I Don’t Really Want Anything

Photo by Deniz Altindas on Unsplash

Before I start, I want to acknowledge Anne Peterson’s piece How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation and Tiana Clark’s piece This is What Black Burnout Feels Like. This essay isn’t exactly a response to those writers, but reading their works helped me to finally focus this essay, which I’ve tried to write many times with no success. This essay is also not advice; this is how I get through each day, that’s all. 

It took me several tries to get through Ms. Peterson’s essay about burnout. In fact, I only finished it because I wanted to write about it, and figured that I should at least read the whole thing before I critiqued it. I also abandoned my response to Ms. Peterson’s essay because I realized I didn’t really care about what she was saying. I don’t mean that to be dismissive of her concerns; I mean that they weren’t concerns to me. I already know I don’t make alot of money, and I don’t mail things or sharpen knives because those things are boring.

I was able to read Ms. Clark’s essay much quicker, but honestly, I wouldn’t have read it if a friend hadn’t asked my opinion about it. Ms. Clark’s essay was more important because it presented the struggles that Black women face, and I need to be more aware of that. But outside of  those specific challenges, I was similarly uninterested. I know how much it sucks to be Black, and I’ve long passed the point where I’m tired of being reminded. When my friend asked me what I thought of the essay, I responded with this:

 

I think two things. One, this is a great article, both as a response to the original and as its own standalone piece. The challenges and traumas of being a Black woman in America are more specific and daunting than anything me or Anne Peterson experience, and need to be shared for the benefit of other Black women (which could lead me into a whole rant about editors in general, but in the interest of not writing an essay right now, I’ll table that). For me, what I can do is read this and respond with kindness and understanding to the Black women around me.


As a more general response: yesterday on the bus ride to work, I went through my music and put all of the anime songs I listen to on one playlist. I named the playlist “Change the Future.” This is the music I listen to when I’m hyping myself up to work hard for the life that I want. I don’t mean working harder at my job, because fuck that. For what? To make $5000 more? $10,000? No thanks. I’m working three days a week right now and make zero apologies for it. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been, living with two roommates and sleeping with my 11 year old son in the same bed. I can’t relate to alot of the stuff that I read in these millennial articles because I don’t care about them. I don’t care about owning a home, buying a car, traveling around the world etc. Not because I’m not interested in those things in the abstract, but because I have no desire to work as hard as you apparently must to get them. That’s my own personal tradeoff- I can’t work three days a week and have anything. But that’s cool, because I’d rather only work three days a week than have that stuff.

I don’t have stress about deadlines or work opportunities anymore. If I don’t want to do something, I just don’t. I felt the stress and anxiety that Tiana Clark describes about her work for a long time- the need to impress, to prove my worth, to be “a credit to my race,” to not let down the ancestors, all of it. And then after being fucking miserable all the time, I asked myself why? I don’t actually like the people I need to impress, so why do I give a fuck what they think? To have money? So that they’ll give me a chance? Pass, and fuck them. There’s always another job, always another bridge to burn. Maybe that’s why, despite being a decent writer, I post most of my stuff for free on my blog instead of being on a paid staff somewhere. But whatever, that’s just another tradeoff. I’m not stressing myself out anymore. 

I listen to the anime music to get hyped about working hard to change the world we live in. We live in a nightmare world that’s about to get MUCH worse, but it has finally occurred to me that maybe it won’t? That maybe it’s possible to actually do something about it? That slavery must have seemed eternal (and for the people who lived and died under it, it was), but enough people fought and suffered to end it, across hundreds of years. Those people changed the future, and now it’s my turn. Others have suffered immensely for me to have the privileges I do, from my ancestors across time and space to my roommate who did two tours in Iraq to afford the house he so graciously rents to me. All of that is privilege. So I put on my music and deeply believe the platitudes about trying my best, the power of friendship and always moving forward, not for a millennial definition of success or to please the ancestors. As imperfect and insufficient as my attempts are, I do them for the people around me.

While I’ve referenced both Ms. Peterson and Ms. Clark pretty heavily until now, again, this essay isn’t about them. Instead, it’s about the next question my friend asked me. She asked, “How did you decide to refocus in this way to work less and be happy with what you have? Do you really not worry about money?”

No, I really don’t worry about money. That’s partly because of all the privileges I’ve been granted through dumb luck- the accident of my birth in this place at this time; the generosity of the people around me; the ability of a physically unremarkable person like me to make a living thanks to the miracles of technology. But it’s also because I don’t care about most things. I’ll go more into that for those interested, but the short version is, I want to do what I wan, and I want other people to have the ability to do what they want, whatever it is, so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else. That’s it.

The latter part of that incredibly long sentence is pretty straightforward. Yeah, I try to work against racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. because those things prevent people from doing what they want. Women should be able to do whatever, as should transgender people, Native Americans, everyone. I don’t care what you do. Work where you want. Wear what you want. Fuck who you want. Use whatever pronoun you want. And if it makes you happy, then sure, I’ll call you whatever you want. It really doesn’t matter to me. But I also know that my nonchalant attitude towards all of these things is not the standard opinion, so I do have to work to make sure that people have the right to do whatever they want. That’s where the anime music comes in, to motivate me to do the right thing.

It’s the former part that I had to arrive at eventually. And I arrived at it by realizing, after five years of working full time, that I fucking hate it. I quit my last full time job with no plan for where I would work instead, but at that point I’d decided that I would rather have the stress and anxiety of not knowing where my next check would come from than the stress and anxiety of waking up earlier than I wanted to, to go to a place I didn’t want to go to, and do work I didn’t want to do. I’m trying to work as little as possible. I derive no personal fulfillment or value from my job. That’s what the rest of my life is for. 

I was also confident that I could make whatever money I had last because I don’t need alot of stuff*. That’s a result of the way I grew up- having a car was the exception, not the rule when I was a kid, so I’ve been riding the bus my whole life. When people talk about the convenience of having a car, my feeling is generally, “But if you plan your bus trip, then what’s the big deal?” It takes longer, sure, but I just read or listen to music or sleep. To me, that’s a pretty good use of the time. Walking to the bus stop in the winter sucks, but in the summer it’s the best. And on the days I don’t feel like standing in the cold, there’s Uber. My parents also didn’t own a home, and we were very transient. Anything above transience is a major step up. Not having a car and not having a house is not very expensive, so I don’t really need that much money.

[*It’s also important to recognize and be thankful for the massive privileges I have. I say, “I don’t need alot of stuff,” but I also live in a place with abundant access to food, water, electricity and every amenity of modern life. I can take all of those things for granted, and I did nothing to earn those things except be born as an American.]

Beyond that, I’m generally a low maintenance guy. In an essay I wrote about dating, I described going to Providence for a date. It was a wonderful city, and it’d be nice to go back, but if I never do, whatever. A couple of days later I had another date where I went to the batting cages and ate Subway. I had an amazing time, and it cost maybe $40. I enjoyed the date because I enjoyed the woman I was with, and I don’t really care what we’re doing, as long as we’re doing it together. 

In the best summer of my marriage, all my ex-wife and I did was smoke weed, eat candy and watch Battlestar Galactica. My favorite pastime with my last was to buy a cheap store brand pizza, some cheap chicken wings, smoke and play Smash Bros. That’s all I really need- someone to smoke with, fuck and watch TV with. Everything else sounds nice, but I don’t care about those things. The things I want (weed, sex and conversation) are cheap.

I can live on PB&J, cereal and spaghetti forever. Go through my Facebook pictures- I have like five shirts and two pairs of pants. I average one haircut a year. My monthly bills are my rent and my cell phone. I haven’t had to refocus or make adjustments there, because I’ve been very lucky that the things i like are cheap.

But most importantly, I’m happy.  Right now, I live in a house with my friends. I can drink on a Monday night because I don’t have work on Tuesday. I can fuck until 3:00 AM on Thursday morning because I don’t work until the afternoon. I can smoke all the weed I want because I don’t get tested, and I don’t care to work at the jobs where I would be. I give my son everything he needs, and most of what he wants. I can write all the stuff I want because I have tons of free time, and the magic of the internet allows me to present it to people without someone giving me the okay. $10,000 more, even $20,000 more doesn’t come close to being worth any of that. What’s the point of money? To do what you want, right? Well, I get to do that now. More money means more work, which would actively detract from the lifestyle i value.

I’ve always been told to want things- a house, a car, a good paying job, a family, a fence, nice clothes, vacations, retirement, a good education, jewelry. I was talking to my brother about all the things we’re supposed to have, supposed to value, and how we don’t have them or want them. “I don’t really want anything,” he said. “I just want to relax.” What I realized is that not wanting the “normal” things doesn’t mean that we don’t want anything, simply that we want different things. The different thing I want the most is time. Time to write, time to smoke, time to fuck, time to hang out with my son. Time to do nothing. I don’t disparage anyone for wanting those other things, but I’m not willing to work 60-80 hours a week for anyone or anything, and I’m damn sure not going to waste time worrying about not sharpening my knives. It’s just not me.

 

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My New BFF is Two Years Old

The Culprit

Being a parent is hard. You’re literally responsible for another human being’s survival, but that’s not all. You also have to help them become a person- teach them about sharing, fairness, following the rules and listening to elders. Then you have to balance that against encouraging them to pursue their individuality, protect themselves, ask for what they want, and eventually break all the bullshit rules you taught them. It’s not easy.

It’s even harder as a step-parent. At least as a parent, you have a kind of automatic authority built in. This kid listens to you because you’ve been there every day, cared for them every day and loved them. They give you a hard time, but for the most part they yield to you. As a step-parent, you have to build a level of trust that took biological parents years in about a quarter of the time. I haven’t had to experience that yet, but my ex-wife’s husband has as the step-dad to my son. Gabe’s a good kid, but I didn’t envy the task of getting to know a seven year old.

At least those arrangements, fraught as they may be, have clear lines of relationship and authority. Parent, step-parent. Pretty easy to understand. But what’s the word for your brother’s father? What’s the relationship there?

When Zoraida told me she was pregnant, I started thinking about that. This isn’t my kid, so I don’t have any responsibility for her. But she’s going to be my son’s sister, so maybe I do? I mean, there were some obvious things. Don’t be a dick to this kid. If I’m with Gabriel and buy him ice cream and she’s around, buy her ice cream too. Duh. I was thinking more of the weird gray areas. Do I buy her a Christmas present when I get Gabe one? I take Gabriel places sometimes; when she’s old enough, do I invite her too? There are a bunch of other ones, but you get the idea. I knew from the beginning that I would treat my son’s sister well, but I didn’t know how I would actually relate to her. Who is she to me, and who would I be to her?

It was an academic question for most of the last two years. Soleil was a baby, so relating to her wasn’t a pressing issue. She got older, but I would only see her here and there when her parents would drop Gabriel off to my house for the weekend. Eventually I started paying for Gabe to take an Uber to my place, so I would go weeks or even months without seeing Soleil. Our interactions were reduced to the occasions where I would pick up or drop off Gabe with a friend, and I would play with Soleil for a few minutes. Still a baby, still only seeing her now and then. No need to worry about the stuff I’d been thinking about.

That changed when Gabriel got a sweet new PC setup for Christmas, and asked me to go to his mother’s house to see it. I was ostensibly there to watch him play Fortnite in stretched 1080×1080 resolution, but Soleil easily dominated my attention. She was coming down with a cold, and boogers were running down her face like a contaminated river. I wiped her nose a few times, and made the big mistake of calling them “gross boogers.” Well, now that Soleil knew I thought they were gross, her mission became to gross me out as much as possible. She accomplished this by digging up her nose and then wiping her boogers on me, cackling the whole time. Exposing me to disease was the funniest thing possible to Soleil, so I had to find some way to distract her. I grabbed her and put her on my shoulders, and pretended like I was going to drop her several times. My second big mistake. For the rest of the visit she would walk up to me and say, “I want to go in the sky!” I was sick and my quads were burning by the time I took Gabe to my place.

That was it. Before I knew it, I was talking to Zoraida about Soleil and how we could best help her when she got into school. Soleil is a rambunctious, physically active child, and schools don’t do well with rambunctious, physically active children, especially girls. We would have to be prepared for the possibility that she wouldn’t do well in school, not because of a lack of ability, but because schools simply aren’t built to accommodate willful, active children.

Wait. Why am I using “we?” This isn’t my kid. She has two active and involved parents, and extended family that are pouring time, money and attention into her. They don’t really need me throwing my two cents in, unsolicited at that. There are clear boundaries that I intend to respect, both as the ex-husband and as someone with no blood relation to this child. But I’m interested in this kid’s success because I like her. I like her alot.

I’ve joked that no one will ever believe that Soleil and Gabriel are related. Who would believe that this vaguely Puerto Rican-looking kid is the brother of an Asian girl nine years younger than him? They couldn’t look more different if we’d tried. Their differences extend far past their physical appearance too. Gabriel never played with Legos, while Soleil builds skyscrapers in her free time. Gabriel likes to read books and talk about them with his mom, while Soleil is more likely to pick up a screwdriver and try to fix a computer like her dad. Gabe was a chillaxed, go-with-the-flow baby and remains that way as an older kid; whenever I call Zoraida, I can hear Soleil carrying on in the background, demanding that everything be just so.

Soleil is so different than Gabriel, and that’s one of the things I like about her so much. It’s fascinating to watch her grow and develop into her own person that’s related to my son, but entirely distinct thanks to genetics and environment. I like her because she’s spunky and combative, mischievous and even a little mean. She beats up Gabriel regularly, and made no qualms about letting me know who was in charge when I came to her house. Yeah, she’s my son’s sister, and yeah, children are the future blah blah blah. I’m invested in this kid because she’s actually pretty fucking cool.

And she likes me too! The last time I talked to Zoraida, I could hear her shouting in the background as usual. Then she got quiet as she approached her mom. “I want to talk to Jamil!” she said. How she knew it was me on the phone, I have no idea, but she did. Apparently, she’s been asking for me since the visit to her house.

So yeah, 2019 has already graced me with a new BFF, a booger-wielding, tower-building, brother-abusing maniac. I can’t wait until the next time I see her, and I’m just as excited to see what kind of adult she becomes as I am for my son. In the meantime, if you can think of a word for “my brother’s father” that we can use to describe this budding relationship, I’m all ears.

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Depression Revisited

A couple of years ago, I wrote a bunch of posts about dealing with depression. It was somewhat uncomfortable, but at the time, I couldn’t write about anything else. I’ve been dealing with another depressive episode for the past four-ish months. Only this time, I couldn’t get myself to write about it. In the past week or so, I’m finally starting to feel better, so I thought I’d give writing about it a shot.

First of all, this go round wasn’t nearly as bad as a couple of years ago. If I didn’t have a history of depression, I would probably have described it as an extended funk. Everything just felt a little off. It was like a bad day that lasted a few months. The most prominent symptom was a lack of motivation.

I was in good enough shape to recognize what was going on and be frustrated by it. But I was in bad enough shape that I couldn’t do anything about it on my own. So, I increased the frequency of my therapy sessions and I called the doctor. The doctor started me on light therapy and made some adjustments to my medication.

I wasn’t really thrilled with either one. I hate to think it was a seasonal thing. My favorite seasons are fall and winter. And I just don’t like medication. I take it. I know the doctor knows a lot more than I do about this stuff, and I tolerate it well, virtually no side effects, but I still don’t like it. The good news is that even though I didn’t like it, after some experimentation (there’s always some experimentation) we found something that seems to be working.

Now that I’m coming out of my fog, the frustration is really hitting me. Before this episode, I had been doing so well. Once the depression set in, though, I stopped exercising. I just didn’t have the energy. I stopped bringing my lunches to work. Not making lunch got me an extra five minutes in bed every morning. Of course that meant going out to eat for lunch every day, which is bad for my waistline and my wallet.

One of the first signs that I was feeling better is I wanted to go for a walk last week. I’ve been getting out consistently since. I also started making my lunches again. I’m actually motivated to get back to where I was. I’m knocking on wood, but things are moving in the right direction. Now I just need to lose the weight I gained. Maybe that will get me a second date.

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Summertime Fine: The Playlist

Photo by Mohammad Metri on Unsplash

I usually listen to music when I’m writing. It helps me drown out what’s going on around me, and can help me get into the right mood depending on the subject I’m writing about. I listened to a lot of music while writing this essay. These are the ten songs I came back to the most during the process, in no particular order.

Brian McKnight- Anytime

Corinne Bailey Rae- Like a Star

De La Soul- Drawn

The Isley Brothers- Footsteps in the Dark 

Janine- We Could Be Better

Sade- No Ordinary Love

Frank Ocean- Nights

Miguel- Come Through and Chill

Tory Lanez- Say It

Maxwell- Whenever Wherever Whatever

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2018 Blog Year In Review

I know this won’t be of interest to anyone else, but I was curious about how our blog did in 2018. So, I spent some time looking at statistics. Since I put in the work, I figured I’d write a little something about it.

Overall, I think we had a pretty good year. According to WordPress, our blog had 6,656 views with 4,591 distinct visitors. That means we can rest assured that it’s not just our friends and families that are reading this. Last year it was 6,134 views with 4,030 visitors, so we’ve improved.

The most visited page was the home page/archives. That’s the landing page for people who just go to the blog instead of clicking a specific post. They can read all of the posts from there from most recent to least recent. I’d be curious to know who these people are and how they found our blog, but I’m unaware of any way to find out.

Jamil had the most viewed post of the year with How I Lost My Dream Job. My most popular post was Charles Dickens – A Christmas Carol – Stave Two, The First of the Three Spirits. I understand Jamil’s. It really seemed to resonate with people. I’m confused as to why a post that I wrote in 2016 about the second chapter of a book would still be popular, but the stats don’t give insight into that. Jamil was also the more popular overall this year. His posts received 2,914 views while mine received 2,785.

Most of our readers are from the United States. No surprise there. It doesn’t break it down by state, but I would imagine most of those are from Connecticut. But, we also got views from 66 other countries. Hong Kong wins for that category followed by Canada and the UK. I can’t help but wonder what we’re writing about that appeals to an international audience.

We only got nine comments in 2018. That’s one area we would like to improve going forward. It’s great that people are reading. The next step is to get them engaging. Neither of us really know how to do that, so if you have any advice, pass it along.

As I said, it was a good overall year. We hope to keep improving in 2019. Maybe we’ll start figuring out SEO and plug-ins and stuff. We just want to keep moving in the right direction. Also, we’d like to thank everyone who read. If there’s anything you’d like to see from us in 2019, please let us know.

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Happy New Year

Here’s my thirty-first December post. Only, technically, it’s a little late. I’m still going to count it though. As an insomniac, I’ve always had a rule that it’s not actually the next day until I’ve slept. It’s a way of getting something good out of insomnia. I get to be days younger than the calendar thinks I am. So, it’s still December 31st to me.

I actually did something on New Year’s Eve tonight for the first time in many, many years. It’s usually the one night a year where I’m actually asleep before midnight. I was feeling lonely at home by myself, so I stopped by my parent’s house. They were getting ready to pick up my niece. She is sleeping at their house tonight. They asked me if I wanted to join them for dinner and I said sure. Then I wound up hanging out with them and watching movies, Smallfoot and The Incredibles 2, until midnight. Wild and crazy.

I didn’t know what I was going to write about today anyway. New Year’s is not my most favorite holiday. I’m not really one to do resolutions or anything. Although my desire to go on a second date could be considered resolution-y, I guess. So it’s good that I did something. It allows me to just tell you about my night.

Now I’m going to try to sleep. I don’t want to be the one responsible for January not arriving. Happy New Year.

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Summertime Fine, Finale: The Circle of Life

Photo by Rob Laughter on Unsplash

I’ve already written about what happened that weekend, so I won’t bore you with the details again. I only wrote about how Rose and I stopped seeing each other, but not why. We were together on Friday night, joking and asking each other questions. She asked me what the craziest thing I’d ever done sexually was.

“I got a blowjob from a guy once,” I told her. I explained what happened in the days before she and I started talking. After our cruise on Sunday morning, Rose told me that what I’d told her made her feel uncomfortable, and that it was a red flag she couldn’t ignore. It really was a blow that came from nowhere. I really liked Rose and it felt like everything was going great until it suddenly wasn’t. I made choices for myself before I was seeing Rose, and now she was making choices for herself based on the decisions I made. It sucked, but I don’t regret anything I’ve done or that I was honest when I answered the question.

I do want to address one of the questions she asked me. Her major concern was, if we built a more serious relationship, I might realize that what I wanted was to be with a man, and leave her at some undetermined date in the future after we’d been together for a long time. She wanted to know if I was actually bisexual. I answered her: “I don’t care enough to have even thought about that.” And that is the truth.

Am I straight or gay or bisexual? I don’t fucking care. For me, who or what makes me orgasm has zero impact on how I think about myself, my identity or any other aspect of my life. Defining sexuality for myself or others is really uninteresting to me. I don’t care who you fuck. I don’t really care who I fuck in any existential or identity-based way- whatever. I know what I want in any given moment, and I don’t see the point in situating that into some sort of narrative or definition. Again, whatever

That’s what made ending things with Rose so difficult, because I knew what I wanted. I want a family again. I want to get married again. I want to have another child. I want to build a home based in love, communication, commitment and sex. I was beginning to see Rose as the woman I could have those things with someday. Maybe that was premature, but I don’t think so, because I know she felt the same way. Her fear wasn’t that I was going to leave her tomorrow, but in five years. She wanted to be there for that time.

I wrote some bad poetry about the end (and so did she, except that hers was actually good), and did my best to start moving on. As usually happens, we vacillated between talking and not talking for a couple of weeks. My ex-girlfriend Amber was crucial in this moment, and she’s been one of my best friends and sources of advice in my dating travails. She gave me a great piece of advice regarding Rose- don’t be a fake friend, a guy that’s just hanging around, hoping to weasel my way back into her pants. I took that advice seriously, and when Rose asked me if I wanted to still be friends, I told her, “Sure, but I’m going to be the friend who’s trying to fuck you.”

“I want to fuck you too,” she said. “Won’t that make things complicated?”

“Let’s find out,” I said. So we fucked.

That was probably the best “angry sex” I’ve had. We kicked each other’s asses. It was the longing for someone you truly like and hadn’t seen in weeks, combined with the frustration we were both feeling about the end of an otherwise budding relationship, with a hefty amount of “You fuck good, so fuck me good now” thrown in.

But I digress. Yes, fucking as friends made things complicated. All the same feelings were there. All the “good morning” texts. All the cuddling. All the phone calls. We were still dating, even though we said we weren’t. That was too much for Rose, and she was afraid that being friends with benefits would eventually lead to love, and potentially to the future that she wanted to avoid. She wanted to stop being physical and strictly be platonic friends.

This time I said no. I’m more than willing to be friends with my exes and women that I’ve slept with. But I still had very strong feelings for Rose. I didn’t want to bury those feelings under the veneer of friendship, because I still wanted to kiss her forehead every time I saw her. I was still trying to learn to let go of relationships which were at their end, but I was also trying to learn to value myself, ask for what I wanted and walk away when that ask wasn’t being met. I wasn’t looking for a new friend. I was looking for a wife. It turned out that wasn’t Rose, so I had to move on.

Don’t get me wrong. Moving on is very hard for me. I move fast and already I was imagining what our apartment would look like when we stopped talking. I even reached out to her again to say Happy Thanksgiving with one of those “plausible deniability” texts- of course I wasn’t fishing, I was just wishing you a happy holiday! Other than that, we haven’t spoken. I was sad for all of November and most of December, and I felt pretty silly about that. Why was I so broken up over a woman I’d only dated for two months? But I had to stop judging myself for the way I was feeling. Who cares why it hurt so much. The fact is that it did, and it’s okay to acknowledge that and feel it.

I’ve been feeling that hurt a lot less lately, which is bittersweet. That means that I’m finally over Rose, which is good, but it also means that it’s over for real, which is a little sad. This essay is the end, and while it’s not the one I envisioned back in August, it’s the one I’ve arrived at.

Besides, this is exactly what I’d done to Adaku. We haven’t spoken since that phone call either. It’s quite something, the way you can give yourself to a person in such a short amount of time, and then never speak to them again. Love is a cruel process, and unless you’re one of the lucky ones who marries their first love, you’re in for more failure than success. Dump and be dumped. The circle of life continues.

*

2018 has been an amazing year in many ways. I learned so much about myself and others, in both the professional and the romantic sense. I took my first real dive into the dating pool, and after some wonderful and painful experiences, I’m still treading water. As 2019 dawns in just a few short hours, I hope that I can take these lessons forward and find exactly what I’m looking for. I hope that I was as good to the women I’ve met as they have been to me. I hope for more good experiences to feel the pleasure, and more bad experiences to have something to write about.

And I hope that you’re still going to plays, Rose.

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Summertime Fine, Part IV: I Say Goodbye, I Say Hello

Photo by DESIGNECOLOGIST on Unsplash

After the flurry of dates in late August and early September, things settled down into a stable routine. I would text with Adaku and see Rose once or twice a week. We went to the batting cages, to a restaurant with live jazz, a sound healing session and other unconventional dates. I loved experiencing new things with Rose and then talking about them with her. With each date, I liked Rose more and more, and I started to feel like I was talking to Adaku to pass the time between when I saw Rose.

I knew what that meant- I should probably stop talking to Adaku. I still liked her too, but it was clear that it wasn’t going to work out because of the distance. We weren’t going to see each other again until October. In the abstract, I’d thought that a long distance relationship might not only be doable, but desirable. Maybe taking things slower than I had in the past might be more successful. As it turns out though, swinging from one extreme to the other ain’t a great idea either. Moving so quickly in the past may have been a mistake, but it spoke to a need that I have. I like a lot of attention in relationships, both emotional and physical. I like cuddling each night. I like having someone to talk to at any time of day. I like having someone next to me to watch television with. I like having lots of sex all the time. Physical presence is important to me. Dating a woman who I could only see once a month helped me to fully learn that truth about myself.

And isn’t that what dating is, a bunch of learning experiences? It’s also much more than that of course. People are putting their feelings and their bodies on the line, hoping that this new stranger will be the one to make them feel good more often than they make them feel bad. There’s a lot at stake when you swipe right. Yet there really is no place to practice dating other than dating. I spent the year after my breakup doing a lot of self-reflecting and theory-crafting about what I would do when I jumped back into the dating pool. Some of it helped, but a lot of it was unable to prepare me for dating scenarios I couldn’t have predicted- meeting two smart, attractive women at the same time, for example.

I also had to confront how much of a coward I am when it comes to the messiness of ending romantic involvements. Again, I’ve had limited experience with this, but in almost every dating scenario or relationship I’ve been in, I’ve been dumped or ghosted. I managed to twist being dumped into being the aggrieved party, and allowed myself to feel a misplaced sense of self-righteousness about the completely normal end of fraught relationships. That worked emotionally for a while, until I realized that both of my exes had the courage to do what I couldn’t: end a bad relationship.

I had to learn from them to end things with Adaku. Things weren’t bad, but they also weren’t going anywhere. Still, I found ways to kick that can down the road. Adaku was going on vacation for a week; what kind of jerk would I be to dump her right before that? I could wait until she got back. There was no rush, because I hadn’t had sex with Rose or anything. We were still just going on dates and making out.

Well, that changed quickly. As Adaku was preparing to leave for vacation, Rose and I made plans for another date. “And I can spend the night once we get back to your place,” Rose texted me. I thought I knew what that meant, but I didn’t want to assume anything- after all, I had just spent the night at Adaku’s place and sex hadn’t happened. To be sure, I texted back, “Okay, cool. Is it cool if I eat you out when you spend the night?”

“Lol, sure,” she responded. Just ask! What a fucking concept!

I don’t remember what the date was, and I don’t think you care anyway, dear reader. I was really only expecting to go down on Rose that night since that’s all I asked to do. When the moment came, Rose waved me home from third base. Remember what I said about how Rose and I “fit together” when we kissed for the first time? That was true for us when it came to sex as well. It was definitely worth the wait. Sex is one of the core pillars of a relationship for me. You may be thinking to yourself, “Well, duh,” but I’ve been surprised by the people I’ve talked to who either don’t really care about sex, or have had bad sex for most of their lives. My dating profile literally says, “I value great communication and great sex. Everything else is negotiable.” That’s how I feel about relationships. If we can’t communicate, there’s no point in trying anything else. If I’m not enjoying fucking you, then why bother with the rest? As for the rest, if we can talk about it or fuck about it, then we’ll work it out. I already really liked talking to Rose, and now I really liked fucking her. Time to wife her up!

But before that, I had to call Adaku.

She was still on vacation, which gave me about a week to think about exactly how I would tell her we should stop talking, and to imagine the 14 million possibilities of her response. I decided that I would tell her the truth, that she lived too far away for anything to work.

But was that the truth? Wouldn’t the truth also include, “Hey, I’ve been seeing another woman too, and that relationship has progressed faster than this one, so I’m ending things with you”? When I started dating again, I said that I wouldn’t lie to anyone. I wasn’t going to be volunteering information, but that I would answer any question that I was asked truthfully. At one point, I’d made a joke to Adaku about her seeing other guys, and she responded with, “Nope, you’re the only guy I’m talking to. I can’t make you, but I hope I’m the only woman you’re talking to.” That wasn’t the case, but I also didn’t want to tell her that I was seeing someone else. So I didn’t say anything, and she changed the subject. Was that not being truthful? Was it even a question? Is it semantics to slice the issue that thinly, a self-serving justification to allow myself to have my cake and eat it too? Maybe, but both Adaku and Rose were free to eat as much cake as they wanted as well.

In any case, I didn’t see the necessity to end it with someone by telling them that I’d started fucking someone else. She got home on a Monday, and I asked her to call me the next day. I told her straight up: I really like you, but we can’t see each other as much as I would like, so this isn’t going to work. She took it about as well as anyone can when you’re being surprise dumped.

I really want to stress that Adaku was a great woman, and if not for the logistical challenges of spending time together, things could have been different.

With that chapter closed, it was time to focus on Rose. We had a date planned for that Thursday, swing-dancing at the Polish National Home in Hartford. I normally have three left feet, but the instructors made the lessons fast and fun, so much so that even I knew the basic six-step of swing dancing when we were done. Rose and I were having a great time, so I went for it. I asked her to be my girlfriend. That might seem fast, since we’d been talking for about six weeks at that point. In my defense though, by that point in the past I was already living with a woman, so, you know, baby steps. Rose did think it was fast, but she said that she really liked me, that she wanted things to keep moving forward, and that she was open to being my girlfriend at some point in the future.

That sounded reasonable to me. We’d decided to be exclusive at least, now that we were sleeping together. The upcoming weekend was Columbus Day weekend. My son was staying with his mom, so I took Friday off. I’d planned a four day weekend of sex and weed with Rose, culminating with an early birthday celebration date of us taking a foliage cruise down the Connecticut River on Sunday morning. Neither of my roommates were home either; as Rose aptly put it, we were going to be “up and down the house all weekend.” What could possibly go wrong?

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Summertime Fine, Part III: Double Duty (2 of 2)

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Adaku and I had been continuing to text and talk on the phone as the weeks progressed. I liked her a lot, but if conflicting schedules made seeing Rose difficult, seeing Adaku was almost impossible. Not only were we both working, but she also lived in a different state. That had come up early in our conversations when she asked me if I drive. I told her that I don’t but I always get to where I want to be. The will and the way weren’t the problem; buses go everywhere, and where they don’t, there’s Uber. It was a matter of time. Going to see Adaku would require a whole weekend. And that would require a weekend away from my son.

This is where I should give a shout out to my ex-wife. Our marriage didn’t work out, but she’s been one of my best friends for years. She’s been nothing but supportive of everything I’ve done since we met. Her new husband is a great guy, her daughter is beyond adorable, and I couldn’t ask for a better mother to our son. She was always ready to help me when it came to dating, whether that meant keeping Gabriel while I went on dates or being a shoulder to cry on when things went south. So when Adaku and I began talking seriously about seeing each other, the first person I called was Zoraida.

“Hey, would you mind keeping Gabriel on Labor Day weekend so I can go on a date out of state?”

“Sure,” she said. “Have fun!” That was that.

Adaku and I decided to meet up in Providence, and then we would go back to her place afterwards. I liked Adaku a lot. We talked every day, much more than I talked to Rose. Yet I still liked Rose a lot too- by the time I got on the bus to see Adaku for the first time, I’d already been on three dates with Rose. That was simply a matter of disposition and distance. Rose wasn’t much of a texter, and Adaku lived far away. It was another set of contrasts between the two, and I kept finding myself thinking, “I like both of these types of women.”

But I was also talking to them seriously. I was ready to pursue a serious relationship finally, a year after things had ended with my ex. No one had asked for exclusivity, and I assumed that they were both seeing other guys while talking to me, although it hadn’t explicitly come up. Things were progressing though with both women, and I could see that sooner rather than later, I would need to be exclusive with one of them. At that point, I was starting to like Rose more, but I figured that might be a function of proximity. Seeing Adaku in person would be good before I made any decisions. Still, I knew that if I had sex with one of them, I would stop talking to the other.

My brother advised me against that decision. “You’re still dating Jam,” he explained, “And sex is part of dating.” True. Yet while no one had asked for exclusivity even in the case of sex, I could read between the lines that neither woman would appreciate me fucking them and someone else at the same time.

I hopped on the Peter Pan bus to Providence on the Saturday before Labor Day. It had worked so well with Rose that I wore the same first date outfit for Adaku- black shirt covered in stars with khaki-colored pants. Adaku met me at the station, and she was just as pretty in person as she was in her pictures. She was wearing a sunflower-colored skirt that came down to her ankles, and a black shirt. Oversized sunglasses sat atop her nose. We drove into downtown, and I told her that I’d only been to Providence once, for a track meet where I was trapped inside a gymnasium for hours and hadn’t seen any of the city.

We parked in the Little Italy section of Providence, and I was surprised by how lovely the city was. Cars cruised down the narrow street as the sun sat high in the afternoon sky. Small boutiques dotted the sidewalks, broken up by restaurants and bars. We walked slowly, taking in the sights and trying to decide which restaurant to eat at. We eventually chose one with large windows and a black awning.

We sat and talked for over an hour, stopping long enough to take bites of the delicious pasta and sips from the giant pink drinks we’d ordered. Adaku was fun and sweet, and we traded stories about college, family and friends. We finished eating, and like the true gentleman I am, I grabbed the check.

$100? For lunch?!

Not only had my experiences with Rose and Adaku taught me that dating two women could be fun, but also that dating two women was expensive. The tickets to Hand to God cost $110. I don’t mind paying for things. As a man, that’s my job. Still, I hadn’t dated in a year, and I hadn’t done beginning dating in almost four years. I was still very much in the phase where I was trying to impress with every outing. And ultimately, it’s just money anyway. I make it to spend it, and what better way to spend it than with a woman I liked in a new city?

After lunch, we walked around Providence a little more before we headed to Adaku’s place. When we got there, we did what all consenting adults in their 30’s do in a bed: we took a nap. We woke up in time for dinner. Adaku had promised to take me to one of her favorite Nigerian restaurants. There was only one problem- when we arrived, they’d run out of food, and in typical ethnic restaurant fashion, made it seem like we were tripping for asking for food at a restaurant. At 8:00 PM. On a Saturday. We went to a Ghanaian restaurant instead, which Adaku told me was similar to Nigerian food, but not nearly as good of course.

After searching for a restaurant with food and finally eating, it was after 10:00 when we got back to Adaku’s place. We decided to end the night with a movie, and I made the off-handed comment that I’d never seen Love and Basketball. Adaku considered this to basically be a crime, and the decision was made.

Adaku was beautiful and smart, and I enjoyed talking to her. But the physical chemistry wasn’t there between us. When Rose and I kissed, it was immediately clear that we “fit” together physically. Kissing Adaku was much more awkward; the overall physical connection just wasn’t there. We spent the rest of the night watching Love and Basketball and making out, but I was thinking about the next time I would see Rose.

That was my biggest takeaway from the weekend, and I thought about it on the bus ride home. I liked Adaku, and she had all the qualities that would make for a good relationship. I simply liked Rose more. Combined with the difficulty of seeing Adaku, it looked like there was a frontrunner.

 

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Penultimate

Penultimate is one of my favorite words. It has a very rare combination. It’s fun to say. It’s fun to hear. And it has a cool meaning. It puts it in the same company as archipelago and onomatopoeia (Side note: I love the fact that onomatopoeia just might be the least onomatopoeic word there is).

That fact that penultimate is fun to say and hear is kind of obvious. Just say the word: penultimate. It feels good in the mouth and throat. Then listen to yourself say the word: penultimate. It’s a perfect combination of legato and staccato. It’s very pleasing.

The cool meaning of penultimate is a little less obvious. It means second to last. At first glance, it doesn’t even seem like we need a word for second to last. But it is really useful. Often, a penultimate event is the last normal occurrence of that event. The last one is always so focused on being the last. And in stories, the final scene is usually wrap-up. The climax happens in the penultimate scene. Once you start seeing the significance of penultimate things, there’s no going back.

If you’re already familiar with penultimate, I hope you take this opportunity to dust it off and appreciate it anew. If you’re new to penultimate, I’m a little jealous of you. Take some time, get to know it. You’ll have good times in your future.

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