The Boy from Virginia Discusses the New Monarchy

Last week, Beyoncé released a single asking what she must think is the most important question ever: Who Runs the World? “Girls” was her answer. But today, it was quite evident that Love was running the world as everyone around the globe tuned into the royal wedding. It still amazes me how people can become so swept up in the lives of people they don’t know. Why should we care about Kate and William? They are just like anyone else, right? If this was any other wedding, it wouldn’t get this much hype, so why them? Well, simply put, they are royalty. What’s more important is that they are young royalty. With that being said, their youth represents so much. Then again, so does their obvious love and affection for one another.

            Up until today I was dreading the idea of a royal wedding. I was sure I was not going to be able to get to work on time (luckily, I didn’t get called in to work),that there’d be loads of sappy, teary-eyed, hand-holding couples dressed up as the royals (if that happened, I was lucky not to see it), and the people-congestion would just make me grumpy. But, after waking up around 11am and realizing (thanks to Twitter and Facebook) that I wasn’t going to be able to avoid the royal wedding at all, I gave in. The coverage was live on YouTube, so I was able to watch from the vows being made up until they got in the horse-drawn carriage to begin their royal waves. Then I left the house to do my anti-royal wedding day activities which I’d planned earlier this week. Only, as I walked along the Southbank and eventually to St. Pauls Catherdral (friend in tow), I was no longer feeling anti-anything. I was feeling as if I’d witnessed one of the greatest moments in history. And I was very much pro- love, for once.

            Tradition is the word that sprang to my mind today. It is also something that highly intrigues me when it comes to weddings. I think so many people try to out-do or not-do tradition when it comes to the matrimonial ceremony, but as the world has seen, a traditional wedding can be beautiful, classy, and enough. Watching the expensive simplicity of everything kept me enthralled, yet curious as well. No doubt Kate was prepared for all this, but now that it was actually happening, what was she thinking about her life before “I Will” and after “I Will?” She is, as they say, representative of the common woman marrying the Disney Prince, but judging from what has been said about her relationship history, there was nothing fairytale about how they met. To be honest, it just seemed like “down-to-earth Will” met “down-to-earth Kate,” they developed a relationship, fought, made up, made it work (a key factor), and made the big decision to unite as one. Why is this so inspiring? Isn’t that what a relationship is supposed to be before marriage? I guess I’m so inspired because I do know many relationships that have such sustainability.

            I now, sit here, exhausted from a day of walking around London (and having stumbled into a very awesome street party) asking myself all these questions about love and marriage and about my romantic future because I fear, unlike others in my life, that I will not be granted the same privilege of marriage. I’m not trying to be negative or throw a pity party (because I’m sure no one would attend). But it baffles me how the art of romantic selection (i.e Love) works. God (or whichever deity you worship) brought two people together, gave them free will to flesh out a life and 8-year history together, and now they’ve sealed the deal. I can’t even find someone to make 4-week history with, let alone 8-years. But it’s a clandestine desire I’ve had for a long time: to meet someone, grow immensely, and then…well…who knows…live together forever? I never imagined getting married, but having had one of my best friends recently jump the broom made me look at things differently.

            My theory: if you marry for love, then your marriage (no matter what it looks, sounds like, or costs) will be perfect because it’s everything you both want. Or at least this is the assumption.

            When it comes to me, and living in this world, I am slowly accepting that I am becoming more and more cynical by the day. Earlier this year, I was all too ready to embrace whatever came my way. And I was also willing to water it, fertilize it, and make it grow so that my love could blossom with somebody else. After making that pledge to myself, I got a taste of what it would be like to feel bliss with someone. Everything about the development was organic and natural. Things progressed in a very friendly, orderly, and fun manner…

            …And then a week (5 days to be exact) after my birthday, I received an e-mail saying that we were incompatible and “could we be friends?” Hmm…I immediately thought to myself, This is the equivalent of a post-it note.

            Clearly, love was NOT dating someone for a month. Nor was it sharing time together and phone calls and texts. Nor was it, it seems, being honest up front. I only wish I’d have known beforehand that there would be no future for us or I’d have not wasted so much time. Investing in someone is not a process to be taken lightly and when it comes to me, I’m the first to say when you fuck up my heart, you ruin it for the next one.

            I, now, do. Not. Want. Love. But if it comes…and it’s genuine…I might change my mind.

            But people promise all the time, “ I’m not like anyone else.” Great. I know that. No two people are ever exactly the same…but it would be foolish to say that we don’t all, to some degree function the same.

            Firstly, as a rule, we must SEE someone we like (Attraction), we must have something IN-COMMON, we must know that, at some point, sex needs to be on the menu (Lust), and that TIME must be invested to make it work. Ideally, that someone will also ACCEPT you for who you are.

            Having recently been rejected, I’ve discovered that I’m not the right type for a lot of people. People see me and have a lot of misconstrued notions of who I am. People think I’m not supposed to have a deep voice. People have told me “ You’d be so much better if you had muscles.” People expect me to be shallow. People expect soooo much from me and I just want to tell them all… “I’m skinny, deal with it. I will always invest more time into my career than someone else as it’s my true passion. More importantly, a normal person would love me to death.” The question is…who or what is normal these days?

            I despise the fact that I have so many issues with love. I despise the fact that I understand love is what we all need. I hate the fact that I love making other people feel loved, but yet, I can’t manage to make one single person love me back. When it comes to love, I am powerless at creating it or taking it away, it seems. So when that awful, repetitive, kintergarden-esque tune comes onto the radio, “Who Runs the World”… I have to reiterate: the answer is LOVE. And that’s the true monarchy in this world that we should all recognize.

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The Boy From Virginia on Christmas (Part 2)

On Christmas day, my peaceful sleep was disturbed by the joyous sounds of children remembering that there were presents downstairs that needed to be ripped open. I opened one eye, thanked God for my blackout curtains, and closed it again. Little did I know, I would drift in and out of sleep for the next couple of hours due to the sporadic vibrating of my phone (friendly texts wishing me a Merry Christmas). I heavily considered turning the power off on my phone,  but my sleep was so relaxing that I didn’t care. But I was in a state where I couldn’t be arsed with dealing with anybody or anything. But then a phone call from a friend made me retract that feeling because I always had time for her.

            I officially work up at 1:15 in the afternoon to speak to my friend about the issue that had been plaguing me for two days: my friend’s divorce. I explained the effect it had on me and why I so wished that their relationship could’ve worked (because I felt I would learn something by watching them). She listened to me and gave her opinion and very astutely came to the conclusion that “if the husband could step out of the relationship now, then things must not have been solid for a while.” She was right, in her own way. Yes, there were things that the couple needed to work on, and some things that they really needed to be honest about with one another. But my feelings are as follows: when it comes to the point of even considering divorce, the statement being made is “There is no way to fix this relationship. We have exhausted all possibilities.”

            But if people are in love, how can you ever tire of it? I’m the first person who would say love isn’t enough, but I don’t understand how people can get tired of this feeling of supposed bliss…unless it was never love to begin with.

            When I finished talking to my very observant friend, I decided to actually get out of bed and leave my room. So I did…to go downstairs to the kitchen. It may have been the afternoon, but any time is a good time for coffee. (Besides, coffee tends to clear my mind when I first wake up and can’t seem to think coherently) The day tended to go pretty much like this: me wandering aimlessly through an empty flat, wondering why I was totally ok with receiving no presents this year, while I’m sure the rest of London found themselves feasting unappreciatively with their relatives. The mere thought of relatives made me aware about the fact that mine were still an ocean away.

            Therefore not only had I managed to think about divorce and love, but I’d also managed to fit my family into those thoughts. My day was turning out to be a melted marshmallow in hot chocolate. I needed release. Thank God (and Bill Gates, I guess?) for iTunes! I figured I’d download whatever was new, current, and danceable. Once I heard Dirty Money’s “Azz on the Floor” I put my feet on the floor and did some homemade cardio. But who knew that a little dancing could be dangerous.

            I’d forgotten that I’d lit a candle on the table near my bedside. As I got up to dance, I’d somehow knocked my bedspread onto the open flame. It took 2 seconds for me to smell smoke, and I’d pulled back my spread to find a burn mark. Here I was trying to burn the dance floor and I almost managed to set my room on fire. I laughed at myself for being so clumsy, and then realized that I was actually having fun, alone, on Christmas day. Granted, that “almost-fire” was the only major excitement of the day, but it did jolt me away from the sadness that was beginning to creep into my heart.

            And like all parents who feel the despair of their children, no matter how far away, my mother called me to wish me a Merry Christmas. Though a small gesture, it meant more than presents to me. And it was more than satisfactory knowing that she and the family were well.

            Not long after, I cooked my humble dinner: boneless chicken breasts and roasted potatoes (with cheese). Then it was off to watch “Going the Distance” on iTunes because I heard it was decent movie (Yes, I went iTunes crazy on Christmas day).

            About thirty minutes into the movie, my illusion of a silent Christmas day (where I could sit with my own thoughts) was broken. As I sat, looking quite disheveled in my pajamas and robe, my hair uncombed, the door to my flat opened and in walked my roommate with his family from Singapore. My eyes bulged as I realized that, even if I’d bolted up the stairs once I heard the keys jingling, there would be no way I could put on a decent pair of jeans or run a comb through this wooly crown of mine and make it down in time to greet the family. So I greeted them looking like a homeless person. And they didn’t seem too taken aback, as they smiled. But if they were anything like me, they’d be saying to themselves what I would say if I met someone for the first time and they looked a mess: “Damn.”

            I finished my Christmas day watching the rest of the movie and preparing for the next day. I had two shows to do the next day, and unfortunately, one day off was not enough time to rest up. But I decided I would go into work feeling better than I did days prior because divorce was no longer on my mind, and all the holiday shenanigans and goings-on would be over. My energy wouldn’t be so concentrated all things pricey (but then again, my energy was never focused on gifts in the first place).

            But before I drifted off to sleep and away from Jesus’ birthday, I began to think, what gift have I been given this Christmas that would outlast any gift I’ve ever received. I realized that I had been given love. From the small amount of texts that came through to the phone calls and even conversations on Skype (I forgot that at one point, I ended up on skype with a very good friend), I managed to get and give love on Christmas Day. Hell, it’s what the world really needs, isn’t it?

The Boy From Virginia on Christmas (Part 1)

Christmas Day. It is my understanding that it was supposed to be an “exciting and fun-filled day” (judging from the numerous texts messages I received from people saying “have a good time, today!”). But a parent once told me, “Christmas (just like Trix cereal) is for kids.” Even on the actual day, I was waiting for the burst of excitement to show up. This year’s lead up to Christmas seemed to be so underwhelming that the only time I truly remembered Santa was on his way, was on Christmas Eve. But that realization only came because I realized I’d be getting a day off from my show (doing 4 splits a day is fun, yet agonizing). From here on out, I will explain what I did on my day off a.k.a Christmas day.

            Despite an underwhelming build-up to the day, I found myself surprisingly overwhelmed with thoughts about distressing news I’d received only 2 days prior to Christmas. I believe a bit of back-story (and thought) should be implemented at this point: 

            There is a married couple that I’ve been watching from the sidelines and I’ve admired them for years. The ability to say to someone, “I love you and am going to be brave enough to spend the rest of my life with you, silent farts and all” is a statement which anyone should respect and applaud. But like most co-habituating couples, they haven’t been without their struggles. There have been compromises made, promises kept and broken, agreements about punishments for their children, and disagreements about whether their finances would go towards a night out or towards new furniture for the living room. All in all, the couple was quite functional and normal. Of course, the couple consists of the following types of people: 1) an extremely strong, outspoken, confident woman who has spent many years establishing who she is independently and could survive without a man, if need be (actually, the fact that she re-married was a surprise in and of itself) AND 2) a quiet, somewhat constantly befuddled man, who is content with working long hours and coming home to a well prepared meal and watching sports on T.V. And of course, let’s not forget that these people have children, meaning their decisions these days have more to do with them than themselves.

            Well, as I said before, I’ve been observing this couple for a while as I am really good friends with the wife. One could say she is almost a mother to me. Well she gave me a call two days before Christmas to say “My husband and I are getting a divorce.”

I could hear the tires skidding to a halt in my inner ear (or it could’ve been the car outside of my dressing room window). But I was completely stilted for a bit. Why should I be so surprised? Well, only two hours before that car crash of a phone call, I’d made a silent promise to myself that I would do the unthinkable: open up my heart to love in 2011. Up until that self-made resolution, I’d been realizing that so many things I’d been reading, seeing, hearing, all had something to do with Love. I‘m in the quintessential fairy-tale about love (Cinderella) playing a happy, single womanizer, yet who’s happy that his homeboy, the prince, can find his happily ever after. I also read a passage in a book by Simon Callow (see previous blog entry) about love opening creative doors.

With so much love to go around, I was sure that everyone was going to in love with someone or something by the end of the holiday season. So I made the assumption that love would be the theme of 2011. Yes, I may not have found it in the romantic sense, but I felt I’d gotten an A+ in the self-love department so why not make the grade elsewhere? So in my dressing room, right after I finished sweating my way though the number “Somebody to Love,” I decided I would find someone to love…next year.

            But then the tires skidded in my mind and I was suddenly whisked back into reality. This couple, which had been giving me hope was, in fact, hopeless. Despite years of hard (very hard) work of keeping the love alive, nothing could help the fact that the husband in this situation was unappreciative of the good woman he had.

            In other words, he cheated…More than once.

The first time was forgivable, but still unexcused. I’ve noticed that this happens a lot in marriages. Though it shouldn’t happen at all, I think the slip-up is either the trigger that the spouse is weak, or simply not into monogamy. I know lots of people who have said…”Ok, once I can forgive. You will be highly punished, but at least it’s once.” Those who are too self-righteous think “I should’ve been enough” (to which I think, no ONE person is ever truly enough). But as a person who’s never been in a relationship, I can am probably being too objective about the idea of first-time cheating. Still, like any other sane person, a person who goes out of their way to cheat a second time is not to be respected at all. At that point, the cheater has calculated their deception, which makes them a bit too cunning for their own good. And it is this unexpected cunning that has made me lose ALL respect for my friend’s husband because he cheated on her twice. The second offense caused an international storm as his mistress was living in a completely different continent. Not only did he have a life at home, but he’d created something abroad as well (a sort of exchange program, I guess). It would seem that love does open other doors of creativity…

Whist the doors of deception had been open and thoroughly explored, I was thinking about all the other doors that had been ignored. For one, that man has a wife who loves and cares about him enough to overlook his flaws. Not only has she stuck with him through rougher times, as a wife does, but she also cared enough to forgive him his previous transgressions. Having had experience with a previous marriage where her first husband cheated (and was also a sorry excuse for a father) it is clear that she is now a fan of the motto “Make it work.” So, unlike her first marriage, she has actively tried to make this relationship a longer lasting one, not just for herself, but for her children as well. The question becomes though, with all that hard work she put into “making it work,” should she go back to her day job of being independent? Or is there enough love in their relationship to fix what’s been broken: the trust.

The other doors that were ignored, of course, were the children. Not only is this man a father, but he also is like a father to me and having him visit me and speak so highly of his wife, while having a mistress, is more than fucked up. It’s enough to make me look upon him with disdain for the rest of my life. Acting stupidly when you’re my age…I can kinda buy. But when you are old enough to know better and old enough to be a role model for someone, you have to put the children first!

Ok…rambling over. That was the back-story. Funny enough, the back-story was what I spend most of my Christmas Eve thinking about and those thoughts trickled heavily into my Christmas Day, which, contrary to all the texts I’d received…was not fun and full of good food and gifts…

(At the time this was published, the couple are still in limbo about actually divorcing)

The Boy from Virginia Ponders His Holiday Season

“It’s right behind you!” This is a classic term used as part of a call-and-response scheme in a pantomime. For those readers who are American and have not visited the United Kingdom during the holidays when these productions are performed, a pantomime is a fairy-tale inspired show intended for families. They are usually filled with jokes about the local area. Men sometimes dress up as women and play Dames, and women sometimes dress as men and play princes. It’s all a bit befuddling. But there’s music, some cheeky innuendo, the eventual happy ending, and everyone tends to go home in a jolly good mood (which is what people need during the holiday season, right?). So seems to be the case whenever I take a bow at the end of the pantomime I’m in at the moment: Cinderella. But while little kids are leaving the Greenwich Theatre with their flashing toys ablaze, I hastily trek it back to my dressing room, baby wipe the make-up off my face, throw on my clothes and walk briskly to the train, silently praying that the power won’t go out on my iPod.

            My days have been a bit monotonous for a long while now (give or take random night where I’ve hung out with drinking buddies). Ever since finishing my show, Topdog/Underdog (which was a tremendous professional success for me and others involved), I have switched gears majorly, from playing an eager-to-please younger sibling who kills his older brother, to playing an almost Will Smith type of ladies man in fairy-tale land who raps and does the splits. (The world of theatre is something else, isn’t it?) What these two characters have in common is the following: they both end up alone (the latter character moreso voluntarily than the previous character). What they also have in common is me, and my dedication to making them come alive.

            Since starting the rehearsal process for this Pantomime, I have had to challenge myself to bring life to someone else’s words and vision. Now, this isn’t an alien task for me in the slightest. I am very familiar with receiving a script, coming up with my idea for the character, and then blending my idea into something in which both the director and I are pleased. For this particular show, it has been me giving a whole lotta Will Smith, with some Tommy C. dancing and facial expressions. So far, this combination seems to be working as a lot of what I did in rehearsals is in the show. And funny enough, no one finds it odd that I am an American character in a very English (and sometimes Irish) show.

What has been strange, however, is being an American participating in a hugely British tradition. Seeing so many families come to see the show and then leave saying, “Now it feels like Christmas-time to me” makes me feel more foreign than I am. But feeling foreign is better than what I have been feeling lately: nothing at all. These past couple weeks leading up to Christmas, I have felt absolutely nothing; no holiday cheer, no wonder, no magic…

It’s official…Like my feelings for Love, I have forgotten how a Happy Holiday feels.

Oh, I may parade around the dressing room with a half smile (saving my outlandish one for the stage), and joke about secret Santa gifts, but at the end of the day…I am empty; devoid of all things merry, snowy, and bright (except thought, go figure).

At the end of November, I tried to get myself into the spirit by writing out Christmas cards. I got a list together of about forty-five people, and managed to send off all forty-five cards. But after sending them, I still felt nothing. Of course it would make all of my recipients very happy that I thought about them, I am sure. For me, however…I still can’t muster up enough strength to utter “Merry Christmas” believably (and I’m an actor for goodness sake).

There are reasons for my emotional vacancy…some of which I am willing to discuss openly in this blog entry and others that I still have to make sense of. One thing for me is very clear: I need to somehow convince myself that God’s love is what to strive for on this holiday. I’d written in a lot of my Christmas Cards “Remember that this holiday is about sharing God’s love.” There has to be some kind of optimism in me when it comes to this holiday, right? Maybe if I dig deep enough I can find it.

But digging seems to get me into trouble with myself. When I delve any deeper into my brain, I begin to find the problems more easily than I can find the solutions.

Problem 1: I am homesick.  This Christmas will be the fourth one that I have not spent at home with my family. It will also be Christmas number two without my Grandmother on this earth. More importantly, I finally have a decent job (for the moment) and I have still not managed to get gifts for my family.

Problem 2: My professional future is something of which I am afraid. This fall/winter season, not only have I been involved with my pantomime, but also auditions for The Lion King. I had seven auditions, six callbacks, and did not get the one role I was hoping to have: Mufasa. Granted, the casting process was out of my hands so I am not mad about it at all (I’m also a tad bit too young to basically play James Earl Jones).  But in the future of West End Theatre…there’s not a great deal of roles open for young, skinny, black males in their 20s. Will I even have work in 2011? Maybe if I create work for myself and the people who look like me…

Problem 3: Finances. (I’m not EVEN going to go into this one, but I will just say that since I’ve become an adult in the real world….financial matters are just no laughing matter.) Hoping that you can bring in some sort of income each month become the only concern.

Problem 4: I’m starting to sense a lack in kindness of people. I don’t have personal interactions with thousands of people daily, but I’m not feeling the love and general goodwill towards all mankind. I could go into detail, but let’s just say…being a commuter on the London Tube is a fine example of how detached people have become due to technology and overall fear of their fellow man.

Problem 5: (and this is a personal one)…Love. Nope, I’ve not fallen into it, nor am I trying to get out of it. I’m just trying to understand the idea of it more and more as I get older. I’m sick of people telling me that the vacancy I feel is because I’m single and haven’t allowed love into my life. That’s NOT the issue at all, actually. That is an assumption and people couldn’t be more wrong. I am of the belief that love is a choice you make, not something you have no control over. The reason that some relationships last longer than others is because people have worked hard at making it work. They put in the effort.

When it comes to me, I feel like I could give a shit about putting in the effort. Seriously, my life is fine. As a singleton, I couldn’t be having a better time. Granted, intimate times are sometimes desired, but they aren’t constantly craved. Therefore, I should be quite content with myself, right?

Well this is why I’m not. (Content, that is.)

My world was rocked (just a bit) when I was reading Simon Callow’s book, Being an Actor. During his early years as an actor, he discovered that falling in love not only opened doors to his heart, but opened him up creatively and allowed him to push his boundaries. Something about the idea of opening up the heart to let in love AND creativity is something I still need to explore. But now that the idea is in my head, it’s sparked something and I feel it’s something worth listening to; this idea of being receptive to “New-ness” in whatever form.

I mean, if I am completely honest with myself, I was receptive to the idea of leaving home at fourteen to go to Private school 12 hours away from where I was born. I was receptive to leaving my bubble of privilege to go to college in Philadelphia. More importantly, I was receptive to the idea of going to get my masters from a school in Scotland and then move to London, on my own to make things happen for myself. If I were to evaluate my history, I’ve done very well for myself, considering that only 20 years ago I was a smart little country bumpkin boy from Virginia with no cares in the world.

But the lesson, I guess is that, when I was five, I had no boundaries. The world was big, yes but it wasn’t impossible. I knew my dreams would come true. I wasn’t concerned with finding love at five (what kind of child would I have been?), but I knew I would want all the good that was to come my way. Maybe this holiday is about that goodness. Maybe I need to see goodness in order to feel something. I don’t think I can do much more except hope for goodness and love in this world, because if I can receive them (and not have any reservations about receiving what is deserved), then I might be able to have a very happy holiday…I hope.

In my Christmas attire

A Crushing Reality

So it happens like this: it’s my final weekend in the city and I’m at either a house party or a very distinguished lounge in Center City and I run into a bunch of my friends from college. We’re all dancing, drinking (responsibly), and basking in our personal style when I decide I need a break from all the flyness. So I go and grab a seat in a remote corner, or balcony, where I can still see all the action. It is when I take my seat that I notice a fellow peer from school eyeing me. We introduce ourselves to one another (because, of course, I only remember faces and not names) and we realize we have a lot in common but have never had classes with one another. Our interactions on campus have been limited to half-smiles and seas of waves over our Temple career. Then comes the one thing I’ve waited so long to hear…but too late: “I just wanted to let you know that I’ve been attracted to you for a very long time” or rather it’s “I’ve been kinda feeling you since the first time we met but I ain’t never said nothing.”

It is at this point that I smile through my frustration (because deep inside I’m screaming “WHY DIDN’T YOU DISCLOSE THIS INFORMATION A LONG TIME AGO?”) and say “I’m very flattered, but I’m leaving the country to go to graduate school.” Though I’m silently fuming inside, I’m really touched knowing that someone somewhere found me attractive enough to have some sort of crush on me. To return the compliment, I lie, “If it was meant to be, then I’m sure we’ll see each other again.” Then, in that same awkward, yet sweet moment, I am ambushed by a passionate kiss and realize I’m making a huge mistake by leaving Philadelphia and not pursuing this further. So we leave our surroundings, go take a walk on Penn’s Landing and talk about ourselves until the sun rises.

 

Or so goes the fantasy…

 

            Since I’ve graduated from Temple University, I’ve always wondered if some student (somewhere) was enthralled by the idea of me. As superficial and self-absorbed as it sounds, I’m sure that I’m not the only person who has felt this way. Some would agree with me that during peak class hours, you are bound to run into plenty of people who you lust after, or want to genuinely get to know. For me, I take a liking to those people who “prove me wrong.” To prove me wrong means that someone’s actual personality countered my preconceived notion of who they were when we first laid eyes on one another (because honestly, that’s when the real opinions get made). I (unfortunately) develop long term crushes on the ones who achieve the “wrong-proving.” Why? Well…because it means there’s more to someone than meets the eye and it also means that one is willing to try harder to get me to see who they really are.

            This brings me to the topic of crushes. To be honest, it kind of distresses me that having a crush can continue into old age. I would have thought that after high school (or maybe even my freshman year of college) that I would have myself in check so that I can keep my focus. But crushes have to power to make me giggle at a mere glimpse of a shadow. There have been times where I was supposed to go to class, but I knew that “my idea of a perfect person” would be walking past a certain location at 11:00. So I ran the risk of being late just so I could run into someone who caused me to flub up my words when I spoke. Once I realized how ridiculous I’d become (yes, I have flubbed up many-a-speech and made plenty of small talk), I begin asking myself, have we all lost our cool trying to be too cool for a school crush?

            When I think about my perfect fantasy (see above), I think about my best friend, Treasure. Treasure, a lovely young woman who has had her strings of ups and downs in relationship-land, met the most recent love of her life in a similar fashion to the one aforementioned. He expressed his feelings to her as a post-graduate, they got to know each other pre-relationship, and now they are presently exploring what it means to love. I predict that they will last a very long time because I’ve never seen a relationship that functions quite as successfully as theirs (which is probably why I do not really want to be in one).

Treasure has told me so many times not to worry about crushes or anyone else because whoever is meant for me will show up. But I don’t believe in “Poof! Here I am” love. My response to her has been the same: “I know I’m not a bad catch, but for some reason, I know that I’ll never last with someone for a long period of time. I guess some people are just meant to be alone and that’s not a bad thing.” Our conversations about love usually end with her being optimistic and me being…well… me not expecting anything except what’s in front of me: an idea of my perfect crush.

In calling my crush perfect, however, I’m stripping away all existing flaws. For some reason, I overlook the fact that one has bad communication skills, another thinks being a goofball is a turn on, and another had would rather not be bothered with me at all. So when our crushes expose their blemishes, why is it that we, the crushers, feel the need to cover up? Are we embarrassed that we were attracted in the first place? Why are our dreams crushed under the pressure we exert upon our perfect ideals?

“A crush is only exciting for the person who has one,” my friend Matt says. This statement was mind blowing to me. I mean really…is that truly it? The adventure of the chase keeps us so preoccupied that, even if we never achieve our goal, it was fun while it lasted? That is sad…and unfortunately very realistic. Honestly, I have had more fun as a secret stalker (in an innocent crush way), than I have had meeting new people and trying to go through the whole “Let’s exchange numbers”, “Let’s plan where to have a first date,” “Let’s ask 21 Questions”, etc. The thought of building a relationship, to me, is just too much extra weight. A crush is overwhelmingly oppressive enough. To turn it into something else might feel like an anvil of trouble crashing down upon me and I don’t want no trouble!

I’ve figured that when thinking about a possible “we” situation, I’m quite content with the “just me” condition. I can never truly disappoint myself, I know what to expect from myself and I love me better than the next person will. So maybe a crush is better as a fantasy. Yes, the thought of being with someone of your liking can dominate your daytime thoughts but at night, the only weight I need to feel is the fullness of my “single and happy” heart.

You-Lie The Fourth

 

For as long as I can remember, Independence Day has always been a day to depend on cookouts, family fun, and most of all fireworks. A person did not completely experience the Fourth of July without them. As I got older (and the Ozone layer continued to diminish) the aforementioned events seemed to lose their luster. I no longer wanted to be outside in the sweltering heat just to see fire work itself into an explosion and trickle away. I was no longer fascinated with gathering with a group of people to eat a meal that flies had already helped themselves to. Independence Day had become just an individual day to me and I didn’t care. That is, I didn’t care until last Friday when I was invited to “grill and chill” with a military buddy of mine and his family. Granted, I was thinking about going to the John Legend concert with a couple friends of mine, but a cookout? That was so… “summery” of them. It’s not often that I get invited out (or maybe I get invited and just “forget” to attend), so when the offer was made, my spirit started to crackle a bit.

            I forgot, however, that my military friend’s text invite said that I could bring “one other.” I’ve always been a none-other when I attend events and I was quite sure this would be no different. Wanting to break my traditional loner pattern, I called a couple friends who (of course) didn’t answer their phones or were “away from their desks.” Alone was the option for me. Lonely, however, wouldn’t be. So I jumped out of bed that afternoon and began my “looking good” process. I felt that if I was going to a couples cookout, I would (at least) be an attractive, unashamed, single man. But in making that statement, I realized I was embarrassed about having spent five years in Philadelphia and never having found someone to call my own. And now that I was drowning in “single-shame,” I pondered what kept me so proudly alone up until that point. I was single, dammit! I had God and the love of my friends and family to light my fire. That’s all I needed, right? Still, I was beginning to sound like a cliché and the answers to those “Have you found anyone to make you happy yet?” questions were getting murkier by the minute. I didn’t know why a simple text message had prompted me to question my worth as an individual, but I had to know: Are we convincing ourselves that we are happy being single or have we become too dependent on being independent?

I was trying to answer that question (and manifest clothing that would represent my declaration of independence) when I’d received a phone call from the woman I’d always been dependent upon: my mother. The conversation was brief and sad. My grandmother, whose health has been on a steady downward slope since 2003, was staying with my mother. Her dependency on my mother, however, was becoming more than just a burden. It was becoming a shitty mess on white carpet. My grandmother’s bones and body no longer resemble that of a woman who created a strong family. Her ever present burst of life has trickled away and there is nothing we can do about it. And every chance she has to be alone, the condensation builds in her eyes and she shoots forth tears for everything imaginable. I believe she cries for all the things she never felt, and for her imminent future. But she also cries because she can no longer physically do things on her own. This was something I realized when I was in high school and her sight began to fail her. Instead on being able to hop in her Topaz and ride to the store (as was her normal routine), she had to wait for a family member to come pick her up. In her mind, she must feel like an infant again.

Though my heart went out to my mother for being so courageous and responsible (and so damn strong), I couldn’t help but think of my sister and brother who, for the first time in their young lives, would not be able to experience the typical American events that made my childhood so memorable: fireworks and fried fish. When I hung up the phone with my mother, I’d selected a Southpole t-shirt whose display delivered glittery pyrotechnics. I was ready for the “grill and chill.”

            My walk started normally; just me, some gray skies, and my squeaky imitation Converse shoes walking down the cobble stoned Liacouras Walk. Then the drops began to fall. Once they hit, my umbrella shot up and my plans to see John Legend were soaked. The cookout was still near enough for me to attend, though, so I sloshed ahead while visions of barbequed ribs danced in my head.

            After reaching a section of the city that I was quite surprised existed (the block I was on looked like I’d been transported into a suburb), I’d finally made it to my friend’s house. There weren’t many people there at all. Just enough to do as he said: grill and chill. I was introduced to his wife and his beautiful baby girl, and the child’s godparents. As I predicted, the gathering was a healthy helping of couples with a dashing single-guy (me) on the side. But instead of making a mad dash for the door as I wanted to, I stayed to observe.

A lot of my friends, over the past couple of years have been getting married or have been in very long term relationships. I, on the other hand, know how selfish and particular I am. If anyone messes up my space, my aura, my anything, it’s a guaranteed argument and phone number deletion. But I admire those who use the dreaded “we” word in the collective sense. They have resigned themselves to giving up their independence and they’ve learned to depend on each other. And it seems like a blast. The small squabbles about whose turn it is to wash dishes, fold clothes, and pick up more toilet paper is shared. As nice as that mutual destination seems, I’m just not there yet.

For the rest of the evening, in between drinking my first margarita and watching 10,000 B.C., I watched each couple explode with some sort of laughter and then cascade into their lover’s arms. Usually, I’m disgusted by people’s overuse of public displays of affection, especially when people seem like they absolutely-can-not survive without their significant other.  But that day, my heart did some applauding for the little loving couples who could. And I wondered “Will that ever be me?”  It wasn’t a longing type of thought (as I’m not feeling any pressure to get tied down to anyone), but rather a logical one? Would I ever turn my single life into a double relationship?

At a certain point in the night, I made my way back to my building to read and to call up one of my best friends. But after I flipped open my cell, something in me flopped. Maybe it was the atmospheric pressure weighing down on me, but the rain, coupled with shotgun sounds of mini-explosives going off across the city started to affect me. I realized that somehow, some way, I’d missed my own colorful display. Or maybe it was just taking a rain-check. Was I lying to myself by believing that I could suffice as my own dynamite package? Or was the family package something I really wanted to invest in?  I’ve survived many holidays (while single) in Philadelphia, but it would be my first Fourth of July without fireworks.