Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Sex Ed with Friends

Mosaic Mural in Christopher Street Subway station
Today's prompt asks if I think sex education should come from the parents, the school, or a mix of both? But the answer I want to give is that none of this matters because kids learn everything about sex from their friends. Or at least I did, friends, peer pressure, and pop culture. When I was in the first grade I sneaked behind the couch while my parents were watching Beverly Hills Cop II and I caught the scene where Eddie Murphy is holding a turtle and asks, "Do turtles have dicks?" as he looks underneath it. For whatever reason, I got what he meant and the next day at school I pointed at my friend Matthew's pants and informed him and the entire first grade that he had a dick.

In third grade, my mom sat me down and gave the sex talk but all I remember is her pointing her finger through an "O" she made with her other hand. As a kid, sex made no more sense to me than nose piercings or clowns. Why would someone do that? 

In the middle of 5th grade, I was taken out of my private Christian school in sleepy Canoga Park and put into a public school butted up against the LA River in North Hollywood. It was at this school where my sex education flew to new heights. Girls in the 6th grade were supposedly having sex and one of my friends was dating a much older guy who wrote her love letters describing his hard-ons. I became terrified of sex, of boys, of maturing. The following year, when it was past the time when I needed to start wearing a training bra, I can remember being sent home for not wearing one and only wearing a threadbare white tee-shirt, unaware of its revealing nature. For the rest of the year I wore a hoodie, even into the 90 degrees days of June.

In 6th grade, I think my aunt Gail gave me the period talk and my aunt Rose gave me a book called Women's Bodies  or something like that but she ripped out most of the pictures which she felt were too graphic. At eleven years old, I probably did not need to see pictures of a herpes breakout, however, to the curious mind, this censorship was beyond frustrating and left literal holes in my sex education. In the end, none of it really mattered because I got my period two years after the fact just before a volleyball game and I remember it being the most anti-climactic experience of my life. I remember thinking, THIS is what it means to be a woman?! followed up by my next thought which was How long do I have to have a period for? When does it end?! To this day, I can tell you nothing about how ovaries and Fallopian tubes and uteri all work. I was, however, the first one of my friends to use a tampon because I could not stand having a period.  I think I used them within months of having my first period. I can remember reading the directions in the box, following the diagrams. And a friend recently remind me that I actually coached her behind a bathroom door how to do it and what it should feel or rather NOT feel like.

In the 7th or 8th grade I remember girls talking about blow jobs which I pictured as the literal interpretation. I think you get my point. When I learned what it actually was, I vowed I would never do something like that. Oh, but high school, you were waiting just around the corner to scare the shit out of all of us.

You might ask, what about school? Having gone to Catholic school in 7th and 8th grade and a Catholic high school, I didn't get sex ed until freshman year of high school where our PE teacher passed around a diaphragm that was rumored to be hers. In hindsight, I am sure it was not. But, all I took away from that class was the incredible amount of discomfort I had with the subject and the shame I felt it knowing so much less than everyone around me. So....I faked it. Whenever, girls brought up conversations about sex, I just stayed quiet or laughed at their jokes and that's pretty much how I learned everything, for better or worse.

While I would say my experience is unique because my mom was not around during those pubescent years, I have learned that many of my girlfriends who grew up with moms and sisters had experiences not that far off.  When the time comes for me to be on the teaching end of that topic, I hope to be able to create the space for my kid to feel maybe not necessarily comfortable but safe enough to ask me any question in the world. I think it is up to the parents to do the best they can, because I'm not sure how much kids absorb in formal class setting teaching about sex ed and the rest, well, the rest is just hearsay.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Hard Enough

photo cred @ejohnsto

Today's prompt asks me if I would like being a sex symbol. As women, aren't we all on some level? Isn't that hard enough? I'd rather be a symbol of a carefree spirit, a risk-taker, someone who runs into the ocean in March, but even all of that isn't accurate. If there is one symbol I would ever strive to be it would be a symbol of peace and right now and I am a very long way from that.  All I am right now is a woman trying to be. If I were a sex symbol, I wouldn't even have that.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Aristotle and Me On Souls

photo cred @saramoe
Today's prompt: Aristotle said, "Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies." Do you agree or disagree?

I can't tell you if there are such things as soul mates and the "one" for each person out there. I can't tell how and why people fall in or out of love. I don't know how it all works. I don't know why I am magnetically pulled to Mike and always was since the moment I laid eyes on him. The simple answer is, he's hot. It is quite possible that the entire basis of my marriage started by standing in very shallow water. I have always been incredibly attracted to my husband. But after 12 years of friendship, surviving one painful breakup in college, a steamy make-up six years later, holding the other when one of us is suffering immense grief, planning a motherf#*%!@g wedding in New York City on a budget, and finally reaching the cross line when you slip rings on the other and look out into the abyss and whisper, here we go... I think I can safely say that we have an ocean beneath us now.
But I do not believe Mike and I are the same soul even though there are moments when its hard to tell where one of us begins and the other ends. Cheesy? Maybe. But part of why I love Mike is because he is not me - at all. Perhaps that is why we fit together so well. He is the zen, the peace, the water, and I am the fire. One could argue that this is why we are one soul, each composed of half the parts that make up a whole. But I like my version better. If two heads are better than one, then Aristotle may have spoke too soon.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Happy Birthday...

...to the only friend I would ever brave the snowy Vail pass with ever again. Love you, Sarah!

Your soccer defender and Aspen partner for life! -xo, T

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Mature Love & A Bag of Lemons

Today's Prompt: Erich Fromm said, "Immature love says: I love you because I need you. Mature love says  I need you because I love you."  How do you define mature love?

Mature love is visiting a friend and her giving you a bag of fresh lemons from her lemon tree when you leave. It's knowing what holding a fresh California sun-ripened lemon will do for someone who is heading back to 19 degrees weather. Mature love is the kind of love that rarely says "I love you" but often says "thank you."

With the Words of Dr. King

Yesterday's Prompt: Martin Luther King Jr. unpacked love and hate when he said " I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear." Which is easier for you to feel: love or hate?

Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY
I tread cautiously on this subject because if I am really honest with myself, I think above love and hate, fear is perhaps the easiest feeling for me to feel which quickly translates into one of these two other feelings. And I HATE to admit that.

As a kid growing up in a household fueled by rage, fear, and chaos, I learned quickly how to pretend that I was unaffected by these emotions. I pierced my tongue and laced up combat boots which was the equivalent of telling the world to stay the hell away and it worked for quite some time. Ten years ago, I probably would have said it was easier for me to feel hate (and not towards a group but towards individuals) because for years the only feeling I felt deeply connected to was anger. I was quick to blow a fuse, quick to judge and quick to be irritated. But on the flip side, I believe at my core, there is a sensitive bird that loves too easily which is part of why the fear and the hatred and the anger come on so quick.

It is not pleasant to have your heart broken. We learn cruel often misunderstood lessons from the people who harm us. But to have your heart broken by one of your parents, repeatedly, does not only leave a lesson or a fingerprint, but a person half raw who will do anything to cover that part up.

It's an interesting time in my life right now. There are moments when I get frustrated with what I see as my lack of progress, my floundering self. But if I really take a beat, I find gratitude and discovery where there was once only pain. I find peace and love and quiet in a life that has been loud and angry for so long. I am finding the soft spot in the middle, the me that loves too easily and forgives that human trespass of a personal history that tells me to do otherwise.

In truth, it has always been easier for me to love instead of hate, but that doesn't mean a damn thing if you never learn to forgive and let go. If I'm constantly building up my arsenal of grievances towards the people I feel have wronged me, eventually the bunker gets too big to get out of and who wants to eat spam alone for the rest of their life?

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Great Gatsby: A Love Story

Today's prompt asks me what the most romantic book I ever read was. In truth, I do not read a lot of romantic books. I tend to like memoirs and stories about a character overcoming their past. But last weekend, I re-read F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and I read it in two sittings. I forgot how much I loved that book, and even though I could never understand what Gatsby saw in Daisy other than "money," or this marker that he had finally made it, I can't help but feel an ache in my heart for the poor bastard who I forever will envision as the young Robert Redford. (Although, the new movie has a cast that looks equally delicious.) For someone who has a knee-jerk reaction of aversion to money and class, I do find myself caught up in the warm boozy summer nights on West Egg at one of Jay Gatsby's parties as he secretly waits and hopes for Daisy to arrive.

In many ways, Gatsby is still a character trying to overcome his past. But his naivete and complete devotion to a woman he describes as " a nice girl" equates to the kind of love everyone experiences with that first real crush. The only difference is that Gatsby never let it go and kept his love alive by creating a story around Daisy, a picture of a woman, who in the end, she could never have lived up to.

A friend recently asked me, Is Gatsby really a love story? 

My answer, Yes, a cruel one. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

My Real Valentines

Today's Prompt: How does this Valentine's Day Compare with Year's Past?

It doesn't, cause this time I knew I was seeing these guys over the weekend.

My Real Valentines

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentines Day is for Friends

Breckenridge, CO

Outer Banks, NC
Today's prompt asks me how I feel about Valentine's Day, but if you read my answer to the prompt asking me what my ideal Valentine's Day celebration is, you know what my feelings on the holiday are. I actually don't mind Valentine's Day in a friendship setting. It's the whole consumerism part of it geared towards couples that bothers me. I mean, that's why people have anniversaries and special dates. But where is the Friendship Celebration Day? If I am ever moved towards making Valentines it is more often than not for my friends. It's easy to take your partner for granted but you can only get away with it for so long before you start noticing "diminishing returns." But with friendships, you can let years slip by without a little note that says, Hey, you're pretty neat. Thanks for being my friend especially when I'm not at my best. 

So, that's how I feel about Valentines Day - it should be a day where you tell your friends how much you appreciate them, like in the old school days when you gave each other Scooby Doo cards or in high school, maybe a carnation. Skip the romantic ones, and just give a shout out to the people who really deserve some chocolates!

To all my homies, I LOVE YOU!!! Thanks for being my friend. And to Courtney - HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!
Me & Court in Vermont

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Monday, February 11, 2013

My Unromantic Ideal Valentine's Day Celebration

Breakfast in bed - Be still, my heart!
My ideal Valentine's Celebration is not elbowing my way into a bar for a 2 for 1 happy hour or calling two months in advance for a restaurant reservation that won't seat me until 9pm. I am not interested in red roses or a box of chocolates...although chocolate never hurts. I am not interested in navigating the city in heels in a snowy February or gearing myself up to wear red and black lingerie that cleverly covers my winter belly. My ideal Valentine's Day is a day I hope not to look forward to. It's a day I hope that falls into any week in any other month in any year in what I hope to be a long book I  recall from memory one day by some fireplace with some version of a grandkid.

The most romantic thing I ever heard was from my brother who told me how he explained to his long time girlfriend why he would not be proposing to her on their vacation to Paris after a friend had planted the idea that it was a possibility. He explained that he didn't want trips to Paris to be something "special," something out of the ordinary for them, but rather have traveling be a part of their regular lives, and in so many words, that romance be a part of their everyday, not something they look forward to.

Mike and I don't really celebrate Valentine's Day, often opting to stay in and skip the dinner crowds. But usually there is a handwritten note or card. Sometimes there have been flowers or cookies, but mostly we treat it like a footnote, a post-it on the refrigerator to make sure we are keeping it all in check. And when I say "it," I mean romance. And yes, sometimes we have to work at it or remind each other when an overture is due.

We both have more than one job and on most weeks, the only date night we get is Saturday night. It's easy to let the couch call to us more than the bedroom when one or the other gets home from a 12 hour day. It's easy to become great partners and forget about the intimate stuff. When your time is limited together, it is easy to remember to get the laundry done, clean the bathroom, go food shopping, fix the closet door, hang that picture that has been sitting on the dresser for far too long, get the brakes checked on the car, take the recycling out, buy a gift for your friend's kid whose birthday is coming up....and that's when it's also easy to forget the last time you went on a date, forget a date, how about the last time you had a conversation that didn't happen in front of a television or in a grocery store, or the last time you both didn't succumb to exhaustion after work, or the last time you surprised each other. It's not about the flowers and the cards on one designated day. It's about the notes left on the table when you miss each other by one our for dinner. It's about being woken up to the smell of bacon and a fresh cup of coffee from your favorite cafe waiting for you. It's about picking up one of those Bacci chocolates at the bodega when your out buying toilet paper and tossing it to your partner after they have finished dinner. It's about the little moments in between birthdays and anniversaries and holidays that keep it all together, cause no fire lasts forever without a constant, subtle fanning every now and again.

In short, a note, a reminder that I am loved when I least expect it takes the cake over any Valentine's Day Celebration.

Friday, February 8, 2013

True Romance

(Today's Prompt: The Most Romantic Movie)

My favorite movie of all time is also the most romantic movie I have ever seen. Tony Scott's True Romance written by Quentin Tarantino is a tour de force for all the wrong reasons - sex, drugs, violence, and love. Driven by an A-list cast whose cameos (Brad Pitt, Dennis Hopper, Christopher Walken, Val Kilmer, James Gandolfini, Gary Oldman) are bigger than the stars (Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette) themselves, the direction of this gritty Los Angeles flick plays like a wild road trip adventure or the ultimate underdog flick. Having met Alabama (Arquette) in a movie theatre, Clarence (Slater) the two fall head over heels. Alabama confesses she is a prostitute that his buddies paid for, but that she loves him. The only thing that stands in their way of true love is her pimp, Drexl played by the brilliant Mr. Oldman who you will not recognize. Clarence confronts Drexl and in a horrible switch up realizes he did not leave Drexl's house with a suitcase of her belongings but rather a suitcase full of cocaine or as the two young lovers see it, the chance at a new life.  

I don't remember how old I was when I saw this, but it made me want to end up with a guy that was full of adventure, spontaneity, strength, adoration and would stand up for me in a situation where I might not be able to do it for myself. Thankfully I did not end up with a Clarence and suitcase full of cocaine, but I did end up with Mike and an apartment full of tools, electronics, cookbooks, and photos
Me & Mike in the Outer Banks last March/  credit photo: @ejohnsto

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

How To Stay Friends With An Ex-Boyfriend : Lessons in Failure

Billy Balls / Today's prompt - Do you stay friends with exes?
1. Don't force it.

2. Don't call him up the minute you get another boyfriend. That looks like revenge and if you broke up with him, it's just tasteless.

3. On that note, allow sufficient break-up time to pass. If it was only a few dates, maybe a month or two, give it the same amount of time before you meet up for that awkward post-breakup first coffee. For first loves, give it a couple years. For long term relationships, your guess is as good as mine.

4. Don't hang out at night. Keep it to coffees, busy lunch cafes where they make you feel uncomfortable if you stay too long at a table, group activities like pitch and put or a baseball game, dog parks, half marathon training runs, etc... Avoid beach dates, photography exhibits, and picnics.

5. Don't keep hanging out with his friends and if you are, ask yourself if you are trying to arouse suspicion or jealousy. And if you aren't, then what the hell are you doing? Stay away and give him the space to feel he has a place that is an oasis away from your break up. I know you feel they are your friends, too, but it's a matter of respect. In the words of a dear Vermonter friend on commenting about a friend's recent divorce: "I mean, I  loved 'so & so,' but I was friend's with 'awesome chick', first."

6. Send a Christmas card.

7. Don't talk shit and disrespect your relationship. It's fine to be angry & hurt, but try your best to avoid trash talking in public. Keep eye rolls to a minimum. AND NEVER REVEAL THE INTRICACIES OF YOUR PAST SEX LIFE WITH HIM. Listen to your grandma - don't kiss and tell, ever.

8. If you ever go to that murky place where you try to discuss why things did not work out - stick with "I talk." Don't start your sentences with "You." Accept him for who he is. He should never have had to change. If you felt unloved or misunderstood, you can share that. But telling him he should have been more respectful and not come home at 3am after a night out with the boys instead of taking you out for your birthday, will not get you very far. And if this is truly a quest for friendship and not a make up or a lonely moment, maybe its best to let sleeping dogs lie. It's nice to think we have the power to change someone, but we really don't.

9. Be mindful of your motives. Ask yourself the hard questions before pursuing that friendship. What is it you really want?

10. Do all things with love.

*Oh, and don't steal his shit.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Weezer, A Breakup, A Misfired Kiss, & Helpful Friends : The First Time I Fell in Love

West 4th Subway Station near NYU; Today's Prompt - First Love
After my first year at college in Los Angeles, I transferred to NYU, a move that was inspired by a little  HUGE push by my dear friend, Morgan @the818. I had been accepted into the Tisch School of the Arts for Dramatic Writing, just a couple floors away from the film and television department where Morgan was. Morgan immediately inducted me into her new group of friends which consisted of filmmakers, screenwriters, cinematographers, and occasionally an actor or two.

I tried to get into the same housing building as Morgan's but NYU had run out of space and ended up placing me in this crazy modern high rise down on Water Street that forever tainted my perspective of New York City living. To this day, it is still the largest apartment I have ever lived in. While I missed out on lots of cool girls bonding time, all of the boys from Morgan's group of friends had been placed at Water Street, as well.

The first time I fell in love was on a late night walk from Morgan's dormitory in Chinatown to my sweet apartment at Water Street with a cute filmmaker who had a passion for indie music and was it Kubrick or Polanski? The only thing I really remember is debating the latest Weezer album which he found to be a beautiful love letter to their fans and I found to be overproduced. I'd never really had a boyfriend up until that point. I would go on a few dates and then lose interest or shy away from the relationship. In many ways, I was just kind of a later bloomer. This was the first guy I didn't feel afraid of and when we started dating, it was pretty awesome. But, whether it was pressure from our friends ( a bet, if I remember correctly) or just my natural instinct to run away right when things started to get serious, I broke up with him after a few weeks. But, since it only had been a few weeks, we stayed friends and those late night walks continued as did many late night adventures at water street with movies and parties and general hanging out.

A month later, a friend from high school wanted to set me up with a friend of hers. It was my first and last blind date. I met this young man at Union Square and we went to see Requiem For A Dream, which remains the second most disturbing film I've ever seen (right after Mysterious Skin). We got pizza and he taught me how to ride in between the subway cars, and feeling adventurous I agreed to take a trip on the Staten Island Ferry with him. I ended up at his place where he kissed me and I found myself thinking about my friend back at Water Street. It hit me that this was not the guy I wanted to be kissing. I don't remember how I got back to the ferry, probably an awkward drive I have since blocked out. But I remember calling Morgan and saying that I think I still really liked that friend at Water Street. I went back to her dorm where all the girls crowded onto Morgan's bed and we talked about my dilemma, which another friend suggested maybe wasn't a dilemma at all.

I don't remember how exactly we got back together, but if I look to the professional storytellers that we were surrounded by at the time, I think we may have had a little help from our friends.

Monday, February 4, 2013

My First Crush(s)

Last week I signed up for another writing challenge and for the months of February I'll be following some writing prompts all with the themes of love, relationships, and sex. So today's prompt asks me to tell you all about my first crush. I remember my first crush, but I think I was six or seven, so that story doesn't hold a lot of memory. His name was Jason Niece and he had sandy blonde hair he combed to the side, blue eyes and freckles on his nose and he always wore a white sweater. I'm pretty sure he gave up a swing for me one day at recess. But, our love affair ended like most of my childhood romances ended - with the cold shoulder once I found out he liked me back. I loved having crushes, but I hated anyone crushing on me. I think mostly because it scared me and I didn't know what to do with the affection. I didn't want to be mean, but I also didn't know how to revel in the attention. So more times than not, I just ignored the boy and avoided the thing all together until the rumors stopped and I could finally take my hoodie off.

I had lots of crushes over the years, not all of which I remember. The only ones I remember were the obsessive ones that took over my entire life. I never memorized anyone's class schedule so I could walk past someone like some girls I knew. But I filled volumes of journals with love notes, and poems and dreams and fantasies and doodled everywhere I could think of without ever revealing my secret to the person. My crushes in junior high and high school were powerful beasts. One of these boys was really my first love in that childhood sweetheart kind of way, where you talk on the phone all night and get butterflies in your stomach when you see them on the playground but are terrified to make out. That was a crush that never really went away and just aged with me as we grew up and each went our own ways. We dated a few times when we were older, a little bit as freshman and we shared some special moments at the end of high school and right after, but the most precious moments of that relationship were the hours long phone calls in 7th grade.

The other big crush I had in high school was completely all consuming. I was not an expert at flirting, but I did my fair share and somehow must have convinced him to ask me to the homecoming dance in 10th grade. It was one of the most nerve-racking moments of my life that ended with a kiss on the dance floor during a painfully awkward slow dance. For months after I was still so infatuated with this guy until he unknowingly broke my heart and dated another friend and then made out with my best friend not long after that. I suppose I kind of deserved it, considering he was the best friend of the first crush. In hinds sight that was Karma in action. But, once I had my heart broken by him, the infatuation lifted and unlike the first crush, I never felt romantic feelings towards him ever again.

But of all the crushes I've had in my life, none has been bigger than the man I ended up marrying. When I spotted him from across a barn when I was 19 years old, I felt completely struck. There was an immediate pull towards him and he is the only guy I've ever been so forwarded with. I actually walked straight up to him and started a conversation and we both learned that we had the same birthday. We ended up dating months later and fell in love just weeks before I left for six months in Ireland. Needless to say, it didn't work out that time around. But when the timing was right, that crush was still there and six years later we found ourselves back together. Twelve years after we met, we were married.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Last Time I Said I Love You

The last time I said I love you was 45 minutes ago when hanging up from a phone call with my Dad. My back-up yahoo account spammed everyone and he called to make sure the email I just sent was spam. It felt so nice to get a call at work even though I knew it was about spam. But really I think maybe something (maybe the universe or the hacker in Lithuania) told me I needed to talk to my Dad. I spent my lunch break on the phone with him and in his usual way, he asks me "What's going on?"  I start everyone one of these answers with "Not much" which eventually avalanches through my soul and before I know it, that guard I always have up is broken and it's snowing emotions.

My Dad knows me in a way that no one else does. He doesn't know me how my friends know me or even how my husband knows me, but in a way that pierces straight through my core and speaks to that kid inside me that is still struggling so much. And if there is a parent I take after, it is definitely him. We are both storytellers, both sensitive, both the oldest child (bossy by nature), both curious, both have a temper, and both struggle with so many of the same internal road blocks. When I lament about my life decisions over the last decade and how I've gotten really good at managing other people's lives and yet I still don't know what I want to do with mine, he says, "Me neither!" Which makes us both laugh. "It's the journey," he says and reminds me that it's all out of my hands anyway. For so long I've tried to live life on my terms, but the truth is, the only way to live is on life's terms.

When I was 26, I received this HUGE medical bill and I thought debt agencies were coming after me for $10,000 and I was hysterical, scared, angry and obsessively looking into anything I could to protect myself. My dad had said to me, "Sweetie, you gotta learn to roll with the punches." In other words, it was not the end of the world. I could also ask for help in understanding the bill and I could also negotiate for myself. My reaction was to fight, defend, push back. When really the best thing to do was to not react and take it a step at a time. In the end, the bill went away with the gracious help of a receptionist at the doctor's office and a helpful insurance agent.

When we hung up today, I felt better than I had all week. We always sign off with "Love you" but sometimes that also means "Thank you."

I'm On To You, Pinterest!

Happy Friday, Bloggers & Readers!!! Last night I was paid a visit my motivation and inspiration and finally got my sh!# together and began organizing my Pinterest boards. I have been on Pinterest for a while and have been lazy/busy/forgetful, etc...But, if you get a chance, would you kindly mind following me on Pinterest? You can check out my boards like Tramp Stamps & The Stories in Front of Them"  and Artists I Dig (Tuesday Treats, baby!) or even my Top "10" Lists & Things I've Learned. I will soon be Pinning my Bookstore Wedding, but that one is a beast! Anyhow, thanks for the support, folks! Much love and appreciation on this first day of the month!!