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

 

 

 

Learning to Ride

“It’s just like riding a bike!” It’s a colloquialism meant to suggest that whatever “it” is, it’s so easy, any old fool can do it. It’s a colloquialism I hate, because it implies I’m the most foolish and inept of old fools in any given set of old fools. Because, why? Well, here’s a secret:

I can’t ride a bike.

this is not a Duchamp knock-off... a bike refurbishing moment
this is not a Duchamp knock-off… a bike refurbishing moment

Well, perhaps that’s a bit of an exaggeration. In theory, perhaps more than practice, I CAN ride a bike, though it’s been 10 years since I’ve been on one that isn’t stable, stationary and in a spin class.

I was late to bike riding. My parents gave me a neat, new purple 2-wheeler with trainers one Christmas, probably when I was about 4, with presumably high hopes that one day, I’d ride my bike to swim practice. I was excessively excited about the white basket on the front and the handle bar’s streamers. I rode it once. Maybe twice. It was eventually sent up to Canada for one of my younger cousins, who couldn’t believe it wasn’t brand new.

It wasn’t until I was 16 that I legitimately learned to ride a bike… but I could only ride straight, and I had to start by sorta scooting on one foot until I built up some momentum to get both feet on the pedals. Then I’d half fall off and half to start again. It was awkward and nonathletic. I couldn’t turn around, so when I came to the end of the street, I had to step off my bike and waddle it the 180 degrees it needed to turn so I could go back to where I came from. And going down hill sent me into a slight panic.

But those (many) handicaps didn’t stop me from riding the (paved, straight) bike path 20 miles every weekend.

The last time I rode a bike was summer 2004. That was the year I had a crush on an upper classman named Jake. He was a competitive cyclist from the West Coast who liked to study with me for our French exams. Our Professor compared us to Peanut Butter and Chocolate. I’m not sure Jake was as amused by that as I was, and one might assume the 10 years of neglect my bike has seen is a fairly good indication of how that little “romance” fared. My lapse in riding had nothing to do with Jake, but rather a Provincial Holiday bike ride through Vancouver’s Stanley Park. It was traumatizing.

Then this summer, after declining several invitations to ride borough to borough seeking art, I booked tickets to Amsterdam. How could I go to the bike-riding capital of Europe, where pedaling along the canal houses is on the “Must-Do” list of any traveler, and NOT partake?

I had 3 months to get ready. I went a hunt for the bike that had seen better days. The tires were flat. I needed new tubes. The dust was so thick I had forgotten the frame was really a forest green, not gray. The padding in my helmet had rotted out. The initial investment to refurbish was more than I had expected.

But upgraded and with 10 years of spin classes under my belt I was ready to beat my teenage shortcoming.

The good news is I haven’t fallen off yet. I’ve learned to turn around in a circle. I can start without the awkward scoot-fall-scoot. I only start a mild panic when the gradient points down. I don’t know I’ll feel confident enough to ride in a city where bikers ride like motorists in cars, aggressively, but at least now I can say “It’s just like riding a bike,” and mean it.

New helmet (NY Pride). revamped bike. Let's get riding.
New helmet (NY Pride). revamped bike. Let’s get riding.

 

 

Simple Sundays…

Do you know what I love about Sundays? On Sundays, I can have 2 cups of tea before I start my day. That’s right, I’m really a very simple girl…

All it takes is 2 cups of tea to make me happy…

2 cups of tea sipped from my white porcelain Bernardaud Louvre mug.

If it’s good enough for HRH, it’s good enough for e.

White porcelain doesn’t taint the taste of the tea, which is important because when you’re drinking HRH’s favorite blend, Taylor of Harrogate’s Yorkshire Gold, you want it to taste just so.

2 cups of tea steeped for exactly 5.5 minutes in freshly filtered water boiled to precisely 100 degrees Fahrenheit in my new Kitchen Aid kettle.

2 cups of tea finished with a dash of Organic Valley whole milk.

No sugar.

Just teatime, extra special, Sunday edition.

My Sunday Mug.

 

Dressing My Mother

“Look Aunt Winn, I just want to prepare you,” I heard my mother hollar into the phone. “I don’t wear pantyhose anymore. I wear jeans. And I wear Nikes. They’re cool Nikes, like really cool, but they’re Nikes… Yes. That’s right. Those are sneakers. I wear sneakers. Everywhere.”

My mother’s version of dress shoes.

My mother and I were loading up the car, getting it ready to take us to Canada, when she stopped packing to place the call. It was an unplanned midweek trip to attend my Great Uncle Bob’s funeral. The day before, Aunt Winn, his wife, had asked Mum to “say a few words,” because my mother is, apparently, the funny one in the family.

I could feel the panic radiating across the room.

“I just had to call her and warn her,” Mum said as I gave her the stink eye.

She was folding my favorite brightly-hued Club Monaco blouse into the suitcase. “I’m the New York Niece. They’re expecting Madison Avenue. Since I stopped working, I’m more Gap… on my fancy days. I just don’t want her to get a shock when I show up to Uncle Bob’s funeral in running shoes.”

(My mother doesn’t believe in black at funerals, which was why, apparently, I was to wear royal blue pants while she asked to borrow my “big bird” yellow silk blouse.)

“What do you plan to wear at my wedding?”

“White Nikes… actually, I hate white sneakers. They’re such old ladies shoes. Maybe green ones? I don’t know. Let’s see what your colour scheme is — I’m sure I can ID something.”

When my mother retired from “The Bank,” she retired a certain corporate executive dress code. I remember coming home from school and seeing a pile of pantyhose in a Bloomingdale’s Big Brown Bag. There were one or 2 unopened pairs, and these were passed on to me. The rest — burned, or might as well have been. Her St. John’s suits were moved into the guest room closet. The year I graduated college, she had her first hip replacement. This shelved her Ferragamo high-heel collection. Her second hip replacement after my grad school graduation sealed it — the pumps were toast. I was free to salvage any that fit, but the majority went to Dress for Success.

She lost 50 pounds, and then eventually, she turned 70.

And so, with Retirement, 2 hip replacements, and being “over 70,” as her Get Out of Jail Free Cards,  it was: Good-bye, formal! Hello, comfortable!

My mother may have as many sneakers as Imelda Marcos had shoes — 3,000 pairs? Sure. It’s getting there.

She has become the Imelda Marcos of sneakers while her collections of designer handbags and jewelry remain her main source of pizzazz.

Most “occasions” result in an “I have nothing to wear!” crisis. This includes evenings when Mum and I decide to have a mother-daughter girl date. Eventually, she gives up.

“It doesn’t matter what I wear,” is usually her final remark before she settles on jeans, Nikes, and an embellished t-shirt. “If I decide I want a good table, I’ll just shove you in first. You’ve got great clothes. People think you’re cool, so you’ll just look good for both of us. Don’t forget your pink lipstick. I’m not going anywhere with you if you don’t wear your pink lipstick.”

I guess that just because she’s given up skirts and suits in favor of a wardrobe of leisure doesn’t mean she’s given up taste… there’s no velour in this retiree’s future. Meanwhile, I’m grateful for the cast-offs. One can never have too many Ferragamos.

 

 

 

 

Boyfriend Jeans

What girl doesn't want to be as cool as Annie Hall?
What girl doesn’t want to be as cool as Annie Hall?

We all make bad decisions when it’s 1am and the lights are off… sometimes it’s putting on the wrong pair of jeans.

I’ve always been a fan of the Diane Keaton/Annie Hall androgyny look. Ties, blazers, tuxedos, wingtips — they may be built for boys, but sometimes us girls wear them better. Especially, when we remember to keep our feminine touch.

But as much as we girls love borrowing styles from our men, men love it when we make their clothes our own. As soon as the sleepovers began, my exes were all keen to designate one of their t-shirts as “Kitty’s shirt.”

The t-shirts are almost always gray and almost always too long  and almost always washed in some over-scented detergent. One former flame also offered up a pair of what he called geisha pants, a gift his mother brought him from Japan. He was 6’4 but she had clearly forgotten that. On me, they were stylish lounge pants. On him, shorts. He kept the shirt and the pants on a “my-sized” “shelf” — the closet floor, on top of his extra towels.

I do not look as cool as Victoria Beckham when I wear boyfriend jeans.
I do not look as cool as Victoria Beckham when I wear boyfriend jeans.

While I’m always grateful for “Kitty’s” shirt because it means I can pack light, one thing I’ve never been comfortable borrowing from my boyfriend are his jeans.

To begin with, “boyfriend” cut jeans look ridiculous on me. I always envy those tall, slim women who can wear oversized denim and shapeless shirts in a way that looks effortlessly cool. Those same styles on my shorter, curvier (yet flat-chested) frame look like a hot mess.

Also, unless my boyfriend is an NFL linebacker with legs the size of sycamores, there is no guy who wears jeans I can borrow and look like I’m wearing “boyfriend” jeans.

See exhibit A:

Not only did an ex and I like the same inexpensive but well-cut classic line of Gap 1969s, we liked the same style and same wash: always skinny and dark indigo. His long, lean legs were an alluring part of his frame, even if both of his thighs together equaled the mass of one of mine. To put it mildly, his “always skinny” and my “always skinny” were not the same “always skinny.”

And this is why I don't borrow his jeans... Epic Fail.
And this is why I don’t borrow his jeans… Epic Fail.

But at 1am, when it’s dark and you’re a drink or two in trying to get re-ready to go head back out, one pair of indigo washed 1969 jeans looks like any other pair of indigo washed 1969 jeans.

“I think these are yours,” he said tapping me on my shoulder.

I turned to look, my eyes wide in horror. My feminized skinny jeans were practically falling off him — there was enough room to fit three more of him inside the waist band. Meanwhile, I could barely squeeze my ankle into the opening of the pair I’d retrieved from the living room.

“They look better on you,” I said, trying to pretend I wasn’t embarrassed.

“Doubtful, but you know I always preferred them off you anyway.”

I gave him credit for a good save and made him swear to never talk about this again. I’m pretty sure the next time I stayed over I purposely wore a skirt. #confusionadverted

As long as he wears his, and I wear mine, they really are born to git.
As long as he wears his, and I wear mine, they really are born to git.

 

 

 

Playing by the Rules

The French, apparently, go from kiss to couple faster than a La Mans race car.
The French, apparently, go from kiss to couple faster than a La Mans race car.

“You Americans and your rules of dating!” He said teasingly, before kissing me.

Our conversation of cultural comparisons had revealed that the French don’t date and they don’t play games.  They go from zero to first kiss to bonafide couple in 60 seconds flat. Perhaps this is not surprising for a nation home to La Mans and “la langue de l’amour.”

“As far as rules go when it comes to love, I only have one…” I replied.

I’ll come back to that later.

A few days earlier, I dropped into my favorite department store to cash-in on (or drop cash on?) its annual spring make-up event. Double points. Free gift tote with samples. What do you mean I don’t need another red lipstick? Of course I do! Natasha, the facial-care brand representative who had introduced me to the benefits of toner and weekly exfoliation, was more keen to catch-up on life than sell me eye cream. I was happy for the free make-up application and girl chat.

Under the influence of pink ginger ale, I divulged that I had stumbled out of a relationship and immediately into a new fling with a foreign suitor. Her eyes opened wide and she put down her lipstick pencil.

“Just remember, you have a lot of things going for you. Above all you have the advantage of youth — after you turn 30, men will lose interest.”

Pause.

Context: Natasha is hot and exotic. She has a boyfriend who treats her like a queen. She refuses to get married. She is in her 50s and looks 25. Seriously. She is the best advertisement for $500 face cream in the world.

Resume.

The only games I'm interested in playing are ones like Monopoly
The only games I’m interested in playing are ones like Monopoly

“There are lots of rules out there to playing the game, but there are only a few that matter. Here they are:

1. Make him wait a month before you sleep with him. That’s just long enough to become friends so the sex is better. Any longer and he’ll go looking for it elsewhere.

2. Never let a man walk all over you. Be confident in who you are. A man should enhance your life. Not make it.

and 3. Don’t settle for anyone that doesn’t spoil you rotten. You’re wonderful. You’re a princess and deserve to be treated that way. A man that doesn’t pay at dinner will cheat you in other ways. And watch out for French men. They’re fantastic in bed, but they usually have a mistress. I work for the French. I’ve seen it all.”

Natasha’s words of wisdom blew my mind. And not because she had basically told me my prime only lasted two years. No, mostly because other than #1, her rules sounded less like rules and rather mottoes to date by.

We all acknowledge that dating is a game — this is an unfortunate reality that bothers the hell out of me. The only games I like are Monopoly and Scrabble (which I’m terrible at, but play with competitive enthusiasm/optimism). But I think we misuse the word ‘rules’ when we talk about dating. I prefer to think of these things — things like deciding when a couple takes certain steps — as guidelines, suggestions, a roadmap in finding what will make us happiest in the long run. It’s easy to find someone to go to bed with. Less easy to find someone that will make our whole lives better.

My one rule in dating is simple: Follow my instincts. Not just when it feels right, but also when it feels wrong.

Before I sign off, Natasha gave me one more morsel of wisdom and it’s the insight I might just love the most:

“A good relationship is like a good pair of shoes. A good pair of shoes don’t need breaking in. They fit you right and feel comfortable from the first step. That’s what you’re looking for. You don’t need life blisters.”

A good relationship shouldn't remind you of this Marilyn Minter painting... #artnerd
A good relationship shouldn’t remind you of this Marilyn Minter painting… #artnerd