Author’s Note: This one’s a bit lengthy. Maybe 4,000 words. Grab yourself some coffee, tea, whatever, and settle in.
In late 2005, going into 2006, back when I used to blog on MySpace, I wrote an epic blog series called “A Not-So-Brief History of Girls.” This was a nine-part series documenting my history with girls and women, obviously. As blogs went, the feedback I received from readers was enough validation for me to continue this blogging thing, since it was fairly new to me at the time. As for the series itself, it was fairly funny, but mostly a woe-is-me, sad bastard looks back at all the girls I’ve loved before. Now you’ve got that song in your head, haven’t you?
Muriel (1979-1981): Muriel and her mother lived in an apartment one floor below us. We went to the same elementary school together, but were in different classes. We were pretty much inseparable; we’d walk to and from school together. On the weekends, our parents would take us to McDonalds for Happy Meals and the McDonaldland playground. My friendship with Muriel was, in the strictest of terms, purely platonic. This would also be a recurring theme in my life – the platonic girlfriend. Never once did Muriel and I consider being “boyfriend and girlfriend”. I do recall being extremely comfortable around her. Muriel had the warmest brown eyes I’d ever seen.
Muriel’s parents had split up around the time we became friends. Years later, I’d learn her father came out of the closet. I had no idea what being gay was at the age of eight, so I didn’t find it unusual that Muriel’s father was constantly in the presence of another man, whom he said was his “friend”.
Before school started in the fall of 1981, Muriel and her mother moved away, to a house on Long Island. Oddly enough, her father took possession of the apartment they were vacating. I was extremely upset by this news; we promised to write and call, and, if possible, visit often. But nothing ever materialized. Every so often, we’d bump into each other. We’d make the most trivial of small talk, or dispense the most meaningless of pleasantries. The last time I’d seen her was when I was in college; she had two kids, was unmarried and those warm brown eyes seemed sunken and dispirited. Her father was dying of AIDS, and she had another kid on the way.
Mind you, many of those relationships were platonic, some romantic, a few strictly of the friends-with-benefits variety as well. And, of course, the psycho ex-girlfriend that shattered your illusions for a long time.
Marcy Hanson, Miss October 1978 (summer 1985): I finally figured out what the fuss regarding girls/women was all about. Puberty finally kicked in, during the spring of 1985. And Ms. Hanson, the loveliest buxom blonde from Texas my young impressionable eyes had ever seen, helped me through that process. Having found my dad’s pathetically small stash of nudie magazines, I found myself being drawn to the curvy charms of Miss October 1978. I didn’t care for the more hardcore stuff; the Playboy issue of October 1978 had Dolly Parton on the cover. Did my dad think Dolly was going to show off her breasts?
Marcy Hanson and I began a steamy love affair under my blankets that summer. Every opportunity I’d get, I’d race to her photo spread, eager for another glimpse of her natural beauty. Her warm smile, that halo of curly blonde locks, those perfect breasts, were my introduction to manhood, which I demonstrated to her every night.
Also, that summer, I found my dad’s just-as-pitiful porn video collection, and I began a brief but not as torrid affair with Seka and Vanessa Del Rio. But that’s another story for another day.
Many years later, I was walking past a street vendor on Sixth Avenue, in the heart of Greenwich Village. The man was selling old magazines, and I stopped to browse. In between worn copies of Life and National Geographic was the October 1978 issue of Playboy. And there was Marcy Hanson, just as beautiful as I’d remembered her. I thought about buying the magazine – it was only $1 – but the past was the past. Rekindled love affairs are doomed to fail the second time around.
This was the blog series where I came into my own as a blogger. I came to recognize the power blogging had over me, in terms of leaving myself open, to talk about myself in ways I hadn’t before, letting people, perfect strangers, really, take a glimpse into my past. For some, this would be awkward, terrifying, even. For me, it was cathartic.
Lillian (sophomore year, college, 1990-91): Lillian was my first serious girlfriend. Truth be told, I have no idea what she saw in me, but of all the guys who were seriously courting her (including my buddy Jason, who went by the nickname “Cooter” – why I have no clue), she picked me. Apparently my aloof, “she’ll choose me because I’m a chick magnet” charm sealed the deal for me. Oh hell, I was so excited about finally having some girl consider me her boyfriend, I felt like a sorry-assed team who finally won the NBA lottery.
Getting a girlfriend in college meant having a ready-made excuse for ditching class. Why go to 8:00AM Sociology when you could fool around with your girlfriend? My grades suffered; I didn’t care. I was in love.
Unfortunately, my feelings of elation lasted just 4 months. I should have seen the warning signs. Lillian always spoke in elliptical terms; for example, she’d say something like “no one will ever love you like I love you,” then she’d say something contrary like “once I fix a man and make him fine, I move on to someone else.” Apparently, she saw herself as a boyfriend doctor, rescuing geeks like me from a fate consisting of chronic masturbation and basement dwelling, but I wasn’t good enough to stick around as her boyfriend. Lillian also had a male “friend” she spent time with, whom she spoke of in glowing terms. When I took off for a long-planned Christmas vacation, Lillian took the opportunity to cure her loneliness by cheating on me. Idiot. I never saw it coming.
She justified her crime by announcing to me she was bored with the direction our relationship was heading, and wanted to see other people. But we could still be friends…with benefits.
Of course, I took advantage of said benefits. This would be a mistake I would never make again with an ex-girlfriend.
“A Not-So-Brief History of Girls” was also a chronicle of my depression. I was a mess from 1994 to 1997. It seemed telling that it was around that time that I engaged in way too much drinking, way too much dabbling with drugs, and getting into relationships, sexual and non-sexual, that were headed nowhere. I was in a bad place, emotionally and psychologically. I was painfully aware of my depression, but I was determined to drink, drug, and fuck the pain away.
Lori (October-December 1994): On the day I’d met Lori, I’d woken up with an awful premonition that something bad was going to happen to me that day. Lo and behold, my premonition came true; I’d been fired from my job. I was working as a paralegal at a super-big law firm. Entertainment law was one of their specialties. One of the firm’s clients was Jimmy Page. Yes, THAT Jimmy Page. He came by one afternoon to visit his lawyer. I had hoped to see him, but I was caught up doing other things. But I digress.
My now-ex-colleagues decided to take out for drinks. Several booze-fueled hours later, myself and a secretary from the firm named Deidre, plus her boyfriend, found ourselves at a bar where a friend of hers slung drinks behind the bar. At one end of the bar was a girl with two men, both visibly drunk, on each side. She wore a bored look on her face. One of the men decides to get up from his stool. He made it past us and stopped halfway; he unzipped his fly and took a big piss, mere feet from Deidre. Her beau and I grab this fool and are about to wail on him just like Rodney King when the girl with the bored look on her face comes between us. She pleads with us not to beat him to a bloody pulp. You should pick your friends more carefully, I growl, but she tells me she doesn’t know these guys.
“Do you want to get some coffee,” she asks. Okay, I tell her. She introduces herself as Lori. She’d just moved to NYC from a small town outside of Syracuse. We spend the next few hours, into the pre-dawn light, walking around town and chasing down more beer and more coffee. I find myself enthralled with this girl; she’s genuine, very sweet, and doesn’t come across as a small-town rube. Anyway, she gives me her phone number; it takes me almost 3 days to gather myself together and call her. This normally would have been a deal breaker with most women, but Lori wasn’t most women, I guess.
Thus began a hot and heavy friendship that quickly evolved into something more serious. To my manic personality Lori added a warmth and understanding I didn’t get from many other women. She understood the beast inside of me and allowed me to express it. I would learn that beast was passion, a passion for live, for love, for creativity.
I wasn’t sure what that feeling was, but I felt relaxed around her. I never once felt I had to be someone else. I didn’t have to prove myself to Lori. She displayed an amazing ability to see people for whom they were and accept them for that. A fascinating concept, really. I learned that from her, and to this day, I still possess that knowledge, thanks to Lori.
This relationship wasn’t going to last. Lori was growing homesick. This small town girl began to realize the hustle and bustle, the bullshit of NYC, was not for her. She made plans to go back home, and promised to return. I knew this wasn’t going to happen. Lori confirmed it a few weeks later, when she wrote me a letter explaining how bad she felt for ending a relationship like ours. Lori made it clear she was very happy being with me; she’d hoped her letter wouldn’t trivialize or minimize our relationship, and she wanted to keep our friendship intact. I responded the only way I knew how; I begged her to come back, and told her I loved her. She reacted with indifference. Knowing she didn’t feel the same way about me devastated me for months, sending me into a deep depression.
After several abortive attempts to get our “friendship” off the ground, Lori writes me out of the blue. You ready for this, the first line of the letter states. Lori was getting married. To an ex-boyfriend now serving in the Army. They were going to get married and be shipped off to Germany.
I would have preferred not to know this. I didn’t write her back. My depression continued.
Some time at the beginning of this year, I was reviewing some old blogs, looking for something to glean some ideas from. I re-read this piece, prettied it up a little bit, then left it alone. Sure, it made me chuckle, but it also made me cringe. It seemed self-indulgent for me to “kiss and tell” my interactions with other women. None of them, with the exception of wife, even know this exists. I nearly deleted it, but thought better of it.
Julie (early 1996 – early 1997): One afternoon, at work, I’m having a conversation on the phone with my sister. She brings up her friend Julie, and, like a broken record, pimps her to me. “You should ask her out.” I’ve heard this before. I get a call on the other line; it’s the security guard at the lobby. I have a visitor downstairs. “I’ll call you back,” I tell Gaby. At the lobby, I’m greeted by a woman bearing a package.
“I just wanted to give you this box of chocolates.” She does not introduce herself, and quickly turns around and leaves the lobby. I’m left standing there with a box of chocolates, a box of Perugina Bacis. How did she know I like Peruginas…oh, fuck! I call my sister back; she acts like she has no idea she just ordered a sneak attack on me. This is how I met Julie.
(*cue the song “Mrs. Robinson”*)
Julie was older than me, by nine years. I didn’t have a problem with her age, but she seemed to struggle with it. I think she enjoyed dating a younger man (I was 24 at the time), but she would constantly harp about our age difference.
Julie loved to work out her issues…around me. She was riddled with neuroses, having been the product of a proper Midwest Christian (read: dysfunctional) upbringing. She didn’t want to see a shrink, but she sure as shit wanted to read every self-help book on the market. So instead of being someone she was dating, I was her shrink. On the other hand, the girl loved dim sum. Someone who enjoys dim sum can’t be all that bad.
Julie did a lot of travelling; she was a sales consultant for a major hotel chain. She had a trip to California planned, and she’d asked if I wanted to meet her in San Francisco. She had some comp business class airline tickets I could use. How could I refuse? The City by the Bay? Trolleys? Sourdough bread? Now, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize there’s more to this invitation than “hey, you’ve never been to San Fran, now’s the time!” There was a four-day weekend coming up. This would be the perfect time to see the sights.
Idiot that I fucking am, I didn’t realize this was a cross-country booty call.
The first couple of days in Frisco were great. The next two, after we’d, ahem, you know, did it, were absolute fucking murder. You see, Julie was under the impression that now that we’d slept together, we’d now have to set a wedding date. I had no idea I’d gone on a little vacation with Glenn Close’s character from Fatal Attraction. “I just don’t sleep with any man,” she declared. Julie even bristled at the notion of spending a couple of her bucks in buying us some ice cream cones. I was her “boyfriend” now; I should pay for everything. The drama was amazing. When she wasn’t chastising me, she was crying her eyes out. She even bitched at me for drinking beer. “I am not going to date an alcoholic!”
Thank God for flying home alone on business class. I drank my ass off, glad I didn’t have my balls removed in San Francisco.
A few months ago, I began seeing a new therapist, one that specialized in Emotional Family Therapy. In other words, not the “talk therapy” in which you bellyache and gripe and moan, but one in which your therapist guides you internally, forcing you to recognize patterns in the choices you make. Naturally, a lot of the discussion revolved around my relationships with family, and with other women in my past. Two patterns emerged: one, I seemed to be attracted to women “in trouble,” and, two, I felt the need to dive in head first, consequences be damned, in order to be with said women. As revelations go, for me, this was like discovering I was a Cylon; all my actions now made sense, in a rather senseless fashion.
Christine (May 1997-March 1998): One Friday, I met several of my colleagues at the Turtle Bay. Among the people I commonly hung around with at the TBC was a face unfamiliar to me. My friend Mikey introduced this girl as Christine. She worked as the lead admin assistant (read: secretary) for the Shareholders Services department, and had been there just a few weeks. One thing I noticed about her early on was the engagement ring she wore. It was the dinkiest little pathetic thing I’d ever seen in my life. Christine seemed to be grossly self-conscious of the ring, and, in fact, tucked the dinky little diamond underneath her finger. We’d gotten to talking – about what, I can’t recall, but a few hours later, we were both pretty ripped. She’d confessed she hated her fiancé, and made every attempt possible to avoid him. He was a bum, she said, an unemployed, money-mooching bum. She couldn’t bear to marry him. I took pity on her, and gave her some advice on how to lose him.
Out of the blue, Christine says, “I want to kiss you right now.” I leaned over to kiss her, but she pushed me back. “Not here. Outside.” She took me by the hand and led me outside, where we made out. We ditched Turtle Bay and hung out at a park nearby. It was time for her to go home. I walked her to her train on the Metro-North, made out with her some more, and told her to give her fiancé the boot.
She did give him the boot, and we began dating. It didn’t take long for us to get very serious about one another. This was the beginning of the most intense relationship I would have to date. Christine and I were inseparable, doing just about everything two people in love could do. I had a new found appreciation for chick flicks. Hell, I even helped her buy a new car.
I hadn’t ever felt this strongly about another woman in my life before. I knew I was deeply in love. We were deeply in love. We even talked about – GASP! – getting married someday. At the very least, I’d give Christine a better engagement ring than the Cracker Jack box special she’d previously worn.
Christine did have her quirks, if you call blurting the truth when drunk a quirk. Once she admitted, under the influence of way too many whisky sours, that she accepted her fiancé’s proposal because she didn’t want to hurt his feelings, even though she didn’t love him. She also like to pick fights when she was drunk. But these incidents were few and far between.
Something changed. The normally cheery Christine became moody and sullen. She pitched a fit after Christmas, and we drove back home from her father’s house in Delaware in complete silence. She didn’t want to do anything. She wanted to spend more time alone. It reached a boiling point one night when I asked her what’s wrong – I’m pretty good about picking up bad vibes from people, and if I think the bad vibes are my doing, I become very paranoid and will want to know why. After about an hour of denials, she finally confessed: she didn’t want me to move in with her. She was having doubts about our relationship. A few days later, we tearfully broke up. I spent an entire weekend sobbing hysterically, not eating, not drinking, and not sleeping. Christine was pretty shaken up about our breakup as well. She’d sent me a couple of e-mails telling me she was very upset about breaking up, but she said she needed time alone. We probably were spending way too much time together; a breakup was probably the best fix for what was ailing our relationship.
After a few weeks, we made an attempt at reconciliation. We booked a weekend at a bed & breakfast in Vermont…which turned out to be a complete and fucking unmitigated disaster. The car ride home was 5 hours of complete silence. I dropped her off and prepared myself for another breakup. For a good six weeks, Christine avoided me.
I get to my office one morning and check my voice mail. One of the messages was from Christine. It just isn’t working out anymore, she tells me. A voice mail breakup, a first for me. So that there wasn’t any weirdness between us, I told her I wouldn’t be going to Tony, a mutual friend’s, party the following weekend. She insisted I go; she wanted to remain friends. Another stupid decision on my part. She got piss-drunk and could only muster these words to me:
“You need to get your shit out of my apartment.”
I got extremely drunk, then went over to a friend’s house and got extremely stoned. This time I didn’t cry over her. This is what Christine wanted; I wasn’t going to be her to come back.
After that initial, bruising session with my new therapist, I looked back at “A Not-So-Brief History of Girls,” and saw those patterns, in full, naked glory. They’d been in front of me all along, and I was too blind to see them.
Suzanne (her final appearance, 1998): That friend in whose house I got stoned at? Suzanne. She was good for choice pot, good girl that she was. We spent a lot of time together in the summer of ’98, going to mutual friends’ wedding and getting silly. She threw a birthday party for herself at Central Park one Sunday, a small gathering that included me. We sat at Sheep’s Meadow on blankets, drank cheap Champagne and enjoyed a pleasant summer day.
This, for some reason, would be the last time I ever saw Suzanne.
A few years later, I was surprised to learn Suzanne had come out of the closet.
Those patterns were painfully evident even while searching into my relationship with my wife, who was in a physically and emotional abuse relationship when we met online. I was her knight in shining armor, so to speak. Little did she know my armor was damaged.
So what does this have to do with writing? Nothing much, except the guts of that blog might make for an interesting idea for a novel. Sort of a Portnoy’s Complaint for the 21st century, but without the irony and that Tucker Max-esque penchant for douchebaggery that passes for modern lit these days.
But it also serves for me as a reminder that one’s past, however painful, is a source for great writing. I have a lot of past pain, anger, and sadness I’m working out, and I’ve given myself the freedom and the permission to explore all these on paper. It’ll get messy, and I’m prepared for it to send me into a storm of triggers that might mess me up for a few days. Writing is catharsis. Every writer seems to understand that.
Thanks for reading this.