Thursday, May 31, 2012

a short story

A short story

Before you respond to that message from that dating site, wait! What if you knew what was going to happen? I will tell you what will happen. And you will see if you still wish to answer that email.

You will meet.

You will think you could maybe fall in love with someone who treats you so wonderfully. You've maybe never felt special your whole life and so it will be intoxicating to be paid this kind of attention.

He will text "good morning" and "hi" all day long. He will take you on fancy dates where you get to wear pretty dresses. He will write on his dating profile that he has decided to focus on you. You will follow suit by turning away another potential romance. You will wonder about the person that might have been. You will tell him this and he will be hurt. The other guy will be hurt too. You will feel shitty and not know how to soothe either one but in the end, even though Mr. Wonderful will emphasize that you two are not exclusive, you will decide to act like it and focus on him. You are drunk with his scent.

You will have important conversations about values and spend a weekend away and wonder, would daily life with this person feel this easy? You'll note with approval that he neatly stores his shoes in the corner and that not only do you have similar sleeping schedules, but he doesn't snore.You will feel peaceful lying next to him.

You will ignore important signs like how he won't always hold you afterwards because he at least invited you to lie on his chest even when he will not clasp you close. You will look kindly at his wounded heart and tend to it because that's your nature. You will excuse the distance. He will thank you for being gentle. This will make you feel appreciated, as will the sporadic moments he overflows with affection. You will drink those in and send gushing emails to your best friend.

You will make him breakfast. He will love it. He will decide you're an amazing cook. You will start looking for recipes.

Then he will shift. He will visit his family and stop texting. You will wonder if he's thinking of that other girl that lives in that state. Or if he had a heart-to-heart talk with family or friends. Maybe they said, "What are you doing? Give yourself time, bro!" and maybe they were right. Or maybe he had a revelation mid-flight that suddenly made him realize you were all wrong. Maybe he looked around and saw that you would never fit into his life. That you were only part of the transition. A nice part, maybe, but a temporary part.

You won't understand the shift, but you'll notice it. You will grant him space, at first. You will feel sad and search thoughtfully for quotes, like you often do when melancholy, and will copy one carefully into your diary:

“The heart of another is a dark forest, always, no matter how close it has been to one's own.”

You will look at it a while before crumpling it up and throwing it away.

You will wonder about the shift but you will excuse it. He's really busy, after all. You will want to believe there's a good reason he hasn't contacted you. Then you will unexpectedly notice he can't be too busy because he's farting around online. The implication will sting. It will be the first time he hasn't reached out to you at all.

He's just not thinking of you.

You will struggle with the mixed messages. You toy with the idea of saying nothing but then you decide to approach this head on with honesty. Your dad, your role model, has done this his whole life with good results.

You will think hard about what to say.

After a long time, although you won't really want to do this, you initiate a break.

You and he will talk, but it cannot resolve until you talk in person. Later, when you do talk, he will confess to being relieved. But that night, you will carry on evening plans with a heavy heart.

Your girlfriend will pick you up and you will provide an update.

She will ask you if you've ever read "He's just not that into you."

Your heart will grow heavier because you recognize the truth.

You will arrive at the barbecue. You will laugh with friends on the outside while feeling weighted on the inside. All you really want is to go home and cry. It's over and the reason is that you weren't enough. You won't know what enough is, but you will know you weren't it. You console yourself with an ear of corn and a lively discussion of art and expensive pocketbooks. Your friends will hug you and you will cling a moment longer than usual, absorbing their camraderie and silently thanking them for loving you even if no one else does. You will decide that you are the richest poor motherfucker on the planet; unloved and undesirable as you are, you have these awesome friends who seem to like you anyway.

Later in the privacy of your own home, you will mourn the loss of another dream. You should know better than to dream anymore. You will try to cry yourself to sleep but you will be too sad to sleep. At 1:30am, you will exit your apartment in running shoes with a streaked face and wild hair and run down the street until you can't run anymore. You will walk back, soaked in sweat, taking in the sweet honeysuckle air in large gasps.

You will feel a sense of gratitude that you are alive even if your tiny life has been frought with so much pain. You will still think it is beautiful. And you won't regret a thing.

Actually that is a lie. Maybe you will regret many things but oh those shards of glass you've swallowed throughout life, each one was so beautiful and shimmery and reflected such promise along those sharp edges.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


We had the talk.

I thought when I saw him that I would stiffen, the way I had with some others after things ended but I didn't. It still felt natural to lean into him. But I didn't want to talk right away. I wanted to eat.

After dinner, we moved to a booth by the window and I scooted next to him so we could talk while watching the sudden rainstorm.

It was a very honest and supportive conversation. We talked as friends, without a vested interest in the outcome. The focus was on understanding each other. We talked about fears and hopes and feelings and said we would not make a decision until we slept on it.

I slept on it.

I woke up this morning thinking about how he said he was on the fence: part of him could see diving into us and the other part wondered about exploring what else was out there. He hadn't done that much before being locked away in a long relationship.

I woke up imagining my dear dad holding me, his enormous love expanding into the universe, grounding me and making me feel centered.

He told me what he wished for me: that I would find love and happiness -- all the  things you want for your children. The unselfless love of wishing the world welcomes them with joy.

In no part of this dream did my dear dad say, "I wish for you a man who enjoys you but wants others."

And I knew what I had to do.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Easy, there.

Last night I dreamt I had a beautiful black stallion I was leading around from my vehicle. I wasn't riding him so much as using my wheels to match his pace. But then I got lost and confused and worried about the horse's safety after navigating a particularly troubling intersection so I pulled him aside to have a talk .

"I'm lost!" I said. "I'm so sorry."

"That's okay," he said. "But you've been running me pretty hard. I mean, I'm a race horse and all, I can handle a lot, but this IS a really tough pace you know."

I apologized. "I know, I can see that. I'm inexperienced," I explained, citing why I didn't notice horse cues of overdoing it earlier, like his sweaty, glistening flanks.

"Can I make you a bed here?" I asked, patting the back of the camper. "We have a ways to go. Maybe you can lie down so you don't have to keep running while I'm lost & still trying to find my way."

"That would be nice," he said. I worried he'd refuse but he accepted and I ran around pulling together couch cushions and blankets to make him the softest bed I could muster.

Go easy, was the message. Easy, there.

Monday, May 28, 2012

two choices: steep in shitty feelings, or steep in shitty feelings.

"Well, I have two choices," I tweeted last night. "I can steep in shitty feelings for the rest of the night, or I can steep in shitty feelings for the rest of the night."

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Death Cobbler doesn't go over well.

Me to my new guy (after finishing Chinese takeout): hmm, do you usually save the white rice?
Him: yeah, I don't usually eat it, but sure, save it.

Me (digging around spice cabinet): Oh hey, you have coconut milk! Do you like rice pudding? I'll make you some.
Me envisioning romantic dessert together.
Him: Awesome!

Me: Okay, go do man stuff, I'll bring you some dessert.
Me in that split second when I like to pretend I enjoy cooking.
<a few minutes later>

Me (pausing to look hard at mashed contents in bowl while sniffling from allergies): um, can you sniff this? I think it smells a little funny but I'm stuffed up and can't really tell.
Him: Sure, I have a pretty good sense of smell. (Leans over bowl, sniffs, pukes.)

Him (composing self): Um, I think we shouldn't eat that.
What?? Who doesn't like rice pudding?

Okay, he didn't actually puke.

He ALMOST puked.

Isn't that endearing of me? It's like, "Hi handsome, I made you something sweet!"

And what is it?

It's Death Cobbler.

Great way to impress your new beau. Try to kill him.


"I AM DEATH. I've come for you all."
"Well, that's cast rather a gloom over the evening now, hasn't it?"

Him: (wink)

Me (giggling): What?

Him: Totally awesome plan, BTW. Now you never have to make dessert again. GREAT way to nip that in the bud. You could be like "oh no, I can't be cookin' every night. Let's stop this party before it gets started!" 

Me (bursting out laughing): haha! Well, I *do* like frozen yogurt... a LOT. 
Now he knows why I keep offering to bring over milkshakes!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Look, ma, no drama (relationship warning signs) (from advice column)

"Ironically, the more positive and loving a person you are, the more prone you may be to ignoring the warning signs in your relationships. If you have the habit of looking for the good and seeing the potential in people, you might overlook disturbing characteristics or behaviors in your partner, only to find later that you should have paid attention." ~Barbara DeAngelis

"Where you and he differ, he stays put and you close the gap. Look, Ma, no drama . . .But if the only way to avoid drama is for you to absorb all areas of disagreement, then pretty soon there won’t be any you left, either." ~ Carolyn Hax

Sunday, May 6, 2012


A Buddha asked his disciples, "Why do we shout in anger? Why do people shout at each other when they are upset?"

The disciples thought for a while and one of them said, "Because we lose our calm, we shout for that."

"But, why shout when the other person is just next to you?" asked the Buddha. "Isn't it possible to speak to him or her with a soft voice? Why do you shout at a person when you're angry?"

The disciples gave some other answers but none satisfied the Buddha.

Finally he explained, "When two people are angry at each other, their hearts distance a lot. To cover that distance they must shout to be able to hear each other. The angrier they are, the stronger they will have to shout to hear each other through that great distance."

Then the Buddha asked, "What happens when two people fall in love? They don't shout at each other but talk softly, why? Because their hearts are very close. The distance between them is very small..."

The Buddha continued, "When they love each other even more, what happens? They do not speak, only whisper and they get even closer to each other in their love. Finally they even need not whisper, they only look at each other and that's all. That is how close two people are when they love each other."

MORAL: When you argue, do not let your hearts get distant, do not say words that distance each other.

via Walker Marchal

Friday, May 4, 2012

On emotional abuse (from an advice column).

Q. Dear Carolyn: I’m not sure if I’m being overly sensitive and/or nitpicky here: My boyfriend occasionally says hurtful things to me, such as “You’re not attractive when you’re anxious” and, “You just aren’t very [bleep]able sometimes.” I’m in great shape and don’t dress like a total shlub either.

I don’t believe he sets out to hurt my feelings. But I’ve told him that his bluntness is harsh and that I’m a sensitive person, and he agreed to soften his tone and reassured me he didn’t mean to hurt me. Recently he told me I have all “court cards” — I just don’t play them right; I don’t let him chase me enough (seven months in?). I feel like I disappoint him a lot. That I’m not sexy or charming enough sometimes, and not emotionally cool enough, either.

He compliments me frequently as well, telling me I’m talented/beautiful/smart, but he often follows such compliments with a comment like “It’s surprising that you’re not more accomplished than you are,” which leaves me feeling like a disappointment once again. He’ll apologize if I bring it up, but then I feel silly and insecure for reacting the way I do (which sometimes includes tears). How to toughen up and develop a thicker skin? I want to be the strong, confident woman he says is the most attractive kind of woman.


A. How sexy/charming/ accomplished/confident/strong/emotionally cool/talented/beautiful/smart/[bleep]able is he? Don’t ask him this, ask yourself why it isn’t your first thought when he puts you down.

Why? Because the only card you appear to have played badly is the “take care of yourself” card.

You’re just being yourself. If that self is a mix of talent, some self-doubt, beauty, smarts, anxiety flare-ups, forthrightness in love, sensitivity, accomplishments and failures, then so be it; they’re all you, and you sound complete, human, fine.

If you disagree, then by all means try to identify things you can realistically improve, in your own opinion and for your own sake.

If he’s not fine with the way you are? Then, by all means, let him go find the . . . ah, what is it . . . the “strong, confident woman he says is the most attractive kind.”

Taking his words at face value, I can argue it this way: If you aren’t that strong, confident woman, then why is he with you? And if you are that, then why is he pestering you to change?

If it’s in between — he’s attracted to your “potential” to become this woman — then I’ll address the rest to you: How’s that working for you? Are you feeling spruced and polished now? Great about yourself? Do you like being the poor, inferior project?

Taking his words at irony value, I can argue that his big push to get the woman he wants is producing the exact opposite result: The more he tries to correct you, the more you doubt yourself, and the less confident you become.

And so, now: Taking his words at danger value, I ask you to recognize it’s actually a weakened mate, not a strengthened one, that he hopes to achieve here.

And, meanwhile, anyone lacking that kind of reflexive confident cool — as in, most people — will take his rough criticism to heart. And second-guess herself, and work extra hard for those now precious scraps of praise, instead of dumping him in response to the smackdowns . . . and this is starting to sound more like the person he feels safe with. Worn down, insecure, running on his power. Also known as emotionally abused.

Yet these rough critics are the ones who need a mirror. It’s not that you couldn’t use some confidence-building, say (you could), or that anxiety is wildly attractive (it’s not). It’s that any truth to his words is a red herring.

The real issue is that he’s using your insecurities to control you. People are unique, but abuse is boilerplate: Seduce someone with charm, introduce doubt with repeated I-just-want-the-best-for-you criticism, keep the person from leaving by offering well-timed apologies and praise, repeat. He may really believe he’s helping you achieve his stated ideal, and that you both want that, but you’re actually satisfying his need as-is, by begging for his scraps.

From here, your flaws look like the usual stuff, the kind people struggle with personally, and accept/embrace/forgive in each other — and eventually themselves — daily, in millions of ways in millions of mostly functional homes.

His flaw, on the other hand, appears to work as a toxic substance on you, and your relationship is suffused with it. You want a thicker skin for dealing with the world, not for protecting your heart from someone who professes to care about you.

-- Carolyn Hax