Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Two old ladies

As the school year has progressed in tandem with my relationship with Dreamy, it has become increasingly difficult to squeeze in visits to the nursing home where 97-year-old Celine, the Hospice patient I volunteer to spend time with, is living out her last days. Still, her bright smile, silly phrases ("Here comes my big doll! You're a doll, but not a crocodoll!"), and warm personality have motivated me to continue to find time for her, albeit not as much as I spent with her last summer when I had little else to do.

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from my Hospice coordinator asking if I would be interested in taking on Celine's roommate, Midge, as well. I accepted reluctantly. Midge is, amazingly, even older than Celine, and will soon celebrate her 103rd birthday. Like Celine, she has Alzheimer's, but unlike Celine it has had a negative impact on her personality. She often yells at me, or bossily instructs the nurses to kick me out when I visit Celine. When she is in a kinder mood toward me, she beckons me to come over and warns me about other people who she is suspicious of. While I am sure she was once a lovely person, it is, frankly, enough to give one nightmares.

Still, I felt that I should accept because she and Celine are best friends, and because logistically it makes sense since they are together constantly. They have spent the past 13 years together, sharing a tiny room with parallel single beds, eating every meal together, and spending 90% (if not more) of every day together.

So it was with a bit of nervousness that I set off last Sunday to the nursing home, steeling myself for unpleasantness from Midge (most recently I was warned to keep my hair away from her as she has begun to grab hair) but looking forward to seeing Celine. When I arrived, I checked their usual hangout spots -- their bedroom, a small sitting room, and the dining room -- to no avail before heading to the front desk to inquire for their whereabouts. The woman at the desk looked stricken when I said their names, and informed me that Celine had passed away the prior evening.

I realize it's a bit ridiculous, but I was shocked. Yes, she's in a Hospice program, and yes, she wasn't able to keep down food the last time I saw her, two and a half weeks before (not to mention that she's 97 years old!). But I thought it was just the stomach flu. Over the summer, each time I went to visit I half-expected her to have passed, but eventually I began to think she might last a couple more years. Clearly, she was ready to go; she had little more to look forward to in life. Still, the way she managed to remain positive under such difficult circumstances was truly inspirational, and I felt her loss tremendously.

Midge, it turned out, was on another floor at a Christmas concert, so I headed down while wiping the tears from my eyes. Most of me wanted to turn around and leave, but I certainly didn't want to have to come back the following weekend, so I decided to stay for a little while and spend time with Midge. When I got there, she was hunched over a cold slice of pizza while a cheesy singer sang Christmas classics like "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire" and "White Christmas."

"Let's get out of here," growled Midge when I asked if she was enjoying the concert, "QUICK." I hesitated, unsure what to do, then pulled Midge's wheelchair out and headed back to the 4th floor.

"Do you want to sit and chat?" I asked when we arrived at the sitting room, thinking nostalgically of my many long chats with Celine that mostly consisted of her telling me how happy she was that I had dropped by. "No!" she barked back, "Take me that way." She lifted a knobby hand and indicated a long hallway. Obediently, I started wheeling her down.

At the end, we came to a right hand turn. "Go left," Midge instructed. "L-E-F-T! Left!" she barked more insistently as she felt me turning her wheelchair the only direction I could go. "There is no left turn!" I replied as cheerily as possible. We walked by some people who were standing and chatting. "Get out of the way!" she shouted, and I smiled apologetically and waved.

After our fruitless walk around the building, a half hour had passed since my arrival. Usually I stay longer, but at that point I was done. I bid Midge goodbye, telling her I was sorry for the loss of her friend. I'm not sure she understands that Celine has died, but perhaps on some level she was sad. And, in the end, my loss is really nothing compared to hers.

Even if I weren't insanely busy it would be hard to face such unpleasantness. Given how full my calendar is, I'm not sure how much longer I can keep this up -- unless, of course, Midge moves on to a better place soon and I inherit a new Hospice patient!

Then again, I should probably just be grateful she didn't get ahold of my hair.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

In which Dreamy develops a taste for bird excrement


Dreamy and I have been spending a lot of time together. When we're at my house, that means that Dreamy also spends a lot of time with my pet lovebird, Persil, since wherever I am is usually where Persil likes to be (and the same could be said of Dreamy). Luckily for me, they've taken a shine to each other. Dreamy doesn't mind the occasional bite, and has taken to calling Persil a variety of nicknames, including P-dawg, P-money, and Perster. When he arrives at my place, his first stop after kissing me hello is Persil's cage, where he stops to pat him and inquire how he's doing.

However, there is one aspect of Persil's personality that Dreamy is not a fan of, and it is Persil's fondness for pooping. "Boy, you sure do love to poop!" he exclaims each time a new little green slime appears, in a voice that strains to be cheerful. Or: "Whoa, I just put my arm around you and got Persil poop all over my fingers!" (After my computer, Persil's favorite spot to poop is on my shoulder.) Lovebirds poop on average once every 15 minutes; I haven't timed him on a regular enough basis to say for sure, but my unscientific estimate is that Persil poops 3 times more than the average lovebird. Dreamy tries to be nice about it, but he's clearly a bit amazed at how blase I am about all the poop.

I know, it does sound gross, and sometimes it is. But bear in mind that lovebird poops are less gross than almost any other animal. They aren't brown, they're a pretty combination of green and white. They don't smell at all. They're tiny. They're easily cleaned up. And, the pee is included so you only have to deal with one bodily emission!

A couple of weeks ago, I gave Dreamy a French press since he was in need of a new coffee maker. Because he's a bit clueless in the kitchen, he decided to give it a test run at my house while I was there to give him instructions. I was showering and getting dressed as this was happening, and every 30 seconds or so he'd call out a question: "How much coffee should I put in?" "Is this enough?" "Should I pack it down?" "How long should I let it sit for?"

Finally, the coffee was done, after he had let it sit for 20 minutes just to be on the safe side. I was about to come out to try a test sip when I heard a strange noise, like a groan. I had never heard a noise like that from Dreamy, so I immediately stuck my head out of the bedroom door. "What's wrong?"

"Persil pooped in the coffee," Dreamy replied, failing for once to maintain his cheerfulness. He pointed: there, perfectly situated in the center of the pour lip, was a glistening, coiled poop.

"It didn't go IN the coffee," I said, trying to salvage the situation. "Let's take the lid off, clean it really well, and put it back on."

"But it might have dripped down," Dreamy replied. It didn't look to me like it had, but realizing I was in danger of getting a reputation for being gross, I acquiesced, dumped the coffee out, and put Persil in his cafe for a time out while Dreamy made more.

The next morning, a bit to my amazement, when Dreamy woke up he proposed cooking breakfast for me. "Do you have eggs?" he asked, "I'll scramble them." To which I replied, dubiously, "Do you know how to scramble eggs?" Well, it turns out he does.

I warned him about not heating the nonstick pan too much, since it can emit fumes that are fatal to birds, but apparently I forgot to instruct him to put Persil away in his cage. Dreamy was happily scrambling the eggs up with a wooden spoon, Persil perched on his elbow, when it occurred to my little feathered baby that it would be interesting to go for a swim in the warm yellow liquid below. He took off and landed squarely in the eggs, face first. Dreamy yelled, reached into the hot eggs, and pulled him out before a second had passed. He handed him to me as though we had been rehearsing the move, while I stayed calm, turned the tap on, and put Persil's oily, egg-covered body under lukewarm water. When most of the egg was gone, I returned him, much subdued, to his cage, where he recovered on his heated perch.

Dreamy and I then turned our attention to our suspended breakfast. He pulled out a feather and what could have been a little piece of herb, or a poop. I told him to trash the eggs and offered to go buy more. Dreamy looked disheartened and uncertain. The, he squared his shoulders. "No," he said, "let's just eat it."

So that's what we did. We ate every bite of it, bird poop and all. And it was delicious.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Dreamy's boyfriend

This afternoon, I received the following e-mail, addressed to me as well as Dreamy's boss/good friend:

From: Dreamy
To: Heathen and Brian
Subject: Christmas concert Sunday

Hey guys,

Sunday at 8 pm is the Glee Club Christmas Concert. Want to come? I'm working on getting tickets!

-Dreamy

What most surprised me about this message was not that Dreamy was inviting both me and Brian on a date, but that he was inviting both of us simultaneously. Usually his messages are more along the lines of, "Hey Heathen, Brian and I are going to a concert on Friday. Interested in coming along?" Last week Dreamy sent an invitation to a movie to about ten people; only Brian was cc'ed, since the two of them had already bought their tickets. Over the weekend Dreamy joined Brian for services at his Catholic church. I also received this gem recently: "When are you going to be in Tuscany again? Brian and I have to go to Europe for work, and he has friends who are getting married in Tuscany so we were thinking of going to the wedding. Maybe we'll be there at the same time!"

So sometimes it feels like Brian is Dreamy's boyfriend. However, I'm not complaining. I get plenty of alone time with Dreamy, and besides, it's nice to have a boyfriend who is independent. Dreamy and Brian help each other; Dreamy advises Brian on his musical choices, since Brian has terrible taste in music, and Brian tells Dreamy when he makes unfortunate choices in his attire. Neither one ever hesitates to tell the other what they're thinking. A couple of weeks ago, the three of us were watching Glee at Brian's house the evening after I got a tetanus shot. In an ill-advised attempt to make it feel better, Dreamy reached out and started rubbing my shoulder. Before I could even flinch, Brian shrieked: "Stop it, Dreamy! That hurts her! Jesus, for a smart guy you can be really clueless sometimes." Chastened, Dreamy quickly stopped and apologized.

I'm looking forward to being the third wheel on lots more Brian/Dreamy dates in the future. And who knows, maybe one of these days we'll even find a real boyfriend for Brian and he can tag along, too.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Murse shopping

The holidays are fast approaching. Despite living a religion-free existence, I seem to be hopelessly Christmas-centric, so it's hard for me to keep track of the fact that the holidays are actually already here for some of us, such as Dreamy.

Yesterday I asked my students who celebrate Channukah to tell us about it. Little Jack raised his hand. "Well, it's mostly about presents. We open a few presents every day." "Oh really?" I asked. "And how many days does Channukah last?" "Five," he answered without the slightest hint of uncertainty. "Um, I think it's actually 8, Jack," I replied. "Do you do anything with candles for Channukah?" "Maybe," he replied, "I really don't remember. Mostly it's about the presents." Later, Cooper -- who struggles with language -- told us all about his sister's Channukah party, except that sometimes he used the word Channukah and sometimes he used the word harmonica. I'm about 95% sure that Cooper's sister is not in fact Jewish, and that she once had a birthday party that involved harmonicas. Overall my attempt to educate my students about Judaism was, at best, spotty.

However, I learned something important from the conversation, which is that presents are an integral part of Channukah and, as such, I should probably be shopping for Dreamy. At the beginning of a relationship, it can be hard to figure out what to buy and how much to spend on your new beau. That's why it's good when a birthday comes first, so only one person is setting the precedent for how much to spend and there's no chance of an awkward discrepancy. I want to be generous -- I enjoy being generous -- but I worry that it might make Dreamy feel bad if I spend more than he does. So, for the past few days I've been trying to think of gifts I could buy that would strike a good balance. Small, plentiful, thoughtful gifts might be the way to go.

Of course, one obvious gift option is a murse. I've been encouraging Dreamy to start using one for some time, in the hopes that it will help him to be more organized. (I'm happy to report that he has been MUCH better since I came close to calling things off last month when he flaked on me two weekends in a row. In fact, he hasn't even flaked once since then.) Still, I think a murse would be helpful in myriad small ways, like not wasting time looking for his wallet, car keys, etc.

For murse ideas, I turned to the man who practically invented the murse: my father. Dad collects bags like Imelda Marcos collected shoes. He collects all kinds: luggage, briefcases, backpacks, murses. I noticed over Thanksgiving weekend that he was sporting a manly-looking Jack Spade creation. Unfortunately, when I looked it up the price tag was $200 -- unsurprisingly, since Dad doesn't skimp on his murses. That's more than I was prepared to spend.

So I think I'll start out small and keep my out for murses for a later occasion. The other day Dreamy mentioned to me that Channukah is kind of a made-up holiday, with no strong music or other traditions associated with it. To which I countered: "What about Erran Baron Cohen?" It's been two years since my all-time favorite Channukah CD came out, and many people have forgotten about it in the meantime. But not me. I think I'll send Dreamy a little iTunes gift to get the Channukah season started. His version of "Dreidel" is not to be missed.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Rapprochement

ra-prōsh-man. n. Derives from the French word rapprocher, "to bring together".

1) Establishment of or state of having cordial relations.
2) A human developmental milestone usually occurring between 15 to 24 months. The child moves away from and then returns to the mother for reassurance.

Definition #2 might be a bit of a stretch, but taken down a notch, it could possibly describe what is happening recently between me and my ex-boyfriend, l'Artista. He was such an important figure in my life that in some ways he was almost like a parent. Somehow, La Moustache managed to be such a douchebag during our breakup that he made l'Artista look good by comparison and changed the way I've been thinking about that relationship since it ended a few years ago. I realize that the fact that he's not quite as horrible as your other ex doesn't really constitute a good reason to be friends, but I thought about it a lot and felt there might be some value for me in trying to establish a relationship.

Still, each time he emails me it somehow takes me weeks before I feel ready to write back. I'm not really sure why. It's not just that I'm busy, although that is part of it. When I read his emails I feel strongly that I need to close them and not reply to them for a while.

So when I received an email in early November, in which he told me that he'd like to talk on the phone and specifically he'd like to discuss our breakup, which he's always felt bad about, I mentally put it in the category of "things to think about later." I finally turned my thoughts back to it yesterday afternoon. L'Artista didn't say why he felt bad about our breakup, but I suspected that he thought it was unfair of me to cut him off so completely. When we broke up, I refused to take his calls, read his emails, or give him any way to contact me. I put a block on my email and hung up when he figured out how to call me so I couldn't see who it was. Of course this was very, very hard for both of us. But I had to do it because after months and months of trying to break up I realized this was the only way it was going to happen.

I carefully constructed my reply, telling him I would be happy to discuss the breakup, but reminding him that as we both know my memory is much better than his. "I don't know how you remember our breakup," I said diplomatically, "but in case you remember it differently from how I remember it, I hope you are able to listen to what I have to say about it. Of course, I will listen to you, too. Feel free to give me a call."

A scant 40 minutes later, I was in the car driving to dinner with my sister. We had just pulled over so she could hop out and buy a sixpack when my phone rang. My sister rooted around in my bag to find my phone, and my heart sank a little when she reported that the number was unlisted. When I answered and heard l'Artista's voice, I had a sudden, irrational urge to hide the fact that he was calling from my sister, who still hadn't exited the car. (As it turns out, this was utterly useless since she told me later that she had recognized his voice the moment I answered.) "Oh, hi!" I said casually when I heard his voice, still as familiar as the back of my hand even though I haven't heard it in over four years, "hold on a sec." I tried to make it sound as normal as possible, as though I were actually talking with someone who speaks English.

I hoped Ms. Swamp would disappear quickly, but she was looking for her purse. "Who is it?" she asked, her curiosity obviously piqued.

"Get out of the car!" I hissed back, abandoning any pretense that it was a normal phone call. She threw me a quizzical look, grabbed her purse and left, at which point I told l'Artista that I was with my sister and couldn't talk. We made plans to talk another time.

We finally talked this evening, and it turns out my fears about his memories of our breakup were utterly unfounded. He feels awful about it, and says he feels that he went out of his way to create problems that he then couldn't face. I think he's right, and that it was a very weak, bad moment for a person who is overall decent and caring.

It was pleasant, if a bit surreal, to hear his voice. Mostly it felt as though no time at all has passed since we spoke last, whereas in reality my entire life has changed since then. It feels as though he knows me so well, but in fact there are so many things he doesn't know about me, since in many ways I'm not the same person I was when we broke up. Whether or not I know him is hard to say.

I may have the chance to explore this further soon. When we said goodbye, I told him to feel free to call again if he wants to. But we also might do more than talk on the phone soon, since I received the astonishing news a few weeks ago that my parents participated in a raffle and WON A WEEKLONG VACATION IN A VILLA IN TUSCANY. Crazy, right?? And actually it's not one villa but two, and it's on a vineyard, and there is a pool. In the photos it looks absolutely gorgeous. It's probable that we'll be going next July, if the dates work out.

Still not sure how I feel about actually seeing l'Artista, but if there's one thing I'm certain I'm excited about it's eating one of his amazing meals. My stomach is growling in anticipation already.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Warm fuzzies (& a few sharp bities)

Since I moved into my new apartment three weeks ago, my life has felt insanely busy, but also pretty great. I've been taking lots of baths, spending time decorating, dropping hundreds of dollars at Ikea, and cooking my farm share veggies in my new, beautifully tiled kitchen.

The most unexpected change to occur was my bird's complete personality transformation. As I've written before, little Persil -- who I acquired in late July when he was six weeks old to replace my beloved bird Haricot, who flew off into the Maine woods in June and was never seen again -- has been a bit standoffish at times. I don't know if it's that there's more light here, or more space, or that he doesn't have to live in fear of being eaten by my roommate's copious pets, but he has now become extremely cuddly and sweet with me, as evidenced by the photos I've been taking:

The new, improved Persil nibbles lovingly on my nostril

There have been times when I've wondered if I rushed into buying Persil, and if he'll ever be able to fill the huge void left on Haricot's heated perch. It looks like I don't have to worry about that anymore. My worries these days are more along the lines of how I should best deal with the copious amount of bird poop falling under my computer keys and if Persil might misjudge the force of his beak and rip a hole in my nostril, or lip, or earlobe, or whatever part of my body he's currently focused on. (I'm not sure if he is a bit bitey because he still feels insecure with me or because he doesn't realize how strong his beak is, but I'm confident it will taper off eventually. It did with Haricot.)

No sharp bities whatsoever were around on Wednesday, when I had a long, seven hour afternoon/evening of parent teacher conferences. I was a little nervous going into them, as other teachers had warned me that the parents can be a bit demanding. But my experience was the exact opposite. Parent after parent showered me with praise, told me that their kids love me and talk about me all the time, that they're amazed by how quickly their children are learning, and asked what they can do to support me. It may never happen again that I'll get such an amazing class and have such unanimous support, but I'm enjoying every minute of it while it lasts.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The art of seduction

Getting hit on in public can be hit or miss (no pun intended). I was not a fan of the guy in the car next to me tonight who motioned to me to roll down my window like he wanted to ask for directions, then said, "Hey baby, lookin' good. You headed to a party?" (I was headed home to take a bath and then go to bed circa 8:30. Was it my gray wool winter hat that shouted "party girl" to him??) On the other hand, the two rasta guys who followed me down the street in Brooklyn a few years ago and did a duet of "Pretty Woman" were awesome. The Korean man on the subway a few months ago who said in broken English, "Hello, my name Kim. What your name and can I put number in phone?" made me feel sad for him, but it was also sweet and funny. He deserves points for having the guts to give it a shot even though he had to know the chances of success were slim.

Less gutsy, perhaps, was the homeless man who approached me and Dreamy in the bookstore circa 11 a.m. last Saturday. He looked to be in his mid-twenties and I say that he was less gutsy because he reeked of beer, although I suppose Irish courage could be considered to be a form of courage by some. He walked up to us and proclaimed in slurred tones, "You are gorgeous. I wanted you to know that I think you are very beautiful, and I love your hat." He paused, then added the incongruously old-fashioned phrase, "It looks like the two of you are going together. I guess I might be interrupting." I smiled politely and Dreamy and I started to move past him. As we walked away he called after us, "You should really check out the neuroscience section. The books there are amazing."

Thanks for the suggestion, weird drunk homeless guy! Will do.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Weak in the knees

"Est-ce que tu vas faire la piqure cet après-midi?" my co-worker asked me casually as I walked by her after saying goodbye to the last of my kids yesterday. Sometimes after a long day I really wish my colleagues would speak English.

"What shot?" I inquired, and she explained that across the street they were giving free flu shots. Having suffered through H1N1 a year and a half ago as well as myriad more minor illnesses, I decided to go for it, and headed across the street in the drizzle. Five minutes later, my first ever flu shot was all over.

Toward the end of book club a few hours later, I started to cough. The coughing increased throughout the night, and I started sucking cough drops in order to sleep. After each one melted, I'd start to cough again, wake up, and pop another one in. It wasn't until midway through the night that I finally connected my coughing with the flu shot.

The coughing subsided a bit by morning, and I went to school feeling relatively normal. I did my morning preparations before my kids arrived, and when the bell rang they all filtered in as usual and sat in their spots on the rug. Suddenly, as I started taking attendance, my head began to feel light. I kept going, but my mind was racing: what should I do? Should I call the office? Call another teacher? Wait until it got worse? But what if by the time it got worse I wasn't capable of making a phone call, or was actually passed out? It was a very bizarre moment.

Midway through the attendance, I realized two things. One, I needed to stop taking attendance and breathe deeply. I told my kids to talk to each other in whispers. I put my head down while they chatted quietly with their neighbors.

But I also realized that, if I were to actually pass out while taking the attendance in front of my kids, nothing terrible would happen. They would be scared, and they'd probably go find an adult to help them. But it would be fine. These kids are supremely responsible.

Still, I will think twice next time about getting the flu shot. After all, I might not be so lucky with my kids next year! And I can only shudder to think what would have happened two years ago if I had passed out in my classroom.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Works in progress

The day of my big move was last Saturday, with the help of the Sensitive Bostonian, the Sensitive Bostonian's Brother, and of course my sister Ms. Swamp. A little more than 24 hours later, when Dreamy called to check in, all but 8 of my boxes had been unpacked and I was hanging paintings on my wall. Now, 9 days in, I've bought the missing furnishings and kitchen and bath implements during an epic Ikea visit, unpacked all but 4 of my boxes, and assembled my futon. It's beginning to look pretty good in here.

When Dreamy first saw my house, he exclaimed, "Wow, this is like a real, grown-up place to live." I am gradually coming to realize that, while I am a fully formed adult, Dreamy is in some ways lagging behind. Just like my house, he needs a bit of fixing up and assembling. And luckily, I have just enough energy to work on my house and dedicate some to working on Dreamy, too. Moreover, he seems more than happy to have me do it; in fact, he almost begged me this weekend to become his life coach.

I have been living independently for about 13 years, cooking for myself, doing my own shopping, paying my bills. Even as an undergrad, I lived for only 4 months in a dorm, and the rest of the time my lifestyle wasn't so different from what it is now. Dreamy, in the meantime, has spent most of those years as a student living in a dorm, and still eats his meals in a dining hall. He spent the first year after college living abroad and teaching at an international school, where he lived on campus. In total, he's only lived independently for a couple of years. And sometimes it strikes me that his life is a bit too similar to that of an undergrad's.

For instance, take Friday night. Dreamy passed an important professional test, and we went out with his friends to celebrate. After a few beers, Dreamy had the brilliant idea of ordering two gigantic drinks that came in bowls that were meant to be shared by several people. The cost came to $60 for the two of them, and these things were REVOLTING. One of them was gummy worm flavored; I don't even want to know what the other one was. They were stomach-churningly awful, and something an 18-year old would no doubt down happily. Being well past the age of 18, I was only able to down a couple of sips. I mean, seriously, what kind of a 30-year-old orders these drinks? In my normal life, I don't even go anywhere near bars that SERVE drinks like that, let alone actually order them.

Then, on Saturday, I was getting out some winter clothes from my boxes and casually asked Dreamy if he does the summer-to-winter changeover, or if he's the kind of person who doesn't have a lot of clothes and keeps them all out year-round. (I am most definitely NOT that kind of person. Even with the changeover my drawers are overflowing, and I have a lot of drawers.) In my mind, this was a perfectly normal question, but Dreamy looked at me like a child who just saw a television for the first time. "Wow, that's an amazing idea!" he exclaimed. "You mean I should take out all those t-shirts that I never wear in the wintertime and put them in my closet?"

So, Dreamy needs a bit of work -- a little painting here, some sanding there. Really, very few men come ready for use. My first suggestion as his life coach was that he get a murse. I know what you're thinking; he'll look ridiculous, kind of like this guy (the one at the top). But I firmly believe that there are manly, messenger-style murses out there to be found, and if Dreamy got used to carrying one around, he would be far less likely to forget the myriad necessities he is constantly leaving behind -- his keys, his wallet, his Tylenol, etc. To that end, we went to the bookstore this weekend and I bought Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon so that I could direct him to the chapter, "I feel good about my murse."

After we get Dreamy a murse, I'll have to figure out where to turn my attention to next. I suspect there will be plenty more work to come. Stay tuned for updates.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Decider

Dreamy came over a couple of nights ago to check out my new place. He felt bad about not being able to help me move, so he asked if he could help me put together my new futon, and he also brought over a movie for us to watch. I was tired, though, and I suggested we put off work on the futon until the weekend and go straight to the movie.

"You're the boss," Dreamy replied. "Whatever you want to do is fine."

"Really?? I'm the boss?" I asked, half-jokingly.

"Of course," Dreamy said. "You're the woman, so you make the decisions. That's how it is. That's how it always has been."

It's nice to be the Decider, and frankly, that's how I think things should be. That's certainly the way it is in my family, and I was glad to note that Dreamy, too, believes that women should make the decisions. Not always, of course, but usually in a couple there is one person who makes more of the decisions than the other person -- kind of like a benevolent dictator.

This reminded me of a long-ago conversation with my Italian ex, l'Artista. We were in Maine, making plans with my parents for some getaway -- possibly a sailing trip, or a drive up the coast, or some such outing. In any case, we were trying to ascertain what my parents' plans were, and l'Artista suggested we discuss it with my dad.

"Hmm, interesting strategy," I said. "We could certainly do that. I'm not sure we'll get much information, though."

L'Artista, unlike Dreamy, did not come from a culture where women are the deciders. "What do you mean, we won't get much information?" he asked confusedly. "Where else would we go to find out what your parents' plans are?"

"Well, my mom would be the one to ask if we really want to get answers," I explained. "Let's try Dad, though. I've never tried before."

We went and talked to Dad, and he said exactly what I thought he'd say: "I'm not sure. Ask your mom what she thinks." Dad is really not the Decider. I don't think he wants to be the Decider; he'd much rather leave the decisions up to Mom. The whole process, however, was a bit mystifying to l'Artista.

So in my role as the Decider, I told Dreamy I didn't want to work on the futon, and I'd rather wait and do it on the weekend. Then he asked what other decisions I wanted to make, and I told him that I also want us to go to Ikea this weekend. Not very creative, I know, but I didn't realize until then that I was the Decider. I'll have to do some more thinking about it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

In which Dreamy fills me with rage

This week, Dreamy crossed the line for the first time from mildly annoying to infuriating. It happened on Monday, after an amazing weekend together, when I awoke to a long late-night/early-morning email from him. After writing lots of nice things about how sweet I am, how lucky he feels to have me in his life, how much fun he had with me over the weekend, and how he can't wait to see me again, he dropped the bombshell: Once again, he screwed up his schedule and will be unable to help me move this coming weekend.

He went on to tell me how bad he feels about this, to propose coming some evening during the week to help me pack, and to ask if there was anything else he could do to make up for his mistake, but it made no difference. I saw red. Last weekend when he canceled on me I kept thinking, "It's annoying, but the important thing is he'll be here to help me next weekend when I most need it." I felt confident that after making this mistake before he had checked his calendar to make sure he was really free next weekend. Nope, turns out he didn't. He just went right ahead and did the same thing all over again. Luckily, the Sensitive Bostonian and his brother are planning to help me, as is my sister, so I'll be fine. Still, Dreamy didn't know that.

I could have written him an email in reply that started, "Dear Dreamy, I feel frustrated to learn that once again you have made a promise you can't keep. It makes it feel hard to depend on you." But I didn't. I was too angry to express myself diplomatically. Plus, it was six in the morning when I got his email. So instead I fired off the following:

D,

To be clear, when you say "It turns out that I have two full-day events..." what you actually mean is, "I have two events that have been scheduled months in advance, but when I promised to help you move I didn't check my calendar." Correct?

That's really lame that this happened two weeks in a row.

H

I sent off my friendly missive, then texted my friend Slinky: "You're not going to believe it. Dreamy bailed on me AGAIN. Should I break up with him?" She texted me back to tell me that seemed a bit hasty; yes, it's annoying, but is it really breakup-worthy? I wrote her more about what happened and my frustration with him, and included a copy of the email I had sent, which gave her pause: "Geez! You really sent this to him? It's so snippy and unlike you!" Well, what can I say. I DO have a temper; after all, I once bit my ex-boyfriend La Moustache! However, I only get angry when seriously provoked.

Eventually, Dreamy and I talked, and I apologized to him for my mean email and he apologized for being such a flake. We agreed that in the future when we make plans I will ask him if he checked his calendar to make sure he's really free, and if I get annoyed with him I will call him to tell him I am angry, because mean emails make him feel very, very bad. Then he laughed and said, "What was it that you called me? Lame? I have to say, you are right. That was really, really lame."

Last night during intermission at the symphony, I asked him if he is going to come over Friday to help me finish my packing. He said yes, then paused. "Hold on, let me check my calendar," he added, as he pulled out his phone. "Yep, looks like I'm free on Friday!" He tucked the phone back in his pocket.

"Dreamy," I asked, "Don't you think you should write down now that we have a date so you won't make other plans for Friday?" "Oooh, good idea!" he exclaimed as he pulled his phone out again to follow my instructions.

Isn't it just amazing how the smartest, most successful people can be missing such basic common sense sometimes??

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Negotiations

Last week, the Sensitive Bostonian's Brother (SBB) went on a date with a woman he had been out with several times before. He had enjoyed their previous dates and they had a nice dinner together, so he was surprised when, toward the end of the evening, she brought up the fact that he had been 15 minutes late (he called ahead of time to ask if they could change the time of the date). To her, this meant that he wasn't that interested in her.

Now, if you know SBB, you know that this does not mean anything of the sort. He's ALWAYS 15 minutes (or more) late; it's just part of who he is. Nonetheless, this woman did not appreciate his lateness, and the date ended badly when he told her that he was not ready to be exclusive with her (he had a date scheduled for the following evening).

Lateness and unreliability are ubiquitous in our culture, and it can be frustrating for those of us who do not possess these traits, so I can partially understand where she was coming from (even though I think she was wrong to take it so personally). Some people can accept it, others can't. Last weekend, Slinky and I got drinks in the early part of the evening, and later Dreamy was coming to meet up with me at the same bar. Throughout the evening, I got a series of texts from Dreamy postponing his impending arrival that ended with the comment, "Thank god you're so easygoing!" Slinky was not feeling so easygoing, though, and finally said, "I could not date Dreamy. This would drive me crazy." However, she also liked him immediately upon meeting him, and sent me a quick text right afterward to tell me he is a cutie pie (very true).

Of course, there are many levels of unreliability, and the fact that Dreamy always lets me know when he'll be late usually makes it acceptable to me. Still, there are times when I feel frustrated. When we talked a couple of weeks ago about trying to see each other more, Dreamy said that he'd like to talk sometimes during the week when we are both too busy to hang out. My phone did not ring for several days afterward, so I finally ended an email to him with a postscript: "Llamame!" He texted to tell me he was out to dinner with friends and could he call me around 9:30. I said fine, but I'd be going to bed early. Apparently we have different definitions of "early," because when he finally left his dinner at 11:15 it did not occur to him that I might already be asleep, and he awoke me from a deep slumber that I had already been in for nearly an hour and a half. Also this weekend, Dreamy had promised to spend the day Sunday helping me start moving into my new apartment, but midway through the week he realized that he had a full-day soccer tournament planned and had to be there at 8 in the morning. I mean, doesn't he have a calendar??

Dreamy and I are in the phase of our relationship now where we're learning about each other and negotiating how we interact. He knows now that if I say I'm going to bed early he shouldn't call after 10; I know that when he says he'll be somewhere at 7 it probably means 7:30. And I'm realizing that if I want to be in a relationship with him I'll have to accept a certain level of unreliability and not let it frustrate me. Luckily, though, the unreliability is more than compensated for by his many other wonderful qualities: He's affectionate, constantly saying adorable things to me like "I feel really lucky to be with someone who is so kind and sweet;" is generous -- he brought me a beautiful scarf from his recent business trip across the world; he took good care of me this weekend when I had the sniffles and a sore throat; he wants to spend lots of time with me, and we were together for almost the whole weekend with me this weekend and last (minus today of course, for his tournament); and is smart and thoughtful.

Yesterday Persil gave his stamp of approval, too: Dreamy and I were kissing, and Persil flew over and landed on his toe. Now I know for sure he's a good one.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fumo

For a few months now, I have been considering developing a friendship with my Italian artist ex-boyfriend, l'Artista. To that end, I wrote him a friendly email back in August telling him about my new job, my new bird, etc. I fully expected an email back immediately telling me how happy he was to hear from me, could we talk on the phone, and he misses me, but instead I heard nothing. That didn't bother me; in fact, it made me think that if he is less emotionally invested in me a friendship might actually be possible.

So a few weeks ago when I came across an antique French postcard that reminded me of him, I bought it and sent it to him for his 41st (!) birthday. It was a photo (not this one, but a similar style) of Marseille, a city I've never been to but one of his favorites; furthermore, the bridge in the photo was taken at an angle that is reminiscent of shots we took years ago during an early visit to New York of the Brooklyn Bridge. It felt strange to address the postcard to the same address in Florence, Italy where we lived together so long ago.

After l'Artista received the postcard, he finally sent the email I had been anticipating in August. He told me that it felt like he was hearing me talk to him as he read it, and asked if I'd like to come to Italy for a visit before he moves out of the apartment (his landlord is planning to move in, so after 13 years there he has to leave). He's an incredibly heartfelt, affectionate person, and just as he said of me, I could hear his voice talking as I read his email. I know him so very, very well, despite the five years that have passed since I last saw him, and I miss him and care about him. At the same time, I absolutely cannot let there be any romantic overtones to a correspondence between us, and I'm honestly unsure if he's capable of that.

Then this morning, before I had responded to the last email, I got another one. This one sent a chill down my spine. He's never taken very good care of himself; he smokes and drinks a lot, consumes strong coffee all day long and late into the evening, and doesn't exercise. Last week, he had to go to the emergency room because of pain in his stomach, and they told him that his stomach lining is seriously damaged and he absolutely has to change his lifestyle.

In order to begin going about this change, the first thing he thought to do was to unearth a book I made for him on October 26, 2000 -- almost exactly ten years ago. It's called "l'Artista's Cigarette Book," and I made it for him to keep track of how many cigarettes he smoked. Apparently, I painstakingly decorated every page and made little charts by hand for him to check off how many cigarettes he smokes. I have no memory of making it, but apparently he used it for quite a while -- he said more than half of it was already filled out. All these years later, he knew exactly which drawer he had tucked it away in.

I don't really know how serious his health is, but it doesn't seem like a good sign if someone has to go to the emergency room at age 41 because of damage they've done to themselves by living unhealthily. It's hard for me to imagine a world without l'Artista in it, and I hope that we are able to develop a platonic relationship. I also feel very grateful that my life doesn't center around someone who makes such poor choices.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The E word

I woke up on Friday morning to a chat from my recently traumatized friend Checkered Girl, who wanted a Dreamy update. When I told her that my plans for that evening included bringing up the topic of exclusivity, she balked and advised me to hold off. She pointed out that modern American men have a tendency to flip out when they hear the E word, and that we have only been dating for a month. She thought it would be more appropriate to have the exclusivity talk closer to the 2 or 3 month mark.

All good points which I considered seriously, then decided to ignore. First of all, I don't think Dreamy is a guy who would flip out at the mention of the E word; and if he is, maybe he's not the kind of person I want to date. Second of all, I had canceled a date with an eligible bachelor because of Dreamy, and I wanted to make sure we were on the same page. A few years ago, after I had been dating my ex White Pants for several (3 I think) months, it occurred to me that I should check to make sure we were exclusive. I was shocked and amazed by his response: "I'm not seeing anyone, but I'm not comfortable agreeing to be exclusive yet." FINE. I found a replacement boyfriend and sent him on his way. How long does it take to know that you are interested in seriously pursuing something with a person?? I think one month is more than enough. In fact, I had a strong hunch after date #1 that I was seriously interested in Dreamy, and pretty darn sure after date #2.

So I brought it up with Dreamy, and we had a very romantic conversation (I thought) in which we agreed to not see other people. I told him about canceling my date; we talked about making more time for each other. He said he'd like to talk more during the week when we're too busy to see each other.

Making more time for each other, though, turns out to be more easily said than done. Dreamy had plans this week on Tuesday and Thursday; I have pottery on Wednesday. He suggested he come by after his plans on Tuesday or Thursday, but Dreamy finishes work around 7, and I am often in bed by 9:30. It seemed unlikely he'd be able to make it over before then. I considered offering to visit him after my pottery class, but I carpool with my friend Heathen, and a visit would mean going solo; besides, I am tired and muddy after I get out of pottery. As we worked out all these kinks and finally settled on hanging out on Friday, I began to get annoyed again, especially since next week is virtually booked up for me already. I knew it wasn't his fault, since I am just as busy as he is, but I was annoyed nonetheless and wishing that he could just be free whenever I am.

Then Dreamy sent me a couple of short emails that made everything better. "I hate that we can't see each other until Friday," he said, and my annoyance dissipated, just knowing that he wishes he could see me before then. Next: "Let's plan a Fall Adventure for Saturday." Finally, the clincher: "Do you need help moving?"

It really doesn't get much more romantic than that.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Impressive

At my sister Ms. Swamp's birthday party last week, the soundtrack was provided by The Sensitive Bostonian's ipod. At one point Dreamy remarked, "It's almost like S.B. stole my ipod. My music collection is nearly identical."

Ms. Swamp commented, "S.B. has a very good ipod. When we first started dating, I was highly impressed that he has Dar Williams on his ipod."

"I have Dar Williams on my ipod, too," replied Dreamy. "Did you hear that, Heathen?"

I smiled politely and nodded. In my head I was thinking, "I don't have any Dar Williams on MY ipod because I am not a very big Dar Williams fan. Therefore, I am not impressed." Not that I have anything against Dar Williams; she's just not someone I have strong feelings about one way or the other. (Also Dreamy doesn't need to go out of his way to impress me with his music collection, since I'm plenty impressed by him already.)

Ever since then I've been wondering: What WOULD impress me? Is there something someone could have on their ipod that would make me think I absolutely need to get to know this person better? I haven't been able to come up with anything good so far. I thought of Dolly Parton, but La Moustache has her on his ipod so that doesn't work. (And I know the contents of his ipod all too well, because everything on Moustache's ipod is on my ipod; he copied it all onto there. I put it in a little folder named "La Moustache".) I have a few favorite Italian singers who I'd be impressed to see on someone's ipod, but that's too obscure. Nonetheless, here's one of my all-time favorites: Patty Pravo singing about how men shouldn't treat her like a bambola (doll):



Anyone have any other (less obscure) ideas?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Hindsight

Slinky gchatted me yesterday afternoon as I ate my turkey sandwich in a cafe and planned the schoolweek ahead. "I think you should cancel your date with Dreamy II," she advised. "Do what you want. But it seems strange to go out with someone while you're dating someone as regularly as you've been dating Dreamy I. If I were either DI or DII, I wouldn't like it."

I thought she had some good points, so I consulted with my sister, who was conveniently located across the table from me. Ms. Swamp seemed a bit more on the fence than Slinky, but agreed that if I felt like I was forcing myself I shouldn't do it. So I crafted a kind email to Dreamy II informing him that I had to cancel, explained my discomfort, and asked if I could get in touch with him at a later time if I am still single. Hopefully my email was nice enough that he'd consider it.

When I saw Dreamy over the weekend I studiously avoided the topic of exclusivity, thinking it was best to wait until after my date with DII to bring it up. Now, in hindsight, I realize that a better order of events would have been: talk to DI, feel him out, THEN decide whether to cancel my date with DII based on conversation with DI. Well, unfortunately this ideal chronology of events did not occur to me until too late. In any case, it's not a debacle; if things don't go my way when I talk to DI, I think DII will still be on board for an outing.

All of this makes me wonder why it always seems to be women who bring up the topic of where a relationship is heading. It's not like Dreamy is giving off vibes of feeling totally confident about things between us; quite the contrary. When I told him on the weekend, "If you're tired we can leave dinner on the early side," he heard, "If you're tired you can go back home early." When he got back from his trip abroad and emailed me to accept my dinner invitation, I didn't respond for a couple of days. 36 hours after his acceptance, he emailed me again to ask if he was still invited or if I had changed my mind. I imagine he would feel better having a clearer idea of where he stands with me, too. Still, it never seems to be the boys who bring the topic up -- even the ones who are experts at having Difficult Conversations.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Change of heart

By the time Dreamy arrived at my house yesterday, I was thoroughly annoyed with him. Not only did he not email me the whole time he was away, but he also did not phone me after he got back; moreover, he lost his car keys and ended up being THREE HOURS late for our date, leaving me to make my sister's birthday dinner cake alone. As the afternoon progressed I began to feel more and more glad that I had my date with Dreamy II lined up as a backup option.

And then Dreamy arrived, kissed me, told me he'd missed me and it had been way too long since we last saw each other, and within about 30 seconds I had forgiven him everything. He's a space cadet; I know that. He told me a story yesterday about one day when he was a kid and he got confused and thought in the middle of the day that school was over, walked home and sat patiently on his front porch, wondering why the door was locked. At the end of the story he concluded, "I was spacey then, and I'm spacey now." But what can I say, I like him, spaciness and all.

So we went over to my sister's house and celebrated her birthday with fondue dinner, and Dreamy made his debut and liked everyone, and everyone liked Dreamy. And then we went back to my house and he met my soon-to-be-former neighbor the Cat Lady, and then... well, let's just say I have a very red chin once again.

Approximately a year ago, I was sitting outside at the Audubon Center in Boston reading the classic book Difficult Conversations. Specifically, I was reading the chapter about people who refuse to have conversations, and how to work issues out with them. At that point I knew that my relationship with La Moustache was kaput, but I was trying to figure out how to have conversations that would close things in a way that would feel as good as possible to me. He refused to have any conversations, and went so far as to suggest I get anger management therapy when I expressed anger at his treatment of me. My feeling was it would be unhealthy of me NOT to feel angry.

Obviously, difficult conversations happen at the end of relationships or in the middle, not at the very beginning. Still, it feels good to be dating someone who not only doesn't avoid difficult conversations, but is a bit of a difficult conversations guru. He must have read the book at least 20 times, and was quite impressed that most of my friends have read it (yay friends!).

I feel a bit strange going out with Dreamy II at this point, but I'm going to go through with it. I have a feeling it's not going to progress past the one date, though.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Fear of commitment

I'm signing a lease on a new apartment this weekend. It's a cozy little place with big windows facing in both directions, pretty light gray walls, and a little garden outside that's maintained and shared by all the neighbors together. I'm excited to have a place all to myself again for the first time since I moved in with La Moustache in the summer of 2007.

One question that the landlord asked me threw me into a bit of a tizzy: "Would you prefer to sign a one-year lease or a two-year lease?" I faced the same question the last time I signed a lease, with La Moustache. The benefit to a two-year lease, of course, is that the rent doesn't go up after the first year; the downside is that you are locked into a two-year commitment.

I remember moving to New York in the summer of 2003 and getting my first cell phone plan, and thinking that a two-year commitment seemed outlandish. Who knew where I would be in two years? I could be in another city, another country, on another continent. As it turns out, more than seven years later, I am still on the exact same plan, with no intention of leaving it anytime soon. Likewise, when Moustache and I moved in, a two-year lease seemed daunting. He wanted to sign it, but I pushed for one year instead. We didn't move out until 2 1/2 years later, at which point we no longer had a lease, and I regretted my fear of commitment when our rent went up $60 a month after the first year.

Life has a way of changing more slowly than you think it will, and then all of a sudden abrupt changes come out of nowhere. I find it virtually impossible to plan my life around the constraints of a lease, and am amazed by people who are able to do so. Opportunities come up; situations don't work out. I have broken three leases so far in my life, always leaving on good terms with the landlord, and the last two places I've lived I didn't break a lease only because I didn't have one.

Likewise, I've been thinking about where I stand with Dreamy and wondering whether I want to make a commitment of exclusiveness with him. I thought I would bring it up this weekend, but it turns out that I'm not quite ready to do so; I can't exactly ask Dreamy to be exclusive with me when I have a date lined up with Dreamy II next week. I thought I was ready to take this step, but it turns out that when Dreamy II asked me out I really wanted to say yes. We'll see what happens.

So where does this leave me with my lease decision? I have no idea. It seems like in the end it's a bit of a crapshoot. But the landlord seems like a reasonable guy; maybe he'd consent to an 18 month lease.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Another Dreamy??

I've only gone on one date post-Dreamy. It was right after our first date, and I went out with a guy who was nice and pretty cute. Unfortunately, it happened to coincide with my first day of work, and I was feeling utterly overwhelmed by the mountain of work I had in front of me before school started. I cut the date short in the nicest possible way. When he got in touch with me a week or so later and asked me out to dinner, I didn't reply. I felt too busy to date someone who already raised a lot of red flags during one date, especially given that I liked Dreamy a lot. After that, no one interesting was popping up in my inbox, and I felt happy just dating Dreamy.

Now a month later, Dreamy has been away all week in his far-off country, doubtless working very hard and with nary a minute to spare. I haven't heard from him since a message he sent a couple hours before he left; he hasn't yet replied to my invitation to make his début at my sister's birthday dinner next week. At this point, after more than a week of no communication, thoughts of Dreamy have all but left my brain. It's hard to remember what he looks like, or why I like him. That's the way it is when you've known someone for a month -- things are very tenuous. If he really wanted me to keep him in mind, he should have dropped me a quick note to tell me he's busy but thinking of me. When Slinky was complaining of men she's dating not replying fast enough to her last week, I told her, "Chill out! They're out of town, like Dreamy, and they're busy. If I don't hear from Dreamy until Friday, I won't mind." Well, Friday is now past, and no sign of him.

I don't MIND, per se -- I'm not worried about it, and I'm sure he'll get in touch as soon as he gets back in a couple days. But when I got a message in my OkCupid inbox the other day, it didn't feel like I had much of a reason not to read it. And then it didn't feel like I had much of a reason not to click on the guy's profile and read that, too, after reading the message and finding that he sounded like an interesting, educated guy. Well, his profile was pretty great, too. In fact, he has a lot in common with Dreamy -- same field, same religion, same interests. But he's a couple years older, a bit more settled in his life, and isn't planning a move to New York (that I know of). Could he be Dreamy II?? The newer, better version?

So at that point, after I had read his message and his profile, it really didn't feel like I had any reason not to write to him. And I did.

I haven't forgotten that Dreamy is wonderful. He's a great kisser, and a great guy. I feel happy when I'm with him. He is unfailingly nice, and usually very good at communication, which leads me to think that he really is crazy busy at the moment. I would love for him to be my boyfriend. But he isn't my boyfriend, nor am I in love with him. And until a time when he is, and I am, I see no harm in continuing to explore the waters and checking out any interesting fish (or frogs) that I come up with.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Breakthroughs

There are two relationships in my life that I have had questions about recently. I would like both of them to develop further, but I've worried that neither of them are moving in that direction -- or moving anywhere. After a lot of patience, I had two breakthroughs this past weekend with each of them.

The first is my 97-year-old Hospice patient, Celine. She has Alzheimer's and, of course, she's 97, so my expectations of our relationship aren't quite what they'd normally be. Still, I sometimes wonder if there's really any point in my being there; she obviously enjoys it, and we sit and chat together and have fun, but does she remember the visit five minutes after I've left? Does she have any idea of who I am week to week? If I miss a week, does she notice? After all, she sometimes forgets to go to the bathroom, or how to put on her shoes, or that her sisters have died.

Yesterday we were sitting and talking as usual, as Celine repeated many of the same phrases I've heard so many times -- "I'm so glad you dropped by!" "I think these rings are on the wrong fingers. I'll switch them," "You're my big doll. I call you my big doll," and "I wonder what happened to my white shoes?" among them. Then, out of the blue, she turned to me and asked, "And how has school been? You're a teacher, right?"

It was amazing. You could have knocked me over with a feather, even if at the same time as she asked this question, she was eating a cheese doodle and commenting, "My sandwich is quite tasty." The mind certainly works in mysterious ways. Still, it's good to know that part of her is there listening to me, some of the time at least. When I left, she clasped both my hands in hers and said, as she's said many times before, "Please don't forget to come back and visit." For the first time, I believed that she'd miss me if I did forget.

The second relationship I've worried about is with my lovebird, Persil. Poor Persil has huge shoes to fill (and such small feet to fill them!). Everyone knows that my former lovebird, Haricot, was the most amazing, lovable pet ever. I used to leave his cage door open at night so that in the morning he could fly to bed with me and we could cuddle; he'd take naps inside my nightshirt, curled up on my belly. It took a very, very long time for Haricot to come out of his shell and be the sweet little parrot he was, so I knew I'd have to be patient with Persil, but there have been moments since I got Persil in late July when I felt like he wasn't making ANY progress at all. He actually was making progress -- he would eat millet when I held it up to him, he'd let me put my face close to his, and he'd step up onto a stick for me -- but I never got any indication that he LIKED me. It's like we were living parallel lives in the same small bedroom.

After I got back from the nursing home yesterday, I was sitting on my bed, typing on my computer -- just as I am doing now -- when Persil hopped up to me. For a few seconds I didn't even notice. In the back of my mind I was thinking, oh, here comes Haricot. Then, very tentatively, he came a little closer, and finally put one toe up onto my keyboard. As soon as I lifted a finger toward him, he stepped back, so I just kept all my fingers on the keys. He stepped a millimeter closer, leaned down, and gingerly nibbled on my finger. A few seconds later and he had flown back to his usual hangout, the windowsill.

Today when I came home and opened his cage door, I hoped he'd come over to me again. But he didn't; he's back on his windowsill, chirping away as if yesterday never happened. But now that it's happened once I know it will happen again. I just have to be really, really patient.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Subcommittees

Over brunch and a walk in the park today, I met with several of my fellow committee members of a few subcommittees I've been asked to join. They include the "Should Li'l JC commit to or break up with her boyfriend?" subcommittee, the "Helping M be more socially proactive" subcommittee, and the fashion subcommittee, which is dedicated to helping everyone be more fashionable. (Well, everyone except me, because I'm already a little over the top for Boston.) My own subcommittee also met, to discuss "What should Heathen's next steps with Dreamy be?"

As I've mentioned before, Dreamy is not among the many, many men who have problems with communication. He is an excellent communicator, as we established on our very first date when I expressed frustration with men's communication skills. We've already communicated well about any number of topics, from our feelings about each other to our parents' relationships to our Wise People. However, after Dreamy gets back from his far-off work-related trip, I'm ready to take our relationship to the next level. I've even invited him to make his debut at my sister's house, a much-anticipated event. But before that happens, my subcommittee has given me homework. The homework is to discuss a few topics with him, including 1) exclusivity, 2) what we're looking for, and 3) the fact that he has a yearlong commitment to a job in New York starting about a year from now (subcommittee, feel free to correct me, but I'm thinking the New York conversation will be an ongoing one that I will raise now but without the intent of resolving it right away -- unless, that is, he's not interested in a relationship because of his upcoming move).

Thanks to Dreamy's superior communications skills, I'm not anticipating any difficulties with my homework assignment. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Black or White

I can't remember if my home state, Maine, has the distinction of being the #1 least racially diverse state, or if it comes in a close second after Vermont. But, in either case, there weren't a lot of black kids in my town growing up. As far as I could tell, there was one family: the Grays, who lived down the street from me and were the only family I knew who lived in an apartment building. Richard was in my class, and he had a few siblings, one of whom I believe was my sister's age; occasionally we'd go down there and have playdates, even though we weren't particularly friends, I suppose because of the proximity of our houses (or maybe because my mom wanted me to have the maximum possible exposure to what little diversity there was around). When Richard and I were around eight or nine, the family moved away, and I don't know what happened to them after that.

The Grays were not the only poor family in town. Far from it. There used to be a navy base there; the Navy families were distinctly working-class. There are huge mobile home parks on the outskirts of town, and for a while I'd often go there for playdates with another friend. Still, in my memory, Richard seemed MORE different than the other kids, and he probably felt that way. Even my half-Asian classmate, who always seemed to be the smartest, most athletic, most artistic kid in school, felt different, so I'm sure Richard felt out of place.

Three years ago, I worked in a fancy private school in Brooklyn, and I had two black boys in my class. One was athletic and charming and friends with everyone, but the other had a lot of social issues. He had moved to Brooklyn two years prior during Hurricane Katrina, so already he came from a totally different place. He was the only kid at the school who lived in Queens, so even if he had friends, hanging out outside of school wasn't really an option. He was very smart, but watching him try to play with the other boys in the class was painful. He was incredibly awkward and had no clue how to befriend other kids, and would invariably end up alienating and annoying them through his misguided attempts, like knocking down big block towers they were constructing. The lone black girl also didn't have it easy; she came from a very traditional West Indian family, and had a tendency to wander off into different parts of the school and spend long periods of time in the bathroom. It was clear that she was on her way toward being labeled an oddball kid by her peers. I really felt for these kids, and I secretly thought that their parents were paying big bucks for a school that, in the end, wasn't such a great situation for them.

This year, I'm faced with a similar scenario. I have one black girl and one black boy in my class. I'm still sizing up the social scene, but it's already clear that the black boy is struggling. He had a bathroom accident the other day, and was too embarrassed to tell me. I had to pull the kids one by one to question them as we all struggled to ignore the overpowering smell. It was totally heartbreaking. (Luckily, I don't THINK the kids ever clued in to the fact that it was him. The nurse whisked him subtly away as soon as we figured out the source of the odor.)

It's really not good for anyone to have so little diversity -- the white kids would benefit as much as the black kids from being in a class where everyone has lots of examples of other kids who are different from them, as well as examples of kids who are the same as them (and by "different" and "the same" I mean in LOTS of senses, not just the color of their skin). It's just one of many reasons that the shocking segregation that exists in the vast majority of the schools in our country should end.

Unfortunately, there's nothing I can do to increase the diversity in my class, but I will try my best to celebrate what little diversity we have and to make all my kids feel like they are important parts of our community. How much of a difference I can really make in these kids' lives remains to be seen.

Settling in

When my sister, Ms. Swamp, first read Dreamy's online profile a couple of months ago, her immediate reaction was: "Oh my god! Two very disorganized people together? That could be a recipe for disaster." (Dreamy described himself as disorganized.)

I wouldn't say that I am disorganized, per se, although compared to my sister I suppose I am (or you could put a less-positive spin on it and call it "anal" -- which, interestingly, was the first word she came up with to describe herself when I was having a little word retrieval problem the other day and said, "She's like... like you. What's that word?" I was thinking of something totally unrelated.). She is one of the most organized people I have ever met; she loves alphabetizing books by the author's last name, and she carefully enters all her expenses and purchases into an Excel document. These are not activities that interest me in any shape or form. Still, I am pretty good at managing my money, I'm getting close to finishing paying off my student loans which were supposed to take 15 years or so to pay off, and neither my classroom nor my bedroom are chaotic.

I would describe myself as laid-back, and Dreamy is the same way. We are both spacey sometimes; we both started new jobs on the same day, and are immersed in our jobs and have a lot of brainpower taken up by them. The other evening, I screwed up the timing of our date and promised Slinky I could meet her for a quick drink beforehand and was late. Likewise, sometimes Dreamy forgets about commitments he has, like the High Holidays last week, and has to change our plans (although in that case he thought he couldn't get together, and it turned out he could). Or last week he left his backpack in a coffeeshop and asked me wistfully, "Does this kind of thing happen to normal people?" (Yes, it does, especially when they're a little overwhelmed.) It's pretty much a given that we will both be 15 minutes or so late for every date, but still make sure to text each other updates on our E.T.A. This would drive Ms. Swamp absolutely batty, but it works for me. We are also both excited about our new jobs, and it's nice that we're on the same page in that respect. Last week he voiced the exact sentiment that's been going through my head recently: "I am loving my life right now."

When I was at Dreamy's house the other evening for our last date before his trip to a very far-off country, a shift occurred. Up until that point, I had been preparing myself emotionally to be disappointed by him. When he told me he'd call me last week, I fully expected him not to and was kinda shocked when my phone rang, even though he had repeated twice that he wanted to call me. Each time I didn't hear from him for a couple of days I started to think he was gone forever. My Wise Woman tells me this is normal, after my traumatic experience of being royally screwed over by someone I (very mistakenly) trusted last year.

Anyway, somehow last Tuesday I started to feel that I could relax. He just likes me. He is not going to tell me he'll call and then fail to. I like him, too. I feel very good when I am with him. It does not need to be any more complicated than that. I don't need to keep worrying about how soon he will contact me after a date or keeping track of who asked who out last time.

So far, I've managed to hold on to my relaxedness. I didn't wonder when I'd hear from him after our date, and was pleasantly surprised when a message entitled "Au revoir, mademoiselle!" appeared in my inbox telling me he can't wait to see me when he gets back. Let's hope this trend continues.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Cuffing up

The other day on Facebook, a status update with an unfamiliar phrase caught my eye:

Ooooooh baby... Do u not feel that cuffing weather outside right now????!! The season is in full effect!! How many of ya'll cuffed up right now?! Lmao S/O to all my couples that's cuffing up tonight!!! LOL

I had never heard the term "cuffing up" before, so I Googled it. According to urbandictionary.com, it means "to be in a relationship or flirtationship." And that's the story of how I discovered my new favorite phrase. It might be a common expression among some people, but not among my acquaintances; everyone I've floated it by so far has been unfamiliar with it.

Anyway, my Facebook friend is right. There is a chill in the air and a slight orange tinge to the trees, and people are indeed cuffing up left and right. The Sensitive Bostonian's Brother went on his very first OKCupid date the other evening, and is already cuffing up with this girl. I was at a party this weekend with two other newly-cuffed-up friends of friends. It's spreading like wildfire.

I too seem to be happily cuffed up, for the moment at least. I'm still not making any long-term plans with Dreamy, or calling him the B word (when did "boyfriend" become such a loaded word??). I had to remind several people this weekend that things are still very tenuous: my sister and Slinky asked, back to back, when they would get to meet him; the next day my dad posed the same question. When I told him it might be a while seeing as we've only been out four times, he made a comment along the lines of, "Oh, so it's been a four-date, 200-blog-post relationship so far." Yes, Dad, that's exactly right. It's a little condition called "diarrhea of the mouth" that I inherited from my mother.

In fact, Dreamy seemed to be thinking along the same lines as my sister, dad and Slinky, and sent me a text the other day asking if I would join him and a group of his friends for a viewing of Jaws. I agreed excitedly; in fact, I was so excited that I had trouble sleeping after receiving his text, like a kid on Christmas eve. A few hours later, though, he had to cancel: something had come up at work.

It's not a big deal, and I quickly overcame my disappointment and was glad for a restful evening at home. I need all of those I can get these days. He asked if we can have a phone date instead, and we planned to get together another evening this week, before he heads off to a far-off country for a 9-day work trip. Still, it was a reminder that, while I know that he is a very sweet guy, there are still many, many things I don't know about him. Like, if he really has time to have a girlfriend.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Top 10 things that are making me happy lately

10. The feelings board in my classroom. Each kid has a magnet and puts their name on a "sentiment" every morning. I thought the "content" square would be overrun, but in fact the magnets are quite evenly spread, and with a quick glance I can see who is "inquiet" (worried), "en colère" (angry), "fatigué" (tired), "excité" (you can figure that one out) and "triste" (sad). It's amazing. Especially amazing was when a little girl approached me after recess to say, "Mademoiselle, can I move my magnet to worried? I got wood chips in my shoes at recess and I'm worried I'll get a splinter." (I told her that after she moved her magnet she should be sure to dump the wood chips out.)

9. The conversations I've been having with Dreamy lately about the emotional lives of men. He tells me he is a typical man in that he externalizes his feelings (he's reading a book about male psychology), but he's awfully good at talking about them. And this after only 4 dates!

8. The way that when my students pass our class plant, which we voted to name "Leafy" a couple of days ago, they wave and say "Bonjour, Leafy."

7. The description of my student who told us about what it is like to celebrate Rosh Hashanah: "It's a little bit fun, but mostly it's really boring." (The girl who told us about Eid made that sound a million times more fun -- candy, games, etc. If I could pick my religion I know which one I'd go with!)

6. The fact that I did something every single schoolnight this week and did not feel exhausted and overwhelmed! I had drinks with Slinky one night, pottery one night, and dinner with Dreamy another night. I think I can work hard at my job AND have a life outside of it! Amazing!

5. The list of thank-yous I got from Dreamy at the end of our date the other night: "Thank you for making dinner, thank you for being a good hostess, and thank you for being beautiful."

4. The drawings my students made after I read "The Red Balloon" to them two days ago. Even though it was all in French, they understood the gist of it and loved it. They made amazing pictures of all different parts of the story -- scary parts, like when all the kids were surrounding him and threatening his balloon; happy parts, like when he found the girl with the blue balloon and finally had a friend; exciting parts, like when he floated off with all the balloons at the end. Great book.

3. The fact that I gave a child a rock for her birthday today and she was ecstatic. First graders are so sweet and easy to please! We had a "rock ceremony" in which we passed the rock around, held it tight, and gave her wishes for her 8th year (either out loud or in our heads). By the time the rock made its way all the way around the circle, it was warm because it had all our wishes inside it, and she looked like she thought it was the best present she had ever gotten.

2. Kissing Dreamy. He's hands down the best kisser I've ever kissed -- so much so that I kissed him until my chin was raw and formed a gigantic scab, then kissed him again before it was even fully healed.

1. The fact that it's Friday night and I have a date with my bathtub and a good book, followed by last week's Mad Men episode.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Epic weekend

I had a great time on Friday with Dreamy, and felt very warm and fuzzy for a couple of hours afterward. Then I headed north toward Vermont for my friend Miami Nice's long-awaited nuptials, got caught up in wedding adventures and forgot all about him for a few days.

It was truly a spectacular wedding weekend. Everything was perfect, from the crisp early fall air to the deliciously roasted rehearsal dinner pig to the tear- and laughter-inducing vows to the bright chuppah made by the father of the groom. It was obvious that, down to the last guest, everyone was thrilled to be there and glad for the happy couple.

After dinner wrapped up, we all got our dancing feet on. At the risk of sounding full of myself, I was a very popular bridesmaid (I was the only single bridesmaid, but still). Several of the groom's friends tried very hard to woo me, and started to remind me a bit of male peacocks as they tried to outcompete each other through their (very impressive) dance moves. I would have been tempted to share a few kisses in the woods with one or two of them, but unfortunately, I was out of commission due to a previous kissing-related injury.

Yes, that's me, with the most HORRIBLE rugburn I've ever gotten thanks to my extended makeout session on Friday with Dreamy. I couldn't risk exacerbating it by getting back in the saddle; my chin desperately needed a few makeout-free days. (Luckily, Miami is a very cool bride and not only did she not mind that my face looked weird for her wedding, she thought it was hilarious and asked if she could share the story with other people at the wedding. I politely declined.)

When the barn where the wedding was located closed at 10 p.m., people headed to the afterparty. I said my goodbyes and planned to head home with my condo-mates, thinking I should make it an early night so I wouldn't be too tired for school on Tuesday. Several people tried to dissuade me, but I stood my ground. Finally, someone -- I can't recall who -- said, "You know, Miami's only going to get married once." That got me. I hopped on the shuttle bus to the afterparty, and thank goodness I did, because otherwise I would have missed out on four or so of the funnest hours of my life. It was an incredible, unforgettable party. By the time 2 a.m. rolled around, Miami had to convince me to go home.


The night ended with the groom climbing -- and then falling out of -- a tree, one of my peacocks losing his shoe when the groom kicked it into a field in retaliation for being pushed into a ditch, magic tricks involving disappearing cigarettes and sticks being pushed into people's noses, and lots more dancing. And probably a few more adventures that I can't recall. Best of all, I managed to get happily drunk without losing my dinner, quite a contrast with my bachelorette shenanigans a few weeks ago. I only wish I could go back and do it all over again.

Sigh. Time to get back to reality now.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Prêt-à-porter

As Earl, the hurricane with buck teeth and a mullet, wends his way toward Massachusetts, it seems increasingly unlikely that Dreamy and I will be able to follow through with our plan to watch an outdoor movie in a park tonight. As an alternative, Dreamy invited me over to his place to watch a movie. Cuddling up with Dreamy and a movie as Earl unleashes his wrath sounds very... nice. However, I got a piece of sisterly advice yesterday from Ms. Swamp: "You've only been on two dates with him," she reminded me. "If you really like him, don't get too physical at this point."

Darn sisters! They're always ruining all the fun. But she's right, of course. Dreamy is a little bit old-fashioned (BUT not in the least bit paternalistic, my Wise Woman would be happy to know), and it's probably best to take things slowly. I plan to take him up on his offer to drive me back home after the movie. Still, I might wear my new Parisian underpants that my French cousins gave me for my birthday, just for good luck. (I haven't worn them yet because they seem so beautiful and delicate; I just take them out and gaze at them once in a while.)

So, my undergarment decisions have been made for the evening. But what else do I wear?? What is the proper attire when heading out for a date in the middle of a hurricane? A dress and my red child-size LLBean galoshes, perhaps?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The first day

Today was the first day of school, and all day I felt like I should pinch myself when I thought about how lucky I am to be where I am now compared to where I was two years ago at this time. The day got off to the best possible start with an incredibly sweet email from Dreamy:

Finally let me say...GOOD LUCK TOMORROW/TODAY HEATHEN! I am sure the kids will LOVE you! How could they not? First graders can sense a smart, thoughtful, caring teacher when they see one, and Heathen, from what I can tell you've got these qualities in spades. Break a leg!

I thought he might send me a nice email, but this brought a big smile to my face. And it still does every time I re-read it. I am going out with him on Friday before I head to Vermont for Miami Nice's wedding, and I can't wait -- for both the date and the long-awaited wedding.

Then I got a gift -- the Eiffel Tower, of course! Wrapped in a purple ribbon. What else would you give your French immersion teacher on the first day of first grade??


I know my French cousins will roll their eyes, and it IS cliche of course, but so sweet, too. I'll keep it forever.

The kids were darling, despite the overwhelming heat and the overwhelming number of students. A mom ran home and grabbed us a fan, we drank lots of water, and everyone was very good about following directions. I couldn't believe it when I told them to go sit on the rug first thing in the morning, and peeked in a moment later to see all 26 of them, sitting crosslegged and silent, waiting for me to come talk to them!!!

On my drive home I pass through a gritty neighborhood of Boston that contrasts sharply with the town I teach in, and I stopped there to buy band-aids today. As I walked to the pharmacy, I was reminded suddenly of Bed-Stuy, the neighborhood in Brooklyn where I used to teach and live before moving to Boston. My students from two years ago popped into my mind, and I teared up a little bit. Their lives are so incredibly hard, and they are such lovely little people who will always hold a special place in my heart. I wish they could be as lucky as my current students.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

At the Cirque

My friend Slinky had to cancel our long-planned date to see Cirque du Soleil this week, so with her ticket available, I invited Dreamy instead. I was sad Slinky couldn't make it, but it DID make for a pretty awesome second date. I haven't been to see Cirque in quite a few years, and I had forgotten what a childlike pleasure one takes in watching their stunning costumes and antics. It's impossible to stop smiling during their shows. Dreamy is enthusiastic and positive, and he was a great person to watch them with.

Before the show, we grabbed a cocktail and a bite to eat at Drink. We both got there late (this seems to be a chronic problem -- we're both so laid back), and were short on time. We ate quickly and then headed out, but by the time we got to the show they were announcing that the curtains were about to close and we wouldn't be allowed in for five more minutes. As we were racing, umbrella in hand, a couple racing in the opposite direction dropped something small and kept going. I paused for half a second and looked down; it was a case. The couple was already far away. Had they still been nearby, I would have called to them, but I wasn't even sure I could find them. I decided it wasn't my problem and kept going.

Dreamy wouldn't have noticed anything, but when I paused he looked down too and caught sight of the case. He didn't pause at all; he scooped it up, glanced inside, exclaimed "Oh my god! It's a pair of glasses," and took off after the couple. A minute later he was back, having successfully restored the glasses. As we got to our entrance the usher was in the process of shutting the curtain, but she smiled kindly and held it open for us. Clearly, if this was some sort of test of character, Dreamy passed with flying colors and I failed miserably. I chose five minutes of Cirque du Soleil over restoring a valuable possession to someone! I'd like to think that if I had had a bit more time I would have made a better choice, but still, it's nice to know that Dreamy's instincts are in the right place.

At the subway entrance at the end of the night he asked politely if he could kiss me (he's by far the most chivalrous person I've ever dated -- holding umbrellas for me, spreading salmon on my toasts for me, etc.) and we stood on the damp street and kissed for a long time. Then I got on the subway and went back to freaking out over the incredible mountain of work I need to complete before school starts in T minus 6 days, pausing occasionally to smile and think of Dreamy.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Signals

I told Slinky yesterday that in an ideal world Dreamy would get in touch with me within 48 hours, but 72 would also be acceptable. He must have read my mind, because exactly 48 hours after our date -- midnight on Saturday -- I got a message from him:

Hey Heathen,

I had a really nice time on Thursday at the museum and in that cute courtyard. I wasn't really sure at the end of the night how you were feeling about things and if you'd want to hang out again. But I know I'd enjoy seeing you again if you're up for it. If not, no worries!

Have a great Sunday...and enjoy Mad Men! (I can't wait...)

Cheers,
Dreamy

I like it when men aren't afraid to email a girl on a Saturday night. Given that I spent much of our five-hour marathon date on Thursday thinking, "I like this guy a LOT. I think he really could be my husband," I was a bit taken aback that he was unsure of my feelings toward him. Why would I have spent five hours with him if I didn't like him? I've certainly never had a five-hour first date before.

Then again, I had the same doubts. At first I felt certain that we had a strong connection. Then, I started to wonder: did I talk too much? Should I not have told him that I had a horrible breakup last fall? Maybe I went overboard when I told him about my frustration that men are often bad communicators. I felt so comfortable with him -- TOO comfortable? Perhaps I should have been more careful about what I told him about myself. Did he really mean it when he said he had fun and was happy to meet me? Or was he just saying that because he's so nice?

It was a relief to hear that my initial reaction was correct and he wasn't turned off. I know you're not supposed to put all your eggs in one basket, but let's face it, all my eggs have been in Dreamy's basket since I first read his profile a month ago. So I decided to go for it and put myself out there, and see if he meets me halfway. I wrote him back right away, at 1 a.m. Saturday night. I told him about my fish taco party that I had just gotten back from, and how I spent the day making tomatillo salsa and 52 tortillas in preparation for it. I told him about my trip to Cape Cod on Friday. Then, I told him that I would really like to see him again, and I apologized if I sent mixed signals at the end of our date. I asked if he'd be available to get together sometime this week. I hesitated for a moment and wondered if I should wait till morning to send it, then hit send.

Eek! Can't wait for our next date!

Friday, August 20, 2010

My life, the Seinfeld episode

I got home late last night from my date with Dreamy, and fell asleep immediately when my head hit the pillow. Half an hour later I was wide awake, brimming with excitement and utterly incapable of slumber, thinking back over what a great date I had. Eventually I took a sleeping pill and drifted off, drowsy and happy.

First thing in the morning, I headed out to join Cousine, one of my two French cousins, for a day trip to the Cape. Upon arrival, we meandered over to the beach and I told her all about my date. Then I started giving instructions to my phone, asking it politely to please ring, beep, anything. The downside to a good first date: day-after contact anxiety. (I did get a nice goodnight, I-had-a-good-time text message last night, but still.)

My phone remained stubbornly silent while we swam, read, chatted, and napped. Finally we went to buy sandwiches, and as we sat and ate them, it rang -- a number I didn't recognize. I answered and a male voice said, "Hey, Heathen!" My heart leapt: Dreamy! He continued: "I just got tickets to the Sox game. Are you interested in going?" "Wow!" I exclaimed. "That's so nice. I wish I could, but I'm on the Cape. I don't think I can get back in time." I thanked him for inviting me, and we hung up.

I excitedly filled Cousine in as soon as I hung up. "He must really like me!" I told her.

"You should go meet him!" she responded. "It's not too late. Text him and ask if you can get there a bit after the game starts."

I followed Cousine's instructions and sent off a quick text to Dreamy. Seconds later, his reply came though: "Hey there Heathen! I don't think you meant to send this to me."

Oh. My. Goodness. He was not the one who called. I thought back rapidly over the phone call: Didn't recognize the number. He didn't identify himself. The only reason I assumed it was him was that I was waiting for his call.

Anyway, it's not the end of the world. He just thought I sent a text message to the wrong person; thankfully, I didn't put his name in it. Still, it was pretty disappointing. I had to go buy an ice cream cone to recuperate.

All of this leaves one lingering unanswered question: WHO IS THE MYSTERY MAN WHO INVITED ME TO A SOX GAME TONIGHT?? And what kind of weirdo doesn't identify themselves on the phone?

Waxing philosophical

Hmm, I wonder how many double-entendre titles I can come up with about waxing?

I went to see my Wise Waxer yesterday in preparation for one last trip to the beach with my cousin today. I probably won't be seeing her again until waxing season resumes in the spring, so I had to soak up every last bit of her wisdom while I could (I would totally pay the $35 waxing fee for it, even if she neglected to remove any hairs).

I talked to her a bit about my breakups, telling her two-minute versions of both my La Moustache and l'Artista relationships. Then I mentioned my upcoming date that I'm uber-excited for, and reflected, "I think he's a good one. He isn't drop-dead gorgeous, which I think is a good sign."

She looked at me sagely and nodded her head slowly. "It can be a good thing when men are less attractive than women," she replied, "but you never know. I thought my first husband would never cheat on me. He was chubby and unattractive. But when I was 28 with two kids, a four-year-old and a two-month-old, he came home one day and told me he was leaving. I didn't see him again for a year." When she went out to buy diapers a few days later their joint bank account, consisting mainly of the earnings from stores she owned, had been closed. The stores were in her husband's name.

"You're making my breakup story sound like a walk in the park!" I cried, shocked. "That must have been horrible. How did you survive?"

"It was the best thing that ever happened to me," she answered. "I found out how strong I am. It gave me such a boost to my self-esteem -- after that I can do anything. I started my businesses up again. I was so resourceful. I had to raise my kids and I had to make money, so I just went on with my life."

A few months later, she met her second husband. "I didn't want anything to do with him," she explained. "He was so good-looking, he had this beautiful body. I told my brother (who had introduced them), 'What would I want with this guy? I date men who are ugly and have money. Get him away from me!' He told me okay, but he had a feeling he'd be good in bed." So she started dating him, telling him that she wanted nothing from him, didn't want to ever get married again, didn't want any money from him. He didn't want to marry either. Fourteen years later they finally got married, and they've been married ever since. "You just never know about a person," she said, "but don't trust them in the meantime. Men are selfish." She spit the last word out furiously, seconds after talking affectionately and tenderly about her husband.

So, I guess there are no generalizations to be made about good-looking versus not good-looking men. Some of both are good; some of both are bad. I think it can be nice when beautiful women date less attractive men, and the men dote on them. Unfortunately, not all unattractive men realize how lucky they are to have a beautiful woman.

From what I know so far it seems that Dreamy is a cute but not overly handsome good one. He did well on the five areas that my dating guru Li'l JC instructed me to take notes on:

1) Shoes -- I know I talk a lot about shoes, but in the end, the right guy can pull off any shoes. I think my opinions of people's shoes are really just a reflection of my thoughts about the person. It's all about being comfortable in your own shoes.
2) Manners -- impeccable. Paid for everything, walked me partway to the subway, texted me to tell me he had a good time and apologize for not walking me all the way to the subway.
3) Food -- he admits to being a terrible cook, but appreciates good food. That's cool with me. I've resigned myself to not finding another l'Artista.
4) Books -- I didn't ask what he read most recently, but we talked a bunch about Jonathan Kozol. He's read more Kozol books than I have, despite not being in the field of education. Pretty impressive.
5) Siblings -- he's the baby of the family, two older siblings. Seems to have a good relationship with both.

Let's hope he continues to do well.