Some Notes On Prospects, Feelings, Being Boring and Being Real

“I think he sounds like your best prospect in a while.”

My friend S took a bite of her oversized burger.

I cradled my spoon beneath a bowl of sun-colored soup.

I said, “You know he lives in a different time zone?”

S nodded, flashed the hint of a smug smile. “Yeah,” she said. “I do.”

I recalled the last time someone made such a comment. It was last summer, whilst having a drink with my grad school friend D. We were on a South Minneapolis patio, and had just run into a local bartender in whom I was then interested. Not long after that, said bartender and I went on a date. He didn’t ask me out again, but did, one afternoon two weeks later when he, evidently, had about thirty minutes to spare, attempt to lure me to his house. (“Is this an afternoon booty call?” “Yes.” Truly.)

I don’t offer these exchanges to discredit D or S, both of whom, I wholely trust, hold the interests of my heart deeply in theirs. To them, a good prospect is someone who (to the best of their knowledge) genuinely likes me.

Nor do I want to diminish the (many) merits of the prospect of whom S spoke.

I report them, rather, to highlight some recent, redundant chapters in the ongoing saga that is my love life, working title, Predictable Pursuits in Pointedly Unavailable Men. (Forgive me: when it comes to alliteration and men whose creative/professional ambitions preclude paying me much mind, I am weak.)

Some days after lunch with S, I flew to New York and was between turbo visits with friends and family when I walked the length of Park Slope and called my grandmother.

S and my grandmother belong to the same generation. S, however, is not my grandmother. And in the ten years since I stopped seriously dating her son, she’s grown comfortable asking, rather directly, about my sex life.

My grandmother, on the other hand, prefers a less forward approach.

We spent the first ten minutes of our conversation dancing around the topic, covering items like Donald Trump and the varying health of family dogs. Then, How’s your social life?

Also because she is my grandmother (her initial, as some may recall from the time when we were roommates, also happens to be S), I tend to give her a hard time.

“If by social life you mean, literally, social life, than it’s great. But I have a feeling that isn’t what you mean. I have a feeling what you mean is men.”

“Well, they might be included in your social life…”

“Yeah,” I said. “They are. And it’s terrible.”

“Oh, dear. Why is that?”

I was walking alongside the Prospect Expressway, and the traffic was loud, and so was the wind.

“Ugh,” I said. “It’s the same as always. I fall for men who aren’t available and can’t get excited about the ones that are.”

Grandmother S may hold back on the interrogation side of things, but, bless her Manhattan-raised soul, this is not the case when it comes to judgment.

“Well,” she said. “That isn’t exactly original.”

“I know,” I replied. “Tell me about it.”

Equally cliché is the attendant question: But, would you be more into him if he were less into you? Or, Would you be as into him if he were more into you?

The short answer to both questions is, of course, always, I have no idea.

But then there are the other short answers, which are, respectively, Probably, and Probably not.

To elaborate: when the touring musician who literally can’t find time to launder his towels doesn’t text me for several days/months, I’m left with a surplus of hours in which to question his level of interest. But the available guy? The one who visits when he says he will and says all the things I theoretically wanna hear? I don’t have to waste a minute worrying about his affections, and can instead go straight to exploring all the ways in which he may or may not diverge from the Imaginary Man Who I Still, Stubbornly, Think Should Be My Husband.

The problem with this extended answer is that, while interesting, it ultimately leaves one exactly where one began: with short answer number one. One, still, has no idea.

*

“Haven’t seen a blog post in a while…”  Available Prospect recently commented.

“Yeah…” I said. I didn’t explain. I couldn’t.

Here’s a thing:

It’s bad enough feeling bad because you have a strong, mutual connection with someone who is unable to date you.

It’s worse to feel like there’s something wrong with you because this has been a pattern throughout your adult (okay fine, and adolescent) life.

Add to that the guilt of boring your readers because, as Grandmother S succinctly phrased it, your love life is so unoriginal.

And, oh yeah, the fear of hurting people you care about. (A: “You tend to spend a lot of time thinking about your broken heart, but man, you’ve broken a lot of them, too.” Me: “But it’s so much easier to dwell in sadness than hurting others!”)

You know, it’s enough to keep a girl blogger quiet for roughly six weeks.

Here’s another thing: as I discussed with some budding creative writers the other night, no one wants a victim narrative. In literature, as in life, we’re interested in characters who act, who take accountability for their choices, who make choices. We’re less interested in what terrible circumstances befell people than how they chose to respond.

And, sweet readers, I am making no choices. I am sitting here in a quiet, sunny, south-facing room north of downtown Minneapolis, hiding from choices. (Also, my novel draft. Which, quietly existing, as it does, as a nonverbal file on my hard drive, is a terribly easy task.)

Instead, I am thinking about my conversation with A over drinks at a quiet French bar in Greenwich Village last week. I’m thinking about the different words she and I used to describe a shared feeling: for her it was grief, for me it was a tossup between anxiety and sadness. It’s something we both recognize as a constantly present sensation. A low-lying layer of, well, Name Your Own Feeling, that we deal with daily.

Sometimes ‘dealing with it’ means trying to ignore it, or cover it up with things like popcorn and reality TV. Other times it means tending to it, with yoga or friendship or writing or inordinate-seeming tears.

It’s the product of not having something you deeply want, compounded by being at a stage in life where not having this thing sets you apart from the bulk of your peers (have I mentioned how many weddings I’m going to this summer?) and subjects you to a vicious stigma that suggests inherent flaws with your body/brain/capacity to be loved.

I know, people. It’s uninteresting and unoriginal as hell.

But damn, is it real.

 

Notes, Continued, On Not Living In New York

It often happens, and is thus often remarked, that the wisdom people give you doesn’t resonate until long after it’s given.

So it happened that yesterday, I walked the streets in Park Slope, felt fond feelings toward the brownstone and tree-lined streets (quiet, as they blessedly, rarely were), and remembered something a colleague once said to me about five years ago, as she and I strolled the University of New Mexico campus.

“New York,” she said, “is a great place to visit.”

I (and likely, you) know that my attitudes toward this city have swung and swung like a cheap amusement park ride for the duration of the thirteen (golly!) years since I left for college: consistently, quickly, and not rarely inducing nausea.

So that when she said that to me, my gut reaction was something along the lines of: sure, that’s fine for you, you being a person who did not grow up in New York and therefore can feel adequate without living there. Or, to put it another way, that’s fine for you, you being an inferior person.

Flash forward: today, and all of the last days that I have spent in this city (outside those moments when I have been cursing crowds or humidity and clutching my niece like the world depended on it) I have thought to myself—that woman was right.

Friends, feel free to feel proud. Because I am pretty sure this trip marks the very first time that I have come to New York with zero desire to move back, and zero guilt about that feeling.

Okay. Obviously that’s not totally true. If it were totally true, than I wouldn’t feel compelled to qualify. Which, of course, I do.

So: I still would like to think that there will come a time in the relatively near future when New York will feel, both financially and emotionally, like a plausible and appealing option.

But, among the levels of clarity that have recently, thankfully emerged, one is this: New York is not the place for me right now.

This clarity, honestly, has emerged over time. Driving it along have been a couple of other pearls from writerly types: the editor who, over lunch in the West Village, hurriedly advised that she tells all young writers to get out of the city—until, she said, they become Jonathan Franzen or Zadie Smith. (Moments, I’m sure.) Too much going on, she said, and too easy for the competition to psych you out. And the grad school professor who, over coffee in Albuquerque, nodded his head and cautiously observed that I might have a choice: between being a writer and living in New York.

At the time I let his words sink in about as much as a suntan. I was having fun in New York. Also, I didn’t know where else to go.

*

“I don’t know how people do it.”

I was chatting with an acquaintance this past weekend at a Greenpoint wedding (one that managed to be equal parts rustic, Jewish and awesome): a woman who grew up in Chicago, and as of recently, resides, happily, in Brooklyn.

We were commiserating about the hardship of living in the place you’re from: how you can’t seem to escape the weight of those adolescent insecurities, those unshakeable family roles. She shared how she always makes a point of keeping a bit of cash on her at all times, but when she goes home, it somehow disappears.

I told her how despite being the most reliably punctual person I know, I managed to be late the last time I was dispatched to pick up my niece from school (imagine me + 5th Avenue in Park Slope + running like an escaped wildcat): for both of us, just as we were trying to prove to our relatives that we are not the flakey, incapable youngest children we know they think we are, we managed to mess up.

“Maybe someday we’ll be able to handle it,” I said to her as we took a pause from the dance party and leaned against a wood pillar.

“No,” she shook her head. “I don’t think so.”

It doesn’t matter how our families see us, or the people we went to high school with, or anyone else we associate with these sites of our upbringing. What matters is how yoked we are to the way we think they do—and how deeply it penetrates the way we see ourselves.

It’s a handicap that may, someday, be worth working against. But for now, I am content to accept it. And to enjoy coming to New York, as that grad school colleague suggested, as a great place to visit.

Which, in case you didn’t know, is awesome! (Probably it would be more awesome if I didn’t have to cram in time with twelve close relatives and about as many close friends…) But anyway. Still! There are reasons  reasons I probably don’t need to tell you (Just in case: The energy! The art! The brilliant, ambitious, attractive people!), why people put up with the crowds and the lines and the walkups and the astronomical rents.

Things, I must tell you, that I find much easier to enjoy these days in small doses that I have no (present) intention of making big.

More on Mobility, Minivans and Minneapolis Summer

“Now this sounds more like the Elizabeth Tannen I know and love!”

I was sitting across from a guy friend at a bar on Lake Street. It was raining outside and we were catching up and he was leaning his elbows on the table as he smirked.

He and I met my first year of grad school. You know, when I was twenty-five and single and behaving with men, essentially, the same way I do now–except with smaller stores of confidence and self-awareness and fewer boxes of books.

He observed as much: “You seem so much more secure now,” he said.

This has been a widespread reaction lately, as I’ve made the rounds and, one by one, over coffee or pilsner or lunch, friends have evaluated my psychic state, post break-up.

And as I have observed them, observing me, one thing that’s struck is the degree to which everyone, it would seem, feels more comfortable with me single.

“You’re just meant to be on your own,” one said, flashing a naughty grin as she rocked back and forth in her chair and made me mint tea.

“I’m just glad to know you, so that I can live through your adventures!” said another, over burgers in Park Slope.

My immediate reaction to this is defensive. So, I rationalize:

Maybe it’s that people who are coupled like to have some singles around, through whom (from the safe vantage of their regular cuddling and sex) they can get a vicarious kick.

Maybe, as a few have bluntly put it, it’s that folks think I write better (and probably more) when I’m alone. Related: the fact that my identity—both private and public—feels more tied to being solo, and, while it may not be the noblest trait (how many human ones are?), we all tend to feel more comfortable when our loved ones—usually for better but sometimes for worse—stay as they are.

To give people, or at least my friends, a bit more credit: they have also been unfailingly supportive because they know I made a good decision. Not to say that they didn’t love who I was with (to a person, rather, they did) but because they can see I made a tough choice I knew was right—something that, generally, ultimately, boosts all of our self-worth.

 *

I have to tell you I laughed a little when I read that.

The that my friend R was referring to in her email was my gripe about the fact that I was leaving Minneapolis for three weeks in New York (greetings from Brooklyn!), and that, already, after perhaps the Most Melodramatic Monthlong Exit in the history of Taos, I had grown so attached to my new(ish) home that I didn’t want to leave there, either.

One thing you have to understand about this, on background, is that summer in Minneapolis is pretty special. What with everyone having been stuck indoors for nine months, when the warm weather strikes—especially in that (granted, brief) moment before the heat and humidity and musquitoes amp up—the place turns into a giant party. Everyone wants to hang out, barbecue, make out, bike, etc.

This, needless to say, would be enough of a reason for me to resist leaving. Another is that I’ve spent the last few weeks setting myself up for the summer and the season: you know, running and yoga routines, minivan, bike. To say nothing of the coziest roommate sitch west of Rhode Island–about which I’ve probably gloated enough. And, for all of the ways in which I crave change, I sometimes, just for a second, would like a moment to feel settled.

But then, who am I kidding?

“Do you think I actually love to move around?”

A laughed over the phone. “Are you joking?” She said. “Of course you do.”

And, yet again (sorry, I feel most recent posts have led to this same spot) I must come to terms with the fact that (for one, my friends know me better than I know myself, and) the person I would like to be is not, always, exactly, who I am.

I would like to be the person who is monogamous: whose normal mode is coupled. I would like to be the person who is happy to stay in one place for more than a few months at a time without growing restless. I would like to be the person who buys a minivan because she anticipates having a litter of children to cart around town in it—not because it is a cheap car owned by a good friend that runs and will fit a lot of stuff for the next, (probably) inevitable move.

But this is not the case. For now at least, being single sounds pretty fun. As (usually) does being a bit of a nomad. And frankly, nothing could sound less appealing than hours spent chauffering a batch of kids. (Though this likely has more to do with the driving than the children; I may need to move to New York when I procreate, or else teach my kids to fly.)

This lifestyle (you know, the single, unstable one) can be exhausting. When A and I complain to each other about it, as we are wont, on occasion, to do, she is always quick with the rejoinder:

“Just wait,” she says. “In ten years we’ll be calling each other with children screaming and boring husbands in the background. And we will long for this time.”

 

On New Love, New York Pizza, and Saying Farewell For Now

“I know you didn’t get upset about pizza. So, what were you really upset about?”

I furrowed my brow. Thought for a second. And looked up at N.

“Um, pizza?”

As my therapist was quick to note (Therapist: “You look shocked.” Me: “I am! Isn’t it shocking?” Therapist: “Well, kind of.”), there are many things that distinguish my relationship with N from those I’ve had previously.

Perhaps most notably, there is the fact that he really, really likes me. When he visited New York this past weekend, he even brought my parents gifts.

“You really don’t need to do that,” I tried to assure him when he texted a photo of a cheese plate. (Would your mom like this?)

“I want to,” he said. “Besides, I’m sleeping with their daughter. Isn’t it the least I can do?”

“Honey,” I replied, gentle. “I have slept with a lot of other men. Pretty sure none of them felt they owed my mother pottery for the privilege.”

Unmoved, he bought her a scarf.

One of the reasons N and I like each other is that we tend to argue. About issues, I mean: our nightly video chats have involved heated debate over things like an Obesity Tax and Capital punishment; the environmental impact of locavorism and gun laws.

But our most personal fight to date, abetted by whiskey, Fernet Branca, and four consecutive days of meeting Everyone I Love, took place over a single, folded slice of Joe’s Pizza.

Or, rather, the fact that N was not impressed.

How can you not like this pizza?” I pleaded.

“It’s not that I don’t like it,” he explained. “I just don’t think it’s that different than other pizza.”

I was beside myself, careening from one desperate, ineffective persuasion attempt to the next: New York pizza is different. It’s the best. This is the most superior slice in the city. How could he not see the difference?

In the morning, I grasped to explain my response.

“I met a ton of friends and family and loved all of them,” he reasoned. “And you’re really upset that I didn’t like a certain food?”

“I know,” I nodded, huddled next to him on a soggy 6 train. “It’s a little crazy.”

Part of it, I explained, was the implication that my Pizza Passion is an outgrowth of New York Elitism: a condition I not only battle against, but find frequent fault with others for buying into. Part of it was that I was overwhelmed. Part of it was that he was leaving. Part of it was that I was drunk.

But, also, really, it was about pizza: when you love someone, you want them to love the same things you do–people and places, books and movies, forms of intellectual debate. And, yes, food items.

Granted, certain of those categories are more important than others. Life with a partner who hates my mother might be a tad more challenging than life with someone who doesn’t, also, require a late-night stop at Joe’s on Fifth. Particularly if, as I’m pretty sure is the case for N, they’re willing to come along, and perhaps hand me a napkin.

But the Pizza Episode also felt symptomatic of one of my life’s present themes: jumping into the Big Things, while fretting, endlessly, over those that seem Incredibly Small.

It took me a matter of weeks, for example, to decide on, yet another, major move. But whether to go to a Zumba class at 12:00 on Lafayette or 1:15 at East 34th Street? I practically lost my shit.

“It makes sense,” Therapist sagely said. “You’ve got to deal with the big stuff some way. So it’s going to come out in the little.”

Allow me one final non-sequitur to inform you of another recent, and rather impulsively made decision: I’ve decided, for now, to stop blogging.

There are a few reasons why. For one, writing about relationships is much more challenging when you’re actually in one. For another, focusing is also hard–and, as you know, for the past year, I’ve been making variously aggressive attempts to focus on a book manuscript. Finally, in solidarity with other Writers Who Ought To Get Paid for What We Do, it seems prudent to at least try placing my essays in venues–unlike this one–where money changes hands.

I don’t want to call it quits forever. I love having this space, I love that you visit it, and the idea of leaving it completely is sad. But I think, for now at least, a Farewell For Now makes sense.

I’ll keep the site up–and post news about other publications as it, hopefully, comes.

Thanks, always, for reading. Be in touch. And see you, somewhere, soon.

On Feeling Funky, Giving Up Control, Talking and Not

“This is not an okay time to be in a funk.”

A was right: there had never been a less acceptable moment for malaise. It was a sunny, warmish Saturday in New York, we had just emerged from the most joyously sweaty reggae dance class that is my new obsession, I was soon headed to dinner and celebration with eight of my best college gals; Obama was still President and the Knicks had won six straight; I had no business being down.

A swung her arm around my shoulder. “Let’s just sort this out.”

I took a couple of the deep breaths that are my trademark, paternally inherited Stress Tic, and started to talk.

The day before I’d spent a lovely, equally sunny afternoon with Ari, and we’d had something of A Talk; at first it left me feeling positive about things, about myself, about him–until, suddenly, I didn’t. Suddenly, I realized, I wasn’t sure where we stood or how I or he felt. Suddenly, I realized, I wasn’t sure whether we should keep talking during my imminent five weeks out of town; whether we’d keep trying when I got back.

“But it isn’t what I’m feeling about him,” I explained to A. “It’s that I’m letting myself feel anything at all.”

*

“If you can not trip out about it, sure.”

A few weeks ago, when I talked on the phone with that astrologist, I beseeched her for practical advice: what I should be when I grow up, where I should live, whether I should keep seeing Ari or not.

“If you can spend time with him and just enjoy it, great,” she instructed. “But if it’s gonna cause you more stress than fun, forget it. So, can you not trip out?”

Pause.

“Um…” I I stared at the rug on the living room floor, considering paisley and the gap between what I wanted to say and truth.

“Well, not really…” I said. “But I can try!”

She chuckled, and went back to forbidding me from pursuing Social Work.

A few days later Ari and I stood on the subway platform at Union Square, following an art film and Chinese dinner. (Between such dates with a Jewish guy and runs along the East River, I basically live in 1970s Woody Allen.)

“I just…” He was starting to Talk–I could feel it.

“How about we don’t?” I said.

What I was telling him was that I didn’t want to talk about “us,” but what I was telling myself was that I didn’t want to worry about it: I had determined to take those words to heart–to not “trip out,” to just enjoy my time with him and not spend energy contemplating our status or our future. I’d determined to chill out.

And for a few weeks, I did. I stopped (mostly) narrating every development to my girlfriends. I stopped reading about our astrological compatability online. I stopped obsessing about how much he liked me–besides, how much did I even like him?

I set aside the questions.

But with a week until my (temporary) departure, I  no longer could.

And at first, I felt like talking about things was the right choice. Until, the next day, walking with A after dance class, I wasn’t. I had done so well, I told her, at “not tripping out.” I had done so well at pulling back, feeling detached, withholding energy.

“I should be thinking about my book right now,” I whined. (A sentence, by the way, that grips me with a whole other cliched brand of anxiety–really, I’m someone who has to aggressively claim mental space for ‘my art’? Ugh.)  ”And instead I’m using up energy feeling angsty about this?”

“You’re beating yourself up,” A chided.

“I know,” I replied. “That’s the point.”

She shook her head. “You’re not allowed to do that. It’s okay to feel whatever you’re feeling.”

We do this. We decide how it is we’re “supposed” to feel–about a person, about a breakup, about a loss or a change–and we chide ourselves when what comes up doesn’t match.

The whole point of “not tripping out” was to relinquish control–and I’d managed to do just the opposite. I wanted to control how I felt about Ari, when, of course, there was no way I could. We don’t summon emotions; we manage them.

“What is going to get you out of this funk?” A asked. “Coffee? Kombucha? Walking?”

I pondered. “I could go for some Earl Gray with soy… and, yeah, a walk.”

“Done.”

We marched to the closest coffee shop. We strolled to Carroll Gardens. I felt better. But not totally.

It wasn’t the best moment to feel sad, I realized, but that didn’t mean I wouldn’t .

On Putting It Off. Mostly.

When you start running into family friends and the first thing out of their mouths is, “Last time I saw you, you were about to write an expose about my son!”, it’s hard not to ask yourself some questions.

Questions such as: was said son even more horrified than previously thought? Are his parents more horrified than, three years ago, I ever knew? And: am I just as oblivious to my perception among young and creative New York men as I am to middle-aged, intellectual Jews in suburban New Jersey?

Such questions–in addition to their unsavoriness–are, I suspect, not very interesting: so far as I can tell, most of you don’t publish your love lives online, and therefore have likely limited interest in the ramifications thereof. Well, fine.

The subject you may be interested in, though–my dating life–is, these days, an unusual commodity. Today, I thought to encourage my neighbors to collect points when they spot me with a single straight man–the way (I hear) one does for an especially rare species of bird. (Perhaps, too, I thought, such activity may aid in my–still embryonic–Campaign for Brooklynites to Say Hi on the Street.)

So, sorry about that. I would like to have a boyfriend. I just seem to find myself rather conflicted about, um, finding one.

“Whatever you do, don’t get yourself into any romantic entanglements.”

I was having drinks with a former public radio colleague, one who–like most of my former public radio colleagues–dispenses pithy wisdom with the ease and humor of a multitasking Sorkin character. He took a sip of Cabernet. “Bad idea.”

“I know,” I said, emphatically, as though in full agreement. We’d just been talking about the fact that I’m trying to work on my book this summer, that I’m not working in order to work on my book this summer.

And then, oddity of oddities, I hopped on the F train to meet someone for vaguely romantic drinks: someone who I assured myself I wouldn’t really like–it had been ten years since we last saw one another–but, of course, did.

The following afternoon, as I sat at my coffee shop, trying to write, but instead pondering the likelihood that I would see this guy again, grasping for an adolescent memory he swore I’d suppressed, my friend’s comment rung in my ears.

“Shit,” I thought. “This is exactly what he was talking about. Boys are fucking distracting.”

So distracting. Especially when the “job” you’ve got is not one anyone is paying you to do, but rather, one that, should it never get done, zero people will actually care and a few may experience genuine relief.

And yet: boyfriends are nice! They go on walks with you and your dog! They help with your computer problems! They provide attention–physical and otherwise! I like walks. I like technological assistance. I like (!) attention.

The problem, as you know, is getting there: all those nights of leaving your house, staying out too late and drinking too much beer so that you sleep half the next day and by the time you’ve gone for a walk (alone) and eaten breakfast (also) and sweated your way to the cafe, you only have a few hours until it closes, at which point you tell yourself you should go someplace else and keep writing but then talk yourself out of it because, really, there isn’t any spot around where the staff are so nice and the coffee so tasty and all requisite conditions are assured for you to get your work done.

Which is simply no good.

And so, I seek a middle ground: a place of being social enough so I don’t drive myself crazy and become an overweight spinster, and yet not so social that I sacrifice productivity because then I feel like a real ass.

And I tell myself that I can have some control over meeting someone, that I can plan it, swear off “entanglements” for a season, or a year, or a few–whatever it takes–and that for all my longing to be have a relationship, ultimately, intimately, in a reliable-and-relatively-soon fashion, I can put it off if I want to.

And I try, mostly, to want to.

(Not) Fucked In Park Slope

This morning, fighting my way through a crowd of dogs, toddlers and overpriced cherries at the Grand Army Plaza Farmers Market, I turned to my new guy (gay) friend G and said: “I’m not sure I can leave my house in this neighborhood on the weekends.”

He looked back me sympathetically. “Yeah,” he said. “It’s intense.”

And then, after we’d parted ways few blocks later–swamped in a similar mob on 7th Avenue–I thought to myself: “Maybe I should rename my blog ‘Single in Park Slope’!”

And then: “No, cause if I have ‘single’ in the title, people might expect me to write about ‘single’ things like meeting men and going on dates.”

Next: “Well, there is ‘dating’ in the title now, and there ain’t much of that going on…”

And then I stopped thinking critically and resumed my reflexive, irrational hatred toward the variously faded canvas grocery bags obstructing my path.

So, Park Slope. You’ve likely heard the stereotype: streets saturated with straight young families, grouchy lesbians and eccentric co-op members. The place is such an infamous punchline, one hesitates to go anywhere near the same tired tropes. (Besides: there are others, with bigger audiences, who do it better.)

But then, one moves here. And realizes one cannot sit by one’s window between the hours of two and four lest one become deaf from all the labored cries of “Come to mommy!“; regularly finds oneself the only human not breast-feeding in one’s favorite coffee shop; checking not to see whether an attractive man has a wedding ring–he does–but whether his wife is as good-looking as him because if no, maybe they’ll divorce sooner than later. (Not that one is petty or jealous or, you know, cares.)

And: one realizes, sometimes, the reality is worse than the cliche.

Last week, my friend A–also single, and living in Manhattan–came to join me for a writing/work date at my local spot. We’d been there no more than ten minutes when an extremely attractive guy walked in: tall, dark and handsome–tousled brown hair, light eyes, worn black t-shirt and jeans. Heads turned.

“Hey!” The cute blonde barista cried out as the customer slid off his sunglasses and approached the counter, oozing appeal. “Congratulations! How’s the new baby doing?”

A and I locked eyes. “I can never come back here again,” she sighed, burying her head in her hands.

It can be, to put it mildly, a little much.

But there are plusses to my current living situation: I’m right next to Prospect Park. About eight blocks between two of my brothers and their families. Fifteen minutes from my parents. And, you know, the whole living rent-free (temporarily, don’t kill me) thing in an area that, if a bit frustrating in certain ways, is also extremely beautiful–with tree-lined streets, gorgeous brick brownstones, and extensive, international take-out options. I got it pretty friggin’ good: to complain, in my situation, would not be very cute.

But hey, who’s trying to look cute these days? (A lot of people around here–let me tell you. The other day I saw a group of moms in a circle in the park, doing synchronized squats beside their strollers and push-ups on picnic tables, and wondered sincerely whether they had been planted there for the sole purpose of making me vomit in my mouth.)

Anyhow. I’m not complaining. I feel like I’m giving Michelle Williams a serious run for her money in the Most Charmed Girl in Kings County department. (I say that only, by the way, because she’s dating Jason Segal–word on the Brownstone Brooklyn street is that she’s not very nice.)

Besides, I’m not even trying to date right now. What do I care if all the hot guys are taken? And kids? I don’t have anything against them. Sometimes they pet my dog and say unexpectedly comic things. And that’s cute. Someday, probably, I’ll want a couple of my own.

Just not, unfortunately, any time soon. Though, as the local mothers will tell you, it’s never too early to start scheming them into P.S. 321!

Okay. I may have to move.

Here We Go Again…

With a little over a month left til I pack up my things and move across the country, a few things are bound to happen.

One: I will freak out about my general life goals and plans/lack thereof.

Two: I will panic about the size of my book and sweater collections.

Three (you guessed it): I will meet a guy I actually like.

Done. Done. And, done.

In many, perhaps most parts of my life–dry-cleaning, hair maintenance, grading my students’ papers in a timely fashion–I am horribly inconsistent.

But when it comes to this, you can count on me like a Carmelo clutch shot: each time I move, I meet someone who lives distinctly not in the place I’m moving to.

And not just someone. Usually, it’s someone pretty special: a not-terribly-flaky, non-alcoholic, decently-mannered-and-yet-somehow-also-physically-attractive guy who seems to have mutual-like feelings.

Every. Single. Time.

Which, technically, means twice–before now.

The first, of course, was M: a graphic design student who I met on a bus from DC to NY six weeks before I left for Brooklyn. We spent the next month involved casually and the next three years intensely–in a mostly-platonic long distance friendship during which I nursed epic, misguided daydreams about him being my husband. (You may recall reading about them.)

Then, in New York–months before moving to New Mexico–I met Z: a handsome labor lawyer who responded to my Missed Connections post on Craiglist after we eyed each other on a Brooklyn-bound F. I worried that he was too nice before falling as hard as I ever have for anyone, proposing that we try long distance, and almost deciding to go to school in North Carolina so that we could be closer. (A few months later, I–publicly–concluded the chemistry was never that great.)

And now, here I am, having just started seeing someone really damn cool. (And with whom things are very, very new, and about whom, under normal circumstances–non-I’m moving in six weeks circumstances–I would never write so soon.)

But, as it happens, I am moving. And I’m exhausted. And vaguely contemplating how the hell to get all my shit from one side of America to the other while expending my actual energy putting off that pesky grading and all the other life maintenance shit I’ve spent the past dissertation-year neglecting.

All to say: I’m too tired to censor myself.

“Probably, it’s a terrible idea,” I said to my friend J the other night over plates of Thai food.

She nodded. “It might be.”

Moments earlier she had been describing her own imminent departure–one she isn’t sure is permanent–and while she talked I’d fantasized about being miserably unhappy in Brooklyn.

“I mean, it’s just gonna make it harder for me to leave,” I said. “Ugh. I shouldn’t get attached.”

“Maybe not,” she replied. “But…I dunno. It might be kinda nice…and fun…” She tilted her head from right to left.

“Yeah…” I said, spooning some more curry onto my plate.

Needless to say, when I got back in my car and saw a text from Guy In Question, I responded immediately: without a second’s hesitation. Who am I kidding? There is no part of me capable of resisting a quick and exciting chemistry. Not a single, mother-effing part.

And, after all, I’m not alone in my habit: as another friend put it in a recent email, meeting someone before you move is “in the moving rule book.”

“You have to meet the perfect guy before you go,” she wrote. “And then you have to have a long distance romance with him where he flies in for weekends and vice versa, he ends up moving here, and then you break up because, you’re both like, meh… Just kidding. But not really.”

It’s a cute (and often, true) thought. But of course, I don’t have to do any of those things. At this moment, I don’t have to do anything. I don’t have to think about my books or my career or the fact I might be foolishly falling for someone I (maybe, possibly) shouldn’t. Again.

At least, not yet. What can I say? It’s what I–perhaps, what we–do.

 

On Letting Your Silly Out

So as you may have gathered from my last post, I have a potential, possible, very new, fresh, fragile, name-your-qualifier non-committed-but-obviously-I’m-excited-and-therefore-terrified Thing going on. (Or maybe you didn’t gather; as one friend curtly commented to me in response to that post: “Very vague.”)

I’m keeping it that way. But, baby steps, there is one (more) thing I want to share.

This: on New Years Eve, he and I took the subway from Brooklyn to Manhattan wearing matching sunglasses. Why’d we do that? No good reason. Cause we wanted to, and, mostly, cause it made us laugh.

A couple days later, I took an afternoon walk with my brother J and sister-in-law D around Prospect Park. “We wrote a song this morning!” they announced, going onto sing, on 15th Street, in two-person round, made-up lyrics about vegetables (“Winter cabbage, winter cabbage…Only in the winter! Only in the winter!”), to the tune of Frere Jacques.

Before I could even register–much less vocalize–shock at my normally sober-faced brother’s suddenly brazen childish side (did I mention he’s in he’s late thirties?) they burst into another original tune: “This one’s about how Kanye West stole our dreams,” D proclaimed. “We’re going to send it to him!”

By that point, I’d resolved to restrain myself from making one of the roughly eighteen snarky comments that had sprung instantly to mind. After all, I’d just had occasion to sympathize: to remember that, sometimes, the best part of being with someone is letting–in full, childlike force–your silly out.

I know: you’ve patiently read along as I’ve preached, in post after post, that the more I date, the less I know about what I require in a partner; the more people I’m with, I’ve taken to crowing, the more I realize there are all sorts of ways to find happiness with someone: type, shmype.

I’m still standing on that soapbox. Mostly. Maybe I’m slumping a little bit, though (sorry, awkward metaphor) with the realization of how awesome–and, perhaps, essential–is is to be with a guy who brings out my inner goofball.

You see, I have one: an inner goof. But she doesn’t come out all that much. Sure, I joke around; I make variously successful efforts to pepper my conversations with intelligent wit. But it’s not often that I spend an afternoon giggling until my stomach hurts. Or dance around a living room to James Brown before breakfast. Or, you know, wear sunglasses on the subway.

“Why is it so important to be silly with someone?” I asked my best friend friend R over afternoon beers. (In case you missed it, winter break = lots of afternoon drinking. God bless grad school.)

“So funny you bring that up,” she replied, going on to tell me how her serious, live-in boyfriend had recently addressed that very thing: telling how much he valued how he could be more silly and playful with her than just about anyone else in his life.

“But why?” I asked again.

“I’m not sure,” she replied. “I guess we all need to lighten up?”

I think there’s truth in that: there’s a lot of serious shit in the world. And even, in a relationship: we have frequent occasion to be contemplative and thoughtful. We don’t always remember to acknowledge, outside of The Daily Show and Seth Rogen comedies, the necessity of cracking up.

The next day, over a pie of DiFara’s pizza (truly–in case you were waiting for me to weigh in–the best in New York), I asked her boyfriend what he thought. And his answer resonated even more: as he put it, when you can be silly with someone, it shows how comfortable you are with them. How much you can let your guard down. How little you care if they see you look ridiculous. In a way: how much you can be yourself.

I like that. There’s an essential vulnerability in being silly: just the act of laughing (and, especially, giggling), signals a loss of control–your body pulses, your muscles contract, you can’t stop or manage the movements. And there’s something really special about being able to do that, being able (and happy!) to relinquish the control we all cling to–in our lives, with others–in the company of the person with whom we’re intimate.

Did I just squeeze every ounce of funny out of the subject matter of humor? Yep, pretty sure I did. I guess that’s my cue.

And: scene. Happy silliness.

 

Yay 2012: The Paradox of Options

The other night I lamented to my friend D, over beers and corn dogs at a Brooklyn bar, the fact that I ever sincerely believed I might wind up marrying one of my exes.

“How could I have talked myself into that?” I exclaimed, dodging bocce balls.

“I wouldn’t worry about it too much,” he replied. “I mean, that’s basically your starting point.”

I laughed, cause it’s funny, cause it’s true. And it was especially funny, and especially true, because of what had happened just the day before: when I had an extended, if joking, conversation about marriage with a man who I had met–through a friend, in my defense–hours earlier.

You can imagine the dialogue: “You’re twenty-eight? I’m twenty-eight! Let’s get married!”, followed by a discussion of variously significant details: how many kids would you like? City or country? Wedding or elope? Etc. What, this doesn’t sound familiar?

Fascinating. Well, it does to me. It’s only happened a couple of times, but both with men I’d met just that day, and neither of whom I ever saw again–much less met at the alter.

But it won’t surprise you to know that, both times, too, there was part of me that could totally imagine getting hitched to the guy. (You know the perfect stranger to whom I’d just been introduced.)

Because: once you’ve established banter and attraction and mutual interest in a shared third party, what else, really, is there?

I mean, besides whether they want kids and where they’d like to live–both issues, by the way, I’m pretty sure remain unresolved in many a long-term couple–what else do you have to know?

In other words: if you really want to, you can make it work with just about anyone. (Really, I think, anyone. But, preferably: anyone you wouldn’t mind having regular sex with and talking to for a few consecutive hours.) I believe that. Being with anyone is gonna be work; it’s just a matter of whether you’re both willing.

And yet, I also believe–or rather, have, rather arduously, not to mention conspicuously, learned–that it can be hard to find a person with whom you share that kind of chemistry, basic as it seems, and have it all work out. (The more I think about it, the more “all” is just code for “timing.” Which means that I’ve been blogging about relationships for two years and have nothing more to show for it than an ancient cliche. Glad we had this talk.)

Moving on. Because what I really want to say is this: and yet. And yet: in spite of how many possibilities there, rationally, ought to be, there often seem so few. And not in a negative, god-I-just-can’t-meeet-anyone-screw-you-perpetually-crappy-timing sort of way; I mean the other side of it: the wow-this-person-is-so-amazing-how-can-I-ever-let-them-go thing. You know that thing?

Pretty sure we can relate on this one: it’s called infatuation, and few things are more fun. I mean, what tops that rush of opening yourself up and getting to know someone new and feeling like your connection is so rare that it’s worth whatever it takes?

So here’s the truth: I’m pretty happy right now, and it’s a lot harder to make sense of feeling good than it is of feeling bad. Also, generally, more boring. But it’s 2012 and I haven’t blogged in a while and I wanted to share that quote from my friend D at the beginning and I’m not really ready to write about anything else that’s going on.

But I did want to say this, cause I think it’s interesting, and maybe you do, too: when it comes to romantic partners, there are endless options out there. And yet: sometimes, there’s nothing better than feeling–in spite of yourself–that there’s only one you want.