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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

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Fairy Tales and Muggles

On paper, Brian was just right: very intelligent, not bad to look at, and an astoundingly successful career for someone his age. I hesitated at first because he is a few years younger, but everything else seemed to override the age difference. We’re both liberal Democrats, and we agreed on almost everything, with a little variance on the issue of guns. Before our first date, we spent hours every day texting and talking on the phone about everything or nothing and anything in between. He drove over an hour to get to the date, and it lasted eight hours. Though not the best, he was a pretty passable kisser.

At one point that night, while we sat in the car talking for hours, I asked him which Hogwarts house he’d be in. He laughed and said he’d never seen or read the Harry Potter series because “it’s a story for children.” I’ve heard this before, and have converted a few people into fans of the tale of The Boy Who Lived, so I wasn’t too terribly disheartened. The date ended around 2 a.m. and I didn’t even regret it when I woke at 4:30 for work the next day. 

Things were going well, and a few weeks later, we had another date, this time, I drove north and we hung out all day, all night, and into the morning. As we sat in the pub near his place, I mentioned that I wanted to see the new Cinderella movie and he laughed. He asked how old I am, and gave me a hard time about wanting to see a fairy tale. I don’t care how old I get, Cinderella is my favorite fairy tale and Kenneth Branagh could direct a kindergarten play and make it look masterful.

I’d had a good time on the date, but as I drove home, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t right, that there was something missing. After about a month of conversation and a few dates,  the initial chemistry had already morphed into something else. Since I’m generally moronic when it comes to emotions, it took me a while to figure it out:

He’s a Muggle. Non-magic folk, as Hagrid would say. Not a bad person or anything, but he doesn’t believe in magic, in that mystery and whimsy that intangibly moves in and between people.

And that doesn’t work for me.

Once upon a time, I would have settled for a Muggle who, on paper and initially seemed to be such a good match. It may not be what I had dreamed of, but I didn’t have much hope of ever finding what I wanted either.

“How old are you?” He laughed.
I am old enough to not rush into anything, but far too young to give up on the life I dream of. I’m old enough to know that fairy tales are the truest form of every story. I’m old enough to know that I have to be my own fairy godmother, too old to chase down just anything like the stepsisters, but too young to become bitter, like the stepmother.

I believe in magic. Passion. Chemistry. Slow Blake Shelton songs and bombastic P!nk anthems. Dancing. In the person who makes you smile without realizing that you’re grinning like a fool. I believe in the person who knows just how and when to kiss you. I believe in the person who drives you so crazy you could shake them but who, simultaneously, you can’t do without. The person you keep coming back to, like a boomerang. The feeling you get when the right hands run through your hair or touch your cheek. I believe in kisses that feel like coming home.

I don’t believe in perfect. I don’t believe in instant. But I believe in magic, and I’m not going to settle for less.

Time is a Thin Veil

Time is a thin veil
that hangs between me and
my memories,

but if I close my
eyes and hold my breath,
it is thinner.

The November ocean
numbs and foams around my
feet and the peach

sky sets slowly
while dolphins play in
distant waves.

Brown shag carpet
under my legs while I eat
lemon drops,

my grandmother’s voice
telling me stories that I’ll too
soon forget.

The scent on his skin
when he moved in closer,
taking my face

in his hands,
so familiar, exciting, and
heartbreaking.

If I just stop,
still, hold my breath and close
my eyes, I

am
so
nearly
there

again.

But my eyes
cannot stay shut, nor my ears
strain to hear

the voices and
sighs and train whistles of
time gone by.

Time is an
impermeable veil, with new
oceans to

wade, stories to
live, and lips to kiss, and
I can’t wait.

Forgiveness, Time, and a Few Flying Pigs

I was fourteen, awkwardly overdeveloped compared to my peers, quiet, and poor. He was fifteen, adorable, and probably the most pursued boy in my church’s region. I’d been warned by the other girls that I wasn’t allowed to like him, but I did anyways (frigging hormones!). It was a daily misery, knowing that I wanted what I would never have.

Until November 14, 1995, when he told me that he “maybe liked me, but wasn’t really sure,” and said that kissing me would probably help him decide. I was floored, and the kiss was over as fast as it started. It was too fast to decide if I liked it or not. So later that night, we tried again, and wouldn’t you know, neither of us hated it.

That was the beginning of years of a relationship that shouldn’t have happened like it did. It happened in secret, apart from everyone. I wasn’t good enough, in the eyes of outsiders, to be paired up with such a golden child. So we met in secret. We didn’t act like we were together. We didn’t flirt or hold hands – in fact, we went out of our way to make it look like nothing was happening. Young and naïve, I was convinced that if I was thinner, prettier, more popular, that it would be different. I thought that if I went farther than I was comfortable with, it would make him happy, and maybe then he would like me.

It didn’t work out that way. Instead, we found ourselves the middle of music camp scandal, and then it was off and on again until finally, I said it was over. I was so brokenhearted. I had come to love him over the years we were together, and I felt used and manipulated. I was bitter and angry and I stayed that way for a long time.

Whenever we ran into each other in the following years, it was like someone sucked the oxygen out of the room. We never knew what to say. How to act. Thankfully, it didn’t happen too often.

Leap Day 2012, a full 13 years after we ended, he called me. He said that he wanted to apologize for the way things happened. He wanted to finally tell me that he had, in fact, liked me, and that he wishes he had been bold enough to say so. He asked for my forgiveness.

I never thought that day would come. Truthfully, I had spent hours and hours over the years rehearsing the vile things I would say to him. But instead, I found myself apologizing as well, because I had known better. I accepted his apology, even though I never expected it, and wasn’t prepared to.

I’ve heard thousands of sermons on forgiveness. I’ve preached on it myself. But no sermon, no lecture, or Bible study, or other interaction was as profound a lesson in forgiveness as that one. To forgive and be forgiven for one of the deepest hurts of my lifetime… I still struggle to articulate it. It was freeing in a way that I never thought would happen.

Tonight, a few friends independently commented on something he posted on his blog. They bristled at it, and I found myself kind of defending him. Not that I was agreeing with him, but I had a bit of a need for them to know that he is “good people.” I was a little protective of him. We aren’t really friends now, though we have talked a few times.

As I walked around work tonight, I wondered why I had defended him. I could have let people think whatever they wanted to think. But then I realized that there is something different about the first boy a girl loves. Because I’ve been forgiven, and have forgiven him, I’ve come to see that time differently: not with so much harshness and bitterness, but with a kind of sad, beautiful tenderness that understands that we were both so young, so fragile.

Pigs may have flown tonight as I defended him. The devil may be wearing a parka and dear stalker as I come to realize that in a small, different way, I’ll probably always love him. Not because of any relationship we have now, but because of what he once meant, and what we learned together, and out of respect for the character and courage it took for him to make that phone call. Forgiveness is what makes love possible, even after the biggest hurts. Do I wish that we had done things differently as teenagers? Absolutely. But the beauty of forgiveness – and love – is that it can heal wounds that are deeper than we could ever fathom.

Crash and Burn

Apparently, CJ and I were a firework: fast, intense, hot, and over too soon.

I honestly don’t know what happened. On Saturday, all was well, and he was sweet and charming, telling me that it was so good to see me after a long day at work, that I am the best person he’s ever been with, that he so enjoys spending time with me… And then today, when I asked about seeing him this weekend, he just said “we need to talk.”

And then he broke up with me.

His reason was that he likes being alone more than in a relationship. That while he does like me, and all those previous things are still true, he just wants to be alone. According to him, it’s too much for him to handle, so he’s bowing out. 

I am kinda crushed. It was a short relationship, no doubt, and one that did seem to go from zero to sixty super fast, but I can’t go from sixty to zero without feeling it.

I hate the it’s-not-you-it’s-me speech, because it never feels that way when you’re on the receiving end. What it sounds like, instead, is “you aren’t enough to change the game.”

It probably doesn’t help that it came after a long, crappy day at my new job. A job I’m grateful to have, but that I hate, and where half the people I work with seem to be either terrible employees or jerks.

Today is not a good day. Not good at all. I’m doing all I can to not just crawl into bed and cry. I’m trying to not let myself think that I’m doomed to this horrible job and perpetual loneliness for forever, but anxiety makes that hard. I’m trying to not think that this is another joke the universe is having at my expense. I’m trying not to think about how a few days ago, I was so happy about how things were finally seeming to come into place after a really long, shitty few years, only to find myself heartbroken and humiliated.

Today is stupid.

Under the Desk and Dreaming

One night, seventeen lifetimes ago, my college roommate and I found ourselves in a spectacular moment of heartache and wistfulness about former loves. We were up quite late that night, discussing all of the charming attributes we missed about our exes, and at some point, I ended up tossing and turning enough that my bed had scooted across the tile dorm floor and I was nearly under the desk. Since then, being “under the desk” was a shorthand phrase for longing, pining, dwelling on the sweetness of the guy one of us couldn’t stop thinking about.

I have been under the desk for days. Only this time, it’s not an unrequited crush or selected memories of an ex; this time, it’s CJ.

I’ve tried to play it cool and not be a huge dork about it, but I think I have given up. I’m not cool – think Amy Farrah Fowler from The Big Bang Theory, but with fewer pieces of wool clothing. I mean, one of the best things about this adventure is the ability to be myself in every moment, no matter how honest or risky, and have it be OK. So I am going to give myself the freedom to embrace my dorkiness and to just have fun.

In honor of Steph and the nights under the desk, here is my partial list of the things that I find endearing or charming or funny or otherwise wonderful:
~ He pays attention to and remembers what I say. He knows my niece and nephews names, which uncle I’m closest to, and my high school mascot.
~ He does sweet little things, like notices when I’m cold and gets up to bring me a blanket, or knows to bring me water instead of pop.
~ He does a pretty decent Eddie Vedder impression that never fails to make me laugh. He’s also a good singer, though I don’t think he has realized that I hear him when he sings under his breath.
~ Our level of desired affection is the same. He doesn’t complain if I want to hold his hand, but he doesn’t make me uncomfortable with an overabundance of PDA, either.
~ We have the same favorite lullaby. I got a piece of wall art from my niece and nephews for Christmas what has the phrase “You are my sunshine” on it, as well as their signatures. It’s one of my favorite things ever because it is the song I sang to them as teeny ones. When I showed CJ, he said it was his favorite because his mom sang it to him. I know it’s not an uncommon song, but I still think it’s sweet.
~ He makes seeing his family a priority. Bonus!
~ Let’s be honest: it doesn’t hurt that he’s a good kisser.
~ We don’t have to talk all the time. Sometimes, we just watch Jimmy Fallon and eat cookies. And that’s cool.
~ We seem to have a rhythm of being together that works. In true INTJ style, I can’t put my finger on why, but we fall into it.
~ It didn’t seem to phase him that my life has been turned inside out lately. Instead, he’s supportive, encouraging, and thoughtful. He’s mindful of it without dwelling on it.
~ I love the sound of his voice, the grayish edges of his irises, and the softness of the backs of his hands.
~ We spent part of our New Years morning talking about all the reasons we don’t want kids, from the silly to the significant, and never once did he look at me like I was a freak for any of the reasons I cited.
~ He just makes me smile. A lot. A lot a lot.

If you read this far, I’m impressed. I know it’s early on in the relationship, but so what? Part of the fun of relationships is the optimistic goofiness that happens at the beginning when everything is new. We aren’t the magic of movies and sitcoms, and it’s certainly not so revolutionary that it’s nothing you’ve seen/heard/experienced before. Maybe that is the magic, though: that ability to take something as mundane as cake pops and New Years Eve on TV and experience them as something altogether new and vibrant simply because of the person sitting next to you.

These little bitty moments of romance when he takes my hand while we walk or lets me have the better parking space are delightful, and I am having an incredibly fun time with it.

Super Anxiety Girl Gets a Boyfriend

In the words of my therapist, my “brain doesn’t run on jet fuel, it runs on rocket fuel,” by which he mean my brain runs hotter and faster than average. It can be a good thing, like when I catch on quickly in school, but it can also be a bad thing, particularly when my super fast brain tangos with my anxiety disorder. Anxiety is perpetually asking what could go wrong? and my hyperthinking brain comes up with answers at warp speed. This is why I sometimes refer to myself as Super Anxiety Girl: able to jump to the worst possible conclusion at any time!

Just a couple of posts ago, I wrote about how horribly online dating has been going, and the responses from my friends were either a. It has been just as awful for me, or b. It worked for me, so keep trying!  Figuring I had nothing to lose, I kept at it.

There was a profile I’d noticed a few times, but he had made the first contact. At first, the interactions seemed stunted and awkward, but I kept talking to him, and eventually, we fell into some good conversation. CJ asked me out just after publishing that post, and I said yes. A lunch date wasn’t too much commitment, I figured, and so despite all my previous online dates going terribly, I shaved my legs, consulted my bff about which skirt to wear, and carefully decided on Yves Saint Laurent Glossy Lip Stain in Vintage Rouge. My hopes were admittedly not sky high, having been let down before.

The food was so-so, but holy crap, we clicked. What was supposed to be lunch turned into 3.5 hours and only ended because I had to go pick up my mother. We giggled. Our knees kinda sorta touched under the table. He sweetly asked permission to kiss me before he did, and the kiss wasn’t bad at all. I smiled the whole way home. I hadn’t been gone from the restaurant for 20 minutes when he texted and asked if I wanted to hang out that evening. I said yes, and when he texted me his address, it turned out he lives four blocks from me. We ended up watching Harry Potter and Comedy Central and talking until 3:40 AM.

The next few days, we texted, hung out after he got off of work, and it is weird how well we both seemed to fit together. He’s 35, has a reliable job, owns his home, has a stable, normal family who lives in town, is kind, funny, sweet, a good kisser, and doesn’t seem to mind holding my hand. We kind of fell into each other and I wish I could explain it better than saying “we just make sense,” but that’s honestly how I feel. Somewhere along the way,very early on, we decided we weren’t going to see anyone else, and a bit after that, we decided that it suited us to use the boyfriend/girlfriend labels.

In a few weeks, I went from hardly talking to him to feeling like I’ve known him for forever. One night last week, I had to drive from northern Illinois to Detroit and back in one marathon drive. Twelve hours on the road, not counting the hour and a half I spent stopping for gas and delivering the packages to the Chrysler plant. I was happy when he called me after he got off work, but I never imagined he would stay up literally all night to talk to me while I was on the road. At times, we didn’t even talk, we just were there, silent, miles apart, but still together.

All these things are wonderful, right? Right.

Except that this relationship is different than all of my previous relationships. It’s less complicated, more intense, faster, deeper, scarier than any other relationship I’ve had. And that’s where Super Anxiety Girl swoops in.

image

Cindy and CJ in Chicago, 2014

On Monday, CJ and I spent the day in Chicago, my favorite place at my favorite time of year. He traipsed around Macy’s, Millennium Park, and the Magnificent Mile with me, in the rain, no less! When we got back to his place that evening, we talked and watched TV, and in the midst of the conversation, we ended up in a weird place. I’ve fallen a bit farther than he has. Not that he hasn’t fallen for me at all, but he’s more cautious. I told him that I didn’t expect us to be in exactly the same place, and that’s the truth. I told him we can slow down and take things easier. It had seemed so easy for both of us to fall into the relationship, but we responded a bit differently.

I left his place and almost cried while I drove home. The next day, I barely heard from him. The day after that, Christmas Eve, I didn’t know what to think. Were we over? Had it ended that quickly? What had I done to screw it up? Was he lying when he said that he liked being with me/that it was unexpectedly “right” with me/that I was beautiful, smart, and vibrant? Did I misread every kiss/every hour of handholding/every “thinking of you” text he sent me? Was I too much of myself too quickly, and that turned him off? When he talked about going to a Bulls game or a theater show sometime, was he just blowing hot air? But more than anything: What is so very wrong with me that makes me so undatable and undesirable? A million questions a minute, each worse than the preceding question, and it didn’t stop for nearly two days.

Looking back on that conversation now, I see that it wasn’t as catastrophic as I felt it was at the time. Truthfully, it was going too fast for both of us. Slowing down is a good thing. But slowing down doesn’t mean ending. Being in slightly different places doesn’t mean not being together. I have come down from the proverbial ledge on that one, but it was a tough few days of questions without talking much to him. However, we’ve texted since then, and we’re good.

We were originally going to see each other Christmas night, but he rescheduled for tonight. Then, tonight’s date was rescheduled for tomorrow because he works at the airport and there are flight delays. It has been an epic feat of cognitive behavioral skills to keep myself from over thinking the reschedules. I know that flights are delayed, and that means he has to stay. It’s not that he doesn’t want to see me.

It has all happened really quickly, and it has been really intense. It scares me. It’s nothing like my previous relationships, yet I’m terrified that history will repeat itself. In the past, whenever I hit a rough moment in a relationship, the guy bailed. I wasn’t ready for someone who would stick around through it. As smart as I am when it comes to many things, relationships are where I feel like I hardly know my head from an acorn squash. The cues that everyone else seems to pick up on fly right over my head, and all my intuition is useless.

Dating CJ has been so much fun, and endlessly exciting, even if it’s hell on my nerves. I’m honestly glad he said something about needing it to slow down because I didn’t realize then that I needed the same thing. I hope that this lasts for a while, because I really like him. It is completely new territory for me, but oh sweet mercy, I hope it works.

Adventures in (Not) Dating

I’ve written about being fat, rape, resigning from my professional ministry career, my family, a broken heart, my anxiety disorder… and yet, this post seems really scary, and incredibly personal. Like the rest of those posts, though, the words demand to be written, and so I find myself sitting at the computer, asking the universe to be kind.

In high school, when everyone else was dating, I had a weird, intimate relationship with a guy for three and a half years, so I didn’t date anyone else. In college, I was working and taking too many credit hours, so I didn’t have time to date, though my insecurities and anxiety kept me under the radar most of the time anyways. Then, for years, I was in seminary and a full-time minister, and I don’t think that there is better man-repellent than being a fat, nerdy minister. A little more than a year ago, something weird started with someone, and after about a year, I found myself brokenhearted, stuck in Iowa where I knew no one outside of coworkers and clients, and I gave in to peer pressure from my dearest friends and decided to try online dating. It had worked for Ange and James, Jerry and Jessica, Brandon and Nick, so why shouldn’t I give it a shot? After all, it’s not like I was likely to meet men anywhere else in that tiny little town.

It has been two and a half months, and oh my God has it been everything I feared it would be.

First, there’s the weird job of setting up your own profile, trying to answer questions honestly, even if none of the options really fit, and even if you aren’t sure how to do it, you have to write something in a few hundred characters that will catch someone’s attention. I’m a whole person, not just a few pithy lines about how I like football, sparkles, and and thunderstorms. What if one word, or one line is included or excluded and that makes all the difference in my impression and I don’t know that? I’m supposed to put pictures, but since all my friends live forever away, all I have are recent selfies and old pictures from when I was much fatter. How many selfies can I post before I just look lonely and bored (no matter how lonely and bored I actually may be here in another town where the only people I know are my parents).

Then, there’s the even weirder job of sorting through others’ profiles. Do I have a height range? What about eye color or income? Excuse me, am I looking for a person or sorting through possible specs on an automobile? If I have no parameters, I look too desperate and have to sort through too many people who really don’t fit the bill. I’ve noticed I have weird trends, a “type” that I didn’t really think about before. I usually skip over blonds, and short men (anyone under 5’10”) seem to get a “meh” from me. I’m OK with men six or seven years older, but more than two years younger and I feel like Mrs. Robinson. Little things in their descriptions can make me cringe and are sometimes speedbumps that I have to think twice about (passed one up because he’s a Packers stakeholder: gag). I skipped one profile completely because he looks too much like a friend’s brother-in-law whom we all dislike. This guy might be perfectly delightful, but I could only think “eeeek! NOOOO!”

But beyond that, I hate, hate, hate the weird, fake, uncomfortable way that communication happens, or doesn’t happen, and how it makes me feel about myself. Online not-dating has been hell on my anxiety, complicated by my stupidly romantic heart. I am never comfortable making the first move. I do it because as much as it terrifies me, if I want something – or think I want something – I have to give it a shot, because otherwise, I will be haunted by what might have been. So I look through profile after profile, trying to figure out if it’s worth the risk, and I’ve decided to take the risk more often than I would have thought I would. And it has fallen flat every time. Most of the time, I’m ignored. Sometimes, I’ll have a few exchanges with a guy and then he just stops talking. Mid conversation, never says another word. Sometimes, it seems like less of a risk: there was one guy who stalked my profile for two weeks, “winked” at me, and then when I said hi, there was no response and he never looked at my profile again. Another guy looked over and over, liked every photo, favorited me, and then again, as soon as I said hi, he disappeared.

The few who have contacted me first have been worse: yesterday, a man messaged me to tell me he’d let me sleep with him since he’s bored with his fat, lazy-in-bed wife, as long as I drove to Wisconsin when his wife and kids are gone. Another guy, barely old enough to get a tattoo, said he’d get to the point: he wants an experienced woman to teach him. And there have been a few who are old enough not only to be my father, but my grandfather, too! GROSS.

Reading profiles has become kind of ridiculous, because they almost all say the same thing: they want a light-hearted, outgoing, skinny woman. Perhaps using slightly different language, but it’s a lot of the same thing. Sometimes, I read them and I can see how we’d get along in everything mentioned, except for that one little phrase that makes it clear that he only wants thin women. Even guys who are 75 pounds overweight themselves are only interested in thin women. sigh. I’m kind of in that in-between stage, where I’m the size of an average American woman, which means I’m not so very gigantic anymore, but I still am losing (seven more pounds lost this month!), with more hips than I like, but pretty decent boobs that balance it out. Average, though, is still fatter than they want. Even taking my weight out of it, I don’t fit into what they describe. I’m not light-hearted. I’m not outgoing. I’m funny, but not in a way that translates well into profile-writing. I am really smart, but to say so makes me sound arrogant. I’m a really loyal and honest friend, but that’s something that plays out in time, not in 45 seconds of reading. I think I’m a pretty good person, but then again, it’s not like anyone would advertise themselves as an asshole, you know?

So two and a half months later, I find myself in the same position. Well, not brokenhearted anymore, but still bored. It’s hard to be ignored all the time and not feel like there’s just something fundamentally unattractive about me. Some invisible force that stretches even into the internet. Poor BobbyJeff, Melissa, Brandon, and Ange have listened to me whine about it and have been kind enough to not tell me to shut up.

I keep saying that I am done with it, but since I have another few weeks on my subscription, I still check it. Every so often, I find myself talking to someone for a day or two, even though they always disappear. It’s a weird sort of masochism, I think, being a romantic. Because no matter how often I end up bummed out by being ignored, there is that little voice that says “but it worked for Ange… look at how happy Jerry is…” I suppose it’s the price I am paying for not being too jaded. The price to pay for hoping, however tenderly, that it’s possible that there’s someone who will see past my hips and inability to write my own catalog entry and see that I have pretty eyes, brilliant brain, and that eternally damned “great personality.”

Play It, Sam

Nostalgia was originally a medical diagnosis, one so serious that it was a reason for medical discharge from military service. Soldiers would become so stuck on the fantastic world they left behind that they became unable to function in their present circumstances.

Not that I’m anywhere near that level of “stuck,” I have had a lot of time to think in the last week and a half, and I think that my efforts to not be anxious about the future have made me a little more prone to nostalgia. For the most part, it has been good, or at least harmless. Except for a few memories, all connected to the same person, that seem to be tripping me up. Someone impossible to see again.

It is no small cruelty that our senses have memories. It’s not just that my brain trips up, but I don’t have to try to “see” his face, or “hear” his voice, or “feel” his cheek on mine (not in a Cindy’s-gone-crazy way, but in a my-memories-are-that-vivid way). Instead, it’s like the memories trapped in my senses demand to be relived. He’s someone long gone, not to be seen again, and still, my brain cycles through all the things I never said, the things I would say if I had the chance. Impossible scenarios at best.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a romantic in that hold-out-for-the-long-shot sort of way. I am eternally like Rick Blaine, the protagonist in Casablanca, an endless battle of both intense cynicism and hope, understanding that I’ll never be Victor Laszlo, but still maintaining the absurd shred of hope that someday, I just might be.

I sincerely hope Cameron is the only one who hasn’t seen Casablanca (and that he sees it SOON), but for those who haven’t, Rick is the bar owner who loses his great love prior to the start of the film. Their song was As Time Goes By, and Rick forbade his musicians from playing it. Then one day, Ilsa, the great love, comes into the bar and insists the song gets played. Rick is quite displeased until he learns Ilsa has returned, and then things get muddier when you learn Ilsa isn’t alone: Victor is there. For the remainder of the film, Rick and Ilsa wrestle with the themes of love, loyalty, duty, honor… It’s just beautiful.

One night, when Rick has been drinking, he insists his pianist play the song over and over. It’s painful and soothing all at once. An exquisite tangle of fond memories, unrealized dreams, and present heartache, with bitter solitude to boot. “Play it, Sam,”* he says. At first, Sam resists, but Rick tells him again, and Sam plays. The memories demand to be relived no matter the inevitable heartache.

I don’t want you to think I’m spending my days crying in my soup or anything, but in the midst of the changes in my life lately, I do find myself feeling like Rick. These beautiful memories of someone long gone, the sadness over his absence, the things left unsaid, the faintest glimmer of hope; they’re all there, swirling around in my brain while I unpack suitcases of clothes and look for work. So I will listen to his song, a hundred, a thousand more times, until the memories stop demanding to be relived.

*edited to fix misquote

Cooking: A Love Poem in Photographs

1607014_10100839226300967_2783017495446474500_nHeld long and smooth
in my hand, firm flesh and
thin skin, examining the veins,
coaxing out the seeds that
spill everywhere;
it is most definitely the star
of the evening, but only because
I know what to do with it.
Red pepper, chopped.

I didn’t hesitate to pull1380128_10100839226340887_4180434938949517361_n
back layers and display
everything that had been hidden
and speculated about, thankful
that I found quality, strength,
yet with quick movements,
I turned that nerve into bits.
Onion, chopped.

 

10712904_10100839226405757_7087650198388075323_nI pushed through people
to get to you, grabbed brazenly
with my whole hand, and took
you straight home where you
were swiftly disassembled and
crushed, for my benefit;
my need is all that mattered.
Garlic, minced.

 

10482073_10100839226515537_1719495179856291131_nSudden heat and corresponding
sweat, a dissolution of individual
identities until there was just
fragrance surrounding me,
clouding my vision, almost
transcendent, lingering on my hands
long after I was through
with the handling.
Medium heat, until tender.

1528685_10100839226485597_3423709291077621631_nDrown everything in unexpected
spice and ease, tightly lidded so that
nothing escapes, not the heat, not
the sweat; relish the anticipation of
flavor, the melding of particulars
into that which is something entirely other,
more beautiful and lovely than then its parts.
Simmer 30 minutes, blend.

10269440_10100839367018967_5201095481048835091_n
In a whir of color and motion,
it’s about damn time, hotter than
expected as it burns my lips too
swiftly to keep it from scalding my
tongue, a welcome pain drenched in
pleasure, and my eyes close
and I sigh, satisfied.
Serve with caution.