IT HAPPENED TO ME: I Got Dumped Via a Batman Essay-Writing Contest

The writing prompt was “Why I Deserve to See the Dark Knight Rises at Midnight” with him.
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Alex Grace Paul
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The writing prompt was “Why I Deserve to See the Dark Knight Rises at Midnight” with him.

I wish I had the follow through of a superfan. They write pages of fan fiction, attend conventions all around the world, and camp out in line for hours with hundreds of other fellow fans. I can barely handle waiting 30 minutes for a table at PF Changs. 

That’s not to say I don’t have any interests that could become obsessions. I’m a fan of Stephen Sondheim musicals, Ben Folds, and Harry Potter; I’m just not dedicated enough to join the official fandom world. The Reddit threads, Tumblr accounts, and cosplays leave me overwhelmed, crowded by the immensity of it all. The fandom’s devotion to their idol seems hugely unrequited. Superfans spend hours on fan art, letters, and fan fiction, for what? A shout-out on Twitter? 

I didn’t understand how a superfan could do so much for so little in return until I started dating one.

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I started dating Matt when I was home in L.A. for the summer before my last year of college. Our friends introduced us after one of his improv shows, he got my number, and that weekend we went on our first date. 

Matt loved all things Batman, and he had the t-shirts, collectibles, and comic books to prove it. He knew endless trivia about the movies, the theories, the controversies. He loved the character-defining moment in Justice League: Unlimited when Batman, or “The Caped Crusader,” held Ace’s hand. He was a quintessential superfan. 

But that’s not why I liked Matt. I liked Matt because he was funny and kind. He had that rare, sexy combination of being hilarious onstage and not at all nauseating offstage. I could wear my highest heels and he’d still be a couple of inches taller than me. We went indoor go-kart racing, ate tons of sushi, saw great improv, and shared a pint of Ben & Jerry’s while watching Louie

Matt loved Batman, but it didn’t seem to consume his life. It was the kind of obsession that just makes gift-giving a lot easier.

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A month into dating, Matt mentioned he bought eight tickets to the midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises. These were coveted opening-night seats, so he was holding an essay-writing contest with his friends to decide who he’d bring with him. The writing prompt was “Why I Deserve to See the Dark Knight Rises at Midnight.” 

Midnight movie openings are not exactly appealing to me. I have trouble staying awake past 11 p.m. most nights and generally dislike costumes and loud chanting. It also seemed a tad indulgent of Matt to hold an official contest. Initially, I was resistant, but Batman was important to Matt, and I liked Matt. When he put his hands around my waist and asked me to write an essay, I was down to play along.

After one of our dates, I sat down to write my essay, “Why I Deserve to See The Dark Knight Rises at Midnight.” I read through the Batman Wikipedia page to get some inspiration. I wanted the essay to be funny, but coy, thoughtful yet absurd. I wanted to make him laugh and find me utterly adorable, like that baby panda who sneezes. I fussed over word choice and paragraph breaks. I had my dad read it to make sure it wasn’t too meta. It wasn’t. I did one final spell check and submitted my essay to Matt.

A few nights later, we went to an outdoor screening of Labyrinth at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. After the showing, we realized he’d left his keys somewhere in the grass and spent the next hour laughing and blindly searching the cemetery grounds. 

And then, one day, he dodged my texts. The next weekend, I invited him to a Fourth of July party, but he had other plans. 

Two days later, I got a neatly written email from Matt to all those participating in the essay contest. I had lost. 

Matt dumped me via a Batman essay-writing contest.

I couldn’t believe it. I was hurt and embarrassed. How could I have been rejected by something I didn’t even really want? I didn’t care about seeing The Dark Knight Rises. But I did really care about Matt liking me. In fact, I cared so much about Matt’s approval that I wrote an essay to go to the movies with him. I was my own breed of superfan. Not a My Little Pony or Oprah or Star Trek superfan. I was a superfan of love. 

I might not agonize over getting Phish tickets the millisecond they go on sale, but I will agonize over a text I send, hoping it’s flirty but not awkward, forward but still casual. I’ll laugh at jokes that aren’t funny, go to restaurants I hate, spend an evening waiting for him to call, all in hopes he’ll like me, and maybe eventually love me.

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But I don’t need to be a superfan of love. The truth is, love finds the whole fandom world kind of creepy. Love wants you to find someone who cares about you as much as you care about them. Someone who understands and supports your dreams, and lets you know his dreams, too. Someone who laughs with you when you’ve dropped a glass jar and the whole kitchen is splattered with tomato sauce. Someone who reminds you to take your contacts out at night so they aren’t suction-cupped to your eyeballs in the morning. Someone who wants to be your partner when life is tough or awesome or sad. 

Someone who will take you to the movies, without making you write an essay first. That’s true love. 

[All illustrations by me, Alex Grace Paul.]