TFW You Step on the “Text Messages with your Ex” Landmine

I got a new phone this past October, just before I left for a two week sojourn in Germany and the UK. It was supposed to be faster and have a better camera than my previous phone. It had a lot of improvements and features I expected, and a few I didn’t… like all the text messages from my old phone. It seems that in transferring all my contacts, apps, and photos, I also transferred thousands of exchanges between myself and friends and family and exes.

I’ve said it in past posts, but I’ll say it again: text messages and emails with your exes are emotional landmines. Even when you think you’ve got them all safely contained, you stumble on one unexpectedly, and boom! Some part of you get obliterated in a cloud of smoke and verbal shrapnel. mobile.revolution

In this case, I had stumbled on an exchange between myself and Clark. It had been just about a year since we had dated and then not dated, and a few weeks since we had crossed paths and decided to start anew with a different tone. And then there they were — every text message sent from our first to our last.

One thing I’ve gotten very good at is moving on after something ends. With Clark, it was difficult, largely because we ended abruptly.  I had allowed myself to fall fast and hard for him, knowing that eventually, I’d hit the ground and that it might hurt. The ground came up on me faster than expected.

Lights on.

Lights off.

Thud.giphy (6).gif

I didn’t linger long on or pine for the sweet moments we shared. I stood up, shook it off, and pushed forward… with a visible emotional limp that would handicap me in what came next: a real relationship.

And then I read the texts. All of them. Separated from the exchanges by a year and a serious relationship, I was now a detached 3rd party — a voyeur looking into someone else’s relationship. I was sad for the couple in front of me. There was so much joy and promise in them. The chemistry was palpable. Then the final “hey. You up?” from her which triggered the break up email from him, and then a month later she said: “hey, I have mono. Pretty sure you gave it to me. #SoThisIs30.”

Now that we’re safely just friends, I’ve been tempted more than once to delete them all — especially the ones where he calls me beautiful or says how much he’s looking forward to seeing me or talks about kissing me in the ocean. I don’t want those around when I’m trying to forget that at one time, I thought I might have found a forever guy. And then I read this one and decide to keep them, because this is a good reminder of how I want to feel with each new “something”:

You can never tell if things are going to work at the start, but if we get to be our best selves for a while, then it will have been worth it. You make me smile. 

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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.

kate-spade-new-york-blue-faceted-small-square-stud-earrings-product-1-19644834-0-774214613-normal
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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hazards of Online Dating In a Suburban City

Am I the Samantha Jones of suburbia? No... not exactly... but I do love a good cosmo.

“Does this mean you’re officially the Samantha Jones of Westchester?”

If only she was referring to that time a Vanity Fair editor told me I was a young Kim Cattrall!

Instead, that was my best friend’s response to an email — the exclamation point to a series of stories — referencing an awkward encounter in an elevator with an artist my gallery recently decided to represent.

“That would imply I’ve slept with every unmarried man in suburbia,” I replied. “I haven’t slept with them — I’ve just met them on OkCupid.”

Donnie’s email was the last in a string of run-ins with local guys the world of WWW dating suggested I fall in love with. When I had been matched with a good-looking artist who recently moved into the neighborhood, I was obviously tickled pink. Even better, he happened to be a sculptor and I happened to be coordinating a sculpture exhibition. The opportunity to meddle in both business and pleasure could not be missed, and so I sent an introductory email — a rare act of self-pimping.

Immediately upon hitting send, I forgot I’d ever read his profile.

And then, this week, my guest curator announced the addition of a new artist to the roster for our summer exhibition. A meeting and tour of our space was scheduled. The artist made his appearance.

“Gosh, he looks familiar!” I thought as I attempted the requisite pleasantries in the elevator (it’s so good to have you on board! The exhibition really needs your aesthetic… etc).

"Gosh! Why does he look like I'm about to steal his wallet?!" Yea, it was an awkward elevator moment

“Gosh! He looks like he’s afraid I might steal his wallet.”

The next day — the email came with all the answers.

“I recognized you from OkCupid. Sorry, I saw your message but I’m seeing someone. I’d be happy to go for a hike or meet for coffee as friends some time.”

As uncomfortable as it was reading that email in the office, my real-life encounter with Donnie was the least awkward of all similar encounters. Sean was the nice real estate agent I eventually began exchanging text messages with. We found each other during my job’s peak season and I was frequently cancelling our scheduled rendez-vous. Eventually, the inevitable happened — we met standing in line at Starbucks. He was less than cordial.

Thanks to online dating, I can no longer buy coffee from the Starbucks across the street from my office, go to the movie theater a block away or order tostones from the Puetro Rican restaurant around the corner. All of these places are frequented by the men I’ve either asked out, been asked out by or been on a date with. Westchester is not a small county, but the number of single men under the age of 40… well, that is a relatively small number, and apparently, they all know my name.

“I guess it’s better to be the Samantha Jones of suburbia than a Desperate Housewife.”

Only a best friend could say something like that and live to order another cup of coffee.

I guess when it comes to suburban dating, it's better to be a Samantha Jones than a Desperate Housewife... for now...

Things You Wish He Hadn’t Said

one pitch and 2 strikes...

Sometimes, it’s a piece of information you just don’t need to know about him. Sometimes, it’s a poorly chosen pick-up line. Sometimes, it’s pillow talk gone uncomfortably awry. Sometimes, it’s his misconstrued version of a compliment. Every time, you wish he’d never said it.

The following list has been culled from a variety of friends and media – text messages, late night bar meetings, first dinner dates, 3rd dinner dates, pre and post romps, phone calls, etc. Enjoy, and feel free to add your own “things I wish he hadn’t said” in a comment!

#08: “How much money do you have left?”

#12: “You remind me of my half-sister Liza-Sue.”

#25: “My ex ripped my heart out and stepped on it. Totally trampled it. Would you like to have drinks tomorrow night?

#58: “So I went on a date this past Thursday with this other girl…it was really fun.”

#102: “I’ve been chaste since I broke it off with my fiancé 3 years ago.”

#113: “I can’t wait for you to come over, baby – I’ve been practicing spanking watermelons.”

#146: “I don’t usually date girls with a few extra pounds on them, but you’ve got beautiful brown eyes.”

#189: “One time in juvie…”

#215: “Look, my coat check tag is 69! I think we’re going to have a good time tonight. Hi, I’m Dave, by the way. So, what are you doing later?”

#257: “You’re the most famous person I’ve kissed… which I guess, doesn’t say much for who I’ve dated.”

#278: “Does chloroform turn you on? Cuz, it turns me on.”

#301: His chosen pet name for you is “Moose”

#355: “Hey luv my date for Sat wuz canceled my cock is urs all weekend now”

#403: “Look we can go for drinks if you want, but while you sit there prattling on, I’m just going to be picturing you naked in a hotel room. So maybe we just shouldn’t bother.”

#418: “Damn girl that is a phenomenal ass, looks like two hams fighting for position. mmm! That’s baby makin’ music.”

#444: “I’d like you to meet my imaginary friend, Hebert.”

#502: “The last time I came here with a date, she made out with the bartender.”

#504: “The last time I came here, I was with my cousin. We made out… Should I not have told you that?”

cartoon stolen from xkcd.

Never Trust the Zodiac When You Want to Fall in Love

In my teen years, every crush was measured against the horoscope. I believed that the alignment of the planets dictated my soulmate and was quick to consult the stars. But when every so-called perfectly-paired Virgo, Taurus, and Scorpio I fell for in high school proved duds, I retired my astrology chart.

Then this past April I met Zev, a sensual Scorpio with a scorpion tattooed on his neck and his zodiac symbol stamped on his forearm, and I became 13 again.

“You know, Cancers and Scorpios are a perfect match,” he said as he took a long sip from his scotch and soda.

Cancers and Scorpios make love like it's an Olympic sport. Maybe, I'd make it to London afterall.

I rolled my eyes. He persisted and pulled out his smartphone to show off a website that proved his point.

“The Cancer-Scorpio match is a match made in heaven” it read. “The the two of you could literally see fireworks.”

He leaned over and pointed to the screen with a wink: “the two of you will make love like it’s an Olympic sport.”

I admit, I was intrigued and agreed to dinner a week later.

Dinner was where things with Zev ended.

So much for “this passionate connection can develop into the perfect marriage.” As I adjusted my skirt and stomped off into the pouring rain, I promised I would never trust the Zodiac again.

When the next boy came around and our connection was as deep as it was instantaneous, I couldn’t help but wonder: is this written in the stars?

Enter the “daily horoscope” app for my smartphone.

Water-sign + water-sign = deluge

Apparently, two crabby Cancers make a terrible match. Water-sign + water-sign = deluge. Forget bad romance. Think a Chernobyl romance, overwrought with “I feel…” and moon-phase-induced emotional mood-swing nuclear spills.

“You run the risk of mirroring each others weaknesses…A marriage would be work for this pair” — that’s the way the astrology site phrased it — a euphemistic way to say, you’ll need more than a pre-nup going into this, you’ll need an excellent lawyer, or hell, an army of lawyers…and a box of tissues…and a therapist.

Bummer.

I shrugged and considered the unfavorable forecast. True, we had quickly committed to sharing our feelings about, not only each other, but everything — from the challenges of our respective workplaces to our inner-deepest reflections on love.

This type of display was totally out of character for me. I refused to believe that our instant connection wasn’t endorsed by the celestial bodies.

I googled “astrological compatibility,” and read until I found a glimmer of hope to cling to. 4 result pages in, I found it: “On the whole, this is quite a good match…and the sexual chemistry with be high!”

Phew!

I bookmarked that astrology page and decided it would be the only one I’d consult…at least, until the deluge.