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Dec 2011 08

by Laurelin

The internet. It’s everywhere, connecting everything all the time. People don’t need to shop outside the house anymore, you can just order whatever you want from the internet and have it delivered. Clothes, shoes, groceries and…men? I have been aware of internet dating for a few years now, and I always turned up my nose at the thought of it. Seriously, if you can’t get out into the world and meet and connect with someone on your own than you probably should stop trying.

That’s an ignorant thing to say, I’m acutely aware of that now. Not everyone is [un] lucky enough to be in bars every night where members of the opposite sex are foaming at the mouth and leaving phone numbers scribbled on beer soaked cocktail napkins. But the other day I got to thinking. Maybe I have been going about this all wrong. I know I tend to meet the same type of guy over and over again at bars: young party types with more muscles than brains. Internet dating, while a product of a technological world, seems to take dating back to basics: conversation and actually getting to know someone.

After a talk with a girlfriend about her experiences in the world on online dating, I wound up joining a site that was basically just another app for my iPhone. My girlfriends and I started off my just browsing the guys just like we would online shop. Look at this one, ooooh, look at that one, he’s tall, cute, this one has a good job, this one has pictures of his cat. It was quite addicting. Soon we were getting a few messages a day and spending nights at work reading them and giggling. People have no shame online; some of the messages were dirty, some had poetry, some were simple and to the point. Some actually made me laugh, and one day I found myself replying, and before I knew it I was getting to know this… stranger.

He was nothing like me, and was like no one I would ever normally meet in a bar. Messaging back and forth online, we got to know a little about one another, answering questions that should have come out right away with other boyfriends but that never came up while we were too busy chugging beer and sleeping in. Then this guy asked the inevitable question– want to meet in person? I froze. I don’t know. Was it safe? I HATE DATING. I don’t even like going on dates with people I sort of know. As social of a person as I am, just the though of an actual date with someone I’m trying to get to know is more terrifying than bungee jumping into the grand canyon.

I took a breath and clicked reply. “Yes,” I said. “Let’s meet for coffee.” (Coffee?! Coffee?! It’s not beer!! What do I do?!) So we did. The day before Thanksgiving I found myself sitting in a coffee shop in Harvard Square, awaiting a stranger. He came, and he was just like his pictures. Tall, cute, and so nice. He was in grad school and had just moved to Boston, we came from similar families and while there was sometimes a lull in the conversation we managed to get through about an hour before deciding to part ways. I have never been more proud of myself, thinking outside the box and making myself take a leap into the unknown to try something new and scary.

I don’t think that the whole experience was exactly for me, but I did learn that I can see why it’s for a lot of people. It makes a lot of sense now, and it’s kind of nice to know that in the future should I want to meet someone new I can always try it again. But for now, I gratefully turn back to my safe bar scene, and the comforts of a fully stocked bar to help me get through conversation. I don’t think I want to date anyone for a while, whether in the digital or the analogue. The guys I meet normally, the young and muscled, the hipsters, the career bartenders, they are what I need right now. They’re all helping me get over a heartbreak that, after trying to date someone new, I’ve come to realize is still a bit too fresh. I need some more time I guess, and probably another martini…

[..]

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Nov 2011 24

by Laurelin

The holidays are upon us. Halloween is over, and even with the turkey worshipping holiday only a few days away I find the world around me skipping over the gluttony and jumping right into the greed of the Christmas season. It’s everywhere: the commercials on TV, the lights going up all around my beautiful city, and my roommate bringing home scented candles that fill the house with the scent of peppermint and evergreen. I can’t help but feel a bit like the Grinch when his heart grew and burst out of that little metal box– I love this time of year. It makes me hopeful, the end of the year. Gathered with family, ready with friends to start a new year, a better year.

“It’s boyfriend season,” my friend Lindsay said the other night. We were appropriately perched at my bar just as I had gotten off of work, my ex having taken over for me. Sundays are weird, us working together. We need to be friends, so I stay even when my shift is through. I glanced up at him quickly, our eyes meeting for an awkward fleeting moment as I flashed back to Lindsay, nodding and clutching my pint of beer. My knuckles were white around the glass and I thought it might break. It didn’t. Neither did I. God, every minute here is like an hour, trying to not look like an asshole, trying not to just run screaming from the room. Winter is more like ex-boyfriend season. I seem to be on a roll starting the holidays on my own year after year. How festive.

Even with a few failures looming over my head I always feel lucky this time of year as well, impossibly lucky to have such an amazing family who supports me in everything I do. Never a word from my parents about who I was dating now and how it inevitably ended. Not a word about why I chose bartending, or why I chose writing. They know I chose a hard life, but one that makes me happy. I don’t have a husband or children to bring to Thanksgiving dinner or a lot of money in my bank account for retirement, I don’t have that amazing sense of style that my cousins have, the one that always makes me feel like I’m playing dress up no matter how nice I thought I looked when I left the house. I don’t have those things, but I feel lucky to have all of them, my family.

During the holidays we all sit by the woodstove in our slippers, and drink our coffee with Baileys and we talk. We talk about everything, and I feel so lucky to be the black sheep in a family who loves me. We remember when my brother was sick for years, and my family had no money so everyone would come to our house and bring food for Thanksgiving. We remember when my cousin Matt was fighting in Iraq, and my aunt and uncle were too heartsick to travel, so we all went to their house and decorated a tree and hung stockings from the fireplace. I had arranged for my friend Lisa who worked for the USO to send Matt and every man in his company Christmas care packages, and when I told my Aunt she said it was the best present, and we all cried.

I guess winter to me isn’t exactly boyfriend season– it’s the perfect season to be grateful for everything else that you have. It’s been another long year, a year of hard work and harder play. I know that I’m a little different than everyone else; still bartending, writing about drinking and ruined relationships. Just broke up with a new one, starting this new year alone. Again. Yes, I’m happy. Yes, seriously! Yes, I have more tattoos. No, you won’t like them. Pass my yellow duck slippers, I don’t know what I’m wearing but it’s not from The Gap and since the cousins showed up I feel frumpy. Pass the Baileys, we drink to my brother’s good health and his new marriage, to my cousin’s new baby and Matt’s safe return home. I might be in the midst of ex-boyfriend season, but it’s almost a new year, and we start it together. I can’t wait.

[..]

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Nov 2011 10

by Laurelin

“Please go with me,” my friend Leanne asked. “I really need this job but I can’t go alone.” I was doubtful. I didn’t want to work at that strip club in Providence, she did. But I guess it wouldn’t kill me to tag along. “Just waitressing,” she had said, and I agreed. There was a group of about ten girls and the club manager gave us all a tour of the floor, the back rooms, and backstage. It was a lot bigger than it looked outside, dimly lit with flashing lights, perfect cooshy chairs lined a perfectly strobe lit stage, and a DJ announced each girl as they started to dance, looking more beautiful than anyone I had ever seen. When it came time to fill out an application I shook my head, but the manager touched my elbow and gave such an encouraging smile that I thought, “well, maybe.”

She called exactly a week later, saying I had a job. My friend didn’t get a call, and even though I felt terrible I also got a bit of a rush. This was so… dangerous. Not my style. I was still in college, in a sorority who’s motto was “Be womanly always.” This was womanly, I guess. Naked womanly. I was all in. The manager met me at the front door and walked me in, showing me to my dressing room and handing me my waitressing uniform. It was the most wonderful thing I had ever seen — black lace up knee high pleather boots with lace up matching pleather booty shorts and a black and red striped lace up corset. It all fit like a glove. I looked at myself in the mirror with what seemed like millions of movie star dressing room light bulbs making me glow. All I could hear was the pounding of my heart and I stepped out of the room and into the dark.

I don’t remember when I went from nervous to confident, from being the new girl to being the girl who commanded the room. Days turned to weeks and weeks to months, and a few shifts a week turned full time. I was still in college and making more money than I knew what to do with. I knew every man that set foot into that club, and I knew their stories and what they drank and what they wanted to talk about, especially what they wanted to hear. These men were lonely, whether it be a wife or girlfriend who had settled into routine too quickly, or if there was no one really in the picture at all, no friends, family, just us, just me, a regular girl transformed by a life of strobe lights and glitter.

Soon I wasn’t just waitressing. There were backrub girls too, and when I saw how much money they were making, after one year I was ready to make the switch. Looking back now I still can’t believe it. Armed with scented baby oil gel I ruined these guys, sending them home slimy and smelling of lavender. One year of work turned to two, and then to three. Back rubs and waitressing were now supplemented with foxy boxing and hot oil and whipped cream wrestling on Friday and Saturday nights. The money rolled in, and every single shift I was smiling. I walked out on the stage to my fake name and I worked the room. I wanted to be there. I loved this act, this secret person, this girl who knew just what to say to walk off making a man feel like a million bucks while really, he was just giving it to me.

I remember the night things started to change. My boyfriend had come to visit, and instead of me being able to visit with him like usual I was busy in the champagne room. I had been in there with a customer for over two hours, and I was drunk. The dancers hated when the guys took me in — I didn’t dance or take off my clothes — I was never am entertainer. This night though, my boyfriend had brought someone for me to meet. “Laurelin, out of the champagne room, you have a guest on the floor!” the DJ announced and I squealed, grabbing the bottle of Moet Nectar and running to see who it was. There was my boyfriend and a man, standing at the stage waiting for me. I stumbled walking up to meet them; champagne and I didn’t always agree on walking in a straight line.

“Laur,” my boyfriend said, grabbing my hand, “meet my Father.”

I stood there, trembling, my confidence and buzz falling into my stomach. I was suddenly aware of how I looked — white high heels, naughty nurse uniform with my ass and frilly red shorts hanging out, too much makeup and a fake orange tan. My fake eyelashes suddenly felt too heavy and I saw myself as this man did, a used up drunk girl who couldn’t even stay and talk because I had to go back into a room and spend time with a man who was old enough to be my father. I couldn’t even shake his hand, one was full of champagne and the other clutched a diamond necklace that man had bought me.

What was going on? I left my boyfriend and his Dad at the stage with a handful of ones, and when I was finished with that work shift I scrubbed my face until it was red. I wanted to see my freckles again. I tugged and combed out my hair until all the curls were gone. The dressing room was exactly the same, with all those shining movie star light bulbs and I really saw myself. Too tan, too thin, the line between me and the girl I created at my club so blurred that I wasn’t sure who was who anymore.

I went home that night with my boyfriend and his Dad, and I know that his Dad still has the t-shirt I gave him from my club. He loved it, loved me and everything about that night, but I was horrified. I went in the next night, done up like always, and I put in my two weeks. The manager looked at me like I was crazy. “You’re our best girl!” he said. “I know,” I said. “But I need to get out of here. It’s time.” He gave me a hug, and those last two weeks were the saddest and happiest of my life. I said my goodbyes and on my last night we had a fantastic party. It’s been seven years since then, and when I walk into that club I still know everyone. The men, the drinks, the stories. It’s impossibly sad, but part of it will always be home. As I drove home to my boyfriend’s house on my last night at the club I turned the radio on, my eyes filling with tears. This was really the end of an era. What now? Where did I go from here?

“Boston” by Augustana was playing on the car radio, a song I had never heard: “I think I’ll go to Boston, I think that I’m just tired, I think I need a new town to leave this all behind, I think I need a sunrise, I’m tired of the sunset…”

“Boston,” I thought. “That sounds nice.”

[..]

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Oct 2011 27

by Laurelin

I have a tattoo on my arm. Well, I have a lot of tattoos on my arm, but the focal point of the whole thing is a portrait of Anne Boleyn. People always ask me, “Why her? Didn’t she get her head chopped off?” Indeed, she did. But that’s not why I have it. Back in the 16th century in England women were expected to be beautiful and ladylike at all times, they were supposed to dance, sing, stitch, and take their place next to their husbands quietly, never betraying emotion, only smiling sweetly even during the worst pain. Anne is a constant reminder of that very behavior. She changed the course of history by never allowing her king to see weakness in spirit. Even after he sentenced her to death she still kept her head high. When I want to cry, I smile sweetly and never betray my feelings. Even when my heart is breaking or when I’m terrified, no one will ever know; I know my place and it’s to never falter.

I’ve always been a fan of the phrase “fake it ’til you make it.” If you act like you know what the hell is going, on people are more likely to think that you do. This can be applied to most any area of your life — most recently for me at work; a promotion at my music club in Boston finds me off the bar and in a brand spanking new manager role which leaves me terrified daily. I have no idea what I’m doing; all these fancy bands and employees now answer to me — I have never been in charge in my life! I just fake it. Act like I know what I’m doing, and it will all fall into place and one day I won’t have to act anymore, one day I really will be this boss lady.

This mantra can be applied to relationships as well. A recent breakup (yes, I know, another one) has left me slightly damaged. I don’t know exactly where it went wrong, but somewhere during our summer in the city we lost something, and it was too far gone to be repaired. Somehow the nights of drinking hadn’t led to those talks that bring people closer together, and instead of trying to fix it, we both allowed the rope to fray until finally, something snapped. We didn’t even have time to heal; working together only a day after the breakup was like rubbing salt into an open wound. I wanted to scream in everyone’s face as I smiled sweetly and took their drink order, “Do you know what this is doing to me?!” Never once did I stumble, and neither did he.

I don’t know if it’s hard for him to see me, and I wonder if he knows that every time I smile or laugh or even talk to him that it’s all an act, every move rehearsed, planned, like a puppet on a stage. I don’t hang out at our bar as much on my nights off, but when I do, every minute spent trying not to look at him feels like an hour. Whatever guy I’m talking to might as well be speaking French, that’s how much I’m paying attention. The room is nothing but a dull roar in the background of my mind, and all I am thinking is “don’t fall.”

There’s something to be said about the way I go about things. Maybe it’s not healthy, maybe it’s avoidance, running away, a sham. Who knows? Maybe this isn’t easy on him either, and watching me just go back to my single life is equally as trying on his shot nerves. I have no way of ever knowing. All I know is that every other time I have built this wall, one day, I wake up and I’m fine. By forcing this immediate friendship I am diving headfirst into daily trauma, but I am laying the groundwork for a normal future. I have no room in my life for hate, so even if I am bursting with anger he’ll never see it.

I know one day, just like all the rest of my ex’s, I will be able to call him a friend. One day I’ll be able to look at him and not have to fake a smile that will tug at the corners of lifeless eyes. One day I will walk into my music club and not shake after I interview an employee or ask a tour manager to please pay attention and sign this contract. Maybe this is life beyond the bar scene after all, being in control and in charge of work and my emotions even though I feel like running to the bathroom in tears. Maybe this is just growing up, accepting this feeling of being scared and alone but powering though because there is no other choice but to go on, no choice but to hold your head high and conquer anything because in this life failure is not an option.

[..]

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Oct 2011 13

by Laurelin

I was sitting at the bar tonight with a few friends, waiting for my boyfriend, like always. He said he might come out, but I knew he wouldn’t. It was his birthday, and he wasn’t coming. We had had a great night out the night before, but still, I always said a relationship can be measured by the amount of time I spend looking towards the door, waiting for you to walk through it. With him, I do it a lot. In the beginning he would always come, now, not so much. I’m lonely a lot; I spend most nights alone, missing him.

It’s always the nights that you’re most vulnerable that something odd happens, and tonight was no different. My ex boyfriend walked though that door and I could have cried. All I have been thinking lately is how even though he and I were wrong for one another, he was still always there for me. Every night he eagerly came home, and, even after we knew we weren’t in love with one another anymore, he still came home and held me, still wanted to be around me all the time. We were best friends. Part of us will always be just that, no matter how much time goes by.

He had been drinking, I could tell the second he motioned me to join him at a table for two. He hugged me for a little too long and then leaned over. “I’m leaving soon, —-” he said, calling me by our pet name for one another. “I’m moving to LA, and I’m going this week. I’m not telling anyone but you, because you’re the only person I’ve ever cared about.”

A million things run through my mind before I can answer. I can’t imagine this bar scene without him. It’s true, I have created my own name in Boston, especially in the past year, but parts of him linger everywhere I go. “Bittersweet,” I think. We don’t talk much anymore, he and I. But I know that I will miss him impossibly once I know he’s gone.

He grabs my hand and leads me to the jukebox; he always wants to monopolize the music when he’s been drinking. “What do you want to hear?” he asks, and starts punching in letters before I can even answer. “I know,” he says. He plays Pearl Jam’s “Black,” Tom Petty’s “Even the Losers,” Adele’s “Right As Rain,” and Eddie Vedder’s “Hard Sun.” My songs. I look towards the door and glance at my cell phone one last time, knowing my boyfriend isn’t coming, wondering about this guy I’m with who knows me better than I know myself. I know I’ll walk home alone and sleep alone again tonight, and I know my ex has nowhere to stay until he leaves for L.A. I wait until the last of the songs play, and I go to leave.

“This might be the last time we’re out together,” my ex says.

I manage a smile. “Don’t say that,” I say. “I’ll come see you.”

“I hope so,” he says, his hand resting on my waist for just a moment. “Goodbye.”

I leave, alone, and don’t look back. I walk home slowly, and I linger on the pedestrian footbridge overlooking the city lights. Boston is glowing, and everything falls silent. I want to cry but no tears come; I don’t know how I got here, or where to go next. I could stand here and watch the skyline for hours, but I don’t. My cell phone buzzes in my pocket. It’s my boyfriend, saying he’s going to bed. “I’m sorry,” he says, for what seems like the 100th time.

“I’m sorry too,” I think, before turning away from the city lights and heading for home.

[..]

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Sep 2011 26

by Laurelin

God damn this blinking cursor in front of me, mocking me. Usually a blank page sits in front of me and I feel calm, able to take a deep breath and start over with a refined touch and total control over my words. But not lately. Now I feel so much anger and hurt that I can’t even see anything besides a black swirl, all my words pouring jumbled out of my bloodshot eyes. I’m tired. I’m tired of working six nights a week and two days, sometimes having a day off here and there to fulfill an obligation to someone else rather than myself. Rushing to the train, rushing to the next state, rushing to meet a deadline when all I want to do is collapse. I am just exhausted. And no one is here to catch me as I’m falling to sleep. No one is there when I wake up. How can someone be in a relationship and still feel so alone?

I always tell my friends that as happy as I am with this new guy, I can’t help but have this sinking feeling that it’s just going in a really odd direction. I spend a lot more time feeling alone, lonely and missing him, than I do happily next to him. Working at the bar doesn’t really allow much time for dating. We got to know one another at work. We talk about bartending. We talk about booze. We drink beer. We stay up late and drink. I wonder what would happen if someone removed beer and the bar. We would have…Nothing. Which means that essentially, we have nothing to stand on — it’s just liquid to stand in. It’s horrible to even type, but it’s been filling my head lately that what I have is simply nothing at all.

I got drunk the other night after my shift while he was working and with a little bit of liquid courage down the hatch I gave him a quick quiz. “We’ve been dating for three months,” I said. “What’s my favorite color?” He looked confused.

“Uh… red?” He said.

“No. It’s pink. But I guess you wouldn’t know that,” I said, turning up my nose. He looked baffled for a minute and then wandered off. I dropped the subject.

I try, I really do. What days off do we both have this week? Maybe we can fit in lunch one day before we go to work. For some reason, nothing ever seems to work besides work. How is it possible that one person in a relationship can be happy with only sharing smirks over a beer tap or holding hands after I finish day bar in the brief time before he comes on to work the night shift? Don’t people need to have sex, sleep in, go see movies, go to dinner, meet each other’s families? I can feel myself getting weaker, becoming someone who chases after someone else, and I can taste bile rising in the back of my throat — that girl makes me sick. I shouldn’t have to chase after anyone to spend time with me, especially someone who calls themselves my boyfriend. How did this happen? How did I become this person and how do I get rid of it? Make her go AWAY. This girl is not me.

Part of me just has to laugh about all of this. I was in a relationship and not the happiest. I got dumped, I was sad. I found the silver lining, started dating, met idiots. Met an idiot that I liked. Thought he was different, new relationship, new problems, not the happiest. Damn you bar scene, damn you. My head is spinning, and I keep thinking back to a few weeks ago when my roommate and I went to go see a psychic. I don’t really believe in that junk –– fate, dead spirits and energies and all that –– but I don’t exactly not believe in it either. So, if for $30 someone can talk to me about stuff I don’t understand, sure, let’s have at it.

The psychic was probably just over 30, a few years older than me. She said I was creative, and that I spent too much time dwelling on past relationships and that I needed to learn to let things go. (Who doesn’t that apply to.) Then she said she didn’t really understand my current relationship. She looked confused for a minute and said, “He doesn’t know you. He thinks he does, and he thinks you’re great. And you ARE great. But…he doesn’t really know why you’re great. It’s not going to last. You’re going to end it, and you’re going to say, ‘You’re not even going to miss ME,’ and he’s going to be so upset, but you’re right.”

I hate to base my argument on why a relationship should end on something a psychic told me. But it’s like…this stranger just added a strange validation to my argument. Nothing solid to stand on, only our bar scene. Beer. Late nights. Liquid. I don’t chase after anyone, it’s not my style. Running however, that’s right up my alley, and luckily, nothing runs better than liquid.

[..]

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Sep 2011 09

by Laurelin

I don’t like writing when I’m angry. I suppose there is technically something therapeutic about allowing the words to pour from your pen, furiously scribbled thoughts pressed hard into the paper rather than the controlled sentences I usually produce. I am never proud of what I write when I’m angry. I still do it every once in a while I guess; some things just need to be let out so they can be released and hopefully not felt anymore. I remember writing when my heart had been broken, when I was longing for something different, when I was so inspired by something beautiful or sad, but I do not write very often when I’m angry anymore.

When I was younger I was angry a lot. I was easily hurt and I wasn’t able to see the bigger picture. As I got older I developed a little more sense and realized that every little thing that happened would eventually pass. Each hurt that came to my life would make its mark, and each day after that it would hurt a little less, until one day it became just a memory. Some memories and aches are sharper than others, like remembering something terrible I said and didn’t mean makes me cringe, but you take it with a grain of salt. I learned to think before I speak, and that a heartfelt apology goes a long way.

Other memories, like songs, are different. There are some songs that invoke such powerful memories of certain places and people that when I close my eyes I can almost go back in time. I can smell, touch, hear certain things, some happy, some impossibly sad. When I hear “Hey, Jupiter” by Tori Amos I am 14 years old in a bed and breakfast in Stratford, England. I smell lavender on my pillow and in the sheets every time I move as I drift off to sleep. It was my last family vacation before my younger brother got really sick and the whole family was out, it was just me in this beautiful place. Lavender and Tori Amos always make me smile.

[..]

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