Archive | Sabboytical

The Church of Plato on a Rainy Afternoon

Yesterday, my friend B and I were having a long talk at Chelsea’s Cafe Grumpy. Because it had just rained, we had the backyard to ourselves and were using that rare private outdoor space to discuss topics that basic NYC etiquette prevented us from inflicting upon others: healthy grieving, ethical dating, spiritually conscious fucking, the heteronormative construct known as marriage, the queasy fundamentalism known as atheism. We were going off. If you saw us through a window, you might have concluded we were on a date, and a good one at that. A man and a woman of roughly the same age, talking animatedly, not touching but paying close attention to each other. She in a sheath dress; he in a tweed jacket.

In the middle of our second coffee, a man poked his head into what by then felt like our turf. “Helen?” he called out tentatively and looked at me. Rather than shaking my head, I grinned, and he raised his eyebrows, mistaking my glee at not being Helen for interest. After a beat B began talking again, and the man—who was peaked but not bad-looking, with a lanky frame and a long, pale face that bore the scars of a rough adolescence—disappeared. A bit later, while standing on the bathroom line, I noticed him again, this time looming over a woman placing an order. She was wearing a brown shirt and what we used to call slacks when we were mocking our parents in the ’70s. The outfit was so drab that it took a minute to register her bright face and surprisingly good figure. “You have nothing that is dairy-free that also does not have nuts?” she was saying with a grave, almost scholarly precision as the barrista searched the pastry case. Continue Reading →

Of Heels and Men

I know the common wisdom is women wear high heels to attract men but my boyfriends have never liked me wearing them. I’m a moderately tall woman with unapologetic posture—none of that stooping or pigeon-toeing you find in many ladies of a certain height. Chalk it up to my stint as a yogi, as well as the fact that I am the shortest woman in my family. I am still taller than my dad, though; in the Rosman clan, a phallus doesn’t necessarily grant you physical dominance.

Maybe it was a desire to get as far away from Dad as possible that led me to dating improbably tall men when I was younger. Six foot two, six foot four —one boyfriend (a German, no less) was six foot six. But I also think many women are wired for tall men, as if their height genetically signals good bones, good brains, good odds. Not to mention that it’s hard to resist a fellow who can swing you over his shoulders.

In my early 30s I began a serious relationship with a man I suspected would become a huge success. This man was not only short but physically unprepossessing. I ended our relationship for a reason I still do not regret despite the wild success he achieved as an online entrepreneur soon after our breakup. I appreciated his mind, work ethic, and self-confidence, but couldn’t bear the prospect of a life in which his body was the only one to which I had access. As he himself barely acknowledged the body in question, it would have been a patently unfair arrangement. Continue Reading →

Blue Valentine (A Picture in Words)

I have a picture of the two of us though I’ve trained myself not to think of him much and to speak of him even less. It is almost a black and white photo. Only the sunlight reads as pale yellow, and my eyes, normally green, are a deep indigo. The rest is a symphony in grey.

He took the photo the summer we fell in love—the only summer we were in love, really—and you can tell because we’re smiling the unguarded smiles you bestow upon a lover. A good one. On the day he took it, we’d been making love off and on for hours, breaking apart so he could practice and I could do some work, and then climbing back into each other because being apart even for a little while felt irrelevant. Right before the sun fell we’d put on some clothes to venture out for food, and he’d snapped a photo of us with his phone. It’s a photo he sent again later, when he’d left and wanted to come back. It was a smart photo to send, though for a time I had to stop opening anything he sent.

But. When I find it hard to understand why I believed anything he told me, any of the promises his eyes and hands and mouth made, I stare at this image. His lids are lowered, he’s furrier than usual with a few days of beard and some hair on his normally shaved skull, and his faint smile isn’t just charming. He looks peaceful and confident, sure on that day at least that he could make it work, could take care of us both. I look peaceful, too; about 20 years younger than I was. Young enough to believe someone other than myself could take care of me, should take care of me. My skin and eyes are gleaming, so bright, and there is a big, knowing gratitude smoothing out our features and sharp lines. We are so calm, so happy, so ready. He is squarely center in the frame and I am on tiptoe behind him with my chin tucked into his shoulder and my arms wrapped around his midriff. Like a baby orangutan, a Muppet, he said. My smile is the small, pleased smile I stopped revealing a long time ago. Now it is always wide smiles, huge toothy grins that are so much easier to produce on demand. In the photo the fading sunlight falls across half my face, and doesn’t reach him at all. I wonder now if he intended that effect. In the shadows he was so very beautiful.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy