We are taught as little girls that love is easy. And perfect.
In the movies we watched, the sweet, naive, gentle and gorgeous 16-year-old girl lives a quiet, pleasant life full of impromptu song and dance, no matter how unsavory her circumstances. Her flawless skin is ever so carefully painted, with the shadows going only in the flattering places. Her waist is tiny with no exercise, her eyes are clear certainly without enough sleep (given her life of servitude), and her feet are uncalloused, no matter how many hours are spent barefoot in the rocky castle yard or thorny forest.
The prince rides up, strong, handsome, full of character and goodness. He instantly falls in love with her, and she him. There may be a snag or two (never because of their compatibility, but because of an evil external influence), but in the end all ends with white silk, wedding bells and happiness trailing off into "ever after."
Girls in real life have pimples. We are not always good and kind and sweetly oblivious. And boys are not always full of character and effortless muscle, riding up on a big gorgeous horse and sweeping us away into a sudden life of perfect wedded bliss.
Unlike the beautifully drawn characters in the movies we often still love, even as women, we evolve. Our lines are not scripted from beginning to end so that we never lose our tempers, or make mistakes, or learn.
Rather than being a flaw, what a gift this is!
There are countless works of literature where it is said that the angels in heaven are jealous of us - of our messy and beautiful and poignant and real lives.
In truth, how can it be a bad thing that hardly any of us fall in love only once, at 16?
If we are not scripted and easily summed up into a half page, how in the world can we expect to just automatically
a) know who is best for us, and
b) find that person on our first try?
We should try love out, test it, glorify it, leave it when it is time to leave.
That is what the pink spoon theory is about.
Our mothers and grandmothers have paved the way for us to have this glorious freedom. In most areas, a woman no longer has to make herself into a man (more or less) to earn respect from men. We are coming at a time where you can be a woman, still feminine, and be just as successful as any man. No longer do we have to toss aside the womanly wiles that give us our unique strength and shoulder the common masculine qualities instead (not to mention the fact that they don't look good on us most of the time anyway).
Of course there are exceptions. Everyone should follow their heart.
But for many of us, this is our time.
We can finally approach dating, love, and life with a carefree nature - still being women, and discovering ourselves, our preferences, and our matches with as much freedom as men have always been able to.
The truth is, there are probably a few Prince Charmings out there.
And there's no reason in the world to settle for less. That's not saying, of course, that dallying for some amount of time with someone who makes you happy for whatever reason, although you know he's not the one you want to go into a 'merger' with, is wrong at all.
It's just fine!
Pink spoon to your heart's content!
And besides, after the wedding bells' ringing faded into the credits and the credits faded to a blank screen, we don't know what happened, do we?
Maybe things aren't as simple as they seem.
Of course not. They never are.
Late Fall 2004
I came out of the side hallway as Ethan was passing the door. I caught up with him and slipped my hand between his arm and body, lightly resting my fingers right below his elbow.
His arm curled up automatically and he laughed.
"What, you need an escort down the hallway?"
"Yes. Yes I do."
Ethan was one of my few male friends. He was safe because he had a serious long-term girlfriend who he was crazy about. (He may have also been safe because the first time I saw him I thought he was gay....)
He was polite and charming and had a lightbulb smile. One of those grins that has a cartoony twinkle at the end: you can't help but imagine a five-starred animated bling come from their left canine. (Kinda like this guy - no they don't really look alike at all, but he definitely has the lightbulb smile I'm trying to describe.)
Ethan was a few years older than me (okay, 9 is more than a few when you're 21 years old and he's 30) and refreshingly calm.
Not that everyone that age is calm - another coworker within a year or two of Ethan did ask me whether my boobs were real or not the first time I met him, which had been about a month before...as the rest of the table looked on with interest...let's move on.
Since I above all, wanted a life free of romance drama, I was only befriending those men who were not at all available. It was a perfect combination - I had the testosterone in my life that I was wanting through friendships, and none of the backlash of crushes and flirting and feelings and kisses and such that I wanted to avoid.
So Ethan escorted me down the hallway.
I didn't notice a few days later when he stopped mentioning his girlfriend.
One night at a friend's house watching some ridiculous movie and eating as much junk food as possible in order to balance out all of the exercising that we health and fitness teachers had done all week with our students, Ethan offered to give me a foot massage.
Who in the world would pass that up? Not I.
So he settled himself on the opposite end of the couch and promptly sent me into a coma.
It was a great foot massage, and he knew it was great. He told me later that it was a well-planned-out way to get closer.
An hour later, the movie had ended and he asked me to walk him out to his car.
After the 'friendly' hug lasted for three minutes, I walked inside in a daze.
"What the heck just happened?"
I asked my friend (who's living room we were in) what the heck was going on with him.
That's when I found out that he and the serious, deeply loved girlfriend had been broken up for three weeks.
Oh, great. That's just great.
In another week and a half he was giving me foot massages on his couch on the other side of town, drawing hearts on my arches.
Early Fall 2004
I didn't want to flirt. I didn't want to go for a walk. I didn't want to get coffee.
Leave me alone.
I wanted to teach, and study, and go to school, and enjoy my life - without the hassle of any kind of romantic distraction. That's what all of that butterflies and boy and first kiss business equaled in my estimation that fall - hassle.
Besides, my heart was still aching a bit over Greg, although I probably would never had admitted it, especially to myself. The campus reminded me of him, and I was always subtly conscious that the halls, restaurants and streets that I was frequenting was where we'd met. By the way, he had undoubtedly pink spooned me, although I was unaware of it at the time, blinded by his intelligence, charm and emotional transparency (or so I thought). Thinking back, I can't blame him. I'm sure it was a nice diversion. However, it would've been nice if I was on board too.
That's the thing about properly using the pink spoon theory - there are no tricks, no lies involved. You stay karmically clean while also avoiding stagnation and being bogged down.
So, with all of these things in mind, and mainly focusing on the fact that I was going to aggressively and completely avoid any romantic attachments of any kind, I got my new life underway. I arose at 5am, put on my waterproof mascara (sweating abounds when you teach aerobics and conditioning classes), went to campus, taught, studied, and went to class, just as I'd planned. The other graduate teachers had offices along the same two hallways and on the same floor. It wound up being a sort of voluntary dorm lifestyle - most of us were always there (I was averaging 12 hours a day on campus), and things moved slowly enough that an hour wasted watching funny videos online or discussing the meaning of life didn't put a damper on anyone's schedule.
I perfected my teaching style, came up with a new course for the department (yoga and Pilates, if you're curious), went kayaking alone every Saturday morning on Lake Alice with the gators (I miss that the most, and knew I would), and watched old movies as I made myself dinners for one on the rare nights that I spent alone in my apartment. I created a pyrotechnic wonder out of a glass pan once by accident too, which pretty much topped my danger scale (not counting the gators, which weren't actually dangerous), and was just as exciting as I wanted things to be. Thank goodness for old-fashioned deep kitchen sinks.
I made some fabulous girlfriends, and a guy friend or two. (perhaps there was a cuddle buddy involved that I thoroughly regretted for a while afterward, but we won't discuss that...) I refused to properly befriend any guy who was not in a serious, long term relationship that he was committed to.
That way, the option of romance didn't even exist.
Yep, that one sure did come back to bite me.
I don't remember this one's name.
Matt? Mark? Merv?
Whatever, we'll call him Mike.
I met Mike at a dinner that was being thrown by a friend of a friend in Richmond. We ended up frequenting moonlit patio parties together and sitting in my silver pickup for hours afterward, talking about summer and work and the inflatable twin mattress I always kept behind the passenger seat, in case I felt like stargazing on the fly.
Yes, that is actually why it was there. And sure, I inflated it from time to time, and became lost in the infinite depths above, always alone, and always perfectly content. (except for the horrendous Virginia mosquitoes, that is)
But back to Mike. He was handsome and smart and polite and funny, and he was a terrible kisser.
I'm not kidding, I mean awful.
I didn't really mind though. For good company once a week, I'd trade a couple of bad kisses. Besides, I was leaving soon.
The last time I saw him was the first time I went to his house - a small bachelor pad shared by him, a couple of roomates, and a well heard but unseen mongrel of some kind of another. We sat on the couch and shared some bad kisses. He said he'd call me. I said I'd call him.
I got in my truck and drove home.
The next morning, I woke up before dawn, curled my hair, and went to work.
What did I learn from that relationship?
I learned that I liked apple beer (who knew they had apple beer?), my understanding of enjoyment without commitment (either internal or external) being perfectly fine was deepened, and I learned that having a mattress in my truck was an interesting topic of conversation.
It's not that I ever intended to not call Mike again, I was just done with that pink spoon. It's just the way it happened.
A week or two later the next one solidified out of the woodwork, along with a nice jawline and rock-hard biceps, but that's for another chapter.
Labels: the pink spoon theory
When I was fifteen years old I got a job as a hostess at my small town's one and only Denny's restaurant.
This was not my first job, mind you. I'd already been working for a few years as a summer camp counselor for 4-H. There's nothing quite like waking up each dewy morning with the unmistakable olfactory knowledge of nearby fields, each square yard heavily fertilized by cow manure...
Luckily, my job at Denny's was significantly less smelly. I only worked on the weekends - to be more specific, I worked the 6:00am shift on the weekends. I'd groggily get up each morning, apply enough concealer to make my 15-year-old acne-ridden face look presentable, curl my hair (just to put it into a ponytail, so what's the point, you ask? So do I, now, eleven years later...), and put on my maroon vest, name tag, and non-slip shoes. My mom would even more groggily drive me to work and there I'd be for the next 8-10 hours, seating customers, ringing up tabs, avoiding surly waitresses, and (here's the big one), scooping ice cream.
Our particular restaurant had a mini Baskin Robbins in the lobby, and part of my job was to make the delectable and waist-expanding ice cream, syrup, and whipped cream conglomerations that were in our little laminated spiral notebook underneath the counter (to order, of course).
I became a champ at scooping during that year and a half, and although waking up to stinky breezes at 4-H camp was unpleasant, coming home with your clothes, hair and skin all smelling of freezer-burned ice cream is decidedly worse.
No, we didn't serve freezer-burned ice cream. But it didn't matter. I smelled like it nonetheless, right up until a good scrubbing (which happened about 8.3 minutes after I came in the front door of my house, unless I collapsed in exhaustion first, which did happen every now and then).
If asked, I may have even told you then, and am a firm believer judging by the memories I hold today, that although being smelly afterward wasn't the best, that part was eclipsed by the fun I had working there. Eventually my buddy Shenna was my fellow hostess, and we had way too many good times for my weekends at Denny's to be considered strictly work.
Another high point was the copious amount of ice cream I ate during the first few months of my time there. After awhile, I wasn't interested in the sweet stuff anymore, but for a moderate period I was very well acquainted with those tiny pink tasting spoons.
Cookies 'n cream. Fudge swirl. Sherbet. Chocolate chip. Butter pecan. Even the occasional bite of pistachio almond went down the hatch. And I loved them all. I'd have days where I preferred one, and days that I wanted many. Some days I hated that green pistachio-flavored ice cream, and some days I simply adored it. There was no rhyme or reason to my preferences, they changed with the wind (and the temperature, for that matter).
Years later, after my love life's ups, downs, and multiple all-but-name marriages, I remembered those delicious pink spoons.
It was the perfect analogy!
In that sunny restaurant foyer with the big front window view of the field from where we'd heard the trees crying as their branches broke under the heavy ice of January 1999, and where no one ever won a toy from the magic claw machine, and where I'd taken a meal payment from Noah's mom as she nonchalantly asked me how my Christmas break had been when she knew exactly how it was, seeing as how it was kicked off by a phone call from her telling me she wouldn't stand for me to date her son because of the excess melanin I carried in my skin cells, in that dirty-floored foyer, I'd found perfection.
Having pink spoonfuls of ice cream was the perfect balance - I had enough to satisfy my craving, but never enough to have give me a bellyache. I could survey all of my options, which were more abundant than I'd ever have a need for (who wants to actually eat 16 giant tubs of ice cream?), and that I didn't even want to sample all of (some of those flavors I never did touch), and pick one or two, adding a little piece of happiness to my day. I'd only take a bite every shift or two, and after a couple months passed and I'd gotten my fill I never did, but while I wanted it, all I had to do was reach out and take it. A new spoon was always used, no germs or overlapping flavors here. It was delectable, not unhealthy (because of the small amount I actually ate), and it satisfied my cravings such that I didn't need ice cream for the longest time afterward.
I decided to take the principles of my pink spoon ice cream adventures and apply them to my adventures with the opposite sex. It was a perfect fit. I could survey (find one -or a few- that I liked enough to try out), take a sample (spend an afternoon, have a conversation, see a movie, go for a hike), never experience any side effects due to overindulgence (if I never become truly emotionally involved, they can never hurt my feelings or aggravate me), and everyone is happy (I never had any complaints).
I was fully satisfied by this arrangement. The boys (I never called them men. I was a firm believer that the "real man" was a mythical creature) didn't have to be perfect. It didn't matter. They could have their quirks and their oddities and their childish ways, and it didn't bother me a whit. Why would it? I didn't need anything from them. I experienced their company just long enough to feel good from it. I had driven away long before they had become cumbersome, and if one ever became the slightest bit less than fun before his time (a bit of rudeness, an ambiguously made then canceled date, etc.), I moved on to the next with no worries. Sometimes a flavor doesn't give you the jolt it did before. That's when you get a new flavor.
When you're only dealing with pink spoons, there's also no reason to have only one. When I was doing a decent amount of traveling, I lined up time spent with each of my boys when I was coming into their respective towns. Note here: I did have male friends too, which were not at all my pink spoons. They were a different breed. No one minded, because I in no way expected to be the only lady that they were giving their time to either. And there was never any physical contact (ahem) that I would have regretted - I've always been a fierce guard of my "number" and that was never a problem. Not that there was no action - where's the fun in that? But it was just about exclusively PG-13.
Robin, who'd been a victim of forced "friendliness" a time or two during her adolescence, once asked me incredulously how I never ran into these types of problems. I was dumbfounded. I'd never seen it as an option. Then it dawned on me: that was why I'd never had an issue with it.
"Men are like dogs honey, if you look them in the eye and speak in a firm voice, they'll just do what you say without the least bit of fuss - no problem."
And it was true, for as far as I could tell. Of course, being sure what was okay and not okay, and never being ambiguous about what may or may not happen from the very beginning, also being vocal so there was never any wondering, was how I made it work. (note: Yes, of course there are crazy jerks out there who would have forced things. However, I was either lucky enough or a good enough judge of character to never meet any of those people. It's not like I'd spend time with just anyone, oh no. They had to be relatively sweet and have various other attributes too, those things in the end probably combined to make this a non-issue.)
Overall, it seemed like an ideal scenario, for the rest of my life even. Yes, of course I anticipated falling in love now and then - a shallow, never-meant-to-be-forever kind of a love. But it would eventually pass, and then I'd be back. The Pink Spoon Theory was one I adopted, hook line and sinker, from here on out.
Ah, male objectification.
How liberating it was!
How empowering it was!
How easy it was!
On weekend evenings I'd spent at least an hour in front of the mirror, making sure each hair was in place and that my eyeshadow was perfect. My lips were never anything less that perfectly glossed, and my nails were never anything less than perfectly manicured. My unrelenting gym schedule gave me plenty of energy and a body worthy of the barely-there clothes I wore to go dancing in.
Once I convinced Michal to go out with me, I'd give her the prep talk on the drive there and/or in her bedroom, as she was inevitably late and I'd end up perched on her bed, picking out her jewelry for her from the double-doored jewelry armoire that sat on her dresser while she was still getting ready.
"Okay. Remember that you are just as beautiful and just as fun and just as magnetic as any girl there - probably more so than a good amount of them. There is no reason in the world for you to be shy or anything less than outgoing. What's the worst that could happen? You could make a fool of yourself? Well, for one thing, that won't be the case. And for another thing, who cares? You don't know any of these people and you'll never have to see any of them again unless you want to. You have perfect freedom. Let your restrictions go."
And of course, the prep talk about boys:
"See them as toys, as not real. They like it when we use them! Just find one you like, or like well enough to talk to for the evening. And don't worry, if you change your mind, you can end the conversation. Remember - men don't have emotions. They don't care. You're beautiful, so you can basically treat them however you want in this environment we'll be in tonight. That's what they go for too! Of course, you won't give them what they really want (because you'll be coming home, and coming home alone) but same difference."
We never let anyone buy us a drink.
If we didn't to be stuck there, they wouldn't monopolize our attention because we'd simply relocate. We had our "save me!" signal and our "what do you think of this one?" signal down to a science.
The two of us even had songs to label the ranks of boys we dallied with. We'd name him as a guy belonging to one of four songs, and the other would immediately know how we felt about him.
I'd routinely sit at the bar with Michal, sipping our drinks and chatting with the bartender, until my eye fell on someone who I dubbed as the pick, for now. Sooner or later we'd talk, maybe dance, maybe maybe exchange numbers, and perhaps a kiss or two. I never called anyone back. I can only remember even choosing to answer one call out of the ones that came a couple of days after the number swap.
I had my life perfectly compartmentalized. Work, career, wellness and contemplation during the week, and partying on the weekends. My weekdays consisted of rising at 5:00am, making my bed, hitting the gym, going straight to work until the evening, then coming home, working on some school work, dinner, touching up my nail polish, maybe a facial, and bed. That is, every weekday except for Friday. By the time Friday came around our plans would already be made and after work the routine would begin - shower, dress for a night out, check to make sure the miniature purse is equipped with everything I'll need, the phone is charged, the cash is withdrawn from the ATM, and off we went.
I introduced Michal to various kinds of men, labeling them with their "types" - country boy type, scholar type, fun to hang out with if you don't try to have a real conversation type, only good for (semi) real conversation type, pretty to look at but please just don't say anything type, and on and on.
We'd joke about past experiences and dish details of current ones. I was setting up what was and was not appropriate behavior for someone I'd spend any time at all with - it ranged from hygiene and manners to hobbies to emotional stability.
I was completely open with her about some of the things during my relationships with Ethan and Noah, and how I'd feel about similar things now with my new 'pink spoon' outlook:
"Don't cry at me. I don't want to see you cry. The only way I want to see a man cry is if he got bitten by a shark."
That last bit, about the shark, was one of our favorite quotes for a good while.
Excerpts from the upcoming book.
Let me know whatcha think!