#20 Google is your Friend

I was at a family reunion just a couple weeks ago, and my brother in law was about to start his umpteenth rendition of his terrible tooth problem and how it resulted in 13 doctor’s visits and was still giving him trouble. I moved away towards my sister because the story is painfully long and kinda gross.

“He’s about to tell his bad tooth story again,” I muttered.

She nodded knowingly, and one of my aunts asked me about my love life. They know all about my history with Ben, from when I first started liking him, to our first date three years later, through our two year relationship and long drawn out breakup/”friendship”. So I mentioned Ben at one point. Or they asked me. I don’t know. Irrelevant?

But my sister turned to me and said, “Ben is your bad tooth, Judy. You need to let it go.”

But. I did something I shouldn’t have.

I’ve been so good the last couple months about ignoring my ex. I hardly visit his Facebook page anymore. I haven’t really sobbed over it since at least January. And I’ve stopped having Carrie-esque dreams where the other Judy suddenly gets drenched with blood at the altar.

Things were going well.

So well, in fact, that I thought I could endure a little internet stalking. Just to indulge my voracious curiosity.

Sigh. Curiosity. My fatal flaw.

I AM sorry that I did it, but what I learned I can’t forget. I didn’t want to know, because I knew I’d have a countdown in my head then, the old school style one with real flipping numbers. And now I do.

It’s 2 months and 5 days until my Ex marries the other Judy.

I thought I’d be ok knowing–I didn’t actually think I’d find out with my limited stalking resources, but the internet surprised even me–but all day I’ve had visions of them wandering through Macy’s with one of those dumb registry guns, picking out their every day plates and glasses, debating bed sheets, negotiating the balance between masculine and feminine color schemes.

And then it kept going–from registry shopping to newlywed house decorating to first born children. Visions of toddlers in car seats in the Ex’s new grown up car, this one with FOUR doors. Meals around the dinner table. High school graduations. Christmases and anniversaries and holding grandchildren for the very first time.

Ben and I have been broken up for five years. We haven’t spoken in over 18 months. It still surprises me how it sucks so much to think about him or hear about him. I try to move on, but there are wounds and then there are scars.

You know what my brother in law needs to do with his dumb tooth? He needs to stop trying to save it. He needs to get it pulled, yanked right away, and get a replacement. Get rid of the problem, get rid of the pain.

Sometimes I freak out because I think I’ll never have the marriage I dream up for everyone else. Even when I’m dating someone, it’s hard for me to think about a point at which I’d be willing and wanting to spend the rest of my life with them. But my brother in law’s tooth story made me realize, I have to let go before I can hope for a new love story. As long as I’m clenching on to the past, I won’t be able to jump into the future.

I don’t know what that means, practically. I don’t know what else I can do that I haven’t already been doing (well, except I should probably stop internet stalking). And I know that I’m letting go, slowly. It’s not on my own time anymore though. There’s a date set for my heart.

By July 30th, 2011, this bad tooth is going to get pulled.

Advertisements

#13 Take It All WAY Too Personally

Sometimes I’m a single bitch.

Saturday was perhaps my first weekend night truly alone. My friends and I often spend nights IN. Going out takes a lot of work, and sometimes it’s just more rewarding to hole up in our pajamas with a full cookie jar and a stack of Sex and the City DVDs. But on Saturday, I was truly alone. Of my four good girl friends, one was away for the weekend visiting a boy, one had date night with her boyfriend, another went out with other friends for a birthday, and the last was away for work. There was no one to share cookies and snide remarks about Samantha while secretly wishing to be her.

A night in is infinitely more boring when you have no other choice. And I wasn’t looking forward to it, all day long. In fact, I seemed to be acting out in my anticipated frustration.

It started in the afternoon, when my estrogen back up was still around. A bunch of us gathered to fill the void Michigan football has left to watch some NFL. In that group there was one couple. Just one. Out of like, ten people. I gotta say, I’m all for PDA, and I understand appreciating your significant other, but you gotta draw a line when you start crawling all over each other. Especially when others are sharing the couch with you.

Now, when confronted with a couple that seems to be practicing tandem pilates next to you there are two approaches. One is to just politely ignore it. The other is to make passive aggressive remarks and hope they suddenly become more uncomfortable than you are.

I of course go for passive aggressive.

Part of the problem is that my best friend is one half of the culprit couple, so I can get away with saying a whole lot more than I normally could to a nominal acquaintance. So I start. And when the “Gee, why don’t you guys get a little closer” and the “Wow, I don’t normally try that move with clothes on” statements don’t work, I resort to sulking with my phone, texting people to commiserate with me about how much we hate couples who overdo the PDA with their dumbly impressive pretzely moves.

And the thing is, I’m not a cuddling Scrooge. I love PDA and think it can be cute. This is probably because in my casual noncommital relationships boys refuse to display any public affection on me, starving me and making me feel insecure. But when couples use it as a weapon, as if they have something to prove, I draw a line. We get it! You have someone who wants to physically occupy the same space as you! No need to rub it in! Boundaries, people.

And then my best friend and her boyfriend ditched me to go on “date night.” AFTER their date afternoon on the couch. Watching football with eight other people! Incorrigible. Well, to be fair, I knew they were going out and just tried to persuade them to hang out with me instead. I knew my chances of success weren’t high and I went for it anyway. Rejection hurts. I understand now why boys rein it in sometimes. But it not only hurts, it pisses me off. Who did she think she was, blowing off her best friend to keep plans she had made with her boyfriend? Doesn’t she remember that I am the most important person in her life? Boys come and go but sisters are forever!

The thing is, I would probably do the same, right? It’s just been so long since I’ve been in a real relationship, and then it was mostly long distance and weird, I can’t even imagine what I would do with a boyfriend. Well, that’s not true. I do imagine…

What I mean to say is that I can’t imagine divying up my time, making plans, date nights, things like that. I’m used to whole weekends being spoken for, spending every second wishing someone was there, phone dates and long emails. And by “I’m used to” I mean that happened once upon a time four years ago. But that was the relationship I had, and to imagine midweek date nights or dinners with the parents or not being spontaneously available all the time just takes more imagination than I currently have.

But as I walked to my car after the football game, alone on a Saturday night, I realized that I wasn’t just lonely, I was angry. I was angry that all my friends had plans, either with their boyfriends or at least in proximity of guys. And I was going home alone, where the most interaction I would get with boys would be Facebook stalking that cute tall boy I met crashing the law student’s bowling night. And that’s when I wondered–was I getting bitter? Cynical? Jealous of my friends’ happiness?

Am I becoming the single bitch?

Sure I miss hanging out with my friends. I’d rather be out meeting people with my roomie than freezing alone in our apartment because I’m too cheap to turn on the heat [besides, we’re spending all our heat money on vodka]. I’d like to repeat the maxim “chicks before dicks” and still have peace when I’m the one with zero plans. Because if these are the people I love the most, shouldn’t I be overjoyed that they are so happy?

I think I am. But I’m only human too. And sometimes that means I’m just a little bit of a single bitch.

I have no cool photos today. So here's one from the bowl game I went to. I sacrified an awesome NYE in a Big Ten college town so I could go to an awesome Big Ten football game on NYD. Except we lost.

#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.

#5 Plan the End

This one time I went to a divorce party.

I know. It’s kinda difficult to keep going–I mean, what else could I possibly say to follow that up? I feel like anything next will be a let down, but I’ll press on.

It was my first semester after I transfered to Michigan. I was noncommittally dating this really nice guy Ethan. Really nice. Deserved better than my certifiably crazy self that semester, but that’s another story.

Ethan was a really nice guy. In the military. But not a prince.

Ethan had a friend a few years older than us who was a grad student. This guy got married right out of college and was getting his first divorce at 26. Ethan and I were standing in the middle of the student union, checking our email, when he goes, “Hey, do you want to go to a divorce party?”

Ethan had received an e-vite. It was trying to be very light-herated about the situation. At the bottom it read, “Yes, we’re being serious! [Because I’m sure many people thought they weren’t. This is a no-joking matter, people–it’s a party matter!] Feel free to come with a friend, significant other, or get in the spirit of things and bring an ex!”

“Do you want to go?” Ethan asked me.

Someone was electronically inviting people to a celebration of the demise of their marriage–if guests really brought their ex’s it could be a whole showcase of failed relationships! Heck yes I wanted to go!

Sadly, I could not bring my own ex because he and Ethan were friends [oops, my bad, I know] but Ethan and I went. When we got there, there weren’t a whole lot of other guests. I don’t remember if it was because we were just not cool enough to be fashionably late or if the rest of this couple’s friends just weren’t as comfortable with the idea of a divorce party as I was [not that I was at ease with this couple’s break up. More like I had a writerly morbid fascination with it.]

If I didn’t feel awkward at the beginning of the party, I quickly fell into it. Despite the couple’s assertions that this was going to be a fun, light-hearted event, it was definitely no such thing. The couple had split into their two separate camps, the girl on the couch with her friends, the guy with his buddies by the makeshift bar.

I found it, as someone who didn’t know the happy couple very well, pretty difficult to make small talk.

“So…how long were the two of you married? What was that final nail in the coffin? Do you have plans to date again soon?”

None of these question would work. But then again, it didn’t seem appropriate to ask about his grad work or where they were originally from, all the while staring at the cake topped by bride and groom figures with their backs to each other. And as delicious as the cake looked, I wasn’t about to suggest that anyone should get a knife. I was worried one of the ex’s would decide to cute the tension by cutting the other’s face.

Ethan and I did not stay long.

Look, I’ve [clearly] never been lucky enough to be married. I’m not even going to get into marriage here, let alone divorce. I have zero judgement on the lives of these two people. But I know that no one goes into any relationship hoping for a break up. I’m not saying people don’t get married knowing they’re going to get divorced. I think some people do. But people don’t take a deep breath on their wedding day and say, Well, if this doesn’t work out, there’s always divorce. And you know what? That’s kinda scary to me.

Please believe me–I’m not judging this couple. Relationships dissolve for a myriad of reasons. Ethan and I eventually fell apart because I could not commit. I accepted the end from the beginning. I think this couple was  brave, trying to be upbeat about their divorce. You shouldn’t go into marriage anticipating its end, and I don’t think they did. In the end, I just feel bad for them. It hurts.

Maybe Ethan and I should have brought a gift.

#3 Keep Your Mouth Shut

Earlier this fall I had to do that thing that all grown up girls have to do – go to a party alone. Moving back to my Midwest town after a year, no longer being an undergrad, trying to transition into a grown up life meant that I needed to try to make some new grown up friends. So I went to a church picnic–that’s right, they exist still; I didn’t know these things made it out of the 50s–where all up post-grads, faking authentic personhood, were meeting up.

One of the guys called it the second middle school of life. It’s true. We’re all that awkward.

I vaguely knew a few people at the picnic. Church is often a place I like to think of as somewhere I can meet a nice single boy that could possibly be a boyfriend. I have met a lot of nice single Christian boys who have turned out to be lovely loyal boy [big space] friends.

This new group of recent adults seemed a lot of the same. A lot of sweet boys. A lot of potential friends. But then there was… one boy. He had sort of a funny earring and scruffy facial hair and he drove a ZAMBONI! How cool is he? He didn’t drive it, like around town, even though we are in Michigan and he could feasibly do that for 9 months out of the year; he worked at an ice rink. When I found that out, I made a mental note. Not to stalk the boy… but to at least meet him and see if he was really as interesting as he sounded.

 

For those of you unaware, this is a Zamboni. I hope that because it's Heineken sponsored, it somehow accomplishes its re-icing job using beer.

Zamboni Guy also came to the church picnic. The problem is, I tend to NOT talk to boys I think are cute or interesting or maybe special because they might actually like me or not like me or I might not like him and that’s just disappointing. I keep a strict no talking policy. I avoided my ex-boyfriend all of our junior year of high school. We had 40 people in our entire class.

So we’re at the church picnic, and I end up standing next to Zamboni Guy. Normally when I’m nervous I say too much and am too mean to boys. It’s my scathing sense of humor. It’s all fun and play, but for some reasons most guys just can’t take being insulted very well.

Girls like boys with hot cars.

Zamboni Guy is right night to me, and he takes the last hot dog bun. The empty bag almost flies away, and my great opening line is —

“Hey, be carefully you don’t litter!”

That’s right, the first thing I say to this boy is to accuse him of littering.

LITTERING.

Nothing screams “please get to know me more” like accusing someone of destroying the earth. I should lug a cardboard cut out of Al Gore around with me.

Lucky for me, he plays along. Good, because if he had started monologuing on the ozone layer and baby whales, I would have walked away–even if he had offered me a RIDE on the Zamboni! [False, I probably would have stayed for that.]

Anyway, all my neurosis is moot because he plays along.

“Oh man,” he says, “I wouldn’t want to litter.”

“I mean,” I keep going, “You could if you wanted to leave your imprint on the earth for a million years.”

Ok, you’re doing… passable. Stop talking about the hot dog bag.

“Though,” Zambonie Guy replies, “maybe some day some guy will say to himself, ‘Man, if only I had a plastic bag right now.'”

“And there the bag would be!” I say, so excited about this fake future we’re creating together.

I think he’s smiling. Time to transition. Stop talking about the stupid bag.

“Exactly!” the boy I’m scared of talking to says to me. “He’ll need a bag, and there it’ll be.”

“A hot dog bag in particular!” I exclaim, getting overexcited in my failure to transition.

Stop talking about the stupid hot dog bag! Idiot!

Lucky for me he laughs, so at least he’s playing along with the joke that I’m funny. We go on to discuss maple-flavored bacon and which breakfast foods it’s acceptable for your syrup to touch. We don’t introduce ourselves. We don’t talk about the Zamboni. He gets ketchup on his chocolate peanut butter no bake cookie. I give my condolences. We part ways.

In the give and take between men and women, one of the things a man’s supposed to bring to the table is being freakin’ hilarious. Let’s be honest, he doesn’t have much else that’ll hold her attention for very long, so he’d better make her laugh. And look, we’re pretty generous too. As long as you’re not a tool, we will probably think you’re funny.

But I love it when I can pull off funny. One of my favorite things, one thing that really attracts me to a boy is when he laughs at my jokes. I know my role. I know that he’s the entertainment and that when I giggle it makes him feel good about himself. He wins points. But he also wins points when he laughs. It’s hot. And I think that it makes me feel treated as an equal. I can pitch and swing. He things that my sense of humor is worth listening too.

And sometimes I just like making the boy that makes me smile happy.

#2 Rid Yourself of Lingering Nice Guys

Before anyone cries, “Foul! You hurt my feelings, [crazy psycho fem-bot!]” be advised that I’m not dismissing the entire male population as little more than pint-sized bears. I know that there are many decent men out there–in fact, these men should be thanking me. By exposing the behavioral patterns of wombat boys everywhere, I make the genuinely considerate men’s twinkling little stars shine a bit brighter.

There are wonderful, considerate, supremely hunky men out there. This blog, in a way, is devoted to them, to sorting out the wheat from the chaff. I’m looking for one of these guys, and my encounters with the boys depicted in this blog are just part of the process of elimination. The problem is that usually when I find one of these wonderful guys, I also find that they’ve already manned up and devoted themselves to a committed loving relationship. And so I don’t date these men.

My best friend Anne and I were discussing this problem of mine recently, my chronic inability to date someone nice.

Anne, my lawyer best friend with great hair

Anne is currently dating a wonderful boy who likes to tease her about being carded for soda and who is too shy to tell her that he loves her–except when he’s drunk.

Anne's nice boyfriend

Anne has yet to meet his best friend, but she does know that he’s single, and when he’s been properly vetted she’ll introduce him to me.

“He has to be cool,” I told her. “Tim wouldn’t be friends with a tool.”

Boys often don’t recognize toolishness in their own friends, she reminded me.

“So true,” I sighed. “But I don’t have any tools for friends. What sort of friend sixth sense are boys missing?”

We’re girls, Anne continued, postulating wisely. We don’t befriend tools. We date them.

She is a lawyer. Her logic is unquestionable.

I did date a guy once who wasn’t a tool or a wombat. He was my first boyfriend, fresh out of high school. Some people might say my standards have slipped since then.

The Ex with the Nice Tattoos

He was sweet and considerate and did all those lovely things like stare into my eyes just because they’re beautiful and held my hand with interlocking fingers. He asked me out by writing me a song.

I know.

But two years, 400 miles between us, and it ended. I’d like to say that he turned into a wombat on me or that I was a bitchy prima donna who had not yet learned how to take care of someone who turned out to be one of the rare nice boys she would meet. But unfortunately, sometimes the truth is just that two perfectly human people can’t work it out.

Anne’s first boyfriend was always a jerk, but that’s okay because now she’s with someone who genuinely cares about her. And it’s not who you start out with that matters. It’s who you end with.