26

When I woke up this morning, I remembered how we used to decorate our friends’ lockers on their birthday. I saw the wrapping paper and curled ribbon tacked to top locker near the room where I took History with Mr. Wilson vividly, and last night’s dream came back to me.

I was in a somberly lit hall, not unlike a museum, with doors to different lecture theaters, and I was reunited with two men I had loved in high school. I say men, because it was the boys I knew then as I imagine them to be now. I was reminded how innocent those feelings were then. How common it was to pine over someone for months, even years, with a passion fueled by the most innocuous interactions. Those years, where all you needed was the feeling of an arm brushing against yours.

How simple it is now, with physical affection exchanged frequently, easily, and thoughtlessly. In the rare cases when I’m forced to wait, I turn to the nearest willing participant and pull them on top of me in order to suffocate those feelings

I don’t know quite how I managed to retain my sanity as I floated down the hallway behind these boys all those years ago, hoping for moments in dark corners backstage, scheming a hundred scenarios that could lead to just one kiss. None of my silly plots ever manifested that kiss, alcohol did. Drunkenness allowed us all to shed our reservations and fears, and swap saliva in an unflattering and ultimately destructive way. The things we wanted to do had consequences.

I’ll never regret those kisses. But, it occurs to me now that ultimately, both resented me for it. And now, I can only think of the times where a victory in love for me was a failure for him, a moment of weakness, a lesson to be learned, about what I couldn’t say.

I recognize the hunger I woke up with. It wasn’t for apples and peanut butter. It was to be back in that lecture hall with those boys from high school who I loved, and who I never questioned, and it sits in me.

It’s my birthday soon, and there is no locker to decorate… I have my own house. I guess I could fill it with balloons if I wanted to.

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Apologies to the Person this is Written to

Apologies,

I should stop writing letters. It’s getting to the point where even I cringe at the idea that people read these. Public displays of emotion in this format are especially embarrassing. Does the whole world really need to know I’ve had a bad day, or that I’ve eaten for two, or that I have had some break-through in my own journey of self-exploration. No. But there is so much I have to say to you, and so few places other than here where the intimacy of the moment isn’t so mind-crushingly terrifying that I can’t get the words out. When I write here, I don’t have to wait for a response from you, because I didn’t technically write this for you. I wrote it for me. And I wrote it for them.

People say it’s brave to be so open, but it’s not, it’s cowardly. Being brave would be calling to say “I miss you”, or admitting that sometimes I turn the key in the front door lock and pause for a moment because I don’t want to see that the living room is different. I don’t want there to be paintings instead of posters. I want the cat sleeping on the chair to be the one we talked about getting. I want to go back to playing house. I want my forks back. I want my creativity back. I don’t actually care about the forks. You can keep them. But I haven’t been able to write for two months. I try. But I don’t care anymore, you see. 

I want to write. I imagine myself sending this to you, full of caveats and explanations, and I feel sick. I imagine sending this to the world, written as it was meant to sound, and feel relieved. But if I said these things to you, then we’d both know I’d said it and you heard it, and then there would be this awkward sense of accountability. If I send this out to the world, then I can tell myself that maybe you didn’t see it. You can pretend not to have read it. And if we happened to meet then we could pretend it never existed because only things whispered out loud have to be acknowledged. I could not send this at all. It could sit in the pile of half-written letters, but there are things that need to be said, they need to be said somewhere, and I can’t hold them anymore. I want my creativity back. I want to feel a sense of childish wonder at the world. I want my heart to feel like it’s hanging upside-down. I want to write. But the only things I have to say are that life is much clearer but much grayer without you. 

Lili

Ps. If you bring me my creativity I’ll return your red laundry basket. 

Pps. I regret logging out of Netflix but it felt weird to use it once you left.

Twister versus stick in the mud

They don’t have the likes of me where you come from.

I speak quickly, act hastily, love impetuously, and suffer bitterly.

And that’s because I was born in Kansas City, Missouri.

They’ve got tornados, and they call themselves the “Show Me State”

So even though I tiptoed over fault lines as a child,

and blossomed under stormy skies,

Despite being raised on sourdough and tea,

I never got the twister out of me.

 

I’ve never gone about these things the right way.

And I’m sorry I turned your world upside down.

But I don’t think I should have to apologize

for being a force of nature.

This is how I was meant to be,

that’s why they call it an act of God.

To The Grown-Ass Men (Pt. 2)

Dear Grown-Ass Men,

I was giving you all a little break, but I feel like enough time has passed for my last message to sink in. I haven’t seen dramatic and sweeping changes to your behavior. I haven’t been approached by that little committee in Norway about my Nobel Prize, I haven’t even been called about the short-list. So, all I can assume is that you weren’t listening. And, as is expected by you of my gender, since I don’t feel heard, I’m going to tell you again… shut up.

I was talking to a friend of mine over a bonfire last night, and he was explaining his reluctance to enter a serious relationship for various reasons, including the drama. I don’t know how I can explain this any clearer than don’t be shitty and there will be no drama! From my extensive field research, I’ve gathered that most of you prioritize yourselves and the things you enjoy over the person you’re sleeping with. Is it any wonder that we’re reluctant to be straightforward? We know that you know we’re being manipulative sometimes. But honestly, if we were straightforward and told you want we want from you, we’d assume we’re going to hear “no” a lot faster and more frequently. We’re trying to protect ourselves from getting shot down callously. We have egos too.

Let’s just talk about courtship here. If I am interested in a guy and vocal about it, it’s a sure bet that he’ll be interested for five minutes before running off. The chase is over. What’s left to discover? I know that’s all it comes down to. My Dad told me so. Also, I’ve noticed how attentive guys are when I’m genuinely not interested. It’s such a damn waste of my time. Why do I need to prove I’m worth it to you by not being interested in you? What the hell is wrong with you people? Surely, if you enjoy spending time with me, that should be enough proof. If I’m honest enough to tell you I like you, don’t punish me for it. It’s not because you’re there and available, it’s not because I can’t do better, I probably can, but I like you. You should be flattered, and if you feel the same way don’t find reasons not to pursue it. And, if I’m less than upfront don’t be offended that I’m playing a game. I’m just trying to do what you want. I’m trying to play it your way.

You’re in the unique position of having been raised to think independently and selfishly. Women are raised to think compassionately. Yes, it’s a blanket statement, there are exceptions to the rule, blah blah blah, but there are clichés for a reason. I won’t mention all the men I know who have forgone a relationship or avoided one because it “takes too much of their time.” It’s just bullshit guys. You think we’re being selfish? Our version of being selfish is wanting to see you more. We want you to meet our friends and be part of our lives. When we ask you to tell us if you’re going to be late, or out, it’s our way of asking you to be considerate of our time. We ask for you to be a little considerate, and suddenly you’re feeling suffocated? Oh no, the big wild men are being domesticated? Well fuck you, women have been forced into domestication for thousands of years. Get over it.

Also, and this is the clincher, we’re not interested in relationships because they’re our first priority in life. I can’t speak for everyone, but I want a long-term relationship so I don’t have to think about this shit. I don’t want to have to date, to be chased, to play games. I want someone who I care about and who cares about me to be a stable presence in my life so I can get on with the rest of it. I can’t ignore that overwhelming biological cue to be coupled up. It’s just there. If I had a decent partner then maybe I could focus on the things that matter to me intellectually. You think I like writing you all these pissy letters? You think that’s the best use of my talents? I have a fucking screenplay to finish and I’m spending my time explaining women to you. It’s infuriating.

So, in conclusion, stop being crap.

Love Lili

Lessons on Success from a Spectacular Failure

Dear Reader and Friend,

I think I might be the most optimistic disappointed person you’ll ever meet. For someone who is afraid of failure, I’ve fallen on my face with alarming frequency these past few years. I’ve gotten lost on a straight road. I’ve had eight jobs and moved four times in two years. I have tried to lose weight and only gained it. I have slept with, on average, one carefully-ish selected person every six months over the past three years, all of whom I have thought I was doing a favor, and none of whom agreed. My only claim to fame was when they put my picture next to “pratfall” in the dictionary. I am, for all intents and purposes, unsuccessful. It’s the only thing I’ve done consistently and with flair. My mother always told me to specialize, so perhaps this is a field where I have something to offer.

So, let me take the opportunity to share my expertise with you, my reader and my friend. Let’s take a look at the most recent humiliation I experienced over the past few days. Without going into too much detail, I developed the most inconvenient crush imaginable. There was nothing appropriate about the situation, it was fraught with personal risk at every level. And yet, despite being fully aware of the consequences, I lost the battle against every fiber of my being. I finally blurted out to this person that I thought he was the neatest thing since sliced bread and I’d like to hold his hand.

Let me be clear, I knew a huge rockslide of awkward was about to bury us both. I also knew that the combination of my terrible poker-face and flirtatious nature meant my admission wasn’t unexpected. We’d been dancing around the subject for weeks in a painfully obvious way. Conversations about our individual relationships or lack thereof had become more frequent. I suspected he harbored some feelings for me, and almost every interaction became an opportunity to test out that theory. I became flustered, noticeably quiet, and was losing the ability to look him in the eye. I knew once I opened my mouth that there would be no going back. I knew that, regardless of his feelings for me, he probably wouldn’t be on board because he is pragmatic to a fault. There was nothing simple or straightforward about what I was proposing. Every step forward would have brought a new complication. I’d have bet against myself if someone was offering me 10:1 on a spectacular defeat. But I was so attached to the potential that I saw in us. I was so content with the illusion that maybe, just maybe, we could make each other happy. I knew the minute our feelings were acknowledged, the dream would start to disintegrate.

Still I tried, as I have many times before, to bring the fantasy into the real world. And, like many times before, it floundered before it died. Our feelings for each other were aired, the complications were acknowledged. We kissed, and for a moment I thought that this might be the time that I got what I wanted. Maybe I’d met someone who was willing to be brave too, who would interrupt the quiet of their existence to try their hand at a life most people are too cautious to explore. Days passed, and I saw it all slip away. I could only state my position so many times, hoping that his ambition to create magical things would override his aversion to risk. I hoped that he would understand that there is a coldness in perfection, and that beauty comes from nuance. I tried to explain that nothing can be gained if nothing is risked. I tried to lead by example, and I failed. It hurt, I cried, and I seriously questioned how many more illusions I would let someone else shatter. This has happened more times than I can count, and to be honest, I wasn’t really expecting this to go any differently.

So why on earth would I get involved in something so risky when life was trundling along pleasantly enough? Am I a masochist? Am I trying to fail? No, I’m trying to succeed. When I say succeeded, I don’t mean materializing every tauntingly beautiful and intangible fantasy I imagined. I mean not tripping at the starting gun. I mean getting the chance to roll the dice and move past “Go.” After that, every step has to be reassessed. There are new risks to be considered. The result is never going to be how you imagined, but you’re suddenly given a whole new realm of possibility to work from.

You may be wondering why, with constant rejection and disappointment, I haven’t walked out the sixth story window yet. Probably because I’d hit my head on the glass because I forgot to open the damn thing. Also, every failure is a fantastic experience. Don’t get me wrong, being hopeful, then vulnerable, then getting flat out rejected is bruising. It’s humiliating to feel tears stream down your face and have to accept a consolation hug from the person you’re crying about. That being said, the weeks leading up to that confession were ones of tumultuous optimism. For a moment, in the middle of it all, I got to experience what success would have felt like. It was better than I imagined. And, while it was fleeting and the resolution was ultimately disappointing, it stiffened my resolve. I’m limping back to the drawing board, but with a clearer picture of what I want and how to get it.

When it comes to failing, it all comes down to what are you willing to sacrifice, what precious object you are willing to destroy in exchange for the chance of getting everything you ever wanted. I think my buddies on Mount Olympus would agree that I’ve given them some good stuff. I’ve sacrificed my ego and my dignity numerous times. I’ve laid out a future I’m attached to and said “Do what you will.” I’ll do it a thousand times. Nothing of value has ever been gained when nothing has been risked. Pragmatism is fear rationalized. Inaction guarantees a stifled existence. Humiliation is a small price to pay when you think about the reward.

I hope you will all learn from my failures and find the courage to make your own.

Love Lili

Playing House

eventually i’ll tell you,

but can we just play pretend a little longer?

because in this game we’re going

somewhere wonderful,

somewhere down a rabbit hole,

and i’m the queen of hearts

it’ll be the most fun we’ve ever had,

if I could even begin to tell you.

but the words are stuck at the top of my mouth like peanut butter,

and i’m too queasy to wash them down with milk.

This is love, big time.

i’ve never felt so flustered.

i’ve never felt so awestruck.

you make it feel like the world is a playground,

and the sky is a trampoline.

i’m totally turned upside-down around you.

My skirt is over my head and i’m giggling

because i like the way the world looks from here.

ps. If you’re listening, and I hope you are, I just wanted to say, that minute I spent with you was the most fun I’ve had all day.

Panic

I feel like the world is shrinking around me,

Clinging like plastic against my warm skin,

Clear, I can see that the dark sky is empty,

Soon will the cracks in forever begin.

 

I open my mouth to scream out “Somebody!”

But plastic wrap strains too tight cross my lips.

Air that I once to for granted can’t reach me,

And hope in the form of my hands start to twist.

 

With my nails I claw and rip at my binding

Freeing my arms, I make the holes fatter.

And the world which once had felt so restricting,

Lies at my feet in ribbons and tatter.

To The New Year

Dear New Year,

If I could tell you all the pickles I’ve found myself in this year you’d laugh. I would too. Scraped knees, bruised ego, broken heart, and a few professional bumps. The thing is, I knew what I was risking every time. Every day. I’m not afraid of being humiliated. I’m not scared that I’ll be disappointed a million times. I should be so lucky. Do you know why? Because a million disappointments means I’ve had a million hopes and imagined a million ways to get everything I’ve ever wanted. Maybe I walked away with a red face or red eyes, but when I walked in I knew what I wanted and said “to hell with the risk, it’s worth it.” And it is. I  t’s worth every minute of squirming, every dollar mistakenly spent, every hour that I’ll never get back.  I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s not ego, or bravery, or naivety, it’s blind optimism. I don’t want to learn from my mistakes. I don’t see them that way. Do you know why? Because you get to leap before you fall, and I’d rather fall a thousand times than stop believing I can fly.

So let’s do it again. You and me. We’ll take on the world and make it laugh with us.

Love Lili

To The Grown-Ass Men

Dear Menfolk,

I realize this is taking a twist from my last letter to one of your kind, but the next time I hear one of you complain about how difficult it is to get laid I want you to come see me so I can give you a big fat slap across your sorry ass face. It’s not hard, you’re just too damn stupid to seize the opportunity standing in front of you. I’m going to ‘splain a little something for you, and if I don’t win the Nobel Peace Prize for restoring harmony between the peoples of the world I’ll eat my hat. This is probably going to resemble the romantic advice column I wrote on MSN messenger in 5th grade, and yes, that’s a direct reflection of how capable I’ve deemed you to be in understanding the subject. We’re going to do this in two parts.

For all the single men out there;

I will bet that every last one of you know at least one female who you are either friends with or are acquainted with through work or hobbies who you find mildly attractive and who also finds you mildly attractive. Maybe you have feelings for someone you know who is admittedly a little out of your league but enjoys your company, even seeks it out. Maybe there is someone who you wouldn’t normally find yourself attracted to but whose company tickles you. These women probably aren’t that into you, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t change their mind if you proved yourself to be even a smidgen more thoughtful and attentive than the idiot they are interested in. (Note: I’m calling him an idiot because he didn’t have the good sense to read my wise words, go show him who’s a smart boy).

All we’re looking for, all you need to do, is show that you enjoy being around us and think about us occasionally when we’re not there. It’s so mind numbingly simple. Do it with confidence, and focus your attentions on one woman at a time so you don’t you look like you’re desperate or a slut. It will make her feel special. Feeling special is an aphrodisiac. That’s pretty much it. If it turns out she’s not interested, at the very least you’ll be a candidate when the dark days strike and she’s feeling a little lonely. And when that day comes, you better catch the signal with both hands and run with it because it’s a limited time offer, buddy.

For all the men who are currently sleeping with someone but not really dating them;

You like sex, right? You like sex with another person, right? Do you remember before how frustrating it was when you wanted to have sex and actually had to go around and find someone to sleep with and usually failed? Do you want those days to return? No? THEN PICK UP THE GOD DAMN PHONE! If you spend 5 or 10 minutes out of your day having a little text conversation with the girl you’re boning, that situation is going to stay pretty stable. Just think about it, 5 minutes a day maintenance and you probably get to have sex on a regular basis. It’s like the 4 hour work week, or the 4 hour body, except it’s sex, and that’s even better. You can do it when you’re looking at your phone on the toilet. I know that’s what you’re doing  when you’re in there, so don’t even…

“Oh, but I don’t want to be in a relationship right now, and if I show her attention she’s going to want one!” First of all, shut up, everyone wants someone to care about them. I mean, God forbid someone actually gives a shit about you. “Oh, but it’s so much effort!” No it’s not. It’s like having a good friend, and you spend a lot of time talking to friends right? If you’re smart, then everything stays the same except you get to have sex too. Think about it. That’s not a bad deal.

If you’re sleeping with someone but you don’t enjoy their company, then stop and go start sleeping with a friend. I’m serious. It’s going to be more fun because if/when it’s awkward, or you’re trying something out, you’re already comfortable with each other. And, when you’re done fumbling around you can go get some food just like you would before you saw each other naked. Doesn’t that sound nice? Exactly.

Closing statement to all the grown-ass men out there:

Start acting like it. This isn’t even about the sex, it’s about not dodging the conversations about what it involves it and what it means. I don’t take this lightly, and I don’t sleep around, but it’s probably more because you all scare so easily. Yes, I want a relationship. It’s nice to think that when you’re opening yourself up (I get the joke guys) that it’s with someone who isn’t going to run away and make you feel like there is something wrong with you. At the same time, don’t turn down the offer of a night in my bed because of my feelings. We’re both adults, we’re doing adult things, so let’s take responsibility for ourselves. I already took account of the risks and rewards when I decided it was a good idea to jump you.

And really, when you think about it, we’re all a little lonely and we’re all looking for someone to wrap our arms around. Why not stop trying to hide from committment, turn to that person who always makes you laugh, and say “hey, I’ll be nice to you if you’ll be nice to me.” Then get naked.

Love Lili