What you already knew about other people’s weddings.

“How do you feel at weddings? Because I feel pretty fucking awful at them.”

Oliver was hungover and sitting in a Midwest airport, a few days after his 30-something birthday and the morning after a close friend’s wedding. He continued before I could answer, drawing a comparison to being 30 and single at a friend’s wedding to being 80 at a friend’s funeral. Suddenly you’re aware that you’re the one left behind — the loneliness is palpable.

“I love weddings. And I love flying solo at them,” I chirped in when he done with his melodramatic imagery. But then again, I had accepted the possibility of a life lived sans co-pilot. He was a chronic monogamist, who for as long as we had been friends (now more than a decade) was always pining for a wife.

Our conversation brought up a few memories…

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It’s really easy to be that kid at someone else’s wedding. Really easy.

Memory 1: When my best girl got engaged, I was terrified about how I would feel at her wedding. I expected to feel a mixture of sadness and jealously — both selfish responses to your best friend finding a happily ever after. I was present when she met her now husband, and as we all joke, I get to take some credit for their meeting (it was my idea to go to that bar, after all.) But there’s another way to tell the story: two girls walk into a bar. One walks out with a husband, the other with a hangover. I never think of it this way, but I was afraid that come her wedding day, I would. I was the only unattached bridesmaid, and wasn’t offered a plus-1. Would I feel all alone?

When the day arrived, I was relieved that all I felt was happiness — happy that I was there, happy that I got to be a part of the day, and happy that the friend who was like a sister to me was happy. (If I was starting to feel low, it helped that one of the groomsmen asked if he could take me to dinner one day…even if he was nearly 20 years older than me, and was rocking a soul patch… soul patches are unforgivable facial hair decisions.)

Memory 2: It was the middle of October and I was milling about the first floor of one of Amsterdam’s most luxurious department stores, stocking up on Christmas cards with yuletide greetings written in Dutch (because, of course.) A text message came through — my Ex with a capital E wanted to know what I was doing on Saturday.

Kat: Flying home from Amsterdam.

Ex: What time will you be back?

Kat: Why, what’s up?

Ex: I wanted to know if you were free to be my plus-1 at my sister’s wedding.

Kat: That’s rather short notice! Suddenly feel like you need moral support?

Ex: Don’t need moral support. Just want someone at my side who I would want at my side at these kind of important things…

I didn’t make it back in time to be his plus-1, but if he had asked me sooner, I would have been willing to book an earlier flight. Not because I wanted to fall back into the role of girlfriend, but because I understood.

When you’re single, other people’s weddings trigger complex emotions. We get a front seat in a real-life fairy tale, and that can inspire in us everything from hope to despair, happiness to loneliness. We can revel joyfully in the moment of the party, or wander aimlessly down memory lane, reliving all the relationships that could have made it to the alter. The ones that got away are specters that hang behind centerpieces and under place cards. For some singletons, all they need to weather that whirlwind of feels is a strong drink (or an open bar) and the right song to dance to (all hail the Wedding Singer!) Others meanwhile need a companion. My Ex and Oliver are of the latter. I’m in the group that hands them a drink and makes them join me in the macarena/hokey-pokey/electric slide. At least, that’s where I am for now.

 

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Taxi Driver Horoscopes: A Second Date, Unsolicited Advice, and a Two-Bite Brownie

We were standing on the corner of Houston and Allen Streets. We had covered the entire west side and a good portion of the lower east side. My feet didn’t hurt, my hair still had a few good hours left in it, but the mist was beginning to turn to rain — a signal perhaps that it was time to call it a night.

Should we lyft, subway, or splurge on a yellow cab? Red asked.

IMG_20150602_082913I looked around. Houston was uncharacteristically jammed with “ready to hire” cabs. I answered the question by hailing one and said the fare was on me.

Red and I had talked freely all night, and continued to swap stories, each of us sitting as close to the windows and away from each other as possible. Like two kindergartners who were afraid of catching cooties.

As was my luck, I had picked a cab with one of those drivers who decides to pop-in on your conversation, then shares his life story, then offers you advice. He was wearing a powdered blue suit. He had class.

Are you two married?

Ha! No! We both replied.

Boyfriend and girlfriend?

Nope. Again, in unison.

Then Red: We’re friends.

Good friends?

We both remained silent and looked out the window. Our hazy night was reflected back to me in the silhouettes of NYC’s buildings zipping past.

Your date is so seeeeexxxxy! Red’s friend Leanna drunkenly announced when we dropped in on her Cinco de Mayo party. Keeeep herrrrrr!

Marry her! Another random party-goer said to Red when I sourced ladles as shot glasses.

We looked the part of couple, but were d-level actors at it.

It was a second date that should have been a home run given the success of our first and a long list of shared interests. I hadn’t been this excited about someone since Clark Kent, the museum exhibition manager with the kryptonite touch from the summer before. This one felt written in the stars. And yet, everything fell entirely flat. We were having a good time, but we would have been having a good time whether or not we were with each other. We were out together, but not really together.

The man should chase the woman, our dapper taxi driver said at one point.

It was perhaps his wisest remark of our northbound drive. I had quasi chased Red, and while I don’t believe in following all the standard rules of engagement in love and lust, experience had taught me to let the man take the lead.

Outside his apartment he gave me a firm hug.

I like you. I had a great time. You’re really sweet, but I don’t think we have much in the way of chemistry.

No. It seems we don’t.

We have a lot in common, and we should totally keep in touch.

Absolutely. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

As I walked to my car, I remembered I had a two-bite brownie in a hidden pocket of my purse. I sat in the driver’s seat. Cranked up some Beyonce. Ate the brownie in four bites, then drove off into the rain.

The New Jewels in the Jewelry Box: Considering a Gem of an Ex

It was the patriot cluster of red, white, and blue that caught my eye as I walked past my office’s mail/copy room. The lone envelope in my mailbox was stocked with enough forever stamps to take it to the moon and back. When I saw the return address, I smiled warmly as I thought this was just like him. He never wanted to let me down or disappoint me. He would do whatever he had to to make sure the USPS wouldn’t fail me.

Inside the envelop, wrapped thoughtfully in a paper towel was my missing earring. A giant peridot-like stud that he had given me for Christmas and that I had left at his house weeks earlier, before we decided to part ways. The post of the earring had been bent in transit so it lay flat against the crystal  (or perhaps he had bent it before he sent it? Another precaution so it wouldn’t poke through the envelope and get lost en route? That was also just like him.) I started to try to unbend it… it wouldn’t budge. Just then, my boss walked into my office.

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They’re kind of the perfect earrings

“I have a jeweler who can fix that for you.”

“I have a pair of pliers.”

“You’d better heat it up then. Wouldn’t want to break it.”

That would have been ironic. I dropped the earring into a cup of boiling water and sat at my desk. I played our time together through my head as I let the metal warm.
Had he been different, had those earrings been different, I might not have asked for it back. Given how long we had been seeing each other when he gave them to me, they were the gift I least expected. Not only were they jewelry (remember the ex boyfriend who refused to buy me earrings?) they were the exact pair I had been stalking at the Kate Spade store near my work. It seemed that at only two months in, he had already figured me out.

And maybe he had since day one. Our first date had been 5-star, after all. He had worn a suit and tie. I had worn my favorite Milly skirt and red patent heels.  A refreshing change from the oh so many swipe-started first dates where I almost didn’t care if I had shown up in sweat pants.

The relationship that came before him had been defined by a lack of communication. Ours had been defined by intimacy — we had been open about our relationships past and our fears entering this one, about our personal short comings, and about the road blocks we had faced that  had in turn made us strong. We lusted after each other for the superficial things, but admired each other for the things that mattered. We weren’t afraid to take the risks that come with opening up.  He was the first guy I’d dated who ever showed any genuine interest in all the parts that made up my life — from the gallery to my family to my sport to my blog.

I took the earring out of the cup and bent the post back into place.  I’d been carrying around its mate in my purse and immediately, I popped the reunited pair into my ears. When he and I broke up exactly two weeks earlier I didn’t cry. When we broke up, I don’t know that I felt the feelings that make you want to cry. I don’t know that I felt anything but relief — I wasn’t making him happy, and let me tell you, being unable to make someone happy can be exhausting.

Later that night as I went to put the earrings into my jewelry box, I cried. Running through it all — from start to last text message — I realized just how final our good-bye had been and I was sorry for that. But at least I had this new favorite pair of earrings, and to always wear with them, a cache of warm memories and lessons about life, love, and Legos.

 


Author’s note:

In something of an ironic twist, about two weeks later I lost the earring again, at an art fair. This time, it is clearly for good. Lesson learned: somethings are just not meant to be.

Let’s Not Stand On Ceremony: Becoming Reverend Reck, Part 1

I was in the middle of my attempted return to a nightly yoga practice and (un)comfortably contorted into a parivrtta parsvkonasana (a revolved side angle pose… ) when my cell lit up with a text message fit for the opening lines of a Camus novel:

“Today, our Japanese rabbi died.”

My best friend, a bubbly, intelligent, and kind culturally-Jewish girl from the suburbs of New York City, was getting married to a warm, thoughtful, and humorous Japanese bar owner in exactly one month. And after all the pinterest boards and dessert tastings, this was the last thing she needed.

Shocking, I know, but like unicorns, Japanese rabbis are kind of rare.

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There was a few exchanges — she had a Plan B, everything was going to be fine.

The next morning I got a phone call.

I was the plan B.

When she asked me if I wouldn’t mind the promotion from bridesmaid to stand-in officiant, I flashed through the last seven years…

To the weekend she crashed at my small “efficiency” studio on the upper west side of Manhattan and I suggested we go to this fancy cocktail bar downtown. After comping us a round a drinks, the bartender made us a refreshing non-alcoholic beverage to help us make our way home. That bartender would become her boyfriend…

Flash forward a few years later, she and I were standing in an elevator she was wearing a kimono the bartender’s mother had gifted her. “He’s the one,” she said without reservation. “Women know these things”…

And now I was standing in the bathroom at work, on the phone, being asked to officiate their wedding.

“I really can’t think of a bigger honor than getting to marry you two.”

“Great! I hoped you’d say that! I think it’d be really awesome to get married by officiant in a blue jumpsuit!”

That’s right. I was the bridesmaid who was told “wear whatever you want, as long as it’s blue,” and decided on a cobalt blue jumpsuit. A Reverend in a jumpsuit. I could see the branding opportunities already…

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Up until this point, my day-of wedding responsibilities were fairly simple and superficial:

  1. Make sure the make-up artist doesn’t make the Bride orange
  2. Make sure the Bride’s dress corset is pulled in as tight as it can go — don’t worry if she seems to be suffering from shortness of breath.
  3. Make sure the Bride has a shoehorn so she doesn’t smash the heels of her Jimmy Choos when she’s putting them on under her dress.

I had just picked up a few more responsibilities that were significantly less superficial (Learn Japanese sake-pouring ceremony. Learn how to say “chuppah” in a way that doesn’t sound like a sneeze. Make sure Bride and Groom say “I Do” and sign marriage certificate) but I would handle them, because for her, for them, I had to.  There are only a few times in your life when the people you love really ask you to step up to the plate for them. And when they do, you owe it to them to bring your A-game… to try to hit a home run… and if you don’t, at least you go down swinging.

 

 

 

 

Considering “Speed” Dating

As a rule, I generally mistrust people who just meet me and decide they like me. You say you want to get drinks sometime? That we should go here or visit there? Why? What do you think I can do for you?

This is, of course, an unhealthy reaction, but it’s also the by-product of being in a position in life where people generally DO want something from you — like my economics problem set or a solo exhibition or access to myroladex or a no-pants dance party.

So, not surprisingly, when a date expresses interest to see me again tomorrow, or perhaps the day after, I balk. But unlike professional relationships, there’s more to it than a skepticism in the sincerity or intentions behind his enthusiasm.

Cut to scene:

I’m sitting on a corner stool at the counter at Diner, a vintage diner done slightly upscale in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, munching on northern-style southern-style fried green tomatoes, recovering from 3 hours of over exposure to glaring sun, swapping life and dating updates with JC, the requisite “big brother” figure every girl needs to have in her Little Black Book.

(Aside — if you’re a single female in Williamsburg, you have exactly 4 dating options: Mr. Tattooed sleeves, Mr. Bearded, Mr. Tattooed Sleeves and Bearded, or stay single. Apparently, diversity is not counter-culture’s strong point.)

His flame of less than a month was proving a challenge for a number of reasons.

“We’re seeing each other once a week, at best.” He started. “She’s going away. I’m going away. She wants to spend the long weekend with her mother. We live 4 miles apart but that 4 miles is an hour and a half commute.We’re dancing around the issue that we’re just not hanging out. I’m sorry, but I want that big, all-in romance. Where you see each other 2, 3 times a week.”

I wasn’t sure if the scowl I felt forming on my face was visible yet, but I’m pretty sure my “that’s just silly!” made my point.

By “that” I mean the sentiment that it’s perfectly reasonable to expect someone you’ve just started seeing to give you three days in the same week.

In past generations, “walking out” with someone was a weekly occurrence, not a 3x a week event.

When our parents generation was dating, couples saw each other once a week, on weekends. That was sufficient. We seem to need someone’s constant availability to feel like we’re in a new relationship.

To me, that’s jumping the gun.

We live in an age of over sharing and hyper exposure. We move fast. We sign one year leases. We put in 18 months at one firm before we start searching for an opportunity at the next firm. Problems are solved with the swipe of our index finger and the aid of a logarithm. We live in a city that never sleeps and offers endless opportunities for the next best thing. We strive for bigger paychecks. We clamor to build ever-expanding networks. We believe relationships of all forms can be forged on social media or at a cocktail party, and forget that real meaning builds over time.

As someone who has dated guys who have absolutely no out-of-work interests, I wonder about a person whose calendar is so void of commitments — work, family, social, community service, whatever — that they can just squeeze me, a relative stranger, in at beep of a text message. I have things to do, why don’t you?

More over, I’m skeptical about someone who is so fickle that they can make me the single most important thing in his life and toss out everything to make time for me. I haven’t earned a listing on your “favorites,” so why are you bumping drinks with someone else to meet me for dinner? What does this mean for an “us” in the long run? When will I get bumped for a better offer?

It seems to me, we date like we’re hyped up on amphetamines –we date on Speed. It’s all hot and passionate for a brief while and then it fades. We’re on to the next, and it’s the same. There’s no building smolder. It’s just on, at full intensity. And then it’s off.

While I’m flattered by your enthusiasm, and yes, I want to see you 10 minutes after we say good-night too, I just can’t believe this is a healthy way to get to know someone.

When I look at the most successful couples I know, they began slow and steady. Their approach to dating was “old school.” Some didn’t even like one another when they first met. It took the prodding of mutual friends and gradually spending time one on one to make the relationship blossom. In one case, it was a long distance affair for months, and when the two were finally sharing the same zip code, it was months before they started seeing each other 2 or more times in the same week.

I’ve survived both the slow build and the intense fire. While so far neither approach has got me to a happily ever after, it was the relationships that developed over time that were more satisfying while I was in them, and more painful to lose.

To wrap it all up, I think you need to earn your place in someone’s life. Yes, there comes a time when it’s reasonable to expect spending a whole weekend together, or several nights a week, but not at the start.

We expect Platinum privileges when we haven’t even earned Gold Status.

Take it slow is old advice, but perhaps there are reasons why it’s endured so many generations. Balance and restraint are surprisingly sexy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giving Up the Gun, Or What the Psychic Said

Once upon a time, I impulsively dropped $75 on tarot card readings.

That’s right, in an 18 hour period, 2 different psychics had their way with me and the entire contents of my wallet.  What, in God’s name, was I thinking?

At the time, I was broke, uninsured, verging on broken-hearted, and in serious need of a disinterested 3rd party’s reassurance that “Everything will be alright.”

I just didn’t plan to lose $75 for that reassurance. Luckily, neither psychic really told me what I wanted to hear.

The first reading happened at night, in the back of a French restaurant on red leather couches outside the restrooms. The psychic, (a man!), didn’t want to waste any time on assessing my career. After a flash reading, he determined there were no uncertainties there. I knew what I wanted, and it was only a matter of “when,” not if I ‘d get it. He looked at me sideways. “Tell me about the guy… he’s been around a while hasn’t he?”

Caught.

I quickly related the story of the guy I met as a freshman in college, became best friends with, and accidentally and mistakenly fell madly in love with. After 7 years and dozens of close encounters, we were toying with the idea of becoming something more.

My psychic dealt the cards and though he slowly deciphered their placement and relation, he quickly painted an accurate portrait of the relationship between me and HIM. The slow build up. The intellectual underpinnings. The unbalanced emotions (“he’s the one that has all the feeling”). The punchline? Drop him. “You’ll have a long and stable romance, but you’ll lose something of yourself,” the psychic said. “If you leave him behind, as in drop him entirely from your life, you’ll get everything you really want.”

While I was less than satisfied the less than specific assurance about my career, I was devastated by the suggestion to drop the love of my life (up until then.) So of course, I sought a second opinion…

The next day I met my girl AB for lunch at Crema, a nouveau Mexican place on 17th street in the heart of Chelsea. In those days, Chelsea was still the original Hell’s Kitchen, home to the most beautiful beef-cake gay men and flamboyant drag queens. Crossing the street was the equivalent of perusing a visual candy store… but it was not the place to pick-up straight men making it the perfect neighborhood for a girls-only girl date.

It only took one bite of our flautas and 2 margaritas for me to convince her that we needed to have our palms read across the street, under the neon glow of a giant sign that screamed PHSYSIC. That day Madame was offering a deal: free palm reading with tarot.

I honestly can’t remember what she told me — she may have promised I’d meet my soul mate before the end of the summer or that I’d have a job offer tomorrow — but I do remember AB and I sitting in City Bakery an hour later, sharing  chocolate chip cookie and wondering if we’d just been had.

We pooled our remaining cash (#brokegradstudents) and bought another cookie — for when in doubt of life’s next step, chocolate usually solves the problem more certainly than a foggy crystal ball.

Chocolate has all the answers. (Image from the City Sage)