I may have mastered the pick-up scene in Manhattan but I was horrible dater. I mean, how hard is it to find a drunk dude to flirt with for the evening? Shooting fish in a barrel.
But to find someone I connected with? IN A CITY OF 8 MILLION PEOPLE?
That was definitely the proverbial needle in the haystack.
Going out was fun but got old. So I dated. And sucked at it.
For one, I'm not great at masking my face when I think someone is full of shit or saying something awful. Kind of a handicap in any town but definitely a problem in a huge city full of huge ego.
And I was a little too west coast for some of these east coast guys.
One guy was shocked and surprised that not only did I OWN a drill but that I knew how to use it.
I didn't have this trouble on the west coast - and in subsequent years this became even more apparent when I'd meet someone easily in Seattle or California.
But in New York where women outnumbered men like 3 to 1? AND I refused to play the game? My phone was definitely not blowing up.
On the rare occasion that a friend would convince me to go to a party at some swanky bar where the finance guys hung out, I'd last maybe an hour. Before going home, stripping off my clingy dress and ordering a burrito. Later, when I was at parties with people that were more like me, I could feel the competitiveness among the women. Fighting over someone that wasn't even all that interesting (FINALLY, an explanation as to why George got dates on Seinfeld).
I'd rather go home, call a friend and eat.
I didn't have the patience to take dating seriously in NYC. And I wasn't sure what I wanted. Bad combination.
If I wanted to have kids, I needed to get a move on it. This pressure IS THE WORST (and that's saying a lot).
Yet settling down still sounded so suffocating to me. I didn't yet understand that a relationship is what we make of it. That there were people that would appreciate how much alone time I needed and would have supported my writer dreams.
But I also knew that heading down that road was dangerous for my art: there was a good chance I'd never pursue my writing. The words. The dream.
I knew myself. I'd get lazy.
Being on my own kept me hungry. Made me focus.
It wasn't just that I was confused about what I wanted. I wasn't mature outside of work. Acting like such an adult as a kid and then so early in college - I was setting up house at 20 years old - I matured in different areas of my life at completely different rates. This made having honest, high-level conversations challenging.
If I was unwilling to have honest conversations with myself or with a therapist, how could I be honest with someone else?
The times I got far enough along to have these conversations, I'd share what I felt were "abnormal" feelings in a way that was defensive and/or wasn't respectful of their feelings.
When I mentioned not wanting to change my name, I'd get what I felt was disapproval. If I was bold and said I wasn't sure about walking down the aisle, there would be suspicion and bewilderment. Of course there are plenty of dudes that would be fine with that! And it seems weird now even 10-12 years later that I felt so uncomfortable about it. But for me, coming from a family where you always, always got married and had babies while dating Jewish men in NYC, I felt shame that I didn't want what I was "supposed" to want.
That Spanish Jewish blood pumping through my veins. Procreate. Procreate. Procreate, it seemed to say with every surge through my veins.
Right after I finished chemo, with barely a buzz cut of hair, I ran into a leader in the Jewish community. We chatted briefly and as he was walking away, he said "you know I was hoping you'd do something else before this happened" and LOOKED AT MY BELLY.
He was admonishing me for not having kids! RIGHT AFTER SURVIVING THREE CANCERS?!?!
I was infuriated, of course. How dare he think he can comment on what I did or didn't do with my body!
On the other hand, it was a relief to hear someone say out loud what I knew was the unspoken message I'd heard my entire life. Ha! I knew it!
With all these conflicted feelings, my decisions started to be less about what I wanted, and more about what I didn't want. Not a great recipe for an authentic life.
Of course, I'd read self-help books and THOUGHT I was working on myself. But I wasn't doing any real and *truly* honest work.
Instead, I kept kept doing what I was good at: working constantly and going out.
I realize that this post isn't as fun as my traveling or TV posts.
But it's a really important part of my story. It reveals how I ended up where I am today. And who I am today.
I wonder all the time: if I had a time travel machine, would I go back and warn her? "Find one of the good ones. Get a corporate job. Start squirreling away money! GET YOUR OVARIES CHECKED EVERY YEAR."
Would I have listened?
I'll never know (unless someone has invented a time machine in which case, I'm down to be a guinea pig!).
The sum of our decisions always weigh heavily on the mind at middle-age. It's so cliche because it's true. Add in a mid-life disability....
What if I'd made different decisions back then?
Would I still have my organs intact? Would I be wondering if I'll ever be able to eat cookies again?
I don't know.
And I'll never know.
Sometimes it feels like no matter what decisions I made back then, I would have ended up here.
Laying in bed with my computer propped up on my knees, writing my life story.
One thing I know now: if we don't do the hard work of facing our demons and working them out, they rear up and cause havoc. Our country is learning this lesson hard.
No matter what I did or didn't do back then, I have to make peace with what's happened to me.
I realize now it's ok to look back and fondly laugh about old memories.
But I need to stop wondering if I made the right decisions.
If we *always* made the *smart* decisions, fuck, life would be so boring, wouldn't it?
I have to think of these decisions as writing prompts and inspiration.
I guess that's how I'll look at it. The decisions, whatever they were, make a hell of a story now!
And our stories are what make us interesting, no? Ugly bits and all....
PHOTO #20. This post is part of a series celebrating my life before I lost four organs to three cancers in 2014. It is an “online memorial” honoring the person I was, in the hopes that I can make peace with the disabled person I’ve become. Every day for 30 days until my birthday, I will challenge myself to write a post inspired by the photo I’m sharing. I will not plan the topic or write ahead of time. I will merely look at the photo and write whatever it inspires. Thanks for reading! #julesfor30 #happyrebirth