Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Better Men

Two days before Christmas the Turk texted me to wish me a Merry Christmas ‘before he forgot’, asked how I was and told me he was going back to Turkey on the 25th because apparently that’s really relevant stuff to someone you haven’t spoken to in 48 days. I don’t know what the fuck is up with that kid. But it doesn’t particularly matter anyway at this point, as I have since move on and so far it’s working out very well, in part thanks to a number of better men.

Back in mid-October Southwest was announcing they were having a sale. As I am wont to do post break-up or what-nots, I decided I wanted a trip and I took that sale as a chance to plan one. I posted on Facebook that there was a sale and “Who wants a visitor in January/February?!” taking note of the fine print. And that guy I met in a bar last summer left a comment saying it was 70 and sunny in Arizona in winter. That sounded incredibly appealing and I asked if he was offering a place to stay; if so, I was in because I like free. So, I went ahead and booked a ticket. So I’m going to Phoenix, which is nice, since I’ve never been. And I'm rather curious to see him again - and for more than 30 minutes. He seems like an interesting fellow.

A few people have expressed concern about this, but I just quickly remind them (as someone pointed out to me) that I had a ticket on reserve to go to Turkey, two weeks after meeting the Turk. (Can you believe I almost went to Turkey?!) So some guy who seems super nice, normal, sweet, lives in the United States, and wouldn't try to claim me as "his property", seems remarkably safer. And that seems to calm their fears. Besides, I’m a good judge of character: See: how I didn’t go to Turkey: Exhibit A. So that should be fun – and warm. Fuck the cold.

Speaking of cold, it brings me to the hunt for a winter bed warmer; also known as (having just learned this term last week): a cuffer. After the Turk fucked with my head and ego a bit, I decided I needed someone who thought the sun shined out of my ass. Re-enter: Goomba. I started texting with him again and we ended up going to a concert. The concert was fucking fantastic. The company was good too. I had a good time and I didn’t feel like each step I was making was wrong. I like spending time with him, but – I don’t know – that shoe doesn’t quite seem to fit. And we stopped texting for the most part – although I’m not entirely sure why. He probably started dating someone. (I do wish he would make it less awkward to just be friends though.) So that left me still cufferless.

Conveniently, the evening following the concert, I got a Tinder message from a guy who I told back in early June that I would go out with. Back then he told me he had a kid and I generally fell off the Tinder wagon so we never went out. I hadn’t been on Tinder for a while, but there seems to be total lulls and also total influxes in which, even if you’re not active on the app, old guys come back to ping you. This guy also texted me again around that same time; it didn’t work out:

very stupid men still exist past 30 (click to enlarge)

So the other guy (the single dad, not 'maximus') that I stopped talking to in June, messaged me again in August. I didn't respond; he tried again mid-December, citing persistence sometimes paying off. He won me with that: I do love me a persistent man. And I figured, I’ve got the international Muslim, the divorcees, the Jews, the short guy, the hey guys, a man with four fucking Chihuahuas, the FWB-turned-feelings, and all the other fails under my belt, why not try on single dad for size. I mean, I’m here to educate: Got to be well-rounded, right?

So we planned for a date on the 19th. He had a cool-ass date called Escape Room Live: where we get locked in a room together and have to search for clues and figure out puzzles to find out who is the spy out of the files we find in the room and where the key is to let us out. The website said it might be stressful (and we may be locked in with strangers) so 1. I said we needed a safe word so we didn’t kill each other (since we were strangers too) and we chose “kumquat” since it's likely to elicit a giggle and 2. I decided the date needed to began with drinks. As it happened, I was 30 minutes late which he let slide (which is good since I'm always late) and he was drinking a pineapple lady drink (or seven) that I let slide. I also let it slide that he has horrible tribal tattoos – a huge no-no in my dating book - but he was a good sport in allowing me to make fun of it and also partook. He knows they are awful, so it seemed mildly acceptable; had he said “these are cool” I would have gone home after my third bourbon and ginger.

Although he talked a lot - a lot - I used the word “KUMQUAT!” for silence; I didn’t feel the need to coddle him, perhaps it was because he was also from my hometown of Pittsburgh and I know our kind is okay with being forthright. Or perhaps it was our texts the previous week establishing that I’m a ball buster and he can handle his balls being proverbially busted. So when he needed to shut up, after the second bourbon and ginger, I let him know. It was an odd start.

And then it got a little odder. On the way to the Escape Room, I got a text from one of my favorite college friends: She was in town for the night passing through and did I want to meet up. I hadn’t seen her in ten years and when I told him that - and with the excitement in my voice - he said of course we had to go. (I'm not sure had the roles reversed, I would have been so gracious.) So fine, he was a Chatty Charles, but he was also a really good sport. We met up with my college friends, I shared that he was a Tinder date, they laughed and welcomed him, and in loo of standing in line at a club, we all went back to my place for drinks and games.

A few hours later, college friends left and the two of us went to bed: no kissing, no touching; just sleep. The next morning we got up and he asked if I wanted to watch the Steelers game with him. He said he was supposed to watch it with his son and I was hungover and lazy, so I passed. He asked again. I said maybe. This went on for two hours, until nearly kick-off then he mentioned food and I was hungry and he wouldn’t get home in time for the game so we went to a bar and watched the Steelers game ate and had some more to drink. The Steelers won and then played pool for five hours.

28 hours after we met, and six hours after he declared it was his longest first date ever (I could not make that same claim), I dropped him off at the metro. We kissed – a good kiss – and he went in for another, declaring, “damn, I wish I’d done that earlier.” We texted through the holidays - incredibly attentive (high on the list with persistence); he came over last night to watch a movie (and talked less). He slowly made his way from one end of the couch to my end, spooning – it rang with the innocence of youth; the growing anticipation of super snogging, a spooning sleep after the calm of abounding sexual tensions (trying hard to keep it playfully innocent). I realized that Chatty Charles, the single dad (that I told my mom probably wouldn't last more than three dates) had been upgraded from 'meh' to 'mildly keen.' (Mom said it's mean to lead someone on, I said it's mean to not give them at least three dates to pass/fail.) An upgrade likely aided by his plan for our (now) third date: He’s taking me to the Steelers playoff game this weekend in Pittsburgh, since I said I’d never been to an NFL game the Sunday after we met.

He asked in the days after meeting: What do I have to do to win you over? I didn’t know how to answer that, but I’m fairly certain that is what courting is; this is what courting is. So far (especially if this Pittsburgh road trip/Steelers play-off happens) I’m really enjoying it. Sure, it may be a complete disaster, but it is still why I didn’t let some douche just claim me without the courting. Because apparently the way to win a Pittsburgh girl over is through her football. If this is courting, fucking volley, man. It's refreshing to know that better men still exist.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Woman Wiser Once More

Obviously you can tell from my last post that the Turk and I fell in love and are obviously getting married and popping out some half Turkish, half blonde-haired, blue-eyed kids. So, then, what? Totally Turkish? Well that breaks rule Number One. So obviously he had to go.

Halloween ended up being the last time I would see him. He was supposed to come over the following day to finish what he started, but when he got done with work at 5pm, he said he was too tired (which makes sense considering he was snuggling with me until 5am for Lord knows why and gets up at 7am to work on Saturdays) and was going to go to sleep.

I got annoyed. He had already invited himself back into my life, which was dumb enough. Then he didn't respond to a text the night before until 3am when he picked us up. Then he invited himself into my bedroom to cuddle like all is good, which was even dumber. So I called him to call him out after he canceled via text and after chatting 10 minutes, he said, "I just parked. Let me call you back when I get in my house."

"Okay," I replied and hung-up.  Instead, 5 minutes later, this happened:

And that, I would later realize, is my version of a 'fuck you'. I'm done playing nice. Don't like me because I don't care any more. I'm over it.

A few days later he texted me a simple 'hello.' I responded with a 'hello' back. A few moments later I got a voice mail notification. Earlier in the day I was talking to my sister, she tried to call and then texted it was going straight to voice mail. (Sprint sucks.) So just as I was ringing him back, I got a text notification saying "sorry, my ass dialed you." (I immediately hung up; he never got my call back.)

Now on what fucking planet am I suppose to believe that it was his butt that dialed just after texting me?! Especially considering that was his process since we met: text to see if I'm by my phone, then call. So, naturally, I timed it from my work phone - the time between the first hello, what's up and receiving the voicemail - and there's no way it was a mistake. That bitch was covering his ass because the girl he hoped to rope back in refused his call - so he thought. Since then, I haven't heard from him, which is good, because there are four things I have learned from this experience:

1. Never date a man with a bidet (or toy dog). Once I see it, all I can picture is him hovering over his toilet getting a squirt of water in his bum. And he had each toilet in his condo equip with enormous ad-on bidet contraptions which made it all the more awful and hilarious. This also means that the guy is probably pretty high maintenance - which falls in line with his having a toy poodle. (As if I didn't learn enough from the four fucking chihuahuas that first time.) So, ya, no bidets (or toy dogs).

2. I would rather have a poor man's time than a rich man's money. I'm not interested in a man that works 12 hour days six days a week to surround himself with things and stuff. I want adventure and love and togetherness. Fuck the Mercedes and fancy dinners at nice restaurants; sure they're nice, but I would much rather cuddle to Saturday morning cartoons. Some gals value material things and show (and that's fine for them), but this has made me realize where my priorities stand.

3. Trust your subconscious. In a moment of full disclosure, this thing didn't just end with a dream, it began with one too. The Wednesday night of our second date, he slept over. Shortly after falling asleep, I awoke to my own screaming. "NOOOO!" as he shook me awake, concerned. I never wake up screaming from nightmares; I rarely have nightmares. He asked if it was about him. I lied and said it wasn't. What my subconscious realized long before I did was that, to him, my opinion was optional.

4. Red flags are red flags...(no matter how sweet the presentation of the man carrying the torch of waving scarlet fabric) and time and space will fully illuminate them like a spotlight in the dark of a once romantically-lit room. They become visible only when we are no longer blinded by a person's intoxicating presence and the incredible, exciting darkness of the promise of what 'could be'.

Because there was good there. There was. The words he said, "I don't care what we do, as long as I am with you." The attraction. The way he made me feel. Those moments of absolute fucking entangled perfection. My heart's content. And that connection I swear to LBJ wasn't just in my head. The feeling of just missing someone again. And the fucking psychic predicting exactly him. But there was also bad; those whistling red flags.

I've learned all relationships are the weight of what's good of a person versus what is bad. That's what defines if a partnership will work: that the good outweighs the bad. I refused to commit because I hadn't yet navigated the bad; weighed it out. Then the time away took from him, his ability to 'look' at me that way that had me entranced; it magnified all of the things that made me resist him from the start. The mother fucking control, reminiscent of my tight-shipped step-childhood. The way he reminded me of the false-Casanova my dad pretended to be. Like the time my dad was talking to a girl and said, "I love you," to end the conversation and when he hung up, bitched about how stupid she was, and when we asked him why he said he loved her responded, "They're just words." At a very young age, my sisters and I learned he would say - to his many women - what he thought a woman wanted to hear. To falsely feed into their feminine desires to satiate his ego and lie to cover what he thought they shouldn't know. And we bore witness all of our lives. Early on, I began to wonder if I was living that same lie.

But the moment that sparked the end for me - the final high flying, Mario at the end of the level red flag - came a week into the Turk being gone. And in one of the first times we got to talk in a week, he asked for photos of my ass. When I declined because I was with family and also just 'no', he insisted and I got pissed. That night I declared, "Well, if nothing else comes of this, at least I got these sweet socks." The room full of people laughed (as I showcased the epic socks he said his grandmother made), but deep down I kind of knew then where everything was going. He wasn't who he had pretended to be. He wasn't my Casanova, even though I wished he were. And when he had told me that first week that if I "gained 10 pounds, we were just friends" he wasn't fucking kidding. He also wasn't kidding when he said I could "get bug bites, but no bruises". In his absence, he didn't have the balance of charisma to fix how fucking pissed off I was becoming - like when he told me my lipstick was "tacky" but with such a charming smile I simply told him to piss off and moved on.  Or how disrespected I felt when he told me to excuse myself from my family to take a photo of my bum for his enjoyment - all while counting down the battery on his phone, like you better fucking hurry. He couldn't be there charm me; to kiss it all better; to stop me from ruining it irrevocably because I refused to be unheard or controlled or disrespected with countdowns and bullshit.

The spotlight had been cast.

Nonetheless and still a girl in want, I spent the month both trying to save 'us' and continually pushing him the fuck away from me. I was fighting with this thing I wanted so much with my heart and the logic of what I knew was a terrible mistake. A mistake whose lightness only shown through with the clarity of time and space. A tumultuous argument that leaves you yelling at the blank space of what was because the thing you've so revered to both love and hate, you cannot even communicate with. It was a miserable place to be, both in lust and disdain; incredible want and a growing resentment - and with the absence of its protagonist, unable to resolve it.

I held onto the hope that maybe, just maybe, it would all work out because I wanted to feel that way again. It was intoxicating. And he did come back for just that second long enough for me to realize it was still a bunch of bullshit. Still, I mourned the chance to feel the way again because, really, how often does it come along and how often does someone look at you like you're a fucking drug; treat you like their life's purpose? But addicts are fickle and false and tricky. And oh so bad for you.

It has taken me until now to realize this is how abusive relationships start: You are so charmed that you don't even notice all the ways they try to change you; control you. And claim you as "my property." And that's not to say that's what he was doing; honestly I'm not even sure he really knows what he's doing. But I've come to realize just how fucked up I could have become had it let myself fall in love with him; with the idea of the wonderful things he was selling - and have altered myself [edit: see #3] to be with him like he wanted; to keep him happy. But even still, I wonder: How much of it was real? I think, on some level, he did have feelings. But I also think, on some greater level, he simply wanted a trophy - a beautiful thing. And I want to be am so much more than just a beautiful thing.

As is the nature of entanglements, I wish it could have been perfect. I wish it may have been more than just a few months and four lessons. But it wasn't. It wasn't my time; my turn. I had have more to learn. My turn still lays ahead of me, as a woman wiser once more.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Kris Single

I hope you caught that title pun.


A year ago, at Christmas, my sisters’ expanding families continued to flood the house with burps and breast milk and more little humans. I questioned aloud – half in jest, half honestly – “how long before I lose my room and am relegated to sleeping on the couch?”

“Don’t be silly. That’s not going to happen,” my mom replied.

I got a text from her the other night. This Christmas I’m sleeping on the couch. In the basement.

She told me that my sister’s kids need my room and my sister and her husband can’t sleep on the pull-out couch because there are two of them and only one of me. The other sister, pregnant again, somehow smashes all of her family into another small room. I know my mother does her best and the house is small and my sisters’ are ever expanding their families, but this makes me feel incredibly less important. And the logic of saying her kids take my room and so she gets the other bedroom and I get the couch, is lost on me. Why do other people's life choices mean that they deserve preferential treatment as I become second class?

And I’d like to point out that this is less about complaining and more about understanding – and commiserating. I debated writing about because I don't want my family to read this and get upset - or think this was somehow slighting them - but then I saw this bit of brilliance. And realized it's not just me. Singles aren't the ungrateful or complaining or unloving other child, we’re just a human...with feelings. It has greatly deepened my understanding of why Christmas time invites the highest rate of suicide. (Not that I’m suicidal - I just understand the adult magnification of these things now.)

When my mom texted me to tell me that my Christmas was as lowly basement dwelling couch-surfer, she said that I had a choice: Sleep in (what was previously) my small bedroom with two toddlers in a trundle bed or take the basement couch with partitions for “privacy”.

I replied, "I pick that [my sister whose kids took over my room] sleeps in the room with her kids. And I get my own space instead of being relegated to the couch. Like the one person who is used to her own space, gets none. That’s where I get anxious." It's important to note that single, childless people are used to their space and their quiet and putting them in a house with 12 people, including 5 kids, is like taking someone from a quiet white sand beach, throwing them into a squall and watching as they spin around going: WTF I WAS JUST ENJOYING MY FUCKING FROZEN DAIQUIRI IN PEACE?!

My mother continued by asking where my sister’s husband would sleep. I responded with something resembling: How about the sofa bed I'm being relegated to. "Since, you know, I don’t bring any extra people." She explained her reasoning to giving up my room to my nieces, which I understood. And I responded, done hiding all the bad things with, "Sometimes I feel less important because it is just me. I try to be flexible but sometimes that’s easier said than done."

Her advice was to look at it as “one big happy family,” instead of frustrating and she actually ended up being incredibly understanding, to the point of my near-tears.  However, just calling my new citizenship another name doesn't really work in the reality of December 25th: A sad clown with a painted smile is still sad. And on top of that, that 'big happy family' has all had children, so they have decided that they don’t want to buy adult gifts, because Christmas for them is about kids now. Which is also fine, but I am still expected to buy gifts for the kids. So then Christmas morning looks like this: Everyone is with their families, opening gifts. The single aunt is by herself in the corner - clandestinely crying into her coffee. (Just a little hyperbole.)

It’s not that I want things (I actually hate the consumerism of Christmas), but I want to feel like someone thought about me. Like fuck, we’re the only family she has, maybe we should get her something to show her someone loves her too. Or, nobody buys anyone anything and we just eat all day like Thanksgiving. I would be happy with that. Instead, it becomes: go spend money on half a dozen people and then nobody gets anything for you. (But...isn't this why I haven't had kids yet?!) 

I have come to realize that nothing makes you understand how very alone you are in the world quite like your family on Christmas if you’re the only solo one left. It is so incredibly possible to feel more lonely in the wrong room full of right people, than in any room alone. And I think this is particularly poignant for women. Men are bachelors. Savvy. Sexy. Whatever. And for women it’s like: Look at you with no kids in the corner with your coffee and your 200 pairs of shoes and "aw, old maid that's funny." It can be particularly difficult for women because society pressures and defines them by these fucked up standards - to be deemed worthy by husbands and motherhood - which Christmas magnifies.

In any case, it is an uncomfortable situation when that aunt/uncle/cousin/sister/brother/daughter/son is sitting quietly alone with their coffee, trying not to disturb the familial merriment they're subject to witness and their unaware family is just like, “What’s their problem? Did s/he want gifts?" No. That person just wants to matter still. Bridget still wants to be included in her family’s Christmas card. Why should she matter less for making decisions different than that of family members'? This isn't about the space in a house. It is about how much it hurts to feel less-than for choice not of your own -  probably more than mastisis.

I like the different-than-my sisters' choices I have made. I don’t want my worth to have to be defined by having a partner to bring home to family to get my own room - or just a bed. I don't think it is fair to say that having kids to feed makes the worth of my time or money or energy any different than that of a parents'. I get parenting is hard. Oh trust me, I do. But being single isn’t easy all the time either. Well, it is – except for Christmas on a lumpy couch and a cup of coffee as your new immediate family.

So this Christmas, think of the singles. They're just really, really big kids. And they depend on you too.