Esther Greenwood

Archive for July, 2009|Monthly archive page

Gothic Romance Novels I

In Uncategorized on July 31, 2009 at 3:33 am

A dirty book is rarely dusty.

~Author Unknown


Lately, I’ve been battling insomnia.  When late night viewings of Gilmore Girls (save for the last season, one of the greatest shows of the 2000s for women) and Arrested Development won’t cut it, I move to my collection of gothic romance novels.

These aren’t your typical, Mysteries of Udolpho, horror-meets-romance-meets-damsel in distress tales with a random skeleton or dead body or thrown in for shits and giggles.  No, I read “well-written” gothic romances by the great writer Dame Mary Stewart.

Mary Stewart is well-known for her Merlin trilogy, which I highly recommend.  They are popular enough that they remain in print.  Meanwhile, for a time when I was a little girl I was only able to read her many romances via my mother’s own dilapidated copies from when she was a fifteen year old girl.  The pages were faded if not outright falling out, and the price listed on each was 79 cents.  Those were the days.

Luckily for us, most of her romances are back in print, and I highly, highly recommend them for a long night of escapism.  If you are looking for a sex scene, however, you won’t get one.  Instead, you’ll get witty repartee between protagonists, descriptions of exotic lands, and Shakespeare quotes.  These tales end with a passionate kiss or the promise of marriage.

So why do I like these books so much?   I’m going to do a close study of one of my favorites by Stewart, and maybe do a follow-up post at some future time.

So, let’s start with Thunder on the Right (later I’ll be discussing The Gabriel Hounds and This Rough Magic):

Artist Jennifer Silver has come to the picturesque, secluded Valley of the Storms in the French Pyrenees to meet with a young cousin who is about to enter the convent there– only to discover that the young woman has died in a dreadful car accident.  Or did she?

Lies abound in this strange and frightening place, but seeking the truth could lead Jennifer to her own violent death.

While the plot of Thunder on the Right is one of my least favorites, I LOVE the romance angle of it.  While looking for her cousin young Jennifer runs in to an old music school acquaintance, Stephen, who has always had a thing for her that we as readers quickly realize while silly Jenifer does not.  Before the ending of the novel, there are two separate situations where Stephen sees Jennifer coming towards him and his heart leaps and he thinks it will work out.  Third time, after he helps rescue her from evil wrongdoers, of course, is the charm.  Whenever I was having a bad day in middle school I used to go to my school library and flip open to this passage (we were lucky enough to have a copy of this book in our school library):

And so for the third time Stephen looked up and saw her running toward him with outstretched arms.  And, as is the way of all stories, the third time is the right time, luck’s time, winner-take-all time… This was it.  The barriers were down, dust in the wind.  The sleeping princess was awake, the guarded bower as if it had never been.  He held out his arms and she ran into them as if they two had been alone in the darkness, not out in the brilliant moonlight exposed to the grinning gaze of a dozen men.  His arms accepted her, he pulled her to him fiercely.  Only now, his own barriers crumbling, did he realize how deep and absolute had been his need for her; and in the very moment of fullest realization she was here and she was his; his anchor, his still center, his searing flame, his peace…

Oh my God.  This is what is wrong with women, I swear.  We read passages like this and expect them to happen in real life.   And while men can certainly be romantic, they don’t express themselves like women writers from the 1970s.  That’s why we escape to these books, ladies.

Why do I like this passage so much?  Maybe because it’s passionate, and the guy loves her and wants her, and he finally “gets” her.  When I’m a single woman with a crush, a real crush, you know, when you’re past that “I might like him” phase and onto that “I definitely like him” phase, I constantly feel like I’m stressing out about the guy and worrying about him more than he is worrying about me.  Of course, this is likely the case because I’m a woman and I tend to overthink things.  In Thunder on the Right, for once, the guy is doing some of the wondering, too.  And while I am sure that’s the case in real life, too (men aren’t blithering idiots), it is expressed so beautifully here.  It makes me happy.

Plus, we have the added advantage that the book ends a few pages later, so we don’t get to watch the eventual fights.  😉

Maybe what also makes this passage so meaningful to me is that Stephen has seen our protagonist at her worst, and he still loves her.  It kind of reminds me of a quote from Buffy The Vampire Slayer, where Spike proclaims his love to Buffy.

“When I say, “I love you,” it’s not because I want you or because I can’t have you. It has nothing to do with me. I love what you are, what you do, how you try. I’ve seen your kindness and your strength. I’ve seen the best and the worst of you. And I understand with perfect clarity exactly what you are. You’re a hell of a woman.”

Again, not the most well-written declaration of love but it’s beautiful because (we believe, in this fictional world) that he loves her.   The real her.  And women want love like that, we want to believe a guy will care for us no matter if we gain five pounds or have a bad day and start crying randomly at a restaurant.  Maybe that’s why these romance novels are so popular.  In these books, we can escape our own neuroses and live in a world where everything works out.  It sure as hell doesn’t necessarily happen in real life.

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A Family Affair

In Uncategorized on July 29, 2009 at 2:54 am

I have a weakness for stationery.  I’d like to blame my mother, who told me that all gifts deserve (nay, demand) a handwritten thank you card.  But once I hit elementary school my love of stationery blossomed due to my love of words and had very little to do with my mom.  There’s something so intimate about writing a person a handwritten note, even if it is just a line telling them you are thinking of them.  I tried various pen-pal relationships, but those mostly failed.  And once I began driving and independent stationery stores hit my radar it was all over– I could send a handwritten note on cute stationery that was witty/sparkly/relevant?  My love of writing letters became pricey.  So now I stick to sending a friend or loved one a note just to tell them I’m thinking of them, or to offer encouragement, or love.

However, when it comes to Christmas Cards, anything goes.  I shell out.  (Seriously, I’ve already purchased the cards I’m sending out this year.)  There’s a bit of a tradition I have with myself– I find the cute cards in summer/fall.  A couple weeks before Christmas, I tune up Home Alone or Home Alone 2, find my green and red pens, and choose who gets what card.  (Would my best friend prefer the card with a sexy elf girl or the dove?  Is a sparkling wreath too boring for Grandma?)   Anyone who has touched my life gets a card.

Once, this included my (now ex) boyfriend’s family.  They were Cuban, and believed in meeting girlfriends.   Plus, I met Andrew and started dating him a few weeks before his college graduation (he was a year older), so I was bound to run into them amidst the congratulatory handshakes and hugs.

What I love about ethnic families is how welcoming and yet protective they can be.  Mothers tend to dislike me, in the past this has been because I dress odd (I’ve now learned to “tone down” when meeting beaus’ families) or because their son is a lot older ad they are worried I’ll get them in trouble.  (Plus, I think it’s a Mom thing to dislike your son’s girlfriends, this just drives me nuts because I love approval and if I like their kid I want to like the Mom and I want her to like me.)   What was wonderful at first about The Cuban’s family is they embraced me.  The grandmother who didn’t speak English kept saying in Spanish how lovely I was, the father made some lame joke or another, and the daughter did her best to not freak me out.

The Cuban’s mother was the only hold-out.  She was cold at first, shaking my hand with a limp wrist with her eyes focused on the sun who had his arm on the small of my back.  But even she opened up once I sat in the kitchen with her.  I liked her, she threw this huge Cuban cookout for her family and obviously really loved her son, and finally, finally, after I sat and chilled with her in the kitchen and did dishes she warmed up.

So the holiday season right before my breakup with The Cuban it was only natural that I send his family a Christmas Card.  What I wasn’t expecting was to receive in reply a handwritten note from the mother.

A year later, after I had been out of that family’s lives for eleven months, I received yet another Christmas card (this one harping a bit more on Christ), from her.  I didn’t know what to do.  I sent a card in reply, a simple and to the point “Happy Holidays,” and I have yet to hear from her since.

Families are stressful.  Meeting a beau’s family is even more so.  I especially have a hard time because I so desperately want them to like me.

Dealing with your own family and a new romantic interest is also difficult.  It’s only natural– they want to know who might be causing your heart to pitter patter a bit more than usual.  How much do you tell them?  When I told my mother about my first breakup she demanded I call the guy and apologize.  Then she later emailed him and told him how much she missed him.  A few years later the dude would be tutoring my brother.  The Older Man got along superbly well with my parents, which is both understandable and unusual.  After all, he was “older” and could talk to them on that level.  At the same time, I’m amazed my parents didn’t kill him for being that aforementioned “older” and simultaneously dating their underage daughter.

I think I’m super neurotic about family because one guy refused to ever let them meet me or tell them about my existence.  This hurt.  While I didn’t need to have dinner with them or have a kumbayah moment around a fire, it would have been nice for them to know about my existence.  This is why I am always, always thrilled when a guy tells me that his family knows he is seeing someone.  At least this means the dude isn’t ashamed of me.

My mom gets attached to my beaus.  Or, she tends to, if she hears good things.  “I like them because they have the good taste to like my daughter,” my mom claims every time I yell at her for victimizing the boy against my evil feminine wiles.  “I feel bad for them.”  This after she points out for the millionth time how terribly I treated some boy when I was fifteen.  The fact that my family is insane, however, is the main reason why I am always scared to introduce a beau to them.   Whatever with my mom getting attached, I’m more worried my family with their crazy antics will scare the guy off.  Plus, I don’t want him to feel as if he’s on display.

I don’t know how to navigate families, mine or anyone elses.  I know I find them fascinating, I love to hear and witness the family dynamic.  I mean, “blood is thicker than water,” as the saying goes.  I think that’s what can make the introduction of “water” (girlfriend/boyfriend) to “blood” (family) so stressful… what if they don’t mix?  What if, in the end, it’s better just to write a note?

Sex Changes Things

In Uncategorized on July 27, 2009 at 9:50 pm

[My follow-up to “265 Cloverfield” will be delayed.]

Last night my friends and I hit up this amazing bar in Greenwich Village called The Olive Tree.  The place is pretty cheap, has a full menu plus full bar complete with cool cocktails,  constantly projects old Charlie Chaplin silent films and has chalkboard table tops that you can draw on.  I was out with my friends Leah, Claire, and Ollie.  Ollie brought with him his friend Richard, whom I had never met.  Like all mature adults, the minute we sat down we started drawing genitalia on the table.

About a beer in, Richard started telling us about a girl he was dating.  Last night, apparently, had been their “first time” together.  I didn’t know the dude from Adam so I stayed quiet and drank my Diet Coke.  Richard proceeded to groan.  “Fuck,” he said.  “I slept with her and I don’t know if I want to be with her.”

This struck me as tragic, while it struck the rest of the table as hilarious.  Sure, it’s funny, if it’s not happening to you.  But I can’t help but put myself in the poor girl’s shoes and feel bad.  What a horrible thing to do to a girl.  That’s like our worst nightmare, sleeping with a guy and having him “fuck and chuck” you the next day.  Or worse, what if he just stays with you out of obligation? It’s better if he does makes this decision pre-sex, but post… it hurts so much more.

So why, why, does sex change everything?

After my second cousin Stephan slept with his ex-girlfriend, she got ten times more “clingy.”  She expected him to call, go out on dates, be a part of her life.  Granted, this was a given as they were a couple and that’s sort of supposed to be how it works.  But I think the minute you sleep with someone the tiniest of grievances can tend to freak a woman out.  The guy frowns or doesn’t want her to stay over?  He forgets to call?  She immediately assumes it’s something wrong with her, and maybe not that the dude in question needs some alone time.

Meanwhile, I bet after couples do the deed the first time the guy thinks everything is great.  I mean, the girl slept with him, after all.  It’s all got to be good.  He can relax, be himself.  The girl, meanwhile, raised by a society that told her the minute you give that milk away for free the guy isn’t going to value her as much, looks for those warning signs/red flags prematurely and freaks out when she really should just take a chill pill.

Men, women know this.  We realize this is our cross to bare.  And, I speak for the women I know, we’re trying to calm ourselves down.   Please understand and give us a hug.  We’re crazy, and we need you to be steady while we try to find something to grab on to.

Sex changes things.  At least when it’s not a casual hook-up, when it’s two people who like each other, it does. Suddenly you are seeing that person in a new and vulnerable light, and I’m not just saying that due to the likelihood of nakedness involved.  When you sleep with someone, you’re opening up to both a basic, carnal part of yourselves (a part much of puritanical American religious culture can cause us to loathe) and a more intimate, scared side.  And once you open those parts of yourself, you need to know that person there isn’t just going to rip at that soft underbelly and leave you open and bleeding to death.

I guess this is why communication post intercourse is important, and it’s what I would have advised Richard had he not ended up going home sick.  Instead of telling friends and random strangers his concerns, he should have talked to her about slowing things down.  Who knows, maybe they would have worked out.

265 Cloverfield

In Uncategorized on July 25, 2009 at 10:50 am

Author’s Note:

Below is a story I wrote that was published last year by Narrative Literary Magazine under the title “Santa Monica”.  Since it’s basically 95% based on truth, I figured I’d post it because my follow-up post has to do with themes expressed in this story, anyway.  That, and I’m lazy.


After he fucks you he gets up to smoke a cigarette. You remain prone, your jeans strangling your calves in a reminder that you really need to get to the gym. Calmly, you pull your shirt back down over your stomach and adjust the bra. You’ve never been a fan of showing skin.

You watch as he opens a window and lights up. It’s still early enough that the sun is gentle instead of harsh, an embrace with ambiance aided by the fact that you are on the coast where the sun does not rise but rather sets.

He coughs, the bedside clock ticks. He does not look at you but briefly places a long, cool finger on the windowpane before scratching his neck. His fingerprint winks at you.

You are unsure as to how to proceed. Is this your cue to get the heck out of dodge? You wonder where that particular phrase came from and you smile, enjoying the respite the absurdity of your post-coital thoughts affords you.

He turns, nods at you, exhales. The smell of smoke, which reminds you of your high school boyfriends, fills the room.

“What are you smiling at?”

You shrug and put your smile away. You try to be mysterious. “Life.”

“That’s specific.” He turns back to the window. You both watch as a sparrow circles around a tree once, twice, and glides out of view and into the tree’s dying leaves.

The clock continues to tick in the offbeat of your pulse.

“I wonder if he has a nest in there or something,” you offer, filling the silence. Then you sit up.

It’s his turn to shrug. “Probably.”

You grudgingly admire his chick-lit novel of an outline: tall, lanky, beautiful. He is beautiful, and you hate him for it. You do not hate him for the fact that he is smart, or for the fact that he knows—really knows, and loves—music, or books, or for all the other reasons that make him both so colloquially perfect yet so damnably unobtainable; no, you hate him for his beauty. It is some quality, some aura (if you believed in that crap), he emanates that makes people instantaneously like him without just cause.

Last week he showed up at your friend’s swanky birthday party because you had promised him if he did he might—might—get lucky. Really, you just wanted to see him. Frankly, you were shocked he showed up at all. Of course he said all the right things to all the right people. You were so thankful for his popularity, so proud. It was show-and-tell in Mrs. Knudsen’s kindergarten class all over again. Only this time you didn’t bring in the wool scarf your aunt knit, no you showed up with a basketful of space rocks. His coolness made you cool. Over neon-colored martinis envious girls in tight dresses told you how great he was, how you two were so cute together, that couple-dome was right around the corner. Their business school boyfriends patted him on the back. You smiled and nodded and became drunk without taking a sip.  And like many a drunkard before you, you fooled yourself into the belief that maybe, maybe finally the one man who refused to fall in love with you finally would.

Still smoking, he walks away from the window and bends down to pick up his shirt. He’s been lifting weights, and you wonder if he’s noticed that you’ve stopped.

With nowhere else to look you look up and notice a water leak, ugly and dark and awkward amidst the comfortable tan of his ceiling. It is not like him to leave his home so grossly stained. This is the man who alphabetizes his books in the bookshelf only after fastidiously wrapping their covers with construction paper using just three pieces of tape. The fact that his bookshelf is home to a sterile stripe of brown-backs instead of the hodge-podge collage of rainbow bricks found strewn about in your own library unnerves you. Sometimes you wonder what literature he is so ashamed of, or if the construction paper covers blank, meaningless pages instead of significant words.

He claims he is fucked up, a metaphorical mess. So are you. You can be messy together, a whirlpool of chaos. Your pool could be one of the Wonders of the World, if he would just let it. People would visit from foreign lands with their travel groups and sunblock just to take your photograph and marvel at the symmetry, the controlled chaos, of your togetherness. Math books would be written about the genius of your equation. Together, you could defy science.

Instead, the void of your unsaid relationship will remain just that: a barren, empty waste of space. Display closed until further notice. Please redefine your mathematical proof. Evidence lacking.

Finishing his cigarette he starts to dress, his black boxer briefs harsh against pale skinny legs. Maybe you don’t love this man.

You consider asking for a towel to clean up, but that feels too vulnerable. Instead, you wipe yourself as best you can with a sheet. Though you have been in this bed for over an hour, for the first time you notice his sheets are Star Wars themed. You feel vaguely perverted as the Wookie cleans up your nether regions. Quickly, you pull up your pants.

You do not know the proper etiquette for these situations. You do not usually have random, meaningless sex. You were raised to sell the cow, not give the milk away. For Christ’s sake, you were raised religious. Your mother would be so disappointed in you. Or worse, she would pity you; she would pity these desperate graspings of a drowning woman, begging for a breath of air.

He drops his cigarette in a glass of water perched on the window ledge. You want it to be half full. He sits down upon a chair far across the room. He looks at you but doesn’t see. You shut your eyes for a long, cool moment. Then you open them, slowly. You hear the bird outside fly away; neither of you looks. Somewhere outside on the street a car horn honks. He blinks and the day begins.

“I’ll put on my shoes,” you offer, after a moment.

“Okay.”

You hate him. He’s not going to get back in bed with you; he’s not going to pretend that this was about romance or, God forbid, love. He has never wanted to hold you after sex. You are angry with yourself for even being hurt. You knew this would happen; yet you willingly came over to “listen to music.” Ashamed, you stand up and walk briskly out the bedroom; he trails behind like the metaphorical lost puppy. You glance briefly at the framed photograph hanging on the wall of him, his ex-girlfriend, and his sister at the zoo. You hate that photo. You want him to take it down but refrain from saying so. Usually you comment on the fact that he has a photo of an ex still hanging up. You purposely make your tone casual, so he doesn’t read too much into it when you both know he should. But today you just don’t have the energy to fake not caring. Discouragement, like depression, causes fatigue. The kisses that you had naively hoped were sweet and not just sexual really were just sexual. There should be an anonymous club for masochists like you.

Yet even drunk, you managed to keep some of your control.

“I’m glad I could help you cum this time,” he murmurs, looking at you through slit eyes as he all too casually opens the apartment door for you to leave. He wants some validation of his manliness. You want some validation of your worth. Neither of you will get what you want.

Your car looks lonely and bright by the grey curb. It is the freak of the dull neighborhood. A sparrow, perhaps the same one from before, flies by and lands on the sidewalk adjacent to your car. If you were a bird, you would never land on the ground. It seems too dangerous. A neighborhood cat could come out of nowhere and kill you instantly, leaving nothing behind but your marble-sized head on someone’s porch.

You step over his neighbor’s Jack O’ Lantern as you escape from the porch. The pumpkin grins lasciviously at you; one triangle eye is exaggeratedly larger than the other. You feel its stare as you move to shoo the unsuspecting sparrow away. He stays framed by his doorway.

“Yeah,” you say over flapping wings. “You were great. Thanks.”

So you both speak lies. He pretends he could fall in love with you; you pretend you could ever trust him enough to let him give you an orgasm.

He quickly glances around, his large brown eyes– eyes that in moments of stupidity you describe as “puppy dog” and “loving”– anxiously scan to make sure none of his neighbors heard. Not for the first time, you have the urge to slap him.  You should have given him a hickey, not a love-bite but an honest hickey, violent and angry and small. A hickey would be something for him to worry about later, some primordial mark that signifies “mine.” Another lie.

None of the other women you assume he meets and likely flirts with know you exist. His sister doesn’t even know your name and she lives down the street in the pink apartment complex with the garish spray paint of a palm tree slapped on its side. That apartment complex is more suited for the miserly seniors in Miami than the scenesters-cum-surfers of Santa Monica, an observation he brought up the first time he had you over years ago. You are the longest secret you’ve ever kept. The one time you accidentally met said sister during an uncomfortable late-night diner run-in (him with sister, you with friend) he referred to you as an “old-coworker.” Shame stopped you from saying anything, but your friend held your hand across the diner table as you did your best not to cry. You were only partly successful.

His semen drips down your leg. You’re not sure what annoys you more: the fact that you will have to wash your jeans and they’ll then shrink and cause you to feel fat the next time you put them on, or the fact that his semen is dripping down your legs and he can’t fucking walk over and give you a hug.

You look at him; he looks at something over your shoulder. You turn, but all you see is his neighborhood, stucco and suburban, suddenly darkened by the nearby sea’s fog. A palm tree leaf larger than your arm waifs by. You turn back to him, eyebrow expertly arched.

“The bird,” he explains.

You nod.

“Well,” he says, shuffling his feet in acknowledgement of your sudden awkwardness. “Bye. Glad I could be of service.”

Inwardly you cringe, all too aware that he makes this about pleasing you to absolve his own guilt. If you were a little less low, you would comment wryly on this. Instead you dramatically roll your eyes, causing him to laugh.

“Bye.”

You sit into the cocoon of your car and start the engine and the heater. It’s inappropriately cold for the beach environment. You watch in the rear view mirror as he turns into his apartment without looking back. Lost in your own sad thoughts you place the car into drive, and you barely recognize the thump below your feet as the sound of your car running over a bird.

The X-Year-Old Virgin

In Uncategorized on July 24, 2009 at 4:07 am

Sex is a discovery.

– Fannie Hurst

Like a lot of firsts, losing my virginity involved a great deal of anxiety.

For one thing, I was young.  Older than some, but the youngest of my friends.  So this meant that once I “popped that cherry” I felt like a slut.  Nobody else close to me was having sex.  Nobody else was even talking about having sex.  (Now, years later, I realize we were all just a bunch of closeted horny teenagers but hindsight is 20-20.)  And there I was, with my much-older boyfriend who told me flat out (albeit very passive aggressively) that if he dated a girl for three months and she didn’t sleep with him he would consider breaking up with her.   So when I finally did sleep with The Older Man, I waited a year to tell any of my friends, even my best friend to whom I confided everything.

But the act itself… I remember being especially tension-causing.  I didn’t know what I was doing.  Do I take off my undies?  Does he?  When he asks “Are you sure about this?”  was I really sure? I still don’t know the answer to that last one, though I can honestly say, eight years later, I don’t regret it.

My friend Lindsay suggested that it was a lot more stressful for girls to lose their virginity than for boys, and I think that’s a crock of feminist horseshit.  While sure, it’s maybe “easier” for a guy to get off on his first time (I have yet to meet a woman who has accomplished that), he’s got to worry about a) stamina (I mean, from what I know losing your virginity for a boy feels pretty fantastic and most guys lose it in under a minute) and b) you’re probably worried about hurting the girl if it’s her first time, too.  Because yeah, for most women it can be painful.  Nothing close to the pain of anal sex, which another friend Lisa describes as feeling like “a snake breathing fire,” but still painful as all hell.

So yes, here’s the thing: losing your virginity is awkward as fuck (ha) for everyone, physically.  Emotionally, though, it can be made a lot less stressful.  For example, when I lost my virginity to The Older Man, it hurt at first.  I was scared and there was this pain.  (I remember thinking to myself, “Holy shit if this hurts there is no way I am ever giving birth.”  That shows how in to it I was.)  But then the dude looked down and told me he loved me (and while I don’t doubt the veracity of that comment at the time, I’m dubious) and, suddenly, it hurt a lot less.  I relaxed.  And I lost my virginity.

Years later, regardless of whatever ill feelings I might feel towards The Older Man, while I know what we had was definitely not love, I am always thankful that he tried at least in that one moment to be sweet.  First time sex can be awkward, but if you can be rational about it, if you can realize that and laugh at yourselves, and be having it with someone who is on the same page as you (meaning, be romantic and kind and maybe silly if you’re in a relationship, get down and dirty if you’re just being fuckbuddies or hell, also in a committed relationship depending on the mood) I think you can embrace the awkwardness and have that “life changing” experience your parents tell you will only happen if you wait to make love until you’re married.

But maybe practice really does make perfect, in that regard.  You might not realize the importance of making the other person comfortable until you’ve already been “deflowered,” and by then, regardless of those Spam emails you get, it’s gone.  Oh well.

Meanwhile, my friend Vince told me point blank he would never want to sleep with another virgin; while Kevin on the other hand points out:

Kevin: oh oh oh
how
a huge hilarious difference between girls and boys
is that no one ever fantasizes about taking a boy’s virginity
sleeping with a virgin who is female has practically been deified.
it’s like everything you ever thought about the sexual experience wrapped up in one experience
but then it’s like sleeping with a virgin who is male is like,
Kevin: “hey wanna have an awkward time that probably ends up with him masturbating in your bathroom”
with door closed. alone.

I actually feel bad for guys when it comes to virginity.  There’s like this stigma out there, at least I feel, that you have to “lose it” right away.  For example, The 40-Year-Old Virgin mocks Steve Carrel’s character because he’s, that’s right, forty, and hasn’t had sex.  Well ya know what?  Maybe he hasn’t met the right girl yet.  Some of my closest guy friends are still waiting to have sex, and I don’t think they’re freaks.  Right now it seems that it’s more accepted to meet a virgin woman (though still, in our culture, eyes are raised) than a man, and I think that, to put it in sexual terms, blows (with teeth).

There’s an episode of How I Met Your Mother (possibly my favorite current show on television) that I think is relevant to this discussion with myself.  Guest-star Sarah Chalke tells the main protagonist, “Guys regret the girls they didn’t sleep with; girls regret the ones they did sleep with.”  For the most part, I think this is true, and I’m not awake enough at this point in time to make a smart comment on what this says about society.

What’s my point?  I lost it somewhere in the midst of this post.  But I believe it was  aiming to be simply this: there’s a lot of things said about virginity, there’s a hell of lot of emotions surrounding it, but once it’s gone it’s simply one of those things you can look back on, talk about over a pitcher of beer, and put away towards the back of your mind while you move on to the good stuff.

Makeout Mix

In Uncategorized on July 21, 2009 at 8:21 pm

“I can hear you singing to me in my sleep.”

– Semisonic

The other day I was talking to my friend Spam online about seduction.  The conversation was going normal enough until he mentioned that his favorite “makeout” album involved Jewel.  This threw me for a loop, because when I think of Jewel I think of whiny girls with guitars singing about angst and evil men.  As a woman, such thoughts do not usually make me want to stick my tongue in some dude’s mouth.  Jewel makes me want to cry; Jewel wants me to punch the men who have hurt me.  Unless I’m trying to have angry revenge kissing I don’t understand the use of Jewel.

But this brought up for me what had always been an interesting question… to have or to have not music while making out?  A guy I knew, we’ll call him Santa Monica, had spent hours on what he would call a “sex mix.”  I never listened to it (thank God), but I knew some of the songs on it.  One included the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “Down Boy” from their EP and I believe a Kills song was on there like “Tape Song.”  These are certainly sultry songs, and “Down Boy” is one of my favorites, but again… I think that leads to rather passionate, angry, making out.  Now of course you want passionate, but I’m not so sure about the anger.

How can music so easily change a mood?  In a recent article by Scientific American, scientists explore what it is about music that “moves us.”  One passage states:

“Instead of facilitating a largely semantic dialogue, as language does, melody seems to mediate an emotional one. When a composer writes a lamentation or a toddler exuberantly bangs out a rhythm on a pot, that person is not only revealing his or her own emotional state but also causing listeners to share those feelings.”

Well, this makes sense then why a dude or dudette would want a “makeout mix,” we’d want someone to feel those same “I like you/I want to kiss you” feelings as us.  But again, everyone has different taste in music and I, for one, can learn to love a song I never used to love because of the feelings I had for the person who was sharing it with me or the situation we were in, not because the song is particularly good.  (Interpol’s “No I In Threesome” is an example of this.)

Anyway, I’m no academic.  So I decided to take my question to the streets.  Below is a conversation with good old Vince, the standard interviewee in these blogs:

cafevince: um
cafevince: first of all I haven’t made a mix since like freshman year
cafevince: I guess I have playlists
cafevince: none of those, however, are specifically for making out
SpookyEmyII: do you have selective songs you play though or an album?
cafevince: absolutely not
cafevince: I have to say that nearly 99.99% of my making out is spontaneious
cafevince: meaning there’s really no place for advance planning and putting on mood music

cafevince: is this something others do?
cafevince: wait so you would get back to his place, and then he’d pop in the cd and you’d know it was “makeout time?” Or you’d start making out and he’d interrupt to pop it in? Like how does this even work?

I’ve bolded above what I think is important.  Now, we’ll take words from a woman, Callie:

Callie: I actually can’t make-out to music
Callie: because my mind gets hooked onto the song if I know it and so instead of focusing on the matter at hand I’m focused on the music and potentially the meaning of the words
if I don’t know it, I get caught on that I don’t know it
Callie: it’s like audio velcro

This is a phenomenon I am familiar with.  Why, just today I was having an absolutely lovely brunch with someone when The Animals’ House Of The Rising Sun started playing on the radio.  I literally kept interrupting dialogue to sing along.   I’m pretty sure doing that in the middle of making out would be embarrassing for both me and the other person involved.

Leah seems to echo Callie’s remarks:

Leah: i hate making out to music
unless it has no words
Leah: like, jazz is really nice
otherwise feel like I’m in a music video

I’ve made out with music (as far as I was aware not pre-arranged) and with silence, and I couldn’t say I prefer one to the other, though I do agree with Vince’s praise of the spontaneous.

Kevin: you should post all of this. i feel like ur format is for people who can read long paragraphs.

i generally like to consume my info via bullet points
and blurbs beneath fotoz
but anyway i would never use makeout music
it’s far more sexual to hear someone else’s mouth move against yours

Kevin might have put it best.  But at the same time, music can’t hurt unless you’re playing like Nordic Death Metal.   Then again, I made out to Jaws eating loudly screaming women and it was awesome so maybe, with the right person, even Nordic Death Metal can be good. And, speaking of film, what about when you have someone over to “watch a movie”?  That’s code about 75% of the time for making out, unless you’re just starting out dating or really do actually want to watch the movie.

Susan: ooh the right movie can be good.  A nice romantic movie like love actually……..or do you mean something more hard core like a porn

I have got to disagree with Susan there… I’m pretty sure Love, Actually would put me in more of a hand-holding mood (and we all know how I love to hold hands) than a “let me jump you” mood, but then again… A usually leads to B.

cafevince: I think my problem is your choice of semantics
cafevince: I have certainly started making out while watching a movie
cafevince: but I’ve never “put on a movie” to make out
cafevince: that would be very strange in my mind

So I guess what I’ve learned is everyone has different “moves.”  Some just go right at it.  Others put on music and let the music move them.  Others do the movie.  What I think we’ve learned is nobody out right admits “hey, I’m having you over to kiss.”  Everyone enjoys the act– whether or not it be a facade– of spontaneity.

Granted, this makes me think about the art of making a mix tape… likely a blog entry for another time.  An entry that will also likely include some of my favorite romantic movies and songs.

Until then, put on a movie, put in a CD, curl up with your loved one and have a nice night.   Some need alcohol to do that, others need music/media, but in the end all you need is that other person, singing to you in your sleep.

ADDENDUM:

cafevince (5:04:12 PM): I think your entry might just be missing the point that making out has nothing to do with the peripheral efforts made to “get someone in the right mood to make out” and more to do with whether A and B like each other in the first place. If they do, they’ll probably have a grand time kissing and more regardless of whatever the hell else is going on.

Vince’s Simplistic Anwers To Silly Questions

In Uncategorized on July 20, 2009 at 3:32 am


me: how often is too often to hear from a girl you are dating?
I am writing a blog about this
Vince: Is it titled “Vince’s Simplistic Answers to Silly Questions” ?
me: LOL.  It is now.

So I have a secret.  I’m not relationship expert.  (That’s not the secret.)  The secret is that I’m neurotic.  And even that’s not much of a secret.  Pretty much anyone who calls me a close friend knows that I overly worry about my friends, family, and loved ones.    Also, I rarely trust my judgement when it comes to boys.

That’s not true.  I trusted my judgment for years when I was young and immature and very often wrong.  And now, I’d like to say I give pretty sane advice to my friends when it comes to dating.  I’ve “been around the block” enough (and not in a slutty way).  But when it comes to me, while I sense the right response, I still have to go to a trusted few for their thoughts.  I think my need to sound out thoughts to friends has to do with fear, those metaphorical, emotional bruises and scars we carry with us from past relationships.  I don’t want to revisit the pain, so I have to double-check myself with them.  I don’t know when I’ll get my mojo back.

One of these few friends is Vince.   I don’t know where I’d be without him.  Probably with less self esteem than I have already.  (Though, ironically, considering some of our horrific fights maybe some of that low self esteem would never have come about in the first place, but such is the roller-coaster that is friendship when you’ve known that person for seven years.)  Anyway, when I sit and question whether or not I’d smother someone by asking them to take a walk with me when they’ve already seen me once in the past five days, when I’m feeling ugly due to some stupid reason or another, when I’m worried I’ve really fucked up something at work/home/New York, I always refer back to an AIM conversation I had with Vince.  One I think everyone can take advice from, just replace the word “Emily” with your own name.

vince: i mean all the neurotic worrying is just a way of protecting yourself, finding a way to blame yourself because there’s a part of Emily that hates Emily, and it’s all just BS and you’re perfectly normal if you’d just stop QUESTIONING everything you do and whether or not it’s ok to do
SpookyEmyII: ok.
vince: I am in love with a part of you Emily.  But the part of you I hate is the part that always questions the Emily I love and doubts it and second guesses it and puts it down

vince: and of course you’re really both of those, and that is you
and I do love you as a whole too
vince: but all I’m saying is, let the Emily be Emily

vince: and tell the self doubting Emily who gets in Emily’s way and makes her doubt everything she does to fuck off
vince: seriously. You’re unbelievable, unstoppable and incredible right up until that voice starts tearing you apart
vince: and let me tell you that amazing emily cannot be defeated by anyone except that voice

vince: but before that voice gets ahold of you my how you shine
vince: I want you to understand that YOU DO have the power
vince: the voice will never ever go away

it’s your cross to bear, it’s part of you
but you can ignore it
and you won’t always succeed
but you can own it, tell it to fuck off, tell it to shut up
because you don’t need it there, whether it’s your mom’s voice or your voice
or all the beautiful women on TV’s voice, you’re already perfect without it

I think everyone needs one of those friends who reminds us of who we are… who we can talk to and go to in times of need to see if we are insane or justified in our fears.  Someone to keep us grounded.

While I believe in the end our significant others end up being the people we go to for advice and for these heavy “down” conversations, I also realize that trust can sometimes take a while to build.  It’s like that whole “bros before hos”/”chicks before dicks” statement.  You don’t go to someone you just met right away and whine about your most basic fears.  (Or if you do, kudos to you for having balls.)  It’s also why I think we’re more likely to yell at our closest friends when we are in a bad mood than say those we still have yet to get to know completely… we’re not sure yet whether or not a sign of a bad mood will cause them to go running for the hills or stay and take us in their arms.

Recently my friend Leah apologized to me for talking to me about dating, and I couldn’t have stopped her soon enough.  I seriously believe it’s healthy to talk about such things.  This is also why shrinks in the past have paid for cars off of my frequent visits.  While, sure, it’s unhealthy to obsess over these same things if we don’t have someone to talk to about said obsession who will ever tell us we’re obsessing and being ridiculous?

Certainly, there’s a darker side to going to your friends constantly for advice.   Then they are the ones dating your paramour and not you.  In the end, you have to learn to trust yourself and take charge.  Like all things, there’s a happy medium.

I have friends who don’t talk to their “bros” or “chicks” about their life/family/relationship concerns, and I don’t know how they do it.  Maybe (likely) they’re more confident than me.  Maybe they just have it all figured out or take their advice from mass media (egad).  But I’d be lost without my friends, and I thank you all for your existence.

I Want To Hold Your Hand

In Uncategorized on July 18, 2009 at 11:04 pm

“I want to hold your hand.”

– The Beatles

Call me a romantic, but few things make me smile more than seeing an elderly couple holding hands as they walk down the street.  I believe it’s the combination of presented sweetness and hopefulness that causes me to smile.  First, that the elderly can still be romantic.  There’s hope for all of us aging individuals.  Secondly, people still hold hands.

I love those simple yet meaningful acts in a relationship.  The hand hold, or the kiss on the forehead, pet names, door holding, all such general acts of kindness.  As I sit in a tea shop watching what must be a pair of twelve year olds hold hands over hot cocoa, it occurs to me that not until very recently have I experienced such sweet touches.

What makes them so special?  I think part of it is that as we grow older we become more and more bitter and world-wary.  Being cool, hip adults we don’t have time to take the, well, time to grab a hand or kiss someone’s cheek.  We’re too busy joking with our buds about the best way to reach the finish line, to give head or who did whom on the Brooklyn Bridge.

I’m not dissing sex.  We all like having the sex.  (And all our mothers taught us that “making love” with someone we really care about can be a life-changing, special experience, etc etc.)  Yet most women will agree that sex is ten times better when you’re having it with someone who does those deeds that show he/she is interested in more than just, well, getting laid.

Plus, I think those special touches allow us to access a part of ourselves that the breakups and fights and bad relationships over the years have damaged– the hopeful, lovey-dovey part.  The part that doesn’t mind acting foolish and silly by kissing someone’s eyebrows, the part that is ecstatic that we’re not being made fun of for doing just that.

There’s enough anxiety in being physical with someone.  Does he like this?  Did she fake it?  Did I hold that wrong?  Hand holding, butterfly kisses, there’s seriously NO wrong way to go about those acts.  A lot of other things can go wrong and take some time getting used to (it’s why we’re all aware that the first time being physical with someone is just as awkward as it is awesome), but the simple act of holding a door or kissing a neck… there’s no way to fuck that up.

Faking sexy is easy.  Faking sweet is not.

The Beatles had it right.

And when I touch you I feel happy inside.
It’s such a feeling that my love
I can’t hide, I can’t hide, I can’t hide.

Yeah, you’ve got that something,
I think you’ll understand.
When I’ll say that something
I want to hold your hand,
I want to hold your hand,
I want to hold your hand.

Young At Heart

In Uncategorized on July 16, 2009 at 10:03 pm

The other night over tapas my friends were making fun of our friend Tiffany.  Tiffany is dating a man four years younger than herself, which means she is 28 to his 24.  “You cradle robber,” Mariah mocked as she swigged down a Manhattan.  I remained suspiciously silent, as I’m not really one to judge.

My longest relationship lasted (if you discount a break midway through) for twenty months and was with a man who was ten years older than myself.  While in itself the sort of age difference that would raise eyebrows, it goes from troubling to disturbing when you realize I was sixteen years of age at the time.  I’m 24 now, and I’d never, ever date a 16 year old– much less a 14 year old.

Regardless, this relationship was one of my most steady, dependable ones.  However, I do not think this has to do with age but rather with basic maturity, which while often corresponding with growing older, does not always.  If I were to date The Decader where I am emotionally now, we’d not last a week.   For a girl with authority and daddy issues in high school who was fed up with the constant penis jokes made by her peers, however, The Decader was a welcome relief.  And, to his credit, he put up with dating a hormonal, emotional  highschooler who went to things like prom.   (To my credit, I put up with a ton of bullshit I’d never put up with now.)  Yet obviously, for a 26 year old to be dating– seriously dating– a sixteen year old girl means he had to be pretty immature for his own age, because no matter how “mature” I thought I was at sixteen, I really was a child.

So, why the older men?  Lately a lot of my fellow mid-twenty year olds say dating “older” men, aka guys about to hit or already in their early thirties are where “it’s all at.”  As the myth has it, these guys have it “figured out” job-wise, are fully aware that taping posters up above your bed is not appropriate once you move out of your dorm, realize they should at least offer to pay for the first date, hold the door open, and are maybe, just maybe, ready to think about settling down and not dumping you for the first blonde with big tits that walks by.

I think this myth is just that: a myth.  I’ve met guys in their late twenties/early thirties, hell I’ve dated a couple of them, and they do not fit that stereotype whatsoever.  My little brother had it more together than those guys ever did.  And ladies, especially in this economy, older men are often in the same boat we are — out of work and scared.  Nobody now a days wants to grow up, and so the impetus to do so has greatly lessened.   As women get older and more and more desperate to “settle down” and get married, these older men realize they can take their time finding “the one.”   They don’t have to pop the question unless they want kids– and even now that’s no longer a requirement.   As the saying goes, thirty is the new twenty.

So my advice?  Don’t judge a book by its cover.  We all made fun of Demi Moore with Ashton Kutcher, hell I still mock the guy, yet they’ve stayed together for years while older couples such as Tea Leoni and David Duchovny or Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick are falling apart.  As corny as it sounds, t’s not about what age they are, it’s about who they are.

Good luck, Tiffany.  You’ll be laughing all the way to your first face-lift. 😉

Rescue Me

In Uncategorized on July 15, 2009 at 1:00 am

First, some mood music to set the scene:

Some Day My Prince Will Come

Now, I think everyone should read the below articles on Twilight.  While I admit that yes, I obsessively read the entire series in the span of a week, I will also admit that these novels are crap… and I fully agree with the assertion that these books do more to hurt young girls than help them.

Kissing Dead Girls – Bookslut.com

Vampires, and the Sluts and Virgins Who Love Them – DoubleX.com

Seriously, I can’t really put my qualms with the new serge of romantic literature for teens better than these articles do.   While I love a good “shitty” romance, the works of authors such as gothic mystery scribe Mary Stewart are ten times more well written than anything Stephanie Meyer has written, and feature heroines that don’t remain meek and mild but grow into strong and powerful women (of course with the help of whatever prince in shining armor rescues them).  If you’re looking for a spunky heroine who still finds love, the Vicky Bliss mystery series by Elizabeth Peters (specifically Night Train To Memphis) feature a spunky heroine that solves crime, kicks ass, but of course also gets rescued.  Being rescued seems to be par for the romantic literature course for women, and that’s fine as long as we embrace the fact that in reality, the only one rescuing us is ourselves.  But girls like Bella Swan get rescued and don’t grow up.  They remain infants, always needing a man and never, ever coming in to their own.  Sure, Bella becomes an all powerful vampire, but she still can’t live without Edward.  Hell, even worse, she won’t live without him.  That’s no role model.  Where’s Nancy Drew, who went on dates as an after thought, when you need her?