That Marriage: The Big Lies

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Recently, I was on-air getting ready to chat about something: The Blake Shelton concert coming to the area, why coffee is good for you, or maybe some big news about flip flops. A FB Messenger “message request” popped up. I didn’t recognize the woman’s name. The line that caught my eye just as I opened the mic was “I’m fairly certain we were sleeping with him at the same time.”  The messages continued until we got to this screenshot.

Some divorces are easier than others. The one I am writing about now was devastating. For the past few years, I’ve regarded my ex as a person in deep pain. No matter how much I’ve wanted to lash out at him, I’ve stopped myself. It felt like kicking a dog when he’s down or pouring salt in a wound – whatever cliche you prefer. Mind you, not lashing out has probably been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. My plan is not to lash out now, but to share part of the story – about how I dealt with rage. With anger.

It’s hard to know where to start, so let me say I married a person I didn’t really know. The marriage was full of jealousy, lies, and insecurity. He thought I was a liar. When I “liked” FB posts from a former boyfriend I was “disrespectful.” When I had meet and greet pics taken with country music singers, I was “celebrity humping.” When I went out with groups of male and female friends, I wasn’t “acting the way a wife should.” And when I wrote a memoir about a very difficult time in my life, he was horrified. I shouldn’t have gone public with that sort of info.

That marriage almost consumed me – with his alcoholism. Luckily I discovered Al Anon. As I mentioned, the marriage was full of lies. The alcoholism sort of lies. What I did not know, until that FB message, was that our marriage was also full of the cheating sort of lies. His. Not mine. I can honestly say, I never saw that one coming.

After about 18 months of marriage, “Richard,” I’ll call him “Dick” and I agreed that I’d quit my part-time job. I’d been teaching part-time at a university and I wanted to go back to freelance copywriting. On my last day at the university, he left. It was the third time he’d left. The first time was for one night. The second time was for a few weeks. The third time, it was for good. He was convinced I was a lying, disrespectful wife.

Then I lost my house. It’s impossible to pay a mortgage with no job. I had to get rid of most of my belongings as I moved into a tiny townhouse. My kids lost their family home. So I faced the loss of my marriage, my job and my house – all at once.

Dick cheated on his first wife. I found out about one of his indiscretions accidentally after we were married. At various times, my friends had asked me, “Do you think Dick cheated on you too?” And my reply was always the same, “Oh no. He really loved me. I felt it. I can’t even imagine that.”

Idiot. Fool. During the marriage, I was so obsessed with trying to manage his drinking that I never gave a second thought to his ex-fiance. At the beginning of our relationship he described her as a loon. He talked about her for about a month into our relationship – about how she wouldn’t leave him alone via text and email so he had to block her. I’d had some nutty exes too, so I trusted him to work it out. As far as I knew, his last contact with her was when she picked up the rest of her stuff from his garage.

So, there I was, on-air, messaging Dick’s ex-fiance. And she was telling the truth. She knew things. The kinds of things that only Dick could have told her. It was clear they had been communicating since we started dating – and throughout our engagement and marriage. Dick had remained a cheater. The ex-fiance put it this way: “He was a world-traveler who did as he pleased.” Apparently, Dick would give me a kiss good-bye before he left for a two-week, work trip; only to stop by her place en route to the airport. He’d promise to bring both of us the same London hoodie as a souvenir.

Prior to finding out about the cheating, I knew he’d lied about lots of things. I housed that information under the umbrella called “addiction.” So, this betrayal was new. And I was shocked. Throughout our marriage and after he left, he accused me. Questioned me. His emails and texts were vicious.

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Now, I realize his behavior was simply an example of projection – a basic concept you’d learn in a psych class. He was the guilty party. He lied – so I did too? It all made sense. The hypocrisy was more than I could bear. For almost three years I “held onto myself.”  I didn’t give in to rage and anger – but at some point the dam will burst. And the dam was about to burst.

Within a day or two it hit: absolute anger and spitting rage. I had fantasies of collecting dog shit in gallon milk jugs –  so I could add water, then drive to his house and pour the shit all over his precious car. I was especially excited about the idea of pouring it down his windshield so chunks of shit would get caught in the wipers. And the driver’s side window would be good too – maybe the shit would seep down into the door. Pouring liquid dog shit all over his car seemed apropos.

But of course, I’d get caught. Plus, I’m a goody-goody. I had to stand in the corner once in grade school. I still remember the shame. So end up in the newspaper for a crime because of this douche canoe? No thanks.

But I had to do something. Send him a screenshot of the messages between me and his ex-fiance? Put posters up in his neighborhood with his face and words like “cheater” and “fucktard?” Egg his car? I had to do something.

Eggs. Fine. Yes. I wouldn’t have to get out of my car. I could throw and flee. Less chance of getting caught. So I got a dozen and drove to his house. Would he be home? I hadn’t kept up with his whereabouts for years so your guess would have been as good as mine.

He wasn’t home. No cars. I figured I could egg his house. He’d come home to broken eggs on the porch and all over the yard. So I sat there for a while. Then I drove away. Then I drove back and sat. And pondered. No. I can’t do it. He’s an ass. You my dear, are not. Drive home. This too, shall pass.

Perhaps you are thinking I’m a pansy. That eggs are really no big deal. A childish prank perhaps. You may be right. But for me, throwing them would have been unleashing hatred and anger. So non-Zen. So childish. So low. So middle-school. So 7-deadly sins like. Wrath?

Instead I just talked to my boyfriend, my counselor, my friends, and my family. In a few weeks I felt a lot better. The anger passed.

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The eggs in question. A reminder that I didn’t throw them. I probably shouldn’t eat them either. 

I understand that beneath anger is often, hurt. And the news of the betrayal was very painful. I was blown away. I was absolutely joyful on the day of our wedding. And I could have sworn he was too. How did I not know he was cheating? What signs did I miss? Can I trust my own judgement now? Are all men cheaters?

It took me a year to start dating after the end of that marriage – and being in a relationship now has its own travails. There’s fallout after you’ve been lied to and cheated on. It’s rough. And it’s not as if men my age come without their own failed marriage and issues. Luckily, my boyfriend, Jimmy Jailbait and I, talk. A lot. About subjects you wouldn’t believe. (see First Date: The Big Lie)

On the positive side, I have found somebody who trusts me. I think this is a sign that I can trust him. But it’s still hard. But I think I’m doing well. I’m trying to be brave.

There is a lot more I will write about. This is just some background information and a slice of how I dealt with one bit of anger. I will write about what I’ve learned in counseling, divorce support groups, and through books I’m reading. At this point I don’t even know if anyone wants to read this crap.

And as I’d mentioned, I was on the air when the messages between me and the ex-fiance were going back and forth. So if you ever hear or see an on-air person being a little “off,” say a prayer for them. You never know what shit may have just hit the fan.

The Best Text I’ve Ever Gotten

You may have read the story about my first date with Jimmy Jailbait, the one where I peed myself. It’s called “First Date: The Big Lie.” Well, here’s a text I got from him after our 4th date.

Five things before you start: 1) We often talk about each other in the third person. 2) This is ONE text. 3) I got this while on-air. 4) I did NOT strip. 5) By the time I was done reading this, I could barely breathe, as I was unaware of my “effect” upon JJ. 🙂

Dearest Madonna,

I hope you had a pleasant Thursday evening. I had a hot date with an extremely funny, cute, and smart Cougar milf.

I really like this woman, but unfortunately she is sort of a Skank Ho. And as such, regularly seeks to seduce and corrupt me.  It appears that demolishing the strength of my character has become some sort of game or sport for her.

Take for example last night when she was in particularly rare form, playing the part of a sexy Cougar tease.

She opened the evening strutting about in her skintight yoga pants, claiming to have just completed an evening of intense and exhausting exercise.  Yet, notably absent from her physique was any evidence of perspiration or any other telltale sign of extreme physical exertion.

Within 30 seconds of broaching the threshold to her abode, she stripped down to a bra and thong (at least that is my recollection—things are still a bit hazy, as I am quite certain that she included a  “roofie” amid the chewy starbursts that she insisted I consume).

Anyway, whence it became clear that I was not to be corrupted by her perfectly proportioned half naked body, she then set about “stretching” on the floor.  This particular activity was little more than a well masked sales pitch for why highly flexible women (e.g., those who can put their legs behind their heads) are sexier than inflexible trolls.

Candidly, it was tough to resist this Siren’s song, but alas my moral fortitude trumped the Skank Ho attempts at seduction, or so I thought.  For, unbeknownst to me, she was but getting started–as it turned out, stripping and stretching were simply the first arrows she was to loose from her quiver of Skankdom.

The next arrow she launched assumed the form of “spooning” on her couch (in the dark whilst viewing a scary TV show, so as too further set the stage for physical intimacy). In order to spoon her (in the manner that she deemed appropriate), I was forced to place my hand in very close proximity to her perfectly formed bosom.  Of course, I would have preferred to sit alone in a high back wooden chair, ideally one that had been relocated into the corner of the living room. Sadly, such chairs were notably absent from the Lair of the Cougar.  Instead, I was required to recline with her upon a plush settee and ottoman.

When it became clear to the Skank Ho that my personal ethics were not to be compromised, she then fired an even more powerful arrow from her seduction quiver. This particular missile was sent not once, but repeatedly and sporadically throughout the evening. It assumed the form of the her tight and shapely buttocks subtly gyrating in quiet synchronicity with the melodies comprising the musical score of our television program.  Suffice to say, in our spooning position, her gyrating buttocks were proximally located to my manhood.  After a discreet “adjustment”, I was able to return to the viewing of the program. Yet, as I would learn throughout the evening, any reprieve from her assaults or sense of sexual safety I might experience was fleeting and illusory.  Again and again, this particular projectile was fired at me.  And, each time I endured the bitter sting of its enticing barb. And, each time, following a few “adjustments”, I was coerced into reengaging the seductress in her game of spooning.

In spite of her best efforts to detonate a grenade of sin upon my sense of right-and-wrong, I remained veridic to my convictions.  It was only when I was about to leave, that I experienced a most profound shockwave to my ethos.  The Skank Ho carefully drew a final arrow from her quiver and loosed it truly and directly upon my heart — it was a simple weapon, yet a dangerous one, too.

The bolt she fired was a lovely and impassioned kiss — an osculation whose sweet taste still lingers in my mouth. It pierced me — a fulmination of the decency and integrity that I had avowed to uphold. It struck my virtue as a hammer would a glass.

But by happenstance, this bolt had been omitted from her opening salvo. For, had she wielded this particular armament during our initial greeting, it would have breached the armor of my morality (and, most likely would have engendered the pitching of a tent–one so tall and true that it might have proven difficult to collapse).

Although I had been assured that I would be free to depart the Cougar’s Lair at 10:30pm, I was not released from her Cougary confines until nearly 1:00am.

As the above recollection accounts, I was fortunate to escape with my integrity and righteousness still whole.

Upon returning to my domicile, and following a very long and very cold shower, I retired to the comfort and asylum afforded to me by my bed. I fell dormant by 2am (and, my subconscious only subjected me to a single dream whose cast included the Skank Ho).

So, how was your night?

Cougar Bait, PhD

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To say that I was gasping for air is an understatement. Ladies, he’s mine.  🙂

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Jailbait, Me, family, and friends a few months after we met. (Thanks for cooking Ming!)

First Date: The Big Lie

At some point during our 5.5 hour first date, “Jimmy Jailbait” and I had come up with nicknames for each other. He’s 8 years younger than me, so his was easy. Mine was Trollopy Madonna Cougar Skank ‘Ho. I obviously have a sense of humor. The revealing chatter was quite a hoot. But not nearly as much fun as the part where I peed myself.

We met on Match.com. Mr. Jailbait “winked” at me. I never responded to winks. If a man was truly interested, he’d write a message, right?

What I failed to mention was that I was desperate. My online dating life was in the toilet. My inbox was full of messages from 26-year olds who wanted to hook-up with a “magical” MILF or men who had profile pics with selfies featuring actual toilets.

Jailbait’s profile was great. Or maybe good enough. Remember, I was desperate.

Our first date was at a restaurant I’ve been to many times. After ten years of dating, relationships, and a debacle of a second marriage, I’d learned to keep expectations low.

When I first saw Jailbait I said something stupid like “You look just like your picture.” Now he knows this is a lie as he is cute and adorable and his profile pics kinda sucked. I guess dumb things fly out of my mouth on occasion. Only many hours later would things fly out of my bladder.

Anyway we ate dinner and I had one beer and a soda. He drank lemonade and water. A few hours into the date I had to pee. And I ignored it. I have a bladder the size of a whale. I’m not one of those pansies who has to pee every five damn minutes.

The conversation was rolling. We were laughing. We were chit chatting about all kinds of crap; divorce, kids, work, politics. And I remember feeling stupid about getting up to pee. Like I’m telling my silly story about the time I did some stupid thing – and now it’s Jailbait’s turn to tell me a story – and I have to stop him to say “oh sorry, hold that thought, I have to pee.” No. Sorry. First date. I don’t pee. I’m much too demure to contain actual urine.

I guess demure would not be the correct term.  He now says one thing that endeared me to him was that I used the term “pussy” to describe someone. What endeared him to me is that he made the international hand symbol for jerking off to describe a thought. Obviously we’re a match made in heaven.

Besides the fact that I was too weird to say “Hold that thought, I have to use the ladies room,” I was also aware of the fact that he was sitting with his back to the wall – and if I got up to walk to the bathroom he’d be checking out my ass. This also made me uncomfortable. Ew. Men are dogs. Checking out my ass. Ew. I’m not one of those women who does some sexy sashay as she leaves the table. I’m more likely to slip on a stray olive.

Five-and-a-half hours later the check had been paid and we were still there blabbing. Ok, I was doing most of the blabbing and he was obviously falling in love with me as I spoke. I guess he had to pee too cause he got up and headed toward the men’s room. I was left behind thinking “Shit! Now what? I can’t leave to go pee cause if he comes back to an empty table he might think I’ve ditched him.”  So I waited until he got back. We chatted for a minute and then I muttered something about heading to the bathroom.  And then it happened.

I stood up. The simple force of standing was enough to unhinge the poor sphincter muscle that had been doing such a bang-up job all evening. As I got to the full standing position I felt the warm rush of fresh pee-pee coming out of my pee-pee hole.

So rather than worrying about what he thought of my pancake ass as I sashayed to the bathroom, I walked like a crazed, 52-year-old, post-menopausal idiot who was trying not to pee herself.

I got to the bathroom and had to simultaneously hold in 85 gallons of wee whilst fumbling with a button and a zipper with a toilet in plain sight. As I frantically sat on the seat to release a torrent of tinkle, I assessed the damage to the crotch area of my pants. There it was: A circle of moistness the size of a salad plate. Trying to dab up the damage was futile. I was laughing, gasping, and thinking at the same time. Hey everyone on Match.com, try this on your first date; pee yourself and then try to think of a way out of the big pee mark on your britches. Go!

I got to the sink to assess the damage from the public perspective. From the backside I was fine. JJ could check out my ass all he wanted. No visible pee. But right there on the front; pee. So now what? No, the dryer was not an option. I’m tall but my crotch does not reach the dryer. Take off my pants to dry the crotch? Oh, yeah, great. Just what ladies want to see when they walk into the bathroom: Some tall chick in her pee-pee thong with the crotch of her pants under the dryer. Plus, JJ would have wondered what the hell I was doing in the bathroom for 10 minutes. IBS? Explosive diarrhea?

I washed my hands. I shook the water from my wet hands onto the front of my pants. Perfect.  I was in and out of the bathroom in the same amount of time that a normal non-peeing-herself-person would have been.

I walked out to Jailbait and he stood up so we could head out to our cars. He, of course, didn’t even notice my damn pants. But, just in case, I motioned to my wet pants and said “Look who just got into a fight with the sink?” He took a quick look and said “Ha! If that would happen to a man somebody would accuse us of peeing ourselves.”

I just laughed. I mean, how ridiculous.

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Jimmy Jailbait and I; 9 months after the first date. I am pee-pee free at the Happy Valley Jam concert.. 🙂

It was a sign.

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Me telling this story, about 10 years after it happened – State Theater (Oct. 2016)

I was naked from the waist up with a man I didn’t even know. He was putting little wires and pads on my chest. I figured he normally did this to old guys with similarly saggy boobs.  All I could think to say was “Can you tell they’re fake?” He laughed.Sorta. Inappropriate things fly out of my mouth all the time, especially when my chesticles are hanging out.  After the devastating four months I’d had I thought I might as well keep things light.  My heart had been obliterated. And I was at the hospital to see if I was having a heart attack. At age 42. It was a sign: God hates me.

I knew getting divorced was not supposed to be fun. But I thought finding Mr. Right would be, like, totally fun. And easy.  I had a sign, on my head, “Hot to trot divorcee looking for true love after a shitball of a marriage.   

Well, I met him innocently enough through one of my kids’ activities. It was such an exciting time. Our kids got along, he was smart, good looking, and seemed to be damaged just enough by his evil ex-wives.  And he talked.  He revealed.  He told me things that made me feel special; you know, it was a sign – he liked me. I was special.

I liked that things were going slowly. We spent a few months hanging out. At the start I thought we were taking things slowly because of his history; two divorces. But months of soul bearing and fancy glances led to nothing but lingering hugs. He still hadn’t stuck his tongue down my throat. Was it a sign? Bad breath? Didn’t he like my butt? 

After months of wondering, one night I gathered my courage and said “I’ve decided I can’t ever kiss you.” He replied, “Oh yeah?” So I said – “Yeah, cause if I do I’ll want to strip you, lick you, and ride you like a mechanical bull.”

His reply: He kissed me…. on the cheek. Looking back, it WAS a sign. I never heard from him again.

I can only explain the four months after he quit coming around as annihilating. I felt sick to my stomach which meant I couldn’t eat. I lost weight. I looked nasty. I also cried constantly. I cried. And I cried.  And I cried. It was a sign – something was coming. The loss I felt was the first thing that hit me when I woke up and it sat on me all day. Why did he leave?

I managed to hold it together when I had to, which is, most of the time – but I used to sit through doctor’s appointments and just cry to the nurses. I also cried through sessions with a counselor once a week. I didn’t care about anything.  Nothing made me happy. I went on with life, but only because I had to. I had three kids and I had to keep going to grad school classes.

So, four months of crying later, it was the end of the semester – early December.  I was going out to jog.  Well, jog is a strong word.  Flounder around with legs in motion like Olive Oyl is more like it. I started my jog and noticed my left arm and hand hurt. I thought it was weird, so I just quit jogging and walked.  The pain stopped. I jogged again. The pain came back. It was a sign!

I walked for a few miles then went home and stretched.  My son got off the school bus and I got on my computer to finish writing a big paper that was due the next day.  One of my girlfriends called and I noticed the pain was back. So, I told my friend, Heidi, I was probably having a heart attack. Great.  Fucking great. Next thing you know it’s two housefraus in a minivan headed to Mt. Nittany medical center.

So fast forward to the pads and wires on my chest. Not long after that, a nice, female ER doc came in very casually so I could give her the blow-by-blow. Fast forward to the lifeflight helicopter that was already on its way to haul me out of there. Before she came in she’d read the EKG – it was a sign! This chick is screwed! 

One lifeflight, an angioplasty, and two stents later, I was in a hospital about an hour from home.  I stayed for two nights, had the worst migraine of my life, and managed to scare the living shit out of my ex.  Even though we weren’t together, we are still family.  The best part of being a 42-year-old cardiac patient was the odd looks from doctors.  I was in shape, had low cholesterol, a low resting pulse, and normal blood pressure.  It always seemed to make them feel better when I told them my dad died at 57 from heart disease and that I used to smoke. “Good good good! Makes sense…thanks.”

But wait.  I didn’t have a heart attack because of family history or prior smoking.  No.  I had a heart attack because some fucktard broke it.  Crying every day for four months is not normal.  Neither is not sleeping and not eating.  Stupid fuck bag.  But I couldn’t tell the doctors any of that.  I already felt like an idiot.  And they were all men.  They would roll their eyes.  Poor girl with a broken heart.  Boo frickin’ hoo. They would’ve put me on anti-depressants; I already knew they didn’t help. They would’ve told me to see a different counselor for my delusions. How do you fall for someone after two months of no kissing? Idiot! It was a sign – I was a nincompoop! 

Six days after the heart attack I was back in class.  What else was there to do?  Plus, I had a semester to finish.

About two months after the heart attack I got a call from the cardiologist’s office. They asked if I would talk about my ordeal for something called “Go Red for Women” day.  Apparently, it’s a heart health awareness thing that comes around once a year.  I said I would, so I went to a couple of radio stations and talked about my heart attack. A few days later one of the stations offered me a job on a morning show.  I even ended up on a country music morning show. Words cannot tell you how much I hated country music. It was a sign – God still hates me!

But – it was a sign! I ended up writing my Master’s thesis about country music and advertising. And now – 10 years later, I still happily and joyfully work in country music radio. I even taught at Penn State for a few years and I used to brutalize my students by teaching with country music lyrics.

And as far as the “sign” I got – the heart attack – the sign that God hates me? Well, that actually saved me. I found out months later that Mr. Wonderful was actually Mr. Massive Piece of Shit – he did this and this and this and I was saved from him. And the heart attack got me off the track of thinking about him. I had to re-focus and worry about recovery. God Bless my cardiologists and country music.

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My three kids  🙂

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Florida Georgia Line in the early days (as if they’ve been around forever)

Prom (by Troy Todd)

Prom.  Those four letters that get every teenager’s heart racing.  Just imagine: you and your best friend, maybe even your girlfriend going to the fanciest gala of your entire life.  Taking those priceless photos in the backyard with all of your friends dressed to the nines, and your dates in the most beautiful gowns they could find whilst carrying a bouquet of flowers that we bought just for them.  The limousine ride over: the holy grail of suburban transportation; and the anticipation just rising to burst through the doors at the hall and see all of your lifelong friends.   The people, the lights, and the music all just coming together to put the cherry on top of the four years of high school you have grown so fond of and nostalgic over.  The dancing.  The intimacy of a man and a woman moving together to the beat; feeling the innermost connection and sparking lifelong memories.  Yes, this is prom.  Well, for most people that is.  This was my fantasy, my expectation that I held for so many years.  However, I learned very quickly that the universe had other plans for me, and this one spring day changed all of that.  It changed much more than I could have ever planned.

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I kissed her. I kissed her goodbye; it was pretty standard, being another end of another school day. I probably kissed her goodbye after school hundreds of times, and this one seemed no different.  We parted ways, she drove home in her blue Acura, and I drove off in my red ford, only I was not heading home. In only 24 hours I would ask my girlfriend of nearly two and a half years to prom, to what I thought would be the best night of my life.  Instead of my home, I pulled into the flower shop and bought a bouquet of red roses to give her after I pop the question. She loved roses. I headed home bouncing with excitement.  I started gathering the other materials I would need to adequately surprise her, maybe even enchant her.  I was pleased with everything I threw together, and thought it was about time I start my homework.  It was around this moment that I read a text that would change things forever. “Hey, we need to talk.”

So, that’s probably the worst phrase in human history when talking to your significant other. We talked; we talked about how we’d been growing apart the last few months.  I had become a very involved member of the drama club, while she focused on sports and partying, something I scrutinized at the time. “We’ll maybe we have, but I still love you” I reassured her. “No” she said, “this is different.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. We had only fought a handful of times in what felt like a lifetime together, but I could tell that something was wrong. I still don’t know today whether it was fate, if the universe was off-balance that day, or if my duties as a boyfriend had simply not been fulfilled, but eventually, my phone rang. It was her, crying. I had never heard her cry. My eyes welled up, and my English paper I was working on soon became soaked with tears as our relationship came to a dreary, depressing end. “I won’t give up, I love you too much to just throw this away” I pleaded. “Well, I feel like we’re just beating a dead horse here.” She sputtered between wails of sadness. “Do you hate me?” She asked. “Of course not, how could I ever hate you.  You’re my everything, no matter what happens I’ll be by your side.  You just watch.”  Soon, we hung up. I looked at the flowers I had bought several hours before and I just lost it.  The thing is, I didn’t feel terribly sad or angry or anything at this point. I was just empty, completely void of feeling; I could barely move. What do I possibly do now? Everything I’d known had just gone out the window; how do I even go about a single day on my own, I simply didn’t know how. I looked again at the flowers, and I had a moment of realization. I couldn’t let this bridge burn down. If I couldn’t go to prom with the girl I love, whether she still loves me or not, why go to prom at all? I went to bed that night cold and alone, but I could feel a small fire burning inside of me.
It was a “B” day at Marple Newtown High School the next day, and that means I had study hall the last period of the day, so I was allowed to leave an hour early. I walked out to the parking lot and put a post-it note on her car. “Come to your house for a nice surprise!” I got into my car and drove only about a mile down to her house. I turned off the car and taking a deep breath I opened my trunk.  Inside were a suit jacket, a ton of chalk, and the roses from the day before. I looked over at her driveway and noticed that her parents must not be home, which made things much easier. Having to see them would just restart the flurry of emotion I experienced the night before. I looked out across the street pavement in front of her house, and planned out how exactly I would write “PROM?” in the most prominent way possible. I knelt down and began writing my masterpiece, but as it so happens, her next door neighbor had been watching me for quite some time now. Shortly after I hit chalk to pavement she asked me “I’ve got to ask you, what exactly are you doing?” I looked up, “Oh, I’m just asking my girlfriend to prom.” And that’s when it truly hit me, the hollow feeling came back, but I wasn’t about to let my guard down. But the sentence I had badly wanted to say for years finally came out, only it wasn’t true. The woman smiled and walked back into her house. It only took about 20 minutes, but it felt like a lifetime in front of her house, the house I spent so much time in my high school years, laughing, loving, and learning so much about myself. I finally finished my presentation writing out “PROM?” with “prom” written in smaller font all around it. It was beautiful, but I had no idea what she’d think, considering the roller coaster of emotions we experienced in the past 12 hours. I sat on the curb as I waited for her to return home, trying to hold back all my emotions and memories of before, but to no avail. I had sat in this same spot with her in months past, looking at the stars, and talking about love and the rest of our lives together. Before I could have a proper flashback, she pulled in to her driveway.

She got out of her car, and looked over at me.  She smiled, but all I could see was sadness in her eyes.  I looked at her; with my hands shaking uncontrollably all I could muster was a meek “Hi, Christina.” She ran over to me and gave me a hug.  This hug was something unlike I had ever felt before.  I hadn’t seen her in probably 24 hours, but it felt like long-lost friends reuniting after several years.  It was a short, but we held each other tight; filling up the hollowness within me.  We released.  She looked over at the road in front of her house with my bold proposal written all over it.  After a few moments she looked up and said “Yes” with a trembling lip and holding back tears.  I was absolutely delighted.  She could have easily said no, but she chose to be courted to senior prom by her newly acquired “best friend.” We sat on the curb shortly after that, and spoke about all of the changes that have already happened.  There was no usual visiting her at her locker.  There was no more sitting together at lunch.  There was no poking my head into her econ class just to embarrass her.  “All of my friends kept on asking me if I was okay, and I wasn’t really sure what to say” she said.  We sat there and reflected on the night before.  “In the middle of the night, I woke up crying, and I regretted everything.  I wanted to take it all back.” I took this in. “No, maybe, this will all be for the better.  You were right, things have changed, and I’ll always love you, but right now, we need to heal.” A tear rolled down her face.  I had never seen her cry before.  I had been dating her longer than I had known so many of my friends, and this was the first time she became that emotional right in front of me.  I put my arm around her.  “If we’re meant to be together, we’ll come back for each other, and we’ll be happy again.” “You’re right,” she said “we’ll just have to see what happens.” I wanted to tell her that this didn’t have to be the end.  If I could just convince her to not leave me, she wouldn’t, and we would go back to normal; perhaps stronger than before.  For some reason, I didn’t.  I let her go because something deep inside me told me that this had to happen.  We silently sat there and held each other for about fifteen minutes.  The last time I would ever hold her.  She eventually got up and told me she needed to go inside and get ready to start dinner.  I told her it was okay.  She picked up the flowers I got her, and told me “You done good kid,” and walked into her house.  I stood on her sidewalk silently tearing up for a couple minutes before finally driving away.

In the months after that day we grew apart.  We grew apart disturbingly quickly.  I became depressed, and bruised myself regularly for feeling so guilty that I didn’t do more to keep things happy between us.  We ended up going to prom together; however by this point she was already interested in another guy, one of my best friends, which ultimately ruined any chances of either us getting back together or me respecting her as a person at all.  We ended up going to senior week together where we stayed in the same house while she hooked up with my good friend Steve, which was the cause of the first time I had ever yelled at a girl.  She’s scared of me now, and it’s been about ten months now since I saw her last, and we could not be on worse terms.

Considering this, many would think this was a story of woe and tragedy, but on the contrary, this opened up a whole new world to me.

When one door closes, several new doors open.  I found myself lost, not knowing what to do, but quickly I found that this was not at all the end of the world.  I built a new relationship around my family that was nearly nonexistent before.  I starting hanging out with my brother at least some everyday, and spent so much more time with my parents whose bridges I rapidly rebuilt between us.  We went to movies and dinners together, and were able to talk about my future together in ways I never really felt comfortable talking about before.  Most importantly of all, I was able to solidify my participation with my new beautiful friend group.  Joining theater in the end of my high school career earned me a group of friends so exquisite that I will cherish for the rest of my life, and the separation between me and ex-girlfriend could not have helped more in getting me closer to these people I consider my second family.  Also, by experiencing the sadness that haunted me for quite a while, I was able to realize the true value in happiness.  I learned that I could be happy on my own, and that it is truly up to me to conjure my own happiness.  I spent the rest of the summer into my fall semester at Penn State doing whatever it took to get a smile on my face, which became easier and easier as time went on.  I was free, and I was able to really rediscover who I am.  I listened to more music, and I wrote more poetry.  In the end, it isn’t about how a person becomes enchanted, whether it be a relationship, a trip to the prom, or a summer of countless memories with friends; as long as the feeling is attained, the effort was worth it.  As for us, we’ll always have the curb.

I don’t know. (by Salvatore Bongiovanni)

“I don’t know.” Those three words ringing in my ears like the clock tower on Old Main. I was desperately grasping for the right words. Damn it Sal. She’s right there. How many times did you rehearse this in your head? That’s it. Let loose. COME ON. Nothing. It’s as if my brain couldn’t pick an emotion and just decided, “Screw you, you’re going to be paralyzed, so deal with it.” One hot jumbled mess of everything I had felt for six months, culminating in being rendered speechless right in front of her. How could you not know? Is that what you’re going to respond with? I felt like I had been cheated. Like she had broken the rules or something. You don’t get to say that. It’s your turn now. I did my job. It’s not fair. But all I could force out was, “Okay. You just have to let me know.”

cupids-accident

There were only a few weeks left of school and everyone was more than ready for summer vacation. Flip flops and shorts made their way out of people’s closets and into the hallways. Final exams stood between the students and their freedom. I was nearly halfway done with my high school career and had no idea what the future held for me. AP Courses, SATs, and college applications waited in the wings; everything was moving so quickly. With all this on my mind, I walked into the chorus room, waiting for my last class of the day to start. There was an elongated break before chorus would start, which meant extra socializing time of course. The other tenors and I were discussing what was going on that weekend when she called my name. I went over to the piano where she was standing, “Hey, Lizzy.” I don’t remember what she said or what she wanted. All I remember is a sensation racing through my body. After engaging her for a few seconds, I had this feeling like I had been slapped in face. Call it cupid’s arrow if you’d like; I don’t care. But it was an incredible crystalizing moment where everything just made sense. I had never been so caught off guard by my own feelings. All I could think was, “Wow, she is so beautiful.” It was as if I was seeing her for the first time in my life or through a lens I had never looked into before. It was something I thought was only possible in a Hollywood film.

I had never had a girlfriend and there had really only been one other point in my life where it was even really possible (unless you want to count my semi girlfriend from Preschool, which nobody does for some reason). But Lizzy was nothing like anyone I had ever liked before. She wasn’t the prettiest girl in school. She wasn’t the most popular girl in school. She wasn’t the most interesting girl in school. But in that split second, that one moment, she became all of that to me. I can’t explain it, and I probably sound like someone who’s been watching too many romantic comedies, but it was a staggering moment. I looked at her blue eyes looking back at me, talking about who knows what, and it just… happened.

So we started texting regularly and I eventually brought her to the beach one day over the summer. It was me, Lizzy, and our mutual friend, Ben. When Ben and I were alone, I decided to ask for his help with Lizzy. “Oh my God. Sal I had no idea! Is that why you brought her here?” I suppose it was. I don’t know. I guess I just thought that if I could get her to a brand new place outside of school, we could connect on a different level. When she returned, Ben casually brought up the topic of who we liked. Lizzy teased us and wouldn’t tell us. “Come on. Tell us,” I pleaded, trying not to sound too desperate. We were treading water in the ocean at that moment and it was appropriate, because what came out of her mouth made my heart sink like it was a hundred pound block of lead. “Henry,” she said. “Henry? My…my best friend Henry?” I staggered. “Yes! Oh my God he’s so cute!” I floated silently while Ben and Lizzy discussed what she had just said, but it was just ambient noise to me. I just wanted to be somewhere else. I wanted everybody gone. “You barely ever talk to him though,” I blurted out, not wanting to believe this was real. “I mean, I wouldn’t know what to do,” she said sheepishly, “You’re our only mutual friend. Would you help me?”

Am I going to help you get with my best friend? A guy you never talk to? A guy you have nothing in common with? A guy who has literally never given you the time of day? Is that what you’re really asking me to do? “Uh. Yeah I guess I’ll help you.” She thanked me a million times. I was happy at the prospects of us talking on a more regular basis, but not happy about what the purpose would be. Did I really want to do this? Could I even do it if I wanted to? Someone needed to help me make this decision.

I’m not sure why I went to Carter. Maybe it’s because we were two of the only people left on planet Earth who still used AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) more than Facebook and he was always online. Maybe he was just online at the right time (or the wrong time, depending on how you look at it). But he’s a trustworthy guy. Confident. Carter is someone who you know is thinking through is choices logically and does what he does for good reasons. He was skeptical at first when I told him my situation. “You want to be doing this for the right reasons, not sabotaging her or being selfish,” he said. And he had a point. It was important to do what I wanted to do, but not at the expense of my friends. So I said it was what I wanted (which it was at the time) and he wished me good luck.

I needed that luck. For three months every conversation was “Why isn’t Henry talking to me? What else do I have to do for him? I don’t understand.” We would talk online and video chat for hours on end. In the beginning it was all about him. I felt invisible. I’m right here. He doesn’t even look at you. Look at me. But as time went on, it became less about him and more just about us. It became two people just really getting to know each other. Our ins and outs. Our secrets. Everything. Through all the late nights when we both could have been sleeping and all the time we could have been actually getting our work done she became the best friend I ever had. Someone who I wouldn’t go a day without talking to. I knew she liked me. I knew we were meant to be together. Hell, I even rigged Secret Santa at Christmas so I could get her a present. We were perfect for each other. The problem was, everybody else thought so too.

“Do you like somebody?” Lizzy’s twin sister Trina had pulled me aside during lunch to talk to me. “Um. Maybe,” I said, half laughing, “Why do you ask?” “Is it someone that I know?” “I’m not telling you Trina.” “Is it someone that I know?” “It might be.” “Is it someone who…lives in my house?” Real subtle, Trina, “I told you I’m not telling you.” “Okay, well. If it is, I just want to let you know that I approve. And your secret’s safe with me.” It was nice to have her on my side and I really appreciated that conversation. I felt like I really had a chance at being happy this time. But Trina was just the first to figure it out. Soon all of our friends knew and before long, realized that Lizzy was kind of taking advantage of my kindness.

“You can’t string him along like this,” they would say. “Why don’t you just date him already?” “I still don’t know about Henry, though,” she would say. “Sal does all these things for you, listens to all your problems, and you and Henry literally never speak. You don’t even make any sense.” This all went on without me knowing of course, but they were right. I was starting to think that what once seemed mutual had turned into a one-way street. I was constantly venting to Carter about everything, “I don’t understand what I did deserve all of this, man. I just don’t. How can she just lead me on for so long?” “Listen, after everything you’ve done for her, if she still doesn’t want to be with you, she doesn’t deserve you.” So I decided to finally talk to her about it. No more beating around the bush. We were going to talk this out whether she liked it or not.

It was a Monday. I was lying on my couch staring at my phone. It took me ten minutes just to send the text, “Are you home? I need to talk to you.” Before Lizzy got home I went on Skype with my friend Megan, who also knew what was going on. I was nervous, more nervous than I had ever been before. “I don’t think I can do this. I don’t even know what to say.” “Sal, look at me. You can do this. You deserve her,” she said, “Pretend I’m Lizzy. Now say it.” We rehearsed until Lizzy signed on. I still wasn’t ready, but Megan hung up on me so I had no choice. I called Lizzy and I just said it, “Look, I know you probably already know this, but I really like you. And I just thought you should hear it from me rather than our friends,” and I finally exhaled. She was speechless. Completely speechless. As if that moment hadn’t been building for months. As if she hadn’t known I was eventually going to tell her. Nope. She stared blankly at the computer screen and kept on typing away doing God knows what. It was almost as if she pretended not to hear me. She sputtered back some nonsense, even though she was clearly trying to distract herself from what I had said. And for the next hour and a half I tried to get an answer out of her. It was basically, “No I don’t like you right now. I did for a little while, but I don’t anymore. But it could happen in the future, I don’t know.” “I don’t know.” Thanks for clearing that up. How is it possible for you to continue to string me along even after I talk to you straight up? She even acknowledged she had feelings for me at one point, but apparently she stopped. My heart skipped a beat at that one. “Okay. You just have to let me know.”

It eventually boiled down to her not wanting to be with me. It was one of the hardest realizations I had ever had to come to, but it was true. We promised each other we would still remain friends though (because that always works out, right?) so I decided I would ask her to the prom. Was it denial? Today I would probably say yes. But then, all I knew was there was nobody else I could see myself going to my prom with.

Customized M&Ms, “Lizzy” “will you go to” “prom with me?” Imagine those three quotes on three separate candies, coming out of a mini candy dispenser in order; did your heart just melt? Yeah. That’s what I thought. Everything was perfect. My best friend and I were going to go to prom and it was going to be awesome, right? Right. Until Trina called me one afternoon, two days before I planned to ask Lizzy. I was at my friend’s house and stepped out to talk to her. She told me Lizzy didn’t want to go to prom with me. There wasn’t even anyone else she had in mind. It just couldn’t be me. The only one that actually wanted to go with her.

After that, Lizzy and I stopped talking. Well, let me rephrase that. She stopped talking to me. The girl who had become my best friend, my rock, had deserted me. Cut me off like a hangnail, like I was a disposable part of her repertoire of friends. I spiraled downward. I was nothing without her, or without our talks at the very least. I lost so much and she made me feel like it didn’t even faze her. I was at my low point. Lizzy had disappeared from my life. My hopes were crushed and my best friend was gone. My life, as I knew it, was over; at least that’s what I thought.

The next few weeks became some of the most liberating of my life. Within less than a month, my braces came off, I killed it on stage in my first lead role in the school musical, got a smoking hot date to the prom, and even had my first kiss. Ever hear that every action has a reaction? Well I was feeling about the strongest reaction I could have imagined. I felt like a brand new person. I became who I still am today: someone who embraces life’s hardships and uses them to improve myself.

Although I never received the apology that every day I hoped for, I know that I am a better man because of it all. I went through a process that all boys have to go through at some point. I now know not only when to stop chasing a girl because she doesn’t like me, but when to stop because she doesn’t deserve me. I’ve still never had a girlfriend; I guess I just haven’t found someone yet who was worth all that effort again. But I know when I find her I’ll know it. I’ll have that same crystalizing moment and it will all start again. But I have gained a mindset from that chapter in my life that I have taken to heart that will stop me (I hope) from repeating my own history. I don’t fear what comes next, but instead I wait in anticipation. I look forward to the cleared pathways and open doors that await me that I don’t even know exist yet. I intend to embrace everything about my life for however many chapters I have remaining, and I can thank Lizzy for that, if for nothing else.

Love Just Works (by KRN)

I am one that is intrigued by the abstract. Although I am a very logical person and solve my problems in such ways, I prefer to study things that essentially do not make sense. While higher education is, in large part dedicated, to the teaching of concrete concepts, the things that aren’t concrete are far more engulfing in our lives. For example, faith is something people experience on a daily basis but yet no one knows what it means to have it. For decades philosophers have been researching and trying to explain the phenomenon. They found that to experience such a phenomenon, one must ascend and have somewhat of an out of body experience. Is it this true of enigmatic things? These are all the things that went through my head as I was approaching this topic of love. How am I supposed to define love if philosophers and intellects far more superior than I couldn’t; what gives me the right?

love 1            Prior to a few years ago, I looked at love solely from an objective standpoint because I myself had never been in love. I saw love through my family, friends and the media. I could never tell you how I felt, only what I thought. Now that I have experienced love, I can use myself as my greatest tool. This is perfect! I have my thoughts and feelings down to a science so finding out what love is should be easy. I started my analysis of love by surveying a pool of college students by asking them to provide me with one word that expressed what love meant to them. I felt this would narrow down my search to a few key terms to choose from. I figured of the top received answers, one must be the definition of love. Trustworthy. Selflessness. Loyalty. Crazy. Timeless. Unconditional. What is the key to this thing called love?

I met Love a year ago, unexpectedly of course. We didn’t really get along much over the years. When Love went right, I went left. I tried to meet Love several times through several people and we’d exchange glances but were never formally introduced. I had heard about this cat Love through testimonies of others and my personal definition of love derived from a cross between reality and movies. This is how it is vs. this is how it should be. Throughout my relationships, I always held my fairytale “This is how it should be.” standard. I treated my guys as such as well. After time passed and that “movie love” was never achieved; I’d move on. Seeing as though I was the only one out my friends, probably my entire high school, that still hadn’t experienced this “real love”; I began to think that it was my fault. Just like those who were surveyed, I too measured potential mates to those standards. Maybe I was asking for too much or had way too many expectations. Maybe movies are just what they are, fake.

I was wrong. Love slowly crept into my bloodstream and plagued me day by day. By the time that I had realized what Love was doing, I was already infected. I thought to myself, “How did this happen?” I didn’t administer my test to see if this guy was right or not! Does this mean that he has all of the qualities or is my heart confused? I need answers! Am I finally going to meet Love or are we just passing by again? Love was like the bright light at the end of the tunnel and all that was missing was a train conductor to lead me to it. Well this conductor came in the form of an old friend, we’ll call him Loverboy. Loverboy and I had expressed interest in our juvenile high school years but decided that it’d be better to remain friends. Years later when we reunited at the same university, our proposal to remain friends was still intact. Little did we know Cupid had already had a plan in motion for us. Somehow I think there was a divine force controlling our lives. Everything that developed between us was a matter of coincidence. Nothing was ever planned, things just happened. Group hangouts slowly became dates with just the two of us. Time passed and just like that, love was my new disease and Loverboy was the administrator.

I was so smitten with my need for this person and his equal need for me. If anything was needed Loverboy would do his best to supply and vice versa. Even the littlest things unknowingly played such a huge a role. Whether it ranged from “Help me study.” to “Buy me these shoes!” the sacrificial ways of the both of us caused a dynamic of trust and loyalty. All the while I used to search and test for these qualities, they in fact disclosed themselves. This didn’t make any sense at all! How did he pass a test that hasn’t even been given? It was as if he had the cheat codes suited to my heart. He did everything, by essentially doing nothing at all.

It was a regular day when I finally came to grips that I had fallen in love. Something about our interactions was different. Not different as in strange but different as in heightened. Everything that I might have slightly felt before came this day with ten times the intensity. I laid there looking up to the ceiling allowing the sun rays from the window to cast shadows that I could play with and the simplest thing happened. Loverboy said “Kierra!” in the subtlest tone, simply to get my attention, and it hit me. I looked over at him and I stared in a daze as my body filled with vibrations. Sort of like butterflies but a herd of them, throughout my entire body. My flesh grew weak and simultaneously I was drawn to him like no other. All aboard! I had made it to the end of the tunnel. It wasn’t until here that I walked over to Love and said “Hello sir, nice to finally meet you.” It was now that I knew that anything before that I had experienced couldn’t hold a candle to love. Maybe the philosophers were right. To be in love you have to have this out of body experience because I definitely felt like those butterflies had helped me take flight. It is like I ascended to this intense feeling realm, Loverboy and I of course. Wanting to see you became wanting to be with you. Wanting to kiss you became wanting to hold you. Wanting you became needing you. Liking you became loving you. You became me. We became us.

Us became everything. At this point we’ve been officially dating for a few months but it feels like years! Ironically enough, I had known him for years but never on the level of understanding as I do now. Days turned to weeks and seasons changed but we didn’t. It was every day was like we first met. Every time I’d see him or hear him speak, I’d be reminded of how much in love I am. Love was fresh. I couldn’t understand how people got tired or bored of their significant other. It may seem that our measly eight months at the time were incomparable to two to three years but I think it was very so much when eight months felt like eight minutes! Love was timeless. Not only in the sense that it lasts forever but also that there are no time limits on love. Love was being able to spend excessive time with this person and only wanting to be closer. Loverboy and I could literally spend seventy-two straight hours together only to part for minor things such as class or work. It got to the point where anytime that wasn’t spent with him was slow. I could attend class for an hour and feel the same amount of time past as if I stayed with him for two days. Love cannot be bound, certainly not by time.

You can never really notice how time passes when you’re occupied. Part of the reason that love is so timeless is because love is a crazy adventure. I could always count on Loverboy for constantly stimulating me. First off, get your mind out of the gutter. I mean stimulate as in keeping my senses heightened. I was constantly drawn to Loverboy because he in himself was an adventure. Constantly I could hear, see and touch him or things relative to him to be entertained. He could always make me laugh at any given moment, even when I wanted to cry. I hated that. Adversely, just as he could make me laugh, he could make me cry. I hated that too, but I still loved it. I still loved him. Loverboy had my emotions on a remote and could activate them at his will and vice versa. I knew exactly what buttons to push to get certain reactions and I used them when needed. There was a mutual acknowledgement of the power we each had over one another and we both relinquished and accepted each other’s. Loving someone who has the power to make you hate them has to be the ultimate state of vulnerability and honor. Love is such a paradox but one that we all accept, crazy right?

Love is crazy, trustworthy, selfless, loyal, crazy, timeless and unconditional. Love is everything but it is effortless. I remember Loverboy and I would talk for hours on things we’d agree and disagree on. Even in our disagreements we were synchronized. Love was harmonious. Problems were rarely a problem because we complimented each other’s personalities so well. “Babe, we just work.” I can’t count how many times Loverboy said this to me. Just works? Love just works? That’s it. Love is not about measuring how much of a quality one person has. Love is not about testing and evaluating. Love is a contradiction that cannot be strategized nor planned. It is not like baking a cake. You can’t manipulate ingredients to get the big picture on the box. Love will come to you at the most unexpected time and it will be beautiful. Love is powerful. When true love comes your way, you’ll notice that your journey required a lot less work than previous relations. True love will flow and encompass all the things you were hoping for and more. It’ll change “This is how it should be.” to “This is how it is.” and soon you’ll start to feel like a movie star because your life is an exact model of a romantic comedy starring Matthew McConaughey. Your search for love becomes your journey through it and you’ll discover that Love cannot be probed. Love is what it is. Love just works.