The Greatest Heartbreak of All

Last spring, I tried to be a proper adult. I had it all: a great job, a beautiful condo in one of those snobby communities with a tennis court and a pool, the perfect yoga studio and a standing Sunday morning walk and gossip date followed by overpriced lattes at one of those places with sixteen different kinds of milk. In fact, I think they even served air milk. It’s the keto approved, gluten free, allergen safe, vegan friendly, environmentally sustainable, and consciously harvested alternative to actually wanting a latte. But, of course, ordering a one hundred and eighty degree latte with double air milk, extra foam, in small circular mug that has been warmed for five hours in a bath of 40% natural sunlight and 60% fluorescent lighting sounds so much better than saying “A coffee, please.”

I was so committed to this adulting thing that I even tried adding a boyfriend to the mix. You know, a good one, the kind my friends wanted me to date. The kind that I could take to brunch and introduce to my friends because, well, I actually knew his name. I managed to find myself the perfect man for my new adulting lifestyle. He was good looking, with beautiful blue eyes and a nice smile. He adored me, definitely wanted to get married someday, loved his family, went to church and was even building a house, by hand. He wasn’t quite my type, lacking the usual commitment phobic bad-boy criteria, but I thought I would give it a shot. If I can do yoga, I can do anything! Or so I thought…

Mr. Adulting was really trying. He cooked for me, he took me bowling but didn’t let me win, we went hiking and he brought a bottle of the wine that I had loved from our second date, he even hand carved a cute little gift for me. Things were going well, so well that in only a few months I had met his family, he had been to my best friend’s summer BBQ and I even let him spend the night. Everything was perfect. Everything except that fact that I secretly wanted to murder him every time he laughed. But, I understand from my married friends that this is normal. Adulting, yes!

Everything was great, that is, until we went on vacation. It was my mistake to invite him. In fact, that was never my intention. I had my vacation planned before we met, but in a moment of wine-drunkness (surprise, surprise), I sent him a picture of a waterfall and said “Isn’t it amazing! Don’t you want to come?” Big. Fucking. Mistake….. He came! I didn’t think it was possible for a person to book two weeks off and fly across the world from one text message, but these guys who are looking for marriage be crazy! They’ll do anything.

So off we went to Iceland – my favorite place in the whole wide world, the land that fills my heart and feeds my soul. We arrived and I was beyond excited. I practically jumped off the plane and ran out of the airport to take a deep breath of the fresh, cold, Icelandic air. I was in heaven. Everywhere I looked, I saw perfection. The rocks, the clouds, the moss, the lakes, the rivers, the waterfalls, and the mountains. Oh those mountains, the only thing in this world that is so overwhelmingly beautiful that sometimes when I look at them, I mean really look, I can’t help but cry. And that’s without even being wine drunk!

I tried to share my excitement and joy with Mr. Adulting, but he just wasn’t having it. Day 1 of the trip, I tried to understand. It was a long journey, maybe he was tired. Day 2 we went for a hike. If you haven’t been to Iceland, first of all GO!, and second, there is something about the air that even my best writing could not describe. It is cold, clean, wet and alive. When you breathe in you don’t just smell the surroundings, you take in the essence of the land. On my hike with Mr. Adulting, I stopped and I looked at the mountains, took a deep breath, and in utter amazement, joy and peace said, “Isn’t this the most beautiful place you have ever been?” To which Mr. Adulting replied, “Not really.” The fuck?!!!! And so, I dumped him. Not right in that moment, but the next morning. There was no way I could ever love someone who couldn’t feel the land that we were standing on; someone who couldn’t appreciate the beauty and mystery of this Earth.

The trip went on, awkwardly to say the least. But, despite my travel companion, I managed to soak in every ounce of Iceland I could get. Breathing the air, drinking from the waterfalls, kissing the rocks and of course gazing longingly at the mountains at every possible moment. But it was a long trip and while I was off sniffing moss and taking selfies with waterfalls, Mr. Adulting was getting broody. One day he decided he had had enough and would hitchhike home. I casually mentioned that there were buses, wished him luck and got on Tinder, because well, there’s more to ride in Iceland than horses. But this time, Tinder didn’t take me on any rides, instead it changed my life. Now how does a shitty dating app change a girl’s life? Well, the short version goes: I met a guy, who was in a band who sent me a song that I listened to. The ever so slightly longer version goes something like this…

It was the last day of my trip and I had just gotten a text from a guy I met two nights before. He said that he was in a band and would send me a song, and surprisingly he did. I waited until I was at the airport to listen to it, since I wouldn’t have anything better to do but sit and wait. Not wanting to leave, I decided to wait outside until the last possible second. There is a small grassy area outside of the Reykjavik airport where you can just barely see the mountains in the distance. I sat in the grass, looked towards the mountains and put on the song, not having any idea what I was about to be listening to.

The first notes of the song played and I was instantly blown away. It sounded like cool fog rolling over a dry and barren land. And then the singing started. It was as if I could hear the pain of a land that had been transformed by “progress.” I kept listening, thinking for sure this guy had sent me someone else’s song. There was no way some rando from Tinder was this talented. I listened and I listened, and with each note I felt transported to deep undiscovered places, it was like Iceland to the Nth degree. I listened as waves and waves of sound crashed against me, filling my heart and soul with images and feelings from places I had never been. I listened and I felt and I stared at the mountains and then something surprising happened…I cried. Not a big cry, because I know how to keep my shit together in public, but I had discovered something else in this world as beautiful as the mountains of Iceland, something else that could touch my soul and make me feel the things that I run from and try to deny.

So there I was, sitting in the grass outside of Reykjavik airport with a gentle tear running down my cheek, listening to the sound of lands I didn’t know. And it was in that moment that my life changed, because it was in that moment I knew, with 100% certainty, I could never really go home again. Not that I couldn’t get on the plane, because I did, but that home would never be home. California, my condo, my Sunday coffee dates, my perfect job, my yoga classes, my stupid attempts at an adulting lifestyle, they would never make me happy, because all of it was just a distraction from the world I wanted to live in. The world I hope we can all live in. A world that isn’t motivated by consumption, greed and the latest iPhone. A world that understands that nature is the ultimate beauty, power, heart and soul of everything worth fighting for.

I don’t know if I will ever get to live in a world that understands this, but at least now I know what that world sounds like. And while there is a part of me that believes that if everyone could hear what I heard the world would change, sadly, I think too many of us are like Mr. Adulting, blind to the beauty and mystery that surrounds us. Too many of us could look at the mountains and say, “Not really.” And that, my friends, is the greatest heartbreak of all. The heartbreak of a dying world.

Dating in France

As fate would have it, I have recently found myself in France. Not just for vacation, but for the next two years. And, in true Tina style, I threw myself into this with as little preparation as possible. No French? No problem. I got this… I had a grand plan. I would move to France, take 5 or 6 lovers, and learn all the essential phrases while making passionate love in a foreign land. My plan was perfect, except for one detail that I failed to take into account: I don’t like French men.

Now, as an American, I have long heard the stories of French men. They are passionate, romantic, and will sweep you off your feet with grand gestures, poetry and incredible sex. Personally, poetry makes me want to gag, but so does deep throating and I’ll do that for the right man. I got this…

But, I didn’t “Got this.” I still don’t have this. I’ve been here for almost three months now, and while my French is improving my taste for French men is not. I was hoping it would be like the white wine from Jura – a bit peculiar at first, but quite enjoyable once you get used to the nutty flavor. Sadly, this is not the case. In my limited research, I have found the men here fall into the following categories:

  1. Stale White Bread: Boring to begin with and only gets worse with time. Absolutely zero flavor or nutritional value, but you’ll eat it at 3am when you’ve had 10 G&Ts and forgot to ask the Uber driver to stop by McDonald’s on the way home.
  2. Shower Drain Hair: Just the thought of it makes you cringe. Looking at it makes you feel dirty all over. If you have to touch it, it’s best to use gloves, but even then the memory will haunt you for months.
  3. Mr. Moody: Always dramatic, everything is the end of the world. This guy makes man babies look like pro adulters. Actually, this guy might be closest to the stereotype, but only because he vehemently expresses how miserable life is with his poetry about catching colds, losing socks in the dryer and traffic jams.
  4. The Tour Guide: Possibly also quite French, this guy knows everything about the city, the region, the history and the culture, and he likes to talk about it… a lot. It’s not actually possible to connect with this guy because he’s too busy trying to impress you with his infinite knowledge of everything. Like the wine? He doesn’t care why, he just seizes the opportunity to tell you the longitude and latitude of where each grape was picked and what the winemaker was wearing during harvest. Like the cheese? He’ll tell you the story about how his great-aunt’s cousin’s wife’s sister had a cow that was neighbors with the horse that was owned by the farmer that sold a goat to the couple whose daughter’s sheep grazed on the property next to where this cheese was produced.
  5. Mr. Casual: I’m pretty sure these guys are universal. They’re in it for one thing and one thing only. This is totally ok with me as long as the expectations are clear and it’s good for both of us. What surprised me about Mr. Casual French Edition was he was offended when I said “No problem, but can we skip dinner and keep it to weeknights?” Oh, and he forgot that last bit about good for both of us.

So there you have it. Dating in France. Actually, the first thing in two years that has managed to get me off Tinder. I never thought it would be contempt rather than love that would finally pull me away from swipe life, but here I am, swipe-free for almost three weeks now.

I will confess, I’m not being 100% fair to French men with this description.  There was, in fact, one French man who doesn’t fall into any of the above categories. He was an anomaly.  He was able to not only stir my desires but crack open the locks on my bitter heart.  I’m inclined to say he probably isn’t French, but apparently his Frenchness dates back to the Cretaceous period.  Of course, having felt something potentially real for the first time since my disastrous heartbreak, I dramatically threw a scarf over my eyes and ran from his apartment at 6am only to go home to cuddle a baguette in regret.    But, that’s a story for another day.