Tag Archives: dating

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.

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Love Life, Odyssey, Womanhood

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.

Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Love Life

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.

3 Comments

Filed under Love Life

Dating-While-Blogging Hazard #8,232

The other day I got a Facebook message, a very sweet Facebook message, from one of D’s friends whom I’d recently met. Said friend told me, as she put it, what she would write if she and I were to pass notes between Geometry and Study Hall.

She signed off by assuring me that D also leaves the toilet seat down at her house–thereby assuring me that he does in fact posses one certifiable flaw (for the record, he’s improving), and that she has been reading my blog.

This is a wrinkle of the whole dating-blog-meets-real-relationship event that I did not anticipate. Namely, that I would become Facebook friends with friends of D’s, that they would find my blog, and that they would then know things about him–and his oversharing girlfriend–that he might feel uncomfortable with them knowing.

Now, as this anecdote illustrates, I don’t think I have yet revealed, nor do I intend to reveal anything about D that those around him don’t already know. But still. It’s awkward.

“Oh, shit!” I said to my NY S (who, blissfully, visited me this weekend) when I saw the end of that message. “D’s friends are reading the blog!”

“Yeah,” she replied, in the same tone of voice she always uses when I gripe to her about the various complications I’ve imposed upon myself by blogging about my personal life. And then she said what she always says: “You’re gonna have to figure that one out.”

(I feel obliged to point out that S is generally a font of extreme helpfulness and compassion, and is absolutely supportive of my writing; she just happens to have a slightly skeptical stance when it comes to her best friend exposing herself so recklessly on the internet, for which I cannot blame her.)

Of course, it doesn’t bother me that his friends are reading: in the past year-plus I’ve happily adjusted to the fact of my readers including people who teach me, people who I teach, various ex-boyfriends, and my maternal grandmother. I’m over it.

But D didn’t sign up for this kind of exposure. I thought his decision not to read himself (one that he has, I’ve confirmed, been adhering to) would solve the problem: so long as he’s not reading what I write, our relationship could exist outside the realm of my online musings.

And so far it has. Mostly.

“Oh, I’ve been meaning to tell you,” he said to me at a coffee shop yesterday, looking up from his novel with a giant grin. “A few of my friends have asked me about your blog!”

“Oh god,” I said. Again.

“Yeah, it’s funny,” he went on. “They’ve like, asked me if I know about it!”

“Yeah,” I said. “Funny.” And then, flush with guilt, (I had gone and “friended” these people! what had I been thinking!?): “I can avoid being ‘friends’ with people you know on Facebook. I’m really sorry.”

“Oh no,” he replied, not missing a beat. “I don’t care! It’s just funny!”

“Really? You don’t mind your friends reading my blog?”

“Not at all. Why would I mind?”

I could have answered this question in earnest: could have suggested that it might make them uncomfortable, that at some point someone might tell him something they’ve read that he didn’t want to know, that the whole enterprise seemed, to me, like risky business.

But I didn’t. Instead, I took a breath, looked at him lovingly (no, we haven’t said it yet, those of you folowing at home), and did what I ‘ve always done upon encountering states of panic about possible effects of blogging: resolved not to worry about it until I have to.

Or, you know, until I blog about it.

1 Comment

Filed under Writing

Why We Should Still Talk, Even When We’re Attached

During the many years of my early twenties that I spent single, I often played the role of third wheel. Mostly, in Washington, I did this with my friends A and J.

A and I had become close friends at work: most of my memories from that time of personal drama/heartbreak are punctuated with a vision of running up some set of stairs to A’s desk and anxiously reading the look on her face as she slid her black headphones down to her neck. (Was she crashing on deadline or did she have a moment to hear my, always epic, saga?).

And then J moved into her group house in Columbia Heights, and a few weeks later we all hosted a dinner party, and I spent that night in bed with another housemate, to whom I talked about one time after that, while A and J spent the night together and remained inseparable for about the next four years.

The phrase “third wheel” has a negative connotation, but I don’t mean one in this case: I loved spending time with the two of them as a couple. I’d still run up to A’s desk at work, but then I’d also find solace in their kitchen, or backyard, where the two of them would ply me with homemade chicken and beer, smother me with joint bear hugs, and assure me that whatever guy really wasn’t half as awesome as me to begin with.

In other words: I confided in both of them, regularly, about my sex life. And I laugh now about how I responded when they tried to do the same.

“Eewwww!” I’d grimace, throwing my hands to my ears, whenever J would make some suggestive comment indicating that he and A actually slept together.

“How come you can talk to us about sex but we can’t talk to you?” he’d plead, half-joking.

“I don’t know, it’s just the way it is! You’re a couple, you don’t get to talk about sex! You’re like my parents!”

Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Love Life

True Confessions

Okay, folks. I’ve been trying really hard–I’m not sure why–to resist telling you something and I no longer can.

One thing I’ve learned teaching beginning writers is that, often, we withhold information for vague reasons that range from the misguided to the sadistic. Either of which this may be. (It’s hard for me to say–as you know, I’m generally not one to withhold.)

Anyhow, here it is: I’m dating a fireman.

I tell you this not only in order to tell you that I started a fire in his house on our second date–though it’s true that I did, in his oven, and it’s also true that he put it out, and it may also be true that this story in and of itself is justification enough.

Nor do I tell you this for the simple, gratuitous sake of telling you that I’m dating a fireman–though it is sort of the point that that, too would be understandable.

No, I tell you this because I need to share just how hilarious it is to tell people that you’re dating a fireman.

A sampling:

From M, when I first told him: “Is he, like a strapping, like, fireman?” (Yes.)

From my father, regularly: “Have you told him about the Inkspots song yet? (singing, now) I don’t wanna set the world, on fire…” (No.)

In conversation with my mother, when I first told her:

“He’s very cute.”

“Well if he’s a fireman he has to be handsome.”

“He’s not at all flakey.”

“Well of course he can’t be flakey, he’s a fireman.”

From every woman I’ve told: “Really???”

Okay, so I admit, the first time I met D I, too, had the “really???” response. As in: “Wait. He’s good-looking, intelligent, highly educated and he’s a fucking fireman?”

But then I got to know him, you know, in three non-stereotypical dimensions. And the work that he does came to be just that: the work that he does.

I learned the details: like the fact that being a fireman involves not so much fighting fires as waking up cranky old ladies whose neighbors thought may have been dead but who were really just, in fact, napping.

And that, while D fits the stereotype of the handsome, “strapping,” muscular fireman–many of his coworkers don’t. Most, it seems, fit better the mold of the short, stocky Northern New Mexican guy who tease him relentlessly for his attempts at Mexican cooking and for looking like every other white guy in the department.

Also, thanks to my friend J’s hopeful inquiry last weekend, I’ve learned that there aren’t even firepoles. (Apparently, it’s been realized, not the most efficient way of descending a building at three in the morning when Grandma may or may not be taking a nap.)

So by the time we did get together and I started telling people about him and getting these wacky reactions–it caught me off guard.

But it shouldn’t have: D had warned me.

“It’s kind if amusing how people react when you tell them you’re a fireman,” he’d said. It’s true–he does find it funny. As do I.

And, secretly–or, for some of us, not so secretly–I’m gonna guess that both of us kinda like it a little bit too.

4 Comments

Filed under Love Life

Knowing What Matters, Sooner or Later

There’s a particular memory I always associate with the collision of music and romance.

Back in St. Paul I knew a guy who was the singer in a local rock band that played out a lot. He and his bandmates were all various, aggressive shades of cute, scruffy and jaded.

For a short time he dated a friend of mine, and as I recall it didn’t end particularly well. A while after that I ran into him at some show at the Turf Club or Big V’s, the two divey venues on either side of Snelling Avenue between which our crowd alternated evenings, and he told me that he was dating someone new–someone he’d met through work.

“I like her a lot,” he announced, beaming. “And it’s crazy. She doesn’t know anything about music.”

I looked at him, trying to discern why this declaration satisfied him so.

“I mean, she has no idea what bands are cool or trendy or whatever. It’s so awesome. I’ve realized it totally doesn’t matter.”

For him, it was a revelation: as though he’d spent his whole life thinking that taste in music and other such trivialities were of primary importance, when really there were other things–like values, maybe, or sex–that could render people compatible.

I don’t think I ever thought shared taste in music the only thing that mattered–or even mattered that much. But still, I always recall this conversation when I start dating someone and conversation turns to “favorite bands.”

“Oh geez,” I think. “Why should I care if we both like Cat Power? Just because you also love Paul Westerberg–that doesn’t mean we’re meant to be.”

Forgive me: in truth, I do think that because you also love Paul Westerberg, we probably are meant to be. (It’s that line from the David Brooks article I wrote about a while back–we all have an inflated sense of our uniqueness.)

Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Love Life