Archive for November, 2011

Thanksgiving with the In-Laws

I love Thanksgiving – it’s a wonderful long weekend filled with family, good old friends, and a lot of great food. Starting when my older brother first went off for college, the weekend became something more, it became homecoming. There was anticipation of his return, and the return of our other friends his age. It wasn’t long until our friends my year and I left Pittsburghand dispersed to various universities as well. But on Thanksgiving, just about everyone returned. Wednesday night we’d all meet up at our favorite coffee shop and talk for hours. Thursday, Thanksgiving itself, was usually reserved for our immediate family, sometimes hosting another family too. Friday morning our friends host the best brunch of the year, and we hardly have time to digest before my mom hosts her big Shabbat dinner featuring Moroccan tagine. Saturday is for synagogue, leftovers, and the movies. And then all of the cool kids go out for a drink or two at the least lame bar in walking distance from everyone’s houses. If I leavePittsburghearly enough on Sunday morning, I can beat all of the traffic and get back to Maryland in time for a late lunch and relaxing afternoon.

This year, however, my parents were invited to a wedding in Miami the Sunday after Thanksgiving. And since I have an aunt and uncle nearby in Ft. Lauderdale, my parents figured it was the perfect opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with them. Much to my friends’ dismay, I decided that spending the long weekend in my parents’ empty house without them would make me sad, so I would skip going to Pittsburgh. Since my brother was spending Thanksgiving in Chicago with his in-laws, I decided to stay local. I planned to have a restful break with Kirios, and his parents invited me over for the Thanksgiving meal.

I left work early on Wednesday, and when I got back to my apartment to cook. Even though Kirios’ parents were hosting me for Thanksgiving, I really wanted to make a few of my favorite dishes from Thanksgiving at home, so that I could enjoy them throughout the weekend. I cooked cornbread; brussel sprouts with garlic and bread crumbs (I know it’s weird, but I LOVE brussel sprouts); sweet potato soufflé with a corn flake, raisin, and pecan topping; and cranberries with pineapple, mandarin oranges, and pecans. Before Kirios could make it over to share in a dinner of sides, I did become a bit overcome with homesickness. But once he arrived and we started eating, I felt much better… minus the fact that I under cooked the cornbread to the point of it being inedible. Sigh.

Thursday morning I turned on the Macy’s Parade, relaxed, and took turns speaking with all of my family members. I stopped at the store to pick up flowers for Kirios’ mother, and headed over to their house at three. First, I should mention that despite being excellent cooks and having spent the past few decades in the United States, Kirios’ parents don’t usually cook Thanksgiving dinner. Last year, they went out for dim sum instead. And second, Kirios’ family does not like turkey. In fact, Kirios told me if I cooked one, he wouldn’t have any. (Not that I believe he wouldn’t have tasted it, but he certainly doesn’t prefer it.) So with me around for the holiday, they decided to cook a Thanksgiving feast, and roast a kosher chicken.

Kirios surprised me by baking cornbread, since mine was such a disappointment. His cornbread was dairy, since he didn’t know my mom’s trick – replace the milk with apple juice or cider. So I was promptly instructed to dig in on the treat prior to beginning our meat meal. When it came to the main event, in addition to the roasted chicken, our main course included salad, cranberries with fresh fruits, potatoes, Swiss chard from the family garden, homemade bread and hummus, zucchini with fried egg, and a stuffing inspired chicken risotto.

After dinner, Kirios anxiously noted the time, and we drank hot apple cider and talked until enough time elapsed that I was ready to enjoy dairy desserts. Usually somewhat skeptical about the rules of kashrut, they were especially considerate on Thursday, reminding Kirios its better to digest dinner first anyway. I was already pretty full, but dessert was worth the wait – Kirios’ father made a trio of desserts; an apple berry tart, an apple pumpkin pecan pie (say that three times fast), and a pumpkin pecan pie with a different crust. Delicious.

Kirios and I spent the rest of the day relaxing in front of the television, indulging in the traditional post-Thanksgiving meal food coma. We did have tea and fruit much later in the evening. But I don’t think there was any more room in my stomach after that. At the end of the day, even without the turkey, I was feeling pretty thankful.

Saying Hello or the Duck and Cover

Because I have Crohn’s Disease, I’m on a medication called Remicade which I take intravenously. Every 5-6 weeks I spend an afternoon at the Doctor’s office, sleeping in a reclining chair while medicine drips into me. Last Friday I had an infusion, and as I was waking up from my nap, the PA who administers the infusion suggested I check who was in the chair at the other end of the room. Three big chairs down from me was a former teammate of mine from Team Challenge, the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation’s Half Marathon Training/Fundraising Program. The PA knew that we were friendly through our involvement in the program, and she was amused that we had been in the same room for so long without recognizing each other. (I was asleep, a valid excuse!) I hadn’t seen my teammate since we had returned from our race in Vegas last December, and I was happy to catch up with her. She told me that she had finished graduate school, started a new job, and was preparing for this year’s race.

The next night, Kirios and I went out with my friend/coworker and another coworker happened to walk into the same bar as us, right behind us. Neither of us are friends with him, but we know him fairly well, so we said hello to him and remarked on the coincidence. By the time he finished saying hi back, he was already up the stairs on a different floor from us.

Why is saying hello to an acquaintance so easy with some people and so painfully awkward with others? It happens all of the time – you’re on the metro, at an event, or even at the supermarket and you spot someone you know. In my experience, one of three things generally happens:

  1. You say hello. You smile and ask them how they are. You inquire about their family/significant other/mutual friends you also haven’t been in touch with, or you reminisce about the class you took together or the crazy party you saw them at last. Five to ten minutes later you part ways feeling satisfied that you ran into someone who you never see. You might even send the other party an email or Facebook post the next day saying it was nice running into him or her. In extreme cases, you might even make plans to intentionally see this person in the future.
  2. You say hello. You smile and ask them how they are, or vice versa. Maybe there’s an awkward hug. (Ever notice how these always happen at the bar, but are way less likely on the train or at the supermarket?!?) And by the time the other party says “I’m good,” you’re both making your way to the next person, place, or conversation. You generally feel nothing. Occasionally, you’re dissatisfied – you think you deserve more than 30 seconds of the other person’s time, or there’s sadness over a relationship that was once meaningful and is now reduced to hi and bye. But chances are this person doesn’t mean a whole lot to you now, even and if they do, you both clearly had other, more attractive reasons for being where you were than catching up with each other.
  3. You duck and cover. Maybe you’re at the mall and you can’t bear the thought of anyone seeing you buying Spanx for that upcoming wedding, so you suddenly decide to stop and bury your face in a clearance rack you had no desire to browse. Or you’re at dinner with friends and spot a guy you went on one and only one truly awful date with – you lift your menu up high and slouch lower in your booth. As long as you don’t make eye contact, there’s no obligation to go there…

Most of us ladies have grabbed a friend by the arm and run away from creepers at the bar, but the practice isn’t limited to creepers. I’d like to tell you that I always say hello. After all, a few nice words can go a long way, and what’s the worst that could happen? But I’ll admit it – I’m definitely a flip-flopper on this issue, depending on the person and the situation.

I do frequently say hi. I ran into my old boss at the mall last year; I walked up to him and said hi, I introduced him to Kirios and he introduced his wife to us. We talked for five minutes and then continued our shopping. Monday morning my boss sent an email gushing about how touched he was that we went up to him, and how lovely it was to meet Kirios. I thought all of the fuss in the message was overkill, but was glad to have made his day.

But there are also plenty of times I back off and lay low. I haven’t seen him for at least five years, and we weren’t close then. I probably wouldn’t have recognized her if she didn’t Facebook friend me after that one party. Or my glasses prescription is out of date and I’m only 96% positive that’s the person who I think it is. I’ll say hi if someone is with other people I’m friendly with, or if we make direct eye contact, but if it’s just me and him or her on the train, I’ll keep reading my paper. Go ahead and call me callous or a coward. Pretend you don’t do it too. I know you do. The duck and cover is here to stay.

Yesterday there was a large fundraising happy hour for a local Jewish organization, targeted at young professionals. It sounded like a fun time and a cool group, and there were over 100 people “attending” according to Facebook. So after weeks of being confined to my apartment and my office, with the occasional movie night with Kirios, I thought it would be fun to attend.

The day before, I made plans with a good friend to meet up after work and go together. But when I got to work yesterday, things were a bit more hectic than I had anticipated. I spent the whole day running around and rushing to prepare a briefing for the Postmaster General to use when he met with a Senator. (You’ve got to love DC jobs!) I usually leave the office around four (don’t hate me) and am home by five. I was planning to go home to change and grab something to eat before arriving casually late at the happy hour which started at 6 back in the city. But by the time I left my office and got to the metro, it was already a quarter to five. It was cold outside, and my commute involves a 15 minute walk from the metro. I knew that if I went home, it would be pretty darn hard to convince myself to go out again.

So I called up my friend to get her read on the situation. She had similar feelings. It sounded like fun, but it was so far to get to from our suburban homes. My other good friend who was planning to come cancelled out due to a last minute meeting. And let’s also not forget that there was a cover for the event. At the end of our call, my friend changed her tune and decided we should go. “Don’t go home; just hide out in a book store for a while or something.” I agreed. We had spent so much time talking each other out of it, when it sounded like fun and we should have been talking each other into it.

So I took the train over to the stop closest to the bar, and I popped into a Panera’s. I treated myself to a sandwich for dinner, and I opened up a novel I had recently started. Time passed slowly. It was dark and chilly and reading was making me sleepy. I wished I was at home in warm pajamas with a cup of tea. But finally, it was time to meet my friend at the bar.

The event was a big production. There were raffle tickets, sign up sheets, and tables to visit to learn about the prizes. They had set out snacks, and the crowd was growing quickly. We scoped out the prize table and entered a few raffles with the tickets that were included with our cover charge, and then we head over to the bar to grab some beer. And then we chatted. We caught up with each other and talked for a long time. She and I bumped into some acquaintances and said a few his with big smiles, every now and then. And we did spend a few minutes catching up with a good friend of mine from back in college, but for the most part, we stuck to ourselves.

The interesting part is that we’re both pretty extroverted people. My friend regularly plans programming for young professionals, bringing together a combination of friends and meeting new people. And I also love to bring friends together for a good time, hosting parties or going out for dinner or dancing. But these days I prefer to hang out on my own terms, rather than attending established events. I’m usually up for meeting new people and making new friends, but I suppose I don’t go too far out of my way to do it anymore. I guess because I’m in a relationship, I no longer feel pressured to “get myself out there” so I can meet “Mr. Right.” But I think that’s only part of the puzzle. After all, my friend is single, and she felt the same way last night.

Part of me feels like I’m an upperclassman again. This time, an upperclassman in young professional-ism. In my first year out of school and working in DC, I was like a freshman; I established a core group of friends pretty quickly – folks from college and other times in my life, along with a few new people we picked up at some early social events. We went everywhere. If there was a party, an event, even free food, we were there. I’m now in my third year of “real life,” and I’ve noticed that I’m not the only one of my “freshman friends” who’s been skipping out on happy hours and the like. There’s something nice about coming home, cooking myself dinner, and catching some TV after a day in the office. And as for being at a bar with hundreds of potential friends… well, there’s always the weekend!

Semiversary Surprises!

Yesterday evening, I came home to my apartment to find a bouquet of flowers – pink roses and little lilies (lilies are my favorite), resting in my blender on the center of my dining room table. I called Kirios immediately, and told him how delighted I was with the semiversary surprise.

[I guess I should mention that the first time Kirios brought me flowers; neither my roommate nor I owned a vase. There were too many to fit in a regular drinking glass, so my roommate and I set them up nicely in her blender. We took pictures and thought it was hilarious, and Kirios never let me live it down. But whenever I tried to buy a vase, he would stop me – probably because it gave him an excuse not to buy me flowers – “You don’t even have a vase to put them in!” But news of my multi-purpose blender spread, and come time for my birthday last winter my brother and sister-in-law sent me a beautiful red and yellow glass vase. It’s quite pretty, and it makes for a lovely decoration, but the diameter of its opening is about the same size as a quarter. When Kirios bought me one rose, it was the perfect vessel. But for a whole bouquet, it just doesn’t cut it.]

Back to my phone call with Kirios – who was getting impatient waiting for me to return from work and find the flowers… I thanked him profusely and he told me sweet things and it was nice and I was super happy. And then he asked if I had checked my cabinets yet. So I walked into the kitchen and opened my cabinet to find a container of chai tea powder staring back at me. I gave up drinking coffee a couple of years ago since it was too harsh on my stomach, but I’m constantly drinking tea. When Kirios and I go out to coffee shops, we usually split soy chai lattes. From time to time we’ve purchased the powder or syrup to make our own chais as a special treat. In addition to the chail, I found a container of mulling spices. I had never heard of mulling spices, but I was excited from reading the description – orange rind, cloves, cinnamon, and other delightful spices. Kirios told me that we would warm up wine with it and drink it this winter – what a wonderful treat!

I left the kitchen and went back to the futon. I asked Kirios about his day and we talked about what we were going to do for dinner, etc. After a few more minutes, he asked me if I had opened the refrigerator since coming home, and said he strongly suggested I look in my little cheese drawer. In addition to the package of cheese curds and sun-dried tomato basil cheddar we brought back from Wisconsin, my drawer was filled to the brim with new purchases! Kirios had definitely gone on a Trader Joe’s shopping spree. There were packages of fontina, comte, creamy toscano with espresso, a spanish cheese tapas sampler with iberico, cabra al vino, and manchego, and wild blueberry vanilla chevre. A combination of cheeses that I feel comfortable eating, and those to push my palette. I’m particularly concerned about the goat cheese. I eat goat cheese when it’s a small component of a salad or a pizza without any problem, but I haven’t been a fan of softer cheeses in general, and it looks so weird and purple in the package! I do know why Kirios chose that particular goat cheese to try though – blueberries are my absolute favorite fruit and he’s already surprised me with them before. Anyways, I’ll be sure to report back on how it goes when I try them!

I apologize for writing an entire post about presents from my boyfriend, although I’ve already confessed that we’re that mushy-gushy couple. But his thoughtful surprises made me happy and left me wanting to gush. That, paired with leftovers from our duck dinner, and a weekly family skype date with my parents in Pittsburgh and brother and sister-in-law in Seattle, made for a great start to my week!

Pluck a Duck!

After months of anticipation, Kirios and I finally celebrated our second semiversary. (aka we’ve been together for a year and a half) The eighteen month mark was actually last Tuesday, but for many months we’ve discussed roasting a kosher duckling and cooking a feast to mark the occasion.

Cooking duck has become a somewhat sacred ritual in my family. For many many years we’ve cooked a peking duck feast with our family friends in Pittsburgh. Other than our two families, the only way to be invited to this oft-spoke of feast is to marry in. Since “the children” are now grown up (my friend from the other family now has 3 kids of her own!), it has been more difficult to gather each year for this meal. Since Kirios won’t be earning an invitation just yet anyway, we decided that cooking a (non-peking) duck together would be a wonderful treat to celebrate.

The 3.75 lb. duck was purchased from Shalom’s Kosher Mart in Silver Spring a week before our trip to Wisconsin. At $7.99/lb. I was glad to use a $20 for $10 Groupon I purchased months ago. On Thursday morning, I moved the duck from my freezer to my fridge to begin the thawing process. Friday morning I scoured the aisles of the Bethesda Row Giant gathering the rest of the groceries needed to prepare our feast. And Friday afternoon I unwrapped our baby bird, rinsed her off, and spent an hour plucking feathers to clean her up. (the kosher butchers never de-pluck poultry well!) She spent all night uncovered in the fridge, drying out so her skin would crisp in the oven. I rotated the duck every few hours (while I was awake) to make sure both sides aired out.

I was very relieved to be feeling better after my never-ending head cold; however Kirios, who had been feeling better for a few days before me, took a turn for the worse. This meant another antisocial weekend for us, staying indoors and watching multiple movies. But the duck was defrosting, so the meal must go on!

After much deliberation, we decided to make duck à l’orange, a classic French recipe. Kirios picked out a couple of recipes for the dish online, and I decided to combine them with the prep and roasting techniques we use for our peking ducks. So Saturday at 11:30 I brought to boil a stock pot full of water with a quarter cup or so of honey to boil. I dipped the duck into it, making sure the whole bird was immersed, and then removed it from the water. This helps break down the fat under the skin, and is one of a few techniques used for making the bird less greasy. (Some people prefer to slit the skin so it drips out while roasting… but I followed my Mom’s recommendation.) I patted the duck dry with paper towels, and set her to dry out in the fridge for another 4 hours, rotating it every hour.

By 3:30, Kirios had arrived, and I preheated the oven. Since Kirios was under the weather, he tried to maintain involvement in the cooking process from a distance. Since he loves to take pictures, he was more than happy to watch from the other side of his camera lens. I rubbed crushed black pepper, cumin, and coriander on the outside and inside of the duck. I then placed sprigs of fresh thyme and marjoram into the cavity, along with wedges of half a small onion and half an orange. The duck cooked like this for just over two hours, lowering and raising the oven temperature, and with Kirios occasionally flipping the bird over from its back to its breast.

While the duck roasted in the oven, we began preparing the orange sauce. For this we made syrup out of sugar, freshly squeezed orange juice, red wine vinegar, Cointreau (previously unopened, but purchased for my father’s bar mitzvah 40+ years ago) and orange zest. We combined the syrup with the duck drippings (and a bit of chicken stock to get the right volume) and a tablespoon of flour to thicken it up.

Kirios carved the duck, and before we knew it, we were enjoying our much anticipated feast. The duck was well cooked, and the sweet orange sauce complemented the rich duck flavor really well. While we both enjoyed the meal a lot, I think Kirios also enjoyed watching me eat. I was just so happy to be eating one of my absolute favorite things, and I was very proud to have successfully made the duck on my own.

I should also mention that I spent the rest of my morning and afternoon preparing side dishes. Along with the duck, we had a fresh salad, cauliflower sautéed in olive oil with garlic and breadcrumbs, and couscous with pine nuts. These were all fine dishes, but they were unnecessary – we were there for the headliner! And then there was a pumpkin pie for dessert. My mother convinced me to wait a while after dinner, allowing ourselves time to digest, and to make a dairy pie instead of a parve one. In the end, Kirios and I had small slices of pie as a snack while the duck was roasting, and I was way to full to think about dessert after dinner. Kirios has a second small piece of pie later in the night. Like the sides, the homemade pie was lovely to have, but for me, it was still all about the duck.

Now all of this blogging is making me hungry – leftovers for dinner tonight! 🙂

Eating our Way through Wisconsin

Last weekend Kirios and I flew out to Wisconsin to visit his friends who live out there. Despite my lingering head cold, I had a lovely time. Madison was a really cute interesting town. (Ok, technically it’s a city, but if the residents call it a town, I can too!) They have lots of interesting architecture, independent stores, and vegetarian/vegan friendly restaurants and cafes. The university community is vibrant, and on game-day the streets were full of red, including the especially amusing “game bibs” – red and white striped overalls. But our hosts assured us that the students weren’t the only thriving community within Madison, and that lots of the city’s events were very family friendly. In fact, Madison reminded me a lot of Seattle, near University of Washington, where my brother and sister-in-law live. Only without the tall buildings!

Kirios and I flew into Milwaukee on Thursday night, and our hosts took us to a German inspired pub for a late-night snack. I ordered beer bread with honey butter, and got a bigger loaf than expected. On Friday, we were on our own for a while, and we took a walk down Madison’s main drag, State Street. We stopped in a feminist book store, and partook in a lot of window shopping and browsing in little shops. We enjoyed tea and a scone in a busy café with a lot of sunlight, and then we toured the state capitol building. The Wisconsin Capitol building is a massive domed structure with a variety of imported marble and other stones and a plethora of allegorical murals. It’s quite the site, and I enjoyed having a tour guide point out fossils captured in the stones and random Wisconsin history. The site from the capitol was nice too, and Kirios and I spent quite a bit of time enjoying the unseasonably warm and sunny day from the dome’s observation deck.

Our friend met up with us at the capitol and we all grabbed a slice of pizza at Ian’s Pizza. Although we stuck to more traditional varieties, their selection of pizzas included mac’n’cheese (their all-time best selling slice) and chicken pot pie. On the way back to the car, we stopped to pick up some popcorn. Kirios had been begging for it since we first saw a cart selling it outside the Capitol. The store we stopped in advertised “Chicago Style” popcorn. The vendor explained that it was a combination of cheddar flavored popcorn and popcorn coated in caramel. It sounded good to me, so we went with that. We weren’t disappointed with the results.

After resting for a couple of hours, we were all excited to go to The Old Fashioned, a popular Wisconsin inspired restaurant and brewery. Unfortunately, it was too popular. Despite being a very large space, there was a two-hour wait by the time we arrived! Damn parents’ weekend. (Though I’m told it’s difficult to get in every weekend.) We wandered around for a while before finding an Indian restaurant with a not-so-long wait. By then, we were starving, so Kirios and I split a vegetarian appetizer sampler. I had baingan bharta, a roasted eggplant dish, our friends had chicken dishes, and Kirios ordered lamb vindaloo – as spicy as they would serve to an Indian. His sinuses were cleared out for a while, despite the mango lassi he ordered to counter the spice, and large basket of garlic naan we all shared.

We made it back to theCapitol/State Street area on Saturday around 11:30 and checked out the last weekend of Madison’s outdoor farmer’s market. And let me just say – it was the most impressive farmer’s market I’ve ever explored. Kirios was extremely satisfied by the endless samples of fresh Wisconsin cheese. I’ll admit it, I enjoyed them too. But I was a little scared by the cheese curds. (Completely unfounded – but as I’ve already mentioned in this blog, cheese can be scary to me sometimes! They taste pretty much like cheese – but with a spongier texture, like the haloumi cheese from Cyprus.)

In addition to cheese, we sampled produce, salsa, and jams. Even bits of cheesecake. We stopped by a popular stand for cheese-y bread, but were told they were sold out already. We settled for spicy cheese empanadas, which weren’t bad. But our friends assured us there was no comparison. We hit up State Street for some sodas to quench our thirst, and then we walked down to the University and visited their Chazen Museum of Art. I love art museums, and enjoyed the collection of Nevelson and Chamberlain sculptures, but we were all pretty exhausted by then.

After the art museum, we had a 3pm lunch/dinner at The Old Fashioned. (We planned ahead this time) I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to sample their beers with my head cold and all, but we enjoyed a large order of beer-battered cheese curds, and I had a very yummy roasted vegetable sandwich. Burgers and fish sandwiches satisfied everyone else.

Despite being incredibly full, we made a stop at Greenbush Bakery – a kosher donut shop! Unfortunately they were out of their signature glazed donuts, but they had plenty of other flavors to drool over. Kirios was disappointed that I didn’t have it in me to share the final donut we bought together. But it was a very full day of eating! That evening, instead of going out for snacks, we went to a vegan friendly coffee shop for lattes, soy chais, and I personally had warm apple cider.

Sunday our friends drove us back to Milwaukee to catch our flight home – but not before stopping at an Indian buffet first!

You know that feeling when you’re on an amazing date with someone and you think you’re living in a movie? You laugh all night. He wins you a stuffed animal at the carnival. She holds your hand and it feels like magic. It starts raining suddenly and you kiss. This is the start of something epic. End scene.

Unfortunately, we’re not always starring in our own rom-coms. More often than not, your “date” may have a different interpretation of the events transpiring than you do. You think she’s your leading lady, she thinks you’re the Shakespearean fool, a supporting actor at best. Recently, a good friend of mine – we’ll call him Matt, has fallen victim to this plotline. And how could you blame him. One night Matt was hanging out with his crush Caroline. They danced and had drinks at a nightclub. Then they went to an arcade for car racing, zombie shooting, and air hockey. It sounded like a great night, and Matt was on cloud nine. What could be better? The next day! Matt and Caroline headed to the beach with a bunch of friends. While there, Matt managed to sneak Caroline away from the group for a bit – they found a private cove and embarked on a little rock climbing adventure. Pink sand. Blue water. Mountains on one side of them, the ocean on the other.  Matt knew – this was the start of something epic…

Or at least he hoped. But what you haven’t heard is the back story – Matt had actually developed feelings for Caroline a while back. Matt eventually gained the courage to tell Caroline how he felt, and she politely told him that she just wanted to be friends. Matt was disappointed, but when Caroline moved away, it made things easier on him. Six months later, Caroline moved back to town, and she was anxious to hang out with her good friend. While she was away, Caroline had started seeing someone else. Matt knew that she was in a relationship, and wanted to just be friends. But when they started hanging out again, that familiar spark reappeared. Finally, after these movie-esque pseudo-dates, Caroline asked Matt to catch a movie with her one night. Matt, aware of his escalating feelings and the fact that Caroline had a boyfriend, decided that this was the perfect opportunity to find out once and for all if Caroline could ever see him as more than a friend. Unbeknownst to Matt, and to his great dismay, Caroline decided to invite several other friends to join them at the movies that night. It was the last straw for Matt – he confronted her about his feelings, and again, Caroline told him she just wanted to be friends. Matt was angry, he felt that Caroline had led him on.

I feel bad for my friend Matt; I can definitely sympathize with his feelings of rejection and disappointment. But I’m not sure if his anger is justified. Caroline told him once that she only viewed him as a friend. He partook in those outings with her knowing that she had a long distance boyfriend – a good indication that her heart was with another. And is it so crazy for two friends to go to a bar? An arcade? Or the beach with additional friends? If Matt didn’t have feelings for her, his perception of those days would have been very different. If it had been me making plans to go to the movies with Matt instead of Caroline, and I had ended up bringing more friends along, I’m confident he would have said “the more the merrier.”

So is Caroline at fault for leading Matt on? Should she have behaved differently – anticipated that he still had feelings for her and reaffirmed the fact that her feelings were purely platonic? Maybe – I wasn’t there, and I don’t know her. Maybe there were giggles, winks and hair twirls that gave Matt the wrong idea. But sometimes bubbly personalities can be interpreted as flirty. Who knows what her story was. But I can say that I’ve been in a similar situation before – and it’s not easy to be on the other side of the fence either.

When I was a freshman in college, a good friend of mine, Zack, had a crush on me. Two weeks before classes let out for the summer, Zack asked if I would go on a date with him. I was a bit blindsided, but I told him truthfully that I just wanted to be friends. When we returned from summer break, I found myself putting on the kiddy gloves around him. No more friendly hello hugs. No more asking for special favors. I liked spending time with him, but I was sensitive to the fact that his feelings were different than mine, and I didn’t want to give him any false hope or encouragement.

The following spring I went abroad, and when I returned campus the following summer, the university was pretty deserted. Most underclassmen didn’t stay on campus, but being out-of-state students, Zack and I both wound up subletting on-campus apartments. With no car to visit my non-metro accessible friends on a regular basis, Zack and I naturally hung out a lot during the summer. We spent a day at the zoo and we went out for Indian food in Adam’s Morgan. I had a lot of fun at these outings; they made my summer much more pleasant.

And then one day in August my roommate and I were preparing to move out of our sublet and into our assigned apartment for the school year. Zack sent me an email wishing me good luck on the move. My roommate commented on how her boyfriend had completely forgotten it was our moving day and we simultaneously realized – that whole summer, all of those times I spent with Zack… I was enjoying the company of a friend, and he, like Matt, was living in a fairy tale. It had been over a year since I had told him I wasn’t interested in seeing him and I had hoped (and naively assumed) that those feelings were behind him. I felt terrible – I don’t think I ever “led him on,” but at the same time, I definitely saw how he could have misinterpreted or reframed the time we spent together. I would have hesitated to invite him out for some of those activities if I knew he would have viewed them that way. But what now? It’s not like I could just call him up, “Hey Zack, I know it’s been a while since we talked about this last. But just to be clear, I’m still not interested in being anything more than your friend. Ever.” Harsh.

In the end, I didn’t say anything to him. And a few weeks later the situation blew up when I started talking to a new guy at a party. Zack took my interest in someone else as an invitation for him to stick by my side the whole night. After that, I pulled away from him knowing that he couldn’t “just be friends.” At least not then. I always feel that I could have done more, said something to him, but I still don’t know what would have helped. So “Zack,” if you ever read this, please know – I tried my best. And one of these days both you and Matt both find lovely leading ladies. And it will be the start of something epic…

I never thought it would be me, but it’s undeniable; I’m part of that couple. You know who I’m talking about, that mushy-gushy couple that drives all single people crazy. Pet names. Inside jokes. Midday check-ins. Public displays of affection. Calling just to say good night. You name it, I’m guilty of it. At least I can safely say that Kirios and I don’t have “our song,” …yet.

I never thought it would be me. It’s not that I’m not the emotional type – I am. But I’ve never been a real girly-girl. Throughout school I was always involved in a lot of activities and clubs, and I wasn’t willing to let anyone get in the way of my independence and the activities that I wanted to partake in. But shortly after I started dating Kirios things started changing. He sends me a mushy-gushy text message and instead of pretending to vomit, I send one right back. He’s thinking of me, and I’m thinking of him – and of course there are butterflies and rainbows and lots of happy fairy dust.

Sometimes it’s excessive, I’ll admit. But it’s nice to be with someone that evokes those mushy-gushy feelings from you. Obviously there are limits when it comes to those couples. Rubbing your significant other’s tummy while a guest at the dinner table, freaking out when your call isn’t returned within 20 minutes, and of course partaking in activities that should be saved for the bedroom – or at least an extremely crowded bar, are all offenses I’ve witnessed. (And hopefully not committed) Clearly some people and some couples are naturally mushier than others. And I’m no relationship expert, but if you never have any mushy-gushy feelings for your significant other, chances are, you aren’t with the right person.

The other day, I was catching up with a good friend – let’s call her Lauren. Lauren told me she had recently broken up with her boyfriend. They had been together for a few months. He was a bit older, and it always seemed to me like he was interested in settling down while she was still in school and figuring out her life. Lauren’s boyfriend would call her every day and she frequently forgot to call him back. She felt bad and knew she should be better at remembering, but she also didn’t think he was justified in getting upset when he didn’t hear back after only four hours. Lauren’s never been great about keeping in touch with people when she’s busy with work and school. I know it’s cliché, but I couldn’t help telling her – when you’re with the right person, you’ll be thinking about them enough that you’ll want to call. You’ll even want to call regardless of whether he called first.

Today I was chatting with another friend of mine about her love life. Over the past year and a half, she’s kept me up to date on her trials and tribulations in the dating world. It’s almost always the same story with her – she meets a guy who seems pretty cool and they start dating. The guys start falling for her, and she’s not really sure how she feels about him. So she builds up a wall and doesn’t let him in emotionally, but keeps dating him to see if she develops stronger feelings. Inevitably, after a couple days, weeks, or even months, she still isn’t feeling it and breaks off the relationship. But today her story was different – she’s finally met Mr. Right. I’m not saying she’s met her soul mate and that they’re going to get married and have lots of happy adorable children – they just started seeing each other and I definitely don’t have a crystal ball. But I do know that this is the first time her eyes lit up while discussing a guy. She told me about the cute text messages he sends her, and how she can’t stop spending time with him. She’s been introducing him to her friends and she even used the word butterflies at one point. So I guess even the most independent of us could be just a few dates with Mr. Right away from being that mushy-gushy couple.