Monthly Archives: October 2012

Five-Minute Conversations With My 12-Year Old Piano Student

In addition to being a professional singer, actor, musician, designer and writer, I am a teacher.

I have taught special education, reading and theatre in the Los Angeles County public school system, and, in 2003, found myself administering private piano and voice lessons.  The majority of my students hail from a small, quiet community nestled at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains. I spent the first eight years of my life there.

One of my piano students is twelve years old.  I have taught her since she was in first grade. Both her brothers — now in college — were under my direction in their respective 6th grade musical theatre endeavors: Treasure Island and The Music Man.  The entire family is smart, funny, talented, witty, kind and generous.  They are good and very real people — the kind you want to be around all the time.

12-year old piano student and I were quite compatible from the beginning of our student-teacher relationship.  Early on, I noticed she was quick-witted, honest and blunt.

When she was six, she learned a simple (albeit stupid) song called “The Hot Dog Stand”.

I stood close to her and explained the eighth notes in the piece.

“May I ask you a question?” she politely inquired, as she innocently focused her intense blue eyes upon mine.

“Of course,” I replied.

“Could you please not talk so loud? I’m right here and you’re talking very loudly.”

I have written down snippets of our conversation since that day.

*****
When she was seven, she told me she was going to the Dodger game, right after our lesson.

“Hey, me, too!” I exclaimed.

“Last time I went to a Dodger game, I got hit on the head with a baseball. The guy who hit the ball got traded to the Cardinals!”

*****

Recently, I asked 12-year old piano student for some dating advice.

“Don’t flirt with someone who’s out of your league,” she declared, matter-of-factly.

“Okay,” I agreed. “But what makes a guy out of my league?”

She thought for a moment.

“Someone who doesn’t like you back,” she answered. “He’s only out of your league because he doesn’t want to be in it.”

With that kind of perspective from the heart and brain of a 12-year old, I knew I needed to hear more.  Before we settled into our lesson yesterday, I interviewed her for five minutes (and twenty-seven seconds).

So, what advice can you give me on how to find a date?  I quit online dating a while ago.  It’s tough to meet decent people.

Online dating is a place [where] you’ll never meet your match.  The commercials lie!  All the people are arrogant hussies trying to be awesome, but they’re not awesome.  They do not possess the quality.

(Laughing)  Could I then be construed as an “arrogant hussy”?

You are not an arrogant hussy because you don’t dress like one. The hussies have…makeup all over their face, and they wear all the weird clothes, and, well, they remind me of the 8th graders at my school.

(Laughter.)  So, would you say that men in their 30’s and 40’s –

(She cut me off.)

Men who are in their 30’s and 40’s and aren’t married are not really the good type.

How so?

For one thing, they can’t hold down a girlfriend.

Why can’t they hold down a girlfriend?

Perhaps they’re drunk.  Perhaps they’re abusive or stupid or just disgusting, or, you know, stuff like that.  One thing – I don’t say this actually happens – but one thing that always seems to happen in books: the good guy is married, and then he gets divorced to be with someone else, and ends up having an unhappy relationship.  It doesn’t work.

What would you say to me?  I’m divorced.  But I didn’t get divorced to be with someone else. 

If I were you, I just wouldn’t worry about it.  You can’t control fate.

This is true.

Fate does as she pleases.  What fate normally does is…not very fun stuff.  I think you just got to show you can make it on your own. If you meet a nice guy — great! I’m happy for you! — but you don’t need one.

I know.

You’re doing GREAT without one.

Thank you!

So, I wouldn’t worry too much. The only people who are not doing well without guys are those who wallow on their couches all day, doing nothing but crying and eating ice cream.

That’s true.

So by the time they actually feel like, “I’m going to brace up and do something about it,” they’re 55,000 pounds!  They ate too much ice cream and sat on the couch!  And then they don’t do anything about it, and they’re back on the couch…

(Pause.)

Don’t wallow in self-pity.

Okay.

It never works.

It never works?

NEVER works.  I have already experienced self-pity and I hate it.  Don’t even let it…just ignore that emotion.  Stay positive.

What do I say to my girlfriends who are dating guys but the guys aren’t really –

— Into it?

Exactly.  They aren’t committal.

Guys who aren’t really committal…I have a feeling guys around this time [at your age] have probably had a relationship, and something terrible happened.  Their wife, or whoever they were dating, probably cheated on them and they felt like she was THE ONE, so they don’t want to get hurt again.

Yeah.

They don’t want to feel that pain. I have a feeling they’re not getting committal – not because they don’t like her, or think she’s not perfect — they just think, “I don’t want that pain again.  I thought this about someone else and I just experienced pain out of it; I don’t want that to happen to me [again].”

Guys just aren’t willing to take that many risks on stuff like this.

Do you think women are willing to take more risks than men?

Well, when you’re young; when you’re a girl growing up, you hear all these fairy tales about true love and all that, and you think, “Oh, I can’t wait for all of that for me!”   — But guys don’t get that.  They hear different stuff.  So when girls are ready for their true love, but guys have experienced pain, they don’t want it.

Hmmm.

Listen: no matter how good you are, they are not going to move that fast.  They’re not just going to come rescue you from the tower.

That’s true.

So to those girls who are growing their hair long to be like Rapunzel — just cut your hair!!

(Laughs) Okay.

I had to add that!

So, is there hope for a 35-year old single woman like me, to find a good man?

Oh, yeah!  They’re still out there.  There’s always a good man.

Where are they?

(Pauses):  I don’t know.  I’m not a geography person.  I failed that. (Laughs.)  But they’re out there!

(Laughing)

So, picture this: You are out walking one day.  It’s afternoon, and the sun is setting, blah, blah, blah, and you pass this guy.  And it’s great. You talk to him; you go jogging together.  And then you learn he is in this relationship with a girl you once knew in high school.  And she’s terrible. I mean, really terrible. He is having a little trouble with her, but he refuses to let her go because of her amazing looks.

But you — you open his heart to real things!  And that is a 30’s-to-40’s romance.

(Wheezing with laughter): How did you get to be so wise?

(Smiles and shrugs): I’m an old soul.

A Few Good Men

Last night I stopped at my favorite Pho restaurant to pick up a late dinner.

Andrea first introduced the hidden gem to me a few years ago, and I have been a frequent customer ever since. When I walked through the door, the owner was happy to see me.  He flashed a big, crooked-tooth smile, patted my arm and took me aside.

“When you going to get a man?” His face showed genuine, deep concern.

I threw my head back and laughed, heartily.

“I really don’t know!”

His eyes narrowed.  “Why you have problem?”  He then waved his hand towards my figure.  “You look good enough.”

I smiled and shrugged.

“No dates,” I offered, truthfully.

“Aha!” He wagged his finger in my face. “You too picky!”

*****

As I curled up on the couch with my hot pho and the next episode of “The Walking Dead” (I’m addicted!), I chuckled to myself.

It felt good to know my singlehood / lack of an active dating life was disconcerting to someone other than me.  At the same time, I wanted to protest and assure the Vietnamese restaurant owner I don’t need a man in order to be happy, fulfilled or whole. In fact, I ceremoniously quit online dating for my birthday, and life has been much more peaceful. I got tired of sorting through tacky, suggestive or grossly misspelled messages from men I didn’t find intellectually stimulating, or even the slightest bit physically attractive.

Over the past two years, I’ve been a member of eHarmony, Match.com and Ok Cupid! (My sisters and I prefer to call it “Stupid Cupid”.) I’ve met a handful of nice guys, but ultimately, I’m done with it all.  It just wasn’t working for me. Call me old-fashioned, but I much prefer meeting people in person.

I added extra Sriracha sauce to the salty broth and pondered the restaurant owner’s words.

What if I am too picky?  What if I do need a man in my life? I certainly wouldn’t complain if a good one came along, but the whole process of not trying to find one is exhausting.

The truth is, I’m probably trying too hard.  Admittedly, I think about it too much.  For crying out loud, I’m spending my Friday evening writing out my frustrations instead of making out with a hot date.  (Isn’t that what we all would rather be doing?)

And, yes, I’m picky, because I want to date good men; guys that I think are amazing.  Recently, however, the good men I find amazing don’t look at me twice.  It just is what it is.

So I keep convincing myself that I’m OK with all of this. Then, I go into “fix it” mode: I really should keep my mouth shut because I’m not going to attract the “right” person, or, worse: I’ll drive a good man away because I look and act like I don’t have it all together.  It’s bad enough having Divorce and Reckless Driving on my record.  Nobody wants a drama queen.

I know the negative thoughts are untrue, but sometimes I need an explanation as to why the good, available men are so scarce.

It’s disappointing.

My ex-boyfriend was absolutely amazing when he boldly pursued me.  I had no idea things could be that good, or easy, with a man.  He set the bar high in the relationship department until his fear of love, confusion and emotional withdrawal lead to the ultimate ending of our very brief relationship. Twice.

Besides a sprinkling of a few dates with my busy ex-boyfriend, I have been on one other date this year.  I met the guy on Stupid Cupid, and he immediately asked me out.  We enjoyed good conversation over beer a few Fridays ago. I liked him from the minute I met him. We laughed, flirted, exchanged semi-vulnerable stories and he seemed to genuinely have a good time.  Afterwards, he drove me home, kissed me on the cheek and said he’d call me.

He never did.

And that’s it. That is the extent of my dating experience this year.

I paused the television just as zombies violently began tearing into the flesh of an unfortunate, terrified new character.  I crossed my arms, sat in silence, and continued to process my situation. I was reminded of something my therapist recently told me.

“You’ll have to go through a few good men, Leslie, until you find one with whom you are most compatible,” she said, gently.

I have about six weeks left in Los Angeles, and then I will tour the United States with the Brian Setzer Orchestra until the end of 2012. I have never looked forward to anything more.  In a way, my leaving will serve as an escape from the blank canvas that is my love life. I will not have time to sit and wonder why no one has the balls to ask me on a date.  I will be too busy to think, or care, about any of it.

Yet, suddenly, I am encouraged.  There isn’t just one good man out there.  There can be a few.  Or even more.  I had a pretty serious relationship with one already. We didn’t work out, but I’m so glad I dated him. It was worth it.  He was a good man. And, I went on a first date with another good man.

I’m not giving up, just yet.  Surely there are a few good men in my future.

Perhaps good men are like flesh-eating zombies.  They’re everywhere, coming for you (although some drag their feet), and you’ll never know what hit you until they find you.

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