BY GLORIA MARIS For much of my first year of law school, I was dating a guy who lived out toward Valley Forge. He hated driving into the city, but both his other girlfriend and myself lived here in town. He was almost literally twice as big as I am, and continued to gain weight while we were dating. He detested lawyers, but my law school plans were in place when we started dating, and his other girlfriend was an attorney. He preferred his other girlfriend to me and didn’t tend to hesitate to tell me so.
We dated for the better part of a year. The sex was excellent. Even when it was sub-par, it was very, very good. On either side of the bed he had matching bedstands with drawers. One was mine, and the other was the other girlfriend’s. In my drawer, I kept shampoo, a toothbrush, and toys that I shouldn’t share. I never looked in the drawer on the other side of the bed.
I met the other girlfriend for coffee one time in the summer before I started law school, at his insistence. I don’t remember the content of the conversation. She’s an acquaintance of my ex-husband, as well, though I’m not sure how seriously they ever dated. Late into the relationship, we had a miscommunication via e-mail that demonstrated that neither she nor my lover was ready to call the situation polyamorous.
But this post isn’t about her; it’s about my former lover. He was a depressive perfectionist. When he moved into his house, a post-war starter home, he ripped out his kitchen. I started dating him about a year later, and he still had no kitchen in his house. He was wanting to design it himself, but he could never get the lighting scheme exactly right, or the appliance layout completely ergonomic, or the plumbing correctly planned out. He kept a small fridge next to his desk, where he kept beer and orange juice. He ate a lot of microwave popcorn. He kept an electric drip coffeemaker in the bathroom. His coffee wasn’t too bad at all.
He was very handy. He intended to do much of the kitchen renovation on his own, and he helped with some fix-it tasks in my home. But when he painted a room in his own house, he didn’t know that he needed gray primer to go under ruby-red paint.
Since he had no kitchen, he ate almost all of his meals in restaurants. (It’s no surprise that he kept gaining weight while we dated.) He almost always found a flaw in the meal: an egg was too crispy; the sauce was better last time; the coffee was no good. One night he left no tip at a restaurant in the city — though, in his defense, the dish was listed on the menu as being prepared with market vegetables, but was served with reheated frozen niblets.
He hated traveling, but his job sent him to southeast Asia. He preferred self-directed, productive work, but his employer made him a manager. One time at his house, he was on a conference call; I tried to bring him a cup of coffee or something and he became enraged at me for distracting him. I believe he’s working for a different employer now.
I think he didn’t want to hurt my feelings, but he didn’t know how to quit dating me and see only his other girlfriend. He preferred her as friend and lover; they were much more compatible socially, emotionally, and sexually than he and I were. We dated for quite a while longer than we should have. On the night I broke up with him, I took the train to the usual suburban outpost, carrying a sack full of things he’d left at my place. When he arrived, I put the sack in the back seat of the car, climbed into the front seat, and asked him to sit for a minute rather than drive away. I forget exactly what I said to end the relationship. He wasn’t upset at all. I think he was relieved that I’d done the hard part.
We went to his house to empty out my drawer, and then, on the way back to the train station, went out for dinner.
Gloria Maris blogs at GLOMARIZATION