Friday, December 29, 2006

Missing Something Podcast

Penny recently had me as a guest on her podcast, which was a blast. We discussed blogging, podcasting, what it's like putting your innermost feelings out there for the public, and a variety of other things, including my crazy plan to get Barman Ben to fall for me. We chatted for an hour, which Penny whittled down to, well, nearly 48 minutes. Long, but very off-the-cuff and (I like to think) entertaining.

For anyone curious, the podcast can be found here.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Kiss and Run

I spent my birthday with Polly and Coworker Chris. I didn't want to do a big dinner or party, and in the weeks leading up to it, felt guilty that my friends' enthusiasm for my big day overshadowed my own. Then I had that recent sunny breakthrough and decided it would be a great birthday no matter what. I wasn't aiming for legendary, just positive, upbeat, and enjoyable (though kisses would be a definite bonus).

I spent part of the day on my own, though I received emails, phone calls, and texts throughout day wishing me well (I even got a Happy Birthday MySpace comment from Arty Adam!). It was nice to have some quiet time before meeting my pals; I took a long walk in the park, and the pretty scenery and endorphins helped my affirmation that this would be my best year ever.

The main destination that night was Cozy Bar, from the previous week. I'm not proud to admit this, but I have developed something of a crush on Barman Ben, who I maybe had a moment with the last time I was there. When we entered the place, I got the butterflies, the plummeting elevator sensation. He remembered me, and when I told him it was my birthday, reached across the bar, took my hand, and brought me in for a kiss on the cheek. Except that I turned my head a bit and there was some slight lip grazing. Oh my. It was both embarrassing and electrifying. I was rendered dumbstruck, unable to say anything without thinking I sounded utterly foolish and barely coherent. I haven't felt so off my game since the third grade, when I fell in "love" with my older (6th grade!) hall monitor (red hair, blue eyes, freckles, beyond adorable; I exchanged maybe three sentences with him my whole life, yet still Google him every few years).

Barman Ben and I did have a brief conversation, about music, during which I spent most of the time thinking things like, "Oh my god, Barman Ben is really talking to me, about non-alcohol-related things." "Oh my god, he just asked about my music tastes. I know this one. Um..." "Oh my god, he is totally lingering on this side of the bar. I hope he never goes away. Alas, there he goes."

Yeah. I kind of have it bad.

When I turned back to Polly and Chris, I was barely able to form coherent sentences. I know it's just transference, because I haven't met anyone I like in a while, etc. but he is so goddamn debonair I can't stand it. The best I could do was try not to spill my drink or look too starstruck, and keep the staring to a minimum.

Luckily, Polly brought her A game, and practiced a new technique she's pioneering called the Lasso and Abandon. She tried it out at the big holiday party last week, where she started chatting up a cute-ish computer programmer (Lasso), introduced him to Roommate Rachel, and then left the two of them to it (Abandon).

After a cigarette break, I came back inside to see that Polly was talking to a reasonably attractive guy (Lasso). I came over and he turned his attention to me; since Polly is now dating someone, I didn't have to worry that I was entering in medias flirt (she also made it easier by turning away and talking to Chris: Abandon).

Architect Abe was a couple of years younger than me and I can barely remember what he looked like beyond being cute (Brown hair? Brown eyes?). He wished me a happy birthday and we chit-chatted about who knows what. At what point, I asked,

"What are your favorite movies? And you're not allowed to say Star Wars, The Godfather, Taxi Driver, The Matrix..."

"How about The Lord of the Rings?"

"Nope, you can't say that one, either. That's another typical favorite boy movie."

He must have found my film snobbishness charming, because he not only stayed around for a while, but bought me a drink and also gave me a small box of Godiva chocolates that he had in his pocket. Sweet, no? Meanwhile, I had already determined that it couldn't possibly work, because one of his favorite musicians is Jay-Z (considering some of the questionable material in my collection, I fully own up to the fact that I have no right to be a music snob. And yet...). Even so, I kept on with the flirting.

We took smoke breaks now and again, played a game of pool (I won! A birthday miracle), and I tried to send telepathic signals to Barman Ben that he was the one I really wanted, yet my dashing cocktail man wasn't picking up on them.

It started drizzling, and Architect Abe and I huddled in a doorway to smoke another cigarette. He had his arm around my waist and I was leaning into him, and I knew what was coming, but I still started the short trip back to the bar, except that I semi-stumbled and laughed at my big shoes (I swear, I wasn't that drunk). Abe helped steady me, and then kissed me. It was a nice kiss, then a nice mini-makeout session, except for two things:

1. All of a sudden, I was very, very dizzy. Not tipsy dizzy, not smitten dizzy, but disoriented dizzy.

2. All of a sudden, despite the pleasant smooching, I felt a terrible urge to go away.

Which was a problem, because Abe was all set to come to Bar Z, our next destination, with us.

"Now we're really celebrating your birthday. Let's go to Bar Z and get some more drinks."

Back inside Cozy Bar, I started mildly panicking.

"We have to go now. Right now," I hissed to Polly and Chris.

Abe was at another part of the bar, presumably saying goodbye to his friends. My friends and I made a swift exit without him seeing, though I did manage to say good-bye to Barman Ben (another handshake and a "Nice to see you again" which is surely "Will you bear my children?" in BarSpeak. No?).

Outside, it was now raining in earnest.

"What's going on?" My friends asked.

"Run!"

"Aren't we going to Bar Z?"

"No! That's the last bar we can go to now!" I scurried around the corner. "Hurry, he can't see us!"

"What happened?"

"We made out and I got birthday kisses and they were good and yay. But then, I just needed to leave. I couldn't have him be my date for the rest of the evening. I don't know what's wrong with me."

"Dolly, that's terrible," Chris chastised. "You just kiss a guy and run away?"

"I couldn't help it. He was so sweet, too. He gave me chocolates."

Coworker Chris continued to admonish my bad behavior. Polly left to spend the night with her man shortly thereafter, but Chris and stayed out for a couple more drinks. There was some platonic snuggling, and a mutual agreement that we would never make out, ever.

"I got my birthday kisses, so I'm good."

Chris shook his head.

"I know, I'm awful."

I still don't know what got into me. Was the idea of meeting a cool, down to earth guy so frightening to me? Have I become so commitment-phobic that I couldn't bear the idea of going to a second bar with him? Was the kissing too underwhelming? Has Barman Ben temporarily ruined me for other men with his stoic dreaminess? Sadly, I can affirmatively answer that last one.

All in all, a lovely birthday with lovely people. I believe karma did pay me back for the kiss and run with my first ever case of pink eye shortly thereafter (unpleasant!). Nevertheless, I like to think that the slate is now clean. Just in time for the new year.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

new me

Well I see that the world is upside-down
Seems that my pockets were filled up with gold
And now the clouds, well they've covered over
And the wind is blowing cold
Well I don't need anybody, because I learned, I learned to be alone
Well I said anywhere, anywhere, anywhere I lay my head, boys
Well I gonna call my home

~Tom Waits

We interrupt this moping to bring you a special bulletin:

Alright, I've had it. The other day, it dawned on me that I have been depressed for three months now. Three months! Lame lame lame. I have astounded myself with these lows, and have come close to giving up time and time again. That's just not right. It's time for me to do something about it. Enough crying, enough letting things happen, enough feeling sorry about it all, enough drifting. It's time to do some steering.

Since endorphins have been a great source of sanity, I'm going to kick up the diet and fitness regime a notch. I'll get more pro-active with the job/career options. It life gets too monotonous, I'll look into volunteering somewhere. And If the depression doesn't let up in the next month, I may even see a counselor.

I always love a good comeback, and there's no reason why this time it can't be me. Tabula rasa and all that. I'm going to work on Dolly 2.0, and the new model is going to rock.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

booze bad

I came home from brunch with Willow today and cried and cried. I know, I'm tired of it too.

As is seemingly everyone I know, we're having a rough holiday season. Throw in an impending birthday and the mean reds are coming fast upon me again.

We swore we'd come up with something fun for New Year's, but it's tough to feel festive.

"It's like I'm failing on all counts," I said outside, post-eggs Benedict. "It's not just because I'm single. If I was on a career track I loved, it wouldn't be so bad; I could throw myself into my job. Or if I was in the midst of writing something great, I could immerse myself in creating a story. But I don't have a single person or thing to focus my passion on."

"I know what you mean. I'm in the same boat. I'm so ready to say good-bye to this year."

The weekend was a bit of a mess. Friday I went to a massive fancy holiday party with Coworker Chris, Polly, and Roommate Rachel. For whatever idiotic reason, I didn't eat much and went into conveyer-belt-drink-mode, to the point where I lost count but got very, very wasted. Coworker Chris did, too, and we flirted and bantered and held hands and it was all what the hell is going on, we're acting like a couple and we so aren't.

"It's inevitable," I told him. "We're going to make out some day and it's going to be 'eh' but it'll be out of our system and will affirm that we're not attracted to each other, and we'll go back to being friends."

"You think that's what's going to happen?"

"I know it."

A little later in the night, we were talking about sex I was telling him about this one place in the back of my neck where I like to be touched--a place that most of the men I've dated have been ignorant of--and he asked,

"Where? Here?"

And I just closed my eyes and couldn't answer. Yes. There.

I know we don't fancy each other, I know we're not meant for each other, I know it will be friends first and last and always, but there was so much alcohol in my bloodstream, which makes me crave smoking or kissing and he was right there and I possibly maybe a little bit tried to kiss him. He pulled away and I'm so glad he did. What was my problem?

"There isn't going to be any awkwardness because of this," I promised.

Miraculously, I didn't get sick. I fought off a hangover the next day with a greasy burger and brisk five mile walk.

I like to think it's temporary and only because of party season, but I'm worried I'm becoming something of a social alcoholic. I can go days without drinking, but once I start, I want to reach that numb happy place. Like last night, with Podcast Penny.

We went to a club, which was full of couples, so many couples. They seem to be everywhere these days.

I was going to try to keep it to soda, but social anxiety got the best of me. Penny and I did a shot, then another, then another. We went outside for a cigarette.

"It's like I've forgotten how to talk to people," Penny said. "I'm not there yet. I'm just too jaded."

"It's hard for me, too. Though you gotta fight that cynicism." It's like quicksand, the way it pulls you down. Optimism takes effort.

A few hours and a few drinks later we were about to go. While Penny was in the bathroom, a man came over to me. I wasn't attracted and there was something very fey about him, but decided not to be rude. He shook my hand, or rather limply grazed the tips of my fingers. His mannerisms were effeminate. His favorite bands were Pet Shop Boys and Erasure. He bought me a drink, so I felt obligated to chat a little. He was a slow talker, offered short answers to my questions and did not ask many of his own. We're talking glacial pacing that would've made Tarkovsky jealous. I let the conversation lapse into dead silence. Podcast Penny, where are you?

"Would you like to get together sometime?"

What I really wanted to say is, You are GAY, so I don't know why you're asking me out, especially since it's clear we can't sustain a five minute conversation, and have less than zero chemistry. Instead, I made up some crap about still getting over a break-up, but did give him my email out of guilt. I really should have said no to that drink, but I've been feeling so unattractive, and low self-esteem plus alcohol can result in some bad decisions (as any Girls Gone Wild video can attest to).

Then there's today. Woke up from a nightmare in which my boss was yelling at me. As I was leaving the apartment to meet Willow, I heard the sounds of sex being had. I felt a little sick, because it seemed close by, like across the hall close. Outside, Neighbor Neil's blinds, which are usually pulled up a few inches, were down all the way.

I tried to tell myself I'm not interested in him, anyway. I reminded myself that I could have sex with Sean Pennish who, after my drunken text rampage, had invited me to come over Thursday (I never replied). Hell, I reminded myself that I could have had sex with Neighbor Neil. None of it mattered. It's not a sex thing; it's the thing I see in the couples surrounding me: the connection, the love, the safety, the affection.

I fight it and fight it, but it's no good: a profound loneliness comes over me. It's back, and it's fierce.

After the mutual venting at brunch, and my petit breakdown back home, I made myself go out to a cafe, and spent several hours drinking tea and reading a book about writing. Quite enlightening and also mellowed me out; felt like I was doing something good for myself.

Got some bread, salad, and olives for dinner. Watched In the Mood For Love, figuring something dark, nuanced, and subtle would fit my mood. Figured correctly, too--at first. There's this one scene where a birthday song is played for Maggie Cheung's character on the radio, and she is alone in her apartment listening to it. I mean, the film is a meditation on loneliness to begin with, but throw in a sad birthday tune and that's me gone. I cried again, not wanting it to be my birthday so soon. Time passes and I have so little to show for it.

I'm going to spend most of this week drying out. I know, I know, I'm kind of a wreck.

There I was, thinking I turned a corner. I tried. I'll keep trying.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

'tis the season to be tipsy

Lord almighty, am I hungover today. Holiday party last night, open bar. I considered it something of a rehearsal for Friday's holiday party, which is going to have many open bars. I was only going to stay for a couple and go to my book club meeting like a good girl.

Four glasses of wine later, Polly says,

"We haven't hung out like this in months. I missed you! Skip the book club. Let's go drinking in Brooklyn Neighborhood."

"But I actually read this damn 500-page book! I killed myself getting through this thing."

"Well, then I'll read it, and we'll discuss it. Now let's go to Brooklyn Neighborhood. We have so much fun together."

"You are the devil."

The only other option was crashing the Wachovia party next door, but that was looking pretty boring, so off we went. How could I resist? The magic was back.

I think molecules shift and currents around us become charged when we're together. There's no other way I can explain the strange energy that Polly and I conjure up between us. We have this crazy bond and anyone who sees us together can sense it. It's our own private social bubble, but turns the rest of the world into an exciting place where anything can happen.

On to Brooklyn!

The first cozy bar we went to was manned by the loveliest and most dangerously charming bartender on the planet. He had me smitten within minutes and I had to keep reminding myself that his job is to flirt with women. Wow, but did he do an amazing job, the conspiratorial way he looked at me, the way he spoke to me (I can't remember verbatim, because yay alcohol, but it was intense). And I am not being delusional, but I swear there was a spark between us.

I waited to use the ladies room and he came out.

"What are you doing using the ladies room? You are no lady," I joked.

The man made me weak in the knees the way he looked at me; so scary.

He took both of my hands in his, squeezed them, said nothing, returned to the bar. Excuse me while I turn into a puddle.

More wine and it was time for a venue change. Down the street and we ended up drinking blue cocktails (good idea after so much wine, no?).

Decided it was a really good idea to drunken text Sean Pennish. He emailed me recently, as he usually does when he sees my Friendster status as single. Not worth the trip for mediocre sex, but I'm reaching the three month celibacy point, which is when I start to get cranky, and he is one of the only men on the planet I can sleep with and not get emotionally attached to.

He tried to get me to come over, but no way, no way. This weekend, maybe. I have nothing slated for the weekend. Would much rather hold out for better, though.

Almost made it home at a decent hour, but on our way out, my craving for a cigarette got the best of me.

"I hate to ask you for a cigarette, but I am absolutely dying for one." I pleaded with a guy smoking outside.

"Tell you what, I'll give you a cigarette, but you have to come back inside and have another drink."

Twist. My. Arm.

More blue boozy goodness, conversation with Sales Sam and it wasn't flirtatious, so I started chattering on about my blog, even gave him the link before I left, because why not.

Came home, checked my email, and sent a friendship request on a networking site to a guy in London, saying, "you are cute, I am drunk, and we have music in common. All good reasons to be friends." Seriously, people, keep all electronic gadgets away from me when I drink.

Feel like hell on toast today, but oddly happy. Anticipating the future instead of dreading it. Depression lifting? Let's hope. Medicating with alcohol? A little, but I'm sensing a shift.

I can't believe I'm about to say this after being Mistress of Gloom for so long, but I feel like something good is about to happen.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Glam Band and beyond

"Are you sure you want to go to this party?" Podcast Penny asked, "There are going to be no prospects there."

Sober Sandy and I shrugged. I'm kind of wondering if there are prospects anywhere in the city, so it hardly mattered whether we were going to stay in Hell's Kitchen or attend Glam Band's after-party in a Brooklyn loft. Judging from their last concert and party, I expected lots of gay boys, college students, hipsters, or a combination thereof. We piled in a taxi, and during the ride I thought about whether I should keep going and take the car home, finishing the night just before 1:00am with a live show, a few glasses of wine, and some light socializing, or keep on going.

"Screw it, let's check out the party."

During the ride, Podcast Penny mentioned the older business man she has just begun a fling with. Sober Sandy mentioned a married man she was trying to not to think about.

"Yeah, married guys, bad news." I shook my head. "That's never even an option for me. It's so annoying, too, because I swear, every good-looking guy I have seen on the subway in the last month has been wearing a wedding band."

Penny and Sandy talked about guys for a bit.

"Sounds like I'm the only one without anyone lined up," I quipped. Not in a boo-hoo way, but a a state-of-the-nation way.

"Nobody at all?" Sandy asked.

"Nope. Haven't been on a date in months. Which is fine, I've sort of expected this dry spell. I'm not really out there."

The loft was already brimming with party-goers, adding to the expected crowd a couple of burlesque dancers who later performed (fans, tassels, titties, the whole shebang).

I saw an attractive man a few feet away, kind of a taller version of Seth Green, and straight-looking (though lord knows I don't have the best gaydar). As soon as I registered his cuteness, a girl came over, sat on the arm of the couch beside him, and leaned over to say something in his ear. A girlfriend. Of course. Better to turn my attention to the bar.

I talked to Glam Drummer about his self-proclaimed lack of heart ("the wires in your chest are what help you keep the rhythm, right?" "Right!"), complimented Glam Singer's everlasting eye make-up, and discussed the bean dip with a legendary rock journalist (I wanted to ask him about Bono, like so, so much, but played it cool).

"Want to go smoke a cigarette?" Podcast Penny asked.

"Definitely."

Down a corridor, the loft became more of a warehouse, with large tables covered with planks of wood and mysterious tools propped up everywhere. A metal gate was pulled halfway up to reveal a fire escape with two stairways, one leading up, the other down.

Seth Greener was sitting on the down staircase with the girl, who had a mini-Gina Gershon thing going on. He was even more attractive up close, and I couldn't get cranky about his cute coupleness with Mini-G, because they started chatting with us, and turned out to be total darlings.

We talked about Glam Band and how much fun they are.

"We try to see them as often as we can," said Mini-G.

"It's my second time seeing them and I thought tonight's show was even better than the last one," I grinned.

"Yeah, I remember seeing both of you," said Seth Greener.

He did?

We talked about the merits of living in Manhattan, the outer boroughs, and Jersey City (where the two resided).

"I could never live in Manhattan," I shook my head, "Because sometimes I just.. well, hate people. And you really can't get away from them in Manhattan."

Seth Greener laughed and nodded in agreement.

Back inside, Glam Band were finishing up an acoustic set. I made another drink and Sober Sandy came over, showing Podcast Patty and me some moves from her cardio striptease class.

"You should show those girls how it's done," I pointed to the evolving dance party in the open part of the living room.

"I will!"

I found myself standing alone, at the edge of the crowd, observing the party around me. Seth Greener was close by, and I peripherally caught him looking over at me, a few times.

Off limits, I told myself.

"What are you drinking?"

I looked down into my cup, at the dark red liquid, and had to think for a moment, partly because I couldn't remember, and partly because I was surprised he was chatting me up. At first I thought it was friendly conversation, but there was something a little more to it, I just knew.

We discussed the pointlessness of liberal arts degrees and living abroad and he was charming and funny and oh-so-confusing, because what the hell was the deal with him and Mini-G?

"I think we're going to call a car soon," Podcast Penny came over, looking vaguely apologetic.

Phew, saved by the car.

A Justin Timberlake song came on.

"You can't leave now," Seth Greener said, "They're starting a Justin Timberlake dance party."

"Do you think there'll be a dance-off? That would be awesome." I watched the hipsters get their groove on.

"I do have a soft spot for Justin," Patty admitted.

"See? You can't go," he turned to me, "Do you want to go smoke a cigarette?"

"Sure," Before I could think about it, I got my coat and we made a mad dash for the fire escape.

Outside, he sat very close to me, and we looked at the creepy alley below us filled with car parts.

"That is one creepy alley," he commented.

"It sure is. But it's creepy in a perfect way. I want my creepy alley to have at least one fender and loose hubcap piled against a fence."

"That's the kind of place you go to get killed. Would you want to go down there? Because I wouldn't."

Suddenly, the creepy alley was hilarious.

"No, I definitely wouldn't want to go down there, either. Given the choice between going down there and staying up here, I'll choose up here, thanks."

We laughed and laughed and laughed. Then we did the thing where our heads leaned in and--

Am I going to go to hell for this?

--I let him kiss me. Four things went through my head:

1. I really miss kissing. Kissing is so great.

2. This is nice, but kissing is so much nicer when there's emotion behind it.

3. I wonder if Mini-G is his girlfriend. Maybe they have an open relationship or are shopping for a threesome or something (which I would in no way be down with, being neither bi nor curious).

4. I should probably find out this guy's name.

We made out for several minutes, during which I tried not to set anything aflame with my cigarette. As with Neighbor Neil, the kissing was a bit awkward in the beginning, then we found a groove and our mouths were in synch.

"What's your name?" I asked, when we finally came up for air.

He told me, but I'm going to keep calling him Seth Greener (because it's fun).

"So was that girl your girlfriend?"

"No, she's my roommate."

Oh! No hell for this girl, then.

We kissed some more, and I felt him shivering beneath his t-shirt and suit jacket. Much as I'd like to take the credit for it, I'm pretty sure it was due to all those Arctic winds blowing about.

We took the action inside, into the warehouse/woodshed.

"I have to go," I said, trying to pull away.

"In a minute." He pulled me into another kiss and another, laughing as we tumbled onto a pile of lumber.

My phone beeped. Had to be Penny.

"I can't have my friends leave without me."

"In a minute," he said again.

The kisses became more intense and just as it was getting really hot, I pulled back.

"I really have to go."

No numbers exchanged, which was fine, because that's better than waiting for a call that might not come (I hate waiting for them to call). I did like him and would have seen him again (I'm trying to do this thing where I try to get to know a guy a little before kissing him), but he's five years younger than me, and as I said to Sober Sandy earlier, I prefer if there's only one struggling artist per couple, that being me.

I finally made it downstairs.

"Somebody's lipstick is non-existent," Sandy raised her eyebrows.

"I can't believe I got kisses. I really didn't expect it. What a nice surprise."

"Are you going to blog about this?" Patty asked.

"Of course! I haven't kissed anyone since Neighbor Neil. I'll have to come up with blog names for the two of you."

We tossed around possible names. "Podcast Patty?"

"There's someone I don't like named Patty."

"Podcast Paula?" I wrinkled my nose, "I don't like that name. I'll think of something better."

"Are you going to put this conversation in your blog?" Sandy asked.

"Maybe... Can I just say I still can't believe I got kisses tonight? I don't even care that he didn't ask for my number."

"He'll probably see you at the next Glam Band show. He did remember you from the last one," Patty pointed out.

He did, didn't he.

Friday, December 08, 2006

How Not to be a Pickup Artist

In the last week or so, I have received the following messages from Realtor Rick:

"Are you fun?"

"How can i lose a pirate themed bet? Suggestions welcome."

"This is magic!
Keep pressing down & you'll see santa's willy
[space]
[space]
act your fucking age, there is no Santa! :) pervert!"

If there is such a thing as text spam, you're looking at it. What's next, offers on discount prescription meds, penis enlargements, and millions of dollars sitting in a Nigerian bank?

I was sorely tempted to reply "unsubscribe" to that last text, but I did not answer any of the above messages, because I know that any reaction to a PUA is considered a good reaction. Besides, it's much more fun to mock them in my blog. I actually wasn't even going to write about it, but it's been a slow week, so what the hell.

This made me realize some of the issues I've had with certain PUAs I've met. Many are fun and cool guys, but a lot of the time I end up feeling like I'm interacting with a caricature, not a person. There have been moments when I've been able to get past the PUA border and talk to the guy about real things, but they have been rare. Once, during a blogger outing, one PUA said I was throwing him off his game because we were discussing serious matters with actual depth (origins of the world, biology versus social programming, etc.). Which I would think would be a nice change from asking a dozen different women,

"Do you think David Bowie is hot?"

For some crazy reason, I thought Realtor Rick would be able to treat me like a friend, not a sounding board for text game. [Incidentally, if any man read the above messages and was even vaguely tempted to send one of them to a women, I implore you not to--unless you want to be The Cheesy Guy. Friends don't let friends send corny texts.]


I even tried to send him a more personal email, asking what he's been up to. The reply?

Even Pickup Artists Have Families.

Um, is that the title of the real email I was supposed to receive, or maybe a book report he is working on for the next lair meeting? Who knows. I just know my eyes are getting sore from rolling them so much.

I had the same problem with PUA Logan. I spent an entire weekend in Canada with him, but didn't get a sense that I got beyond the exterior player (or playa, as the kids today like to say) shell. It got to a point where I got really annoyed by his poking and hair pulling and throwing pieces of paper at me. The seduction community has a tip where they suggest treating the woman like she's your kid sister, but I always find that condescending and irritating, not the least bit attractive, and end up viewing the guy more as the annoying little brother I'm glad I never had.

To be fair, I know I have complained about men who are dull and ask the generic what-do-you-do-for-a-living questions. However, I think a certain amount of small talk is not so bad when you are just getting to know somebody, and there's a point at which the routines really do come across as phony and hollow. Maybe not to less suspecting or more foolish women, but to me there's something way contrived and trying-too-hard about that kind of thing. I'll give some credit for trying to be different, but it would be even cooler if different could also incorporate an element of being real.

From what I have observed of the seduction community, I wonder if some men experience a loss of identity in trying to be the ultimate confident alpha male. Yes, there's an element of self-improvement, if (IF) the information is processed a certain way, but I also think there's a risk for self-delusion, too. You know, Social Robot Syndrome.

I find that, while I still like a man to be dominant, I also go for vulnerability, maybe a streak of shyness or geekiness, and a range of human emotions other than perennial cheerfulness. You know, genuine layers of quirks and feelings and flaws that all people have. And sure, I'm a sucker for good banter, but there's a point where it needs to stop skimming the surface. Coworker Chris and I flirt and lob playful chatter at each other, but the next minute we might be sharing our innermost thoughts.

My point is, I know there are seduction guys who read this blog, and I know the lines and routines are going to be passed around and memorized and tested anyway, but I just wanted to give a shout out to, well, showing a bit of depth and range of character from time to time.

And seriously, the little sister thing? Please knock it off.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

anarchy in nyc

I see him all the time. I pass him on the street, I ride the same subway car with him, and this morning we went to the same gourmet deli for breakfast. There's a flicker of mutual recognition, but we never say anything to each other. I haven't seen Neighbor Neil, who lives six goddamn feet away from me, in three weeks. But Willow's ex, who lives in a completely different borough, but obviously works near me, crosses my path on a nearly weekly basis now. Further (minor) evidence of fate's utter refusal to be nice to me.

Willow and I went out last night. Things have been rocky for her as well, so we shared a nice cup of Life Sucks (as well as a giant pitcher of sangria). Work has been trying for Willow, she's expecting family drama over the holidays, and things with Spanish Sam did not work out. No tidy endings, either, he just drifted off, stopped returning phone calls. Which is more reasonable after a lackluster date or two, but after two months of passionate dating? A chorus of "what a loser" is called for.

"He used to have a much different life," Willow said, "He had the wife, the house, the car, the high paying job. He doesn't have any of that anymore."

"Maybe the divorce and all the crap that followed caused a kind of regression in him. He took the grownup, responsible route, and when it all fell apart maybe he decided not to do the adult thing for a while. Not that it excuses his disappearance and disregard for your feelings, but it could be a reason why."

"That makes sense," Willow nodded.

"I know that after getting knocked around by life the last few months, I feel like I've regressed to being all kinds of teenager. I cut off my hair, paint my nails black, listen to the angsty music I listened to a decade ago, and have an angry and destructive mindset. I feel separated from the rest of the world and generally hate people--present company excluded, of course."

"I know what you mean."

"Seriously, though," I continued, "if all this has taught me anything, it's that being a good person does not guarantee a happy ending."

"That's so depressing."

"Well, let's not say ending, but more that everyone is given hardships they have to deal with, and being sweet or nice does not mean a person will have an easy life or is even entitled to one."

Willow mentioned a rather bitchy and self-centered friend in her mid-20's, who has shot up the career ladder, found love with little diffuculty, and is getting married next year.

"It seems like everything has been handed to her, yet she still complains about friends her age who are becoming lawyers and doctors and making tons more money than her."

"There's always a reason to be dissatisfied," I shook my head.

The bartender refilled our sangria.

"And the fact of the matter is, half of our friends who are getting engaged and married now are going to be divorced within a few years. I can think of one or two people already who I don't think are going to make it."

I never heard sweet, thoughtful Willow sound so cynical. It was actually comforting, because I can't deal with saccharine peppiness right now. And sure, I know it's not good for us to wallow in our bitterness, but we have enough perspective to know it's a phase and will pass.

Call it a crisis of faith.

"At least you believe in God," I said to Willow.

"That doesn't always make it easier."

"Yeah, but they say God has a plan for everyone. I don't believe in God, so I'm just in the midst of a whole bunch of chaos right now."

Depression is defined as anger turned inward. Sometimes, I let the anger go a little, like last night, with Willow, and find comfort in the fact that we are both lost, anxious, sad, frustrated. We've had so many upbeat nights out, but I think it's a mark of true friendship that we were able to be real with each other, not put on a phony front, and still feel somewhat uplifted at the end of the evening. It was more validating than any things-will-get-better platitudes. Shared pain, real feelings, and an overriding theme of: "we just have to get through this, and we will."

When we were done with the sangria and asked for our check, the bartender poured us a free shot. It was dark brown and tasted like an alcoholic pancake.

"Thank you!" We trilled, and left a generous tip.

"Wow, that sangria seemed to go on and on and on. What a huge pitcher," Willow marveled.

"I know! It was like Jesus blessed it or something. No offense..."

Willow just laughed, ever easygoing.

That potent shot pushed us over into proper tipsiness, but also gave us just what we needed to deal with the bracing cold outside.

It's going to be a long winter.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

angst in my pants

"I meet guys I like and really connect with so rarely."

"That's because we're both romantics."

"You're right. Damn it."

This was after Coworker Chris and I downed specially concocted blue tequila shots. What better time to discuss the sorry state of our love lives. Chris has been dealing with a dramatic break-up that occurred nearly a year ago but still haunts and stings. I'm dealing with... well, nothing, which is its own problem, I guess.

I haven't talked about Coworker Chris much, but he has become a dear friend ever since we bonded at last year's company Christmas party playing Spot the Trophy Wife. Whenever there'd be a development between Chris and his ex we'd have an extensive discussion, and he was always one of the first people I went to after meeting a new guy or having a date or getting involved in a minor newspaper scandal. He's the Harry to my Sally, except that we're never going to date. Mind you, he's of the endangered Good Guy species, has a heart the size Montana, and gives good banter, but we are not each other's types and are too different in many ways (though I am not allowed to mention our conflicting music tastes, because Coworker Chris yelled at me about that last night and then went on about his love for The Cure, so I stand humbled and shamed). It's also nice to have a male friend to flirt with.

So there was alcohol flowing, there were cigarette breaks, there was banter. The bartender looked like Chris's ex, which was a bit upsetting to him, though he was holding steady.

After one of our cigarette breaks, when we went back into the bar, there was a jacket and bag on my chair.

"I'm sitting here," I said to the California-looking guy the next seat over.

"You are?"

"Yeah. I thought the jacket draped over the back of the chair and the drink were indicators of that, but I guess not."

He didn't reply for a while. A minute later, he turned to me and Coworker Chris and asked how we're doing tonight. Small talk ensued and I asked his name.

"Guess."

Oh lord.

"Just don't be a David."

"I'm not David. What's wrong with Davids?"

"They're trouble. Long story."

"So what's you're name?"

"Guess."

"Give me the first letter."

"I'll give you the second letter."

I guessed correctly on the first try. Let's call him Realtor Rick.

After some chit-chat, he mentioned a book he's working on. Bartender Betty told me a bit about it.

"Do you have a blog?" I asked Rick.

"I don't."

"You should start one. I've been a writer for 20 years, but it wasn't until I started a blog in the last year that agents started contacting me."

"What's your blog about?" Bartender Betty asked.

"Dating. Sex. I'm also friends with pickup artists, so I write about the seduction community from time to time."

"Wait, are you Dolly?" Realtor Rick asked.

My jaw dropped. "Yes. How do you know?"

Turns out Realtor Rick is a bit of a PUA himself. We talked shop for a bit and laughed at the coincidence, pausing to down another tequila shot from Bartender Betty. He invited me to the NYC lair meeting this Sunday, but unfortunately I can't make it because I won't be in town. I have to say, it was pretty cool being caught out like that. A first.

Rick emailed this morning: Let's keep in touch. You'd be a healthy addition to my entourage.

It's funny, because I recently ended my affiliation with Project Manhattan and didn't expect to have much interaction with the seduction community for a while. Then the other week, someone I know from PickUp101 emailed to let me know he's moving to NYC in January, and I heart the PickUp101 guys, so there will be hanging out. Then last night I met another freakin' pickup artist. Just when I think I'm getting out, they pull me back in.

Maybe this is a new everything-happens-for-a-reason chapter, maybe being around upbeat, flirtatious guys will pull me out of my slump. Unless it makes me more cynical about dating and courtship. Who knows. I mean, I find some aspects of pickups shady and manipulative and condescending and just plain lame, but it's not all bad. And hey, at least these guys are having the guts to put themselves on the line and approach women (unlike, oh, most of the male NYC population). Realtor Rick started up a conversation last night, and because of that I might have made a new friend. We should all talk to strangers more.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

(not) in the cards

The other day, Mom and I took a day trip to Atlantic City (because the family that gambles together stays together). The casino we favor is old school, with over-the-top d├ęcor (chandeliers the size of cars, filigree on every available column, railing, and archway, carpets with dizzying patterns and colors) and more old ladies at slot machines than you can shake a stick at. Going to Atlantic City is like a little escape from reality. I can pass the hours at a poker table, drinking free mimosas and marveling at the pot-bellied, mustachioed men and permed, over-bejeweled women sitting around me. Every other time I go, I am also mistaken by one of the dealers or pit bosses for a former cigarette girl ("you could be her twin!"), which is amusing.

The ingenious design of casinos, from the bright din of slot machines to the absence of windows and clocks, make it easy to get lost in the moment. Add to all of that the possibility of losing/winning lots of money for doing nothing more than pushing a button, putting down a few chips in the right square, or gesturing at a few playing cards, and you have yourself a place of vague squalor and surreal possibility.

I was dealt a full house my first hand out. Still groggy from the ride to New Jersey, my win didn't fully register. I didn't feel that rush of adrenaline that usually accompanies a gambling windfall. Gradually, I became more alert and started to enjoy the game and the people-observing. There was the pretty Asian lady who provided non-stop commentary at every hand and called out, "Gimme lady! Gimme lady!" whenever her hand contained a queen. There was a group of dopey Kevin-Federline-types who shouted monosyllabic comments to each other across the tables, proclaiming their dim-wittedness for anyone within earshot. There were the usual elderly married couples in sweatsuits. Then there was the young guy in a leather jacket who bore a passing resemblance to Peter Krause (Nate) from Six Feet Under, who sat down next to me--

Wait, hang on a second. Huh?

This wasn't possible. I rarely saw guys my age at the casino, and never, ever, ones I found attractive.


The second he sat down, I won a hand.

"See, you won because of me," he said.

I laughed. "Are you saying you are my lucky charm?"

"Clearly. Of course, I expect a half of your winnings for my cut."

"Oh, is that your commission?"

"It is. My name's Mark," he held out his hand.

I smiled and shook it. "Dolly."

Mark took his chips and placed a bet.

The dealer pointed to the spot for the bonus bet.

"I don't play it," he shook his head.

My eyes widened. "I thought I was one of the only people who don't play it. People even get upset with me. But it's a sucker bet."

"Exactly!"

I liked this guy already.

The next half hour or so was spent chatting and flirting, and being thoroughly distracted from my cards. I learned Mark is in marketing and lives one borough over. In fact, we're on opposite ends of the same subway line, which we take to the same stop to go to work.

"So what else..." Mark would ask, evidently wanting to keep the conversation going.

"Did you get here today?" I asked.

"Yeah, a little while ago. You?"

"I'm here with my mom, just for the day."

"I'm here with my mom, too," he seemed faintly sheepish, which was very cute.

"Mom doesn't really play the tables, though. She's more into slots."

"Same with my mom."

More pleasant chatter and then he said, "Well, I'm going to try my luck at roulette. It was nice talking to you."

"You too."

Just like that, he left.


Okay, so I can't always tell if a guy likes me (case in point, Neighbor Neil). In Marketing Mark's case, however, it was more than evident that he was into me. We were vibing and clearly had things in common (I mean, how many people go gambling with their mothers?). He was bold enough to sit down beside me and chat me up, yet didn't close the deal by getting my number. I don't know what happened. Could be that my avant garde movie tastes were a dealbreaker, or he just lost his nerve, or changed his mind. Either way, disappointing. Pretty much the theme of the season.

Ah well, at least I took some money home playing poker. Lucky in cards and all that.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

switching teams is not an option

"In a way, it's like we're dating," I said to Roommate Rachel.

We were at Bar S, shaking off the Monday blues over a drink.

"I mean, we spend lots of time together," I continued, "And we've grown pretty close the last couple of months. We just don't do the smooching part."

"Yeah, no offense, but I don't want to smooch you."

"Same here. Still, in some ways, it's like we're having a relationship. Except that it's more fun and not as draining as dating can be. I never feel like I'm wasting my time when we hang out."

"Me neither."

We did some more girl bonding, and I recounted Saturday's encounter with Neighbor Neil.

"On one hand, I'm glad we kissed, I needed to be kissed. On the other hand, he made it pretty clear that he's not interested in dating me, so I'm all out of prospects. I kind of officially give up. Which is fine, because that's when they say it happens, right?"

Rachel nodded.

"Great. Then from this moment on, I totally and unequivocally give up. I state for the record that I never expect to meet another suitable man ever again."

We laughed.

Rachel talked about her dating woes a bit. She was out on a couple of dates with a guy Coworker Chris nicknamed Slice, probably because of his generic nature (or maybe because we were drunk and Chris hadn't eaten dinner). Slice was attractive and attentive but, ultimately, fatally bland. Roommate Rachel couldn't bear the thought of hurting his feelings. We tried to figure out a nice way she could end things.

"Don't tell Slice you like someone else," I advised. "That's never nice for the ego. How about you tell him you have all this other life stuff to figure out, and it's overwhelming you?"

"Ooh, that's good. Because it is true."

"And that way it's not about him, it's all you."

"Brilliant. That's what I'll say."

I paused. "I believe what we just came up with is: It's not you, it's me. Very original."

"Poor Slice."

Back home, around 10:30, while Rachel and I watched Favorite Show, there was a knock on the door. Neighbor Neil.

"Just a minute!" I scrambled into my room to put on a bra. Damn, I'll never be able to lounge in sweats and no make-up now.

"Hey, I just back from classes, and wanted to return this to you."

At the door, Neil handed over the bottle what was left of the vodka we drank on Saturday.

"Wow, did we drink that much?!" I looked at how little was left.

"Well, it was open when we started... but, yeah, we did a pretty good job."

"High five."

We chatted for a few more minutes, with surprisingly little awkwardness.

When I returned to the living room, Rachel nodded and said,

"You two have chemistry."

"I think I'm shaking a little bit. Damn it, that means I like him."

"He likes you."

"What do you mean, how can you tell? You think so?"

"Yeah, he's just confused. He's young."

"He's my age."

"But you're still older."

"You're right. But how could you tell we had chemistry?"

"It was the rhythm of your talking. You and he have this rhythm that you and I don't have."

"The banter."

"Exactly. Like that Nick and Nora thing you were saying you wanted."

"I do want it. I mean, we don't need to solve Jazz Age mysteries together or name our dog Asta, but if I wanted a martini at ten in the morning, it would be nice to have a man who would make one for me. And vice versa. But it's not even about the martinis--I don't even like martinis all that much. It's more the playful banter; it's downright crucial."

"You have very high standards."

"Which is why I plan on being single for a while yet. Except that it's going to happen to both of us, and soon."

"You think so?" Rachel asked.

"You bet. It's going to be the winter of our content, remember?"

Rachel and I giggled.

"Yes. It has to be. It will."

Score one for optimism.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Wacky Neighbor

"I have been going through serious kiss withdrawl," I said to Billy on Saturday night. It was shaping up to be a typical night at Bar K with Willow and the gang. "Even so, you can't let me make out with anyone icky, no matter how much I drink tonight."

It wasn't going to be an issue. Bar K had an especially rowdy, fratty crowd that night, and the only man who flirted with me was an obese gay man who said,

"Honey, you are fierce. I'm gay, but I could do terrible things to you."

There isn't enough rum in the world.

The night got cut short by Willow's over-consumption of generously poured apple martinis.

"I think you should take Willow home, she's not feeling well," Billy said to me.

I won't get into the pukey specifics, but there was some hair-holding while Willow purged the evil alcohol from her belly. I bought her some ginger ale and, after some frustrated wandering, we finally managed to flag down a cab. There was a lot of apologizing on her part, and I offered sympathy, knowing her nausea that would make way for a monster of a hangover the following day. I've been there. I'm just glad I could offer a tiny bit of help.

The car dropped me off at my place some time after 1:30am, which felt early since I was still buzzed, but alert. I smoked a cigarette on the stoop, deciding to catch up on a Netflix or two before bed. I also wondered about Neighbor Neil.

I hadn't seen Neighbor Neil since our initial meeting on Tuesday. Despite any pathetic tactics I used to try to run into him again (humming as I entered the building, jangling my keys and taking a little too long to enter the apartment, taking out the recycling several times a day), I knew it would happen when I least expected it.

Just as I unlocked my apartment door and was about to step in, the door across the hall opened, and out walked Neighbor Neil. Looking taller and cuter than I remembered.

He asked about my night and I gave him the brief rundown, making sure to mention that I was still wide awake, since the evening ended sooner than I anticipated, and painting myself as a most selfless and heroic friend.

"What about you, are you just starting your night?" I joked.

He laughed. "No, I just came out to check the mail."

We chatted for several more minutes, about Favorite Show and a few other things, while I stood with a foot propping open my front door. We both kept finding reasons to prolong the conversation and Neil finally asked,

"Hey, since you're still up, do you want to come in for a drink?"

Hell. Yes.

"Sure. Let me just drop off a couple of things."

Once inside, in the space of about 90 seconds I managed to go to the bathroom, fix my hair and make-up, throw my jacket and scarf on the couch, eat a breath mint, and do a happy dance. I took nothing but my keys and crossed the great hallway divide...

Neil gave me a tour of the apartment, which has an identical layout to mine with a few differences (my bedroom is bigger, his kitchen/living area is more spacious, etc.). He then asked if he could take a quick peek at my place. He did show me his, after all, so I showed him mine. I apologized for the clutter, but he was too busy staring at my Collection, which fills the living room. The Collection is a constant source of amazement/bafflement to new people who meet me.

Anyway, we went back to Neil's place and settled on his couch with a couple of drinks. I learned a bit more about him: he's my age, from the Midwest, and in grad school, with a fun and unusual concentration. I also discovered that we have practically no music taste in common. Neighbor Neil gave me a CD holder to choose music to play in the background, and I didn't even recognize half the bands in the book. Which is a shame, because I love to bond with people over music, which has served as the core of many a friendship/relationship over the years. Whatever, he was still attractive... and appeared to be attracted to me, too. He asked me questions, cracked jokes, and made light physical contact, but also had that I-fancy-you gleam in his eye. Roommate Rachel was right.

The more we talked (and drank), the more comfortable we became physically, sitting close, legs and sides pressed together, touching each others' arms, laughing and leaning our heads together.

And then we were holding hands, foreheads pressed together, sitting quietly.

"I think this is where you're supposed to kiss me," I almost said, but didn't. I didn't want to rush the moment.

Neighbor Neil took my other hand, laced his fingers through it.

"Here's the thing," he began. "You're my neighbor. I want us to be able to hang out and watch Favorite show and movies."

"Me too."

"And if I kiss you..."

"I don't want there to be any awkwardness, either."

"So we're friends, it's casual...?"

"Yeah, of course."

"Okay, good."

"Though one of us has to be the wacky neighbor. Which one do you think?"

"I think that would be you."

I smiled, pleased. "It's because of the Collection, that's what pushed me over, right?"

We got silent again, and Neil ran a hand over my body, still not moving his face, still pressing his forehead to mine.

"Were you really checking your mail at 1:30 in the morning?" I asked.

"I forgot to earlier and was expecting a Netflix."

"Hm." I was skeptical.

I waited and gradually he tilted his chin and gave me a small kiss.

"See, that was friendly and neighborly, right?" he asked.

"Hm, I don't know, I think it could have been a little more friendly."

"Why don't you show me?"

Full on making out ensued. Once he checked that there were no strings attached, he did his best to get in my pants. Which of course wasn't going to happen. I was kiss-starved, but casual sex is something I'm trying to avoid indefinitely. Still, after some initial clumsiness, the kissing was good, and got us both pretty hot and bothered. If I had decided to sleep with him, I probably would have been in for quite a treat based on how--ahem--excited he was.

At one point he was on top of me and I asked, "Your roommmate isn't going to walk in any second, is she? Because then this would be even more like a sitcom."

"No, she's at her boyfriend's."

When he tried to get the clothes off, I knew it was time to go home. I sat up on the couch and we shared a couple of soft, tender kisses. Those kisses in particular, however brief they were, made my night. Obviously there wasn't any great emotional connection between us, and those sweet kisses were not reflective of any true feelings, but even the pretense was comforting.

I stood up.

"So we'll watch Favorite Show some time."

"Yeah... I can leave my email or something..." I said.

"Or I could go across the hallway and knock on your door."

"That, too."

"Cool, so alright... we'll be friendly and casual."

Okay, I get it, you're Casual Guy.

A brief make-out session at the door and I commenced the world's shortest Walk of Shame.

I checked the time: 5:00am. I checked my face in the mirror. My lips were slightly swolen, reddened from recent kissing.

Sometimes, if you send a request to the universe, it gets heard. Yes, it has been lonely, all the more isolating because of the recent depression. And kissing is my favorite thing in the world, so it was tough to go these last couple of months without it (the weird guy from the Halloween party doesn't count).

The kisses from Neighbor Neil, casual and illusory as they were, helped bring me back to life in a way. After findout just how many bad surprises life can pile on, it was cool to experience a moment of pleasant happenstance.

Of course, the problem with kisses is that once you get some, you want more. I don't expect this to become a pattern with Neil, and I'm pretty sure we're not meant for each other, so it has to be enough. It'll hold me over until something less casual crosses my path.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A Good Day

"It's going to be a good winter for us, I can feel it. I think we had to endure such a difficult autumn, but now things are going to turn around."

There's still a month of autumn to go, but I believe Roommate Rachel. After our collective moping of the last couple of months, yesterday we both had good days.

It was nothing major. Work was pleasant, then I had an amazing workout before meeting Rachel and a friend for drinks. Rachel's meeting ran late, which gave me an hour to wander around Union Square. I bought a pair of boots on sale, some specialized shampoo I had been hunting down for the last two weeks, a new lipstick. Rachel finally made it downtown and she, her friend, and I had a lively conversation in a cozy pub. The subway ride home was smooth, and Rachel and I chattered away, our moods boistered by a stress-free day and the bottle of Riesling we shared at dinner. I persuaded her to go for one more quick drink at Bar S, wanting to prolong the evening's fun just a bit further.

Bar S is two blocks from our apartment, and its proximity and relaxed European vibe make it one of my favorite local places to go. We settled at a small table, I smiled at the Velvet Underground song being played, and Rachel and I talked about everything and nothing while extending our buzz. What's this, is it possible I felt the traces of happiness? Wonders never cease.

"All we need now is a cigarette."

"Yes!" Rachel agreed, "But I left mine at home."

"Me too. Luckily, we don't have far to go."

We smoked our cigarettes on our front stoop. Shortly after we lit them, a neighbor came out to take out the trash, and introduced himself to us.

"I'm Neighbor Neil."

He shook hands with both of us, and stayed outside to chat.

Neil was cute! Tall, slender, with dark hair and eyes. And he seemed straight (the other men in the building I encountered haven't been). Not to mention friendly; this was the first neighbor either of us really talked to.

The only thing better than getting to know a neighbor is getting to know an attractive neighbor. The three of us made small talk and I don't know if I managed to flirt at all, because after weeks of seeing no cute guys anywhere, I was so surprised to find one living across the hall from me.

"Did you also not have heat in your apartment for over a week?" I asked.

"Yeah, it was pretty bad."

"Wasn't it the worst?" I might have had a little too much enthusiasm in my voice.

Neighbor Neil and Roommate Rachel talked for a few minutes, and I wondered if he was more interested in her (presuming he was interested in either of us). As he was going back inside, he turned around and asked,

"Have you two been watching Favorite Show?"

Roommate Rachel and I have, in fact, been indulging in mini-marathons of Favorite Show; it has been our happy place in recent times.

"Yeah, I own all the episodes and have been getting Roommate Rachel into it."

"I have all the episodes of Favorite Show, too."

"We're in the middle of Season Four right now. You should come over and watch Favorite Show with us some time." I'm sure I wouldn't have been bold enough to say that if it hadn't been for that last drink.

Neil and I geeked out on the show for a few minutes, and he went back inside for good.

"He likes you," Rachel said, barely two seconds later.

"Shhh!! He might hear... You really think so?" I whispered.

"Oh definitely. He wasn't interested in anything I had to say, but when you talked, he gave you his full attention."

"Really?"

The rest of our conversation was hushed, because his bedroom window, like mine, faces the street, and that any talking outside the building can be heard clearly.

Later on, I also recalled that he didn't seem to have that much trash in the bag he brought out (and seriously, who takes the garbage out at midnight?). Which means he might have heard us chatting and came outside with the intent to meet his cute female neighbors. Of course, I could be over-thinking it. Either way, it was a nice surprise and a perfect cap to the evening.

To me, happiness isn't about having grand life events occur; it's about the accumulation of small, pleasing things, paired with hope and anticipation. Having a good day like the one yesterday was like seeing a trailer for future happiness.

"When it comes, you'll recognize it and appreciate it so much more because of everything you've been going through."

Rachel's right. Who knows, maybe the wretched autumn will indeed make way for a cheery winter.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Misery and Co.

Just now, it sounded like a noir movie outside my window: rain beating down, sirens shrieking past, and somebody in a nearby apartment playing the saxaphone. It's a good week for melancholia, with wet and gray weather promised for a few days yet. There's a lot of gloom in the air and many friends around me are miserable. There's the one whose job make her cry, the one who moved thousands of miles only to have her heart broken, the one whose job and man make her cry. There's my mother. There's me.

"It's even harder for you because you don't have a man in your life," Mom said, wiping my tears in the back of a taxi. "You don't have anyone to go to for extra support besides me. And I don't have anyone but you. We both need to find good men."

"A man wouldn't solve everything. That wouldn't make me realize my place in the world. I don't want to be a wife and mother and nothing else. I want to accomplish something more... I just don't know what."

"But it would make it easier."

I looked at the blurred empty streets beyond the rain-speckled window. The car jerked at the turns and stops, the driver grumbled at traffic lights.

"Maybe. But there aren't any good ones. Or none around here."

And even if there are, I'm not about to go looking for them. I can barely maintain minimal contact with a third of my friends at the moment. I have nothing to say, because nothing is different. Every day that I don't cry at work or on the subway is a small battle won. Every minor thing that makes me smile is miraculous. I can pull it together for a night out here and there, have moments where I feel at ease. On Saturday, out with a college friend, sipping on a glass of wine, waiting for a band to come on, hearing a Depeche Mode song, and I felt a tiny sense of elation filling me up. For those few minutes, I felt content and pretty and upbeat and in the moment.

Those moments have been increasingly more elusive. I wonder how long it's going to go on, this hazy, aimless sadness. I don't know what's worse, the hours of not feeling anything at all or the flashes where I can't keep it together, where it hits me all at once and not always in the best time or place, like outside a movie theater or in a taxi. It's so familiar, this bleak nothingness, but somehow it hasn't gotten easier. Not yet.

Change is inevitable, but seems inconceivable right now. I can't see a way out of this dark and lonely place any time soon, so it seems better to keep to myself. I have some time off coming up and will probably plan a small trip away. New York is grating on me, so it will do me good. Haven't decided where to go, though. Finding direction has never been my strong suit.

Monday, November 06, 2006

I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour...

I saw Mom yesterday, for the first time in a couple of weeks. I took her out to a show, bought her a gift, tried to cheer her up. She looked better, but still fragile, still grieving. It made me feel guilty that I haven't been doing more to help her aside from calling. More than guilty, devastated.

Over the last week, the depression was beginning to wane. All the effort I put into not moping, from exercising to socializing more, was starting to pay off. I wasn't exactly brimming with joy, but I no longer felt like an emotional black hole. Last night, that awful, hopeless feeling started creeping up on me again.

Then I had this dream that instead of living four blocks away, TV Tyler and Film Felix lived across the hall from me (isn't that a sitcom waiting to happen). One day, I heard a noise across the hall, so I looked in the peephole and saw the two of them leaving their apartment with a couple of friends. I couldn't hear what they were saying, but they were pointing to my door and gesturing, and their muffled voices sounded wry and mocking. Then Film Felix glanced over and, as if seeing right through the door, gave me a dirty look. I woke up feeling all kinds of hated and humiliated. Great way to kick off a Monday.

There are so many days to fill and I don't know what to do with them. I don't have the inspiration to write, I don't have the attention span to read, and all the other things that used to make me happy...don't. At least, not for long. The best I can hope for these days is temporary respite. I thought about seeing a therapist, but I don't think it would help. I know what's wrong with me. I have people to talk to. I'm not suppressing anything or in denial about part of my identity. I'm just trying to cope with the hurdles as best as possible and not always doing the best job. I don't need to pay someone lots of money to tell me things I already know and I don't want to be prescribed anything that will turn me into a shiny happy me. I'd rather slug out this crisis (existential and otherwise) on my own.

Besides, it's more than the fallout from a break-up, death in the family, illness, and work badness. I turned down a possible book deal (long story, I don't want to talk about it) and my agent is leaving her company and agenting altogether (which has nothing to do with me). While I have taken this latest news in stride and not fallen apart like I did in the previous weeks, it has made me wonder if I'm even cut out to be a writer and if I'll ever develop a career I love. This whole finding-your-place-in-the-world thing can be so damn tricky.

I had a feeling the Worst Autumn Ever had more in store for me. These days, it's a struggle to hold on to any shred of optimism and not succumb to cynicism. I try to focus on the good things, really I do. I'm privileged in many ways and taking that for granted only makes me feel worse, guiltier. My problem is lack of perspective. It's inconceivable to me that things will improve any time soon. The best I can hope for at this point is that my outlook does.