Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Original Ice-Blended Mocha, with Whipped Cream

Do you have a special drink? A drink that when you sip it, you inhale a deep sigh, a happy feeling bubbles in the pit of your stomach and tons of memories come flooding back? I think we all do. Mine just so happens to be an original ice-blended mocha, with whipped cream.
This delight can't be made just anywhere. I've looked. Picasso's, my usual coffeehouse haunt due to to its proximity to my house, has a fairly decent mocha frappacino but it tastes wrong. Too much coffee, not enough chocolate. My university's local coffeehouse, MT Cup, has the opposite problem. It has too much chocolate. I can hardly taste the coffee. And I need that kick. What usually ends up happening when I'm at these coffeehouses is I order the hot drink, because you can't screw that up. Make hot coffee, insert cream and chocolate. But for ice-blended, for that frappacino, you need the precise balance.
It's a Grind would be the place for that balance. Maybe I'm biased. Actually, I know I am. It's a Grind and I go way back, you see.
At the beginning of my sophomore year of high school, a brand new coffeehouse opened up on Elm Street where I live. My parents have never been coffee people, but for some reason they felt the urge to check it out. I came along and fell in love with the place. It had cushy armchairs, played MY kind of music (indie acoustic and acoustic rock), and had the best tasting coffee. The owner was sweet and even offered us free samples of a yummy flowery iced tea. As I sat in one of the squishy armchairs, I thought, yeah, this'd be a great place for my birthday party.
And so it was. I invited all of my friends--a combination of the old friends I'd had in gradeschool and the new friends I'd made in high school. It was perfect. I'd been afraid of my old friends leaving me behind this party changed all that. My friends and I decided that every month we'd meet at a coffeehouse (sometimes It's a Grind, sometimes not) and talk or celebrate a birthday. We called it the 'Coffee Klatch'. But that's a story for another time. I'm focusing on It's a Grind.
It's a Grind was a part of my life in high school. It's where I hung out. Other kids partied on Friday nights, my friends went to It's a Grind's Open Mic Nite and played and sang. During our finals week, my best friend and I spent our time there studying and sweating over our notes.
It's a Grind has even been my cupid of sorts. I started to develop feelings for my friend--I'll call him First Boyfriend. Because he was my First Boyfriend. And it was at It's a Grind where I told him that I wanted to go out with him. It's a Grind was a central part of our dates. After closing time one night, I went over to his house to watch movies and there we both shared our first kiss.
But my darling special place was a part of my heartbreak too. It's a Grind was the place where First Boyfriend and I broke up too. Feelings are fleeting, and I feared First Boyfriend's. I ran away and when it all fell apart, it fell apart at It's a Grind.
My senior year my best friend and I began to play professionally at It's a Grind. That is, we performed cover songs and they paid us. Sadly, as I left high school, the It's a Grind in my hometown closed and moved to the city, where it was further away and harder to get to.
It's a Grind remained on my mind through college though. Whenever I tasted a coffee, I unconsciously compared it to It's a Grind's. When I returned home, my new boyfriend, who I'll call Nomad, took me there a few times as a treat.
And now this year. I can't come as often as I like. I hate driving on highways and I hate driving through the city so only when I need that perfect blend of coffee and chocolate do I allow myself to come here. But it calms me. That first sip is like a sip of home, a sip that reminds me that even though I've been out of dodge for so long and lost who I was, It's a Grind knows. That first sip tells me that I'm the girl who loves their coffee, who loves performing for them, who loves mellow coffeeshop music, who would do anything for her friends. Strangely enough, sometimes it's hard to remember that.
The It's a Grind in the city is closing now. I am sad all over again, it's like it's high school and I'm leaving a part of my soul once again. The nearest one will be even farther away, now a thirty-minute drive. A special treat will now probably become something I only get once or twice a year. But still I will love it. I'll make that drive. I need that sip. I need that ice-blended mocha with whipped cream to comfort me and tell me that through all the changes and fear in my life, I'm still the same person I was five years ago.
Sometimes that's all we really need.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Reinventing Myself

What exactly does reinvention mean? For me, it means to stop fooling around with what I wish I was, or what I think I am, and start dealing with WHO I am.
The first thing I need to do is clean up my life a little. I'm off to a good start, I think. I've realized who I truly want in my life and what precisely I deserve. I'm not allowing myself encounters--only relationships. My encounters were only really there because I was lonely and wanted someone but I was too afraid to pursue a relationship. Well, not anymore. I told Piano Man to cool it with extreme flirting. I'm very proud of myself for that. We haven't talked in a while, but I like to think our friendship will survive without encouraging the attraction.
Another part of my reinvention is to allow myself to become more in tuned with my emotions. To express how I feel. I'm determined not to fool around. When I see what I want, I'm not going to be scared and run away. I'm going to march straight up and announce how I feel. Of course, this is easier said than done, but I have the courage to do this. I might need a little help, of course.
I'm also not setting for mediocre relationships either. This is something I've always promised myself but now I'm reaffirming it. I will not enter a relationship unless I get those butterflies, that sparkly feeling in my gut, unless I feel completely breathless with someone. I've only felt all of these things in tandem once. But I am certain that this is how it is supposed to be. I'm not going to accept any less.
A smaller vow is to keep this blog going. I think it's good for me. It gives me a chance to reevaluate and examine the choices I've been making. So I will make an entry at least once a week. It must be at least 100 words. As school starts, this may become difficult, as I've experience a lot of blah weeks. But I shall do so anyway.
Cleaning up my life also starts physically. I'm going to get my area and space cleaned up. I'm going to get where I lived cleaned up. I think a clean area is really good for the soul. I've always felt most comfortable and cleansed when everything straightened up and neat. I'm going to work hard at remembering the old me, the me who wasn't afraid to be herself and didn't try to be other people. I'm going to try and be more open and honest.
I'm not sure how this will go, but at least I know where I stand. Wish me luck.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Other Girl

There was a time when I knew exactly what I wanted. Exactly who I was, where I wanted to be, and how to get there.
I miss those times.
Since I left my previous college for a newer one, a newer, bigger, farther away one, it seems like my life has spiraled once more. It's like I'm in high school again, still on a shaky path trying to find myself. I think this life crisis is probably why I ended up in a situation I never though I'd allow myself to be in just this past weekend.
It starts with myself at eight years old. An awkward, shy, and bratty girl in the midst of a horrible situation in which my family was being torn apart. My father had made a lot of bad decisions--and was currently living with one. I'm going to call her The Bitch. Excuse my language, but this is one woman I despise. I cannot ever forgive her. The Bitch was a friend of my father's and didn't start out as a possibly insane homewrecker. My first memory of her was her coming to our house in Indiana, where my family used to live. She played with us kids and gave us dragon tears. (colorful glass stones) Harmless.
She wasn't so harmless when my father decided he couldn't find a new job in Indiana and moved two states away to live in her apartment. I didn't know it then, but my parents were having dire marital struggles. But my determined mother decided to follow him. She packed up us kids and moved into the apartment too.
Many women deal with affairs. Not many women deal with affairs that happen right in front of them. My mother would literally walk out of the room she was sleeping in and see my dad and The Bitch cuddling on the couch. Having more class and grace than The Bitch could ever hope to have, she never said a thing, merely resolutely went on with her business.
Eventually, it ended. We moved out of The Bitch's apartment into our own house. Our family struggles had far from ended, but at least The Bitch wasn't in front of our noses constantly. But these sort of things leave a scar. Scars that affect me still today. For instance, I have a deep distrust of men. I think cheating in any relationship is the lowest thing you can do and the 'other women' in relationships are lower than pond scum.
That's why this past weekend sucked so much.
The next part of this story is a friend of mine. I'll call him Piano Man because he plays the piano and I like Billy Joel. Don't judge me. Piano Man and I connected over a year ago and it was instantaneous attraction. He was extremely good-looking, musically talented, very intelligent, could make me laugh, and was just a generally decent guy.
But he had a girlfriend.
Living three hours away from him three months of the year (I lived eight hours away from him the majority of the year) made this easy to overlook. I became closer and closer to him, flirted with him, and he certainly flirted back. He occasionally talked about his girlfriend and made myself listen and be receptive. But for the most part, I tried to overlook this little detail.
However, this weekend, I visited him. Took the three hour drive and finally saw him face-to-face. It'd been a year since that had happened. During the day, it was innocent. But when he offered to come over later that night, around midnight to watch a movie...
My gut told me this would not be an innocent situation. My gut told me to respect the boundaries of friendship and of Piano Man's relationship. I ignored my gut.
The evening progressed. In all technicality, nothing really happened. We sat on my king-sized hotel bed. We watched the movie on my Mac. I leaned against him. He played with my hair. These things could all be interpreted as innocent.
But they weren't. Deep in my heart, I knew they weren't. The vibe we had that night was anything but a just friends vibe.
The next day, I went to his house with my brother. While my brother watched TV in Piano Man's living room, he abruptly told me, "I really wanted to kiss you last night."
I nearly choked on my jasmine tea.
This was bad. I was nearing a situation I'd never thought it possible for me of all people to be in: being the 'other woman', the 'other girl' to a relationship. Piano Man and his girlfriend didn't have a casual relationship, they were in love with each other for goodness' sake.
The worst part was I had really wanted him to kiss me last night.
The next night, he asked about coming over again to watch a movie. I hadn't had much alone time with him, so I thought maybe, just maybe, we'd be able to talk this out. It's astounding how naive I can be sometimes.
He came over. We watched a movie. Once again, his fingers played with my hair, stroked my arms, even my a little bit of my belly. After the movie, we started talking. He kept hinting how he had been so tempted to kiss me the previous night, and how hard it was going to be, knowing we wouldn't see each other for a whole year. I knew what it was leading up to. He wanted to kiss me. Tonight.
Maybe to Piano Man it would be simple. Something to end a longing, end a curiosity. A pleasant memory we could look back on and then just continue with our respective lives and relationships.
But it wasn't to me. It was a mark of betrayal to his girlfriend. It was a sign that I had truly lost who I was. Even worse, it was a horrible little voice saying...It looks like you're no different from The Bitch after all.
"I can't be her," I said nearly choking on the words. I told Piano Man the story of how my family nearly fell apart because of this woman. He said he understood. But did he?
The temptation didn't die. He didn't move away from me. While he wasn't outright trying to persuade me, his comments made it clear he still wanted that kiss. And Lord, did I want it too. He smelled amazing, his eyes were so intense, I desperately wanted that kiss.
I began to lean towards him. As I did, I heard this voice in my head: You've cuddled with him, in the dead of night, on a king-size bed. His girlfriend certainly doesn't know. You've practically cheated with him anyway. Why not have this kiss?
The voice nearly swayed me. And then I saw her face. The Bitch's face. She was smirking at me, as if to say, How's it feel to be just like ME?
I stopped leaning towards his lips. His eyes were half-closed in preparation for it. I took a shuddery breath and whispered,
"We are defined by the choices we make. And...I choose NOT to be that person."
I then scootched away from him. He smiled at me and said, "That's my girl."
I shook my head sadly. "No. Not your girl. You have a girl. And I'm not going to be the other girl."
I held myself together until he left, and then I sobbed. Was it true? Was I really like her? Had I become the woman I'd hated the most? Was God teaching me some cruel lesson, saying that I should forgive her because she wasn't so much different than me? The idea tormented me. I wanted to die, I felt absolutely worthless. Had I lost myself so much that this horrible apparition of me would be willing to wreck a relationship for a tempting kiss?
I called my best friend, nearly hysterical. She was sleepy (it was nearly 4 in the morning) but she talked to me, God bless her. And she said something that struck me. She said, "We are defined not by the experiences we have, but by the choices we make."
I wasn't like the Bitch. I'd had an experience like her. So had other women. But I'd made the choice. I made the choice to not be like her, to do what was right, to not compromise Piano Man's relationship and more importantly, not compromise myself.
I made the choice to not be the other girl.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

King of Anything

“Who Made You King of Anything?”

You’ve got opinions man, we’re all entitled to,

But I never asked.

So let me thank you for your time and try not to waste anymore of mine…

Who cares if you disagree?

You are not me, who made you king of anything?

So you dare tell me who to be!
Who died and made you king of anything?
–Sara Bareilles

“What are you wearing?”

“Oh my God, do you see what Kathleen Coffin is wearing?”

“Whatever you’re comfortable with…but everyone else is going to think you look ridiculous!”

I’ve heard these kinds of comments all my life. They used to make me feel ashamed and miserable but now they only vaguely irritate me. Generally, they amuse me.

Narrowing down when people started talking about how I dressed is tricky. Mostly because in my sordid fashion history, there are two parts—one when I dressed funny on accident, and later when I dressed funny on purpose. For the first part of my childhood, I didn’t care how I dressed.

Frankly at eight years old, I had other things to worry about. My family was being torn apart at the seams—my mother, feeling worthless, started taking classes to help her feel good about herself. This worked but it also meant she for most of the evenings out of the week, she wasn’t home. My father’s mood swings were passionate and scary—I never knew what mood he’d be in when he came home. Our financial struggles only seemed to make things worse.

The move from a little town where I knew everyone to a new town near a big city where I knew no one was difficult. Like the rest of my siblings, I struggled with crippling shyness. When I did talk, I generally told stories about myself to make me seem like the sort of person you’d want to be friends with—rather than a miserable little girl who was scared of her own shadow.

My fashion sense then was…nonexistent. I didn’t care. I grabbed whatever shirt was on my floor, clean or dirty and fling it on. Often, because I was desperate for my parents’ affection, I wore their old T-shirts. This was also the start of my hygiene problems too—when you’re praying that your mother gets home before your brother and father start screaming at each other and you’re crying in your room, listening to music as loud as you possibly can, showering that night and remembering deodorant doesn’t seem quite as important.

Even when I started longing for the clean, pretty clothes my friends had it didn’t make much of a difference. There was never enough money for designer jeans or the specific clothing stores where my friends shopped. Luckily, certain people caught onto this.

I remember one of the popular girl’s moms coming up to me and asking me if I’d like her two daughters’ old clothes. “They’re so much taller than you and they grow out of their clothes so quickly, I hate throwing them away.” My father, who was present, was furious but he couldn’t very well say no. He grumbled the entire way home about accepting charity and how he was perfectly capable of buying me clothes. (Which wasn’t true.) I, on the other hand, was delighted. New clothes! New clothes belonging to the popular girls, the girls who had lives I’d always wished for.

This wasn’t the only occasion. I remember borrowing a pair of P.J’s from a friend who told me to keep them when my father came to pick me up. From seventh grade to the summer I went off to college, one friend gave me all of her old clothes and shoes. I remember one teacher even giving me a nice blue hoodie that she claimed didn’t fit her goddaughter and she was unable to return it.

When I started becoming interested in clothes and dressing, at around eleven, also came the realization that my parents would never be able to afford the clothes I wanted. So I decided to make do. I became creative with my outfits. I made my own jewelry, I cut up old clothes and made them into scarves, headbands, hats, bracelets, anything that struck my fancy. Now bear in mind, I am pretty far from a designer. My handmade things weren’t very nice looking—they were downright odd to be truthful. But I liked the feeling of wearing different clothes. I remember wearing a short black velvet skirt over a pair of jeans and how daring I felt for doing it.

That’s about when the comments became more frequent. I remember wearing an old man’s dress shirt, burgundy colored to school one day and someone asking why I wore it.

“I wanted to wear something different,” I told her.

“Well, you definitely did that,” She commented. Her tone wasn’t complimentary, and since this was a friend I admired, I felt sheepish and stupid.

High school was a good time for me—at least after freshman year. I was sure my first year of high school would be perfect if I wore the ‘right’ clothes. I tried pretty hard too, following the gospel of Seventeen magazine. In time, I got lazy and stopped caring.

My mother tried to help me. After tearfully telling her about my lack of cute clothes, she saved up her paychecks and took me shopping. I usually went to Rave and Rue 21, because they had the best sales and the nicest clothes. There was a salesperson at Rave—she helped me pick out clothes, clothes that were different and trendy. As I went through high school, I started to develop my own style, a style that has stuck with me from then on. This style wasn’t always approved of either—I remember wearing a green flowy gypsy skirt one day with a fuzzy sweater and having someone direct a rather lofty comment about it. But I stopped caring, which I think was the most important part of my style evolution.

And what style is this? Retro? Preppy? Punk? Bohemian? Sporty?

None of the above. I refused to box myself in one little label and just wore clothes I liked. I also didn’t stop my love of oddities—I still like making jewelry and adding something different to every outfit. When I got to college, I discovered that I had a deep love of vintage styles, and started wearing my mother’s old clothes from the 70s and my grandmother’s old clothes from the 40s. I wouldn’t say no to a pair of Manolo Blahniks but I also like wearing brandless shoes from Payless. I love Stevie Nicks and Kate Voegele’s artsy styles but sometimes I am just too lazy in the morning to put a great deal of thought into an outfit.

For the most part, the commentary on my style choices has stopped. I like to think that most of us have realized that different people maintain different styles and that’s the way it is. But every once in a while, someone will offer a ‘helpful’ comment to me. I’m thinking of a specific case that I’m sure a few of the people tagged will recognize and grin. I think my favorite part of that little situation was one of the people who defended me, is possibly the most gorgeous person on the planet and I have always been jealous of her adorably trendy style. I love how irony works sometimes. But I’m still a little astounded at how some people can be so limited in their clothing choices.

So what is the real meaning of fashion? Of style? Well, I’ll tell you. Absolutely nothing. Your style of clothes, be they straight out of Vogue or an eclectic mish mash reveal nothing about your character or intellect (unless you wear a Twilight T-shirt…haha, just kidding!) and that’s that. I wear cute clothes cuz I like looking nice every once in a while but I equally like wearing jeans and T-shirts because I like being lazy every once in a while. And that’s all I’m saying.

If you have an opinion on my character or intellect or beliefs, by all means share it. I’m still young, I’m still learning about the world and how it shapes my views. But if you have an opinion on why I choose to wear my mom’s old dress from the 70s, blue jeans, cowboy boots, my grandmother’s ring, and a random jumble of jewelry…keep it to yourself. Everyone loves a compliment, but constructive criticism in that department is a little ridiculous. My style is done, developed. It has no more evolving to do. But hopefully, if you have a negative opinion on that, you have more evolving to do. Good luck with that.

Bye darlings!

You sound so innocent,

All full of good intent.

You swear you know best.

But you expect me to,

Jump onboard with you,

Ride off into your delusional sunset! –Sara Bareilles