A Game of Thrones top 8 list: Who done it? (Not for those who missed the royal wedding shennanigans)

If you have not seen season 4, episode 2 of Game of Thrones, the one with the royal wedding, for the luva God, DON’T READ ON.

OK?

OK. 

I’m assuming you’ve stopped reading now. I no longer claim any responsibility for any spoilers.

Since Sunday night’s epic Game of Thrones episode, I have wanted to talk about little else. My favorite topic of conversation for the last two days has been simply: Who done it??

There’s a whole list of people who want King Joffrey Baratheon dead–basically, everyone except his mother. I’ve compiled a list of the folks I find most likely to have poisoned the brat king. In ascending order of likelihood:

8. Cersei Lannister. Yes, I just said she’s the only person in Westeros who doesn’t want her son dead. but I’ve heard too many wonderings about her to leave her off the list. She would absolutely want to frame her brother Tyrion, who looks like he’s going to spend the rest of the season in the dungeons. She has less control over Joff than ever, in part due to his age and attitude, in part due to the fact that he’s the king and his asshole’ness has increased a billion, in part due to new queen Margaery. Cersei has previously declared that she wishes she had been born a man because women have no power, and she has enjoyed the power she’s had as queen regent. Margaery and Joffrey produced no heirs in the two hours they were wed, and in all likelihood, Cersei will regain the throne until her younger son, Prince Tommen, comes of age. (I’m very looking forward to seeing who is in charge next.)  Despite all this, I contend that Joffrey is the only happiness in Cersei’s life. It wasn’t her. Chances that she offed her son: 1:1,000

7. Sansa Stark. Of every name on this list, Sansa Stark as the most reasons for wanting the Prince of Death dead: Beheading her father. Joking about the murder of her brother ALL THE TIME. And her mother. Trying to witness the bedding ceremony for her marriage to a man she doesn’t remotely love or ever want to bed. Being treated as a general play thing in liu of a human being. Alas, Sansa doesn’t have the balls to do anything but sit there and look frightened. Chances that she offed her ex-fiance: 1: 600

6. Maester Pycelle. In The Game of Thrones, nothing is as it seems. I won’t go so far as to say Bran warg’ed in on Reek, who slayed the new king in secret, but I do think a left-field character is a possible assassin. I keep remembering the scene back from season one or two of Pycelle dismissing a whore from his room, to drop down and do some pushups or other exercise that made him look about a hundred years younger. After, he grabbed his walking stick and hobbled away like a cripple. Pycelle is a major yes-man, but dude is hiding something. Also, as a maester, he would absolutely have access to the kind of poison necessary to make you bleed out your eyeballs. Chances that he offed the king: 1:550

5. Lady Olenna. Currently my favorite character in the Game, Lady Olenna is whip smart and crafty. Hers is the only mind that could go head-to-head with Tywin, the man who puppeteered the Red Wedding from afar. As such, she would be able to orchestrate something as public as a wedding murder without being caught. Clearly, she wouldn’t want her granddaughter to wed such a monster, and she forshadowed Joffrey’s death to Sansa: “Killing a man at a wedding … horrid. What kind of monster would do something like that?” A sly admission of guilt? Perhaps. Alas, when Joffrey began to choke, Lady Olenna was one of the first to call for help. And she’s a power player. As much of a monster as Joffrey is, Lady Olenna knows what it would mean for her beloved granddaughter to birth his babies. Chances that she offed her grandson-in-law: 1:500

4. Margaery Tyrell. God, what kind of dread must have filled this woman as her wedding night approached? We’ve seen what Joffrey does to the whores Uncle Tyrion and Littlefinger provide. I’m not convinced Joffrey had any kind of sex drive whatsoever, a kind of  evildoer Sheldon of Westeros. I’m not sure of the royal rules of King’s Landing, but Margaery has said before that she doesn’t want to be queen–she wants to be the queen. When the king dies and the queen has not provided a royal heir, does she get to takeover? Alas, Margaery gets her smarts from her grandmother, and she knows that watching her second king husband die will not bode well for her. Chances that she offed her husband: 1:250

3. Prince Oberyn Martell. The man arrived at King’s Landing and declared that he was there to kill people. Seems a little too obvious for George R.R., but in terms of my list, this is where shit starts to get real. Oberyn’s beloved sister Elia and her two kids were murdered by Gregor Clegan, aka The Mountain, likely on Tywin Lannister’s orders during Robert’s Rebellion.  Elia had been hanging out in King’s Landing with her baby daddy Rhaegar, Mad King Aerys’ son and Daenerys Targaryen’s older brother. Oberyn swore revenge. Murdering Tywin’s king grandson would certainly count. Chances that he offed a Lannister: 1: 50

2. Ser Dontos. In the first episode of this season, Ser Dontos, the fool and former knight, and Sansa had one of the sweetest, saddest interactions in the Game. Back in season 2, Sansa saved Dontos from Joffrey, and he did not forget this kindness. While his family has dissolved into drunks and fools, he knew one of the last honors to be bestowed upon his family would be if Lady Sansa, the king’s kind aunt, would wear his mother’s necklace. During the wedding, as the Death of the Joff began, Ser Dontos did not miss a beat; he ran to Sansa and got all Kyle Reese on her with the King’s Landing version of, “Come with me, if you want to live!” Dontos is an underdog in all ways, and I’m not sure he’s smart enough, or sober enough, to consider the consequences should be be found out. Plus, when Joffrey began to choke, Dontos was one of two people who did not seem surprised. Chances the fool offed his king: 1:10. The other person who did not seem surprised?

1. Tywin Lannister. The hand of the king spent all of season two writing letters while, unbeknownst to him, a Stark girl fetched his water. A season later, Rob got stabbed, Catelyn got her throat slit, and Tywin continued to glare and look sinister. This kind of plotting is this man’s forte. Desperate to keep the Lannisters in power, Tywin would want his sniveling grandson dead before he could father a Lannister-Tyrell baby, giving a much smarter, much more beloved player–Margaery–a better hand in this jacked up game of poker. Tyrell clearly doesn’t care a lick for his family, as he wed Tyrion off to Sansa and betrothed Cersei to the Knight of the Gay Flowers, Loras–both to much protestations. To assure his family remains on the throne, Tywin would not want the weakest member to take the seat. Seven gods know Prince Tommon would be much easier to manipulate, both for his age and his temperament. Chances he offed his grandson: 1:3

Now, in the land of George R.R. Martin, nothing is ever as it seems, which means it is most likely that NONE of the above characters killed Joffrey.

Obviously, it was Hodor.

I want your thoughts in the comments! If you’re read ahead in the books, SAY NOTHING. 

Treat yourself as you would a date

A recent Humans of New York post recently got me thinking (as they often do). It showed a man standing with a bouquet of yellow tulips. The photographer asked him who the flowers were for, and he said “Myself.”

I love buying myself flowers. It’s such a sweet treat when my grocery bags have–in addition to milk, chicken, tomatoes, fish, and whatever else–a sunny, mixed bouquet.

I started to buy flowers for myself years ago. I passed the display, and they made me smile. Because flowers tend to do that–make a person smile. I wasn’t dating anyone, and I thought, “Why should I wait for someone to buy me flowers? I can add some cheer to my own kitchen.”

See? Instant mood lifter-upper. And, OK, these were not self-purchased, they were from coworkers when my grandfather died. But still. Cheer in a vase.

Thus, it started. I don’t buy them all the time — just when a bouquet particularly grabs me, or maybe if a friend is coming over, because there is no better kitchen table decor than some daisies.

I shared the HONY post on my Facebook page with the anecdote about buying flowers for oneself. And I wondered, how many people do this?

I know I’ve heard mixed reviews when I’ve shared that I love going to movies alone and that I love eating out alone. Some folks feel that others would look at them strangely or judge them. Some feared the silence that comes with solo outings. Others just couldn’t handle the discomfort of doing a typical “group” thing alone.

But I find eating out alone relaxing. It’s a wonderful time to read, and servers tend to be on their best behavior: attentive, without coming around too much as to be a bother.

The first time I saw a movie alone was right after a breakup. It was a flick I had planned to see with the ex, and I found myself with an evening after work where I did not want to be alone with my thoughts. So I went to see “The Mist.” It immediately took my mind off my own troubles as I became immersed in the story of folks with real troubles–those who found themselves stuck in a grocery store with a religious zealot inside and space monsters from another dimension outside. Oh no, which horror was worse???!!

Cheer! OK, again, from coworkers, when Jeff and I got married last year. Seriously, I have some awesome coworkers.

What it all comes down to is this: Flowers don’t need to come from another person. Dining out doesn’t require another person. A gal doesn’t have to wait to be asked for a movie. It’s perfectly acceptable–and, I say, desirable– for a person to treat himself or herself as nicely as one would a date. It doesn’t make one seem like a loser with no friends, and I promise, I’ve never noticed any weird pitying stares. (And if I did, I gotta say, they wouldn’t bother me a lick.)

But then, I’ve never minded myself as company. My brother wasn’t born until I was 6, so I grew up playing alone. I’ve always found companions in books, or in Barbies, or in coloring books. As an adult, I need solo time to recharge. The best part of my week is Saturday or Sunday morning, when I’ve woken up before Jeff, and I curl up on the couch with coffee or tea and a book or my journal, all with the knowledge that Jeff is curled up in the next room, asleep.

In fact, I’ve never enjoyed the time I spend with myself more than I have as an adult. The first full year I lived in my current hometown, I didn’t date anyone. There was no long-distance boyfriend to visit, no short-distance boyfriend to call up when I was bored on a Tuesday evening. Sure it occasionally got lonely, but more times than not, I enjoyed myself. I watched the movies I wanted to watch; I ate the food I wanted to eat.

Now, truth time: I wouldn’t go back to that for all the money in the world. Jeff has made me happier than I ever thought possible, but a major part of that happiness? We’re both independent people. Yes, we do most things with the other person–because what is a marriage if not the union of two people who enjoy one another’s company?–but we have our own friends, we’re content when the other is busy. We grew up into adults without the other. I find a deep, sweet romance in the stories of high school sweethearts who meet as teens change together, grow up together, become adults together. But there’s something sweet, too, in knowing that two people spent a chunk of their adulthood looking for the other, not settling for anything less-than.

My 31st birthday is April 14, and I took the day off work. I plan to spend the day with myself. I’ll probably go shopping. I might meet a friend on a lunch break, or maybe I’ll go with myself and keep working on the tome that is “Atlas Shrugged.” I might take myself to see a movie. I’ll probably go to dinner with the beau. (The party is the weekend before. A winery and Mexican food is happening all over Saturday night.)

What is your favorite solo activity? If you’re not a fan of any, may I just request: Woo yourself and buy yourself some flowers today.

 

The (occasional) joy of strangers on a plane

On my trip to Las Vegas a little more than a month ago to visit my nani, I found myself seated next to a slim, quiet man. Those two adjectives are a God-send for anyone who travels solo, especially this girl: For me, a plane ride is relaxing. It’s a time when I pull out my book or magazine and allow myself to become absorbed, coming up for air only when the stewardess offers me some hot tea.

After a few hours of quiet reading time, I found myself, for one of the very few times in my life, engaged in conversation with a stranger on a plane–and thoroughly enjoying it.

He was from Chile, and when he said his name, I’d swear he called himself “Drodrigal.” But when he spelled it, I learned it was actually the lovely, accented pronunciation of “Rodrigo.”

Rodrigo teaches English to grade school children in his home, Santiago, the capital of Chile. But, even for a capital, it cannot compare with what he sees when he travels the U.S. He was on holiday, traveling the country with his boyfriend, who lives in California. He was on his way from Chicago to Vegas, but he started out in New York. He loves the big cities, he says. He went to an off Broadway play and marveled over all the lines the actors memorize, amazed by the amount of talent he saw on the stage. Only two or three actors were in the play, each playing multiple characters, including a man playing a woman, which thoroughly impressed Rodrigo.

He blushed when I complimented him on his English, and he made me blush when he said I couldn’t be old enough to be married. We marveled that one needs a license to drive a vehicle, but anyone can marry or procreate at any time, without passing any kind of test or certification.

Santiago, Chile. It certainly seems to have a variety of geography.

The Plaza de Armas in Santiago, Chile

A train in Santiago, Chile

 

He loves his job, but it’s not a forever gig. The children, he says, are hard work. So crazy. He wonders how parents do it.

This was his second time traveling the country. His impressions of Americans, America, and English included:

  • We are cheerful and friendly. No one just says “hi” or “bye”–it’s accompanied by “How are you?” or “Have a great day” and a big smile. His village is small. Everyone knows everyone, and everyone is immediately distrustful of strangers, so this kind of friendliness is foreign to him. However …
  • … We are rude and clueless about our surroundings. He couldn’t believe the number of people he saw yawn without covering their mouth.
  • Hotels are fun to stay at because they are so clean. The maids pick up after you, and it’s nice to come back to a tidy room after a full day.
  • Even though he is an English teacher, there are certain things one can say that are rude, that a non-native speaker would never know are rude: He called a woman “lady,” and his boyfriend had to tell him, “You say ‘ma’am.’ ‘Lady’ is rude.” But Rodrigo found “ma’am” hard to pronounce–it comes out like “mom” when he says it. “Miss” is much easier.
  • He does not like to say “beach.” It comes out too much like “bitch,” which he shared at a stage whisper, and nearly giggling.

And now, a word-painting of this man: Rodrigo’s hair was thick and black. He wore it slicked back, but it did not appear slick or greasy. He wore thick black glasses he had to continually push up his nose. His tight black pants suited his slim frame, though the pants were a touch too big at the waist, so when I saw him walking around the airport, he was often tugging them up. He listened to Adele on his seat-back monitor and read the screen in Spanish. He wore white Sony headphones and had thick lips, perfect for smiling and kissing. His eyes were dark, which matched the rest of his black wear, and a his two front teeth had small gap between them.

This conversation happened Feb. 22, 2014. I wonder what he’s doing right now? Did he study me as much as I studied him?

An old-fashioned love story, an ode to my papa

Last month, I had a sort of impromptu visit to Las Vegas. When my grandfather died Feb. 1, my dad and aunts were already there. He had been ill, and they knew he didn’t have long.

Papa passed away just before the Super Bowl, and it turns out, Vegas is about as busy for the Super Bowl as it is for New Years Eve. This made plane tickets for his funeral $2,000 more than they would have been otherwise. Alas, I did not make the funeral.

Instead, I visited a few weeks later, to spend time with Nani. I have an aunt and cousin who live in Vegas near her, but most of our family is in Illinois. So after Papa died, Nani was alone, and she was lonely. She and Papa married when she was 18–he was 28–in December 1955 in Tehran, Iran. They met at a Bingo game at Nani’s neighbor’s home. She caught a boy’s eye, and he rushed home to tell his older brother about the pretty girl. He said, “If you don’t hit on her, I will.”

At the next Bingo game, Papa was sure to be there, to meet Nani. A week later, they were engaged. A week later, they were married. Nine months later, my dad was born. Ten months after that, my aunt was born. Three more aunts followed over the next seven or eight years.

My beautiful grandparents on their wedding day, 1955

My beautiful grandparents on their wedding day, 1955

When Papa died, he had just celebrated his 86th birthday. My grandparents had been married for 59 years. Nani, 77, is alone for the first time since she was 18 years old.

This is a simple fact, but my brain cannot comprehend it. At 18, a girl is not quite a woman yet. I’m not sure what it is that turns one into a woman, but I don’t think it’s marriage or a child. It’s something that happens over time, as life happens, as sadness and happiness transform and mature a person.

So for the first time in her adult life, my nani is alone. She misses Papa. For the past few years, he wasn’t doing well. He’d get lost in their small one-story home, unable to find his way from the kitchen to the bedroom, a trip that takes a dozen steps. This put a damper on Papa’s walks. He always was a walker; when I was little, he’d take me to the mall to walk. I used to run ahead like a drunk toddler, stop, check to make sure he was still following me, and race ahead again.

Christmas, sometime in the mid-'80s, with Nani and Papa

Christmas, sometime in the mid-’80s, with Nani, Papa, and my cousin Mike

Papa didn’t speak English well. Oh, he could communicate the important stuff, but for a toddler who just wants someone to take her to Showbiz (long before it was Chuck E. Cheese’s), Papa was my favorite playmate. Unfortunately, English conversations with Papa never went much beyond, “Hi, Papa!” and “Love you.” But he IS a grandfather, and grandfathers have favorite stories about their grandchildren. His favorite one about me went something like this: “At Showbiz? You said, ‘Papa, more money!’ and I said, ‘No, no more money!’” and he’d demonstrate how I’d move from game to game, checking the coin return, determined to find a spare quarter before I’d give up and go jump in the balls.

But he understood way more than he let on. My sophomore year of college, my parents moved from the Ohio home where I grew up into their Illinois home, where they still live today. They bought me a plane ticket from Kent to visit for Thanksgiving, and it would be my first visit to the new house.

A friend dropped me off at the Canton/Akron airport, and I saw that my plane was delayed. I wanted to be sure my parents knew, but calling them was proving difficult–I did not know their new phone number. I had two family phone numbers memorized; my mom’s parents weren’t home, so I dialed my dad’s parents, chanting under my breath, “Please be home, Nani. Please be home, Nani.” Papa answered.

“Papa, hi! It’s Jaclyn!”

“Batta Papa, how are you??” (“Batta Papa,” or “Batta Nana,” as my grandmother calls me, means “of Papa’s heart,” or “of Nana’s heart.”)

“I’m good! Papa, is Nani there?”

“Hmm?”

“Nani, is she there?”

“No, no.”

“Oh.” Shit. “Papa, I’m at the airport and my plane is delayed. Do you have my parents’ new phone number?”

“OK.” And he walked away from the phone. I had no idea if he would come back.

Miraculously, minutes later, he returned–with their phone number. Thus, teenage Jac learned that Papa was just pretending he didn’t understand what was going on. That man knew what was up.

Little Jac with Papa and obscene gobs of Care Bears. And a Rainbow Brite. And some orange camel thing on the chair.

Once, Papa saved my life. I shared that story with my nani on my visit, but I’ve never told another family member. We were swimming at a small beach, me and my cousins and Papa. Three of them were on a raft that Papa pulled, and I held onto the back, kicking my legs. I let go, thinking we were in more shallow waters. I could graze the sand with the tip of my toe, but the water level was just at my nostrils. I remember trying to flail, and thinking a 6-year-old version of “Oh, shit.” After a few moments, I felt an arm clothesline me across the belly, and Papa charged me up and out of the water, onto the sand. He didn’t yell at me, he just bent to look me in the face as I coughed and sputtered. I’ve thought about that a lot recently, and I wonder if he remembers this. If he remembered.

The last time I saw Papa, it was a happy occasion–it was my wedding. He wore big giant sunglasses, and we all joked that Papa was a rock star. I was the only grandchild he saw get married. In fact, as a 30-year-old woman, I had all four grandparents seated at the reception table with her parents. This makes me the luckiest.

Most of the Assyrians (the ones who didn’t run inside, away from the cold wind). That small boy with me and Nani and Papa and the Christmas tree? He’s the tall fellow behind Papa.

Papa was quiet through most of the event. I’m not sure how much he realized what was going on. But when the DJ started to play the Assyrian music, the kind you dance to as a snake winding its away around the dance floor, holding hands with your neighbors, we all saw his face light up. He used to lead those dances at weddings, but at mine, he just sat in a chair, watched, smiled, and bounced his leg while his son, the father-of-the-bride, took over and led the the strand of Americans, who had no idea what they were doing (including this one).

Clockwise from top left corner, me and Matt, the cousin who "talks Assyrian" with me; three of my aunts; my dad leading the Assyrian conga line (I'm sure it has a better name--I just don't know what it is). Note Joey looking confused. Or possibly in pain--Mom found a big sore on his toe the next day. We thing either Aunt Zharmen or cousin Ryann accidentally clomped on his poor feet with their spike heels.

Clockwise from top left corner, dancing with my cousin Matt; three of my aunts, who knew what they were doing; my dad leading the Assyrian conga line (I’m sure it has a better name–I just don’t know what it is).

In retrospect, I’m glad I visited Vegas when I did. A few weeks after the funeral, everyone had gone home. I got to spend a long weekend with my nani, talking, keeping her company. We drove to the cemetery and I got to say goodbye to Papa, and I got to hold Nani while she cried and told him she missed him.

Because he lived far away, it doesn’t seem real that he has died. Even while I was there, in their home, spending my days and evenings with Nani and not Papa, it felt like he was just in the back room, or maybe he was on the couch next to me, just out of my peripheral vision, watching John Wayne shoot people, or just in the family room, out of eye shot, playing solitaire.

During the final years of his life, Papa got religious. He’d pray, and he’d tell my dad, “Just in case.” He’d also tell my dad that he worried God forgot him. He was ready to go, and knowing that, it makes things easier for a granddaughter.

But I’m not so sure it makes it easier for a wife.

Jeff and I will have our first anniversary in May. Periodically, I think about what will happen when he’s not around anymore. What I would be like as a widow. How I would cope. The thoughts can’t come. I can’t imagine it. I cannot fathom it. All I see is empty. I see holes, and what once filled those holes was light and love and a piece of self that never grows back.

Fifty-nine years they were married. Five children. Eight grandchildren. An across-the-ocean move. But what remains?

A wife. Those five children, and eight grandchildren. That backgammon board Dad will take the next time he visits my nani. And memories, the kind that flood me when I see a little girl and her grandfather at the mall or catch a whiff of Earl Gray tea.

The best fashion from Oscars 2014

I don’t often watch the Oscars. I always mean to, but I usually forget about it until Monday morning when Facebook is full of “OMG, did you see her cleav??” and “Um, Meryl Streep/Martin Scorsese/Nicolas Cage was TOTALLY robbed last night.”

But I had a girl friend over this weekend who loves the movies, so I actually watched the show. And sorry, but the best part is looking at the pretty dresses. These were my fav:

Jennifer Garner

I think this was a dress that was made to be moved in. The photo is not doing it justice. When she walked onto stage to present, I got all giddy. So flattering, so interesting, so blingy. Yes.

Jennifer Lawrence

Why? Two words: That fit. The top looks as though it’s just part of her skin. Also, I hate peplum, but if you’re gonna do it, do it THIS way — with just a few pieces on the hips instead of a full-on tutu around your midsection. (See: Julia Roberts)

Lupita Nyong’o

So ethereal. She looks like an angel princess. That plunge is amazing. Her makeup is perfection. And she made a Blair Waldorf hair choice look elegant and demure.

Bradley Cooper

Best-dressed man. So classic. So yum.

Charlize Theron

I’m super digging the top. On closeups, you can see the clear straps, but from a distance, it just looks like the dress is made out of fashionable paper mache, in a perfect, awesome way. I don’t love the bottom half of the dress, but the straps/not straps make up for it.

Chrissy Teigen (AKA Mrs. John Legend)

I admit, I did not see Chrissy on the awards show, but when perusing Entertainment Weekly‘s fashion images, this dress stopped me short. I adore the pattern and color, and it reminds me so much of my Favorite Awards Dress of All Time, as worn by Lucy Liu.

And my absolute, No. 1 favorite?

Bette Midler, during “Wind Beneath my Wings”

The fit is divine. The pattern is amazing. Flattering, unexpected, perfect. If this was short, I would want it so I could wear it all the time. Also, she’s wearing the greatest bra known to man.

Runners up for favorites:

Camilla Alves (AKA, Mrs. McConaughey)

This color is amazing, especially on her complexion, and I kind of dig the one-sided cape thingy.

Cate Blanchett

Awesome, awesome texture.

Kerry Washington

THIS is how you be pregnant at the Oscars. (Not this.)

Which looks were your favorite?

Ultimatums are bad. All the time. Just say no.

Tell us about the time you threw down the gauntlet and drew the proverbial line in the sand by giving someone an ultimatum.” ~ The Daily Post

Giving a person an ultimatum is never advisable. Like, ever. Because the result of an ultimatum, 99 times in 100, is not a happy one: If Person B’s response to Person A’s ultimatum is, “OK, I will do what you’ve asked,” there is a high likelihood of Person B experiencing some resentment down the road. “I quit my job for you, and now I miss it, you bastard.” “I moved for you, and this place sucks, you turdball.” “I stopped hanging out with my best friend for you, and now I have no friends. It’s your fault.”

Meanwhile, if Person B responds to the ultimatum with, “Oh hell to the no, ho,” Person A is left having to either follow through–or not.

My first ultimatum came when I was in my early- to mid-20s, with Dave. (Remember Dave? See minion No. 2.) Things were not in a bad place with Dave, but I foresaw a future for myself where I would not remain in my town of residence. I did not see Dave ever wanting to leave, however. Though he was unhappy, he was rife with excuses that kept him put.

Now, I did not want things to end with Dave. I was happy in my relationship, which was less than a year old at this time. However, I did not want to be two years into things with Dave, ready to say sayonara to my city, and have a boyfriend digging his heels in saying, “I ain’t movin’, you can’t make me.” I’ve always been a fan of transparency in relationships, and I wanted Dave to know where I wanted to end up, literally and figuratively. And if our goals did not match, I wanted to split up before either of us got too involved.

So I brought up A Talk. You know, one of those discussions you need to have with a romantic partner that will likely shape the rest of your relationship. They’re never fun to have, but sometimes, they’re necessary.

I told Dave that I did not see myself living in our town for more than a few years. I got the impression his timeline was a little longer, and I wanted to know what he wanted two, three years down the road. If I left, would he leave too? Would he break up with me? Would he want a long-distance relationship.

Dave proceeded to surprise the crap out of me by saying, “Yeah, I’d move with you.”

Cue angel song and puppy kisses and rainbows shooting out of the windows.

Occasionally, over the remaining year or so we dated, this topic would come up. Should I apply for this new job I found out-of-state? Should I sign my lease again for one more year? Where would we end up?

Each time this conversation began, Dave would clam up. Radio silence. Pursed lips. Pulling his hand away when I’d try to hold it. Narrowed field of vision at any spot where I was not. “Did you change your mind?” I would ask, and Dave would invariably say no, he had not. But I could rarely get anything else out of the man.

When Dave and I split up after more than two years together, there were a plethora of reasons. Oh, the reasons. One of them? Dave never wanted to leave. Or maybe he did, but he didn’t have the wherewithal–or, let’s be frank, the guts–to go through with it. For months after this realization–that Dave might grow into an old man and die in this very same city he swore he one day wanted to leave–I was convinced he had lied to me. That early in our relationship, he told me something that allowed us to have a serious, long-term romance that was largely built on a big fat lie.

Today, I view things differently. I don’t think Dave was lying to me; I think he was lying to himself. I think he wanted to be the kind of man who up and moved adventurously, who left a lacking job and a tiny town for better. But as much as he wanted to be that guy, he wasn’t that guy.

And I was that girl.

And now I live somewhere better. And maybe, one day I’ll move to somewhere better again.

Today, I’m with a man who will come with me.

‘Cause he’s married to me and he doesn’t have a choice. Bless his heart.

The best love songs: Happy Valentine’s day, and all that jazz

I’m feeling kind of schmoopsy this Valentine’s Day. It’s my and Jeff’s first married one, and we’re going to dinner at the same restaurant we had V-day dinner at four years ago, less than two months after we met.

Granted, the day has never been one to bring me rage or make me roll my eyes. Call it a Hallmark holiday if you like, or a day for single people to feel grumpy — I’ve always found it sweet, even as a single girl. I typically send my friends something little (this year, I actually sent out, like, a dozen-plus cards) and find the sentiment of the day sweet.

So to “celebrate” on Curious Jac, I giving a top list of my favorite love songs. It’s certainly not an exhaustive list, but each of these has affected me in some way, at some point. (Click on the links to see videos.) In no particular order:

  1. “On Bended Knee.” Oh, my very first “song” with my very first “boyfriend.” We were in sixth grade and loving on Boyz II Men. We were young, but smart enough to realize that the group’s other big hit in 1996, “I’ll Make Love To You,” was a wildly inappropriate song for two 12-year-olds. So we choose the breakup song, which ended up being kind of poignant through all the break up-get back together-break up-get back together years. But the song still makes me smile. (Be sure you  watch the video. That is straight-up Lisa Turtle.) Best line: “You gotta believe in the spirit of love. It’ll heal all things. You won’t hurt anymore.” (And as you sing this, you need to clasp your fists close to your face and get louder with each line so you’re all but shouting by the end.)
  2. “Chasing Cars.” The sentiment is lovely, the idea that happiness is simply spending time together, wasting time, laying together, being in one another’s presence. Best line: “Those three words are said too much. They’re not enough.”
  3. “Careless Whisper.” Do not judge me my George Michael love! The sax line here is perfect, and there is no song on this list I’d rather have a sing along with, at the top of my lungs, no matter who is around. Best line: “There’s no comfort in the truth. Pain is all your find.” (Again, SHOUT that second line.)
  4. “To Make You Feel My Love.” I don’t care what you say, Billy Joel’s version is the best. (Adele’s is a distant second. Garth Brooks doesn’t rank because country.) This was one of my favorite songs in high school, and when Jeff and I were deciding what to use for our first dance song, my mom said, “I can’t believe you won’t use ‘To Make You Feel My Love.” Oh. Duh. I played it for Jeff, he teared up, we had a winner. Best lines: “I’ve known it from the moment that we met. No doubt in my mind where you belong.” “The winds of change are blowing wild and free. You ain’t seen nothing like me yet.”
  5. “Wildflowers.” I never heard this Tom Petty ditty until Jeff put it on a mixed CD for me a few years back. I love a man with a simple guitar line singing sweetly. My first listen made me tear up. Best line: “You belong somewhere you feel free.”
  6. “The Book of Love.” Again, the first time I heard this, tears. I stopped dead in my apartment, dust rag in hand, and just started sobbing like an idiot. Best line: “The book of love is long and boring and written very long ago. It’s full of flowers and heart-shaped boxes and things we’re all too young to know.” Just typing those last seven words gives me chills.
  7. John Mayer breakup songs. There are too many that affected my guts over the years to choose one. And sometimes a breakup song can be so much more poignant than a traditional puppy-dogs-and-butterflies tune. “I Don’t Trust Myself (With Loving You),” “I’m Gonna Find Another You,” “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room,” “Split-Screen Sadness.” Best line: “So I’ll check the weather wherever you are ’cause I wanna know if you can see the stars tonight. It might be my only right.” (from “Split-Screen Sadness)
  8. “After an Afternoon.” You know, I lied. These aren’t in any order, but this is my No. 1 favorite. Leave it to Jason Mraz to be better than everyone else. Like “Wildflowers,” we have just a man and his guitar. It doesn’t follow a traditional verse-chorus-verse format, which makes it sound more like a love letter. Best line: “Your rich brown eyes, your lips, and your dark hair, elbows, and exposed knees tossing toward your ceiling as we lay in bed.”

Share your favorite love songs with me as I raise my wine glass and toast you: Happy Valentine’s day, friend!