Sunday, January 29, 2012

Surprise!

House parties are sort of a mixed bag for me. There's something about being casually social in a large group of people, a handful of which I know somewhat well and the majority of which I do not know at all, that simultaneously excites me and has me practically retching, scaling the walls in search of an exit.

The weight of the potential is both exactly what I'm looking for and entirely too much for me to handle.

I don't recall feeling this way prior to my adulthood and the death of my single-girl status. I'm fairly certain I confidently canvassed large gatherings without blinking an eye; birthday parties, roller-skating parties, high school dances, college orientation week. I had an impenetrable facade of bravado, underneath which lay the knowledge that my social standing, my sense of self and my brand image could be defined by the events of an evening.

I think it's not knowing exactly who I was or could be that made the idea of going to a party that much more interesting.

A note: I am not one of those people who is always surrounded by a group of friends. With the exception of a few brief years of high school and college where I attempted to assimilate into a larger flock, I am basically a one-friend-at-a-time sort of girl. Don't ask me why - certainly, there are benefits to having a self-sustaining mobile ecosystem around at all times to provide protection against awkward social circumstances - but I just have never been able to sustain that kind of setup for any prolonged period of time. People with groups, ladies who are concerned that they might end up with twenty-four bridesmaids: you will probably never understand this post. Please disregard.

Sir and I went to a surprise birthday party for a coworker of his last night, hopping the F train to West 4th and wandering across the chilly Village until we came upon the building where our birthday-having friend and his lady co-habitate. It was one of those fantastically New York buildings, with the heavy old elevator doors and a cascade of wizened fire escapes trickling down the darkened brick facade. We buzzed up and took our places, relaxing into the scene in very much the same way that a lone sheep will melt into the flock. We caught up with old friends and made small talk with friendly acquaintances. We hushed ourselves and gathered quietly in the dark, truly and thoroughly surprising our friend upon his return home. We slapped him on the back, congratulating him on surviving another year of life, and resumed our mingling and former level of din.

This was all well and good for about fifteen minutes, after which point it became painfully apparent that Sir was much more familiar with this crowd than I am. I lost him.

I mean, he was there, right across the room. We've not yet achieved the social status that involves the types of New York City apartments where someone might actually get lost. But he was elsewhere, refilling on refreshments or involved in another conversation to the extent that I was completely and totally alone. This is not to say that he was being inconsiderate, just that I was outnumbered in this group of people who knew each other intimately. Everyone knew someone, everyone was occupied; everyone was consumed in conversation but me.

Oh, god.

I folded my arms across my chest, disguising the surely-visible pounding of my heart. I re-tied a shoe. I tugged at my hair, adjusting and re-adjusting my hat. I picked at the snack table, not really hungry. I scanned through my phone, pretending to be too wrapped up in phone-happenings to notice the party swirling around me. And I nearly collapsed in relief on the inside when Sir returned to me, and again a few minutes later when he declared that he was ready to leave. I practically skipped to the subway entrance, the dirty green glass globe shining like a beacon in the cold night air.

All psychoanalyzing aside, safe to say I am not the party animal I once was.

It is truly mortifying admit this about myself, and yet at the same time, I could not care less. It's the death of an ego - my younger self is appalled to see myself become such a needy loner-type, but my more mature self seems to have always known that this was where I was headed. Maybe it's aided by the pull of the universe, gently reminding me that the intended manner of survival, when you really get down to it, is as nothing more than perfectly complemented teams of two.

Maybe I need to get a grip.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Post about nothing.

I intended to write a lovely long post this evening about, oh, who knows what. Instead, you're getting pure pith, a post about nothing. Anyone who doesn't know that reference probably doesn't need to waste their time reading anymore of my stuff. I'll pause here for you to close the tab.

*pause*

Anyway, instead of writing, I spent my evening cleaning uncooked quinoa off the kitchen floor and countertops. This is a particularly tedious project, regardless of the strength and capabilities of your vacuum cleaner. I don't know how familiar you are with quinoa, but it's fair to say that it is about the smallest food particle known to man outside of the dust-like particles grouping. It is just the tiniest amount larger than sugar. One-third cup of quinoa partially spilled, apparently, is roughly ten million quinoas. An enormous mess.

This glamorous life snapshot brought to you courtesy of Claymerica Industries. I am Running the Ship, so to speak, while Sir is in Miami on business.


Photo credit: Clay Parker Jones

One thing that happened to me when I moved here was that, unbeknownst to me at the time, I moved in with a Business Traveler. If he had been a regular roommate, I would probably have been thrilled to discover this fact. Unfortunately, he's my romantical life partner, so oftentimes I find myself a bit lonely, jealous and swimming in mediocrity and protein-rich grains while he globe-trots, beaching it along the way.

It's more noticeable in the winter, I think, because our little dwelling gets so chilly in his absence. Sir is a heater - not only is he an incredibly warm and charming young man, but he actually radiates an enormous amount of physical heat, just by existing in a room. This happens to the extent that I actually paused for a moment when I got to the part in the Twilight books where they are explaining how the werewolves, in their human forms, run at a higher temperature than their human friends.

Lucky for me, Sir's mom made me a pair of beautiful wool socks that I have taken to wearing to bed. After 26 years of not being able to sleep in socks, now I can't sleep without them when he's gone. I probably won't be able to explain this phenomenon until I have my own children, but to me this was a glaringly obvious occurrence of 'Moms always know.' Between the socks and turning the thermostat up four degrees, I'm somewhat able to make up for his absence, at least from a temperature standpoint. Even so, life is always a little more mundane when he's gone.

Please hurry home, Sir. Your photos are ridiculous, my life without you is chilly and average and there is quinoa everywhere.

I do realize that this post isn't entirely about nothing, just the nothing that exists when your everything is jet-setting without you.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Parlez-vous francais?

Bonjour!

The little yellow Rosetta Stone box sits on my desk, calling cheerfully to me from across the room. I focus on my laptop, pretending I don't see it.

Excusez-moi, mademoiselle? Bonjour!

The polite little box is adorably persistent; I refuse to look.

Allo, mademoiselle? Parlez-vous fran├žais?

Annoyed, I glare at the box. The people on the box wave excitedly, happy to have grabbed my attention. They're stoked for us to learn French together.

I am too, I really am. I wanted the box. I asked for it. I love French, I love France and Paris and travel and languages and learning. I can't count the number of times I had told Sir how wonderful it would be to brush up on our French and go to Paris together. I'm pretty sure I even said the words "we should get Rosetta Stone!" and sat, eyes wide, waiting anxiously for his reaction. I was beside myself to find it under the Christmas tree, such a thoughtful gift.

And yet here we are, middle of January, and still it sits in its cheery yellow box, unopened and causing me delusion. I don't know why I am being such a baby about this.

I march across the room and snatch up the box, sliding an emboldened finger beneath the lovely smooth magnetic seal. I rifle hastily through the instructions and slide the disc into my laptop, adjust the ridiculous headset, and pause to breathe.

God, it would be so embarrassing to be bad at this.

But why? Why would I be bad at it? I've learned French before, happily dissecting the whole language into hundreds of color-coded flashcards to be memorized. Why would this time be any different? Because I'm OLD? That's ridiculous. People take classes and go back to school all the time. There's not even anyone here to compete against. And if I were to somehow fail, why would it be embarrassing? Who would know?

Me. I would know. And then I would have to own up to being a twenty-six year old who's past her academic PRIME, for pete's sake. Not to mention one who's afraid of a box.

Enough, I tell myself. No more foolishness. This is an opportunity, not a hardship. Where is my confidence? Where are my cojones? More importantly, where are my highlighters?

Bonjour!

Bonjour, box. Let's do this.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Rule breaker.

One of my more endearing qualities is that I am, above all things, a follower of rules.

To be clear, I am not a blind follower of every rule. Hitler, for example, came up with a bunch of rules that I don't think would have sat well with me, had I lived in Nazi Germany in the '20s. The rules I'm referring to are more along the lines of your modern-American traffic laws. This is not to say that I can't think for myself, just that I'm a rebel only when a very good cause is present.

But yes - I love rules. I don't just follow them, I love to follow them. I love to enforce them, bringing unnecessary tension to seemingly fun things like board games. I like to write them in my notebooks at work in neat handwriting, underlining the important parts. Sometimes highlighter, too. I love to tell people what rules they are currently violating.

"Actually, you can't create an authorization without all the buy details."
"'Scuse me! You can't ride your bike on the sidewalk!"
"Um, there's no smoking in here!"
"You need to turn your phone off, they've closed the cabin door!"
"This is the quiet car!"

And so on.

I think my love of rules stems directly from my love of being correct, being a model citizen, getting extra credit, avoiding trouble at all costs. In order to win, one must know that which will cause him to lose. I don't know if it was my conservative midwestern upbringing or my all-Catholic gene pool that brought me to this place, but rule-abiding, as a descriptor, clings to my white blood cells right alongside perfectionist and self-deprecator. It's exhausting and tedious, being in charge of the rules. But it's who I am.

Sir was raised in a more liberal setting, and as such has always regarded the rules as more of suggested guidelines, intended to be tested and scrutinized. And BROKEN, heaven forbid. We've had several discussions on the topic, almost all of them going something like this:

He: "Did you hear about so-and-so? Can you believe the reaction of the police?"
Me: "Well... that was brutal, yes, but... but... they were instigating it, they were breaking the LAW..."
He: "It's a dumb law."
Me, sputtering: "But it's the LAW!"

I'm sure he finds all of my neuroses adorable, although obnoxious might be a better word.

So anyway, I have these lace-up boots. I've owned them for more than a year now. They're probably one of my favorite pairs of shoes; they're cute, comfy and the wedge heel makes them pretty good for walking all over the place. But they have one glaring design flaw, a grain of sand that's been rubbing around in my oyster shell, irritating me to no end for the past 12 months: the tongue is totally out of control.

Do you know what I'm talking about? There's no loop on the tongue for you to lace through and stabilize the thing, and you end up with the entire tongue stuffed all the way to the left or right every time you walk more than 5 paces. It's incredibly annoying.

It was, however, this very situation that eventually incited me to become that which I simultaneously despise and secretly admire: a RULE BREAKER.

Despite the fact that every fiber of my being was telling me that we don't deface our own property (or anyone else's, for that matter), I thought very quietly to myself: what if I altered the tongue to create a stabilizing lace-loop? I could cut slits in the existing tongue, or affix some sort of material to the tongue to create the loop. Option A was probably better, since I didn't have the proper tools for stitching through leather and they weren't really high enough quality to start getting a cobbler involved. After months of contemplating this every time I wore those boots, I finally asked Sir if he thought it would be okay to cut my boots.

He looked at me blankly.

I mean, I guess why not? They're MY boots. Was some combination of Steve Madden and my mother going to come at me with a lecture about taking care of my things? Unlikely. Also, it was poor workmanship on Steve's part. He would WANT me to do this thing for him. For me, even.

So I grabbed one of Sir's utility knives and a cutting board and I cut slits in the tongue of my shoes. It took less than two minutes to implement from start to finish. And then I laced them up, slipping the laces under the loops, and put them on my feet, better than they were before. And in that moment, I became the master of my own destiny.

Also, it worked. Really well. I've been prancing around in my boots, tongue firmly in place and proud as can be, for roughly a week or two now. I should write ol' Steve a letter, to school him in this brilliance. You know, because he should alter his design to accommodate how the foot moves and really, it's the only correct way to make a boot.

I'm making a note of it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Homebody.



I was having a conversation today with Amanda Blair about the myriad reasons that I, at the ripe old age of 26, have become a homebody. I tick off my list of excuses for not partaking in barsy evenings, explain that going out just doesn't seem worth it to me anymore. I'm not opposed to it, but it seems going out to dinner has become more of my cup of tea.

It probably always has been, but that concept takes on a solid form now that I'm part of a team. All the little annoyances - the too-loud music, the crowds of people, the over-priced everything, the coat situation, the hangovers - had once seemed insignificant under the veil of potential. Now that I know that my potential is waiting at home for me in a darling apartment in Brooklyn, the cons take on a glaring sharp focus and the whole thing seems insignificant in comparison to what's going on in my living room.

She disagrees with me, of course. But she does a much better job of listening than I ever could, letting me make my points and acknowledging my perspective before educating me on all the wonderful things I'm missing out on by hiding away in Brooklyn every weekend. To hear her tell it, she loves getting ready, finding the perfect bar, laughing it up, dancing, having stories to tell. And while I'm sure she does love all of those things, I'm certain that the reality of the situation is that she's just so much braver than me.

My darling Amanda Blair. That girl, I swear. She has so much courage. She is a spitfire and a spark, sweet and genuine and fiercely loyal. She stomps all over this marvelous city in 5-inch heels and would probably be blithely unaware if it attempted to cut her down. People say New York eats you alive; Amanda invites it to her birthday party.

And she writes about it, the whole damn thing.

I think she thinks we're cut of the same cloth, us twenty-something NYC transplants. But there's an enormous difference between us that's made very apparent by our transplantation motives: she was chasing a dream, and I was chasing a BOY.

Well, a man. A man-boy. And a job. But still.

To give myself some credit, there is definitely a good amount of gutsiness involved in taking a chance on another human being, and even more so when that chance involves uprooting your life and starting over somewhere else. It is no easy thing to wager your lifestyle on a relationship. And now that I think of it, the overwhelming relief at realizing that everything was going to be better than perfect was probably enough to keep me on the couch for a lifetime or two.

Even so, I can't imagine going through that alone. I'm not certain that I could, but she sure did. If it was traumatizing in the slightest, I certainly can't tell.

Some people find everything in their homes, and some create them where they stand. Different types of courage, I guess, but I'll always be jealous of people who beam overt fearlessness from their very toenails on any given Tuesday. That girl could make friends with a paper bag.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Control freak.

I'm still laughing at myself in regards to post from yesterday. One of my more irritating qualities is that I have never, for a moment in me life, been able to relax and let anything just be. I'm not kidding - my first grade parent-teacher conference centered around how I needed to stop bossing the other kids around at recess (my dad countered that I was building good management skills).

Sir laughs at me, the perfect picture of chill. His laid-back way is incomprehensible to me, brilliance and creativity seeping from his pores as easily as breathing. I seethe with jealousy at how perfectly he embodies it (you know, like a loving, awe-struck jealousy).

Maybe if I try really hard and focus on achieving a specific peaceful end state, I too, can relax. Maybe there are relaxation techniques I could perfect and incorporate into my day-to-day. Maybe I can study relaxation in different cultures, find a way to take it in somewhere else, as the Western world is surely influencing me negatively.

I've just listed out the ways I plan on "achieving" relaxation. The very verb is wrong.

Relaxation aside, I need to give myself some more credit. If I hadn't been so stuck on being in control of My Writing, maybe I could have seen the words pouring from me. I may not have novels flowing from my fingertips, but I am a writer and I have definitely been writing. That was my 100th post. Measly compared to some, I suppose, but it's not a competition.

I need, of course, to repeat this to myself, a little mantra for me to try to own: it's not a competition. It's not a competition. It's not a competition.

I'm not buying it.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Writers write.

One of my resolutions this year was to write everything. I think I meant blogging, or storytelling, at the very least. After all, if I'm going to make the effort to help the tree fall in the forest, someone should hear it, preferably as many someones as possible.

This, I know, is selfish and not really the point of a writing resolution. If I wanted to be heard, I should have resolved to achieve internet fame and fortune, right? It sounds like that's really what I was after.

Anyway.

Energized, I spent all day weaving a story from an experience I had on the train this morning, tying back to a discussion Sir and I had this weekend in regards something I've been thinking about for a while. It was a lovely idea. I noodled it around while in meetings, jotted down items in various notebooks and (sorry Rachel) strung together pithy phrases in my head during spin class. I fully intended to create something this evening, post-gym. Something writerly and awe-inspiring. Something worth reading.

Before I could sit down in front of my computer, I got into it with a gym friend who was frustrated with her job. I left her in the locker room, but I just couldn't let it go - for whatever reason, I felt really connected to her plight. So instead of pouring out prose as intended, I wrote her an email.

It was a terrific email. It really was. I analyzed, I sympathized, I energized. I broke her situation down into numbers and percentages, various audiences and potential outcomes of her energy expenditures. I had an introduction and a fully-developed body before drawing everything up into a beautiful conclusion. I was witty. I was touching. I told a story. I was on fire.

It was probably the best thing I've written in a long while.

Sir came home just as I hit send and asked what I was writing. I heard myself tell him that I had intended to write something tonight, but instead had put my energy into an email and was disappointed to not have anything to show for it. His reaction was something like this --

"Yo dawg, I heard you like writing..."

Ah, me. I wanted to write? I had written, and written well. I wanted to have something to show for it? I  had made my friend happy. The tree had fallen, and a really important person had been around to hear it. I had done the thing, only I was too wrapped up in labels and audience-longing to call it.

Sometimes I'm such a dunce. Maybe resolutions are not end points, but lenses through which we see ourselves a little bit clearer along the journey, if only for a few weeks (until, of course, we forget about them and go back to a lifestyle of sloth).

Maybe I'll write the other thing tomorrow. The end.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Shiver for me, girl.


The last bit I wrote on here was about the October snow, and it hasn't snowed since.

Somewhere between my delight in that freak blizzard and the way the breath caught in my throat last week when my LaGuardia-to-O'Hare flight dipped beneath the clouds to unveil the frozen city on the lake, silvery-pale and glittering in the icy-thin sunlight, is where I unearthed a very tiny, very insignificant but altogether real nugget of wisdom about myself.

I like the cold.

I just knew, right there at the airport. No matter how many times I've denied it, it's been there the whole time, trapped under my skin like a speck of sand, like a pea under the umpteenth mattress. It had worried itself into a pearl, a Great Truth that I never knew existed prior to that very moment. I stepped through that revolving door, luggage in hand, felt the wind pierce my wimpy jacket and I just KNEW, as easy as breathing.

I like the cold.

I like the winter and the snow. I do! I'm going to say it like an affirmation, because I'm excited to know myself a little bit better. I like the cold!

I like it to the extent that I experienced a very defined sinking feeling in my chest this morning when the weatherman said it was to be "back up in the mid-forties by mid-day."

New York never feels clean to me, except in wintertime. It's the smell that the clear, dry cold brings, the way it stings your nostrils and punches you in the gut as you suck it deep into your whimpering, shriveling lungs in slow, controlled breaths. It doesn't smell like garbage, urine, or burnt halal, it smells like crisp, clean, perfect snow and silence. And it makes me forget about all the resentment I harbor for the city when it roils, putrid, in the unwavering heat and suffocating humidity of summer.

I don't know what this bit of enlightenment means for me, Sir and the locations of our future, but I know that right in this very minute, it means I'm growing all the more impatient for a real winter and some goddamn snow.

When will it snow, New York? Why do you torment me with weird mild winter weather and lingering humidity? WHY?

Christmas is over, but Santa, if you could please bring winter to NYC, I'll be waiting for you. I'll be the one with all the scarves.