Dealbreaker: The Hobby Horse
We met fresh out of college, when we both worked at a law firm. All the ladies in the office chirped about his thick hair, cooed over his broad-shouldered frame, whispered about his posh upbringing and slick pedigree. I found him arrogant and self-consumed.
I took an interest in him only after he started bringing a lacrosse stick to work. My crush deepened the first time I heard him speak with passion about his gun. This was not a euphemism — he actually had a gun. More specifically, he had a shotgun he kept in pieces in a bedroom that was, I later learned, cluttered with various trophies, medals, sticks, muscle balms, beaten running shoes, and athletic tape. Monday mornings he showed up to work bruised and battered from various sports leagues. One afternoon, he sauntered by my desk with what I decided was a slight limp. My heart fluttered. I soon found myself passing chunks of time daydreaming about massaging muscle balm into his stiff limbs, cooking him carbohydrate-rich meals in preparation for the big game, nursing his hangovers, accompanying him to matches, and drawing him Epsom salt baths.
We began hanging out and then, eventually, making out. Soon, he invited me to his basketball games. I sat proudly in the stands, cheering him on while discreetly paging through tabloid rags. I baked portable pasta dishes we could heat up easily after his games. Weekend mornings, I cheerfully rolled out of bed at the crack of dawn to fetch coffee while the object of my affection prepared to take the object of his affection, his shotgun, to the range to shoot skeet. I went, too, eager to try my hand with a weapon almost as big as I was. Those fall days we left the shooting club and drove back to his place, where he would change clothes to go for his daily run (he was training for a marathon, of course).
A few weeks in, I realized we had never been on an actual date. We’d not gone out to dinner, gone to a museum, a movie, on a walk. In fact, every time we’d hung out, I’d been cheerleading.
One morning, after he returned from his usual run, I suggested that we go to a museum. “There’s an exhibit I really want to see,” I said, desperately adding, “And we can look at the weapons when we’re there!”
“Oh, babe,” he said, stripping off his Under Armour and wrapping himself in a towel. “I watch the football game with my brother every Sunday. It’s tradition. Maybe next Saturday.”
“But don’t you have shooting and hockey next Saturday? And every Saturday after that?” I asked pointedly.
“Yeah, but we’ll figure it out,” he said over his shoulder. “Let me jump in the shower, I’m rank after that run. I did 12 miles!”
As the weeks turned into months, we began having more and more of these conversations. Wouldn’t he like to try a yoga class with me? It might be good for his stiff runner’s muscles. Or maybe we could see that new movie we’d both thought looked interesting?
But movies came and left the theaters before we got to them. As the seasons changed, so did his sporting equipment. I soon grew tired of tagging along, and as a result we rarely spent time together. It was clear I was not a priority and might never be. His hobbies and interesting and general busyness — the very things I had so admired before we began dating — now seemed like the armor this weapons-crazed boy used to fend off intimacy and compromise.
One night he showed up an hour late to a dinner party my roommate was throwing. He was tired from a long run he’d taken and the lacrosse game he’d played earlier in the day, he said. That was the lacrosse stick that broke the camel’s back.
The next day I went to both a museum and a movie — alone.