Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Conquer The Night

Nightlife in New York is more intense than nightlife anywhere. Although it is not as intense as it was, say, ten years ago - when seven-foot-tall bouncers manned hordes of shouting stiletto-shoed and blonde-highlighted women from behind velvet ropes all over Manhattan, while inside the clubs said females and men on the prowl milled about with twelve-dollar martinis in hand, eyeing the competition - it is still more high-octane than nightlife almost anywhere else except for maybe Dubai... or so I’ve heard.

In my early twenties, I was a nightlife denizen. Or at least I was if I still qualified to be so even though I basically only went to one lounge every weekend. It was called Baraza, and it was between East 8th Street and East 9th Street on Avenue C in the East Village. It was a Brazilian bar/lounge/even club (if you wanted to stretch the truth a little) which was in reality the size of a Brooklyn bodega. Hipsters and yuppies crammed into the dark space like it was Mercury Lounge and Radiohead was playing. Most Friday and Saturday nights, it took five minutes to travel the twenty meters from the back of the club to the bar, where they were one of the only bars in New York then to serve caipirinhas.

The DJ was one of the best I’ve ever heard, a maestro in complete command of his craft whose range spanned from little-known salsa classics which were difficult to forget once heard, to hip-hop and reggae songs which were never once predictable, to bhangra and samba beats which tickled the fascination of us underexposed Americans. I danced so much and so hard in that club that I developed a reputation. I remember once an old Latino man marched up to me while I was dancing, stood in front of me until I noticed him, and then, with a huge grin on his face, took my face in both hands, planted a gigantic kiss on my forehead and walked away without a word. My best memory ever.

In my mid-twenties, I mostly went out to meet guys. But I had what I perceived to be a big problem, and that was my weight. In my early twenties, I was underweight, and I attracted a lot of attention. But by my mid-twenties, I had developed a weight problem, and I was noticing that men didn’t really seem as interested in me anymore. New York has a reputation for being a city of skinny people (well, the yuppies, anyway...), and one thing you notice when you go out to clubs and lounges is that most of the people there tend to be... well, skinny. You also notice that it tends to be the skinny girls who get approached.

It was a tough thing for me to transition through. I wanted to go out, and to enjoy the nightlife like everyone else, but it was difficult for me to accept the fact that some people were going to get a lot of attention and some people were going to be ignored. It was especially difficult because I was finding it so hard to link up with a romantic partner, and the suspense was killing me. I found myself getting angry. Why was I having such a hard time? Why were people being so one-sided? It didn’t seem fair or right.

In the end, it took a serious reality check for me to be able to put it all in perspective... a reality check that I think many of us have to make, skinny or fat, comely or homely. I had to face the fact that I was looking for a real relationship, not just a one-night stand and not just something superficial. Consequently, I had to approach the courtship process as someone who was looking for something substantial; I didn’t have the luxury of waltzing in with my strapless top and strappy sandals and giggling my way into a relationship.

If I wanted to take advantage of New York nightlife and try to meet someone, I would have to put my focus on conversing meaningfully with those I found appealing and trying to make meaningful connections. And, yes, in a venue in which the focus was on celebrating youth and beauty, I might have to resign myself to striking out more than a few times, especially with the guys who are really just looking for giggling girls in strappy sandals. In reality, this is a lesson that many girls have to learn; many skinny girls and pretty girls don’t get approached regularly in nightlife situations either, as quiet as it’s kept. I know I didn’t, and I used to get mistaken for a model sometimes.

At the end of the day, what’s the most important lesson I learned? If you don’t like the excitement of the pumping music, mood lighting, milling crowds, and chatting up of strangers of the nightlife environment, stay home. If you’re looking for substance, you’re better off doing stuff you like. If you’re looking for excitement? Get thee to the nearest nightclub, and enjoy. Even if it takes you a while to meet someone, at least you’ll be having a blast while you’re at it.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

New Post Coming Up

Hi Everyone!

Stay posted for a really good post on the topic of settling, coming on Monday. I can't wait to share it with you! Hope your weekend is going well, and I'll see you on Monday. :)

Friday, January 4, 2013

Weird Science... ;-)

As a young and nubile twentysomething ;), I was eager to get into the dating game. Having attended single-sex institutions for the last six of my grammar school years and having been isolated well into my college years, I found myself singularly without experience or even knowledge of the opposite sex. I was chomping at the bit to develop a normal sex life and experience some excitement around romance.

Perhaps it’s because I was so isolated that I really didn’t develop an understanding or sense of how chemistry or attraction between two partners really exists. Jumping into the twentysomething singles pool, I was constantly on a quest to meet “hot guys,” whether at bars, Meetups or group events. I was eager to find an attractive, personable young man, of my preferred ethnic background and physical makeup, with whom I could share fun times and intimacy.

Funny how life works. I had more difficulty than I thought meeting the guys I desired to meet, and on the few occasions when I did meet them, I was surprised at how sterile and colorless the meetings were. Whether I was on a date, making out (which I did quite often), or talking to someone at a bar, most of the time I just wasn’t experiencing the kind of fireworks I fantasized about. I guess I wasn’t really experiencing chemistry. 

Looking back, I can see how some of the mistakes I was making then, and some of the mistakes I still unwittingly make today, were hindering my ability to experience real chemistry with a lover. For one thing, I didn’t know what chemistry was. I thought that if you found a guy and liked the way he looked, and talked to him and liked talking to him, and talked to him some more and found out you had things in common and liked spending time with him, that was about as close to chemistry as two people could ever get.

Not true! The biggest thing I’ve learned in the past couple of years of coming into my sexual prime as a woman is that chemistry is something I experience, not something I seek or cultivate. I’ve learned to listen to my own rhythms and responses, and to allow myself to trust the sensations and thoughts that arise when I am interacting with a potential partner. The experience of interacting with and experiencing a given person is what allows chemistry to develop, not the seek-and-find mentality of attempting to find what I am searching for from the outside in.

This has been a difficult process to trust. I have always been greatly influenced by certain cultural messages which have implied to me that I should be looking for given traits in my partners, as well as my own prejudices, preconceptions and experiences. The wounds and hurts that I have sustained over the course of my life have left me very gun-shy regarding my willingness to be open-minded about dating men who don’t fit my “standards.” Whether having to do with a history of self-esteem issues, histories of trauma, or simple ignorance, sometimes my baggage ends up allowing for a very small pool of potential partners.

However, a willingness to be open-minded is essential to the process of allowing oneself to create the conditions for a truly romantic relationship. What I have learned through a years-long process of working with myself is that chemistry is really the combustion of an assortment of characteristics - personality, charisma, intelligence, character, morals, commonalities, mentality, spirituality, and, yes, physicality - which fans itself from a slow burn into a roaring furnace of heat. It truly cannot be quantified, or predicted. I have to be open to it wherever it occurs, and not try to force it where it cannot possibly exist. This requires a certain relinquishing of preconceptions.

Today, I’ve had to make my peace with the fact that I have preferences. But I’ve also learned that sometimes I miss out on a great thing because - as trite as it sounds - I don’t like the package it came in. Or I never notice the great thing to begin with, because I’m too busy moping over the lanky young bucks who always stare through me at singles happy hour. I’ve had to remember that chemistry is just as it is defined - an explosion of just the right ingredients into a delectable and irresistible concoction, just the right one for you. The ingredients may be a bit foreign to us sometimes, but if the chemistry’s right, the potion will be too intoxicating to resist. 

And that’s what we single women have to insist on - intoxication. Nothing less should suffice. Remember... it’s romance that counts, romance that we all dream of. It’s only settling if we’re not in love.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Satisfaction in the New Year

Happy New Year, Everyone!

I hope your New Year's Eve was fun and... dare I say it... SATISFYING! ;) I had so much fun I'm still thinking about it. I would rather have been at a really cool party with a bunch of awesome friends, but I'm kind of between friend groups right now, so that wasn't an option. And the last thing I wanted to do was shove myself into a sequined miniskirt and drag my butt out into the windy December cold to go to a party with a bunch of strangers at some bar.
So I did exactly what I said I was going to do. I bought a dozen bright yellow roses and put them on my kitchen table in a beautiful vase. I went to a specialty wine store and bought a $17 German bottle of red wine. I went to the neighborhood independent film and music store and bought a couple of esoteric documentaries and foreign films. I bought new wineglasses and a beautiful new journal. And, after ordering artichoke-and-bechamel and margherita slices from what may well be the best pizzeria in the world (you may have to make a trip to New York City just to try a slice from Artichoke Basille take-out on 14th Street; just take my word for it), I got delightfully tipsy and had a sublime night of film, gourmet food, wine and New Year's reflections and resolutions.

Would I have preferred to spend the evening with a special someone or someones? Of course. There's not a shred of doubt of that. I adore the energy of spending time with people I care about and have an affinity for. The heady high of being around those I love is unmatched by few things in the world. As I learned from my most recent romantic entanglement, which I wrote about on my blog, if I met the right person, in an ideal world I would register for Social Security disability benefits, as would he, we would rent a room in some low-income neighborhood somewhere with a huge king-sized mattress and a window, and we would just never leave except to buy food and pick up our checks. That would make me perfectly happy. I wouldn't have a problem with that. I am that passionate of a person.

I love spending time with special people. And it's not just partners. If I did nothing more on my weekends than spend time with my friends, it wouldn't be such a bad life. Just spending time with people makes me so happy. I love people so much. Which makes my New Year's choice, and the recent choices I've been making, all the more ironic. But, for the first time, I feel more than ever that I'm being true to my love of people at this point in my life.

At 32, I have finally learned to respect the feelings of discomfort and boredom that arise when I am around people for whom I do not have an affinity. In my twenties, I knew I loved to spend time with people, but I was so eager to do so that I would put up with people with whom I had absolutely nothing in common, emotionally, psychologically, intellectually, and even morally. This was true of my romantic partners as well. In my twenties, I would have seen a New Year's at a bar, spent talking to an attractive but dull gentleman with whom I shared a mundane kiss at midnight, as infinitely more desirable than an evening spent alone.

No more. In recent years, I have given myself permission to live my best life now. That means pursuing and indulging every passion, urge, dream and fantasy. The fruit of this choice is that I have more self-knowledge and self-respect than I've ever had before. And I enjoy my self more than ever before. Since my life is so full of passion, it makes me less willing to put up with situations which don't stimulate or affirm me. I'm simply not willing to spend time with friends or partners for whom I don't have an affinity, when my time could be better spent pursuing passions and fantasies of my own. The result is that my life in general is higher-quality.

And it's only getting better. As I move towards a life even more passionate and filled with fantasies and satisfaction, I have only hope for the future. As long as I'm working towards a more positive tomorrow, I know the best is yet to come. Ganbei (bottoms up in Japanese - drink up) for the life of our dreams!

Friday, December 28, 2012

New Year's Parties Ain't Shopping Malls

This is a post I wrote on a New Year’s Eve thread:

Hi everyone,

I have to be honest with you – I agree with the gentlemen who responded before me. We single women are very unlikely to meet an eligible dating prospect on New Year’s Eve. Many years’ worth of eager anticipations over one of the biggest party nights of the year, followed by the acrid let-down of yet another evening ended as a single woman, have led to a certain realism for me about holidays such as New Year’s Eve.

As single women, the biggest gift we can give to ourselves is the gift of honesty. We are all vibrant, active women, enjoying life, and none of us wants to be left in the lurch on New Year’s. We want to be out and about, enjoying the energy, partying with everyone else. That’s an absolutely beautiful thing that I think we should honor respectfully. We deserve to party like anyone else. But the problem comes when our hopes overtake our relaxed attitude towards simply enjoying the night.

I know that, speaking for myself, my hopes of finding an eligible bachelor have often taken over my experience of whatever party I happened to be at on New Year’s, leaving me resentful and frustrated. At this point in my life, I’ve learned to expect very little from nights like New Year’s. I’ve learned that dates will be sporadic in life and often come from the most unexpected of places.

And I’ve learned that I certainly can’t expect that those eligible bachelors show up on my timetable. Just because I took the time to go to the salon and get my hair blown out, spend money on a brand new dress and pair of heels, use the expensive body scrub, and spend forty minutes on makeup doesn’t mean that some guy is obligated to show up at my side at a given event and appreciate all the hard work I put into it. If I want to do those things, I do them for myself and for the pleasure of the way they affect my interactions with others. They don’t guarantee a warm reception with potential dates. The night a new date shows up might be the night I am dragging myself home from hot yoga in my Pink yoga pants and Aeropostale sweatshirt, skin inadvertently glowing from the workout.

At the end of the day, I go to these things for me, because you can’t guarantee a warm reception. If you want to go out to a bar or club on New Year’s Eve, go for the music, the open bar, the free buffet, the balloon drop, and the company. Forget about meeting someone. You can’t control that. Just enjoy it for what it is. And if you meet someone, all the better.

… Or you could just order in fancy gourmet pizza, invite a friend over, and drink sweet wine and watch documentaries like me. We're all at different points in our lives. Don't be afraid to be different.

The Satisfied Single

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Honoring the Christmas Spirit... Satisfied Single Style

Merry Christmas, everyone!

I’m sitting in my local Dunkin’ Donuts, having a cup of decaf coffee and working on a term paper. I spent a sublime morning tidying up my beautiful home after a wonderful workout, and capped it off with a warm shower and a comforting bowl of lentil soup with spinach and a couple of diet grilled cheese sandwiches (I’m doing Weight Watchers). I was supposed to meet a friend, but that didn’t work out, so I’m going to study for the rest of the day and then head to bed early to be at work in the morning.

Most likely, many of you are with your families on this seasonable December morning. That’s a lovely thing. It’s wonderful to have family, and it’s great to see them during the holidays. But some of us are probably thinking about what it would be like to have families of our own. For those of us who are heading out of our terrible twenties and into the primes of our lives, our thoughts turn every now and again to the subject of wanting a husband and, maybe - just maybe - a couple of little dumplings (as I call them).

It’s hard to deal with being single at these times. The wistful thoughts about what could have been can be torturous. The loneliness which hits every once in a while during the year can hit like a tidal wave during the holidays. Christmas is the very definition of hearthside familial warmth, and it can make one heartsick to imagine that one might be deprived of experiencing that warmth.

Even if you’re too young or indifferent to be thinking about wanting your own family, some of us - including myself - may simply never have had much of a family to begin with. For those of us who never really experienced familial warmth, Christmas can loom like the cavernous maw of an mountainside cliff, threatening to consume us with its emptiness and the pain which that engenders.

I’m well-acquainted with both the emptiness and, in recent years, the disappointment. My decade and a half as a single woman has forced me to walk with the pain and, happily, has uniquely equipped me to wring the joy and satisfaction out of such difficult times. My strategy for mining joy from suffering has been to take every bit of satisfaction out of every pleasure I can give myself in this tough situation and to honor the courage and strength it takes for me to survive it. On every family holiday, I do whatever I want to do, whenever I want to do it, however I want to do it. I wake up to my own rhythms. I eat what I please. I putter around in my house, make art, call friends, eat ice cream. I go for long walks in the park and smell the cold December air. And I enjoy myself thoroughly.

The most important thing that I do is honor myself. Every minute of Christmas Day every year is a meditation on my own capacity for bringing myself joy and happiness. If you are longing for a family to spend your holidays with, I encourage you to start your own traditions. Put up a Christmas tree. Cook a really nice Christmas dinner for yourself and top it off with eggnog and a slice of cheesecake or pie. Watch a Christmas movie. Go Christmas shopping online every Christmas morning with credit card in hand. The important thing is that you feel special because you’re giving yourself special luxuries, ones that makes YOU feel treasured.

For those of you who are lonely this Christmas, get up right now and do something that gives you pleasure. Not something that SHOULD give you pleasure, something good for you like reading (unless you actually enjoy it...). Do something that makes you feel really GOOD. Then do something else. Keep it up until the blues start to lift. Then make your bed with lots of really heavy blankets, open the window, and go to bed early. That is, if you’re not busy watching Something Borrowed, eating caramel popcorn, and laughing hysterically. You go, girl.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Getting Creative With The Aces

Today I wanted to talk more about finding peace within yourself in the midst of your single circumstances. Most of us probably never wanted to be single. Whether we’ve been single for only a few weeks or for many years, it’s a journey we often find ourselves wondering about. How did I land here? What does this mean? They’re confusing questions.

As a single woman, for years I grappled with my place in the world. It seemed to me that I was missing out on something huge, like the world was on a magic carpet ride and I was left standing somberly here on Earth, holding nothing but a scrap of tattered rug. At the end of the day, my loneliness, hurt, and anger were a constant companion to me as I went throughout my day-to-day existence, knives which dug deep into my flesh and scoured me every time I twisted my torso.

It’s funny how time heals all wounds. As I matured, it became clear to me that so many of the assumptions I had held about love and relationships were simply misguided. The hurt which pierced me so in my youth was mostly the result of my belief that male indifference to me had something to do with my own personal characteristics. As I have grown older, I have come to understand that men have their own personal preferences, just as women do, for their own personal reasons which often make little to no sense at all. I have also come to understand that I don’t receive nearly as little attention from men as I think I do, and that I am not entitled to receive attention. I am no more deserving of attention than a crippled burn victim. What matters is the quality of my heart, and the fact that I appreciate that, and surround myself with people who appreciate it.

The loneliness is still a companion of mine, but I have come to understand that companionship and kinship come from all walks of life, and that one can be single and supremely connected with the very lifeblood of human existence, or in a relationship and be the loneliest woman in the world... even if your boyfriend loves you. I derive connection from everything today - from the people I smile at on line at the drugstore, from the people I volunteer with who sometimes become new friends, from the people I have little conversations with at my local coffeehouse who sometimes become new friends or business partners as well. Even from a great plate of pad thai, or a beautiful sunset, or a particularly satisfying blog post. At these things, sometimes I just sit back and say, Wow. That was satisfying. As a Satisfied Single, I am so connected that loneliness mostly seems very far away.

The anger mostly comes from feeling like life has cheated me, like it’s passing me by. Without a boyfriend, I feel like I’m just not whole, like I’ve been robbed of something important that I needed to be happy. Which, today, I understand. As I’ve said elsewhere in my blog, I’m not a big buyer of the tired feminist truism, “Women need a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” I’m a fish out of water without a bicycle, and I’m not afraid to say so. I’ve accepted that I do need a man, and that I undoubtedly always will. But I’ve also accepted that I have no control over whether or not I have one. I can always settle for a man who isn’t good for me. I’ve done that. But it’s just not for me any more.

I’ve accepted that the difference between women who are paired and women who are not is not beauty or any other surface characteristic, but most likely simply chance and luck. Women have partners for a million different reasons. Some got lucky. Some settled. Some will be divorced in five or ten years and spend the rest of their lives as miserable, Botoxed cougars (these are mostly the shallow types who went for surface over substance). I’ve accepted that I just haven’t found my man yet, and that, for me, it’s a matter of simple luck. Some of us have legions of suitors, while some of us are a little more idiosyncratic. It doesn’t matter. No matter what your situation, it’s always a matter of luck and circumstance. Plenty of successful/beautiful/etc. people settle or get unlucky. I’ve accepted that the only thing I have control over is how I choose to live the life I have now.

“Life is like a game of cards. The hand you are dealt represents determinism; the way you play it represents free will.” -Jawaharlal Nehru