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.

Inception: The Relationship Edition

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m just not properly equipped to be in this relationship.”

Frank Hampshire had sent me  a text message asking if he could catch the next train to come see me.

No, I said. He could call me.

I knew what was coming even though there had been no preemptive discussion. I have a 6th sense — I see dead relationships. I always know when we’re over, even when all signs say otherwise.  In retrospect, I probably should have made him pay the $20 in transportation fees…

giphy (3)

What exactly Frank Hampshire meant by “not properly equipped,” it’s hard to say, but he was right. We were fundamentally ill-equipped for each other, despite a Thanksgiving-dinner-grocery-shopping list of reasons why we had been great plus-1s over the last six months.

We had hit that perfect grove of a stable relationship — game nights with his friends, concerts and outings, Seamless or Blue Apron and pirated movies at his place, a holiday with my parents, my toothbrush in his medicine cabinet and my shirt in his closet. There wasn’t anything glaringly out of place. But then one cold January morning, after a perfect night of laughter out with friends, I woke up in his apartment, looked around, and knew I had better take my toothbrush.

Frank was still asleep. From his bed I had a perfect panorama of his apartment. Through the bay windows in front of me I could see the whole of Manhattan’s Upper East Side. I loved that view. Dawn was breaking but the sky ached with the weight of late winter grey clouds. On the windowsill, I could see the sombrero ashtray his mother brought him from Mexico — the ashtray he swore he never used, even thought I caught him leaning his head out of the window dragging long puffs on a cig from his secret stash more than once. And I could see his elliptical machine — the one he definitely never used because it was thick with dust and  which had become symbolic of our divergent lifestyles. If I turned my head to the left, I could see into his closet where the purple dress shirt I gave him for Christmas because it made his blue eyes pop hung in a sea of white and solid blue.

And I could see him.

For all the things that had been good about us, the things that had gone unsaid were becoming palpable.

It’s like inception — once that idea “this is over” creeps into your head, you can’t get rid of it. You can say you’re being silly. But it bores away at you. And before you know it, you’re trapped inside a collapsing deep daydream. No matter how much you try to reason your heart into believing you’re in love, you just know — it’s over.

leonardo-dicaprio-in-the-water-in-inception
Like Leo, we’re in a dream that was about to collapse, and for us there was no way out

 

 

 

 

Upgrade Available. Click to Start

Men should not only go to, but should be like gyms.
Men should not only go to, but should be like gyms.

“Men should be like gyms,” a Park Avenue Power Lawyer, breast-cancer survivor and mother of 2 grown children advised me. “Conveniently located.”

This is a rather good criteria, and it’s true that of late, real estate has been a deciding factor in romantic endeavors. When I discovered the guy I started dating last summer had an apartment on the upper east side, a stone’s throw from the Met, a block from my favorite Italian market, across the street from my doctor, and directly above a restaurant with the best gnocchi on the planet, I was sold.

Mr. UES had a small handful of things going for him, but the location of his apartment — the fact it wasn’t in Brooklyn and came with the opportunity for a proper pied a tere in my most frequented neighborhood — persuaded me to ignore the inclining that this was a poor match and thus helped lock him in as my one and only.

It was sinkholes like this on the road to my ex's apartment that killed my beloved car
It was sinkholes like this on the road to my ex’s apartment that killed my beloved car

As our relationship progressed into the winter, I made it a habit to bypass public transportation in favor of driving to his apartment. For the last 10 years, I’d been driving my first car. It was a compact SUV, invaluable in schlepping artwork around the Hudson Valley and I’m convinced it could drive my favorite routes through Manhattan by itself. I knew its time was limited, but it was a car built to last… and it would have, if it wasn’t for my ex-boyfriend, the Major Deegan and global warming.

If you were living anywhere in North America this winter, you’re well aware of the havoc the cold and snow inflicted on the roadways. The drive to his apartment was riddled with sinkholes, most of which were hidden by poor street lighting and other vehicles. The drive to Mr. UES’s apartment on snowy winter evenings bent the underbelly of my beloved FreeLander in half.

And then, in the coldest heart of winter, we broke up.

Not only did he refuse to buy me earrings for Christmas and never took a duster to his furniture, he broke my car.

With my 4-wheel companion for the last decade deemed irreparable, I started shopping for a replacement. It was time for an upgrade.

It was the day I settled on a Ranger Rover Evoque that I met the foreign athlete turned PhD engineer and agreed to dinner. A new car. A new boyfriend. It felt like upgrades all around. Needless to say, I got over the broken car and the broken heart in the time it took to sign the paperwork.

machine fail
Transportation Upgrade Fail

Not. So. Fast.

2 weeks into my new car, and it was being towed out of the supermarket parking lot on a flatbed. A part was faulty. I couldn’t get it out of park. 2 weeks into life with a loaner car, and 4 weeks into our romance, Le Monsieur showed his true colours.

I was paying for a car I didn’t have and I had already ended two relationships before the end of the new year’s first quarter.

It seemed my upgrade came with a virus.

But luckily, viruses usually can be treated. Just in time for my 3rd month’s car payment, the dealer called to tell me the new part had arrived from the UK and was replaced. I could come pick-up the car whenever I was ready.

So now, a few months later than I planned, I have my new, twice upgraded car. It’s a silver Ranger Rover Evoque with black leather interior. It has a push start and heated steering wheel. The panorama roof comes standard. The soundtrack heavily featuring songs like “Diva” and “Bad Girls,” and “Fancy” is driver-supplied.

If you ask nicely, maybe I’ll take you for a ride sometime…

Upgrade complete.

Panorama sunroof: check. Bad ass playlist: check. Feeling pretty cool behind the wheel of my new car: check.
Panorama sunroof: check. Bad ass playlist: check. Feeling pretty cool behind the wheel of my new car: check.

 

 

 

 

 

An Essayist Fails to Find a Moral: or The Boy Broke My Heart and Taught me Nothing about Life. What a Jerk.

An essayist breaks a cup. She writes an essay. She learns and shares a life lessonl. No pressure.

A personal essayist carries the weight of the world on her little writer’s shoulders.

She breaks a teacup.

She writes an essay about breaking the tea cup.

She turns introspective.

She employs wits.

She jerks at the heart’s strings.

She considers the social impact of breaking the teacup.

She turns a seemingly insignificant moment into a neatly resolved story with a moral and rounds it out with insightful commentary on the way we live now.

No pressure.

I like to think of myself an essayist, or perhaps an essayist in training. I’ve always believed that there is a story behind everything – and every story is interesting if you tell it right. There should never be a lack of inspiration, as long as you’re in the mood to be creative.

And there is certainly never a lack of inspiration when your favorite subject is the way we love now.

This is how I look when i'm trying to write an essay...

After several years in the trenches of Love’s War, I’ve decided every first date can provide preliminary material for a minimum of 3 essays. For each date thereafter, the number of possible papers increases exponentially.

As you stop counting singular dates and start measuring your relationship in real time frames (i.e., weeks, years), you can generate an endless number of moralizing assemblages of prose.

I’ve never had a problem finding a greater life lesson or an aha! moment of self-reflection in a first date… until Gary.

Gary came pre-approved with the Grimm’s Fairytale Stamp of Prince Charming Approval. He was everything I had ever designed for myself in the Simms World of dream mates. I was ready to fall in love with him. Fate dangled him in front of me just long enough for me to get my hopes up and then, it whoosed him away.

Sitting pen and paper in hand a few days later, I was at a loss. I find myself asking:

What was the fucking point of that one?

If I could have walked away having learned something worth sharing I would feel better about Gary’s intrusive foray into my dating life. Be a jerk, I say, but at least lead me to an “aha!” moment in the process!

Thus, instead of rising above the fray of emotion to bring this to a resolved closing remark, I end insight-less. Essayist major fail.

woof woof

Unforeseen Hazards of Snowdays: Uncovering the Ghosts of Relationships Past

The wintry weather forecast made me feel like a kid again -- snow day? yes, please!

The wintry weather forecast for Tuesday night made me feel like a giddy school girl again. Snow day!? Yes, please! I awoke Wednesday morning knowing that the roads still needed clearing and sovwas slow to advance into the day. Sure, there were things to be done (like laundry and job applications), but why do something productive when the entire tri-state area had braced itself for snowpocalypse and was thus resigned to being unproductive?

Ignoring the stack of cover letters in progress, I began the cathartic snow day activity of clearing out my gmail inbox. Where did those 2,241 messages come from anyways?

As I worked my way backwards, it was somewhere around email 1,950 that I was punched in the heart. Sitting there between backups of old grad school papers  was a lost exchange with “The One I Let Get Away.” The emails were 2 years old and I wasn’t sure if I should delete them on sight or open and read. They had survived several previous inbox purges — there must have been something in the 9 messages worth holding on to.

“Hey there kiddo! Long time no see (could it be that I’m possibly starting to miss you?)” I wrote in the opening email that invited him to join me in my grad school graduation celebrations.

“HEY!!! Well, I know that I definitely miss you!”

I may be a sucker for Snoopy, but I'm no longer a sucker for an "I miss you."

Now I remembered why I saved the emails. “I definitely miss you” was a profound display of sentiment from a guy who was the polar opposite of sentimental.

The first time he told me he missed me was the first time I realized I was in love with him. He had called one summer night because he needed to talk through a rough patch. An hour passed and after we said our good-byes, he threw it in:

“I really miss you, you know.”

“I love you, you know.” But it was too late — we were already disconnected, and I realize now, disconnected in more ways than one.

A few months ago, after years of bouncing around in no man’s land, I finally came to terms with the fact that “I miss you” and “I love you” are not the same thing, even for the most philophobic of men. An awkward Friday night punctuated weeks of silence and sent me home ready to cut the few threads still holding together our threadbare relationship. It took 5 years for the story of us to run its course, but it took less than an hour to delete most traces of him from my every day life. In clicks and swipes I erased old text messages, buried photos of the two of us in the back of already dusty photo albums, removed his number from my phone, and sent old emails to the trash box.

But just as once shared songs have a habit of popping up on the radio or itunes, other specters of relationships-past can loom behind any corner. Some fade as quickly as they appear, others linger, showing their ghostly face every so often in the back of our memory. Luckily, these emails were an easy kill.

Conversation deleted… but not before I hit “print” and tucked the pages away in the back of a notebook. One day, “They Told Me to Find a Rich Husband” might be a book. When that day comes, you can bet The One I Let Get Away will get his own chapter and I’m going to want all the fodder I can get my hands on.

Becoming a Horse of a Different Color

Sometimes when you’re expecting bad news, the best thing to do is run away.

That’s exactly what I did in March of 2009 when I was in the thick of writing my masters thesis and awaiting responses from a handful of PhD programs. Given that the recent economic downturn had significantly reduced university endowments, I wasn’t optimistic that I’d be a paid student come September. I thought bad news would sound much better when received on a beach with a margarita in my hand. Inspired, I threw a polka-dot bikini and flip-flops into my car and drove 1,200 miles from New York to South Beach, FL for an early spring break.

sometimes bad news sounds much better when you hear it on a beach, with a margarita in your hand

It was a good thing I had such foresight.

While I was in South Beach, every PhD program I applied to sent me a rejection letter. Needless to say, I consumed a lot of margaritas that week.

Spending 7 days in the Florida sun, replenishing my vitamin D stores while getting to know the bartenders at my hotel may have temporarily raised the spirits and enlivened the soul, but once I was back home in a gray and slushy city, holed up in my smaller-than-a-dollhouse studio, the debilitating sting of the rejections set in.

100 pages of writing sat between me and my MA and for the first time in my life, I faced an uncertain future. I felt useless. I had no power to go back and change anything — not the topic I had spent 18 months researching, not the character of my fellow applicants, not the shape economy — yet I felt the need to change or exert power over something.

transforming into a horse of a different color is one way of asserting we're in control of our life... maybe

And so, in an attempt to gain temporary control in my life, I booked an appointment with my hairstylist.

Ladies, we’ve all done it before — broken up with a guy or had some traumatic experience that compelled us to bee-line to the salon for a makeover. Redefining our appearance is a way of asserting a new take on life and exercising power over our future. Sometimes we add bangs, sometimes we go platinum, sometimes we get botox, sometimes we get bangs, go platinum AND get botox.

I went orange.

I walked into a salon on Madison Avenue with long brown locks and hoped to walk out with spunky curls spiked with scarlet. Instead, I hit the pavement with short tendrils the color of pumpkin pie.

I walked into the salon with long brown locks and walked out with short pumpkin-colored tendrils. So much for taking control...

Under the warm lights of the salon, I thought this was exactly what I wanted — a total overhaul, a brand-new, “in your face, future!” me. It wasn’t until I met a friend for lunch that I realized the irony: at the end of the day, my little act of self-empowerment didn’t empower me at all — I asked for red highlights and got a florescent carrot top.

“Your hair is orange!” she cried, knocking over her iced tea in a visible state of shock.

“I know. I thought I needed a change.”

“Don’t you think it’s a little… err…. extreme?”

“It was only supposed to have highlights.”

“It’s a lot more than highlights… and it’s orange. And you’re orange. Where have you been all week?”

“Florida.”

As I sat there, munching on a biscotti, recounting the reasons behind this sudden transformation into a horse of a different color, reality set it. I may have mitigated the rejections by running away for a week. I may have tried, in vein, to assert a sense of control by changing my appearance. But at the end of the day, I stood at a cross roads, and orange hair and a margarita-spiked tan wasn’t going to make it go away.

It was time to go back to my apartment and get writing…

And maybe, en route, pick up a box of Clariol Nice n’ Easy in Chestnut.