Hard Truth 204: The Thing I Wish I’d Learned About Men

He was beautiful, inside and out. He sat across from me at a dimly lit table and from the moment we each sat down, the conversation just rolled. I laughed, he liked it. I countered, he laughed. Food came, I’m sure it was stuck in my teeth. I hated to get up and go to the bathroom because surely, right there, that’s where the reverie would end because he’d see my ass as I walked away. It’s a nice ass, and on the eve in question, it was bound in Spanx, but it’s never been described as small.

But I got up, went to the bathroom, came back, and a few hours later, it was time to go.

Him: This was lovely.

Me: Yes, it was. I was honestly expecting it to suck more.

Him: Me, too! So, when can I see you again?

Me: Well, it’s a crazy week, but I could do tomorrow or Saturday.

Him: How about you book me for both?

I drove home in the brutal cold that is a Chicago winter, parked my car, and didn’t have a single shit to give that I was walking 6 blocks in high-heeled boots across ice and snow to get to my front door.

Today’s hard truth is mine — it’s what I wish I’d learned about men a long, long time ago.

People will show you who they truly are, and in short order, if you just give them the chance.


Because this guy? Batshit fucking crazy.

When I walked into his condo later that first week, it was stark white. I mean, everything was white. If he’d had a cat, it would have been white. My first honest-to-god response was, “Holy shit, is this where they filmed American Psycho?”

But I marveled as he took me on a tour of his lily (white) pad, describing the renovation and his commitment to having a minimalist home.

Seriously. There was nothing on the counters in the fucking kitchen. Nothing. Not even LINT. Now, my kitchen counters aren’t the DMZ, but they have kitchen things on them. Like my partner-for-life Nespresso machine, a blender, and a thing that holds my cooking utensils. Maybe a dish I hadn’t put in the dishwasher yet. And a spoon. Oh, and there’s the dishtowel. And some mail (shit, did I even open that?) and a box from Birchbox and a knife and what the fuck is that…?

You get the idea.

And he drank. Every time we were together, it was 4 glasses of wine. At his place, the bottle. I wasn’t drinking at the time, so I noticed. And then, it was his hot/cold approach. And then it was the day he told me a story of turning around and yelling at a small child on an airplane with a gleam of pride in his eyes. Then it was the time that passed between calls and text that grew from a jovial banter spanning a no more than an hour…to days.

And then finally, a month and a half later, it was over. After telling me a week before waking up next to me that — this morning, right here — was one of the best mornings of his life, he says (over a call he SCHEDULED with me to which I’m like, well, by all means, get me on your calendar because there’s nothing like a scheduled dumping, amiriiiite?) that he’d been thinking about us for awhile now and he likes me but he just doesn’t see this thing between us going anywhere.

In retrospect, I should have stopped at the American Psycho condo.

Hindsight is always 20/15, isn’t it?

dog turd in tiffany box

A dog turd in a Tiffany’s box is still a turd, baby.

I think there’s a part in all of us that makes us want to see the best in people. Or at least, we find a way to tell ourselves that these few good things about a person we’re interested in comprise the better part of the person.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve rationalized myself into staying in more things that made me feel bad than I can count.

Long after a man’s shown me who he is, I’m still there.

I’m there because I’m sick of online dating.

I’m there because maybe he’s just not a great communicator and I shouldn’t expect someone to text my rapid-fire-finger self back right away. And who really calls someone back the same day?

I stay because there’s a part of me that thinks that this is what a relationship is really like and maybe Hollywood movies have me thinking there’s a fairy tale that doesn’t exist and I should just deal because yes, it’s reasonable to sleep at his house every fucking time even though I have 2 dogs and a cat and he’s allergic to the cat.

I stay.

Or rather, I stayed.

Yeah, you’ve stayed, too.

We stay for a lot of reasons. But I think the reason we stay is because there’s one thing we want and we’re hoping that, in the ashes that surround each of our mildly tragic lives burning around us, there are embers of hope…

that we will be loved.

And what I didn’t realize is that by staying in the hopes that I would be loved, I likely never would be — by him, at least.

We can’t stay hoping that things will change because the thing that needs to change is how someone else feels about us and — as a retired career “fixer,” I can tell you this:

it’s pretty fucking impossible to change how someone feels.

But I stayed. And you stayed, too. We wanted to see the best in the person standing before us because there’s a smile in our souls when we walk through a door on someone’s arm. There’s an iota of validation that is oh-so-sweet when you can use the we and us in conversations instead of the ever-so-tired I.

We stay.

And today’s hard truth…well, maybe it’s less about how someone will show you exactly who they are if you give them a chance and more about…going.

Learning to go.

Because what we leave behind makes room for the good stuff.  The good ones.

And when we each lead lives so busy and full of stuff and things and each day we wake, hoping that this will be the day that we are truly loved — we’ll never be loved if our lives are filled with people and partners who aren’t good for us.

They can be good people, but that doesn’t mean they’re good for us.

I mean, think about THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY. The one you cried over for hours days in high school or college that you swore you’d love for the rest of your life. Today, you see them married. With kids. And you look at what they post on Facebook (because naturally, you’re Facebook friends because SEE HOW AWESOME MY LIFE IS WITHOUT YOU?!) and all you can think is, “Holy shitsnacks — you’re exactly the same.”

Good people. Just not good for you.

So if I can leave you with one wish today, it’s that you learn — or have already learned — how to go. How to make room in your life for the people that deserve to be in it and let the others find their brand of weird.

Because when we learn to go, we just might stumble into the person worth staying for — and the best part of all?

There will be room when he or she shows up.

As there’s one thing I can tell you — the good-for-you people can smell someone with a life filled with bullshit from a mile away. And they have no problem leaving that shit behind.

Way, way behind. Because there’s absolutely no room for them in that inn.





10 replies
  1. MightyCaseyMedia
    MightyCaseyMedia says:

    You’ve just described my entire romantic history up there – and made it clear to me why, despite my wish that it were otherwise, I’m 100% opt-out since Marital Disaster II: Revenge of the Self-Haters. 

    It’s taken me a long time to realize that my first marriage, to a man who said “you can save me” (that turd in a Tiffany box beats your American Psycho dude’s white condo cold), pretty much broke my ability to trust a man as an intimate partner again. Emotional abuse and repeated beatings will do that to a person. 2nd marriage, to another self-hating guy (but he was SO. DAMN. FUNNY. he even fooled my foolproof mom), was just whipped cream and a cherry on the turd sundae.

    It’s me. No longer capable of opening myself up to that kind of possible outcome … ’cause that’s always been the outcome. So, like the magnet on my fridge says, “Food has replaced sex in my life. Now I can’t even get into my own pants.” Not that food has really replaced sex. There’s just no sex … and zero risk of more eviscerating heartbreak. After over a decade, that’s set in stone.

  2. RachelPrestonPrinz
    RachelPrestonPrinz says:

    I’m trying to get up the balls to leave Wasbund 2 (I have my own place and bank account now. that counts as “sorta” right?) So yep. This. Needed. Much. Thank you.

  3. MarkHarrill
    MarkHarrill says:

    I found it took me reaching rock bottom in the pursuit of that magic feeling that I realized what I wanted and needed was waiting on me to accept.  Being yourself and loving yourself have to happen before you can be loved.  Truly loved.

    So happy you are writing every day. I look forward to tomorrow!

  4. SusanKMorrow
    SusanKMorrow says:

    I hung in there for 7 years… Then, after that was over and I KNEW EVERYTHING, I was content to be single for about seven more years. By the time I met my One and Only True Love in 2013, I knew what I wanted and what I didn’t want. And now I have everything I want and love. I have no regrets!

  5. Kristy Alagna
    Kristy Alagna says:

    Sooo… Timely. This morning you kindly, inspire-ingly – kicked me in the butt – dissipating a painful illusion. My content is different: not about a lover, instead about a friend. But my context is the same: needing to go, let go.
    Thank you Erika for sharing your experiential-wisdoms, and always in a way that helps me lighten up and smile… even thru tears.


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