Tuesday, July 27, 2004

No! Layers! Onions have layers. Ogres have layers. Onions have layers. You get it? We both have layers. 

With apologies to Inanna for stealing her “peeling the onion” concept and turning it into a shrek quote.

After stalling and bumbling, and resisting every inclination to write something serious on my blog, I’ve decided to do a little onion peeling myself.

After the lame comments I made on Gooch’s site, I thought I should explain myself.

Also, it will help to explain why I am so upset over my mom’s reaction to my relationship with K over the past year and a half.

In the beginning

I have always been overweight. Since I was a little kid I remember my parents telling me that I need to eat less sweets and lose weight. My father even told me that I couldn’t get my ears pierced until I lost 13lbs. I was probably 8 or 9 years old. I think I lost 9lbs, and my parents let me get pierced anyway. When I got older, their strategy changed. I was told that if I wanted to date, I would have to lose weight. Because boys only liked skinny girls. What was the result of this brainwashing? Well, I certainly didn’t lose weight. What happened was the firm belief that I was hideously unattractive, and that no guy would ever ever be attracted to my or want to go out with me. So I lived my life believing that I would be fat and alone. I didn’t date in high school. I didn’t go to the prom. I didn’t date in college. I had plenty of friends. That was part of the problem, I think. If I heard one more guy I was secretly in love with tell me “you are such a good friend” I think I would have hurled myself off a cliff. I never told these guys how I felt about them. Why should I? I was fat and hideous and they would never want to be with me, right?

Fast forward a few years. I moved to Atlanta, where I didn’t know a single person. I made friends in my grad school class, but they all were married, engaged, or were in serious relationships. I was the ONLY single girl, living alone in a strange city.

I lived in a huge apartment complex that had a nice lake with a fountain and a path around it, perfect for walking Sadie. One day, after living in Atlanta for 7 months, a guy with a goofy looking white dog approaches me while sadie and I were walking. He is shorter than me (ick) and not all that attractive. But he seems friendly enough. His name is Craig. He suggests we get together to walk our dogs sometimes. Ummm…yeah, sure, whatever. What is he playing at? Another week or so goes by, I run into him again, he suggests drinks. I’m really busy right now, thanks. On another encounter, he asks me out to dinner. Since he keeps upping the stakes every time we talk, I decided to say yes, before he proposes, or something. This is my first date ever. I am 23.

Craig was 10 years older than I am, jewish, and divorced. He wore suspenders. He was also unemployed. We only officially “dated” for two weeks, before he gave me the “let’s just be friends” talk. That’s when the real fun began (sarcasm!). Apparently, being “friends” meant that we could still occasionally fool around, but he could still flirt with and try to pick up women in front of me. He also used me as an emotional crutch. Like I said, he was divorced and unemployed. Every day I would get back from school and walk Sadie. Craig would meet me and start complaining. About the job market. About his parents. About anything and everything. After 45 minutes, he would ask me how my day was. This went on for a long time. I slowly felt myself being sucked down. I couldn’t get rid of him, though. He was my only friend in Atlanta. Plus I have this “mothering” instinct that won’t let me ditch someone who needs me. Besides, he would do the same for me, right? Oh…how wrong I was.

Some more background. Without going into too much detail here…I need to say that my brother Aaron died a little over 5 years ago. He had a freak combination of Leukemia and something called GuillainBarre’ Syndrome. The GBS was so severe that he was completely paralyzed and on a respirator for almost four months before he died of sepsis, a week before his 19th birthday. I promise a blog on this one day. But I wanted to let you know that, and that my other brother Evan, Aaron’s twin , is alive, healthy (for a smoker – bleah!) and working as a tattoo artist in Pittsburgh.

I don’t mind talking about my brother. It helps me, and it’s how I grieve for him.

Back to dumbass…I mean Craig. Craig considered himself an expert on depression and counseling, since he had experience with both. I began to notice that whenever I brought Aaron up in conversation, he would say something like “you know, you should really get some counseling about that.” No matter how casual the reference. Even if I just said my brothers, using the plural, I would get that response. It began to irritate me that for someone who has no problem dropping all his problems on me, he’s a little quick to dismiss my feelings and need to occasionally talk about my brother.

Fast forward another few months. After a year of living in my apartment, I decide to buy a condo, with parental financial assistance. Part of me is relieved to put a little distance between Craig and myself. But again, he’s still my only friend outside of school, so I stick it out with him. Plus…and this is embarrassing…I’m on a mission to lose my virginity. Craig is not the ideal fantasy, but I know him and trust him. We’d tried a few times, but…hehe…he was taking antidepressants, which took the wind out of his sails, so to speak. Ah, shit…he couldn’t get it up! Hehe. No, that’s not funny. Well, ok, yes it is. Anyway, I was determined to lose it, come hell or high water. Then I would be free to date other guys, and have a normal sex life without having the “uh, by the way, this is my first time” awkward conversation (please forgive the stupidity of a girl in her early 20’s). After a few months in my condo, I stumbled upon a presbyterian church. I hadn’t been to church since college, and felt that I was missing something in my life because of it. Also, it would be an opportunity to meet new people. I discovered that they had a young adult group, and started attending their events. These were cool people. These were people who would discuss the bible and faith in an intellectual way. We would have the greatest discussions and debates! And then, best of all, afterwards, we walk over to the local bars for drinks. Yay! My kind of people. I made friends quickly.

The anniversary of my brother’s death is in april – the same week as the columbine shootings, as a matter of fact. So every april I get a little sad. It was pretty bad the first year – I think I cried for a week. At this point, it was coming up on the second anniversary, and I was feeling the need to be with friends. I just wanted to have someone to talk to, a shoulder to cry on. I turned to Craig. After all, I had been there for him during his unemployment. Things were starting to look up for craig. He finally found a job. And he was making more friends at the synagogue (back story: the people in his jewish young adult group were as sick of his whining as I was, and were pretty much ignoring him. Then one day he invited me to go with him – see comments on Gooch’s site for story – and apparently, my presence gave him some cred’ - he was back on the A list) I called him up and asked if we could get together and talk, I was feeling sad about my brother. “you know, you should really get some counseling about that.” Yeah yeah, whatever. He said he could meet me for coffee at starbucks. We were there for a half hour, 10 minutes of which he spent flirting with some woman he knew there. Again, his response to my sadness was that I should see a psychiatrist. That was it.

Here’s how my new friends from church responded: one girl made a huge bowl of spaghetti, opened a few bottles of wine, and invited a bunch of us over for a “let’s be there for ESC dinner. I realized that night that this was how friends were supposed to treat you. This was real friendship. Somehow, after a year with Craig, I had forgotten that.

I confronted Craig about how he treated me, about how angry I was at him for not being there for me when I needed him, after all I had been through with him. His response: you’re not really angry at me, you’re projecting your grief over the death of your brother at me. You should really get some therapy for that.


What a dumbass. Soon after, I ended my relationship with him. Got my key back and vowed never to speak to him again. Which I’m happy to say I haven’t. The next winter I caught a glimpse of him at Best Buy – working in the large appliance section. So much for his dream job. They probably got sick of him too. I’ve since heard that he moved to DC. He always hated Atlanta. He dreamed of going back to NY (“but you never lived in NY, you lived in Jersey” “but I spent all my time in the city” “whatever, jersey boy”).

I glossed over a lot of the details. Craig managed to keep me in a constant state of confusion – I did eventually lose my virginity to him. It was kind of a non-event – didn’t last that long, and afterwards thought maybe I had just dreamed it. Not a good sign. He would act like we were dating when it suited him, and then use me as “girl bait” to hit on other women at the dog park. It’s easy to look back and say “what the hell was I thinking, letting it go on for so long.” But you have to remember how naïve and stupid I was. He made me feel needed. He also made me feel attractive. He loved my body. That was a completely new concept to me. I wasn’t beautiful! I was fat. Didn’t matter. He thought it was sexy, and after a while, I started to believe it.

So after all he put me through, I owe Craig a debt of gratitude. He opened me up to the possibility that I was deserving of being loved and desired. He made me see myself as beautiful. He awakened my sexuality. He taught me what a good relationship should NOT be. He started me on the path that would eventually lead me to K, and the wonderful relationship we have now. I never in a million years thought that I would be this happy, this much in love with someone, and that they would love me back…I can’t even describe how unreal it seems sometimes. So it's hurtful that now that I'm in a wonderful, healthy relationship, that my mother is acting so weird about it.

So I owe Craig my thanks, but that’s all I owe him. I have peeled him off and tossed him away. I hope he finds happiness on a path that takes him far far away from mine.

Wow, I do go on, don’t I? Thanks for hanging in there.

Next: some fun, random stuff, and then another long story about my internet dating experiences.