Sunday, September 9, 2018

Truth Be Told

Recently, a former friend of mine published a memoir that included recollections of the small town we grew up in. There were several aspects of it that made me bristle and say, "Hey! That's not how I remember it!"

For example, Former Friend claimed that at our Catholic high school, there was only one single-session sex ed class a year, and it was taught by our gym teacher. But although it is true that they didn't really teach us much about "safe sex," what I also remember is that our religion teachers taught sex ed. I remember that sex ed occurred a lot more often than once a year, probably because they were afraid that we hormonal teenagers would be "corrupted" by the sin of premarital sex. (Little did they know that a lot of the students' minds had already been corrupted. If they had known, I can totally imagine the religion teachers shaking their heads sorrowfully while saying that we were going to go to hell unless we repented and the priests throwing holy water at us or something.)

(Side note: Although I am still a practicing Catholic and believe in many of its core principles, such as the Golden Rule of treating other people with kindness and compassion, there are several other things about the Church that I strongly disagree with.)

I don't remember our gym teacher teaching us sex ed, although he may have taught it to Former Friend and their classmates (Former Friend was in a different grade). I do remember that when the gym teacher taught us how to lift weights, he stood over us and yelled, "You're WEAK! Is that all you can benchpress, WEAKLING?" I also remember wishing I could say, "Who are you calling a weakling? Take THAT!" And then I'd karate kick him in the face.

Former Friend's memoir made me think about what might happen if I ever publish my work-in-progress, a book-length memoir titled Obsessions of a Workaholic. Since it's not a novel, I can't say, "It's fiction, and it's not based on you, of course," if someone from my life were to read it and get upset by my depiction of him or her. Everything that I've described in this blog really did happen, but I've had to alter the descriptions of some of the situations and/or people in order to protect their identities and my own.

That makes me wonder how much "altering" I'll need to do in my book. Since teaching has been such an important part of my life, naturally there are several chapters about my work as a teacher. But I have to be very careful about what I write, especially when it comes to the students.

Many of my students are good students who work hard, are polite and respectful to me and their classmates, and are dedicated to earning good grades and learning as much as they can while they are in college. Some of them have truly inspired me because of the writing they produced in my class or because of what they confided in me about their dreams for the future, which made me hope that all of their dreams would come true.

But as any teacher can relate, every year there is always a small, select group of students who are the complete opposite: the ones who are hostile and disrespectful, or the ones who believe they "deserve" A's just for showing up to class. These students are why my hair started turning white the first year I started teaching, and they are also why I always keep a bottle of Tylenol in my office at school.

Since I'm still working on the first draft, I've been writing down all the details that I can remember, everything from the student who confided in me about what it was like to be a transgender teenager in a community that believes people like them are mentally ill, to the student whose verbal attacks almost drove me to tears in front of one of the first classes I ever taught, causing several of the other students to feel sorry for me and apologize to me for that student's behavior after class was over.

I recently read a book titled Waiter's Rant, written by Steve Dublanica, who wrote about his experiences as a waiter at a fancy restaurant that the rich and famous dined at. His book was based on his blog, where he initially wrote under the pseudonym the Waiter. Once he revealed his true identity, he admitted that he'd never be able to get another restaurant job because of what he wrote. Fortunately for him, his book became a New York Times best-seller and he didn't have to wait tables anymore after it was published.

But the difference between him and me is that he didn't want to be a waiter until he retired, whereas I know that I want to spend my life as a writer AND a teacher. The problem is, if I write the whole truth and nothing but the truth about my former students, especially the ones who gave me the most problems, I could lose my job. Teachers are held to a different standard. Academia is a small world, and it's not just competitive, it's cutthroat because there are way too many people with PhDs and not enough jobs. I am a college professor, but I am untenured, which means that I don't have the job security that tenured professors have. If I lost my job, there would literally be hundreds of people lined up who would be more than happy to take my place.

This generation of students in particular is the one known for their "microaggressions" and demands for "trigger warnings" in their curriculum. Most of the students I've come across over the years are not like them, but there are nevertheless a few others I've read about in the news (as well as ones I've encountered in my own classes) who claimed that they were "offended" by things that their teachers said or wrote and then launched campaigns to destroy those teachers' careers and reputations, driving them out of their schools, and in some cases, out of education altogether. Sometimes, the teachers really did say offensive things, but in other cases, they didn't, but were nevertheless interpreted as such. Either way, I don't think that any of them deserved to be the target of hateful harassment campaigns.

Although I've achieved several of my academic and professional goals, I still have other goals. And I'm afraid that if this memoir did get published, I could lose everything I've worked for and everything I'm still working for if I revealed too many details about certain students.

I thought that if this book does get published, I could use my pseudonym: Neurotic Workaholic. But if and when I do become a published writer, I'd like to see my real name printed on my story, and if and when that happens, I'll reveal it on this blog. That's the thing about this blog: I can be more candid here because almost no one in my offline life knows that I'm the one writing this blog. It's different when it's a published book or short story.

For now, I've decided to follow Anne Lamott's advice about writing the "bad" first draft by including everything that I can remember, and I'll go back and edit it once I finish the first draft. I also try to remember what I've learned from other creative nonfiction writers I've read and heard speak: that what you write in creative nonfiction doesn't necessarily have to be 100% factual, as long as the core of what you're saying is true. David Sedaris, after all, is a creative nonfiction writer, but even he "embellishes" the truth about what happened. Dave Barry's hilarious columns are funny partly because he exaggerates a lot of things.

I think that one possible solution is that rather than describe the problem behavior of specific students, I could describe the problem behavior of a range of students, like the ones who sit in the back of the classroom, listen to music on their phones (even after I tell them to take off their headphones, they'll protest by saying, "But the music isn't even that loud!" And then I make a mental note to take some Tylenol right after class), and tune me out for weeks until they get their grades back. Then they blame ME when they don't get A's, and I also make a mental note to get my hair dyed to cover the white hair that is literally sprouting from my head at that moment. That might be less controversial than describing specific students.

What about you? Do you write creative nonfiction? If you do, how do you write about the "problematic" people you've encountered in your life? What do you think of memoirists who "embroider" the truth, as the writer Ruth Reichl admitted doing in her memoirs? (I love her books, regardless.)

Sunday, September 2, 2018

#amwriting

Ever since I got back from New York, I've been writing almost every day. Although I know that a lot of people prefer to work on one story at a time (and I can totally understand why since they can get it done faster), my workaholic nature has caused me to "multi-task" when it comes to my writing. That is, I'm currently working on three different stories: a novel that I drafted years ago but never revised, a creative nonfiction piece about teaching that I plan to submit to literary magazines that publish creative nonfiction, and a book-length creative nonfiction story: Obsessions of a Workaholic. I thought about just focusing on one of the stories, but I've been so excited about getting the words down on paper that I'm afraid I'll lose or forget them somehow if I put it off.

I've found that it's easier to write regularly when I incorporate it into my regular routine, like I did with exercise. Most days, I'd rather listen to Kylie Jenner talk about her lip fillers for an hour than spend that same hour working out, but because I'm now so used to working out at least 4-5 times a week, I feel worse if I don't go. And it's paid off, too, because I lost twenty pounds this summer. Although I still have more weight that I want to lose, the fact that I exceeded my weight-loss goal this summer has me dancing like this:
 
via GIPHY
By a similar token, by making a point of working on my writing at least 4-5 days a week, even just for half an hour a day, it's gotten much easier to motivate myself to sit at my desk or go to a coffee shop and write, instead of lie on my bed and watch YouTube videos on my phone.

It's easier for me to write out my first drafts in longhand in notebooks at coffee shops (the baristas like me because I always tip them, and I do that so that they won't mind if I occupy one of their tables for an hour or two) or in my office at school.


Then when I write the second draft, I type it out onto my laptop at home and start making changes at that point. But if I try to write out the first draft on my laptop, my mind wanders and I start Googling random things, like "what does it mean when Millennials say 'That's so lit'? Is that a drug reference?" Or I start watching YouTube music videos of bands from the '90s, like Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," and then of course I start Googling "whatever happened to the OTHER members of Nirvana?" which leads to too much wasted time on Wikipedia.

I've also joined writing groups: one for my creative writing, which is a Meetup group that meets at a coffee shop near my apartment every week, and one for my scholarly writing (in academia, the prevailing attitude towards scholarly writing is "publish or perish"), which has monthly meetings on campus at the college where I teach.

Since Creative Nonfiction is one of the literary magazines I plan to submit to (actually, I already submitted a story about my life in Small Town to them earlier this summer, which probably won't get published, but it felt good just to put my writing out there), I paid $22 for a package that included an issue of their magazine, several issues of their "mini-magazine", True Story, and an anthology of stories that have been published in their magazines. They say that you should read the magazines that you want to write for, so that you get a better sense of what they're looking for. The package also included cool writer's swag, like a tote bag, a pen, and a small notebook.


Thus, I've managed to be very productive in the last weeks of summer, and after all the emotional turmoil I went through earlier this summer, it feels good to have a renewed sense of energy and focus on my work again. I've especially enjoyed working on my memoir, Obsessions of a Workaholic. All these years that I spent blogging about my life as a workaholic, I didn't realize that I was in a sense writing the first draft of this book. When I originally started blogging, I was just doing it for fun and so I could take a break from the scholarly writing that I'd been immersed in during grad school. But I've realized that there is a lot of stuff from this blog that I could use for the book, and I've also been fleshing it out and reorganizing it into a more linear narrative. It will take months to finish that book, but once I finally do, I will go back to work on another memoir: one about my experiences as a member of seven different online dating sites over the course of a decade. Even though it will be tough to make time for writing during the school year, I try to remember what I heard a successful writer say once: that even if you only write one page a day, in a year's time you'll have more than enough pages for a book.

What about you? How's your writing going, and what are you working on? What's your writing process like?

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Friends with Kids

Ever since I turned thirty-seven, I've been thinking a lot about the fact that I will most likely never have children. Richard Gere can father a child at age sixty-eight, but women can't do that. I know that a lot of women do get pregnant in their forties, but that usually happens with the help of fertility treatments or surrogates, which I, an underpaid English teacher with two jobs and thousands of dollars in student loan debt, cannot afford. Not to mention I do not have a husband or a boyfriend, and I'm on the pill, so I'd say my chances of getting pregnant are slim to none.

When I lived in Small Town, several of my friends there had young children, which affected their social lives. That is, unlike my college-aged neighbors, who regularly woke me up at 2 A.M. with their loud parties that made them sound like they were drunk wolves howling at the moon, my thirtysomething friends often had to leave our get-togethers by nine or ten P.M. to get home in time to pay the babysitter or tuck in their children.

When they hosted parties at their homes, they often invited their other friends to bring their kids along, and they would have kid-friendly activities available, like a crafts table, a swing set and plenty of toys, etc. The kids would work on their art projects or run around, playing, while their parents kept one eye on them while conversing with the rest of us. I would sit with the parents, suddenly feeling so much younger than them, despite the closeness in our ages, because I did not have any children of my own. Unlike my friends with kids, I never had to say things like, "Annie, be careful with your soda. You're going to spill it," or "No, you can't have any more soda. If you drink any more you're going to be up all night and then I'll be up all night and you know how cranky Mommy gets when she gets tired," or "Oh, my God! Do not eat that worm! That's not food! I am so sorry, everyone. He's just curious. My son doesn't normally eat worms or anything else that's still moving, haha!"

I didn't really know what to say to them sometimes. It's not like I could relate to their stories about being up all night with a crying baby or how difficult it was to handle life with a toddler. So I'd usually say things like, "So, I, uh, hear that it's hard to get kids into kindergarten these days! What is up with that?"

Here in College Town, I've joined a Meetup group made up of women, most of whom are close to my age, who go out for dinner to various restaurants in the area. At a Thai restaurant one night a few weeks ago, we were talking about motherhood. I said I was ambivalent about having kids, and one of the women, who had a child of her own, said, "If you're not a hundred percent sure that you want to be a mother, you shouldn't do it."

And I knew she was right. My father is still holding out hope that I'll be married with at least one child within the next few years. My mother tells me about all her friends' daughters, most of whom are younger than me, who are already married with children. She has called me an old maid on more than one occasion, including my birthday one year, where instead of giving me birthday wishes she commented on the fact that I was now an old maid in my thirties. I haven't told either of them that it is very unlikely I'll be a mother. But then again, they still think that I'm a Republican, like they are, and I have to bite my tongue from shrieking like a banshee when my mother quotes Sean Hannity and says that Donald Trump is a "good man". I learned a long time ago that the less they know about my life, the better, because we fight enough about the little they do know as it is.

My parents are partly why I am ambivalent about having children. My mother is a verbally abusive, controlling pessimist who is always convinced that the worst-case scenario will happen, which is why she predicted that I wouldn't last five years as a teacher. (I've been teaching for more than a decade now, but she keeps reminding me that I'm untenured and not secure in my job, in order to emphasize that I made the wrong decision.) My father is a verbally abusive, controlling cock-eyed optimist who stubbornly holds on to his view of the world even when everything is falling to pieces around him. My sibling is their golden child, who is not treated half as badly by them as I am, and gets angry when I get upset with our parents because my sibling agrees with both of them that I am the one with the problem.

I only see my parents twice a year for a few days each time, and I call them once a week out of obligation. I talk to my sibling less often. Therefore, I've always viewed time with family as time to dread and be endured, not time to look forward to or to cherish. It's hard for me to picture myself with a happy family because I never got to have one, and part of me is afraid that I'll turn out to be like my mother or my father if I had my own kids. And I know that although they would love to have grandchildren, eventually their cruel streak would surface and they would lash out at my kids. And then I'd fight back as hard as I could because I'll be damned if I let them hurt my kids like they hurt me.

I think that parents have the toughest, most stressful, most heartbreaking, and most rewarding job in the world. It's a job that they can't ever quit, and I have to admit, the idea of having my own son or daughter who may even look like me, someone who I would love unconditionally, is appealing.

But I've always viewed motherhood as akin to winning the lottery. It'd be an amazing life-changer, but it's okay if it never happens. And I haven't gone out of my way to buy lottery tickets. And although my job status as an untenured college professor is insecure, I like that if I were to get a good job offer at some school halfway across the country, I have the freedom to just pack up my stuff and go.

Here in College Town and the other small Midwestern towns that surround it, people typically marry their high school or college sweethearts before they turn twenty-five and have several kids before they turn thirty. That's why most of the single guys my age are divorced with children, including two of the guys I dated, the Artist and the Musician. I know that it's slightly unrealistic to prefer to date a guy close to my age without kids, but...

Sometimes I feel guilty about the fact that I'm not thrilled at the prospect of becoming a mother or stepmother. I feel like society pressures women to view marriage and motherhood as not only a happy ending but the only happy ending. And if a woman chooses to create a different kind of happy ending for herself, she's considered "weird."

On the other hand, I'd rather be "weird" than to be living a life that I don't really want.

What about you? Do you have kids? If you do, how did you know that you wanted to be a parent? If you don't have kids, how do you feel about parenthood?

Sunday, July 29, 2018

New York City Is Good for the Soul...and a Broken Heart

After what happened with the Model, I've been feeling a lot of dark emotions. Anger and hate towards him for deceiving and using me. Resentment and jealousy towards his girlfriend for living in blissful ignorance of his infidelity, and for her Instagram posts where she went on and on about their amazing relationship (and he was always the first to "like" or comment on them). Frustration with myself for still having feelings for him and for feeling compelled to look at their Instagram pages, even though doing so hurt me each time. Sadness and disappointment over what I'll never have with him.

But then last week I went to New York City, a vacation that I'd planned months ago. I'd wanted to go back to New York ever since I first went there four years ago. And gradually, I started emerging from the dark cloud that hung over me ever since I first found out that the Model used me to cheat on his girlfriend.

One of the first things I did was Google "literary events in New York City," which is how I found out about a poetry slam at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. When I lived in Small Town, Tennessee, I used to drive for hours to Nashville on a regular basis, partly because of its thriving literary scene; there were poetry readings and open mic nights for writers almost every week. They don't really have anything like that in College Town, which is why I was excited to attend the poetry slam, not to mention it only cost ten dollars to get in.

The poetry slam at Nuyorican Poets Cafe was very different from the open mic nights I'd attended in Nashville. For one thing, the majority of the poets and audience members were African American, and the audience was much livelier, responding appreciatively with "Mm-hmm," and "Preach!" while the poets read their work. And the poets didn't just read their writing; they performed it, with all the passion, fury, and sadness that they were feeling. Their poems were about topics like what it was like to suffer from PTSD after being date-raped, the anger they felt about young black men getting shot by police officers, the alienation they felt over being biracial, and one in particular stood out: a funny poem by a white guy, who described himself in his poem as "the wokest, whitest, straightest guy who you will ever meet", and went off on a riff about white privilege.

Listening and watching them perform their poetry was like salve on the open wound of my broken heart, and for the first time in a long time, I felt glad that the Model wasn't there with me. He wouldn't have appreciated or understood it in the way that I and the others in the audience did.

I went for a walk in Washington Square Park, and some people invited me and other passers-by to write down short stories on small square pieces of paper that they were handing out. So I did, and then they hung up the story alongside several others on a display they had. It made me happy to know that other people walking through the park could read what I wrote.

I wanted to buy a ticket to a Broadway play, but even the discounted tickets cost eighty dollars, which was more than I could afford. So instead, I managed to get tickets to two different shows for less than forty dollars total: a musical in the Acorn Theater called 68, about the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, and Katie & Julian & Nicholas: Corkscrew Late Night at Paradise Factory, where three "dramaturgs" performed songs from musicals that they had written. One of them described one of his songs as a "burlesque from the point of view of a Confederate statue."

I liked watching the actors perform and sing, except I came down with a sneezing fit during the second show. I think it was due to a combination of several factors: the fact that I'd been walking in the rain in Central Park, the fact that my cheap, dingy hotel room wasn't properly cleaned, or the possibility that one or all of the audience members had rolled around in cat fur before the show (I'm allergic to cats). My nose was literally running throughout the majority of the show. I was sitting at the end of the row near the wall, furthest from the door, and I didn't want to keep getting up to blow my nose in the bathroom during the actors' performances. So I sat there, pulling Kleenex out of my purse again and again and thinking, Don't sneeze don't sneeze don't sneeze ATCHOO! 

I did all the usual touristy things. I got my picture taken with costumed characters in Times Square, who I made sure to tip, of course. I ate a New York style hot dog and slice of pizza. I drank bubble tea in Chinatown and watched Chinese women do Tai Chi in a park. I took the train to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which I think of a hipster's paradise, and which also reminded me of a cross between Lincoln Park and Wicker Park in Chicago. I browsed in bookstores like Book Thug Nation in Williamsburg, where people were reading out loud to each other. I stopped at a juice bar and asked for an apple juice, and when the barista said, "OK! That'll be six dollars," I tried not to respond like this:


via GIPHY

I also went to the Strand Bookstore in Manhattan, and I bought Waiter's Rant by Steve Dublanica and a Dave Barry book because the genre that I like to read most is memoir, especially memoirs where neurotic, obsessive people write about ordinary things in ways that sound hilarious. That's something that I've always aspired to do in my own writing.

I ate chicken parmigiana in Little Italy and admired the Vermeer paintings that were on display in the Frick Collection. I ate breakfast at Balthazar Bakery, and I watched Broadway actors perform for free in Bryant Park. 


It felt so good to be in a big city again, navigating my way through the crowds, listening to the New York accents and hearing people call out to each other in different languages, including French, Spanish, Chinese, Polish, and German. I didn't even mind (too much) the fact that my hotel room in Chinatown was right by the train, which rumbled loudly all night long and made it difficult for me to sleep. Since I hate driving, it was a relief to be able to walk around or take public transportation to get to where I needed to go, despite the extreme heat and humidity and the fact that I had to spend way too much money on bottled water.

What I loved the most about New York is that it's a city full of artists: actors, musicians, painters, writers, etc. Immersing myself in their work inspired me and motivated me to get back to work on my own writing.

I must admit that I am not over the Model, and it will take me some time to get over him. I will never have what his girlfriend has with him: a real relationship and a life with him. When I first realized that, I felt empty inside. I thought that I would never feel for anyone else what I felt for the Model and that I would spend the rest of my life alone. But that week in New York filled me up, and even though I am not yet whole, I realized that even if I never find true love or happiness with someone, I can have my own happy ending: a life that's filled with poetry, books, writing, travel, walks through big, interesting cities like New York, good food in new places, art, music, etc., etc.

I may never be surprised with a romantic vacation to Mexico for my birthday the way the girlfriend was with the Model, but I can take my own vacation that I paid for with my own money to a place like New York City. His girlfriend may very well end up marrying him, and I must admit that if I make the mistake of looking at her Instagram page again in the future and see their wedding pictures, it will hurt like hell. But on the other hand, she will spend her life with a narcissistic, insensitive, dishonest sociopath who cheated on her (and I'm willing to bet that I'm not the only person he's cheated with, which would explain why he often comes back to College Town without her, because that makes it easier for him to hook up with other people behind her back). And I may end up alone, but I will live my life with the freedom to live on my own terms.

What about you? What does your happy ending look like? If you could go on your dream vacation, where would it be?

Monday, July 9, 2018

Rap Lyrics, Internet Curses, and a Heart Made of Stone

I deleted my Bumble account last weekend. As I predicted, I didn't get to go on any dates with any of the guys on Bumble this time around. I imagined several guys going through the online dating profiles, seeing mine, and possibly thinking, "Hmm, she's attractive, maybe...oh, wait, she's 37? Swipe LEFT! Swipe LEFT!" (I think that the guys in their thirties in particular did this a lot.)

On Bumble, if you and the other person both "swipe right" on each other's profiles, then you're "matched". I actually got dozens of matches, but when I wrote to the guys, they either didn't write back at all or wrote a couple messages and then pulled disappearing acts. I think the ones who answered might have thought they were being polite, but I think it's rude because it gives people like me false hope.

My heart wasn't really in online dating this time around. I didn't really want to date anyone, but I thought I should since I have the summer off from teaching and thus have more time to date. But after the Model took my heart and stomped all over it with the girlfriend he never told me about, I no longer want to even try to date anyone.

Like I wrote last week, something froze up inside of me when I realized that he used me to cheat on his girlfriend, and it's like my heart has turned to stone. I find myself turning back into the full-fledged workaholic I was back in my twenties, before I screwed up my life by dating, the kind of person who was solely focused on her work. Back then, I occasionally noticed if a guy was attractive, but I felt no emotion for him. I didn't really feel any kind of romantic emotions for anyone for years. For now, it's the person that I need to be because despite all the anger, bitterness, and resentment I feel towards the Model for what he did to me, there is still a part of me that has lingering feelings for him. I hate that weak, stupid part of myself, and I want to destroy it and make it disappear forever. And I hate him a thousand times more.

I've been keeping busy, in order to keep my mind off of him and the pictures his girlfriend posted on her Instagram page from their trip to Mexico, where she gushed about her love for him and referred to him as "my boo" and bragged about their "baecation" (She could be the nicest person in the world, but because she gets to be with the person I wanted to be with for the past year, I'll always be biased against her. Also, I think that anyone who uses the word "baecation" deserves to be slapped in the face with a thesaurus.)

Despite my love for pop music and singers like Taylor Swift and Britney Spears, I've been listening to a lot of rap music lately. There is a lot of anger, sadness, and passion in these rappers' lyrics, and listening to them makes me feel a little better because I can relate to what they wrote. For example, Cardi B's song, "Be Careful," totally captures what I'm feeling right now, though I should warn you there are a lot of four-letter words in her song, which is really good nevertheless:



I've been rereading the 300-page dissertation I wrote when I was a Ph.D. candidate, mining it for ideas for articles. In order to advance in academia, it's not enough to be a good teacher; you have to establish your reputation as a scholar by publishing articles in scholarly journals, presenting your research at academic conferences, and writing scholarly books. I've also been reading other resources, like The Professor Is In, which gives really detailed advice on the academic job market, and How to Write Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks. I've been spending a lot of time at the library on the campus of the school where I teach, poring over the books written by scholars in my field. Being around all those books, immersing myself in other people's ideas and dreams, is also comforting.

I've been working out five days a week this summer, and I cut way down on my junk food intake. I've lost ten pounds in the past two months, and I feel really good about that. In the back of my mind, though, I keep thinking of cake and people laughing at me while they eat cake.

I've been revising another story I've been working on, and I plan on sending it to another creative nonfiction magazine soon. I've cleaned almost every inch of my apartment and reorganized my closet. I read somewhere that cleaning can be therapeutic because you're bringing order out of chaos. I'm still doing work for my website job, and I picked up a lot of extra hours.

I've been planning my upcoming trip to New York City (I'm leaving in two weeks!) and making a list of all the things I want to do: visit Central Park, eat ice cream at Serendipity Cafe, and yell at rude people on the street, which is apparently something you can only do in big cities without people thinking that you're weird.

I've been trying to keep as busy as possible because if I stop to think about how the Model slept with me just two weeks before he took his girlfriend to Mexico, how he ignored my texts where I tried to confront him about her, and how I realized that he never cared about me, I know I'll start crying again. The first time I saw those pictures of them together in Mexico, I was at the movies by myself, watching The Incredibles 2. Everyone around me was laughing at the movie, while I sat there in the dark, clutching my phone and crying quietly.

If I let myself think about him (or her) too much, then I'll start Googling curses on the Internet, using search terms like "how to make him impotent for life" or "how to make him have nightmares that cause him to wake up screaming every day". I find myself wanting to track him down and go all Chicago on his lying face and smack that smug look right off him. If I let myself slow down, even just for a moment, I'll look at her Instagram page again and see the pictures of them together, and then I'll feel miserable all over again.

Sometimes I think that feelings, especially romantic ones, are overrated, and that maybe a heart made of stone and a life devoted to my work are just what I need right now.

What about you? Have you ever gotten your heart broken? If you have, how did you cope with it?

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

I Give Up

I am a horrible person, and I deserve what happened to me because I should have seen the signs. Or rather, I did see the signs, but I chose to ignore them.

When I saw pictures of the Model with another woman on her Instagram page several weeks ago, I was crushed because that made me realize that there really was no hope that I'd ever get to be with him again. But then just a couple weeks after I saw those pictures, he contacted me, saying that he wanted to see me again. He didn't mention that woman, and I didn't ask. He left College Town to go back to his new place in Chicago, but he said he wanted to see me when he got back.

I wanted to believe that that other woman was just someone he was casually dating. After all, she'd only posted a few pictures of him, and they were all recent. Maybe they had just met, and he couldn't be that into her, after all, if he wanted to be with me again, right?

Wrong.

I couldn't shake the nagging suspicion that there was more to this other woman than meets the eye. So I checked out her Instagram page again and looked further. To my dismay and horror, I realized that she was living with him. There were several pictures of her from months ago in her apartment, the same apartment that the Model started photographing himself in as recently as March. That means that he moved in with her less than four months after he dated me, and based on my online sleuthing, they weren't even dating as of January. She mentioned something about "rebuilding" what they had in one of her posts, which made me think that she was an ex (I think she may even be his former fiancee because he'd once mentioned that he'd been engaged before) and they'd gotten back together.

Could it be that they broke up again, and that he reached out to me after the breakup? Wrong again. Two weeks after he and I slept together, he posted pictures of himself on vacation in Mexico. On his Instagram page, he only posts pictures of himself, no one else, because he really is that narcissistic. I knew that if she posted pictures of Mexico, that meant that she was there with him.

Sure enough, a few days later, she posted a series of pictures of the two of them in Mexico: getting massages on the beach, drinking wine while watching the sunset, her sitting on his lap, etc. She bragged about her "beautiful" relationship with him and how he was the perfect guy (if only she knew!). When I saw those pictures, I realized that he was still dating her when he reached out to me that last time. That sociopath used me to cheat on his girlfriend.

When I saw those pictures, my heart broke, and it was like something froze up inside of me. I recognized that feeling. When I was in high school, I had a huge crush on this guy I worked with at my first part-time job. I asked him out, and he said no. At that moment, I felt something freeze up inside of me. That "something" was the belief that I could find happiness with someone and be his girlfriend.

After my high school crush rejected me that day, I withdrew into my work for years. It was better and safer to be a workaholic. I kept my heart closed off all that time because I didn't want to let anyone break it ever again.

I finally realized, however, that it was time to put myself out there and try dating again. I did everything I could think of to meet someone special. I went to a speed-dating party. I joined a youth group at my church and fell for a really great guy, who fell for someone else. I tried seven different online dating sites. I became friends with Small Town Guy, and watched him fall in love with someone else.

And then I met the Model, and all of a sudden it was like I finally understood what all the fuss was about. I know that whatever he and I had wasn't serious. I know that we weren't exclusive. But that didn't stop me from falling hard for him from day one. I should have blocked him the first time he messaged me on Tinder. I could have saved myself months of emotional turmoil.

When I slept with him that last time, I really didn't know that he was in a serious relationship with her. I really did think that they had just met and weren't exclusive yet. There were all these red flags, but I ignored them because I just really wanted to be with him again. That's why I deserve all the pain and heartache that I'm feeling right now. I never should have agreed to see him that night, and if I'd known that he was in a serious relationship I wouldn't have. I'm a horrible, stupid person. But he's worse.

I texted him to tell him that I'd found his girlfriend's Instagram page and seen the pictures of them together. He didn't answer. I texted him again to tell him to delete all the texts we sent each other. I was afraid that she might get suspicious too one day, go through his texts, and find out about me. She might track me down somehow and confront me at the school where I teach. That may seem unlikely, but you hear stories of women angrily confronting "the other woman" all the time. As they say, "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned". If she did that to me, my professional reputation would be destroyed and I might even lose my job. And then I'd fight back against BOTH of them as hard as I could because my work is all that I have left and I'll be damned if I let either of them take that away from me.

He didn't answer my other text either. I thought at first that he was too much of a coward to apologize or explain himself, but then I realized that he just doesn't care. He doesn't care that he hurt me because he never cared about me. What I don't understand is why, if his relationship is so perfect with her, he would reach out to me to hook up. It's one thing for him to treat me like crap because he doesn't give a damn about me (although that doesn't justify what he did to me). But it's another thing for him to betray her when he supposedly cares about her.

He still comes back to College Town a lot because his friends and family live here, and he goes to my gym when he comes here. If I see him again, I might do one of several things: 1) "accidentally" drop a weight on his foot; 2) "accidentally" drop my fist on his face; 3) tell the biggest bodybuilder (preferably one with a bad temper) at the gym that the Model hit on his girlfriend; or 4) ask him why he did that and tell him that it is not okay to treat me like that.

The Model's girlfriend has no idea that he's a cheating liar with no conscience. She gets to live "happily ever after" with him, and he gets away scot-free with cheating on her and breaking my heart. And I get nothing.

Unlike the Model's girlfriend, I am no longer a romantic. I am a cynic, and can you really blame me? I'm thirty-seven years old, and I've been on many bad dates with the wrong guys and failed to make a real, lasting connection with any of them. I'm sick and tired of trying. Maybe this is the universe's way of telling me that I don't get to have a "happy ending" with anyone and that I'm meant to be alone for the rest of my life.

That feeling I had that day that my high school crush rejected me, that feeling where I felt my heart closing up against everyone else, is back, stronger than ever. My Bumble membership expires next week, and I'm not going to renew it. I'm going to renew my focus on my workaholic life because at least there, I can focus on becoming a respected scholar, continue climbing the academic ladder as a college professor, and also devote myself to my writing too. At least those things can make me happy, unlike a narcissistic sociopath with no conscience. If I'm meant to find love, I'm going to let it find me, because I'm done trying. I'm just done, period.

If you were me, would you confront him? Or would you just ignore him? (And don't worry, I'm not going to tell his girlfriend what happened. She probably wouldn't believe me, especially because the Model is a master manipulator and would convince her that I was lying.)

P.S. I'm sorry about the negative tone of my post. It was either write about it or down a bottle of liquor. I figured it was better to do the former.