or stand-offs or raucous tabloid wars.

In fact, I’m fairly sure that, should they ever meet, they would like each other: based on what D’s told me, his family members are kind, generous and warm people–adjectives I’d also use to describe mine. Probably, if they ever encountered each other, they’d get along great.

But if it weren’t for D and I, they almost certainly never would.

I’ve read before that the best predictor of a relationships’ success is having a similar background: coming from a similar place, and class–having a common education and religion and general life experience.

This makes sense to me. Certainly, we all have an easier time relating with people whose experience we can understand. And I’ve certainly known relationships that didn’t work out because the gulf was simply too wide.

But I love that D and I come from such different places. We share common beliefs–ideas about God and people and politics. But we got there in entirely different ways. And that fascinates me. I love hearing about his upbringing: learning about a lifestyle and location that I find so entirely foreign.

Certainly, we exoticize each other–there is something universally appealing about someone so “different.” That, surely, will wear off. And maybe, ultimately, it will prove challenging to get, always, where the other is coming from.

But I think the excitement of getting to know someone whose background differs so sharply from yours, of learning from them, of broadening your understanding of the world–and, perhaps, your taste in music–is worth the challenge.

Also, Blake Shelton is hot.

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Post Mother’s Day Ode #2 to My Most Lovable Mom

Newsflash: contrary to what one sometimes thinks when single, being in a relationship does not make all one’s problems go away.

Having to move bedrooms? Way easier. Dealing with car problems? Definitely improved. Frequent, fragile mood swings and persistent insecurity about one’s body and talent? Thriving as ever.

One thing, though, that it turns out is a bit easier for me, when I’m attached, is my relationship with my mother.

Now, my mom and I, overall, have a pretty solid relationship. I’d say it’s above average, easily. We talk several times a week. We both have fairly easygoing temperaments. We each think the other is, objectively (yeah, right), pretty darn interesting and lovely and smart.

But as I write in a new essay, featured today on the website Style Substance Soul (like the cross self-promotion at work here? A girl’s gotta do…), it’s not always entirely rosey.

I tend to focus on the ways in which my mother and I alike: you know, on those tics and mannerisms of hers that, because I recognize them in myself, find consistently, irrationally, repulsive: the way we say “hmmm” when other people talk, even when we aren’t listening; the face we make when we look in the mirror. Etc.

But in truth, we are quite different people. As you may have noticed if you are reading this blog, I’m pretty comfortable being open about most things, excessively intimate details of my personal life included. My mother? Not so much.

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On Telling Half-Truths, and Meeting Parents

Let’s not kid ourselves. All of us indulge in some form of fantasizing about romantic relationships. Or crushes. Or objects of whatever degree of  affection. Okay maybe I do it more than you. But whatever–I refuse to be alone in this.

I’m not sure what are the most common varieties of romantic daydreams: walking down the aisle or dancing at the wedding? Having big-eyed children or a sun-soaked honeymoon?

I know that one thing I always imagine, when I meet someone, is some sort of scenario in which that person meets my family.

Why do I do this? For most people, subjecting someone they like to their family would seem a variety of punishment, if not torture. The stakes are high, the expectations overwhelming, basically everyone is anxious. I spend enough of my actual life beset with anxiety–why should I need to create it in my imaginary life, too?

But at the same time, my family is extremely important to me. I can’t imagine being with someone for any sort of term who my family didn’t like. Not just like, love. My oldest brother has been dating my now sister-in-law since I was five. The youngest, who just got married, was with his now-wife for seven years. They, along with my third sister-in-law, too, are basically sisters: I may be separated by distance, but we are all close knit.

So the fact that I could easily imagine my parents and brothers embracing D was, and is, no small thing.

When I first brought up the idea of him coming home with me, D was a bit nervous. Meeting the parents is a big deal, he said. I managed to talk him out of this concern, assuring him that my parents are extremely easygoing folk and telling him that the last person they met, I broke up with a few days later.

I’m not sure how comforting that was to hear, but it worked. I’m not sure how honest it was either. I mean, it’s true: I did invite a guy I’d been with for a couple of months to have brunch with my parents when they visited me one weekend in Washington. And it’s true that a few days later, I broke up with him. And it’s also true that a few days after that he showed up at my Logan Circle apartment to perform an elaborate temper tantrum in which he pointed out that I had “just introduced him to my parents!”

Presumably, he got over it. But regardless of its’ veracity, the story is misleading. Because, besides him, the only guy I’ve ever brought home was J, my “long-term-ex.” (Who happened to be the exact number of years older than me–sixteen years–than my oldest brother, making an already awkward situation that much more. In fact, it was probably far more awkward than I ever realized at the time–things being a little fuzzy when you’re nineteen and in love.)

Which is all to say that, despite my manipulative and slightly fraudulent words to D, meeting my parents is kind of a big deal–even if the bar is set relatively low. (“He seemed like a nice companion to pass time with,” my father commented when I told him about breaking if off with the DC guy–don’t ever accuse him of not being generous.)

I want D to meet my parents because I want them to meet him: because Iam serious about our relationship. Because whether he is someone they can get along with matters. Because I can’t imagine being with someone they couldn’t.

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On a New (ish) Relationship and Things (Not) To Think About

As anticipated, my new-but-now-longer-than-three-month relationship no longer shimmers with the gloss of perfection–same for D, the person I’m in it with.

Don’t misunderstand: both things–he and the relationship–continue to be the source of many things happy, as things that aren’t flawless often do. I still get giddy about seeing him and feel extremely fortunate to have him, and us.

But we seem to have entered this sort of in-between sphere: the relationship is no longer brand new, and yet–it’s coming on four months now–it’s not exactly a thing of profound length. We’re not quite in the honeymoon stage anymore, that time when you just can’t stop thinking of the person and want to be with them all the time and believe them more or less perfect. Okay, maybe a little bit.

Anyhow. There’s a baseline commitment–breaking news, internet: in a few weeks, I’m taking the boy home to meet the family!–but no talk of anything significantly longer term.

In other words: we’ve yet to discuss the fact that in about twelve months, godwilling, I will be done with my MFA and don’t know where I’ll want to go (you know me and my persistent, unresolved New York-or-not-New-York angst), while his career (read: pension) means he’s not going to leave New Mexico for the next nineteen years.

As he put it when I, sort of accidentally, brought up the point a few weeks ago: that’s a conversation for another time.

What time, though, I couldn’t tell you. I don’t know when you move from the short term commitment we currently occupy, of meeting the family and going to weddings and making plans for months ahead, to the kind that necessitates that conversation. The talk about whether-this-is-possibly-forever-or-not.

I’m certainly not anxious to get there. As I’ve been realizing, the territory is entirely unfamiliar.

There were a lot of strange things about my first and only long term love. Most notably, that, when we started dating, he was thirty-five and I was nineteen.

That particular strange thing generated a lot of other strange things: namely that, in my head and I’m pretty sure in his, the possibility of permanence never took up much space.

Sure, there were moments. One, in particular, that I always think of–spending time one summer with my friend K, an older woman who is now my ex’s girlfriend (also, a conversation for another time) by the pool at her St. Paul country club. We sometimes saw Garrison Keillor there, striding by in long maroon trunks and a serious scowl.

We also saw, reliably, a lot of little kids. And a lot of young mothers with those kids: playing and policing the floating landscape of bright yellow butterfly wings, purple floating rafts and bendy foam noodles.

Growing up in New York City, the squad I saw parenting was an aging one. I thought thirty-five was young to have kids. But since then I’ve been drawn to the idea, at least, of being a young parent. And in that moment I remember thinking: I should just do it. Marry the guy I’m with. Have babies now. Play in the pool with the rafts and the moms and call it a day.

And then the moment passed. I returned to my normal way of thinking: that I was far too young and inexperienced to even consider settling down. That sooner or later I’d have to pursue opportunities, professional and otherwise, outside Minnesota. That my first real relationship would not be my last.

A way of thinking that, I now realize, was something of a luxury. It allowed me to enjoy the relationship, the person and my time with him, for what it was. Never–or, perhaps, rarely–did questions about longevity loom in the back of my mind. I was able to appreciate the present without the constant distraction of the future.

Now, I have no such luxury. Now, as I fall for someone in an increasingly serious way, I can’t help but let thoughts of what might be, accompany–and sometimes, I fear, interrupt–those of what is.

I hate this. Four months is a short time. Possible flaws and issues have only just begun to surface, and I’m sure they will continue. They always do. The question isn’t how close things are, or us together, is to perfect, but whether it’s the right thing–let’s be honest, whether it’s a good-enough thing (Jesus, have I lost all my romanticism?)–for me and for him.

And that, there’s no doubt, is a question for another time.

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Filed under Love Life, Odyssey

Strange and Secret Fears

About a month ago one of my professors, also a friend, met D for the first time at a reading in Santa Fe.

The following day I ran into her in the basement of the student center and eagerly approached, seeking validation.

“He’s cute, right!?”

“Yeah, totally. So it’s going well?”

“Yeah, really well.”

“So now you’re trying to find everything that’s wrong with it?”

I frowned, legitimately bewildered by her comment. I thought for a second–was I looking to find things wrong with him, or with us?–and quickly concluded that in fact, no, I wasn’t. Somehow, I was actually managing to enjoy that things were indeed going well.

They still are. But now, as he and I edge up to our three month mark, I absolutely know what she meant.

The explanation for this is that there is something you may not know about me–something that I, periodically, rediscover about myself and each time experience the sort of startled confusion I expect you will as well:

I’m a secret commitment-phobe.

I know. This is likely not a category into which you would normally place a person who considers insta-relationships a form of amateur sport: who is, sometimes within days, willing to wager that another person is a potential life partner; who thinks nothing of introducing a guy to friends after a few minutes and parents after a few weeks.

I know. I’m eager. But once I’m actually in something, it usually sputters out before I have a chance to even consider the idea of commitment.

S reminded me of this over dinner the other night, during which I grasped to articulate anything that might be wrong with D–only to realize that everything I said was actually a good thing.

“He’s just kind of the opposite of anyone you’ve ever dated,” she said. In other words, it’s not that the fact that I know how he feels about me is bad–just that it’s not something I’m particularly used to.

“I might be secretly terrified of commitment,” I admitted.

“Yeah,” she said. “I think you might be right.”

She asked how I dealt with J–my long term ex, the only other person to whom I’ve really, truly, ever committed. I told her that I have no clue. Also, that I was nineteen.

“I had no idea what was going on,” I said. “All I knew was that there was a lot of pot around and that my boyfriend was a minor rock star who took me backstage at shows. I thought that was cool.” I literally have no recollection of how things with him got serious.

(A realization that, if nothing else, should make me more sympathetic to my grandmother’s response when I once asked her why, at nineteen, she married my grandfather: “I have no idea.”)

For the record, I’m sure I did love J–in that first-love way that means I always, in some capacity, will. I just, apparently, had not yet developed the highly elaborate set of neuroses about men and relationships with which I currently am beset. (You see? Before craziness comes innocence–I’m not sure we are ever without one.)

Now, of course, it’s another story. And as happy as I am to be with someone, especially someone wonderful who treats me extremely well, I am also properly terrified of it: what if this is the right thing? What if it isn’t? How will I know? (This is the point at which I hear my brother R weighing in, accusing me of my “typical over-thinking.” I have no defense besides saying: at least, both of us are consistent.)

On more than one occasion various girlfriends have asked me, with some combination of jealousy, frustration and awe: “Is there anything wrong with D?” The best answer I’ve come up with is that he sometimes forgets to put the toilet seat up.

Give me a little time, and I’m sure I’ll have a more satisfying answer. He’s pretty great, but no one’s perfect. Nor is any relationship–at least, any relationship longer than three months.

I should enjoy the “perfect” part while it lasts, I know. It’s just that the fact that this territory is so darn unfamiliar, it’s sometimes hard. Forgive me. I think I can get used to it.

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Filed under Love Life