The Light In The Closet

lightinthecloset

He always leaves the light on in the closet.

When my boyfriend and I first moved from a barely livable studio apartment to a recently renovated one-bedroom in a prime Manhattan location, I was elated. I imagined a fresh start with less stress, more space, and a truly adult experience. Sometimes it’s hard to be an adult in a city so prohibitively expensive that you can be fifty-years-old without a penny in savings and a revolving door of college-aged roommates helping to make the rent on your barely-affordable-though-thankfully-still-rent-stabilized-apartment. As my friends across the country have invested in four-bedroom homes in small suburbs, gleeful as their equity increases, I will defensively argue it’s all about location and we are two blocks from Central Park. Even if our monthly rent could buy us a half-million dollar home elsewhere, we could never find an apartment to buy in this area for that price.

The initial excitement about our move was palpable and our plans embraced the smallest details of organization. I insisted he take the massive closet in the apartment, located in the hall. It’s huge for an NYC  apartment and could effectively house a twin bed. I remembered how his early morning schedule when he was working full time could be disruptive and this way he could get ready for work without interrupting my unpredictable sleep and work schedule. I also figured that it was a polite way of getting him to stow away a very masculine and somewhat hideous piece of furniture. I had never imagined that a temporary out-of-work situation would become so permanent that I would be the one making noise in the bedroom in preparation for early morning call times and late night returns while he slept.

Our new place began to feel tainted and no longer new. Bad habits on both our parts became a circuitous battle that we were too overwhelmed to address.  Instead of focusing on the little things that I loved most, our interactions became a series of anger-inducing episodes. He drank all my wine and I came home to an empty bottle. The peanut butter miraculously disappeared in a 24-hour timespan before I even tried it.  The dog still needed a walk. No cream left for my morning coffee. And the biggest insult of all — he kept forgetting to turn off the closet light.

At first I would say something upwards of five times a day.

“Dear, you left the light on again.”

“You keep forgetting to turn off the light!”

“Are we made of money? You’re running up the electric bill!” Surely that low-energy fluorescent light used in classrooms, prisons, and also his closet was costing a fortune. But when your loved one has been out of work so long and every penny feels like an ounce of gold, the stress becomes so much that you just explode:

“WHY THE FUCK IS THIS LIGHT STILL ON? I TOLD YOU A MILLION TIMES!”

I am now the irrational villain, the angry mom, the terrified girlfriend who has no idea how we are going to find our way out of this mess. The pressure of such an expensive apartment becoming my own… when he has to leave. Because we aren’t getting along and it feels any day we are going to shatter into a million pieces– pieces just waiting to be swept up into the drama and the misfortune that life has now become. The raging headlines about joblessness being low and the economy being  robust are adding to the torment when I lie awake next to a brilliant, hardworking, witty man with a law degree and a path of rejection becoming so long it feels like a road that never ends. I am used to the rejection given my chosen path in entertainment, rationalizing that a decade of life spent being often rejected and overlooked is just the way it is.

We come to the brink so often, as months of normalcy and mutual love are unbound by the next near-despair moment before another financial life preserver finds him. I think of the very early years in our relationship, when I would have a dry spell of bookings and he would have his reliable salary and schedule. I would stay in bed, wasting the morning in dread that I would not make something of my life. Drowning the hours in tabloid news and social media, I would take whatever distraction came along to keep me from further rejection. Yet now my empathy for his plight is clouded by sadness and anger and absolute terror. I cannot see through these smokestacks of rage.

Everyone is getting married around me, full of certainty or a self-fulfilling prophesy I have yet to master. Their relationships are new and they must not have experienced the lows yet, I keep hearing amidst my mind’s chatter. It will be better when we are out of this patch. It will feel like a beautiful inhalation after you have held your breath underwater for much longer than you should have. Scientifically it is just impossible for something to stay the same forever. It will not always be this hard.

And then one night he doesn’t come home on time. A message lost in the digital space causes me to panic. What if something happened in East Harlem, where he is doing a side gig to make money? My mind wanders to the very beginning, as it often does when I imagine a life without him. I think of how new and loving and supportive everything once was and how willing I was to take this chance with him. I go to the kitchen to get a glass of water, noting that his closet light is off. I am struck still as I imagine that light were to never come on again.

He returns home but I have already felt the loss. We go about our routines that are going to have to change for us to survive. But some may just stay the same. He leaves for the gym as I am returning from yoga and I look to his closet to see the light is on. I silently turn it off this time, vowing to never mention it again. From now on I will flick the switch without complaint and use it as an opportunity to love and appreciate that we are still here.

 

 

The Real Signs He Really Loves You Pt. 2

A four-year journey from the original, not-so-loving, “Top 16 Signs He REALLY Loves You

1. He shows up, consistently. He honors his word and cares about your happiness as it’s integral to his own.

2. He agrees to ride a 13-hour bus to Niagara Falls because you scored two tickets for 50-cents, even though he gets motion sickness and hates traveling.

3. When you’re terrified of a decision to get a puppy and have a freak-out moment over this dream (and responsibility) becoming real, he assuages your fears and helps you commit to the dream and even offers to help clean up every now and then.

4. He hates to dance in public, but spends two hours dancing and spinning you around the dance floor at your mother’s 50th birthday because it’s what you want (and meeting all your hick relatives takes away the threat of humiliation after already being labeled a “Metro-Sexshhoooouuuuhhl.”

5. He offers to make a salad for dinner, even if he’d rather country-fried steak and mashed potatoes.

6. He downplays the assholes in your life, mocking them to the point of muting the obsessive thoughts you couldn’t otherwise abandon.

7. He lets you cry or laugh in excess, even when it’s slightly annoying to him. 

8. He goes on the late night walk with the dog, or music show, or random party, even though he’d rather be at home, reading in bed.

9. Even when he finds himself in financial uncertainty, he courts you and makes you feel appreciated.

10. He lets you ramble about past men from time to time and doesn’t take it personally when you need to vent.

11. He sings the corniest love songs of the 70’s and 80’s, directing their sanguine messages to you every single day.

12. He wears the ridiculous t-shirts you give him without protest, if only just around the house.

13. He brushes your hair, even if he feels it goes against his bad-ass, masculine image and could be considered gay.

14. He sits through a c-rate horror flick or overpriced 3-D version of “A Christmas Carol” because it’s your turn to choose the film, even when it’s the last thing in the world he wants to see.

15. Everyone in his tight circle of family and friends remarks on how enamored he was after first meeting you.

16. He poses for photos when he hates being in front of the camera and you just have to capture your birthday brunch at Balthazar.

17. He may not say it often, but words aren’t needed to know his intention and feelings are legit.

The Real Signs He Really Loves You Pt. 1

Four years ago I wrote a sarcastic, eye-opening list of the “Top 16 Signs He REALLY Loves You” as a reaction and book-end to a seven-year romantic entanglement that left me empty, depleted, frantic, and foolish. It was the end of a passionate era of heartache for me with a man I had idolized and admired, who had no option but to fall painfully short of my expectations and desires. Everyday, new readers or returning bloggers read that list and I can only imagine the doubts they must be having to conduct a Google search for signs of love. It wouldn’t be the end of heartache in my twenties, and I should’ve run just as fast from the next fellow who came along, greatly admiring the honesty and awareness in that loveless list of signs. He bonded over my heartbroken, torrid blogs with their finger-pointing and blatancy until the day came when he revealed his self-centered, asshole nature and became my blog-venting target. Suddenly the man who longed for some attention, wanted nothing of it, positive or negative, fearing any connection to me would foul his impulsive political ambitions. And all the while I dealt with cowardice and foppish actions betraying proclamations of dedication from weak men, there was a dude who became a dear friend and pen pal to me. We vented and emailed of our dating adventures and I counted myself lucky to have another new friend, as I was always a magnet for great male friends and poor male lovers. But never once did I allow myself to consider anything further would develop, as we lived in opposite sides of the country and long-distance entanglements had left me unhinged from years of false hopes that something would work out in similar setups. Yet, here, I ended up in a healthy relationship approaching the two-year mark of dating.

This past weekend I found myself sucked into two romantic-dramedies, “Love and Other Drugs” and “No Strings Attached.” They provided a reflection, a look into two beautiful 20-something girls who were opposed to being labeled a girlfriend, called “darling” or “baby,” and kept themselves guarded and protected, all the while these loyal, grounded, loving men pursued them. It caused me to reflect on the journey to here and the sheer determination of the man who has won my heart. His modesty and shyness would singlehandedly erase this blog from existence and have most often kept him out of my blog-status updates- and any other Internet musings. Since we live together in a matchbox-sized apartment, I’m sure the last thing he needs is more of me, so perhaps his own blog-avoidance can spare him the shades of red his face would turn uncovering this blog. Lately I’ve teased that he never wrote me a love letter and needs to do so. And then I began to pull up past emails and holiday cards, speckled with words of dedication and determination, honesty and self-deprecation, and an absolute authenticity that compromised his ego or pride for the long-lost art of being direct and sincere. This dude made it clear from the start that he was smitten and respected me and from the utterances of those words, every single action aligned with his verbose correspondence. And it was only in time that for the first in my life that a man meant what he said and did not shy away from my coldness and detachment, or my trepidation or battle wounds from my tumultuous past. At the time I didn’t register the intent, since every other fool had stepped up to the plate, promised a rose garden, and delivered a sewage treatment plant. 

When we first met I was dressed in a white lab coat, working at a Legal Tech conference, nursing wounds from a recent “break off” (not even substantial enough to qualify as a “break-up”) and was hired to encourage vendors to come up to a private suite to be wined and dined while my bosses pitched their services. Apparently the lab coats symbolized that we could fix the problems with legal service providers. It made little sense. The job was as dreadful as could be, with long shifts and a neurotic client. But this one guy and his colleagues kept returning, for what I presumed to be the free beer and legs of lamb.

A heavy set, boisterous theatre actress sporting the same ridiculous lab coat pulled me aside and said, “That guy is really into you. That’s why he keeps coming back, but you can have him. He’s too perfect for me and looks like a Ken doll.” I just laughed, overtired and turned down the numerous offers to grab drinks after the show from this Ken doll. He resided in Austin, and as I was without a place to stay for the upcoming South by Southwest festival, I inquired about crashing at his place in lieu of the shady highway motel I inevitably ended up at. Because in my direct and naive way, I had learned it’s easy to crash at a nice dude’s place and not be taken advantage of. He was hesitant, as he was concerned he may be more seriously involved with someone back home by the time I arrived and that would complicate his life. I didn’t care about that. I just wanted to crash in one of the two bedrooms his great house allegedly contained. 

We never connected until almost a year later, while he was visiting his dad in New York for the holidays, newly single just as a week after I was recovering from yet another “break-off” that had me on my knees in despair, as it was the last drop before the glass completely overflowed. The best answer was to go on a date with someone attractive, funny, and new. We had a night of dinner, drinks and bar-hopping, and side-splitting laughter that left me in a pleasant (for once) pain the following day. And then we returned to our normal lives, serial dating and detailing our adventures in long-winded emails. He returned a few months later for the same legal conference and thanks to a dreadful economy, I was spared sporting a lab coat and painfully boring hours at the show. But every night he would call and invite himself over, shameless in insisting that we spend time together and go out. His candor was welcome and by his fifth and final night in town, I had to abstain from seeing him and he promised (and lived up to it just once) that he wouldn’t call me. I was incredibly fearful that another night would make it very hard for me to say goodbye. We continued to touch base, and not a month later he was laid off from his corporate job and took to being a rambling gambler in Texas, playing poker and regaling me with his exploits, affairs, and occasional bouts of loneliness. I continued to serial date, from rich older eccentrics to younger, optimistic chaps, promising myself I would never tie myself down again (and secretly admitting that I had always wanted a strong relationship). And then in August he invited me to spend a week with him on Fire Island, to provide the sole female diversion from the gay crowds that stayed at his father’s B&B. 

We spent five days in perfect weather on the beach, my most loved earthly pleasure, and he continued to tease me about breaking his father’s heart, who insisted that his son should be with me but that he felt he could never have a girl like me. Once again it was very hard for me to say goodbye, knowing how many broken hearts amounted from temporary goodbyes that turned into forever goodbyes with the shift of a wind. The experience was too much like deja vu, here I was falling for yet another man who lived far away and was seemingly in no place to be in a relationship with me. And then I received an email and with certainty he declared he would be moving to New York and to not feel any pressure that he was doing it for me or would want a relationship. Of course this email was subsequently (and nearly immediately) followed by his determination to want me to solely date him and be his girlfriend. In the four months that followed, with my bitchy code of self-protection, he consistently showed up and patiently (sometimes impatiently) let me be myself until I was ready. We’ve been together ever since.

It’s of late, that the wholeness of this relationship has begun to make it’s impact on me. Relationships have their own tides, ebbing and flowing in ways we may not understand, but lately I am awash with appreciation and love for what I have in my life. I have fought my internal battles, disappointed my ambition and drive have taken a backseat to living in the moment and acknowledging the beauty in the simple and small. But with this has come an internal glow and happiness, a sense of fulfillment that may, at the end of this life, carry more weight than what I once thought should matter the most: career, fame, and fortune. I understand the fragility of relationships and the ever-changing desires and motion in the modern world. I recognize that nothing will necessarily last forever and we can’t always be certain of longevity. But even still, this time in my life has resonated that even though relationships may be fleeting, self-worth doesn’t have to be. And after the blessing I have been given with such a great man, no matter how life may twist and turn, I will never be sucked into the tornado of sacrifice with no return as I once was. That is sweet clarity.

And as an addendum, thank God I didn’t end up with any one of those assholes that chipped away at my wild heart. The journey was worth it’s current pay-off.

 

Accountability, Where Are You?

I’ve been left with a bad taste in my mouth for the past few days and try as I may to cover it with a nice cold Irish stout, the sense remains. This past weekend I was essentially hounded by someone trying to issue a gag order. Artists don’t like to be gagged. Nor do Americans as far as I know. In today’s landscape of a digital world, the international community has replicated small town America in that no one has a private life and any of their secrets can be streamed across the world with a quick click on a mouse pad. Instead of trying to photoshop one’s life into a squeaky-clean image, I’d imagine it makes far more sense to live an ethical life. Instead of putting on a show of being a “good person,” why not actually be that good person? Since writing a memoir at the age of 18, I know what it’s like to be in the public with my life, if only on a small scale. I recall being in a Media class in college and thrilled that privacy could dissolve because it just might mean people feel less free to be lousy in their treatment of others. It was a naively optimistic hope at best.

Today my vitriol was unleashed in lyrics about a man who is destined to fall. He may place the blame on everything around him, but this time it is his “call to fall.” I’m not a stranger to literary figures and actual individuals who are ready to point their finger at others when self-destruction is their personal super highway in life. I’m glad to be a songwriter because without an outlet this insurmountable disgust and anger could have amounted in something spiteful. Something that all my friends and family members felt he deserved.

It may be highly egoic and it reaches back to when I was at least 4 or 5 but I absolutely hate to be told what to do. I hate it. I’ve always valued my own capacity to make reasonable decisions. And being told what to do simply makes me want to do the complete opposite, particularly when it’s by someone issuing orders solely for his own gain. I’m not sure a scapegoat is ever needed if you’re living an authentic life. Because you would just accept- it is what it is.

Although I abstained from commenting about this individual, on the basis of my own rationale and not the implied gag order, I saw how quickly the public sees through bullshit anyway. I know we all may look to our neighbors and the population as a whole and think, “Wow, what a bunch of morons.” But, honestly, when it comes down to it- I think most of us can spot a phony.

A Range of Emotions

I thought that there is a limited range of emotions. That by a certain point in our lives, we’ve felt everything from sadness or joy or madness or fulfillment or loss and they come to us in varying degrees of intensity. I didn’t think it was possible to feel something new and undefined. Tonight I’m feeling a combination of so many things, but though one would think loss would incur stress or longing, I just feel present. I fell in love with someone at the wrong time, the wrong place in our lives, and it drove me mad to not have it reciprocated. There were trips and gifts and support for my career, but inconsistent. I couldn’t develop a level of trust in any of it.

After an argument last week, stressful but direct, I said things that were hurtful. But what hurt the most is that they were true to me. Maybe I’ve been too judgmental on what a friend should be, what the essentials are. When you add love to the mix, it gets even muddier when only one of the two  actually feels it. I spent most of my late teens and early twenties sticking around, showing constantly how witty or how loyal or how good I was. Emotionally, I was left raw and unattended. I used to think even the wounded deserve a chance to fall in love, that it somehow wasn’t enough reason for me to walk away.

I tried this time, never expecting to fall for someone I truly could not stand early on. But underneath the neurosis and baggage, behind the pain and wounds, I saw the hope and drive he had to be someone good. I fell in love with the essence of him. And while he’s perpetuated that we cut ties forever, I feel nothing but love and compassion and hope for him. Maybe growing older allows us to accept things with more grace. Maybe a person takes so much heartache in one lifetime and the capacity to endure more just dissipates any potential for more disappointment. But this time, I just don’t feel disappointed or regret or unhappy with my decisions. I followed my heart and instincts all the way and I couldn’t sweep my feelings away anymore.

I just wish him love.

Relationship Advice

Through a referral from my own “top 16 signs he really loves you” I came across a site of relationship advice. A few weeks ago I was in Barnes and Noble before heading to a concert. It was a Friday night and I was in the Human Sexuality department, researching my current interest in Taoism and sex. Next to me was the “Relationships” section, which is the premiere hook-up spot for black dudes. Not one, not two… but three of these guys came up to me with a sob story, one surely had a Visine tear in his eye, as they asked for recommendations to overcome their heartache and any books I could suggest. Each time I’d flash the title of the book I was reading, from “Urban Tantra” to the “Multiorgasmic Man” and declare, “I don’t read that relationship crap. I’m interested in sex.” One by one they shied away. The last guy declared behind a smirk, “I tried that and it hurts!”

While the pick-up attempts were admirable but unsuccessful, my consumption of relationship material is apparently a lie. Somehow my blog piece was tied to a search that offered relationship advice and I read a few articles to keep up with the competition. I think they were more heartfelt and kind, but the following paragraph sent me into guffaws. Maybe because the example seemed quite hyperbolic and unrealistic yet I somehow fit into it:

The first relationship compatibility element is: How much uncertainty
can you each live with?  That may sound like a strange question, but it
is fundamental to issues such as handling of money and budgets, and how
you bring up the children if you have any. If one of you favours a
steady job with a reliable pension scheme, and it’s got to be fish on
Fridays, you aren’t going to get on too well with a freelancing, bungee
jumping aspiring pop star, are you?

 Just when I was about to schedule a bungee jumping escapade.

To all you homeboys that want some advice (and to not pick up on the seemingly vulnerable white chick in the relationships aisle), I recommend the following links-

http://ezinearticles.com/?Relationship-Compatibility—How-to-Be-Sure-Youve-Got-It&id=1327764