Hygge, or the Love that Keeps you Warm

December 5 – December 11

December is here. It’s an intimate time that puts things in perspective if other moments throughout the year hadn’t. Winter has that effect, naturally. The cold and dark mood of the world, especially as rain drenches all and you can see your breath cut through the air at 9 in the morning in the lowest part of San Francisco, is only fitting for the human spirit to start radiating what warmth it can to fight against them. And in Denmark, it’s all praise for such a phenomenon: ’tis the season of Hygge.

I first heard about Hygge in some radio commercial of Christmas Past for Cost Plus World Market, when the celebration was marked by candle light and lots of pillows and blankets around cups of hot coffee. “Hooga” is the celebration of coziness, as the word roughly translates to. Visit Denmark elaborates on the notion of Hygge as “creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people… Danish winters are long and dark, and so the Danes fight the darkness with their best weapon: Hygge.” And I had my eyes set on Denmark this year for traveling. What I would have given to seen the country in the time of all this warmth; the candles, the thick wool, the cheerful winter markets and colorful harbors lively and busy against the cold of Copenhagen as boats bob in the canals. How marvelous it would have been to see, especially for a fairy tale city I grew up admiring from the stories of Hans Christian Andersen and summer visits to California-based Solvang. As life goes, Fate had it that my time would be spent elsewhere, with my oldest friend whom I met up with amidst the holiday sprawl of a snowless New York City. But, timing is everything. In the time that I would have seen myself gone away from home just made me remember that for this time of the year, home is where you really should be. Hygge isn’t just a holiday or in one place– it’s coziness all around, a feeling one must create so that the darkness of winter does not consume them. As far away as I remain from the hub of Hygge, there’s no telling that what I have experienced here in San Francisco during December isn’t Hygge at all.

Start with coming back from New York. Although the heart of the Silver Bells myth, it felt as Christmas in New York as it would in a palm tree laden paradise. Maybe it was the lack of snow, maybe it was how 5th Avenue and SoHo felt so identical to Union Square back home, but coming back to San Francisco is when I truly felt the Christmas spirit. There really is no place like home for the holidays, as the song goes, so I like to think it was that. Nothing beats the familiarity of

  • The wreaths in all the windows of the gleaming Macy’s across from the tree and skating rink flooded with amateur couples on the square
  • A strong cup of Irish Coffee sipped at the counter of the Buena Vista before a holly and bell-decked Cable Car ride back downtown in the brisk late night, through the rolling hills of Hyde Street and Chinatown
  • Lights strung around grand old Victorian ladies of Pacific Heights and their curbside bare trees, holly berry wreaths hung on white glass doors
  • The Embarcadero on a Friday night, the lights of cars and bridges and towering skyscrapers alike flickering against the rain, and carrying a single yellow umbrella in heels walking with a case of PBR under your other arm
  • Watching classics like Elf with baked Brie and Pecan Pie beer and friends in PJs, and moving on to not so classics like Krampus
  • Fur collared coats, cracked hands, old lace up boots, deep red lips like blood that lighten all the black you wear
  • How light glistens through the dozen delicate mason jar snowglobes you proudly make yourself for gifts
  • The many alley ways where these lights continue, as well as artificial garlands that are stuffed into the cracks of Japantown store windows and along the mirrors of Kearny Bars
  • A studio apartment kept cozy by a space heater and Home Alone 2 on repeat, where most evenings end in melted Junior Mints and whiskey-cokes, and the carolers visit in the constant sound of Ambulance sirens headed to the hospital up the street
  • Santas, Santas aplenty has Santacon rolls around once more– many of their hats ending up in gutters along Polk Street where the heavy rain of that Saturday float them along in floods of dirty water. But they’re too busy to notice, drunk on peppermint-chocolate schnapps and feeling alive in their cheap red suits and felt hats with white pom poms dangling by a lazy string. Some might be familiar acquaintances hosting a cramped party beneath cheap decor bought from your company, others being new faces with motherly intentions giving over their half of a turkey sandwich at Lefty O’Doul’s.

These strange, familiar occurrences really put forth that feeling of love and joy needed most in your city just weeks away from Christmas– and best feelings when they’re the gifts you find giving back yourself.Having been broken up with by boys from afar and by friends who grow busy with their new lives in new homes in different cities or with other friends who are less weird than yourself– you start slipping into a self-despair of insignificance. But that’s the beauty of Hygge, and how I’ve found that this is the year where that feeling only comes best from when you find yourself becoming the warmth that another lost soul had been searching for, too.

Being there for someone is better than the other way around– it’s you in all your imcompletion that someone else begins to feel complete, a miracle and reminder that you alone are desirable, worthy of the love that keeps the human spirit alive and well in the winter. Reminders like serving as the date for a holiday party that isn’t your own, a date who was so proud of your elegance in a blue dress in the private room of the Waterfront Restaurant where wide windows embraced the glow of the Bay Bridge lights across the dark waters. It’s them that you keep falling more in love with and less in love with the band right before your eyes, the band that was the first love of your modern life. They say money can’t buy happiness, but it sure does when your purchases create the best memories, and the night of chaos and familiar tunes at Not So Silent Night was most memorable. I would have never had the pleasure of Bastille, Head and the Heart, and Green Day all at once in so beautiful and vibrant a memory without the utmost love and appreciation from someone new. The music plays loudly the songs you know by heart and classics you think only you as a true fan knows– and by some Christmas magic, you find you’re not singing alone.

In the past, the love and joy were things I received from many–and those many faces are gone. Little would I know that a year later, this was to be the Christmas for me, a lifelong dream finally fulfilled at the expense of a stranger who’s been the blessing I hadn’t seen coming, a face with soft eyes that make me feel alive and less alone as they sing softly to Rivers and roads when the Head and the Heart close their set on one of their most heartfelt songs that pierce the arena– rivers ’til I reach you.  As Christmas miracles prove,you suddenly feel like there’s nothing else needed in return for marking this most perfect moment in the cold of the world.

In creating that perfect intimacy most needed now, Hygge is best found by old, familiar experiences. Except for now, when you can relive them with new others, when you can feel that these moments need not be bound by one cold winter, but for eternity. Timing is everything, and if you’ve found Hygge, then time is aplenty to keep cozy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snapshots from a Weekend in New York

November 29 – December 4

I started out for New York less than a week ago. I wanted to go big for my 25th birthday and not alone, so my oldest friend would meet me at the airport just a month after I’d celebrated my birthday, and less than a week before she would celebrate hers. So smack in between us late bloomers, was a journey to a city. After a bumpy, clouded red-eye from SFO into JFK, there at Gate 19, we were united and headed out to town in gold-gilded paper crowns and no plans of sitting still.

No wonder New York is a literary treasure, where writers are born, or at least flock to in giving birth to something from their imaginations that only this city can bring about with its endless characters, sights, sounds, and, especially to each their own, memories. It’s old, it’s rich, it’s a universal consensus that all and any happens in this town. It’s also why I feel that for visiting New York, there wasn’t anything new to tell of it. The great writers before me, who I hope to be, all tore down and ripped the streets of New York to shreds with their stories of the lost who were found by readers around the world. It’s the definitive zeitgeist of storytelling, or launching a story for the masses, so for the masses this city belongs to and always in the public eye– always something seen by everyone.

So let me just brief you on the little moments, the quiet ones not captured by my camera and only remembered in that moment of the sleepless nights had in four days. It’s not much, but that’s the point.

And in the little that I reveal about New York City, it’s a reminder of my grand, personal duty to my own city, San Francisco. It is up to me to be a part of the narrative of this little sister to the literary legacy before it, and she’s got a lot of catching up to do– and not without my help, to write down the stories I keep living here.

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SIGHTS

Rose Pink geraniums, the green tiles of the Bryant Park Bathroom.

Glittering decorations at Rolf’s.

Subway sign mosaics.

Bounded Christmas trees, fresh from Vermont, leaning against wooden frames for sale as their chicken wire reflected the twinkle lights strung from the vendor’s cash register.

Heart-shaped leather seats at Café Lalo.

Silver glitter atop sprinkles and whipped cream and the cherry atop Frozen Hot Chocolate. Accompanied by a single pink striped birthday candle.

Igloos. NY gets obsessed with these things around this time of year.

Yellow leaves of the Villages, East and West.

Boarded-up brownstones in the Barrio.

Rats.

Porcelain dolls with their eyes cut out for steam punk jewelry on the Broadway Market expo.

The Roosevelt Island tram whizzing threw the air past the heavy flood of headlights to and from the Queensboro bridge.

The dried trees of Gramercy Park.

Nameless antique shops on 10th Street.

Dave the bodega cat.

The dancing pie waiter at Lalo.

Cracked knuckles against the bitter cold of New York.

Black-stained steel of the staircase of our apartment.

Brick walls.

Sea green dinnerwear that served our ham and cheese omelet and pineapple-banana-orange juice in mini Coca Cola tumblers.

The Empire State shrouded in mist.

The worn lions that guard the Public Library.

The soft handwriting of Alexander Hamilton to his brother.

Captain America kissing Wonder Woman in the center of a black and white Times Square, circa 1945.

Seeing Johnny Weir’s skating outfit through the screen of a man’s phone ahead of us in the growing crowd.

SOUNDS

“You guys have fun, *whispers softly* take some very cute pictures” – 230 Fifth

“You ever see a cocktail?… I haven’t.”

“Thanks! H&M, Winter 2013 collection.” – The Auction House

“NO FUCKING WAY, Rachel.” – Houston Street, Lower East Side

“The closest we’ll get to Hamilton!” – New York Public Library

“Instagram!!” – Dumbo

“Okay folks let’s move in– make plenty of spaces for beautiful faces!” – Elevator going up to the Top of the Rock

“Kill!… Okay maybe tomorrow.” – 59th Street Subway

“Oh is it gonna be televised?” – Bryant Park

“What the DICKENS!… And I do mean Dickens.” -East Harlem, AirBnB

“I do birthdays, weddings, Batmitzfahs…” -Rolf’s

“Gonna Shrek it up and layer.” – AirBnB

“If you guys are willing to pay the bar minimum tonight, $200 for the two of you.” – Lavo

“Fuck these shoes, let’s dance!” -Joshua Tree

“Everyone, we have two birthdays in the house!” – Serendipity

“This couple is really getting romantic and I’m just mackin’ on chicken nuggets.” – 230 Fifth

Silver bells. Well, red ones.

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A Week by the Bay does A Week in New York!

Starting tomorrow I shall be heading out East to see the sights only one can describe as magnificent and definitive of the coming season: Christmas in New York.

I definitely will be writing and journaling the adventures to be had. From one exciting challenge in #NaNoWriMo in November sees a new and uncertain one for December, in a city I’ve grown fond of in only the brief memory of it from two summers ago. Photos will be posted on my Instagram with #AWeekbyNYC, and alongside one of my oldest friends, Alyssa.

Bon Voyage!

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November by the Bay: Participating in NaNoWriMo

From November 1st to November 30th, I will be taking a break from my weekly posts at A Week by the Bay.

The time I spend writing this coming month instead will be completely devoted to my participation in National Novel Writing Month 2016. Since 1999, NaNoWriMo has been encouraging inspired individuals to dole out their definitive story at the novel’s length within one whole month. At 50,000 words, it’s not an easy task, but if you’re passionate enough, along with the right tools and sources to keep the spark alive, there’s nothing to it. I’ve always known about the organization but never had anything, or time for that matter, to get something started. Usually there were novel ideas I had in mind, but they were stories that required way more time than a month to accomplish. And to be frank, I was a bit condescending to the whole idea– that anyone can write a novel. The English Major snob deemed Nanowrimo too general and inclusive, mocking the art form I spent four years studying.

But the goal of Nanowrimo isn’t about perfecting the art, it’s about just even trying to create it at all. A novel isn’t an easy piece of work to write, let alone start. With the allotted one month frame for its participants, it’s a true test of determination and creative drive that proves to the writer that essentially dreams are always achievable. If you can think it, you can write it, and you can do so when you put your mind to it. Because now, with Nanowrimo, I hope to finally try my chances again at writing longer fiction. The right story is in mind, and I’m just ready now to play my hand.

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Some inspiring images on my Pinterest Board for reference in writing my new story

I’ll follow back with my progress within a month, when my novel in mind, American Romance, is, hopefully– and most likely– finished.

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October City

October 10 – October 16

You wouldn’t think of October as others think of it outside of San Francisco. It’s hot, for starters, and when it does rain and grow gray, humid. But that, I like– it reminds me always of New York in that July when I was stranded at a park bench in Verdi Square beneath a sheltering canopy of a tree. Someday I will return to New York and see it at, in my opinion, its most visually stunning, fall. But for now, I only know the season for what it is in San Francisco. That in itself is a lovely, unrivaled thing.

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You have the Victorians really come alive without any effort, haunting beauties stepping out onto the scene like straight from the childhood tales that frightened me to the bone. My mom lived in Noe Valley as a little girl in the 60s, where off of Noe and 24th was an iron-gated mansion grand and gray with flowers wildly take it all hostage. The witch’s house, her and other neighborhood kids mused. I now see that in October, the city is lost to many of these homes, and it is a city of witches. It’s not too bad, not at least when ginkos and other trees fade into bronze and butter yellow.

The pumpkins are out, small and round or on the scrawny side, sometimes of a golden orange or a sickly pale cream. You can purchase them overpriced at the Target down on Mission or Mollie Stone’s where while your at it might be able to splurge on the Starbucks just outside of it with your leftover change. That’s the easy way, what I would have done had I never found out about Clancy’s Patch. It’s out past UCSF in the hills overlooking the Sunset where a disheveled grove in the fog transforms into a buzzing marketplace to pick up pristine pumpkins and have yourself a few pictures with loved ones. Yes, you can go alone, but if you wanted to buy a pumpkin on your own you might as well just haul your ass quickly over to Target.

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Sometimes the nights are humid, the best time of year to host evening events for the annual Lit Quake festival and down an assortment of wine paired with only the most riveting and political poets of these past few years. That way you can run to the bus stop with your friend and drink in the warm night and the lit windows in skyscrapers seeming like stars, something moving you, whether it be wine or words. You’ll look back and realize that seeing Natalie Diaz read “Catching Copper” live never had you feeling so vulnerable, even in a way wine could never cast on you. Poets come alive in October, it is a bewitching month where ghosts and their words latch onto you even after you’ve left their haunts in hotel hallways, Vesuvio.

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October has a tendency to break your heart here. As much as you feel moved and enamored with words of passion you’re just as easily fooled into a false hope, disappointed and bitter that your heroes have fallen. 2016, another even year, and not another championship for your favorite baseball team. Maybe I’m getting overly sentimental, a bad sport, but it’s so easy to get sentimental over America’s pastime. You won’t be missing the thrill and stabbing pressure of each game they battle through while you’re downing another Stella at Harry’s or Murphy’s, nor the defining catch or double that might win them into the next game or end them all– you won’t miss the chaotic parade that floods into the streets of Market where you might be able to watch it rain orange and white and gold confetti atop from the 40th floor. You’ll miss the memories that you could have made like you did in the past three championships where all those moments did come true. The cheap pennant you bought on the street for not-so-cheap, being on the shoulders of a friend to see Hunter Pence and Tim Lincecum giving standing ovations as they’re driven through in convertibles, the golden and brilliantly orange sky that pierces the day and McCovey Cove as dawn breaks the night after Pablo Sandoval had caught the pop up from the Royals. You’ll miss having those kind of moments to look back on, and you wish it were that way rather than remembering the last game that knocked them out and knocked you to your seat in the living room.

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October is not an easy month to love, but the best thing about it is that whatever happens, you can always do nothing. Sit back, cold night or hot, get under a Mexican throw blanket and pop on some scary movies or catch up on the first season of Narcos. You might get to do it with someone you love. He could live in the outer Sunset close to the ocean and always chilly out in the art deco-designed row houses that trudge along the flat streets between 48th and 9th Avenue. Occasionally as you watch movies his roommates will pop in, a Brazilian student at USF and an East Coast transplant working odd hours to make this new dream out west work to forget old ones and old loves back home. They’re wonderful people, always smiling and hugging you on first making their acquaintance– and you might get a bit jealous that you mostly live alone. The friendly new faces aren’t just the best part of a night in at San Francisco. It’s waking up beneath a skylight on warm sheets and getting up in this unfamiliar apartment to coffee perfectly concocted with too much cream and sugar, and maple bacon donut from Uncle Benny’s that truly warms your heart upon first bite.

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I’ve always felt strongly that fall is a likable sort of season for its drastic and explicit flair for change. In the weather, the trees, the clothes. San Francisco is an October city in its own, stiff yet consistent way. Always the same in habits, but just taking each year to make something new emerge from each passing. That is how October should feel.

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New Romances, Part III

August 15 – August 21st

A kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh…

And then sometimes, they really aren’t those things. Not when at least, you meet the right person.

I’m writing this now, nearly two months from the day that I really knew I came upon something wildly special.

I can recall specifics of his profile now, and even our subsequent chats; I’m feeling those same, warming feelings of comfort and intrigue as I did when we first matched. I have disabled (and now deleted) the CMB app with no urgency to yet again renew my profile– probably never. Because as luck might have granted, I met someone through the battlefield of modern dating.

He was in Law School, 6’5″ (good lord), and had an interest in bar hopping and cooking meals at 3 A.M. His first photo was taken besides whom I assumed were his parents and that struck me in a good way, someone who didn’t get weird or have some complex about photos on a dating site featuring their parents. On his religious preference he listed Christian, and it did worry me a little at a chance of him being more conservative than I was looking for. For a second, I thought he might not have been a fit. But everything he said stuck to me, all different than the other profiles. Sure, no guy on CMB is the same, but that’s how I felt with each match. Until I saw the 3 A.M. cooking, professional In N Out stalking, being a bit of a smart-ass confessing, and getting lost exploring San Francisco.

Sometime later in that afternoon, I got an alert from my phone:

– Hi Paris! Would you like to hear the story about how I thought I could fly when I was a little kid and split my head trying to jump from the kitchen counter?

No pickup I’d ever seen before. But different, different is what count.

-Well you pretty much just told me the whole story [laughing emoji]

– But damn, it does sound intriguing.

This was the beginning of a beautiful, odd friendship between two weird souls discussing fatal incidents of childhood, who had worse scars, and then onto our families, his excitement at becoming an uncle again any day now, then more about each other, the city we both lived in and loved. It all seemed effortless, honestly. With the dentist, we had passionate discussions about literature and careers. But with Him, we were passionate about everything. And it felt like we’d nearly been talking about everything longer than those first three days.

I remember that weekend leading up to our first meeting. Getting to know each other’s schedules we rescheduled meeting up three different times, but still the same place. Talking about books he brought up the brilliant suggestion we grab drinks together down at Vesuvio, the fabulous old haunt for Beat writers. Soon it wasn’t about where or when, but the occasional “can’t wait” with each phone message. I’d been going out twice on the town with friends from work, and he to hang and see Suicide Squad with close buddies, and throughout the long evenings dancing and sobering up on 4 glasses of water and watching men pick up girls from the mezzanine of Harper and Rye we were still messaging, apart but unified in the same isolation we were feeling out on the town. We still hadn’t met– and we couldn’t wait until the next afternoon.

We met an hour earlier than we were supposed to. I was done with all my Sunday chores and I was bored. We both weren’t about playing games, the sooner the better. And hey, if we weren’t a fit, at least we’d end the date early and I’d be back home before dark. He was very receptive to the idea, more so now since I mentioned the parrots of Telegraph Hill, and how I was hearing them now outside my own apartment in Pac Heights. Already catching the 1 and getting off at Chinatown to walk, I felt like I wore the wrong dress, the wrong shoes, not enough curls in my hair, no preparation to get the high squeak out of my first impressions voice. Uncertain of what to expect, and vastly unprepared. Not trying to get ahead of myself, all I needed to focus on was at least getting through the doors of Vesuvio and scope him out, lest I awkward miss his lanky figure in that low-ceiling place. I was turning the corner from Grant onto Broadway when I double checked his text to see if he had beaten me:

– So bummed. It’s $6 to go to the top and they’re going to close soon 😦

I called him straight away. Besides finding out that he had misinterpret our last chat as meeting up at the top of Coit Tower, there was also this: a voice, deep but smooth and filled with notes of jolliness, the kind only people who laugh a lot would possess. I heard his voice for the first time and somehow I wasn’t nervous anymore.

Sometimes you get those feelings that only make sense in stories, the instant rush, the flush in your face–even a faint tingling . You hear them in songs, you think it’s just fiction. But all stories come from somewhere, some real feeling. It’s been three months since, but those feelings are still here. I can’t explain all of our weird inside jokes, or our first date from meeting each other halfway at Washington Square. I won’t share much about how we wandered among the starry streets of North Beach and our first kiss at the bus stop he waited with me at, or the subsequent dates where each one seemed just as unique and effortless as the last. How he and I both love Arctic Monkeys and can slip in Godfather quotes during our conversations, or talk about obscure historical architectural achievements in stupid little things like Corinthian columns. I can’t break down the date that did it, the one where I was so excited to dress up like Ingrid Bergman in the wake of our movie date to see Casablanca at the Castro Theater and he surprised me with dinner and dressed in his very best slacks and button up– not quite Humphrey Bogart with his build, but rather Jimmy Stewart. Both of us seeing the movie that only months ago, I had already watched alone at the Castro Theater, alone on Valentine’s Day.

I can’t explain any of those things to my readers, but these feelings from those memories, that he, gave me– the feelings are enough. The smile is enough. The smile, three months still grinning, is strong and words don’t need to be dragged on to really make those feelings known, or shine through. Just meet him, some day you will. Some day is where I hope we’re heading to.

…As time goes by.

At the end of this series, I begin with an adventure, and end with a love letter.

 

 

 

New Romances, Part II

August 8 – August 14

So I was dating again. Or at least looking for dates.

After getting over the complexes that plague my ideals of love and my ideal love interest, I was ready to dive into the never-before charted realm of online dating. Eager to just see what came up. I was good enough and interesting enough of a catch, and the app I decided roaming on, Coffee Meets Bagel, guaranteed its users at least one match a day. So after the first day, I wasn’t discouraged by these doubts or insecurities. I had to mentally shine and polish myself if I was going to end up with anyone, if I thought I was worth it to anyone. Because with the wrong attitude, you could end up with the wrong person. Wrong was not was anyone was looking for. So bring on another two weeks, fourteen days, of these guaranteed matches.

I averaged 6 matches per day.

I’ll give CMB that much credit– if you are specific, they will listen. My matches from the second day onward were by far an improvement compared to how discouraging the first day was. And still, in that Discover tab, was the never failing hoards of interested profiles that sadly I could not reciprocate. So this was the scene, THIS was what Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg were talking about when it came to Modern Romance. First hand, here it was: I was getting a plethora of choices. And did that feel good!

LEARN YOUR LESSON, WOMAN

I won’t go into the specifics of all that I matched with, just a few highlights. And in the beginning it was, surprisingly, more of the same. The first guy I ever talked with had a great smile, more on the scrawny side, and proudly displayed a photo of himself uncontrollably smiling as he sat next to a famous talk show host on the set of her phenomenal daytime TV show. That was eye-catching, but not as much as where this lad was from– not the Bay Area.

With the paradox of choice that Ansari and sociologist Eric Klinenberg explore, I do see a benefit to this search for The One while trying to obtain as many “choices” to choose from for being the One, and yet being ultimately unsatisfied at settling from having so many choices. For me at least, the notion of dating outside of your geographical range is the most exciting. I’m no stranger to this, having two exes living in different time zones above 3 hours from mine, one met via social media. But as proven from my experiences, it’s not a likely way to find love; still, it’s a visibly unique way to globalize, on an intimate level that really connects the world. Silly as it sounds, but I’m grateful for at least that aspect of modern dating– dating outside your norm, when your norm is just whatever’s within a 30 mile radius. So a man from Australia would just be another fun prospect.

Naturally, when all else fails, the weather is here to save the chat. It was a rather nice week that day, much to his chagrin– he was just coming from Dolores Park, and a pretty bad sunburn was imminent. I suggested some Aloe Vera, made some corny joke, and then nothing from him for two days. Then he came back– still picking up the convo. where we left off. How I wish we could have left his sunburn behind on Day One. If you can’t even find a way to get out of a mundane conversation to something more interesting and natural, then I guess it’s just not a fit. When our day of reckoning came up, I told the app I would pass. All the charms of globalization failed to redeem themselves. With this Australian, I too would pass on any future matches that would mean long-distance, ever again.

He never even told me why the fuck he was on TV.

FISHERMAN (LITERALLY) AMONG FISH

This match was too good not to discuss. And yet too terrible to ever think about how I THOUGHT about giving him a chance.

A subtle closed-mouth smile that echoed Mona Lisa mystique and a decent haircut, dark brown blazer over what I vaguely remember as a striped sweater. Worked at Google, played guitar. What he was looking for in a girl wasn’t that impressive with his one-word answers:

My ideal date is someone who: INTERESTING.

I gave him a shot because yes, he was cute. But he looked familiar. That name looked like I had read it before somewhere. And it was not just any common name for a guy, at least nowadays. Mr. T we’ll call him, moving forward. It was only an after hour I first accepted him did it all become clear.

He had applied to my work. For an opening on my team.

Just a month before Mr. T was the talk of my work team’s Gchat group. How could he not….he was the first guy ever to make it to an onsite interview for my team, an all girl task force endearingly dubbed the Content Convent. Could Mr. T break through the barrier? He seemed promising– definitely something else. I would not say overqualified, but if you were an English major from Portland and had previous experience as a park ranger and saved a man from drowning in a commercial crab fishing accident, you undeniably have something going on for you. Really, this was all on his resume.

But where he lacked in personality– and perhaps a soul– he made up in these adventures. His onsite was terrible, and no more was heard of with Mr. T again.

Until…

MR. T: It’s fate!

I applied to your job a while back. I saw your photo on the blog and thought “She’s hot.”

I should have known/regretted this whole decision immediately at just those first words. But maybe he was just awkward. If we found each other on fucking CMB, it didn’t hurt to entertain the situation. I responded something a bit indifferent yet comical–it only got worse. And I was forgetting whether or not I had signed up with CMB or Tinder. Because it was all feeling like the latter.

Just because I have since deleted the app, I won’t recite most of these conversations verbatim– but they were cringe-worthy enough just to remember without referencing the original messages.

Mr. T:

  • If we were working together, we would have gotten each other fired.
  • I was an English Major too! Are you trying to become a teacher? (only later did I realize he was being sarcastic)
  • What are you doing tonight?
  • There’s a party going on, think we should meet up. It’s in my pants (WHO USES THIS LINE ANYMORE)
  • You busy tonight (the next day)

Good riddance, Mr. T.

NONDRINKERS AND NO-RESPONDERS

He had dark brown curly hair, piercing big blue eyes and his main profile photo was winning as he smiled innocently and candidly. He was also a recent USF grad, and we rejoiced in fondly recalling days of Dons past. But he didn’t drink.

He seemed really sweet and very interested in my time as a Don. But he didn’t seem interested in where I was now, the city at least. He worked and lived out of San Mateo and he seemed very content there. He was, as he said, “over the city.” Maybe I’m thinking small, but with the frustrations and hate that I may find myself having for San Francsico– never have I been over it. And the fondest memories made here, still to be made, have admittedly involve good company– and alcohol.

At the end of our road, it would have been because of me, not you.

And then the ghost. You would have thought that the blonde from my second day seemed interested that I had just come back from the Stanley Kubrick exhibition over at the CJM that afternoon with all his exclamation marks used. But nothing. It’s OK. I had barely any sleep from an anxiety attack the night before and I was dead at 4PM in a heavy sleep. Waking up to nothing except a better peace of mind was all that was needed at the moment, not a response.

AND THEN, PROGRESS

I really enjoyed his company, truly. Yes, with this one, he was my first CMB date.

His initial photo had him looking perplexed at the camera, the Pacific Ocean looming vastly behind him. He had a beard, which I never was really into, but damn it did look good on him. A few scrolls over into his other photos revealed a lovely smile and some humor by the way he mockingly looked at an art exhibit with such pretension. He was studying dentistry here in the city, but upon matching I was very excited to learn that he was not just an English major– but asked about my favorite books. One dream had come true when John Steinbeck could become my perfect wing man.

After much discussion of our influences, his passion for really helping others in an exciting hands-on field as being a dentist, and how he was looking forward to the upcoming Outside Lands that weekend, we knew we wanted to meet. At least, that’s what he asked me about after nearly three days of conversations that just seemed to flow naturally. Even if it took hours in between responses, we always got back to each other. He seemed very receptive to my own pursuits and read my blog, and even gave great feedback. I was swooning before that Thursday afternoon we would meet.

The original plan was to meet at the cafe across from the Duboce dog park, but friends and my sister thought something closer to a bus and less out of the way for me would be an easier escape route should things go south. Fair enough. So the bar and restaurant for some drinks at the top of the Yerba Buena Gardens– my favorite lookout– would have to suffice. Plus, he said, it was definitely more convenient as his campus was just a few blocks away.

It was cold that Thursday, and in the crowd that poured out from the restaurant I spotted him from the window reflection bundled up in a windbreaker and wide-eyed. He had a pleasant voice that I thought would be deeper– maybe the beard made me imagine a more burly tone– and I can’t recall whether or not we shared a hug. It was obvious that our restaurant of choice was not ideal for being that packed. Back to Duboce Park it was.

I got to hear about his family and early days of transplanting from UC Santa Cruz to SF and his family, all while we waited for a delayed N car underground. I think in that time there was no better way to really get to know each other than rush hour– when your true colors would be tested to come out. Though I think he handled it well– as did I, despite holding on for dear life to the railing in that sea of disgruntled, fatigued humans. I was just all smiles.

That was the thing. With this young man, it was so natural to smile lots and just carry on the conversation from one topic to another– about each other’s quirks and political views (me laughing as I declared being ‘woke), to his outlook on life helping others, and feeding into my quirks (“DON’T FORGET THESE” he said referring to the napkins as to move tables away from the hoards of fruit flies drowning in our glasses of red wine. I am a shameless napkin hoarder). Down to earth, quick on my humor, and most wonderfully, fascinated at my ideas and pursuits.

Mostly, it was the dogs. He was quick to note by liking “anywhere near dogs” from my CMB profile which led us that moment there at the top of the grassy knoll, a bench damp from the looming fog and looking down onto the dogs and their owners passing through, playing, taking poops. Oh, yes, he could get why I loved being around these silly, happy-go-lucky creatures we’re glad to call Man’s Best Friend. It’s all you could want. Someone to watch dogs with and convince to participate in next year’s Sexy Jesus Contest down at Dolores Park. I mean, with that beard, I assured him, he had as good as a chance as being crowned as the other contestants.

The N car was approaching again, this time to take us back into the city with its headlights flooding the dark streets around us in Duboce Triangle. The dogs were gone, the cafe was closed, but there we both were. Still talking, still laughing, and me still smiling. At the end of the night as we both parted ways to our respective bus stops– him to the Richmond and I to Pacific Heights– we were both off the dating app which had first connected us, his number with a Central Valley area code lighting up my screen with the hopeful yet simple suggestion to meet up once more.

But he never got another date, sadly. Because I was soon to be taken over in a series of dates that lead to the moment I had been waiting for. With someone else.

Meet Him in NEW ROMANCES, PART III.

New Romances, Part I

August 1 – August 7

My second year spent living in this city has come a long way from the hazy, carefree episode of 2015. The days are windier, I’m drinking less and going out with new faces along with old; and still, I’m coming across little places of San Francisco never seen before. It’s strange. Not that it’s any worse or better than the summer before. Just different. Just the same, essentially. Same apartment, steady job, single. Well, maybe that’s a bit different.

2016 and my love life have seen a complete surrender to the modern age of romance. When I was so adamant on finding love in real time, real places, in the hands of fate– I caved. My last resort was in my last relationship coming to a complete halt after starting off the first 6 months of this year to an uncertain yet happily constant start. But just as that ended, here I was again, single and back to square one that I saw myself standing in for all of 2015. So now, I traded in these hopeless romantic ideals of Nora Ephron build-up for a quick-working profile on a dating app. Why? I was doing well on the scene, wasn’t I? In finding guys interested– yes.

In finding love– no.

That is what I do want. The whole casual dating is really why anyone– at least in San Francisco– goes out. Something quick, something instant. Something to discard the next morning or within a week. That’s not love, so on the scene is definitely where I will not find it, at least in this city. Besides, any of the guys and gals you do meet are, as a friend said it best, “are on all on dating apps.” So I guess I can’t be left out of the loop, gyp myself of options, even if the options are looking grim. They’re better than what’s literally, out on the town.

I want to say right now that the purpose of this essay (series) is just to stay true to the spirit of this blog. Here I go, telling all about just another week in the City by the Bay. But it is also an extension of an ongoing struggle wholly relevant to the modern age in which I write– modern romance. The idea of modern romance sprang up right around the time I moved out here, right when my long-distance boyfriend broke up with me, right when I was thrown into a thriving scene of young go-getters wanting to make it big in Silicon Valley. Most of these go-getters became my closest friends, my confidants, and with that, confiding in their struggles of being single. One of these days, over lunch in the office, they were discussing Aziz Ansari’s new book, Modern Romance: an Investigation. I gave the book a glance myself later on, and found it to be nothing short of the sad realization of how strange and unnecessary all the struggles of a single adult now can be. How simpler it really was less than 20 years ago. With a better understanding of the paradox of choice that Ansari and sociologist Eric Klinenberg explore– searching for The One while trying to obtain as many “choices” to choose from for being the One, and yet being ultimately unsatisfied at settling from having so many choices– none of this doesn’t make me an expert, and I proclaim that is essay is no validation of such. This is just my experience, one of many across this generation just genuinely trying to settle down.

So here I was, giving myself a shot in the modern romance. And it wouldn’t be as instant of a game changer as I anticipated it to be. First, choosing the platform. I heard good things about Coffee Meets Bagel especially in regard to serious daters. The founders were three Korean sisters, and their appearance on an episode of Shark Tank whose offers they rejected. At almost a $1 billion value later, P was going to give her shot at love finding the “everything bagel” to her coffee (I still vaguely understand the metaphors here). And I was going to give CMB business by acting like their services in a very unbusiness-like institution was a business proposal. Pitching myself to a potential Prince Charming. I still may not have believed it, but I was bored. I was alone. I had nothing to lose but that dignity I maintained in resisting dating apps for THIS LONG.

From other people’s trials and errors, I chose the right photos (polaroids, candids, and sparklers) and gave upfront quirky and truthful facts on myself (I am a Hufflepuff and English major and like being anywhere near dogs– the more detailed and weirder, the easier to weed out genuinely good matches). Age, ethnicity; then, thankfully– preference. Even preference gets me a little anxious if just online dating wasn’t enough.

CMB has gotten the controversial stamp of casual, assumptive racism if you mark “no preference” when it comes to what race you’re looking for. Black people with black people, Asians with Asians. As taken from a Buzzfeed investigative, a rep confirmed that,

our data shows even though users may say they have no preference, they still (subconsciously or otherwise) prefer folks who match their own ethnicity.

I guess that from observances, even in a place as diverse as the Bay Area, people of races do tend to be together– Asians especially. A long time ago I wrote an ugly and pretentious Tumblr post about how irked I was at the all-known Asian Clique phenomenon I noticed growing up– don’t know what I’m talking about? Just watch Mean Girls. I don’t care to look up that piece ever again (except maybe to delete it) but I remember it went something along the rant of how society is so diverse so why can’t Asians mingle with other people outside of their race, we’re not segregated anymore so make an effort. But little did I realized, growing up, the really segregated one was me. It wasn’t a matter of race snobbery; I was the snob, the snob who grew up privileged among the white people. For living in a predominantly white and Latino Concord, California, what seemed diverse was just me being the lone, awkward, token Asian. Come high school, when Clayton Valley High fused together all students of various backgrounds, I didn’t realized that all the Filipinos and Asians hung out because, well, that’s just who they grew up with. That was their neighborhood, their grade schools, predominately whatever race it was there. They just all happened to be the same. I was never the same, I grew up differently. I grew up biased, a twinkie that at times now feels like Frankenstein. And now in this realization, that followed my dating preferences, too.

As the floodgate opened on my first day, no matches at noon, only potential suitors in the Discover tab of the app. Here you get a variety of profiles that you can send over to friends or, bean-willing, you can hit up for yourself. It also showed a bunch of profiles that expressed interest in you despite what your preference was. In these there was no lack of interested men– but the men who were interested were in fact, all Asian. I feel bad, but each one I ignored. Asians were definitely not my preference. And I don’t say that without feeling my soul die a little inside each time. If only it were that easy to date men outside of my ethnicity without the smallest complex, the awkwardness of physical appearances and cultural differences being the only gap in the bridge. In reality, the interracial relationship field sees more Asian women and Caucasian men than any other mix. THE MOST. And while the uncontrolled factors of today may vary with each taste of the respective guys and girls, the controlled factor is history, the eroticism in hooking up with Asian girls for misconceptions of their submissiveness and exotic “other” mystique. Oh, I’ve met some of these guys. They’re the worst, and tone-deaf. And on my end, Asian women are gold-diggers, looking for any white guy with influence and money. It’s not a widely- spoken perception but it still is the case with some in the Asian community. Mix those two together, and you grow up realizing that your taste in men might come across as making you look cheap or superficial– sometimes at worst, a whore.

Once when I thought I was cool and progressive for dating outside of my race, there are times where I feel like I really should be dating an Asian guy to not get the weird stares from other Asians or people thinking that whomever I’m with might have ordered me by mail. When I was in college, single and semi-transparent about my dating misadventures with my parents (we’re that close), my dad would always ask me why I just find a “good” Asian guy. Citing the reasons of high divorce rates and episodes of Snapped or Forensic Files as evident to how crazy and murderous relationships with white people could get, he was convinced that I would be well taken care of staying within my race (he has since stopped watching both shows). Perhaps, I wouldn’t know as I’d never dated an Asian guy. Then again, I never tried. Race aside, psychos were psychos, unordained by their genetic makeup if they decided to go nuts, or just that their infidelities/violence were just a product of their own individual character. Simple– I prayed I just never met anyone like that.

What I did pray for was just someone like me. But they didn’t have to look like me– identify with me. You can’t just change your preferences and tastes if that’s all you ever grew up with. In my case, as I realized with how I felt so uncomfortable being around other Asians in high school, I found that naturally I was drawn to what I was comfortable with. In this case, the status quo just happened to be American guys, as they were all I ever knew. You could expand on the macro-societal ideals of Euro-centric beauty standards but we’re talking about me, my city, my neighborhood, my peers. I wasn’t thinking about nor aware of these oppressive Westernized standards during my puberty. What I saw I liked, the simple truth. For being an American girl, I just wanted my own American guy– that’s all that should really matter. Nothing more complex than that. Because that’s all I see myself ever– not a whore, not a gold-digger, not an exotic other, not any different than my fellow American singles. Just another one. Just another girl.

I was simply a girl, standing in front of a phone screen, asking the gods to just find her a decent guy who happened to be her type and who just weren’t looking for a fetish. What I wanted was simple to ask– it was a matter  of what I would end up getting.

Follow up in NEW ROMANCES, PART II.

 

Germophobe and the City

September 19 – September 25

No lie, I am a complete germophobe. And living in San Francisco could most definitely be one of the worst places for a girl like me to end up at. It’s actually never bothered me that much, thriving among the filth and (literal) shit that comes up at every bus stop or on Market Street and in between cars and alleys. No, it’s all just a general, dismissive part of sharing this 7X7 with a million other human beings. With human beings comes human bodies– human bodies that secrete deliciously disgusting bodily fluids. I’ve been exposed to pretty much each and every one of them, and in the exposure you just simply become numb.

I am not a stranger to shared spaces. The first home I ever really knew was my dad’s sports memorabilia store, spending my time behind the back in the old rooms of what was once a clothing store. But when I wasn’t at his store, there was our house in Concord, home to my family of four and my aunt, uncle, and grandpa. That’s where my aversions began. Aversion to dirty tubs and giant Daddy Long Legs making their home in my bathrooms. As I was sitting on the toilet once I was checking to see if there were any spiders (or unidentified stains) running along the bowl, I immediately regretted the stupid decision. I knew there was going to be something gross, so why bother looking? Why augment my fears for the worst, for days like every time I am in my apartment bathroom now and check for spiders. The uncertainty is just what would have killed me rather than me being a paranoid survivor. Some people care less than others– I am the other, the one who still is amazed that one man’s trash is also his failed ideal of what is considered clean enough. Put these varying ideals in one household, you get a girl turned young woman who literally does cringe at the sight of the littlest mold or clogs of hair. But nothing ever beats that ferocious Long Legs in attack mode that really was on the side of the toilet that one time.

So as I examine the little incidents that seemed like catastrophes in my life now, you do wonder at how I could have lasted this long, how I have managed to keep my germ-loathing tendencies fairly under wraps. Some things, actually, I can’t hide. Just take a look at my hands– my boyfriend did, and when your boyfriend sees on a delicate little woman scarred and drying hands that feel like leather and bleeds at the knuckles, you’ve got some explaining to do. My excessive hand-washing forever reminds me of the ongoing struggles of grappling with filth, how it will never really be gone even as I run my hands in hot water for 20 seconds (Happy Birthday sung twice). Or when I drink bottled water– I am a master champion at water-falling all and any bottle, even if it’s my own. The idea of even me back-washing makes me want to throw up.

The only way I know how to really overcome these vile things is just simply taking matters into my own hands. It’s very exhausting, but cleaning helps me cope; no one’s hands I trust better at scrubbing away grime than my own, that of someone deathly repulsed by it. My cleaning is the closest to nuking any room tainted, like my desk or the bathroom after the toilet clogged and overflowed last Monday. Goodness, that Monday. When the clog caused the overflow, it was a humbling and bitter reminder that I have an issue, a silent vendetta that will never end. Can I eradicate all germs in this city? Of course not. But it doesn’t hurt to try to avoid any incidents like mopping up the bathroom floor at all costs.

Nothing beats my bathroom after that incident. If my dad had it his way, he wouldn’t let his daughters clean their own homes. He once told my sister that “if you don’t know how to do something… it’s probably because you’re not SUPPOSED to do it.” Dirty housework was his main reference. Anything dirty he would throw himself in harm’s way for us, especially the hardships of scrubbing down bathrooms and unclogging toilets. If we didn’t grow up, this would be ideal. But the thing is I am 24 now and little things like cleaning my own house thrill me, because as an adult, it’s a nice feeling to know you have your own house to keep and clean. And as for bathrooms, he winces at the thought of me 60 miles out of his reach having to do this dirty deed on my own, but he knows about my aversion. He understands very well that nothing beats my idea of clean. It’s the same as, if not better, his.

For that little victory after what I thought was the worst battle of this week, it would only get a little worse. Just when you think you can enjoy the rest of your weekend in the City, stay over at your boyfriend’s for the first time, you let loose– your monthly card is punched in red ink. Fucking period. I can’t feel grosser than when it’s that time of the month, and any girl who said otherwise is just lying. But my ideal weekend ahead was just in reach, and I was not going to let the forces of nature yet again make me a hermit. I kept smiling, packed on the tampons, and headed out that Friday night, wide eyed and ready to drink wine and enjoy the company of my boyfriend who would cook us dinner at his in the Sunset. Everything was in my control. Everything felt clean. The evening was off to a great start, some music, a whole bottle of wine, me dancing around in a dizzy and drunk stupor as he cooked. Stupid fun after a stressful week for the both of us. It was sure a night to just be weird and ourselves around just the two of us. At a pause in the evening I came to a halt as he stepped away from the stove and pulled me close to him for a comforting embrace. And then,

“What’s that?”

The stool behind me was where I was just sitting moments before, the faint streaks of blooded across the wood.

I darted to the bathroom door to access the damage. I had leaked pretty badly. Perhaps it was a good thing I was already drinking or else I would have been more of a spazz. But I raced to get a new pad and my Tide To-Go pen to start the recovery. My boyfriend’s bathroom didn’t help either, shared with his roommates and crowded with an overflowing trash bin and a broken toilet seat. I was being cornered in possibly the worst place at the moment. I could hear something outside the door. Opening it a crack, I could hear him laughing. He wasn’t overthinking this situation, yet he wasn’t the one on his period. Still, there really was a lot to laugh about. In minutes of stepping out all cleaned up he just hugged me as before and kissed the top of my head. “I’ve seen worse,” he told me. Even if it was worse, the matter of fact was that dirty things weren’t going to destroy this relationship, this night. In my own personal hell I overthink everything, especially gross incidents as right then. But here right now it’s just part of the night’s adventures, nothing appalling. It soon will just fade into a funny memory that he and I will look back on with just the same sentiments of how we could just really be ourselves around each other, and accepting of all that comes, and leaks, out of us.

And still I emerge, a victor every week that I live in this city. As said before, I can’t escape filth forever. There’s always worse when it comes to living out in the city, just as there are better, and it’s these better things that keep me anchored to the urban landscape despite disgusting setbacks. Keeping clean is the least I can do, and that itself is rewarding when you’re a germophobe. Anything you touch turns to sterilized gold. Co-exist and just remember all the fun nights and beautiful places and loving people that a place like this has given you. And suddenly, you find yourself smiling, even when where you find yourself is right on a crowded N-line car headed for downtown in stale, 90-degree weather– ground zero and at your most vulnerable sitting next to a man who smells. Just smells.

If there’s something I don’t know how to do or deal with, I am supposedly not meant to deal with it at all. But as I get on and move through this messy youth, I guess that this complete mess is just mine to make clean, with only myself to teach me.