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.