Step one: Find someone who fascinates you thoroughly and profoundly. (This is my standard for being exclusive.)
Step two: Disregard incompatibilities, both knowingly and blindly.
Step three: Happily fall in love anyway.
Step four: Enjoy life together, though it is going nowhere.
Step five: Deny that, deep down, hope does grow.
Step six: Buckle up as the road bumps get rockier.
Step seven: Ignore (mostly) when that quiet part deep down waves sadly as you grow apart.
Step eight: Blink away the denial to see what has to be done.
Step nine: Figure out how to tell someone you love that it is over.
Step ten: Fight to breathe as both hearts shatter.
I don’t know what happens after step ten. This is unknown territory. Maybe accept that you know it is your fault, willingly falling in love with an expiration date. Learn to live with your own masochism.
By the time I reached steps seven and eight, my stomach had grown into a knot that made me want to become physically ill most days. There is a vice circling my heart. Little things like a stranger complimenting my dress or a friend doing something normal like giving me a hug or thoughtful gift sends me into a spiral of emotions and tears. It’s baffling, since no one knows of my impending breakup. And I’m not one to cry often, especially in public.
It’s an unsettling experience, to simultaneously know that your actions are both the best and worst thing you could do. I am about to completely shake my life off of a crucial foundation; about to throw myself into a wrenching tornado, knowing it will eventually be healthier for both of us.
But looking into the eyes of someone I have and still do truly love, with these words on the tip of my tongue, sends a knife into my gut. I am afraid.
I’m scared of how much it will hurt us both. I fear for how he will react, how he will throw himself into drinking dangerously, how he may get hurt physically in addition to emotionally. That he won’t find someone good enough to be with after this, that all of the beautiful ways he’s grown the past few years we’ve shared will shatter to the ground with his heart and never grow back. I’m scared I’ll break him; he’s so precious to me, I cannot bear to think about it.
I keep thinking about the positives for myself, how I do sort of miss dating and look forward to the joy of exploring new people. The newness. The beauty of people. The unique validation of a stranger’s compliments on a first date. Feeling wanted and desirable. The freedom from the pain I have felt as our relationship slowly died. The knowledge that the little mistakes made at the beginning of dating won’t matter so much, since the newcomer likely won’t last. It’s a liberation from shared consequences, and a comforting return to taking care of just myself.
But I don’t think about the cold, empty nights coming my way. The crying into my dog’s coat as it overcomes me. Knowing she will also be sad alongside me, missing him, too. Going through the home we have shared for the past years and continuing to find his things. His smell. Echoes of his voice. Unfriending his siblings on Facebook. Obsessively keeping an eye out for him on the street; DC is too small of a town. Wondering if he rebounds/dates someone we know. Avoiding the Dupont neighborhood as a general rule. Watching some of my friends drop off as they pick sides. Celebrating July 4th without it jointly being his birthday.
I try not to think about not seeing him every day. But the closer the final breakup conversation came the more it popped into my mind.
We became a couple in a whirlwind of infatuation and realizing we had become each other’s best friend. We stopped being good for each other, so we have to now redeem ourselves as friends by breaking up. And then say goodbye to my best friend as we move on with getting over each other.
And now I have had the joy of experiencing what I’ve heard about for years: the tainted emotion of listening to holiday music while brokenhearted. Hilariously painful. Happy New Year, everyone.
“What’s the difference between a bartender and a whore?”
Apparently not much.
Lets talk about decency, and the lack thereof, one deals with in the hospitality industry. I was looking back at my writing this past year, and one episode stood out that missed publishing. The audacious depths of depravity involved in that night still set my nerves on end. This is the story of why I left the restaurant business.
I was working at the Pub that night, and had a rowdy group of 40 something’s. From the off, we had a stellar repertoire; very playful and assertive. I liked it. I had the women flirting and complimenting me and the men puffing up all flattering and grandiose. But towards the end, one of those charmers didn’t just cross a line– he charged it. He stormed the goddamn castle, sowing salt behind him.
After a night of excellent service for well over four hours and particular attention to my many attributes– both physical and intellectual– I was finally being cut (translation: let off work for the night) and cashing everyone out. While working on that, the big, belligerent bull of a lug went for the gold.
“So what’s the difference between a whore and a bartender?” he drunk-whispered as he leaned over me, more than invading my personal space.
Thinking he was starting a tasteless joke, I half laughed while spacing myself back to a polite distance. “I don’t know, what?”
“No, seriously, where is the line drawn? Because I want you to make out with this guy behind us. I wanna fuck his sister, but he’s looking all pathetic and needs a girl. She won’t do anything until he’s good. So you hook up with him and I get his sister.”
You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me. The aforementioned Sad Man was indeed looking like a half-drowned puppy swaying on a bar stool. His sister, well past drunk, was my biggest fan in the bunch. While I had a growing suspicion through our time together of an impending threesome proposition– which I typically find flattering or hilarious– this was unexpected.
“That’s not going to happen; here’s your check.” That didn’t satisfy him.
“No seriously, he’s not bad looking. If you’re a little drunk and like nice guys.” His suggestive leer did nothing to improve the ice running through my veins as his determination to disregard personal space actually cornered me.
“I’m sober, and have a boyfriend. No, thank you. Here’s your check.” He really can’t push this any further; there’s no way I’ll have to decline more than twice, right?
It gets better.
“I don’t fucking care about you having a boyfriend or any of that, just do it. He won’t know. I really need to get with this guy’s sister. You’re my last shot,” the Lug said, dangerously unaware of the precarious situation in which he’d placed himself.
I silently handed him his bill, doled out the rest of the checks, and walked to the safety of the kitchen. Quickly. Before the explosive, homicidal rage overcame my desire to evade prison.
I’ve had nights involving sexual harassment many-a-time before; it comes with the territory, as a woman in service. But I generally squash those attempts and shame the perpetrators. Tonight was different: he hadn’t paid me yet. I had rendered services–apparently extensive services, given recent absurdities– and I deserved my pay.
Hold the phone.
How was I any different from a prostitute now? We both perform requested actions and are paid wages on a discretionary, performance-based scale. Now that I think of it, don’t they have a set, pimp-enforced price, rather than hoping to be paid what they deserved? So, in a way–and take this with a biting grain of salt–they are theoretically better-off. (Ok, that’s a thought that is going to fester.)
Well, I hadn’t received my due yet. So I punched a sack of potatoes in the walk-in fridge (to my immediate regret), and steeled myself for round two. I shamefully laughed it off, navigating the group until I got the receipts back. What’s the saying, fool me once? Yep, shame on me.
He tipped me under 10%. In this line of work, in this country, and considering my practiced expertise, this is wholly unacceptable. Especially considering the time I put into them and the horrible trash he’d dragged me through.
The sole redeeming moment: the evident look on my face upon reading his receipt did not go unnoticed. His buddy came over to ask if I had been appropriately taken care of. Out of sheer exhaustion and dejection, I shook my head and squeaked out a quiet, “Well, not exactly, no.”
He took the slips back and asked for my help doing math; the woman supposedly won over by the Lug joined in. Look– I’m no walking calculator myself, so when drunks request assistance in paying me properly, I’ll always be more than happy to help. He said the one sister meant to put 20%, and bumped his own check to 30%. Between the whole lot of them, I think I ended up walking with over $150, for a total of $350 for the night.
I can put up with a ridiculous mountain of shenanigans from customers (and coworkers), but I refuse to provide my industry prowess in an atmosphere where I don’t feel safe. The managers and doormen were appalled that I hadn’t immediately grabbed them, to their credit. And while I might have done so in the past, I had reached a point in life where I won’t work somewhere that allows room for this to slip by unawares. Most other women working there were shocked; they said they had never experienced anything remotely close. However, one of my favorite coworkers was the only one to speak up that she wasn’t surprised, and had been in the same boat many times over the years.
Even so, that was the night that broke this camel’s back; I put in my notice a week later. If I make $350 in one night and am still showing up at home in tears, I’m calling it. As much as I miss making rent in one weekend, the emotional damage really isn’t worth it. I left the industry in favor of committing to a real-world professional (read: office) career move. If I’m going to “whore” myself out– because let’s be honest, a lot of jobs feel like that sometimes– it’s going to meet my standards.
I’m going to be a happy whore.
In a jam for money this fall, I tried rejoining the serving masses at a well-known tapas spot in the U Street area. The hiring manager had boasted two visits from Michelle Obama in as many months, so I looked forward to finally bragging about rubbing elbows with the upper crust to Big Bro up in Philly, where he routinely serves the fabulous and famous. I didn’t have to wait long.
On my third day of training (already convinced I’d made a great mistake, and was planning a graceful exit), the hostess informed my trainer and I that a VIP was assigned to our section for dinner. She didn’t know who it was, but told me “Valerie something” when I asked after the reservation.
“You mean Valerie Jarrett?” She nodded, looking no more enlightened. Everyone else is still oblivious. “Valerie Jarrett is a Senior Advisor to the President.” Still nothing. “She’s Obama’s best friend.” A few faces lit up. I instead talked to a manager, who absolutely knew the name.
When a Secret Service agent showed to post up at a table nearby, I kept thinking about how advisors don’t typically go about with escorts. Two young black girls arrived at the table first, but I assumed one was her daughter. It still could just be her. Then my trainer bolted over to me across a packed dining room.
“Please don’t freak out. I know you’re new, and I don’t know if you can keep your cool or not. But Sasha and Malia just sat at our table. Get bread and water and please, please do not embarrass me.”
For a group who didn’t know Valerie Jarrett’s name, they sure make a fuss over the First Daughters. I had to subtly shoo away multiple coworkers who stopped and gaped at the table. One server even nudged me while I was refilling a water glass and not-so-quietly whispered, “Are those the Obama girls?” My face was not pleased. Jarrett did indeed accompany the girls, along with some school friends. My only moment of nervousness was when the girls thought about ordering another soda from me along with their churros, which put me on edge.
I’m sorry, girls, but I wouldn’t want to face your mother’s disapproval. I sort of worship her. You understand.
The Confessions of Millennial Tribute in the Capital
Let me give you a scenario.
You’re trying to take your love life seriously, and being set up by your friends just isn’t cutting it. First, you go to networking events to meet someone; it’s met with equal failure. So you suck it up, brush off your writing skills, and make an online dating account. (No, not my way of saying I’m single again– bear with me on this.)
At first, you feel like a cliché; one “unique and wonderful person!” among millions. Then you continue to tinker with your descriptions, fine-tuning it to ring perfectly true to who you are and how you want to be perceived. Yes, this includes those little embellishments to experiences and attributes– don’t judge us, world, it’s human nature.
Suddenly, your dating profile becomes an extension of your identity. Each date becomes an initial validation of your entire being. The more you date, the more you tweak small phrases or camera angles. Each time a second date isn’t forthcoming, your self-critique grows harsher.
Sometimes, in a pit of despair, you even scrap the whole lot and start from scratch. A fresh beginning feels invigorating, you tell yourself, but a small part of you wonders about what genuine detail has been left behind this time.
Some versions are full of purpose and inspiration, all raw desire and emotion. “I’m passionate, driven, and unique, looking for something real and a relationship I can grow in.” It’s who you are and what you want—so why do the dates you’ve gone on, which you assume have pre-screened your background and interest level, not moved forward?
You consequently adjust expectations and add: “Doesn’t have to be forever, just something quasi-substantial and fits for right now.” You go on another few first dates, and possibly snag a repeat-engagement. But you both know it’s temporary, and the band-aid dates only provide the minimal level of shallow comfort you need to survive. You might lie to yourself that it’s a worthwhile price for independence, but eventually the fake smiles and stress of uncertainty wears you down. You don’t bother to put much effort into your appearance or performance anymore. Neither of you complain, because let’s be honest—neither of you stopped looking at other fish in the sea in the first place.
Other profile incarnations are reduced to bare facts and cold realities. “This is who I am, what I want, and I’m not fucking around anymore. I have a lot to offer to the right opportunity. Serious inquiries only; I’m tired of assholes and have the track record to prove it.” This usually emerges after a period of life that jerks you around, yet somehow transcends desperation. It ironically sets you apart from your competition, and can occasionally yield positive results.
Then there’s always the option, “I’ll take anything, my standards have withered away to dust and left nothing to compare against. I want to not be on my own anymore. No joke; anyone can have me.” Survival mode is a bitter pill to swallow, but I won’t judge you. Abject dejection has a sad sort of honesty to it that I have to respect.
Before I violently beat this metaphor to death, let me give you another scenario: you’re job hunting in our nation’s capital. You moved here after college, bright-eyed and ready to intern maybe 6 months before you get your first admin. assistant position. You go through two or three internships (6 months-1 year), unpaid, while working full-time nights and weekends at a restaurant. (Let’s assume you’re like me, and there is no family money to skate by on. Bills gotta be paid, yo.)
You have bad luck, and the first round of staffing agency attempts land you with young recruiters who drop your ball. So you give up for a bit. Restaurant money is way easier anyway, and you’re tired of being broke. You spend a few months enjoying the successful income and job satisfaction, half-heartedly send your resume out in spurts, but mostly try to get by without it. Plus, you’re in your early 20’s, and working in bars is fun.
A year or so pass this way; time flies when you’re goofing off. After a while, your discarded diploma pushes itself back into your mind and demands life. Time to resurrect that horse! The little “if you know anyone looking, my company is hiring” emails that your friends forward just don’t cut it anymore, and networking events are the purest form of debasement and an almost entirely worthless exercise. (It does toughen the skin, which serves you well in the future.)
You’re trying to take your future seriously, and the search for career opportunities has yet again thoroughly exhausted and rejected you. Nonetheless, you dig back down into your “Jobs Please?” folder and dust the depression off those resumes. Polish them up nice and shiny. Come up with [what you think are] new ways to say “educated, entry-level, eager, DEARGODHIREME, skilled”. You research how cover letters and CVs are formatted these days, what content to include, which are the sought-after catch phrases. You spruce up that LinkedIn account with a photo in well-pressed Interview Clothes and update your connections.
You go through nearly identical phases of your profile/cover letter as detailed a few paragraphs back, to similar effect. (Read: none.)
One-time engagements provide the negligible paycheck you need to survive, but you still feel like your life is starving. You even land an “indefinite” assignment (which means they’re supposed to give you notice when it will end), only to get dropped at 4:55pm on a Friday after three weeks of hard work for a rather difficult individual. It feels worse than the time a guy broke up with you via text; at least he wasn’t your sole source of income.
Bills start to change color for the first time in your life; you never thought, learning about our economic recession and the poverty line in college, that you’d see red delinquency notices. That your rent checks would bounce. That you would apply for one deferment after another forbearance on your student loans. That you’d have to pay your phone bill with cash just to keep the line going, suffering a constant fear of missing “The One” call from recruiters. It never occurred to you, studying economic development programs and applying for jobs at their corresponding institutions, that you would one day qualify for Welfare.
Cold weather means my garden– which supplied the only produce I’ve really managed this summer– has come to an end. My grocery list is no longer the greens, fresh fish, and healthy choices I prefer; I now live off of canned tuna, frozen vegetables, and cheap pasta. Purchasing salad items is a rarity. I’ve had friends and roommates offer to buy the food if I craft a meal– a great deal for both of us, since I’m a great cook and they can afford normal food. The first few times someone offered, it was just fun. Now, I realize that those are the few times I eat well these days. It’s the Hunger Games now, DC.
The weight I gained struggling last winter, which I had started losing over the summer, has come back to stay. To rub salt in that wound, this means the selection from my professional wardrobe that fits has been slimmed down (ha! get it?) to very few items, and I can’t afford new pencils skirts or dress pants. So I have taken my clothes to resale shops and eBay to buy the necessities I can’t afford. I’ve gone through my group house basement to sell anything in working order that’s been left behind, and have now made at least $250; thanks, Craigslist. With holidays coming, I’m prepping an extensive Etsy account with the products of various artistic skills.
The past six months, I have had to make medical decisions based on finances, rather than healthy necessity. I have forgone my Adderall some months, which genuinely impacts my ability to concentrate on professional tasks. Recently, I’ve even opted out of serious tests on concerning issues, for fear of the hundreds of dollars of medical bills I’m already going delinquent on. I am literally choosing between prescribed medication and health care, and affording my food and shelter.
It also means not seeing friends as often. I have a social life entirely dependent on service industry connections. I go out to bars where friends work, and usually pay for probably one PBR or whiskey-ginger out of every five I drink. My “tabs” over the weekend amount to maybe $20, when I easily consume over $100. (This also usually replaces that day’s spending for food.) But with the options in this city–and we all know I love them– my friends don’t want to go to the same handful of bars every night out. I usually lie and say I’m home with a cold, trying to save money for a trip home, or something pride-saving of the like. So I stay in, and watch my social circle dwindle.
This is where the decision to leave the hospitality industry in order to chase down my start to an actual career has taken me. I am young, [still] well-dressed, and professional. I have a marketable degree from a well-reputed university, and an extensive resume of experience. I am a progressive, skilled, and driven woman. These are all attributes a city like DC claims to desire in an applicant. I have earned and deserve my place in this society.
And yet, this has been the legitimate, brutal price for me. I in no way mean that this will happen to everyone committing to their future; to be honest, a majority of this city isn’t capable of the stunts I’ve pulled. Not everyone even enters the true Capital Games; there are those who luck out or rightfully earn a place in the professional workforce. But over the years, I’ve met countless just like me: some flamed out after an epic internship, and others eked meekly by. They all end the same: as competition killed off by the game. They weren’t survivors.
This is what it has come to, for this Washington Tribute. I have sold, repurposed, and bartered my skills to manage survival in the Capital. I graduated into the end of a recession and moved to a dog-eat-dog city that went rabid; we’re all hungry here. At first, I tried to wait it out in the safety of my restaurants– but we all know what happens to those who play it safe. They don’t make it.
So it’s time to sharpen my weapons and go hunting. I suggest those in the Game, both untried and battle-hardened, take heed and evaluate the sacrifices you are willing to forsake.
I would say “may the odds be ever in your favor”, but there is no room for sentiment in this arena.
I just can’t get over it. There has been a plane missing for twelve days. And that last blip of the radar has been heard around the world.
I know random world events aren’t my usual cup of tea on here, but it can’t be helped. And after reading articles from all over the communicationsphere, I’m profoundly freaked out. First there was a missing plane with no distress signal, sign of bad weather, or mechanical trouble. Then some mention of debris in the Pacific. Now the media has latched onto the eerie lack of passengers’ cell phone activity. The fact-proven details of the flight are few: on March 8th, Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, with 239 lives on board, lost contact. The plane took off east towards Beijing, the transponder was turned off, the plane was then tracked completely changing course, and eventually was lost even to military radar over the Indian Ocean. But the question still bouncing around my head was one of the first, “Why did the transponder stop transmitting?”
An unsettling query with only a few answers, the most common being a hijacking. Which, considering the alternative of a Lost-esque crash on a magically moving island-creature-afterlife deal, seems frighteningly likely. I could wax paranoid for hours of conspiracy theorizing, but CNN is the one paid to do that. So I’ll move on. What I would like to know instead, dearest FAA and all post-9/11 flight codemakers, is this: not why, but how is it POSSIBLE for a transmitter to stop working? Not meteorites, engine explosion, or someone actually turning it off– I mean how is it that the transmitters were constructed in a way that allows them to ever turn off in the first place?
My new housemate’s phone was stolen when she was moving her stuff in this past weekend. After spending the day refreshing Verizon’s GPS Locator page, she was at her wits’ end. I thought the entire point of having GPS technology in my phone was for this exact reason. If some delinquent jacks my phone, I want to be able to lojack their ass. My house was once broken into, and the cops eventually found the kid by tracing the IP address of the stolen X-Box he was playing. So how can the Apple Geniuses not turn on an internal GPS trigger and find my roommate’s phone? Answer: the doorstop who stole it just turned off her phone. Next question: why hasn’t Apple created a GPS locator that intrinsically cannot be disabled by hooligans simply turning it off?
In a much grander and critical scale, how can it be that a Boeing 777 with hundreds of lives on board has disappeared? This isn’t 1937, and science has come a long way since Amelia and her Lockheed Electra went missing. If we had the technology for my mom to track me down via cellphone GPS at a high school party ten years ago, then the joined forces of global intelligence– the CIA, NSA, Interpol, Chinese intelligence, and God knows what other cloak-and-dagger shit that goes on out there– should be able to locate one rather large plane.
Apparently we missed the lesson with Flight 447. It has been five years since they went down in the first “mysterious tragedy”, à la Titanic hubris. Yet, we still did not adjust and figure a better way to track our metal birds. Do you know how far technology has come just in the past decade? The iPad was invented, with a new one each year. The iPhone 4, now -5, birthed Siri. Our phones tell jokes. Google is taking us further into Jetsons’ territory with their driverless car and Google Glass, a undeniably disturbing-yet-incredible spyware eyewear that Googles someone you look at by facial recognition. In 2009, as Flight 447 crashed, the NSA was kick starting a new program: developing the ability to record every cell phone conversation in a country for an entire month. As of yesterday, reports claim success. And as of today, the fates of 239 people on Flight 370 are still a mystery. You would think Apple, Google, or the NSA would have spent one day configuring a solution to losing an entire plane. Maybe hidden ones even the pilots cannot find and disable?
But they haven’t. When I look into the post-9/11 flight regulations and practices, they are mostly human-threat-based. Sky marshalls, TSA monsters, and no-fly lists. Invasive body searches toeing borderline rape. I remember the conversation on the black box location and security, and reinforced cockpits. So, in an age where we can pick up a phone to call the other side of the world, tin boxes orbiting space, and 20,000 leagues under the sea, I do have one answer. It hasn’t occurred to anyone to install GPS locators in every single plane as a regulation safety standard.
The biggest difference between Flights 447 and 370 is that one simply crashed. If today’s reports of debris turn out true, and MH370 crashed as well, there is still the matter of human action to turn off the transponder and turn the plane completely around. What this says to me: even if MH370 crashed somewhere, it offers a new option to terrorists. The fear is building and conspiracy theories run rampant. My friend Sally thinks it’s the North Koreans, and Abigail keeps talking about episodes of 24. Junior just gets quiet. Paranoia abounds. There were a lot of changes made, once 9/11 introduced the concept of weaponized planes. Is this the next step? Are we being introduced to an even deeper level of plane weaponization? Up until now, it has only occurred to us that, if a plane were hijacked for terroristic purposes, then naturally it would be used immediately while in-air. Because it would be impossible for terrorists to steal an entire damn plane to literally “save for later”. Right?
Regardless of the plot, this story has a sad ending. If it eventually comes to light that Flight 370 has been lost at sea, it is already sure to be mourned worldwide. Loved ones and strangers alike have flooded Kuala Lumpur, Beijing, and the blogosphere with their keening cries. Even if we never learn of their fate, 239 people have disappeared from their lives, families, and world. Frightfully, without a trace more than a last radar blip, the world wonders for lack of answers. We are left in a void of mystery, like many tragedies throughout time, asking ‘why?’, ‘what happened?’, ‘where are you?’ The only record in place of goodbye is the last transmission from the co-pilot, before the transponder was switched off: “All right, good night.”
What I would like to end with is not a question, but a command. To the combined scientific and intelligence communities: get your shit together. Stop creating another damn smartphone or bomb for one day– one single day– and figure out the how, where, and what of GPS locators on every plane. Chat with the FAA and airlines, they’ll be down with this. Work together; please. We have thousands of people hurtling through the air in tin cans every second; how about we make it so their families can properly grieve, in case one fails. Or worse, for when the really bad guys are one day as smart as you and start stealing them.
What a question!
Oh buddy, am I in trouble.
It has now been six months since I last wrote [refresher: Luck of the Irish]– eep! Yes, I’m still alive, kicking ass, and taking names [i.e. job applications]. Sorry about that. I could blame work, friends, job hunting, or Martian invasions, but we all know the reason: a boy. [Man?] Isn’t that always the reason! But I had half-finished this article, and it stays true. So let’s jump back to the end of the summer, and roughly two months into our relationship.
Two months: my most common expiration date. I’ve only ever dated someone for longer once before, my only titled ‘boyfriend’. But just that week, my Mick was goofing with my hand, gave me a look, and told me my claddagh was facing the wrong way.
Side note: the claddagh, commonly called the Irish Love ring, is our symbol for true love. I prefer not to call it the Wedding ring, because my grandma told me all good Irish girls wear one; I have since age 16. It is fashioned of a pure heart clasped in the hands of friendship and crowned with loyalty. There are four ways to wear the ring, each with its own meaning. On your right hand, the heart facing out [so others can see the shape properly] tells others you are unattached; facing in means your heart is taken in a committed relationship. The left hand out says engaged, and in is married. Only supposed to be worn on the ring finger. [Duh.] The choice of metal and stone used mean anything from sterling strength, heart of gold, or diamond in the rough. Personally, I go for silver with a heart of green. The color of passion, strength, and Ireland. A perfect claddagh.
Which is now turned in. I’d said it only turns for monogamous relationships, and I’m clearly dating a dozen other guys. Right? [Circle: false.] I later turned it in, quietly beaming. Last night, he noticed again, “It looks like a much better fit this way.”
So that’s that. A subtle answer from a simple man.
When I say ‘simple’, it is meant as the most genuine admiration possible. It is difficult to finish this description of Mick from that earlier perspective, with six months more experience now. But I’ll tell you, I was absolutely starred. He is the kind of strong, good person you don’t meet often. He is a five-year Army veteran of both wars, medically discharged and half-homesick for his military life. We initially met only six months after he got out, he was still adjusting to civilian life when he started working at my Bar. He deserves a medal for being the first coworker I’ve dated; should I have said for ‘War Hero’? Well, the valiant effort succeeded. Mission Accomplished.
The effort was mine. True to form, I do believe I seduced him. He was new, an unusual novelty. Tall, broad, attractive in that solid Irish way. A real man. Maybe a bit withdrawn, a little quiet. I don’t hear it often anymore, but when he did speak up, it was with a slight lisp. Being me, I’d call him out in the kitchen for his silence. Finally, he joked that he was quiet to start, but won’t shut up once he gets going. Nearly a year later, I can vouch for that.
So I always had this running Hangman game with the sous chef during slow times at the Bar. It helped keep me from sticking my hand in boiling oil out of boredom. Trying to be inclusive, I pulled Mick into the game, only to find out he is seriously dyslexic. I haven’t figured out if the lisp is from the dyslexia, his severe war injuries, or a combination of all three. All I know is that from a cute, withdrawn veteran… it was rather endearing. So I’d invite him out with the Teambuilders to find trouble. Sometimes it worked; it was hard for him, living out in the boonies without a car. Then one night, I offered the couch instead of his trek home.
I have never been so caught up in a whirlwind. Though we kept it professional at work, all I wanted to do was grab him. After a month, everyone knew. After two, we were exclusive. He called me his best friend, the best thing to hear from your boyfriend. After three, we met the families. A bit early for the judgment, but still another first for me. The first night I met one of his best friends, he told me he had never seen Mick like this. The teasing over him loving me was received with mixed emotions, and made me blush to my Irish roots. After that, we essentially lived together. He bought me a new claddagh for Christmas.
Word-for-word what I wrote six months ago:
“So in the weirdest progression possible, I’m pretty sure I’m falling in love with him. Which is terrifying. I’ve never said that about anyone before. And definitely haven’t said it to anyone. He’s so uninhibited and honest, it makes me shy sometimes. But I’m working on the nerve to say it first. I think. Oh, lordy.”
Though it was rough, I did say it first. And it scared him. A little [lot] tipsy [drunk], it sort of slipped out. He said to not say that word; everything goes to shit after it happens. I was in shock; it was jumping off a cliff and not knowing if I’d be caught when the fall ended. I had never said ‘I love you’ to anyone before. I told him so. It was important for me to say it, even if he couldn’t. I only speak what I mean, so I couldn’t fault him for not saying something he didn’t feel.
The first time he did, a week later, drunk and still scared, I almost cried.
So here I am, ten months later, and I love him. In the immortal words of one of my favorite artists, in my absolute favorite song…. he’s got a hold on me.
The few times in my life someone has mistakenly quoted the ‘when you least expect it’ cliche, it has typically ended in heart-arresting glares or a smack upside the head. [If you say something stupid, I will punish you.]
Unfortunately, this spring had a twisted sense of humor for many in the District. The past few months saw friends falling in love with friends, roommates fooling around, coworkers getting complicated [officially called the Taboo Trifecta, f.y.i.]– it’s the Capital of Confusion around here. And I’m no exception.
Here’s the deal about the whole ‘Luck of the Irish’ bit: it’s ironic, in the true sense of the word. Much like the “blood vs. water” debate from awhile back, it is an abused saying. It actually refers to bad luck. [Like the fact that I need to replace a dying laptop, right in time to take money away from my Birthday Fun Fund!] Fact: nothing good happens to the Irish– and if it does, we didn’t deserve it. Or it’s some twisted version where the good and bad distort into something that only the Irish would consider luck. Example: when I was 20 and a senior in college, I was beaten pretty badly in a gang fight. Long story short, Big Bro, my boyfriend at the time, and I were jumped by 15+ kids on the street in front of my off-campus house. It was legally determined a riot. I ended in the gutter nearly curb-stomped. It was horrific, but we survived; I credit this more to my brother and ex than anything.
When I finally took a shaky trip back to the house a few days later, I found a four-leaf clover. It was in the exact spot my brother tackled off of me the three guys about to kick my face into the curb and likely kill me. Now, that four-leaf clover rides in my wallet everywhere I go. Some people would say good luck would have been never being in the riot in the first place… but the way I was raised, it was a fair bit of good luck to have survived. And to have big, protective Irish guys around. [Note: four-leaf clovers are not called shamrocks. Shamrocks have three leaves, for the Holy Trinity, and represent Ireland; four-leaf clovers are rare, and considered good luck; five-leaf clovers are witchcraft and considered a sign you’re going to hell. So get it straight and stop calling 4-leaves shamrocks, or the devil will take you.]
Mid-March, this melting pot nation loves to paint itself green for a day to reap the benefits of what they think is the luck of the Irish. You want my emerald-tinted birthright on March 17th? At least know the mess you’re getting into. I told you I punish stupidity: your post-St-Paddy’s- hangover is payment for claiming my background, when you genetically cannot handle it. I bleed whiskey, so stick with your tonic and gin. My sadistic hope is that anyone claiming a heritage not their own– especially when it is rightfully mine– will next be met with a seriously unfortunate series of events. Because THAT is the true luck of the Irish.
Another factor of Irish luck is when you finally DO get something good, it’s when you don’t look for/want it. Much like the “when you least expect it” bullshit, only a serious pain in my ungrateful ass. Enter: my role in this bizarre Capital of Confusion. My typical DC life has followed a consistent pattern. I date, I experience, I write. Sometimes, I want more. But it’s summertime! Summer is for adventuring and new people! So it figures that, of all moments, this is the time only one person has managed to capture my attention. [And with my Relationship Attention Deficit Disorder, that’s no mean feat. Maybe he’s my RADD-erall?] And it definitely bites into my writing/ painting/ creative activity time.
Everything about it is unexpected. The timing, the meeting– him. Just as I’m gearing up for summer in the city, my favorite time to date. And one of the Taboo Trifecta, to boot! [Taboo Trifecta: friends, roommates, coworkers.] When it first started, I assumed it was a one-time thing, much like the majority of my liaisons. But then it happened the next night. Sparks took fire. And four times over the next week. And then five days in a row.
Now, it’s well over a month later. This fascinating Irish boy quickly blew right through my Two-Week-Expiration-Date deadline. [I have mentioned my dating style has the attention span of a goldfish, yes?] People learned of it the first few weeks, and we’ve met each other’s friends. I hadn’t even realized it until we were at the bar with another coworker talking about dating/sex/et al. I mentioned that I typically get bored with guys after two weeks, and Smartass Coworker chimed in, “Hey, hasn’t it been over three for you guys?”
Realization, meet Dawn.
So I wasn’t looking for a relationship. I wasn’t even looking for a date at that point. I just wanted to go out and have fun with friends for awhile, since I’d been working so hard at the Bar [and still am, to explain the long gaps in posts]. But does my leprechaun godmother give a shit about what I want? NO. She knows what’s good for me, my thoughts be damned.
Which is why my claddagh is turned in. Because, want it or not, this Mick has stubbornly stolen my heart.
There’s something uniquely reassuring in the comfort of Sex With Friends [trademark pending?].
There is a different sort of intimacy that comes out of camaraderie. You know each other in ways distinct from someone you’re dating or romantically interested in. There is less rose-tinted idealizing. I might admire a friend, but I don’t put them on a pedestal. So in a way, it’s a much more honest relationship. And with that honesty comes a clarity of experience that is exclusive to Sex With Friends.
But maybe it’s just me.
Reactions to the topic have been stupid funny. Even if inexperienced in platonic explorations of sex, everyone has an opinion. [It’s one of the few things you can knock without trying, if it’s to admit that you wouldn’t be able to handle it. But please hold the judgement of others.] One friend says it would make her feel too self-concious around them after. No matter how solid the friendship, going out with the group later would be a new level of uncomfortable. Her mind wouldn’t be able to get past the “I’ve seen you naked, and you did things to me.”
Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely happened to me. [And my mind never stops thinking about it, giggling in some dark corner of itself.] I have had more than my share of awkward social gatherings. I would hook-up with a friend and have to pretend like nothing had happened the next day. Blushes occur, and eye contact may weigh loaded and infrequent. The thing about Sex With Friends is that it isn’t dating. You’re just friends. And friends accept each new experience as they come.
It’s up to each pair whether they’re open to others knowing about their bedroom [out-of-bedroom?] activities, or not. Everyone’s unique. I’ve had deals where one group of friends were rather incestuous and no one minded. It was a specific situation in our grouplife, and we were all aware of what was happening. Then there have been times when a friend and I would hang out normally, and more-than-friendly things happened. As far as the world was concerned, we just watched TV like we did every Thursday; only we knew. Some friends don’t care if others know, and some want others to mind their own fucking business.
College sees the worst sides of Sex With Friends. Adina puts it well: “It’s fun, but it’s dangerous.” Our Hook-Up Generation has a particularly terrible aspect: it conditions us to treat sex with an overly casual attitude. It can range from simply dismissive to surprisingly disrespectful, and young adults can be too underdeveloped to handle the fallout. I personally reached a point where thoughtless gossip and crass attitudes became too much, and pulled back from it all. It was emotionally damaging, because the snide comments and judgemental jokes didn’t come from random strangers or social enemies– they were spoken by friends. And during such a fragile developmental period of life as college, when you’re still learning what life is and how to deal with it, these incidents can be particularly harmful.
Such circumstances arise when people treat Sex With Friends without sensitivity. Just because the relationship lacks romance, doesn’t mean it lacks emotion. Sex is a profoundly intimate act, and should be treated with respect. You are engaging in one of life’s most penetrating experiences; anyone claiming to have sex without emotion is dead inside. [Seriously: a sociopath or zombie, but needing therapy either way.] Even if the emotion is as light-hearted as dopamine-fueled happiness or oxytocin-powered trust– the reactions are there and biologically proven. So I hold issue with people who say friends-with-benefits means sex without emotion. If it’s without emotion, it’s just fuck buddies. [See full definitions here.] Sex With Friends definitely has emotion– they’re just not romantic ones. They’re platonic, they’re sexual, they’re genuine affection. I can appreciate a friend’s sexuality, attractiveness, and fun without being starry-eyed. And I can definitely appreciate that special trick they do without wanting to be their girlfriend.
“It’s a good idea, until it’s not.”
Then there is the situation where one of the two grow more than platonic feelings, and everything goes to shit. Someone forgets that it isn’t dating. They start to take the little compliments as an intent to woo, when it’s really just a friend telling you your eyes are pretty, or they like how you do that one thing with your mouth. Suddenly the little moments become charged, and eggshells are required for walking. I recommend cutting it off immediately. Talking is necessary to make sure the air is cleared between the two of you, or you’ll never return to the friendship you had before. Note: the friendship will never be like before. Be real, you’ve done dirty things together. But it can go back to something good, if you’re up front and honest.
This is the crucial moment where most pairs fuck it up and ruin what they once had. If you are unable to talk about difficult emotions/sexual issues and don’t want to lose a friend, please never engage in Sex With Friends in the first place. Because you will fuck it up. And you will never stop regretting being such a royal fuckup. In your defense, most people are just like you. Not many are evolved or open-minded enough. So don’t even go there; you can’t handle it. Just keep it in your pants and fantasies, where it belongs.
I maintain the benefits of Sex With Friends. As a more experienced adult, I can maturely decide on the potential for fun or fallout. Unlike college, I am now much more proficient. Since joining the real world, I’ve played the game a number of times, and had plenty of fun winning. Mostly chosen for pure enjoyment, once for the solace of distraction, I discerned the value of each worthwhile. They were fun while we played, each ended amicably, and they are still in my life as good friends.
And in a city where we are all racing about our hectic professions and lives with rarely a minute to spare for groceries or the gym, let alone the effort and mess of dating… Well, enhancing your aptitude for Sex With Friends can easily make your life that much more fulfilled. If you can handle it.
A friend asked me last week if I was afraid of going downtown, on the metro, or being in DC in general right now. I was confused for a second, before I realized we had been talking about Boston a few minutes before.
There are few moments when I can be rendered speechless. It’s a writer’s nature to put the overwhelming into words, whether of love or horror, but even we can be caught up with the moment. The past two weeks has one of them. There were no words, only a storm of memories and emotion. Before 9/11, my first of such moments were beautiful. Holding my baby sister for the first time. My first kiss. Surprise birthday parties. The little things that are both common and profound to the young. They teach us so much about how to exult in experience. We learn wonder, awe, and the magic of life.
Some of us experience the flipside earlier than others. 9/11 was my first, as a preteen able to comprehend the utter horror. Hyper-aware and intelligent, it rocked my world as I watched my parents crumble along with the news’ footage of the towers. While adults held their children close, we learned the fragility of our world. Our buildings crash down. Villains are real. And our parents and presidents aren’t invincible. But they can be superheros, after a fashion. Living smack dab between NYC and DC, we all knew people. NYPD and fire-fighters. My best friend’s aunt worked at the Pentagon. My godmother lived in Manhattan. My parents worried about the impact such horror would have on their kids, but adults got the worst of it. They’re the ones with a rocked sense of safety. One of my strongest memories from 2001 was an overwhelming feeling of family. When the worst happens, that love is what saves us. And families will always remember.
I was in high school when Katrina hit. Every school sport, club, and team exploded with various fundraisers. Again, humanity’s great family rallied together to grieve and heal. I have yet to visit New Orleans, but the greatest repeated admiration of the endlessly hurricane-battered city is for the defiantly vibrant statement they make. Weather won’t ever change their joie de vivre.
A few years later, my cell phone rang during a French lecture. It was my mom. Another ring; another “je suis très désolé”. My phone continued to vibrate. An apologetic “c’est ma mère” got me into the hallway. She choked out to come home. Refusing to tell me details via phone, something had happened. My professor should cancel class, the university would be shutting down. I was too young to remember Columbine as more than a whispered story, but Virginia Tech threatened my own blood. I never was more grateful for having gone to college in my hometown more than that day, spent clutching my mother in front of the TV, waiting for my brother to finally call in that he was safe. Big Bro and a whole pile of friends are Hokies, and thankfully all survived. I wore maroon and orange with a sibling’s pride to my campus vigil. We are Virginia Tech, and we are strong.
I have experienced great tragedy in my life. From a young age, into adulthood. From something as personal as a friend lost to cancer, leaving me feeling like the whole world has changed… well, to the whole world actually changing after terrorist attacks. I have seen friends off to war to be shot, and friends have been shot in the ignored warfare waged on our own streets here. Each time, the flurry of phone calls to see who could have been watching Batman in Aurora, or might be homeless after Sandy, are made. Each time, news– both good and bad– trickles through jammed cell towers. I hold a great number of runners and Bostonians in my heart; this time, my loves are all safe.There isn’t much I can say about Boston that hasn’t already been said by the more prominent. President Obama’s speech caught my breath, with the quote about Boston being a state of grace. My favorite laugh came from a spoof-Happy Gilmore twitter, “Boston is probably the only major city that if you fuck with them, they will shut down the whole city…stop everything.. and find you.” And Stephen Colbert made me cry. “These maniacs might have tried to make life bad for the people of Boston, but all they can ever do is show just how good those people are.”
Because it’s true. When the evil fight to bring us down, the only thing good people can do is continue our lives in strength and grace. I would be lying if I said I have never flicked away a grain of fear for living in the US capital. I am far too informed to ignore the target this city makes to a mess of bad people. DC is undoubtedly an iconoclasm magnet. But that won’t keep us away from the places we love. We get back on to the Metro. We return to the Washington Monument. We continue life. This week, a group of runners organized a Run for Boston. I couldn’t attend, but a fellow blogger did a great write-up: thanks for running and writing, Dana. Great cities will always attract envy. Like our sister, Boston, Washington has a heaping of love, pride, and good people. What they, and the rest of the world’s response, embody is an undeniable human power. Threats only serve to strengthen our resolve. Our fragility isn’t a weakness, but a treasure. It makes us resilient. And there is nothing as inspiring, nothing to remind us of our original awe and wonder at the magic in life, as this resilience of the fragile.
And like all good people, we will hunt you down. So don’t fuck with us.
There’s that old saying about which is thicker, and therefore deserves the ultimate loyalty. (One is decidedly more drinkable; please don’t test it.)
But I learned from a Cracked article [where I learn most of my baller/ meaningless trivia] that the proverb’s been twisted. It doesn’t refer to your biological family like we think these days– it means the one you picked. Blood, as in blood-oaths and war; water, as in of-the-womb relatives. In short: your buddies are better than genetics, because you actually CHOSE them. You love family because you have to; you love your friends because you want to. And life is a fucking battle, so choose wisely who has your back.
I’ve always said something similar: one of the greatest things about growing up is this ability to choose your family. Because that’s who your friends become. The further away from the biological you move and grow, the more you turn to the surrogates in your life. The girlfriends who build a new sisterhood. The guy who steps in as an older brother, to roughhouse and/or protect you. A boss with those mystical parental powers of approval and judgement. On a very basic level, the majority of us will always have some makeshift family dynamic in our day-to-day lives. Whether you find them in the workplace or social circles (or both), the family dynamic is inescapable and omnipotent. It shapes your life.
As kids, friendships are forged mostly by default. You’re the same age, in the same class, seated next to each other alphabetically, or managed to have the same Ninja Turtles backpack. In high school, you shared the same athletic/academic/artistic talent (or mutual lackthereof), and were in the same clique. And college isn’t much different. Majors stick together, and dorm-mates bond. But out here in the real world? It can be harder as adults to find your family.
Freshly pushed from the collegiate nest, we wander like hatchlings [read: idiots] around our new adult lives for a while crying “Are you my mother?” Think about it. For those of you who moved to DC without a support system– and knowing this city, it’s a large majority of us– there was a deep part of you starving for that close-as-blood connection. Some of us turn to classes or clubs to find it within similar interests (fuck bocce ball; but hashing is a “Jules Approved Activity”). Others simply go to a bar to meet people (arguably a similar interest, to those of us alcoholically-minded). Nearly everyone throws themselves into work until life figures itself out.
I don’t know what it’s like to move here without a single friend. Two of my best, Otoño and Sally, were already here. And that was hard enough! But between work and play, I found a few family trees to graft on to. My Restaurant the first year adopted me into a polyglot family spanning over a dozen global cultures. I had a fierce bunch of aunts and uncles, big brothers and sisters, all making sure I ate enough food and had the hugs needed to keep spirits up. Team United Nations pulled me into the wild world of clubs, DJs, and partying the sun to rise. Josef and the Roomies fill in as older brothers keeping me in touch with the art world.
And now, My Bar serves as home base. With a majority of the staff fighting in the DC job market, yet taking pride in Industry life, we understand each other on a very real level. In addition to our “Sunday is Coming” tradition, which kicked off to an awesome start on Easter, we typically meet on Mondays. The Pinch, our friendly neighborhood dive, has made Mondays their Industry Night– meaning certain astronomical specials for those in the know. The rest of the week, we knock off work and set up camp at the corner table at Wonderland Ballroom, where similar benefits are ensured. We take full advantage of industry connections, and have established strong familial ties between our bars.
With that said, sometimes there’s nothing like your literal family. Junior visited with Abigail only once since Inauguration, and it almost felt like a tease because I had to work all weekend. Last week was Fabala’s spring break from high school, and it nearly broke my heart that a visit fell through. On top of it all, my dad was in the hospital for a fair bit (he’ll be alright, but a reoccurring worry). I had to work so much that I still haven’t gotten to pop home and see him. I’m currently the only veteran server at My Bar, and responsibility lays heavy.
The one thing keeping me going: I did get to visit Big Bro up in Philly a month ago; it was ridiculously awesome. He toured me around his favorite bars and restaurants, hopping from one bangin brewery to another craft cocktail bar. He works at one of Starr’s places, the Dandelion, where even their TOAST will make your mouth orgasm. I now have both a new favorite beer and drink– Triumph Brewery‘s Scotch Ale and Continental Midtown‘s ‘Blood and Sand’, a blood orange and scotch drink. I love DC and everything in it, but Philly’s mind-blowing food and drink culture reminded me why I almost moved there or NYC. [No worries, I don’t regret my decision.] One of the greatest things I left my visit with, though, was a strong calm with being an industry worker. Philly is such a great blue-collar-creative environment, and seeing everyone’s pride in their restaurants gave me a sense of peace I hadn’t felt in DC. So thanks to Big Bro, his lady, and all those goobers for the heaps of Brotherly Love.
Which I soon have the chance to return. Junior and Abigail are talking about visiting next weekend. The week after is Big Bro’s and my group of friends’ huge family reunion concert in Philly with our boys, The Heavy Pets (definitely check them out). A month later, the Phillies come down to play the Nats, which ensures a whole bundle of crazy along with it. Then Jules Junior, my pride and joy, graduates from university and officially begins the permanent move back to Our Nation’s Capital! In between all the Clan Jules activities, you can be sure there will be a pile of trouble with my District Family. Because life is best when you have a bunch of love from all corners. Stay tuned.
And because I can’t let the opportunity go to introduce you, this is from last year’s show:
Hey, folks! After quite a hiatus there [sorry about that], I’m back! And what a weekend to swing back in on. Happy Easter-Who-Thrones-fest!
So we all know I’m an epic nerd, bringing new levels of kickass to our geek chic culture here in DC. Not only is it Easter, the world’s best-sundressed holiday for eating fluffy things in every shade of pastel, but it’s been a two-day marathon of the most looked-forward to season premieres in all of Geekdom: Game of Thrones and Doctor Who. I will be abstaining from reuniting with my time-travelling love, in hopes of visiting the family later this week and watching it with Junior and Fabala… but my self-restraint stops there.
Tonight, Adina and I are hosting an all-out spring dinner feast, complete with the proper blood-sacrifices traditional to celebrate the resurrection of House Stark: bunnies!
Alright, I may be joking on that count. But we have some serious menu items in the works [that is, after I finish procrastinating with this…]. I’m making my potato-leek soup, caramelized onion-goat cheese turnovers, and pumpkin bread pudding with candied ginger and buttered whiskey sauce. [Yes, your mouth just orgasmed. It’s alright, that happens a lot.] The Teambuilders and other friends will gather for food and festivities.
After eating all our delicious food, everyone will shutthehellup at 9pm for exactly one hour, so I can pay homage to the Starks. *fingers crossed for dragons* Big Bro and the rest of the Jules Clan have been geeking out over every trailer for months [one courteously included at the bottom of the page].
Because I have to keep a few tricks up my sleeve to impress new friends and enchant boys via their stomachs, I’ll only list one recipe. The turnovers, I first made for Sef’s birthday last summer on a whim, and they’ve been a hit ever since.
And since it’s Easter, and the day isn’t complete without actually eating cute, helpless things in effigy… we will indeed be creating the deviled egg chicks. SO STOKED.
Happy Easter-Who-Thrones Day, everyone. ❤