Archive for January, 2012

Living with Paige and Rachel

January 31, 2012

With my sublet on Bleecker Street soon expiring, I needed a new place to live.  I wanted to continue subletting and sample another neighborhood but most places were out of my price range or required a one year lease.  (My friend, Gyro, suggested my resistance to sign a lease reflected a fear of commitment— a theory that would gain traction in the coming years.)

Begrudgingly, I returned to my parents’ house/crashing in the office arrangement.  This time, the peripatetic lifestyle took its toll.  Gone was the impish joy of sleeping rent-free in Manhattan— I was tired all the time and longed for a beady door.  I decided to take this as a sign of maturity.  (Should I call Tracy? Hmm, not yet…)

Six weeks into my predicament a coworker, Paige, mentioned she and her roommate, Rachel, were looking to fill a third room.  I pounced.

“We were kinda looking for a woman…,” she hemmed, “but you seem safe.”

I guess that was a compliment, although I immediately wondered what I needed to change to be dangerous.

The place was a huge upgrade— only two roommates, a real bedroom door and, best of all, settled by females.

Living with women was an eye opener.  Having grown up with only brothers, attended an all boys high school and then a college where single sex dorms and curfews were strictly enforced, I’d spent very little time in a female abode.  They were almost mythical to me and suddenly I lived in one.  What a difference…

Everything Smelled Good

Their dirty laundry smelled good (not that I went around sniffing it, just passing the basket I swear).  My stuff never smelled good, I just tried to keep it from smelling bad.  Smelling like nothing is a man’s goal.

They Had Food…

They could assemble dinner for eight just based on what was in the cupboards, let alone refrigerator.  Guys generally have soy sauce and ketchup packets.

…and Grownup Stuff

Pots, pans, can openers– they had things not only did I not own but I’d never heard of (this is where I first learned the terms “bed skirt”, “runners” and “sham”).

Pictures Mean Something

They displayed pictures of family, friends and meaningful life moments. If a guy puts up a picture, it’s usually of him and his friends doing something dumb.  Or a super model.

Towels Abound

Hand towels, wash cloths, bath towels, dish rags.  I had one big towel that I used for everything– shower, bath mat, table cloth, napkin, lingerie, draft guard…

Women Love Clean

We had very different definitions of “clean”.  For a guy, it means there’s nothing on the floor, for a woman it means things are actually, well, clean.

The best part of my new living situation, however, was getting a behind the scenes look at how women operate.  I was immersed in the primping and prepping, products and problems.  There were masks and creams and hour long debates about whether to get fro-yo at 10pm (the verdict was “yes” over 70% of the time, followed by guilt).

They watched sad movies on purpose and relished in hypothetical questions.  (‘Would you still love me if I gained 500 pounds?’)  It was the most insightful time in my life when it came to my understanding of— or attempts to understand— the opposite sex.  Not only was I privy to their talks, I was part of them.  They wanted my opinions on their relationships— what he said and what it meant (usually exactly what he said).

And since no one was trying to impress, we really got to know each other.  I knew which movie stars Paige liked, what Rachel’s idiot boss said to her that day and how much both of them just saved on new shoes.

I was like one of the girls, just with a guy perspective.  I felt protective of them and appreciated their trust in me.  I’d never just hung out with women and it was so nice.  No tension, no expectations.  For the first time in my life I had female friends.  Or so I thought…

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Dear Michael

January 25, 2012

Dear Michael,

My boyfriend does this annoying thing with his hips while we’re having sex. He says it’s his “signature move” but it’s definitely not working for me. How can I tell him without crushing his ego?

– P.M., 31, Chicago

No matter how skilled a guy thinks he is, we forget every woman is different and what worked for one is no indicator of future success (how many beatings have your nipples taken under the guise of romance?). To make things worse, guys tend to fall into two camps— it can’t be my fault (“The last girl liked it, what’s wrong with you?”) or a completely wounded duck. Neither is attractive, so proceed with caution.

Of course, honesty is the best policy– it’s just not that attractive an option. If you do choose to tell him directly, make it a quick throw away– building it up as a big talk will make the rejection that much worse. But if you choose the more popular, less straightforward approach, here are some ideas…

Negative reinforcement– When he’s doing something you like, act really happy (throwing pillows, etc.) and then get quiet and sad when he starts the move. Repeat as necessary.

Change Things Up– Is the move salvageable? Any chance raising a leg or a slight shift in position (his or yours) may have better results? I believe that’s how the Reese’s Cup was discovered.

Run— I dated a woman who didn’t care for a certain position and, by the third time she wrestled her way out of it, I got the hint. (Important: It helps our ego if you passionately embrace whatever happens next. See “throwing pillows”.)

Lie- If all else fails, fake a pulled muscle or “female issue” that his signature move exacerbates. Mentioning your cervix usually rattles us enough to never try it again while simultaneously making us think we’re a lot of man to handle.

 

Dear Michael,

A certain book claims if a guy doesn’t want to spend the night together he’s just not into you.  Do you agree?

– C.H. 28, Atlanta

Just not true.  In fact, my “Sleepless in the City” blog entry provides a valid, albeit extreme, reason I couldn’t bring a woman home with me.  And here are some more mature reasons guys I know have voted down the sleepover…

– In an attempt to be smooth and sexy in case things progressed, Brian got his back waxed for the first time the day of his date… and broke into a horrible rash. That evening, slight perspiration led to painful stinging and he could not wait to get home and take off his shirt– alone.  And he certainly wasn’t telling her why.

– Mark’s mom was staying at his place to be close to the airport for her 6am flight.  When his date mentioned it would be fun to watch a movie but her roommate was home, Mark had his opening– and left it open.  “I didn’t want to seem like a mama’s boy” he said.  “So I said I had an early flight.”  She stopped returning his calls thereafter.

– Two hours before his date, Jeff learned he’d be running a huge client meeting the next day as his boss was stuck overseas.  He should have cancelled with Sarah but had already rescheduled once before and feared not getting another chance.  After a fun dinner she suggested the “amazing cupcakes” she had at her place.  Instead, Jeff excused himself but unlike Mark insisted they schedule another date on the spot.  They’re still together today.

My First (Real) Apartment

January 17, 2012

For as much as I loved my office-apartment (because it was funny and free), a woman would cause me to vacate.  In fact, a woman has been the primary reason for every move I’ve made to this day.

I met Tracy through a mutual friend at a networking luncheon. She was seven years older than me and markedly more mature. She had a sweet finance job, apartment on Central Park South, interesting friends— she was a woman (no insult to who I’d been meeting but, in retrospect, we were all just kids.)

I desperately wanted to impress her and suspected my knowledge of where to get the cheapest beer in the city on any given night wouldn’t do the trick.  Fortunately, despite my paltry paycheck, the perks of my job served as the perfect wingman. Magazine reps frequently rented out trendy bars to schmooze clients and encouraged us to bring a date (which worked out perfectly because, since I had no power, nobody wanted to talk to me anyway.)  Tickets to concerts and sporting events often trickled down from upper management and, because I spent so much time in the office, I was often around to claim them first.

So at least once a week I invited Tracy to do something fun and hip that I couldn’t have afforded on my own.  And I thought my little system was working.

“Do you have a girlfriend?” she asked out of nowhere on our fifth date, a Counting Crows concert.

“I don’t know, you tell me.” I joked in a flirty way.  She wasn’t laughing.

“You schedule all our dates last second, you’ve never invited me over…”

Yikes.  Telling her I live with my parents would seem childish and “I live in my office” didn’t sound much better so I mumbled for a little then vaguely claimed to be “between places”.  She didn’t look happy and seemed ready to squash our budding romance– income be damned, I needed a place in the city.

As though I willed it, an interoffice email went around the next day for a three month sublet in a Bleecker St. loft with four other guys and I grabbed it.  I slept in a sort of storage area– you couldn’t stand up as the slanted ceiling stood 5 feet at its highest and beaded curtains hung in place of a door, which provided more irritation than privacy.  Moreover, my room sat directly above a bar where bands played every night until 4am, making it impossible to sleep before 4:01.  But it had a mattress and I didn’t need a bus to get there.  My confidence was soaring, I had a place in the city.

Proudly, I invited Tracy over for the night.  It didn’t go well.  The fraternity-like atmosphere pronounced our different life phases.  I now cringe as I recall her, in expensive lingerie, tangled in beads waiting for my roommate to vacate the bathroom as my bed vibrated from the bass below.  She must have been horrified.  In fact, thinking back I realize her eyes were saying “What am I doing here?”.  But being so proud of my first New York apartment, I didn’t realize anything was wrong.  My high school teacher once said confidence is being true to your circumstances— I was confident, if not a tad ignorant.

Tracy and I soon cooled off which, while surprising to me, brought an unexpected sense of relief.  I hadn’t realized how hard I’d been working to appear more grownup.  Trying to impress the woman you’re dating takes effort, pretending to be a whole other person is downright exhausting.  When things ended I slept for a week– bass drums and all.

Sleepless in the City

January 10, 2012

Just out of college, I scored a job at a big ad agency in New York City.  I’ll never forget the phone call that marked my entrance in the working world.

“Congratulations. You can start Monday at 9am.”

“Yikes, what time can I start Tuesday?” I thought.

The job consisted of entry-level busy work and a starting salary that made it tough to afford lunch, let alone a place to live.  As such, I humbly moved back home with my parents in the suburbs of New Jersey.

Adding insult to insecurity, the last bus to my hometown left at 9pm making a social life nearly impossible.  After work, I’d join coworkers for happy hour and, just as the night started ramping up, I had to flee for the bus station.

Only I never told anyone– I’d excuse myself to use the restroom and just disappear.  The next day, when coworkers asked what happened I’d claim to have met a woman or run into an old friend, “we did some shots and the night went crazy from there”.  Ironically, these excuses earned me a reputation for being the wild one in the office.

“You never know where his night will end.” my cube mate, Doogie, boasted admirably.

Actually, I do.  With a bunch of balding dads on a bus to the ‘burbs.

The situation sapped my confidence.  Telling a woman I lived at home would be bad enough[1], admitting I turned into a pumpkin at 9pm was unbearable.  Unconsciously, I stopped considering myself dateable.  I’d meet friends and make generic conversation until I had to sneak out.  That is, until I met Julie.

On Thursday nights, a dive bar near work had a 2 for 1 happy hour (“It’s like you’re losing money if you don’t go!” my buddy Gyro convincingly claimed.)  As the unofficial start of the weekend, it looked more like Senior Week than a post work happy hour.  I was getting in one last order before my curfew when, over the music and petulance, I heard a voice.

“There’s a guy bothering me– would you pretend you’re my boyfriend?”

I turned to find Julie, a petite 20-something with super curly hair and different colored eyes, which I’d never seen before and found incredibly hot.  (Note: Hot when it’s natural, intentionally creating this look with colored contacts would be creepy.)

Discounted cocktails were suddenly unimportant.

“What? Yes! Of course!” I shouted chivalrously.

I offered one of my beers (they were both for me anyway) and we yelled at each about our jobs and how we weren’t using a thing we learned in college.  I kept watch for her stalker, although she never mentioned him again.  (A female friend later advised there was probably no other guy, it was a pickup line.  Well played!)  Then I noticed the time — 8:40pm.  Crap.  How do I excuse myself?  Meeting friends across town?  Have to go back to work?  The excuse didn’t matter, leaving was leaving.  And I didn’t want to.

If I stay might things go so well that she’d ask me home?  She didn’t seem the type. Could I say “It was really nice meeting you— mind if I sleep on your couch?”

With no plan, I took a deep breath, a big sip of beer and decided to roll the dice.

As the clock passed 9pm, I felt like a renegade.  Take that suburbs!  We got another drink (“My round” she said, how sexy is that? Plus really helpful cause the special had ended) and laughed at increasingly stupid things.  I was having so much fun I totally forgot I was screwed– until Julie announced she had a big morning and better get home.  She gave me her number and an on-the-cheek-but-near-the-lips kiss and left.  My excitement quickly disappeared.  I was stranded in NYC.

With nothing but a debit card and $47 in the bank, my options were nil.  I cringed at the idea of calling my parents an hour and a half away. “Mom? Dad? Your little executive missed the last bus home because a girl had neat eyes— can you come get me?”  My parents have always perceived me as more together than the reality and I didn’t want to sully that, so I decided to get a nightcap and reassess.

I don’t know if there’s something in Guinness that sparks clarity or just prompts you to make mediocre decisions with conviction but three sips in it dawned on me I had access to just one building in the city.  So I headed back to work, told the indifferent night guard I had a deadline and slept on the floor in my cubicle.

While uncomfortable, I was the first one in the next morning.  After freshening up in the sink, I donned a promotional t-shirt from our Pepsi account (long live casual Friday) and started the coffee.  As people filed in, I proudly wished them good morning, taking only mild offense to everyone’s surprise at my punctuality.  I never saw Julie[2] again but will always credit her with helping me find my first pad in NYC— my office.

For the next year, whenever I wanted to stay out I crashed in my cubicle.  I kept a blanket and fresh clothes in a filing cabinet and needed only to be awake before the first employee arrived (worst case, the ding of the elevator was my alarm).  As I grew more comfortable, I appreciated the perks– free internet, big screen TV in the conference room, technically I even had a cleaning lady.

Finally, I felt in the game.  Inviting someone over still wasn’t possible but at least I could stay out and earned the occasional invite back to a woman’s place.  And when this happened they were guaranteed a perfect gentleman– I was just happy to sleep in a bed.


[1] Dear Mom & Dad– I love home. Not only did you welcome me without charging rent but after four years in a college dorm the place felt HUGE.  Add in laundry on the premises and cabinets full of food and I appreciated our house more than ever.  Gracias, Michael

[2] I called Julie twice and neither conversation flowed.  We weren’t as compatible minus cocktails and think we both recognized it.

I couldn’t help but notice…

January 3, 2012

In a way, I’ve been preparing to write this blog since 6th grade when my best friend, Jen, “changed” over the summer and no longer wanted to play whiffleball.  It was the first time I didn’t understand a woman and would not be the last.

Two years later, I experienced some changes of my own, also lost interest in whiffleball and gained a renewed interest in Jen.  And thus began a new phase of my life: Women.

But while a lot of my friends just wanted to get women, I aspired to get them– to be good at talking to them, being with them and, well, understand them.  I’m not sure if this was out of respect or because I aspire to be good at everything.

Either way, my relationship reviews to date have been pretty positive.  My last girlfriend took a Rate Your Mate quiz and I came up “Straight but Sensitive”.  I was so excited I posted the results on the fridge.  Others have dubbed me introspective and a “great listener” although I suspect the bar for guys is pretty low.  I’ve always just assumed people think what they are saying is important– I know I do– so try to pay attention.

That said, I am very much a guy. I’ve never ironed and believe a hat is a perfectly good substitute for a shower. I even had a bachelor party once— not because I was engaged but because I thought it would be more fun when I was single.  I was right.

And I’ve been fortunate enough to date some amazing women.  Funny, smart and each with their own quirks– from a first amendment lawyer who refused to have sex on a weeknight for fear she’d “lose her edge” in court to the nanny who, quite frankly, had trouble keeping her pants on.

I’ve been on both ends of a broken heart and know that neither one feels good. And, while I don’t erase exes from my cell phone, I do actually put an “x” before their names to remind myself not to call them after cocktails. I’ve had friends call during dates in case I needed saving (we do that too) and assign nicknames to women so my friends know who I’m talking about… I hope Herbivore isn’t reading this.

I’ve had successful relationships (I believe you can call them that even if they end) and some less than proud moments— like the time I ended things with Glad Wrap (she was clingy) by telling her I was moving to France and spent three months tip toeing around New York in fear of running into her.

And while by no means do I claim to now “get” women, I’ve gained humorous observations, helpful insights and classic stories.  So I thought it would be fun to create a place where I could share them all uncensored.

I hope you see some of yourself in these posts.  If nothing else, I hope they make you smile.

-Michael