Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Everything's Not Lost

"When I counted up my demons,
Saw there was one for every day;
With the good ones on my shoulders,
I drove the other ones away.

When you thought that it was over--
You could feel it all around,
And everybody's out to get you,
Don't you let it drag you down.

'Cause if you ever feel neglected,
And if you think that all is lost,
I'll be counting up my demons, yeah,
Hoping everything's not lost."


Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost.

My friend Arielle, who is a very wise woman, said something to me the other day as we were discussing our time living in Italy-- "No one decides to go halfway around the world and study abroad for months for no reason. If your life was perfect, you wouldn't be in Italy, or Ireland, or France. I think everyone who studies abroad, whether they know it or not, is trying to escape from something."

That girl knows how to kick me in the ass like almost no other.

What she said is true. Think about it. If you were perfectly content and happy with your life at home, why would you leave? Why would you uproot, leave all your support systems, and decide that maybe, living somewhere 4,000 miles away sounded like a good idea? Why would you exchange your apartment, job, college, local grocery store, friends, climate, coffee shop, and daily routine for new ones if you were still so enamored with the old ones? It is not because, as some might say, you "wanted the experience." To that, I say bullshit. Yes, it certainly is an experience, but so is going to your closest amusement park and riding a roller coaster. If you wanted to shake your life up a bit, you would find a new job or get a haircut. You would not pack your life into two suitcases, a backpack, and a very large purse and move yourself across the globe for a nice jaunt. That is not an "experience." That is a life change, and you have to have a very good reason for making one of those, believe me.

I know because what Arielle said applies for me, too. One thing that I have learned while over here is what I am, and what I am not. And one thing that I am is a runner. If I have an issue, I tend to run away from it. In fact, Italy was my biggest runner of all. Italy was my answer to running away from my life for over three months, putting everything I could not fix on hold, and distancing myself from reality. In the months before I left, things happened in my life that I didn't have answers for. I lost someone incredibly important to me. I was stagnant in my job. I found myself in a situation that I didn't know how to deal with, because I did not have the guts to actually speak up about what I wanted and what I needed and what I was feeling. I experienced raw, emotional pain for the first time in my life like a tidal wave that sucked me down into the deepest depression of my life. Nothing was working. I got scared. I was flailing, and falling, and striking out at whatever came near me. I remember, hazily, screaming at my mother in the car while sobbing hysterically. I remember my hands shaking from thinly controlled nerves as I tried to paint. I remember turning back to chemical release because I still could not use words to remedy the situation I was in, and so, smoking could do it for me. I remember hours spent lying on my bed, in the dark, not doing anything, because just moving hurt. I remember days where I did not talk. I remember not wanting to look at myself in the mirror, because then I would see hipbones and ribs and sharp angles that I had never had before.

And so I came to Italy because I was letting go of everything that was holding me back, because I was leaving. I was checking out. I was done with living the way I had been. I came thinking that that would be the answer to life. I got shiny and sleek from the hot sun and rich food. My hair got longer in passing with the days. I started to heal. But, like Arielle, I started to realize why I had come to study abroad. I started to separate the experience from the impetus.

It took some massive struggles and some pretty tough self-love. I didn't like myself all of the time. I still don't, some days. I can be obsessive, illogical, irrational, jealous of things I cannot change, and--yes-- neurotic, and a HUUUGE flaming hypocrite. I cannot, in other words, get out of my own way. Like every person, I like to think that I was a great baby. In reality, my mother tells me that until I learned how to "get out of my own way" and crawl, I was miserable. And just like when I was a baby, with the stress of finals looming, eight-and-over page papers due in nearly every class, trying to find a job to now go with my apartment and nearly $700-a-month rent from across the ocean, my body rejecting nearly everything I try to put in it because at this point it is trying to physically reject Italy itself, and a massive question-mark hovering over the status of my life back in Vermont, I am fussy and just want to go home and figure all that out. NOW. I started to panic. I started to obsess and started to expect more than was feasible from other people, and then take it personally when things didn't pan out. I started to shut down. Like, "Get me on a plane tomorrow, ship me home, and the devil take my finals and credits and grades, because I have figured out me, I have figured out my life here, and now it is time to rejoin reality and figure out my life there."

But then I realized that if I went home now, I would have forever run away from something else-- something which I will never get a chance to get back. I also would incur a large amount of debt from switching my ticket that, seeing as I am currently job-less, I would not be able to pay back until the already large lump-sum had accrued even more money not being paid off on my (brand-new, never used, very scary) credit card. Overall, I think staying for the next 16 days is in my best interest. And so, to make it easier on myself, I cut the things out that were making me unnecessarily worry and over-hype and expect and wait and wait and wait for SOMETHING to happen, for some divine clue that everything was alright and that life back home was waiting for me to return, just as it was when I left, just as I hoped it would be. This means, for the next week, no skulking around Facebook. No waiting on Skype. No Twitter (except to Tweet these updates to the blog). This, of course, I cannot cut out, and wouldn't want to. If I couldn't write, I would die. As simple as that. (One of the things I discovered, inequivocably, I am: a writer. In that, I chose rightly.)

It does not mean, however, that it isn't very hard. I now have an apartment in Burlington that all I want is for it to be June 1st so I can move in. I want to have Saph's head on my chest again, impossibly heavy and nearly knocking me over, her nostrils making wet pockets on my shirt, my nostrils filled with the scent of hay and dust and horse. I want to wake up early and go for a walk with the trees overhead like a canopy, so early that no one else is up and I can savor a Vermont morning, all by myself. I want to drive my Civic again and panic about hill-stops on Main Street. I want to be back among my people, my friends, and the plaidness of it all. I want to find out what's going on, and where I stand. I want to have (physically, if not also emotionally if it is not too much to ask for,) safe sex again. I want to not have to smoke as much, though this is a completely open-for-interpretation desire, as my smoking habits vary directly with my stress levels. In any case, I want to not have to buy a new pack every five days.

Right now, I need more than is fair to ask from others. And so, that leads to having to ask myself to be everything I need. And this is why I came abroad, come to find out. I had to leave so that I could find myself. So that I could learn to be nearly everything I need. So that I could learn that I am obsessive, and illogical, and irrational, and jealous, and-- yes-- neurotic, and that I can be a huge hypocrite. The one thing I have to say about this period of time of running away is that though Arielle may have been right in the fact that I had a reason for leaving my life, I found an even better one to return to it: who I am, what I want, and what I need. And so, I close with this thought: though wanderers and runners and study abroad students may leave to go someplace for reasons they don't know, they will find them once they get there. If you leave someplace, you will discover why. And if you go somewhere new, you will discover something new about yourself, not just about your location. Many times, I have foolishly wished I didn't come here, just so that things could "stay normal" at home and so I wouldn't "have to worry." But in the end, what I have found here, and what has happened in Italy will be what sticks with me for the rest of my life, despite whatever I find has or has not changed back home. Not all those who wander are lost.


Monday, April 26, 2010

Of Fox And Men.

Easter Sunday was not the best holiday of my year so far. Then again, neither was New Years, or Valentine's Day, or April Fool's Day.

I was stood up, and fell off of the broken toilet seat in the little bathroom. Twice.

Yes, you are allowed to laugh about that, but I was pretty much done. Maybe this just isn't my year for the holidays. About the only ones that went somewhat according to plan were St. Paddy's Day and 4/20, if that tells you anything.

Fast forward two weeks later, and I was getting pretty much used to being stood up when I was stood up again. This time, as you may have guessed, it was by Middlebury Grad Guy, and it wasn't so much of "being stood up" as it was I decided it "wasn't worth calling" when he didn't. I didn't think much of it after the fact.

Surprise, surprise, a few days later, Middlebury Grad Guy sent me the following apology: "Hey Carissa, I wanted to sincerely apologize for not getting back to you about Boboli. I got really tied up that weekend, and after that I was too embarrassed to address it. So I'm really sorry and if we can't get together before you leave Italy; hopefully we can see each other in VT this summer."

Perfectly succinct, contrite, and polite. Nothing that would ever get your heart pounding or change your mind, however. I sent back something equally noncommittal about how it was no problem since I had a friend who unexpectedly dropped in that weekend (true,) and that if we didn't run into each other in the 20 days left in Italy, then maybe we would in Vermont (maybe not so true). In the past, I might have scoured every line to try to translate it into Girl Speak what he meant-- Did he really want to see me? Did he get "tied up"? Was he really embarrassed? Was he really sorry?-- but the amount (next to nothing) that I cared about these questions reaffirmed something that I once told myself: It's not worth wasting your time on someone that you're not completely into. Yeah, he's nice and smart and funny and not hard on the eyes at all, but he's just not the person I want to be with. So why try to make something happen if it's just not there? Done. End of story. I brushed my hands off, deleted the email after saving the copy here, and went back to the new chapter of my Single Girl life: getting used to being stood up or let down.

But what he said, or rather, how he said it, got me thinking. Apologies are funny things. I've been getting a lot of them lately, which has brought up the question: How many times can you accept an apology? How much can you put up with? Or, should you?

So, you're going to have to stick with me for this logic-jump, but I also just watched and fell in love with "The Fantastic Mr. Fox" the other night, and a scene from the movie in which Felicity Fox confronts Mr. Fox about lying to her re: stopping stealing shit explains the dynamics of an apology really well:

"I believed you. Why, why did you lie to me?"
"Because I'm a wild animal."

No, no...I'm not stopping here and just saying men are wild animals. (Though it can be true at times.)

"I'm trying to tell you the truth about myself."
"I don't care about the truth about yourself. This story is too predictable."

Someone is always going to want to explain the truth about themselves to you. Some will do it by not calling. Some will do it by sending a perfectly nice apology. Some will do it in their actions, or by their in-actions. Some will do it by not being there when they say they will be. And some will by doing exactly what they say they'll try to do for you. Your part in an apology is to decide whether to accept it or not. It's up to you to decide if you've heard too many apologies to continue to let someone slide by you, scott-free, by just saying "I'm sorry" without ever trying to change. It's up to you to decide if an apology is something that you, personally, can or cannot accept.

Just like a fox can't change his nature so easily, neither can people. It's deciding who, in the end, is still fantastic enough to keep around and have enough faith that at the last minute, they will change enough to come in and save the day.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Hot-Button Issue

Yesterday, I was reading Cosmo's online blog, "77 Positions in 77 Days," I came across something disconcerting. It was not, as one might think, the Lusty Leg Lift. (I mean, ok, I can see where that could be disconcerting-- I am a contortionist, and even I know that it's not a good idea to try stretching legs up that high and balancing on one leg during sex. Something is bound to get broken, and if it's only your roommate's perfume bottle as you crash to the ground, consider yourself lucky.)

It was the fact that their blogger referred to her clitoris as her "button."

Excuse me. We're all grown up here. (At least you better be if you're reading this.) That is not your "button" or your "hot spot" or any other one of thousands of cute pet names you can give it. That is your clit. And I suggest you refer to it as such because it's pretty damn important. And if you aren't taking it seriously, chances are, other people aren't, either.

It never fails to fascinate me how people with an XY chromosomal make-up are so baffled by the clit. There seems to be a lot of movement going on down there, and a lot of missing the mark. Hello. It is that small nub of concentrated nerves going directionally toward our belly-button. It's literally at the top of the whole contraption. If I can feel it, why is it so difficult for you? I just don't get it. It would be like a woman misplacing a man's balls. It's. Right. There. However, every argument must have two sides, and one of my exes stands as Exhibit A: The Mutant. He understood my mechanics even better than I did. I think for the month I was with him, my toes were never unclenched. Talk about major foot-cramps. (Do not laugh. That's actually something I suffer from. "Toe-curlers" are not urban legends, and I can get back-up on the fact that there have been a few moments during sex when I've had to cry out "Stop! Stop! Owww!" and not in a good way. Orgasms can hurt too, you know. But it's generally worth it. Actually-- it's always worth it.)

A guy I slept with once (key word being "once") looked at me while I was on top and said, "Trying moving more up-and-down." I stopped and stared at him, shocked. Well, I'm sorry, but I have a clitoris to think about. You would not tell your pilot how to fly, just like you should not tell the other person you're having sex with to get out of their moment and into yours. Sex is, after all, a joint effort. Yes, I want to make sure you're having fun and satisfied, but I'd hope you also want me to be having the best time possible. Which means, when someone is having their moment-- DON'T MICRO-MANAGE!

If I am on top, chances are, I am being extremely selfish, just as chances are, when you are on top, you are being extremely selfish, as there is just about nothing I can do to control your speed or angle of penetration. When I am on top, I am more focused on what's going on for me below the non-existent belt than what's going on for you. So I suggest you men get a little more worried about helping yourself. Because in GOT, I am not being accommodating-- I am getting off. Maybe, who is on top is not just dominating, but also, dominating the pleasure spectrum. So, here is what I suggest: Take turns. Be generous. And please-- unless it's something that will be mutually beneficial, don't tell each other how to run the show.

There are some people out there who are instruction-givers. Frankly, I don't give instruction well. And I'm more of a go-with-the-flow person. Half of my favorite things I wouldn't have discovered if I hadn't just let the person I was with do their thing-- I have Mutant Hands Man to thank for showing me the best way to navigate below the belt. I just like to get lost in sex, not feel like it's a campaign for the hostile territory of our bodies.

So this is what I suggest if you really want to get serious about your clit: Take your man literally by the hand, and give him a tutorial. This is not the time to be shy or reserved. Be a show-er, and and not a tell-er. Ok, so, you may have to say, "To the left,"or "To the right," or "Faster," but the point is that you shouldn't be the speaking GPS unit for your vagina. A hands-on guide will be able to more aptly explain where and what and how things work than you could ever do by voice without starting to sound like Sue Johanson. And I'm sure, it will be a mutually beneficial lesson for both of you. Now that's some schooling you can really get into.


Friday, April 23, 2010

Shake It Up.

<--- Bad dating material. But great music. It's what's getting me through right now.

There are some things that for some reason or other, slip your mind as something you like to do. They can be little things-- like painting your nails, or a specific yoga position. Or they can be big things-- like a particular smell, or a memory from childhood that when you finally do remember it, it seems like yesterday and you can't help but keep a smile off your face. It's strange how the mind works. We're so busy that we have a tendency to lose the things that keep us grounded.

Believe it or not, I was a hardcore metal/punk tween. We're talking, perpetual sneer, only wore black, refused to wear jeans as they were "conforming to The Man," studded belts and bracelets, heavy eyeliner, made-my-own-ripped-up-stitched-back-together-held-on-by-safety-pins clothing. About 5 people who read this blog can assure you, I, Miss American Eagle, Miss I-Love-ELLE-magazine, Miss I-Look-Pretty-In-Pink, am not lying to you, dear reader. I can actually trace it all back to the fact that in the tender year of fourth grade, I thought Fred Durst was the sexiest man alive. (Not surprisingly, this was also the year I started swearing.) From Bizkit, I ventured to Korn, System of a Down, Rage Against The Machine, Tool, Renholder, and all the usual suspect popular bands of the time. I branched out, with some help of some like-music-minded friends, and pretty much did a lap all over the metal world.

This was when I discovered the Deftones.

The Deftones have always been near and dear to me. But now that I'm more of an alternative-folk-rock girl with some hip-hop and R&B leanings, I kind of tend to forget that a large part of me still likes hardcore music, very much.

At the moment, I'm in the midst of trying to wrap up half-a-semester's worth of homework for an online class. Unfortunately, Italy's internet connection, or lack thereof, pushed me far behind, and I've been keeping nearly U.S hours-- going to bed at 4 or 5 AM here, sleeping until 2 or 3 in the afternoon--trying to get it done, along with updating my resume for a job that may have, just may have literally fallen out of the sky and into my lap (knock on wood), and starting my end-of-semester papers for my Italy classes and basically driving myself absolutely bat-shit crazy. (I'm rationalizing sleep deprivation as me getting ready to enter U.S Eastern time again.)

It takes a lot for me to get motivated, and music is one of those things that can usually do it for me if I can't get my hands on some extra-caffeinated coffee, Red Bull, or some speed. (I joke, I joke...) I listen to Hed PE (Thanks, Nora,) when I run at the gym. I have been known to headbang to stay awake during finals time. (Melissa can attest. Sorry for that. Our freshmen year dorm room was really small.) And now, I have rediscovered how listening to power-chords and thrash really makes me want to DEEEEEEESTROYYYYYYYYYY. (Otherwise known as, get shit done.)

This is basically what I have to keep as an internal soundtrack-- keep that whip crackin'.

So Deftones it is. I know we're all in crunch-time right now, so from me to you, here it is-- my secret: Root, Engine No. 9, Cherry Waves, My Own Summer, Minerva, Good Morning Beautiful, and Passenger, because the unparalleled, otherworldly, and overall man of my musical dreams Maynard James Keenan helped with the vocals. His voice does terrifying things to me. I can't help but love everything that comes out of his mouth. I once said that even though he may be one of the most disturbing people on Earth, I would marry him for a lifetime of wifely servitude gladly if he promised to just never speak and sing everything. And I mean everything. Like, I would want to hear a melodic, "Honey, can you pass the butter?" in the morning over pancakes. (I think part of it is the fact that he reminds in a very roundabout way of the Joker, and, as we're doing all sorts of admitting, here and now may also be the time to say that I am, quite possibly, one of the Batman universe and Mistah J's biggest fans in the world. I own a cardboard cutout that lives in my room. Comics. A special edition of "The Killing Joke". I sleep with a Joker plushie. My car's name is Mistah J, for fuck's sake. It's not so much as a problem as a "fun quirk" and selling point with the opposite sex. At least, that's what I tell myself.)

I know I have some issues. Now may not be the time to discuss them. Please get back to me re: having a weakness for most-probably clinically unbalanced men after I get through exams. Basically, what I'm trying to get at here is that we tend to lose little parts of ourselves-- in fact, we let them get lost. These are parts of us that may not be influential to our whole being, but they're things that made us happy at one time or another. They're not things that we should let go of so easily. Embrace where you have been, and what's made you. Don't lose your childish enthusiasm. In the meantime, just enjoy the tunes and crank. out. those. PAAAAAAAAAPEEEEEEEEEERS!


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Commitmentstein: A Monster Of Our Own Making.

I am a commitmaphobe. Now, don’t get me wrong—there are some things I have absolutely no problem committing to: a cell phone service provider, a certain brand of mascara, riding boot, motor oil, or restaurant. But at heart, I’m the sort of person who once they agree to do something, spends a pretty good amount of time re-thinking my decision to commit, even if it’s just spending a weekend somewhere or agreeing to meet someone in a specific place at a specific time. Christ, I can’t even commit to how I feel about Phish Food versus Chubby Hubby. I have a nearly chronic grass-may-be-greener questioning nature. As it has been pointed out by one of the people who knows me best—and I mean capital ME; not just the person I project to the world, but the devious, conniving, self-serving, helplessly human ME—I am not happy unless I have something to endlessly worry and puzzle over as I try to decide whether it’s worth it or not, and what it means for ME. Commitment, therefore, is not one of my strong suits.

This, I think, is one of the overwhelming factors in why I am a pathological One Month Girl. One month always seemed to be the perfect amount of time in which to meet someone, convince them I’m great, have them convince me they’re great, and then watch everything fall apart when both parties realize that everyone is, in fact, human. As I say, it usually only takes me one month to get sick and tired of you, or one month for you to see into all my crap and decide it’s not worth your time.

Being such a self-proclaimed commitmaphobe with enough past history, blunders, and failed relationships to substantiate that claim, I recently picked up Elizabeth Gilbert’s newly-published novel “Committed.” Gilbert, of “Eat, Pray, Love” fame (another book I absolutely adore and brought with me to Italy,) is another self-styled commitmaphobe—only in her case, it stems from a bad divorce. She also believes that most commitmaphobes suffer from the same fear of lasting-decision-making. In the second chapter of “Committed,” titled “Marriage and Expectation,” she writes,

“The problem, simply put, is that we cannot choose everything simultaneously. So we live in danger of becoming paralyzed by indecision, terrified that every choice might be the wrong choice…Equally disquieting are the times when we do make a choice, only to later feel as though we have murdered some other aspect of our being by settling on one single concrete option” (Committed, 45).

About the only thing that you could get me to be committed to without being fully thrilled about it would be a mental health facility. And then I don’t think I’d have a choice. As Gilbert writes, “It doesn’t take a great genius to recognize that when you are pushed by circumstances to do the one thing that you have always specifically loathed and feared, this can be, at the very least, an interesting growth opportunity” (Committed, 20).

So why all the resistance to committing? Why are people so loath to hitch their trudging life-pioneer’s wagon to another person’s? Because we are people, and we are fallible. Because we have so many options that the next wagon, the one going faster, with the nicer oxen (or ass) always seems like a better one to take a chance on. Because there is temptation, and laziness, and sheer bull-headed stubbornness in the desire to be a singular individual. Because trying to be with someone else is like bashing your head repeatedly against a brick wall. An attractive brick wall, but bashing your head full-force against it all the same and getting those rectangular lines stamped all over your forehead and now broken nose, nonetheless.

Differences between the genders explain the break of commitment phenomenon quite nicely. Women have a tendency to over-examine, overanalyze, and overhype situations they are in until they don’t even resemble what is going on in reality, and not on the inside of their heads. Men are also guilty of this, maybe to a lesser degree, but they seem to go about it differently, exhibiting more of a “me against the world” fantasy, in which they feel as though they have to constantly avoid being “trapped” in a situation or relationship when in most cases, no one is deliberately trying to tie them down—instead, just a little bit of reliability is being asked of them, instead. A huge imposition, right?

But maybe Gilbert substantiates this idea. She writes, “When it comes to questions of intimacy, I want many things from my man, and I want them all simultaneously” (Committed, 48). That is an almost inhuman amount to expect from someone, and yet, when I look around, it’s the norm that I see, and, in fact, the norm that I expect. The problem is that women get used to depending on something from a man—be it phone calls, someone to make the first pot of coffee in the morning, or someone who always says the right things—and when that expectation is not filled, it feels like the world crashes down around us, rendering us disoriented and moody. “Why didn’t he call? Why didn’t he leave me my two cups of coffee that he knows I need in the morning? Why did he ask me how my day was and then tell me what a dickhead my boss is for making my job a living hell?” And so on, and so on—“Why didn’t he say goodbye? Why wasn’t he on time? Why didn’t he pick up the drycleaning? And it all ends up spiraling into, OH MY GOD, WHAT’S WRONG?!”

Maybe we just shouldn’t expect so much. I know—it’s completely counter-intuitive to everything we’ve been taught, but we were also taught that going to the doctor’s isn’t going to hurt, the Easter Bunny exists, and every Disney princess has a happy ending, ever after (and look at the divorce rates in the U.S). We all know where that got us. What if we could suddenly stop being so disappointed in our partners and relationships and ourselves? What if we could stop being so afraid to commit, because that scary bar could be lowered, and we could do it ourselves?

This is not to say that we should not expect things of people. Surely, there are some things that you should be able to expect from the people in your life, nonnegotiable. You should be able to expect someone who looks out for your best interests, as well as theirs. You should be able to count on someone to treat you with respect and decency. You should be able to expect someone to be there when you say “This is important and I need you.” You should be able to feel confident and comfortable in your relationships the majority of the time.

The only further advice to not expect so much and burn yourself out that I can give you is to be sure not to sacrifice all your time and effort in the name of not expecting so much. Although you may be able to give 112% right now, if your partner is only willing to give 20, don't bend yourself in half to make up for all of their lost effort. You'll drive yourself even more crazy. They'll stop trying to work because they'll (rightly) assume that you'll do all the work for them. It'll piss you off. You'll start to resent them. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a mental and emotional health time-out and just letting a relationship lie where it is if it's stalling at the moment. Both of you should still be there when you return from getting your air. And if not—who really wants to be with someone who would leave when things get a little stressed, anyway?

Pure science can prove that not expecting everything from someone is healthier in the long run. Psychologist Carl Jung believed that the first six months of any relationship is pure projection of your desires upon the other person, which explains why at about month five every. little. thing they do start to inexplicably annoy you to distraction and unhappiness. You are, in fact, finding out that they are a real, imperfect person. A person who has their own emotions and moods and problems that don’t involve you. Goethe once said, “When two people are really happy about one another, one can generally assume they are mistaken.” Why? Because we see what we want in our partners. This is not a bad thing; in fact, this is what assures that the human race continues. But perhaps we need to start seeing less of what we want, and more of what is really possible for two people.

“People always fall in love with the most perfect aspects of each other’s personalities. Who wouldn’t? Anybody can love the most wonderful parts of another person. But that’s not the clever trick. The really clever trick is this: Can you accept the flaws? Can you look at your partner’s faults honestly and say, ‘I can work around that. I can make something out of that.’? Because the good stuff is always going to be there, and it’s always going to be pretty and sparkly, but the crap underneath can ruin you” (Committed, 129-130).

How many people can say that they really know their partner after just a month or two? The longer it lasts, and the longer you stay together and learn more about each other, (which is the goal of every relationship, after all—to actually BE TOGETHER,) the greater that chances that you will have to deal with depression and disappointment and unhappiness and quarrels and disagreements and periods of time where you feel alone, even when you’re together, because you are sure—no, CONVINCED—that this is not the same person that you started out with. But it is. They’re going to make you mad, and you’re going to piss them off. After a certain amount of time, you can just see the forest from the trees now, or the flaws from the perfect smile or the charming mannerisms. The sad news is, so can they. And this is where the idea of two people committing to each other comes in, not, as some might assume, at the beginning of a relationship. No, the real commitment is when you can finally sit back, eyeball the big, hairy monsters that your former sweetheart-turned-pariah has been hiding, and say to them, “Ok, I see your self-absorption and tendency toward melancholy, and I raise you my need to be the center of attention, the way that I make everything a much bigger and more frantic deal than it needs to be, and the annoying way I mutter in my sleep. Can you handle that?” And if they say yes, and you say yes to them, then—THEN—my friend, you are in the commitment business. Not when you first get together. Not when you first decide to split time between two residences and share meals and bathrooms and life details. Not when you ask if you are in a “committed relationship.” Real commitment can only happen with time, and a firm grip on the personal reality between two people.

This form of commitment, not to an ideal or a relationship, instead focuses on commitment to a person. A commitment to on the daily accept their “most tiresome, irritating faults.” Gilbert explains, as she comes to grips with the idea of living with just one, flawed man for the rest of her life, “What I am talking about is learning to accommodate your life as generously as possible around a basically decent human being who can sometimes be an unmitigated pain in the ass” (Committed, 132). Because that is what you are doing—you’re welcoming a pain in the ass into your life. You’re telling them that you are committed to being their co-ass. That you like their ass-ish-ness. That you might even, in fact, find it endearing and lovable and value it, quirks and all. And really, once you learn not to expect the moon from someone, and instead take what they can give you, flaws and all, what more could you ask for from them? Nothing. And right about then, you can start to learn to be content. Content, and committed.

But how does this make a commitmaphobe feel better and more like committing to another person, let alone a situation, isn’t the end of the world? Commitment isn’t going to ruin your life. It doesn’t have designs on sapping all of your hopes and dreams and aspirations and tying you down in one place to one person, ‘till death please-come-quickly-and-take-one-of-you apart. Instead, it has the desire to give you a cohort in crime, who, like your parents, will love you inexplicably, no matter what you do or who you are. It gives you a solid constant when the rest of your life is changing so fast it makes your head spin. It gives you someone who always knows what you need to hear, whether it’s a “You are amazing and can totally do this,” or a “Get your ass in gear and stop fucking around.” The goal is to render you not quite so alone and afraid of what someone wants from you. And so, I close with the words that made this one commitmaphobe feel a little more lenient in dealing with the thought of letting other people into her life and dealing with the repercussions. Because sometimes, just sometimes, the only thing that you realize you’re missing to make yourself, your desires, and your life whole, is another person who can handle your shit, too.

“In the end, it seems to me that forgiveness may be the only realistic antidote we are offered in love, to combat the inescapable disappointments of intimacy” (Committed, 133). The trick is not to ask for or expect someone to be something that they're not; instead, sync up who both of your are and what you both want or need. I'm not the sort of girl who you buy Valentine’s Day flowers for. I don’t want to be the girl who you feel like you have to take out for dinners and dress up for, because I don’t really do dates without feeling massively awkward. I'm just the kind of girl you can tell when you hear a good show is coming into town. I want to be the girl who you call when you’re heading home at night. I want to be the only girl who is expected to walk out of your bedroom. Those are my expectations. I'm sure you all have your own. They're pretty pared-down. When it comes down to it, we're all pretty simple. So don't ask for too much. Do not expect too much. Don’t be too harsh, or too judgmental, or too quick to act or make up your mind about something and rule it out. The only way you are ever going to get out of any relationship alive and satisfied is if you first relax your own ideas and expectations enough to let someone else just be the “themselves” that you love, for whatever twisted reasons. And that is pretty phenomenal. More phenomenal than scary, I’d even say.


Summer Music And Battle Of The Sexes

This is the face of a pleading man.

I love R&B. I love it like mellow and groovin'. I love it like it says "summer" and "beach music" and "slow evenings." So I was trolling the internet for some new summer songs when I found these two, back-to-back. They speak in the sort of men-and-women conversation that I find hilarious. The first is John Legend's "Number One," in which he sings,

"Ooh, I promise not to do it again; I promise not to do it! You can't say I don't love you, just because I cheat on you, 'cuz you can't see all I do to keep you from knowing the things I do; like erase my phone, and keep it out of town...Well I should have known one day you'd find out, but you can't go and leave me now. Now who is she? What's her name? You need to know about everything. We fight about this; we fight about that-- you hang up the phone and call me right back. Well I'll never be something I'm not, so please don't throw away what we got. You're making it hard for me; you're messing up everything. I promise I won't cheat, I promise I won't lie. I promise I'll act right. You can't tell me I can't have you; I can't have that. I said it the last time, but this is the last time. Don't make me over, 'cuz I can be faithful. Baby, you're my number one."

And then, in response (and going back a few years,) we have the funky female response from
Honey Cone's "Want Ad":

"Wanted, young man single and free. Experience in love preferred, but will accept a young trainee. Gonna put it in the want ads, my man and I are through. At home I find myself, lost and all alone; he stays out all night, says he's with the boys, but lipstick on his collar, perfume on it too, tells me he's been lying, and when I need him most, he's never by my side. He's either playing cards, or drinking at the bar; he thinks that I'm a fool, I'm going to the evening news-- gonna put it in the want ads, tell you what I'm gonna do: Extra extra, read all about it-- Wanted, young man single and free."

Now that's sass. I love the sort of dialogue that these two songs create-- a man saying that though he can't change, it really doesn't mean much, and the female response of, "Oh, HELL NO." As smooth as he is, and as sympathetic as I want to be toward him and agree with his argument and laugh at the lengths and logic that men will try to go to, John Legend is no match for Honey Comb's sense of personal vindication. I think in this Men vs Women battle, the double-X chromosomes may have won.

Now go out and get funky with your bad self.


New Faces, Deep Tans, Deep Ties.

I've met a lot of people while in Italy. Australian guys, New York girls, Minnesota couchsurfers, a Singapore traveler, and accidentally Vermonters. Without meaning to, I kind of stumbled right into the world of when I made instant friends with a girl couchsurfing her way back through Italy and Europe. The day she left, I got a phone call from another couchsurfer, asking if I could show her around Florence. I wasn't expecting on doing anything that day other than eating Nerbone's lampredotto sandwich and catching up on all of my past-past-due Portfolio homework, but I broke down and said "sure" after listening to how enthusiastic and eager-to-please my new Florentine acolyte sounded. I grumbled about it all the way to the Marcato, but promptly fell right into friendship, just like always, with this fun, spunky girl from Singapore. I ended up spending the day with her and Arielle, just having Girl Time in our apartments and gelato shops across the city, and the homework remained not done. (Or even started.) This morning, I was reading one of my favorite travel chick-lit books by Jessica Morrison, "The Buenos Aires Broken Hearts Club", which I brought with me for comfort reading, when I found this passage:

"These things may have happened only months or weeks ago, but it is our only history, so we hold onto every moment with both hands. It's all we have...Zoey and I promise to visit each other back home and to email constantly, but behind these promises we harbor the unspoken truth that the friendship we embraced so voraciously here-- for travelers, I have learned, must be voracious with their friendships-- won't be easily reconstructed. 'This was the best time, you know,' she whispers to me the next morning as we wait for her taxi to the airport to arrive. 'Nothing will ever be the same as Buenos Aires.'" (Morrison, 200-201).

Just like nothing will ever be the same as Italy. The people I've met, the new faces that I hold as dear from three months, or even just three days, as the ones I've known for years; the sights I've seen, the smells, the tastes, the things that whispered against my skin-- hot air, warm sun, soft fabrics, chilly water, ancient dust, cold stone, countless strangers-- the adventures with both old friends and new ones-- none of this will ever be the same. I may be counting down (27 days,) but the shifts that have opened up in me to rearrange to fit new people into my life are forever. Easter and exploding carts with Aussies. Drinking on a pebble beach in Cinque Terre at 3 AM with Alli. Thursday Night Girl's Night (dinner, drinks, dessert, dishing out gossip,) with the Ghibellina Girls, and our mutually-enabling shopping, chocolate, and lazy afternoons with Arielle. Missed trains with Naomi. A group of drunk 30-something Americans and a bartender with bulging biceps in Montorosso. Cannoli-slinging Sicilian twins Massimo and Jean-Luca in Vernazza with the best ricotta cream filling in the world and saucy wit. Equally frustrated Italian classes with Erin, dissolving frustration into laughter with sentences like "Albero e mio ragazzo," "Tu sei caldo come il pane," and "Io lavoro a banca," the last of which does NOT mean, as those of you who may have taken a few years of French like we did and be horrified, "I wash in the bank"-- instead, it means "I WORK in the bank."

Without meaning to, and kind of hesitantly, Arielle and I sort of became Couchsurfing's Florence mascots, but in the end, I wouldn't have had it any other way. Traveler's attract each other. That's the way it is, the way it should be, and the the way it has to be. I've learned more from these people about life, relaxation, indulgence, mellowing, making things happen, taking chances, Aussie slang, how women and men are the same the world over, and just taking life one step at a time than I ever could have by myself. I whole-heartedly encourage you to seek out other wanderers when you wander away from home, because you'll find that where they are, you and a feeling of home is, too.

Now, unlike some of my more genetically-gifted new friends, I am white-white-painfully-white. I'm a Northern European snow princess. But there is nothing I love more than sun and a good, natural tan. I've been spending two hours of every blisteringly sunny day sitting out on the balcony in my bikini, trying desperately to achieve a color other than "fish-belly white", to no avail. Today, finally aggravated beyond everything, I stomped back into the kitchen, grabbed a paper towel and the bottle of extra-virgin olive oil, and slathered myself in the oil like I was basting myself to marinate. And back out and marinate I did. Not only did the oil soak right into my Mediterranean-dried skin like an oasis in the desert, but the smell and the suppleness it gave to my skin felt incredibly sexy, like some sort of Grecian sun goddess. And I was browning nicely within ten minutes. Huh. I suggest this trick to anyone fed up with dry skin and slow tanning, and not a redhead. When in Italy, you have to live like the Italians do.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

An Open Letter To Men:

Two easy ways to instantly make any conversation better and win us over: 1.) Ask how we are. 2.) Say goodbye when you have to go.

And the Number One way to instantly make a conversation better and win us over: Initiate it.

Some things will always take precedence over you in our lives. We're sorry; we love you, but our own sanity, dignity, ambitions, family, closest friends, and important work functions may trump you at times. We will try to understand when yours do the same to us.

Operate under the assumption that if you're doing it, we know about it. Women's intuition is not for naught.

We worry. A lot. And we have 15 different scenarios as to why you seem distant. We know when to reassure you, so please reassure us when something's not wrong.

...Conversely, we know "I'm fine" doesn't always really mean "I'm fine."

Most of you have heavy-sensory loaded hot-spots somewhere between your ears, jawline, and neck that lead straight to below the belt. You may not know where they are. But we do.

We also enjoy a kick-ass action movie, extra-buttery popcorn, and a huge Slushie. So please tell us when a good one comes out. Bonus points for a hot leading man.

Watching a Girl's Gone Wild commercial with you is one of the most excruciatingly embarrassing moments of our life. Because we know they're fake. But we're not sure if you do. And if ours don't look like that, we don't want you to be let down.

...However, do not instantly assume we don't watch porn as well. 1 in every 3 visitors to an erotic website is a woman.

Body hair is what makes a man. Lack thereof is what makes a woman. Stop fucking apologizing for having it. However, just as we do up-keep, you can, too, and we will think even more highly of it.

Although we're pretty sure you DO notice when we gain five pounds, thank you for pretending that you don't.

Our women's magazines are not coasters. Our beds are not the kitchen table. And our shower is not a toilet. Please respect all accordingly.

There are some nights that we don't particularly want to have to change, do our hair, and move to wherever it is to see you. So when we say, "No, really-- go out to the bar with the guys," what we really mean is, "I want to catch up on Sex and the City re-runs, and I'm tired and didn't shave today." This is not us trying to get rid of you-- this is us just knowing that you need time with your boys as much as we need time to be by ourselves.

We can drive perfectly well. In fact, we are pretty sure we can drive better than you do. In any case, we're intelligent enough to be charming when we ask for directions, so we get the short-cuts.

Your parents terrify us.

And if we wanted to be with your friend, we would be with your friend, and not with you. So don't worry about it. We're with you.

We do not understand your all-in-one body wash/shampoo/whatever else it is it says it will do. And we would rather take a straight water shower than be stranded at your place and have to use it.


If we leave a toothbrush or a small travel container of shampoo or body wash at your place, we are not trying to "mark our territory." We are trying to remain sanitary, because we're pretty sure you enjoy it when we smell good.

We love the fact you are always, ALWAYS warmer than we are. Just like we love the fact that you still let us tuck our very cold toes behind your very warm and sensitive knees. So thank you.
A few of your shirts may go mysteriously "missing," but just think of us wearing them to bed naked, and I'm sure you'll miss them a lot less.

If we offer to give you a massage, you can be pretty sure that what we mean is, "Let me touch you until sex seems like a good idea."

You do not get truly great head until you give good head.

Most of us do know how to hammer a nail, change a tire, and open a pickle jar. But offering to help is always a nice gesture.

And we love it when you act all manly. You know what I mean, taking charge of a situation when we're unsure or hesitant (and yes, this applies to sex, too), puffing out your chest, or just yelling at the TV screen when playing video games.

Our closest girlfriends will always know the real reason we're mad at you, or what we want for our birthday, or when the anniversary is, even when you don't. So it would be beneficial to make good friends with one of them, so that you can always ask for a clue when you need one.

And yes, you should assume that your worst fears are confirmed and we talk about you when we're together; that they are a little skeptical about you even if we are not; and that they are also informed as to how endowed you are. Rest assured, this does not mean we pick on you or judge you-- it's just like how you trade final scores of your favorite football teams with your buddies. They need to know who's good on the field, too.

They way you talk about your ex-girlfriends tells us a lot about the way you talk about us when we're not around.

Not all of our biological clocks tick. So stop worrying we just want you for is marriage and babies. Just like how not all of us always want to cuddle.

There will always be other women who will want to tell you how attractive you are, how smart, how brave, how strong, how amazing, how charming. We may not tell you every day, but by being with you, we are proving the fact DAILY that we KNOW and appreciate how attractive, smart, brave, strong, amazing and charming you are. We wouldn't be with you if we didn't think you were. And we really do think you are, so please don't fall for other flattery so quickly.

We think chicken wings are a perfectly acceptable dinner, too.

If we really like you, we're willing to do most anything for you. Don't abuse this. It's the quickest way to turn like to loathe. And we really like to like you. Because yes, men are pretty great.

Anything I left out? Anything else you want to know about how or what women really think? Anything you need translated or what to clear up on your side for us? Now is your time to ask. I'm feeling extremely candid and sharing.


Parents Are Weird. So Are Men.

My mother called me tonight under the guise of telling me that after some pleading on her part, my new landlord has been convinced to leave the ceiling mural the current-apartment-occupying UVM art student has painted in the living room, and not cover it up with a new layer of beige paint.

"I figure that after traveling, it'll be like you girls have your own Sistine Chapel," she told me. Not quite, but I dig the idea of having a sweet pro-bono painting commission in my new apartment, like some really Euro-trash Medici patron in the college housing central of Burlington.

And then she cut to her motherly chase. "So have your heard back from that guy?" she asked, meaning the Middlebury grad student I met in Perugia who's studying in Florence who I was supposed to be meeting up with sometime this weekend and going to the Boboli Gardens. I found out today that "going for coffee" changed into "going to the Boboli" because all national museums and the like are free this weekend, and promptly spent most of my afternoon and evening spontaneously bursting into laughter about how men can think they are being so smooth yet cheap at the same time and that we'll never know, when, in reality, we are well aware and think it is hilarious. But I understand-- Florence is expensive, and the "Bob" (pronounced "Bobe") as we fondly call it, is an amazing place. So I'll let it slide.

"No. We were supposed to get in touch midday today, but I forgot about it until six and he didn't call, so whatever."

"No!" My mother was surprisingly vehement. "It sounded like such a nice time! Why don't you call him now?"

I don't beat around the dating bush. "What, you want me to call him now to make sure he takes me out tomorrow, just so I can then tell him that I'm not really interested? I find that kind of counter-productive. He's great to talk to, but that's about all I'm looking for."

My mother just really wants to see me with some brilliant Italian Literature Middlebury grad student. My mother likes to live vicariously through me. This is the sort of guy my mother loves-- someone with a doctorate in something; anything, really. You could have a doctorate in moving drugs and stolen furniture, and she would still ask to see that diploma. I know I have some interesting (read: questionable) taste in men, and this leads my mother to worry that this will one day resolve in me running off with some "eccentric, alternative guy" to live in a nudist farm/commune in Arizona, where I will dread my hair and sing along as my dude-du-jour strums the guitar for spare change and pen the rest of "The All-American Nomad's College Life" on paper towels stolen from public restrooms, Kerouac-style, by the light of a headlamp at night. Unfortunately, my mother's wishes for me don't always align with my wishes for me. I really just want to see myself sleeping in as late as I want and not necessarily needing to shower tomorrow morning.

Men. Sometimes you can take them. Sometimes you can leave them. And sometimes, they can take you out, and then you can leave them. Or, sometimes you can just sleep in and avoid dealing with them all together.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Because I Want You To Eat Well, Too...

The closer and closer I get to leaving Italy, the more and more I realize what a fetishist-at-heart foodie I am. For me, it's all about appealing to the senses. My most cherished memories of Italy will be in the art I saw and sketched, the fashion I went into debt for, and the food that gave me an ass like Beyonce. My most rigid plans before I leave are a list of things still yet to be eaten (a famous tripe sandwich at Nerbone in Marcato Centrale,) and restaurants like Coquinarius I need to eat at just. one. more. time and say goodbye to my favorite waitstaff and the entrees I will dream about for the rest of my life. (Or my next trip here.) And other than seeing the people I love, putting the things I love into my mouth tops my list of right-off-the-plane activities for getting back home. (And we're not even going to touch that innuendo...)

So. Because I want you to eat just as well as I do, here are two places in or around Burlington that you absolutely MUST dine at. And do it preferably before I come home on May 15th, because I will not tolerate waiting a single second more for another customer before putting a pint of
Bobcat Cafe and Brewery's Heller Bock in my hand and some of Bluebird Tavern's fall-off-the-bone lambs ribs in front of me. And you do not want to see me when I'm hungry.

...Can you tell I'm on a budget-and-health induced diet right now? Dear god. I'm dreaming in Florentine steaks and roast potatoes.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wrapping Up Firenze

Today, I am living in Florence:

I know it because I spent two hours tanning on the balcony in my bikini in the hot and dry Mediterranean sun, and then had to put on jeans, fashionable sandals, a classic white t-shirt, and do my hair and make-up, just to leave the apartment, walk down the street, and get a Doner kebab for dinner. I know because as I was walking down the sidewalk, half of the Italians who passed me were still in heavy coats despite the direct sun and 60+ degree temperature, and I found myself catching snippets of conversations as I passed. "Uomo mange troppo..." became "Man (meaning 'humans' in this context) eat too much." "Dove lei?" I understood instantly as "Where is she?" And the construction works who called out "Mamma mia! Caro! Bella! Biancaissimi!" as I passed needed no translation.

Tomorrow marks one-month away from leaving this country. 30 days left. In total, I have now lived here for 80 days. I have been to Roma (twice), and Venezia, and Pisa, and Cinque Terre (twice), and Dublin (for a week), and Northern Ireland(twice). I still have my last hurrah-- 4 days in Sicily with Alli the last weekend I am in Italy. I have spent more money and gained more debt than I care to admit, gained about 5 pounds and lost all my gym-rat-and-runner's muscle mass, and gotten sick of eating pasta while discovering a deep, passionate, and abiding love for Doner kebab. I enjoy wine exponentially more than I did before I came, and can now assess body, bouquet, and balance without a second thought. I have eaten fresh octopus and veal marrow and squid-ink spaghetti, and still need to try a famous Florentine tripe sandwich. I brought back the dying pen-pal tradition with the help of a well-written, verbose friend's assistance and continued correspondence. I have bought 6 pairs of shoes, and mastered the double-orgasm. I have made new friends for life, and managed not to kill any of my roommates yet. I have become a bona-fide, addicted, sometimes chain-smoking smoker. New friends bonded over new food and new clothing every Thursday night. The language became musical as I grew to understand it, in piccola and grande chunks. I became adept at sleeping anywhere-- foreign beds, beaches, and buses. I now parlo un po d'italiano.

But I've missed 21st birthdays, break-ups, new relationships, sex, parties, concerts, good days, bad days, daily life, and even sacrificed pieces of my own life where they intersected with other's lives while being here. I have gained some things, and may have devastatingly lost others. I am down-right guilty that I will be missing graduation, watching it streaming from my hotel room in Sicily instead, as friends I've had for years grasp diplomas and walk out of Champlain College's life, and into their own new ones. I've found that sometimes, you need to leave to get closer, and that you are never truly lost or plan-less as long as one foot is being put in front of the other. I have learned the weight of deeply missing someone, as well as the high heights of making it on your own. No matter what has or what will happen, I never would have traded this experience. The girl who came without much of a plan but a lot of questions is now ready to go home, someone a little wiser and a little different, with a lot of answers. So, now. Take me home. If I click the heels of blue boat shoes three times, will it get me back to Vermont?

I'm ready to be back in my real life; try it again, this time, hopefully for real, and take back everything I've been missing, detailed below:.

The Roof Over My Head:

Is at 311 South Union Street. It faces North, and has 2 bedrooms, a bathroom, a living room, an enclosed back porch, and a large and bright eat-in kitchen. (Though I have not been in it yet. I am trusting my description on my mother's words.) Until I can move in on June 1st, I'll probably be splitting time bumming around between my extremely sweet and gracious friend's couches in Burlington, and tying My Life As I Know It up in Rutland and packing up and out of there for good. I always thought it would be harder to leave the home I grew up in, but after these three months and the at times physical pain of wanting to be in Burlington so badly, it has been made abundantly clear to me that that is where my life is. That is where my friends are (though my 802 Crew will always, ALWAYS be welcome to visit in Burlington, because you are not friends at this point-- you are FAMILY). That is where my apartments have been. That is where my school is. That is where my jobs are. That's where the sun over the lake blinds my eyes as I look down the hill and the sand at North Beach gets stuck in between my toes and in my hair. That is where I know streets like old friends and can give you a running commentary on who lived where, what infamous party was busted there, and what I've eaten here as we walk through the city. There's where I know what's around me, what I have, and therefore, who I am. In short, that's where my heart is.

So I will pack up. I will take my hand-painted Monet stool and my nightstand and my two floor lamps and my shoe collection and the brown sofa bed that is older than I am, and I will move them, and my life, an hour and a half North to register as a resident, have my voter's details changed, and pay rent like a real, poor, and real poor human being. I will scour Recycle North and the Christmas Tree Shop and IKEA's website and DIY websites and manuals and reupholster and paint and hang (might need some taller help with that,) and decorate with whites and chrome and pops of bright colors and hints of green. I will find my first, and probably only and last, queen size bed. I will buy those dishes at Homeport I have always loved. I will do laundry regularly. I might bring my FatCat up to live with me so I am not alone on nights my roommate is not there. Provided she does not pee outside of her litterbox. (The cat, not the roommate. The roommate is housebroken.) I will go to classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the fall, and work nearly every other waking hour in between. I will save my money. And I, too, a year from now, will graduate, and will realize that I have moved myself out of my parent's house and out of my hometown, and have already started my life.

An Ode To Food:

I am in ITALY, and all I am planning for my first few days back in Burlington is to eat. First stop, American Flatbread for a Medicine Wheel pizza, NOT like they make them in Italy. Then, for comparison, I will wander over to Mr. Mike's for a slice of Buffalo Bully, because an Italian would never, EVER put ranch dressing on a pie. (This also coincidentally knocks off another item on my American Dining List-- ranch dressing. I want it on my pizza, and I want a huuuge, green, veggie-laden salad absolutely SMOTHERED in it, please.) That night, I will order a half-pound of Wings Over honey barbecue boneless wings at 2 AM. BECAUSE I CAN. I will also get the buttermilk ranch dressing with them. The next day, I will wake up around noon, get my girls together, and go to the Skinny Pancake (affectionately known amongst a select few as the "Spinny Cancake" because THAT pronunciation was the sole braincell that died after a very prodigious night's smoking back sophomore year,) and get the apple and brie crepe. I will go straight from there to City Market, where I will buy Vermont Cheese & Cremery's distinctive, straight-from-the-farm butter, and a baguette, and will eat the whole. damn. thing. Then, I will drive over to the UMall, and treat myself to an Auntie Anne's original pretzel and a small, tart, refreshingly summertime lemonade.

And I will go to Bobcat Cafe and Brewery in Bristol, even though I will have to wait another 28 days once in Burlington for my legal birthday, and bring one of my older accomplices in crime with me, and dine on what is simply THE BEST American comfort food there ever was, and drink what is arguably some of the most unassumingly best beer in the Northeast. Much better than a half-liter 1 Euro Peroni-- vero, vero, vero.

And THEN I will hit the gym with a vengeance, and embrace and cry over my treadmill like a long-lost friend. And hopefully live a little bit longer, if I haven't already damaged my arteries too badly while here and developed smoker's cough.


Lots and lots of you-know-where's-it's-been, you-know-where-it's-come-from, and you-know-what-it's-going-to-be-like sex.

That is all I want out of coming home. The apartment, my friends, good ol' honest American food and brews, and good ol' honest American sex. Life is pretty simple for me. Shelter me, feed me, fuck me. And while you're here, can I please get you to help me put up these curtains? I can't reach. Thanks.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Not Boring-- Just Grown Up.

This blog used to be a money-making machine. My daily hit count used to look like the Mafia toll from the '70s. I used to write about things like oral sex and porn. It was as good as 2 AM access TV and your own local Girls Gone Wild infomercials. And then I went through some major life changes, met a guy I actually liked and didn't want to kiss & tell, and went to Italy. The campus dish stopped. You had no idea who these people I was meeting and hanging out with were anymore. Page impressions dropped. I get it. We got older, grew apart, and stopped having things in common. Now I write about things like communication between the sexes and how to handle your past-and-still-present exes and why visiting a gynecologist is mandatory for women (and should be for the men they're having sex with, too). Not exactly what you signed up for. Gone are (most) of the hot sexploits. In with the analyses of character. It's a bitch, isn't it? Things change. It's inevitable. And right now, this blog could more rightly be called "Celibacy In The (Foreign) City."

But hey. I'm still here. I'm still alive; therefore, I still have things to write about. It may not be the perfect oral technique (hint: our clit is there for a reason. That is where the party is. Introduce your tongue to it,) but some of it is still pretty pertinent. Guys, if you want to learn why your girlfriend is mad at you, I've got some advice-- ASK HER. (Also, next time, don't be so blatant checking that other chick out.) There are things you can learn here that no other woman would ever tell you about. It's like hiding behind enemy lines. (Hey, that thought appealed to you and your inner pseudo-warrior, didn't it? I get you better than you may think.) And girls, if you want to know how to build your wardrobe up this summer to mix-and-match as many pieces as possible while maintaining a professional edge for work, I'm your girl. (Khaki light-weight trousers, cuffed at the bottom, with a slight paper-bag waist and worn belted and matching with brown wedges and a slightly edgy tucked-in button-down like this leopard-print one, is a great fashion-forward interview outfit. [I call it "Office Safari." Just don't shoot your boss, no matter how tempting it is. There's not much I can do with day-glow orange.] And that white lace shirt from last post goes great with the khakis as well, or, if you want to tough them up, a interesting and slinky tank-top tucked in does the trick, too. And that leopard button-down makes not only the perfect beach cover-up, too, but also a cute out-and-about outfit when paired with black leggings, sandals, and belted at the waist. Like this girl in the photo proves.)

I'm watching a lot of my friends get ready to graduate, and subsequently freak out about having to prove that they can do something in the field that they want to go into. I'm pretty lucky. I started this blog of my own desire, and over a year and a half earlier than is deemed necessary to graduate. And I genuinely love this writing. It's kind of what I want to do with my life. I found my niche early in life, and it would take a lot to pull me out of it. This is how I think. This is how I write. And for better or worse, this is how I live.

But there's always more that can be done. If you really want to do something, I have this crazy wish that by my birthday on June 10th, I will have 50 followers and have cashed in the $10 check from Google AdSense. I'm at 35 followers (and I love EACH and EVERY one of you!) and over half-way to the dollar amount, so-- tell your friends. Tell your boyfriend. Tell your girlfriend. Tell your coworkers. Tell your mom. (Um, or not.) Spread the word. Check back regularly for new stuff. Between leaving Italy in 31 days, adjusting back to the U.S and American men, moving into my first Big Girl apartment, buying a queen-size bed, and trying to find another job, I'm more than SURE I will have plenty of new material.

We have just under 2 months, people. I'm just asking for a small and personal minor miracle. Not the peace for the Pakistan-Israeli conflict and the end of world hunger. Though those are perfectly acceptable things, too.
...And a man who does not utter the words "We shall see," which, as some long-time (like, since the Beginning of Blogging Time) readers may know, may be one of my most hated phrases above all others, right after "But there's something I need to tell you." I get it-- I know what it means when you say that. It's roughly the trying-to-be-polite equivalent of "Not gonna happen, sister!" THAT would be a major miracle. In fact, Jesus may have to intervene.


Friday, April 9, 2010

Two Summer Essentials; Lots Of Ways To Wear Them.

Wow. It's been awhile since I've done a fashion post. I mean, a while. And I know what you're thinking-- 'You're in Italy, you idiot, practically fashion capital of the WORLD.' And you're right. But after the initial month-long period of integration here in which I snapped up every black/gray/dark blue, shirt/sweater/sweater-dress, wool/cotton/wool-cotton-blend in sight trying desperately to fill the holes in my wardrobe, blend in, and gain some semblance of warmth since I had been EXTREMELY optimistic in my first-non-Vermont-winter packing and so, was subsequently freezing when Italy ended up not being quite as balmy and sunny as expected...well, I kind of gave up. There's only so many times you can haul yourself out of bed at the ass-crack of the morning, shower, do your hair (15 minutes) and make-up (10 minutes) and then stand in front of your closet in your undies and bra, shivering, going, "Ok-- what's going to make me look like a chic Italian today?" (a totally unspecified amount of time before inspiration hits) before you find yourself hitting snooze to sleep instead of shower, putting your hair back in a bun and headband, smearing on Burt's Bees face cream and chapstick and slipping into (Italian) jeans, boots, and a basic t-shirt or, on my more homesick days, a plaid flannel shirt and walking out the front door like a gigantic "FUCK YOUUUU" to the whole Italian fashion-obsessed culture. Unless, of course, you are a New Yorker and already used to this daily beauty-and-fashion grind. You lucky, lucky bitches.

I daydream about the days I used to be able to put on sweats and drive to class in my slippers.

It's not like I haven't been shopping. (Oh, no-- my bank account balance and debit card statement will prove that I have been.) But it was just boredom shopping, happy-accident shopping, hey-whatever shopping. Nothing I was really thrilled about or really could get excited enough to post about. (Though if you need to know how to dress to look native, unspecial, and disinterested with life in Italy, I am your girl. Black. Lots and lots of black.) Until today, when, in the full sunshine-60+ degrees swing of summer's-promise bliss, I found the two essentials to my summer wardrobe. (And a few other incidentals that went along too well with them to pass up.)

First and foremost, a pair of shoes I've been dreaming about since I tried them on at Peluso nearly a month ago:
brown strappy wedges that are honestly some of the most comfortable things I have ever put on my feet while still being devastatingly beautiful. (Seriously. I feel like I could hike up a mountain in them, perfectly fine. And being a Vermont Girl who runs better in her stilettos than in hiking boots, I probably could. And they make this "Thumbellina" as a very tall soldier called me the other day, tall and leggy for once in her life.)

I have never, EVER bought brown leather shoes before, and was a little hesitant about what I would wear them with at first. Being an ex-American Eagle sales associate cult member, I had the denim notion down-- they'll work well with light wash skinny jeans or a denim skirt or shorts. But brown to me says "summer," especially brown wedges. So, what else to pair them with?

I was distraught that I would forever be a fashion Don't in my beautiful brown wedges and mis-paired outfits until I wandered, like by automatic pilot clothing hypnosis, over to H&M, wedges in hand, and Arielle there to guide me with fashion advice. And there, amongst the international low-price clothing, I found it. My Summer Look.

Starting from the feet up, I paired my wedges first with a pair of pseudo-destroyed, medium-wash denim shorts, with extra detailing around the hem and double-pockets. Then I found a loose-fitting see-through
white lace t-shirt, much like this one, that looks great either loose, or half-tucked into a pair of cuffed and relaxed boyfriend jeans or denim shorts with a good statement belt and the wedges. Or, take the wedges and the white lace t-shirt, and tuck the shirt into a brightly colored and oh-so-summery floral pencil skirt like this one,


also from H&M, which also HAS POCKETS and a gold zipper half-way down the back, and you have a flirty, fun, very seasonal look. OR, you could also take fun and colorful printed dresses (strapless is best at saying "summer"), and play up the dress by keeping the brown wedges practical.

Perfection. Everything was just as comfortable as my jeans/t-shirt/boots regimen (in fact, they're still the same jeans), but was so much more fitting for the new, nearly beachy weather and is almost disconcertingly fashionable with minimal effort. So feel free to mix and match-- you get a great Cost Per Wear with these summer staples that finally, FINALLY will be the happy-medium between my relaxed comfort and the end of the Italian's desire to throw me in front of a speeding moped for not trying hard enough with my attire.

However, I am now on a 50 Euro a week stipend because of my shopping, but I guess it will make me more frugal and also, hey-- if I have to do without food for a day or two, at least I'll fit in my new clothing better.

Ciao, bellas!


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Life Lesson In Gender Relationships

A girl must have her girls.

But when in doubt, when you're feeling very small and unsure and scared and alone...

Call on your boys.

Have a few good, solid, hearty guys in your life who you know will always pick up the phone. Who will always sound like hearing from you is Christmas morning all over again. Who will sit through you having a crisis of faith in everything from yourself, to others, to the real estate market, to the state of your lungs and just listen and let you get it all off your chest. Who, when they say, "it's just a few more weeks," makes it sound not only doable, but enjoyable.

Because while your girls know what they should say to make you feel better, your boys can say things to you that make you feel like you're back at home in someone's living room in your warmest, most comfy sweats, passing a bowl and smelling spilled beer and stale cigarette smoke.

It may not sound all that glamorous or comforting.

But my god, it is.

So here's to the men in my life who pick up those calls and listen to all the small, scared thoughts and are intuitive enough to say things like, "We miss you too, muffin," which is pretty much the psychological equivalent of a giant bear-hug from across the Atlantic. Thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of this scared little unbeliever's heart. While I may have shitty luck in housing, the job market, and love, I am overly-blessed in my friends. And when it comes down to it, they usually have a couch and enough room in their life and love for your poor homeless ass, too.


"Cock-Block" Is An Active Verb.

Last night, my name was Amy and I was 22. Maybe I should explain.

My lovely Ghibellina Girl Erin turned 21 the day after Easter. Due to things like school and the fact NOTHING in all of Italy is open on Easter Monday save for McDonalds, festivities were postponed until Tuesday night.

We started off at Salamanca, a Mexican-inspired bar whose signature drink is pitchers of the world’s best sangria, served with straws over half the length of my body so that no matter where the pitcher is on the table, you can still reach it and so, enjoy getting absolutely wasted.

Nearly 20 women to 2 Australian boys, 5 pitchers and some snuck drinks in (thanks, Erin—thanks, Aussie Boys), some dancing on the tables, and general wildness (there are photos so I will bypass explanations), we decided to head to a club so we could dance on something OTHER than the poor establishment’s tables.

Finding a club when you’re drunk is harder than one might think. An hour of wandering around Firenze later, we found ourselves at Twice. And as is said, once you go to Twice, you’ll never go twice.

Now, there are a few things in life that I love. Good beer. Fast cars. Women’s magazines. Sunday football. Green-eyed men. Palm trees. Full moons on the beach. Puppies. And dancing. But, as I have tried to explain to people back home, clubbing in Italy is something akin to throwing a half-naked girl into a small enclosed cell with a bunch of starving sex-maniacs. Oh, wait—that is the definition of clubbing in Italy. The Aussie Boys looked around and were slightly aghast. “It’s all American girls. And the Italian guys who want to get with them,” they noted, correctly. This is why I preferred clubbing in Dublin—you don’t have to turn around every five minutes and say “Hey, get off of me!” To quote the eternal words of every dance movie ever made, I just want to dance.

However, nothing is ever that easy. And so, inevitably, hands creep around your hips and then start moving all over your southern extremities. I looked at Erin and mouthed, “How are my standards?” She checked out the dude grinding behind me, and gave him the ok. “He’s cute.”

If there is one thing Italy has taught me, it is tolerance. And so, I danced with my new Italian lover Andre and lied my ass off to him until right just about when I felt him sweep the hair from the side of my neck and nuzzle in with his lips. I spun around, held up my left hand, and pointed repeatedly to the half-carat diamond on my ring finger. (Thank you for that foresight, Daddy. My father is a wise, wise man. ) “You have boyfriend?” he asked me.

Lies don’t count if they’re to an Italian man in a club. “Yes. I do.”

“Where is he?”

“Home. In America.”

“America is very far away.” You have to love Italian logic.
The second time I was grabbed by the hips, I just looked at Kara and asked, “How bad is it?” She took one look, said something quickly to her Italian boyfriend, and then grabbed me and spun me bodily away from what ended up being a Slavic-looking man pushing 40.
By now, Erin and Kara were otherwise occupied, and had left me alone on the dance floor with the Aussie Boy of my ulterior motive intentions. Because of our proximity and dancing together, the Italians took the hint that I was a no-fly zone, but juuust as I was about to put my arms around the Aussie and ask, “Do you mind?” Kara realized her wallet was gone.

As shitty as it is, I’m going to go with Kara losing her wallet as the Universe’s cock-blocking me and a sign that maybe, sometimes, my vindictive judgment should NOT be ruling my actions. Saved by the thief?

Other lesson of the night? Cage heels may be stunning, but they are not meant for walking all over a city and then dancing at a club for two hours, unless you want your feet to be purple, swollen to twice their normal size, and have a lovely chessboard pattern on them.

Oh, Italy and 21st birthdays. What you teach me.