Monday, January 24, 2011

"Don't ask me to put words to the silences I wrote."

Before I dive into this latest entry (and it's a long one!), I would like to point all of you to an absolutely wonderful blog written by my dear friend, Charlotte. Through her own experiences, she explores what it's like to be a single 30-something woman, tossed back onto the scene after a long-term relationship. Her candor, sweetness, and bravery are not only a pleasure to read, but the inspiration behind my new baby blog. Please show her some love, and check out My Pixie Blog at

It was originally my intention to leave the topic of dating and relationships out of my blog, but sometimes it just needs to be discussed.

After leaving my ex-husband, I didn't really take dating very seriously. I wasn't particularly interested in having a boyfriend, but I did date casually. It seemed easier to date guys I knew I wouldn't grow attached to, but I could still enjoy the company and attention that they brought into the mix.

Summer came and almost went, until in August, (approximately 10 months after I'd left) I was introduced to someone through a mutual friend. Mr. Doe and I hit it off instantly, and I realized that I could really, really like him... Uh oh.

And I did. And for several months, it was all about him and me and nothing else. My friends wondered where I'd gone. I stopped showing up at the places I'd normally be spotted in. I declined invitations to most things, but when I did go, all I could do was think about the next time we'd get to hang out again. My sister said my eyes were sparkly. We had a blast together. It was fun, it was organic, and it seemed to be going swimmingly.

And then, one day, he woke up, and realized that we were, in fact, in a relationship. Without going into the long, drawn out history, he was relationship-phobic. Bad break up, trust issues, blah blah blah blah blah. What it all came to is that this was evolving and he was scared. I, being the fearless woman that I am, had no problem with it. It was simple: We were happy, it was fun, and it was all happening without discussion. And it reinforced that I was in a good place and able to bring something to a relationship. And he was just so stinkin' cute.

We had a few conversations about it, and his discomfort was evident. He SAID he was ok with it. But he clearly wasn't. The distance grew, the time together got less and less, and next thing I knew, it had been weeks since I saw him. But we still talked or texted every day. Huh.

Here's where I went wrong: Being so incredibly uncomfortable not knowing what was going on, I turned to the abysmal excuse for socializing known as online dating. Why not? I know people (ok, maybe TWO, tops) who have had success with that! I'm ready for a relationship! Mr. Doe isn't the only one! I started talking to several different guys via a dating site. I even met one or two people the "old fashioned" way... but something just didn't work--with any of them.

You're thinking, "She's just too hung up on Mr. Doe." WRONG! Why didn't ANY of these meetings turn into something else? Because, apparently, someone went and took the simplest social etiquette out of dating. I don't think the scene has changed SO drastically since the last time I was in it, but apparently, it's completely acceptable to abruptly blow people off, not respond to communication, etc.

Every single one of them, regardless of how much or little time we spent talking, simply... "disappeared." On what level, be it dating, friendship, or even merely acquaintances, is it ok to just blow someone off? Is this the new way of expressing a lack of interest? For most of them, it was nothing more than annoying. I wasn't particularly invested, but still. There's something to be said for someone who doesn't have enough decency to say, "Hey, you know what? You're cool, but I don't think you're right for me."

This isn't a question of the dating scene being so difficult, but one of simple common courtesy. Mr. Doe and I spent a lot of time together. There was a very personal connection. And yet, he chose the "blow off" method. He asked to see me (post-relationship-phobia meltdown), I said I was available on a certain day, and I never heard from him again, until I text him four days later to let him know how disappointing and insulting his behavior was. And all he could do was say that it wasn't right to keep me around if his feelings weren't growing. But that wasn't the issue. He, like so many of the others, refused to acknowledge that kind of behavior as unacceptable.

I started to think about why people are so comfortable being impersonal, and the first thing that comes to mind is technology. Is it because texting (the absolute preferred method of communication) and email are so impersonal that it's ok to be just as impersonal in the end? Is it as simple as deleting that phone number from your contact list? For the online thing, I do believe that a photograph, profile, email address and text messaging all make it somehow less "real" that you're dealing with an actual person. But people I've met in person, the old fashioned way, choose this method as well. And from what my single friends say, I'm not alone in this.

Are they so unaware that you can tell someone you're no longer interested, and do so in a polite, respectful way? Are some women out there so crazy that, when presented with rejection like that, they push back or beg for another chance, or just go all out batshit, and these guys don't want to deal with it? At the end of the day, all we have is our integrity, and it seems degrading to allow it to be stomped on because people can't be honest with uncomfortable information. I didn't even ask Mr. Doe why he didn't want to see me anymore. Why? Because it doesn't matter. He doesn't, and his reasons are his own. I'm not insulted by that. I'm insulted that he (and the lot of 'em) couldn't "man up" and have that conversation with my face. Or my text inbox. Or my email address. Or my online dating account.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Freedom, I won't let you down

I spent yesterday evening with my sister, and it was the first time she'd been to my new apartment. She loves the place, and is so excited for me because it's the first time I am living completely alone. We started to discuss the feeling this experience brings, and both of us were having trouble putting our fingers on it. I saw this as a challenge, and possibly a great blog topic...

The immediate gratification is obvious: walking around in my underwear, singing at the top of my lungs, eating and drinking out of containers, doing or not doing dishes and not making the bed are all options that will only piss off one person: me. This place only gets as messy as I let it, and if it does, it's my mess, so I don't care. No one that requires conversation in the morning, things are always in their place, food lasts as long as I let it, I never have to watch a football or baseball game... the list goes on and on.

But there's an underlying, elusive feeling that seems to magnify the longer I live here. The afore-mentioned pros lose their luster after a while, but there's a sense of adulthood, complete and total independence that seems to be gaining momentum. I've been married, I owned a house, I've paid my own bills, been in debt, etc. But for some reason, this experience feels more real than all of that combined. When my ex-husband and I bought our house, we had a lot of financial and emotional backing from our parents. Although we no longer lived with them, they were still very much a part of all the discussions regarding decisions we had to make. We were new homeowners. They had owned their homes for decades. So, in a sense, the training wheels were still on. We also had each other to bounce things off of, to decide how to handle things.

Now it's just me. Not that I don't have the emotional support of my parents and family, but I have a tenacious need to handle everything on my own. It's an honor and an obligation to myself. As exciting as it is to be on my own, it's also scary at times. When you only have yourself to answer to, there are times when that's even harder than justifying your actions and decisions to someone else. My money will last (or not) for as long as I allow it to. When you have someone else in your life, it's easy for the two of you to justify something like poor spending decisions. If I save my money, I feel that sense of pride by myself. If I stretch myself to the point where I have to make $10 last three days, I am alone in that stress.

I hold myself to higher standards of living than I did before. I also had to fight against the slobbery of my ex, and the battles over that made it harder. But here, it's just me, and only I can uphold my expectations. These extend beyond cleanliness. I strive to live a healthy life. I buy healthy food, I go to bed at a reasonable hour. I try to spend less time in front of the television. Each and every day, the decisions I make are solely about me and what I want. So, perhaps it is not just freedom and independence, but a justified and healthy dose of selfishness.

**Constructive Compulsion has a new home at Disturb the Universe. Please come by and visit!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

"What is success? It is a toy balloon among children armed with pins." ~Gene Fowler

I have just returned home from an evening with a few ladies for dinner, wine, and the usual female chatter. As most girl-gatherings do, the conversation revolved heavily around love, relationships, the future, kids, etc. The dynamics of the group were as follows: a married woman with a 4 year old; a woman in her early 30s in a stable, happy, committed relationship that she expects to lead to marriage and family; and me--32 and basking in the glow of singledom and independence, armed only with the answer "I'm not entirely sure" when asked if I'm seeing anyone.

The intention here is not to delve into the complexities of relationships, the desire or lack thereof to bear children, the merits and tragic difficulties of finding a good man. Instead, what I find most interesting about the course of the evening is what each of us deemed a "successful" life, what is required to achieve it, and the opportunities and do-overs that have long passed some of us by.

You'd think by now the idea of success, particularly for women, would extend so far beyond finding the right guy, getting married, and having a family. Divorce rates, shattered glass ceilings, lesbianism... any of these might serve as glaring arguments against this being the tried and true path. But it seems that no matter what else is on the table, lack of a partner and no hope for generating more people is perceived as a future certain to be lacking in happiness. One of us who didn't ever think that lifestyle was for her is now hoping to fit comfortably into that mold. And I don't begrudge her that. Who's to say that, if put into the ideal equation, I might not want the same?

But here's the irony:

The woman who DOES have the husband, the house, the kid, and the domestic life is almost wholly dissatisfied with all of it. On the rare occasions that this particular group gathers, this woman often laments the life she could've had. Of course she loves her child, but the rest of it seems to cast nothing but sorrow and frustration on most of her days. And yet, she still insists that having children is the greatest thing. "Don't give up on having kids. Just find the right guy to do it with."  She is the most bitter and cynical of us all regarding men and their behaviors, and yet... the biggest champion of choosing one, mating, and birthing.

I find it puzzling that, when one (particularly female) presents the idea that a successful future does not have to revolve around or even include a relationship, marriage, OR kids, she is met with several of the following answers:
  • Well, you still have time.
  • Kids are the greatest thing. You'd understand if you had some.
  • So, then, what ARE you going to do? 
I can tell you what I'm going to do, if I am blessed enough to make MY version of the successful life a reality. I'm going to do whatever the hell I want, whenever the hell I want. And I'm not about to hop up on a pink soapbox, set a bra on fire, and flush my mascara down the toilet. But I am going to boldly suggest the idea that success  is not solely contingent upon marriage and parenthood. I freely admit that companionship is a beautiful thing, and that everyone loves to curl up next to someone at night. But this is a mere ASPECT of a wholly successful life. I don't believe that success can be hung on the sole peg of being a spouse and/or parent. Success is relative. We get educations, we work for careers. We have hobbies and interests and involvements. I'm sure being a parent is tremendously rewarding, but so is waking up on a beach in Maui, completing a project after round-the-clock effort, or being rewarded for a philanthropic act. As far as I'm concerned, sleeping till noon on a Sunday is rewarding as hell. Find a parent, and ask him or her the last time that was possible.

To those of you who can't fathom the idea of success resting on anything but marriage and family, I ask you for this: Look past the sippy-cups, and acknowledge that those of us who choose a different path can be as fulfilled as you. And for Christ's sake, don't pity us for not wanting what you have. Next time you're elbow deep in poopy diapers, haven't had more than 5 minutes to shower since your kid was born, and have replaced all your favorite CDs in the car with Barney sing-alongs, think about what the rest of us are doing and ask yourself if maybe you're not just a wee bit jealous.

Friday, January 14, 2011

“Who are you? ” said the Caterpillar. This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation.

It's incredibly easy to write about thoughts and experiences. You put these abstract musings out there, or you recreate a series of events and the characters involved and don't really have to put much thought into it. But when it comes to the "about me" concept, I find myself perplexed and suddenly full of anxiety and fear of judgment. After all, you have to like me to want to read about me, right? Those of you who already know me will indulge me and smile knowingly at the things I write, but it's a writer's nightmare to only have the people who love you read your stuff. So, how do I present a character that has mass-appeal? She has to be someone that is intriguing and interesting and expressive enough to garner the attention of unknown readers. I want a following, dammit.

I wonder if that means I should start a Twitter account... Anyway...

Perhaps I should break it down into somewhat organized categories.

Professional Me:
I'm sitting at my desk at my second job as a book editor, plugging away at this. I should be proofreading, but I'm leaving in an hour and my symmetry-obsessed brain doesn't like the idea of starting something new on a Friday. Monday is a more comfortable starting point. I got my first real grown-up job here, and am glad it's a bridge I never burned. Being here part-time, aside from supplementing my income, gives me a break from some of the frustrations of...

My primary job. I teach English at a local college. Most of the time I love my job. But my students have a tendency to frustrate me and make my world outlook incredibly bleak, especially when pertaining to the future. But I'm sure you'll read plenty about that along the way.

I love both of my jobs, and am grateful to have two jobs that put my extensive education (thanks Mom and Dad!) and passion for words to good use.

Familial Me:
My parents are still married after 37 years. I am one of four kids, with the girls being in the middle, and the boys on each end. We're a pretty tight and crazy crew. The eldest of us passed away in 2009, and at some point I'm sure I'll discuss the impact that had on me, but for now, let's just say mortality became monumentally clear to me because of it. I love my family fiercely, and recognize what a rare construct we have, especially in this day and age.

Statistical Me:
32 years old. Single (well, separated, and in the middle of a divorce that could've been final 15 times over, but again, we'll get on that later), living alone for the first time in my life (whistle, clap, cheer). I live in North Jersey, and I'm glad to report that I am neither orange-tinted nor do I fist-pump. 

Personal Me:
I'd like to think I'm this delightfully eclectic and unusual melody of interests and likes, but I don't believe it's all that uncommon to be interested in things that may seem contradictory, like heavy metal and Fraggle Rock. The Literary Canon and poop jokes. Compartmentalization of interests and identity fell away with my early 20s. I watch Fight Club and cry at Tori Amos and Ani Difranco songs. I'm an Aries, I spend time in the gym, and I love to devote entire days to laying on the couch. Conversely, I love to be busy, hate to waste time, get my hands in a lot of things, and most of all, I love being creative. I love "projects" and idea exchanges. Creativity brings me to life. And I love to laugh as much as humanly possible. I don't care if it's cliche. We all know laughing makes everything better.

It is my sincere hope that, as time wears on, and as pointed ideas come to life here, you will discover more about me. Generalizing and listing information is like glancing at a painting.

Love of Writing + Instant Publishing Gratification = Nikki Has a Blog

I know I'm showing up incredibly late to this party. Blogging has been around for what seems like forever now, and I'm sure there are 5 million better than mine. But, whatever. I was inspired by my  dear friend Charlotte's blog to foray into this corner of the digital universe. I will feature a link to her blog here as soon as I get her approval (and figure out how to add the link)...

As the title indicates, you're dealing with an exceptionally compulsive person. Decisions are made in nano-seconds, and plans immediately begin to formulate. I did not read directions, forums, or wikis on how to start a blog. I googled 'start a blog' and clicked the first link. I'll figure it out along the way. I probably won't ask anyone for help.

I have been writing since I was a kid. Short stories, and eventually a focus on poetry, which narrated my life from the age of 13 through my college years, and a few years beyond. After a while, the muses left, taking the poetry with them (quite literally, in fact. I've lost every single stitch of everything I wrote in that time. I have no idea what happened to it all.), and I always had the urge to write, but nothing ever took hold. I suck at fiction, and though I put about a week's worth of effort into a story while I was unemployed one summer, it died a lonely death. But the urge to write never left me, and it dawned on me last night that I frequently write exceptionally long emails to friends and family... the older, more refined sibling of that concept is the blog, and this way, I don't have to shoehorn my way into anyone's inbox. If you feel like reading it, here it is.

So, what is this blog supposed to be about? Not about being single and in my 30s. Charlotte's got that under control and is doing a bang-up job of being the delightfully (and sometimes brutally) honest voice for all of us who fall into that category. I'm sure there will be times when I touch upon this topic (hell, it's my demographic, and does influence a major portion of my life), but I'm aiming for a more introspective, yet worldly narrative of being part of the world in this age. A female perspective. A professional perspective. A grunge-baby perspective. An artist, a teacher, a prowler, a fighter... Sometimes it's random thoughts and musings. Sometimes major events. Whatever comes out of my head, whatever compulsions I find myself in the midst of, I want to do something constructive with them. And I hope you'll come along with me.