Thursday, January 31, 2008

Angst in Your Pants

pas•sion [pash-uhn]
noun
1. any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling
2. strong amorous feeling or desire
3. a strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for anything

Passion is at the heart of pretty much everything we do, everything we are. Passion defines love, hate, indifference, desire and theology. It feeds sexual chemistry, violence, religious fervor, the boundless enthusiasm for a job, a food, an author, a man, a woman. Passion is the electrical charge.

"Let me ask you," he said into the phone last night. "Why does passion stop?" We talk like that, he and I. “Maybe it’s not that passion ends, really", I said. "Things get…comfortable. And that can be good. Right?”

I don't believe that, but perhaps it’s more a “do as I say, not as I do” situation. See, I don’t do well with long-term commitment. I sell stocks soon after I buy them. I never make it through a loaf of bread without half growing a thick layer of mold. The subscription to Rolling Stone I maintained for nearly two decades (but now defunct…what happened to that magazine?) is one of the longest relationships I’ve had. I make a great friend. My closest friends, the keepers of my secrets, the ones with whom (I found out recently) I can lower all inhibitions to and become vulnerable with have been in my life (in one form or another) for 23 years, 18 years, 14 years. One woman. Two men. I have a certain kind of passion for each of them. They each fit like a glove, and a comfy one at that. I’m always excited and interested to partake in their lives.

However, on average and at my best, physical relationships run three months give or take. The wonderful “honeymoon stage”, that magical time when whose family to spend Thanksgiving with, socks on the floor and skid marks don’t exist. In the “honeymoon phase” it’s all about butterflies in the belly, desire and discovery. It’s like jumping out of a plane and hoping you land on your feet. It's passion and I lap it up like milk in bowl.

“I can’t imagine not wanting to be close like that”, are the words of wisdom I share with him. But it takes time and effort, to stay connected in the head as well as the bed. When the two meet, the passion just follows.

Knowing that, I went to bed very, very late last night and with a smile on my face.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Our bodies, our real selves

What do you see when you look in the mirror? Depending on time of day, amount of vodka or salty foods consumed the night before, the answer can range from mild amusement to absolute horror.

I was a cute little girl, looked like all the other little girls. The first after two boys and my Mom styled me proper. I wore a pastel dress, black patent Mary Jane’s and white anklet socks trimmed in lace for Easter, paired with matching cape. There’s home video of toddler me, Beatnik cool with a bowl cut, Navy pea coat, striped tee, slim black pants and flats with a buckle. I would wear that outfit now. But I got chubby fast and stayed there. For summer vacation, Mom bought me a bikini. “Oh Maaaaaa”, I groaned in my head, already aware at eight of the dread of exposed, wobbly flesh. I tried it on in the little bathroom, pulling myself on top of the vanity for a full view. Although hunched over, my head just grazing the popcorn ceiling, I was cute my bikini.

I grabbed a faded floral towel from the rack – just in case – and headed down the split level stairs. Two of my three brothers saw me first. There were no words, just loads of rolling laughter. I never wore that bikini.

I got boobs first of all the girls in the neighborhood. Very round and large for my age, factory new and obvious. I wanted the look of freshly ironed flatness in my 100% cotton Sunday dress. Mom stuck me in a training bra immediately. Funny things, training bras; not so much a “bra” as a plastic smelling, thick elastic band one would roll up, roll down then adjust. All the boys knew you had one on. I stopped looking at my body like a girls; I was too round, too bound and too different. That thinking followed me into my teens and helped create a fat girl. Not a chubby girl, I was fat. The kind of fat that looked as if you’d stepped into a padded body suit, no waist and a square butt that puckered in oddly. The rolls of my belly got bigger. I had few friends. The really fat girls never did. I was funny, but funny didn’t get you invited to sleep-overs or make you the recipient of multiple choice love notes; “Do you like Ken? ‘Yes’, ‘No’, ‘Maybe’”. No boy asked once the lights dimmed and the slow songs played in the rink at Skateland.

“Epiphanous” best describes the summer between freshman and sophomore year in high school. Not only did I get my first period earlier that year, I realized, “Oh god. Gym is a requirement. I have to wear shorts at school”. With little guidance, and no one really watching, during a very hot and muggy summer spent in Nebraska with my Dad, I decided to stop eating. It was easy, actually. My Dad was gone all day to work, my brothers glued to the widely entertaining and brand new cable station, MTV. I would lie in a twin bed in the second bedroom, a tiny, B/W Sony on the bed side table at eye level and watch soaps all day. I would create fantasies about the handsome soap actors (although never an object of attention, I had thoughts about boys – and my body – very early). I would drink Diet Cokes and eat nothing. When Dad came home, I would pick at dinner, consuming 500 calories or less per day. The period I’d acquired just months before stopped, supine to standing brought a head rush and my hair started to fall out. Oddly enough, that summer with nutrients absurdly and dangerously restricted, I still managed to sprout from 5’6 to 5’8.

I returned home two months later and 30 pounds lighter; I ended up losing 60 by year’s end. The boys looked, the girls asked. Grown men whistled when they drove by. I was an object of desire. I recall just two instances where my still-unnamed-not-yet-movie-of-the-week-fodder eating disorder (that came in 1983 in the guise of Karen Carpenter) garnered parental attention. The first occurred that summer in Nebraska. My Dad took me to White Castle, just me and not the boys. He bought a plate of sliders and watched. It was torturous to chew then swallow the meaty/cheesy/oniony squares. I had two down and Dad appeared to relax. When he went to the bathroom and for cigarettes, I threw the rest of the meal on the floor, hiding it underneath the table. He was proud of what he’d accomplished. Problem solved.

The second came when I refused to eat cake on my birthday. I don’t know if my Mom was more concerned and angry because of the trouble she’d gone to or at how I merely swirled a glob of white frosting streaked with pink around the plate before abandoning it. “If you don’t eat like a normal person, I will take you to the hospital and force a needle into your arm”, she said. I bet she wouldn’t. She didn’t.

I did eat again, of course. I’ve come to realize I like my round, soft body. I work out regularly, cardio and strength. I have the muscle mass and flexibility to stand tall and straight and regal. I have a beautiful neck and shoulders from endless deltoid work. I can take a picture of myself naked. I’m working towards Kate Winslet in “Titanic”, Bettie Page in her heyday, a body with tone and shape, but curvy and sexy. I love food. I love red wine. I love martinis. But I eat well. I consciously address the emotional eating that plagues me (emotional covers a gambit - sad, happy, Tuesday). I enjoy being a girl, a woman. I don’t wear worn panties with explosive threads of elastic springing from the waistband, or tired cotton bras stained by deodorant. I wear stretch lace, form fitting teddies under my clothes. Pretty lingerie that holds in the bits that protrude, create a pretty bustline and offer a surprise at the end of an evening. I shower with scented gels and slather on creamy body lotion. My clothes are impeccable and stylish. I polish the product I have, shoot it in the best light like a food stylist capturing the essence of a roast turkey.

And I’m beautiful right now, as is, in this moment.

...well.....

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Table for one?

Maybe single is something I’m supposed to be. Even in this Noah’s Ark, two-by-two, hand-in-hand, double-decker world, I’m soup-for-one. I relish my freedom. I love to flirt, can come home very late (or very early depending on your perspective) and not have some explainin' to do. I never get the wet towel. I fully provide for myself financially; I’ve bought cars, houses, a college education. I can program most electronics. In fact, only once in my 40some years have I extolled, “Him. I want to marry him”. But did that moment in time have more to do with a) I was in love or b) I had decided I wanted to dance at my wedding to either “Cherish” by The Association or John Lennon’s “Oh My Love”?

But as 20 faded into 30 and I peek into 40, perhaps Mr. Townsend said it best, “In life, one and one don't make two, one and one make one”. I don’t grasp romantic signals. I recall a sweet boy named Kevin who leaned in to kiss me in the front seat of his old car (don’t you miss front seats without the center console?) and I laughed in the milli-second before lips met lips. Laughed in his mouth. I had zero idea he wanted or had any thought to kiss me. And he never wanted to again, go figure.

Before I go on, no I'm not 12. Yes I “know” men in the biblical sense and have a strong sense of…adventure (wink, wink). I am, however, goofy and awkward when it comes to romance. I can do you, I just can’t say “I do”. I’m not the flowers and chocolates, I wanna sing you a love song, cry along with Meg Ryan movies type. I don’t think men find me "girlfriend" attractive. I’m the funny one, the one you drink too much tequila with and end up kissing. I never even make it to a holiday or the Valentine gift.

But I really do like tequila.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Greatest Love (and Lust) of All

The phone rang at 1:30 this morning. The first thought, of course, “This can’t be good news”. Rarely does “good news” come ringing out in the middle of the night.

“I want to date you”, Tom said. “See if we’re friends, see if we could be more.”

Having no large backlog of experiences to think myself a woman of strong emotional desire, one that makes a man lose sleep and pine in the night, the moment was…well, we’ll get to that. This is really just the beginning, after all.

Two events occurred recently that changed everything; made me really look at who I am (the good – surprisingly – and the not so good), what I want and (gulp) need. The first was Chris’ return. Once again, he called out of the blue and from 1639.66 miles away. Hearing his voice on the phone made every organ in my body - my brain, my heart, my unmentionables - tingle. He’s told me some wonderful things about myself that I hadn’t listened to in a long time. Made me feel that I was and am and can be a woman that’s memorable. Desirable. Worthy of being figured out, worthy of having my hand held when I was upset. Worthy of mattering. But it won’t be with him. But it could be with someone.

The second filled these pages for the past thirteen days. Sometimes, pain can be so huge and so desperate you need strong, willing, passionate arms tight around you to keep your heart from bursting through your chest. I haven’t been held like that in the last thirteen days. I don’t want my soul to fall out of my body again without having the courage to be vulnerable. I want a man to be there just for me. Because he wants to, really wants to and will be. No matter what. I didn’t go back to his home, his family, his funeral. I couldn’t go alone. I thought it might fracture me to bits, with no one there watching out for me, no one to sweep them up. And I regret it. Now it’s not just about dating and cocktails and sex. It’s about more. Real connection and maybe building a family for me. Ironic, I’m scared to death.

Which brings us to 1:30 this morning in my bed and something akin to “Adventures in Dating”. It will take several chapters to explain how I got from there to here (and I have some funny stories to tell), then many more to see where it all leads. This is “JodieKash Romance TCB Tour 2008”, in progress for many months with a sad, but perhaps necessary and karmic, interruption.

My heart is as big as all outdoors, a little cracked but excited and nervous and disappointed and beating fast and sunken and open and…ready.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

And if your glass heart should crack

I ate three times today. Breakfast, a cinnamon raison bagel, can of tuna in olive oil with chopped celery and green olives for lunch and a generous handful of Chinese take-out for dinner. I also had three shots of tequila. That's worrisome, but not unexpected, I hope. I'm finding it bit of a challenge to be physically alone. Especially at night. They don't prep for times like these in "Living Single 101". Listening to Kate Nash. There's a line in her song "Nicest thing"...I wish you'd hold my hand when I was upset. Sounds so simple, feels so, so big right now. It'll look different tomorrow. It'll look different.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

When The Man Comes Around

I can’t get my hands warm. Since the news last week, my hands are in a constant state of cold. I keep the gas fire on until my small town home is nearly stifling, but my hands still tingle.

Late last night, I goggle searched “death of a parent”. The most common signs of grief, according to some non-descript, almost flowery Web site I find (all these types of sites, btw, are either clinical or flowery in nature) are feeling alone, loss of appetite and not being able to sleep. Got it. Got it. Got it. Interestingly enough, when I have sadness or tears, I recognize I'm bemoaning what I lost; when I reflect instead on all that I gained in our relationship while time remained to do so, I'm at peace. It’s the extraneous that gets to you. Here’s some of what I’ve learned in the 118-some hours since my Dad died suddenly:

As human beings, we should try to exude more basic warmth. The weight is easier when you feel the load is shared and understood and common to us all. Even gestures as simple as allowing a car over in the traffic lane, or asking someone with fewer groceries if they’d like to go first.

There is no “right” and “wrong” way to grieve, behave or react when a living thing dies. We all do it like we can do it, whether as task master, quickly tying up loose ends and taking care of business matters at hand, or not speaking for two days, or crying in the shower, or getting angry, or writing it out, or seeking comfort in a boy you once loved and who once loved you back, or getting drunk, or spending too much money for a black dress you may never wear, or simply moving forward.

I have more love surrounding me at all times, in quiet fashion, than I allow myself to see and be aware of.

The best thing my Dad ever did for me was not insist I stay and live and raise a family in a small town in Pennsylvania, pop. 7000, that is depressed, where the average salary is $25k a year and the role of women is to create children and serve a husband. I never believed my Dad really understood my desire for more education, more independence, more money, more things, more passion, more worldliness, but I’m beginning to think he knew all along the old-school family way could never be me. And shouldn't be.

The desire to live must be stronger than the desire to no longer try.

The people you call family aren’t necessarily always those with whom you share a blood tie. I am from a family of dozens.

For the past several days, I’ve listened over and over to the song that follows. I didn’t understand why it made me feel…okay. Why I hit the back key time after time after time. I just got it. And I’m grateful. You may not get what I know, but it’s a message to me.

Plainsong

"i think it's dark and it looks like rain"
you said
"and the wind is blowing like it's the end of the world"
you said
"and it's so cold it's like the cold if you were dead"
and then you smiled
for a second

"i think i'm old and i'm feeling pain"
you said
"and it's all running out like it's the end of the world"
you said
"and it's so cold it's like the cold if you were dead"
and then you smiled
for a second

sometimes you make me feel
like i'm living at the edge of the world
like i'm living at the edge of the world
"it's just the way i smile"
you said

Thursday, January 10, 2008

It's you when I look in the mirror

My Dad died this morning. It wasn't expected (however as an easterner who appreciated his “rot gut” Vodka, meat and cheese his lifestyle wasn’t optimal), yet he wasn't ill as far we knew. He simply sat down in a chair at home, covered up with a blanket and slipped away. What's odd and most prevalent at this very moment is the not knowing what to do. Do I call my boss? Friends? Check in? So I made coffee. That's all I felt to do at that moment. You're never ready to hear the words. But that’s part of the price of admission for living this beautiful life. We all must exit, stage left.

The phone has been ringing for three hours, and I find myself telling the same stories again and again. Assuring the sad voices on the other end of the line. Breaking down in tears. Throwing my head back with laughter and remembrance. And saying yes, I know you're there for me.

My Dad and I (or should I say mostly I) struggled for a very long time to find a balance, to define a father-daughter relationship. But I can say with absolute certainty that by some grace, we clicked, we got each other in the last handful of months. He called to check in and I did the same. He was interested and curious about me. We bemoaned the Steelers losing their Wild Card. It didn’t feel awkward anymore to tell him "I love you”. It changed from the perfunctory "luvya" to something real and authentic.

He’s the reason I'm funny. And some of the reason I’m awkward with men. He’s the reason I love music and Johnny Cash and Jerry Lewis. The reason I'm strong and independent. And the reason I chose to write in this moment, to be able to better express through the words here more than I could muster on those phone calls that came today. To make sense of the sadness and find comfort in community. So now you know my Dad today.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Are curvier women smarter?

Hell, yes. We know well enough to indulge in the odd martini and bite of dark chocolate. We don't need no stinkin' research.

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