Sunday, August 1, 2010

Whiskey, I'll always love you. It's just not a good time right now.

Oh, whiskey, how fraught with complications is our relationship. Sure, we’ve had good times. Remember when I used to carry you around in my purse in a dainty silver round flask all over Boston before I could legally hang out with you? You’ve been there for me and my nearest and dearest through a lot of good times.

There was the Christmas party in the Leonard St. apartment before I moved in and way before David moved out. When we mixed up pitchers of Manhattans and drank them like they were margaritas. I remember meeting all sorts of new people and just trying to stay in one place long enough not to vomit on the countertop at my then-new love’s house in front of his friends. And then, after drinking at least 2 gallons of water, dancing my heart out in that yellow plaid sequined Oscar de la Renta skirt that made such a great swishing noise on the dancefloor. No one was the wiser to the tumultuous evening you and I were having at the time.

But lately, it just seems like you are only keeping company with the saddest of individuals. I’m worried about you. In our youth, you always brought happy times and good vibes with you. Now, it seems as though every time anyone I know hangs out with you, it’s a fight to hold back tears. And I naively hold onto the hope that each time you will come through and save the day, but you always overstay your welcome by a few drinks, and the night ends with slurred words and the admission of otherwise hidden secrets.

Maybe it’s my nostalgic tendencies, but I miss the old times. I miss the times when the worst that happened was I ended up fully clothed in my bathtub with the shower water blasting on me until the hot water ran out and I woke with a shock. When I could recover from the aftermath of your visit within a day or even a morning. But now, it’s two or three full days of walking around in a zombie-like state before I’m back to normal.

I want to believe we can work this out, but honestly, you’re just kind of depressing me lately. We’ll just have to see how it goes next time.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Even Experts Get the Blues

I am not so convinced that an open mind is always the best thing to possess. Decisive people have necessarily closed minds. They must know what they think about various general scenarios in advance so that when something specific occurs, they can act swiftly. I’m a person who never takes very long to read the menu and decide what it is I want to eat. I never ask more than one question at a new coffee shop when I’m ordering. I generally know what I like and what I want. As I’ve mentioned before, I once made a list of characteristics that a potential mate must possess. No one could ever accuse me of being a woman who doesn’t know what she wants or how to get it.

But when you’ve been living in that ascendant mode for 26 years of life, it becomes alarming when you can’t figure out what it is that you might want. I knew I wanted to do well at and graduate from high school, and I made that choice and went forward with it. I wanted to go to design school, do well, and move to New York to work in the fashion industry. So I went ahead and did that and was very decisive in my career decisions. This has all yielded great results so far.

And now, I have been in New York City for 4 1/2 years, and all of a sudden I’m feeling very wishy-washy. I don’t know if I want to stay or go. I don’t know if I want Thai food or if I just want to forego dinner altogether. I blame it on the fact that I have too many options. I could do anything. I have nothing and no one determining my geography or any decisions in my life for that matter.

I suppose that life is cumulative, with all of the experiences that one has and all of the people that one person meets. You learn so much as you go along. One of the most important but completely overwhelming lessons on which to meditate is the fact that we are all human. Although there are experts in certain fields and people who have certification in all sorts of things, we are all subject to the same limitations of time and energy and personal experience. Even the best doctor can sometimes miss a diagnosis, and the best racecar driver will sometimes crash. I find no comfort in this thought, just a sense of being overwhelmed.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Type-A no more?

As I mentioned in my last post, I have spent most of my life as a neurotic type-A. Think Tracy Flick, Reese Witherspoon’s character, in Election. This type-A adherence to the rules and to other people’s expectations never really allowed me to develop my instincts for sniffing out the people who have nothing but the best intentions for me. In fact, it’s made me naïve, while seemingly in control.

But now I’ve realized that I’ve been extremely fortunate in that area. I don’t know if it is my size (for anyone who doesn’t know me, I’m unusually petite), or if it is my personality, but most people that I meet feel protective of me. I call it the “Little Sister Syndrome.” Somehow I project a non-threatening charm that causes near complete disarmament of other people. It’s subtle, but it seems as if people I meet want to protect me or help me out, and not take advantage of me because of this outward naivete.

Or maybe I’m completely off-base, and this has nothing to do with that. One time, a coworker told me that I “seem competent” at whatever is asked of me. Quite a lackluster compliment, I still appreciated it for what she meant. Maybe people want to assist in my plans because everyone is looking for a competent ally in a world where so little competency exists.

Perhaps, though, I really just have been fortunate and strategic enough to meet the right kind of like-minded and exciting people. I have this hippie friend who smokes a lot of weed and talks about the “vibe” a lot. It’s the extremely basic idea of karma: You get what you give. So if you put forth the best intentions into the world, then you’ll get back the best results. It’s an easy concept for me to embrace as such a lucky person. I’ve got my fingers crossed that this luck stays.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Things I have inherited from my parents

Until very recently, I have considered myself to be an unchanging person, a pillar of immutable constancy, not to mention a personality of great redundancy. I’ve known I got this emphasis on being grounded directly from my mom. Her childhood was one of complete upheaval with no option for stability, shifting around to different homes and different towns. This recognition of the ever-changing world coupled with the irresistible desire to control all elements within one’s own realm are hallmarks of my mother’s personality. And I suppose mine too.

In contrast to my mother, or perhaps the perfect complement, is my dad. He’s an adventurer, always ready to keep moving and trying out something new at any juncture, never sitting still. And I’ve always sort of understood and appreciated that daring nature, while still being cautious and rule-oriented like my mom.

Dad really dislikes regulations and eschews authority at every possibility, a perpetual teenager. This has never been my mode, even as an actual teenager. I rarely stayed out past curfew. I never ran with the bad crowd, or talked back to my teachers. I always obediently did exactly what has been expected of me.

But there has been a shift somewhere. The change wasn’t seismic or sudden, but over the past year, as my dissatisfaction with the status quo of my life has grown, so has my tolerance for being sweet-natured and compliant in all situations. Not only do I have this adventurous spirit in common with my father, but I’m taking it to the next level. As a 26-year-old southern woman, I am expected to be polite and smile no matter the injustice or rudeness perpetrated upon me. I find that this new free-spirited attitude has made me much happier, and it’s also allowed me to actually like people a bit more. I don’t have to have people act in any certain way. I only expect that people will give me a baseline of consideration and take into account my side of the situation.

This change has been the single biggest revelation in my nearly 27 years of life, and I’m finally feeling secure in my naivete and innocence. Previously I’d associated it with lack of control, but now I associate it with openness to excitement, which feels quite a bit more natural. If I didn’t have the contrasting personalities of my parents as shining examples, I’d never have been able to see that there is a time and place for loosening and tightening one’s ideas about life as the situation dictates. Currently, all bets are off.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Mexican Candle

I bought one of those Mexican candles that are in all the bodegas around any Hispanic neighborhood in New York City. In its clear cylindrical jar, I’ve burned it for the past few months as a bit of a talisman for love and prosperity. There is no portrait of a saint or of the Virgin on the jar, so I assumed I could assign my own ritual to it as long as I have good intentions.

Six days ago, it had burned so far down, that I couldn’t light it anymore unless I had extra long matches or one of those grill lighters that is just a metal stick with a plastic handle. I have neither of those things, so I took to lighting long pieces of folded paper and holding them down into the jar until the wick would light. But even that stopped working, when I suppose the oxygen couldn’t get to the flame to keep it going. Surely this isn’t signaling the end of my prosperous love life.

I decided that the only way to take charge of my luck in love was to smash the jar. So I held it with a towel, and I smashed the top of it against my granite countertop and into my sink. An uneven break, this made a treacherous and craggy sharp-edged circle of glass guarding the candle from any hands that might try to light it. I lit it anyway, sneaking a lighter through one of the slits in the side, narrowly avoiding the knife-edge that could have easily sliced into my finger if I’d flinched even slightly.

With this haphazard and take-charge attitude, I met up with a former love. And craggy would be a generous description of our interaction that day. Emotionally violent, this was a wick forced to burn even when the guard was up. As if I’d cut a gash in my hand trying to light the candle, there was a terrible confrontation, and then the flame was out. For good this time.

This evening, I took out a hammer, and gently and strategically knocked off the sharpest and most dangerous shards from what was left of the jar. Then I tapped the sharp edge off the newly formed lip until the wax itself was just below the glass line. With a regular lighter, and at close range, I lit the wick, and it burned as if it had been given new life with room to breathe and even overflow a bit onto my mantle. Now I have a puddle of red wax flowing off the edge of the mantle that seems to never have been leveled and a candle that’s burning bright.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Ernest Hemingway

I am reading The Sun Also Rises for the first time. So far, it's really excellent.

I can't believe I've gone 26 years and my entire education without reading this book.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I'm not obsessive, I'm just passionate.

I can’t get it out of my head. Surfing for me right now is like that crush in middle school who kind of liked you back but was a seventh grade boy so inherently unreliable. Some days, you are super confident and he’s noticing that cute floral dress you bought at Express. And when you were trying it on you had the secret hope that maybe he would say something. But then two weeks later, you wear the same dress, and he barely even looks at you the whole day.

Last Saturday, I went out, and I was killing it, catching waves all over the place in some tiny crappy surf. It wasn’t the most exciting session, but it was fun, and I was feeling great. Then on Sunday, it all turned around. I was just hanging out, not catching anything. I could blame it on the waves or the on-shore winds, or something. And I’m sure those factors are most of the issue, but I’m sometimes still an insecure middle-schooler who wonders what exactly I did wrong and how to get his attention again.

So I have spent most of this week watching surf videos of the best female surfers in the world. And they make it look so easy. Surely I can surf just like one of those women who train every day and have been surfing since they were able to walk. Right? It’s like trying to get the same amount of attention as the girl who got boobs first, and who seems to know how to carry herself while the rest of us were still figuring out how to fasten our training bras without having to put the hooks in the front and then turn it around.

This weekend, I will still go out, and I will put on my cutest bikini, knowing that I do have the chance to get that gawky pre-teen’s attention. But by the time he’s interested, I’ll have moved on to bigger and better waves who will cherish me a bit more. But I’ll still know that I want to impress the hell out of the first one, the one that goes in and out of my affections.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Credit Crisis

Yesterday I went shopping in Soho for the first time in 8 months. Studying designer clothing is both a blessing and a curse of working in the fashion industry. It is a large part of my job to know what is going on with fabrics and trends and construction. So I got to spend a beautiful summer afternoon leisurely perusing the stores as a student of the latest developments, iced coffee in hand. As I was checking out the incredible jacquards and the Japanese heat-set paper appliqués at Marni, I noticed a pair of platform shoes displayed so prominently and so beautifully in their mirrored white cubby in the wall. I tried these five-inch-high works of art on, and they couldn’t have fit more perfectly nor made my legs look longer. I was towering over no one at 5’4” in these beauties. All of a sudden, the sun shone a little brighter.

As I worked out the math in my head, “Ok, so if I put these on my credit card, I can pay them off in three paychecks… but wait, I need to make sure I can pay rent…” The battle began and got heated up quickly, with the halo-wearing me on my right shoulder loudly proclaiming, “You could buy a brand new and very nice surfboard for the cost of these shoes. Or a plane ticket and an entire trip to Nicaragua for a month.”

But that sultry tiny me in a red sequin dress, sitting atop my left shoulder whispered ever so quietly, “But you wouldn’t be able to do those things for months. If you get these shoes, you’ll probably win the lottery and meet the love of your life all in the same day. Maybe tomorrow if you wear your new shoes.”

Ultimately, angelic me won, as I am of the thought that yelling louder always yields better results. But in truth, I’m still thinking about those shoes, and thinking about how to finance footwear that I can’t afford, and that I probably wouldn’t even wear that often. I just want to own them. Surely they will improve my life and my health and my personality just by possessing them.

This incident isn’t the first of its kind, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. Our whole lives and in all aspects of our day-to-day existence, we are bombarded with images of things we should want to need. It is unavoidable, especially living in the city. I suppose that is why the average credit card debt in the US is $15,000 a person. I hope I can avoid being a part of that statistic, even if it means not having designer kicks.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Ten Things Every Woman Should Know How To Do:

1. Drive a stick shift.
2. Start a grill.
3. Gracefully thwart the advances of an undesirable male suitor.
4. Hem her own jeans.
5. Roll a cigarette even if she doesn't smoke.
6. Give herself a haircut.
7. Catch a fish and filet it.
8. Play at least one musical instrument.
9. Greetings in at least 4 languages.
10. Drive a motorcycle.

I am missing: #1, #7, and #10. And I'm currently working on #8.

Maybe by the end of the year, I'll have at least one of the 3 taken care of.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Jury Duty

I had the distinct honor of serving on a jury today in Kings County Civil Court. I knew when I was being interviewed for the jury selection that I was going to be picked. My earnestness and inability to lie, along with my obvious sense of justice, were exactly what lawyers are seeking when they start those silly questions. And secretly, I wanted to be picked. Being chosen to be part of a trial seemed like a confirmation of long-held beliefs about myself. I look like the kind of person you can trust to be impartial and serve justice.

I don’t really know what it is about my face or my demeanor that makes people feel like they can tell me all sorts of things. I know so much dirt on so many people, it’s unbelievable. And not just my closest friends. I know about the childhood traumas of relative strangers. Maybe I seem non-judgmental, or maybe people mistake me for a priest. I don’t wear solid black outfits very often, so I am doubting that theory.

In another case of probably giving myself too much credit, I like to think that it speaks volumes about my character that random people want to tell me random things that would make most hesitant or turn them judgmental.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

There but for the grace of God go I

Today in Chile, Joran van der Sloot was picked up for killing another young woman. I never knew Natalee Holloway, but being from Birmingham, I know more than a few people who did. I hope they are able to keep him locked up this time, because he obviously got a bit overconfident about his ability to get away with murder. Not only does the hometown connection pique my interest in these cases, but I’m also a young woman who recently discovered the glory of solo travel.

I am sure I am giving myself far too much credit, but I think I am a good judge of character. I have been lucky that the few people I have trusted while traveling have had no intentions of harming me, and therefore I haven’t been in any actually scary situations. Hearing all of the speculation and the stories from Natalee’s disappearance, all I can think is, “there but for the grace of God go I.” It’s amazing to think how many young women go on vacation (myself included), have a bit too much to drink, get charmed by that local with the nice smile, and then find themselves alone with him. And for the most part, it is fine. Usually it’s just followed up by you awkwardly trying to figure out what angle is your most flattering and if the light is right in your hotel room during the time you can hear him loudly peeing in the next room.

I can’t imagine discouraging all young women to stay home and never try to live it up in a foreign country simply because there are plenty of people who have the home field advantage. And I don’t believe in being overly cautious because if I bothered to be cautious all the time, I’d never have had some of the priceless adventures that I hold as such dear memories. But they could have turned out to be completely different if the people involved had been different. But I have been one of the millions of lucky ones, and statistical anomalies don’t make up for the fact that now two daughters and friends are now dead.

There is no formula for safety or advice that can be given besides the standard advice that should be taken in any public place. These two young women were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and with the wrong person. That is the scariest part. He could have seemed like any regular guy, just looking to hang out and maybe hook up with a girl at the bar, like regular guys all over the world often do. But alas, there but for the grace of God go I.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend

And thus, the New York City summer begins. Memorial Day Weekend this year was incredible, including two trips to the beach, one day of surfing sans booties, one party until 5 in the morning, some new friends, and mostly wonderful old friends. One of my best friends said that from my Facebook picture updates, it looks like all we do is party. This may be true, but it’s not like I’m pulling my camera out at funerals to make sure I balance out the fun on my page.

On that point, though, I can’t decide how much sharing is too much and how much is just keeping your non-local friends up to date with your life. Since I got a new camera just a few days ago, I am snapping pictures like crazy. And I want to share them. Mostly as a self-indulgence, since I’m in a very photogenic phase of life right now and, I have no idea how long that’s going to last. We don’t have photo-sharing parties anymore because hardly anyone will bother to print them out, so Facebook is the only way we can share photos with our friends.

I don’t think that I’m a chronic oversharer. I don’t usually update on tiny minutiae of the day, or on things that only apply to one person. I don’t give away too many personal details that I know of, but I want to share pictures of my travels and weekly and weekend excitements. I want to share a funny story sometimes with my friends who aren't around me on the regular.

Everyone in my generation struggles with this, because we all either have Facebook or avoid it in defiance. But no one is indifferent. Some are too busy to update or check it on the regular, but the world in the age range of 15-40 right now can be classified into two groups: those who have FB and those who don’t.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Memory Lane

Memory Lane is such a treacherous road. I pulled out the old hard drive that contains back-up files of the past 8 years of my digital life, and I realized that no matter how many times you go through and machete the hell out of that trail, it always ends up overgrown. The fact that it always grows back isn’t always terrible, it’s just different branches from the same trees with new individual leaves. And to get through without too many scratches, you have to hack them down sometimes.

All of my ex-boyfriends except for one live in New York. Today, I ran into one of the most prominent people in a particular point in my life. He was the treasure of my heart for a year and a half, and it ended badly and immaturely. He looks great and seems to be doing well, although maybe a little skittish around me. He has good reason to be wary of me. The first time I saw him at a party a few months after we broke up, I drank a bit too much and told him in front of the entire room, “That awful mustache has gotta go.” Certainly not my finest or proudest moment, but I apologized for it later, and I was granted forgiveness.

Looking at the photos of us dancing and giggling and kissing brought back all of the wonderful details of young love, and how very silly it all is. We were a beautiful couple, him with cinnamon colored skin and jet-black hair, me with the flawless snow-white complexion and dark dyed hair, both of us with the brilliant smiles that beam with youthful optimism. And we had little but fun together, going on road trips around the Southeastern US and once to Hawaii with my family.

Today in the park, the two of us didn’t look too different or much older than we did those five or so years ago, but that palpable carefree exuberance is gone from both of us, possibly forever. Maybe the city took it out of us. Or perhaps if I can keep from pulling out my machete so frequently, I can allow myself to get scratched and maybe notice some of the older trees a little off the trail that seem to stay the same year after year.

Me, playing guitar

So, I have been trying to learn to play the guitar for years now. And I'm making rather slow progress.

But I thought maybe if I post about my progress, that could motivate me. I just this morning discovered that I can see the mistakes better and hear them better on video. So here's a video of me playing the guitar and singing.

About halfway through there is a really loud saw outside. Ooops. Anyways, I hope this isn't one of those cringe-inducing clips for my family and friends. I'm getting better every day. I promise.

Friday, May 28, 2010

3 Most Important...

The top three most important qualities to embody and look for in another person:

  1. Loyalty
  2. Love
  3. Lack of Judgment (meant to be taken both possible ways)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Quilting B

I try to not be materialistic, but sometimes it’s impossible for me not to sentimentalize an object. If you ask yourself, “What would I grab and bring with me if my house were on fire?” and consider it, I think you could gauge your level of materialism. You’d also hopefully notice how many valuable things you have in your life because of your emotional attachment to them, and how easily some things can symbolize a person or an idea.

The first thing I’d grab is the quilt my grandmother made for me when I went off to college. It’s black and white triangles in a really simple linear pattern. It looks quite handmade, but it also looks incredibly modern. When I moved from a twin bed in the dorms to a full size bed, it seemed like the quilt was getting a bit small, and now that I sleep on a queen size bed, it doesn’t cover the sheets. Those cotton pills are forming on it, so I think I have to stop washing it or start repairing it.

Since she’s no longer with us, I don’t know if I am qualified to repair this quilt. Mimi was a perfectionist beyond perfectionism, and I know that she’d be furious if I did a shoddy job on it. I suppose I will have to leave it as is and let it age with me throughout my life, reminding me of one of the most important women in my entire life.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Things I want to teach my future children....

If you have a sense of humor about it, you'll never regret that tattoo/drug usage/ time you danced on a table.

Monday, May 24, 2010

My unabashed love.

I love Facebook. I don’t care what any detractors have to say about it. Recently I discovered my genuine love of people in real life. I had considered myself a disgruntled neurotic with the constitution of a hardened New Yorker for most of my life. However, that hard exterior has proven to be a soft cocoon, and I’ve emerged a very Southern and warm butterfly or at least one of those really pretty moths.

Now that I love people, I want to get to know them all. Or at least as well as I can in the limited amount of time I have to spend with them. And here is where the glory of the Internet comes in. I can keep in contact with my friends all over the world without having to track their phone numbers down and leave them voicemails. Some might say this cheapens relationships. I disagree completely. Recently, I posted on my Wall that I was flying down to Nicaragua to go surfing and less than half an hour later, I got an email from a friend I had met in Costa Rica a few weeks before. She said she’d meet me in Nica for a few days of surfing together in the middle of my trip. She showed up, and it was amazing. A quick opportunistic vacation friendship has now turned into a Surf Buddy friendship hopefully for life. We’re plotting our next trip at this very moment.

In spite of this love of the World Wide Web, there are still complications. Just today, I had a chat conversation where all subtlety was lost. I am a relatively good communicator in person using hand gestures a lot, and I’ve got expressive eyebrows and a loud voice. But this chat went awry when I tried to be coy and flirtatious while typing with a guy who speaks English really well but it’s still his second language. The Internet will rob you of your game every time. Instead of impressing this guy with my coolness, I think I may have insulted him deeply. I was just trying to be funny, but I suppose I need to be a bit more sensitive with my sense of humor when dealing with matters of the heart over the Internet.

But if it weren’t for the Internet, I’d never have been able to contact this person in the first place. Or I would have had to write a letter. I can only imagine how much humor and subtlety gets lost by the Postal Service every year.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

What's in a name?

I’ve never had a nickname that stuck for very long other than Breastany in my early years of high school. Puberty was good to me in the boob department, but that moniker became a bit of a cruel joke after I got mono in 10th grade and lost about 15 pounds, most of it in the upper body still never to return. My best high school friends still use this in mass emails and at group reunions, sometimes even going a step further and just using “Breast.” I’ve kept a sense of humor about it all these years. I might as well, because it probably won’t ever go away entirely.

Otherwise, BethyLou is the cutest nickname I’ve ever gotten, but it is especially reserved for my parents, my dad mostly. That one just shortens my middle name, Louise, into my first name. Far too cutesy for anyone who doesn’t see me as a little girl, it’s really only used affectionately by my parents. As I’ve become a real adult, my father simply invoking this name has an immediate calming affect, usually when I’m crying about some big life decision or heartbreak.

I suppose that Beth counts as a nickname for Bethany, and as an obvious shortening that one has had a bit more staying power. As simple as it is, it’s emotionally loaded for me. Only my family and anyone I knew before I was thirteen consistently refer to me as Beth. Once I hit eighth grade I took myself very seriously, and I decided that “Beth Scott” sounded far too simple, and “Bethany Scott” was a much more serious name for a serious adult. And it is a good name, rolls off the tongue quite well, and it’s just unusual enough that I don’t encounter many Bethanys. So I stuck with that.

I never offer Beth as an option, but people often ask if they can use it or just take it upon themselves. I only allow people who I have a good feeling to go forth with this nomenclature. As it happens at introduction or soon after, this is a litmus test for whether or not I feel comfortable with someone immediately. If I read your vibe favorably, I’ll give you permission or allow you to call me Beth without correction. It moves people into a particular realm of intimacy immediately, as if I’m allowing them to become family or old friends just by letting them take three letters off the name on my passport.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Personal Space

In the interest of full disclosure, this is a photo of my bedroom:

My mom is wary of the Internet and its users’ intentions, so it feels a little bit weird to post this photo. It’s quite intimate to put something like this up for whoever happens to come upon this blog to see because it’s my personal space. Living in New York, I don’t often get to experience the grand luxury of personal space, and I didn’t have the desire for much of it when I was recently traveling. But this photo is truly MY personal space.

As a kid, my sister and I always had separate rooms and separate spaces. I never really liked being alone, though, and until I was about ten years old, I would crawl into my sister’s bed nearly every night and insist that she hold me because I couldn’t sleep. This act is a testament to my sister’s love for me because she always seemed annoyed, but she did it anyway. In high school, my friends dubbed my action the “rollover move” because during slumber parties no matter who slept next to me, she always got at least an arm if not an arm and a leg draped around her as she slept. I couldn’t help it then, and I’m still a devoted cuddler no matter the room temperature or blanket situation. I will always surrender my personal space in the interest of an all-night cuddle.

As much as I don’t need personal space to sleep, I never realized how valuable it was until I had none. Living with a partner is stressful for many reasons, the most important of which is the loss of personal space in which to just chill out and do your own thing alone. But even with the absence of a companion living in my bedroom now, I still find it difficult to get any time truly alone. I wake up in my bed and after my shower, that is the last of my personal space for the day. I cram onto a train with what seems like a million people, I push past people all the way until I get to my desk where there never seems to be enough space. At the end of the day, I’ll pile back on the train to meet up with people in a crowded bar or restaurant for dinner and drinks. And then it starts all over again when I lay down to bed at night.

In the suburbs, everyone has so much space, but in the city, we are crammed into tiny compartments literally stacked on top of one another. After an idyllic childhood, it’s still difficult to adjust to having no space of my own in the city. But I suppose it isn’t the solitude that anyone is seeking when they move to the city.

Friday, May 21, 2010

First Draft of: Epic Dating

So, this one is really long, and it needs some editing. But I'm tired after my first week of a new job, so I'm putting it up now, and I'll revisit it later.

I am a World Champion of what I have termed Epic First Dates. I have pushed the envelope constantly in this field, and I believe that I must hold the world title currently. I have always been of the mind that you should go big or go home. I also subscribe to the philosophy that you should have an open mind and do some ridiculous things in order to have a good story to tell about it afterward. These two qualifications have created the entire form of Epic Dating (ED).

To give a bit of history, I started ED sometime in 2008 in Brooklyn. The first and tamest by comparison involved me not having dinner, drinking too much pumpkin ale, vomiting in the bathroom at the first bar, then going out dancing at a club patronized only by Polish teenagers until 3AM. This one ended without a kiss but did result in a long relationship.

Epic Date 1 set the ground rules for the later dates. Number one, it can’t start out with the intention of being a date. The element of surprise and adventure are part of the fun of ED, so it has to involve someone you don’t know very well but who neither asked you out nor was asked out by you for a “date.” Secondly, this person can’t be a complete stranger. My mother simply taught me better than that. The person’s current address has to be known by a third party, which lowers the risk of being abducted and heightens the social pressure for both of the daters to act respectfully towards one another. You risk ruining your entire summer of rooftop parties with awkward interactions if you do something creepy. And the third, and most important rule of and Epic Date is that it can’t fizzle by the end. The only way an ED can end is simply due to exhaustion and the physiological need for sleep.

My second Epic Date was with a handsome guy 3 years my junior. We had met through one of my best friends who vouched that he was “not a creeper at all.” He had the brightest blue eyes I’d ever seen, and he casually expressed an interest in going to the Spa Castle, an authentic Korean Day Spa at the end of the 7 train in Queens. Having just ended a long relationship with the gent from ED # 1, I was in desperate need of some relaxation and a bit of adventure.

We met up at noon for doughnuts, and then rode the train together an hour and a half out to a remote part of an outer borough. He was one of the most genuinely intelligent guys I’ve ever had a conversation with, not one of those guys who’s read some Keirkegaard and wants to tell me all about the one dense book on his shelf. Those blue eyes and perfectly straight teeth certainly didn’t negatively affect my fondness for him. Once at the Spa Castle, we soaked and hot-tubbed, and sweated, had dinner, drank sake, sweated sake, and giggled in the Salt Sauna. We laid on a heated marble floor, and by the time all of these events had occurred, we had spent 9 hours at this glorious temple of relaxation.

We were enjoying the company of one another so much that he invited me to go to a party at his friend’s house somewhere in Brooklyn. We caught the bus to the train, all of this additional transit taking another hour and a half. The party was fine but uneventful. We had some beers, then went for drunk-people-food at a restaurant that was still open at 3AM. Then finally, the date ended at 4AM. The conclusion to a 16-hour date was no kiss. Not even a hug. We did go on a few more regular dates, but it ultimately lost momentum. I blame the lack of excitement available at neighborhood bars.

These two dates were only the training leading up to the Ultimate First Date that has won me the current title. It all began with a surprise road trip from Nicaragua to Costa Rica. I showed up at 6AM on a Friday morning to accompany my new Australian friends, a couple in their mid-twenties, on their Visa renewal across the border. When I showed up, there were two additional passengers, a girl and a guy, both Canadians. She needed to catch a flight out of Costa Rica, and he was just doing his own Visa renewal trip. The people in the car who I had known the longest I had known for 5 days, and the least is the guy I shook hands with for the first time at dawn. This wasn’t fully in violation of my second rule since I personally knew where they all lived since they worked at the lodge I had stayed at and the one up the street.

This scenario fits the first rule perfectly though. I was simply hitching a ride for the possibility of adventure and the guarantee of a change of scenery. Dating was the furthest thing from my mind, but I’m a complete sucker for an exciting conversationalist. Him being a tall blond with a tan and a surfer body certainly didn’t decrease my interest, but in all seriousness, it was his enthusiasm for ideas that got the UFD off to a great start. Talking in the car, the three of us backseat passengers discovered our shared desire to not have soul-crushing jobs and the necessity of always being busy. As such, we were just new friends chatting and getting to know one another.

I suppose without the kiss this couldn’t have even qualified as any sort of date. A kiss can turn the most mundane encounters into dates. Every guide book anyone had read about the Costa Rican town in which we were staying claimed that it was known for its wild nightlife. After dinner, we walked around as a fivesome eager for a wild night out, but there were no parties to be found. We asked around, and no luck. The couple dropped out first, and then the Canadian girl. And there we were, just me and him, trying desperately to find excitement in a beach town. We walked around trying to find a good bar. We finally landed at a place that had what I remember as candlelight, but surely it was just low incandescent light, and it was perfect for conversation. We talked about our childhoods and our life ambitions and our parents.

In a much earlier conversation, I had made the statement that, “if a girl stays out until 2AM with a guy, he had better at least make a move to kiss her. I’m not saying it will go any further than that, but if a girl is out that late, she is into the guy.” So, as the hours tick by and the chairs are being put on the tables, we took that as our signal to leave. The sketchy guys calling out to us on the street were only offering cocaine instead of marijuana, which was a further sign that we were out far too late in this town. We walked the 2 blocks to the hotel, continuing the conversation. As we were ascending the stairs, me ahead of him, he sweetly grabs my arm, causing me to rotate to face him, steps up two steps, then moves in for the kiss. He was very Canadian about his kissing, being politely non-aggressive yet extremely confident.

This date continued on momentum for 5 solid days filled with excited conversations over too much coffee, surf lessons when the waves were bad, TV-watching, and so much beer drinking. My plane ticket back to my real life was the brick wall that we ran into headfirst instead of allowing the chemistry to fizzle out after we’d covered all the interesting topics.

I suppose that is the standard for Epic Dating: the more epic the date, the less serious and long-lasting the subsequent relationship can be. Where do you go from literally being with someone for 126 hours with only bathroom breaks separating you? In this particular case, we continued this epic date with another 48 hours of constant companionship back at the hostel. But then, as planned, I got on a plane back to New York City.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

All that I can drunkenly offer tonight is...

New York, I love you. But you're bringing me down.
New York, I love you. But you're freaking me out.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The List

Over the past few months, I have had a personal revelation. And I have chilled out. I previously considered myself to be completely composed of that famous Virgo type-A perfectionism and anal-retentiveness. I realized about six months ago that these traits simply weren’t serving me well in my life, particularly as it pertained to my relations with men. A wonderful artifact from those more high-strung times is a document that is located directly in the Bethany file on my computer, no subfolder required: Dating checklist.doc.

I typed up this list for the first time when I was about 19 years old. I figured that if I could quantify all of the qualities I was looking for in a partner, he’d magically appear, as if dating were like looking for the perfect secretary. I probably haven’t looked over this list in about 2 years now, and I just re-opened it on my laptop screen tonight. It contains 4 categories:

1. “Automatic, no second date offenses.”

This is the most stringent. Some of these, like the “no smoking as a habit,”“must not insult or degrade my sense of style, artwork, or beliefs,” and “having a weak handshake” are still good rules to follow. However, I’m not so sure that my “must not have a strong accent of any kind” rule isn’t just a case of admitted xenophobia. I believe that you are allowed to profile people in dating: physically, intellectually, etc. For example, if you aren’t attracted to a French accent, then by all means, don’t date a French guy. But it still seems a bit un-PC to put it into a checklist.

2. A list of items he must “possess or perform in order to stick around” because “constant further evaluation is needed.” [I kid you not, These are my exact quotes.]

This section is where the list becomes a bit confusing. It seems as though my 19-year-old self had her priorities a bit out of whack. “Wearing a lot of cologne” is in the 1st section as a terrible offense, while “must not use racially offensive language” and “must have good tattoos if he has them” are both ranked in the middle of the 2nd section. I would love to have seen the scenario of me choosing between the Scottish social worker with a good handshake wearing Cool Water and the bigot with great tattoos who doesn’t smoke.

3. Addendum of things that will only curry favor, but are “neither deal-breakers, nor deal-makers.”

Here we have a bit of wishful thinking, and it contains things like, “does yoga or meditates,” and “if he cares about fashion but not quite as much as me.” These things still impress me about men, but like I documented, they have neither broken more made any deals so far.

4. Physical characteristics.

And the 4th category was simply observations about the physical characteristics to which I am drawn. If I am to be perfectly honest, it should just contain one word: skinny. I think that the incredible thinness of the men I’ve dated and liked is just about the only thing they have all had in common physically.

In my junior year of college, this list was extremely important for me to make. I needed to have it documented for the universe that I had standards. That I was a woman who knew exactly what she wanted in a man and exactly how to know when he appeared. But alas, in the realm of resilient but still fragile hearts, a glowing resume doesn’t go all that far. I'll happily take the cologne-wearing guy with bad tattoos who makes me laugh over the non-smoker with a firm handshake who doesn't pay attention to me every single day of the week.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

One is silver, and the other gold.

For day one of the new job, I bought a new dress on Sunday. I had to have something new to mark this occasion. I have always sentimentalized outfits for my first day of school, so this day at 26-years-old should be no different. It was like a first date, and I simply wanted to make an outstanding first impression.

In fact, the Sunday before the new job, I wore a Betsey Johnson dress I bought in Atlanta for my first day of 10th grade. It’s sleeveless and medium cool blue with a lace band right under the empire bustline and a matching swiss dot ruffle around the hemline. I know the entire provenance and history of that dress, and every time I wear it I can remember the occasion for which I purchased it, and what it felt like to wear my first “designer dress.” It was a Tuesday, the first day of 10th grade, and my 15th birthday. Catherine had picked me up for school because she was the first of my friends to get her driver’s license, and her parents had gotten her a brand new black Honda Civic. I paired it with a bright red acrylic cable knit cardigan I had ordered from the Delia’s catalog I so cherished every month. I love wearing the dress still because it is vintage, but it’s my vintage. It reminds me that although my tastes have hopefully been refined over the years, I have always had strong sense of style and made lasting fashion choices.

Back to the matter at hand, though: my dress for the first day at a new job. I bought a red seersucker dress with a fitted bodice and a full circle skirt. I stepped across Leonard Street while I was waiting for my laundry to finish, and tried on every dress in Fred Flare. I’m a really fast and decisive shopper, never poring over any choice too long. Neither cutting edge nor fashion-forward, this dress caught my attention because of its classic nod to girly elegance. With spaghetti straps and a sweetheart neckline, it required me to forego a bra, which is always an asset in my book. The skirt shape practically begged me to at least try a twirl. And once I’d spun around once in the mirror, I had found my First Day Dress.

I paired it with my powder blue silk and cashmere MJ cardigan and a pair of black 5-inch peep-toe wedges I’d bought on a girls’ shopping trip to Daffy’s. I walked the entire way (nearly a mile) to the train in those shoes, and my feet didn’t even start to hurt until around noon. For accessories, I wore the heart necklace I wear every day that Sarah had given me for my 24th birthday and the stainless steel Submariner my dad got me for my high school graduation. It’s still way too big for my little wrists, but I love the mix of masculine/feminine that threw off-kilter the picture of femininity that was my dress.

For the second day, I thought I’d switch it up a bit, going for a much more modern and funky look. Like a monkey, I can’t resist anything that is shiny, so I wore what I call my “Mardi Gras skirt.” It’s a silver, purple, green, and yellow metallic tweed A-line from MJ that is just simple enough to be a daytime classic but just ridiculously sparkly enough to only make sense for evening.

Since I barely know my new coworkers but I still want them to think I’m fun, I figured I’d tried to tone it down a little, and I paired this tour-de-force of a skirt with a v-neck American Apparel grey t-shirt, of which I have four. The heart necklace and Submariner made an appearance in this outfit as well. All of this was topped off with this beautiful black leather classic motorcycle jacket from Club Monaco that I got in Toronto for 40% off just because there was a nearly invisible scratch in the leather. And the shoes to go with this had to be my plainest beaten-up pair of black Dolce and Gabbana ballet flats that I bought from my sophomore year of college and have worn constantly ever since. They’ve been resoled about 4 times, but they are classic and I doubt I’ll ever find a pair like them again, so I hang on tight.

For me, this ritual of picking out the perfect outfit is partially reinvention, but mostly it is a re-assertion of my own style choices throughout the years. Mimicking the philosophy of that Girl Scout song, I believe that you should hang onto classics, but still allow room for trends. With some of the key pieces in my wardrobe still being worn ten years on, I’d say that philosophy has served me well. Perhaps it is materialistic to think that the clothes make the woman, but I think we can all appreciate the old-friend feeling of comfort our favorite sweater gives us and the new-lover sense of excitement a dress can bring when we put it on for the first time. I've made some new friends, but I've certainly kept the old. And I'm happy to pair silver and gold as long as they both make me feel like a million bucks.

And I will always love you.

“We have to have a break from one another. I feel completely suffocated.” I huffed these words loud enough to be heard, but not clearly enough to be understood. Silence in response. I kept packing my backpack, frantically. In fact, I just started throwing in random things I only thought I might need. Two pairs of jeans? Maybe I’ll need one for each plane ride. An extra sweater? Sure, maybe it will be a little chilly one night. Luckily, I was fleeing to the equator, so flip-flops and bikinis were the bulk of the contents. “I just can’t even think about our future. Maybe it’s over between us. I don’t know how I’ll feel. We’ll have to see how it goes when I get back” Then more silence.

Things hadn't been going well for a while. I was exhausted. Everything felt like pressure and vaguely like emotional abuse. There was hardly any more laughter and certainly no more adventure between us. Maybe things had just cooled off. Maybe we'd reached a 4 year slump. Perhaps we'd just fallen into a difficult pattern and we had no idea how to get out of it. Who knows? I just know I couldn't stay for even one more day of suffering.

And so I fled. I fled all the way to Nicaragua. I looked at what seemed to be all the stars in the universe at once from the top of a beachside hill. I surfed in a flash rainstorm that rendered me nearly blind for a few minutes. I experienced more adventure and more excitement in that 16 days than in the past 3 years of my life combined. And yet, I still felt that longing. I still felt that pull dragging me back.

Four weeks apart, and after some of the most wonderful experiences of my 26 years, my plane touched down in Queens, and I got a cab straight to Brooklyn. There I spent the next two days anxiously awaiting the time we’d be together again. I bought a new dress: pink seersucker with a full skirt and fitted bodice in that vintage ‘50s style that isn’t in any way cutting edge right now, but is classically feminine and pretty. I needed the confidence for this reunion. I was completely unsure.

After a night spent wasting time on the Internet, staying up too late with anxiety, I got up ready to face the inevitable. I fixed my hair, blow drying it straight and long. It seems like it had grown about 6 inches since I’d been gone, and it was definitely healthier than before. I put on make-up for the first time in over a month: mascara, eye liner, blush. I couldn’t go into this any less than perfect. I even put on heels. Heels are something I rarely wear, and when I do, only on the most special of occasions. I zipped up the nearly-too-tight bodice of the dress, and I headed out the door.

I played a poppy country song on my iPod, giving me a bit of a strut when considering the bouncy chorus of "my heart like a kick drum.” I couldn’t have been more ready. And then onto the crowded L train. Since it’s officially springtime in the city, people seem to have loosened their loads a bit since the last cold time I’d seen the hoards on the train. Even being crammed in with commuters didn’t bring down my pepped spirits. I made my way through the maze that is Union Square, feinting left and then right to avoid people paying little attention to other travelers.

And then in all of my resplendent glory, I ascended the station stairs. I looked around in the sunlight, squinting slightly since I'd worn my black framed glasses and no sunglasses, my heart pounding. I smiled with immediate recognition and looked around Union Square. All I could think was, “I think we should give it another go, New York. I’m finally ready to try it all again. I really do love you.”