Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sickie McSick

For the past four days, I've had a fever in the triple-digits, not to mention an astonishing amount of phlegm escaping my body. (Remind me again: What did I take that flu shot for??) It's been hard to muster the energy to do things like go pee, let alone cook. On Day 1, I managed to get up a couple of times to open the freezer, pop some bread into the toaster, and then eat it topped with a slice of cheese. I was definitely ready for something more by the end of the day.

On Day 2, my family, Dreamy and I had reservations for dinner at a fancy restaurant. I waited till the last minute to change the reservation, hoping against hope that I'd be up for it, but needless to say, it did not happen. Instead, Dreamy came over bearing armfuls of Trader Joe's chicken noodle soup. Damn, was that shit good. I don't think I've had canned chicken noodle soup since I was five or so, and it tasted like heaven in a box. I quickly put in an order for more canned soup with my mom and sister, who were coming over the next day to bring me supplies.

Now that I've been living on nothing but chicken noodle soup for three days, out of which days I've left my apartment once, and my spot on the couch maybe 10 times (mostly for bathroom visits), I'm again ready for a change. My fever is finally down, and I think I have just about enough energy to make this easy pasta recipe, courtesy of Marc Bittman:


Time: 20 minutes


1/2 pound thin spaghetti

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or lard

2 large cloves garlic, lightly smashed and peeled

4 eggs

Freshly ground black pepper

Freshly grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese, optional.

1. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Start the sauce in the next step, and start cooking the pasta when the water boils.

2. Combine garlic and 4 tablespoons of the oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Cook the garlic, pressing it into the oil occasionally to release its flavor; it should barely color on both sides. Remove the garlic, and add the remaining oil.

3. Fry the eggs gently in the oil, until the whites are just about set and the yolks still quite runny. Drain the pasta, and toss with the eggs and oil, breaking up the whites as you do. (The eggs will finish cooking in the heat of the pasta.) Season to taste, and serve immediately, with cheese if you like.

It sounds like just the kind of protein-y, rich, scrumptious meal I need, although it's too bad I don't have any lard in my cupboard.

Hopefully by tomorrow I'll be back to my regular self, because I sure am sick of this couch. On the plus side, I am extremely well caught up on current events (just ask me about the situation in Egypt), Season 1 of Glee, and Muppets videos on YouTube. Here's the video that got me started on that kick, sent to accompany a feel-better email from Dreamy's friend Brian:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Old patterns die hard

Over the last couple of months, I had two fun, uneventful conversations with my Italian ex, l'Artista. Both were good, long conversations, and they were relatively painless. He apologized kindly for the pain he put me through when we broke up, and we talked about seeing each other next summer when I go to Tuscany for family vacation. When my sister got engaged, I wrote to inform him, and he wrote back telling me how happy he was to hear the news. I was beginning to think we could have a simple, non-fraught friendship.

Turns out I was a little too optimistic. During snow day #3 last week, l'Artista spotted me on Skype and suggested we have a third conversation (without the video, since he "didn't think we could handle that"). It went well for a short time, and then all of a sudden it wasn't going well. I'm not even sure what our first argument was about -- it didn't particularly feel like it was about anything -- but all of a sudden I felt like I had been catapulted back in time five years and we were still embroiled in our difficult, never-ending breakup. He interrupted me several times, until finally I said, "I notice you still interrupt me a lot." He countered that with, "You still reproach me exactly like you did ten years ago." Ouch. We were like one of those seventy-year-old couples who have been married for 45 years and can't stand each other who you want to get as far away from as possible.

When we talked again about my impending visit to Italy, he told me he's not sure we should see each other after all. He doesn't want to see me with Dreamy, and he feels uncomfortable seeing my family; I don't care who else is there, but I don't want it to be just the two of us. Perhaps we can meet for a quick coffee instead of the dinner I had been envisioning (just thinking about his dinners makes my stomach growl...). Clearly, it'll take some more time and thinking to figure out what role, if any, he can play in my life.

That evening, I told Dreamy about my conversation, and he asked if I still have feelings for l'Artista. I answered no because that seemed like the right thing to say to let Dreamy know he has nothing to worry about. The truth, however, is a bit more complicated than that. I do have feelings for l'Artista, lots of them. I feel anger, and affection, and anxiety (when I asked about his health, he reported that he had briefly reduced his cigarette and alcohol intakes, but wasn't able to maintain it). The one thing that I am clear on is that I do not want him to be my boyfriend ever again.

So, instead, I'm concentrating on my new favorite Skype buddy, Dreamy. We've been Skyping most nights before bed, and it's nice to be able to see him on the days when we're busy. I can't believe it's taken me this long to discover how great Skype is. Our conversations are straightforward and fun and not fraught, because he likes me and I like him and we both want to be with each other. It sounds so simple, but it's not easy to find.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Oh, Dreamy

Last weekend, I rolled out of bed and headed to Dreamy's bathroom, where I brushed my teeth and put my contacts in. Everything seemed normal until I looked up and noticed that the mirror in front of me looked distorted. Immediately, I guessed what had happened: Dreamy had accidentally tossed my contacts down the drain, and put his in my contact case.

I think I figured it out so quickly because I had subconsciously been waiting for it to happen. At my house, we each have a different-colored contact case, and each case has its own spot in the bathroom. But at Dreamy's house stuff is always moving around, and Dreamy doesn't exactly pay attention to details. So, when he got to the bathroom circa 2 a.m. the prior evening to take out his contacts and found only one case, since his still wasn't unpacked from our trip to Maine, he didn't think twice about it. He dumped out the liquid and filled it right back up again, never noticing the tiny blue circles that disappeared with the saline solution.

Of course, he felt terrible and apologized about 50 times. And sure, it was annoying to be blind for much of the day, almost walk into the men's room at a cafe (which Dreamy pointed to when I asked where the bathroom was -- thanks, D), and have to count the subway stops so I got off at the right place. But the bigger problem was that all week I couldn't stop thinking that if I stay with Dreamy I'm dooming myself to a lifetime of him making annoying, unintentional mistakes that would slowly but inexorably drive me crazy.

I told myself it was lack of vitamin D and too much snow, ice and cold weather talking, but still, I couldn't shake the thought from my head. Last night, I unburdened myself to Ms. Swamp and the Sensitive Bostonian. Ms. Swamp passed on a piece of wisdom from a friend of hers when she got engaged: "Sure, there are lots of things I don't know about him. But the most important reason why I want to be with him is that every time a problem comes up, he wants to talk about it and work on it."

That certainly describes Dreamy to a T. He's full of faults and makes silly mistakes, but he always wants to talk about it and is ready to work on any problem. And besides, he makes it clear to me all the time how much he wants to be with me, and that he is ready to do anything he can to make the relationship work. .So, while I'm not ruling out the possibility that one day the annoyances might drive me 'round the bend, in the meantime I am focusing on the two qualities I most enjoy about him:

1) He is extremely trainable, and when I ask him to do something, he listens and tries his best to do it.

2) He gives me great stories that I entertain my friends with (one of the qualities I most appreciate in a boyfriend).

Stay tuned for more funny Dreamy stories, coming soon.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Heathen Has a Bad Day

During a snowday dinner party last week with friends, we started trading stories about babysitters we had when we were young, and I was reminded of something that happened a few years back. I was in the bookstore in my hometown, waiting in line to purchase my books and glancing at the display of books by local authors, when my eyes alighted on a series of black and white, spiral-bound, home-published-looking books starring a character with my name. "Ha! Look!" I pointed out to my mom, who was looking through some nature books nearby. "Those books are about me!"

My mom came over, picked one up and studied the cover. "I know this woman," she said, then added,"Actually, she used to be your babysitter."

I had no memory of the author, but this revelation prompted me to look closer. The books appeared to be about a young girl named Heathen with glasses, straight, somewhat unkempt hair, and a sidekick dog, and the theme of the books is that Heathen is perennially in a foul mood. The titles ranged from "Heathen Has a Temper Tantrum" to "Heathen Is In a Very Bad Mood." Heathen seems to be a bit of a depression-ridden social outcast, and can relate only to her pet dog. (For the record, I never had a pet dog growing up.)

This weekend, Dreamy and I stopped by the same bookstore to look for books for his nephew's 5th birthday party. In the kid's section, I spotted a shelf dedicated to my old babysitter, and quickly pulled out a hardcover copy of "Heathen Has a Bad Day," now published by a real publishing house. In color, it now becomes clear that Heathen has straight blond hair and bangs. The book features lines like, "Today I am so miserable I don't even want to get out of bed," "It is dark and dreary in my heart," and "All I can do is sit and mope." Someone needs to get this child some Prozac.

My mom continues to claim that this is just a coincidence, but seriously, doesn't she kinda look like me??

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The trees in the forest

Dreamy and I went up to Maine for a quick visit this weekend, along with my sister and her recently-promoted boyfriend (now fiance), the Sensitive Bostonian. On the drive home, Dreamy began querying me about different important relationships I've had in my life, both romantic and non. He loves doing this, just as he loves looking at the photographs of me as a child scattered around my parents' house; it's clear that he could listen to me talk for hours -- a very good trait in a boyfriend.

After he was done, Dreamy began responding to my descriptions, and I immediately laughed because he sounded so much like a therapist. "I notice a parallel between your relationship with X and your relationship with Z," he began, and went on to pontificate on the ways in which I have felt helped and hindered by various important people in my life. At the end, he queried, "Was that too therapist-y for you?"

"A little," I replied honestly, and went on to explain. What I was feeling as Dreamy talked was the same frustration I often felt during sessions with my own, now sadly neglected Wise Woman: Any description I could give during a car ride, or an hourlong session in a therapist's office, of a 4, or 8, or 31-year long relationship is bound to be an oversimplification. People are complicated, and relationships are complicated, and I find it next to impossible to describe a relationship without afterward remembering a gazillion examples of interactions that completely undermine what I just finished saying. For instance, what Dreamy gleaned from my tales was that I felt empowered during my relationship with my Italian ex, l'Artista, because he encouraged me to try new things and to be independent, and I felt stifled by La Moustache because he protected me too much. But l'Artista could also be very protective of me, and I can easily think of any number of things that I would never have tried had it not been for La Moustache.

I realize that it's a necessary skill to see past all the details and make decisions based on the forest, and not the trees, but it's one that I have trouble with, especially since I tend to live in the moment and be quite distracted by whatever tree happens to be right in front of me. I notice the same thing with Dreamy: 99% of the time he's wonderful and thoughtful, and he constantly says sweet, cheesy things to me, like "I just got shivers all over my body because I like you so much." However, he can also be a huge space cadet (as I may have mentioned once or twice), and can be quite thoughtless at times -- not because he means to at all, but purely for lack of noticing that he's being thoughtless. For instance, sometimes he forgets that his chin is scratchy and hurts me when he kisses me (I know this sounds innocuous, but seriously, his 5 o'clock shadow is CRAZY SCRATCHY -- as evidenced by the rugburn I got when we first started dating). Or, the other day he had to work late and I offered to bring him dinner after work, but he got hungry and decided to have a snack to tide him over, which turned into a full-fledged dinner -- and then he forgot to inform me that this had happened, until I started to unpack my overflowing tupperware filled with delicious home-cooked food, at which time he finally mentioned that he was stuffed.

Dreamy always feels terrible when he commits these faux pas, and apologizes profusely. Most of the time, even when he's being a bit clueless, I feel like the positives far outweigh the negatives; after all, if all else fails I know that I have only to tell Dreamy what to do to make me happy and he will spare no effort to do it. Still, there are moments when he behaves cluelessly and completely lose sight of all the great things about him.

And on that note, I'm off to watch the Patriots game and try really, really hard to like football, for Dreamy's sake.

Monday, January 3, 2011

My bloodthirsty side

"Sweetheart, you're making a mistake. Don't kill me," Dreamy said as he gazed sincerely into my eyes. Then he leaned closer and whispered even more convincing professions of innocence into my ears.

Nonetheless, when it was time to vote on which townsperson to execute a moment later, I pointed my finger squarely at Dreamy. The game was Mafia, in which two people are secretly mafiosi who decimate innocent villagers by night; your job is to either discern who is lying, if you're a villager, or convince everyone you're just a regular townsperson while secretly killing your neighbors, if you're the mafia. Me, Dreamy, and ten of his closest friends were deep in the woods for a New Year's getaway weekend.

I'm not sure why I was so loathe to trust Dreamy, who was in fact telling the truth, except that I get a bit cutthroat when I play Mafia. I don't much like being a villager, but it turns out I'm a pretty successful mafioso, and I take great pleasure out of killing off the entire village and convincing everyone I'm innocent -- which is exactly what I did the first round of the game. (During the second round I was done in by an inept co-mafioso.) With the aid of my quietly clicking knitting needles barely anyone suspected me, but in the rare moments when my honesty was called into question Dreamy defended me vigorously. Luckily it didn't even occur to him that I could be the culprit, so I never had to lie to him -- luckily, because to be honest I think I could have done so without a second thought.

A couple hours after I finally threw in the towel, put an end to my killing spree and headed to bed, Dreamy joined me. He woke me up with the good news: "Baby, I just killed the whole village, all by myself!" he told me excitedly, to which I replied that I was very proud of him. Then for a moment his excited face got serious: "I'm so glad you went to bed. If you had been there I don't think I could have looked you in the eyes and lied to you."

Sweet, I know, but really. What an amateur.