I’ve spent the last month or two skipping through Amandaland strapped into the therapist-express. We’ve spent a lot of time pointing at the landscape as we traipsed through Relationship Suburbia, Ex Boyfriend Valley and Fear of Abandonmentville. FYI, it turns out Amandaland even has a Red Light District. And it's faboosh.
I logged the hours on 4 serious boyfriends throughout my 20s and early 30s, and in the post mortems convinced myself I was an awesome girlfriend these douchetards didn’t deserve.
Retrospect is an awe inspiring tool. I wasn’t an awesome girlfriend, I was just a girl and they were just boys and shit happens.
But there were some good times, and I can look back on my flirtier days with a bit of envy. Not at the relationships, but because I was usually so convinced they were doomed from the start (Welcome to You -Don’t-Deserve-Happiness Village, population 1. Passport ready, please.) I was fearless.
These were different times. The times were, we wooed. There was no okCupid or Facebook or smartphones or texting all day or even constant access to email. You said goodbye in the morning, maybe got a lunchtime call and met up in the evening for.. you know… stuff. No, not SEX-dates! OK... and sex.
But, you had to make those in between times count. Pretty sure if you pulled this stuff now, you’d be arrested. Or sued. At the least, some restraining orders would be issued. I mean, I remember when *69 was new, so you could get home from work and see if a guy had called. Damn, I’m old. People, I lived when there was no caller ID so calling a guy 100 times to see if he was home was considered "cute". So kids, don’t do this at home. These stunts were performed on a closed course by a crazy person -- CRAZY IN LOVE.
At least, that is what I’d like the record to reflect in the transcripts of my court appearance.
It started with Scott, my first serious love. We dated for months before it became serious, but then it just was. He was a Valentines guy, so I became a Valentines girl. We were college students and dirt poor, but he had me visit him at the mall, where he worked at a comic book kiosk, and there he had set up a whole table nearby with candles and a tablecloth and had the food court guy make a pizza in a heart shape and shared his “top 10 most romantic Magic the Gathering cards.” What can I say, I’m an easy woo.
In return, he arrived at my apartment the next night to an empty parking spot in front of my house and a path of rose petals (I was working at a flower shop part time for the holiday) leading into the building, up the stairs, to my door, where his suit was hanging with a sign that said, “don’t ask questions, just put this on” with a rose. The takeaways: getting dressed up gets less cool as you get older, rose petals on a bed are sexier in a movie than in real life, and if you leave a sign that says, “don’t ask, just put this on” on a door anywhere near an art school, someone is going to leave an ostrich costume and a ballgag on your door in the morning.
In my mid 20s, I ended up through happenstance in a 2 year relationship with a Peter Pan type. Dave was creative and talented and funny and had the world's most annoying habit of insisting we get to movies 30 minutes early so we could sit in the centermost seats, and refused to allow anyone around him to eat anything lest they ruin the movie with “chewing noises.” But I loved the S.O.B. and by our second VDay I was coming and going from his place on the regular. HA! See what I did there. Sigh.
So it made perfect sense to break into his house for Valentines. No, seriously. It did. I am a mentally stable-ish person and though it was completely reasonable and romantic. We both thought it was a ridiculous holiday and so I though an inescapable, literal avalanche of hearts would be hysterical. There was even an article in one of the women’s rags that suggested it. Which is how I found myself at 2:30 in the morning driving out to his house in bumblefuck armed with 2lbs of construction paper hearts, a complete heart waffle breakfast and red soap.
Dave habitually left his doors unlocked, we’d had a few conversations about it, and he slept like a bear in winter. I figured it was as simple as walking in the sliding patio door, which was how I usually got in when invited. It's 3am when I discover it's locked, and instead of acting like a normal person and going home, I’m too far in, so I start walking around the house trying to find a way in. I somehow escaped the 70% chance of a neighbor calling the police and found the garage unlocked.
Hearts were spread around, taped to walls and counters and any non moving surface- a funny poem left on his computer, and a full heart waffle based breakfast left on the counter. Hearts were painted on bathroom mirrors in red soap. All that was left was to throw some hearts through his open bedroom door and book it out of there. I mean, even I was impressed with myself.
I stuck my hand through and tossed. I was halfway out the door when I heard the most frightened voice ever to come out of a grown man go “Whoooooooooo’s therrrre?” With half my body out the door, I was left with the option to ditch and run or the far less cruel option, which was to just whisper, “It's OK, its just me.”
And that’s when my 6’4” boyfriend shrieked at a pitch that has never been recorded by modern technology, and jumped, buck naked, 8 feet in the air. As I’m writing it, it sounds just horrible. But at the moment, it was the funniest thing I’d ever witnessed and I cannot, to this day, tell it without losing the ability to breathe and peeing myself just a little.
By the next morning, he’d gotten over it and I heard him laughing like an idiot while eating a 14” stack of waffles.
I stood the best shot with Eric, in my late 20s. He wanted stability, came from a rock solid family of blue collar, hard working Irish alcoholics who loved to get together and tell embarrassing, funnynotfunny stories about each other that would always end, “and then the police arrested him!” They didn’t love me, but I loved Eric and didn't have an arrest record, so I was refreshing.
At the base of our relationship was our inability to let the other person win. In Arizona summers, he insisted the thermostat stay at 82. I would turn it to 78. This played out every night.
Him: “Gddamnit! Leave it at 82! Are you trying to make ice in here?”
Me: “I can't sleep, its too damn hot! Just leave it at 78.”
Him: “Fine. 80!”
Me: “Are we having sex tonight?"
Me: "76 it is!”
But our Valentines go down in the books. We’re lucky we broke up or we’d have never survived another. It began simply: he sent flowers. I sent a singing telegram. He sent a stripping bear. I sent a string quartet to play NIN's “Closer.” He wired the oven to play "Sexbomb" every time I opened it. I set his computer to go to a page of sex toys every time he started up. We ended the battle late that night in a tie. An ACTUAL tie. I can’t go into more details.
The next year, we both stepped up our game. He woke up with a red penis. Which is to say, it had been painted red with pink hearts. Hearing him realize it in the bathroom that morning was worth the PITA it had been to execute without laughing until I myself got up and realize he’d hacked like, EVERYTHING IN OUR HOUSE to play “I Think I Love You.” My slippers, every time I took a step. The fridge, the shower when turned on, the doors when opened.
So I did what any reasonable person would: I sent strippers to his place of employ (they were onsite somewhere that day, apparently they had trouble tracking him down).
He sent AN ACTUAL POLE to be installed and an instructor who showed up in 5 inch heels and just said, “I’m here for the 11am?” In a scramble, his coworker helped me steal all his clothes from his work locker and replace them with a thong and a red and pink bumblebee outfit. Try making one of those on the fly. I also traded cars so he was stuck in MY car, which was now loudly playing “I Think I Love You” with windows that he’d stuck from rolling up somehow. He drove that home in rush hour. In the bee suit. Though I thought we’d both called a truce at the end of the night, he dyed my dog pink overnight.
The last of the great monogamous boyfriend periods was in my early-mid 30s. Jon was an often-thoughtful guy with shitty follow-through. For instance, his way of telling me he loved me was to tag my name on the freeway every mile between my house and his. His idea of a great date was to take me on a tour of trains and dumpsters he’d bombed “for us”....or as I liked to call it "Rape Alleys of the Valley." Thanks, dude.
For our first Valentines, I filled his car with heart balloons…. like, to the brim. And then used that horrible car spray paint that looks like party foam to cover his white car in hearts. He lived across the street from a school. Theoretically, it's an “Oh Happy Day” photoshoot. Actually, though I wasn’t there to witness the shitshow when he actually tried to get into car and balloons went everywhere and kids on the playground across the street started to gather and laugh while the crazy man started swearing prolifically and stomping heart balloons with a steel toe boot, I suspect I’m lucky to have missed it. “Hey, instead of tagging the freeway, I tagged your car. Cause I’m LAZIER and less jail hardy but still love yoooooouuuuuuu.”
There is a part of me that misses the art of these grand gestures (or random acts of vandalism, depending on your perspective). None of the recent dates I've been on have made me think I'll find someone worthy or this level of deviousness. Last week I ditched a date while he was in the bathroom, and just before Christmas, a guy high fived me. During the date. At the dinner table. Another suggested Red Robin for a first date. "Yeah, I don't think there are any Red Robins in Portland." "There is, at the mall!"
So this VDay, I'm skipping the fanfare, I'm skipping the singles parties, I'm staying home for a hot date with Frank Underwood. And I'm ok with that. But I had this idea the other day that involved a lasso.....