The BLOG: Lifestyle

How To Get Out Of The FriendZone

Ah, the dreaded FriendZone. I get a lot of questions from mostly guys during my Snapchat daily advice log (follow me: Sheenybeanz) about how to get out of the FriendZone, so I thought I’d write up a post.

There’s a really good episode of “New Girl” – one of my all-time favorite shows – that deals really well with the FriendZone.

In the episode, Nick does all these mundane life things for his best girl friend, Jess, like taking her to Ikea and building her furniture. But Nick isn’t getting laid for his worthy services because Jess happens to have a boyfriend who isn’t ever around, so Nick is like her surrogate boyfriend, only without the sex benefits. (The show refers to Nick as a “fluffer,” a word I enjoy as much as “fuckboy,” which is the complete opposite of “fluffer.”)

If she’s FriendZoning you, it usually means one of two things you don’t wanna hear: A) she’s either not sexually attracted to you, or B) you’re just too nice (or A because of B). I can’t really help you guys much if she doesn’t think you’re her type, but I can help you if your problem is being too damn nice. (And hey: if your problem is indeed B, by unleashing your inner bad boy, you could even end up making her more sexually attracted to you, ‘cuz that’s usually the way that goes).

Here’s what you’ve got to do to go from FriendZone to potential boyfriend:

Stop being so available to her whenever she needs you. Stop being so nice.

Girls want guys they feel are valuable. What makes something valuable? It’s limited in quantity and everyone wants it.

As seen with the Nick and Jess phenomenon, if you’re there for her all the time, she won’t value you or take you seriously. The next time she asks you to build her something just because you’re around and she knows you’ll jump at the opportunity, say “no.”

See what happens. She’ll get the opportunity to – gasp – miss you for the very first time. Missing leads to longing, which leads to her realizing your value. She’ll realize you’re the friggin’ limited edition.

Don’t be her gay BFF.

If the girl you like tries to vent to you about guy drama/some asshole she likes, politely tell her you’re not interested in talking about that with her. Make it clear you’re not her gay best friend. Stick up for yourself a little! If you’re a dude, you’ve been given balls for a reason. Fuckin’ use ’em.

A boyfriend wouldn’t wanna hear that kind of talk – duh – so do as boyfriends do.

Just… y’know… act like you have a life. 

Dude, you’re awesome. Act like it. Act like you have other girls interested in you (even if you don’t); this will only up your appeal. A little white lie never hurt no one. There’s a reason they say “fake it ’till you make it.”

Escaping the dreaded FriendZone isn’t so much about playing games as it is about being ~sly.~ If you’re not a sly guy, you’ve gotta learn how to be sly. Being sly in this life will not only get you the girl, but it’ll help you with pretty much anything in life, like making a sale to a client, or convincing your parents to help you out financially when you’re down. I can attest to the efficacy of slyness because I’m really good at all of those thangs. Be sly to get what you want.

I can pretty much guarantee you’ll stay out of the FriendZone if you follow these rules to a T. Navigating your way out of the Zone doesn’t necessarily mean being untrue to yourself or changing who you are. At the end of the day, it’s really just about respecting yourself enough to get what (and who!) you want.

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A Letter To Single People Who Feel Extra Lonely On Holidays

Happy Easter, bunnies! I hope you’re all having a wonderful holiday.

Every holiday, I wonder what it would be like to bring someone special home to meet my family. I’ve never brought someone home before; I’ve always wanted to wait until the moment – and person – was just right.

(That’s because I never want my family to get invested in someone that won’t last. Sometimes, I think they want me to be in love more than I do, and if I were to get my heart broken, I wouldn’t want their hearts to break, too).

For the first time in almost a decade, I’m with someone that I could see myself bringing home, because he doesn’t feel “wrong.” My family would LOVE him. I love picturing him in a room with my family. Everyone would have such a blast.

One of my readers is chasing a married woman. One of them keeps getting stood up. One just ended things with her emotionally abusive ex, and one has given up on love entirely.

I’ve been all of you. I know what it’s like to have nothing to say when your family asks “how’s your love life?” (In actuality, you have plenty to say, but you don’t say anything because your love life is too embarrassing to talk about for one of many reasons).

I also know how much it sucks having to hide your hook-ups and break-ups and affairs and almost-relationships from your family. It’s almost like you’re living a double life: your family is your happy, safe place, and your love life is the place where all your dreams go to die.

You are all incredibly courageous. I want to remind you to trust the process. It’s normal not to get it right on the first or third or tenth try. And I bet a million dollars that your family would rather you bring home one special man in ten years, than ten unspecial men in one year.

This Easter, keep the faith. Every “wrong” person you chase is just getting you closer to the right person, because each and every “wrong” person you date teaches you to respect yourself just a little bit more.

The journey is fucking long, but your loving family deserves to meet someone who loves YOU endlessly.

And you will find that person. ❤️

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In Matters Of Dating, Listen To Your Body

Back in the day, I would get all dolled up to meet my “Asshole Of The Week” out at a bar with his friends. I’d skip there, grinning like an idiot with butterflies in my stomach the whole way there, as if what he had to offer me was somehow going to change my world; make me a happier girl.

We’d go back to his place. Sometimes, I’d stay holed up with him for an entire weekend at a time.

Then, poof. Gone. The weekend would end, and so would my short-lived happiness. He’d disappear on me and I wouldn’t hear from him for a week. Wondering where he was, I always felt like the pit of my stomach was going to drop straight out of my body. I felt anxious. Unwanted. A raging cynic and a man-hater. He wasn’t the guy I’d imagined I’d be with; I wasn’t the girl I’d always wanted to be.

This is how it feels to be chasing the wrong person: your body will literally TELL you to get away from him. I didn’t fully realize the significance of the body’s signals until I felt so sick to my stomach that I had to take a break from men for a few months. (And thank God I did, because I’m currently dating someone who’s wonderful. I never thought I’d get here!)

The next time you’re dating, pursuing or sleeping with, I want you to pay attention to the way your body feels.

We over-complicate. It’s simple, really: You’re supposed to feel better after seeing the person you’re dating, not worse.

(I know, it seems like common sense. But the reason great girls keep finding themselves in these shitty situations with these shitty men is because they ignore the signals are bodies are sending them).

I say you should listen to your body rather than your mind is because when we really like someone, our mind twists the truth. It’ll take the signals our body is sending us, regardless of how tummy-twisting they are, and put a rose gold filter over them. Your head’s in the fucking clouds, but your body will never steer you wrong.

There’s a reason that exercise, yoga and meditation can solve almost all of life’s problems: When we are in tune with our bodies, we are in tune with ourselves – and that includes our romantic needs and desires.

When you are with the right person, you will come with butterflies and leave with even more.

The right relationship can be likened to that 80/20 dieting rule we all love so much: at the very least, you should feel happy with this person in your life 80% of the time. That 80% includes the way you feel when you leave him. He doesn’t get to treat you like a queen whenever it’s convenient for him, then disappear on you.


If you feel anxious, insecure and like your stomach is Jell-O, you’re banging the wrong dude. You should feel happy and secure in your relationship even when you aren’t with him.

Never compromise on butterflies. Oh, and if you’re lucky like me, you’ll feel those butterflies a solid 90% of the time.

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Stop Stressing About Finding Love And Start Appreciating Chance Encounters

While planning my solo trip to Switzerland, I booked an eight-day stay in a Bern apartment. I could tell from the AirBnB website that the apartment owner was a beautiful woman, but I wouldn’t learn just how captivating she really was until she’d try to kiss me.

It was summer in Bern. The nighttime air was absolutely perfect. My hostess Lily* and I spent most evenings outside on her balcony, comparing notes from her small town life to my big city life, while staring at an outline of the Swiss Alps in the distance.

Lily was breathtaking. Tall and lean with wavy brown hair and a near-perfect smile, she could’ve been a model, but she chose instead to be a doctor at a local hospital (her lack of vanity drew her to me instantly). She smoked these long, thin cigarettes that said Vogue on them, and she spoke softly, but with a sexy Franco-Swiss accent.

Her 30-something apartment was the kind of apartment I hoped I’d someday be mature enough to maintain: candles lined her bathtub and her fridge, spotless and organized, was stocked with fresh vegetables to cook with. I bragged about her in my emails to friends back home. Everything about her was enviable.

Lily was casually seeing someone. Some weekends, he’d whisk her off to Italy on his boat, and other weekends, he’d take her to the north of France. I’d assumed the whole “fear of commitment” plague was strictly limited to the island of Manhattan; that Lily probably wanted something serious with that guy. But one night on her balcony, she told me otherwise.

“The guys here,” she said, puffing on her Vogue, “they just want to have fun.”

Whereas I usually said that same sentence with an eye roll, she didn’t say it with a drop of contempt. She giggled and played with her toes instead. I wondered if she even knew how beautiful she was.

Lily was fascinated by my life in New York, and even more fascinated by my decision to travel alone to her quaint little town. In her eyes, I was “brave” and “interesting” and “smart” and “sexy.”

It was an honor to be complimented by her. For some reason, when most men called me those same things, I sort of just shrugged it off, almost as if I didn’t feel the compliments were credible. But Lily was so perfect and poised that you’d be inhuman not to fall under her spell, and when she said them, I knew they had to be true.

That night, we split a bottle of wine. We stayed outside for hours and the tipsier we got, the more she had me convinced we were kindred spirits. I’d decided then I was a Lily-in-progress: one day, if I was lucky, I would be even half the woman she was.

With wine flowing through her, Lily began to get a little handsy. She got up out of her chair, stood behind me and crouched down so she was the same height as me sitting. I felt her long, thin fingers run against the back of my ear as she tucked pieces of my hair behind it.

At first, I didn’t think much of her hands in my hair; it felt like a big-sis-little-sis-type gesture. It’s what she did next that surprised me.

After standing over my shoulder for a minute, she settled back into her chair. Her eyes looked lustful and inviting. I smiled at her, and before I could say anything, she leaned in to kiss me.

Startled, I jumped back. “Oh, uhhh, I’m sorry, I…”

“Oh,” she echoed. “No, uh, I’m sorry. I thought you would be alright with it…”

We sat in silence for a minute. She lit another cigarette while I swirled around the wine in my glass. I decided to break the awkwardness.

“You know, I think you’re one of the sexiest people I’ve ever met,” I said, trying not to sound patronizing. “Like, ever. I even tell all my friends back home about you…” She looked down nervously and half-smiled. “…It’s just that I only kiss men.”

Lily took a big gulp of wine. “It’s OK. I understand. I like to kiss men and women. And you, you are… spectacular.”

I wouldn’t have minded kissing her. In fact, I chalk up my aversion to her perfect, pink lips to a knee-jerk reaction. She was spectacular to me, too.

It’s been five months since I last saw Lily, but I still think about her: about her Victorian era-like elegance, about how a woman like her could be single, but not at all jaded, about why someone so irresistibly self-assured would make a move on such a hot mess like me.

Lily, with her idyllic little life and her laissez-faire approach to it, made me feel more significant than most of the schmucks I’ve ever dated. But more than anything, without even knowing it, she taught me there’s little sense in stressing over love: over what could have been or what could still be. Because once in a blue moon, a beautiful person will just show up at your front door – or will be your AirBnB host – and, well, you’ll just have to go with it.

On a night when Lily was with her kind-of-beau in France, I went into her jacket pocket and took a Vogue cigarette for myself. It still kind of smells like her: delicate. Flowery.

I don’t intend on smoking it. I just like to hold it.

*Name has been changed.

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Eat, Pray, Self-Love: How I Found What I Needed At The Top Of A Mountain

“Sheena, you’re not going to Europe alone. Only weirdos go on vacation alone,” my sister said. We were in my mom’s kitchen under the fan, trying to cool off from the obnoxious July heat.

I stopped sipping my tea. “I think you’re forgetting something. I am weird.”

“Oh,” she chuckled. “Right.”

I’d never traveled overseas alone before. But at 25, my twenties had nothing to show for themselves but zero relationships and six or seven-ish flings with fuckboys (I’d stopped counting after the fifth.)

I needed to go find myself, or whatever it is people who vacation solo in foreign countries do. Unlike my more decisive friends, I couldn’t keep a guy for the life of me, and I needed to figure out why. Was it something about me? My journey would have to give me answers.

Three weeks later, I found myself at a shared AirBnB in Bern, the capital of Switzerland. It was just as beautiful as I’d imagined it would be: the people were humble and the chocolate, delectable. If you drove just 30 minutes in any direction, you’d find hip nightlife or quaint countryside.

Mount Neiderhorn was two trains and a bus ride away, and I was gonna hike that bad boy, “Eat, Pray, Love” style. I don’t what I was trying to prove to myself, really. Maybe that I was indeed a “strong, independent woman,” like my last bang buddy once told me I was in an East Village bar.

When the tram dropped me to the foot of the mountain, I didn’t anticipate how lonely I’d feel. Not to mention, local rangers strongly advised against hiking alone. But I was in the best shape of my life – eh, physically, anyway – and I was going to finish what I’d started. The tenacity of my twenties would have to be the thing that outshone all the almost-relationships I’d wished I could erase.

I began to walk. Despite there being a path for hikers, all the signs were in Swiss-German, so if you strayed off the path, you were basically screwed. Being the insatiably curious little devil that I am, I did just that.

A thin barbed wire caught my eye, and I wandered over and found three cows grazing in a contained area behind the wire. Something came over me (perhaps the desire to feel the adrenaline rush I often get from hanging with a fuckboy) and I stepped over the wire.

My adventurous move didn’t make the cows very happy. One of them stopped eating grass, kicked back its heels and began to charge towards me. And just like that, on my “self-discovery” journey, I found myself running away from a disgruntled animal. Sure enough, adrenaline took over; I unlatched my backpack from my back and shielded my front with it, then crawled under the wire and made my escape.

(In those very long 30 seconds, I absolutely could’ve died. It was both the most thrilled (and the most helpless) I’d ever felt. I imagine the scene would’ve unfolded much differently had I been there with a man).

I composed myself and walked some more. About halfway up the mountain, I heard a holler and looked down the path to find a group of kids waving at me. I waved back at them, and before I could find a chance to holler back, they’d started running towards me, their backpacks bouncing up and down.

“What’s your name?” they asked in unison.

“Sheena!” I said.

“Why are you alone?”

I didn’t have an answer prepared, so I just shrugged.

Through their broken English, they told me they were students at a middle school not too far away. I regaled them with stories about my extravagant (albeit lonely) New York life: the PG version of how I was a paid writer that lived in her own apartment and had lots of sex with lots of guys that didn’t deserve her.

I don’t know if they were intrigued by me, felt sorry for me or a little bit of both, but they walked with me for two hours up that mountain, leaving me with just one final hour to myself.

The air grew brisker. People slowly left the path. But sure enough, I eventually made it to the top, which boasted a view of a crystalline-blue river between two mountains.

It was breathtaking. I was so proud of myself that my eyes began to tear up.

I turned to my left.

I turned to my right.

I wanted to tell someone, anyone, about how I evaded near-death just to make it up there.

But there was no one to tell. The moment was so special to me, more special than most of the special moments in my life, that without anyone to share it with, it almost didn’t feel real.

At the top of Mount Neiderhorn, it suddenly occurred to me that even the most “strong, independent woman” of all the women in the world needs to feel loved.

It was like everything I’d learned about life and love up until that point was just a hoax. I thought “strong, independent women” didn’t need no man. Did my being overcome with loneliness make me weak and dependent, or just… human?

(Maybe they tell you the top of a mountain is where you’ll find yourself because you don’t realize how lonely you really are until you’re exhausted, dehydrated and being accompanied by a group of middle schoolers on a mercy walk.)

I posted a selfie on Instagram to quell the loneliness.

Switzerland taught me that “independent” doesn’t necessarily mean “alone;” it just means “strong-willed.” So after years of trying to be strong and independent, and alone and lonely, I’ve accepted my desire for unconditional romantic love: no more fuckboys. From now on, the hunt for a real partner begins – and that, I’ve decided, doesn’t make me any less independent.

Love, though, comes in many forms. So until I find a partner, a group of foreigners falling in love with me on a mountain will just have to do.

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Please Don’t Be Afraid To Tell Him How You Feel

It all started when I was 18. I’d just started my freshman year of college and was elated to be meeting new people. High school was hell, new friends were exactly what I needed, and a boyfriend was the last thing on my mind.

When the day came to choose classes, I chose “Hinduism and Buddhism 101.” It was an easy A, I’d heard. Oh, and I guess I also figured it was time to get in touch with my Indian roots.

That’s where I met Marc.*

Marc was the class clown. He was also a suck-up, the kind everyone rolls their eyes at, and he’d never miss a chance at shooting his hand up to answer a question. Our professor, an eccentric but lovable woman in her fifties, loved him for his eagerness. Well, that made one of us.

I didn’t like Marc at first. He was like the annoying little brother I never had; playful and immature, loud-mouthed and obnoxious, and cute, but in a Leonardo-DiCaprio-in-Titanic kind of way, from the blond bowl haircut to the pretty blue eyes. They were all the reasons I hated him, and they were all the reasons I’d grow to love him.

Marc also lived in my dorm. I’d bump into him while wearing just a bathrobe and brushing my teeth, and even then, he’d think I was beautiful. We were silly together. One time, we were both so drunk I challenged him to unhook my bra with his eyes closed in a room full of people. (He succeeded, and we all took a shot to celebrate).

Six months into our friendship, I began to “like like” Marc. His friend group and mine would frequent campus parties together, and we’d end most nights boozed up and holding hands, and his friends and my friends would make fun of how stupidly giddy we’d become in each other’s presence.

It was at a bar in downtown Atlanta, holding me by the waist and pushing hair out of my face, that he called me his girlfriend. We’d never talked labels, and I remember even my tipsy mind was confused by his choice of words. I was confused and I was dumbfounded. Marc was the first guy that made me feel I was worthy of being loved just the way I was.

I didn’t know what to do with the feeling. So I ran.

Marc’s frat brother, Nate,* sat next to me in English Lit. A week after Marc’s drunken confession, I started flirting with Nate. It was easy enough. He’d call me “beautiful,” I’d bat my eyelashes. He’d offer his help with papers on Odysseus, I’d accept his offers and hang with him in his dorm room. By the following semester, Nate and I were publicly a “thing,” and Marc had a girl of his own.

I wanted to tell Marc everything I was thinking: how I didn’t like Nate, how all I wanted was to be with him, and only him, how I was afraid I’d scare him away because when I love something, I love it so strongly that I forget to love myself.

But it was too late for me, I’d figured. And if it wasn’t too late, my feelings for him couldn’t drown out my relentless fear of being rejected.

I  dropped Nate; being with him only made me feel emptier. I didn’t know it then, but at 18, I’d develop a lifelong habit of keeping my feelings a secret from the one person I’d always want to be honest with most. Again and again, I’d hold back, too scared to take a chance on something that could have been wonderful. Again and again, I’d miss out on love by an inch or two.

I don’t think I ever got over Marc. Occasionally, I still wander over to his Facebook to check up on him. Nothing’s changed much; he’s been dating the same leggy blonde for the past five years or so.

Marc and I met eight years ago, but every guy I’ve been with since him just seems like a lesser version of him. Because all the noise that surrounds me – the noise I so desperately try my best to suppress – tells me he’s still the one for me.

I can’t help but wonder if things would’ve been different if I’d just spoken my truth. Maybe he’d have taken me to his big sister’s wedding instead of the new girl. Maybe I’d have gotten to meet his parents, who’d eventually realize my fears don’t define me and I’m one of a kind. Maybe he and I would be crazy in love, and I never would’ve let all the guys I’ve hooked up with in the past decade treat me as awfully and embarrassingly as they did.

Maybe, maybe, maybe. What a bitch the past ends up being: You can’t change it, but you can only hope that when you meet someone who makes you believe again, it’ll have made you courageous enough to be honest with him. Honest with yourself.

Being honest with yourself, I’ve heard, is the most freeing feeling in the world.

*Name has been changed.

An Open Letter To Broken Hearts Everywhere

[Image credit: Bo Boswell]

When I was in the third grade, I got stung by a bee while taking a spelling test. He came out of nowhere – traveled up my 90’s acid-washed jeans, and bit me – and I screamed in unimaginable agony.

“What is it, Sheena?” Mrs. Inglis yelled to me from the other side of the room.
“I don’t know, Mrs. Inglis. But it hurts real bad.”

I was in the third grade when I first felt what heartbreak feels like, only I didn’t know it then.

Two years ago, a guy whom I loved deeply broke my heart. There were no warning signs that I should’ve stayed away; if there were, I was just a girl in love, too docile to notice, and too dumbfounded to care.

Even though what happened went down two years ago, the loss is like nothing I’ve ever felt before. It irrevocably changed me. Sometimes, I feel like I’m okay, and everything is okay, and everything will continue to be okay.

But other times, I feel a sort of endless pain, resulting from a darkness that takes over without my consent. It feels like emotional rape. And when this happens, everything else in life merely feels like a distraction from what’s really going on inside my wounded heart, rendering me unable to perceive what I’m doing at face-value; dating becomes futile. A wine tasting is a trip down memory lane. Kickboxing is just beating up a bag with my ex’s face painted on it. I carry he who broke my heart around with me everywhere I go. I feel him in every fiber of the parts of myself he took from me.

I find this piece to be more seasonable than those I’ve previously written. See, upon hearing the news of Kourtney and Scott, the epic tale of the woman who tried to change a man who can’t be changed, and Ben and Jen, a pair people everywhere thought would put the rest of Hollywood’s couples to shame, I fell apart at the little that had been holding me together ever since my own heartbreak experience. As a child of divorce, I genuinely empathize with those involved in the breakups, feeling each celebrity and celebrity kid’s pains as if they are my own.
And last night, somewhere in the middle of switching back-and-forth between E! and CNN, I began to cry. I’d like to believe I was crying for those everywhere who have been in love;
for the heartbroken, who may never have the courage to recover from the hits they’ve taken, and who have no choice but to remain brave in the face of adversity;
for the heartbreakers, who may never understand the capacity of the absolute tragedy they’ve bestowed upon those who loved them most;
finally, for the couples who tried to make it work, but couldn’t, because forces bigger than them took hold of a probably incontinent situation that we try to nonetheless institutionalize.

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One day, something good came of my loss: I was given a professional opportunity to have my voice heard by millions around the world. I started this blog because the pain, when I do feel it, is like that of a bee sting. It’s sudden, but overwhelming. Not too long after I began blogging, I was fortunate enough to quit my job for a paid venture that I initially only embarked on with the sole intention of curing the indubitable hole in my heart; the one that’s yet to be filled. That is, I write.

Sometimes, the darkness gets to be too much. Hell, before I began to pen this, I was curled up in a fetal position on my couch crying hysterically to some Enya-knock-off yoga music (hey, it brings out the feels). Sometimes it can, and it will, get to be too much for all of us. After all, there’s only so much the human heart can take.

Because sharing my pain with others has helped alleviate my own, I encourage you to do what makes you feel alive, and to do more of it. If you can’t sleep, do *that* thing. If you have to stay home on a Friday night to do it, in lieu of getting drinks with your friends because Friday is the only time you can fit that special *thing* into your schedule, then do that. Just stop, drop, and roll. And then, do *that.*

I may never fall in love again. That sounds like a naive declaration, but it could very well be true. And, in the event that I don’t fall in love again, I’ll be prepared, because there is something else I’ve found to half-replenish my soul; doing it doesn’t feel as good as being in love, but it comes as a close second. Equip yourself, and always keep your equipment close, for it’s okay to stay guarded. The one who’s meant to stay forever will have hands heavy enough to break through your walls.

And so, I write. What’s your weapon?

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The Not-So-Exclusive Thing About Being Exclusive

[Image credit: Petras Gagilas]

On a typical day, I wake up, hop on the subway, write a couple of pieces, run a couple of errands, potentially head to a social engagement, then go home. In that time, I can’t help but notice all the couples, both seemingly happy and seemingly unhappy: the ones kissing on the sidewalk, the ones holding hands and laughing, the ones in which one partner looks unequivocally more invested than the other because the girlfriend is picking out a Ben & Jerry’s flavor in a deli while talking about which movie she wants to cuddle to later while the boyfriend (indiscreetly) checks out the ass on the aspiring model in tight spandex standing two feet behind him.

As the end of this past Spring turned into the beginning of Summer, I met a guy at one of New York’s male-heavy bars. It – that is, the nameless thing that began to brew between us – started out as casual, and I had intended for it to stay that way. See, I’d just been offered a dream job, set to start in July, and I wanted to celebrate this new chapter of my life by remaining tied down to nothing and no one. The problem is, the moment in which we’re least looking for something (or someone) is usually the moment in which we find ourselves pleasantly surprised by our new-found convictions.

The more I hung out with this guy, the more I realized how much I actually enjoyed his company; when I’m not with him, I miss him, the way I miss chocolate when I try to go low-carb for a week (AKA I miss him a lot). I haven’t felt that feeling in a while. Not soon after coming to the aforementioned realization, I came to yet another one: I wanted exclusivity. For the first time in nearly years, I felt comfortably prepared to see one person, and only one person. And that person was him.

So this is where I find myself. Lately, I’ve been lying awake at night, staring at the ceiling, mulling over what to do next. I don’t know what to do, but I do know I have to proceed cautiously. The thing is, I’ve never proposed exclusivity before, and the thought of doing it makes my heart race, because modern dating confuses the absolute sh*t outta me.

What is it about being exclusive that makes us jump in either unabashed excitement or fear? Why are people so apprehensive when being asked to commit? Why are people – er, like myself – afraid to even ask someone to commit? When the f*ck did it become “cool” to trivialize feelings that are practically pouring out of us and screaming to be coddled?

Like any true adult hoping to find concrete answers, I googled “how to ask to be…”. “How to ask to be exclusive” is the third most popular search, following “how to ask to be a reference,” and “how to ask to be laid off” (um, wtf?)

I also read multiple viewpoints on this topic: the “scientific research” of one of those so-called love-ologists in a Huff Post piece, some dude’s ramblings on BroBible, and a clearly misinformed chick’s claims on AllWomenStalk (do NOT take dating advice from the women who write on there. Those are the women who show up unannounced at their exes’ doorsteps with gift baskets).

What’s interesting is this: women say “Go for it! Be honest about your feelings! Girl power!” But the general consensus amongst men is that the dude should man up and ask a woman to be his girlfriend. Between third-wave feminism and the unimpressive progression of chivalry – women armoring themselves in attempts to come off as though we don’t need men, and men replacing dinner and a show with drinks and Netflix – I don’t know what on God’s green earth I’m expected to do here.

The one thing I do find solace in is that my research has concluded that, apparently, I’m not the only one left in the dark about how one makes his or her way from being completely casual to completely exclusive.

Like that ass-staring guy in the deli, I’ve got one foot out the door and the other one still inside; though I know looking isn’t the same as touching, my thoughts can’t help but to cement themselves in what happens to young couples once the novelty in a relationship wears off. Striving for exclusivity in New York is like that scene in Aladdin: the one where Abu steals the gem in The Cave of Wonders while Aladdin tries to keep his eyes on the lamp, and only the lamp. Abu is the devil on my shoulder, too curious for his own good – greedily always wanting more – and he’s got his peripherals to thank for that.

I’m fearful of what bigger, better, shinier thing may come his or my way if he and I become exclusive. Maybe I only want him because I don’t yet fully have him. Maybe he only likes me as much as he does because he doesn’t fully have me. Maybe, we’ll always simply want that which we don’t have.

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What Defines A “Soulmate?”

[Image credit: Brett Davis]

It was a Sunday morning in Manhattan. I awoke to clings and clangs of pots and pans, and they were only just audible enough to drown out the sounds of summer filtering up and in through the windows. An aroma of fried food wafted over from the kitchen. I was intrigued. And then, he came into the bedroom with a fresh-squeezed glass of juice:

“Here you go, love. You just relax.”
“Uh, I most certainly will.”

I picked up The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway from his window ledge and began to read, drifting off somewhere in the middle of ‘The Doctor and the Doctor’s Wife.’ This time, it wasn’t a noise that awoke me, but a smell: that of a proper English breakfast. Bacon and eggs and coffee and hash browns and jam. Blueberry jam. (How did he know my favorite flavor?)

I couldn’t believe it. The last time someone had brought me breakfast in bed was three years ago. I was sick as a dog, and that person was my mother (hey, Mom!)

When I left his apartment later that humid and hazy day, I got to thinking about soulmates. What defines a soulmate? Do we get more than one in a lifetime? How do we know when to stop our soulmate search? Is it foolish to even hold out for one to begin with? Does someone whom you’ve been seeing for a hot minute treating you well, on its own, make him worthy of being your soulmate — or does that just make him a good person?

24 is a weird age; upon striking up conversation with 35-year-old strangers at bars, your wisdom is playfully dismissed and you’re called a “baby,” but then you go home and check out your Instagram feed, and some 26-year-old chick has just uploaded a clip of her engagement story – y’know, the one that was featured in last month’s issue of Stone Fox Bride magazine. And then, that biological clock that you’ve impressively managed to mute suddenly becomes annoyingly loud. And you’re sitting there with a bottomless glass of red wine, doing a line (of Oreos), all like, “Yo, engaged chick, I’m really happy for you and Ima let you finish, but I don’t give a flying fck about your smooth-sailing love life and — oh sht. I got crumbs in my bed. Egyptian cotton my ass. I don’t deserve nice things.”

^^ (totally hypothetical situation) ^^

Anyway, soulmate. To many, “soulmate” means to stand the test of time. But I can’t attest to the validity of my feelings for any current romantic prospects; I could simply be imposing the title of ‘Potential Soulmate’ onto them because many of my girlfriends have boyfriends. In psychology, the term “mob mentality” “describes how people are influenced by their peers to adopt certain behaviors, follow trends, and/or purchase items.” Mob mentality is what leaves you lonely when you’re usually not susceptible to such a feeling. Mob mentality is what left me hungry for more English breakfast as I left his apartment too full to speak.

So again, I ask, what makes someone a soulmate? Are the qualities he has even relevant, or is it all about timing? (Insofar as the time in our lives to settle down, or to start a family – or the time in our lives in which we’re loneliest – deems the next guy we see deserving of the title). I think of how I’d feel about Breakfast Lover if I had met him at 27. I think of how I’d feel about him if I had met him at 22. I think of how I’d feel about him if I didn’t like breakfast.

I may be foolish for having stayed single as long as I have in the hope of finding my soulmate; in my scripted ending, the joke’s on everyone else, and all the bad dates and lost causes and false hopes will have opened the doors to someone who pleasantly surprises me.

But maybe, what defines a soulmate is your choice to stay with him. Maybe your soulmate is the man you’ve hand-picked, the man in whom you’ve instilled the faith that he’ll continue to make you laugh, and send chills up and down your spine, and make you breakfast in bed just when you think he forgot what it means to be a man. We wait for our soulmates like we wait for a good sample sale. Well, maybe the joke’s on me, and I’ve got it all wrong, and he isn’t meant to pick us, but we’re meant to pick him.

I wonder if connections we make in the present – those random, remarkable ones that flip our jaded expectations upside-down on their heads – can stand the test of time; of decades, of quarter-centuries.

I wonder if there’s any way of ever knowing if a connection will stand the test of time.

There isn’t.

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