Countdown

WordPress helpfully offers blog post topics when you post.  Their latest prompt was ‘describe what you are looking forward to this autumn.’

*Snort.*  That’s a no brainer.  Since August 30th, I’ve been looking forward to November 22nd.  Now there is just a month to go until that Tuesday, and I could not be more…hmm, let me ponder some adjectives.  Ecstatic.  Relieved.  Expectant.

I think you get the idea.

I cannot wait to be in the same place.  While I owe a great debt of gratitude to the people at Skype and MSN for the invention of video chatting, it’s just not the same.  His voice gets garbled, or he’ll look like an impressionist painting.  More than that though, I want to do things like rest my head on his shoulder.  Hold his hand.  Turn and talk to him without having to rely on an electronic ping to get his attention.  That’s just the beginning of the list.

So obviously I’m just plain looking forward to seeing him again, having a chance to do all the things we can’t do now.  But there’s a whole other slew of things I’m looking forward to.

  • Meeting my parents and family: He’s coming to Thanksgiving dinner, and he’s the first boyfriend I’ve ever brought to a major holiday.  The ex wouldn’t even consider going.  I’m convinced he’s going to charm my whole family, and I really hope I’m right.  And finally, I get the pride of having someone at the family dinner table, that I don’t have to be the sad spinster daughter next to my younger sister and her fiance.  Plus, my boyfriend is cool.  I am optimistic that my family will really like him.  He likes his meat rare and full acknowledges that the East River is in fact an estuary.  That’s my dad, the toughest customer, taken care of.  For the rest, I think his English accent should do the trick.
  • Meeting my friends: This one is less about impressing people and more about bringing important people in my life together.  Some people like divisions between groups of friends, I do not.  I like all the people I love gathered in one neat little package.  So I’m hoping to introduce him to some of my oldest friends, and I really hope they get along.  Signs look good–he is chock full o’ trivia and random conversation topics, and he also has an absurd sense of humor.
  • Double (or triple) dating: I’m a teacher, which of course means that 95% of people I work with are in relationship.  In the past, this was a major contributor to my singlehood.  In the present, this means there are some really cool couples to hang out with.  I will make a rather sweeping statement, and say that by and large, teachers are pretty cool people.  They’re kind, working in a field that relies more on altruism than any other job I know of requiring an advanced degree.  They’re interesting, because a) kids are funny, and so make for great stories and b) they have a breadth of knowledge.  They’re also engaging because they work to capture the attention of 34 kids at any single moment.  That takes some sort of magnetic social power.  Sweeping statement no. 2: Teachers tend to choose similarly cool people to be with.  I haven’t met one teacher who I thought was awesome, then met their other half and went ‘meh.’  Even the ones I’ve had raging crushes on have amazing wives/ fiancees.  So now, when the bf comes, I’ll be able to go out with a couple of my teacher friends and *not* be the third or fifth wheel.  I can’t wait for the company, and I can’t wait for the novelty of being in a couple around other couples.  It’s a totally new feeling.
  • Exploring Queens:  I grew up in Bayside, and so I know every store on Bell Blvd.   I can see the whole strip in my head.  But recently I moved to Briarwood, and there are some cool new neighborhoods which I have yet to explore: Forest Hills and Metropolitan Avenue.  I drive down Metropolitan Ave. frequently on the way to the gym or Trader Joe’s and it’s so old school NY.  Although the stores themselves may have changed, it still retains the feel of NY from a bygone era–something you can’t say about many neighborhoods at all anymore.  There’s an old movie theater and some amazing restaurants, tiny shops that are not boutiques, and the cherry on the sundae: Eddie’s Sweet Shop, an old time soda fountain that really is from the 1950’s, the exact sort of place I’ve always wanted to visit.  I could have gone before now, but somehow exploring by myself doesn’t have the same appeal.  Now I have someone to share with.
  • Showing off the real NYC: The bf has been to New York before, but his experience mostly consisted of wandering through Midtown, and any New Yorker will tell you that Midtown is but a small, tourist centered sliver.  In addition to Queens, we can wander through the Village, find an excellent dim sum place in Chinatown, eat pizza at Lombardi’s (ok, that last one may be slightly touristy but totally worth it).  We can shop at Zabar’s and explore Carroll Gardens.  He can get a real taste of what NY is, rather than the tourist taste.
  • Being a tourist in my own city:  He’s only been to NYC once, and so has only done a fraction of the touristy things there are to do.  Sometimes it’s fun to make sure you do the stuff normally reserved for the out of towners.  Take, for example, NY at Thanksgiving.  Any wise New Yorker watches the parade on tv Thanksgiving morning.  We are too, but we’re also going to watch the balloons get blown up the night before.  I’ve never seen the balloons in person, and I have to admit, I’m kind of excited.  Likewise, I have not been to see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular since I was a kid, and now I’m getting to go again.  Radio City Music Hall is still pretty spectacular in itself, and the Rockettes are a New York staple.  This will be pretty fun.
But really, if we did nothing else but stay in for four days, I would be so happy.  All this other stuff is just icing on the fact that for 6 days, we get to be with each other.
28 days now.
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Making the first move

It’s never easy to make the first move in a relationship.  There are more moments in sitcoms and romantic comedies devoted to the awkwardness of the pickup lines than I can hope to count.  Even once you’re with a person, moving a relationship forward is cause for much angst.  How much is too much?  When is too soon?  Will I get beaten back?  Add into the mix two people who have been burned pretty badly by romance, and these questions raise even more anxiety.

When the bf and I first met, it was online.  There wasn’t too much move making to do, just lots of pleasant emailing and exchanging ideas in writing.  The most intense it got was video chatting, so we were both safe from having to make any serious advances.

Then I went to England and our relationship was no longer virtual and we had to do something, go beyond internet flirting.  Because I’m a) a fairly traditional girl in practice, though not theory, and b) really shy around guys, the first move physically was up to him.  That left me feeling safe but anxious–I didn’t know why we could spend all day together and he wouldn’t hold my hand or touch me in any way, let alone kiss me.

Dolly consoled me.  We were in public the whole time and he was British.  Really, what could I expect?  And, she added, he had been single as long as me and knocked back even more because he tried even more.  She advised me to be understanding, that he was, in all likelihood, working up to it.

The next day, because she is a matchmaker extraordinaire, she sent him the lyrics to “Kiss the Girl” and offered to dress up as a crab if necessary.

And the following day, we went out for a proper date.  He put his arm around me in the movie theater.  Then we went back to his place, and after about five episodes of Game of Thrones and a few rounds of mojitos, he finally worked up the courage to kiss me.  Then we were rolling (take that as you will), and nothing was awkward anymore.  Khal Drogo, I owe you so much.  And while I’m at it, thank you for your pecs.

Now though, we’ve been together for awhile, and the L word is rolling around in my mind.  This is the next big milestone, and I feel like the emotional stuff is my department.  After all, I’m a girl, and American (Italian American at that) where he is most decidedly a British bloke.  Sometimes I challenge his bloke status (he wears flowered shirts for crying out loud), but not here.  I’ve seen the boy-ness in action.  Meanwhile, I’m just built for this stuff.  And I’ve got to take charge of some things–I’ve got to be a participant in this relationship, not just a passive observer.  Can you tell I’m giving myself a pep talk?

What’s more, I want to say it.  Every night when we say goodnight I want to say “Love you” but I don’t.  I think of reasons to postpone: I wonder if there should be some ceremony.  Perhaps I should wait until we were together.  I wanted to say it in August, but it seemed too soon.

If I’m honest, these are excuses.  In the past two weeks, I’ve had two chances where I could have–nay, should have–said it.  We had two separate deep-and-meaningfuls, and it would have been so easy to turn to him and say “I love you.”  It would have been right in both contexts, a proper and meaningful first utterance of the phrase.  I certainly thought it, and felt it very acutely.  But I didn’t say it.  I chickened out.

I’m trying to understand why the words stick in my throat, why I can’t say them.  I’m not afraid of commitment.  I don’t think of myself as emotionally closed off.  It’s certainly not that I’m not sure of my feelings.  Nor do I question his–just today we were talking about transatlantic moves and changing my last name to his.

I suppose it must be that I’m afraid.  Afraid of what though?  Clearly I don’t have anything to fear.  I think, though, it’s a big moment.  All the future stuff is projecting.  I can rest assured that it will all happen one day, in a lovely haze of a future, but not now.  I can daydream about happy things and not have to grapple with them.

This though, is real.  This is taking a chance, daring to say the thing out loud.  That’s still a risk, still opening myself up and making myself vulnerable, really vulnerable.  No matter what logic dictates, I always have a fear of rejection, so I can know with my head and even with my heart that when I say the L-word, it will be received warmly.  But even as I type this I want to say “and will likely be reciprocated.”  Likely…not certainly.  Nothing’s certain until I say it, and he replies.  And that to me is still scary, despite everything else, because I just don’t have enough confidence.  That shouldn’t prevent me though.  When I was single, I would cocoon myself up for fear of rejection.  Now I’m in a relationship, and I’ve got to be brave.

After all, he was, for that first kiss.  And I definitely didn’t reject him.  A lesson to bear in mind.

Daring dreaming

I have a very active imagination.  Usually I consider this an asset, as every writer needs an imagination, and also it’s like having a personal tv in my head for when I’m bored.  I can stage full on dramas in my brain which pass the time nicely.

However, one area where my imagination gets me into trouble is with boys.  Since I had my first crush at twelve, I propelled myself into a daydreamed future before the guy even knew of my feelings (and subsequently failed to reciprocate them).  I have matched my name with his, pictured our wedding, counted our kids.

Of course I did the same thing when I met him.  Before we met in person, I was already wondering what if.  What if this worked out?  What if we got married?  I rejoiced over the idea that if I did marry him, my monogram could have *four* C’s (three for my name and one for his).  I couldn’t help but think he was just perfect and he might be the one.  It was nothing more than what I had always done, but it felt different.  Perhaps because this time I knew he felt something the same.

When I first told my NY friends about him, we had a rather drunken argument about it in front of a bar.  My friends were full of words of caution because they had been burned so many times before.  Just go and have fun, they said.  Don’t get ahead of yourself.  Why are you putting all that pressure on a relationship before you even meet?  You don’t know anything about this guy.

At the time I fought them, grew teary and made a speech about how I had the good fortune to hope at last and why couldn’t they let me have it.  But at the same time, they planted a seed of worry in my head.  Maybe I was jumping in too quickly.  It was hard to argue with their points, because I had done that every single time before.  So when Dolly (aka my best friend and our matchmaker–hence the name) started teasing me about helping him pick out engagement rings, I freaked out, asked her to back off.  I was afraid of jinxing it, and my fear overrode all the positive signs.  We hadn’t kissed.  We hadn’t even met.  What if I’d got the wrong end of the stick yet again?

But I hadn’t.  I can’t help daydreaming, and even though I banished crazier thoughts from my head, the little daydreams I allowed myself started to come true.  He held my hand.  He put his arm around my waist.  He kissed me–in public, even.  So slowly, I let the bigger daydreams start to creep back in.  Dolly teased us about a future and I blushed and hoped.

Dolly continued to push us closer together.  Before we dared say anything aloud, she was happily chattering about wedding plans and fitting in our wedding around her baby.  I half expected him to put her off, but he didn’t.

Instead, something even more miraculous–he started dreaming with me.  I saw his pictures of the Maldives and sighed over them; he hinted we might go there for a honeymoon.  One night as we were lying in bed together, we started to cast ourselves into the future, and said one day he might want to put a ring on it.  He mimed slipping a ring onto my finger then, and I swear if I hadn’t been lying down I would have swooned.  We’ve started joking about our kids’ names.  Granted, when I say joke I really do mean joke–he’s pulled for both dinosaur names and Stormageddon.  But still…you don’t joke about having kids with someone unless you’re thinking it’s a possibility.  Wonder started to seep away, and I was left with the certainty of fact.

Then last weekend I went up to my alma mater for alumni weekend and spent the time hanging out with my college roommate.  Like me, she’s been unlucky in love, but has recently found love.  I happily chattered away about my boyfriend all the future I saw with him.  I told her to prepare for a wedding, and that we were definitely going to move in together after next summer, on one side of the Atlantic or the other.

She then talked about her relationship.  She and her boyfriend have been together about a year, and they seem to be progressing at a normal, sensible pace.  They’re just beginning to talk about a future, and still in hazy and uncertain terms.  I’m imagining specific wedding venues.  They’re possibly considering moving in together, but have no set date.  Now they are beginning to say the other is the one.

I couldn’t help but wonder if I was being crazy and getting carried away.  Was I jinxing my own future by creating a fantasy version of it instead of waiting for reality?  Maybe I was even imagining how he felt.  I approached the next few conversations with tiptoe caution.  I tried not to mention all the future stuff lest the word marriage freaked him out.  I stopped speculating about kids.  I convinced myself I had gone too far and worried he wouldn’t like it.

But here’s the thing–he didn’t stop talking about that stuff.  He still joked about the kids’ names.  Moving in together is still a dead certainty.  He thinks there is a future here, and I know this because he says as much.  Maybe I am a bit crazy with my imagination, but if he is as crazy as me, isn’t that all we need?

I had a friend in college postulate the idea that a month of dating in college is like three months in the outside world because you get so much exposure to each other.  Perhaps some of that is at play here. We spent most of August in each other’s pockets because it was our only chance to be together, so things naturally accelerated.

But then, maybe it’s nothing to do with the exposure theory.  Maybe when it’s right you just know.  There aren’t any more questions.  Instead there are answers.  But it’s like being in a room full of funhouse mirrors and finding out where the truth is, figuring out how much I’ve distorted things with my own fear of jinxing things and trusting that I haven’t freaked him out because he’s on the same page.

A matter of size

He happens to be shorter than me.

As I’m 5’5″ and therefore not particularly tall, I found this somewhat surprising at first.  Of course, as we had met online first and I had facebook stalked him and looked at all his pictures, no lack of inches could make him un-cute.  But the fact that height might make any sort of difference got me thinking.

Height seems to be a major requirement for girls.  I have one friend who is 5’10” and she’s quite adamant about having a guy taller than her, which is quite difficult in NYC.  Men seem to be on the shorter side here.  My best friend has often expounded on the idea of not being able to date someone shorter than her.  There’s a whole Sex and the City episode about how Samantha meets a short guy and ultimately can’t handle the fact that he’s short *despite* the fact that she enjoys his company both with and without clothes on.

When you think about it, though, height seems to be a really odd requirement in a mate.  Does being tall make someone a better person?  Better looking?  There are plenty of not so hot tall guys and super hot shorter guys.  Yet a guy’s height can often (but not always–see: Tom Cruise back when he wasn’t a freaknut) impact how sexy he is to women.

So now I’m asking the question–why?  Why is height–or more specifically,  lack thereof–something to be overcome?

My theory–it has nothing to do with the guy and everything to do with the girl.

Note the fact that there is not a particular height which is considered acceptable.  It’s always relative to the girl.  A 5’7″ guy poses no height issues for me, but does to my best friend, who is 5’7″ herself.

We can pretend it’s the 21st century, and women are now the enlightened sex, crying things like forget the ‘fairer sex’ bullshit.  Chivalry is dead.  We’re smashing through the glass ceiling.  Etc. etc.  But at the end of the day, the idea of having a guy who’s taller means the girl can feel protected by his supposed strength.  Moreover, she can feel more delicate and feminine.  The latter is something I’ve heard from my taller girl friends.  They hate being tall because they feel ‘too big’–the idea is still to be small and dainty.

There are some obvious flaws in logic with this way of thinking.  For example, height does not equal strength.  My ex was a fair few inches taller than me and I could have snapped him like a twig.  He was so skinny I could never feel delicate next to him.  Not to mention the paradox of wanting equality but not really wanting equality, which is a can of worms worthy of a doctoral dissertation.  We can list all we want, but I sincerely doubt it’s going to change the mindset about wanting to be more delicate and feminine and to feel protected.  I’m no exception–I spend a lot of time emphasizing my femininity and embracing pink.  I actively want to be a girly girl.

But here’s what I’ve learned: height does not make this happen.  I do not feel like a huge heffalump next to him.   Rather, I fit right into the nook of his arm.  I curl up with him and he puts his arm around me and I feel sheltered.  He’ll come up behind me and lean over me at the computer, or put his arm around my waist (a particular weakness of mine), and I feel all warm and fuzzy and feminine.  Maybe even a little bit dainty.  I don’t notice the difference when we kiss, and if we are seated or lying down, the difference doesn’t exist at all.  I am very definitely the girl, and with a small (ha) twinge of embarrassment, I’m very happy with things that way.

In short, size doesn’t matter–at least in the height respect.  As for other areas, I make no comment, but I’m certainly not making any complaint, either.