Healing on the Margins

Our lives don’t always allow space for us to heal. My dad passed away on a Friday and I was back at work Monday. I took two days off for the memorial. At the time I was only 6 weeks into a new job, and still 6 weeks away from being out of my probationary period. I probably could have taken more time off, but my company clock watches and it felt important to prove that I was a Good Employee – someone they wanted to keep on staff. 

My experience is not unique.

Life is jam-packed, things come at us fast and rarely do we have the space or luxury to Go Slow or take a break. Most of us have to try to heal on the margins: of 9-6 M-F; of people who rely on us; of our responsibilities. 

Sometimes healing on the margins looks like crying for 30 seconds in the bathroom at work before pulling yourself together-ish. Sometimes it’s listening to Harry Potter audiobooks (Stephen Fry ONLY) on repeat just to try to calm down and not have a full-blown panic attack when the grief feels all-encompassing and so SO unbearably permanent. 

I have been tired these past five and half months. So deeply, existentially, on a cellular level, TIRED. Most nights I get home looking like I’ve been through the war. (Those of you who, inexplicably, end the day still looking as fresh and put-together as the second you stepped dewy-skinned out of your morning Evian caviar shower or whatever can eff right off mkay.) In the throes of this exhaustion, I have wondered how I will manage healing, how I will wrangle my routines back from the vice grip of apathy, how I will coexist with sadness and still go to a barre class (woof).

But grief is not static. It shape-shifts. Its requirements, its source of nourishment, change. Only a couple weeks ago, writing something about this would have been forced, draining – unthinkable, really. 

But here we are. Still tired. Still healing on the margins – but learning how to make the margins wider, and listening as my grief dashes upstairs for a yet another outfit change before we leave the house.

September 11, 2022

This year hits different. My dad was so SO proud to have been a firefighter. Retired at the time, when chaos and tragedy unfolded on September 11, 2001, his first instinct was to run toward it. Him, and his also retired buddies, grabbed their old gear, got on the Staten Island ferry, and spent about a week on The Pile trying to rescue whoever they could. 

Losing him this year to cancer – caused by everything he breathed in down there – has been just the Saddest Thing Ever. His diagnosis, treatment, and passing was fast, furious, and brutal. Three months. 

Today my grief is raw and messy, the sadness desperately clawing at my insides, a permanent lump in my throat. That grief, however, coexists with knowing that he, as my best friend put it, “was the guy who showed up and helped every time.” And he was. Whether I was moving, someone needed something fixed or a neighbor’s tree was on fire, he was always the guy who helped. 

I am eternally grateful we did not lose him 21 years ago. But I am greedy. I want more time with him. We will always ALWAYS want more time with our people. 

He was immensely proud to serve this city and help as many people as he could. A New Yorker through and through, his legacy – his selflessness – is inextricably woven into the story of New York. My heart is sad, but my heart is full and I am so SO proud that he was my dad. So toast to Gerard, and all the Helpers, today – but god help you if you use a straw in your cocktail. Gerard would have something to say about THAT. 

16 | The Hair: Part II

How The Hair and I dated for as long as we did, I’ll never know. Well, when I say dated, I mean broke up and got back together like 47 times within the space of one year. This was probably because we had zero to none things in common. He was a Jew from Louisiana who was a high school dropout, worked in tech and had crazy ADHD. I was drawn to him precisely because of what a complete mystery he was to me and everything I knew about the world. And, he rode a motorcycle. So. Obvs.

By the time I met The Hair, I was 29 and while I wasn’t running around like a maniac every weekend (I had found this thing called yogging), I still had mornings where I emailed things like, “Connecticut and I were just meeting for dinner, and it spiraled. Went to a Thai place in the Burg and then her friend met us, and we drank wine at the Thai place, then Connecticut wanted dessert so we went to The Counting Room and drank more wine and then ended up at the Whiskey Brooklyn with picklebacks and a bowl of bacon.” NB: this is verbatim from an actual email in my archives.

To say that drunkenly freebasing pork by-products was not The Hair’s MO, was an understatement. He was older, and while it wasn’t a huge difference, my 29 was definitely a lot more immature free-spirited than his…38? Let’s call it 38. I don’t remember our age gap, but I do remember the whole “We’re not in the same Life Stage blah blah yawn get over it old man” thing was frequently cited as a reason for us not to be together. (I mean he was 100% correct but whatever, rude).

See, the thing with meeting people online is that the whole Process is such a dumpster fire that everyone just says Yes! to everything. Initially. You ignore things like age, sartorial heinousness, how many trains it’ll take you to get to his apartment, alcoholism, oh you have a cat I hate cats and am highly allergic who cares I’ll pop an Allegra and let’s grab a drink — and then at some point have to do the very inelegant dance of ghosting extricating yourself from a very obvious Haha Oops No Thank You situation.

So in spite of being Not a Match, on paper (lol and in actuality), The Hair and I began dating. The beginning of our relationship was halting and polite. It felt like actual Dating, and not the garden variety get hammered and meet up somewhere “dating” to which I had grown accustomed. 

I lived in Williamsburg and The Hair lived in Long Island City, so Greenpoint became the DMZ from which we would, after dinner, stand awkwardly in the G station hemming and hawing about if we should have a sleepover and if he decided yes if so, whose apartment to go back to (always his). Nothing was ever A Given with him. There was always an early morning meeting or a friend crashing or a debilitating inability to open up to anyone or a hangnail that could derail our plans, and leave me disappointed, walking alone toward the Graham Ave bound track. 

On one of our first dates we braved the frigid frigid night to check out a new pizza place that had just opened. In the only starting to be colonized Greenpoint, we found ourselves in a turn-of-the-century carriage house that was about to be the newest hipsteryest pizza place, Paulie Gee’s. Word had not yet gotten out about the transcendence of their pizza, and there were maybe two other tables seated. But, as the place would soon become known for, Paulie walked around all night drinking who knows what out of an Oslo Coffee cup, schmoozing each table, telling nonsensical stories and showing terrible dad-taking-pictures-on-an-iPad photos of the renovation. With the bill came his homemade shh it’s a secret and I’m not supposed to serve it but I like you guys limoncello and some more rambling conversation. The Hair and I bantered with Paulie, and each other, and it was one of the rare times we were actually in sync. 

When The Hair and I were On, our relationship felt Important and real and fun and adult, and I’d be all like omggg This. Is. It. Register us at Cabela’s and teach me how to make jambalaya because here we goooo. But, yeah, no. When you are young and craving connection, searching for meaning, the most non-committal “We should check that place out sometime” or smallest smile across a table can feel like a Costco size bag of breadcrumbs leading you into the false sense of security fantasyland, from which you eventually have to Hansel and Gretel your way out.

After the initial phase of courtship passed and it no longer felt compulsory to meet at a bar or restaurant as an excuse to hang out, we mostly hibernated in his huge, illegal loft. A commercial space, he ran his business out of the ground floor office. On the second floor, he had slapped up some sheetrock and created two bedrooms at either end of the space. In between, a cavern of cement and cinder block acted as living room, kitchen, home gym and office. 

Ten years ago, Long Island City was one shitty bodega, one boring bar and one mediocre Thai place. The rest was intersections of elevated subways and highways, yards of defunct trains and industry in varying states of abandonment. It was like the scary New York from Ghost and literally no one lived there. So, it was completely unsurprising that he lived on the set of Law and Order SVU’s SWF Gets Murdered Yet Again episode. The first time we went to his place after a dinner, I had to remind myself that if he was actually going to murder me, he probably would have done so already. And, he had a female roommate, who was as yet unmurdered so it was all probably supes kosh.

The Hair’s roommate was completely uninterested in me. She was tall and cool and tall and edgy and tall. She worked for some music/culture website, which made her even cooler (and taller) and she did things like juice cleanses which I did too if you count just drinking wine for dinner. IT COUNTS. The Roommate was also from somewhere Southerny and had known The Hair since they were both young and scrappy and in K-holes at warehouse parties and making it in the Big City so they were all bonded and something heartwarming like that or whatever and I was not at all the third wheel and not at all jealous ok.

Our nights fell into a pattern fairly quickly: They would cook something and I would watch, we would eat and I would attempt to chime in, we’d settle down on the couch for some kind of Alaskan Klondike Tundra Haulers show and I’d feign interest and enjoyment. Then we’d (only him and I jeez it’s not that kind of story) go to bed, have great sex and fall asleep with nary a concilatory spoon in sight. 


Before you’re all like wow this is très depressing EMG, he so did not meet your needs (except in the bedroom amiritehighfive) and sort of sounds like a dick curmudgeon, I should just say — you’re right. However, while The Hair was defo a bit of a curm, I also had none boundaries and advocated for myself 0⁰ times. NB: One night he cooked me an elk steak. As someone who has had an on-again off-again relationship with meat for most of her adult life, my v whatevs this is a toats normal meal for me omg yummm honey such a mountain man grrr yasss more rare elk pls approach to the whole dinner was a true testament to how much I did not want to give him any hint whatsoever as to the fact that we were one thousand percent not meant to be together. 

Just in case he himself hadn’t figured it out.

I was in a moment of my life where I was really trying to figure out who I was and really was just along for the ride. From Go, I was extremely insecure in the relationship and my own Enoughness. Rigidity can come across as confidence and at the time, I mistook his inability to be inclusive or flexible as him being withholding and snobby Cool and Grown Up. Here was someone who owned a business, had disposable income and made artichokes with béarnaise sauce (gawd gross) for dinner at 9PM on a Tuesday. Surviving my life on credit cards scotch tape, shoe strings, microwaved Amy’s burritos and an adjunct salary, I was immediately intimidated. 

This is not to say I wasn’t sort-of happy in the relationship. He was gentle and caring when his attention was focused, and would send me home with homemade jambalaya or make giant pancakes for us on a Saturday morning. On a random Saturday he would text and tell me to put boots on because we were taking the motorcycle out to Jones Beach. The Hair was one of those people you really had to earn your laughs from, and the occasions when he favored me with one of those from the toes, eyes deeply creased in the corners Laughs, were moments I would bask in and hold on to. 

So, I was not miserable, I just wanted More. More of his attention, more of his time, more than a random weekend or an embarrassingly predictable “What’s up?” text that came every Tuesday night when I was at St. John’s, letting my night class out early because I knew the text was coming, and even though I swore that every Tuesday I would not respond, there I was hauling myself from the ass end of Queens to Long Island City, cursing train delays or missed buses because our time together was already so limited. 

Every few weeks I would psyche myself up and tell Best Friend that tonight was The Night. I was going to go over there once and for all to demand things for myself and give him a piece of my mind: more consistent communication! keep a toothbrush at his house! I hate Arctic Crab Hunter Intervention! your friends should know who I am! please stop making bernaise sauce!

You know. The ūsezh.

The only time we ever had a real conversation about us, about what each of us wanted, was after we had broken up. I had, you are shocked to your core to hear, started a blog to process my feelings about him, about dating, about feeling so EFFING FED UP with the entire deal. In some v painfully obvious thinly veiled attempt to reach out and be like Hi I still exist and am cool and don’t need you but like if you happen to read this and want to reach out or whatever I might maybe answer your text and come right over, I included The Hair on the mass email I sent out announcing my new creative endeavor.

One awkward text led to another and we found ourselves sitting at No Name Bar on Manhattan Avenue, having, for the first time, a very real conversation about very real things. We talked about Us and life, and our families and what we wanted for the future. We both probably knew it was never going to work out, but there we were single and wanting to jump each other’s bones feeling more connected than we ever had, so duh, we got back together.

This was maybe November’ish? We had a blissful little honeymoon period of being Together As An Actual Couple, you guys. I even went out to dinner with his friends and everything. And, because apparently, this is my thing, we threw a New Year’s Eve party together. It came together pretty spontaneously, but it felt fun and like a Real Couple thing to do. So much of dating when you’re young (and with the wrong person) is performative coupledom. It’s like here, let’s plan A Thing. If we make this thing together maybe we can convince ourselves that we’re actually in this and this is real and I don’t have to be single again. And, it’s cool and all but eventually ends up feeling hollow.

New Year’s Eve was a miserable miserable weather night, the kind of pouring rain that makes a mockery of umbrellas and dashing to hail a cab. My friends, being loyal and amazing people, made it out to the wastelands of Long Island City and we had a really fun night. The Hair and I threw a great party and took some cute Hipstamatic pics together. For some reason the pictures from that night are all blurry. But, in a way, that seems fitting because as a couple we were never really in focus, never really nuanced.

A couple weeks into the new year The Hair and I broke up again and this time for good. While we liked each other and both were craving connection, we had to finally admit that we just weren’t It for each other. Connection doesn’t come from work or hanging in there or making yourself completely invisible at the expense of your sanity trying to like what they like. Connection just Is.

I wanted affection and spontaneity and someone who would leap with me. I wanted a little glimpse of that marrow sucking sense of adventure that The Hipster and I had.

A few months into that year, that’s precisely what I got. And what a fucking mess that was.

15 | The Hair: Part I

My first foray into online dating was on a website called Nerve. I refused to even entertain the idea of Match, because hello I was not a 50 year old nerd. A friend of mine had tried Yahoo’s dating arm, and like, are you kidding? Yahoo? That was just asking to get chloroformed. I had heard about Nerve from a friend in one of my grad school classes. I was HIGHLY suspect of online dating because when she first told me about Nerve, it was like 2005 and just no. But, Grad School Friend had killer bangs and awesome shoes, so I trusted her. She assured me online dating was not scary (it was) and that it was fun (it wasn’t). I dabbled apathetically in the mid-2000s, but didn’t really commit to online dating until I moved back to the US in 2009.

Online dating was not A Thing when I lived in Ireland, and I really had no overwhelming interest to date while I lived there anyway. Yes, duh, had a strapping rugby player Beckett scholar with an incomprehensible brogue chatted me up I would have immediately become an ex-pat. But, dating, as Sport, wasn’t really on my radar at that time. For me, dating was still very much random, haphazard and based upon meeting people in bars and class or willing the dreamy guy in the coffee shop to come over and ask what killer song I was listening to as I drafted my stunning paper on Anglo Irish Ascendancy. Sure.

Sometime in the fall of 2010 I decided I was over The Lawyer (good riddance) and Ready to go ahead do it: Get Out There. So I signed up for Nerve and filled out my probaby trying too hard to be way too cool and drop obscure music and literary references (N.b.: I for sure dropped Animal Collective in there, like, okkk Erin reeelax) devastatingly charming profile and began winking my relationship-hungry little heart out. The wariness and embarrassment I harbored toward online dating was somewhat assuaged because Nerve was, according to moi, Edgy. They wrote about sex and relationships and all sorts of hipstery Brooklyny things. My bangs and penchant for obnoxious allusions were all set to wiggle their way into the hearts of tattooed boys with skinny jeans and shitty Bushwick walk-ups.

No matter the vehicle and no matter the year, online dating is a lot like throwing spaghetti at a wall: it all feels very random and you are, more often than not, left in a daze wondering, “Wait, why am I doing this? This is stupid. I’m going to stop doing this. Ok. Fine. One more. Gawd, this is stupid right. Oh. But wait. That one almost stuck. Ok. After this next one. Then I’ll stop.” And then you don’t stop because you’re just so very sure that the next wink, the next email, the next abs-for-days selfie, that one that’s gonna be the one that sticks. And who can blame you? It’s only love and companionship and your heart on the line. NBD whateverrrssss.

Wading through a sea of dudes, it becomes easy to gaslight yourself. People you’d never consider in a million years become possibilities because of a stylized black and white photo or a bio that describes the perfect day as just “listening to Tom Waits and wandering around looking for Old New York, then maybe popping into a record shop and finding some vintage vinyl to listen to later as we drink two buck chuck out of chipped coffee mugs trading Foucault quotes kill me now.” (We went on a couple dates. It’s fine. Ugh.) Anyway, being spoiled for choice leads to some out-of-character winking. The sober vegan photographer might be like a good influence or something and think of how much weight I’d lose and we could be super intellectual together over our macrobiotic tea and he won’t be at all pedantic, condescending and humorless right? The hot I-banker with the NSFW towel selfie and aversion to ‘fatties’ is like totally just keeping his standards high? Right? Somewhere underneath all that Brooks Brothers, coke dust and self-loathing there’s Patrick Bateman an altruistic heart of gold? I’m like totally sure of it.

And while there were so many (like just so many) obvious red (neon, flashing with glitter) flags in so many of the profiles, it was all too easy to get wrapped up in the What Ifs and Well Maybes and try on different futures for my single self. Being professionally lost and unfulfilled, having just quit a PhD and feeling like a failure, being broke and wanting MORE… well, it was easy to stumble blissfully into the morass. It was all one big Well Why The Fuck Not. Plus, it becomes its own vice. The dopamine hit of someone winking back. The thrill of logging in to see a message reply from the latest Possibility. It’s a weird land of mostly make-believe, because, as if the carefully curated profile isn’t enough to contend with, there’s The Banter. 

Early online dating was a minefield of meticulously crafted witticisms and quips painfully tailored to invoke each other’s carefully curated biographical blurbs as if to say, See, I’m paying attention. For funny, smart, women, The Banter was (and still is) Heroin. Because all of us were a little iffy on the whole meeting strangers on the internet thing, The Banter could go on for weeks. WEEKS. And, if it was good immediately start smiling when you see their name in the inbox banter, well forget it. Hours of your day were lost to drafting replies and rereading responses in an attempt to glean every last morsel of connection and hilarity and devastating urbanity. Listen to this prog rock playlist you sent me, over and over on my commute, so I can slip in some little known fact about Spacehog on our first date? Will do! Scour every inch of the newspaper so I have a supes timely and searing insight to throw into the mix? On it! Good thing I was only an adjunct professor at the time. I’d never been able to hold down a full time job with all the research flirting I had to do.

Banter was the way we began to feel safe. It was absolutely a false sense of security, a false sense of intimacy and, more often than not, a warning flare of what would become anxious attachment, but The Banter made online dating feel less sterile, less desperate and more like you were meeting people instead of potential psychopaths. So, when The Hair messaged me with the very simple (and elegant, yet slightly unctuous), “Forgive me for being so forward, but I’d like to meet you. Have a drink with me?” my first thought was: “This guy is 100% a murdering sociopath.” There was an audible record scratch in my brain. NO BANTER?! What kind of lunatic was this?? At that time, this just wasn’t done. Sorry, wait, forgive me. It was done. 

By murdering sociopaths. 

And sex weirdos.

However, after much crowdsourcing (screenshotting his profile, his message, Googling for his dental records and pre-school diploma and sending to approximately 5-10 friends), I decided to reply with nary a banter in sight and say: Yes. Although, I’m sure it was something attempting to match his ingratiating tone. So, I decided to reply with a smidge of nary a banter in sight and say: Well, that does sound quite lovely. Have you a day in mind Hup, hup, raather raaather cheerio my fine fellow. Or something toats chill like that. Much to my horror The Hair responded like right away and suggested: How about tonight?

Pretty sure I turned my phone off and hid it under the couch cushion.

If I had been talked off the ledge of thinking he was going to dismember me and dump my body in the East River (N.b.: single women who live alone should never ever EVER watch Law & Order SVU.), then the prospect of not having AT LEAST 24 hours to agonize, do more Googling and also try to bully this sociopath into *some* banter, put me right back out on the ledge with one foot dangling. 

Finally someone convinced me to say yes because they were tired of draining their phone battery replying to me knew it would be fine and some spontaneity would do me good. So, I found myself agreeing to meet up with him in a few short hours, sending my customary “This is where I’ll be, this is his name and phone number and shoe size” texts in case I did in fact get kidnapped, and traipsing off into Manhattan.

At this time I was living in a delightful little studio in the still old-school Italian, not yet uber hipsterfied corner of Williamsburg. The BQE was so close to my window that there were nights when the air brakes from 18-wheelers would have me sitting straight up in bed, heart racing, only to have to remind myself that a Mac truck was not, in fact, barreling through my wall. I could barely afford it on my adjunct salary, but it was my first real apartment on my own and I never saw a roach or a mouse there, so basically it was paradise.

It was New Year’s Eve Eve. The Hair suggested we meet at Lillie’s in Union Square. I agreed but wondered if it wouldn’t be too boisterous for a first date. It was. An ornate Victorian bar, with elements sourced from Belfast churches, Lillie’s is a beautiful spot, but when I arrived there wasn’t a seat to be had. It was wall to wall with revelers in the full swing of the Bermuda Triangle of indulgence and sloth that is the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. First dates are awkward enough without having to shout, or issue I’msorrywhat’s over and over. I stood there, nerves mounting, wondering what I should do when he walked right up to me, ran his hands through his hair and said, “Well, this won’t do.” 

I’ve always known, before any of the dates even opened their mouths to utter Hello, if This One could possibly be a fit, or at least a reoccurrence. Romance, infatuation at first sight, these things are not written in the stars, they are written in stature, in sartorial nods, in chivalric gestures, in bald looks in the eyes. They are written in our primal, gut reaction to the other’s all of a sudden presence standing in front of us in a crowded bar.

My eventual relationship with The Hair was far FAR from perfect, but in that first moment, as the cold rolled off his winter coat when he leaned in for a half hug and kissed me on the cheek, I felt instantly comfortable, instantly safe. I knew the New Year would have his mark on it. And, that he probably PROBABLY wasn’t going to murder me.

14 | The Lawyer: The Break-Up

There isn’t really much to say about The Breakup, except that The Lawyer was a real POS about the whole thing. For two weeks he ignored me. For my birthday, which fell somewhere in those two weeks, he did absolutely nothing. Oh wait, nevermind, jk, he called me at like 9:30 pm the night of, and left a ten second voicemail that said, “Happy birthday.” My heart exploded from the warmth. Just, really, overwhelmed.

During this time, which could only be described as a term of punishment, I lived in a state of anxiety, holding onto sanity by obsessively going to yoga. While I had forsaken veganism, I had held onto the yoga as a form of exercise, sure, but mainly as a way of coping with feeling lost and stressed the F out. So, for a couple weeks, The Lawyer and I had sporadic and sparsely worded contact that was completely noncommittal on his part. I was still in the process of finding my voice in romantic relationships and was, thus, too chickenshit to flat out ask WHAT IN THE ACTUAL HELL WAS GOING ON.

At the end of this two week purgatory Lucifer The Lawyer asked me to have dinner with him. At that point I didn’t know which end was up. Were we together? Were we broken up? Would it be possible to salvage a relationship with someone I didn’t even really like that much who had treated me with such an alarming lack of respect? I had absolutely no idea what to expect walking into Landmarc, except white linens and overpriced steaks. 

When I walked in he was polite and complimentary, but reserved. We made small talk about work. It felt more like a halting first date than interacting with someone who I had known for over a year, dated for months and, you know, who had like seen me naked but whatevs. Until the second the waitress put the steaks onto the table, we continued this little dance of Everything is Fine Except Oh My God Do You See That Huge Elephant Sitting at the Bar Drinking a Martini and Laughing About What a Stupid Sham This is Is. (I think ABT is performing that this season or something, right?) The Lawyer seemed to take the food arriving as a signal to blow the whole thing up. Which honestly was like a little dangerous because I was holding a steak knife and like WHO KNOWS.

The actual words he spoke: That thing you’re supposed to feel when you’re with someone? That spark? Yeah, I don’t feel that for you.

The actual word I spoke: Huh.

When I didn’t stab him with the steak knife react, he kept talking. 

Him: You know, I keep expecting you to harpoon this conversation. You’re unbelievably calm. That’s actually one of the things I like about you — how not crazy you are.


My monosyllabic responses either unnerved him or signaled assent because he persisted: I mean, I like spending time with you. We have a great time together. I still want to hang out with you, but I just, I don’t want to do it at the same frequency.

Frequency. So this is like a physics test or nah?

As someone who likes to eat, let me just say that being broken up with over dinner is just the absolute worst. It’s only happened to me twice and that is twice too many. Everything turns to glue in your mouth and your appetite vanishes along with all the iterations of your potential future together. So I abandoned my steak and watched him devour his. Now unburdened with the nasty little matter of breaking us up, it seemed his own mood had improved. I think I mumbled something about wishing I had never started dating him to begin with not wanting to Just Be Friends (because ew gross, NO ONE WANTS THAT) and then blamed catching the ferry for my needing to leave the millisecond he was we were done eating. 

I don’t remember how we said goodbye, but it doesn’t really matter. I wouldn’t end up seeing him again for at least a year. He did end up texting me in October because he thought he saw me on a street corner in Williamsburg. (“Well, you know, I was in a cab and there was this brunette with bangs in a leather jacket on the corner.” Because there are NONE of those in Brooklyn. Get out of here and lose my number.) For more time than I care to admit, however, I slept-walked through my days. I didn’t leave the house, I had lost interest in eating (which, like not to court heartbreak, but could that happen again maybe?). I felt entirely numb. I’ve handled worse breakups, the devastating ends to more meaningful relationships, better than I did that one. But, I think my reaction to being broken up with by The Lawyer speaks not to the depth of our connection, but to the extent of his coldness and controlling behavior, that spell being broken when it was all done and finally coming to the realization afterward of how Wrong we had been for each other, how much I wanted to truly Connect with someone.

That’s the thing about Heartbreak, though: You can never predict how it’s going to hit you. When The Lawyer and I broke up I was in a messy place in the part of my life that had nothing to do with him. I was transitioning jobs and struggling to find my foothold in academia, after what I considered to be huge failure, quitting the PhD in Ireland and all. At the time I was also living with my parents and trying to get back on my feet. After three weeks of moping about The Lawyer, however, I did rip the bandaid and start looking for my first Living on My Own apartment in The City. Heartbreak is depleting, but Heartbreak is also galvanizing. 

Heartbreak is a lot like the worst hangover you’ve ever had. 

You know the one: the one where you think you might actually die of dehydration or have done irreparable damage to vital and unsuspecting organs. The night starts off well enough: well attended, well intended. It’s all fun and games, blur of beautiful mayhem and tequila shot? and oh I love this song and let’s get pizza wait just one more bar I heard they have the best jukebox um did you see who is here I can’t believe she told him where we were going I need another margarita are we ever going to find a cab roll down the window I might be sick text me when you get home safe.



A YOUNG GIRL is in bed, obscured by covers. She appears to be dead, but we can hear faint murmurings as though she sleeps restlessly. The room looks as though it has been ransacked. An almost empty glass of water, a pizza box and a cell phone are on the nightstand. She stirs.


I am… What. Where. Bed? Bed check. Alone. Good. Alive? Maybe. Eyes. Wait do they open? Stuck Ugh. Do I have conjunctivitis? It’s black. Black conjunctivitis? Dead? Maybe I am actually dying from oh congealed eyeliner. Oof. Ugh. Oil can. Water. I need water and a lobotomy and a saline drip and a coffee and maybe chicken and waffles. Let me just sit up. Oh dear Lord.


The reality of the Devastation and Disaster, well it all just comes hurtling down around your nauseated, dizzy ears. You curse The Lawyer tequila to high holy hell. You will never love drink again. That’s it. Today is the first day of the rest of your life sans The Lawyer booze. You will go to yoga and relinquish all earthly vices. Ha, what fools you all are, with your coupledom bars and your making out margaritas. You think to yourself, I am sad wise, I see blinding pain all. Once you can move without wanting to vomit, you will be a new woman! But, then, Then, wait! Hmm, you think well maybe I’m going about this all wrong. You think — miraculously! shockingly! — maybe, just maybe, a New Guy margarita will help out this here dire situation. Hair of the dude dog, right? So you proceed on this seemingly ill-advised new escapade. That first date margarita is rough business. There’s a chance you may hurl. There’s a chance you may be instantly hammered again. 50/50, really. But there you are, playing with that straw, licking salt off your fingers and flirting your way into a Whole New Bender.

And that Bender turned out to be 9 years of online dating. 


13 | The Silver Fox: Part Two

So there I was sitting in my hobbit hole cubicle, tap tap typing away at some fucking binder index gloriously urbane and erudite treatise when my phone rang. Instead of it being one of the lawyers I worked for or Paralegal BFF asking me if I wanted to go for lunch, it was The Silver Fox. Calling my line. Directly. Just to say hello and see if — WAIT. WHAT.

I’m pretty sure I blacked out for the first two minutes of the conversation, and even if I didn’t it wouldn’t have mattered because my heart was racing so furiously I wouldn’t have been able to hear anything he said anyway. When I came to and realized that this was in fact Happening, I also realized he was not asking me about anything case related, rather what had I been reading because, you know, he had just finished reading a biography of Andrew Jackson and had I read it because it was really amazing because he was such a controversial figure because lololol WHAT. Are. You. Doinngggg married fancy lawyer who is 15 years my senior and calling a paralegal who works on the case that you supervise in order to make sure everything is HANDLED ETHICALLY. Like omg this is the literal exact opposite of what they said to do in the OSHA or whatever sexual harassment after school special training video I had to watch at new staff orientation. 

Clearly unconcerned about all the any potential lines he was crossing, The Silver Fox banged on about Andrew Jackson for a spell and what could I do but listen, because really, what could I do but listen? Established, important to the case, possessing enough influence to jeopardize my job, did I actually have a choice when he telephonically held me hostage just called to chat? After a lot of blah blah Horseshoe Bend and yadda yadda 1812, The Silver Fox deigned to ask me about my time at Trinity. Did I write my MPhil thesis about Joyce? (Why? Because that’s the one Irish author you can pretend to know?) No, as a matter of fact, using both Lacan’s theory of scopophilia and Burke’s philosophy of the sublime as lenses, I wrote about how a male protagonist is driven to insanity and murder when his male gaze is challenged and he becomes the object of the female gaze and scrutiny. 

So, like, any more questions or nah? 

Having committed to the ruse of calling to discuss literature, The Silver Fox asked me for some book recommendations, which I gave, which he never read. He was saying his goodbyes when he said the thing that I thought maybe he might be calling to say but hoped that he really definitely didn’t say: Next time I’m in town, we should grab a drink. 

Ugh, gawd, duuuuude. Seriously? Did you just ask me on an affair a date?

Yeah, yeah, no way definitely, I said. I’m sure the firm will get something together for you. Well So and So and all those guys are great, he said, but it’d be nice to have a change of company, you know, just you and I. We’ll talk books. 


I managed to hang up the phone promising only vaugeries and letmeknows. I naively assumed that he would realize that he was fucking married and this was a terrible fucking idea come to his senses between that moment and the next time he was in New York.

We soon found out The Trustee was throwing a holiday party for everyone working on the Lehman matter. The Silver Fox would, naturally, be there, but I hoped visibility and overscheduling would keep him from pursuing our Questionable Morals Book Club. Surrounded by garland and fairy lights, we sipped bubbles at the Yale Club. It was très fancy. Like most institutional functions, however, we followed the rules of the jungle and stayed with our own kind. The Silver Fox caught my eye a few times, but was surrounded by Big Deal Partners and I was in my little paralegal nook. From the Yale Club, a smaller group of us migrated across the street to the Campbell Apartment. There I actually spent some time talking to The Lawyer, who I still had no interest in (and should have kept it that way) but conversation with him was at least giving me the opportunity to break out of the paralegal caste corner. 

That evening I hovered on the border of Intrigue and Horror, one toe in each disparate land. Nothing transpired between us except, perhaps, a Happy Holidays and a knowing smile. This left me feeling relieved and disappointed. Because as inappropriate and anxiety-inducing as the whole situation was, it was also equally that thrilling. I was working in a job I felt was beneath me. Most days, I did not feel anyone I worked with recognized that I actually had above average cognitive functioning, two Masters degrees and a desire to do more with my life than make deposition binders. So here was this fancy, older, hot dude paying attention very specifically to me. But the reality of it, or actually acting on it, gave me a gnarly pit in my stomach that couldn’t be denied.

In February he emailed to say he was sorry to have missed me the last time he was in town, and also to ask about our rendezvous. Whilst it was all v v juicy to tell BF and My Cousin, it made me so SO nervous because duh I am a nerd and I was never going to do it. Yet, I still felt the need to like Be Cool, or whatever, and not bruise his clearly fragile male ego or get him in trouble or GOD FORBID flat out reject him. So I feigned illness and being too busy on the case and pushed him off. I mean not only gawd gross, an affair, but as much as I loathed the job, I also needed it and would not be shamefully dismissed because it came to surface that I was sleeping with one of our key lawyers. And, let’s be honest, I was expendable and he was not. UGH gender and power imbalances, The Worst, amirite?

For most of the year I was working at the firm, I was also trying very actively to not work at the firm. I applied to about 4000 jobs and 300 PhD programs. Tragically, I did not get into any of the PhD programs I had applied to GAWD RUDE. I had been waitlisted at two schools but at that point did not have the energy to grovel court them with supplementary material to prove my worth or whatever. Besides, like, ugh, winters in Iowa, no thanks. I also did not get any of the publishing jobs I had applied for because I, well, had no nepotistic connection experience. So, I applied for adjunct jobs in attempt to usher my career back toward something resembling anything I was interested in. One degree mill university hired me to teach some online classes and that was enough for me. 

In June, I quit. Somewhere in there, around May, The Lawyer and I had started dating. Once I quit, our dynamic shifted. No longer did we need to play Boss and Underling, keeping our relationship a Secret from those we worked with. Now I was an independent person with a job unconnected to He Who Wrote My Performance Review. This meant I no longer needed his approval. HOW DARE I. Jeez, chicks, amirite? When The Lawyer and I started dating, I had told him a watered down version of The Silver Fox and his shenanigans. He seemed to think it was amusing in that Oh haha the girl I’m dating is desirable to other men but I’m also a little insecure but he’s also a big deal so it’s kind of flattering way. You know, that way.

It was customary to send a firm-wide email upon departure for an equally frustrating and low-paying job bigger and better things. Now. Did I NEED to include The Silver Fox on said email? Mmm, probably not. But did I because I was curious how he’d respond and also got a charge out of being wanted? Yes, 100% absolutely. Did he respond? Yes, of course, duh. Naturally he once again tried to convene the Questionable Morals Book Club because if I’d be so “inclined to alert” him “to the finer points” he was sure he’d miss “in Banville, Joyce, etc., that would be nice.” (omg dude just let it go with the Joyce already) Not wanting to be rude and clearly some sadistic part of me wanting to poke the bear, I responded but brushed him off. A man like him does not get to where he is without persistence, so obviously he wrote to me again and this time closed with, “So, what you do not say is whether you would like to meet. Comcert, [sic] dive bar, etc. … your choice.” Man, what sketchy ellipses. 

I did not respond, full stop. Flirtation and innuendo were one thing. Suggesting  you take me to my favorite dive bar, etc. … is an entirely different thing. BF and I laughed it off. I did not tell The Lawyer about the newest development. He still had to work closely with The Silver Fox and I sensed his ego could not withstand The Silver Fox’s unabashed pursuit. So, I began “teaching” college courses online and spent the summer denying the anxiety I felt had anything to do with how not right The Lawyer was for me. 

In August some client or another hosted a big party for anyone who had ever worked on Lehman, so Paralegal BFF told me I should definitely attend. The Silver Fox would be there, he joked, may as well see what happens. The Lawyer wouldn’t be able to make it because yawn work, but I said I’d go to the party and then meet up with him after he was done with work. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a corporate cocktail party HOWEVER it needs to be mentioned that booze circulates freely whilst actual sustenance in the form of FOOD requires a wilderness survival guide foraging badge to locate. This is a bad combination for most people, but particularly for your dear heroine who believes her alcohol tolerance to be much higher than it actually is. Blah blah blah, wine wine wine, by the end of the evening I was a skosh sauced. 

Along with spending a few hours drinking, I also spent that time avoiding The Silver Fox. In the midst of goodbyes and deciding what was happening next, I momentarily got separated from the pack. Sensing I was defenseless, The Silver Fox pounced sidled up to me and claimed his prey suggested him and I go out to another bar for another drink. Ambushed but still having at least one wit about me, I played dumb and invited everyone because you like totally meant squad hang, right? At this point most of the people I had worked with or knew me through The Lawyer knew that The Silver Fox had made a form of overture or whatever. I pointedly invited The Lawyer’s Work BFF and made sure he’d promise to stick around until The Lawyer could actually meet up with us.

As we ambled over to Ulysses, it could not be more apparent that this particular grouping of people was absurd and that one of these things was not like the other. I told The Lawyer where to meet me. The Silver Fox ordered a Guinness and tried to talk to me about Joyce (like seriously enough bro). I tipsily prattled on about god knows what, refusing to be engaged in one-to-one conversation with him. As soon as The Lawyer arrived it was clear he didn’t want to be there. He ordered a beer and immediately texted me to make my exit, he would follow in a bit. I thought like oh super controlling and disrespectful of the equity in our relationship ohh cute and sexy secret exit. I said my goodbyes and honestly was just relieved to avoid an awkward moment with The Silver Fox. I walked over to the Whitehorse, bc obvs I needed to go to another bar. In my defense, I didn’t know how long he’d be and it was now late. This was ten years ago and, before it was FiDi, the financial district was DEAD at night and kind of scary tbh. About a half hour later The Lawyer barely walked past the threshold, said Let’s Go and hailed a cab. 

The second the cab door slammed, The Lawyer lit into me: How DARE I put him in that position. He didn’t want to hang out with a client, I should have told him The Silver Fox was there, he didn’t want to have a drink, I should have just stopped drinking and gone home, he didn’t want to be a nice human being or communicate like an adult blah blah blah. I tried to talk to him and explain, but he dismissed me as having had too much to drink and not worthy of conversation. I got the silent treatment for most of the ride back to his apartment in Brooklyn. I tried to make nice before we went to sleep, but huffy and self-righteous, he turned his back to me in bed. 

The next morning he woke up with a god complex and I woke up with a heinous hangover. Barf, booze, amirite? Ugh, anyway. I apologized profusely (although for what I was still relatively unclear), The Lawyer treated me civilly and we both went off to our respective jobs. I spent all day at work trying not to yak and digging myself out of an emotional sinkhole. I knew he was mad so I wanted to make a peace offering in the hopes we could talk it out and move on. On my way home from work, I stopped by his office to bring him a coffee and doughnut because whatever my faults may be around drinking and shenanigans, I am still a nice fucking person. He accepted them cordially and made some vague mumblings about doing something at the weekend. I went home feeling slightly better, but with the anxiety from the hangover still coursing through my veins. I assured myself that it was fine and he’d get over it.

And then The Lawyer refused to speak to me. For two weeks.

12 | The Silver Fox: Part One

The Silver Fox was (and still is) the General Counsel of a Major Government Agency. He had oversight power, or some other like big deal gig, for our case. Even then I really couldn’t have told you his specific role, but I did know that the firm went out of its way to wine and dine him whenever he was in town. My early interactions with The Silver Fox were being introduced to him and then subsequently saying hello to him when I was dropping boxes of binders off at the depositions he was required to be at. So, like, none interactions. 

At some point, whilst waiting for one meeting or another to start, The Silver Fox started pursuing conversations with me that went past “Great, thanks” when I handed him a binder. He started asking about me, my life, if I wanted to be a lawyer  — because if you are a paralegal it is assumed you want to go to Law School but yeah, no, hard pass — and so on. When I worked at the firm it was very important to me to tell anyone that would listen that I was educated and applying to PhD programs and this was not my real job so like when I deliver sandwiches to your meeting I am not a servant I am just a victim of the global economy who can’t find a better job that uses my stunning intellect so like no I don’t know if there’s mustard on that OK. Or, you know something along those lines. So, when The Silver Fox actually started to treat me like a human and not a binder bot (like all the other lawyers did RUDE), I was totally flattered. He made me nervous and shy, of course, but it was gratifying. He was Handsome and Charming and a Big Deal. (Because never in the history of the world did that combination lead to disaster. Never.)

Sometime in October, someone at the firm sent an email around advertising four Bruce Sprinsteen tickets up for grabs. I had been working at the firm for five months at that point and I barely knew The Lawyer. I knew that he was an associate and that we paralegals thought he was kind of a dick because he always assigned us the worst work. (Foreshadowing, much?) Hot Scottish Partner, on the other hand, I had a HUGE crush on. HSP was one of the more senior partners on our case and just, yes, please. I snatched two of the tickets for My Cousin and I, and later found out that Hot Scottish Partner had grabbed the other two. So there went I tripping tipsily into the evening with those baby butterflies and the hope that maybe (possibly!) with the help of bourbon and “Thunder Road” (or a totally spontaneous not at all practiced Courteney Cox “Dancing in the Dark” moment) something might kick off with Hot Scottish Partner. I did not know until we got to the seats that HSP was actually “working” and entertaining none other than The Silver Fox. That The Silver Fox was there was incidental for me, however. Over the previous months, The Silver Fox had been mildly flirtatious, but it was a nonstarter in my eyes. One, he didn’t live in New York. Two, he was at least 15 years older than my 28 year old self, so like, Ew No. And then, three, there was the whole issue of HIS WIFE. But like details right?

The Silver Fox had a flask of bourbon. Because of course he did. My Cousin and I had done what all good concert-goers do and tailgated in the parking lot of Giants Stadium, before the show. Hot Scottish Partner and The Silver Fox had been getting after it at dinner. As the four of us unlikely concertmates converged on our terrible seats and the lights went down, a double aged oak barrel tempest kicked up out there in section 128. An inexorable momentum of Oh hey hi, this is my cousin, nice to meet y— wooo Bruce! bourbon? we’ll get us some beers omg it’s Born to Run wait have you ever seen Bruce before where’s the flask, you guys we should totally plan another concert together but like wait we should have more beers before last call right, um ugh is this a Pete Seeger Session song Ima use the ladies, here’s the flask, Bruuucccceeeee.

The four of us were, in a word, boisterous. The couple behind us was, in a word, livid. At the time I was self-righteous and like OMG suburbanites stop shushing us and telling us to sit down this is a rock concert we are v kewl rock and roll chicks do not be laaammeee. Looking back, it’s possible POSSIBLE we were not paying attention and very a skosh obnoxious.

Two pictures survive from that night. One taken by My Cousin: The Silver Fox is in the foreground in profile. I am the background, looking straight past him, directly into the camera, and making a face that can only be called I’m at a Rock Show and I’m So Drunk Having So Much Fun That I Need to WooHoo and Scrunch My Hair at the Same Time. The other is from after the show. We had continued to tailgate in the parking lot. Well three of us continued while My Cousin drank water because she was the DD. The Silver Fox and My Cousin, who was in law school at the time, leaned against her trunk and chatted about Law Things. Similarly, Hot Scottish Partner and I, upon finding an abandoned shopping cart filled with soft pretzels, decided to have a pretzel fight. This consisted of running around the now empty parking lot of Giants Stadium, shrieking and hurling stale carb at each other. In the middle of our mayhem we must have asked some poor unsuspecting soul to take a picture of the four of us: The Silver Fox, mid-sentence, has one arm tightly around my waist and the other loosely draped around My Cousin. Hot Scottish Partner is peeking over our shoulders like a delicious Gaelic Elf. I am gripping a pretzel in my left hand. I’d like to say I didn’t take a bite out of it before unceremoniously chucking it at HSP after the shutter snap, but like WHO KNOWS OK.

At some point in the parting of the ways, The Silver Fox promised to take My Cousin and I out for steaks in the near future. He was gonna like hook her up with law stuff and him and I were gonna taste bourbon. Lolol ok. Being an excellent travel companion, I promptly passed out on the car ride home and then somehow managed to stumble into work hungover AF the next morning. My Cousin had emailed me the pictures from the evening (haha Shutterfly album wuuut), but as we cured my hangover over pizza at Adrienne’s, Best Friend and I decided that I shouldn’t send the pictures to The Silver Fox because like what if his email got subpoenaed omg that would be supes awkward. And also maybe MAYBE not pics a wife would like to see? BF and I talked bemusedly about such unexpected shenanigans, tickled at having seen two Adults, our superiors really, schmagasted at a rock and roll show. While Hot Scottish Partner had already emailed to say he was deathly hungover and Oh Boy What A Night, we laughed at how The Silver Fox might behave the next time I ran into him at a deposition because surely SURELY his flirtations and promises of steaks were entirely induced of a bourbon and Bruce high.

The Silver Fox was definitely not going to, about a week later, call my work line directly and ask me to go out for drinks just, you know, the two of us. Surely, that was never going to happen.

Narrator: That is exactly what happened.

11 | The Lawyer: The Beginning

My relationship with The Lawyer began as all great romances of the 21st century have done: talking shit about co-workers and taking sarcastic jabs at each other via email.

The Lawyer was not what you might call attractive classically handsome at first glance. He had nice eyes and a mischievous smile, but he was not swoonworthy and I was definitely more curious than infatuated when we first started coyly flirting. He was an adult with an adult job and a garden apartment in Cobble Hill. The Lawyer had grown up in Manhattan, name-dropped fancy restaurants and engaged me in wry banter when all the other lawyers I worked with only talked to me when they needed something. So, when it was clear he was paying a little extra attention to me, my interest was piqued. He made me laugh and Work Romance had Intrigue written all over it.

For most of the one year that I worked as a paralegal, all the photocopies we were making important work we were doing was leading up to Court. As a part of the litigation arm of the Lehman liquidation I had been scouring batches of old emails between Lehman and Barclays looking for mention of the 1.9 BILLION FUCKING DOLLARS that someone had OOPS my bad lost or misplaced or like snorted up their nose or whatever. Finally Trial arrived and there we were fancy AF in US Bankruptcy Court with our ten thousand boxes of binders that yours truly had helped to make. Basically they won because of my photocopies, obvs. 

The day trial ended the whole team went out to the firm’s go-to shitty Irish bar, The White Horse Tavern, for celebratory drinks. I remember drinking Guinness because um, who knows why, gross, and then switching to bourbon on the rocks, because duh. As the Big Deal partners began to leave and the crowd thinned, the younger associates and paralegals kept getting after it. Not surprising anyone, I was one of the last people still standing. Myself, and The Lawyer. Because we hadn’t already had enough to drink, The Lawyer suggest that we Go Out.  It was a Friday night, still early enough since we had started drinking at like 3 and everyone makes good decisions after drinking 34 Guinnesses and not eating, so WHY NOT.

I’m not sure where we went first, but I do know that we ended the night at Horseshoe Bar, or 7B as I’ve known it. We sat at the sticky, wear and tear worn bar: him, in his suit, and me in my “work clothes” at total odds with the graffitied Alphabet City vibe around us. He had just gotten done calling me a badass or gorgeous or some other such make me feel like a living goddess term that every girl wants to hear when she’s tipsy, when he leaned in and kissed me. Even after weeks of low-key flirting, I think I never thought it would actually turn into Something. So when we were all of a sudden making out next to the jukebox, I was equal parts thrilled and Huh, so THIS is happening.

Yadda yadda yadda. Cut to: the next morning. We walked around Cobble Hill with coffee and bagels, well he scarfed a bagel and I just tried to keep the coffee down, each of us silently having the I Saw You Naked and I Will See You at Work Monday OMG What Does this Meannnn Embolism. Naturally, we didn’t at all talk about what it meant, which meant that that night with BF, over dinner at Pulino’s, I was in such a state of euphoria and nerves, I decided I needed to eat cheese pizza and no longer be a vegan bc we had to analyze every possible detail of our interactions to date in the most granular way possible discuss me and The Lawyer and OMG what did it all meannnn properly. And yes, earlier that year, like every white girl in her late 20s, I had made a stab at getting healthy and like finding myself or whatever by becoming a vegan and doing a lot of yoga, thank you for asking.

That Monday I walked into work filled with anticipation and butterflies, which definitely had nothing to do with the venti-extra shot latte I drank every morning barf and everything to do with seeing The Lawyer for the First Time Post Tryst. Would he pretend that nothing had happened? Would he slam the door to his office and make out with me right there against the torts handbooks? (Haha, right.) Or, would it just be so awkward I’d rue the day I ever drank whiskey and unsuspectingly seduced nerdy corporate lawyers? In actuality, he sent me an email asking me to bring him such and such file or binder or whatever, and we had a halting and nervous conversation in his office in which there was passing innuendo at what had transpired and him asking me to go out or dinner or something that week. Swoon, yes, I am not tragic one-night stand rookie mistake office hook-up but am now about to be GF of fancy lawyer. We would have to keep it a secret at work, of course, and this added a layer of electricity that our relationship for sure would not have had otherwise.

Our courtship was mundane enough — movies, dinners, long walks — but in a very New York way. One night we went to see Exit Through the Giftshop and then the next day called out sick from work to hunt for the Banksys that had popped up overnight. We strolled through DUMBO, looking for the lone Brooklyn piece, drinking iced coffees, and discussing the authenticity of the film and the performativity of street art. Over cocktails and steaks at Frankie’s 457 we guardedly talked about our relationship and whether so-and-so at work had noticed anything. One night we went to see an off off Broadway play in the West Village and then to a late dinner at The Waverly Inn. When he ordered their infamous truffled macaroni and cheese as an appetizer, it had the effect he intended. BF and I were still pretty much mainlining cheap Pad See Ew so $55 macaroni and cheese seemed ludicrous, but of course I was impressed that he ordered it so cavalierly and even more impressed when they brought the truffle over to the table, weighed it, shaved a generous portion onto a steaming plate of macaroni and cheese, and then weighed it again, silently announcing the value of what we were about to casually consume. 

The Lawyer was very much Wine and Dine Guy. Where The Hipster and I spent most of our time in dive bars, with the occasional foray into fancy (because in actuality The Hipster came from privilege, ran around with a lot of rich kids and was secretly fancy), The Lawyer was forever taking me to the Newest Place or the place with the Name. At Locanda Verde one night, as Liev Schrieber and Naomi Watts airily whisked past us, quietly confident in the manner that only the wealthy and powerful master, The Lawyer turned to me and said: You’re prettier than she is. Prettier. Than Naomi Fucking Watts. Lololol ok. In the moment, I remember thinking it was such a ridiculous compliment and being slightly needled by the comparative aspect of it. And also are you waiting for me to return the favor and tell you that you’re handsomer than Liev Schrieber because babe you really — wait, are you going to eat that last piece of burrata? 

But, we were always doing something, and we did have fun. We went up to Woodstock one weekend for his friends’ engagement party. It was a hippietastic couple of days filled with camping, drinking and him introducing me to everyone as his Friend. But, then another weekend, The Lawyer took me out to The Hamptons — well, Hampton Bays, so like does it even really count — to meet his family. They were all nice enough but it was for sure that WASPy uber polite vibe even though I’m pretty sure The Lawyer was Jewish. So we were making our attempt at coupledom even though I was too busy trying to figure out how to not make anymore effin photocopies my career to pay attention to the fact that it was largely all on his terms and that I, his FRIEND, was just along for the ride. 

One thing we really had in common was a love of music and live shows. That summer we saw The Black Keys in Central Park and Heartless Bastards at The Bowery Ballroom, but by far the most memorable was Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeroes on Governors Island. I had been super excited to see them. We’d take the ferry, have a couple drinks, hear some fun ex-junkie commune folk rock — in short, a great summer evening. Narrator: It was not a great summer evening. It started while we were waiting for the ferry. I asked him how work was, he told me it had been a bad day and then he stopped talking. FOR THE REST OF THE NIGHT. 

Never having been given the silent treatment for something entirely unrelated to me before, I was naturally confused and did not for a second believe he’d continue to not talk to me. So, I asked a few girlfriendy follow-up questions like: Do you still want to go? Can I help at all? Should I take you to the hospital because clearly you have had a stroke and lost the ability to communicate? Would you like a beer? To these I received monosyllabic responses or head movements. It was such a bewildering experience. I was equal parts bemused and infuriated and hurt. I could not understand why he couldn’t shake the day off and, at the very least, vent to me or complain or drink a beer or SOMETHING to at least make the evening somewhat ok for me.

But he stayed miserable and had no problem taking me down with him. I was still relatively inexperienced in real relationships at that point and always had a hard time finding my words. So when he shut down, I shut down, sure that he was mad at me somehow. I stayed quiet, not advocating for myself or intimating to him that he was acting like a real selfish POS. Alas, miracles abound, the next morning he had found the gift of speech once again. He did not apologize for his outrageous behavior, however, he did assure me that it had only been work related and nothing to do with me. So, like kewl to know how you are a miserable human capable of freezing people out handle stress, but could you like give me a head’s up next time so I can bring a sweater?

That was my first experience with The Lawyer’s unfathomable coldness. He did make attempts at affection or intimacy, but his brand of affection was all show. Instead of cultivating a depth of character or the capacity for compassion, The Lawyer traded on his ability to drop half a grand on dinner. (I mean, same thing really, so what am I complaining about gawd WOMEN amirite.) Going out was always the impossible to get into restaurant or the hard to get concert ticket. When I eventually left the firm, The Lawyer made sure to tell me he had orchestrated which fancy bottle of bourbon the team bought me for my leaving gift. About this time I was also getting into what do you call it oh right Fitness and like Being Healthy and stuff. (I mean somewhat because like really have you heard of cheeseburgers.) When I decided to run a half marathon for charity, The Lawyer cut my fundraising goal by a quarter thirty seconds after I sent out the Any Amount Helps! email begging for donations. I was extremely appreciative, but it was the Truffle Effect all over again. Just when I’d start to feel unsure about our relationship, he’d send an endearing email or cavalierly take me somewhere impressive, giving me just enough to keep hanging on.

For the entirety of our relationship I felt beholden to his whims, his moods, never knowing where I stood or feeling like I was good enough. My own issues with impostor syndrome and feeling a little lost in the world at large at that time, absolutely contributed to this imbalance. But, I was never not going to feel insecure in that relationship because The Lawyer got off on Power.

When we began dating, he was my supervising attorney so all initial flirtation and subsequent infatuation was wrapped up in our work dynamic: stealing an illicit touch of fingertips under a table at a meeting, hiding from coworkers as we took the train from Brooklyn into Manhattan in the mornings, or him labeling me “exceptionally cooperative” on my performance review. (Gawd. Gross.) About halfway into our relationship, however, I quit the law firm to pursue academia once more. I had gotten hired as an adjunct professor, teaching online for a military university, and was applying aggressively to higher ed teaching positions in an effort to cobble together a living that way. After I left the firm, and had a job that was independent of him and what he could make me do, our dynamic began to shift.

We were never going to be together forever written in the stars in love, but it’s possible The Lawyer and I would have gone along half-assedly for a few more months or even a year — if it hadn’t been for The Silver Fox.

9| Interlude

There are about five years post-Hipster that are sort of this weird blur that I don’t remember a lot of. I mean, I remember them, but it’s all a bit jumbled and hazy. Now, if you’re thinking that mainlining Jack Daniels is perhaps PERHAPS detrimental to one’s health and well-being, you might be like right or whatever ok. Ugh. Anyway. Those years were a bit messy and I was, in a word, lost. The novelty of being newly released from college and inflicted upon the workforce had worn off RUHL fast. While I spent four years teaching in the DOE, I’ll never really know how I lasted that long. Not only did I feel like all my intellect and creativity were being straight up Dementor’d out of me under the fluorescent lights of my overheated classroom, but like also have you ever heard of 13 year olds. Ugh gawd all 8th graders should for sure be quarantined on an island where some kind of Darwinian social experiment is allowed to take place and only the non-heinous survive. We need to Lord of the Flies that shit, stat. I used to sit in my car every morning before work, staring at the generic tan brick building and listening to The Cure and Belle and Sebastian’s “Get Me Away From Here I’m Dying,” on repeat until the last possible second before the bell rang, willing myself to go in and not burn the building down. 

Oh and yeah during this time Best Friend and I also had a devastating fall out that was so bad it is still referred to as The Divorce. (NB: We are life partners again and all is good.) I was heartbroken that she wasn’t in my life, still wallowing in the loss of The Hipster and feeling sorry for myself that I was a glorified babysitter most days. Clearly I was in a v good place.

Unsurprisingly, my dating life during those five years was a bit of a shitshow fairly insignificant. I went out with some people, even some for more than two dates mainly because I was bored and needed something to do, but really I just made out in a lot of bars because what else do you do when you’re in your mid-20s and in a real dumpster fire kind of place. Besides, I was so hung up on The Hipster that I was never truly going to SEE anyone else anyway. After The Hipster and I broke up for reals for reals, OF and I maintained a constant, if at times strained, friendship. Loyal to both of us, she saw each of us in shifts for that first year after The Hipster and I decided we could no longer torture each other and pretend to be friends. There’d come a time when he and I would be able to hook up hang out again at the same places and parties, but it took some distance. It felt a lot like my life in those years had become cobbled together, with me pulling together a patchwork of friends and experiences to create a life I was sort of iffy about. I wanted more, something different, but this Other Life was elusive. I didn’t know quite what I wanted to do, what needed to change, let alone how to enact said change, so in the interim I spent a lot of time with OF stumbling around the East Village, drinking and dancing our faces off at places like La Linea and Baraza. 

One of these East Village nights, OF and I had been out for a friend’s birthday, bouncing from gay bar to gay bar when we decided to take a breather for a bit to grab a drink away from the grinding go-go boys who ruled The Cock. It’s the name of a bar. Relax. So, feeling inebriated brave, we went across the street to Mars Bar. Mars Bar was notorious in its heyday: just the shittiest, grimiest, junkiest, scariest rock and roll bar that ever was. So like, yeah, sure, let’s go there. While OF ordered the beers, I went to the bathroom. There was no Ladies’ Room at The Cock, shockingly. But, clearly, I was firing on all cylinders to think I was gritty enough to handle the bathroom situation at Mars Bar. My bravery was short-lived. I opened the piece of graffitied plywood hanging on by a hinge door, saw the needles on the floor and turned on my heel. I gave OF the high sign, she grabbed the beers, and we left skid row the bar. On a pile of lumber in the construction site across the street (that would soon become some luxury apartments and a TD bank gross) we drank our cheap beers and planned our next move. 

Lit was my favorite bar in the entire world in those days. It was dungeon dark, grimy, subterranean and small. Long after New York City’s smoking ban had rendered the city’s drinkeries a bit more sterile and unpolluted, smoke from American Spirits and Gauloises cloaked the dance floor at Lit in a pretentious grey haze. Saturday nights the DJ spun only 60s rock like The Vogues, The Kinks, The Hollies and Herman’s Hermits. Bourbon was cheap and anything could happen. It was, in a word, Heaven. That night at Lit, in between dancing around in my leg warmers and drinking whiskey, I met a skinny hipster with shaggy black hair and baby gauges. He was a slacker who worked at Whole Foods An Artist. 

The Artist chatted me up while I was getting a drink from the bar and I have no idea what we talked about or if we could even hear each other, but he was v cute so obvs I scribbled my number onto a cocktail napkin. We went out a few times, made out a lot and even crossed the river to explore the wilds of the not-yet-colonized Williamsburg. When my dad heard that I was hanging out there, he about had a heart attack. While it wasn’t as bad as it had been in the 70s and 80s, Williamsburg in 2003 was still a far FAR cry from the douchified trustafarian wasteland it is now. Williamsburg back then was like four rock and roll bars, two Thai restaurants and 17 bodegas in a sea of sketch. One night over drinks outside at Juliette, I asked The Artist about his influences and artists that he liked. He sort of just stared at me, shrugged and was like “Uhh, I like don’t really follow artists. I just do art.” So, yeah, while The Artist was SO pretty, he was also so SO dumb. During the brief tenure of our dating, he spontaneously got a pineapple tattooed right above his Apollo’s Belt because, “IDK I was bored and it looked cool.” Clearly, we were made for each other. 

Aside from The Artist the only other guy I ever really gained dating traction with during that time was an Irish guy that I met, wait for it, in a dive bar. Newly arrived from London, The Irish Guy worked in some kind of tech and was altogether very boring nice. Cousin Best Friend and I had been at The Red Lion stalking Gavin DeGraw listening to cover bands when we decided we needed a change of venue for a bit. So we sketched a little farther on down Bleecker and ended up in some shitastic NYU bar where jello shots were being passed around and we were obligated to scoff disdainfully at the crowd even tho we were obvs toats down to dance to Sean Paul. The Irish Guy and his buddy approached us and we had some polite conversation while they bought us drinks. He was cute enough and like aforementioned, very nice. Shockingly SHOCKINGLY I am a sucker for an Irish accent so obvs I gave him my number.

Because The Irish Guy was new to New York, I was often the one to plan our dates. I was ok with this since because, duh, I, of course, knew all the kewwwl places. However, being a bit old fashioned, The Irish Guy wasn’t keen to cede total control, so one night he told me he was going to plan a date for us. I, skeptically, but happily agreed. Said date was right before Christmas and it was one of those bitterly cold New York City nights. The air was painfully crystal clear and you felt like anything you touched might just shatter into a million glittering shards upon contact. The Irish Guy told me to meet him at The Spotted Pig, which was an auspicious beginning to the evening. In theory. In fact, it marked the beginning of a night where we would be turned away from no fewer than three places because it seemed every company ever was having their holiday party in the West Village or Meatpacking District that night. We grew quieter and more awkward the colder we got, strangers who didn’t yet know each other well enough to have true banter or be able to laugh at such a stupid conundrum. He was insistent that we needed to find a “nice” place, one assuredly he heard about from a colleague or looked up in Time Out, but at one point I looked at him, mutiny fomenting, outside The Park and finally he agreed to finding any open bar that served alcohol and had the heat on. Fast. 

We ducked into a place a couple doors down. From the outside it looked like Generic Dive Bar, however, upon entering we quickly realized it was Regulars Only Motorcycle Bar. We were too cold to care. We ordered drinks and tried to be innocuous, which was never going to happen, but was also sartorially impossible. The Irish Guy wore only blue collared shirts and, in those days, I was typically in some kind of H&M dress-ripped jean jacket-grimy converse disaster situation. But, the few crusty patrons nailed to barstools ignored us, and after a drink we felt brave enough to attempt a game of pool. This meant that he played pool and I tried to keep the ball from skipping across the table and into someone’s skull. I am v terrible at pool, but the beauty of drinking pool is that after a few drinks it doesn’t really seem to matter. At one point in the evening, in from the tundra wafted the scent of hot pizza. The bartender had ordered a slew of pies for the bar. Probably for his regulars, mostly, but he generously welcomed us to a few slices and as we leaned against the pool table, grease dripping down the sides of our hands, I remember thinking that it had turned out to be one of those perfect uniquely New York nights. But, I’m pretty sure that bar is now an Artichoke Pizza so barf.

For some unknown and godforsaken reason The Irish Guy and I decided to host a joint New Year’s Eve party at his place. He was flying back from Ireland on New Year’s Eve morning so I picked him up from the airport — IN THE SNOW — I am v gracious faux-girlfriend HERO, I know. Shadowing me as we picked up supplies for the evening, was both The Irish Guy, underfoot and picking out the wrong snacks, and the feeling that I didn’t actually want to be doing this. That dread/panic state of brittleness had set in; that gunky feeling that accompanies the dawning of the realization that ohhh I have to break up with this person bc he is making my whole body tense up by just saying hello to me and wanting to kiss me. On top of wanting to murder him for picking out the wrong cheese, I had a horrible horrible cold that was rendering me bleary and exhausted. Really, all optimal hostessing conditions.

While I may have been initially concerned I wouldn’t have the stamina to host a raucous New Year’s Eve bash, I quickly learned that hosting The Most Boring New Year’s Eve Party in the History of the Entire Universe Ever is actually far worse to navigate when one already feels like hot garbage. I’m not quite sure what I had envisioned, but quiet conversation between The Irish Guy and his three tech colleagues was, uh, not it. For my part, I had invited Cousin Best Friend and her friends. Always a good time, they rolled in boisterous, carrying a case of beer and a handle of vodka. I had not had time to send them the memo that it was a little less Jäger Bombs and a bit more tame word games and Dick Clark’s Rocking New Year’s Eve at whisper level in the background. Her and I could have fun in a paper bag tho, so there was a bit of a reprieve from the stultifying boredom. However, when she and her friends indicated that they were going to leave and hit their next party, because duh, I asked her to take me with them. The Advil Cold and Sinus mixed with booze hysteria in my eyes told her I was 100% dead serious. Thankfully, she had better scruples than I and (gawd rude) reminded me that I probably had to stay at the party I was hosting with the person I was dating.

The Irish Guy and I didn’t last a week into the new year.


8 | The Hipster: The End

Shortly after we returned from California, The Hipster and I met one of his friends at Pravda to catch up and tell him about our adventure. I was extra excited because I had just gotten the trip pictures developed (doubles, obvs, because he needed a set of his own). As we sipped our cocktails, The Hipster’s friend immediately asked about the faux-hawk. Oh man, it’s such a great story, The Hipster said. And then he kicked me under the table. He launched into a bold-faced lie whimsical tale about how when we were in Tijuana we had met a scruffy group of Mexican punks, whom we instantly befriended, started boozing with and proceeded to kick it with for a few hours. Said punks convinced him he should have a mohawk and he agreed and we went back to one of their apartments and

Um. Wait. I’m, sorry. What?

On our way home, I asked him why he had told the story like that, you know like, all full of lies and stuff. I just thought it would be fun if it was a part of our whole Tijuana adventure, he replied. Nonchalant, The Hipster clearly thought nothing of an egregious rewrite. I didn’t say much about it, but watching him so effortlessly and seamlessly craft not an embellished, sexier version of the story, but a complete and utter non-truth, unnerved me deeply. He would go on to tell only that version of the story (for so many years, in fact, that he eventually forgot the actual story), completely unaware that it hurt my feelings in an oddly profound way. While his version was, arguably, more cinematic it completely excised what I loved about the moment: my friends and the intimacy of my worlds melding together. However, I pushed all those nagging thoughts (gawd, annoying) about veracity and loyalty and integrity away, and skipped deludedly blissfully along, blinders on, into the spring.

And then, the first weekend of Spring Break, The Hipster broke up with me. A-fucking-gain. It was all very anticlimactic, really. We were standing in the middle of a sidewalk in midtown. Maybe he was walking me to the train to like somehow allay the emotional wreckage of his impending bombshell with one last act of chivalry or something. Whatever. He paused our stroll and told me he couldn’t “do this anymore”; he cared about me, but I deserved more, more than him being only half in. His argument was that by this time, eight or nine months in, we should be more committed, more couplely or whatever. This probably definitely meant that he was seeing other people and felt guilty about it. Barf.

Running through my head, as I tried to convince him that we would be an Amazing Honest to Goodness Couple (Narrator: They would not have been.) was not just that I was losing him, but that he was still going to be around. But now, he would exist only on the periphery of my life. Our little bubble was gone: the secret grins and glances across a room, the intoxicating remembrances of that morning’s pillow talk, the heady satisfaction that comes from intimately knowing another person. Gone was the Knowing that in a room, or a city, filled with people, he is yours, you are his; that the shimmering threads that connect you to each other are like a double helix: uniquely coded and magical, enveloping only the two of you in a kind of armor of togetherness that makes taking that first step out the door, and into the world every morning, just that much more meaningful. Gone, in an instant, in the din of midtown traffic and bright sunlight.

But I would not be left to grieve alone, in peace, no. I would have to see him in our twice-a-fucking-week grad school classes. I would have to hear snippets about him from OF, who of course would still be his friend and commiserate with him every afternoon at happy hour at DBA. Would I be the anecdote that induced eye-rolling and Ohmanwhatwereyouthinkings? Or, worse, would my name not even cross their lips, forgotten and banished to south Brooklyn the desolate and desperate graveyard of ill-advised rebound flings?

Hours after we broke up, I found myself on a plane, once again heading to California. There was no chance I’d not lose my mind hanging around the city with a week and half off and nothing to do. There would be no quiet dinners or silly conversations lying in bed, no shenanigans or mayhem. When I told him that we couldn’t be friends for a while, that I needed time and space to heal, he too readily agreed and and I knew that this time the breakup would stick. I was cramping his style. He wanted to be out there on the razor’s edge, wooing women, without feeling beholden to me, to anyone. So feeling bleak and sorry for myself, and the Us that Could Have Been, I went to California in search of margaritas tea and sympathy. I spent a week in the comfort of familiarity and distance. Too quickly though, I had to leave the enchanted oasis of Somewhere Else — that frivolous place where the realities of one’s own life are sublimely paused — and head back to a job I still barely tolerate mold young minds. As if heading back to work on Monday (Gawd WORK, the absolute worst, rite?) wasn’t bad enough, of course OF COURSE I was to be promptly emotionally terrorized by seeing him that night.

As I walked into the horrible fluorescent lighting of the basement classroom, I hoped for the 27th time that I looked good. Not just good, but devastatingly, you’re a sucker for dumping me good. This was entirely in vain, and I knew it. I had been up since 5:30 in the morning and had been re-enacting Lord of the Flies teaching oily, smelly pre-teens for the past eight hours. The odds of looking stunning were not in my favor. Still, I hoped. He was sitting in the back, facing away from the door and strategically heavily absorbed in a conversation with a colleague we both couldn’t stand. I had planned my arrival to coincide with the start of class, so I took my seat and the professor began to bang on about multiple intelligences. N.B.: These classes made me not want to be a teacher more than teaching everyday already made me not want to be a teacher. So that was cool.

Of course in the minute it had taken me to walk into the room, spot him, flush an alarming shade of red, want to vom and attempt not to be entirely cut out of the group take a seat next to OF, I had catalogued what he was wearing and how he looked. I wanted him to look disheveled, repentant and tired from staying up all night lamenting over the knowledge that he could not live without me. He did not look like any of these things. Sadly, gloriously, he looked the same as always: dashing, hip and without a care in the world. His black collared shirt was rolled up to his forearms, exposing his warm brown skin and the leather wrist cuff I had given him. In one hand he twirled a pen, in the other he absentmindedly tweaked pieces of The Faux-hawk of Disputed Origins. Ugh. Anyway.

Class ended and the usual social clusters congregated, leaving the room, heading off to next classes, home to shitty apartments, bars to drink away the stress of teaching, etc. etc. Finally the moment had come. We could avoid it no longer. There had to be contact. He approached me shyly, deferentially, and softly he asked me how the rest of my break was. (Catch that “rest of”? Dick.) When I mentioned I spent the REST OF my break in California he smiled and said: Man, Cali. I thought you looked tan. Uh yeah, ok, Fuckface. I’m as pale as I ever was. I was in San Francisco, not effing Malibu. Also, no one calls it Cali. Lame. How are the girls, he asked me. Fine, I said. Obviously, they are fine, they are amazing humans (UNLIKE YOU) and they helped me drown my sorrows in copious amounts of tequila and Mexican food. And they think you’re a real douche. They do not say hi.

Thankfully he was not in my next class, which just happened to a seminar on Virginia Woolf (because, ugh, god, why wouldn’t a smattering of suicide and unfulfilled dreams not have been perfect that night?). So after what felt like eons, but was only minutes, I escaped our stunningly awkward and naseauting First Encounter. We spent the next year torturing each other and pretending to be like friends, or whatever. He brought the crackling electricity of creativity and crazy that I desperately needed at a time when things in my life were boring and confusing. So, if that meant being slightly nauseous every time the topic of dating came up or being wholly deflated when our hangouts never materialized into Romance once again, I was (tragically) willing to participate in said dysfunctional friendship.

Then we didn’t speak for a year, because obvs. And, then one day for happy hour OF invited me to meet them at Karma. That halting and awkward reunion was the beginning of many a Heyyououtwhatareyouupto’s, over an alarming number of years. It finally stopped only when we both settled in with other people. A couple years ago, both of us in serious and committed relationships, BF’s boyfriend saw The Hipster and I interact. He asked who it was I was talking to because, surely, it must have bothered my current boyfriend to see how charged, how enraptured, The Hipster and I were in each other’s presence. If everything else about our relationship was questionable, the chemistry between The Hipster and I was undeniable.

About a month after we broke up I was stalking hitting up the usual spots, when The Hipster’s crew filed into the upstairs of Piano’s. I broke out into a cold sweat of panic, hopefulness, terror and joy. Omggg was he with them? And then it hit me in one swift sucker punch of sadness and longing: it was his birthday weekend. Of course he would be with th — oh god there he was. My heart leapt into my throat. The friend I was with silently watched it play out, knowing it would be a fool’s errand to try to get me to leave before him and I saw each other.

The Hipster’s crew nodded at me, and posted up at some tables, exchanging knowing looks. If he walked in with a girl, I was pretty sure I would have melted into a puddle of despair right there at the bar, but then last of all, a few minutes behind them, he came straggling in from doing who knows what. (Drugs, it was probably drugs.) I was leaning with my back up against the bar, being all aloof (lololol yeah ok) when he spotted me. He sauntered over and he leaned into me, his body against mine, his face millimeters from mine. My bar, he whispered to me, I got this one in the divorce. No way, I replied, this one is neutral. He was steaming drunk and giving me that smile that made me a fucking goner and made the rest of the bar fade away into a blurry tableau of Saturday night. The next few hours were a Raucous Montage of the Usual Mayhem: my friend leaving me, more drinks being ordered, me snuggled into the nook of The Hipster’s arm, The Hipster leaving the bar by hopscotching across the low lounge tables, someone jumping over a fire hydrant and like breaking a leg or something (no seriously), continuing the pandemonium at someone’s apartment, The Hipster and I ricocheting into his apartment.

As he threw me into bed, the pillow talk turned maudlin. In another world, he said, I wouldn’t be so messed up. In another world, we would be together. As he kissed my back, he declared that he hated Him. Him? Who was Him? I had asked. The guy that’s been kissing your back since we broke up. There was no one, no one to make him past while he was still so present. I pulled him closer, sad for him, sad for myself, wishing that this broken spoon of ours could last forever. Over and over he repeated: In another world. In another world. In another world I would marry you. In another world I could love you. In another world. Bodies intertwined, fading in and out of hazy sleep, I brushed away tears.

In this world, I loved him.

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