Tuesday, April 15, 2008
My first memory of Jason is from freshmen year of high school. We are sitting on the edge of a swimming pool in the school-sponsored 50s styles bathing suits distributed by the school district semester after semester for the last 40 years and I tell him that I have never seen anyone with weirder looking toes than his. With a shared first constant in our last names, often throughout high school Jason and I would sit side-by-side for attendance.
After graduation, we went to different colleges and although we didn’t keep in touch we shared mutual friends and through them were updated on one another’s lives. And then again, four years later, after another graduation, we both moved to New York. I had been looking for jobs for over two months, was broke, anxious, and spent my days in my shared Upper West Side apartment staring at my roommate’s bipolar cat that would go insane if she was not constantly petted. Bored and without any upcoming interviews, I sent Jason an email.
He called a few days later and we decided to meet for dinner at an Indian restaurant. We talked for hours – as if we had accumulated four years of experiences to tell but without a minute passing since we had seen each other last. We drew maps on the butcher paper table cloth of all the places we had traveled, realizing that we had been to many of the same places around the same time. I snuck off to the restroom in an effort to tell the waiter that it was Jason’s birthday. It wasn’t his birthday, but I knew that he would love it when the lights went out and the entire restaurant would sing a Hindi version of the Macarena. After that night, we became the closest of friends and remained so for the next three years.
Although we never again lived in the same place after that one year in New York, we would call each other two or three times a day for quick updates, email articles from the “weirdest stories of the day” (with each email trying to outdo the other one’s weird story), and make each other mix tapes of obscure bands we found. It was like we were creating our own shared culture between us. It was impenetrable. No one could understand it.
Over time, our friendship started to blur the line between “just friends” and “maybe more” and I became increasingly frustrated by Jason’s inability to recognize that we were, for all ostensible purposes, in an intimate relationship of sorts together. We then entered into a two-year period marked by months of intense love and constant communication followed by a big fight that would lead to months of hurt and silence.
This last time, after three months without speaking, Jason called during Thanksgiving to say he was sorry about what happened and that he would do whatever he could to have me back in his life. I gave him the classic ultimatum: either we tried to be in a healthy relationship with each other or we couldn’t talk. It took him a month to answer. He sent an email explaining that I was “the source of stress, but also the solution to it. Let’s try it.” I was shocked, scared, and ultimately elated and with that we began to relate differently to each other. We both seemed more aware of how nice it was to have each other in one another’s lives. It had been many months since we had seen one another and I suggested that he should visit. He came to New York – which felt very full circle to our initial re-meeting at the Indian restaurant five years before – and that is when Jason introduced me to last.fm.
Last.fm is internet radio meets social networking. The downloaded player tracks the music you are listening to, makes recommendations of music you would like based on that music, and allows you to connect to friends and “neighbors” who may have similar music taste. In addition, the website allows users to monitor what your friends are listening to with real time information. As soon as Jason left New York I signed up for the free service. Jason was my only friend on Last.fm and I couldn’t wait for this kind of access (or surveillance, I should say) of his life. I clicked onto his profile and Last.fm notified me that our compatibility was “very high.” I wasn’t sure if the website was referring to our relationship or music. I posted a message to Jason’s “shoutbox” that said “Last.fm seems to think our compatibly is very high – what do you think? He didn’t respond to that particular message and instead recommended a band that he thought I might like.
Over the next three weeks after Jason’s visit to New York, I used last.fm daily as the music helped me focus on my work, not to mention that I felt that my hipness was increasing daily as I discovered new music that none of my friends had ever heard of. I listened to Jason’s playlists and would smile thinking about how many songs it included that we had given to each other as gifts over the years. Our relationship seemed to be moving in the direction I had hoped for, but in the meantime, work was becoming increasingly stressful and I was becoming frustrated and overwhelmed.
Jason had always been there to support me during these times. He was one of few people who could make me forget what I was upset about – and that’s what I loved him for. But in these weeks, he was less and less available and more and more short with me on the phone. During this time I noticed that our last.fm compatibility ranking had changed from “very high” to “high.” I figured that I had been listening to mellow indie rock in an effort to relax and he was listening to country music to spite me. It was harder and harder to listen to his playlist.
I tried to explain to Jason that I was feeling depressed – a combination of work and that him and I hadn’t been communicating well since his visit. He told me to snap out of it. We went several days without talking and then he sent me a text message that read “I can’t tell if you are really depressed, you haven’t sign into last.fm in 12 hours and so I don’t know what you are listening to.” I laughed and felt loved again; but then I didn’t hear from him for several more days. Trying to focus on my work, I signed in to last.fm. Compatibly ranking: medium.
The next time we spoke he called to tell me that he had received a fellowship to live in New York for the summer and he would call me the next day to tell me more. That is what I had wanted all along, to have him close by for the summer, but now it didn’t seem right. I knew that something had changed between us. He never called the next day and I never called him. We had talked non-stop over the last few months and now it had been nearly ten days since we talked for more than a minute.
Jason finally called a few days later. I think I knew that it was over and had already decided that was for the best, but I answered the phone hoping that there was still time and space to talk about us. We made small talk for a few minutes and then I said, “this is awkward, what’s going on?” He sighed and then explained, “I have a girlfriend.” “Um, what?” I answered confused, “since when?” He described how it started two weeks ago with a women he had been friends with for some time. Holding back the throw-up in my mouth, I stated matter-of-factly “I feel really hurt. I feel like you haven’t been telling me the truth.” He began to yell into the phone how happy he was with this new woman and that I made things too hard. I said that I didn’t know what he expected me to say. He screamed, “You always think you are the victim” and then hung up the phone. I put down the phone, stared into space trying to piece together what just happened, and then went to my computer. I signed into last.fm – our compatibility ranking was “very low.” I erased Jason as my last.fm friend. Last.fm had validated for me what I already knew: Our music tastes had shifted along with our feelings for each other. We weren’t compatible anymore.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Him (Jan 31, 11:51 pm): When are you coming to new york?
Me (Jan 31, 11:52 pm): Feb 22-24. How was your trip to India?
Him (Jan 31, 11:55 pm): Lots of fun. I remember u said u went to thailand, right? it was prob similar.
Him (Jan 31, 11:58 pm): When ur in town can i have a blow job?
Me (Feb 1, 12:05 am): What's in it for me?
Him (Feb 1, 12:13 am): What are my options?
Him (Feb 1, 12:13 am): I will make u cum
Me (Feb 1, 12:15 am): I'll think about it...
Him (Feb 16, 4:33 am): Are u awake?
Me (Feb 18, 1:56 pm): I'm coming to NYC this weekend.
Him (Feb 18, 2:08 pm): Ok good. Do u want me to fuck u in your ass?
Me (Feb 18, 4:10 pm): Definitely not.
Him (Feb 18, 4:14 pm): What about blow job?
Me (Feb 18, 4:16 pm): I'll think about it.
Him (Feb 18, 4:17 pm): I like it really deep
Me (Feb 18, 4:18 pm): I recall.
Him (Feb 18, 4:21 pm): Like I mean my entire cock is down ur throat so much that u cant even see it
Me (Feb 18, 4:24 pm): How enticing for me. Sounds like a party. I'll think about it.
Him (Feb 18, 4:28 pm): Good. Looking forward to it
Friday, February 15, 2008
Monday, February 11, 2008
I'm not sure if you know about me, maybe you do. I'm sorry. I'm sorry that your husband is giving up on you. I'm sure you're really nice. When he disparages you while we're sharing a romantic meal together or cuddling on my couch, I don't listen. Your children are beautiful. I really hope that they grow up knowing what healthy, loving relationships look like. I actually think about you a lot. In some ways, I want to be you--to have what you have. Other times, I have a sickly feeling that one day, I will be you. He jokes and calls me his "part time lover" while he caresses my body and puts me at ease. At first, I think it's sweet, but then my stomach turns at the thought of you having to wake up next to a liar who just quietly climbed back into bed with you three hours earlier. I don't think about you when your husband and I make love. Or maybe I do, which is why I fake an orgasm, not allowing myself to fully enjoy our sin. It is a sin. Not in the whole "bolts of fire striking me dead" way, but because I am betraying you, a woman I have never met. I call myself a feminist and say that this affair is empowering but I am just trying to validate my actions. The truth is, I don't really deserve anything better than your middle aged leftovers who thinks he's a 9.5 (but you and I both know, is probably more like a 6.5). I feel bad about what I'm doing but I feel worse about myself. The truth is, you deserve better and so do I. I only wish I believed the latter.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Saturday, February 9, 2008
My husband and I had been struggling to make our marriage work. We wanted so much to express our sacred bond in marriage, but in the process we both had lost our sense of self. And in a way, our ability to walk. He and I were stuck, forced to stay in a place of pain. We feared so much the walking away, and never turning back, would be the biggest mistake. A definite, final and painfully wrong turn.
And surely, albeit slowly, we began drifting farther and farther away, without ever using our feet.
We drifted mentally, socially, sexually, emotionally. We were very far from each other. Almost strangers. Living in the same home, sleeping in the same bed, but truly having no common ground on which to walk. For years, we moved our feet around in a disgraceful dance, in a poorly choreographed movement, and one in which we only continued to lose direction.
I lost my path in February of that year when I came inches away from committing adultery. It was not my own path, and all I knew was that I had taken a very wrong turn. I had to, without a question, find my way back to myself.
And so I told him about my crisis, and with all the pain, and hurt, and guilt, and shame, I took my first steps away.
I left that night to my parents’ place. My heart was heavy, as were my suitcase and my feet. I knew I needed to walk into my mother’s arms, and let her hug comfort me. I knew that this move would be followed with plenty of heavy conversation, emotion, consequence. But I also knew that if I didn’t take that walk, I’d miss the exit forever. This was the right time to start on my journey.
So I did. I walked in and told her that he and I had a fight, and that I would be staying with her for a few days, if that was ok. She didn’t ask too many questions. I think she thought it was a temporary thing. You know, every married couple goes through a night apart once in a while.
And then it was Passover. My husband and I had planned to spend the first night of the holiday together at our rabbi’s house. Even after a month apart, we were determined to find our way back to each other. After all, it was destiny, it was fate that brought us together. And a night of ritual, history and tradition was all we needed to reignite that sacred spark, that religious commitment to each other.
During the seder, I remember liking my husband’s company. I liked when he put salad on my plate before taking some for himself. I liked sharing glances when someone would say something that would remind us of one of our many inside jokes. And it felt nice to like his company. But it also felt new to have some sort of clarity: I liked him, but I did not want to be his wife. And I would not change my mind about that. Because it was the truth. And no matter how hard we tried to rationalize that we were meant to be together, the clarify of spirit that came over me around that table on the first night of Passover was not to be ignored.
We read the story of the exodus of the Jewish people from physical and spiritual slavery. And we read it as if we too were right there at that time, getting freed by the hand of god, who led us on our forty year walk in the desert.
And the next morning, I took the next steps on my walk toward freedom and self- realization.
I felt tired and uncomfortable as I put on my walking shoes. I packed my bag from the night before, and said my goodbyes. I was going to walk from my rabbi’s house to my mom’s so that I could be by myself and spend the rest of the holiday as I wanted: alone and walking.
I wanted to walk so badly. There was nothing else I wanted more. Not because our religion prohibits us from driving on that day. Not because it was the right thing to do for anyone else. But I wanted to walk because I wanted to walk. It was a brand new sense of expression for me. I knew what I wanted, and I followed that direction.
I had been living with so much anxiety for years before that walk. I was always afraid of something: afraid of getting attacked by a stranger, afraid of losing my way, afraid of getting too hot, too cold, afraid of disappointing. But during this walk, which lasted over two hours, I walked confidently, with an open heart. And much like my Jewish ancestors, who left Egypt and walked toward an undiscovered homeland, I was walking between two worlds, not quite sure of my destination, but certain of my destiny.
Every ordinary sight I passed had special meaning for me. The old man reading his newspaper now symbolized the freedom to continue to learn. The young woman barbequing on her balcony symbolized a lust for life.
I was confident and willing to see. I was trusting in god, for the first time, to guide me to exactly where I was supposed to be.
It was an ordinary walk, but with so much grace and love. The breeze, the calm that came with it, proved to me, once and for all, that walking was the best and only thing I needed to do to come back to my true home. My self.
When Dan, the investment banker, broke-up with me, he explained matter-of-factly, “I don’t think I can invest into this relationship what you deserve. But I want to be friends. We’ll keep in touch.” Still recovering from the shock of being dropped like a poor-performing stock, I resisted the urge to scream or to punch Dan in the face and instead responded, “No, we won’t be friends. I don’t see how you have time to ‘invest’ in that either.”
I remember as early as my Bat Mitzvah days, dressed in sequins and pink lipstick, mentioning to Jacob Roth over non-dairy chocolate cake on the sweet table how much I loved the Boys to Men song “End of the Road.” If the feeler was a good one (which it was), Jacob Roth would consider my comment for a moment, then say that he loved the very same song (we shared so much in common), and that we should dance to it together.
As I got older, the feelers shifted from direct in-person attempts aimed at an explicit purpose (obtaining a slow-dance, a ride home, a mix tape) to becoming increasingly well-designed, multi-functional vague messages that required some effort to deconstruct.
There is the “Seinfeld feeler.” I recall from my Seinfeld repertoire of three or four episodes carefully memorized for this exact purpose some classic line. I then insert it into conversation with the man I am interested in. To which he will always respond, “Hey, you’re totally right, why would you leave a pony country for a non-pony country? I have all the episodes on DVD, so why don’t you come over and watch sometime?” Of course, this feeler requires some research to ensure that your crush is, in fact, a Seinfeld fan. However, even if he is not, there is a good chance that he will fake his Seinfeld knowledge as you have done.
Or there is the “Bait-and-Switch Feeler”- hard to initiate, often lengthy, but if completed correctly it’s a sure thing. In this scenario, I attempt to fix-up my person-of-interest with a good friend (knowing that the she has no desire to date my person-of-interest). Through the process of creating this false courtship, I send out a series of feelers concerning my perfect relationship. The person-of-interest then discovers that he has the very same relationship goals and thinks maybe I would be a better match for him than my friend (who was a lesbian anyways).
In college, I would receive an email about a lecture on “The Art of India” and promptly forward it with an attached message such as “I thought you might like this. I might go…” to the artsy-looking classmate who sat besides me in world religions. Even if he responded, “It looks good, but I have to volunteer with the homeless that night…we could meet-up afterwards?” the “Forward Feeler” was still successful. I had started a conversation with him, he now knew that I was the kind of woman who liked “Art of India,” that I wanted to spend time with him, and I now knew that he was receptive to the idea of spending time with me.
Although the uses of email feelers are far from formulaic, they often follow similar frameworks and functions.
The email feeler allows one to inform the receiver of the feeler (the feellee) that you are thinking about them but not in a stalking way. Rather, something you saw or read evoked a reminder of that particular person; but you did not go out of your way to find this reminder. This point is essential as the feelee must believe that the exchange was not planned.
In addition, when one emails an article more than one receipt can be added and a short message can be included. These options can be used to your benefit depending on the purpose.
For instance, incorporating a message such as, “Hope you guys think this is funny!” the recipient thinks that they are part of a mass email. This tactic is often used when you have previously sent out a feeler but did not receive the desired response. This is the re-feeler. Or in other cases, sending a personal message like, “I remembered that you like books about dogs” may better serve your goal of showing that you remembered a piece of relevant information and that you can be trusted to learn more.
After three weeks of waiting eagerly, I emailed Dan “The Trouble When Jane Becomes Jack” article from the Sunday Styles section with a quick passive aggressive note written into the tiny “personal message (optional)” box that said, “I hope you are doing well.” The article about transgender operations said everything I couldn’t say. “I don’t hate you and I remembered that you were just as interested in identity politics as I am. Send me an email back.”
I received a response the next day that said, “Thanks for the article, it made many good points. How are you doing?” I never sent Dan that pre-written email I had formulated days after the break-up. I didn’t need it anymore. I had achieved closure, moved on, and was already emailing articles to new potential mates.