Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make."

(Photo courtesy of the billyllama)

I've never found myself at the center of a love triangle. I have never had two men fight for my attention. So Saturday night, in the midst of pleasant conversation and the faint glowing pin pricks of light in the dark Queens night sky, I was surprised to see a text from C. He was sitting across the group from me.

"Are you with that guy?" I looked to my left. J. had seen the screen on my phone light up and C.'s name. I texted discreetly back with the truth. "Nope. We dated last year. Things are a little ambiguous now, but he's not quite boyfriend material."

J. isn't boyfriend material because he doesn't want to be. I am a believer in sparks and I have a hard time denying chemistry when it kicks me in the gut and then refuses to subside. I have always had that chemistry with J. but circumstances and technicalities kept getting in the way. And then there is my blatant fear of getting hurt again. Oh yeah. That.

Another text. "What are you and C. texting about?" In the warm April air, conversation buzzed around me but I couldn't even hear it. What the hell was going on here? "We're not?"

For the rest of the night, J. looked like someone had kicked his puppy. He tried to hold my hand and glared at me with wounded eyes when I refused. He tried to kiss my forehead when no one was looking and cowered away when I jerked at his touch. All the while, inside my head, I kept thinking, 'You are not my boyfriend. Stop acting like it. I will not be your hook up.'

The next day he asked if I'd meet him for a drink. After four games of pool and a round of beers, we headed out and I couldn't believe he hadn't brought up the previous night. So I did. "Do you want to talk about last night?"
"What about?"
"About how you keep trying to be touchy feely with me when we are not dating? You really confuse the shit out of me. One minute you want to be friends, then the next you want to just hook up, then you want to be nothing."
"Lauren, I like you. I have always liked you." Stopped me in my tracks. Huh? You like me?

He confessed that he had no idea how I felt about it, so I said I liked him, too. But that nothing had changed. I am in it for a relationship and I can not do the casual dating thing anymore.

"You're looking for something real," he concluded.
And with three words he lifted me straight into the stratosphere of hope. "So am I."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A hug. A kiss.

I no longer remember being able to give him a big bear hug, though I know I once did. However, as I throw back my memory as far as it will go, at least I remember being able to give him a proper hug. Maybe not the jump on you and get lifted up into the air kind, but at least a solid, proper hug - one where your hearts meet for an instant, where for a moment the world is no longer a scary place, where you know there is something, someone, solid, to anchor you.

I was in the habit of randomly giving him a hug or a kiss on my month-long summer vacation visits. An outpouring of affection that was meant to make up for the rest of the year when I would be across an ocean and out of hugging distance. I still remember the soft skin of his cheeks, the stubble that was all white. He stopped going out too much because it was exhausting, and so he would walk around the flat. Thankfully it was large so going from one end to the other about ten times, especially when you're walking pretty slowly, took up some time and was enough exercise. I would walk with him sometimes. Other times I would be reading a book in a chair in the sunlight and every time he would pass he would lay a hand on my head or exchange a comment about my book.

One day I was just getting up to get another book from the cupboard that houses books that have belonged, at one time or another, to some member of the past three generations of my family. Our paths crossed, and I reached out to give him a hug. A sick sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as I felt him falter. A fear in his heart, a fear in mine. I retained my balance and he regained his. And I went and got another book, and he continued his back and forth.

Since that day my hugs became gentler. I warned him that I was putting my arm around him by saying a random 'Hi' a moment before I slipped my arm through his. I cuddled up to him when he was sitting on the sofa. When we hugged, he was not the one pulling me in, I was the one supporting him.

And then came the day that I saw him wince as I gingerly leaned over the side of his hospital bed to brush my lips against his cheek. Even the slightest movement of raising his head to receive my kiss required more effort than his emaciated body could summon. Since that day I held his hand, wishing, wanting, to somehow make my own life flow into him. My hands were warm, his were habitually cool and dry. The pulsing heat that quickened my blood didn't make it past my hands into his, past my heart into his.

I remember the last time I kissed him. Cool, dry, like soft thin silky paper, his skin stretched across his face, his cheeks, his forehead. I can feel, distinctly, his hands in mine. The memory of the countless times I have held them does not fade from my palms. I feel his earlobe still in my fingers. As a child I had a habit of holding on to it whenever I would sit in his lap. I don't feel his skin against my lips as I recall that last kiss. He had already left by then. There was nothing to feel.

"Whatchu thinkin' about?"
I looked at D, startled. He had been telling me about how he is going to visit his grandparents in a month or so, and I had fallen silent, leaning my head against the car window.
"So how long will you be there? That should be fun!"
I didn't want to start bawling in the car.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I Was Blessed with a Birth and a Death and I Guess I Just Want Some Say Inbetween...

Being away from New York always highlights aspects of the city that I overlook when I’m physically in it. So this past weekend in Rochester, I was reminded of a few things:

My shoes would last way longer if I walked out of my apartment, 4 feet to my car, and then 4 feet to my office building, instead of 15 blocks to the subway and 2 avenues to my office.
Shopping in a mall is still fun, due to Auntie Anne’s pretzels and no jacket no matter the weather.
It is no fun going out when one person has to be the Designated Driver.
People get married way, way earlier upstate.

I want to hate on the young people getting married, I really do. “There are so many things I still want to do!” I gushed to my three high school friends, 2 with rings on their fingers and the third just waiting for hers. “I want to travel alone, I want to try living in a different city. I’m just not in the same place as you guys.” When I thought about it later, I realized it sounded a little elitist but I don’t think they took it that way. They understood. I had to get out and go to New York City after high school, whether it was to try and be a Broadway star or a lowly writer or merely some millionaire’s date on a Friday night. And I still haven’t done everything I want to do to finish evolving into the person I know I am or will someday be.

On the way to the bar in Rochester, Miss J picked up her phone to call The Fiance. “Hey, it’s me. Would you be able to pick my friends and I up from the bar tonight? Are you sure? Great. Thank you.” She ended the call, her cheeks filling with color, and looked at us with a smile. “He said, ‘I’d love to.’” And all at once I couldn’t remember why New York was so great.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Speak easy

On this, the seventh day of April, I woke up thinking winter was a thing of the past - after all, didn't I walk around in flats and no jacket just a few days ago? It was spring. I snuggled deeper into bed wondering why my apartment felt so chilly today. Must be because I threw off my blanket. I sleepily shuffled into slippers and prepared to squint as I opened the blinds to let the sunlight in.


I have to say a few words tomorrow. I nominated someone for an award and they won, and now they've asked me to say a few words of introduction tomorrow at the awards ceremony. I was about to respond, but as I stared at the blank email window, I paused.

I first learned to be afraid of public speaking in middle school. Everyone always seemed to wish you luck or say 'you'll do fine' or make big eyes if you had a presentation or had to say something on a stage. And so I started looking at the audience, no matter if it was just a classroom full of my own peers, and getting faint tremblings in my heart. Of course before middle school I would get that nervous anticipation, that adrenaline rush, before going on stage, but this was something new. This was that fear of public speaking that everyone talks about. And often what everyone talks about becomes real. And so I, along with, I suppose, 99% of the population, developed a fear of public speaking.

It never got so bad that I couldn't control it, but it did make me shy away from things that would entail public speaking. When I was little being the center of attention was super. What's wrong with everyone looking at you? Wasn't that what I had cried for when I was a wee little babekin and my mom looked away from me and towards my sister? From the time I was a baby until I was about twelve I would take part in at least one play or performance a year. From the age of twelve...well, let's just say my acting career is so far by the wayside now that it's pretty much dug its own grave and shriveled up into it. But I missed it. There's something about being the center of attention that just entices me, attracts me - but still I shy away from it. Talk about inner conflict! I fought against this in college then. I decided it was alright to put myself in positions where I'd have to talk in front of an audience now and then. I joined clubs, I introduced speakers. I still hesitate before taking on things like moot court, but at least I wholeheartedly sign up for classes where I know I'll be required to make a couple of presentations. I ended up where I had been before middle school - still that same jolt of adrenaline, that anticipation, but not fear. Not exactly.

And today, when I thought the winter had said its fond farewells, there it was again on my window pane. And there was that fear of public speaking in the email window on my computer. Swirling down all around, pull out your winter coat, clear your throat, which scarf to wear...

I pulled on my boots and gloves. After all, this snow, whether it's just visiting or here to stay, there's not much I can do about it except to suit up.

I typed "Sure, I'd love to!" That fear of public speaking might surprise me from time to time, but damn it, it isn't here to stay.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

hooking up

I was going to write about my recent first experience with dating. In the formal sense - spending time one on one with a person (one you may not know very well yet), in order to size up each others' potential as a romantic partner.

I just graduated from college last year, and for me this was a Strange Thing about Being a Grown-Up. The way this experience (this brief connection with another person, who I really kinda liked) ended made me realize that I have no clue what the social conventions here are, aside from what I've distilled from romantic comedies, Cosmo, serious artistic meditations on love, etc.

While I was composing a story about this, I got sidetracked revisiting articles I'd seen in the Times about how the kids these days "hook up" (the accepted term among those who study the mating habits of adolescents), instead of the previously described dating.

I found this pretty recent column... pretty straightforward. I also came across this article from the Style section in March 2007, on a book by a Washington Post reporter about, well... the title: "Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love and Lose at Both."

By paragraph 4 I'm reading about how girls are the "victims" of this practice (which I admit I had previously perceived as a victimless crime).... and about how it's a symptom of female sexual aggressiveness.

The article is critical, but most explicitly of the author's conclusion that hooking up hurts girls, not her identification of this cultural habit as solely a consequence of changed female behavior. Also, the author's response to critics:
"I understand their anger because in this current political climate women’s choices are being threatened,” she said, “the right to choose an abortion, the right to live with a same-sex partner.”

It has led many women to be wary of any suggestion of limits on their lifestyle choices, she said.
Not that she's interested in my opinion:
Ms. Sessions Stepp said that she welcomes criticism, though not from people who have not read the book or who have never conducted research.

“This is what I love about the bloggers,” she said. “They haven’t been out there interviewing young people for 10 years. They’re talking about their own college experience. Everyone’s had some sort of sexual experience and they all think they’re experts on it.”
Still ... what I'm hearing is that boys will behave themselves exactly as much as we force them to, and if they expect to get in our pants without buying us dinner first, we have no one to blame but ourselves.