Monday, February 14, 2005

New Jersey, pt 2

But hot damn, these New York/New Jersey guys are fucking hot. They shipped in some guys for the meeting from NY and surrounding NJ, and then there was the guy at the front desk, "Are you still with me, miss?"

"Huh? Oh, erm, yes." Honey, I'll be with you anytime you want.

Fuck.

It's not a pretty-boy hotness thing, it's an attitude. These guys took everybody to the table in the meeting, chewed at them until they realized somebody knew their shit, and then everybody was the best of friends. I must have fallen in love four or five times since I've been here.

This may also have something to do with the fact that it's mid-month, but hey, hormones can be great.

Got stuck at the table next to that pesky architect, who felt it neccessary to talk about some of his dating woes. Poor guy. I almost felt sorry for him. He's tried speed dating, and the 8 @ 8 thing in Chicago, and he says he feels like he should just submit a resume before he even goes, it feels so much like a job interview.

I successfully managed to not talk at all about my own thoughts about dating, who I've dated, or how I felt hanging out and drinking with this big table of guys all night (yea, once again, 20 people, only two of us women - the usual); which I enjoy doing because I swear there's an office pool bet going about whether or not I'm a lesbian, and I want to keep that up in the air as long as possible, because it amuses me.

I did end up thinking a little bit about love tonight, because we had dinner early so the local guys could go home to their wives, and I was thinking about Mosh and CP, who haven't been home in a month. In Mosh's case, his wife holds down the fort, including the kids, and in CP's case, his wife is home about as much as he is, cause she does a shitload of work with us. And of course I'm thinking about Yellow, who's also single today, and angsting about it, and who just wants to find the right sort of woman at the right time so he can settle down, so he can have a family. And I was thinking about couples, and how the hell you make this stuff work, long-term, in an age of ever-increasing scrutiny regarding looks, and aging. I was thinking about our instant gratification culture, shortening attention spans.

How do you love someone, when you don't even know how to look them in the face?

And why bother staying with someone when things are tough, if you're not financially dependent, if you can take care of yourself? Because a lot of what held together marriages in the past was dependency. Somebody had to do the laundry. Somebody had to pay for your food. If you were really lucky, you'd start to like each other after a decade or so, and maybe after twenty or thirty years, you'd be in love. Then, luckily, you’d die before you figured any better. Love can be like that: familiarity breeds comfort.

Yet despite all that snark on my part, I'm not cynical about love. Not real love, not the real thing. In fact, it's something I think would be pretty neat. The problem with love, the sticking kind, is that you're in it for the long haul. That's the scariest part about it, loving somebody. Going, "You're fucked up, and you'll probably fuck up again, but you know, I like you anyway. I'd walk through fire for you."

And if you're lucky, they feel about the same. It’s the mutual part that’s the toughest.

Doesn't happen often. And certainly hasn't happened to me, not really, so I suppose I can't talk much about it.

I walked back up to my hotel room (it's like a fucking apartment. It has three fucking sinks and two TVs. What the fuck am I supposed to do with three sinks?) after dinner, and changed into my pajamas and scrutinized my body, poked at those places that don't please me, leaned toward the mirror, looked deep into my own face, wondered what, exactly, other people see there. What do people see, when they see me?

And I thought of all of those boys I shuddered over today (in a good way), thought of all of their imperfections. I couldn't tell you what drew me to them, it's just... this thing. It's something. It's a looks issue, yes, but not pretty looks, not perfect plastic people.

One of the things I like about having dinner with the Boys is that everybody I work with has been to all sorts of different places. India, Germany, Poland, bullshit places in the US, all over the US, everywhere - and they have really great stories. They have all sorts of things to talk about, lots of projects. They've lived. And I can just sit around and drink beer and listen to them, and of course, I have my own stories, so sometimes I can join in, but mostly, I just listen, because I love stories. I love people who've lived.

Maybe I saw some of that in those boys. Maybe I saw men who had stories, and attitude. What I always wonder is what men actually see when they look at me, because I'm not traditionally "hot." I'm not remarkable, except maybe in heels, when I'm 6ft tall and look like I can kick your ass. Then there's just sort of awe when people look, and that's a different sort of attraction.

So there's something else people see, and I know that they see it, because I know a hundred guys who love to sit and chat with me but wouldn't be caught dead dating me. And, of course, two hundred more who would date me because they thought my cool life could make up for their crappy one: the vortex people.

I was stuck in the airport, and CNN was on, and they were doing a bullshit interview with that matchmaker in that NY Times article, and she said the top three things women looked for in men was:

1) Intelligence
2) Sense of humor
3) Character or integrity

I had to agree with that, and found myself nodding. Then she gave the top three for what the men who come to her are looking for:

1) Attractive/good looks
2) Thin body
3) Younger than him

Luckily, the sorts of guys using her service aren't the sorts of guys I'd be interested in (why the hell would I want to date a guy a decade older than me?). But shit, could you imagine limiting your possibilites like that?

Shape magazine just did a study that says that only 2% of women describe themselves as "beautiful" and only 9% (9%!) consider themselves "attractive." Shit, women, I've got low self-esteem, but even I'd call myself attractive.

People get older, people make money, people acquire things, and as they get richer and make themselves better looking, they start to look at people like things, too, to be bought, sold, traded in. Upgrade. Download. Whatever. Everything else is so fast and easy, why not this?

And I thought about Yellow saying, "I think I found the girl," in reference to the woman he wants to marry and have kids with. Not "I really connected with this amazing woman," but basically, "I think this one fits the bill." And I think about another guy I work with, who's also 35, and just got engaged to a woman he's been dating for two years when - not six months ago - he was moaning about the woman he "should never have broken up with" back in San Diego.

What the hell are these guys thinking? "She's easy and convienent and here at the right time in my life, and she likes me, so why not?"

I guess that's how it should work for some people, or... no, no, bullshit. No fucking way.

You want to spend the next thirty or forty years of your life with somebody, really? Like, truly? No bullshit?

Then you better find somebody you’re fucking wacky about. Your blood better boil. You better get giddy. You better be thinking about them when you go to sleep at night, when you get up in the morning; you better be thinking of them in the middle of the night, shit, when you can’t sleep. You better be wondering about what they’d have to say about your day, about that bizarre person you bumped into on the train. You better know when you see the absolute perfect thing for them. You’d better want nothing more than to move heaven and earth to hang out with them.

Cause what the fuck else are you going to have to go on when you’ve been together five or ten years and gotten older and complacent and comfortable? What else are you going to have to go on but the memory of that fire, and working toward feeling it again when you two get too cozy? Why the hell would you want to spend any amount of time with somebody who didn’t drive you fucking nuts?

I really had nothing to say when that poor architect brought up his dating woes, because… I had no woes. I had no sad Valentine’s story about why I was there and not pining after an actual SO, only imaginary ones. I was amazed to be there at that table, actually, sitting somewhere in New Jersey where I could see highway signs that said, “New York City.”

I am twenty-five years old, and I was one of two women sitting in a room full of men running projects worth millions of dollars, and even though I hate this dumb job and I’m not going to stick with it longer than another year or so because it doesn’t challenge me, it’s not my passion; still, when I touched down in that stupid plane I felt like I’d won something. This was what my parents worked so damn hard for. This is why I worked all those bloody stupid jobs. So I could – even for just this moment – not have to spend my life flipping burgers. So I could be twenty-five years old with a corporate card and going to New York for the weekend and keeping a place in Chicago with hardwood floors. So I could live well, so I’d have a 401(K) and medical insurance.

This is it. I win. All of it.

And whatever happens from now on, whatever stupid thing I do that might get me back to working at Starbucks while I go to law school, or go back to living in a cockroach-invested flat while trying to write books or whatever – whatever happens, I’ve got this. I did this. I did that perfect, right, corporate kick-ass powersuit thing, and I did OK at it.

It’s not my thing, this powersuit crap, and I know that. That’s why I hate it. That’s why I’m not writing enough. That’s one of the reasons lots of other stuff is stalling out. This isn’t my passion. I could care less about it. And though, in the short term, not caring about your job is great, in the long term, it sucks away your soul.

And I’ve chosen my out, and I’m out of here in summer of `06, and on to other things…

But tonight, this night, after good food, decent beer, good stories, I can tell you my life feels full.

Love, love, love. Yes, there are people I care deeply about. No, marriage and children aren’t on my list. Yes, having lovers in foreign cities would be fun, if I was that sort of person. Could I ever find a partner? Somebody to share this big, wacky, ever-changing life with?

Well, miracles happen. Sometimes.

But mostly, I think, we just live. And it’s funny, and warm, and cozy, and good, and you live with friends, and family, and you find some affection even for your wacky co-workers, and that’s it. That’s life.

It's messy. It's life.

Now go to bed, and don't bitch at me cause you're doing it alone, cause you know what? I'm sleeping alone, too, and have been for some time. And you know what? That's OK. It's not lonely, it's OK. Yea, there are people out having sex tonight, and a lot of it's probably great, but some of it's probably not, and they're sitting awake lying next to somebody who they thought they knew really well, somebody who's turned out to be a total stranger, who doesn't give a shit about them at all, who's not going to understand them, who doesn't know why they read books, and they're going to sit next to that person and feel a big gaping vortex of their own and wish they were single, wish for this night, just this one night, to be alone with their own thoughts.

The grass is always, always greener.

That's life, too.

Make your own life. Nobody's gonna match it all up for you. It's your game. Your pieces.

Move.

9 comments so far. What are your thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Of course no one is impressed with NJ if you're traveling to and from NYC. It's an industrial wasteland close in. It's just that half of NYC lives in Jersey, because it's the only affordable way to live there. (OK, Almost affordable or More so.)

But yeah, if no one ever told you about the timing sense of guys, you'd have to discover it on your own. You'll be dating a commitment phobic prospect since the first Clinton term, and just as you break up-- then he decides *bingo* he needs to get married, and it'll happen within weeks with a total stranger. Any port in a storm really. Likely beats out 'lively' or even lovely in a pinch. Watch for it. The last GF is like a mere 'fluffer' for when he takes the plunge for that mindless twit with good family connections. It's not like looking for magic somehow, it's the magic of saying, 'Yep, that's enough car for the money I've got at the moment'. Stop the train I want to get off now. Sometimes it's a war of attrition, and if you're out in no man's land for over a decade or so, you begin to look for some cover.

The real essential question is: 'Is this the type of person I want my kids to spend alternate weekends with, perhaps twice a month if we're all very lucky...'

But passion can mean many things. For Bonnie Prince Charlie, it's railway loos. (I kid you not, he collects 'em). Passion helps get things started, but if you're talking 30-40 years, there's got to be many other things involved.

And not to bring up the dismal science once again, but the object of a Matchmaker is a well defined and circumscribed role. Who hires these people? Well folks with some disposable income and who are probably looking for a marriage partner. So if you are a slightly older male, having missed the trains coming by your window for the past decade or more and you want to get off and have a look see, what instructions do you pass on to the conductor, if you've got a preference? 'I want a young (fertile, hint, hint), attractive woman who is in much better shape than I am.' Right? Easy to spot. (We could get into all the male wish fulfillment fantasy stuff here too. Fat plain looking guys somehow winding up with hot way more attractive and smarter women, 'King of Queens' anyone? There's a dozen of 'em on the tube now).

So not all guys are looking for the proverbial runway model types. How do we know this? Look to literature, given a choice or any chance, the average male
novelist is quite happy with the run of the mill scullery maid or washer woman as a life long companion. Sure that may not be the happiest of turns, but it tells you a great deal about the mindset and the real available universe of realistic options.

Most men do not get the thin chic runway models, they somehow content themselves with the limited models of what was showing on the floor when they were last
seriously looking. When they are older and richer perhaps they imagine they can have their conceits and 'trade up' from the reliable family sedan to that sporty little Italian number. Mostly this turns out to be very costly and disastrous for too many of the players, but sometimes it can work out. (Just resign yourself to the proposition that whatever it is, it'll be in the shop for body work for much of the time, right?) It's this promise of the imagined 'good life' with that fine 'trophy' wife that keeps NYC matchmakers rolling in the dough. For the rest of the 'normal' punters, if they are serious about matrimony with a serious minded person, Uncle
Sid or Aunt Martha will tell him or her, 'Look, I'll see what I can do. We're not talking Clark Gable/Betty Grable material here.' (Yes, Dear Auntie went to her reward some decades back, why do you ask?)

But thanks for the Sepiamunity link. I always knew I liked those Canadians for a reason. Good Luck with the sight-seeing. (A Drunken Grey line boat tour for the lot of you?) 

Posted by VJ

Anonymous said...

NB: Just to be perfectly clear about the analogy used above: on the 'limited models' what I'm talking about here is a time frame mostly. There can be and *are* just fantastic people out there who are ready willing and able to fully commit to a mature adult relationship of equals with their mind, bodies and souls. Almost always they turn out to be more interesting than first imagined. They can also be way more dull than suspected in several departments though. It's the time shift that counts and the geography that really matters.

If you are looking for a certain typical something (tall, thin, young, new) you might miss that swell Citroen in the next county over. Most will over look the vintage Packard, and never look twice at the well maintained Studebaker. You have to be there to enjoy the experience, and for many guys 'being there' counts big time when they want to buy into the marriage bit. 

Posted by VJ

Anonymous said...

OK this is way too many posts. But this is what a well loved vintage chick looks like. A Classy, very smart, swell dame. In every sense, Really.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D, CA) got 4,500 flowers for Valentines Day! 

Posted by VJ

Anonymous said...

I agree that it's important to remember that romance fades. But is someone gets your gears running once, odds are they will do it again. My parents haven't been together for nearly 20 years and my dad gets all swoony--still--when my mom walks into the room.

Think Jersey boys are cute? You need to come to Texas! 

Posted by Amanda

Anonymous said...

Amanda - yea, the idea being that hopefully you're not with somebody that you *never* had that feeling with... cause you won't remember why it is you're with them in the first place... Definately easier to get back something you had, as opposed to hoping it'll manifest itself 20 years down the road.

Re: Texas.

Well, you know, we've got a Dallas project we're setting up over the next couple months... ;) 

Posted by Kameron Hurley

Anonymous said...

Amanda - yea, the idea being that hopefully you're not with somebody that you *never* had that feeling with... cause you won't remember why it is you're with them in the first place... Definately easier to get back something you had, as opposed to hoping it'll manifest itself 20 years down the road.

Re: Texas.

Well, you know, we've got a Dallas project we're setting up over the next couple months... ;) 

Posted by Anonymous

Anonymous said...

I have a friend like Yellow. He's a nice guy (er, really. Not in the capitalized sense, I don't think) but it really feels like he's auditioning people for the role of Girlfriend. He's not terribly particular about anything, just so long as they have a pulse. He's even tried to pick up two gay women (first me, then my ex), he's so desperate. Honestly, it's kind of creepy. So maybe he is a Nice Guy after all... 

Posted by Anne

Anonymous said...

Now go to bed, and don't bitch at me cause you're doing it alone, cause you know what? I'm sleeping alone, too, and have been for some time. And you know what? That's OK. It's not lonely, it's OK. Yea, there are people out having sex tonight, and a lot of it's probably great, but some of it's probably not, and they're sitting awake lying next to somebody who they thought they knew really well, somebody who's turned out to be a total stranger, who doesn't give a shit about them at all, who's not going to understand them, who doesn't know why they read books, and they're going to sit next to that person and feel a big gaping vortex of their own and wish they were single, wish for this night, just this one night, to be alone with their own thoughts. 

that's some beautiful writing, Ms. Hurley 

Posted by jam

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