Ryan and the Technicolor Wardrobe
Short Stories and Essays

When I dated my first girlfriend, I dated her because she was cute, fun, and because she actually wanted to date me.  I’m not trying to say that she didn’t have any attractive or noble qualities, I’m admitting out how shallow and immature I was.  We didn’t date for long, we had fun, and then it was over (honestly, there’s not much else to the story, except that thing with the scar, and granted, that was post-break up).  Clearly, I didn’t know what I was doing, but it’s okay, I was 18 at the time, so my standards, or lack there of, were common among guys.  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had friends talk about their “lists” or their “deal breakers” and “red flags”.  I don’t exactly have a list of  traits that I’m looking for, but that doesn’t mean that I’m back where I was at age 18, where I was just  looking for a cute girl that would give me the time of day.  While my friends have a list of specifics, I have more of a broad template.

During my sophomore year in college, I met a girl who we’ll name Josie (since I don’t know any Josies).  I met her at a club meeting and even though we had some mutual friends, neither of us were aware of this at the time.  We talked for about 2 hours and the topics ranged from small talk pleasantries (what’s your name? where are you from?) to literature and jazz.  While she and I had different tastes, there was some sort of connection that we had.  Even though she had never heard of Pavement, she was intrigued to hear about them.  Even though I wasn’t familiar with a lot of the authors and books that she liked, I was more than eager to hear her talk about why she loved them.  We were geeking out together and it was an amazing feeling.

We became good friends after that and it lasted throughout college until she moved away for school.  We kept in contact for a little while but eventually we drifted.  I remember when she came back from an East Coast trip, a few months after we met and everyone asked her how it was.  She told most people about the weather and how it was fun, but when I asked her about her trip, she told me how excited she was at how late the museums were open out there.  I did eventually fall for her at one point but she never felt the same way.  Our boundaries were always good so I never felt like she was stringing me along and I respected that.  As we got to know each other better, I realized that we weren’t a good match, which isn’t to say that I discovered things about her that I didn’t like.  Though our friendship, I learned a lot about myself and most importantly learned that the “connection” we had provides far more amazing feeling than just some pretty girl laughing at your clumsiest jokes.

I’m glad that I never put her up on a pedestal.  I don’t view her as “the one that got away” or as someone that I would drop everything and move for (as a friend, she’s asked me), and I’m careful to not compare girls I’m interested in to her.  We are better as friends than we would’ve been as lovers.  I just search for a “connection” where I can talk to someone for hours on end without having an agenda of things to talk about.  Honestly, I can’t say that every girl I’ve been interested in or dated over the past few years, has offered me that same sort of connection. So while I can’t say that I’ve avoided the meaningless “she’s cute and she likes me” trap that I like to believe I’m too mature for, I know better to settle for a relationship that doesn’t offer me that stimulation.  I understand that it might not come right away, but if it doesn’t show up at all, it is time to move on.

I have a bit of a bittersweet view on love.  I have a picture in my mind of a muggy afternoon, the air conditioner is broken, there’s nothing good on TV, and there’s nothing particularly exciting going on in life.  It’s just you and your significant other and the “No, I love you more, no, you hang up” phase is nothing but a distant memory.  There’s no work stories to share of stories about your friends and family.  You’re both tired and all you can do is talk and try to connect.  All you have is each other and your ability to enjoy each other’s company with nothing else to aide you.  I don’t find this as a depressing idea.  I’m just a firm believer in the adage of “all you need is love.”

As much as I’d love to have a list of specific traits that my girlfriend/wife will have, I just feel like being able to have “the connection” will trump it all in the end.  While I will absolutely admit that I would love to find someone before I hit 30, I know deep down that I’ll be happy to dismiss that silly goal if I know that I’ll be able to feel that connection for the rest of my life, because you can manufacture “having a good time” and I believe you can even manufacture “romance”, but you can’t manufacture effortless conversation and feeling understood.

When I was a kid, I went through a phase where I had friendship bracelets.  Sadly, I do not remember what friends I shared those bracelets with.  I’m pretty sure we got them at the local arcade (or the equivalent to a Chuck E. Cheese) and wore them until they got faded and never replaced them.  As I got older, I started to sport other accessories such as watches and rhinestone rings, but I never returned to bracelets (and never did I sport a WWJD or Lance Armstrong bracelet).

My 28th birthday has been a bit of a bittersweet affair.  My birthday was overlooked at work, so I didn’t get the birthday cake in the conference room.  While I wouldn’t consider it heart breaking, and I know most work-purchased birthday cakes are subpar, I would like to get a cake, knowing that my co-workers have gotten cakes for their birthdays.  I also wouldn’t mind being paid on the clock to eat cake and to chit chat.  If I was working at an office that didn’t celebrate anyone’s birthday, I wouldn’t be feeling so weird about it, and I’ll fully admit that I’m being kind of petty about it.  If they get cake, I want cake too.

Moving around my 28th birthday has been difficult as well.  No matter how close or far a move is, and no matter how much or little you own, moving is never fun, it’s never easy, and you’re never too prepared.  I wouldn’t say that the move was dramatic and full or surprises, but it was exhausting both physically and mentally (thank you Time Warner Cable), and throughout the move, I’ve had a lot less friend interaction than I’m used to.  Couple that with no internet (for the time being), and all of a sudden I’ve been feeling completely isolated.  Couple that with the lack of birthday cake at work and… I’m just kidding… or bitter… or both.

It took a couple of weeks to have an actual birthday party because of my friend’s wedding and the move, but it was actually worth the wait.  About 23 of us piled into the a shuttle with a bunch of food and alcohol and headed to the Hollywood Bowl to watch Bugs Bunny and the Symphony.  I had friends from the present and a couple of friends from my college days join me in what was a fun filled night that ended with fireworks.  This is what I love about birthday parties, it is one of the few occasions that you can different groups of friends together to hang out with you.  So, while I was drinking beer with Chris, I was sharing rice crispy treats with Allison and Charis, and and getting passed along food from Allison’s parents.  While the Bowl doesn’t really encourage mingling with a large group, it was enjoyable for everyone, except for the people who tried to park at the Bowl (but they had a good time once they got in).  I was handed birthday cupcakes (I couldn’t eat them all) and that more than made up for my lack of workplace cake.

Before we got on the shuttle, I was given an envelope from Charis and Allison and they told me that there was a present inside.  There was a handwritten card from the two girls.  It had an apology for its sloppiness and an explanation for it (they made it in the car).  It also contained two friendship bracelets in it.  Apparently, there are conflicting sources on the prices of these bracelets.  Charis says they’re normally 25 cents, Allison says they’re a dollar, but mine were free.  Allison quickly tied them around my wrist and told me that I’m not allowed to take them off (but later told me if the colors get too faded, she’ll make me new ones).  It’s the first time I’ve had friendship bracelets since I was probably around their age, and while I’m not going to try tug on the heart strings by saying their friendships is the greatest gift of all or that they went from being my show assistants to being my friends, I will say this: by sacrificing $1.25 our of their own pockets, Allison and Charis made me stop worrying about how stressful and crummy I’ve felt over the last couple of weeks for at least a little while.