Claire's Story: The C Word
On Christmas Eve, I hurried into my boyfriend's apartment to leave my gift for him -- a handmade book about our adventures over the past year, with my illustrations -- on his pillow. But there was already a note on the pillow, with the letter "C" -- the initial of my first name -- and I thought, "How sweet!" and opened it. It began, "Last night, when I felt your lips on my vagina..." Oh. It was a note for HIM. His name began with "C" also. I left the book anyway, got him my car, and drove 54 miles home, nerves jangling all the way.
What was I thinking when I thought being a friend with benefits with my ex-husband was a good idea when I knew he was seeing someone else, with whom he just spend this Valentine's weekend with, yet he stopped by yesterday to see me. Talk about feeling like the other woman, oh and by the way there were plenty of other woman when we were married. So again I have to ask my self WHAT AM I THINKING AND WHY CAN'T I MOVE ON?
Jennifer's Poem: What was I thinking?
What was I thinking?
I was thinking
Of his lips
His cute butt
His perfect voice
His sweet touch
I didn’t see the sad behind the grey of his eyes
I didn’t see the scared human
With a twisted back
And willowy chest
So soft and pale like a baby's
I saw only the flicker of man
Projected from inside a boy
I was thinking of the vows
Said one day on the sand
With salt in my hair
Slowly wilting the white orchid
I thought only of forever
And daily need
That a think like us could never break
Crack or tear
Scar like the ones that run up and down my chest
Now my heart has ones to match
I was thinking of only
The rose without thorns
And unreal created thing
A hothouse creature
Manipulated and altered
Not a thing of the wild
Or the sun and the earth
Not a thing of truth
I see the world in rose
With fairies by ponds
With mermaids in the sea
With energy coming from the earth
Winding around her children
I see good
I saw only good
And this is the way
I will continue to think
Zoe's Story: If You Really Love Me
I'm lucky, in a way. I really only have one boyfriend in my life who if he called I would hang up on, if I saw him on the street I would cross to the other side, if he 'friended' me on Facebook I would block him. Silas.
He was my first and worst relationship.I was fifteen on the cusp of sixteen when I met him. He wore scarves jauntily around his neck and was on the debate team. He bantered cleverly with his friends and wrote with a fountain pen. He loved higher math and photography. I felt special to be noticed by him. We fell into love in a rush and tumble. I managed to overlook his friend's friendly warnings and the dark presence of his recent ex at all the parties--her murderous looks boring into me every chance she got. She had broken up with him, hadn't she? It was over.
As the months wore on he began to explain to me how she was the one he credited for everything he knew about relationships and how he still relied on her for advice and direction. When we kissed he would reminisce about how the passion we felt reminded him of the passion he had felt with her. When we discussed topics of the day he would mention how she had been so good about supporting his views.
Walking down the hallway we saw her lying on her stomach to study and he asked me over lunch had I noticed the shape of her butt and had I ever considered taking up running like she did? I hadn't. Only a mile a week he said would do the trick. I don't remember being angry or offended. I don't recall feeling that anything was out of place (other than the shape of my butt). He said he loved me and that trumped everything. For a while.
Prom season arrived. I was excited to dress up with him and be part of a fantastic prom couple. I don't dance he said. And furthermore if you truly love me you wouldn't want me to go because it would make me feel bad about not dancing. You don't want to make me feel bad do you? For the first time my answer was slow in coming. I told my friend Anne how disappointed I was. I was only a sophomore and without him I couldn't go. That's bullshit she said. I don't have a date she said, wear a tuxedo and go with me. I went to Steve with the wonderful solution. I got a cold reception. The point was for neither of us to go. Not for him to stay at home while I went off and danced the night away posing as a boy. If I really loved him I would not go at all.
"If I really loved him..." "If I really loved him...." This phrase rang in my ears; waking me up to all the other times I'd heard it before. "If I really loved him..." I went to prom. As a boy. With a matching red tie and cummerbund to match Anne's dress. Steve decided to camp out in his friend's hotel room and would come down regularly to summon me out to the hallway to tell me how bored he was. He didn't like how I was behaving; he thought I was being a bitch. Anne started to get annoyed about how much time I had to spend in the hallway. As the night went on his comments became more threatening and parental. He told me how patient he'd been with me, that it took almost a Christ-like level of patience to deal with me. His words. He pitted himself against the flashing lights, all you can eat appetizers and booming music of prom and lost. In the carpeted nook of the hotel hallway he tugged his rumpled white silk scarf and finally he demanded that I leave prom, abandon Anne or else...we were through. Ok. I said. Ok.
As I walked back into the ballroom I knew it wasn't over--not by a long shot--but I could breathe again. It was only a matter of time.
Caitlin's Story: The Magic Woman of The Forest ...
"The magic woman of the forest prepares to battle the evil lily pads." I was a freshman in college and working as a grip for a senior’s BFA film project, which meant sitting with ten other grips on a once-white sofa that smelled of stale beer, ignoring the history of sexual acts preformed on it, to which I had been the unfortunate witness during the year’s smattering of parties held at this bachelor pad (now film set), code-named the "Flamingo."
It was day two and still none of us had touched a light, a sandbag, or anything remotely resembling film equipment. We were playing word games. Occasionally the art designer would run through the room, covered in orange paint or shouting at the sleeping art team for more chicken wire. The assistant director would stop in from time to time asking if we were hungry. One or two people would look up at the noise and, like checking the caller I.D. to see that it was only mom, would put their heads back down—the message machine would get it.
Our current game involved strips of paper folded into eight sections. In a circle, each of us held one in our laps. In the first blank box, we wrote a sentence, then passed it to the person to our right, who drew an interpretive picture of it, only to fold the sentence down, leaving just the picture remaining. Then, the papers would be passed again. A sentence would be written about the drawing. The drawing would be folded, hidden and the new sentence would be passed—a chain of blind interpretations.
My friend Anna had just passed me a picture of a forest. In-front of it an angry, slender figure, with pointed ears, slanted eyes, tight clothing and a bandana stood in an on-guard manner—like Nicole Ritchie trying out for the part of Legolas in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings. In front of her lay a row of circles with a random smattering of dots on each. I wrote: "The magic woman of the forest prepares to battle the evil lily pads." I passed it.
When all eight boxes were filled and the papers completely folded, we’d unravel them into bouts of laughter, God turned into a happy pumpkin and Clive Owen into an albino ghost. Sentences appeared that would remain in our repertoire of quick punch lines: "Hey remember 'the musical creature in the sky that sang of a time when gas prices were lower’ or ‘the sad dog with an udder who was surprised when his ass turned into a fan and fall commenced?'" We would unfold these nonsensical chains of strange sentences and crude drawings in fits of hysterical chuckles. Favorites were passed around. We gathered our heads close to see how our minds could lead each other astray. The boy in the white-striped shirt, who was obese as a child and, as a result, could stretch his neck skin out like a lizard if you got him drunk or bored enough, laughed, but it wasn’t like the other times—he looked at me. He passed his paper to the next person, a mousy girl, raised in a hippie commune in Maryland, whose hair always smelled like pot. She also looked at me and started laughing. The paper continued its vicious path, until it reached my friend Anna. "Oh my gosh!" She said in her rounded Pittsburgh accent: "Caitlin!" She handed me the sheet of paper.
The first box read: "The young man sets off down the path:" the beginning was normal enough. Below it, someone drew a small stick figure, whose eyes were fast little dashes, giving him a hastened, angry look. The head was a small and drawn quickly, the two ends of the circle didn’t meet up, one overlapped the other at the forehead, like a headband. The path before the figure was comprised of round stones with little dashes, perhaps for rough, visual effect.
The fascinating part about this game is that every person—just as one reads from left to right—draws from left to right. The man appeared first in the sentence, so he was drawn on the left, the path, being last, stretched out to the right. Often mysterious patterns and continuities are carried from drawing to drawing, simply by the structure of the connecting sentences, without any visual information needed. From the first drawing alone, I knew where it led: “The magic woman in the forest prepares to battle the evil lily pads.” What was so funny? I saw the sentence that connected the first drawing, to the one I had interpreted. The sentence read: "Elijah Knowles emerges out of the woods following the pizza path" "Oh my god." I let my head rest in my hands. I laughed in a nervous, last resort kind of squeal. We all were.
"Oh no. Oh no. Don’t let him see this!" I shook my head. I was dating Elijah Knowles. I was dating the magic woman of the forest and, in that moment, I knew I wouldn’t be for much longer. That instant had finality like the edge of paper; there was no more room. We had been a series of moments strung together, evolving into an obscurity of missed cues and old expectations hanging dry on someone else’s clothesline.
We had started dating after a drunken hook-up in the Flamingo’s skuzzy basement with fifty other film kids loving-up on each other in the dark. A week before, Elijah had professed his love to me in that same house, while the world rolled and sloshed with cheap vodka and the bodies of people I don’t remember. There were at least eight of us tipping and rolling on that white couch, trying to find steady ground. The music was loud and he shouted in my ear: "I really like you!" I screamed back: "Great, but do you mind that I am in love with someone else?" In the morning he didn’t remember. A week later, with enough rum inside my stomach to set the entirety of Boston ablaze, I decided to try to forget the “boy back home” and there was Elijah: available with a decent sense of humor and the aloof aura of an on-campus celebrity.
He was freakishly devoted to film lighting, spewing out facts about aperture, rigs and light temperature. In the microcosm of our school's film department, he was a rising star. I got a cheap thrill from the second-hand attention. "Whose the special person?" Lanky boys would ask as we passed them in the dormitory hallways. They’d walk off smirking and sometimes even give Elijah a high-five. I let myself become a thing attached to his arm.
Along with all the film crew boys, Elijah adopted the uniform of tight, ball-breaking, hipster pants, topped off with a bandana tied around his head. He had a small frame, exaggerated by his form-fitting fashion statement, hence, the magical woman of the forest. It was no secret that I could pick him up—I consistently won our wrestling matches. Yet somehow I was attracted to the angst he exuded. When I first met him, he had a pink splotch of dye in his hair, just because he was bored one day, and two lip piercings that said: “fuck you” to his southern gentleman upbringing. Standing next to each other we looked like cruel joke, a Saturday Night Live scenario of a hippied-out Anna Nicole Smith dating a thirteen-year-old Jet Li after a bad day at the body-piercing parlor.
None of this bothered me. I folded it out of sight and kept playing. I continued writing secret letters to the boy back home. Elijah and I became official. We had sex. Terrible sex. Sex with Elijah was a fluorescent lights on, dorm room, make-it-quick-so-the-guy-next-door-doesn’t-hear affair. We had a routine, from who took their pants off when, to which breast he mouthed first. One day, at lunch with his friends, a loud girl in a purple jacket started talking about prude couples “who only fucked in the missionary position.” I choked on my soup. When I think of good sex, my mind always goes to the scene in the fourth season of the Sopranos when Tony bones the BMW sales woman in the nocturnal exhibit at the Zoo. They’re exposed, right out there with the snakes, bats, and hedgehogs, school groups threatening to turn the corner at any moment. He penetrates her and they move back and forth for a moment. Then she looks at him and says “Stop, just stop.” Tony is confused but does. They pause, arched, shaking, feeling that high of nerves, joy and fear that surges through the skydiver before leaping out into thin chance, about to know the world as a destination, a death, a home-safe, all the while wondering if they are about to see as God sees, giving themselves over to prayer and a parachute. All that next-door to the lions, the food court and the howling monkeys, all that from the absence of movement. The bizarre, the savoring, the slowness—that is sensuality.
Sex with Elijah was more like making love to a paint mixer. Afterward, I associated it with the machine gun sound-effect little boys like to make with their mouths: eah-eah-eah-eah-eah-eah-eah-eah-eah-eah-eah! Finish. Once I tried. Once I said: “Stop. Slow down.” “Why?” He said and continued. Not only was he afraid of discussing or experimenting with sex, but he was afraid of others knowing we had sex. Despite the “signal” system we set up with his roommate, whenever we heard a knock on the door, he’d jump into his clothes, stick a sweatshirt on me and open the door, like nothing had happened or would happen. We had to schmooze with his friends and entertain his perpetually stoned roommate, unfulfilled, still smelling of sweat and cum, me, braless with my hair in tangles.
A knock would sound. He'd freeze. "Let them knock." I'd say. "No. Let’s just stop." "Why?" I’d ask. "I just don’t want them to know." "Know that we’re having sex?" I asked. “Yeah.” He’d say like I was finally getting it. “But they do know.” “Yeah,” He’d say “but not right now.” “Is now not a good time?” I’d ask, but the sweatshirt would already be over my head. The door would open. It reminded me of the time my grandmother confessed to me how my grandfather refused to be seen buying toilet paper: “Everyone shits!” she said indignantly. I refused to see the problem. The rest of the story is textbook-bad relationship material: I started neglecting my friends. I realized he was an alcoholic. I cleaned up his puke on numerous occasions. During his southern upbringing, he also picked up what the south is trying desperately to leave behind: racism, bigotry and misogyny. I ignored it all.
Why? How could so many poor decisions line themselves up without my intervention? I now realize that something bigger was happening: I was unhappy. Not just unhappy with my relationship, but with my lifestyle as a whole. I didn’t like my school, my city or the path I seemed to be careening down at lightning speed. I used Elijah in every definition of the term. I used the physical closeness of our relationship, despite its shortcomings, as a crutch. I used him as a doll: an arm to hold me and a body to sleep next to me. I used the semblance of our relationship as a mask of normalcy. I used him to forget the past, but it still nagged at me: when we kissed on the subway, when we ran across the frozen pond throwing snowballs, before we fell asleep at night. He was a distraction and an abstraction.
It scares me how easily I let myself fall into such a negative situation. Everyday I thank the fate that brought me to that film set and that word game, the fate that passed me the drawing of the magical woman. It was the sheer bizarreness of the situation, the hilarity of my inability to recognize my own boyfriend, which made me realize I had, in fact, lost the ability to recognize myself.
While this essay is, on one hand, a self-centered, cathartic release, on the other, I am writing it as a message of hope. Friends confess to me that they date people because they feel they should, because it seems timely, or because there is something greater they don’t want to deal with: insecurities, stress or malcontent. I am writing this as proof that there is a way out, another answer, a new direction.
A year later, I left film school and moved abroad. I am now studying in Europe. I have been to more countries that I can count on my fingers and have learned more about people, relationships and culture than I could have in thirty years at the Flamingo. I learned to face my past and the fact that I am still in love with someone I am not ready to be with. This essay is about valuing the self, more than a relationship and finding definition from within, rather than from another.
This isn’t an anti-love essay. Love is as necessary as breathing, as beautiful as gold light and as exciting as a finger slowly moving down your spine. But love is something that shouldn’t be saved for one other person. It should be practiced everyday. Love should be given and received from friends, family and strangers. Love comes out of every moment if you let it.
After Elijah, I stopped trying to use a relationship as a safe hideaway. I cast away my fear of what others thought and my pre-conceived notions of what was right. It took my grandmother fifty-five years of marriage to conjure up the courage to leave her high school-sweetheart fantasy and realize that she had fallen out of love. She is now with another man and the happiest I have ever seen her.
I don’t date as often, but when I do, it means more. I’ve learned to value myself, my freedom and my feelings. I still sometimes dream about Elijah. He appears, attempting to convince me to take him back. When I wake up, I question my decisions and wonder what would I do if I saw him again. For a moment I feel regret as I picture the moment we kissed in Times Square with large snowflakes falling around us and sticking to our hair, but then I see the magic woman of the forest. I laugh. I work my way up the chain of memory, unfolding the crying, the puke and the bad sex and I know I am done with all of that and that I am ready. I am ready to pour my love into something real. I choose to give my love to today.
Mandy's Story: The Heart Wants What It Wants
I’m sure you have heard the saying “the heart wants what it wants”. Well, my heart inexplicably always wants the person who is the most capable of damaging it. Perhaps in a previous life I was a masochist and just a twinge of that lives on within me, I can’t be sure.
I was a 19 year old college sophomore when I met Luke for the first time. I was sitting cross legged in the crowded common area of my dormitory watching music videos with a group of friends. From behind me I heard the quiet strumming of a guitar so quiet it could have been my imagination. I turned and saw what appeared to be my wistful teenage girl’s fantasy turned reality- an attractive young man playing guitar. If he wasn’t a rock star he certainly looked the part. He wore a black and white baseball shirt un-tucked over black dickies. A ball chain necklace hung around his neck with a guitar pick string from it. He was looking down toward his acoustic and mouthing words as his hands moved so quickly and elegantly over the strings. GOD was this real? Was I dreaming it?
He entwined himself into my life quickly- calling me pet names, sleeping in my dorm room every night, making friends with all my friends. He joined a band and told me how he was going to make it big and take care of us. His guitar would pay the bills, we would just reap the benefits.I was completely enamored and let my own needs go so I could help complete his. We moved to our respective parents’ houses for the summer- over an hour away from each other.
I drove to visit him twice a week, he came to see me once a month. I left work early and took days off to see his band play, all the while sitting in a dark corner with another band girlfriend. Girls swooned over him, just as I had. I noticed the flirty smile was not reserved for me, neither were the pet names. We were all cutie, baby, princess, hot mama. How original. After a whirlwind 4 month romance, it was almost time for school to resume. Luke and a few of his friends were going to a music store near my house so I decided to join. We stood in the aisle surrounded by indie and emo bands with haircuts that looked so familiar to me after the months I spent in the basements of local churches and backyards with the band. He turned to me and said “we should get married.”
There was no ring, no romance, no dropping to one knee, just a sentence. I stood silent for minute before I turned to him and gave my one word answer: “okay.”
Things worked out just as they should and we never tied the knot. We planned a long engagement because we were so young, and love faded. He met a young girl (15 to be exact) at the summer camp he worked at and began dating her within a couple weeks of leaving me “to take a break”. Oh, the insanity.
Barbara's Story: How to Fall Out of Love
First, go with friends to a bar on a snowy night. Feel at your best, like you could be anyone. Smile, be radiant and throw your head back when you laugh. Be introduced to the friend of a friend of a friend who has been watching you from a dark corner. Talk for hours about nothing and realize how much you have in common. Have him walk you home.
In the quiet of the night hear how your footsteps magically crunch the snow in unison. Agree to meet the next night.The following night realize that he is older and shorter that originally perceived. Note that he is also brilliant and funny enough to make up for the shortcomings. Laugh a lot. Drink a lot. Laugh some more. “Did I mention I’m a doctor?” he says.In the back of your mind start planning the wedding.See him every night for the next three months.
When you go to movies, imagine you and he are the main characters. Sit together on the same side of the bench in all-night coffee shops. Go to bookstores. Discover that you both like Historical Fiction. Go to expensive restaurants, hold hands from across the table, ignore the waiters. Lose a lot of sleep. Give thanks to the gods that you finally know what it is to be loved, loved, loved. Feel yourself bursting from the inside out. Imagine yourself splattered all over the bedroom wall. Travel to LA for work. Be gone 4 days. Have him call you everyday. Have him call you every night. Have him call you at 3am two nights in a row just to talk. Lose more sleep.Have him surprise you at the airport. Have him give you a hug, a kiss and ask, “Did anyone hit on you?” Think he said, “Did anyone hit you.” On the ride from the airport have him ask, “Why don’t you move in?” Be thrilled. Say yes.
Saturday morning, have him arrive at your apartment before you’ve had your coffee. You haven’t started packing. Have him tell you won’t need much. Think that is so romantic.His apartment is a high-rise overlooking the park. You have part of a closet, a shelf in the medicine cabinet and a view to die for. Wonder what you will tell your mom when she asks why you never answer your phone. Arrive home late one evening. Have him ask, “Did anyone hit on you?” Realize he’s the jealous type. Think it’s “cute.” No one has ever been jealous of you before because this is the first time you’ve ever really been in love, love, love, and this is just how you thought it would be, having someone love you so much they become sick with jealousy just like in the movies and isn’t it adorable how anytime you go anywhere alone he always asks, “Did anyone hit on you?”
Let him pick you up from work. “I might be late tonight,” you warn.“I’ll wait,” he says.On the way home he is unusually quiet. You want to ask, “Is anything wrong?” but don’t.Get tangled together in the bed sheets. Lose more sleep. Wake up remembering the PBS program where a python is smothering a rabbit just before he swallows her whole. Your toes try to wiggle away but your legs won’t let them.Begin to get tired. Really, really tired. Take the train home, fall asleep, miss your stop.
Have the conductor wake you up in New Jersey. Get back to the city, call and explain. Be nervous but wonder why.
Have him sitting by the phone when you get there. Notice a hole in the wall the size of his fist. Tell him that you’re sorry. Watch him come at you like a charging rhino. Move out of the way just as he puts another hole in the wall. Watch his face burn red and his eyes disappear under angry folds of flesh. Feel the air move as his fist slams the wall by your right ear.Turn and run. Run as fast as your little rabbit legs can carry you. Take a taxi back to your old apartment. Lock the doors and be glad you never gave him a key.
Lose more sleep.The next day get red roses at work, a profusion of roses that look like a funeral spray. Don’t read the note. Realize that he thinks you like red roses, but you don’t, they give you hives. Decide to walk home instead of taking the train. See couples walking hand in hand.
Shudder and walk faster.
Madeline's Story: No High School "Sweet" Heart
Every so often you run into a couple who is happily married and loves to tell the story of how they were "high school sweethearts". I abhor these couples, primarily because my "high school sweetheart" turned out to be an egotistical jerk.
That's the nicest way to put it - I've phrased it much more colorfully in the past. It's really a shame - Connor and I started out so well, I really thought that we had some sort of future. He's quite good at that, convincing people that he's worth their time. But really, for the better part of two years, everything was beautiful. We were in love, two young adults content to spend every minute together. I went to his lacrosse games, he visited me at work. We went to China with our choir together, and we went to graduation together. He took me to every dance, and I took him to every party. We even had a special place, a deserted sports field in my town, where he would take me every time something important was going on between us.
So after we graduated, I imagined that we'd stay together, that everything would be wonderful forever. Alas, I was young and stupid. I suppose the first red flag appeared one night after having a quickie in his car - cliche, I know, but we were young and hormones were raging. Long story short, the condom let us down. Naturally, I panicked. He soothed me, explaining that this is what Planned Parenthood was for, and that once I took the morning-after pill, everything would be fine. He dropped me off in front of my house and kissed me on the head. Then he reached into his wallet and handed me 80 bucks - "This should cover it," he said. I stared after him as he drove away, mouth gaping like a fool.
He didn't take me to the clinic; one of my girlfriends did. Clearly he had never intended to. Yet I trusted our relationship, and although I could feel resentment beginning to build up in me, I did my best to ignore it and kept quiet. I wasn't pregnant, so what was the point in being angry about it? It was in the past. To celebrate our graduation and the beginning of our adult lives, 10 of my friends and I retreated to the Jersey Shore for the weekend, along with Connor and the rest of 2008's high school graduates. It was the infamous Senior Week exodus and all sorts of debauchery ensued.
Unfortunately, Connor and I had begun to fight incessantly and living in close quarters and drinking excessively didn't help. We made it through the first two nights by staying out of each other's way, but on the third night, all hell broke loose. Connor was drunk and I was not. I was sitting in my bed with one of my best friends, when he stumbled in and announced that he wanted to sleep. Irritated at the way he had behaved, I told him he was welcome to join us but we weren't moving. As expected, an argument followed, and soon we were screaming with full force. It was all coming out, the feeling of how he didn't care, his constant need for attention, and how he always thought he was right. After several minutes of yelling, he left the room and I followed.
Once in the hallway, he turned and looked at me. "What, Connor?" I asked him. Rather than answer, he yelled in frustration and threw out his fist, punching a hole in the wall inches from my face. As I stared at him, shocked, I heard my friend inhale sharply and move behind the door. At that moment, as we stared at each other, I knew it was over.
"I think you should go home," I told him, "and I don't think we should talk for a while". He gripped his fist, wincing, but looked at me. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to, it's just - " but I cut him off. "No." I turned and retreated into the room, shutting the door behind me. My friend closed me into the hug I so desperately needed, but I didn't cry, I just breathed. Relief hit me like his fist had hit the wall, and I knew that I would never be one of those people who end up with their high school boyfriends. But I would also never be that close to my high school boyfriend's clenched fist, and that was a trade-off I was more than happy to make.
Cassie's Story: No Words Left
You didn't get it. Didn't get how it is the way it is. How falling leads to fallen, and fallen brings fear to ever get back up and try again for Love. I wanted to not get that. But I did.
I knew as well as you how it feels when you push two opposing ends together and hope. The hope's the thing that stalled me from ending it, us. That hoping to mend, to get back to where the skin was fresh as the vantage point from innocence to now, but it wasn't. Every try felt like a try before I'd want some more, and you'd want some less. And then as time led our opposing want want wanting to each other, we would sit stalled on pavement with hollow eyed glares...like the last time I saw you. I was sitting on your driveway as you stood looking down on me, and I wanted you more than you knew, and you wanted me more than you'd like to admit, because then you would become second to no one else but yourself. And as I asked if "this was it", and your silence weighed heavier, and asked if you were "just gonna leave me here", and without a second left to reconsider your hot out of conscience thoughts, you pressed out a YES, you chose you.
Then, well hell there was no more fuel to pump into my knee-jerk reactions to run back or towards us, the classic end all BE ALL cycles of feelings without reason that was all I ever knew with you, because at that moment, your reasoning cut the cord to all my emotions. And without feelings, we had nothing. And that was the way our story ended. I didn't have a word left to say, but it didn't matter because I wanted you to have the last word. I wanted you to still hear your own voice, whatever attempt at preserving your needs to be you, some good ol- self-talk for you to shout out to air as even your echo became haunted by every moment of silence I left.
Jocelyn's Story: Distance
I had been dating this guy for about 3 months. He was one of my closest friends fiances close friends. Everyone thought it was the best idea that we get together. Who doesn't want their best friend dating their guy's best friend, sounds too good to be true. We didn't live that close so we had to drive out to see each other on weekends. It was a little under 3 hours to get to his place. He was nice enough but I think I knew deep down that he wasn't the guy for me, but I haven't had the best luck with men so I figured I'd give him a chance and see where it went.
The more we spent time together the more it seemed like he liked me than I liked him but again I wanted to give him a chance. Although he seemed to be more into me than I was into him it did seem as though I was the one going out his way to see him more often than he was driving my way. Which at first I always made excuses for: "Oh well he had already planned something for that weekend so it just makes more sense for me to go there." As the summer went on the more we spent time together, I was driving out his way to see him and I realized while I was there we really weren't even doing much. We would hang out at his house, maybe go to dinner. It was summertime, why weren't we going out and doing fun stuff!? The times we did do anything was when he wanted to go water skiing. At least those times my friend and her fiance came along so I got to see her. At this point I am still trying to give the relationship a shot, I mean he is a nice guy and treats me good.Then the questions started. It was like no matter what I said or did he'd think something was wrong. It was quite strange really.
He'd be telling me how he wanted me to see a certain movie for weeks so I finally agree to watch it, we put the dvd in and not 10 minutes into the movie he's asking; "What's wrong? You seem distant?" Distant??? What was he talking about, I was watching the movie he insisted I see! What was I suppose to do, put the movie on and spark up a conversation? The first couple of times this happened I didn't think much of it but then these types of questions seemed to come up more and more often. I'd come home from a long day at my job that I was not very fond of and we'd be talking on the phone, I'd say something on the lines of "Babe, it's been a long day, don't take this personal but I think i'm just going to head off to bed early tonight". No big deal, we'd hang up the phone and what do you know, a text comes through moments later "whats wrong, did I do something, you seem distant" DISTANT, there is that lovely word again! I then have to call him back and explain to him that no it has nothing to do with him, as I had previously stated it was a bad day, work isn't going so hot lately and I'd just like some sleep. Even after telling him all this I can sense that he is still worried.
This goes on for about a month, I keep telling him that nothing is wrong, I'm not being distant, blah blah blah. I joke with my friends about it at first but then I can tell that I am hardly even bringing him up to them at all anymore. My friends and I aren't the type to not discuss the guys we are dating, not in bad ways they just usually don't come up, so if they don't at all anymore, not a good sign boys!Then the shit really started to hit the "distant" fan. I suffer from migraines in the worst way!
One day while I am, of course, up visiting him we spend the ENTIRE day at some store waiting around for one of his friends to show up so they can buy a flat screen TV. At no point during this al day event do I complain, I just go with the flow and figure oh well at least we're out of the house. Finally they get the TV and we go to dinner, I am starving at this point. I have now gone from slight headache to full blown migraine, this is not good. I try to get some food down in hopes that I can avoid getting really sick. We eat dinner and head home. The drive back to his house is at least an hour. I can feel my migraine getting worse and worse. Then being in the car makes my stomach feel upset. Next thing I know I'm having him pull over the car, it's pouring rain and I'm throwing up. I get back in the car and you can tell he feels bad because I'm not feeling well and now soaking wet. I think to myself that he is being really sweet about the fact that I'm sick so maybe things aren't going to turn out so bad with him.
We finally get home after having to stop a couple more times. My head is just pounding at this point so I just go inside change into some comfy clothes and get into bed. The only thing that is making this migraine go anywhere is sleep and some solid sleep at that.He lets me just sleep for a while which is all I want. The next morning I wake up and I'm feeling better but still not 100%. He is next to me and I don't even remember when he got into bed. I'm sort of just laying there thinking how I'm almost afraid to move because anything can trigger the migraine to come back and I can't even imagine that happening. Then without any warning I hear "what's the matter, you seem distant this morning" I CANNOT EVEN BELIEVE HE IS PULLING THAT B.S. WITH ME OUT OF ALL MORNINGS. I turn to him and try to explain that if he had forgotten so quickly the night before I was throwing up and barely able to even keep my eyes open my head hurt so bad. I apologized that in the midst of all that was my misery I wasn't jumping all over him or reassuring him that I like him still. I am so shocked that out of all the times he tries to pull his insecure crap he decides that right then would be a good time.
We get into a little argument but it doesn't last long. I am probably the worst arguer ever, I just don't see the point and tend to just try and resolve things quick rather than let it get out of hand. We don't see each other for a couple weekends and I have this mixed feeling about it. I miss him but at the same time feel as though I can sense that this is all coming to an end. It was strange though because we had the connection of mutual friends. It was almost like if I break up with him I have to explain myself to them. He comes to visit me and right when he gets there it's like someone punches me right in the gut and says you know this is WRONG!!! We decide to go to the movies, a comedy. We are watching the movie and he keeps tapping my shoulder or knee and asking for a kiss. I'll admit that I can be a somewhat cold once I have made a decision because I know there is no going back, the choice has been made, that's that. FINAL! Then, out of nowhere in the middle of the movie, may I remind you, a comedy, not something sappy or sad, a comedy. He leans down and puts his head on my shoulder. For some reason this small little act made me scream in my head. It was as if every thought after that one little act was "BREAK UP WITH HIM" After the movie was out it was awful, every word that came out of his mouth got on my nerves. We got back to my apartment and were just hanging around doing nothing and yet I couldn't shake the feeling of wanting to scream. HE WAS SOOOOO ANNOYING!! I went out into the living room at one point and even said to my roommate how I couldn't take it! It had to be done. So I went back into the bedroom and did what really should have been done that very first time I heard the word "distant".
He wasn't very happy and ended up leaving that night even after I told him to at least stay and drive back in the morning. It was hard because he kept saying see I knew it all those times I thought you were acting weird it's because you were. NOOOO YOU IDIOT, those times there was nothing wrong but now your stupid constant question has made something wrong! NOW I REALLY AM BEING DISTANT! He didn't take it well. He tried with great effort to keep communication with me. I did feel bad for the poor guy but it was all too much. I can't be reassuring my boy friend at all times that I like him, it should be natural. It's a little time after Christmas and I think he's doing ok now. I do hope he finds a girl that he won't feel so inclined to question his girlfriend at any chance he can get!
Monica’s Story: The Funny One
I’ve always been attracted to the funny ones.
I met him backstage at a popular sitcom. He poked his head inside the dressing room. “Hey youse guys,” he said. Wow, I thought. It takes a certain kind of guy to pull off that phrase. And he did. Perfectly.
He asked me out instantly – in front of everyone – mostly for entertainment value. I don’t know if I was embarrassed or flattered, but I knew I was intrigued. And when I learned he was a stand-up comic – my heart beat like a bunny’s. He was funny and brave. I always admire people who do what I’m too scared to try.
Our first date was a collision of two worlds. I was raised in tract housing in Huntington Beach. At that time, the people were as homogeneous as the houses. He was a Guido from Queens. He said bada boom, bada bing – and not in the ironic way.
I had been a sorority girl at UCLA. He had dropped out of high school.
We were both full of so many questions. I asked him if he had any siblings. He asked me what the word siblings meant.
I was raised by a woman for whom correct grammar was the measure of one’s worth in the world. If I said, “snuck” instead of “sneaked”, my mom’s face would contort in the same horrified way that I imagine Mrs. Kaczynski’s did when she found out her little Teddy was the unibomber.
He didn’t care nothin’ ‘bout no grammar and mangled most words with more than two syllables. He would say “nonnegotionable” and “comeraderdie”. And for some reason – those two words seemed to come up a lot. A lot.
He also spoke of bustin’ people’s balls. Wow. Queens talk was so much more colorful than Orange County talk. I was completely and utterly enamored.
The first time I saw him on stage was exhilarating. He was on the main stage at The Comedy Store and people were laughing. Really laughing. He killed with his bit about his mom’s old-fashioned sanitary napkins being so big that they used them as cots for over-night guests.
I don’t know exactly what I was expecting, but he blew me away. He was kicking ass at something that I thought was one of the scariest ventures on earth - standing in front of a room full of strangers and trying to make them laugh. I couldn’t have been more captivated.
At some point, I completely let go of my own life. When friends and family would call and ask how I was doing, it was always, “He got a guest shot on a sitcom. He got a blurb in USA Today. He was on Entertainment Tonight.” I knew I was trying to live his life. But I didn’t care. His life was much more exciting than mine.
I never missed a taping of a sitcom on which he guest starred. I accompanied him to celebrity golf tournaments. We flew in friends’ private jets and cheered from the pits at Indy races. But when it was just us, we couldn’t have lived more simply.
He lived in a furnished studio apartment at an Oakwood complex and firmly believed he was living the dream. We were regulars at Sizzler, and it was the first time he returned from the salad bar balancing a shamefully high pile of kidney beans smothered in ranch dressing that I realized I was in love. I absolutely unabashedly adored this man.
I was already in too deep when I realized he was a full-on spotlight whore. Not just on stage, but everywhere. There wasn’t enough attention in the world for him. I gave him everything I had, but his constant need for adulation far exceeded his need for me.
All I ever heard was, “He’s so funny; you’re so lucky.” All I could do was smile. Little did they know they were the lucky ones. They got only his funny, entertaining side. They didn’t wake up with a deeply depressed and abusive boyfriend. The happier and funnier he was the night before – the deeper his plunge into darkness the next day.
I stopped working so I could follow him across the country. I’d seen how women reacted to celebrity comics. They would throw themselves at Quasimodo if he had a solid six-minute set.
After a couple years, our relationship devolved into my traveling with him to his out-of-state gigs just to ensure he wouldn’t cheat on me. I would sit and watch his same 50-minute act. After the show, I would sit across from him and gorge on crappy diner food into the wee hours of the morning. Then I would sleep the next day away and not want to face the world. At last, I was truly living his life.
My friends were bothered that he had no idea I was funny. But I don’t think he really knew me at all. I had forfeited my personality to make room for his. It was massive and had no boundaries. Thus, it was a case of simple physics. There was no room for anything or anyone else. His personality was infinite and we existed in a finite space. As his ego expanded, I morphed from a funny girl to a quiet wallflower to a virtual mute.
And just when I thought I’d never escape, it happened. We were on the phone. When he took a breath, I pounced on my chance to speak. I merely mentioned that it was my birthday. His response was, “Oh, it’s all about you, isn’t it?”
That punch line was the show-closer. I decided it should be all about me and taking my life back - my boring, quiet, uneventful life. And I wasn’t just bustin’ his balls - our break-up was nonnegotionable.
Nora's Story: Nipples and Nightgown
Pierced nipples were the last straw. The mere suggestion ended a four-year tug-of-war with my college boyfriend, Ben, and finally left our relationship wheezing in the dirt.
Just to be clear from the onset, Ben’s nipples weren’t the pierced culprits. The simple aesthetics of that situation would have made the messy affair much easier to discard. And, while I may have made some ill-advised hair color decisions in my time—from aspirational Jean Harlow platinum to Archie Comic orange—the pierced nipples weren’t mine either.
And yet pierced nipples did us in.
The offending incident occurred in 2000, when pierced nipples had actually lost their edge, giving way to Marilyn Monroe-style beauty mark studs, bull-evoking septum pierces, stretched ear gauges and tattooed sleeves. But, perhaps poetically, the saga began five years earlier in 1995, in a hip hop and grunge-heavy era when pierced nipples were at their height, considered cool by a specific set (probably including Ben, who had a double-pierced tongue) along with adult rave pacifiers, plaid flannels, hoodlum baseball caps yanked sideways, bicycle chain chokers and paper clip scratches of “CURT” on fleshy teenage inner arms.
That year, I left my childhood nook on Manhattan's Upper West Side. I waved goodbye to my eccentric art world parents, knishes and cranberry muffins from Fairway and friends from fifteen-year-old celebrity club promoters to first generation immigrant kids (who dealt pot in order to pay their parents' rent). I landed in LA's Inland Empire; without a driver's license, without a friend, without a clue, without a gourmet food market in sight.
It was in the midst of this fog of culture shock that I met Ben, who spotted me that first week on line at a campus-wide BBQ. He was a west coast skater kid, tattooed with wild milky green eyes—a little psycho in effect, but compelling too—like staring into a translucent crystal ball that I clearly wasn’t intuitive enough to read. I was wearing a gray flannel Calvin Klein nightgown, trying to pull it off as a dress, but the smell of night jasmine (and "beer goggles" via several pints of Guinness) must have clouded his perspective, for in years to follow he spun a fairy tale version, claiming he'd first seen me as a vision: silver gown, aura of light, sparkling and skinny and young.
Ben’s magical nightgown tale offered me an elevated version of myself that I embraced in the way you might cling to a particularly flattering photo, though it somehow doesn't resemble you. And, while it took him almost two years of inappropriate drunken outbursts and, at times, something close to stalking to coerce me into surrender, eventually—when neither of us could hold off another moment—he pulled me into a dark dorm common room and kissed me hesitantly against a decrepit yellow fridge. I was obliterated, lost to super nova strength infatuation, all glittery and wild particles of light. Suddenly, this entertaining, but odd little dude turned Technicolor. Especially in contrast to the cookie cutter houses, myriad candle and incense shops and Patagonia-clad students peppering the desert below Mount Baldy in Claremont, California, which all seemed so beige.
At that point, we were already kindred, so our time together—mostly spent scoffing at everything else—slowly magnified: we ogled kittens in pet store windows, drunkenly made out, built his celebrated little film projects. After graduation, we decided to play house in a little adobe enclave in the slums of Beverly Hills. And we nested happily for a while, until the realities of an adulthood for which he wasn’t quite prepared descended and shattered the magical nightgown into a billion scraps.
Countless red flags should have been earlier catalysts: The first time his enormous cat took a shit in my potted plant. When he insisted we keep that disgusting orange velour couch. When I told him I didn’t want the responsibility of a cat and he promptly bought me one. When he told me Camus’ The Stranger was his favorite book because he related to the main character. When I actually read The Stranger and realized that meant Ben might be a sociopath. (I’d watched enough Law & Order to know the downside of that particular affliction.)
When he told me he hated sushi. When he stopped working, but set up a cavernous walk-in closet—yes, closet—as his office in which to play role-playing computer games. When he started using a creepy vintage wheelchair at his desk, just for kicks. When he got a DUI on his way home from a strip club. When he threw down a bag of groceries on the floor and actually stomped his feet like a child having a tantrum. When his best friend came to stay in our one-bedroom apartment for a month and a half. When we came home to find that friend shirtless and shit-faced in the vintage wheelchair, watching Pavarotti on TV at an insane volume, with empty beer cans strewn everywhere.
When I came home at the end of the day to a pitch-dark apartment with only a crack of light streaming out of the “office.” When he told me to stop hovering, when I came to say hello. When he demanded to know why we always had to have dinner together. When he began eating only sourdough bread. When our next-door neighbor pretended to invite me over for a glass of wine, but actually wanted to express concern because she overheard our profane shouting matches. When I started huddling in my own closet for alone time.
When he started staying up until 4am to play his computer games. When, during a dish session, my friend Carlos meekly asked, “Does a small part of you wish he was addicted to something a little bit cooler than video games?” When I answered “Yes,” and we burst into hysterical laughter.
When Ben dragged me to Dublin’s, the world’s cheesy bar, where a strange older man assured me that I was young and there would be many other boyfriends in my future. When I told him I didn’t want other boyfriends. When I declined to go home with Ben for the holidays because last time he made me feel discarded. When he called me and admitted to kissing another girl on Christmas Eve. When I felt crushed, but deeply relieved. When he told me he wanted to move out, but stay together and I was disappointed that we weren’t breaking up. When his parents told him he was making a mistake. When he asked me to help him apartment hunt and was indignant when I said no.
When I smelled his bachelor pad. When I fell in love with my own sweet little studio apartment with crown moldings and green tea colored walls and nearly died of happiness over having my own refrigerator, stocked with pickles and Dijon mustard. When I started taking morning jogs past beautiful turret-topped stone buildings on Fountain and working out to Tae-bo on tape. When I began a new job with a bunch of loveable metal head and indie boys, who were kind and goofy and made me smile. When he showed up drunk on my doorstep and ranted and raved about my “new friends.” When he told me he’d like to see me less often—maybe twice a week?
But it wasn’t until the pierced nipples that I officially closed the door. At that point, our relationship barely existed. Still, I’ve never been good at letting things go. I practically eulogize old socks. I guess I keep imagining they’ll return to their old glory again, even with all those irreparable holes. I still love them for what they were.
One day, on some ruse, I stopped by his place and we had sex against that old ugly orange velour couch. Attraction doesn’t die in the same way as do respect and affection. And, as I was dressing to leave, he asked me to hurry.
“Why?” I wondered aloud.
“I promised this girl Erica I’d take her to get her nipples pierced,” he grinned. “ I don’t want to keep her waiting.”
So, this was rock bottom. Not that scenic. It looked a lot like Ben’s disgusting living room. And, in that moment, beside a kitchen counter littered with rank dirty cat food cans, it all came to a crashing halt.
That was it. I was done. That day, I officially put that magical nightgown to bed.
And I have pierced nipples to thank.
Krista's Story: A Pit In My Stomach
We had been together for more than 6 years. I had a diamond ring on my left hand and a pit in my stomach. We had been through so much... how could I leave him now? He's done so much for me. And he'll take care of me. He won't leave me like my dad left my mom for the SEXertary. I found a faithful one. I'm going to keep him. I'll make it work and figure out how to deal with our issues later. After all, I'm sure this is just the pre-wedding jitters. Right? My wedding planner had already maped out everything for me. I thought I was just a low-key bride. I didn't really have opinions on much, just an open bar and a live band. "Tell me when and where and I'll show up," was my motto. My mom wanted to get me more invloved so she took me to a bridal show. I walked in and some gitty young girl flung a camera at me and squeeled, "will you take a picture of my mom and I?" I almost puked at I snapped the shot. As we walked deeper into the show, I felt very out of place. I wasn't like THEM - Those annoying woman fluttering around decadent cakes and lusting over flower arrangements and ornate dresses. I felt a surge of anger, resentment and panic take over. I shot my mom a look of disgust and said, "I have to get out of here, NOW! I saw a bar downstairs... We need to talk."Over a manhattan and a basket of french fries, I told my mom, "I don't want to get married." We both cried. I vented about stuff I had surpressed for years. After my second martini, I felt better. Then as these two women at a nearby table got up to leave, one stopped at our table on the way out. "I really didn't mean to evesdrop, but I just can't bite my tongue," she said in a kind voice. "I just want to tell you that you're so smart to listen to your gut instinct. I wish I would have been able to do that at your age. Be strong. It will get better." I felt a rush of relief flow over me. I was free. Now I just had to figure out how to break the news to him and our friends and family.
Kamilah Story: Grief
My mother said, "What a great boyfriend, to have stood by you in this difficult time." My father had passed away suddenly (a massive heart attack on the tennis court) and my boyfriend came over. He stayed until the funeral, never leaving my side. What my mom didn't know was, in actuality, he had the flu, and didn't have anyone to take care of him, so he inserted himself into my grief so that I could. I remember laying in the bed crying, him holding me and coughing into my hair, then asking if I could fix him some tea. . . As if that wasn't enough, a week after my father was in the ground and he was feeling better, he told me that i was "a lot of drama" because my father had died, and he just didn't have time for "that type of drama." A light went off at that moment, I excused myself from the conversation, and I was retrieving my things from his place a week later.
Amy's Story: The Internet
Here is my tale of the moment that I knew my last relationship was over...After a few bad dating experiences and being single for about two years, my friends urged me to try internet dating. I was a bit reluctant, but figured that many people have found love on dating sites...why couldn't I? So I posted a profile on a free dating site and waited.I received a plethora of messages, winks, and other forms of contact, but no one really caught my eye.
On night while I was watching the Red Sox, I decided to surf some profiles myself and reach out to a guy that I came across. He looked perfect-- he was tall, had a great smile, was athletic, seemed to have good morals, was well written in his profile, lived about 40 minutes from me, and even was a native of the state that I went to college! I sent him a quick note and was surprised when he messaged me back the next day.We chatted on this website for a few days before setting up a date on St. Patrick's Day. We both had previous plans so it was decided that this would be a quick drink just to finally meet each other. I was nervous as I dressed and got ready to meet who I hoped would at least become a new friend.When I got to the restuarant and saw him waiting by the door, I was floored. He was even better looking in person! His baby blue eyes were piercing, and his warm smile was so cute! He was polite, complimentary, and interesting. After two drinks and an hour later, we parted with a kiss on the cheek and promises to call each other.When he texted me later that night to tell me what a great time he had and that he couldn't wait to see me again, my heart skipped a beat.
For the next week, we talked on the phone and texted each other often. He was away for business, so our second date was not until a week after our intial meeting. We went to a basketball game and had dinner, and the sparks were flying.This guy was too good to be true! He was so charming, had his act together, treated me as if I was a princess, and was strikingly handsome. For the next few weeks, we saw each other on a regular basis and got to know each other...or so I thought.As time went on, I was falling for this guy. He took me on fun and unique dates such as ice skating on a frozen pond and watching planes take off from a local airport while sipping wine and talking about our dreams and aspirations.He made an effort to meet and get along with my frinds, and even introduced me to several of his closest pals. He took me on weekend trips and to his basketball games (he played for a local league). He came to my parent's house for a family cook out and surprised me at my sister's high school graduation party. He even shook my father's hand and told him that he was falling for his daughter.But something wasn't right...he was a bit fishy at times.
After the first two or three months, he was constantly cancelling our dates for work related outings, sick grandparents, and sudden out of town basketball tournaments. I wasn't bothered at the beginning. After all, he was a successful and busy man, and I would never want to get in the way of his career and other aspects of his life.I was severely disappointed on my birthday. I had asked him for weeks to try and get out of a weekend basketball tournament so that he could spend my birthday with me. He told me that he would try his best, and the week of my birthday, told me that he was almost positive that he would be around for my special day.
However, on the day before my birthday, he called to tell me that his replacement teammate's wife had gone into labor, so that he had to travel with the team that weekend. I was heart broken. We had been dating for almost three months, and I had never asked him to give up anything to spend time with me. But my birthday was supposed to be special! So needless to say...no card, no present, no boyfriend.I tried to act as if it didn't bother me when he returned home that Monday. I then asked him to accompany me to a celebrity basketball game a few weeks later. My mother had paid a lot of money to get me these tickets, because she knew my boyfriend was a basketball nut. He promised me that he would take the night off and come with me.A few weeks and more cancelled dates passed. It got to the point where we were barely seeing each other once a week.
The morning of the basketball game, I get a text message from him saying that he is stuck in Washington DC at an important meeting and won't make it home. Disappointed again. I asked a friend to take his ticket for that night and had fun, but it wasn't the same.He constantly told me that he would make these things up to me, but never did. I grinned and bared it, because when we were together, he was so great to me. "Just suck it up Amy...he's busy. You have such a wonderful time when you are together, why throw that away because he has to cancel every once in a while?" is what I told myself.I was falling in love with this guy and he told me that the feelings were mutual.
At our three month point, I asked him why I had never been to his house. A flood of excuses spilled from his mouth..."I have a roommate who is a born again Christian and wouldn't approve of me having my girlfriend sleep over", "There are some out of town family members staying with me", and "I don't even like being home, so I figured you wouldn't want to go hang out there". I expressed to him that I thought this was a bit odd, and he promised to take me to his house on our next date. He even told me that he was thinking of buying a new place and that he wanted me to move in with him. I was pumped!
The following week, his grandfather got very sick and was hospitalized...I think. He told me this was why he couldn't see me for a few weeks. He was constantly at the hospital or caring for his grief stricked grandmother. I stayed by his side as he flew back and forth to Philadelphia to help his family.During this time, my friends and family members started asking me questions. "Well Amy, are you SURE he's not married?" "There's always an excuse for everything", and "Who is he...Austin Powers, the International Man of Mystery? Amy, he's a nice guy but we think he is hiding something from you". I was angry at them for thinking that the man who told me every day that he was in love with me and didn't want anyone else would be lying or manipulating me. I brushed their comments aside.
As the summer went on, I saw him less and less. I loved him, and wanted to be with him so much, but didn't know how much more I could take. Everytime he cancelled on me, chose something unimportant over spending time with me, or ditched me, a piece of my heart broke off. I'm not a needy girlfriend...I don't demand presents, push to meet my family, or start moving into to an apartment without permission. All I wanted was his time...and I wasn't getting that.He told me that Labor Day weekend would be better. He had planned a beach weekend just for the two of us. We were going to spend three days sunning, sanding, and being together. I was ecstatic! I was going to forget ball of the times he had hurt me over the summer because he was going to make up for it now. I packed my bags and took Friday off from work.
On Friday morning, my phone rang and my stomach tensed. Sure enough, we would have to wait until tomorrow because of something with his grandmother. But he promised that would could still go for one night, and although I was upset, I bit my tongue.On Saturday, I woke up and waited for him to call. As the hours passed, I started thinking the worst. Is he ok? Is his grandmother sick? By the time the sun set and and I still hadn't heard from him, I broke down crying. Yet again he let me down.I texted and called him three times over the next few days and I heard nothing. Being the good girlfriend that I was, I was worried sick over him and tried to find another way to contact him. In the six months that we had been dating, he had never gone days without calling me. So I logged online and "Googled him, hoping to find his home phone number or work email...some way to reach him.
What I found made me gasp out loud. I was shaking as I read that he had been lying to me about almost everything he had told me for six months. His last name, where his parents live, where he went to high school, what college he attended, his address...all of it was lies. No wonder I had never been to his house! No wonder I had never met his parents or grandparents!I couldn't believe my eyes. At first, I told myself that I was mistaken. But when his cell phone number and business came up listed to this other name, I knew he was a liar.
That's when the light bulb went off and I had my moment of "What was I thinking?!?" I had believed everything this man told me because I had no other reason not to. I had forgiven his cancellations and stood by him through hard times with his family. And now it was all over.He finally decided to call me on Wednesday to tell me his sob story, but I had had enough. He claimed that he had been with his sick granmother and that she was hospitalized. I didn't let on about my new found information, and expressed my condolences. I asked him what hospital she was in so that I could send her some flowers. He reluctantly told me, and I smiled inside.
After we hung up, I called the very hospital that he claimed to be at visiting his sick grandmother, and true to my suspicions, there was no patient listed with her name. Wow...he was so sick to even go as far as to concoct a story about a sick grandparent to pacify me and blame for our once again cancelled trip. He didn't know it yet, but we were DONE.The next day, I called my two best friends and told them. They were somewhat shocked, but knew he was shady the whole time. I wish I had listened to them in the beginning! We all got together and I logged online to show them what I had found. Through my searches with them, I came across more. I found profiles listed on sex websites where he had listed that he was SINGLE and looking to meet up with women for one night stands and threesomes! My blood was boiling and any feelings I had for this man quickly dissolved.
Later that night, I called and confronted him about the information I had found. He told me that I was mistaken, and that he was often confused with this man. I wasn't buying it! I had proof and had even printed it out to present to him if he questioned me. He blamed the profiles on adult sites to pranks that his friends had played on him, and starting guilting me for investigating him on the internet. I explained to him that I was looking for another way to get in touch with him because I worried about his well being, and told him that I couldn't continue to date someone that I didn't trust or didn't really know to begin with! He never fessed up to his lies or fabricated stories, so we ended it right then, on our sixth month anniversary.Although I was upset and hurt for weeks to come, I was thankful. I was dating a man with a double life, and so grateful to have had my "What was I thinking?" moment before it was too late.
Niya's Story: Jon Boy
His name was Jon. And he looked like John Boy from the Walton’s. Our first date was a walk in my neighborhood in Mill Valley Ca. It was a beautiful day, everything smelled alive and his stringy blonde hair looked like that of a 7 year old. I was jealous because my hair was pool worn and straight iron worn. I also didn’t know if Jon could win me over with his masculinity, he looked so…well, John Boyish. I decided as we walked…why not test him out a bit?
It was the late nineties. I was in the most confident time of my life as a woman; lot of flirting, lots of floundering and not caring. So, I said to him, “It’s sad really…” he looked at me curiously.“Well, how boys are taught the 1, 2, 3 method of seduction with a girl. When they grow into men they usually keep it up.”“Oh, pleez…tell me more, this ought to be good” he chortled at me.“
1. Get close enough to the girl to hold her hand.
2. If you get that close, take it a step further and put your arm around her. If you’re lucky she won’t notice, but you still accomplished something.
3. Go for the kiss. Get your tongue in there or she’ll think you’re gay.”
He laughed and did exactly what I wanted I him to, he kissed me. “3.” He said while pulling me to him in such a forceful, sexy way that even John Boy Walton would’ve taken notes.It was good. Good enough for me to accept a date with him two nights later. He took me to a raw foods restaurant in San Francisco. The waiter seated us on cushions on the floor near the window. Everything was cold. The food, the floor, even the waiter looked skinny, cold and his skin seemed vampire-ish. It gave raw food new meaning to think of the waiter as a vampire. But Jon was a major vegan. He couldn’t even smell meat without wanting to puke. I didn’t know this previously. But as it turned out, I didn’t know Jack about Jon. In fact, if Jon’s name were Jack I wouldn’t have been surprised by the end of this night.
By the time the Licorice tea came I was craving a Martini in a big way. Jon was talking in a prideful way about the mother of his child, his ex-wife. How he left her when she was pregnant with his son because he realized her body type was never something he liked. He scratched his crotch a lot as he told this story. To this day I don’t know why--guilty crotch syndrome maybe. Anyway, he moved to another state and got a skinny girlfriend. I asked him to describe his ex-wife’s body type. “Voluptuous, athletic.” He said as he slurped the seaweed into his mouth. “But that’s me, that’s my body type.” I said incredulous. “Yeah, you aren’t my body type either.” “Are you wacked?” I said eyeing the skinny waiter at this point because he was starting to look really good to me.Jon laughed and kept eating.
He was pleased with himself for some odd reason. We were quiet for what seemed like an hour, as we ate. The sounds of cars passing got louder. I felt colder. I wanted to go home. But Jon had more to say. The night morphed into something more like a circus act of the soul—something darkly amusing and creepy at the same time. He smiled and pulled his stringy hair to the side. He eyed my cleavage. “My current girlfriend runs a whorehouse in Mill Valley.” He said casually. I stared blankly at the floor and realized we were the only ones in this restaurant. He wanted to eat at 6 p.m., which I thought was pretty early. “You may know her…” I put my hand up in his face to stop. “You know, I have this essay to write on hobo language for this design project…” I trailed off. The waiter came by. “Check please.” And he looked at me pitifully.
I wondered how many women Jon had brought here. Not that I cared all that much at this point. I wished a cab home didn’t cost a hundred dollars; that I was rich enough not to care. But this wasn’t the case.As I closed the passenger’s side of his funky white van, he said “I’m sorry, I’m so ashamed of the male conditioning I carry in my being. I try to cleanse. I eat…”“Raw food” I interjected. “Well. I eat well, I try to learn and grow…” “I was just wondering if you could start the van. I really need to go home.” I said anxiously. But he didn’t. He talked for 10 minutes straight about this issue and that issue and all the issues with him and his whorehouse 1099 woman. What a consulting gig, I thought sullenly. Finally, I said, “I’m just into you, I’m not interested. Please take me home.” He laughed. He looked at me stunned. He said, “Now that! I just don’t believe you. When I look in the mirror, I want to DO me.”
I went to my happy place at this point. I needed to calm down before I gave opened my mouth again. I needed to be effective. I thought about my bed, my own bed, how good it would be to get in it ALONE. I gave him a long, thorough look. “Then, THAT’S all you need! Now take me home.” I demanded. This time I maintained eye contact until he relented. I hoped he got the message I would kick his skinny little ass if he didn’t step on it. He did.In the morning I cuddled with my white coyote dog. I opened my bedroom window to hear the sounds of the creek going by I called my best girlfriend and told her the story over morning coffee. We laughed really hard. What was I thinking? Clearly I wasn’t thinking at all. I would like to say that the next time I did. That I did think. But no, I have more stories for you.
Sarah's Story: The Politician
Most women I know have had one of those moments when it’s all over with the guy we’re seeing. Well, at least when we’re being totally honest. That moment when everything you felt for the person lying in bed next to you vanishes in one instant, as if it had never existed. My most recent experience with this phenomenon was with The Politician. I call him that because he once ran for office in his home state. I’m thinking he didn’t win, but I can’t remember for sure. But he did tell me he ran, and I Googled him, and there he was, his name and a picture. From that point on he was, simply, The Politician. He was a Republican, that much I knew. He also told me, within just a few minutes of meeting, that he wasn’t into kids or dogs. I have both, and I’m a Democrat, but those minor demographics immediately faded. I was blinded by the physical attraction we had for each other, the dizziness I felt in his presence. All the other stuff didn’t matter. What mattered was the way he smelled, his hand on my lower back, his blue eyes.I need to back up, because it sounds like I picked up some stranger in a bar, and while maybe it’s happened at some point in my life, it’s not really the whole truth here. He did walk up to me, and it was in a bar, and I’d never met him before. But I’d met his friend, Purse Man, so I felt like I sort of knew him.
Purse Man I’d met a month or two earlier when I was playing pool with a couple of my married mom friends who needed a girls’ night out. Who better than me, the single mom, to use as an excuse to get out and ply up on margaritas? It seems I’m always that person for married women. I bring something out in certain types, and I end up feeling like a terrible influence because they go wild and get very intimate and vomit out stuff about their lives. Then their husbands sense that I’m some kind of threat, like their wives are going to want to go out every night, and then their families will fall apart, and it’s all my fault. I tell my married friends who might have an itch or may be complacent and slightly bored, that they truly wouldn’t want my life. Being single, this age, and a mom -- it’s just not that easy and certainly not that fun. I should have that house, the one that looks like the 2nd floor of the Ralph Lauren store. And I should have a man that looks like the man on the 1st floor of the Ralph Lauren store but is also the perfect step-dad to my son (with season tickets to the Lakers) and is kind and understanding and funny and loves me.I shouldn’t be playing pool on a Friday night because that’s what I do on Friday nights; I should be playing pool on Friday nights like they are playing pool – because it’s that once-every-few-months night out with the girls. Their great husbands are at home putting the kids to bed and waiting for them to come home. That seems so normal yet so unbelievably impossible to achieve. Even when I had it, I didn’t have it. I had some fake play-acting version of that, two people trying to be grown-ups who didn’t understand the life or each other. Ick. Yuck. Sad. Don’t want to go back to that. But I digress.Back to Purse Man: My friends and I are playing pool, and in walks this super tall guy carrying a helmet, a purse and wearing (egad) designer jeans. I don’t know why, but that’s kind of a thing for me. I don’t like guys in designer jeans or any of that post-1999 nouveau denim. I’m a little strict about it – Levis or Diesel, for men. That’s it. Period. That’s probably a little shallow, though I will allow for Wranglers on a cowboy, a real cowboy like Jewel’s boyfriend who rides bulls or my friend Barry who used to wrangle horses. But designer jeans? No.I take back what I just said. Gay men are allowed to wear whatever kind of jeans they want – studs on the pockets, chains dangling from the belt loops, swirly patterns as accent. That’s fine. They’re gay. But a straight guy trying to get my attention? Again, it’s Levis or Diesel, or if you’re a cowboy, Wranglers. Done. Just one of my quirks, but admittedly a big one.So Purse Man’s got the jeans with the jeweled bird or whatever on his pockets, and he’s carrying the purse and the helmet, and he’s totally focused on me. From the moment he walks into the room, it’s as if he’s decided I am his. If it had been a movie, he would have been a real biker and I would have been like Cher in Mask and it would have worked out. But it isn’t a movie, he certainly isn’t a real biker, and I just want to play pool with my friends. His looking at me is annoying me.
Sadly, when I ignore men like that it fuels their desire, so of course he approaches me. I’m sitting waiting for my next shot, and he comes up and sits next to me and asks me to watch his purse while he goes to the bathroom. This was out of line. I was in the middle of a game, I didn’t know him, and now I’m responsible for his man purse and brand spanking new helmet? I don’t like it, and I tell him so. This seems to charm him even more, which makes me dislike him even more. Oblivious, he laughs and leaves his purse with me. If I were really an asshole, I’d have hidden it somewhere and let him think it was stolen. But I’m a straight shooter and I don’t like to lie or make people feel bad. So Purse Man returns from the bathroom, my having delivered on watching his stuff to the detriment of my pool game. Now I have a resentment, an unwanted suitor, and a bad pool game. I decide to gather my friends and leave. They of course have husbands and a warm house to get home to. I have some leftover wine and a DVD of “The Wire” – both more appealing than a lonely, bejeweled guy in a dive bar on a Friday night.Back to The Politician: There I was, two months later at sushi happy hour at my neighborhood place in Venice. My friend Denise had cancelled just as I was leaving the house, and since it was my weekend night out, my big Friday night, I of course couldn’t bear to stay home. I’m two personalities that way, and I needed my single, still-warm-if-not-hot, hanging-onto-the-last-vestiges-of-fun, cool girl while I could get it -- which, by my estimation, wasn’t going to be much longer. During the week, I am Mom; I help with homework, run to sports practices and doctor’s appointments, cook dinner, make lunchbox contents, do the laundry, and watch American Idol on Tuesdays with my son. That’s who I am. Most days. But that person evaporates on Friday evening and re-materializes on Sunday afternoon. In between, out comes a vivacious adult. Or, at least, that’s what I’d like to believe. I can honestly say I was a vivacious younger adult, but I took all that energy and applied it to the wrong places, which is what has led me to where I am, wondering if I’m an older vivacious adult.I don’t mind sitting at a sushi bar and eating alone.
Actually, I kind of like it. This night, I just wanted to have some sake and sushi and go home early. But then this good-looking guy walked in and my night was over. He didn’t know my night was over, but I did. He was wearing khakis, and the blue oxford matched the eyes that were already brought out by his silver hair. None of this is what I’m ordinarily drawn to, but there was an electric connection. He saw me too but joined his friends, and when I took a closer look at his group, I saw – can it be -- Purse Man. I tried to hide, but it was too late. Purse Man whispered to The Politician, and the next thing I knew, The Politician was standing next to me. My body was certainly happy to feel him near, but I was onto the fact that his friend, his cowardly friend, his stupid friend had sent him over. Given the effect of Purse Man, I gave The Politician what I consider to be my stony demeanor, though it probably wasn’t. He tried to talk, and I did my best to be indifferent – as indifferent as I could when my hormones were screeching and I could feel myself wanting to fall off the bar stool into his arms. He seemed to know this, because he brushed his arm against mine; I inhaled lightly and we exchanged looks. It was established. The problem of course was Purse Man, because as I’d suspected those months ago, Purse Man somehow thought I was his girl. It didn’t matter that I’d all but been mean to him, never told him my name, hadn’t seen him since. Nope, I was the girl in his fantasy and now here I was, across the room from him with his friend’s hand brushing against mine and sending crazy thoughts to my head. Not only was I hot for the Politician, I was annoyed by Purse Man’s declaration of ownership. Well, maybe not “ownership” per se, but it was that feeling. The Politician told me -- before we even made it back to their group, before we’d really said more than a few words to each other, before we’d even kissed -- that we were in trouble. Naturally, that turned me on. It turned me on that this guy I knew I needed the minute he walked in the door was feeling the same thing I was, and now there was a little mess we had to take care of. The mess part I could have done without, but it was pretty hot that we had a mess as a result of this…this…crazy passion.I’m not young but this is exactly how I acted when I was young. And, by the way, every time it happens, I tell myself that I’ve never gone through this before, this is different, something new. Maybe not “love”, but a “connection”. It’s such bullshit in broad daylight, but I believe myself every time. Every single time. And in the midst of it, probably as if an interventionist were trying to stop a gambler from throwing the dice, there is nothing anyone can say to me to remind me of the past, that this isn’t the first time, that really their names and faces change but they’re all the same guy. I won’t hear it, not between Friday evening and Sunday morning. By now it was obvious to most people around us that there was something going on, and even Purse Man sensed it and stormed out of the restaurant. It upset The Politician, but not enough to stop himself from kissing me that night, or calling me the next day, or seeing me the following evening. No, sometimes physical chemistry outweighs a guy’s stupid friend and his stupid fantasy. And sometimes physical chemistry outweighs a girl’s better judgment (duh). I found myself the following night, after all the ceremonial pretenses of a "date", bringing The Politician home with me. This man who’d already told me he wanted nothing to do with kids or dogs (though he managed to eke out in conversation that for me, he’d probably do anything), this man who was a…a…Republican, who’d voted for George W. Bush -- all of that was shoved to the back of my mind because he made me weak in the knees. I didn’t want to think; in my head was ringing “la-la-la-la-la” so I wouldn’t hear all the warning signals. I wanted to respond to my physical needs because I just hadn’t done that in so long.So that’s exactly what I did. That first night was a blur of need and desire and craving and collapsing into oblivion. The following days brought some guilt, because he’s Catholic, and he had left some short-term girlfriend ("girlfriend"? at his age?) behind in his home state, and he hadn’t “quite” broken up with her. I wasn’t much interested in the specifics. I knew he wasn’t my future, but when the day came that we had bike-riding plans and I didn’t hear from him, I was hurt. Rather, my ego was hurt. When I tried to call him and his number had changed, I was outraged. I told all of my friends that this guy had changed his number to avoid me (it actually is all about me), and I came to believe it. It became my "story"; and after awhile, it was a funny story, a great anecdote to tell at parties. My ego isn’t so terribly huge or unhealthy that I dwelled on this faux rejection, so I went on and soon enough forgot about The Politician. I admit, there was a lingering question -- confusion as to why a man his age just wouldn’t be able to tell me that he couldn’t be involved any further. After all, I'm not exactly the stalker type. But whatever; I let go. And then came the night I ran into him again. A friend was visiting from Austin, and we went out for sushi.
When I walked into the same restaurant where I’d first met him, there was The Politician sitting at the bar. Not only was he not appalled at seeing me, he immediately approached and was hugging me and kissing my neck. It had been nearly four months since we’d seen each other, and by the feel of it, nothing had changed for him. He tripped all over himself to let me know that he’d lost his phone the day after we'd last seen each other, and that was all I needed to hear to justify finishing dinner quickly, grabbing The Politician and heading back to my place.This time, though, the rose had lost some petals. Not all its petals, as I was still physically attracted to him. It’s just that I noticed certain things I hadn’t seen before. For instance, he was very tan. Now, I know people love to tan and I certainly did my share of it when I was a teenager, before I knew better. These days, I kind of see it like smoking without the cigarette. Also, it seems so…so…egocentric. Not that we don’t all act on ego occasionally. I mean, I’m guilty of that sometimes -- I’m the one that thought a lost phone was about me; hell, I’m the one who even believed there was a lost phone. It's just that there are some things that fit for me and some that don’t, and a man in his late 40s with a deep tan just doesn’t click. Also, and I’m sorry to admit this, his muscles were just…too big. Or, rather, they’d once been too big and now had that worked-out older guy thing going on. I may seem like the most rotten girl on the planet, but we all have our types. For some girls, this former body-builder would be the be-all to end all, and my skinny, preppy rock-and-roll East Coast guy would be repellant. But different strokes, and all that. Having said that, the chemistry was still there and I have an amazing capacity to deny my brain when I want something, so I welcomed him into my home. I also really loved hearing all of the things he said to me, such as, he’d thought about me every day since he lost his phone; he dreamed of me, missed me -- all of those things that, had it been the right guy, I'd have married by now. Given that he wasn’t, it was still fun to hear, and that was all it took to end up in bed.But then it happened. That moment, the moment that ends it all, that makes one wonder what on earth she was thinking. The moment in which one questions her judgment, her motives, her life. The moment in which I ran my hand over his chest and discovered…stubble. Stubble? He…shaved…his…chest. This was more than I could bear. My hand froze, but he was talking and while he was talking it also occurred to me that he’d never really talked to me, simply at me -- which somehow connected the stubble to the Republican thing, the muscles, the tan, and all of it. I was simultaneously mortified and filled with guilt that I could be so shallow as to feel all this while lying naked next to this otherwise nice man. (Although, if we’re counting, a global- warming denier and a war monger.) And so it happened: it was over. There’s no way…ever…period. All in an instant. And at last I’m totally done, now and forever, with the after-dark insanity of the way some guy smells, his hand on my back, his whatever-colored eyes. I must have done or said something to turn him off (maybe he’s clairvoyant), because the ambiance noticeably cooled. We both made it through the night, if painfully, and when dawn came, it was a race to see who could get to the door faster – him, or me walking him there. A perfunctory kiss, an "I’ll call you", and he was gone. And my walk on the wild side was over. For that weekend, anyway.
Wendy's Story: The Pullout
Until I claimed it, the pullout sofa had rarely functioned as a bed. It was planted in the middle of Jen’s living room/eating area, upholstered in a beige cotton that easily picked up dirt. The sheets didn’t match. They were leftovers from sets that had once been complete. Jen handed me a sleeping pill. "Just take half and make sure you’re already in bed," she warned. "You’ll be out like a light." I unfolded the sofa, draped the sheets over the flimsy mattress, crawled under a pilling electric blanket, with its guts removed. I made sure I was settled, as settled as I could be given all that had happened, swallowed the drug whole and switched off the light. I waited impatiently for peace.
Just days before, I had been living it up with John in Frankfurt, Rome and Lisbon. I was not in love when he first offered me his hand, but his insistence was intoxicating, and at 37, it was a relief to be wanted. We became domestic after just a couple of dates, and then barely weeks later I uprooted from San Francisco to travel with him. Within a month, we moved to Europe. Away from family and friends, familiar neighborhoods and lingo, we were each other’s everything. John cooked me pork chops, and gave me haircuts. We shared a suitcase.
With my head propped up on the sofa cushion, I couldn’t help but see the day glow numbers on the VCR clock. 11:15, 1:45, 4:30, 6AM. Twenty-four hours earlier, John and I had flown in from Portugal to the sublet apartment we kept in San Francisco nestled high in a eucalyptus grove. I breathed in on the way up, and was reminded of a recent spa visit. There wasn’t much furniture, but the wall-to-wall white carpeting was lush, and it felt good to roll around on it. The front room had an expansive view of downtown. I would miss this place. Everything was fine when we went to bed, as far as I knew. In a few weeks, we would be off again. Back to Rome, shooting his film. Just enough time to share a handful of meals with dear friends and re-pack.
Soon after we awoke, an argument rose out of nowhere, some minutiae about receipts. It grew as large as our city view. John was talking crazy. He words didn’t make sense. Something about going on to Rome without me. "It’s over?" I huddled in between the wood console and the frame of our bedroom door. I was gasping for air. We had never fought like this. What if he meant it? Where would I go? My life in San Francisco had been closed up for years. Who would welcome me back?
John was deranged then and after, too. He never reflected on his cruelty that night or took it back. He left me drifting, without warning, in icy waters. At least I had the pullout, though it had seen better days. For the time being, we were a good fit.
Eileen's Story: Homework
You might have thought I'd have bailed when his mom told him he had to pick between prom with me (first weekend in june) and the science fair (second weekend in june) and he picked the science fair. And I am sure I would have been forgiven for flinging my hot fudge sundae spoon in his face when he announced that, after thinking it over, he should date other women (at the age of 17) because he planned on marrying me, but it made good common sense for him to not marry the only woman he'd ever dated. And I am sure we must have made a solid mis-match in the first place--him, a momma's boy, a brainiac, focused on medical school since the 5th grade, and me--horny, with perfect gravity-free boobs and NOT afraid to use them, contemplating a life singing rock and roll surrounded by male groupies but still--there we were, somehow conjoined, to my parents' eternal bliss and his parents' complete dismay. But so many reasons for me to jettison this attempt at reformation in the form of an unsuspectedly hot body under so many pencil protectors--and yet I stayed. Until the piece de resistance, in the form of HIS resistance to my womanly wiles. Imagine if you will the step-down living room of his house, fortunately bereft of any parental presence. Also imagine my not-so-subtle pretense of "needing some help" with some ridiculously easy bit of homework. There we were--two heads together over one useless bit of math factoid. I make my excuses, step casually out of the room only to re-emerge a few minutes later buck naked, in all my hot-body horny high school need with my feet rubbing against the sky-blue shag carpeting. "ahhh perfect" I thought. THIS would be the scene of my deflowering of the boy....who looked up with dismay. And said "you know, I am trying to get my homework done, here".