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Authors: Jessi Klein

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BOOK: You'll Grow Out of It
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Then, as I settled back into bed, he looked at me and said, “I actually have a bunch of stuff I have to do today.”

Whaaaaaaa?

“I promised Rob that I would go to his shoot with him. Then I'm supposed to meet Nevill for tennis in the afternoon. But we could have dinner?”

I was dumbstruck. He had watched me pick up the phone and make the call.

I decided I had to pretend it was okay, and attempted an impossible emotional pivot wherein I acted like taking the day off was something I'd been planning on doing even if he hadn't been there.

Even now, sitting here thinking about that moment and trying to write about it, the awkwardness of this interaction is staggering. The way we both behaved was staggering. His incredible insensitivity, my dedication to the completely nonsensical idea that I was just sick of work and was planning on taking a day for some “me time.” I suppose that was the moment when we both realized the misunderstanding that had occurred. He suddenly realized,
This girl thinks I am here to see her
, and I suddenly realized,
I'm really fucking stupid
. He kissed me good-bye and left, promising we'd meet for dinner and walking out just a touch more quickly than was necessary for what sounded like a leisurely schedule.

The rest of the day unspooled in slow motion, every unexpected free minute snailing along like it was an hour. Los Angeles is a lonely city, and the oppressive isolation of it can usually only be avoided through careful social planning. I went for coffee at the sad Starbucks around the corner and then straightened up my house. After those two activities, I was out of ideas. I started calling my freelancer and unemployed friends, seeing if I could arrange a lunch date. My friend Jenny could only meet if I drove to her in Santa Monica, a place that is deathly to drive to from Hollywood at lunchtime, but in this case I agreed since my “romantic lunchtime hike,” along with all my other plans, had been scrubbed from my calendar.

At lunch, I told Jenny about what had happened. Jenny is an eternally optimistic and sunny person, but in this case, I could see her struggling to find a positive reaction.

“Hmm,” she said. “Has he been in touch since this morning?”

He hadn't.

He would continue to not be in touch as I drove through an hour of pudding-like traffic on the way back from lunch, as I watched
Oprah
, as I drank half a bottle of wine in the kitchen. The clock ticked its way to five, and I started to soften as I thought,
Well, it's almost dinnertime. We had a genuine miscommunication. We'll go get something to eat soon. We still have the whole weekend.

Then it was six and seven and he still didn't call.

I had never been stood up before. My feelings were hurt. What hurt the most was the knowledge that the guy who was standing me up had also, most likely, given me full-blown AIDS just the night before.

Finally, around seven thirty, he texted—not called—to let me know he was driving to see his friend Rowan, a nice guy I randomly happened to be acquainted with as well. He'd promised Rowan he would stop by, and now he was in bad traffic, and anyway he would be in touch very soon.

Forty minutes later, my cell phone rang. The caller ID was unfamiliar. I picked up the phone. It wasn't Damon, but instead Rowan.

“Hey, Damon wanted me to call you,” he said.

“Is he dead?” I fantasized about asking.

“What's going on?” I asked in real life.

“He wanted me to ask if you wanted to come over for dinner,” he replied. He went on to try, unsuccessfully, to explain why he was on the phone and Damon was not. Here is where I should also mention that Damon was not twenty-two years old. He was almost forty. He had put me in the humiliating position of having to communicate with him through a mutual friend, a friend who could clearly tell I had been cuckolded. (I know this is not technically the definition of the word
cuckolded
but it's a fun word and it somehow feels right in this context.)

This was yet another opportunity where my standards could have kicked in.

  

In retrospect, the misunderstanding about the plan was forgivable—I was responsible for constructing a fantasy of what the day was—but the genuine asshattery on his part was not picking up the phone to call me. Really, the only right thing for me to do at that moment would have been to delete his number from my phone, make a bowl of spaghetti, and watch
Weeds
.

But then he started texting me. Texting is like kryptonite to women's standards. It erodes them, like gentle ocean waves slowly, over time, destroy a beautiful dune. Could we meet up later? he asked. He was going to meet Henry for a drink after dinner, did I want to join them? He really wanted to see me. Please come. Please please. Really really really…

Shutter Island of Dick. The confusion set in.

I decided I would have it both ways. I would go to meet them, but I would still be really angry, and I would be nice to everyone but Damon, and
then
wouldn't he be sorry? There is nothing that makes men want to fall in line more than a mopey passive-aggressive chick, am I right ladiezzz? I am aware this was not the decision of a grown-ass woman, but rather the immature, fevered thinking of a small-ass, hurt child.

There were a few other friends gathered when I arrived at Henry's beautiful Laurel Canyon home. Everyone was listening to Harry Nilsson on vinyl and drinking scotch. I took a seat as far from Damon as possible and did some of my finest acting work as I pretended to be fascinated by the guy sitting next to me. I could sense Damon occasionally looking at me, and I felt the smug satisfaction of the deeply righteous and imagined his excruciating guilt.
Surely
, I thought,
he is feeling that special kind of remorse that jolts you into realizing you are in love with someone
. I did not know at the time that there are no recorded instances of a man ever feeling this, ever in all of history.

Afterward, a bunch of us piled into Damon's friend's car to get rides home. His hotel was just a few blocks from where I lived. He leaned over and whisper-asked if he was coming back to my house. A snap decision had to be made about whether he was staying over.

The “me” I knew before I met Damon would have quickly perused her standards pamphlet and known that the answer should be no. But this was a new, shittier me, whose standards were slowly fading from view.

What I was thinking was that I would have it both ways again. Keep this amazing uncomfortable vibe going. Have him come back home with me, but confront him about what happened. Not let him off the hook. By which I also mean, I didn't want to let him go. I didn't want to be alone. I really, genuinely liked him.

We got out of the car in front of my house and stood on the sidewalk. He looked at me, a confused almost-smile on his face. “Is everything okay?” he asked.

“Why do you think it's not?” I replied. I was a genius.

“Your feelings for me seem to have cooled since this morning,” he said.

At that point I asked him why he even cared how I felt.

To which he replied, “I just want you to like me.”

The biggest difference between me now and me then is that back then, I didn't clock what was wrong with that sentence. I heard “I” and “like” and I invited him in, even though I was still mad, and even though I didn't want him to think I was okay enough with what happened to have sex with him again, which I did.

It wasn't until months later, when I was even more deeply entangled with him, and had been hurt umpteen more times, that I looked at that moment differently. I realized that “I just want you to like me” was not in any way related to “I like you.” He was the object, the person looking to be liked. Whether or not he liked me was beside the point.

This was a revelation. I had heard girls talk about the perils of dating a “narcissist,” but I had never truly known what that meant and was not familiar with the personality profile. It wasn't until I sheepishly started taking online quizzes titled “Are You Dating a Narcissist?” and getting A+ results on all of them that I realized I was most definitely dating a narcissist.

As soon as I opened my eyes the next morning, I felt a wave of regret. When he woke up, I made up a lie about having to get to a Pilates class (if he'd known me any better, it would have been obvious just what a huge lie that was) and ushered him out the door. I called my friend Tracy, a talented writer and my longtime unofficial relationship guru.

“He needs to man up and let you know he understands what he did wrong,” she declared at breakfast. I nodded vigorously into a glass of white wine the size of an adult cat.

“How will I know that he really understands?” I asked.

“He'll make a gesture,” she said.

A gesture. I'd never really dated men who'd made gestures. I'd gotten some flowers here and there on the usual mandatory occasions—Valentine's Day, wisdom teeth being extracted—but I had never been with a guy who had made a genuinely thoughtful, romantic gesture.

Tracy went on to remind me that a man having his friend call you after bailing on plans was substandard behavior. “Men rise to the standards you hold them up to,” she explained. “Their behavior will always be at the exact bar you allow it to be.”

I bought Tracy breakfast. I felt like I owed her a lot more than a poached egg and a salad for words of advice I would carry with me for the rest of my life. But sometimes you get a bargain.

I spent the rest of the day icing Damon, who again responded with a series of increasingly panicky texts. Not responding to the texts of a man who has wronged you is truly one of the sweetest pleasures in life. In the evening I met up with my guy friend Eric and we drove to a delicious but slightly sad Mexican restaurant in Echo Park, where I told him everything that had happened. Eric agreed that what had occurred was not amazing, but ventured that maybe there was still hope. He had the heterosexual optimism of a man who has never dated another man.

On my drive home, Damon's texts continued to trickle in. He wanted to know if we could get lunch the next day. I thought about saying no. But I decided I wouldn't “play games.” We'd get lunch, and I'd be open about how hurt I was, and I would explain that I wanted him to make a gesture. To be clear, Tracy had not recommended that last part. But I was worried that if I didn't ask for this thing I wanted, I wouldn't get it. And how else would he understand what I needed? How else would he come up with this idea? The notion that perhaps he should realize it on his own seemed too dicey even to consider.

We went to lunch at the same place Tracy and I had dined, the restaurant at Fred Segal, a ridiculously LA place where skinny LA people eat overpriced salads before going to buy overpriced skinny jeans at the adjacent boutique. I ordered spaghetti. I think I am the only person who ever ordered pasta there. I would not be surprised if a memorial plaque was placed on my chair, thanking me for my service.

Damon ordered a bottle of rosé that was put in a bucket of ice next to our table. Anytime you have a bottle of booze in ice next to your table it feels like everything must be simpatico because look at this fun bucket of ice! Life's a party!

Or at least, life was a party until I started explaining to him why what he'd done had made me feel bad. The explaining did not go particularly well. His resting face was generally “bemused/quizzical,” and as I spoke it only grew more so. We drove back to my house, where we sat on my patio, drinking more rosé, and continued the conversation. He wasn't defensive exactly—it was more like he couldn't wrap his head around the concept of himself as an agent of unpleasant feelings in anyone else. He got held up throughout his day on Friday, he said, and then traffic was bad. He'd promised Rowan he would stop by, and so he had to do that. Whatever negative effect his actions may have had on me, it was as if he couldn't find the language necessary to discuss it.

When I brought up the idea of a gesture, his look went from bemused to full shar-pei, his brow was so furrowed in confusion. It is remarkable to me now that I was so willing to try to dictate to this person the behavior I wanted him to mimic; when I think back on it, I cringe. And this wasn't the only time it happened. When I moved back to New York, I remember sitting with him on my couch, after he'd chipped my heart in some other small way, and literally showing him a dog-eared page from Greg Behrendt's classic tome,
He's Just Not That Into You
. It posited that if a man you're dating isn't treating you like he loves you, it means he does not really love you, and you should leave. (It definitely did not suggest that you show him pages from your worn copy of a self-help book as a way of convincing him to stay.)

But I digress.

We are on the porch. I tell him about gestures. About how they indicate a depth of feeling when it comes to such notions as affection and apologies. And how it might be nice if he made one. He sipped more rosé and put his hand on my knee. I remember thinking that seemed like a good start. I forgave him, overlooking the fact that he hadn't apologized. We ordered crappy takeout for dinner and laughed about our stomachaches when we tried to go to sleep. I shared the last of my chewable Mylanta mints with him, crunching on them till both our tongues turned aquamarine.

He was going back to New York the next afternoon, and I gave him the key so he could let himself out, showing him the secret hiding place under the doormat
4
where he could stash it when he left. We kissed good-bye. Even though the weekend had not unspooled in the exact manner I'd planned, I wanted to believe it had led us to a deeper understanding. I felt good that I had stood my ground and made it clear I was not to be trifled with. In hindsight, I had in fact done none of those things, and I understood literally zero about anything.

But that night, as I returned home from work, I was driven by the excitement of finding the gesture that would surely be waiting for me somewhere on the premises. I went from room to room, first scanning the obvious places—the kitchen table, the sofa, my desk. Then—and again it is horrible that I must confess this, I am disgusting—I started looking under things. I looked under the blanket on my bed, in the medicine cabinet, in the refrigerator. I don't know why I was behaving so manically, or why I felt so certain that he would have done what I asked.

BOOK: You'll Grow Out of It
3.45Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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