Never Again

I’m not a person for regrets.

Ha, I only wish that were true.  In fact, I regret a lot of things that I’ve done.  I’m the kind of person who burns with shame for years after an embarrassing moment.  I obsess over things I’ve left undone, because I am a massive procrastinator.  For example, I still have not sent out all the thank you cards for my wedding, which was almost a year ago.  Or one of my work friends retired a couple years ago, and sent me a lovely letter–an actual letter, on paper, and I never answered her.  Because I am a gigantic punk.  I hate myself for doing that.

But if you ask me whether there are things I wouldn’t do again, I struggle to think of any.  Thinking about it, I’m the sort of person who doesn’t take no for an answer.  In high school, where my procrastination got the best of me in a school of overachievers, I finished in the middle of the pack and got no awards for writing or English, much to my chagrin.  So in college, I determined that I was going to work even harder and wound up with departmental distinction, magna cum laude, etc.  I say this because dammit, I worked for that.

Sometimes I’m lucky and my tenacity pays off right away.  Sometimes it doesn’t, so I just keep hammering at the target until it gives or I do.  When I auditioned for Jeopardy I got into the contestant pool on my first try.  A few years later, I decided to audition for Who Wants to be a Millionaire?  I passed the test but screwed up the interview because I innocently asked how they selected contestants.  My interviewer immediately got squinky and I wasn’t terribly surprised but was terribly disappointed when I got a card saying I wasn’t selected.  (Pro tip: If you are ever trying to get on tv, don’t ask about their selection process.  It is very secret society.)  Nevertheless, I just went back and auditioned again the next year–and got on the show.

The one thing I thought I really would never do again is move for a guy.  I did it once, after I graduated college, relocating to North Carolina to give my college romance a real world shot.  The relationship was falling apart even before I got down there, and I gave up a chance to be an English adjunct in the south of France to give love a shot, but I swore I was being brave and fighting for love.  When said boyfriend broke up with me very suddenly, I found myself in North Carolina very alone and friendless.  When I got back to New York, I vowed I would never do something so stupid again, and I held to it.  When MR and I started dating, I said very certainly he would have to move to NY if things were going to progress, and as he was fine with that plan, all seemed well.  Until a friend pointed out, “That’s not fair.  If you expect him to do that for you, you have to be willing to do that for him.”  It was one of those moments where you hate someone for being right.

And now here I am, living in England, despite all my vows not to move for love.  In the end, that was all I moved for.  But what was a mistake in 2001 turned out to be a wise decision in 2012, because although I was leaving all the same important things behind, what I was going to was much greater–not a relationship I was willing to work with all my grit and might, but a partnership we were both invested in, which has turned into a successful marriage (so far).

So in the end I’m a bit leery of saying ‘never.‘  Never closes a lot of doors, and can cause some unnecessary stubbornness.  And while some pride is good, and arguably necessary,  too much holds you back from having the things you really want.  If I  had been so proud as to shake the dust of the Millionaire producers from my feet after the first go, I would not have won $25,000.  If I had clung to a resolution I made in the flush of bitter heartbreak, I might not be married now.  I almost certainly wouldn’t have a baby on the way.

This is why I watch repeats on tv.  There is always something new to discover in something you think you’ve seen before.

Review of The Great, Wide World Part 1

The prompt: Write a review of your life as if it were a movie or a book.

The Great, Wide World: Part 1 is, at heart, an existential story of self definition.  The protagonist is not as iconic as Holden Caulfield, but then she is not as petulant either.  What makes her tale unique is that unlike many journeymen protagonists, she has a clear mission from the start–live life as a story.

She is half successful and half not.  Her misadventures consist of years of passivity and an acceptance of the status quo which can only be described as irritating.  When she makes a career decision to teach in her early twenties, she spends several years floundering in admin assistant jobs.  When one of those jobs shows her gallingly disrespected, our heroine doesn’t stand up for herself, she lies down and takes it–until she gets fired.  Everyone wanted to see a scene where she stands up for herself, but instead she lets things continue on other people’s terms, and that is where she fails as a heroine.  Heroes are meant to be in control of their decisions, if nothing else, no matter how misguided those decisions may be.  Romeo may declare himself ‘Fortune’s fool’ but he’s the one who draws the sword on Tybalt.  The protagonist often leaves her weapons of defense and attack safely sheathed, leaving the audience hungry for more conflict and less whinging. Continue reading

Nine months was nothing, they said

I’ve just learned that the NYC Dept of Education, in all their wisdom, decided to cut February break short this year in order to make up for lost instruction time due to Hurricane Sandy.

My first thought is that this is abysmally stupid.  Firstly, in high schools, it just throws things off.  High schools run on semesters, and teachers plan accordingly.  Getting days in February will not help cover material needed for the January regents.  In my own classroom, this would have given the kids three more days on Things Fall Apart, but we still would have lost major time in the heroes unit that I do in November as a prequel to the Odyssey.  Also, I’m sure those days could have been found elsewhere.  Plus, I’ve missed at least two days out of the schoolyear several times before, and no one’s had to make up the days.  I’m mad on behalf of all my fellow teachers and all my students that they’re being punished for something they couldn’t control.

I’m mad because I know if it had been me, I would have been gutted.  I almost always used that February break to visit friends in England.  Over this past year, I used it to visit my fiance.

This takes me back to the time when I was embroiled in trying to make the decision of what to do.  When MR and I got engaged, we blithely assumed that it would be no problem to live together in either country, so long as we were married.  Arguably, it’s one of the reasons we moved so fast, although we can never know what might have happened if I was an English girl.  It turns out that we were only half right.  The UK would let us stay together, but the US was much more complicated.  If we wanted to live there together, we had to get married there.  To get married there, we needed to apply for a fiance visa, which would be given at an indeterminate date, taking up to seven months to process.  Once issued, we would have had to get married within 90 days.  Try planning a big wedding under those parameters.  It’s impossible.

Several people suggested the City Hall option, but that wasn’t an option for me.  I know a couple who were in our position–he’s Irish, she’s American, and that’s what they did.  She described her sudden City Hall wedding as an adventure, and I can absolutely see the appeal.  But it wasn’t for me.  I was one of those girls who had planned her wedding from when she was small, and I wasn’t about to give up on that once I had finally found the guy.  Plus, by the time we found this out we had already paid deposits and started planning our wedding in England.  I already had the big white dress with a train that was begging for a church aisle.  And I’m admittedly religious.  Not crazy evangelical or anything, but having a church wedding was really important to me.  And to MR–although he’s not religious, the pomp and circumstance appealed to him, much moreso than a clandestine city hall celebration.

We went to a lawyer, and she told us that if we got married in the UK, he would have to apply from there for entry, and that process could take nine months.  Nine months.  First, it would take four to five months to approve our marriage and decide that we actually did want to be together, and then it would take an additional four to five months to get his green card.  To add to that, during that time he might not be able to visit me.  UK visitors enter the US on a visa waiver program, but of course MR would be trying to waive his need for a visa while simultaneously applying for a visa.  In a post 9/11 world, such information comes up on the border control’s computers, and depending on which border guard he got and what mood they were in (95% chance of surly bordering on scary–nobody ever smiles at me at US customs), he could either be let through or put on the next flight back to the UK.

When we found this out we tried every possible permutation of how to get around this.  We asked every question.  People were constantly suggesting things to me–what if he got a student visa? (No, you can’t have dual intent with a student visa.)  What if he came in through Canada?  All of these were complex and none of them were really helpful. I myself tried to get a leave from the Department of Education for a semester to shorten the length of time we were apart and was given a resounding no.  Thanks, Dept. of Ed.  I can see you appreciate my years of loyal service.

After a couple of months of hemming and hawing, it became apparent that we had only two choices: either I give up my job, my car (I had a gorgeous BMW which I got by luck and some very nice friends), my apartment, my life, and move to England, or we spend the first nine months of our marriage apart, that I get married and go on honeymoon, and then fly back alone.

People were shocked that I might even consider the second option.  While the school secretaries were very kindly helping me with paperwork and scheduling meetings, I remember them saying “You have to think about this, honey.  Nine months is just a drop in the bucket when it comes to a lifetime.  You don’t want to give up a good job.”

It was true.  My job was pretty fabulous–I was teaching some of the brightest, nicest, funniest kids in the city.  I had great colleagues.  I even advised a program called TDF Open Doors which took kids to Broadway shows for free, because according to playwright Wendy Wasserstein, theater is every New Yorker’s birthright.  As the advisor, I got to go along.  For free.  To see Broadway shows which I would have shelled out hundreds for, and happily.  I was teaching creative writing, which was enormously fulfilling.

But we had already done eight months apart and it felt like an eternity.  Yes, I loved my job, but it didn’t compensate for how much I missed him.  That was a pang that was with me daily.  People said to me at least I had Skype, but I knew that.  We were already using every app available to us–Skype, email, What’sApp, gchat.  I will tell you this–nothing electronic can ever compensate for being with someone.  I didn’t know how much longer I could carry on.  Nine months didn’t seem like nothing.  In fact, the time frame seemed particularly significant when it came to being with my husband.  In nine months, I could gestate a baby.  And that started me thinking–I’m in my 30’s and just getting married.  What about having kids?  I knew I wanted them.  Three in an ideal world.  Would those nine months be crucial to the planning of my family?  Then I thought of getting pregnant during one of the few chances we’d have to see each other and doing it all on my own.  Not having anyone there for the baby’s first kick.  Not having anyone there to put together a crib or choose a carseat.  Not having anyone, and yet knowing there was someone who should be there, who would be, were it not for some really stupid immigration laws.

Well.  If you’ve been reading this blog, you know what we decided.  I’m sitting on a couch in Birmingham, typing away.  I won’t pretend it’s been an easy decision.  I miss New York a lot.  I miss my family.  I really want to go out for dinner and drinks with my friends.  I miss my students–the kids I saw enter as freshmen when I started teaching at THHS are graduating this year, and I would give anything to be there.

But when I see this news, that one of my few chances to see my husband would have been snatched from me, I feel the echo of the helpless ache I would have if I had stayed.  When even the thought of something that’s never going to happen causes me that much pain, I know I made the right choice.  Marius Pontmercy, indeed all of Victor Hugo’s characters, taught me well.  I have always been prepared to make big sacrifices for love.  I was so ready that when I was younger I left a world behind to go and live in North Carolina.  When that relationship failed, I thought it meant that I had been stupid to do that.  Indeed, when I got into this relationship at first, I vowed I wouldn’t move for him, that he would have to move for me.  My friend said, “It doesn’t work like that.  You have to be willing to do for him what he would do for you,” and I realized he was right.

Now I see that failed relationship wasn’t proof of my idiocy.  It was training wheels, to show me what such a sacrifice meant.  And it’s made this leap a lot easier.  This time, I have a real partnership, someone who loves me as much as I love him, and we are happy.  I miss home, but I’m building a new life here and making another home.  Now I know this for certain: I miss New York terribly, but not half as much as I would miss him if I were still there.

Has it been that long already?

It seems the fiance and I passed an important milestone yesterday and both of us forgot all about it.  We’ve been dating a whole year.

This is a pretty important milestone.  After the first year, things seem more a part of your life, as though that’s the way things have always been.  We can’t look at each other now and say with wonder–just think!  A year ago we didn’t know if we’d ever find someone.  A year ago now we did–we already had each other.  And so the permanence of us has set in, and I struggle now to remember what life was like before I was in this with him.  I know there was a lot of pain and loneliness, but it’s harder to remember.

Which is all very romantic, and lovely to think of.  In fact, it deserves some sort of celebration.  Except we both completely forgot.  I’m a bit surprised at myself, frankly.  I love a little ceremony in life, and this really is the only time we’ll celebrate our dating anniversary.  I know some couples continue to celebrate that, but it seems a bit superfluous when our wedding anniversary will be only two weeks later.

I suppose that’s the reason–we actually don’t have much time to celebrate now.  He’s just got back from a trip to China, and in less than a week my family arrives, and in less than two (11 days in fact, according to my countdown widget), we’re going to be married.  I don’t have time for dating anniversaries.  I’m placing rush orders on place cards and debating chair covers.

When we were apart for so long, it seemed like every moment together was something special to be treasured and celebrated.  Now we don’t have to say goodbye to each other for any time in the foreseeable future, so I’m sitting on the couch at my computer and he at the table on his.  We have the luxury of taking each other for granted a little bit because at last, we have an embarrassing richness of moments together.

Ok, maybe that’s a reach, saying I don’t have to celebrate.  I might be trying to find some excuses for forgetting my anniversary.

Parting is such sweet sorrow

A couple of months ago, I would have scoffed at Juliet’s sentiment.  There is nothing sweet about parting, I would have said.  It is hard and miserable, and the only thing to do when standing in front of the security line at the airport is to think about the next time we’re going to see each other and swallow tears.

I spent a good ten months in a long distance relationship, and it was very hard to pull through.  At the beginning and end there were huge stretches of nearly 100 days where we couldn’t be together, and that’s a very long time.  There’s so much of a romantic relationship that comes from physical proximity.  And you get your mind out of the gutter!  I’m not (only) referring to that.  Although there is that.  But there is also being able to do things together, or just curling up on the couch and watch tv together.  Or doing totally different things, and then getting up to get a drink and, in passing, giving a kiss or touch.

When I was grappling with the decision to up sticks and move to England for love, a lot of people advised me to stay.  “Nine months is a drop in the bucket,” I heard.  And by way of additional comfort “You can talk through Skype!”

But let me tell you something–Skype sucks.  Ok, that’s not really fair.  Skype has been a great boon in a lot of ways, and the fiance and I used it to the hilt.  I sent my Skype conversation records to the British consulate for my visa approval and they showed conversations of 6, 8, 10 hours routinely.  It was good because we felt like we could be able to talk to each other all day, for free.

Still, though…while Skype is good for keeping the channels of communication open, it’s not very intimate.  And, if I’m honest, after awhile it gets boring.  Think about it–how much time do you spend actually conversing with your partner?  You probably talk to them most of all, but even so, two solid hours of conversation every single day?  That’s a lot of talking.  Plus there’s the fact that we were staring at a computer screen.  We couldn’t go for a walk together, or even go into the other room (my laptop at the time was 5 years old and had no battery life).

So Skype helps, but it’s not a remedy.  Long distance relationships are still hard, because as nice as seeing each other’s face is, we were still living largely separate lives, and at the end of the day we still went to bed alone.  That is particularly painful when I had been waiting so long to be in a relationship and stop feeling lonely.

It gets so painful that eventually we both started to shut down a bit.  It’s impossible to miss someone constantly for days and weeks on end, so it’s easier to build a little wall around that feeling, keep my head down, and carry on.  I suspect this is the death knell for most long distance relationships, because it’s all too easy for that protective wall to be a real wall, and pretty soon you’ve blocked the other person out.  I think in my case, the fact that our long distance stint was relatively brief and that we were both so stubbornly and tenaciously committed got us through.  It’s not possible to date long distance casually.  By the time we got to see each other again, the joy of reunion had faded with too much anticipation, and the moment was instead full of weary relief, a sigh of at last.

In the midst of the last long stretch (mid April to the second week of July), my best friend’s husband went on a week-long bike ride through England.  Before his departure, she was fretting about being alone and how much she’d miss him.  At the time, I had very little sympathy.  A week? I thought.  What I wouldn’t give to only be separated for a week.  I was alone in the house every night.

Eventually though, I was forced to eat my words (thoughts?).  The fiance has had a trip to China planned for ages, since the week we first got together.  I couldn’t really complain about his departure, although the stuff we planned afterwards (like our wedding) made the timing less than ideal.  As the trip approached though, I found myself growing bluer and bluer about having to say goodbye.  There may have been some tears.  What’s more, these past nine days I’ve missed him more than I’ve missed him in all those long six week stretches.  I am so excited about seeing him tomorrow I’m practically vibrating, and I’m going to give him the biggest, most joyful hug.

At first I wondered why I had turned into such a hypocrite.  But then I realized–it’s not hypocritical.  When Juliet says “parting is such sweet sorrow” she adds “That I shall say goodnight till it be morrow,” fully intending to see Romeo the next day.  The melancholy of being separated is a novelty, an indulgence in emo romanticism.  A week is long enough for a separation to be noticeable, but not long enough for it to be real, or truly painful.  I have to say, it’s rather nice to have that luxury.

A rebuttal

So my fiance posted about the end of his bachelor-hood, as I am moving to England in one (1) week and we are both rather stunned by the fact that after a year plus all this long distance bs becomes a thing of the past.  He seems to think many other things are going to become a thing of the past, and you can read the original list here.  But as I read this, I think he needs some reassurance/ reality checks.  So, my response:

My (fiance’s) bachelor bucket list.

  • Wake up when I want to.  —One of the reasons I’m marrying you is that we’re both not morning people.  This in my estimation will give us a whole heap of marital accord.
  • Announce the morning with a bottom bugle call. –Ok, yes, that’s got to go.  At least doing it under the covers does.  I don’t want the poison gas on me!  It’s my fear of nuclear fallout.
  • Have a wash without searching through all the girly soaps and creams.–Maybe some of them would do you good.  Everyone could use some pores unblocked.
  • Be able to use the shower without knocking over a hundred kinds of shampoo and conditioner. –If you let me get a shower organizer, everything would be…wait for it…organized. 😛
  • Spend an hour on the toilet reading.  –Maybe that’s not a bad idea because it gives the smell particles a chance to die.
  • Be able to use the toilet when I want (as there is nobody sat on it reading).  How I Met Your Mother wisely pointed out that if you’re not reading, it’s just lost time.
  • Leave the toilet seat lid up (every time I go in there I have to lift the lid up, how many times do we men have to tell you).  –At least you don’t run the danger of having your butt dunked in the toilet!  That’s why we win.  Also, should I be concerned that quite a few of these are toilet related, or is that just living with boys?  I’ve never lived with a boy before to know…
  • Sit on the sofa and switch the sport on without worrying that we were meant to go out for cushions.  –You already have cushions…we don’t need any more.  Although come on–would you turn down a trip for Ikea meatballs?  I didn’t think so.  This is the plus of being in a couple.  More meatballs.
  • Sit and watch sport without being told “what more sport” as I proceed to watch cricket/rugby/football/F1/tennis/Tour De France/Ryder Cup etc.  –Admittedly I do have a sports limit, but it’s higher than you think…
  • Eat nothing but meats and starch, and only using tomato sauce as part of my five a day. –We can do that on pizza night…  Also curry night.  Once a week.
  • Play computer games while watching sport. –Play away!  But you know, maybe you could acknowledge my presence once or twice over the course of such an evening.  
  • Not be questioned over the revealing outfits female characters wear in most games. If I was looking for a high brow discussion on modern post feminism I would watch Loose Women and not play Mass Effect. –I would treat you to my feminist rant here, but that would just mean spoilers for later on.  You gotta keep some mystery alive sometimes.
  • Watch TV shows without explaining every situation, especially if the question is due to be answered in 30 seconds.  –What?  I never do that!  Not ever.  Never.  Besides which, how do I know the answer is going to come in 30 seconds if I’ve never seen the thing before.  Exactly.  
  • Write a blog post.  –Write away!  If I tried to put any caps on writing in our household, that would put me in serious trouble.
  • Not keep my phone on waiting for a Skype call.  –Word.  And not having to deal with the vagaries of internet video chat, and being able to use non verbal communication for once…  Oooh, and being in the same time zone so that our window to talk isn’t three hours long exactly.
  • Do the clothes washing on the same setting for everything. –You will know and love your delicates cycle.  But you’ll also appreciate the things which need to be washed on the delicates cycle too, so it evens out in the end, really.  Also, someone else will do the washing like, 20% of the time.  That’s 20% more time for you.
  • Iron everything on the same heat.  –See above.
  • Organise everything in the flat how I like. Whether its books, DVDs or remote controls.  –No lie, this is a bit unnerving to me too.  How do people merge their stuff and sense of spatial order?  Is there a manual?  There should be a manual.  But you can be librarian still and always.
  • Own the remote control. –That is the end of an era.  You can watch your sport, but be prepared for some Downton Abbey in the evening.
  • Go to bed when I’m tired.  –This makes me think you think I’ll tie you to a chair and force you to watch an entire season of Downton Abbey in one night.  As long as you don’t make me go to bed with you, I’m fine.  Then I can watch Bridezillas streamed from America until two in the morning.
  • Sleep in the middle of the bed and have all the duvet. –Steal the duvet and I will put my cold toes on you in retaliation.
  • Keep the windows and doors closed to stop the pollen/vampires getting in.  –Not generally a problem, except on hot nights.  Could I postulate a theory that vampires melt in the heat?  Probably not–damn you Bon Temps, for refuting my theory.
  • Snore. –I think you underestimate how heavily I can sleep.
But there are some things I’ll be missing too.  For example:
  • I don’t think my ginormous Prince Caspian poster (complete with Ben Barnes pointing his sword right at me) will ever grace my walls again.
  • I will have to hear complaints about the number of bad reality tv shows I can watch, and the amount of times I can watch a sitcom rerun.
  • Farewell to the incomparable freedom of an open bathroom door.
  • No more dinners of candy bars and fruit (to make it healthy).
  • No more falling asleep on the couch at nine and staggering to bed at two.
  • No more sampling four different kinds of moisturizer at any given time.
  • I will have to put my shoes away.  And also probably my purse.  Even when I like it’s place ‘near the middle of the floor’ so much.
  • I’ll also probably have to explain why I have so many shoes.  It’s less than I used to have is an argument that probably wouldn’t make sense to a guy.

But then we both get:

  • Someone to come home to every night
  • Someone to go out with when we’re bored
  • Someone to make fun of stupid movies with
  • Someone to make a cup of tea when we’ve had a bad day/ are too tired to get out of bed/ just don’t want to do it ourselves
  • Someone to do a chore we just couldn’t bring ourselves to do
  • For me, someone to kill bugs
  • For you, someone to sew buttons
  • Someone to frequent Ikea and eat meatballs with
  • Someone to travel with
  • Someone to be loved up with.
  • Someone.

It’s obvious which side the scale tips to.

Upgrading

This is the beginning of a post I started and found in my drafts folder:

Everyone who has ever used a computer (or at least a PC) has gotten that message that x software has an upgrade available.  I hate that message, and postpone upgrading as long as possible.  I wonder what the upgrade is going to offer me when I already have a perfectly functional piece of software.  I think it’s part of me being a Taurean and not liking change.

I approached relationships in the same way. When I got into a new one recently, I didn’t expect it to be that much different from the old one.  I mean, new face and hopefully good times, but same general pattern.  I was not aware that I was in for a serious upgrade.

The rest of the post was supposed to be about how much more awesome my new relationship was compared to my old one.  In brief: very much more.  My last relationship was full of drudgery and depression, and though I clung on with all my strength, there was very little to cling on to, and he just disengaged.  Needless to say, things are very different when you’re both in love.  Nobody disengages, and you’re a lot happier to be with each other.

I rather like the idea of this post–it is an interesting reflection on how far I’ve come and how much happier I am, and rather hopeful, I think, that things can get better.  I admit I didn’t think they would.  I thought what I experienced was simply how you get treated–not true!

But as I went back to add, I realized all the details I thought I would bring up, comparisons which were so fresh and specific in October, have faded away in February.  I also found another post where I was planning to write to my ex via the blogosphere and tell him all the angry stuff I never did because we tried to be friends for awhile after (and failed).  But again, I find myself stumped as to what I would say.  I’m simply not angry enough to write that letter anymore.

My last (and only other) relationship haunted me like a shadow for years.  It ended surprisingly and badly, and killed my confidence in a lot of ways.  I would constantly draw from it and think about it.  What went wrong?  What was wrong with me?  How could I stop that from happening again?  Why couldn’t he love me?  Why was the next girl he met ‘the one’?  I exorcised my feelings for the guy in a healthy amount of time, but there was so much unresolved, so little closure that I still felt it at the dawn of my new relationship.

Now, though, that time seems very far away indeed, a distant and irrelevant past.  I can’t recall why it made me upset.  If I think about it really hard, I can sort of remember some details.  But they don’t seem important anymore.  I’m happy.  I’m getting married.  Ten years ago no longer matters–I was a kid then anyway.

Surprisingly, I find myself in a place where all that heartache doesn’t matter anymore.  My ex pops up every so often under the ‘people you may know’ banner on Facebook.  I think to myself ‘Why yes, I do know him.’  I even find myself half curious about what he’s up to.  But in the end it doesn’t matter.  In one of my other favorite books, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Johnny Nolan breaks up with a girl by saying “You go your way, and I’ll go mine.”  That’s what we’ve done.  He’s somewhere, doing…something chemistry related.  I’m leading a good life.  We’re not part of each other anymore.

So in the end, I’ve gone beyond a software upgrade.  I’ve gone for a whole new operating system, and it’s so shiny and efficient that I forgot all the bugs of the old one, or even how it operated.  Does anyone even remember Windows 3.1?  Exactly.

And that, my friends, is what they call closure.

Jew-dling, a la Charlotte

I’ve always had a bad habit with guys.  When I like a guy, and I mean the instant I decide I’m attracted to him, one of the first things I do is match his last name to mine.  I have to say that most of the time, I’ve had rather lackluster success, especially with the ex.  Part of it is that my name is a bit old fashioned sounding, I feel, and a bit snooty.  I haven’t met many Americans with it, and I grew up with a lot of bitches in literature with my name.

Of course practically the moment I found out the bf’s name, I matched it with mine.  And let me say, it sounds good.  I wind up sounding like a Jane Austen character.  A nice one.  And even more exciting, my monogram would have *four* C’s.  I’m not usually one for hyphenating; I would rather just take my husband’s last name, but who can resist a monogram with four C’s?  No one has that!  An auspicious sign, I think.

Obviously this all sounds crazy.  I’ve been dating a guy for four months and am already planning my new monogram.  But. I shared this with him not two weeks into our relationship, and he didn’t flinch or even blink.  We have also discussed what our wedding will be like, and how we’ll raise the children.  We’ve projected far into a happy, imagined future.  Clearly we’re crazy together.

Or are we?  Most people would say this is the stuff only for the movies, but maybe, just maybe life turns out to be like a movie sometimes.  But then, I wouldn’t even say it’s like a movie–rom coms are fraught with hyperbolic drama created by unnecessary misunderstandings.  We have none of that.  We understand each other all too well, and this has seemed right from the start.  And let me tell you this–I am not going to become one of those girls who could so simply solve her problems but yet refuses to because she lacks the clarity/ is too stubborn/ can’t do the logical thing because the plot has to advance.  So instead of saying we have a movie romance, perhaps I might say we have a fairy tale sort of romance; love at first sight and a happily ever after.   But that’s problematic because I don’t know any talking animated animals or anthropomorphic candlesticks.  Oh, and also, he most definitely has a personality.  He is not a blank projection of charming.

So maybe all of this is plain real?  Somehow I hardly believe that’s possible, and yet I can’t not believe it.  As much as my brain yells at me that this isn’t real, my heart nods and pretends like it cares but is secretly wondering how exactly brides-to-be make it on “Say Yes to the Dress” and if they’re compensated with wedding dresses.  (Probably not, as the major source of drama from the show seems to come from sticker shock.)

I worry I’m becoming Charlotte.  As I’m sitting here writing a blog about relationships, it’s only natural that Sex and the City should be a touchstone.  Doesn’t every girl who’s mused via  a keyboard fancy herself Carrie Bradshaw?  Except in the relationship arena I’m not Carrie–I’m Charlotte.  I’ve always liked her clothes best.

Like Charlotte, I’ve been dreaming of love my whole like.  Like Charlotte, I misidentified love the first time around and got hurt for it.  Like Charlotte I’ve been scared but hopeful, and I fell in love very hard when I was least expecting it.  But now I’m worried I’ll become too much like Charlotte and get too eager to start the rest of my life.

I was talking with the bf, and he was telling me that he wanted to buy me one more Christmas present, but that he was nervous.  I told him that he shouldn’t be, as I love all presents, but he replied that it wasn’t the gift itself, it was that it came in a small square box that could fit in the palm of your hand.  “And I don’t want you to get the wrong idea,” he said.  Sadly, I totally would have.

I think there’s a dangerous cocktail going on here.   I’m a natural dreamer as evidenced by my mental name changing.  Fortunately it’s still mental–I only toyed around with my new monogram once.  Promise.  Then, because we’re apart so much I naturally project into a future where we can be together.  And lastly, I’ve forced myself to think about the idea of accelerated nuptials, because thanks to the Department of Homeland Security, or the Interior, or whatever it is, that may be the only way we can be together.  You would think dating a foreigner would be nothing but exotic, but the red tape is frankly irritating.

The end result is that I’m actually quite anxious to have a ring on my finger, and that’s where I worry most about being like Charlotte.  There is a notable episode of Sex and the City where Charlotte, having successfully converted to Judaism for Harry decides to cook him an elaborate shabbos dinner and decides to enlist Carrie and Miranda.  Miranda finds ‘Charlotte York-Goldenblatt’ scribbled into the margins of Charlotte’s cookbook. In a voice-over, Carrie pronounces this ‘jew-dling.’  (!  I told you–parallels.)  “Did I miss something?” She asks.  “Did you get engaged?”  Charlotte grows defensive, announcing that she and Harry are meant to be (parallel no. 2).  “I don’t want you to get hurt again,” replies Miranda (parallel no. 3–I was jumping into this before I even met him–though admittedly not going further than name wordplay, and my friends said almost the same words to me.)

All of this is not bad, but Charlotte tips over the edge.  When Harry won’t turn off the Mets game, she loses it and in an escalating fight, winds up screaming “Set the date!  Set the date!”  Needless to say, the conversation does not end well as I don’t think any man would like to be screamed at to propose.  Her: SET THE DATE!  Him: Alright then…how’s the 29th for you?  I could move some meetings…

I wonder how far I am from this, and I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t let myself get too close.  Bad things could happen if I get ahead of myself.  But then…Harry and Charlotte do get back together and live a beautiful life.  In the end, she is prophetic.

So I’m not exactly sure where that leaves me.  Probably embracing anticipation.  I can’t make things happen any sooner–it’s out of my hands, unless I want to propose myself (I don’t–like Charlotte, I’m traditional).  On the one hand, I’ve waited 32 years for even this possibility, so no wonder I’m chomping at the bit.  But on the other, I’ve waited 32 years.  Surely a little longer won’t kill me.  I don’t think, anyway…

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.

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.