Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Well Hello There, Old Friend

It's been almost two years. And yet.

I really relinquished this virtual reality into the realm of Things I Used To Do and Things That No Longer Apply and Oh My Gawd Saturn Return Is Totally Real. Perhaps those things are all very true and this is something I used to do and it will no longer resinate. Still. I got an email. One email. From one person who doesn't know me in "real life" and wondered, quite frankly, where the hell I've been (written more nicely, of course, to solicit a response). With a smile in her subject line, she said she's been reading my blog for three years and I haven't posted for two. She wondered if I've "moved" somewhere else and forgot to supply a forwarding address. As it were. I guess I have. I've been so focused in this alternate reality of food-making and relationship-nurturing that I forgot to go inward and put it outward.

So here it is.

It seems like one of the biggest distinctions between the mid-twenties and early-thirties is that when you're younger, you're more willing to admit to your fuck-ups. Like they're allowed and even indulged because of your (relative) youth and, as a result, more easily forgivable. When we get a bit older, however, we seem to desire and display a more filtered version of everything, as if we should've already learned all pivotal lessons and now our lives are just one idyllic Instagram photo after another: perfect lightning and romantic setting, sipping pink wine and wearing pretty flower crowns. But c'mon. There are so many moments between those posed photos; the ones where the lighting isn't so good and your hair isn't as coifed, when your eyes are swollen from crying for no reason (yes, it still happens) and your day is long with unclaimed hours after weeks of rushing to just check off your checklist. But then clients go out of town and summer nights last really long and you find yourself looking for yourself, again, but now between the crowded space of Over Worked and The Next Indicated Thing. And then. Oh shit. There you are. Still the same person who you were, only maybe with a few more wrinkles or diplomas or an important ring-bling or an unrelenting belly roll from doing the most significant stretch of a woman's life. Then all that excitement subsides. You're no longer the bride or the ingenue or the PhD candidate or the pregnant woman. You're just you. And that's awesome. And terrifying. You realize, despite all the internal growth and external manifestations of success, that there's still more to unpack. Maybe even more so now. And that's just fine.

Chapter 2.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

What the What?

Full disclosure. I haven't posted anything in a very long time because, quite frankly, I no longer identify with who I had become in this forum. The Sarah represented on this blog is unequivocally not the Sarah I am now. She (past-tense me) is cynical and self-destructive and whiny and, basically, pretty awful. She (blog-me) didn't start that way, but she soon spiraled into a hyperbolic bitch-fest all the while trying to to make herself appear to be something so that someone at some point would read into some sentiment (which they never do when you want them to). So much so that even typing "taffeta" into the hyperlink made current me get all lip-curled and anxious over this gross girl who was so willing to frivolously share so much. And, yes, I realize that speaking about oneself in a third person narrative is slightly off-putting, but this she is so not me that I can't even entertain the first. And, yet, with all that, here I go again writing in this manner? Well, not exactly.

Last night brought the first chill of fall and, like a familiar sweater freshly unpacked from storage, so too did the night resurrect residual behavior as I found myself slipping into something that has shrunken in size over the summer and can no longer keep me warm. As it were. It started from a gushy feeling. I was giddy and excited and deeply engrained in a truth I've worked so fervently to realize. Then, as quickly as a wine glass can empty when consumption overshadows cognizance, I wasn't in the driver's seat of my experience. Instead, I was relying on past maps -- that never served me well -- to yield different results. That's a fool's game, I tell ya, a fool's game. But there it was and there I was and there everything was that wasn't what I was anymore and it was all so damn ugly. But it's okay.

Acting out isn't indicative of anything beyond a misjudged moment. It's impossible to be enlightened and evolved at every second of every day. It's a struggle and we have to forgive ourselves our tribulations with the same compassion and kindness that we reserve for our loved ones. There is, after all, always a learning curve and a curve ball and (continuing with the hackneyed metaphors) an otherwise unnoticed curve in the road. I guess what I'm trying to say in all this candid gurgled jumble is that, um, nothing is indicative of everything and that this blog sorta serves as something bigger than a bunch of sentences. There are incidentals of which I'm not-so-proud and not-so-fond, but such is life and that's okay. Onward and upward, I suppose.

To be continued, I hope.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Can't Fight the Seether

It's always when you least expect it. Or when you don't want it. Like, genuinely don't want it. Actually, saying you don't want it isn't strong enough a sentiment. Instead, "it" always happens when "it" is the worst idea in the whole wide world of bad ideas.

There you are living life the way properly indicated for you. You're stoked some days, bummed other days and, the rest of the time, you slink your mouth into a half-grin suggesting, not so much complacency but, a this'll do mentality. No big deal. That's life. But then something happens to shake everything up. Something that tests all the absolutes you've placed on yourself about the shape of your life. It's as if every little rule you've made unnecessarily heavy starts drifting away, helium-balloon style, until you realize you can't reach rationality no matter how high you stand on tippy-toes. Which is spectacular. And scary. So you fight it, no matter the dullness of your balloon-popping blade and the futility of your effort.

Maybe you explain to whoever is most interested that this deck just isn't the one you planned to play. According to you. Even if the hand looks pretty awesome -- maybe even more awesome than what you were anticipating -- it still isn't right. According to you.

So you fight this thing simply because it was not, as you imagined, in the Grand Scheme of Things. Plus, quite frankly, you'd rather not deal with this now. Maybe someday, but not now. Never now. But then it showed up and shocked you with its HelloHow'd'yaDo and you can't get it out of your mind. Still, you try to stay true to a stagnant past view and, with all the valor you can muster, you fight and fight and fight until your narrative is no longer about the thing itself but, instead, about how much you're fighting against the thing when, really, it could all be so easy.

Some things like, say, I dunno, cancer and grammar and marriage equality really deserve a good fight. Absolutely. Keep on keepin' on. But then, c'mon, other things like, say, I dunno, anything involving how you arbitrarily think your life should unfold deserves to be unhinged from attachment and expectation. Some things really are rare and special and surprising.

But fight if you like to fight. The thing -- whatever its proper name or title or face may be -- will just begin to go with the flow of the tide while you exhaust yourself swimming counter to the current just to prove a point you've already forgotten.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Absent Mind(fulness)

I've been doing a lot of cleaning house. And not the behind the couch/between the cushions variety (though there has been plenty of that too). This cleaning has been a little more Sarah-centric, a little more internal and esoteric and contemplative (cue the sage and the third eye and the healthy organs). For a girl teetering with obsessive-compulsive tendencies, this kind of cleaning requires full focus for the success of its outcome, if only to not justify a waiver.

First things first. It was officially time to stop smoking. I'm in my late twenties and, quite frankly, it just isn't cute anymore. I suppose it's debatable if it was ever really cute, per se, but it was, at least, forgivable: a crutch of sorts aiding a pose of sorts. But what initially spawned from feeling socially-awkward at seventeen slowly morphed into an essay writing companion at nineteen, then to a bitch-at-work enhancer at twenty-five, then, finally, to a gotta-have-one-to-write/buying-cartons-'cause-they're-cheaper addiction. And a winter spent with windows down/furnace on while secondhand smoke wafted through my studio apartment. And scene. And gross. It was time to breakup with this disgusting -- albeit wild -- little lover.

This is not the first time I've made such claims (hopefully it's my last), though I've never really felt like a nicotine slave. Instead, it seduces me with a slow, steady build of cues. It's a slippery slope. I've "quit" many times: either as a deliberate decision (i.e. writing DON'T SMOKE SARAH! in permanent marker every day on my forearm until it, quite literally, sunk in) or as a fluke (after, say, a week of being sick and not smoking and continuing on the clean-lung path). So a few weeks, months, whatevers go by and then, just like that, I'm lured back in because I stupidly think I can handle it. Maybe I'm pissed off and, instead of just breathing into the feeling, decide a few puffs will alleviate the stress. Or maybe I'm out with friends and crave respite from the group, so I go outside to talk to the cute boy with the cigarette because it's familiar. And then, before I know it, I'm not bumming, I'm buying and finding every excuse to light up before the sun sets. I become addicted to the activities surrounding smoking -- socializing, writing, drinking -- and, in due time, convince myself I can't accomplish anything without smoking. This happened in epic proportions this go 'round. And, as such, I've barely written an email for the past month.

Just like any breakup, this Sarah-and-smoking divorce has been stage-plagued. No need to bore with tedium, though one instance illustrates the shift more than any other: the transition from liking a dude because he's a smoker to being completely appalled by a dude for the very same reason. Cigarettes used to be a secret turn-on, like height (I'm a sucker for the six-foot-plus variety. Checking out men on the subway is basically me scanning the ceiling.). Not anymore. Now I've become one of those self-righteous assholes who doubts they could date a smoker; taste aside (which is gnarly), I don't think I could handle the constant post-coital, pre-cocktail, deep-in-conversation temptation again and again and again.

And maybe that's my lesson: when it comes to cigarettes, I'm not that tough. Not at all. Like an old lover whose memory is a just-picked scab, I can't be trusted around this kryptonite. Not at all. So I gotta stay away. And I am. Perhaps that's the thing about destructive behavior: no one is going to tell you to take care of yourself more than yourself. Until then, you surround yourself with whomever enables your habits because you need someone with whom to shrug it off. But it's not their fault. It's yours. There is always a justification and a reason until there isn't. And then you stop. Because it's gross.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Game Playing

It's like holding your breath underwater. You try to make it from one end of the pool to the other without so much as thinking of the surface, just to prove to yourself that you can. Still, sooner or later, you're going to be left gasping for air between the gulps of holding it in. Sure, the longer you're submerged with taut lips and a clenched diaphragm, the easier the subsequent seconds become, but, at some point, you can't do it any more. So you don't. So you breathe -- all the while clinging to the few seconds that you had ultimate control over your body's functions, just to prove to yourself that you're not, as it were, flailing at the whim of every prescribed inhale. Look at you -- catacean-you -- you've exhibited so much more restraint than the rest of us Homo sapien saps who revel in the exhale-release. For a moment, at least, you win the game-prize. But we all gotta breathe at some point, no matter how long we time ourselves otherwise.

We all say we hate it, that we're not going to do it, that it's a waste of time and pretense and that the jig is going to be up before you can burp the alphabet and, as such, any fronting will ultimately backfire. So why do it in the first place? Well, because you have to, because people don't need to see everything right away, because cards are meant to be played close to the chest and hands revealed accordingly. So I've learned. The hard way.

My mom used to tell me to just romantically do whatever I want to do. If I was considering telling a certain someone something, she'd encourage my candor and say, "Well, they're gonna find out who you are at some point. Might as well be honest now and, if they can't handle it, then they're not right for you." Yeah Mom, I'd think, that's right. Then I'd sans-water swallow a healthy dose of the Fuck Its and tell that particular person whatever I thought I just had to say at that particular moment (which was normally something along the lines of whatever happened to currently enter my mind -- the stem of the sentiment always being, but never blatantly stated, "I really like you and want to reach out to you so that you reach out to me so that I know you like me so that I'm validated in my liking you" or whatever). Maybe, though, this grand expression of anti-game playing honesty was really my mom's way of shutting me up.

I'm prone to obsess (Really, Sarah, you? Never woulda guessed...). I over-think every move before so much as making a single step. Text messages require proper-grammar deliberation and subtle-hint flirtation. Outfits solicit gut fluctuation and mood altercation. Meals involve incessant cost calculation and specific taste inclination. And so on (-tion). Spontaneity is never my forte. Until it is. Until I spin myself dizzy with a casual -- albeit rehearsed -- rationalization as to why I need to buck up and be me. Warts and all. Nuts and all. Excitable and all. Then I go ahead and place my foot so far in my mouth that I'm choking on my own knee and there's no way to undo the acrobatics I justified in a haste act of lemme-show-you-who-I-really-am. But I'm finished with all that. For the moment.

It's not so much game-playing as art-making: the art of withholding and the reward of the release that only a properly-placed buildup allows. Every last thing doesn't need to be revealed at every first contemplation. And that's really nice. We all have flaws and fuck ups and stories to tell, but we don't need to put it all out in the open right away. This becomes particularly true -- and particularly tricky -- when we meet people with no prior context of who we are. It is much safer to express yourself freely under the guise of mutuality; however, that is so rarely the case post-academia or outside of work. We are all blank sheets and someone will undoubtedly write notes in our margins, no matter how much we try to control the scribbles with our supposed charm. Thus, tact must be maintained for as long as possible. Plus, there's the more-often-than-not possibility that you'll end up not liking this person. Or visa versa. Might as well place all odds on that outcome so as not to choke on the passion that you felt for a fleeting moment. And, with that, viva la game playing! Replace the negative context of the association and look at it as a way to perpetuate patience for just a little longer. It, after all, keeps everything more interesting and allows desire to well up until it reaches the inevitable pinnacle of the release.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Breaking Up With The Family

Every year, on the night before Thanksgiving (Thanksgiving Eve, if you will), we'd order pizza and make pies. This tradition started per my suggestion: pizza seemed like the most logical thing to eat before indulging in Americana gluttony. We would stay up really late and -- with a slice of something Bay Are delicious -- roll dough and cut apples and roast residual pumpkin seeds, all the while downing Chandon and dancing in the kitchen. When there was a baking lull, my boyfriend-at-the-time and I would curl on the couch and catch up on a year's worth of Martha Stewart Living. We'd fantasize about future meals and organizational inspirations until the timer went off and we were needed in the kitchen again. Then, we'd join his parents and continue cooking as a team: chopping board here, washing dishes there, et cetera. I was at ease in his parents' home. His family had become an extension of my own and I was, quite simply, happy. This ritual, like our relationship, lasted for four years. The first Thanksgiving I spent sans annual ceremony was a major bummer. Like, beyond a bummer. I had become so accustomed to the love and familiarity of his family that the thought of not being with them on that holiday made me nostalgic and sad, despite the demise of our romance.

It's so rarely only the lover with whom we break up. That is the lesser blow more often than not because, by the time you throw in the proverbial towel, you have both known for, what, the better half of a year, that the relationship isn't going to work. Maybe the sex has stopped and the fights have increased or maybe you have nothing to say over dinner besides how good the meal tastes and what your boss did the day before. But these are all private things, little things easily shielded from the rest of the world. Your lives are so completely intertwined and, as such, discontent often masks itself as rut; thus, no one on the outside knows of the turmoil. Until you split up. Until an announcement is made. Until reality sets in and all the little things that filled you with simplistic joy are gone. And, as such, breaking up with the family is the most difficult part of a relationship's end.

Despite my being ridiculously close to my parents, I've always been adopted by the families of my boyfriends-at-the-time. And I'm lucky: I've never had bad "in-laws." Quite the opposite. Even my high school boyfriend had amazing parents. They embraced our relationship -- regardless of it being fleeting and our being sixteen -- and included me as an extended member of the family. I spent weekends with them, traveled with them, opened Christmas presents with them. Everything. Even when we were no longer in love (or whatever it is that you feel when you're sixteen), I couldn't bring myself to breakup because I couldn't bare the thought of not regularly seeing his family. So we stayed together until I met someone new and couldn't fake it anymore. I tried to maintain a relationship with his parents, but I couldn't. It was different.

While I'm accustomed to the parental breakup, the ending of my last live-in love had a new familial dynamic that I had yet to experience: he had two daughters with whom I became terribly close. I was weary of the kid component at first. It was weird. Totally weird. I was in my late twenties and hanging out with two teenagers. There was no way they were going to like me. Or maybe they would. Maybe they'd think I was the coolest gal this side of the Mississippi. Maybe we'd shop together and talk about boys and tampons and sex together. Maybe we'd watch shitty tv on school nights and bake cookies on weekends. Or maybe they'd resent me for being so young and occupying their dad's time. I've heard all the awful stories. Why would this be any different? I was the other woman, another force, an extra adult. Fortunately, they adored me -- and I them -- and the former exchange reigned supreme. It was a full-fledge love affair, so much so that, when the relationship ended, I was spending more time with them than their father. And, like is so often the case, we tried to keep in touch -- sending texts and Facebook messages and whatnot -- but it had changed. The closeness we nourished for so long was replaced by distance and once-upon-a-time fondness which can only maintain itself for so long before spiraling into mutual masturbation, albeit of the most PG variety.

The first meeting of someone else's family is always awkward. How can it not be? Everyone is on their best behavior so as to be the ideal version of themselves. Intimacy takes time and cannot be feigned through formal dinners and random conversations. It requires care and patience and fostering. However, after a few months or a few years or a few fish-out-of-water instances, it gets easy. Suddenly you realize you're part of the family. You have a say in vacation-planning and meal-making. You have traveled to distant relatives' houses and can laugh at stories of the time you missed the exit on the way to Tahoe or the time the drunk uncle made the inappropriate drunk comment. You no longer have to worry about the uncomfortable silence of conversational lulls because you're at home with these people who were once strangers and to whom you owe nothing.

Still, no matter how much you promise to maintain a relationship once romance subsides, it is never the same. The foundation has changed and all that remains is history and memory -- which is amazing, but never as fulfilling as perpetual engagement. When you do see these people who once occupied such a large aspect of your life, it feels as if you're meeting for the first time all over again. You play a quick game of catch-up all the while leaving out the tastiest tidbits of your life. You can't talk about foibles and flings. No way. That'd be weird. Instead, you slightly desexualize yourself and discuss broader brushstrokes and wax nostalgic poetics. And that's how it is.

At some point, someone new and significant is going to enter the picture and clinging to how things were back in the day is only going to make this new and significant someone feel inadequate and irrelevant. And there's the rub. And there's the real heartbreak. And there's the true tragedy. But that's just the way it goes. There will always be a deep fondness in your heart for this other family, but it can't take precedence over the current incarnation. After all, if you're lucky (and I'm very lucky), you already have a blood-related as well as a friend-centric family that is pretty terrific and they're not going anywhere -- no matter your mood swings and romantic predilections.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Depressive Collective

I don't know exactly when it happened. Maybe mid-January, when the daylight hours were shorter than menstrual cycles and the whirlwind of Holiday Activity gave way to heaps of boot-printed, dog-shit stained snow. Or maybe at the end of March, when the rest of the country was, if not wearing, then at least removing mothballs from tank tops and t-shirts, while us assholes in New York were still clinging to North Face coats and wool-lined tights as we traipsed through another I-Can't-Believe-It's-Only-Twenty-Degrees day. Whatever the specific afflictions leading to a specific demise, in the past few months every single one of my closest girlfriends have expressed overwhelming depression. This isn't just a "damn I'm bummed out today" depressed. No. This is deeper than midweek fluctuations. Like, "maybe I should move" depressed. Like, "what am I doing with my life" depressed. Like, "I think I need to be on meds" depressed. Like, "I wouldn't know inspiration if it punched me in the face" depressed. Like, "I'm lucky if I write an email" depressed. You get the picture...

All of these women, my New York girlfriends, have, it would seem, everything that every other woman living in the middle of the country who can quote Sex and the City verbatim would want: they're single (or "happily" coupled), they have cool jobs (or they're working from home with the leisure of day-planning and schedule-making on their side), they're really smart (some would maybe even argue that they're too smart for their own good), they're talented (same as the above-mentioned sentiment), they're really pretty (and again), they're living in the best city in the whole world (maybe that's debatable, but I'd take the bait and argue as much any day of the week), they're never at a want for anything (social calendars filled, romantic rendezvous maxed, cultural explorations abound) and they're completely, unabashedly, undeniably miserable.

Maybe they can sense my own gnawing apathy and, as a result, choose to confide in me (misery loves company?). Nonetheless. Every single one of these awesome women have either called me crying in the middle of the night or emailed me their despair in the middle of the day. I've talked them up and down and around their problems. I've met for a drink when I wanted to be dry and stayed up late when I wanted to sleep because I know they'd do the same for me. (I know because, quite frankly, they have: shown up to my apartment with flowers and a movie, tagged along when I wanted to see some stupid boy unworthy of my unrequited affections, binge-ate ice cream and pretzels even after their bellies were full of some delicious, calorically-fueled cuisine.) And this isn't even a grand, romantic group of girlfriends with all of us feeding off our debilitations. No. This spans cliques and circles and specific contexts. From the girl with the good-on-paper nine-to-five to the girl romantically-link for two-plus years, we are all wallowing in something a little more sinister than anything else we have every experienced.

From irrational loneliness to ridiculous affairs, I've heard it all. I've tried to convince friends not to travel when the going gets tough and not to cheat when relationships teeter on complacency. Whatever. No matter. People are going to do what they're going to do and no amount of advice or common sense can convince them otherwise. It's wasted breath, these conversations, but that doesn't make them any less important. Sometimes we need to broken-record repeat ourselves so that something finally sets in -- if not for the person who is supposedly listening, then at least for our own sense of sanity. Diatribes serve as allegories: little stories we tell ourselves and each other so that, maybe, something will sink in and we'll be able to deal with our own lives as they relate to the lives of someone else. And therein lies the transcendence.

Granted, camaraderie is important, but at what point does the collective woe of everyone else begin to bring you spiraling further down into your own dizzying decay? It's so easy to bitch together, but is it just as easy to get out of a funk together? Are we just feeding off of the crumbs of our own conceit or can obsessive talk really lead to paramount change?

Last night I had dinner with one of my best friends. We haven't seen each other for a few weeks and our relationship was entering that point of misplaced grudges and did-I-do-something-wrong confusion. We didn't know it at the time, but after two bottles of sake, we both revealed that neither of us wanted to go to dinner. I didn't want to discuss my absence (and the fact that I'd rather lay in bed with months-old New Yorkers than have a conversation about my emotional state) and she didn't want to indulge in gluttony after succumbing to a drunken (isn't it always?), five-in-the-morning pork-induced binge-fest. After an hour or so of catching up (boys boys work boys), we got into the thick of it and had one of those meaningful talks that leave you feeling empowered and ready for whatever life throws your way. We were both reminded that, despite the affects of menial sadness, you can rise right out of it if only you allow yourself to really -- not superfluously -- reveal it. And that takes guts. Lots and lots of guts. No one wants to share the embarrassing roots of undoing (it is, after all, quite silly more often than not -- especially when spoken out loud), but, when you do (and only then), you can reclaim the willpower and motivation and gumption that fueled you in the first place to do something a little more grand than everyone else.

Maybe it's just that we're in our late twenties (Saturn Return?) and that this is the time when we're supposed to finally figure our shit out (whatever that means). Maybe this is when other people in smaller cities decide to settle with the person they've been with for a decade and start contemplating procreation and the white picket fence fantasy. It surely sneaks up on most of us. However, instead of judging yourself based on the projected desires of everyone else, it is far more productive to give the status quo the finger and remember that you're exactly where you're supposed to be, doing exactly what you want to do, regardless of all the snags that happen along the way. And, if that doesn't work, then you can at least find solace in the changing season: a little vitamin D never hurt no one...

Monday, April 4, 2011


It's as if we all hate each other, no matter how much the inverse is true. It's as if we're all searching for that secret roll, that extra dimple, that unfortunate rub. It's the way we look each other up and down while someone is talking, averting our eyes with a quick hip glance, a chin peek, a stomach judge. It's a way of having something to sneer about -- no matter what said sneer says about our own imperfections and projections. It's the way we bond and assess and contend with our own misperceptions. It's how we walk down the street. It's how we wear belts on the cinchiest parts of our waists, skirts that hike up the smallest stick of our legs, t-shirts that hug the gauntest protrusion of our arms. There is always something to prove and something to size.

Everyone has had the conversation. You're talking to someone and someone else comes up. There's nothing to say, really, but you find commonality in the insult: Have you seen So And So? Man o man has she/he/whomever gained weight. Man o man I feel bad for her/him/whomever. Man o man she/he/whomever used to be so hot. If only she/he/whomever would just lose a little weight. And there it is. The nothing. The everything. The thing we all fear that someone else is saying. And, no matter what the scale and the tape measure and the size of your jeans tell you, someone has said something awful about you.

And then it happens. You're the asshole at the party who won't have another cocktail 'cause your dress is too tight and you don't want the booze bloat. I mean, okay, whatever keeps you off the fat wagon, right? No matter how momentarily delusional and destructive it is, right? Wrong. Still, you pose with your seltzer for a few more hours, 'til it's four in the morning and you're starving and eating clever-named, euphemism-loaded preservatives at a bodega or shitty pizza at a twenty-four hour parlor or hormone-injected burgers at McDonald's. If only you shrugged off stigma with a calculated callousness in the first damn place you wouldn't be so quick to succumb to a ravenous whim.

Or maybe you're the jerk to make the first comment about your burgeoning double chin -- just so you're ahead of the name-calling curve -- assuming if you say it out loud no one will say it behind your back. But they still do, whether or not to the double-chinned you. You could be so cute, they say. Or maybe you were so cute, they say. Whatever. Doesn't matter. You called yourself out and there's no going back. If only you let your spunk reign supreme in the first damn place you wouldn't mind-fuck the folds of your face and anything that anyone could say would be as menial as your profile.

But what of the other content with their faulted frame -- of the girl who doesn't notice her chaffing thighs in the summer heat, of the dude with the gut who will go back for seconds, of the couple who eats Taco Bell with mild sauce in bed whilst streaming Netflix and sharing Dairy Queen? Sure, we can scoff and scold 'til we're gaunt in the face, but it doesn't really matter if the subject of our dissatisfaction is unaffected. Confidence transcends flaws and hate and cake every day of the week. This is not to say that we should forgo ego and health and attraction in the name of gluttony. Not at all. Gross. But, maybe, if we stopped caring about the temporary body-squish of consuming freshly-baked bread with perfectly-melted butter and some black sea salt then, maybe, we'd all be a little happier, albeit a little rounder -- but definitely more sated. Then, maybe, we'd find more time to focus on things that really matter, like, I dunno, everything else in the whole goddamn world. Haters are gonna hate and people are gonna talk because, quite frankly, they've got nothing better to do. And they're jealous. Beyond jealous. The apathy these chubs have honed is enough to send any kale-eating, smoothie-drinking, hipbone-protruding motherfucker into a tale-spin as they cling to an artifice perpetuated by the construct of mass-marketed desire. (Full disclosure: there's nothing wrong with kale-eating, smoothie-drinking, hipbone-protruding motherfuckers as I am, indeed, one of said motherfuckers. I do, however, have enough interest in the culinary world to forgive these leanings when something with flavor and deliberation is plated in front of me.)

Bottom line: allow yourself some indulgences and BMI fluctuations and sinister whispers because, at the end of the day (end of your life), what does it really matter if you're five pounds (ten pounds?) heavier than the ideal version of yourself? Moderation is definitely key, but that doesn't mean it opens every door to everything. Isn't it better to be left with something sweet (or savory) in your mouth than the sour aftertaste of discontent (or vomit)? After all, bodies are gonna change and people are gonna talk, but who cares? Really, who fucking cares? We're all hungry for something. Starvation is simply a metaphor for all the ways we choose to ignore what we want, when we want it, how we want it (medium rare, please).

Friday, March 25, 2011

Repetitive Stress Syndrome

I've been dealing with pain for about a month or so. This is not a metaphor. Yet. It started in my right hamstring attachment. Then it traveled to my right hip flexor and the right side of my lower back. Being well-versed in yoga, I begin to modify my practice: bending a knee here, engaging a quadricep there, et cetera. It was all to no avail. The pain, unfortunately, is perpetual, so much so that the simplest of poses -- for me, at least -- (seated forward fold, triangle, half-moon) have become quite debilitating. I even find myself limping when I walk my dog or crying when I stretch a muscle. The most obvious response is to chill out, back off, rest a bit. But I can't. I'm so addicted to asana that I'm unwilling to stop practicing and start healing. I'm a stubborn know-it-all and think I can solve my own body's aches. This, I'm learning, is untrue.

There is a common misconception that yoga is for the flexible few. People always claim they shy away from the practice because they can't touch their toes and whatnot. However, I counter, yoga is about finding balance between strength and flexibility and, quite frankly, those who are tight in their bodies are less likely to hurt themselves: their bodies tell them how far they can -- or cannot -- go. On the other hand, a bendy person can unsafely and improperly shape themselves into any pretzel pose, all the while ignoring the proper alignment that will protect the integrity of their limitations. So, as it goes, the flexible person (myself being included in this category) gets injured more often than the tight person. This is not to ignore the benefit of distress: I've learned a lot about my body with every injury and, more importantly, how to pull back from my flexibility and cultivate strength. Seriously. I've hurt almost every part of my body -- shins, shoulders, lower back, wrists -- in the evolution of my yoga practice. These samskaras serve as lessons, albeit painful, and transcend my asana beyond the ever-present ego attachment. If only everything else in life could be so literal.

Before my current injury, I became bored with performing the most difficult postures possible. After years of sweaty flow, I no longer needed to prove myself via poses. They're easy. I'm flexible. Instead of lifting into an arm balance, I became fascinated by sitting in the struggle of a squat (malasana as opposed to bakasana), which often yielded surprising results (such as crying, not out of pain, but out of opening). Or, instead of lifting up into a backbend, I started exploring the less-demanding (yet more laborious) prep of said backbend (setu bandhasana as opposed to urdhva dhanurasana). I learned that the prep is so much harder than the full pose (for the ego as well as the body) and that trying to perfect something is more rewarding than showing off the completed expression. Considering the transformation of my practice, it is quite ironic that I'm now dealing with my most debilitating injury ever.

So. It is said that what we do/how we act on the mat serves as an analogy to what we do/how we act in the rest of our lives. This, of course, isn't limited to yoga specifically or exercise generally. Instead, indicators are all around us: how we drive our cars through traffic, wait for trains on the platforms, eat our dinners, drink our booze, socialize with our friends, attend to our responsibilities. You can analyze one measly anything as it relates to a whole lot of everythings.

Repetitive stress syndrome is defined (by our good friends at Wikipedia) as "an injury...that may be caused by repetitive tasks, forceful exertions, vibrations, mechanical compressions, or sustained or awkward positions. [...] Conditions such as RSI tend to be associated with both physical and psychosocial stressors." And there it is: psychosocial stressors. Let's define that, shall we. Again, according to Wikipedia, psychosocial stressors are "one's psychological development in and interaction with a social environment. The individual is not necessarily fully aware of this relationship with his or her environment. [...] This refers to the lack of development or atrophy of the psychosocial self, often occurring alongside other dysfunctions that may be physical, emotional or cognitive in nature." Ding ding ding. So, repetitive stress syndrome isn't only the manifestation of our bodies' movements, but also how we inadvertently behave in the world at large.

And there you have it. My drive to push push push through pain (regardless of its impetus) and do things that I know are bad for me (regardless of its harm-factor) is something I do in all aspects of my life. Take dating (shocking) for instance. I know that there are certain types of people who I should avoid (the list is ever-growing and ever-changing), but I don't. Whether a particular person is emotionally unavailable or disinterested or repressed to the point of needing three-times-a-week therapy (and not just of the I-can-fuck-the-repression-out-of-them variety), I ignore the warnings and go in full-speed ahead, thinking it will be different this time. But it's never different. We're addicted to the comfort of the delusion, be it of the mental or physical variety.

Just like with my yoga afflictions, I need to back off and let go and cultivate a little non-attachment. That's the only way to heal from any harmful symptoms, be it of the literal or symbolic variety. Only then will things start to mend and only then can you allow yourself to surpass the struggle of the strife. It's about respecting yourself. All of yourself. And, most importantly, it's about not needing to prove something beyond which you have control. Just because you did something once or twice or three times, doesn't mean you need to do it again. And again. And again. It will, more than likely, not yield different results.

With that, I'm awful at taking my own advice: I'm putting on my tights and popping a few Advil as I prepare for my second yoga class of the day. Some things (people?) never change...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Lesson Learned (Probably Not)

I'm the queen of projection. I meet someone and, instead of listening to the little flashing red light incessantly blinking warnings as to why it'll never work, I convince myself that they are absolutely perfect for a whole host of menial reasons. The root is always enthusiasm, perhaps sprinkled with a little salt of narcissism. I meet someone and am totally stoked. For some reason, they seem juuuust right (probably because they're the antithesis of my last version of "wrong" -- so much so that it's like a ping-pong of differences from one dude to the next). Regardless. I brainwash myself into thinking that this is it. Sign, sealed, delivered. It happens with such speed. Zero to sixty in two days time. I have no patience for the build-up. The feeling of (maybe, though probably not) falling gives way to the prudence of experience. I trick myself into believing an idea instead of trusting my instinct (or, more accurately, the instinct of my friends). But by this time, none of it matters. I'm lost in a labyrinth of my own obsession.

I try to concentrate, but I can't. My mind is cluttered, full of thoughts of late night kisses and could it be's and the things that were said. Details. Little details derail me right out of myself. Like the accidental finger-brush on the concave between my chin and neck or the way he watched me walk into a room or the way his hair smelled when we let a hug linger a little too long. I've felt all these things before. A lot. All the time. With every crush there is the potential of the undoing, of the falling, of the be all end all. But, for some reason, I never have this foresight. Instead, I convince myself that it's different this time. Each time. The times are racking up. Everyone around me is sick of my swoon. I'm sorry.

Maybe I'm a victim of routine. I eat the same green smoothie for breakfast every morning. I shower in the same order every day. I go to the same six yoga classes every week. I listen to the same NPR shows every afternoon. I wear certain pairs of socks with certain pairs of shoes. I never get up in the middle of the night to read or write or watch tv regardless of how afflicted I am with insomnia or inspiration. Projections are pattern-breakers. No matter how insignificant and not-right-for-me a person is, there is something so wonderful about dismissing a schedule with reckless abandon and, as a result, feeling a little less hinged and predictable. However, all this behavior is making me predictable.

It's like the little boy who cried wolf. We all know how that story goes. Sure, it was fun to get the townspeople's attention for a while but, then, when the wolf actually came a'calling, no one was a'caring -- or a'believing. I fear this very thing with my own romantic wolf-screaming. How many times can I say "This is it!" then, "No, I was wrong that time, THIS is it!" then, "Forget what I said before, this is really really really seriously it!" then, "I'm not gonna say anything, but I know how I feel. This right here is really it!" before no one is really listening -- or caring -- anymore? When the wolf actually devours me no one will notice as they trip over my remains. I've put myself back together so many times before. As it were. Maybe I just need to learn how to shut the fuck up, stop pining and searching for all the little clues that will add up to something. After all, if someone likes you, they make it pretty damn clear. There is no need for the constant deliberation of details. But then there goes the fun and the danger of a wolf at the door. Plus, you can't totally fault a girl for enthusiasm and optimism, no matter how often it ends up otherwise.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Exuding V. Experiencing

Maybe it happened in fifth grade. That's when I got boobs. And not any measly training bra boobs. No. I had a full-fledge rack. Think underwire and roundness. Then scold yourself for imagining an eleven year old's tits. Either which way, I was aware of my sexual power at a very young age. I never had a hard time finding a boyfriend and they never had a hard (well...) time creeping a hand under cotton. But it wasn't so much the touch that I craved. Instead, I was interested in honing (albeit unbeknownst at the time) the persona that accompanies the performance. Or, rather, the attention that the performance produces.

I went to a very liberal performing arts high school. Teetering between the ego-pull of theater and the esoteric lean of poetry, there was nothing I loved more than being on stage. I quickly learned that most kids (people?) don't really care to attend (or listen to?) poetry readings. They find it boring and dull and doze-inducing. They stop paying attention and start checking their cellphones. Or, worse, they start coughing and talking. To guarantee that my time on stage wouldn't heed these common results, I did the only thing I knew how to do: I sexualized my poetry. It was the quickest way to please a crowd. Even at fourteen my metaphors were ripe with age-inappropriate body imagery. I talked about the curve of my breast, the shape of my mouth, the sway of my hips and, for some reason, I got away with it. I was never censored or (publicly) scoffed. Quite the opposite. I was known as the girl who talked about sex, no matter if I didn't know the first horizontal thing about it.

It goes beyond that. There's nothing I love more than discussing sex. In fact, the only things I ever really want to discuss are the holy trinity of social taboos -- sex, politics, religion -- with sex reigning supreme. Just as with religion and politics, you can deduce a lot about a person based on their sexual opinions. But, as the saying goes, there is a difference between talking the talk and walking the walk. I am definitely a talker and, as such, perhaps, less of a walker. In other words, there is a disconnect between what we exude and what we experience. If we have a need to perpetuate attention, then what of our actual visceral affections? If sex is the ultimate performance, what happens when it's released on a larger, less intimate scale?

I was talking to my friend the other night about this very thing. He is a musician and said that his greatest lover is his guitar if only because women tend to disappoint while the guitar's gratification never wavers. Moreover, he said that, while he craves touch and connection as much as the next carnal male, he isn't a very sexual person in its typical manifestation. Ignoring the sentiment of the expression, he feels sexually satiated while on stage. When touring and performing for an audience every night, he doesn't have the urge to sleep with random women. It's as if he shoots his load, if you will, on stage and, as such, he experiences sexual release to the point of not having much left to give to the flesh-and-blood incarnation of interaction. This is quite interesting. I've seen my friend perform and there is no doubt that he embodies sex down to the way he moves and works up a sweat; however, I thought this was a result of being so emotional invested in something as opposed to it being a deliberate expression. And maybe it is. Maybe you can exhaust yourself so much in the public realm that you have very little left to give in a more privatized sphere.

It is easy to deduce that these veracious people act out in this way because they are bubbling over the surface with sexuality, that they have so much passion inside they can't help but let it come out in everything they do. This is not necessarily true. Instead, the energy that radiates is exhausting and gratifying to the point of having nothing left to give. Or, perhaps more positively, they feel so content and sated that there's really no need to search for sex in other common outlets.

This makes me think about beauty and, more specifically, the role of beauty as it relates to sexual presence. My friend is quite handsome and doesn't have to lift a finger or verbally seduce to garnish attention from the ladies. He can pretty much take his pick and, as such, picks no one more often than not. His persona isn't weighed down by the need to impress and his impressiveness, just as his beauty, is a given. Therefore, the desire to seduce plays second fiddle to public display. Perhaps this is why ugly people make the best lovers: they have to try harder than their prettier counterparts. When people aren't throwing themselves at you, you learn to hone a certain set of skills otherwise lost on those chained to the hems of their own attractiveness.

We can't help but be a victim to our biology: it defines how the world sees us and, as a result, it shapes our role as sexual beings. I've been told that my physique is of the hourglass era which, despite not being the most desired body of our generation (what with the fashion race to be the skinniest girl ever), is definitely the archetype of sexy as it relates to procreation, which in turn perpetuates the population. Thus, regardless of how I dress or act or what I say, I will forever be defined as a sexualized person because of my genetic implications. So, maybe, instead of fighting against what I have, I've learned to go with the flow of my form.

Confidence also plays a part in this equation. When you know you're desired on a relatively universal scale, it is easier to exude sexual energy. There is nothing at stake. You have the freedom to perform sans inhibition because you know the results won't go unnoticed. However, when you replace the construct of the stage with the intimacy of the bedroom, vulnerability often reigns supreme. No matter how you work a room and vicariously "touch" people with your sexuality, it is a far different beast to have one-on-one assurance. Plus, you feel so spent and worked up by talking and performing and exuding that you're all but drained to give any more of yourself. So, alternatively, you do nothing. You allow people to believe what they will about you -- aiding it along with your tenacity -- all the while feeling slightly less self-assured when things get personal and your performance is reduced in size.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Last (Wo)Man Standing

It's a marathon of sorts. You're at some social gathering somewhere (more than likely a house) and someone catches your eye (more than likely the host). Everyone else becomes blurry and irrelevant. Still. You can't pounce right away. You can't dominate the conversation too quickly. No. You gotta take the time to circulate and make yourself vicariously desirable for as long as possible. You gotta wait for the yawns and the this was funs and the two minute doorway conversations to commence. You gotta be in it for the long haul, despite what you might have to do the next day.

Who knows why people pinpoint in front your radar. There's always an impetus, albeit ever-changing. But when it happens, it happens and there's really nothing you can do besides go in for the attack. Still, though, slow and steady often wins the race. So you employ temporary patience and social skills until the crowd thins and things change. It's time to make your mark. Or have another drink. Or go in for the kill. This game -- no matter how tempting it may be to play -- is stupid. No one wants to be the last person hanging around for a chance of connection. It's far better to peace out and leave the particular person wanting more. Always. The stench of desperation is pungent. Always. However, this is all easier said than done when middle-of-the-night leanings replace better judgement. So, before you know it, it's just the two of you and only one thing to do. No one's really that picky at that time of the night and, after all, you did kinda ask for it.

It never fails. I'm always the first to wake up after a hookup. Perhaps it's something about the foreign bed and the foreign room temperature that stirs me from my (more often than not) post-drunken slumber. Not to mention the ever-present question of Now What. Am I supposed to feign sleep until the Other Involved Party stumbles to the bathroom for a mid-morning pee? Then, only then, can I pretend to wake -- vacant spot in the bed and all -- stretching and yawning and smiling as if this wasn't an awful idea. Normally I lay awake for about twenty minutes, feeling uncomfortable for not forcing the necessary post-coital urine dribble. I start obsessing about every which way I can leave without it seeming awkward or forced or tinged with regret. Even if I wanna stay, I convince myself to go. It's time. It's morning. There's really nothing left to do.

After I've imagined myself dressing down to the most asinine detail of how I'll lace my boots (calculated bunny-bows and double-knots), I sit on the edge of the bed and begin to search for my clothes -- socks crumpled at the bottom of the comforter, skirt sneaking out from under the bed, bra dangling from the nightstand -- and clumsily reverse the order of the outfit. Once fully-dressed (a disheveled version of Last Night's Primp), I pause for another few minutes, maybe pretending to check my phone or put on lip gloss, hoping the Other Involved Party will either wake up or start snoring (though, truth be told, I could never successfully date someone who does the latter). When neither desired action is achieved (are they faking sleep too?), I rumple their hair and kiss their cheek and say goodbye, knowing full-well that I'm unflappable and nothing they say could convince me to stay. They blink themselves awake (yes, they were genuinely asleep) and pause to remember who is in their bed before asking why I have to leave. The merit of the question is as inconsequential as the answer. I'm outta there with nothing more than a bit of a headache and a grin for my conquest.

Then, usually, in thirty minutes tops, I get a text or a call asking me to come back. Maybe they still smell me in the bed and want a little more. Or maybe they really like me and want a little talk. Who cares. They tempt me with breakfast and bad tv and all the other things that loneliness requires in others. But, as the cliche goes, I never return to the scene of the crash because, quite frankly, I don't want to. Or, more accurately, I don't like them enough to. If I did, I probably wouldn't have acted with such haste and determination. If I did, I would have let things simmer a little longer because everything that's really good takes more than a night's worth of steeping.

Or it's something like this. As much as I crave the cuddle and companionship as the next sap, I dread becoming the shit at the bottom of a shoe, unable to scrape off the stain or the smell. Plus, you can't create connection out of the thin air of sexualization. You either feel it or you don't. It's that simple. No amount of morning embrace can alter that intrinsic sensation of attraction. Plus, I know what it's like when someone you hardly know and barely like wakes up at your house. I manufacture busyness -- gotta walk the dog, gotta go to yoga, gotta meet a friend -- just so I don't have to rehash the details of the previous evening. Excuses are the best defense. Regardless of candor or character, no one really wants to hurt someone else's feelings.

Or else it's something like this. While in the bathroom debating the gait of my next move, I notice the size of their tub and start fantasizing about bubbles and candles and mid-afternoon bathing spontaneity, and -- just like that, despite my better judgment -- I realize I actually kinda like this person. Shit. I want to have croissants and coffee and read the newspaper in their dining room, passing sections and sharing articles, both of us stealing glances and lingering in procrastination. But I could never reveal as much. My intentions were obviously made clear a mere few hours ago. Thus, instead of dealing with the Wants and the Expectations of What Could Be, I go home too quickly. I am unwilling to accept the unrequited.

No matter the extent of the attraction, this serves as a lesson against the one night stand. Sure, there's always the story of the couple who fell in love after the one hit wonder, but this rare occurrence is nothing on which to place hope (especially when you're completely apathetic to the wishin' and hopin' and, instead, are more married to the projectin' and conquerin'). Someone is probably gonna want more. Someone is probably gonna get disappointed. But in the moment of boredom, we tend to settle on the Right Now instead of considering the Better Later. Everyone wants a little affection. It's how we deal with the residuals of said affection that determine how we should proceed. Plus, you initiated the game with your attempt of casual affinity. Better pass the ball along to see if they reach out their hands for the catch and actually want to play. Or else just throw the ball out the window with the resounding thud of Oops.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Great Escape

Despite everything suggesting that spring is so close you can taste it in the vegetables -- the chirping birds (yes, there are actually many a chirper outside my window) and blue skies and it being so sunny that I see my reflection in my computer screen -- I am a bit of an escapist. Whenever I start to feel settled, I want to leave. And so, quite often, I do.

Let's backtrack a bit. I officially moved to New York in June (after spending close-to-year in a state of semi-bicoastal envy). This had been a longtime coming. Ever since I was an ambitious twelve year old, I wanted to live in New York. Alas, life and love and whatnot forced (though, of course, I was a willing participant) Los Angeles on me. When I finally unpacked the last bag of clothes that I haven't worn for close to a decade, I had no desire to travel outside the main borough. Plus I was living at a retardedly amazing townhouse in the West Village (that's another story) where it was easy to lure loved ones on a plane and walk amongst the throngs of other sweaty pedestrians stupid enough to contend with the humidity of a New York City summer. While many of my east coast friends were quick to get out of dodge every other weekend, I wasn't. I stayed. The city, after all, had so much to offer a newbie like me. Why in the world would I want to leave? I didn't, so I didn't. Then November rolled around and it was time to Thanksgiving-it-up with my family in Florida. I was beyond-ready for the escape. I had become quite anxious (an affliction that often has its way with me) in my new home with my new friends. I craved the familiarity of anything other than the density to which I had become accustomed. After that first week-long foray out of New York, I was ready to be back, albeit only for a few days. Then it was time to go to France in December. Then it was time to go to California in January. Then it was time to go back to Florida in February. Now it's March and I'm itchy.

I recognize this escapism in like-minded friends. When the going gets tough (re: boring) or the relationships go sour (re: over), they justify booking the first flight anywhere -- so long as it's not here. I'm always quick to deter this behavior, if only because I see the same tendencies in myself. Instead of sitting in our shit -- whether it's fear of failure or complacency or sadness -- it is so much easier to just leave (our minds, our grinds, our responsibilities) and have a good time. However, when you return, you have to deal with the residual effect of everything you left. It doesn't go away. Instead, it builds and mounts and, eventually, comes tumbling down once the pile can no longer withstand the weight of your distraction. The things that seemed so overcome-able take a new shape, looming larger than they ever should.

It takes a while to re-situate yourself after you travel. All the routines that you've created must be reestablished and the plans and friendships you've almost-made have to backtrack to the impotence of context. You play a perpetual game of catch-up: cold-calling coulda-beens and reminding kinda-friends that you're back and better than ever (even though you know you might be leaving before the season changes again). So you make new dinner dates and figure out new yoga times to get back on track. Slowly but surely, you wipe the dust off your metrocard and, after a few nights with really amazing people who you know you'd never meet in any other city (full of the self-referential irreverence of transplants), you remember why you fell in love with this city in the first place. Until something happens. Like canceled plans. Or a lonely morning. Or, quite frankly, that you have no family within a thousand-mile radius. All that LOOKOUTWORLD gumption is replaced with amisurethisiswhatiwanttodowithmylife insecurity.

Place has nothing to do with happiness. We can flee until we're so frequent-flier loaded that we'd be bumped up to first class for the rest of our lives, but that doesn't change anything. Quite the contrary: it only exasperates what we do not want to see in ourselves. The root of the escape must be explored (and, more than likely, needs to be explored wherever we presently reside). What do we feel is lacking to make us crave changing the scenario more often than we change our sheets? Once we figure that out, the irrelevance of our specific state can give way to the immediacy of our current condition.

And that's what's happening. Again. I'm experiencing the familiar feeling of Now What? I am so terrified of making a mark and establishing myself in this city chalk-full of possibility that I just want to run away and find someone (anyone!) to take care of me. I've even romanticize the notion of everything I normally despise. Like marriage for the sake of why not. Or romance for the case of you'll do. All of those outlets put a bandaid on the perpetual struggle of figuring it all out because, quite frankly, it's exhausting to figure it all out when you don't even know the half of what you're figuring out in the first place. Plus, I know enough about myself that if I were to leave -- even for only a weekend's worth of time -- I'd miss everything that I so love about New York. That's always the case. That always happen. I can't wait to get back every time I leave. So I guess I know I have to stay and muck through the trials and tribulations to feel my feet firm on the ground (cement?). I've made my bed, as they say, now I suppose I have to lie in it a little (or a lot!) longer. Nothing materializes without a little struggle and it's in the There's No Way I Can Make It where all the makin' starts happenin'.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Home (Un)Working

I'm obsessed with the idea of productivity. Almost every conversation I have with everyone I know becomes a diatribe about artistic potency and how time is spent. Motivation is the manifestation of curiosity and, if you lack that, then, quite frankly, I deem you dull. As such, I judge the value of my day based on what I creatively accomplish. This is only exasperated since I work from home and don't have a boss looking over my shoulders. Save for deadlines -- some given by editors, most deigned by me -- I am at the whim of my artistic expression, but I have no patience for inspiration. Production is far more important.

No matter one's specific profession, there is a work-construct surrounding the daytime hours. This is when most people tend to their nine-to-fives. Even though I hypothetically could relish in the middle-of-the-night, whiskey-loaded writer cliche, I still feel the need to join the masses in the daytime hunched-over-computer solidarity -- if only for the "reward" that then accompanies nighttime sloth. Perhaps this is the allure of alcohol consumption: it numbs the time spent waiting for something to happen. It's compulsive. So, instead of dealing and/or dwelling in the boring, we drink to it. However, in order to justify social interaction, I have to cling to the polysyllabic for as long as I can muster (which is, on a bad day, only a few hours). This is easier said than done and focus, quite frankly, requires a healthy dose of cultivation.

Before settling into my Brooklyn life, I was easily distracted by lunches and coffees and midday shopping sprees. Pause. That's a lie. Considering I've never had a traditional job, I have always been easily distracted by any kind of daytime social engagement. While it initially seems fabulous, I end up resenting these people who have nothing to do in their days or, rather, who re-construe their cultural apathy as an excuse to linger in leisure. Instead of getting shit done (no matter the specificity of the "shit"), they manufacture tasks and chores and activities to occupy hours so that their lives becomes a travelogue of the asinine. I'm fervently fighting against this tendency if only because it lies dormant in me. Their lack of artistic stimulation isn't their faults; it's my fault for being so easily seduced into laziness. If you are who you hang out with, I know that these type of people are not who I want to mirror. Because, in only a few day's time, I inevitably will. Mirror them. And, as it goes, the things we don't like in others are the things we fear in ourselves. Thus, I am overwhelmed by my own complacency that I end up vehemently judging it in others even though that should have nothing to do with me.

I have to contend with my own guilt. Instead of relishing this moment of my life when I can write and explore and create on my terms, I get pissed at myself for not doing more. There is, after all, always more to do. I suppose my dormant guilt is a good thing: it shows me that I am someone who expects grand things out of my existence. But, when I'm in this guilt malaise, I can't see the good of my abundant free time. Instead, I envy people with office jobs. They have a specific place to go and a thing to accomplish and then it's done. I'm never done. I could always be writing more and mucking around the apartment less.

Loneliness is another result of working from home. I often spend days without vocalizing a single word to a single soul; as an unfortunate result, I cling to social media. From text messages to Facebook statuses to Twitter feeds, I'm constantly checking. The need for interaction is visceral and, without those interludes, I can't accomplish anything. This constant checking makes me hardly ever present. No matter what I'm doing or who I'm with, I'm always thinking about what's next. This extends beyond "being in the moment" and all of those other awful self-help slogans that makes me feel guilty for my wandering -- and wondering -- mind: I pick at my toenails during forward folds in yoga; I consider dessert before finishing dinner; I can't wait to get home while on vacation. Try as I might, there's rarely a second when I'm truly immersed in what I'm doing. Even when I tell myself to focus and listen and engage, it's basically for naught. I'm still in my head, either mad at myself for wasting time or thrilled at myself for being so motivated.

My situation is enviable. I'm lucky. I know that. I don't want to spend my whole life waiting for the next thing to happen, all the while not appreciating the awesomeness of now. I guess what it comes down to is forgiving yourself of the time you spend not focusing on your goal. I guess knowing that you have drive should be enough to get you through the day. You're either an inherent wallower or you're not. Luckily I'm not. That should be enough. If the grass is always greener, I'd like to at least lay in it for a while before my life shifts into another duller pasture.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Performance Anxiety

I read or heard or figured out on my own that the most effective way to not exhibit unwanted emotional displays is to repeat ad nauseum the very thing you don't want to do. Say you're with a group of new friends and a topic comes about which you know very little. You want to socially participate and, so, you make some ill-informed comment. All eyes turn to you to weigh in as you begin to flounder. You can't even remember your initial point. All you feel is the heat expressed on your cheeks. Thinking "don't blush, don't blush, don't blush" only makes matters worse. However, I've found if you tell yourself to blush, you won't. Or say someone you really like tells you something you really don't want to hear. Your eyes begin to well, but you'll be damned if you let this person see the effect of their words. You tell yourself not to cry, but it's useless. The tears start flowing. This stategy was revealed to me as a young actor. There was some gripping scene where I had to cry and I remember, instead of using my actor bag o' tricks of sense memory and whatnot, wanting to speed up the process and, thus, simply started thinking "cry, cry, cry" to no avail. My eyes were dry and my performance stagnant. I couldn't force a demonstrative response. Thus, considering the inverse result of those two instances, I've deduced it's more beneficial to trick your mind into doing the opposite of what you actually want to do. I don't know why this works, but it most certainly does. Perhaps it's because it's a little more exciting to fight against something than go with the grain. Whatever the case, it's gotten me out of (and into) many a jam. It's my own personal defense mechanism.

This makes me think about sex. Whether it stems from the selflessness of having a hand (or a tongue?) in someone else's pleasure or as a way to, umm, lubricate the situation, men seem slightly obsessed with the female orgasm. The order of events is often the same. You get naked, start kissing, start touching, maybe a few nipple licks and fingertips and then, before you know, they're between your legs, working with an anatomy more complex than any sex guide could ever describe. Most men think they know exactly what they're doing. They've got the flicking and sucking and slurping down to a science. It's almost methodical. Now it's countdown time. They start looking up at you with "you close?" eyes, timing things out based on pointed toes and arched back and tightened thighs. It's as if they want to prove to themselves that they're really good, rather than focusing on being, well, really good.

Instead of enjoying the moment and the attention and the sensation, your brain starts focusing on coming: are you taking too long, are they savoring the experience, are you "properly" displaying pleasure. And so on. Even though you know you can come and -- more than likely -- this particular person can make you come, the end result becomes more important than the process. You think about climaxing and performing satisfaction as opposed to letting the blood rush where it will. And then, just like that, all you hear in your head is Rossini's William Tell Overture. And then, just like that, sensation is replaced by concentration, which is, of course, a slippery slope leading to nowhere slippery. Plus, nothing makes you not come more than trying to tell yourself to come. So stop trying and start feeling. Who the fuck cares how long it takes.

Men have so much pride and ego attachment surrounding the female orgasm -- so much so that if you don't come, you feel slightly inadequate. This is unfortunate. Sexual satisfaction shouldn't spawn from vicariously making someone else feel satisfied with their job well done. Just because a dude does something somewhere with some girl absolutely doesn't mean that the same thing will happen with another person. Men, you gotta listen to a body as opposed to checking off a past tense list of fruitful tactics. Women, you gotta tell lovers what feels good to you, no matter how momentarily vulnerable this candidness makes you.

The depiction of sex in film and tv only perpetuates this scenario. For the sake of time and titillation, there is rarely a build-up. Actresses tend to moan and respond at first touch, which, again, makes the flesh-and-blood experience even more artificially constructed. If we're not instantly advertising arousal, then we're either not enjoying ourselves or else we're incapable of enjoying ourselves. It becomes our fault. Not theirs. This is insane. And untrue. There is nothing more exciting than someone truly relishing in your body, especially when it's because they want to -- not because they feel like they have to in order to move on to the main course. So. My advice to all guys: chill out a bit and let things unfold as they will. Not being so goal-oriented heeds the best results. Always.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sexual Projections

File this under anomaly. A dude friend (a rare one who is still morals-pure and relatively innocent and tooth-acheingly sweet) recently had his first one night stand. His initial reaction surrounding this situation was regret mixed with foot-stomping confirmation of why he normally suppresses his lust. He believes in truth and, no matter the sincerity of candle-shadowed bodies, feels that random hookups are nothing if not dishonest. He said that he can't lie when looking into someone's eyes and, if he takes a girl home just for the sake of sex, the disingenuous reigns supreme. So he chalked up this hookup as a lesson learned. This isn't a girl who he'd want to date, he said, so there's no reason to perpetuate penetration. Plus, there's always the what-to-do post-coital. Regardless of how engaged you are for -- if you're lucky -- twenty minutes, after the sweat subsides or the morning arises, it's often difficult to know the proper way to act. No one wants to be the lingering party suggesting breakfast or future plans, so we excuse ourselves with whatever residual dignity we have stored in our shoulda-known-better subconscious. But I digress. Back to my friend. When he next saw the girl (under the age-old artifice of the girl leaving something at his apartment that she had to retrieve), they fucked again -- and, maybe, again -- which converted the one-night stand construct into something ever-so-slightly more substantial. The conviction -- and romantic apathy -- he once had regarding this situation had given way to confusion over its significance -- or, rather, the significance he believes he must consider now that his actions have become chronic.

The prudent, been-there/done-that cynic in me scoffed at his naivety. I told him, instead of simply calling a spade a spade, he was making sex serve as an indicator for something else. I told him he was forcing translation and projection onto a minimal affair, considering his first impression about this girl was indifference-cum-sexual-curiosity (and god knows you gotta trust a first impression, no matter how many twists and turns in logic you allow). Alas, he's stubborn and unwavering. He now, he claims, has a crush on this girl even though he knows the silliness and impermanence of said crush. He said he believes in monogamy and, no matter how much he otherwise tries, he cannot compartmentalize desire.

In light of this antidote, another male friend well-versed in one-night stands said that his in-the-moment passion often serves as his cross-to-bear. He so fervently loves sex and the female body that, when locked in an embrace, he can't help but be loving because, in that moment, he believes it. Thus, his sentimentality -- albeit brief -- produces mixed signals of the Does He Really Like Me/That Was Really Special variety. And then, before too long, he has to have yet another faux-breakup conversation in light of the girl's concocted infatuation (or the need to "figure it out") that she wouldn't have had if he was a wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am dude.

And yet another insatiable guy friend told me that, before ever crossing the bedroom (kitchen table? living room couch? bathroom floor?) threshold, he makes his intentions clear. So much so (and, mind you, he was once one of my best friends) that when I became single a few years back and started pining over his, well, everything, he sat me down to say that although we have tons of chemistry and our sexual undoing is almost inevitable (he was right), he didn't want to be in a relationship with me. If I was okay with that, we could continue the trajectory. If not, we should pause as friends. Desire is a deceptive little monster and, as such, I told him I was totally cool with all of the above. This wasn't true. I secretly thought (hoped?) that I could (physically?) convince him otherwise, that there was no chance he wouldn't want to be with me once he got to know the XYZ of me (delusion is a motherfucker). Alas, I was wrong. Although at first this forced conversation seemed slightly patronizing, it absolutely wasn't. People rarely speak their truth so as to not hurt feelings, thus you gotta listen to the words instead of trying to read between the lines.

While the last scenario suggests the contrary, I don't know if we can ever be authentically polyamorous. I love the idea of dating multiple people (and all of the sexual trysts that accompany it), but I can never do it. I've got to invest in each particular person before releasing them from my radar -- even when I know from the get-go that it won't work out.

Okay. Now for my own crown of embarrassment. I've literally considered marrying every single person I've ever slept with. Or, if it's not initially that grand, I've at least imagined dating every single person in some projected, monogamous way that would ultimately lead to the white gown fantasy. Maybe my private, internal questions manifest themselves as intensity which, in turn, freaks out more than few dudes and sends them running -- tail-between-legs, hand-over-heart -- away. Or maybe I'm just really puritanical. Who knows. What makes this even more interesting is that I don't know even know if I believe in the institute of marriage or trust the notion of monogamy. However, in the moment, I don't want my actions to pass without proper consideration. Perhaps this seems really archaic, but it's still really true. Try as we might to convince ourselves otherwise, sex often clouds and muddles and smears rationality. Thus, we're left to cock an eyebrow over people who don't even deserve a second glance. Blame it on biology, maybe, or the residual morality that many of us fervently try to fight. Though sex can be had quite easily sans romantic expression, it's still, in its most wonderful incarnation, loaded with romantic subtext.

I've tested this theory thoroughly: from purposefully separating myself from sexual implications and slutting-it-up with random assholes to dating a handful of dudes while not having sex with any of them. Considering the way I hyperbolize sexual connotations, I thought the latter was the way to avoid projection. Not true. Instead, while the former had me pining over relative strangers, the latter had me doing the same but without so much as a spit-swap. When you like someone, you like someone. And when you don't, you don't. It's as simple as that. No amount of sex (or non-sex) can convince yourself otherwise. Thus, why employ relevance to situations that are absolutely irrelevant? I'm not suggesting that every sexual encounter should be loaded with significance. No way. We gotta explore to better know ourselves and whatnot, but everything doesn't have to be so damn meaningful. However, when we know it's infinitesimal to our lives, then maybe we should stop doing it and move on the next (more often than not) infinitesimal scenario -- if that's our libidos' particular leaning. Someone at some point is going to get hurt or disappointed or pissed off when the disingenuous parades as importance. Monogamy, after all, is too loaded and scary and time-consuming to simply be what happens when we accidentally stumble into something based on compulsion rather than intention.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Staring At Yourself

Last night I saw a dance performance about Narcissus. This got me thinking about the construct of conceit. We all lean on a sliding scale of narcissism, no matter how quick-to-judge we are of others who exhibit an overdose of this trait. Granted, being self-involved to the point of disconnecting image from reality is problematic for intimacy and whatnot, but narcissism is nonetheless a form of survival -- as long as we don't fall into the water of our reflection. You need to see things mirrored to gain perspective and, maybe, get a little outside of the esoteric and into the body (as was illustrated in the physicality of the performers). I knew I wanted to write about this, but I didn't know how. Until now.

I have psoriasis. There, I said it. Publicly. First time ever. (Cue major exhale.) This is a new plight, specifically since I moved from LA to NY, specifically after a breakup, specifically when I eat nightshade vegetables. So. I'm almost eight months in. At first, I thought this autoimmune thing was a temporary -- not chronic -- result of over-drinking and under-sleeping. And over-stressing about the next phase of my life. Probably true. All of the above. I went to a dermatologist and got some disgusting steroid cream to quell my disgusting affliction. It cleared. I was relieved. Until it came back with a vengeance and became something I had to accept and conceal and, because I'm a woman with a certain-sized ego, reveal its delineation before coming into bare-skin contact with anyone of crush-worthy magnitude. I've felt the need to clarify that this thing is new in my life, that I'm normally The Girl With Really Pretty Skin so as never to be The Girl With Psoriasis. But context is context and people are defined at specific moments in time more than the narrative they project onto the histrionics of their lives. So my conversations and explanations were, quite literally, in vain. I cannot control people's perceptions no matter how hard I try.

This morning the girl practicing yoga next to me had a serious case of psoriasis. Wearing short shorts and a t-shirt that crawled up to her sports bra during down dog, I was instantly familiar with her flawed skin: huge patches on her elbows and knees and polka-dot throw-up splotches all over her flabby belly and pale shins and tone-less arms and cellulited thighs. For the record, her case is way worse than mine (paging Narcissus). My initial impulse was empathy -- an emotion that, unfortunately, generally alludes me. I used to view flaws as something against which we should fight as opposed to something that we should accept. My next reaction was reverence for her bravery. I'd never be so bold as to expose my spots for the world -- or the yoga room -- to see. I so fiercely fret judgement and coming across as less-than-perfect that I'd never fathom throwing an extra log into an already-lit flame. My final feeling was anxiety, so much so that I couldn't maintain my balance in the easiest of poses. This girl has no doubt had psoriasis longer than me and, in an inevitable amount of time, I will become her. Or so I deduced. She is an exaggeration of everything I fear about myself, down to her extra weight and awful skin. I was staring into a funhouse mirror and, for the first time ever, understood the delusional image I've created of myself, which, in turn, debilitates me and makes this thing I cannot control way worse than it is. If I am Narcissus, she is my distorted reflection. This is the opposite of falling in love with oneself, yet this is still a drowning of sorts.

When completely outside of yourself, you never see things as they actually are. Something is always magnified. It's as if the person staring back at you isn't really you, but a more grand or repulsive image to which you cling. You extrapolate meaning based on perception to better equip yourself with the tools necessary for survival. Or else you just wallow in self-love or self-loathe. The incessant need to editorialize is counterproductive considering we cannot shape other people's opinions and, even if we could, what would it matter? We'd still have to contend with ourselves, which is the hardest part. And therein lies my contraction: I perform through the lens of confidence while secretly feeling like the girl next to me in yoga. This juxtaposition is exhausting and I won't accept it any longer. Fortitude, after all, cannot be feigned through an inflated sense of self-worth, regardless of what we proclaim otherwise.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The First Kiss

I met my first big love at a bar. I spotted him across the room and, with the confidence only a twenty-one year old can muster, sauntered past him more times than necessary, batting my eyelashes with a "come hither" stare. Alas, there was no hither. I wasn't deterred. Once the bar closed and everyone was outside smoking and waiting for the next thing to happen, I saw him talking to a mutual friend. I walked over and started an asinine conversation. He laughed at my casual attempt and, instead of letting the blurry line of desire unfold, instantly introduced himself. We went to some stupid after party at some grungy East Hollywood apartment and didn't stop talking until five in the morning. We exchanged numbers and parted ways. Even though the sparks were palpable, we didn't kiss. We barely touched. And that was that.

Armed with the phone number arsenal, I sent him a text the next day. I was at another stupid bar and wanted him to meet me. He didn't. The same thing happened the next night. Under the artifice of a first date, we made a plan for the following Monday. I ran into him that Sunday. I was impatient. And a little drunk. So I said I had to pee and didn't want to wait in the bathroom line. We walked to a vacant lot and I popped a squat (the impetus of romance?). Then the fireworks started going off. Literally. It was the Fourth of July. We were quiet as we sat on a concrete curb, watching the sky turn from red to smoke, from purple to haze, from orange to a thicker-than-normal smog. The setting was ripe with romance -- almost too ripe, almost a little too Danielle Steele -- and I decided I couldn't let the grandiose go without actualization. I couldn't wait for tomorrow or the next time or the time after that. I took matters into my own hands or, rather, my own mouth. I kissed him. The sky was on fire and so was I. It was awesome.

After our breakup some years later, kisses became less cavalier. They were rarely loaded with tension lasting longer than a few hours. Everything was really easy. You meet someone, you like someone, you kiss someone, you sleep with someone. And then, more often than not, you move on. Nothing loss. Very little gained, save for a calloused experience that makes the speed in which the next romance unravels all the more rushed.

It is easy to get swept away by the physicality of intimacy when everything else moves with such a forced velocity. I'd like to think that I'm quick with my tongue so as to not waste precious time. This is a lie. We've all been there and have done that, so the waiting to be there and do it again seems less necessary. We know how the story goes, so we deem it ridiculous to pause and consider the consequences of our actions. But then everything just gets muddled in the sticky space between getting to know someone intellectually and getting to know them biblically. Conversation is replaced with consummation until you forget what you had in common beyond the shapes that your bodies make. Plus, for me, after a short while, I'm tired of talk. Less effort is required with eyes closed -- or half-closed -- and, more often than not, I find most people sorta dull sooner than I should. Thus, I'd rather we just shut up and go at it, lest I have to fill another awkward silence with a boring story.

Call me a reclaimist or an idealist, but there's something to prolonging pleasure, perhaps because it normally only happens with someone you really like. Most men (yes, this is a gendered generalization) move really quickly, an action that stems from conquest more than heightened romance. However, it seems, the ones who are actually worthy of everything that you want to give, tend to take their time. This is a double-edged sword: we doubt the intentions of the other person when they don't proceed according to a specific haste to which we're accustomed. Thus, we start second-guessing their interest and perform sexuality with a chest-out, hips-sway projection so to make sure that our attraction doesn't go unnoticed. Or else, after spending a relatively platonic evening together, one where chivalry takes precedence over chauvinism, we walk away with furrowed brows over why they didn't pounce when we were belly-up and sans-resistance even though, if we really thought about it, we'd know it was a result of that ever-elusive quality called respect.

While it is good to explore the nuances of someone's personality before bending over backwards in locked-lip passion, there is, still, most certainly an equilibrium that must be established. If you linger too long, passion is replaced with friendship. Period. No turning back. No one wants that (unless they do?). If you move too quickly, passion is replaced with passivity. And, again, who wants that? It's all about cultivating balance, which just may be the hardest part. No one likes to wait, but, maybe, there's something to it, even if it's relatively abbreviated in the grand scheme of things. After all, once everything starts, there's really no stopping. Might as well let it build for as long as you can stand (which, for me, might only be a week...tops).