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.

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When Santa Gives You Pole Dancing Lessons…

My mother gave me pole dancing classes and this awesome card for Christmas. My mom is cooler than your mom.
My mother gave me pole dancing classes and this awesome card for Christmas. My mom is cooler than your mom.

“Make it bounce!”

There are a few things I’m used to hearing in a fitness group class. Bounce like you’re riding your favorite man is not necessarily one of them. In comparison, my spin instructor Dave tells me not to fear my best… now crank up that resistance!

Lasha, my pole dance class instructor, told me to slap my ass.

It was a Thursday night at fencing when I casually mentioned that I wanted to take pole dancing classes. My friend Madge was in ear shot.

“I’ve been taking classes at S-Factor,” she chirped. “For 10 years. I’ll take you one day and then when you’re hooked, we’ll have to get you a ‘naughty drawer’!”

It’s amazing what you’ll learn about your friends when you think you know everything.

If you’ve been a long-time reader, or if you’re a real-life friend, then you know my mother and you know she’s not your typical buttoned-up, “now, Kathleen, behave yourself,” kind of mother. On my 21st birthday, she bought me my first legal Gray Goose Cosmopolitan (and my second legal Gray Goose Cosmopolitan). Her recent relationship advice sounds like this: don’t go to his place on the 3rd date… show some restraint! Be a Lady. Wait till your 4th…and then make it worth it.

And for Christmas, she bought me pole dancing classes.

Madge was my designated chaperon, and after a flurry of email exchanges, we had settled on a Sunday afternoon.

I rode down to Chelsea, a neighborhood in the city I had watched transition over the years from shady, to “Gay town,” to “familyville,” to home of the High Line and tourist destination. Ambling down 23rd street, with the S-Factor address in my hand, I wasn’t sure what to look for. I’d made my way down this stretch of block before, but couldn’t recall ever seeing what looked like a pole dancing studio. The address brought me to a banal building entrance, sandwiched between a cupcake shop (YUM!) and a bodega/smoke shop. There was no real directory inside the lobby. Was I lost? Could this be any sketchier? This didn’t scream fitness. It screamed house of ill repute.

A pair of other twenty something with long straightened blonde hair and equally confused expressions slipped into the lobby.

“S-Factor-bound?” I asked.

“Yeap!” they replied, and together we figured out what floor and made our way to the elevator and up to the 3rd floor.

The minute the doors parted, a chorus of happy “hellos!” greeted us… along with a mannequin dressed in a g-string with neon pink fringe and light-up, 5-in stilettos.

This probably wasn’t what I was expecting but it was going to be awesome.

I walked into Studio B with Madge as my guide. It was like no other fitness studio I’d been in — there were no mirrors and the only lighting was a single dim spot light in the center of the room and a handful of lamps, draped with red cloths a la your stereotypical bordello. Three poles extended from ceiling to floor and in each corner was a large leather “lap dance” chair.

Clearly, more than my core was going to get a workout.

The class was one of the most liberating and physically challenging 90 minutes I’ve ever been through. Liberating, not because I was free to “feel my curves” or swirl my hips or “do whatever feels good,” but rather, because I had to trust my body to be strong enough to keep me in the air. Like most women, I have a difficult relationship with my body. There’s nothing more terrifying than wearing a bikini in public or taking off my shirt for the first time with Mr. New. But in the low light, with no glass to reflect back on me, and with an acrobatic task at hand, I had to let go of fears of judgement, of self-consciousness, and throw my feet off the floor, and twirl like the pretty, pretty (seductive) princess I wanted to be when I was 5.

In the lighting, I looked this hot and there was no one and no mirror to tell me otherwise.
In the lighting, I looked this hot and there was no one and no mirror to tell me otherwise.

I looked as hot as Demi Moore in “Striptease,” and there was no person or mirror to tell me otherwise.

The next morning, I ached all over, with bruises on my shins the size of bananas, self-inflicted from overly-aggressive approaches to the pole. Few workouts these days inflict any lingering pain. I was sold.

There are reasons to be skeptical about pole dancing your way to fitness. It’s not for everyone, even though I think every woman should try it at least once. Pole dancing is a “feminine movement” movement, not a feminist movement, per say. Taking to the pole is not about upended any power structure between the gaze and the subject of the gaze. There are no men allowed and no one is going to be stuffing dollar bills in my g-string in the near or distant future (even if the extra disposable income would be welcome… #alternativejobskillz.)  It’s not about learning tricks you can bring home to the boudoir, or even about sculpting better abs — though, those are absolutely excellent perks that makes yoga seem soooo 2005.

It’s about not fearing your best, most beautiful, strongest self. I can’t imagine a better post-workout feeling than that. Now, make it bounce!

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I don’t Drink Manhattans Anymore

I was in the middle of my whiskey phase. Mad Men had nothing to do with it.
I was in the middle of my whiskey phase. Mad Men had nothing to do with it.

It was late on a November Saturday night in 2012 when I sauntered into my favorite cocktail lounge with an unusually high spring in my step. I nodded with a chirpy hello to the bouncer whose scarred eyebrow and barrel-sized biceps hinted at the fact his day job was cage-fighting coach. I slipped into my favorite corner seat at the bar and leaned across to give the bartender, Kay, my best girl friend’s boyfriend, a warm hello.

He looked at me puzzled. She had called him earlier to warn him I might be coming from a rough night — I’d need taking care of, she suggested. The chipper red-haired girl in the tangerine top didn’t look like she needed taking care of.

“Something strong?” Kay asked.

“Yes, please! I’ll have a Manhattan.”

Seconds later, he slid a martini glass under my nose, a rich copper-hued drink sloshed but didn’t jump over the edges. I was in the of what can only be labeled a Whiskey-phase. Mad Men had nothing to do with it. The Manhattan had replaced the Tanqueray10 martini as my go-to night out indulgence and a Jameson on the rocks was my new dive bar safe bet. All it took was one sip and I knew this was the best Manhattan I’d ever had, was ever going to have. Liquid gold. When he slide a small carafe with the “leftovers” from the shaker (the equivalent of a second drink), I figured I was satisfyingly set for the night.

I was alone on a Saturday night, drinking a whiskey drink and content. Sitting next to me was another loner, and apparently, another regular. Kay introduced the robust and somewhat rotund young man to me as Joe, and since I was already onto the carafe, I was in a mood to chat… and over share.

I was newly single. So I let the Tony Soparno look alike buy me a 3rd and 4th drink... mistake.
I was newly single. So I let the Tony Soparno look alike buy me a 3rd and 4th drink… mistake.

Joe was a well-manner Jerseyite who could easily have passed for an extra on The Sopranos — perhaps even a younger Tony Soprano, in the right over sized golf shirt. We talked about the Yankees and our favorite restaurants. Even though his waistline was evident of a life spent mostly eating out and watching sports rather than playing them, Joe was a top-shelf kind of guy, which roughly translates into my kind of person.

“Are you always such good company?” Joe asked, as I neared the end of my drink and in theory, the end of my night.

“I broke up with my boyfriend an hour and a half ago.”

In my head, that answered the question. Isn’t every girl extra charming and cheery after she breaks up with the guy who sent her flowers on her birthday and talked about spending the rest of his life with her?

“Shouldn’t you be crying with your girlfriends, or something? You’re in an awfully good mood.”

I shrugged and took the final slug of my drink (technically, my second, though I had convinced myself otherwise.)

“It’s a relief, to be honest. That it’s all over. I wanted to throw up the whole day before it happened. Now, I couldn’t be in a better mood.”

Wait. The irony is coming.

“You’re not leaving yet are you?” Joe chripped as I began to fumble for my wallet — a perfunctory motion as I knew tonight’s $15 beverage was likely on the house. “You’re newly single. Let me buy you another.”

I looked at my watch — I’d already missed my train and my rule is to never let strangers buy me drinks. But, really, what harm would another drink do? I was newly single, after all. Joe fancied himself a cocktail connoisseur and ordered me what I vaguely recall him calling a Manhattan Perfect. I could be totally wrong, but it seemed to fit because drinks 3 and 4 (Kay and his damn carafe!) were perfectly toxic.

Tee Burberry trench coat fell victim to one Manhattan too many, but recovered in time for a trip to Prague.
The Burberry trench coat fell victim to one Manhattan too many, but recovered in time for a trip to Prague.

I wobbled out an hour later, convinced I was totally sober and even a little proud for being able to hold down so much whiskey. But as I stood on the subway platform, I realized I was in for it. When I vomited all over my Burberry trench coat and silk jersey tangerine Theory top, I knew I had just been taught a lesson. There is such thing as too much whiskey.

And I had just become that girl who throws up on the last train out of Grand Central.

I vomited two more times — once on the sidewalk at my home station and once again in the trashcan next to my bed — before finally falling asleep. In the morning, the only reminder of the previous night’s break-up and excess was my tangerine top, soaking in the sink, a few bits of undigested orechette and broccoli floating beside it. I might have been sloppy, but at least I clean up after myself.

The purging of my stomach contents so soon after finishing my last sip might have saved me from a hangover, but it also killed my taste for whiskey. And that favorite tangerine top, while the stains are long gone, will always be that shirt I threw up on the night I broke up with the Admiral. At work on Monday, I was greeted with an email from Joe asking to take me out for dinner somewhere I could never afford on an non-profit employee’s salary. Apparently, I had given him my business card. I had been back on the market for less than 24 hours and already I had a suitor. I politely declined.

Last night, I poured a heavy draw of McMallan 12, figuring it was a perfect companion drink on a cold winter’s night dedicated to writing a curatorial essay. With a new boyfriend at my side and the past year behind me, I figured I could handle my first whiskey in over a year. One sip and the room began to spin and my stomach began to turn. Apparently, at least for this girl, it’s easier to recover from a relationship gone wrong than from a bad night of drinking.

This kitty is never drinking Whiskey again.... Tanqueray is still on the table, however.
This kitty is never drinking Whiskey again…. Tanqueray is still on the table, however.

Have We Met Before?

The year I was 21 was the year of that reality show named “The Pick-Up Artist.”

You might remember it. It was that Vh1 reality show with the audacious failed-rock-star-type Pick-Up Guru who attempted to teach groups of men with no game whatsoever how to get any woman into bed. I only watched one episode. In it, Mystery (an appropriate name, since his marketability as a dating guru is a mystery to anyone who saw him) taught the young Jedis how to make a move on a girl who was on the move. That is, he showed these gameless men how to pick-up a woman who was walking down the street.

Gameless? Mystery's here to help......
Gameless? Mystery’s here to help……

(Now, for anyone that’s lived in a city, you know there are neighborhoods where any man can be successful at this without even saying a word. Thank you, Red Lights… obviously, the Pick-Up Artist found his disciples on farms…)

If Mystery was anything like Robert Downey Jr., who played in the late 80s flick of the same title, I might have ignored his fur-clad top hat and cut him some slack. I mean, did men take this guy’s advice seriously? I was doubtful… Until the following Friday night…

I was plowing through the lower west side, with a  few of my girls a few steps behind, all of us en route to a concert, when a short, chubby, blonde guy walked passed me, looked back and then cut in front of me.

“You look familiar. Have we met before?”

My jaw-dropped. Clearly he’d seen the same episode.

“No.” I pushed him out of the way and kept walking.

“I think that guy thought you were a prostitute,” my friend Maddie said when she and the other caught up.

Maddie always had a way of making me feel better…

You look familiar. Have we met before? <– that combo of phrases was the key to the approach.

It implied a kind of safety (you know me, so you know I’m not a serial killer.)

It’s an understated compliment (you’re memorable.)

It might also imply fate (I knew you before I met you.)

In theory, it’s a good approach.

I’ve rarely fallen for it. The answer is almost always “no,” unless you’re at an alumni event, and then it’s only vaguely likely (You studied in the architecture library!? Me too!… Oh, right… orientation week…)

Every once in a while, it’s worth taking the bait (like that time in the elevator with the Coulda-Been-A-Gucci-Model…)

Unless you’re wearing hoop earrings, stiletto heels, and are walking through that neighborhood where it’s easy for men with no game to pick up women on the move…

That was the last time I tried to harness my inner Pretty Woman....
That was the last time I tried to harness my inner Pretty Woman….

Odds that the Next Guy I date Will…

Have a tattooed sleeve: 1 in 2

David, did you borrow my lace top again? Oh wait, those are your tats!

From the chef with the butcher’s map of a pig tattooed from this wrist to elbow to the Frye Boots specialist with the Man Ray photograph etched into his left forearm, it seems every man I share a drink or afternoon with is a painted gentleman.

According to a survey published by the Pew Research Center in 2008, 4 in 10 Millennials (the young adults of the early 2000’s) sport tattoos. Within this group, more men have tattoos than women.

Sometimes, I find the tattooed sleeve disarming — what’s he doing wearing my Zara lace top? But on the whole, I don’t mind it. I guess it’s a good thing I’ve always found a lil ink to be very sexy.

Live with his mother: 1 in 4

The most recent census revealed that nearly 6 million Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 lived at their parents’ homes last year. I was one of them. But on the whole, young men are nearly twice as likely as women to live with their parents. Of the last 5 guys I’ve met in this age group, 3 have lived with their parents.

These days, if he lives with his mother, it's not a strike against... it all depends on when he decides to tell you

Statistics and personal experience show, if I’m dating in my age group, a romantic night in, cooking dinner for him at his place, might entail cooking dinner for his mother (and father? and sister?).

So, in 2011, is it a strike against if a guy lives with his parents? I guess it all depends on a number of factors. But in this day and age, if all other signs of adulthood are neatly intact, it’s hard to call him anything but sensible.

Have traveled outside the US: 1 in 3

For the 2008/9 academic year, 260,327 students studied abroad, according to the Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange. With NYU as the leading sending school in the US, this means odds are pretty good that a Manhattanite has traveled and even spent a significant time outside his homeland.

Only 30% of Americans have a passport, but odds that my next date will have traveled abroad are still pretty good.

But what about non-NYC educated folks? Or what about the possibility of meeting someone who’s seen the world without the help of academic programs? The numbers suggest my next date will have at least a willingness to journey in a foreign land.

Of the 308 million-plus citizens in the United States, 30% have passports. Owning a passport, of course, doesn’t guarantee that it’s been put to use. CNN posted some interesting stats: There were 61.5 million trips outside the United States in 2009 and about 50% of those trips were to either Mexico or Canada.

And yes, Canada is a foreign country, eh.

Have a graduate degree: 1 in 9

On eharmony, you can limit your dating pool according to education. If it’s a priority that your mate have at least as many degrees as you, then check a box, and the logarithm will take care of the rest.

As of 2003, approximately 25% of all Americans could boast a bachelor’s degree or higher. In a region like the North East, odds of landing a date who’s graduated from college is probably closer to 1 in 2. But a graduate degree? Well that gets tougher.

Only 9% of Americans have a masters degree, but New York is not America.

Only 9% of Americans can say they have an MA or MS or MBA. But again, New York isn’t America. New York City has the most post-graduate life sciences degrees awarded annually in the United States while Columbia University alone currently has approximately 17,833 students enrolled in various graduate programs.

Looking at these regional statistics, along with the contemporary reality that an increasing number of people are turning to graduate school as an alternative to a sucky job market, it seems the odds of finding a guy with “at least my level of education” would be in my favor… eventually.

There's nothing classy about a Red Sox fan.

Be a Red Sox Fan: 0

The Red Sox nation has a surprisingly strong representation in New York. It’s uncomfortable, and I won’t deny, I have a terrible habit of falling for fans of my team’s arch-nemesis.

But the chances I’ll actually allow myself to date one? Not a shot in hell.