Authors: Sarah Colonna
Tags: #Biography & Autobiography, #Entertainment & Performing Arts, #Essays, #Humor, #Nonfiction, #Personal Memoirs, #Retail
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To Jon. Thank you for changing how it ends . . .
wreck, I’m a mess
But I’m gonna take you dancing
Put on your party dress
—RHETT MILLER, OLD 97’S
t’s midnight and I’m under a pile of covers, writing this from my bed with a pillow propping up my laptop. I have the heat cranked up to seventy-five degrees because it’s currently “winter” in Southern California, which means it’s about fifty degrees outside, a temperature I now consider “freezing.” I grew up in a state that has real winters, but my seventeen years in California have weakened me to the elements and I am
ashamed of it. It’s called “adapting,” assholes.
I’m single, which is probably pretty obvious from the above description. If I were married or in a serious adult relationship, someone would share this bed with me and my late-night typing and cranked-up heater would no doubt be an issue. Also, I have hardwood floors and often hear noises at night. I used to think the noises were just my cat walking around upstairs, but now that he’s dead, I’ve ruled him out. The condo I live in is wonderful but older, so maybe that line my mom used to feed
me when I was younger and too terrified to sleep about how our house was “settling” was true all along and that’s what’s going on here. At least that’s what I tell myself when I’m trying to get back to sleep and am out of temazepam. I’ve already gone upstairs to check for burglars and ghosts.
, I’ve seen horror movies and I know everyone says you should just stay downstairs, but why lie here and wait to be killed when I can go upstairs with my signed Mark Trumbo baseball bat and get killed a little faster?
I’m not complaining about living alone. I’ve resided here by myself for a few years now, after an attempt at living with a boyfriend ended in . . . well, my living alone. And before that I lived roommate-free for seven years. So, aside from the lack of sleep because I hear my dead cat’s footsteps on the wooden staircase in the middle of the night, I really enjoy being the solo master of the house (well, condo).
I’m a big fan of alone time, I’m a big fan of silence, and I’m a big fan of getting to do whatever I want—and of knowing nobody is putting my expensive underwear in the fucking dryer. That said, I think my joy in being alone might be a little bit of a problem; I’m not sure how the hell I’m ever going to manage to share my space with anyone ever again.
But all of that doesn’t mean I don’t want to have a real relationship or even get married someday. Yes, I’d like to get married someday. Most of the women I grew up with back in Arkansas would scoff at this, thinking I’m an old maid now
and that ship has sailed. To that I say: Suck it. I chose a different path and I didn’t judge you for getting married at sixteen. But if I hear you talk shit about me, all bets are off.
It was pretty easy to find a boyfriend or a date when my source of income was bartending. And it was
easy to find a one-night stand . . . I mean, after all, I was the
; I had all the power and all the booze.
But now I’m in my late thirties and have a real(ish) job, and that seems to be working against me; at least, this is what I assume . . . I mean, I can’t imagine that
nobody on earth
is interested in me at all. Right? Hello?
I’ve definitely gotten a little better looking with age. A crazy English woman I worked with when I was twenty-four told me that this would happen because I’m a Capricorn, and she claimed that Capricorns are known to get better looking with age. So maybe she turned out to be right (hey—crazy people can be right sometimes, too).
maybe I’ve wised up since my early twenties, when I thought Slim Jims and Dr Pepper were nutritionally solid breakfast choices. Now I even eat kale sometimes and I’ve liked it one out of three of those times. How do you like me now, Arkansas?
I mean, I had boyfriends left and right in my twenties and at that point I had an unfortunate haircut, a terrible sense of fashion, and had never even considered getting a bikini wax.
You wanna put hot wax
? I don’t think so, big German lady.
But now I have pretty amazing hair. (It’s okay to love your own hair. It’s not like I made it myself or anything; I’m just grateful to my mother and father for having a sperm-egg mixture that created this glorious mane.) I dress decently for someone with very little sense of style and my bikini area is properly maintained at all times, even in the winter.
You need me, naked from the waist down, to pull my knees into my chest so you can get “back there”?
petite Asian lady.
(I like to think of it as a form of yoga: Scared Naked Baby Pose.)
The fact that a man would be bothered by dating someone who is doing pretty well for herself doesn’t make a ton of sense to me; most of my male friends joke that they would love to have a woman who paid for everything while they just planned golf outings. But I don’t think that’s exactly what I’m looking for, or I guess I’d be dating one of my male friends.
So what am I looking for? That’s the million-dollar question. What I
know, is that most of all, I’m looking for someone who loves to order appetizers. Anyone who doesn’t is a terrorist.
It isn’t easy to find balance in life. You finally get one thing nailed down and another thing falls off the wall because the nail wasn’t strong enough to keep it up there. Or maybe the nail was strong enough but got tired of holding the other piece up and didn’t want to have to do all the work anymore. NOT THAT I’VE EVER FELT THAT WAY OR ANYTHING.
When most aspects of your life are functioning pretty well
as they are, does it mean that the one missing aspect, be it work, family, or a significant other, can never be fulfilled? Or do I just need a hobby or something? Sheesh, apparently all this alone time makes me ponder life’s bigger mysteries.
Oops, be right back, I just heard something moving around upstairs . . .
Recycle, Reduce, Reuse
t age thirty-five, I became single after a five-year relationship that included a failed attempt at living with a man romantically for the first time in my life.
I guess I didn’t realize that when you move in with someone, they’re there
all the time
. I’d come home from work and Ryan would just be there, lurking around. He had to remind me time after time that this was because he lived there. But I’d had roommates in the past, and occasionally they would leave the house. What was it with this guy? Seriously, I almost called the police on him once just to get him out for the evening. That’s not a great sign.
And as much as I assured myself I’d never be in a sexless relationship, eventually that’s what ours became. Ryan was always judging me for
—my taste in music was stupid, my laugh was too loud, and if I wanted to crack open a bottle of wine after a long day of work, I had a problem. For
someone who claimed to love me, he certainly didn’t appear to like me. That stuff really wears on a person, so we inevitably became a cliché: I was turned off by the fact that he thought the dryer was a drawer, and he was turned off by the fact that I was turned off. Look, I’m sure moving in with the
person can be a lovely experience, but although he and I had some good times and a few successful “game nights” (I believe those were invented by a couple in the late 1940s who could no longer stand being alone in the same room on Tuesday evenings), it turns out we weren’t a good match, so living together was much less fun than, well,
Since I knew I didn’t want to date anybody that I worked with and wasn’t interested in meeting guys at bars, I did what any well-adjusted single woman in her mid-thirties who doesn’t have a lot of time to meet new people would do—I recycled an ex-lover. This may not seem like the best idea, but as far as I could tell the pros outweighed the cons: you know, the time-honored tradition of “he’s already seen me naked so technically I’m not adding another number to my roster.”
I homed in on one particular ex, Patrick, because he had always checked in on me over the years, through mutual friends, to find out whether or not I was single. Our previous relationship was short-lived due to the fact he was a raging alcoholic and because of his love for strippers (he lived near a strip club and often allowed the girls to come over to his place and “use his shower,” claiming he had great water pressure, which was handy when removing pesky glitter). Years later, he
seemed to fancy me “the one that got away” and I liked the idea of spending my newfound singledom with someone who romanticized me. Plus, like many alcoholics, he was a blast to hang out with.
As I suspected, Patrick was very excited to find out that I was single. He told me he wanted to take me on a date, so I made all the usual manicure/pedicure/bikini wax appointments one makes when trying to impress someone, bought a new top, put on my best “ass jeans,” and headed over to his place. (He couldn’t pick me up because his license was temporarily suspended due to a couple of DUI arrests. Thinking back, I probably didn’t need to get a new top for the date . . .)
When he answered the door, I remembered why I used to like him so much; he was a few years older than me but had this boyish charm that made my stomach jump. He made me a drink while we waited for a taxi to take us to his favorite local restaurant/wine bar. Even though we hadn’t seen each other in a few years, everything felt easy—conversation was easy, laughing was easy; it all came naturally. That also reminded me why I used to like him so much—we just clicked. The only hiccup of the evening (besides his) was when we got to the restaurant and he took off his jacket to reveal a T-shirt that said “I Love Bacon.”
“Really?” I asked as I nodded toward his shirt.
“What? I love bacon, it’s not like I’m wearing a lie.”
“Fair enough,” I laughed.
So he’s a forty-year-old man wearing a T-shirt that says “I Love Bacon,”
dated worse, but, damn it, I
wish I hadn’t spent one penny on a new top.
The night continued as expected: we both got really drunk and went back to his place to have sex. Granted this was not the most romantic evening in history, but the relationship I’d just ended had taken a while to get out of, and now I felt so free and so happy to be hanging out with someone who wasn’t constantly rolling his eyes at me like Ryan always had. I just wanted to have fun, and Patrick the alcoholic was a lot of fun.
We started hanging out pretty often, usually at bars, but ours was a summer fling and since we both loved baseball, we also went to a lot of games (Patrick really liked day games because it gave him an excuse to drink beer at noon). When we dated before, he owned a bar/restaurant but now was unemployed, which meant he was always available for good times. I don’t want you to think I was dating a loser with no job, though. Patrick had sold his bar, plus he had inherited a large sum of money when his father passed away, so essentially I was dating a loser with no job but
money—hey, at least I wasn’t paying for everything.
Lots of money and no job probably sounds great to some people, but it comes with issues. Having that kind of money and that kind of time on your hands can lead to really poor decisions, especially if you already have an addictive personality like Patrick had. But he lived close to my work, so I often spent the night at his house (he had his own house!), and there was lots and lots of humping. Holy shit, I did not realize how
pent up I was from the last six months of my previous relationship, in which there was no humping. So I was trying to get into Patrick’s pants every chance I could.
Now, most men would have been stoked that the girl he was dating always wanted sex, but Patrick wasn’t normal. I mean, he was up for it a lot of the time, but definitely not as often as I wanted. One day when I asked him why he didn’t want to have sex with me—I mean, hello, I was wearing a dress and heels—he explained that unlike my previous relationship, his previous relationship had not been sexless . . .
“She used to get other girls, friends of hers, to come over and join us,” he explained nonchalantly.
“Huh?” I asked as I drained the drink in my hand.
“She was kind of a mess, Sarah. I met her on this website and—”
“I assume you don’t mean ChristianMingle?”
“Ha ha, very funny. No, it was a website where girls who want to date men with money put up profiles.”
“You met her on a sugar-daddy website? That’s where you met your ex-girlfriend? ”
I was talking loudly. That’s what I do sometimes when people say stupid things. But truthfully, I wasn’t that shocked. I’d known Patrick for years and even when we were just friends, when the girls weren’t over at his place “showering,” he was at the strip club, often handing over wads of cash to go into the back room—which I don’t think is used for playing pinochle—with the dancers. (I never said I was proud of this particular recycle, so just bear with me.)
“You asked me a question; I’m just being honest with you,” he said, very matter-of-fact.
He was right; I had asked. Now I sort of wish I hadn’t, but I took a deep breath, apologized, and allowed him to continue on with his super-fucked-up story. He told me all about his ex-girlfriend, their “interesting” sex, and her meth problem.
“She did meth?”
“Sarah . . .”
“Sorry, I meant”—(whispering)—“she did meth?”
“Yeah, she was a mess. And after we broke up I let her live in my guesthouse because I felt bad for her; she didn’t have any other place to go. But she ended up stealing from me and when I confronted her about it she called the police and tried to have
“For what? For not wanting to be stolen from? That seems like a weird charge.”
“She told them I hit her.”
“You hit her?”
“Of course not, I’d never—”
“I know, I’m sorry.” I did know. Patrick wasn’t a violent drunk. He was more of a “sing karaoke until most of the bar clears out because you keep taking the mic out of other people’s hands”–type drunk. He’d clearly gotten involved with one of those girls he paid extra to go in a back room with and experienced what it was like to try to take the stripper out of the girl. Plus, who would make that shit up? It wasn’t exactly a turn-on. But apparently she had been so sex crazed that my
pulling on his belt every ten seconds wasn’t exactly what he was looking for this time around.
Now, you’d think that all of that information, along with his alcoholism and employment situation, would have made me stop seeing Patrick, but you would be incorrect. He had several great qualities. First of all, he had a good heart. I knew him well and I knew (or at least believed) that his penchant for women such as strippers came from a place of wanting to help them. I’m not saying it was smart—his brain was rarely operating at full speed—but I always thought his heart was in the right place. Second, and most important, he let me blast country music in his house at two o’clock in the morning. My ex hated country music! He never let me play country music!
So I decided that Patrick allowing me to play it was more important than any potential red flags. And, yes, I had “feelings” for him and his rugged features. It’s like the old saying: the heart wants what the vagina wants.
At some point, Patrick became involved in horse racing. It seemed to come out of nowhere, but he also seemed to take it very seriously. (You know, the whole “too much time on his hands” thing: Money + Time = Poor Decisions.) I also started to notice his odd sleeping habits, like when I’d wake up at four a.m. and find him in the living room on his laptop buying old typewriters.
“Why do you need an old typewriter?”
“I buy them and resell them,” he explained, as if I was the asshole.
“Okay,” I said, and went back to bed, not wanting to engage in a conversation about typewriters because . . . well, who does?
I’d go to work and wouldn’t hear from him all day, because that was apparently when he slept. One evening after work, I swung by his house to pick up a jacket I had left and found that he was in bed at six o’clock in the evening. That would have been no big deal if he was just taking a nap, but he hadn’t been up yet at all that day. I felt myself judging him and tried to shake it off: I was
going to be like Ryan, I was going to let Patrick be Patrick.
“So I like to sleep during the day, what’s the big deal?” he asked.
“I don’t know, just . . . shouldn’t you be doing something else?”
“I don’t know . . . anything else!” It was quickly becoming impossible for me not to feel like I was judging his lifestyle, but I work long hours and when I get off work I work on other stuff. Yes, I enjoy my cocktails and make time for fun, but I feel like I earn my fun time because of all the work time. He was just on constant fun time, which was starting to be no fun to me.
Right around the time the obvious cracks in this rebound were starting to shine through, Ryan (the ex I had just broken up with) started contacting me. Go figure, right? Isn’t that how it always works?
Ryan missed me and was sorry that he didn’t “appreciate” me the way he “should have,” and blah blah blah. It was all so cliché that it embarrassed me for him a little bit. I mean, I know he really believed—now that I was gone—that he couldn’t live without me, but I also knew that if we got back together things would go right back to the way they were before. I was finally comfortable with myself and I wasn’t willing to go back to someone who wasn’t. Also, I just wasn’t in love with him anymore.
Ryan told me that he had changed, that he knew he made me feel judged and cornered, and that he wouldn’t do that to me again. He said he was unhappy with his own life so he took it out on me. I knew that all of this was true, but unfortunately his realizing it now didn’t make me fall in love with him again. The end of our relationship had dragged on for months while we tried to “figure it out,” but what happens in that case, especially for the person who really knows it’s over, is that you let go of it during that time, so when it does officially end, you’re already through the grieving process and on to the “I can’t wait to hump somebody else” process. Ryan was just now in his grieving process and it wasn’t pretty.
Since I had loved him for a long time, it hurt me to know he was in pain. But giving him any false hope was definitely not the answer. So with each e-mail or text, I responded by gently telling him that I knew we weren’t right for each other, that soon he’d know it, too, and that he was just missing me right now.
“But I’m a completely different man now,” he wrote to me in one forty-seven-page e-mail. “I went on a yoga retreat and it changed me. I’m a vegan now.”
The fact he was now into yoga and veganism just drove the whole “we aren’t right for each other” thing home for me.
“I ate a cheeseburger for breakfast,” I wrote back, still trying to tell him gently that getting back together wasn’t going to happen. I didn’t want to have to write the words “I don’t love you anymore” to him. Maybe I should have, maybe the harsh truth was the better way to go, but I didn’t want to hurt him again. I just wanted him to move on.
Meanwhile, in an effort to restoke the dying flame between us, Patrick and I decided to go to Catalina Island for a weekend. It’s only a short ferry ride away from L.A., but Catalina kind of makes you feel like you actually went somewhere. There isn’t a ton to do unless you’re into riding ATVs or hiking, so we just headed straight to a bar and did one of our mutual favorite things: weekend day drinking.
Day drinking turned into night drinking, which led to our throwing popcorn at each other in our hotel room and passing out. You know—romance. We woke up the next morning, politely cleaned all of the popcorn out of the bed so that housekeeping didn’t think we were animals, and went back out to start day drinking again until the ferry came later that afternoon. It was a successful weekend in that we had a lot of laughs, but in the back of my mind all I could think was that
he could do this all the time if he wanted to, like constantly—not only because he had no job, but worse, because he had no ambition. And that, I realized as I sat watching him suck down a Bloody Mary on the ferry ride back home and back to reality, was the real problem. But it was a problem I wasn’t quite ready to face just yet.