Four New Year’s Eves ago I got dumped. Three birthdays ago I also got dumped, exactly one year and four days later, by a different guy for the first of what would later be two separate dumpings. I know, it’s a lot of math for an opening paragraph, but I hope you’ll bear with me.
Actually it was four New Year’s Eve eves ago, but for dramatic purposes I prefer to tell the story with the dumping on the holiday as opposed to about the holiday. It’s neater, more horrifying and narratively tidier.
I had just returned from Texas and even though he had taken me to the airport on my way out of town, he had not called in several days, most notably not even on Christmas itself, and had not offered to pick me up outside of baggage claim or anywhere else for that matter. Expecting very little of both myself and of my paramours, I hadn’t bothered to call him, either, to get a real read on the situation, but had instead been “sitting on my hands” at the advice of a quack therapist that a close friend at the time based most of her life decisions on. A quack who, by the way, has since been on Bravo’s Millionaire Matchmaker, famously telling some poor girl, “men fall in love with virtues, not vaginas!” I totally beg to differ. Bitch may be Patti Stanger’s version of Mr. Miyagi, but I’m still giving her and her advanced old-age quackery my most fervent side-eye.
It was afternoon and I was looking forward to making plans for New Years Eve, even though if you (and by you I mean me) are still planning on making plans with a guy less than 24 hours before New Year’s Eve and he hasn’t brought it up, he’s probably not taking you to the Rainbow Room for dinner. In fact, you may not actually be dating him at all, even if you’re, like, totally sure you are.
He was kind of sweaty and nervous when he came to the door, which I attributed to a combination of both excitement to see me after a week-long break and also as a result of spending the previous hour and a half at his gun club in Burbank unloading mags into paper targets with his friends, full-on blowing holes into the torsos of the outlined unreal people. I poured us two four-o’clock-approved glasses of the spendy cognac I had bought in an alcoholic fit of nesting and he threw his back with a particular urgency I hadn’t seen in him before.
We went upstairs and made out a little-- like making out behavior that my mother wouldn’t even be embarrassed by-- and then, just as quickly as the sweat beaded on his forehead and with about as much gusto as he had employed to throw back his drink, he said he was going to be getting back together with his ex-girlfriend, which I suppose meant that she wasn’t an ex anymore, even if this getting back together stuff was in the future continuous tense. That she had called from her home in Italy and after almost a year of him trying to get her back and then, after some more months of silence on his end while he was dating me among a host of others, she had decided he was the one. That in two weeks time they would be meeting at his place in New York, a middle ground, and that they would become a reunited couple over butternut squash ravioli and a bottle of chianti at Raoul’s. Prince Street has never been the same for me since.
I didn’t take this news with the grace I would have liked. In fact, I mustered up all the advanced-age-insecure-girl-spending-too-much-time-with-self-help-babble that I could and somewhat drunkenly suggested that he really didn’t want to break up now, right, because he’s got two whole weeks before he heads to Raoul’s, right? Exactly. And then there were the justifications I made both silently to myself, and even more tragically to him, out loud, of the “you’re going to have a miserable time because of all that pressure and you’re going to realize that it’s me who’s here and now and me that you really want even if you don’t know it yet” type. And lastly there was the Pathetic Sex to Scramble His Brain, of the Variety Desperate, which only resulted in me falling asleep next to him, filled with nightmares of my own death by drowning, and the realization upon waking that if he didn’t get out of my bed and my loft and go away at that very minute, my body might implode on itself in a fiery act of ironic self preservation. I am cringing as I write this now, years and years later.
Moving forward to my birthday one year and four days later, I’ve been dating this really interesting guy, though we’ve been sneaking around and not telling anyone about it for several good, yet irrelevant to this particular narrative’s reasons, and he has told me that he’s planned a birthday surprise which delights me to no end. He picks me up (for once I’m not parking around the corner by his house so no one will see my car, imagine that!) and takes me to the single most awesome soup dumpling place in the San Gabriel Valley after we have “meat” cocktails with mescal and beef jerky at a fancy restaurant downtown. When we return to my loft, we throw back a beautiful bottle of champagne and make out a little on the couch, and I remember thinking to myself, “wow. I’ve made it through the holidays this year without getting dumped AND I got taken out for my birthday. Things are really looking up!” We move to the bed, do things you don’t want your mother to know you do on your birthday even though you have just turned 39, and then we have what I think is a very open and deep conversation about some harrowing stuff in his childhood. And, in a perfect segue so smooth that I don’t even know it is happening, he says, “So, should we talk about our exist strategy now?” (that was a Freudian typo, by the way, he actually said "exit")
This time I didn’t try to talk him out of it, but I did let him spend the night anyway since it would’ve been a real hassle for him to put all of his clothes back on and drive a whole mile home, and once again, the only sleep I got was nightmare-filled and fitful. But this time, one year and four days later, the dream was much more vivid. He and I were in a rented vacation house next door to an old cemetery and my mother was in the room next to us, on the top floor. It was raining very hard and the house was beginning to flood and bodies and debris from the cemetery were washing underneath the doors and into our room and filling the lower floor. My mother grabbed my brand new, starkly white and plush towels from Restoration Hardware and hurried to put them under the crack at our door to keep the water and the bodies from rushing in. All I could do was scream, horrified at her action, “not my brand new towels from Restoration Hardware, Mom!” and she said, “You’ve got to use what you’ve got, Melissa, let that shit go!” and continued to block the rushing water.
Now I’m no Freud or Jung or anything the like, but I’m thinking I’ve got some issues, though to be fair to my mother, she would never, ever use the word “shit” around me.
And it’s not that I pick douchebags, though I have, on occasion, dated a douchebag or three. Neither of these guys were bad guys at all, other than in their shitty timing. And who these guys are and the particular circumstances around our breakups are actually not important at all, they really just serve as larger symbols. I think, and I could be off here, what is more telling is the similarity in my handling of the two situations and my subconscious need to drown myself but still maintain perfect, white fluffy towels.
So why do I write about this now?
Because in the past I have HATED New Year’s Eve. Because I have HATED the time in between Christmas and New Year’s Eve because it’s full of dread. Because I have HATED the time in between New Year’s Eve and my birthday, four days later, because we’ve gotten past the part where birthdays are fun and they have begun to be sad reminders that you have to throw yourself your own birthday party, again, because you’re alone. And once again, by you I mean me.
This year I did not get dumped on New Year’s Eve eve. I had the flu, but I did not get dumped. In fact, over an only slightly eaten Dominos hand-tossed pizza and under a blanket of cat, I signed up for match.com and got several scary yet kind of sweet emails from 60 year old guys in canyon country; but there is no arguing that it’s a giant step forward.
And this year I did not get dumped on my birthday, either, though I did throw my own birthday party, again, and was somewhat martyry about it. But you know what? My friends showed up and I was not only un-alone, I was filled with the true and absolute joy of everything that was assembled around me. And I haven’t had one shitty dream with any kind of water in it since.
In honor of the smooth-segue from my birthday dumping of yesteryear, we will now in-artfully move on to the recipe portion of this post, and I am sure you are all relieved.
Before I left for Texas for the holidays I made an absolutely delicious curried lentil soup:
prep time: 35 minutes
total time: 1 hour
Bon Appetit December 2010
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, chopped, divided
2 tablespoons (or more) curry powder
1 cup French green lentils*
4 1/4 cups (or more) water, divided
1 15- to 16-ounce can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained, rinsed
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 lemon, cut into 6 wedges
*French green lentils are small, dark green, and speckled with black; they can be found at some supermarkets and at specialty foods stores.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onion and carrot; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until onion is translucent, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Add half of chopped garlic; stir until vegetables are soft but not brown, about 4 minutes longer. Add 2 tablespoons curry powder; stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add lentils and 4 cups water. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Increase heat and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, puree chickpeas, lemon juice, 1/4 cup water, remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, and remaining garlic in processor.
Add chickpea puree and butter to lentil soup. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and additional curry powder, if desired. Add water by 1/4 cupfuls to thin to desired consistency. DO AHEAD Soup can be made up to 1 day ahead. Cool, cover, and refrigerate. Rewarm before continuing.
Divide soup among bowls. Sprinkle with thinly sliced green onions and serve with lemon wedges.
It's a delicious soup: not too much curry and incredibly hearty. I, of course, used homemade chicken stock instead of the water, because I like nothing more than to sabotage a perfectly good almost vegan soup (you can replace the butter with an equal amount of olive oil and voila! vegan curried lentil soup).
I hope your 2013 is, so far, full of unicorns and rainbows and baby kittens lapping up saucers of milk. But just in case it isn't, remember that getting dumped on New Year's Eve eve and then getting dumped again on your birthday one year and four days later aren't even close to the worst things that can happen. And sometimes you even live through the shit and learn a thing or two about your own culpability. And sometimes, if you're really, really lucky you let it go (along with your sullied plush towels) enough to sop up the (wet) dreams and sign up for match.com, which is another Freudian nightmare worth interpreting altogether.