Zoe & Sophia Celebrate a Sexy Valentine’s Day and Enjoy Sushi with Hot Dates as the Sublime Consumers of the Lightness of Being

February 13th, 2010

VALENTINE’S DAY EDITION
February 13th

PLEASE send you advice to two single women, whose lives are suddenly crashing in chaos!  Zoe and Sophia, BFFs for thirty years, find themselves unexpectedly cast into the world of re-creation and redefinition after decades of being faithful wives to George and Marty.  They need advice from anyone willing to offer it.  For instance, what advice would you give your BFF if she asked, “AM I DESTINED EITHER TO WANT THAT WHICH I CANNOT HAVE OR TO SETTLE FOR DAMAGED GOODS BECAUSE THEY ARE AVAILABLE TO ME?” Any advice you can give to Zoe would be helpful, but this is what Sophia said.

On Saturday afternoon, snow fell in blinding sheets. Sophia sat shivering in front of the dining room fireplace, in her 1700s home, on a lake in New Hampshire.
“Okay, tomorrow’s Valentine’s Day. Fuck me,” said Sophia.
Zoe sat in a rocking chair next to Sophia. Her eyes stared blankly as she chewed on one fist. She was contemplating whether she should become celibate for the rest of her life.
“Ikk,” said Zoe. “Everything associated with Valentine’s Day sucks. I gotta figure out what I’m doing here, Sophie. I have all these men, and in the end, I’m not sure I want any of them.”

“Let’s lay them out, Zo. Maybe one of them is right, maybe not. These men are just part of your present journey.”
“Well, I feel like I’ve crashed into so many guys on this journey, that the road’s getting pretty littered with bodies.”
“List them off for me.”

“Well, first and foremost is Jackson in Florida.  When you and I left Naples a few weeks ago, he and I were bordering on some serious love. But now he has pushed me out with no explanation. And the strange part is, he shut down only after a lengthy, rambling phone call in which he told me he has never felt this depth of love for anyone before. He said I transformed him. I’m still crazy about the guy and hurting.”
“Why the disconnect?”
“Maybe Jackson is so afraid of being hurt himself, that he doesn’t dare risk loving at all.”

“Next?”

“Well, there’s Ron in Chicago.  He broke my heart years ago, but now he’s resurfaced. He’s the guy who set the standard for all other men. Now, he and I are right back to where we started, and that’s because he’s an Alpha male. He wants me to be right where he left me. As before, he does the pull-push thing, calling me to say how much he loves me, but as soon as I grab hold of those words and see a vision of us together, he shuts me down and goes under for months at a time, like now. I think he’s afraid to commit.”

“How does that make you feel, Zoe?”
“Shut up, Sophie. You sound like my therapist. Sorry. Let’s see, when he does that, it brings back the despair I felt when he left me before. I feel lonely and abandoned.”

“Next?”

“Then there’s Walter who likes to travel.  He’s faithful about connecting with me and the sex is good, but he simply doesn’t have a nose I can look at forever.”
“So, you’re rejecting him on the basis of his nose?”
“Certainly not. His arrogance exceeds mere confidence. He’s interesting, but man, is he ever in love with himself. When I listen to him talk, I think, ‘He’s not all that and a bag of chips.’ And then my eyes focus on his nose as an example of why he should have more humility.”

“Next?”

But before Zoe could answer a clatter arose from the summer kitchen. The howling, hissing, and crashing startled Zoe and Sophia, and they jumped up to investigate. The unheated summer kitchen was the place where Sophia kept coats and tools and boots and baskets and things she was just too lazy to put anyplace else.  The room also had dog and cat doors, which allowed the pets free access. The kitty litter lived there too, across the room from the cat food bowl.

What Zoe and Sophia saw when they opened the door was poor Sparky, Zoe’s stroke-impaired yellow Lab, whimpering as he lay in a heap against one wall. Tolstoy, Sophia’s enormous Maine Coon cat, crouched, guarding his food. His hair stood on end as he prepared to attack.

“Knock it off, you two,” ordered Sophia, who suspected the pets were arguing over Tolstoy’s lunch.

Sparky just ignored Sophia who was being her usual bitch self to him. Instead, he looked up into Zoe’s gentle, loving eyes, and knew that Zoe understood Sparky had every reason to feel sorry for himself. Tolstoy was furious. He knew Sparky started the whole thing and was just playing for sympathy. He glanced over at Sophia, and she smiled and nodded at him. Tolstoy knew that bitch Zoe would always side with Sparky, so Tolstoy just gave Zoe a dirty look and went back to eating. Thinking the dispute was resolved, the women started to walk out of the room.

When Zoe pushed the door to close it behind her, Sparky sniffed once then slunk towards Tolstoy’s food bowl. Tolstoy wasn’t stupid, and even with his back turned, he knew Sparky’s plan. Tolstoy whirled around hissing, ready to strike. Sparky yelped and ran like hell sideways to catch up with Zoe. Sparky was so frightened, he involuntarily purged a couple of “presents” as he ran, then he hurled himself into Zoe, knocking her down. She let go of the door handle to catch her fall, but the force of the door hit Sophia on the back of the head, and she went down too, as stars filled her head. Tolstoy then chased Sparky, and both pets ran right over Zoe and Sophia. Of course, Sparky’s bladder cut loose as he ran.

Something about the mishap triggered raw feelings of helplessness in the women, and instead of getting up, they lay on the floor weeping for awhile.

Eventually, Zoe and Sophia, now damp and gross, went to separate bathrooms and took showers. When Sophia was finished, she took Zoe clean clothes to change into. Soon the women stood side-by-side in panties and bras, sharing a mirror as they slathered moisturizer on every inch of their bodies and blew out their blond hair. Rather than applying make-up, they resumed their seats in front of the fire.

“Tell me what’s going on with you, Sophie.”
“Well, I’ve seen two guys.”
“Wow, since yesterday?” cried Zoe.

“Yeah. Last evening my neighbor came over to fix that hole. You remember when Marty punched his fist through the wall as he screamed, “WHY CAN’T YOU JUST FUCKING TRUST ME?” That was after I accused him of having an affair with his lame girlfriend Fugly.”

“I’ve heard the story. Go on about the neighbor.”
“Well, he came to the door in the middle of a text war I was having with Marty. I opened the door and smiled, and then stood there until I finished writing something vicious back to Marty’s text. I pointed out the place that needed new sheet rock, and the neighbor asked me a question. But I didn’t hear the question because I was reading Marty’s bitter response to my text. So, I smiled and nodded, pretending I’d heard him, but then I had to reply to Marty’s shitty text. The neighbor looked at me like I was crazy because I still had on my hat, coat and boots.  The text war actually began in the car a half hour before that, and I hadn’t had time to take off those things. Then my neighbor asked me another question I didn’t hear because I had to read Marty’s next stupid text. I replied to Marty saying that he and Fugly were a bastion of ordinariness, specializing in the absence of profound thought and wisdom. Then my neighbor left, saying he’d be back soon to do the work.”

“Huh?” said Zoe.

“Then this morning the propane guy showed up to adjust the stove, and I was crying because Marty and I just finished a big fight on the phone. I couldn’t stop crying, but I showed the man the stove, and he asked me some questions. I couldn’t focus enough to listen because I was crying so hard. Marty had just told me that he left me because I was a mean, bitter, angry person. Then I pointed out that his affair with Fugly– who was younger, pursued him aggressively and offered him millions of dollars for his business that he didn’t have to pay back—might have had something to do with his leaving me. He said he had no idea what I was talking about. Anyway, then the propane guy asked me another question I didn’t hear because I was wondering whether Marty was afflicted with amnesia. I just smiled and nodded at the man then left the kitchen and went into the dining room to cry some more. He said “good-bye” when he left.”

“Fuck sake, Sophie, those weren’t dates.”
“I know, but they were the only guys I’ve seen in a few days. I haven’t left the house for awhile.”

“Well, you need to get out. I’ll see if I can get those two guys we met at the Parker House to drive up and meet us in Portsmouth.  Are you up for Japanese food?”
“Love it. Hey, Zo, I think we both need a dose of Pema today.”
“You read. I’ll go online.”

Zoe set up her little Mac on the dining room table while Sophia pulled from her purse the book When Things Fall Apart, by the American Buddhist writer Pema Chodron. Sophia and Zoe had read the book countless times, so now most days they just opened the book to a random page and tried applying the information to their lives at that moment.

Sophia opened the book to a section in which Pema talked about discipline, not as a means of forcing ourselves to forego things we enjoy, but rather as a means of allowing ourselves to let go of painful habitual patterns. If we practice discipline, we learn to slow down, to become present in our lives, instead of creating a train wreck at every turn. Sophia read that we also should practice patience, in which we allow ourselves to care for and love whatever comes across our paths. With patience, we learn to wait before we react. Patience, according to Pema, is the opposite of aggression. With patience, we stop trying to fill up the spaces that cause us discomfort and pain, and instead, we relax and open ourselves to the wonder of existence.

Zoe and Sophia both practiced meditation, but not always in the prescribed manner. Sophia liked meditating in the tanning bed, and Zoe preferred doing it on the toilet in the morning. But they both knew that when they meditated, it helped them stop clinging to memories and thoughts that were beyond their grasp. It helped them be present in the moment.

Sophia looked over at Zoe and saw that she was smiling.
“What’s up, Zo?”
“Those guys are meeting us at 7:00 at Taipei Tokyo.”
“That’s the best place around for Japanese.”
“Hey, Sophie, do you have anything to eat? I need a snack to tide me over until dinner.”
“I have Chex Mix and Nutella next to my bed.”
“Never mind. That’s what I had for breakfast. Anyway, we need to go get ready. The snow stopped, but I bet the roads are still a bitch, so we’ll have to take our time driving.”

“Do you want to hear what Pema said today, Zo?”
“No. I want to change and put on my make-up. You should too.”
“What are you gonna wear tonight?”
“A pair of your skinny jeans and one of your adorable Ibex shirts.”
“Yeah, me too. We need to stay warm.”

Zoe and Sophia pulled skinny jeans over their long, lean legs and slipped on classy Ibex shirts over their slender torsos. The silky wool clung perfectly to their breasts, which were enhanced by cheap, but very comfortable, push-up bras from K-Mart. They said goodnight to Tolstoy and loaded Sparky into the back of Zoe’s Land Rover.

“Don’t forget to put on Sparky’s doggie diaper, Zo.”
“Good point. We don’t want to smell like dog crap. The food hanging from your hair on our last date with these guys was bad enough.”

On the drive to Portsmouth, the first song the women sang along with was Jill Scott’s Living My Life Like It’s Golden. When the song ended Sophia burst into tears.
“What’s wrong,” asked Zoe.
“I remember when that song first came out. I sang it to the heavens because my life was so good. I rejoiced in the happiness of my wonderful children and my little granddaughter. I also adored Marty then. In fact, I used to feel smug about how lucky I was to have such a wonderful man and an amazing marriage. Now, everything with Marty is shit, and I can’t seem to get out of the black hole. It’s horrible when I remember the brutal way he treated me for over a year after that witch Fugly came into our lives. And now he pretends that I was a mean, bitter, and angry person for the years before that. Was I, Zo?”

“Of course not. You are a kind and loving person, and he was crazy about you for a long time. He says that shit now out of guilt. He’s projecting. It’s the only way he can rationalize his selfishness and dishonesty. It’s about him, Sophie, not about you.”

Zoe reached over and patted Sophia’s back then turned up the music. Mary J. Blige crooned Father in You, which Zoe sang along with until she too broke down crying.

“Why the tears, Zo?”
“This song always puts me in touch with the emptiness I’ve carried since my father died when I was eight-years-old. It seems I’ve spent my life in a habitual pattern of trying to fill that hole of loss.”

“Maybe that’s why you date so many men at once. You try various combinations because no one person understands both sides of you.”
“You think?”
“You’re still looking for Daddy to be there. You want a man who is going to love you as a woman and who also realizes he needs to love that little girl in you the way your father couldn’t after he died.”
“That’s deep, Sophie.”

“Do you wanna know what Pema would say about that?”
“No.”
“Do you wanna know what Pema would say about my grief over Marty?”
“Later, Sophie.”

Zoe and Sophia glimmered as they glided into Taipei Tokyo. Their dates already sat in a booth sipping Sake. The women ordered glasses of plum wine. Zoe’s date was a handsome African American software engineer. Sophia’s date was a sweet looking Irish American who taught high school math. Zoe, who knew a lot about software and math, gaily carried the conversational ball. Sophia, who knew nothing about software and even less about math, sat silently thinking about what Pema had said.

Pretty soon Sophia’s face began to pucker as she tried to hold back the tears. She pinched herself and shifted positions several times as her face grew more distorted. She grabbed Zoe’s knee under the table in an attempt to staunch the tide. Sophia’s only contribution to the pithy repartee of the others was when she asked Zoe’s date to switch places with her so that she could sit next to Zoe. Sophia’s explanation for the switch was that her arm hurt. Zoe alone knew Sophia’s arm hurt because Sophia had to do a contortion to reach Zoe’s knee under the table. The dates looked confused, but the man complied.

After a while, Sophia resembled tree fungus as she clung hard to Zoe’s arm, until finally the pressure of hysteria was too much to restrain. Sophia burst out sobbing just as her date asked her to pass the soy sauce. Instead of dashing off to the ladies room, Sophia pulled When Things Fall Apart from her purse and began to read out loud, stunning the men with her weirdness. Mascara unleashed from her eyelashes and dripped down her cheeks. Snot free fell from her nose and caught in the ends of her long blond hair. Right then and there, Sophia began to meditate, breathing in and breathing out, while the other three pretended they didn’t know her and ate their sushi as fast as they could.

On the drive home Sophia turned to Zoe and studied her profile.
“That went well,” said Sophia.
“Ya think?”
Just then the song Father in You began to play again. Zoe tried to hold it in, but she couldn’t. Sophia reached over and rubbed Zoe’s hair and the back of her neck for comfort.
“Tell me what Pema said today, Sophie.”

“Okay. I’ll start with me. She said that we should practice patience to allow ourselves to care for and love whatever comes across our paths. With patience, we learn to wait before we react. Patience is the opposite of aggression. I realize Marty and I have no patience when it comes to the other. We react aggressively in an emotional chain reaction that leaves no room for compassion. The aggression temporarily replaces the pain that both of us run away from. I need to stop that habitual behavior. Instead of clinging to the memories of a past beyond my reach, I need to relax and open myself to the wonder of existence.”
“That’s good stuff, Sophie.”

“Your situation is a little different than mine, Zo. If you don’t view discipline as a means of forcing yourself not to enjoy things, but rather as a means of allowing yourself to let go of painful patterns, it might help you. You don’t need to become celibate. Let’s face it. You love sex. But one of your habitual patterns is seeking men who are either emotionally unavailable or men who are unsuited to you. You allow the second type of men into your life because they offer emotional availability, but you don’t want it from them. It’s a train wreck, Zo.”

Zoe listened carefully to Sophia’s words. Then she asked, “AM I DESTINED EITHER TO WANT THAT WHICH I CANNOT HAVE OR TO SETTLE FOR DAMAGED GOODS BECAUSE THEY ARE AVAILABLE TO ME?”

Sophia turned down the volume of the music before answering. Then she said, “NO ZOE, THAT IS NOT YOUR DESTINY IF YOU MAKE THE CHOICE TO LET GO OF THAT PATTERN. PRACTICE A LITTLE PATIENCE, SLOW DOWN, AND BE MORE PRESENT IN YOUR LIFE. STOP TRYING TO FILL UP THE UNCOMFORTABLE, PAINFUL PLACES INSIDE WITH MEN. TRY TO RELAX AND OPEN YOURSELF UP TO THE WONDER OF EXISTENCE.”

“I see what you mean,” said Zoe.

“Look at the time,” cried Sophia. “It’s after midnight.”
“Yup, it’s Valen-fuckin-tine’s Day.”
“Are you gonna try to get us dinner dates to celebrate “the day.”
“Nope.”
“Why not, Zo?”
“Because Valentine’s Day is about being with someone you love who loves you back.”
“Well, where does that leave us?”
“With each other, Sophie. I love you and you love me. I say we spend Valentine’s Day together without guys we don’t love and who don’t love us.”

“What are we gonna do?”

“Fuck sake, Sophie, we’ll go shopping, of course.”

“Goodie.”

“Hey, Sophie, you wanna stop at the all-night tanning salon?”
“I’m too tired, Zo. Anyway, I don’t care if my tan fades.”
“You better care, sister. Cause you look like shit without a tan.”

“Was that a Buddhist thing, Zo?”
“Sounds like.”

Stars shimmered against the black sky as the sparkling best friends drove through the night, off on another adventure as the Sublime Consumers of the Lightness of Being.

To be continued, but remember, if you want to know the whole story, start at the bottom of the blog and read up.  Stay tuned for Zoe & Sophia’s next adventure as they go to Vermont for a ski weekend and hang out with sexy twenty-something women!

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