Blogging in the Post Carrie Bradshaw Era

“Your friends must be really boring if you’re contacting me after all this time,” I typed into a gchat box that emerged without warning from a user I had long ago hidden from my chat list.

“Not the case here. All of a sudden I remembered your blog and wondered how you were doing.”

A little over 2 years ago, I had parked my car in an upper west side garage, a stone’s throw from the American Museum of Natural History (read: a neighborhood with premium parking rates) and met a 30-something lawyer for lunch. It was my second date of the day, having already breakfasted with an artist/industrial designer turned tech-recycler (is that a thing? Maybe his official title was Project Manager…). I had been seeing the Designer for about a month by this time, but it was going nowhere about as fast as a black hole. The Lawyer had potential, and he had been appropriately (maybe inappropriately, depending on your degree of conservatism) aggressive in his pursuit. I’d met them both online. I knew to temper my expectations.

After our date, which was a challenge, I went home and ranted on my blog. It was the first time I had ever railed against a guy, and I grouped him in with a string of unsuccessful online dates, belittling him and some guys who were, at the core, decent guys but just a bit oblivious. The Lawyer called me out, and I retracted the post and replaced it with an apology and philosophical definition of what this blog is all about. We didn’t speak again, until this week when he felt the need to apologize (!?!?! Wasn’t I the one who behaved badly?)

It happens with surprising frequency that I go out on a date and for some reason, mostly because he’s done his due diligence and researched me prior to our rendez-vous, my blog comes up. Most never read past the title or the “About Me” section, and so they proceed under particular assumptions.

The Professor, who is 20 years my senior and was a lunch companion earlier this summer: “Now, I don’t want to see our conversation end up in a blog post!”

A guy I think I briefly dated in 2011: “Feel free to write about me all you want. Just make sure you let everyone know how awesome I am.”

My Ex, who is the only ex to get a capital E (I think he actually read the blog, and might still): “I want to make sure you won’t have anything to write about any more.”

What they all assume is that this blog is “tell-all” dating blog. But here’s the thing: if I write about how terrible a date was, or how stupid a guy might be, then to do it fairly, to make it a post that says anything, then I need to turn the lens back on myself. Most single-girl blogs read like this: I went on this bad blind date, I had this one-night stand, this is my hook-up buddy, Why can’t my best guy friend figure out that he should be in love with me.

Writing a typical single-girl dating blog is relatively easy. But I’ve never been a fan of what’s easy.

I want you to read something of substance. Not everything that happens on a date or in the bedroom has substance. And, the simple truth is, some things need to stay inside a relationship.

If single-girl/dating blogs are a by-product of the Sex and the City era, most of us do Carrie Bradshaw a great injustice. When Carrie wrote about the men that breezed through her life, she tried to reason through a moral – didn’t every episode start with a “philosophical” question? What we saw play out in each episode where not only Big’s flaws, but Carrie’s… and in turn, the flaws in romantic relationships and even friendships.

Writing to ridicule men is boring, or at least it’s one tone. And if part of your impetus for blogging is a general frustration with men, perhaps getting hung up on all the ways men fail you is part of why we’re single. The way I see it is: it’s more interesting when you look at why YOU were hurt or disappointed, and what that says about you, your expectations, and your relationship goals. He’s only ½ the problem.

My Lawyer is case in point – he was a decent guy who felt bad sparks didn’t fly. I never gave him a chance, I just attacked him on the internet. “You are entertaining,” he wrote last week, 2.5 years after our infamous lunch. “We should have stayed friendly.”

When Vanity Bites Back, or Life with Invisialign

My OKCupid user name back in the day was SheLIkesToSmile. Now, I can do that with straighter teeth... and by now, I mean a year from now.

My OKCupid user name back in the day was SheLIkesToSmile. Now, I can do that with straighter teeth… and by now, I mean a year from now.

I have this one tooth. It’s the lateral incisor on my right. It sits back behind my canine and my central incisor — a punishment for abandoning my retainer too soon. In the wrong light, I can look like a hockey player who lost a fight with a puck to my mouth. In the best light, I look like the kid whose teeth just grew in and whose parents still haven’t booked her appointment with the orthodontist.

I see it in every photo and every time I go to smile, I’m aware of it. But the tooth that make me look like a kindergartner doesn’t stop me from smiling. Life’s too short not to smile… but it does mean that I usually fight to stand on the left of any portrait (a fight I always inevitably loose.)

In the summer of 2012, an upper wisdom tooth abscessed, and before I could say “ouch” I was under anesthesia and undergoing a double tooth extraction. I woke up in a dentist office overlooking Central Park and stumbled a few blocks south east to the Brasserie, where I complimented some mild pain killers with a martini before passing out again at home. I was lucky — my face was barely puffy and when I went out the next day to celebrate the return of a few friends from the London Olympics, no one could tell I had just survived an oral surgery that seems to knock people off their feet for days.

Sometimes, with the wrong angle, I can look like this….

The trouble came a year later when my teeth started to shift again. Jaw and tooth pain compounded with my misplaced incisor inspired me to look into the full orthodontic works. I could handle braces again, I thought. I mean, I already look like I’m 16, why not? It might be nice to be carded more often again.

When it turned out I was a candidate for invisialign, I was pretty stoked. I could handle having braces in my social life, but being ol’ metal mouth again in a professional one was less appealing. It was even better when my quote for the treatment came in under my no-go threshold.

So on December 28th, my dentist attached some pretty sexy anchors to my teeth and sent me home with my first trial.

It was like wearing a mouth guard. Within the first hour, I was kicking myself. My lower jaw was jutting out, I couldn’t figure out how to keep my mouth closed, and saliva was pouring down my chin in the most unattractive way. I lisped and talking for more than 30 seconds was exhausting. Was this sheer act of vanity destined to be my downfall? That $7,000 could have been put to good use elsewhere… like on clothes. Would lipo have been less expensive?

“There goes your sex life,” my mother said as she passed me a tissue.

It was family movie night, and as we sat in the theater watching the coming attractions, a large drop of drool fell out of the corner of my mouth and onto my shirt.

It was something I hadn’t considered. Between tooth brushes and birth control, there were already enough accessories to pack on an adult sleep over, adding an invisalign kit into the mix definitely exed the possibilities of a casual overnight. Plus, “honey, just excuse me while I put my teeth back in,” is not the sexiest phrase for the under octogenarian set.

Being ready for anything just got complicated.

My new life as a single girl with dental appliances was put to the test faster than I expected. In another display of my talent for Bad Timing, I had scheduled a first date with a dreamy commercial pilot turned lawyer within the first 24 hours of beginning invisialign.

For the most part, it all went off without a hitch, largely because I left the device at home. However, my teeth hurt so much I couldn’t chew anything more solid than mashed potatoes and everything we ordered seemed to be made of bricks. As our date moved into its 6 hour (and my third, maybe fourth? drink) I started getting anxious — I had passed my 4 hour invisialign-free limit. And I was hungry. Like, really hungry.

Our good night kiss was brief. Like Cinderella I had to get home before the clock struck “too late!” and my tooth shifted back into its crocked place. Orthodontics are at least as expensive and irreplaceable as glass slippers…

The Dragon at the Table

It’s official. I am Bridget Jones. (without Mark Darcy or Daniel Cleaver)

It was a quiet Saturday night, I had just spent the day with nearly 200 high school students at a multi-school fencing meet and my body ached with the kind of fatigue that can only comes from being the surrogate sport parent (err… coach) to some 40 kids. All I wanted was a gin and tonic, some Chicken Tikka Masala — because, you know, I’m a child of the Commonwealth, and that’s our version of comfort food — and a mindless Rom-Com.

I was in luck. I had timed my take-out TV dinner and booze just right so I could catch the last half-an-hour of “Bridget Jones’s Diary.”

Mark Bloody Darcy.

Swoooooon.

I was 13 when I first read Helen Fielding’s cheery, timeless adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. In the back of my mind, I knew I was at least a tad more Bridget Jones than Lizzy Bennett, but I was too young to really relate to all the emotional ups and downs Bridget traveled along as she tried to make her way through work, family, and love.

Enter age 29. 

You know your 20s are basically over when 22-24 year-olds attempt to pick you up with the following lines:

– How do you feel about being hit on by a younger man?

– While you’re searching for Mr. Right, how about having some fun with a younger guy?

– I know I’m probably too young for you, but can I buy you that next drink?

I’ve officially moved out of the age bracket that qualifies me as the “young play thing” — the desirable, elusive object of affection from professional men in their 30s to mid-40s. This is not inherently a problem. I am on the verge of entering their age bracket, which makes me more of a peer and less of a fresh-off-the-collegiate-boat co-ed. I am no longer doe-eyed and naive. I am savvy. I know better.

You can’t pull a blindfold over my eyes… well you can, but you have to ask nicely. 

Readying myself to move on to a new decade doesn’t really require much prep-work, but I admit that there are a few things I need to acknowledge now that I could previously ignore — both realities and absurdities of life.

family-party-bridget-jonesI’ve reached an age where most of my friends are comfortably domesticated — if they’re not married and making plans for baby, they’re in the kind of relationships that seem destined for the altar. As you move further away from college, you move further away from the all-nighter, 4 parties a week (a night?) lifestyle. You lose one kind of social endurance and replace it with another. 10 PM seems a perfect bedtime and laundry is a perfectly acceptable weekend activity. You haven’t grown boring. You’ve grown more selective. Your friends grow more selective too, and as more of them find themselves in couples, your find your social life naturally changing.

The challenge with being the last single girl at the party is that everyone finds a way to let you know you’re the last single girl at the party.

Cut back to Bridget Jones. 

“Wednesday 1 February
11:45PM … “Yes, why aren’t you married yet, Bridget?” sneered Woney (babytalk for Fiona, married to Jeremy’s friend Coasmo) with a think veneer of concern whilst stroking her pregnant stomach.

Because I don’t want to end up like you, you fat, boring, Sloaney milch cow was what I should have said, or … Because actually, Woney, underneath my clothes, my entire body is covered in scales.”

Bridget asks her reader, why? Why is it that married/coupled-off people feel the need to corner us single folk about our love lives?

“Tell me all about your men and dating adventures! I feel like you have a new boy toy every time we meet!”

“Thank god I’m done with all that dating stuff I mean, how DO you DO IT? I mean, how DO you meet people!?”

“We have to find you someone. You’re so great! I’d set you up with one of Bob/Phil/Rich/insert-generic-male-name-here’s friends… but they’re all married too!”

“Mary/John is away Friday, so I’m free. Entertain me! Let’s go out like we used to… I’ll be your wingperson!”

Sigh.

“Maybe Smug Marrieds only mix with other Smug Marrieds and don’t know how to relate to individuals anymore. Maybe they really do want to patronize us and make us feel like failed human beings. Or maybe they are in such a sexual rut they’re thinking: “There’s a whole other world out there,” and hoping for vicarious thrills by getting us to tell them the roller-coaster details of our sex lives”

The truth is, us single girls approaching and in our 30s are the dragons at the dinner table — beautiful to look at, exotic, but no one’s sure when we’ll start spitting fire. We aren’t covered in green scales. But as we’ve watched our friends move on into happiness, and as we’ve trained ourselves to answer the inevitable “is there someone special?” we have had to develop a pretty thick skin.

The Problem with the Girl with the Mattress: Considering Emma Sulkowicz, Performance Art, and Gender-Based Misconduct

Emma Sulkowicz is one of the most interesting and problematic figures in the art world right now, though no one is really talking about her as an artist.

She’s a victim. She’s an attention seeker. She’s a martyr in short-shorts carrying a mattress. She’s the voice of the voiceless. She’s a privileged Ivy League art student with a gimmick for her senior project. She’s a symbol of a failed justice system. She’s the civilian at the State of the Union.

Of course, all of these statements are reductive, and as such, none are the whole truth or whole fallacy of Emma Sulkowicz.

Carolee Schneemann's "Interior Scroll" was an important work of feminist Performance Art

Carolee Schneemann’s “Interior Scroll” was an important work of feminist Performance Art

From the beginning of her “Mattress Performance: Carry that Weight,” I’ve been uncomfortable with Ms. Sulkowicz. As an art historian (and fellow Columbia fencer — Roar, Lion, Roar) my first reaction was not to her story, but to the art work. “Carry that Weight” felt like a student art project: derivative and unoriginal. Performance Art is dead these days, thanks in large part to Performa and the medium’s increasing theatricalization (I just made a word there). “Carry That Weight” is not Orlan carving up her face, adding absurd implants to question definitions of beauty. Nor is it Carolee Schneemann’s “Internal Scroll.” It can be argued (as her adviser tried to do) that it’s an act of endurance art a la Marina Ambromovich, but the direct comparison doesn’t help it feel original.

The other problem is that in order for the piece to have any significance to the viewer, it needs the context of Emma’s biography. Having a broader sense of current affairs doesn’t really help. A student carrying a mattress is meaningless and non-specific.  Maybe the piece is about immigrants, or the homeless in New York — a city of great economic disparity. Emma’s name suggests non-North American roots, while her own ethnicity is visually ambiguous. There is no auxiliary iconography to provide clues that will help us decipher the performance.

See what I’m getting at…

The piece needs the media to make it successful. And that should raise some alarms.

And what about Ms. Sulkowicz’s story? What was my reaction there? I was disturbed on many levels. First, I was appalled at the statistics her performance brought to light. Next, I was disturbed by how I reacted to her interviews.

“If she wants to be taken seriously, she shouldn’t be wearing short shorts and a tank top. The dye-dipped hair doesn’t help either,” I remember saying.

By seriously, I meant seriously as a professional artist, but what I was also implying, was seriously as a victim. It’s too easy for men as well as woman to look at someone in revealing clothes or with subculture accessories and make snap judgments about everything form their trustworthiness to their sexual preferences. But why is this the case? Appearances are not facts. Shouldn’t a girl be able to go out in a mini-skirt or low cut top and feel safe? Is she “asking for it?” No, she’s not.

This week, her alleged rapist was finally granted a venue to share his side of the story in the media. This was long overdue. The media’s eagerness to turn Emma into a symbol should raise some cautionary flags, largely because the writings have been one-sided.

On the other hand, what the campus rape revelations, the police brutality incidences, and the related media responses have proved is that we live under local justice systems that are inherently flawed — that tend to favor the accused perpetrator rather than the potential victim. Paul Nungesser has a right to share his story as publicly as Emma. The differing accounts are troubling, and a reminder that there is no absolute truth. The timeline of Emma’s interactions with Paul post-incident doesn’t mean she didn’t feel violated or that there wasn’t an incident of assault.

I just hope that the Daily Beast piece doesn’t become a rallying cry for those who want to go on pretending that victims of gender-based assault are just crying wolf.

I always remember my academic adviser warning me off writing a thesis because it was a waste of my final semester in college. “No one writes anything very important for an undergraduate thesis. There isn’t enough time. You’d be better taking another class.”

Is Sulkowicz’s performance piece an exception to that rule?

As a piece of performance art, the answer is no. But as an act of protest, or act to raise social consciousness about a flawed system, the answer is yes — it’s extremely important.

Learning to Run

People often refer to me as “The Redhead,” but in pre-school, I was a blonde. The kind of golden-streaked blonde you’d associate with a child who spent her free afternoons outside frolicking in the sunshine. I wasn’t that kind of blonde.  No, my toddler-age blonde locks were either simply explained by “it’s her first head of hair,” or a recessive Aryan gene that wouldn’t show itself again until my teen years when I developed the kind of tree-trunk like legs I can only associate with those German Recklings  who, I’m sure, also had names like Heidi and Gertrude.

No one gave me this lesson

No one gave me this lesson

I was just never one of those kids who got a thrill out of running around outside.

The pre-school I attended had a playground nestled on the base of a huge, steep hill. Sitting in the sandbox, the grassy slope looked like it stretched straight up to the sky. When I go back now, I think I need a climbing harness to scale it. When my classmates and I were 4, all we needed was our lunchtime chocolate milk. We’d joyfully trek to the top, our teachers huffing and puffing behind. I realize now that they only allowed us to do this because recess was immediately followed by nap time and what better way to tire children out than let them climb up Mt. Everest, without oxygen. Once at the summit, we’d let loose and run, at full speed back to the bottom.

It only took one misplaced step and a badly grass-burned knee for me to realize this was a terrible way to have fun.

Long and short of it, running didn’t suit my build. I was bottom heavy and plump. Plus it caused injuries. But my tumble and the subsequent gauze bandage flicked on a light switch. Why run down the hill when you can roll down a hill?

As a rotund child, trying to power my legs in coordinated circular motions at high-speed seemed inefficient. Rolling, on the other hand, was just a simple case of transferring my weight from one side of my body to the other, in the same direction. Something I did on a regular basis, like when I was getting out of bed. Gravity would take care of the rest. All I had to do was steer away from the occasional rock and keep my eyes closed.

This must have been how the cavemen discovered the wheel: they pushed the fat kid down the hill and watched him roll.

The truth was I hated running. Relay races were the bane of my existence. The only reason I batted clean-up in Little League was that I had learned that if I hit a homerun, I wouldn’t need to outrun a throw to first. In fact, if I hit a homerun, I wouldn’t have to run the bases at all – I could quickly stroll around them. I hit a lot of homeruns. I also walked a lot. I guess you could say my distaste for running helped me develop a “good-eye.”

Running suicides really was suicide for me, and the Presidential Fitness Test’s Mile Run usually put me under for a week — even if I was relatively sporty.

But then came life as a Division 1 Collegiate Athlete.

In college, I seemed to find my legs as a runner. I’d wake up and hit Riverside Park before class. I wasn’t fast, but I had endurance. It was part of my cross-training between competitive seasons. And when I was having a rough stretch in class or in my social life, I’d hit the road and let my legs go until I thought they’d fall off. Running became a way to clear my head and heal emotional wounds. I became rather good at it.

I can’t run anymore. A sport-related accident makes running painful again and to my inner-4-year old’s surprise, I miss it.

On the up side, I can still roll down a hill, carelessly, and joyfully.

panda!

The Online Date that Wasn’t

Remember friendster?

I’m not much of a techie or apster or webie (are those last two things? Let’s pretend they are…), so I wouldn’t have known friendster, the pre-cursor to facebook, is now one of Asia’s largest gaming sites. In my day, where MySpace was for budding bands and arts-types to gain a following, friendster was the way for the Everyman to reconnect, to connect, and to meet. I was 19 and a sophomore in college when I made my frienster account. Prompted, I’m sure by one of my guy friends in the engineering/comp sci program who told me “social media is going to be huuuuge.”

I was old enough to remember AOL chatrooms and AIM profile pages (both of which got me into a fair amount of trouble), and so was just the right amount of skeptical about such public access to my avatar identity (I’m not sure privacy settings were really de rigeur yet.) But I also acknowledged that this “social media,” whateverthehellthatwas, could be a useful tool to expand my network of friends beyond my dormitory and lecture room walls.

I carefully curated my profile page, selecting pictures that played down more of my youthful features (those chubby cheeks and that slightly crocked front tooth), and emphasized an urban co-ed persona. An interest in arts and culture meant that it wasn’t long before I had new connections across NYC… who were mostly male, and reasonably eager for companionship.

And this is the point where I note that friendster was also the pre-cursor to OkCupid.

Jon friended me fairly soon after my profile went life. He was a 29 year old graduate student at NYU’s Tisch School, studying composition. Already, he had scored a musical adaptation of a play by Moliere that was having an off-Broadway debut. This seemed promising. Older, creative, and on his way. We began a short exchange that lead to sharing phone numbers. He lived on the Upper Westside, in fact, in an apartment on 96th and Amsterdam, not far from my college neighborhood of Morningside Heights.

He called me to make plans.

If you’re new to online dating, a valuable piece of advice I can share is: make sure you speak on the phone before you meet. The phone is the most awkward medium of communication — if you two can find a way to swap ideas without facial cues, you’re off to a good start. Also, if he has any irregularities in speech, a lisp or a stutter, perhaps, it’s better to know about it before you’re face to face.

Jon had a soft, effeminate voice that border-lined on creepy. But he took the lead — for our first date, we’d have coffee at the Hungarian Pastry Shop, a Columbia mainstay that was a stone’s throw from my dorm but also convenient for him — and that was appealing.

Confession: This date with Jon was not only my first internet-assisted date (even if it wasn’t a dating site that introduced us), it probably also qualified as my first real date. Like, as in, we’re not just friends or classmates going out and seeing what happens, but as in, here’s a guy promising to pay for my coffee because he’s shopping for a girlfriend.

I don’t know what was more intimidating — the fact that I had never actually seen this person in the flesh, or that I was going on my first first date.

To be on the safe side, I enlisted my then best friend and roommate Suki and our mutual friend Joanne. Their mission, which they chose to accept, was to be already stationed at the pastry shop. They were recon and undercover chaperons in case he was an ax murderer. We agreed on set hand signals that would relay “get me out!” or “I’m getting married!”

Amadeus Mozart, when he wasn’t in a wig, was pretty sexy with all that crazy hair

In person, Jon was as creepy as our phone conversation suggested. With nails longer and pointier than mine, and hair that looked like it hadn’t been washed in a week, he more closely resembled a bearded vampire than a future great composer (Amadeus was pretty sexy with that lion’s mane.) Conversation moved smoothly, but it wasn’t long before I was send my MAYDAY! signals across the room to my girls — the signal telling them to call me and fake an emergency.

There was a pillar. They never saw me.

2 hours later, he paid for my coffee and I bid him farewell…

When he called me the next day to offer to take me to dinner, I politely declined. A few hours later, I closed my friendster account… and my MySpace account. I was done with social media for a while (a few months later, Facebook spread to all the Ivy League schools and I was quick to hop on the bandwagon), and it would be years later before I trusted the internet to play matchmaker.

I never joined a social media site to meet a lover just as I never started blogging to find a (rich) husband. And while Jon might have been an overall fail, I owe him and that whole experience a certain degree of gratitude. It dared me to take a risk with my social life… and always have back-up in plain sight.

The Gifts of Christmas Boyfriends Past

Truth: knives work just as well

Truth: knives work just as well

“Can I just get rid of these?” My mother turned around to show me a pair of scissors in a neon-green sheath.

They’re herb scissors, which are really just adapted ribbon cutters and sold to culinary tool junkies at a premium. They were a Christmas gift last year from my then boyfriend and were put to use at exactly one family gathering before being promptly relegated to a bottom drawer.

“They’re stupid. You can use a knife.”

Like the knock-off Pop Phone he had also given me, I decided these were fated for an afterlife courtesy of the Good Will.

This time last year, I was in a not so unserious relationship with Frank Hampshire, a nonathletic but good-humoured project manager. In early November, he started fussing over what to get me for Christmas. He was an online shopper — I mean, he bought EVERYTHING online, from pots and pans to couches, to dinner, to dry cleaning — and wanted to get his orders in early enough, in time to use any “frequent shopper” coupons he had earned since Black Friday the previous year (seriously, I’m pretty sure the guy will never have to pay for another dumpling again on Seamless.)

His gift-wrapping method was the best part of the exchange

His gift-wrapping method was the best part of the exchange

I had a fairly simply list. In fact, it included only one item: gold hoop earrings. I had mourned the loss of half a pair at a dance party at MoMA a year earlier, and missed having such a staple in my jewelry box. They didn’t have to be real gold, I said. I was sensitive also to budget, (even if his salary was exactly twice the size of mine), and to ease of access. So I gave him a list of 4 pair all that clocked in under $100 and all available at stores within walking distance from his apartment.

“I haven’t bought a girl a pair of earrings since high school,” he told me. “It turned out she didn’t even have pierced ears.”

“Well, you don’t have to worry about that. My ears are pierced. Remember that time my earring got caught on your scarf?”

“Yea. No. Isn’t there anything else you want?”

So instead of earrings, I got a stocking full of nick-nacks — the sum of which totaled to well over the $50 of those Middle Kingdom Cylindrical Bead earrings I saw at the Met. A red Pop-Phone knock-off, a case of my favorite pens (Pilot Percise, fine), the aforementioned herb scissors, ear buds, a “fairy bottle” jump drive loaded with 2 pirated movies, Molton Brown Bath Gel in Pink Pepperpod, Kheil’s body lotion, and another item or two I can’t recall. 85% of the items were put to good use, and I suppose that meant I had won, even if I didn’t get my earrings. The herb scissors and the pens were supposed to be the thoughtful gifts — he knew I liked to cook, and sometimes we cooked together, and he knew I wasn’t allowed to buy those pens on my office account (too expensive for a not-for-profit pen.)

Gold (plated) hoop earrings were also thoughtful. But I suppose, that was too much of a meaningful commitment.

There’s a gigantic, golden hard-cover book on my nightstand, and it’s been sitting there for two years now. “The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present” was a 2012 Christmas present from my already-ex-boyfriend. We had broken up not even a month earlier and the gift exchange had been unplanned. We met for a fancy dinner as a way to usher in our new era as “just friends.” We split the bill. And then we surprised one another with “a little something.”

I knew he traveled and got painfully dry skin in the winter, so he got a bar lotion (with a manly scent) from Lush. I got the academic art-history meets sociology tome by a Columbia professor.  His gift was absurdly thoughtful and meaningful. On our first date, he compared me to a Klimt painting, and when I opened the paper to see the cover, the significance of the subject didn’t escape me.

“You can read it so I don’t have to,” he said when I hugged him. “It’s too many pages.”

“There aren’t enough pictures.”

I made my way through the first 50 pages — there’s underlining and a note or two in the margins. Unlike the Pop Phone and the pens that have been lost or have run out of ink, it’s a less disposable gift. A metaphor perhaps for these two relationships past.