Friday, August 30, 2013

Maybe I'm the Problem

I love Taylor Swift. She does what I want to do, which is write amazing break up stories that motivate / inspire / comfort / propel girls all over the world into healing their hearts and moving on. Granted, her stories are set to music and some of them overtly suggest revenge, yet I'd still say we have the same goals in mind. Poor Taylor, no matter how many super hot celebs she dates, she still hasn't found the love of her life. Joe Jonas, John Mayer, Jake Gyllenhaal, Taylor Lautner, Harry Styles, Connor Kennedy... Taylor's relationships are all over the tabloids (which thankfully mine are not!) but each one spurs another hit single about love gone wrong / boys are stupid / I'm still fabulous. 

Yet for all my country loving, I'm pretty sure that if all of T Swift's ex boyfriends got together and wrote a song about her, it would be called Maybe You're the Problem.

Throughout my 100+ dates, I've gone out with a man who's never left Brooklyn, a guy who threw up sushi and still tried to kiss me, a one armed prison guard, two separate men who put me on the phone with their mothers, a guy who cried when I told him I didn't have butterflies, three die hard Star Wars fans, a guy who believed in post death polygamy, and a man who wanted to go to the midnight showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show dressed as Brad and Janet...except that he wanted to be Janet. 

I know that those were not my fault. But on this date, I may have been the problem. Hear me out. 

Firstly, you should know by now that I think Bald is the New Black. I find bald guys very sexy, especially with facial hair. I can't explain it. They're just hot. 

Secondly, you should know that I fall hard and fast for a man who can make me laugh. I mean a real, true, honest to goodness, authentic laugh. Not a chuckle or a giggle or a "tee-hee, that's kinda funny!" What I want is a guy with a great sense of humor who gets me. Preferably one who isn't afraid when I honk. (In case, you haven't heard it, I seriously honk when I laugh. Ask my girlfriends how many nice restaurants in Manhattan we've gotten dirty looks at! I even got kicked out of a Cosi once. True story.)

Dennis and I started talking online through OkCupid. He is very tall, very bald, and has big, bushy facial hair. He is one of only a few men with whom I could appropriately use the term "hulks around" in lieu of "walks." He's huge. I love that. 

We got into a conversation about improv in New York City, and Dennis knows all the same people I know. In fact, Dennis has a podcast and has interviewed several friends who I perform with. Our paths had never crossed, but I started listening to his podcast and it turns out, Dennis is hilarious. He is an excellent host, always supporting the strength of his guests. He is a great writer, and I thoroughly enjoyed our OkC messages. He is also a really sweet guy who takes care of his grandma a few days a week. I have a soft spot in my heart for guys who love their grandmothers. Basically, Dennis is awesome. 

A good friend of his was going to a concert on Sunday afternoon and could not use season Mets tickets, so Dennis asked if I would like to go to the game. Knowing what huge Mets fans we both are, this was the perfect date. I like any date where I can wear jeans and a t shirt! Throw in a hot pretzel, some cute baseball players, and a nice guy by my side and I can't imagine a better afternoon. 

When I arrived at the Home Run Apple (a classic New York nod to the old Shea Stadium) to meet Dennis, I recognized him immediately. Dennis is unmistakeable. He is bigger than his pictures led me to believe, and his bald head and dark beard are easily distinguishable features. Dennis stands out in a crowd. If you knew him, you'd spot him immediately. If you didn't know him, you might back away. He's kind of intimidating. 

Despite appearances, Dennis is very easy to talk to, comfortable, laid back, and completely genuine. It helped that we already knew a lot about each other, having spoken online, on the phone, and stalked each other's twitter feeds. He knew about the blog going into the date so I didn't have to awkwardly bring up the fact that I write about my relationships. In fact, we were able to compare awful dating experiences which I never get tired of doing. Although I like to believe that crappy guys are the reason I'm still single in my 30's, I hear just as many horror stories from my single guy friends about psycho girls they've gone out with. Turns out, everyone is a little crazy!

Dennis and I stayed in our seats for the first few innings, chatting about our favorite Mets memories, players, and games. We talked about bad dates, living in New York, and our families. We spoke about all the friends we had in common, improv comedy, and great shows. We talked about my blog, his podcast, and Tony Danza. Then we got up to walk around CitiField and take in all the amazing views. 

You can watch a Mets game from just about anywhere in the stadium. If you ever want to get tickets but there are only seats way up in the nosebleed section, don't you worry! Buy them anyway and watch from the bridge. Or the bar. Or any of the clearings which offer a 360 degree view of the field. Which is exactly what Dennis and I did. 

Along the way, we ran into several people Dennis knew. Apparently, he's like the Mayor of CitiField. There were people he knew from his hometown, people he knew from the city, people he knew who were friends of friends, and people he knew just from going to Mets games. There were even people he knew from Twitter who he'd met in person at a game! Dennis is incredibly social and the kind of guy that people like to know. I was really happy to be there with him, although I was getting the feeling that we were heading deep into the Friend Zone. Any romance that might have been in the air was overpowered by ice cream and disappointment. 

Should I not have worn my hair in a ponytail? Should I have worn a tighter Mets t shirt? Should I not have referred to Ike Davis as my baseball boyfriend? Should I not have talked about bad dates I've been on? Where did I go wrong? I've pulled all my adorable moves. I've touched his arm several times to let him know I'm interested. Why isn't Dennis flirting with me???

Having lost the game, the Mets cleared the field and the barriers were laid out for little kids to run the bases. Honestly, this is my favorite part of going to a Sunday afternoon game. I love watching the little ones run out onto the track, and I always imagine taking my kids to do that someday. I excitedly begged Dennis to walk down to field level with me, which he did with an appeasing smile. We lied to a guard or two to let us down behind the first base dugout for prime viewing. Then we kicked back in two front row seats and I pointed out every single super cute child in their teeny tiny Mets outfits running, waddling, and toddling around the field. 

Every. Single. Kid.

Looking back on it now, I probably should have picked up on the fact that Dennis is younger than I am, and possibly not looking to start a family in the immediate future. I can see from his point of view that I may have come across with a slight case of baby fever, which frankly, I'm not denying that I have. I maybe should have said thank you for the ice cream and walked out to the parking lot with him, rather than force him to sit through ten more minutes of nineties music playing through the loudspeakers. I should have known that this date turned into a really cool friendship and nothing more. And you know something? That's ok. Dennis is still a great guy that I'm happy to have met, and I'm someone he'll tell stories about: the crazy girl who wanted kids on the first date. 

Maybe I really am the problem!

To follow Dennis Has a Podcast, click here.

UPDATE: To listen to 100 Cups of Coffee featured on Episodes 172 & 173 of Dennis Has a Podcast, click here!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Sealed With a Kiss

The following story is why I can no longer date Mormons. Let me explain:

I met Josh online and he was wonderful. He was incredibly smart, running one of the largest high tech cyber security companies in New York. He was funny, very witty and full of sparkling conversation. He was sexy, drove a motorcycle and full of suggestively flirtatious comments while never crossing the line. He was divorced like I am, and it turns out we got married within a few months of each other and divorced within a few months of each other. It helps to date someone who understands your relationship history because they've been through something similar. It also helps when he's got his gorgeous green eyes all over your dress and never stops smiling.

Before I knew Josh's last name, I entered him in my phone as Josh = Keeper. I left it that way even after I found out his last name. Josh just felt like the kind of guy I wanted to keep around. He would text me the sweetest things during the day, and I couldn't get my mind off of him. The feeling was mutual.

Josh and I had an awesome first date. It was that scene from a romantic comedy where you can't hear the dialogue, but there's music playing in the background. You see a montage of subway rides where the boy holds the girl's hand to steady her on the train car and then doesn't let go. You look through the restaurant windows and see the couple laughing and smiling. You seem them feeding each other dessert. You see the time lapse photography of the sun sinking behind the trees as daylight fades and attraction grows. You watch the distance between them shrink and you start screaming at the screen "Dammit, just kiss her already!" You see her dress floating around her legs and his fingers intertwined with hers and you squeal a little in delight when he finally stops on the corner and kisses her while they wait for traffic to cross. You want to be wherever they are when they're sipping cocktails on the roof and he's pointing out famous New York buildings down below and constellations up above of the few stars visible over Manhattan at night. You want to be her. You want to be with him. And then the music fades and the sound comes back on. You overhear this conversation:

Kimberly: So tell me about your last relationship.

Josh: Well, I had a ring on her finger in under 30 minutes on our first date.

Kimberly: *Chokes on her cocktail*

Josh: We had known each other for two years. I was dying to date her but couldn't ask her out. After our mission trip was over, I finally got her to go out with me. I knew that I wanted to marry her so I proposed in the first half hour.

Kimberly: How did you know that you wanted to marry a girl you'd never dated???

Josh: I'm Mormon, she's Mormon. I knew we had the same upbringing and values. Plus I was desperate to have sex and needed it to happen pretty quickly. Since we had to wait til we were married, I wanted that to be as soon as possible. 

Kimberly: So why'd you get divorced?

Josh: She got selfish and materialistic towards the end. Then she started drinking and partying, was cheating on me, got pregnant, and I finally kicked her out.

Kimberly: Wow, that's a rough story.

Josh: Rougher yet, we are technically still married. 

Kimberly: I don't understand. I thought you were divorced?

Josh: I am legally divorced but I'm still spiritually married. She is my celestial wife. We are an eternal family. Our union was sealed in the temple and therefore cannot be broken in this world.

Kimberly: You're reeeeally losing me now.

Josh: When Mormons marry, we marry for life. Not just this life, but the next life, and the one after that. So when I die and become god of my own world, she will still be there by my side.

Kimberly: *Nods head silently, starts drinking faster, looks around for quickest escape route*

Josh: I really like you and I see this going well. But you should know that if you and I were to get married here on Earth, and we died, you would join me in the after life as one wife and she would be there, technically also as my wife. That's where polygamy is ok. After death.

Kimberly: So you're saying that I have to worry about sharing you with another woman for all eternity while you're a god of your own planet and we have a weird little after life threesome?

Josh: Basically...yes.

Just for the record, I am inherently jealous of the ex girlfriend / ex wife of any guy I'm dating "here on Earth" and there is no possible way I could handle having to deal with here "for all eternity." Also, I can't date a man who truly believes he's going to be god of his own planet someday. That's just too much power for one man's head. I'm gonna ask him to take out the trash or do the dishes and he's gonna be all "Sorry, babe, I can't. Too busy practicing to be my own god!" So Josh turned out to not be a Keeper after all. Such a shame. I was really looking forward to a ride on that motorcycle.

*Note: Before you think I'm making this up, judging Josh for his beliefs, or badmouthing an entire religion, feel free to do your own research on sites such as these:
Ask Mormon Girl
From Man to God

Friday, August 23, 2013

Unlucky Seven

Dear Kimberly, 

Yesterday was my 39th birthday. I love birthdays! Well I got one of those you can't make this shit up moments. Like you, I have an ex-husband. We dated for 7 years, were married 7 years, and have now been divorced 7 years. I got divorced because one year into our marriage, he came home and told me that he had taken a job where he had to travel and would only be home one week a month. I tried to make it work but I didn't get married to be alone.

Within 6 months of our divorce, he was dating a 20 year old. They recently got engaged and he texted me to tell me so I wouldn't hear it somewhere else. One month later, she is pregnant so the wedding is postponed. Of course, they had their baby YESTERDAY!!! What the hell???

Part of me thinks it is funny because he knows it was my birthday but part of me is sad. Sad to the fact that we should have had kids. Sad to the fact that I am 39 and haven't found anyone. Sad to the fact that I still do not have kids.

So as he turns 40 in December and she is 26, I try wish them luck. My prince will come and all of this will be worth the journey! Your "Jason" blogs have refreshed by hope, thank you!

Unlucky Seven

Dear Seven,

First of all, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

Secondly, Thank You for writing and sharing your story with me. I know how hard that is when everyone else thinks you're so brave and strong. They have no idea that you're crying and indulging in a half gallon of Breyer's. Oh wait...that's me 

I think that life has a way of working out whether we understand it or not. Maybe your ex's baby being born on your birthday is the universe's way of reminding him of you (not like he's going to forget anyway!) I think that my ex had his baby on our anniversary for the same reason. Even after we separated, after we divorced, I would text or email him on our anniversary, just to say I wish you well and I'm thinking about you. Once he wrote back: “You don't have to remind me. I'll never forget.” 

Now, I know for sure that he never can. The burden is off of me having to remind him, because his child will do that for him. I'm sure his wife hates it which makes me just slightly happy. (Ok, maybe more than slightly!)

I feel you on the being sad front too. I am not at the place in my life that I thought I would be by this point, but I'm actively working to change that. If you still want children, it is never too late. There are oodles of babies out there, waiting to be adopted, waiting to be taken home, waiting to be loved, and if you are up for the challenge of motherhood with a partner or not, I am certain you will find a way to make it work for you. It's something I am seriously considering because I can't imagine giving anyone a more life changing gift than adoption. I still strive for marriage first and kids of my own if that's possible, but I am completely open to the thought that it might not be. I'm not ruling any of my choices out and maybe you shouldn't either. Love is love is love, whether it's a spouse or a baby or a friend or a relative or a co worker, and you should always surround yourself with love. 

That's what I've really been doing lately. Going on road trips, visiting friends, camping, eating out, throwing parties, baking for no reason in particular, sending handwritten notes and cards, hosting afternoon tea, attending writers groups, volunteering, joining a new church, anything I can do to be closer to people who simply radiate love. People who have love to give and are happy to see you because it means they can shower you with affection, attention, and appreciation. I have no husband to bake for, so I've designated myself the official sponsor of birthdays in my office. The women go crazy when I bring in homemade cookies or brownies or fudge. I wrote letters - real letters - and mailed them to my aunts, cousins, all the women in my life that I don't get to see nearly often enough and I miss tremendously. Everyone adores real mail (especially with hearts and stickers all over the envelope!) I offer to babysit my friends kids so they can go out for date nights. They get dinner and a movie and I get snuggle time with some of my favorite little people and still get to stay in my own bed where no one kicks me or wakes me up at 3 am. I go on as many dates as possible, staying open to the idea that love is still out there and will find me when I'm good and ready. 

I know that you're hurt and upset and frustrated right now. I have been there. Hell, on some days I still AM there. But as my grandmother used to say, This too shall pass. One day you'll wake up and without even realizing it, your ex and his new trollop of a wife and his new baby born on your birthday will not be the first and the last thing you think about. One day, in the not too distant future, you will survive an entire 24 hour period with no tears. One day, you will look back and think "how on earth did I manage to get through that without having an absolute melt down in the cereal aisle in Target?" (True story. Happened to me.) And you'll feel so much better because when you allow yourself to live your life, you will truly start enjoying it. 

You seem like a really strong person. I don't mean other people think you're strong --- I mean genuinely stronger than you give yourself credit for. Surround yourself with only the things and people that make you happy. Forgive yourself for harping, obsessing, and reliving the past...and then let it go. Remember that it's ok to eat a chocolate donut for breakfast if that's what you need to heal, but force yourself to go out for a run later on. Find what moves you, what motivates you, what makes you who you are. Only when you are completely in love with yourself can someone else fall in love with you too.

Wishing you every success in the world, and please let me know how it goes! 



Thank you for such a sweet reply! I think it is great that strong, single women can be supportive rather than break each other down. It’s funny that you mentioned adoption in your message. I have actually been considering it and doing some research, talking to several friends that have been through the process as well as praying about it. I truly think I might.

I feel like I sent myself a message. You told me all the things I would have told someone that asked me. I needed to hear it. I need to remember by doing and taking care of me I can be that great caregiver and friend I always am. Thanks again for being a sister in the single girl life!!! 

The (soon to be) Lucky Seven

Monday, August 19, 2013

Call Me Betty

I grew up in a house full of music. We loved country, big band, and classic rock. I knew  Billy Joel, the Doors and The Eagles before I knew The Wheels on the Bus. To this day, my great pride is being able to recite Don McLean's American Pie word for word. Ask me about it if you ever have eight minutes to kill.

So when I started dating a man named Al, the phrase that ran repeatedly through my mind was "I can call you Betty, and Betty if you call me, you can call me can call me Al!" Follow that up with a snazzy chorus of "nah nah nah nah ... nah nah nah nah nah nah..." and you've got a Paul Simon hit that has echoed in my heart since 1987. I love Simon's Graceland album just as much as The Beatles' Hard Day's Night and Eric Clapton's Unplugged. Music has a way of sticking in a person's head.

How can you separate Betty from Al? One way would be if Al has never heard the song.

I don't understand this! If there was a song with Kimberly in the title, I would make all of my friends change their ring tone so it played when I called. I have always been envious of girls named Caroline, Alice, Lucy, and Michelle for their musical fame. Should I ever have a baby boy, I will name him James so that I can sing him James Taylor's "Sweet Baby James" as a lullaby every night. How can Al not know the words to a song with his name in it???

Al didn't have much interest in music, same as he didn't have much interest in books, television shows, movies, or food. I tried finding something that he was passionate about besides running, but he didn't give me much to go on. As it turns out, Al is simply not a passionate person. He's got this take-it-or-leave-it mentality about almost everything in life. He's laid back, easy going, it is what it is. If I'm honest, it drove me a little crazy.

The only thing I could gather from my four (yes four!) dates with Al was how much he wanted to date me. He told his mother about me after the first date. He wanted to know what my favorite meal was, so that his mom could make it when I came over to meet his parents. He wanted us to double date with his sister and her husband. He wanted to bring me to his best friend's wedding later in the month as his Plus One. He was serving as Best Man and was very excited to be taking a real girl to the occasion, especially a girl he was not related to.

I've heard stories about guys who bring their cousin to the prom, but I assumed that these guys were some sort of dating urban legend. Turns out, they do exist and Al was one of them. For the record, he went to an all boys Catholic school. As his cousin was not available that evening, he didn't go to his prom. Taking me to his best friend's wedding fifteen years after graduating high school was going to make up for the tuxedo-clad experience he'd missed out on. No pressure.

On our second date, Al and I went to the beach for ice cream and mini golf. The boardwalk band stand was featuring a rootin tootin line dancing evening. I'm the kind of girl who sees an opportunity like that to do something spontaneously, jump in, join the party. Al is the kind of guy who watches from the sidelines and lets other people have all the fun. Sigh.

Also, he told me that getting chocolate and vanilla swirled was like throwing caution to the wind. I am fairly certain that adding sprinkles was the craziest thing he'd done all week.

While I am admittedly terrible at mini golf (and bowling), Al was actually quite good. I teased him that I was super competitive and hated to lose (true story) so he threw almost every hole, but only by a point or two, giving me enough of a handicap to catch up. He beat me by one point, but since he was the score keeper, that math may have been way off. Al suggested that we have a rematch soon, so I could get in some practice and come back to beat him. That was his sly way of securing another date, and while I did not have butterflies about him, I did appreciate his persistence.

On our third date, Al and I went to Barnes & Noble. When I worked there, my colleagues would check out the couples sitting in the cafe and guess if they were on a first date. We made up stories about how they met, what they were talking about, and if there would be a second date. It's a game I still enjoy playing every time I'm in Starbucks and it's super obvious that the couple has just met. I like to think that these dates actually work out for some people, but for others I can tell you that I witnessed their only date.

I wondered what Al and I looked like to the booksellers spying on us. Me in a sweater dress, leggings, and heels, tossing my blonde hair around my shoulders while slowly sipping a non fat toffee chai. (In my head, I'm seriously fabulous.) Al with his green tea no sugar, wearing a dark polo shirt, jeans that hung off his waist because he had no hips to support them, and his SuperCuts hair style that made him look like a very tall eighth grader. To call him lanky would be an understatement, and he complained to me that no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't gain weight. I felt like Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater and his wife. We clearly had opposite thyroid issues. I also learned that the polo and jeans was his standard uniform. It's what he wore to work, at home, and apparently, on dates. Al wasn't the most stylish guy in the store, nor was he the most likely to take a risk: fashion, food or otherwise. I was positively craving a stuffed pizza pretzel but Al had an aversion to dairy products and I didn't need an accidental trip to the emergency room. I was afraid that once he listed me as his In Case Of Emergency contact, he might never stop.

Al didn't have his own personality, his own opinions, his own views. He didn't take a stand on anything one way or another. He didn't find a single book in Barnes & Noble that he was excited about, whereas I used to work there purely for the 30% discount. There were weeks that I would check out with a stack of books, cash my paycheck and still owe them money! I was broke as could be but I loved the feeling of opening a brand new book that was all mine, getting to know the author, falling in love or hate with the characters, getting lost in a world full of stories that weren't mine. I would rather buy books or food than clothes or shoes any day of the week. Al didn't seem to buy anything.

On our fourth (and might I add, final) date, Al took me to lunch at one of my favorite Asian restaurants. It was the first time we were eating an actual meal together, and I really wanted to like him. I wanted to see something in him that I hadn't seen before. I wanted to find a redeeming quality that I could hold on to. Al wanting us to be soul mates wasn't enough to make it so, and it certainly wasn't enough for me to stop criticizing everything about him, especially that he was eating sushi with a fork. He only tried the sushi because I suggested it, otherwise he was perfectly content to live in a world of white rice and chicken soup. I'm not exactly up to sea urchin and eel (gag!) but I'm certainly further along than white rice and plain broth. I need someone who can keep up with my spirit, challenge me, make me laugh. Al was kind and sweet in a completely unexciting way, and I knew I needed more. Before he made plans for us to attend his friend's wedding, or introduce me to his mother, or go on a Caribbean cruise, I needed to let him down gently. He took it harder than I thought, which I still feel badly about but I know that it was still the right thing to do. I wanted to like Al because he liked me but that's just not enough. I guess I'm not his Betty after all.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Least Interesting Man In The World

You have probably heard of The Most Interesting Man In The World. You may have seen his commercials on television, heard them on the radio, perused his quotes on the internet, or even had your picture taken with a cardboard cutout of him at a bar on Cinco De Mayo. (That last one may have just been my girlfriends and me. True Story.)

Who you have not heard of is The Least Interesting Man In The World. Why? Because he's got nothing to say. He hasn't done anything. He hasn't gone anywhere. He doesn't know anyone. And yes, since you're wondering, I dated him.

I originally gave him the title of The Most Boring Man In The World but it really didn't suit him, because that would imply that he was the "most" anything. Trust me, he's not. He's not the smartest or the dumbest. He's not the meanest or the sweetest. He's not the ugliest or the cutest. He's not the richest or the poorest. He's not the tallest or the shortest. He's not the best anything or the worst anything. He's not the fastest anything or the slowest anything. He's not the coolest or the nerdiest (and I judge that contest on a daily frickin basis!)  He just kind of is.

I don't know how to date that.

Al was waiting for me at Starbucks when I arrived at 9 pm. He had gotten there "a bit early" which actually meant 8:30. While I appreciate punctuality (ironic, because I am *always* late) a half hour still seems excessive for a coffee date. Also, he was waiting for me outside of the building. (Who waits outside???) It was drizzling and he ran over to my car with an umbrella so that I wouldn't get wet in the twenty feet between my door and the store. I know that I should think that's the sweetest gesture anyone could possibly make, but this was a first date. He waited outside in the rain for thirty minutes so that I wouldn't get slightly damp for ten seconds. I sensed mommy issues and the need to please.

Also, how did he know which car was mine? Creepy.

Al paid for my Venti non fat chai tea latte with a shot of hazelnut. He got a small green tea with no sugar. Either he was incredibly pessimistic about how this date would go from the start, or he didn't actually like Starbucks and was just thrilled to be out, so he agreed to meet wherever I wanted. (Turned out to be the latter.)

Starting a conversation with Al was strange. He didn't have a whole lot of life experience to speak from, nor many hobbies or interests, nor a torrid past relationship I could dissect. We began chatting online because he is a runner and I just started running. His profile picture is of him running --- not even in a race --- just around his neighborhood. I don't have any photos of me running because I don't have people following me around to take "candid" shots of me doing ordinary stuff. Don't think I haven't considered hiring an entourage though. The idea is very appealing.

We talked for some time about races and what running does for our bodies and minds. It was nice to connect with someone over my newfound joy, although there wasn't much joy to speak of on his part. Al spoke with a monotone voice almost the entire evening. His face lacked any particular expression of happy or sad. He had no hand gestures (I'm Italian - I use a lot of hand gestures!) Overall, Al seemed like the worker bee who is simply content to exist day in and day out, moving about his life with no purpose, no drive, just a deep seeded understanding that this is his routine. To quote my least favorite phrase ever, it is what it is.

I asked about his job. It is what it is. I asked about his apartment. It is what it is. I asked about his family, his education, his car. It is what it is. I asked about his friends. He has one. One singular friend in the world who happens to be getting married in a few weeks. Cue the need for a new girlfriend. See also: Red Flag!!!

While I do want to be best friends with the man I eventually end up with, I don't want to be his whole world! I cannot marry a man whose entire universe revolves around me. He needs hobbies, interests, a career path, friends! He's got to be able to go out and do his own thing so that I can go out and do mine. I need independence, not co-dependence. At the end of the day, I want to come home to someone where we both have things to talk about. I hate asking somebody "How was your day at work?" and all I get in return is "fine," or "good," or "same as always." That's not an answer! You don't have to be the most dramatic guy in New York to give me some insight into your life. Something! Anything! Please!

He's also not the most dramatic. Add that to the list.

Al had a gentleness about him that I felt I was being too harsh on. I knew that this was my first foray back into the dating world in quite some time after a string of disappointments and I didn't want to rush in, but I also didn't want to rush out. I agreed to a second date because I felt I wasn't giving him a fair chance. The running commentary in my head had taken over any sliver of hope this poor kid had of impressing me, even if he'd had something interesting to say. He deserved a real shot.

I know I'm snarky. I know I'm critical and judgmental and quick. I also know what I'm looking for and especially when I haven't found it. But after 101 dates, I have learned that I'm not always right, these things take time to develop, and nerves can get the best of even a normally great guy. Al walked me back to my car with his umbrella and hugged me good night. He might not have been the most handsome, or the most fun, or even the most interesting, but he was a gentleman and that's as good of a start as any.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Big Bang

I was in the sixth grade when I first "dated" a boy. By "dated," I mean that we walked to the pizza place one day on our school lunch break. I wore a cute little dress and we held hands when we had to cross the street. My mother gave me $5 and a shiny new black purse to carry it in. Two slices of pizza and a soda was only $2.50, but she gave me enough to cover both of us in case he didn't have money to pay for himself (a safe real world practice, even today!) He sat next to me on the red leather bar stools at the pizza place, chatting about some test we had coming up, and whether I was going to someone's graduation pool party.

We walked back to the school after lunch and he hung upside down on the monkey bars, trying to kiss me like Spiderman. It was a reference I didn't get at the time, but looking back on it, I wish I had. A bunch of the other boys made fun of me that day (quite a common practice in my childhood experience) for wearing a dress, carrying a purse, and especially for dating a nerd. 

What was a nerd? Was Chris a nerd because he liked comic books and science fiction stories? Was I a nerd for reading during recess and continuing to use the term "play date" instead of "hang out" well into my pre-teen years? Did attending the Program for the Academically Gifted spiral me into immediate nerd status? Did my clothes contribute to my nerdiness? Or was nerd just something that mean kids called smart kids because they were jealous of our good grades and polite manners? 

All I knew in that moment was that if Chris was a nerd and I was a nerd, then we were a match made in nerd heaven and I wanted to have nerd babies with him. 

*Note: Ok fine, that's not entirely true. I didn't want babies until I was into my early 20's. As a child, I actually asked my mother if I didn't want babies, could I give my uterus back because I didn't need it. I thought boys and periods and sex were GROSS!!! 

What I really learned from that awful nerd experience was that boys who were mean picked on me, made fun of me, bullied me, and broke the strap of my shiny new black purse. Chris took me out to pizza lunch, and held my hand, and tried to kiss me on the playground. If Chris was a nerd, then I would only go out with nerds from then on. Nerds were clearly nicer. 

My boyfriend in Junior High was a less-than-obvious nerd. He hid his nerdiness by playing basketball, but he was on the honor roll every single quarter and is still one of the kindest, smartest guys I know. He was tall and thin and had two super nerdy sidekicks who I would swear were plotting to take over the world. He kissed me in the stairwell when no one else was looking. How was I supposed to know that part of his "I'm not a nerd / please don't beat me up" cover to the cool kids was denying wanting to date me? Apparently, my nerddom had transferred up from elementary school to junior high. 

My high school and college boyfriends were also nerds. I sensed a pattern in my dating life that I couldn't quite shake. Sure, I always had crushes on the captain of the football team or a rising theatre star, but those never became anything. I even followed a baseball player from our home town high school away to college, simply because I wanted four extra years to work up the courage to ask him out. Instead of the pitcher who eventually got recruited by the Seattle Mariners, I went out with a 5'6 Irish man with a receding hairline who wore sweater vests and drove his mother's 1993 maroon Ford Taurus station wagon. 

*True story. I have pictures.

By comparison, I was the cool one in the relationships (sorry guys! I know you're reading this.) I was the pretty, popular girl who grew into myself as time went on. No matter how much I figured out how to dress better, or style my hair, or wear make up, or stop playing with My Little Ponies, I was still a nerd on the inside. I was a nerd who wanted to be loved by a man I found safe, compassionate, and gentle. A man who challenged me intellectually, who found my smarts to be sexy instead of intimidating, and who appreciated my weird sense of humor. Cool guys don't care if you speak Italian, or are a great writer, or won the Reading Bee at your local library every single summer. Nerds find that stuff fascinating.

Matt was no exception. We met online as so many of my relationships have started these past few years. He told me he was a scientist and I told him I was a writer. He worked in a lab during the day while going to school at night, and he was preparing for a research trip abroad. Every online conversation started something like this:

Me: Hey, I just got home from girls night! Whatcha up to?
Matt: Not much. Watching Big Bang Theory. 

Me: Hello from Starbucks! How's the school work coming? 
Matt: Took a break. Watching Big Bang Theory.

Me: Hey, I was thinking we could meet up this afternoon. Wanna get together?
Matt: Sure. Let me finish this episode of Big Bang Theory and I'll head out. he likes the Big Bang Theory. A lot. It's the only show he ever talked about. In fact, it's what he talked about more than his job, more than his school, more than his family, more than his past relationships. Matt related to the guys on the Big Bang Theory for their dry humor, their scientific lives, their women worries, their equations, their take out food meal planning. He saw himself as a character in the show, an extension of his existence in New York via Pasadena, California. 

When Matt and I finally met up, he was great. He was smart and sweet and thoughtful and funny and I fell for him pretty quickly. Out of the 100+ dates I've been on, I have only kissed 5 on the first date. Matt was one of those five. He told me about his last trip to the Middle East, and his upcoming plans to spend the summer in Africa. Matt was a paleo-ethno-botanical anthropologist (which I had to practice saying several times before I got it right!) He studied the effects that plants have had on human history, where they came from, how they got there, and how they will evolve in the coming centuries. Matt was full of trivia about aloe, tea leaves, herbs, trees, ferns, flowers, and all sorts of other greenery. He was passionate and educated and a really good kisser. I distracted him with kisses when the tree talk got too intense for me. I learned that his ex was a botanical biologist and they met at grad school where he recused himself as her TA so that they could pursue a relationship. She dumped him after a year for the TA who took over his position. Apparently, she'd gotten more than tutoring lessons from the far more handsome teacher's assistant who replaced Matt in every way. He was heartbroken. Thus, he immersed himself in a world where Penny and Leonard break up and get back together a million times, love is always possible, even for the most hopeless of guys, and it doesn't matter if you wear a different superhero shirt every day of the week --- you can still get laid by a pretty (if not somewhat desperate) girl. 

Matt challenged me. I loved how intelligent he was. I loved how he took care of his grandparents. I loved how he rode his bike to work to keep the Earth greener longer. I loved how he wrapped one arm around my waist when he kissed me. I loved how he told his best friend about me after only three dates. I did not love that he wouldn't go out with me until Big Bang Theory was over at night. We are not just talking about new episodes here. He wouldn't leave the house if reruns were on!!!

After a great few months and with no warning, Matt broke up with me via text message. "I don't think we have enough in common," he wrote. "I am going to Africa to study plants for the summer. Please don't try to find me."

"I don't understand!" I responded. "You couldn't tell me this in person? Don't I at least deserve a phone call?"

"Sorry," he wrote back. "Not a good time. Big Bang Theory is on."

Apparently, not ALL nerds are nicer. 

I admit to being somewhat crushed when Matt ended things without a decent reason why, or an appropriate form of communication. What he will never know is that I've been watching Big Bang Theory for a while now and I find it hilarious. There is every facet of every nerd I've ever dated from comic books to Star Wars to Star Trek to role playing games to fantasy fiction to a career in something having to do with math and formulas and physics. Sure, I don't understand that stuff, but it's not like I work at the Cheesecake Factory. (Penny reference, for those of you who still haven't seen it.) The writing is spectacular, the characters have great back stories, the comedy is perfectly timed. I can see why he would enjoy the show so much, and had he ever bothered to ask, I would have watched it with him. He could have been more than the guy surrounded by million year old African flora. He could have been the guy who got laid by the hot blonde girl willing to dress up as Princess Leia. 

Sucks to be him.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Monkey In Handcuffs

For a matchmaker, nothing is so frustrating as a match gone awry. You wonder where you went wrong. You question your instincts. You begin to doubt your time tested talents.

Fortunately, my Colleague's Nona was already six feet under, so I'm hoping that she never knew the match she made for me didn't go according to schedule. Six months passed without a word from My Future Husband. Either he knew I existed and didn't bother calling me, or he didn't know I existed and it simply wasn't meant to be.

This was not good enough for my Colleague.

"I can't believe him! I can't believe he hasn't called! What's wrong with him that he hasn't called!" (I'm using all exclamation points here because she's Sicilian. Every sentence ends with an exclamation point, even her questions.)

"Forget that guy. I will find you a new guy, a better guy." I thanked her but said she'd have to wait in line. By this point, every woman in my office was fighting to set me up with their thirtysomething year old son, their son's friend, the nice man who owns the bagel place down the block, or the florist who serves our building. "He'd always bring you home a nice bouquet!"

My favorite offer from a co-worker came when she mentioned "quite a handsome gentleman I saw on Jeopardy last night. He was very smart and well dressed, and now we know he has money too. Want me to call ABC and find out if he's single?"

*Note: ABC does not release the relationship status of any contestants on their shows. Trust me. I've tried.

The only thing more determined than a pit bull with a new bone is a Sicilian matchmaker with a wedding on her mind so there was no use trying to stop my Colleague from setting me up again. She came back a few days later with "the perfect guy" for me. "He is single, never married, loves his nieces and nephews, wants kids, has his own business and just bought a little house around the corner from me. It's a great school system. You can move in and we'll have neighborhood block parties and by the time you have babies, my kids will be old enough to babysit them and we can go on double dates with you and your husband."

It was both reassuring and terrifying that she had recommended teachers for my kindergartener before I had a kindergartener. She practically bought my imaginary children backpacks for their first day at school before I married this man, or went on a date with him, or even knew his name. I tend to try a guy's last name on for size on the first know, just to see how it fits. But she took the future planning to a whole new level. Thank God there is someone else out there as crazy as I am! (Again, you can see why I love her?)

I asked my Colleague how she knew this man and she admitted she hadn't actually met him herself yet "but he came very highly recommended from a friend of a friend." I asked for a more detailed explanation. "Well I was talking to my neighbor about how great you are with my kids and how sad it is that you're single" (I chose to ignore this sentiment for the time being) "and how you want kids of your own and I asked if she knew any available men! She didn't know anyone but she said that her friend is always on the lookout for a great girl for her brother because he's very successful and doesn't want to settle for anyone less than amazing and that's perfect for you!"

Just so you followed that: He's my Colleague's Neighbor's Friend's Brother. We shall call him CNFB for short.

Colleague took a few more days to send me his photo with the text "He's so tall! I am totally feeling him for you already! Have fun!"

I, sadly, was not "feeling him" for me at all. I know it's harsh to judge a person based on one image. It seems unfair as a photo can be deceptively flattering or truly awful. But why would my Colleague's Neighbor's Friend send an awful picture of her Brother on purpose? He wasn't smiling, he was kind of slouched, and he just looked generally miserable despite the fact that it was a picture of him on his birthday. There was even cake! Colleague was right that he was tall, but I couldn't find a single redeeming quality about him besides that. Also, his arms were covered in barbed wire tattoos.

1994 called. They want their ink back.

Texting CNFB was a total dead end. He would reply with one or two word answers to anything I asked which frustrated the crap out of me. When we finally spoke on the phone, he had about as much personality as a wet mop. He was clearly roped into this date just as much as I was (thanks to pressure from his undoubtedly overbearing sister) and he wasn't thrilled at the prospect of going out with a girl he'd never met.

Red flag.

CNFB is a plumber with his own business which keeps him pretty busy. When he's not plunging toilets, he's fixing his hot rods in the garage, hitting the gym for an hour and a half every day, hanging out at car shows, or watching football. He is very close with his family and lives next door to them. No, seriously. That house he bought in the great school district? It's literally next door to his mom and dad (aka the house he grew up in),  around the corner from his sister, only a few blocks away from his brother.

Red flag.

CNFB tells me that he is better looking that his photograph. He doesn't know what his sister sent me, but not to worry, he's really good looking in person. (Who says that???) He says that he saw my picture and I don't look Italian. I explain that my mother is German, so I'm tall with blonde hair like her. What he really wanted to know about was my Italian heritage, my family, and how I made my lasagna. (He likes meat sauce and lots of it, in case you're wondering.) He knows how to cook but he doesn't do it for himself. What's the point when his mom and sister are so close and always have leftovers?

Red flags, red flags, red flags!

Not wanting to appear ungrateful to my Colleague for the set up, and knowing I would never hear the end of it if I didn't show, we met for lunch on a Sunday afternoon. She called me three times that morning but I let it go to voicemail. I figured I would call her back when I had something to tell her.

He suggested we go to TGI Friday's near his house, a half hour away from mine. At least it isn't Applebee's. (Don't even get me started!) I agreed partially because I just want to get this date over with and partially because I love Sesame Jack Chicken Strips and Mozzarella Sticks. (Who doesn't?) I planned to drown my blind date sorrows in fried foods and sticky sweet sauces while pretending I was remotely interested in a man who has nothing interesting to say.

First of all, CNFB shows up to our date in a t shirt. Not just a t shirt. A t shirt that's at least one size too small, dirty, and has sweat stains on it. He admits to not having changed after hitting the gym that morning. "Wanted to keep things casual." I use all of my energy not punching him in the gut.

He ordered more food for himself than I could eat in a whole day (and it's only lunchtime!) He told me that he picked Friday's because he "wasn't that hungry. Just came from pasta at my sister's where we were all watching the game." I really love when guys refer to "the game" as though I know which game they're talking about. It's the crossover between lingering baseball season and just starting up football season so how am I supposed to know which game he's talking about? Also, I realized that he chose Friday's not just for his supposed lack of appetite (which is a blatant lie by the way) but even more so for their big screen televisions showing "the game" on all four sides of the room.

I could count on one hand the number of times he made eye contact with me. When he wasn't watching "the game" past my head, he was being rude to the waitress or scarfing down massive quantities of unhealthy meat and carbohydrates. Also, CNFB has a glaring distaste for napkin use. He prefers to lick whatever drips onto his hands off to clean them, or wipe them on his jeans. Who wants to lick plumber hands?

I ask CNFB about his job, which launched him into a list of commercial "gigs" he has going on at the moment. Most notably, he has plumbing contracts with a few gyms he belongs to and some night clubs in the area. This segues into a conversation about the worst things that he's had to plunge out of a toilet or a sink, and how a nightclub bathroom looks on a Saturday or Sunday morning after the crowd leaves. I will spare you the details and wish he had done the same for me. Suffice it to say that I do not enjoy any date where vomit is a topic of conversation.

Wanting to get the hell away from that debacle, I ask about his tattoos. He has a symbol on each arm. He points to one and says "That means pride" and points to the other one and says "That means respect." He then takes a minute to say "Or the other way around. I don't really remember." Wait, you don't know what the permanent ink on your body represents??? "They're Chinese or Japanese or something. I wanted tattoos with meaning."

He wanted tattoos with meaning but he doesn't know what they mean? Somebody please shoot me.

I then ask about the barbed wire around his forearms. "Oh yeah, usually barbed wire means you served prison time. I never did prison time. I just thought they were cool." Yeah, cause felonies are totally enviable! "Everybody was getting them around their biceps, but I wanted to be different. That's why I got them around my forearms." His logic is impenetrable.

He tells me about the full back tattoo he has, a few on his calf, and one across his chest. He's really glad he got talked out of "the neck tattoo [he] always wanted." The last one he shows off is peeking out at me from under the short, tight sleeve of his dirty, sweaty t shirt. What's that one? I ask. "Oh, it's a monkey in handcuffs." I don't even want to know.

Just when I think he's finally finished stuffing his face with greasy fast food, he (rudely) asks the waitress for a coffee with milk and sugar. I ask him if he has any questions for me. Is there anything you want to know about me? "No, I have a pretty good idea of who you are," he replies. "How do you make your lasagna again?"

I go to the bathroom and send out the rescue call text to my besties. "Stuck at Friday's with rude moron who has a tattoo of a monkey in handcuffs. Send help."

One friend writes back "Hell no. I wanna see how this one plays out. That is a writing gold mine right there!"

Another friend writes back "He took you to to Friday's? He's not getting a second date!"

And my third friend writes back "Monkey in Handcuffs? Think I just found the inspiration for my next tattoo!"

I return to the table at the same time as our poor waitress (who I plan on leaving a sizable tip for, poor thing.) I watch CNFB spill half of his coffee into his empty coke glass, fill the mug with milk, and dump in seven sugar substitute packets. SEVEN.

I have to know. I can't hold this one in. Why the fuck would anyone dump SEVEN sugar substitute packets into a half cup of coffee? "I don't really like the taste of coffee. I only drink it because I like all those flavored creamers they have now at the supermarkets. But they don't have any flavored creamers here, so I figured really sweet with a lot of milk would be about the same. It's not."

But if you don't like coffee without creamer, why did you order coffee in the first place?

"I wanted to stay a little longer. It's almost halftime."

I do not have the heart to call my Colleague on the way home and debrief her on the date. I collapse into a pile of laughter induced tears on the phone with my mother as I drive out of the parking lot. My streak of dating losers will clearly not be broken any time soon, but at least it's blog material.

In the office on Monday morning, my Colleague rushes up to my desk looking panicked. "Are you okay!" she asks me. "Tell me you didn't go out with him! Please tell me you didn't go out with him!" I tell her that I did, in fact, go out with him and thank her for the set up but I will not be going out with him again. "I tried calling you! I tried warning you!" she exclaims. Warning me??? "I ran into another friend of the friend of the neighbor and told her I set you up with him and she told me he's the biggest A-Hole she's ever met and how could I possibly do that to you! I'm so sorry! I feel terrible!" She takes a deep breath as I laugh at the memory of our awful, awful date, deciding to spare her the details. "I'll do your work for a week!" she promises. "Just so I know though, what was the worst part?" I tell her that he has a tattoo of a Monkey In Handcuffs.

"Forget it," she says, "I'll do your work for a month!"

Thursday, August 1, 2013

My Future Husband

While being a writer is fabulous, it doesn't quite pay the bills yet. Surely someday when I'm sitting pretty on the New York Times bestseller list, I will consider being a full time writer / stay at home mom. (A girl can dream!) I will balance play dates with book tours, birthday parties with talk show appearances, and my tall, gorgeous, successful-in-his-own-right husband and our adorable children with my growing fan base of dedicated readers. I'll have a peaceful little writer's corner decorated in shabby chic where my tea and books will be stacked on shelves and inspirational quotes will line the walls.

Until then, I work in an office.

I love my day job. I really do. I'm the luckiest girl in the whole world because I truly believe that what I do matters. I make a difference in the lives of children without having to return to teaching in an underfunded classroom. I get to write programs for a fantastic organization who appreciates me and supports me in every way they can. The best / worst part? I work with all women.

*Note: this is a slight exaggeration. The IT guy, the security guy, and the custodian are men. Other than them, it's an estrogen fest.

When I first took the job, my mother warned me: "You'll never find a husband working at that office!" Well I wasn't going to find a husband being a pre-school teacher either, and this office doesn't require me to wipe anyone else's nose, so it's definitely an upgrade. Also, I don't come home smelling like apple juice and sandbox while wiping the paint off my shirt, scrubbing the glue out of my hair, and picking the PlayDough out of my shoes. Like I said, upgrade.

I've been in my office for a year now, but I'll never forget my first day there. I was hired at the same time as another woman, so we took the tour and did all our paperwork together. Over our "welcome lunch" she told me she was fortysomething and married with two kids. I shared that I was thirtysomething and divorced / single. (I never know if divorce upsets people, so that's my wait-and-see tidbit of information.) She immediately made it her mission to find me a husband. A good husband. One with a job and a house and benefits who wanted children and would provide the life I deserve so I could stay home with my babies and bake cookies and enjoy being a wife and mother. Where do I sign up?

I should also mention that this Colleague is Sicilian. As such, she's a pint-sized pushy little thing who always gets her way. If you want a job done, give it to her. She'll tackle any problem, overcome any obstacle, and she'll do it before the deadline and offer you a bowl of pasta when she's through. Basically, we became instant friends.

Colleague assured me that we would find me a husband through her grandmother, the matchmaker. When a ninety-six year old Sicilian woman who speaks no English offers to set you up with your future husband without even having met you, you say yes. Why? Because I was terrified of saying no!

A few days went by and I teased Colleague about "My Future Husband" which she replied to in all seriousness "Nona is on it. She already thinks she has a great man for you!" A few more weeks go by and I tease her again that I haven't met My Future Husband yet. "Don't worry, Kimberly, Nona is very excited to introduce you to him. She's an expert at this. It's love. Give it time." We continue with the Nona-matchmaker-Future Husband joke for months until one day Colleague comes into the office and says her Nona is sick. Three days later, she is gone.

I go to Nona's funeral, not because I ever met her, but because Colleague is more than a colleague. She has become my closest friend and teammate. The office sent flowers, but I still felt it was important that someone be there in person. As soon as I walked in, Colleague grabbed me and said "Oh my goodness, you just missed him!" I looked at her rather stunned by this greeting and replied, "Honey, I missed who???" "The man! The man Nona was going to set you up with! He was here and he's so handsome. He came with his dad and they were both so kind and I wanted to introduce you but they left right before you got here. You probably passed him in the parking lot. I can't believe you just missed him!"

The woman just lost her grandmother and despite all her grief, she is still trying to find me a husband. You can see why I love her? "The best way to honor Nona's memory would be to fix you up with him. She would have wanted that. Can I give him your number? Please say you'll go out with him. I can hear the wedding bells now!"

Matchmaking from beyond the grave? Sure. Why not? Weirder things have happened.

Colleague introduced me to her father, who greeted me with the same enthusiastic / slightly disappointed embrace. He's so grateful I came to his mother's funeral while also being upset that I just missed meeting My Future Husband. My Future Husband is the son of Colleague's father's business partner. Matchmaking suddenly sounds like playing a game of Six Degrees of Separation, but it's been forever since I went on a decent date, so that's a game I'm willing to play. Colleague's Father writes my number down to give to his business partner to give to his son, and after a few appraising looks up and down of me, confirms to Colleague that he approves of this match. "Nona would be so happy," he concludes with a half smile before walking away to greet more grieving Sicilian funeral attendees. I wonder how many of them will walk out with the name of their soon-to-be spouse?