Friday, October 26, 2012

"Ain't No Party Like A Scranton Party!"

It happened again tonight,
“Are you… English?” He asked with incredulity, eye brows raised.
“Yes.”  I replied, glad to be reminded of the Motherland, and that my answer had received a return stare of wonder and delight.  It is merely an accident of birth; my accent an unconscious product of native geography, parenting and schooling.  I can take no credit here.  And yet, in my new homeland, my origins inspire unicorn-like awe.  Scrantonites are quite in love with GB.  For some, it is their dream vacation destination. 

“You lived near London?  Why would you ever leave?”  
I retell the fairy tale about the wonderful Pennsylvanian who swept me off my feet… and then the reality of the relationship that landed me firmly on my arse.
Uncomfortable silence.
Then the inevitable question: “Why would you ever stay?”

It’s a question I am quite used to, yet am always as surprised by it as the stranger who asked it.
I am always rather to tempted to reply, "Clearly, I never found the railway station," but instead I opt for the truth: because it’s home; because everyone has been so welcoming; because there ain’t no party like a Scranton Party.

Let me go back a bit… eons ago, when I was but a 90lb whippet, all ribs, no boobs and a strange velvet jacket fetish, I followed the educational path to Southampton University.  At the time, it was in the top ten for marine biology and since Wadham, Oxford didn’t want me, it seemed a good place to go and sulk for three years.  I invested no time in actually going to visit the halls of residence and picked one solely based on the fact that in the blurb it said Stoneham Hall was "a Georgian Manor, with sprawling green lawns, tennis courts etc.."  I had romantic visions that my accident of birth into a hard working, middle class Gwyn-Jones family, and not the Fortescue-Asquith-Smythe-Smythe-St.John aristocratic clan would finally be set right! 

As my parents drove me and my 18-year-old cardboard-boxed-life into the gates of South Stoneham Halls of Residence, my smug smile shrank, puckered, and then souffled into gasps of horror.  There had to be a huge, gaping, thigh-in-mouth mistake!  Where was the beautiful masonry, the columns, the balconies, the variegated ivy and wisteria spidering up the fa├žade?  Why was I facing a 1960’s great grey stone tower block with about as much architectural charm as a German armpit?

Ah, Stoneham!  But look beyond... behind the tree.... ARMPIT!

I clambered out of the car for a better look, drawn towards the characterless edifice like the girl in the horror flick who opens the door to the masked serial killer.  I eyed my parents, exchanged glances and slowly walked in, accepting my fate.  I unpacked and made by cupboard-sized cell cheery with posters of the England Rugby Team, and secretly, I planned my escape.

I thought I was better than Stoneham.

Then I met people.  Fourteen floors of tower (four of girls, ten of boys—I liked those odds) and a dilapidated old Georgian Manorful of smiling, excited, accepting faces.  And I realized I was not alone in this frightening world.  I was a Stonehamite.  We would go out en masse: Tuesday Karaoke at the Student Union, Wednesday, Ikon nightclub, Thursday Rhino’s for 70’s night, Friday Clowns and Jesters for pints of acid green “Juicy Lucy’s”.  We had the most ugly halls, others mocked us, yet this united us, we belonged!  WE WERE STONEHAM PROUD.

I see this now with Penn State, with my Mary Kay Team and with Scranton, my home.  Mock us, and you only make us stronger, more solid, all for one and one for all.  THAT, is why I love it here!  But it has taken a while for me to work it out.  I think I was in denial, because, I left, dear Reader.  I moved on from this small city that was the first to have electricity, that prospered in the time of coal mining, that has crumbled slightly since.  Like a serial dater, I wanted an open relationship with PA, I wanted to see what else was out there, because I thought there might be a more suitable city.  So, again, I packed my life in cardboard and  moved to Park Slope, Brooklyn.

There I was for ten months, in the city that never sleeps, and I never felt so incredibly lonely.  The only people who befriended and wanted to talk to me were married men.  Sigh.  Not working in an office, but typing away at coffee shops, surrounded by other writers, their heads ostriched-deep in their keyboards, thoughts snuggled firmly in their own self-importance, meant I was surrounded by people who just didn’t give a shit.  I took myself out, adventuring here and there, going through the motions and pretending I was enjoying myself--trying to not think of what night it was, and which venue my friends in PA would be frequenting and laughing, without me--I randomly spoke to strangers in stores, but it is really hard to meet normal people just walking the streets, shopping, and eating bagels.  Lots and lots of bagels.  "Hello! I'm Eleanor.  I'm British.  I'm a writer.  Would you like to be my friend?"  It might work at age 5.  At 33, it rather means I am a serial killer, lunatic, or hooker.

There was a small clutch of fabulous people I saw in Brooklyn.  Very small.  An actress, an agent, a Broadway Producer and a stand-up comedian.  Can four be a clutch?  They were fabulous company and I thoroughly enjoyed our limited time together, but their hours were long and unpredictable, and the call to NEPA: the invites, the demand for work, the positive feedback, was strong. I returned to PA almost weekly for this party or that. I knew this was time I could have been cultivating friendships beyond the initial serial killer/lunatic/hooker introductions, but I missed my existing circle.

The annual Oscar Party that Michaela and I have held for the last four years, gave the final twist in the guts.  There we were, in ball gowns, tap dancing and singing about George Clooney and Brad Pitt, and I looked out beyond my microphone to the beaming faces.  There were over one hundred friends and acquaintances cheering us on.  It was our little event, but it was an open invitation, it has been promoted in the local newspaper, and yet I could name every single person there.  The warmth that freezing February night was palpable.  My heart was so full I thought it would burst, and that is when I knew I was home.  A feeling that brought me back to my senses and resuscitated my lonely Brooklyn-boxed heart.

Two months after I moved to the neighbourhood, my friend texted to ask what I was planning to do with my Sunday.  I responded the same as I always respond, that I would be working. 
“No, it is Greenridge tradition, you are coming with me!” 

An hour later, one bitter October morning, she led me through the streets to the corner of Sunset and Electric.  As we rounded the downhill corner, I saw the mass of people in scarves and gloves—dressed far more appropriately than me, though thankfully I had grown out of my velvet jacket phase—who stood a beer in one hand, a cigar or pastry in the other, swaying to the three piece band jamming on the lawn, cheering on the Steam Town marathon runners.  Whoops of encouragement puffed clouds of happy human exhaust into the air and filled the Scranton morning with merriment. 

Scranton Support!  Like Spanx for one's morale!  Thanks Ridge Resident Rob Lettieri: 
Two of my friends, Chavdar and Eric ran by, exhausted but still raising a celebratory fist in the air and stretching a smile to me, as they battled through the 24 mile mark.  I shouted weirdly excited, yet incomprehensible, noises to see them.  Scrantonites, members of my home team, doing fantastic things!  GO TEAM!

The party didn’t disperse until the last runners had made it through, and this posse of passionate cheerleaders, weren’t the only people celebrating; other house parties gathered with DJ’s, dancing in the streets, mimosas, iceboxes of beers and endless supportive cheers.  
Last week, I was invited to Halloween 14, for this I must set the scene: imagine an ordinary house, on the end of an ordinary copper-leafed cul-de-sac.  In October, as the leaves swirl to the tarmac, a host of decorating friends descend and transform this ordinary home into the Hammer Horror House of All Hallows’ Fiends!  Devils, Ghouls, Ghosts, Zombies, Vampires, Axe-murderers, Chinti and Flava-Bean-loving-Psychos, Monsters and generally scary types with loose-eyeballs and bloody stumps, hang from the rafters, between the sprayed cobwebs, or lurk in the corners, animatronically waiting to pounce, or chop, or frighten the b’Jesus out of you.

Lauren does this for fun.  It could be a professional local attraction, and for the lucky invitees, it is.  And I was one of the lucky few, invited and game to dress up and partake in this Clarks Green tradition.  The level of dress up here, is more than your average costume party.  There are prizes on the line!  More than that, there is pride and honour at stake.  

Now I have been to those half-hearted parties before, where the standard uniform is naughty nurse, naughty cop, naughty schoolgirl, all plastic-packed costumes, highly flammable and 100% acrylic.  You know, the kind of party with Lady Gaga on repeat and slightly brown and crusty guacamole oxidizing in the fetid air.   This party is not like that.  Everyone makes an effort.  Without rivalry or taking themselves too seriously, but because Lauren makes an effort, and so her guests want to repay the compliment. 

That is another thing I like: effort.  At this party, it is a surreal mix of celebrities, cartoons, fictional characters, animals, decades, inanimate objects… all celebrating this sorority of silliness and harmless fun.

I am sure every 'hood has it's good.  But when I heard Saturday Night Live comedians had joked that Hell is, in fact, “14 miles outside of Scranton,” I chuckled, then I frowned, because the masses might actually believe that, and they'd miss that this place has a heart: Tuesdays on the Ridge, Steam Town Marathon Parties, Lauren's Halloween, The Oscar Party, these are just peaks in the social ECG (Electric City ‘GENda), the scene has a pulse, a strong one, you just have to know where to look for it, because it is there, beating and spiking every week.

I returned to NYC last night to celebrate the birthday of my bubbly actress friend.  She gave a toast and quoted from the Into the Wild, a non-fiction book by Jon Krakauer, adapted in 2007 for the big screen.  "Happiness isn't real unless it is shared."  I found myself nodding like an Office bobble head.

So you can keep your pretty castles, manors, rural idylls, cosmopolitan metropolis’, chic palatial estates; it is the people who make a place; and opportunities will come and go, and I hope my travel-lust will never be sated, but it is the people who bring you back.  It’s their shared bonhomie, camaraderie, spirit, it’s the feeling that people support and admire you from wherever you are and for whatever you do. 

So, if you have just moved to the Ridge, welcome, my friend.  I think you are going to like it here.  (And I have an extensive collection of paint brushes, rollers and chardonnay, should you ever need my help.)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Gone With The Optional.

A dear friend reminded me of some old wisdom this week: Don’t make someone your priority, if you are just their option.  I had heard it before; I’d seen it as one of those e cards that decorate my Facebook feed daily, yet apparently I had failed to apply this sage advice to my own life.  Perhaps seeing the words wasn’t enough; they had glazed over my pupils without actually penetrating my retina.  Hearing it though, in a voice intended solely for me, the unavoidable words finally pierced my eardrum and the harsh syllables seeped into my addled brain.  The blinding, deafening fog that had swirled suffocatingly around my cerebral walnuts like ambien-in-vapour-form, was sucked out of my cranium and down the vacuous telephone line.


My head was clear. 

I had merely been an option.

And.  That.  Felt.  Shitty.

Now, Dear Reader, you know I have a Scarlett O’Hara complex, and no one is cheering as loudly as I when Scarlett finally, FINALLY gets it, and realizes she has been wasting her late teens, twenties, early thirties, and three and three quarter hours of my life, on spineless Ashley, who never bucks up enough balls to tell her straight he just isn’t interested.  No one wants to take ol’ corseted Katie Scarlett by the hand as much as I, and sprint her along, through the fog, to get to Rhett before he packs up and leaves.  No one is as inconsolable, when Rhett—who does have balls, mighty big ones judging from his Civil War escapades—tells her it’s too late, delivers his “frankly, my dear” line, sets his hat on with finality, closes the door and leaves Scarlett a weeping soggy mess on the crimson velveteen carpet—sniffling snot without a handkerchief.  And all our beloved, flawed anti-heroine has left is her home and a little smidgen of delusional hope.  But shit!  Her head is clear!  She knows what she wants now!

Well, sucker punch!  What took her so bloody long?  Having sat through this film countless times, having read my mother’s hardback 1960’s edition, how is it, why is it, that I and countless of my LadyKats, prioritize the “Ashleys”--the wrong people--and why do we let “Rhett” slip off to Charleston?

Why do the “Ashleys” do it and why do we “Scarletts” fall for it?  And why does it hurt so much?

It’s not simply a case of falling for the bad boy.  “Ashley” could by no means be called that.  He is the not the villain of the piece, he is just confused.  Actually, I think a lot of men I meet are confused, bemused, disenchanted and discombobulated.  So when “Scarlett” thrusts herself upon him, throws down the relationship gauntlet, he freezes like a cornered animal and does nothing.

 Now, I cannot pour myself into any male brain and dissect it’s inner workings—that would be like ice-skating blind-folded through a maze, possibly with David Bowie moving walls and unleashing goblins to trip me up and shit.  All I can do is make an educated guess: I think Ashley likes the attention; I think he doesn’t know what to do with it; I think he wants to keep his options open; I think he is scared of the outcome should he tell her the truth, that’s he why he doesn’t give her a definitive answer.  I think perhaps he likes the idea of someone fun and exciting to flirt with, perhaps she makes him feel good.  But so does a foot rub, a 2007 Chilean Merlot, a roller coaster.   He chooses when he uses those.  He controls when to start and when to stop.  It’s harder to do that with people. 

That’s the problem with them, you can’t just pick them up and put them down, unless there has been a conversation, an agreement.  I do know couples that agree to keep things loosey goosey, partners of convenience, fuck buddies, come-panions.  How fabulously grown up and uncomplicated!  But when one does give a damn, and the other doesn’t, that’s when such a laissez-faire relationship starts to bite. 

Conversations involve talking about feelings and futures—subject matters most chaps would swallow live eel to avoid—so I understand why most would probably opt for the “do nothing, say nothing” school of Ashley Wilkes.  I mean, Scarlett makes it pretty bloody obvious, and yet he just toils in the woodshed, sighs, blathers on about the past and continues to lead her blindly down the garden path.  However, it only keeps her on the hook, the lure ripping more of her insides.

“Hey, I really like you.  I think you are rather awesome, but I am going to pick you up and put you down when I feel like it, okay? ” Translation: I am not committed to this idea; you are NOT my priority; I want to keep my options open.  OH!  Pink fluffy hearts and cuddly rabid bunnies, you’re an option!   That’s so… nice.  And yet, even with this type of conversation—which, I feel I should attach one of those popular, “said no living man, ever” tags, I can’t imagine this frankness would keep many partners interested.   Hence, I can understand why calling a spade a spade, or rather, calling an option an Option, is avoided.

 I am yet to meet a woman who is content to be just an option.  Actually, I am yet to meet a man who cares little about his pecking order, and in my recent blog one reader commented: "the undivided, undistracted, and un-preoccupied stare of a beautiful woman in our arms makes us feel, well, pretty frickin' quacktastic."  So men, just as much as women want to feels special and lie in the arms of someone, without either checking their i-phones.  So why do we put up with it?  Because we are victims of our passions: when the spark is ignited, it can take a ridiculous amount of neglect and abuse before the flame burns out.

Now, of course, I can’t speak for all womankind.  Many of my LadyKat friends don’t stand for it.  At the first sign of being optional, they cut communication and never concern themselves with someone so undeserving again.   Alas, I cannot.  But I am trying.

 If I could just switch my brain off; if I could just attend yoga for once in my life and actually manage to empty my mind and not think about such-and-such, and all the wonderful things he said and did, before he was a Michelin five star shit sandwich; if I could allow his behavior to speak for itself, and not try to excuse it, interpret it, or explain it away; but the cogs continue to turn, and thoughts produced are foggy and selective.  My rose-tinted memory prefers to remember the times of priority: of relentless text messaging; the space under the shoulder that seemed designed to fit me; the ridiculous terms of endearment; and, so fogged, sometimes a brain can’t focus on the present less-romantic reality.  

Perhaps, when blinded, we make it easy to be an option.  I know I have said, “Sure, that’s fine.  You go and do whatever is more important.  I don’t mind.”  OF COURSE I MIND!  I HAVE JUST STRAIGHTENED MY HAIR!  I have freed my time for you, you buffoon!  We don’t like it and yet we accept it.

No!  Stamp foot, throw expensive ceramic straighteners!  Being an option, ladies (and gents), shouldn’t BE an option!  Just say, no!  So, maybe it is us, we, les femmes, who need to be honest and tell such-and-such or whoever just what we expect, without being a diva or high-maintenance, just giving chaps a few easy to follow “directions for use”—and we all know, men won’t ask for directions, but they really, truly NEED them.    I know I have previously harped on about being direct--and how I find that as appealing as a lobotomy—but, as my friend counseled down the telephone line: “relationships work better when expectations are defined and not merely hinted at.”  Yes!  Amen to not being left dangling!   This would solve so many of the mind games and paranoia-inducing text silences, if terms were simply outlined.

I’ve written before, and I’ll type it again: telling people straight and potentially hurting their feelings is a courageous thing to do.

This serves for any kind of interaction with another human being.  I know I have pussyfooted around telling a girlfriend I don’t have time to see her.  It’s not that I don’t want to see her, she’s tons of fun, but we have completely opposite schedules and our stomping grounds and social circles are very different. 

She invited me to a dinner party once, and rather than my usual, “Samantha, I can’t, I’m busy,” I decided to appease her and said “yes, I’ll really, really try to get there at a reasonable time.”   Well, wouldn’t you know, that was the evening when the audience was late, so my presentation ran over and then they had questions… and I had answers and … I arrived three hours late.  The dinner party guests had departed.  The dishes were draining on the sideboard.  And one very pissed off friend sat arms-crossed at the empty table, eye brows raised and stare indignant.  I had kept her as an option, I hadn’t made her a priority, and she knew it.  I should have said straight off, I can’t come, but I didn’t want to let her down.  And that is exactly what I ended up doing, x100.

She’s given me some tough love too.  Samantha thinks I should take time to make friends a priority.  And I wish she understood, that I do make time, it is just that she is working when I am not!  So maybe, making something or someone a priority is just more complicated than the adage makes it seem.  Relationships always have back story and baggage, so filing people away in column a) Priority and column b) Option, is “not that easy, Scarlett.” 


What am I saying?  Bollocks, no!  The truth is unavoidable, if you are important to someone, if they treasure you, they will make time for you, whatever the baggage and back story.  So I’m off to juggle my schedule, to call Samantha and meet her for a drink and a long overdue catch up.

 Have you optioned someone who prioritizes you?  If so, life is short, maybe they deserve your attention.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Lena Dunham's Whale Swallows My Minnow, But I'm Not Bitter.

Lena Dunham.  She’s been described as “a more awkward, fatter version of Tina Fey,” Variety, “Reminiscent of Carrie Bradshaw… if she were a troll,” New York Magazine.  Not exactly heart-warming epiphets, yet after scoring multiple Emmy nominations, a solid hit with her HBO series Girls, and this week bagging a hefty $3.5 million in a deal with Random House, I doubt Lena will lose any sleep. 

$3.5 million for a collection of essays on life, relationships, broken relationships…  it sounds like… like… my blog, only… with a deal!   As I think of the hours I have spent tapping away at the keyboard, wordsmithing blogs, short stories, two complete novels and a third on the way, I have to admit, this breaking news makes Ennie just a wee bit green.  $3.5 million?  I can taste acid churning up my oesphagus, my skin wrinkle with consternation, my flesh glow a strange lime jaundice… I am the En-credible Sulk. 

Every year, Gentlemen.  It's joyous.

Wasn’t this the girl who I had briefly glimpsed, legs akimbo, having a pap smear and STD test on TV?  Who had written for herself a character who fretted about condom-usage and escapee stuff coming up the sides?   Who, odds were fair, I would see every Sunday, her flesh slapping from whichever angle or entry point she was utilizing this week.  It was raw, uncomfortable viewing; the series had shocked me, but clearly not into switching it off.   

Are Random House banking on her being trashy like Snooki, just talking about things most girls are just too polite to discuss?  I had to find out.  I had to…Youtube!

I typed her name into the search bar and a slew of clips, interviews and trailers presented themselves.  A year ago, I had never even heard of her and, holy kitten poo, there was so much for someone so young!  I watched clip after clip, and unlike baby cat shit, it didn’t stink.  She seemed genuine, sweet and bloody hilarious; not in a vulgar comedienne type way who just makes uncomfortable jokes about tampons, but a sparky, burning fire of intelligence!   She didn’t recycle the same lines or same stories that often celebrities doing junkets seem to, and every well-wrought verbal picture, or self-deprecating offering, made me feel more and more delighted for her deal.

 She is the kind of girl I could banter about Dicktards with, dance ridiculously to my secret collection of WHAM! with, order Chinese takeout and share noodles from a box with!  She is eccentric, quirky, kooky and all those other adjectives that tend to be used when describing a funny female who is in need of a stylist.  Crikey, who could have negative emotions towards a woman who can’t walk in high heels?  She’s sweet!  She is, indeed, larger than the average HBO actress, doughier, pastier, yet her unabashed nakedness in the show, and seeming comfort in her fleshy pale skin; her committed approach, tattooed-tits-deep, into gritty subject matter, that would never make Sunday teatime viewing on the BBC, is refreshing.  Plus, anyone who, whilst all else are decked out in gowns and Emmy award finery, can sit naked in a public toilet stall eating cake, is not just brave, but Navy Seals of Comedy Courageous.  Yup, she may be seven years my junior, I may be hopelessly heterosexual, but I have a bit of a girl crush now.

Aired at the Emmys.  Tasty.

A writer friend, best-selling crime novelist Jason Pinter, commented on his FB page, “My issue isn’t that Dunham isn’t talented (she is), but she’s being treated and paid like she’s the voice of a generation, which she isn’t (yet).”

On Wednesday, Jason's statistical conjecture on the deal was published in the Huffington Post.  My eyes were thyroid-wide as Brain computed the numbers.  Everyone's a winner, Baby!  If you are worried that Random House or Lena will lose out in any way, you can rest easy.  Both will make money.  Lots of it.  It's not magical, it's all mathematical.  Jason's concise break down of the numbers explain just how the biz works.  Take a look:

I do think $3.5 million is an enormous amount of money, but I don’t begrudge her a penny.  She is talented and as a successful 26 year old who has written, produced, directed and starred in an award-winning film Tiny Furniture, (Best First Screenplay, Best First Feature and New Generation Award) a HBO Series and snagged herself a book deal, I think if she does become the voice of Gen Y, then good for them, because she is a gutsy gal with a brain, not a fake tan, a whoredrobe and a reality show.   Her voice is not cashing in on her ability to write about bodily fluids, but it is brave and bold.  She breathes a whole new comic voice to the sexually-liberated-but-confused twenty-somethings.  Where Carrie Bradshaw “cannot help but wonder,” Lena’s character, Hannah, stops wondering and starts doing.  She has balls with her neuroses. 

If you are illicitly watching this at work, you may want to lower your volume on this clip, but I hope you will watch, it just GETS ME.  (And not because I care about eyebrows. Or dick pics.)  

My only little niggling question is… when I am told that the industry is slow and book deals are really hard to come by, especially for strong-female voices narrating the trials and tribulations of life, love and other indoor sports, where does this whopping, almighty slap-me-with-a-kipper check come from?  Does it mean that when the houses are fighting for this, they are bidding the money that could have made lots of debut novelists very happy?  Is that what is swallowed up by this whale of a deal, all the little minnow deals that could have launched careers?  I suppose so.  Damn. 

And yet, I can’t dislike her, I won’t dislike her; and besides, there are houses out there who didn’t win the deal, and they’ll be wanting a fresh voice that is open, endearing, flawed and fucking funny. 
Hello, I’m Eleanor, nice to meet you!  *waves*

Enjoy!  Roll credits!

"I'm not the girl you're taking home.  OOOOOOOOH.  I'm still dancing on my own."

Friday, October 5, 2012

Gloria Steinhem Sunk My Ship. (In which I learn dating is political.)

Controversea, that is what I am navigating, dear Reader.  The balmy, salty swirl of debate!  Since I yanked the anchor last week and set sail alone, adrift in the unfathomable oceans of romance, I have caused a little ripple in the pool.  You haven't read my last blogette: The Love Boat Sailed Without Me. (Bugger.)?  Tsk, Well, here is you second chance!

Interestingly, much of the gritty critique was not posted publicly, but sent discreetly for my eyes only, or to my ears, over a mound of humus and glass of wine.  But, regardless of medium, golly gee, crumble my crackers and unleash the ravenous sea gulls, people shared their opinions on this!

Yes, whilst most Facebook postings lambast political puppets—have you noticed all politicians have over-sized noggins?  Were they dropped as children?—my message feed has been choked with encouraging fists, cheers, whoops, “go girl”-s and delicate advice.

It has been very lovely, thank you one and all; but it is interesting to see this almighty continental drift and dating divide in this Sesame Sea!  

Whoever thunk there could be a political swing for dating technique?  WHO KNEW?  Let’s discuss this!  (Without getting all political and boring.)

I am an oxymoron, a Demi-can, a Repubi-crat.  I know this.  I am a Rah! Rah! high on estrogen, go-getting, team-playing entrepreneur with traditional, romantic sensibilities.  I like a challenge, I like to win, but I also like to be won.   I'm the kind of girl who would happily enjoy claiming her social freedom of paying for the raw cut of steak Johnny Random has just wolfed down, without pausing for breath, but I’d probably enjoy it far more if he paid.  And this is where my feminist convictions start to let me down, because I will admit--on behalf of the honest/drunk female population--that when a woman says, “Oh, I’ll get this,” what we really mean is: “I could and am willing to pay for this; however, it would be grr... oh so manly if you insisted and while my back was turned paid anyway.”  (You will also greatly improve your chances of action.)  That sounds awful, I know.   Gloria Steinhem hates my guts right now.  She's lining my row boat up in her sights and is about to launch the cannon.

Yes, I like it when a chap looks after me.  I said it, Gloria.  I wish it weren’t true, like the existence of mascara mites, taxes or Justin Bieber, but let me explain: this is not about money, but a show of care.  If a date insists on paying and rejects my offer, he is showing care and respect, and could be kind and generous and gallant; and kindness is one of the most highly sought after character traits that women over 30 look for in men.  (According to a study conducted by me, on me and Monica.  Sample size: 2.)
Mr. Spiky certainly will not get any.

I often assert my dinner-paying intention and sometimes Johnny Random lets me win, and I feel virtuous and proud, like I have just eaten something vegan and kept it down.  But do I really like it?  Do I really feel fulfilled with his protection and caring and courtship, assured of his kindness?  No.  I do not.  And thus, I think, despite my gong-banging, high-kicking, fist-pumping girl power, I am an independent failure as I DO want to prized, protected and adored.  Books about harnessing my Inner Goddess do not keep one warm at night; being harnessed in the capable arms of some kind, achingly funny gent, now there you are talking.

I feel like I am letting the side down, like I am all mouth and no trousers, striving to be an Independent Kick Ass, but waiting for an Independent Ass Kicking Chap to swoop in and save me.  The conservative feedback chorused loud and clear here:  the more successful you are, the more intimidating men will find you.  Maybe there is something thorny and unalluring about my business suit, fishnets and 3 inch heels?  Maybe it is too dominating and ignites fear in the pit of every man?  What do they think I am going to do with those heels? I don’t think it is a coincidence that more than one SOB (Significant Other Bloke) has commented that they prefer me in jeans and boots, hair flowing and eyes unadorned.  Do they not understand the lengths I go to?  Regardless, this seems to be the take home message: women in suits are spiky and untouchable. 
In fact, the text directness that I was brazenly emblazoning in my last blogette, is spikiness textualized.  I think, and correct me if I am wrong here chaps, but men want phone foreplay too.  Directness might circumvent confusion, but it does veer into head on, unavoidable collision.  The blunt, no frills, no additional adjectives of “Do you want to go out tonight?” is breath-catching in its forthright punch-and-there-you-go delivery.  It’s like jumping to the naughties without any wordplay.  Rough and uncomfortable.  

I say this because I tried it, this liberal, no asky no getty approach.  I hit the override switch on my pride protection, breathed air into my heart and tentatively typed the words I thought I should say to get my message across to him.  I deleted the message, re-wrote it, mulled over the phrasing, wished I could make it sound less demanding, all whilst waiting in line for my chicken sandwich.  Just as I was about to delete the whole thing and settle of a harmless emoticon, my sandwich was ready and in my fluster of fists, I sent it.   I dropped my purse, tossed my sandwich and fumbled my phone, watching the screen with horror as bar reached 100% sent and the text invisibly shot into his hands, to his eyes, brain inbox, and mental junk.  Yes, Dear Reader, I was direct.  In that message I was wearing directness like a new pair of shoes!  It wasn’t all that comfortable, but all my girlfriends said it looked really nice!  Guess what I learned?  If the shoe doesn’t fit, the shoe DOES NOT FIT, because being direct, asking what I want is really difficult, and can be confrontational, and stiff, alienating and intimidating and just not me.  And, as you can probably tell from my reaction, being direct really invites an emotional fist in the face.

A male friend commented, 
“Aren’t you lowering the romantic bar?  Being direct and all, aren’t you doing all the work for him?  Aren’t you saying that you don’t need to be treated as a lady in the traditional sense, that he can treat you like an equal, like a friend with benefits, and you are okay with that?  Because patently, you are not okay with that.”

I AM NOT OKAY WITH THAT!  I do want to be equal, and I do want to be romanced.  And I don’t want to have to do all the fucking work. 

“Eleanor, you deserve to be treated like a lady.  Don’t you want to be treated like a lady, to be treasured and adored?”  I found myself nodding like a droopy-eyed puppy. 
“Yes.  Yes, I do.” I mumbled inaudibly.
“Because doing what you are doing is intimidating to men.  You know, they are gonna see you out all bubbly and holding court as you do and it frightens an insecure man.  You just need to find a good southern man who’ll treat you right and be man enough to see and appreciate you.”

I defy any lady, however powerful, to deny she doesn’t want to be romanced.  Everyone wants to feel special and as if they are a first priority.  

I have just finished reading Gillian Flynn’s best selling novel, Gone Girl, a compelling portrayal of relationship apathy and pyschopathy.  Odd that I would find a heart-hugging kind of romance in such a twisted tale, but actually, I did.  I found Self thinking how lovely it would be to create a treasure hunt for your beloved, with clues in locations of significance, the last ending in a big ta dah!  (I really would love to surprise someone I adored with a big ta dah!)  It’s not direct, it’s not restrained, it is just comfortably honest.  In fact, as much as I loved this novel, in it’s raw, shot-of-Jameson, clear-your-senses, sting-your-gums kind of way, I liked the Acknowledgements most, because after such a rollercoaster, the wholesome, unconfrontational appreciation, just got me:
“Brett: Husband!  Father of my child!  Dance partner, emergency grilled-cheese maker.  The kind of fellow who knows how to pick the wine.  The kind of fellow who looks great in a tux.  Also a zombie- tux.  The Guy with the generous laugh and the glorious whistle,  The guy who has the answer.  The guy who makes my child laugh till he falls down.  The man who makes me laugh until I fall down…The man who read and reread and reread and then reread, and not only gave advice, but gave me a bourbon app.  You’re it, baby.  Thanks for marrying me.”    

Sure, she has written this after they have been married and have a child, but if I could adopt a similar openness, I wouldn’t need to hide behind the righteous show of being direct, lobbing a text grenade that lands at my feet; or to sit conservatively waiting, like Patience on a monument, my principals and pride botoxing my face, my heart, my stomach while I wait.

As I forensically examine the bloody corpse of my last romantic interlude, I wondered if my Southern friend was right; the big-ballsed, straight-shooting, spiky-suit-wearing, direct-texting version of me is too manly.  Who knows?  Maybe Johnny Random just needed to be needed; or maybe he just never really cared much in the beginning.

So as I watch the Presidential Candidates fight like Punch and Judy and verbally bash each other over the head, I realize dating is not so such a fifty shades of grey area, it is red and blue; and maybe this should be our guide when wanting to date a certain type of partner and enjoy a particular style of dating.  If you are liberal, you can embrace directness, equality and fabulous feminism, and you should date people who similarly hug the same ideals of social go gettery; maybe if you are conservative you long to be swept off your feet and you should seek a partner with a strong back and good health insurance.  But what happens when you want liberal reverence and traditional romance?  I suppose I'll have to find a man with big enough balls to find out!