Wednesday, May 16, 2012

on the (clipped) wings of love

Okay let's be honest.  All anyone really wants to read about is people's love lives.  There's a great little part in Eat Pray Love about a psychologist who went to help a group of Cambodian refugees talk through the horrible things they'd suffered--genocide, torture, starvation.  And you know what they all wanted to talk about?  LOVE.  Who they were in love with, who they couldn't stop thinking about, who they were crazy for (156-57).  So here goes:  my love life lately.

My love life lately just can't get off the ground.

When my sister Rose was four, she got a canary for her birthday.  Mom took her to the pet store, they looked through all the canaries, chose a pretty little one, and brought it home in a box.  In a moment of utter benevolence and awesomeness, as soon as they got home, sweet little Rosie (animal lover that she is) bounded out of the car, put the boxed bird on the driveway, squatted next to it, and opened the lid so it could get a little fresh air before being caged for the rest of its life.  

The bird then flew away.

Smart bird.

And this is precisely what my love cannot do.

The question is: why ever not?  

Laying in bed several nights ago, I wondered why I'm so frustrated about this whole LOVE garbage.  To melodramatically quote Fantine, "There was a time when love was blind, and the world was a song, and the song was exciting."  I yousta feel that way about love. What has happened to me?!! 

Then I realized it might have something to do with the fact that in the last two years, I've had 10 failed relationship attempts.  Note: not failed relationships, failed relationship attempts.  "Attempts" because said relationships never in fact got off the ground.  We'd start out pretty good, and then for one reason or another, chosen boy would fall off the face of the earth.  The whole thing looks a little like a kid riding a bike up a hill...starts out with a lot of gusto, but inevitably the hill wins and the kid slows down, and then halts...and then starts rolling backwards.  Yep.  That's what it has looked like.

Let me illustrate:

Typical (and I might even add healthy&happy) relationships tend to go something like this:
1) You notice someone, maybe because they're handsome, or witty, or wear sweet kicks, or are incredibly kind.
2) You have a conversation with this someone and realize that they are in fact all of the above.
3) You start to form a friendship--you find excuses to go to things together, you send witty text messages, you somehow always find each other at parties and can't stop talking to each other.
4) You go on a date or two.
5) You start to really really like each other. (*Cue butterflies, almost-holding-hands encounters, etc.)
6) Some moment of drama where you both have to decide whether or not you really want to be in this thing.
7) The kiss!
8) You decide you do really want to be in this thing, which leads to...
9) Full-fledged investment: you start really relying on each other and trusting each other and falling in love with each other.  You fall in love and hold nothing back.
10) *b l i s s  a n d  h a p p i n e s s*
11) Dreams of marriage and lovelovelove
*12) Twelve is asterisked because this has been a part of every relationship I've had so far, healthy and happy though they've been, so for full disclosure, I feel I have to include it.  Ahem: the breakup.  You know, something sad happens like someone moves or someone feels not-so-good about the relationship, and then you breakup and cry a bunch and listen to For Emma Forever Ago.

So my relationships of the past two years?  They've only gotten to somewhere between #3-5.  The point: We're not talking a series of breakups here.  We're not even talking a series of boys I've dated.  We're talking a series of boys where we came really close to liking each other.

I think that's pathetic.

Yes, breakups are terrible.  I've had my share.  But the nice thing about them is you can at least walk away thinking, "I gave that thing my all.  I know what it felt like to love that person and have them love me in return!  Bam!"  All these false starts?  Not so awesome.  They leave me feeling deflated.

So as a form of therapy or to appease my list-making craziness, I present 


I will give them all nicknames in the form of the vegetable I think they most resemble because, let's be honest, that's so much more fun than numbers.

First there was Artichoke.

Okay, I take back the vegetable idea.  It's too weird.  How 'bout I give them all names of literary characters I love.

1.  So, Artichoke, who we will call Jake Barnes. I really liked this kid a lot.  He had good hair and we liked all the same things (namely Top Gun and cooking and midnight runs to 7-Eleven).  I bought him Big League Chew during finals week and he kissed me on the cheek before I went home for Christmas break.  Come January I asked, "Please can we slow down a little?" to which he smiled and said, "Yeah."  Then proceeded to evaporate.  It was kind of a Runaway Bride thing: you know, where Richard Gere (me) looks away for one second and then Julia Roberts (Artichoke) bolts.  This is where I learned what it means to shamelessly throw yourself at someone.  I tried every trick in the book.  None worked.  So embarrassed, I relegated myself back to the wide world of dating.

2.  The next guy to enter the scene was Jay Gatsby.  I liked him because he was a real man who could grow a full beard and had a real job that he wore a suit and tie to everyday.  He wasn't afraid to stand up for right, for honor, courage, valor.  He is those things embodied.  I liked that about him--his shiny integrity.  This is the boy I learned how to slackline for.  I cancelled my carpool (rather awkwardly, I might add) so I could carpool with him.  And then somehow the Carolyn+Jay carpool never materialized, nor did our initially promising slacklining relationship, so I was left driving to work all by myself every day for the rest of the semester.

3.  Then I moved across the country, where I met Finny.  Finny was the bomb and here's why: he danced like nobody was watching, he went on walks in thunderstorms, he liked hamburgers like I like hamburgers, and he had a sick collection of bikes.  And his hair could make you go weak at the knees.  We went out a bunch...spent a lot of nights riding around the District on our bicycles.  We even drove back across the old US of A together.  And that was the end of it. I still have no idea what happened here.

4.  But it was okay because I came back to the sweet sweet friend-love of Edward Rochester.  I like so many things about Edward.  We've been friends for oh-so-many years, and I just like him more and more every day.  He's smart and mild-mannered but surprisingly and delightfully feisty when you get him alone.  Everything about him smacks of classic gentleman.  Every time I think maybe we could date, he disappears--sometimes to across the country, sometimes to across the world.  And then out of nowhere, he'll take me out and I'll think, "Well maybe this time we'll like each other at the same time..." Still hasn't happened.

5.  Henry David was a breath of fresh air.  He giggled nonstop, and I think he still holds the record for making me laugh harder than anyone else.  He has a way of seeing the best in people, and of being real about things.  When I first met him, he was tossing a football and wearing a baseball hat backwards.  I thought, "Oh please.  Too-cool-for-school-jock."  Then he shows up at my desk one day and we talk about books for an hour.  I was done for.  He's one of those magical people--the ones who is not only incredibly cool on the outside, but incredibly brilliant and beautiful on the inside too.  He lived on a lake one summer and grew a beard, for Pete's sake.  When he left for the summer, he may or may not have sort of held my hand (???) one magical night involving hot chocolate, a Russian hat, and a swingset...

6.  I met Peter in Paris (romantic, magical, serendipitous?!  Yes.).  This one was admittedly my bad.  We dated real fast then undated real fast.  Timing maybe?  Different personalities maybe?  All I know is when I first saw him I thought, "Daaaaaang, what I wouldn't give to date that boy."  And the crazy encounter in Paris (of all the places in the world to run into someone!).  He worked hard to make me feel comfortable and happy, which I liked very much.  He also was giving and unselfish and quietly confident in a way that was incredibly stabilizing to me.  Good man, that one.

7.  Then there was Oskar Schell.  This kid can pun better than anyone on the face of the earth.  Which is sometimes terribly frustrating and sometimes terribly endearing.  He is more or less a walking encyclopedia.  We'd gone out a bunch, and more than that, we spent a good chunk of every day together--lectures on campus, book readings, dance parties...  I got super gutsy one night and told said boy I wanted to keep going out with him.  He nodded and said okay.  The next date we went on, he escorted me everywhere we went--we're talking extending his arm so I could wrap mine in his.  Good sign, right?  Apparently not.  Never heard from him after that date.  Which is weird considering the next mancounter (yes, man+encounter=mancounter):

8.  Come January, I got set up with Kubla Kahn.  Immediate adoration.  This may or may not have  had something to do with the fact that he was a graphic designer, which means I wanted to pin everything in his apartment.  Oh, and all his outfits too.  Apparently I'm a sucker for style.  (Shallow?  Probs.)  But the not-shallow things endeared me even more to him: he could strike up a conversation with anyone, and he always tipped, even when we just went and picked up pizza.  He really cares about people I think.  And I like that.  I also think he's the kind of guy who wouldn't be afraid to float the Nile or learn astronomy so we could sail the Pacific.  I liked most of all that he was always smiling.  Then came that fateful night, when he started extending his arm so I could wrap mine in his.  (Deja vu?)  Yep, never heard from him after that night.  (What is it with the escorting, boys!?  Is that the kiss of death or something?!)

9.  Then there was the run-in with the boy that one of my best friends is convinced is my soulmate.  We'll call him Nick.  Kind of an ongoing saga goes something like I don't actually know him, but said friend is always extolling his virtues and telling me to date him, and then I run into him weirdly at the same time every semester, like clockwork.  Really creepy clockwork.  His eyes sparkle like he has a secret, and there is something deeply good about him.  He texted me one day to give me his number...sure I was a little excited if for no other reason than to at least get to the bottom of this whole soulmate thing!  Annnnd then he never talked to me again....soooooo..........

10.  Which brings us to the most recent fail: Norman.  One night I made him laugh so hard he fell over.  All I can say about him is that his kindness is unsurpassed.  But, as luck would have it, he was also only sporadically interested.

One evening at ballet (back when I was a teenager and doing things like ballet), I was having a really hard time getting the floor combination down.  This wasn't anything new, I always had a hard time with floor combinations.  I stood, about to do a pirouette turn.  Prepped, shook it out, prepped again, halted, waited for the music to come around, prepped again......and did one measly little pirouette turn.  It was pathetic.  Kinda like my current love history.  My teacher thought so too: "Wow Carolyn, that was a lot of prep for one little turn..."  Yeah.  I know.  I'm pretty tired of all the winding up for not much turning.  But I will say this: if I've gotta be winding up while I wait for the real spinning, you 10 boys are the greatest windup a girl could ask for.  Thanks for being kind and for making me laugh and for having awesome hair.  And that's all I've got to say.

(Please note that I did not use a single Jane Austen character.  I win.)


  1. At least you got past #1...

    Will you please write a book so that I can read it?

  2. Kudos on no Jane Austen men. I have to admit i kept waiting for one to show up. I don't know why I was so sure there would be a Darcy. Though I prefer Knightley if we are talking Austen characters, in case you were curious. I hope you Gatsby was as dreamy as the written version.

    Also, you are totally right. I do love to read about your love life. I'm so bad at keeping in touch. It is nice to get the inside scoop. I keep thinking I will come up with some words of encouragement, but the fact is that dating is hard. Hopefully you are having lots of fun along the way. (hello-bike rides through the romantic) just have faith that you will be so happy in the end. It will be worth wading through the awkwardness to be with that perfect person...even if that person is totally different than you expected them to be. Love you lots!

  3. Nice reflection and beautifully written. I've found as I reflect on the past, it let's me launch back to the future, instead of staying in the past. I find funny trends, like I've refused 6 men this year, 5 of which's names have started with the letter J. Weird. (this is Carol Ann)

  4. This is beautiful! And so are you, in every way! Also, you are sooo not alone in terms of being stuck in the winding up stage. I feel like that's not just the past 2 years of my life, but actually just MY LIFE :) The thing is though, all this prep, these "attempts," are leading up to so much more than one little pirouette. I promise! When you find him and he finds you, it'll all be worth it. At least that's what i'm counting on!!

  5. remember how last night when we were handing out invitations to our soiree everyone commented on how much they loved your blog post? :)
    that's because you're awesome & this writing is super great!

  6. i relate. we should talk more, you and i––and not just because our love lives are strikingly similar, but because every time i read your blog i remember how very great you are!

  7. beautifully written! I love your blog.