#14 Pre (Dis)Approve

Um, I don’t know about anyone else, but I LOVE gossiping about boys and girls. I hate my guy friends for being so mum about who they like and what they’re doing about it. Then when I get together with Anne [who has a boyfriend and therefore pretty minimal fresh drama in her life], the best we can come up with is–

“So Matt told me that he likes someone.”

“I know!”

“For months!”

“It’s crazy.”

“I wonder who it is.”

“Me too.”

“…”

Then we ponder in silence for a while. And move on.

This activity results in hours of good fun, like the time Matt requested a list of potential girlfriends from Anne and I. [PS. I totally put myself at the top of that list. Mostly because it was just a ridiculous request.]

Just to be clear. If THIS man was asking you to compile a list of potential girlfriends, you would DEFINITELY put yourself at the top. No matter your completely platonic feelings for him.

But. Just like any innocent fun, there’s a seedy underside that comes around to bite you in the butt.

Before I left to spend the holidays with my family, I was spending a lot of time with this great guy, Logan. Like, A LOT. I met him early in December when I went out with some friends from church for lunch. The weekend before I left, I saw him Friday, Saturday, Monday, and twice on Tuesday. For a change, the guy was initiating, inviting me to hang out, laughing at my jokes, texting me first. I felt like I was actually being pursued instead of my usual trend of making my self too accessible for the wrong kind of guy to take advantage of me, and I was having a bloody good time. I was REALLY excited. I was so ready to take a risk on this guy, and I felt pretty confident that he felt the same way about me.

Then I had to leave for ten days for the dumb holidays. But Logan and I texted every day, several hours a day. He texted me on Christmas. He’d say cute things, like when he was out with his family for Chinese and he texted me to let me know that since I was the year of the dragon and he was the year of the rabbit, we were compatible [that was his word too, btw].

Things are going GREAT, I thought. I was practically dating this guy, all but in any official name.

The first week I got back to Michigan, I saw him once. I had to set it up. Which I’m not opposed to, mind you. I’m just neurotic. And it started doubts. Compounded with the fact that we went from texting every day for hours a day to near radio silence, I started to get nervous. Had he lost interest? Had I been played? Had he found someone new?

Still, I tend to recognize when I’m being irrational and neurotic. So I took my fears to my friend Rachel. And I started out positive.

“So there’s this guy.”

And since she also likes gossiping about boys, her face lit up.

“His name is Logan L—-.”

You know how when you’re trying on an outfit you’re really excited about, and you jump out of the dressing room to show your friend, and she’s trying really hard to say something nice because she KNOWS how much you like it, but it’s a struggle to keep a smile on her face and the best she can come with is “wow”?

That’s what Rachel looked like.

Her smile froze, and I could tell she was struggling.

“What?” I asked. But I knew already, because I had overheard something that lunch a month ago, when I first met Logan, I had overheard something and it had bothered me in the very bottom tip of my heart since then.

“It’s just… I thought he was seeing Hilary.”

That little fear in the very bottom tip of my heart exploded.

“Well… what?”

I like Hilary. Except she ALSO has beautiful curly hair and very pretty eyes. So maybe Logan has a type, or she stole all my thunder.

And, without compromising her friendship with Hilary, Rachel told me what she knew. That Hilary and Logan had spent a lot of time together last semester, that it had been undefined but at least looked like it was leading to a relationship, and that when Hilary had finally put her foot down and asked what was going on between the two of them, Logan had said he wasn’t ready for a relationship. By piecing together what Rachel knew and what I knew, we put this DTR between Logan and Hilary about 72 hours before Logan and my friendship started to spark.

To be clear–I don’t mind if Logan dated someone IMMEDIATELY before me. Maybe he was getting to know Hilary, and then in the end decided he didn’t want to date her. Isn’t that the POINT of casual dating and hanging out? To decide if you actually like someone enough to date date them? That’s not what bothered me. What bothered me instead was the fear that this is how he treats ALL his relationships. That his character is flawed by instant but short lived passion, that he can’t commit, that he had wrapped my very fragile heart around his fingers and was about to break it. And those fears overtook any excitement I had about our non-dating relationship and completely broke down any dams logic or rational thinking had put up around my heart and mind.

When I left Rachel, I was on my way to see him. I had already made plans to hang out with him and some other friends. And I struggled to get my neurotic thinking under control. I didn’t want to have preconceived notions. I didn’t want to judge Logan before he had a chance to actually show me what his character really is. I didn’t know his side of the story. I didn’t know anything except a limited second hand account from the jilted party. It would be unfair of me to change my perceptions of him and behavior towards him off that conversation.

And yet… Maybe it was a warning. Over Christmas break I had to deal with the fears I still have about being in a committed relationship and it was terrifying. I was ready to take a risk on someone whose own intentions I didn’t know. Maybe hearing about Hilary would help keep my own presuppositions in check, reeling me in before I got hurt.

It’s been a few days since I talked with Rachel. When I look back at the time since I’ve come back to Michigan post-holidays, there’s been a definite shift in my relationship with Logan. We see each other and talk less. But he’s also really busy. And it’s only been a week and a half, not really long enough to draw any true conclusions. So I’m still trying to balance my fears and my hopes. Basically, I’m just trying to stop having feelings for him, so that I won’t get too excited when I hear from him or too disappointed if I don’t. I’m letting that conversation with Rachel get into my head only enough to keep me from pushing myself into a type of relationship Logan may not want yet, but trying to keep it quiet enough that I can still hope for the best.

Hell yeah, I'm going to hope for the best. Hell. Yeah.

At the very least, if I find out he’s an emotional man whore and all romantic feelings are drained from my body, I plan on still keeping him around for entertainment purposes. He’s ridiculously funny.

#12 Keep it in the Family

I promised a post on family. And so you shall have one. Except, of course, this blog is also about love and relationships. So you shall have one of those too. There is only one exceptional way to combine these two topics, and that is to reminiscence about the on forbidden fruit that’s tantalized us all, the cool one, the one we click with oh so well, just like they’ve always known us. Which they have…

Because they’re family.

Ok, it’s never really family family. My friend Calvin had a terrible crush on an ex-step cousin, affectionately called “the cuz” by us, his loving friends. And then there was the couple who went to family reunions only to have their mutual great aunt go through their mutual family tree… every time.

(That relationship, btw, did not last.)

Sometimes it’s your first real crush, and I think I’ve figure out why. It’s not creepy. It’s just that, around the time that you stop believing in cooties and start wondering what happens after “just friends,” you don’t really have many friends of the opposite sex. In fact, the only ones you may know well are the ones you’ve been playing with for years at family reunions. Usually these realtives are made cooler by the fact that they are older, someone whose teenager wisdom and class has esteemed them in your eyes.

I never was into a blood relative (that’s not the norm, by the way, to go full on medieval monarchy, but it’s so much more fun to say everyone’s had a crush on a relative). But my weird family of family love connection happened way after my first crush. I was, sadly, advancing into my twenties. My sister happened to marry a man who had a brother my age, and while this brother of my brother-in-law and I didn’t exchange much at the wedding, we did a few years later when he was living with his sibling. And mine.

Hercules when I first met him. Nothing to take notice of.

It started out with friendship. Then flirtation. And once you threw a little bit of alcohol into the mix (and the fact that this kid sorta looks like a Greek god with his chisled features and curly hair), and it was a done deal. He was nice to begin with, because he learned at least one thing from his mama. But the truth of the matter is that we were both at the top of our game. We were 21, and we both were pushing and pulling and lying and double entende-ing just to see what hoops we could get the other to jump through. I knew exactly what to say to get him to come out to see me spur of the moment. He knew exactly how to use the flexibility of our romantic entaglement to get away with treating me like a lover one day and the ugly sister of the sister-in-law the next.

(Btw, that extra “sister” or “brother” modifier is very important. One of my friends–the one with the twisted step-cousin Cinderella complex–kept asking me about my relationships with my “brother-in-law” and insisiting that the extra “brother” of my brother-in-law was superfuluous. It was not. There was no affair.)

(But WAS it weird that sometimes the shared family characteristics reminded me of his brother, my brother-in-law, my sister’s husband?

Yes.)

Hercules when I met him again. Chisled features and curls, ladies, chisled features and curls.

It got very ugly towards the end of our several month trip into insanity. We had agreed to keep our little non-incestuous fling a secret from our respective and in-lawed siblings. Even after he moved out of our siblings’ apartment into his own apartment, still in the same city, we were covert. I was going out to see my sister one winter, and he suggested that I arrive a few days early and stay with him. I did, and the first night was fabuluous fun. The second day he avoided touching me or kissing me and spent most of the time playing online poker. When confronted (I did not come out a few days early to watch movies at my brother-in-law’s brother’s apartment–by myself!) he hid behind professed residual feelings for his ex-girlfriend.

Listen, this was not one of those relationships in which I cared where his FEELINGS were. My feelings for other people weren’t preventing ME from having a good time with him when I was with him.

Under his prompting I called my sister, said I had surprisingly shown up in town a day early without warning, and had found her husband’s brother to hang out with until I had gotten ahold of her.

How she fell for this, my intelligent, PhD student sister, I do not know.

I left his apartment that night, though I was to fall victim to his charms again in the upcoming months (did I mention his curls?) for just one night, and then I made a clean escape. After a long noncommunicative, nonhostile break, we saw each other again (we do have mutual family…).

We went out for a drink, updated each other on our lives, swapped stories about on going romances. After confessing to his own on again off again flirtations with a girl he worked with, he said, “Yeah. I think I’m going to see how it goes next weekend. I’m going to ask her out, like on a real date. I’m tired of these hot/cold games. I used to be really into them, about a year ago, but now I see that they’re just a waste of time…”

And he snuck a carefully planned Bambi-glance at me.

Puh-lease.

I don’t know how my sister and his brother never caught on. He and I would go out for drinks together. I “showed up” in town a day early. We made out in their apartment. But I never did tell my sister, which pains me because I feel like this is the most post-modern relationships I’ve ever had and she would just eat this up. (Plus I don’t think she really likes this kid anyway, and after the flip-flop way he treated me, I’d enjoy a good gripe session where we could point out all his character flaws and how his life’s a sham.)  And I should have know better, that a relationship between us would have no future, and even a relationship that seems like “just fun” at the time turns sour when you’re nearing the obvious and inevitable end. Or maybe I should have picked up the clue when, during the first night, he said to me, “Hey, let’s not tell Geena and Vincent about this. I don’t think they’d like it.” Maybe I should have agreed and then walked away, because a relationship that you can’t share with your sister is never going to be a relationship at all.

But now we’ve got a great story for our mutual nieces and nephews one day.

So long, Hercules. It's been relatively nice.

#1 Find a wombat.

After I graduated college, I regressed back to elementary school. I may have gotten a degree in filmmaking and screenwriting, but what is true for a quarter of all college grads was true for me–my first job was in a completely unrelated field.

I moved away from Michigan, the home of my alma mater, 24 hours after cap and gowning it through all of campus. So much for celebrating five years of hard work. I went back to New Jersey to live at home for a “saving year” aka, I just realized what it means to have student loans. I took a job as a classroom aide in a second grade classroom, hoping that adulthood would overlook me among the seven year olds. However, second graders themselves are surprisingly astute and perceptive–

Especially when it comes to your relationship status.

They were persistently curious. There was, of course, the occasional inquiry about a boyfriend and, for some, the constant transformation of “Miss Rocket” to “Mrs. Rocket.” And then there were the more serious incidents of being informed that I needed to “work on” getting a man. And the alarming way that the only thing my students remembered from all I taught them about Ireland pre-St. Paddy’s Day was that the way I wore my Claddagh ring meant that I was unattached and lonely. They were seven years old and they couldn’t remember how to spell “doesn’t,” but they knew enough to say, “I have a boyfriend, but Miss Rocket doesn’t.”

And then there was the day the librarian taught my students about wombats.

“Wombats,” he told them, “are small, hairy bear-like animals from Australia. Though they’re wild animals, they are surprisingly friendly. They’ll walk up to you, let you feed them and pet them and play with them. But, after a month or so they’ll get bored. Just as soon as you think you’re starting to develop a special bond with the wombat, as you’re becoming its friend, as you think you’re beginning to understand the wombat, it picks up its droppings and leaves. Never to be seen again.”

The librarian then administered a quiz to the students to see if they were wombats.

They all passed as humans.

That’s when I realized–most of the guys I’ve dated wouldn’t have.

It made me think. Why is a man like a wombat? They wander into your life, decide to make themselves comfortable, let you feed them and care about them, play with them, and then, just as you think you’re getting to know them, they pick up their shit and leave. Usually without warning. And usually, because you’re a cool girl and haven’t crowded them or demanded labels or created a family photo album from MakeABaby.com, there isn’t even any way to follow up. Should I text? Should I call? I don’t want to seem clingy or, worse, desperate. What’re the odds of a successful booty call versus making an ass of myself?

Maybe, like wombats, men are wild animals that need to be free. They come to camp to be… refreshed, but ultimately they just can’t hack it in a civilized world and they return to the wild, a primal place of no rules or expectations.

This is not true. Mostly, they’re just idiots. As a society, we’ve actually failed the male gender. We haven’t encouraged their wild side enough. Instead of inspiring them to be bold and courageous and heroic, we’ve let them flaccidly flip flop around in quandaries of indecisiveness and irresponsibility. We’ve prolonged childhood. And now we have wombats instead of men.

My name is Judy Rocket. I am nearly a quarter of a century old. I live in Michigan [again] where I try to hack it as a writer and a person who actually gets paid.

These are the stories of the boys I met, the kisses I remembered, and the feelings that stayed from the boys that didn’t. I thought maybe it was time to write it all down. Because we’ve all been there. And if you haven’t, you will be soon.