Breaking my own rule*.

I dated a lot last summer.Date is not quite the right word, but that's what I'll call it. It was't Peter Pan–collar-and-poodle-skirt, two-straws-at-the-soda-shop dating. It was not-many-clothes-at-all, happy-hour-and-stumbling-into-the-night dating. There were quite a few men in and out of my life (five, at one point), and I called it dating because there was no boyfriend.

Dating was exhausting. Because when you're seeing five people at once, there are bound to be complications — scheduling conflicts, at least. And white lies told to avoid hurt feelings. And too much information floating around. As much as I like attention, especially from men — the more, the better, usually — I started to feel cheap, spreading myself so thin. Dating became emotionally debilitating. Which was as much thanks to the men in question as it was the overscheduled, oversexed madness and my psychological state at the time.

And so, after the chaos and folly of last year — culminating in the flaming destruction of not one but two disastrous relationships in the frame of about four months — this summer was to be a time where I simply did not date. I had grand designs of rediscovering my sanity and enjoying a bout of self-induced celibacy, beginning with my solo transatlantic journey. But then I met someone. A couple of weeks before Paris, I met someone. Who started as this faraway figure I admired for reasons I only sort of understood. Who became a friend. Who kissed me unexpectedly. And I'm now…dating him. Fluid and natural and unnervingly…simple.

Gradually, I am learning a new, better definition of the word "date." (Related: The word "men" is taking on a more positive connotation as well.)

Date ˈdāt noun 1 a: the time at which an event occurs < the date of his birth> b: a statement of the time of execution or making < the date on the letter> 2: duration 3: the period of time to which something belongs 4 a: an appointment to meet at a specified time; especially: a social engagement between two persons that often has a romantic character b: a person with whom one has a usually romantic date 5: see also: Friday, May 29, 2009

At 7:15, my doorbell rang. After having changed my outfit four times, I gave myself one last glance in the mirror, nodded firmly and trotted down the stairs to meet him. Through the dirty glass of my building's front door, he stood waiting for me, shirt tucked in, cellophane-wrapped flowers in hand. Flowers. No one brings flowers. He brought flowers. I put them in water while he waited, then we walked to the Brown Line and rode downtown with our Trader Joe's bag filled with picnic food. At Millennium Park, night was beginning to fall, and Pritzker Pavilion was filling with Polish Chicagoans celebrating the fall of communism in their home country with music and dance. (We had no idea the concert was even happening.) We spread out our blanket — OK, a beach towel that was really too small for both of us — and made barbecue-pork sandwiches with cole slaw and carrot sticks and sparkling water. And chocolate-covered cookies (to die for) called Joe-Joes. We endured the music as long as we could then walked east to the lakefront and through the harbors. In and out of orange pools of streetlight, we kissed and talked about our families. Yachts (mine) and house painting (his) and grandparental quirks (both of us). We found ourselves looking across the Chicago River at Navy Pier, and I stared at the flashing lights on the Ferris wheel while we had a Very Serious Conversation about love and trust, and the past and moving on from it. I hope. Strolling along the river, I watched workers scrub down the decks and chairs of the tour boats from a long, sunny day full of tourists. Up the stairs and back to Michigan Avenue, we waded through a crowd of pedestrians and made our way toward the El again — it had felt like we owned the city, walking alone by the water. Maybe we still did, even with other people around. I nodded off on his shoulder and he brushed the hair from my forehead to kiss me as the train rumbled homeward. Fluid and natural and simple.

This is dating. Worth the wait to redefine.

"I'm scared to call you my girlfriend," he said. "Then don't," I said. "Wait until it doesn't scare you anymore."

* of no loveblogging.

Spring is coming.


DSC01828Spring is coming. Garden centers everywhere are kicking up mulch in their excitement for the shoppers' impending return to their stores — I never hear the end of it in the office. It's charming, actually.And a sixty-degree day a couple of weeks ago let me know Chicago would not forever be buried under this snowy misery, but it's easy to forget again when a late-February blizzard ruins all my plans of wearing flats with no socks. (With the exception of the skirts and dresses I joyously free from the depths of my closet, my wardrobe doesn't change when warmer weather hits; mostly I just lose the coat and wear big-girl shoes instead of boots that make me look like a fat Eskimo.) Side note: I really wanted to describe Chicago as a tundra, but being the diligent editor that I am, I had to look it up, and that plan was foiled just as my plans to look cute were. Apparently, Chicago could not even be loosely identified — even considering my love for hyperbole — as a tundra, scientifically speaking. That would mean, according to Wikipedia, that our landscape is treeless and prone to mossy, lichenous groundcover instead. And that musk ox and chinchillas roam free on Lincoln Ave. Simply not true. I'm not sure what biomic classification Chicago would fall under, but this weather right now is awful, and instead of moss and lichen, we have canine fecal matter and mud buried under four inches of snow. (And I promised myself I wouldn't be the kind of resident who complains about that. Because if I had a dog, I'd probably break the law and walk on by after my dog had done its business, too.)

Right now, my only real promise of spring is all the the promotional e-mails I've been receiving from my favorite stores. Almost every morning, I get "SALE! SALE!" and "LOOK AT THIS GREAT OUTFIT THAT YOU SIMPLY. MUST. HAVE." messages from Banana Republic, Zappo's, Piperlime, Ann Taylor Loft For the most part, they just tease me with photos of models wearing flats with no socks — which were obviously taken in warm studios where this behavior was OK. Those models probably wore their UGGs and very-very-skinny jeans to the shoot and left feeling just as depressed that they had to take off their warmer-weather clothes as I was after looking at them in those sale e-mails. And yet, I buy. I look at the shiny, tan legs of models and their precious spring outfits and think of myself, 10 pounds lighter, traipsing around the City of Light, a vision of printemps. Sipping Cotes du Rhone in a café, the backs of my pastel skimmers flapping off my heels and the skirt of my navy blue sailor-striped dress rippling in the Parisian breeze as I make people-watching notes in my leatherbound journal. And wrapping that airy, grass-green scarf around my neck one morning and strolling along the Seine, basking in the sun and my transatlantic solitude.

It's such a travesty to sink hundreds of dollars into new clothes that I won't be able to wear for another couple of months, but reverie like this, that transports me as I'm sitting in this fluorescent hole at a laptop that burns under my wrists, makes me want to spend, spend, spend. I guess that's how long-suffering retailers are still making it — selling products just as much as they are dreams of warmer, happier times to come. Let's get out of this country.