Sexless in the City

Sometimes reading romance novels doesn’t quite prepare you for a love life...

For this 30-year-old urbanite, love is always a misadventure: The Harvard Lickwit, Hippie the Groper, the 5% Man, and the Ad Weasel. These and many other men wander in and out of her life — but never her bed.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

December contest winners

Sorry for the delay on caption verdicts, dahlings, but congratulate your week 1 and week 2 winners (photos paired with their winning captions).

Week 1, Kristen
Winning caption: Relationships are like sweaters. Pull one thread, and it all comes unraveled.
Contest standing: 2-2, VJ; advances to finals.

Week 2, Brent
Winning caption: Up with the zipper, down with the light!
Contest standing: 1-all, Rob, Charissa

Blog Reader World Series Contest standings as of Dec. 31: Kristen-VJ, 2-2. Rob, Charissa and Brent are tied at 1-all, so Kristen and VJ will go to the finals for our first-ever male-female showdown. Details of the final competition coming early in the New Year.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Voodoo love

I used to think there were three main ways you get over someone (other than “getting under someone else,” as the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies once advised): 1) the illusion you’re attracted to is destroyed, 2) the other person moves on with someone else (the more seriously the better), 3) someone better than that person comes along.

In the case of an inveterate piner, the enfevered one works with crushes or relationships like ingredients in a recipe for love — providing, of course, most or all the energy needed for “success” (akin to beating whipping cream till it becomes butter or over-kneading a pie crust so it gets quite tough). Abandoning the cooking project thus happens when either a) it turns out the ingredient you thought would work isn’t really what you needed at all — say, salt instead of sugar; b) someone else lays claim to that ingredient before you get to use it (when your roommate drinks all the beer, for instance), or c) you learn from a cooking show that your oil of choice is all wrong for the recipe you’ve been trying to make.

But what if none of those three things happen? Your ingredients are appropriate (compatibility’s just as good you as thought), your supply is untouched (the person stays single) and no cooking show disputes your fat of choice in this recipe (no better prospect comes along). What then? Is the inveterate piner doomed to a life of failure in the kitchen — at least where making love’s concerned?

Perhaps, if our piner is a committed masochist. But I’m starting to think our piner/cook may have a fourth way out. Which involves not a change in status, supply, or value of the “ingredients,” but one’s entire approach to cooking … where love’s concerned.

After all, does not the perspective I’ve so far described sound a bit like voodoo? Such a person surely stops just short of whipping up potions. But real relationships, real love aren’t so much akin to a science experiment (though there’s hopefully chemistry); they’re more like family potlucks. Which sometimes come together in a great marriage of food and wine but sometimes result in a surfeit of chocolates or potato dishes (ask me about Christmas eats this week!). Either way, it’s a joint effort. And that way, whether cook or host or both, all parties involved ideally have plenty of time to enjoy the party and the other guests.

But try making love all on your own and it’s exhausting business. When you finally emerge from the kitchen, throwing in the towel on this one, it feels a bit like throwing off the chains of a self-imposed sabbatical in slavery. Or as David Wilcox puts it:
Love, true love
I can feel it when I’m high above
but I fall, that’s all
I’m your human cannonball

Always dreamed of flyin’
and now the dream comes true
I’m not afraid of dyin’
so I will fall for you, all for you, baby
This is your big top, baby
Yeah you’ve got all your clowns
around it’s true
Why are you just smilin’ at me fallin’
Oh maybe this is keeping you amused


The sound comes ’round
now I wake up
with my ear to the ground
I rise surprised
so this is how a fool gets wise, oh

I’m gonna leave
your three-ring-circus
I was a fool to fall
I’m gonna leave
your three-ring-circus
your human cannonball
Not everyone has to be a cook in life, and when it comes to love you can’t make a relationship on your own. The only thing you can control is what you bring to the potluck or (if you’re hosting), the condition that your home is in. You can invite the guests, but you can’t control who pencils you in. Sure, this kind of love is much more uncertain and can’t be had on demand, but it’s also much more human and less exhausting than the voodoo cooking approach.

Happy new year …

Friday, December 23, 2005

Love like malaria

Happy Christmas Eve and Christmas to you all ... Sorry today’s blog post is so late in arriving. Yesterday was unexpectedly full of errands. First I was just supposed to be hanging with my sister-in-law in the afternoon and evening, then we had to trek all over Tempe and a Honeywell parking lot on a mission I won’t bore you with. But it turned out wasting gas on Warner Road — in search of the credit union then FedEx — was nothing compared to the adventures yet to come. Nor was downing a pint at Irish Pub the night before, or revisiting the coffee shop from my one date with the Winner.

The plan was that, after wrapping my business meetings and hiring paperwork in Tempe (where I’m now employed by my alma mater in a 20 hour/week writing job I can almost pay all minimal bills on — woohoo!), I’d hang out with the sister-in-law (in town for a summer-job interview), then take a shuttle down Tucson way for sibling bonding with her husband, Deputy Bro. He didn’t have days off till Saturday, when I leave for California, but his shift was supposed to end in time to pick me from the gas-station drop-off for a brief visit squeezed around his work schedule.

That was the plan, anyway. But sometime last night, Bro got pulled into a fracas that made the front page of the local daily paper today. Which meant much paperwork, which meant delays. A stranger wound up driving me to Bro’s house (since he couldn’t haul me in his squad car, and the gas station closed at midnight for the holiday), Bro driving behind in his Crown Vic.

Once here, he pulled me into the bedroom for a 30-second lesson on how to use the handgun he keeps beside the bed (because, you know, clearly the one civilian child in the family would think to use a gun if facing a prowler), then headed back to work for two more hours with his paperwork. Leaving me with his crazy dogs.

Anna Broadway, dog-sitter
They’re cute and friendly as all get out, but the problem is, water gets out too — when the one gets drinks from their little water bowl. Hence half-dollar sized drips all over the cement floor. But the backyard's all dust and they like to jump, so when they've had a little run around the yard, come back inside to get a drink then hop up to greet you, the newly formed mud gloms onto your jeans as if it too is trying to escape the terrors.

Last night they wouldn’t leave me alone once I’d bedded down on the couch. If it weren’t bad enough that Bro had left his loaded (but empty-chambered) rifle propped against the backside of the couch that I was sleeping on, I had to fend off the eager-licking dogs three times last night. Any time this morning they thought they saw me stir from sleep they’d rush in to greet me or maybe try to lick me from the couch that’s normally their bed.

This afternoon I finally escaped for a coffee at the junk joint Sister-in-Law had recommended. Though I had given the dogs a session in the backyard, I forgot to shut the bathroom door. Upon return, I found a trail of soggy kleenex bits and other debris from the trash. When I made a beer run later this evening, they’d eaten the feet and legs off some stockings of mine.

So, really, I haven’t had time to blog, much less meet men. The good news is, I’ll rendesvous with the folks and Sis in Cali, when their roadtrip takes them north, so if I meet any hot men on New Year’s, Dad will be around to do first-hand vetting.

The fever that never quits
What’s that you say? I sound a trifle delusional? Well I am after all recovering from what College Girlfriend (my host the early part of this week) has declared my worst pine ever. She should know. She was there for my first musician crush (at which I should sworn off creative men for good, father resemblances be damned), the Winner saga, and bits and pieces of everything in between. Bad. And yet also shocking that her friendship should have such fortitude. Wasn’t always that the girls I thought were cool would be my friends; in childhood most friends I sought after rejected me. Now it’s just the men.

But really, if my pines are getting worse, it must be a sign love is just not like malaria but chicken pox as well — the older you get, the worse the bouts. This time it’s clearly in the bloodstream for just when all seems well — the fever is gone and mind restored — a flameout occurs in which my head takes off for another four hours in situ febrile. I suppose I shouldn’t be so shocked at this. When I went to India, my first round of malaria meds got stolen from my photo locker. If only it were that easy to get and replace a prescription for my heart ... So far I’ve been on an over-the-counter routine, buying clothes and CDs and chocolate and cards and, well, generally shopping every favorite old haunt I stumble across. At least I’ve got B.B. waiting to give me a taste of the blues when I reach California; an Amazon order awaits at my aunt’s.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Contest, week 2

Sorry for such a delay on the second picture, dahlings. Much traveling and other work-related business. I am happy (if somewhat sheepish) to report, however, I managed to exit the city some 6 hours before the transit strike. No “bone-chilling” commute for me; Arizona today has highs in the mid-70s!

Coming later today (if all goes well), a full-length blog post: Love like malaria.


Friday, December 09, 2005

Some girls aim too high, some girls cash out low

But really, I don’t intend to rewrite the Stones. At least not today. I will confess to being amidst a Mick jag, though. And one thing I like about the Stones — though I like the Beatles too — is that they seem to have more truth dropped in amidst the dirty swagger and driving licks than did the Four. Maybe it’s ’cause they absorbed the blues more deeply. I mean, say what you will, but “All you need is love” sounds trite and impotent soon enough, while “You can’t always get what you want (but you get what you need)” still has the power to needle even once its ecstatic finish no longer makes your feet come to (and frankly I’m not sure any Beatles line quite beats, “I ran 20 red lights in His honor”).

It’s truth like that I see Blogfather slowly recognizing. His latest Nondating Life post, for instance, describes his recognition that too much of the man-whore life can be a bad thing. While it might seem to be the pursuit of all a man wants, it may not provide — may even disrupt attaining — the things he really needs. One rarely reaches realizations like this very readily or without plenty mishaps and regrets. But for me there’ve been a lot of such revelations lately — perhaps since I don’t spend much time in bars these days.

At first you have to notice that the water of your life is murky with different colors — some of which you can explain, some which you can’t. But gradually if you let it and you’re watching, some clod of dye you didn’t know was in there bobs to the surface where you can break it up to intensify the color, or fish it out and discard it. Life-water isn’t stagnant: though dyes may take their time to fade away, the stain of lies can surely pale — just as can truth, if you reject it. Lately I’ve been tossing lots of clods so I am eager to see how the water color changes. Long-time readers may even have noticed fading hues themselves. It started with the idea that short-term decisions (and consumptions) did not affect things in the long-term. But as anyone inclined to holiday nibbling knows well, short-term truffles here and fruitcakes there can lead to long-term pounds caked on defiantly (bear in mind I speak as one who once weighed 40-45 pounds more than I do now). And so I realized I might be slowly flirting my way to spinsterhood. I cut out dating the freaked-by-Jesus and settled in to see what sort of Jesus freak awaited.

But that did not curtail habitual pining — which begs the question, why choose dreaming over reality? A long time I thought I was left to merely pining for the “good” men since they never liked me back, while only those wrong for me pursued. How could I help that? Then I found Alain de Botton’s chapter on love as romantic Marxism:
We fall in love because we long to escape from ourselves with someone as beautiful, intelligent and witty as we are ugly, stupid, and dull. But what if such a perfect being should one day turn around and decide they will love us back? We can only be somewhat shocked — how can they be as wonderful as we had hoped when they have the bad taste to approve of someone like us? ...

Perhaps the origins of a certain kind of love lie in an impulse to escape ourselves and our weaknesses by an amorous alliance with the beautiful or the powerful — God, the club, Her/Him. But if the beloved loves us back [if God answers our prayer, if membership is extended], we are forced to return to ourselves and are hence reminded of the things that had driven us into love in the first place. Perhaps it was not love we wanted after all; perhaps it was simply someone in whom to believe ... (On Love, p. 53, 59)
Aha! So while I thought I believed in God as what was most beautiful, good and true, I more believed in sex and marriage to fill my need and save me from my emptiness. But de Botton goes on:
Marxists feel their core self to be so deeply unacceptable that intimacy will necessarily reveal them to be charlatans ... Though from a position of unrequited love they long to see their love returned, Marxists would unconsciously prefer to see their dreams remain in the realm of fantasy. (p. 59-60)
And this the pining/pursuit split reinforced. It was as if men saw just one of either two Broadway profiles: bright, sexy knitwit who bakes a mean pie (whom they then pursued), or too-needy woman a nightmare to trust (whom they swiftly shunned). The truth, of course, is that most women are a combination: talent and brokenness, beauty and need. About which most of us are myopic one of two ways: either we think too much of our strengths (as Blogfather rightly castigated some months back), or we’re so consumed with need we think a need partly filled with an otherwise wrong-for-us man is better than a need unfilled at all (by a man, anyway). But truthfully, I don’t think singleness itself is really so bad on a moment-by-moment basis; it’s the fear that somehow by consenting to it now you indicate a proclivity for it — a fondness, even — which might persuade the love gods to just leave you here forever since you complain less. That is a lot of rot which, once you get past it and if you have a healthy circle of good friends — single and married alike — accounts for most of the misery singleness supposedly contains.

So while I realize it’s a bit early to be trotting out resolutions, here’s mine: to be both humble about my brokenness and weaknesses, and confident enough in who I am to trust that if I’m meant to have a husband, he will be someone who pursues despite parental grilling and despite the times my tongue’s too sharp or I too dull and needy. Because, doggone it, I’m good enough (though broken) and smart enough (though vain) ... and some men actually like me! Well, you get the idea. ;)

And for you, dear readers, I hope this is a season and year in which you have the courage to toss out some of the lies you’ve been living out of. See what truth is like. At first you may feel colder without the natural coat the fat of those lies gave you, but what warms us up can often weigh us down. Me, I wouldn’t trade shivering as a skinny girl for one second of the warmth and grief my former padding gave me.

A chance to give back
Finally ... some of you may remember the Love > Revenge party I mentioned a few weeks back. Well, it turns out the money Cosmo donated on our behalf is helping send a Louisiana middle school girls’ dance team to state competition! Otherwise they couldn’t have afforded to do so. If you would like to help further defray their costs (so far covered by their coach), or send along some fun gift you think 10 girls could use (10 bottles of nail polish, maybe), make a donation using the Paypal button below, designating your gift as for the dance team, or email me for the address to which you can send your material gift. I’ll send all monetary gifts their way.

Don’t forget to submit your contest captions!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

December contest, week 1

Contestants, your challenge: Devise a creative caption relating this swank photophone pic to Anna’s life. I know it might seem a stretch ... but that’s why it’s creative! It’s not like Poster Boy won last year’s BRWS trophy for nothing. Which reminds me: we will have find a new trophy this year, alas. Turns out somehow a couch got dropped on PB’s precious purity massager ... which might render him once again vulnerable to backrubs and DTRs alike.

Suggestions on this year’s trophy? Maybe I’ll pick something up in Arizona or Cali during my holidays.

One week to get your captions in, so don’t delay.

Monday, December 05, 2005

50,000 visitors!

Thanks for giving this blog such a readership in 19 short months. :)

Friday, December 02, 2005

Tunes for the rueful and wiser

Last night my soon-to-be former roommate and I were discussing men and music. “You need to be listening to the blues,” I advised. She looked dubious for a moment. “Not the ‘throw myself on the train-tracks’ blues,” I hastened to clarify. Then she nodded and remarked that actually, yes, she had been listening to the blues a lot at work — and enjoying them.

There’s something about that music form that strips away a lot of the crap that wraps our heads in cotton, leaving hearts all naked and blind (in love). Which is a contrast to jazz, I’ve realized. Not all jazz — not the sense in which Blue Train yesterday made me long for a larger living room so I could turn up the volume and fill the place with such purity of sound. That other jazz, the songbook kind. The too-short (maybe too vast?) catalog of odes and paeons to love and the beloved. Some people pull it off so you don’t gag — sometimes I’m really quite smitten, and it taps embarrassing longings. Diana Krall mostly makes it work: she’s just pulling a lounge-singer act, see, and doing her job quite well.

But others ... Well, let’s just say a night not long ago I was trying to do my work at the coffee shop when this jazz-songbook album started. The woman was no Nina and while it wasn’t as bad as Kenny G or Josh Groban I realized by the third or fourth song she’d pretty much cobbled together Krall’s repertoire, though singing it closer to the earnest heart of romantic mysticism. Not that the singing was so bad, but hearing such songs sung like that I almost felt continued listening could further damage my soul. This is what got me in this fix to begin with!

If such jazz gets you there — to wistful, inchoate longings for the one relationship you’re secretly sure will eclipse any pleasures a heaven could offer — it’s blues that take you back. The blues of Etta James, Robert Cray, B.B. King and countless others who strip the crap away right down to rejected love and foolish lust and fickle folly in general. Today’s Spooning Fork though musically closer to jazz has more of the wisdom of such blues.

Stitched Up’ from Possibilities
John’s got a problem, it seems — the club from which he’s singing is full of beautiful women, one of whom he woulda made a play for, back in the day. Seems she wasn’t at all opposed to it — may have even said his name, implying interest. But he can’t be sure.

And in any case, our boy’s not the same chap who once would have fallen for such a “flawless” girl. He had to walk away. Given her beauty, “Who’s to say she’s single, who’s to say she’s on her own? Girls like that don’t sleep alone.” He’s sure not the first one to think that. And if he’s not the first, he “sure won’t be the last” to spend his whole life lookin’ behind his back. And he don’t think he’s up for that.

No, a woman like that would stitch him up, string him out, trap him in, lock him down — basically, deprive him of his mind.

I reckon I know the type men have in mind when they sing a song like that. For women it’s the musicians, the artists, the men of charm, of wit, charisma ... We can spend years falling and falling and falling again for the many-splendored men slightly out of our league but close enough (or kind enough) we imagine the love-drug fix they would supply is attainable, sustainable. “Love drug” is my cousin’s phrase, actually. We were talking about the sort of comes-with-jumper-cables man each of us has spent many a long year pining for. Which she described as providing an almost-chemical fix.

Sure, liking them may have felt true to yearning and desire — may have even felt demonstrative of serious endurance — but the truth is, men who spark women’s hearts easily tend to spark many a heart that way, as John says. So fortitude or folly, which is it? Is such an explosive charge worth all the other groupies and hopeful ones in his entourage? As far as I’m concerned, the benefits of a man who sparks you deep and sure may be totally cancelled out by all the hassles of his drama with other women and the mass of them you deal with (not to mention the void when he’s in pre-spark mode with morning breath and dirty feet and underwear he should’ve changed by now). For him to be worth that trouble, he better have some other, uncommon virtue that remains when you strip away all the glamour a jazz-songbook catalog teaches foolish hearts to crave. As Susan Tedeschi sings (most recently), “I’m tired of my tears.”

That’s what the blues teach you: there’s part-of-life ache and trouble, and then there’s the tears that’re all your own (unnecessary) choosing. I may be tradin’ me out some soft-jazz recs soon, and replacing them with straight-up, honest blues. It’s gettin’ time I saved my heart for someone with more durable, stable qualities than just super-charged personality.