Dog is my co-pilot

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*Note* I took this down in the middle of the night because it seemed too optimistic for my current state of mind but then, I wrote it a few days ago. Must stop self-editing.

It’s sunny and beautiful on the isle of Manhattan this weekend. My neighborhood is becoming increasingly appealing to out-of-towners because of the galleries, the High Line, the new restaurants, Louie … Lots of snippets of conversation to overhear and to use as fodder for the exercises we do in our writing group, our Salon.

I passed a woman in mid-sentence and heard, “…the city is like telling your gay cousin he just hasn’t met the right girl.” I took the liberty of filling in the blanks and I’m going to say that telling someone who’s not comfortable living here that they just haven’t gotten used to the city is like telling your gay cousin, etc. Because this is a tough town – can be – and is certainly not for everyone. Being more or less from here I want everyone to fall in love with this place but I understand that there are much more comfortable, more civilized, and more forgiving places to live. As my friend (Kat) said upon leaving NY for California, she will not miss the swirling eddys of garbage on windy days, or the sudden rancid smells that seem to come out of nowhere.

I don’t know how I’d feel if I didn’t have a foundation here, if my parents weren’t across town and I didn’t have great friends I’ve known for years. As well as great friends I’ve known for less time, like the lad I met in the dog park three years ago over a shared love of shiba inus and an expertise (his) and interest (mine) in Russian literature. We’re both going  through the growing pains of romances that didn’t quite go as planned, and it’s been a bonding experience. A purely platonic one, but evidence that a 24-year-old man from London and a 42-year-old gal more or less from NY can view the world, at times, through similar lenses. And the lovely woman I met via Facebook, when we both commented on a friend’s post and I wound up defending her to the cynical star-chasers (our mutual friend is semi-celebrated) who didn’t appreciate her closeness to this friend. Turns out we live in the same neighborhood and share an interest in understanding the human condition, seeing the world however we can, and theatre and museums. And writing. We met in three dimensions for a glass of wine shortly after our initial conversation.

People have been telling me how difficult it is to date in this city. Something I don’t really know as I’ve not been dateable for several years. I’m gearing up to be again, and that will be interesting. I didn’t mind dating in my 20s – at the very least it was (usually) interesting conversation and a meal or a drink. I never had any terrible experiences, but I had plenty of decidedly un-datelike ones. Like the job interview that was my first and only solo evening with a politician who remains a friend and whose fundraisers I’ve attended over the years. Or the sushi dinner with the lawyer who tried sea urchin for the first time and was none too pleased. Or the date I accidentally went on on Valentine’s Day with the perfectly pleasant bloke from Boston who seemed far too mild-mannered for the conversation he initiated about nipple clamps. Actually, those were all in my early thirties and those were all courtesy of my aunts. I love my aunties; we do not share taste in men which is, all things considered, a very good thing.

In my 20s I had a series of blind dates orchestrated by co-workers, and one of those dates has become a lifelong friend. He’s a war journalist from Memphis who has recently spent a lot of time in Syria – a very admirable guy and the subject of a documentary I will plug another time. There was the session drummer for Blondie who was sweet and named Pete and that is all I recall of him (except that he had long brown hair).

When I worked for Random House, one of my co-workers was a very sweet and talented woman of Israeli and Peruvian descent who had a thick accent and a voice below my comfortable registry – my hearing is imperfect and hers is a frequency I had a very hard time deciphering. Two stories. One day she stopped me in the hall to admire my pants. I mentioned that I’d bought them in San Francisco and this launched a monologue about her time in San Francisco, which segued into an anecdote about hanging Christmas lights and went on from there … when she paused I said, “Oh, that’s good,” to which she responded, “No! I could have died!”

I threw a holiday party at my apartment – actually my dear friend and I did – and our low talker was there. I recall talking to her about hummus and the following day at work she came by my desk and said, “So he’s going to call you!” Apparently somewhere between hummus and Mas de Gourgonnier, which we drank copious amounts of in those days, I agreed to a blind date with her brother-in-law. I met him a week or so later at Layla (remember Layla?), ran into my freshman year roommate, had an unmemorable meal and the next day was messengered a set of castanets. Because at the time I was taking belly-dancing lessons. A very sweet gesture – now I feel compelled to finally take the flamenco lessons he seemed to be encouraging with his thoughtful, unexpected gift.

Which leads me to … where does this lead me? To being 42 and determined to make the next 42 years the best I’ve had. I’m a late bloomer, thank God, imagine having peaked in high school? Or college? Or anytime in my 20s or 30s, for that matter? This year, this year I write a lot. I also continue with my Pilates and, as soon as it’s fixed from having been destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, my time spent in the gym in my building – because, vanity and clinging to the vestiges of my youth aside, exercise is really helpful for my oft-uneven moods. This year I let go of worrying about the things I can’t control and that includes people’s reactions toward me. Some travel will be lovely – my mom and I have a trip coming up, to Budapest and Paris, and I am really looking forward to this on many levels. Last year most of my travel involved Los Angeles – this year it won’t. I’m going to cook more this year, and keep my apartment more organized. I’m going to purge the possessions that have been taking up space and have no intrinsic value to me. I am going to trust myself more. I might take belly dancing lessons again.

Most importantly, I am going to appreciate my own company and not feel the need for male validation in the form of a nonworking relationship that I cling to out of fear of being alone. Because right now, in this apartment, drinking coffee and writing while the dog sleeps in his little bed, being “alone” is far from lonely.

If I ever start to sound like Carrie Bradshaw please tell me and I will put an immediate stop to it. I promise. That’s when I’ll pull out the essays about death metal and huffing and running naked through the streets. Three things I’ve never been into.

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