Christmas for One — CHECK!

Aside

Image

Ahhh the holidays! Rumor has it it’s the most wonderful time of the year. But, what about if you’re alone? Can the holidays be wonderful if you spend Christmas by yourself? If you’re 35, single and just short of being the crazy cat lady, can you pull off a solo holiday without it being rather sad and pathetic? I decided it was a challenge I was ready to take.

First up — I may be single, but I do have a crush (Sidebar: Long story short — we’re back to one crush. After all is said and done, it’s OC who is left standing). SO, the week before Christmas I invited my crush over to watch one of my favorite movies — Love Actually. It was really nice to snuggle up on the couch with him and share one of my holiday traditions. AND it worked in my favor — I hadn’t figured out what I wanted to get OC for Christmas and during the movie he pointed out a sweater one of the character’s was wearing and told me he really liked it. Obviously this meant I spent the next three days scouring the interwebs, with a picture of the sweater from the movie to compare to any sweater I found that was close to it. Did he like the colors? The style? Man, I REALLY should have asked more questions during the movie… Alas, I finally found a sweater that was similar enough so I put a RUSH order on that bad boy. Perfect gift for my crush — CHECK!

As Christmas day neared I was feeling pretty good. Things were going well with OC, I had all my gifts ordered, though they were yet to arrive, and I was figuring out what I wanted to do on Christmas Eve and Christmas day in order to ensure I didn’t feel lonely. I thought the best approach would be to include some traditions I’d grown up with. Christmas Eve was always our bigger of the two days — we’d go to a candlelight service, have a lovely meal, do presents… Yes, I decided I would attend a candlelight service on my own, then come home and enjoy some wine, some snacks, maybe watch a holiday-themed movie… It’d be great.

As I thought about what I’d want for dinner on Christmas Eve and Christmas I decided to try Google for ideas. “Christmas Dinner Ideas for One”  <<GOOGLE SEARCH>> Lots of results popped up — see, I wasn’t the only one doing Christmas alone, lots of people do it… But then, several of the sites the search directed me to had links for “Surviving the Holidays Alone”. Um, I am CHOOSING to be alone. There’s kind of a difference between being alone on a holiday because you have no where to go and being alone on a holiday because you choose to be. But, more on that later. For now my inner chubby girl had din-din on the mind! I finally decided I would just get some cheese, crackers, summer sausage and grapes for Christmas Eve — delicious, no fuss, perfection! Then on Christmas I’d have ham. Very traditional.

The day before Christmas Eve I went to the grocery store after work to gather my items — a simple list: cheese (ooo, I should get a few different ones, the good ones), summer sausage (turkey though, I like that best), grapes (but only if they look good and aren’t outrageous), crackers (eh, nevermind… I mean helloooo… carbs? gross), ham (ooo I should get the spiral cut kind, with the brown sugar, mmm), green beans (let’s go steamed instead of casserole, again… who needs the extra calories), sweet potatoes (yeah, I can coat them in brown sugar and cinnamon and bake them, mmm), some spinach salad with all the fixin’s… OH, and since I’m saving on all these carbs and calories I should probably get egg nog. I mean it IS the holidays. Oh, and speaking of, I should get some champagne — yeah, that’d be nice for Christmas Eve. A little Happy Birthday Jesus toast. OH and maybe some orange juice for mimosas in the morning… shit. I need something for breakfast… Hmm… bacon. Yes! Bacon, and eggs, no— strike that, french toast. Mmm, yes. So I need syrup. And ice cream. Yeah, I should get some ice cream. Well, maybe I need wine. Red? White? Probably both. No, wait. I need my Apothic Red. Oh, and maybe a Malbec. How about just a box of white wine… and don’t forget the champagne. Ooo, are those brussel sprouts? And artichoke? Maybe since I got the Malbec I should do a filet? Yeah, I’ll get that too. Hmm, the pork tenderloin is on sale, I should get that in case I want it. Now what am I missing? Oh yeah — the ham!

Did you know hams are HUGE?? Like I’m talking ginormous. As in if I were to purchase a spiral cut ham, the smallest one I could find, I’d be eating ham for a month. Maybe longer. BUT, it’s a tradition… Ham steak. That’ll work.

Okay, looks like I have everything. And then some. Anything I can possibly want the next two days I have. And it looks like I won’t need to go grocery shopping for two weeks.

Groceries — CHECK!

Christmas Eve arrived and I was able to see OC to give him his gift before he headed home for the holidays. I wasn’t entirely sure by his reaction if he liked it, so I explained about the movie and the sweater and finding one similar… This is when he started laughing.

OC: “Ahh, I said I liked that sweater because I have it.”

Awkward Jean: “Oh. Um. I guess I just thought you were pointing out that you liked it and I wanted to find you one like it.”

OC: “No, I was joking because I thought it was funny he was wearing a sweater I have.”

Awkward Jean: “Um. Right. Got it. Alright then. Merry Christmas.”

Fail? Win? Hard to know. I REALLY should have asked more questions. I mean, maybe he was just pointing out the sweater because he has the same one and hates it. UGH!! JEAN! I really must stop making assumptions. BUT, I was not going to let a potentially unsuccessful gift giving get me down. Solo Christmas — here I come!

On the way home I started thinking that maybe I wanted some red beer on Christmas instead of mimosas so I made one final stop at the CVS by my house. I left with my beer, a small lighted tree for my bedroom (I love the white lights and wanted to fall asleep to them on Christmas Eve) and some Fireball whiskey. What? Essentials.

After I got home I opened a bottle of the red wine and started thinking maybe I should make the steak instead of just having snacky items. Yes, yes I should do that. Maybe I don’t NEED to go to the Candlelight service, I mean I don’t even know what I’d wear. And let’s be honest, other than the part where you light the candles and sing “Silent Night” I only ever loved going to that service for two reasons — as a pre-teen it was to see the ever-beautiful Mark Skenfield and in my later teen years it was to see my inappropriately older crush Tim Shade. Sorry folks, but for Teen Jean, silently drooling over the older boys who made my heart skip a beat was my main motivation for attending church. That and because my mom was married to the pastor, so I sort of had to. Fast forward to grown up Jean and really I didn’t HAVE to go to church…

Ah screw it. I decided to suck it up and go. I ran upstairs, threw on some black slacks and a velvet blazer — because hey, everything is dressed up by a velvet blazer. And headed out the door. The church near my house that I’d decided on was one of those mega-churches that I’m not super fond of, but… they had several services available and I figured it was my best option. So, with my church outfit chosen and my token heels (worn at every wedding, funeral and National Sales Meeting Awards Ceremony for the past four years), I headed out the door.

As I pulled into the parking lot, after waiting for the parking attendants to direct traffic… yep, it’s that kind of mega church, I started to rethink this plan. I’m not very comfortable with organized religion or heels. Why was I doing this again? And man, people would probably try to talk to me and I’ll be all awkward… And everyone will be there with their families and I’ll be that girl in the cat-hair covered velvet blazer, hobbling around in uncomfortable heels, all by herself… STOP! Why do we beat ourselves up like this? Ridiculous. Soooo… I went in and quietly found a seat without anyone trying to talk to me. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all.

Sure there was some of the organized religion rah-rah I’m not comfortable with, but the moment the children’s choir went up to sing I was very glad I’d gone. My favorite was a little girl in the front row who was so busy playing with the big, puffy skirt of her taffeta dress that she really couldn’t be bothered to sing. She flipped and twirled and damn near knocked down the row behind her in what surely would have been an epic domino effect. The sermon was good– though the pastor focused a bit too much on loving God and others and never once mentioned loving oneself. I think that’s one of the most important messages that too often goes unspoken, but it was good nonetheless. And I did appreciate that the offering taken that night was going to an outreach program for a village in Nicaragua that the congregation sponsored– and as luck would have it, before leaving the house I’d received a thank you card with a very unnecessary $20 bill in it — so that was paid forward to the Nicaraguan village. Finally the time for lighting our candles and singing “Silent Night” arrived. Whew. I’d made it. And I was really glad I’d gone. Though as I sang along I began to realize that in a church filled with trained vocals and precision acoustics my own voice wasn’t nearly as angelic as it seems when I’m alone at home or in the car. Weird.

After church I headed home, feeling very proud of myself for having gone, and decided I was definitely making the steak. I cranked the holiday music and Googled a recipe. I’d never actually made steak other than on the grill and it was way too cold for that, but I was sure there were some great oven recipes. And I found one — simple enough. Steak is about heat, sear it, throw it in the oven, BAM — perfection. I got this. Now, in hindsight I WILL admit that it was one of those recipes that was written out in a blog and in paragraph form and I just sort of skimmed… And I maybe didn’t have all the ingredients that I saw mentioned so I figured I’d just compromise… I mean, I saw what I needed — use the heaviest pan you own, get it as hot as possible, put in some oil, blah blah blah, oven at 450, bake a few minutes in the skillet after searing… Got it. Simple. SO… I pre-heat the oven and have my cast iron skillet out with oil at the highest heat for a few minutes to ensure it’s good and HOT! I get the steak ready and just before dropping it in the skillet (THIS is the moment. When I go back in hindsight to figure out what went wrong… THIS. IS. IT.) and suddenly it occurs to me the recipe mentioned something about adding fresh herbs at some point in the process (And this is the second moment where things went wrong… I really should have gone back and re-read the recipe) so I decided to drop a spoonful of minced garlic in the molten vat of oil… MISTAKE!!

SIZZLE-HISS-SNAP!-SNAP!-SNAP!

Smoke. More smoke. Billowing smoke. The garlic has turned black. The garlic has incinerated. Um. Quick. Think. STEAK! Drop in the steak! MORE SMOKE! VENT!! Turn on the Vent! Is this high? Is this low? Shit, I turned it back off, OH GOD — the smoke alarm is surely going to go off any minute (lord knows they all have fresh batteries) Quick – blow out all the candles! (Again, in hindsight I don’t know why on earth I thought running around blowing out candles would help… but I did it… and it created more smoke…) Oh lord, it’s REALLY smoky… and um, FLIP THE STEAK!!! SHIT!! MORE SMOKE!!! Okay — back door — must. open. door. BRRR!!! Shit, it’s freezing! Now picture me running back and forth trying to wave smoke out of the house. NOTHING IS HELPING!!! So, I grab the skillet and throw it in the oven. Um, I just created a 450 degree box filled with smoke. ABORT!!! I stab the steak, throw it on a cookie sheet, throw it BACK in the oven (I WILL save this meal) and take the STILL smoking skillet (billowing smoke) and throw it outside in the snow. SUCCESS!!! And, the smoke alarm never went off! (Which, as it turns out, is actually less comforting now that I really think about it.)

Dinner was salvaged, but… the steak was a little tough. Like jerky-ish. Fail. What can I say, smoked salmon is so popular, I just thought I’d start a trend of smoked steak. I’m a visionary.

After the excitement, and disappointment, of dinner I settled in with some egg nog and The Polar Express. After the movie, Callie Kitty and I headed upstairs, and under the light of the new Christmas tree, curled up and awaited Christmas morning.

I thought Christmas morning would be a bit depressing with no one around. But it turns out being on your own schedule, doing whatever the heck you want, is pretty darn awesome! When I thought about it I didn’t feel lonely at all. So many people had offered for me to join them and their families on their special day and honestly with Facebook and texting I felt a part of so many people’s lives all day long. I got up, made breakfast, opened my gifts, watched movies, enjoyed my red beer and even had a shot of my Fireball whiskey while texting with my siblings (the eldest of which decreed we must all take a shot). I wore my favorite teal velour lounging suit all day, dressed up with the rhinestones my mother sent for Christmas (because what else do you get your 35 year old daughter?) and I had a friend get me a 96-shade eye shadow pack as a joke, so obviously I gave myself a very fancy makeover.

It was a lovely day. In fact, as it comes to an end, I am thankful I had the opportunity to experience a holiday alone because it gave me the chance to recognize the power we all have to control our experiences. Sure, there’s a lot we don’t have control over but we do have control over the most important thing — our attitudes. I was determined to have a meaningful, relaxing, fun Christmas. And I did.

Hopefully you all had the same. Merry Christmas!

XOXO — Awkward Holiday Jean

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, when I talked to OC last night I asked if he liked the sweater. He said he really did and that the sweater he had like the one on the movie had been one of his favorites. He liked that I’d gone to so much trouble to find one like it. WIN!

Awkward Jean the Skiing Machine!

Image

That’s right boys and girls… it’s time for another Throwback Thursday story from Awkward Jean.

Picture it, winter of 2007. I was in a social club of sorts, the 8 O’clock Club was our name, and it consisted of me and two buddies Mike & Josh. We were a drinking club, a travelling club, a music-loving club. In short, we were like the three amigos without the horses, the three musketeers without the honor, the three stooges without… no, wait, that’s probably a bit closer to what we were like.

We got our name from an all-night drink-a-thon. After a party we found ourselves still drinking beer, listening to music and playing washers in the driveway as the sun came up. We made it to about 8am before we called it quits. Hence our name.  Ahhh 20’s Jean, she could party.

Alas I digress. Suffice it to say the night that named us also bonded us – we became fast friends and over a period of several years in our mid to late 20’s we went on multiple adventures and trips together. Both Mike & Josh are the athletic, sporty type. They were big into nutrition and working out and blah blah blah… Stuff the Jean doesn’t really get into. The three of us couldn’t be more opposite in our views on politics, religion, culture, etc. BUT – we enjoyed a lot of the same (often bad) music and beer. Turns out that’s more than enough in one’s twenties and we were the best of friends for several years.

One trip that is particularly memorable, due to my extreme awkwardness, is the time we went to Angel Fire, New Mexico. Mike’s family had a house there (turns out a really nice house) and we were going out for a few days to ski, snowboard, snowmobile and basically just take the 8 O’clock Club on the road for some extreme winter sports. (Clearly this was not a trip I had planned.)

Now, one thing you need to know about Jean is that in my youth I lived in the Sierra Nevada foothills and all us kids spent the winter months up at the local ski resort. In fact, during middle school we went every Wednesday in place of classes during the winter. We had lessons in the morning and free ski in the afternoon. So when Mike and Josh decided our next trip was for winter snow sports I was all in – I mean, hellllooooo I was totally a great skier. I’d done it A LOT. Sure it’d been some time, but wasn’t it like riding a bike? And it hadn’t been THAT long ago… Oh, wait, calculate, carry the one… Ouch. Yeah. I started to realize it’d been about 14 years since I’d gone skiing. But, I’m sure it would be fine. Just like a bike.

Although, the more I thought about it, it’d been more than just 14 years, it’d also been about  75 pounds, but… who’s REALLY counting? Again, I was sure I’d be fine, I mean… I never worked out, I got winded climbing the stairs (like one flight), I didn’t own any ski gear… but surely… Oh. Dear. God.

As the trip approached I began to panic a bit. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to find ski attire that was cute and fit (I didn’t – it boiled down to an either/or situation… I chose fit). I was worried I wouldn’t be able to buckle the boots up over my calves (I did… with the help of the guy at the rental place, not at all awkward or embarrassing unless you count Mike and Josh impatiently waiting for me and the poor kid breaking a sweat trying to squeeze me into the gear). I was worried I wouldn’t be able to get on the ski lift, or worse – off it. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to ski anymore. As the trip approached the worry grew and grew…

Finally the trip arrived. We were in Angel Fire, we were at the ski resort. I was bundled into my giant blue ski coat (think Mama Cass smurf OR Violet from Willy Wonka AFTER she ate the gum) and we were headed toward the ski lift, everything was somewhat working out, though WAY harder than I’d remembered. But my confidence was back. It was all coming back to me and I was suddenly excited – bring on the mountain! I’ve. Got. This.

And I did.

Getting on the lift – SUCCESS!

Getting off the lift – NAILED IT!

Getting down the hill – Tuck and go… And wow, are my legs supposed to be burning like that? Ugh, how long is this run, my legs are starting to shake. Oh. Dear. Jesus. Jell-O – all I feel is Jell-O. I better pull up for a second and just rest. Whew – I can barely catch my breath. This must be the LONGEST. RUN. EVER. Glancing back to the top, expecting it to be pretty much out of focus it’s so far behind me, I realize I’ve gone about the length of a football field. Um. Seriously?

Now the negotiations begin to any greater power who will listen. Get me down this hill with functioning thigh muscles and I’ll start working out. I’ll even think about protein and carb ratios and making sure I’m getting enough fiber and leafy greens and, and, I’ll cut out well, not ALL drinking, but I’ll really focus on light beers and vodkas and red wine, but only because it’s good for my heart. I’ll become sporty. Yeah, that’s it… get me down this mountain and I’ll work out, eat right, practice moderation and start being all Athletic Jean!

Well, all the negotiating worked. I made it down the mountain. Yep, one run under my belt! The boys were waiting patiently (though annoyed) down at the bottom for me, all eager to hit the next run. I had made it. They both had big grins on their faces and told me what a great job I did, how impressed they were and proud of me.

Me: Yeah. I’m pretty awesome. Speaking of… I’m all done here. If you need me, I’ll be in the lodge drinking beer. Take your time; I’ll see you in a few hours.

And that was pretty much how Day One went.

Day Two Planning went something like this:

The Boys: Hey Jean, we were thinking, we might go hit the hill and snowboard in the morning, but then we thought we’d come back here, pick you up and we can all go snowmobiling. How does that sound? You can sleep in and then we’ll just grab some lunch and head out.

Me: Perfect. (I’d never been snowmobiling, this would be great! AND, bonus, I don’t have to suffer the indignities of skiing again. Woohoo!!)

Fast forward to a slightly rough start to the snowmobiling adventure… I was maybe running a little late with being ready when the boys were and I wasn’t exactly “helpful” with loading the snowmobiles… And then I maybe was talking more than they were really wanting after a long morning of snowboarding… And I didn’t exactly listen when Mike was explaining how to drive the snowmobiles so when we were all ready to take off I couldn’t get mine to go… They were gone about ten minutes before one of them looked back, noticed I wasn’t with them and returned to come get me…

BUT, after a little while we’d worked our way up a mountain trail to a great big meadow with jumps and a big clearing for racing and all sorts of fun. I was an AMAZING snowmobiler. It was SO much fun! I liked going fast and going on the jumps, but was really glad the field was so open because my arms were really kind of tired and sometimes it was hard to crank the wheel in the fresh powder to get the snowmobile to turn… (cue that foretelling music)

The sun was getting ready to set and we really needed to get back down the mountain. We started down the path that had been a bit narrow and twisty on the way up, but seemed much more so now that we had tired arms. Mike was in the lead and was starting to race the sun a bit. As I brought up the rear I began to feel that familiar Jell-O sensation, only this time in my arms. The turns got harder and harder as our pace got faster and faster.

Suddenly I couldn’t quite manage a turn I was in and… The snowmobile launched right off the edge of the trail – It all happened so quickly I didn’t know what to do, so, I did what I do best – FALL! I bailed right off that machine as it launched into a tree just below the trail. As soon as I landed in the powder and caught myself from sliding further down the hill that rush of adrenaline ceased and I just started feeling shaky all over. That’s about when the boys saw what happened. One was very relieved I was okay, the other showed his relief in another way. A way that involved several expletives and multiple negative comments regarding a) losing the sun b) having to retrieve the snowmobile from a tree while waist deep in powder. I tried to look as adorable as I could to remind  him why he puts up with me, but… that’s hard to do when you look like a blue Stay-Puff marshmallow man with frozen snot rivulets running down your face. Fail.

The boys eventually got the snowmobile back on the trail and working. We made it back to the trucks – I wasn’t allowed to talk the whole time. I think the only thing that kept Mike from freezing on that mountain was the heat from the anger he was feeling.  Finally, as we prepared to head back to the house, I made the grand gesture of offering to buy steaks and beer for dinner. Between the offer and the fact that we were back in the warm trucks, Mike began to relax, tell me he was sorry he was being so grumpy and he wouldn’t let it ruin the night and he was glad I was okay, and yes, the whole thing was a little funny now that it was over… and thank you for offering to buy dinner and drinks.

And then we got to the store and suddenly my earlier question “Hey, do I need anything for snowmobiling?” came back to haunt me. When Mike had answered “Nope, just your snow gear” I had taken that to heart… and hadn’t brought my purse, or wallet…

So much for dinner and drinks being on me. And so much for the grumpier of the two cheering up.

Needless to say, that was the only time the 8 O’clock Club went on a winter vacation.

XOXO – Awkward (Throwback) Jean

Little Is The New Big

Image

There’s a line I love in the song “Dog Days Are Over” by Florence + The Machine. It’s a simple statement that, in less than twenty words, sums up everything I’ve ever asked for in a relationship. 

And I never wanted anything from you
Except everything you had and what was left after that too

Grand gestures. Hollywood endings. Meet cutes (If you don’t know this term, watch The Holiday). I want to be adored. I want to be admired. I want to be respected. I want to be liked. I want to be desired. I want to be wanted. And I want you just to do it, without ever being asked. In short… I don’t want anything except everything and then some. 

That said, I’ve learned a lot about myself in the past few years, and even more in the past few months. As I embark upon this blogging adventure and slowly introduce you all to people like Original Crush (OC) and New Crush (NC), I realize you have opinions of your own. Opinions based on the minor tidbits I choose to share, or that I’ve interpreted through my own perception, or that you’ve read between the lines to see. And you’ve taken sides. Several of you have mentioned your allegiance to Team OC or Team NC… most without ever having met either. In fact, other than me, only two of you have met them both. 

Will either ever be “good enough” for me? Depends on who you ask. If you’re Team Jean, then the answer is no. Though, I have a sneaking suspicion if you met me through either of them you’d feel the same way about me — that I’m not good enough. Perception and connection play such powerful roles in relationships. We allow other people, other influences to have so much power. I have this theory that really only relates to girls (sorry guys, bear with me) but it’s that our closest girlfriends will never think a partner, no matter how great, is ever quite good enough to us. The reason is simple — we share more of the bad than the good. We all know how we feel about the sweet things, the little gestures, the kindnesses, it’s the things that hurt our feelings and leave our heads spinning that confuse us — therefore those negatives, no matter how minor or infrequent, tend to be the items we focus on when talking to our closest friends about our crush, boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife, etc. We bring all these other people into our relationships, expect advice and allegiance, and rarely paint a full picture of our reality. 

Every minor grievance gets all this “air time” while the only positives we share tend to be the grand gestures, the big wins, the fairy tale fodder. And those are typically few and far between. And yet, these grand gestures, these big moves are not the things we often think of when we think about what makes us feel loved and wanted. Respected and admired. Liked and desired. The things that make us feel adored are rarely the “big things”, but rather the little ones. 

Putting gas in the car, scraping the window on a winter’s morning, bringing us coffee, doing an unexpected chore we typically do ourselves, rushing ahead to open the door, wearing that shirt we love, complimenting our cooking, holding our hand, waking us up with some “business time” (If that’s unfamiliar, click the link– thank me later), buying our favorite drink/snack/movie even when you’re not a fan, texting us good night/good morning/good afternoon/I Love you… just because. These are the things that let us know you not only love, admire, respect, like, adore, want and desire us… but they tell us you know us. You’re thinking of us. We are important to you. We are valued. 

It really boils down to feeling valued. We all want to be accepted. It’s human nature. But, we also want to feel valued, important. These little things, they tell us we are. The grand gestures, the big impressive Hollywood-worthy things make us feel good because we share the story and see the envy in others and that envy momentarily gives us a sense of value. But the gesture itself is fleeting. And not often replicated. And frankly, not nearly as endearing and important to us as all the little things. But we never tell you that. 

The reason there is an NC is because there are little things that I need, which I don’t get from OC. He doesn’t tell me I’m pretty. He doesn’t tell me I look nice. He doesn’t hold my hand in public. He doesn’t text me as often as I’d like him to. In short, he doesn’t make me feel desirable and wanted. And, as it turns out these are non-negotiables for me in a relationship. As they should be. You take away physical attraction and desire and all you have is friend. Not that a friend is a bad thing, it’s a HUGE part of any relationship… but it’s just a friend without the rest. It’s not a romantic partner. And, that’s the gap that allowed a new crush to sneak in. A man who tells my I’m pretty and makes me feel attractive and desirable. 

BUT, that’s not enough either. I’ve shared a lot of the negatives about OC — in this blog, with my friends, to my co-workers, random acquaintances… but I rarely share the little things that make me smile. The things that make me feel valued, if not desired. The fact that he looks at me, right in the eye, and really listens to not only what I’m saying, but also what I’m not. He pays attention to my body language and my eye movement. He’s observant and he remembers little things I say and do.

Any of you who’ve ever gone to a restaurant with me know that I hate ordering. It’s always a process. I have to narrow it down to a few items; I have to see what everyone else is getting; I have to ask the waiter for his opinion… I worry about order envy and let down and any manner of things. Basically, I hate ordering. I like to go to the same places and order the same things not because I’m picky or unadventurous, but because my awkwardness really shines in any ordering environment. OC knows this and will order for me. We’re talking old-school, thought to be archaic, choose and order my meal for me. And you know what? I love it. He’ll only do it if I ask, he doesn’t just assume, and when he does… he knows me. He knows what I like and he even asks some of the exact questions I would have asked and then decides for me. I love it. It’s a little thing, that means a lot. 

And no, he won’t hold my hand in public. But alone, at my house watching a movie he’ll keep his arm around me the whole time and even occasionally kiss my forehead, just because. 

He calls me. Not on any regulated pattern, not nearly as often as I’d like, but when he does… it means a lot. Probably because he doesn’t do it as often as I’d like. And as much as I hate talking on the phone, I don’t mind with him. Even when I get quiet and awkward and don’t really know what else to say, he just stays quiet too and patiently waits for me to decide to talk again. Even if that means we’re quiet for a few minutes. 

Is it enough? I don’t know. But, I do know that I’m not always the nicest to him. Once, when he met me out at a happy hour with a bunch of people he was uncomfortable around, I started out by being annoyed he was late, then drunkenly telling him I had Googled it and thought he may be an actual psychopath… then went into my reasons why. Another time, I invited him to meet me for lunch and neglected to mention he’d be the only male there, that kids were also present, and then I went into a rant about how I’m 35 years old and my eggs are dying. Yep. In front of him. 

Point being… there’s always more than one side to every story. And all these grand gestures and big statements that we claim to need and want and expect… they’re nothing compared to the little things. It’s hard finding a balance between that romance and desire with friendship and comfort. I wish I had some profound epiphany to share. I don’t. I guess if there’s one thing I’ve learned while sitting on the sidelines of relationships it’s that we need to focus on the good things, no matter how small, more often. And more than just recognizing and appreciating the little things, we need to be sure we are reciprocating them. Make sure you know what makes your partner feel valued and do those things. OC doesn’t like being touched in public, so every time I try to hold his hand, I’m disrespecting his comfort zone, I’m devaluing him. And yet, I focus on how that makes me feel rejected and neglected. It’s about compromise. For him to recognize how that makes me feel and to try to step out of his comfort zone a little, and for me to recognize the position I put him in and to respect the space he needs. We all need to figure out our non-negotiables and communicate them. The rest is about compromise and caring. Sometimes I think we just stop being nice to the ones we love the most. 

My challenge to you — make a list. List out five little things that make you feel valued and loved. And share it. Share that list. Ask your partner to do the same and then try to make it a point to remember to do those things. We all have different little things that make us feel loved… the ones that make you feel valued, aren’t necessarily the same as the ones that make him feel valued. Every day do one thing to show your partner you value/respect/like/understand/know her AND, do one thing that lets him know he’s desired, lets her know she’s wanted. 

Trust me, little is the new big. Unless of course we’re talking about body size… in that case HOLLA!! You gots to love yourself some curves! 

XOXO — Awkward Jean

The Perfect Date, Great Expectations and Other Relationship Wrecking Balls

Image

When it comes to relationships I’m the ultimate Armchair Quarterback. I know exactly what to do in theory, it’s the getting out on the field and executing the plays that seems to allude me. More than once I’ve been told that my problem is I build up impossible expectations in my head, or “write the story” for how something will go, and in the end I basically set up guys for failure. I’ve also been told that I expect black and white from everyone else while I tend to live in the gray. Ouch. Mostly because both observations are pretty accurate.

So, part of this year of trying new things has me focused on recognizing that behavior in the hopes of changing it. Not the easiest of tasks. Especially considering one of my twelve items to try this year was to plan a date and take someone on it. However, in my mind that automatically reads as planning a date worthy of old Hollywood. One of those grand gesture-type of dates that’s clever, thoughtful and memorable. In short, the perfect date. Right there I’d already undermined myself without even realizing it. Perfection is one of those gray area terms ripe with unrealistic expectations.

Original Crush’s birthday is December 1st, so about a month ago I had decided to plan the perfect date to celebrate his birthday. On the surface this is a very thoughtful plan; however, truth be told, it was also rather selfish. Deep down I think we often plan for others the things we’d like done for us. For my birthday OC sent me a text in the morning wishing me a “happy 35th anniversary.” That was it. No lunch date, no drink after work, no gift, no card… heck, he didn’t even sign the office card that was passed around for me (until I literally brought it to him after the fact and made him sign it — classic Awkward Jean move). So, like I said, if the truth be told some of my “perfect date” planning was probably more selfish than I’d like to admit.

OC moved to Kansas City from Chicago. He was a Chicago transplant, but had lived there the majority of his adult life. He loves Chicago. He misses Chicago. He hasn’t opened up to the hidden treasure of Kansas City quiet yet. So, for his birthday I wanted to do something, anything, that would maybe let him see that while Kansas City is no Chicago, if he’d stop comparing the two, he’d find we have a pretty great city here. He likes hockey. The Chicago Blackhawks are his team. Now, while Kansas City doesn’t have an NHL team, we do have a CHL team, the Missouri Mavericks, and they happen to play at the events center right by my house. Which is saying a lot because I live about 45 minutes from downtown way out on the east side — Chicago or Kansas City, the ‘burbs are the ‘burbs and are rarely thought of as the hip and happening place to be. Unless you want to go to a hockey game. Which I’d never done, and knew he’d love. (Well, at least I’d hoped he would.)

So, with the help of my hockey-loving friend Erica, I bought tickets to a hockey game for the Friday after his birthday. Since it wasn’t a professional hockey league I thought I could make up for that with great seats — that’s where Erica came in, I wasn’t really sure where the “good seats” were. I ended up getting seats just off center court (rink?) in the first row (on the glass??) behind the home team. More than just planning a great date, I also wanted to plan a great birthday because on his actual birthday OC was driving home from Thanksgiving in Indiana at his parent’s house. Not a great way to spend a birthday, so I made sure my house was not only decorated for Christmas, which is always so pretty (read: romantic) with all the white lights, but also for his birthday. I hung a sparkly ‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY’ banner and got him an ‘It’s My Birthday’ sash and a party hat — blue, his favorite color to match the blue cupcakes I made him. I figured we’d stop by my house on the way to the hockey game, drop off a car, surprise him with his cupcakes and birthday paraphernalia and then be on our way to the hockey game.  It was the perfect plan. All I told him was that we were celebrating his birthday on Friday, December 6th and to put it on his calendar — the rest would be a surprise.

As you can imagine, I’d already fallen victim to one of my classic relationship landmines — the Hollywood version in my head. I had the whole night planned to every detail, but none that I shared. Just expectations I created in my own mind — good luck to him on figuring them out. Basically, I set him up for failure.

So the week of the Perfect Date arrived, and with it an awful winter’s cold. I’m talking man down, congestion, coughing, grogginess, grumpiness — you name it, I had it going on. All week I desperately fought the cold. I slept, I tried every remedy anyone on Facebook would share with me (literally — tried them all). I bought any over-the-counter medication that claimed to help. I practically took out stock on all things Vick’s. Friday rolled around and I suffered through work — even though my boss told me I looked miserable and should go home. (Sidebar: As a child if we stayed home from school sick, we couldn’t do anything that night… as an adult I guess I’ve held on to this policy. No work — no play. So I stayed.) Finally around 3:15 I threw in the towel. I needed just ONE more cleansing of the sinuses with my Neti pot if I was going to make it through the night. Our plan had been to leave work together and drop a car at my house (where the birthday surprises were), but there was no way I was going to drain sinuses in front of OC — even I’m not THAT awkward. SO, I told him to meet me at my house.

Now, in fairness I will say that he asked me what time he should leave and I told him “Leave when you can.” He knew the original plan had been to leave by 4:30 so we’d miss traffic. Surely he’d understand he should stick close to that plan. At 5:20 I hadn’t heard from him yet. The game started at 7:05. We were running out of time for the birthday surprise and heading to the game. I didn’t feel well and I was grumpy… the wrecking ball was all geared up to crash into the night. I called him at the office and almost couldn’t speak when he answered the phone. 5:20 and he STILL hadn’t left downtown yet??? Are you frickin’ kidding me?!? (Enter Angry Jean.)

He told me he was finishing up an email and would leave shortly. Fine. (Now gentlemen, you KNOW when a lady say’s “Fine.” she means anything but.)

At 6pm he called to say he was leaving. Then told me he was kidding and was close, he’d call when he got here. At about 6:15 he called to say he was out front. So, I told him he could drive and I’d just meet him out there in a second. I put the cupcakes away, blew out the candles, looked at my sparkly decorations, turned out the light and headed out the door. Angry Jean.

These are the things we do. We build up expectations in our heads, we don’t communicate our needs, and then we hold others accountable for the impossible standards we’ve set that they’ve let us down on without ever knowing it. I am not alone in this. We all do it. Some of us recognize the behavior better, some of us head it off at the pass before it becomes destructive and some us throw gasoline onto its flames until it burns out of control. Traditionally I’m a perpetrator of the latter, but am really trying to work on the first in order to do the second.

I got out to the car, the whole time giving myself a pep talk — it’s not OC’s fault that I don’t feel well. It’s not OC’s fault that I planned surprises, didn’t communicate the time I really wanted him there and he came late. Don’t let this ruin the whole night Jean. (I talk to myself a lot.)

OC: So, you’re angry. 

Me: No. (Yes)

OC: Are you mad that I’m late?

Me: No. (Yes)

OC: Do you not feel well and need to stay home?

Me: No. I’m 100%. (Yes.)

OC: Hmm… 

(In Jean’s Head: this is NOT his fault. YOU didn’t communicate the time. YOU built up unrealistic expectations. LET GO. He asked if you felt well enough — that was thoughtful. YOU decided come hell or high water you were doing this tonight, so YOU need to suck it up and stop blaming him for impossible expectations that are in YOUR head. Don’t expect him to fail. Give him a chance. Give the night a chance.)

Me: I’m good, I’m excited for the game — let’s go. (Smile.)

And I did. I finally listened that Armchair Quarterback in my head who knew all the right moves, all the right plays, just had never really been out on the field. I let go of all the expectations. I sucked it up that I didn’t feel well. And I had a great time. The game was very exciting and fun. OC was charming and witty and sweet. When I stopped writing the script in my head and just went with the flow, I was amazed how little disappointment I felt and how much I just enjoyed my time with him.

After the game we went out and grabbed some dinner. Then he took me back and dropped me off at my house. He never saw my pretty, romantic white Christmas lights or the sparkly birthday banner. He never got to make a wish on his birthday candle and enjoy his blue cupcakes. He never knew I bought a brand new bra in his favorite cobalt blue color (just in case). He just dropped me off and thanked me for the evening, told me to get some rest and feel better and to let him know when we could go out again. In short, pretty much nothing I had planned actually happened… And yet, it was a perfect date.

Sometimes I think we’re our own worst enemies. Our ideas of perfection and our great expectations… they just undermine the potential that reality holds. At least for me.

So, time to not plan the next date. I’m making him watch Love Actually — he’s never seen it. I know, practically sacrilegious! Don’t fret my friends, we’ll fix that… with no hope or agenda*…well, maybe a little hope.

XOXO — Awkward Jean

*Quote from Love Actually by the character Mark.