“Let’s just call it as it is,” my friend says to me. “He’s the married guy.”
We’ve just spent the last hour talking about a friend of his that was stupid enough to get married too young, divorced too young, and self-shamed herself back to Boston in the aftermath. Now we’re talking about the dude I was dating hanging out with talking to having sex and drinking with for the last six weeks. What I had initially (and incorrectly) assumed to be a two-year, clean-enough separation turned out to be a time span more easily measured in weeks – days, even – and a messy, sloppy, on-going split. “And you think she was an idiot?” my friend laughs. “Ha!”
The ramifications of my blind stupidity would be revealed no later than 24 hours later, after leaving the not-married married guy’s apartment with a horrible knot in the pit of my stomach, which turned into a text message on the cab ride home saying I felt “weird” about his situation, which turned into a phone call from him saying he was going to say something earlier in the night (there was apparently not enough time to have this chat before sleeping with me), which turned into me sitting speechless on the other end of the line when he said, “This is going to sound lame, but if this in-between thing isn’t going to continue… I’d like… I’d like to be friends?”
Having been down this highly emotionally unavailable man road – though not the married/divorced/separated variety – one too many times, I should have known better. From the beginning, there were red flags. Like how he’d mention being in my neighborhood the day before without telling me, or saying, “My wife hated that ottoman,” after we had just had sex on it, accidentally omitting the imperative “ex.”
Here, I offer you a brief list of signs, so that if you find yourself in a similar situation, you’ll know simply to run, if for no other reason than to avoid dry sobbing in the basin of your bathtub — which I did when I came home last night (but did not do to that Christina Aguilera “Say Something” video).
1. It’s his way or the highway. The only time he can hang out is when his will decrees it. Whenever you send a casual invitation to a casual affair, he’s tired, sick, or staying home. Don’t kid yourself; this isn’t because he’s tired, sick, or staying home. He just doesn’t want to make you real. Tacking himself onto your plans is future boyfriend territory. Bringing you into his own is transactional. You know, like a prostitute.
2. He hasn’t called you on the phone. This is another way boys make girls “real.” If he’s still texting you after a month, it’s because he’s creating the distance that means he won’t feel bad or responsible when he ends up telling you, “I’m just in a bad place right now.”
3. He hasn’t seen your apartment. If it’s been over a month and he still hasn’t bothered to see the space in which you exist, he probably doesn’t care that you exist.
4. He still uses soap his ex-wife picked out. Why do I know this? Beats the hell out of me. Also, why do I know she liked patchouli and he didn’t? These tiny details are heart wrenching, insensitive over-shares, ones that are likely unavoidable when, you know, he’s not really divorced. A general rule of thumb is that if there are still remnants of an ex’s cleaning products of choice, it’s too soon. Go wash your hands in some other guy’s sink.
5. You never feel comfortable enough to spend the night. Waking up in the morning still in his bed, the sun creeping under the door jam, sends your stress levels through the roof at the mere notion you’re encroaching on this other person’s life. Though your anxiety is clear and palpable, he does not address it. The fact you leave without him having to ask makes life easier for him, which means it’s time to move on.
6. His nice wine glasses have mysteriously vanished. After much confusion, it is determined that the ex-wife must have taken them, you know, when she was over at his house three weeks ago for Thanksgiving.
7. He still uses the Royal We. As in “We went to Miami” or “We went to the Hamptons.” Anyone who hasn’t switched gears to “I” mode in is no state to be talking/sleeping/drinking with you…. unless you’re a masochist. In which case, soak it up. Bask in the evidence of someone else’s failed relationship, dreaming that you might one day be next.