Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Key to the Inner Circle

It’s 2:41 a.m. in the United States, but just before 10 p.m. in Australia and the house is silent besides the clicking of my keys. I just finished a documentary on the relationship between the heart and the brain – something only a nursing student might watch for pleasure. I couldn’t sleep, so I decided to look back at the dates I haven’t yet written about after the meet-the-parents weekend and there is an absolute explosion of meeting one another's closest friends – the inner circle.

It was as if getting our parent’s approval somehow told our brains that it was okay to let our hearts reveal the other half of who we were. Okay, I’ll stop with the cheese, but the documentary was fascinating! (In case you’re interested: Heartbreak Science )

For the remaining month of November, we went from driving to Portland to battle it out in beer pong qualifying rounds, to a relaxing dinner at Barrio (apparently our favorite restaurant), to delivering take-out to friends with a new little one. Our schedules are tight, so this meant a lot of meeting at each others' places to swap cars or simply waiting (mostly for me since I have a pretty full tardy card – dating back to 1991). It got to the point where waiting outside in the, albeit strange for Seattle, near-freezing temperatures was simply unkind. So, one day as I rushed home, ushered SG#1 into my front door, threw on a new outfit and prepared for another evening of meeting friends, I handed SG#1 the key to my front door.

He hesitated to take it and it was in that moment that I realized what I was doing. My hand was extended with the spare key to my house. I was giving SG#1, my boyfriend, access to all of my possessions – open opportunities to hunt down pictures of me and my frizzy afro in 3rd grade, free reign of my overstuffed refrigerator, entrĂ©e to my embarrassingly large collection of shampoos and conditioners (why do I keep trying new ones anyway?!). And I was totally ok with it.

He finally took the key after grumbling over how many keys he already had on his ring and how it would be strange to be in my house without me anyway (which is a way better response than showing excitement over rummaging through the above mentioned items).

When I thought about this exchange later it seemed so much bigger than it was in that moment. We spend our whole lives trying to protect ourselves, our hearts, our apartments, our bikes, our overly-priced and prized mobile phones, and it took just six months for me to give SG#1 the key to all of mine.


It became apparent that it wasn’t the key that really mattered; it was the act of handing over the key to me that felt so raw. Later that week he gave me the key to his house and upped the ante with his spare car key, and for some reason it felt like collateral to a bigger piece of the pie and it made me feel better. It’s not like I was going to hunt down his car and drive it to Canada, but just knowing that he trusted me with his shelter and wheels meant I had access to pictures of his 8th grade bowl cut and to his secret glove-compartment stash of Mariah Carey CDs that made the whole exchange worth opening up another chamber.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Meat-ing the parents

Four months in, we’re laying around on a lazy Sunday afternoon and SG#1 tells me about a wedding he’s been invited to in Kansas City – his home town.
“So, I’m thinking it would be fun to have a date at the wedding.”
“Oh yeah. Who are you going to take?” [Me being facetious]
“I was thinking of taking you, and, well, my parents live there, in Kansas City, so maybe, umm...”

Oh. My. Goodness.

He wants me to meet his parents.

In Kansas City!!

I was excited and nervous and all kinds of freaked out. Just four months in and a meet-the-parents weekend?! This guy really liked me, and I really liked him and suddenly I had ruby slippers on my feet and I was in Pleasantville with SG#1 and everything was just peachy – which could never happen because big, frizzy, curly hair doesn’t fit the whole Pleasantville look.

Three clicks of my heels later and there I was stepping off of the plane at Kansas City International. SG#1 and his dad picked me up and whisked me away to drinks while we waited for our table at Jack Stack Barbecue (One of Kansas City’s finest BBQ joints). This is the time any girlfriend waits for: embarrassing childhood stories about your significant other’s first girlfriend, pictures of them at their first prom, etc. Instead, SG#1’s dad (who we will refer to as Mr. Dad from now on) started in on a story:
“I remember when I moved to St. Louis and I was looking for a girlfriend…my friends wrote me a list of potential mates to call for a date, one of which was SG#1’s mom.”

The story goes that he actively pursued SG#1’s mom for a couple of months and, after a few unlikely excuses, she finally agreed to a date.
“…six months later we were married. She was 29 and I was 32.” (Smiley, inquisitive look in our direction) “So, how old are you Alani?”
“Well, I’m 29.”

If you haven’t clued in yet, I am 29 and SG#1 is 32 and we had been dating for exactly six months at the time the story was told. I don’t’ think Mr. Dad’s story had an agenda, but after he asked my age the table fell silent…and then erupted in nervous laughter.

Meet-the-dad icebreaker complete.

We paid our tab and walked the yellow brick road to Jack Stack Barbecue for dinner and to meet SG#1’s mom (Mrs. Mom from now on). Dinner was fairly benign. Just the usual childhood stories, questions about what I do – which received an, “Oh interesting, SG#1 has never really been interested in the medical field, at all!”

(I’m pretty sure I already figured that one out after he asked how my first day of internship went and stopped me at the first mucus-laden story). We ate ourselves silly at Jack Stack: a tower of onion rings, barbecue sauce rubbed chicken, pork spare ribs, pulled pork, baked cheesy corn, hickory baked beans a side of meat and a little more meat. I really wanted to try the carrot cake, but I’m not sure I could fit it in – it makes my mouth water just thinking about it. YUM. So far Kansas City was on my top 10 list of best food [read: MEAT] cities and I had successfully lived through meeting the parents. I was excited to hear my official review, but first we moved on to drinks with SG#1’s best friends…

Picture the most dive-y bar you’ve ever seen located just behind a row of over-stocked car dealerships and steaming with young patrons playing betting games and drinking a local IPA. I was starting to fade from a long day of exams, a bumpy plane ride and a release of nervous energy over meeting SG#1’s parents for the first time. I ruffle through my purse for my ID and spot the table of SG#1’s high school friends. They stick out in their button-up shirts with mixed drinks in hand, and as they see SG#1 they all start to smile and cheer.

“You must be Alani. How do you like Kansas City so far?” SG#1’s best friend greets me with a hug.

And before I could answer he motions to the table with a big smile on his face and announces, “We’re all a little fatter, but we’re happy!”

And that’s how the whole weekend went; fun friends, great drinks and more meat than I’ve ever consumed in 36 hours. We went to the most amazing Catholic-Hindu wedding I’ve ever seen (and the first), complete with Hindu tea ceremony, the groom’s grand entrance on a white horse led by traditional Dhol drummers and the entire wedding party dancing and cheering as they processed…you know, just your typical most-awesome-wedding-EVER! It was, however, the longest wedding ever as well and after hour six of drinking and partying, still waiting for the reception to begin, we stopped at the hotel bar for a bite to eat, just a little slider or two. And, much to my surprise it was a mini bun, mini burger patty (inch thick) with more shredded meat piled on top of it – only in Kansas City.

After the festivities drew to a close SG#1, his best friend and I headed to the bars for a drink or two. The best friend and I had a top secret heart to heart, which basically meant him asking me some “really important” questions:

1. So, are you going to marry SG#1?
2. If SG#1 asked you to marry him tomorrow, what would you say?
3. SG#1 seems really happy, how do you feel about him?

Such pointed questions! He did inform me I got an “A” grade (he doesn’t give A+’s), so I was pretty happy about that. And, in terms of the final parental review, as Mr. Dad and Mrs. Mom said their goodbye’s at the wedding (after I had a dance with Mr. Dad), Mrs. Mom said, “Alani, you’re invited to Thanksgiving and Christmas any time you want!”

I think that means they liked me.

Well, this year I’m spending Christmas in Australia, but I might have to take them up on the holiday offer sometime soon. All in all, the meet-the-parents, meet-the-friends, Kansas City weekend was just another chapter in the fairy tale that is dating SG#1 (which totally and completely freaks me out). When will the Wicked Witch of the West whirl onto the scene surrounded by a spiraling tornado of munchkins, lions and tin men? For now, I’ll just click my heels three times and imagine no place like home with SG#1 by my side.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Playing Dress-up

Halloween was just around the corner (I know, I am sooo far behind on posts!). We were invited to the party, my sister was right on her way to recovery from surgery so she could join us and everyone was buzzing with “top secret” costume ideas. There was just one problem: SG#1 and I didn’t have costumes. We had plenty of ideas such as bee and bee-keeper (SG#1 would have to be the bee), fish, mermaid and merman (that one was quickly vetoed)…but nothing seemed to stick.

We went out to breakfast the Saturday before Halloween – T-minus 7 days before costumes were needed – and asked the waiter if he had a costume idea for us. Well, let’s just say he had plenty, but apparently the wait staff at 13 Coins have their minds deep into the gutter. So deep, the costume idea will not be mentioned here.

A week later, T-minus 8 hours before the party, and still no costume. We dragged ourselves over to a temporary Halloween warehouse resurrected in Fremont. Everything on our idea list was represented and more! There was a bee – a sexy bee – with mini-dress and wand (I didn’t know bees had wands), and a fish – a sexy fish – with mini skirt and bikini top, and Alice in Wonderland – again a mini dress with cleavage-revealing bustier – and there was Dorothy and the tin man, the lion, princesses and princes…why did everything have to be the sexy, mini version?! And why were the male counterparts full-body suits with very little skin showing? And you got such a tiny little piece of fire-retardant fabric for $75.

We started to panic.

SG#1 kept circling back to a chicken hat and naughty nurse was starting to look like a good option – YIKES!

And then we cracked. If we were going to a toga party, we would definitely wear togas, so why were we so opposed to the Americanized Halloween idea of being your sexy self? So we decided to take Halloween to its sexed up limit. And where else do Americans fully embrace their inner slut than in Vegas?!

All day long we were asking each other, “Who came up with this holiday anyway?”

Women dressed up as sexy kittens and men in Top Gun flight suits. I looked up the origins of this strange holiday on Wikipedia, the most reputable source of historical information for sure, and there is a mish mash of theories about why spend an evening donning costumes and eating candy. Some believe it comes from the Roman Catholic All Saints Day, a celebration of those who have left us but have not yet reached heaven, but ninja costumes, bobbing for apples and spooky ghost tunes don’t really evoke the sentiment this holy holiday aims to accomplish. One historian, Nicholas Rogers, proposes that the origins of Halloween can be found in multiple celebrations such as, the Roman feast of Pomona, the goddess of fruits and seeds, or in Parentalia, the festival of the dead, and it may be that Halloween is simply a marker of “summer’s end” from the Celtic word and festival, Samhain.


So we’ve come from seemingly benign celebrations of saints, fruits and nuts and the end of summer to slut-fest 2010. Perhaps Freud was right, we are all a little repressed and Halloween is the one night we can let our inhibitions scatter to the wind and embody our inner desires.

Well, SG#1 and I let our inhibitions scatter so far I’m not sure we could find them again if we tried.

Together we were, “What happens in Vegas.”

We embodied the stereotypical Las Vegas couple. They meet in a bar on a Friday night and wake up Saturday morning with a crumpled marriage license, a sparkling wedding ring in the shape of a money sign and a matching set of fresh tattoos.

We arrived at the party and our costume reviews went a little something like this:

“So you’re dressed up as a married couple?!”



Well, yeah. We dressed up as a married couple. I guess there was nothing to hide. Deep down inside our repressed selves SG#1 and I just wanted to be a slutty Las Vegas married couple. Oops.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Trivia and Tics

I got a message from a guy I’d been emailing with, asking if I’d like to grab a bite to eat at Belltown Pizza. I had eaten there once before (on another date, if I remember correctly) and their slices were somewhat reminiscent of New York Pizza (which I was raised on). So, I agreed, happily.

When I arrived, he was already sitting at the bar, waiting for me. As soon as introductions were done, he informed me that it was trivia night! As someone who loves learning random facts, I’m often on the winning trivia team. This was an exciting change in the normal dinner routine!

We decided to split a pizza and join forces in the intellectual challenge. He seemed to know everyone in the bar, so free drinks were flowing throughout the evening. The first question was posed:
What color does acid turn Litmus paper?
Too easy! Bring on something a bit more challenging!

We stated “red” and, obviously, won the round. I looked at my date, his hands started flailing, and he opened his mouth:
"Hell yea, own it, ooowwwwnnnn it, own it! Hell yea, own it! Own it! Yea, yea, yea!"
Well, that was a bit more excitement than I was expecting for the first question! Oh well, I guess optimism and happiness are good traits.

Soon after, question two was announced:
What is a freshwater lobster called?
As a foodie, the question was also not a problem: Crayfish

Our answer was pronounced correct and my date began exploding with enthusaiasm once again:
“See that!?! Own it, ooowwwnnnn it, own it! That’s right, own it! Own it!”

And it continued…and continued…and continued throughout the evening.

We did, indeed, win the trivia competition. By the end, however, I didn’t have much enthusiasm left in me! His tourette-like outburts were draining! Certainly not something I could deal with on a long-term basis!

No, nope, nada, no way, nah, nope, no, no!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Keeping your eyes on the prize

One question I am consistently asked on this dating quest: have you and Looking for a Spark [LFAS] ever dated the same guy? The answer is no…but we’ve certainly talked about it! There is one guy, in particular, who makes me think of this potential situation: the optometrist.
Let’s take it back—
Almost year ago, he invited me to an amazing dinner at a scrumptious restaurant (Ray’s Boathouse). He was good company (despite having told me that something was "off" about my eyes), and we were thinking of going somewhere else afterwards. But messages crossed and it didn’t work out.

Date number two: we met at an Asian place (Indochine) somewhere midway between our respective residences. The food was alright, and, being in a period of transition with his job, he talked much more about his daily stressors than I felt comfortable hearing on the second date! I had had a rough week as well, but I just listened and listened. He never once asked me how things were going (though, truth be told, I don’t know how much I would have divulged on the 2nd date, anyway).

A couple weeks later, it was my birthday, and he insisted on cooking me dinner. Driving all the way out to where he lived, however, quickly convinced me that something long-term would not work out…especially while I was in school! Had we connected more, I might have been willing to take on that sacrifice of distance. At the end of the night, however, I realized that it would be our final date.
And fast-forward—
At the end of each academic quarter, my amazing nursing cohort unites for a celebration of accomplishments and (fleeting) freedom. The last one was at a classmate’s family’s gorgeous lake house. The party was phenomenal, complete with paddleboarding, chocolate fountains, and amazing company. Of course, before long, pictures erupted on facebook, highlighting the good times enjoyed by all.

As there were uncountable pictures of cute girls in bikinis, I have no doubt that they got a lot of facebook traffic. It so happens, however, that the optometrist is still one of my facebook friends. And, so, after not having heard from him in about half a year, I received a facebook message:
So, I know things didn’t work out with us, but how about that girl, [LFAS], who I saw pictures of on facebook. Is she single? She’s really cute and it’d be great if you could work something out!
Uh…first of all, no, she wasn’t single. And second of all, is that even allowed?! Can you really ask someone you dated, to hook you up with their friend?? Granted, we never kissed or anything…but still!

While it’s the principle of the matter that bothers me, the truth is that I wouldn’t really mind playing matchmaker for a friend, if I found a guy I thought would be better for her than for me. So, if any single lady-readers decide they have their eyes open for potential dates, I might have an optometrist right up your alley!