“You really talk a lot about your job,” he remarked, leaning back on his bar stool. I narrowed my eyes. What did that mean? I’m too smart? Did this guy want to hear a girl talk about the latest episode of Real Housewives or who Kim Kardashian was dating? My inner career-driven feminist self hopped to irate attention. “I LIKE my job,” I shot back, feeling unexpectedly caught off guard and defensive. It was date number two and I liked this guy. As far as I was concerned, I had pulled out all the stops. Bought a new dress, broke out the good makeup, and was sitting at the bar crossing my legs just so in order to showcase my long legs and stiletto heels.
Dating is about getting to know one another
I had even sprung for a Brazilian a few days prior in anticipation of date number three coming hot on the heels of date number two. And here I was being my most charming vivacious self, sharing anecdotes of my crazy life working in television and film and he’s finding fault with me? At the risk of wasting an excellent wax job, I decided to not walk out and delete him out of my phone. Instead I chose to probe further. With attitude. “What would you like to talk about then?” I snarkily asked. He regarded me thoughtfully for a moment and I met his gaze with a defiant eye contact I had perfected over the years. “I want to talk about you,” he said finally, “I want to know about you.” I rolled my eyes and smiled at him. “We were talking about me,” I reminded him. He shook his head. “No we were talking about your job. About ‘showbiz’,” he emphasized. “We weren’t talking about you. You seem to want me to see how important you are.” Ouch. I felt stung.
“That’s crazy, I’m telling you about my life, I happen to work a lot,” I heard myself stutter which annoyed me. Who was this guy to throw me off balance? So what if I liked him, he was just another guy who would fade away in a month or two. But he was looking at me without rancor, in spite of the insult he had just delivered. I managed to stop myself from launching into a spiel about how I AM important and that he could take this date and shove it, when without warning, another date several months earlier popped unbidden into my head.
His name was James and we had just had a great dinner and were walking along in the West Village in Manhattan. “So what do you want to do now?” He had asked me. “Oh, I don’t know? Write more scripts? Work on a second book. I would love to do a documentary….” I went on for awhile about all the ideas that ran rampant in my brain, until I realized he was looking completely overwhelmed and I cut myself off. “And tons of other stuff,” I added dismissively, “but what about you?” He laughed. “I meant what do you want to do right now? As in, go see a movie, get another drink…maybe go back to my place?” He smiled at me and I smiled back but felt disappointed. I thought I was opening up and he was just picturing me naked. But was I confusing “opening up” with “talking about work”? I didn’t used to always talk about work did I?
No I didn’t. My first love Matt Ryan and I used to sit together for days on end talking about everything from the best whitening gum (Trident) to which season of Nip/Tuck was the best (the first) and who would be the one doing the cooking when we got married one day (neither-we’d be rich enough to hire a chef). And then there was John Donovan. From the minute we laid eyes on each other, neither one of us knew how to shut up. He and I would lose hours upon hours telling each other ridiculous stories from high school and college and argue about whether in fact I did have freakishly long arms for a girl. I can remember being in bed with him one night very seriously discussing which one of us had the best track record in Halloween costumes, when he reached over to brush my hair back, kissed me gently and said, “Half the time I don’t even know what’s coming out of your mouth, but I love hearing it.” I can still reach back into that memory and feel exactly the way I did that night.
I was contently and madly in love. Lying there, just being still with him, everything in my life fit perfectly together. There is no adequate way to describe the feeling of being in his arms; someone who not only knew me inside and out but loved me and all my quirks without reservation. And in the end, he loved me enough to let me go when we realized that he did not want children and I could not bring myself to say I was on the same page.
Dating CAN lead to a heartbreak
For the first time in my life, I found myself heartbroken in an adult relationship. But not because he let me down. Or had been unfaithful. Or any of the multitudes of reasons that two people break up and immediately go from loving to hating one another. We were just not compatible in our life choices for ourselves and love was not going to be enough to change that. And to that end it was simultaneously the worst and best break up of my dating life. While the pain of not seeing his face or hearing his voice was crippling, I felt that we actually learned together what it’s like to really love someone. I think the best kind of love means you want more for the other person than you want for yourself. He was not willing to let me sacrifice the possibility of motherhood for him and I did not want him to stay and pretend he would one day change his mind about having children. It was a mature decision. It was the right thing. And it really hurt like hell. So I threw myself into work to fill my days until my mandatory relationship mourning period ended. But was I failing to notice that in all the crazy/busy that is the entertainment industry, I had lost myself? Where had my personal life gone? Had I made work my coping and defense mechanism to keep a relationship from getting too personal? Maybe the love I still harbored for John Donovan was what was driving me to keep these other men at bay. As if it would be a betrayal to him and our time together if I really started talking. I shot back to the present and opened my mouth to defend myself and then shut it. And then opened it again. Crap.
Every other guy I had dated since John seemed perfectly happy to hang out for a few months until I stopped returning their phone calls. No one had delved a little deeper beyond the superficiality of meeting for drinks and discussing the day’s events, but I hadn’t noticed. Had I lost the art of genuine conversation?
A few weeks before this date, John Donovan had sent me an email. It congratulated me on the positive reviews for my book and had ended with, “I will always be so proud and have such a special place in my heart for you. You’re the most talented and beautiful person-inside and out- I’ve ever known and don’t ever forget that. I hope you let other people know you the way I do, because I know that if you do you’ll really set the world on fire.” I had written a cursory thank you email in response not wanting to open the door to the rush of feeling he could still induce in me. But should I have paid closer attention? John wasn’t psychic. He couldn’t possibly know that I was using work preoccupation as a barrier to keep people from getting to know me. But he had known me long enough to know my nature. He had loved me even though I lost him in the end. And I hated losing him. Hated being reminded of losing him. Mature decisions aside, it still felt like relationship failure on some level. That’s what I was doing now? Avoiding failure? How had second date drinks turned into life-altering realizations?! I cleared my throat in an attempt to quiet the internal Sybil-esque battle warring in my head and looked this new guy directly in the eye, a guy I really did like if I was going to be honest with myself. I took a deep breath.
“Piermont, New York is my favorite place on earth and I can’t live without pizza.” I exhaled loudly. “See now we’re getting somewhere.” He smiled.
Identity Magazine is all about empowering women to get all A’s in the game of life — Accept. Appreciate. Achieve.TM Every contributor and expert answer the Identity 5 questions in keeping with our theme. Their answers can be random and in the moment or they can be aligned with the above article. As a team, we hope to inspire and motivate ourselves and inspire you to get all A’s.
1. What have you accepted within your life, physically and/or mentally? What are you still working on accepting?
I’ve learned that you can’t plan life. Even when you think you’re playing by the rules, life could throw you a big fat curveball and it’s how you react to the unexpected that defines your true character. It takes more than a few curveballs to accept this but once you do, it makes it easier to rise to each challenge.
2. What have you learn to appreciate about yourself and/or within your life, physically and mentally? What are you still working on to appreciate?
I appreciate that I know how to roll with the punches. I live by the philosophy that there is a solution to every problem. I don’t necessarily have to like the solution but it is always there. And I have the courage to implement the solution even if it’s difficult.
3. What is one of your most rewarding achievements in life? What makes YOU most proud? What goals and dreams do you still have?
Completely re-inventing my career to make a living after the economic implosion in 2008. Unemployment when you’re smart and capable is a terrifying and frustrating experience. I wallowed briefly, then dusted myself off and began again as the low man on the totem pole in a completely foreign industry. I’m scrappy like that. I still have so many goals to accomplish, high on the list is writing an award-winning screenplay.
4. We all have imperfections, so we think. The truth–we are all perfectly imperfect. What are your not-so-perfect ways? What imperfections and quirks create who you are–your Identity?
I set very high-sometimes too high-expectations for myself and always feel that there’s room for improvement instead of recognizing my achievements. I really need to learn to take time to sit still for a minute here and there. I can be a total control freak about my creative projects.
5. “I Love My…” is an outlet for you to express and appreciate all the positive traits that make you…well… YOU! Sharing what you love about yourself will make you smile, feel empowered, and uplift your spirit and soul. (we assure you!) Identity challenges you to complete the phrase “I Love My…?”
Ability to appreciate even the simplest moment and be grateful for the experience.