Send Up The Bat Signal

From Thursday morning until today at around noon, I was so excited. I felt this enormous surge of energy, and I wanted to do everything – go to the movies, go on job interviews, retrieve my car from where it’s being stored and drive around, go on real dates, go to Costco and buy 30 rolls of toilet paper. I felt like my old self. For 108 hours, I felt capable. I was sitting and standing and walking just like everyone else. The vertigo was still present but I wasn’t running into furniture or doorways.

The weather has been unseasonably warm, so I went on a few walks around my neighborhood for the first time since moving here. The last one this morning was to walk a few blocks to Redbox to rent a few movies. And just like that, the drooping face appeared again. As I was approaching my door, my steps became slower and slower, and all the while I was chanting to myself in my head, “No, no, please no.” I often have to try to explain the sensations to doctors and nurses who haven’t seen me before, and this is the best I have come up with: It feels like a big slab of raw steak has been laid across my forehead and left eye. The weight of it and the paralysis makes it impossible for my eyelids to stay open, and if you look closely, you’ll see my left eyebrow twitching because the nerves are misfiring or losing their connection completely when I try to move it. Everything becomes very blurry and starts swimming in front of me, kind of like what movie directors do to try to portray fainting from the viewpoint of a character. I lose depth perception and peripheral vision. I also become immediately exhausted.

I had seen my sister before I went on my walk and we were discussing the mystery of the symptoms lifting. After I got back, I had to send her a text saying, “Fuck it. Sell the car. It’s back.”

Today we talked about how this has been a really tough year. We lost our oldest sister, and then just a few days later my friend died, and now our uncle is running out of options to treat his stage IV throat cancer. My sister has health issues herself, and though she has told me numerous times that she is happy to help and that she knows this has been difficult for me too, I am fully aware that I am a burden to her. I don’t want this to be my permanent reality.

Some of my friends have gotten involved with getting in touch with people in the TV industry to see if there are news stations or shows that would be willing to feature my story. (I told one person that if I got on “Ellen,” I don’t want a car or cash, I want a doctor.) An uncle’s girlfriend is a freelance writer and we have been in contact with countless publications; I have been turned down by all of them because they want a happy ending. I am still hoping that I can get some exposure and a fire will be lit under someone qualified and knowledgeable enough to deal with this shit.

Oh, and Mr. Friday Night is done. When he was here, he asked me over and over again if he could return on Saturday for some more nookie. Late Friday afternoon, he texted me things like, “Miss me yet?” and “I’ll be back, I really like you.” I never asked him for another session, so this isn’t me baiting him to push him to say that he wants to see me again. Late Saturday afternoon I texted him asking if he was still planning on coming over, and his response was “:))))).” That was his last communication. So I sent him a text this afternoon telling him that he shouldn’t beg to come over and then act like I died – he needs to be more up front and honest with the next woman (Bye, Felipe!). It’s depressing that he got any of my good hours. Fear not, though – I have been chatting with others on OKCupid and initiating them into my weird and wacky world. One guy is 14 years younger and a great conversationalist but he’s so young. I may use a cane, but I’m not comfortable with being a cougar.

As disappointing as today was, I am happy about one thing: a ghost from the past contacted me through Twitter. I’ll call him Socrates, as he is a deep-thinking man. Socrates found me just by chance when he was searching for a former client’s info, and when I saw that he was following me, I sent him a message. I have actually been trying to look him up for the past few months. Socrates and I met when he was going through an especially difficult time; his business had folded, he was nearly penniless, his family was spiteful and sucking his soul dry, and he didn’t have access to healthcare.

I enjoyed his company despite the turmoil that burdened him and seeped into our time together. Socrates is incredibly intelligent. I could actually hold conversations with him that did not center around sports or the weather. He is much more concerned with the human condition and continuously trying to improve himself and the world around him. But the one thing that broke my heart, as it always does, is hearing that I am fine to have sex with but that person isn’t going to get into a relationship with me. And Socrates gave me that speech. I can’t help but take that personally, no matter if I also realize that it’s not the right time or the right person for me. Some day I’d like for some man to tell me that all of my parts are wonderful, not just the sex parts.

So we entered into a true friends with benefits arrangement. I helped Socrates to pack up his apartment so he could move. I found a sliding fee scale clinic so that he could try to get the healthcare he so desperately needed and wanted, just so he would know that there were options. I also gave him blowjobs he rated as, “Ohmygodthatwasthebesteverthatwasaten.” Socrates was always open and vocal with me, never just saying what he thought I wanted to hear, because he values authenticity over flattery.

Our last contact (and correct me if I’m wrong, because I know you’re reading this, S.) was over email in 2007. Socrates was overwhelmed with every part of his life and not interested in communicating with anyone for the foreseeable future. I was left to wonder if he was okay and how he was surviving because the messages simply stopped.

That brings me to today, and our renewed connection. I am relieved to know that he is in fact okay, and that he has done some serious work on his soul to try to repair some of the damage and to release the parts that are past rescuing. Socrates is also married! He and his wife seem to be true partners and supportive of each other, which is the best anyone can hope for in a loving relationship. Socrates is now in a position to help me with spreading the word about this crazy disease, and I am gratefully accepting.

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Is It A Date if You Can’t Actually Go Out?

This has been a tough seven days. Last week was the 19th anniversary of my father passing away; two days later it would have been his birthday. It also would have been my sister’s birthday; we lost her in July the week after I moved to Minnesota. My father’s brother is losing his battle with stage IV throat cancer. And I got my fifth rejection letter from the Mayo, supposedly the #1 neurology/neurosurgery center in the U.S., saying they don’t think they could come up with a name for my disease or a prognosis or a treatment plan.

Like with most major obstacles, I had myself a good cry, and then I called my family and gave them the update on my denied referral. I waited until I had a conversation with my disability attorney; that did not go well either because he seems to think that there is no way I can win my case if there isn’t a name for my disease. Yet his website repeats over and over that when our cases go to court, we should focus on the symptoms and how our quality of life is affected, not the name of the disease.

I have friends all over the U.S. and in locations around Europe, so it’s sometimes easier for me to get the word out on Facebook. I feel a little silly “liking” everyone’s message of support because it feels like I’m fishing for sympathy. However, it’s also nice to know that some of my friends are outraged on my behalf and willing to write/call/tweet in order to call attention to my plight. A few people have stepped forward to say that they have media contacts, so I’m widening my reach with giving them documentation to pass along to their people. The theory is that if the doctors won’t take me, maybe the news will?? My medical coverage is through medical assistance in Minnesota so I would not have any expenses covered if I went to a different state. However, Johns Hopkins has a “remote second opinion” option (for a minimum of $550) and they will review my case without me having to fly to Maryland. I may end up doing this. However, I do not think it’s very effective because it’s one thing to read about my symptoms, and quite another to actually see my issues in person. I have taken to scaring my friends by moving the fluid around in my brain so that my face stops being paralyzed momentarily – aka my “party trick.”

I’m a very social person by nature and being stuck in bed all day and night is really wearing on me and definitely changing my outlook and attitude. Last Friday night I caved and reopened my OKCupid account after a four-year hiatus. I barely had time to update the city when I started receiving messages – I was fresh meat! Generally speaking I don’t reply to obvious copied and pasted notes who claim they like me (without knowing me), but they just restate what they have written in their profiles. I also don’t like to talk to anyone who can’t write a sentence. I know it’s a huge reach to think that I can find anyone willing to just chat and not go on dates, but I have been up front with everyone who has contacted me to let them know that I can’t go out anytime soon. Dare I say I’m lonely??? It feels so whiny to say that. Yet here I am.

I talked to about three of the 20 guys for more than a few messages – most guys were either put off by my request for no penis pictures or my warning that I can’t actually go out. One was far, far too young for me and located a good hour away, but gets kudos for truly creative questions. One was obviously a social recluse and did not do anything outside of his janitorial job, which is really a bit sad. That one would send me messages saying he was lonely and bored and he wanted to come over. I get a serial killer vibe, though, or he’s just not capable of conversation, which is just as bad. He would kill me with social ineptness. I have asked probing questions and he only answers with “yes,” “no,” “ok” and “oh.” I suggested that he check out Meetup because he would never have to spend another night alone and bored if he didn’t want to, and that way it doesn’t solely fall on my shoulders to entertain him. I have enough going on. The third guy was really, really responsive, funny, age-appropriate and not put off by the fact that my bed is getting a lot of my action. I’m actually hoping to meet that one very soon.

The last time I went on a date through OKCupid, it was with a tall, southern gentleman who was ex-military about four years ago – I’ll call him Mr. Army. Mr. Army met me out at one of my favorite restaurants in the Phoenix area. It started out nice enough, though I could tell immediately that he was used to dominating all conversations. I would describe him as being a perpetual mansplainer. Mr. Army was too old to have served in Iraq this second time around, but he made it clear that he had very strong feelings about being over there. I’m a tree hugger and liberal at heart and his very vocal support of George W. Bush and Cheney made my skin crawl.

Towards the end of the meal I explained to Mr. Army that my friend had moved to the U.S. from Iraq twelve years prior to that to marry a man through an arranged marriage, and that she was currently trying to sponsor her parents, brother and sister and their spouses for asylum because they were still stuck in Iraq. Her brother had even been shot in the leg during a failed kidnapping attempt; people in his community knew he had a sister in the U.S., and the kidnappers were hoping to extort money from her. Mr. Army became outraged and asked me, “How do you know that your friend isn’t part of Saddam Hussein’s family? How can you trust her? She has no right to be here!” I told him it was obvious she did not come from some super secret bloodline; she would not sponsor them and put her name on all of the documents if that were the case. She was not being “kept” by anyone through a super secret account. It was an insane exchange. I am not very good at keeping a poker face either.

As I was walking to my car, Mr. Army stopped me to say he wanted to go out with me again. I declined. Did he not see my face??? I’m not certain what we would have fought about on the next date, but I’m betting it would have been about guns or religion. He who squeezes his eyes shut and yells the loudest wins, right? No thanks. I’d rather have a no pride night and sit on the couch for four hours in my pajamas, sprinkle chocolate chips in a jar of peanut butter and eat it while watching “The Notebook.” If Mr. Army is the alternative to that, I’ll gladly stay home.

He Looks Good on Paper

One of the hazards about internet dating – and I’ve said it before – is that you can get wrapped up in making your grocery list. Shopping for men! In my 20’s I decided that my ideal mate would be tall with blue eyes, be smart and not have any back hair. The problem with this list is that I left out very important requirements, such as my partner should actually like me (and women in general, no misogyny allowed), pay his own bills, do his own laundry, be willing to help me if I needed it…well, I could go on and on. But after the two live-in boyfriends in Cincinnati, I altered my list a bit.

In my 30’s, I still wanted an educated man with whom I could hold conversations. I also added the need to have a sense of responsibility so that I wouldn’t be stuck with having to take care of everything including bills and hard labor. I mean, when I had to work two jobs to make sure the bills would get paid, or the guys sat on their asses while I hauled heavy stuff or packed for a trip, it was exhausting. I also got incredibly tired of hearing why the boyfriends wouldn’t help clean. Both of them said they didn’t know what to clean, and I had to tell them. I asked them how they thought I figured out what needed to be cleaned? I never got an answer to that question.

So around 2005 I was dating heavily through internet sites. I was very excited to start up a conversation with a guy I’ll name Al. He was a high school history teacher, and he could string complete sentences together and speak in a respectful manner. Al was completely average looking with straight brown hair and blue eyes and a very thin build. I thought he had everything I had been missing previously in other dates and relationships. Al was also very responsible.

Our first date was dinner. The conversation did not flow easily. I tend to be animated when I speak, and he was the complete opposite. I felt a little sorry for his high school students because he did not seem to be an impressive orator. But I thought I was probably being too harsh, and so when he asked me out again, I agreed.

It did not take long for me to reveal to him that I was wearing wigs to cover up my bald head. Al took it well and asked a few questions, but the conversation went much better than I expected, so it was a huge relief. We had more dates at museums and bowling alleys. We did not kiss very much and we never had sex or even got close.

For what ended up being our last outing together, we picked a random music venue at the northern end of Phoenix. Al picked me up and drove us there at exactly five miles per hour under the speed limit the whole way. If you have never been to Phoenix, one important thing to know is that no one who wants to live to see the next day drives under the speed limit – most go 5-10 mph over as a standard. Anyway, that evening’s feature was a singer/songwriter that neither one of us had heard of before, and there were maybe eight people in the audience, but we both really enjoyed the performance. Al even bought the artist’s CD and had it signed.

Afterwards we went back to his house and talked for a while on the couch. Al made his big move and kissed me. I am not a fan of kissing with tongue (especially if my counterpart is a huge producer of saliva and I nearly end up drinking it). Poor Al had no technique whatsoever. It was if a fat worm stuck its head out of a hole and wiggled back and forth a bit. I was startled and consciously fought the urge to do the crab crawl backward. Suddenly, he grabbed my right breast and sort of did a “wax on, wax off” motion. I could not stop myself from making a sort of whimpering sound to match my thoughts, which were along the lines of, “Oh shit, this is very, very bad.”

Al sat back and said, “You know, that is the first time I have heard you respond with passion.” I lost all faith that he would know where any of my important bits were located or what to do with them. I extricated myself and told him I was tired and was heading home.

A few days later I called him and told him that I didn’t think we were a good match. Al was respectful, or stoic, or…gosh, nothing! I am sure he was probably disappointed because he wasn’t getting laid anytime soon, at least not by me, but I couldn’t tell from his voice if he was or not. And that is why I couldn’t carry on. This proves that a list is great as a guideline, but checking items off when they are met does not guarantee a love connection.

I’m in my early 40’s now and I still keep a list. If I would combine all of my previous and present requirements, it would look like this: The person I take on in the next relationship must be tall, have blue eyes, play the guitar and sing, have no back hair, do his own laundry, pay his own bills, give me back and foot rubs, not be a follower of any sports, love the arts, enjoy traveling and have an active passport, be at least a fair cook, be nice to me, be a feminist, not grab my boobs while we’re grocery shopping, take the initiative to clean, love animals but not have any, love kids and maybe or maybe not have any, not steal from me, have a witty sense of humor, chew with his mouth closed, brush and floss every day, be a master of lovemaking skills, and be a good driver.

But since the Keebler elves aren’t exactly making men to my specs, I suppose at this point I’m going to settle for someone being nice to me.

I Can’t Feel My Face!

I had two live-in boyfriends during my time in Cincinnati. The second one was Drummer #1, introduced by the guy who was in charge of our servers at the law firm. Apparently Drummer #1 had a weakness for women from Minnesota, with our light-colored hair and blue eyes (except mine are green). In theory he seemed like a good match for me too because of his musical leanings – besides drums he also played guitar – and he was a tech guy, which was my new field at that time.

I still remember our first date vividly. Drummer #1 was very tall (6’3″) with a big, toothy grin, deep-set blue eyes, short brown hair and a flannel shirt. He was very, very nervous about meeting me. We went on a double date with my friends, and we started off sitting across from each other at a crappy table with bad vinyl chairs while a band set up. An hour later the band was in full force and Drummer #1 managed to down four shots of Jaegermeister and two Jack & Cokes. He got up to go to the bathroom and when he returned, he sat down next to me instead of across from me, started rubbing my back and then poked his cheeks and said, “I can’t feel my face! I can’t feel my face!” Before the night was done he had four more Jack & Cokes.

I agreed to go out with him again, even though the drinking wasn’t ideal for a first date. I knew it was his nerves. Plus he kept telling me how cute I was.

It was another one of those things that turned into us spending loads of time together immediately. After the third date when he found out where I lived, he would throw pebbles and sometimes even dimes and pennies at my apartment window to surprise me and let him in. He was living with his parents at the time. After about eight months, Drummer #1 and I moved in together.

I didn’t have the easiest time with meeting his parents. I never went over to his house, he just met me out or came and picked me up. One time during the summer we were at a blues festival and Drummer #1 knew his parents were there as well, and they wanted to meet me, so we set off through the crowd looking for them. We walked back and forth and back and forth in mobs of people but weren’t able to find them, and I had no idea who to look for anyway. However, his parents saw us and didn’t call out to us every time we passed – because, as it turned out, his mother thought I was too fat and ugly for him. (Disclaimer: I was around size 8-10, pretty darned okay by today’s standards.) When they invited me to join them for Christmas that year, I absolutely did not want to go, but I did anyway. His parents ended up loving me.

Anyway, up to that point, Drummer #1 had been an irresponsible bill payer and so I had to have all of the utilities put into my name when we moved in together to avoid having to pay large deposits. For the first year that we were together he was one of the sole tech guys for a small manufacturing company. At this point my hair was falling out with a vengeance. He always wore a blue fleece pullover to work and every day he managed to pick up thousands of my blonde hairs on it like he was wearing velcro. At one point the guys he worked with asked if there was something wrong with me based solely on the volume of my hair that would show up on his clothes.

After the first year Drummer #1 switched to a job at the University of Cincinnati. For some of his time there he happened to work with a doctor who was researching cures for alopecia universalis. He would come home and tell me about seeing others like me who were examined under a magnifying glass so they could be determined to be the most extreme hairless cases for the studies. I still would never qualify because no matter what falls out I manage to retain a few sprouts of hair on my big toes. And for some of the time, Drummer #1 said that he was being sent down to the “hole” – some underground network where he would have to suit up in a big yellow suit for 2-3 days while he ran programs. He also claimed to work with some cops and even some FBI agents.

Drummer #1 made the mistake once of claiming that I was not doing enough to keep my hair. You know that old tired tune of “Why don’t you just _____?” like everyone else is the expert on your body? I made him go with me once for a session where the dermatologist injected each patch with a combination of Lidocaine to numb my head after the shots were done and prednisone to inhibit the white blood cells from taking over my hair follicles. Every session would be about 75 injections; that time, Drummer #1 said, with big eyes, that he could see the doctor flicking the needle up slightly after each injection so it looked as if he was tearing my skin a bit every time. After that, Drummer #1 never told me I wasn’t doing enough.

I finally started wearing wigs when I knew trying to keep my hair or grow new stuff was completely hopeless. At one point I purchased a styrofoam head with a super long neck so the longer wigs wouldn’t rest on the counter tops when I took them off. I would perch the head form and hair on the back of the toilet at night. Every morning for a week, Drummer #1 was so out of it that he would scream when he got out of the shower because he thought someone had sneaked into the bathroom while he was bathing. I would lay in bed nearly pissing myself laughing.

After a few months of living together, things started to slip with the bill paying for Drummer #1. We began receiving calls that our electricity and water were going to be shut off for non-payment and every time I’d have to hurry and pay them, with him promising to investigate why his payments hadn’t been processed. He claimed to be clueless as to why there always seemed to be lost payments.

Then one day in June we were supposed to be flying back to Minnesota for my 10th high school reunion. The flight was out of Columbus, a good hour and a half away, and at night, so I told Drummer #1 what time he had to be home from work in order for us to catch the plane on time. When the time rolled around, he was nowhere to be found. This was prior to the time of cell phones, so I had to call his office. When I got no answer, I called campus security and asked them to cruise around to see if his car was there. After striking out again, I opened up his top dresser drawer where I knew he put all of his receipts and mail. I was stunned to find six months worth of bills in there, all unopened, including all of the utility bills he had told me he had paid. I was incredibly angry and still panicked about not being able to make our flight in time.

The kicker, though, was when I went to get the mail before trying his work phone again, I received my credit card bill with another nasty surprise. When I had been sick the month before with strep throat and stuck in bed on my birthday, he had taken my credit card and charged up hundreds of dollars. I was LIVID.

Drummer #1 showed up an hour late at home and not ready for the trip at all. He hurriedly threw things into a bag. The entire drive up to Columbus I only had my demon voice to use on him. I told him that if he touched the mail in any way including just taking it out of the mailbox, I would get a post office box and he would have to wait for me to give him his mail. No more hiding and lying.  I hated him.

Five months later Drummer #1 made arrangements to buy a car through a program with the University; the payments would come out of his check directly so he wouldn’t have to worry about making timely payments. However, “something” happened where payments were still missed and his car ended up being impounded. Drummer #1 promised to pay me back but it required about $1200 to get his car back.

I had vowed to return to the southwestern U.S. about two years into our relationship. I didn’t feel any real connection with the city and the winters were depressing. I told Drummer #1 that I was moving with or without him. He seemed enthusiastic about a major change and we even took a trip out to Arizona to check it out. When we were driving back from the Grand Canyon towards Phoenix, we were stunned by a quadruple rainbow that glowed across the sky. I know now that it’s an extremely rare phenomenon, and believe me when I say that even truckers pulled over on the highway so they could snap pictures of these four perfect arcs filling the sky. I took it as a sign that I was making the right move.

When we returned from the trip, I went into working and saving mode. I put in about 70-80 hours between two workplaces to make sure I’d have money for the big move. Drummer #1, however, was still not being responsible for his bills and wasn’t making any effort to pay me back.

In January of 2003 I received a strange phone call from a girl who addressed me by name and informed me that she had been fucking Drummer #1 for at least a year. I kept calm and asked him about it when he returned from work. He said that the girl was calling all of his friends and trying to make their girlfriends freak out. I had no way to verify this because I didn’t know any of the girlfriends.

In July 2003, Drummer #1 missed more car payments. I was at the end of my rope. I told him he was on his own with figuring it out because I had to save money to move. Then in September, I received a call from the landlord who told me that he knew I was leaving, but Drummer #1 asked if he could stay on. Drummer #1 never had any intention of moving.

I bagged up all of his belongings in garbage bags and threw it all to the bottom entryway stairs. I went over to his parents’ house and told them he would need a new place to live. They revealed to me that he had borrowed $1600 from them, telling them it was to pay me back. None of the money made it to me, though. His parents told me that he had been a pathological liar his whole life and they hoped that living with me would have cured him of that. I wish that they would not have remained so loyal to their son and instead warned me.

My friend’s dad, an attorney, wrote a letter of intention to file suit if he didn’t pay me back all of the money by October 29th. On October 29th he appeared at my workplace with a cashier’s check for the entire amount he owed me, nearly $5,000.

I used that money to pay for the moving van and my new apartment in Phoenix.

The Ex from Tex(as)

You know that saying about how you shouldn’t take a dip in the company pool when it comes to dating? (Or maybe the more succinct way of putting that is not to shit where you eat.) Well, I’ve broken that rule many, many times. How are we as adults supposed to meet anyone? And my field was traditionally dominated by men, so it was like shooting fish in a barrel.

I was in the same extremely small department at a large bank (280,000 employees worldwide) for nine of my eleven years with the same employer, and I saw a lot of changes in personnel and practices. My seat was in Arizona; my boss was in California, her boss was in Texas, and we had team members in Mumbai, India. It was decided that our group would add two more people in Texas to take calls from managers and give it the very important name of Escalation Desk so as to give the impression that fires would be lit under the people handling time-sensitive problems. We added these two people at a time that I was doing the work of 2-3 people and another co-worker, also in Arizona, was being pulled to perform special projects.

One of the two people was Mr. Texas. He and another woman were located in our Texas office, and for almost a year, they sat idle because managers weren’t calling in for expedited assistance. After my Arizona teammate and I consistently asked for overtime to complete our work, the boss decided it was time to train the Texas people in our jobs. That was how I met Mr. Texas.

He was infuriating because he was not the type of person to offer help – he preferred to just sit at his desk and do nothing. When we would have our weekly phone-in meetings, he would not participate, and if he was forced to answer questions, Mr. Texas always sounded like we were disturbing his nap.

My work group was pretty relaxed, and it was not rare for us to spill some personal info on our conference calls. We also traded pictures of volunteering and life events. When I finally saw a picture of Mr. Texas, he didn’t look anything like what I thought he would (though I don’t know what I expected at that point). He is about 6’4″, very muscular, and very tan. After he heard some of the team members tease me about my dating woes, Mr. Texas started privately conversing with me on the company instant messenger. We had quite a few “Me too!” revelations about our dating experiences. Eventually we traded phone numbers and started talking and texting during our off hours.

I still remember the first phone call. It was awkward as hell. Here I was talking to this co-worker who drove me crazy with his laziness. I’m not even sure if he picked up on that about me, or if he did, if he actively chose to disregard it because chasing a piece of ass was more important. Obviously I didn’t let that stop me either – I love tall men, especially handsome ones.

We graduated to sexting and hot and heavy phone sessions. I miss those days! It was like making out, or as close as two people could get to that while a whole state separated us. Mr. Texas and I planned our first encounter, which involved him flying over to Arizona and us getting a hotel room (because I had a roommate). At some point it was revealed to me that when he was 15, he and his friends were stupid – they were playing jumping on and off trains, and wouldn’t you know it, his leg got caught under a train. Mr. Texas only had about 4 inches left of his right femur and wore a very long prosthetic that strapped around his hips. He walks very stiff legged because he does not have enough of his femur left to maneuver a leg with a working knee joint.

Mr. Texas and I had a great first weekend together. It was not a hindrance at all that he was missing a leg, because it actually made room for me if I wanted to get my face in his junk. He was very muscular because he was a serious weightlifter. Mr. Texas’ skin felt just like what I imagined one of those hunks in a beefcake calendar would. I was still very self-conscious about my lack of hair, so he never saw me with my wig off, but the fact that two people with prosthetics actually hooked up was hilarious to me. The only time I had to look away for fear of cracking up was when he got up in the middle of the night to pee. Mr. Texas did not strap on his leg just to go a short distance to the bathroom, but instead he hopped there. Imagine this if you can, but this 6’4″ guy was hopping on one massive tree trunk leg across the room to the toilet. I guessed that he kept on his tighty whitey underwear expressly for the same reason women wear sport bras when they are active – his choice of underwear probably kept his dick and balls from bouncing around.

I made the trek to his state the next visit. He has a very large white cat with some black patches named Sugar, and of course I’m deathly allergic, so we got a hotel room. At the end of my visit, we sat on his couch and watched some TV to kill time in between having to check out of the hotel and go to the airport. I had my head in his lap, gasping and growing hives like weeds all over my face and neck. Sugar came over and at first tried to “clean” my hair (my wig!), and when she started getting frustrated by the long fibers, she completely sat on my head. Mr. Texas thought it was rip-roaring funny and refused to shoo her off of my head. By the time we left for the airport, I had looked like I was punched in both eyes and I was snotting copiously, which wasn’t at all attractive.

We took turns visiting each other, alternating who paid for the plane ticket and who paid for the hotel. It was harder to be snappy with him at work because we had been intimate, though I tried hard to remain neutral if someone else in the work group would fight with him. We even talked marriage; he’s never been married, and neither have I, but it was something we discussed as a possibility for us down the road. Mr. Texas was twelve years older than me and held onto this idealized wedding for about thirty years. I remember it had something to do with having twelve groomsmen and twelve bridesmaids, and he wanted the ceremony to be in his parents’ church (which also happened to be where Chuck Norris would attend) – they were hardcore southern Baptists.

Unfortunately, I started feeling like he wasn’t emotionally invested in me. He seemed uninterested in my life away from work and didn’t have much to say to me when we weren’t banging. Mr. Texas also used to complain that the claim “spiritual but not religious” was not a valid belief system; you either attended church or you didn’t – and I didn’t! That shot his big church wedding to pieces.

So one week when I felt like a single woman anyway because of his disinterest, I called it off. Unfortunately, two days later the bank laid him off.

I didn’t hear from him for a couple of years, but then he started texting me again. This time around I know there is no emotional connection at all, he just likes talking about his penis and where he’s going to put it. Mr. Texas also sends pictures of his fat sassy cat Sugar, sometimes even videos of her purring, always signing off by saying that he’d like to pet my kitty. In a way it’s flattering, but in another way it’s exhausting. He doesn’t have any concept at all of what I’m going through. I can’t get excited about Mr. Texas and his dirty talk when my abdomen feels like it’s being stabbed for six hours straight.

What I wouldn’t give to be able to fly to a lover again.

The Professor

Yesterday I received medical records from St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix for all of the 10 surgeries I had there, plus numerous visits in between to the ER. The packet included one entire ream of paper with printed chart notes, EKG readings, surgical notes, allergies, and even my signature on some documents. What they didn’t print out on paper they included on a disc for me. Now that I have to set up a whole new team of doctors to help me through this Magical Medical Mystery Tour, I figured it was best to keep track of things and distribute them myself instead of relying on others to gather the info. It’s a plus that I have a laser copier/fax/scanner/printer here at home so I make sure everyone gets what they need.

Some things were a little tough to read. For instance, nearly every time I told the neurosurgeon or the ER staff that my shunt wasn’t working like it should have been, they would tell me that everything looked fine in my scans and that it must be “something else.” After I would beg and plead with the neurosurgeon to do another surgery so I could function again, he would again tell me that everything was fine and he couldn’t say exactly why I had symptoms, but he replaced everything. One of the times was in February of 2013; Dr. N. was out of the country teaching in Japan, and I went into full failure – face drooping, blurred vision, fatigue, vertigo, and I was walking funny, like a cat with anesthesia from a vet wearing off. One nurse told me to go to the hospital four miles away from my house to see if they could treat me for headache. That hospital ended up doing a nuclear shunt study, which they had NEVER done before – I had to tell the radiologist where to inject the nuclear material in my shunt under live x-ray – and they kept me for six days. At the end of the six days they told me the study was “fine” but opted to transport me to St. Joseph’s because Dr. N. was back in the country. I was at St. Joe’s for another six days, during which time Dr. N. did another surgery on me. Now that I’m seeing what was in the report, Dr. N. actually agreed that the shunt flow was sluggish. It wasn’t my imagination and everything was not “fine.” Suckage. I wish they would trust me more when it comes to knowing what’s going on with my body.

I remember vividly the first day I went to St. Joseph’s when I was still trying to get a diagnosis. At that point I had been to at least a dozen doctors over the course of 10 months. I waited to go to the ER until the day after my birthday – I wanted to have a really good dinner out with friends, because I knew I was probably going to have to go through a little hell. At the time, I was dating this guy I will refer to as The Professor, and he accompanied me to the hospital.

We met through OKCupid. It seemed like he and I had a lot in common. He was educated and was planning his first trip to Europe. His picture was just a face shot, and I could only make out that he was smiling and that he had dark hair. We met in January after exchanging some friendly notes; in person, I was a little startled because he had on blue jeans with a bright white belt and bright white shoes, and the pants were sitting high up on his very rotund belly. The Professor’s hair was also dyed dark brown, which was unfortunate – because the very large bald patch in the back shined through like a pink baboon’s ass. I still wanted to get to know him because I’m much more attracted to brains and a certain amount of worldly experience, and so we fell into dating exclusively.

The differences in our beliefs and backgrounds became apparent over time, as they usually do with anyone you date longer than one night. First, he grew up in the middle of small town Indiana – and was exactly like the people I so desperately wanted to get away from in the little town of 300 I lived in in Minnesota for five years. He was strictly a meat-and-potatoes, salt-and-pepper guy – he refused to eat any vegetables or try anything that had flavor. He hadn’t ever even seen a bagel until he was 24!!! To him, those were exotic. He worked at the law library on the main campus of Arizona State University (ASU) and held a bachelor’s degree, but was re-enrolled for his Master’s. However, ASU let him teach one class: Critical Thinking (hence the use of his nickname “The Professor”). We would laugh over some of the things his freshman and sophomore students would come up with in who exactly they hated in the world but couldn’t explain why. But what really bothered me is that he was in his mid-40’s and his mommy was giving him cash every time he got an “A” grade on a paper, and then he’d get a bigger amount if he got an “A” for an entire class. He bragged about how easy school was for him and how smart he was. I would ask him why his mom was paying him for good grades when he had just said how easy it was for him to get high grades. He did not like that question.

The Professor was also a big fan of comics. I helped him to make a transcript of some of his interviews as he was a contributor for an online publication for comics fans. The Professor would brag about how he was a much better interviewer than anyone else, but after putting together some transcripts for him, clearly he struggled with having an actual conversation and he was asking all of the artists the same exact questions. He was just talking to hear himself talk. I am not a fan of comics myself (despite many artists trying to get me hooked), so having to sit through that stuff was a little tedious.

When The Professor talked about his trip to Europe, I really had to bite my tongue. He was likely going to be scared by some of the cuisine (though in England he would fit right in because everything is boiled), but even more importantly, it was going to be a BICYCLE tour. I knew his weight was going to hold him back; when we were simply driving in the car or watching a movie, I could hear him constantly gasping for air and groaning with the effort. The Professor was a mouth breather and sounded like a monster from a horror film. He also had terrible allergies but refused to take allergy meds because he didn’t want to be a “pill pusher.” I found an OTC brand that dissolves in the mouth and he was in heaven. Even the brands that do not have dissolving tablets manufacture incredibly small tablets, so it’s nothing to swallow them. And since when is taking allergy medicine being a “pill pusher”?

Lastly, The Professor refused to wear antiperspirant or deodorant because he said he didn’t like how it felt. He was about 350 lbs. and like everyone else in a super hot city like Phoenix, he sweated profusely. One time when we sat outside of a restaurant after a meal and enjoyed the sunset, he put his arm around me, and his sweaty pit rubbed that sour smell all over all over my shoulders and wig. I hate having to wash my wig more often than is recommended because the fibers and cap wear out faster.

We had connected at a time when my symptoms were somewhat dormant; I could still see while sitting upright and still drive. However, when I became sicker and sicker and still had to deal with our differences, I debated sending him on his way. It was just exhausting. I am not good at projecting a poker face.

The Professor was with me after I spent a week in St. Joseph’s when the group of doctors filed into my room and told me they decided to operate on me. I cried like a baby after they left the room, and The Professor held my hand and tried to comfort me. But the next week when I was home again waiting to be cleared for surgery, I decided it was time. We sat down on my couch and I held his hand and told him that I didn’t think we were compatible. He told me he expected me to break things off because I would sometimes look at him like he was an idiot. I honestly can’t remember most of the exchange, but I do know that I ended it with telling him that I thought he ought to re-think his stance on deodorant. The Professor then said he didn’t use it because he was allergic to it, and I told him that just because he was allergic to one brand didn’t mean he would be to all brands – I broke out in hives from Secret products, so I went and found one that didn’t do that to me. I also called out the fact that he told me previously that he didn’t like it, not that he was allergic to it, and that’s a big difference.

Last year, when I was having a particularly rough night with pain and medication, I sent an email to The Professor saying that I was sorry about the way that I ended things with him and that I wished him happiness. I didn’t hear back from him, but after doing some searching on Facebook, I confirmed he’s up to about 400 lbs. and is engaged. Good for him.

Rubbernecking

Whenever I listen to the album “Happenstance” by Rachael Yamagata, I am reminded of a guy I dated who belonged to the big social group that I mentioned previously. We bonded over our love of all things music (with the exception of Christian, contemporary country and rap) and at the end of one date we sat in my car and listened to the album from front to back – he was impressed with the range of styles of songs included on that one disc. He was a recruiter for a small music and sound tech school. The only way I can describe his appearance is that he looked like the love child of Chris Farley and Guy Fieri; henceforth I will call him Chris Fieri. He was mostly bald and the remaining hair he had he dyed fluorescent blonde. He was outgoing and enthusiastic – sometimes without being aware of social cues. I thought it would be nice to date someone who was inherently social rather than introverted because I love to get together with various personalities and it would be great to not have to worry about him wandering off to a corner by himself.

Chris Fieri and I went on a series of dates over the course of a few months. I even made him a part of my birthday celebration, and the best gift he could have given me turned out to be absolutely fantastic camping chair that I have now used for years to go to outdoor concerts. We went to movies and dinner dates, and then joined back up with other people from the group for shows and bar outings.

One time he invited me to the Wrigley Mansion to watch his friend play a show. This friend was a guitarist and it was a great night for music; also included in the audience were a few others including the former drummer for the Gin Blossoms. At one point it was eight guys and myself in our little group. However, I could tell that this crowd ran at a different pace than I did – most of guys had well-groomed eyebrows and the same style of button-down shirts with embroidered designs over one shoulder as if they had an elaborate underlying tattoo that could not be contained by fabric alone. I am more the type that I am not constantly concerned with my appearance and can only truly relax if others around me are confident in themselves rather than overcompensating.

The Wrigley Mansion’s stage was tiny, only enough room for the guitarist and a percussionist. The Mansion’s version of packed is not your normal night club’s capacity; packed for them would be 75 bodies. As the set progressed, more of Chris Fieri’s friends showed up, including a shorter guy with a gorgeous girlfriend. The guy looked like he got into fistfights all of the time fending off his girlfriend’s admirers. The original eight guys of my group found excuses to be near her and compete to be the loudest/wittiest to get her attention. It was strange to watch because she did not give any one person attention, but instead found another guy in the bar and repeatedly turned and smiled at him while her boyfriend wasn’t looking. I kept thinking to myself, “How could Shorty be missing this??” Finally, more women made it into the bar area to check out the music. Well, Chris Fieri gave up on trying to get the one girl’s attention and went tripping after the other girls. And when I say “tripping,” I mean tripping. He launched himself at them without having a solid concept of inanimate objects like tables and bar stools that were nearby, and hooked his foot on the leg of a stool and almost did a full frontal body splat.

All of his buddies saw this too. A few of them turned to me, looking uncomfortable, and said, “I thought you two were together.” They could tell I wasn’t thrilled. After the end of the second set I was at the foot of the stairs leading up to the second floor of the bar area, and Chris Fieri came over to me and put his arms forcefully on my shoulders as if he was trying to drive my feet into the floor and sloppily kissed me. I couldn’t easily fend him off because he outweighed me by at least 150 lbs, but I did wipe my mouth with the back of my hand as soon as he was done and told him I was outta there. Immediately he went on the defensive and said, “Are you mad because I talked to other people??” I knew that trying to reason with a man who had had about five drinks too many would be a challenge, but I told him I wasn’t bothered by that, I was upset that he was trying to pick up other ladies right in front of me. Then his Chris Farley voice came out and he started bellering that everyone was talking to other girls and that he only did what everyone else was doing. So I said, “Fine, pretty sure you don’t need me here for that,” and I retrieved my car from the valet.

The next day he called me and told me the same thing – that everyone else was trying to pick up women, so he was just doing what they were doing. I told him even his friends were embarrassed by his behavior and it wasn’t my imagination. I didn’t go out with him again, even after being pushed by another group member who had taken pictures of us together and posted them on MySpace – and strangely enough, four years later again on Facebook – with the caption, “Where are these two?” I had to ask him numerous times to take down the pictures. It was obvious that Chris Fieri was trying to be “cool” like the rest of his buddies.

It’s human nature to notice attractive people around you. We are drawn to those who have perfectly symmetrical features, just as we subconsciously recognize symmetrical patterns in spider webs and leaves that grow on plants. However, the way that you handle that attraction is what sets you apart from the rest of the animals. Chris Fieri learned the hard way that it doesn’t matter if everyone else is rubbernecking; he’s not going to win points from me for tripping over furniture to chase down other women while I’m standing next to him. I can’t imagine the woman with the shorty boyfriend lasted long in their relationship either; she was obviously a trophy, and he was clearly someone to pass the time while she looked for a better option.

A fellow blogger posted thoughts this week on disconnecting from social media; she found that she was much more likely to multi-task or have online ADD, jumping from one project to another without completing one first. She also lamented the fact that she didn’t have the attention span required to read a whole book like she used to, but instead sought out short  and efficient text. How does this relate to dating rubbernecking? It’s everything. We like short paragraphs in personal ads, we cut off a date after 30 minutes if we feel zero attraction, we look at other people and mentally undress them while distractedly answering “Yes” or “No” to the dates sitting across from us.

It’s a lot harder now to not rubberneck. Our constant state of distraction is the bane of our love lives.

100 Dates

When I moved to Phoenix in 2003, I didn’t know anyone. Not a single person. I also didn’t have a place to live or a job, but thankfully I did have some money in savings, so those two things kinda took care of themselves. Creating a new circle of friends was a huge challenge, though. The first job I landed was as a traveling trainer; I flew to cities all over the U.S. to train loan officers and processors on the new software that was being implemented for a large mortgage company. This meant that sometimes I would only be in Phoenix for 20-48 hours total before I had to fly out again – long enough to do laundry and repack. I also didn’t know my way around Phoenix at all – this was long before cell phones were able to navigate and navigational systems were hugely expensive. I thought the perfect way to juggle all of this was to go on dates.

My reasoning was this: 1) I could meet a lot of people; 2) It would force me to learn the city; 3) I wouldn’t have to buy groceries that might spoil while I’m on the road. I used LavaLife to shop for men and make plans for when I’d be back in Phoenix. I booked breakfast, lunch and dinner dates. Occasionally – rarely – some of them got second dates.

One that did was Don Juan. He was a slick Mexican guy with a BMW, and turned out to be my introduction into the world of “Netflix and chill” before it was a thing. He was soft-spoken and had the appearance of a teddy bear. Make no mistake, though – he was dirty, dirty, dirty. But it got a little old being FWB, because I wanted to get out and actually do stuff in my new city. One of the few nights we were out I was driving and flashed my lights at a driver who forgot to turn his lights on, and Don Juan yelled at me, saying “Guera (pronounced “wetta”), don’t flash your lights! Are you trying to get us killed?? That’s a gang signal!” Most of the areas in Phoenix cleaned up a lot by the time I moved there, so I didn’t immediately see why he was so freaked out. However, from that point forward, I could always hear his voice in the back of my head when I reached for my lights to flash them at another unaware driver.

Another was Earl. I had a soft spot for Earl because he was a ginger, he had a deep voice and a sarcastic sense of humor. We only went out a few times because he was another one who told me I must be a big whore because I went on lots of dates. I get a little bucky when I am accused of something like that – what’s wrong with going on dates? I didn’t even hug most of them, much less share my bed. However, I did file away his occupation in my memory bank, because a year later I got him to make a job offer to a friend.

There was one week that I had three dates with three different guys from Minnesota. The first one was a hockey player from Minnesota. You’d think that we would have a lot to talk about because of some common interests…but NO. He was not a big talker. We found out on the date that we actually had a mutual acquaintance in Phoenix, but that conversation didn’t go far either. He asked how I knew her, I asked how he knew her, and that was that. He had pretty hair and pretty eyes, and I’m thinking he was used to skating by on his looks. Ha ha – SKATING! I didn’t even mean to make that funny.

The second guy from Minnesota invited me over to his place for dinner. However, dinner was really just “Netflix and chill” while his black lab threw himself enthusiastically into the pool in the back yard over and over. (His neighbor thought that HE was doing belly flops into the pool.) There was no dinner in the deal.

The third guy from Minnesota met up with me for a date that Saturday night. This one was a good one. We met in August of 2004. He was tall, handsome, had a deep voice and was very, very calm. We entered into an arrangement where we would meet up for a dinner on a Saturday night whenever we were both home (he traveled a lot for work too), so he became Mr. Saturday Night. Though it was not a traditional love match, we kept in touch for years and would meet up every once in a while because we were so comfortable with each other. Oh, and we dearly loved to laugh! We would laugh for hours. He told me that I would always have a special place in his heart, and I told him the same. I took him to an event without knowing it would be the last time I would see him, because if I had, I would have wished him well. Mr. Saturday Night decided to let go of his past relationship with an emotionally abusive alcoholic and open himself up again to finding love. There was no space for me because I was the transitional person. I will always be grateful to him for being accepting of me, twisted wigs and twisted humor and all, especially since I have encountered so many men who have not been able to live with what was hiding under the prosthetic. I know that he was successful in finding his match because he sent me a note on Facebook telling me he was taking her to Minnesota to meet his family; I took it to mean that he was closing the door forever.

I learned many things on these 100 dates:

  1. There are a lot of McRoads in Phoenix:  McKellips, McClintock, McDowell, etc. Makes it difficult to navigate with only a paper, accordioned map.
  2. Being nervous adds no value. After going through so many first dates, it’s really tough to make me get stage fright.
  3. People from California tend to not be reliable because they make plans and break them if something better comes along or they are very late. Be prepared to hear about how great California is repeatedly.
  4. Internet dating is still blind dating. No one has screened the other person for you, though – you are on your own in that department. I’m not even certain that all of them were unmarried at that time even if they claimed it to be true.
  5. Guys who say over and over again that they are nice guys and complain about not getting any dates is a red flag; usually the guys that claim this don’t actually like women, but rather just see us as these things that can service them.
  6. “Netflix and chill” is appropriate after, say, four months together, but not four minutes or four hours. I still wanna go on real dates.

Three Is A Crowd

For the past, oh, two decades or so, men have been trying to talk me into three-or-more-somes. I’ve been accused of turning down the requests without knowing what I like, which is completely not true. I like men. Specifically, I like one man at a time. It’s tough to believe, I know – with the easy access to free porn on the internet (Pornhub, Youporn, XHamster, etc.), it’s pretty much shoved in your face as a consumer of sex that if you are a woman, you should want to fuck both men and women, and it should be enough for the women in porn that the men and/or viewers get off on what they are doing, not the woman who is actually going through the experience. I also blame the phenomenon that seemed to start right around age 23-ish for me, which was that women began making out with each other on the dance floor and in bars if they knew that they could gain attention from men. I’ve heard the theory that women are a lot more fluid in their sexual preferences than men are, so maybe they enjoy making out with their female friends, but I know that getting attention is a huge payoff. The problem with that is that men are now conditioned to look for that in every woman they meet, so if a woman balks at that demand, then the man moves on to the next tasty morsel.

My first live-in boyfriend was nerd before nerd was cool. He was also hooked on porn and had had some bisexual girlfriends before dating me, and he hoped to convert me into inviting others into our sex life. We even went to a swingers’ club one night when we were still living in Albuquerque. It was a bust though – not many people were there, and the three men who hit on me were in their 50’s and slightly inebriated. The bigger problem, though, is that I wasn’t ready to bring someone else in, but I was trying to please him.

A man I fooled around with was, well, very good at what he did, so he probably could have talked me into anything. He told me that he had a buddy from the gym who would be willing to do a threesome. I was tempted because it wasn’t the usual request of going at it with another woman, but I had some hard limits that I wasn’t sure would be honored because I didn’t know jack about the other guy. I don’t ever like to feel outnumbered, whether it’s with trying to wrangle toddlers or penises or anything else that has the ability to turn an experience immediately to shit.

A Greek guy I dated in Ohio talked me and another couple into a post-hot tub rendezvous, but that quickly soured for me because all my boyfriend would talk about was how hot the other woman was, and if he was taking care of her, she would have orgasmed immediately. He got his chance and he was proven wrong. (Pro tip: If you’re going to tell your girlfriend over and over how other women are prettier than her, don’t expect hero worship.)

Through a social group that I belonged to in Phoenix, among the many people I met, I became friends with a husband and wife with a young child. The husband was a nurse at the hospital where I volunteered, and we met while I was in my first year back at school to earn my RN degree. The wife provided writing and grammar services on the side, so I had some things in common with both of them. About six months into the friendship the couple explained that they had an open marriage and they were both interested in me. After I told them that I was the straightest girl they knew, they seemed to accept it and we continued our friendship. One night after the husband and I were hanging out with a group of 10 or so at a bar, he propositioned me and told me that his wife understood, and that he had her permission to have sex with me. I thought to myself, “Okay, I haven’t tried this before where everything is out in the open, so I’ll give it a whirl.” The husband asked if he could have some privacy in my living room to call his wife so they could talk about it again before anything happened, so I was not privy to the conversation. When he joined me in my bedroom, he told me that he told her what was happening and made sure she was okay with it. Can you guess what happened? She wasn’t okay with it. She called me, and then she called him, and after questioning me and him thoroughly, she determined he lied to both of us. Oh, yeah, and he was also screwing another married woman on the side. And the married woman he was screwing had another guy on the side. Are you keeping up with the math? There were at least six of us that had to go in for STD testing. And even though she figured out that the husband was lying through his teeth and I hadn’t maliciously tried to insert myself into their (oh, surprise – not-so-open) marriage, she told everyone in our social group that I was a homewrecker. I ended up dropping out of the group only a week after all of this was discovered. I had made a lot of friends and was attending weekly events and suddenly I was out.

A little older and wiser, I’ve seen many polyamorous relationships thanks to FetLife. I haven’t seen one group of three or more people who have successfully navigated love and sex without someone having to leave, usually in tears. Whether or not a relationship works strongly depends on everyone’s level of comfort with various dynamics. For example, are you okay with your man being a “pony” for a mistress as long as he doesn’t have sex with her? Are you open to being one of three wives to one man? What if your man kisses every woman he meets on the lips while you stand there and it’s obvious to even the casual bystander that it takes a little piece out of your heart every time? And probably the worst scenario is being singled out while everyone else bands together in a group that is supposed to be all-inclusive – it can be very lonely and traumatizing to be ganged up on.

What works for me is to make a relationship work between me and one other person, because damn, even that isn’t easy. I want less strife and heartbreak in my life.

WWJD

Drummer #2 coulda been Jesus. He grew out his hair to his lower back, dark brown with tight natural curls, and had light grey-blue eyes. He even had a full beard and mustache. The overall effect was Jesus, at least the Anglican version of that religious figure. Funny thing is that he was raised Jewish and was basically an atheist. Drummer #2 grew up in Manhattan in a lower middle class family that was ruled by his father’s violence and his mother’s indifference.

We met when I accepted an invitation from a guy I didn’t know well to join a group of people I didn’t know at all to hang out at a dive bar and sing karaoke and talk politics. Jeff worked at GoDaddy and he had rounded up some co-workers for a night out, and Drummer #2 was there. The joint’s decor was sad vinyl chairs from the ’70s and even sadder regular drunks sitting in a circle around the bar and staring vacantly into their drinks. I have never really shied away from meeting new people and hearing their stories – I mean, how else are you supposed to make friends as an adult? So we had some great conversations going around the table, but then Jeff had too many drinks and became a little belligerent. I was explaining to him some of the volunteer work I had been doing (being a “hugger” at a children’s hospital), and I was a little baffled to find that I had to defend myself to him when he wondered why I thought my work was benefiting anyone. Drummer #2 jumped in and that as difficult as it was to see very sick children, I was doing a great thing in comforting them. That immediately endeared him to me. In the parking lot, he gave me his business card and told me that he would like to stay in touch and his website was the easiest way to contact him.

I don’t remember how or where our next outing was, but we ended up spending a lot of time together, at least a couple of times a week. I had vowed to remain celibate for a year when I met him, so I did not see it as a dating opportunity. We would look for new and unusual (and inexpensive) things to do. I took him to the Paper Heart in downtown Phoenix, which is no longer in operation, but it was a multi-purpose art space for performances and poetry jams and live painting. It turned out that he was a photographer as well as a musician and I knew that that place would be right up his alley. For a one-month stretch I had a wild hair to go play some bingo – but not at a casino – so I tried to find places where we could hang out in a church basement with a bunch of blue hairs. All of the events calendars were outdated so we would end up driving up and down these streets where bingo should have been, and eventually we’d give up and go to a restaurant instead.

We carried on as friends for an entire year. Eventually I trusted him enough to talk to him about an idea I had for photographs, which was to paint my face, bald head and neck in white, and then make swirls on one side of my face with gold paint, quite like a Klimt piece of art. I went to a costume shop and found some really great face paints and we invested in an airbrush for the base coat. The photographs turned out better than I could have ever hoped. Some were black and whites, where my torso and shoulders were wrapped in white gauze, and that combined with the white paint and black backdrop made me appear as if I were a marble statue. Another was a full body shot of me wrapped in a quilt sewn with intricately printed fabrics where the gold swirls on my face contrasted with the white base paint, and the overall effect was stunning. We laughed over the fact that at times when I tried to look serious and intense, it really came off as a resting bitch face.

My lease with the current roommate was ending, and Drummer #2 and I decided to become roommates. We wanted to look for a house we could comfortably share that would have enough room for him to do his photography, and we settled on a 3BR/2BA on a little man-made lake, complete with ducks. We even acquired a paddle boat from his best friend. I had the bedroom at the front of the house next to the garage, and he had the master suite with enough room to shove his bed into a corner and set the rest up with black backdrops for his sessions. The middle bedroom was our office where we set up dueling computers. He was often working on editing his most recent photos or moderating a heavy metal website.

Not long after we moved in, we were laying on his bed talking about our days, and he raised up over me on one elbow and leaned down and kissed me. This is one of those times where ignoring my instincts resulted in dire consequences. I loved him as a person who was a large part of my daily living, and he seemed to accept me as I was, even with my quirks and less-than-conventional appearance. But I had all kinds of warnings going off in my brain and I wasn’t sure why. I fought them. I told myself I was being stupid. So at Drummer #2’s insistence that he wanted to be close to me, intimately, I broke my self-imposed celibacy.

Drummer #2 insisted that he wanted to show his affection for me by being intimate, but he absolutely did not want to get into a romantic relationship. I couldn’t reconcile that in my head; we were friends, and we were lovers, and we were living in a house together. Why couldn’t it be a romantic relationship?

I found out the hard way that I should have trusted the warning bells. As soon as he stuck his dick in me, everything changed. I became a possession to control. He didn’t want to be in a relationship with me, but he certainly didn’t want me to find anyone else. He also became incredibly critical of me and tried to control every emotion that I felt. Drummer #2 claimed that he was really “in tune” with me and could sense my thoughts and feelings. There were so many times I would come home from work and it hadn’t been a particularly good or bad day, but he would insist that there was something bothering me and that I should tell him everything. He wanted me to have bad days. Sometimes I would just make up stupid shit to get him off my case, like, “Oh, yeah, you’re right, this thing happened at work today.” Then he would make a big show of comforting me, as if he was the only person on the earth who could help me.

I was starting to feel really smothered. Every look on my face was scrutinized, and he was constantly telling me what I should be feeling instead. The only way I can describe that feeling is like he had is arm constantly over my shoulders, and I couldn’t shrug him off.

The co-habitation started in September of 2008. In February of 2009, I went to an event that involved group meditation. I had had many bouts of bronchitis for the prior 12 months and was fighting another round at that time, but I really wanted to get out of the house and find some peace. I got home and found him waiting on the couch with the TV and computers turned off. He was furious that I was gone for two hours, even though he knew I was going and where I would be, and he started raging. I don’t normally just sit back and accept someone screaming at me; I yell right back. It was a long, drawn out fight that lasted for four days.

We had opposite schedules and would sometimes leave notes for each other by using dry erase markers on our tile counter tops. On the fourth day I awoke to find all of the counters in the kitchen covered in black dry erase marker, telling me how horrible I was and that he had wasted his time with me by doing all of the fun things we did like try to find bingo and take photos. That was about 46 sq. ft. of counter space covered with tiny black letters. He told me that if I would just allow him to guide me that I would become a better person. He told me no one would accept me or love me like he did. At that point I was emotionally exhausted and hurt, and I apologized to him for yelling. But after that first big fight, there was always tension.

In March of 2009 I went on a date with a guy from work. That triggered another drawn-out fight, and more hate messages on the counter tiles. Drummer #2 claimed that he wanted to be in a relationship with me and that I was cheating on him by going out with someone else. It was news to me, but I agreed to stay exclusive with him. Again, I apologized.

There were so many fights and so many hate messages written on the tiles. He would also send me emails whose word counts were in the thousands. To this day I have a folder dedicated to him and all of the correspondence is in that folder, but I can’t bring myself to read it, so I can’t give you any specifics, but the fights always ended with him insisting that I should feel what he told me to feel and if I would just let him guide me, everything would be okay.

In June of 2009 we had another fight. That time, though, something sent him over the edge. I can’t remember what exactly – I probably raised my voice back at him – and he threw a drinking glass across the room at me. I do remember him calling me a fucking piece of shit, a bitch, a whore, yelling that I had made him try to kill me. I had been cooking something on the stove and there were thousands of pieces of glass all around me and in the food. The glass had ended up breaking the wooden blinds at the window next to me. I didn’t say anything but went straight to my room and locked my door. I called my friend and made arrangements to move into the empty third floor of her house, and I hired shitty movers off of Craigslist who broke every piece of furniture they moved.

That wasn’t the end of it, though. It rarely is in an abusive relationship.

It took three months, but he worked on me and wore me down until I agreed to go back to him and try again. At first he cried and tried to make his eyes as big as possible (a trick he admitted later as one of his go-to moves for manipulation), and then he started back in on telling me that if I would just feel what he told me to, everything would be okay. The fighting was constant. I remember curling up into a ball and sobbing because he told me I was worthless and that he should just leave me, and it was my fault that he was falling apart again after never intending to get into another romantic relationship in the first place.

Still, I tried. I constantly walked on egg shells around him, afraid that if I showed the “wrong” emotion, he’d freak out. We even tried to celebrate the holidays. I bought Christmas gifts for him based on what he had mentioned in casual conversation as wanting, and I jokingly told him to try not to buy anything for himself for a few weeks because it might be in my stash for him. He responded by saying, “What kind of piece of shit person do you have to be to tell me what I can buy?”

We didn’t make it to Christmas, though. I can’t remember what prompted me to leave besides the obvious, so maybe I was at the end of my rope. I emailed him and told him I would be at the house on Saturday, December 12th to get the remainder of my dishes from the kitchen and other odds and ends, but I didn’t want him there and I made that very clear. He was supposed to be working the early shift that day and should not have been there when I arrived.

When I let myself into the house carrying a brand new monitor still in its box that he had given to me, the house was silent, and I didn’t see his car. I took off my shoes and walked toward the back to the office to return the monitor. The rooms were dark and I didn’t see him in the corner of the office until I set the box down and I saw movement from the corner of my eye. He had called in sick to work and had been waiting for me. I ran through the kitchen towards the front of the house and had to pause to try to slip my toes into my shoes while opening the front door. He caught up with me there. He hugged his arms around me so that I couldn’t move without dragging him and I couldn’t raise my arms – and he also knew enough to not put too much pressure on one area to leave bruises, like grabbing me with fingers. We struggled at the door and he repeated over and over, “Don’t leave!” I finally managed to get mostly free of him and then I tried to get to my car, but he was pulling on anything he could get his hands on, mostly clothing. I got my flip phone out and managed to dial 911 but then hung up immediately when we continued to struggle in the driveway. The operator called me back and I was completely panicked and shaking, and I told her that he wouldn’t let go of me. When he realized I was on the phone with 911 he let go of me and allowed me to close the door. I started the car and tore out of the driveway, the operator asking if I could get to a safe place and wait for officers.

When the officers arrived (one male, one female), they questioned me. I couldn’t show them any bruises because I knew he hadn’t left any. When they went to the house to question Drummer #2, he gave them the big eyes and worked himself up to force his eyes to water. They came back to me and said since there weren’t any witnesses (this was too early in the morning for people to be out in the neighborhood) and he didn’t leave any marks, they weren’t going to haul him in AND if I called in another report, they were going to arrest me. I was absolutely dumbfounded. This is the stuff you read about but can’t imagine happening until it actually does. I started shaking and sobbing, and they told me to call a friend if I wanted to whine to someone.

After crying in my car for a while, I drove back to my friend’s house. A few hours later I received a call from Drummer #2 wanting to know what I wanted to do. I told him to get the fuck out of the house and stay gone for two hours. He told me he could stay and help. I told him I never wanted him to be there while I got the rest of my stuff and I never wanted to have any contact with him again. That was the last conversation we had.

Drummer #2 always bragged that he was smarter than everyone else, that his IQ tested off the charts and that he could get away with anything he wanted to because all cops and lawyers were stupid – and he proved it when I called 911. In 2010 I lived in two different apartment complexes. Every night of that year, I woke up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat because I was afraid he had somehow tracked me down and broke in and was standing over me, waiting for me to wake up.