Thursday, March 28, 2013

Forty Down

Two weeks ago, I learned my manager had nominated me for a District Trainer position.  This meant a salary increase and a title change, both of which would open the door for greater opportunities in the weeks and months to come.  The new position is proof that working hard and rising above the drama can still reap deserved rewards.

Saturday night, after working the entire day, I headed out with Leslie.  We enjoyed a relaxing dinner at Tamarind Seed, a Thai restaurant that proves delicious ethnic cuisine does exist south of the Mason/Dixon.  We then crossed the street to hear Rachel Maddow speak.  Her words were humble and intelligent, savvy and accessible.  I left reminded that, regardless of your political stance, the best opinions are informed ones.

Yesterday Leslie surprised me with a massage. The muscle kneading was followed up by lunch at Cardamom Hill, a local eatery that has been recognized (deservedly so) by James Beard. Because apparently a mani/pedi the previous day wasn't enough of an indulgence, my paws all sparkly and groomed.  For twenty-four hours, I pretended to be a lady who lunched (and loved every minute of it).

This morning, following a late night of an Eric Clapton concert, I awakened to Anders and Olivia singing me happy birthday while Leslie held a plate with a Boston cream donut.  A single candle was stabbed in the middle with a small flame glittering in the darkness of early morning.  Barley even shuffled from his sleep to chime in.

Tonight, after a long and frustrating day of working, I closed up my computer and went up the street to enjoy some tacos.  Seated with my family, sipping a frozen margarita topped with sangria, I exhaled.  I finally stopped to pause and enjoy the day.  There was conversation to be had, food to be eaten, and an loud Mexican ensemble singing Happy Birthday so loud I couldn't help but shrink into the booth and blush.

In between it all, friends and family, people who know me well and only know me from afar, took time out of their day to send along birthday wishes.  I received an email from a friend who is a dive master in Thailand.  I received a card from a close college friend who has had to work seven days a week to make things come together.  There were text messages and Facebook updates, all from people hitting pause for a few moments if only to make my day special.

Tomorrow I'm grabbing a flight to Philadelphia.  I will need to work but when I land, I will be greeted by my good friend Joe who has promised to keep the Champagne O'ramas flowing well into the night. Saturday I will meet up with more friends and family members.  Sunday I will celebrate Easter, a tradition this Jewish gal excitedly embraces.  If all goes well, I will sneak over to the Barnes on Monday before grabbing a Chicago-bound flight for work.

I didn't go into this week with any expectations.  To me, age is just a number.  I know plenty of immature fifty-something men and stick-in-the-mud twenty-something women.  Instead, I see turning forty as an opportunity to take stock. In the last year, I've spent a tremendous amount of time trying to become a better woman. Sometimes the result is success.  Other times I'm a clumsy mess with a funky cowlick on the back of my head.  At least I'm trying.  Though it does help to have loved ones cheering you on, picking you up, and embracing you no matter what.  These people also make turning forty pretty darn spectacular.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

You Can't Buy a Porsche With a Roll of Quarters

"I'm famished," my most recent date noted as he glanced at the last bite of mushroom terrine situated between us, one of two small-plates meant to pair with our drinks, not represent a meal.

"Yours. All yours," I said with a nod and a smile before enjoying a sip of my Tempranillo.

"Fine. But once I settle up, we're walking across the parking lot to enjoy something more substantial. I insist."

We closed the second place down. That was last Thursday. No future plans have been made, though there have been hints. Tonight he even rang to propose spontaneity and margaritas.  It was already half past nine o'clock. Tomorrow morning I set off for a three-day work adventure taking me to parts of the south where two-star hotels dot the horizon.  I declined out of common sense and self-worth.

"Why can't most men bring their A-game any more?" I asked a guy friend.

"Because when we do, you freak out and say we're creepy or aggressive. You say we're spineless and smothering you and then you push us away."

He had a point. Or a point were he speaking to my younger self. Those were the days before texting and The days where you ran with a crowd, met friends of friends, and were blindly drawn to men who fit your yet-to-be-dissected-and-analyzed disfunction. But that didn't make me accept his argument just yet.

"Wait, so you're saying that when a caveman would go out to hunt and got charged by a buffalo, he'd come home, throw his spear down and announce, 'Today we become vegans?'"

"Sure. Yes," he replied.

He did agree with one opinion. I said I had a belief: I will treat you like a king but I expect to be treated like a queen.

"No, on that you're right. Men these days don't know how to treat a woman like a queen."

This is why, after cooking E dinner for months, lavish meals of ceviche and Chicken Marbella, I had to ask him to take the trash out, ask him to help me with the dishes. The same thing happened with Ex, except he fought back arguing he liked being taken care of. And with both men, I happily folded the clean laundry they curiously tossed on the dirty floor. I made the bed in the morning out of personal habit, E once claiming it as his own effort when his mother praised the improved state of his bedroom. In summary, I was nothing more than an unappreciated nanny who put out.

"Did you ever hear from that baseball player guy?" Leslie asked earlier this week.

"Actually, no.  Which is odd considering he texted to make sure I got home, said my kiss was fantastic and even asked my real last name so he could update it in his phone. Oh, whatever."

But it wasn't a cranky whatever. Unlike my younger self, I'm not taking any of this personally. And I refuse to be bitter. I will not, under any circumstances, reference my age or my married friends or the lack of good men. There are plenty of good men. Age with women is like age with wine, we only get better. Plus, there are very few marriages I look at and aspire to one day have.

For the first time, perhaps ever, I welcome the relationship stalling out before it can begin. This, I think, this limits the amount of time wasted with the wrong man. If I chase him, if I pine for him, then what?  I want a man who shows his appreciation of my cooking, who embraces my need to board a plane in Zone 1, and randomly brings me flowers because he loves seeing my face light up.

Maybe E's dating advice of 'Supply and Demand' is valid.  There aren't many women out there like me.  I'm part Julia Child, part literary genius. I can talk politics just as easily as I can discuss any Real Housewives franchise. People, my backhand is stronger than my forehand. So if I'm this unique, this rare of a commodity, the markets would dictate my value is high.  No, correction, exceptionally high.

I'm a Porsche 911 Black Edition. A first print edition of Where the Wild Things Are. A pour of Glenfiddich aged twenty-one years.  And yes, sometimes a piece of homemade parmesan kale chips will wedge itself between two teeth in a way that might challenge my worth. I will talk and laugh and have no clue about that dark green super-food marring my appearance. However, one could feasibly argue this human quality, and appreciation for leafy greens, only makes me cuter.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

The Time I Went Out With a Local Man Looking for a Long Distance Relationship

A few years ago, I was sitting on my old therapist's sofa, running my fingertips across the purple velvet cushions, when she said, "He's never going to marry you."

She craned her neck the same way a parent does when trying to make eye contact with a petulant child.  I continued to stroke the couch, focus my gaze on the nap and enjoy the ability to change the tone by moving my hand in the opposite direction.

"He lives in Alaska for a reason.  Also, Paige, the issue isn't you.  He will never end up with anyone.  He's a commitment-phobe."

Listen, it isn't that she was saying something crazy.  There were plenty of hints and signs throughout the years.  I just chose to ignore them, instead focusing on the few times he gave me hope. Perhaps I was finally so worn down from the back and forth that I was ready to hear this.  Maybe she just knew how to deliver the message.  Either way, I finally cut ties with Alaska.

"It's so nice dating someone local," I said to Leslie over the summer, my relationship with E only a few weeks in.  "Like, how novel to be able to randomly grab pizza with your boyfriend on a Tuesday night!"

"I think you were okay with Alaska because it protected you from dealing with a true relationship, something you just weren't ready to handle."

She was totally right.  Except until that moment, I had never seen my part in that waltz.  Not that I claimed I was an innocent victim.  I did, after all, lace up my shoes and happily step onto the dance floor.  But suddenly I saw how my own personal crap had driven my fate.

Last night I went out on a date.  There was a little hesitation on my end.  Something about his fondness for cruises and casinos that I couldn't connect with.  But I showed up with an open mind.  Oh, and also a forgetful one because I had to rifle through emails while idling in the parking lot because I had forgotten his name.

"Oh, I love New York!" he said when I mentioned the US Open.  "Do you go there often?"

"I used to when I lived in Philly.  You?" I asked before taking a sip of my cocktail.

"Yeah, I used to date a woman there.  For four years."

"Wow, that's a long stretch for long distance," I noted, internally recognizing the irony of those words exiting my mouth.

"Sure, but it worked for me," he explained.

"Why, because you're a commitment-phobe?" I asked with a chuckle.

He paused for a moment, tilted his head to the side and then said, "Huh, I guess I kinda am."

There it was, his moment of realization.  It's as if I had held up a mirror, revealing something he had never seen. Though, in all honesty, I stated the question in a joking manner.  I had never anticipated that he'd avert his gaze, focus on his drink.  That curious quiet between us? I shattered it by tossing my head back and laughing.  I laughed and laughed, doubled over at the irony of sitting next to a man I met on a dating website, a man who just admitted he's a commitment-phobe.

"Wait, why is this funny?" he asked.  "I'm just being honest.  Isn't honesty an admirable trait?"

And then it was gone.  He wasn't ready to see his part in his destiny.  He was there and then he wasn't, quick to defend himself and explain things away.  And that's all fine and good.  I've been there.  You have to really want to change in order to see it through. Exhibit A: my relationship with Alaska that ran years past its expiration date. He wasn't at a point to truly see things for what they were.  The difference between us was that I was.

"Thanks for the drink," I said as we stood in the parking lot.

"Of course," he replied.

They were generic pleasantries shared between two people that would never cross paths again.  On the upside, it was a reality we both embraced and welcomed, each of us turning on our heels and heading off in opposite directions.