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


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


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, 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


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.