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:


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.


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


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


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


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


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.