human, being

Bad Boyfriends: Joe part 3
April 24, 2009, 1:00 pm
Filed under: bad boyfriends | Tags: , , , , ,

The second in a series of stories about the many bad boyfriends I’ve chosen throughout my life. The story of Joe is a long post, but then it’s a long story. So, I’ve broken it up into three parts. Here’s part 3. You can read part 1 here and part 2 here.

By month 7 of my relationship with Joe, he had proven to be a master of the disappearing act. He’d usually turn up after a few hours or, at most, the next day. But in mid-June 2005, he disappeared for five days. I was panicked because I couldn’t find him anywhere and he wasn’t returning my calls.

It turned out that the basement apartment he had rented was infested with spiders, and he had been bitten by a black widow. He got very sick and had been in the hospital for three days. Looking at him and at his finger, I believed him. I was relieved, but I was also pissed.

Here I was, the woman he said he loved (over and over he told me, in love letters, in phone calls, during sex, before he fell asleep), and he didn’t bother to call me when he was in the hospital. He didn’t think about the fact that his disappearing would worry me sick. He showed his true colors as a selfish, crazy bastard.

Sitting on a bench in the bus station where I finally found him, I told him I’d decided I was going to take three months away from him, and from men in general. I needed some time to focus on me and my daughter. He tried to convince me that it would be OK to see him, to talk to him, to email him. I knew I had to quit him cold turkey. I needed a break from the rollercoaster. I was exhausted. I had nothing left and I didn’t know how I would get through the day.

I thought having him gone would be enough to hold me together. It wasn’t.

A few days later, everything I’d gone through in the previous 15 months came crashing down on me. I remember sitting in my office, preparing for a team meeting, and starting to shake. I went into our assistant’s office–a woman who had become my confidant and spiritual advisor–and told her I couldn’t, COULDN’T go into that office for the meeting. I started crying hysterically. I had spent a few days after my ex left me in a state of sobbing shock, but I got over it quickly. Or more accurately, I buried the feelings quickly. Now, they were exploding inside me like a geyser.

I took a leave of absence from work.I let myself absolutely fall apart. I thought I’d never stop crying. I thought I’d never feel anything but heartache and sorrow and fury and despair. With lots of support, introspection and courage, I made it through to the other side, and I am so much better for it. I can’t imagine spending my entire life with all of that crap living inside of me. The majority of it got purged in my 8 weeks of leave, but the remainder, the deep-seated, sticky stuff, still runs me to this day.

I surrounded myself with support: a therapist, my church, a lay minister, my friends. On the minister’s recommendation, I attended some Codependents Anonymous meetings, but it made no sense to me to have a bunch of people who were addicted to fixing other people’s problems meet in a 12-step program, and I quickly quit. I spent hours each day walking, meditating, writing, reading. I started going salsa dancing again. I talked to my friends and family, played with Lauren. I started being me again.

Laurel, my best friend, had been my rock since the day I met her in February 2004, and she proved her friendship again and again as I called her instead of calling Joe. My withdrawals from him were painful, visceral. The process of pulling away from him caused me to begin to examine everything that had gone wrong in my marriage–what was my fault, my doing, and what was my ex’s. He had left me in January 2004 after nearly 11 years together and 9 years of marriage. But I wasn’t innocent in the demise of the relationship, and I was ready to think about taking some responsibility.

The summer my divorce was final, 2004, I took a class at my church called “Breakthroughs.” The main point: Sometimes you have to have a breakdown to have a breakthrough. At that time, I thought I’d had my breakdown. But that summer was just dipping my toe into the water. Summer number two-the Summer After Joe–was the real deal.

In September 2005, almost three months after I last talked to him, Joe left me a voicemail. His birthday was coming up. He said he missed me terribly, that he had stopped drinking and was looking for a new job. He said all he wanted for his birthday was to hear my voice. It was so incredibly difficult for me not to call him. It took all of my willpower. I didn’t call. I haven’t called. I won’t call.

I’d like to say I should have kicked Joe out after that first drunk night, but I didn’t, and being in a relationship with him served a great purpose. It furthered me along to the nervous breakdown I needed to have–but wouldn’t allow myself to have–post-divorce.

Being with Joe allowed me to further explore my sexuality, which I felt incredibly ashamed about because I still believed that if I liked sex, I was a slut. While I was with him, I began to loosen up, to accept my thoughts and feelings and desires as normal. I thought the sex with Joe was great, so much so that I lamented to my friend Jennifer that maybe I should keep him around for the sex. She told me good sex was a dime a dozen, and not to worry.

Being with him taught me that being a “fixer”–trying to coach and coax men into being the person I see inside of them instead of letting them be who they are–may help them, but it hurts me.

My biggest lesson with Joe was the understanding that I confuse pity and love. I thought I was in love with him, but really I felt horrible about the life he had lived and wanted to make it better for him. My compassion, coupled with my codependency, felt like love. I thought, as I spiraled down into crazy girlfriend mode, that we might actually stick together for a very long time. But I was projecting all over him, seeing what I wanted to see rather than what was really there. To this day I don’t know who he really was.

Every once in a while, I get a random email from Joe. A few months ago, he wanted to friend me on Facebook, and I blocked him. Yesterday, he started following me on Twitter. I blocked him there.

Someone once told me, “When you’re done, you’re done, but you’re not done until you’re done.” By the end of September 2005, I had spent almost three months alone, without a single date. I felt purged, free, healthy. I was done with Joe for good. I still am.

Next: Robby


Bad Boyfriends: Joe part 2

The second in a series of stories about the many bad boyfriends I’ve chosen throughout my life. The story of Joe is a long post, but then it’s a long story. So, I’ve broken it up into three parts.  Read part 1 here. Here’s part 2, below.

If Joe was addicted to booze and pot, I was addicted to him. He brought out the worst in me. I became possessive and suspicious. I’m that girl who enjoys long, deep, meaningful looks. The fact that he could never look me in the eye drove me crazy. He would disappear for hours and sometimes days, triggering my fears of abandonment and making me feel even more desperate. Clingy. Needy. He lied to me about where he was, probably because he was off with his drug dealer and that group of friends. I certainly didn’t fit in with that crowd.

When I bought my house, I stocked my liquor cabinet. I’m not a big drinker, but I wanted to be able to offer guests pretty much any drink they wanted when I entertained. Within a week, Joe had drained everything but the gin, vermouth and kirsch. He promised he’d replace it all, and he did, only to drink the liquor cabinet again and again.

He never had any money for food, so I fed him. He did his laundry at my house. He ordered pay-per-view feature films and porn on my dime. He’d occasionally throw $50 my way, but at that time I was living as if I were still making the money I had when I was married. In truth, I was working 24 hours a week and had started to pay some house bills on my credit cards.

A few weeks after we met, Joe decided to take a menial job doing security work on the 16th Street Mall. He made $6 an hour. When I met him, he had a car, an atrocious minivan that had come in handy in his film work. But soon thereafter, he wrecked it driving drunk. He got hurt but walked away. He found a roommate and a basement apartment on the west side of town, on a bus route.

After about two months, he was basically living with me on the days that Lauren wasn’t with me–three days one week and four days the next. I began driving him to and from work. My own work began to suffer.

I was so wrapped up in him, I was doing things that were far outside of my boundaries. In a way it was good to let loose. It was fun. The sex was great, kinky, fun. I was taking risks like I never had done before. I wasn’t worried so much about what other people thought about me. I was too busy trying to fix him and to distance myself from the pain that would certainly overwhelm me if I got close enough to it. We’d have a great time together, and I’d feel very close to him, and then he’d freak out and disappear into a drunk or into the night. The time with him was a rollercoaster, filled with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.

I continued to spiral downward. I self-medicated my winter depression with alcohol. By the time the sun came out again in March, I was getting tired of it all. But I was still addicted to him. He made me crazy, but I couldn’t give him up.

At the end of March, I took myself on a week-long vacation to a little resort south of Playa del Carmen on the Mexican Riviera to recharge my batteries. I wanted Joe to come with me, but he didn’t have money and I didn’t want to pay for him. I wound up going alone. During that week away, I had no access to a cell phone, and I had minimal Internet access. Being away from Joe made me crave him. I distracted myself with bodywork, yoga, salsa dancing and sunshine. I worked on my novel, writing about 10 pages each day. I spent hours shopping for the perfect gift for him, settling on a gold chain. Prices were cheap and I was charging everything anyway. By the last day, I was feeling energized and alive again.

A month later, the rollercoaster had me exhausted again. I stopped drinking as much so that one of us would be sober. I started counting his drinks. I stopped talking to my family, because I didn’t want to have to explain my relationship to them. I’m sure Laurel got sick of my bitching and not doing anything to fix the issue.

By June, I was telling him he needed to clean up his act, get a better job, buy a car and stop drinking or we were done. He’d make promises and not follow through. I put up with it for a while. And then, one day, the stress and depression and anxiety and craziness of the previous year caught up with me. I had stopped taking care of myself. In May, the pharmacy accidentally filled my Synthroid prescription with the generic, and my body revolted. My thyroid levels got all out of whack, unbenknownst to me, making the depression and agitation worse.

In mid-June, the organization I worked for held a big concert fundraiser, and I decided to take Joe as my date. We had fun when we were together, when I wasn’t doing the whole codependent wife gig. We had a come to Jesus discussion, and he agreed to behave.

As I stood in line at the VIP bar, he stepped outside to smoke a cigarette (yeah, he also smoked like a chimney). I started talking to an older colleague when she wrinkled up her nose. “What’s that smell? Is that MARIJUANA? Oh my god, it is! Who’s smoking pot?!” I must have blanched because she asked me if I was OK. Two minutes later, Joe sauntered back into the tent, his pupils this size of pinheads.

I confronted him and he denied smoking a joint. He lied to my face. I was pissed and embarrassed. We left about 20 minutes into the concert. We argued all the way home, but that didn’t stop me from getting incredibly wrecked that with him night at my house.

Then, he disappeared for almost a week. I couldn’t get him on his cell phone. I couldn’t get him at his house. His roommate didn’t know where he was. He never showed up there, or at work, or at my house. I was in a panic. On the fifth day I took off from work, feigning sick. I waited for him at the downtown Denver RTD bus station and confronted him.

Tomorrow: Joe, part 3

Bad Boyfriends: Joe part 1

The second in a series of stories about the many bad boyfriends I’ve chosen throughout my life. It’s a long post, but then it’s a long story. So, I’ve broken it up into three parts. Here’s part 1.

As a writer and creative type, I’ve always fantasized about having a boyfriend who is also a creative type. Jimmy the drummer was close, but no cigar. I’d typically dated jocks, even though I didn’t have much in common with them. I wanted to be with someone who was more like me, who would understand my moodiness, who would “get me.” I thought being with an artist would be the thing that made me whole.

About six weeks after I broke it off with Jimmy, just after Thanksgiving in 2004, I met Joe on Yahoo! Personals. We communicated by email and phone for a couple of weeks, having interesting and deep conversations. I agreed to meet him.

Joe was handsome, with dark hair, dark eyes and a trimmed beard (I’ve always had a thing for facial hair). He was taller than me, not exactly fit but not in horrible shape. After Jimmy’s criticism of my curves, I didn’t feel great about my body, and I believed that being with someone who was in worse shape than I was would be safer for my ego and self-esteem. He loved my curves.

We met for Mexican food at Brewery Bar, a dive down on Santa Fe Drive. We had instant physical chemistry. Our conversation was fun. And best of all, he was an artist, a writer and an artistic director who had worked on two major motion pictures in New York.

Or at least he said he was. When I met him he wasn’t working at all. He’d moved back to Denver to take care of his mother, who had been deathly ill for months.

Joe had a shitty childhood. Yeah, I know, who didn’t? He told me stories of the abuse he suffered as a child, horrifying, awful stories. He told me every time the schools sent Child Services to his house, his mother would pack him and his sister up and move them. I tend to attract guys whose fathers and mothers beat the shit out of them, men who were sexually abused, men whose inner children are completely fucked up. He had been in the Army doing what he said were secret missions that involved lots of risk and danger.  He also survived a huge explosion that rocked his East Coast neighborhood and sent him flying into a wall. I figured out later that the explosion on top of the abuse caused him to be beyond a little nuts. They made him an addict.

On our first date, Joe drank three Jack & Cokes. At that time, I was drinking more than I had since college, which meant at dinner I had a margarita. I was concerned about him driving, but I let it go. The first time he came to my house, he drank half a liter of Jack, passed out, woke up acting all crazy. He didn’t know where he was. He barely remembered who I was. I’d gotten pretty drunk that night too, so I wrote it off as a one time thing. It was more of an every night thing, turns out.

Most people know me as a smart, successful woman who employs good judgment.  At that point in my life, it was all an act. I was anything but smart with Joe. I did not employ good judgment.

The first anniversary of my marriage’s end was approaching, and I did not want to be alone. My ex wasn’t in a relationship, and that meant I was better than him if I was, even if it was a crappy relationship. The truth: I was really lonely. Really lonely. I still didn’t know how to define myself as a person on my own. I was scared to be alone. I have never felt safe or content outside of a relationship, even when it got to the point that I didn’t feel safe and content inside of a relationship. I was telling myself, in that first year after my divorce, that I was OK. But the truth was I was a mess. And since you call into your life what you are living in your head, Joe was the perfect mirror.

Next: Joe part 2

Bad boyfriends: Jimmy
April 22, 2009, 12:20 am
Filed under: bad boyfriends | Tags: , , ,

I’ve decided to write a series of blogs about my past bad boyfriends. There have been quite a few. This blog is the first in a series of at least three.

In the time between my divorce and meeting Steve, I had two relationships and a few affairs. Both of the relationships were my way of figuring out who I was and who I wanted to be … and also who I didn’t want to be. I got to be the girlfriend of a musician, and the girlfriend of a crazy artist.

The musician was married, although his wife lives in South America. He’s a drummer. He had gone to federal prison for selling drugs. I had never dated a bad boy before, at least no one as bad as Jimmy. But Jimmy was also a sweetheart, quite a gentle soul unless he got pissed off. He never got pissed at me, thank goodness.

Jimmy and I had instant chemistry the second we met online. Right time, right place. I didn’t want to be tied down and he couldn’t be tied down. We had a lot of fun in the five months we dated. I went to hear him play. I listened to his crazy stories. We ate sushi, a lot of sushi, because he was a vegetarian and if I ate meat, he’d smell it on me, which meant no kissing and no sex.We went to a Broncos game, and he met my parents (boy that was fun to shock them). We went to the Renaissance Festival, where he got pulled on the stage during the Puke and Snot show and stole the show (and I got called out of the audience as his “wife”). We had a great time, a ton of fun, despite our age difference (he’s 14 years older than me, although he lied at first and said he was my age), despite our differences in backgrounds, despite all the circumstances in our lives that could have otherwise bummed us out.

Once, on the way to a gig in Winter Park, he pulled over on the shoulder of Berthoud Pass to climb up the retaining wall and pick me some lovely blue wild flowers. He bought me a socket wrench set as a housewarming gift. He installed a new outlet in my basement. He met Lauren twice, and each time brought her a toy. He was always sending me recommendations for good music. My favorites: Jon Cleary and the Monsters, Eva Cassidy and Storyville.

Jimmy helped me break away from my marriage. I was so raw, so devastated, so needy. I was broken, but he was too. I was too toxic for anyone whole, and he liked me enough that it didn’t matter to him. I didn’t really talk to him about my ex, because we didn’t have that kind of relationship. We could talk about pretty much everything else, though. And that felt good. At that time, I needed to be seen, and to be held. I was with him the day my divorce was final. I was with him the day I bought my house. I was with him from May to October, when he went to South America to visit his wife and children. We tried to stay in touch by phone and email during the six weeks he was gone, but when he was with her, it felt like cheating to both of us. When he came back, I broke it off. I missed him, but I had to do it.

I was still living with my parents for most of the time I was with him, so we’d hang out at Laurel’s, usually in her guest bedroom. I knew I was moving forward because I was finally able to write again, being with him. In fact, I wrote lyrics to a song for him, and that song is being shopped around Nashville right now by my birth father.

he’s the night

when the sun’s sinking west to the mountains
and the new evening’s breath starts to cool the day
he comes into my mind like a shadow
and he quietly snatches my breath away

I don’t know what I’m getting me into
I can’t see the direction he’s taking me
not the boy you’d take home to your momma
not the man you’d imagine on bended knee

he’s the night and his darkness absorbs me
he’s the moon and he pulls me against my tide
he’s the howl of the hungry, wayward wind
he’s the tender desire I’ve denied

… there’s more, but given the thieves on the Internet, that’s all you get.

(Funny aside, my birthfather, who is a devout Christian, tried to edit the lyrics to make them about Jesus. Seriously.)

Jimmy’s the one who asked me to take salsa lessons, something that has been a great joy in my life since that first class. He’s the first guy I was with after my husband, after a long, long drought, and he made me remember that sex is fun! And feels great! He was my Bad Boy Relationship, the one you need to have but you should let go of quickly.

When I broke it off with him, I was sad, because he had become my friend.

Jimmy made me feel good, but he also made me feel bad. He wanted me to lose weight and told me so. sometimes not so nicely. He wanted me to grow my hair out. He wanted to change me. He wanted me to be exclusive to him, although he wouldn’t make the same commitment to me. He wouldn’t tell me how he felt about me, even though I could tell he cared about me. I know now that he’s just not that guy. But back then, I needed to hear that more than anything. I needed to know, after my ex told me he didn’t love me anymore, that someone else could love me.

Our last real day together, we went to Wahoo’s Fish Taco before I took him to the airport. There,  I asked him, terrified, how he felt about me. He hemmed and hawed. He dodged the question. When I asked him, finally, with my stomach in my throat whether he loved me, he said, “Of course I love you. How could I not love you?” I remember feeling great relief and great confusion. Because if he loved me, we should be together. But we couldn’t be. And we shouldn’t be. I knew he wasn’t long-term material, even if he weren’t married. The stress of sneaking around made me feel even worse. It became unbearable.

I still talk to Jimmy from time to time. He plays gigs in Denver, and every so often he’ll call me and ask if I’ll stop by. I haven’t had a chance to yet, but I would love to see him again. In so many ways, he helped me put my feet on the road to where I am now, and to who I am now. He helped me redefine myself, and for that, I’ll always be grateful.

Next: the crazy artist/addict