I’m not always mean and sarcastic, but when I am, it’s because I’m depressed and have a smelly, irritating Men’s Rights Activist taking up space in my apartment.
The third evening he stayed with me, I dragged Michael to a party. That semester, I’d taken a class for which we all had to write, produce, and direct a short film, and our professor invited the class to her apartment for an end-of-semester screening party.
The day of, I didn’t actually have work or class, but I also didn’t want to spend the entire day in my apartment with him, especially given his previous suggestion of “love-making,” an expression that makes me gag even if I have affection for the person.
So I got baked and filled the afternoon with errands. I didn’t “live in the present” while entertaining him – or to be accurate, while dragging him about Brooklyn with me.
The morning did not get off to a promising start. While fixing breakfast, I pulled a carton of milk from the fridge and gave it a sniff. I asked him for a second opinion.
“I don’t drink cow’s milk,” he said.
“I’m not asking you to drink it. I’m asking you to sniff it. Tell me if it smells OK?”
I sniffed it again and chugged straight from the bottle. The blood drained from his face.
Michael made no secret of his disdain for my slouchy, freelance, cheap-taste grad student lifestyle. Later, while eating at a hummus joint I liked, he picked on my clothing, noting holes in my shirt and ranting about middle-class kids who “like to pretend to be poor.”
“I don’t see why you have to live in Brooklyn, anyway. Why can’t you find a place in Manhattan?”
“Do you want to pay my rent?”
Michael was also amazed that other men found me attractive in spite of my sartorial sloth and decided he should point it out to me whenever he noticed some random dude eyeballing my legs or butt, which wouldn’t have otherwise been uncomfortable if he didn’t make it a point to let me know about it.
“I’m just surprised,” he said. “Girls usually peak at 23.”
“You know, you’re much older than the girls I usually date.”
“I know! But I usually date, like… 19 year-olds…”
“You’re 31, dude. That’s kind of weird, you know.”
“It’s only Western women who are like this, you know. Go anywhere else in the world, and you see young, beautiful women with much older men.”
“Have you been anywhere else in the world?”
“I’m just saying.”
I walked up to the counter and ordered an iced coffee. The guy behind the counter asked if I wanted cream or milk. Michael walked up behind me.
“Oooh! You should get soy milk! It’s so good for you!”
The cashier smirked.
Back home, I slugged back a mug of wine before smashing some avocados for the party. Michael attempted to come onto me, and in the moment, I was so worn down I might have indulged him, but I soon repelled him – mostly because I’d been handling jalapenos and hadn’t washed my hands.
En route to the party, he asked if I was on birth control.
“No,” I lied. Usually, this works.
“Well, you don’t have to worry about me. You know I would support you.”
“So, you’d pay for half the abortion?”
He then outlined his views about abortion. He was pro-choice, technically, but felt it was all the wrong kinds of people getting abortions. Certainly, poor people should have access to abortion, but not “college-educated sluts” who wanted to keep partying late into their 20s.
“Awesome. Let’s make a baby.”
Subtlety was not his strong suit.
Shockingly, Michael was a terrible party guest. He rebutted my friends’ attempts at conversation and bristled when I greeted male friends with hugs. He criticized my peers’ film projects in loud whispers. He took a sip of my beer and blanched. “I don’t know how you can drink this stuff.”
“I don’t know how I can’t,” I slurred in his general direction.
We left as the night wound down. I do not recall our conversation on the train until he commented to me, “You just got out of a relationship pretty recently, didn’t you?”
I cracked. I broke. I heaved sobs on the train like I had never heaved sobs in my life.
This wasn’t 100% his fault. I was dealing with serious feelings – or rather, not dealing with serious feelings. I’d cried the first night the aforementioned “perfectly nice fellow” and I had broken up and then filled my days with school, work, anything to distract my brain.
When I actually caught snatches of free time between class and work and more work, I pushed down any sad or nostalgic feelings. Now, it all came crashing out of the floodgates. As much of a mess as I was, it felt good. There is something so profoundly lonely and bitter about crying on the subway that’s almost cathartic. Or it felt cathartic to me, anyway.
I’ll admit: There aren’t really any good options for dealing with this situation, if you’re in Michael’s position. First, he tried to put his arm around me. I jerked away. Then he whispered soothingly to me, “We can cuddle when we get home. You know we still haven’t –“
I stalked to the other end of the car and returned to him only when we arrived at our stop.
At home I brushed my teeth and washed up. I grabbed a pillow and a blanket and let him have the bed. I opened a window so I could listen to the sounds of civilization outside and unfurled my yoga mat, where I slept that night and the next.