Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Gamble

I packed it all up in, literally, one day. Even my brand new Wii that only saw the light for a couple of days was right back in its black box, ready to be stuffed (or carefully placed, to avoid damage) in the back of my Jeep. My art supplies, once scattered about my apartment, stored in various room crevices, behind bookshelves, behind storage boxes, were now neatly sorted by size and packaged in clear plastic bags. My clothes - I wasn't so neat in preparing them for the move - were stuffed in cardboard boxes, winter sweaters often used as cushioning between fragile wine glasses and picture frames.

I was ready to move back to Philadelphia, after a three year absence and much longing for the city I realized I loved so much only after I moved away from it. I was ready to leave Cincinnati behind and see what the City of Brotherly Love still had to offer me. I was prepared to turn a new page in my book and begin a new chapter.

The internship opportunity came rather quickly, unlike many of the firms that offered me interviews for their positions and then would drag the selection process out for weeks and weeks (often just to tell me that they changed their mind and would not be hiring anyone in this volatile economy). Within days, the interviewer whom I had the pleasure with speaking for the internship position called me back and offered me this three-month contract position.

Was I overqualified for it? Absolutely. Were there hundreds of other unemployed designers applying for the same job? Without a doubt. Was I tired of the job search and disheartened by the fact that 85% of my talented former classmates, now with their Master degrees, were still unemployed and searching, searching, searching? Of course, I was. As I was relieved to fall into this internship opportunity. A risk worth taking - this may or may not open up various doors for me within the company - I agreed to accept the position. I agreed to move back to Philadelphia, at least for the next three months.

The present state of the financial matters of the country left me rather bitter and cynical. I saw couples put their relationships on hold because one person got a job in the big city and the other person had to move back with the parents across the country just to save up some money. I saw people consider and take jobs that they ordinarily would never take, in order to get by and get through the tough economic times. I saw people question their profession, which they were previously passionate about, because they wondered if they could survive on their passion alone. I saw people quit - rarely - but when they did, it was always a tragic affair. I, myself, came so close to quitting and breaking down a couple of times, always seeming to gather my pieces and picking them back up again just to march on and do another tired online application process for another job.

I felt it was the right time for me to indulge my wallet with guaranteed-for-three-months paychecks. I felt it was the right time to trade in Cincinnati for something, anything else.

To be frank, I was ready to leave the city that felt so little to me. A city that could not stand my occasional need for absolute anonimity - the kind of anonimity that makes some so lonely in the crowded places like New York - where I could escape from the knowing gazes and be just another faceless blur in the crowds of strangers. I knew that Cincinnati could not provide this kind of unique comfort to me, as no matter where I went, I always expected, and often did hear "Hey, so good to run into you here..."

For what it's worth, the hardest decision in the job seeking process was not even choosing Philadelphia over Cincinnati. It was a conscious effort to listen to my head, instead of my heart. I have yet to see if my gamble will pay off or not in the end.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Can We Talk about This?

What I both love and hate about Cincinnati is how small of a city it can be sometimes. Hate the fact because I can't help but run into the same unsavory characters time in time again no matter what restaurant, bar, or store I go to. Love the fact because running into people leaves little to no opportunity for them to lie to me without me finding out.

Which leads me to my story. My lovely friend The Entrepreneur, who tried to invite himself to my graduation and suggested he meets my parents, has been on a back burner for quite some time now. I couldn't put my finger on it but, besides not being particularly attracted to him, I sensed that something was going on. Without knowing what exactly that something was, I, nevertheless gradually distanced myself from him, avoiding the talk about my intentions of us being just friends, but coming up with excuses for us not to go out on any more dates.

"Oh, I'm out of town." (which I was)

"Oh, I'm hanging out with some of my girl friends tonight." (where by "girlfriends" I meant a bottle of Pinot Grigio and the latest episode of The Hills)

"Oh, I'm feeling a bit tired." (get the hint already, you stupid man)

The perfect opportunity to gracefully peace out came to me a couple of days ago. It started off by me deciding to go lay by my apartment community outdoor pool and ended with the following Facebook exchange, after he innocently sent me a message inquiring whether I was back home from Philadelphia or not.

All I have to say is... a womanizer? Bitch please.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Abandoning the Ship

"Less than 30 days..."

His text message countdown is as vague as they come but I know right away what he is referring to - I, too, am silently and impatiently counting down until the day he comes back from Spain and I can see him again.

"Will you come visit me the day I come back?" he follows up his original message.

"What day is it?"


Friday is ideal for a weekend-long visit. It's a perfect day to make a six hour drive from Cincinnati to St. Louis and have him greet me with open arms, hug me, kiss me. Friday is a perfect day for a heartfelt reunion after months of texting, wishing and longing.

But that Friday is also a month away and a lot can change meanwhile. Despite wanting to follow my heart's desires, I can't help but hope to find a job and follow my career path wherever it might take me. The chances of me staying in Cincinnati for much longer are very slim.

He knows this - I keep telling him about my interviews in Philly, Cleveland, Raleigh - but he chooses to implore me instead about the exact time I will be coming to see him a month from now. Remaining deliberately or unintentionally forgetful of the fact that I am in the midst of an intense job search/quest to figure out my next step in life, he chooses to assume that I will be around for him. Perhaps it's easier to assume the best until it is proven otherwise. But still.

"So are you coming on the 16th?" I receive another text message from him. I am in the middle of a dance floor somewhere in Philadelphia on my weekend trip to revisit my college friends, but I pause amidst dancing and grinding bodies and reread the text message over and over until I notice my friends glancing over at me with growing concern.

"Yes I'll be there," I type back in haste and press "Send".

Am I lying to him? Am I lying to myself?

Only time will be able to tell...

Monday, June 7, 2010

Rules of Infatuation

The men of Cincinnati (and I am generalizing here a bit) have very odd dating tendencies. To put it kindly.

When I moved to Cincinnati a few years go, I thought Philly, my hometown, was bad. Boy, was I not prepared for the lovely Midwestern surprise that welcomed me to the Queen city with its open, cow-tipping and bocce-playing arms.

Going from one unsuccessful date to another, I finally came to a conclusion that it would better for my sanity to never date anyone from Cincinnati again. It's not that guys here are absolutely insane - no, they make perfectly lovely friends, but when it comes to crossing that friendship line into the dating realm, the quirky tendencies slowly involve into creepy behavior and the weirdness just comes pouring out like that oil leak down in the Gulf Coast.

However, this self-imposed dating ban does not apply to people who were not originally born in Cincinnati. As long as the dudes were born, or grew up elsewhere, I found that I could get along with them more easily. We could more readily find subjects to talk about that did not involve the latest Over The Rhine (Harlem Lite, if you will) "hot spots" or going "four-wheeling" on Sunday afternoons.

So through my turmoil with Mr J, I continued to keep my options open, while being cautiously optimistic about the Cincinnati dating scene. And there were a few rays of hope in the sea of blandness. For example, when I met the Entrepreneur, who is originally from LA and is a bar owner and promoter, I found him to be refreshingly worldly and verbose without being pompous.

But is he living up to my expectations today, after four or five dates that I've been on with him thus far?

On the surface, there is nothing wrong with the man. I will stand by my initial assessment of him being charming and well-versed and quite cute, but I will also admit that something is just... not quite right.

Like the other night, he invited me to his bar opening in an unnamed Cincinnati suburb and made it sound like it was going to be a classy, top-of-the-world affair. I understood that a classy affair in Cincinnati wouldn't be quite up to the standards of most of the major US cities, but I was looking forward to a night out on a town, a couple of drinks and an engaging conversation with the Entrepreneur more than I was looking for anything over-the-top out of the bar itself.

"You're looking lovely, my love," he flashed his smile upon my arrival at the front door. I forced out a reciprocating gesture of acknowledgment and tried to ignore how many "loves" he used in a single sentence. After all, it was his night, his opening - I was a guest at his party and I intended to be nothing but gracious.

However, my graciousness quickly left the building as soon as I was seated at a rustic table in the dark corner of a poorly-lit outdoor patio. My good intentions were quickly replaced by the feelings of disappointment and resentment as the Entrepreneur excused himself from the table shortly after seating me to shake some hands of the new arrivals and check on the supplies of Absolut and Ciroc and the front bar.

I ordered a drink from a bored cocktail waitress and slammed a 5 dollar bill on a table. God forbid I get a one free drink after driving for almost thirty minutes to support Entrepreneur in his venture. I sat there, shivering from the frighteningly chilly wind gusts for a good number of minutes and by myself. The sparse crowds were not providing too much entertainment in terms of people-watching and I was quickly relegated to pulling out my phone and attempting to look busy fake-texting no one.

The Entrepreneur came back with one Diet Coke in his hand and plopped his ass next to me on a bench.

"How are you doing, love?", he asked, oblivious to my discontent.
"Oh fine, great, you know. Just glad it's Friday..." I pulled out my standard "Oh thank God it's Friday, this week's been hell" line that I usually use minutes before I politely duck out of a lame party early.

"Oh I understand completely. So when's your graduation?" he twirled the tiny straw in his glass, mixing the soda with the melting ice cubes.

"Next week," I answered absent-mindedly. I was completely done being charming for the night.

"That's great. You should be so proud of yourself. So do you think I can come to you graduation and meet the folks?"

Oh hell to the no. I was glad I wasn't sipping on any liquids at that moment 'cause, surely, they would have probably come out of my nostrils in the sheer impulse of shock and amusement.

"I... we only have a limited number of seating arrangements at the arena. I had to make reservations for my parents well in advance..."

Maybe he knew I was lying to him - I really could barely keep a straight face. Bringing a man to one of the most important events of my life is something that I would do only if I was involved in a serious relationship with him, certainly not after just four casual dates.

I left within an hour of arriving at the Entrepreneur's bar with a sour but familiar taste of disappointment in my mouth. The good thing was that he, too, felt that the chemistry between us fizzled out all in the sixty-minute time span.

Or so I thought.

At approximately 2am early in the morning, just around the time of the bar closing, I received a text message from the Entrepreneur, laying out his feelings on a table:
"I'm sorry if I seemed nervous. I suppose it's due to the level of infatuation I have for you."

I couldn't believe it. After such a lackluster night, I, somehow, managed to sweep the man off his feet, all while having no intentions of being flirtatious or charming or sweet. Perhaps, I've been approaching this dating game from a wrong angle but, as it stands right now, the next man I may or may not go on a date with will not be our Entrepreneur.

After all, Mr J is still very much on my mind, even if he is thousands of miles away.

Damn it.