I’m writing this story now, seven months after it happened. I’m not angry anymore and, having recently told this story on national television for a comedy show, I’ve strived to find the humor in it.
Day After Thanksgiving, 2012I was flying home to LA from New York when a boy sat next to me. He was well dressed and erudite. He had the kind of wry wit that made me want to hear his opinion on everything. His name was Brian. He was a year younger than me, went to Yale and worked at a hedge fund in Los Angeles and was in the process of starting his own hedge fund.
Whatever a hedge fund is.
He asked who I was. I told him I was a stand-up comedian who struggled with being attractive yet accessible.
“Oh,” he said, “do you open for big acts like Jerry Seinfeld?” It was an innocent question asked by someone who doesn’t work in show business.
“No.” I said, “I’m a headliner.” It was kind of refreshing to talk to someone who had literally nothing to do with the industry.
We talked for most of the flight, and we really got along. Granted, at the time I had blonde hair extensions so...probably any man would get along with me. I could have had a hump and a giant horse tooth and it wouldn’t have mattered.
We were both in relationships, which was fine since I found Brian to be the opposite of attractive -- but, again, I found him so smart and funny, I was happy to stay in touch with him. Over the next few weeks we shared emails and texts -- just cute witty quips.
Eventually we shed our significant others and Brian asked me on a date. I didn’t really want to go but I went anyway.
All I remember from that date is he ordered expensive wine, which isn't really what I look for in a guy. Since I’m big on honesty in any relationship, shortly after the date I confessed to him that I wasn’t into him and that I loved him as a friend. If this line was ever said by a girl in truth, it was by me then.
Still, he wanted to be with me in whatever way worked for both of us.
I’m a stand-up comedian. I’m out late. I keep odd hours. It’s nice to be able to text a friend at 11:30 p.m. on a Tuesday to grab a drink and actually have them make it.
Brian always made it. 1 a.m. dinners, 11 p.m. meet ups -- didn’t matter to him.
I wanted to like him, I really did. I was just not attracted to him, and that’s hard to get past. As a result, I always engaged with Brian on my terms. I never asked to meet his friends, and I found that he was always up for meeting me out with my friends. Also he had a real job, with papers and a desk and everything, so it was fun to bring him around my comedian friends.
I knew Brian had a crush on me but I felt that since I was honest with him and since I wasn’t holding a gun to his head, it was his choice to stay friends with me. OK, sometimes we’d get drunk and kiss, but whatever.
Because he brought it up, one thing I did know about him was that he came from a lot of money. He put it like this, “My family is like 'Downton Abbey' without the unfortunate liquidity issues.” He talked about private flights to Paris and houses in Hawaii. After living in Los Angeles for nine years it was nice to be around someone who was comfortable with his life and who didn't feel the need to brag or apologize.
At one point Brian told me that he had bought a house in Beverly Hills. I never asked to go over because I was never particularly interested. It’s one thing to get drunk at a bar in Koreatown with a man, but it’s quite another to be alone with him in his house.
One day Brian asked me if I’d like to go with him to London for a Skull and Bones reunion.
Brian was in Skull and Bones at Yale. He was also on the golf team and belonged to the Beverly Hills Country Club. He was as privileged a white boy as they came. I said I’d go but only as his quirky and charming comedian friend, not as his date. He agreed.
Over the next few weeks, Brian was out of town a lot. Starting a hedge fund requires capital raising and in order to do that he had to take meetings out of town, he told me. His would-be hedge fund and having attended Yale were the two things he was most proud of. I admired his drive because I knew what it was like to build something from nothing and I respected his work ethic.
One night I was at dinner with my friend, John.John was the opposite of Brian. He was a retired Navy Seal, gigantic and handsome. Brian hated that I had John as a friend. He hated that I’d gone on a few dates with John and hated that you could cut glass on John’s jawline. Brian probably hated that John represented everything that Brian physically wasn’t and could never be. He just hated him and made that clear a time or two.
I remember sitting at dinner and taking a picture of my drink with John’s broad chest in the back ground and posting it on Instagram. Was I showing off my drink? Maybe. Was I showing off how hot John’s chest was? Absolutely. Am I a bit of a pig? Yeah.
My phone rang later that night. It was Brian. His voice was shaking. He told me we couldn’t go to London because his mother had just been diagnosed with cancer that day. I was floored. All of a sudden I didn’t want be with John having drinks. I wanted to be with Brian. I wanted to be with my poor friend who didn’t deserve this.
Brian came over the next day and I took him to decorate a cake because it was the only fun thing I could think of. All I wanted to do was help him. My heart was breaking for him. I didn’t have the kind of money Brian and his family had. If I did I would have taken him on a vacation. Instead I took him for drinks and dinner, anything I could to distract him. I have a very vivid memory of sitting on my couch with him and telling him that it was okay to be scared and it was OK to cry. And we did, we both cried. My heart had never broken for someone like that before. I felt so helpless.
I fell in love with Brian.
Call it fate or call it chemical. I took two weeks to make sure I actually wanted to be with him, knowing that if it was just on a whim and I didn’t feel that way that it would be beyond selfish at this juncture in his life to renege on that sentiment. I grew to love the idea of him as my boyfriend. My square, clad in plaid, Yale educated, hedge fund building, white lace Irish boyfriend who kept all his emotions bottled up and drank too heavily. He wasn’t the Jewish lawyer/doctor/executive/app creator I’d imagined all Jewish girls grew up to marry, but he was mine and I loved him. I called him from an airport in Arizona. I was coming home from a gig and I told him I wanted to be with him and that he was all I could think about.
He simply said, “Iliza, I love you so much.”
And that was that. We had the perfect relationship. We never fought and he came with me on the road when he could. He was always down to stay up late with me and I loved talking to him. He was smarter than me, which I appreciated, and every once in a while I got to learn something about the stock market and pork bellies. He met all of my friends, even my cousin who also went to Yale, although they didn’t have any friends in common. I asked for weeks to meet his mother and one day I finally did. She had moved from Chicago to Los Angeles to undergo treatment at UCLA and be near her son. She was nice enough, sort of quiet -- then again, when faced with one’s own mortality all day and every day, one might turn a bit stone faced. Over the next few weeks, certain that his mom liked me, I offered Brian my time to devote to his mother. I just wanted to help and since my research on cancer doesn’t get the funding it should, I offered my time.
I’d always offer to take her to lunch or a movie and pick her up from the hospital. However, Brian would always decline.
"Fine." I thought, "I'm just trying to help."
I decided to send Brian some candy as a fun surprise in the middle of the week. We’d only been dating for about two weeks and I hadn’t been to his house yet since we’d both been traveling so much. I asked for his address and he gave it to me. It was weird to me that his address was in West Hollywood, as I could have sworn he bought a house in Beverly Hills. I gave it no mind as I have a terrible memory.Then my mom called me one day.
“Iliza, I Googled your boyfriend. I found his business’ website and when I read his bio, it doesn’t say he went to Yale. It says he went to University of Ohio.”
I thought this was odd. This was a guy who not only talked about Yale all the time, but would on a daily basis find some way to disparage Harvard. He even has an Eli reference in his Twitter handle. I called him and asked him about the bio.
He easily had an answer for me.
“So you know how I’m leaving this company to start my own hedge fund?” he began his explanation. I had often listened to Brian talk about plans for his own hedge fund, what it would be called and who would invest. I’d even Skyped with him when he went on business meetings to pitch to investors.
Brian continued: “That bio is an example of why I’m leaving. These guys are out of touch and disorganized. They have half of my bio up there and half of the guy who had the position before me’s bio. Our web guy is an idiot and I’ve asked them to address it several times. Nothing gets done.”
Ugh, I totally understood. On a weekly basis I’m annoyed at media outlets and clubs who insist on using old credits of mine. I’ve had a Netflix special and won a major television reality show and they're still using “Myspace’s Funniest Comic” as a credit. So I completely understood. But it still stuck in my mind. I went online and Googled him with Yale keywords. I tried to find his name on a Yale golf team roster and when I couldn’t I asked him why he wasn’t on there. He told me it was a club team and not the school’s official team. Fair enough. What did I know about Yale’s athletic programs? I’d gone to the University of Kansas my freshman year and played club lacrosse before transferring to Emerson and I’d bet you’d be hard pressed to find any online evidence of that year. Looking back, I don’t know if I was in a bit of denial because we were so perfect when we were together.
I figured whatever issue there was, I was sure there was a weird explanation for it. I remember even asking Brian, in as causal, non-accusatory way as possible, “I have the funniest picture in my Emerson College senior yearbook, do you have one in your Yale yearbook?”
To which he replied, quickly, “I haven’t sat for a yearbook picture since middle school.”
While that’s a weird thing to say, he said it so quickly that I figured denying your parents the eternal black and white memory of your $50K a year private school was just a bratty rich kid thing to do. Then I asked him where his diploma was as I had my Emerson one in the closet.
“I don’t know where it is Iliza, I’m not an jackass who hangs his Ivy League undergrad diploma on his wall,” he pointed out. It started to be that anytime I asked for an answer on something, he had a perfect one, albeit a weird one. Nothing ever seemed like it had a normal explanation. At this point you’re probably thinking, “How can you be so dumb?”
What I would say back to you, if you had the audacity to say that to my face, is that I loved him. I loved him and he was nothing but kind, generous and sweet to me. I flew to Qatar to perform for the troops for New Year’s Eve and I had a 24-hour layover in Amsterdam. He flew to Amsterdam to hang out with me. It wasn’t about money, it was about time and devotion. He was always there, always on my side. Whatever suspicions I had about him were easily quelled because he always had a perfect answer.
I’d like to say that we live in a society that teaches women to be alert with articles in magazines like “5 Ways to Tell if Your Man is Cheatin’” or “10 Ways To Tell if He’s Lying” -- these are the things we teach women to look out for, not “Is Your Boyfriend Secretly a Gigantic Sociopath Who Lied About his Education and Literally Everything Else?”As much as I loved him, when he would go out of town, my suspicions would get the best of me. When he left later that week, I decided to drive by his house. We’d been dating a few weeks and I’d still not seen it. I felt that if I could confirm this one thing he had told me as a reality, somehow it would make everything better. I took my friend Laura and we drove there. When we arrived, it wasn’t the house I remembered from the picture he’d shown me on the MLS listing. It wasn’t even in Beverly Hills. It was a split level in Hollywood.
Reluctantly, we approached the door thinking there must be a mistake. We looked in the window looking for Brian context clues, anything that would make it clear that Brian lived there. Nothing screamed Yale. There was no plaid, no mallards, and no old white men sitting in a room and planning out wars. I was too nervous to even look in the window.
Why was I nervous? Denial? Was I scared? Was I afraid I was doing something wrong by not trusting a man whose mother was dying and who had been nothing but an angel to me? The door swung open. A girl stood there.
My friend Laura vomited out a lie, “Hi uh, we have cupcakes for Brian. Well, they aren’t with us, they are at the bakery and we wanted to check if this was his address.”
The girls looked at me and smiled, “You’re Iliza.”
My heart stopped. Fuck yeah, she recognized me from TV!
“I’m Mary. I’m Brian’s roommate. It’s so good to meet you.”
Uh-huh. You too.I called Brian and he confessed the oddest thing. He told me he did in fact own a house and that he gave it to his mother to live in while she underwent treatment here in Los Angeles. He confided in me that he hadn’t been a great son to his mother, since his dad had passed, and that he wanted to make it up to her now. He insisted she stay at the house and since they didn’t particularly get along, that he would stay out of her way, dropping by for errands and to take her places. He would just sleep at my place or at a room he was renting from his friend Mary. This seemed simple enough.
They were a cold and wealthy family, the only thing that seemed to bond any of them together was their money -- so I sort of understood.
And, again, when someone’s mom is dying, you know, far be it from me to judge how the family handles that reality. Over the next few weeks I offered, daily, to do him favors.
“Let me take your mom to lunch? Does she wanna see a movie? Can we all go to dinner?”
Brian always said yes and it never happened. I knew that in the face of death her priority might not be getting to know me, but given how much Brian loved me and talked about getting married, I guess I always figured she might want to at least have a meal with the girl who could end up marrying her son and taking care of him after she was gone. Eventually the truth came out.
The closer I tried to get, the more the painful reality unearthed itself that Brian’s mom wasn’t thrilled he was dating me. This came as a shock because parents love me. He told me that I wasn’t the type of girl she envisioned with her son -- partly because I am a comedian and partly because I’m Jewish. Whatever. The woman was dying of cancer so I figured I’d let her hate me and there was no point in changing her mind now.
Dying mother or no dying mother, I needed to know my boyfriend’s address. Believe me, that sentence was weird to type, just now. I decided that I needed to know this one important detail about Brian. It’s one thing to tell me your mom wants privacy and it’s another to say she doesn’t like me. But to not tell me the address puts it all on me, as if I’m gonna rob her or something. I decided it was a deal breaker. I know that sounds so insane, that my deal breaker is him having to tell me his address. But I didn’t care about money or trips, I just wanted a normal and honest relationship. I told him I had to know his address.
He got very serious.
“I have to tell you something,” he said quietly.
He then proceeded to tell me about his ex-girlfriend who was insane and, when they broke up, became physically abusive toward him and would harass his family. “And given the fragile state my mother is in, I don’t want to open her up to anything like that.”
I understood his reluctance to expose his mother to a crazy person, but I wasn’t (and continue not to be) a crazy person.
If he actually thought I was capable of hurting him or HARASSING A DYING WOMAN, then we couldn’t be together. I said all of this, and he caved.
“Here is my address. Here is my mother’s email and her phone number. You have all the information you could want, I just ask that you don’t bother her.”
And then he cried. His mother was dying and it was as if he was doing anything he could to protect her, even if it was protecting her from something that wasn’t a threat. It was so… human. My heart broke all over again and I cried with him. I hated seeing him like that. His mother was going to die soon and he was helpless.Now that I look back at my relationship with him, there are so many small puzzle pieces I can fit together to form a picture of how crazy he was. But at the time, the pieces were so small I couldn’t see them. They were so small and misshapen that even if I saw them, I wouldn’t know what to do with them. Like the time he bought me $600 sneakers for Hannukkah and then told me he still had a Christmas present for me.
“I can’t keep a secret, it’s bracelet from Cartier."
I’m not big on jewelry but that was exciting and so unnecessary. Christmas came and Christmas went. No bracelet. I felt bad asking about it. Anything I’d ever wanted, I always bought myself. So it felt cheap to inquire about a gift. But one day my curiosity got the better of me and I, as playfully as I could, asked about the bracelet.
“Oh my God, I had to exchange it,” he told me. I asked for what and he replied, “It was the wrong metal.”
I didn’t know what that meant but I left it alone. Maybe he got gold and wanted silver? Maybe he got silver and wanted platinum? A month after Christmas I mentioned the bracelet again, but it was gone forever.
“My mom suggested I return it because it was too big a gift and she’s right. I think it was too much for so early in the relationship.”
Very well but it was weird he brought it up, returned it and then just expected me to forget it. One day my mom called me, “Iliza, I had my friend do a background check on Brian.”
The woman ran a background check on my boyfriend.
I know, right? Season 2 of "True Detective" is starring Colin Farrell and my mom.
“Iliza, something is up here. There’s no house in his name.“
One thing I knew for sure is that he owned a house. He had bought it nine months ago. He’d had parties there and shown me pictures of various rooms. He had a house.
I called him and was just honest, “You have to admit, it’s a little weird that you aren’t listed as the owner of your house… why?”
His answer poured out of him as easily as “two” if I’d asked you "What’s one plus one?”
“Of course not, that’s because it’s not in my name, it’s in hers. Before my mom was diagnosed, before we started dating, I was about to move to New York. I was all set to sell my house and move. Then, a certain girl told me she loved me, and I decided to stay. My mother felt bad about living in my house, so she offered to buy it from me to keep my cash liquid. It was an elegant solution.”Oh. OK. Sure. I've seen the way the extremely wealthy spend their money and this wasn't totally out of the realm of possibility. Candi Spelling has a gift wrapping room for God’s sake. I told my mom this answer.
She rebutted with, “Well, I called the Yale registrar’s office. They have no record of your Brian having attended their school.”
Well, I of course was mad at my mom. Why was she being so nosy? Brian’s mom was dying and he was so sad. Sorry that he doesn’t have a bigger digital footprint, Mom. STOP CARING ABOUT ME SO MUCH!I got in my car and I took out that piece of paper I was sworn to never use, the one with his address. Fuck all of this. I hardly think driving by his mother’s house is going to send her into cardiac arrest. Well okay, maybe I won’t drive by. Maybe I’ll have my friend do it.I had my best friend Jodi drive to the house in Beverly Hills. I was so wrought with fear, nervousness, anger -- I just needed some kind of support. I hid in her car while Jodi walked up to the front door. She was just going to look in a window, get a sense of the house and then try and surmise something.
She came back to the car, “Iliza, first of all, that house is like LIVED in, all the furniture is old, she didn’t just move in there. Also? There’s a cutesy sign on the door that says BEWARE: POMERANIAN.”
As silly as it sounds, like, that stupid Pomeranian sign was the last straw. His mother didn’t have any dogs. Again, that wasn’t his house. I texted him. I texted my perfect boyfriend. I texted him that I couldn’t take it anymore. I’d done nothing but be there for him and be honest to him and he was lying about something and I didn’t know what or why, but I was leaving him. It was like ripping my own still beating heart out. The still beating part goes without saying, otherwise I wouldn’t have the ability to rip out my own heart.He texted me, “I can’t do this anymore. I never owned a home and I never went to Yale. I said all these things to impress you and they got out of hand.”
Folks, he told me he went to Yale THE DAY I MET HIM. He apologized. None of that was real. I cried.
I didn’t cry because I cared about a house or a school. I cried because there was no going back after that. And I loved him for him, so much. The odd part was none of the things he lied about were things I cared about. That’s the kicker.It was over and I cried for days. I felt as if I’d had the wind knocked out of me.
A few months later...
I was at a bar with some friends and a girl walked in.
My friend Jodi said “Iliza, oh my God, I forgot to tell you! That girl who just walked in? Her name is Allie. She’s friends with my friend Stacy and she went on a date with Brian before you did!”
I bolted over to the girl and asked for a moment of her time. I had to know if he had lied to her too or if I WAS JUST SO SPECIAL that it was just to me. She’d gone on one date with him and thought he was weird, he also never said he went to Yale (lucky me, the lie was all mine). I didn’t want to bother her but I gave her the highlights of my breakup. She then told me that her best friend was Mary, Brian’s roommate. She sent a text message to Mary and then told me they were having people over tomorrow and that Mary would LOVE to talk to me. So I went. By myself. Back to the apartment that started all the suspicion. I walked in and, sitting around a dining room table was Mary, her new husband Jason, Allie and their friend Kyle. I walked in and Kyle and the husband started applauding.
Why. Were. They. Applauding?“We can’t believe you’re real.” Kyle said, “All we heard about from Brian for MONTHS was ‘Iliza this and Iliza that’ we asked him to invite you over all the time, but you were always busy.”I’d never once received an invitation. Mary then said, “We put off our Christmas tree shopping because Brian said you weren’t available that Friday, so we waited until Sunday and then you ditched us to have lunch with your manager in Malibu.”News to me. Brian had deliberately kept us all separate. I told them the story. I wanted to compare notes. Mary told me Brian had been at her wedding a few months earlier. He didn’t want to talk about the break up. I asked her if she had any questions for him after that day I’d showed up on her doorstep. “Oh I totally did. I asked Brian why you were so confused and he told me he may have told you one or two white lies and that he was sorting it out, so I didn’t pry.”For me to be mad at her for being so nonplussed would be hypocritical since I was apparently drinking the same "Let’s not question Brian” Kool-Aid. She and her husband confessed that they’d always found him a little weird and had caught him in a few white lies.
“He always invited us to the Beverly Hills Country Club, but anytime we took him up on it there was always a reason we couldn’t go.” That sounded familiar.
Mary’s husband chimed in, “Personally I feel bad for the kid.”
Kid. As if Brian was some misguided teenager with a gun and no friends. He continued, “I mean, I wish I could just talk to him, you know? Ask him what he was thinking. Sorry, but personally, I find the whole thing funny.”Now it’s not polite to come into another person’s home and smash them over the head with a chair for their inability to be sympathetic. However, it’s also inhuman to hear a girl tell you why the guy you lived with for a year and who she slept and loved with is a total sociopath and have no reaction other than “Personally I think it’s funny.”
Mary went on to say, “Yeah, we were friends but he was always a little weird, from the day he answered my Craigslist ad to the day he moved home.”
Oh my God. She wasn’t his good friend he was staying with. They were strangers and he ANSWERED A CRAIGSLIST AD! Nothing was surprising me at this point. I knew he was a liar and so anything I heard from them I was just doing my best to process. I needed closure, I needed it so so badly.
“I haven’t talked to him since we broke up. I know he was raising capital to start his own hedge fund…”
Mary was surprised, “What? Brian moved out of here like a week after you broke up. We’re pretty sure he moved home to Chicago and lives with his mother. I think he got a job with another firm.”
There was no hedge fund. If there was no hedge fund then where had he been going on all those trips? Was he just sitting at Mary’s house praying I wouldn’t know? I don’t even want to know, at this point.
Wait. He is living with his mother?
“I thought he didn’t want to live with his Mom, and I thought she lived here now while she undergoes cancer treatment,“ I said. I could feel nausea coming over me in waves.
Then Mary said the one sentence I should thank her for because that was the day I stopped being sad. “What? His mom doesn’t have cancer. What are you talking about?”
The fact that no one batted an eye at that revelation. The fact that Mary’s husband still maintained his “Personally, I think it’s funny” chant throughout our discourse, the fact that Brian was at their wedding a few months earlier and they had always seen his lies as “white” and him as “quirky,” and the fact that no one was giving gravity to anything I was telling them was starting to make me feel like I was in "The Twilight Zone."
How is no one angry at this person? It was as if my story didn’t matter because they “just felt bad for the guy” which, I’ve asked around, were the reactions of people who’d undergone full frontal lobotomies. I've told this story to total strangers and even they've offered to beat him up. Mary went on, “He doesn’t have a hedge fund, no -- he’s in debt like $160K, we get collection notices to the house all the time for him.”That explains the bracelet, I think. So none of it was true.
Nothing was real. Well, that isn’t true. My feelings toward him were real and, if I’m being fair, his feelings toward me were real. He’s just a total fucking psycho. I left their house. I went home, collapsed into a ball on the couch and fell asleep for like 15 hours. I felt like I’d been hit in the brain with a stun gun.Like a retired detective with time on his hands, I’ve gone over and over the details of my case. Everything was fine until I posted that picture of John’s hot chest with my cocktail in it. That was the night Brian called and canceled our Yale trip (he had to somehow since it didn’t exist) and upped the stakes by telling me his mom was staring death in the face. From there every day had just been a balancing act of him trying to keep his lies in order while he came to grips with some very real emotions about me. Still, zero sympathy given.
There wasn’t enough closure. I knew I wasn’t going to learn why he did all these things. Why, from the get go, he hated himself so much that he decided to lie and selfishly drag me along. I wanted him to hurt. I wanted others to know what he had done. I wanted his mother to know. I wanted his non-dying, cancer-free mother to know that she’d raised an lunatic.Now that we knew she wasn’t in failing health, surely contacting her wouldn’t send her into a tailspin. I asked my mother for the background check. I found his mother’s phone number in Chicago. I had a friend call for me.
Why was I doing this? I’ll tell you exactly why. Because if there was a possibility that in some world, in some time, we’d call Brian’s mother and tell her what he’d done and she’d then relay to him that she’d found out, then maybe for a second, just for a second, he’d know that I’d gotten him. He’d know that I hadn’t taken this lying down and that, because of me, his friends and now his own mother knew what a total nutcase he was. I did it for that moment of realization on his end, a moment I would never see, and I would just hope happened.
My friend Michelle called me after she’d called his mother. We would have 3-way called, but it wasn't 1992.
Michelle told her that she was calling on behalf of me, as she was concerned for me and she wanted her to know that Brian had lied for several months about her having cancer.
“Look, I’m sure Iliza made that up, that’s insane. Brian told me all about Iliza and how she’s a struggling comedian who’s a chemically unstable drug addict. It’s no wonder he had to break up with her. I don’t know about these lies, but my son hates to hurt girls. So he might have told a couple of white lies to make it easier on her.”Finally, I didn’t feel so alone.
I now knew another woman who had fallen for his lies. At least we could be idiots together.
That was the last straw. I had my closure. The whole family sucked.
As far as the mom goes, fuck her. I’m not a struggling comedian. I’m a headliner.