TFW You Step on the “Text Messages with your Ex” Landmine

I got a new phone this past October, just before I left for a two week sojourn in Germany and the UK. It was supposed to be faster and have a better camera than my previous phone. It had a lot of improvements and features I expected, and a few I didn’t… like all the text messages from my old phone. It seems that in transferring all my contacts, apps, and photos, I also transferred thousands of exchanges between myself and friends and family and exes.

I’ve said it in past posts, but I’ll say it again: text messages and emails with your exes are emotional landmines. Even when you think you’ve got them all safely contained, you stumble on one unexpectedly, and boom! Some part of you get obliterated in a cloud of smoke and verbal shrapnel. mobile.revolution

In this case, I had stumbled on an exchange between myself and Clark. It had been just about a year since we had dated and then not dated, and a few weeks since we had crossed paths and decided to start anew with a different tone. And then there they were — every text message sent from our first to our last.

One thing I’ve gotten very good at is moving on after something ends. With Clark, it was difficult, largely because we ended abruptly.  I had allowed myself to fall fast and hard for him, knowing that eventually, I’d hit the ground and that it might hurt. The ground came up on me faster than expected.

Lights on.

Lights off.

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I didn’t linger long on or pine for the sweet moments we shared. I stood up, shook it off, and pushed forward… with a visible emotional limp that would handicap me in what came next: a real relationship.

And then I read the texts. All of them. Separated from the exchanges by a year and a serious relationship, I was now a detached 3rd party — a voyeur looking into someone else’s relationship. I was sad for the couple in front of me. There was so much joy and promise in them. The chemistry was palpable. Then the final “hey. You up?” from her which triggered the break up email from him, and then a month later she said: “hey, I have mono. Pretty sure you gave it to me. #SoThisIs30.”

Now that we’re safely just friends, I’ve been tempted more than once to delete them all — especially the ones where he calls me beautiful or says how much he’s looking forward to seeing me or talks about kissing me in the ocean. I don’t want those around when I’m trying to forget that at one time, I thought I might have found a forever guy. And then I read this one and decide to keep them, because this is a good reminder of how I want to feel with each new “something”:

You can never tell if things are going to work at the start, but if we get to be our best selves for a while, then it will have been worth it. You make me smile. 

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Let’s Not Stand On Ceremony: Becoming Reverend Reck, Part 1

I was in the middle of my attempted return to a nightly yoga practice and (un)comfortably contorted into a parivrtta parsvkonasana (a revolved side angle pose… ) when my cell lit up with a text message fit for the opening lines of a Camus novel:

“Today, our Japanese rabbi died.”

My best friend, a bubbly, intelligent, and kind culturally-Jewish girl from the suburbs of New York City, was getting married to a warm, thoughtful, and humorous Japanese bar owner in exactly one month. And after all the pinterest boards and dessert tastings, this was the last thing she needed.

Shocking, I know, but like unicorns, Japanese rabbis are kind of rare.

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There was a few exchanges — she had a Plan B, everything was going to be fine.

The next morning I got a phone call.

I was the plan B.

When she asked me if I wouldn’t mind the promotion from bridesmaid to stand-in officiant, I flashed through the last seven years…

To the weekend she crashed at my small “efficiency” studio on the upper west side of Manhattan and I suggested we go to this fancy cocktail bar downtown. After comping us a round a drinks, the bartender made us a refreshing non-alcoholic beverage to help us make our way home. That bartender would become her boyfriend…

Flash forward a few years later, she and I were standing in an elevator she was wearing a kimono the bartender’s mother had gifted her. “He’s the one,” she said without reservation. “Women know these things”…

And now I was standing in the bathroom at work, on the phone, being asked to officiate their wedding.

“I really can’t think of a bigger honor than getting to marry you two.”

“Great! I hoped you’d say that! I think it’d be really awesome to get married by officiant in a blue jumpsuit!”

That’s right. I was the bridesmaid who was told “wear whatever you want, as long as it’s blue,” and decided on a cobalt blue jumpsuit. A Reverend in a jumpsuit. I could see the branding opportunities already…

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Up until this point, my day-of wedding responsibilities were fairly simple and superficial:

  1. Make sure the make-up artist doesn’t make the Bride orange
  2. Make sure the Bride’s dress corset is pulled in as tight as it can go — don’t worry if she seems to be suffering from shortness of breath.
  3. Make sure the Bride has a shoehorn so she doesn’t smash the heels of her Jimmy Choos when she’s putting them on under her dress.

I had just picked up a few more responsibilities that were significantly less superficial (Learn Japanese sake-pouring ceremony. Learn how to say “chuppah” in a way that doesn’t sound like a sneeze. Make sure Bride and Groom say “I Do” and sign marriage certificate) but I would handle them, because for her, for them, I had to.  There are only a few times in your life when the people you love really ask you to step up to the plate for them. And when they do, you owe it to them to bring your A-game… to try to hit a home run… and if you don’t, at least you go down swinging.

 

 

 

 

Out or In? Acknowledging What We Really Want

As he placed the bowl of strawberries and a plate of fresh mozzarella in front of me, I thought: we’re a total cliche.

The plan had been to meet at his place for a rooftop drink, then grab dinner and the new Woody Allen flick. 45 minutes to get all dressed up, and we didn’t even make it to the club… Instead of dinner and a movie, we were sitting in his kitchen snacking on bits of things he’d picked up earlier that day at the family-owned Italian market around the corner from his one bedroom flat on the top floor of a Brooklyn brownstone. I was in a gray undershirt he’d pulled from a pile of recently washed leisure cloths. He sported a pair of boxer briefs. It was the summer after all, and central air is a luxury not found in pre-war residences.

“You should come back next weekend,” he said. “During the daytime. We’ll shop the corridor of old family businesses my grandmother used to frequent, and then we’ll cook dinner.”

Nothing says happy couple like a date-night in, cooking together...
Nothing says happy couple like a date-night in, cooking together…

A week later, we did just that. Standing in his small kitchen, chopping tomatoes and swapping family sauce secrets, and pausing from the chore of cooking every so often to dance to the silence between tracks on the playlist, we were completely apart from the world. We were neatly  and romantically tucked away into a bubble of domestic bliss. As he cracked open a mediocre bottle of wine (a gift from his landlord) and as we shared the most tasteless bowl of rigatoni I’d ever concocted, I thought: we may not cook well together, but this feels good. This is what I want.

It turned out it was what he wanted too. As we put away the dishes, he told me he couldn’t see an ending for us. Perhaps, we’d found the one?

(Spoiler alert: we broke up 6 months later.)

These are the kind of tender moments from relationships past that I bury in the recesses of my memory as I move further away from them, both chronologically and emotionally.

Two years later, and a few hours after diner at a friend’s flat, these vignettes, and ones like them, resurfaced. Over a home-cooked meal of a different nature we had talked about what constituted a “grown-up” relationship, and what he wanted/was ready for now — he painted a rather domestic scene of shared nights in, conversation exchanged over a bottle of wine, etc.

This didn’t surprise me. In my experience, most of the men I dated moved from going out to staying in as soon as I gave his apartment a passing mark. For me, this turn inward was often a point of contention.

cold weather coupleI am almost stubbornly independent. Personal space and alone time are precious, not commodities, but necessities for me. In a similar vein, while I fully embody the home-maker sign of the zodiac, my romantic search has been motivated by finding an activity partner. I’m an adventurer, and when asked when I’m looking for, I usually choose “someone to go out with” rather than “someone to come home to.” Spending our nights together on the couch didn’t seem domestic, it seemed lazy. Expecting I would spend my weekends at his place, on his couch, didn’t seem domestic, it seemed invasive and possessive.

Opening up my mind’s vault to those scenes was revealing. That my most treasured memories from broken romances revolved around a pseudo home life was at first disturbing. I was forced to admit to myself that my favorite stage in a relationship is the part when we’re okay with looking inward, when we’re okay being more home-centric than out and about. I haven’t decided if I have any profound take away from this realization yet — perhaps I have a more focused idea of what I want for myself? Maybe. I know I want to strike a balance between being a nesting pair and a social duo. And what I also know is that I haven’t made finding Mr. Right any easier through this confession — it’s far easier to find someone you can run with than to find someone you want to sit still beside.

 

The Best Valentines I’ve Ever Had…

This is cute. Order it on etsy from scrapbits
This is cute. Order it on etsy from scrapbits

“If you feel comfortable to go on a date on Valentine’s Day, we could go out then.”

I had planned on avoiding Valentine’s Day this year. Those plans involved signing the lease on my new Range Rover Evoque and going for a kind of joy ride. Heading north a ways. Away from the red mylar heart-shaped balloons and pink doillies bombarding you at every store from Duane Reade to Saks. Perhaps I’d go  somewhere I could test my new car’s off-roading capabilities, or take it somewhere where I could get lost on my snowshoes (but not really lost, cuz it’s winter and that would end badly.)

My stomach churned a little bit at his text message. A Valentine’s Day first date with the most stunning and potentially most interesting man you’d ever met? This was bound to go as badly as my snowshoeing without a map plan.

This puppy was my best Valentine's Present
This puppy was my best Valentine’s Present

I am famously neutral about Valentine’s Day. I have a knack for ending relationships ahead of the holiday, and so I can’t remember if I have had a legit Valentine. My mother often comes to my rescue, buying me necklaces, or chocolate, or shapewear to help me turn future first dates into second dates. I’ve also fulfilled the day’s requirements by going bar-hoping with plantonic male friends.

This year, my right hand in the office, my Gallery Coordinator and I agreed to be each other’s Valentine. I’m taking a comp day on Valentine’s Day, so I cheated and gave her a box of truffles on Wednesday.

The best Valentine’s present I ever got was Kasey, my Cairn Terrier. She was a grey-black puppy who I nicknamed my Blue Valentine. She liked to chase feet and sit on my lap while I sat at my desk, writing on my laptop.

When this man asks you out on Valentine's Day, you say yes.
When this man asks you out on Valentine’s Day, you say yes.

“Do you think he’ll bring you flowers?” my girlfriend Sammy asked when I told her I’d accepted the invitation from the European PhD who bore an uncanny resemblance to Rupert Penry Jones.

While I’d welcome the gesture, I confessed, part of me hopes he won’t. They’d totally steal the thunder from my new car — I’m a sucker for flowers.

So, Let’s Hang Out? Considering “The End of Courtship”

“Ok. Let’s do this! Let’s hang out!”

I confess, I was caught completely off-guard. It wasn’t exactly the declaration of affection or attraction or, hell, even interest that I had hoped for from a guy I considered “most likely to be cast as leading man in the movie that is my life.”

"Let's do this!" was more game-time cheer than romance. I wanted romance.
“Let’s do this!” was more game-time cheer than romance. I wanted romance.

“Let’s do this!” was less romance and more pre-game pep-rally.

Were we going to jump off a cliff together? Maybe metaphorically. But if his “I want to hang out with you” was the 21st century equivalent of Mr. Darcy’s “You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you,” then we were certainly in for a bumpy ride.

But such are the times we live in….

In all likelihood, you or someone you know shared that NYTimes Sunday Styles piece about dating in the age of texting and social media. About how traditional courtship has been replaced with the flippant one-offs of the hook-up generation.

For the most part, I thought the essay was a gross generalization that painted a bleak picture favoring an ever-increasing divorce rate.

But Alex Williams was on to something — “hanging out” has exited the realm of friendship and infiltrated the realm of courtship, leaving singles (particularly, single women) hoping to make the jump from “gone fishing!” to “got him!” in a perpetual state of confusion.

“Let’s hang out.”

When I was a college student with more male than female friends, this was something I heard fairly often. In those days, it’s meaning was crystal clear: we’re going to keep it casual, keep it low-key, throw on a movie or pull out a deck of cards, open a bottle, maybe some people will join us, and by the way, we’re going to keep it platonic.

Oh! How fast things change!

Imagine my surprise when, a half decade later, a “let’s hang out” has translated into everything from “I’d like to take you to dinner” to “let’s hook-up” to “I’d like this to be serious.”

“Hanging out” as a colloquialism is the new “hooking up” — an appropriately non-committal term that keeps your options open and your morning-after stories vague.

Saying "let's hang out" is like putting on a suit of armor to protect yourself from harm
Saying “let’s hang out” is like putting on a suit of armor to protect yourself from harm

It’s a sort of self-protective statement, one that doesn’t put your heart on the line while still implying an interest in spending time with the other person. A sort of “let’s see if we click as friends” is partially implied — and isn’t the fundamental base of a successful relationship a strong friendship? Isn’t it a good idea to see if you can be friends as well as lovers?

What’s the problem?

More of my 20-something friends are married or in domestic partnerships or engaged than are single. Is Williams’ point, that this behavior might be fostering the kind commitment-phobia that makes it more difficult for people to really develop worthwhile relationships, accurate?

Maybe it is and I just cultivate romantically stable people? (unlikely…. you’ve never met some of the guys I dated…)

Let’s be honest, if you’re an urban singleton, getting a foothold in the industry of your choosing, filling-up your time with friends and social groups, drinking up all your environment has to offer, the notion of keeping it casual when it comes to dating is your best laid plan (pun intended.)

Here’s the problem — it’s the phrase itself.

Instead of "hanging out" consult the thesaurus. Let's phase out that phrase
Instead of “hanging out” consult the thesaurus. Let’s phase out that phrase

“Hang out.” It’s still flippant, casual, an afterthought. If  saying “I want to see you” carries implications of  serious commitment and so you shy away, say you want to “get together” or say you want to do something specific.

We don’t need the guy that says “I want to spend every waking minute with you” (though, when faced with a choice between him and Mr. Let’s Hang Out, Mr. Let’s Hang Out is shown wanting). But it’s nice to feel like we’re more than an addition to a plan.

“Hanging out” leaves lots of things hanging in the air. And frankly, hanging out gets old quick. Before you know it, she/he will be hanging up the towel on this casual courtship and moving on.

 

 

 

 

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.”