Esther Greenwood

Posts Tagged ‘dating’

The Five Love Languages

In Uncategorized on September 26, 2009 at 6:37 am

Years ago, I was sitting on my ass watching old tapes of The X-Files when my friend Spam came online full of wisdom and insight he learned from some class in college.  He kept talking about something that sounded straight out of a Dr. Phil book, the “five love languages.”  I ignored it for the most part: for one thing it sounded incredibly hokey, plus usually when this topic came up I was single and it never occurred to me to research the matter for my friends’ benefit.

However, corniness aside, I asked Spam not too long ago to re-explain to me this whole “love language” theory.  Spam, I have to say, is part of one of the longest, sanest, and by far the happiest, relationship I’ve ever seen.  He and his girlfriend Katie love each other, and are so damn good at encouraging one another and being there for one another it almost makes you sick (but not really because you are so happy for them).  Spam tipped his relationship success to what he learned about the five love languages, so I’m here to share because this is supposed to be a blog about dating and relationships and not just full of funny and inappropriate stories or me venting and or pondering.

According to Spam, who is quoting this dude Gary Chapman, there are five ways we humans express love.  The below is a quote from this site:

  • Words of Affirmation
    This is when you say how nice your spouse looks, or how great the dinner tasted. These words will also build your mate’s self image and confidence.
  • Quality Time
    Some spouses believe that being together, doing things together and focusing in on one another is the best way to show love. If this is your partner’s love language, turn off the TV now and then and give one another some undivided attention.
  • Gifts
    It is universal in human cultures to give gifts. They don’t have to be expensive to send a powerful message of love. Spouses who forget a birthday or anniversary or who never give gifts to someone who truly enjoys gift giving will find themselves with a spouse who feels neglected and unloved.
  • Acts of Service
    Discovering how you can best do something for your spouse will require time and creativity. These acts of service like vacuuming, hanging a bird feeder, planting a garden, etc., need to be done with joy in order to be perceived as a gift of love.
  • Physical Touch
    Sometimes just stroking your spouse’s back, holding hands, or a peck on the cheek will fulfill this need.

Now, as Spam (and this Chapman dude) explain it, we don’t all “express” our love in the same way.  As Spam recounts: “Words of affirmation, compliments, are really important to me, and probably my most important love language, for receiving.  When I was going out with XXX, she would never SAY nice things to me, so I thought she didn’t like me.  We broke up after six months because of it… turns out she was in love with me, I just wasn’t picking up her signals.”

So, the moral is, we’re supposed to use these different expressions to show people we care, and recognize the fact that we don’t all show in the same way, and adapt/recognize the other person’s “language” and try to see that just because they aren’t, say, holding your hand doesn’t mean they don’t love you, yadda yadda yadda.  At the same time, if the girl or fella wants their hand held, learn to hold their hand.  It’s a give and take thing.  You have to work it out, compromise.

And now it sounds like I am lecturing.

I swear, most of my other posts will be hip and cool.

So, anyway, I was thinking about this the other day, because I like to give people gifts.  Little things, like a note or flowers or cookies.  And I’m reminded of something my dear friend Stella told me once, about how at times it can be exhausting/daunting to be my friend (this is not to build myself up) because she couldn’t keep up with it, she showed her affection for our friendship in other ways (listening to me vent over and over about the same damn issue or person, for example). And I understood this and accepted this.

I’ve got to give this Chapman guy some credit, though I really do wish he’d change his theory’s moniker.  I’m reminded of how hurt and frustrated I was when I dated a gay guy (I didn’t know at the time he was gay) because he would never touch me (duh, dude dug dudes) or verbally say nice things to me or encourage me (I’m with Spam on the emphasis of the verbal front, as a writer I guess words are doubly important to me, though “actions speak louder,” so I don’t know… maybe I’m full of it– ANYWAY).  But what he did do to show he cared was, to use Chapman’s phrasing, the “acts of service” and “gifts.”  I can only see that now, five years later.  At the time I thought he didn’t give a shit about me.  And while I know now he didn’t in the way I wanted, I do believe he cared in some regard.  We just spoke a different language (and had different interests, or one main similar one).  And in the end, that ruined us.

If you go off of popular entertainment, a woman’s primary “love language” (I still cringe when I type that) is the “words of affirmation” and “quality time.”  Get those two together and it’s a cuddle fest on the couch talking about feelings, a guy’s favorite thing to do.  Hardy har har.  I crack myself up.  Oy.   According to this same popular entertainment stereotype, men’s primary “love language” would fall under “gifts,” “acts of service,” and “physical touch.”  I’m not one to give credence to stereotypes, but notice the lack of overlap.

Anyway, I just thought I’d post this interesting theory up there.  Next post will be something wicked or funny or at least a little less Oprah, a little more Dan Savage.  Maybe with a little Ellen.



In Uncategorized on September 1, 2009 at 1:55 am

In the last twenty four hours, an article on cheating for Vanity Fair by Melanie Berliet has received a great deal of internet buzz from sites such as Jezebel.  Melanie Berliet goes “undercover to explore a few thorny questions: What kind of men seek out illicit relationships online? Can adultery be a healthy way to fulfill one’s needs without alienating one’s partner? Is cheating really as bad as society makes it out to be?”

After conducting three “studies” (one man cheats because his wife won’t have sex with him and he has not bothered to bring it up, another guy is in an open relationship– and in that case I don’t know if that counts as cheating, and another one hates that he can’t make his significant other cum so has decided to cheat on her), Ms. Berliet comes to the following conclusion:

“The three men I met through Ashley Madison were very different, but they all had a common goal. That goal might strike some people as depraved, but I don’t think Thomas, Jackson, and Leonard are bad people. Those who remain faithful to their partners—whether out of religious conviction, prudence, lack of libido, or supernatural willpower—might deserve praise, but their ability to repress their baser instincts does not make them superior in my eyes to people who indulge theirs. I don’t wish to champion adultery, but the notion that strict monogamy is the right path for everyone strikes me as narrow-minded, even holier than thou.”

Go to Hell, Ms. Berliet.  I love that “supernatural willpower” and “lack of libido”  are the “natural” causes stopping people from cheating.  What about “regular willpower” or “good mate selection” (someone with your same emotional and physical needs) or old fashioned, cornball “love” and “trust”?

Certainly, monogamy isn’t for everyone.  I agree with that assessment but not her conclusions.  If monogamy isn’t for you, then you know what?  Don’t get married. Or, at least, be open and honest to your fiance about why you are getting married so they know what they are getting in to.  (After all, as my friend Joe points out,  a lot of people get married due to custody battles, visitation rights, etc.)  Regardless, I’m so tired of seeing movies (ie, Funny People) where cheating just seems to happen.   While I appreciate that these same movies show that even “good guys/gals” can give in to their baser instincts and fuck up and still be forgiven, I’ve been concerned lately with our national acceptance rate of this phenomenon.

I know a couple of couples who have “worked through” a cheating.  But it’s taken commitment– and the rebuilding of trust on at least one side– to make that happen.  One of the couples in particular ended up becoming closer and have been married now for five years (they’re friends of my parents).  I don’t think people should be strung up by their balls/breasts for such actions, but I don’t think it should be encouraged or simply shrugged off.

Here’s what bugs me– not the act itself (though that sucks too), but the dishonesty surrounding it.  If there is something that wrong with the relationship that part of the couple feels the need to cheat he or she should first try and address that with their mate.  It seems to me to be a communication issue.   And if you don’t want to “hurt” that other person, just think about what kind of hurt you are committing by jumping into bed with someone else without permission.

When you embark on a real, committed relationship, part of that is being committed. Eventually, that commitment blossoms into a mutual love and respect, and cheating on your other half is showing neither love nor respect.  Though it might be totally human, it’s showing selfishness.  If you want to fuck someone else, then do it, but break up first.  If you’re that unhappy in a marriage, get a divorce.

For example, one of the guys Berliet meets with is upset about what a prude his girlfriend is… yet even Berliet admits that it sounds like he hasn’t really expressed his frustration with said girl.  I’m wondering if he just was open and honest with her instead of running to the next pair of legs if he could salvage what I am sure will become an ended relationship.

The whole article makes me sad.

I’m no prude.  I’m open to the fact that many people are in, and happy with, open relationships.  If they’re happy, that’s great.  If they’re open and honest about extramarital affairs, wonderful.  That’s not cheating.  And that involves a level of communication and trust that half the time it seems regular couples don’t have.

When I love someone, when I truly, truly love someone, I can’t even conceive of cheating on them.  I don’t want anyone else.  Sure, I can acknowledge that Johnny Depp is hot or whatnot, but I’m not about to go and jump into bed with the next Johnny Depp look-alike I meet.  There might be a passing attraction for or mild flirtation with a coworker, but I would never do anything about it when I am committed to or love someone else.   And I don’t think this is being holier-than-thou (though perhaps it is naive), I think it’s being faithful, which is something I expect from my other half and what I assume the dude in question expects from me.

There’s another type of cheating, however, that I think a lot of people (and, not to be biased, but I think especially women) tend to commit– emotional cheating (which more often than not leads to actual physical cheating).   This is when you fall in love with someone else while in a relationship.  Again, this happens, and this is why you break up if the passing fancy doesn’t dissipate.   For some unjustifiable reason, I think I would find this type of affair ten times worse than a physical one.  While I by no means would be able to trust for a while a guy if he got drunk and fucked someone else, if he fell in love with someone else… my God.  I’d be destroyed.  Other ladies I’ve spoken to echo this.  But again– tell the girl in question if you feel that way for someone else so we can move on.

My friend Geoff has an interesting (slightly scientific) take on emotional cheating:


That’s another bit from my Evolutionary Gender Differences class
In Strict Anthropological terms, Emotional infidelity is MUCH more threatening to a woman
Because it can lead to the man splitting resources
While men are much more concerned with physical infidelity
Since it’s hard to be sure of parentage
and could lead to contributing resources to offspring not of your genetic stock
That’s in strict black/white evolutionary terms, reality is never so nice and neat in biology.

Maybe I really am just naive.  Maybe we really are all just still primates.  But I’d like to believe there are happy, monogamist relationships out there that last.  Relationships where nobody lies about straying, where you can feel the natural “urge” to physically cheat but not actually do so, and not due to some fear of God but due to mutual love, respect, satisfaction, whatever.  Monogamy isn’t for everyone, but don’t lie and claim to be part of a club you’re not.  Don’t be a polygamist in monogamist clothing.   Just be honest, to both you and your partner.  Everyone will be happier.

Claire’s Thoughts On The Above, Which I Thought Worth Putting On Here Because I Agree With Her And I Realize In This Post I’m Being Relatively Black And White About This Matter Due To Past Trust Issues:

Claire: i think perhaps the view you present doesn’t quite do justice to the gray areas of love and trust, and the peaks and valleys of being in a long-term trusting committed relationship
not that i’ve ever been in one of those
but from what i hear and see and read, and from my small bit of experience, it’s really hard, and people are tested
so it’s not easy
also, I’ve read a lot lately about how infidelity can actually help a marriage

Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide

In Uncategorized on August 13, 2009 at 12:54 am

“Oh no love! You’re not alone
No matter what or who you’ve been
No matter when or where you’ve seen
All the knives seem to lacerate your brain
I’ve had my share, I’ll help you with the pain
You’re not alone.”

– David Bowie

Today I experienced one of those awful airport days you read about or hear told at a dinner party after the hosts laugh about how the “stupid airline” lost their luggage during their honeymoon.

The day began easily enough– I woke up, dressed, was picked up by my car service and arrived at the airport a full two and a half hours early.  I waded my way through baggage check and security for an hour, had an overpriced bite to eat, and went to my gate.  I sat down next to a friendly Midwestern family and waited.

First, the flight was only delayed an hour.   Then two hours.  Then three.  I finished one book (David Eggers’ Zeitoun) and volume one of the comic Scott Pilgrim— soon to be a movie staring Michael Cera.  I listened to a mix.  I listened Kanye and tried not to laugh at myself.  I listened to random music.  I started to notice Delta was canceling more and more flights and tried my best not to get frustrated.  There’s a lot of ugliness in airports, people packed together in stressful situations such as flight delays tends to bring out the worse, and I didn’t want to add to it.

But, when news came that my flight was canceled and I saw the line that I would have to wait in to rebook– easily already over fifty people long, with only one Delta employee to help them– I wanted to cry.  Instead I bit my lip, took out my cell phone, and texted those closest to me.

At that moment, as I lugged my backpack and purse and stood in line listening to a guy bitch out an airline employee on his cell and an elderly couple proclaim “this bullshit only happens to us,” two thoughts crossed my mind: sometimes it sucks to be an adult, and thank God I have people I care about in my life.

Regarding the first thought: when I was a little girl and things went wrong at airports, my dad– who frequently flies United for work and is one of their VIP passengers because of this– would just go and talk to someone and sort it out for me.  While I villainize my father a lot of the time (sometimes rightly so, sometimes unfairly), at times his temper works in my favor.  So when everything went wrong, the first thing I wanted to do was call my parents and have them sort it all out.

This, of course, was not an option.  I’m an adult and have been acting like one (or at least vainly attempting to) since college.   Just because the situation was new didn’t mean I had to panic.  Sure, I was overwrought and felt like sobbing and screaming, but I had to buck up and get myself together.

Looking back on it, I just wanted someone there with me.  I didn’t want to shoulder all this chaos (by then four other flights had been canceled and a security guard had been called to handle the hordes of pissed off passengers) alone.  Yet, there was another reason I craved company: When I’m in a terrible situation, if I have someone else there that I have to act “together” for, I usually am a hell of a lot better and being upbeat and cheerful.  For example, I HATE the rain.  When it’s raining and I’m alone in it I bitch to myself and want nothing more than to give the sky a glowing neon middle finger.  But if I’m out with friends and the weather starts sucking, I’ll turn it into a game.  Bad weather is a lot more enjoyable when you are out with people you like.

During my freshman year of college, my friend Danielle drove me and my friend Katie to see a play.  Well, a car t-boned us and totaled Danielle’s car.  We were all scratched up pretty bad and ended up going to the hospital.  But what I remember the most is the aftermath of the accident.  Danielle and Katie were hysterical, and while I was just as cut up as they were, I calmly talked to the one car that had pulled over and dialed 911.   I went into “take care of people/be strong” mode.  Meanwhile, three years later when the same thing happened to me but I was alone, I lost it.

Though, then again, the airport situation was pretty terrible.  I’m not sure I’d have been able to remain smiling even if I had Glenda The Good Witch with me all pink and sparkly.

The main reason I wanted someone there with me was because I needed, I wanted a hug.  I wanted solid comfort. So I was eternally grateful when I received support via facebook messages or text from friends and a consoling and considerate text from Boy who was all the way out of town and on vacation.  I felt bad pestering Boy with my shitty news, but at the same time I realized that had the situation been reversed I’d of course want him to do the same.  It’s what you do.  And, dare I say it, it’s one of the perks of being in a relationship (and having a cell phone)– even when you are physically alone, you don’t have to be so emotionally.  There’s someone you want to be there for, and there’s someone who can be there for you.  The same goes for close friendships.

In a way, I guess I was never really alone at the airport.  Everyone on those canceled flights were thrown together in a relatively awful situation.  For every asshole I heard complaining, there would be a gentleman.  It was while waiting in line that I got to know the kids of the Midwestern couple (the oldest girl was applying to NYU).  I made more polite conversation with an intern from a NYC bank who was being sent on a “business trip” by his bosses to Kansas City to pick up BBQ sauce for lunch the following day.  While I’ll never see these people again, they were nice to have around.

Of course, it’s not the same as having people who know you and care about you be there for you in times of stress and trouble.  But it’s something.

Eventually I talked to a ticket representative (though my father, again to the rescue, had managed to secure through a coworker who was big with Delta a not-too-painful flight for me the following day) and, seven hours after I had arrived at La Guardia, I made my way home.  A shower, some chocolate, and a food delivery later I was as right as the nonexistent rain Delta blamed for the cancellation.  But I know, had it not been for the support of my loved ones, not even a bubble bath and champagne would have cured my bad mood.

“No man is an Island, entire of itself.”

– John Donne

Head of the Class

In Uncategorized on August 12, 2009 at 3:19 am

“Would she go down on you in a theater?”

– Alanis Morissette

Yesterday I was sitting outside my favorite coffee shop reading Dave Eggers’ latest when a man in a polo-shirt sat down next to me and stuck out his hand.

“I’m Paul,” he said.  “You look like you give good head.”

This line (if you can call something so brazen that) shocked me for a variety of reasons.  First of all, I was in Gramercy.  If I wanted some guy to say crude nothings to me I would have dressed like a skank and headed to some frat bar by NYU.  People raised families and millions in Gramercy, they didn’t raise innuendos.  Especially at a yuppee coffee shop with excellent chai.

This was the other thing: I was at a coffee shop.  Did this man honestly think that coming up to a woman at a coffee shop, a woman dressed in a pastel floral dress reading a hipster novel, would respond favorably to something so … unnerving?

And that, of course, begs the question– what exactly about my appearance screamed “Blow Job Expert”?

Yet, what shocked me the most was my reaction to Paul’s comment:

“Uh, thanks?” I mumbled, looking down at my lap.  I couldn’t believe it– was I actually blushing?  I briefly wondered how to elegantly retreat from this very uncomfortable situation.

Paul did not move.  His hand was still awkwardly sticking out.  I was afraid to touch it.  Who knew where it had been.

Actually, I had a pretty good idea.

“Well?” Paul asked.  A bit of iced latte dripped from my chai’s straw.

“I have a boyfriend.”  That seemed the best, and most honest, way to get this creep out of my space.

It worked.  Paul stood up and nodded, leering down at me.  I was pretty sure we both knew what he was thinking.  Now, finally, I was indignant.  It was one thing for this preppy freak to pervert me, but to pervert my beau?  Fuck off.

Paul must have seen something in my face because he made a quick getaway down Irving Place.  From the other side of the coffee shop’s door, a soft female voice spoke up, “Did that just happen?”

I looked towards the woman whose own shocked expression matched my own.  Simultaneosly, we burst into laughter.


The above is a true story.  I’ve spent the past 24 hours thinking over the situation.  Other than the man’s basic crassness in his attempt to flirt, why had he so thrown me off my game?  Usually I was incredibly suave at getting myself out of compromising and uncomfortable situations.  Instead, this time I had some serious deer-in-headlights syndrome.

I believe now it’s because this guy broke The Rules.  We are all well aware of The Rules.  Originally a book written in the 1950s for our parents, The Rules were a guide for women on how to conduct themselves during a courtship.  Never accept a date for the weekend if he asks past Wednesday.  Never have sex.  That kind of fun.

While The Rules have definitely changed since our parents were dating, there is definitely still an etiquette involved in dating.  There’s the rule about how soon you can call a girl after getting her number.  How soon you do or do not make jokes about taking trips together.  Women know better than to ever even make a joke about their friend’s friend’s second cousin’s upcoming marriage for fear that the guy will think they’re hinting.  And when it comes to dropping the “L-word,” yeah.

Of course, mastering this etiquette takes time.

A male friend of mine recently became entangled with a young woman of twenty.  She of course committed the very common rookie mistake of falling too quickly too fast and, even more inappropriately and naively, has repeatedly stated her very intense declarations of adoration to my friend.

Now, we’ve all been there.  At the beginning of the courtship before you really get to know your paramour (and they’re still projecting their best selves) they of course seem perfect.  But we learn after a few heartaches not to trust our intense and irrational infatuation and, most importantly, not to scare the guy by sharing the crazy.

Yes, it sucks.  We all want someone we can “be ourself” with.  But I think before we get there, before we can be ourself and snore and maybe admit that we don’t like disco as much as we claimed to, we have to first follow the rules and act accordingly.  We have to not freak the other person out with our neediness and basic humanness.  Dumping such intense realities on a person in a very quick amount of time is scary for both people involved.  Take time to get to know each other.

I guess there are do’s and dont’s for both the sexes.  Don’t come on too strongly.  Don’t say every thing that comes in to your mind, even if it’s true.


In Uncategorized on August 12, 2009 at 2:24 am

When I first moved to New York in January, my friend Leah and I were both going through a hard time when it came to relationships.  While I wasn’t in one, a boy who had expressed an almost frightening amount of feeling towards me had suddenly turned cold.  Meanwhile, Leah was in the midst of a break up with her boyfriend of five years.

So it comes as no surprise that Leah and I bonded.  While we had been acquaintances and college peers in the past, the sudden drama surrounding me at the worst possible moment required that I move out of where I had been staying (which lacked heat and hot water anyway).  Leah selflessly and graciously offered her couch and many hugs.  She’s been my best friend out here ever since.

Anyway, one night Leah and I decided to get coffee before seeing The Wrestler.  To the immense amusement to the old married Jewish couple sitting at the table next to us, Leah and I talked out a list of “dealbreakers” for future relationships.  I still have the list:


I can’t help but smile when I read over this list.   While we all have our “dealbreakers,” I think there is definitely a level of how much we respect the dealbreaker list.  For example, while “cheating” and “ignores you” are pretty standard definite no-nos, things like “bong in the living room” and “ambiguously attractive female friend that he has made out with/had a crush on in the past” we’re a little more willing to work on/compromise over, depending on the situation.

My friend Jarvis has a dealbreaker that he won’t date a girl on anti-depressant medications.  This is due to bad experiences in his past; and I totally understand.  Nonetheless, I am sure if he met a girl who met all his other “dream girl” but happened to need some light medication to get through bouts of sadness or anxiety he’d at least give her a chance.

So why do we create “dealbreakers”?  I think we do so to protect ourselves.  For example, after my heart was ripped open, bleeding with pus coming out and had salt rubbed in the wound after being repeatedly kicked into a bloody pulp, I made the rule that I would never, ever date a musician again.  Yet, of course, all the men I’ve ever been attracted to happen to have a penchant for music.  If they aren’t playing the guitar, cello, keyboard or trumpet, they’re still ten times more up to date than I am on music history and the music scene.  Should I just turn my back on every person that likes music?  Hell no.  Just because one music afficiando broke my heart doesn’t mean another will.  It’d be like a guy refusing to date me because I’m a writer and the last woman who broke his heart wrote poems.  It wouldn’t be fair to me or him.

I think dealbreakers are just guideposts to help us not fall down a particularly gloomy path that we may have already travelled.  After all, we construct our list of dealbreakers from past experiences.  I, for example, will never date another man who refuses to tell his parents about my existence and refuses to call.  Some dealbreakers are obvious red lights, but most are yellow.  Proceed, but slowly, and with caution.

Cage #64581A

In Uncategorized on August 10, 2009 at 4:43 am

Author’s Note:

Sometimes I write fictional stories about relationships.

Below is one of them.

I’m watching my boyfriend coo sweet nothings at Susie.  In response to his praise Susie whimpers and drools.  I check my watch.

“She’s perfect,” Todd informs me as he stands up from his kneeling position.

“She sheds,” I reply.  It’s two o’clock.  We were supposed to be having lunch by now.

He pats me on the small of my back.  “So do you.  It’s cute.”

I wonder if he expects me to wag my tail like the tiny Beagle now shitting on the cement floor before us.  I have a feeling dog hair is a lot less cute than the hair of the woman who fucks you twice a week.

“Do you think we have room in our apartment for a dog?” I ask.  Off his look, I continue, “I don’t want her to feel cramped.”

I fail to mention that I’m the one who feels cramped, what with the antique bookcase Todd found on the street two days ago and installed in our living room half the size of a minivan.  As an empty bookcase makes Todd feel sad, the next day he went to the Chelsea flea market and had the bookcase overstuffed by seven pm.  He also had two ceramic cherubs displayed proudly on its top.

“They’re a symbol,” he told me as I served us Cajun chicken on the couch-come-dinner table.  He balanced his plate on his knees and poured Cabernet into the glasses sitting on the wood floor.  “They’re a symbol for how much I love you.”

I kissed his cheek and spilled my yellow rice.  Two years after we first started dating, he still can say things that make me blush and forget my carefully constructed insouciant demeanor.

Then he dropped the bombshell.

“I think we should get a dog,” he said.

So here we are, at the pound.  An employee whisks away Susie’s offending secretions while our adoption counselor Michael repeats the sob story already typed up via typewriter and displayed on Susie’s cage door.  Abused by her owners and left for dead on the New Jersey Turnpike, Susie fears men but will eventually turn loving after consistent affection.  She’s one of Michael’s “favorites.”

“I bet you say that about all the bitches,” I joke.  Michael blankly looks me and then turns back to Todd.

“Shall we go sign the paperwork?”

“She’s so cute!” Todd squeals.  He smiles down at Susie and starts to clap his hands.  “Who’s the cutest puppy in the world?  Who’s the cutest puppy in the world?”

“She’s not a puppy,” I correct.  His repetitive baby talk is annoying.  I’m hungry; I want my Caesar salad and glass of Pinot Grigio.  “She’s five years old.  Isn’t that like thirty-five in dog years?  She’s older than your big sister.”

Todd ignores me and gives Michael a thumbs up.  “Let’s get her out of here.”

It’s only when the boys exit Susie’s cage, which Todd pointed out earlier was half the size of our aforementioned miniscule den, that I realize the “her” Todd speaks of is Susie and not myself.

Apparently my response, “There’s more breathing room in here than in our den,” was not appreciated.

“Why don’t you stay behind and bond with Susie?” Todd suggests with a look that informs me this is anything but a suggestion.

He’s still mad about our discussion over oatmeal three days ago, the day he fled the apartment and found that horrific bookcase.  I nod mutely and try not to cringe when I hear the cage door close.  I watch the boys walk away and then turn to look down at my dog, our stand-in for the child I do not want to have.

Susie sits on her haunches and stares up at me.  Her brown and white fur is dirty and matted.  This dog is not cute; she’s a mess.  I wonder how often the pound cleans these dogs, whether she’s been checked for fleas and, most importantly, how often I’ll be expected to wash her.

I’ll make no bones about it (pun intended), Todd wants the dog but I know I’m the one who will be stuck taking care of it.  For him, this is a lark, another venue where he can express love without repercussions.  Last year we became supporters of some starving child in Uganda.  A gold-framed photograph on Todd’s desk represented our “daughter” Anita.  The most noticeable thing about Anita was her array of bones: they stuck out prominently from areas that hadn’t even occurred to us contained bones.  Todd wrote her every day and donated an extra twenty-five to fifty bucks a month.  Six months after we joined the program we received a notice from the government that Anita was a scam.

Susie waddles up to me and starts to lick my flats.  Awkwardly, I reach down and scratch her head.  Her hair is coarse.

Todd will run off to the lab and study chemical compounds while I, the writer who works from home, will be the one who takes Susie for walks around the block, feeds her, and begs her to stop barking while the neighbors call to complain.

My feet hurt, and the dog’s slobber only accentuates this.  I have a feeling Todd will be a while.  Most likely he will get distracted by the pound’s pet supply store we passed on our way to the cages.  With a sigh, I sit down Indian-style on the cement and thank God I am wearing jeans.

Susie launches herself into my lap and knocks my stomach with her hard ball of a head.  I wince; I still haven’t fully recovered from the surgery.

I will never tell Todd about last month’s abortion.  What for Todd had been a “quick trip home to visit my friends who you find childish” was really a “quick trip home to let my friends take care of me while I killed your child.”  I hadn’t outright lied, the girls had been visited, but the reasoning for my trip was left purposely vague.

Avoiding sex hadn’t been too tricky.  My lie of an ulcer (conveniently discovered when visiting the girls) had been believed, and as long as I went down on him a few times a week and let him cum in my mouth Todd remained unsuspicious.

Susie licks my face.  Her breath smells like dog food.  When I turn away so as to not get her slobber on my lips, I come face to face with Susie’s neighbor, a large black poodle missing her left eye.

“Hey girl,” I say.  The poodle grunts and turns away.

Suddenly hot, I stand and push Susie off of me.  She lunges for my Met Museum tote bag while I look around us and try to imagine what it feels like to be a dog in a pound.  There are so many cages, and so many disgusting, rank smells.  The staccato shrieks of children (“Look Mom!  A puppy!”) interrupt the chorus of barking dogs.  I want out.  The cage is locked.

Susie starts making unsettling wheezing noises behind me.  I turn, my personal effects are scattered on the floor and haphazardly pushed around while Susie continues to choke as she runs in misshapen circles.

“Shit!” I gasp.  “What did you eat?!”  The dog pants in response.  My lipstick is there by her water bowl, so is my wallet, and my cell phone…

The chorus of canines increases in volume.

“Susie!”  I fall to my knees and shake her.  Her eyes meet mine, and I see fear so pure I catch my breath.  I let go of her and she continues to wheeze.  I pry open her mouth and can just make out the pink and white wrapper of a maxipad.

My friends told me that when I came out of my surgery, morphined to the max, I was crying.  They kept asking me what was wrong, was I in pain, what could they do, but all I did was cry in response.  They say it was the scary kind of crying, the kind with no sound, just empty, open mouth gasps.

Susie is on the ground, gasping heavily on her right side.  Unsuccessfully I pry open her chops, with red-manicured hands wet from her saliva I tug at the end of the pad to no avail.  I stand up and yell for help.  My voice is surprisingly hoarse.  No staff employees or volunteers pay us any attention; they are too busy assisting happy families with the adoption of their new members.  It is only when I try to wipe dirt out of my eye that I realize my cheeks are wet.

Five minutes later, Todd and Michael return.  Todd’s arms are filled with multi-colored doggy toys.  I hold Susie’s body, rocking her back and forth.  I’ve stopped crying.  “I killed her,” I say flatly from behind the cage bars as Michael rushes to get help.  Todd stares at me, his eyes an echo of Susie’s from moments before, and I am fully aware that at that moment, the relationship is dead.

Friends as the Benefit

In Uncategorized on August 7, 2009 at 8:01 pm

“The bird a nest,
the spider a web,
man friendship.”
– William Blake

A common question I ask when meeting my friends’ friends is how they met.  Usually there is an entertaining story involved, where the friends in common giggle and swap inside jokes.  An amusing anecdote is shared, and everyone comes out feeling a little more chummy.

When it comes to a group of my closest friends, or at least the friends I’ve known the longest, my story is also a bit awkward.  My closest friends, often referred to as  “The EEP Crowd” (EEP stands for Early Entrance Program, they all skipped high school and went straight to college), I met through my first boyfriend when I was fifteen years old.  Now, nine years later, I still talk to many of them regularly.   When I’m homesick, it’s their hangouts (Dungeons and Dragons, Rock Band, all of it) I miss the most.  I think I was always the baby of the group– after all, I was the youngest.  Jon was 19 to my 15 when we dated for our brief couple of months, and so most of the EEP crowd happens to be a good four to seven years older than me.  They watched me grow up from a teenager to a chick approaching 25.  They know my most embarrassing stories, my weaknesses, and I miss them terribly.

But I realize that’s weird.  After all, they were Jon’s friends first.  And he’s still friends with them too; we’re all friends.  It was only awkward when we first broke up, as all teenage breakups can be.

My EEP friends aside, I realize friendship with your beau’s friends is a tricky territory, especially with the dawn of Facebook.   I know people who get friended by random dudes they meet in a bar on Facebook and are totally okay with it, yet when it comes to friending their better half’s friends, fears of intruding on their personal space come in to play.  For example, my friend Henry is afraid to Facebook-friend any of his girlfriend’s amigas: he waits for them to friend him.  But what if you’re the girlfriend and want to friend your boyfriend’s awesome pal on Facebook?

In the past, I’ve especially have a hard time because I usually really like my boyfriend’s friends.  I think it’s because I tend to get along better with men than with women, and so I’m immediately more comfortable joking around with them.  But I’ll hold back on Facebook friending them, because nobody wants to be that creepy girlfriend who forces herself into her boyfriend’s life.  And nobody wants that creepy person doing that to them.  So it’s with a smile and a sigh of relief that their friend will Facebook contact me, because it means a) I didn’t freak them out and b) I can continue the witty repartee when appropriate.

I used to get really nervous when meeting my beau’s friends.  After all, I really want them to at least approve of my existence.  The only more nerve-wracking thing is meeting their family.  As I’ve gotten older, I’m a little more calm about the whole meeting-friends situation, especially because I realize that when the roles are reversed, I’m well aware of how possibly awkward it can be for the other person.  The point is to have fun with people your date has fun with, and chances are, if you get along with your date, you’ll at least have a passably good time.  And usually, a great one.

If not, don’t worry about it.  You’re dating the person, not their friends (and if their friends become an issue, well that says something about the relationship/person involved).

In the show How I Met Your Mother, two of the leads Robin and Ted begin as sort of romantic interests, with Ted in love with Robin and Robin not quite as interested.  Yet, Ted and Robin and Ted’s roommates and friends become a tight nit group.  While it doesn’t usually work like that, it’s nice that that fiction is out there to tell us it’s okay to get along with your love’s friends.  They don’t need to be best buddies or pen pals, but an ability to get along in the same space is always appreciated.

The problems come about when you like the friends more than the paramour.  Then of course it’s time to break up, and if you have to break up with the acquaintances too, so be it.  That’s life.  Maybe that’s a way Facebook is actually helpful– you can still remain fringe friends with the people with whom you’d already lose contact.  In other words, if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be.  Kind of like with all relationships.

A Lesson From The Simpsons

In Uncategorized on August 1, 2009 at 4:09 am

“Love is a snowmobile racing across the tundra and then suddenly it flips over, pinning you underneath. At night, the ice weasels come.”

– Matt Groening

My brother was in town this week, and like many sibling relationships we don’t have much to say to each other.  After a couple hours of awkward chit-chat, we turned to the television for entertainment.  I’ve started to record The Simpsons on DVR (what’s the purpose of paying five dollars extra a month for a recording program if you’re not going to tape classic television), so Chris and I, in an homage to how we spent most nights of our childhood at 7:30pm, sat on my bed and watched the adventures of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie.

The episode we watched was number forty-seven, “I Married Marge.”  In it, Marge has a pregnancy scare and Homer recounts to the kids how he and Marge got married and Homer earned the job at the power plant.  It’s a sweet episode.

There’s a specific scene in the episode that stuck out for me: young Homer and Marge are driving and Marge leans her head over onto Homer’s shoulder. Smiling, Homer puts an arm around her and continues to drive.

It’s an adorable, lovely moment.  Yet all I could think while watching it was What an uncomfortable position for Homer.

I mean, think about it: you’re driving a car and someone rests their head (the heaviest part of the body, by the way) on your shoulder.  Hoping to keep the moment romantic (and kudos!), you put your arm around your love.  But how do you drive well with one arm, especially with this mass pushing in on your right?

I’ve run into this conundrum before.  After all, I’m one of those chicks who likes to snuggle up and all that jazz.  So often in say, the car-driving situation (which, living in NYC and not having a serious relationship since 2006 in the state of California, has admittedly not occured in a while) I weigh the options: make the guy (and my head) uncomfortable with the head-to-shoulder lean, or not.  I find a good middle ground is when the guy reaches over and holds your hand, or rests his hand for a while on your knee, or you do the same.

There are a lot of awkward, physical moments in relationships (that have nothing to do with sex).  For example, in New York there seems to be an influx lately of couples that walk with their arms around each other.  Perhaps this is popular in New York due to the lack of car ownership and the subsequent above-mentioned head-on-shoulder action.  Anyway, I’ve had friends put their arms around me and practically have me carry them across a sidewalk, and let me tell you– it’s uncomfortable.  ESPECIALLY with the humidity hear in the East Coast.  What I never understand is why these couples don’t just hold hands.

But then again, some people don’t like holding hands.  Especially because your palms get sweaty and I’m aware some people get self conscious about that.

All this griping makes me sound like I hate physicality, and it’s quite the opposite– I love touching the people I like.  I’m big into hugs, the snuggle, the hand-hold.  While I’m not into making out in public (seriously, high school kids on the subway, go find a space where we’re not all forced up against one another), I do like signs of affection.  But I’m also practical and aware that sometimes you do those physical signs not because they are comfortable but because you like the person you are with.

And that’s likely a good metaphor for a lot of what goes into making a relationship work.  The give-and-take, the compromise, the sometimes doing something uncomfortable because you care about the person.  I bet to this day Marge and Homer still maybe have moments where Homer drives and Marge rests her head on his shoulder.  Maybe not as often, and maybe with Homer’s extra pounds it’s a little more difficult, but it’s still a sweet, simple action.  I might snicker when I see you, young man with a girl practically hanging on you as you cross Second Avenue, but that doesn’t mean I’m not silently rooting for you.

Unless, that is, if she’s on roofies.

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.