September 2007


The thing about Dexter was he accepted me for me. Messy me, ambitious me, scared me, unpredictable, independently dependent me. There were some tough times in our relationship but for the most part I was content. The tough times were part of the growing pains I needed to experience, for my own good.

I believe everything happens for a reason. I believe there’s a reason that the very night I told my best friend that I wanted to marry Dexter, he was with another woman. I could debate the semantics of the evening. So he was with a stripper, at a friend’s bachelor party. What’s the harm, right? Does it matter if he got a 3 minute dance in front of the guys versus a 3 hour one in a private VIP room? Does is matter if he spent $250 versus $2500? Does it matter if I found out from him versus the credit card company at 7:30AM the next morning?

It does. Dexter violated my trust. In a way that no other man had. Everything from that point on was my learning lesson. I don’t know if I’m being too hard on myself when I say I brought that drama into my life. But I believe that. It’s going to take a while before I’m able to open myself up to another relationship. Everyone comes into the world with a life obstacle and this is mine.

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The truth.

The good: Dexter had the most beautiful smile, and eyes that hypnotized me and were so full of life, and the most perfect, non-orthodontically enhanced teeth. Even with a receding hairline and a lip of a belly, he was handsome. And he was down-to-earth. In general, he was not ostentatious. He drove a beater car because cars are not assets and I liked this about him. He was also emotionally open. I learned how to cry (and I never cried because crying was a sign of weakness) because of him. My personality could be cold and closed and he was warm and open.

The bad: He had the kind of money that allowed him to be generous and he was generous when he wanted to be. When I was fundraising, he was the first whip out a $100 from his pocket. On our second date, he rented a limo to take us to the Inn. On our third date, we flew up to New York to see Phantom, dance on Tavern on the Green and ride around Central Park in a horse-drawn carriage. Anything I wanted, he made happen. Even my friends were envious. They wanted a Dexter too. A provider.

He gave me the keys to his apartment the second week we were dating. He called all his friends to tell them he was in love. I did too.

My friends thought I was crazy. I definitely made some waves. I had just come out of a serious relationship, with someone they loved and suddenly I was talking about getting married and having Dexter’s kids – this all coming from the eternally proclaimed player, the one they could depend on to never settle down. It was as if I had violated some friendship contract. And the first time they met him – how fitting. Dexter was well past sobriety, mumbling and being obnoxious, and I just sat there, trying to temper his exuberance and making an excuse for his sometimes indulgent personality.

The ugly: After just a month dating and spending every night at each other’s places, I was already thinking about moving in with him. Not because I definitively knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him, but because:

1) he didn’t have a car and I was sick of playing chauffeur and coordinating my overnight necessities

2) it presented a solution to my current dilemma. I wanted to take some time off from work (my would-be third leave of absence) to finish my novel. And I was sick of my job and the financial responsibilities of my apartment. So it was the perfect solution – move in with Dexter, be in love and write.

And so I did. But here’s the lesson I learned. All this time, there was this little voice inside telling me I wasn’t being honest with Dexter or myself. That was my conscious speaking. Neither of us really gave any consideration to the implications of moving in together. Not that Dexter wasn’t a willing participant. We were having sex once, sometimes two or three times a day and I was making his place a home. What man could resist that. But in general, we were both acting too capriciously and capitulating too easily to the ignorance of “being in love.” I see too many people doing this, moving in together out of convenience. Unless you’re talking about and looking at engagement rings prior to doing this, the relationship is almost guaranteed to fail.

home: the place you always go back to

Last night I met the new future Mrs. H. She was petite and brunette and so cute and sweet-looking, she was exactly the type of girl/woman you couldn’t hate if you wanted to.

I wasn’t expecting to meet her. I was at Dexter’s house, the house I formerly called my home. They weren’t supposed to be there. I was there picking up the last of my things.

But then I heard them, they were there in the house, and I began a mad rush of expediting the retrieval of my belongings . I didn’t want to see her. I didn’t want to talk to her. I didn’t want to have any sense of knowing her. I just wanted to get out of there…EJECT…EJECT…EJECT. And so I did. My mother was with me, helping me, if only to serve as my pillar of repose. As I hurried down the stairs, we all collided, me, Dexter, my mother, and HER. But I didn’t stop, even though the new Mrs. H did, standing there, eagerly, with the hope of civility. I know she wanted more than anything to meet the woman who had formerly occupied Dexter’s heart and home.

But I literally bolted out the door and was in the car before I realized I left it behind. I had to go back inside.

And so I did, and there she was, almost waiting for me expectantly, looking at me with that sympathetically sweet hopeful expression of an introduction.

I simply said hi, without extending my hand for an introduction. She knew who I was and I knew who she was and I saw no point in polite conversation. I calmly grabbed what I came back for and walked towards my exit. But before I got to the door, I stopped, turned, and looked around. “This was my home. All of this,” I said waving and looking around, “I made it a home.”

That was my dream last night, which is why I woke up in the morning feeling so uncentered. Eventually I will have to come face-to-face with the new Mrs. H and it will be a stark reminder that I have been replaced. I am replaceable. But so is Dexter, I just haven’t done so.

Right now, I don’t really have a home. When I first met Dexter, after he sold his house and was living in a corporate apartment, I asked him pointedly, “Where’s your home?” My fear was he was blindly embracing our relationship because he didn’t have one – a home, a foundation. And two months later, I was moving in, making a home for him. A month after that, he decided to make DC his home and he bought a house and moved everything here and his home became my home. It was easy for me to do, because I didn’t have to commit to it. It wasn’t truly my home.

It’s been almost a year since I moved out and I still don’t have a home. Three contracts later and months of searching and I still can’t pull the trigger. I can’t commit to a home, just like I struggle to commit to relationships. What if something better comes along? Will one house ever be everything I want? Will one man? Tastes changes, people change, life is change. My unrelenting standards always propel me forward, to do better, to be better. Will I ever create something I can always go back to? Am I always moving forward, or am I simply running away?

diversion: an attack or feint that draws the attention and force of an enemy from the point of the principal operation

I recently recognized something about myself. The easiest way for a man to seduce me is the same technique used by pickpocketers and agents: the diversion tactic. I’m not sure if all women are wired this way but I have a correlative relationship between my brain and my body that works like this: if my body is mechanically but rigorously engaged in an activity (like running) my brain works better. In college I would literally run miles (sometimes 10 or 15) and compose entire papers or parts of my thesis in my head. All of my best written work was constructed in my mind during these runs. I have written and practiced speeches and presentations while on the elliptical and it is the most effective way for me to get the results I desire.

If Body = Occupied, then Brain = Open

Conversely, the most efficient way for a man to get me into a lascivious state is to thoroughly occupy my brain. The key however to this maneuver is to deliver it with conviction as well as insouciance for my own opinion – drawing me into his mind space and thus leaving my body unguarded.

If Brain = Occupied, the Body = Open

An even more powerful formula is the concatenation of the Brain and Sympathy approach. If a guy can reveal something about himself that engages my sympathy (i.e. his father died at age 5 and his mom struggled as a single parent to raise him and 5 sisters and brothers by working 5 jobs) AND he distracts me with an impassioned argument for why Rachmaninoff is a superior composer to Beethoven or why the invasion of Iraq was tactically the right thing to do, I basically open the gates and hand him the keys.

If Brain = Occupied AND Sympathies = Engaged, then Body = All you can consume

I don’t know if this goes for all women but I’d venture a guess that the latter formulas apply to any who have half a brain. Granted this only works if guy > average looking.

player: person who is active and successful in the mating and dating game

There was a point in my life (early to mid-20s) when the term player applied to me (or at least others used it, once or twice, to describe me). I could hookup when I wanted and not get attached to that person (except for once, maybe twice) and continue to scan the horizon for a new playmate. Because I wasn’t using sex for validation and because I genuinely enjoy sex and because I typically dictated the terms of having sex, I suppose this made me a player (I say this because most guys will habitually slap on the ‘slut’ label to any woman who has sex upon first meeting). There are some women, unfortunately, that sleep around indiscriminately, but this wasn’t my case. The only time I was really swayed into having sex was by a British music producer who had pierced nipples and did coke (two personal turn-offs) but he was ridiculously hot AND had the british accent so it happened.

There are guys and some girls in their mid-twenties who wear their player status like a championship belt (I say mid-twenties because once they reach their late twenties, especially 30s, without any committed relationships in the mix, they get labeled commitment-phobes and this becomes a stigma). I guess I took a certain amount of pride in being a player (it’s a stroke to the ego to get things that you want) but to me it was just playing the field, figuring out what was out there and what I liked – experiencing men with disposable convenience.

Disposable convenience is like traveling for work (at least how I’ve always traveled for work) – you stay in a nice hotel, where your room is always cleaned and tended to and there’s a chocolate on your pillow at the end of the day, and you can order pay per view and room service and call whomever you want and the company pays for it. There’s not a lot of responsibility involved. I loved traveling for this reason and still do. But then you miss things. Things with your family. Things with your friends. And not having a “home” can leave you feeling ungrounded. The reality is, I didn’t really learn anything from my hookups, except for perhaps the value of being prepared. I equate the “conquests” of my playing days as sugar-free jello with whipped cream for dessert. Cheap and easy to make. No harm done by consuming it. Tastes pretty good going down. No real substance or nutritional value.¬† Defintely not creme brulee.

There’s something to be said for laying down roots and creating something- it gives you a sense of purpose and meaning. To withstand the tests of a relationship is what builds character. To make love to someone, stone sober, in the light of day, and look them in the eyes while committing an act that you recognize could create another life, that’s intense. It may take finesse to gather disseminated articles of clothing and make an exit after a wild night of sex without your hookup getting out of bed, but it doesn’t take character. In fact, it’s a lot of tougher to look the person in the eye the next morning and ask, “You wanna get breakfast?”

So the player in me is latent. There are moments when it arises but then I think that life is too short to fuck around with things that don’t add value and for every action I take, there is a consequence. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate my past experiences – the residual value of being able to tell some of my player days’ stories is priceless and while every now and then, I might get the urge to play, I realize it’s just the player in me, and I’ll probably never lose the player in me, even if I’m out of the game.