Category Archives: Love & Relationships

I’m best defined by the people I love.

Patterns from Past Loves

Pre-Will, I had a history of poor decision-making skills when it came to suitors.

Like the chick-lit character you love to hate, I was always drawn to the guys who didn’t want girlfriends. These guys weren’t shy or subtle in expressing this disinterest in relationships, but I was unable to hear or absorb it. Besides, I was the exception. I was going to make the unloving love.

Men (or anyone, for that matter) don’t regularly dissuade others from idolizing them, so I was rarely turned away. I mistook this acceptance for emotional closeness and convinced myself that I was loved.

I put up with all manner of poor behavior largely because I was scared that I couldn’t do any better. We all have dating war stories, I know. Saying I was cheated on, called fat, ignored, and belittled shouldn’t really inspire pity, however, as I accepted such treatment without question.

Case Study: Grad School Boyfriend [name redacted].

How it started: I wore flip-flops to a local bar in the town where I went to college. Grad School Boyfriend approached to tell me that he hated flip-flops. I immediately began a campaign to garner his attention and secure his affections.

How it ended: At a close friend’s wedding where I was too busy bridesmaiding to absorb what was going on. I made him leave to avoid causing a scene and we ended up hashing out our feelings (or lack thereof) in the car much later that night. Yes, I was dumped at a wedding. Nothing short of a housecoat and a herd of cats tops that on the “you will probably die alone”-scale.

When I first saw him clearly: When he made fun of my sister’s shoes. We ran into Grad School Boyfriend at the mall several months post-breakup. Kerry was wearing leg warmers and flip-flops as was the trend that winter. In fact, I think she’d just gotten the leg warmers for Christmas (and Kerry, if you are reading this, I’m sorry! You know that guy was a jerk!). My own flip-flops were fair game, but I’m the only one allowed to mock my sister.

Why the double standard? Shouldn’t the guy I love treat me in a way I’d expect people to treat my sister? While the no-teasing-my-sister rule holds fast, I am, in a sense, glad that the leg warmer incident happened. Something clicked.

I’d love to say that I immediately put this knowledge into action and held out until Will came into my life, but then my memoirs would be devoid of delicious heartbreak and drama. Awareness was, apparently, only part of the key to breaking patterns. Will came along years later – after I’d gathered enough experience to really appreciate him.

Advertisements

The Care and Keeping of Love Letters

Last week, Will made me lunch. Brown bag and everything. He’d even written a note on the napkin. Despite having used the napkin to wipe up a small spill, I flattened it back out and placed it in a drawer for safekeeping. I keep all the notes Will gives me.

I’ve always been a “keeper”. Prior to meeting Will – yes, there were boys prior to Will, don’t worry, he knows – I kept all the little notes and tokens that relationships generate. I’d revisit them to read warm words when I when I needed a boost. The notes were tangible proof of love past.

Presently, as things move to Very Serious with Will, I find I have no need for these past reminders. During a recent cleaning spree, several notes were recycled. A digital clean-up followed, and several flirty emails were deleted. Will never indicated that I had to get rid of these things; the decision was all mine. I just didn’t want them anymore – they’d lost their sparkle.

While I now have no desire to keep these past treasures, I began to wonder if one needs to get rid of reminders of relationships past. I once read once of a woman who burned all her past love letters in the fireplace the night before her wedding. That could be romantic or dramatic, depending on your spin.

Either way, is it odd to keep past love letters if you are currently in a committed relationship? Is it a trust issue (i.e., if you trust me, you know these are just fun, frothy reminders of my youth and in no way impact “us”)? Does this rule – if it exists – apply to jewelry?

Do you keep tokens from boyfriends and girlfriends of yore? Would it bother you if your significant other did?

Do share.

I Am: This Guy’s Girlfriend

Currently, my favorite place on earth is the beige, microsuede couch in my living room. That’s where Will and I curl up to eat dinner, watch movies, or sit to enjoy beer and each other. On the rare occasions when we’re able to coax both cats to join us, I’m positive there’s no greater happiness to be had.

By this point, you’ve heard a lot about Mr. Will. You know that we met online (and, as such, I’m a big fan of online dating). I still can’t believe how lucky I am.

For those of you fit to die at hearing a girl define herself as being “someone else’s girlfriend,” let me assure you that this is no barefoot-in-the-kitchen relationship. Well, I’m barefoot as much as possible, but he’s the one in the kitchen. I prioritize Will and he prioritizes me. It’s a relationship of equals (though he’s a better cook).

Will is incredibly supportive – if I came home today and told him I wanted to quit my job and be a dolphin trainer, he’d pack our bags and look for new homes near Sea World. I love spending time with him. I love who I am when I’m around him. With him beside me, I could be the best damn dolphin trainer Central Florida ever saw.

Will makes me feel like the prettiest, wittiest girl who ever lived. I get told how good I look every morning before I go to work. He’s this blog’s biggest fan.

In our relationship, I’m the big talker. My stories never go from start to finish without a few tangents along the way but Will drinks it all up and stores it away. When I mention something, like my hatred of mangoes, Will remembers that I originally informed him of that on our first date. Why I was talking about mangoes on our first date is beyond me, but I love that he was listening and remembers.

Oh, and I like mangoes now, so you can put your pitchforks away. “Mangoes are Tasty” was one of Will’s first lessons for me.

I love Will. I love being Will’s Girlfriend – it’s one of the greatest facets of who I am.

(F)Risky Business

I’m not a big risk taker. Physical risk, that is. While I may sign myself up for some seemingly-psychotic feat of athleticism (did you know I’ve climbed up to the top of both the Hancock and the Sears Towers?  Yeah, the stairs.*), I’m no daredevil. I have a pretty keen appreciation for my spine and do what I can to protect it. Plus, I’m a pansy with blood.

Prior to my current living situation, I lived on my own for two years. If something was housed on a high shelf, I was the only one around who could get it down. Nine months ago, Will moved into my condo. Since then, he’s the appointed tall-shelf-reacher.

Not that his presence stops me from leaping up on the occasional chair.

Being with Will makes me a touch more open to the occasional (mild) risk. Whenever I’m faced with even a remote potential for peril, Will is at my side guiding me back to safety. Knowing that someone is concerned every time I chop vegetables with a sharp knife or use my hands to guide carrot peelings into the garbage disposal only heightens the thrill. While I’m not looking to purposely maim myself, Will’s concern fills me with warm fuzzies.

*To answer the most frequent questions I get about climbing the 103 floors to the top of the Sears Tower: 30 minutes. It sucked.

Doing Something Right

The other day, I had a mild meltdown. It was one of those moments where I felt like nothing I do is “right.” I’m very good at this kind of thinking, and it generally doesn’t take much to get me to parade around listing my faults. It can quickly spiral out of control and often ends in a brief amount of tears.

I’m not thin enough, I’m not smart enough, I’m not successful enough… the list goes from the standard to the insane.

(We’ve all been there, right? …Right?)

After listening until I’d calmed down, the ever-patient Will had me list my priorities – not my priorities for the upcoming week or month, but my overall priorities for life. They are as follows:

  1. My relationships with the people in my life (parents, sister, boyfriend).
  2. My relationships with my kitties (yes, for real. I want to be a good cat-mama).
  3. Having the resources (time, money) to pursue the things I love; namely reading good books, eating good food, and taking good vacations. How I define “good” is subject to change.

It appears that I’m not so much of a failure after all.

(Warning: I’m about to get cheesier than a nacho cheese Dorito.)

Let’s take item #1, subset c – relationship with my boyfriend. As I may have mentioned in previous posts, I’m dating the greatest guy on earth. Sorry, ladies. Will is … perfect. He’s unbelievably kind and thoughtful. I won’t get all Jerry Maguire on you and say he completes me, but living without him would be like living without air. Unthinkable.

Yet somehow, I’ve got him thinking he’s the lucky one in our relationship. I’m clearly doing something right.

The metrics I was using to measure myself (pounds, dollars) have no real relevance vis-à-vis my priorities. I currently have solid, loving relationships with both parents, my sister, and my boyfriend (also, both kitties are relatively fond of me). While some relationships fall into place, most take some amount of work, and I rarely give myself credit for that.

If all I do from this point forward is maintain the relationships I currently have, I’m doing quite well.

Best Day Ever

Today, my friends, is epic. EPIC.

Why?

Because my sister, Kerry, is now an official resident of the City of Chicago.  That’s right, Minnesnowta, cry your wee little eyes out.

To say I’m crazy-excited would be an understatement. Kerry and I haven’t lived in the same town since the days when we shared (and fought over) a bathroom. After graduating from High School, Kerry made her way to the Frosty North and has been there for the past eight years.

No longer.

Kerry will now live literally around the corner. Not “literally” like “I was literally about to freak out and die if Molly won Top Model.” Literally for real. Literally like:

I have big plans for Kerry’s first Chicago Summer. It’s kind of all I’ve talked about since the decision to relocate was made. Every time I go to a restaurant I look at the menu for non-meat items and, in the case that there is more than one, make a mental note to take Kerry there. We are going to go to many a street festival (except Taste of Chicago because that one is nutters and full of slow-walkers and always on the hottest day of the year and I hate it). We’ve talked about having a weekly “running date” and going to see Something Borrowed. 

Mostly, however, we are just going to hang out. With her living in another state, visiting one another had become an “Event” – full days were planned right down to when and where we’d go to dinner. As one of us had either taken a plane or sat in a car for six hours to see the other, there was the feeling that the time spent together had to be almost structured. Now, with her LITERALLY RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER, if I want to invite her over for beers and bad TV, I can. We can just be lazy together.

I’m so excited to get this chance to get to know Kerry better now that we are both “adults” and for us to become even closer friends.

(Yes, Even More) Thoughts on Online Dating

As I mentioned previously, I met Will via OKCupid. Since then, I’ve been a big advocate of using online resources to “get out there” (so to speak).

Let’s be frank, though. I’m not your mother. I don’t care about the grandbabies. I just want you to be happy. If you think meeting new people and perhaps starting a new relationship would make you happy, let’s go! If not, that’s fine. See you tomorrow (No worries! I still love you!).

As mentioned previously, I made online dating into a “job” of sorts and devoted time each day to being on the site. I mentioned that this may be a little nerdy. Well, I did something else that may be a little nerdy as well – I had other friends review my profile.

Friend 1: The Witty Wordsmith

My dear, lovely friend Theresa was ever supportive of my online quests. Beyond my love of her diction, Theresa knew me. Anyone can craft a magical (false) profile that will draw the mens like bees to a picnic but that’s not what I was after. I wanted me – polished. I wanted to use the words in my profile to craft the best (honest) picture of who I was and what I was about. Frankly, I have never experienced writer’s block like the kind I had while trying to describe myself to strangers/date-able men. This part – getting started – can be the most daunting. Like all daunting tasks, however, having friends around makes it easier. Pick a close friend (perhaps the one with the stellar vocabulary) and do it to it.

Friend 2: The Man-Friend

Mike, a friend and fellow craft beer aficionado, also took a look at my profile. Besides pointing out a grammatical error (arg!), he commented on the photos I had posted. It’s interesting to get other people’s take on how you look – I know I can be very self-critical. I had recently gotten bangs and decided that I couldn’t post pictures of pre-bangs Helena as that would be way too confusing. Mike convinced me that guys (or at least the guys I was trying to lure) are not that easily thrown off course. Plus, he gave my profile a kind of man-stamp-of-approval.

In addition to their suggestions on how to tweak my profile, having Mike and Theresa’s help was incredibly encouraging. Sometimes, dating (online or “in real life”) needs a dose of encouragement.

In Which I’m a Smidge Vain

Look, its me!

At the end of April, I worked with the lovely and talented Gretchen Kelley to produce these headshots. We had a beautiful (if slightly windy) day to work with, so we set out about her neighborhood here in Chicago and took some pictures.

At first, I was concerned my inner-awkwardness would win out. The last time I had portraits done was Senior Year of High School, and, despite my mothers protestations to the contrary, I wasn’t too thrilled with how those turned out. Since then, I haven’t been the solo focus of a stranger with a fancy camera.

Gretchen, however, was a complete doll. We chatted the whole time and I was perfectly at ease.

I received the final images last Friday, and I had to share – both the photos and the backstory (there is always a backstory).

As we know, I met my boyfriend via Online Dating. While I was initially putting my profile together, I realized that I didn’t have any photos of myself that I really liked. I know this sounds prissy, but – from what I’ve seen at least – everyone is their own worst critic when it comes to photos. Somewhere in the process, I considered enlisting professional help.

I looked online and made a few calls. When I explained that the photos would be for use in an online dating profile, I was excited to hear that several of the photographers had received such requests before and knew some tricks to keep the final images more “casual, girl-about-town” and less “stiff glamour shot.”

[Note: this is by no means meant to imply that everyone who does online dating has professional pictures. Hardly. I’m definitely not saying it is a requirement to have a stellar profile. It’s merely something I looked into to soothe my own insecurities.]

Insecurities aside, my inner miser balked at paying too much for these photos. Enter, YouSwoop. I got a great deal to work with Gretchen.

But then, of course, I met Will before I scheduled my photo session because, well, that’s always how these things work out, isn’t it? I considered other options for using the pre-paid deal (would my mother like portraits of my sister and me for Mother’s Day?) but then decided that you lovely blog-readers may want to see the person behind the writing here.

Aren’t I lovely?

Online Dating, For the Win!

If recent Match.com commercials are to be believed, many a modern romance starts online. As such, I’d like to introduce myself as a happy statistic. Before I met Will, I was a serial online dater.

I did Match.com…

then eHarmony…

then Match again…


and then OKCupid where I met Will in January 2010. Over a year later, I can affirm that signing up for an online dating account was the best decision I’ve ever made (YES, even better than studying abroad which I’m always yammering on about as being such a great decision. It was. Will is better).

So how did it all go down?

I spent time on the site. All the people who told me that I’d “find the guy I was looking for” when I “stopped looking” can officially eat it. What is the point of putting yourself out there if you aren’t actually putting yourself out there? (Cue reference to that one episode of Sex and the City where that dating guru lady insists that Charlotte is not really “putting herself out there.” This is not that. I’m no guru. Also, my advice is free). I made online dating into a little “task” I had to perform each day and I spent a pre-determined amount of time looking at profiles and writing/responding to messages. Sound a touch lame? Maybe it was. For me, though, if I was paying to be on the site, I would… be on the site.

I talked to people on the site. All dating sites are somewhat different but all have some variant of a messaging system. I used it. No, I didn’t spam every boy in my area code, but if I was interested in someone (based on what they’d shared in their profile), I let them know. Sometimes, they responded, sometimes, they didn’t. That’s kinda how the game goes in real life though, no?

I met people in person (In public. In a well-lit place). Did I go on a lot of bad dates? No. (Did I go on a few? Yes). I also went on a couple oh-my-goodness, tingly-smiles, text-all-my friends good dates that kept me a believer. By the time I met these guys in person, we’d exchanged several messages online and I was fairly convinced I wasn’t walking onto the set of Law & Order, SVU.

Rinse and repeat. Your mileage may vary. Caveat emptor.

I won’t get all glib and say that it was easy. Or fun, really, because sometimes it wasn’t. Sometimes, despite evidence to the contrary right in front of me on my computer, I felt like the. last. single. girl. EVER. It was frustrating, it was time-consuming, it was challenging.

But it was worth it.

(ok, that ending was a touch glib, but I’m serious. I’d do it all again knowing that Will was waiting for me at the end. Oh, that was SUPER glib. OK, I’m out).