I woke up in the middle of the night wanting to snuggle.
It was dark, quiet, and cold in my new apartment. I had left an optimistic window open, enjoying the wafting smell of weed from the upstairs neighbors, the sounds of the street, and what had initially been a warm breeze.
I went to pull the duvet back over my body but found it trapped under my date from the night before. He was asleep, curled in the fetal position next to me. I was surprised to see he had won the blanket wars. I'm usually such a bed hog, but I guess my sleeping self had decided to be a chivalrous host to my guest.
I had broken up with a serious live-in boyfriend a few weeks prior and begun the getting-over-it process with this person, an early 30s lawyer, who apparently thought it appropriate to wear pleated khakis to a bar but made up for it by looking like a clean-shaven Jon Snow.
I, wanting to "live," or whatever impetus was making me go out most nights and take risks like inviting a stranger back to my apartment, met this guy, liked him a lot, and, after a few hours decided it was time to invite him up.
I was feeling pretty pleased with myself about the entire thing. Look at me, I thought, this has to be proof that I'm moving on.
I shivered and moved in to big spoon him. There was just enough duvet left to cover my ass. I wrapped my arms around him and realized he wasn't only in the fetal position, but curled tightly around something in his hands.
I was confused. I felt loose strings with the tips of my fingers. I had no idea what to think, but began to panic when I realized it was probably something weird and embarrassing from my new place.
Had he grabbed a piece of dirty laundry from under the bed? An old towel or ball of hair? Whatever horrible thing it was, I felt in that moment like I had to get it away from him before he woke up and potentially freaked out.
My hand felt lightly around and slowly pulled it from his grasp. I squinted to get a better look. It wasn't mine. It looked like a balled-up pile of thread and ripped fabric. I was thinking of hiding it in the top drawer of my side table when I felt him shift beneath me and realized I had woken him up.
"Oh." I said red faced, "I'm so sorry, I found this in the bed."
He yawned. "Oh, that's my baby blanket."
I feel like I stared at him for half a minute or more. "What?"
"Yeah, I can't sleep without it." He rubbed his eyes with his hand and sat up.
Well, I wanted to say, that’s really fucking weird. I dropped the thing on the bed, got up, and pulled on a shirt.
"Um, do you want tea or something?"
"Not really, thanks," he said, taking the thing and rolling back over. He was asleep again.
My thoughts raced. Did this guy really think it was OK to have his baby blanket with him right now? He was so casual about it! What the fuck? He must have had it in the bar, I realized, since he had mentioned that he was coming right from the office. He must have brought it to work!
Did he really not know how weird that is? How did he get to be a professional in this 30s and not understand that it’s inappropriate to carry your old baby blanket around with you everywhere? Isn’t that a red flag? Am I the first person to be freaked out by this? Am I the weird one here?
He seemed like a child to me all of a sudden. I felt grossed out. I definitely couldn't get back into bed with him. I sat in the kitchen with my laptop open and kettle on and stayed there until he came down the next morning.
I made some excuse to get out of going to breakfast and tight-lipped kissed him goodbye. I tried to be nice even though I felt like I wanted to throw up.
I felt a deep repulsion I was having a difficult time explaining. Why was this such an instinctual deal breaker for me? I felt like I couldn't explain my reaction to myself. I spent a lot of time trying to unravel it.
I knew that my strong response, without any further information about him or this situation, meant that the issue was coming from me. If I likeD him, I shouldn't care about this, right? I couldn't see how it was hurting anyone. So he potentially has some attachment issues. Who doesn't, right?
I was really in no position to judge. I definitely have my own issues with abandonment and my parents, but this wasn't about me projecting these feelings of embarrassment and shame onto someone else and rejecting this guy because of any self-hatred regarding these feelings, right? Right?
I didn't want to acknowledge that I might have any "issues." I didn't want to think about it. I decided that he was the weird one and I was fine.
Hey, I may be sad a lot because my parents are absent and out of touch, but at least I didn't bring a baby blanket to work.
I didn't know how to respond to him asking for a date later that week. I desperately wanted to hear his reasoning behind the whole thing, but didn't think it would be nice of me to agree to another date and put him on the spot.
I knew I couldn't come back from this, and didn't want to meet up for a drink just to treat him like a sideshow attraction. I mean, what if no one had said something before and he had no problem leaving it at home? What if this could be just a small blip that I could get over?
I tried to get myself into the mindset that this was not a big deal, but honestly couldn’t. It was a dealbreaker to me, I just couldn’t articulate why.
He waited a day or two after hearing nothing from me before first apologizing if he did anything wrong and then asking whether the issue was the baby blanket.
I couldn't lie.
"But why? Look, I've had girlfriends before and no one's said anything about it."
"I'm sorry," I responded, "It's too weird for me and I don't think I can get past it."
He apologized, wished me well, and left it at that.
I felt bad, empty, and disappointed in myself. I wondered if this was a ridiculous Seinfeld-ian reason to break it off with someone or whether I was right in considering this a red flag.
I saw him at the same bar later that month, half-smiled awkwardly, and looked away. But of course I was wondering: Was he carrying his baby blanket?