dating


Mr. T’s home is at the tail end of a row of horizontal condominium-type townhouses, snuggled within a housing complex.  The Homeowners’ Association rules state that dogs cannot be outside the house if not leashed.  Fair enough.

For the entire time he has been living there (nine years), Mr. T has blatantly ignored this rule.  When he moved in, he had a Sheltie named Morticia.  Although I never met her, I’ve heard that this wonder dog put Lassie to shame.  She was brilliant, well-mannered, loved cats, and responded unfailingly to Mr. T’s commands.  Because she was such a good dog, he would walk her around the complex without a leash, and nobody would complain (not even Crazy Cat Spinster).

Morticia died two years ago, just before I met Mr. T.  At the beginning of our relationship I introduced him to Morena, my wild child Terrier mix from the streets of Mexico, and she seemed to lift his spirits with her spunky personality and crazy quirks.

Morena is far from being the perfect dog: she loves to chase cats, she’s territorial (a defense mechanism from her days as a stray), and she barks at big dogs (wouldn’t you, if you were all of 15 lbs. and had been terrorized as a puppy?).  However, she’s also extremely loyal, unfailingly comes when I call her, can walk down busy streets off lead and stops at each intersection, and she can brighten anyone’s day when she grins or snorts (yes, she grins and snorts when she’s happy).

A few months ago, Checkers came on the scene.  Mr. T’s new puppy is a lovely mini Aussie, expensively carefully bred to have a mild-mannered disposition and a high level of intelligence.  Our two dogs took to each other, and at first Mr. T was happy that Checkers had a “big sister” to play with.

However, as dogs are prone to doing, Checkers started imitating some of Morena’s bad behaviors – mainly that of barking at other dogs when they approach.  We have tried to discourage this behavior in both dogs, but we seem to be at a loss for an effective solution.  I can tell that Mr. T is not thrilled with his dog’s new habit, and he blames Morena for setting a bad example.

As if this situation weren’t stressing the relationship enough (because the man can be quite neurotic about his dog), a few days ago Mr. T left the front door of the house open when I wasn’t around, and Morena ran out.  She smelled cat and instinctively chased Crazy Cat Spinster’s feline up the steps to the neighbor’s porch.  Crazy Cat Spinster threatened to lodge a complaint, and this morning Mr. T received a formal notice stating that if either of our dogs were caught off lead, we would be fined.

I apologized to Mr. T for my dog’s behavior and assured him that I would be careful to have her on lead when we were outside.  What the hell more am I supposed to do??

However, methinks my man has taken the drama a bit too far…

“I almost never had Morticia on lead,” he wrote in an e-mail (because apparently he was too chicken to call me and discuss this).  “Yet she was attentive to my verbal command at nearly all times.  She was trained quite persistently by me from an early age to not bark or show any sort of aggression towards other pets or children at any time.  [Even the neighbor didn’t have a problem with Morticia, who was always offlead at home.]  I have been working hard to train Checkers in a similar manner.”

He continued, “Morena has just been trained very differently.  She has been allowed to have a sense of ‘her territory’ that she is allowed to ‘defend’, and you condone and praise her somewhat aggressive actions at times, when it is justified from your more complex human perspective (for instance, if you, but perhaps not others, understand that she has no real aggressive intent beyond making noise).”

Because, of course, it’s really easy to make a street mutt understand that she no longer has to patrol her territory.  And have her comprehend that barking at 100 lb. Golden Retrievers is not kosher in the rich kids’ neighborhood.  And where does he get off saying that I “condone and praise” her actions???  Since when is a yank on her leash and a sharp “No!” followed by “Sit!” considered “condoning and praising”???

You know what REALLY irks me?  The fact that it was me… ME… who house-broke Checkers, because she was peeing all over the house and Mr. T didn’t seem overly concerned with her behavior.   He never even thanked me.

And something else.  I’m sure if you were to ask Checkers and Morena whether their lives are ruined because they now have to pee while attached to a leash, their response would be, “Leash?  Leash means walk!  Walk, I wanna go for a walk! Waaaaaaaaaaalk!!”  What it boils down to is that he’s projecting onto his dog his feelings of frustration and castration of freedom.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is this a case of “Dog snob who can afford to pay $1,000 for a perfect dog and looks down his nose at the less fortunate creatures of the world” vs. “Humanitarian girl who is doing her best with the crazy mutt she rescued from the streets of Mexico”???

I’ll leave you with Mr. T’s final words: “The priviledges of both Morena and Checkers to walk, pee, and play ball outside my condo offlead are now revoked.  I just want you to understand how we got to this point, and for you to appreciate why it is important for both of us to train Checkers persistently in a very different manner than Morena was trained in terms of the permissibility of aggressive behavior.”

*sigh*  I need a beer.

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For those who don’t know, Mr. T was sued by his crazy cat-loving, baby-hating, bikini-waxer, spinster next-door neighbor from hell, who claimed that the only reason the condo association decided to tent the building for termites was because of Mr. T’s unit.

See, back in March Mr. T took off a huge section of drywall and found termites on an exterior load-bearing wall, which belongs to the condo association. He immediately reported the damage and the condo association decided to tent. Moving out was a hassle, but all the other neighbors thanked Mr. T for pressing the association to take action. Crazy Cat Spinster, however, decided it was time to sue.

I received the lawsuit papers while Mr. T was in Italy, and I was rip-roarin’ furious! We tried to counter-sue her when we got back from our trip, but the coward skipped town and re-appeared the day before the trial, when it was too late to serve her.

We got the first indications that the day would go our way when we showed up at small claims court the morning of the hearing. The clerk asked Mr. T if he had counter-sued the plaintiff. Mr. T told him he had been unable to because she had skipped town, and the clerk asked if he would like to counter-sue her right then and there!

Of course Mr. T agreed, and the clerk told Crazy Cat Spinster, “We’re going to deal with this all on the same day. You can either go forward with the trial today or postpone until later.” WOOO-OOO!! Part-aaaayyy!! Crazy Cat Spinster had no choice but to agree to proceed with the counter-suit!

Word of advice to any nasty cat spinster neighbors reading this and plotting to groundlessly sue someone just because the justice system allows you to: Choose your victims wisely. Don’t mess with a Ph. D. who has spent twenty years at top-notch universities doing research and giving dissertations. Because if the man can argue a new scientific theory in front of a panel of highly-educated peers, he can certainly disprove your groundless, vindictive little case. I don’t think they have a Debate Club at waxing school…

If you’re ever in small claims court, here’s what NOT to do. She failed to provide Mr. T with “discovery”, a.k.a. all the documents she was submitting to court to prove her case. Then, when she was asked the reasons why she was suing Mr. T, she rambled on and on like a lunatic, whining and sniveling without ever making a coherent point. The evidence she submitted was pathetic. Imagine, she gave the judge pictures of all her flowers, to demonstrate just how much of a hassle it had been to move her plants during the tenting. Puh-leeeease!!

The judge was very annoyed by her incompetence, and before she had even concluded the presentation of her case, he cut her off to summarize her points. Then he let Mr. T have his turn, and my man creamed her! He had a five-section package of pertinent information, carefully labeled and highlighted, including case law, state statutes, and condominium rules & regulations.

Crazy Cat Spinster never once made eye contact with Mr. T, and were it possible to grow smaller and smaller with the refutal of each of her claims (like in the cartoons), she would have been no bigger than her ugly, mean cat by the time he was done with her.

The judge glowered at Crazy Cat Spinster and came just short of saying that she’d wasted the court’s time with her incongruent arguments. He ruled overwhelmingly in Mr. T’s favor, and my man and I happily left court hand in hand.

What started as a stressful morning turned into one of the most exhilarating afternoons of our lives as we celebrated this victory with a well-deserved lunch at P.F. Chang’s. To top it all off, when we got home and took the dogs out, Morena made a mad dash towards Crazy Cat Spinster’s mean ol’ cat. That’s my dog!!

God tells Adam and Eve that he has a special gift to give each of them. He asks, “Who wants the first one?”, without saying what this first gift is. Adam, always the eager beaver, lunges forward and yells, “I do, I do!!”

God gives him the first gift, which is the ability to pee standing up. Adam is delighted and runs around the Garden of Eden, peeing on everything and writing his name in urine on the dirt.

Eve watches Adam, rolls her eyes, and calmly asks God, “What’s the other gift?” God smiles and gives Eve a knowing wink, as he replies, “Multiple orgasms.”

I believe each person divides his or her life in “before and after” moments. As in “pre-September 11” and “post-September 11” or “pre-baby” and “post-baby”. Although I was only married for three years before I left him, I divide my life into “pre-separation” and “post-separation”.

I woke up the morning of February 13th, 2006 and crunched the numbers in my head. I had just over $2,000 in the bank, enough to cover first month’s rent and security deposit, plus groceries and gas for the month, and my part-time secretary’s wages. I glanced over at my sleeping husband, who hogged the king-sized bed with his big-boned, perspiring body. What I felt for him at that point is hard to put into words: pity, disgust, hatred, revulsion, and sadness are the adjectives that most vividly paint the picture of my despair.

Sensing my gaze upon him, he awoke. With the words “I can’t do it anymore”, I exhaled upon the house of cards we had both been holding our breaths around and brought it tumbling down.

A day later, on Valentine’s day, I lay in bed within my one-bedroom apartment. Once again I held my breath, except this time it wasn’t out of fear, but out of elation. Like a cancer patient in remission, I had been given a new lease on life, a second chance to follow my heart.

The adobe walls of my little oceanfront home have been a warm and embracing cocoon, silent witness to my emotional metamorphosis. Within them, I have taken minuscule yet life-affirming steps. I made my bed with luxurious chocolate brown sheets and a calming seafoam green bedspread, seemingly insignificant purchases which would have incited a debilitating battle of wills in my former life. I built a home office in the corner of my bedroom, headquarters of the business venture which financed my ticket out of hell. I filled my closet with clothes that reflected the new “me” – a stronger, thinner, more out-going woman who stood up straight and allowed nobody to put her down.

Next week will mark the eighteen month anniversary of the day I followed my heart. It has been a journey filled with the unconditional love of new and old friends, the roller coaster of professional challenges and triumphs, and the painstaking discovery of who I am now and who I strive to become.

I have decided to once again follow my heart, this time towards the man who so lovingly cradles it in his hands. In November, at the conclusion of the wedding season, I will be moving into Mr. T’s house, clothes, bedspread, office and all.

We were both hesitant about living “in sin”, not because of the religious implications (we’re not religious at all), but because of countless doomsday studies which have been pushed upon unwed couples. Yet, what makes more sense: getting married now, a scant sixteen months after meeting, or allowing our love to mature for another year?

Geographical boundaries have pushed us to make this decision, and I think we’re both ready. The butterfly is almost ready to emerge from her cocoon.

Mr. T invited his secretary and her husband for dinner tonight and I have to make freaking profiteroles and it’s almost 1pm and I haven’t started or even gone to the supermarket and I have enough work to last me a year and I’m freaking out and the house is a shithole and the dogs peed on the couch and how can two people make so much dirty laundry????

And how the hell do women with small kids and full-time jobs manage, anyways???

I want my mommy…

Or a maid…

Three funiculars leave from the Vanvitelli area of Naples, where our hotel was located, and descend the mountain in different directions towards the downtown area. As fate would have it, we took the wrong one and ended up a good three miles from the main port, where we were supposed to board a ferry to the island of Capri.

Mr. T grumbled for a while as we walked by the water towards the docks, but my happy chatter and the beauty of the city soon put him in a better mood. Who could possibly be angry in such lovely surroundings, I thought to myself.

About halfway to the port, I saw in the distance a funny-looking light post. As we approached it, I could tell that it was heavily marked with graffiti. A thick chain was wrapped around the post, and attached to it were at least twenty locks of all shapes and sizes! Upon closer inspection, we noticed that each lock had the names or initials of a couple. A few had been engraved, but most were labeled with permanent marker or even nail polish.

Mr. T and I spent a few minutes looking through the locks, wondering out loud about this curious tradition. We took a few pictures and continued on our way, so as not to miss the ferry.

“We should do that,” I told Mr. T, tugging childishly at his arm and pointing back to the post with the locks. My dear, sweet, but oh-so-practical boyfriend just grinned and sighed at the hopeless romantic walking next to him…

Several days later, I spent the morning alone in Naples while Mr. T went to work in Salerno. I was to meet him at the bus depot in the afternoon, upon his return. I wore my cutest miniskirt and a brand-new skin-tight shirt, thinking that it would make him happy to know I dressed up for him.

All morning long, as I shopped in an upscale district, I noticed the appreciative glances and smiles from charming, well-mannered Italian men. However, by the afternoon, as I approached the neighborhood where the bus depot was supposedly located, the crowd became sketchy. Appreciative glances became inflaming catcalls, and polite smiles turned into sinister jeers. The heat was oppressive, cars honked and swerved for no reason, and twice I stumbled on the uneven cobblestones. I forged ahead, knowing that in just a few minutes I would be safe with Mr. T.

I reached the main train station, where Mr. T said he’d be arriving by bus, and started looking for signs to the bus depot. Not a single marker indicated the location of the incoming regional buses. I walked outside and asked a kiosk attendant in Italian where the buses arrived. He told me to go out to the front of the train station. When I exited, I saw only two private tourist buses parked by the curb, loading Japanese tourists.

I found a police officer and asked him where the buses from Salerno arrived. He pointed across a large parking lot leading to the back of the train station. I started walking but the lot eventually turned into a row of warehouses. I stopped to ask a group of men where the depot was. They told me I had to cross the street. I did this, walked about five minutes, and found nothing remotely resembling a bus depot. I entered the lobby of a hotel, and a porter kindly took me towards a parking lot full of buses. My hopes soared until I realized the parking lot was devoid of people. Not a single passenger was boarding or exiting the buses. I found a bus driver and asked him to point me towards the bus depot. He gestured roughly with his hand in the general direction of the train station and barked, “It’s across the street.”

Frantic now, knowing that Mr. T had arrived 30 minutes prior, I started walking as fast as I could back towards the train station. A young man in a Vespa stopped and inquired if he could help me. I asked him if he could point me in the direction of the bus depot, and he told me that it was around the other side of the train station. He said in Italian, “It’s a bit far, why don’t you jump on my bike? I’ll take you.”

I smiled cautiously and took a step back. “Thank you,” I replied. “I’m not in a hurry, so I’ll walk.” I turned and took a step away from him. As I did, he leaned over, reached out, and in a split second… GRABBED. MY. ASS.

HARD.

It took me a moment to absorb what had just happened. I looked over my shoulder, my mouth frozen in a perfect “O” of shock and indignation. He quickly steadied his bike and revved the engine to leave, but I managed to give his helmet a hard whack before he drove away.

I stood on the sidewalk, one hand holding two shopping bags and the other clenched in an infuriated yet impotent fist. I knew I had to keep moving, had to find Mr. T, so I turned in the direction of the train station and started walking. With each stride, an inordinate amount of rage built inside me. My breath came in short, nasal huffs as I re-lived what had just happened.

Was I mad at the guy? Hardly… Yes, he was a creep, a loser, a pathetic excuse for a man. But these men are everywhere in the world and we must co-exist with them. No, I wasn’t mad at him; I was mad at myself! Why had I not fought back? Why hadn’t I clawed his face to shreds with my nails? Why hadn’t I swung my leg to kick him, as I had practiced countless times in karate? Why didn’t I hurl myself at him, knocking him off his bike in a tirade of rage?

As I approached the train station, I saw a group of blue regional buses, and next to one of them I spotted Mr. T, waving wildly. I walked to him, gave him a quick hug, turned away, and said in a tight voice, “Get me out of here, I want to go home.”

“That’s quite an outfit,” he said before realizing my discontent. “Honey bunny, what’s wrong?” he quickly asked, following after me as I charged into the metro station.

I tried to modulate my tone, but my words came out faster and more frantic as I relayed my story. “…And then the cop told me to go across the lot, and the guys at the warehouse told me to go across the street, and the bus driver didn’t even know where the depot was! The bus driver! How fucked up is that??”

“It’s ok, baby,” he consoled me. “You’re not the only one who’s upset. I’ve been waiting here for over half an hour, it’s really hot, and I couldn’t leave because I knew you wouldn’t be able to find me.”

At that moment, the dam burst. “WELL, AT LEAST YOU DIDN’T GET YOUR ASS GRABBED!!!” I cried, burying my face in his chest.

“Oh… Honey… I’m sorry that happened to you! Who did that?”

“Some asshole,” I muttered into his chest, willing the humiliation and rage to leave my body. I looked up into his eyes and whimpered, “I just wanted to look pretty for you, so I wore this outfit, but then all these guys started looking at me funny and saying stuff, and then I got lost, and then…” I buried my head back in his chest, running out of steam as his arms wrapped around me.

“It’s OK now, you’re with me and nobody will hurt you,” he reassured me. “If we walk back up this street, we’ll be in the shopping district in no time.”

I held tight to his hand as we crossed the street and started heading back towards civilized society. Every time a man neared us, I grabbed Mr. T’s arm and gave my best “don’t even think about it” icy-cold death look. Mr. T tried to distract me by asking about my shopping experiences, and as I recounted my fashion finds, we walked by a locksmith shop.

“Hey,” Mr. T said softly, nudging my hand in the direction of the store. “I think I know how to cheer you up.” We walked into the store and in faltering Italian purchased a gold-plated lock.

“We’re too far from the port right now,” Mr. T told me as we exited the store. “I have to work all day in Salerno tomorrow, so you’ll have to spend our last day in Italy alone. Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to buy a permanent marker, write our names on the lock, take it down to the lamp post, and attach it.”

The next day I walked down to the port, excitedly clutching a lock with our names on it. I reached the lamp post, found an available link on the chain, and carefully attached the lock to it. As I snapped the lock shut, an overwhelming sense of joy and love arose within me, squeezing out every last bubble of hate that had fermented inside me a day earlier. I gazed at the lock, more precious and meaningful to me than all the gold in the world.

I grasped the keys tightly in my left hand, closed my eyes, and made a wish. I opened my eyes, gazed at the horizon, and threw the keys into the ocean.

I just hope it’s not a train.

As if three 150+ person weddings over a period of 14 days weren’t enough to test my sanity, I am also suffering from a raging case of PMS. Damn you, hormones!! Mr. T has been in Europe for two weeks working on his research and giving presentations, so I’ve been in the company of two dogs and a computer for what seems like… forever. *sigh*

On the bright side, I found out this morning that my Italian vacation will include SCUBA diving in the Amalfi coast, sight-seeing between Naples and Salerno, clothes shopping (and shoes, oh glorious Italian shoes…), and lots of fabulous food! T-minus fifteen days and counting…

Mr. T says that above the bed in his hotel room hangs a HUGE painting of the Virgin Mary. Hmmm… Should make for an interesting religious experience! 😉

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