Category Archives: Relationships

Bygones 

There was a time, fifteen or twenty years ago, when I took an average of 2000 photos a year. That might not be so impressive now, in the era of unlimited digital storage, but this was when we had to buy film, carry a camera, get it developed, and hope that the shot came out right. It was expensive, especially since I was paying for it with a minimum wage job while in high school and college. 

Since then, I have moved A LOT. Over and over, I’ve packed up albums and books and boxes of prints and taken them with me. All those boxes get heavy after a while, especially when those pictures don’t mean what they used to. 

They are a record of my life, and in that, they have value. I don’t think it’s accurate or fair to only keep the happy, or the current. But at what point do I stop carrying those photos with me? 

What do you do with photographs of family members who have chosen to no longer consider you family? Or of former best friends who betrayed that trust? Or of religious celebrations and milestones along the path towards what was eventually abuse and cruelty? These people and places are part of my story. I don’t think I need to memorialize them anymore. 

So, little by little, I toss them out. When I have a brave moment, I sift through them and, if I feel only loss, bitterness, or sorrow when I look at it, I put it in the garbage pile. I choose which parts of my story to carry with me to the next place. 

Today has been one of those days. As part of a larger effort to take charge of some projects I’m always meaning to do, I sorted another album today. I have another stack of photos to toss. It’s always a terribly complicated feeling. I’m sorrowful for the way things ended, for the hurt caused. 

This time, though, I’m also sorry for them because they missed out. Life is pretty good now, and they chose to step away, not knowing who I have become. They never saw me so thoroughly happy. They will never meet my fiance. They don’t get to be a part of the adventures ahead. 

That sounds a little arrogant, I guess, but at least it’s honest. Maybe a different person would be more comfortable keeping so many old pictures. Maybe some day, I will regret it. What is more likely, I’m pretty sure, is that I would continue to carry them around, to wince when I see them mixed in with happier memories, that some day, I will find myself having to explain who the stranger is. 
Today, I made more room for more photographs. Photos of my upcoming wedding, honeymoon, anniversaries, parties, graduations, Christmases, and cats. There is a lot to look forward to. Even if it requires taking a few painful moments to let old memories go. 

The trash pile

A Series of Impossible Events

2016 has been a shit year for a lot of people. 

But not for me. In fact, this year seems to be year of impossible things happening all at once. 

On September 14, 2016, Mike and I got officially engaged! It wasn’t some big, grand production, just a very sweet moment when, after a few months of talking about it, Mike looked at me and said “I’m going to marry you,” and that was about it. Well, until two days ago, when we picked up my rings and he asked, just before sliding the ring on my finger. I’m happy and excited, but even more than that is this feeling that it’s right. Like we make so much sense together that it’s the most natural thing. We thought we were sappy and schmoopy and obnoxious before, but holy cow. This is a whole new level. 

About a month ago, I finished the second longest interview process EVER, and I was offered my first choice job, just 4.5 miles from (as opposed to the 43 miles each way that I was driving), with an unbelievable raise in salary, and out of the toxic mess my previous company had become. I was able to give my notice and take a week of “staycation” before I start my new job on Monday. 

And then, tonight. Tonight, I saw the impossible happen: my Cubs, the team I’ve loved my whole life long, won the World Series. I screamed and cried. I couldn’t believe it. It still seems surreal. Impossible. 

So now, here I am, outside of a Dick’s Sporting Goods at 1:30 AM, waiting for my sister, who made it inside, to buy me a shirt, with a ring on my finger, the best fiancé at home waiting for me, and a kind of excitement that I can’t express. 

I almost don’t know what to do with this hope. What do you do when all of these things that were otherwise impossible start actually happening? 

I guess you just go with it. You take a deep breath and hold on tight, and you keep both eyes open so you don’t  miss a moment of it. 

Word Vomit

I haven’t posted in weeks, not because I have been intentionally neglectful, but because the post that has been floating around in my brain feels impossible. I’ve started and trashed a ton of times. While venting this frustration to some friends, I summarized what I wanted to write about, and after thinking it over for a few days, I’ve decided to just go ahead and post what I told them, so that it is at least out there. I need for this post to be outside of the confines of my anxious brain. When I have something rattling around in my brain and know that I need to spit it out to Mike, as messy as it might be, I warn him that I need to word -vomit. So here goes: 

When Mike and I met, he was polyamorous, but not seeing anyone, really. He had a friend who used to be someone he dated, but they had pretty much ended before we met. He hadn’t had a date in 4 months, and I wasn’t looking for serious, so it seemed like it was going to be fine: someone to hang out with once and a while, but casual. I had naively thought that knowing he was on a different wavelength would keep me from getting too invested, and thus, keep me from getting hurt. And then, we ended up liking each other way more than expected, and got so close. And it was so easy. Except for the poly thing. I understood it and had no problem with it from a theoretical standpoint, but to think about it in practice was another story. I was falling in love. And so was he. He wasn’t seeing anyone else, so that wasn’t an issue, but there were questions to work out and insecurities to face that are different from relationships between two people who are only interested in monogamy. 

Over the course of our relationship, Mike has fielded a LOT of questions. It comes down to this: when single, we both had assumed that we wouldn’t find someone who would check all the right boxes, but our solutions were different. It worked for him to have several relationships that each fulfilled different needs. I had just assumed that I would find someone to date, maybe, but no one would really ever “get” me. When we met, we didn’t have a roadmap for working it all out.

He seemed nervous because he was increasingly comfortable with monogamy with me. I have a big fear of comparison and am terrified of not being “enough.” There have been times where the general feeling is “holy shit, I’m so happy I can’t breathe, but I still don’t know what to do with this feeling or that feeling.” We’ve worked through a lot of it, and continue to do so. 

For me, the hardest part is that in some ways, I’m figuring it out on my own. There aren’t many cases where someone polyamorous chooses to be in a monogamous relationship, so there really aren’t a lot of people saying “yeah, I’ve struggled with that, too, and here is what helped me.” 

There are advantages to Mike having the experiences he’s had. It has helped our relationship in ways. Having to explore my own reactions and feelings has been really helpful. He has since adjusted his label to ambiamorous (which, admittedly, I made up), because he is not strictly poly, where he is only happy in multiple relationships, but is capable of being happy and fulfilled in a wider range of situations, from some polyamory to monogamy. And he knows that I have no desire to ever open our relationship, and he doesn’t consider that a problem.

So that’s what I want to write about: about figuring out a relationship that really doesn’t fit into most boxes. But I don’t know how to do that without ending up with people either 1. Thinking less of him because polyamory is still largely taboo, or 2. Giving me a long list of reasons why we will fail.
What I have learned in trying to figure out how to write this damn post is that while our situation is pretty unique, the experience of working through something as a couple is really common and vital to the health of any relationship. Couples everywhere work through challenges like blending families, religious differences, or a million other things. In each of those cases, there tons of reasons that a relationship might fail. 

At the end of all of that, my conclusions are this: 

  • I am ridiculously happy in my relationship, and that does not depend on anyone else approving of it. 
  • Anyone who thinks less of it, or especially of Mike, can go to hell. 
  • Anyone who tries to give me crap about it better be prepared for me to respond. 
  • Our relationship is very healthy. We have pretty effortlessly worked out a lot of things without it ever feeling like work, and when we do need to slog through a tough conversation, the overriding desire for both of us is to come to a conclusion where we are both happy and know we are loved by the other person. 

I guess that is it, for now. I’m happy. Mike is happy. And my brain feels less stressed out by having all of this on the outside of my head. If you have questions, I’ll answer them, as best I can. 

And maybe, someday, I’ll tell you about the dinner party with my grandmother’s crystal. 

I hate clichés, except when I love them.

A year and five days ago, I went on one of the worst dates I could have ever imagined. The guy was unattractive as he pounded beers, talked about how much he hates his job and hates the place he lives and hates that he has no friends, but nothing was as unattractive as when, at the end of the date, he made a homophobic joke about merchandise in a store window. It is the only date I was ever on when I texted my sister and had her make a rescue call. In retrospect, I should have just ended the date with a “no thanks, I don’t need your negativity!”

I was so tired of bad dates that it made me twitch, so I decided to take a break. No more reading profiles, no more awkward coffee dates, no more waiting for a text that might not come. Clichéd… so clichéd.

Three days later, I was up well past my bedtime, had already put my glasses on the bookcase, and I get a message: 

Ok, Mike, I guess I will take a look at your profile, but I don’t know… an hour later, having read what has to be the longest profile in the history of dating sites, as well as answers to questions, I figured that if I was interested enough to read that much, there is enough to respond. Except, I was tired. Like, really tired. I had no idea how to muster up the charming sweetness I tried to have in messages. So that is nearly exactly what I said: 

I wasn’t sure that the little smiley face at the end was going to make up for my complete inability to flirt, but I went with it. I had said I was done dating, but he said he wasn’t looking for serious. What harm was there in having someone who lived in the same little town, who could meet for dinner once in a while?

Our first date was July 29, 2015. At a tavern downtown, I walked in and was greeted by a huge smile and a white and orange Hawaiian shirt. I sat, terrified that I was going to be too nervous to be interesting. And then suddenly, it was three hours later, and I was fascinated by this guy. We left the restaurant and walked up and down the main street, flirting and laughing and oh my god, why won’t he just hold my hand already!? We got to his car, and he asked if he could kiss me. Swoon. Finally. He walked me to my car, and we stood there, talking, and he kissed me. I was not ready for this date to be over. So it wasn’t. We ended up sitting in his car for a few more hours, never running out of things to say, always smiling, wishing that the clock would stop. Our first date was seven hours long. 

But we didn’t have “serious” on the horizon. He had other commitments, like his show, which was just getting started. I had just started a new job, and was looking for a place to live, trying to get settled. A short while later, date three or four, maybe, there was a moment after he reacted unexpectedly to something I said, when I thought, oh no, I’m in trouble. If this keeps up, I’m going to fall really hard. 

I swear to you on my mother’s life, I did not expect the next year to go like it did. I couldn’t have imagined it. I had dreamed about it, but never thought it would happen. Not to me. Falling in love like this was something that happens to other girls. Prettier, thinner, funnier, braver girls. 

All those clichés, the annoying ones that keep young actresses on a steady diet of rom-com roles, happened. Have you seen Trainwreck? That part when she and her new boyfriend become that obnoxiously new, starry-eyed couple who make eyes at each other in restaurants, kiss in the freezer section, and all that stuff? Yeah, that’s us. AND I LOVE IT. I’ve become one of those women.  

There have been hard moments, when I’ve had to deal with insecurities or have a conversation I would like to avoid. But in each and every one of them, his response has been nearly perfect. 

When we got to the point that we were serious, I made a very conscious choice to not keep a running catalogue of all the things he has ever done “wrong,” or when he has done something to really upset me. Instead, started another list: romantic things he has done, and moments of sweetness. I didn’t want to overlook those things, and I wanted those things to be what I think of when I am upset. I wanted to remember, even when it was tough, that I have someone who loves me, and whom I love very much. Ugh, that is a cliché right out of a relationship expert handbook, except I started it without it being suggested. Can’t I just be normal?

In truth, there have been two times that I have been upset, and one of them was so minor that now, I can’t even remember what the cause is. But I would make Hallmark roll its eyes over the list of sweetnesses. 

The last year has been one surprise after another. Meeting people, going places, doing things: all great. What has surprises me more, though, is how easy it is to be with him. He is my home, no matter where I live. He is the first person I want to see in the morning  and the last person I want to see at night. He makes me laugh, encourages me, and believes in me, even when I struggle to. He is every damn cliché in the Guidebook for Lovely Boyfriends and sometimes I think my heart and head will literally explode. 

I do have a list of things he does that annoy me to the point of giving him the stink eye. In its entirety: 

  1. He leaves cabinet and microwave doors open (though he has mostly stopped leaving he dishwasher and kitchen drawers open, so there is hope).
  2. He squeezes the toothpaste in the middle and sometimes gets spit splatters on the faucet when he brushes his teeth. 
  3. He likes everything too loud.

I mean, ugh, men can be so annoying… meh, who am I kidding. He does the dishes without asking, so I totally don’t care about the toothpaste. 

I cannot believe how lucky I am. I know that people say that all the loveliness of a relationship changes and often lessens as it gets older, but that is the cliché I hope desperately to avoid. So far, I still think he is the best thing since peanut butter. 

Today is our anniversary, and we are going back to that same tavern. Despite having woken up next to him this morning, and having gone to work, holding his hand nearly the whole way, and having kissed him about two dozen times before I went to my office, I can’t wait to see him. I never expected him, or us.  But holy hell, I couldn’t be happier about it. 

Before one of his shows

After a very long, very excellent birthday

He was mid-laugh on this one. It’s one of my favorites.

The Day the Crayons Quit

With Pokey at his graduation

A month ago, my eldest nephew graduated from high school. Yesterday was his graduation party, and I bought him a book, The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers. I picked it up at Target one day and I was stunned by the (potentially accidental) metaphor it is for the kind of people we meet and the way we feel sometimes. 
This is the letter I wrote him, taped to the inside of the book: 

My dear boy, You are just about the age I was when you were born. I could not have imagined what life would bring between our graduations. From the joyful to the devastating, from the funny to the mundane, life never stops being a surprise, and it should be no other way. 

At every moment, I have loved the person you are. From the chubby baby you were, to the toothless flag football player, to the shaggy haired boy, to the honorable man you are today, you have never ceased to make me proud. 

Because I am older, I am supposed to impart some kind of wisdom. Because you are so young,  you must try to listen. I’ll begin with what is not said often enough: the most true things in life are most often found in children’s books. Dr Seuss, Shel Silverstein, and so many others will speak truth and humor to your soul if you let them. 

It’s true that the things you will learn in the next few years will prepare you for life, but I do not mean academics. What you learn about yourself and others will last longer than any Intro to Chinese History class will. The book I’ve chosen for you, The Day the Crayons Quit, is about the people you will meet. You will meet people who: 

Like red, are overworked 

Like purple, are a little picky and neurotic

Like beige, feel ignored

Like gray, are weary

Like white, feel empty and unimportant 

Like black, are more than what they first appear to be

Like green, are mellow and easygoing 

Like yellow, is a drama queen 

Like orange, wants to feel special

Like blue, is at the end of their rope

Like pink, feels overlooked

Like peach, has been left out in the cold

And like Duncan, who just wants everyone to get along. 

My dear boy, with all you are, try to handle each person as best you can. Learn to be the best kind of friend to all kinds of people. Notice who is around you and strive to make their lives better. 

But Poke, don’t forget that you will often feel like these crayons as well. You will feel mellow, overworked, and all the rest, sometimes in the same day. Feeling this way is ok, but you must never let them push you to quit. Use each of these things to push you to continue to grow, to become a full, complete person. 

The days ahead are an adventure only you can live. It is one of my greatest joys to get to be a part of this adventure. 

Congratulations on your graduation, and with excitement for all that is to come, welcome to your next chapter! 

I love you, Aunt Cindy 

With Pokey, at his graduation party

Transition Statements

It’s been almost two months since I posted, and in such a short time, my life has, again, turned itself inside out:

Shakespeare warned us to beware the ides of March, and this year, that warning was painfully appropriate. The night before, my dog, Mrs Weasley, was breathing kind of funny. Then, Tuesday morning, I woke to find that she had thrown up three times, and her breathing was worse. I cleaned up the mess, gave her a pet, and had to go to work. A few hours later, when my mother went to take her out, she was not herself: very labored breathing, not moving off the floor, a worrying look on her face. My mom called me, I called the vet, and she took her right over. In half an hour, my biggest fear came true. She had developed tumors too big to treat. The vet said that even if they tried, the treatment would kill her before the tumors were cured. I sobbed the rest of the afternoon, left work early, and stayed with her as the vet put her down. It was a monstrous grief that followed. My mother was with me, and Mike came straight to me after he got off work. My sweet girl was gone, and being in the apartment without her was almost unbearable at times.

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Shortly before this happened, Mike and I had started talking about living together. Since he moved to Chicago in January, it had been a constant effort to make arrangements to be together. A few nights at my place, a few nights at his. So much time and money spent driving back and forth, and it was becoming silly. That night, Mike asked me to move in with him.

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance. ~Alan Watts

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It was a no-brainer. Not only did the logistics make sense, but I have fallen so shamelessly in love with him. Like, the kind of love where I think he’s the best thing since peanut butter, and where I don’t care what people think when he kisses me in the produce section at Jewel, and where I fall in love with him over and over and over again, at the weirdest moments (this week, it happened when he was singing Rainbow Connection in his Kermit the Frog voice).

Just when I think I’ve learned the way to live, life changes. ~Hugh Prather

And so, I let my apartment manager know and started packing. Once again, my picture frames were wrapped in paper, my I Love Lucy snow globe put into its Styrofoam, and, after the moving weekend from hell, it was done. Since Mrs Weasley died, I had been slowly taking things to Chicago, but now, it is home once again.

I have wanted to live in Chicago ever since I left it. No place else feels like Chicago does. I live on the north side, where most of my neighbors are Hispanic, Indian, or Asian. When I walk to Walgreen’s, I pass a Mexican bakery, a few Indian/Pakistani grocery stores, some Halal restaurants, and a lot of other places I haven’t explored yet. I hate the lack of parking, and I could do without people honking in the alley so much, but it’s wonderful.

If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading. ~Lao Tzu

There is a part of me that is anxious about all this change. Part of me that wants to be more cautious about life, but that part is swiftly drowned out by the awareness that life is too short to wait for everything to be risk free. The greatest decisions in my life have always been the risky ones, and this is following suit. I am ridiculously happy, even when I am tired or anxious, to wake up with Mike every morning. I love living in the city again. There is a sort of settled feeling in me that says ah, yes, this is how life is supposed to feel.

Someone asked me a while ago where I see myself in five years, and I honestly can say I have no clue. Five years ago, I did not think that this would be my life at all. But the truth is, this is so much better than what I would have guessed. I know where I would like to be, but if I don’t get there? That’s OK. Life is meant to be lived, not just survived.

Crazy Happy

A few weeks ago, I lay in bed with my head resting on my boyfriend’s chest, arm thrown across his torso, and we spoke in circles and tangents about a bunch of things, and at one point, I asked him what he wanted for Christmas. He said he wasn’t able to think of anything because he is in a place in life where he doesn’t really pine for objects. His desires are largely related to his comedy career. He paused, laughed, and said that the Mike of a few years ago would not recognize his present self.

I laughed and said that the old me wouldn’t recognize me, either. My own reflection would seem foreign.

Two years ago, I did not see myself in this town, job, apartment, or with him. I could not have fathomed it at all. I would not have anticipated the way my faith and religion would change. Maybe change isn’t the right word, but there isn’t another that seems to for either.

At no point in the first thirty-three years of my life did I see myself as happy, either. I was so certain that happiness – lasting happiness – was something that other people got to have. And then my life exploded and fell to pieces and floated back together in a completely different arrangement.

This kind of happiness is new, and sometimes scary. I am often terrified that it will vanish. That fear becomes anxiety, and a couple of times, I have found myself trying to explain it to him.

How do you explain anxieties to someone without sounding like you are crazy or messed up? I don’t really know, but I know this: his response has been breathtaking. It’s like someone gave him a cheat sheet that lets him in on how to listen, reassure, make me laugh, and redirect, all in the right amount and order, so that I come down off the panic ledge. It doesn’t take long, and I find myself back to normal – my new, happier normal.

Last week, my brain was pickled in hormones and it responded by making me feel like every minute was a swing between wanting to cry and rage. This is really unusual for me, even with hormones involved. For a week, my brain latched on to everything it could find as evidence that I wasn’t happy, that all the good things happening are ending, that I didn’t deserve to be happy. I knew it wasn’t true, but knowing that doesn’t mean anything when anxiety is involved. It made me feel like I was going crazy.

And for a week, whether he knew he was doing it or not, he helped me hang on, believed in me when I didn’t, loved me even when I didn’t feel like myself. It’s no wonder I love him to pieces.

There are a few things going on in my life that make me feel like I am at the start of a new chapter. It’s exciting, terrifying, overwhelming and exhausting. That has meant some bumpy days, but good days, too. It’s a new chapter in this weird ass adventure that has become my life. He is farther into his adventure than I am, but we get to figure it out together. I can’t wait to see what happens.

Sweet Annie

“Sweet Annie
Can I stay with you a while
‘Cause this road’s been putting miles on my heart, sweetheart…
But one day lightning will strike
And my bark will lose its bite
But don’t give up on me,
Sweet Annie.”
From Sweet Annie by Zac Brown Band

An occupational hazard of my job is that the people I see every day are more likely to die than a lot of the rest of the population. Today was a first for me: the first time a resident died since I began working there. It was entirely unexpected. One minute, she was on the phone, and the next, gone.

I love my residents. I love the blind man who sits in the hall and makes silly little comments during bingo or Jeopardy. I love the smart-assed little ladies who make slightly inappropriate jokes when they think no one is listening. I love the old eastern European woman who smiles all day.

Selfishly, I love that I work with a bunch of people who cheer me up and cheer me on. They compliment me on a good hair day, ask about my dad when he is sick, and occasionally tell me I’m doing a good job. Who wouldn’t love that? I love when I have a free handful of minutes and can sit and talk with them. They are good for my soul.

Like most old people, they love to talk. They don’t know it, but they are a constant reminder for me to check my perspective. They remind me to take the time to do the things I love and see the people I love. They remind me to be happy. When I am weary, they are a place to rest.

They also remind me that life is fragile. When my funny Polish lady is missing from morning activities and I stop in and find her weak and resting, sore from a poor, sleepless night, I can’t help but worry a little. Another woman scrunches up her face and looks at me with an odd expression as she pushes a walker that she didn’t need until she had a “small stroke” a couple weeks ago, making my heart break a little.

And then there are those like A, who went so suddenly today. She is my reminder to smile while I still can, and to  try to leave a gentle impression.

Extreme(ly) Tired

After dinner tonight, my dad was flipping channels and ended up on an episode of Extreme Weight Loss. I hadn’t seen it before, but the premise is familiar: take an obese person, give them a crap ton of personal training and resources and let us all live vicariously through their weight loss while we sit on our butts and shovel in the Oreos. We only caught part of the episode, but rather than inspire me to use the gym membership I’m paying for, it made me want to pull the blankets over my head and give up.

This week’s subject, at her heaviest, was only 34 pounds more than I am now. She was 40 pounds lighter than my heaviest weight.

They kept showing her initial photo: a sad expression on a puffy, droopy face, her stomach huge and far past the “muffin top” stage, her thighs stuck together… How tragic it is to look that way, they inferred. How grossly unfortunate that a person exists like this. Once she loses the weight, then she might be pretty.

I shifted in my chair. I kept watching, wanting to see how she turned out, regretting every bite I’ve eaten in six weeks. In the end, she beat her goal by a few pounds and everyone in her reveal  audience cheered.

I wished that it hadn’t been so long since I’d eaten dinner because I wanted to throw it up (don’t freak, I haven’t thrown up in almost a decade). Instead, I messaged my bff.

My best friend since fifth grade, she is no newbie to handling my body image issues. She was there when I was a big-boobed size 7 in sixth grade, convinced I was enormous. She was there when I was a size 24, and every minute of every day as I’ve tried to shrink. She reminded me that people are stupid and told me I’m beautiful. We never agree on the latter, but she seems determined to be wrong.

“Be kind to yourself,” she told me last night.

I’m so exhausted of being told that to look like me is to look disgusting, ugly, and unfathomable. I’m so exhausted of having to try to drown out that persistent thrum of society that tells me in a million ways that the bigger I am, the less I am worth. I’m so tired of being told that if I want to be “normal,” or happy, or pretty, or desirable, I have to become half of what I am now.

I know that there are women who are confident in how they look, women who are anything but thin who work what they have, and do it well.

I am not one of those women. I am not a Melissa McCarthy, who boldly tells anyone who gives her crap about her size to kindly fuck off. I wish I was bold and brave like that, but I’m just not.

I’ve been seeing someone for a few weeks. It’s kind of casual and nothing official, but tomorrow is our fourth date. Near the end of our last date, he said something that very nearly got him slapped, had he not quickly explained himself: “You’re like a 70’s porn star; you see what you want and you go for it. That kind of confidence is fucking sexy.”

Me? Confident? Are you kidding me!? I am anything but confident. What I am is a decent actress with just enough pride and vanity to keep her from throwing up from nerves. If only he knew what was going through my head while I tried desperately to act like I was chill:
I like your arm around me. But please don’t squeeze too hard and realize how soft my hips are.
Your hand on my arm is nice, but please don’t notice how my batwings hang like drapery.
Kiss me again. But don’t open your eyes because I don’t want you to see how fat my chin is and how undefined my jaw is when my head is at this angle.
I won’t be the one to take your hand when we walk down the street, no matter how much I want to, because I worry you won’t want people to think we’re “together.” So please take mine.

I am not confident. I am tired.

I scrolled through Facebook as I walked to the bathroom to take a shower. Another friend posted another picture of her abs. I undressed in the bathroom and reached around to the back of my shoulder to scratch a mosquito bite and had the misfortune of seeing myself from the waist up in the reflection in the mirror.

I saw the stretch marks on the back of my arm, the result of my arms changing in composition as I built muscle faster than the skin shrank. I saw the roll where my boob pulled the flesh from my upper rib cage down, and the stomach that had a permanent muffin top shape, even when not wearing pants, and the way that my stomach protruded in the front, making me look about 6 months pregnant. I thought about how a picture of this hot mess would have such a different response than my  friend’s did.

I saw the same things that made the TV audience feel pity. I tried to remember that I’ve made progress, but instead, all I could think is “this is the body I worked hard to get? Are you fucking kidding me? All that work, and this is it. Seventy goddamned pounds and this is it. I’m never going to lose enough to be anything other than fat. Gross.” And I felt tired. So tired. Tired of living in a body with an improperly working thyroid that makes weight loss damn near impossible. Tired of feeling like I won’t ever be small enough to be pretty. Tired of the looks I get as a fatty. Tired of feeling like I have to spend so much energy trying to ignore the messages society sends.

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Not pretty, not thin, just tired.

While in the shower, I thought about texting tomorrow’s date. I wanted to tell him that I hoped he’d be the first: the first (straight) guy to tell me I’m beautiful, or the first guy who didn’t lose interest after a few weeks, or the first guy to introduce me to his friends. I’m not confident that those things will ever happen. A little part of me hopes that they will, because I’m an eternal romantic, but if I’m honest, I’m really, really tired of hoping.

The Best Policy

Dear potential date:

Honesty is the best policy, they say, and after roughly six months of reading profiles and wading through opening lines that are thin variations on “hey, you have nice lips and I like your curves,” I am exhausted. Too much time has been spent on trying to highlight my assets and make my flaws sound fun and quirky, and it got me nowhere. And by the way, that picture is one of 47 I took that night in an effort to find an angle that hid my hips, the wobbly lipstick line, and the stray sock that always seems to be lurking on the floor. I am also sick to freaking death of reading about how you really love Foo Fighters and Shawshank Redemption (seriously, ALWAYS Shawshank Redemption!), and are searching for a woman who embodies every line of The Beach Boys’ California Girls while effortlessly looking like 1995’s Pamela Anderson and who accepts you just as you are.

Because really? Who are we kidding. This is not Melrose Place. If you’re old enough to get that reference without heading over to IMDB and are still (or again) on the market, there is at least some element of your profile that is equal to putting lipstick on a pig.

If I’m honest in my profile, it would read something like this:

I’m an acquired kind of pretty, which is the nice way of saying that an internet website identified my celebrity doppelganger as Philip Seymour Hoffman. I have generally decent hair, nice eyes, and freckles in the summer. I hope you’re a boob guy, because if you’re in it for a good booty, you aren’t gonna find it here.

My backstory will scare the crap outta you if you listen long enough: I grew up in a great family that was damaged by a dysfunctional church. I still have lots of friends there, so don’t bash it, but know that it screwed up my head. I took a long time to finish college and even longer to find out who I think I am. At the age of almost 34, I have seen way more heartache and trauma than most of my peers. I sometimes take meds to make my brain work properly. And the ringer: I’m an ex preacher.

There are good things – lots of them – if you are one of those fabulous men who knows that women are people. To start:
Most importantly, I am really good at loving people. Sometimes they make me insane, but I still love them. 
I can really cook.
I am exceptionally smart.
I am passably funny.
I won’t bug you with a million questions while you watch the hockey game, or demand that you stop watching it to do some stupid little chore because hello, I’ll be watching too.
When I sing with the radio or while I cook, I am fairly good at it.
I am low maintenance and pretty easy to please.
I am really good at being a friend.

There is more, but hopefully you get the picture.

There are things that will annoy you: I never eat all the grapes I buy, I leave socks and water glasses all over, and I text too much. I will gripe at you about your music being too loud and be supremely annoyed at the sound of you eating yogurt.

Here’s the thing, though: I am not asking for you to be Benedict Cumberbatch. God made one of him to prove to humanity that there is such a thing as perfection, and sadly, some pretty English lady got to him first. Since you are most likely as human as I am, I won’t ask you to spit polish the chrome on your hubcaps either. It doesn’t bother me at all if you’re going bald or are pudgy (uh, you’ve seen my hips, yeah?) or can’t make grilled cheese without a toaster. I don’t expect you to have a perfect past, but I do expect you’ll put effort into the present and future.

I’m not looking to be the newest Mrs. Anybody any time soon. Right now, I’d like a reason to put on a stupid dress once in a while, someone whose name makes me smile when I hear it, and is a steady make out buddy. That’s about it.
So if that works for you, let’s talk. But I’ll warn you now that I am the genuine kind of awkward when we start, and will sound like a total dweeb for the first eighteen months or so.

With complete honesty,
Cindy