“I can’t do this,” he said as, I stood outside of my bar where most people smoked, hugging myself against the cold, pushing my phone to my ear.
“I’m confused?” I said. “Can’t do what?”
“I can’t do casual dating.”
“Are we casually dating?” I asked. “I mean, we’ve seen each other every night for like two weeks. I kind of thought casual implied not every night. You know, like, casual.”
“What if I told you I was thinking of getting back together with my ex-girlfriend?” he asked with a heavy sigh.
“Uh, I mean, would you be lying? Because if you were using it as a cop out, I’d say you’re a pretty big asshole with no balls. But that’s only if you’re lying. If you’re telling the truth, I’d just say you’re dumb.”
“No,” he said, ignoring the obvious sarcasm and insult. “Ali called me last night. She was hysterically crying. And I just can’t keep doing this to her. I can’t keep hurting her this way. I think I may still love her.”
“Is this a joke?” I asked. “I’m pretty sure you told me you couldn’t wait to break up with her because you had no intention of marrying her and that you didn't miss her at all. Suddenly you can’t live without her? I had sex with you in like, ten different positions the other night, and you choose a girl who called you crying? Have you told your friends this? Because I’m pretty sure they’d disown you from the man’s club and revoke your balls for choosing the crying girl over the girl who really loves sex and fun positions. I’m just saying.”
“Stef, I can’t do this, I’m sorry. I need to figure things out with Ali.”
“Good, if I ever run into her, I’ll be sure to tell her all the wonderful things you told me about her while you were fucking me. I’m sure she’ll really be happy to know how much you loved her and doted on her while we were banging. It’s every girl’s dream to know her boyfriend can fuck other girls while he loves her. Totally romantic.”
I hung up the phone. No desire to hear him apologize or tell me how great of a girl I was. No desire to give him the satisfaction of knowing I liked him more than he liked me at that point. And I definitely didn’t want him to hear me choke up. So I hung up and immediately took his number out of my phone.
“You alright?” a guy at the bar asked me as I struggled to open a bottle of wine.
“Fine,” I said, and I knew my face was red and my eyes were wet. “This thing sucks,” I said, throwing the wine key on the bar. I walked away from him and into the women’s bathroom. Dude definitely never got his wine.
Some would say it was a cop out. Maybe it was, but I don't think so. He deleted his Facebook account for a few months, until recently when he signed on randomly and his first action was to unfriend me. I don't know why this one bugged me. I had been blown off by a lot of guys way better than this kid, with way more hair. Why was this wiggin' me out so bad? This was nothing, a blip, a fucking joke.
But the thing is, it felt different. Sure I had had my moments of teary, weepy sadness with certain athletes. I felt some serious devastation when ex-laxer and I broke up, and I had eaten a few boxes of cookies over certain guys, but this felt worse somehow. More embarrassing, believe it or not.
Even in a “normal” situation, I couldn’t come in first. I couldn’t put myself in a position where someone actually chose me, picked me, over every other distraction out there. The bankers were no different than the ball players. And I was done. My heart had been bruised, kicked in so many time with cleats and skates and trainers, that the final blow, the actual “break” by a no-named analyst from one of many banks in this city seemed comical, ironic even.
“He has no hair,” I repeated to myself as I sat on the toilet in the handicap stall and cried.
“I want to die,” I said to my mom over the phone. She was in San Diego with her boyfriend. “I haven’t showered in three days. I have no desire to do anything. I feel like I’ve been shot.” For some reason, I thought telling my mom this was a good idea. I thought she’d be all like, “I know Stef, you should feel this way, you should listen to The Cure and slit your wrists while you’re at it.” I wanted her to side with me, to say I wasn’t being totally ridiculous by acting as thought I had just gone through a terrible divorce.
“Okay, let’s tone it down Stef,” my mom said. “You’re being pathetic. And I’ve had a nice weekend in San Diego and I really would prefer not having to come home and clean up the blood from your slit wrists over a guy who you’ve known two weeks.”
“I’m not being pathetic,” I could feel the tears that had rarely stopped flowing for three straight days building up again. I had cried over everything. I spilled pickle juice on the floor of my kitchen and openly wept on my counter. I watched The Notebook like thirty two times. I seriously thought about dying my hair blonde. I remember getting up from the couch (where I had basically melted into) and going into the bathroom, sitting on the toilet to pee and letting out the heaviest sigh, you’d swear I had just lost all my money, my husband, my kids, that my dog had just been hit by a car and that I just found out I had cancer. I mean, seriously, what the fuck? It was two weeks. It was a non-athlete. It was a dude who could possibly make extra cash on one of those infomercials for Bose Hair Solutions or Rogaine. Jesus Christ, my mom was right, it was pathetic. What was I doing to myself? Other than ruining my skin by not bathing and gaining ten pounds by living on pasta and boxes of Weight Watcher brownies?
Here’s the thing though. For the longest time I was blaming athletes for my emotional ineptitudes, my inability to find love. I blamed their callous nature, their selfish desire for stardom, their overzealous ambition to be the best in the game. The truth is, those relationships, those flings, those were my fault. I knew what I was getting into with every one of those guys. The cheating, the distance, the lack of concern. They laid that out for me from day one, time and again, and I chose to ignore it, hoping – like so many women – to be the one who could change all that. And then it turned into something I enjoyed because I stopped putting pressure on it to ever be more than it was - a good fuck and a good laugh and maybe a bud who could get me solid tickets. When I stopped pining for love from those guys and enjoyed them for what they were worth, it made my life so much easier.
But with Christian, I felt fooled. I felt tricked into allowing myself to feel comfortable in an unfamiliar situation by false promises and false professions of care and concern. “I’m afraid I’m not an asshole like the other guys you’ve dated, and I feel like you won’t like me as much because of that.” I look back on those words, his “big concern” when it came to me, and I think what a load of shit. I feel stupid for believing that statement. Because while a lot of the guys I have been with might have been less than ideal when it comes to the consideration department, none of them pretended to be better than they could ever be, or wanted to be toward me. He did. He laid next to me, looked me in the eye and made me believe he was worth giving up all the fun I had had, the chasing and the sex and the stories. And for that, I feel duped. After so many years of dating the assholes, you’d think I’d be able to pinpoint their habits, see through their bullshit. But with this, I was completely blind-sided. And I think because of that, a little embarrassed. Yes, ladies and gentleman, I am capable of feeling embarrassment. I don’t mind puking and banging a drunk Canadian, or buying condoms in Super Target, or falling out of bed naked, but getting a little weepy over a guy I thought I really liked, who I thought really liked me, HUMILIATING. Priorities, Stef. Priorities.
I stand behind my bar on 50th Street and I watch the banker guys come in. I never expect to see him again – he never came in before I met him, I know he won’t now. I listen to them talk about ruling the world, treating me and the other bartenders less than, acting as though they are single handedly solving the financial crisis when in reality they just picked up their boss’s lunch. I wonder if they work with him, if they know him, if they know anything about what happened with me. I stand on Broadway, waiting for the light to turn, looking at the entrance to the building where he works, wondering what the chance is that I will ever run into him again. Slim to none, I concede. And what would I say to him, even if I did? That out of every pro athlete I’ve dated, out of every good looking star I’ve been with, out of every guy I could have let break my heart, he managed to do it the worst n the last year or so? That he, long his football squad at Harvard, managed in less than a month to infiltrate parts of my life I wanted to keep hidden, exploit them, gain my trust and then crush me, when one of the up and coming stars of the NHL didn't even put a dent in my ego? That he is the first and perhaps the last guy I wanted to be “normal” with? No. Instead, I cross to the 1 train on Broadway, put on my iPod, and ignore the pang of embarrassing loss I feel. I sit on the subway, browsing my BBM contacts list. And then I think to myself, why in God’s name do I care about this dbag banker?
“Hey, rumor has it you have a game over here next month. Want to meet up?”
I’m laying in bed next to a guy who will be halfway across the world in twelve hours. I’m watching the rain outside the hotel window, and I am thinking of Christian. I look to the guy next to me, and I smile. I know him better than most girls in my position because I open myself up to be his late night texting friend as well as his fuck buddy. And I know what to expect of him. And at the end of the day, at this very moment, I realize that that’s enough for me. The fear of what he will say tomorrow, if he will still care next week, if he really means what he says – none of that exists. And in this, I have to agree. The devil you know is far better than the devil you don’t know. I'm happy with what I've got for now. And I've realized that giving up the shit that I like doing now to try to settle, to try to be normal, to try to have something other people expect me to have as a semi attractive girl with a decent personality and a sometimes working brain? It's bullshit. This whole situation, that two weeks, was too much effort, too much thought and too much trying. I had to force myself to like him, and in the end, I think the fact that he didn't want me proved I was right all along. Maybe it wasn't just the hair or the fact that he wasn't a pro athlete or something. It was something else I saw from the get go that I played off as meaningless.
The truth is, I'm not ready to be normal. I'm not ready to totally give up my jersey chasing ways, or my fun with athletes, or my random vacations with my friends. I'm not ready to settle because I haven't even figured out exactly what it is I want just yet. But I know what makes me happy right now. And for me, that's good enough.