Happy 100

It’s my 100th post!

I guess that means I can be described as “prolific” now, right?  However, I’m not sure since I don’t churn out insipid romance novels every other week like Nicholas Sparks or Danielle Steele.  I’m also pretty sure there are more sequels to the Land Before Time than the number of blog posts I have written, but I don’t use a fact-checker, so that can’t be verified.

I'm as prolific as the Land Before Time and its 345236761 sequels!

I’m as prolific as the Land Before Time and its 345236761 sequels!

Anyway, I think having the semi-discipline to author 100 possibly self-absorbed blog posts begs celebration, don’t you?  I do, and frankly, I’m looking for an excuse to drink the two large bottles of Estonian beer sitting in my fridge that I got sent home with from a catering gig.

So before I set off on my Estonian-fueled Power Hour, I present you with a list of my ten favorite posts from blogging past:

1 – Remember Xanga?  Yeah, I cringe a little bit too thinking about how much of my adolescent self I poured into that Internet relic like I was Winona Ryder in basically every movie Winona Ryder has been in.  I felt ALL the feelings.  Diary of a Mad, White Teenager aka My Xanga Years

2 – Behind every Christmas tree and light display is a frustrated father who just wants his family Christmas to be perfect.  Father Christmas or In Defense of Dads Yelling at the Christmas Lights

3 – From gay boyfriends to terrible first kisses, love often eludes me.  Loves Labours Lost Part I

4 – It’s been said many times, but New York is a city of tremendous highs and lows.  Sometimes they occur all in the same day.  It’s not for nothing Woody Allen was the perfect example of NYC neuroticism.  But…For Every Action, There is an Equal and Opposite Reaction.

5 – Sometimes, one night can be the most magical experience of your young adult life.  LIVE from New York, It’s Saturday Night

6 – Like most little girls, I wanted to be a ballerina when I grew up.  I spent much of my childhood engrossed in tendus, plies, Fonteyn, Baryshnikov, and stories about swan princesses.  But it wound up being A Dream Deferred

7 – Newbies to the City sometimes ask me about good date spots.  I grabbed a gay BFF and had a somewhat, uh, untraditional date.  How to Enjoy the Museum of Natural History On a Date

8 – To quote Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”  Ever feel like literally EVERYONE you know is getting engaged, married, or having babies?  Yeah, me too.  The Day My Facebook (& My Life) Went From Bacchanals to Bridal Showers: A Modern Tale of Growing Up

9 – Sometimes, you gotta live in the woods for two years to get away from it all; at least, that’s what Thoreau and Daniel Day-Lewis think.  But could we really live life like “Walden” in the Era of the Smart Phone?

10 – According to the Captain & Tenille (one of my parents’ favorite 70s pop groups), love will keep us together.  On Valentine’s Day, we all scream and shout about LOVE, but the kind we’re looking for is actually lowercase love.  Not “Muskrat Love,” whatever that is, Captain & Tenille.

So go forth and know me better, man (and woman)!  I can’t promise my next 100 posts won’t be any less self-deprecating and full of obscure pop culture references, but I CAN promise you’ll be entertained (I hope).  I guess it’s time to go find out if this Estonian beer is any good…

lowercase love

Happy Valentine’s Day/Galentine’s Day/Singles Awareness Day/Couples Awareness Day/Whatever Day!

I’m pretty sure this is the one day of the entire year about which EVERYONE has very strong feelings.

The hills are alive with the sound of wretching (over how much some people love V-Day)

The hills are alive with the sound of wretching (over how much some people love V-Day)

I’m not sure there are enough emoji and internet memes to even begin to cover all the highs and lows people feel on this one day every year.  You have everything from Claire-Danes-intense-chin-quiver criers to Julie-Andrews-in-Sound-of-Music-spinning-on-top-of-the-Austrian-mountains rejoicers to Captain-Kirk-furiously-yelling-KHAAAAAAAAN haters.

KHAAAAAN't you understand how much I hate Valentine's Day?!?!

KHAAAAAN’t you understand how much I hate Valentine’s Day?!?!

Valentine’s Day really brings out the crazy in us all, kids.

Needless to say, we all feel ALL THE FEELINGS.

I actually feel like the Switzerland in it all: I’m not really for or against it.  I just basically try to stay out of it.  I’m neutral in the war of lovers/haters of V-Day.  I’m all quiet on the western front.

Growing up, Valentine’s Day always meant receiving chocolate and books or movies from my parents, picking out the coolest cards to give to my friends at school, and cutting out pictures of Leonardo DiCaprio and taping them to the cover of my trapper keeper.

Leo DiCaprio: my birthday buddy, trapper keeper cover, and lifetime crush.  My heart will go on for you...FOREVER.

Leo DiCaprio: my birthday buddy, trapper keeper cover, and lifetime crush. My heart will go on for you…FOREVER.

Sure, I noticed the floral bouquets arriving around me, the giant stuffed animals from boyfriends with probable Napoleonic complexes (why ELSE would you feel compelled to buy a panda the size of Mama Cass to prove your “love” to your significant other?), the bedazzled cards with declarations of adoration on the front.  But I never felt resentful of other people having significant others to shower them with these items of l’amour.  It was just a fun little holiday, and the next day, everything returned to normal, and I never thought about it until the next year.I can see why some people hate this day.  They think the commercialization of one of our most deeply (if not THE most deeply) felt emotions is sick and twisted and cruel.  The singletons think it’s yet another dig at their uncoupled status worse than any offhand comment from a know-it-all Aunt named Mildred or Ethel who always asks, “Married yet? Tsk tsk.”  Restaurants, theatres, massage parlors all give great discounts on February 14, but only for couples.  I can understand being upset at not getting half off a deep-tissue massage and facial just because you don’t have some guy to go with you who really doesn’t care about it anyway (and if he DOES care about a massage and facial, he’s either Ryan Seacrest or possibly gay; though some straight men DO enjoy good skincare).  It’s a little tyrannical, because single people like discounts too, ya know?  Those that hate this day usually make exclamations about loving yourself first and asking why we don’t celebrate love the OTHER 364 days of the year.  It’s the same thing year after year until they eventually find their prince charmings and finally get their damn couples discounts and wilting floral bouquets.  Then the haters become the people they hated, posting photo after photo of their special day and gifts on Facebook so the world (and their Aunt Mildreds/Ethels) can see how much they’re loved.

See what I mean about feeling all the feelings?  Valentine’s Day is the day everyone brings out their crazy.  I bet therapists get more new patients this time of year than any other (someone check into that for me).

As the V-Day Switzerland, I admit it’s hard NOT to notice all this ranting for/against love.  Everything about Valentine’s Day is meant to draw your attention to LOVE, the bold, capitalized version of it.  LOVE is what the day is all about.  Do you know how much I LOVE you?  Can you feel the LOVE tonight?

The only acceptable kind of furry love you should get on V-Day

The only acceptable kind of furry love you should get on V-Day

(Which is still one of the greatest love ballads to come from a Disney movie EVER.  Thanks, Elton John!)

But really, so much emphasis is put on LOVE today – whether that be a giant stuffed animal or box of chocolates or Hallmark card – that I think everyone, and I mean EVERYONE (haters/lovers alike) forget this day was intended to actually be about celebrating love.  The lowercase version.

The lowercase version of love is not boastful or Napoleonic.  It’s when a young man gives up his seat on the subway for an elderly lady with groceries.  It’s when your best friend drops by with a cup of soup when you’re lying sick on your couch.  It’s when you forgive someone for making a mistake.  It’s when you play catch with your kid in the park or help them with their science project.  It’s a hug or a high-five.  It’s a phone call from your mom.  Lowercase love is quiet and unpretentious.  It’s simple and unconditional; always accepting of flaws.  My guess is those who complain loudest about LOVE don’t realize how much actual love is already in their lives; they’re searching for some grand gesture (which, admittedly, can be nice once in awhile) instead of the feeling behind it.  Basically, you’re looking for love in all the wrong places (i.e. hearts, flowers, candy, teddy bears, lingerie teddys, etc).

“Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”1st Corinthians 13:4-7

The verse seems like a cliché by now after being used at so many weddings, but if you really read it and take its message to heart, it’s a good reminder of what love SHOULD be.  LOVE should not be mistaken for being love.  Nor should we think that all LOVE doesn’t have some love behind it.

What is love to me?  I think the best, most recent example is one from my mother.  This past week has been a tough one for me financially; work has been slow and expenditures a little too high.  I got myself into some trouble with my bank account and didn’t want to ask my parents for help yet again.  My mother, without accusations or anger, called me to say she had taken care of it.  She sincerely asked what was wrong, and I began to sob as I explained over the phone.  “It’s my fault,” I cried, “and I didn’t want to ask for help again, because you and Dad have done enough for me already.  I’m so sorry.  I was going to take care of it somehow.”  She shushed me and said she understood and just quietly took care of it.  “Your dad and I know what it’s like to be young and struggling too, and we haven’t worked so hard all these years to not be able to help you and your brother once in awhile.  We can’t take care of everything, but you shouldn’t feel like you can’t tell us when something is wrong.  You’re our beautiful daughter and we will never give up on you.”  And despite the fact my parents had already sent me a little box of chocolate and a book for Valentine’s Day a few days before, my mother’s words and selfless act made me feel more loved than that box of stuff.

I can only hope to be as loving a person as my mom (and my dad too!)

I can only hope to be as loving a person as my mom (and my dad too!)

So feel all your feelings today.  Seriously.  It’s good to get that stuff out!  Rage against the heavens or swoon in a cloud of stardust.  But know that you are loved, lowercase loved, whether you get that couples discount or not.  It may not be some grand gesture of the furry or floral kind, but it lasts a lot longer.  If you do it right, it lasts forever.

“It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends…If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.”Love Actually

Before Sunrise: A Twenty-Something Perspective

Last week, I FINALLY saw the first film in Richard Linklater’s lovely trilogy (or will it be more than that?) about love and life: Before Sunrise.  It took me a little time to get my hands on a copy from the library here in New York, but I’m glad I did.  I’m right around the ages of both Jesse and Celine in the first film, and boy did THAT influence my viewing experience.  Whoa.

(Full disclosure: I go to the library generally about once a week.  It’s a habit developed in childhood when my mother would take me to story-time, and we’d leave with a giant stack of books.  As a “financially-challenged” young adult, I don’t see the point in getting Netflix when I can check out literally almost any movie or TV show on DVD for FREE.  Thanks, New York Public Library!)

Celine (Julie Delpy) & Jesse (Ethan Hawke)

Celine (Julie Delpy) & Jesse (Ethan Hawke)

The film is about two strangers who meet on a train going to Vienna, one an American (Jesse played by Ethan Hawke) and one French (Celine played by Julie Delpy).  These two twenty-somethings strike up a conversation that quickly turns into many conversations throughout the streets of Vienna.  But their blossoming romance has a time-stamp: Jesse is flying back to the U.S. the following morning.  What transpires in the course of their night together is funny, joyous, honest, and bittersweet.

I wasn’t expecting to find myself a little weepy at the end of the film (especially since I rarely cry during movies), but as the final moments played out before me, I realized I was a little more than invested in these two characters.  I understood them, because I’ve been there a little bit myself, I think.

When you really connect with another person, whether that be romantically or platonically, there is innate electricity; you feel a spark.  Jesse and Celine feel it almost immediately in the film, and I’ve felt it at various points in my life too.  It’s akin to magic; the world seems to slip away from around you, leaving just the two of you in some kind of alternate reality.

Jesse: I feel like this is, uh, some dream world we’re in, y’know.

Celine: Yeah, it’s so weird.  It’s like our time together is just ours.  It’s our own creation.  It must be like I’m in your dream, and you’re in mine or something.”

"If there's any kind of magic in this world it must be in the attempt of understanding someone sharing something. I know, it's almost impossible to succeed but who cares really? The answer must be in the attempt." - Celine

“If there’s any kind of magic in this world it must be in the attempt of understanding someone sharing something. I know, it’s almost impossible to succeed but who cares really? The answer must be in the attempt.” – Celine

I remember several endless nights like Jesse and Celine’s where I was so completely engrossed in the person I was with that time stopped.  One such night, I chronicled in this blog post, and I felt that magic.  Recently, I spent a long afternoon with that same gentleman just walking and talking around New York.  This city’s streets and neighborhoods really encourage the whole walking-and-talking scenario (paging Aaron Sorkin!).  It’s one of the things I love best about New York: you don’t have to have a destination, the journey IS the destination.  The longer we strolled, the more our conversation deepened.  We were discussing things we’d never brought up before: life, dreams, adulthood, marriage, children, aging.  It made me realize just how much of ourselves and our thoughts we keep hidden from other people, even ones we trust.  It also reminded me that all of us feel totally lost at some point or another, especially in our twenties.  He may be a few years older than me, but it doesn’t mean he has life any more figured out than I do (which I’m not sure if I find reassuring or depressing).

Jesse and Celine both ponder life’s great mysteries, and neither one of them has definitive answers either.  But in a weird way, I find all of our endless hypothesizing beautiful.  Some questions in life will be answered, and others will not; that’s just how this thing goes, I guess.  Maybe the only way to get through it all is by letting yourself be vulnerable and open to other people, to truly connect on some deeper level so you know you’re not alone.  And maybe you fall in love with that person or they become your best friend in the process.

I believe people enter into our lives for a reason.  Some people are forever in your life, and some are only there for moments.  I think we usually only ascertain that person’s purpose in retrospect, but sometimes, we’re given little moments of clarity to see them for what they’re worth and what they can teach us.  Jesse and Celine only have each other for a few precious hours in a night before they’re forced to part (though we know they meet up again in the sequel, Before Sunset) but neither one of them will be the same afterward, each etched forever in the other’s memory (and heart).  That’s what makes their parting so bittersweet, because in a short amount of time, they’ve found a soulmate…at least for the night.

Much like Jesse and Celine, my own little afternoon adventure had a timestamp too; I had to work that evening, and he had plans with other friends.  He walked me almost all the way to my final destination.  The moment for goodbyes had come.  He wrapped his arms around me, enveloping me in a tight hug.  “It was so good seeing you,” he said as he tightened his grip.  I responded, returning his embrace, “It’s been too long.  Let’s do better.”  We pulled apart, neither one of us wanting to leave even though we both had to.  So we wound up aimlessly chatting for another minute or two before we hugged again.  After we pulled apart this time, he gave me one last look and left me at 47th & Lexington to head to work.  Yet another spell had been broken.  Back to the real world at last.

When will you realize...Vienna waits for you?

When will you realize…Vienna waits for you?

I can only hope I have more Before Sunrise-esque nights in my life, nights spent trying to solve all the problems of the universe and having silly adventures.  Nights without plans where the present is all that matters.  Nights where I connect so deeply with a person that parting with them is agony.  Isn’t this what we all wish for in life?  Isn’t this what truly LIVING feels like?

“Isn’t everything we do in life a way to be loved a little more?” – Celine

Perhaps you’re right, Celine.