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Hard Truth 210: Meet Clark Kent

On April 29, 2015, I had a date.

A first date.

Worse, actually. A first internet date (FID). The culprit was a fellow inmate at Match.com. A seemingly nice looking fellow who had adequate pictures and a profile that had some thought put into it. He made a remark about yoga and his hips that made me laugh.

We’d set a date.

He’d listed off a few places to meet and I selfishly chose the one that was an 8-minute walk from my house. Well, not entirely selfishly. I’d been prone to saying shit like, “Wherever you want to meet is fine” and ending up driving for 45 minutes to the South Loop here in Chicago only to realize Guy In Question lived (literally) in the high rise next door.

So forgive me. I picked the bar that was an 8-minute walk from my house.

As we exchanged a final pre-meeting email, I signed off with a line I thought was ever-so-clever:

See you then. I’ll be the redhead.

Clever. As. Fuck. Amiriiiite?!

Email in my inbox from him, five minutes later:

Good. I’ll be the guy who looks like Clark Kent. 

Har-har. The glasses. I get it. I don’t think I sent an email in return.

meet clark kent 2

Along comes April 29, the “matching hour” was 7pm. Eight minutes after leaving my front door, I arrived at Rogers Park Social – a darling little neighborhood purveyor of adult beverages. I step inside, scan the room, and there he was, sitting at the bar.

Fuck me if he didn’t look like Clark Kent.

I was left to hope that the personality matched the package.

Because what every gal is hoping when she shows up for one of these Internet First Date things is that she’s what he’s looking for…

In that profile of his – where he was so sure of who he is and what he wants.

And we just hope that he’s not looking for That Girl.

You know – the one who can roll out of bed a mess and still look Cindy Crawford from the late 80s.

The girl who can eat 4 pancakes, a croissant, and hash browns – all washed down by 2 mimosas at brunch and still look like Scarlett Johanssen.

Because I’m not That Girl.

And the moments walking into a First Internet Date are always filled with a mixture of doubt (because you know you’re Not That Girl) and hope (because you just might be THE Girl).

So, two hours later, I’m one dirty martini in and what I really fucking need is some food because I only figured this thing would last an hour like all the other First Internet Dates (FIDs) do and I’d usually be home by now, eating a Trader Joe’s Caramelized Onion and Gruyere Tart, hot out of my oven.

Because SWANK.

But I’m hungry. So Clark Kent graciously pays the tab and I wander us awkwardly (because this is going well, right?) over to a local grill where I proceed to order buffalo fries.

Because (1) DELICIOUS

And because (2) STARVING AND I AM NOT EATING A BURGER IN FRONT OF THIS MAN JUST QUITE YET.

The fries arrive. I invite him to have one.

He unabashedly ascertains that these fries are, without a doubt, in the Top Five Worst Foods He’s Ever Tasted.

He says this with no shame, and there I am, shoving shitty buffalo fries into my gullet and laughing at the unbelievable audacity of a man telling a FID his honest opinion about her suspect food selection.

We (I) eventually abandoned the basket of fries and wandered down the street to another venue. Three hours in.

He’s still here.

My jaw hurts a bit from smiling.

Him, a gin and tonic.

Me, a lemonade. The request alone made the waiter wince. Fuck off. I like lemonade and refuse to be shithoused on my First Internet Date with a man who looks like Clark Kent.

We each get to the bottom of our glasses and as it’s a Wednesday, it’s a literal school night for me and an air-quote school night for him. Our empty glasses sat steps away from the El stop that would take him 2 stops down to his house.

I’m a five block walk away. And he offers to walk me home.

Me: Oh, you don’t have to do that. The train’s right here.

Him: I know. I’ll walk you home.

Me: It’s a 10-block round-trip walk to walk me home.

Him: I’ll walk you home.

You know the moment, as a woman or man, when you’re out with a woman or man or person-thing you’re having a fine time with and you realize that they’ve offered to do something because they want to steal 10 more minutes with you and you’re being an idiot by saying – hey, noooooo you don’t have to do that I am fine and can take care of my damn self yo!?

That moment? Sound familiar?

This was me, realizing I was sitting next to a man who was offering to walk 10 blocks out of his way…just to walk me home.

So I said yes.

And for five blocks, we walked close to one another. Not holding hands, but I realized that I liked the way his arm brushed mine every now and again. The first block or two was all nervous chatter (from me) and then voices fell silent.

We walked up to my front gate and I made some dorky gesture to my balcony, mentioning (obviously) my orange curtains.

He said he would like to see me again. And on the very end of that statement, he punctuated it with a “soon.” It was like the final staple you’d put on a paper you were handing in, because that fucking staple meant that bitch was D-O-N-E.

Soon. I said I’d like that.

And then he reached forward, gently grabbed by coat, pulled me toward his chest and laid a kiss on me that made me forget…

Well, pretty much everything.

I don’t remember what I said after that, but I do remember Clark Kent telling me goodnight and turning – walking back the way we came, back down that sidewalk towards the train that would deposit him safely back at Wayne Manor.

And that night, I stood looking at myself in front of the mirror in my bathroom…

And all I could do was smile.

I can’t speak for him, but since that day in April, I haven’t seen another man. On our second date, we realized that – not only had I almost bought a condo in his building, but one of my conservatory classmates and his wife were his landlords.

We realized over multiple conversations that we both lived in Denver – just a few miles from one another – at the same time. He left in 2010. I left in 2013.

It was all a delightful kind of weird.

And today, his name is Philip.

He’s my dork. He’s the man who’s never asked about Jason, but said that if I ever feel like talking about him, he’d be happy to listen. He’s the guy who saves the Sunday Arts & Leisure section from the New York Times for me (because it’s the only section he doesn’t read and that’s AOK by me). He’s the man who’s seen me break down completely only to be so lit up with joy that the Fourth of July could cancel its fireworks display. He comes to every show I’m in and has no problem telling me he didn’t much care for a play we just saw together.

He’s seen me laugh (and made me laugh) to the point of tears and we’ve shared moments between us that have brought one another to tears.

Because we’re both stoooopid humans who have 40+ years of baggage and life and bullshit each that we’re trying to navigate without breaking one another’s heart.

And Philip is the best part of today – my 43rd birthday.

To me, he’ll always be Clark Kent and I hope you understand why he’s been Clark Kent around here for so very long. I’m very protective of him. Because he’s fallen in love with a woman who lives out loud doesn’t mean he has to give up any part of himself in that heartfelt bargain. And can I just tell you…

It’s really lovely that he’s nowhere to be found on social media. I mean, no Facebook account. No Twitter handle. Nada.

Finally, I have a man who hasn’t seen “the latest video.”

Who has no real working knowledge of hashtags.

Who doesn’t see all the jackassian comments some folks leave on my Facebook page.

It’s lovely to have met a man who’s met the woman – my me – and knows only as much about the persona that social media demands as he sees in my blog (which he does read from time to time).

So today, for my 43rd birthday, I have a birthday wish for each of you wondering when your Clark Kent (or Lois Lane, as the case might be) will come along because you’re sick as shit of dealing with the Lex Luthors and Cat Women (Womans?) of the world:

I spent 30-something years thinking I was broken. That there was something so tragically wrong with my ME that no one would love me. With each year and asshat that passed, I just knew that I would be staring at myself and a pile of shelter animals in the mirror one day, having missed out on something – or someone – that could have made my life better…

And it was all because I was broken. And unlovable.

If you’ve been around my ‘hood for awhile, my writing reflected all of this. It was angry. Angst-filled. Mean. Shitty at times. I was a professional asshole.

Because it’s hard to believe you’re anything but broken when things keep happening to tell you that you’re broken. Time and time again.

And then I met Jason – the first man I’d ever met who took me as I am. Good, bad. Funny and not-so. He called me on my bullshit and never asked me to change. He died.

I spent four years Back to Broken – destroying myself in every way I knew how, yet hiding every bit of that from everyone. Including you.

But here’s the part where I tell you something magical happened. That one day, something shifted and I realized WHAT I DESERVED and WHO WAS WORTHY OF MY HEART.

That didn’t happen. I can tell you what did, though.

Through four years of being alone and nearly drowning in the darkest, most turbulent ocean my soul had ever seen, coming close to checking out of the human race at the 12-mile marker on a 13-mile run – I got to know the girl I was alone with.

Me.

And I started to be honest with myself about what I wanted out of this life. Out of a partner. I re-evaluated my “friends” (read: mostly assholes, just like me). I realized that I liked a lot of what this girl – me – had going on in her heart.

I just really fucking hated what she had going on in her life.

And it’s been a long road back – from feeling broken and unlovable to looking at Philip and wondering every day what I did to deserve this salted caramel-flavored unicorn in my life…this man with one kidney and a heart bigger than any human should ever possibly be allowed…this man who disses my buffalo fries and can tell you more than you’ve ever wanted to know about Humanities and who WRITES THE FUCKING SAT (like, the real SAT test) FOR FUCK’S SAKE (srsly).

It’s been a long and shitty yet glorious road.

And it took me all this time to realize that finding a partner whose weird matches mine…was WORK.

That learning how to BE someone partner when our weirds finally collided…was WORK.

And that he and I have a lot of work laid out before us that we’re not yet aware of and I guarantee you that he’ll likely find more joy in grading student papers from his first-year college students than he will in dealing with my layers of bullshit that have still yet to emerge and I will continue to be annoyed with how he pays cash for everything and never uses his fucking debit card like a normal human being. I mean, for shit’s sake, he had a BLACKBERRY until about 2 months ago with a limited data and text plan!

My wish for you, on this, my 43rd birthday, is that you realize that you’re not broken.

You’re not unlovable.

You’re just fucking WEIRD.

And you were put on this planet to be appreciated by some weird motherfucker you just haven’t met yet.

I’m just glad I didn’t hit the exit button a few years ago – because I was damn close several times – as I’d have missed out on this glorious Clark Kent of a man who makes me feel like the smartest, most beautiful girl in the world even when I know a panel of 9 out of 10 dentists would say I sound completely dumb and look like total shit.

He’s my 10th dentist. And I fucking love him so ridiculously and completely.

On Tuesday, Phil took me out to dinner for my birthday. I snapped a few photos of us — and have included one from a previous and rare Phil-and-Erika on-camera moment. Enjoy meeting Clar…er, Philip.

If you’re having trouble seeing the gallery in your email, go ahead and click through online right here.

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”1″ gal_title=”Phil”]

 

Hard Truth 204: The Thing I Wish I’d Learned About Men

He was beautiful, inside and out. He sat across from me at a dimly lit table and from the moment we each sat down, the conversation just rolled. I laughed, he liked it. I countered, he laughed. Food came, I’m sure it was stuck in my teeth. I hated to get up and go to the bathroom because surely, right there, that’s where the reverie would end because he’d see my ass as I walked away. It’s a nice ass, and on the eve in question, it was bound in Spanx, but it’s never been described as small.

But I got up, went to the bathroom, came back, and a few hours later, it was time to go.

Him: This was lovely.

Me: Yes, it was. I was honestly expecting it to suck more.

Him: Me, too! So, when can I see you again?

Me: Well, it’s a crazy week, but I could do tomorrow or Saturday.

Him: How about you book me for both?

I drove home in the brutal cold that is a Chicago winter, parked my car, and didn’t have a single shit to give that I was walking 6 blocks in high-heeled boots across ice and snow to get to my front door.

Today’s hard truth is mine — it’s what I wish I’d learned about men a long, long time ago.

People will show you who they truly are, and in short order, if you just give them the chance.

 

Because this guy? Batshit fucking crazy.

When I walked into his condo later that first week, it was stark white. I mean, everything was white. If he’d had a cat, it would have been white. My first honest-to-god response was, “Holy shit, is this where they filmed American Psycho?”

But I marveled as he took me on a tour of his lily (white) pad, describing the renovation and his commitment to having a minimalist home.

Seriously. There was nothing on the counters in the fucking kitchen. Nothing. Not even LINT. Now, my kitchen counters aren’t the DMZ, but they have kitchen things on them. Like my partner-for-life Nespresso machine, a blender, and a thing that holds my cooking utensils. Maybe a dish I hadn’t put in the dishwasher yet. And a spoon. Oh, and there’s the dishtowel. And some mail (shit, did I even open that?) and a box from Birchbox and a knife and what the fuck is that…?

You get the idea.

And he drank. Every time we were together, it was 4 glasses of wine. At his place, the bottle. I wasn’t drinking at the time, so I noticed. And then, it was his hot/cold approach. And then it was the day he told me a story of turning around and yelling at a small child on an airplane with a gleam of pride in his eyes. Then it was the time that passed between calls and text that grew from a jovial banter spanning a no more than an hour…to days.

And then finally, a month and a half later, it was over. After telling me a week before waking up next to me that — this morning, right here — was one of the best mornings of his life, he says (over a call he SCHEDULED with me to which I’m like, well, by all means, get me on your calendar because there’s nothing like a scheduled dumping, amiriiiite?) that he’d been thinking about us for awhile now and he likes me but he just doesn’t see this thing between us going anywhere.

In retrospect, I should have stopped at the American Psycho condo.

Hindsight is always 20/15, isn’t it?

dog turd in tiffany box

A dog turd in a Tiffany’s box is still a turd, baby.

I think there’s a part in all of us that makes us want to see the best in people. Or at least, we find a way to tell ourselves that these few good things about a person we’re interested in comprise the better part of the person.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve rationalized myself into staying in more things that made me feel bad than I can count.

Long after a man’s shown me who he is, I’m still there.

I’m there because I’m sick of online dating.

I’m there because maybe he’s just not a great communicator and I shouldn’t expect someone to text my rapid-fire-finger self back right away. And who really calls someone back the same day?

I stay because there’s a part of me that thinks that this is what a relationship is really like and maybe Hollywood movies have me thinking there’s a fairy tale that doesn’t exist and I should just deal because yes, it’s reasonable to sleep at his house every fucking time even though I have 2 dogs and a cat and he’s allergic to the cat.

I stay.

Or rather, I stayed.

Yeah, you’ve stayed, too.

We stay for a lot of reasons. But I think the reason we stay is because there’s one thing we want and we’re hoping that, in the ashes that surround each of our mildly tragic lives burning around us, there are embers of hope…

that we will be loved.

And what I didn’t realize is that by staying in the hopes that I would be loved, I likely never would be — by him, at least.

We can’t stay hoping that things will change because the thing that needs to change is how someone else feels about us and — as a retired career “fixer,” I can tell you this:

it’s pretty fucking impossible to change how someone feels.

But I stayed. And you stayed, too. We wanted to see the best in the person standing before us because there’s a smile in our souls when we walk through a door on someone’s arm. There’s an iota of validation that is oh-so-sweet when you can use the we and us in conversations instead of the ever-so-tired I.

We stay.

And today’s hard truth…well, maybe it’s less about how someone will show you exactly who they are if you give them a chance and more about…going.

Learning to go.

Because what we leave behind makes room for the good stuff.  The good ones.

And when we each lead lives so busy and full of stuff and things and each day we wake, hoping that this will be the day that we are truly loved — we’ll never be loved if our lives are filled with people and partners who aren’t good for us.

They can be good people, but that doesn’t mean they’re good for us.

I mean, think about THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY. The one you cried over for hours days in high school or college that you swore you’d love for the rest of your life. Today, you see them married. With kids. And you look at what they post on Facebook (because naturally, you’re Facebook friends because SEE HOW AWESOME MY LIFE IS WITHOUT YOU?!) and all you can think is, “Holy shitsnacks — you’re exactly the same.”

Good people. Just not good for you.

So if I can leave you with one wish today, it’s that you learn — or have already learned — how to go. How to make room in your life for the people that deserve to be in it and let the others find their brand of weird.

Because when we learn to go, we just might stumble into the person worth staying for — and the best part of all?

There will be room when he or she shows up.

As there’s one thing I can tell you — the good-for-you people can smell someone with a life filled with bullshit from a mile away. And they have no problem leaving that shit behind.

Way, way behind. Because there’s absolutely no room for them in that inn.

or

 

 

 

Hard Truths, Day 2: A List on Love, with Love

 

This post is part of my series 41 Years in 30 Days. You can find the entire series here as I write them.

In eight days now, I creep further into my 40s and hit 42. While not a birthday they make specialty cards for, it’s still pretty awesome. Also, if there were special cards for turning 42, I’d imagine the greetings would go something like this:

Happy birthday. I got you vodka, a housekeeper, and a picture of what your tits looked like when you were 16.

For your 42nd birthday, I found your dream man. But then I woke up.

Clive Owen called. He’s not coming.

What do Coors Light and your 42nd birthday have in common? Celebrating either is completely tasteless.

So there’s that.

hard truths day 2 love

Today’s hard truth is about love. In 42 years, I’ve learned a lot about it – and it’s best dealt with in a list. Lists are raw. Bulleted. Numbered. So let’s go.

  • Falling in love is easy. Staying in love is the hard part.
  • There’s a difference between being in love and loving someone. Love is what happens when the shiny wears off and you’re left with an unpretty, flawed human staring back at you – and you still say YES.
  • Love will always hurt when you do it right. But it hurts to make things better, not worse or the same.
  • Love might not last, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real and it wasn’t wonderful while it lasted.
  • Always say the one thing you’re terrified to say, because The Universe might come along and snatch love from your tender hands. And should that moment happen, it sucks immortal amounts of ass to look back and regret not saying that one loving thing you didn’t think you had the courage to say. But you did. And you do.
  • It’s not about how long you can talk with one another. It’s about whether you crave one another when silence creeps in.
  • Family love is weird. Just plain old fuckin’ weird.
  • I’ve offered my heart up willingly to many men who weren’t deserving. While I’ve learned how to better protect my heart over time, I’d never trade vulnerability for the inability and lack of opportunity to feel heartbreak.
  • The glorious thing about heartbreak is that you get to pick up the pieces that matter and leave the rest behind.
  • There is something lovely about every shitty relationship I’ve been in.
  • Some people aren’t built to love you (or anyone, much less themselves) – and that’s their shit, not yours.
  • My exes are never assholes. They are who they are and I chose to date them and I’m not someone who chose to date an asshole.
  • My willingness to see the best in men, friends, family doesn’t change who they are at the core. Some people stopped emotionally growing long before I ever met them. I can wish they’d change in one hand and shit in the other. Guess which one is going to fill up first?
  • I don’t have to apologize for what I love or whom I love unless the whom hurts other whoms I love. Should that happen, I need a serious fucking reality check.
  • Never be with someone you need. Be with someone you want…and who wants you.
  • There is no greater love than the love I hold for myself. It’s a love deserving of my attention and it’s hard fucking work to learn to love yourself. Each day, I do hope to become better at this.
  • If you’re ever with someone who finds more flaws in you than things to celebrate, they deserve zero of your fucks.
  • Don’t believe words. Believe actions, feelings, and your gut. Your gut is one honest motherfucker.
  • I need to stop kicking my own ass for relationships that don’t work out because they’re not supposed to work out and I’m human and shit happens and ooooohhhhhhh look – a pygmy marmoset!
  • When I’m down about love, I think about every man I’ve loved and what would’ve happened if it had worked out. And then I Facebook stalk my wasband and realize he looks like the bloated body of a Sammy Hagar impersonator washed up on the beach. Suddenly, I feel fabulous.
  • You can love your work, but if you love it at the expense of the people whom you love and love you, is it really work worth doing?
  • If your list of dealbreakers is longer than your wish of hope-fors, you’re going to be alone (and lonely) for a very long time.
  • Love is an asshole. It never asks permission to show up and blindsides you. Seriously – it’s a dick.
  • My whole heart cannot belong to someone else. Every time I’ve done that, a piece of me dies.
  • Disney can suck a bag of left-bending dicks. Princesses aren’t real and I don’t need to be rescued.
  • Love challenges you. It doesn’t accept you unconditionally.
  • If you give up on your you, how can you expect someone to fall in love with your you?
  • Your friends should love you, not hurt you, keep you down, talk shit about you behind your back (or to your front). If they don’t, get new friends.
  • Dogs are always happy to see you. Sometimes the people who love you will be pissed at you…and vice versa.
  • When you keep someone who hurts your heart in your heart, there’s no room in your heart for someone who makes you feel wonderful and values you for the fan-fucking-tastic human being that you are.
  • Every time you talk shit about your partner, imagine them talking shit about you and whether you’d want that. Then ask yourself why you’re even with this person.
  • Venting is one thing. Disdain and contempt are another realm entirely and kill any chance for love.
  • While you think it to be true, you will not die should you lose someone you love. While a piece of you might die with them, you are a resilient motherfucker and capable of more than you know. Sadly (and thankfully) I know this.
  • Love isn’t a definition in a dictionary. It’s yours. Define it. Reinvent it. Embrace it. Fuck it silly and pull its hair a bit. Hold it, get in its face, and support it. But never (ever) put it down.
  • Search parameters on Match.com are a good starting point. Being a dick about checkboxes…well, it just makes you a dick.
  • When you degrade someone you love, you’re degrading yourself. Why would you be with someone you can talk that way about?
  • Sometimes love is saying, “I can’t do this. Be well. Goodbye.” And walking the fuck away. With tears in your eyes and crying for days. Because your tears will dry and it’s perfectly possible to love someone you’re not in love with.
  • Falling in love and loving isn’t where it stops. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t be lovable. And that just sucks because you’re awesome.
  • If you don’t love you, it’s damn near impossible fro anyone else to love you.
  • That guy who hit you, the girl who cheated on you, the dumbass who stood you up, the dude who died, the gal who broke your heart — remember that past performance isn’t indicative of future results.
  • Love yourself. Love your family. Love your friends. THEN love your partner. In that order. You just might find that your partner becomes family. And then everything is fucking magic.
  • Show up. Don’t quit. Fighting isn’t worth it, but fighting for the one you love…is.
  • There is a difference between fighting WITH and fighting FOR.
  • Never say “fuck you” to anyone you love.
  • And when the mood strikes you and you think you could do this – this could be the person who could make you happy and challenge you to become the next better version of yourself. You want to eat jalapeno poppers with them in bed at 9:34am on a Sunday and cry hysterically when they’ve been stung by a bee and are in anaphylactic shock in an emergency room on the brink of death. You want to see them wrinkly. You want to be wrinkly. You see their heart before you see their ass/six-pack/bank account/Porsche.  When you think for a moment you could do this for the rest of your life…say hello. You might be surprised and find it says hello right back.
  • Whenever I think I’ve learned all there is to know about love, something always comes along to remind me that I have a lot more learning to do.
  • Love is hard work. Hard as hell. If it were easy, it would be called “beer,” not “love.”

The Bitch Slap: A Text Message? Really…

bitch slap text messageWe talked about this already. You were going to put the phone down and plug into real, live human behavior. You were going to start acting like people acted before they started hiding behind technology.

You were going to stop being a pussy.

Some days I really lose faith in humanity. Sunday was one of those days. I got stood up for a 7:30am riding date. No call, text, carrier pigeon, smoke signal. Zip. Jack shit. But 2 hours later into my three-flat tire ride…

pling!

Text message. From the offender. Apologizing profusely.

FAIL.

You stand me up, you pick up the fucking phone and you CALL me. You do not type an apology. You do not send me an email. You would have only had to touch 10 numbers to reach me, but instead you hammered-out a 200 character text message to say you overslept?

HUMAN. BEING. FAIL.

I didn’t text back. To the first message OR the next two that followed – one later that day and the one that came last night.

Why?

Because if you don’t get that an apology requires you to tap into the human side of the communication process, there’s nothing I could type back that will have any impact whatsoever.

You can think I’m a bitch or add in a “Gee, Erika – no wonder you’re single” snide remark. Please – be my guest. But when someone disrespects you or hurts your feelings, do you want a digital “I’m sorry” coming your way?

We hide behind technology because we want to distance ourselves from the fallout of our actions. Whether actions were intentional or completely inadvertent, we’ve thrown a grenade. And we’re the ones who get to duck and run for cover? That’s complete bullshit. If you chuck the grenade, stick your head up over the fence like a grownup and take the blast. If you show up late for the office or don’t bother to call in to work, will your boss stand for a text message or email apology? I’m thinkin’ not. And I’m thikin’ you’ll have some ‘splainin to do, Lucy. There is no such thing as an iRelationship or iFriendship. Stop gnawing on the digital teat and start tuning in real, live human behavior.

And I get that taking the blast might not feel great (then again, what you did probably didn’t feel great, either), but you might end up with something that feels pretty great: a continued connection with a kickass person. And you’ll also show the person that you’ve got some balls. We suck at humbling ourselves. Which is why we should probably do it more often.

So I’ll ask you again: Put the phone down. Stop typing. Every type of communication has its place. I’ve done it. You’ve done it. Let’s stop it.

You’ve been slapped.

PS: I’m a shameless vote whore – stop by and vote for The Redhead in Westword’s Best of the Web Awards 2010! (I’ve included a plug for one of my favorite blogs in there as well). It’s Denver’s coolest pop culture pub and shucks – it would be awesome to win!

PPS: No phones were harmed in the making of today’s Bitch Slap…

The Bitch Slap: How to Date in Denver When You’re a D-Bag

greg hollenback denver not himDear Mr. Hollenback~

As a resident of the greater Cherry Creek and Glendale area here in Denver, I receive the Glendale Cherry Creek Chronicle in my mailbox each month. While I generally only give it a cursory flip through, your recent article “How to Date in Denver When You’re Dead” caught my eye. I hope you don’t mind, but I felt the headline was inaccurate. Hence, I renamed it in my column here today.

Somewhere along the way, you’ve acquired the moniker “Sheik of Cherry Creek,” while I can’t imagine who comprises your harem. Your recent column is a cesspool of misogyny – and the last time I issued a smackdown of this magnitude, it was to Douglas Brown over at the Denver Post for his ill-researched, faux exploration of cougar culture. Pull up a chair – you’re about to get Bitch Slapped.

“Cut this column out, fold it up and put it in your back pocket. I’m serious. What you are about to read should be your first date constitution, the holy grail of dating. You could be a dead guy and use this recipe for success. It’s war out there and you need to be as prepared as possible when you enter back into the dating battlefield and if you’re not you will be left for dead, broke and lonely.”

Incorrect, Greg. It’s NOT war in the world of man-meets-woman. Perhaps for the douchebags who would read your column and take your advice as the holy grail, but not for the average population. It’s no shocker your column is dubbed “Confessions of a Serial Dater.,” as if you’re following your own advice, you’re likely to have more drinks in your face than beauties on your arm.

“First, you have to get your head right. Remember, women are wired to be dysfunctional by nature and when emotion overrides logic you know you’re in for a wild ride.”

This line actually made me spit Fresca. I truly adore the fact that you begin an article purported to be the Holy Grail for dating with a really offensive judgment on the nature of womankind. Now, I’ll hand it to you that there is psycho pussy wild and loose on the streets of Denver, but it’s douchebags like yourself that make it hard for all the kickass guys and gals out there looking for someone to share their lives with (or at least not kick out of bed for an extended period of time).

How about if I came out and said that every guy is a chauvinistic, self-absorbed, cheating, infantile, commitmentphobe dickhead? While I’ve met damn fine array of men in my lifetime who share one or an assortment of those qualities, it’s not an accurate assessment of men as a whole, is it? And it’s guys like you who spew such crap – and in a family-oriented community newspaper and a forgettably trafficked Blogspot blog, nonetheless – that make it hard for the hordes of decent guys out there because the awesome chicks think they’re assholes because some douchebag pigeonholed them. Alas, I could go on about this one aspect forever, but let’s move on to some of the other Holy Grail of Dating-type gems in your column.

“Your approach is everything. Your first impression and getting a woman to go out on a date with you is half the battle. Except don’t ever, and I mean never, call it a date…”

Really? We’re not “dating” anymore? Well, slap me and call me Myrna. See, when I go to sites like Match.com, guess what I’m looking for? A date. I’m not going to Friend.com or BeMyHikingBuddy.com. I’m going to a site that allows me to connect with MEN in order to explore future romantic involvement. And I never want to wonder if something is a “date” or not. So for fuck sake, it’s a date. Women appreciate straightforward. Go “hang out” with your buddies and watch the game. Take a girl on a date. After you’ve been dating a girl for awhile, you can “hang out” with her on the couch. But guess what – you’re probably going to have to take her out on a few dates first.

“So when you say, “Let’s go grab a happy hour and have some laughs” she is hearing a fun statement rather than a question that she can say “no” to. “Let’s go” rather than “Would you like to,” and “grab” meaning quick, in and out if she’s not having fun. Then “happy hour” and “laughs,” the double banger, booze and laughing, which are two of women’s favorite pastimes.”

Heavens. This is simply precious: booze and laughing are two of women’s favorite pastimes. Maybe this is true in the middle of Skankville where you apparently go trolling for your strange, but not among the smart and sexy women I know – and especially here in Denver. My girlfriends’ favorite pastimes include things like cycling, hiking, climbing, knitting, salsa dancing, charity work, going to a Rockies game and working in the garden. And sure – we dig a beer or glass of wine before, during or after some of those activities, too. But I dare say that no lady having any semblance of class, here in Denver or elsewhere, would list booze on any list of pastimes. If alcohol becomes a pastime, that’s called being an alcoholic.

“And remember resistance causes attraction so if you can get her to wonder if you’re into her and create a little mystery you will begin to have women chasing you in no time.”

Aside from my overwhelming urge to copyedit this sentence, I’ll just address the content. No, I don’t want to wonder if a guy is into me. Not at all. It’s total bullshit and a game that douchebag “dating folks” like you need to stop perpetuating. If you want to play games, move along before you end up a chalk outline in my dating neighborhood, because I’ll pass you over and mark you forgettable before you can even check your phone a 17th time to see if I’ve texted you back.

Great relationships are borne out of mutual attraction, timing, circumstance and…that “thing.” And let me just say that if you like someone enough to sit down and think, “Hmmmm…how am I going to jack with his/her head so they know how much I like them?” I’ll just say that you’re probably not too terribly into that person. I’ve been blessed with some amazing relationships in my life, and while they all didn’t turn out to be forever, not a single one of those men fucked with my head. And I didn’t fuck with theirs, either.

(The next outtake immediately follows the previously eviscerated sentence in Mr. Hollenback’s column.)

“After all we are merely extensions of nature; women are little flowers looking for the strongest seed to pollinate them. Be strong and safe out there.”

I am not a flower. Women are not flowers. We are women, and while we may have the urge to become mothers some day, I do not require any man to “pollinate” me. This is, by far, the most offensive fallacy you put forth in your laughable column. You’re trying to tell me that you honestly feel that women are meek and men superior and my days spent looking for one who will bless me with his seed? Let me guide you through a day in my world.

I get up between 5 and 5:30 A.M. I head to the gym or yoga. Back home, and get jazzed for my work day. You see, I own a consulting business and am a professional writer. If I don’t move my business forward, who will? Throughout the day, I speak with colleagues, work with clients, acquire new projects and close out ones completed. I laugh, I swear, I smack spiders with a shoe and mow the lawn. I’ll hop on my bike for a training ride my coach has laid out for me, have dinner with friends, cook and indulge in a little Netflix. Then I’ll wrap things up and get ready to do it all again tomorrow.

Do you see a need to be “pollinated” anywhere in my day? I’ll venture to guess there are a ton of guys who have pretty much identical days, too.

I’m looking for a partner, and yes, it’s true: I dig the good old Texas Hangdown. I dig dudes. It will be wonderful when the man with whom I’ll move through my life emerges and we can build a relationship. Laughter (sans the booze), straightforward communication (no cryptic bullshit) and the desire to make one another’s lives better. To help one another be whatever it is they dream of being. That’s what I’m looking for. If children are in the mix, it’ll happen. If my plumbing doesn’t work, we’ll adopt and there’s the miracle of modern reproductive medicine to help things along if that’s the path we choose. But I don’t need pollination. I’ve never met a woman in my thirty-seven years who did.

“Follow me on Twitter at sheikofcc and don’t forget to go to www.greghollenback.com to comment on this and previous months issues of “Confessions of a Serial Dater” along with Denver’s most complete singles social calendar and a way to get a hold of me for one on one date coaching. In the next article, “Happy Hour, Happy Ending” I am going to tell you where to go on your first date!”

It terrifies me to no end that you offer “one on one date coaching.” Frankly, why would anyone want dating advice from someone who describes themselves as a “serial dater?” I want dating advice from friends and family who know me and care, a professional matchmaker or a therapist (since all women are inherently dysfunctional, we all must have one, right?). I certainly don’t want it from you, and I’ll venture to say that none of my male readers, single or otherwise, would either.

And I’m pretty much appalled at the proposed headline for your next column: “Happy Hour, Happy Ending.” The phrase “happy ending” is synonymous with jerking off a patron in a massage parlor. I can certainly hold out hope that the editor over at the Chronicle will do his or her due diligence and strike that prior to publication.

To wind things up, I’m wondering if the Glendale Cherry Creek Chronicle’s editor was drunk or high when they accepted your column for publication and subsequently featured you on the home page of their website. I know someone had to have looked at it prior to print, as they were sober enough to fix the glaring grammatical and usage errors displayed in your blog version for the most part. But your advice to men looking to get the attention of “hot, modern women” is so simultaneously false, demeaning and otherwise offensive that I can’t believe a neighborhood-oriented publication in the suburbs of Denver has taken it to print and offered it to their audience. It’s not entertaining. It’s not even well-written. It’s just…well, it’s crap.

Glendale and Cherry Creek are places where people raise families. I don’t see a single father out there who would teach his son of the “holy grail of dating” you spew.

And you, Mr. Hollenback, have been Bitch Slapped. And you’re a first: I’ve never Bitch Slapped a person before, yet in this situation, I’ve made an exception.

Sincerely,

Erika Napoletano
Head Redhead/Not a Flower
RHW Media

Access

They key to one's heart - it's granted by access. Erika Napoletano is Redhead Writing.

To the man in front of me driving the dingy black Toyota Camry with the sticker on the rear windshield that looks like a fairy shat a hairball and your left hand dangling a cigarette out the driver’s window, funneling its pungent stank into my car window rolled down…

I. Can’t. Breathe.

I’m reminded that I can, indeed, breathe as I’m sucking in the trailing remnant of the cancer you’re causing yourself and I wish you’d just fucking die and get the hell out of my way. Then again, that would be inconvenient as I’d be stuck in some horrific traffic jam, a witness to some sort of spontaneous combustion and stuck on the evening news with my face looking like a sixteen-year-old who just came off nine back-to-back shifts at Burger King’s deep fryer.

About four miles back, I’d just told the man I love that I needed to not see him for awhile. That he needed to stop texting me cute pictures of his young sons as each tore me apart a little bit more, as all I ever wanted was to spend more time with them. With him. That I couldn’t be his friend right now.

Not now.

As each time I saw him, I wanted to walk over and touch him. Kiss him. Scratch his head, tickle him and rub his shoulders. No particular order. I just wanted to do as I had for the past eleven months and as of last Monday said I couldn’t anymore.

As I sit here in my emotional motorized box of wreckage behind the Fairyshat Mobile wishing I believed that sometimes the best decisions are the ones that hurt the most, I begin to think of the one word that’s frequently come to mind following the end of my first real relationship since December of 2005 (aka The Month Erika Prevented Marriage #3):

Access.

When we leave the house each day in search of our fairy tale, I don’t believe that we go looking for love. I believe we go in search of access. There’s plenty on life’s road designed to keep us out: traffic lights, barricades, child-proof tops on bottles of sleeping pills (whistles), locked doors, dipshit speed walkers who spread out three-wide in the bike lane…

We’re in search of those things – and people – that will let us in. Give us access. And in return, we’re looking for people and situations worthy of access to us. That’s not love. That’s risk.

Access is never safe and we can never be sure. It’s never wrapped in a ribbon and comes with no guarantees. It’s a gaping chasm filled with fire-breathing penguins, admitting you don’t know and letting someone see you at your worst so that some day you might learn how to become your best – and as risk would have it, the person you want is standing on the other side of that penguin-filled chasm, holding out their hand and saying, “I’ve got ya – come on over.”

Risk is putting yourself a situation and acknowledging that when you indulge, you may find yourself sitting on your sofa under a freshly installed ceiling fan on a late Friday night in June pounding out marathon-length sentences enumerating the nuances of access and risk since typing is free and therapists run $150 per hour.

On a semi-related note, I recently picked up a copy of Dave Egger’s “Heartbreaking Work of a Staggering Genius.” When reading the back cover, I was disheartened to find that it had nothing to do with ceiling fan installation.

Whether we’re the ones in search of access or deciding to grant it to someone else, it’s as if we’re standing naked on our front porch in a snowstorm asking the one we’ve chosen to run their naked ass through the blizzard, grab our hand and run with us down the street (yes, we’re both still naked) in search of a Starbucks with hot coffee that doesn’t mind naked patrons. Not so easy to find and there aren’t too many people we’re willing to run naked though a snowstorm with – so when you find it, well…it’s special.

And sometimes, people give you glimpses.

Glimpses aren’t bridges over the chasm of fire-breathing penguins. They’re more like ladders over the Khumbu Ice Falls on the way to the summit of Mt. Everest. They look like a great idea.  Functional. We cross them because we want what’s on the other side. But what’s been offered to us isn’t a hand saying “Take me – I’ve got ya.”

It’s more like, “Hey – if you wanna come over here, ya gotta cross THIS.”

With each step, you look down and see those shitty little penguins beckoning you into a heart-wrecking fall to your (or your heart’s) death – yet on the other side, you see what looks like access. And since you want it, you keep walking over some fucked-up ladder wearing alpine climbing gear, wondering who the hell ever decided this was “safe” and exactly how much had you paid to get here?

And sometimes, we’re the ones extending the ladder over the ice chasm instead of the hand.

And it sucks. Sometimes people do just enough to get us to keep crossing the ladder in hopes that they’ll soon build us a bridge, ask us to take their hand. Sometimes it’s not their fault. Sometimes they’re hurt and doing their best to grant access, yet their best is the ladder while they think they’re giving a bridge. And we love them for who they are in the meantime.

Yet in the meantime, we’re not getting what we want. Yeah, we’re good at burying what we want for awhile because each time we cross the chasm via ladder, we think we’re getting access. After awhile, however, it starts to feel like one of those “seriously?” obstacle courses from American Gladiator and we begin to wonder when we signed up to be on a cancelled reality show with hyper-buffed dudes in stars and stripes Speedos and chicks with cast iron tits.

And then, maybe you do what I did: ask the blunt question.

At thirty-seven years ripe, I know the essence of what I want – and it all requires access. A partner, a family, a home (in every sense). And notice I didn’t say a husband, children and a house. The two lists are very different – to me, at least.

A partner, a family and a home – they’re blessings for an already full life I’ve created with friends who love me (and remind me, especially when my heart breaks), a career that makes me smile each day and long list of things that fill my hours with laughter and smiles. Sure, I have shitty days now and again – in fact, I recently described my feelings about a shit day as if I were a snow bank surrounded by well-hydrated dogs – but it’s all recoverable. Not that my current heartbreak isn’t, but I’m looking for the beauty in a partnership.

Where we each won’t always be happy, but we’ll be happy with our decision to have committed to one another. Family won’t always bring laughter, but we’ll always (no matter how many lamps broken, walls written on, parents who pass or taxes we pay) have one another and be better for it when we pull our heads out of our asses to realize it. Where the walls might need new paint and the hardwood floors are gouged from countless dropped toys and “experiments” but each ding and dent builds a collection of memories that, when we take the time to remember them, make us want to find ways to make more. Together.

Yes, I’m a hopeless romantic. Nearly thirty-eight years hasn’t killed that in me. I don’t regret loving or knowing that there was no place I’d rather fall asleep or wake up than next to him. If I could name what it is I’ll miss most, it’ll be the moments where the glimpses turned into access. They came in the form of two young boys who shouted “Miss Erika!” and playfully argued who I’d flip upside down first and swing around by their legs until they were too dizzy to walk. When I heard him tell me that he loved me…and I knew it.  Those times where he didn’t try to “fix” things when I was having a bad day and just listened. When I heard him tell me what he wanted to do and where he wanted to go, what being a father meant to him and knowing that sharing those things with me wasn’t easy. The rare times he let me help him and the more frequent times I heard him laugh and got to see him smile.

That’s access.

So that’s why I believe that we don’t leave the house each day in search of love and if all we want is a husband (or wife), kids and a house, we’re missing the boat. The best moments in my life have been borne from risk and looking down into the penguin-filled chasm and knowing there was a reason to cross the bridge and take that hand. While I’m still mistaking ladders for bridges, it doesn’t mean the love wasn’t real.

It just means that I took a risk. I slipped and fell in love and granted someone access. I’m looking forward to the day where my heart’s ready to do it again. And if it hadn’t been for the last eleven months, I’d never have used the phrase “fire-breathing penguins.” I have Him to thank for that. And that alone makes this discovery on access, my own little Heartbreaking Work, a literary win.

***10:05pm on Friday, June 25, 2010 – As I entered the final period above, my phone chimed with a text message. From Him. Telling me that earlier today, a mutual acquaintance (all of thirty-seven years-old) from track racing suffered an aneurysm and is in the hospital on life support. The past fifteen minutes meant two calls with one girlfriend who also knows this incredibly vibrant man. The second call informing me that she was just told that he is brain dead.

This is a man (and if you’d met him, you’d probably call him a “dude”) I only met two months ago on my first trip down to the velodrome in Colorado Springs. Not once did he ever look at me or talk to me like I was crazy for wanting to do this “track cycling” thing or treat me like His girlfriend and that was the only reason I was there. Covered with tattoos from head to toe, he radiated life and was funny as hell – and not too shabby on the bike with one gear and no brakes. The last conversation I had with him was him asking me how “my man” was and my meek response that he was no longer “my man.” He then asked me if I missed him, to which I responded, “Every day.” And then he said, “Well, then you did it right.”

I don’t even remember if I said bye when he left the track that day.

But having known him barely two months, that’s a guy who understood access. And I think it really sucks that someone like that can disappear in a moment. I feel terrible for his wife, whom I met a few weeks ago, who never in a million years woke up this morning and thought she’d end the day wondering if she would be a widow.

I almost wish I’d never written the post above now. It feels mildly trite and a bit whiny. And the person I want to call and say “I love you” to…well, I doubt he wants to hear it. So I’ll skip it and just wish I had the balls to do it, regardless of the consequences.

***I learned mid-day on Saturday that Vibrant passed away Friday night.