A Happy Hour Life

Somewhere in the Sydney sky, Los Angeles-bound, I curiously peruse the “classics” movie selection of my in-flight entertainment. A journey this lengthy has more minutes than the latest new releases can even begin to occupy, so why not? Plus, the boyfriend is fast asleep so the film selection is truly mine. I quickly decide upon “How to Marry a Millionaire.” Its synopsis goes something like this:

Three models with modest means become roommates in a Manhattan apartment that is very much out of their wallets’ reach, even cash combined. But this is neither here nor there, because the apartment is a major part of their elaborate scheme and completely necessary. Because of the apartment, they may act the part of wealthy women, living a wealthy life. And who do wealthy women meet and marry? Well, wealthy well-to-do men, of course. Oh, and it stars Marilyn Monroe. Naturally, my jet-lagged interest has piqued.

Before pressing play, I recall my own marriage plot with a sheepish, yet still hopeful smirk:

When I graduated from college, my boss graciously gave me a month sabbatical to travel, party, sow my oats or whatever, in hopes that I’d return to the office no longer a student intern, but a hard-working career woman – such a cool dude. And so I did. I went to Mexico and Las Vegas. I went on dates. I shopped and did lunch with girlfriends. I slept all day. I watched TV all night. Needless to say, I sowed several joyous oats. After all, I couldn’t possibly let el jefe down so early on the job.

Amongst all of this carefree, adolescent joy, I, in my own weird Jamie-way, began mentally preparing for the next stage in my life: the post 9-5 work day happy hour. You see, I considered this activity a direct route to my future. While I’d left college with a degree in journalism, I didn’t procure that MRS degree that I assumed would be so simple to achieve. I decided that it would be different this time. I was, after all, more of an adult than I’d ever been before. And happy hour is something that adults do. They meet one another, do adult things like drink wine with cheese, and they pair off into marriage. And so my best friend and I would set alarms, rise and shine around noon, get all dolled up in respectable daytime makeup and flattering career ensembles – you know, blouses and bottoms other than cut-off jean shorts – and frequented bars where we suspected other college-educated, white-collar men might grab a beer, or if he’s fancy, a martini. This went on for a few months.

To be perfectly honest, we never really met anyone of interest. Things were different now. We weren’t just college girls anymore. As the months went by, we really did become career women with higher expectations. Thanks for the drink Mr. blah blah, but it doesn’t warrant my phone number, much less a date.

Without even realizing it at the time, my thoughts were precisely on point with “How to Marry a Millionaire” actress Lauren Bacall. There’s a scene where she hustles a casually dressed man out of their apartment, even though he bought them all champagne and deli meats for lunch, proclaiming: “The first rule of this proposition is that gentleman callers have got to wear a necktie. I don’t want to be snobbish about it, but if we begin with characters like that (Mr. Casual) we might just as well throw in the towel right now.”

As the years passed on, happy hours sort of morphed into a friendship activity. I realized that I didn’t really enjoy being picked-up at a bar. I didn’t like the sloppy come-ons, I don’t want to pretend to be interested in your life, and I’m tired of searching for excuses as to why I’m not available tonight, or ever. I came to the bar to catch up with my friend. She isn’t my wingwoman and your company isn’t necessary.

Damn it. Where was I suppose to find my MRS now?

My love of the happy hour was reinvigorated when they became mandatory for work. They were called receptions, not happy hours, but we in the biz recognized this time as, “mandatory fun.” You go, you drink, you network, you shoot an email and connect opportunities. Boom. To me, it was the happiest hour of all. I was getting paid to mingle and I never had a tab.

More years crept by. Receptions, networking, after dinner drinks, emails – all in a day’s work. So imagine my surprise when I met a college-educated white-collar man of serious interest in some bar in some city because we were both partaking in mandatory fun. When I saw him again, months later in some new city, he was in a suit, with a necktie. I remember it exactly. I don’t even have to close my eyes. I can recall the way I melted into my chair as I lapped his tantalizing appearance into me. Finally, my hours and hours of happy hour had paid off. This was it. He was what I’d been blousing-up for and toasting to all these years. And in that instant, I couldn’t think of a single reason why I shouldn’t be available to him right then, and forever.

I’ve been dating the suit for exactly one year. Still, every thing he says interests me. Every suit he wears seduces me. Every happy hour with him is the best happy hour I’ve ever had.

Cheers to never throwing in the towel and cheers to the Happy Hour!

Lady Marlin

Something really grown up is happening.  In fact, I’ve been heard gasping, “life is happening!” on numerous occasions to several wonderful people who make my world go round.  And on the contrary, it’s also been brought to my attention that some things haven’t happened at all.  Here’s the mature yet static line-up:

My oldest and longest best friend, the one I used to play motorcycle mamas with, is getting married to an older, successful man.  When that day comes, I know she’ll be the most beautiful bride I’ve ever seen and her walk down the aisle will be perfection – I mean we’ve only been practicing “the walk” since we were three.

My most fun friend, my crazy counterpart, the one I’ve danced with in tutus on tops of furniture in after hours nightclubs and other louder-than-life establishments is considering starting a non-profit, and might even leave Sin City in her Jordan hightops’ dust once and for all.

The number of friends with babies is really starting to rival the number of those without.  And as far as I’m concerned, you really shouldn’t have a baby in a bar.

Men look at me like I’m supposed to be someone’s wonderful wife, and are completely baffled to learn that no one has locked me down yet. They also vocalize that all my boyfriends should have known better.  I accept the compliment and ponder the reality.

And my guy’s little guy, we’ll call him Kyle, wishes I’d turn 30 because he feels like that’s a “nice age” for me to “become a wife and mom.”  It is currently 8 days before my 29th birthday.

Yes, I’m pretty wide-eyed and in awe of all of this life happening before me.  I also keep myself quite busy reassuring everyone else that I really am OK with my unwed relationship status and unused childbearing hips, which is actually a great relief – this contentment just might be the single thing I’m not bat shit crazy about.   I’m calm and going with the flow, I just don’t see what the big rush is.  So after the fourth, “when are you going to marry my dad?” inquiry of the summer, I took a stab at real talk.  I explained to Kyle that I like being a girlfriend and dating, because once we get married, I’ll never date again, and I really enjoy dating.  His mind was blown to bits; and as he skipped off, the way all small 6-year olds do, he looked at me like, “You pick up my confused bits, Smilfy.”  And so I did.  I know he’ll need them for the next time he tries to will a marriage on me.

People, children especially, crave structure and tradition and stability.  I get that.  I also feel it – on occasion, about some things.  Thinking back, I know that I shared Kyle’s enthusiasm for marriage when I was young and wore an unbroken heart on all my sleeves, but like I said, life happens – things like divorce, infidelity, career ambition, and newly single moms who don’t know who they are at age 42 because they’ve been married since they were 18 tend to tarnish the shine that matrimony used to gleam when my best friend and I took turns playing the dashing groom and white pillow case veiled bride. I’d like to say that all of this romantic experience and observation has made me vigilant, because it sounds more eloquent, but the truth of it is, I’m just scared.

My boyfriend, the one I’m enjoying dating and calling my bf, recently compared me to a marlin.  He says it took him well over a year to reel me in; I just wouldn’t come aboard.  And that even now, it occasionally looks like I might just jump ship with no notice, for no clear reason at all.  I looked into his soft, lash-lined blue eyes and gripping, expressive eyebrows and felt equal parts guilty and glad.  Guilty, because, in hindsight, I probably didn’t need to put up such a long fight; especially when I could feel his adoration for me from the moment we met.  My gladness though, that was a proud feeling.  I could picture it – I was a majestic marlin thrashing in a sea of house music, resisting his affection for fear of losing my sense of self, my independence, my balance, my single status.  Aren’t all fish afraid of getting hooked?  I was actively fighting for me – the only person who I could ever really rely on.  I fought and I fought.  And then I let myself get caught.

I watched Kyle walk ahead of me – kicking rocks in his path, still shaking off bits of his mind – and made a Smilfy promise to fortify his big heart in the same way I have learned to protect mine.  He will grow to know that love is as grand and real as it feels; more important than even the best storybook could detail; more special than a box of candy; feels more magical than a bear hug; more fun than riding with no handlebars; and worth waiting for, because when you’re beautiful and independent – even if you are a little scared – only the strongest fisherman will do, and in the mean time, it’s best to enjoy the waves, they’re the journey that majesty is made of.

Layered Love

I am the 6th grandchild to Nonna Constance “Connie” Alford and Grandpa Russell “Bud” Alford.  I wrote this for Nonna’s 75th birthday, and in honor of their unwavering love for one another.  Image

The definition of love is quite simple: an intense or deep affection, a romantic or sexual attachment to another person.  It is both a noun and a verb.  The word itself is readily used to describe something or someone we take pleasure in.  Perhaps its most incredible quality is its ability to challenge, and often conquer, its counterpart hate.  Love is just that powerful.

The complexities of love are that it’s a choice and a commitment.   It takes time, requires respect, commands communication, and trust had better come standard.  I’m of the belief that love is a gift.  Not everyone will be fortunate enough to experience it – some people lose it, some just never find it.  But Grandma Connie and Grandpa Bud are two people who not only found it, but they fostered it, put faith into it, and continue to have it today.

Although I have witnessed but half of the 58-years my Grandpa and Grandma have been loving each other, simplicities and complexities alike, I can discern that their love, rather their true love, has defied the odds and stood the test of time.

It was recently explained to me that a person changes every ten years or so.  Typically, their values stay intact with what they’ve always believed, but as a person they grow and evolve differently with each passing year.  Since then I have wondered how couples manage to stay together for decades – what have they accomplished that other couples simply can’t, or won’t?  How do we ensure that when we change, we welcome this growth, but that we change with our partner?  Now I can’t pretend to know the details of the work my Grandpa and Grandma have obviously dedicated to their love life, but I do commend them for all their efforts and commitment to one another.  It’s the kind of love that the romantic in me looks-on with admiration and expectation for my own future.  It’s also the kind of love that the small logical part of my heart recognizes as a layered love.

Allow me to reveal their wonderful layers.

In 2008, sometime in between Grandma’s 71st birthday and Great Grandpa Babe’s 95th, Nonna and I sat side-by-side in Northern Italy.  Beyond our tour bus’s oversized windows laid enchanting, picturesque hills of Tuscany.  I’m not sure if it was the romanticism this land evoked, the love letters and poetry our tour guide was regularly passing me, the wine we undoubtedly enjoyed with our lunch, or perhaps a combination of the three, but Nonna got to talking about life and love, and I happily hung on every single word.  She smiled, and even giggled that grandma-giggle as she told me about her and Grandpa’s unexpected first date.  Apparently Grandma accepted a date with some other lucky lad who was pining for her love, but he was too nervous to come to the door to meet her mom and dad so his friend, my brave and handsome Grandpa, went to the door for him. It was here on this amazing trip that I learned fate really does have a little something to do with true love.

Fate is the layer that brought them together, and it’s certainly the layer that pulls at your heartstrings in a “they were meant to be” sort of way.  But Grandma and Grandpa’s true love is filled with fun and consumed with chemistry, too.

Chemistry is often described as passion, a deep desire, a spark.  Boil it down and you’ll find that chemistry is rooted in and outwardly professed with affection.  Affection is the most conspicuous expression of love.  It’s important to show our partner that we love him or her; we should hold him and touch him and never think twice about being as close as we can.

As a child my cousin Ashley and I would play dress-up in Grandma’s long, silky nightgowns.  It never dawned on my innocent mind that these fabulous “dresses” were her lingerie; I only cared that we looked like beautiful ladies who could rule the world.  As an adult, I consider that lace and silk-stuffed drawer the spark that a couple works to keep ignited.  And I see that Grandma has been Grandpa’s world all this time.

When I close my eyes to think fondly of my Grandparents, I see smiles and I hear laughter.  Now I’ve never done anything for 58-years, but I got to believe that if he’s still having fun goosing her booty, and she’s still laughing about it – well then, they’ve got that vital thing called chemistry.

An affinity to one another is essential, especially after years upon years of matrimony, but a layered love like this is also about an emotional connection, a special bond, a friendship.  This is the part of love that keeps couples strong when the fate seems distant and the chemistry is out of reach.

I wholeheartedly believe that my grandparents are each other’s best friends.  They travel together, play games together, have made houses homes together, and have spent a lifetime raising one big ole family, together.  They made four children, who made 10 children, who have made 15 children so far.  I said it before, and I’ll say it again, love is a powerful thing.

Now, Grandpa set the bar pretty high, and Grandma is pretty wonderful, but may we all strive to have a layered love like theirs.

Here’s to fate, to chemistry, to friendship and to family; and if I ever get to meet the man who chickened out on his date with Nonna, I’ll give him a grateful hug and wow him with the greatest love story there’s ever been.

Sharing is Not Caring

“What’s your crew name?” a 5’8” man asks while tying his boat up to ours.  His eyes are the single attractive thing about him.  They are sweet in a way.  There’s also something very telling about them.  It’s very obvious that they see me naked and on my knees.  I wince and start chugging my bud light. 

“I don’t know.  I’m not sure,” I reply.  This is my first trip to the lake this summer and I just met the guy whose boat it is, so I don’t know anything about a crew name. 

I turn around to see a brunette woman wearing revealing bikini bottoms and pasties.  Her breasts flop in every which way as she excitedly jumps up and down and hugs another woman.  I scan the line of boats beyond her star covered nipples to find beer bellies, bare booties and a plethora of pasties.  The lack of modesty isn’t what’s weird to me, the lake is always like your wildest/worst college party, it’s how old everyone seems.  And how natural all the breasts are.  No wonder that guy thought I had a pretty mouth.

Clay squeezes past me to help my eye guy, his fingertips graze the small of my back.  He is, without a doubt, my most beautiful guy friend.  I am in absolute awe of him nearly every time I see him.  The eye-banger guy and I suddenly have something in common; I am totally fantasizing about being underneath him. 

“Are you guys on the website?” eye-banger asks, looking Clay up and down.  I wonder if he’s fantasizing about him too?  I shudder at the thought and finish my beer. 

“Nope, just came to party,” Clay responds, flashing his radiant smile.

“Well you do realize that this is a planned party, 95% of the people here are swingers,” he says nonchalantly, and confidently.

I am immediately thankful that I rocked my over-sized shades, because my eye-brows moved up at least an inch.  I feel the urge to refill my koozie and head for the cooler. 

“Oh-a, that’s cool.  No big deal.  I’m Clay, and this is my wife Natalie,” he says showcasing the silver band on his ring finger, as if that would validate our bogus matrimony, and reaches for me.  I smile like a dutiful wifey. 

Eye-bangers eyes light up.  “Great to have ya,” he says all too excitedly and hops back into his boat.  We wait until he’s in conversation with others before we erupt into quiet laughter. 

Placing a firm grasp on my hips, my gorgeous husband speaks softly through his impeccably white clenched teeth, “Oh my god, this is the weirdest thing I’ve ever done, ever, and I’m here with you. How is this happening to us?  This is crazy, I can’t wait to tell everyone tonight!”

He leans into me and rests his nose on top of mine.  I breathe steadily in through my nose, purse my lips and close my eyes.  I imagine his lips on mine and run my fingertips up his firm stomach. I can hear him smile as he gives me a soft Eskimo kiss to the rhythm of bow, chicka, bow, wow.           

I sigh and digress from my daydream, “I know, I know!” I whisper with intentional enthusiasm, “I was wondering why everyone was so old.  We are the youngest people here, for sure, and the most attractive, obviously.  Everyone is gunna want to do us.  Crap!” 

We share a timid smile.  Clay suddenly twists my body around with one swift push of my hipbone and one tender pull of my opposite shoulder.  Aroused, hopeful eyes await us.  I can see all their nasty, little thoughts floating next to them like a primetime news anchor’s lead story.     

“Let’s pick out our swap couple, hunny,” he whispers into my right ear. 

His breath is warm and his lips are moist.  I think about how he would feel and bite my lip.

“Well, definitely not that couple, hubby,” I say, nodding my head towards the man who has his hand down the back of a woman’s bikini bottoms.  Her suit is circa 1996 and his busy hand makes me want to cross my legs.    

We laugh in unison and continue surveying our options.  It takes us but two seconds to confirm that it’s slim-picking.  All but one couple are people that neither one of us would ever throw a fuck.  Ever.  However, staying true to the “when in Rome” mentality, we decide on a couple off in the distance.  They sort of look like older versions of us, that is to say if he inflated his body full of hormones and I worshipped the artificial sun gods.  Nonetheless, their bathing suits are cute and they have nice firm bodies.  Her tight, tan cheeks are the prettiest scenery on the water, besides ourselves of course.  Plus, this couple appears to be the owners of the most impressive boat in the cove.  It makes me want to sing, “I’m in Miami trick!”

Feeling relieved to have found a semi-suitable swap couple, just in case some fuglies make an aggressive move on us, and apprehensive about even being here, we agree that a shot is in order.  There are light and dark options in the cooler, but Clay remedies us something pink and sweet. 

“I know what my baby likes,” he says with the same smile that makes me melt every time he sends it my way.  It slowly drops as he looks above my head.   “I could never do this.  I don’t ever want to be married and then just give my wife away.”

I study his expression.  He looks genuine and as heartbroken as a 22-year-old gorgeous bartender can.  I am amazed at how suddenly conservative we’ve become.  We are both entertained and frightened by the taboo soiree that surrounds us.  I, however, observe it and resolve that I don’t ever want to be a wife.  How could I?  I see no pleasure in falling down the slide of despair more commonly referred to as marriage.   A woman in love evolves from the irresistible girlfriend, to the oh-so-lucky fiancé, to the beautiful bride, to the boring housewife, to the fat mother, to the housekeeper, cook and nag, to the stranger in his bed, to the deserted.  Oh yes, and in some special scenarios like today, the bait.  I’d rather lay down and be kicked in the gut. 

“Here’s to us and one of the craziest tales we’ll ever tell,” Clay raises his glass and winks at me.  We toast our first drink as man and wife. 

He whisks me off my feet and carries me through an imaginary threshold and jumps into the water.  I quickly swim away from him to tinkle, those beers I slammed went right through me.  He knows exactly what I’m doing and splashes me.  I’m not even finished yet when we both look over to see a man performing oral sex on the boat right next to ours.  From this perspective, a low-budget porn has never looked so good

“Ummm, we’re going to need more alcohol.”

My nostrils flare with repulsion, I nod quickly, demonstrating the deep desire to be numb.  “Let’s make it a double hunny.”