Something finally broke inside me. It snapped on a Saturday night in West Philly at a house party full of strangers in bad costumes.
If I’d been paying closer attention, I might have heard the tear or pop that my emotional core made when it was ripped right down the middle. But I was a little drunk, and the party was a little too loud to hear anything anyway.
I’ve been steadily single for two years since my divorce. I’ve been on countless first dates. Dates that were so boring I could hear my own breathing. Dates that were so odd I couldn’t believe I wasn’t on a hidden camera show.
I’ve been on dates with guys who look nothing like their online dating profile. Dates who show up late or not at all. Dates who “forgot” their wallet after a steak and two bourbons. Dates who are racist, misogynist, homophobic, or Republican.
Dates that have lasted entirely too long because I didn’t know how to say goodbye. Or dates that have lasted half a drink because I couldn’t imagine staying for one second longer.
Some of those dates have turned into halfhearted relationships, were I see the guy for a few weeks always knowing that it’s not “serious” and we are just “having fun.” Usually they are having more fun than I am.
Along the way, I’ve learned to eat my feelings to appear like the breezy, cool girl all guys seem to want.
Until I couldn’t.
Let me set the scene for you. I am on a second date with a man who by all accounts is a good guy; a lawyer who does legal aid work for a pittance. (NB: He comes from wealth, which makes that kind of self-sacrifice possible).
On our first date, we had beer and nachos and didn’t even kiss because he said he takes intimacy seriously. On our second date, he took me to his house, we had a beer or two and started making out, which quickly led to sex.
I was a little surprised just how quickly in fact; he didn’t even fully undress, just pulled it out and stuck it inside me. You know, because he really values intimacy.
We then went to a party in Philly, which was sort of the pretense of the date. I am pretty good with strangers, so I didn’t mind that I didn’t know anyone but him at the party. And that I only knew him very, very little.
For some reason, I was under this weird delusion that we had some sort of really good connection. Maybe it was the fact that he had been inside me just hours ago. I guess that can make a girl think you sort of like her.
The party was winding down and I was about ready to leave. I told my date that I wanted to head out.
I live about 10 minutes from the party and asked if he would like to come back to my place, but he demurred because he didn’t have his contacts solution.
He asked if I wanted to go back to his place, but it was out in the suburbs and I would have no way to get home. Plus, I also didn’t have any of my stuff with me.
We decided to take the train together. He would go back to the burbs, and I would head home to my apartment in the city.
As we were putting on our jackets, he struck up a conversation with a girl about 10 years his junior who apparently was quite enthralling, enough so that he turned to me and said “You know what? You can just leave if you want.”
You can just leave if you want.
Those words came out of his mouth and entered my ears and got to the part of the brain that synthesizes language and gives guttural tones their meaning. I heard the words he was saying. I even processed them as information that I understood. But something inside me just FUCKING SNAPPED and I REFUSED TO BUY IT.
I momentarily left the party and stood outside for a minute while calling an Uber. When the Uber arrived, I got in, took a deep breath and then slowly lost my ever-loving shit.
I asked the endlessly patient Uber driver to give me a minute because the rage inside me had built to a full hulking beast and I was pretty sure it needed to be let out.
I walked back into the party. At this point, his coat was off and he was on the couch with this girl, clearly having a lovely chat. He looked up at me, sort of surprised to see me again.
I said in a tone meant to conceal my rage, “Are you really not going to leave with me?”
Every cell inside my body screamed for attention. Every single rejection I’ve ever had, all the insults I’ve born over the years, all the times I felt ugly and used and unappreciated came to the surface like one huge, infected boil.
My hands were shaking with rage, embarrassment, humiliation, the hurt from what felt like a thousand years’ worth of dating in my 30s.
And I just lost it. I was 32, standing in a party of strangers, begging a man who truly didn’t care about me in the slightest to leave a party with me. Tears started to well up in my eyes.
It took about 10 seconds of total silence before I. Just. Fucking. Lost. It. I began crying. In front of the child he was speaking to, who politely looked away, showing more emotional maturity than the man I was there with.
I cried in front of the party guests who had so graciously shared their soft pretzel bites with me moments earlier. Wiping snot from my face in what I can only imagine was my best look of the night, I turned and left the party and proceeded to my Uber.
Once in the safety of a stranger’s minivan, ugly sobs started crawling out of my throat and tears were being propelled from my eyeballs with surprising velocity.
I continued to cry that night while I watched "30 Rock" and tried to Liz Lemon away my problems, I cried the whole next day as I sat on my couch and wondered why I was worthless and how to stop this feeling. And right now, as I type this out in an effort to staunch the pain.
I know it’s not this guy that set me off; he isn’t even a Snoopy balloon in the parade of horrible experiences in the past two years.
But each date takes a little bit more out of me and much like my soulmate, Liz Lemon, I go to bed each night thinking about what fresh hell tomorrow’s OkCupid date will have for me.
But I refuse to let other people's bad behaviors make me bitter and jaded. Dating, for me, has been like getting back on a bike after a terrible crash. I’ve consciously tried to not let the fear and panic of the bad moments overtake the good.
So after a few days, I checked my OkCupid account and was happy to see I had a few messages. Some, of course, were from shirtless dudes flexing in their mother’s bathroom mirror. But one of them from a really cute guy getting his PhD in Anthropology and after a few messages back and forth, we decided to meet for a drink.
It might go well, it might go horribly, it could be a completely neutral night and I’ll forget I even went out with him, but to me, the important this is I am getting back on that bike. I want to keep searching for the good in people and maybe even someone to cook some pasta with and dance to Motown in my kitchen. A girl can dream, right?