There are words other than “I love you” to say on Valentine’s Day

16 Feb

I realize that Valentine’s Day tends to be a pretty divisive day. You have those in one camp who are inhaling the scent of roses, gleefully nibbling on chocolates with zero regard for calories, and repeatedly applying lip balm in anticipation of their evening plans. In the other camp…well, hide the razorblades, The Notebook and the Coldplay/Bon Iver/Tori Amos mixes. While I’ve had Valentine’s Days that were shared with someone sweet and special, I can’t really say that I’ve ever fallen into either the hype or hate camps. Instead, I’ve preferred to celebrate Valentine’s Day the way elementary schoolers around the country do – with homemade cards. Yes, in the days leading up to February 14th, I bust out the stamp kit, construction paper and even a glittery pen. I firmly follow the rule that you must make one for everyone in the class (or office). I then proceed to distribute them to coworkers who are often baffled to receive such a Valentine from anyone over the age of 10. It’s cheesy and a little childish, but well, at this point, there’s no escaping who I am.

My handcrafted hearts.

But let’s be honest, I’m not even sure that people want to receive my construction paper crafted messages let alone read about other people receiving them. I promised Anne that I would recount a memorable Valentine’s Day, and I definitely have one. Not only do I remember it, I have a video of it.

On February 14th, 2002 I said the c word. On national television. Technically, it was HBO, which I guess qualifies as cable. And I guess I technically said it before and that’s when it aired. But still.

Let me back up a bit. As a sixteen-year-old living in rural Pennsylvania, I often looked to the New York Times Arts and Leisure section to feel somewhat in touch with culture. It was there that I first read about The Vagina Monologues. I don’t think the article actually said anything really about the play, but rather noted the controversy surrounding Rudy Giuliani’s estranged wife appearing in such a scandalous play. The article intrigued me enough that I patiently waited the ten minutes or so it took to sign on to AOL with our dial-up modem, and researched the play. I was hoping that I might find out about getting tickets and convince my sisters to take a trip into the city to see it. What I found instead was a call for women who would be willing to be interviewed for the upcoming HBO film production of the play.

I immediately completed the accompanying questionnaire. I wasn’t really thinking it through; I was more excited about the potential opportunity to meet Eve Ensler, the playwright and interviewer. I was surprised to receive an email the next day asking if I’d be available for a phone interview. After a half hour chat with the film’s producer, I bounded into our kitchen to tell my mom that she had to drive to me to New York the following week. (*I should probably disclose at this point that I had told her nothing about my potential participation.) When she asked why, I responded casually, “Because Eve Ensler is going to interview me for the HBO version of The Vagina Monologues.”

My mom was more than a little surprised, but it’s a testament to how awesome she is that two weeks later we were headed into the city.

The interview itself was somewhat underwhelming – more for Eve Ensler than for me. If you’ve ever read or seen the play, you know the kind of detailed sexual questions she asks. My limited sexual experience did not really compare to the stories already shared in the play. Eve was amazing, though. She made me feel comfortable and even interesting. During the interview, we started talking about the word vagina and all its slang incarnations being used as insults. Eve believed in reclaiming the words, so she asked me if I would say the c word with her. She then asked me to shout it proudly, which I did rather joyfully.

The entire interview lasted for about an hour. Eve and I hugged at the end. She smoothed my hair out of my face like a mom would. She told me that I was the youngest person to be involved in the production, which made me feel less lame about not really having anything particularly exciting to share. Of that sixty minutes of footage, I appear in the final version for about five seconds. You briefly see my face smiling at the camera in the opening credits. The real highlight of those five seconds, though, comes about halfway through when I open a montage of women shouting the c word.

When the production aired on Valentine’s Day, I remember my grandmother calling to say, “I just saw you say c*nt. You looked beautiful. Happy Valentine’s. I’m heading to bed. I love you.”

I always felt like that was the perfect response to both my first brush cable fame and Valentine’s Day in general. No shock. Nothing over the top. It’s just an occasion to tell the people in your life that you love them – and maybe devise a way for the elderly to casually say the c word.

And away we go….

7 Jan
DARE and DARE
Anne:

Welcome to our Infinite Game of Truth or Dare. Kourtney and I plan eventually to post our rules and regulations for this game, which will be ever-changing (and eventually will, we hope, invite reader participation!). But we were so psyched to start that we decided to post about our inaugural dare first. *note: our dares are not always going to be embarrassing or risky — but they’re always going to be mind-broadening. Ideally.

Okay, so our very first dare was a double-dare (a dare we do together, not a double-dare from the days of  yore when we watched Nickolodeon). We went to see a psychic and followed that with a trip to the Ronnybrook Milk Bar. I’ve got to give a little background before we launch into the recap. We thought a psychic was appropriate for several reasons: first and foremost, Kourtney’s been walking by this psychic in the West Village for about two years now and has been dying to go in. (And I am generally agreeable so I ok’d it.) But more importantly, seeing a psychic was thematically appropriate:, as our goal for the evening was (according to Kourt) “to reflect on the past and take a peek into the future so we can better appreciate the present.” Really she just wanted to know some stuff about the future, but I humored her rationalization.

So then the milk bar came into play. The thing about the milk bar is that we had a profound moment there a year and a half ago, when I was going through a particularly hard time in a relationship. Kourtney and I were sitting there talking, and the milk bartender was eavesdropping (unbeknownst to us). Then he came over with shot glasses filled w/ a special milkshake concoction and we cheers’d to happiness! Like I said, it was profound — and it sort of kicked off a big life change. So we thought, yeah, we’ll go back there. And we did.

Kourtney:

Now I’ve never been to a psychic, but as Anne mentioned, I’ve been a bit obsessed with the idea for a while now. It’s honestly a little out of character. I don’t really have any kind of future fixation. I hate spoilers, so I have no desire to know what my life will be like at 59 or even 29 really. It had more to do with the sign than anything, this neon sign radiating “PAST PRESENT FUTURE.” Can someone really reconcile all three for me?

Maybe someone can, but it is definitely not the woman who briefly glanced at my palm on Bedford.

I thought at the very least that I would learn something about myself, and I guess in some sense I did. I learned that I am very good at concealing laughter, skepticism and disappointment in an effort to be polite. We probably should have immediately exited as we entered and saw the look of utter shock on this “seer’s” face to have customers. She kindly tore herself from whatever game show was blaring in the background (shouldn’t she know who wins?) to give me “a personality assessment and palm reading.”

The whole thing lasted maybe 4 minutes, and that’s generous. On the bright side, it was all good. I guess $25 is relatively cheap to have positive validation of who you are and your future. People pay a lot of money in therapy for what I got in the matter of minutes. Her assessment and predictions? I’m creative! I have a good aura! I’m kind! I’m going to be financially successful! I will marry one of two guys-one love from the past or one love from the present! These deep insights cut me to my core. My path ahead is clear. No more questioning what’s around the bend for me.

Anne:

My take on it was a little more cynical. EVERYONE, DO NOT SEE THE PSYCHIC ON BEDFORD! I’ve seen two other psychics — one with a boyfriend in college (that psychic was right! we were in fact not meant to be together!) and one with my roommates my first year in New York — but this one, the one on Bedford, was by far the worst. She didn’t even bother to expend the effort to pretend to be legit. I imagine it would be a sort of fun creative challenge, convincing customers. Also, a character and personality assessment? Seriously? Can’t one get those free online, or maybe from a close friend? Maybe my opinion comes from a place of ire because I sort of do believe in the possibility of predicting the future. I do believe some people have a sixth sense. My great-grandmother, it is rumored, prevented her daughter from getting on a plane that was about to crash, etc. I’ve had some eerie dreams…but that’s neither here nor there. The point is, frauds of any kind make me mad, especially ones that can’t be bothered with a convincing act of deception.

My second experience with a psychic (circa 2006) was very positive. She seemed spot-on with my two roommates and me — everything she mentioned about our present lives was eerily accurate. I refused this would-be third experience and its $25 price tag, its windows full of rocks (rocks? precious gemstones? what?), its neon “past present future” sign and its clairvoyant with the rotting mouth. I split the cost of Kourtney’s reading with her, so we’d have more to spend at the milk bar. And quite honestly, I’d already gone in with a guarded attitude. For the first time in a long time, I am happy. I really didn’t want to hear anything about the future that might put a damper on the present. (Isn’t that, after all, part of our goal?)

On to the milk bar…

It was the same guy. The same guy who gave us milkshake shots a year and a half ago! He remembered Kourtney instantly, because she’s (ahem) a regular at the Ronnybrook Milk Bar. That’s right, she downs chocolate milkshakes like they’re daily vitamins. (Or maybe he thought she was cute. He did say that too.) The milk bartender, however, did not remember me. I decided not to take it personally. Kourtney ordered her usual, and I deliberated carefully. I’ve been on a half-assed health kick, so I wasn’t into the idea of what a milkshake would do to my caloric intake. Instead, I opted for the far more conservative option of a coconut-almond sundae with hot fudge, caramel, and whipped cream. Kourtney not-so-subtly elbowed me after about two minutes and reminded me of what I needed to do. It was true; I needed to thank the man who, with the simple joy of a milkshake shot, gave me hope for a happier future.

We instantly knew this was a mistake. Milkshake-man interpreted my confession as some sort of come-on. He picked up Kourtney’s phone and fiddled with it, perhaps hoping to capitalize on her cuteness; and while helping another customer, he offhandedly threw back at me, “When are we gonna go out for a real shot?” It was all quickly spiralling downhill. Eager to finish our ice cream, Kourt and I began to scarf it down. In a presumable effort to be charming, Milkshake Man observed that I must really like sweets. Whereby he took my sundae away with a firm “NO!” I was starting to regret the risk of soiling my previously golden memory. My milkshake was returned with extra whipped cream and sprinkles, but the effect was ruined when Milkshake Man began to proselytize about young people (i.e. me and Kourtney, at 28 young to his 33-yo self) and their hastily and ill-conceived relationships.

p.s. Kourtney just turned on a song from The Muppet Movie, the soundtrack of which she downloaded. I don’t know what to do.

Kourtney:

Don’t listen to Anne. I am in no way a regular at the Ronnybrook Milk Bar. I go in a few times a year, maybe. That’s right, a year. Listen, those milkshakes are delicious. I would be justified if I went on a daily basis, but I have always felt a little reluctant. Tonight was not the first time that Milkshake Man has made me uncomfortable; however, tonight was the first time that I ever considered never returning. *note: I am making this statement about never returning to the best milkshake spot in the city in the dead of winter. Please don’t judge me if summer rolls around, and I’m enduring awkwardness for this tasty treat on a hot July day.

It feels really odd to be remembered repeatedly in a city, at least when it’s someone you don’t want to remember you. I have no problem with the woman at the bodega beneath my office greeting me affectionately each morning or a bartender knowing my favorite drink from frequent visits. However, Milkshake Man’s wink greeting always struck me as too casual. It’s the same way I feel about people who call me Kourt after only meeting me once or twice. It’s too soon. We’re not there yet. That level of familiarity takes time.

I gave Milkshake Man the benefit of the doubt, though, because as Anne said, we shared a moment. I thought he remembered my conversation with Anne that day a year and a half ago. I thought the winks were a subtle nod to a shared experience.

Now I know it was a different type of experience he hoped to share — one involving shots and who knows what else. He didn’t seem particularly concerned with Anne’s happiness this time around when he leaned over the counter to appraise her ass under the guise of determining her height. It all felt a little cheap, which is odd in a place that charges $7 for a milkshake. Did he really think giving Anne an extra shot of caramel was going to lead anywhere other than a food coma? In fairness, I imagine that someone who’s main tool of trade is an ice cream scoop doesn’t necessarily get a lot of human interaction outside of the extremely young and the elderly. He probably offers great advice on sensitive gums, but on matters of the heart? The advice, as did all of his behavior, left a little something to be desired.

First of all, random strangers picking up my phone is exactly one of the reasons why it’s password protected. (One of the other reasons is because my 1 year old niece likes to chew on my phone. I can’t risk her deleting any of my Muppet songs.) Second of all, a decision to get out of an unhappy situation is not necessarily an indication of haste or youth. Trust me. Anne and I make a lot of hasty decisions — most involve wine or cheese — so we know the difference. The decision to realize what makes you unhappy and actively make choices in opposition is a sign of strength and maturity if anything.

So yeah, the past has become a little tarnished and the future isn’t necessarily the clearest thanks to our adventures tonight, but it’s making it all the easier to love the present.

p.s. If you weren’t charmed enough by The Muppet Movie to download the soundtrack, then I’m not sure you have a heart.

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