white knights

White knights don't help anyone. In fact, they just make things worse. They think they're supporting, but really they're just enabling. They're enabling the shitty behavior and the complete lack of self-awareness that got the blogger into trouble in the first place. It's such a boring fucking cycle.

1. Blogger says/does something stupid/offensive.
2. Critics* criticize.
3. White Knights charge in. "Leave our Blogger in Distress alone, you bullies!"
4. Critics, knowing full well the difference between bullying and criticism (being rational adults), roll eyes.
5. White Knights pat Blogger in Distress on the back. "You're great! Ignore those meanies!"
6. Blogger in Distress sniffles, accepts hanky, thanks White Knights.

or, even more delightful:

3. White Knight charges in, says something snarky either directly to a critic, or in reference to some previous criticism.
4. Blogger in Distress snickers and verbally high fives White Knight. More White Knights pile on, snickering. Blogger in Distress watches quietly, and her silence registers as clear, tacit approval.
5. Critics, Observers, and lots and lots and lots of Lurkers marvel at the kindergarten scene that has just played out before them.

Seriously. Grow the fuck up. You want to be supportive of a blogger you think is getting an unfair rap? Email her your encouragement. Message her privately. Pay her the respect of allowing her to defend herself like an adult. You are not doing her any favors, trust me.

And bloggers? Do you know what these white knights look like, to everyone but you? Minions. Lackeys. They're your Crabbes and your Goyles. Goons. Knee-jerk defending you because...who the fuck knows why. Maybe their intentions are good. Maybe they're misguided. Doesn't matter. They are making you and your readers look like a clique of sandy-headed ostriches.

Learn how to accept criticism with grace. Stop refusing to even consider it. More often than not, it is much more nuanced than you want to admit. Face it and distill what is useful. It will not kill you to do so. Stop egging on your white knights, because it is disgusting and pathetic. Don't allow your comment sections and Facebook pages and Instagram galleries to become free-for-alls. Step in calmly and maturely and MODERATE the discussions you claim to love.

And remember: YOU are the common denominator, in all criticism of you. You and your choices, your words, and your actions. That criticism is there for a reason. And believe it or not, it's an opportunity.

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* Incidentally, all your Critics started out as Observers, aka Readers, aka potential Fans. If they become Critics, you have only yourself to blame.

schmooping

I'm temporarily over Halloween. I love the scene, I love seeing the costumes of others, but I'm lousy at thinking of my own, much less actually putting them together. And I feel a little silly doing the sexy-whatever thing, unless it has some clever component. So I'm relieved to have a break this year - instead of going out on Thursday, we're going to see Empire of the Sun. I splurged and got us orchestra pit tickets, because the glimpses I caught of them from way in the back of the tent at Bonnaroo this year were just amazing. I want to be up close for the spectacle. There's a chance I'll give in and throw on a tutu, partly to make a C+ effort towards dressing up, but mostly to carve out some extra personal space (trick I learned at EDM festivals; works like a charm). But I'd be perfectly happy just sweating it out in a tank top and jeans. Really, really excited for this show.

---

After much consideration, I've decided on code name LeBoyf, to designate his significant otherness from here on out. Jesus, Ellie, LeBoyf? Really? Yes, really. Because it is so completely dumb and amuses me greatly, and because it is the perfect OMGironic way to suggest that his Frawnchness is in any way a big deal, which it is not, because in truth the only time we even parlez francais is in crowded elevators, for the lolz (okay maybe a little bit in private too, because come on). It is nevertheless exciting to me to actually have someone special in my life, who is perfectly okay with being written about*, and he deserves a better blog call sign** than just a fake name. And that would be pointless anyway, since we decided fuck it, where being public on social media is concerned.

---

There's not much that gives me warmer fuzzies than when my friends meet my SO and they hit it off. He's met a handful of my friends over the past few weeks. And oh man, when they make a point to take me aside and tell me how much they like him, specifically because of how they see him treating me, I just feel cellular-level happiness, I swear. It's one thing when I rave about him, but when the people who mean the most to me give him the stamp of approval - that just feels like a giant puzzle piece snapping into place, yanno? And as to how it's been for him - he said it was like meeting my family.

:)

---

We went to IKEA, aka Where Relationships Go To Die, yesterday (I still limping and on one hour's sleep - and yes, I'd like extra points for both of those). And about the most tense things got was when I lectured him on the evils of overly matching furniture (because I am an expert, doncha know). And it wasn't so much tension, even, as me being indignant and know-it-all and him just sort of cocking his head at me in confusion, the way Chaucer does when I say a word he doesn't understand. What you mean, identical upholstery is tacky? I no understand, human.

Anyway, I'm happy to report that neither our relationship, nor any of the small children I'm convinced were placed in the aisles as spike strips for the injured chick, died.


I found the cheese at the end of the rat maze, and he found the source of the spike strip-kids' fructose-fueled hyperactivity. 
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I think I finally figured the Twitter thing out - how to enjoy it, both as a reader and as a writer-of-tweets. Yeah. That shit is pretty fun, after all. After spending a couple months reading some hilarious, absurdist, and seriously clever stuff, I'm trying my hand at joining in the fun. So forgive me if I overdo it. I just get stupidly excited when someone (I deem) cool likes something I write (e.g., a contributing writer for SNL faved a few of my tweets and I immediately texted my BF to brag, because I am a sad, sad human), and thus take it as encouragement for my goofy sense of humor.

UPDATE: Holy crap. @midnight (account for the new Chris Hardwick show) started following me tonight, based on my contribution to their trending hashtag, I guess? BASICALLY I AM NOW WINNING AT LIFE is what I'm saying, so just, you know, remember who you're talking to. #patheticmomentsofsocialmediaglory

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Haha, total fail on doing much of anything other than schmooping. I'm sorry. But hey, want some hot music tips? Here's some stuff I've been into latey:

Chad Valley (Shell Suite, Shapeless)
Sarah Jaffe (Clementine, Vulnerable)
Ki Theory (Bat Penatar) (hat tip: LeBoyf)

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* I'll never forget his face when he was describing having read one of the first posts (can't remember which/where/what) I'd written about him. He said he had to stop every few lines, because it was so intense to read such complimentary things about himself. He said it was like I'd written the ultimate love letter and then shared it with the world. (!)

I've since enacted a strict-ish no-read-the-blog rule, for various reasons. He knows if there's something I want to share with him, I'll do so, and otherwise trusts me and wants me to feel free to carry on bloglife as usual. Which I am trying.

** Hat tip: Sarah

Accountability

Accountability knocked hard on the door, but The Victim refused to answer. "Go away!" she cried, and stuffed her fingers in her ears. She looked with satisfaction at the arsenal of excuses that lined the shelves of her room. "I don't have to come out if I don't want to!"

"No you don't," replied her visitor. "Nor do we have to come in." And off he walked, hand in hand with Integrity, in search of another opportunity.

the new normal

Every time on Instagram that I do the thing where I apologize for not being around, for not being up to date on everyone else's pics and goings-on, one or another of The World's Most Kickass Blog Readers basically tells me to shut up. That it's not necessary. That it's my right to have and enjoy an offline life.

And I appreciate that so much. But I still feel compelled to talk a little bit (more) about why I've put out a whopping two (2) posts this entire month. Because it isn't just that I've been in a whirlwind of distraction and excitement, romantically. There've been other reasons, as well.

For one thing, there's the matter of my foot. Which is still healing. So very, very, very slowly. So slowly, in fact, that I worked myself up into a lather of worry and frustration, convinced there was something wrong. That it hadn't healed correctly, or that, for some crazy reason, I'd been misdiagnosed. I even very seriously entertained the thought that my X-ray had been mixed up at the lab with someone else's.

That kind of thinking isn't like me. I'm neither a hypochondriac nor a conspiracy theorist. I just thought that once I was cleared to start putting weight on my foot, I'd bounce back to normalcy quickly. This hasn't been the case, at all. I'm still limping, badly, and in pain.

And being an active and generally impatient person, this has been an extremely emotionally trying time for me. To not be able to run, or chase Chaucer. To not be able to go dancing or exploring or wandering around, just taking pictures. To not be able to play and jump and goof around with my amazing new boyfriend (yes, it is official, and the terminology has been approved). I became more and more depressed and withdrawn and scared, and by the time I made an appointment to see the ortho again - for which I had a nearly two week wait - I was beside myself. Truly a wreck. So the last thing I felt inclined towards was anything creative. Writing, blogging, photography - it all fell by the wayside as my thoughts were consumed with doomsday scenarios.

(Meanwhile, the boyfriend did everything in his power to console, reassure, support, distract, and generally love on me while I waited to get some answers. On my worst day, he showed up at my door with a venti macchiato in one hand and his six string in the other. It's weird to be going through one of the most trying times of my life at the same time I'm going through one of the most incredible.)

Anyway, all of that fear and wondering lasted until yesterday morning, when the ortho told me to take a big fat chill pill, because my foot is perfectly fine and healing normally. It's just that feet take longer than anywhere else on the body to heal - particularly my kind of fracture, particularly with how much I have to use it (I walk everywhere), and particularly because I have a thyroid disorder. I was so relieved I cried.

That being said, I still have a ways to go. I'm still in pain when I walk, which sucks, because not having a car, I walk everywhere. I still limp, which throws off my entire body and makes everything from my lower back to my shoulders sore. I have to concentrate on every step, which is so unnatural and annoying - like having to think about breathing. When Chaucer and I go long distances, I get so frustrated and upset with not being able to just relax and enjoy it, I'm nearly in tears by the end of the walk.

And I didn't want to blog about any of this, for fear of sounding like a whiner. Because, my god, there are people who don't have the use of ANY of their limbs. I can suck it up and deal with a limp for a few months, right? Of course I can. But if you want to know the truth, this has been one of the worst things I've ever gone through. Ever.

And uh, that's saying a lot.

In any case, what has now cleared the way for me mentally (and hopefully, creatively) is the realization and, unfortunately, the forced acceptance that for now at least, this is the new normal. Limited mobility, a limited physicality, and just feeling like a limited version of myself overall. Now that I know I'm probably facing a few more months before I'm back to 100%, it's time to stop sitting around in terror, start finding workarounds for those limitations, and work on being patient with my body.

And it's time to reconnect with my creative self.

There's something else, too. There's the fact that my life has been completely changed by the addition of another person, and all that he brings to it. And it isn't just that I spend a lot of my time with him, though I do. I still have plenty of time to myself, for writing and blogging and Instagramming and all of that fun stuff. (He understands how important that is to me, and he very much respects and encourages any and all of my creative endeavors.) It's also a matter of making the mental adjustment to a very different emotional life.

The new normal is being loved, every day. And that's...not something I'm used to.

I've spent an enormous amount of psychic energy the past few weeks trying to get over the hurdle of accepting the fact that, Yes, Ellie, you actually have found someone with whom to have a healthy, happy, and fulfilling relationship. You can stop thinking about it and stop holding your breath, waiting for shoes to drop. You can just enjoy it. 

I've been enormously self-conscious during this time, where my online presence is concerned. I've felt the weight of unseen eyes, friendly or hostile, waiting to see how my latest foray into romance plays out. Which sounds grossly self-absorbed; believe me, I know. But I mean, it's true. I have a pretty good idea of who reads my blog, and who checks in on me from time to time. And that's cool. I'm flattered to be of interest to anyone I've known, virtually or personally. It's just that the fourth wall can be a little crippling, when you're at you're most vulnerable.

And it doesn't get more vulnerable than saying, Holy shit, I am madly in love.

I am in love, which is always scary. But the good news is that someone is making it his business to give me every bit of that love back. Which means I am safe. Safe to try, and safe to fail. Safe to return to this space, and carry on my creative life. And though I know it will be difficult for me - not the least because there are some intimidating new eyes around here - it's important to me to work towards embracing that new normal, too.

So that's why I've been elsewhere lately. In a nutshell: fear.

But enough of that baloney, yeah?

balloons

I don't know if you guys can see me way up here, but if so, check out this stellar balloon collection I've got going. Pretty rad, right? At last count, I had over two hundred. They're tied to every part of me: each of my fingers, my arms, my legs, both feet - there are so many, I've had to start knotting them around my shirt buttons and belt loops. There may or may not be a few attached to my bra straps, I'm not sure. It's getting hard to keep track.

I know I look ridiculous. I know some of you are probably like, "Come on, Ellie. We get it already. Enough with the damn balloons."

Well, I'm trying. But this guy - this fucking guy that walked into my heart like he owned the place - won't stop handing them to me. I'm like, Hey, these are really cool and all, and high five on knowing the exact shades of each of my favorite colors, but I wasn't exactly expecting these. And now I have more balloons than I ever anticipated getting, like, ever. Could you maybe hold off on giving me any more, at least until this batch has deflated?

He's not listening though. He's just sitting there, blowing up one after another after another. I don't know where he's getting them. They seem to appear out of thin air.

I shouldn't tell you the things they're filled with. I shouldn't do that to you, or to this poor, already tragically saccharine blog. I shouldn't say that each is filled with a moment more amazing than the last, and buoyed up - me in tow - by a happiness I wouldn't deserve if I lived a hundred lives. Crap. I'm sorry, you guys. I probably inhaled some of the helium they're cut with. Either that, or the lack of oxygen is short-circuiting my brain.

It's nice up here, it really is. I mean, I'm not complaining. The perspective can't be beat. I can see everything I've ever known laid out below - way, way down there on the ground where my feet were firmly planted less than two months ago. It's funny how this view changes the way things look. I've learned a lot about myself up in these clouds, and most days, the breathlessness is exciting.

But yeah, I will admit that floating up, up, and away has its downside, too. I can barely see some of the things that are very important to me, much less reach out and touch them. They seem scarily far away at times. So I'm trying to get back down, I really am. It's all about balance, if I can just find that for once in my life.

Did I mention he has all my favorite colors? Makes it kind of hard to pop them. Fucking guy. Probably hid all the pins, anyway. Though I guess I could use a sliver of the jar we broke open a few days ago.

That thing is in pieces.

crazy in love

If I wanted to seem noble, I'd say that my silence over the past weeks was born of a desire to protect the privacy of the person largely responsible for that silence - the man who has consumed most of my free time and nearly all of my thought, energy, and emotion since the moment I realized that I was falling stupidly, helplessly, giddily, and irrevocably in love with him.

But that wouldn't be entirely true.

Yes, there is some of that. But my absence has had other causes, as well. Fear, for one. Fear that, at any minute, not only was I going to feel the thump of the other shoe dropping squarely on my head, but that I'd step out of my apartment one day and a veritable rainstorm of other shoes would pummel me into the ground where I stood, leaving me bruised and bewildered, and facing the fact I've kept expecting to be faced with: This isn't real. It cannot be this good.

The shoes haven't come yet, though. Every day I peek up at the sky, bracing myself for a downpour that fails to materialize. 

I'm going to put the umbrella down now. It doesn't appear to be necessary.

---

I told him the other day that for most of my adult life, I was terrified to believe men like him - and relationships like the one we are building - exist. I refused to believe it, in fact. I couldn't believe it, for my own sanity. I couldn't allow myself to believe that relationships could ever be so healthy and loving. So easy. I couldn't allow myself to believe there were actually guys who were so open and vulnerable and affectionate and warm and communicative and ready to love and be loved. Guys who would tell me every day how grateful and excited they were to be with me, how funny and fun and beautiful I am. Guys who were emotionally available and expressive and playful and eager for intimacy, and dedicated to making me feel safe enough to be my truest, most authentic self.

Because if I allowed myself to believe all of that, I'd have died of jealousy long ago.

I've spent the better part of my adult romantic life, since my mid-twenties on, convincing myself that no matter how big the smiles on the faces of other couples were, they couldn't possibly be that happy - because I certainly wasn't, with any of my partners. Least of all the one that was supposed to provide me the greatest happiness, 'til death did us part. Shitty relationship after shitty relationship, incommunicative, closed-off guy after incommunicative, closed-off guy, I developed a self-protection mechanism that was basically the belief that no relationship is that great, and no guy out there is looking to love and be loved in the way that I am. 

And then six weeks ago, someone walked into my life and exploded that myth in the middle of a downtown Starbucks. And nothing has been the same since. And nothing will ever be the same again.

---

Laying in bed, holding each other and just shamelessly staring in one another's eyes. An activity we have yet to grow tired of. Crazy in love, he says. I smile and breathe and swallow down a lump of sugar that no longer tastes like disbelief, or fear. Because I know he is. And he knows I am, too. Still, I just accept his words without reply. Not ready. Am I ready? Am I? You can't go back from this. Once I make it real with my words, it's over. I've never known anyone like him, not even close. He is so right for me, I couldn't have written him into existence any more perfectly. 

It's okay, he says. I'll go in the icy water first. It's nice in here, though. You should come in.

I trace his cheek with my fingertip. I wish I had a hundred photos of your face, I say. Starting when you were a baby. Just close ups of your face that I could make into a time lapse movie, so I could watch this perfect jaw form. See this dimple get deeper, this cleft in your chin grow. So I could catch up on what I've missed. His smiling eyes tell me how much he loves hearing this. This is a gift he gives me - happily accepting my love without pushing it away. He values himself enough to just simply accept affection.

He has no idea how revelatory this is, and how rare.

He played a song for me the other day, and all I could think the whole time was Why hasn't he sent me this before, on Spotify? Who is it? Why haven't I heard it yet? It's so awesome. A neighbor knocked before he was finished, and he had to leave for a few minutes to help move a sofa. As soon as he was done, I pulled him back into my arms and asked him. What song was that, that you were just playing? 

Actually, it doesn't really have a name, he started. And my jaw dropped when I realized it was his song. He'd written it. And my heart packed yet another suitcase. I don't think it's going to be mine for much longer.

---

Last night, riffing on The Hobbit (which we watched half-heartedly, because wow what a childish and silly and disappointing movie that is), he made me laugh harder than I can remember laughing, I don't know, ever maybe? Seriously, maybe ever. Afterward, he confessed a fear that he won't be able to keep it up, his ability to entertain me. He told me he's afraid that there was some trick to landing me, to "winning" me, that, not knowing what it is, he doesn't know if he'll be able to duplicate it, and keep me happy.

I shake my head at him, cup his face with my hands, and look into the eyes that take my fucking breath away daily. Don't you get it? It's just you being you. Unless you're planning on having a personality transplant, nothing will change. You exactly as you are is what makes me so happy. 

I repeat it, slowly and clearly. He needs to understand. You make me happy. Period. 

This is what it's like with him. Clear, direct, honest, loving communication. You have a fear, an insecurity? Tell me. Make me understand. We are in continual touch, emotionally. If something is bothering me, resolution is a simple and calm conversation away. He makes it that easy, because he listens without interruption, with his whole heart open, with empathy and compassion and the genuine desire to get us back to our best place. No defensiveness. Just listening and a wish to understand. I had no idea this was possible. Like I said, if I'd had any idea relationships could be this healthy, I don't know if I could have stood waiting nearly fifteen years to find one.

---

He takes photos of me. Of us. All on his own, because he wants to. He has no idea how much this means to me, his desire to capture moments, to document and remember it all. It always hurt me, in other relationships, the seeming disinterest of my partners to want to take pictures. He'll grab my phone in the morning and just snap a pic of us laying together, me squealing in protest and covering my face. Or if I do something silly, or make a face he thinks is cute. 

He joins me at the mirror sometimes, when I'm getting ready. Wraps his arms around me and says, Look. That's us. The sight of us together makes him happy. He holds my gaze until I can barely stand it. This is it, he says, staring back at me. And it is. This is as it as it gets. 

After we move away, he sighs. We should have taken a picture just then

We're going to have tons of pictures together, I chide.

So let's do it, he says. Let's start doing it already. And I can hear the urgency in his voice. He's ready to fully inhabit the space we've been carefully, cautiously carving out together.

This is the kind of love he shows me. Making it happen, making it real, making it ours to keep. Money where your mouth is. Action not words.

---

You're a game changer, he says. He tells me that since meeting me, some of the bullshit in his life has dropped away. And I know exactly what he means, because I feel a change, too. My priorities are shifting, and he inspires me to be the best version of myself, even when taking steps towards that Ellie is terrifying. 

We talk about what we want from this relationship. I didn't know people actually did this. I didn't know people actually discuss their values and needs with their partners, in an effort to get closer to one another. I was pretty sure that only happened in self-help books and movies.

Bottom line: I have never felt so loved and accepted and appreciated for being exactly who I already am.

I cannot believe my luck. I just cannot believe it.