It’s Valentine’s day and I’m blocked. I don’t know what to write.
Happy Valentine’s Day, by the way.
I don’t think I’ve ever had a boyfriend on Valentine’s day. I had a husband for a few of them, but we didn’t really do anything. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever had sex on my birthday either. Or a date on New Year’s eve. My relationships tend to work their way around the commercial holidays. Like me, they refute labels and dislike being defined.
As a self-identified label-refuter, that’s fine with me.
I’m making you valentine, but it’s taking a little longer than I expected.
I have been trying on all sorts of ideas. Cooking. Making cheese. Bugs as a culinary delight. Adopting a dog with a permanent tilt in his neck. Dating in Alaska. Drinking summer drinks in the middle of winter. I’ve been thinking about the difference between naked and nude.
Naked is honest. It’s vulnerable. It holds nothing back and pushes nothing forward. It stands strong in the whatever it is with nothing to prove.
Nude is softer. It’s seductive. It’s flavored. A well-wrapped gift.
Naked is black coffee.
Nude has a little cream.
Naked is a raw.
Nude is slightly steamed.
Naked is brutally honest.
Nude is a finessed truth.
Naked is in the eyes, glassy, simple, open.
Nude is in the lips, slightly parted, faintly smiling.
Nude has a secret. Naked has none.
My friend Obidiah comes over for coffee often. It’s turned into a weekly event.
This week, sitting in my yellow chair, he announces that he took a gig as a supernumerary actor in some modern opera at BAM. He did it for the money. And because he’s bored and under-employed with nothing better to do.
“I was stinking drunk when I got the email,” he says. “I didn’t read it through before I said yes.”
“Well, the director’s a super nice guy. He wants us to do yoga in one scene. I spent a four-hour rehearsal on my head.”
“Impressive.” I can’t do headstands without a wall.
“Yeah, and – so it turns out… we’re on stage naked. Doing yoga.”
“On your head?”
“How many seats in the theater?”
“I don’t know. A lot.”
“Don’t hurt yourself.”
“So the guys in the dressing room –
“You mean ‘undressing room.'”
He dives into his coffee, which he drinks black, without finishing the story.
Back when I used to think that the right relationship would complete me, when I yearned for someone to love me with the abandon of a handsome Hollywood movie stalker, I’d look at older couples sitting across from each other, reading their papers, drinking their coffee, not saying a word.
I didn’t want that. I didn’t ever want to be bored with my lover, or run out of things to say.
Familiarity breeds contempt, I thought.
And then, I concluded that all relationships are limited, which is why it’s good to have a diverse posse of friends, in addition to a lover, to fill in the gaps.
My life philosophy evolved further. There was my relationship with myself. I found hanging out with myself a great amusement. Often I make myself laugh. Sometimes I surprise myself. And once in a while I do really nice things for myself, though I’m hard to predict. It’s always good to be with someone who enjoys your company. And if it’s you, so much the better. It’s like having a built-in best friend.
And then I got a dog. She’s my other best friend. We spend a lot of time together and we don’t always see eye to eye. We speak a different language, though we strive to understand each other. And sometimes I sit here and fill up the space in my day writing love letters to you, and she stares at me from a patch of sunshine on the floor and we don’t have to say anything at all.
But, it’s nice to know she’s around. I’m pretty sure she feels the same way about me.
That older couple, the two who sit across from each other not talking, I see them differently now. Their relationship is not naked, sharp, or passionately honest. It’s nude, comfortable, rounded at the edges, tousled like sea glass. It’s easy.
I like easy.