Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Will Date for Food

Within two minutes I knew. Not interested, not even a little. The conversation continued anyways. He asked questions, I gave short answers. "Thanks." "Oh." "Cool." Why did I give him my number again? Oh yeah, he's cute and he asked. Doesn't take much lately. I was bored. He cut to the chase, the reason he'd dialed my number in the first place. "Do you want to go out some time?" I gave him another short answer. "Yes."
No. I wasn’t giving him a second chance to make a better impression. No, I didn’t think there would be any additional chemistry in person that wasn’t present over the phone. And no, I didn’t want to explore the friendship option either. I wanted to eat. Plain and simple. There was once a time when I was hopeful. Hopeful that the missing spark would find itself somewhere between dinner and a movie. Hopeful that the initial attraction was more than just passing. That hope made me accept many invitations, until that hope died and the only thing I had to show for it was a full belly. I started saying yes not because of hope, but because let's face it, a girl's gotta eat. And if she can eat for free, even better. I figured if I wasn't going to fall in love I could at least get fed.
To set the record straight, I have never sought out a free meal, only willingly obliged requests to spend time over appetizers, a main course, and dessert. Besides, after the number exchange it's less messy to just agree to one outing than explain why the interest vanished in less than 24 hours. It's easier to put on a cute outfit that's not quite sexy and show up. And that's what I did time and time again. I showed up.
It's a routine I became all to familiar with. I always made sure to show up looking just attractive enough to maintain the interest but not further it. Knowing I didn't like them did not stop me from wanting them to like me. My ego wouldn't leave any room for confusion about who would be rejecting whom at the end of the evening. After showing up, the next step was just to get through it. Get through the small talk and the advances both overt and covert. I learned to keep my hands in my pockets to prevent them from being held. Avoiding eye contact was also key. And at the end of every meal, I pulled out my wallet knowing I would be told to put it away. So as not to lead anyone on, I never went out with them again. Besides it's dangerous to tempt fate. Might not escape unscathed the second time around.
Hell even first meals weren't quite free sometimes. My disinterest was mistaken for playing hard to get on more than one occassion. And one particularly horrible incident ended after an hour of playing keep away with an old man named after Elmer Fudd. Not a good time. Even mouth watering food wasn't worth all of that hassle. So why risk it again? Maybe it was boredom, maybe it was my bare cupboards. Who knows! But I did it anyways.
So last week I put the routine back in action and met him at my favorite place. As we waited for our table, I saw that he was just as attractive as I remembered. When he spoke, he was also just as boring. We sat, we ordered, we ate. I kept looking at the clock wondering if I'd make it home in time for All My Children. I divulged nothing personal and became enraptured with my french toast. The bill came, I pulled out my wallet, he told me to put it away. How could I refuse? When it was time to part ways I fidgeted, keeping my distance. Then, managing to escape with only a wave and "Thank you! Bye-bye," I got away with it! Who says there's no such thing as a free lunch?

Monday, March 27, 2006

Date Night

We met for dinner around 5:30 p.m. at an Applebee's in New York City. I arrived first and had the waitress take me to a table for two. I was excited, looking forward to our time together. Feeling parched, I ordered an ice water with lemon while I waited for my companion to join me. After a few sips my bladder started speaking to me, so I listened and went to the restroom. When I returned, the other chair was occupied. We had not seen each other in months, but neither of us had changed. We shared a quick embrace then took our seats.
The food was good and the conversation even better. Distance and time had separated us, but nothing had changed. We were completely in tune with one another, finishing each others sentences like we used to. We laughed, reminiscing about our best moments. Midnight boat cruises, late nights in New York City, and plenty of mischief. At our best we were unstoppable, a force of nature. The memories made me miss who and what we were, before life got in the way.
Dinner ended, but we couldn't part ways. The night continued. The apartment was the same. Mail littered the kitchen table and the fridge was still empty. Laundry covered the familiar full size bed. I pushed it aside and sat down, tired from a long day. I had a three hour drive ahead of me and needed rest before embarking. Alone, in the darkened room my mind wandered back over our five year history. How we met played in my head, the memory clearly preserved over the years. I drifted off into a light slumber, awaking an hour later. Sleep clung to my senses as I made my way to the living room. We sat on the couch together, watching television. Words weren't necessary, the silence was calming.
The hour grew late. Too late to drive home. "You should sleep here and leave first thing in the morning." I agreed. We crawled into the bed we've shared on countless occassions. "I better not wake up with a knee in my back." "You won't," I assured. I had learned to keep my limbs to myself since the last time we'd laid so close. Banter filled the air, then trailed off into slumber.
I awoke with the first rays of the sun and quietly crawled out of bed. Footsteps approached from behind as I gathered my purse. "Do you have all your stuff?" I nodded then headed towards the door. We walked down the stairwell to the front entrance. Through tired eyes we gazed upon each other one final time. I promised to call when I got home then we exchanged one last embrace. The sun was climbing over the building tops in the east when I reached my car. I threw my belongings in the back seat and started the engine. As I headed towards the highway, away from Flatty Girl's place, I couldn't help but think that she was the best date I'd had in ages.

Saturday, March 25, 2006


I've always wanted a man who is the complete opposite of me. In my mind, the perfect man would be rational, quiet (yet strong), even keeled, realistic, grounded, level headed, and every other thing that I am not. I figured a man like this would bring balance to any equation that involved me. He would reign me in, curb my melodramatic tendencies, and be my voice of reason. Total opposites would meet in the perfect ying and yang. In retrospect, I can honestly say that The Guy Who Shouldn't Make Me Cry is definitely that type of man. So if he was everything I'd always wanted, why didn't we work? I think I figured it out. My perception of a man who is my total opposite was always based in behavior. In my head he would act nothing like me. What I forgot is that actions are driven by thoughts. If someone doesn't act like me, it's more than likely that they don't think like me. And therein lies the problem.
When I was with The Guy I had a lot of time to think. I would come up with all types of relationship scenarios in my head then play out all of the possible outcomes. Depending on the envisioned outcome, I could often get extremely worked up about the mere possibility of something happening. Once I was done analyzing things until they didn't even exist, I would bring my thoughts to The Guy and ask him, "What would happen if..." No matter what scenario I gave him, his answer was always the same. "I don't know. I never thought about it." While I could fathom him reaching a different conclusion, it seemed impossible to me that he never had these thoughts in the first place. I refused to believe he had never thought about what would happen if either of us met someone else or an ex came back in the picture or I lost my limbs in a freak shark attack. I was under the assumption that my thoughts were like everyone else's and it was only the reactions to them that differed. I was convinced that he simply hadn't gotten around to thinking my thoughts, so it was my duty to make him do it. It never occurred to me that his mind never even went the places that mine did. No matter how many times he told me, "I don't think about that stuff," I never believed him. Instead, I insisted on dragging him down the dark tunnel which is my brain. Needless to say it was a very scary place for him and he ran away screaming.
I've come to realize that opposites don't attract, they merely fascinate. When confronted with the reality of dating my total opposite, I found myself refusing to accept that anyone could possibly be that sane. Instead of embracing our differences and allowing them to provide balance, I made it my mission to make him just as neurotic, paranoid, and off balance as me. And really, who wants to date someone like that? I don't, and obviously neither did he.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Thank You

Walking through New York's subway system you can't help but encounter a group of kids with a boom box showcasing their dancing talents, or a teenage girl with her siblings as back up singers belting out Whitney Houston for anyone to hear, hoping against hope that the right person hears. Most of the time people walk right on by, too busy to listen or just plain not interested. Every once in a while you'll notice a crowd gathered around those kids or that teenage girl. The throng claps along to the beat and move their hips from side to side as they watch the performers. And when the song ends and the dance is over and the last note is sung, people clap in appreciation. Most people walk away afterwards, but a special few take the time to reach in their pockets and pull out a dollar bill and place it in the little hat at the side of the "stage."
Bloggers are a lot like subway/street performers. We put out our thoughts as our craft and hope that someone notices. Most times we're ignored, either totally unnoticed or simply passed by on the way to someplace better on the internet. But every once in a while, if we're lucky, we get an audience. And like any savy performer, we work ten times harder when we know someone is actually watching. We update more often and put extra thought into our entries in the hope it will make that audience stick with us. And sometimes if what we've done strikes a chord the reader leaves us the ever elusive comment.
I love to write and blogging helped me realize that. As a writer, what I want more than anything is to be heard. Whether people agree or not is irrelevant, I just want my voice to be heard. So to all of you who stop by and read whatever it is I have to say, thank you. And those of you who come back again and again, my regular readers, I do this for you as much as for me. And to the few who take the time to leave your thoughts with me in my comments section, I want to thank you most of all. Your tips are what sustain me.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Second Time Around

It's official. The preliminary work is complete, the down payment made, and the appointment set. On April 10, 2006 at 11:10 a.m. I'm getting braces. Again. When I was 14, I was ecstatic to be getting braces, at 25, not so much. Back then braces were my gateway. On the eve of the appointment, I wasn't thinking about having to show the world a mouth full of metal for the next two years (turned into three because of popped brackets, missed appointments, etc.). The only thought that filled my mind was that I was on the road to being beautiful. Back then being beautiful meant being perfect. Perfect body, perfect hair, perfect clothes, perfect face, perfect teeth. Braces symbolized jumping my first hurdle. Teeth, check. Only the body, hair, clothes, and face to go. The moment the brackets and wires were cemented to my teeth, I felt a thousand times better about my looks. When I smiled people wouldn't just see a wide gap between my two front teeth, they'd see that I cared enough to fix it. They would look past the braces to see what I could be.

Impacting wisdom teeth, a second growth spurt, and breaking my retainer have undone all the original treatment and created new problems. Initially, I didn't care. I even thought my slightly crooked bottom tooth added personality. And I didn't mind the small space that reopened on the top either. It gave me character. Somewhere along the line after high school, I stopped equating beauty with perfection. I learned to see just how beautiful imperfection can be.

Now that I'm getting braces again, I'm back to where I was in high school in more ways than one. To be completely honest, the reason I decided to fix my smile now is because I want the work to be finished ASAP, so I can look perfect in my wedding photos (yes, I know I'm criminally single, but it's good to be prepared). The pursuit of perfection rears its ugly head again. Or maybe not. I had no intention of fixing my smile's imperfections until they became too imperfect. It was fine when they were barely noticeable, something interesting to discover upon closer inspection. Now they are blatant, noticeable at first glance. I often wonder if people see the flaws first, the way I do, before the dimple in my left cheek or the gleam in my eyes every time I smile.

Unlike my first go round with braces, I'm not looking forward to being in the orthodontist's chair this time. I don't want spaced out, crooked teeth, but I don't want braces either. My perspective has changed. Now, I see it as trading one glaring imperfection for another. I can't reconcile wearing braces with the way I want to look. Take a moment and picture this scene. You see a tall, lean, African American woman walking down the street. The sun radiates off her skin, a massive afro frames her face, and her barely there make up is flawless. A pair of upper thigh grazing shorts accentuate legs that seemingly have no end and a body hugging tank draws attention to the gentle curve of her bust. She glides along the sidewalk in high heel sandals, commanding the attention of everyone who passes. As her path crosses yours your eyes meet and you hold her gaze. A warm blush spreads across her cheeks and she parts her lips in a metal mouth smile. SEE!!! The braces ruin it!

No, I'm not the only adult who's going to be walking around with braces. But to be honest, I've always felt that they looked a tad bit ridiculous. And if I feel that way looking at other people, I know that someone is going to feel that way looking at me. Yeah, yeah, I shouldn't care what people think. But unlike most folks, I'm going to be honest and say that I do. I already feel self concious whenever I open my mouth. I often find myself talking with my hand casually shielding my mouth so people won't stare at everything that's wrong in there. I'm getting my teeth fixed so I won't feel compelled to do that any more. In this case, the cure is worse than the disease and I'll feel more self concious than ever. I explored the options with Invisalign and removeable retainers, but none of them were viable solutions to the problem. So I've gotta go full out with metal braces, complete with a tooth extraction and rubber bands. Hopefully, I'll feel better about how they'll look over the two years I'll be wearing them. And who knows, maybe I'll meet a man with braces and when we kiss there will be sparks. Or our teeth could just get stuck together.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Make It Stop

The summer before 12th grade I went away to an eight week program for high school students at Cornell. I arrived with visions of popularity in my head. When no one knows you, you can be anyone you want. I had every intention of using that anonymity to recreate myself into the queen bee I never was at my school, but it never quite happened. Other girls got that distinction first and I was the designated weird chick on the periphery.
One day in the dorm lounge a group of the "chosen ones" were hanging out while I studied a few feet away from them. Their conversation piqued my interest and I wanted so badly to join in. I thought if I just said something extra witty and funny they would invite me into their circle, ending my tenure at the bottom of the social food chain. So, I kept listening and formulated in my head the perfect remark. I rehearsed it over and over and when the time came to interject I delivered my line flawlessly. Silence. They all looked at me for a moment. Then one of them said, "I'm sorry, were we talking to you?" That's when they laughed. I wanted to think of a scathing come back but the combination of shock, embarassment, and disappointment left my mind blank. They went back to their conversation, ignorning me once again. I went back to studying.
At the time I hated that girl for being such a bitch to me. Even now, a part of me still does. But I have to admit that sometimes I really wish I had the ability to be that bitchy, because I finally realized that I am entirely too friendly.
Last Sunday after church a large group of us headed to the diner across the street for brunch. This diner serves some of the best food in town and is always packed on Sundays and this one was no exception. We were ravenous when we arrived and the smells of home fries, omlettes, and pancakes wafting into the waiting area were not helping the situation. After roughly ten minutes our waitress led us to our table. I squeezed past the adjacent table, barely saying excuse me to the woman sitting there before sliding into my seat. I immediately dove into the menu, even though I already knew exactly what I would order to soothe the savage beast rumbling around in my tummy.
We laughed and talked as we waited for our food. Eventually my friend Choir Girl asked me what television show I would be renacting that afternoon (I love making fun of reality TV shows, The Bachelor in particular..."I really feel a connection and I just want to let you know that I'm here for the right reasons, because I think we have a connection." Blech!). Somehow we got on the topic of American Idol and started going over our favorites (Katharine - AMAZING, Kevin - Chicken Little's twin). All of a sudden a voice that doesn't belong to any of us said,"I really like Paris. She's my favorite." We turned and the woman at the table next to us who I damn near trampled to get to my seat without a second thought a few mintues earlier was now leaning towards our table. Choir Girl and I engaged her in about 30 seconds of conversation about the Idols until our food arrives. The woman turned back to her dining companions and we began shoveling eggs, french toast, pancakes, omlettes, and home fries into our mouths as fast as humanly possible.
When the frantic eating subsided to a more subdued pace, Choir Girl asked if I'll ever make it to church on time so I can do my solo with the praise team. My solo is a long running joke between us because I've often been told I shouldn't even sing in the shower. Plus, I never make it to church on time for the singing anyways. I told her I had been practicing and was seriously considering singing Mariah Carey's gospel infused song "Fly Like A Bird," complete with ear shattering high notes. Choir Girl wasn't one of the 5 million people who bought the Emancipation of Mimi so she had never heard the song. I gave her a sample. "Fly like a bird, take to the sky, I need you now Lord carry me high," I sang softly. I didn't sing soft enough. The woman at the next table leaned over again. "I had a solo last week in church," she informed us. Choir Girl and I nodded and smiled politely. "That's nice," we said. But before we could turn our attention back to each other, she decided we needed to hear that solo. In a strained soprano reminiscent of a first grade teacher trying in vain to hit the last note of the national anthem, she serenaded us with a song that must've come from the Puritan's hymnal.
Choir Girl slowly turned away, leaving me to entertain the unwelcome solo by myself. Initially, I sat there and smiled, hoping that she would stop after a few bars. She didn't. My ears were starting to bleed, so I asked her what church she went to in an attempt to stop the song. She just kept on singing. I asked again. This time she answered....then went right back to singing. Time for verse two. I could hear my friends snickering at her and I wanted to tell her to shut up. But I didn't. I could only wait it out until she was finished.
Mercifully, she stopped midway through the second verse. I think she finally realized she didn't have a receptive audience. Unfortunately for both of us, that only made her try harder.
"Oh, this is a song that was sung at my wedding." Immediately she launched into "'Tis a Gift." Maybe it was because she was trying so hard, or maybe it was because I knew the song, or maybe it was because I wanted to make her feel comfortable, or maybe it was because I lost my damn mind but I started singing with her. "When true, simplicity is gained, to bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed," we sang. I tried to cut it off at the end of the verse but she kept going, "Make new friends, but keep the old." I didn't follow.
"Let's sing it in a round. I'll start," she suggested eagerly. "Make new friends," she started, then pointed to me for my cue. I noticed a faint hint of desperation in her expression. That's when I knew she wasn't singing because she wanted to, she was singing because she felt she had to. Stopping at this point would mean acknowledging that she didn't belong and that was a humilation she was unwilling to bear. This had now gone too far. I begged off, insisting I was not a singer. She tried to coax me into joining her, but I stood firm. I couldn't stand to hear her sing another note, but moreso I couldn't bear to watch her make a fool of herself trying to be one of us as my friends mocked her. She finally relented and refocused her attention back to her table.
I never wanted that woman to be a part of our conversation, but once she barged in I didn't have the heart to kick her out. I smiled and played nice, but never really welcomed her contributions. Trying to be polite only made the situation worse, and I now think it would've been much nicer if I had just dismissed her from the start, like I was dismissed all those years ago. Yes, it hurt, but allowing me to flounder the way that woman did last Sunday probably would've hurt more. Maybe what's often perceived as bitchiness is actually an act of mercy and kindness. If I had shot her down, I could've put her out of her misery before she became the target of our ridicule. And ridicule her, we did.
Then something interesting happened, as we were leaving the woman turned to us again and slipped Choir Girl a $5 bill. "Use this towards the tip," she said. "I'm blessing you, so now you go be a blessing to someone else." We were shocked and felt a little guilty because we knew we didn't deserve that gesture. We weren't nice to her by any stretch of the imagination, but maybe that was her way of saying thank you for not being mean.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

When I'm Fat

When I'm fat I'm insecure. I don't like standing next to skinny girls cause I don't quite measure up. I'm not like I used to be and now I'm not good enough. My friends tell me I'm beautiful no matter what the scale says. I smile and agree that they are right, but I know I'd rather be beautiful weighing a lot less.
When I'm fat I feel guilty. I ate creamy soup with my salad and it probably added a pound. I took a break during my workout and those are calories I won't burn now. I feel guilty for looking at the pizza coupons that come in the mail. It gets worse as I dig them out of the trash. And it suffocates me as I eat the whole thing.
When I'm fat, I try to feel thin. I suck in my stomach, throw back my shoulders, and move my hips when I walk. The twitch in my hips makes my waist seem smaller. Feeling thin makes me feel better.

When I'm fat I hate to shop. I know I can't fit in that size. I can't buy the next one bigger cause I don't want to admit that's now me. And I dread the dressing rooms. There are too many mirrors with too many angles revealing too many imperfections. I'd rather avoid it all.

When I'm fat I obsess. My conversations revolve around getting thin. If my friends ever got sick of me and stopped speaking, I'd obsess to these four walls.

When I'm fat, the only thing I want is to be thin. Nothing seems to work. I keep a food journal until I eat something I don't want to see in writing. I try the South Beach Diet, but scarf a load of cookies the second I'm told ONE is okay. I hired a personal trainer and all that money went to waste. I try to recreate what I did before. I got skinny after college and I'm sure I can do it once more.

When I'm fat there is an entire drawer of clothes that don't fit. I refuse to throw them away, cause that would mean I'm giving in.

When I'm fat I envision the future. In the future I'll be thin. When I'm thin I'll do all the things I wouldn't do when I'm fat.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Walk of Shame

"Hey baby, can I come with you?" he propositioned as I passed him on the street. Too tired to properly convey my disgust at the dirty old man, I simply averted my eyes, folded my arms across the cleavage my dress exposed to the midmorning sun, and sped up my hobble towards 8th Avenue. For the next two blocks, people stared. Their gazes lingered, some judging, some amused, some lusting, but all knowing. I focused on making it to the train, pretending not to notice them. I didn't want to acknowledge what we all knew. I was on the "Walk of Shame."

The Walk of Shame isn't hard to spot. It’s more than obvious that you’re going back to your home as everyone else is leaving theirs. With a quick once over perfect strangers can tell exactly what you were doing last night. Your looks say it all. The hot little dress that looked perfect when you left the house is now wrinkled. The hairstyle you carefully crafted 12 hours ago is either crushed, matted, fallen, limp or otherwise wrecked. Your face is no longer painted, and accessories and stockings are crammed in your tiny clutch. The strut and swagger are now gone, replaced by a methodical limp to compensate for the screaming blisters on your feet. The worst part about the Walk of Shame is that it lets everyone know you're NOT the girlfriend. Girlfriends don't make the Walk of Shame. Girlfriends have a change of clothes at his place or can at least swipe a pair of sweats, a t-shirt, and some beat up sneakers before heading home. But you're not the girlfriend, just the chick he took home last night. Even if you're more than that, that's all anyone sees. The details don't matter when you look like the lukewarm leftovers from last night.

I dragged my body to the 138th Street station and headed down into the heated pit. Waiting on that platform, I felt every single one of the “I know what you did last night” looks people threw my way. I felt dirty, not because of what I had done the night before, but because sweat clung to my inner thighs. Having no choice but to wear the same panties I’d danced in all night (going commando in a dress while riding NYC public transportation is NEVER an option) when I dressed that morning, I was feeling less than fresh. Gargling warm water and using my finger as a toothbrush hadn't been enough to conquer the morning breath still marinating in my mouth. Personal hygiene always gets shafted the morning after and it was way past time for a shower. I hugged my purse close and willed the train to hurry up and arrive. The only good thing about the walk of shame is its end, which can never come soon enough. What I didn’t know was that mine was far from ending.

The Downtown A was nearly empty when it pulled into the station. I hopped aboard and fell onto a hard plastic seat in the air conditioned car. I tried to sleep as the train traveled from Harlem through midtown Manhattan, the Village, Chinatown, and Brooklyn on its way to Far Rockaway. Periodically, I'd awake to new passengers, or rather witnesses. When the train emerged from the tunnels and rumbled along the tracks above the streets of Queens I knew it would all be over soon and I could reclaim my privacy and maybe a scrap of my dignity. I checked the time on my cell phone and estimated that it would take less than a half hour to reach my stop. Approaching the Broad Channel Station, the train came to a halt. Assuming, it was a momentary delay, I sat back and waited for the familiar lurch to signal we were once again on the move. One minute passed, then two. After about 5 minutes, I knew something was wrong. I checked the time. More than 90 minutes had passed since I left his apartment. Why did this have to take so damn long? Ten minutes later the conductor came over the loud speaker and explained that the suspension bridge across Broad Channel was stuck and no trains could cross. All passengers had to get off at the Broad Channel Station and take the bus to Far Rockaway.

A bus? A freakin bus? I don’t do buses. At least not in a little black dress and high heels with dirty draws sticking to me. I immediately panicked. I had no clue what bus I needed to take or where to find it. Stepping off the train, the situation went from bad to worse. The early afternoon temperature hovered around 90 degrees and it was soon apparent that my deodorant had stopped working somewhere between Manhattan and Queens. Desperate to get home, I approached the station attendant’s booth and asked what train would take me to Beach 25th and Seagirt Blvd. He mumbled something unintelligible and it was obvious he would be no help. Completely lost, I followed the throng of stranded travelers flooding the street. Eventually we all came to a bus stop. Several lines made stops there and I hoped that the bus I needed was one of them. When the first bus approached, I pushed my way to the front of the line and asked the driver if he was heading my way. He told me that my bus would be arriving at the bus stop around the corner, but not before ogling my chest for a few seconds. Exposed and dejected I headed around the corner, wondering when my misery would end. I was tired, hungry, sweaty, and my feet hurt. Worst of all, I was positive I was about to set a record for the longest Walk of Shame ever.

I limped towards the other commuters who were waiting at the bus stop and leaned against a brick wall along the sidewalk. Standing there, I could take no more. The strappy sandals I wore were no longer sexy, just extremely painful. The balls of my feet were on fire, my swollen pinky toe strained against the leather strap holding it in place, and my ankles were shaking from teetering on four inch spikes for so long. I checked the sidewalk for broken glass and other debris. Finding none, I slipped off the stilettos that had gone from being "killer heels" to plain killers. Relief was more important than cleanliness. I could scrub when I got home. Where was the damn bus?
“Do you want to wear these?”
I turned around. Her face was friendly as she stretched out her hand to offer me the new flip flops she had purchased that day. I tried to refuse, but she insisted. Grateful, I slipped on the cheap footwear. They were about too sizes too small and my heels hung off the back, but I didn’t care. I was finally comfortable. I don’t know why she came to my rescue. Maybe she had a habit for doing good deeds. Maybe she was grossed out seeing bare feet on a city street. Or maybe on a different day not too long ago she had been me. Whatever her reason, the kindness was more than welcome. Who says New Yorkers aren't nice?

After what felt like an eternity the bus finally came. I found a seat near the window and prayed to God the person who sat next to me didn’t notice any offensive odors coming from my direction. When I finally got in the house, I headed straight to the bathroom. I was naked under the shower’s spray in seconds. And as everything that transpired over the last few hours spiraled down the drain, I vowed that no matter what, the next time (oh, there’s always a next time) I was most definitely taking a cab home.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Running the Bases

As a young girl, I could not wait for my first kiss. A kiss, a real one, not one from mom or dad or grandma or grandpa, but a bonafide lip parting, tongue sharing kiss - like the ones in the movies - meant someone loved you or at least liked you a whole lot. I really really wanted someone to love me or like me a whole lot. I envisioned how it would happen, what he would look like, how it would feel, EVERYTHING. Then, I waited. In sixth grade I liked my next door neighbor, but he never kissed me. In seventh and eighth grade I had a thing for my junior high's resident delinquent. He kissed a lot of girls those two years, but I wasn't one of them. Ninth grade, I set my sights on a guy five years older than me. He didn't really notice my existence, so needless to say, I didn't get a kiss from him either. All around me other girls were getting kissed left and right. They had long since made it to first base and were on second, contemplating stealing third. Hell, a few of them had managed to make it all the way to home base, before I even had my first at bat. Finally, the summer after my freshman year of high school, it happened. I had my first kiss. After all the anticipation and build up it can best be described as an anticlimactic disappointment. A few days after my 15th birthday I got kissed behind a tree by a boy I just met at an outdoor concert featuring the Boys Choir of Harlem. It started with a goodbye hug and turned into 5 seconds of slobber and sucking. I instantly regretted it. My first kiss was supposed to be special and it wasn't. I didn't kiss again for a long time. That kiss meant nothing, but kissing still meant something, at least to me.
Back then, kissing was a big deal in and of itself. Anything on top of kissing was damn near groundbreaking. Well, maybe because it was. In 8th grade I was best friends with the AquaNet Addict. She always had a boyfriend, so I lived vicariously through her because I never did. We would sit in her bedroom, talking in hushed tones and she'd confide in me about the latest relationship milestones she and her boyfriend had reached. She told me about the first time they kissed, the first time he felt her up - over the bra of course. One day she was particularly excited to tell me that she had put her hands down his pants. These confessions didn't tumble out one after the other. There was always a significant length of time between each of them. Once AquaNet Addict made it to first base (kissing) she stayed there for a while before moving on to second base (the feel up). When she eventually made it to third, she planted herself there, not wanting to make the trip to home plate at the age of 14. I can't say that I blame her. While there were girls who had made it back to home several times with several different pitchers, they were in the minority. For the majority, making it to first was more than good enough.
I don't know what happened, but somewhere along the line kissing stopped being sufficient. Honestly, I can't remember the last time I just kissed a guy. And I'm not talking about the type of kiss that starts on the mouth, moves to the neck and winds up all over your body. I mean a nice long kiss that's sweet and sexy without being sexual. A kiss that only leaves you yearning for more kisses, not multiple orgasms. I haven't kissed like that in I don't know how long. Now, kissing is always the precursor to more. It's the necessary evil you've gotta rush through to get to the good stuff. Even the good kisses are like this. Instead of holding at first base, and just enjoying being there, I find myself sprinting right past it then wondering how in the hell my clothes fell off (and I am asserting right now that it is possible to wind up naked and have no clue how it happened).
Not only is kissing no longer sufficient, it's no longer special. Unlike junior high or high school, a kiss no longer means, "I really like you," but more likely means, "I'd like to fuck you." Since it doesn't mean what it used to, there's also no need to hold out for it. When I was a teenager, the first thing my girlfriends and I used to ask each other after going out on a date was, "Did you kiss him." Sometimes the answer was yes, sometimes it was no. But in our minds that was the carrot we dangled (at least initially). Now when my friends and I talk about our dates the first thing we ask is, "Did you sleep with him?" The kiss is a given. Let me tell you that a simple no does NOT suffice. Even though sex (only one type counts) doesn't happen, a lot more than kissing did, and my friends KNOW this. What they are really asking is, "How much clothing did you lose before you regained your senses and stopped."
Sometimes I wonder why we stop running the bases as we get older. Each step was a milestone, something to look forward to. Now we speed right through them...hell some of us even skip over a couple. I want to go back to how it was when I was younger and have everything mean what it used to. I really want to hold out for that special kiss and then revel in it for while before proceeding. I want to get back to the point where a kiss ALWAYS means, "I like you," at the very least. I've told myself a million times that I'm gonna go back to the bases system, but it hasn't happened yet. Last summer when I was going through a bit of a wild phase, not even touching the bases, Chesty LaRue wanted my advice. For some reason I was managing to get serviced without having to ask or do any servicing myself. She wanted to know how I had accomplished such a feat. I couldn't give her a reason, but Chesty became convinced it was because I was holding back the ultimate prize. Who knew that being naked with a guy's face between your legs could ever be considered holding out? My mom would be so proud.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Get a Job

When I turned sixteen my parents insisted that I work. Following in the illustrious footsteps of my older brother, I joined the crowd of pimple faced teenagers and got a job at the McDonald's 5 minutes from our home. I hated everything about that job from the high water pants I was forced to wear as part of my uniform to the greasy, sludgy floor I had to slide across to bring impatient customers their Big Macs, Super Size Fries, two fajitas, strawberry sundaes, and diet Cokes. The only thing I enjoyed about the job was complaining about it constantly. As parents do when their children whine, my mother finally got fed up and told me to stop complaining about the degredation of scraping dried ketchup from linoleum walls because, "It's just a job, not your career." Nine years later, I finally get what she meant. I wish I would've gotten a job after I graduated college. Having a job would make my life a thousand times easier than it is right now. Unlike most of my friends, I didn't get myself a job after getting my degree. Nope, I just had to go the extra mile and get myself a career.
Senior year of college, I was burnt out. Another few years of higher education was the last thing I wanted, so I decided to embark on a job search. I went down to the career services office and hammered out a first rate resume, bought myself a new suit, then hit the campus recruiting circuit. I didn't just want any job. How could I? I was about to graduate from one of the premiere universities in the country, and working just to pay the bills wouldn't do. I applied to management training programs, complete with 12 month rotational assignments and a clear path straight to a corner office in 10 years. After three months of searching, I got exactly what I wished for, including a company car, expense account, and signing bonus. Meanwhile, many of my friends decided to forgo the career fairs and company info sessions, instead opting to just find a job upon graduation. For the life of me I couldn't understand why they wouldn't take advantage of the opportunity to tie their names to a fortune 500 company and reap the benefits of annual bonuses, 401Ks, and stock options. Now I know. They didn't want to be tied down.
Four years later, I feel as though I put the proverbial cart before the horse. I rushed into a profession, climbed up the ladder (one rung, but hey it was a climb), bought a house, invested in a 401K. I've done exactly what's expected. Now, I want to take the time to explore my options. My parents, family, and friends keep asking me when I'm going to go back to school for the MBA, because of course that's the next step on the path I chose. I don't even want to go back to school anytime soon, but if I did business school is NOT where I would head. I desperately want off this path, but getting off is easier said than done. I didn't realize the commitment I made to this life when I chose it. Careers come with attachments and security, and those are a bitch to let go.
I didn't give jobs enough credit back in 2001. Jobs pay the bills and make ends meet. Jobs let you try new things and figure out life. It's exactly what I need now, but I started a career and now no one wants to give me a job. The thing about careers is that they tend to define a person. It's not just what you do, it's who you are. I defined myself before I knew who I was and it's biting me in the ass now. It's hard to get people to see who I really am, when the resume says something completely different.
As my friends shove countless grad school essays under my nose, wondering if their reason for wanting to go to ________ (fill in a program) School sounds unique, I have to admit I'm sort of envious. They're all moving forward, but I got ahead of myself, and now have to move backwards. The same people who I thought were crazy for not getting "real" jobs after college are pursuing their dreams without hesitation. Some of them are continuing on to what they've always wanted to do, others switched it up and went in a different direction. Regardless, they can go anywhere (provided they get accepted) and don't have attachments tying them to anything. In a couple months they will tell their employers they are leaving, and it really won't matter much. See, that's the thing about jobs. They're whole lot easier to leave than a career.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

It Made Sense

I hate vegetables. Always have. As a child I would hide my peas and carrots in my napkin when my mother's back was turned and then throw them in the trash with my chicken bones and scraps of rice. If there was no way to accomplish this duplicity and I was forced to ingest the string beans or corn that I pushed far away from all the other food on my plate, then I made sure to never taste them. Instead of chewing and taking the risk of exposing my poor defenseless tastebuds to the rancid flavor, I would pop the veggies like pills, chasing them down with a swig of red Kool-Aid.
It was no secret that I hated vegetables. My parents still tell the story about the time I asked my granny when her bus back to the city was leaving because she insisted I eat my ruffage. So it came as a quite a shock to my family when I came home in August 1997 after spending the summer away at an Ivy League Summer College and announced that I was now a vegetarian. My dislike of vegetables was only part of what baffled them about my decision. The only thing that rivaled my intense hatred for leafy greens was an all consuming love for bacon double cheeseburgers. Greasy, flame-broiled, fat dripping meat had been my dietary staple for seventeen years. Could I seriously be trading in that which I love for that which I loathe? Not exactly.
The decision to cut out animals (fish included) was made during a philosophy class one pivotal afternoon. Called out by one of my classmates for being a hypocrite after expounding on the intrinsic value of the lives of all animals not just the ones we see as pets, I decided that none of God's creatures should give their lives just to satisfy my hunger. So that very day I committd to a meatless existence. No beef, no chicken, no fish, no turkey, nada. However, stopping meat did not mean starting vegetables. Yep, I was a vegetarian who did not eat vegetables. At the time, I thought it was perfectly reasonable to subsist on bread, cheese, and fruit. I could still eat pizza (sans pepperoni), so I really didn't see the problem. Eight months later, after too many dirty looks from McDonald's employees for ordering two cheeseburgers, no pickles, no onion, no meat, extra ketchup, I gave up and decided that the chickens could be sacrificed to my hunger pains.
Forsaking meat waasn't the smartest decision I've made. Neither was falling into bed with the Idiot Who Made Me Cry back in 2004, two years after we'd split. Just like becoming a vegetarian, it made sense at the time. It made sense to go back to his apartment as the first rays of daylight pierced that Saturday morning. It made sense to take off my dress, put on his shorts and T-shirt, and crash in his bed. And for a moment, it made sense when he gathered me in his arms and pressed his lips to mine for the first time since the last time.
But it stopped making sense when I realized there was no prelude to our kiss. Before that day we had not seen or spoken to one another in six months. It made even less sense when I remembered exactly how he made me cry. How he had been the one to decide that we were over and not bother to fill me in as to why until 10 months later. Why was I still holding him and tracing his jaw with soft kisses, knowing how much bullshit was in that bed with us. In that moment, that was the one thing that made perfect sense. I had wanted to be back in his bed for the past two years and never imagined it could ever be, so when it happened nothing else mattered except for the fact that I was there with him in that moment. Hovering above him, my legs straddling his torso, I didn't care enough about all the damage he had done to stop myself from tracing the hollow of his throat with my index finger and burying my head in his neck. My heart was in it, and when he held me close I wanted so badly for his to be as well. But the difference between us was that my heart had never really left, while his had been gone for a long time. He'd had a choice once, and he didn't choose me. So why was he choosing me now? I knew that he wasn't, but the way our limbs fit together so perfectly, like two pieces of a puzzle, made me hope that he would. That hope was keeping me there with him all morning. I thought that if I just stayed with him long enough, he'd realize just how right we were and fix everything that he had broken.
But he didn't. He could've fixed it when I asked what we were doing there. He could've fixed it when I told him it was wrong for me to be with him after how badly he hurt me. He could've fixed it so many times during those few hours, but he didn't. Instead he told me to choose whether or not he was good or bad for me. I told him I hated him, then followed it with another kiss. But I meant what I said. I hated him for so many things, but mostly because he didn't want me the way I wanted him. I hated him because what was going on in his bed didn't mean to him, what it meant to me. And even with all that hate, kissing him still made sense.
When he left the room to shower, Flatty Girl called. So did Chesty LaRue. That's when it stopped making sense. The horror in their voices when I told them where I was let me know for certain that nothing I had done in the last 4 hours was sane. And later that evening, hours after we had parted ways in the courtyard of his apartment complex, when the memories of the morning haunted me, I knew it was a mistake. I had taken him back when he had never asked me to and would have to start getting over him all over again. Spending that morning with him made everything fresh. And when I thought about it four months later, the fact that it made sense at the time was no comfort when the tears fell from my eyes.

Monday, March 06, 2006

In an Instant

I remember when I stopped liking Mike Salamida (real name for once). It was my senior year of high school and we worked together at a local supermarket. All of the other cashiers and baggers at the front end would see us flirt 8 hour shift after 8 hour shift. We'd play that teenage game of teasing and bickering, pretending we couldn't stand each other. Everyone was sure that he liked me, so sure in fact, that I became sure of it as well. That was until Erin started working with us. She was everything I wasn't, cute, blonde, and curvy. She was stylish in her flare legged corduroy pants, white polo shirt, and red apron. It's weird, because the second she showed up at the register next to mine and asked a customer if he wanted paper or plastic, I knew that Mike would want her. I knew that that she was the kind of girl boys always liked instead of me. Me with my crazy hair and braces. Me with my flat chest and shapeless clothing. Me with the killer sense of humor and sharp wit that never quite compensated for what I lacked in looks. I knew Mike would like her and it was confirmed at a Friday night keg party. I drank myself silly that night so I wouldn't have to deal with it. It hurt and no one wants to spend a Friday night in pain. I woke up the next morning with a hangover, which in hindsight was a good thing. The first thing I was aware of upon waking was a distinct feeling of vertigo and a queasy stomach. It took a least 30 seconds for me to remember that Mike liked a girl and that girl wasn't me. I spent the rest of the weekend trying to forget. Every couple of hours or so I'd be successful and I truly wouldn't think about it. That is until I realized I wasn't thinking about it which caused me to think about it all over again. I went to school on Monday and I don't remember a single detail about what happened, so I won't bother to make it up. But I do remember coming home from school and heading upstairs to watch All My Children which I taped religiously. Edmund's wife Maria had just recently gone over a cliff after a plane crash (body never found, she came back five years later) and he was sitting in a corner, crumpled and raw, reliving all of the memories of their life together. The montage flashed across the screen set to that song "I Can't Cry Hard Enough." As I sat there watching it, I cried with Edmund. Not because Maria was gone but because in that moment I knew exactly how it felt to not be able to cry hard enough for the person you're crying over to hear it. And when I was done crying and the snot was still running from my nose and my chest was still heaving, I decided that I didn't want to cry anymore. Not only did I not want to cry, I didn't want to hurt and I didn't want to mourn the loss of what was never mine. So I made a decision. I was not going to like Mike for one more second. I was not going to feel the way I did 10 seconds ago for a moment longer. And with that steely resolved I took a finely sharpened knife and cut him out of my heart. In that moment I was over it.
I've never again been able to do that. I remember it and I keep it close, just so I know I can do it. If I've done it once, I can do it again. That's what I keep telling myself. I don't know why I couldn't do it with the Idiot, and I don't know why I can't do it with the Guy. I don't know why I can't just make the decision to not like him anymore and then actually not like him. Maybe it's because I ran across his picture last night, or maybe because his text messages are still in my phone. Maybe it's because I travelled through his town last week. I don't know. I'd like to know. I think if I knew why I was feeling this way right now I could stop feeling it. I could stop feeling as though something very vital is missing. I need for the Guy not to matter and I need him to not matter in this instant, just like how in 1997 Mike stopped mattering in an instant. I need that right now. I need it like I need air.