It all started in the usual way. I mean, usual in that we use our phones to find our soulmates these days. Soulmates now constituting anyone with whom you have a more meaningful conversation than, “Hey, want to see an unsolicited picture of my d***?” So in that sense, yes, the usual way. A right swipe.
Everything in hindsight, right? When I saw the match come through, I started going through my usual thought process. Again, all usual. I thought, he’s probably too preppy. He’s probably too young. He’s probably some kind of arrogant jerk who hangs out in Buckhead. Never once did I think, he probably has a girlfriend. At least, not for the first couple of days.
I have to be honest here, and I hate myself for it. I liked our conversation. We have a lot in common. We read the same books. We’re both transplants in the South, hailing from small New England towns in Connecticut (what exactly is Torrington, anyways?) and Rhode Island, respectively. He has (for someone I now know is a total dumpster fire) pretty OK ‘Game of Thrones’ fan theories. He seems really liberal and open-minded for ex-Air Force. He seemed . . . promising. Again, I hate myself for this. But in a sea of dudes who use the letter U in instances such as, “How are u?” or “Just getting thru this day,” you value the smart ones. You at least perceive them to have potential. You give the benefit of the doubt that intellect = moral upstandingness.
Then, you start to notice the cadence of your texting change. This all happened from a Thursday to a Sunday. During the day, a mile of texts, then suddenly he’d fall off at night. Back first thing in the morning with an apology of being busy, or being out. So it kept going, until Sunday, when it all came to a head. A head of Brussel Sprouts, in fact.
Something was amiss. There’s no way that great of a conversation would lead to ghosting, so what gives? This is where I go to my best friend who is, genetically I think, part Private Eye. I say, Dori, here are the facts. Can you go sort this guy out for me? Within minutes she’s back with pictures of Meg. Sweet, beautiful, and obviously my kindred spirit, Meg.
Much like anything on the internet, what you find is up to you to scrutinize and discern, right? So we decide they must have just broken up recently. She isn’t in a single place on his FB, and her profile read like a long life together that maybe had recently ended and rather than deal with the idea of removing the relationship from a public place, the public place had just been abandoned. I decide not to ask because if he’s on the rebound, it will reveal itself soon enough.
So we’re back to Sunday night. The reason, he said, that we couldn’t hang out that evening, was because he had a cookout to attend. Even better, HE was providing the steaks for the event, having recently been promoted at work and shipped some Omahas. Pictures of the steaks were sent – not alarming that there were two, right, because he was feeding a crowd. Then, in the midst of a conversation about the Brussel Sprouts in the pictures, he’s gone. For the rest of the night.
I decide more digging is required and this is when I find out, not only are they NOT broken up, they live together. And I feel terribly. But more than that, it becomes my job to rectify this situation.
I stayed up all night. Should I contact her? Should I ask him? What is the right thing to do here? I have, admittedly, been watching a lot of Sister Wives lately and the last thing I want is to be accused of Catfishing in some crazy way. I am a Saudi Arabian Prince. Please send one million dollars and break up with your cheating boyfriend, immediately.
So I toss and turn all night, then sometime around 5:30 am, I think the only thing that I know to be true. I would want to know. So I messaged her, hoping to sound genuine and not like someone with a relationship-ruining agenda. This is my first time at this. In the midst of hoping to be kind, however, is my own level of distaste for this dude and the hours of my time he took up with texting that I could have been spent, you know, NOT texting a dude with a girlfriend. So in a small act of vengeance, I send him the message I sent her and explain to him that he’s a real dick. THIS DUDE, who we’re gonna call Dick Burns, by the way, IS A REAL DICK.
Some time goes by and she messages me back. To say he denied it and she believes him. That many of their friends have had their accounts hacked and fake profiles started and similar situations, etc. Before you judge her, let’s all imagine the place you’re in. You live with a person, who, for two years has never given you reason to doubt them, and you’re faced with a message from a crazy stranger at 5:30 in the morning. Of course you’re going to listen to your love and give your heart another chance. Only, I cannot, deep down, let this happen to this girl.
Seriously, y’all, SHE IS GORGEOUS. She also speaks 3 languages and plays three instruments, and has a great and important job. She is bright and sweet and all the things you want to save from a dude like our old pal, Dick Burns.
So again, faced with having no idea how to approach this, I just started spouting off the facts I knew. Things that you can’t learn from a stolen profile. Life facts. Timelines. I mention the steaks and ask if that dinner was for her. And this is where the tide turned. SHE MADE THOSE GD BRUSSEL SPROUTS. What kind of dude sends pictures of a dinner his girlfriend helped to make? Oh wait, I know. The guy who also sends pictures of dinner on his girlfriend’s grandmother’s china. LIKE HER SPECIAL CHINA. The same guy who crops his girlfriend out of pictures she took to use for his Tinder profile. This is the part where I can’t even with this guy.
I give her all I’ve got. I know it to be imperative that she believe me. In a way that I feel really convinced the Universe brought me here to save her, I give her every piece of knowledge I have to empower her to go. And she does.
In less than an hour, she tells me she’s contacted their leasing office. She’s started packing, found a place to stay, and has a plan in place for delivering the news. She is leaving, proverbially setting him and their life on fire. I feel proud of a stranger in ways I never thought possible. She tells me the plan starts with her printing out our entire conversation and putting it on display for him.
Because I challenge any movie to be more interesting than my life, we decide to meet for drinks. Never for a second did we feel like strangers. Especially not after the amazing laugh we share over chocolate-covered strawberries. You guys. HE SENT HER CHOCOLATE-COVERED STRAWBERRIES AS AN APOLOGY. And the note? It said, “Enjoy.”
To which I say, if I have anything to do with it, “Bitch, she will.” She will enjoy her freedom. Her growth. The days when she remembers being with him was far more lonely or empty than even her roughest of times right now. Her ability to pursue happiness beyond betrayal. Her ability to recreate an environment of trust in her life. Also, let’s be honest, when she’s ready, the fun of a new smooch.
This is Meg’s story, so we’re not going to fill it with details of last year, but I know one thing to be true. I found her to help her, and she found me to remind me. The parallels between her jerk and my jerk are almost uncanny. We shake heads while we share stories of what it’s like to live with an alcoholic narcissist who suffers from depression. We feel relief in the empathy. There is joy for her in the realization that she will come out the other side of this, joy for me because I realize that I have. In this joy, an important bond was quickly and indelibly formed. What luck to have found such an amazing new friend.
Where we go from here is forward. Forward as friends! Forward in her healing. Forward in telling anyone who will listen that Dick Burns is a douche. Forward in fighting the good fight against dudes who lie and cheat. Forward in holding other human beings accountable for their actions. Forward to a better space for all concerned. Except Dick. I have a feeling his space isn’t going to be so great, Karma being a bigger bitch than a Kardashian.
In the meantime, let’s drink some champs, eat some (chocolate-covered) strawberries, and toast to Meg, who is braver and smarter than most of us. And who is also my new wingman.
Read more from Jenn at her blog, The Art of Being Impossible.