Tag Archives: Minnesota

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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Conversations On a Plane

In workshop earlier this semester, my wise peers gave me some typically wise advice:

“You’re idealizing relationships too much,” they said.

“The author is smarter than the narrator. You know that romantic love won’t solve everything.”

I do know this. Sort of. But it’s easier to play with point of view and structure and tone than to be more reflective. I promptly ignored them in my revision.

During my trip home to New York today, though, I was reminded of what they said.

Specifically, an 83-year old Delta passenger named Phyllis, seated beside me between Minneapolis and JFK, reminded me.

Phyllis was (actually, probably she still is) on her way to Cairo. She has three grown children, but no interest in spending the holiday with them. She sees them other times of the year. It will not be her first visit to Cairo, either: she told me she’s been to sixty countries.

“Really I’m just going to Egypt so I can get to Syria,” she explained.

“Why do you want to go to Syria?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t been yet.”

Phyllis, who lives in Lansing, Michigan–where she raised those three kids, alone (“I had a husband, but I got rid of him”)–spontaneously announced to me, abruptly looking up frrom her Steven Martini thriller, that she loves being single.

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Friends and Family

My group of friends from college all met one another, more or less, within the first week of school our freshman year. Friendships have evolved and shifted over time, of course, but–despite all of us dotting the country like lakes dot Minnesota–we’re still intact. We have a lot of love for each other. And on those precious occasions when we do gather, we love to express it: our reunions are always filled with blissfully excessive quantities of cuddling, hugging and liberal lavishing of the phrase “I love you.”

This weekend we gathered for a wedding: the first among our intimate clan. You won’t be surprised to learn that I really, really did not want to leave. I mean, I seriously contemplated ditching my flight out of Cedar Rapids this morning and catching a ride to Minneapolis with a few folks instead. If not for Bonita, I probably would have done it.

I know as well as anyone that it takes time to find community and get settled in a place–certainly to build the kind of collective love so many of us find during college. I also know that I’ve got a pretty respectable cache of folks here in Albuquerque considering it’s just coming up on one year since I moved. But there’s a difference between friends who are friends and friends who are family.

I’ve spent the past week–first in New York, then Washington, and finally Iowa, for the wedding–surrounded by the latter. And as thankful as I feel to have people in my life who are so so loving, so loyal and so affectionate (not to mention so good with a Sloop John B harmony), I can’t help but be reminded of how exhausting it can feel to spend the bulk of my time without them.

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On Finding One’s Place

I enjoy housesitting for the obvious, conventional reasons.

You know, the occasion to raid a fridge for everything approximating sugar, vinegar or sustenance. The chance to recline on a leather couch and watch cable. (Living, as I do, without a TV, I benefit from the occasional reminder that 900 options of channels quickly translates to a choice between Golden Girls and Bethany Geting Married?). The opportunity to pal around with a 120 lb. rottweiler named Fido whose most aggressive move is a mild effort at vertical elevation in those moments when he anticipates a (not-too-long) walk or a dropped morsel of breakfast burrito.

As I lazed around yesterday afternoon, alternating my attention between a short story collection, the dogs, and a marathon of America’s Next Top Model, I thought of yet another reason I enjoy it that I’ve never quite been able to articulate–one largely unrelated to sloth, gluttony or rottweilers.

Shock of shocks, what got me thinking was one of the stories. It was by the writer Pam Houston, with whom I got to take a workshop last weekend, in Taos. If you haven’t read her, do. She writes funny, insightful and heavily autobiographical fiction about being a smart and successful woman with chronically poor judgment about men. Imagine my interest.

I’ve been reading her second and lesser-known collection, “Waltzing the Cat,” in which all the stories are linked and have the same narrator. They deal with her misadventures finding a man, but also with her quest for place.

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On Remembering Why

Does extreme heat make you lethergic? It definitely has that effect on me. When I got off the airplane in Albuquerque last Sunday it was 100 degrees, and I realized the whole spiel I’d been delivering about how the heat is really not so bad when it’s so dry is really a load of crap when you’re walking to campus and you have your laptop on your shoulder and the biggest patch of shade is across the street and about two and a half feet long.

Also, I spent too many hours within too few weeks on airplanes, and I’ve caught a full on runny nose/congested/sore throat sort of cold–which, I must say, feels dissonant to the point of surreal amidst these extreme temperatures.

Don’t you love it when I don’t write for a few days and return only to whine about my perfectly lovely life by way of excusing my absence?

My life is perfectly lovely, by the way: I’ve got this nice sunny space to myself for the summer, I’ve got a splendid selection of local friends to drink very cold beers with (what else can one consume in this heat? oh, yes: frozen grapes. so many frozen grapes.), and endless shelves of mine and S’s books to pore through in the 22 and 3/4 hours of every Monday-Thursday when I’m not teaching. The other three days of the week, that’s pretty much all I’ve got on my hands. Also, today I made a lovely herby-eggy brunch for J and I and the weather is actually lovely and relatively mild.

And yet. And yet, people, I’m feeling uninspired.

Amidst my hazy malaise of of sniffles and self-pity, as you’ve noticed, I’ve not been posting much. But, I’m sure it will relieve you to hear, I have been talking about blogging–or rather, being a blogger. The moniker has gone and affixed itself to my introduction: “This is my friend E, she writes a blog.”

I can’t lay all the blame on friends, either: just as frequently, I meet someone, tell them I’m in school for writing, they ask what I write, and–it being the easiest and most tangible answer–I reply that I write a blog.

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Reliving College: Past, Present and Future

When I told people that I was going to attend my five year college reunion, I got a lot of reactions in the puzzled look/eye rolling department.

As in: really? You need to go to a reunion to see people you graduated with five years ago? That is practically minutes.

Well no, not really: my group of friends from college is actually really diligent about getting together at least annually, despite the distances separating us. We don’t actually need our alma mater to put up large booze-filled tents and arrange mediocre buffet spreads for us to see each other–but when the opportunity presents itself, who are we to turn it down?

And truthfully, in the scheme of our twenty-seven-odd years, five isn’t exactly insignificant. It’s practically one fifth of our lifetimes. Twenty-two to twenty-seven: a lot is supposed to happen in that time, isn’t it?

Well, having (barely) survived the weekend I am here to report: maybe, not really so much.

In the past year or so a few of my classmates have gone and gotten married. (Many of them, I should say, to each other.) More will follow in the coming months. We even identified a couple members of my class who may or may not be pregnant.

But for the most part, not much has changed.

Starting with the physical: a consensus emerged that the girls got hotter and the guys look the same. (As I’ll get into further at another time, the liberal arts man is a late blooming sort of species.)

But our lives haven’t changed that much, either: most people seem to be back in school. I don’t think that’s a bad thing: it illustrates the fact that we’re a pretty high-achieving bunch. Many of my peers are attending prestigious graduate programs in things like urban planning and health policy. There are a few fools who, like myself, are taking the MFA route. But it’s a recession: if you can get there, graduate school is the place to be.

So, as a group of childless, mostly single twenty-somethings still part of the academy, it wasn’t much of a stretch for us to re-enter the college bubble: staying in the dorms where we lived as freshmen, hanging out in large co-dependent clusters, having obnoxiously loud sing-alongs and staying up late drinking cheap beer.

(The main difference between college and reunion, it turns out, is the lack of supervision: the keg parties in the dorm courtyards felt completely condoned–if not outright organized by–the administration.)

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