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On Dating : Watering My Plants - kale & cigarettes
On Dating : Watering My Plants

On Dating : Watering My Plants

I took a chance and didn’t pack any clothes for this trip. One night and one day in Texas before flying back home. It sounded advanced to travel with only the clothes on my back, like I was in the CIA. Then I spilled oil-based sauce on my crotch right before having to do an interview with the students. Then one of my employees got hit by a car. Then one of my other employees got a flat tire. And then a thunderstorm cancelled my flight home and I spilled ketchup on top of the oil stain and my clothes were looking more like a paint palette every minute. But before all that, I was at a bar called Hillbilly’s with some of the other people from the trip. We were doing our Southern California version of a line dance to Tim McGraw. People were standing on the edge of the dance floor filming us – people wearing cowboy boots – as we were so obviously not from these parts. We heard them chuckling but we didn’t care. In these moments I can be free of concern. I can be a completely different person.


Maddy is staying at my place. She asked if I needed someone to water my plants and I told her she might as well just stay there while I’m gone because the bed is so soft and she can spread out and enjoy NYC a little more. 

She told me she was lying on my couch and wearing one of my sweatshirts. I asked for a pic and when it came through her lips were full and pink and I pictured us taking off each other’s clothes. 

All was moving forward with her and the others were starting to fall off. Which is probably why, in that moment, Audrey (nurse, Kate Beckinsale lookalike) sent me a text.

“Hey it’s Audrey, your Hinge gf” 

“(Just doing my part in keeping the intrigue alive)” 

“You are doing quite well”

“Should I save you as Audrey Hinge gf?”

“I think it’s appropriate”

“Yeah it’s the right level of commitment having never met you” 

Sometime later – because it’s impossible to understand how this all fits into the same hour/day/week – I was FaceTiming with Maddy. She was still fixed on my couch, looking like she’d been there her whole life.

“Wow, you look pretty comfortable.”

“Oh yeah, I live here now. Thanks for the apartment.”

“No problem.” 

I was interested to see how another person interacted with my space. All the furniture was for design. The pillows and blankets were to be kept fluffy and straight. I would rather be cold than have to refold perfect edges after every use.

But there she was, fucking everything up. Blanket draped around her shoulders, pillow under her legs. The place was a mess and it made me so happy.

It should be noted that lately she was displaying some tendencies that might be difficult to deal with long-term. I remember specifically journaling after our convo that I should take off these rose colored glasses and process the entirety of her. That it wasn’t fair to anyone to only see the version of them that suited you.

All of the parts I didn’t want to acknowledge could be easily overlooked. Because I liked how she smelled and tasted. Because I was lonely in New York without her. And because getting to know her was my new favorite emotional pastime.

She told me how Spotify reached out to her about a job.

“Okay obviously you’re going to take that. Imagine how much faster you’ll get the release radar playlist.”

“I can’t leave!” she said.

“I really try not to tell you how to do anything because it’s up to you but saying you ‘can’t’ do that is absolutely not true. You can leave anytime you want and it will be fine.”

“I know. I feel gross even saying it. I have such a hard time letting go.” 

I was starting to piece it together more clearly – she lays herself out for the benefit of others. She treats her own existence like a secondary experience. Her capacity for enduring difficulty on behalf of others is immense and I think she believes that to be a good and selfless quality. It makes me not trust her. Because I already have a difficult time trusting people to be solid and consistent across multiple situations. Someone like her will become whatever her environment needs her to be. She is the grey area of life. And that sent me into an anxious frenzy.

Here is a good time to recognize that I have many tendencies that wouldn’t be strong indications that I am a good, long-term partner. Say, the fact that I talk to Erica daily even though I’m not sure I like her, just that I’m holding her in the reserves in case Maddy and I don’t have good sexual chemistry. 

Or that once during our call I remembered I hadn’t texted Audrey back and part of me wanted to hang up and do that. 

And that I am judging every move, decision, thought, outfit, standing posture, food choice, and exercise routine that a person has. 

In the scheme of things, these are potentially much worse traits. Yet, I have always found a way to feel better than the people I’m dating. I positioned my behavior as something that was their fault. My anxiousness was their fault because they didn’t communicate well enough. My jealousy was their fault because I didn’t trust how they would behave in different circumstances because of the various ways they handled other, non-related situations. I was always able to corner a position of superiority. My faults were heroic burdens I was taking on while theirs were just a lack of discipline.

Because their actions weren’t black and white, I had no choice but to act how I acted. The whole thing was positioned to focus on their shortcomings. And it didn’t occur to me clearly until recently, thanks to Charlie, that I’ve always had a relatively low opinion of myself combined with insane expectations. And my reaction to that was to be perfect. To harden. To judge. To strike down any behavior that caused me discomfort. Because I couldn’t handle it. I had no capacity for softness, for mistakes. No ability to accept an entire person and the risks that go along with loving them. Because I had no ability to accept myself as I really was – imperfect, insecure, fallible, scared – and show up better to meet people as they actually were. 

I asked Maddy if her friends would think it strange that she was staying in my apartment while I was gone. 

“I told them and they are basically all jealous,” she said.

She sent a series of photos of her feet wearing all my different shoes. 

“What about your friends, would they think it’s strange?”

“I only told Ashley. She was too distracted talking about how you mocked the security guard when she got reprimanded for touching the disco ball and how much she enjoyed that. So, I guess…no?”

Truth is, every single one of my friends would roll their eyes. Because there have been so many girls and so many loves and so many gestures that no one believes it’s ever real for me, not even when I got married. 

Softness. 

I looked at her through the screen. Felt it for a second. She is imperfect and she can hurt me badly and yet I am drawn to her in a way that doesn’t ask for permission. 

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