Throwback Thursday: It Gets Better (Seriously.)

Every Thursday, I dig out an old diary and share an entry sans editing (in hopes we’ll all see my grammar and apostrophe use improve) with a short commentary. If you like laughing with/at Young Ashley, feel free to use the handy search bar to the left and simply type “Throwback Thursday” and you’ll find the whole archive. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday August 8, 2001

“The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.” Romans 6:10

How do you feel when you know you’re loved? 

           Really giggly

I so don’t know what to do. Ok, I was checking my e-mail when I came across one from Nikki. She replied to a bunch of questions I asked her, then she was like, “Well in case you haven’t guessed, Cory’s been calling like 10000x for me to ask u. So just give me an answer so I won’t be bugged anymore.”

I wrote back, saying I didn’t get what she meant, to buy myself more time. He wants to go out with me. What do I do? Should I say yes and see what happens? Or say no and not take the chance? I’m afraid I’m going to get freaked out like what I did with Tony and dump him a week later. I’m also afraid he’ll try to pull something on me. But I seriously don’t know what to do. But then there’s another thing: I barely know him! I’ve talked to him maybe a total of 5 times. I didn’t even know who he was till Nikki’s B-day Bash in February!

Oh Jesus. 

Luv ya, Ash

I need time to think. 

Good lord, I’d like to smack this girl. You know what you do in this situation? You say no and tell Nikki to give Cory your phone number and tell her that if he decides to grow a pair, he can ask you himself. Then you move on with your life, like a self-respecting young woman.

It’s not so hard.

For the record, I’d like to say that I’ve matured quite a bit since 2001. I don’t accept second-party boyfriends. I don’t keep boyfriends around unless I am absolutely crazy about them. I do this because wasting time in this fashion is frustrating and painful for both parties.

The handful of “boyfriends” I had in middle school came to me by way of Nikki. She was the pretty popular one, but in a pinch I would do. One of them was a boy named Tony, whom I remember only for looking like a pumpkin. Eventually Cory got my number and we would awkwardly stand next to each other at lunch and while waiting for the buses after school, so yeah. It was pretty serious.

I got the feeling that they felt they were settling for me, but I was just happy to have the attention of someone for a while. Being able to say that I had a BF was prize enough – I didn’t really care who it was. This is probably why I spent the first part of my dating life believing any guy’s interest was genuine. I figured they were just bidding time till a prettier girl came along. It didn’t matter if we were just hanging out in his dorm room while he organized his Radiohead discography or if he had planned an afternoon of hiking (complete with disposable cameras, granola bars, and a thermos of cocoa) with homemade chili in the slowcooker at home – I just refused to invest myself. I’d like to maintain it was because I wasn’t sure I felt a connection with him, but you could just as easily attribute my commitment reluctance to self-preservation. Eventually I met men who intrigued me for years at a time, but that’s for a different post. But if there was a message I could relay to Young Ashley, it would be this:

You feel really giggly when you’re loved? That’s the best you could do? I don’t think that’s the kind of love your bible’s devotion was asking you about. Even though you lack critical thinking skills, have some faith in yourself. If these turds don’t see how great you are, don’t waste your time, energy, or emotions on them. You’re meant for greater things than to be the second-choice girlfriend of a pumpkin.

Heart shaped glasses

If I had kept these glasses, I never would have had an issue getting a boyfriend.

Jaggerbombs & Sushi: Determining Romantic Compatibility

A few months ago, I was having a conversation with a friend about new relationships. He was developing a theory (he’s always developing a theory) about how you can usually tell if you’re compatible with someone by just a few criteria. It varies between individuals, but everyone has some small collection of questions he or she uses to weed out potential partners.

When I asked him to clarify, he gladly did (he’s always happy to clarify). “I like to ask a girl what kind of sushi she likes,” he said. “And if she says she doesn’t eat sushi, then why the fuck am I even talking to this girl? And if she’s like,” he paused to change his voice to high-pitched and squeaky. “‘Oh, I like california rolls,’ then I’m like meh, okay, we’ll see. But if she’s like, ‘I get octopus, yellowtail, squid salad, and a new roll each time,’ then I’m like DAMN GURL. ”

I didn’t bother asking for another example because I knew he would go on.

“Second point: the kind of car she drives,” he said, probably pausing to drink wine (he likes wine). “I mean like, the car she chooses to drive. If we’re younger and it’s just like a matter of circumstance that she’s driving a Geo Tracker, I won’t judge her.”

“The Tracker was awesome and you know it,” I said. He wasn’t going to get away with dissing my bitchin’ ride during high school.

“But the car she chooses to drive – the one she bought when she could choose what ever she wants. If she drives something like a Neon, I’m probably going to hate her. And she probably doesn’t read a lot.”

“Just like if a guy picks me up in a truck. I bet he’s listening to Big and Rich and probably won’t get my Arrested Development references,” I said.

“Yes. Point three… how does she like her steak done? If she gets it well-done, then shit – why not just order a hot dog?”

“Might as well be eating leather,” I said.

“Point four….I haven’t thought of. I’m still developing this theory,” he said, then probably changed the subject to something he saw on Twitter the other day.

I wanted to come up with a list of my own criteria, but I liked his too much to get rid of them completely, so I decided to include them in my list. Before you judge me, just know that I can do ridiculous things like this right now. As a girl woman who is 1082974937% single, it’s responsible to be thinking about how to distinguish between the men I tolerate and the ones with whom I’d like to drink craft beer.

I don’t pretend true compatibility is so easily reduced, but these are a few points that will need to be addressed or determined by some means within the first few dates.

  1. What kind of sushi do you like?
  2. Realistically, what kind of car do you see yourself driving?
  3. How do you like your steak?
  4. Red or white wine?
  5. Have you done a jaggerbomb unironically in the last two years?
  6. How often do you talk to your mother?
  7. What do you wear when you work out?
  8. Do you use Netflix for tv shows or movies?

While there aren’t correct answers to these, their answers will indicate the level of our compatibility. I’d like to date someone who is adventurous (tries new food), responsible (doesn’t waste money on needlessly jacking up a car), unafraid (steak is rare to medium-rare), spontaneous (red and white, OBVIOUSLY), intelligent (idea for a thing: jaggerbombs that lower sperm count), independent (a pleasant conversation or two each week), confident (no t-shirts cut from the shoulder to the hip, showing off his pecs), and easy-going (tv shows).

That being said, if Ryan Gosling picked me up in a rusty Fiesta to drink Coors and jaggerbombs while he talked about how much he benched that morning, I’d probably still look forward to his “Wut up” text the next day.

Hey girl. I heard you like Cinderella's pumpkin, so I decided to drive it.

Hey girl. I heard you like Cinderella’s pumpkin, so I decided to drive it.

SWOON.

SWOON.

My point? Ryan Gosling is hot & women are fickle.

I know I’m confusing, I’m a woman.

While lying in my bed earlier this evening, I saw a tweet that I nearly retweeted until I saw it had already been retweeted over 400 times. Just to spite it (the tweet, like it has feelings or something), I didn’t partake. Also, because I’d rather help out the little people rather than some woman who gets 400 retweets for a mildly clever and poorly punctuated tweet. Bitch.

I can’t remember the exact phrase of it, and it’s too far back in the day’s tweeting history to check, but it said something like, “I’m a woman. I don’t know what I want, but I can be mad anyway.” And while that probably sounds psychotic to most men, I’m sure it makes a lot of sense to women. It’s a good thing that I don’t write a political or advice blog, because I’m sure feminists would be all over me for going on about this, but whatever. With all of the other personal details I’ve shared on this, I shouldn’t have any problem admitting that I spend a great deal of time not knowing what I want.

This point is moot though, because for right now at least, I think I do know what I want: I want to know that I don’t have to depend on someone else. I started seeing someone a few weeks ago, and I’ve decided to try this new thing where the guy in my life isn’t the single most important thing in my life. Fascinating concept, right? I’m excited to try this new thing out. I’ve spent a decent amount of time on my own. I’ve finally discovered the peace that comes in the absence of other people. The sort of peace that comes when drunk cleaning your apartment and dressing up your piggy bank like Walter White, writing snippets to your 21-year old self, decoupaging Vonnegut quotes, and experiencing the unique horror that arises from OkCupid messages and consequent awkward dates.

I’m not going to claim that I enjoyed every moment of this solitary period, but I know that it made me a stronger person. It forced me to examine myself, reevaluate my priorities, solidify my goals, establish a career, and see myself as an individual.

But this new-found independence comes with its own setbacks. For instance, now that I’m sort of seeing someone, I don’t particularly know how to handle the fact that he’s willing to bring me whatever I need when I’m sick. So instead of telling him I could go for some homestyle chicken dumpling soup, cuddles, and rewatching four episodes of Breaking Bad, I heat up a can of soup, turn on a heating pad, and watch Netflix on my own. Of course, an episode in, I discovered that I did sort of want him there, but it was past the point of a reasonable request, so I didn’t tell him.

How bizarre is that? I’ve spent the better part of six months aching for someone to be there for me, and now that I have someone willing to do that, I’m like, “Nah, I got this.” I’ve gotten used to taking care of myself and I’m not quite ready to give that up. Call it pride or self-preservation, it amounts to the same thing: me, fairly content on my own. I think it’s just me not wanting him to see me vulnerable like this. By vulnerable, I mean sick and terribly whiny. So far, I’ve been able to present myself with semi-styled hair and matching outfits. I don’t want to destroy the illusion that I’m consistently lovely by him seeing me in pajama pants and a ratty college sweatshirt. Since he reads this, I’ll just let him imagine it. With any luck, the image is better than reality.

What I’m trying to get at is that I think I’ve always struggled maintaining my sense of self while dating. Instead of seeing myself as just Ashley, I tend to see myself as Ashley in relation to X. By acknowledging that it’s unreasonable for him to drive a half hour to bring me soup when I could spend 90 seconds heating up a can of Healthy Choice, I’m asserting that I’m not the kind of girl who needs to be taken care of constantly.

I think that’s what Destiny’s Child was talking about in that Independent Women song, right? The shoes on my feet –  I bought them, the soup that I eat – I heat it.

It’s all the same.

Returning the Ring

As I discussed in an earlier post, I have mixed feelings about autobiographical fiction. The following is very, very much based in reality. I wrote it about two years ago as an autobiographical fiction assignment for my personal narrative class. I suppose I could tell you what parts are fictional, but that would take away all the mystery and fun, wouldn’t it?

By the way, any feedback and comments are appreciated.

_____

I left my car running in the driveway. The exhaust coughed as I walked to his front door with a plastic bag. It was sometime before seven and Scott was sure to be in bed for at least another four hours.

Good morning, love. I hope you have a wonderful day!

My day was already planned. Feeling sorry for myself after a night of little sleep, I had called in sick to work. The idea of spending eight hours typing useless data and making numbed small talk with women in surrounding cubicles was just too much. After graciously returning Scott’s belongings, I would stop into the coffee shop and get a quad-shot iced americano that, between the sickly bitter espresso and obnoxious amount of ice, would eventually give me a headache. That headache would later be dulled with a half bottle of vodka and fruit juice while I got bikini baked.

Don’t let David hit on you anymore, otherwise Imma have to go down to Ohio to beat his ass. 

His junk had to go. A cello concerto scribbled on a stack of staff paper, a Russian textbook I had borrowed, pit-stained undershirts I had begged him to bleach, and a six pack of Leinie’s Red. I walked up to the front porch and dropped it all into a heap. I dug into my pocket for the last item – a ring of his grandmother’s.

xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxxo

The tiny pile insulted me. After a year, this was all I had to show. Scott wasn’t the nesting type, apparently. Not with me anyway. He never said sweet things to me. I figured he just had the quiet kind of affection. So of course it was a little surprising to see that he was willing to send adorations via text to a girl who lived three states away.

I’m going to rehearsal now, but I’ll be thinking of you the whole time. xoxo

I wanted the revenge to be grand. I wanted him humiliated. Everything I could think of seemed so typical: Spraying painting “cheater” across the front of his house. Salting the lawn. Sprinkling sugar in his gas tank. Putting his name and number in the craigslist casual encounters. Signing him up for subscriptions to eight different fetish magazines. Slamming an axe into the hood of his car. Buying a billboard and listing his indiscretions. I wanted to do it all though. I wanted to make his life as difficult as possible.

I wanted him to burn with shame the way I had when I had seen the text messages the night before. Scanning his inbox, I found he told this “Belle” that he loved her more times in the previous five hours than he had in eleven months with me. The worst part was that the texts were burned into my memory and kept playing on repeat like a short film.

I love you, Belle. 

I put the ring between my teeth and reached to tear pages out of the Russian textbook and shred his concerto. I ripped the t-shirts in half while considering what to do with the ring. I could toss it in the lawn and let the lawn mower jam up next time he mowed. I could somehow melt it down into the shape of a dog turd and send it with a friendly note.

I wanted that ring to be destroyed. He had left the other things with me without a thought. He had copies of the concerto on his computer. The textbook was two editions old, and he neither remembered nor cared about the vocabulary and verbs. I cracked open a beer and tipped it upside down, soaking the pile.

Next door, a neighbor was unraveling a hose to water his flowers. He watched while I smiled, waved, and reached for another bottle. I poured all six onto his things.

It started to feel good. Almost as good as I had felt the night before, slapping him across the face.

I wish I could be there to hold you as you fell asleep tonight. 

But this ring was more than all of that. It was still resting between my front teeth and saliva, no longer held back by tight lips, was beginning to creep out of the corners. He had given it to me two months earlier, on the morning of an audition. We had spent the better part of a year at universities two hours apart and I had decided to transfer to his university. I told my friends I was transferring to save money, but I really did it to be closer to Scott. He had encouraged me, saying it was obvious that music was in my soul and that I should study with the violin professor at his university.

“Literature doesn’t suit you,” he told me. “But it’s obvious that music is your real passion.”

Flattered by his apparent ability to realize things about myself that I didn’t, I prepared an audition to complete my minor. He had done his best to convince me to change degrees altogether, but I wasn’t willing to dedicate four more years to a bachelor’s degree. While my fingers were callusing and my neck developed a persistent red mark from my violin, Scott encouraged me and told me he was looking forward to playing in the orchestra with me.

On the morning of the audition, I was running through the second movement of the Haydn concerto in a moist practice room when he had knocked on the door, an americano in one hand and the other in his pocket. “Morning, love,” he said. “How’s it going?”

“I’m nervous. I can’t get the double stops right in the cadenza,” I said, taking the americano from his hand. “I mean, I can get them right half the time, but the other half sounds like crap.”

“You have nothing to worry about,” Scott said, kissing my forehead. He sat down on the piano bench. “You’re going to get in no problem. Half the violinists here suck anyway. Play a little for me.”

I took a drink from the americano, ignoring how it burnt my tongue and focusing instead on the tensions in my body. My left shoulder had a knot. My wrists were sore. The spot on my neck felt raw. My fingers were sweaty and rigid. The caffeine I was sucking down wasn’t going to help me feel any less shaky. I handed the drink to Scott and picked up my violin. While I played, Scott watched. I got through the cadenza perfectly. When I finished, he stood up and kissed me again.

“I’m proud of you, Ashley,” he told me, hugging me. “Like I said before, you’re going to do just fine. There’s no reason to stress.”

“I know, I just haven’t done this in a while.”

“I want to give you something,” Scott said. He reached into his pocket, retrieved the ring, and pressed it into my hand. “It’s for luck.”

“Thank you,” I said, looking at it. A think silver band with small dots framing a smooth center. It made me think of a zipper. I slid it over my right ring finger, not wanting him to think I thought it signified an engagement or promise.

“It used to be my grandmother’s. It’s really not worth anything, but I wanted you to have it,” he said. “I found it in my dresser the other day.”

“Thank you,” I said, a little amazed he had given me a family ring. “It’s really nice of you.”

His jaw got tight and he suddenly looked like he regretted giving it to me. “It’s not like…you know, a ring ring.” he said. “It’s not an heirloom or anything, just something my grandfather made for my grandma and I somehow got a hold of it.”

“Don’t worry, I know. An engagement ring would have to have a big ol’ diamond, anyway,” I joked, sensing his discomfort.

I still think he’s an asshole.

I took the ring out of my mouth and looked at it. Slimy with my spit, it shined a bit more than usual. It was ugly. I had recognized that the moment he gave it to me. Since it was too big for any of my fingers, I had put it on a chain of beads and occasionally wore them around my neck. He had given it to me halfheartedly so I wore it halfheartedly. Maybe it was his last ditch effort to commit to me. By giving me a tangible sign of commitment – even if it was a worthless piece of family jewelry – maybe he felt like he would have to fully commit to me. Maybe it was a peace offering when I didn’t realize there was a conflict. Maybe it was a pathetic attempt at making up for what I was about to find in a few weeks. Whatever it was, it didn’t make much sense.

I remembered his face the night before, when he came into the room, seeing me with his phone my hand. Shocked. Eyes and mouth gaping. Taking a second and hoping the worst hadn’t happened, he swallowed and asked, “Did I miss a call?”

“No, but who the fuck is ‘Belle My Dearest’?”

Suddenly I realized the emptiness in my stomach. I blinked hard and dropped the ring on the pile. I took the empty bottles, placed each neatly in the cardboard caddy, and crowned the weepy mound.