SZ Magazine, Summer, 2012, p. 9
I kissed a guy. We parted ways at the subway and I leaned in. It was a rainy April afternoon. I met him at the Museum of Modern Art and we toured the Music 3.0 exhibit. I told him I played Run-DMC on the radio when I was a disc jockey; he saw them in concert in the 1980s.
We sat at the bar in the café facing the street. I had the five cheese platter with flatbread and fruit chutney. Oliver said we Italians know how to indulge. I turned on a smile that could light up the room.
It took years to get to that kiss. I had a boyfriend seven years ago; he lived in New Mexico. I went to visit in the scorching heat and we browsed a mall. I peppered him with questions about the people who lived there. He thought I was rude, though I only wanted to get to know the locals.
Our relationship was like oil and water. I was silent on our car ride, and he criticized me about this. We went to Johnny Rockets for hamburgers and I flashed him a chemical smile, wanting to anywhere but there. He drove me to the airport two days later. Then I got the call: "This isn't working out."
I turned 47 in April. I recommend a midlife companion because women get bolder as we get older—it's a scientifically-proven biological thing. I met Oliver through a networking service for people with mental illnesses. He understands that, to others in society who covet normacy at all costs, we are damaged goods. So I can imagine his attraction to the Friendship Network run by the Queens/Nassau chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in New York City.
I'm kind of a reverse snob myself: I don't covet other people's approval, and I find comfort among those of us who've been down this rocky road. Oliver is a librarian at a law firm. I would meet him after work and we'd dine at Red Lobster, then walk around Times Square in the eternal noontime.
You can change your life, I told myself three years ago when I joined the networking service. It is technically not a dating service, yet you can specify that you want to meet a member of the opposite sex.
"It started with a kiss" was the theme of a friend's wedding and I have no doubt this is true. I got here because I was willing to risk rejection. It took time, yet I healed from the oil-and-water guy.
The point of recovery is to be in relationships. Because of the stigma, it can be hard to meet your love match, yet I hold out that hope for everyone. The New Mexico guy had expectations that I couldn't live up to; he endlessly criticized me for everything. I realized I first had to be in tune with myself before I could make music with someone else.
A greeting card I bought has a fortune cookie with this fortune coming out of it: "Who cares what everyone else thinks. Be true to yourself." The greatest good that I hope to achieve is to give others a wide latitude to express themselves too.
I make the analogy of a bakery line where you have to call out the numbers of potential love interests to see who comes up. You move on to the next person if the first person doesn't work out. It takes practice. It takes courage.
I say, life is short. Have the cheesecake.
Christina Bruni's website: christinabruni.com
Photo: Michael Sypniewski
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