The evening started out harmless enough. My self-sabotage was not premeditated—more like a white lie that got carried away. I was on my way to class to take a test I hadn’t studied for, and I realized I just couldn’t do it. On a whim, I decided to ditch. I needed a drink, stat. I was supposed to meet up with my new guy, Kennedy, after class but he was working late and wouldn’t be ready until later. I went through my mental contact book of friends I had in the area and remembered that my ex-boyfriend Justin worked down the street. As soon as I sent him a text message, he responded. I wrote Kennedy to let him know I was skipping the test and meeting a friend for a drink.
Justin and I had dated for two years when I first arrived in New York City. He was the first black man I had ever been in relationship with and we looked like an ethnic version of Ken and Barbie. We had no chemistry and to this day I’m not sure why we stayed together so long. Our families assumed we would get married, but he and I both preferred dating out of our race. Our love was lacking in more ways than I could tally and we were unhappy. So instead of keeping up with our charade, we parted ways and maintained a friendship.
While sipping my overpriced martini, I gushed to Justin about Kennedy and how elated I was to date someone I actually liked. Kennedy had recently met my family, and my parents were pleased that I found someone who made me smile. Justin congratulated me and flirted with the waitress while talking about his most recent conquest. In the middle of me being grossed-out by one of his elaborate stories of sexual deviance, Kennedy called. I glanced at the phone and hesitated. Not because I did not want Kennedy to join us, but because I hadn’t disclosed whom I was sharing an alcoholic beverage with. Clearly, he would not be pleased. As I excused myself, I ran through a list of acceptable reasons why I had not been honest from the beginning. I rambled on about how thirsty I had been and how the who part of the drinks equation eluded me. Kennedy was silent on the other end, but finally agreed to meet.
When Kennedy arrived, Justin switched gears from being the harmless ex to a cocky ass. I glared at Justin, confused by his Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde routine, and nervously guzzled my cocktails. After 20 minutes of passive-aggressive male banter about my family and who knew New York better (Kennedy did because he is a native), I decided to end the evening abruptly. Kennedy and I excused ourselves from the awkward encounter. While standing outside, I asked a question that I already knew the answer to.
“So, are you mad at me?” I said.
“What do you think?” he replied in an agitated tone. “What would you do if I lied to you? You would never have told me who you were with had I not called you.”
I looked up at him. “That’s unfair. I would have told you … later in the week, perhaps.”
Kennedy stared at me in disbelief and shook his head. “Contessa, this is serious. Did you honestly think this was a good idea? You were supposed to be in class, not out having drinks with your ex-boyfriend.” I winced at the emphasis he put on the last two words. I reached out to touch his hand, but he pulled away.
“Why are you trying to ruin this?” he asked.
I was caught off guard by the question. I opened my mouth to speak, but for once couldn’t conjure up an answer. A witty quip was not going to rescue me from this self-inflicted disaster. It wasn’t like I intentionally set out to destroy or scare men away; subconsciously, it just felt inevitable. I blamed New York and its confusing woman-to-man ratio. Men have so many amazing options; it’s like a buffet. To adapt to the unfair math equation, I usually ruined things before they did. It hurt less in the end.
“I’m sorry,” I blurted out. “I’m really bad at this whole liking someone thing. I’m not used to things running so smoothly. It feels easier to date a jerk. At least I understand what I’m getting into. I know that doesn’t make sense, but the notion that everything is perfect is messing with me. It’s making me insecure, like I’m going to drop the ball. What are you going to do when you realize that I’m not perfect? What if I fall madly in love with you and you dump me for another woman? She’ll probably be thin, tall and wear leggings all the time and you two will have a baby and you’ll name it Tulip or something trendy. And she can cook really well, and I can’t and I’ll die alone with my rabbit Steve.”
I took a deep breath, waiting, sure he would break up with me now that he heard my psycho single girl rant.
Kennedy burst out laughing and looked at me. “What are you talking about? First of all, stop being crazy, and stop pushing me away. Second, I’m not going to leave you because you can’t cook. I already know that you aren’t perfect. Your obsession with Harry Potter gave that away. I really care about you, and this is going to work out, relax.”
He hugged me, and kissed me on the lips. “By the way, Steve is an excellent name for a rabbit.”