Thursday, May 13, 2010

Dear You

Dear You,

I thought it might be a good idea for me to start writing to you in this fashion, because even though we haven't met yet, I'm certain there are things that are happening to me every day...every minute, even, that you're going to want to know about once our paths finally do intersect. I mean, let's face it - most couples my age (and I'm guessing YOUR age, too...provided I'm not going to become a cougar in my near future and start dating shockingly younger men) are already living out their Happily (or, in some cases, Not-So-Happily) Ever After and have been for YEARS, so there's going to be a lot for me to bring you up to speed on once you and I get started on our own Forever. I thought if I put all my thoughts here for you to take a look at someday, it might serve to capture the spirit of who I am in this very moment, since as human beings, we are growing and changing literally every single day. And I want you to know me all you can, even the me that's sitting here in her t-shirt and pajama shorts with velcro rollers in her hair at 7:52 p.m. on March 13, 2010. goes.

First of all, I'm guessing if you're reading this (or more accurately, if I am LETTING you read this), I must be pretty sure that you're THE ONE. (I mean, otherwise, why would you be reading it? Unless, of course, the You that's reading this right now is either A) a stalker or B) one of my blog or Twitter followers and if you're A) Ew. Go away, get a life and get a grip on your stalkerish ways. If you're B), however - HI! Thanks for reading and for following. This post is meant entirely for your entertainment and not to be taken to heart since I am saving mine for The One who will ultimately find his way to this blog. But nonetheless, thanks for caring about what I have to say!) Whew! But I digress. Anyway...if you're reading this and you don't fall under either A or B and you're reading this because I have given you the key to my heart, then...WOW. Hi. It took you FOREVER to get here! But that's okay. If you had gotten here any sooner, I might not have been ready. Or you might not have been ready. So thank you for getting here right on time. I don't know anything at all about you as I type this, yet by the time you actually read this, I will likely know you like the back of my hand I'm looking at even as I type. What a simply wonderful thought.

I wonder what you're like. I get flashes of you in my dreams sometimes...or in my moments of reflection and quiet time...or just simply in the deepest places of my heart...the places that continue to leave the light on for you even when, at the present moment, there is no sign of your arrival. I wonder how we'll meet. Even though in my version of the story, you always come galloping up on a white horse...I'm betting Life probably has other plans. I wonder what you'll think of me the first time you see me. What will draw you to me? What will be the deciding factor for you that seals the deal in you knowing you just HAVE to ask me out...have to see me again...have to see me again every day for the rest of your life? How will it all come together? The details fascinate me, I must admit. As a writer, an idealist, and the girliest girl you'll probably ever meet, I have to confess...I have made many a wish on many a star for you. I wonder if you ever wished on a star for me, too?

A few things you need to know about me in this first letter. First of all, if you haven't figured it out yet, I'm probably the most loyal person you'll ever meet. I tend to be like my mom in that I either love you fiercely or don't care for you much at all...but when I love you fiercely, I will defend you, stand by you, protect your heart even to the death. I am passionate about the people and the things that I love, and have a deep sense of justice. When the people I care about are wronged, I speak out on their behalf without a moment's hesitation. I'm a little on the small side but will get scrappy for you in a New York minute if somebody mistreats you. My feistiness is not afraid to come out when the situation calls for it!

I will never lie to you. I despise lying and think it's one of the most callous, cruel things we can do to the ones we love. My word to you will be my word and it will never, ever be broken. I will tell you the truth even when a lie would be easier to tell, and even easier for you to hear. I will not sugarcoat things or dress things up to sound better or worse than they are. I will be honest with you...and it might not always be what you wanna hear, but you will never have to worry even for a minute that I am hiding something from you, because I'm an open book. I mean, the early days, I might try to be a little mysterious and unpredictable to keep your attention (which I'm guessing since you're reading this, it WORKED...wink, wink...) but once my heart is yours, it is yours fully, 100%, holding nothing back.

And in the vein of honesty, you should know...I'm not always a cup of tea. I can be fiery and stubborn and unwavering, even when the whole world is against me. I will defend my point of view until the cows come home and the fat lady sings. I will probably always want the last word, and will go outta my way to get it. :) But that same fiery stubborness and unwavering passion will also go into my love for you...a love that will be so deep, so high, so might take your breath away. Yes, I have pools and rivers and oceans of love to give away, and until you, no one really looked close enough to see it. And I'm thankful that they didn't...or I might have never followed the broken road that led me to you.

I think this is where I will stop for now. I have given you the first glimpse into my soul...but definitely not the last. I can't wait to share this adventure we call Life with you, and just knowing you're out there somewhere tonight brings me a great deal of peace. These fingers that type about the mystery of you now will someday be intertwined with yours as we read this and laugh together. But until that day...


Monday, March 29, 2010

Self Discovery in an Unlikely Place

I am wide awake at 6:19 a.m. and while I would like to say it's because I'm shooting for that whole "the early bird catches the worm" thing, it's actually because I have yet to go to bed. I am typically getting up at this hour and instead I have now been awake almost 24 hours straight. What is the reason, you ask? Well, about 14 hours ago I started filming my Bachelor audition video (for those of you reading this that don't know the significance of this, I was contacted about a month ago by a producer for the Bachelor, asking me to submit an audition tape for consideration for the upcoming season of the show), about 45 minutes ago, we finished editing the video, and in about another 45 minutes, the final DVD will be burned and ready to go. I have to say, I was REALLY nervous about this undertaking, because when it comes to anything related to TV production, I am a MAJOR, almost to the point of being annoying, perfectionist. I had this idea in my head of what the video should look like and I just wasn't sure if it was possible to transform that idea into a reality. Now, 14 hours later, I have to say...everything I imagined wanting the video to be pales in comparison to the finished product. My sweet, sweet friend and former roommate Jason is an incredibly accomplished director, photog and editor and was kind enough to take an entire 14+ hours out of his life to help me brainstorm, execute and edit the perfect audition video. I don't say it's perfect because I'm such an excellent subject but because HE is jaw-droppingly talented and will probably be known around the world someday for making beautiful films. The 10 minutes he managed to put together play out like a small screen much so that I was moved to tears while watching the last minute or so of the video. And while I will say that I tend to be my own harshest critic (my hair's too big! My head is too long! I need to lose weight!), I have nothing whatsoever to criticize about my heart. If I ever doubted the fact that I am a complete and total hopeless romantic, watching my big, thumping heart in action on the small screen forever cemented it. I realized while watching myself just how hopeful and idealistic and full of faith I am when it comes to love. Sometimes I question myself and wonder if I'm open enough or positive enough or if I somehow come across to men as being closed off. I will never question that about myself again. I might not be perfect, I might be flawed and quirky and even sometimes awkward when it comes to love, but I am, as my name means, "Worthy of Love." And the guys who have caught a glimpse of my heart and walked away from it clearly weren't worthy of that love. And I won't waste another wink of sleep wondering what I did wrong, because it was most definitely THEIR bad. Amazing how something as seeminlgy superficial as an audition tape to be on the Bachelor can suddenly open your eyes to who you really are. And if I never get on the show, and if this is the lesson I was meant to learn from all of this, it was totally, 100% worth it.

And so am I.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Am I a Starbucks pastry?

I've been going through some internal conflict as of late about my ability to open up and welcome love into my life. I spend a good part of my days & nights writing inspirational articles and quotes designed to empower women to just be themselves, to put their hearts out there and bet on love and to live out one of the greatest 4-letter words that ever existed - RISK. The last thing I want to be is someone who talks the talk but doesn't walk the walk. As a result, I have really called myself to the carpet lately in an effort to discern if I am, in fact, putting myself out there as I encourage other ladies to do daily.

This "perfect storm" of self awareness has been brewing for a few weeks now, but really came to a head a few days ago when I met an old guy friend of mine for dinner. This is someone who I have known for almost a decade and who arguably knows me better than most people in the world, even when we go months or even years without seeing each other. After excitedly telling him about all the cool things that have been going on in my life lately & asking for his opinion on a few matters of the heart, I waited to hear his take on everything...and when he spoke, his words took me back a little. "You seem guarded to me," he said. "I feel like that everything you've been through and all the times you've been hurt have left you with a bit of a wall around your heart."

WOW. Those were not the words I was expecting to hear.

I ended a year and a half long relationship back in October because I knew in my heart of hearts that it was not where I belonged. I knew there was no future. I knew he could never love me the way I need to be loved, and that I would always feel like something was missing. So I walked. I walked and I never looked back and it was probably the best decision I have made in my life thus far.

The past few months since the breakup have been one glorious adventure after another, of self discovery and enlightenment and really defining what I want out of life and what I dream of and figuring out ways to make it all come true. I have felt more ALIVE since October than I have in my entire life. I finally know who I am and why I'm here - now all I have to do is do my part of the work and leave the rest in God's hands. I have, perhaps foolishly, believed that I am finally open and receptive and, as India Arie says, "Ready for Love." But am I?

My love life has, in the past, tended to be a bit of a plane that taxies down the runway but never quite gains enough momentum to get off the ground. This has not changed since the breakup in October. I meet guys - have no trouble meeting them, actually - we talk for a few days or weeks (and in some really unfortunate cases - hours) and just as it seems to really be picking up speed and about to lift off - BAM! A bird flies into the propeller and the whole thing comes crashing down. Typically the only thing lost in the crash is the guy, and he usually vanishes without a trace. Inexplicably and seemingly without reason. He completely drops off the radar. If you have a man in your life that you want to get rid of for good, send him my way, because I seem to be the proverbial Bermuda Triangle for the male species.

Take Military Boy, for example. One night a couple of months ago, my friends dared me to do the unthinkable - go up to a random guy in a bar and kiss him. Just lay one on him, without so much as introducing myself or saying hello or anything. They dared me to do this because they know that this is NOT AT ALL the type of thing I usually do, and I, in fact, had never done such a thing in my life. I had always read about girls who did this and saw it in movies, but never dared to be so brazen and bold myself. (Although I secretly longed to be like those girls.) So, not one to back down from a dare, later than night, I picked my target, walked up to him with confidence and swagger, and laid the biggest, hottest, most fabulous kiss I've ever delivered in all of my life on him. To say it went over well would be an understatement. His friends hooted and hollered, my friends gasped and cheered and his face, once the kiss ended, looked like a kid that had just seen the face of God. (Not comparing myself to God here, folks, but it turned out the kid was 23, so at his young and abbreviated age, a random girl coming up and sticking her tongue down his throat probably was pretty darn close to a religious experience.) Anyway - great kiss, great experience, great night. So great that this very determined 23-year-old Military Boy found me on Facebook a few days later - and thus began a month-long Facebook flirtation that was fun and innocent and yet shockingly, actually seemed to be headed somewhere. He was funny and kind and made me smile and I was really kind of excited about the prospect of a new romantic prospect. Things seemed to really come to a head the week before Valentine's weekend, when he wrote to ask me what I was doing that weekend and indicated he wanted to take me to see Avatar. I wrote back and gave all the right signals that I would be up for accompanying him to a cinematic adventure (all the while already mentally picking out the perfect "Valentine's date" outfit) and then...guess what happened? He never responded again. Never wrote back. NOTHING. Literally dropped off the planet, or at least my corner of the planet. We are still Facebook friends, but he has never again since that last message reached out to me in any way, shape or form. It was one of the most puzzling experiences ever. (Well, at least until the next puzzling experience. And the next. Oh, and then the one after that.)

I could list example after example of situations like this, but I won't. Suffice it to say that it feels like every time a guy comes along that I get really, truly excited about, it seems like the very second I start to open myself up to the whole thing, Mr. Wonderful vanishes. As John Mayer's lyrics to "All We Ever Do is Say Goodbye" say: "I bought a ticket on a plane, and by the time it landed, you were gone again." I feel that way constantly. Like the minute I buy a ticket to Destination Unknown and decide to see my crush through, the guy pulls a disappearing act while my flight's still in the air. By the time my heart lands on someone, they're gone. I have to ask myself "Why?" and "What am I doing wrong?" and "Is it me, or is it them?"

All of this soul searching led me to a rather unwelcome conclusion earlier, as I was strolling through downtown with one of my best girlfriends. We were discussing how she seems to have the opposite problem, if you can call it a problem, in that guys she meets always seem to fall for her the very second they meet her. It's like she barely has to open her mouth and speak and they think she's adorable and want to marry her. In the midst of discussing this, I started relaying to her how I had eaten a rice krispie treat from Starbucks earlier that day and how it was horrible. It looked DELICIOUS, and mouth watering and oh-so-yummy at first glance, but to bite into it was like chewing on cardboard. I was in the middle of yammering on and on about how all of Starbucks pastries tend to be like that (well, except for the low-fat cinnamon swirl coffee cake, and that's just a little piece of heaven in a bag) - you know, magically delicious in appearance but when you bite into them, pure disappointment, when a positively horrifying thought occurred to me. Am I a Starbucks pastry? Pleasing to look at and entertaining enough for the first couple of bites until you really get into me, then I just turn into a big slab of boring, beige cardboard? Surely that can't be it. After talking me down from the ledge of the pedestrian bridge (kidding), my girlfriend assured me that I am in no way a Starbucks pastry, but the thought of it has haunted me all day nonetheless. Maybe I am a Starbucks pastry. It would at least explain why guys seem to bite into me and then spit me out just as quickly.

I wish I could say I had the magic answer and that all this soul searching has led me to some life changing concusion about love and life, but so far, it hasn't. I like to think of myself as open and vulnerable and really "out there" and available emotionally, but maybe at the end of the day, my fear of getting burned has turned me into a Starbucks pastry. I want to be delicious, I long to be delicious, but the cardboard walls around my heart have put the colorful and alive and audacious and fearless parts of me on lockdown, and while they are protecting me from pain, they are also protecting me from love.

I guess the good news in all of this is that cardboard can be burned down and even the driest, toughest, most tasteless Starbucks pastry can be sweetened and turned into something beautiful. I guess if you are a Starbucks pastry and you wanna be a Cinnabon cinnamon role, you have your work cut out for you - but isn't it worth it? I mean, c'mon, who doesn't want a Cinnabon cinnamon roll, with all it's luscious sugary beauty and melt in your mouth yumminess?

At the end of the day, even if you think you're risking it all, I guess my advice would be to risk a little more. Put yourself out there to a degree of complete vulnerability and let the chips fall where they may. Never let a chance for love pass you by because you're scared. What's worse - living with the fear of being vulnerable and possibly getting hurt or living with the reality of regret and definitely getting hurt? I think we all have a little bit of Cinnabon roll and a little bit of Starbucks pastry in us. All that matters in the end is that you choose to take the heat and refuse to get outta the kitchen until your inner Cinnabon gets brave enough to come out and play.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

My exploration of the age-old question

Can men and women be "just friends"?

Someone posed the question to me the other day: "Why, Mandy, do you have so many guy friends?" and when I went to answer her, I had to really pause for a moment and think about the question. To glance at me, all girly and fru-fru and a lover of all things pink and sparkly, one would never categorize me as "one of the guys." I don't watch sports, I don't play sports, I was the girl in P.E. class who the ball usually bounced off her head and there's never been an ounce of tomboy in me. On a purely masculine playing field, I don't even get up to bat. I have little in common with men and the closest I get to participating in any kind of athletic event is going shopping. Yet, I look around and notice that at least half of my close friends are male and I already have big plans for them to be "Bridesmen" in my wedding someday, should such a wedding ever actually take place.

So then, of course, that begs the question: "Well, are all of your guy friends secretly lusting for you, or you for them?" - and the answer is a resounding NO. One such friend, one of my very best friends and former roommate, Jason, has seen me in every stage of scantily clad and vice versa, and there's not a spark of lust between us. I have more lust for a piece of bread than I do for him. That's not to negate his attractiveness at all - actually, he's a very cute guy with an awesome personality and is overall a great catch. But we view each other as brother and sister and would never trample all over the beauty of our friendship with a little side nookie. Not to say there's anything wrong with that if that's what you both choose, but for he and I, friendship is all there is and all there will ever be.

Which brings me to my answer of the original question, "Can men and women be "just friends"? My answer is 100% YES. Not only CAN they be friends, they SHOULD be friends. There is no better source of advice, inspiration and insight than a guy friend. They have broader shoulders for you to cry on. They make you feel better by threatening to beat the loser up who broke your heart. With all their swagger and inability to BS you and "boyness," they put the problems of the world into simple, direct terms that make you forget about what you were confused about in the first place. They share the man's perspective and give you a peek into "the boy's club." They break it down for you in a way that your girls just aren't capable of doing, because most men are direct and to-the-point and don't overcomplicate or overdramatize things. They force you to get back to the basics of YOU because they've seen you at your very best and your very worst and remain completely unfazed by both sides of you. And besides all that - they make really great dance partners. :)

Now, along the way of guy-girl friendships, there are a few stumbling blocks you might have to overcome. The worst is when you're trying to be a guy's friend and he automatically assumes you want more and so he starts pulling back and being sketchy because he's not feelin' it and thinks you are (even when you're not, either). The only thing you can really do in that situation is to just wait it out and let him talk himself back down from the ledge. Never spend time trying to convince a man who's convinced otherwise that all you wanna be is friends. It's a waste of your breath. He'll figure it out eventually.

The other side of that is when one of you DOES have feelings and the other one doesn't. When this situation arises, honesty is ALWAYS, ALWAYS the best policy. I have had guy friends in the past who have professed their feelings for me that I didn't have the same feelings for, and as difficult as it was to do, I had to tell them straight up that it wasn't gonna happen. And you know what? Nine times out of ten, they were cool and understanding and mature about it and we went on to be great friends. Those are the best kinds of friendships, when you can bring raw honesty to the table, even though it might hurt the other party, and you still make it to the other side with a friendship in tact. (That's also a sign of maturity, on both parts.)

Finally - there IS the friendship, that sometimes even to everyone's surprise and against all odds, turns into something more. Even when you think a guy is safely in "The Friend Zone," sometimes feelings can pop up where you're least expecting them. I would recommend that in this situation, you let your heart and your intuition guide you. If your intuition tells you he's feeling something for you, all means, open your heart to him, lay it all on the line and TELL HIM how you feel. One must take great risks to receive great rewards. Worst case scenario - the feelings are not reciprocated. At least you had the guts to throw all your cards on the table and play BIG! No shame in someone who takes a chance in the name of love. Best case scenario? You fall in love with your best friend. And, as they say, live happily ever after. Or happily for a little while. Either way, you gambled and you won. Kudos to you for being bold enough to wave your radio under his window in a very "Say Anything" sort of way and going for what you wanted without fear.

At the end of the day, guy friends are a beautiful thing. After all, look at Dorothy. She was surrounded by males (even if the Cowardly Lion did wear bows in his hair...errr...mane) and that turned out pretty well! Her guy friends helped guide her to her destiny and protected her on the journey to following her heart and she helped them realize their biggest dreams come true. Nobody found great love, but they did all find something more important - themselves.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

My brush with Donnie Walhberg's lips...

So...once upon a time, I kissed one of the New Kids on the Block.

I should start by saying that anyone that thinks I'm a dork for writing a blog about this should turn back now...cause it's only gonna get worse.

When I was 10 years old, I went to my first New Kids on the Block concert...and as any 30-something woman can attest to, NKOTB were the Beatles of our era. Most women of my generation, when asked who their first love was, sigh and say one of those five familiar names: Jon, Joe, Jordan, Donnie or Danny. So to have the opportunity to see them live again, at age 30, was beyond what I can really even put into words.

When my sister and I learned they were coming to Nashville back in March, we immediately got online and bought tickets. I was honestly a little bummed out because we ended up in Section 6, Row 6, which is about the equivalent of Row 40. I was excited to be on the floor but had hoped to get closer seats. I even looked online in the days leading up to the show, on Ebay and Craigslist, and debated about spending another pretty penny to get closer seats. Ultimately I decided I didn't want to spend the money to get closer seats when we already had decent ones. So I didn't.

I should also say that when my sister and I were 10 and 13, we chased the NK all over Atlanta, to Chattanooga...we even camped out 43 hours to get front row seats when they came to Murfreesboro. We were the ultimate NKOTB fans! We even met Donnie and Danny when we went to Atlanta to see them. Upon meeting Donnie back then, my mom promptly asked him: "Will you marry my daughter?" Ha!

Flash forward to 2009. When we got to the show at the Sommet Center in Nashville, we automatically noticed that there was a blocked off section right beside us that looked like a riser with a piano on it. We got excited because we assumed maybe one of the guys would come out and play the piano during the show. When the girls next to us got there, they explained that they had been to a show in St. Louis and that all five guys would come out on the riser during the show.

They were right! When the guys came out, we managed to work our way up to the fence thing which was surrounding the riser and were the first to push our way through, which meant we were the closest to the guys. (My sister stayed back, not wanting to risk getting squished in a stampede...and believe me, the girls behind us were definitely going nuts and pushing us up against the fence thing pretty hard!)

They sang a couple of songs on the riser, and at the very end, Donnie came out to the crowd and kissed three girls: the two girls I met at the show...and ME! Yep...planted a big kiss right on my lips!!! It's safe to say I was pretty much about to melt into the floor. Call me a loser or a freak or the biggest nerd on the planet...but when I was 10, my biggest dream was to kiss one of the New Kids. And tonight, at age 30, it happened. Not many women can say they actually got to LIVE OUT one of their childhood fantasies!!!

The whole night was honestly one of the best of my life. From the moment the opening screen flashed up with the message: "15 years ago, they walked away. Tonight, they're back. Are you READY?" ~ I was instantly transported back to another time...another place...a time of innocence, and dreams, and belief that anything could happen. I could almost picture my 10-year-old self standing there, gazing up at the stage with wide eyes, wishing I was old enough to catch the eye of one of these guys I thought hung the moon. If I could have only told that little girl..."Guess what? In 20 years, you are going to get to kiss Donnie Wahlberg!!!" It might sound silly...but that kiss reminded me a lot about who I am and who I used to be. For one brief, shining moment, my 10-year-old self and my 30-year-old self collided...and it brought a great, big, goofy grin to my face.

What a night. Laugh at me if you want...but I went to sleep that night with a sweet smile on my face, memories of yesterday in my dreams and a kiss I waited 20 years for on my lips...