Beneath a bean-stalk..
June 6, 2006 6:29 AM   Subscribe

My ex-girlfriend is visiting me for about a week in July.

Long distance relationship. She decided you wants to experience 'more' and so she's started dating whilst suggesting I do the same. Constantly going out so there's no time really left for the things we used to do to keep in touch. Claims I'm still the one she wants to marry. My apologies for the briefer, but I figured a little back story couldn't hurt.

She's visiting the last week of July and I want to make the best of the situation; I'm a romantic at heart and I'm still very much enamored by her. Part of my goal, however silly, is to 'shock and awe' her into paying more attention to me once she gets back so that we can maintain some semblance of a long-distance relationship, amorous or not. To that effect, any recommendations for activities? Unfortunately my budget isn't huge but I'm willing to listen to any and all suggestions. I'm located in Queens, NY and work out in Long Island. I leave work at around 4 PM and, allowing room for traffic, get home by 5 PM. I started working at my current job in March so while I can likely take a little bit of time off, unfortunately I can't afford to blow off the entire week.

As long as I've lived here I haven't really experienced very much of the city so I'm looking for advice on romantic encounters in and around NYC. Contrary to some of our other visits, I want a full bodied plan this time around. Thus far there's one blip on the agenda, a Fiona Apple/Damien Rice concert at Mohegan Sun which I'm hoping goes well. I'm admittedly worried about an uncomfortable two hour drive followed by us getting lost and missing the concert.. but I digress.

One thought that comes to mind is dancing lessons. She loves to dance, but I'm inept. Heck, one of the things she does these days is go dancing constantly. Suggestions in this direction would also be appreciated.


To summarize my question, if you had a week, perhaps your last, with a recent ex and you wanted to make the time as magical as possible, what would you do (in NYC!)?
posted by Raze2k to Human Relations (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Take advantage of the ability to get takeout at all hours. Lots of sex. No, I'm not being snarky.
/fondly remembering long-distance relationship
posted by desuetude at 6:58 AM on June 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

I'm a romantic, myself, but if she's already expressed a desire to see other people, I think she's decided that she doesn't want to pursue any form of long distance relationship (outside of friendship).

That said, while I'm no New Yorker, I'd suggest taking an evening stroll in that big park of theirs. Hollywood, at least, tells me its a romantic thing to do. Furthermore, if the goal is to get her to focus on you, I'd choose things which would place you in the center of attention...or constantly in it. Go to an art gallery or a museum, where you both can walk together and be provided plenty of time to talk about a variety of topics together.

How are you at cooking? Can you prepare some candlelight dinners for both of you? Perhaps even try and hire a violinist to serenade while you eat?

Good luck and I hope you find the happiest resolution to it all.
posted by Atreides at 7:02 AM on June 6, 2006

i think the dancing lessons idea is wonderful. it shows her that you want to share her interests and are willing to take a risk to do it.

i'm not from new york so i don't know about that part. but something that always blows me away is when a man cooks for me. there's plenty of time to master a full menu before she comes, even if you currently don't know how to boil water.

(favorite cartoon caption: a man saying to his wife, "Fine, I'll get my own water! Where do we keep the water?" but i digress.)

fresh flowers. have them in your apartment when she arrives and don't make a point of giving them to her (though you can bring her some later in the week). the idea here is "oh yes, i always have a lovely vase of fresh flowers here in my apartment. i find they brighten up the place."

make a music cd with tunes you both like, and with a romantic theme, to play when you're just hanging around?

try not to try too hard. act as if the idea of her going out with other men doesn't bother you at all (you'll need an oscar-level performance). but slip in that no, you haven't dated, you have no need because you've found what you want in her. "i wouldn't want to give some woman the wrong idea, because i'm really not available for a relationship with anyone else."

(it's ok to do the whole nonchalance thing a bit tongue-in-cheek.)

at the same time, don't make her think you've been sitting home pining for her. if you haven't yet, join at least one group that is relevant to your interests, and spend the time between now and then getting involved with it. (who knows, if things don't work out with this woman, you might meet someone else who shares your interests!)

once you've done what you can to set things up, let go and let God. you can't make something happen--especially when it comes to relationships!

very best of luck.
posted by lisaj32 at 7:31 AM on June 6, 2006

Just a thought on the dance lessons, if she's doing partner-dance stuff on her own: Unless she specifically has said that she wished you went out dancing with her, or your dislike of it was a big factor for her, I'd skip that idea. It can be great when someone you love is willing to stumble around with you to show that he's willing to try new things, but I've seen a number of *bad* interactions when boyfriends decide to start taking lessons simply because they don't like their girlfriends going out by themselves -- usually, the woman gets annoyed that the guy is so far behind her and yet expects her to dance with him the entire time, the guy is pissed off both because he thinks he looks stupid and because his girlfriend is showing him up, and everyone ends up miserable.
posted by occhiblu at 7:35 AM on June 6, 2006

Oh shit. This sets off warning bells. Let me get this straight. She says she wants to marry you, but she completely ignores you in favor of going out, partying, and meeting other guys? And you're buying this, despite the fact even you refer to her as your ex? Oh yeah, you guys are a match made in heaven.

Sounds like she doesn't like you, she just likes it that you like her and feeds you just enough of what you want to hear to keep you attached. Don't fall for that manipulative bullshit. That's not how soulmates or fiances or whatever the fuck she claims you are act. You need to move the fuck on and find a lady who will appreciate you.

To make this answer kind of legit, try picnics in Central Park, carriage rides, that stuff. Unless you give us a better idea of what she likes, I'm afraid you're only going to get cliche to semi-cliche romantic ideas from this thread.

Oh, and second lisaj32's idea about not trying too hard. Actually, if I were you I wouldn't attempt to do anything romantic at all. She already knows you're still interested in her. That's probably the whole appeal of your relationship. You show you're disinterested, that'll get her attention. She'll chase you for a bit, you'll come running back, she'll pull away, and the delightfully fucked-up cycle will continue.
posted by schroedinger at 7:37 AM on June 6, 2006

All that said: The Cloisters, if you're into art and/or gardens, was my favorite place the last time I visited New York. It's got that European crumbling abbey - type romance, plus gorgeous gardens.
posted by occhiblu at 7:37 AM on June 6, 2006

schroedinger: I hear what you're saying, but please take heed of one small note I placed in my original post. "Part of my goal, however silly, is to 'shock and awe' her into paying more attention to me once she gets back so that we can maintain some semblance of a long-distance relationship, amorous or not."

I love this girl. I know this. She knows this. I also realize that a long distance relationship is terribly difficult and it's only gotten more difficult with the passing of time. Sadly neither one of us is at a place where we can relocate to be together. If I could move there I feel strongly that this wouldn't even be an issue.

While I'd love nothing more than to have the week rekindle whatever deep-seated passion she once felt for me to the point of wanting to spend at least some nights 'alone' with me (I know, I know.. sorry for the melodrama), I recognize the unlikelihood of that. I'm shooting for:

- Some impact that will leave her at least interested in keeping better contact with me (the hopeful romantic in me needs that for any future prospect)
- Or on a more melancholy note, some final timeless memories in the event that we never meet in person again.

The content of those evenings will depend a lot on us.. but I'm looking for good back-drops for what I hope will be several evenings of thoughtful conversation.. and, if I'm lucky, a connection that will once again transcend distance.
posted by Raze2k at 7:50 AM on June 6, 2006

I've always found the most romantic part of NY is being able to discover new and exciting things.

I suggest you just walk around. Way more romantic, imo, than having plans. Enjoy each others company. Romance happens. Nothings worse than doing something romantic that turns out to be anything but.

If you want a route here's one.

Start off in Union Square and casually walk south, through the village (down first or A), stroll through the LES, get some food, traipse around China Town and Little Italy, find yourself in the financial district at night, take the SI ferry in both directions. take the train back up town. Walking to the same destination through chelsea, west village, soho and tribeca is also nice.

I'd suggest you don't share with her your plan beforehand. Just act casual. Find places to eat. have a drink, etc. Good luck.
posted by milarepa at 8:05 AM on June 6, 2006

Well, what did you do that initially attracted her? Do that again, mostly. Update it, flip it around, be non chalant about doing it, but do it again.
And find yourself a new girl. She's dating other people, you should date other people. Why not? You CAN have casual relationships.

(Oh, and "make a music cd with tunes you both like, and with a romantic theme, to play when you're just hanging around?" contradicts "try not to try too hard.")
posted by klangklangston at 8:16 AM on June 6, 2006

(I'm going to keep on topic, but for the record, I agree with other posters who worry about the relationship. To me, your disclaimer changes nothing. It might take dating out of the equation, but it then becomes what amazing thing can I do to impress someone so much that they'll stay friends with me. I don't think that's a good foundation for a friendship.)

-- boatride round Manhattan.
-- I second The Cloisters.
-- If you can afford it, a night in a swanky NYC hotel.
-- paddle-boating in Brooklyn's Prospect Park (can you do this in Central Park?)
-- Brooklyn's Botanical Gardens
-- Take her to a fun show: I recommend "Blue Man Group" or "25th Annual Putman County Spelling Bee" for sheer fun and "Light in the Piazza" for romance.
-- My wife and I find going to the Bronx Zoo romantic, but we're big animal lovers (the Gorilla exhibit is AMAZING.)
-- If you can afford it, an expensive NYC restaurant, like Tavern on the Green.
-- Top of the Empire State Building

If you want to do some stuff that isn't romantic, but is shocking, open-minded and kinky, you could check New York's craigslist for "couples" events, i.e. swing clubs, lapdancing/blowjob lessons, etc. You could hire someone to come to your place and give you both a sensuall massage. You could go to a strip club together (male or female) -- or a female impersonator cabaret.
posted by grumblebee at 8:36 AM on June 6, 2006

Find a really good book of walking tours of NYC. Pick one (or more) of the walks near you, and do it a few times before she arrives, memorizing the information. Then, when she comes, you can casually point out interesting facts about the buildings you walk by when you're out strolling around. You will seem very clever, and, as a bonus, she'll realize what an interesting city NYC is, which might lay the groundwork for her to move there in the future.

(Of course, you can do this without memorizing the book, too, and just read from it as you walk. You will seem less well-informed, but, on the other hand, you are less likely to seem like you're trying too hard. Actually, the other advantage of reading out loud from a book is that is gives you a focus for your attention if things are a little awkward; you can sort of switch back and forth from the walking tour to your conversation.)

I want to also suggest an alternate, high-risk strategy. I'm not sure I would actually do it myself, but I mention it as something for you to consider:

For one evening while she is in town, make sure you have a date.

If you're not ready for an actual date, you can make it a date with a female friend who knows about your situation and is willing to be a practice date. But you must treat it like an real date; get dressed up, get flowers for your date, etc.

You don't have to lie to your ex about the nature of this "date," but you can certainly be honest about it in a way that will make your ex wonder. As in, "I can't do anything with you Tuesday because I've got a date. With who? Oh, just this girl I work with-- Jennie. I think I've mentioned her to you. I haven't? Anyway, we're just friends for now."

If your ex is completely cool with this--or is even relieved and happy--then you know the relationship is over. If she gets upset and jealous, you know there is still a chance, and you can work from there.

Like I say, I'm not sure I'd have the nerve to pull it off myself, but you might be nervier than I.

By the way: is your ex actually staying with you in NYC? Or is she just in town for the week? If she's just in town, be prepared for the possibility that what you see as a week long visit with you is actually just a week-long visit to New York, with maybe a quick lunch with you thrown in at some point.
posted by yankeefog at 8:42 AM on June 6, 2006

Razek2k, I'm sorry but I have to agree with schroedinger.

You want to shock and awe her into wanting you? Don't be such a doormat. Doormats are boring and unromantic. Guys who are busy and doing new things are challenging and interesting.

When someone knows that they can treat you badly (ie date other people in a romantic relationship), they cease to respect you, and totally take you for granted.

If you want her, I would suggest you start going out NOW and build a busy social life - no need for dating, but the fact you have new interests and are meeting people will definitely get her attention. Go to clubs (meat packing district), museums (my favs are the Whitney and the Cooper Hewitt (which by the way has DJ's and Dancing every friday night THIS SUMMER). Other stuff - is take advantage of the numerous things NY has to offer - Sheakspeare in the Park, readings (go to the St. Mark's bookstore - in the village where I grew up), go sit at the fountain in Washington Square park, take a ferry to Staten Island (I think its still those creaky fun ferries that cost 25 cents and horribly fun and romantic on a nice day), go to the Bronx zoo, and as has been mentioned, the cloisters. There are a thousand things to do in NY; other things I would find romantic: on a rainy day go to a six plex and spend the day sneaking from one movie to another, walk along west broadway in soho, and then maybe over to Tribeca. Walk along the west side highway. On a hot summer night, stroll through Greenwich village, up near Hudson avenue and the streets behind it, which are lined with brownstones - and find a small bistro there. Eat oysters at one of the she she restaurants faciing union square park. Go to coney island and go to the beautiful creaky amusement park, then walk down the boardwalk past the aquarium to where all the old russian ladies hang out. Go to Astoria, (I think its the broadway stop) at 2 am and go to the Greek cafes that get hopping at 1 or 2 am when the clubs let out - it feels like being back in Athens.

Take a friend, and along the way you'll discover which of those things are romantic date things (many or all of them in IMHO), but also get out. She'll be able to sense that you are building a life independent of her that is busy, engaged, and fun, and believe me, that more than anything will shock and awe her.
posted by zia at 8:46 AM on June 6, 2006 [3 favorites]

Oh, and add me to the list of people who are worried that, one way or another, you are setting yourself up for unhappiness. I'll keep my fingers crossed that this week turns out to be exactly what you hope it will be. If it's not prying, would you consider following up after the visit and letting us know how it went?
posted by yankeefog at 8:47 AM on June 6, 2006

Thank you for the advice, folks. I can appreciate what several of you have said, but admittedly I'm caught up in memories these days and at times it makes seeing things clearly difficult. Our first week together was storybook magic.. and I suppose in a lot of ways I'm hoping that this week either act as a revival of that or a pleasant closure to paths no longer available to me at this time. As I mentioned above, the content of these evenings depends on us; I'm hoping for good backdrops for memorable evenings.. even though I understand the notion that it's us that will be making the time memorable, it doesn't hurt to have evocative scenery.

yankeefrog, she'll be staying with me and doesn't know anyone in NYC. In short, she's stuck with me unless she decides to ditch me for random encounters. I'll be sure to post an update.
posted by Raze2k at 9:09 AM on June 6, 2006

Raze2k, I'm sorry but I really have to second and third schroedinger and zia's comments.

I've been that guy who was stuck on a girl who was just leading me on and I've since seen it happen with lots of other guys.

You can either write her off now and save a lot of time, money, and tears or write her off later after she's squeezed your dry (and not in a good way) and won't return your phone calls, emails, text messages, or acknowledge the flowers, sky writting, or whatever cheesy method you try to get her attention with. If you choose the later then I hope you learn from the experience so it won't happen again.

I know one or two guys who every few years go through a cycle of dating, being dumped, and then spending inordinate amounts of time and money trying to impress their ex. It's really a sad and pathetic existance. Don't be that guy.
posted by wfrgms at 10:03 AM on June 6, 2006

Be careful and helpful, folks. Remember, the post-er didn't ask whether to dump her or not, or whether you thought the relationship stood a chance. He asked about romantic things to do in New York.

The "high-risk" strategy of arranging a date during the week is a pretty terrible idea, IMO; an ideal setup for a nice big fight, or hours of awkward coldness, or other unpleasantness. Also, would that be an enjoyable experience for the girl on the date? Hard to imagine so, when she is just a means to an end, chosen in order for her indirect effect on an another woman. The LDR girl is making time for him; he should make time for her. But I do agree Raze2k, that you should get to know more people, and explore the city a bit. Having a life is a genuinely good thing, and will make a difference as to how your love interest sees you. Doesn't hurt to be out at a bar or restaurant and run into one of your many hip acquaintances, does it?

The suggestions for romantic NY in this thread are great, especially zia's. Don't overlook the Empire State Observation Deck; go in a spirit of hokey tourism, and then stay to be moved by the actually striking beauty of the view and the gorgeous Art Deco building. Go when the sun is at a low angle, early or late in the day.
posted by Miko at 10:36 AM on June 6, 2006

You know, a little over a year ago I was in a relationship where I began acting the same way your girl is—it'd been a long-distance relationship for three years, we'd been engaged for about a year at that point, and I started going out all the time and looking around for other male company and generally making myself unavailable to keeping-in-touch methods like phone calls and AIM chats.

In my case, I'd recently begun a new job that put me in touch with a lot more people, and kept me much more busy than I'd previously been—and I also decided that I wanted to get out there and experience more things than I had been when I was sitting at home thinking about my fiance. All of these things coincided with a crush on a male friend of mine, and my engagement just unravelled over the course of about a week—I said I wanted to take a break to see other people, he said that wasn't the way engagements work, I said I didn't care, and...just like that, it was over.

Why tell this story? Because as someone whose behavior one year ago directly paralleled your girl's current behavior, I want to warn you to take her behavior seriously—she's rearranging her habits and thoughts without you in mind. The distance is a real problem here—it's making her to see you as a construct, rather than a person. She's become habituated to certain facets of your long-distance persona to the point where she can no longer deal with you as you are.

Saving this will be a daunting task—she's likely not hearing you anymore when she talks to you. She's probably dealing with the stereotype of you, built up from your long-distance interactions, and that's made her willing to trade up for more immediate gratification.

The suggestions above to develop your own social life and interests are right on, I think. The one thing I notice now about my ex-fiance is just how connected he is—he's always busy, and has a great network of friends, which he largely cultivated in the year since we broke things off. If there's anything that at all made me question my decision to move on, it's just seeing how far he's come socially since then. (Of course, then I think about it a little more and realize how far I've come socially since then, and I remember why moving on was good for me. So there are two sides to this.)

There can be many immediate social benefits to moving on from a serious long-distance relationship. Your girlfriend is starting to realize this.

That said, here's your take-home message: the same benefits she's seeking can be gained, I think, by expanding one's social life while at the same time keeping in regular contact with the significant other. You'll probably be able to balance immediate social interest with long-distance relationship maintenance more readily at this point than your girl will, because you can see the big picture—you know what you stand to gain from each realm, and can keep that in perspective. What she needs to realize/be shown/be made to understand during this week is that she can maintain ties with you and not sacrifice her social life—and that you're not going to sacrifice your social life for her, either. What you need to realize during this week is that even if she becomes realigned to the relationship, she may still want to date other people for the time being. You should figure out whether that's an eventuality you can handle.

A final note—one of the key things my current boyfriend and I gleaned from perusing AskMefi threads about maintaining long-distance relationships earlier this year was the idea that if it's going to work, there needs to be an end or a goal in sight, or at very least an event to look forward to. Something you should do during this week is talk to your girl about things you'd like to do together in the future, and where you see yourselves ending up. Also, demeanor is important. You want to show her an unforgettable time, and you're feeling pressured because you may never see her again—but you really shouldn't let that show. You must force yourself to be laidback, because she'll sense your inner turmoil over this, and it won't help the situation if she, too, begins to feel pressured.

One of the best things a couple can do when in a long-distance relationship is to act normal when they're together—so I'd advise you not to spend more than you can afford to on extravagant dining and sightseeing if that's something that will make you worry about your finances. You'll get tense, and she won't see you at your best. And in that same vein, don't tense up if everything doesn't go as planned—and don't plan an intense buffet of sensory delights with a very specific schedule that will be ruined by a traffic jam. For this week, think flexible.

Finally, let her know how much you love being around her, and why. Just be honest and relaxed, and hope for the best!

Good luck! I think many of us would love to hear how it goes.
posted by limeonaire at 11:44 AM on June 6, 2006

Funny you should mention that limeonaire. The last couple of weeks I've found myself writing quite a bit and one of my thoughts last night was of writing that I was no longer a person, just an imaginary construct on the other end of a empty dial tone. Fun stuff. Thank you for the advice.
posted by Raze2k at 12:29 PM on June 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

I eleventh zia and her quantum cat.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:29 PM on June 6, 2006

Having thought it over, I think Miko is right: my "high-risk" strategy is a crappy idea for a ton of reasons. It's the kind of thing that could work great in a sitcom, but is a recipe for 10,000 different kinds of disaster in real life.Honestly, I'm kind of embarrassed to have advised you to consider it. My apologies. Please forget I said anything.
posted by yankeefog at 1:49 PM on June 6, 2006

-- Staten Island Ferry. It's free and a beautiful view of the city from the water.

-- Trip out to Governor's Island on Friday or Saturday (only time they go). It's only a few bucks and it's amazing views of the city and a massive island full of nature and history to wander around.

-- "Top of the Rock" -- the observation deck from the top of Rockefeller Center. $$ -- $20 each but a great view and very under-visited.

-- Burgers and milkshakes at the "secret" burger place in the Parker Meridian hotel a few blocks from Rockefeller Center.

I'd take a few weekends to scout out all these options -- make sure you know what's what and where it all is.

Also, I wouldn't over-schedule. You don't want to run her ragged -- especially in the late-July heat.

Good luck!
posted by petestein1 at 9:52 PM on June 6, 2006

it might be nice to sketch out several walks she might enjoy on her own during the days while you're at work.
posted by lisaj32 at 4:56 PM on June 7, 2006

I can't help with the "backdrop" so much as say -- whatever you do, I'd leave a lot of time to talk and reconnect. Having had a lot of out-of-town guests (like my folks), I second the "no schedule so tight that it can be derailed by a traffic jam." I can't imagine she's visiting you because she wants to see the sights. :)

I also wouldn't prepare yourself by thinking "last time" or "get her to want more connection," I'd try to get curious about her -- how is she growing, etc -- relate to her as someone from the present, not the past, and as an equal, not a suitor.
posted by ruff at 10:04 AM on June 8, 2006

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