Friday, January 29, 2016

Eau de Humanity

In a true testament to how lousy my timing in life often is, Remus had a birthday two weeks after we got together, saddling me with the responsibility of figuring out how to appropriately signify this event for someone I genuinely cared for, but didn't really know that intimately well yet. (And to add to the frustration, he missed out on my birthday by about a month, giving him almost a full year to figure out the perfect way to celebrate my day, which is ridiculously easy anyway since the answer is, "no party, no gifts, awesome cake.")

My first misstep was offering up a homemade birthday dinner, despite the facts that A. I don't really know how to cook things that aren't desserts, and B. it was winter in Chicago and hadn't stopped snowing in weeks, making a trip to a grocery store without a dogsled team nearly impossible.

My second misstep was directly asking what he would like for a gift, seeing how I could come up with no good ideas on my own. wore a blue sweater that one time we went out...which leads me to believe you like blue you need another blue sweater? And also, what size should your blue sweater be?

Remus replied that he would love it if I would pick out a new men's cologne for him to wear, which of course he did, because if there's one thing I know less about than how to prepare a meal that involves actual ingredients and not just pre-made frozen things in bags, it's men's cologne. I always thought most men smelled just fine on their own, provided they showered fairly regularly and bothered to wash their clothes within the past month (and, fortunately, Remus does both of these things).

Cut to me in a Sephora, facing the wall of cologne options, with about half a dozen of those scent-tester paper strips in my hand, frantically sniffing each one multiple times, trying to decide if I liked any of them, if Remus would like any of them, and what I had done to find myself sniffing men's cologne in Sephora instead of playing with the tester pots of glittery eye shadow where I belonged.

This one smells like dryer sheets...which I guess is nice...who doesn't like clean laundry?

This one smells like fresh cut grass...I guess there are worse things than smelling like a lawn in June...

This one smells like the underside of a pirate

When a salesgirl finally showed up to ask if she could help, I desperately waved my fistful of smelly paper strips at her, crying, "Why? Doesn't it look like I know what I'm doing?!"

I explained that I was looking for something that smelled clean and light; "Anything with 'brut' or 'musk' in the name is not going to work." She then proceeded to show me something that cost over $100 for less than two ounces (um, no), something that smelled like lemon cake (yes for me, no for him), and something that smelled worse than the underside of a pirate ship (ugh, god no, you aren't even trying to be helpful!).

I finally made a selection that I felt we could both live with, making sure to hang onto the receipt.

When birthday time rolled around I managed to dig my car out of the driveway in between snow days to get the makings for ziti and garlic bread (an idiot-proof meal if ever there was one), and presented my cologne gift with strict orders that Remus honestly tell me if he didn't like it so we could exchange it. "If I spent money on something you'll never use, I'm going to be way more annoyed than if you simply tell me upfront that you don't like it!" But it was deemed an acceptable scent, the meal was edible, and I managed to successfully win our first birthday together.

To this day I couldn't tell you which cologne I picked out, but it makes him smell like clean ocean air, and in wintertime in Chicago, there's no better scent to share the sofa with.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

I Got Your "Meet Cute" Right Here

Whenever you first meet someone, there are standard things they're bound to ask you: Where do you live? Where did you grow up? What sort of work do you do?

This pattern of inane question-asking continues once you get to know them well enough to reveal your relationship status. If you're single, they'll usually either mention some other great single person they know who you "have to meet!" or ask if you've tried online dating. (Note to the world: It's 2016. Every person over 30 who is still single and not a sociopath has at least tried online dating. You can stop asking about it.) If you're in a relationship, you know what's coming next.

" did you guys meet?"

Now, I actually love a good "how we met" story, mainly because I just love a good story in general (you could tell me a "how I lost a limb in a tractor accident" story and I'll like it if it's compelling enough), but most couples' stories of how they met are pretty lame. Oh wow, you met at work? He flirted with you in the break room for months before finally asking you to lunch? And now you ride the train in to the office together every morning? Fascinating! Zzzz...

By my somewhat rigid, but admittedly skewed, standards of what makes a good "how we met" story, I think ours is pretty entertaining, primarily due to the number of stars that had to align for it to happen. But I'll let you decide how worthy of the label "cool story, bro" it is.

Remus and I met because he's my mother's high school friend's ex-husband's common-law wife's son from her first marriage.

Did you follow that?

He had been living in Chicago for years, and when I made the decision to move here after stints in Boston, NYC, and Washington, DC, my mother's friend (who I have known since birth) gave me his contact info as someone in the area who might be able to help with finding an apartment, job hunting, and all the other nightmares that come with moving to a new city. She's one of those people who somehow manages to have a civil relationship with her ex-husband and is actually friendly with his new partner and her kids. I'm not sure how this is possible, given that my parents got divorced around the same time as her, and they couldn't even be in the same room together without blood being shed.

I started communications with an introductory text message, which he responded to with an offer to have a phone chat about Chicago stuff, which I quickly shot down with, "I don't like talking to people on the phone; here's my email address." Because I'm socially awkward like that.

Several weeks of silence later I was in Chicago for a long weekend to go apartment hunting and got a random email from Remus asking if I was still looking for a place because he had a friend who was looking to sublet. As I was already in town to specifically find an apartment, I went to check the place out, filled out an application, and was offered the place by the end of the trip. The friends I was staying with asked who this mysterious "friend of a friend of the family" was who told me about the apartment, then declared, "Wouldn't it be funny if you guys met and hit it off? Is he cute?!" Hahaha, shut up. That only happens in movies from the '90s starring Julia Roberts.

Remus offered to meet up for coffee while I was there so we could actually meet in person, which I found an excuse not to do, because I couldn't be bothered. And I'm socially awkward like that.

About a month later I moved into my new Chicago apartment and figured the least I could do was offer to take the guy who hooked me up with the place out for drinks or dinner as a thank-you. So we agreed to meet and he picked the restaurant, which I was initially happy about since I had no clue where would be a good place to go, but then was sort of horrified once I saw the prices on the cocktail and dinner menus. Luckily, he recognized that the place he chose was less "thank you, kind stranger" priced and more "happy 10th anniversary, honey" priced, and picked up the check, suggesting that we move to a more modestly-priced bar for after-dinner drinks. My gut instinct normally would have been to find an excuse to beg off so I could go home and be left alone, but I agreed to go, which should have been the first sign that I was in trouble, but at the time I didn't pick up on it. Because I'm socially awkward like that. (But I did pick up that check, so thank-you mission accomplished!)

I was prepared to write the evening off as a nice time with someone I was unlikely to see again, but the following weekend I wanted to check out the Lincoln Park Conservatory and my immediate thought after deciding to go was, I wonder if Remus would be interested in going. This was the moment I knew I was in trouble, as my natural instinct at any point in the past would have been to go alone and not even think of inviting anyone else. When he responded to my invite that "trees and flowers aren't usually my thing, but that could be nice with some good company," I was pretty sure we were both done for.

That day eventually turned into a 7-hour date where everything from work history, family history, and dating history was covered, and I was left unable to shake the feeling that I had met someone who completely "got" me without even having to work at it.

The following week was New Year's Eve, I was invited to a house party, which I then invited Remus to, and then immediately panicked that I had completely misread the signals and he would have no interest in spending what is (strangely, in my opinion) a kind of romantic holiday with me. But the invite was accepted, with an offer to have dinner before the party.

As we killed an hour at my place in between dinner and leaving for the party, I finally mustered up the nerve to blurt out, "So, do you want to get the awkward first kiss out of the way now, or later?"

And we've been together ever since. And that's our "how we met" story. Good enough for you?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Welcome to Lone Wolf Plus One

I am 36 years old, and up until two years ago I had never been in a serious relationship. This was due to a variety of factors—some within my control, others less so—but if I had to pinpoint the primary reason for this, I would say it was because I really couldn't be bothered.

Unlike most of the perpetually single people I've come across, I actually like being alone. Being a classic introvert, I recharge my inner battery by being alone, rather than feeding off the energy of others. I revel in moments of solitude where I can zone out for hours surfing the web, reading a book, watching a movie, or any other number of solitary activities. I'm rarely bored when alone because my overactive imagination doesn't allow me to be; I can while away the hours on a cross-country flight making up various stories in my head, puzzling over random questions that pop into my mind—like if I didn't put my tray table up during landing and we crashed, could it possibly impale me? —and mentally replaying any episode of Friends because I have them all more or less memorized (and no, I don't think that's an embarrassing fact to admit at all).

Large crowds overwhelm me, loud noises make my head hurt, and situations that don't allow for any sort of quiet reflection make me anxious. And all of this boils down to me preferring to be happily left alone most of the time.

Naturally, no (wo)man is an island, so I've always had a small collection of friends I enjoy spending time with and am reasonably close to some of my family members. But when it came to personal relationships of a more intimate nature, my track record was pretty dismal, mostly due to that whole "not wanting to be bothered" thing. I can give you the breakdown without even needing a full hand to count them on:

  • One brief-lived romance in 9th grade that lasted all of four months.
  • An unrequited crush that ran the full course of my high school years.
  • My first real boyfriend in college, who treated me well for a month, then treated me like crap on and off for the next few years because I was an idiot who let him.
  • A handsome, but...unchallenging guy I periodically dated in my late college/early 20s years.

And then the next 10 years would consist of a sporadic stream of first dates almost exclusively cultivated from the horror show that is online dating. (I lived in NYC, worked in publishing, enjoyed going to the theater, and took dance fitness classes...let's just say I didn't organically meet a whole lot of heterosexual guys in my day-to-day routine.)

I used to complain about the frustration of these first dates that lead nowhere, but if I'm truly honest, I didn't really care. I only deigned to go on the occasional first date mostly because I thought people would think it weird that a smart, healthy, reasonably sane single woman in her 20s wasn't actively dating. I had no interest in giving any guy a real chance. Why would I? If I actually did meet someone who liked me, he'd want to be hanging around all the time! He might sit in my favorite spot on the sofa! He might call me at a time I didn't feel like talking! He might ask me questions of a personal nature that weren't any of his damn business! He might want the same side of the bed as me! He might raid my cookie cabinet! (That's not a euphemism; I have a kitchen cabinet dedicated to cookies.) Why on earth would I want to saddle myself with all the hassle that comes with letting another person into your life?

And it is because of my innate lone wolf nature that I—and plenty others who know me—was taken quite by surprise when two years ago, after moving to Chicago simply because I wanted somewhere new to live, I had what was initially a purely platonic dinner with a friend of a friend of a friend (I'll get into the bizarre degrees of separation that led to our meeting in the next post on this blog) that quickly turned into the life-changing relationship that has forced me to let another into my wolf pack of one.

I always got frustrated with the books, movies, plays, and TV shows that ended with the "happily ever after." What came next should have been the most interesting part of the story! When two single people find each other and decide to build a life together, that's when the story should start, as far as I was concerned. Think about it: How much better would the final season of Gilmore Girls have been if it was about Luke and Lorelei figuring out how to share a life together, instead of about all that other horrible crap? (The show has been off the air for over years now, and that atrocious final season still haunts me.)

So that is what has inspired me to start this blog. I've always wondered how people who have been alone for a long time manage to let someone else in, and now I find myself in that situation, and I thought the stories and anecdotes that come from it—of various levels of amusement—might be interesting enough to share. And no, none of this makes me a relationship expert who's going to impart pearls of wisdom to anyone; I am now, and will always be, at least a partial moron when it comes to the minefield that is personal relationships. Nor is this my attempt to be some Carrie Bradshaw-clone dishing the details of our sexy fun times, so if that's what you were hoping for, I'm sorry (and also, you're nosy and gross).

Thank you for taking the time to read this intro post; I promise the rest of them will be shorter. Maybe.