A Tiny Manageable Death: A Story About Dating

I’m supposed to be writing a book but I’m too busy ruminating about a girl who forbade me from writing about her.

“Don’t write about me, I mean it.”

I don’t write about most people—only awful or interesting people who force me to investigate the crevices of my spiritual universe. The unconscious shadow parts that lead me to forfeit myself, every three years or so, to the possibility of a starring role in my very own nontraditional goth wedding with the first woman who shows me any sign of affection.

As careful as I try to be, I attract people who exhibit two pertinent characteristics: they’re not firmly rooted in their identity and/or they’re undergoing a major personal transition. Unbeknownst to me, I become the lesbian raft upon which they float into a new phase of their lives—this, historically, has been new, serious, longterm relationships with other people—or this time, a mental breakdown.

“These are the Days of Our Lives”

“These are the Days of Our Lives”

My last whirlwind romance appeared out of nowhere after years of self-imposed sexual and romantic exile. I created a dating site profile—a collection of candid photos, a Spotify anthem (The Crucifucks, “You Give Me the Creeps”), and a short blurb: “Lesbian. Historian, Musician. Vegan-ish. Not trying to get married; just trying to have sex again before I’m 40.” To be fair, I had not had sex in almost three years and was about to turn 38. Like sands from the hourglass…..

Women on dating sites tend to message back and forth for weeks before discussing the possibility of meeting in person. I hate this. For me, small talk, pretense and social niceties feel like nails on a chalkboard if the chalkboard was inside my brain and the nails were strangers asking about the weather. But this is the dance of the normals and I do my best to play along.

So imagine my surprise when I received a message from a gorgeous, heavily tattooed femme wanting to meet as soon as possible. Imagine my continued surprise when I sent her my phone number and she texted me. And then the sheer delight when I invited her over and she arrived at my apartment. All I really want is a wife (not legally because fuck the state), OR a lesbian version of the Grindr app. Either or. But this was like I had manifested a Grindr date out of sheer will.

It’s an accurate stereotype. Probably genetic.

It’s an accurate stereotype. Probably genetic.

She referred to me as her Long Term Girlfriend after the first night—a play on the whole “Lesbian/ U-Haul thing,” she said. She posted photos of me on her social media, something I had never experienced with an actual long term girlfriend. She drove to my apartment from Brooklyn just to see me before a I left for a work trip. We went to an AA meeting on our second date. She was really hot. She probably still is—she’s not dead, she just doesn’t speak to me anymore. And isn’t a breakup like a tiny, manageable death? They’re alive, living in the world, talking to other people. They’re just dead to YOU.

I spent my 38th birthday in Portland, OR because it was less expensive to stay for the weekend. Long Term Girlfriend called me that morning, sang happy birthday and all of that stuff. I left for the airport on Sunday morning and we talked before I boarded a plane that would never take off due to a mechanical issue. Hundreds of sullen travelers boarded an alternate flight to Detroit where we collected hotel vouchers and made our way to our respective hotels for the night. Long Term Girlfriend broke up with me, over the phone, while I was in a hotel bed wearing my dirty Aileen Wournos ‘I’m With Her’ shirt—because the airline held our suitcases. She said it wasn’t me, it was her, but all I could think was, ‘couldn’t you have waited until tomorrow,’ as I sawed at the mats in my hair with a tiny retractable airline comb (I am cursed with a thick, luxurious mane). I cried for a minute but decided that our relationship hadn’t lasted long enough to really sob, and I spent the rest of the evening listening to a heterosexual couple in the neighboring room have sad, unproductive sex, before dragging my ass out of bed and back to the airport at 5am. Long Term Girlfriend didn’t check in with me as she did every morning, and didn’t ask if my flight landed once I’d arrived in Hartford. It’s funny how you get used to the comfort of someone you sleep with also caring whether you live or die.

I am not such an asshole that I’d be surprised at someone’s hesitancy to pursue a relationship with me. I am an acquired taste with a shady past; a true weirdo whose eccentricity was predetermined by the locations of stars, planets and tides at the exact moment I exited by mother’s womb. In other words, I downloaded a new astrology app that says I am a freak—more validating than insulting, to be honest. I wasn’t shocked that she needed space or time to think, or just decided I wasn’t the person for her, but this is another pattern in the people that I attract or choose to pursue: they change their minds in a matter of hours and go completely cold. I don’t know what that mechanism is. The love/hate light switch. Clap on, clap off, the Clapper. If I were better looking I’d accuse these women of using me for my body, because the change in attitude is so violently abrupt, but I’m not.

My therapist told me that this breakup was positive because I’d chosen a nice person who had some mental health issues rather than a sociopath or a mean spirited art curator who relished in deliberately hurting the few feelings I had the emotional capacity to identify.

“Congratulations,” she said.

Your dad seemed like kind of a dick.

Your dad seemed like kind of a dick.

One night, when things were ok—which actually wasn’t very long ago because LESBIAN relationships do not succumb to pedestrian concepts of time—Long Term Girlfriend told me about her ex-boyfriend. About how nothing bad happened, they didn’t argue or bicker, they celebrated holidays together and at night they crawled into bed, turned the lights off and went to sleep. They didn’t have sex. He wasn’t affectionate with her. She’d lay on her back next to him and think “is this all there is?” He cried when she broke it off. She loved him but it wasn’t working. She hadn’t mourned her boring, unsatisfying relationship. I wondered why she felt the need to mourn something that didn’t seem worth mourning. I feel the same way about men who mourn their absentee fathers. I have one of those and have had a string of therapists who insist I feel abandoned. “I have so many other things I feel angry about. Can’t we deal with those?”

I didn’t recognize myself as the rebound at that point; as the peaceful lesbian raft in her personal shit storm. I think most people prefer to be bored with someone, longterm, than to endure the possibility of these tiny, manageable deaths.