Has Anyone Seen My Pants?
Recycle, Reduce, Reuse
At age thirty-five, I became single after a five-year relationship that included a failed attempt at living with a man romantically for the first time in my life.
I guess I didn’t realize that when you move in with someone, they’re there all the time. I’d come home from work and Ryan would just be there, lurking around. He had to remind me time after time that this was because he lived there. But I’d had roommates in the past, and occasionally they would leave the house. What was it with this guy? Seriously, I almost called the police on him once just to get him out for the evening. That’s not a great sign.
And as much as I assured myself I’d never be in a sexless relationship, eventually that’s what ours became. Ryan was always judging me for everything—my taste in music was stupid, my laugh was too loud, and if I wanted to crack open a bottle of wine after a long day of work, I had a problem. For
someone who claimed to love me, he certainly didn’t appear to like me. That stuff really wears on a person, so we inevitably became a cliché: I was turned off by the fact that he thought the dryer was a drawer, and he was turned off by the fact that I was turned off. Look, I’m sure moving in with the right person can be a lovely experience, but although he and I had some good times and a few successful “game nights” (I believe those were invented by a couple in the late 1940s who could no longer stand being alone in the same room on Tuesday evenings), it turns out we weren’t a good match, so living together was much less fun than, well, not living together.
Since I knew I didn’t want to date anybody that I worked with and wasn’t interested in meeting guys at bars, I did what any well-adjusted single woman in her mid-thirties who doesn’t have a lot of time to meet new people would do—I recycled an ex-lover. This may not seem like the best idea, but as far as I could tell the pros outweighed the cons: you know, the time-honored tradition of “he’s already seen me naked so technically I’m not adding another number to my roster.”
I homed in on one particular ex, Patrick, because he had always checked in on me over the years, through mutual friends, to find out whether or not I was single. Our previous relationship was short-lived due to the fact he was a raging alcoholic and because of his love for strippers (he lived near a strip club and often allowed the girls to come over to his place and “use his shower,” claiming he had great water pressure, which was handy when removing pesky glitter). Years later, he
seemed to fancy me “the one that got away” and I liked the idea of spending my newfound singledom with someone who romanticized me. Plus, like many alcoholics, he was a blast to hang out with.
As I suspected, Patrick was very excited to find out that I was single. He told me he wanted to take me on a date, so I made all the usual manicure/pedicure/bikini wax appointments one makes when trying to impress someone, bought a new top, put on my best “ass jeans,” and headed over to his place. (He couldn’t pick me up because his license was temporarily suspended due to a couple of DUI arrests. Thinking back, I probably didn’t need to get a new top for the date . . .)
When he answered the door, I remembered why I used to like him so much; he was a few years older than me but had this boyish charm that made my stomach jump. He made me a drink while we waited for a taxi to take us to his favorite local restaurant/wine bar. Even though we hadn’t seen each other in a few years, everything felt easy—conversation was easy, laughing was easy; it all came naturally. That also reminded me why I used to like him so much—we just clicked. The only hiccup of the evening (besides his) was when we got to the restaurant and he took off his jacket to reveal a T-shirt that said “I Love Bacon.”
“Really?” I asked as I nodded toward his shirt.
“What? I love bacon, it’s not like I’m wearing a lie.”
“Fair enough,” I laughed. So he’s a forty-year-old man wearing a T-shirt that says “I Love Bacon,” I thought. I suppose I’ve
dated worse, but, damn it, I really wish I hadn’t spent one penny on a new top.
The night continued as expected: we both got really drunk and went back to his place to have sex. Granted this was not the most romantic evening in history, but the relationship I’d just ended had taken a while to get out of, and now I felt so free and so happy to be hanging out with someone who wasn’t constantly rolling his eyes at me like Ryan always had. I just wanted to have fun, and Patrick the alcoholic was a lot of fun.
We started hanging out pretty often, usually at bars, but ours was a summer fling and since we both loved baseball, we also went to a lot of games (Patrick really liked day games because it gave him an excuse to drink beer at noon). When we dated before, he owned a bar/restaurant but now was unemployed, which meant he was always available for good times. I don’t want you to think I was dating a loser with no job, though. Patrick had sold his bar, plus he had inherited a large sum of money when his father passed away, so essentially I was dating a loser with no job but with money—hey, at least I wasn’t paying for everything.
Lots of money and no job probably sounds great to some people, but it comes with issues. Having that kind of money and that kind of time on your hands can lead to really poor decisions, especially if you already have an addictive personality like Patrick had. But he lived close to my work, so I often spent the night at his house (he had his own house!), and there was lots and lots of humping. Holy shit, I did not realize how
pent up I was from the last six months of my previous relationship, in which there was no humping. So I was trying to get into Patrick’s pants every chance I could.
Now, most men would have been stoked that the girl he was dating always wanted sex, but Patrick wasn’t normal. I mean, he was up for it a lot of the time, but definitely not as often as I wanted. One day when I asked him why he didn’t want to have sex with me—I mean, hello, I was wearing a dress and heels—he explained that unlike my previous relationship, his previous relationship had not been sexless . . .
“She used to get other girls, friends of hers, to come over and join us,” he explained nonchalantly.
“Huh?” I asked as I drained the drink in my hand.
“She was kind of a mess, Sarah. I met her on this website and—”
“I assume you don’t mean ChristianMingle?”
“Ha ha, very funny. No, it was a website where girls who want to date men with money put up profiles.”
“You met her on a sugar-daddy website? That’s where you met your ex-girlfriend? ” I was talking loudly. That’s what I do sometimes when people say stupid things. But truthfully, I wasn’t that shocked. I’d known Patrick for years and even when we were just friends, when the girls weren’t over at his place “showering,” he was at the strip club, often handing over wads of cash to go into the back room—which I don’t think is used for playing pinochle—with the dancers. (I never said I was proud of this particular recycle, so just bear with me.)
“You asked me a question; I’m just being honest with you,” he said, very matter-of-fact.
He was right; I had asked. Now I sort of wish I hadn’t, but I took a deep breath, apologized, and allowed him to continue on with his super-fucked-up story. He told me all about his ex-girlfriend, their “interesting” sex, and her meth problem.
“She did meth?”
“Sarah . . .”
“Sorry, I meant”—(whispering)—“she did meth?”
“Yeah, she was a mess. And after we broke up I let her live in my guesthouse because I felt bad for her; she didn’t have any other place to go. But she ended up stealing from me and when I confronted her about it she called the police and tried to have me arrested.”
“For what? For not wanting to be stolen from? That seems like a weird charge.”
“She told them I hit her.”
“You hit her?”
“Of course not, I’d never—”
“I know, I’m sorry.” I did know. Patrick wasn’t a violent drunk. He was more of a “sing karaoke until most of the bar clears out because you keep taking the mic out of other people’s hands”–type drunk. He’d clearly gotten involved with one of those girls he paid extra to go in a back room with and experienced what it was like to try to take the stripper out of the girl. Plus, who would make that shit up? It wasn’t exactly a turn-on. But apparently she had been so sex crazed that my
pulling on his belt every ten seconds wasn’t exactly what he was looking for this time around. Great timing.
Now, you’d think that all of that information, along with his alcoholism and employment situation, would have made me stop seeing Patrick, but you would be incorrect. He had several great qualities. First of all, he had a good heart. I knew him well and I knew (or at least believed) that his penchant for women such as strippers came from a place of wanting to help them. I’m not saying it was smart—his brain was rarely operating at full speed—but I always thought his heart was in the right place. Second, and most important, he let me blast country music in his house at two o’clock in the morning. My ex hated country music! He never let me play country music! Fuck him! So I decided that Patrick allowing me to play it was more important than any potential red flags. And, yes, I had “feelings” for him and his rugged features. It’s like the old saying: the heart wants what the vagina wants.
At some point, Patrick became involved in horse racing. It seemed to come out of nowhere, but he also seemed to take it very seriously. (You know, the whole “too much time on his hands” thing: Money + Time = Poor Decisions.) I also started to notice his odd sleeping habits, like when I’d wake up at four a.m. and find him in the living room on his laptop buying old typewriters.
“Why do you need an old typewriter?”
“I buy them and resell them,” he explained, as if I was the asshole.
“Okay,” I said, and went back to bed, not wanting to engage in a conversation about typewriters because . . . well, who does?
I’d go to work and wouldn’t hear from him all day, because that was apparently when he slept. One evening after work, I swung by his house to pick up a jacket I had left and found that he was in bed at six o’clock in the evening. That would have been no big deal if he was just taking a nap, but he hadn’t been up yet at all that day. I felt myself judging him and tried to shake it off: I was not going to be like Ryan, I was going to let Patrick be Patrick.
“So I like to sleep during the day, what’s the big deal?” he asked.
“I don’t know, just . . . shouldn’t you be doing something else?”
“I don’t know . . . anything else!” It was quickly becoming impossible for me not to feel like I was judging his lifestyle, but I work long hours and when I get off work I work on other stuff. Yes, I enjoy my cocktails and make time for fun, but I feel like I earn my fun time because of all the work time. He was just on constant fun time, which was starting to be no fun to me.
Right around the time the obvious cracks in this rebound were starting to shine through, Ryan (the ex I had just broken up with) started contacting me. Go figure, right? Isn’t that how it always works?
Ryan missed me and was sorry that he didn’t “appreciate” me the way he “should have,” and blah blah blah. It was all so cliché that it embarrassed me for him a little bit. I mean, I know he really believed—now that I was gone—that he couldn’t live without me, but I also knew that if we got back together things would go right back to the way they were before. I was finally comfortable with myself and I wasn’t willing to go back to someone who wasn’t. Also, I just wasn’t in love with him anymore.
Ryan told me that he had changed, that he knew he made me feel judged and cornered, and that he wouldn’t do that to me again. He said he was unhappy with his own life so he took it out on me. I knew that all of this was true, but unfortunately his realizing it now didn’t make me fall in love with him again. The end of our relationship had dragged on for months while we tried to “figure it out,” but what happens in that case, especially for the person who really knows it’s over, is that you let go of it during that time, so when it does officially end, you’re already through the grieving process and on to the “I can’t wait to hump somebody else” process. Ryan was just now in his grieving process and it wasn’t pretty.
Since I had loved him for a long time, it hurt me to know he was in pain. But giving him any false hope was definitely not the answer. So with each e-mail or text, I responded by gently telling him that I knew we weren’t right for each other, that soon he’d know it, too, and that he was just missing me right now.
“But I’m a completely different man now,” he wrote to me in one forty-seven-page e-mail. “I went on a yoga retreat and it changed me. I’m a vegan now.”
The fact he was now into yoga and veganism just drove the whole “we aren’t right for each other” thing home for me.
“I ate a cheeseburger for breakfast,” I wrote back, still trying to tell him gently that getting back together wasn’t going to happen. I didn’t want to have to write the words “I don’t love you anymore” to him. Maybe I should have, maybe the harsh truth was the better way to go, but I didn’t want to hurt him again. I just wanted him to move on.
Meanwhile, in an effort to restoke the dying flame between us, Patrick and I decided to go to Catalina Island for a weekend. It’s only a short ferry ride away from L.A., but Catalina kind of makes you feel like you actually went somewhere. There isn’t a ton to do unless you’re into riding ATVs or hiking, so we just headed straight to a bar and did one of our mutual favorite things: weekend day drinking.
Day drinking turned into night drinking, which led to our throwing popcorn at each other in our hotel room and passing out. You know—romance. We woke up the next morning, politely cleaned all of the popcorn out of the bed so that housekeeping didn’t think we were animals, and went back out to start day drinking again until the ferry came later that afternoon. It was a successful weekend in that we had a lot of laughs, but in the back of my mind all I could think was that
he could do this all the time if he wanted to, like constantly—not only because he had no job, but worse, because he had no ambition. And that, I realized as I sat watching him suck down a Bloody Mary on the ferry ride back home and back to reality, was the real problem. But it was a problem I wasn’t quite ready to face just yet.
A couple of days after we got back from Catalina Island, I sold a TV show based on my first book. This, obviously, was a very big deal to me. It’s not an easy thing to do, selling a show, and it was a dream of mine. Now, it’s not like there’s a guarantee that the show you sell is going to end up on television, but it’s one of many steps and it’s definitely one worth celebrating. So, I decided that Patrick and I, along with my friend Jackie and her boyfriend, Brandon, needed to go out and do just that.
I told Patrick to be at my house at seven p.m.; I had ordered a car to pick us up shortly after. I was going all out for this. I was even wearing a new dress; so was Jackie. This was a big night for me and she knew it. So when Patrick arrived around seven forty-five p.m. wearing a T-shirt that said “Who Farted?” I stared at him in disbelief.
“What?” he asked, completely clueless. “I didn’t know we were dressing up!”
“You didn’t have to dress up, you could have just not worn that!” I said, almost in tears. “What are you, in some kind of Dumb T-shirt of the Month Club or something?”
“It’s just a T-shirt,” he responded, still clueless.
He was right, it was just a T-shirt—a T-shirt that said “Who Farted?” on it, and he was a forty-year-old man. I suddenly found myself longing for another “I Love Bacon” T-shirt.
“Do you want him to wear Brandon’s shirt?” Jackie asked, referring to her boyfriend, who was wearing a nice button-down shirt like a normal adult male.
“Wait, then what will I wear?” Brandon asked in a panic.
“I guess the ‘Who Farted?’ shirt,” Jackie answered, clearly not having thought things through.
“No, no,” I interrupted. “Brandon isn’t going to have to go out in public in that shirt just because Patrick is a moron.”
“I’m right here,” Patrick said.
“Yeah. You’re right here. Wearing a T-shirt that says ‘Who Farted?’ on it and we’re going to a nice restaurant. So, guess what? You don’t get to be offended right now.”
“Jesus, what’s the big deal?” he asked, dead serious.
“The big deal is: it’s Sarah’s night, a special night, and you showed up wearing something her thirteen-year-old nephew wouldn’t even wear,” Jackie said, her voice raised.
“Her nephew would love this shirt,” Patrick snapped back.
“That’s your defense?” I asked.
“Look, I’m sorry. Jesus. I’ll wear my jacket and I won’t unzip it. Okay?” he said, relenting.
“Whatever, yes. Fine,” I said. The car had now been waiting for us for close to an hour and I just wanted to get to the restaurant and order a giant martini. “But if you unzip it even
for a second I’ll kill you. Like even if your jacket catches on fire you can’t take it off—you just have to sit in it and burn to death. And you’ll deserve to.”
We finally made it to the restaurant and Patrick kept his jacket zipped as promised. But throughout dinner he kept looking at his phone, which I hate. I know we all spend too much time on our phones now, but when you’re out to dinner, unless you’re waiting for an important phone call from your family or your job—which Patrick was not—put your fucking phone away.
“Why do you keep looking at your phone?” I asked him while Jackie and Brandon stepped outside to have a cigarette.
“What? I don’t.”
“Yes you do. Constantly. It’s rude.”
“What is with you tonight?” he asked me.
“What is with me tonight? With me?”
“Oh, here we go . . . ,” Patrick said in the world’s most condescending tone.
“Yeah, here we go,” I repeated. “Here’s what is with me, you asshole: Tonight was important to me. I have been busting my ass for years and selling this show is a huge deal and I wanted to celebrate with people I care about, but one of them showed up forty-five minutes late wearing a wacky T-shirt and has been texting God knows who during the entire meal.”
“You were much easier to get along with when you were just a bartender,” Patrick replied.
I was stunned. But at the same time, I wasn’t. Things were different this time around for us. It didn’t work out the first
time, but that was more because he wasn’t ready to settle down and be in a relationship and I was. This time the problem was that I’d grown up and he hadn’t.
When the night ended, Patrick came home with me. He was hammered, of course, so when we walked in the door, he immediately passed out. I put on eight layers of pajamas because I didn’t want him to wake up and think I wanted to have sex with him. I pretty much hated him at this point, and I knew with all the alcohol he’d consumed he’d never have the energy to get that many pairs of bottoms off of me. When I crawled into bed, I noticed his phone lying out on the nightstand. It was beckoning me.
I know, I know. “If you go looking for something, you’ll find it,” or “Don’t go looking for something if you don’t want to find it,” or whatever that saying is that guilty people who have shit to hide always say . . . I know. But he had been acting really weird all night on that phone and the last thing in the world he would ever do was be honest with me. So, if I wanted to know what he was up to, I was going to have to find out for myself.
He was texting his slutty, meth-addicted ex-girlfriend. So, if you still have any problem with my going through his phone, I’m right and you’re wrong.
I shook him awake, hard. When he woke up, I was sweating either out of anger, or because I was wearing eight layers of clothes.
“What the fuck? Why did you wake me up? And why are you so sweaty?”
“So you were texting her ? That’s what you were doing all night . . . on my night? My night to celebrate? Texting a whore?”
“You went through my—”
“Save it. Yes, I went through your phone. In the future, if you don’t want someone to do that, don’t make your passcode your fucking birth date. Seriously, even your passcode is an idiot.”
“It isn’t what you think . . .” Patrick started to defend himself.
“What do I think? Huh? Tell me what I think.”
“Are you wearing multiple pairs of pajamas?”
“Stop trying to distract me. Why were you texting her? You told her you’d meet her at your house tomorrow afternoon. Why? ”
“Like I said, it isn’t what you—”
“Just answer the fucking question!”
“I’m trying to, but you keep interrupting me.”
He had a point. But I was fuming.
“Fine, go ahead. Tell me why you were meeting her tomorrow.”
“You know how I’m leaving in two days for New Jersey? And you know how I have that huge fear of flying? Well, she has Xanax. She always has Xanax, and I need some to get through the flight.”
“She also always has meth,” I retorted. I did know he was going back home to New Jersey for the weekend and I did know he had a huge fear of flying. But come on.
“Sarah, I swear to you, I wasn’t going to do anything with her. She was going to drop off the Xanax and that was it.”
Even if he was telling the truth, it didn’t matter. This is a woman who stole from him and then filed false charges against him. I don’t care if she shits Xanax—she wasn’t someone he should have been talking to. And that’s when it hit me: I didn’t want him talking to her, but he didn’t mind talking to her. He didn’t mind that she was basically a prostitute who had trashed his life for a significant amount of time. He still needed someone to save.
“Patrick, you know who else has Xanax? Doctors. You can go tell a doctor about your flying problem and they’ll write you a big fat prescription for Xanax. Trust me, I’ve done it and I’m not even afraid of flying—I just really like Xanax.”
“Yeah, but then I would have had to make an appointment and go to a doctor—”
“You have time to go to the doctor! You have more time than anybody in the world to go to the doctor. In fact, you have time to go to the doctor on behalf of everybody in the world!”
“What does that mean?” he asked.
I was too exhausted to explain anything to him. “It means this is over. That’s what it means,” I said, and I meant it.
“Wait, so you don’t want to see me anymore just because I needed to get some Xanax?”
“If that’s the story you have to tell yourself, then yes. This whole thing is over because you needed a Xanax.” And with that, I kicked him out and never spoke to him again.
I had so much more to say but I knew it would fall on deaf ears. The truth was, I didn’t want people like his ex-girlfriend in my life. And if I were with him, by default, she’d be in my life. I think if someone steals from you, then tries to get you thrown in jail, they aren’t really a fun hang, but maybe that’s just me. At the end of the day, his texting her or not wasn’t even the real problem. The problem was that Patrick was stuck at the maturity level of a twenty-one-year-old. He just wanted to drink, sleep, and repeat. Our relationship was certainly a nice distraction for me after coming out of a relationship that had ceased to know the meaning of fun for so many months. But when it started to distract me from what was important, the fun ended there. Relationship-wise, I had gone from one extreme to the other and I was pretty sure what I really wanted lay somewhere in the middle.
So that was that. I had rebounded right into another relationship and now that was over and I was finally really, truly single. After he left, I sat on my bed and tried to cry but the tears just wouldn’t come.
Why am I not sad? I wondered. Shouldn’t I feel sad?
I popped in The Notebook, which always makes me cry, even when I’m deliriously happy. But still the tears wouldn’t come. Instead, every time Ryan Gosling came on the screen I just got super horny.
The next morning, I woke up to find a bag of some of my favorite things from Whole Foods on my doorstep with a note from Ryan (my ex, not Gosling), telling me he knew I was really busy and he hoped I was taking care of myself. I know
it sounds like a lovely gesture, and it would have been about eighteen months before, but now it was just annoying. Why are the guys I date all so annoying?
“Did you get my gift?” a text from Ryan asked me about a half hour later.
“Yes. Thank you, that was really thoughtful,” I lied.
“I just know you’re so busy, I hope you’re taking care of yourself.”
“Yeah, that’s what your note said,” I responded.
“Ouch,” he replied, and then went silent.
Two days later I got a text from him asking me to meet him for coffee. I was getting tired of saying no but I still didn’t want to say yes.
“I’m sorry,” I wrote back. “I just don’t think it’s a good idea.”
“It’s just coffee, Sarah.”
“I promise. Just coffee.”
“And you won’t talk about getting back together or anything like that?”
“And you won’t send me an e-mail two hours later saying we should get back together or anything like that either?”
“I promise. Just coffee. I just want to see you and catch up. That’s all.”
I decided to go have coffee with him. Maybe he needed this. Maybe this would make him stop romanticizing our dead relationship.
We met at a bar by my house that fancies itself a tavern. Ryan ordered a light beer and some sort of quinoa salad. I ordered a margarita and a steak that I didn’t even really want, in hopes that since he was a vegan now he’d be turned off by my meat-eating ways.
Much to my surprise, we had a pleasant time. There were no sparks, no regrets, and no mushy feelings. We just talked and it was fine and I even remembered why we used to be such good friends. He talked about how he went skydiving and how I should try it, and I talked about how I never ever wanted to go skydiving and how I hate it when people that have gone skydiving try to tell other people they should go.
“Planes are for staying inside of when they’re in the air,” I explained.
Then he showed me a picture of him mid-skydive—not a good look for anyone’s face.
We are so not right for each other, I mused happily.
On my way home, I thought about how glad I was that I met him that afternoon and how it seemed like maybe we would be able to be friends down the road. I felt good.
That is, until about two hours later when I got an e-mail from Ryan. Remember a few paragraphs ago when he promised not to do this? Well, it turns out I was the only one who didn’t feel regrets during our afternoon together.
His e-mail was sweet, thoughtful, and completely enraging. He posed a “hypothetical”: What if I’d wandered into that bar today and met him but we had never met before? Would I have
given him my number? Would I be willing to go out on a date with this “stranger” I’d just had a nice conversation with?
I’m sure some of you reading this think that sounds really romantic and you think I should’ve e-mailed him back and given this “stranger” one more shot. But you’re wrong. We weren’t strangers and this wasn’t a rom-com starring Julia Roberts and whichever English actor you want to place in the other role.
See, his pleas didn’t make me feel bad this time—they just pissed me off. During the five years we were together, I stood by him after he broke up with me and got back together with an ex-girlfriend he was hung up on—more than once. I flew to the East Coast multiple times to hang out with his family, one time at an indoor water park (gross). I went skiing with him one Christmas and I fucking hate skiing; I prefer the ocean. I don’t want any of that snow nonsense when I’m trying to relax. In those five years, he came home to Arkansas with me one time and we never once went on a beach vacation. What I’m saying is: I tried. I put my time in. I was done. We didn’t work.
And now that I had finally really walked away from him, I was happy and he wasn’t. But it wasn’t fair of him to keep hounding me and it certainly wasn’t up to me to make him feel better about the fact that he’d lost me. I really, really wanted to tell him to fuck off. I wanted to scream, “I don’t love you anymore! Is that what you need to hear?” at the top of my lungs. But I didn’t have that in me, because I did love him once. So instead I said something along the lines of:
“I’m just not there. I’m sorry. I know you’ve made a lot of changes in your life for the positive, and I’m happy for you. I don’t think we’re a healthy combination as a couple. We don’t fit; we’ve tried many times. I don’t want you to take steps backward, and I don’t want to either.”
See, I’m not a complete asshole. As I pushed “send” on the e-mail to him, I knew I had finally closed that door. I felt I’d gotten my point across and I was proud of myself, because honestly, after the experience I’d just had dating Patrick the Drunk, the easy thing to do would have been to run back into Ryan’s arms and just be with him forever. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that things worth having don’t always come easy. I looked around at the things in my life that were good, and they were all things I worked hard for and, more important, things I refused to settle for.
Lesson learned. Digging through the recycling bin is dangerous: if you grab the wrong object, you might end up with a giant piece of glass sticking right through your hand.