I’ve often asked myself why it seems I can’t manage to be single for any real length of time. Since Joe and I became boyfriend-girlfriend when I was 14, it’s really only been a matter of months of singledom for me in between long monogamous relationships.
I’m usually not all that impressed with pick-up lines. It’s not that I haven’t gotten many. I’ve had my fair share. The one that comes most quickly to mind came from a painfully nerdy fellow who was in all-state chorus with me one summer. Just before our concert, he said, “Oh, I like your sweater. Could I see the tag?” Read More
I imagine some people aren’t wholly consumed from birth with the idea that they will find a soul mate and live happily ever after, but I am not those people.
I think I was about 12 years old one winter when we went to visit my grandparents in South Dakota, land of mythical things like Wall Drug, Dinosaur Park (a park on a hill with “life-sized” dinosaur sculptures), and Mount Rushmore.
I’ve heard before that the “air is different” in certain places around the world. That’s certainly true about the Midwest. Something about the expanse of sky, maybe, or the cold, or the wide open spaces makes the air seem magical, almost. And, of course, many things about South Dakota seemed magical to me as a child just because my grandparents lived there: the wild turkeys in their front yard, the deer in the back yard, the choke-cherries growing in the ditch– even well water and septic tanks seemed strange and wonderful to me.
In this magical land, anything was possible. We went on outdoor adventures and didn’t have to go to school. There was a park called Storybook Island where you could climb on anything you wanted, and there was an entire museum dedicated to rocks (and if you’ll kindly remember back to your childhood, you will recall that there is very little cooler than rocks, especially pretty ones, when you’re a kid).
So it didn’t seem at all odd to find some magic when we were driving along the road in South Dakota, the whole family in the van, and me in a back seat by the window. We passed by an old blue truck, and a boy about the same age as me in the passenger seat met my gaze with his ice blue eyes, from under the brim of a cowboy hat. It must have only been a few seconds, but to me it seemed like the world stopped and all I could see was this boy. I was a little too young for lust, but something in my guts pulled and I felt connected to him, completely, for just that moment.
He was out of sight shortly and I shook myself back to reality, but somehow I always thought I’d meet him again, and we’d feel that same magnetic pull when we locked eyes, and we’d make friends, and, eventually, this story would come up, and he would say he remembered it too, and he felt the same thing, and of course that would mean we were star-crossed or fairy-dusted or something and we would live happily ever after.
To my knowledge, I’ve never seen that boy again, but you never know. South Dakota is a pretty big place, after all. Lots of magic to go around.
Before any of the four exes were exes, and well before I’d met them even, I was a gangly, weird-haired middle-schooler who, nevertheless, hoped to find love someday.
I’m told that I “blossomed” in eighth grade. This was the term used by my beloved leadership class advisor, and I think it meant that I stopped wearing so much pink glitter and started attempting to comb my hair most days. These changes attracted very little notice among my peer group, as all middle-schoolers are so locked up in their own weirdness that they barely have time to notice anyone else except to break free now and then to make mean jokes.
Prime example: My best friend from elementary school and I ended up on different “tracks” in middle school, which meant that we rarely saw each other. I did see her one day in the hall, though, and I said admiringly, “Oh, Rebecca, your hair has gotten so long!” and she responded snippily, “Well yours is short. What did you do, get ahold of the scissors?” And her stupid friend Michelle shrieked with laughter that echoed off the cement walls for hours. I ducked my head to keep them from seeing the tears in my eyes and hurried past.
See? Middle school. It sucks. A lot.
There’s the occasional bright light, though. My church youth group went to “winter camp” when I was in eighth grade. “Winter camp” was basically a coed weekend sleepover at a church in the mountains where there would probably be something crusty and white on the ground somewhat resembling snow. We were thrilled.
The first day there I saw the crush that I would stalk from afar all weekend. Well, first I felt him.
We were all walking between buildings and I heard a shriek and then felt a cold thwack on the back of my head. I’d been roundly beaned with an icy “snow” ball that was probably more parking lot gravel than actual frozen stuff. I winced, rubbed the forming bruise on my head, and turned to face my attacker.
He was slim and tall and beautiful and he looked horrified. “I’m so sorry,” he babbled, and turned red up to the roots of his hair. “I didn’t mean to hit you. I was aiming for someone else.” He needn’t have worried. I forgave him immediately.
I was unaccustomed to noticing body parts of the opposite sex (besides lovely smiles, which had besotted me since the age of, like, 5), but this kid had the most amazing butt, and I watched that butt all weekend. Yeah, the guy nearly brained me with an ice-ball, and all I could do was admire his ass. Middle school.
Somewhere near the end of the weekend, I was walking with some other kids from my youth group, and he was walking with some kids from his youth group a few yards ahead. I was, of course, fully aware of the proximity. In a moment of manic middle school something-or-other, I leaned over to my friend, whispered, “Hey watch this,” quickly made a snow/iceball, and launched it at Mr. Perfect.
It hit him square in his delightful bottom.
I cannot express the giddiness I felt. My heart soared. My bosom swelled. A chorus of angels sang. All the stars aligned, and Mr. Perfect did a half-turn toward me, looking perplexed for a moment, then broke into a grin.
“Got ya back,” I said.
And imaginary trumpets blared the triumph of my young life.
Matt loved my hair. At the time, I kept it long– like down to my butt long. It wasn’t all for his benefit… Long hair meant never paying for haircuts and always having enough hair for a quick braid or updo. Also, my dorm showers’ water pressure made the task of washing butt-length hair doable on a nearly daily basis.
But, partly, it was for him. I will admit I felt like a princess when he was dazzled by my styling prowess or enamored of running his fingers through just-washed, shampoo-smelling tresses.
When we broke up, I cut it off, a little out of spite.
I wish I’d been the type of ballsy to stare at myself in my dorm bathroom mirror, grit my teeth, and take a pair of safety scissors to my hair myself. (And, of course, if you believe the movies, it ends up looking all cute and French, because everyone who gives themselves a short haircut with no prior experience can make it look like a $400 cut from a European stylist-of-the-stars.)
Instead, I consulted a friend who told me I had to go see Jonathan. She said his name on a half-moan: “Jonnnathan.” I made an appointment.
I wore a hat on the walk up to the salon. I’m not sure why. I never really wore hats. I think maybe I was nervous– I knew I wanted to ask him to cut it short, and if it turned out terribly, well, at least I had a hat. I don’t know. It must have made sense to me at the time.
“I have an appointment with Jonathan,” I squeaked.
“Oh, Jonnnathan,” cooed the receptionist. “You’ll love him.”
Turns out Jonathan was the tallest, best-haired, handsomest, biggest-bicepped hairdresser in all the land. My chewing gum fell out of my mouth when he came to get me.
He chatted with me while he washed my hair. I didn’t hear a word. I was too busy ogling his arms.
He told me I was brave for cutting my hair short. I giggled like a loon.
He put his face inches from mine while he was evening out the front. I couldn’t breathe.
When he was done, he told me my cheekbones were amazing and my new haircut really showed them off, and I blushed to the roots of my new ‘do.
He handed my hat back. I dropped it in the garbage can. He laughed. I nearly died on the spot.
“Cute haircut! Did you see Jonnnathan?” my friend asked later.
“Oh I saw him.”
“I would love this haircut even if it was awful.”
“Yeah,” she sighed, and her eyes went all soft and starry.
Best rebound haircut ever.
In between Luke and Matt, I had a few months of singledom. Not many, but a few.
In one of those months of singledom, I met a dude online. I can’t really remember how, but we struck up a conversation on AIM (which was the texting of the early 2000s, I guess) and chatted for a few weeks.
He seemed nice. He was funny. He was smart. He told me he was a little nerdy, but I was ok with that. He told me he’d been friendzoned by lots of girls. I felt sorry for him. He told me he’d been on dozens of first dates and never heard back from the girls afterwards. He theorized that they just wanted a free dinner out of him. I was indignant on his behalf.
Then he asked me out and I said yes.
In a fit of online honesty, I admitted that it had been actual years since I’d been on a first date, and I had no idea what I was doing, and I was currently freaking out about what to wear. He talked me down and we decided together that we would both wear jeans– and my heart rate went down to something resembling normal, and I thought this might possibly be a good thing.
The first time you meet someone, you’re supposed to notice something about them, I think. Their smile or their eyes or some shit like that. I noticed this dude’s smell, and not in a nice way. Presumably he had showered, but I guess I just wasn’t used to the smell of a new guy, after my years with Luke. Of course, the offending stench could have been coming from his jeans, which were only jeans in the sense that denim material was holding together the holes. They looked like they should smell. We sat outside, so that helped, but his malodorous pheromones kept putting me off my dinner.
Dinner conversation was awkward and banal, but you know, I wrote it off as first date jitters. My first date with Joe had been seriously 5 years earlier, and I never really had a first date with Luke since we were buds before we dated. Maybe all first dates sucked. That had to be it.
After dinner he decided that we should go back to my dorm room and watch a movie he’d brought with him. In my defense, I would never agree to such a thing now, but back then I was somewhere between teenager and adult and I didn’t understand what adult things were supposed to happen when you brought someone back to your dorm room with you. I thought we were going to watch a movie.
He thought we were going to make out. He immediately copped a feel– like threw his arm around me and grabbed a handful of breast. I would like to say I kicked him out right then, but I didn’t. I sort of sat, paralyzed, like a possum playing dead, until I could slide away carefully and pretend to be engrossed in the movie (which I cannot remember at all).
When the movie was over, I somehow managed to get him to leave without going in for a kiss, which I might have returned with a dry heave because the strange man smell was totally getting to me by then.
He IMed me when he got home. I shoved down the guilt of being one of those girls who only wanted a free dinner, and ignored him.
He IMed me the next day. What could I say? How could I explain that I thought he was a nice guy, but then he grabbed my boob and smelled weird and I wasn’t into that? So I ignored him.
He IMed me the next day, and I could tell he was getting mad. He said I should at least tell him if I was going to stop speaking to him. But I didn’t. I just ignored him.
So I’m on that long list of his, I’m sure, of girls that only wanted a free dinner out of him and never spoke to him again. Hopefully one of them was less of a chickenshit than me and told him to work on his first date etiquette, especially about the holey jeans and the smell and the boob grabbing.
So the worst first date I ever had was also our last date.
I wish I’d said…
To Matt: “I’m not broken. Go find someone else to fix.”
To Joe: “What the hell are you doing with Bianca? Tell me the truth.”
To Shane: “I’m scared. I’m scared of everything. I’m scared of what my friends think. I’m scared of what my parents think. I’m scared of what this could end up being. I’m scared of how much I love you.”
To Shane: “We should probably kiss right now, while we have the chance.”
To Joe: “Too much saliva, buddy.”
To Luke: “If you stick your tongue in my ear one more time, I am not responsible for the damage I inflict upon your person.”
To Luke: “Thanks for being my best friend. Really. You are my best friend.”
To Matt: “I actually don’t like any of the Saw Doctors’ songs. Not a one.”
To Don: “I love you.”
To Shane: “I’m sorry.”
To Luke: “I’m sorry.”
I’ve been struggling lately with whether or not I should “out” this blog. I’ve been using pseudonyms for myself and the characters herein, and not sharing any of these posts under my real name.
The thing is, though, the good reason I don’t want to share this under my real name is that I don’t want to hurt the feelings of the exes. There are very few other people who play significant roles herein and/or would be offended by anything I’m saying.
And if I go public, there’s no way to guarantee that the exes won’t see it.
Really, there’s no way to guarantee it right now, either, but I doubt any of the four are going around Googling phrases about past relationships to see if any of their old girlfriends are blogging about them. If they are, though, and they happened to come across this blog, there’s no way they wouldn’t figure out who I am and who I’m talking about immediately.
So I’m a little stuck. I’d love to get traffic and readership up here, because I think this has some value. But I don’t know how to do that without outing myself, and maybe the exes… which could be messy.
Brilliant ideas, anyone?
The fall semester after I broke up with Luke, I met Bartholomew. Not Bart. Never Bart. Bartholomew.
We both had a campus job that required us to show up before classes began for training. And it was one of those “trainings” that require lots of group work and getting-to-know you icebreakers and stuff.
I hate icebreakers. I hate group work. I hate anything that makes me reveal stuff about myself before I am absolutely ready to do so of my own accord. Icebreakers make my palms sweat and my stomach twist. And so when it was time to partner, I looked around the room for the most miserable person, because at least then I would be sharing in my misery with someone else. I found Bartholomew.
We were pretty awesome at sharing our misery. The rest of the morning, we two sought each other out for every group activity. We sat by each other at lunch. And then I cordially bid him adieu, explaining that I needed to go brush my teeth before afternoon training.
This amiable misery-sharing continued. We chatted during breaks. We subtly sent eye-rolls across the room about stupid shit. By about the third day of training, we said goodbye after lunch and it went:
“Well, see ya later Bartholomew.”
“Later, Ramona. Got to go brush your teeth, right?”
“Am I that predictable?”
“Want to come watch a movie with me on afternoon break? I have a really big DVD collection.”
And I had the first inkling that my read on the whole situation was wrong. Amiable misery-sharing just-friends did not watch movies together on afternoon break, did they?
Then again, maybe they did. How was I supposed to know? I’d been dating Luke for three years. I wasn’t sure how to be friends with a boy without pausing to make out at least a few times. So, I told myself to calm down and just go with the flow. Just watch a movie with the guy. He’s just being nice.
On afternoon break, I went up to his dorm room, which was pretty sparse except for a really big couch and the biggest TV I’d ever seen in my life, let alone in a tiny top-floor dorm room with barely enough headroom to walk. And he was not lying about his DVD collection. It was big. He was a movie buff, he explained. He wanted to get into filmmaking.
He let me choose because he said he’d seen them all anyway, but he made me promise to pick one I hadn’t seen before.
Shane told me once that he wished he could have been with me when I saw Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark the first time, because it was his favorite movie ever in the world and he just loved to relive the first time he ever saw it by watching other people see it for the first time. So I guess maybe that’s what Bartholomew was thinking.
Or, possibly, he just wanted an excuse to cop a feel, because his collection consisted mostly of horror movies, and I am a well-known big crybaby about scary movies.
I picked Scream.
I tried to enjoy the movie, except that Bartholomew kept saying weird stuff like, “Why don’t you take your shoes off?” and, “Are you scared?” and, “Why are you all the way over there? I won’t bite.”
And honestly I was coiled so tight with so many scareds that I just mumbled responses and sat up stock-straight with my shoes on, thank you, on the opposite end of the couch from him.
I was scared of the movie. I was scared that my feet might smell bad if I took my shoes off. I was scared that if I got closer to Bartholomew, he would do something distinctly un-buddy-like, like put his arm around me. I was scared to be in this stupid situation at all because I didn’t know what to do with this boy, who I thought was a lot like me and therefore scared of any social interaction that is not completely clearly laid out, and he was hitting on me and holy shit I was not ready for this yet, and I just wanted to be frie-e-e-e-ends, Christ, why does life suck so much?
And I made it through the movie and I escaped with my shoes and the remains of my social dignity as quickly as I could.
After that, Bartholomew was not interested in amiable misery-sharing. He was content to be miserable by himself whilst sending me the occasional dark glare. I must have hurt his feelings when I ran out on him without any indication that I wanted him to make a move. But I didn’t. I wanted… well, I wanted amiable misery-sharing.
One weekend in the not-distant future, I went home and told my mom about how I’d made friends with this nice boy, but then he wanted to make a move and I wasn’t interested, and then he didn’t want to be my friend anymore, and in her motherly wisdom, she said, “Boys are stupid.”
Anyway, Bartholomew and I weren’t friends after that. We were still in the same circles with our jobs and stuff, and we were never openly hostile to one another, but he wasn’t interested in what I had to give, which was friendship, the end. I was mad at him for a while about that, but you know, at least he was honest. Stupid, maybe, because I am pretty awesome to have as a friend, but honest.
And, by the way, he’s a producer on a super popular show now. And I chat with him occasionally on Facebook– sometimes about our shared misery. We’re still really good at that.
Over the years, I’ve done many things in the name of love…
- Took an astronomy class just for an excuse to be on the football field in the dark with the boy I liked
- Grew out my hair
- Dyed my hair
- Cut my hair
- Permed my hair
- Hung out the passenger side of a pick-up truck shouting non-sensical phrases about chickens in Spanish
- Bestowed sexual favors outdoors in plain sight of a military helicopter (In my defense, I didn’t actually know we were in plain sight of the helicopter until it buzzed us at low altitude with its spotlight turned on. Oops.)
- Gotten piercings
- Listened to many hours of crappy 80s rock, crappy Irish rock, and ska
- Made friends with many a mother, younger sibling, and cat
- Written copious amounts of letters and emails
- Cancelled plans with friends so I could wait by the phone
- Cried myself to sleep
- Learned a strip tease routine
- “Forgot” my underwear
- Prayed so hard my whole body shook with the effort
- Forgave embarrassing public drunkenness (not mine)
- Forgave embarrassing public weirdness (also not mine)
- Forgave back-handed compliments
- Went on road trips
- Made mixed tapes
- Wrote terrible poetry
- Moved on
There are boys in my story that will never have the status in my mind that The Exes do, mostly because we were never really a thing in the first place. That doesn’t mean I don’t remember them, though.
There was Don, of course. Don and I were best friends in middle school. He’d just moved back to the States from Africa, and he sort of attached to me when he came back, because I’d written him letters while he was there. We were both, of course, incurably nerdy, so we were a good pair. We rode our bikes everywhere together, spent most summer days hanging out. He would come over to my house, climb our avocado tree, and pick avocados to toss down to me. Then we’d put them in his backpack and ride to his house so his mom could make us guacamole. It was all very My Girl, except without the bees and funeral parlors.
In my mind, we were really too young for a boy/girl thing. Plus, everyone always thought he was my little brother because I was a towering hulk and he was a tiny little white-blondie.
My family moved across the country after middle school, and I never saw Don again. But who knows what would have happened if I’d stayed?
There was George. I met him in college between boyfriends. We went to church together once. I wasn’t particularly into church at that point, but I went because another friend asked me. This other friend, Mike, (who I think was vying for the position of Boyfriend at the time) wanted me to come to his church, and he set up a carpool for me with this guy who lived in the dorm across from mine.
George was really nice, and liked to read, and was addicted to coffee, and was impossibly adorable. But I stuck my foot in my mouth multiple times. I said something insulting about 5th-year seniors and then he told me it was his 5th year. Oops. I was also a little mean to Mike because he kept inserting himself next to me at all points during the day, like an ankle-biting yappy dog. In hindsight, it was not the best strategy to be mean to the guy who was also friends with George, despite his yappy ankle-biting tendencies.
After we had lunch with Mike and some other friends, George dropped me off at my dorm. It was freezing and starting to snow, but I remember feeling warm and happy, thinking George and I might have something.
But, George never talked to me again, and I never made the effort either. After my three-year relationship with Luke, I was pretty confident about my charming-ness, but I realized with George that maybe I wasn’t as sweet and lovable as Luke thought I was. When I started replaying the day and realized what an ass I’d been, I was pretty embarrassed. So the George that could have been never was.
So here’s my tip on impressing guys you might want to have a thing with: Don’t be an ass.
I am somewhat of an expert at falling in love. I have, in fact, been falling in love quite well since the tender age of eleven.
Third grade brought me to the realization that I was, if not the weirdest kid on the planet, at least in the top six. Ronnie Castle, who came to the Halloween carnival as an outhouse, was perhaps weirder. But not by much. And people liked him because he was funny weird. I was just awkward weird.
So I admired boys from afar. It was easier that way—I could pretend there was a chance, and they didn’t have to remind me what I freak I was. I became an unrequited love aficionado. I knew all the rules: staring and sighing heavily, finding his picture in the yearbook and drawing hearts on it, asking all my friends for information on him on the sly, thinking about how my first name would sound with his last name, and, of course, completely running away if he ever so much as glanced in my direction, because no good could come of an actual conversation.
The first poor kid to get this treatment was Henrik in sixth grade. Henrik was from Norway and did not even know I existed, which was probably better for him. Had he known what a torch I carried for him, he would have blushed, as only a Scandanavian can blush, all the way up to the roots of his white-blonde gorgeous hair.
By eighth grade, I had moved on to the greener pastures of Michael. Michael was the lead in the spring musical, which was a revue of Bye, Bye Birdie and Grease. He was Conrad. He was Danny. And even though I hadn’t seen either movie, I listened to Summer Dreams on repeat the entire spring. I would have given anything to be the girl lead opposite him. But that kind of thing doesn’t happen to girls who accidentally drop their overalls strap in the toilet… after they’ve used said toilet… and before they’ve flushed said toilet. And I was that girl.
The one great thing about unrequited love, though, is that if I was admiring from afar, my guy was always perfect. He never said anything hurtful to me, or touched me in a way I didn’t like, and, really, he wasn’t even ignoring me, because it was my doing that had made me invisible to him. Compared to love with two people, unrequited love is kind of a breeze. It’s the falling, without the landing.