Monday, December 19, 2011

The Culture of Dating, Desire and Dining Out

Now that I have set sail into the world of potential possibilities and set my sight on just maybe, I am starting to get my sea-legs back when it comes to dating.   I am trying to recall why I was not so very good at this several, three, decades ago.  I am not entirely sure that it is worthwhile to spend too much time looking back.  I wasn’t so good at a few things back then.   Walking.   Cooking.  Singing.  Driving a car in reverse.  OK, it appears I am still not very good at these things. 

Walking.   I don’t fall or knock into things nearly as much and I have added hiking to my short list of physical strengths.   Uphill climbing is a bit easier than the basic flat surface movement- I apparently need to be watching and stepping.  I seem to be very good at walking fast.  NYC walking.  People move out of your way when they see you coming with speed, they confuse it with purpose, and the only purpose to walking quickly and deliberately is to get somewhere fast.  If you are walking down a hall in a school, as I typically am, with what looks like speed and purpose, it typically appears to be an emergency, an attack, or a demand is soon approaching-people truly move out of my way and assume I am, maybe aimed at them?   It could soften my image and reputation if they knew I was really an accident waiting to happen kind of klutz.  I am not really sure I want to soften my reputation quite yet or let everyone in on my problem with movement.

Dating.  I had a really difficult time following the proper sequence of events in my earlier dating experiences.  I believed, or pretended, that I was able to exercise my rights as an equal partner in the race to get horizontal. I imagined that there could be a way for women to want the same thing that men wanted without getting accused of being loose or easy or numerous other unsavory terms.  I attempted sophistication and intrigue with a touch of mystique.  I probably spent too much time even considering any of this, the men-folk were generally thrilled that I (or anyone) was game.  In doing so, I was mostly avoiding the area that was much more difficult for me to navigate.  (See below.)

Speaking.  It looks or sounds like my walking, but it comes from my mouth.  Abrupt starts and stops.  Twists, gallops, stubs and stalls.   I developed a coping skill in this arena, as well.  Fast-talking, loose-lipped, jokey, funny, zings and snippy little bites.  Not so much the hurtful variety as much as the sardonic, sassy wit.  Or so I like(d) to believe.  Of course it’s not always the case but since it’s a coping strategy for me it’s been difficult to think about how my commentary might land on those around me.  The trick for me has been more to get it out quickly and wittily to deflect and distract from the lag time in processing and thoughtfully producing clear and interesting, sustainable communication.  I am not interested or available to “avoid” speaking to just anybody.  It’s only those I am attracted to that might get the pleasure of my company before the pleasure of my communication skills.  I have my standards!  There is definitely a need for attraction and a few other value-added requirements that will only be disclosed at my discretion, most likely through non-verbal cues. 

Maybe I can’t say I have improved a great deal in some of these areas.  I will say I am more readily accepting of some of my “Areas in Need of Improvement", A.I.N.O.I.  I am perhaps, just as accepting of the idea that some of my A.I.N.O.I  (or lets just call it ANNOY for laughs and the sake of simplicity) are, or will be quite endearing in the minds of at least a few others in the years to come.  

Walking.   Gracefully at a pace that feels slower than watching paint dry or peel or whatever slow-paced painting activity there is, will need work, super-sized effort and maybe a slow walking steady-paced partner, or those big old football tackling posts for me to slam into a few, maybe hundred times.  

Cooking.  And of course eating, might need a cultural transplant or some sort of repressed memory replacement therapy.   A recent date brought me in close contact with excellent El Salvadorian food.  The ensuing conversation about food that followed gets me tongue-tied.  Oh yeah, that’s because I was asked if I liked tongue or ever had tongue.  I wish I could recall specifically the question about my experience with tongue.  But I can’t.  The mention of tongue and eating creates some primeval Irish famine reflex.  Up through my DNA, the synapses immediately fail to connect because I am from a people that collectively perished rather than eat the abundance of fish and seafood surrounding the green rolling landscape.  And, hey, I love a potato as much as the next Colleen but really? Refusing to eat prawns, trout, crab, seafood et al, when the blight occurred is just a little tough to mash up and digest especially to those cultures, and they are many, that eat tongue, liver, sweetbreads, tripe, brain, pig’s feet, chicken necks, sushi, and seafood.   The Irish are a proud group.  Some of us would rather perish than eat “beneath us”.  Of course when you get close to the point of perishing you are fairly and far "beneath" a few different layers of troubles.   Irish people eat food as sustenance.  Period. The end. The ugly bitter end, indeed.  The concept of thinking of, and eating food as a source of pleasure is a fairly new concept for us.  I mean, 20-30 years new. 

A recent visit home for Thanksgiving helped me recall just how much the relationship with food is supposed to be one of torment and displeasure, ummm, I mean sustenance.  My darling son, Liam, with the map of Ireland all over his dear sweet face, and a gusto for eating that was indoctrinated at the Greek and Jewish-American dinner table of his best friend from Nursery School and further cultivated through the African-American cuisine served at the table of his best friend's family, recently lamented, “When I grow up and have my own home, I am doing Thanksgiving up.  I mean really, I am doing it right. “  I may be recovered by then and prepared to join him.  It will take a while.  I would really like to enjoy “Thanksgiving done right”.  In my family of origin it seems to be celebrated in a manner to suggest, “Oh you should be thankful you get anything….”  It’s like a scene from Dicken’s Oliver, or Victor Hugo's Les Miserables.  I am unfortunately, not well-suited to plan or prepare Thanksgiving dinner in a manner that speaks to appreciation or gratitude.   I am thankful for things like yodels and toxic pink sno-balls, if pushed and on occasion.  (Another coping strategy).  I believe Ring-Ding Jr's are a brilliant chemically enhanced marriage of sustenance and pleasure, second only to banana moon-pies which for the record, easily, and secretly can be scoffed-down following a sustaining meal of sadness and regret.  (They have a shelf-life measured in ions.)

While I work on improving my walk, my talk, my desire to share of myself with an other self, I am open to redefining eating for pleasure as opposed to sustenance.   I know I will need some real work here and a gentle dinner companion.  During the last 20 some odd years of my own Irish-American existence, and a couple prior, I felt quite thrilled and downright culturally daring, yes, exotic even, to have eaten hot dogs with mustard - instead of ketchup, goat cheese, Indian food-of all different regions, calamari, clams, steak prepared medium- rather than medium-well or well-done.  

In the early 80’s I ate  shawarma.  Now what about that? 30 years ago! A wild, adventurous eater from the very earliest days of Irish dare-devil culinary appreciation and pleasure eating.  I probably started the damn trend.  Someone probably noted me walking kamikaze-style with a determined glance, that sometimes appears to be a scowl, heading into the middle eastern restaurant in the Village with a friend that I trusted, rather than dated.  He mesmerized me with his tales of travel and adventure, I ate heartily of the unidentifiable meat product that a small she-devil served after she cursed out her husband while demanding that he slice off some meat product for my friend and I.  I was dating a friend of his at the time. I might have missed the boat on that one, but I just got my sea-legs back, I am ready and open to all of this now.    What kind of wine goes with tongue?  I am going to need a lot, of wine….or maybe if we just call it something  else, it will be easier to, ummmm, swallow?

Bruite Teanga?
Bullai fir Teanga 
Tóstáil Teanga?   
Leasaithe Teanga? 

(Gaelic for Boiled, Well-done, Toasted, and Seasoned Tongue)  I’ll have the Tóstáil Teanga with a side of boiled buuuuh-dade-uhs (that's "potato" from the homeland) and a Guinness with a-lot-of-wine chaser, please!

Singing is done, only for pleasure, no sustenance here-and it's really just my pleasure, usually my pleasure at causing the displeasure in the hearts and minds of others, or just that little old play on "wild abandon" I am toying with.  Driving in reverse?  Now that I have shared that out loud, I kind of need to learn how to improve.  It seemed kind of silly when I pronounced it recently, as though it were some sort of disability or disease, like say, shopping or eating moon-pies excessively.  I guess I could actually learn how to back-up.  I have an ass-kicking parallel parking gift, driving in reverse really shouldn't be impossible.  Maybe a one-time tongue-lashing might be in order, I sometimes learn best when I have my Irish-all-up and twisted in a knot.

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