A Thank You Note To The Guy Who Told Me To Stop Putting Myself Down

Dear Sir,

Hey there, long time no see. Kidding, I saw you like a week ago, but you’re a continent away from me now, off in a country I’ll probably never visit, so it doesn’t really matter that we just hung out. Sad face.

Jon Hamm in ‘Bridesmaids’

Three weeks ago, I told my lovely, magical, patient best friend Anna that I wanted to pen a long-winded TTF article about a terrible guy who nearly destroyed me two and a half years ago. All right, I need to take some responsibility here: a guy whom I let nearly destroy me. The moral of the story, which I won’t be writing about in TTF, is that I poisoned myself by basing my value on the treatment I received from an unworthy individual. I started writing the post soon after chatting with Anna, and while I’m (kind of?) proud to say I’ve produced 3,000 words so far, it was an exhausting post to put together and I’m not even done. I walked away from the first half of draft one feeling drained, sick, ashamed, disgusted, livid, the works. In other words, it wasn’t cathartic to vent about the downright evil connection I had with a young man who loved throwing me out of his bed like a used condom and at times made me believe he didn’t care whether I lived or died. It brought me back to one of the lowest and most vulnerable points of my life, which you got a sense of during our brief but substantial interactions.

While I plan on writing about this rotten, appalling  experience someday (ideally Taylor Swift style, because look how well that always works for her), I must say that I don’t really want to be in fight or revenge mode right now, and publishing that would just resurrect the toxic energy I worked so hard to push out of my life. I’m ready to finally give my friends and TTF readers something happy to read. During darker days, Anna would say to me, “Tell me something good, Laura.”  Well, Anna is finally getting her wish (a year and a half late, but she’ll forgive me because that’s what friends and TTFers do).

Whether you like it or not, I want to talk about you — the guy who (temporarily) restored my faith in the male species, not that I’m getting carried away or putting a ton of pressure on you or anything…

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’

Last Friday night (thanks for the heads up, Katy Perry), my friend convinced me to stay out later than I’d planned. We’d just finished eating comfort food at Doc Watson’s Irish pub and I intended to head home, but she insisted we stop at Swig, an uptown bar where her friend worked. Though tired from the week, I accompanied her to the venue, where I ended up meeting you. I remember staring at you from across the room after I got my drink. I thought you were well dressed and had probably already found someone to spend the evening with. That’s what I assume of every guy I meet, no thanks to past experiences.

Your friend approached me before you did, but you swooped in before I could get a sense of what he was about. All I knew was that I was surrounded by five fun Australians who only had a few days left in New York. I liked your cologne, but more than anything, I was drawn to your fiery attitude. You seemed very grown up, so I wasn’t surprised to hear that your friends call you “Dad” and expected you to put together the entire itinerary for the trip (I’ve so been there). You enjoy making them happy though, and I admired that because I’m the same way with my buddies. But there weren’t just warm fuzzies between us. We started the night on a playfully combative note: you made fun of me for forgetting the name of the Sydney Opera House.

That weird thing in Syndey

“‘That weird thing in Sydney?'” you said in your accent, mimicking my admittedly horrendous description of one of your country’s major landmarks. “That would be like if I called the Statue of Liberty the Green Bitch.”

“The Statue of Liberty used to be copper,” I said, whipping out my iPhone to show you a snapshot of the monument long before it developed a different shade entirely. “The color changed overtime.”

“Interesting. We’re seeing that tomorrow. If it doesn’t rain,” you replied.

Thank you, Hunters!

It had poured nonstop all day, so I was sporting my one and only pair of rain boots. You were in awe that someone over the age of four was wearing them, as people don’t really do that in Australia (or so you told me), so you had me place my legs on your lap to study the perplexing walking instruments. You traced the red Hunter logo and rubber material, seemingly amused. I was too. I knew then that you were sold.

We continued taking swipes at each other for another hour before migrating to another bar and delving into serious topics. I laughed after you bought my drink, as the last dude I’d gone out with had failed to do the same after being an hour late to meet me on an outing he’d suggested. Such gentlemen I hang out with.

I told you about this fellow with a hint of embarrassment and you warned me never to trust French guys named Jean-Paul anyway. After I whispered that we were a few feet away from the friends of a guy who had harassed me before, you seemed angry, not at me, but for me. I didn’t want that for you, though. To lighten the mood and quit coming across as a perpetually vulnerable, inherently unlovable sad sack, I asked you to talk about your life, and thank God you did.

You’re very close with and protective of your sister, who is a year older than you are (even though you call her your little sister). You’ve watched your mom and dad remarry other people a handful of times and seem pretty unfazed by it, even though I know firsthand it’s not easy to have parental figures come and go. You’re more resilient than I am in that way. I said I’m a serious person because I’m extremely career-driven, which led you to ask whether there’s a difference between “serious” and “motivated.” We laughed and you admitted to arguing for the sake of arguing (I’m guilty of this as well), but for once, I was OK with it. I liked talking to a someone who was willing to challenge and debate me. It was a nice change from empty bar conversations I have to deal with on a regular basis. You also got mad when I said I looked like a slob, and while I definitely felt grimy and haggard from running around the wet streets of NYC all day and night, I appreciated that you forced me to quit saying that I was an awful sight. Because I’m not.

3:00 a.m. rolled around and we were still chatting at The Penrose, which was clearing out and closing, so I awkwardly invited you to follow me back to my digs, where we talked for another hour or so before getting a move on things. As we sat side-by-side on my bed and discussed my barely legible to-do list, I regretted that we hadn’t kissed at the bar, because that’s definitely something two strangers should do before retreating back to one of their residences. What if we had no chemistry? Oh well, I thought, if this turns out to be a disaster, at least I’ll have something funny to blog about.

Studying my wall, you asked about my journalism award and I explained that I’d received it as a college junior, back when I viewed myself as the biggest thing in the world for publishing a 700-word column per week. Now I write piece after piece on a daily basis, rarely having a major attachment to my work but always feeling squirmy, inadequate, overwhelmed, stifled, and behind. It’s not that I dislike what I’m doing, I’m just ready to evolve. You get that because you’ve lived your entire life on the edge. You fly military planes and can go a week without food, for God’s sake.

As much as I loved discussing my college writing accolades, I became increasingly frustrated and nervous. I didn’t want to talk about my trophies. I wanted to see whether we were compatible in another way. After all, you hadn’t come over to learn the extent of my epic nerdiness. 

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’

Once we finished our glasses of water, I made a beeline for the light switch, whacked it off, and pulled your face toward my own. Phew, I thought. Zero weirdness. Even so, I could tell by your classy attire, rippled six pack abs, sparkly blue eyes, head of dark hair, and perfectly-sculpted biceps that you probably get a lot more play than I do, and that made me noticeably anxious and even more frantic than usual.

“What now?” I said after we’d made our way into the sheets.

“You tell me. You’re supposed to be the older and more mature one, right?”

I sighed. “Yeah. Right.”

I’d almost forgotten you’re two years (and two months) younger than I am, and for a split second, I believed that was the reason you’d agreed to hang out with me in the first place: you didn’t know any better. There I go again. I’m always getting down on myself, mainly because the only other younger guy I’ve been with was the aforementioned putz in paragraph two. After him, I didn’t do anything — aside from endure a meaningless kiss here and there — for a year and seven months. As Olivia Wilde eloquently described her post-divorce experiences, “my vagina died.” But it was more than just my personal life that went on a hellish vacation. It was my ability to connect with others, my desire to go out and meet guys, my joie de vivre.

I don’t know whether this was obvious or not, but I did confess around 5:30 that I’d been, for the most part, out of the game and reclusive for a while. You assured me everything was fine, and when I kept saying sorry and stating that I was uncertain, you looked at me and commanded, “Stop apologizing and putting yourself down.”

People who apologize a lot reflexively say “sorry” after an order of this nature, but I simply nodded and kept that word out of my vocabulary for the duration of our encounter. Sometime before sunrise, I quit fretting and feeling self-conscious, and we covered a lot of ground. You said you loved that I’m a writer because of the way I phrase things. You like that I walk fast because you move with purpose and urgency as well. You think my past experiences with men are unfortunate, and you regret that I haven’t had any positive stories to share for five years (I promise I’ll be fine, I just have to learn to pick better). I said I envied your outdoor survival skills, which you acquired in the military. We argued about the pronunciation of “climate.” I say it like “climb-it” whereas you’re convinced it’s spoken as “climb-AT.”

I asked whether you’d heard of “The Simpsons,” and that question gave you a good laugh. I went on to say that it was quite possible that the comedy series isn’t as big a deal in your country as it is in mine because it’s based on the modern U.S. family. You assured me families are the same everywhere, which got me thinking about “Anna Karenina.”

“You’re just a trove of knowledge, aren’t you?” you said.

I shrugged. “Something like that.”

At around 6:45, you suggested we get some shut eye. You had a big day ahead and I needed to catch up on sleep after an intense work week. I found myself settling into the crook of your neck, and after five minutes, presumably when you suspected I was out cold, you kissed the top of my forehead.

The following night, you sent me a Facebook message about your Saturday excursions with the guys.

“How was the Green Bitch?” I asked.

“The Green Bitch was good. Took a while to get out there but it was pretty good. I am about to lose my rights to the laptop so text me 😉 (310) xxx-xxxx”

And so I did, and we had our last hurrah the following day after several hours of texting and joking around. You fell asleep on your cab ride back from the Giants stadium, and I light-heartedly told you that you’d need your rest prior to our shenanigans.

“You’re not going to try to kill me again, are you?” you said.

Unfortunately not, as I was plagued with foot and leg cramps, prompting me to tell you it was because you were dealing with a senior citizen. We hung out at the Times Square Westin, where I’d stayed during my high school drama trip eight years earlier. I hugged you goodbye but was at a loss for words as I usually am with formalities and farewells, and that was it.

You’re out of my life and we’re not going to remember much about each other ten years from now. You’ll reflect on your month-long vacation to the states and gush about the hilarious times you had with your friends. I won’t be able to identify you by name, but I will remember the strong-willed, humorous, opinionated Australian who convinced me I deserved much more than I’d ever gotten, so thank you. I hope I gave you more than just a funny travel story about a neurotic redheaded Californian who kept you up all night.

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2 thoughts on “A Thank You Note To The Guy Who Told Me To Stop Putting Myself Down

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