Friday, January 31, 2014

The Smell of Coffee

Getting out of bed on Saturday was not an easy endeavor. I rolled out of bed around noon and tried to eat my way through the hangover. It was unsuccessful, but I still enjoyed stuffing my face while on the couch watching reruns.

I must have picked my phone up every five minutes. I couldn’t wait to hear from Alex. I hadn’t felt real butterflies like that in a while. He was cute, interesting, and most importantly, he seemed really into me. Whenever a man insistently tells me I’m pretty, he scores major points in my book. I’m not that complex, I guess.

I received a text around four o’clock but it wasn’t from Alex. It was Darlene.

“Holy hangover… Diner tomorrow when I can move?”

I confirmed with Darlene. That was the only text I received all day. Around 10 o’clock, I decided to go back to sleep. My hangover was gone but I felt worse than I had all day. Alex never texted me and I felt completely forgotten. Was he that drunk? Was he only trying to get me to go home with him? Why’d he even ask for my number? At times like this, I hated being single. The deep pain of rejection made me want to be with somebody, anybody, even if they weren’t perfect for me.

I woke up Sunday, still hopeful, but when I looked down at my iPhone the only thing I saw was a Candy Crush request from my mom.

I forced myself out of bed and into the shower. I could feel the hot water washing away all my regret from the weekend. Hot showers are impossible to get out of when there’s a polar vortex. It’s almost like gravity won’t allow you to exit the shower’s warmth.

Darlene and I lived the closest out of all our friends. We went to the same elementary school and even rode the same bus in middle school. Our friends lived on the other side of town and even though it was fairly close, sometimes it was just easier to grab a quick bite with Darlene at the diner that was literally walking distance from our homes. On Long Island, it was very rare that I didn’t take a car whenever I left my house. During any other season, we would have walked there, but like I said, polar vortexes take away all the fun.

When I picked up Darlene, she was wearing huge, round sunglasses and an oversized sweatshirt with a penguin on the front.

“Cute sweatshirt,” I said with sarcasm before she was even in the passenger seat.

“Fuck off, I love it,” she replied. She wasn’t smiling, but I could tell she wasn’t actually offended. She has a very dry sense of humor, which I love. She didn’t take her sunglasses off and I don’t even know why she wore them considering there was no sun. I think her eyes were closed underneath them the whole time.

Once we got to the diner, we opted to sit at the bar instead of a table. We both ordered coffees before looking at the menu.

“I don’t know if I can eat,” Darlene said wrinkling her nose and looking at the omelet section. “Is it bad that I’m still feeling hung over?”

“No, what’s bad is when you put all your hope into a guy and he doesn’t text you,” I said before pointing both my thumbs inward.

“What?” Darlene asked, finally taking off her sunglasses. “But he was so into you, Caroline. Like seriously, we were all crazy jealous.”

I nodded and looked down. I wasn’t sure if Darlene was making me feel better or worse. We got our coffees and Darlene started pouring milk into her cup. I brought mine up to my nose and embraced the smell. The smell of fresh coffee made me feel unexplainably happy.

“So, text him,” Darlene nonchalantly stated while adding sugar to her coffee. I raised my eyebrows and titled my head towards her. “What?” she defensively replied. “It’s 2014, nobody cares if the girl makes the first move.”

“That’s not the point, Darlene. If he wanted to talk to me, he would have texted me, because he said he would. How desperate will I look if I text him?”

Darlene finally lifted her coffee and took a sip. “I don’t know, but you’ll never find out if you don’t.” Well, she had a point there.

I took a sip of my coffee and stared at the TV behind the bar playing the news. “Maybe,” I finally said. “Anyway, can we talk about Ryan? What exactly did he tell you?”

Darlene’s eyes got big. “I can’t believe he told us. I mean, I knew he was gay.”

“Really?” I asked. She rolled her eyes at me. “Okay, but did you think he was ever going to come out?”

Darlene took a moment before responding. “Eventually, yes. He told me he’s gay, but not ‘gay pride parade’ gay.”

I laughed and coffee almost came out of my nose. “And what is that supposed to mean?” I asked.

“You know,” Darlene said with a smile. “Like, he’s not flamboyant. He’s not going to start dressing nice or talking about celebrity gossip. He’s especially not going to any colorful, gay dance clubs. Believe me, I already asked if we could go to one of those.”

“He’s just not changing into a stereotype,” Darlene continued. I nodded. It made sense. Ryan wanted to stay Ryan. I, on the other hand, didn’t know who I wanted to be. I knew what I didn’t want to be, though. Needy. So I didn’t text Alex. I never did hear from him again. It hurt, but I let it go. I finally decided not to let the dismissal of one guy change how I saw myself. Besides, there are plenty of other fish in the sea and one will bite this bait.

We finished our coffees before heading home. Successful coffee outing.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Night Continues

I woke up on the Saturday morning after Nostalgic feeling like the strongest lunch lady in high school hit me over the head with a steal lunch tray. But I woke up smiling.

Once I realized the cute boy at the bar was probably straight, I could feel the energetic butterflies in my stomach. I turned to Ryan who had been standing right next to me. "Okay, so this guy is straight. I'm going to work on this if you don't mind." Ryan laughed and rolled his eyes at me.

"I'll catch up with you over there," he said while motioning to his coworkers across the dance floor. As he walked away, I turned back to the guy. He was snapping his fingers over his friend’s head at the bartender. I took a step closer and lightly graced my fingers over his arm. Hello, muscles!

I normally would never be so forward with a man. I was always extremely introverted in romantic contexts. I was a late bloomer, so I feel like I didn’t learn the skills of flirting during my teenage years like most kids. To be honest, the only reason Mike and I even ended up dating was because he was so persistent with me. He enjoyed the chase so much that my tendency to avoid uncomfortable dates with him simply drove his desire.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

His name was Alex and he had the most intoxicating accent I had ever heard, even though I couldn’t quite place what country he was from. The bartender finally answered Alex’s subjectively rude snapping and he ordered a Long Island Iced Tea. He turned to me and asked what I wanted. Oh, such a gentleman.

“I’ll have the same,” I said with confidence even though I knew it would be too much for me after what I already drank. “We should do a round of shots, too.”

Alex smiled at me and nodded at the bartender. The bartender asked what kind of shots we wanted and without hesitation, Alex said tequila. My gag reflux kicked in at the mere mention of the word, but I kept a poker face.

I lifted the shot and smiled at him. “To new friends,” I said.

“To new friends,” he mimicked in his beautiful, sexy accent. Seriously, I cannot stress the charm of this accent.

The nice thing about being newly single is you don’t care. I just didn’t. Even though I was lonelier than ever, I wasn’t ready for a boyfriend and I knew that. All I wanted to do was experiment with my singleness again. How will a guy react if I say this? Or do this? How far can I go without him thinking I’m a total psychopath? Will he find this funny or absolutely insane?

Alex reached into his pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. While I would never date a smoker, I didn’t care that Alex smoked.

“Would you like to join me outside?” he asked. There was an outside bar, but I it remained closed when the weather was below 50 degrees. They kept the patio open for smokers.

I nodded and grabbed my Long Island Iced Tea. Alex took my empty hand in his and led me through the back entrance. It was cold out and I was never happier to be wearing a sweater. We stopped a few steps past the door and I looked over at Alex. I forgot he was wearing a cardigan with nothing underneath. This was the characteristic that led me to believe he was gay in the first place, so now it seemed a bit strange.

“Okay, what’s going on with this?” I asked motioning to his upper body.

“My friends bet me I couldn’t rip open my shirt, so I had to prove them wrong,” he responded with his cigarette hanging out of the side of his mouth. I suddenly noticed underneath his cardigan was a completely ripped t-shirt. If I hadn’t drank so much, I would have probably thought this was juvenile, but it seemed sexy to me that night. Again, the accent worked in his extreme favor.

“So you’re strong, huh?” I asked putting my left hand on my hip. Before I could blink, Alex bent over and reached around my waist. I let out a scream as he lifted me over his shoulders. I almost spilt my drink on his back.

“Yes, I am!” he said while twirling me around. When he placed me down, I was still laughing. I didn’t even realize he was bringing his face close until his nose was inches from mine. “Do you like that?” he rhetorically asked before kissing me.

He kissed a little sloppy, but I attribute that to the alcohol. It felt so weird to kiss somebody new. I hadn’t kissed anybody other than Mike for over two years. I tried not to think about that in the moment.

When he pulled away from kissing me, he was smiling. “You’re the cutest little American girl. I can’t wait to take you out sometime.” While I still didn’t know exactly where he was from, he was giving me a serious case of the giggles. I continued to kiss him despite his cigarette breath. We alternated between kissing and talking for a bit until Jessica appeared behind Alex.

“Hey, Caroline,” she said, shivering. “Sorry, but we’re leaving in a few minutes.”

“Stay!” Alex blurted out. “You can come home with me.”

I declined and he completely understood. He pulled out his phone and had me enter my number under, “Pretty American.”

“I’ll text you tomorrow,” he said before kissing me on the cheek.

By the time I got home, he had texted me saying that he was so glad he met me. I went to bed feeling giddy. I couldn’t wait to make plans to see him again. I knew I would never date him, but it was nice to feel wanted. Sometimes a girl just needs that.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Friday Night and the Lights are Low

Yes, I just quoted Dancing Queen. No, I won’t apologize for it. Let’s move past it.

Long Island has been experiencing one of its coldest winters and it is driving me insane. Not only have I struggled to make it to work in two snowstorms so far, but going out is especially demoralizing. A sweater does not give off the same sex appeal as a sparkly tank top.

Last Friday, Jessica texted me about going to Nostalgic, a bar in the next town over. Nostalgic was one of the louder, more club-like, bars that my friends and I frequented, but it had good music, usually switching between a live 90s cover band and a DJ. Plus, they had $1 beers from 10-1, which my guy friends took full advantage of.

I’m never actually excited to go out until I start getting ready. I began dancing to Katy Perry while picking out an outfit that would combine warmth and attractiveness when Darlene texted me.

“Ryan is coming tonight!” My excitement grew. Ryan was one of our good friends, but didn’t regularly hang out with us since we graduated high school. Darlene and I would get dinner with him once in a while throughout college, but he was always closer with his family and coworkers. I hadn’t seen him in a few months. I could literally feel the night’s fun potential going up. Okay, not literally.

Before I knew it, Jessica was outside my house with a full car. When we entered Nostalgic, we saw our other friends near the front bar already with drinks. I greeted them all before making my way to the bar myself.

“A cranberry vodka, please,” I asked while fishing money out of my wristlet. Darlene walked up behind me and asked for one, as well. For a while, we stood with our friends near the front bar, practically yelling at each other in order to have a conversation over the music.

I realized Ryan had arrived when Darlene began squealing. She greeted him with an overly enthusiastic embrace. At this point, most of us were a little tipsy so Darlene insisted he follow us to the dance floor. He declined but promised to meet up with us a little later.

Darlene, Jessica, Anna, and I started to dance and sing along to the DJ while drinking our mixed drinks. I knew I was going to have a stomach ache the next morning, but I didn’t even care. During one of my trips to the bar, Ryan walked over to me. He had been hanging out with some of his coworkers who were also at the bar that night.

“Come to the bathroom with me?” Ryan asked as I paid the bartender for my drink.

“Why would I do that?” I asked. “We don’t use the same bathroom.”

“Just wait outside for me,” he responded.

“That’s stupid, Ryan,” I said while practically laughing in his face. “Meet me on the dance floor when you’re done.”

“Just come with me, please,” Ryan demanded. I rolled my eyes and walked to the back of the bar with him. “So, I’m sorry about you and Mike,” he said as we made our way through the crowd.

“Thanks,” I responded with zero enthusiasm.

“So, a lot has been going on with me,” he said as we reached the bathroom. He didn’t go inside. Instead, he took a sip of his beer and blankly looked at me. Ryan was clearly waiting for me to ask him what ‘a lot’ meant.


“Yeah,” Ryan said without looking at me. Why did he seem so uncomfortable? “My mom hasn’t talked to me in like, two weeks.”

“What? Why?” I asked trying to make eye contact with him. Now, I was interested. Ryan and his mom were always extremely close. One of the reasons Darlene and I loved going over Ryan’s house was because his parents were so fun. 

“Well, my dad said she’ll come around,” he said taking another sip of his beer and looking down at his feet.

“But what happened?” I impatiently prodded.

“She wasn’t really thrilled with me when I, um, when I told her I was gay.” Ryan finally looked up at me, just in time to see my eyes widen. Ryan was coming out to me.

I wasn’t that surprised, but I was surprised he was choosing now to tell me. I reached my arms out and gave him a hug. Ryan never really had an interest in girls, but he also didn’t come across as a stereotypical gay guy. People had teased him a little in high school and sometimes, people even asked me if he was gay. I always said he wasn’t gay until he said he was gay and I never really knew if he would come out or not. I stopped hugging him and looked at him. For the first time since I’ve known him, he actually looked relaxed. 

“I’m really glad you told me,” I assured him before finishing off my drink in a big gulp. I nudged my glass at Ryan’s empty beer. “So let’s find you a man,” I insisted. He laughed and shook his head at me as I grabbed his arm and dragged him to the bar.

Upon reaching the bar, I found a target for Ryan. It was a handsome, tall guy, with great arms, wearing an open cardigan with nothing underneath. I looked at Ryan and smiled, but he was still shaking his head at me. I'll admit, I drank too much at this point but I was having fun.

As soon as I opened my mouth to speak to the beautiful, gay man, he grabbed my chin with his hand. What?

“What’s up, pretty lady?” he asked with a wink, totally catching me off guard. Was I wrong about this guy’s sexual orientation? Was he straight?
He let go of my face and smiled. I suddenly felt flustered. Maybe he would be my target for the night.

Friday, January 10, 2014

My Girlz

New Year’s Eve left its toll on most of us for a few days, so my girlfriends and I thought we would do something low key Saturday night. We decided to grab dinner at a restaurant known for its fattening and cheap appetizers. I attempted my first sock bun for the occasion. As much as I resent it, I do like to try new things in the New Year. Maybe if I try out enough hairstyles I’ll find one that I absolutely love. I hope to use the same strategy to find a man.

When I got the one word text message reading, "Here," I said goodbye to my parents who were watching a movie in the living room and scurried out the door. My three girlfriends were already in the car when I got in.

"He's just a total douche bag, psycho and I never want to speak to him again," exclaimed my friend, Jessica, from the front seat.

Darlene, who was in the back seat with me, mouthed "Josh" and I quickly understood the general topic of the conversation. Josh was Jessica's toxic on-again, off-again boyfriend. I guess this month she was swearing him off.

"Seriously, unfollow him on Instagram and block his number," Anna responded. "You can do it right from your iPhone now!"

Jessica, Darlene, and Anna are my three closest friends. Over the years, our group fluctuated in size but shortly after college, it was basically us four. We all had other friends, but the group chat with these three gals made up about 80% of my texting. While my other friends were off with their serious boyfriends or really focused on their careers in New York City, I always had these three to hang out with over the weekends.

The restaurant was only five minutes from my house but by the time we exited the car, I was already done hearing about Josh. Jessica always complained about him and while her complaints were warranted, it became tiresome to fake a happy expression weeks later when she told us they were giving it another shot. She would defend his actions and we were required to reinforce her delusions. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to give her my honest opinion, but Jessica is not the type of person who takes criticism well. Jessica was going to do what Jessica wanted to do and not only did our opinions not matter, but they were interpreted as unfair judgments.

Jessica was always the pretty friend. Whenever we went out, the hottest guy in the bar would hit on her and it didn’t even faze her. She could basically have any guy she wanted, so naturally she went for the most unattainable men. She had a lot of boyfriends over the years, but somehow ended up wasting most of her time on the difficult ones, like Josh. I think she secretly likes the excitement of it all. A nice, normal guy just doesn’t give her the same rush as the crazy ones.

The restaurant was packed with people, but the hostess led us to a booth (score!) in the back right away. I immediately opened the menu and scanned the appetizers. Spinach and artichoke dip, you are mine.

“So, I’ve been texting the boy from New Year’s Eve,” squealed Anna. I wanted to high five her across the table for steering the conversation away from Josh.

“He wasn’t put off when you ditched him to puke in the bathroom?” I jokingly asked. On New Year’s Eve, Anna started talking to this cute, 6-foot tall boy shortly after midnight. I was sitting at the table when I saw them exchange numbers before each taking a shot. As soon as she slammed the glass on the bar, she made a disgusted face before scurrying off to the bathroom. He looked so confused and it made me want to run to the bar to console him with a hug.

“No,” Anna shot back at me with a stern look. For a second I thought she was actually mad at me but then she cracked a smile. Phew. “He said he had a really great time and wants to do something this week.”

Anna nabbed her first boyfriend senior year of high school and dated him throughout college. He was okay. I never thought he treated her that great and I encouraged her to break up with him multiple times. Of course, what did I know? As we started our last semester of college, she finally ended it. At first, I saw her struggle. I mean Anna was never really single before. She had no idea how it worked, having been in a relationship for almost five years. I honestly give her a lot of credit.

“That’s exciting,” replied Darlene with authentic enthusiasm. “Now who wants to split the mozzarella sticks with me?”

This is why Darlene is my absolute favorite. She could be legitimately happy for you while still focused on the important things, like food. Darlene is my oldest friend. We sat next to each other in fifth grade and our friendship was practically instant. Darlene never had a boyfriend. I always felt like she just lacked confidence, so she didn’t get as much attention from guys. I could tell it used to bother her but as we get older, boys have started to notice her more and more. I don’t know if they’re growing up or if she’s growing comfortable in her own skin. Either way, I’m all for it.

Dinner that night was rather uneventful, but the food was good and there was an abundance of laughter. I truly love these three girls with every bone in my body. We have all always been there for each other when it really matters. I’m not going to lie though; these girls frustrate me at times. But who doesn’t want to abandon their friends and move to Mexico sometimes?

And yes, the spinach and artichoke dip was absolutely amazing.

Friday, January 3, 2014

New Year's Eve

Ah, the New Year. A holiday advertised as a time for new beginnings, where people can start over and this year, really become the person they have always wanted to be. But gyms have the sold, but unused gym memberships to prove that not a lot changes when January first rolls around. It’s a day, like any other day, but people imagine it to have this magical power that it simply doesn’t.

New Year’s Eve can be frustrating because it’s a huge party night with an insensitive reminder at midnight that the single individuals are, indeed, alone. No matter how much fun the singles were having before midnight, having no midnight kiss is always at least a little bit of a blow. Last year, I spent New Year’s Eve with Mike at his friend’s house. Even though that was my only New Year’s Eve with a boyfriend, the thought of being alone this year felt so much worse than previous years.

Most of my friends and I graduated college this past spring, so we thought it would be nice to do something subjectively adult for New Year’s Eve this year. We booked two tables at a catering hall and when Tuesday night rolled around, I put on this strapless black and white dress I had bought on clearance months ago. I was happy to be finally wearing it!

Of course to contradict the adult nature of the event, my mom drove my girlfriends and me to the catering hall two towns over. None of us were driving because it was an open bar and hello, responsible. We walked in to see most of our other friends already there. The two tables were made up of a bunch of our guy friends who I’ve known since high school and some of their girlfriends, along with a few random acquaintances.

We quickly greeted everyone before making our way over to the bar. James, our friend’s old college roommate, was in line in front of us. “Hello, ladies,” he said to us all with a huge smile. We talked for a few minutes before reaching the front of the line. He ordered two jack and cokes.

“Are you here with someone?” I asked. James was kind of the token single guy. He would come out with us to bars in the city throughout college and hit on the most desperate looking girl in the place. It usually worked out for him. He wasn’t ugly but he also wasn’t particularly good looking. He knew who to hit on, though.

“No, they’re both for me,” he said with a wink. He placed a five in the tip jar and grabbed both drinks. “I expect to see all of you on the dance floor later!”

My friend, Anna, wasted no time before ordering two glasses of white wine. “He has the right idea,” she excitedly said. We all followed suite and ordered two drinks each. It was an open bar after all and the line was only getting longer as more people arrived.

I practically inhaled my two cranberry vodkas and ordered two more before dinner was even served. I ate a piece of bread and a few bites of chicken marsala before returning to the dance floor, where it seemed that people were really channeling their inner Britneys. It wasn’t long before James and I were the only two of our group left dancing. Everyone was going back up for seconds at the buffet, taking bathroom breaks, or getting in line for drinks. I’ve had a high stamina for dancing since my days of attending Sweet 16s and James made for an excellent partner.

James took my hand and started twirling me around the dance floor. I noticed an annoyed look or two from other dancers, but what did we care? We were both hammered at this point and having a blast.

It only took a few more twirls until James pulled me in close. My back was to him as our pelvises swayed together to the music. After a couple more songs, I turned to face him and we couldn’t be any closer without kissing. Maybe New Year’s Eve would be a new start. I had no idea what James wanted that night, if anything, but I’d be grateful for anything to distract me from thinking about Mike all the time.

I was waiting for him to make a move when he gave me a playful shove instead. “You’re such a tease,” he said without missing a beat in his dance routine, which I came to assume was previously choreographed.


“You’re never going to cheat on Mike.”

Well, so much for a distraction. I was standing still, while he was still dancing. “We broke up,” I responded.

“When?” He asked with a puzzled look on his face. I couldn’t tell if he didn’t believe me or if he was genuinely just asking. I didn’t even answer before motioning to the restroom and putting my index finger up to let him know I was taking a bathroom break, even though I had no intention of returning to the dance floor. If he thought I had a boyfriend, why would I dance with him like that? Would he have kissed me if he thought I’d let him?

Once in the restroom, I found Anna. She had made friends with a nice middle-aged woman. “Do you see this, Caroline?” she screamed while pointing to the party hat on her head. “Meredith gave it to me!” She polished off her almost empty white wine before breaking out into a hysterical laughter.

“Okay, let’s get you back to the table,” I said. James’ comment sobered me right up and for the rest of the night, I became the nurturing mother. When midnight struck, I had no midnight kiss but I was surrounded by my amazing friends. Maybe I still wasn’t over Mike, but it was okay. I had fun, even on my own. Who needs a man anyway?