on forgetting

Friday, April 11, 2014

 Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

I had nearly forgotten what it was  to feel beautiful. I knew when last it happened. It was a night early in December, looking at a man who months earlier when I saw for the first time I had but one thought, Well, fuck. Because he was handsome in that way that buckles the knees–that way that feels perpetually just-beyond-reach. No one should be that good looking. And I was dating a man who became less and less attractive each time we met. A man who in the following months would break up with me twice and then invite me to Paris only to leave me at the airport. A man who never wanted to see me naked. And I became so angry. Not with him. It wasn’t really about him, he  just happened to be driving the story in a very particular way. It was that I didn’t walk away sooner. That I didn’t say no to Paris. That I didn’t say hey, you, not.good.enough.

 

I should have said it on so many occasions.

 

Because he was not good.enough.for.me.

 

I can’t quite forgive myself the experience of him.

 

Did he not think me beautiful, I would wonder. When really the question was, did he not think me worthy?

 

And frankly, who gives a fuck if some so-not-worth-it-guy thinks me worthy or not?

 

But these are the questions. And because worth is a really, really heavy question and really, really hard struggle—until of course it becomes the lightest, best thing in the world (but that takes time and I’m not there yet)—but because worth is at the heart of what-this-here-life-is-all-about and thus LARGE AND TERRIFTYING I ask instead about beauty.

 

Did he not think me beautiful?

 

Am I not beautiful?

 

And I began to answer that question outside of myself, searching the eyes of men everywhere—at work, on the subway, in restaurants, in past-lovers. I began to cobble together an image of what I looked like based entirely off of what I read in the eyes of mostly strangers.

 

Which. Let me be frank. Is a terrible, TERRIBLE idea.

 

Because it meant the image of myself was distorted and inverted and tenuous and totally turned-around because 1. what the hell do I know about what any man sees when he looks at me and 2. what the hell do I/should I care?

 

I always get a little riled up when people give me a hard time for writing about the fact that I think life is hard. Because, I do, I do think LIFE IS HARD (and what rock are they living under that they think it isn’t? or maybe they’re just more skilled at it all; that’s a very real possibility).

 

But I have never once said that I don’t think it’s worth it.

 

IT IS SO WORTH IT. And worth it precisely because it is so hard.

 

Which means you have to keep showing up. (and sometimes–very often, actually–I forget this).

 

You have to constantly rush headlong at the things that scare you most. Which means you have to take risk after ever-loving risk. And you have to remember that the reward is in the leap itself, not in what comes of it. Because when you take risks you add value to your life. Or when you ask for what you need and what you want—no matter how hard or painful OR TERRIFYING it may be—you learn about your worth, about your extraordinary value (damn if Tom isn’t always right).

 

It’s about movement. It’s about constant movement.

 

I had forgotten. I had really, really forgotten.

 

I had forgotten that I have the ability to forgive myself. I ‘ve been so busy walking around with clouded eyes worrying about my value and beauty that I forgot that I get to forgive myself. For worrying about those things which are so not the point. For all those so-not-worth-it-guys. And for all those moments I’ve been so-not-worth-it myself. And I’d forgotten that I have a pair of polka-dotted pants that feel incredible to put on. Which is so stupid, I know. And yet, IT’S  NOT—it’s a thing. A REALLY, REALLY BIG THING. Because for more time than I care to admit I couldn’t bear to wear pants, couldn’t bear to exist in my own body. And now I can. And I do. And so yeah, I have a pair of polka-dotted pants that on a cool April night I wore out into this city that I don’t often like, but occasionally do and how did I forget that? That it’s occasionally really okay. And I had forgotten that for the past few years now I have been lucky enough to live in a small studio apartment that, though way too expensive, is in a neighborhood that is almost entirely magic. Forgotten that, every night, someone in this city is making music. Good, sweet, redemptive music and that I have a body to feel it.

 

I think you have to live life really hard, but with great levity. You have to be okay with clomping around and making a bit of noise and doing it all totally gracelessly. And when you go down really hard you have to figure out how to get up lighter than you were before. Levity and will and strength. I’m not particularly good at any of this. I’m still working on it.

 

I will never know what I look like. Reading my image in other people’s face, or in the mirror, or reflected back by a camera, I will never actually see what other people see when they look at me. Which is something my mind has a hard time sitting with it. Until I back up a bit and recognize that it’s part of a divine humor and yes, actually, it is a bit funny.

 

I felt really beautiful riding the train to work the other day. And then I thought, well, that really doesn’t matter does it? And not in a fatalist way, but in that way that’s like well, I lost six years of my life to an eating disorder and enough of that–it really doesn’t matter. And then I thought about it a bit more and I thought, well actually, yes, it does matter. But it matters because I feel valuable.

 

When I feel beautiful, I feel valuable. How’s that for a simple, pretty perfect equation?

 

Worth is the point. Always, always, always. And maybe I’m supposed to be better at all this by now, but I’m still learning and I’m okay with that.

 

I am really, really, REALLY okay with that. In this moment, at least. Tomorrow, who knows…

 

photos by Jason Baker

what i’m listening to | james vincent mcmorrow

Friday, April 11, 2014

i can’t stop listening to this one.

the wrong room.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

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image

I haven’t stopped thinking about this since I came across it last week.

 

Sam was in town this past weekend and she’s the sort of smart that’s makes me want to play–her vocabulary, her zingers–it all feels like a really fun, really satisfying game.

 

I’m in the right room when I’m with her.

 

When I told her this, she said–in typical Sam fashion–I’m glad that we’re in this room together. 

 

The thing about getting older is that things get clearer. Wants and needs and priorities and the engines in our chests solidify. But giving voice to these things isn’t always easy–the thing may be clear, but how to explain it, not.

 

And so there’s something about this notion of the wrong room that feels so spot on. Like, yeah, I want to be in the room with that person there. That person, not so much.

 

And it is clear in a way that doesn’t make apologies.

 

It’s a really comforting, actually, as I build my life, thinking about who I want to share that proverbial room with.

 

 

a blog manifesto

Friday, March 14, 2014

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“I am learning every day to allow the space between where I am and where I want to be to inspire me and not terrify me.” | Tracee Ellis Ross

 

I was twenty-two when I started blogging, nearly twenty-three. I was fresh out of college and for the first time totally unclear on how-to-live-my-life-and-live-it-well.

 

I was also three years into an eating disorder that saw me vacate my life.

 

Blogs were so new then. A sort of wild-west of the internet. It was such a niche portion of the population who read them. Or wrote them. Or even talked about them. No one was making money yet, not really. And certainly very few people began with that as the ultimate end.

 

There was something really joyous about blogging then (oh boy, do I sound old and crotchety or what?). The platform and the content were all still finding their footing. And, because of that, blogs were (or seemed to me) sort of deliciously imperfect.

 

And I needed that in my life. That joy, that delicious imperfection.

 

Very quickly, blogging became a lens through which I could see the world: the details, the absurdity, both the loneliness and loveliness of everyday life.

 

And it became a way to reach in the direction of the future at a time when my personal future felt very tenuous. I couldn’t imagine life beyond twenty-three, couldn’t imagine getting better, or growing up, or anything after.

 

There’s an Elizabeth Gilbert quote I think of often:

 

Someday you’re gonna look back on this moment of your life as such a sweet time of grieving. You’ll see that you were in mourning and your heart was broken, but your life was changing.

 

Some part of me knew that at twenty-three, ill as I was, my life was changing. And If could recognize it as it was happening, bear witness to it, then I could transform the most heartbreaking moments of my life into the most meaningful.

 

So very quickly the purpose of blogging, for me, became to document the in-between-ness of my life. To document this difficult, but important–and dare I say, sweet–time of becoming.

 

For the record, I realize I’m still in the in-between. But I feel a hell of a lot closer to one end than the other.

I didn’t know that I’d like writing so much—find so much meaning in it. Didn’t know I’d fall so hard for words and their endless variations.

 

To date, the English language has been the great-love-affair-of-my-life.

I like blogging. But I don’t know if I like what has become of it. Can I say that? I’m going to say that.

 

Let me explain.

 

It seems to me that as blogging has evolved it’s become far more commercial (as happens to all things), but what this means is that more and more blogs look them same, feel the same—similar content, similar interface, and a sort of homogenous cultural refrain: happiness as the ultimate end.

 

We are bombarded with images all day, every day—on television, the internet, in print magazines—that make the desirable life seem just beyond reach. Images that make us want things we have no use for. It’s a pretty simple formula actually: put something that has no immediate value to the consumer, next to something beautiful (the aesthetics of beauty having a higher value than almost anything else) and suddenly it becomes important, desirable.

 

The thing about blogs now is that they seem to be selling a way of life—one in which nothing bad happens. In which everyone is always cheery and smiling and dressed in impeccable (and expensive) clothes.

 

This is nothing new of course, we as a culture and country seem to have cornered the market on happily-ever-after. But the thing about blogs is we think of them as non-fiction. And that’s where it gets tricky. We mistake a very small, very edited slice of life as the whole of the thing.

 

And few things are as they seem. Images flatten, words distort, and photo filters enhance.

 

I like fashion blog as much as the next person, I really do. The pictures are like candy, immediately satisfying. But here’s what I want to know: who can really afford to wear Theory pants, carry a Chanel bag, and dress their arms in David Yurman jewelry day after day? Certainly, I can’t. And do I need to feel bad that I can’t?

 

It’s that second question I worry about—because that’s the question that sticks around longer than the immediate hit of pleasure. And that’s the question that, if I’m not paying attention, sort of chips away at my self–worth.

 

Perhaps other people don’t have the same experience.

 

But what if they do?

 

I understand that depicting total realism is impossible and not the point of blogging. I’ve heard time and time again bloggers explain that their corner of the internet is their space and therefore they have the right to choose what they share. But we don’t live in a vacuum. And shared content goes into the world and has an effect. Free speech is sort of a misnomer, isn’t it? Because it’s free to a point. There is always a cost–we just don’t always know what that cost is.

 

Of course I believe in personal responsibility and accountability—that we cannot entirely control how what we say is received. “Perception is reality” is one of those principles that drives me nuts because it’s such a lazy way of thinking—so unimaginative. And let’s be honest, you cannot reason with crazy. And if a crazy person perceives you as crazy, does that make you crazy? {A philosophical rabbit hole}.  But the thing is, much evidence exists to prove that the onslaught of doctored images in favor of “flawless” bodies is extremely damaging.

 

So what about “flawless” lives?

 

My deep, deep fear about the Real Housewives franchise is not how they portray women (thought I worry quite a lot about that as well) but that our constant exposure to such extreme amounts of plastic surgery will acclimate our eyes in a way that such altered faces will begin to look normal—and we will, in fact, begin to expect people to look that way.

 

So if all we see are snippets of seemingly easy, trouble-free lives, then will we begin to expect only those things for our own?

 

The appearance of a life is not a life. The appearance of happiness is not happiness.

 

 

In fact, often, the appearance of happiness comes at the expense of actually living.

 

 

I think the other danger is that when everything appears bright and cheery, we think that it must come easily. And more than that, that it should come easily. And we wrongly assume that because something is easy it is inherently better.

 

It is each person’s right to share what they choose. But when they then purposefully send only one aspect of their life into the world, photoshopped as it is, without a disclaimer, I’m not sure that that is a totally healthy thing.

 

For anyone.

 

There has to be some critical awareness brought to bear in this digital age.

 

My great wish is that we might all hold ourselves to a higher standard. Our words, our filtered images, and the proliferation of them into the world have consequences. And there needs to be some respect paid to that. Because let’s not pretend that the happy, picture-perfect-life is not the ideal platform for advertisers to sell their wares.

 

I took this blogging break to work on other things, but also to give myself some time to figure out if I wanted to continue.

 

And the thing is, I do. Because I actually quite love it. But for the last few years I’ve attempted to reconcile what I love about blogging with what has come to be expected from the medium. And I’m not sure I can.

 

Or that I need to.

 

But what I did feel like I needed to do was create a governing set of principles to remind me of what I’m doing and why I’m doing it.

 

 A Blog Manifesto

1. This is a writing blog. Not a lifestyle blog.

2. I do this because I love it and it has meaning for me (and goodness is it exciting and humbling when it has meaning for others) but if I stop loving it, I will stop doing it.

3. I will occasionally be abstract and private, but I will do my very best to never paint my life as something it is not.

4. This space is a part of my life, but only a part. If it ever gets in the way of living, then enough.

5. My purpose here is to document what has happened (and occasionally dream of what might be). I believe the moment I do something specifically for the purpose of blogging about it, it cheapens the experience and undermines the content.

6. I have no interest in distilling my life into a three-sentence-bio.

 7. I believe in women. I believe in women who speak up for themselves and ask for what they want and demand more out of life. I believe in a woman’s brand of intelligence and wit and grace. I think we need more of it in the world. I want to see more women in leadership positions, more women who aren’t afraid to ruffle a few feathers. And I believe because we live in a world that is tremendously connected, the onus is on each and every one of us to encourage the full realm of a woman’s potential.

8. I would love to say that I will blog every day. But it’s just not possible. There’s only one of me and I can’t generate that much worthy content. So I’ll blog when I can.

9. I’m not interested in more content for the sake of more content (or more clicks).

10. If you’re uninterested, move on, I’m not counting numbers.

11. And if you come here and then head elsewhere with the sole intent of gossiping amongst internet strangers…well, I just don’t get that. {And for the people who run and moderate those blogs, I’d like to ask what value you think you’re adding to the larger world?}.

12. Maybe that’s the question I want everyone to ask: what value are we adding?

13. I’ve met more than a few internet mavens whose lives seem far cooler and more vibrant online than they do in person. They have secured a niche and figured out what works for them and that’s great. But my goal is, and will always be, that if someone were to meet me offline they’d think me just as they imagined. I will very often—very often— fail at this, but it is nonetheless my intent.

14. I write the best version of myself, always. {But I do believe that’s a very different thing than writing a different and better version of myself}.

That’s what I got. And hopefully it’s still a little deliciously imperfect.

how Notting Hill (the movie) turned my day around

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

There’s a Miranda July quote that I’ve been thinking about for the last few days.

 

All I ever really want to know is how other people are making it through life—where do they put their body, hour by hour, and how do they cope inside of it.

 

It was on Thursday night that things sort of fell apart. And I use the term fell-apart loosely. I was out a bar with my very dearest friend and I didn’t have the proper credit card to pay the tab. It was the stupidest thing. The easiest fix. I simply had to find a debit machine, pull out some cash and that was it.

 

And yet.

 

And yet and yet it felt like the straw that broke the camel’s back and all of the sudden there I was, two months deep into a bad mood and only just waking up to it.

 

It’s been such a difficult winter here in New York. I haven’t wanted to admit it because I fear the long, sweltering days of summer and I’m pretty sure you don’t get to complain about both, but this winter has been really, really hard.

 

And then came today. This perfectly normal day at the end of a two-month-stretch-of-bad-mood whereupon I walked around thinking, I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe. I really can’t breathe, knowing all the wile that of course I could.

 

But sometimes just to be alive and human is a nearly crushing responsibility. Occasionally brilliant, but very often quite, quite difficult.

 

I have a stack of pages I’ve been carrying around with me for a month, information and research that I’m quite sure have much to do with both my future and my past. And on the back of one of the sheets, in my dark scrawl are two words: interoceptive sensitivity. Something Tom said to me recently. I’m going to butcher exactly what it is—mostly because it’s sort of beyond my comprehension—but my very cursory understanding is that, it is the notion that some people feel emotions in a more physical way than others.

 

And there I was walking around today thinking I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe because there’s this tightness in my chest and I know it’s a tangle of fear and nerves and self-doubt, but fuck if doesn’t feel like it might actually kill me.

 

And do other people feel this too? They must. Not everyone perhaps. But if there’s a medical term for it and a whole medical theory surrounding it, then surely I’m not alone.

 

It’s on days like this when sadness feels so very present and full that I wonder how everyone doesn’t see it. And then I worry that I’ve gotten too good at hiding it. Because what that really means is I’ve gotten too good at hiding everything. And hiding denotes a lack of courage.

 

And I am not courageous. I am really, really not courageous. I’ll cop to that.

 

Sometimes I’d like to walk around with a post-it on my back, a sort of disclaimer: Not as courageous as you think. Not unfriendly or unkind, so much as occasionally out-of-my-depth terrified.

 

And out-of-my-depth-terrified means I sometimes walk around working very, very hard to get breath into my lungs.

 

So yesterday’s lack of air meant that when I finally got on the subway home I tilted my chin down, my baseball cap—the one I wear when thinking about the shadow life I could have led—hiding my face, and I cried and I cried and I cried and wondered if other people find New York as tremendously difficult and unnerving and persistently lonely. And I wondered if others become frustrated with a subway that only gets more crowded as it hurtles toward Brooklyn. And if the sheer weight of so many strangers is upsetting to anyone else.

 

I used to be fat.

 

(How’s that for a segue way?).

 

I’m not anymore. I’m not skinny, but I’m also not eight, so that’s for the best. I’ve got hips and breasts and room for a baby if that day ever comes. But I am also tall and sometimes lithe and I am so very lucky to live in the body I live in.

 

I used to think that when I got un-fat everything would be easier. And some things are—a lot of things, actually. Getting up in the morning and letting my feet hit the ground. Getting dressed. Going to the doctor. Sitting on the subway and not worrying about my thighs touching the person next to me. The everyday things are easier. My overall quality of life so much better. I feel lighter in my skin. And some of this has much to do with being physically smaller, but also much to do with the really hard work of figuring out mental and physical health, and the journey that ensues.

 

But I’ll say this. In the body I’m in now—this very lucky body—I don’t feel any more beautiful standing in front of a man I find attractive. I am no more confident. No more self-assured. And I no longer get to blame my less-than-feelings on some extra fat, which leaves me feeling awfully exposed. Because all I’ve got is myself and the insecurities that I’m still wading through. And beauty is such a tricky thing because I don’t know how to trade in it—what’s the cash value of this particular commodity? People seem to think there is one, but I’m not so sure.

 

So there I was last night, riding the subway home, crying—in a mostly private way—my head spinning as I thought about love and how that’s sort of all there is—when everything fades away—that’s it, and if it’s so goddamn important then shouldn’t I being willing to risk more for it? But, then again, if I’d only ever lived in New York I’d be sure that no such thing as a-really-good-man actually existed. And as I’m thinking of all of this my thoughts land on Notting Hill.

 

The film.

 

And that really genius line that’s been quoted again and again, because it’s really as good as we think it is:

 

I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.

 

And Anna Scott says that and she is a fucking movie star. Like real-deal-top-of-her-game-MAMMOTH-OF-A-MOVIE-STAR. And she’s saying this to some daft, goofy, English bookseller. But isn’t that just the thing about love and the alchemy of affection, it levels the playing field!

 

It makes giants out of the people we adore.

 

What I mean is, when you’re really nuts about someone, they are more exciting, more powerful, more thrilling than anyone has ever been or ever will be and so who the hell cares who’s the movie star and who’s the bookseller? It’s hard to say I love you. Period. Full stop. Status and power and fame and wealth, and dare I say, beauty don’t even enter into. Because everyone has been whitewashed equal with the unparalleled force that is attraction. Affection.

 

I’m not making any sense.

 

I think, the thing is, I was walking around yesterday feeling really bad that I’m not able to smile more easily, or flirt more easily, or turn-soft-and-lovely more easily (as the expression goes), but if Anna Scott had difficulty with it, well then, maybe that’s okay. Maybe that’s just life. Or part of my particular experience with this particular life.

 

Maybe it’s just a part of who I am.

 

And yeah, okay, I get that Notting Hill is a movie. But I imagine whoever wrote it thought, I know this story, I’ve lived some version of this story. And I feel some need to tell this story. And that need alone validates the experience of it.

 

(Also, can we talk about how good Julia Roberts is that role? So simple and clear).

 

And I think the flipside of my point is that, everything in life can be going swimmingly—the perfect job, unlimited funds, men the world over talking about how bang-able you are (well, that’s not quite as good as we might think) and yet, none of these things make that ultimate leap of hey-I-like-you-do-you-like-me-check-yes-check-no any easier.

 

It’s like we’ve got these cups in our life. One for family, and one for friends, and one for work, and one for a love—and any one of these cups can be so full that it’s literally running over, but the part that runneth over doesn’t runneth over into any of the other cups. Excess work-juice doesn’t fill up an empty family cup, any more than an abundance of friendships can fill up an empty love cup.  Which is maddening and a little unfair, but probably, just as it should be.

 

And we’re all scared. I have to remember that. That, probably, the guy is scared too. (my metaphorical, somewhere-out-there-guy). Because the good ones usually are.

 

So I got off the train yesterday, got myself pizza, cursed that no grocer ever lets you finish actually checking out before calling the next guest over (which would NEVER happen in Texas), headed home to my small studio apartment and ended up entering the building at the same time as another young woman. And since I never see my neighbors and even if I do, no one in this city smiles much at eachother, and this young woman was so kind, which is to say, friendly, which is to say, she smiled and told me to have a good night.

 

And it helped. Sort of turned my day around. The unexpectedness of it. That it asked nothing in return.

 

And it reminded me of the weight of that very simple action.

 

Turn soft and lovely.

 

Which is to say, smile.

 

When you can.

whiskey and a look and what-might-have-been-said

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

 

I was so nervous.

 

Upon occasion I get so very nervous in social situations where I know people a little, but not enough.

 

The bar was near the entrance so I paused there—both hands on the wooden lip of the counter—an attempt to steady and ground. I tilted back on my heels, took in the space, immediately started chatting to the two men behind the counter—flirting in that way that has everything to do with charm and nothing to do with actually flirting.

 

Something strong, I requested.

 

Alright, one of the men half-grinned. Vodka based? Gin? Whiskey?

 

Whiskey.

                                                        

An old-fashioned? A Manhattan?

 

No. Just whiskey. Neat.

 

He rewarded me with a full grin and a gentle tilt of the chin up.

 

I had wooed him and won him and I knew it.

 

I’m not supposed to do this, but I’m going to pour from this bottle here, he said.  And I’ll place it off to the side for when you want some more.

 

I smiled in that way that sees my teeth grip tightly to the side of my lower lip.

 

I am a slow sipper but for whiskey. A drinker who never goes too far past tipsy.

 

But for whiskey.

 

Which is to say the events of the night are hazy and warm and maybe a bit embarrassing. But good too.

 

My eyes went searching for him. Standing in a small group, smiling and nodding and half-listening, my eyes went in search of him.

 

Found him across the room. Wearing a dark blue blazer and looking handsome as few men have any right to, enmeshed in his own small group.

 

His eyes on me.

 

It took me a moment. To know for sure. To feel his gaze and know it was leveled at me.

 

Because the truth of that felt very lucky.

 

When I was nineteen I fell in love with a man who would go on to become a movie star. We all sort of knew it would happen, which half-accounted for the attraction. And there was a night, all those many years ago, when in a large hall, filled with a very many people, the two of us spent the evening on opposite sides of the room, tethered by the same sort of constant awareness. When he finally walked past me, he looked at me in a way that prompted a girlfriend to say, I have never, ever been looked at like that.

 

It is one of my very favorite memories.

 

This was like that.

 

But better.

 

Because when this man—this man who will never become a movie star, but is handsome in a way that leaves me breathless—when he looks at me, it is delicious and unnerving, but filling as has never been. Because his gaze isn’t aware or calculated or a means to an end. It simply is what it is: a man who looks because he cannot not look.

 

You should be like magnets, someone said to me recently. And that’s sort of, precisely, exactly what this feels like.

 

Of course we didn’t speak. We got close. But we are made of the same thing, he and I. Of this, I am nearly certain. And we are both courageous, but only upon occasion, and only to a point. And we are cautious in that side-eyed, you-first sort of way.

 

It was as he left that he came up, his charcoal overcoat—the one he wears on special occasions—already on. Hello and goodbye, he said.

 

I grabbed his arm, above the elbow, my fingers both nervous and excited and nearly flailing. Don’t go, have another drink, I said, not knowing what else to say in place of You. Must. Not. Go. You simply cannot leave. And there we stood, frozen in position, for the next few minutes, me with my hand above his elbow, he with his coat on—saying a little, but not enough—a tug of war between wants and needs, practicality and whim, of what we both already knew, but couldn’t yet admit.

 

I left not long after. Sat on the crowded subway.  Closed my eyes and felt the motion of the train.

 

It was in a tunnel somewhere between Manhattan and Brooklyn that I remembered. And as soon as I did, the reality of it was gone, leaving behind nothing more than the trace scent of a half-formed memory. But I’m pretty sure that at some point, with his charcoal overcoat already on, and my hand just above his elbow, he told me I looked beautiful. And I believed him. Didn’t even need for him to say so, but was so glad that he did. Because to say so was a small leap, a risk.

 

It cost him something.

 

The thing is I don’t think I even took it in in that moment. Don’t know if I responded. Because in the chaos of trying to get him to stay and turning round for another drink and chatting with the people next to us and keeping my hand above his elbow and flirting in a way that is obvious but still private, those particular words got lost. Until that lone subway home, a quite moment, the chaos mostly done.

 

And off course I tend to not hear good things. Which is a failing of mine.

 

And for this man to say such a thing felt like an especially good thing.

 

Even now I wonder if I made it up. Invented it. After all there’s the issue of the whiskey. And even on my best days this is a man who tends to turn to mind inside-out-on-itself.

 

Because hell if I don’t like way his shirt comes un-tucked on the one side. Or how when he speaks it is with a kindness that feels full and round and uncommonly good.

 

I mean… what I mean is, hell if this isn’t a guy who isn’t way out of my league.

 

clarity

Sunday, March 2, 2014

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(I interrupt this blogging break, for a blog post…because why not?)

 

I was struck by the clarity of his image the first time we met. How very in-focus he felt. And how the nature of such clarity cast immediate aspersions over everything else.

 

As if everything had been ever so slightly out of focus and I hadn’t known. Until this man—this very handsome man with his sharp angles and neatly trimmed hair—stood in front of me.

 

But our first date was unmemorable and I walked away thinking, If that’s all this is, that’s okay.

 

The thing is, I am a sucker for a good story and the way we met felt like the start of a very good story. Chance encounter, locked eyes, all that nonsense. And so I emptied everything into that amorphous catch-all of in-service-of-a-good-story. And I glossed over the bad.

 

Like how at the end of our first date he didn’t offer to take my heavy bag as we walked away from the bar. Or how on our second date he complained about the table instead of simply asking to move. How his hand never, not once, went in search of my knee.

 

And how on our third date he ate his hamburger with a fork and a knife.

 

Let me explain.

 

I have this girlfriend Alisha who is one of the very smartest people I know (and I’ve known some smart people). But she’s smart in a bookish-meets-no-bullshit-way that is equal parts fascinating and unnerving. Alisha and I have a mutual friend who is married to a man who doesn’t like to get his feet dirty. Ever. I remember Alisha telling me about this and saying, Meg, a man with outdoor and indoor shoes isn’t going be great with the messier parts of sex. And let’s be honest, the messier parts are often the best.

 

So when he used his utensils to cut his burger and explained that he did so because he didn’t like to dirty his fingers, I thought of Alisha.

 

And how Alisha would say this portends not. good. things. And how Alisha would totally use the word portend.

 

But at twenty-seven, having never done it right before (as though that’s a thing) I thought, no need to sweat the small stuff—no need to worry that the small things actually point to the big things. Because what the hell do I know?

 

And so I went about it all a little bit differently. Chose not to worry so much. Practiced unfolding slower.

 

But there was no flutter. No sense of falling into something. And he was never so handsome as that first moment we met. And the person should become more handsome, no?

 

Thing is, the small things do point to the big things because there is no template for how to speak about the-really-big-fucking-things in this life. And sometimes everything else falls away and all we’re left with are small looks and small gestures and they should mean something.

 

It wasn’t all bad of course. Now I look back and think it must have been, but of course that’s untrue. Would’ve been easier if it was. Instead time passed quickly and we never ran out of things to say and upon occasion he would lean back in his chair and look at me like he could sit there forever.

 

Until he couldn’t. Until he became tentative and unresponsive and at a dinner party too far in he said about someone else, She’s thirty-two, I’d never date a thirty-two-year-old. And there I was twenty-eight wondering what the hell difference it made to a thirty-five-year-old man.

 

And holy hell if that wasn’t a different sort of clarity. More of the oh-so-he’s-an-asshole-variety.

 

And I was embarrassed. Both for him and by him.

 

I think back now to our first meeting . The clarity didn’t come so much from how handsome I found him as from how very present he seemed, like he was right there at the front of himself. And I was awed by that because I hardly ever am, if at all.

 

It took me far too long to realize it’s tremendously easy to live at the front of yourself if that’s all there is. And generosity, but only on your terms, has nothing to do with generosity and everything to do with control.

 

I’m so angry with him. But not so much with him as about him, about the actions and non-actions and experiences surrounding him.

 

There is a small list of men I owe a great debt to. Men who adored my body when I loathed it most. Men who revealed my beauty in the way their upper teeth caught their lower lips as I undressed. And the truth of their gazes pulled me across a very large, very deep chasm—one that separated understanding beauty from inhabiting it.

 

I know what it is to be ashamed of my feminine form. But until this man I didn’t know what it was to feel that shame in front of a person who claimed to adore me.

 

Didn’t know such a thing was possible.

 

Until I lay in his bed, wearing his t-shirt, and he had no interest in seeing what was beneath it.

 

And the experience of that took something from me. Made that space in which two people meet less safe. Made words less reliable.

 

And so I’ve been walking around feeling a little bit angry and a little bit resentful and a little bit less.

 

But then this week I thought about his hands.

 

And then I thought about my own.

 

And how there’s a bit of mess on mine.

 

And that realization makes everything easier.

 

Because I like a man who’ll go barefoot—prefer a guy who isn’t afraid of some dirt beneath the fingernails.

 

Life is messy—literally and otherwise. And to avoid the mess is to miss the point.

 

Ah. Okay. Perspective.

 

Clarity, at long last.

 

 

a blogging break

Monday, February 10, 2014

Meg_rough3

 

I started this blog not long after I graduated college–when blogging was still very much its own wild-west–a sort of uncharted territory where everything and anything was possible. It’s changed so much over the last five years. And I’ve changed so very much too.

 

I have been so lucky to have this space. So lucky to have such wonderful readers. So lucky to have so many people cheering me on and wishing me well and invested in how just how this thing will end. And holy shit, how will this thing end, you know?!

 

Life is good now. And there is a huge impulse to write–but to write something that is more of-a-piece, if you know what I mean. On my good days I’ve got maybe two hours worth of words in me and because of my limited time and resources I’m going to step away from blogging. But just for a bit.

 

Three months, maybe? Three months is my goal.

 

A little break. To write and regroup and experience life without the impetus to share so much and so often.

 

So let’s meet back here middle of May.

 

When I say I’m grateful for my readers, I’m not blowing smoke. I really am. In more ways than I’ll ever be able to say. So I hope you forgive me this absence. And hope that you’ll continue reading when I do return.

 

Until then, I leave you with 40 posts from days gone by (in no particular order)… just to tickle your fancy.

 

1. who i am

2. the kind of woman i want to be

3. these are the ways to love yourself

4. on the things they don’t teach you in school

5. south of 14th street

6. maison

7. perfect bodies, cellulite, and a little rebellion

8. next door//downtown

9. do it on the front stoop

10. on beauty

11. say yes. and yes. and yes again.

12. on finding ella

13. the asking

14. attraction + expectation

15. my two last words for you

16. the mystery of faith

17. infinities

18. not quite prom

19. on heartache

20. after a night of insomnia

21. i want…

22. so many questions

23. his fault

24. on roommates, and not having them

25. daydreaming on the train

26. the feeling of it

27. more faith

28. the-not-hello

29. on growing up

30. the subway note

31. forgiveness + the need to eat

32. the avett brothers | off switch magazine

33. what everyone ends up writing

34. a new age of lonely

35. the end of the thing

36. words and what needs to be said

37. regrets + wishes

38. paris explained

39. illumination

40. writing about the intangible

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until May…

on having my photo taken

Monday, February 10, 2014

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I have a tremendous fear of standing in front of a camera. It’s the last holdover of a time in my life in which the very notion of what-I-looked-like seemed so big and so beyond my control that I avoided cameras and mirrors and barely got out of bed in the morning. Now the fear has changed. It’s not nearly so big. It’s just that small pinch I get when I look at a photograph and think well-that’s-not-right-I-can’t-possibly-look-like-that. It’s so curious to me that we are the only people who never really know what we look like. We only ever see our image in reverse–reflected back to us. How fascinating and totally odd.

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On the Saturday that I was mean to be in Paris, but was not (which on a tangential note, while reading The Fault in Our Stars this second go round there’s a line where a character says, “It took me a sleeve of Girl Scout Thin Mints and forty minutes to get over that boy” which is so deliciously good and so exactly how I feel about the man behind my ill-fated-adventure) a friend from college called me up and said Let me take your photo–I’ll come to Brooklyn and I said yes because you get over your fears by facing them.

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Lydia was a dancer who followed her love to New Zealand where she first picked up a camera. It was so fun to meet after not having seen each other in a few years–after both having trudged through our own muck and come out the other side, better than we were before.

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I look at the images and I see my gummy smile and too-small-teeth. I see my forehead wrinkles and the way my eyes sometimes disappear and the strange line separating my under-eye-bags from my nose. I see all the things that I very often don’t like…but all together they aren’t so bad, you know? All together I can look now and think, Well, there’s a girl who made it through–who is imperfect, but happy and full of experiences and stories and memories that belong just to her.

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I’m always going to want the pictures that convey movement and history and language–images that embrace imperfections and flaws and the marrow of a life well-lived,  even, and especially, if that means they’re a little messy.

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lucky girl.

Monday, February 10, 2014

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Walking home from the grocery store tonight, a light dusting of snow coming down, I felt so tremendously lucky. New York has had so much snow this year–at least more than in recent years. And everyone is so very tired of it. But, can I let you in on a little secret? I’m not. I recognize that I don’t have to shovel anything or drive anywhere, so in that sense I’m in the lucky position that I get to love it–no strings attached. But it’s more than that. There’s something about snow and how it warms the air and makes everything feel clean, if only for a moment. It is a pause. A deep inhale. So while the world was inhaling tonight as I walked home, I couldn’t help but think just how lucky I am. Headed to an apartment I love. Where I would put flowers in water and place a pizza in the oven and pipe music through the small space with no one to tell me to turn it down.

 

It’s the small things. Always, the small things.

 

It’s having Saturday and Sunday off, always. It’s visiting places I know so well and seeing them through new eyes. It’s a pair of heels–nice heels–and how they make me feel. It’s revisiting an old book. It’s the event that is coffee, day after day, morning after morning. It’s making new friends and visiting with old.

 

It’s this moment in time. And knowing it won’t last forever. But giving thanks that I get it for as long as I do.