(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.

Some Notes on (Alleged) Neediness

“I have a feeling I’m going to read that online in the near future,” my mother said, giggling and smugly sipping her espresso at the Scandinavian-styled Park Slope coffee shop where we were taking a pause from our holiday mother-daughter shopping spree.

It’s not often that my mother offers sincere romantic advice–as I’ve written, between the two of us, I tend to be far more comfortable in that territory. (To her credit, not exactly a fair contest.)

But when she does, it’s reliably valuable. And, usually, pretty even: Take things slowly. Men freak out when you get emotional. Did she mention, I should slow down a little bit?

This time, though, her counsel was markedly flip: “He hasn’t texted back in two days!” I moaned to her, my lower lip in full pout.

Her reply: “Oh, come on. Don’t be so needy.”

“Who, me?” I scoffed. “Needy?” Okay I didn’t say that. But I wanted to. Instead, I raised my eyebrows and said, “It’s not that I’m needy. It’s just that I’m neurotic and anxious and paranoid. There’s a difference.” (Proof: “I haven’t texted again.”)

My mother shrugged. “Okay,” she said, and off we went: dodging strollers down 5th Avenue to the overpriced shoe store half a block away.

I had a similar exchange back in Albuquerque a few days later, as I vented to my friend A about the same thing. “Well have you been texting a lot?” she asked, turning her head and narrowing her eyes across the table. “I feel like you do that.”

“Why does everyone think I’m so needy?” I shot back. “I don’t text that much! I only talk about it!”

(A conversation reminiscent of another I had with my sister-in-law over break. Her: “Well, aren’t you obsessed with finding a boyfriend?” Me: “No! I just write about it!” My “persona” spiel, it would seem, only goes so far. But, I digress.)

Let’s set aside, for a moment, the question of how “needy” I actually am. On second thought, let’s not. Because yeah, I guess I do have some needs, and ya know what: I don’t think they’re unreasonable. (Particularly when I’m not, ahem, demanding they be met.)

Here’s what I need: I need to know what to expect from someone. That’s all. Should I expect that we’re going to be in close contact? Should I expect that we’re going to have dinner on Thursday night? Should I expect that we’re going to fall madly in love and buy a house in brownstone Brooklyn and stroll our child around on Sunday mornings, browsing expensive clogs?

I mean: is that so much to ask?

Well, according to every woman in my life–from my mother, on: yes. Apparently you can’t actually know what to expect from someone right away. Apparently you can’t even assume they know what to expect of themselves. Apparently, expecting to know expectations makes one needy.

And, heavens: we don’t want that.

So here’s the thing. I know I have to go with the flow–whatever the hell that means. I know that I should demonstrate faith in widespread wisdom about the male gender, such widespread wisdom indicating that men do not like being confronted with women’s needs, men finding it more attractive when women are independent and carefree and apparently unaffected by their behavior, however peculiar or confusing. I know that’s what I’m supposed to do. And, I am here to tell you, I’m pretty good at just doing it.

But good lord: sometimes I don’t want to. Sometimes, I don’t want to have to pretend that I’m indifferent, or not thinking about someone, or not wondering whether they’re thinking about me. Sometimes, it even feels dishonest: what’s the point in pursuing emotional intimacy with a person if you can’t even be open with them about how you feel?

Did I mention that I’m not very patient?

Unfortunately, I get that from my dad.