The End of a Hiatus

I turned the corner just in time to see the Physicist walking up to the entrance of my gallery and stopped dead in my tracks. Before he could pass through the bronze doors he paused and turned, catching what I’m sure was a look of shock on my face. For a moment we stared right at each other, and in that same moment I traveled back in time three years…

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I was wearing that stunning piece by Anya Caliendo. He was wearing tweed. We were different. 

He was standing in that doorway the first time I saw him, walking into the opening reception for one of our exhibitions. It was a wintry Sunday afternoon in February, and he was wearing a long white-black tweed coat over slim red pants and a black turtleneck. He looked so bloody French (which we was), and therefore was the best thing I’d seen in a longtime. I was wearing  a sequined feathered whimsy on loan from one of Lady Gaga’s milliners. It happened to sit right in the center of my forehead and project a foot into the air. I looked… different.

He was walking out of that doorway when I decided to run after him to give him a piece of paper with my phone number scrawled on it. I was two weeks out of a serious relationship and was in an empowered mood that bordered on reckless.

It was a week later, on Valentine’s Day, when a few doors down from that doorway we went on our first date.

And then a month later, we were in his doorway and he kissed me good-bye. As I walked out into the lion’s roar of March, I was certain that I’d never see him again…

And then, here we were, three years later on a wintry Friday afternoon in January standing in that doorway again.

“I wish you had told me you were coming in,” I said. “I would have made sure my hair looked better.”

The Physicist was visiting a chapter of his old life, on vacation from his new life in eastern Europe. We caught up over coffee in a trattoria behind the gallery.

“You don’t blog any more,” he remarked once we made it past a catch-up on work life and started the transition to personal lives. “Is that because someone’s given you reason not to blog?”

“I’ve been seeing someone, but he’s not the reason I’m not writing. I just haven’t had any time to write. And maybe, these days, I have too much to say.”

“You should make time. I liked reading it. And writing mattered to you.”
He handed me a deck of playing cards — my gift. The face side of each card was a soviet-era “propaganda” poster. I laughed out loud as I shifted through the images and he showed off some of his Russian. img_20170106_164308060

Sometimes it’s hard to attribute any value to the ephemeral relationships that make their way into and out of our lives. I always considered the Physicist as a quasi toxic vignette in my dating life (even if was French and had a six pack.)  But his cameo at the start of 2017 was a valuable one — he reminded me to hold onto all the things that make me ME.

And so, just as the American political leadership is trying to silence the voices of women and minorities, and just as I start down new paths of my own, I return to my soap box.

They Told Me to Find a Rich Husband is back.

Thanks, Physicist.

 

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Captain Marvel

I’m not ashamed to admit it: I’m a sucker for a well-formed bicep. Some will try to convince you it’s for tattoos or beards, floppy hair or gingham, nerdy bespectacled types or architects. And while they may be right (depending on the season), show me a good set of arms (ideally attached to broad shoulders) and I’ll pass along my card… every time.

But then again, I’m just like most women, who according to a survey run by the oh-so-expert “journalists” over at Muscle & Fitness ranked arms and shoulders among a man’s 10 sexiest body parts (I think the only body parts omitted from this list were ears and toes.)

M&F writes on behalf of women everywhere: “Strong arms signify a man’s ability to protect a woman—and, inadvertently, his ability to lift her up…”

i can resist anything but temptation
If you had seen his arms, you would have understood.

Captain Marvel picked me up then lifted me up at a wine bar in my neighborhood.

I had just hosted a career panel for teenage girls, moderated by a politician and decided my Gallery Assistant, LoHo and I needed a drink. With my male coworker at my side and dressed in a blazer, button down shirt, and skinny black tie, I looked more like a missing Beatle than a girl looking for a date, but what I learned that night was that some men really do love a woman in a power suit.

Captain Marvel sauntered into the bar. He was hard to miss — besides his physique, he a veritable Clark Kent transformed into his superhero alter ego, with jet black hair, and black plastic-rimmed glasses tucked into the neckline of a Superman t-shirt. He shimmied onto a bar stool and was joined by two more broad shouldered “bros.”

LoHo disappeared to the little boy’s room, and then Captain Marvel made his move.

“So, yo, is that your boyfriend?” (imagine a voice very much like Sylvester Stallone’s.)

“That’s a little forward, don’t you think?… No. He’s my coworker.”

His arms were the size of my head.

“Good, cuz ya know, I wouldn’t want to move in on another guy’s girl. I mean I figured he was gay, but ya know, ya never know.”

“He’s not gay.”

“Has he hit on you? Cuz if he hasn’t, he’s gay.”

“I’m his boss. That would be inappropriate.”

“Nah, I’d still make a go for it. What do you do, Boss Lady?”

I told him about the gallery and about why I’d been working late.

“So you like art?”

“Yea. So you like to work out?”

“Yea. Do you?”

“I do. You can clearly out bench-press me, but I can probably out squat you.”

He scanned me up and down, gave my bar stool a spin and then gave me an approving head nod.

“Have you seen Batman vs. Superman yet?”

“Nope.”

“You should. I’ve seen it like, 3 times already. I’ll take you.”

“Are you one of those Comic Con guys?”

“I mean, like, I get a 4-day pass every year, but I don’t, ya know, dress up or anything. I go for the costumes other people wear. Man, they’re art. I mean, real art. You’d totally dig it.”

Somewhere in this exchange, LoHo returned from the bathroom, allowed me to pay for his Peroni, and then left me to my own devices.

Captain Marvel proceeded to clarify the difference between DC Comic fans and Marvel Comic fans. At the time I’m pretty sure I was playing close attention, but I was probably mostly paying attention to the way his forearm bulged every time he went to raise his glass. I found him endearing and completely different than the guys who typically saunter into my life — ones who preferred philosophy and politics to pop culture. He was refreshing.

“I bet you think I’m stupid. Well, I’m not stupid. And I’m not just a bunch of muscles. I like museums and shit. In fact, I’ve been to like, every museum on the east coast. My favorite is the Museum of Natural History. Man, I go there like, once a month. I fucking love science.”

 

Captain Marvel walked me out of the bar. As a good-bye, he picked me up and threw me over his shoulder.

“Ok. I’m in. I’ll be your Lois Lane. You can call me,” I said, the blood rushing to my head as I dangled over his delts.

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Captain Marvel and I met for a date a week later. At an All-American diner. He wore a Captain America t-shirt. He spoke plainly about being the youngest of 10 (“I mean, I’m the youngest as far as I know. My father was a jazz musician who traveled all over the world. Who knows. I may have like, 20 half-siblings.”) He asked me about where I went to school (“Someplace fancy, I bet”) but evaded similar inquiries into his education or his state of employment. He revealed his failed attempts at acting and modeling (“I was like, too immature for grown-up parts, and got suckered into some schemes”) but shared an instagram account that looked like he hadn’t given up hope of getting discovered (and that the only t-shirts he had were superhero t-shirts.) He told the story of the scar on his bicep (“I fell off my bike. It was no big deal, but then I started picking it”) and defended the patchy goatee he insisted on growing.

Again in the parking lot, he showed me the benefit of dating a man with giant arms and an incredible Hulk chest. He wan’t my usual cup of tea, but I’d see him again…

Not un-ironically a few days later I met Clark, a mild-mannered, side-parted, Warby Parker bespectacled museum administrator who shared my language of loan agreements and non-profit budgets. He listened to podcasts and was a former swimmer and soccer player turned cross-fitter. His touch could take me to another planet and his kyrptonite was a gin martini with a twist. He seemed like the superhero I didn’t know I needed.

Captain Marvel: “So babe, when am I seeing you again?”

“I’m sorry, I met someone else.”

“Can we at least hook up before you guys get serious?”

“Not that kind of girl.”

“Well, remember me for when you get tired of him and need some rescuing.”

 

_____________________________

Writer’s Note:

After publishing this, I learned that Captain Marvel is in fact, a Marvel Comics character, and also a WOMAN (and will be played by Brie Larson in a movie set to premier in 2019.) Whoops. See, this was never going to work out between us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Ghostbusting: Considering The Disappearing Boo

Dating these days is like something out of a made-for-TV Halloween special. When we’re coupled off, we have our “boo.” And when we want to extricate ourselves from something perhaps in need of an exorcist, we ghost.

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As a tween, I had a crush on Casper (well, on Devon Sawa.) But as a grown-up, being Caspered isn’t so friendly.

Over the summer and again in November, the New York Times committed a good amount of print space to the act of ghosting, or the childish act adopted by grown-ups of giving someone the silent treatment… permanently. But as any Millennial and older knows, if by the time you’re 30 you haven’t been ghosted by someone you’re dating and/or ghosted someone you’re dating, then you haven’t really dated.

The November New York Times Modern Love piece on ghosting followed the progressing mental stages of a woman who had just been ghosted by a guy she had been seeing for two weeks. I couldn’t entirely tell to what degree the piece was satirical (two weeks? And she’s flipping out? I don’t even add a guy into my contacts until week four, let alone make an emotional investment at two… especially in this age of the disappearing boo…. jeeeez). But her piece made the point that the silence forced on us by the ghoster is a trigger. We look in the mirror and ask, “What’s wrong with me?” And then we find 1,005 answers (some valid, some hogwash) to that question.

When I was a tween, I had a crush on Casper the Friendly Ghost (well, I had a crush on Devon Sawa, to be clear.) But as an “adult,” being Caspered isn’t so friendly. Being ghosted is just like any other kind of break-up — it can lead us to believe we are unloveable.

Being ghosted by someone we’ve just started dating is highly insulting and yet, when there’s no relationship to break-up from, sometimes it really is the most humane way to end it. Like ripping off the band aid, or a single shot to the head.

When he or she just isn’t that into you, sometimes silence is the clearest and kindest message. Sometimes there just isn’t much to explain — this thing just doesn’t feel right.

“Thanks for your voice message,” Chris said to me in a text. “Most people don’t show that kind of courtesy. Maybe we can be friends?”

Chris is a guy I had a handful of working day midday dates with. I was just out of a long term relationship. He worked in a building a 5 minute jaunt from my office and lived in a rented house 15 minutes from where I lived. He liked outdoor things and to read books, real books as opposed to a Kindle. Sometimes, we ran into each other in the Wednesday Farmers Market. When we sat down to lunch or a coffee break, it was a pleasant hour or so. But when we parted ways, I just didn’t feel it. He sent me a text to plan a second “real” date. I called him to say, thanks, but I wasn’t ready to start dating again. A partial lie — had he been a little different, had things felt a little different, I would have been ready to date again.

“Yes. You can never have a shortage of good friends!”

“Great. How about friends who make-out. You have gorgeous lips.”

“Don’t push your luck, buddy.”

Chris and I never hung out again. But not because someone pulled a disappearing act. We wanted different things and paid each other the courtesy of sharing that fact.

But had I ghosted him, would he have been surprised or hurt? Probably not. It wasn’t a relationship. It was a few public sightings, exchanges, and some dates.

Now, Ghosting a longer-term partner? That’s just cowardly.

Ghosting a friend? That should be a one-way ticket straight to hell.

Because here’s the thing: Once you have a measurable past with someone, they deserve to know that you don’t want to have a present or future with them. 

You can leave out The Why, because The Why is only important if you want to try to fix things. But tell them good-bye. Friends and girlfriends/boyfriends have earned certain rights, and one of them is the courtesy of a break-up.

Even a post-it note break-up is better than a ghosting.

post it break up

 

 

Buying for Baby

When the Paperless Post invitation to Adam’s “meet the baby” party hit my inbox, I jumped out of my desk chair, clapped my hands together and squealed in pure joy (I rarely squeal, so you can tell how excited I was.)

When you're 30, all your friends are settling down. But I'm like, nah, I'm taking up pole dancing.
When you’re 30, all your friends are settling down. But I’m like, nah, I’m taking up pole dancing.

Unlike most women my age, when it comes to babies, I’m typically nonplussed. I don’t fully understand their appeal. Whenever my co-worker brings her infants into the office, everyone runs to see the children — the ooooohs! and ahhhhhhs! can be heard across the street. Meanwhile, I just poke my head around the corner of my nook, to say “Oh! It’s Lily!” before returning to my spread sheets or grant report. Now, if my boss brings her puppies in, that’s another story. I won’t be working until they leave for their walk.

But Adam’s baby is a different baby. He’s an important baby.

Adam and I met on my first day in college, in our orientation group. Once we swapped bios, he decided we were going to be best friends — I didn’t have a choice (we were both recruited athletes, raised in Westchester.) I was christened “Kat,” and became just about the luckiest kid on campus. Adam was my best cheerleader and biggest supporter. Like, when I say cheerleader, I mean with actual pom-poms. He has the kind of infectious “we can do anything we set our minds to! Look at what we’ve already done” attitude that I still pull out some of his pep-talks when I need a confidence boost. We all need someone like that around when we’re trying to make that tricky free-throw into adulthood.

So of course, when it came to buying his son a first gift, I wanted to make it somewhat meaningful. Adam, his gorgeous wife, and I all went to the same college. We were all athletes. It seemed fitting that my gift to them should in some way resemble our Alma’s mascot.

I needed a plush lion and I needed it stat.

Here’s what I quickly learned on my store to store safari: there is a shocking lack of diversity in infant toys. Puppies, bunnies, and monkeys. That’s it. For a child under 1-year of age, those are your plush options. From the crib we’re limiting a child’s view of the world. You can only love these three things. Loving anything else is a choking hazard (metaphorically and literally.)

“We discontinued our lion plush,” the woman at Pottery Barn Babies told me.

“Why?”

“I don’t know, I mean it hasn’t been a good year for lions… or dentists, really.”

I rolled my eyes and stomped out.

When it became clear that my mini-Roaree plan was a fail, I decided I would switch course and track down a picture-book version of Homer’s “The Iliad.” All incoming freshman to Columbia received a copy of “The Iliad” as a gift from the alumni. The first 6 books are always due by the first literature humanities class. I figured, it was never too early to give the Baby a head-start.

Isn't this the kind of story you want to read to your kid at night? I know I do. The Iliad as illustrated by Marvel...
Isn’t this the kind of story you want to read to your kid at night? I know I do. The Iliad as illustrated by Marvel…

What I also learned is that there are no picture-book versions of any of the Greek classics. I mean, surely if the Coen Brothers can make 2 cinematic adaptations about Odysseus, someone can illustrate one Little Golden Book. I may have to make a phone call to a few artists about that one day…

In short, I had to abandon all efforts for a sentimentally-inspired gift and instead, sought cute and educational. Baby got a plush puppy and a matching book — thankfully, they still make books for kids. I was worried I’d have to find a “Pat the Bunny App.” Sure the puppy doesn’t roar and the book doesn’t have any epic battles, but that’s okay. There are many birthdays ahead. I’d better start drawing…

If I were a puppy....
If I were a puppy….

The Right to Ask for Mr. Right

He looked at me with distaste, and slammed his beer down on the bar top. He began to chastise me:

“Don’t go looking to marry another Ivy-Leaguer. That’s douche-y. You want to be one of those couples in the Sunday Times? Don’t do that. The fancy diplomas, the championship ring — those are your things. Find someone who has his things. Find yourself a real MAN. I mean, a MAAAAN. Someone who thinks you’re fabulous, not ya know, fab-u-looooous, ’cause that’ll open a whole ‘nother door of problems for you.”

Jimmy swished his hand in a stereotyping display, and if I wasn’t offended I might have laughed.

I had been judged unfairly, by someone who knew me better than most.

I was being scolded for holding out for someone who could keep up. To him, that read as I was looking for a man with all the checks in the column — multiple top-tier degrees, a power job, an All-American past and cross-fit future, a golden retriever, and a perfect hairline. This wasn’t the case. He clustered me in with “the 800 other 20-something women I know in New York who are over educated, under paid, and who just can’t find a guy who can keep up.”

“I have a right, you know, to ask for Mr. Right, whoever that may be.”

Luckily, just then, the drunk male Red Sox fan standing next to us started a fight with a drunk female Yankees fan, and a bouncer intervened. His chastising of me was forced to a halt.

When I first finished my MA and ended years of traveling round the world as an aspiring athlete, people were quick to warn me that I’d have a problem finding a guy who was good enough — who was smart enough, who was successful enough, who was worldly enough, etc. It seemed important to the people who met me that I be worried about finding a Mr. Right. I wasn’t and people couldn’t understand that. Sure, I wanted competent companionship… but after I found a job with health insurance.

The job came, my career was finally on the move and people stopped being interested in my dating life… or at least, it wasn’t the first thing they asked about. People stopped prescribing a rich husband and started asking how much was too much to pay for an artwork. I become more than a single girl with an advanced degree in something people didn’t understand. It was a relief.

And then I had lunch with the Professor…

“It must be hard for you,” he said, after confessing that he’d googled me and found my blog.

“What must be hard for me?”

“Dating. I imagine the pool you have to choose from is very limited.”

“What do you mean?”

“Someone with your education — there aren’t many men that can keep up, I bet.”

I suppose, I should have been flattered, but I wasn’t.  He was exactly 20 years older than me, I was unclear about why we were having lunch together (the encounter walked a fine line between networking and well, not networking), and he didn’t know me.

“An ivy league degree doesn’t guarantee intelligence, or intellect, or sensitivity,” I replied. “What makes my dating pool small is not that fewer men have graduate degrees than women. It’s that I have passions and ambitions. If all I wanted to do was settle and have 5 kids, I’d be married by now. But I want more than that. I am more than the sum of my degrees and I expect my partner to be as well.”

He could sense the irritation in my voice. We proceeded to talk philosophically about happiness and relationships, about being a Marine during the sexual revolution and the pitfalls of being a dating blogger.