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December 4, 2008

In which I am incredibly sappy. And later you may go into sugar shock over it all.

Last night traffic was horrendous and I exited the freeway and stopped off Woodman Avenue to get gas ($1.99 a gallon! Incredible!) and then I took back streets all the way across the Valley. I love this valley, I know it like the back of my hand. It's the longest I have ever lived in one geographical area. Before moving to Los Angeles the longest I ever stayed in one city was the four years I spent in college in Tennessee. Now I have been here more than a decade and I love that easy familiarity with all the backroads and shortcuts. You need them here, where traffic is sometimes so slow it's moving backwards in time.

As I drove through different neighborhoods I saw blue lights, menorahs, christmas lights strung in the formation of the Mexican flag, a house with nothing but white sparkly icicle lights (my favorite). I saw a man and his kids standing around a ladder with an inflatable reindeer. I think someone was tangled in something but they were soldiering onward, no reindeer left behind! I don't know why seeing all the Christmas stuff in stores and hearing Christmas songs makes me so pensive and maudlin and puddly. It's like this every year! I am a dork. You would think I'd become desensitized to it but alas. Dorkdom perseveres.

Christmas is such a strange time of the year. It makes you grateful for what you have and sometimes, for some people, it can be lonely. Or it can be stressful, I suppose, if you have a huge family and so many obligations and of course there is always traffic. This year I have planned well for the holidays -- I'm a planner, sometimes -- and I feel happy about my Christmas season. But it's always there anyway, this undercurrent. When you hear "Chesnuts roasting on an open fire..." and you get that little pang of blue.

Or is it just me?

I think it's so much easier to fall in love when you're young. When you're still young and fresh you haven't been washed over with complicated (and expensive) despair, you haven't failed so much. You still feel optimistic and hopeful and still believe in finding the right person, and you believe in happily ever afters. And Christmas is romantic and hopeful and only stressful because will you buy him a gift that says too much? Are you going overboard, are you too excited? You want to hold back and at the same time you want to rush forward.

When you're very young you still look forward to finding that right fit of a person who will Jerry Maguire you -- maybe we're an entire planet that suffers from Jerry Maguirism, more commonly known as "You Complete Me!" Syndrome. And when you're young you plan on getting married and buying a riding lawnmower or an SUV or a dining room set or whatever it is that symbolizes grown-upedness. And of course later you're older, you already have a dining room table, and you have to tell him your story and he tells you his and each person carries around a little shell, a little roadmap of where they have been.

I love listening to my parents talk to each other because they have been together for so long, through so many ups and downs that they're just so comfortable with each other and funny, and now of course they have this dog which is Their New Favorite Child. My dad is great in a million ways but mostly because he showed me by living example what great men are like and how men should treat women.

A few weeks ago a friend asked me to describe my Mr. Right and I couldn't do it. I got completely flustered. Of course like a lot of girls I made a list once a long time ago, I think it was a pretty specific list but I can only remember one thing on that stupid catalog of traits for Mr. Perfect: "Doesn't watch a lot of porn." (Clearly I made that list during Post-Divorce Year One: Dating In Freakangeles.) (This is a very strange city, my friends.) But I didn't say that one detail in the conversation, because really, isn't that sort of portentous that the single thing I can remember on the so-called List of Traits Mr. Perfect Will Have involves not being a porn addict? Even I know when to keep my mouth shut sometimes.

But I knew I had to come up with something to say about So Called Mr. Right because my friend was still waiting for my reply. Finally I just said the only thing that's true -- I want this alleged Mr. Right character to be madly in love with me and I will be madly in love with him. That kind of sums it up. (Oh, and it would be nice if he weren't a porn addict. JUST SAYING.)

Although I can't help but wonder ... does anyone fall madly in love after age 17? Or maybe 19? I can't believe this is me talking, the me who grew up in love with love, the one who used to think it was the only thing to wake up for each day. Apparently I am a pathological optimist in all areas of life except one... love. I'm not sure anymore. Maybe I'm jaded or maybe I've been so busy with my life and building my little dreams word by word that I don't think about the future except in terms of deadlines and vacations and when will I ever be able to afford a Jeep with air conditioning? There are so many great things about being independent and self-reliant that it's seductive.

It's easy to be alone once you know how, once you know you can have company any time you please (this is after all a wide and varied city full of people) but somewhere I stopped thinking about Love. Maybe I just gave it up to the Universe, maybe I just decided it was best to spend so much time focusing on my own improvement and health that the rest would somehow occur naturally. I honestly don't know. Or maybe at a certain age Love means something different, maybe Love isn't all-consuming and rapturous, maybe Love is someone who wakes up crazy early to call you one day because they know you'll be too busy to talk for the next 87 hours and they just want to say hello.

My parents aren't perfect, they get irritated with each other and they sigh with great abandon at each other sometimes, we're all very dramatic in my family with our facial expressions and existential sighs. But then one afternoon over the telephone, my mom tells me how my dad was concerned that the dog was cold so he let the dog sleep under the blanket. And it was just the way she said it, that little softness in her tone, where she's so fond of this man and you know that's real Love. Proof to me that the impossible never happens. It's out there, it just may look very different from You Complete Me.

Posted by laurie at December 4, 2008 7:03 AM