Little Is The New Big

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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

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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.

The Makeover.

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If Hollywood has taught me anything in my thirty-five years, it’s that all you need in order to change your life, is to change your look. True story. SO… I have the new hair… I’ve hung up my signature flip-flops for the cold season… all that seems to be left is the makeup makeover montage.

When my most fabulous stylist Nicole dyed my hair she warned me that I’d likely need to change up my makeup as well. I felt the timing for this was perfect because it was almost time to replace my signature items — bare minerals (light) powder foundation, MAC Expensive Pink eye shadow (my full-cover) and MAC Sketch (my crease-highlight) eye shadow.

Random Jean Fact — I didn’t start wearing makeup daily until I was 25… I’m a solid ten years in, but… I’m a creature of habit and really don’t branch out much when it comes to my routines, so the idea of trying NEW makeup is a bit daunting. It’s not as simple as it looks and makeup is kind of spendy. Luckily, I just received my annual birthday “Not A Smoker” check from my mom, soooo — no excuses, time to branch out.

SIDEBAR: My mom has some pretty nifty tricks up her sleeves — made more impressive by the fact that those tricks were figured out pre-interwebs and definitely pre-Pinterest. When I was about middle-school aged my mom made a deal with me — if I didn’t smoke and I didn’t drink by the time I turned 21 then she’d give me $500 FOR EACH on my 21st birthday. AND, every year following I’d get $100 EACH on my birthday for not drinking and smoking. Suffice it to say I’ve never seen a single cent of that no-drinking money, but I’ve successfully cashed in on being a non-smoker for the last 14 years! Seriously, parents — do this, it’s genius! Thank you mom!

Alas, I took this year’s “Not A Smoker” money up to my local Sephora this last Sunday night and decided to treat myself to a full-on makeover! I was picturing that scene from Miss Congeniality where a whole team of beauticians (or magicians, whatevs) take over and basically remove all the “rough” from the diamond that is Sandra Bullock… Um, yeah. It was probably more like when Julia Roberts hit Rodeo Drive (WITH Richard Gere) and they just kept throwing things at her saying it was all great…

Things I learned during my “makeover” —

1) If you want a makeup artist to actually spend time with you, teach you techniques, apply makeup, etc. then you REALLY need to respect their time and set up an appointment… not walk in 45 minutes before close on a Sunday night. FAIL.

2) Um, yeah… actually it was just that one thing I already mentioned. I don’t know what an actual makeover would have been like in order to learn more because all I ended up with was one of the makeup artists walking me around and trying to give me very broad pointers… OH, and she helped me with my foundation — turns out I’m not a “light”, I’m a “medium”… the “light” is too yellowy for my skin tone, which explains some rather jaundiced looks I’ve given myself in the past.

The makeup artist Loren (picture the cutest, sweetest person alive) focused on changing up my eye shadow routine and kept suggesting I purchase a combo pack palette thingy so that I’d have lots of colors to experiment with. I’ve used the exact same TWO colors, regardless of occasion, for the last three years and yet this fresh-faced, natural makeup-ed woman was trying to convince me that makeup is fun and I can pull off a lot of colors with my skin tone and I should be experimenting and trying different looks for different occasions… Um. Yeah. That’s sooo not my comfort zone Loren… But then, I suppose that’s the point — I’m trying to get out of my comfort zone. And, since I know they don’t work on commission and really thought that this eager-beaver-cheerleader-type REALLY was trying to be helpful and encouraging… I did it. I bought one of the palettes with like 73-colors to play with AND I splurged and bought new makeup brushes too.

(Hyperbole Alert: There were only ten colors… two of which were powder eyeliners, two of which were “highlight colors” -whatever that means- and one of which was the “base”… Sooooo, really there were like five colors… but STILL! That’s 2.5 times as many as I’m use to!)

So, yesterday was my first day with my new colors… I was tempted to do my normal thing (I still have a little left) but… No. I’m branching out. I’m Ally Sheedy, Julia Roberts, Audrey Hepburn… I’ve. Got. This. So, I tried a sort of shiny taupe base with a dark olive metallic crease thingy (sorry, I don’t know the words, I just Googled pictures of what to do) and guess what — nothing catastrophic happened. On the flip side… neither the captain of the wrestling team nor the captain of industry nor the captain of linguistics fell in love with me, but… nothing bad happened. Until today.

The muted success of yesterday’s eye adventure bolstered my confidence. Perhaps to an overly-inflated degree. Today I tried a WHOLE new look. Something Loren hadn’t even thought to suggest! (Dear Future Jean — PLEASE pay attention to things like that… there’s a reason Loren didn’t think to suggest it…) Today I tried the shiny white base with the silvery charcoal crease. Translation: I looked like a frigid snow queen… with glitter all over my face (thank you new makeup brushes I’m not use to yet). AND, to make matters worse, when I saw it was going bad fast, I didn’t stop. I didn’t remove the nightmare on Jean’s face… NO — I decided MY OUTFIT didn’t match my face. So I changed my outfit.

I was a wee embarrassed all day at work because I felt a bit like a soccer mom going through a mid-life crisis and trying something new **Dear Lord Baby Jesus, PLEASE let me join their ranks someday, Amen** but that the new thing just looked like someone trying to dress (my face in this case) younger than she actually is. All day I was worried that I’d run into Original Crush (OC) or that New Crush (NC) would FINALLY invite me to lunch or a drink after work… Heck no! I looked AWFUL! My face was so sparkly from my rogue makeup brush flinging sparkly white powder EVERYWHERE — I looked like a Cullen on a sunny day in Forks for god’s sake! Fortunately (or unfortunately really) I didn’t hear from either OC or NC all day… Until I ran into OC in the kitchen at work at the end of the day…

(Him staring at me; me feeling awkward…)

Yeah, I bought some new makeup this weekend, remember I was telling you about it, and anyway I tried something new today and it didn’t really work and now I have this awful makeup on and glitter everywhere and… 

Actually, I was looking at your roots. 

Oh. Um, right. Well, I guess I just thought you were looking at my makeup because the sparkly eye shadow got all over and… 

Yeah, your makeup is different. You look like a 14 year old girl with that glitter all over your face. Maybe we should get you some of those pants that say ‘JUICY’ on the ass. 

Sometimes I wonder if he hears himself and knows how he comes across, but more importantly… MY ROOTS? UGH! Great! Not only do I have 14 year old “glitter” makeup all over, but now my roots, which are blonde, are coming through and making me look like I have gray hair.

MAKEOVER FAIL!

At least another coworker enjoyed my makeup attempts today… every time he needed to tell me something, his emails looked something like this:

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Awesome. Well, as my girl Anne Shirley (from Anne of Green Gables) always says “Tomorrow is a new day, with no mistakes in it.” And by “no mistakes”… I kind of mean the white sparkly eye shadow.

XOXO– Awkward (Glitter) Jean