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.

Expect the unexpected

Admittedly, this blog gets pretty sappy from time to time.  I’d like to be a funnier writer, but the misfortune of my writing talent is that I cannot contrive to be funny.  It happens by luck sometimes, but not by design.  And I’m writing about stuff that’s pretty close to my heart.  But that’s especially true tonight, as I’m feeling quite het up emotionally about stuff, so those with a low tolerance for the ick factor should leave the room.

Also, I should start a tally of how many times I reference Sex and the City (see: the Ick Factor),

A lot of things are up in the air right now.  It turns out visa processing for an immigrant to the US takes nine months after you get married.  I love the State Department.  They are amazing people who clearly do their job with minute and painstaking attention to detail.

But despite my everlasting love and admiration for INS, this leaves me and the fiance in a bit of a bind.  We have been playing with options for about a week, but have nothing certain, and quite frankly, it’s killing me.  When I found out other people on his team at work had snatched up all the Easter holiday, which is when I will be there for my next visit, I wanted to kill them, and also say horrible things like “I don’t care about your stupid kids.  You get to see them every stupid day.”

Which is clearly not the way forward, particularly as the fiance has who I believe is one of the top 10 bosses in all of history.  We should keep him happy.

The problem is really not that he’ll be working 9-5 most of the time I’m there.  The problem is that I don’t know what’s going to happen to us after we get married.  No doubt some of you out there are going “Er…just have a city hall marriage in the US and then the big thing in the UK.  Then you can process the paperwork faster.”  Not a bad idea, except, of course, the United Kingdom does not have the Bill of Rights, and therefore they *can* make laws respecting an establishment of religion, and so, thanks to Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, civil and religious ceremonies are one and the same.  Which means, get married at city hall and process the paperwork quicker, but give up the wedding.

And let’s be honest here, folks.  My wedding is pretty kick-ass.  It is everything I’ve ever wanted it to be.  Plus I’ve waited 32 years to get married.  With each passing year, the fuss and the flowers and the food and the fanfare become more precious, because I really feel like celebrating this.

A year ago if you had asked me if I thought I would ever get married, I would say I was sliding down the scale from ‘maybe’ to ‘probably not.’  In fact, I was already grappling with the ‘probably not’ possibility.  I gave my sister a whole speech about how I wasn’t dancing around at her engagement because I was looking at a bleak future.  I didn’t know I was scarcely more than a month away from meeting my future husband.

Put like this, it’s a revolution of a year.  I met a guy.  Then he turned out to be awesome.  Then he turned out to really like me.  Then he embraced all my craziness and all my nerdiness.  Then we fell in love.  Then he asked me to marry him.  Who does that *happen* to?  Sometimes I feel like I’m living in a rom com.

But it turns out love is the answer to some things, but not all things, and that on the other side of the single/ couple divide a whole host of problems lie.  And here I was thinking I finally had the key to Shangri-La.  I never thought I would be in a relationship and still feel like I was up against so much.  Yes, the loneliness is gone, but in it’s place is a sort of desperation, the kind of thing that makes people write love poetry or characters like Bella Swan.  It’s a very melodramatic feeling, hanging your life onto another person.  Getting hitched is an appropriate phrase, because you do in essence hook your life up to another’s and see where it takes you. But this of course means a loss of control, and in giving that up you feel the noble sacrifice of love etc. etc.

Which all boils down to right now I’m getting married, but although we are racking our brains trying to think of ways to be together, the card that says we have to wait nine months for that is still on the table.  So we could get married and then say goodbye.

Is this better than a year ago, when I thought I was looking at loneliness forever? Yes.  It is.  It is only temporary, no matter what, even if we do have to wait.  But is it the 180 I expected?  Not quite.  I feel a bit cheated.  I find a guy, and he’s amazing, and he’s got a sexy accent, and instead of a honeymoon, I may have to get on a plane alone.  Uncool, universe.  If you give me an awesome guy, I want the chance to be with him, plsthx.

I guess there’s another way to look at it though.  I know now I’m living a comedy, not a tragedy.  But in any comedy, there has to be complications.  It’s the law of good stories.  Protagonist must face obstacles to get what he/ she wants.  So in this crazy movie life, I am perhaps just in the second act, when things get rough.  This is my Empire Strikes Back moment.  Han Solo’s frozen in carbonite, but Princess Leia goes to rescue him.  That’s not a rom com, but you get the idea.  Anyway, it would be even cooler if this story were an epic.

In case you were wondering, though, I will say that the second act is not a fun place to be.  Mo’ money, mo’ problems.

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.

Magical bling bling

So I’ve noticed that the majority of conversations when you get engaged go like this:

Person X:  Hey, how was your break?

Me:  Really good, actually.  I got engaged.  *smile and coy blush*

Person X: Oh my god, congratulations!  (If I know them well enough, hug)  Let me see the ring!

Seriously, everyone asks to see the ring.  This strikes me as oddly acquisitive.  I mean, I love my ring (more on that in a minute) but I’m much happier to have the fiance. It just seems like an odd tradition to go flashing jewelry around. Besides which, I don’t really see the point of having a giant rock on my finger.  Years ago, I read an article in Glamour from the guy’s point of view, and the columnists was writing about how he found huge rocks a waste of money, and he would rather have a down payment on a beach house.  I read that and thought–I would like to have a beach house too!  At the same time though, I definitely didn’t want a ring from Wal-Mart either.  My family thought I was being a snob, but honestly, if you can pay for an engagement ring along with some beef jerky and hemherroid cream, then that officially kills romance.  I wanted my ring to have a story.

My ring is extremely special.  Every time I look at my left hand, it makes me smile–and not just a little smile either, a big, goofy grin.  It’s very subtle, though, and not very showy.  I know a woman at work who has a glacier on her finger, the stereotype of engagement rings, and therefore what I imagine people are expecting to see.  Several people have looked at my ring and go “Oh…that’s…pretty.”  At which point I usually want to tell them to fuck off, I didn’t get in this for jewelry, but instead I patiently/ happily explain the story of the ring, which is awesome.

Leading up to Christmas, the (then) bf told me in no uncertain terms not to expect a ring.  He even told me he was buying me a small present, but I should not get excited about it, because it’s not what I think it is.  I believed him, but then thought it over and wondered.  Maybe he was fooling me?  But maybe not.  But he likes to tease…  Finally Rooty, our official matchmaker, decided to do some investigating, and she came back with a report that he is very traditional, that he doesn’t believe in proposing until you’ve known each other a year.  That put a proposal back to April at the earliest, or if he was going with first physical contact, over the summer.  I admit to a little sweep of disappointment at this thought.  But I told myself that I would enjoy his visit, that a proposal would come when it came and it was more important to enjoy my time with him.  I was glad I found out early so I could get my disappointment out of the way.

He really wasn’t planning to propose.  While he was thinking about it, and planning when and how–one romantic idea was that when I visited him in February, he would book a seat on the flight back and show up next to me and pop the question.  But in the end, he was driving down to Heathrow on Christmas Day and he wondered to himself, “If I know I’m going to do this, why put it off?”  He decided that it seemed silly to delay happiness for some randomly prescribed reason.  So when he arrived at the airport, he went to the Tiffany’s in Terminal 3 and bought a ring.

With this story, my ring could have come out of a Cracker Jack box and I would still think it gorgeous.  But there are a lot of reasons to love my ring:

  • It’s subtly beautiful.  It’s got a diamond inset, so it’s not a flashy solitaire, but the diamond is gorgeous–it’s always catching the light in a hundred different ways.  I totally get mesmerized by it.
  • It’s really comfortable.  It never scratches me and it fits just right, therefore I never have to take it off.  I find the perfect fit rather symbolic for the marriage.
  • Speaking of symbolism, it’s from the airport.  I call it my duty free ring, and the fiance jokes that he got 300 cigarettes and two bottles of Jack Daniels along with it.  That’s a good line, but also, I find it immensely fitting that in a long distance relationship, my engagement ring comes from the airport.
  • It’s got a really romantic story, one that I can pass down to my children and love regaling to anyone who will sit still and listen (or read–thanks!).
  • It comes from the most classic of engagement ring stores, Tiffany’s.  No denture paste bought along with the ring here.  It may be a bit snobbish of me, but I like that the store it comes from is a little special too.  And yes, I saved the box.
  • The fiance loves it.  He was so proud of picking it that it was clear he put a lot of thought into it and really cared about how it.  That I find very touching, and it makes the ring even more dear.

So all said, my ring is perfect.  Maybe that’s not immediately apparent to others, but it is to me, and that’s the only important thing.

A New Hope

So it turns out that 2011 was my last year of singledom.  I had no idea.

A year ago, at the dawn of 2011, I didn’t know the fiance existed on this planet.  Now I’m going to marry him.  The change stuns me, quite frankly, because after so many years where nothing happened, everything happened all at once, and suddenly I can legitimately buy bridal magazines and have a vested interest in Say Yes to the Dress.

I had to drop the fiance off at the airport the other night, and that sucked, but as we were sitting in JFK’s Terminal 4, we realized that we really only have three more goodbyes, and then we get to be together for always.  And when I feel lonely (or every so often just because), I look down at my left hand and squeal to myself, “I’m getting married!”

But–I am hereby making a promise to the blogiverse.  I’m never going to become what Bridget Jones would call a ‘smug married.’    I still remember that decade of singledom and how much it sucked.  Possibly the worst part was the single v. couple line, the envy I often felt, the wondering why it couldn’t be me too, or why every guy I seemed to meet was already in a relationship.  Was there a memo to pair off Noah’s Ark style and I missed it?

Last night I went out to dinner with some old friends, one of whom I hadn’t seen in awhile.  My friend Robyn asked him what was new, and made a point of saying not just in relationships.  She went on to say how much she hated that, when all people ask about is relationships, as if that’s the only newsworthy thing in a person’s life.  While that is certainly the juiciest gossip, as my friend pointed out, it is hardly the end all and be all.

So I am reminding myself that I have a life outside my engagement, and that people don’t want to talk about wedding dresses all the time.  Everyone has been really sweet whenever I do talk about it, which I really appreciate.  Still, I’m not going to forget what it was like to be single.  Those are my ‘roots’ as it were.  That decade of singledom shaped me in a lot of ways, some for the better, some for the worse.  But those years led me to here, and my engagement.

That said, I hope people also take heart from my story.  When I first got back from my whirlwind month of romance in August, I went to Robyn’s birthday party and I was talking to one of her friends who I know.  She said to me ‘you give me so much hope, that this all just happened so suddenly.’  True story!  Seriously–I was the worst single person in the world.  I moaned and cried and did very little in actuality.  I got some crushes on some dudes in deeply committed relationships.  I went on some dates with a Swede who was the worst kisser in the world and insisted on kissing me in public, and another guy who was the blandest guy in the world.  I tried eHarmony, Match.com, OK Cupid, all with almost no success.

I was seriously about to give up hope.  I started having ‘what if’ daydreams, planning what I would do if I never got married, wondering how I would cope for singledom forever and never having a family.  When other people would helpfully try to suggest that someone was out there for me, I would respond with ‘But what if he’s on the other side of the world and I never get to meet him?’

As it happens, he was on the other side of the world, but I did get to meet him.  And I would say he was well worth the wait.

So the moral of the story is–there really is someone out there.  There may not be plenty of fish in the sea, as it were (a phrase the fiance particularly reviled in his days of singledom), but if you wait and watch, you can catch your fish.  And really, all you need is one.

Auld Lang Syne, or rather, to the days ahead

Tonight I was watching the Sex and the City movie, because hey, it’s Saturday night and nothing’s on tv, and nothing is a touchstone for girls everywhere like SATC.  One of my favorite scenes in the movie is the New Year’s Eve one, where Carrie races downtown to be with Miranda so that neither has to be alone on New Year’s.  Having spent a lonely New Year’s or two in my life and knowing it’s pretty much the most depressing thing on the planet, this scene always makes me tear up.

I think New Year’s is definitely the worst time to be alone.  I don’t mean single–I’ve had some great single New Years.  I mean actually alone, solitary, with no one around.  If you haven’t done it, I don’t advise it.  The rest of the world is partying as hard as it can–to paraphrase the New Year’s Eve trailer (my apologies), “People who don’t go out all year suddenly become Kanye.”  On top of that, New Year’s is a pretty narcissistic holiday.  There’s no present swapping or time with family.  The tradition is to list resolutions, think about the self, reflect inward.  Which is all well and good, but it also means that if you’re alone, you’re really stuck with yourself.  Maybe I’m talking big here, because I’ve never had cause to be alone on other holidays.  But that one year I spent by myself sticks out as terminally depressing.  Oddly I can’t remember if it was 2007-08 or 2008-09.  Since then, though, I’ve made it a point to go out somewhere, usually with my old hs friend.  Last year I got sick from alcohol for the first time ever (a deadly combination of lots of champagne and cheese).

This year, things will be very different.  This year I’m with the bf.  He’s here for visit number two.  Of course, living in New Year’s Central, when we thought about spending New Year’s together, his first idea was Times Square.  I told him that he could not drag my dead body to Times Square because I had no desire to stand in a giant crowd, freeze my butt off, and not be able to pee for something like seven hours.  After some debate (he doesn’t give in easy that one), he finally conceded under the condition that one year we would rent a hotel room overlooking Times Square to watch the ball drop, which I am all for.

That still left us at a bit of a loss for this year, though.  Which you may say is ridiculous, given that we’re in New York City which never goes to sleep anyway and gets super hyper on New Year’s Eve, like when they give those tiny pageant freaks 10,000 pixie stix on Toddlers and Tiaras.  The problem with NY for me, though, is that I’m spoiled for choice, and I’m never v. good at making my mind up or finding things.  So we were discussing it today, and as he’s not much of a New Year’s person (see reasons above, from the boy side), we’re probably going to end up staying in.  For a bit we were going to visit friends in Westchester, but they got a scary sickness from their child, which is the worst kind of cold virus known to man.  So it’s 11:07, the house is quiet, and it’s just the two of us and a bottle of champagne and the cats.

There is a big difference though, between staying in alone and staying in with the person you love.  What was lonely becomes cozy.  I’m actually getting excited about the idea, because I’ve never had an intimate New Year.  And being a ceremonial kind of gal, I love the symbolism of it.  It will be the two of us closing off the old year and starting the new one together.  And we are starting off 2012 in a big way.  I’m typing this with a ring on my finger.  Apparently my last post did not scare him off.  We’re really Harry and Charlotte!

I love the song “Auld Lang Syne.”  Ok, it’s a bit cliche, but it’s honestly pretty, and I love the nostalgia that it carries.  I’ve always been a big one for celebrating my past and commemorating everything, so you could even say it’s my theme song.  Now single me is in the past, and I think she’s gone for good, but I’m not sure I want to celebrate her, or commemorate her.  She was lonely in a very powerful way, and that loneliness took her over.  She couldn’t find joy for people who were getting married or thought about babies because she was so afraid that was something she’d never get to see.  But she’s becoming a ghost now, someone I barely remember who feels far removed from me.  And in other ways, she was pretty brave, and although she hid sometimes, she did some cool stuff, and she found out a lot about who she was and what she wanted.  She taught me to recognize the love of my life when he came across my path, and she never let me get afraid enough to shy away.

So this New Year’s I’m not going to raise a glass to days gone by.  I’m going to toast the future.  2012 is a bright star on the horizon.  The Mayan calendar signals a great world shift in 2012, and they were certainly right for me.  Get me into the New Year so we can celebrate together and start heading towards the rest of our lives.