Friday, November 6, 2009

Pick-Up Lines – The New Pick-Me-Up?

Last night I went out to meet an old friend for drinks who, like so many friends these days, shared with me the story of his recent engagement. It’s the fifth piece of “super couple” news I’ve received in the past month. I chuckle to myself when I learn of these things, as it seems the movie of my life would have to include a crawl at the bottom of the screen to announce who is getting married, buying a house or having babies around me. In reality, it seems the other way around. The big screen is reserved for these all-important milestones while the other nooks and crannies of life carry on in the background.

After a couple glasses of wine, my friend excused himself to the restroom before we were going to leave. In what might have been one of the most awkward pick-up moments ever, a man approached me and asked if he could take my picture on Santa’s lap. (Santa, so you know, was visiting this particular bar to deliver another keg of Great Lakes Ale as part of the Beer Week event going on in town). Accompanied by some horrible country-pop holiday music playing in the background, I agreed to take the photo.

A flock of men gathered to take my picture with Santa on their smartphones, and my Chardonnay-laden giggle reminded me that the scene was getting ridiculous. I extracted myself from his red velour pants, feeling a mild static shock as I stood up. (In my mind, I “modeled through it” just the way Tyra would have told me to if I were on a shoot for America’s Next Top Model. Yes, I watch the show.)

My friend returned from the restroom just in time to see the flock of men disperse as Santa gave me a “high five.” Simultaneously, the man who approached me was now flanked by another, who began to talk about triathlon and how he wanted to change his fitness lifestyle. For me, this was a guaranteed conversation starter.

“Are you okay?” My friend asked. Based on what he’d just seen, it was a valid question.

I was aware that these guys (both 20 years older than me) had me in their crosshairs and were trying to pick me up – but I happen to have a pretty passionate sales pitch when it comes to getting people involved in triathlon, and I wasn’t about to let this opportunity slide. A little bit of wine mixed with a little bit of soul, and conversations like this become an amusement park of inquiry and persuasion.

My friend left, and there I stood with a pair of 50-year old cousins who bought me another glass of wine and stared at me curiously as our conversation took flight through a random assortment of topics. We went from triathlon to career goals, to stories about their ugly divorces (trending!) and children (one of their daughters was getting married – please refer to the crawl at the bottom of the screen).

At times they attempted to resume a flirtatious banter, but for the most part they seemed to be taking me seriously as someone who could help to change their lives (in the gym, not the bedroom). I felt like the pilot show for a sitcom – testing their interaction with me to see what they were all about. Losers just looking to score, or legitimately nice guys? I believe the latter is true.

I told them about my broken engagement and how I was in a new relationship that was going well; about Ironman; and my inability to follow recipes. They told me about being self-employed; their college days of competitive swimming; and characteristics about future in-laws that annoyed them. I was compared to sisters, “Wouldn’t Renee just LOVE her?” and privy to pre-supposed confessions such as, “If I come to your class, I’m probably going to fall in love with you.”

“Yes,” I said. “Yes, that’s probably true.”

Some women take offense to being hit on – I’m not one of those women. If it happens to be annoying, I walk away. If it’s engaging (not necessarily in a carnal way) I’m game for an exchange of dialogue.

Blame it on my penchant for reality television and dating shows. It’s challenging to present yourself to someone for the first time, while spontaneously coming up with what you perceive to be an effective blend of words, movement and wit to keep that person interested. Many people suck at it. I’ve walked away from them plenty of times.

For the record, the cousins were well-dressed, polite, and worth the engagement.

Some of my readers know that I work in advertising and “ghost write” some social media pieces for a promotional campaign we’re doing for Remington. As such, I’ve been spending considerable time talking about pick-up lines and coming up with tips for men to impress women. Since the promotion goes so well with this post, I’d like to share the following link to a list of, “The Top 10 Looks That Will Get You Nowhere With Women.” Then make sure you try out the game (click on PLAY THE GAME in the top right corner). You might be surprised how much fun the pick-up can be if you just go with it.

Ironic sidenote: After all of my babble about triathlon, I should mention that I still can’t score with Trainer Patrice in the game!


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Happy Independiversary

One year ago, I was supposed to be married. I’m not sure if 10/24 is trapped in my heart because of what was going to happen that day, or if it’s from the time spent creating Save-the-Date cards and seeing those numbers in every font available on my computer. I was proud of my design. Proud, too, of the life I was embarking on. I was leaving the dating scene and stepping up to the prospect of “happily ever after.”

I tried to let the weekend come and go without indulging in any feelings about the milestone it could have been, but it’s hard to force emotional currents one way or the other. It felt like I was trying to pull the meaning off of 10/24 the same way I might have tried to peel a sticker from an apple.

If it’s not ready to come off and you continue to try, you’re likely to pull some skin away with it, too.

It’s not just the date itself that has been keeping me awake at night. About a month ago my ex-fiance called to tell me the tragic news that someone we had spent time with as a couple had unexpectedly passed away. Given that we’ve both moved on to new relationships, our correspondence has been limited to pleasantries and the occasional conversation about how things are going. Sharing the news of an untimely death was easily one of the most emotional exchanges we’d encountered together in more than a year. My immediate reaction was to be there for him, the way I would be there for any friend in that situation, but it was reminiscent of something more. Something that we used to be – partners in life’s hardest situations.

At some point, though, we couldn’t make it through one of those situations. We came upon an obstacle that was too large to ignore, and at the time we were unable to do anything about it except argue. And then fight. And then resent. It was no way to spend an engagement, and I couldn’t move forward with a wedding that was suddenly surrounded by so much doubt and pain.

Our wedding was postponed right around the time that I turned 30, and after several months of couples therapy, we decided to break things off. I will never forget the weekend I moved out. I have never cried so hard as I did packing my things to move on from the life I was so desperate to live, back into the life of the unknown. With the wedding canceled and a parade of empty boxes swallowing up my life as I knew it, the pressure “to make things work” was off and me and my ex were actually able to talk and laugh again. The combination was jarring. How could we feel so impossible week after week, but then find a sense of calm in one another on the day before I was moving out? One of life’s mysteries, I suppose.

What I’ve learned from all of this, is that even though we never married the way we’d planned, we’ve remained close within our hearts. I am connected to him in ways that are not immediately (or ever?) undone, and though I made the right decision to end the relationship, I shouldn’t expect to encounter would-be anniversary dates and emotional conversations about someone’s untimely passing without feeling some sense of that connection manifesting itself. What it means is that I almost married a good guy, but I didn’t go through with what might have been a great mistake. At times I wish that ours had been an abusive relationship, one with crystal clear reasons for why it was wrong and shouldn’t continue. What I had was a relationship that I didn’t feel passionately about. There were boundaries as to what could be comfortably expressed and shared – and my gut feeling told me that I couldn’t live that way.

The independent woman in me knew that it would be hard to walk away from a relationship that made me mostly happy, but it had be done. It’s not easy to do the right thing, and if you are independent, you know what’s right for you and are faced with hard decisions that test that self-commitment all the time. Being “independent” isn’t just about being able to do things on your own without relying on someone else. It’s about being strong in who you are, defending what you’re about and what you need to be happy. Marriage isn’t about “finding my other half,” because I don’t feel that I’m missing any portion of who I am, nor do I feel that I need to find someone to be the yin to my yang. I see marriage as the ultimate sharing of one’s soul – it’s not about anything that’s missing and needs to be found. Or about something that’s empty that needs to be filled. It’s about something that amplifies an energy that’s already there. For many reasons, my relationship with my ex fiancĂ© did not work. One of them was because I felt my energy was stifled in some ways and I began to feel trapped in a life that wasn’t mine.

I made the decision to break things off and face the emotional tide that comes with ending one’s fairytale wedding. Hundreds of Save-the-Date cards were recycled. Teary cancellations with vendors took me off the radar as a bride-to-be, and the walls in our home became bare as my possessions piled up into moving boxes.

I stood in those rooms staring at the walls like a ghost from a past life. Some part of me would be lost in that house forever. Time passed and gradually things got easier, but never so easy as to forget what it felt like to face that fork in the road.

Go one way and be true to “society," go another and be true to myself.

I won’t say that it’s been an easy road – because more than a year after breaking my engagement, I’m writing this blog. But I will say that it feels good to know that I can weather the storm on my own and that despite the sadness I felt on my would-be anniversary day, I know that my heart is still in tact and I’m still moving forward. Even if there are times when I pause to look back.