It’s early evening in Wildwood.
I just spent the day exploring Cape May, one of the more affluent and hoity toity beach towns in Southern New Jersey, mother, aunt, cousin and father in tow. At one point, my parents and I went wine-tasting, a joyous yet disappointing activity where my mother and I made similarly grossed out faces at what one winery considered sangria.
It’s rare that I don’t like wine. Wine is one of those things I love. Wine is my box of dark, rich, expensive chocolates, wine is my bag of cheap potato chips that I snack on while watching reality tv.
Wine is an indulgence and a bit of an addiction.
But not this wine. This wine was too sweet, it was trying to be so much more than what it was. It was sugary and fruity, tart and full-bodied all at once.
I have a better poker face than my mother does. But I am always more likely to take a sip of something not great and think well, it has a nice little kick to it, I suppose. Meanwhile my mother takes a swig, and you can almost see the thought bubble appear over her head that says: I hate everything about this.
I’m now sipping one of the sole survivors of the day, a bottle of blended reds from Cape May Winery. It’s almost exactly what I like, and it sets a nice tone to the already enjoyable mini-retreat I’ve created on the front balcony. Some Ashley Monroe, some Ask Polly, and a little wine.
Ok, more than just a little.
I start thinking about a conversation I had with an old friend earlier this week on the phone, (something I’ve made a lot more time for) and she was talking about her ex.
“He just didn’t really know how to love me. I don’t think I’ll ever meet anyone who knows how to love me. Well, not without me telling them how to.”
It reminded me of a song by Natasha Bedingfield, we chatted about it for awhile, and I asked her if I could write about it. At first, I thought it would be really easy, but as I really dug into it, I got uneasy and all of the ideas I had for the post, sensing my anxiety about the topic, fled.
So I tried an exercise I’ve done before (going to get a little hippie dippie here). I sat myself down, poured her a glass of the same smooth, dry red, and asked her to tell me all the ways I showed her I cared about her. Melissa, now no longer inhibited by my ego, had a lot to say.
“Well…” she starts, taking a swig. “I’m not sure. It’s kind of hard to tell sometimes.”
This answer surprises me, and I push further.
“What about all of the writing we’ve done together?” I say a bit defensively. “I mean, I set aside two weeks to write and work on the blog.”
She laughs, then realizing herself, clears her throat.
“That’s not love,” she says politely, but firmly. “That’s business.”
“Oh,” I reply, a little puzzled, with a confusion comparable to former boyfriends and flings who didn’t understand when they heard similar things. I take another swig of my wine.
“Do you remember when we drank Bloody Mary’s in the Shasta trailer?” she asks excitedly. “The first night we were in Phoenix?”
“When we watched Bob’s Burgers on our phone?” I confirm this, then jot down a note about airplane bottles and toilet humor.
“What about things that I’ve done wrong?” I press. “Can you think of a time when I really hurt your feelings?”
“Yes,” she says sternly. “When you invited that guy out for my birthday, even though you knew he wasn’t going to show up.”
“Why’s that my fault?” I exclaim, raising my voice a little. “I’m not the one who ghosted.”
“That’s not the point,” she says, a bit gentler. “It was like throwing a match into a patch of gasoline and expecting it not to ignite.”
“You knew the likely outcome,” she continues. “You did it anyway.”
I’m quiet for a moment, then dig in again, convinced that I’m right about this.
“I mean, I knew, you knew that he probably wouldn’t show, so our expectations weren’t high to begin with. So what?”
She gets angry.
“Why do I always have to have low expectations?” she demands. “It makes me feel like you don’t give a shit about me when you set me up like that.”
So I decided to look at it from another perspective.
I imagined that I was my own partner or mother, someone who had some kind of obligation and inclination to love me,
I’ve been away from my little duplex in Durham for two glorious weeks. I’ve been 29 for two glorious weeks. I like 29. 29 looks good on me, but what no one tells you about 29 is that is comes with a shit-load of questions.
29 lacks the carefreeness of 21, and the naivety of 23. It’s less optimistic than 25, and not as eager as 27. 29 has the feel and the tone of a wise, but tired old soul, like Hemingway’s Old Man or an elderly old woman who just wants to listen to your stories, nod politely, and make you chamomile tea. 29 is the unforgiving age where you know better, and there’s no excuse not to know better.
Anyone who’s reading this that’s over the age of 30 or 40 is probably laughing. I’ll probably have a good chuckle if I ever look back on this later in life.
I also expect to recognize it as a time where my life didn’t necessarily change, just started to look much, much more like me.
what I didn’t really realize until now, until I read the words of a wise Havrilesky, I’ve lacked a certain love and care for myself as I made those plans.
Havrilesky is also a salty bag of chips, a box of Godiva.
three sip method