You may not realize you want him, but you ABSOLUTELY deserve him. (Trust me, I know.)
I thought smoking was insanely sexy.
I blame the film industry and this one photo I saw of Eddie Furlong during my formative years.
If cigarette smoking was hot, the implied cigarette was the epitome of sex appeal.
All it took was spotting some lanky, scruffy dude with a scowl on his face and a chain connecting his wallet to his jeans and a chorus of Right Said Fred began to play in my head.
Guys who had the implied cigarette were such sexy bad boys that they DIDN'T EVEN NEED to have cigarette in their mouths to convey their badness.
Needless to say, when I did start dating I was always on the lookout for that implied cigarette.
Polite to a fault, daughter of a priest, homely and overweight, of course I was drawn to bad boys.
I was one dual armpit sniff away from being Mary Katherine Gallagher.
I was surrounded by smart, sweet, kind dudes who my parents would adore.
But all I wanted was the guy who played shitty guitar loudly and had a troubled relationship with his father.
If I ever actively thought about this pattern as a teenager, I probably just chalked up my shit taste in men to my deep desire to shed the shackles of convention.
But the truth was sadder than those stores at the mall that just sell porcelain clown figurines: I hated myself, I was insecure, and when a boy didn't treat me well it was exactly what I thought I deserved.
That's what my dating life was. A series of increasingly bad boys. That started to change when I met Greg.
Two years ago we met. He lived with girlfriend. They'd been together roughly 10 years. That didn't stop him from joining OKCupid and romancing me in between shifts at the record store where he worked part time.
He was a filmmaker (who only shot in black and white, of course) and a painter.
He told me I was beautiful. He told me I was a brilliant writer.
He told me he never expected to ever actually meet someone on OKCupid and fall for them. He told me all of this in beautiful (yeah, they were beautiful) emails and laying on our sides staring at each other for hours in my bed for one perfect languorous month.
He would hold my hand when we walked and tell me "I'm bad news."
When a man tells you he's bad news and that you deserve better, listen to him.
After he ended things with me he came in and out of my life for months via text and the odd hangout.
When it was good it was great, funny quips, great conversations about art and life. When it was bad it was awful.
"Do you think I'm a bad person?" I asked him, desperate to be told I was good. He'd shrug. "Only you can answer that."
When his next relationship didn't work out, it was my fault.
I lay in the fetal position on a twin bed in a dorm where I was living while teaching a writing course and sobbed as he sent me message after message insinuating that my encouragement of his new relationship was an elaborate plan to hurt him.
He sent me pictures of all the woman he fucked. He held on to secret things I told him and used them against me to make me feel small.
"Your problem is that you aren't brave enough," he'd say. I wasn't a brave writer, I wasn't a brave person.
I told him a candy bar I bought him was cheaper than it was so he wouldn't make a big deal out of it, and this was an example of all the ways in which I was a liar.
The problem was I couldn't argue with him about it, because early on in our relationship I'd told him that fibbing was something that used to be a problem for me.
Because I'd once admitted to being a liar, nothing I said or did or thought or meant could ever be trusted.
Even when we weren't dating this was how things were. I'd block him for a while, but then I'd go back and apologize (apologize!) and the cycle would begin again.
I lied to my friends about talking to him.
I let him tell me that my dating life would be so much easier if I just lost weight.
I dated other men who were bad in their own right. After six months I asked one of them, "are you my boyfriend?" and he shrugged and scoffed saying, "I mean...I guess?"
I dated another man for nearly a year and when I asked him if he was ready to make it official he was confused, "I thought I'd been pretty clear about not being ready for anything serious."
When a guy tells you he is bad, listen to him.
While all of this was happening, I was changing. At first I worried that I was transforming into a jaded damaged New York cliche.
But then I started to see that it was something else entirely: I didn't hate myself anymore. When someone was short or mean or disrespectful to me I wouldn't feel sad and hurt, I'd feel annoyed, sick of it, and ready to move on.
In short, I was growing up.
When my ex (who didn't want anything serious) and I split up, I wasn't in a rush to hook up with someone new.
I felt like our relationship was unfinished. In many respects I still do. I miss him and I think it's a fucking shame he doesn't miss me.
Our personal timing was off, and what happened between us is a sad memory of missed opportunity to me.
But it would be less sad if I had listened to him very early on when he said there was a block for him when it came to our relationship. I wasn't ready to do that.
I wasn't supposed to date Buddy.
I was supposed to have sex with Buddy. He was supposed to be one in a line of torrid flings to amuse my palate as I moved on.
We've been dating for two months and are joined at the hip. He told me he loved me on our second date and it didn't feel insane.
"YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO BE MY REBOUND!" I say to him when he does something like hold a door for me, or tell me I'm beautiful, or buys me dinner.
He knows about my past and likes to quote a Chris Rock sketch. "I ain' never been to jail, I take care of my kids," he says. What he means is that because I've only ever dated bad boys, all he's got to do is stuff like kiss me on the forehead and ask me how I'm doing and he comes across as a goddamn saint.
He's a good man. He's NICE. He's a smart guy. He's affable.
He's a nerd of the highest order.
He's everything I would have shrugged off when I started dating because I felt like, frankly, I didn't deserve to be treated well.
Dating him is proof of all the hard work I’ve done on myself. I don’t need to be with a person who encourages my feelings of insecurity and inferiority. I need a person whose love reflects my own hard earned strength and self acceptance. Buddy's that guy. I'm my best self with him, and I like to think the inverse is also true.
He's the nice guy I didn't want who I absolutely deserve.