Don’t Play Games with a Girl Who Can Play Better (Notes on Ugly Men and Relationshits)

Harv and I take turns picking Date Night restaurants. His choices are always varied and adventurous, a reflection of his refined palate. My two major takeaways from Harv’s fine dining selections: 1. An amuse-bouche is a one-bite appetizer the chef sends out before your meal, and it’s not okay to ask for extras “in a doggy bag for later” because you will get MAD side-eye. 2. If your server and/or husband offers only a vague description about a menu item, lift your hand into the air while consulting your phone. That’s the white collar sign for “Hold up. Let me Google this motherfucker real quick.” I’m not going to tell you what to order, but sweetbreads are not croissant-like pastries.

Last Friday, it was my turn to plan Date Night. I picked Hot Dog on a Stick. Not only were we able to enjoy dinner without the assistance of any utensils, but I also found a new dress while walking from the mall food court to the parking garage. I stepped out of the dressing room to show Harv, and he gave me a small nod. “You look beautiful,” he said.

It’s still hard for me to accept his compliments. And it’s even harder for me to believe that I ended up with someone so unlike any other man I’d dated. His differences made me wary of him at first. We tend to pick the same type of companion over and over again, not because that type suits us, but because bad and familiar can be more comfortable than good and unfamiliar.

Unlike most men I’ve dated, Harv has never been arrested, evaded arrest, incarcerated, on probation, on parole, or in rehab. He has never been addicted to drugs or alcohol. He has never sold drugs or stolen car parts. He has never killed or maimed. He doesn’t have a GED. Instead, he graduated as valedictorian of his high school and has two Ivy League degrees. He did not have a minimum-wage job, live with his parents, or share a mode of transportation with anyone when we started dating. He has never hit me, called me names, belittled me, embarrassed me, shamed me, or ridiculed me. He has never made me feel like an object or a whore. He does not swear. He believes in God. Most importantly, he never throws away craft store mailers because he understands that the only thing better than metallic embossing powder is metallic embossing powder purchased at a 40% discount.

Harv is a handsome motherfucker. That’s new for me too. I favored ugly men back in the day because I thought that they would treat me better. I stayed away from the pretty boys not only because I thought they would be womanizers and generally untrustworthy, but because I felt too self-conscious and unworthy for a handsome man’s affection. The ugly men suited me- they mirrored what I felt about myself, about my self-worth.

What I eventually learned is that ugly, stupid, poor, uneducated men are just as susceptible to bad behavior as the handsome, smart, successful, and educated. Actually, they may even treat a girl worse because they themselves deal with enormous waves of insecurity and doubt, and they project this negativity onto their partner, reining them in tighter and obsessing harder.

When things became sour and violent and bitter, these men would invariably blame me. I didn’t question their accusations. I asked for forgiveness and another chance.

On the first date with the last man I dated before reconnecting with and marrying Harv, I ended up at a bar. When I headed for the restroom, a male waiter followed me in, locking the door behind both of us. Before I had a chance to react, he reassured me that he meant no harm. In a hurried mix of English and Korean, he warned me, “I’ve never seen you here before. That man with you is not good. You seem like a nice girl. Only be a friend, not a girlfriend.” He left before I could respond.

I wish I had listened to this stranger.

When the abuse started, I was too afraid to fight back. What I find most fascinating about abuse is that eventually I became numb. It didn’t hurt as much. I cried less. I zoned out. Sometimes, I mentally reorganized the contents of my refrigerator during his attacks. I thought about my favorite rides at Disneyland. I weaved my way through It’s a Small World. I spun around in circles on the teacups. I stayed quiet. I let him do his thing.

And then one day, I opened up Myspace and saw a message from Harv. I hadn’t seen or talked to him for over twelve years since we had met as teens at a sleepaway debate camp in Oklahoma, but he found me. His note was brief and friendly. It broke me.

I suddenly became enraged, not only with the boyfriend who was treating me like shit, but with all of the ugly men before him, ugly both inside and out. My rage trumped my fear, and in ways I can’t yet talk about, I slowly extricated myself from that relationshit. I learned something about myself: I don’t like losing to losers. And I learned something about life: Don’t start a war you can’t win. Because I will find a way to fuck you up.

After I married Harv, I went back to this bar, hoping to find the waiter. I wanted to thank him. He didn’t know who I was or how I was connected to the man I was with, but to him, it was worth the risk to warn me. I didn’t get a chance. The bar had shut down.

Good man, I think about you often. I hope the kindness you showed a stranger is returned to you tenfold.

Ex-boyfriend, I hope you’ve learned not to play games with a girl who can play better. (I wish I could be there the moment you realize the truth about yourself. I’m sorry that you’re such a failure and that I actually have everything you only pretended to have.)

And Harv, when sadness was the sea, you were the one who taught me to swim.

____
P.S. A couple of weeks ago, I posted a picture of Harv on Instagram (@flourishinprogress) with  a line from I Wrote This for You: “When sadness was the sea, you were the one who taught me to swim.” The talented Kal Barteski created this amazing original work (above image) on luxe watercolor paper. She’s got some serious baller status skills.

P.P.S. Holler at me: Flourish in Progress on Facebook and on Instagram (@flourishinprogress).

Look How Far You’ve Come (Notes on Therapy)

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I’ve been going to Corner Bakery for their Loaded Baked Potato Soup once or twice a week for the past few months. Sometimes, I upgrade to a bread bowl for an extra $1.89. I don’t do it all of the time because I don’t want luxury to become my standard. Plus, all of the soups come with a focaccia roll anyway, and it’s really not that hard to dig out a little soup moat. I treat myself to these soup lunches on the days I go to therapy.

I’ve avoided therapy for most of my life because the whole concept seemed like a crock of shit. Still, I’ve gone on occasion over the past sixteen years. Many of those visits were part of different drug treatment programs. You have to go every day and act like you’re making breakthroughs, but really, you’re just thinking how many more times do I have to lie to this homegirl wearing all Talbots errything before she recommends my release. It’s never made a difference because I had no interest in sorting through my sordid past. Processing and transcending and letting go takes time and effort. Not only did that seem painful and unnecessary, I also believed that I had earned the right to harbor all of my rage and depression. They were my souvenirs for surviving, and I fucking love souvenirs. (A big shout out to my Disney lapel pin collection. You guys keep my lanyards looking fly.)

The only gift Harv wanted for our anniversary last fall was for me to find a therapist I liked and start going on a regular basis. At some point in 2013, I moved into Rock Bottom, and he could see that I had no interest in leaving. Actually, I was getting settled and quite comfortable in my new little hole, and every time I left and came back, it just felt like home.

The request came at a bad time because I had already ordered a Full Dozen Strawberry Medley from Shari’s Berries as an anniversary gift for Harv. Highly perishable items are extremely tricky to return…if you can return them at all. I said I would “think about it” which is basically a “no” in adult code language. He didn’t pressure me nor did he bring it up again.

A few nights later, I had a hankering for something delicious and ate seven of the nine remaining Berries. I am surprised by my own selfishness from time to time. This was one of those times. Shari, why you gotta make your products so delectable? It didn’t seem right to order another dozen, and I thought about blaming Cal but decided against it. I felt horrible and guilty so I told Harv that I would start going to therapy. I don’t know. It made sense at the time.

My advice to you would be to think carefully before putting someone else’s food into your mouth.

I am trying something new this go-round: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. EMDR for short. It sounds kind of creepy. Maybe it is creepy but it can’t possibly be worse than everything that I have ever done to myself because I, on a deep level and in a non-transient way, dislike myself.

EMDR is supposedly effective for people who have experienced severe trauma that remains unprocessed. It goes directly against the coping mechanisms I have become so good at- denial, dissociative amnesia, detachment. In each session, I recall traumatic and distressing experiences, and as I allow the memory to fully unfold, I am taken through a series of sensory exercises.

I can’t describe it more than that. I don’t have the right words and it sort of makes me sick to think about it. Poet Nayyirah Waheed’s words on love now cross my mind each time I walk through my therapist’s doors:

“like everything I’ve ever lost come back to me.”

Except none of my memories involve love.

I still go and I haven’t given up on EMDR yet, although I feel like I am being punished twice for each moment I recall- once by living through it and a second time by inviting it back to invade the small amount of peace I have gathered and stored. Everything that I have ever pushed out and ignored and left by the wayside is coming back to me.

Each time I leave, I call Harv. The conversations are most often about how lonely I feel. I complained about this loneliness for months. Just two weeks ago, it dawned on me that it wasn’t loneliness at all. It was grief. But since I had not allowed myself to grieve about anything for such a long time, the only label my mind could attach to the heavy feeling was loneliness.  I’m not very good at grieving, but I feel like it could become one of my better skills. Like scrapbooking. My scrapping skills are fucking legit.

“Sometimes just the act of sharing a painful secret can relieve some of the pain.” -Anonymous

I hope so.
__
Holler at me: Flourish in Progress on Facebook (I post a lot of quotes and thug shit here. Pretty decent way to waste time.) Instagram @flourishinprogress (me in a crop top, my crack house window, shit like that) Twitter @ElizabethJLiu (I complain a lot here.)

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For Better or For Worse

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According to a free online personality test, I am an introvert. An ISFP to be specific. Even though the site states multiple times that none of the sixteen possible types are better or worse than another, I am not happy with ISFP, so I will be taking other free tests until I achieve the desired result. I would prefer to be an intuitive, thinking, judging extrovert. Basically, I still want to be me, but just the exact opposite.
——

Welp, I just took two more tests, and I’m still an ISFP.

My problem is that I’m too honest. After an extensive internet search on ways to cheat the Myers-Briggs test, I distilled my notes into one Super Tip: pick the opposite answer. It seemed easy at first because my Super Tip was only one action item, but some of these tests have sixty questions. I guess I’m too wonderful of a person to lie sixty times in a row.

The Introvert vs. Extrovert typification is most important to me because I’ve always considered myself an extrovert. I mean, yes, I:

1. Become extremely shy in larger social settings and many (MANY) people often mistake it as being bitchy and aloof.
2. Like being with just a few close friends or alone.
3. Need time to recharge if I’ve spent the day interacting with others.
4. Go to the bathroom a lot when I am out and stay way too long in there because I enjoy the silence interrupted only by an occasional flush.
5. Avoid eye contact because yes, I
5b. Am shitty at small talk.
6. Start feeling lightheaded on Monday if I am leaving for a conference on Friday.

Now that all of these seemingly unrelated factors are in one list, I guess it’s pretty obvious that I’m an introvert. In my defense, I said I was wonderful, not all-knowing.

Maybe I wanted to be an extrovert so badly that somewhere along the way, I started believing my own bullshit. The same experience happened with my height recently. I’d never considered myself a person of vertical disadvantage until I stood next to some sixth graders. What the fuck are kids eating these days?

The one person who makes me feel completely at ease is Harv. That’s why I call him five times a day at work. Sometimes, the calls are necessary and important, but most of the time (like 99.9999%), it’s a short chat on topics I find most interesting at that moment- rap music, Tom Ford lipsticks, clothing care and moth prevention…I hate those fiber-destroying motherfuckers.

Harv has been especially busy these past few months. We don’t talk as much, but I often dial his number out of habit. I absentmindedly called him after taking the third personality test and a few minutes into our chat, I heard several voices in the background. He was on a conference call, but he told me to “keep going” with my story so I did. Less than a minute later, I heard more voices. He was on a conference call, people were in his office waiting for him, and he was on another phone with me. I offered to hang up, but he said, “No, it’s okay, I want you to hear about your day.”

I think….I think I don’t really care if I’m an ISFP. I guess I had to start with all of those words first because what I really wanted to talk about makes me nervous. It really blows my mind that Harv loves me at all. I can’t believe that someone so special thinks that I’m special and worthwhile too. He didn’t have to love me and it’s hard to love me, but he does it anyway. Not just because he’s a good person (he is) and not just because he has a lot of patience (he does), but because for him, since the age of 17, I was different and special and he never forgot me.

His love has allowed me to heal in ways I can’t verbalize quite yet, and I finally feel like I can accept myself just as I am because he reminds me all of the time that I’m a good person too and I’m going to be all right.

That’s what I wanted to say all along- I am awed by my husband’s love. Also, I hope he loves me enough to help me cheat on some online tests tonight.

Holler at me: Flourish in Progress on Facebook, @flourishinprogress on Instagram, @ElizabethJLiu on Twitter
So much not-seen-on-this-blog shit on these 3. Forrealz.

P.S. Grand Taxonomy of Rap Names Print WINNER: Rommy Delgado Coleman. Please email me at flourishinprogress at gmail with your mailing address.