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One of the many wonderful things about my job at The Westin New York Grand Central is it connects me with amazing people I wouldn’t get to know otherwise. That serendipitous occurrence happened once again – during a delightful lunch with wildly popular blogger/cookbook author Tess Masters a.k.a The Blender Girl.
Tess and I met while she was staying at the Westin as part of a multi-city tour promoting her fabulous new cookbook. Named for her blog, The Blender Girl features 100 gluten-free, vegan recipes that excite even an unabashed carnivore like me. The cookbook is generating plenty of media buzz and with good reason.
Tess and I were introduced via email via a mutual acquaintance a few months ago, and we clicked immediately. Like everyone else I know from Australia, Tess is charming, fun and down to earth. During lunch, we bonded effortlessly over our shared background in TV, love of Westin’s wellness programs and appreciation for the differing attributes of L.A. (where Tess lives now) and NYC.
My first experience of L.A. was 20 years ago with then-boyfriend and CA native Mark (a.k.a Sparky). I saw so much of it during the year that we dated that its charms were somewhat lost on me. Over time, though, I’ve come to enjoy it as a very welcome respite from the relentless hustle and bustle of my hometown. Coastal, beachside living and a more laidback attitude are very alluring when you reside in the concrete jungle of Manhattan.
Thankfully, NYC is finally enjoying one of LA’s best attributes – beautiful weather. After our long winter, I’m slowly emerging from a seasonal dating hibernation. It feels good to get back out there. To realize that each time I take a crack at meeting someone special, I am growing and evolving in the process.
A new season indeed.
When you’ve lived through the winter that we’ve had here in NYC, any break from it is a welcome one. Last week, I had the pleasure of escaping to the warmer environs of San Diego for a work-related conference.
It had been 19 years since my last visit to SD. That trip was on the tail end of my relationship with Sparky when I told him it was over. Needless to say, I was eager to re-experience this great city and it didn’t disappoint.
In addition to beautiful weather, friendly locals and uncrowded streets, San Diego offered something else I hadn’t experienced in a while – unexpected romance.
On my one free night in town, I decided to venture out on my own to the Gaslamp Quarter, SD’s buzzy bar and restaurant district. I strolled for several minutes before settling on Greystone Steakhouse. What drew me in? A welcoming hostess…and the sight of three men flying solo at the bar. Of course, they were all poring over their SmartPhones, so my expectations were low. At the very least, though, I figured it was a far better ratio than what’s typical in NYC.
No sooner had I ordered a glass of wine than M, the adorable guy to my left, looked over and asked me with a smile if I was a local. I soon learned that M was a recent transplant to San Diego, having grown up in Iowa and graduated from West Point.
We clicked immediately, sharing stories about career (M has his own consulting business), travel and the allure of picking up and relocating somewhere completely different.
After closing down Greystone, we headed over to SD’s version of Little Italy for drinks at Craft and Commerce—one of the best bars I’ve been to in ages. Staff are invited to create and submit cocktails for menu inclusion. I sampled one with grenadine that was a fond throwback to my Shirley Temple days as a child.
M and I talked and smooched until dawn. A few days later, he sweetly followed up with a text message wishing me a safe flight back home.
Meeting him, and my entire trip to San Diego, were much needed reminders that you never know when something great is right around the corner. And that it’s time to have a little more of that adventurous traveler mindset here at home too.
It’s been awhile since I’ve opened the vault of my many journals. Having heard from several readers that this is a favorite part of Single Gal In The City, I figure it’s time to revisit it.
My most recent OTV posts covered an ill-fated romance eight years ago with well-intentioned but clingy British expat Riley. We met at my first-ever speed dating event and quickly began spending a lot of time together.
Upon discovering we had some irreconcilable differences about money and religion – Riley was an atheist, I grew up in very spiritual, interfaith family – I could feel myself becoming less infatuated with him. Still, I tried to make it work, hoping I could grow to love him the way he loved me. I now open the vault and take you back to the spring of 2004…
May 7, 2004
I’ve been rereading a lot of old journals to try and get a handle on what I’m going through now with Riley. Today, I read some entries from the summer of ’94, when I first started seeing Sparky. It was five months into knowing him that I started having doubts he was the one for me. And what did I do about it? Nothing. I lingered in that relationship for another year.
Though it’s only been three months with Riley, I can’t help feeling it’s wrong to continue seeing him when I know in my heart we have no future together. What I keep wondering is why, for more than 10 years now, do I keep involving myself in relationships that aren’t going anywhere?
* * *
May 10, 2004
Well, I thought I had reached my breaking point yesterday. I went up to Riley’s apartment with the intention of ending things. Not surprisingly, he was blindsighted by what I told him – namely that something is missing for me and I have my doubts about us.
“I’m confused,” he said. “I don’t understand how you can say you’re not happy considering how effusive you were when we went out with my friends…Are you saying you don’t want to see me anymore?”
“I don’t know,” I answered, meaning it because I truly felt uncertain about what to do. I started crying, admitting how overwhelmed I feel right now because of Dad’s cancer, my job search and the intensity of our relationship.
Riley said he’s not asking me to get married, and that he gets scared too.
“Were you planning to break up with me today?”
“I’m sorry I asked.”
He also said firmly that he can’t live with worrying that every time I have bad day, I’m going to break up with him – and that he doesn’t want to be in a relationship for the sake of having one.
After going back to his place, he pulled me into his arms and kissed me with great emotion.
“I’m not letting you go,” he murmured.
“Good,” I said, holding him tightly.
“I’m just thinking how much I would have missed you.”
And I knew I felt the same way. Maybe it’s selfish, but I’m not ready to let Riley go. When I told a friend I’d chickened out, she said not to see it that way – that it was a productive conversation because I was honest with him…There are so many amazing moments with Riley. I don’t want to give that up without a fight.
* * *
And so, the roller coaster with Riley continued, as I struggled to ignore the sinking feeling that our days together were numbered.
The other day, I found myself talking with a friend about what a small world it is – digitally and otherwise. It got me to thinking the whole six degrees (or less) rule has precipitated some of the most meaningful relationships in my life, past and present.
Triangular connections have played a big part in leading me to love over the years. Back in ’94, a close family friend happened to know a producer for the TV show NYPD Blue. That family friend made it possible for me and my sister to watch a shoot in NYC’s Tompkins Square Park, where I ended up meeting LA-based sound mixer Mark (a.k.a Sparky). Longtime readers of this blog know the whirlwind odyssey that followed…
A few years later, mutual friends once again took on the role of Cupid. A college classmate of mine married Nick, a Brit whose good friend David moved to New York. Nick went out of his way to make sure David called me, and so began a year and a half romance that I still remember fondly.
In 2001, I was in post-breakup mode when I moved to Southern Illinois and was warmly welcomed by next door neighbor Katherine. Much like a surrogate grandmother, Katherine invited me to dinner with her family – which is where I met her stepgrandson Steve. Our connection was immediate and we remain good friends to this day.
Of course, now it only takes a few clicks on Facebook to be reminded that less than six degrees separates all of us today. And that you never know when one of those connections will generate a spark of the romantic variety.
The other day, my dear friend Caroline sent me an article about a romance-minded wild cougar killed in Connecticut. Said animal made news for traveling across the country in search of a mate, as part of a pattern called dispersal.
While most lions rarely travel more than 100 miles, this cub journeyed from South Dakota to CT – 1,500 miles.
“He was on a dating blitz of his own!” Caroline quipped, alluding to my own love-seeking travels last year.
I couldn’t help smiling as I read about this kindred spirit, and thinking about how it proves something I’ve always known — geography is no match for the tenacity of love.
Over the years, I’ve experienced this simple truth time and time again. As I mentioned awhile back, with the help of my 90+ diaries and a little math, I discovered that I’ve traveled 49,156 miles cumulatively for the sake of romance. And I have been fortunate enough to be the inspiration for more than a few good men to hit the road (to the cumulative total of 33,394 miles) when distance stood between us.
Back in 1991, Toronto-based high school crush Jason braved a 12-hour bus ride so we could ring in the new year together.
A few years later, after spending only a weekend with me in New York, California native Mark (aka Sparky) flew from LA to London, capturing my heart along the way.
“I would travel to the ends of the earth…just to kiss you,” he later said.
Illinois-born sweetheart Steve didn’t let miles stand in the way either. Not only did he join me in hopping a flight or two so we could be together, he was my hero of the highways. When I moved from Illinois to Delaware, he drove me and all my stuff in a Ryder truck, making an 886-mile journey something special and fun.
In this day and age where laziness has become commonplace in dating, where potential mates often can’t be bothered to pick up a phone let alone travel for love, it’s easy to forget it only takes one who will go the distance. I’m thankful to a courageous young lion for reminding me of that.
Sometimes, it takes traveling to the other side of the world to find what can be elusive back home. My romantic encounter with Aussie hunk Jason back in’ 02 was an exhilarating reminder of that.
We connected through a mutual friend during my visit to Jason’s hometown of Perth, on Australia’s West Coast. Our second evening together led to major fireworks. I now Open The Vault and take you back to September of 2002…
September 18, 2002
Last night, after the first of many kisses, Jason — a self-professed news junkie — said playfully–
“I’ve never kissed a reporter before. I wasn’t expecting this when I came to pick you up the other night.”
Neither was I, of course. Which only made it that much more sublime. I knew from the minute I saw Jason that I wanted him. We both smiled instantly and I felt comfortable with him straight away. And to think I almost bailed on him because I was too tired!
* * *
Today was an amazing day — one of the best I’ve ever had romantically speaking. We drove to Cottesloe Beach. We had the windows open, the radio on and the sun was shining. Jason kept affectionately placing his hand on mine. I couldn’t stop smiling.
When we got to the beach, we ate at a café overlooking to ocean. Afterward, we ambled across the sand and stopped to sit down and watch the sunset. Feeling his warmth, I quickly resettled myself so that I was sitting in his lap.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve fantasized about having a moment like this on the beach. Goodness knows I’ve had my share of near misses: coldness from Sparky in Santa Monica and Malibu, amid distance from our latest argument; a tender stroll with Larry in Broadkill Beach that left me empty because I doubted our future together.
This time was different. I was completely and totally in the moment. Because, for once, I was sitting on a majestic beach with a great guy who was giving me exactly what I needed and who shared my carefree frame of mind.
Jason burrowed into me, putting his head beside mine. And we kissed softly, with nature’s splendor as our backdrop.
* * *
Our beachside rendez-vous was only the beginning of what Jason and I shared during my time on Australia’s West Coast. Little did I know that Facebook would, years later, lead to an unexpected reunion between us.
Last Tuesday, I could feel every part of me smile after arriving in stop #2 of my European Dating Blitz — London.
There was never any doubt England’s capital would be part of this itinerary. It’s a city I have great affection for from having done a year of university here. It’s also the place where I experienced two seminal romantic milestones — my first heartbreak and then my first love.
After checking in at the Marriott London Regent’s Park, I headed over to Marylebone High Street, where I caught up for tea with closely family friend Cheryl. Cheryl made a convincing case for ending my dating blitz in London so I can get reacquainted with her stepson. I haven’t booked my return flight home yet , so it’s a definite possibility.
Next, I met up for dinner at Asian bistro Dim T with three bachelorettes — two Aussie expats and one from New Zealand, all of whom are enjoying being single yet at a crossroads. The question — how invested to become in London dating when they’re likely to return home someday.
“It can be a barrier to a long-term relationship,” said J, 33.
Much like in Dublin, it seems that liquid courage plays a big part in the London dating scene.
“Men need a few beers under their belt to get the courage,” said J.
“You don’t meet anyone,” echoed S, 30. “Unless you are out getting smashed.”
Twenty-nine-year old R made the observation that the longer you’re single, the more you want from a partner.
“You’ve waited so long and have all these expectations of what it should be like.”
Still, she remains hopeful.
“The best part of being single is the excitement and possibility of meeting the next guy. When you’re in a relationship, you’ don’t have that possibility.”
After dinner, I took the tube to Piccadilly Circus, smiling as I walked over to bustling Leicester Square, then on to Trafalgar Square. I found myself thinking about what I always do when I’m there — the week I shared 16 years ago with Sparky.
For the first time though, I was able to recall the memory and recognize happily that it’s ancient history now. Sigh. How I love London.
Coming up…the details of my great dates in London and stop #3 on the blitz, Paris!
In long distance relationships, I’ve learned never to say never when it comes to whose turn it is to travel. I was reminded of this a few months into my romance with Southern Illinois native Steve.
Steve and I were missing each other desperately. Having already gotten on a plane for him once, I wanted him to reciprocate — until he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. I now Open The Vault and take you back to the spring of 2002…
LaGuardia Airport, NY
March 2, 2002
Well, surprise, surprise, I’m on my way to Illinois to see Steve.
Though it came about quickly, I’m happy to say I’m not simply acting on impulse. Steve is taking care of my airfare and also planning (at last!) a visit to New York later this month. Needless to say, I was floored when Steve called yesterday and suggested I visit. He says he’s suddenly in a better financial situation because of two tuition refund checks.
“We’ve been apart for almost two months, and I just can’t take it anymore,” he said with great urgency.
I’ve been so wrong to compare what Steve and I have to what I had with Sparky. Other than both relationships being long distance, there are NO similarities. Steve and I call and email regularly, and we’re both trying to see each other whenever we can. And I have a love and respect for Steve that is unlike what I felt for Sparky.
It’s also be foolish for me to be scared of somehow reverting to who I was eight years ago, with Sparky, simply by following my heart. I’m no longer the naive college student who expects every romantic encounter to be so blissful it makes up for the time apart. As long I feel that electricity with Steve and like we’re communicating, I’ll be a happy camper.
* * *
USAir Flight to NYC
March 6, 2002
It’s been an incredibly intense, exhilarating, exhausting couple of days. My feelings for Steve are just as strong as they were two months ago.
For as much as money was an issue during our last rendez-vous, it wasn’t this time. I took care of the accommodations, while Steve treated me to some wonderful meals and he even wanted to take me on a carriage ride in St. Louis (too bad the horses weren’t around!).
This morning, he proposed all these wild ideas — from eloping to driving across the country. A big part of me was tempted to just throw caution to the wind and see where our love takes us. Being unemployed makes such propositions pretty enticing.
For now, it’s back to the job search grind.
* * *
The search for my next career move would take me to the other side of the world — and force me to make a decision about Steve.
When you’re in the throes of new romance, every moment feels fraught with a mixture of excitement and anxiety. So it was after I met Southern Illinois native Steve back in December of 2001.
Our chemistry was immediate. The wrinkle — I was moving back to New York a few weeks later. That unavoidable fact, though, didn’t stop us from falling in love. I now Open The Vault and take you back to winter of ‘02..
New York, NY
January 3, 2002
I’m trying to just enjoy what Steve and I have without getting too worked up about it, but it’s hard. I will say, though, I feel much better about our ability to handle a long-distance situation than I did with Sparky. I trust Steve’s intentions and feelings.
I was still figuring all of that when we had our third date. When Steve showed up, his cologne and my intense attraction to him made me temporarily misplace my keys!
“It’s your fault for being so distracting,” I said playfully.
Steve took me to Mollie’s, a cozy little bar in Marion. After a few drinks in the main room, Steve led me into a quieter, more romantic area — comfy couches, fire dancing out of a pond, etc. It didn’t take long for our lips to meet. I couldn’t get enough of kissing him.
Steve soon suggested we get a bottle of wine and go back to my place. We spent the night talking, kissing and holding each other, until Steve had to leave for work.
I was deliriously happy for the rest of the day. Even on no sleep, I felt energized in a way that I hadn’t in years.
* * *
A few days later, after I spent the weekend visiting a friend in St. Louis, Steve and I went over to his parents’ house for dinner. Being with him around his family, the people who’d become my surrogate family in Southern Illinois, intensified the feeling that we had been dating much longer than ten days.
Later, at my place, we held each other by candlelight and opened up about our pasts. He told me about his divorce, I told him about David and Sparky.
“How would you classify our relationship?” I asked.
“It’s too soon to tell,” he said. “But right now, I’d call it bliss.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself.
* * *
Though our feelings managed to overcome geography for a time, Steve and I would soon face other obstacles — of our own doing.
When a relationship ends, it invariably marks the start of new beginning too. That’s exactly what has happened for me since I broke up with Chris.
Readers of this blog know Chris and I met in Cleveland at the start of my Great Dating Blitz. Our connection was immediate. We spent four blissful days together, reuniting in Kansas City a few weeks later and then again at the end of my whirlwind two-month journey.
During that time, we shared everything about ourselves with each other, talking a lot about the future and our mutual readiness to settle down. Sadly, a ten-day stretch together here in New York revealed some irreconcilable differences that proved too great to overcome.
Awhile back, I mentioned in a blog post that the duration of a relationship has little to do with the imprint it leaves on you. In my entire dating life, this has never been more true than it is now. Being with Chris has freed me of the two big obstacles that have been holding me back from lasting love — my late mother and my ex-boyfriend Mark (a.k.a. Sparky).
It took falling for Chris and going on my dating blitz to realize that pining away for Mom and Sparky left virtually no room for a significant other. And that, with an emotional housecleaning, should also come a physical one. Since returning from my trip, I have embarked on an Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, taking down many of Mom’s things and putting up more of my own. I feel energized with each change I make to my living space.
Yes, this time around the breakup bend feels decidedly (and happily) different. Though I’ve had a few blue moments, what I feel more than anything is at peace. Not only have I taken steps toward decluttering my life on all fronts, but I am approaching singlehood with a renewed sense of self.
As for finding Mr. Right, I’m going to start taking my own advice and get out of my comfort zone. Up next…how I plan do that, and the scoop on my first post-breakup dates.