Thursday, January 21, 2010

Glass Shattering

Everyone knows about my obsession with How I Met Your Mother, and the fact that I would probably have Neil Patrick Harris' babies.. if he were into that sorta thing...but the main reason I'm obsessed with something that rivals my other love, Monday Night Football - is how much of my real life I see in its characters and their plight as they try to find themselves.

Your mid twenties is a scary, yet exciting place in your life. You're trying to cut your teeth in the real world, make a voice that's totally yours, and some of us... are still looking for that special someone, all while attempting the aforementioned feats... This.. is one of those stories..

My friend Brandon had moved into a brand new home in a sunny little suburb in Texas when I came to visit him last spring. It was a beautiful house, with a pool, and an entertainment room that would be any man’s dream. So imagine his surprise while sitting at breakfast the next day when I told him about my horrible night’s sleep.

“Your air conditioning must have woken me up a gazillion times last night. Every cycle it came on sounded like I was on the set of “Twister” and I’m not referring to Helen Hunt’s voice, dude. Sure once it got revving, it would blend into the background noise. But between the stark quietness of the time it wasn't running and the instant it would kick on... Well, the difference was night and day.”

Brandon laughed and looked at me like I was absolutely crazy. That is, until breakfast the next morning when he could barely keep his eyes open.

“What's wrong?” I asked

Brandon looked up at me from half-drowning in his bowl of cereal.

“I hate you,” he said. “You ruined this house for me.”

Turns out, he had finally heard it too. :::Glass shattering:::

I've heard the sound of glass shattering far too many times to count. It’s the noise you hear when you fall in love with a pair of jeans you saw in a magazine, and then you try them on only to realize they give you a ‘pancake ass.’ Or when you buy a beautiful car and can only see that scratch on your fender some a$$hole left at the supermarket one day. But the absolute worst is when you're out on a date, or even worse, beginning a relationship and you hear that sound.

Simply put… glass shattering is the kiss of death.

We've all had that one person, place, or thing that we idolized. That shiny new toy that we just couldn’t get enough of. It was the new pink, or the “best thing since sliced bread.” Whether it was a new car, a new city, new friend, or new lover… there was just something about them that only made us want more. Until someone showed us … why we shouldn’t. Through the eyes of our friends, family, outsiders, and sometimes even our very own, the object of our adoration is transformed into something we wish… would simply go away.

The trouble with glass shattering is, once you see the flaw.. It’s all you notice, all the time.

I remember one boyfriend who ate like he was from a third world country, which made dinners beyond awkward as I was often left eating by myself. Another date of mine couldn't put a complete sentence together if his life depended on it, or prefaced every statement he made with, “I’m just saying.” Luckily for me, his catch phrase was never turned into a drinking game, or I would still be in meetings. One guy didn’t let out a single laugh at my favorite Broadway musical. It’s not like he spoke another language or that the material sucked, or that he didn’t like musicals… he just didn’t get it’s social commentary and jokes, most of which floated right past his brain and gave him the finger as they passed. I remember thinking to myself… Was he REALLY that dense? And after surveying the guests around me, half of whom didn’t understand a lick of English… and were still laughing.. I came to a sad conclusion.

Yes, yes he was.

I was beginning to think there was something wrong with me. Maybe my perception of things was totally off. Maybe I was making mountains out of molehills, and DD’s out of bee stings. But when I asked my guy friends over some beers and basketball, if they had ever heard “the noise,” they all shuddered in unison.

“Dude…What about that one girl’s laugh? Seriously, this laugh that made me wonder if Woody Woodpecker and Fran Drescher had a secret lovechild.”

Or the buddy who told me about a date he went on where the girl did nothing but flare her nostrils the entire time, like a bull ready to charge some poor drunk dumb enough to run with them. It was all he could stare at, even three sake bombs later.

“What about the really sloppy “I love me some Scotch and know way more about sports and fast cars than you do’ girl?” one of them chimed in.

The table grew very silent, and I felt all eyes turn in my direction.

“WHAT?” I asked indignantly. The table erupted into laughter. “Moving along, nothing to see here… Hey bartender… would you mind turning the sound down on the game???”

“WHAT?... Jenn Sterger wants the volume of the basketball game turned down?” my buddy asked mockingly. “What is this world coming to?”

“Well, it’s not that I don’t like basketball, or even Brent Musberger’s announcing abilities. We know I have nothing but love for Brent, but…. The noise.. the sneakers against the court, the whistles… it’s like someone called the Pied Piper and his mice to happy hour.”

My friends all paused and listened intently. “UGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGH,” they moaned. “Thanks Sterg, you just ruined basketball for us.”

My bad. But at least our convo had shown me, that maybe I wasn’t the only one casting stones.

Why is it we try to spend so much time changing someone or learning to accept them? Maybe we are holding ourselves and the rest of world to much too high of a standard. Or maybe there are too many people out there compromising for something that isn’t quite right for them, just for the sake of not being alone. So they invest themselves in a relationship that wasn’t a good fit from the start, and find those flaws harder and harder to look away from until even the blindest of eyes realizes it’s never going to get better. It’s like that scene in Austin Powers… a mole, is a moleeeee… is a moleeeeeeeeeeeeee. It’s not going away any time soon. You can either accept a person’s quirks and flaws, or do one better… and possibly find that one person that finds our flaws and their rough edges beautiful.

When I found myself back in the dating game most recently, I tried to put the dreaded “noise” where it belonged.. in the background at one of my favorite restaurants. As I sat across the table from him, I didn't analyze his every move, or the way he ate his food, or his laugh.

And then..


My eyes grew like a baseball right before batter makes contact at home plate. Did I REALLY just hear THAT? Just when I thought things were going well..

Then, I saw it. The new trainee, nervously brushing up the broken pieces of an empty margarita glass as her trainer looked on in frustration. I half laughed, not at her misfortune, but just the irony. Turns out, maybe you can still hear glass shatter and have a good night. My mind returned to the conversation already in progress… I found myself laughing at his jokes, and smiling back at one of the first genuine smiles I had seen in a long time.

After some amazing food, we said our goodbyes and I left him with a nonchalant kiss on the cheek. Always leave them wanting more, I say.

I turned and began to walk down Fifth Avenue with a huge grin on my face. Mid stride down the block, I stopped, closed my eyes, and took in the world. While I heard all the bells, and horns, and many sounds the city makes in the night.. the one noise I dreaded most was MIA. Hmm. Maybe this one had potential. I turned around and looked down Fifth Ave. He was still standing there. Smiling right back at me.

I beamed, but quickly spun around and continued my walk.

Damn it, it woulda been so much cooler had I not looked back.