A ruse by any other name
My girlfriend and I got together a few months ago, after I consoled her about some guy she became “obsessed with” who didn’t return her feelings. Today, I finally put two and two together, and figured out it’s the guy whose band she’s going to see tonight while I’m at work. She claims they’re “just friends,” and it’s me she wants, but she talks about him nonstop, and he called her the other night at 3 a.m. when I was at her place. Am I being too jealous, or am I right to worry that something might happen between them?
— Sucker Punched
There are some secrets you just don’t tell people, not because they’re so deep and dark, but because they’re so shallow and beige; for example, “I drink tea.” “I have nostrils.” “I floss.” Then, of course, there are secrets you work very hard to keep: felony drug convictions, the time you couldn’t quite make it to the john, and how you had man-breasts until a nice lady in scrubs relocated them to a medical waste dump. Oops, did your girlfriend fail to inform you that her “friend” is the very guy she was unrequitedly gaga for? Surely it simply slipped her mind, along with “I have toes” and “I sometimes wear green.” To be fair, lapses like this can happen — especially when your girlfriend’s talking so incessantly about somebody, one wonders whether she’s being paid by the word.
You might be a little quicker to accuse her of committing a crime, if only you could put your finger on what it is. You can’t really say she lied. It’s more like she told a half-truth. Of course, the problem with half-truths is that it’s generally the important half people keep to themselves. You’ve probably been treated to daily oratories on this guy’s musical greatness: “Why, he’s the next Chet Atkins!” (Sure he is — not the guitarist, the unemployed welder in Akron.) Then there’s the juicy part, the part she left out: “I used to be obsessed with him, and think I might still be, but you’ll do until he calls me at 3 a.m.”
As far as you know, she hasn’t cheated with him in the “friends with benefits” sense, by jumping his bones. It probably seems unfair to accuse her of cheating if they’re, well, “friends without benefits.” But was there anything going on with him? Sure there was — every day, in conversation with you. Think about how people console mourners, “You keep dead Aunt Bessie alive by remembering her.” Her relationship with him existed, in large part, because you were there to play unwitting audience. It was a threesome — her, her rock idol and your ear.
You can’t really say she’s on the rebound, since she never had a relationship with the guy. Whatever you call this (“pre-bound”?), you should call yourself “aggressively naïve” if you think people can turn obsessions on and off like 50-cent flashlights. If somebody’s a slave to obsession, by getting together with her, you’ve signed on to be a slave’s personal assistant. Much as you’d like to believe it’s you this woman wants, if the present were working as well for her as she claims, would she really be dragging the past around like Linus’ blanket? Forget worrying about what might happen between her and Axl Rose. Sure, she could fall for him, same as she could for some guy who steps on her foot at the bus stop. The dealbreaker here should be the sneaky, psychologically twisted way she hid how she had yet to get up after falling for him the first time around.
Getting shovey dovey
I’ve had relationships and my share of one-nighters, but at 24, I’m ready for something meaningful. In two months, I’ve dated two girls and asked each to be my girlfriend. Both basically said: “Can’t we just have sex?” No! I want to be somebody’s boyfriend! Why won’t women take me seriously?
— Beyond Boy Toy
Could it be that you fall in love every two to three weeks? Asking women you barely know to be your girlfriend isn’t the least productive approach you could take. That would probably be picking total strangers with female-sounding names out of the phone book, calling them at dinnertime and asking them to love you. What’s driving you isn’t how special these women are but how special you think it would be to have a relationship. You did have success in the past, probably because you took the time to get to know girls — beyond the fact that they’re female and like shoes. Maybe these two particular girls simply weren’t ready for “I love you” — then again, who is, when it comes across as “I love you/I love anyone”?