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.

The 12 Days of Christmas… and the 12 Men I’d Need to Get Me Through Them

Look, I know it's Ryan Gosling and not a lumberjack, per-say... but It's Christmas.

Look, I know it’s Ryan Gosling and not a Lumberjack, per-say… but It’s Christmas and I’m allowed a wish-list. 

Dear Santa,

2014 has been a good year for me, and while I’ve been enjoying myself, I’ve been sure to do all the right things to get on your “Good List” again for the 27th out of my 29 years (let’s not talk about that one year in college…)

So while I’m in full-on Holiday Elf mode (the stockings are hung by the chimney with care!) here’s a list of things I want, no NEED, to make my Christmas a success for me, my family, and our guests. It’s reasonably straight forward and I’ve designed it as a kind of “installment plan” — one gift for every day leading up to Christmas. Advent-style. Amen.

So here goes:

On the First Day of Christmas, please Santa send to me… a lumberjack with a pick-up truck

The best day to buy your tree is the day after Thanksgiving. It’s a truth no one wants to tell  you, but all the trees you see in nurseries or on the side of the road have all been cut down and shipped at the same time. Even the ones you buy on Christmas Eve were harvested in mid November. A lumberjack would see my tree is the freshest on the block.

One Second Day of Christmas, please Santa send to me… a fireman with a sizable hose.

In case said lumberjack fails, and the tree is a little dried out, it’s always handy to have a fire specialist on hand…

Let's just not

Let’s just not

On the Third Day of Christmas, please Santa send to me… a chauffeur with a trailer for my shopping victories.

I drove into the mall parking lot on Sunday only to drive out of it 15 minutes later — there were exactly ZERO spots available. Several people are going to be short stocking stuffers this Christmas… a shortcoming that could easily have been avoided with my own Chauffeur and a Royce.

On the Fourth Day of Christmas, please Santa send to me… a man with an electrician’s degree.

Lights on the porch. Lights on the hedges. Lights on the family Christmas tree. Lights, lights everywhere… and broken bulbs, wiggling wires, and frizzing fuses to go with them. For some men, the front yard Christmas light display is a sparkling, LED-enhanced demonstration of their masculinity. But whether or not he approaches the strings of bulbs and illuminated snowmen with a competitive edge, he should, in the very least, know how not to electrocute himself…and how not blow the entire East Coast grid.

Clean my blinds then make me a drink.

Clean my blinds then make me a drink.

On the Fifth Day of Christmas, please Santa send to me… a butler with a feather duster… and a stiff martini. 

Where did all this dust come from? And all this stuff? Someone needs to see that it’s all sorted out… and while they’re at it, pass me the Tanqueray.

On the Sixth Day of Christmas, please Santa send to me… a masseur with strong hands and open timetable.

Does this one need explaining? I think not.

On the Seventh Day of Christmas, please Santa send to me… a free-range organic farmer. 

If you think the malls are bad in the final days before Christmas, try the supermarkets. I’m a big fan of farm to table — this would make it all possible.

On the Eight Day of Christmas, please Santa send to me… a top chef with a knack for catering.

Tree-trimming party, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years Eve, New Year’s Day, Post-New Year’s Day — the final two weeks of the year are full of parties. And it would be so much easier if I had a chef to do all the work for me… ideally one that looks a lot like Curtis Stone, but with better recipes…

Curtis, any day you're in my kitchen is a holiday. I'll bring the mistletoe.

Curtis, any day you’re in my kitchen is a holiday. I’ll bring the mistletoe.

On the ninth Day of Christmas, please Santa send to me… a personal trainer.

Oh, God. Have I really eaten this much already?! Preparing a 4-course meal is physical work. I need a trainer to not only help me shed those holiday half-dozens, but to help get be buff and ready for next year’s cooking marathon.

On the Tenth Day of Christmas, please Santa send to me… 10 Lords a Leaping.

I used to go to the Nutcracker at the NYC Ballet every year. The Candy Canes were always very impressive, and it isn’t a party unless someone is dancing… and why can’t it be 10 athletic, land-owning, titled gentlemen?

On the eleventh day of Christmas, please Santa send to me… a plumber. 

Because all of a sudden the radiator in the living room isn’t getting hot and the guests are coming in an hour… like I really need THIS!

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas, please Santa send to me… Benedict Cumberbatch.

Because it’s Christmas, and why the hell not.

Benedict can be my Santa any day... #naughtyelf

Benedict can be my Santa any day… #naughtyelf

I thank you for your consideration and attention to this matter. As you’ve probably witnessed (since you know when/where/with whom I am sleeping and you know when I’m awake) the internet and real-life social networking have come-up short in fulfilling these needs. I hope you can come through where all else has failed.

Merry Christmas to you and Mrs. Claus. I’ll leave the cookies and the milktini on top of the fireplace mantle this year — sorry the dog got to the coffee table first last year…

Many thanks,

Kathleen

The Hiding Place

It was a desperate moment and I’m not proud of how I handled myself. But sometimes circumstance forces you to behave out of character. You’ve been there too. Emerging into the world, hair tussled, knees of my jeans riddled with carpet fibers, and cheeks awash with a blush, I found myself caught with no explanation other than the truth:

desk fridayYes. I was hiding under my desk. Yes, Coworker. From you.

Hiding under my desk. It’s something I frequently wanted to do, but never really considered as a viable option.

I work in a space in my office called “The Nook” — a shared cubicle-like area outside our CEO’s corner office. Behind me, sits her assistant who I adore. We are the Nook Crooks, a duo with a mutual appreciation for dark chocolate and need for invisibility cloaks. The Nook is at the front of the office, about 20 feet from the main entrance and 10 feet from the receptionist. A low wall sheilds us from being directly visible to visitors, but once you know where we live, you know how to find us. And people who frequent the arts council, aren’t afraid to walk by our receptionist to say “hello.”

If only they were sneaking into the nook to say hello!

Since I’ve been working at this station, my fellow Nook Crook and I have been plotting ways to install some kind of alarm/security system. But we acknowledged even bells and sirens doesn’t solve our plight — we’re in a corner.  If there’s someone coming we want to avoid, our only exit strategy is jumping out the window.

I heard Cudjoe’s voice before he even stepped off the elevator. Cudjoe has a small gallery specializing in African art in my building. He’s a friend and we’ve successfully worked together on more than a few projects. But since the summer, I’ve been avoiding him. He wants to rent my gallery for his daughter’s wedding reception — an event I usually veto. I considered making an exception for him, but I had completely forgotten to take to our building people. His voice got closer. He was here to see our auction coordinator and drop off his donation for our annual gala.  I knew if I stood up and headed for the bathroom, he’d see me. I looked around, searching for an escape route. And then it hit me — I could hide under my desk.

I took my phone and made a dive, nose first. I pulled my desk chair in close enough to obscure my wine-coloured pants. Then I began to rummage items together — if the off-chance someone saw me, I could at least pretend I was fixing or looking for something.

Then I heard Ed’s voice. Ed is my organization’s counterpart in performance. He’d been trying to track me down for weeks to settle on a schedule for concerts that would happen in the gallery at the same time as the most important exhibition of my career, to date. I didn’t want to tell him how I felt about that without some back-up. So I decided I’d hang out under my desk a little longer.

So that’s where all my umbrella’s went! Oh, and here’s that photo an artist gifted me…

I amassed a neat pile of objects I could pull out to cover my tracks.

About 5 minutes passed and finally, all was quiet. I made my move.

“Trying to keep a low profile?” Ed’s question made me jump. He had seen me and decided to wait for me to emerge.

Caught, and with no where left to hide, I made an appointment to meet him later.

I confessed my desperate act to one of my superiors. She laughed and pulled up a recent This American Life segment called “The Leap,” which recounted the story of her uncle Bill — an NYC school bus driver who one day skipped his route and drove his school bus to Florida. He became something of a hero. She was trying to tell me she sympathized.

“When Ed came up to meet you he made sure to pull out your chair and look under your desk,” Anna, my boss’s assistant told me.

And with that, so ends my hiding place.

Out or In? Acknowledging What We Really Want

As he placed the bowl of strawberries and a plate of fresh mozzarella in front of me, I thought: we’re a total cliche.

The plan had been to meet at his place for a rooftop drink, then grab dinner and the new Woody Allen flick. 45 minutes to get all dressed up, and we didn’t even make it to the club… Instead of dinner and a movie, we were sitting in his kitchen snacking on bits of things he’d picked up earlier that day at the family-owned Italian market around the corner from his one bedroom flat on the top floor of a Brooklyn brownstone. I was in a gray undershirt he’d pulled from a pile of recently washed leisure cloths. He sported a pair of boxer briefs. It was the summer after all, and central air is a luxury not found in pre-war residences.

“You should come back next weekend,” he said. “During the daytime. We’ll shop the corridor of old family businesses my grandmother used to frequent, and then we’ll cook dinner.”

Nothing says happy couple like a date-night in, cooking together...

Nothing says happy couple like a date-night in, cooking together…

A week later, we did just that. Standing in his small kitchen, chopping tomatoes and swapping family sauce secrets, and pausing from the chore of cooking every so often to dance to the silence between tracks on the playlist, we were completely apart from the world. We were neatly  and romantically tucked away into a bubble of domestic bliss. As he cracked open a mediocre bottle of wine (a gift from his landlord) and as we shared the most tasteless bowl of rigatoni I’d ever concocted, I thought: we may not cook well together, but this feels good. This is what I want.

It turned out it was what he wanted too. As we put away the dishes, he told me he couldn’t see an ending for us. Perhaps, we’d found the one?

(Spoiler alert: we broke up 6 months later.)

These are the kind of tender moments from relationships past that I bury in the recesses of my memory as I move further away from them, both chronologically and emotionally.

Two years later, and a few hours after diner at a friend’s flat, these vignettes, and ones like them, resurfaced. Over a home-cooked meal of a different nature we had talked about what constituted a “grown-up” relationship, and what he wanted/was ready for now — he painted a rather domestic scene of shared nights in, conversation exchanged over a bottle of wine, etc.

This didn’t surprise me. In my experience, most of the men I dated moved from going out to staying in as soon as I gave his apartment a passing mark. For me, this turn inward was often a point of contention.

cold weather coupleI am almost stubbornly independent. Personal space and alone time are precious, not commodities, but necessities for me. In a similar vein, while I fully embody the home-maker sign of the zodiac, my romantic search has been motivated by finding an activity partner. I’m an adventurer, and when asked when I’m looking for, I usually choose “someone to go out with” rather than “someone to come home to.” Spending our nights together on the couch didn’t seem domestic, it seemed lazy. Expecting I would spend my weekends at his place, on his couch, didn’t seem domestic, it seemed invasive and possessive.

Opening up my mind’s vault to those scenes was revealing. That my most treasured memories from broken romances revolved around a pseudo home life was at first disturbing. I was forced to admit to myself that my favorite stage in a relationship is the part when we’re okay with looking inward, when we’re okay being more home-centric than out and about. I haven’t decided if I have any profound take away from this realization yet — perhaps I have a more focused idea of what I want for myself? Maybe. I know I want to strike a balance between being a nesting pair and a social duo. And what I also know is that I haven’t made finding Mr. Right any easier through this confession — it’s far easier to find someone you can run with than to find someone you want to sit still beside.

 

Have Love Will Travel

I brought back a ton of jars like this, filled with honey... one was for My Honey

I brought back a ton of jars like this, filled with honey… one was for My Honey

“Ma’am,” the airport security officer said, with a thick eastern European accent. “Honey must go in checked baggage.”

I groaned. As a well-seasoned traveler I knew better, but in order to avoid over-weight baggage fees, I convinced myself the small earthenware pots would act as camouflage. Those pots were loaded with honey, one of the things Bulgaria is most known for producing. Damn these new x-ray machines — I couldn’t hide the fact that each of the half dozen clay jars actually contained twice the legal limit of fluid for carry-on bags.

I returned to the ticketing counter. Checked my carry-on. Paid 75 Euros and nearly punched Mr. TSA when, once through security, I realized I was allowed to buy and carry-on a life-time supply of honey from the terminal gift shop, if I so chose.

#SecurityFail

One of those folk craft jars of honey was being carried home for “My Honey” — the tall, blue-eyed, Ivy League Senior Project Manager who sneaked into my life a few months earlier. As per his requests, I had also secured a magnet from Paris for his collection and also from France, a “very little something lacy ” (wink, wink, nudge, nudge.)

image

Frank Hampshire (a nickname he earned at my friend’s birthday party) and I had only become “official” a few days before my departure for a two-week sojourn in France and Bulgaria. I didn’t expect there’d be much in the way of communication for the next 14 days — is there internet near the Black Sea? But when I finally touched down on European soil, I found an email  waiting for me. He wanted to make sure I’d had a good flight and wanted to offer some google-inspired dining suggestions for when I finally made my connection to Sofia, Bulgaria.

I admit, I was quietly pleased with myself for landing such a good guy who seemed to like me so much. That started a daily email exchange, our rapport acting as a kind of diary of my travels as he recounted all the things he wished he could tell me in person. It was like we were traveling together. Of course, until he asked why was it that on his one good hair day in 30+ years, I was 3,000 miles away?

It’s easy to travel the world when you know someone is missing you at home.

I was bemused — the two weeks and 3,000 miles apart had codified our relationship. A year earlier, two weeks abroad brought about the end of a relationship, and I couldn’t help reflecting on how a break from life as usual had produced such different outcomes.

It was taking in views like this from Durnstein, Austria, that made me realized I needed someone different.

It was taking in views like this from Durnstein, Austria, that made me realized I needed someone different.

I flashed back to a cold windy October night and a street corner in Manhattan’s theater district. A passionate kiss and a promise we’d work things out before we headed separate ways. I had suffered delayed trains and Times Square crowds to break up with The Admiral (my Ex with a capital E), but when he took my hand at dinner and told me he didn’t want to lose me, I chickened out. We agreed my vacation would be a geographically-imposed break from our relationship, and we’d talk things over when I got back. We agreed that if we decided not to stay together, we’d stay friends… we’d leave the door open. We just needed time to think and lighten up. I left the States convinced we’d stay a couple — we loved each other, after all, and we owed it to ourselves to try to make it work.

As I wandered through Austria’s wine region, meandering along the Danube, pausing in hillside medieval towns to lunch on farm-fresh goats cheese and Apricot brandy, it all became clear. I imagined retracing the same romantic trip in the future with a different travel companion. He had a face and a name, and neither belonged to The Admiral.

I touched down in New York the morning Hurricane Sandy swept through the region. It would be another week before the Admiral and I finally spoke, in the cocktail lounge where we went on our first date, and agreed to shelf the romance.

And now, here I am two years later, a few days away from another two weeks in Europe. Frank Hampshire faded away into the history books, and the Admiral and I are “just friends.” I’m in the early stages of a new relationship and I’m not sure how 14 days off-line will affect the course of things. One way or another, my time abroad will help us decide our next step, if there’s to be one. Maybe, we’ll miss each other and hurry to make things more serious. Or, and this is more likely, one of us will move on. But, of course, this is what vacations are for — taking the requisite break from reality to help us decide what’s really real… in life and in love.

lovers locks paris 2013