Tuesday, February 15, 2011

On dating, and crushes, and love and the worst dates ever!

The first real Valentine I ever sent was to a gay guy I had a crush on. I was thirteen and he was seventeen, and I painstakingly picked it out at William's Pharmacy. I actually bought two identical Valentines, so that I could keep one for a scrapbook memory. It wasn't a mushy Valentine, it was a funny card. It's kind of adorable. I am still friends with this guy. My crush was apparently good for his ego and honestly, I knew I had no hope of this crush growing to any sort of fruition. I was just happy he took the card, opened it and took it home with him. Later, years later, he would tell me how it was the only Valentine he got that year and how sweet it was. At the time, he acted like it was nothing- and how silly I was but it was one of the moments that tested my courage. I knew, likely he would mock me for the gesture and even if he didn't, others would. And that happened, but I didn't care. I had a pure sort of affection for this guy. And he was so important to my social growth at that time. He made me determined and toughened me up. Because he didn't treat me with kid gloves, I knew what I was capable of when I was with him. In an odd way, he grew my confidence because he challenged me.
Later when I did start dating guys who returned my affection, he would function as a big brother kind of figure, disapproving when I wasn't treated well. I'm happy I still know him.
Ah the world of dating. Having not been a 'single' woman really for the last sixteen years- a look back at the world of dating and crushes and love is pretty amusing from this vantage point.
Funny how people in long term relationships miss dating and singles long for a long term thing- and there are those rare and wonderful, single and happy, in a long term thing and happy. When John and I had been together for about five years, I missed the sick to my stomach, head over heels, gotta have you NOW kind of feeling that consumes the first six months or so of a relationship. It has evolved now into this steady and beautiful kind of love and affection.
It's funny that I remember our first Valentine's Day together but not the second.
He's getting it right, this guy. I asked for a letter this Valentine's Day, and it was so sweet and poignant, and funny, it made me laugh and cry.
Once I was dating this guy, a very significant relationship and he asked me what I wanted for Valentine's Day and I said, very flippantly (as I was 22 at the time) I want flowers and candy and jewelry. So he got me all three. A bouquet of roses, a box of chocolates and a pearl and diamond ring. And it left me feeling completely empty. He had followed instructions to the letter, and it was this terrible experience because I couldn't feel anything out of it. I had no idea what this was at the time. Why was I not happy? I chalked it up to feeling guilty for asking for things- not being good at accepting good things, being accustomed to disappointment.
But I know now that it was not the things but the complete lack of connection we had for one another. I was always trying to make something out of nothing with this guy but he was an empty shell. He knew how things looked but he never really knew me or loved me. I fit his definition of girlfriend, woman he owned but he never 'got' me. He never saw me for who I was. Near the end of our relationship, we were at his friend's house and he was bragging about me.
"Vanessa is a really good writer," he said.
We'd been together a couple years at this point.
I looked at him, and realized for the first time what a fraud he was.
"How do you know I'm a good writer?" I asked him.
"Well...you are."
I pressed him and he stuttered.
"You've never read one thing that I've written," I said. "For all you know, I could suck at it."
He gave me the how dare you embarrass me look. I made it worse by asking him what my college major was. He couldn't answer. Yeah, that was why it all felt so empty. He had filled himself up with what his idea of me was and the real me was nowhere in there. He had picked out the roses he liked, the chocolates he thought I should eat, and the jewelry he thought I should wear. I don't even like pearls. It never occurred to him to ask really WHAT I wanted. To this day, he still doesn't understand why I left him, because he never really saw me. He saw a reflection only of what he thought I should be and reality kept intruding.
I guess I was fooling myself for the longest time about him as well. I did not see how empty he was. He kind of looked good on paper. He had a good job and a nice car and he liked to buy me things. I was used to dating guys without jobs or cars or even driver's licenses, this was supposed to be the kind of guy who would do right by me. I tried to make it work for the sake of my son and for the sake of not giving up on the dream of a family that I had for so long, but you know in the end, I had to be true to the reality of the empty shell that he was and would always be.
In the end, I don't think Valentine's Day is about the perfect date or the perfect flowers or candy or the most perfect crush. It's just a day full of expectation of something.
In the single days, I used to send my single friends cards and buy myself my favorite chocolate. Day after V Day is the best day for half price chocolate!
Here is my favorite worst date story.
I had gone on one date with this guy, Wayne who seemed kind of nice and sort of normal enough for me to give him a second date, considering the first one I had met him at Denny's and had talked to him for around an hour. About a week later, we agreed to go out to dinner, so he came by my house and picked me up. When I got in the car, I noticed he had brought his dog with him.
I mentioned I thought we were going to dinner, he said "Oh,I can leave him in the car."
That just didn't seem right to me. Mind you in the week we had been talking he had never mentioned even owning a dog and he had definitely not asked if I minded if he brought the dog along. I'm NOT a dog person and it seemed totally rude to me that he hadn't even mentioned it. The whole time we were in the restaurant, I felt bad about the dog sitting in the car and alternately resentful that we couldn't take our time out to eat because of the dog.
I had gotten a babysitter for our date, could he not have gotten a dog sitter? If I had brought my kids along without asking, he might have been a little upset. This guy was definitely weird. After dinner, he asked to go back to my house.
I asked him if he was taking the dog home first. He said, no, he was bringing it to my house. I said, no, I have four cats and they won't like a dog in their house. He says well, I'll put the dog in your back yard. Um, except my yard was not fenced in. He acted huffy, as if this was my fault, I was ruining his plans. There was no third date.
This might have been tied with the guy who on the phone planning the date told me he had a vasectomy. Yeah, baby, that was sexy. I mean- TMI way too soon, assuming I even believed him, which I didn't. The last thing I needed was another 'sterile' guy getting me pregnant. Then he wore the worst cologne ever, I couldn't get within ten feet of him. Handshake goodnight after worst movie ever and then driving home, I got a speeding ticket. Perfect end to the perfectly awful night!
It makes me laugh now. I love the bad date stories. It's easy now to not have too many expectations. John and I skyped tonight. That and the letter was enough, every day knowing he is my husband is special.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Stranger Conundrum

I like talking to strangers, there is something refreshing about having no history with someone and just having a conversation that exists in the moment. There are no expectations of this conversation. I have found it can be as meaningful and rewarding as a deep exchange with an old friend. After all, we all started that way- as strangers, before we became close to one another, there was something that attracted us initially. So, I see in every exchange a deep possibility. A stranger is not being kind to me because she knows me or seeks to spare my feelings from the truth.
Sometimes I think it is in the remove when we can find the most proof. It is when we ask and seek outside objective opinions, sometimes we find what we are looking for.
Even if we never see one another again, I have found connection often in this stranger. It's interesting where we get our validation. Our friends sometimes tell us the truth and sometimes seek to spare us with little white lies. I myself don't like to hurt the feelings of people I care about and try to put a positive spin on a criticism.
Every morning, I come downstairs, heat up some water to make hot tea and turn on the computer to check my mail.
This morning I found an email in my box from a film festival. It was either a rejection or an acceptance. I took a deep breath and felt the blood rush to my face. I have had several rejections lately. And none of them has been easy. I haven't said anything about them to anyone, in fact I kept them to myself and just moved on.
When my father found out I was starting to send out my stories to publishers, he decided to tell me that I was going to be rejected a lot. I hated him for that. I suppose he meant well in his own way but his negativity has always been a killer for me. It's hard enough to live with his temper but his lack of positive outlook has always pissed me off. Your parents are supposed to believe in you. Dammit. Preparing someone reasonably for the possibility of rejection is entirely different than telling them that they will be rejected a lot and giving only the negative part.
What he should have said was what I now say to myself.
One person's opinion about me does not make this film good or bad, it continues to be one person's opinion of me, and the really important belief is the belief I have in myself and what ever the decision here, I will continue to know I was meant to do this, that my talent will not always be appreciated and my work does not always fit every festival and every vision. Rejection does not invalidate me as an artist or a person.
So before I opened that email, I took a deep breath and said this speech to myself. That I would move on and continue no matter what that email said.
My dad forgot to tell me how amazing it is to be accepted, published, validated as a writer/director/actor. He focused so much on the pain, he forgot the prize. That sometimes you win. He also underestimated my steely determination and burning ambition. I am driven to do this.
I got a win today. Someone I don't even know liked what I did. Believed in me. In Canada, no less. I needed this today, to come out of the clouds and into the light. I have wonderful friends and their support means everything to me but sometimes I need a stranger to like independently what I do, so I can make sure it isn't just my friends being kind to me.
I'm going to Toronto in March. The Female Eye Festival, celebrating female directors. It will be really inspirational. I went two years ago and I loved it. Now I just have to figure out if I'm driving or flying!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Looking to the future from that shadow

A while ago, I wrote about my trip to California when I was 21, and the picture that was taken of me on the beach by my childhood home. The picture was silhouetted in shadow. I was a shadow of who I would become, the way to my future was dark. I was a shadow of my former self. I was just beginning to reconcile with the past and my connection to who I was. This picture was taken on that same beach of my daughter, Marissa. She is looking out into that sunset, to her future.
She carefully walked up there and placed her feet so that the water would just come up to touch them.
She loves the ocean like I do.
I watched her for a while and then snapped this picture of her, looking towards the vastness of the ocean into a future that will come up to embrace her like the waves. She is breathing in the salt air and possibility. The world is as wide open to her as the ocean.
This is how I often feel on the beach, why I am constantly drawn to it, because when I stand there, I always feel as if anything is possible and I can achieve any dream. The ocean will bring it to me and lay it at my feet.
This is what hope looks like when you capture it, right before it flits out to sea.