Tag Archives: gentleman

Listlessly in Love

21 Jul

right_meow“Well, he loves me! He was on the verge of telling me when his father burst in. I felt listless after he left and had some sort of headache, so I must be in love, as well. I must confess I expected love to feel something different than this. I may determine how deep a love I feel through his absence.”
—Emma writes in her diary, Hollywood film version of Emma

 

Remember all that crap I was saying about how maybe this slow, still feeling of pseudo-intrigue must be the grownup version of love? This must be how normal, healthy people fall in love, I kept insisting, to myself and the guy weighing my organic garlic at the grocery store. The woman at the shoe repair place got it, “Yeah, he sounds like a good man, no wonder you don’t feel crazy.” But it was my personal trainer who clinched it.

“You just need to stop talking to all of them. Start all over.”

Okay, we’re really not going tabula rasa yet. But I will say one thing: if a man doesn’t smell good, he’s never going to smell good. And you shouldn’t ignore that fact. Pheromones are a part of our physiology for a reason. They’re meant to be a harbinger of all that’s bad for your soul. Don’t like someone’s sweat? You’re never going to want to make pancakes for them and read The New York Times together.

Because the universe enjoys tormenting me with the most severe lessons on when and how and why I fall in love, I’ve endured quite the crash course in the past week.

Regular readers will recognize that the “steady and calm” crap I was writing was all lies. Everyone knows that love is a dopamine rush, and if you don’t have at least that at the beginning, there ain’t no way you’ll ever do anything except go through the motions. It will be a long and boring life of “kiss now” and “hold hands now.”

You need the crazy to bind you together for the boring. Because even the boring can feel crazy if you’re actually in love. I’m a person who gets giddy when they fall into a routine with someone. Not a Home Depot routine—that will seriously never again happen in my life. I’m talking about a coffee shop and bookstore routine. The one where each weekend you pretend you’re actually just spontaneously deciding to get coffee and go to the bookstore, but really it’s the thing you always do together, and you both love it more than anything else in the world. (Except there are NO bookstores in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, and this is a fact that is killing me.)

I truly, truly love a person when I know their entire routine. The predictable is intimate for me. I won’t need you to go bungee jumping in order to keep me interested. Just stay consistent and I’ll love you forever.

Right. So, that said, when you find the person who smells good, and I really do mean they smell good even when they just came back from a run, you gotta go with that. They are clearly a person with whom you are a chemical match. There are those who will downplay this, and try to tell you that sometimes chemical matches are bad sociological matches. That’s true, of course. But if you are hanging out with someone who has everything on the checklist, but you don’t want to nuzzle into their neck and just breathe, then call it. Shut it down.

 

And if you happen to meet someone on an airplane who has everything on the checklist and you’re both way crazy about pheromones, run with it. At all costs. And the costs will be severe. But at the very least, the experience can remind you what it’s like to really fall in love.

Boxed In

7 Jul

sturm and drangThe envelope arrived unbidden. Tangled with grocery store circulars and an infinite supply of enticements from local dentists, the red rectangle semaphored false comfort. A new movie! Tear, tear, rip, open, GASP! Crumple, papers falling to the ground, heartbreak-induced coma achieved.

It’s a movie that capital H-E chose. He watched it one night and said you should see it. Gamely, you added it to your queue, forgetting it instantly, and then months passed before you finally returned another DVD and triggered the unleashing of this horror. This condescending, pretentious, and self-absorbed depiction of a breakup that you can’t even finish watching because it’s so bogged down with “Pity me, pity me, I’m a complicated artist who couldn’t treat a beautiful woman well enough to keep her, so she left me, and now I am wretch, but I crave the status and inspiration that accompanies misery, so leave me alone to die here at the side of the road.”

Clicking “stop” and “eject” in rapid succession, and then quickly and determinedly sealing the return envelope, you storm to the mailbox and send this last vestige of romance gone wrong back to the fury of its origins. Away, away, ye harbinger of all that made it impossible for him to love you. Apparently he really wasn’t over his ex, and this damn movie was his sweet succor.

But worst of all is this. You can’t relate, in any way, shape, or form with the crummy protagonist in this film. It’s been so damn long since you broke up with anyone who left any sort of aching vacancy in your life, you can’t empathize with someone moaning, “I don’t want to love you anymore.”

The agony of loss is lost on you. And you wonder, is your heart dead? Is that why the Gentleman has yet to trigger any trembling? But in truth, you’re just adjusting to the tempo of a life not dictated by the whims of the broken-souled. Good people treat each other well, and the turbulence subsides. What you often mistake for passion is actually the push-pull of withholding versus need. And that horrible movie could have been your life. But instead you’re opting for the next film in the queue.

Operate the Switch

30 Jun

map“It’s the second switch from the left.”

He rose from the sofa and moved with evident pause to a two-switch wall plate and hesitated over the right switch.

“No, no, please don’t turn on one of those lights, no, the switch the for the fan is over there on that wall. Right above that piece of art.”

He turned around to a nearer perpendicular wall, with a bank of four switches almost entirely concealed by a system of bookshelves.

Relieved, he slid a toggle upward and returned to the sofa, wrapping himself around me and saying into my neck, “Oh good, for a minute there I thought, ‘Second from the left, why doesn’t she just say right? Is she left-handed?'”

Laughter rolled through me and I jostled around a bit to manifest the silliness and nestle in closer to the muscle and bone architecture of his cyclist frame. Tracing an elbow ligament on view through tanned skin, I said, “No, don’t worry, I’m not a crazy person.”

But how I loved his thought process. Instead of blurting out some sort of accusatory and mocking inquiry, he merely considered quietly, maybe she’s left-handed and sees the world that way.

To love me, please always consider my mind first, and how it might work, before dismissing anything out of the ordinary. This is an important tenet of what my darlingest sewing and literary genius friend in London calls “operating the switch.” We complicated girls may prove troublesome for those too lazy to see past a single dimension, but we are endless delight for those who like a puzzle. And I’ll tell you something, the puzzle is really not that complicated. It just requires one or two extra steps, and once you know each, it’s fixed. I am not going to change the game on you, I will be fairly predictable from there on out.

Am I crabby and irrational? I’m probably hungry. Am I fidgeting endlessly with my flatware? I have something on my mind that I’m afraid to express. Quiet and avoiding eye contact? That’s a hard one, because I might be mad or I might just be me. Hmm… I’ll get back to you on that.

It’s the person who loves nuance, who loves what my Writer Hero friend labels “the complication”, as in a fine wristwatch, who will understand and benefit most from Bunky. Please turn your instruction manual to page 52 and enjoy the surprising comfort found therein.

Bookmarks and Placeholders

29 Jun
The bookshelves at Brewed in Fort Worth offer a Katherine Hepburn biography.

The bookshelves at Brewed in Fort Worth offer a Katherine Hepburn biography.

At this very moment, bathed in the fading dusk light tumbling from a sky portal in a vaulted Salt Lake City ceiling, there sits a a thick hardback edition of an Isabella Stewart Gardner biography. It possesses the dusty green paper jacket and simple lettering prevalent in the mid twentieth century. It is my book. And yet it sits approximately 1400 miles away from my present position on a sofa facing another coffee table in Fort Worth.

Despite the fact that I was only in Salt Lake for a short while last month, I absolutely had to procure this massive, unwieldy tome from a used bookstore, because the coveted object’s pages contained so many beautiful 1960s artifacts from Boston. The Aloof Percussionist said that these artifacts were probably plants, fake random tidbits shoved into pages by bookstore staff to boost the charms of happenstance, but I countered this cynicism with facts. The book was on the “new arrivals” pile and these envelopes, mailed magazine book review clippings, and event flyers formerly were clearly cherished by a single, singular person. There was obvious congruity in their origin. And whoever owned the book was clearly a kindred spirit of mine. Their correspondents sent book reviews in the mail, with handwritten dates on the clippings, and they lived between New York and Boston. Oh, and they tucked things into books.

This is my habit and my problem. I put important pieces of paper, fragments, words written for me, poems selected and sent, into books, and then I lose them in the stacks of my library home. Woven throughout the forest of pages are all the good thoughts and intentions anyone has ever shared with me. Some lucky shelf-hunting second-hand book buyer will discover them someday, if such a vocation still exists when I pass, and they will know that I was loved, and interesting, and traveled the world, but never did settle down long enough in any one place to finish every book and keep every single piece of paper in one safe receptacle.

For the past few days I’ve been haunted very specifically by one such lost fragment—a small, folded piece of paper carrying the words of a William Stafford poem. This scrap once resided in the hand-made wallet of my dearest Heart Friend in Salt Lake City. He handed it to me quietly during a cafe visit last August, paused, and then requested that I tuck the poem into my purse and keep it with me. He’d already sent me the same poem, “A Ritual to Read to Each Other,” on a postcard one month beforehand, but now in this new portable form, he wanted me to have it again. Clearly it was important to him, and so I guarded it carefully, retrieving it often and retracing each syllable silently and aloud, so the meaning changed with settings and circumstances.

But a few days ago, while I was preparing to dine with The Gentleman from Carrollton, I became preoccupied with the location of that very small, soft from refolding, piece of paper. I hadn’t seen it in a long time. Such a long time. I had so diligently carried it with me for so long. But then there was an awful lot of receipt farming and shredding… in a flash, I feared the worst. While The Gentleman stood near my front door, I briefly considered rummaging in a drawer or two, pretending I was searching for something I needed that evening, but really seeking this shred of past thought that I suddenly needed to have immediately to hand.

I resisted the urge. But did become frantic in my search again this evening, cursing myself aloud for being so careless, until I found the original postcard-affixed facsimile of the poem in a book shoved inside a cabinet in my bedroom. That is the storage place for books that would embarrass me if a guest should happen upon them. The books that are telling me what is wrong with me and how to fix it.

Ohhhhh books, try to tell me why I cannot cherish what is given to me, and flail instead through piles and shelves of lost gestures and absence.

Three weeks ago in Salt Lake City, again and always packing to leave, I carelessly decided not to cram the giant Isabella Stewart Gardner book into my carry-on. My enormous suitcase was full, and I didn’t want to add the extra ballast to the other two bags I’d be heaving through the terminal. I was sure I’d come back for the book. I was so in love with The Aloof Percussionist, after all. He offered to send it to me after I left, but I refused, insisting I’d return for it. Now book and artifacts are as lost to me as anything stored in such a way. Important, tucked between pages, and then placed on a shelf and forgotten.

Get a Good Look

28 Jun

texasEntangled with rib cages touching, I curl my shoulders and hold my heart at the center with his chest to contain me. His hold doesn’t drift while my mind disappears over a precipice. Three weeks ago I was tracing the  nape of another neck, and I poured every single ounce of affection into that soul. I stored it all there, gave it a home, and now here I am, mid-cherish, and I can feel my heart tremble at the thought that I would give it away again so soon. It’s not going voluntarily this time. It’s staying still, holding itself out of reach even while the generous Gentleman from Carrollton cradles me.

The way he reaches for me is exactly what I have always sketched for my future loved self. A duo on the sofa, some space between us, a pause, and that intentional but nonchalant reach. The enfolding into a safe place. And then a very calm and resolute sustain.

There is absolutely nothing turbulent or dramatic about it. Nothing like a time limit, impending flight, or marital partner to stir up the dopamine and make me feel engulfed in passion. So my heart shrugs, and asks, what about that Aloof Percussionist, the one you promised me to and chased and pushed and demanded and did not receive in return.

Sorry, heart, I understand you are going through drama withdrawal. And honestly, I am not really sure how to navigate this scenario. Everything feels good, and linear, with no spikes, only a gentle grasping of my hand as we drive back from the restaurant. He is that man. The one every therapist and friend has said I’ve deserved my entire life. He is steady and kind and he doesn’t demand or expect. He just is there alongside me.

A friend of mine said that I had to find someone who could just “be” with me. Not be “with” me, but “be”, as in, he’s a solid object, and I’m a solid object, and we can rest together without any kind of crazy catalyst stirring us up into an incendiary disaster. It helps that he is as familiar as he is new. I’ve known this man for the better part of ten years, seeing him only every once in a while, but always wondering at the connection. Then one year ago I landed in his part of the country by happenstance and six months later surprised myself by remembering his presence in the Metroplex.

Is this, this calm, this appreciation, is this the origin of love? I feel supported but not taxed. He is present but not squinting to analyze and extract every thought and feeling that quivers in my ever-shifting being. Observant, but not critical, he presents a very smooth connection that provides a sense that I am understood.

In the morning, I wake up and I have to count back to the last time I chose someone good to place next to my heart. The realization is a bit shocking. It was twenty-three years ago, when I was in high school, that I allowed a benevolent soul to join my orbit and hold me. Then three years later I pummeled him and traded up to a more jagged course. I first sipped the nectar of drama way back then, and I have never, ever stopped drinking.

People would say it, they’d suggest I was addicted to drama. But I honestly felt I wasn’t that stupid. Now, feeling this sense of calm acceptance, I realize that’s exactly how I’ve calibrated my every romantic encounter. Always choosing distance, either mental or physical, as a safe buffer, I made sure I was always alone.

This is what I wonder now. Can I retrain my heart to accept something smooth, a kind and generous match who fits every single descriptor I’ve listed ten million times. Older, already has kids, has a real job, is serious about health and fitness, likes beer, loves sports, has an artist soul and an engineering mind, makes me laugh, will probably never make me cry, and communicates early and often.

I built this construct, and now I am surrounded in it. But my heart actually cringes and shrinks in fear rather than swelling with acceptance. So, following the advice of my rational mind, I will slow everything down. I will let this love grow, rather than forcing it into existence. And he expects nothing more, requests nothing more. He is not calling this anything that it is not. We are enjoying each other.

Is this what it feels like to be with someone good? It’s quiet all around me, and it feels like I can exist as I am, with promise of support while I expand. I really do hope that I learn to like it.

I’m a Fortune Cookie

3 Mar

nobleLIke Max in Noah Bamubach’s Kicking and Screaming, I am preemptively nostalgic for the moment which I am presently living. So while I am locking eyes with the handsome Gentleman whom the bartenders have instantly taken to calling my “beau”, I am already thinking about how I will reflect on this tungsten-hued encounter tomorrow, and the tomorrow after tomorrow.

Our easy exchange is a thread that I gently tug to encourage more contributions from his side. The new me doesn’t prattle on about herself, doesn’t attempt to hyperventilate a stream of quirkiness and verbal glitter to nudge a man out of silence, she actually asks questions, sprinkles compliments, instills a sense of prowess in the man who completed a 63-mile bike ride before meeting her at the bar and has some prowess to spare.

The success of this encounter, and the quiet little elation I felt in making the conversation all about this confident and witty soul, made it possible for me to finally understand why Unrequited never spoke about himself. He always laughed and said that he already knows everything about himself, so he’d rather ask questions of others to hear a new story. But having made the hard switch to this conversational tactic myself, now I think I sense the pain that potentially drives this “don’t look at me” behavior. I can’t pretend that I was acting from a perfectly altruistic conversational state last night. The truth is, my mother’s health has taken another unfortunate turn, and I am so miserable about it, I want to stay far outside myself and talk about absolutely anything else other than the looming, greedy truth.

And so now I am the perfect date. Fortunately for me, I was out with a real grownup last evening, too. It has been actual ages, eons, since I spent time with a man who was not dodging and weaving, hiding little fragments of truth and withholding them for personal gain. So as I smiled and listened, listened and smiled, I was thrilled to be with an earnest and intelligent (if somewhat critical) soul. Which proves that if you stop talking about yourself, you might actually see a bit of yourself in others. (And she ends it with a thinly veiled compliment about herself.)

Bull Rider

24 Feb

starlight“I thought  you were more of a free spirit than that,” he said, trying to chide me into riding the “bull” suspended on elastic ropes in a small section of the cliffside patio. Yeah, sure, I’d love to fly through the air, whooping and hollering in a crowd full of people who know me professionally. Thanks, but I’m not much of a free spirit when surrounded by khakis and corporate monogrammed polo shirts.

Just then, a top executive’s wife took a turn, and my chider looked over my shoulder and said a little too saucily, “She’s a screamer.”

Exactly why I didn’t let loose in front of you beady-eyed married men, thank you.

But the wife really was enjoying herself, and I thought it was incredibly sweet that her husband was taking pictures of her while she soared through the air. She had long hair instead of the middle-aged give-up cut, and while speaking to them before her airborne ascent, I knew their long marriage was actually still functional, in every sense.

To have that, to have love and support and laughs and hotness, that would make me a free spirit. While my ringside conversational partner prescribed a new way of life and career for me, I let my mind drift to prospects who would  make me feel secure and loved enough to be “a free spirit” again. The Gentleman in Carrollton and the Unaloof Percussionist in Salt Lake won. Both of them make me feel vibrant. So now we’ll just see who stakes his claim first…

 

Dryer Lint Makes Good Kindling

19 Feb

There was a guy on the radio who was talking about adaptive happiness, and how the human psyche adjusts to circumstance over time and provides contentment even in adverse conditions. My first thought was how I’ve managed to find satisfaction in my job, even thought it sure as hell ain’t The New Yorker (yet). But a few days later, my psyche did some nipping and tucking and reminded me as I nestled amongst perfect pillows and crisp sheets that really, I don’t even mind being “alone” anymore. I’ve cultivated the best version of alone, and I’m not sure I want to drop anyone into that scenario and ruffle things up.

Now a couple of months have elapsed and my adaptive happiness has dictated a new set of rules. No more trifling with this fragile heart of mine. To apply for my affection you have to actually show up. Aloof bartenders, elusive economists, cat-loving web programmers, methodical yoga instructors, astutely seductive editors, and wannabe actors need not apply. Now I just have to dispense with some pseudo-aloof percussionists and be on my way.

Which is how things stood when I received a series of emails from a gentleman in Carrollton over the past two days. Evidently he wants to see me. And there is a timeline. My adaptive happiness appreciates the forthright nature of the exchange. But I am not going to ascribe any value to it. They can all come and go, and I’ll be fine right here.

 

 

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