Wednesday, December 31, 2014

I Am Taylor Swift in 'Blank Space'

Two weeks ago I spent an evening that transitioned seamlessly into mid-morning with a boy so unbelievably charming and stunning and smart that part of me doesn't believe he existed at all. If I hadn't woken up with my collarbone covered in bruises the next day, I would have fully subscribed to the notion that we are all merely brains in jars, subsisting in our own bodily fluids in a lab somewhere. That this world is nothing more than a hallucinatory experience we create for ourselves. Only, mine got fucked up somewhere along the way, because if experiences like this one and all the ones before it are the products of my own creation, I must have a supremely low opinion of myself and of what I believe I deserve.

pictured: a collective photo of the men I have gone out with in 2014
Fact or fiction, fantasy or reality, here I am, once more, to bitch about dating, not dating, nearly fucking, feeling too fast and then feeling like shit. All in the span of a week and a half. So it goes.

We met around 2am in a dimly lit bar; its first Yelp review says: "I would take a date here if I were trying to get laid." The boy in question was too good-looking, too smart, too agreeable. Conversation came easy. We talked about literature and poetry -- two things I save for myself, because words about words don't come as easy for me, I keep it all too close to my heart. But I felt at ease with him; I felt challenged and I wanted to win. He was brilliant and totally alluring, ideal; he seemed honest and sincere. He was a cuter version of Andrew Garfield circa The Social Network and I am a stupid, shallow bitch.

He was the epitome of my very own James Dean daydream, and I am embarrassed that I allowed myself to be so manipulated by a boy with a pretty face and prettier words. He placed a hand on my thigh and said, "I can't help it, Ali, I'm drawn to beauty." And in any other bar, with any other boy, I would have rolled my eyes so far back into my skull that the nerves would have detached, warranting me instantly blind. Instead, I was charmed. This one knew what he was doing.

After less than two hours of talking, we walked back to his place, because my need for male validation will always outweigh my natural instinct to survive.

We talked some more about books, he pointed out the four on his bookshelf he was currently reading. I was reading one of them, too. He put on some weird music I wasn't into, because I'd rather listen to that Justin Bieber/Slipknot mashup than early 20th century jazz. He slipped his hand around my waist and pressed his lips against my neck. I will spare you further detail. But I will allow myself this: I have never felt so desired, like the touch of my skin could alight inside someone like that before. I am no archetype of beauty, of goodness, of woman -- but I do believe so many decent things about myself. I am funny, I am loyal, I am smart and I am strong. But I hardly ever feel beautiful, like my aesthetic is worth a second glance, so I deflect and I poke fun at myself and I roll my eyes. This is how I build my walls.

But this boy, the one with the endlessly flourishing vocabulary, who had a way with words like the type of quirky male protagonist that exists solely in a John Green novel -- this one, he knew what to say to get my dress down around my ankles in record time.

When we paused the first time, he pulled me to his chest and we talked. It was disarmingly candid. He traced the lines of my body and I told him about the boys who never called. I made it clear that I'd been hurt, that l'd been pushed heavy into self-doubt, because people didn't even have the decency to fade away anymore. They simply weren't, one day. That there is something about me that turns people into ghosts.

He said it was clear to him the guys who came before him, the ones who disappeared, had some kind of problem that had nothing to do with me. That there was nothing wrong with me: I was gorgeous and funny and interesting and smart. And in that moment I believed it, because he was a beautiful boy and I was naked in his bed. I allowed myself vulnerability, transparency. I was a glass case when I should have been steel. 

He went on to tell me his friends have this tendency of radio-silencing a girl if she is too great. Too pretty, too charming, too much. He said that if these men, these boys, have any inkling of falling in love with her, they disappear. They stay gone. Because they aren’t willing to commit — not even in the form of a final goodbye. That the very possibility of love, even in its infancy, is a risk not worth taking. It was the opposite of every tired romantic trope I have ever read. I didn't believe him; I don't.

He said the guys who radio-silenced me were probably thinking along the same lines. And I won't lie, it’s a comforting thought. This idea that I’m so wonderful, so magnetic, so distracting in my perfectness that the only way to solve a problem like Maria is to end things -- suddenly and, well, without an end.

He told me not to derive my sense of self-worth from the absence of a phone call, and I suppose there's validity in there somewhere. But he was trying to flatter me, to fuck me, and I should have known better. I believe too much in sincerity, in the weight of one's words. It felt like an exorbitant amount of effort just to get his dick wet, so I took him for face value when he said that even if I never wanted him to fuck me, he would still want to see me again; that he actually liked what little of me he'd come to know over the course of those hours.

But maybe the fun for him was in the challenge. I didn't drink anything he handed me, so he drained half my glass of water in one gulp before insisting I finish the rest. He could tell I don't trust easy.

When we'd finished -- once he'd finished -- I stayed. He asked me to read him a poem that I loved. I said that I wouldn't, it was too personal. The reality is I was embarrassed. My hair was a mess of knots because, as Gregory Sherl says, we are desperate in our fucking. My skin was blotchy and imperfect and I believed he had no business looking at me. So when I declined, he took a book from his bookshelf: "I'll read you something, then," and he read me some Nietzsche bullshit. 

He sat at the window, his face turned toward the light, cast in that mid-morning glow, that post blow-job languor. Shirtless, he took a drag of his cigarette and every inch of him was fucking luminous, unreal. This is the worst young adult novel you have ever read. But it's true: suddenly, my 15 year-old self's wet dream was very much personified, mere inches away from me. When he finished reading he asked me what I thought. It was one of his favorite utterances, "What do you think?" As though he actually gave a flying fuck.

He looked to me expectantly, like I could blow his mind the way I'd just sucked his dick, so I chose honesty: "I don't get it." It was a half-truth, really. I had tuned out. I was too busy watching his hands, the rise and fall of his chest, the tangle of his hair and how much better wild looked on him than it looked on me. 

It all sounds grossly pretentious, and believe me, it was straight out of a scene from the type of freshman year of college experience I'd never had but had always secretly wanted. He asked me to sleep next to him, he needed a nap before work. It was nearing 10am and sleeping next to boys is something I don't do, so I declined. He offered me a magazine for the subway, some coffee before I left. He touched me while I found my clothes around his room, smiled when I showed him my newly-ripped tights. The last thing he said to me was: "Hey, Ali. Stay beautiful." That, I couldn't take. I cackled like a witch (like a bitch). I told him he was a corny motherfucker, and I left.

I sent the first text, two days later, because I have no qualms about texting first. In the past, I have sent the first text, the third text, the what the fuck JUST TEXT ME BACK text. He replied immediately and I read it in his voice. Then the texts stopped coming, they went unanswered. So it goes. Again. And it's not that I fell in love with him over the span of eight hours. It's that I have yet to learn that people refuse honesty. That no matter the anecdotes he supplies me with to assure me that he's different, the simple truth is that he isn't. That I am right not to trust. That we are born with our hearts encased in bone for a reason. 

It's almost like an absentee, passive form of gas-lighting at this point. Those things he said? That I was beautiful and smart and worthy? That he actually wanted to see me again? It was foolish of me to believe him, to believe any of them. None of it ever happened. And it's because this wasn't the first time, or the second or even the third that I have to question myself.

I am that tired old Taylor Swift joke: the common denominator in all of my failures is me.

I am embarrassed that I am writing about it now, without humor. That I cannot remember how to be funny. That I don't know how to end this.


  1. You don't know me, obviously, but I always read your posts and you're a fantastic writer. Really, this was beautifully written and fully relatable.

    1. I can't tell you how much I appreciate hearing something like this from someone I don't know. Thank you so much!