Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Keeping It Light

I always forget this, but it never fails: When a woman feels strong and confident and like she's finally okay on her own, the men come running. I felt that way this weekend. I put together a six-foot-tall bookshelf all by myself wearing jeans and a black wifebeater and wielding a screwdriver as if it were a weapon.

That same day, I waited patiently for my double-date with N and his friend, whom I'll call Six-Two from now on because he's tall and cute. When the meeting time approached, I shimmied into my new fuschia dress and heels. I wore black tights and too much perfume. We met the boys out after my girlfriend S and I had a delightful Mediterranean dinner. We talked about New Year's resolutions (or, in my case, anti-resolutions), trips we might take together, and New York, with all of its good and bad qualities and the push and the pull required to make city living work. We bonded as intelligent metropolitan women who are too smart to settle for anything less than all-consuming yet challenging.

When we finally sat down with the boys at a lounge on the Upper East Side. I employed time-tested techniques from The Game: I relaxed my body language. I gave full attention to Six-Two as he was speaking rather than gaze at N adoringly the whole time. I laughed and smiled through my slick lip gloss and told jokes and acted like I double-dated in inappropriately tight dresses all the time. Six-Two and S got along well, and N and I, of course, had chemistry that sometimes belies words. We ended up gazing into each other's eyes. We held hands. We whispered in each other's ears. Politely, of course. We didn't want to unnerve the other couple.

We all went our separate ways after a few drinks. I was confused by that, especially since we were so close to my apartment, but I've learned never to expect N to give me the full-court press. The next day, though, was a different story. He texted me. He called me. Sure enough, Six-Two had sung my praises in the cab ride home. I had known that he would.

N invited me over to his place last night for takeout and a movie, and I agreed. I like going to another borough to meet someone who is something like "my man." It was one of the most fun, romantic, and meaningful nights of my life. They usually are with N, because I am, unfortunately, in love with him. He was fawning over me. Giving me compliments. Holding me. Kissing me. Telling me he would do whatever I wanted -- be it movies, a trip to the zoo, sex.... We talked for hours. We smiled at each other. We kissed deeply.

That was typical N. He's hot, and then he's cold.

We texted and e-mailed lightly today, but "lightly" is the key word here. If I am to snag N, which is sort of not even my goal anymore -- my goal is to become a self-fulfilled single woman in this city who gets more excited about furnishing her own place than some lame text message from some lame boy -- I have to let him drive. And that, my friends, is the hardest thing for your dear Jane to do.

N is unsure of what he wants. He is a boy at heart, but I think he is special inside. He's also a tad crazy, which I fucking love. All of that combined means that I have to let him take the reins. I have to stop trying to orchestrate events that will guarantee our couplehood. 'Cause that just ain't the way life works. I have to enjoy him while I have him and then continue to be unsurprised when he doesn't deliver. But I do think -- on some crazy, insane, hippocampal level -- that he is trying. And now is the time for me to be quiet. Which, again, is not my strong suit.

A cab driver brought me home from work late tonight. He asked me what my goals were for 2008. I was not in the mood for chit-chat, as I had just worked a 13-hour day. I didn't answer, really.

"Will you get married?" he said.

I couldn't contain my laughter, and I guffawed a huge, loud, unladylike snort/laugh.

"Why?" he said. "Why not?"

I figured, Fuck it. I'll never see this dude again.

"Because the man I love doesn't want me," I said.

And I was in for it now, I tell you, because no one likes to talk about love more than drivers in New York City.

"Here is my advice," he said, in his thick Jamaican accent. "Play dumb. I see the kind of person you are -- the kind that doesn't take any crap. Let him have his freedom. Pretend you forget about him. Pretend you forget all about him. He'll say, 'Oh, you never call me no more...." but you play dumb. Play dumb for a year. Once you get married, then you take control."

The advice was entirely convoluted and unequivocally anti-feminist, but there is something to be said for the evil genius that is making men feel as though they are in charge.

It would be a bad idea to marry N. A severely bad idea. But for now, N is the person I want to laugh with at bad jokes and crappy movies. I want to smell his hair and taste his sweat. I want to hear his batshit insane theories about "power animals" and this frighteningly solid career advice for how I can move up at my job. He's the person I want to buy trashy lingerie for and go out and drink gimlets with for hours. I want to talk at him about nothing -- about my family and the Midwest and what I'm scared of and why sometimes I feel powerless and paralyzed to move my life ahead.

There's an element of self-destruction here of which I'm completely aware. I know that I could find a man who is solid and boring if I simply stepped onto York Avenue and announced my availability to whichever males happened to be on the street, buried deep into their iPods, at the time. There are a lot of single men in this city. I'm formulating a new theory, though: It's entirely possible that I'm choosing men who are fundamentally unavailable so I can avoid hitching my wagon to anyone at all and instead come home after work at midnight on a Monday, pour myself a glass of sipping rum, pop a Xanax, and type. Just type.

N provides fodder for that. Sometimes immersion journalism unearths the most authentic results.

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