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…

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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

 

 

 

 

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When Women Let Me Down

Nothing disappoints me more than a smart woman who allows herself to be manipulated by a mediocre man.

Hanna left New York City half a decade ago to start a new life in a foreign city far, far away. She was on a mission — to leave behind the man that was her bad habit, who broke her heart over and over again, and to start afresh, meanwhile reconnecting with her heritage.  We all agreed it was the best thing for her, and when she told me she was ready to return to the city that had forged our friendship, I was keen to meet a changed woman.

“I haven’t been gone a week and I’m already pining for my life there. My friends, my boss, my old job, and this fellow.”

She was baiting me, and I knew it. Last we chatted she was long out of a relationship and not looking for anything new. There was no reason to be pining for a fellow…

But as a friend, I knew my duty and took the bait: “Fellow?”

She proceeded to give a brief overview — on the eve of her departure, she finally got together with that guy friend nothing had ever happened with. Since then, they’ve been talking every day. When I asked her why he waited until she was leaving to make his move, she said things were complicated.

“That’s a bunch of bullshit,” I said, in typical 4th wave feminist fashion. “Things were only complicated if he’s married.”

“He’s married.”

That didn’t surprise me. Hanna had a predilection for men who were emotionally unavailable and this wasn’t the first time she had chosen one with a wedding ring.

“Then he’s a slug. And not because he cheated on his wife with you. Because he doesn’t give a shit about you.”

“That’s a pretty harsh stance to take off the bat.”

When she swung into his defense, I began to doubt her top-tier credentials. Didn’t she know she was being used? For an Ivy League lawyer, reason and ethics clearly weren’t her fortes.

The thing is, not long ago, I had been Hanna — a parting of ways and a final night option of a one night stand with someone I cared about. We didn’t know when we’d see each other again, and even if we did, we’d never live in the same city again. Buried feelings were exchanged, but instead of taking up the offer to spend the night, I left.

The minute I got into the cab, I regretted leaving. But by the time I paid my fare and walked up to my apartment, I was angry. After all these years, why did it have to take leaving to tell me how he felt? Because, I realized, he didn’t actually want to be in a relationship with me. I knew that no matter what was said or what was done, I wasn’t moving for him and he wasn’t staying. End of story.

We all make silly decisions when we get caught up in love or lust, or more often, when we find ourselves in need of some sort of validation. For me, leaving was the best thing I could have done for my head and our friendship. Nothing affirms our relationship more than our once a year drink when he flies through town and our Thanksgiving phone call.

“I think you should call him to say you decided to move back so you can be together,” I finally suggested. “Let’s see how he reacts to that. And then let’s see if he’s still worth pining over.”

She called me traditional and cited my relative youth, implying I was naive. It looked like the jury had ruled and my closing argument went unnoticed.

Who am I to judge, anyway.

 

 

 

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.

So, What’s Your Type

For as long as I can remember, people have always had strong opinions about what type of guy is my Mr. Right.

The summer I graduated from high school, my South African godfather came to visit. At the same time, a boy I knew from out of town was staying in our guest room. It was a house full of foreigners.

“He’s a nice young fellow,” Hilton said of my 17-year old guest, “but he’s far too young for you. You need to be seeing someone who is at least 21, maybe even 22.”

I assured him that the young fellow sleeping in the room next to mine was in no way a romantic interest. I was flattered that my worldly godfather should think I deserved a boyfriend who wasn’t a boy, but a grown-up man. It felt good to be a teenager who seemed mature beyond her years.

Dan decided I need a "No Reservations" style Aaron Eckhart to my Catherine Zeta Jones

My godfather was typical of those in my life — everyone I met had ardent beliefs about what type man was my match. They may not have all agreed on age difference, profession, and nationality, but all were quick to offer an opinion.

My roommate in college decided the only person I could have children with was Charley. “You’re sporty and strict. He’s awkward and friendly. You’d be the disciplinarian. He’d be the one that takes them for ice cream. Together, you’d read them The Odyssey at bedtime.”

I didn’t necessarily mind her pick, but I wasn’t sure how I felt about her assessment of my potential parenting persona. I do like ice cream, after all.

“You can’t marry a guy who makes you cook for him,” Dan said as he watched me drop homemade butternut squash ravioli into a pot of boiling water. “He has to be someone who will cook with you.”

I’d gotten so accustomed to people telling me who I should be looking for that I never designed my own version of  Mr. Right. Then one day, I was blindsided by a question no one had ever asked…

Could I say Gerard Butler is my "type?" Or is Gerard Butler just a look?

“So, what’s the deal — what type of guy are you looking for?”

I was at a loss. Smart, funny, athletic, and good-looking is non-specific– it’s the standard-issue type for the indecisive. When I thought about it, every guy I ever knew or dated was, in some form or another, smart, funny, athletic, and good-looking.

I racked my brain. Could I name an actor? Would Gerard Butler suffice, or is Gerard Butler a look (and an apartment)? Someone interesting enough that our wedding will win the “Vows” column in the Sunday Times? Likewise, non-specific.

Finally, it hit me:

“I want a guy who makes me smile the way my puppy does. He should be the kind of guy who would propose while we’re hiking up a mountain but want to hold the reception in the atrium at MoMA.”

“I don’t know anyone like that,” the person replied. “But I can set you up with a guy who has season tickets at Yankee stadium.”

I shrugged and wondered why he bothered asking. It looked like for now, a man with Yankees season tickets was just my type.

How Blogging About Dating Suddenly Made Me a Desirable Date

Successful Relationship blogger? What do I tell him? Deny thy blog or confess its fame?

“You may not want to lead with the fact you have a blog about dating,” my friend Jake kindly advised me as we sipped lattes and commiserated over our recent dating droughts.

He had just brought to light an interesting dilemma: When you’ve made something of a name for yourself writing about love and its aftermath, do you deny thy blog, or confess its fame? Will guys think you’re clever or dub you as trouble?

“On the other hand,” he continued, “this whole blogging thing might just be the making of your love life. I’m worried that with your recent success, you won’t stay on the market long enough to keep They Told Me to Find a Rich Husband going. Seems now it’s a sooner, rather than a later, that you’ll land your Mr. Big.”

A recent slew of “Can I take you out for a drink?” messages from They Told Me to Find a Rich Husband’s male readership helped me make up my mind and lent a modicum of credibility to Jake’s alternative forecast.

Who would have thought that blogging about dating would make me a hot date ticket?

“What do you do?” — It’s a question we’re always asked when we meet someone and a question I always answer with caution.

“I consider myself a writer on the verge of landing a paying day job.”

“What do you write about?” The inevitable follow up question.

“Dating and relationships… I have a blog.”

Their eyes open wide, an eyebrow rises, a half-smirk curls upon their lips and they lean in a little closer.

“What’s it called? Maybe I’ve read it,” they coo.

“They Told Me to Find a Rich Husband.”

Usually, the next thing the guy will do is take a sip of his drink and pause. “So, do you want to be that Millionaire Matchmaker lady?”

“No…no, I don’t really care about other people finding rich husbands. ‘Find a rich husband‘ — that’s what people tell me to do. I’m the only person I’m really interested in. Blogging is a selfish business”

Pause.

“So does that make you a real-life Carrie Bradshaw?”

We ladies all think we're Carries chasing our Mr. Bigs. Turns out, guys are out there chasing their Carries.

Carrie Bradshaw — she’s the shadow-casting pop-culture icon we who write about dating in New York can never escape. As I chuckle and shrug, part in acceptance, part in denial, his next move is typically to put a hand on the small of my back to pull me in closer. The look in his eyes is telling. He sees his pseudonym in print.

“Carrie wrote a column called ‘Sex and the City,'” I’ve been known to reply. “I moved north of the city a few months ago. If I turned my blog into a column, eventually I’d have to call it ‘Celibacy and the Suburbs.'”

“Well, we’ll have to fix that, won’t we?” Before I have a chance to process or respond, his hand is up the back of my shirt and his tongue is searching for my tonsils. Hold your horses there, Cowboy!

“When you write about me tomorrow, make sure to call me ‘Mr. Hottie,'” more than one guy has said. If they only knew…

Apparently, the prospect of being the subject of next week’s post can be something of a turn on. Thank you, Carrie Bradshaw for making dating columnists sexy. Before you, we might have been considered raging feminists, and a dating no-go. It would just be nice if the men in this city didn’t conflate you with your side-kick, nymphomaniac Samantha Jones… because, as their roaming hands and steaming eyes make evident, it seems they always do.

Dinner & A Movie is So Passe… In Need of a Date Idea? I Got one For You

Your typical date-night routine got you all worn out? How about taking eachother to Fencing Masters NYC

He like the Knicks. She likes a Broadway show. He likes comedy clubs. She likes the US Open. They both like a good party. They’re both tired of the typical date night on the town.

It’s time for something fresh, and I’ve got an easy way to make everyone happy…

Take your main squeeze to the Fencing Masters NYC.

On November 17th, the world’s best and most decorated fencers will take on members of Team USA at the Hammerstein Ballroom in a dynamic show of athleticism. It’ll be sporting event meets gala, complete with cocktails and hors d’oeurves. To cap off the evening, guests can brush elbows with the Michael Jordans of fencing at the Fencing Masters After-Party, which will take over New York City’s highly esteemed Hudson Terrace.

Your guy has always wanted to hang out with professional athletes. Your girl has always wanted to have her photo taken with a male Gucci model. You’ve both always enjoy hanging out together. Fencing Masters NYC can make all that happen.

Tickets on Sale on Groupon for one day only (Nov. 1)! Get your deal here: Groupon

If you miss the Groupon, have no fear! Great seats are available here: Fencing Masters NYC Website