Searching For Love, Finding Myself

I’m a watcher. I observe and take in everything around me. My eyes will lazily wander over faces while my mind, reading their emotions, wonders who they are. There’s a couple in front of me on the sidewalk. They seem to be about my age. Perfectly paired with similar height and build. She’s wearing a green skirt that swishes and sways as she walks just about two steps behind him. I find myself staring at her skirt as it flounces behind. Her clipped gait easily maintaining the slight distance between them. At the stop light, she pulls up short; he edges forward just a hair. Just enough. I bring myself to the edge of the curb and glance over at them. She is frowning and he is looking up at the sky. I wonder if she walks behind him on purpose or if she doesn’t even realize she’s doing it. I think about the other couples I saw on the metro. One pair, long-limbed and athletic looking. Him wearing a garish red plaid shirt and down vest.  Her in brown riding boots and a gray flannel coat. He paused outside the sliding doors to wait for her to exit the car, grabbed her hand and kissed her softly. Another couple, who I didn’t know were a couple until he gingerly leaned over and kissed her cheek, right before heading in the opposite direction on the escalator.  I take all of this in and think about the last time someone kissed me. I almost can’t remember. Then, it rises up like a fog in my memory. There’s a dark hallway in a sparsely furnished apartment. Both of us standing before each other, knowing it would be the last time it happened.  I remember the last time I kissed someone. It was rushed and insincere. Not really landing how it should have. Not really belonging to him at all. It was just the next motion to complete in our series of fumbled movements. None of them perfect or correct, simply physical, with no emotional depth or attachment.

One thing that’s certain when you’re in your thirties and single- no one lets you forget about it. Not the television shows, the radio, the well-meaning cashier, and least of all your mom. It’s not something done maliciously or with ill intent. A simple question from the cashier, “Are these for your kids?”, while ringing up multiple fruit cups is not rude. It’s simply conversation that one starts to break up a monotonous day. It probably is odd that I buy fruit cups to pack in my lunch for work. Odd, but efficient and cost effective. I don’t take offense, my own inquisitive nature often getting the best of me.  No matter how often I struggle to change the channel in my own mind, I still find myself falling into the trap. Comparing myself to couples whose private lives I know nothing about. Wondering how they came to be. What brought them to the very same place as me, at whatever moment we all happen to inhabit together?  I look over at the girl in green and wonder if she smiled coyly when they first met. Or did she pursue him, eager and wanting. Was he a perfect gentleman when they went on their first date? Is he exacting in his movements and thoughts? All of this flashes before my mind’s eye like a movie reel. Their becoming and being. Then the light changes and I cross the street, quickly outpacing them. My mind already focused on the day ahead.

It was easy to be single at first. I have always been good at being alone. The silence doesn’t terrify me as it does others. I enjoy the peace and stillness of it. My mind can wander and run off on tangents without me having to be present. After being a set, a pair, a plus one, for five years, it was refreshing to be just me again. I have only been in two relationships. One not so easily defined – languid and loose, almost as if it wasn’t even there. The other in constant need of definition and structure. Both of us continuously building it up and knocking it down with insecurity and fear. It was there I learned to temper myself- making myself to be digested. I blended in passivity to curtail assertive looks and sarcastic tone. I quieted myself to make it easier for him to be heard. I didn’t want to “make a scene” or “start something”. I just wanted to be. I wanted us to just be.

Our romance was a flash in the dark and it quickly engulfed us. We were drawn to each other without a real reason why, him being my complete opposite. We met at work and our lives soon became entangled and we were no longer separate beings. I had recently moved back home from living away at college. I had no social circle to return to and he welcomed me into his – holidays with his family, happy hours with his friends. And, at first, I was happy. This is what a relationship was in my mind. However, things slowly began to sour. Looking back, the signs were there. Red flags on the road. Caution signs blinking brazenly. But what is there to do with love gone wrong, but simply complete the ride? Headfirst we dived into a dark pool of doubt. His secrets and my worries wrapped me up in fits of panic and desperation.  Lies and excuses weaved in and out of both of us, pushing us further and further apart from each other, yet keeping us chained and bound. It’s hard to look back now and think of the escape hatches that were there to be opened, yet left ignored. Even harder to think about what it would be like without that experience in me. For better or worse, it shaped who I am today.

A year after ending the relationship and subsequent engagement, I was happy. Filling my mouth with acerbic remarks, tinged with clever charm, I grew back into myself. Two years after ending the relationship, I dated and again enjoyed the feeling of someone new. Excitement and possibility seemingly around every corner and turn. Three years after, I am beginning to feel restless with myself. I have grown bored with going to movies alone, of cooking and eating meals in solitude. I take the advice of well-meaning friends and nosy, but kind, bartenders and “put myself out there”. Endless minutes spent swiping left or right, blurring into hours perfecting a dating profile, and becoming days spent as the third wheel with friends. Fifth or sixth wheel if you count their kids. Because everyone has kids – beautiful little creatures with senses of humor and budding manipulation techniques. I rest easy in knowing my biological clock isn’t tick-tocking loudly, scaring off potential mates. I have no longing desire to be a mother.  So, what then is it?

Too quickly, I find myself polling my male friends. Asking what I’m doing wrong and searching for clues in ambiguous texts and messages. I wonder if my snark is too much. If my quick retorts are too cutting. Not soft enough to be swallowed. I’m told I have an edge. An unapproachable air around me. A “No Bullshit Allowed” sign on my forehead. How do I change this? Do I want to change this? I look at my married friends. Full women who are themselves, always. Their husbands are accepting and engaging with every part of them. I begin to see them as the exception to the rule and I worry that I am too much of everything and not enough of the right thing. Not quite close enough.  I absorb the data and read the articles, each one making its case louder and louder in my head. I’m doing everything wrong and checking the wrong boxes. I am too loud, too ambitious, too sure of what I want. In order to rectify this, I have to smooth myself out and round my edges. Soften my laugh and purify my humor. Everyone’s message is loud and clear, “If you do it, he will come”.

Next year will be four years after.  I wonder what I will be. Will I be content in my solitude? A measured peace enveloping my entire being.  Will I stumble into a relationship? Two wholes somehow forming a We. Blending into each other, in bite-sized pieces, making it easy to consume. I try to force myself to stop thinking. Stop wondering. Just. Stop. I train my brain to shift gears and focus on textbooks for night classes and articles for newsletters. Anything but. And it works, for a while. But all too quickly, I am back on the metro, a couple before me. Him standing tall, hand grasping the pole, swaying to the pull of the subway car. Her, inches before him. Leaning in, ever so gently, countering his sway.

Get Your 2015 Paws & Pinups Calendar Now!

So, recently, I put on my fancy “put yourself out there” hat and was a Calendar Girl for a Cause. Paws & Pinups was the vehicle for raising awareness for animal rescue. And, Homeward Trails Animal Rescue, a non-profit in the DC-VA-MD metropolitan area, was the cause. The whole adventure was a blast and my mom has, no doubt, already embarrassed me by showing her copy around to coworkers, grocery store clerks, and random passers bys on the street. She’s just that kind of person. But I can cling to the silver lining that she lacks intermediate technology skills – and a working laptop – so she can’t share this video around in a massive chain email.

However, I can, and if you don’t buy a calendar or share this video, you’ll [insert horribly offensive and unimaginative thinly veiled threat here].

Starbuck’s Christmas Cups are a Metaphor for Everything That’s Wrong in the World

You know that guy you like at work? He always wears a crisp blue shirt and smells like the men’s department at Macy’s. Dreamy McDreamboat. You crush hard. Weaving his face into your dreams and your fantasies. Conning to sit next to him in staff meetings. Waiting to catch the elevator with him for the ride down to the parking garage. Then it happens. You both drink too much at happy hour. He flirts, you smile and the evening ends in a tangle of bedsheets. Now you’re sheepishly avoiding each other in the hallway at work. You can’t go back and undo what you’ve done, so now what?

Too much too soon. You desire something so much, for so long, that as soon as it’s available you gobble it down whole. Not even savoring the intricacies of it. Much like that batch of vegan, double chocolate donuts I baked, it’s done and over with before it was enjoyed.

It’s hard to slow yourself down though. When you’re left wanting, it’s natural to give in when the temptation stands before you. Ready and willing. I’m trying to slow myself down and savor the taste of the rainbow. But, dammit it’s hard. After a certain point, you get tired of waiting and you’re ready to skip ahead to the having. I would like to think that the next relationship I have can be a slow burn. A flicker of mutual like that slowly grows into a crackling fire of lust, and then becomes a sustaining flame of love. Something I wouldn’t worry about discarding with the changing of the seasons. Sometimes waiting makes it worth it. If it’s too quickly consumed then it loses its appeal. Something that anyone can have. My next relationship will not be the red Starbucks cups that come out before the Halloween candy has even been digested. It will not be the Christmas muzak that no one can stand a mere two weeks later. No, it will be the special edition, gold plated coffee mug that sits high on a shelf. Waiting to be picked up and given a home.

Look Ma! I’m a Pin-Up Girl!

A few years ago, having ended a five-year relationship and subsequent engagement, I decided that I was going to go “balls to the walls” and try new things. I had spent the last five years as part of a set and as a newly minted “single”  I wanted to test my limits and put myself in foreign situations. First, I decided to join a book club with some former high school friends. This risk was mediocre at best, since I already knew a few people in the book club. But, still, I was branching out and being The New Makea.

The next step was to “put myself out there”. I had always been curious as to how Baltimore Magazine selected it’s Top Singles every year, so I decided to nominate myself so I could get the deets on how the whole process goes down. After receiving an email with a questionnaire, I crafted witty, yet honest answers to roughly 20 questions and sent along a headshot. A few weeks later, I received a phone call that I had been selected for the 2013 Top Singles. If being featured in a regional magazine as an alleged Top Single isn’t putting oneself out there, then I don’t want to know what you consider putting yourself out there because I’d probably be adverse to committing it. It would undoubtedly involve nudity and perhaps a bad trip, so nothankyouverymuch.

The final stage (yes, I have decided I am done with putting myself out there as it is exhausting and the only thing left would be nudity and some sort of inebriation) culminated yesterday at the Pinups & Paws calendar reveal party in Georgetown, DC. My friend and I took the MARC train from Baltimore Sunday morning and arrived in DC around noon. We hopped on the Circulator and sweated our way through the city before arriving at Pizza Paradiso on M Street. There we were greeted by the Pinups & Paws founder, Jen, and my fellow calendar ladies. I was rather nervous to see my “full spread” in the calendar. Despite the fact that I do this sort of crazy shit, I was not looking forward to seeing my full body picture. However, I was pleasantly surprised at the outcome. I actually love my photo and thus, I feasted. I, Miss July 2015, chowed down on the best sausage and pepperoni pizza I have ever had. It was delicious. #worthit

So, what is next for me? Idk…maybe I’ll finally get around to writing something that will be published. By someone other than me :)

If You Write It, They Will Come

I’ve had a hard time focusing lately. Between commuting to DC for work, taking two grad school classes at night, and being your everyday, moderately social 30 year old single lady, I am exhausted. And a tired writer doesn’t write. Much like a hungry writer doesn’t write. Or a sleepy writer doesn’t write. This saying can easily be applied to just about anything. The problem it that I want to write. So many times snippets of character dialogue or random scenes pop into my head. I think about writing them down, but then I don’t. I’m never going to become a well-respected, self-published author at this rate.

cat-reading-a-book-with-glasses-600x384

I have begun endless personal essays and satires on dating, being single, living alone, and having a vagina. Much to my amazement, none of them are even close to being finished! How does Stephen King write so much, so quickly? Maybe I should move back over to fiction for a while. Get out of my head a bit and get into someone else’s. Create a charming love story about a girl and guy who meet on a commuter train to the big city. She’s a pack rat. He’s an OCD freak. She loves sleeping in and bathing only twice a week. He flosses at work. Will true love prevail?

Book Cat

Or maybe I just need a push. I have plans to go speed dating with a coworker of mine. That should prove to be inspirational. Or, at the very least, hysterically depressing. It will definitely make for a good brunch story. Two hapless females wander into a dimly lit bar with bad house music playing in the background. Neither one of them has any idea of what awaits them. Both are looking for love, but only one will make it home alive. Oh, wait. I just crossed genres. Is this a self-deprecating personal essay or creepy short story? Blood, Guts, Gore, and Love?

louis-wain-cat-reading-book

Kerry Washington: Help Me and Purple Purse Fight Domestic Violence Against Women

Originally posted on InStyle:

[tiImage width=”594″ height=”442″ url=”http://img2.timeinc.net/instyle/images/2014/WRN/091714-kerry-washington-purple-bag-594.jpg” credit=”PRNewsFoto/Allstate Foundation” align=”center” border=”1″ alt=”Kerry Washington” burst=”” burstpos=”top-right”]

As an ambassador for Allstate Foundation’s Purple Purse Program,Kerry Washington is able to use her love for fashion to support a cause that’s close to her heart. Below, she shares all the details of the project with InStyle as today’s guest editor. Check back throughout the day for exclusive content straight from the star herself at InStyle.com/kerryday.

When Allstate Foundation’s Purple Purse Program reached out to me, I was deeply inspired to collaborate with them. I have worked around the issue of violence against women for a long time (with other organizations like V-Day), but I never thought about financial abuse in this specific, explicit way. I realized the opportunity to work with Purple Purse by designing a bag that represents empowerment, encourages awareness, and aids in getting women the help they need, would be…

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One Day

Friday

5 a.m. – Wake up, turn off alarm, and pretend you don’t actually have to get up. Five seconds later, force yourself out of bed and stretch. Your dog stretches with you. He feels your pain. No, actually, he doesn’t care. What he does care about is you walking him. Now. Go through your morning routine: empty your bladder, brush your teeth, wash your face, change into yoga pants and a sweatshirt. Consider how much yoga you actually do in said yoga pants (none) and decide to call them “dog walking pants” from now on.

5:15 a.m. – Quickly walk your dog around the block. Scan the shadows for stranger danger and early bird (or night owl) prostitutes. Mentally kick yourself for thinking that waking up at 5 am so that you can commute to a job in DC was a great idea. The opportunity! The Experience! Ugh….

5:30 a.m. – Rush to get ready for work back at your apartment. Pour a bowl of the same cereal you’ve been eating for three months straight. Make a mental note to buy different cereal next time you go grocery shopping, then make an actual note on your shopping list pad on the fridge. Check your pantry for signs of THE MOUSE. Mentally curse THE MOUSE and roll your eyes at how you haven’t evolved to have laser beams shoot from your eyes yet. Cyclops was one lucky bastard.

6:00 a.m. – Drive to the train station listening to NPR. Momentarily think about how adult you are for listening to NPR. Look at you, being cultured and informed. Immediately forget all of that as some ass-hat cuts you off. It’s freaking 6 a.m.! Where does HE have to be that’s sooooo important? Look down at the clock and press down on the accelerator….you’re never going to find a parking space now.

6:10 a.m. – Circle around the block for the fifth time. WHAT. THE. FUCK. How is it that there are no parking spaces when you arrive a mere 5 minutes later than you usually do? How does that even happen? Where did all of these people come from? Eventually park in a spot that looks like a spot, but could really not be a spot if a parking enforcement officer decides to be a dick that day. Please don’t let the parking enforcement officer be a dick today….please.

7:25 a.m. – Enjoy having the double train seat to yourself until someone sits down. Briefly glance up to see if said someone is an attractive male. Quickly look down upon finding out that he is not. Continue reading your book.

7:30 a.m. – Reach the end of the novel you are reading for your book club. Muster up every nerve to not cry on the train. MUST. NOT. CRY. OVER. STUPIDLY. WONDERFUL. MAGNIFICENT. BOOK.

7:45 a.m. – Speed walk to your office building after fighting your way through the subway and up the escalator. Does this ever get any easier?

8:15 a.m. – Drink first (technically second cup since you made coffee at home before you left) cup of coffee at work. Proceed to go through your emails and calendar to figure out what to work on.

9:00 a.m. – Drink second (third) cup of coffee. Check Facebook. Scroll through your Twitter feed. Minimize windows and pull up a random Word document when someone walks by.

10:00 a.m. – Search Google for images of cats eating sushi. Email coworker picture of cat licking sushi. Ask if sushi lunch is still happening.

10:30 a.m. – Accept appointment invitation for sushi lunch via Outlook.

11:45 a.m. – Meet coworkers at the elevators for your sushi lunch. Spend the next hour joking around and thoroughly enjoying your coworkers/friends. Make a mental note to try to keep in touch with them when you leave this job. It’s only been 4 months, but damn this commute. Voice your concern about how long you can stay here after another coworker brings up the same issue: “I mean, I don’t have a baby crying for food. Why the fuck am I getting up at 5 a.m.?” Mentally pat yourself on the back when they laugh at your joke. Continue laughing and joking around. These chicks rule.

1:00 p.m. – Pretend to read the budget report the CEO emailed you yesterday. Scroll through Instagram on your phone. Play your turn in three Words with Friends games. Wish you had started using the cheat website. What word can you make from GVUAAI?

2:00 p.m. – Make a mental note to masturbate tonight. Wait, will you be too tired? Sigh when it dawns on you that you just scheduled a date night with yourself and almost backed out due to exhaustion and possible headache.

3:50 p.m. – Shut down your computer and pack up your things. Attempt to contain the sheer excitement you have just knowing you get to go home and do nothing for two whole days. The weekend what a lovely concept. Remind yourself to rewatch an episode of The Leftovers – the one with him running.

4:30 p.m. – Sit on the train and realize you didn’t bring another book to read. DAMN. IT. Listen to your iPod and pretend to fall asleep.

6:30 p.m. – Eat dinner alone, while sitting on the living room floor, using the coffee table. Debate ordering a movie and settle for Netflix in bed with a glass of red wine.

11:45 p.m. – Fall asleep and dream of about Justin Theroux.