Addicted to attention, Confessions, dating, essays, Labels, Sex, Writing

Relationship Status

IMG_3792Connecticut has a lot of female friends. All those sexually tense months before he finally reached for me, I thought I was the only person getting witty text banter, but that is not the case.  There is this woman he’s close to, and if I was uncharitable, I would say that he’s been leading her on; she clearly likes him, and he hasn’t told her that I am his girlfriend.

I get it. I do. I get it from both their perspectives, but it profoundly bums me out, that we’re still a secret to some people.

The Facebook relationship status is a pretty good indicator of willingness to go public. My friends list cuts across a broad spectrum of people I know and have known, many of whom have had their genitals in my mouth at some point, some of whom would be upset to learn about my new boyfriend through fucking Facebook.  And then there’s Sketch’s friends and family: I haven’t deleted any of those associations yet, and I am friends with Sketch’s mother, and she is only friends with twelve people, and it feels mean to unfriend her. Or Sketch’s sister-in-law: I’ve played with her daughters, Sketch’s nieces, since they were babies. I used to crawl drunk into their play-tent. I used to give them hazardous, galloping piggyback rides down the stairs.

You never get to break up with someone else’s kids—you just completely vanish on them and they are left with further proof that adults are as unreliable as mirages.

I like seeing these people on Facebook. And I like seeing Sketch’s friends. It makes it feel less like a whole piece of my social circle just got sheared off and flung into space. Even if it’s just assigning a like to a post, it feels less like exile.

The habits of being single and hoarding crumbs of attention, like an orphan or a refugee, are hard to break. So I get why Connecticut is hesitating to tell this woman about me.

Is it important to you that I tell her, he asks. And I don’t want it to be my decision, so I tell him to do what he wants, but there’s no way to tell someone to do what he wants without sounding petulant. She’s moving to Southeast Asia in a few weeks anyway.   This woman is alternate reality Tippy, traveling and doing cool shit while dragging around feelings for Connecticut. That’s the way it could have gone for us, too. I could have gotten a lengthy email from him, explaining a new relationship, and I would have wanted to kill him and then myself even as I kept my voice level.

I walk around the next day feeling insecure and uncertain, and hating it. I didn’t have any of this to deal with, back when I was splitting my time between Connecticut’s bed and Sketch’s; if one of them was too busy to pay attention to me, I just called up the other. I always had a back-up plan.

I hate this, I tell Connecticut. I hate feeling this way. Jealous, and scared, and insecure. It’s the first time in our relationship when I have ventured a look down, and I don’t care for the view. It all feels like a preview to a plummet.

He goes to see this woman, who is getting ready to move and thus selling a bunch of her shit, and he comes back with a pair of creepy lithographs and the news that he told her about us. I told her about you by name, Connecticut says. She and I know each other, peripherally, from around the neighborhood; she told him that she was happy for us.

That weekend, Connecticut and I go to the movies to watch superheroes punch the shit out of one another and I pull snacks out of hidden compartments in my bag. My life is full of hidden compartments and trap doors, it seems like; I love a hiding place, even if I’m not hiding anything more subversive than carrot sticks.

Connecticut checks in on Facebook, tagging me as being with him. He writes: FINALLY. As in finally going to see this movie that apparently everyone else has seen already, but to me, it’s finally, as in finally time to just come clean with everyone, and with ourselves, that we are together and that we love each other and that there isn’t anybody else.  It’s kind of a moment.

Our check-in gets seven likes.  I’m not sure our friends get the significance.

We are in bed that night when I look at him and tell him, “You are my person.” Followed by a flood of remorse and feelings of disloyalty. Because Sketch was always my person, and that’s what I called him, especially once I could no longer call him my boyfriend. My person. The human that goes with me.

It’s hard, in the new relationship, not to use the vocabulary of the old. Because that is all I have. I am trying hard to write something new, but when I look at Connecticut, I sometimes think that his eyes crinkle like Monster’s, and that he is smart like Kick, and that I love that he reads books, like Bunny. He reminds me of the men I have loved already, and so I know how to love him, but he is also new, and unknown, and frightening. It’s the fear more than anything that makes me realize: holy shit. I am in a relationship.

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Awkward Moments, Blogging, Sex, Silence, Voice

At a Loss For Words: Sex and My Overly-Verbal Life

images-20Sketch and I have so much lust for each other, we speak through gritted teeth under the blankets. Naked, there is just this man, whose body I want to collide with as hard as I possibly can.  In bed, it works.  But we all have to put our pants back on at some point, and when I do, I walk around dreading that it will happen again, this cyclical fucking entropy that he and I are caught in, where one of us sends the other packing. Clothed, there is just the glum certainty that our circle can not hold.

I wake up in Sketch’s apartment, step on a cat by accident on my way to the bathroom.  My ass is still sore from last night, and my neck feels funny; I don’t sleep right unless I’m alone, but I never admit that out loud, not after those lonely months without him. I used to wake up and think I saw him laying there, but it would just be the way the blanket was folded, not actually the back of his head at all.

The sex is great. Our bodies line up perfectly, and when we are in bed it feels like when you bring home a bookshelf you haven’t measured for and it fits the room perfectly.   Our bodies line up, but everything else clashes with misunderstanding. I can tell he has found me irritating all night. Our conversation over dinner was awkward; I kept asking questions about things he already told me about, because I can’t just sit there not saying anything, wishing our entrees would come faster so I’ll have something to talk about, so my mouth will be full and I won’t need to try to spin a story about eighth period into anecdotal gold.

I am exhausted. I love him, and I want him, but by the time we get back to his apartment, sex feels like one more bucket of water I need to lug up the hill, one more rock to break. I am on a relationship chain-gang. He says: I love you, but I hate dating your schedule. I know I have nothing left, but I keep insisting that I’ve got enough fumes in the tank to see me safely into the driveway.

Of course, after the sex, which is predictably amazing, the momentum swings me right into wakefulness. I lay awake wondering how much time we have left, listening to his cat puke voluminously on the bathroom floor, laying booby traps for my bare feet.

Sketch is aggravated in the morning when I want to leave at seven, but I need to get out of there. I want to come home and be in the sunny cube of my own space, putting words into order, watching my rabbit. She has dragged a cookbook that once belonged to my grandmother under the bed and is tearing out the pages with her teeth while I type; I am too tired to try and take it away from her, and I was never going to actually make Baked Alaska or Beef Wellington anyway.

I love Sketch. I do. But sometimes I only tell him I love him because I don’t know what else to say, and I want to fill in the quiet with something.

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I recently dreamed that I met some guy and within a week, he had asked me to marry him, with the stupid ring and everything, and I said yes, because that is the usual narrative and despite my best efforts, the cliché still exerts an almost tidal pull on me, the tug of supposed to. In this dream, I realized of course that I did not want to move in or share a bank account with this stranger, and I called it off, already mentally composing the blog post in my dream. When I woke up from blogging in my sleep, I was disappointed, because I no longer had this thing to write about.

I keep a drafts document with all my essays, open on the computer, but as time rolls on I barely stay ahead. Each blog post feels like my last, like I will have nothing else to write about after I put this one up. Each blog post feels like a miracle, never to be repeated.

I come home from yoga and I open up my computer, and I look at websites to submit work on. I find one called Review Review, a comprehensive catalogue of every single place you can submit your shit to. It is the OKCupid for the literary slut, and I am composing winky-faced emails to editors all evening as the living room gets dark around me. I don’t get up and turn on the lights; I don’t want to stop to make dinner or to put away the groceries that I dumped by the door on my way in. I write things and then I send them out, eating a sleeve of crackers in the dark while I type with one hand.

I didn’t think it would ever be this way. For twenty years, it seemed like I had nothing to say. I used my computer to write email to men who weren’t right for me, to watch porn, to roll around on Facebook comparing my life unfavorably to others. I used to take solice from tales of artists who didn’t get any traction until middle age: Paul Gauguin didn’t start painting until he was 39. Toni Morrison didn’t write The Bluest Eye, her first novel, until she was 40. It’s that same persistent delusion that I have in all things, the one that tries to convince me that how I feel today is how I will feel tomorrow. That this should still be so believable is hard to fathom.

The blog changes the focus. It makes me more curious about what will happen next, because the thing that happen are things that I can write about even if they are terrible things. Especially if they are terrible things.

I didn’t have anything to say to Sketch at dinner, but that’s OK. I have things to say now, and here I am, saying them.

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Babies, Breakups, Overdisclosure

Babies Are Stupid and Useless

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I didn’t want one. At the sound of a crying baby in the supermarket, my ovaries would ball up like fists. I’ve never understood how women can hear that wail and want to move towards it. To me, these women are like emergency responders, running counterintuitively towards the blast while I’m leaping from the flames, pushing other people back to propel myself ahead faster.

My friend Nieve once told me that having a baby is like getting a tattoo on your face; you have to be really, really sure. I’ve never had face-tattoo levels of commitment to reproduction, but at the same time, it sucks that our eggs come with sell-by dates, and at 40, it’s pretty much the end for me. If my reproductive system was in your refrigerator, you would give it a cautious sniff (Ew, I think this is now my most disgusting metaphor. Whatever. The whole thing is gross, is what I am saying), trying to decide if it fell under “When in doubt, throw it out.” (I follow more of a “When in doubt, microwave it for an extra thirty seconds.” But that’s just me). Fertility: it’s that “Act SOON! Soon it will be too late, SOOOOOOON!” as-seen-on-television-sales-pitch-iness that makes my heart pound. Fertility is a limited-time option, and like the women known as everyone, I do not want to miss out on something, or to regret something later.

This feeling is intensified as some awesome women in my life start having kids. These are not the women who had no higher ambitions in life than to eat their own placenta; these are cool, smart, tough ladies who managed to make their third trimester look punk rock.   I am thinking of a friend who had a daughter, by herself, at age 42 and moved to Italy (With the baby; it would be terrible if you had a baby and moved to Italy and did not tell the baby).   I am thinking of Wren, who when I meet her and her progeny for lunch, rolls her eyes and tells the crying infant to stop being such a baby. Neither of these women waited for the perfect relationship, the wedding-party with the stupid dress, to have a badass kid.

These are the women who make motherhood look possible, even appealing, at moments.   But I know I would rather regret not doing something than doing something. I’d rather wonder what if I had actually gotten that face-tattoo than wake up every morning, look in the mirror, rue the decision.  “Babies are stupid and useless,” my friend Dawn declares in a recent text to me, which makes me want to grab my needlepoint thread.

But still, I see a toddler from time to time on the subway, usually one of those super-cute half Chinese ones, and I am curious what the kid would look like, transposed onto my life. It’s like seeing a man with a handlebar moustache, and wondering, what would that look like on me? (The man or the moustache, take your pick.)

A while back, I completely freaked Sketch out by ruminating on this theme out loud (the baby musing, not the handlebar-moustache fantasy). I have an unfortunate tendency to do this; without having given it that much thought, I just go ahead and say, “I’m thinking of taking up the bassoon” or “my hair needs to be cobalt-blue” without any real, specific plans for doing so. It’s like a public-opinion poll, but I feel you get a more authentic reaction when you are all this-is-happening rather than soliciting a theoretical opinion. So when, after years of telling Sketch how inherently horrifying I find infants, with that creepy mushy spot on the top of their skulls where their brains are not done cooking, I suddenly told him, “I’m thinking about a baby,” he took me seriously, when really I kind of meant it along the lines of “I’m thinking of a number from 1-7.”

This is one of the things that backed him right out of this relationship, his hands defensively raised, warding off my bad ideas.  “I didn’t really mean it seriously,” I explained later. “It’s just a thing I was saying.” Sometimes, it is impossible to figure out if I mean something until I go ahead and say it out loud.

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Breakups, essays

The Art of Talking to an Ex

And my craving for Sketch picks up exactly where I left it.  Once more, I am multitasking, always multitasking—I am doing bedbug laundry and missing Sketch, I am practicing my handstand and missing Sketch, I am eating dinner with my friends and missing Sketch.   If I am only doing one thing, it is missing Sketch.

For the next four months, we’ve decided not to talk to or text each other; no visits, no email.  Only letters.  There is something pleasurably deliberate and real about a letter.  It’s something I am touching, which will go into his actual hands.  You can spray it with perfume or anthrax and know it will be handled.  I could send him blank sheets of paper and it would still feel like communication.

Letters slow the communication to a crawl, and this is a good thing.  All year I have had the persistent and nagging sense that there is some right combination of words, and if I could just find them and speak them, it would guide him back home to me.  All year I have felt wrongfooted; I keep making mistakes, stepping on my own tongue.  2014: Year of the Gaffe.  Still, I keep trying, although talking to Sketch has come to feel like trying to run in those dreams where running is important yet impossible.

Sometimes I try to level with myself.  Look, self.  You weren’t this concerned with him when he lived here.  All you wanted then was a little peace and quiet and privacy.  Montaigne wrote: “In love, there is nothing but a frantic desire for what flees from us.”  Montaigne depresses the shit out of me.  Do I only want Sketch now because I can’t have him?  What am I, some long-suffering troubadour?  It is retarded, and I wish I could snap out of it.  It makes me feel like a parasite, grasping and blind, looking for a man to attach to.  I feel crazy, like I need to warn my friends.  Don’t panic, but if you find me crouched in the corner talking to a sock puppet and pretending its my boyfriend, would you please lure me out with cookies?  Things seem hard—my shitty IKEA furniture is falling apart, and I want to install the air-conditioner but I’m afraid I will drop it on someone five stories down on the sidewalk.  A man with a socket-wrench would find me delightfully easy to seduce.

I do my level best.  My favorite Ray Bradbury quote is the one about jumping off cliffs and building wings as you plummet, which sounds really inspiring, but really highlights some elevated fucking stakes as the rocks coming rushing towards you.

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