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Hey it’s me. From the Bar. [A Messy Essay]

3 Jun

The weekend before Valentine’s Day 2011, I went to a local wine bar. The kind of bar you go to for casual conversation and the .05% chance you might meet someone as vain and self-conscious as you. The kind of bar that is built for friends to gather in celebration of a birthday or a Tuesday. In this case, I was celebrating being out of the house.

I was one of three friends who were meeting at the bar for a few drinks. To be more accurate, I was meeting with a good friend and one of her friends from her graduate program who, upon our arrival, would take another hour to arrive. A lot can happen in an hour.

We reserved a seat for the tardy friend because the bar was crowded and decided not to let her keep us from starting the party. She would forgive us, we were sure of it. So we opened a pink bubbly wine and shared the shit out of it.

Interrupting our wine-orgy was a man watching a Kings game, who couldn’t keep his mind on his own paper. He groaned at a missed shot, fishing for condolences, which my saccharin friend offered all too easily.

“Are you rooting for the Kings?” she asked the 35-year-old divorcee wearing a Sierra Nevada sweatshirt. Of course she couldn’t have known he was divorced, but she should have known that nothing good would come of talking to him.

And it didn’t. Because as soon as he sat down in the currently vacant seat at our table, he said his friends had bet him he couldn’t get her number. And without even letting her reject or concede her contact info, he said, “Well I bet you are married. You’re married right?” And without blinking, she said, “Yes. Yes I am married” and switched her grandmother’s ring from her middle to ring finger.

It was like leading me to slaughter. After rattling off details of her fake engagement, fake wedding and fake married-life, she saved the one true statement she would make that night for the description of my relationship status. Single.

Until this point, he had ignored my existence and now he was sinking his teeth into my last hope of finding someone decent to spend my life with.

And that’s when his friend came in and delivered the best and worst pick-up line ever: How much does a Polar Bear weigh? Enough to break the ice.

Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t the joke that broke the ice, it was the fact that I tried for about 2 minutes to guess (inacurrately) what a Polar Bear might weigh. My guess landed anywhere between 3 and 2 tons. But who really knows. Are we talking during or after hybernation? Do Polar Bears even hybernate? Is a Polar Bear even really a bear?

Despite this setback, he continued to chip away at the ice without ever really managing to break it.  But it was his birthday and I always try to be nice to people on their birthday. Even if they are 34 and hitting on me in the saddest way possible.

It being his birthday, he had a special once-a-year confidence that enables a typically shy man to ask a girl for her number. When I failed to produce a pen, or paper, or the general will to give him my phone number– he remained persistent. I offered to add him on Facebook. No. That would not do. And having backed myself into a corner of refusal, I finally clawed my way out be finally writing down my number and first name on a napkin. You win. Happy Freaking Birthday.

So when I went home later that night, I didn’t think about the boy I met at the bar. I thought about how cruel my friend was for throwing me under her Single bus. But I did think about him when he called a week later asking if I’d like to hang out sometime this week. What a thrill that was. I admired his sticktoitiveness, but I was not going to go out with him.

So I went to bed not thinking about the boy I met at the bar until I got another call the next week. It was Evan. From the bar. Not brazen Birthday Boy. This was his gullible friend who tried to hit on my happily (but falsely) married friend.

I hadn’t given Evan my number. So how did it happen that Evan was calling me two weeks after I gave his friend my number? Did Birthday Boy give up and give my information to someone who may have better luck, or who perhaps needed a napkin after an especially messy lunch?

I didn’t spend very much time trying to get to the bottom of this mystery because I wasn’t going to return either of their calls. At least not on purpose.

About a week later, on my way into my gym, I listened to a voicemail message left by a friend. I was multitasking at the time, putting my purse in my trunk and trying to find my headphones. I was distracted enough not to realize that I had pressed the “call back” function next to a voicemail message that had been left by someone else. This voicemail was from birthday boy. I hadn’t deleted it bc I thought it was funny. I was about to regret that.

After I closed my trunk and headed into the gym, I noticed that my phone was indicating that it had been engaged on a call for the last 10 seconds with a number I didn’t recognize. Until I did. It was telephone number belonging to Birthday Boy.

I can only imagine what he thought as he saw that the person calling him was the girl from the bar. The one he had so little faith in calling him back that he gave her number to someone else. And then, one magical day, she calls him.

And all she says is “Shit.”

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It’s not them. It’s you.

27 May

Image

It’s easy to assume by someone’s relationship or employment status that she is deeply satisfied with her life. Smiling faces and far off places can do a number on one’s own self-esteem. It also doesn’t help that people smile in 90% of photos (the ones not taken in front of a mirror), just supplementing your own theory that everyone is on their correct life path but you.

Facebook: Filling your newsfeed with stories of smiley, annoying happiness since 2006.

Yes, there are a lot of happy people out there but there are also a lot of people who feel just like you. Sometimes alone. Sometimes misunderstood. Always a little bit unsatisfied.

It is hard to look at wedding photos of a devastatingly gorgeous couple. It’s hard to watch people two years younger than you earn a higher degree and get promoted before you have moved out of your parents’ house. It’s definitely not easy to find out in your newsfeed that the boy you rejected in high school finally grew into his ears and became a model.

Here’s the thing: life isn’t easy. For anyone.

So stop it. Stop beating yourself up about the adorable children with their adorable parents who you went to high school with. Or the constant status updates from a foreign country you’ve never been to.

Stop comparing yourself to other people who are probably as secretly unsatisfied as you are. Focus on your own happiness. How you can become more satisfied with your current life status without using the success of people you hardly know as a measuring stick?

You can’t tell how full and meaningful someone’s life is by looking at a profile page on Facebook. Even if they have a cute puppy. And a beautiful child. And a husband with a trust fund who works in non-profit just to keep busy.

We have enough people in our lives making us doubt our own awesomeness. We don’t need Facebook to carry the point home.

So STOP IT.

You never know, that disgustingly fit stay-at-home mom might just be jealous of you…

What I learned from my mess.

4 May

Hi, my name is Allison and I’m a mess. In a completely unintentional metaphor, I started cleaning up the physical mess of my life today, starting with my closet. Having worked in retail longer that I have in any other industry, I have acquired a LOT of clothes. I should also admit that I have a strange emotional attachment to them. Some items in my closet, despite not having seen the light of day for years, have remained for other no reason than I didn’t have the heart to let go of them.

But today I did it. Without the help of any of my less messy friends (which happens to be most of them), I purged my closet of nearly 40 items.  A tan suede jacket I bought with my earnings from my first job at Nordstrom. A dress from my 16th birthday that was finally selected after enduring 20 hours of shopping with my mother. T-shirts I acquired from races I trained months to run. All things I had a hard time parting with.

Despite its value, the suede jacket had an ink stain on the collar. The blue dress suffered fatal injuries from a freak ironing accident. The T-shirts had never been worn. The truth was, they were just clogging up my closet, leaving no room for better things to come along. It was time to finally LET GO.

It didn’t take me too long to find the obvious parallels between the physical mess I’ve let pile up to the emotional messes I’ve had trouble letting go of lately. Having been through two breakups in four months, this great purge actually helped me organize a few things in the emotional realm as well.

Neither of the breakups were major. The first was actually quite minor on my end. I had known him in college and we spent a month trying to get to know each other, mostly over the phone because he lived a few hours away. Although we got on great in our phone conversations, his actions continued to prove that he was more interested in getting ME to like HIM than he was actually interested in me as a person. The long distance kept me from knowing this sooner, and the dating relationship lasted one month and three hours. Those last three hours were spent breaking up with him.

I went into my next dating endeavor almost immediately. Just a few hours after the epic phone breakup, another guy asked me out. One who I never thought would. And I was smitten with him. Although in the beginning it seemed otherwise, he wasn’t much different from Guy No. 1. He had the advantage of learning from Guy No.1’s mistakes, but still failed to prove that he truly valued me. Before he ended our relationship, he killed it slowly by spending less and less time with me while putting more and more energy into his new girlfriend job. Though I knew the relationship was terminal, he ended it in a way that told me a lot more about him than he ever could.

Over the phone. While I was on vacation. On Easter.

What does this have to do with getting rid of clothes I don’t need? A lot, actually. Even though Guy No. 2 possessed a lot of great qualities (attractive, smart, funny), like the suede jacket, his redeeming factors didn’t outweigh the figurative blue stain on the collar. In many ways, he was perfect for me. In one essential way, he was not. He didn’t make me feel important. He didn’t work to communicate with me. He ended our three-month relationship with a six minute phone call.

So it didn’t matter how ambitious, sweet or cute he was– he didn’t make me feel like I mattered to him. And that matters. So I had to let that go. Like the suede jacket and blue dress, he didn’t deserve to be a part of my life anymore. To haunt my thoughts with feelings of insecurity and insignificance. To fool me into thinking that one day I will find a use for him.

For in purging my life of unnecessary objects, I leave room for much better things.

A