I wish you could feel how soft the air is tonight. Everywhere I go, the stillness smells like orange blossom. (Taken with instagram)
USA/AUS (miss you)
In the past nine days I have cried or almost-cried at least as many times, if not more. Probably I shouldn’t tell you this so publicly, probably I should keep this for a personal diary, but I have always been terrible at keeping a journal. It’s on my list of things to do – start a journal, this time for real, and actually stick to it – so for now I will say it here. There have been an awful lot of tears and almost-tears this week-and-two-days.
Only one of those cries was an ugly cry, a big sobbing mess of a cry, exploding my sinuses and making it painful to breathe or to do much of anything really but leak in every direction and rage impotently. One other was a delicate cry, while another was even smaller and more poetic than that. The others were merely stinging eyes, filling eyes, pricking eyes, welling-up eyes. Tears that stood but did not fall.
A thing about me: Sometimes my eyes change colors. When I cry, my eyes, eyes that lightened from a true brown to hazel as I aged, turn very green.
Eyes don’t usually do this. Well, maybe not the changing color part, because I know of other people with eyes that shift mercurially, but I mean the lightening. Eyes don’t usually become lighter as we age. In most people, they darken. Whenever I tell people about my eyes, this is what they tell me anyway. That it’s uncommon to become lighter with age.
But not impossible.
Last night I took a shower before I went to bed. I lingered beneath the running water, just warm enough to be relaxing at the end of a sunny Northern California May Saturday. I thought about the idea my friend had proposed to me, on the day I had been most emotionally upended: that while it might sound ludicrous, it was most certainly the moon because everyone she knew was distraught. I thought about moons, and what moons meant to women. I thought about what it meant to be a woman, what it meant to me to be a woman. I thought about the fact I had never really given thanks to the girl I had been. I thought about how little we own our bodies, in so many senses of the word own. I thought about the ways we perform every day, to others and even to ourselves, how often we are honest, and perhaps how rarely. I thought about how I would be performing when I wrote this. I thought about the women I was reading, the words and memoirs that were changing me and teaching me to truly be fearless. I thought about letting go of a lot of things, about the worry that maybe this was all something I should have gone through in my 20s, because that’s when you go through things like this, when you carefully craft who you are, layer by layer, influence by influence, and should be finished by that most certainly by your late 30s.
As the water ran down my face and neck, I rubbed my fingers on my brow and down across my eyelids, down past my nose and mouth. I could smell garlic, thyme picked from the herb box, and the bright, sweet perfume of Meyer lemon, brazenly purloined from an unknown neighbor’s yard in broad daylight. I ran my hands down with the water, past my breasts, to my belly, no longer quite so flat but still smooth, and held them there, quietly.
I thought, good-bye to all that. I thought we are who we are, and we change how we change, and some of us are lucky enough to become lighter as we age.
(Source: Flickr / ohheygreat)
The other day I had a chat with someone who told me she believes everyone is fundamentally a good person at heart and there are no bad people in the world, not really, when you get down to it. I told her that was a lovely sentiment but I disagreed, because I had once dated someone who had a black soul and did not have a single redeeming quality, other than the ability to make a truly excellent oven-roasted tomatillo salsa. I was firmly, unshakably convinced he was Not A Good Person. He lacked some fundamental element of human-ness, some kind quality underneath his incredible ability to charm and attract women. Fundamentally, his ultimate choice was not to be or to do good when it came to others. He was a dam of no-goodness waiting to burst.
She asked how that could happen, and I said I didn’t know, he must have been born that way.
“No,” she said. “How could you have dated him?”
“Oh. Right. That. We were together for nearly a year, too.”
She looked at me.
“Well, the salsa was really good.”
I think every relationship is a learning experience. You learn from the person you date, you learn from the relationship, you learn from yourself. You learn what your limitations are, what you are and are not capable of. You should be able to take at least one thing away, and not just an actual tangible item, although those are nice sometimes. (I did get an iPod for my birthday from the salsa maker, which was great, so to be fair I guess he had at least one other redeeming quality.)
You learn that everyone – all of us, including you and most certainly including me – will be able to list at least one absolute disaster on the personal dating roster, and if we aren’t able to we should make one up or our stories will be really, horribly boring. And by disaster I don’t mean very brief dating horror stories like the Thai Massage Debacle of ’05 (true story, and came after The First Date When the Bread Basket Napkin Caught Fire). I mean things like “yes, he was 41 and still wore eyeliner and was immature and rude to me, and yes my friends still mock me for this, to this day” or “a black-souled human being I called my boyfriend for reasons none of us still can understand, including him, who later wondered how anyone ever dated him, because even he thinks he’s got serious not-funny problems, and not in a self-deprecating or cry-for-help way.”
This what I learned from him, I suppose. Whenever anyone says to me, “That guy’s bad news” I can more effectively tell whether not he is, in fact, bad news of the truly Bad News variety or just, you know, sad. Troubled. In need of a hug. Borderline, maybe. Kind of a jerk, yeah, but not someone who will eventually do things that will cause everyone to whisper and walk away and refuse to discuss exactly what happened because they are that sort of bad indeed.
It’s funny, the things that teach us to try and be more generous toward others. In a way, that relationship, as stupid and gross as it was, gave me a pretty tremendous gift. Where once I might have dismissed people for capital offenses, I try to see them in a more gentle light. Maybe I can’t live with whatever problem you’ve got, but I don’t think you’re actually a bad person. I know what a bad person is! You’re not it.
A good lesson. But really, I wish I had learned to make that salsa.
(Source: Flickr / ohheygreat)
This weekend I took my first double exposure Polaroid ever of someone other than me. It’s my beautiful friend Finch (finchdown.tumblr.com - links never work on my phone).
It feels so good to love a photo again.
A few weeks ago, I went out for coffee with a man. This was not in itself a noteworthy activity. Not because I have coffee with a lot of men, but rather because “coffee with a man” does not itself, as an activity, lend to essay writing under normal circumstances. Yet here I am, so something about this was worth remembering.
I was away from California, on a trip exploring the possibility of moving to a new city. I was going to a lot of meetings, interviews, and mixer-type events, plus fitting in as many coffees and dinners and drinks and outings with friends as humanly possible. Coffee with this man was in there, too.
“Away from California” is fraught for me, never more so than after the past year or so. Somehow, in the past two years, California planted itself in my heart as home, like a little seedling wending its way up through cracked plaster. Funny, because I’ve lived in California a long time, have loved and hated it in equal measures, but never had I felt like maybe it could be home. But I went on this trip, delightedly looking into leaving what currently passes as home, at least for a time. Away from my parents, away from a vastly expanded and strengthened root system, away from a sense of place. From California itself. What sane person would leave beautiful California?
There I was, not in California, seeing friends and meeting new people, feeling a type of freedom and happiness I haven’t experienced in a long time. Not the typical relaxed “I’m on vacation” happiness, and not simply the energy of a new city. It was different, and the words I can think of to describe this feeling are two terribly California words, which tell me just how much I need to take a break from this place: centered and grounded. I’d also tell you I felt a glow-y vibrancy and an inner strength, but I’d like you to keep reading, so I won’t.
In the middle of all this, I made plans to have coffee with this man. He was a friend I’d met on Twitter through friendly conversation; I’d read one of his articles and loved it, so I followed him without knowing much else and that’s sometimes how those friendships start, isn’t it? But of course, I wouldn’t be writing about this if it were just a bit of nothing, and the truth is I’d developed a little crush on this man.
Once upon a time, I developed crushes as easily as stepping off a curb. Sidewalk’s ending—there’s a new one! The world was full of possible love interests, and I possibly loved so many of them. Then as I got older and grew to understand a thing or two, I folded in around myself. I might like someone, I might respond to them, might even say yes to a date, but to become becrushed of my own accord? It requires a certain type of bewitching, to be sure.
The secret of the central crush is very basic, but it’s not so simple. It’s not necessarily a romantic crush; it applies to both men and women in very non-romantic ways. A romantic crush is a separate piece that may or may not complicate matters. The crush is this: Are you particularly brilliant in a way I most certainly am not? Do you possess in spades a talent I lack? Is your well of knowledge so crazy deep that I have to secretly Google every other reference when we email, and I’m a little nervous to have spend time with you because what if you realize I can’t keep up?
The man with whom I had coffee is a writer, and he’s a writer whose writing I enjoy very much. He has a wonderful turn of phrase. More than that, a conversation with him is a heady bricolage, a steady beat of historical, literary, political references.
I delight in people whose brains work differently than mine. I love to listen to them, to watch them at work, to see them in action. When I find someone like this, that rare sense of wonder overtakes me and I want to sit and be delighted with them as much and as long as possible. My god. Who doesn’t want to sit and be delighted?
So, coffee: An hour of excellent conversation passed. Then a second. Then we cheerfully parted ways.
As I left, it occurred to me: I’m in town a few more days and while there are so many things I want to do, this – this! – is conversation I’d like to have more of. I couldn’t honestly tell you if I had a strong romantic interest in him because I was a little enchanted with how smart he was. I liked it, being around his smartness, and I wanted to keep being delighted. Okay, I admit, he was also nice looking and had a wonderful smile. So I emailed him straight away and told him that with my limited time left in his city, before returning to my city, I would like to go out again and continue to be charmed.
And? Nothing. Silence.
I was mortified. Absolutely horrified. I felt stupid in a way I can’t describe. I mean, I know, sometimes people are busy and totally distracted by their lives and their work, and some people get freaked out by your friendliness and your forwardness, and some people are not polite enough to respond like adults—oh god, who knew what some people did, because I was too busy turning scarlet and wanting to die inside whenever I checked my email and turned scarlet all over again.
So I did what I always do in these situations: I conducted research. Using the details of the story, such as the wording of my email, but revealing no confidential information about the gentleman in question, I went to work to discover, in the least scientific and most anecdotal way possible: In 2012, can a woman ask out a man? Should she? Is it the last of our gendered hurdles we have yet to address? If we are addressing it, then how? What the hell does all this mean?
Anecdotally, I can tell you at least one thing: Every single married man who was involved in any of these conversations (and thanks to the various dinners and mixers I went to, more than you’d think) was completely gung-ho about women asking men out. More so than any other group. Which makes me wonder: Marriage changes your perspective? Your insecurities? Your wishful thinking?
Single guys were a little more divided: At least one told me I needed to (and I quote) “NEVER EVER AGAIN” say anything like that to a guy. One female friend told me I’d “crossed the guy boundary” by asking him to do something with me. Other female friends were much more in the “you must be fucking joking, what YEAR is it” camp. And some male friends were mostly curious: “Why haven’t you asked ME out?”
A lot of people, bless their hearts, thought the man was a fool. They also wanted to know what kind of person can’t even respond to a nice email from a nice lady.
It’s a funny, isn’t it? Maybe it’s not about gender so much, at least not with everyone. We all want to chase and be chased a little. We want things to be easy but not too easy, to be interesting but not crazy, to be just right but not a fairytale. We want what we want and we’ll know it when we see it and maybe we’re screwed up but we’re not nuts like that one person who sure was horrible, and how could you have dated them anyway?
I imagine if I’d sent a series of increasingly hysterical emails that said things like “Our children will have brown hair! Why aren’t you emailing me?????” and “I’ve come up with the names for four of our imaginary kids but name number five is super hard and I can’t do it without you ps coffee makes you pregnant” and “Been emailing with your mom, we’re having dinner on Thursday! Are you coming?” then that would be, you know, fucking weird. But saying, “let’s go out again” isn’t weird. It’s not stepping over any boundaries. It’s not even necessarily romantic. If there’s anything I’ve learned, not just from my “research” but from the growing older and a little wiser and folding in on myself, it’s this:
Seriously, all these gender rules in dating are the worst. Be less afraid of asking men out. Be less afraid of being asked out, men. Be less insecure, all of us. “Men like to do the chasing” and “You’ll upset the power balance” and “You should wait x number of days”? Just go be you. Ask someone out for coffee if it feels right, if talking to them is the most delightful thing you’ve experienced in so long you can’t imagine not wanting to have that experience all over again. They might ignore you. Trust me, you won’t die. The one who responds to you? That person gets you, and when they do, the rules won’t matter one tiny bit.
Davies Hall, last night
Um. Excuse me?
Persol, Presidio, morning, me (Taken with instagram)
Guess who I’m hanging out with.