What you need to know about that Saturday morning: I’d just finished a rousing round of quality time with myself. Look at me. Brave enough to allude to what I was doing but too prudish to spell it out. Walk with me here. I promise it has a point.
Anyway, there I was. Grinning, radiant, and ready to tackle the weekend. I slid open my phone’s screen for a quick morning scroll, only to find the last face I expected to see. Smack dab in the middle of my YouTube feed was the man who made me swear off men. Was this an episode of Black Mirror? Because I swore the same smile that convinced me to have drinks with him all those months ago sneered through the screen with smug judgement.
“How’s not going back to my hotel working for you now, Butterfingers?”
Read more on Can I Kick It? on Substack.
I’m a work of art. Meant to be appreciated and left undisturbed.
The men who get this are the ones who are allowed to stick around. The best ones don’t need to be told or managed. They step in, stay behind the rope, and enjoy the piece on its merits.
The ones who don’t understand the rules—who want to carry me out of my place in the museum, who get too close and try to leave fingerprints on my pristine surface, who become lazy, crude consumers—are swiftly removed.
The most insidious offenders are the ones too caught up in their fantasy of the work to see it as it is. You know the type. They craft lengthy narratives out of its parts and tell themselves that because they’ve stared long enough, dedicated hours to spinning fanfiction out of their favorite parts, they know the creator’s intent.
I could blame myself. The best way to make people see the truth of you is to give it to them. To be a person; not a portrait.
No, thank you.
The occasional deluded fan is the cost of being a fantasy.
I’m not the girl who wants to meet your family.
I don’t want to bring a dish. I don’t want to sit in a kitchen pretending I care about your mom’s dressing recipe or how to shred cheese.
I don’t want to risk my outfit around your rowdy little cousins or hold your sister’s baby and have anyone making longing glances at me with an infant.
I want to bring the wine and watch the football games until dinner is ready. I don’t want your dad, brothers, or uncles mansplaining sports to me.
I don’t want to bow my head and pretend I pray while your aunt recites a 12-minute blessing. I don’t want to avoid the gazes of those who’ll judge me for not fixing your plate. I don’t want to answer questions about my parents, or my three half-siblings with three different mothers, where I went to school, what I studied, where I go to church. I want these people to stop talking to me so we sneak away from the table for a bathroom quickie.
I’m the girl you call at 9:00 PM on Thanksgiving evening with promises of leftovers and kitchen sex.
I want to slip on one of your T-shirts and sip whiskey and hear the story of your uncles’ fight over the Spades table while we stand at the counter eating my mother’s roasted duck and your mom’s macaroni and cheese that you know I’ll never perfect but you don’t care because that’s what your mother’s for.
Funny. Who knew I wanted anything at all?
“I’m wondering what happens when this isn’t enough for you,” you say. You hate to say you know how this works; that at the beginning — the “Oh my God, could this be real” phase — you’re seeing the end. You tell him you’re falling. That’s a lie. You’re choosing. Feet planted on solid ground. Refusing to be swept away.
You chose this — the 500 miles between you and him — because it doesn’t disrupt your carefully-crafted existence. When it ends (and you know it will), it’s a clean break. No shared spaces, communities, or friends. Just a few “unfollows” and a deleted text thread. Voila! All gone.
“I feel like you need to be still right now and I wonder what happens when you’re ready to move again,” you say. At some point, he will want more than your arms-length approach. Permission to leave it in post-coitus. Consideration of his unsolicited opinions. Submission to his spontaneous nature. Room to dream of relocation to a sexy city outside the safety of the Midwest, a Vegas elopement, dropping your last name, a kid, a dog.
“Don’t worry about that,” he says. “You’re everything I could want in a woman.”
You don’t worry. You just know.
Five months later, morning texts fade to one-sided threads and calls on the drive home from the bar turn into days of silence and “I love yous” become “I’m sorrys.” You’re driving home from work thinking of nothing in particular when “He always got them fuckin’ excuses” blares from the radio and rips through you like an electric current.
How many more apologies and justifications can you absorb?
But baby, I’m no fool and I’ve got pride…
He’s decided you’re no longer enough.
You breathe a sigh of relief.