In Sickness and in Health?

April 25, 2012

Her: “I’m sick, you want to come over?”

Me: “Um, no thank you…”

This conversation occurred between me and my first girlfriend and left me utterly confused.  Just 18 years old the time, I had only my upbringing as a source of social etiquette and the lesson regarding sickness was ‘stay home so you don’t get other people sick’.  So why would a woman who ostensibly cares about me invite me to her germ farm?

Clearly I was bit naive at the time and have since learned the value of a significant other’s care when under the weather. Nonetheless, I still find the rules confusing…

When Jen called from her apartment in a raspy voice I knew my role as boyfriend. I grabbed some DVD’s and hit the supermarket to stock her with the works– soups, crackers, juices, medicine. I arrived at her pad like a Santa Claus for sick people. After heating up some chicken noodle and keeping her company I decided to get going.

“You’re leaving me?” she protested.

“Um, not for good but…” I stammered.

“I’m sick.” she said, like it was fault.

Are you kidding? She wants me to spend the night? Instinctively, I tried to make it about her, “Sweetie, you’ll rest better with the bed to yourself…”

My strategy totally backfired as she shot down my theory and left me with no backup.

“I’ll rest better with you here.”

It didn’t make any sense– we only slept over one or two nights a week as it was, why do it when it won’t even be fun? What followed was a sloppily crafted argument of how it’s best for everyone if I left. By the end she was mad and actually wanted me to leave, not how I planned it.

The same issue grew more complicated when I moved in with Claudia. She’d spent the night sniffling and coughing and, with no apartment of my own, I decided I’d at least sleep better (and avoid getting sick) on the couch. I also knew this would likely not be well received so decided to get the ball rolling.

“So… I’ll sleep on the couch tonight so you can have the bed to yourself.” I said with zero conviction.

Darn, I made the same mistake as with Jen– trying to make it about her.

“No.”

What is with these women? I don’t like sharing the bed when I’m healthy so I really don’t want to be bothered when I’m sick.  Alas, they seem to have a ‘we’re in this together’ approach– a theory solidified by Dara when the tables were turned this past New Year’s Eve.

Totally down for the count with a vicious flu, I informed her I unfortunately had to cancel our plans.

“I’ll just come hang out with you then.” she countered.

It was incredibly sweet but I encouraged her to go out and do something fun with her friends.  After all, who wants to stay in with a sick person on New Year’s?  She did.

“If you’re saying you don’t want me that’s fine but otherwise I’d rather spend it with you.”

I was hardly good company but secretly loved the idea of her coming over.

“I’d love to see you.” I stated with some conviction.

“Then you will.”

It was one of the best New Year’s of my life.  We watched TV coverage from around the globe and ate plain toast.  And, while I felt terrible, for a while even forgot I was sick.  At midnight, she insisted on kissing me and shortly thereafter we fell asleep in each other’s arms.  In my bed.  And guess what, she didn’t get sick.

Dressing Up Your Man

April 18, 2012

There comes a point in every relationship– or at least in mine– when the woman will attempt to improve her man’s appearance.  Sometimes it’s subtle (“Do you like this jacket?”) and other times more overt (“I hate that shirt.”).

In fairness, there usually is room for improvement– guys generally don’t concern themselves with presentation to the extent that women do so some intervention is often warranted… and even secretly welcome.

My first such makeover occurred so smoothly I didn’t even know it happened.

“I got you a present!”  Wendy announced, bounding through the door adorned in shopping bags.  It wasn’t my birthday, or any occasion for that matter, she just “saw something I thought you’d look good in.”

The gift was a baby blue sweater and I didn’t like it.  Aside from the color, guys don’t really like sweaters– they’re itchy and make us unnecessarily warm.  When I see a man wearing a sweater I assume he’s in a relationship (sometimes I even chuckle to myself as I think of them as little nets the woman caught him in.  I have a strange imagination.).

Having been raised well, however, I smiled graciously, “That’s so thoughtful!”

“Try it on.” Wendy fired back.

Ugh, here we go. I forced it on and will never forget what happened next– her face lit up and her eyes beamed.

“Look at your shoulders!” she purred.  “Yup, the blue brings out your eyes.” she continued, as though this had been previously discussed.

She stroked my back and arms, eying me like a dessert.

“You look so handsome…”

Within a few moments the sweater, along with all our other clothes, were on the floor.

For the next five years, I purchased only blue clothing.  I wore the color like it gave me superpowers and, while the women I passed on the street managed to stay dressed, I definitely got more looks than my t-shirt ‘n cargo shorts ensemble ever did.  It was my first experience being dressed by a woman and the upside was clear.

My next intervention, unfortunately, was not as gentle. Brooke and I were only dating a few weeks when, walking through the mall, she just snapped, “You need pants.”  She said it like it had been weighing on her for weeks and she finally couldn’t contain it any more.

Confused, I half-jokingly replied, “I have pants.”

Her faced narrowed, “You need new pants.”

In a flash, our shopping trip went from searching for Spring skirts to me with a pile of pants.  I didn’t care for her approach nor anything she picked– trendy jeans, too tight khakis (do I really look like a “slim fit” guy?).  None of her choices felt like me and soon started to remind me of the last guy she dated (I never met him, just saw pictures).  I had already suspected she still held a torch for him… was she now trying to get me to dress like him?  Eventually I agreed to purchase a few things just so we could leave.  Secretly, I planned to return them the next day, which I did, and turned Brooke in shortly thereafter.

My best makeover, however, occurred purely by accident. Claudia wanted to go to a nearby French restaurant that just opened– not normally my scene but I obliged.  I dressed nicely– button down shirt, pressed slacks and those uncomfortable square shoes women like us in– but upon arriving learned I hadn’t done enough.

“In order to dine here we require that gentleman wear a blazer.” the matre de informed me.  Since I didn’t really want to be there in the first place, this only further annoyed me.  On the other hand the news was welcome– now we can leave.

I turned to my girlfriend apologetically, “Sorry, guess we’ll have to…”

“However” the matre de interrupted, “we can provide a blazer for you.”

And he retrieved a blue blazer from the closet.

Huh?  What kind of policy is that?  ‘We require you to have a blazer unless you don’t in which case we’ll give you one?’  So much for cache.

Begrudgingly, I slung the loaner on and became further annoyed– it was pretty snug.  The shoulders were tight and I couldn’t cross my arms.  What’s this, a medium? Why wouldn’t they just have a large or XL blazer so its one size fits all?  And besides, isn’t it usually the big guy who bogies the dress code?

I didn’t care to sit through a meal jammed into this thing and turned to Claudia to complain but her face changed everything– it was the same look Wendy had given me years earlier.

Wow. You look really good in blazers.” she purred.

I decided I could tough it out.  We sat for an overpriced meal, a bit more attitude from the staff and went straight home for dessert.

An Exercise in Love

April 11, 2012

When I workout I generally don’t want any witnesses.  My routine bears little resemblance to those sweat-dripping, Nike ads, it’s more the path of least resistance coupled with an internal monologue reminding me rest is as important to health as exertion.  At the gym, you’ll most likely find me laying on the mats watching cable TV under the guise of stretching.  Yes, I realize I’m only cheating myself.  And I can live with that.

As such, I’m always conflicted when a significant other suggests we exercise together.  To me, it’s like asking someone to do errands with you– I don’t even want to do them, why would I invite you to be miserable too?  Alas, the women I’ve dated tend to find a level of joy in their exercise regimens and apparently feel sharing the experience with their beau will only enhance that.

My initial experience with this phenomenon occurred with Dara, one of the first women I dated after moving to New York.

“Do you want to go for a run?” were the shrill words she uttered, just weeks into our courtship.  I did not want to run but did want to impress her so agreed.

When we met in Central Park, I instantly knew I was in trouble.  Her running outfit appeared nicer than my nice clothes and she was touching her toes without bending her knees.  I can’t touch my knees without bending my knees and was dressed like I was going to paint a room.

Immediately, I felt inferior.  While I never saw the point in wearing good clothes just to sweat, I wished I had.  What else did I even own?  My next nicest outfit was a polo shirt and khakis and that hardly seemed like running attire.

“Should we run for time or distance?” she asked, further unnerving me.

Apparently “to not pass out” wasn’t a choice.

We agreed to run the inner loop “to start” (her words, not mine) and took off.

Despite my concerns, the run started better than expected.  Her pace wasn’t torturous and my pain minimal– the only indicator of our differing conditions being she talked the whole time while I gave one word answers or just grunted in agreement.  But otherwise I felt good.  That is, until she announced “I’m warmed up.  Wanna start?”

What happened next was a blur.  She took off like a gazelle and I resorted to a dead sprint just trying to keep up.  As she clipped along with a relaxed stride– still chatting away– I must have looked like monsters were chasing me.  I’d stopped responding altogether as oxygen was scarce.

Slowly, my body started to revolt.  My left heel began aching followed by a sharp pain in my right knee.  Both calves were burning and my shoulders went numb.  I felt like a space shuttle reentering the atmosphere– shingles flying everywhere, the whole thing overheating.

Then a blessing occurred– my shoelace came undone.  Thank goodness, a temporary break to this insanity.  I called time out and collapsed to the ground, planning to take as long as needed, or longer, to tie it while gathering my thoughts.  And that’s when blessing #2 occurred– I gave my right shoelace a good, tight yank and “pop!” it snapped in half.  Oh no! (Oh yes!)  The remaining lace proved too short to properly tie a sneaker and trying to run that way would certainly risk injury.  Dara agreed and began brainstorming the closest running store where we could get new laces.

“No!” I countered, still battling for air.  Being in the middle of Central Park, I explained, it’ll be 45 minutes before this gets fixed.  “You’re all warmed up, finish the run… I’ll hang back and do some ab work.”  The last part was a ridiculous add on, particularly with my chest still heaving.

She found my unselfishness “incredibly sweet” and gave me a big kiss before darting off.  And I spotted a street vendor and rewarded myself sweetness with a giant pretzel and Coke.

Over the course of our 10 month relationship, I managed to avoid another running session using various excuses from “I worked out this morning” to “I’m still working… but lets meet for drink after?”.  Looking back, I wish I’d wanted to run with Dara.  It seemed important to her and sharing that would have been nice.  While our relationship just sort of fizzled out perhaps this served as a small  indicator of our compatibility?  Either way, I hope someone is running with her now and I hope he can keep up.  Or at least has old laces.

Hey, Jealousy

April 3, 2012

When I was 17, my girlfriend brought me to get my wisdom teeth pulled so she could drive me home after the anesthesia.  When we arrived at the doctor’s office, a rather attractive female receptionist greeted me with a big smile and handed me paperwork to fill out. I wrote my name, checked “single” under marital status, and that’s when the trouble began.

“You’re not single.”, my girlfriend protested.

“Well I’m not married or divorced.” I replied, referencing the only other options.

“You have a girlfriend,” she said, “and I don’t want the Hoochie Mama nurse thinking you’re single while you’re all drugged up in the back.”

It was a ridiculous statement, yet I couldn’t tell if she was kidding.  Instinctively, I tried to lighten the mood.

“You want me to draw another box that says ‘in a relationship’ and check it?” I joked.

“Yes.” she said, without a smile.

I didn’t draw that box but I also didn’t so much as glance at the receptionist again for the rest of the visit.  It was my first taste of relationship jealousy.

While jealousy rears its ugly mug in all parts of life, perhaps nothing drives us more insane than jealousy with a significant other.  Who was on the phone? Why were you late?  Where did you get that sweater?  Feeling jealous— while sometimes warranted and others irrational– is a constant.  So it’s in how we choose to handle it that we can make a difference.  Here is what I’ve learned…

Jealousy is not always unattractive… 

Sometimes jealousy gets a bad rap (probably something to do with that whole looking weak and surrendering control thing) but it  can be flattering, says my buddy Brian. “My girlfriend and I were watching my friend’s band at a bar and, when I went off to grab us more drinks, another woman started chatting me up.  Before I knew it, my girlfriend had subtly sauntered over to keep an eye on me. I liked it– I kinda felt wanted.”

Of course, acting too jealous is almost always a turn off, which is what happened to Jeff , the stud goalie on my Zogsports soccer team. “I was watching a college football game in which one of the teams happened to be my ex-girlfriend’s alma mater and she concluded that I secretly missed my ex and wanted to get back together with her.  I concluded that we were through.”

In fact, an informal sampling of my guy friends agree that whenever they’ve dated women who are overly jealous,  they wind up being less open with her because they never know how she’s going to react to things.  So, ironically, in an effort to know everything about him they learn nothing.

Jealousy can up your game.

My buddy, Rob, is an avid reader while his girlfriend is more of a TV type.  At a dinner party, Rob struck up a conversation with a woman who shared the same passion and his girlfriend started to get insecure.  The next day she resolved to start reading more and now she participates in those same conversations.  And, while she admittedly started reading to compete with the woman, she discovered she actually likes it.

You may be onto something.

My friend’s then-girlfriend flipped out in a restaurant when he spent too much time assessing the waitress’ butt.  She got furious and started chewing him out right in front of everyone.  Embarrassing as it was, he concedes she was right in retrospect. “Our relationship was fading.  We’d been fighting a lot and my eye was definitely starting to wander. In fact, three weeks later we broke up.”

While flogging her honey in public probably felt good, not reacting right away is sometimes the better approach.  A “friend of a friend”, Brooke, was devastated when her two year relationship ended. Even worse, she suspected there was someone else in his picture. That’s when she realized that she knew his email password.  She logged into his account and a trail of emails confirmed her suspicion.  In fact, turns out he was seeing her while they were still a couple.  Brooke followed their correspondence daily, growing more enraged with each exchange.  She resisted the urge, however, to interfere with the exchange.  Instead, she made note of their plans to meet at a restaurant that weekend, put together a beautiful care package of all the letters and gifts he had given her and had them delivered to their table. Within a day, his password had changed.  And Brooke felt a whole lot better.

It goes both ways…

When I was starting to lose my mojo for my last girlfriend, she sensed it.  Nothing was wrong, it was just after a year and a half of dating I was getting a little less romantic, a little less cuddly, a little less like I was when we met.  Then one day, she called me up to thank me for the flowers, only I hadn’t sent any.

“Oh”, she said with embarrassment when I admitted this, “I guess… never mind then.”

For weeks I was in a fury: Who sent these flowers? Who was trying to move in on her?  Along with my jealousy came a change in behavior— I was suddenly attentive, doting… I was the best boyfriend I’d ever been.  It wasn’t until several months later that I learned from her roommate that there were never any flowers.  Well played.

One Night Standing

March 27, 2012

I’ve never had a one night stand– as I joke on stage, “I’m not just gonna give this away.”  It’s not that I’m so virtuous, however, I just always considered intimacy, well, rather intimate and would prefer to know someone before getting naked in front of them.

Well this week I’m performing in Las Vegas, home of the one night stand, which always reminds me of the night here 9 years ago when I decided to throw caution to the wind and live a little.  It hardly went smooth yet remains one of my favorite stories.

It was the first time I’d ever performed in Vegas and the experience amazed me– my name in lights on the Strip and a packed theater every night, each audience better than the last.

The two other comedians on the show had worked Vegas before and, as the week progressed, I noticed they looked rougher every night.  By the third evening I had to ask what they’d be doing.

“We went out with some women who were at the show last night.” one shared.

A bit naive and genuinely confused, I asked how they met women from the show?  We had our own entrance to the theater which led right to the green room and we left the same way.  When would you interact with the audience?

“When you get off stage go hang in the lobby.” the other comedian advised. “Women go to the bathroom or out for a smoke and they’ll see you.”

I didn’t understand.   “You just stand there?” I asked.

“You just got off stage, they’ll be excited to talk to you.”

The whole thing sounded odd– these people just paid money to see you perform and now you’re trying to pick them up?  They must have read my dubious look because they assured me,

“They’re in Vegas, they want to have fun.  And what’s more fun than hanging out with the guy that just made them laugh?”

While hardly my style, I couldn’t help but feel like they were having a better week than me.  I spent my days practicing jokes in my hotel room, telling them that night, then going back to my room to fix the ones that didn’t work.  And if I had a really good show I rewarded myself with chocolate cake.

That night I lied in bed and started to feel envious— am I too conservative and missing out?  Those guys were out living while I planned ways to fund my 401K.  That’s it, I would try their little game.

The next night, I was the second comedian on the show so while the last guy performed I walked out and stood awkwardly in the lobby.  I felt like an idiot.  After a few minutes, an older man passed by and said “good show”.  I thanked him.  Then, a striking woman emerged, locked eyes and started marching right towards me.  Holy cow, I thought, it’s on!

“Excuse me” she purred (at least in my mind it was a purr).

“Yes?” I answered in a ‘who me?”’ sort of way.

“Where is the bathroom?” she asked.

My world crumbled.  I pointed her in the right direction and promptly retreated to my hotel room– but not before grabbing a consolation chocolate cake.

By the next night, however, I felt reinforced.  Almost challenged.  If those knuckleheads could meet a woman, so could I.  After my performance, I planted myself in the lobby and within 5 minutes a young blonde woman emerged.  I didn’t get my hopes too high.

“You were great.” She said.

“Hi!” I shouted, completely unsmooth and unable to contain my excitement.

We started chatting.  Her parents were divorced and her father brought her to Vegas for her birthday and, while she appreciated his effort, she’d become a little bored hanging out with her dad and suggested we get a drink in the lounge after the show.

“Of course!” I shouted.

Well that was easy…

After the show, I arrived in the lounge to find her sitting… with her father?  Apparently she meant the three of us should get a drink.  Leave it to me, the only guy in the world who could pick up a woman in Vegas and wind up meeting her dad on the first date.

Even worse, her dad looked mean– a blue collar guy with a steel worker moustache and rough hands.  Despite being 6 inches shorter than me I felt tiny when he shook my hand. He looked like he could eat me.

Thankfully, he was pleasant– even flattered that “the guy from the stage” took time to join them.  We ordered a drink and made polite conversation when suddenly I felt a toe running up my leg.  I froze. After confirming it was the daughter and not the dad (whew), I still thought ‘what is she doing?  Your dad is right there!’  (Not to mention, who does the foot up the leg thing in real life? I’ve only seen that on sitcoms.)

Instinctively, I pretended my phone was buzzing– a move I pull to get out of uncomfortable situations.

“Oops, I have a call!” I announced.

Only when I reached for it wasn’t there.  Now I had a legitimate mission.

“Um, I mean I left my phone in the theater.”

I excused myself and Ms. Footsie followed, saying she needed to use the restroom.  Only she trailed me right onto the elevator.

“You’re adorable.” She announced before launching her lips at mine.

I half-heartedly kissed back, more confused than anything by the turn of events.

“It’s my birthday.” she reminded me.  “And I want to have sex on the roof.”

I laughed for about 15 seconds, another go-to nervous reaction, while she hit the top button on the elevator.  Holy crap, she’s serious.

A thousand thoughts raced through my head— is this normal?  What about your dad?  Can we even get on the roof?  I decided to go along with the moment in the name of 401K’s.

When the elevator doors opened my suspicions were confirmed— we were simply on the top floor of the hotel.  There were no “This Way For Sex On the Roof ==> ” signs.  She started checking the unmarked doors–  housekeeping closet, ice machine… then she found an external fire escape enclosed by a rusty cage.  It wasn’t the roof but was technically outside and if you pressed your face against the grating you could see part of the strip (and probably catch hepatitis).  It was hardly romantic which made her next sentence that much more surprising:

“This is perfect.”

She then pulled a move I’d never seen before but would experience twice that night. Pinning her back against the cage (um, ouch?) she climbed up my legs with hers, wrapped them around me like koala bear and started kissing me.  She was wearing a skirt so things got pretty heated in a hurry.  Morals be damned, I’m about to have a one night stand.

But before anything happened, she stopped.

“How long have we been gone?”

10 minutes, I guessed.

“I have to check on my dad…” she said with a look of concern.

I assured her we weren’t gone that long but she seemed suddenly intent on getting back down.  Confused, I followed her to the elevator.

We found him at a nearby blackjack table, very drunk.

“Hey…” he acknowledged us with little interest.  He looked like a man who wanted to drink and gamble.  We watched a few hands.

“We’re gonna wander around.” my beau finally informed him.

He turned and shook my hand, “Make sure she gets home safely?”

Are you kidding me?  Did he just leave his daughter with a stranger in Vegas?  I mean, I’m as respectful as they come and I just almost had sex with her on a fire escape.

“Looks like he’s doing fine.” I assured her as we left, hoping she had another fantasy in mind.

Her mood had changed.  “He’s not supposed to be drinking.”

My heart sank.  From rooftop rendezvous to babysitting dad?  Vintage Somerville.  But I instantly shifted to gentleman mode— a far more comfortable role.

“How do you want to handle it?” I asked.

“He knows he’s not supposed to drink, there’s nothing I can do.” she said and walked away listlessly.

We wandered outside.  She talked about her family and I did my best to just listen.  I seem to have a knack for ending up in these kinds of conversations and knew she simply wanted company.  We roamed the Strip for a while, watching the crowds thin as it got late.  Finally, the cocktails and desert air started to hit me and I was ready for bed.  Without announcing it, I began walking towards her hotel, deciding that getting her there safely fulfilled my moral obligation.

When we got to the lobby I was relieved to finally be done with the night.

“Well, I should get some sleep.” I told her.

She looked surprised by the news and unwilling to let things end.  She even turned apologetic, admitting the night had been strange but she wanted to make it up to me.

“I never got my birthday present.” she smiled in an unsuccessful attempt to recapture our earlier glow.

I tried to put a button on the evening.  “Look, this was quite a night but…”

That’s when she leaned in and did some sort of kiss/tongue/bite thing to my neck I will never forget.  It sent chills down my back all the way to my toes and I swear one of my knees partially buckled.  Like that, I went from exhausted to fully attentive and ready to follow this woman anywhere.

She smiled and took my hand.  “The elevator.”

I nodded.

We marched to the elevator and she hit the top floor, assuring me it’s a slow ride.  Immediately, it was a porn scene.  She pulled that same koala move, pinning her back to the wall and climbing up my body– this time simultaneously unbuttoning her shirt.  In the upper corner of the elevator I noticed a security camera and, in a move I still wonder if I’ll someday see on TMZ, I smiled and gave it a thumbs up.

Within 10 seconds her skirt was pushed up around her waist and her bra fell to the floor.  She started to unbutton my pants… when I heard the “ding” of the elevator.  Whoa, what happened to our long ride?  The doors opened and in a panic we retreated to opposite corners of the elevator and tried to cover up.

I looked out and realized we hadn’t gone anywhere– you need to insert a room key for the elevator to move.  We were still in the hotel lobby and someone was walking towards our car.

As the lone figure boarded, my jaw almost hit the ground.  It was her dad.

He stumbled onto the elevator containing his half-naked daughter and the guy he asked to watch her.  Completely drunk, he took a few seconds to even register who we were.

“Wha… what’s going on?” he mumbled.

It was dead quiet and I wondered if my life was about to end.

“There you are!” I shouted in a panicked fury. “We’ve been looking all over for you!”  I continued.

“Wha…” he appeared confused so I kept talking as fast as I could.  “We couldn’t find you, so went looking around the strip, then we thought you went back to the room…”

The faster I talked the more flustered he looked.

“What happen yer face?” he said, looking at his daughter.

I looked over and realized my beard stubble had left her face all red and irritated.  Worse, her shirt was not even buttoned.  She was just holding it closed.

“I think she had an allergic reaction.” I said, “Weird fish.  We were looking for some medicine… and you.  But here you are and there she is and thank God we’re all ok!”

At this point I was shouting, anything to prevent him from deciphering the evidence.

He inserted his key and the doors closed.  Crap, now I’m trapped.

The elevator ride felt like an eternity.  Nobody spoke and I began looking at the security camera apologetically in hopes someone was watching in case I needed help.  He looked at me, then her.  He started to say something then stopped.  Fortunately, I think he was most concerned with getting to bed.  At long last, I heard the glorious ding of their floor.  She got off first, then he turned to me.

“Thanks for getting her home.” he said.

“Of course…” I responded as the doors closed.

And I was gone.

With my ‘never had a one night stand’ record still in tact, I walked back to my hotel as the sun rose on the Strip.  I had one more night of shows and wondered if she’d stop by.  She didn’t.  And I never hung out in that lobby again.

Living in Sin

March 20, 2012

At the start of my dating career, I said I’d never live with a woman before marriage– even citing studies that married couples who don’t live together first take commitment more seriously.  Now, having shacked up with a few women, I’ve changed my tune.  In fact, I’d argue there’s no better way to get to know someone than living together– there’s certainly no better way to get to know me.

While dating, you’re often getting the “best of” of a guy, his greatest hits.  He picks you up, makes you laugh and drops you off.  Even a weekend away is a mini-performance (be honest, how exhausted are you by that Sunday night?)  If dating someone is like playing your favorite song over and over, living with that person is like buying his whole CD.  And chances are you’re not going to like every song— “He Makes Me Laugh” (track 3) is a great but “Cranky When I’m Hungry” (track 7) not so much.

The first time I lived with a woman, it started like a fairy tale.  We met through mutual friends at the San Gennaro Festival in Little Italy and had an instant attraction. We tried to be social with our group but kept staring at each other and finally, after a rigorous game of Down the Clown, lingered behind to talk.  She laughed at my jokes, agreed to split a funnel cake and by the end of the night we’d made secret plans to meet up later.

She was unlike anyone I’d met— operating on a different plane and unbothered by the mundane things I spent my days obsessing about.  Somehow everything she said seemed perfect, it was like dating a character from a movie.  Within a week I told her I loved her.

By coincidence, her apartment sublet was soon expiring and we both took it as a cosmic sign she should move in with me.  Sure, we’d only known each other a short while but it seemed meant to be.  Our first night together we ate Chinese food and watched the first nine minutes of “Meet the Parents” before devouring each other.  Twelve weeks later she moved out with her entire life in a Hefty bag and we never spoke again.

What went wrong?  Everything.  Apparently I snore, which wasn’t an issue when we fell asleep naked after a few bottles of wine but proved more of an issue on a sober, sexless Tuesday night when she had work the next morning.  She, on the other hand, had the odd and unnerving habit of never closing the bathroom door.  Ever.

The real problem, though, was that we didn’t really know each other. That’s not to say we didn’t have a genuine connection, but the whole thing moved too fast and we smothered it.  Before we moved in together, spending the night with her was like a mini-vacation… so if we lived together it would be like that every night, right?  Hardly.

My subsequent cohabitations with the fairer sex have gone better (more on that in future blogs) and, while I’m still no expert, I’ve since distilled a few good rules on taking the plunge…

1. Be comfortable, not complacent

My buddy and his girlfriend have been living together for two years (after dating almost two).  While they had a solid relationship before moving in together, their relationship has flourished since.  They’re learning new things about each other — they are both terrible cooks but love trying anyway— and seem destined for the chapel soon.

But one of the keys to their success is that they haven’t grown complacent.  He stills asks her on dates– and actually comes to the door of their apartment to pick her up– and she still leaves flirty notes around the apartment for him to stumble upon.  His favorite was the morning he was really nervous about a work presentation (he hates public speaking) and she left a sticky note on the coffee machine, telling him how great he was going to be and detailing what would be waiting for him when he got home. His presentation went terribly but the evening was a success.

2. It’s OK to be independent

In fact, it’s healthy.  Be it a night out with friends or a hobby that’s just yours, in most successful relationships the couple doesn’t do everything together.  I know a couple that doesn’t even eat dinner together.  Every night, she orders sushi or Thai food while he picks at leftovers over the course of the evening, never actually sitting to eat.  It’s not an arrangement a lot of people would go for but it works for them.

3. Its not a life raft

While I jumped in too early, my friend made the opposite mistake— diving in with hopes that things would change. After eight months, his relationship had leveled off.  To me, it looked like a relationship that was winding down but when you’re in it that’s harder to see.  They did, however, sense something was off and decided moving in together would reignite the spark.

It didn’t work.  They became more like roommates than lovers.  Most nights he’d fall asleep on the couch watching TV and they practically never touched each other.  He stopped working out, gained 20 pounds and started resenting her for not being the woman she was when they met.

Things lingered for three more months until he spent a weekend alone at a friend’s wedding (he lied and said the invitation did not include a date).  With some time to himself, he gained perspective on his situation and realized he needed out.  To his surprise and relief, she’d reached the same conclusion.

4. If you want to save money clip coupons

It’s never a good idea to move in with someone for reasons outside the relationship and the most common offender is money.   While having someone to share the rent seems like a logical move (“I’m always there anyway!”), it deflects responsibility for a major decision.  I found myself in this scenario two years ago and thought “what would I do if I were single?”.  This put me on a path to a making the more responsible decision and my relationship didn’t suffer in the process.  (Also, beware the “I’ll crash for a few weeks until I find my own place” arrangement.  This creates an awkward situation when they leave… and an even more uncomfortable one if they don’t.)

5. Try exchanging keys first

My friend, Matt, has a new approach that I quite like— exchanging keys.  He wasn’t ready to give up his place and move in with girlfriend but she was looking of a sign of commitment.  So he made her a set of keys to his place.  She can come over when she pleases (a privilege she doesn’t abuse) and she feels good having them.  And Matt discovered he likes being able to say “Meet me at my place” and coming home to find her already there.

Although he thinks they’ll wind up living together eventually, this has allowed them both to ease into the idea.  “She has a few things here, but we still have our own space.  It’s like she’s moving into my apartment one sock at a time.”

Lies Every Guy Tells

March 13, 2012

A few weeks ago I was walking down 5th Avenue in New York City when I heard a guy on the phone saying “Hey sweetie!  Yeah, I’m still in London…”  A range of emotions ran through me from “tackle him” to “mind your own business”.  But it got me to thinking about my own honor code.  I’d rather be single than in a relationship where I felt I needed to lie but, to be honest, I’ve told my share of fibs in the past.  In fact, I contend there isn’t a man alive who hasn’t tweaked a fact or two to make his romantic life easier.  I don’t think it’s devious behavior—in many cases its meant to make her happy—but let me come clean and you be the judge.

“I’m a half hour away”.

I was really down the street from the restaurant where the woman I was dating and her two friends from college were eating but I wanted to delay my arrival as long as possible.  I don’t even know why she wanted me there— they hadn’t seen each other in two years so it was going to be a big catch up session.  Alas, she wanted them to meet her new boyfriend.

If I had my way, I’d just show up at the end of the meal.  Like an awards show, “And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for…” Out comes Somerville, everyone claps and we all go home.  Instead, I have to sit there smiling and nodding my head as they reminisce about stories that have nothing to do with me.  Even worse is when they try to include me which results in forced conversation, fake laughter and uncomfortable silences.  Then someone comments on how much they’re enjoying their meal and we all fervently agree.

So I lied.  I went to a pub, drank a pint and watched the Yankees game.  And guess what? I went in to the restaurant feeling much more prepared to handle the night.

“Your best friend rocks!”

My last girlfriend thought her best friend was “awesome” (and the friend agreed). I guess guys just have a different definition of awesome—to my ex it was the fact that the friend was comfortable going to a bar in sweatpants. To me awesome would be a friend who is comfortable going to a bar in no pants. Alas, I knew my girlfriend loved—and listened to—her zany crony so I played along.

“Jeff needs to talk”

In our 15 years as friends, Jeff has never needed to talk. So saying he’s having problems with his girlfriend is code for drinking beer and watching sports. On the rare chance he actually does have something to discuss, such a conversation would never last more than four minutes and end with “Don’t stress about it, let’s get a beer”… leaving us right where we wanted to be all along.

“I’m sorry”

When a guy says this, there’s a good chance that he’s more confused than sorry.  “I’ve apologized to tons of women and not once was I perfectly clear on exactly what I’d done wrong,” says my brother Steve. “I was, however, totally clear on the fact that I was expected to apologize.” Next time this happens to you, ask your guy why he’s sorry… if the answer is vague (e.g. “for all the things that made you mad”) he hasn’t a clue what he did.

“I’m just kidding”

Perhaps man’s most employed tactic for getting out of a jam. We said something we totally meant and you got mad.  Now we’re doing damage control and trying to pass the whole thing off as a joke.  It wasn’t.

“The sex is great but let’s take a quick break”

Some women fake orgasms.  And some men fake not having an orgasm.  Ever have a session end because he suddenly needs to go to the bathroom or “just wants to talk”?  In truth, he may have just finished having sex.  Since we don’t want to admit that we didn’t last as long as we (and presumably you) would like, we’ll pretend something interrupted the occasion and try to quickly move on to another activity.  We lie because we want to be perceived as good lovers and a 90 second performance doesn’t exactly fit in with that strategy.

First Date Tips

March 6, 2012

Perhaps nothing is more ridiculous than the first date.  Two people who don’t know each other trying to act natural when they feel anything but… alas, it remains a necessary evil.  So to help out I give you the greatest list of first date tips ever assembled– while written for women, I suspect both sides will find humorous insights within:

You can tell how much a guy likes you based on how prepared he gets to see you.  Showering is a good sign but if he just puts on more deodorant start seeing other people.

Your horoscope is no indication of how the date will go or where the relationship might lead.

Ditto for a fortune cookie you read on the date— playing that “in bed” fortune cookie game, however, is totally fine.

Eat something before you go to dinner so you can make conversation instead of drooling over the basket of bread.

Researching him online is totally legal– just don’t forget which info he told you versus what you googled.  There’s nothing more embarrassing than referencing an arrest they never mentioned.

He doesn’t care how tall you are… that said, try not to be taller than him.

If you are taller than him, don’t bring it up.

Come prepared– bring photo ID, band aid in case those new shoes give you blisters and some cash just in case you need to get out of there.

On that note, he’d rather you wear shoes in which you can walk than limp around all night and look fashionable.

If he mentions part of his body more than once compliment that part.

Don’t tell stories about your ex, even if you refer to them as “my friend”.

If you feel like you’ve been talking too much make the next thing out of your mouth a question about him.

If he’s talking too much, go to the bathroom.  Hopefully that hits the reset button.

Don’t check out other people while on a date.  If you do and get caught, criticize the person you were checking out.

Don’t show him pictures of your very attractive friends.  Trust me.

When he refuses to take off his jacket even though he looks warm its because he already sweat through the shirt underneath.  Leave it alone.

Don’t curse first.

Eat!  Guys are way more comfortable when you eat— they relax and feel like they can eat too.

Don’t extrapolate on your issues – “I’m trying to be good about dairy” beats a detailed explanation of your gastrointestinal system.

Playful teasing is fine, even encouraged.  Most guys love when a woman keeps them on their toes with a light-hearted jab.  I repeat, light-hearted.

Offer to pay for something.  The sexiest thing a woman ever said to me on a first date was “can I buy you a night cap?”.

Don’t compare him to your last boyfriend—  you knew him longer and better.  (Think about how you’d feel if he did it to you.)

Don’t ask how long his longest relationship lasted, if the relationship progresses you’ll get to all that.

If you had a great time there is nothing wrong with a thank you text that same night.

Don’t put on more lipstick on if you want him to kiss you.

Be fun but don’t act like someone you’re not just to impress.  Otherwise you’re setting yourself up for a lifetime of baseball and beer.

My First Visitor

February 28, 2012

Jill, the woman I’d met at that party a few weeks back, and I had only met up once since our initial marathon date.  She’d been busy with work and I moving but when we finally touched base she seemed excited to get together again.

“I’d love to see your new place, why don’t you have me over for dinner.” she suggested.

I loved her forwardness but feared the concept.  A woman for dinner?  I’d never done that before and it doesn’t sound easy, particularly since I own one pot and a pan with no handle.  Moreover, I only cook omelets and that doesn’t seem very dinner-like (although I’m not above it).  And what if she spends the night, do I make her another omelet in the morning?

As the day arrived and pressure mounted, I wandered Whole Foods looking for inspiration when I discovered God’s gift to men: the prepared food section.  I told the woman behind the counter I desperately needed help and she hooked me up— olives and cheese with a fresh baguette to start, then veal piccata, mixed veggies, roasted potatoes and some sort of bean salad (“Trust me, she’ll love it.” I was assured).  It looked like a real meal.  I was so proud I took a picture and posted it online when I got home, choosing to disregard the fact that all I did was pay for it.

With dinner magically ready, I set the table with my eclectic dish collection, found some music online (since all I listen to is U2 and Tom Petty, I picked an “indie artist” channel to appear more hip) and waited to impress.

The doorbell rang…  yikes, my first guest ever!  Relax, Michael, that’s when you’re at your best. I opened the door and got nervous again.  Jill looked awesome, jeans and a white button down shirt with a few buttons open, tank top underneath and running shoes.  (She’d worn running shoes every time we’d hung out so far and I loved that.)

“Happy house warming!” she announced as she handed me the bottle of wine.

“Great!” I bellowed.

Calm down, Michael, you’re shouting.

“It’s Chilean.” she continued.

Not knowing much about wine other than there’s red and white and I like both, I nodded in agreement, afraid to speak again until I resolved my volume issue.

After a quick apartment tour, I sat her in the bed/living room and set off for the kitchen to open the bottle.

That’s when it dawned on me, I don’t own wine glasses— I only have pints “borrowed” from pubs and a coffee cup.  Even worse, I didn’t own a corkscrew.  Not good.  The date was 3 minutes old and I’m already in a jam.  Must open wine.

In full stress mode, I took a knife and started stabbing at the cork, hoping to somehow impale it on the knife and pull it out of the bottle.  If you’ve tried this, you know it doesn’t work.  Instead, pieces of cork shot all over the kitchen so I changed strategies, grabbed a screwdriver and tried to dig the cork out in little pieces.  This failed, too, but I did notice the cork sinking further into the bottle— perhaps I could push it in completely and dribble the wine out around it?  I took a big stab and missed completely, spearing the counter.

“Everything OK?” she called in. I was making grunting noises.

“Great!” I answered with unwarranted enthusiasm given the circumstances.

I jabbed at the cork a second time and nailed it. Pushing with my palm, it inched down and whoomp, dropped in!

Dribbling wine into a pint glass, I discovered my next problem: the wine now had tiny cork shards floating throughout. Trying to spoon the cork bits out of the glass proved impossible but just then a box of coffee filters caught my eye and inspiration struck.  I placed a filter in a pint glass and poured in some wine.  As the wine slowly dripped into the glass I set up another wine filtration system and waited.

“Do you need any help?”, she asked.

I had been in the kitchen a while.

“Just checking on dinner!” I squeaked.

I opened and closed the oven a few times to back up my story.

“I like this music!” she called in, “Who is it?”

“Uh, I don’t remember the name.” I replied meekly.

How did I get here?  I just wanted to have a nice date in my new place and ten minutes in I’m dripping sweat and sifting wine through coffee filters.  But then I glanced down… the glasses were full!  I took a sip… no cork!

I entered the room victoriously clutching two pints of wine, announced my wine glasses broke when I moved and, silly me, I hadn’t replaced them.  How unrefined!  Jill chuckled, we toasted and the night went perfectly from there.  At least until she suggested we save the cork as a souvenir.

My Own Place

February 21, 2012

At last I had my own apartment and, while hardly luxurious, I loved it.  True to NYC living, the shower was in the kitchen and toilet in the hallway– as in not in the apartment.  To use it you needed to get appropriately dressed, get the key like you’re at a gas station and go down the hall to a little locked closet.

The guy who lived there before me sold the bathroom situation as a positive for women.  “They like the privacy”, he explained.  It has been my experience that he’s incorrect or at least dated very different women than me.

Another quirk, the 110 year old building had limited electricity so if you turn on more than two big things at once the power goes out.  To avoid blowing fuses, I often used candles instead of lamps which has caused more than one misunderstanding when I have company.

Despite the discomforts, moving in made me feel like a man– up there with getting my driver’s license and the first time I bought beer.  I was graduating from “post college” to an adult, at least in my mind.

“Guys like nice things— just not enough to make things nice.” – My Brother

Between living at my parents, in my office and various sublets, I’d never been charged with decorating an adult living space from scratch.  The first thing I discovered about living alone:  anything you want done is up to you to do.  (Suddenly those annoying “painting party” invites made more sense.)  This realization quickly led me to revise my project list— eliminating things like “refinish floors” and “sand molding to original wood” (my dad’s idea anyway, I was never on board).  The new list started and stopped with “paint ugly maroon walls”.  And even then I debated if I could live with the “redrum” motif, ultimately deciding to paint for the sake of potential female visitors.

From there, my decorating strategy became “comfortable enough that women won’t be afraid to come over” to which my brother added, “but not so comfortable they won’t leave.”  (He’s a charmer.)  Every other flaw got fixed creatively.  Hole in the wall?  Put up a poster.  Hole in the floor?  That’s where the lamp goes.

My place settled, I needed stuff to put in it– utensils, furniture… actually everything.  My mom enthusiastically offered to help me shop as having no daughters left her desperate for this kind of activity.  I usually tried to indulge her but not this time.

“I’m not buying anything.” I announced.

My parents had accumulated hundreds of sheets over the years and had enough spare dishes to open a restaurant.  My brother had a couch in storage, my grandma an extra table— I had access to everything I needed to fill an apartment and even decided I’d be doing them all a favor by helping them de-clutter.

So my apartment became a hodge podge of items from the last three decades, a Pacman pillow case on flannel sheets, my great aunt’s arm chair from 1950, the old (and ridiculously heavy) TV from our den.  Sure the place looked odd but living in Greenwich Village I passed it off as ‘vintage’.  Who wants a matching bedroom set from some generic furniture store anyway?  That kind of symmetry creeps me out.

Besides, using a lifetime of family items seemed a more creative ode to my roots than putting some staged family portrait on the wall.  My place became sort of a Somerville museum— on one visit I swear I even saw my dad reminiscing by his old bureau.

My mom, on the other hand, cringed her first visit, “It doesn’t bother you that your sheets don’t match?”

“Not at all, my eyes are closed when I’m using them.”