I had just turned thirty. We met through an online dating site, and I knew from the moment of our first lunch date that I was going to fall hard. He was smooth, very smooth. So smooth that I could only nibble at my salad for fear of choking or throwing up. He told me up-front that he had just separated from his wife a few months ago. He said they’d been together for almost ten years. “Dating for me now is like being a kid in a candy shop!” he said with a sparkle and a smile. Yes, ladies, I know, I should have been thoroughly swaddled in the bolt of red flags flying all around me, but what can I say? He was smooth; I was an idiot. We all have one; maybe more than one. A love to last for all time, that didn’t. There are lots of name variations for everyone’s personal “one”, some favorites are “the jerk,” “the liar,” “she-devil,” “roadkill,” whatever it is, it’s personal. We’ll call mine Dr. Smooth. And it’s not gender-specific, though in my case he was definitely all male.
Following our first date, I couldn’t sit still. I couldn’t be alone in my apartment. I ran over to a girlfriend’s and paced in her living room. “I’ve never felt like this. I feel like I’m going to throw up. Like I’m going to puke up glittering rose petals and floating hearts. My cheeks hurt from smiling so much. What is this?” Being married for ten years, she calmly informed me it was lust. And if I just waited long enough, it would go away; like a rash. “But I don’t want it to go! I like this!” She just smiled as if she knew a really good secret.
That was day one of the very tumultuous and heady love story between myself and Dr. Smooth that lasted a whopping 30 days. It was the most intense 30 days of my life to that point, and I spent half of it beaming and walking on little clouds made of fairy dust, and the other half sobbing because I knew I was going to get clobbered.
Prior this to I was not prone to masochistic tendencies, but something deep inside me said I needed to experience this. I remember sitting on Robin’s blue crushed velvet couch and telling her that this was a leap I needed to make. As girlfriends we’d been through a lot together, but in the past ten years, I had never truly fallen in love. “I think I need to take this leap,” I told her. “My heart tells me this is the time to throw caution to the wind, despite my gut telling me that I’m going to land with a splat.” I looked at her and said, “I know this is going to be bad. But I have to go through it.” She agreed to stand by; mop in hand. So I headed willfully and with great determination into my very own Heartbreak Hotel.
Dr. Smooth called me every night for thirty days. We saw each other twice a week. Then one Sunday we’d had plans to see a movie. I’d bought us some Sugar Babies, but we never ate them. As he was leaving, I tried to give him the Sugar Babies for the road. “Save them for next time,” he said with a smile. This may not seem a significant point, but in hindsight it showed willful and wanton misdirection.
That night he never called. For the previous thirty days, he had never, never called. I knew this was it. My gut was right and I was seconds away from a full-body splat. From day one I had always wanted to throw up, but this time it was for real.
He called later on Monday. He apologized for not calling, said he fell asleep. What he neglected to mention at that time, was that he had fallen asleep in someone else’s bed. My previous feelings of elation and fairy clouds, had been swapped out for hackles, and they were raised. I let it go for that day, basically because I didn’t want to face it. But on Tuesday when he called he said, “We have to talk.” Thanks to my years of Hollywood training, I knew what that meant.
“If you’re breaking up with me, then just do it,” I said. “I don’t want to do it over the phone. I want to see you,” he said. Well tough; forgive me for not giving a damn what you want. I didn’t want to see him. In fact, I never wanted to see him again. In honesty, if we saw each other I knew that he would just spew all his excuses in his smooth way, I’d cry, and then he’d get to console me as only Dr. Smooth could. Yes, that’s how Hollywood would do it, but it just felt too masochistic for even me. So he relented and admitted to me on the phone that he’d left my house and gone to another woman’s. “I’ve never loved anyone, other than my wife, like this,” he told me. I’m very happy for you, now can I have the pieces of my heart back, please?
I would love to say that I collected the pieces, glued them back together and moved forward. I didn’t. I did resume dating, however. In fact, I started to date with a vengeance. I was still reeling a bit, but felt sure that I’d find Mr. Wonderful, or at least Mr. Distraction, out there somewhere. My first dates were about a month post-splat. I had arrogantly arranged for two dates in one day. The first was at a museum and was a disaster from the first moment. He remained mute for the next hour while I babbled on and tried to find something mutual to discuss. Finally, feeling a bit underwhelmed and hoarse, I suggested that it might be best if we just ended it early and went our separate ways. “Sure,” he said. At least he proved he could speak. My next date was an early dinner with Eeyore the lawyer. Between his “woe-is-me”s and talking incessantly about his ex-wife, I finished the meal, then bade him farewell. The best lesson to come from this was the realization that I could drive very well while sobbing uncontrollably. Always good to know.
I can definitely share that my healing process was rough but finite; however, it took a little longer than it should have, and it was entirely my fault. For the next year, Dr. Smooth would periodically call me out of the blue, “just to see how things were going.” Did I mention he was smooth? He said he wanted to be friends. I stood firm on the no-seeing rule, but was far less firm with the no-calling rule. I never called him, but I just couldn’t seem to tell him to stop calling me. It was crazy and my girlfriends were incensed (like they hadn’t ever been an idiot, please! Shall I start mentioning names?).
One of our last phone calls came about a year later. I was at Robin’s place and he called. He wasn’t just calling to check on me, see how I was, or tell me of his latest conquests (he loved sharing his dating woes with me – do I really have masochist in me?); this time he had a real reason for calling. “Bambi [I can’t remember the name of his girl-of-the-moment] came down with an STD so I went to get tested. Apparently I’m a carrier. So I have to call everyone I’ve been with.” I sat in stunned silence. Could this really get any worse? Did you also run over my cat? Did you accidentally poison my grandmother? Is the IRS going to audit me thanks to your tip?
“Well, I better let you go. You have tons of calls to make,” I said. I hung up and burst into tears. With great humility I had to admit to Robin what he’d said. From that point forward, my girlfriends argued over who would get to drive the bus they’d run him down with. I do love them.
But after all that, I still have a smidge of thanks for this boil on the butt of humanity. It’s not just that he taught me to avoid womanizing, red-flag-waving, lying, cheating, bastards; which he did. But when my heart was telling me that I needed to take a leap of faith, it was not faith in Dr. Smooth, nor faith in love at first sight, nor even faith in love curing all. It was faith in myself. My falling for him made me realize that underneath it all the heart is a muscle. And like our biceps or abs, it needs strength-training once in a while. Dr. Smooth was the Thigh Master for my heart. And despite the burn, the end results were fabulous. They say that those of us who have loved (or lusted) once, are far more likely to love again (ideally having learned something in the process).
I did hear from Dr. Smooth one more time. It was in early January, about five years later. He called to check on me.
“How are you doing?” he said.
“I’m wonderful! I just got engaged and I’m madly madly in love,” I told him.
There was a marked silence on the phone. “I’m not sure how I feel about that.”
“You can feel happy for me. I’m over the moon!”
It’s been over six years since that phone call and I haven’t heard a peep. I do hope Bambi’s rash has cleared up.