Simple Syrup

Sometimes you stumble upon a perfectly unexpected and delicious cocktail. You wouldn’t think that the ingredients would work together but somehow, they do. Like muddled basil, watermelon and lime juice with a healthy slug of white rum on ice and topped with soda water and a dash of black pepper. Or equal parts of Powell & Mahoney’s Ginger Cocktail Mixer  and Marker’s Mark whiskey on ice with good quality (non-sweet) ginger beer. Unpredictably tasty.

You seemed far too sophisticated for my modest palate. Kind of like Hypnotiq – the startlingly blue liqueur. Even it’s description is intimidating: A Refreshing Blend of Premium French Vodka, Exotic Fruit Juices, and a Touch of Cognac. I think this actually describes you quite well too – A Refreshing Blend of Boyish Charm, Exceedingly Good Looks and a Touch of Danger.  I remember gazing at you in some wonder while dismissing any possibility of any shaking or stirring!

Perhaps meeting at a wedding somehow upped my Wine Spectator score. Or you were just in the mood for the unexpected.  The result was quite intriguing – effervescent, just sweet enough, somewhat spicy and wholly refreshing.  It was not obvious why it worked. Just that it did.

When I meet old lovers, I check them out to see if they still have the qualities that attracted me to them and if they have remained nice human beings.  Then, for extra credit, I look to see if I still seem attractive to them. If both parts are true, I tell myself that even back then, my instinct and taste weren’t off. It’s a good feeling. Most often, there is no spark, just a tacit acknowledgement of time and affection shared.

With you, it’s always a rush. Like we each have new flavors to try out in the mix as well as make up for the time we’ve been apart by tasting the oldies and goodies.  Inevitably, reality intervenes and we part.  Instead of finding this bittersweet, I’m learning to savor the heady moments.

I can’t put a name to our cocktail or list the ingredients. Just an evolving combination of two people who met by chance.  It is just that Simple.

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An Uncommitment

I know what it is not. It’s not forever. It’s not love. It’s not romance. It’s not even an obsession.

At best, it’s a preoccupation. An anticipation preceding the awareness when we meet. An amble through shared vignettes and thoughts that makes time fly so effortlessly. My engagement in each encounter is complete even as I hover overhead watching us talk. We sometimes lay bare details of our lives previously unexposed and it’s so seductive to be allowed in. The deeper rhythm of our separate lives seems to have an oddly preordained synchrony as though we were supposed to come together now for a wavelength or two.

I am unable to define it as a transgression – as though our prior association conveniently grandfathered in an exception clause! I contrive to create elegant excuses – nay! opportunities! – to meet again without seeming too needy. It’s a sham.I yearn to see you so even though you cautioned “I’ve been here before. After 4-5 times, it fades”.  Perhaps. But, this is where I am now and I want to be here. Greedily, I wish to grab the moments and share them. Can’t you do the same? Take me as I am now and be present with me.

Like pugilists at a prize fight, we return to our corners to lead our “regular” lives – to fulfill our responsibilities as partners, parents and individuals till we get together again and suspend all that. There is a gap in the weave of our individual fabric that’s brought us here.  I don’t ask for promises and offer none in return.

The very aspects that lend stability and longevity to a life partnership –  familiarity, acceptance, deep love – can, ironically, fade romance and desire.  I wish to feel the ache that romance brings – tangible evidence of desirability. I don’t wish to hurt anyone. Just that in addition to playing the roles of mother, daughter, partner and colleague and in spite of facial character lines and softening body, I wish to feel gloriously feminine again.

You do not share my emotional state. You definitely view this more transactionally. You sound curiously jaded and sad as though it’s all just a little out of reach. You wear the “Very few strings attached” label quite defiantly.  I accept that. In turn, allow yourself to accept that I am different and that we’re fun together. It’s not a stretch.

When we look back on it, it will be a delicious layer in our atypical long-term relationship. So, seek out my company, poke fun at my quirks and enjoy me.

Please sir, may I have a Mulligan?

If I promise to keep the beginning and the end unchanged, please, please could I have a do-over on the middle parts of my first love? I swear I’ll keep it G-rated and no butterflies will be harmed during my travel.

It’s a pretty simple really – I want to fall in love with the same tall, cool dish but accompanied by some traditional trappings. Not be confined to meeting & kissing furtively in the dark under a perishing cement bicycle stand in college. Nothing too fancy – just actual dates – in public (gasp). Perhaps even hold hands. And, – oh yes!  -the classic package deal too please- dinner followed by a movie. A proper romance, dammit!

Is it too much to ask to fully experience the irreprissible ebullience that youthful love brings ? To mount displays of utter silliness stemming from pure infatuation ? To mindlessly gush about his perfection? To ask in a million different ways “How much do you love me?”  Fulfill a desire to be wooed? Give in to the sheer thrill of the physicality of first love?

I’d jettison any sense of moral turpitude and a complete disregard for my environment’s censure. Most of all, my youthful self would grow a spine (and while we’re growing, larger boobs wouldn’t hurt either. But we digress), ignore the oppressive social norms of my world and instead, love with abandon. For heaven’s sake, you experience first love only once. Explode.

Giving in to the glorious feeling of being completely in love for the first time can only have positive long-term outcomes. Even when it ends – which it most likely will – you’ll still have had that exhilarating experience.

The alternative route I’d so brilliantly chosen – littered with guilt and repression, is not recommended. I never allowed myself to confess my feelings fully. This, despite knowing that he really liked me and realizing that I was completely smitten.

When I got dumped, it was devastating and it took me ages to regroup. Years later, I had the ignominy of hearing him say ” I never knew how you really felt”. As  I said, not recommended.

There is just one little wrinkle I’d request upon returning to the present – instead of being referred to as “an old friend from college”,  I’d like the official title of “ex-girlfriend”. Please, sir?

The Third Sex & Hormones among Hostiles

A joke from my elite academic institution went like this –

“How many sexes are there in the world?” “Uhhhh – I don’t know. How many?” “Three – men, women, and then the women who attend this university! Ha ha!”

Sometimes we were even referred to as another species. The ratio of men to women was extreme – something like 65 to 1. In that repressive and conservative social environment the consequences were dreadful and far-reaching for the women. Worse. we were wretchedly unaware of it at the time.

We were dismissively referred to and indeed, referred to ourselves as “female”. As though it was just a chromosomal detail. The sheer rarity of our kind on the college campus did not make us flatteringly popular or desirable. Instead, it put us under a microscope of unwanted focus and derision.

Sub-consciously, we downplayed any evidence of femininity.  We dressed dreadfully and without style or makeup – hunched, trying to not be noticed. There was no pleasure in trying to look pretty – androgyny was safer. We did not speak up in classes or enter into discussions for fear of being unpleasantly labeled. I suspect we emulated the boys’ speech patterns and humor and tried to blend in. It never worked.  Even the professors took pot shots and seemed to take pleasure in showing us up in a poor light. Breaching this bastion of male occupancy was a serious offense that demanded retribution.

Years later, what irks me most is that I was so busy trying to survive amongst the men, that I did not take the time to become better friends with the women I lived with. Like them, I was more focused on proving I was as clever as any boy. Pointless! Granted, the distaff population was so small that it was entirely possible not to meet a similar minded woman. But most of them were smart and nice and probably needed girl friends as much as I did. Had we supported each other better at least for sheer survival, it would have boosted our collective self-confidence. I came away after four long years without a single close girl friend. But, as a bonus, with a deep-seated and persistent insecurity about not being good enough – academically or otherwise.

At a recent milestone class reunion, not one woman attended. We barely keep in touch. The sense of camaraderie and nostalgia evidenced by the men about their golden college days is wholly absent in me. I feel cheated.

Dating was socially taboo and furtively pursued. Rumors and innuendo swirled around relationships real or imagined. I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt  – as though it was “not right” or what a “good girl” would do.  Even amongst the girls, we did not discuss our crushes, first loves and lusts or giggle about it.  It was not natural and definitely not right.

Repression ran deep in each of us and especially deep in me. I fell head over heels in love with a beautiful and captivating boy but could not bring myself to say it out loud to him. Should have. Could have. Blew it.

I rue the missed opportunities to make friends. I resent having to suppress my feelings in order to conform. I regret not having had the courage to be true to them. I reject an institution, however revered, that devalued femininity. I revile the social order that promoted the misogyny.

I weep for the girl I could have been.

Vodka Sonic

I’m a g&t girl myself. But the man that’s been on my mind lately prefers a concoction he calls a “Vodka Sonic”.

Recipe:

  1. Fill a tall glass with ice
  2. Add 2 shots of vodka
  3. Fill the rest of the glass with equal parts of tonic water and soda
  4. Top with a slice of lime
  5. Serve

I’ve tried it and it’s a refreshing drink. But I think I’d like it a lot better this way –

Serving instructions:

  1. Mix 1 vodka sonic (see recipe above)
  2. Dip your index finger into the cocktail
  3. Going from left to right, trace his lower lip with your index finger very slowly. (Have I mentioned before that he has a delectable mouth?)
  4. Follow your finger with your eyes and tune in to the exquisite sensation emanating from your finger tip
  5. Dip finger again in icy beverage
  6. Repeat on upper lip taking time to trace the outline faithfully since it really is a rather beautiful mouth
  7. Lean carefully forward and using just the tip of your tongue take little licks of the cocktail
  8. Savor each sip
  9. Remember to breathe)
  10. Repeat sequence till one of you passes out from pure bliss

Yum.

Judged and found wanting. Again.

Ex-lovers should stay just that. Ex. And, delicious though they may have been, stay firmly in the past.

But he did not. And each time he reappeared, despite all misgivings, I let him back into my life. Eagerly even. On his terms – free to leave without obligation. And leave he did, with a contrail of disappointment. With me.

I am horrified at my own lack of self-preservation. When he enters my world, it rocks on its foundations and I dream of a shared, if fleeting, connection. Not any forevers, mind. Just joy in the moment. When he leaves, my self-worth plummets. I tell myself I don’t care. That I have a lot to be grateful for and love. Which I do. My lot is a pretty splendid one and I’m not a victim by any stretch. Why then don’t I think about the cost to all these things and people when he reappears?

It dawned on me lately that only to me it felt like a departure. He wasn’t leaving me, he was going towards something else. New focus, adventures, lands, opportunities. And that I was an interesting somewhat familiar diversion. Does a tenuous thread of attraction through the decades justify such vulnerability?

When he left the first time, I was naive to believe it was just the distance. He was selfish to let me. Devastation swept over me upon realizing that he’d deemed me not fitting. Or perhaps enough. Also, not deserving of an end.  It was the beginning of a lasting sense of inadequacy.

Subsequent encounters and rejections only serve to increase my pathetic need to appear worthier the next time. Somehow. Yet, repeatedly, I come away with a sense of having failed to meet expectations. Again. Left with only my playback of events and conversations to assign blame. For there never is a postmortem.

I want to scream “What was it this time? What is it that is not right about me? What? What? What? Why am I not good enough for you?”

Instead, with polite chit-chat and smiles, not quite making eye contact, I am cordial and friendly as though we really were just “friends from a long time ago”.  Till the next time.

My world is now full and positive. When he rejects me I am hurt but not adrift.  I love and want what I have. Yet, I want him. Most of all, I want him to want me.

Gawdelpme.

Sex on a steel cot

I haven’t forgotten – just can’t quite remember. We’d both promised we’d never forget. We were each others’ first. I’m certain it was March 16th. Or perhaps it was April?

In a small dorm room. On a steel cot. Surrounded by a dreadfully censorious social environment. (Just missing Mrs.Peacock!). He was boyish, good-looking and had an easy smile. His face was smooth and smelled of aftershave. The sheets on his thin mattress were clean. But the damn cot squeaked. Made us giggle.

We were old enough to have talked about it a lot but young enough to still be stupid. We thought ourselves realists for setting expectations on the experience but secretly, I think I was hoping for something sublime. There had been no declaration of undying love. Seemed like a good basis for exploration without the risk of heartbreak.  The outcome was predictable – not earth-shattering but ok.  However, it was the first time and that’s something. So, I’m glad it was ok. I can’t forget that.

Compartmentalizing my moral misgivings took a lot of doing. In a time and space where a girl’s upbringing emphasized “goodness”,  there was a lot more lodged in my sub-conscious than I realized. Also, illogically, not sharing this seeming moment with the boy I still loved (but had lost) seemed wrong. Sublime didn’t stand a chance against such odds!

We went on to have sex in less squeaky places. It makes me smile to think back on it – in an open amphitheater where movies were screened weekly (no no – not DURING the movie!), in the most formal of lecture halls, on top of a tall water tank that afforded a beautiful view.  Always furtive but definitely unorthodox!

We met recently and talked briefly about it with fondness and without regret. Try as I might, I could not silence contradictory, moralistic, whisper in my head or the wistfully, romantic and girlish one.