Tuesday, February 14
"If you really wanted to screw me up, you should've gotten to me earlier."
Just in case anyone was curious, my dog has already received a Valentine's Day present; I haven't received any. I hope that gives you an idea of what you're dealing with here.
Readers of this blog who know me personally are probably waiting for me to throw up the inevitable fuck-Valentine's-Day-sideways post on here, given that my dislike of Valentine's Day has been intense and long-standing. To be honest, I wasn't sure whether I really wanted to do that, or whether I even wanted to acknowledge VD at all; after all, does the world really need another pissed-off single ranting about how dating is a pain in the ass and Valentine's Day sucks . . . especially since I've already written one?
A few things you should know about that column: First of all, some things were apparently lost in the translation from newspaper page to Web page, specifically important things like paragraph breaks, proper typefaces, correct punctuation, that kind of thing. For any number of reasons, my memories of my senior year are hazy, but I'm pretty sure that column was a lot funnier when it was first published. Second of all, as hotheaded and asinine as the column is, it is directly responsible for what is still the only date I've ever had for Valentine's Day or a Valentine's-Day-related function. A girl from one of my journalism classes whom I'd always thought was hot (she was a dead ringer for "Scream"/"Wedding Singer"-era Drew Barrymore) e-mailed me the very same day the column was published and said she thought it was funny, she thought Valentine's Day was stupid too, did I want to go out sometime. So we went out for a while, and I won't go into all the gory details of how I managed to screw that relationship up, but the point is, if going off on a half-cocked rant about Valentine's Day swung me a date once, it can't be all that bad an idea, can it?
Still, I don't want to a) just drag out old material or b) come off as some misanthropic, grouchy asshat. Let me rephrase that: I don't want to perpetuate my existing image as some misanthropic, grouchy asshat. There are ways for a single person to enjoy Valentine's Day -- the candy, the realization that you're saving a lot of money by not having to buy your significant other a gift or drag her to a fancy restaurant or something, the knowledge that you can go off, get a hooker, and roll in at 6 the next morning without someone waiting at home wondering where the hell you were when you were supposed to be taking her out for Valentine's Day . . . what? Why are you looking at me like that?
Nevertheless, it seems clear to me that this is a holiday that, while not impossible to enjoy without a significant other, is a lot easier to enjoy if you have one. Because without one, you're much more likely to be reminded of all the failed relationships you've had in the past (or lack of relationships period), and what you've done to put yourself in that situation. For some reason this holiday always makes me think of the movie "High Fidelity," and I always see myself as being a lot like John Cusack's character in that movie: kind of a schlub, kind of neurotic, can make a kickass mix tape but, other than that, in the rare instances he does succeed with women he pretty much does so in spite of himself. Oh, and also a one-step-short-of-OCD listmaker. In fact, back when I was working in Atlanta -- I think this may have even been in the days and weeks leading up to Valentine's Day one year, though I may be remembering that wrong -- a co-worker and I were debating over whose relationship history was more pathetic, so we decided to make a list of every relationship, bad date, infatuation, etc. we'd had, compare lists, and determine a winner. When the deadline came, I handed her mine, she took one look at it and said, "Wow. I can't compete with this."
Your first girlfriend in high school dumped you for a guy who was in the marching band? Wow, dude. Just . . . wow.
In the spirit of that project and the five-worst-breakups structure of "High Fidelity," I thought I'd use this opportunity to pick out the stories from my dating record (or lack of same) that are most representative of my history with women as a whole. Everything in "High Fidelity" was done in fives, but I won't bore you with five stories; I think three should suffice.
What better way to start this off than on Valentine's Day '02. I was actually semi-seeing someone long-distance at the time, this friend of my sister's then-fiancee, but what started as a perfectly innocuous Happy-Valentine's-Day phone call quickly turned into her yelling at me for something I'd done or hadn't done, so when Josh and DAve called to ask if I wanted to go up to Druid Hills and drink some beers and shoot some pool, I was more than ready. As I was flying up I-85 to meet them, the girl called again to yell at me some more, and I did two things I'd never done before: 1) hung up on someone and 2) threw the phone into the back seat. It was all very theatrical, not to mention cathartic.
Anyway, I get to the bar expecting for it to just be a night out with the boys, but it turns out there's a ton of girls there. Including a redhead named Megan who's apparently single, good at pool, and incredibly cute. There are some situations where "cute" is not only a more accurate description than "hot," it's actually a more desirable attribute, and this was one of those times. Basically, she was the kind of girl about whom I'd usually just sit there at the bar thinking, "Wow, she's cute, if I didn't have such a low opinion of myself I'd probably go talk to her," but this time -- whether it was liquid courage or the urging of DAve and Josh, I don't remember -- I actually cranked up the balls to go talk to her. We had a good conversation, she was friendly, I finally got to whip out my "I've applied to join the Peace Corps" line (which, at the time, was actually true) and she was suitably impressed. And I actually ended up getting her number. You could probably count on the fingers of one hand the phone numbers I'd gotten from girls at bars over the entire course of my life up to that point.
Anyway, fast-forward to the following week, I've waited the Vince-Vaughn-approved six days so I decide to give Megan a call. We talk for a while, I get around to asking her if she wants to go out and get a drink sometime, we're talking about when to do that when she gets a call on the other line from her mom and says she'll call me back in a few minutes. (For the sake of my own self-worth I'm going to assume it was really her mom and not "Would I like to discuss AT&T's new long-distance plan? God, yes, anything to get this jackhole off the line.") I'm just sitting there, having a beer, watching the Winter Olympics -- I'll just bet it was figure-skating, too, which would match right up with the general lameness of the rest of this story -- and I fall asleep. I wake up about midnight, shake the cobwebs out, and find a missed call on my cell phone from guess who. It's too late to call her back, so I wait until the next day, get her voice-mail, leave a message.
Needless to say, I never heard from her again. Which means I was probably only a single beer or ill-timed nap away from actually getting to go out with one of the cutest girls I've ever actually met in person. Good times.
Here's Reggie Brown shortly after getting a love tap from Junior Rosegreen in the '04 Georgia-Auburn game. Within a few days, I would know a similar feeling (though I at least retained full consciousness, which was nice).
This next story I've alluded to a couple times in my lengthy discussions of the Auburn-Georgia rivalry. Setup: At a Halloween party thrown by my friend Amanda a couple years ago, I met a girl who'd just moved down from New York to start a job at the place where Amanda worked. Blond, funny, another example of the cute-being-better-than-hot phenomenon, an incredibly stylish dresser -- sorry if noticing that makes me gay, Josh -- and made a pretty hot '60s housewife, which was her costume at the party. (In case you're curious, mine was Bill Lumbergh -- suspenders, colored shirt with a white collar, coffee mug. You know the drill.) Anyway, I got her number from Amanda, we went out a few times, it was great. Easily one of the most attractive, most fun, and least frightening girls I've ever gone out with.
Couple weeks later I'm telling her about my plans to head down to Auburn that weekend for the football game, and for someone who went to NYU and has about as much prior exposure to college football as Kevin Federline does to soap and water, she seems pretty interested. I go out on a limb and ask if she'd be interested in going, and she says yes, so I tell her I'll get in touch with my ticket hookup and see if he can find me another one.
Now, before this all went down -- probably before I'd even met this girl to begin with -- I'd been telling my parents that I'd try to pay them a visit when I went down to Auburn for the game, since they only live like 30 minutes away. My guy comes through with the tickets, so I call the girl back, tell her we're good to go, and we start laying out plans for the weekend: "Yeah, we'll drive down Friday night, stay at my friend's apartment, tailgate with her and some other folks on Saturday, go to the game, probably go have lunch with my folks on Sunday . . . "
If you've ever seen the movie "Glengarry Glen Ross," then you know all about the silence that ensued after that: It was just like after Jack Lemmon says "If you're gonna make something up . . . " and Kevin Spacey realizes he's the one who broke into the office the previous night. Here we are, I've been seeing this girl for not even a full month, and already I'm telling her -- without any ulterior motive or anything like that, but still -- that we're going to meet my fucking parents. Not surprisingly, she says she's kind of nervous about that, so I start backtracking like crazy, but she's like, "No, if you've already made plans, then it's fine." We go down to Auburn, we go to the game (which Georgia gets annihilated in -- surely a premonition), we go to Columbus the next day, she grits her teeth through lunch with my family, we go home . . . a week or so later I get the "I think we should just be friends" e-mail. And there you go.
Last year this girl April moved into one of the studio apartments in my building. She had a little dog, I had a little dog, so we'd see each other pretty frequently while standing out on the front steps waiting for our dogs to finish doing their business, and I started thinking I'd like to ask her out. In the meantime, it came out that her reason for coming and going at odd hours and being gone for long stretches of the week was that she was a dancer at one of the strip joints in Atlanta, and I almost didn't ask her out after that, not because I was somehow repulsed by her line of work but because I was worried she'd think I was only asking her out because that's what she did. But somehow I got over this hangup and asked her out, and she said yeah, so we did.
(Now, I know I just said I didn't ask her out because she was a stripper, but that fact did lead to one of the more entertaining conversations I've had with my parents. They asked me if I was dating anyone, I said yeah, they asked what she did, I said "She's a dancer in Atlanta," and then Mom went down the list: "Balllet?" "No." "Jazz?" "Uh, no." "Like, interpretive dance or something like that?" "Keep going." Cue big grin on Dad's face; end scene.)
Anyway. We went out a few times, during which time her apartment becomes the target of an insect infestation -- think "Arachnophobia" but with termites -- and she decides to move out. Over the course of a weekend I help her move all her stuff into a new apartment, and I'm thinking, Helped her move, that's got to be like +100 points or something. But her work isn't done, because she painted the inside of her old apartment while she lived there, and apparently one of the terms of her lease is that she's got to repaint it back the way it was or she doesn't get her security deposit back. So the following week, she repaints the apartment, and I'm unavailable to help because I'm working all day. Guess who is available to help? This guy Jeff who lives across the hall from me, an airline pilot who had either just recently broken up with his girlfriend or was right about to, I can't remember which. Just about every day that week, I come and go during my lunch hour and there they are, having a grand old time repainting her apartment. Being a complete idiot, I think nothing of this at the time.
A few days later, I call her to see if she wants to go out and get dinner or something like that, and she says, "Well, I'm kind of seeing Jeff now. But we can still be friends." Well, of course we can, because isn't that secretly what every guy wants? Fortunately, I still had her on the hook to pick up my mail while I was in Italy later that month, so at least I got something out of it . . . sort of. I guess. Still, this marked the point at which "Do not date girls who live in the building" went from an unspoken suggestion to an official policy.
Of course, this brief sampling barely even scratches the surface of the legion of girls I've gone out with once or twice and who mysteriously dropped off the face of the earth after that, adding to my reputation (as my friend Brian puts it) of "having more first dates than anyone I know . . . and fewer second dates than anyone I know." That list could probably fill a separate blog all by itself, the latest and greatest item being the World-War-III-incitingly hot Slavic chick who, completely unbidden, showed me her boob in a crowded bar, made out with me later on that evening, and only after that decided arbitrarily to stop returning my calls. (Was she embarrassed by her behavior? Or did she merely decide I'd gotten as much of a taste as she cared to dole out and would get no more? I leave this question to you, gentle reader, to decide.)
But still, these three incidents should probably give you a pretty good idea of how I can apparently screw up a good thing either by doing something or not doing anything at all. That's what you call being multitalented, folks, and don't you forget it.
I invite the rest of you unattached malcontents out there -- whether you're single, about to be single, or even if you're in a reasonably content relationship but still resent the yoke of obligation Valentine's Day hangs around your neck -- to throw your best, and by "best" I obviously mean "worst," date/relationship-fuckup story at me in the comments. Most embarrassing story wins a box of chocolates I'll purchase tomorrow when everything has been marked down 75 percent. Fo' really, people! I look forward to hearing from you.