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Posts Tagged ‘being single’

The girl sitting across from me on the subway was an exact replica of me at fourteen years old: chubby face, disobediently curly hair, a slim body struggling to develop and a slightly rowdy innocence that would one day cause some trouble. She looked so much like me I had to do a double take, convinced a miniaturized version of me was within arm’s reach.

I may have gone on without giving the matter much thought, except that there was something even more me-ish about the girl than her plump cheeks. She was pining away over a boy who apparently was giving her the run around. Moreover, she was testing the limits of friendship by giving the pal next to her every minute detail of their last conversation.

Me much?

The boy had told the girl to stop calling him. He didn’t want to talk to anyone right now. He wasn’t replying to any of her texts or returning her calls. Every so often, she’d call late, sometimes after midnight, and was surprised when he wasn’t home.

Fourteen-Year-Old Me was confused. Older Me knew there were only a few causes for such behavior and they all revolved around other girls, lack of interest and overall jerkiness.

“He says he can’t handle a relationship right now,” the girl told her friend. “He’s worried about his mom and he has to get a job.”

The girl lifted her chest and proudly said, “And I was like, ‘you expect me to wait for you?’”

Older Me hoped either the guy fell to her feet in tears or she gave him the grand heave ho.

“’He told me, ‘no.’ So I asked, ‘do you want me to?’”

It took everything in me not to take the girl by the shoulders and shake her senseless. “Get some strength in those knees and stiffen that spine. You cave to this creep and you’ve got years of male crap to put up with. Get out now!”

“Honestly, Mary, I don’t know,” the girl continued. “I was like, ‘I can be your girlfriend and support you through this.’”

No, you can’t, I thought, trying to use mental telepathy to communicate with her. You can’t because he doesn’t want you to. Or someone else is his support. Or he doesn’t have a problem, he’s just making up bull malarkey because he’s afraid to cut the cord.

“I was like, ‘I’ll be waiting for your call.’ He didn’t call me, so I called him.”

You just earned another year of lessons from the Relationship School from Hell.

“He was on the phone with his cousin.”

Yeah, right.

“He kept crying and crying and I was like, ‘I’m right here for you.’”

Man, was this girl tugging at my heart strings. How many times have I begged some big wounded boy to let me love him? In fact, nearly every female I know has blubbered to me about some damaged soul who won’t let her heal his pain. Few things are as confusing to women as men who turn away love and support.

I wasn’t angry at the apple of Fourteen-Year-Old Me’s eye. Sure, guys like him can be selfish and plain mean. But they’re just snot-nosed little boys and it’s up to the women who adore them to cut their losses when the writing’s on the wall.

Unfortunately, it can take decades before a woman learns to stop hanging on to dead end love. I’m embarrassed to admit how long it took me, but will confess to making tons of stupid decisions, dating scads of nincompoops and coming face to face with lots of not so pretty truths about my own inner workings. Most importantly, it took the real love of a couple good men to show me true connection isn’t something you have to beg someone to share with you.

I wanted to tell Fourteen-Year-Old Me to let this cad go and avoid love she has to wrestle to the ground. Spare her the agony of heartbreak or an on/off affair with someone who only kinda likes her. But like every hard lesson, you’ve got to learn it on your own.

All I could do was give her a smile that said, ‘you’ve got a long, hard journey ahead. But you’ll get there.’

She probably didn’t grasp my message. But maybe she will in twenty years, when her own Mini Me sits across from her on a train.

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So I’m at Trader Joe’s last week shooting the poop with the cashier.  For those who don’t know, Trader Joe’s is an über-hip grocery store that sells the basics along with funky gourmet items and lots of things covered in chocolate; pistachios, sunflower seeds and even edamame.

The other distinguishing characteristic of TJ’s is the cashiers, who are apparently trained to engage customers in small talk.  Most of this small talk revolves around all the delicacies in your shopping cart, which they hold up, saying things like, “oh, I love these!” or “these are my favorite!”  Still, it’s all rather friendly and makes one say to oneself, “gee, how I love Trader Joe’s!”

Anyway, the cashier is engaging me in the requisite small talk.  First, he holds up my chocolate covered peanut butter cups and tells me how much he adores peanut butter.  Then he tells me he also loves cheese.  As I’m trying to come up with clever things to say about the Gouda in my cart, two little kids with their mother queue up behind me doing cute kid things like absent-mindedly blowing spittle bubbles on their lips and wearing pink coats with frogs on them.

The cashier makes a gushy face and asks me, “Do you have kids?”

“Um, no,” I answer.

He asks, “You want any?”

What in God’s name?  Do I want children?!? Sir, you have just stepped from small talk into giantly humongous, life-altering big talk.

Mind you, I’d been having a rough week.  Money had become tight, the job was in flux and my personal life had hit a snag.  Whenever I arrive at these challenging moments, I go into full-on worry mode, obsessing over questions like, “will the stars ever align to bring me the creative life I crave, will I ever get ahead of my finances, will I ever settle into a space where things hum along smoothly?”  But my greatest concerns are having love and family, so life’s occasional rough spots and snags create mucho anxiety.

In other words, Dude had lousy timing.

What was I supposed to say?  How does one answer such a question in the time it takes to ring up a bag of groceries?  What if I started sobbing into my purse, was he going to take me for a coffee and offer a shoulder to cry on?

So, I answer, “good question,” and hope it ends there.  No such luck.  The cashier goes on to tell me he wants kids but his wife doesn’t.  They’ve been married for years and he loves her but oh how it kills him to imagine a life sans family.  And I’m thinking, ‘can I just buy my chocolate-covered pomegranate seeds and be done with it?  Since when did a trip to the grocery store become group therapy?’

The rest of my day was shot.  I moped, I pouted, I obsessively read online horoscopes to know when this rough patch would flatten out again.  And I decided to hate Trader Joe’s.

But then I started feeling bad for the cashier.  So overwhelmed was he by his familial dilemma, he couldn’t even stop himself from talking about it with a complete stranger.  Every bubble-blowing, frog-coat-wearing kid who steps through his line probably breaks his heart a little bit more.

I know what it’s like to have the entire world be a reminder of all your unfulfilled wishes.  We all do, I suppose.  Everyone’s fighting the same battles, sharing the same longings.  So maybe next time I’m at Trader Joe’s, I’ll send some good thoughts the cashier’s way.

But no way in heck I’m standing in his line.

[Image from pos-university.com]

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A good friend in college once admitted to feeling miffed when we were together in public because men sometimes checked me out instead of her.  Apparently, she was attempting to build trust by revealing these monstrous feelings and I was supposed to be touched.

I won’t pretend to have been a saint at the time, somehow immune to male attention.  But the last line of attack I’d have considered for securing guys’ interest was scorning my friends for taking it from me.

Still, like lotsa gals, much of my twenties was spent hoping guys liked me.  A cute one would come ‘round and I’d feel pressured to become a sexier, smarter, sassier version of myself, all smirky and eyelashes aflutter.  When dudes weren’t around, I was relaxed and keeping it real, praying for the day I’d be freed from stressing about being a hit with the boys.

I used to be afraid that day would never come.  But yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

This weekend, a gal named Christina proved those days are long behind me.  We met at a two-day writing conference.  Christina was naughty librarian sexy with the kind of combustible “not quite sure who I am yet” energy that makes folks in their twenties both charming and exasperating.  At breakfast, Christina formed a friend crush on me and a regular old boy crush on Billy, a handsomely tortured grunge king who had all the girls at the workshop in a tizzy.  Ten years ago, I might have had eyes for Billy, too.  Now, I’m wise enough to know self-important hot guys usually have little to offer, especially if they’re flirting with everything in a bra.

Christina wasn’t as wise.  When Billy noticed her, she feigned indifference even though stars were shooting out of her eyes.  When he walked away, her entire being deflated like a popped balloon.  When Billy chose to spend his lunch sitting with a pretty blonde instead of us, Christina sat quietly seething as if plotting her next move.  On the conference’s second day, she showed up in a low-cut shirt and bright red lipstick.  Then she spent the day saying raunchy things super loudly and emanating a willful sexuality as if mind controlling the boy to come to her.

Christina didn’t seem smitten, she just seemed pissed.  I assumed she wasn’t as much interested in Billy as she was bothered he wasn’t noticing her.  Still, she didn’t care when I suggested the boy was obviously a player and not worth the effort.  She didn’t buy my theory that not being desired by every male on the planet was no big thang and that all a gal needed was one decent man to love her.  Ultimately, I stopped offering support altogether once the recurring question of the conference changed from “how can I be a better writer” to “why doesn’t Billy like me?”

Thank God I’m not there anymore.  Really, it’s been ages.  Sure, my relationships or attempts at entering into relationships haven’t always been smooth.  But I’ve been myself every step of the way and couldn’t care less about any man except the one who makes my heart go boom.  Even back in the day, when I was more concerned than I should’ve been about being the cat’s meow, I always knew there was more to life than boys.

However.

Not long ago I met a woman in her fifties who had recently ended a five-year romance.  The woman had no children and had never been married, though she’d had a bunch of boyfriends through the years.  She proudly announced herself finished with men, finished with the anxiety of trying to appeal to them, finished worrying about whether she’s desirable.

I could tell the woman meant it.  Like wives who finally divorce after decades in a rotten marriage, she looked forward to starting life on her own terms.  On one hand, I envied the inner peace she claimed to feel.  On the other hand, I was sad to imagine a life without love.

So, I’m glad to be way past the point of obsessing over boy love but pray I never arrive at the place where I’m glad to be out of the game completely.  I’m not positive how to avoid such a fate, but there’s one thing I know for sure.  Needing to be the prettiest girl in the room ain’t it.

 
[Image from vanityfair.com]

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There are two important truths to glean from this past week’s news: women are slowly taking over the world and movie stars are idiots.

Ladies first.

The University of Texas has released the results of yet another study destined to make women want to heave themselves off the Empire State Building.  Previous research done by the school suggested curvy women never marry and beautiful women cheat.  Now, they’re rehashing the “successful women have fewer mates available to them and thus will end up sad and alone” baloney.

Nowadays, the study says, women far outnumber men in American colleges by 57 and 43 percent respectively.  When they enter the workforce, women also make more money.  This has created a “boy crisis” and an “imbalance that tips relationship power in the direction of the men.  Instead of men competing for women, today women feel like they must compete for men.”  Since all men supposedly want is sex, young gals are offering easily accessible booty to bait them.  Consequently, men aren’t buying the cow when they can get the milk for free.

But wait a minute.  There are more women in college than men?  Ladies are the ones bringing home the bacon?  Maybe the hidden gem in this maddening study is that the balance of power has shifted.

I can’t wait to see girls sipping beers and surrounding the dance floor at nightclubs while men dance around hoping to get noticed.  Imagine groups of women describing how their husbands complain about girls’ nights out and spend all their money on Xbox games.  The times they are a’changin’.

The other insignificant but fun piece of news is Ricky Gervais getting into deep doo after making fun of celebs at the Golden Globe Awards.  I didn’t see the show because, frankly, there hasn’t been an interesting star in Hollywood since Clooney made it out of ER.  The last time I watched an award show, Nicole Kidman could still move her forehead.

Oh, how very Gervais of me.  Usually though, I’m against blatant meanness.  But with a few exceptions, I found lots of Gervais’ gibes to be spot on.

Celebrities, and we as their fans, suffer the illusion these people are special.  Indeed, some of them are extraordinarily talented, attractive and sometimes even kind.  But they are not above reproach or even ridicule if, while under our watch, they choose to make fools of themselves, abuse others or do their jobs half-assed.  If you get to make $20 million every time your mug’s in a movie for ninety minutes and we all have to pay $12 to see it, you better work your pretty little tails off to make it a decent flick.  If not, Johnny and Angelina, Ricky Gervais gets to make fun of you.

If you’re a pampered individual with several homes and enough money to take daily baths in champagne, best not be an anti-Semite drunkard who abuses every woman he comes across, from police officers to gold digging wives.  Mel.

Charlie Sheen isn’t some tragic figure trying not to end up on the street while battling an addiction.  He’s a spoiled party boy from Hollywood “royalty” who makes $2 million per episode of his show.  Then he blows it all on thousand-dollar call girls when he hits a rough spot.  Gee, poor Charlie.

How many sad saps out here on unemployment or in soul-crushing jobs, struggling to pay medical bills or put their kids through college, wouldn’t kill to live in multi-million dollar mansions while making a living doing what they love?  I, for one, am tired of superstars shoving their luxuries down our throats, including the luxurious ways in which they suffer and fail.  If they choose to invade our living rooms and our lives, they should show some level of decorum and gratitude considering the great blessings the universe has bestowed upon them.

My guy Gervais, whether intentionally or not, told these folks, “your vanity is offensive.  You’re the most admired people on the planet.  Step it up a notch.”

If Gervais is hosting next year, I just might watch.

[Photos from itsmsnikkitoyou.blogspot.com and tunai.sripengantin.com]

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Jack and I had our first romantic interlude on the 4th of July.  Back in college, going out with someone usually meant deciding to end up in the same place, so I wouldn’t have called it a proper date.  We met at Boston’s Charles River Esplanade, watched a couple bands and some fireworks, then Jack leaned over and said, “I dig you.”  The rest was history.

Over the years, I’ve come to believe relationships are meant to teach us how to relate authentically yet continue to be our most genuine selves.  Some folks need to learn selflessness, others intimacy, and some just need to learn to put the toilet seat down.

Kicking off my relationship life on Independence Day with Jack was hardly an insignificant twist of fate.  This first real love set me off on an endless quest to learn the meaning of freedom.  See, Jack already had a girlfriend.  Thus, our year-long liaison was an education in giving someone the space to have his own life outside of our shared life together.  However, I was too naïve to realize “space” might include time with the boys and creative pursuits, but probably shouldn’t include other girlfriends.

After Jack came a mostly happy marriage, until I discovered I’d built my world around someone else.  The whole enchilada was sure to crumble unless I made life more my own.  But the more fulfilled I became as an individual the less this particular person seemed to fit me.  Much as I loved my guy, I had to break free to survive.

After marriage, I wanted nothing even remotely close to a relationship.  I formed flimsy emotional bonds then backed out once things got too close.  To this day, I feel sorry for the poor fella who tried to hold my hand across the table on a dinner date only to have me freak out about feeling trapped.

Of course, I soon started wanting connection again but only came across sexy commitment phobes and men with life agendas that didn’t include me.  The subsequent disappointment always forced me back to self, where I had the choice between blubbering about lost love or making my own world even more interesting.  Choosing the latter may have been lonely.  But it also created a more enticing life for someone else to slip into or one to inhabit solo.

Maybe true love really is unconditional, maybe wanting someone to be fulfilled with or without you is the key.  If your woman or man needs to follow a path you’re not on, why not love ‘em anyway?  If love is real, you couldn’t stop anyway if you tried.  Nothing wrong with hoping the path leads back to you.

I’m thinking it’s not only me who needs to learn this lesson.  Maybe the next step we modern gals need to take is learning to balance drive and self-discovery with connection.  And maybe dudes need to learn to dig women’s independence.  Most importantly, we all have to learn to appreciate how much a relationship benefits from sharing it with someone who’s got a frickin’ life.

Happy Independence Day!

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For the second time this year, my friend Kim has had to tell a guy who offered to pay her for sex to get lost.

Though Kim is no bombshell, she’s certainly real-world hot.  Great bod, killer personality, enough sexual dynamism to ignite World War III.  Men write poems to her in European cafés, chat her up in bars despite the presence of their wives and girlfriends, and friend her on Facebook to tell her she’s still their “best” even if it’s been decades since their roll in the hay.

When Kim was younger, she liked being a sexual supernova.  No shame felt she for her wanton ways, her colossal lustiness, her stereotypically manly ability to separate sex from love.  She wasn’t a man stealer or desperate fool.  Kim was a healthy sexual being, as whip smart as she was sensual, as capable of meaty conversation as she was blowing minds in the sack.

Then all in the same week, stuff happened.  First, she had to tell the gentleman who wanted to pay for her services she wasn’t that kind of girl.  Next, she got propositioned by a married male friend with a new baby.  Then, a lover from the distant past re-emerged with an ill-timed, monstrously pornographic email.

But the real doozy was the text message from Matt, the one man with whom Kim had fallen deeper in love than any normal woman deserved.  For a year, she’d enjoyed a passionate but inconsistent romance with Matt until he picked up and moved to Hawaii for business.  Though Kim was trying to move on, whenever he contacted her, tiny red hearts poured from her eyes.  A month had passed without word, when all of a sudden, in the midst of this already strange week, she got a text.  Matt wanted to know what she was wearing.  All this time, Kim had been pining away.  Matt was only sporting a woody.

As she gets older, Kim wants love, a family.  However, she hasn’t wanted to shut off the erotic valve to suckle the Goody Two Shoes one.  But after this crazy, sexed up week, Kim came to a painful realization: the men in her life don’t see her as an intellectually gifted, emotionally sophisticated feminine force who just happens to like to get it on.  She’s a fantasy, and like all flights of fancy, she dissolves in real life.

My dear friend is suffering the Marilyn Effect.

Marilyn Monroe might have been the sexiest woman ever to have lived.  However, she was also the most notoriously heartbroken, bowling over everyone from dorks like Arthur Miller to superstuds like the Kennedys, yet being ditched as soon as these guys had their fill.  By the end of her life, the loneliness and rejection tangled with the reality of losing one’s charm to old age.  Legend tells us Marilyn just wanted a baby and a man to love her.  But no one could see past her intoxicating sexuality.

“People had a habit of looking at me as if I were some kind of mirror instead of a person,” Marilyn once said.  “They didn’t see me, they saw their own lewd thoughts, then they white-masked themselves by calling me the lewd one.”

My girl Kim is tons healthier than Marilyn, though she’s starting to feel just as tragic.  She fears becoming the washed up floozy who one day turns into the unfortunate spinster.

It’s easy to blame men for being schmucks whose thoughts originate from the lower portion of their bodies.  Easy to blame a society for creating double standards.  But like every arrival at a crossroads, the question shouldn’t be, “how’d I get here,” but, “where do I go now?”

To imagine my friend no longer giving into her appetites is like imagining God turning off the spigot to Niagara Falls.  But that’s what Kim’s decided to do.  No longer will those of us who love her salivate over stories of sexual intrigue or envy her bawdy invitations from men.  Kim’s done.

Sure, it’s nice to know your booty is so good, dudes will pay for it.  Nice to find out an island of hula girls can’t distract a man from wondering what clothes you’ve got on.  But at some point it’s much nicer to be in love.

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So, my teacher friend Corey meets this woman named Michelle in a bar.  After a brief chat, the two exchange numbers and email addresses, then meet for drinks a week later.  Fireworks aren’t going off, though Corey finds Michelle attractive and worth a second date, which he lets her know as they part ways at evening’s end.

A couple days later, Corey gets an email from Michelle; she had a great time, he’s a fun guy, all that jazz.  Attached to the email is a photograph of Michelle looking wistfully out her bedroom window…

…naked.

According to Corey, the picture was tasteful, more soft core than Triple-X.  Still, he was baffled by this new development and couldn’t figure out why he wasn’t jumping at the chance to join Michelle at her bedroom window.  Though she may not have elicited the response she sought, Michelle was successful in dominating Corey and my conversations for the next week, thus becoming ‘The Naked Girl.’

“Did you respond to the Naked Girl yet?”  I asked him over drinks.

“I would if I knew what to say.”

Observing Corey navigate the realms of premature nudity was an education in the workings of the male mind.  His first instinct was to ask the gal if she’d seen that week’s episode of Lost without making any reference whatsoever to the photo; a glaring example of how men too often believe completely ignoring the big, naked elephant in the room is better than meeting it head on.  Corey’s avoidance was an attempt to be kind.  What a relief to discover evasion isn’t always a sign a man is a putz.  Made me feel lots better about the times I’ve sent “I love you” or “we really need to talk” texts and gotten messages like, “what did you have for lunch?” in return.

There seemed only two places from which Michelle’s sexy message could have come: either she was a ravenous sex machine who only wanted booty, thus sending the photo was simply cutting to the chase.  Otherwise, she was a psychological mess who, for whatever reason, thought the nude approach was the best way to endear herself to a potential mate.

The whole ordeal had my friend coming up against his own conscience.  Good Corey thought it wrong to take advantage of a woman in whom he had minimal romantic interest.  But Bad Corey wondered if her blatant overture permitted him to “’bleep’ her like the tramp she is.”

Really, the poor fella was at a loss.  If she was a nice but messy lady, he wanted to save her any embarrassment.  If she was hot to trot, he wouldn’t mind keeping the option open.  But if there was any chance of love blooming, he didn’t want this act to be the seed.

“Tell her the truth,” I suggested.

“I don’t know what the truth is,” he said.  “All I know is I’m uncomfortable and don’t know what this means.”

“Say that,” I told him.

Corey learned a lesson that day.  Rather than dodging or joking or disappearing all together, he expressed his true feelings.  What happened was a dialogue opened.  Maybe the whole relationship ends there, but at least they can walk away with their dignity in tact and without questions remaining unanswered.

I learned a lesson, too.  We ladies feel entitled to express in full everything we feel, both love and lust, our anger and overwhelming need.  But when you see it from a man’s perspective, you realize how coming on too strong brings nothing but forced obligation and loads of discomfort.

So maybe men could be a bit more direct and women could take a step back.  Or at least save the nudie pics for the second date.

Want to know what happened to Corey and the Naked Girl?  Check out Naked Girl II (or) Finding Your Soulmate.

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