#12 Keep it in the Family

I promised a post on family. And so you shall have one. Except, of course, this blog is also about love and relationships. So you shall have one of those too. There is only one exceptional way to combine these two topics, and that is to reminiscence about the on forbidden fruit that’s tantalized us all, the cool one, the one we click with oh so well, just like they’ve always known us. Which they have…

Because they’re family.

Ok, it’s never really family family. My friend Calvin had a terrible crush on an ex-step cousin, affectionately called “the cuz” by us, his loving friends. And then there was the couple who went to family reunions only to have their mutual great aunt go through their mutual family tree… every time.

(That relationship, btw, did not last.)

Sometimes it’s your first real crush, and I think I’ve figure out why. It’s not creepy. It’s just that, around the time that you stop believing in cooties and start wondering what happens after “just friends,” you don’t really have many friends of the opposite sex. In fact, the only ones you may know well are the ones you’ve been playing with for years at family reunions. Usually these realtives are made cooler by the fact that they are older, someone whose teenager wisdom and class has esteemed them in your eyes.

I never was into a blood relative (that’s not the norm, by the way, to go full on medieval monarchy, but it’s so much more fun to say everyone’s had a crush on a relative). But my weird family of family love connection happened way after my first crush. I was, sadly, advancing into my twenties. My sister happened to marry a man who had a brother my age, and while this brother of my brother-in-law and I didn’t exchange much at the wedding, we did a few years later when he was living with his sibling. And mine.

Hercules when I first met him. Nothing to take notice of.

It started out with friendship. Then flirtation. And once you threw a little bit of alcohol into the mix (and the fact that this kid sorta looks like a Greek god with his chisled features and curly hair), and it was a done deal. He was nice to begin with, because he learned at least one thing from his mama. But the truth of the matter is that we were both at the top of our game. We were 21, and we both were pushing and pulling and lying and double entende-ing just to see what hoops we could get the other to jump through. I knew exactly what to say to get him to come out to see me spur of the moment. He knew exactly how to use the flexibility of our romantic entaglement to get away with treating me like a lover one day and the ugly sister of the sister-in-law the next.

(Btw, that extra “sister” or “brother” modifier is very important. One of my friends–the one with the twisted step-cousin Cinderella complex–kept asking me about my relationships with my “brother-in-law” and insisiting that the extra “brother” of my brother-in-law was superfuluous. It was not. There was no affair.)

(But WAS it weird that sometimes the shared family characteristics reminded me of his brother, my brother-in-law, my sister’s husband?

Yes.)

Hercules when I met him again. Chisled features and curls, ladies, chisled features and curls.

It got very ugly towards the end of our several month trip into insanity. We had agreed to keep our little non-incestuous fling a secret from our respective and in-lawed siblings. Even after he moved out of our siblings’ apartment into his own apartment, still in the same city, we were covert. I was going out to see my sister one winter, and he suggested that I arrive a few days early and stay with him. I did, and the first night was fabuluous fun. The second day he avoided touching me or kissing me and spent most of the time playing online poker. When confronted (I did not come out a few days early to watch movies at my brother-in-law’s brother’s apartment–by myself!) he hid behind professed residual feelings for his ex-girlfriend.

Listen, this was not one of those relationships in which I cared where his FEELINGS were. My feelings for other people weren’t preventing ME from having a good time with him when I was with him.

Under his prompting I called my sister, said I had surprisingly shown up in town a day early without warning, and had found her husband’s brother to hang out with until I had gotten ahold of her.

How she fell for this, my intelligent, PhD student sister, I do not know.

I left his apartment that night, though I was to fall victim to his charms again in the upcoming months (did I mention his curls?) for just one night, and then I made a clean escape. After a long noncommunicative, nonhostile break, we saw each other again (we do have mutual family…).

We went out for a drink, updated each other on our lives, swapped stories about on going romances. After confessing to his own on again off again flirtations with a girl he worked with, he said, “Yeah. I think I’m going to see how it goes next weekend. I’m going to ask her out, like on a real date. I’m tired of these hot/cold games. I used to be really into them, about a year ago, but now I see that they’re just a waste of time…”

And he snuck a carefully planned Bambi-glance at me.

Puh-lease.

I don’t know how my sister and his brother never caught on. He and I would go out for drinks together. I “showed up” in town a day early. We made out in their apartment. But I never did tell my sister, which pains me because I feel like this is the most post-modern relationships I’ve ever had and she would just eat this up. (Plus I don’t think she really likes this kid anyway, and after the flip-flop way he treated me, I’d enjoy a good gripe session where we could point out all his character flaws and how his life’s a sham.)  And I should have know better, that a relationship between us would have no future, and even a relationship that seems like “just fun” at the time turns sour when you’re nearing the obvious and inevitable end. Or maybe I should have picked up the clue when, during the first night, he said to me, “Hey, let’s not tell Geena and Vincent about this. I don’t think they’d like it.” Maybe I should have agreed and then walked away, because a relationship that you can’t share with your sister is never going to be a relationship at all.

But now we’ve got a great story for our mutual nieces and nephews one day.

So long, Hercules. It's been relatively nice.

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Sorry.

Erm.

Before I started this blog, I wrote several posts because I KNEW I was going to be busy and I didn’t want weeks to go by without a post.

Sadly, this happened anyway.

My internship literally ate my life, and I worked up straight to the holidays. But you need no excuses, no explanations. Just be reassured that new posts will be coming this week. Some family oriented ones, just for the holidays. And a New Year’s resolution to be a better blogger.

#11 Realize the Cons of Age Appropriate Relationships

Men like young things.

The thing is, I didn’t think this would be an issue until we were older. I didn’t think men started dating down until we were middle age, until they had bought their ‘penis cars’ and gotten rid of their starter wives. When I’m in my 40s, 50s, that’s when I thought I’d see men toting out their arm candy and I’d be trying to make conversation with girls half my age.

I didn’t think I’d have to deal with the competition when I was 24.

Listen, I understand the attraction. I know there’s deep seeded anthropological sociological desire to be with a woman who’s younger and… more at the top of her baby-making game. There’s the obvious maturity leveler. A man dates a woman half his age in order to feel younger. Or feel like it’s acceptable to act more immature.

But at 25, how much younger can you go? I thought we were the target second wife demographic. I thought I WAS the younger woman. I wasn’t expecting to be disregarded as too old already.

Recently, I found out my ex-boyfriend is dating–oops, sorry, engaged to–a college senior. The age difference really isn’t that great; it’s only a few years. But they started dating when she was a junior. He had already been out of college for a year. It’s not the age difference–it’s the different stages of life. Your worldview as a college student is completely different than the one you hold as a working person. What you think is important, what you’re expecting for the future, what you’re basing your decisions on.

It gets worse. Anne ex-boyfriend, who is 23, is dating an 18 year old. A college freshman. In fact, he met this fair lady when she was a mere 17 years old. Feelings blossomed. Her father told him he couldn’t talk to her until she went to college. What could they possibly have in common? More importantly, why would this young girl, who’s just starting out her college experience, want to shackle herself into a relationship with an older guy–a long distance relationship too.

I’ve seen the other side of this, too. I have a 23 year old friend currently dating a 30 year old man. Sometimes they’ll talk about how he was several years past college graduation when she went to prom or how she was still in elementary school when he graduated high school. It’s weird. Aren’t there any nice single 28 year olds he can date? I feel bad for single women in their late 20s [which I will soon be becoming]. It’s like a whole slice of life when the men you want to be dating are seeing girls who’ve recently thrown a graduation party. However, go much older, and you’re risking all sorts of complications with men in their late 30s–dads, men still living in their mom’s basement, impending midlife crisis.

To be honest, though, I’m not sure I want a 25 year old guy. I feel that single boys at this age are still working out so many residual issues from college [and those that aren’t have already kneeled down and gotten out that ring]. They have a difficult time transitioning from the party scene and hook up culture into real relationships. They’re bouncing around from job to job with the sudden responsibility of putting their degree into action. They migrate college culture into after work social life with their coworkers.

So maybe this all actually works out for the good of everyone. Women date up and men date down, and we’re all equally satisfied. Our exs can have their college girlfriends if we can have our stable career men. And women in their late 20s can have everyone’s wishes of best luck.

#10 Get Hung Up on the Unavailable

A little more about myself–

I graduated with a degree in Screen Arts and Cultures, our five dollar name for a film degree, with a subconcentration in screenwriting. This means that I am qualified to tell stories, which I’m finding out is not in major demand in the job market. I work freelance on films that pass through the area while hammering away on my screenplays.

For the past month I’ve been working on a screenplay about a girl in small town midwest who takes drastic measures to resolve leftover feelings for an exboyfriend when he shows back up in town to marry his new girlfriend.

It turns out, and this is the only good thing about this post, that I have the gift of prophecy. Whatever I write comes true.

Last night I found out my exboyfriend is engaged.

I haven’t talked to the boy in over a year and we haven’t actually dated in four years, but we have a complicated history. Like how in August 2009 he said maybe he was interested in dating me again–before he decided he wasn’t. That’s when I stopped talking to him. And while I am not Facebook friends with him still, best friend Anne is. And every once in a while I have Anne check up on him because I still think about him a lot and I’m kinda nosy. Also, I had this feeling he was going to get engaged to his current girlfriend, and I wanted to find out through stalking, not through the grapevine.

So Anne and I were hanging out, and I said, “Hey, check and see if Ben is engaged yet.”

And lo and behold–

Now, I'm not saying this is getting any weirder, but Ben's chosen doppelganger for this blog ALSO got engaged in November. Alright, I'll say it--this is getting weirder.

Now, when I get in stressful situations, I tend to laugh. I’m a nervous laugher. It’s pretty inappropriate. But that’s just the way I am. So my first reaction was amused incredulity. It actually happened. Lots of “Wows, I can’t believe this.” A few tears, but nothing compared to the floods I’ve shed over this guy before. Lots of railing against the illogicalness of the proposal. I called my sister, who’s not a nervous laugher, but who instead deflects the situation until she can figure out how to respond, which is why she talked about how aggravated she was that butter was not on sale for about three minutes after I told her about Ben. I was patient, though, never once saying, “Hey, I’m sorry you’re going to be a dollar poorer, but can we get back to how the man I thought I was going to marry is now engaged to someone else–who’s also named Judy? Can we please?”

Anne and I were on our way to watch Monty Python with our two best platonic guy friends, but I insisted we stop for alcohol, because that seemed like an appropriate thing to do. I walked into the liquor store and announced I wanted margaritas because my exboyfriend had just gotten engaged. Also some lotto tickets. Liquor store boy was helpful, sympathetic, and kinda cute.

But even margaritas, Monty Python, and scratch lotto couldn’t stop the swell of more serious emotions, and soon I found myself sobbing on the bathroom floor. Because I thought I was preparing myself for this, I thought I was ready, I thought I knew it was going to happen, but then when I really realized that the boy I have thought about every day for the past ten years had gone to a jewelry store, picked out a diamond ring, got down on one knee, and asked some other woman to spend the rest of her life with him, I was overwhelmed. And I realized that all my secret hopes of him becoming the man that I hoped for, a man who’d realize his mistake of pushing me away and who would show up at my door, ready to love me like I loved him, all those secret dreams where impossible. And to continue to hope for them would be ridiculous. But the problem was that I’d been doing it for so long, I didn’t know how to stop.

Hello, gorgeous.

Today is better. The love of my friends helps fight the fears and lies I believe about a lonely loveless future. It still overwhelms my thoughts, but the paralyzing pain is gone, replaced by a sort of dull heaviness that I know will leave in time. And it startles me to realize, that in a time where I can’t seem to catch a break, when I get cripplingly sick without health insurance, when my car decides it’s tired of braking and needs a two day vacation at the mechanic’s, when I’m still working for free in a cut throat industry, when I’m far away from family and sometimes neglected by friends, when I’m alone, chronically alone, always single and without any possibilities or even much faith in mankind, when all this is against me, hope really does spring eternal.

I hope for health insurance, for a new car–or at least a newer one that I don’t doubt on long road trips–, for a real paying job in an industry I love, for success, for peace and contentment if I don’t have success, for a husband and a family and a beautiful story of my own. And there’s a voice that whispers to me, the farther you feel like you fall, the more beautiful the view when you climb again. The greatest stories of redemption begin with a soul so desperate and depressed. Hope drives me forward, unstoppable, even when hope is all I have, and I fear that it’s false–I hope that it’s not.

I hope that Ben and his new Judy are truly happy. I wouldn’t want him to marry if it was anything but the greatest love he’s ever known. And I won’t lie and say that I’m not sad or hurt or struggling through a very difficult time with everything a hot mess in my life.  I believe that life is hard, that things don’t “get better” just because they’re difficult now or because I deserve it. But there is something completely illogical and divine about the hope I have for my future, and I cling to it with wonder. The sun still shines even at night, and love still exists even when the only one I’ve loved chooses to love someone else.

Also, this is my new favorite song–