August 12, 1999
I wanted to try it out. You know, take the old b-word out for a spin in a totally non-threatening environment where I didn't know anyone and, therefore, could be neither mocked nor held accountable.
The b-word doesn't exactly roll off my tongue. No, it generally comes out in a halting, raspy fashion, catching in my throat and hitting the air heavy as a suitcase. Still, I had to give it a try, so I went looking for any conversational opening in the anonymous haven of a doctor's waiting room.
"Oh, your son plays soccer? My boyfriend plays ultimate Frisbee on a team in the Valley," I say, and the word comes out sounding a little 1950s, but not so bad.
"You're from New York? My boyfriend is from New York. You breathe air? My boyfriend breathes air." I was on a roll.
These are the kind of inane concerns that have overtaken my mind lately. This "beginning of a relationship" thing is like standing on a dock and watching all of your life's usual preoccupations sail away. You wave to them now and again, bidding an unenthusiastic goodbye to your friendships, hobbies, career. They're still there, just drifting farther into the horizon until you're left with only a clear view of the person holding your hand, the person who may or may not be your b-word but who has suddenly taken over your life.
"Strasser, what is going on with your last couple of columns?" read a recent e-mail from a fan. "You've lost your edge."
I'm not sure I had an edge to begin with, but I do know I have a habit of marking a mundane phrase with the note "**replace with something funny**," a task I didn't get around to on several recent occasions, leaving a clunky sequence of words to sit there and pretty much stink up the joint. And I just didn't care.
I found myself apologizing to my editor for my less-than-stellar efforts, mumbling something about, "I've kind of started seeing someone and I've lost all desire to do anything else."
"Yes," he replied. "You're in relationship haze."
The diagnosis with accompanying catch phrase was comforting. I asked him if it was going to ruin me, and he calmly answered, "Yes, until you get over your happiness and pick up the pieces of your broken life."
One minute, I was disgusted by couples exhibiting public displays of affection in front of me in line at the bagel shop. The next, I was acting like part of some God-awful movie montage, all giggles and private jokes and glasses of red wine and nicknames.
It's enough to make you sick if you aren't a participant. And if you are, it's enough to make you confused about why exactly it is that you used to care so much about everything else in your life.
The relationship haze isn't all flowers and love notes. In fact, the most distracting parts are the long talks about, "Where is this going?" and, "Are you OK, your voice sounds funny?" and, "Am I your boyfriend?" Factor in the occasional two-hour phone fight about some ridiculously petty misunderstanding, and you've got yourself one very busy schedule filled with absolutely nothing.
I'm also logging quite a few mental hours on future-projecting, that odd pastime that has my brain mentally morphing mine and his gene pools to see what the kids would like look and wondering if that unusual sound he makes when he chews is going to drive me nuts when we're 50.
There are times when I just want the whole thing to go away. Some mornings, I wake up, feeling like Greta Garbo is trapped in my chest, screaming her famous quote, "I want to be alone...I just want to be alone."
You're probably overwhelmed just reading about all these shenanigans. And I haven't even gotten to the commute.
"Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it," says the Song of Songs. But what about the westbound 10 during rush hour with the glare of the setting sun shining right in my eyes for 40 minutes? I think traffic and a geographically undesirable mate may be more of a deterrent to love than a flood ever dreamed of being.
As jarring as it is to be pulled away from my usual routine and my standard repertoire of daily thoughts, sometimes I think that's the most appealing part of starting a relationship.
Whether this lasts or it doesn't -- and, in my case, the odds are, quite frankly, that it won't -- this last couple of months have been a complete escape. I may feel bad about the aspects of my life that haven't been attended to, but, in a way, I also relish the break. My old set of worries will be right there where I left them when this guy either slides comfortably into the role of b-word or becomes just another ex-almost-b-word.
**Replace with poignant ending**
Teresa Strasser is a twentysomething contributing writer for The Jewish Journal.