Don’t Speak 

I ran into that same man again at the cigar lounge, the one that calls me “Sweetie.” Mind you, it’s been weeks since I first encountered him. I’ve seen him since that first meeting, but this is the first time that he talked to me.
I still have a negative feeling when I see him, so I stay away from him. I focus on my friends, my drink, my cigar. I have zero interest in making this man an ally. So what is the first word out of his mouth as he addresses me? “Sweetie.” Who’s surprised? He says, “Sweetie, where did my friend go? Are you two leaving?”

This time, he had a friend standing with him. I looked him in the eye and I made sure to enunciate as I spoke. “My name is…” 

He rolled his eyes, grabs my hand to shake it, and says, “I’m sorry for calling you sweetie, you’re not sweetie at all, nothing about you is sweetie.” And he is right. Nothing about me is sweetie. For him. 

I don’t give him a reaction, because he isn’t worth it. I think I actually walked away while he was mid-sentence. The other guys tell me he is drunk, but that really isn’t my problem or concern. That isn’t a free pass to act any way you want, or to talk to anyone any way you want. 

I literally cannot stand him. I vented, left (which I was already in the process of doing), and I sincerely hope this man learns to keep his distance from me. 

Ugh. 

How Not to Approach a Woman

I had a strange encounter last week, and I was surprised at how irritated I became.

I frequent local cigar lounges, and I’m most often a visitor at one within my own neighborhood. Can’t beat the proximity. As a woman who enjoys an occasional cigar and a glass of good scotch or bourbon, I have no problem visiting these establishments on my own – I don’t need an entourage to feel comfortable in my own skin. Especially when visiting the bar in my neighborhood, I enjoy being alone, because I’ve created a sense of respite there.

Though I enjoy my alone time, I am a social being, and I can enjoy conversation with almost anyone. Almost. I do find, at times, that being a woman in a cigar lounge is viewed by some as crossing into the inner-sanctum of Man Time. The women present acknowledge each other without issue, most likely because we see strength in numbers. The men turn their heads and observe every instance of femininity in the room. We’re watched, often judged, and then incessantly questioned about our choices. Surely we’ve come to the wrong place, or so they think.

During my encounter, I sat alone at the end of the bar watching Copa America. I was smoking a good cigar and was nursing a glass of scotch. I was texting a couple friends (and possibly posting a picture on Snapchat). The bartenders know me by name, and I’ve settled into a comfortable routine at this establishment.

A man arrived and sat a few seats away, at the corner where he could face my left side, addressing me as “Sweetie” and “Sweetheart.” Clearly, it never occurred to him to actually introduce himself or ascertain what I might like to be called. He asked me if he could borrow my lighter, as he’d forgotten his own. After I slid my torch lighter (freshly full of butane) down the bar to him, he asked me if my lighter even worked. His question caught me off guard, and I simply turned to look at him as I puffed my well-lit cigar.

He scrutinized the lighter and watched me for reactions. He lit his cigar and slid the lighter back to me. “Thank you, Sweetie.” By this time, I was having a visceral reaction to this man. I winced at “Sweetie” and “Sweetheart.” The more he watched me — judged me — the more I felt my eye wanting to twitch. I turned my attention back to my phone.

“So I notice you’re smoking a cigar. And what is that, bourbon or Scotch?”

“Yep. Scotch.” I said. I find that when I don’t like something, I either shut down or get extremely vocal. My preference is to shut down; I don’t want to make a scene. What I wanted to say was, “Why is any of this your concern?”

“How long have you smoked cigars?” He asked suspiciously.

“A few years now.” I didn’t want to engage in conversation, so I responded to a few text messages from friends.

“I see. So a cigar smoker and scotch drinker. What is it you like about cigars anyway?” His eyes narrowed at me, and my irritation grew.

“I just like them, hard to explain. Why do you smoke cigars?” I looked at him, I’m sure exasperation was all over my face, but he ignored my question because he wanted to continue evaluating me. I didn’t bother trying to give him a real answer; I wasn’t actually interested in continuing the conversation.

“Are you texting all of your friends? You sure do seem to like to be on your phone.” He puffed his cigar and watched me.

“I’m texting a few friends, not all. I call it being responsive.” I didn’t bother trying to hide my annoyance.

“So you would rather talk to your friends than talk to me?” What I couldn’t quite recognize is that this man actually thought he was flirting with me, that I should be impressed and grateful for his attention.

I maintained eye contact with my phone, responding to messages as they came in. I sent a text to one of my friends asking them to continue texting me, because I was being harassed by an older man.

I think “harassed” is the right word. I’ve been reduced to pet names, had my equipment insulted, and had my very presence questioned. Surely, I couldn’t be a regular, a real cigar smoker, or have a real appreciation for brown liquor. Surely, I didn’t belong in a cigar lounge.

Before he could ask another question, a couple walked up to greet him. They sat to my left, leaving one seat between us, and provided a slight barrier between myself and this man. The couple greeted me, and I exchanged pleasantries and a smile before returning my attention to my cigar and my phone. They seemed fine.

The man wasn’t finished though. He ranted to his friends about millennials, how they couldn’t hold a decent conversation and all they cared about was their technology. His friends looked at me, understanding the complaints were made about me, and then I had three people watching for my reaction. I gave none, which apparently confused them more, only fueling the man. His male friend asked me if I was okay, and I said yes. His female friend asked me if they were bothering me, and I said no. I’d just had a long day.

Friendly servers and managers walked by, and I greeted them, laughed, and talked freely with them. I could see the man redden, because it was clear I just didn’t have interest in talking to him. Two more of his friends joined him, sitting around the corner of the bar, though these two had some relationship issues going on. The man continued to watch me; I could feel his eyes on me as I enjoyed my cigar and ordered a second drink.

Another friend joined their group, a man I’d seen before. Before my scrutinizer could say anything, the man introduced himself to me, asked my name, said he remembered my face from a few different times in the lounge. We shook hands and smiled, I remembered his name, and he asked me if I minded whether he sat next to me. I told him I didn’t mind, and the man at the corner of the bar fumed while my new friend and I made easy small talk. There was even a bit of light flirting.

The new addition to the bar tried to include me in conversations that his friends were having, so I spoke up when asked (they were talking about O.J.), and he and I continued our own conversation. I didn’t want to invite his friend to begin asking me another barrage of questions.

Perhaps I was being petty, but I made sure to hug my neighbor as I called it a night. I left earlier than I’d planned, but I didn’t like the change in energy when the man came in, and I’d had enough. I spoke to everyone at my end of the bar but the man, and I really didn’t care how rude that made me look.

On my way out, I told a host and a manager (two of my friends) what transpired. Though I certainly could have said something or moved further down the bar, and they both knew the guy to be a jerk, I decided to laugh off an awkward encounter and make a mental note to keep my eye out for him in the future. Thankfully, I haven’t seen him since.

There is a way that you can talk to a woman without demeaning her, questioning her, or making her feel like she shouldn’t have knowledge or experience simply because she is female. Just because you are a man and you ask a question, you are not entitled to a response, regardless of your age or stature. We aren’t here to be your entertainment, to be studied, or to be presumed ignorant because we choose to do something that isn’t innately feminine. You aren’t owed an explanation and we don’t need your approval.

It’s none of your business, I’m not your sweetie, and if we cross paths again, I’ll tell you so. Please don’t kill my vibe.

Good News

I’m one of those “happy by association” kind of people. Even on days when I feel I’ve been completely dragged through the mud, I can find joy in seeing a friend realize triumph.

It’s not that I don’t continue to experience my own circumstances; rather, I see them accomplishing some form of success, and I’m reminded that there really is a light at the end of the tunnel. Life is just a succession of tunnels. Some of them curve, some of them go on for much longer than we can really stand being in confined spaces, and others we pass through so quickly that we don’t even realize we were ever in a dark place. These happy moments experienced by others are like a brief glimmer, or even a skylight, along whatever tunnel I’m traveling through. Answered prayers are fantastic bursts of light.

I have a friend with a new work opportunity, another with a beautiful baby on the way (who is going to be ridiculously stylish), and most areas of my life are pretty good right now. Things aren’t perfect me, but I don’t think I ever expect perfect — that would just be setting up for failure.

My rollercoaster of a dating life is probably one of the tunnels I’ve been traveling lately. It’s been a really long time since I’ve been in anything significant, and that’s been weighing on me. Four years since my last relationship that got anywhere near the “L” word, and everything since has been so obviously temporary.

Even the latest muse. Fun when he’s around, but for the most part he isn’t anywhere to be found. I know his circumstances, and though I enjoy his company, I’m not expecting much. He’s not ready. Highly unlikely that anything serious will develop, so more than anything, I find myself looking out the window and wondering what’s next for me. That I was in a long-term relationship for the length of my 20’s, am I going to spend the whole of my 30’s alone?

I don’t want to force anything, and I don’t want to rush. I actually enjoy my own company, so I’m not looking for someone to fill my entire calendar. I just get tired of waking up alone every morning, coming home to an empty apartment every night. Everyone who checks on me is at least a few hundred miles away, for the most part. I’m not isolated the way I was in New Orleans, but I do recognize the value I put on real friendships, and those aren’t always easy to forge the more “mature” we get.

Even feeling a bit lonely myself, I’ve been over-the-moon happy for my friends. I’ve been praying for the both of them, and I know they’ve been through so much to get to these incredible moments. Through their experiences, they remind me to be humble, to appreciate what I already have, and to exude the positive energy that I want to come into my life. They give me perspective when it escapes me, though they probably have no idea the impact their experiences have had on me.

I will be just fine, no matter what. Even if I end up an old spinster with a million crocheted blankets or a houseful of cats. There’s always light at the end of the tunnel, but I think being present and having the peace of mind to enjoy someone else finding the end of their tunnel can, in turn, keep us moving forward until we find the end of ours.

Work Sweet Home

I worked a twelve hour day today, but I would have stayed longer. In my quest to prove to myself that I am not a workaholic, and to feel a little more settled at my new job, working a long day doesn’t exactly help me feel like I have an appropriate work/life balance.

I had every intention of leaving at the close of business, but meetings ran long, and then students and colleagues kept popping in to say hello. My boss stopped by on her way out. People just kept coming, but it felt good. I’m slowly working my way into normalcy; I’m no longer just occupying someone else’s chair. Folks seem to be adjusting to me being there, and I’m finding that I’m breathing a little easier.

There are certainly some folks that I can see have their doubts, either given my age or their feelings about my office in general, but I’ve gained a lot of support. I’m still new enough to feel some level of trepidation and a need to prove myself, but I think that’s good for now. I’m not looking for a pat on the head; rather, I want to create a network of colleagues and resources that will help me achieve my goals.

Balancing work and personal life is certainly easier some days more than others, but I am making more time for myself. Getting out to SoulCycle or to take a yoga class, enjoying the local cigar lounge, meeting up with friends for wine and tapas, or even just having a nice glass of bourbon at home with my laptop on and a movie playing in the background. Dating, sure, that happens once in a while. I don’t see it as a high priority, but I think that’s primarily because I don’t want anything that feels forced. It will happen when the time is right.

People are always going to have their opinions and think that they could live your life, or do your job, better than you could. They think this without having your background, circumstances, vulnerabilities, or strengths. And they will come with criticisms, or wanting you to learn from their mistakes, or throw shade at whatever they perceive to be weakness. They meddle because they just can’t help themselves. They have control issues, they can’t handle whatever their own problems are so they project on you, or they see you as a threat.

At the end of the day, so what? No one can live your life but you.

Snow Days

I’m actually pretty grateful for this weather. I’ve been able to relax a bit, get my mind right, and put in work. And by work, I mean both the traditional sense and the creative sense. All with the backdrop of a beautiful snowfall. It’s been a quiet, cathartic snowcation. There was probably no other way I would have had a day off this time of year.

No, I haven’t answered all the questions that have been swirling in my head; I’m just going to take it day by day. I don’t know which way the wind will blow, and I’m trying to chalk up the butterflies I’ve been feeling as just being the new kid on the block.

This weekend has been baking and cleaning, laundry and reorganizing, adjusting this new home to rid it of as much chaos as possible. I want it to feel like that place of refuge at the end of a long day. It’s the first place that’s felt like “home” in the past few years. Maybe the past decade. It feels safe, and secure. It’s spacious enough not to go stir-crazy, but big enough to host my favorite people. It’s somewhere I could be stuck during a blizzard and not mind one bit.

All weekend, the one thing I’ve missed, is I’ve wanted to get away to smoke a cigar. LOL. Well, that’s a lie… Some company would have been nice, but a cigar is actually readily available. Craving is real, and I blame my friends for getting me started. Not that I fought them. My building, even my rooftop, are smoke-free areas. Not that I want to stand outside in the snow… Maybe it’s just the bourbon that’s been keeping me warm — cigars and brown liquors just make sense. I’ll switch to scotch tonight.

Now that I have another snow day scheduled, I can focus on getting more words on the page of one of my books. And maybe tomorrow, I will sneak over to the local cigar lounge for a little reprieve.

 

Muse Worthy

There have been times when I meet someone and am struck by their charm, personality, and wit. The immediate chemistry that we have. The recognition of that chemistry mirrored in the eyes of my potential counterpart burns an impression into my mind that can take a while to shake. Not that I want to be rid of that impression.

Something about the discovery and experience of this type of chemistry brings about motivation for me. The special significance immediately puts me in a creative headspace — one where I can write for hours. In moments we aren’t together, I find pages pouring out of my fingertips like fresh iced tea on a warm day. It’s refreshing and rewarding because the productivity level is skyrocketing.

The oddity is that the endorphins I may be experiencing don’t completely relate to my characters. My characters don’t start off in some happy place. They’re broken down, being challenged by multiple personal obstacles, not sitting somewhere daydreaming about someone new. They are hurt or grieving or carry within themselves a self-loathing that they must shake to move forward. They try hard to break through the surface, only to be dragged down and submerged again and again.

But maybe this man becomes my muse because it helps me to see the light at the end of the tunnel for my characters. It opens the headspace for me where my characters are introduced to some new potential, new opportunity, new love. Where my characters get to see beyond their circumstances and hope.

I don’t think this muse helps me to see the light at the end of the tunnel for myself, however. I’m too cynical to be thinking that this one must be THE one and start mapping out our life together. And, in the majority of my past relationships, one issue was at the root of it all: timing. Something I have no control over, and something I would never want to manipulate for my own benefit.

Either you’re ready, or you’re not. Thus far, they’ve all fallen into the “not ready” category, which creates a bit of a hole each new muse must try to dig his way out of, because I now go into these situations assuming business as usual. They’re not ready, so why invest too much? I know this isn’t exactly an optimistic outlook, but thus far, I haven’t been wrong.

I’m just tired of living for “some day.” I have been patient, and I go over and above, but if I can see things lagging, I tend to err on the side of moving on. I don’t want to wait for some day, and I don’t need that second presence to create my own happiness.

Whomever my special person is, whether it’s this guy or the next, what I need more than anything is his presence. I don’t need a bunch of gifts or items, and I don’t need him to take responsibility for my happiness. I just need his presence and partnership. Love will find its way when it is right. But his love will complement my own, not be a substitute or replacement for what I already produce.

I don’t believe a partner fills a void; rather, I think the most successful relationships emerge when two whole people come together with mutual affection and respect, a willingness to work toward maintaining and improving together, and a level of support to help each other realize their respective aspirations. That would be my ultimate muse.

He’s out there.

Let Men Be Gentlemen

So I’m boarding a plane, and thankfully I received an upgrade. As I go to situate myself in my seat, tossing my purse into the seat and preparing to put my roller bag into the overhead compartment, an older gentleman tells me to take my seat and he’ll take care of my bag.

I turned to the gentleman, smiled, and said, “thank you, but I’m capable.” I lifted my bag easily and took my seat.

Muttering to the other men in first class, he says women never let them be gentlemen anymore.

Yes, times have changed, but there is chivalry and then there is control. And maybe I’m just a little more sensitive on this point, but I don’t appreciate being told to sit down so that someone can do something for me. Why should I sit? Why should I cater to your “manly” ego?

Women appreciate chivalry to a point, and men appreciate independent women, but only to a point. Men appreciate knowing they don’t have a gold digger on their hands, but any ability a woman has that could best her man stands the chance of bruising his ego.

I appreciate chivalry, but only to a point. I appreciate the gestures. The door opening, the walking on the street side to protect, the pulling out of a chair. But I don’t need it, nor would I allow someone to use it to create the impression that chivalry is necessary to care for the weaker sex. Really, it’s in the approach.

Had the male flight attendant come up and asked me if he could help me with my bag, maybe I would have let him. Maybe I wouldn’t. But don’t tell me what to do and hide behind the guise of being a gentleman, and then subsequently get all your boys to chortle and chuckle at another one of those “feminist” types.

It’s not that I won’t allow you to be a gentleman. The truth is in the gesture. If you offered, you are a gentleman. If you tried to pay the check and she wouldn’t let you, or if she got to the door and opened it first, it doesn’t take away your intention. Why does it seem like these actions on a woman’s part are to be seen as emasculating?

I completely understand and applaud those gentlemen who step in and help those ladies who overpack their carry-on bags, who couldn’t lift them if they tried. Honestly, I’ve stepped in and helped those ladies too. Not because of my sex or chivalry, but because I felt it was the right thing to do. So I guess that means I’m not a gentleman.

To me, the question is really do you want the title of gentleman, or do you want to be recognized as one by your actions? Either way, I have no intention of feeling bad for being capable, strong, and independent. There are plenty of men out there who can appreciate that.

Zen Moments

The last few months have been complete craziness.

As much as I want to say I never think about those butterflies I used to feel in the past, I really can’t say it. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I’m not over it. I don’t think about it all the time, but once in a while it just hits me. Needless to say, I’ve made every attempt to find other outlets of fascination.

Work has been up and down; the question of relocating has been on my mind, but I’m not completely sold on moving just yet. As more and more work piles up, I’ve tried to quiet the worry in my mind and keep from stressing the little things and the things that are outside of my control.

I’m about to be a godmother… again. This time, I’m not as worried, because it’s my best friend’s son. I can’t wait to meet my little guy. He’s going to be so loved.

I’ve been reading books on meditation, and I already love my yoga. Taking mini moments to reflect and just breathe, when normally I would just blow up at someone, shows that something is working. Every day is a work in progress, a page in this chapter of my life.

If nothing else, I’m more comfortable with me, and I’m more open to whatever may come. Whether I’m reunited with butterflies or go in a completely different direction, I’m open to whatever may come, and I refuse to force the situation or bend to something that runs contrary to what I want or who I am.

One step, one breath, one page, one day at a time. Woosahhhhhh.

Taking Advantage

I’m no Mother Teresa, but I would say that I am generous with those that I care about.  I genuinely care for the well-being of those around me, and it matters to me that the people I love have what they need to get by.

That being said, I’m not stupid, nor am I a doormat.  My generosity and kindness should not be mistaken for weakness or vulnerability.  Attempts to take advantage or exploit are hardly going unnoticed.  But I think this is the point where people sometimes get a little lost.

Often, when people realize that someone is taking them for granted, they get down on themselves.  Maybe it cracks their confidence, or maybe it makes them feel like a prize idiot.  Damn that.  Don’t let someone make you feel bad for being who you are.  Remember that what you did came from a good place.  There’s no sense in feeling bad for doing something good.

People are taken for granted all the time.  Rather than let what happened defeat you or eat away at your will and drive, let it fuel you.  Use that experience as motivation, and most of all, learn from it.  At the end of the day, if you’re not making the most of your life, you’re giving in to the negative energy that came to steal away your livelihood.

I am a true believer that you get what you put out into the universe.  Call it Karma, call it an eye for an eye, Yin and Yang, call it comeuppance.  I don’t have to do or say anything, try to get even, yell, or even be angry.  I feel sorry for anyone that would take advantage, because it says something about where they are in their life — maybe they’re going through something.  And I forgive.  There’s no use in hanging onto negativity; it’s just a waste of energy that could be put to better use.

I won’t change who I am or how I treat people.  I won’t stop caring, because that’s now how I operate.  But I will keep my distance.

Racking My Brain

Constantly writing and reading to keep the mind stimulated, but my mind keeps going back to him.  It’s literally been almost a year, but I find the heartstrings playing a familiar tune whenever my mind wanders.  And I don’t want them to, but they just do.  It’s got to stop some time.  The more busy I am, the less my mind will wander… At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

The last several months have been a whirlwind of work, moving to a new apartment, writing, reading, teaching, traveling, editing, and starting new writing projects that get in the way of the old ones.  But it’s a beautiful thing to feel INSPIRED.  It’s so much easier for me to put the proverbial pen to paper, rather than put time toward this blog, but we’re going to find a happy balance.

That’s a promise.