Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I'm Just Giving The Dog A Bone: The Men's Guide To Flirting

So you think you can flirt, huh? I have news for you, buddy-- you can always improve on that game, and just like how you begged until your parents sent you to basketball camp in middle school so that you could improve that 3-point shot of yours, I'm here by popular demand to tell you where you're slacking on the job while trying to pick up chicks. So, here it is, 5 quick, easy tips for sneakily getting on the better, phone-number-giving side of the fairer sex. Use them for good, my boys, not evil. After all-- Gandalf is watching.

- Be Aggressive, B.E AGGRESSIVE:

This is the cautionary tale of one would-be suitor gone horrible wrong:

Sometimes, being aggressive is a good thing, like in rugby and fencing and chess and discount sales in Filene's Basement. But sometimes, it's not. Persistence isn't always the best tactic. One over-enthusiastic gent tracked me down on Facebook-- and Twitter. He tried friending me-- 3 times in 2 days when I didn't accept fast enough for his liking. He messaged me. He poked me. It was the electronic equivalent of a grade-school kid standing on his blue plastic chair, waving his arms over his head, screaming, "Pick me! Pick me! Pick me!" I still haven't accepted his request. Why? Because there's aggressive, and then there's AGGRESSIVE. And...desperation has never been sexy. Doesn't matter if you're XY or XX-- it's a big NO, and the reek of it permeates everything you do. We will know when you're desperate. Your friends, parents, coworkers, classmates, postal worker, hair dresser, and the entirety of Facebook will know when you are desperate. It shows. So get a leash on that beast. Down, boy.

- "E" Is For Effort. Also, Egotistical Eunuchs End Up Eating Alone:

I've had guys tell me, "Come down to see me when you're on your break." This is bad. If you're the one who wants to see me, then you can come to me. A girl with options never goes out of her way for a man; she'll let him come to her, if he wants to. Nothing tells a girl faster if a guy is really serious about her or not by how much effort he puts into seeing her. And by this age, we girls should have stopped being delusional and making excuses for lazy asses and should know how much effort shown constitutes a viable man and a viable relationship. I know. If it isn't calling, isn't visiting, isn't writing, and isn't planning, it ain't yo' boyfran, gurrrrrrl. And kind sirs, if you are not actively walking your ass over to see her, she's going to find someone else who WILL, because she ain't that desperate yet for yo' lazy ass. Again, desperation is never sexy.


Always remember: A little goes a long way, if your "little"-- time, effort, energy, affection, money, passion-- is quality. I've always preferred my men a little aloof-- it helps keep the magic going. My last S.O waited until Date #5 to finally kiss me; the entirety of dates 1-4 I was constantly wondering what was going on, and the anticipation made me sparkle even more than the average girl trying to look good on a date does because I kept working for it. But the long-awaited kiss was so good, it was worth the wait. And you know what? All that time spent in good, intelligent conversation, learning each other's likes and dislikes, food and movie preferences before swapping spit made us both sure that we liked the other-- more than just a first date could have foreseen. They were quality dates. It was a quality first kiss. We were sure that the other was a quality person. Much better than a really awkward make-out session straddling the cup-holders in his car's front seat post first-date beers would have been. A win all-around.

- How To Scabbard Your Sword-- What Women Want:

Sorry, this isn't about sex. I just thought that play on words would grab your attention for what will probably be for most of you the hardest concept to grasp. (Unlike grasping other things.) This is about what all women want. This is the secret that lands the nerdy guys the perfect 10s. This is the Rosetta Stone for understanding women. Cracking this is like cracking a Rubix Cube. So I don't want to have to sit here and waits through eons of evolution for you guys to finally get it. Which is why I'm just going to come right out and say it to you:

Women just want to be saved. Or, at the very least, we want a partner in crime.

You know how in Million Dollar Baby, Hillary Swank kicked major ass? It was because Clint Eastwood was there in her corner, and he had her back. All women want a knight...white, black, red, or purple, it doesn't matter to us. What matters is that we all want a champion— someone who is willing to go forth and do battle for us, whether it’s getting us that extra dollar off our soft pretzel at the mall that the salesgirl somehow forgot to credit us, or sticking up to other people to defend us. Because we’re worth it. As Frances Hodgson Burnett wrote, every girl is a princess, whether she looks like it or acts like it or not. If I do something, if I say something, you best believe I do it with 110% conviction, and all I want— and what I deserve— is to have someone there who will stand next to me and uphold those words and those actions.

This is where a guy riding up on his high horse comes in. I don’t need to be questioned anymore. I shouldn’t have to explain myself. What I want, what I need-- what all women need-- is someone as strong and courageous and faithful as I am to stand next to me and be there for me to lean on when I’m too tired to lead the charge, and have them stand up to the job. So be a stand-up guy. If you say something, follow through. Never make any promises you can't keep; don't lie. If you know something wrong is happening, stop it. If you see something unfair, call people on it. In return, I promise that any woman worth that title and her salt will be doing the same for you, because if you have my back, and I have yours, nothing in life will ever be able to sneak up on us and scare the crap out of us. THAT is what women find most sexy of all-- reliability, safety, and partnership.

- Getting The Big N.O, or, Failure For Champions:

Then again, you could do everything right and still be turned down. It's a woman's prerogative to be fickle. Maybe she's just gotten out of a bad relationship, or isn't over her ex yet. Maybe she's interested in someone else and doesn't want to lead you on and waste your time. Maybe you're just not her "type" can't help that, but chances are you definitely will be someone else's. Or maybe she's just enjoying being single right now, and doesn't want to think about getting involved with men or dating. But don't let this dissuade you from trying again with a different girl-- practice makes perfect, after all. Take a page from the Casanova-like diaries of the men I met while I was in Italy-- with all the "ciao, bella"-ing that was going on, and all the flat-out rejections from those "bella"s, I thought it was a wonder any Italians ever managed to procreate. But as my Food and Wine professor told his class of 18 American girls, "If you say it enough times, someone is bound to say 'ciao' back." That's how he landed his American wife while she was studying abroad. See? It works. If Giancarlo could do it, I have faith that you can, too. Now, get out there, and be someone's knight in shining armor. Or, at least, take you car through the car wash and go pay for the cute lady in front of you's espresso at the coffee shop tomorrow morning.

Buona fortuna!


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

How To Stay Single, Or, The New Girl Brings All The Boys To The Yard.

When I moved home, I expected that being a grown-ass woman rooming with her parents was going to be putting a HUGE dent in my dating game, were I to choose to play it again. I forgot to factor in the atmosphere of where, exactly, I was moving back to, literally and metaphorically.

The one thing I'd forgotten about starting new jobs was the fact that working in a mall is kind of like being thrown A.) Back into high school, and B.) To the sharks. Since breaking up, moving back home, and becoming employed elsewhere after years of working for the college, I'd somehow forgotten that when you're a mall-rat employee, you meet LOTS of new people. Not because you're just that cool or that popular...but because everyone wants to find out what the new girl's like.

Well, when the new girl's under the age of 30, single, and is willing to wear 5-inch heels to climb the ladder at work to hang new company posters...well, being the new girl turns some heads. The fact that she doesn't pay rent and eats home-cooked meals isn't considered a deterrent, at all. Unfortunately.

By my second shift, I already had a coworker trying to play matchmaker with me and one of his friends. I had a slew of new Facebook friend requests...all male. I literally had to make the "turn around" hand motion to get some poor young dude working across the hall to go back to his shirt folding when I clicked by on a candy bar run to Kmart before his manager yelled at him. I have gotten more store card apps in the last two weeks from eager, young, impressionable men with birth dates in the '90s than...well, more than I should feel morally ok with.

...Have I mentioned the fact that in my hometown, having all your teeth is a sign of natural beauty? While I may not be a top-model prize in Burlington or, say, Milan-- in Vegas, baby, (all) my straight teeth and 4-pack abs are pulling out all the stops.

But here's the thing-- I'm enjoying being single. After two and a half years of always having some guy around, I actually like being on my own. I mean, sure, the fact that it's getting cold at night without someone else to leech body-heat from is becoming a pain in the ass, and I really miss the company, but as I told a coworker today when she asked me how I was getting by without having sex, considering the fact that I lived with my last boyfriend and consider sex to be a daily-- if not twice or thrice daily-- duty when in relationships, I'm taking a little bit of a respite from it now, thanks. It's nice to not have to shave every other day. My body is thanking me more than it's yelling at me every time a tall, muscular dude who looks like Jason Statham's nephew walks by the storefront. For real. I'm not kidding. And my leg hair has never kept me warmer. Which is good for all those cold nights spent cuddling with my cat at home while watching Netflix and having to keep turning the volume out to drown my parents out.

So, despite all the things that nature and our 21st century society state I should have working against me right now, I've started waving at one of my sweeter admirers every time he passes by, even though I've made it clear to all that NOBODY gets a "friend" request accepted until I've met and talked with you at least twice for a decent amount of time (it helps suss out the creepers from the genuine nice people), no matter how many times you walk by or how many times I wave hello. One of my managers noticed, and asked me how I felt about jumping back into the dating pool. I pulled a face and told her my master plan.

"I figure, if I say to them, 'my last relationship involved living together, him doing the laundry, and talking about weddings; are you ready to jump right in there?' it will scare them away."

So far, the master plan is working. The only thing scarier than a woman with missing teeth in this town is a 22 year old single girl who's looking to play Mr. and Mrs. Buy A House. I mean, I didn't give an underwear model my info. And he looked like this:

What in the unholy Universe would convince me to start dating again NOW?

So who's the smart one now? This (happily single) girl.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Back In The Saddle(bags) Again

There are a few things I really like about attending weddings: The look on the bride and groom's faces as they look at each other, the dancing at the reception afterwards, and the ruthless "time of famine and drought"-style drinking involved when the two best words in the English language get together-- Open. Bar. And then there are a few things I really hate about attending weddings: The fact I am ALWAYS over-dressed for the occasion; the feeling of desperation that settles in the air every time all the single women are rounded up onto the dance floor to make that leap for the bouquet; the fact that more and more, I'm attending the weddings of people that I've either grown up with and/or my age. First, it was my childhood best friend. Then, it was the older son of a friend of the family whom I've known since I was...I don't know...BORN. They're both a year or two older than I am, and now nuptially blissed-out, and here I am, still single, and while the motorcycle club I belong to may have a healthy number of prospects, when it comes to ones for my hypothetical wedding bed, there are NONE. Zip. Zero. Ziltch. Nada.

However, I like this show of priorities.

My last relationship involved living together, cleaning together, cooking and drinking together, exercising together (and if you know how much I hate to be seen sweating, you know how much that says about my commitment), and beginning to casually talk about weddings-- what locations we liked. What good theme colors would be. Who the bridesmaids and groomsmen would consist of. It was obviously serious when me, Miss Commitment Issues, started considering floral arrangements and the merits of hand-made wedding favors made by myself and my army of loyal (and handy!) bridesmaids. I could see myself spending the rest of my foreseeable 50-to-70 years with him, and somehow having us both miraculously die of old age and NOT of spousal homicide. It was a special union. He asked me one day if I'd still love him when he had a beer gut and had gone gray and to seed. I told him that I probably wouldn't even notice and still find him sexy, because I'd look like my mother. We laughed. We loved. And we parted.

So it was particularly bitter-sweet this past weekend, as I found myself down in Connecticut, open bar at the ready, single, condoms perennially-prepared in my cute little white clutch, and no single groomsmen to be had. People started asking after my ex. I started drinking more heavily, and eventually excused myself down the hill to the pond, so I could sit and willingly be eaten alive by the mosquitoes rather than have to utter the painful words, "Well, no one special..." one more time.

...And then, I heard the roar of a four-stroke engine.

Riding up the driveway came a refurbished custom Yamaha motorcycle, paint job pristine, chrome gleaming. It's rider was tall, dark, wearing plaid, and seemingly single. I wanted him. I wanted his bike. I was either in love, or very, very emotionally vulnerable and slightly sloshed.

So I did what every girl does when confronted with a really smokin' hot guy-- I watched him. Yes, I just sat there, and looked at him for the better part of an hour. He was pretty. It was easy. But really, I told myself, it wasn't quite enough. On the ride down to CT, I'd picked up the newest issue of Cosmopolitan, and for shits, giggles, and boredom, flipped to the last page and taken the "How Much Game Do You Have?" quiz. I got two points for professing that if I were out at a bar and saw a cute guy, I wouldn't just move into his line of sight and telepathically plead with him to come over and talk to me-- I would walk over and say hey. And you just don't lie to Cosmo. Was I really so sad and single and pathetic that I couldn't even brush the dust on my flirt off and go over and make a go of it? So I slung back my drink, adjusted my cute little summer dress, cursed being single and back in The Game, and grabbed my purse and lady-balls and walked down to where he stood next to his bike.

Now, if there is one very important life lesson I learned three years ago from having to un-Velcro Motorcycle Man of my college years from the thoughts of making me his girlfriend, it is that you DO NOT touch even a man's kickstand without asking his permission first. And thanks to the Northern Deathriders, I've acquired quite a comprehensive knowledge about motorcycles in the last few months. So I sauntered down to him, lightly touched his upper arm to get his attention (and for the hell of being able to touch him), and said, "Excuse me, but what model Yamaha is this?"

He turned around. He smiled. He told me. I told him about my friend's Yamaha. He asked if I was into bikes. I laughed and told him about my old lady status. "I'm more of a 'fetch beer, remind them to flip the burgers, and admire the bikes,' kinda girl," I told him. "Are you one of those girls who will polish her boyfriend's bike?" his friend asked me, leaning in. "No. But I'll tell him when it needs to be done."

Their eyes lit up in a way that told me that the only wedding bells that day had not just been earlier at the church. For the next 20 minutes, we talked bikes, business, and New York City, where he lived. It was like God had delivered me my perfect made-to-order man. The only thing missing to make it more obvious would have been a silver platter, hand-engraved. But after years in the dating trenches, I knew when to cut things off before the stink of desperation cut in and I went from being The Cute Girl Who Knows Her Shit to being The Crazy Girl Who Won't Go Away. Proud of myself for having the guts to approach him, and still buzzing from the intoxicating mix of wine, cute guy, and bike exhaust, I thanked him for talking bikes, shook his hand, and excused myself. I may have been out of the game for awhile, but this cat still knows when to play hard-to-get.

Later that night, he came back and found me before he left. I was sitting at a table, taking a break from the dance floor, when I saw him approaching me from the corner of my eye. I pretended not to notice him until he was right next to me, leaning over my chair. He offered his hand again, saying he was leaving, but thanking me for coming over and talking to him earlier. I took it, shook it, and told him the pleasure was mine, and that anytime he wanted to talk bikes, I was game. We didn't exchange numbers. I didn't know his last name. But I knew that I felt good about myself, and that this old-hand Single Girl still had some life-- and some game-- in her yet. And who needs an engagement ring or kids when you can flirt with all the hot young bikers with good manners in the world? Exactly.

22. College-educated. Self-employed entrepreneur. Confident. Sarcastic. Single. Fabulous.


Monday, September 5, 2011

Giving Up The Ghosts

Last night, I had a dream about the first boy I ever really liked and had a mad, raging, multi-year-long crush on. It was an interesting dream, because in it, he was just as blase and indecisive as he had been in real life. Finally, driven to the end of my proverbial rope by despair and out of my wits with frustration, I wrote him a letter, outlining the fact that as long as he couldn't choose to keep a monogamous relationship either between me and him or him and my friend, I was done-- I wanted nothing to do with him. I upheld my promise pretty well-- until we survived a life-or-death situation together, caved under the pressure, had sex again, and then I got to confront my friend while helping her move from her apartment about the fact he was playing us both.

It was an emotionally-charged, fascinating dream-- possibly made more interesting by the appearance of the ex at the tail-end of it, as well as the fact that I knew that my first crush was actually the symbolical representation of my last relationship. I woke up, utterly fed up, and started thinking about the lengths that women will go through to try to keep a relationship.

I have never been a fan of the ultimatums, unlike much women. I firmly believe that if you're going to make a "if...than" statement, you should be willing to stand by it under pain of death, dismemberment, or break-up, and, as my dream obviously revealed, I've never really been great at doing that. If a woman gives a man an ultimatum-- "It's done forever and ever until the end of time when the Universe is sucked into a black hole if you ever sleep with another woman"-- and then doesn't actually have the balls to stand by what she said in earnest, it teaches both of them that A.) A woman can say things that she absolutely doesn't mean, and B.) That he can get away with it. I consider both outcomes horrible things. And I'm always quick on the draw to call a bluff. So, instead, I stick to the "Do it once, shame on you; do it twice, shame on me, I'm leaving," mentality. It works, for the most part. In real life, not only was I able to walk away from my first crush when he perpetrated events much like the ones in my dream last night, but I also repeated my feat of fortitude and strength again when the ex repeated similar events, later in my life.

And yet, I find myself still dreaming of them both. What does this say about me; about them?

Despite the fact that we grew up together and still are in casual touch, I hadn't thought about my first crush in months before last night, so I happen to think he was just a handy vehicle for my dream-self to craft the morality lesson of last night's sleep around. As for the ex...well, that's a more slippery slope, but I can explain where the specter of him came from, too. Before I went to sleep last night, I was watching a movie when the dishy main actor suddenly smiled, and in a blinding flash of realization, I realized why I was drawn to him-- he very much resembled the ex, especially when he smiled. I started flipping back through my Rolodex of Previous Relationships, trying to put famous faces to my exes who resembled them. I made the same obvious match of Aaron Eckhart to someone as I had when I'd been seeing him, but, other than him, the only other one of my ex-lovers who I could pin similar faces on was the ex, and as I kept coming up with names of people who I thought looked like him-- the guy from the movie; Emile Hirsch; Adem Ljajic-- I started wondering why, to me, he was one of my most recognized faces. It wasn't the fact that he was my longest running on-again, off-again thing; it wasn't the fact that I truly loved him-- I truly love my most recent ex, but I was fucked if I could come up with a doppelganger for him, so there goes that theory. I will admit to the fact that in his heyday, the ex was certainly one of the most striking and handsome men I have ever seen, let alone been with, so maybe that was it. We human beings can be incredibly shallow, after all.

The ex was beautiful, and he and I shared a lot of emotional history-- and hysteria-- together. But does that, and the fact that I can still catch glimpses of him in other people mean that I in any way desire him back? Oh, helllllllll noooooooo.  Let's face it, I'm a little bit of a masochist, and a little pain never really hurt anyone, but I would have to be declared clinically insane to ever go back to him. THAT much pain and turmoil he put me through just isn't worth it; no matter how attractive he was, no matter what we had in common; no matter the fact that we shared friends, professions, and a common life. I remember how miserable I could be when I was with him, and in general, I tend to believe that there is one thing human beings should never actively seek out to be, and that thing is miserable. Learning that lesson through him-- and, in some ways, the baby starter steps to it with my first crush-- was possibly one of the defining moments of my life thus far, and it has always served as a valuable lesson every time another relationship starts to turn the same way. I am more important to myself than a man will ever be, no matter how much I happen to love him. And if he makes me miserable, well-- then someone has to go, and it's sure as hell not going to be me. One of the most important things you can ever learn is how and when to go about giving up the ghost of relationships failed, past, and never to be repeated again.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

First Right Of Refusal

I recently sold my horse. It was EASILY the hardest decision of my life; for those of you non-horsey people out there, imagine it feeling as it would be like to give up a 7 year old child. It was the right thing for me to do at this point in my life, financially, but about the only thing that made me actually go through with it instead of climbing on my mare's back and taking off into the sunset, neither of us to ever be seen again, was the fact that I was able to include a legally-binding buy-back clause in the ownership/sale agreement. This means, that if the barn were to ever sell her one day down the road, legally, they have to track me down and ask me if I want her back before they can offer her up for public sale. This is called the First Right of Refusal, and it is a lovely, wonderful thing.

Which is why I think it should be an unspoken agreement in all relationship stipulations.

Look, don't lie to us. You want to make things as painless as possible? Than tell us the truth, instead of a convenient cover, so we can skip the false hope, the anguish, the want, the heartbreak, and the loss, and skip right the fuck to hating you, get it out of our system faster, and over with, so we can dust ourselves off and move on with our lives. It's really the only humane thing to do. If you say, "I think I need some time on my own," please best believe that we'll be keeping a weather eye to make sure that you actually stay that way-- on your own-- for a while, like you told us you were going to. If you say, "Maybe sometime again later after I've had time," PLEASE, BEST BELIEVE that to us, that is like the First Right of Refusal. If we disband because YOU want some "alone time," you best believe that we fully intend to be the first woman tapped for duty when you get tired of playing by yourself. THAT is how women work. THAT is what we assume. When we say, "I'd like some strawberry jam on my toast, please, but no butter," what we mean is, "I'd like some strawberry jam on my toast, please, but for the love of god, if you bring the butter near me, I will CUT YOU," when what a MAN seems to mean when he says, "I'd like some strawberry jam, please, but no butter," is in his thinking, a politer way of saying, "Yeah, I'll take that toast with some strawberry jam, but later, I'm going to actually go back for that butter that you just offered me, because I was thinking about my body muscle index and I really do need to eat some more fat today before I hit the gym."

Woman: No butter means NO BUTTER.
Man: No butter means maybe I actually am going to have that butter, after all.

I can understand it is hard sometimes; life is confusing. I mean, hell, some mornings I wake up and have no clue where the fuck I am for the first 10 minutes that I'm barely cognizant. And there are some tough calls out there-- pay the heat bill, or the electric bill?-- that I thoroughly understand if they take you a while to work through. But let me break this down-- when you tell us you've thought long and hard and not taken anything lightly to reach a sure as HELL better follow through with that decision. To the T. Perfectly. Textbook-style. Like the lawyer who was holding our Terms of Sale agreement was keeping close tabs on you and your movements. Because in matters of love and relationships, that sale was not of a horse, as much as I have loved mine-- it was the sale of our heart.


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

"It's Not Me...It's You."

Here's the thing about pregnancy tests: You never quite believe that it's actually you holding them. They're like a Twilight Zone wormhole from which you look down at the box in your hand and ask yourself, "Is this really me standing here with this thing? Like, is this for real?" You know how in movies, when they do POV shots, it feels really uncomfortable to be the viewer, because you KNOW that that's not actually your body that you're trapped inside and seeing the world from? Welcome to exactly what buying a pregnancy test is like.

A little while ago, the universe conspired against me in a whole number of different ways to fuck with my body without my consent. My script for Zoloft ran out, and by the time it took the pharmacy in my hometown to refill and ship it to me, I was a few days lacking the serotonin my body desperately needs to keep me sane and level. Life was also shitty at the time in others ways-- stressful and full of drama that was neither mine, nor of my own making. It started to take its toll; I was constantly nauseous and dizzy. A morning hike turned into a battle to stay upright and cognizant. I also was probably a little anemic, due to the fact that living with a vegetarian was NOT doing my diet any favors in regards to my body's generous appetite for red meat, blood, guts, and protein. And I was having sex. Lots of regular, good ol' fashioned relationship sex. What a perfect Molotov cocktail for disaster and pee-dipsticks.

I first got my period when I was 12. I remember it vividly, because it was during the summer, and I was with my family and childhood best friend at our usual summer residence at the Jersey shore. For the rest of our vacation, I refused to go in the ocean, because I was SURE that I was going to end up the tragic victim of a shark attack based on the fact that I was now BLEEDING, dripping BLOOD UNCONTROLLABLY, from somewhere that I didn't quite understand yet. I was young. It was traumatic. I really, really hate sharks and their cold, dead eyes. But since that summer, my period had been something that came like Swiss clockwork-- you literally could have set Big Ben or international standard time to it, it was so reliable, down to the date and time of afternoon when it made its appearance. And there was none of this "skipped period" or "spotting" bullshit for me when I started out; my period RSVPed, and it made it its business to show. Punctually. Only once, the second month that I was on birth control when I was 18, did I ever spot between cycles. It was unsettling and odd for me, but I had a reason for it, so I sucked it up, bought more panty liners, and moved on. So I was properly freaked out when suddenly, last month, I started spotting a week before I was supposed to be due.

I let it go for a day or two, considering all the angles: Maybe my lack of Zoloft had impacted its buddy Ortho Tricyclin Lo, considering I take them both at the same time every day, and it was lonely and taking it out on me the only way it knew how. Maybe I had some internal trauma I didn't know about, a ruptured cyst or something. Maybe my lady bits where rioting against all this sex, as unused to routine as they were after all the dry spells of my life. Or, maybe, as I input all my bodily woes into the Mayo clinic's database of diseases and scrolled down the page, I was experiencing "implantation bleeding." AKA: Maybe I was well and truly fucked.

Small quantities of brown blood. Nausea. Dizziness. Higher Basal body temperature. I did the complicated and quantum physics and math of my menstrual cycle's peak performance and ovulation time and the history of my sex life and compared it to what not only Mayo, but WebMD, BabyMed, SteadyHealth, and Woman's Health had to say. It was not good, in the way that for the first time in my life, a mathematical equation coming out to equal the sum that it should was not something my mathematically-dyslexic self wanted to celebrate. I considered calling my mother to ask if she'd experience implantation bleeding when she got pregnant with me. I decided against it, and called a friend of mine who had been pregnant once before instead. We jointly decided it would be best to wait it out; see if my period made its real appearance when it was supposed to. We cited the Zoloft, the anemia, the stress as contributing factors. We didn't even entertain the possibility that pregnancy was a real option. I took my birth control every day with the fanaticism of a Southern Revivalist. We'd been careful. We'd been good. In my sexual history, if Ortho were to fail me and fuck me over, it would have happened before now. The ratio of possible pregnancy situations in my past compared to my present would have read something like 234:3. (That's probably not even a real ratio, and now you understand just how bad at math I really am.)

So I waited. The spotting waxed and waned, but nothing like my usual period showed. One day, at lunch, I excused myself to the ladies' room, and came back triumphant, sure that I had finally exited the danger zone, but later that night, the well dried up. Nothing. Nada. I was going on two weeks now refraining from sex because I may or may not decide to start bleeding. It was killing me. Finally, my friend convinced me it was time to do the damn thing and know for certain, instead of continuously directing disparaging remarks down toward my belt and being a general ostrich with my head in the sand. "I blame the Holocaust," I told her. "If it wasn't for Hitler, those fucking sperm wouldn't feel as deep a need to survive." We went to Shaw's. She shopped for the week's groceries while I deliberated between spending $13 on a pregnancy test, or $6. On one hand, did I really want to trust something so important to a cheapo no-name brand? On the other, I was really freaking tapped for cash, and if it was negative, well...that would be a totally un-cool way to have wasted what could have bought me two dirty martinis. I settled for a middle-range option, and grabbed another box of condoms, too. Optimism.

In the checkout lane, specifically picked to get maximum hilarity out of what could otherwise end up being a pretty desolate situation, the teenage boy behind the register didn't even blink. My friend and I felt let down. When we got back to her apartment, I opened the box, and discovered that taking a pregnancy test apparently mandates a map the size of your average road atlas, and instructions as detailed-- down to the second and no-nonsense-- as taking your SATs or the bar exam in your state. After reading the instruction to DO NOT HOLD TEST UPSIDE-DOWN, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, OR ELSE YOU'LL SCREW UP THE TEST AND NEVER KNOW AND END UP ON 'I DIDN'T KNOW I WAS PREGNANT,' I handled it like a grenade whose pin had been pulled. And always tip-down. We debated peeing on it the good old-fashioned way versus using the cup method. She pointed out that I would then have a cup of pee to deal with. We both pulled a face. I tentatively journeyed into the bathroom to try hovering over the toilet without peeing on my own hand. Through the door, I commented that it would be a lot easier for men to be the ones who got pregnant and had to take pregnancy tests. She instructed me to be sure that I didn't wimp out and got a good stream on the tip. I didn't pee on my hand as I feared I would, so I was feeling a little bit triumphant when I capped it again and laid it gently to rest on the sink's counter. If I could not pee on my own hand while taking a pregnancy test, I reasoned, there was no way in hell I could have actually fucked myself over even more and be pregnant.

My friend instructed me that even though the test said it could be checked as soon as 2 minutes after, waiting at least 4 to get a conclusive result was even better. She knew what she was talking about, so we set a timer, and found a Youtube clip of the Jeopardy "thinking" song to wait to. There is nothing that really raises the class level of taking a pregnancy test like the thought of Alex Trebek and people dressed in tweed. My friend got a call and stepped out for a minute, and then it was suddenly me, Alex, my thoughts, and the bathroom door that was open just enough to see the toilet, but not enough to see the hidden test on the counter, diagnosis yet unknown.

Here's the thing: I knew as soon as I read Mayo's diagnosis for me what I would do if it was true. So, in one aspect, I knew exactly what I was going to do. But the more I sat there and thought as Jeopardy kept playing and the timer was ticking down, I realized that this whole shenanigan wasn't about me. The stress that I'd been going through, the intense fear at the thought that I may be enciente was not my stress, or fear of what I would do; it was fear of what another woman would do. And that, I realized, was much more; ten times more; a hundred, million times more fucked up and ridiculous than me actually being worried and taking this pregnancy test to be sure for MYSELF. In a perfect world, devoid of any other players or pawns, the fact that I was 22, in a stable relationship, and taking a pregnancy test would not have been so scary. In that same world, I would have been allowed to be potentially excited, and entertain the thought of other options besides my cut-and-dried one of abortion. But this is not that perfect world. There are other players in this one, and there are pawns. In many ways, my own pregnancy would not be about me. What is supposed to be one of the most significant times of a woman's life would not be made of joy and healthy levels of both fear and excitement; it would be full of strife and more stress and drama and endless questions and phone calls and arguments, and not all of them would be about me, my relationship, or my child, but about another person, another relationship, and another child. What it came down to was not the fact that I didn't want a child; it came down to the fact that I didn't want to bring a child into a situation as volatile as the one I'd entered when I started my relationship. Because it wouldn't be fair. Not to me. Not to a baby. Not to my partner. And, a little part of my mind reminded me, not to another woman. In that moment, Jeopardy's timpani drums striking merrily, I knew I had my answer, regardless of the test's results. My friend came back into the room. I was white and drawn. The timer went off.

The test was negative. I laughed, danced, and ate a big steak.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Better Woman Than You

One of the bad parts about staying in the same town that you graduated college in is that inevitably, you'll run into people from your past who you would rather not see. Like today when I unexpectedly bumped into one of the ex's little slips in fidelity. It had been awhile since I'd seen her; even longer since I'd seen her in the same room as myself and the ex. If counting my two relationships since him was any indicator, I've obviously moved on. I don't wish her a quick slip and a bad fall anymore. I don't spend my nights obsessively checking her Facebook profile to see what she's been up to lately (answer then would have been, "having more of a life than you are obsessively checking her page, dipshit,") anymore, either. In fact, it was kind of a shock to see her and instantly remember that, well, she exists. So I did the natural thing, which, in this case, also happened to the the right thing: I smiled genuinely at her, and said, "Hi, _____, how have you been?"

And she barely looked at me. She said a flat "hi" back, and moved on with whatever it was she was doing. For a moment, I was PISSED. Look, I've been the Other Woman (with the same guy, nonetheless!) in the past, so I know what running into the First Woman entails-- You smile politely, but not too much, lest she think you're mocking her. You speak first. You say a genuine, polite "hello" or "hey." If she engages you in conversation after that, you stick to neutral topics-- the weather, work, school, recent plans (that DON'T involve the man in both of your lives). You DON'T just ignore her. Because here's the thing, if you don't at least smile and say hi, then you're being a bitch. And if you happen to the the First Woman, you end up having yet another reason to hate the Other Woman even more. Basically, I was mad because I slipped back into the thinking that if you have the balls to want to share my relationship's bed, you BEST have the balls to meet my eye when you see me. Otherwise, I'm going to think that you're a coward, not a threat, and start to question my partner's interest in you in the first place and if you're what he wants to run around with, than is he really the sort of man I should be with? There's a very particular sort of woman who lurks around the outskirts of your life, looking in, wanting what you have, and is all bark behind your back and no real bite, and those are the women I can't fucking STAND. And THAT is EXACTLY the sort of woman who doesn't have the social grace or class to actually buck up, be a big girl, and converse like an actual person.

All of this flashed through my mind in about a nanosecond, dragging with it all the old feelings of spite and envy and mistrust and haughtiness. Then, something else happened-- I suddenly realized that I had no right to feel ANY of those ways about her anymore, as I was no longer (obviously) with the ex, and neither was she, either. I realized that if she couldn't even look my in the eyes now, over a year after everything between all of us went down, well, that was telling. About her, about her character, and about how she felt about the whole situation. And so, I kept on walking, letting it slide, and feeling vaguely protective of her, and the innocence and naivety that she exposed by not knowing how to do the right thing. Because, when it comes down to it, there are always going to be other women out there who are either trying to get a rise out of you, or you are trying to get a rise out of, yourself. (I would be lying if I said I was currently engaged in a game of electronic "chicken" myself.) We all have it in ourselves to be bitches. We all know exactly how to hurt other women. But that's all rather childish, and should be behind us by now, like how I realized that what she thinks or does no longer has any impact in my life, not even if she refuses to respond to my greeting. What really proves who the bigger (and better) woman is is who smiles and says that theoretical "hi" first. And I am now DEDICATED to being that better woman.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Figuring It All Out

At 22, I thought that my big Quarterlife-Crisis change would be starting to navigate the big, scary Real World, B.S in hand. Instead, the economy solved that issues for me by making me generally unemployable (who ever got a Liberal Arts degree, anyway?) and only a few months freshly out of college, my big life change ended up being a drastic switch from The Single Life to The Coupled Life. Between the two of us, self-imposed loners with a sarcastic, highbrow bend and a serious commitment to Netflix and alienating ourselves from decent society, we managed to take two fairly boring lives, combine them, and make one chock-full-o'-nuts life together. Hence why I have been fairly MIA for the last few months. Hence why I now have friends IRL. Hence why tonight, while he's gone from the nest and I am too mindlessly bored to continue watching yet another Katherine Heigl movie, I've decided to let you know that I remain alive, just a little bit less single than I used to be, and a little bit more grown-up.

All kidding aside, what have I learned about relationships in the past few months cannot be neatly summed up in a single blog post, or in any number of blog posts, for that matter. (Believe me-- I have tried. And tried and tried and tried. My Drafts box is both imposing and impressive now.) Our relationship, like most others, is too complex and nuanced to break it down into categories and subcategories: What I Think About Him, What He Thinks Of Me, When An Acceptable Amount Of Time Is In Which To Say "I Love You," And Who Said It First (neither of those actually happened to be good societal standard norms, but fuck it), How We Met Each Other's Families, The Fact That All My Friends For Once Agree I Have Met A Suitable Man And Would Probably Take Him Over Me Were We To Split, Our First Mini-Getaways As A Couple And How To Survive A Vacation With Your Partner When Your Forget Your Blowdryer, What To Say When You're Caught Red-Handed, How To Breathe And Just Let Shit Roll Off Your Back, What Happens When The Past Sometimes Doesn't Stay In The Past, How Cooking For Two Requires More Math Than You're Bound To Remember From High School Calc Than Cooking For One Does, and The Proper Way To Wake A Snoring, Blanket-Stealing Man Up.

Instead, I've gone back to my pre-schooling basics to make this relationship work where others before have failed. We share things: My car. His house. The grocery list. A full-size bed (built for cuddling when you're respectively 5'3 and 6'3,) and one blanket-- well, he has a tendency to get all Oldest Child about it and steal it, so I've resorted to His and Hers duvets. Colds-- he just got over one; kindly has passed it onto me. We compromise: He, a full-bore Mac Man, has learned to navigate around my PC. I've given up eating quite as much red meat as I used to to better suit his vegetarian diet and our shared meals. He's getting used to having to repeat questions. I'm slowly getting used to actually listening to the answers. The other day, I caught him kiss my cat on the head, not sneer and verbally demean him per usual. It touched me in a very special place. (No, not that special place.) Basically, as I am dying to tell all of my ex-professors, the things I learned in hallowed campus classrooms were NOT, in fact, the lessons that have helped me survive life after college; it was the lessons my parents taught me pre-K and everything else I picked up from dating in dorms, renting as a roommate, and romancing the reluctant and recalcitrant rascals of my previous Single Life that have got me where I am today: Happy, well-adjusted, cohabitating, and in love.

...And yes, still funemployed. But writing pro bono for a few publications, and one newly-created nationally-syndicated women's magazine! (I guess some of those publishing and entrepreneurship classes did come in useful, after all.)

Long story short, I spent 4 years of my life and nearly a cool $100K to learn that to make it in life, you have to be funny enough to ensnare a man's attention, quirky enough to keep it, well-versed enough in the kitchen to feed him once you've got him, persevering enough to play hausfrau for him, relaxed enough to drink beers with his buddies, feminine enough to keep his blood boiling even after a few months in, well-read enough to read the labels on his shirts before laundering them, and educated enough from your previous Single Life to be able to introduce him to new things, places, and experiences.

He, in return, has got to love you enough to find all of this amusing and endearing.

In other words, stay in school, because that's where all the good men are.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Batgirl's Got Shit On Super Girlfriend.

Over the weekend, one of my best friends came and stayed with us. For both of us-- "fun"employed graduates with a bachelors in writing who aren't happy unless we're working for 5 independently contracted clients at once and think "relaxing" is an exercise is being frivolous-- it was not only a great chance to not only discover "My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding", read woman's magazines, eat McDonalds (or "The Devil's Food" as my very health-conscious boyfriend would call it), and have the Girl Time that we both found ourselves currently lacking in our lives post-grad, but also, to compare relationship notes and find heroes in other people and how they lead their coupled lives.

I think she's utterly amazing for being in a long distance relationship and is a rock-star for being confident enough to try 21st century ways of staying in touch and intimate. She loved the fact that I strive to make every day eventful for my S.O; we woke up and went impromptu hiking the other morning, then ended up getting glammed up and going out for a business dinner later that same night. I love the fact that her boyfriend is admittedly crazy about her and that it's obvious to everyone around them, even when they're apart-- the constant "ping"-ing of her iPhone affirms that he's not afraid to be candid about how he feels. She (and I) were both smitten when my S.O remembered to bring her a towel and washcloth at night before she went to bed-- something very "host-y" that had escaped both our FEMALE minds, but didn't get past him.

All in all, it came down to the fact that we both know our relationships and our respective partners, but found that finding things to admire in your friend's relationships can help you look at and switch up your own more effectively, too. While all of our relationships are as different as we are as individuals, there's something really great about knowing that you have a "Girlfriend Hero" who will run across town after her boyfriend's rent check to make sure it gets to the right place on time that you can look up and aspire to...while knowing at the same time that you're her "Girlfriend Hero" for your uncanny ability to snag the best seats for the festival fireworks AND remember to bring along your S.O's favorite candy to snack on, too.

If you're lucky enough like me to realize that for the first time in your life, nearly all of your best friends are taken, pair up with one of them whose relationship style you really admire, take notes on how each other makes it appear effortless, and exchange compliments. A lot of the time, the effort we spend putting time, energy, and countless summer-day-outing-plans-so-you-don't-get-bored-and-cranky into our relationships either isn't noticed by our partners (because we're just that good at seeming perpetually AWESOME,) or just isn't acknowledged the way we'd sometimes like it to be after going above and beyond, because, hey, we're girls, and men and women communicate differently about appreciation, after all. Make it your goal to find someone who makes it look so easy to look up to, because, chances are, she'll end up telling you that you're just as stellar a girlfriend, in your own ways.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

You Can't Live On Love Alone

And now for something completely different...

Now it's my turn to ask you lovely readers for some help in regards to how to make a relationship work even better!

Ok, here we go— yet again another chance for me to prove to you how painfully yet wonderfully new everything about a serious, cohabitating relationship is to me: Mealtimes. How in the name of god do you coordinate two very different people’s shared meals together in the home?

Do you cook; does he cook; do you eat separately; who plans the meals, etc? While we grocery shop together, and our Top 5 Favorite Restaurants are the same, I‘m just not used to someone coming home and asking, “What should we do for dinner?” My general response to this question thus far through the years to family members, roommates, friends, and guys has been something along the lines of, ‘uhhhhh…’ Adding to the tricky little question, he’s a vegetarian, and very health- and consumer-conscious, while I have been known to consider eating a McDouble, fries, and small soda off the Dollar Menu at McDonald’s a STEAL, and have a bad habit of grazing through whatever is quick and easy in the cabinets of the kitchen instead of making a proper meal, so that when he gets home at 7 and is starved, I’m not hungry until 9.

While we always end up figuring SOMETHING out, it just takes a little longer than I’d (impatiently as always,) like it to. So far, Dominoes has saved our stomachs more than a few times, and I recently had the bright idea of going through our amassed cookbooks together to dog-ear recipes that we’d both like to try to create a bank of dinner ideas, but after that, I’m all tapped out!

So this is the part where I ask you all, especially my wiser and less relationship-challenged readers, to please leave me any tips, hints, or tricks that you’ve found while cohabitating and coexisting with a member of the opposite sex. Grazie mille!