My Favorite Thing

Thinking of my favorite thing is difficult. My no-brainer response is my violin. I’ve had it since my sophomore year of high school. I spent many nights and weekends were spent at McDonalds with my pores getting clogged with french fry grease and my patience growing thin with the trainees who couldn’t grasp the POS system.I can’t remember the exact cost, but I do know that I could have bought a fairly decent used car for the same price.

It’s been through a lot with me – a concerto competition, chair auditions, music festivals, youth symphony concerts, college auditions, college symphony concerts, quartet gigs, and lessons. But while I like my violin, I don’t always love it. Sometimes it’s a pain in the ass, but it’s more the operator’s fault than the instrument’s. My vibrato isn’t as loose as I’d like. I lost my bowhold four years ago and have been struggling to get it back ever since.

My second response might be my Kindle. That seems like a strange response because I’ve only had it for about 2 years now. I feel like an object that gets the title of My Favorite Thing needs to be owned for a significant amount of time. I got it for Valentine’s Day from my boyfriend at the time, Bill. He bought it the same day he gave it to me. I know because he asked to borrow my car. When he returned, he had a gift and a card. I sat on my bed and opened the gift. “Omigod, Bill! You got me a Kindle!”

“Yeah, it’s the one with the 3g access, so you’re able to get books without an internet connection.”

“Omigod. Thank you!” And I gave him a big hug. And a kiss. Lots of kisses too, I’m sure. I was thrilled. I was amazed how the screen looked like something I was supposed to peel off before using. When we went to bed that night, I crawled in next to him and read a Toni Morrison book by from the light of the street because I didn’t want to disturb him, though he told me I could turn a light on if my eyes were strained.

I’ve since used the thing to read a ton of books. I love that when I travel, it’s just one book instead of the three or four I’m usually reading at a time. It is always with me in case I find myself with an extra 10 or 15 minutes with which to read. I fall asleep reading and often wake up with it nestled under my pillow or tangled in my duvet, like an adoring mate. I love it.

There are other objects I could name, but there’s always an issue. My journal (Which one? I currently have two). The pearls Bill gave me for Christmas last year (I haven’t worn them in months and I have mixed feelings about clasping them around my neck). My copy of Lolita (It’s not the original – I lent that to a friend who lost it, then replaced it with an Everyman’s Library edition). My bed (how cliche). My wine glasses (I’ve only had them for a few months). My ipod (again, not my original. That was stolen and I inherited Bill’s. And it’s on its last leg now).

Many of the objects I think of have strong ties to other people. All of the things from Bill are pretty obvious. But even my copy of Lolita reminds me of another boyfriend. I bought it at a bookstore in Milwaukee because the cover intrigued me. I read it while we were fighting one week and it was able to completely transport me. My journals aren’t permanent things since over the last 8 years I’ve decided to get a new one every time something significant happens (a move, a breakup, a sudden realization that the $40 one at Barnes & Noble is prettier than the one I’m currently writing in).

Which brings me to the last thing I could think to name – a small gold necklace. My Aunt Laurie gave it to me my freshman year of college. She was cleaning out her jewelry box and asked if I would like anything. I don’t wear much jewelry – usually nothing other than earrings, and even those are usually just cubic zirconia studs. But the necklace stuck out to me. It was simple and delicate – very subtle. You might not even notice it unless you looked for it. That’s what I liked about it.

It’s like a little secret I carry with me, and only those closest to me get to see it. I’ve been wearing it on dates over a spritz of Chanel no.5, beneath a silky shirt and near my camisole. I’d like to think that men are interested in it. Why, I’m not sure. I imagine a man wants to kiss my collarbone where the minuscule chain rests. But it’s probably just a dumb curiosity: “What’s that shiny thing by her boobs?”

But other than attracting men to my neck, I just like the necklace. It came into my possession as a throwaway, but I still thank my aunt for giving it to me. It’s become mine in a way I hadn’t anticipated when I first got it. I’d never lend it to a friend. I take it off every night and hang it so the chain doesn’t tangle.

Unlike the other objects, it’s subtly me. My pearls make me feel like a Kennedy. My violin steals the show. My Kindle reflects nothing other than the fact that I love to read. My journals are often crass and full of things I don’t want to share with other people. And while Lolita has some of the most beautiful prose I’ve ever read, I will never write like Nabokov.

I guess for me, at least, My Favorite Thing isn’t so much about pointing to some object and saying “I really, really love that thing”. It’s more about something that makes me feel like myself unadorned, even if it is a piece of jewelry.

Note to self:

I just spent the better part of two hours going through my apartment and the last five or six boxes I had in storage to find a stack of letters. For the last twenty minutes or so, I was furious. So many f-bombs. It’s a good thing my mother wasn’t present.

I was mad not because I couldn’t find them, but because I thought I threw them away. I thought I threw them away because about ten months ago, I was scaling my belongings down in preparation to move. I specifically remember going back and forth as to whether I should throw these letters away. I wanted to keep them because they were from a very good friend of mine and I thought they might come in handy for fiction writing someday (that day was today, thus the frantic search). I thought it might be a good idea to toss them because they held ties with my past and my boyfriend at the time wasn’t very comfortable with me still talking to him. When I weed things out, I spend about five seconds deciding what to toss and what to keep. After a couple hours of searching, I was nearly positive that I had gone with the latter.

So then I spent the last twenty minutes of the search composing an angry rant I would deliver to my ex (one that documented all the reasons my ex was stupid and why he needed to just get over it and accept that this guy is my friend and that whatever fragments of attraction or romance that may have existed years earlier were in the past  and we were just friends now who communicated solely through text messages twice a month and he just needed to trust that I was capable of controlling myself and that I would never do anything to compromise a relationship anyway and fuck him, why was I such a good girlfriend  even when he didn’t know anything about these letters because it never occurred to me to tell him because it happened years earlier and it wasn’t like it was something I went through and read every week just to reminisce or laugh at all his witty jokes and hijinks and so what if I kept them for sentimental reasons – they were funny and reminded me of the years I spent in Milwaukee and they also represented a period of growth and also documented the beginnings of my first serious relationship with a man who has psychopathic tendencies that ended disastrously because how else could it end and I wanted to see how my friend had reacted to  my news when I told him I thought it was best to stop exchanging letters because I thought it was best for my relationship and what the hell, why did I throw those letters away?!), never mind I deleted his number and can’t remember it anyway.

Then I found the letters. 

And then I realized that if I had thrown them away back then, it would have been my own fault, not my ex’s.

So, what did I learn? Never throw out material that may provide inspiration just to coddle a significant other’s insecurities, because inevitably, things will change and you will be furious at yourself. Also, your apartment will be a mess.

That stupid thing I did yesterday afternoon

So yesterday afternoon,  I did a stupid thing. Something I can’t believe I’m about to blog about. Whatever. I’m doing it for the sake of literature.

Who I am I kidding? I need for somebody to laugh with me. It was pathetic. A low point. I have a feeling that, despite my initial enthusiasm about my new apartment, I will find myself having many pathetic moments that will serve as good blogging material. When I say good blogging material, of course I mean self-obsessed ramblings that no one actually cares about. Nevertheless, I pretend everyone is  wildly entertained by the way I combine words. I suppose that’s a pretty good working definition for a writer: one who deludes herself into believing people find her word combinations intriguing.

Maybe I’ll return to that.

Anyway. I was home alone for the day with nothing to do. I had just returned from my parents’ house to see the new kittens and was feeling sorry for myself since even the damn cat had friends to hang out with. I only let that last a few minutes before I made plans for the night. But I still had plenty of time to be alone before I was going to meet up with my friend. So naturally, the only thing I could do was turn on Netflix and make a profile on POF – formerly known as Plenty of Fish.

Before you react, I’ll tell you that you’re probably right in whatever you’re assuming. Yes. I was lonely. Yes, I was feeling ugly. Yes, I was feeling self-indulgent. And yes, I was at such a pathetic point that I actually thought I would be comforted by strangers telling me I was pretty.

It worked for a while. Within two hours of making a profile, I had over 50 messages sent to me. Most of them were messages from men who I am not remotely interested in  (re: Men whose picture is taken with a camera phone in front of a mirror, men over the age of 13 who find it acceptable to use “u” in place of the actual pronoun, suspiciously old-looking 29 year olds, men who list beer pong as a hobby) that were just “wut up. u r pretty. wanna hang”.

I kept getting emails saying that men wanted to meet me. And then I had these bubbles pop up on the side of the screen, telling me that men wanted to chat with me. I didn’t really know what was going on and I ended up chatting with a guy for a while. He seemed like a perfectly nice young man. We got to talking about relationships and what we were looking for. As the conversation went on and each of his messages reminded me of his apparent animosity for punctuation, I realized I didn’t want to be doing this. I didn’t want to be chatting with some guy who couldn’t bother to separate his sentences coherently. Furthermore, I didn’t want to be comforting myself in such a disgusting and cheap way.

So I did the mature thing. I ended the conversation with niceties (“It was nice chatting with you. I’m sure we’ll talk again soon”) and deleted my account. That’s the nice thing about online anonymity – you can do things like completely blow off a guy you’ve been talking to for an hour without having to see what an asshole you look like.

I’m going to call this my own version of the rebound: shamelessly and selfishly taking advantage of someone’s affections to make myself feel better momentarily. For a few hours, I was able to quantify my allure. See? I am still pretty and at least 50 men wanted to meet me and/or rape and kill me.  But when I finally peeled myself away from the screen, I realized I was still alone in my apartment, wishing I was talking to one person and one person only. And until I get to a point that I’m just lonely in my apartment, I don’t have any business flirting with someone else. It’s reckless and selfish. No one wants to feel like he’s in a relationship with someone who feels she needs to be in a relationship. She should want to be in that relationship, not just any relationship.

And yes, it would be much less painful and probably a lot more fun to heal if I had somebody to hang out with constantly, somebody who I knew I could call whenever I wanted and have him come over and shower me with affection. But I also know that I’m not going to find the deep and meaningful connection I’m longing for in something right now, because at this point, I can only offer superficiality. I can’t share myself or my complex emotions with another person because I’m hesitant to deal with the responsibility of another person’s emotions since I’m still dealing with so much of my own pain. Momentary distractions might serve as a cheap salve, but they won’t actually help my healing process. It’s a bandaid over a bullet hole.

So in the meantime, I’m going to just keep drinking tea, watching Netflix, and singing along to Regina Spektor because she’s the only one who can truly express what I’m feeling right now.

Now that I’ve effectively scared off any future beaus, I’m going to go to take some nyquil and go to bed.

And then I reread Sloane Crosley…

If you have to ask someone to change, to tell you they love you, to bring wine to dinner, to call you when they land, you can’t afford to be with them. It’s not worth the price, even though, just like the Tiffany catalog, no one tells you what that price is. You set it yourself, and if you’re lucky it’s reasonable. You have a sense of when you’re about to go bankrupt. Your own sense of self-worth takes the wheel and says, “Enough of this shit. Stop making excuses. No one’s that busy at work. No one’s allergic to whipped cream. There are too cellphones in Sweden.” But most people don’t get that lucky. They get human. They get crushes. This means you irrationally mortgage what little logic you own to pay for this one thing. This relationship is an impulse buy, and you’ll figure out if it’s worth it later.

So, assuming you’ve gone ahead and purposefully ignored the first adage because it doesn’t apply to you and you are in love the way no one in the history of spooning has ever been in love: now what? You’ve gotten what you want, but the state of mutual ownership has shifted. Like that piece of jewelry that you’re never quite comfortable wearing, you become concerned with its whereabouts, who borrows it and for how long. You wonder if you’ll lose it, if it might look better wrapped around someone else’s neck. Admit it: wouldn’t it be less stressful not having it touch your body at all?

The first time I read  Sloane Crosley’s essay “Off the Back of a Truck” I was at the university gym almost two years ago. I was on the elliptical and I had to stop several times to make notes in my Kindle. The way she talked about relationships in such a frank way was refreshing. At the time I was with Bill and didn’t think I would ever need to seek salve for the pains of a breakup. But it resonated so fully that I wanted to stop other girls on the treadmills and bikes nearby and read paragraphs to them.

When Bill and I broke up, this book was the first book I bought, only hours after the initial exchange. I couldn’t remember the passages. I couldn’t remember the name of the title. I just knew that I wanted the paper copy of the book. I needed the tangible thing to hang on to and to underline those paragraphs that had literally given me pause. I also wanted to be able to point to something and say, “This got me through it! This got me through that first day and helped me make sense of everything in one fell swoop.”

Of course, the book didn’t really get me through it. What it did was remind me a couple things. First, that I needed to figure out how much this was costing me. Was it going to hurt me more than give me satisfaction? Did I have to sacrifice my self-respect, goals, hopes, interests, or even passing amusement in order to make this relationship work? What, exactly, was the cost? It was a rhetorical question, one I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to answer in a quantifiable sense, but I knew that for then, at least, I couldn’t afford it. The second was that I would eventually be okay. Eventually. Eventually I would be able to walk past his old house and think, “That’s where Bill used to live” the same way I might make note of a post office or grocery store. Eventually I would just look back on it as a part of my life.

That was what most struck me that afternoon on the elliptical – I knew what she meant. I had passed landmarks with ex-boyfriends and just seen them as cold facts. That was where we went on our first date. That was where he first saw me cry. We rented movies from that Blockbuster. We walked together along that trail. I recognized how those same facts that had once torn me apart now read like an uninteresting pamphlet.

I had the first promise of that the other day. I was getting ready for a wedding on Saturday night, and I digging through my desk drawer when I came across a picture from our sixth month anniversary. It was of us kissing – one of those barf-worthy things that I hate seeing on Facebook. But it was a picture I had once had framed and sat on the table next to my bed. Instead of crying and wiping my tears on my dress, I set the picture aside. “Oh,” I thought. “There’s that picture. I was wondering where it had gone.” And then I continued getting ready.

Later at the wedding, I was by the bar by myself for a few moments and I thought about how remarkable of a step that was for me. It was the first time I had come across something of us – something significantly tied to fond memories with him – that didn’t physically hurt me. It gave me hope that I was moving forward and that things would be okay. So when my friend returned from the bathroom and asked if I wanted to dance, it only seemed natural for me to accept his invitation and to enjoy myself, even if I was dancing to disco.

There is one thing you know for sure, one fact that never fails to comfort you: the worst day of your life wasn’t in there, in that mess. And it will do you good to remember the best day of your life wasn’t in there, either. But another person brought you closer to those borders than you had been, and maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Knowing what you can afford is useful information, even if you don’t want it.

You can find the above selections and more gems in Sloane Crosley’s book How Did you Get this Number. It would be a great book to read on the beach.