February 14, 2006

A valentine's day confession: My fall from "cool girl" to self help

Here's the thing: I went through a heavy-duty breakup last summer.

It was the classic college romance, and I was uncharacteristically idiotic from the start: We met the first day of my freshman year, he blew me away by absolutely not noticing me at all (I told you, idiotic), I thought he was mysterious and interesting for a couple years but he never called so I dated other people who DID ask me out (only smart move I made), and finally, because we were the only two people left on campus for summer school one year, we got together. But let me be clear: he didn't really pursue me, and I most certainly didn't pursue him.

I was the standard "cool girl" in college: I cared about the NCAA championship games. I could keep up with the rigorous alcoholism training: drink malt liquour every day in the summer, (literally 10 am through 2 am) even through work and classes, while maintaining good grades and helping my friends with papers and finals. I was non-clingy, high-energy, a little feisty, totally un-skanky and up for anything. This was an idiotic and unrealistic way to live, but goddamn was it fun.

Ultimately, one day he and I just sorta ended up watching a movie exclusively with each other, sans the rest of the crew, and that was it. We, for lack of a better word, spontaneously morphed into a couple.

Fast forward: It lasted a long time. Perhaps this was because we were living in the alternate universe called "college", where dysfunction comes standard, a solid relationship is as unlikely as sobriety on a Saturday night, and turbulence abounds. Good times with him were ephemeral, but sincere and passionately good. Though not typically idiotic, I was (and still confess to being) a bit naieve, very forgiving, and far too hopeful that people are equal to or greater than what they seem, which is rarely the case.

I won't get into the details, as much to spare you as protect the guilty, but after about 5 years (3 in college, almost two out) and a few months of living together, it finally ended. It ended quietly, unlike the many intense arguments and hideous and suprising betrayals leading up to that point. I'd call the split loving, even. Without a fuss, he took the computer, I took the couches. He took the dog, I the cat. He the bed, both TV's and the microwave, I... well, I got to sleep on an air mattress for a month and haven't eaten popcorn since August, but that's really not the point.

The point is that after the split I went and did It. The cardinal sin that no "cool" girl should ever confess to. Yes. I read a self-help book.

Well, really, it's more of a runaway pop-culture hit with critical acclaim but with self-help undertones.


OK, it's a self help book, written by "striped shirt guy" (see Pat's Manity scale). And I actually read not one, but two of them. (Full disclosure, Liz. Good girl.)

That's right, I read He's Just Not That Into You AND It's Called A Breakup Because It's Broken. But in my defense, my boss bought me the latter, and a girlfriend gave me the former, so I figured they must be trying to tell me something. Because they love me dearly. And it would be rude not to read and report back to them, since that's what they were hoping for. So really only out of duty, I read them.

Cover to cover, both in the same day.

And I gotta say, the guy's on to something.

He may have hideous hair, dress like a 19 year old frat dick and clearly be either gay or insanely egotistical (in spite of the wife), but he's right:

Early mistakes in a relationship almost always indicate there will be more -- increasing in seriousness -- from that point forward. If he doesn't appear to aggressively pursue you, he's unlikely to aggressively anything you in the future. (Romance you, defend you, compliment you, converse with you or... well, you know...).

His theory is that relationship mistakes don't happen. Everything is pretty much controllable. Unless you are in a hospital bed with two broken hands and laryngitis, there's really no excuse not to call. Cheating isn't an accident, getting drunk isn't like "oops!!", and as far as I'm concerned, failing to laugh at my jokes may as well be premeditated splitsville.

And he makes the good point that if you're thinking maybe you should break up, or you find him in bed with someone else, or you recieve flowers "from" him that are actually from a friend of his who is better at romancing you than he, or he tells you you're not fabulous -- ever -- you probably should trust your instinct and listen to what he's clearly trying to say by being an asshole. And pop him in the schnoz, knee him in the groin and walk away forever. Early. Before you get attached.

Because once you get knee-deep it's like quicksand. The more you struggle, the deeper you sink into a distinctly unsatisfactory situation. Nobody likes to aspirate on sand. It's not fun, it doesn't feel lovely. But when you're deep in it, it's easy to at least be relieved you're pulling something into your lungs - sand, water or air makes no difference. The absence of something is almost as painful as the suffocation on something not quite right that you really really wish WAS right.

So here's to you, Greg Behrendt. I really believe your new show may bomb faster than the goodyear blimp in a lightning storm (because who wants to be caught watching it? that's worse than a girl having 5 cats and living in a studio apartment!), but I wish you all the best of luck. You may prey on stupid, optimistic, idealistic women in varying states of woe, but you've got a good (if late) message and one hell of a business acumen. We LOVE retail therapy and/or ice cream (cliche but true) when we're in the throes of heartache, after all.

And I didn't feel quite as guilty after reading you as I might have had I gone for the Ben&Jerry's. Not quite.


This Valentine's day, I am happily without any expectations.

I may be a little melancholy somewhere deep down, and I might be furtively listening to a few (read: LOTS) more sappy songs than usual, but this is for no specific reason other than the fact that it's sometimes nice to find a familiar arm thrown across you in the morning. Or to wake up for comfort after a bad dream (or, in my case, homoerotic dreams about Connie Chung and/or irrational panic attacks). Or to fall asleep on the couch with in front of that Sundance Film you swore you'd both like but that turned out to be worse than a Keanu Reeves variety show.

All this means that this Valentine's day, as I have no expectations, I more than likely won't be dissapointed. And the confession is that that's a sincere relief.
Now in my iPod: Squarepusher's "Iambic Nine"


auntiegrav said...

After some bad and good relationships, currently happily married, my point of advice is this: Take a car trip together with a potential mate. Not a short one, but a week-long trip to nowhere. Investigate the world together, even if it is from the interstate. Find out if you tolerate their music, their smell, their looks without a shower or makeup.

Camping doesn't count. You gotta be imprisoned together without the artificial niceness of Nature getting in the way.

emynd said...

drink malt liquour every day in the summer, (literally 10 am through 2 am) even through work and classes, while maintaining good grades and helping my friends with papers and finals

I tell this story often and I know, it's so fucking cliche for dudes who like rap music to drink 40s, but I genuinely like the $2 bottles, not just because they contain a lite 600-700 calories per bottle (!), but I honestly think they taste good. Here's my somewhat weird story about 40s: my fall semester of my senior year at Penn State was by far my most difficult. I had four 400 level, writing and reading intensive English courses (all of which I had 20-30 page papers to knock out) and was also really busy with my radio show. That semester, I also averaged drinking at least one-and-a-half 40s an evening. Anyway, that semester, I got my highest GPA of all my four years at Penn State, and I even lost weight. I'm by no means fat, but I dropped 10 or so pounds that semester, just by drinking 700 calorie $2 Hurricanes.

How odd.

Embarassing admission: I still drink 40s. This weekend I drank 3 total, I believe. Thing is: I'm 25 and can most definitely afford more expensive beer but I genuinely prefer them $2 bottles of malt liquor deliciousness.


I'm anti-metric system because of 40s.


Trebuchet said...

Auntigrav: You're on point. Road tripping is one of a few true tests of a relationship's lasting power. Half of appreciating someone else is loving the way they see the world. A road trip emphasizes this perspective.

Two others:

- Getting really, really lost together. Do they lose their cool? Play the blame game? Or does it turn out an adventure?

- Pay attention to how they walk up stairs. Someone who takes each step deliberately and one at a time will hardly EVER succeed in a relationship with someone who runs or skips steps (me). Energy level is KEY.


The first alcohol I ever drank was a Mickey's 40. That was, like, my signature drink for a while there. Which is REALLY funny ... some little 19 year old white girl who sincerely loves her huge Mickey's 40 in a paper bag (makes holding easier and keeps it cold, of course).

"I'm anti-metric system because of 40s."


emynd said...

I've had a short relationship with every brand of 40 imaginable. I started off with Colt 45. Why? Two reasons: (a) OE was too predictable and (b) Billy Dee Williams. Eventually I decided that Colt 45 was "too chemically." Right now I'm not exactly sure what that meant, but I'm pretty sure it meant something at the time. So, I dabbled in the OE and proclaimed it my new 40 of choice.

Then one day I cheated on OE (I think the 40 spot was sold out) and I wound up meeting lips with a Mickey's. After my lips pressed against her cold neck, I decided that it was way better than OE and, frankly, it was much sexier. The truth of the matter was, I found the green bottle more attractive, but I never really told OE that. (I never told Colt 45 the "too chemically" complaint either... didn't know how she'd take it.)

My relationship with Mickey's was short-lived-- perhaps because when we got lost together, she didn't respond so well but, if I'm honest with myself, I think it had more to do with the fact that I wasn't really all that happy with her and, it didn't help that my buddy brought home Hurricane for me one night. Hurricane and I got along immediately. She was low maintenance (i.e. 50 cents cheaper than everything else and at a cool, even $2, who could resist not having to carry around quarters?), encouraged me to "Brace For the Smooth Taste", and even had a "Born on" date (which showed me that, above all else, Hurricane was honest. After all, I didn't have to go looking for her birth date, it was right there on the bottle).

Hurricane and I drifted. I think we just spent too much time together or something. Got too attached. When I moved back to Philly, I quickly broke up with Hurricane because I met Country Club. Fact of the matter was, I was just looking for something new. Also, she was only $1.50 at the beer spot around my way and that was just miraculously cheap. She was also wearing a really cool but minimal label. She had a style all her own that hinted at an understated classiness. Unfortunately, Country Club didn't last long because I eventually decided that she tasted too much like butter.

Yes, butter.

Anyway, I am currently in love with Private Stock. We've been together for about 4 years and she's great. Her label reads "The malt liquor with the imported taste" and her complexion (i.e. color of the bottle) is reminiscent of Mickey's green shine. What I really like about her though is that she's unique and has a hint of exoticism about her. There really is something "imported" about her (besides her self-proclaimed imported-ness) and, let me tell you, her accent is really freaking sexy.

I've yet to take any of these girls on roadtrips with me. I suspect we'd get lost and/or arrested.


Trebuchet said...

Yes - lost and arrested. Also, you'd most likely FALL up stairs. Not a good sign, if you trust my relationship measurement devices. Which you should do, because they're genius.

Perhaps you're better off quietly (secretly, even?) romancing these ladies while doing what you can not to over-analyze. (Good luck. I sense that might be a struggle for you.)

I actually get the "chemically" complaint. But butter? Seriously?

The Bourbon Samurai said...

These comments are way more interesting than what I was going to write.

The Bourbon Samurai said...

I do hope, by the way, that your v-day improves, and, if not, margaritas are available from licensed dealers in your area.

Mister Underhill said...

Well, like a lot of things I think that balance is what's required. Deep down no one likes desperation or someone who goes too far too soon. Also, feelings can't be genuine if they have not had any basis besides you being cute.

My mom bought me 'who moved my cheese' but I never read it. It made me feel like a looser that she would even do that.

David said...

That's all fine and dandy, but where's the book for guys titled, "Yeah, you're into her, and you pursued her, but she has no interest. Get over it dude! Whores are cheap." Can the Sex and the City shirt guy help a brother out with that shit? Why is he so concerned with the victimization of women? What about us weak little guys out there that need words of encouragement?

Needless to say I'm not to please about ole St. Valentine either, but until you are in congress and pass a bill revoking the holiday, it's Much ado about nothing. And I suspect by that time you will be married to some billionaire and not too concerned about it.

Trebuchet said...

Underhill: you felt like a loser because you innately knew that book is moronic. It really is. I know because I HAD to read that one in college. I can't remember for what class... probably some 100 level Communications course.

Dave: He's concerned about women because being concerned about women will get him laid. He's diabolical. Period.

Mister Underhill said...

Ha, it's good to know I have confirmation I am a looser!

I hope your future relationships go better. I had an extremely bad breakup just a little under a year ago. Not in the sense of fighting and stuff, but it was devastating to me. Before that I never had one thatw as bad, really. It is surprising how hard they can be to overcome.

Trebuchet said...

Well, I have to say, in spite of it sucking a little not having one particular individual with which to share my awesomeness, I am in great part healed of this former relationship. And being single is pretty liberating when you've been distinctly un-so for so long.

I emphasize the suckiness of singledom only for the purposes of over dramatizing the general suckiness of this particular day. Candy hearts and flowers abound, not to be had by me. The public denial of these goodies is the suckiness.

But yes, I understand that not all relationships are like band-aids and skin as my last one was (tear quickly and it's nearly painless), and I certainly emphathize.

Lucky for me, I'm typically quite good at relationships. Though bad at choosing partners, I manage to be a good one. So I guess I should keep my fingers crossed that the next guy who recognizes that I'm a sucker is worth the energy. Perhaps I should start some sort of interviewing process, relying on the much wiser opinions of others before agreeing to anything committed...

Kevin said...

Liz - Just wanted to drop you a line and compliment your writing. It's solid. Thanks for the link and for sharing your talents.

As far as my first brew - Little Kings Cream Ale. It came with a higher alcohol content and 7 oz, green bottles.


auntiegrav said...

I've found the personal ads to be quite liberating. Before my marriage (a personal ad, by the way in the Shepherd Express http://www.shepherdexpress.com), I had reached the age of 'fuck it' (30) and said "I'm going to stop worrying about meeting people and actually talk to people that want to be met, aren't drunk, and actually put something about themselves out front for you to choose from." I had a pretty good time of it. Met some nice people, very few bad ones. I'm losing my point. My point was that once you reach the point of not fretting, you all of a sudden see a world that is friendlier than you may even want it to be. (Being the sad, self-absorbed geek only works on very few women.) Luckily, I met someone who doesn't want to be friendly with the rest of the world any more than I usually do.( I come to these blogfests to feed my ego....;-)
Oh, key thing with ads: WRITE to each other. Actual letters with handwriting and an expensive stamp and everything work wonders. (Weelll, IF you can WRITE, that is..)

Trebuchet said...

Kevin - Thanks for coming by, and for contributing to a valuable resource that's also wickedly funny.

I know Little Kings! I've got a relative who swears its the best beer ever. Though I've always been a little confused by "cream ales" in general (is it lactose-creamy or nitrogen-creamy?), I do like the little 7 oz bottles. That's a somewhat sophisticated first beer, isn't it? Very metro.

Real-E said...

Let's not kid ourselves here, Valentine's Day is simply a Halmark plot to commercialise love and make those mockked for being single on the "big day" want to belong, consume and be consumed.

...and hey, you did get to keep the cat - dogs are so needy!

I did attempt to journey into the soul of love, monogamy and yoga in a novella I wrote (shameless plug, see my site if you want to read it), finding that most of our confusion is the result of convention and hormones crashing in a universe where the only aim is to belong. It's interesting how we fixate on these things, often wanting something to be right, even if it isn't and beating ourselves up over our inability to doupe ourselves.

I like those miserable moments of my youth where I would tripse the floors of my utilitarian utopian paradise (my apartment) becoming dangerously introspective and consuming copious amounts of wine and pouring equal amounts of angst ridden poetry. That's so much about what raw emotions and being alive is all about. Notice, when in a relationship where both parties are complacent that you can get all worked up over a proverbial greener pasture? Why, because even if we deny that, it still feels good.

Drinking endless amounts of malt liquor is a gift, inspite of later life dreams of homoerotic Connie Chung dreams - ease up for your liver's sake, but live all the harder in some other part of yourself!

Ben said...

Man I wish I had a malt liquor story. It is like there is this gaping hole in me where malt liquor should have been. Who cares about being single on Valentines Day. I see now what has been missing from my life. Sure meeting my soul mate would be nice, but would it be as nice as a 40? I think we all know the answer to that question.

Trebuchet said...

Atta boy, Ben! Lower those expectations! If for only one day, peer back into blissful, ignorant days of your (or, if you don't have any past experience to lean on, our collective) youth and return to return to the binge-drinking days of yore.

I had no idea one innocent reference to the irresponsible days of one summer of one year of college would cause the discussion of this post to digress to such a level... isn't it fun?