Monday, June 24, 2013

Monday Mash-Up


Though I hated my mother for not allowing me to wear jeans as a kid, the woman repeatedly forcing me into Esprit outfits, her fashion snobbery meant I'm always put together as an adult. People often compliment my sense of style, as if pairing a necklace and belt are on par with curing cancer. But I still stumble.  While in Los Angeles last month, I was told I looked more East Hampton than West Hollywood. I'm uncertain if that was a compliment or an insult.  Anyway, with a closet full of clothes, I still had nothing to wear for my rendezvous with Pete. In a panic, I texted a good friend for guidance:

I need a dress that says I'm classy and that even though I swallow I also appreciate caviar.  I guess I should hit Saks?

By the way, I found the perfect dress at the first boutique I visited with Leslie.  Paired with a four-inch, tan, leather sandal, it totally delivered the message I was going for.


This past weekend, I was in NYC helping a coworker.  To make the trip worthwhile, I arrived Thursday.  This meant activities like coffee with one friend and a dinner with another were possible.  I also snuck in a visit to the iconic bookstore the Strand and the farmer's market at Union Square, two places I frequented back when the city was a hop up the highway.

My hotel was located at 29th & Madison, close enough to transportation to access other corners of the city and far enough away from confused tourists littering the lobby.  After dinner on the Upper East Side Thursday evening, I strolled over sixty blocks back to my hotel.  A gentle breeze, dry air, a clear sky, and passerbys all made the walk enjoyable.  Yes, some blocks smelled like stale pee.  Much of the walk required sidestepping people with their noses buried in their phones.  I wouldn't have traded that evening walk for the world.  Sure, there is an ease to life in the South.  The people are nicer and the cost of living is nominal. But I really do feel at home in a bustling city.


Since the start of the year, I've become more dependent on a car service for work.  It makes life easier and my company doesn't have a problem with it.  We aren't allowed to be on the phone for any reason while driving, even hands free.  Plus, landing at eleven o'clock in the evening and wandering a dark parking deck alone isn't always the smartest thing.  Using a car service makes me more available to work and less available to be killed.  We call this a win-win.

I've probably used a car service thirty times in the last few months. Sometimes the car is something pimpy like an Escalade.  When those pull up, I start singing Kanye West. "Everybody knows I'm a mother fuckin' monster, uhh."  More often than not, the car is a Lincoln Town Car.  A traditional, black-paint, tinted-window Town Car.  I crawl into the back, stretch my legs out in front of me, eye the Wall Street Journal on the seat beside me, and quote Gordon Gekko. "The point is ladies and gentlemen that greed, for lack of a better word, is good," I quietly say to myself. Then I giggle and start playing with all of the buttons.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Purge (and Splurge)

"You need to de-clutter," a confidant told me on the phone late Friday afternoon. 

"Did Leslie send you a picture of my dining room table?  She did, didn't she...."

"No, but that dining room table symbolizes your life.  You need to purge that which holds no value so as to make room for that which does."

Some might think it is quite a leap to conclude a pile of mail, a stack of random business cards, and a wad of receipts can mean more than a dislike of filing.  Except that clutter really did represent my life.

For over a year, a corner of my bedroom has been occupied by a pile of clothes to be donated: faded, work-appropriate t-shirts bought five years ago from Banana Republic; fabric Gucci loafers with a platypus-like toe-box; a stack of jeans that are too tight here and too loose there.  For over a year, a corner of my office has been occupied by a box of items meant for the dumpster: random personal papers I forgot to discard before moving south; photographs that hold no meaning; insurance quotes for companies that are no longer my client.

Friendships have piled up too.  Much of my job is spent on the phone, making me scowl at that piece of technology after hours.  Now when I sit in front of my computer, I'm too busy to log onto Gchat.  Toggling between a conference call, a work email, and a personal conversation is beyond my talent-set.  After all, I am the girl who forgets to breathe when holding a plank.

Saturday morning, curiously wide awake at six o'clock, I got out of bed and started tidying up.  Seated on the floor of my apartment, I sorted through piles.  Sometimes I even took a moment to see what else could be added. All of those older sneakers in my closet, the ones too broken-down to use at the gym, those could be donated. All of those receipts stacked on my desk, the ones my accountant will need come tax season next year, those could be filed away.  I even took the time to label my files, tucking professional accolades into one named "Smile File."

By Sunday night, I had dropped three bags of donations at Good Will.  My dining room table was not only completely cleaned off but I had wiped the glass top down, the absence of smudges better revealing the dust bunnies beneath.  I also managed to speak with three different friends, all women who have been incredibly patient with my absence this past year.  They are women who provide guidance and laughter and after each call, I couldn't help but feel grateful to have them all in my life.

Though I purged quite a bit this past weekend, I have also added a few things.  With extra space in my closet, I couldn't say no to a stunning pair of Gucci pumps - thin black straps with gold-chain tassels hanging off the ankles.  A few feet away hangs a new dress, the drape of the fabric feminine and flirty. My calendar has also been de-cluttered.  Now I have time for things like a weekend later this month at a five-star resort in Northern California.  Oh, and a date.  With Pete.  I'll be in New York this week for work and he invited me to join him for drinks and dinner.  It didn't take much to make that fit it into my calendar.  Especially since I had de-cluttered.  Perhaps I'll wear that new dress I bought.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

You Can't Get What You Don't Ask For

I never wanted to be that girl. Like the ones I'd see sassing their boyfriends into a submissive 'Yes, dear' position as they stand at a bar, in a grocery line. Or the ones demanding attention, snapping 'Take me home, now' amongst friends, coworkers, complete strangers. She, I'd think, she must be such an unpleasant handful.

"Where do you want to go to dinner?" my exes would often ask.

"I'm fine with whatever," I'd often respond.

"Just pick!"

"Okay, pizza."

"Nah, I'm not in the mood for pizza.  Pick something else."

"Yeah, like I said, I'm fine with whatever."

Maybe it's because I grew up with a father with physically deteriorating health, a once strong man now a shell of his former self. Maybe it's because I spent over a decade volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House, watching sick children fight for their lives. At a certain point, I adopted the motto: I don't have cancer. Such an approach pretty much makes the question of tacos or pizza rather inane. 

In early April, I met Pete at that Charleston cocktail party. Mid-May I finally reached out to him. And a week into our conversations, he shared something personal. That two weeks prior to meeting me, he and his wife had separated. For the first time in four years they were communicating, they were making progress, this time toward mediation. Meeting me, he said, was both unexpected and delightful. He hadn't felt such a connection in many years. But he wanted to be honest about his situation. The manner in which I wanted to proceed, if at all, he would respect.

I sat with his email for an entire day before I typed a response. My instinct was to console him, offer genuine words of support. Except his gesture had opened the door for me to say what I truly wanted. Here it was, a chance to vocalize my needs. It would then be up to him to determine if he was capable of meeting them. I wrote, deleted, and rewrote my response no less than ten times, eventually settling on truthfulness: 

In exchange for your honesty, I will admit that I am hoping to find a copilot, someone with whom I can share my life. Someone who cheers me on when I thrive and lends a hand when I stumble. Someone who makes me laugh and makes me think. Someone who appreciates delicious cuisine, adventurous travel, and intellectual curiosity. Someone who adores me, even though I can't whistle. Someone who will tend to spiders while I dance across the living room sofa, point and squeal. I'm not sure what we have here but I'm okay with where you are if you're okay with where I am.

It took me twenty minutes to click send, my extended index finger hovering over the button as I managed knots in my stomach and tightness in my chest. What if this turns him off? What if he has no interest in ever remarrying? Isn't it premature to address this? What if I sound needy and unreasonable? What if I sound like that girl? 

The thing is, you can't get what you don't ask for. Tiptoeing around the truth would be misleading. Plus, he had offered honesty, led with respect. The least I could do was reciprocate it. I reread my response and, a little shy of midnight, clicked send. He responded early the next morning: 

Nothing less should be expected from a partner and you have a great sense of worth embedded in those thoughts. I am more than okay with where you are and I appreciate the open door from you very much.