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During my mid-20s, I made the rookie mistake of dating a co-worker. He was a blond haired, blue eyed, corn fed mid-Westerner newly minted in Southern California, and after several months of friendly flirtation we started sleeping together during a company-sponsored trip to Mexico.
We spent six nights a week together for the first few years, filled each other's closets with our own clothes, drove to and from work together, took trips to our home towns to meet family and friends and spent altogether way too much time in each other's company. Neither of us had the maturity or experience to talk openly with the other, and we clung together like Kate & Leo on that Titanic raft, with the inevitable outcome that both of us eventually felt like we were drowning.
The last year or so of our relationship was spent on dramatic break-ups and make-ups that went as follows: said ex (we will call him C. to protect his anonymity) and I would make separate plans for a Saturday night, in an attempt to give each other "space." C. would drink beer all afternoon, evening and night with his frat-boy buddies, and I would work my way through a bag (or two) of coke and bottles of cheap champagne with my girlfriends. Healthy, I know.
At some point in the evening I would try and get in touch with him, he would either pick up the phone and then hang up once I started asking questions about what he was doing and who he was with or ignore me altogether, and I would spend the rest of the night sending him nasty text messages and/or giving other guys my phone number.
The next morning, C. would call me sheepishly around 9 AM, much to my great relief, and show up at my house with flowers. This happened so frequently that my friends and family would openly comment about hating his flowers (and him, I guess), but in my own dysfunctional state I was always flattered. We would go out for breakfast, have some hot sex and spend the rest of the afternoon collectively recovering in front of the television and not talking through the underlying issues.
I finally broke it off officially over a year of this destructive behavior, and we continued to see each other every other week for dinner and have sex with little to no emotional intimacy. I began to realize that a) I needed to get my act together, and finally stopped responding to his inquiries (as well as reaching out myself) b) He might be a sociopath.
It was a daily battle to not call or email him, but I managed to purge myself of C. and no longer thought about him multiple times a day. Sometimes I even went a week or more without his face (or other parts of his anatomy) crossing my mind. I began dating other guys in earnest, not just as place-holders, and was happier than I had ever been. I figured out some healthier hobbies rather than clubbing and staying up all night doing lines, and ditched my party friends for nicer, smarter ones I met through yoga, meet-up groups, etc. I was back on top of my game, and happy to be free of him.
One Saturday morning I was having breakfast with a gentleman I had been dating, and really liked at the time, when I got a call from C. I no longer had his number saved in my phone, but of course recognized it from years of practice dialing it, as well as the Wisconsin area code. I picked up with shaking hands and asked, "Is everything ok?" to which he replied, "Yes, I knew you were going to say that. Do you have a minute?"
"Not really," I said, "Can I call you back another day?"
I hung up the phone and pulled myself together, then spent the rest of the day that I should have enjoyed with my new man friend obsessing over the meaning of C.'s call.
When he called again the next day I was both flattered and freaked out, 2 calls in a row was out of character and seemed (in my overly analytical brain) laden with meaning. We finally connected, and I barely recognized him as he rambled manically about "being in a workshop," "really excited, people he cares about" and finally after many prying questions I understood that he was in some sort of seminar and was inviting me to be his guest at a "graduation dinner" the following week.
He offered to go out of his way to pick me up and drop me off, which was out of character, and wanted me there because "I was the most special person in his life." Did I mention that I'm a Leo, and highly susceptible to flattery? I told him I would need some time to think about it, and then texted a few short hours later that I would be happy to join him.
I then went into crazy-girl mode, pondering all of the angles of the situation and discussing ad naseum with anyone who would listen.
"Does he want me back?"
"Has he finally matured and is ready to settle down?"
"Did this amazing seminar shed light on his rude, thoughtless, childish behavior and now he wants to make a grand, public apology?"
I was hopeful that the interaction would be a positive one, yet strangely had a pit in my stomach the day of the event. Being the good Irish girl that I am, I had a beer and a shot of whiskey while I spending an hour getting my hair, make-up and outfit in date-worthy condition.
He picked me up and I had to admit was looking good in a Christian Bale in “American Psycho” kind of way - clean shaven, lean with just the right amount of muscle, perfectly pressed dress shirt and pants. After a lingering hug, we got in the car and headed to the "graduation dinner." He told me how much this "forum," which we will call L.F., had changed his life, and how he realized that by serving others and being a good person he could find a path to success and happiness. Duh, I thought, but kept my smugness to myself.
“He finally gets it,” I thought, “He is ready to settle down, follow through on his commitments, reward me for the endless days spent watching his home state’s boring sporting events. I am the patron saint of tirelessly accommodating girlfriends.”
We arrived at a large room in a low-rent commercial office park, and were herded in with 200 or so other people. Rather than the elegant, white-table-clothed business dinner I had dreamt up in my head, we were crammed like cattle into a drab, brightly lit room with rows of chairs and zero offerings of food or drink. Having had my solo cocktail hour on an empty stomach, this was not a good sign. The group leader, a short-haired, rather aggressive woman in her mid-50's, stood up and began barking at the group about how great it was that they had "given up their rackets" and how exciting for their guests who will soon be "enrolling in their own forums!" Huh?
The pit in my stomach grew exponentially, and I realized that it had been a bad idea for me to come. People in the crowd began popping up, grabbing the microphone, and shouting strange things such as "I haven't spoken to my father in 10 years but L.F. encouraged me to call him!," "I quadrupled my business earnings thanks to L.F." and most troublingly, "I was able to get off my Psych meds thanks to L.F.!"
They then paraded the members and their "guests" (victims) up on stage for teary introductions. I turned to C. and hissed under my breath "if you try and make me go up there I will go outside and call a cab." He found this very amusing, and gave a condescending "I will suck you into this cult whether you like it or not" smirk.
Thus followed 3 excruciating hours during which I attempted to be polite, and he rambled on during "breaks" (which were intended solely to get the guests to part ways with $600 for their own personal L.F. experience) how much he cares about me and how he wants me to be happy and clearly the only way to accomplish this was by signing up for the L.F.
"I am happy!" I insisted, and “I do nice things for other people because I am a (usually) nice person. Not because some stupid cult told me to.”
At one point in the evening, he asked me how I was feeling.
“Confused," I told him," I don't understand why I am here. Are you trying to get back together?"
To add insult to injury, he explained that he wanted me back in his life but "just as friends," and felt our relationship had been very destructive. Right, I agree, then what the fuck am I doing here?
"OK," I replied, "Are you saying you are no longer attracted to me? Would you be okay with meeting someone I was dating? Maybe we can double date!"
To which he responded that it would kill him to see me with someone else and of course he still wanted to have sex with me, but just as friends. My eyes grew as wide as saucers, and I realized that NOTHING had changed since the beer-drinking, flower-bringing days of our 20's. He was still the same self-absorbed, borderline sociopath with no real regard for my feelings (or anyone else's) with a new set of brainwashed platitudes to hide behind.
I was (finally) honest with him, and told him in no uncertain terms that he was welcome to call me if there was an emergency, but other than that our relationship was over and no, I do not want to be "friends." Or friends with benefits, no matter how consistently freaking hot the sex was.
I made it out of the “Graduation” around 10:30 without so much as opening my purse to give the lunatics running it a glimpse at my credit card, and couldn't wait to get home to wash the cult off with a glass of wine and a scalding hot shower. He insisted we go out to dinner, made me split the bill, and then tried to invite himself up to "see my new apartment." Charmed, I'm sure. I told him he could see it from the curb when he dropped me off, which is what happened, and haven't heard a word from him since.
It took me a few days' time, and recounting this encounter ad nauseum to anyone who would listen, to get over it, and realize the upside. I am finally over him. Really, truly over. "Have a nice life" over. A creepy brush with a cult, 5 hours of my time and $24 worth of awkward dinner conversation now seem like a small price to pay to reach this goal.
It was worth every penny.