Harpo, Who Dis Woman?

This woman is not Sofia but, I like to think that in an alternate universe, we are bosom friends — my calm demeanor balancing out her fiery one, her fists saving me from the bad habit my mouth has of writing checks my a** can’t cash. In the reality of this universe, I am Lydia of Brooklyn and merely a fan of The Color Purple and Anne of Green Gables and this is my blog, The Kettle Is On.

The inspiration behind The Kettle Is On is my love of two things—a good cup of tea, preferably Earl Grey, and my love of life stories, specifically, how we met stories. How we met stories are my favorite life stories, right up there with birthing stories. No matter how ordinary the tale may be, hearing a couple tell their how we met story always gets me in the feels and I reflexively awww every single time because, a how we met story is the beginning and beginnings fill me with hope and warm fuzzies. I met my husband on an online dating site. I know a couple that met on a movie set. They locked eyes across the make-up trailer and BAM! love at first sight. I know of another couple that met when they got into a car accident with each other, yeah, go ahead, awwww! I know! It’s like the Fates were trying to make them happen by any means necessary. AND I know of at least two couples that were high school sweethearts and are still very much in love and happy after more than twenty years together! Are you not filled with hope and warm fuzzies?!

These awww inducing relationships and those with our siblings, in-laws, co-workers and favorite baristas, are all fascinating and what make life interesting but once you pass the blissful how we met phase, relationships can become very tricky; fraught with misunderstandings and less than amiable human behavior. It is when things get tricky that you feel the need to put the kettle on for a cup of tea, talk it out and perhaps get some good advice. Enter, me, Lydia, tea enthusiast and lover of stories of human entanglement. I’m not Oprah, I don’t know anything for sure, but I’ll share my experiences with you and if you want my advice, I will gladly share that with you as well.

My How We Met Story
The roots of my how we met story can be traced back to a dear friend from college that I will call Snipes. One of my favorite forms of procrastination back in the day was visiting chat rooms. Snipes did not get the point of chat rooms but she encouraged me to say outrageous things in them to see how people would react and teased that I would meet my husband on the Internet. In the years after graduation, Snipes did her best to make sure that this came true by insisting that I create online dating profiles. It was through one of these sites that I received an email from my future husband on New Year’s Eve 2001. At the time, he was visiting his family in Iceland for Christmas and New Year and I had just come back to NYC from visiting my family in Texas. We emailed back and forth for a couple of weeks and in that short span of time I began to feel giddy at the sight of his screen name in my inbox. I couldn’t tell you what we talked about with any great detail. It was the usual getting to know you chit chat mixed with what I did today exchanges. I have them saved somewhere in a format that, most likely, only an ancient operating system can decipher.

I was nervous and excited when we decided to meet for dinner on a very cold January day. I know, you’re thinking first meeting with a guy you met online should NOT be dinner and I would agree. I have no excuse to offer other than it felt right, like this was exactly what I was supposed to be doing. I decided on the place, the now sadly closed, Chat ‘N Chew on E 16th Street. We met on the corner of E 16th Street in Union Square in front of Coffee Shop. He was tall and strikingly handsome. I was (and still am) small and geeky but to hear him tell it I was beautiful (awww! This is what you look for in a muffin folks!). My only memories of our dinner are that we discovered that we are both vegetarians and that he, with his naturally stoic face (also known as resting viking face), gives nothing of his inner thoughts away. I liked his email persona and found that I also liked him in person but, I couldn’t tell if he liked me or not. I prepared myself for his polite good-bye after dinner after which he would never call or email again. To my surprise, he didn’t say good-bye but suggested we go somewhere else afterward for coffee, for him, and tea for me. I’m pretty sure I rambled quite a bit between tea sips and I remember seeing what seemed like hundreds of cabs streaming down (3rd?) avenue outside, all with ads for the Broadway show Urine Town in their light boxes. Afterward we walked downtown and talked—again, about what I have no idea—but I do remember that it was bitterly cold and my shoelaces kept coming untied. He joked that maybe I didn’t actually know how to tie my shoes. We stopped walking at the West 4th Street subway station. He invited me to a joint birthday party he and one of his roommates were throwing at his place in Williamsburg. At the time, I was an uptown Manhattan girl and saw Brooklyn as a wilderness to be visited only rarely and where streets had names, not numbers, and thus was barely navigable. It is a testimony to the power of love that I said yes without hesitation.

Earl Grey—Black
I am not a morning person. When my alarm goes off in the morning, the tinkling sounds of crystal emanating from my phone do not inspire me to leap out of bed ready to tackle the day but instead make me snuggle deeper into bed. I convince myself that I don’t really need to take a shower and so can spend another fifteen, even thirty minutes in bed. One of the few things that make getting out of my warm and cozy bed worthwhile is the prospect of drinking a hot cup of Earl Grey tea—no milk, no sugar—black. I feel downright giddy as I fill our orange kettle with water, push the red button on the handle and hear the hiss of the rapidly heating water. When that boiling hot water hits those tea leaves releasing the steamy, bergamotty (it’s a word to me!) aroma—bliss! I’m sighing right now just thinking about it!

I place the tea on the kitchen table, I sit, I cup my hands around the warm mug and despite the madness of the world outside, in that moment, absolutely nothing is wrong. Tea is my haven within a haven, my primary haven being my apartment. [Sidebar: One of my other havens is Korean dramas, which I highly recommend if you are ever in need of escapist, melodramatic, occasionally 1950s rom-com style fabulousness.] Most of life’s problems can be put into sharp focus and calmly dissected over a cup of tea.

We humans can be both phenomenally fantastic and colossal assholes and when we interact, especially within families and as couples, it can be intense and overwhelming. To be clear, I’m not expert on anything but I’m fairly rational and an avid, some would say keen, observer of human behavior. Whatever your relationship issue or problem, tell me all about it. The kettle is on.

I’ll pour a cup of Earl Grey and get back to you with my two cents but consider yourself warned, I give my advice the way I take my tea, without sugar or cream.

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