“You forgot your toothbrush,” I call out to the woman I’ve been casually dating for the last month as she hustles past my front door to teach a class.
“Oh. I’ll just leave it here. If that’s cool?”
I stare. My mouth says: Sure. But my mind says: AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.
It’s never just a toothbrush. This is it. She’s your girlfriend now. All it’s going to take is for one of you to say it out loud.
After she leaves, I stay in bed. Partly because the perks of being a writer and a PhD student include a lot of time in my pajamas and partly because I’m tossing and convulsing with questions now about what I’m going to do in regard to this crusty, orange foreign object.
My mind does this:
Pros & Cons
Pro: Sex, the sex!
Con. You’re still recovering from your last monster breakup with a bikini model
Pro: She has a real job and a plan.
Con. She’s a normal human so she doesn’t understand your antisocial need for idea space and sitting alone, staring out of the window for hours
Pro: She likes to travel
Con. You might be in love with a person you met last week
Pro: She makes you laugh.
Con. She is slow at doing routine things; watching her wash dishes is torture
Pro: She doesn’t have an unhealthy amount of mommy or daddy issues.
Con. You can see jealousy swarm her eyes every time you mention your friend because you let it slip once that you had drunk sex with her years ago. (Side note: You have had drunk sex with almost all of your friends)
I should say, outright, that I have terrible commitment issues and most of my mascaras last longer than my relationships. The revolving door of women is something my family, and even extended family, has grown to accept.
Last week, for example, when I mentioned to my brother, over Skype, that I was going to wait to buy a new digital SLR camera because Mercury was in retrograde, he assumed that Mercury was the name of my newest girlfriend and that Retrograde was either a club or rehab centre.
After a certain point—okay, ten years—of serial monogamy and relationships that last three months to a year, I’ve noticed patterns. As it turns out, I like the chase. It looks a bit like this: I encourage (generally bi-curious) women to date me. Often times, these women are ridiculously attractive and utterly incompatible. Our differences range from subtle (she supports the death penalty or doesn’t read) to insurmountable (she has a husband/boyfriend/children/is pregnant). When my brain stops having its new-love orgasm and the dopamine clouds part, I realize I’m in something with someone who doesn’t fit.
Thankfully, modern science suggests it’s not entirely my fault. The Chase is neurological. I don’t need a fancy psychology degree to recognize that dreaming about sipping shiraz in an affordable Air BnB in Venice this summer gives me as much joy, and will for months, as the actual trip. With all this anticipation and nostalgia constantly duking it out in our minds, it’s no wonder we have to pay a hot yoga studio eighty bucks a month to stay present.
So, holding the toothbrush in my hand, I decide to do what any emotionally problematic woman in her 20s—alright very late 20s…okay…basically a 30 year-old-woman—does and I call my mother.
“How did you know?”
“With Dad. How did you know he was the one? I need to know how to know.”
“Is this about the new woman you’re dating?”
“Of course. She’s gonna need an answer soon.”
“Truth is, just the other day, I was driving down the street and I saw your father walking with mail and I got that excited feeling. That wow this man chose me feeling. When you feel it, you feel it.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too.”
When you feel it you feel it?
I felt it once. I was 24 and she was 29. We met on a blind date and talked for six hours before having drunk sex in a sketchy park. She had didn’t have a good job, but she had a job she loved. She was jealous, but in a way that I found cute. She was bi-curious, but speed-read Judith Butler and watched every episode of The Real L Word. She looked at me the way I wanted to be looked at. Like I could do anything. Like I was the perfect person for her and she was reminded of that in almost every moment. I felt it once and, still, I ran away. After a year together, I’d asked her to move in with me. She said she wasn’t ready. The rejection made me second-guess the whole relationship and I hopped a plane.
I felt it once and let it slip away.
It didn’t take long for depression to kick in. iTunes knew to play Adele without question. My room looked like a bad soggy Kleenex art installation. I smelled like a dump truck. I knew I’d lost my true love. So I tried to get her back. It was too late. She found a rich political analyst with a bigger BMI and deeper pockets- a dude who wasn’t capable of breaking her heart as easily.
The thing nobody wants to admit is that even when you think you know that you know, the other person might not know that you know, you know?
I call the woman I’m dating and I tell her that she needs to pick up her toothbrush. Okay, so in a world where I’m actually emotionally honest and not terrified of crushing people, I do this. In this actual world, I call her and pretend I have a really contagious cold. The next day, I follow it up with a tale of boundless period cramps. This excuse it true. I take a week of apartness to see if I feel it. I don’t.
I make a deal with myself: no talks about future weddings or posing for family calendar pictures only to have her be somebody that I limit my Facebook posts to in the coming weeks. I’m going to stay in the present, boring, moment this time and see the situation for what it really is, or probably isn’t.