I turned 27 this week. I’m not freaking out about it. Really. Not freaking out about it. Not even a little bit. Not even at all.
As far as birthdays go, it was pretty tame – Since it was a Tuesday night and I’m a real grown up now, I just went to Prime 16 for beer and burgers with a few friends. I wore an outfit that screamed, “You don’t want to buy this girl a drink.”
A black and white polka dot dress, two belts, converse sneakers, pig tails, big flower power earrings and, for le morceau de résistance, my neon pink footless “chastity tights.” They were designed back in the early 80’s to ensure that a young lady’s virtue remained unchallenged and they still work like a charm! No guys even looked at me twice.
Not like last year.
Last year, I was in New Orleans and celebrated the 26th anniversary of my birth on Frenchmen Street with more people than I could count (which is a lot, I’m actually very good at math). We went to see the jazz band I used to stalk at d.b.a. What can I say, the trombone player was adorable… I guess he noticed me always dancing around in the front row like a character from Peanuts, because the whole band wished me a happy birthday and he gave me a free CD.
The CD was one of the only things I brought home (well, the CD and a linen dress, 2 pairs of Italian made shoes, a black cocktail dress, some new accessories, vintage crystal earrings, a ton of beads, my masquerade mask….) Everything else stayed in New Orleans – or left New Orleans and went back to Australia, Belgium and the Netherlands (respectively). That’s a good thing. A really good thing. Mostly because every year that passes, I think I know exactly what I want – then I get a little older, a little wiser. I learn a little more about what’s out there and I realize I’m glad for the experience to have happened and for that time in my life to have subsequently passed. I’m just not ready to “settle down.” Actually, I’ll never really be ready to “settle,” I need someone who can keep up with me.
Last year, I wanted a foreigner. And while I still joke around about my plans to move to Ireland next year and either go to school or hang out until someone marries me, I know that dating someone from another country isn’t as easy or romantic as you think. Not saying it’s no fun; in my experience, foreign men are vastly superior kissers to American men. Sorry, my fellow Americans, but the foreigners have a flair for throwing girls against buildings and streetlights that creates such a whirl of romance, you don’t even care if you can’t pronounce the man’s name (Ghurtz?).
When I turned 25, all I wanted was my simple meat and potatoes backwoods Maryland boy. I thought staying at a charming bed and breakfast on Block Island, going out to a fancy dinner, and being proposed to under a willow tree was the very pinnacle of romance- who could ask for more? I was going to marry my first real love – I thought our love story was epic. I wanted to write a book about it.
Luckily, we didn’t work out. While everything I shared with the Ex will always have its own endearing place in my heart, he certainly wasn’t the right person for me.
There was a time I never thought I would say that about him. There was a time I knew he was the right person for me. I could see my whole life with this guy and I believed him when he said he would always be there. I didn’t even try to imagine my life without him – except for a few weeks after I read The Time Traveler’s Wife.
When he proposed, he said he knew that we would fight and have tough times, but there would always be love – we’d never stop loving each other. I think I am safe in saying, he was wrong – we stopped loving each other.
But I used to love him, so very much. I used to think he was perfect for me. And back then, he just might have been perfect.
One time, I burned myself pulling a frozen pizza out of the oven. I never set a timer and forgot how long the pizza had been cooking; of course it was burning, so I tried to pull it out of the oven quickly. I burned the inside of my arm on the top of the oven, the pizza fell in on itself and then onto the bottom of the stove where the molten cheese slid onto the floor and my bare foot. I sat on the kitchen floor and cried while he cleaned up the mess and walked down to the neighborhood Chinese restaurant to pick up take out and a bottle of wine. The next day, when I came home from work, he had a gift for me: a new set of oven mitts, tongs and a wooden pizza board so that I was prepared to cook a frozen pizza for him without endangering my life in the future.
He did the dishes, took the garbage out and walked the dog outside if she had to pee in the middle of the night.
He always left me little notes to say he loved me – sometimes just scribbled on a napkin and left on the kitchen table with some flowers he picked. He listened to me; he tried to figure me out. In this quest, he read The Female Brain, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus and The Purpose Driven Life.
He took me home to meet his family over Thanksgiving and gave me a little promise ring; he wanted “to be engaged to get engaged.” The ring was white gold and had three microscopic diamonds for our past, present and future. His dad told him never to shirk for spending money on me – I was worth the investment. So, he took me on a cruise to the Caribbean. He didn’t even disown me when they were not going to let us on the cruise at first without our passports and I stood in line and cried. He said, “My MOM never cried in public.” I still laugh when I think about that…
He was never good with words – which was why there were so many unanswered questions when he dumped me. I always attributed his miscommunications to his lack of ability to express emotion rather than insincerity. I always made allowances for his emotional constipation. I don’t make those allowances anymore.
The Ex has brown eyes, very dark, dramatic if slightly overbearing eyebrows, slightly crooked but very white teeth, long dark eye-lashes and the smallest ears I have ever seen. He has soft lips and used to make my knees buckle when he kissed me. He used to sleep with his arms and legs wrapped around me like a baby monkey – at first I thought he was just a big cuddler, I learned it was just his way of keeping my night thrashing and cover-stealing habits under control.
He always did crossword puzzles with me – even though he wasn’t good at them. He made my coffee just right. He always had me taste his coffee to see if it was cool enough to drink without burning his tongue. He indulged my crazy ideas like lying in the grass after a rain storm and watching the stars. I taught him to like wine and sushi – he taught me how to plan stuff instead of just rushing out and spontaneously going on adventures. I think he still enjoys wine and sushi; unfortunately, I’ve regressed to not planning again…
When we had a pregnancy scare, he promised never to leave me – even though we were not planning on a baby. I cried, so he offered to push me down some stairs. I started laughing and crying at the same time and he told me that he would always think I was beautiful – even when I was fat and pregnant – because “pregnant ladies are supposed to glow or something.”
Wow – I haven’t thought about any of this for awhile. And this sentimental journey certainly isn’t where I thought this blog post was going. Ironic, huh? If I didn’t know where this post was going 1,417 words ago, how could I know where my life was going 2 years ago?
Not saying I’ll never know what I want and I’ll never get married – just saying that even though the Ex was so perfect for me when I was 23 and 24 and 25…he wouldn’t have been perfect for me forever – he didn’t share my sense of adventure. He played things safe. He sought the path of least resistance and wanted a simple, easy life. He didn’t want to leave our wedding reception in a hot air balloon – that was the only part of the wedding I had actually planned out. It was important to me.
Right now, I need someone exciting; not someone safe. After my dad died, I needed a steady rock and that’s what I found. But, I’m at a point in my life (and my writing) where a rock would only weigh me down. I feel so free right now. There is no feeling in the world like freedom – knowing that I can go anywhere and pursue any dream, no strings attached.
Unbounded freedom can get lonely though – so I’m still accepting applications for an adventure buddy. Adventure is the key word – I have absolutely no idea where I’ll be at 28. Colorado, California, Louisiana, Ireland, Costa Rica, Italy, Greece, Argentina, Alaska, New Zealand – I don’t know where I’m going or which path I’ll take, so it’s nice to know I have a whole year to get there.