“All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking”

I believe in walking.  I walk with purpose, even when I’m walking simply for walking sake. I walk briskly, even when I have no where in particular to go. And I walk daily, whether around the town or up and down my backyard. It’s about the fresh air, it’s about the calorie burn, it’s about “setting up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow” of the city, it’s mostly about the escape.

One of the things I like about traveling abroad is that I get to see the world by foot. A plane and a car may get me to a city, but once I’m there, it’s my feet that take me for a wander down streets, through museums, and across parks. A few weeks ago I was in Germany during the worst part of the year, the most “off” of the tourist off-season. Despite the cold and the snow, feet were still the most efficient mode of transportation. Heading out at dusk to grab dinner, I was rather taken with what seemed to be a widespread evening ritual. Husbands and wives, bundled up and out on the street, walking arm in arm. The couples were mostly “older” (>40) and never seemed like they had any particular place to be. I was in one town for 3 dinners, and each night the same husband and wife would tip their hats to me as I headed out for some Saxon potato soup.

Maybe this isn’t a German phenomenon, but if couples head out arm in arm daily at dusk in New York City, it certainly never stood out to me before. Holding hands? Yes, I’ve seen that a lot. But hand-holding is ephemeral. Arm in arm is a more committed and sturdy physical union, and it’s a NYC rarity. But maybe that’s because  people in the Big Apple seem to move too fast to walk arm in arm with anyone else.

So by the 4th German city and the 8th German dusk, I had got to thinking…

Carrie Bradshaw wanted someone to stand still with (skip to 7:39), but I think it’s nicer to have someone to walk with. Someone who doesn’t mind ambling 7 blocks with you to get a latte, even when the best cup of joe on the Upper West Side can be easily found at the cafe not 15 meters from your front door. Yes, it’s a lovely idea to have someone to walk with. Not next to, but with — arm in arm, heading down the same road together, both leading and supporting one another as you travel through the day and into the night.

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Is there a reason why everyone wants me married off?

D: “I can’t wait for your wedding. The food is going to be  great!”

Me: “You’d better not be counting on my wedding day for your next meal… you’ll probably starve to death before we ever get round to an hors d’oeuvre.”

in the middle of a gym workout

HK (age, 17): When you get married, can I be your flower girl?

Me: When I get married, your daughter can be my flower girl

upon finding the broken sapphire necklace my father gave her some 20 years ago…

Mum: I can salvage the sapphires and have them made into your engagement ring.

Me: Who’s proposing? And when can i meet him?

Mum: I had a front-runner in mind.

Me: Oh, boy. Can I just have the sapphires now, ya know, before I start holding my breath?

Ruth A: Let’s pray together. (takes my hand and we form a circle) God, please lead this young lady to a wonderful man, may they marry and be happy. Amen

Me: Do you think we can do that again? Maybe this time ask if I can have a good job and lead a good life? I wouldn’t mind a loyal dog either.

Board Games & The Brothers Grimm, or, When I believed Happily-Ever-After Meant Tiffany’s and Vera Wang

In 1993, I was 8 and Cadco had just released “The Perfect Wedding” — a simple game where 2-4 giggly girls roll dice to move florescent engagement rings around a heart-shaped board. Each roll brings the future blushing bride to a square labeled “ring,” “dress,” “cake,” “music,” “reception,” “flowers,” “honeymoon,” or “tuxedo” where she then use her allotted budget to assemble the wedding of her prepubescent dreams. I played “The Perfect Wedding” with the same vigor and competitive edge that I approached more weighty games like Clue and Monopoly — I had a clear idea of what I wanted for “the most important day of my life.” I was going to have my red rose bouquet, string quartet, cushion-cut diamond, and sweetheart crinoline-confection of a dress, and I was not willing to compromise.

I had totally forgotten about this game and completely blocked out that phase of my childhood when I used to have “practice” weddings and design my future bridesmaids’ dresses. Today, an unwelcomed flashback through my younger years reminded me that once upon a time, I was a true-blue, diehard, unshakable romantic.

the dress an 8-year old me wanted to get married in

Oh! To go back to the days when I could draw my “soulmate” for you on a piece of paper! To go back to the days when a daydream wrapped in white lace and set to the tune of “Here Comes the Bride” was fantasy enough! How simple young girls are, how pure our vision of love and how ready we are to believe that happily-ever-afters means eternal perfection!

For 17 years “The Perfect Wedding” has been gathering dust in my toy-box (ironically, a 19th century dowry chest), and with it, so has my eight-year-old’s vision of romance ever lasting. I shelved daydreaming about engagement rings and white dresses a long time ago. Don’t get me wrong, send me into Tiffany’s and I’ll beeline right to that legacy band, but today I’m what I would call a Pragmatic Romantic.

I don’t envision being swept off my feet anymore by a prince charming type, though, I do believe that a significant other should feel like an escape from the ho-hum of la vie quotidienne. I’d rather have a Prince Albert than a Prince Charming anyway. I can’t draw you a picture of Mr. Right anymore, but I can describe, pretty well, what values/likes/dislikes I’d prefer him to have.  I don’t have delusions of finding my one true soulmate and living out the remainder of my days in trouble-free, blissful peace. I could keep going, but it’s not important. The punchline is that at 24, I’m already more of a Alex Goran than a Natalie Keener.*

the grown-up me prefers an understated Valentino (perhaps in a tea-rose pink?)

Don’t worry, I’m not jaded yet — I’ve got at least another 5 years before I hit jaded. There’s still a romantic in me. I still cry every time Big and Carrie stand on that bridge in Paris and he tells her, “Carrie, you’re the one.”  And I will have red roses at my wedding — I can promise you that much. Whether or not my dress is white, well, the dice have yet to be rolled on that one.

——-

My Mother: the Matchmaker?

My mother claims to be a matchmaker.

Apparently, she’s responsible for 3 successful marriages (each couple has been together for 15 years or more). Maybe it’s the Irish in her. But despite her excellent track record, I always tell her it’s a wasted skill.  In the 25 years she’s been my mother, she’s failed to match me with anyone. Like most mothers, she’s good at telling me she doesn’t like the guy I’m seeing (but unlike most mothers, usually she’s right, he’s a dud), yet so far, she hasn’t offered up any viable alternatives. I blame it on the fact that she waited too long to have me. All her friends’ good looking sons were already married by the time I was old enough to be “matched.” Oh! And she then had the nerve to retire from banking when I was a freshman in high school —  she couldn’t hang in long enough to be able set me up with any of her summer college interns, new hires, or the eligible sons of her co-workers. Pretty inconsiderate, if you ask me.

But today, she tried to make up for her failures as my mother, the matchmaker.

She had an appointment with her orthopedic surgeon — it was time for her two-year post-hip-replacement check-up. Her surgeon is not some run-of-the-mill doctor. He’s a pretty big deal — head of surgery for a renowned New York hospital, hip-refurbisher of the famous, patron of the arts, general all around good guy — you mention his name, and other doctors bow. Did I mention he has a good-looking son? Who’s getting his medical degree from a certain Ivy-League University that gave me two degrees? Who has a BA in art history from another Ivy-League college, where he was also an athlete?  Who is a “young collector?” No, I didn’t?

Sounds perfect, doesn’t he? My mother thought so too.

In fact, my mother was so sure this son was destined to be her future son-in-law, that she forgot the main purpose of her office visit (her hurting hip). And so, the matchmaker in her reportedly kicked in. She ignored the fact that this Glory Boy has a girlfriend (who the parents don’t like!), and droned on to the poor doctor about me — apparently, I’m an Irish Catholic who writes on German Impressionists (it’s Expressionists, mom, and when was the last time I went to service?). Eventually, she caught the Doc’s interest.

“How old is she?”

“24.”

“Perfect. Is she dating anyone?”

“Not seriously. She has a lot of boy friends” (read: she’s totally single, completely available)

“You know, he works here.”

“I’ll bring her next time.”

“They’re going to have to have coffee.”

Success? Hmm, of a sort.

“Now, get up and walk for me.”

“What? We’re not done?”

“No.”

Caught. That’s right. My mother acts as if she was finally finding me my match. But really, talk of me was just a distraction tactic — get to the end of the session before the doctor has a chance to see me lurch around the room, that’s what she was really thinking. I know I was just a means to an end: an extra-large prescription of vicodin.

Thanks, mom. Glad I could help you out. Guess you’re not my Patti Stanger just yet…