Thursday, May 27, 2010

fourteen hour workday

In which our heroine finds herself at an after party in a swank SoHo hotel, supping on Pinot Grigio and shrimp roulade, only to remember how much she hates parties.

It must have been when the woman at my table said, "It was obviously the glittery leopard!" that I felt the urge.

And, because I'm currently beta-testing an abrupt and ass-kicking change of M.O., I slipped my purse out from under the registration desk, made like I was going to the loo, then snuck down the fire stairs into a gated park enclosure (under construction), hopped over a planter, cleared a chain link fence, and was suddenly free in the ninety degree night.

On the way to the train, I got a text from the Photojournalist. Did I want to meet for a nightcap? Sure, why not . . .

But sitting there on that park bench on Lafayette Street, I remember thinking, Good lord, but this man is a bore. A pretentious, self-inflated douchebag. Proof (as if I needed more) that artists and intellectuals, the men we consider 'interesting' and of a certain ilk, are really just phonies and cronies to lesser degrees of manhood.

So I left him there, legs crossed quizzically, as I practically sprinted to the subway.

I'm done, ladies and gentleman. I'm just done. I've got such better things to do than suffer this tedium of plying and posturing. Somewhere out there, someone's gonna treat me right. And he'll come looking for me. He'll listen to my bad jokes and ambling anecdotes. He'll stay out past his bedtime for the pleasure of my company and go to work exhausted. Because I'll be worth the effort.

For posterity's sake, however, may I just have one last rousing chorus of 'If This Is What's Out There, I'll Take Alone Any Day'?

Thank you, Internet.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

on being a woman

Okay, this is the part where I say how my life has become the loneliest place I know.

Peter has herniated a disc, poor thing. So straight off, I come back from the above pictured paradise to an empty apartment.

I know I talk about boys a lot. Well, men. Or at least the goons parading around as such. Now this is the part where I give a great big Eff You to everyone who has ever said, "you've got too many balls in the air" in the same breath as "you should get out there and date." I realize this site has become the place where I sort through the dross in my fishing net (shrimp, tires, candy wrappers), but listen, it is a jungle out there. I'm trying to uphold my feminist ideals and still not end up alone and surrounded by cats. I'm doing my best not to despair and whine, but hits are taken all the same. Each one harder to shake off.

The following is a transcription of a conversation (over text) last week with the Photojournalist:

Him: "Have you fled the country yet?"

Me: "As soon as the right train hits the station, I'm jumping."

Him: "Well first you ought to jump the train to my place so we can discuss this over cocktails."

Me: "It's a bit of a trek from my neighborhood. Perhaps we could meet in the middle?"

Him: "Maybe. But I'm worth the trip."

I nearly flung my phone across the restaurant in rage. I ended the thread with a snippy "So am I" and slammed shut another chapter labeled: "Douchebag."

Then there was a cryptic invitation (over email) from the G.I.Q.

And then last night, I tried to have the talk with Non-Date. The 'hey-we-can-just-be-friends-if-you-want-but-in-deference-to-what-has-passed-between-us-can-we-at-least-acknowledge-each-other-once-before-we-close-the-subject' chat. My attempt, however feeble, was blocked with a snide comment and a car door closing.

Another night watching the West Wing to keep from crying and wishing the world—and my life—were written by Aaron Sorkin. Another morning of showering bitterly on the way to The Job Where Self-Respect Goes To Die. Another commute wondering why the hell I live here where people are so flat fucking miserable.

Perhaps this post has gone a bit haywire. You'll have to forgive me. This happens every time I leave New York and see people breathing and functioning and living comfortably (yes, and sipping cocktails on the [insert body of water here]).

Fortunately or unfortunately, I don't have time to go home and wallow. Or take myself on artist dates. Or decide what I actually want to be when I grow up. Or look for another job. Or even do what my best friends advise and have some good wine and good cheese and good cries.

I'm frankly just afraid I'll snap.

Then I think of my mother, who is more or less in the same place called Lonely, only a couple decades my senior. These posts, however humiliating, however compromising to my better reputation as an Independent Woman, are for her. And, really, for every woman who goes through this crap and has these feelings, but is too afraid to appear weak in discussing them.

I could write about so many things. Tango, food, the books I read, the trials and traumas of life in New York City. I'm a complex and educated lady with passion, passion everywhere (and not a drop to drink?). But there are other—likely better—blogs about those things. What I'm trying to do here, I realize, is stay painfully, embarrassingly honest about what it feels like to be a single woman in this world where we're supposed to do everything on our own. Where people buy love on the Internet with monthly dues. And where most men have decided they can get away with bad manners and bachelorhood forever because, well, we've all been willing to settle for so much less.

I can't ease my mother's aloneness any more than she can mine. We've each accustomed ourselves to such a level of high-functioning survival-mode self-sufficiency that we are no longer comforted by the empathy of another. We can hardly spend time together because the presence of someone who truly understands us backwards and forwards, either side up or in the past, has become alien, discomfiting, and only causes us to forget our keys or lose our sunglasses or just plain fall apart.

Our only option is to learn but good that we are each alone. The perfect job, the perfect boyfriend will not change that one disagreeable truth. Those of you who have found that comfort in your daily selves may spare those of us who have not your lectures. Take the high road here, please. And this means you, Anonymous 1.

I'm sitting here with my sprouted grain toast and my antioxidant green tea, trying to do everything right. Yogi tea offers you a little saying every day. Today reads: "Be happy so long as breath is within you."

Easy for you to say, tea bag of platitudes.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

just in case you were curious

Forwent a date with the Photojournalist for grilled cheese and tomato soup with my own sweet self and am now watching TV shows on demand that make me feel better for falling for an inappropriate man. Or two. If you're counting.

It was a terrible day. The kind that fills you with impotent, post-it slapping rage and makes you borderline nauseated. But also the kind of day that makes you realize that, if these are the challenges we face, we've got it fairly easy.

Work sucks. Love sucks. And I'm afraid of flying.

Live goes on, five minutes at a time.

*p.s. Facebook just suggested I "say hello" to the G.I.Q. God help us, civilization is dead.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

no balls of which to be belle

It was ironic to me to be called out for boy craziness in that last post (of all posts). The night I chose solitude and spaghetti over company for company's sake, the night I chose stillness. Anonymous 1, this is for you.

I am tired. I know it seems the more casual kisses you accumulate, the better you should feel about yourself. Not so. With each one I get further and further from the magic I'm looking for.

I started dating after Peter, to null the void. I thought if I filled my dance card I could stave off the inevitable sadness that comes when the man you thought you'd marry . . . politely declines. I started dating because Non-Date, who had been lodged in my heart like a chicken bone—for years, bailed on me. (Almost immediately after finally making a move.) Admittedly, I've been a bit of a bandit. I've had more dates than a Medjool thief in Morrocco.

Then again, I'm not sure what I've been doing can be called 'dating.' With very few notable exceptions, I've gotten some random sidewalk smooches to show for myself and not much else. Hardly my childhood ideal of courtship. So, before y'all get the idea that it's been nothing but wine and roses around here, I thought we could do a little year in review, to recap. In chronological order:

The Bartender. First kiss. We went dancing. He lives in Florida. An innocent 24 hour flirtation, like a pleasant flu: mild and sweet like that Get Out Of Jail Free card in a Monopoly Game. Rated as PG as a Steve Martin movie.

The Pilot: First grown-up. I sat next to the man on a plane. We exchanged emails. After one very chaste dinner and drinks in the Village, we're now pen pals.

The Foodie: First real date. I got to wear a dress and heels and revel in the fact that I knew which fork to use. While he was decidedly a fan of my witty reparté, when I wouldn't put out, he stopped calling. Hardly a guy to write home about.

The Finance Guy: First younger man. A hiccup. He is briefly and obliquely mentioned in a post about the weather. He voted for McCain/Palin and he wants to be in Human Resources when he grows up. We smooched twice, maybe three times, politely. Again, I'm still not writing home.

The G.I.Q.: First . . . among firsts. Okay, now we're getting somewhere. It started here, with the xylophone cortinas (Christ am I vague when I want to be) and I'm still waiting for his vice grips to fade. It was my first (and only!) you-know-what after Peter and I was shocked when it continued here and made me feel like this. You know the rest, for better or for worse. And now I can't see him without feeling as though someone has stuck their fist through my sternum.

The Photojournalist: I mean, really. He hasn't been in the city since he took my number under the scaffolding on Mulberry Street (some forty five minutes after he met me). I'm not holding my breath. He has 1300 Facebook friends.

Planter Guy: First mistake. Some pseudo new age jerkoff who used his "we need only fear our fear itself" philosophy to guilt me into bed. Needless to say, it didn't work.

The Cinematographer: The guy has an M.Phil. from Oxford. But I wanted to be alone.

So there you have it folks, I threw open the French doors, set my nets a-seining, and what happened? Eight minor kisses and a broken heart. This is supposed to keep me warm at night? I remain uninspired and under-affirmed. My melancholy, my sense of the machine, comes from looking at my life through the chink in the fourth wall and thinking: none of this matters.

So, sure, I should be flattered. Good lord, if this many douchebags want to lock lips with me, I must be worth something after all! But I just don't believe that to be the barometer.

When I say I think I'm fundamentally unloveable, it is because of all the dead horses and dysentery cases littering my romantic Oregon Trail. I have always been loneliest in a room full of people. And this phase of my life, this beast of a Quarter Life Crisis, is no exception. I'm not calling myself fat hoping the benevolent powers of the Internet will rush to persuade me otherwise. I'm not fishing for compliments here. I am grappling with the darker, weaker parts of my nature and, yes, it appears, doing so right out in the open. Judge me however you will, I'm sure I deserve it.

Bottom line: No man, to the best of my knowledge, has ever truly loved me back.

You say I should try being alone. That, in this Charybdis of chance encounters, I am "wailing in misery," surrounded by glass slippers left like tokens on the bedstand, ungrateful. I have two things to say.

First: I am neither wailing nor miserable. Just another postlapsarian broad with half a brain trying to maintain her dignity in the jungle of boy meets girl. And second: Prince Charmings?! Plural? I beg your pardon, but, is there anyone anywhere on the above list that even remotely qualifies for that title?

I'm no Cinderella. And, except as pertains to the G.I.Q., I've kept both my damn shoes on, thank you very much.

Maybe I should continue to cultivate myself like the house plant of a single girl I am. Regular watering, re-potting and a sprinkle of dessicated bird poop. Learn to love me before I try to love anyone else. The list of platitudes goes on. And I'm trying, I really am. Hence my surprise—because Saturday was the first in a long list of nights when I felt I did anything right. I claimed something unclaimable, wooed myself with my own domestic prowess, made myself a metaphorical meatloaf. Lord knows I've felt more alone amid the aforementioned 'gentlemanly' attention than I ever did camped on my couch.

But jeez, if I missed Prince Charming along the way, someone please let me know so I can do my best to rectify the situation. Otherwise, these clowns just come out of the woodwork. My confidence is by no means bolstered by their spurious advances. If this is dating, I'll take alone.

All I'm saying is: I would hope to hope for more.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

a rule that ought to be in the books

Always, always, if you must go through a break up: change your hair.

the bloom is off the tree

But the leaves aren't bad and they last a lot longer.

It's dusk in Astoria, quickly fading to dark. After a truly unexpected denouement to the week, I'm taking a little solace in myself. The sky is wide open, there's a chill on the breeze, and my apartment is darkening around me but for the candle I lit.

I read this book last month by an older woman in the tango community. About passion, and reclaiming years lost to a several year sexless marriage. It was more or less soft-core porn with a little Buenos Aires tourguide thrown in. There was also a great deal about shoes.

Point is: she was Italian. And she could cook. This woman would dance till dawn, have truly illicit sex with a married plastic surgeon, then wake up, hit the markets, and cook elaborate meals to reconnect with herself. So I'm giving it a go.

I should probably mention now that I've spent the better part of the week on a bit of a lark. Wednesday was a charity function downtown: I spent money I don't have making textbooks happen for schoolkids in Africa. Late night, that, but fun. Thursday was a twelve hour workday, which derailed into dancing, then dead ended with the G.I.Q., who is angry because I have no idea how to be in the same room with him. Friday I took a personal day and lay in bed watching episodes of the West Wing before bravely facing a party I didn't feel up for. But the strangest thing happened. I found myself making small talk and enjoying myself—in spite of me.

My best friend is going through a bit of a rough patch, so we left the party to see her to the subway, then Peter and I met his new girlfriend for dinner. We sat at a sidewalk cafe on the Upper West Side, and it was one of those springtime Friday nights in New York that fill you suddenly with optimism and activity.

Needless to say, I came home and the birds started squawking. I went back to the party and the Pinot Noir and met the Cinematographer. Who talked to me for hours about philosophy at Oxford and taught me how to say "rosy fingered dawn" in Greek. The man was a gentleman. Even my shrink would say so. And he can't wait to see me again. All he could keep repeating was, "Where did you come from?"

Take that, G.I.Q. You no longer hold the patent on erudition. Other, smarter men than you will put their arm around me and say, "you are nothing like twenty six year old women."

So here I am at home. I could easily have finagled a speedy turnaround first date, but for the life of me, all I wanted was to be at home by myself. So I took a nap, got a haircut, threw open the windows and made dinner. I made broccoli, steamed and tossed with balsamic vinegar, with pignoli and goat cheese and sun dried tomatoes. And I made my first ever tomato sauce from scratch. Because reading about the peace that sauteed garlic can bring inspired me to. I sprung for good spaghettini from the Italian deli, chiffonaded the shit out of a bunch of fresh basil, and topped the whole endeavor with cracked pepper and grated parmigiano reggiano. And it was delicious. I sat on my couch and ate and wrote and desserted on pistachio gelato and bitter orange chocolate.

Turns out, I can make a big involved dinner. Even when there's no one around to eat it. No need to fret or rush.

Sometimes a girl just needs to cluck about her own kitchen. Even on a Saturday night.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

No more shall grief of mine the season wrong

It is after three and I am still optimistic. Victory.

Perhaps this is because I have a handful of really lovely people in my life who have significantly upped the lovely quotient in this shittastic time. Perhaps I'm grateful for the unexpected solace I've gleaned from the comments you've left, Oh, tiny and faithful audience. Perhaps I am indeed as strong as my shrink thinks I am.

I actually took a lunch break today and went to the gym . . . only to—in a row of empty elliptical machines, mind you—find myself directly flanked by a slack-stared fat girl in bike shorts and an annoyingly overzealous fellow who reeked of B.O. and was in the process of expelling a great deal of curry from his pores.

Pet peeves, people. Curried armpits and people who pick the machine next to me.

But then I came back to the office to a package from my Dad. A package containing the coolest earrings I have ever seen. That's right, America, I've got the King. Elvis Aaron Presley: on my ears. What a perfect present.

And I had a lifesaving fun night in with Peter last night: an episode of House (emotionally unavailable man number 53 to whom I am deliriously attracted), take-out eggplant parm, chocolate cookies and a bottle of wine. I just have to quote him, as we were dorking around our apartment and I was sending inappropriately assertive text messages to failed loves of yore:

"Hey, do we have any pop tarts?"

Monday, May 10, 2010

quiet like stains are on a tablecloth washed in a river

I made it almost to 1 pm today. So that's promising, but now here I am at my desk, feeling my chest constrict. Succumbing when I ought to be sucking it up. Failure.

This is so much bigger than boys (because they are not men) and drama and the fear of dying alone. Those are just extra questions, part of all that is unresolved in my heart, and I am trying to practice a Rilkean patience. This much I know. No matter how much it hurts, this too shall pass. What matters now is what I do with me, the woman I live with, for better or for worse, for the rest of my life.

It is a beautiful day, though it feels for all the world like the first of fall. Freezing in a turtleneck in May—figures.

I don't know which is worse: feeling like I won't make it through the week, or knowing damn well that I will. Day by excruciating day.

It is not this one. Or that one. Not today. Not this particular rejection nor this particular pain. It is the pattern. The serial effect.

Bear with me, y'all. We all know I'll be rolling in begonias before we know it, cresting high and happy into something else. But for now, it is no fun waking up in a world where so many people go about their business indifferent to the impact their rampant douchebaggery will have on the heads and hearts of others.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

well, you build it up, you wreck it down

I am a break-up masochist.

Raise your hand if you're sick of this saga. And feel free to ignore me for the next week or so. Until then, I process.

My shrink is right. I am no stranger to survival gear. I'm stronger than I even know myself to be.

I can almost feel my body, its churning metabolism, willing myself to steel up and scab over. But, frankly, I'm surprised by how much this stings . . . you know, for something I've been actively dreading since December.

Fight. Fight the Maybe He'll... syndrome; fight the big What If! Pound into your bones that it is done. No negotiations, no love songs. Mourn the loss, and keep on fighting (though it feels more like fending off a panic attack). Here is an end to the uncertainty. It has to be better this way. Maybe my brain will get that through to my sore ass heart.

Meanwhile I torture myself. I refuse to take a break from the music that was loosely knit between us, mine just as much as his, spider threads across our uncrossable chasm. Better to drown in it, roll it up in the sandstorm till my heart pops out a pearl. Delaying it only means you'll be blindsided next time you turn on the radio. Better to salt some wounds yourself.

He can't keep Bukowski. He can't keep Dylan. So I have to sit like a three year old in a cake-stained party dress, pounding my firsts in the center of the living room, wailing out my sugar rush in a flash flood tantrum. No! Mine!

either you don't have the balls or you don't feel the same

This hurts a whole hell of a lot more than I thought it would.

Waking up was bad. The half Xanax I took to sleep wore off into the kind of tears that squeeze the back of your throat and burn your cheeks on the subway. Thankfully, I have a mother prescient enough to be online and emailing at the spank of Thursday morning, who knew enough to forward me a horoscope advising me to, among other things, relax the manic intensity of my current pursuits, because:

"Life can't bring you the sublime gift it has for you until you interrupt your pursuit of a mediocre gift."

Well there you have it. Stop running headlong into the wall of some man's emotional infancy because the glass betrays behind it the mirage of his potential.

The hard part now is holding on to what he gave me. Keeping that torch trained on my smoldering signal fire. Keeping the words, the films, the blues tunes, and the idea that—someday—somebody else might love me for my brain. My fucked up, book-addled, melancholy brain.

With him, more than anyone else, I felt like myself, my true and taciturn postulate self, swimming in pretty words and sitting around in the dark listening to gruff men sing sad songs. Trouble is, I just couldn't be myself. There's plenty about me that's easy and open. The ennui comes just as much from joy as it does despair.

Which will I miss most? The book exchanges, the rutting of prose in heat, that mind to mind intellectual intercourse? Or the flowering that happened, my blooming in the hothouse of his basement, the warming and the thaw. I will ache for both, I'm sure.

What I won't miss is the emotional storm front, always on the horizon. This is his loss. I wish I could say: don't tell me I'm young and beautiful, adored and in demand. I don't want the boys you say are breaking down the doors. I wanted you. Messy, malcontent and surrounded by books, piles and piles of books. I wanted seriousness and dignity. A song for the goat.

a dream lies dead here

So today sucked.

Worst day in months, arguably. Haven't felt this heavy of heart since the great bed-moving ordeal. It is an awful feeling, the siphoning of one's heart through one's intestines...

It started an hour early, bad omen numero uno. Up at six to set up a 9 am breakfast for work. As caterer, a term loosely given to the employee most capable of mopping up the egg yolks of others, I had to arrive promptly at 8 am, to plate fruit and decant juice and set tables.

There's a different set of commuters, an hour earlier. My train was a surreal aerie of the 7 am set, secret calm couples munching pound cake, wearing sunglasses against the glare all the way to Queensboro Plaza. Their peace made me unpeaceful. Bad omen numero dos.

Then at work, arranging muffins, the big boss' bipolar son was stealing food faster than I could arrange it on the platters. Fucker took a whole carton of blackberries, saying only, "These are needed for lunch." Scooped out half of our cream cheese carton without so much as a "May I?"

Predictably, we survived. The day continued with little more than the usual snide and unprofessional interludes with the Hell Beast, who has more or less informed me that my position is on probation, pending a stress test by our incompetent board. (Translation: come July, kiddies, I may not have a job.) I made a big mistake (mostly out of stress, overwork and a lack of lunch breaks this week: bad omen numero trés), but I fixed it.

Then there was a reprieve. The nausea from seven-minute salad snarfing (under occupational duress) abated and I was able to make dinner for my favorite recently affianced friend: insalata caprese and fresh spinach linguine with leeks, radicchio and walnut pesto. We chatted about dresses and plans, we drank a half bottle of Veuve and ate a tiny lemon curd cake from Dean & Deluca. Everything was going to be okay. And then it wasn't.

I should have known. I did know. One step forward two steps back. Only this time the step forward was sasquatch-sized. There was no other way down from this tree, I say to the caged kitten in my heart. He had to do it.

Unexpected and impending dance a funny one for you. This was a choice I made, newly minted, freshly torn. No tagbacks. And I don't regret it. I said yes to the mystery. As I've always done, on one scale or another. If anything, I'm proud to have gotten here. Though I find myself alone in the igloo, wildness and snow for miles, I did it. I finally showed up. And he said "no." Just "no."

It takes a certain blend of poetry and meanness to say something like that.

Ironically, this has become quite the pattern. I show up just as the other party shrinks away. The last time I did—convinced someone to stick around—it ended in three years of pretty lies. The fool, upside down, falls on his head, lies there despairing, and sets off anew.

Nothing to be done but brush off the knees and hope it's not all over at 26, that this corduroy clad man who seemed to understand me—who certainly understood Melville—will live to regret himself.

I'm almost impressed that I managed to get out the few snarky lines I did in our conversation. Such gems as: "I'm either someone you care about, too, or I'm a barnacle. I can't be both." I actually asked a grown man to tell me whether he thought of me as an arthropod parasite. The answer was no, but how can you trust that? Who in their right mind admits to such coldness? Every breaker-upper wants the moral upper hand. And we barnacles give it freely by listening to such platitudes. "No, of course... we have a tremendous connection. That's what makes this so hard."

You just never relaxed, they say. It just never got easy.

Well, of course not, genius. Ours was the incredible five month one-night stand. Maybe this is all your fault: for memorizing my number as you dashed off the PATH train in December, for keeping the other shoe afloat. I never asked you to. I never asked you to be anywhere but where and who (and in what state) you were.

I'd rather imagine he was bored to tears this whole time than feel like this.

He's Just Not That Into You. Live this mantra, ladies. Because otherwise, you'll be left with a big empty sac of what-ifs and what-the-fucks.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

in which the gods are clearly messing with me

Went to the gym in my lunch break, sneakers and The New Yorker in hand, ready to punish myself.

Sign on the door said: Gym closed until 2 pm.


Sunday, May 2, 2010

well, a steelhead salmon or a mud bank carp

We spent the day at the beach: sarong sushi feast, seaside nap, baptismal dip in the frigid Atlantic. All this with Paul Simon on the tape deck, the Met game on AM radio, books crosshatched over the blanket.

I gave up. And I give in. We read Bukowski together on the train.

Walking hand and hand through warm New York at night, I wore his cardigan, wrapped it around me over midnight omelettes at a diner on 14th Street. We slept till 2 pm.

God only knows where or if or for how long.

I will weather his hesitation. (Men are delicate origami creatures) It doesn't matter who he is or where he's at. For now, it is enough. For once, I find I have the balls to leap.

And a really good new therapist–you know, on standby.