I currently live with the first boy I dated in college. I hope this sounds really romantic. And I hope you thought that despite all of the awful things one could say about me, I am really good at relationships. The sad truth is that I am not. In general I am useless as a girlfriend and under these particular circumstances even more so. Never the less, this boy and I enjoyed a very typical college romance and a very typical college break-up. One of these days Hollywood is going to figure out the truth about dating in college and make a movie about us. Our relationship was truly a legendary tragedy that is worthy of the big screen. Seriously.
In October of my freshman year I got an email from a complete stranger asking if I wouldn’t mind going on a blind date with his roommate. As an eighteen-year-old living in the 21st century it took me all of 30 seconds to pull up photos and life stories of everyone he was living (this was even easier then too since it was the golden age of internet stalking – before every weird person and their cat started drinking the Zuckerberg Kool Aid and no one thought online privacy was an issue). This complete stranger lived with three other boys. One of them was a politically inclined member of the marching band (gross), one of them was on the football team (grosser), and one of them was a very well manicured South African architecture major (jackpot).
I emailed the complete stranger back and with high hopes of landing this sophisticated South African dreamboat. He replied with instructions to meet his mystery roommate (and my apparent soul mate) in a courtyard where he would be wearing a Speedo singing the South African national anthem. Swoon. Then I would accompany him to a University organized blind date dance.
Early on in college the administration encourages you to go to many University-planned ‘parties’ in an effort to socialize students in an alcohol free environment. I am particularly perplexed that adults who spend so much time with college students would not immediately see that they are wasting their time; college kids exclusively make friends in a drunken stupor. Is the goal to render the entire freshman class friendless and lonely? Maybe when they are older and more mature they make friends after only a few beers, but early on it’s black out or nothing. (I mean right? Was there a different way to be eighteen?) Still, college freshmen do not know better than to go to these horribly dull pre-planned parties. But they have invented a way around the whole alcohol-free thing: drinking anyway.
Now the Freshman Pre-Game is different than a Normal Pre-game. I understand that a Normal Pre-game is an institution that has been in existence since like, forever (see: pre-game). But I also understand that a Normal Pre-game does not involve taking 15 shots of vodka while playing some idiotic card game that makes sure that no one gets away with not drinking 15 shots of vodka. Side note, kids: as a fully grown-up 22-year-old who totally has her life together (sarcasm!) please listen to me– if you can’t believe that consuming poison in large quantities is literally killing you PLEASE at least believe that 15 shots of vodka is at least 750 calories. That’s with no mixers! You are going to get FAT.
So fifteen shots into this October night the last five functioning brain cells left in my brain decided that they were going to be in love. If not with the actual South African, than at least with the idea of having a dapper someone on my arm for the rest of forever. If we exchanged words that night I cannot remember them. But we definitely made out publicly – on the dance floor, on the sidewalk, in someone else’s dorm – the way you only do if you’re eighteen and falling-over-drunk or you’re awful.
Thus began our storybook romance.
The next weeks were full of glorious love-falling-in and public outings as a couple. On the rare occasion when I stopped to think about it, things between us seemed a little odd. For example, four or five days a week he was too busy to hang out with me. Even though based on his schedule I was almost positive he was not. But I had just finished high school and was totally unaware that boyfriends who didn’t neglect you 150% of the time existed. So in that respect, he was a keeper. But also he spent most of this “busy” time with another guy who lived in his dorm. But they were totally just friends. Such good friends that this other man came on most of our dates. Also a lot of my acquaintances repeatedly pointed out that my boyfriend seemed a little flamboyant. I told them he was foreign and that was definitely why.
As an eighteen-year-old who was pretty sure she was hot shit, here’s the only thing that really struck me as odd: we were not sleeping together. So far my impression of 18- and 19-year-old boys was that they were basically sex-crazed egomaniacs that sometimes played Halo or hockey but mostly just pounced on drunk girls. So though at first I thought he was just taking it slow for the sake of being sensitive and romantic, it was painfully clear something was a little weird when I started saying things like, “let’s sleep together” and he said things like “yuck, no.”
Alas, as you may have by now guessed, this boy was just not that into me. Or my gender. But WHY would any boy so cruelly drag me along for weeks if he had no intention on sealing the deal?
Here’s the thing: In this day and age any sane environment encourages an individual to be faithful to his or her sexual orientation. Here’s the other thing: A lot of people have never experienced an aforementioned sane environment before getting to college. It’s possible that some people don’t even experience this sane environment in college but I went to a school commonly referred to as “The Gay Ivy” so I have no first hand experience with that.
An unreasonably large number of students have JUST been told it’s socially acceptable to sleep with the person they want to sleep with upon their arrival at college. Which is great. Seriously. But more often than not this sane environment takes a few (or many, many) years to get used to. For girls who prefer men, and I guess really just anyone who prefers any one in general, a sane environment requires the development of Gay-dar, or the ability to differentiate between the men/women who want to sleep with women/men and the ones who do not.
I grew up in San Francisco. A person may think that this meant I grew up with excellent Gay-dar. That person would be very wrong. San Francisco is – cover your ears, Rick Santorum – an incredibly sane environment. As long as we’re still using ‘sane’ as a synonym for ‘gay’. San Francisco is great, sane, really gay. San Francisco is incredibly supportive of all different sexual preferences. People in San Francisco tend to be open about their preferences so I did not have to waste any time in high school agonizing over whether or not the boy I was making out with at Zach Epcar’s house party was imagining I had a penis. So when I got to college and was thrown into the mix with many-a-man who had not grown up in incredibly sane environments, I continued to naively trot along assuming every man who said he was interested in jumping in my pants actually was. Because if they were more interested in men sexually, wouldn’t they have been out since they were like, twelve? There could be no other possible explanation for their professed interest in dating me. Not even, say, a childhood devoid of musical theater or an incredibly conservative South African family who did not tolerate fruity shenanigans.
Anyway, in November I took my dashing South African as my date to a senior’s birthday party. I was feeling pretty smug that 1. I had been invited to a guest-list-only party hosted by a popular senior and 2. I was bringing a well-dressed boy with an accent as my date. An hour after getting to the party I went to wish the hostess a very happy birthday and she looked straight at me and said, “in case you didn’t already know, your boyfriend is gay.”
Obviously this was completely impossible. We had been together for like, two months and he had me in his Facebook profile picture and there was just no way that he wasn’t crazy about me. Though he was perfectly fine with going DAYS without seeing me. And he did pay very close attention to my shoes. And he certainly spent a weird amount of time ‘napping’ in bed with that one male friend who lived down the hall. And oh, we still hadn’t slept together. I began to question every certainty in my life.
Our walk home that night was uncomfortable and went something like this:
“So, um, are you gay?”
Subsequent to this conversation, we continued dating. Of course.
In the next days I did some soul searching. Despite the fact that he was clearly the boy of my dreams, I was surprised to find myself pretty whatever about the whole getting dumped for the opposite gender thing. I mean, on the bright side I wouldn’t have to see him date any other girls. I generally regard the worst possible thing an ex can do as going on to date a better version of me, and that was not going to happen because on a basic anatomical level I am not a man. A “better me” definitely doesn’t have a penis. And also I pretty quickly realized that dating a boy because he’s foreign and well-dressed is just as dumb as dating a girl because she is a girl.
Eventually we did break up. But during our wind-down I must have subconsciously resigned myself to the fate of attracting gay men for the rest of time. I say this because it is now an established rut that I have not managed to break out of. I just ran into some kids I knew in high school who – wildly inappropriately – told me that the boy I dated when I was 17 couldn’t (and wouldn’t) get it up for any girl these days. A different college boyfriend told me that he thought about men while we were having sex. After I told him that was an uncomfortable thing to say, particularly while we were having sex, he very unconvincingly added a “Oh, well, I’m like, joking” that solidified he was not. Last week I attempted to force myself into having a one night stand because I’m increasingly convinced I used up all of my allotted relationships for this lifetime in high school and college only to get back to the guy’s apartment and find that his bedroom closet was full of high heels. Abrupt ending to that night. I really have trouble seeing these things coming.
The Gay Ivy turned out to be a campus with many, many closets that I sincerely wish were unnecessary. Mostly because it pains my cold, black heart to think that anyone feels that it’s easier or better to conceal their sexual preferences. But also because I spent a lot of time in college making out with boys who would rather make out with other boys. And presumably at some point all of my love interests will find the men they are meant to find, and I, having spent my prime barking up the wrong tree, will die alone. I sincerely hope that one day we can live in a society where my future children whom I will purchase from Ethiopia and Haiti will know that the men and women they are sleeping with are consenting because they are attracted to the sexual organs my children will have. And for no other reason.
Is this the most selfish plead for legalized gay marriage you’ve ever heard or what?
But as I mentioned, this particular boyfriend and I live together now. Not because we’re in love, but because we still get along and we’re really good at forgetting about the handful of times that I basically begged him to fornicate with me. Our current living situation is pretty symbiotic. He is much tidier than I am and compulsively does my dishes. And in return I’m pretty sure he has led his very conservative South African family to believe that I am his live-in girlfriend. To top it off, we have never fought over boys because he is into high maintenance macho-diva-types and these days I am asexual.
Right now he is sitting in our living room looking at pictures from the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and watching NBC’s Smash. If only I knew then what I know now. I might have spent this Valentine’s Day dining romantically with a straight live-in boyfriend and not watching NCIS in the impeccably decorated apartment I share with my gay ex.