Hopelessly Demoted


Einstein said that “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Lately it feels like hope is a form of insanity, as I do the same things again and again, and try to convince myself that there’s just enough difference that this time, it will work. Hope holds out the football for me, tells me that this time it’s a sure shot, and that bitch pulls it away every time. Only difference is how hard I fall.

I’ve been tenuously involved since last January with a guy in Shanghai, “Dan.” He was couple years behind me in high school and had an unrequited crush on me back then. We shared one awful kiss in college, and then lost touch until he found me on Facebook. I remembered the fun bantering in high school, that terrible kiss, cringed, accepted his friend request, and blew off responding to his “Hey, what’s up?” message for a couple months. I think this was my first mistake, as karma is fat cow with a nasty sense of humor. We made plans to meet up for coffee when we were both home over the holidays, and I told myself that at least he was working as a reporter in Shanghai so that would give us something to talk about. I made sure I looked decent, but I also tried to insure I would not be inspiring a repeat of his entreaties to kiss him. As God hates me and karma is a bitch, I was not totally surprised when I walked into the coffee shop and discovered that little Dan had grown into just the type of intellectual geek hot that makes me an instant gibbering idiot. I immediately wished I’d chosen the quirky dress that hinted at good things underneath instead of the sensible pants that hinted I’d be good at filing.

I babbled, but I must have been at least somewhat entertaining because he laughed, and he still had that crooked smile that I’d always found charming. I’d put off meeting with him until the last moment, so my options on how to proceed were limited. He’d mentioned taking the job in Shanghai in part because of a bad breakup, so hey, chances were he was single! But he was also getting over some bug so just jumping him didn’t seem prudent. I gave him a ride home, and hoped and hoped he’d ask me in, but no such luck. We said the usual “let’s meet up for drinks if we’re in the same town,” and that was that.

But Hope said Hey, he liked you before, and China may be far away, but there’s email, and look at all those couples in the New York Times wedding announcements who fell for each other while on different continents. We started emailing, me more often than him, but he was working crazy hours and I wasn’t. I was having a hard time, not getting any temp work and my depression was amping up, so I was clinging to this tiny bit of happiness. With major depression, you spend a good deal of time feeling hopeless, it’s number one with a bullet on the list of symptoms. Having something to hope for gives you a reason to leave the bed in the afternoon. (Leaving in the morning only happens if there’s a doctor’s appointment or such). Just something to look forward to, the thought that something could be better tomorrow, it’s priceless. I put more stock in my relationship with Dan than it deserved, because it was the flotsam I was clinging to in rough seas. I was elated when I got an email from him, despondent when I didn’t hear from him for days, a week, longer.

I’d also taken a long hiatus from relationships and dating for various reasons, so when I did dive back in, I went straight for the deep end. No easing back in with casual hook ups, crushing on the cute check out guy at Trader Joes. Nope, straight to throwing myself at someone with self professed emotional issues who lived on another continent. Well, I always did like a challenge. And, it seems, men who are emotionally unavailable and unreliable. Dan would make overtures, then fall off the planet. I wrote myself out in emails, thoughts, feelings, reflections, and he’d barely comment on the content. But said he enjoyed getting them, so I continued, trying to feel satisfied with the crumbs he sent in return. I can spin off a long email in no time, so I never understood why he claimed that he spent all day writing for work and didn’t feel up to more writing when he got home, as that, to me, is not an excuse for sporadic communication. The phrase, “He’s Just Not That Into You,” was. But I tried to ignore it. I needed this too much.

I’ve already written about this a few times, so I’m trying not to repeat myself, but rather fill in details that I left out, and ones that I chose to ignore or didn’t realize at the time. Because Dan was so reticent in his emails, I was left to play profiler with what little he did give me, and I know now I spun the wrong man out of those details, the kind of man I wanted rather than the kind he actually was. At least it gives me an idea of what I’m looking for, I guess. I saw this man reading a challenging book on vacation for fun, who had taken a job in a strange foreign country to escape a bad relationship, someone who enjoyed wordplay as much as I did, and made it all into a romantic intellectual ideal. His going to Vienna was proof he was right for me, because it’s one of my favorite cities in the world, and not one many people chose randomly for a vacation. In reality, he was going there not because of a love for the city, or even nostalgia for “Before Sunrise,” (my reason for going, though once there I fell in love with its fin de siecle beauty coupled with a modern soul). He was going to visit a girlfriend, one he’d neglected to ever mention before the trip. And once there, he hated everything I loved about the city. He told me these things after an email from me in which I apologized for some imagined slight I must have done him, as he’d fallen out of touch for a longer time than usual, and I assumed I had done something wrong. I’d done nothing wrong, he was just too busy to write as he’d promised. Between the sudden appearance of a never-mentioned girlfriend and my anger at myself for prostrating myself before him to get a response, I railed at him, and vowed to write no more. Plus, how could anyone get tired of gazing at Klimts? I’d been wrong about him, he wasn’t like me.

But, with some kind of freakish intuition, he emailed about a month later, just as I was relegating the whole thing to the pile of past mistakes. He was contrite, begging forgiveness, offering drinks and food next time we were in the same city, and hoping that would happen. And mentioning that he would be in New York at some point in the future. As I have friends there and legitimate reasons to visit, I tried to co-ordinate a visit with when he’d be there. And never, ever got a response. Even after our relationship had escalated suddenly to graphic, scorching chat sex. Rather than making things clearer, it just muddied the waters. His swings from interest to ignoring became wider, more vivid. I had only initiated one “What is the status of this relationship?” discussion before in my life, after a deeply passionate kiss from someone who had previously claimed to just want to be friends going forward. With Dan, I never knew where I stood, or at least I wasn’t willing to admit it to myself. Even offering to recreate what we’d been doing in chats in real life didn’t get him to say when he’d be in New York. He just ignored all mentions of it.

I got angry about not being answered, and punched him with a link to the blog post about our chat sex. I’d already covered everything I said in it about my feelings and such in emails to him, but somehow, in print, it hit him and had some effect. Rereading his emails, I see how little that effect actually was, but it seemed like something at the time. We’d moved from emails to gchat, both clean and dirty. I’d neglected to tell him about another blog post about him, one that had been cross posted to a group blog. The reasons were many. I didn’t want him knowing how silly I was over him, I didn’t want him to have that kind of power over me. Other than the chat sex post, he’d read some of my other posts and commented on how incredibly emotionally honest they were. I like that I can write here like that, but sometimes, there are people I don’t want reading certain things. He’d never commented on the link I sent out about my first piece being posted, so I assumed he wasn’t reading. And got caught out when he asked in circles around about how much I was writing about him. I hate that approach, it goes hand in hand with my hatred of being lied to, and I got annoyed when I finally discerned he’d read the post and was annoyed, even though he’d said he was fine about my writing about us. Theory is one thing, having strangers comment on you makes it real I suppose. Even though they all liked him. So I said I’d stop, no more posts about him or us.

Clearly, that’s changed, but we’ll get to that later. Things went on as usual, going into summer. I didn’t want him to think I was a loser, so it spurred me to write more, to try and be more. But I was also going through an incredibly hard time with my depression, coming off all my meds completely for the first time in about fifteen years. I was getting worse, and adding more on to the high dose I was already on just added side effects and didn’t make me feel better, so I wanted a fresh start. By the end, I was crying at anything. Just walking down the street and bursting into tears. It was really great, let me tell you. I had a moment on the phone with my dad, crying, trying to decide between going on a planned vacation to New York for a week with my friends and checking into a psych ward. I chose the trip (non-refundable tickets), and it helped. I’d had a ridiculous mess of a situation with the people on the group blog (word of advice: never get into an argument with a gay socialist ex-Mormon about Miley Cyrus’ feminist cred, it just will not end well), and was really hurt. But it was ridiculous, and anytime I tried to bring it up with the dear friend I was staying with, he just looked at me and said, “Girl, I love you, but I’m over it.” And soon I almost was. I met new friends, wandered the city until my feet bled through my Chucks, and just got away from myself. It was wonderful.

Then I came home, and was still without work. Or Dan, really. He’d told me there were other girls, that the one in Vienna was still in the picture somewhat, intimated there could be more. I couldn’t expect exclusivity, and I had joined a dating site and was trying to date people in my time zone. But we got closer. He was always closed off and compartmentalized, but he started cracking open windows, letting me get a glimpse of who he really was. And I kept liking it. Even when he was disparaging himself for not doing what he really wanted to be doing, or for his self-destructive drinking binges. I’m far from perfect, and I’ve always found flaws to be some of the most interesting and revealing parts of people. His made me feel there was an amazing man there, if he’d just stop being afraid. And there were these odd moments of tenderness in the chat sex, moments where we talked about wanting to touch the other person, he wanted to feel my skin, I wanted to run my fingers through his hair. Wanting to lie tangled with each other, worn out. I’d sent him some photos, more Esquire than Playboy, but he liked them. A lot. And then he sent me a poem, saying, “This makes me think of you… in a good way.” And, “The sentiment may be a touch over the top, but … I fucking love this poem.” I should have paid more attention to the bit about “the sentiment may be a bit over the top,” but when a boy you’re falling harder and harder for sends you a love poem like that, even if he didn’t write it, you read so much into it, trying to remain detached becomes impossible. Hope takes flight, even if you’ve tried to clip its wings.

He was going to be in San Francisco in a couple months for a wedding, just up the coast from me, and I so wanted, needed, to see him. To find out if this was real, or just some figment built on words and lust. He tended to balk if I made any mention of meeting up, even in the abstract. But we had grown closer, able to talk about fears and discuss the boundaries of our desires. I risked it, asking if I could come up and see him, saying I had a friend I wanted to see there anyway, trying to make it clear I wasn’t asking to be glued to his side for his entire visit, just to see him, maybe get to see if our passion translated from the written to reality. And I got radio silence. He avoided mentioning it in chats, and so did I, because I’d gotten my answer. I just had to wait for him to say it. When he did, it was that his trip was about spending time with old friends, and that introducing someone new into that would be awkward. That whatever we’d been doing had gone too far, he couldn’t handle another long-distance relationship, and “I feel like I’ve crossed a line that I shouldn’t have and don’t know how to get back across.” And over and over how sorry he was, and how wonderful I was, and how he hoped I could forgive him.

I was shattered, heartbroken. I was his secret shame, not worthy of meeting his friends, even though I had no interest in meeting them. We had a huge fight, his saying he never said anything like that, my saying it was implicit. I lashed out, saying he’d gotten what he wanted from me, without having to actually do anything, lavished in my attention. It was ugly, as it should have been, because he knew how I felt, and hadn’t put the brakes on until he was forced to do so, until he had to act. He didn’t seem to realize how deeply he had wounded me, as he thought we could just go on being bantering friends, like nothing had happened. Maybe just curtail the chat sex. I had to explain that wouldn’t be possible, it was too hard to be the one always wanting more and knowing it would never happen. I’d gotten fed up a few weeks earlier over something and felt I should end it, and had cut off talking to him, but then had a blow out with a best friend and missed him so much, just needed him to make me laugh too much to keep from contacting him. And, oh, how he could make me laugh. We had double entendre banter about economic policy in Africa. Just a few lines of chat with him could give me a high. The idea of losing that was hard, but the pain of going on would be worse. And I reclaimed the right to write about us, trading it for his getting to keep the photos I’d sent.

And the next day I set up my first date with someone from the dating site, a tall cute boy who seemed funny, plus he lived in the same city, which was a huge bonus at that point. It seemed like a sign from the universe. He rode his bike across LA to meet me. After trying to be with someone who refused to let me fly up to spend time with him, such a feat seemed like the height of romance. I couldn’t get a read on him during our date, I was putting out every signal, and just not sure if he was shy or what. I even asked the bartender what she thought when he went to the bathroom. She couldn’t tell either, but we were there for five hours, so she thought that was a good sign. I did too. And he wanted to see me again. I’d mentioned the date on Face Book, full of excitement, so Dan knew about it. I still don’t know why I logged on to gchat when I got home. He was an addiction, a habit, one I was hesitant to break. I wanted him to know that someone did want me. We talked about the date, I thought it was odd to do that with Dan, but he said we could, because we were really friends. Bike-Boy distracted me enough from the pain to be able to play the pretense. For a week, until he canceled on our second date a couple hours before, with only a vague voicemail, and then deleted his profile on the dating site. (When I scare off a boy, I do it thoroughly). I’d thrown myself into this new possibility, not in the way of planning our wedding and how many babies we’d have, but in just letting myself hope, plan, buy new underwear. Looking forward to some small good thing in my life. It was one too many rejections in a week, and I wrote Dan the email I’d put off writing. The one in which I told him how much he’d hurt me, how he’d not even been a good friend. And then he really fell off the planet. I tried to contact him on gchat, and he logged off, ignored emails asking when he’d answer. After a couple days of that shit, I snapped, emailed him I was through, deleted him from Face Book and gchat, and polled my friends for heartbreak songs.

I went out with a couple other people from the dating site, one I wanted to see more of who didn’t seem to agree, one who wanted to see more of me but I had no spark with and tried to set up with a friend. I worked on my writing, kept trying to find work, and started going to concerts again, even if it was alone. I kept trying to get friends to go out and do things, but everyone was always busy. I had my “Fake Book” friends, people I know through the group blog and commenting on other blogs. We may not know each others’ real names, but we’re closer in some ways than people I see every day. And I can hang out with them without leaving my couch or putting on pants. I’d discovered that even though I’d defriended him, I could still see Dan’s Face Book profile, and I’d guiltily check it from time to time, hating myself for caring, but getting to the point where I was wondering what I had been thinking. And then he emailed me, a sincere apology, saying how sorry he was for hurting me, how much of an asshole he’d been, and how he had no expectations that I’d forgive him or contact him. And that he missed me. It had been over four months since I’d emailed him.

I wanted to ignore it. To just gloat over his finally admitting he’d been wrong and continue on without him. But it was a real apology, and those are rare. And I’d missed him, too. So I wrote back, and then contacted him on gchat. Within minutes we were joking again, including my saying how much I hated him because after all he’d done to me I still went straight to naughty comments when he gave me the opening for one. He said a few times how much he’d missed me, even that he’d been miserable without me. I admitted to checking his Face Book page. He said he’d never had anyone be as angry with him as I’d been, except his ex-wife when they were breaking up (which told me so much). He told a story about getting drunk and kissing a guy friend and said, “Don’t tell my girlfriend.” I teased him about the kiss, then said I was happy he had a girlfriend. Oh no, he said, not him, he didn’t have a girlfriend, the friend he kissed had said that. He was going to be back home over Christmas, and even in Los Angeles for a day’s layover on his flight back. I told him he was on probation, we’d see about meeting up. I made some mention of why I’d advocated for our just meeting up to fuck each others’ brains out and get it out of our systems, and he said he was starting to see it might be good. He said in passing that he was still involved with the on-again, off-again girl from Vienna, but as he’d denied having a girlfriend, I didn’t take it that seriously. Especially when we fell right back into chat sex in that first conversation.

He’d deleted the photos, feeling it was wrong to keep them if we weren’t talking. So I sent him new ones, more explicit this time. And a story. He reciprocated with a photo to show how much he’d enjoyed mine. There was some question of video chat capability, but it never came to anything. I made some mentions of hooking up when we were home, then decided to let him make the plans, I didn’t want to be the one controlling everything. Within 72 hours of sending me a photo of how much he enjoyed me, he was telling me we’d have drinks, and that was it. After practically pulling teeth, I got out of him that Vienna had joined him in San Francisco for the wedding, which made it clear why it would have been hard for him to explain to his friends who I was, as they all thought he had a steady girlfriend. One who did not know what he’d been doing with me online. I was livid, as being The Other Woman is a choice I like making myself, not one I want foisted on me. But I didn’t want to tell him to go to hell, as I still had so much curiosity about us, if there was anything there, and I’d likely only have the one chance to spend any time with him and figure it out. I hoped that I would see him and immediately wonder what all the fuss had been about, and I’d be fine.

I met him for a late lunch, and as soon as I saw him, I knew I wouldn’t be fine. I was anything but. I was mooney, and I wanted him so badly I could barely keep my hands off him. I had my hand on his knee, I stroked his beard. I had a cough, so the first vodka was to quell that. The next two were to quell my urge to reach across the table and kiss him until I passed out from lack of oxygen. I get more controlled when drunk, not less, but I hadn’t eaten, and had forgotten my tolerance was low. I still claim that I was walking just fine, it was the heels and a very cracked sidewalk that caused me trouble. But it meant we had our arms around each other, to steady me. He didn’t seem to mind, even though he had said he was trying to make it work with Vienna. But she wasn’t there, I was, so it still didn’t seem real. After getting some coffee in me and making sure I was safe to drive home, he met up with some other friends, and I went home. We had plans to see a movie in a couple days.

Those plans feel apart, but we said we’d just meet for drinks. He got my cell number, we set a time, and I got ready and waited. And waited, on the couch with my parents watching TV. I only had his Chinese cell phone number, and couldn’t get an answer on that or email. So after two hours, I gave up, wrote him a scathing email and went to bed, crying my head off. My father had some choice words to say about his behavior. I didn’t sleep well at home, and woke up in the middle of the night to emails and chat messages from Dan that he had taken a nap and his parents hadn’t got him up as he’d asked, and he’d just woken up and felt awful and was there any way he could still see me? As my dad responded to this story with, “Poor chap,” I deemed it a forgivable mistake, and said we’d have dinner, thinking a side of guilt might not hurt. I picked him up, we went to the same bar, and within ten minutes of our sitting down he’d announced that Vienna was arriving that Saturday to meet his family. It was all I could do not to get up from the table and walk out. Instead I stayed and fought, arguing over his odd definition of not having a girlfriend, over stringing me along, using me to fill an emotional void in his life. I wanted to slap him, but settled for grabbing his face in my hands and insisting that he had a girlfriend and should have been honest so I could have freely chosen what to do.

Things actually got better after that. We both went outside for a cigarette, and ended up opening up, him about his marriage, how it broke up, the divorce, its aftermath of drunken nights out and the choice to take the job in Shanghai. And about starting to date Vienna a couple months before he left, and how they had been on-again, off-again for the two years he’d been out there. I told him about Slugboy, about Jack and Jill, about another friend who had betrayed me. I felt like we were truly friends, and that would last, even if he was choosing to try and make a relationship with Vienna work because he saw his friends settling down and wanted that safety and stability. Oh, and he was scared of me because I reminded him of his ex-wife (I knew something scared him, and as we were being open, I went ahead and asked), and that had ended so badly. I had always hated that scene in Grey’s Anatomy where Meredith begs McDreamy, “Pick me, chose me,” but oh god, confronted with such a moment, it is damn hard not to do just that. But I still hate it because I managed not to, because it’s lazy writing. I’d realized by then that I did love him somehow, and while I stopped short of saying that too, I was painfully open about wanting to be with him, which I will never regret. I also tried to be a friend, and tell him that whoever he ended up with in life, she should be someone he could be fully himself with, and not just someone who made him feel safe and stable and kept him from his fear of being alone. We invited our waitress to sit with us when her shift was over, chatted about her love life. I was happy enough, I hadn’t gotten him like I wanted, but I had something real, a connection based on more than just memories and lust. I asked if we could be like teenagers and go sit in my dad’s car for a while by the lake and listen to music and talk. I don’t know why, whether it was opening up to me, or the stress of the fight, or just some oddness of straight boys I will never understand, but he proceeded to get drunk and strike up a long conversation with someone from our high school both of us barely remembered. I just wanted to get to the car and talk, he was acting the conquering hero returned from exotic lands with a fancy job.

I finally dragged him away right before last call, and we got to the lake. He was floppy drunk. I was wondering why all the music I loved and had wanted to listen to with him suddenly sounded wrong. We talked about high school, I rubbed his shoulders, a promise I had made long before. He rubbed my knee, my neck, the back of my head. I ended up sitting in his lap, joking that it’s something I do when I’m drunk, and my short skirt had kept me from acting on the impulse when we’d gone out the last time. We just leaned into each other. Close. I wasn’t going to use his drunkenness to get what I wanted, it wouldn’t count that way. He had to want me, he had to make the move. I did kiss the nape of his neck as he rested his head against me. Our lips almost brushed as we tried to say why we shouldn’t. Then he did kiss me, and it held all the promise and passion I knew it would. We sat for a minute more, I clambered back into the driver’s seat and dropped him home. He sent me a sweet, drunken email, saying that he’d had an incredible night, and that my awesomeness could help overcome his assholeness, and we could make something work. And that was pretty much the last I heard from my friend Dan.

I wrote back, and didn’t hear, then sent an email to check how bad his hangover was. To that I got a terse reply, all business-like and polite that he’d survived, with a mention about meeting up in LA the next week. I wanted to have dinner, and let him know I had plans for the day he was going to be in town and needed notice of what he wanted to do in case I needed to adjust them. I repeated that request a couple days later, giving a deadline, and saying I knew he didn’t want to deal with me when Vienna was in town but that I needed to know (I really did have plans, doctor’s appointments, and the bit about not wanting to deal with me was a cheap shot, but less than I wanted to say in the circumstances). He finally got back to me a day late, after I had confirmed my doctor’s appointments and said to myself, screw him. We made plans for him to meet me at my house and to walk over to my favorite diner for dinner, then grab drinks at my favorite bar where a friend of his might meet us. He arrived at my house drunk, from having spent the afternoon drinking with said friend. He didn’t even seem like my friend, but some poseur douchebag, making comments about not wanting anything to do with my cats as his ex was so into cats, and jokes about eating my pet rabbit. I tried to talk to him on the walk, but he didn’t want to talk about anything substantial, unless it had to do with my plans for my future and career and possibly moving. I spent the evening wondering where my friend was, and if he’d make an appearance. I drove him back to his hotel, and he slept most of the way. So at least I can say he slept with me.

And that’s how it’s been since. I emailed him about how awful he was about my pets, and how much that hurt as they are an important part of my life, and I got an “I’m sorry you feel that way” fake apology. Then a rant about how I had complained about hating such fake apologies on Face Book rather than saying something to him, and making it clear he wasn’t sorry at all for what he had said or done. The Face Book post was only slightly about him, as his was the third such BS I had gotten in as many months and I’d had it with such flakiness, and told him so when we got on gchat. I’d wanted to ignore him as he was clearly trying to pick a fight, but stupidly logged on thinking he’d be too cowardly to message me, and instead he did, right away. I keep hoping my friend is still there, but I think he’s gone, scared off by his feelings or by having let me see him when he was open and vulnerable. Or something I will never know. I sent him a link to a BBC radio program with Florence Welch, of Florence and the Machine, talking about her work and about poetry, which eerily included her reading the Hughes poem, because I knew my friend Dan would enjoy it. Wherever he is now. I read over old chats, and miss him so much. I’ll stop that soon, just like I’ll stop logging on to gchat and hoping he’ll be back, hoping the glib android version will be gone. I tried tonight, and there was a glimmer, but it’s not enough. I’m signing off gchat and won’t let myself get back on, it hurts too much.

I’m left wondering if he ever gave us a chance, or when he decided it wouldn’t work. If I was just a toy to fill his time, part of a Franken-girl composed of me and others to make up what he needed. He told me I was the most open sexually of any girl he’d been with recently, and I wonder how much was just about that for him. I wonder if I ever had a chance of winning him over when we met up back home, or if it was all just a test of will for him, of proving he could resist something he desired. There have been moments of anger, nights of crying myself to sleep, the need for a white blank page to write this all out. I’m trying to not let it ruin me, not let it keep me from trying, not let it make me retreat into fear. As a friend told me, I’m not heartbroken because he rejected me, that’s my pride hurting. I’m heartbroken because he didn’t turn out to be the man I thought the was, the man I’d hoped he’d be. Blowing out that last glimmer of hope is hard, but I have to do it.

January 31, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , . Life, the universe, and whatnot. 4 comments.

Asking For It

It didn’t happen, but it’s what they would have said. I was wearing a short skirt, and I’d been the one to suggest going back to his place to hang out. Never have I been so glad for the guys’ tendency to let their place be too messy to bring girls home.

When I started drinking at parties in high school, about the most I ever did was sit on guys’ laps. To this day, I get drunk, I want to sit on someone’s lap. Once a guy stuck his tongue down my throat, but that was all. I did go into a room with someone at a party once, but it was a game for me to see how much I could stay in control, and nothing happened. I don’t get wild when I’m drunk, I’m one of those who works to not let it show, to stay in control and walk straight. Even when I can’t feel my face. I was afraid of losing control, of something spiraling into chaos I couldn’t handle, couldn’t stop, so I avoided it. I had friends who didn’t. Some were lucky, some weren’t. I had a friend who got wasted at a party and ended up in a room with a guy who told her, “Suck or fuck.” This was when blowjobs were still a big deal, so she chose the latter. For her first time. As she was telling me, my heart was dropping, I knew she’d been too drunk to give consent, that he’d taken advantage of her, that it was rape. But it was years before she admitted it to herself and could say it. I was terrified of anything like that happening to me, so I avoided putting myself in those situations.

I didn’t even really seriously make out with a guy until my first college boyfriend, a nice art student who took a really long time to put the moves on me, even after we were dating. He’d pick me up from my dorm, we’d spend the evening hanging out at his apartment, he’d drive me home. I’m still not sure if his playing Salt ‘n Pepper’s “Let’s Talk About Sex” in the car on those drives home was a subtle hint. But I wasn’t going to throw myself on him when I had no idea what I was doing, as much as I wanted to, so I waited until he finally initiated. I spent the night a few times, but nothing ever happened below the waist. I would have, we were in college, he was my boyfriend, it was what you did. But I was following his lead, and he wasn’t going very fast. We broke up after a couple months. Maybe he expected more, who knows. I liked him, he was a great first boyfriend, really.

Slugboy was the next. Things went farther, faster, with him. In part because he was dating a Nice Girl back home who wouldn’t put out, and so I felt one of the few advantages I had over her was if I did. Yeah, that’s a great reason to lose your virginity, ladies. To win over a cheating liar and make him break up with the other girl. I was nineteen and thought I knew what I was doing. We planned it. I spent a Friday night at his dorm. We switched the CD from My Bloody Valentine to Crowded House because, really, as great as they are, the phrase “I lost my virginity to My Bloody Valentine” just sounds awful. As first times go, I guess it was above average. I enjoyed it enough, nothing hurt, I liked it. We repeated it on Saturday night, then went play rehearsal Sunday morning. He dropped me off at my dorm after, then disappeared. He called that evening from his parents to say he thought we should just be friends. I could hear The Nice Girl in the background. That pretty took the experience from “above average” to “emotional disaster.”

“Just friends” didn’t last long. He told me he’d broken up with the Nice Girl, that they were just friends. I can’t dissect what was happening in my nineteen year old brain to make me think that using my sexuality to win him was the best plan, but I’m sure women older and wiser have made the same mistake so I don’t beat myself up over it. I’m of the pre-Clinton days where oral sex was a bigger deal than intercourse, so I actually performed my first blow job on him months after we’d had sex. It was in my new apartment, no furniture yet, so he was lying on the bare carpet in one of the bedrooms. The act was less disgusting than gossip had led me to expect, even though he didn’t manage to warn me before he came and I had to choose to spit or swallow. I swallowed, it wasn’t bad. Salty, odd, but nothing awful. Still not enough, he was still seeing the Nice Girl, though I didn’t know it then as I believed his lies.

Maybe because I had to be the sexy one, I didn’t hold back, let myself enjoy it. And I really did. Even though it was well over a year before he actually gave me an orgasm- and when he did he asked what was wrong. I liked sex, all of it, and I was good at it. I never felt that good about it, though. Because it didn’t win him over, he didn’t chose me, he shamed me for drinking or smoking the occasional cigarette. For not being a Nice Girl. God, I wish I could go back and hug that nineteen year old me, tell her there’s nothing wrong with her, and that she needs to dump that idiot and go have as much fun as she can find.

I broke up with Slugboy for a time, and dated a sweet Freshman, who looked at me like he was gobsmacked I had chosen him. He was a virgin, I’d only been with Slugboy, and I wanted to be the Nice Girl this time. To know if a guy would still be with me even if I wasn’t having sex with him. I’ll never know, as the Freshman put the moves on me one night, and even though I tried to dissuade him, I didn’t feel comfortable just telling him no. He got overexcited and didn’t make it to the act that night, and saying no after that felt like I’d be punching him in the ego. So next date, I put on something sexy, took control, and made like it was my choice. We were in college, he was my boyfriend, it was what you did. I was never that into it, stopped to answer the phone more than once while we were having sex. He left for the summer and fell away.

I got back with Slugboy for a while, then got free and fell for my friend Dave’s roommate Bill. Bill was an actual Son of a Preacher Man, and didn’t have much experience. He didn’t pick up that I was suddenly arranging my schedule to have lunch with him, Dave, and our friend Will every week, and not just because Dave and Will cracked me up. I remember setting up the perfect shot for Bill to ask me out, and watching Dave’s jaw just drop as he completely missed it, and I ended up having to do it myself. Bill didn’t have much experience, but the boy was a natural. Our first date, once he did finally kiss me, I barely made it inside my apartment before my knees gave out. Yes, that good. Even though I was wondering if I was listed in a university guide as a good sacrificial volcano for boys looking to lose their virginity by this point, I wanted to be with him. And again, the boy had skills. He shyly asked he’d been OK, if I’d enjoyed myself. “Yeah,” I said, “four times.” Go Bill. It was a good relationship, but he was the kind of guy you marry, and at 22, I wasn’t ready for that, so I called it off eventually.

I dated plenty of guys after that, and I can’t remember any who pressured me into doing anything I didn’t want to do. The first night with Jack, even though I’d brought him back to my place and we were fooling around in my bed, I wasn’t sure I wanted to have sex with him. I must have telegraphed that on my face, as he said that we didn’t have to if I didn’t want to. I came around, but it was good to know it was fully my choice. He was dating half of Austin, and maybe he was secure enough that he didn’t need to convince some girl to fuck him to prove his masculinity. And he may have been dating around, and didn’t mind if I was too, but when we were together, I was the only girl in the world, and he expected the same from me. I learned that when I tried to be cool and intimate there was someone else, and he called me out on it, saying you don’t bring up other people when you’re with someone. Good lesson, one I’ve kept, and one I judge others by in their breaking it.

It wasn’t until Frazier that I finally felt that my enjoyment of sex was OK, even a good thing. It was not the best situation. He was dating a friend of mine, even though she was still looking for something better, and he and I had always had chemistry. Since we did, and since she still seemed to be shopping around, I approached the subject with her sideways one day at lunch, saying that a few people I knew had ended up marrying guys their best friends had dated first, and how would she feel about that. Wouldn’t happen to her, she said. All her best friends were married or engaged. As I was neither, I was clearly not among her best friends, so I started sleeping with her boyfriend. Not my finest hour, but not something I will ever regret. It’s not that the sex was the most amazing ever, though it was good. No, it was that Fraizer was so admiring of how much I liked having sex, how much I was into it and enjoyed it. I’d never had a guy compliment me on that, make it sound not just OK but a good thing, something to be proud of. I felt so freed, finally able to express this aspect of myself without fear of being judged and found dirty. But I felt awful lying, and had to call it off after a few weeks.

Fast forward some years, and we get to Dan, and all the chat sex. Like Frazier, he liked that I was into it, that I was open and willing to test my boundaries, even if it was just virtual. I did too, finding out new things about myself (I’d be OK making out with someone else in front of a guy, but not having sex with someone else; spanking and hair pulling are good, things like,”You’re such a good slut,” crossed a line I didn’t like). But you start to wonder if your enjoyment, your willingness to try new things, is a bonus with purchase, or the only feature to really interest them.

Or if, as much as they enjoy it, it also scares them. I had one guy run out after sex, in the middle of the night, when I’d expressed that I actually wanted him to stay. The sex hadn’t been great, neither of us came, but I liked him, and was willing to work on it, and I’d enjoyed myself anyway. No idea if he had, as I have never been with someone who made less noise. I don’t need porn star talk, but the occasional groan is good feedback that I’m doing things right. This guy, I have no clue if I was, or what he wanted. I left him a couple texts and voice mails, but never heard back.

And Dan, well, for someone who is so open to new experiences that we had a Dream Team discussion on which actors and actresses we’d chose for a three-way, he sure embarrasses easily in person. We went out for drinks when we were both home, and I forgot that three vodkas on a mostly empty stomach was a bad idea for me, and got wasted. I still claim I was walking fine, that it was high heels and bad sidewalk that were doing me in, but he was good about keeping an arm around me anyway. We went to get coffee, I clearly needed some to be able to drive home, and as I couldn’t very well sit in his lap at a well-lit coffee shop as is my drunken wont, I tried to make do by stretching my legs out and putting my feet on his lap. I was in a skirt, it hiked up, and my stocking tops might have been visible to the other patrons. Even sober, this is not something I bother about, no big deal and let them have a thrill. But Dan, wow, bright red, eyes darting everywhere to see who was watching. So maybe guys are as scared of their own desires as they are of ours.

There’s nothing to be scared of, though. Until there is. I’d gone out with Dawson once, had a nice time, but found him a little boring, one of those who seems to be waiting for you to finish telling a story so he can regale you with his next bon mot. He walked me to my car, and laid some good moves on my, but I didn’t feel a thing, except that I wanted to go home and wished it wasn’t too late to hit the grocery store down the street. I told him in a email a couple days later that I thought we’d be better as friends, that we had too much in common, and even got him in touch with a friend I thought might like him, as a decent guy with a job in LA is a rarity. I don’t know what happened with them, but I gather it didn’t click. A couple months went by, and I got in touch with him about getting drinks. Thought I might try again for a spark, and if nothing else, I could use more friends. We had a good time, he was more relaxed, we laughed a lot. I had a few beers, and I can’t remember how the subject got around to sex, but then he was asking me what was the weirdest request I had ever gotten in bed. Now, this is not really early dating conversation for me, but rather things I talk about openly with my online friends (many of whom I’ve met through commenting on New York Magazine’s Sex Diaries on Mondays, although I’m more a reader than a participant), and Dan, whom I have known forever. But I don’t like being a prude, and it’s nothing I’m ashamed of, so I let the conversation continue. I haven’t actually had any odd requests (OK, I did not mention Slugboy and the zucchini, as that was just something that belongs in a farce not real life), but we got talking about other likes and dislikes, and I alluded to liking some light bondage. I was not going to get down and dirty with someone I don’t know that well, so I kept it vague. He walked me to my car, and I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to kiss him, or just be friends. I even said, “Awkward pause.” He went for it, and this time, I was into it. Really. Though I still hated that he took my purse off my shoulder and put it on the ground- it was a controlling little move. I’m a biter, though I tend to stick to necks and shoulders. This gave him ideas, though why he chose to bite my stomach I will never know. Things went far, with my shirt pushed up around my shoulders at one point, until someone on a bike went past and I shut it down.

He called twice the next day, and when I finally got a chance to call him back, he just wanted to talk. And then tried to invite himself over to keep me company. I was already in comfy pants and looking forward to lounging, alone, watching “Glee,” and had to be pretty firm that I didn’t want company. Even so far as saying we’d do something the next night just to get him off the phone. I worried I’d snagged a Stage 5 Clinger, which is ironic as I can be clingy myself but hate it in others. Typical only child, I need my space, unless I don’t, but I want to decide that. He’d mentioned missing the short skirt I wore on our first date, so I obliged on the next night. Met him at a restaurant, had dinner, and soon realized, God, he is boring. There are only so many, “This one time I said something really funny,” or “This one time I thought of something really funny I could say” stories a girl can stand, and he hit his limit early on in the evening. But I’d had a good time making out the night before (though the biting left marks that made a friend comment on a photo I’d posted of them, “Who are you partying with, Jeffrey Dahmer?”), and a girl has needs, so when we finished dinner and he asked what I wanted to do, I suggested we could go back to his for a while and hang out. He said his place was too much of a mess. I’d decided I wasn’t bringing anyone else back to mine until the third date or later, that if anyone was going to do a runner it was me, so I lied and said mine was too. As I was to learn later, this was so lucky.

I’d found such a good parking spot, I was worried it wasn’t legal, and wanted to check before we walked over for a drink. It was fine, and at my car, he started making out with me again. It must have been the beer the night before, as this time I wasn’t into it at all. I tried to feign interest, see if I could trick myself, but nothing doing. I did not want to be making out with this guy. But how do you say that to someone who’s just paid for dinner? And seems to be a good guy? As I’ve said before, I am too polite for my own good. So I just said we should get going if we’re going to get drinks before my parking limit runs out.

We get to the bar, and his hand is on my thigh almost immediately. I’m not against such things, but not with someone I’m realizing I’m not into, and not in full view of everyone else in a weirdly well lit bar. And he keeps looking at my chest. Now, I’m used to this, as any girl with breasts will tell you, men like to talk to them. But never on a date. They’ve got a decent chance of doing more than just look, so why stare? I was getting more and more uncomfortable, feeling more and more like Something was expected of me, that I had somehow given the impression that I was up for anything. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten less of a buzz off a vodka rocks- my brain wanted all its faculties that night. Not that it did me much good, I still had no idea how to shut Dawson down. After first saying no, then yes, saying no again felt so flaky I was afraid he’d cause a scene. I don’t deal well with having someone be angry at me, so I avoid it. We walked back to my car, my saying I needed to get him home. Not getting the hint, he attacked me on my car again. I kept my knees glued together, and was nervous by how well lit and well traversed the area was. In retrospect, that was a good thing, but I just felt so exposed. I finally got him in my car, I guess I’d made enough references to needing to get him home and get home myself. And then he really went for it. Hand right up my skirt. I pushed it away a couple times, pretty firmly. But I guess as I hadn’t objected in the bar, he wasn’t hearing it then. He was still kissing me aggressively, and trying to get his hand up my skirt, despite my saying, again, “I need to get you home.” I finally tried, “I want to take this slowly.” Which he somehow took to mean, “I want you to try and shove my hand down your pants.” I was having none of that, and pulled back damn fast and said I was taking him home. And to get his hand off my leg as I drive a stick and needed all my attention for that. God bless that stick shift, it kept him on his side of the car at least. He tried more when we got to his place, but I was firm about wanting to get home.

When I did, I freaked out. Nothing had really happened, but I felt so violated, so taken advantage of, and I hated myself for not speaking out and stopping him. But, even though it was my car, and it was a well-lit, well-traversed area, I was afraid. Afraid he’d get angry and it would escalate anyway, and faster. Or that he’d start calling me all kinds of names. I’d tried to appease him, keep him calm, bring it down a notch. But it didn’t work. I kept thinking about what would have happened if we had gone back to his place, somewhere truly private. I am pretty sure I would have had to physically fight him off me, and I’m just glad I didn’t find out how far it would have gone before I’d succeeded. He was a smoker, and wore a lot of cologne, and both previous times we’d gone out I’d been able to smell it on me the next day. I couldn’t handle that, so I tore off my clothes and scrubbed myself in the shower. I woke up the next day with a migraine that lasted a week. I blocked Dawson on my phone, but he still called and emailed twice, increasingly annoyed and concerned as to why I’d dropped off the planet when “we’d had a good time.” I had other drama to cope with, things that were more pressing and important, and I just wanted to forget that night, so I ignored him and deleted all messages.

We talk a lot about consent in this country, about how sex without consent is rape, but we never really define what consent really is. Because it’s not just not saying “No.” I didn’t say no to what Dawson was doing to me, but I sure as hell feel I didn’t consent. I went along, because I was scared and nervous and unsure how to stop him. My friend faced with, “Suck or fuck,” didn’t consent, but she also didn’t say no, she didn’t fight him off. It didn’t make it any more right. But it seems like unless you scream “NO!” repeatedly and fight the guy off, whether he’s a stranger or your boyfriend, you aren’t taken seriously if you do decide to press charges. Even if you have fought, there’s still a nasty tendency to blame the victim, to say she just regretted it and is filing a false claim, trying to get some kind of revenge or attention. Having had friends who have been through the process, I doubt anyone would do it for fun. Sady Doyle’s #MooreAndMe campaign on Twitter, which sought to get Michael Moore to retract and answer to comments he’d made disparaging the accusers in the Julian Assange rape cases in Sweden, drew lots of support and attention to the issue. And if you read The Guardian’s story on the case, it is sadly clear these are cases where the women didn’t fight, they didn’t say no, but also, where they clearly did not want to have sex with this man and ended up doing it anyway. Without the functioning condoms they had insisted on at the very least. But in Sweden, for whatever reason, they seem more willing to acknowledge that grey area, and even have different degrees of sexual assault (though, no, “sex without a condom” is nowhere on that list, however often that lie is repeated). Maybe they’ve had the discussions we need to be having, about what consent means, about how to say no, about how to tell when a woman is quietly resisting and that those are signs you need to stop immediately. Because we’re clearly not there yet in this country. When Moe Tkacik tried to address the situation, in her patented Moe way, full of run-on sentences and not always strong logic, but with some damn good points, she got shredded in the blogosphere because she used the names of the victims. I completely agree that rape victims should never be named before a verdict, but her paper had no standing rule on the issue, and even MSNBC has broadcast their names. She made an honest mistake, and her editors didn’t fix it until the storm erupted, and made it seem it was totally her fault, and not theirs for not having a basic policy in place like any other outlet does. And she got fired, for talking about rape in a way some women found to be wrong.

It seems that you can be judged by all sides for not responding to a rape in the “right” way, whatever the hell that is. The victims in the Assange case have been shredded for taking time to report him, and for daring to continue to hang out with him after the attacks. So that’s wrong. But, it seems, it’s also wrong to be flippant about it, when you’ve been a victim of sexual assault by an acquaintance yourself, as Tkacik has been pretty open about having happened to her in college. Until we can talk about this, without declaring “right” and “wrong” ways to do it, we’re never going to move forward, and never going to make real progress in making it clear that being forceful with a woman isn’t manly, it’s rapey. And women will worry about how open they can be, without it being viewed as an invitation that we’re ready and willing anytime, with anyone.

January 2, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , . Life, the universe, and whatnot. 2 comments.

Superball

It has been a roller coaster of a few weeks. I got my piece, “Clap Your Hands,” posted on Wordsmoker, and got such an outpouring of good feedback and welcome. After ten years of not writing, because it was the only thing in my life that I hadn’t yet managed to screw up, getting that kind of recognition from people I admire and respect just floored me. At one point I was crying on the phone to my friend Leslie, just blubbering about “I’m a real writer, a real writer.” I wrote something that touched people, that they responded to, that resonated with them. It was a kind of high I haven’t experienced since my days of amateur dramatics, the feeling when you are on, every cell firing, and you can feel the audience hanging on your every word, with your every movement. Drugs have little effect on me, I am a waste of pot, but if there were a drug that duplicated that feeling, I would be an addict after one hit. Except with acting, I was just slightly more than competent, and writing, writing is something I can be good at, if I keep working. I had moments of beating myself up (a favorite form of aerobic exercise) over years wasted not writing, but I couldn’t be doing this writing then, it’s because of what I’ve been through, what I’ve done, that I can. So having the years back would be nice as to have more, or, ha, any kind, of a career at it, but I’m proud of the work I can do now, it’s mine, no one else’s.

But it is annoying me how much I am craving the feedback and the adoration. It is like an addiction. I used to be happy if I liked how a piece of writing turned out, not worried about my grade or too worried about notes from classmates in seminars. But that gap of not writing, the battering my psyche has taken overall in the past ten years, and I feel like Sally Field at the Oscars, “You like me! You really like me!” I’m hoping my bruised and battered ego will heal over, and let me stop feeling like a junkie waiting for my next hit. In the meantime, I have found the greatest little collective of smart, funny, creative and supportive people through WS, and feel like the luckiest girl in the world to have them as my friends. It’s like finding my tribe. My weird, brilliant, hyper verbal, pun loving, overly harsh on ourselves, little tribe of misfits.

At the same time, I have started coming off my Effexor. It’s a good thing, not the best idea for someone with Major Depressive Disorder to come off all her meds, but something I have to do. Carrie Fisher, bless her, put it best, “I’m an emotional diabetic.” I am too, and I accept that I will need to be on some kind of meds for the rest of my life. But this one, at this dose, was just not going its job anymore, and I have had many other things in my drug regimen for other conditions change since going on it and hitting this dose, so I don’t think it’s the right choice anymore. Unfortunately, unlike diabetics, there aren’t simple blood tests, or even complicated blood tests, to see what your crazy levels are and what drug at what dose would stabilize them. So I’m carefully, under doctor supervision, coming down off the stuff, and it is white knuckle time. There is never a “good” time to do something like this, the side effects are always going to be unpredictable and worrying. But choosing to do it while trying to find a new job, dealing with various relationship dramas, and then imploding my bank account, I can’t tell which way is up some days. I don’t know if my spiteful and fragile state is caused by a normal reaction to hellish stress, or if it’s exacerbated by coming off the meds, or, most terrifying, if coming off the meds is revealing just how crazy I really am. I’m clinging to a combo of the first two theories, and soldiering on with getting off the stuff so my docs and I can find the right medication at the right dose. If only there was something more scientific than just spinning the medication roulette wheel, again and again until you hit something that works OK without killing you with side effects. They’re playing with my brain, I kinda need that to work. I don’t like experimenting with it, I don’t have a spare if they guess wrong.

I sent out 50+ resumes to TV shows, asking to be considered for any open assistant jobs. In the past I’ve cold called shows and then faxed resumes, but this year a took a cue from a couple friends and just mailed them off blind to any and every show I wanted to work on, picking a couple writer/producers at each one. After sending out 50, I found a typo in my cover letter. I worked with a professional on my resume, so I am secure on it, but cover letters kick my ass. And in this case, I was sending it out blind, no idea what if any jobs there might be open, so I had to try and hit all quadrants. Qualified, but not overqualified, able to think for myself, but not a threat to your job. It’s an impossible task, not helped by my tendency to revert to Serious Professional Manner when I’m doing business letters to people I don’t know. It was as dry as the Mojave. I finally got a friend to take a look, when I was starting round two and about to go out to picked up pilots. She shredded it, rightly. I got much better feed back from the one she helped me with, which actually sounded like me, rather than a Stepford assistant. I got a lead on a good job, had a panic attack at getting the cover email right, and bless Leslie and Sam for talking me down and helping me get it right. The girl who called to offer me an interview said she had found it “charming,” and that it had made her laugh. Huzzah! I used a variation on the format for the pilots, all of which were staffed up, but would “keep it on file.” Some seemed like they might actually look at it again, or even better, pass it on to someone else who needed to hire someone. It’s still round after round of rejection, never a fun thing, but I know my solid resume and a cover email full of my dry wit and willingness to fetch Diet Coke is in place around town.

The interview went well. I was a bit confused, as the friend of a friend of my dad’s who told me of the opening said there was an opening for an assistant on the show he had just started on, not that he was looking to hire an assistant for himself. The assistant who called to set up the interview said his name, but after years of imprecise instructions from temp agencies as to whom I was going to see and/or work for, I thought she was saying who had referred me for the job. And so I didn’t IMDB the guy, and didn’t know when it ended up that he was interviewing me to be his personal assistant that he had written two of my all time favorite episodes of The X-Files, the Bruce Campbell demon baby one, and the creepy slugs in the water after the hurricane in Florida. I would have been a complete fan boy, so maybe it was better that I didn’t know, but it might have given me a better idea about what I should say when asked, “What TV shows do you watch?” I was honest, I watch Gossip Girl to Breaking Bad, but I was interviewing on a procedural, and I don’t watch many traditional procedurals anymore. Supernatural, Fringe, both are non-traditional procedurals, and I kick ass at breaking procedural scripts, both in the classes I took and in my writing group. Decades of reading detective novels and countless Law & Order marathons, if done critically, can teach you the mechanics. I know my TV shows, I can talk about them as a fan or take them apart ten different ways to critique them, so I hope I came across OK on that point. Then he mentioned that he’d need me to do research for scripts. I don’t think I actually bounced up and down in my seat, but gosh golly, is research something my geeky self loves. I mentioned that I had researched writers and outlets while in publicity at Fox, to make sure a writer would do a positive piece on our precious talent. I also said that among my friends I am known for my wide and weird range of knowledge. Possibly using the example of Megan asking me what I knew about placentas wasn’t the best choice, but it is a weird bit of knowledge to have, and it could have been worse. I could have told the bit about how women’s breasts can become so engorged with milk that the skin actually splits. See? Totally could have been worse.

I am bouncing up and down like a superball, from highest highs to lowest lows. I have the chance of getting a true dream job, but also the chance of seeing it, holding it, knowing it is there, and having it taken away. A misunderstanding with Dan led to a wicked fight, one that had me on the verge of saying “Fuck it, I am out of here” at many points. Conflict, I am bad at it. But we worked it out, and whatever happens there, I have a friendship I value enough to fight to keep. I even ended up in a fight about Forgetting Sarah Marshall on a poor friend’s FB page out of nowhere. I’ve written about my feelings on that movie, and Apatow & Co. in general, but I can usually refrain from suggesting anyone “suck a bag of dicks” on a FB thread. I’ve laid low this week, as I worry that if someone looks at me sideways I’ll either burst into tears or let loose in a tempest of fists. I really wanted to go out drinking, enjoying the anesthetizing effects of vodka and snarky conversation. But everyone is paired off, busy, or currently not drinking. This may be for the best, but when you need to get your drink on, you need to get your drink on, and doing it alone is not a good idea in any state, but especially not the one I’m in now. I’m going to have to make do with pizza and Party Down, and thinking about all the very bad things I want to do to Adam Scott.

June 12, 2010. Tags: , , , . Life, the universe, and whatnot. Leave a comment.

Narrative Altercations

I blame the New York Times wedding announcements. Now, don’t get me wrong, I was never one of those little girls who enacted my dream wedding with my Barbies. I don’t have a binder stuffed with photos of wedding dresses and cakes. I think a wedding is the beginning of something, not the be-all end-all in and of itself. But I love stories, and the NY Times wedding announcements have the best stories. Couples set up by their parents, by friends, who met completely by accident. Couples who knew each other all their lives, ones who knew it was love at first sight. Lots of couples who knew each other, even dated, at one point in their lives, then lost touch, only to find each other again. I’d be happy with a registry office wedding in borrowed finery, but I want a NY Times wedding announcement.

I know I’m not the only girl to spin out a tale worthy of a romantic comedy at the first sight of a guy. I think my best was when I was at Trader Joes and an adorable toddler bobbled towards me and lifted her arms in the universal signal for “pick me up”. I looked to her father to check it was OK, and then picked her up and enjoyed making a fool of myself to make her laugh. Her dad was seriously cute and British, and while I have the passport I don’t have the accent so it still works on me. In my head, he was a widower, and his daughter taking a shine to me would allow him to open his heart and love again, love this wonderful woman his little girl picked out at the grocery store. In reality, her mom was alive and well a couple aisles over, and I left the store with another story about a random baby falling for me instead of cute dad’s phone number.

“Dan” and I knew each other in high school; he was a freshman when I was a senior. I could tell he had a crush on me, and since he was sweet and funny, with this endearing crooked smile, I enjoyed the attention. Senior guys date freshman girls, but never the other way around, so nothing was going to happen. I went off to college, I think I saw Dan around when I came back to visit my old teachers a couple times. Then, when I was a fifth year senior home for the holidays, I had to cram for one of those tests to get you out of a low level course, the kind of thing you should do early on in college but end up putting off until your last semester. I ran into Dan somewhere, and ended up borrowing some books on the subject from him. We went out for coffee, and the night ended with one of the most awkward kisses of my life. I don’t think he actually begged, but it was close. I made sure to return the books without having to see him again, and didn’t think about him much in the intervening years except the occasional shuddering memory of that awful kiss.

So when he contacted me on FaceBook last year, I accepted his friend request, but ignored his “Hey, what’s up?” message for a couple months before responding. We arranged to meet up for coffee when we were both home for the holidays, and I was dragging my feet on the way there, telling my parents it would likely be boring, but that he at least was living somewhere interesting so I might hear a good story or two. Fate, karma, whatever, is an evil bitch, because when I walked into the damn coffee shop and saw him, it was like I’d been hit by something, and really wished I had dressed better for the occasion. He’d grown up well, and had turned into something totally my flavor. And he had been spending the time waiting for me reading a serious book, some classic history text he’d just picked up because he’d always meant to read it. Maybe it was a sign I’d been in LA too long, where scripts are considered heavy reading, because his reading something like that was one of the sexiest things I’d seen. I babbled, did my best to be winning and funny, and tried not to wonder if I was boring him when he played with his phone. I gave him a ride home and hoped he’d invite me in so I could find out if his kissing had improved over the years, but no such luck. I was left wondering exactly how all those couples I read about in the Times who had been living on different continents when they met managed to make it work.

Because on top of the attraction I was feeling, this was such a good story. Unrequited high school crush, awkward encounter in college, meeting up years later and sparks fly. A long distance relationship, with meetings arranged whenever possible, in locations around the world. Long emails, making up for immediacy what they lack in romance. Marriage, a little house in the hills, filled with books and laughter, followed by really smart babies. I actually mentioned the smart babies to a friend who was suffering through listening to me fret about why Dan hadn’t responded to my last email in over a week. It seems that Dan didn’t receive his copy of the story, and so wasn’t following the plot at all well. He was slow to respond to my emails, and while mine were full of charming wit, evocative of place and time (or so I hoped), his were more like telegrams, short and low on detail. I came right out and admitted my interest, and even then couldn’t get him on track. Living on separate continents was a problem for him and a bad breakup had left him emotionally fucked, so as much as he enjoyed corresponding with me, he wasn’t sure about anything more. Obstacles, all good stories need them! There was interest, that was clear, so I kept on, establishing a rule that he’d get no more than three emails from me without my getting one in return. He went on a trip to Vienna and I looked forward to hearing what he thought of it, sure that the fact that he had chosen to visit a city I loved so much was something else we had in common.

Except he had chosen to go there to visit a girl he’d been seeing off and on, and his opinions on the city were wildly different from mine. I found both those things out after not hearing from him for a couple weeks after he got back, and sending him an email to apologize for anything wrong I must have done to cause this lapse. I’d done nothing wrong, he’d just been too busy with work to write like he’d said he would. Between not having mentioned there being another girl, even though I had asked, and being too busy to even send a short note to check in, I’d had enough and told him off. The story was turning into something darker, characters I had played before, and I wasn’t going to repeat those mistakes.

But plots keep twisting, even when you try and craft a good ending by walking away. Dan did eventually write back, and was charming enough to make me respond. He disappeared again, and then we ended up having chat sex when we reconnected. It went from erotica to awkward relationship drama, and seems to be stuck in some kind of epistolary sit-com about friends with benefits. He was on this continent recently, but was coy about dates until it was too late for me to make the arrangements to meet up I’d suggested when he first mentioned the trip. Trying to pin him down is like nailing jello to the wall. I think we’re on the same page, but I have no idea if the genre is romance, tragedy, or farce.

June 5, 2010. Tags: , , , . Life, the universe, and whatnot. 1 comment.

e-Fuck and Run

I’ve been on a Liz Phair bender this week.  I was one of those girls whose life was changed by her first album, and I go back to it often.  Especially when I’m feeling a little like one of those inflatable punching clowns, swaying back and forth as I try to stay vertical.  “Help Me Mary,” “Never Said,” “6’1″,” all good for cranking up the stereo when you’re feeling sucker punched.  “Flower,” I still know all the words to that one.  It’s a little anthem for me, a wish that I could be as bad as I wanted.  The album speaks to being a smart girl confused by life, a girl who enjoys sex but still gets emotionally fucked about it.

I’ve been emailing with an old high school friend for the past few months, one of those people Facebook brings back into your life.  “Dan” was a few years behind me, and we’d been out of touch since college.  We met up when we were both home for the holidays, and my stomach did a little flip at the sight of him and I found myself trying to quiet the, “Am I being an idiot?  I sound like an idiot, he must think I’m an idiot” mental soundtrack.  Which was all just weird, like the scene in a movie where the guy finally notices that the girl next door is actually a girl.  And, as I’ve been programmed by romantic comedies to recognize such moments as Important, I kept in touch with him, despite his being seriously geographically inconvenient.  I was oddly open about how I felt, he was, well, less so.  I got the feeling there was interest, but it was hampered by Lingering Issues after a breakup and a reluctance to tackle the distance problem.  These things can go either way, and I was still interested, so I kept an oar in, damn near forcibly keeping the correspondence going, adamant that I was at least going to add another smart, interesting friend to my little circle.  He must be kept chained to his desk, as he claimed work kept him from getting back to me within a week.  Or two.  Or writing at any length.  Events led me to get annoyed and stomp off, saying he wouldn’t hear from me again unless he wrote first.

A month passed with nothing from him.  I considered de-friending him on FB just to keep myself from checking that he didn’t have death as an excuse, but decided I needed to grow up, not obsess.  And, as if there was a Google alert that I was Over It, he finally wrote, all self-effacing and hoping for understanding.  I wrote back, he fell off the planet again, which I had expected.  It was like he’d tugged my string, and by responding I’d shown I was still on it, easy to find.  I have hellish insomnia at times, so when I saw he was on FB late the other night, I teased him about something he’d recently posted and reminded him how much he sucked.  Because I’m so mature, and never passive aggressive.  He pinged me on FB chat, and we ended up joking back and forth for a couple hours.  There was flirting and innuendo, just as there has always been between us, even back in high school.  I’m always happy to play screwball comedy heroine, zinging with snappy dialogue.  Dan’s a decent sparring partner that way, keeps me on my toes.

I think I had been making the most of his mistyping “not on me,” instead of “not onto me,” by postulating what I would be doing if I was on him. “I little hair pulling, a little biting, a little poetry explicating.”  Liberal arts grads, you know.  He perked up at the mention of hair pulling, “Really?”  I owned up to being that cliche, a control freak in the office who likes to be controlled in the bedroom.  And then things took a turn for the weird, and the bow chicka wow wow music started up.

I’ll draw a veil over the details of the next two hours, but suffice to say, there was biting, there was hair pulling.  Tie me up, tie me down, beg for mercy, don’t stop.  It was hot, raunchy and NSFW, which was fine for me as I was in bed.  He was at work.  Excuse me a moment while I smirk and snicker at that image.  Soon after starting Round 2, he must have remembered where he was as he said he needed to get some work done and I should get some sleep.  He joked that I should be fine for another month.  There isn’t an emoticon that reaches out and smacks someone upside his head, so I had to confine myself to “Bite me.”  The awkwardness was rising, and even as I grabbed up my wit and bailed as fast as I could, I could feel it swamping the boat.  A pitiful feint of, “So, same time next month?” led to stumbling mentions of one of us seeing someone by then.  I made one last parry, saying I’d had more fun than I would have expected, having never done anything like that before.  He said he had, once or twice, with the girl he’d been seeing off and on.  And the awkward pause reverberated across the internet as I scrambled for my virtual clothes, pulling them on without bothering with my bra in my rush to escape.

“And almost immediately I felt sorry, cause I didn’t think this would happen again.”  She sums it up so well, that blindsiding of regret, you’ve duped yourself again.  I gave in to feeling like a Girl, wanting to know what was going on, and emailed Dan to check that we were good.  Supposedly we are, whatever that means.  I don’t think it means letters and sodas, and I don’t even know if I want that.  I’m adrift in a sea of confusion, looking for some kind of marker to guide my way.

May 16, 2010. Tags: , , . Life, the universe, and whatnot. 1 comment.