There is no Them, Only Us

The first thing I do when I walk into his apartment is take off my watch. Usually, I lay it on a coffee table, next to my phone, which is on silent. Sometimes, I put it in that mystery pocket in my purse so I don’t forget it like I did that one Saturday. I like my watch. It’s a classic silver and gold Raymond Weil that was a 21st birthday present. I take it off as a courtesy – I’m letting him know I’m not in a hurry to leave (and I wouldn’t want the clasp to get stuck on his belt buckle, if things go that way.) What happens next is still to be determined, but whatever it is, it starts with a refusal to acknowledge time.

Between now and when I put my watch back on, there are not minutes or hours.

There’s just us.

Time melts away when two people decide to melt together. Thanks, for this Dali.
Time melts away when two people decide to melt together. Thanks, for this Dali.

The world stops for two people in love, or lust, depending on how you want to look at it. A romantic concept, no? Did you know I was that much of an idealist? Clearly, you weren’t there when I cried during that scene in that movie…

“You’ve been going non-stop,” a boyfriend said to me as I plunked down on his couch. “Tonight, you’re here. I want you to pretend you’re on vacation. We’re going to do whatever makes you feel like we’re somewhere else.”

It was probably the last romantic gesture he made before becoming an ex-boyfriend, and it was probably one of the most meaningful. Part of what we look for in a significant other is someone who will share life’s challenges with us, but also someone who will help us escape from them. When the going gets tough, he helps soften the blow. It’s not simply  that we need someone to vent to. It’s that we need someone to distract us, to remind us everything is really very good, or that it’s about to be very good.

Tomorrow, I need to take my watch to Torneau for a new battery. The date has fallen behind by two weeks and the second hand only moves in increments of 7 seconds now. If I wait any longer it’ll stop all together. If I were a student on assignment, I’d probably try to make a metaphor here — say something like, maybe my watch is trying to tell me something about this new guy. I only just got the battery replaced, after all. Be thankful I’m not a student on assignment.

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It’s Not about the End. It’s about the What’s Next

exactly.
exactly.

“You’re going to cry again,” my mother said.

She, like everyone else I’ve seen in the last week, doesn’t believe that I really mean it when I say I’m okay.

No, I’m not okay. I’m great.

They keep waiting for the waterworks to start again, the way they did last Thursday when every inquiry into what was wrong started a lip quiver. Like all good things, a relationship that seemed to be going in a good direction ended. Perhaps, more abruptly than we would have liked, but sometimes, when it isn’t love, you just have to rip the bandaid off and get it over with.

Break-ups suck, even the good ones. Each has its own recovery path and time. Sometimes, there’s the shock of the loss to overcome. Every one is has its mourning period where you remember the good times and come to terms with the fact there won’t be any more. Then there comes the anger – at the ex, at the “system.” Next, you press the restart button and begin your make-over as you prepare yourself for the road ahead.

Sometimes you need a scotch to help things along. Scotch always tastes good after a break-up.

Being emotional after a breakup gets you pity drinks from friends. Being rational gets you nothing but a "thata girl!"
Being emotional after a breakup gets you pity drinks from friends. Being rational gets you nothing but a “thata girl!”

Sometimes I wish I was more emotional and less rational. Being emotional gets you out of work early and earns you pity drinks from friends. Rational gets you to the restart period faster — 3 days later and I’m already several ab workouts, a manicure, and a date with my stylist in. I don’t think I’m going to cry again.

This break-up came with an unusual stroke of clarity. I’ve decided that the hurt or pain following the end of relationship is the less daunting challenge to overcome – harder to conquer is the fear of the “what’s next.”

For every end of a significant relationship, a significant question lingers.

After the one that got away: Will I ever love someone that much again? So far, No.

After the one I left behind: Will someone ever love me as much as he did? So far, No.

After this last one: Will I ever be as comfortable being myself as I was with him? So far, TBD.

The path to finding love ever lasting is an uphill marathon
The path to finding love ever lasting is an uphill marathon

The feeling that something’s missing, or that something you had can’t be replicated with someone new — that’s what gets ya down and keeps you there for a while. Makes you swear off falling again. Or lowers your bar for the next person. Or adds another layer of bricks and mortar to the wall around your heart.

Endings are supposed to be new beginnings, but the truth is, new beginnings are hard. First dates are fun and easy. But getting to 4th, 5th and 6th dates — when you start the uphill slog towards trust and a committed relationship — that’s the most testing part of the cross-country marathon that is finding everlasting love.

For now, I’m on the bench for a while. It’s time to treat the wounds and seek the trainer. The  course ahead is a long and tricky one. I need to be ready before I get back in the race.

A Boy’s Weekend in Bulgaria

When it comes to bars, I have one simple rule: if its featured drinks are rainbow colored-shot flights, find another bar.

I'd come looking for a drink. I found rainbow shots...
I’d come looking for a drink. I found rainbow shots…

Sitting in the hookah-scented Graffiti Cafe, I saw a list of drinks I hadn’t seen since that college spring break on Playa del Carmen. I folded the menu and walked into a hotel lobby, scanned the scene and wandered into a restaurant. I ordered a bowl of cucumber-yogurt soup and a glass of rakia and made some notes.

I’m in Bulgaria.

Varna, Bulgaria, to be exact — a city perched on the Black Sea with a history older (and more complicated) than any other in the world.

No, seriously. It’s mad old.

Varna is know for it's spot on the Black Sea, and its 4km-long beach party
Varna is know for it’s spot on the Black Sea, and its 4km-long beach party

But that’s not the point — my interest, for the purpose of this post is in Varna today. Namely, in Varna as the party city of the Black Sea. Where dance clubs and open-air bars stretch for 4 kilometers across the beach, creeping up to the water’s very edge. It’s a city you go to to misbehave — a summer long spring break town where the drinks come in fanciful (unnatural) colors and the music blasts from every door opening (you never really know what euro-pop techno tune is playing in your club; it could just as easily be coming from next door.)

My first morning in Varna started lazily — I rolled out of bed at 9:15 and stumbled to get dressed, still “hungover” from the 2 days of travel it took me to get here. By the time I had my shoelaces properly (and safely) secured, I had 20 minutes left to grab my free Bulgarian breakfast.

Varna is a colorful city, to be sure
Varna is a colorful city, to be sure

I scurried down the hall, trying to ignore the South African-sounding man standing in nothing but his skivvies seeking direction on how to work his TV remote from the poor receptionist who had obviously accepted his demand for help unaware of what was awaiting him.

The hotel, an art nouveau gem, was reportedly full the night before, but joining us for yogurt and coffee were only a group of 50-something-ish British gents. Mr. Boxer Briefs joined them a few moments later.

“They’re Americans,” I heard one of them say, when they noticed I was laughing at their request for “brown bread” (meaning properly-toasted white toast).

“Yes, we are. I’m sorry.”

I learned the group of 10 burly British gents were on a weekend-long holiday. A sort of “let’s pick somewhere in the world to go and go” adventure.

They had go-karting in their future. I suggested the archaeological museum.

The exchange was short. I immediately began to fill in the missing pieces and write the screenplay…

I imagine it to be a sort of Hangover, Britainized, with a cast that includs Colin Firth, Hugh Grant and Ciarán Hinds (expected, I know, but easy sell).  They come to Varna hoping for a taste of the Orient and the semi debauched, only to find they’ve hit it at the start of the off-season.  Very few people understand any English. The only open bar on the beach is an underground gay dance club. The city that doesn’t have a wet season is all of a sudden hit with a weekend long monsoon. They go go-karting and discover the go-karts are decommissioned Cold War era military vehicles you push.

Hilarity ensues. They rediscover themselves. etc.

In short, it’s kinda like a Hangover meets Saw, but without the blood and sudden toddler cast member.

Obviously, I still need to flush this whole thing out, but if there’s one thing I have figured out it’s that Varna is a perfect backdrop for a Hugh Grant movie. Trust me. I’ll see you at the Golden Globes…

The rooftops of Varna as the monsoon approaches...
The rooftops of Varna as the monsoon approaches…

Yes, We can Play that Game, Too: Considering “Sex on Campus” and the “Plight” of the 20-Something Female

It’s all on us, isn’t it? The “us” being women under 35 and “it” being the fate of romantic relationships, and therefore, the modern family.

I'm so over it.
I’m so over it.

If you’re been keeping track of the New York Time’s Sunday Style section and the Atlantic Monthly of late, you’ve probably noticed a slew of pieces examining the current state of the dating world. The choices and mindsets of single women seem to garner the most attention. The verdict, it would appear, is that we’re the ones directing the dynamics of contemporary relationships based on how we decide to answer a handful of questions:

Do we engage in casual, no strings attached sex?

Do we purely practice monogamy?

Do we wed early?

Do we focus on careers first, family later?

Do we try to “have it all?”

Frankly, I’ve had enough… Leave me alone. The kids are alright, I tell you.

In this past Sunday’s NYTimes, in a piece entitled “She Can Play That Game Too,” writer Kate Taylor reported on the sex lives of college-aged woman enrolled in UPenn. Taylor seemed to give a fairly straight forward account of the mindset of the Ivy Leaguers who applied cost-benefit analysis to their romantic encounters and generally considered college a stepping-stone and vital life-directing period of resume-building. Surviving those 4 years with honors under their belts didn’t exclude also earning notches on their bedposts, but made seeking serious romantic relationships a low priority on the totem pole.

I flashed back to my own Ivy League college days.

My future was mine to mold... or make a total mess of
My future was mine to mold… or make a total mess of

I was an economics major — you bet I applied cost-benefit analysis to dating (and well, to everything else… and everything, including men, got rated in terms of its “utility.”) But more significantly, like the women Taylor interviewed, I realized the stakes were high. I had a very unique opportunity. I was a Division 1 college athlete and in 4 years, I would have a degree from one of the most lauded universities in the world. The molding clay that was future had been handed to me on a silver platter and I had all the power in the universe to turn it into a masterpiece.

I could also make a total muck of it.

And let me tell you, making a muck of it was far easier.

I’ll always remember that night during my final week as an undergraduate when one of my best male friends took my hand and said to me: “I’m so proud of you and happy for you for everything you’ve accomplished. But our relationship could have been very different if you’d been around more.”

Your first question is probably: Do I have any regrets?

My answer: Absolutely not.

I’m 19. I’ve Never Had a Job. Oh, But I’m Supposed to Know What I want in a Husband?

What irked me the most about this article was the seeming pressure it put on women to make-up their minds in their early 20s, or hell, even late teens about how their life was going to unfold.

And Susan Patton wonders why young women are cautious about getting married and pregnant young
And Susan Patton wonders why young women are cautious about getting married and pregnant young

Susan Patton, who was widely quoted as the “anti-feminist” in the article was disappointed when she asked a class of Princeton undergraduate females if they wanted kids and a family and met hesitation.

Susan Patton is absurd.

Today’s young women are the witnesses of an increasing divorce rate and pre-nups, and the beneficiaries of new job sectors. This is not the generation of my mother, who was married at 18, went through college a wife and left her country and family to follow her husband’s career.

Are you surprised a teenager or 20-something would proceed with caution when it comes to committed relationships?

What I learned in college, burning the midnight oil on papers, clocking my hours at practice, writing for the college newspaper, and making friends more important than lovers, was who I was and what was genuinely important to me.

At 21, no boyfriend was going to figure that out for me.

I wish I could say I went to Columbia to find a rich husband — of course if I did, my 6 years on campus would have been a complete and utter failure. But I went there to find me, Kathleen.

So, mission accomplished.

How do you like them apples, Susan Patton?

All the World’s a Match Maker

“When people ask you that, you should say: ‘I’ve just gotten out of a serious relationship.’ You don’t need them to think there’s something wrong with you.”

I  javelin-tossed a wooden spoon in my mother’s direction after she handed me this unsolicited advice on how to deal with the line of questioning beginning with “are you seeing anyone?” and upon my negative reply, followed  immediately by: “why not? you’re so [insert complimentary adjective]!”

keep-calm-i-am-still-single-1“Since when has being single indicated there’s something wrong with me?”

Siiiigh.

It’s always a disappointing moment when your family turns on you.

There was a sort of cruel irony in the recent rise of people inquiring into my marital status — when I was dating someone rather seriously, no one seemed to ask. But the minute I went back to being a bachelorette? Well, “are you seeing anyone?” is as ubiquitous in my daily conversations as “hello! how are you?”

Is it the question that bothers me? No, not any more. I’ve learned to read “are you seeing someone”  an indication of genuine interest in me. (Between you and me, I’m more troubled by the people who ask about my kids. I don’t have kids. As far as I’m concerned, I’m not even old enough to have A kid… but that’s a blog for another time….)

What gets me about the “are you seeing anyone?” investigation is the follow up question: “why not?”

Flashback to my first annual check-up with my gynecologist:

“Do we need to talk about birth control?”

“Umm…. Not this time.”

“What’s wrong? The boys you hang out with don’t like pretty women?”

I indignantly twisted my head around my knee and stared at the middle-aged man at the end of the table, who was holding a medical device probably invented in medieval times… by a man. Isn’t this moment awkward enough? Do we really need to go there? And do I really need to answer that? And why, all of a sudden, do I feel inadequate, despite the ill-timed compliment?

Every time someone asks me why I’m single, I think of my gynecologist and his exam table. I guess there’s just no way to avoid the awkward.

That's right -- I just made an art-nerd pun. Maybe that's why I'm still single...
That’s right — I just made an art-nerd pun. Maybe that’s why I’m still single…

“I bet you’re stuck up,” said a cab driver to me one late night in downtown Manhattan after asking me if I had a boyfriend. He decided he’d answer the “why” for me.

“I might be.”

“Don’t you want someone to wake up to?”

“Doesn’t everyone? But having someone to wake up to doesn’t necessarily mean anything.”

As I paid my fair he handed me his personal card and offered to fill the vacant boyfriend position, despite the fact I was, apparently, stuck up. I declined and made my way into the night.

Inquiries into my marital status have always felt intrusive to me, but worse is implication that being single means I’m some how falling short. Perhaps its a consolation to know that at I’ve reached the age and point in my career where people stop prescribing a rich husband. Instead, they prescribe qualities in a prospective partner…

…Or a drink with one of their few remaining single friends.

All the world’s a match-maker, after all.

If You Give a Girl A Flower…

In my mother’s day, the flowers a boy would send you would become keepsakes…

A pile of flaky dust fell from the pages of my mother’s 1961 college student handbook and course listing as she pulled it from the shelf.

“What the hell is that!?” she cried. “I just vacuumed. Goddammit.”

“It looks like flower petals.”

She examined the bits more closely before brushing them into the dust pan and determined that they were, in fact, the fragments of a carnation.

“One day, when we were first dating, your father pulled off the side of the road on his way to pick me up and bought me a bouquet of carnations. I hate carnations. But they were such happy little things and I was thrilled. So I tried pressing them. We did things like that in those days. Pressed the flowers a boy gave us so we could have it as a keepsake if we ever got married. Of course, most of them turned out to be bastards. The boys, not the flowers. But I always did a shit job, totally mangled them, and usually forgot what book I used.”

“Case in point.”

When it comes to women, a well-picked bouquet from a fella goes a long way.

Which is why on Wednesday, along with my sneakers, a cluster of sunset-hued roses wrapped in damp paper towels and the cellophane from my 3AM room service order passed through the x-ray scanner at LAX.

An elegant birthday bouquet from a class act kind of guy.

My birthday had been only a few days earlier and these roses had been the feature of a bouquet that greeted me on that July 1st morning. Despite the resort’s legendary service, the elegant arrangement, I would soon learn, was not courtesy of my 5-diamond resort, which had also sent a cake. Even better – the flowers were from my new flame.

5-diamond concierge fail.

New flame home run.

The SoCal sunshine may have mellowed the east coast gallerist, but the roses from the boy who set my heart a flutter with just a glance put an indelible smile on my face for the duration of my “birthday week.”

“Did you go to a wedding while you were out here?” my flight attendant asked when she saw me wedging the roses gingerly into the seat pocket in front of me.

“No. They were a birthday gift.”

“From a beau?”

I nodded with a blush.

“Looks like he’s a keeper to me. Those are stunning.”

Thousands of miles and several changes in cabin pressure later, the roses looked a little worse for wear. Despite the suggestion, I elected not to press them. Much like my mother, home crafts and remembering where I put things are not my forte. I think for now, I’ll leave the act of preserving memories to my Canon… and a moleskin notebook.

… too elegant to leave to the cleaning staff, I valiantly tried to carry the roses cross county, neatly tucked into the seat pocket in front of me. Call it sentimental, call it futile, I call it a noble “thank you.”