Dating a Woman with an Eating Disorder – What I’ve Learned

So last week, I wrote about Johnny.

This week, he wrote about me. He even came up with this week’s title. Ladies and gents, a guest blog post from the man I’m dating, Johnny Burkhart.

Beauty & The Beast

What It’s Like To Date A Woman Recovering From An Eating Disorder

When Amanda asked me to write a guest blog, I was hesitant to say the least. Could I really be honest about what it’s like to date a woman with a binge eating disorder and would she still love me afterwards? I pray that the latter part is true.

Another reason I was hesitant was because she wanted me to respond to an article entitled 5 Reasons To Date A Girl With An Eating Disorder written by an anonymous guy on the misogynistic website “Return of Kings”. The author of the article, who writes under an alias (ahem, coward), claims to “specialize in dating culture and social intelligence”. Before I read the article, I glanced at the comments below it which were strewn with hate for this anonymous guy and disgust for the article. Alrighty then, this oughta be great. After I read the actual article, I realized this guy had no idea what he was talking about. The article did not contain any intelligence, but was possibly his attempt at humor? One can only hope.

Apparently any idiot can spew out a bunch of nonsense and have it posted on the internet. So why shouldn’t I give it a shot?

This post is in no way a response to that article, and if you have any sense at all, you will totally ignore that article and not give it any more energy than it has already received. What I have written below is simply my experience dating Amanda and is not a blanket statement about what it’s like to date women with eating disorders or specifically binge eating disorders.

Honestly Though! – One of the things that most attracted me to Amanda was her honesty. I don’t think we would be together today if it weren’t for her brutal honesty. I read her blog before we ever went on our first date, so I knew what kind of craziness I was signing up for. I was in awe of how honest she was in her blog, and even face to face with people. It’s truly inspiring and sometimes a little scary, especially when she writes about me in her blog.

Something that came to me after reading her blog was that I had grown up with a binge eater. I had never called it that or thought of it in the terms she puts it in, but my mother was/is a binge eater. I watched her slowly put on the pounds as I grew up and saw the toll that it took on her body. She is now in recovery for it and working on getting healthier which I am incredibly proud of her for.

This realization caught me off guard, and I was afraid that if Amanda found out, she wouldn’t want to date me. I was afraid that she might think that I was trying to heal some old shit with my mother – which could be true, let’s face it – and that she wouldn’t want any part of it. I mean, we did meet when we were at a retreat center where she came to do some major healing around her ED. But I knew that honesty was the only course of action here, so I told her.

Honesty plays a big role in our relationship today and it has to. It has to go both ways. We have to be honest with each other. That could be said for any relationship really, but when you’re dating a binge eater that is especially true. Even when it’s hard and I feel that pit in the bottom of my stomach, no pun intended, I know that I have to be honest with Amanda. So bear with me as I get real honest about some shit here.

Shame vs. Accountability “You ate all the cookies?!!”  – When we first started dating, Amanda told me that I couldn’t say “anything” to her about her food decisions. I understand that shame plays a big role with women who have ED’s, I get it! But there’s a fine line between shame and accountability when you date/live with a woman who is a binge eater.

There are times when I bite my tongue because I don’t want risk her feeling shamed by me. Look, I don’t want to sound like her mother or anything. But we do share food and expenses, so there does need to be some form of accountability for what we consume. So when I ask where all the Fudge Mint Cookies are, I am not trying to shame her. I just want some fucking cookies!

I have learned to know when to pick my battles. Sometimes you can’t win, no matter what, you just can’t! When she does eat all the cookies, I know better than to say “why did you eat all the cookies, what were you thinking?” That would be shaming. I have also learned that if she buys cupcakes and there’s only one left, I better not eat it without asking her first or there will be hell to pay.

Now, when she asks if we can go get some ice cream, I know better than to say to her, “Really? Ice cream? Is that such a great choice right now?” I either say “Yeah, let’s go get some ice cream”, or “No thanks.” It can be that simple. I know better than to try and play her mom and monitor her food choices – I think that’s part of the reason we’re in this whole mess in the first place. That’s not my job nor do I ever want that job. My job is to love her no matter what her food choices are that day or that moment and to try to encourage her to be the best she can be.

The Emotional Roller Coaster Ride – They say that women are ruled by their emotions, and having an eating disorder just adds to that equation. Dating a woman with an ED can be quite the emotional roller coaster. The ups and downs, good decisions followed by bad decisions, craziness and uncertainty make for some interesting times.

There are days when she feels good about herself and she makes good decisions. She’s confident and it seems nothing can get in her way. Those are the days when she loves me and I can do nothing wrong, she’s supportive and nonjudgmental. Even if I say the wrong thing to her she can just laugh it off.

Then there are the days when she doesn’t want to get out of bed, let alone get dressed. She makes unhealthy decisions, like eating cake just before going to sleep. She has zero confidence in herself or what she’s doing in life. Those are the days when if I make the slightest comment about anything she wants to kill me and I would rather be anywhere else but by her side. Thankfully there are less of these days and more of the good days or I might have to reconsider the situation.

Amanda is one of the most ambitious and positive people I have ever met or had the pleasure of being in a relationship with. But when she has bad days, there’s not much I can say or do to bring her out of it. As much as possible, I try and let her find her own solutions to things and encourage her to look inside at what’s really going on. I know from experience that people need to really sit in their shit and feel it before they are ready to come out of it.

The same fire that fuels her passion for dance and performing is also at the heart of her addiction in some way.

“It is a beast, this thing that stirs in the core of her being, but it is also the star of her innermost nature. We have to care for this suffering with extreme reverence so that, in our fear and anger at the beast, we do not overlook the star.” – Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul

Body Image & Sex – When I was 19 years old, I told my live-in girlfriend that if she got fat that I would leave her. OK, OK, put down your weapons ladies! That was a long time ago and I have learned to be more compassionate. I’d also like to think I’ve gotten a lot smarter about how to talk to women. Key word, “think”.

Many years later, I find myself in a relationship with a woman whose weight has slowly but steadily increased since we began dating. Now I would never say anything to her about this because it really doesn’t matter to me anymore. I find her just as sexy and attractive as when we first began dating.

Sexy to me isn’t about being rail thin or starving yourself or working out 8 hours a day. Sexy to me is about how you carry yourself, the love that you share with others and being emotionally present. Amanda has that; I mean did you see her Roar performance? This woman has got that attitude and drive that just does it for me and it doesn’t matter what the number on the scale says.

Amanda has asked me before if I think she is fat or has gained weight but I don’t take the bait. I’m not going to stand over her shoulder as she steps on the scale either. It’s not my job or place to say if she’s gained weight or needs to lose a few pounds. Again, my job is to love her just the way she is, fat, thin, clear skin, or broken out.

I’m not saying it’s always easy because it’s not. Having sex with someone who just engulfed a bowl of vanilla ice cream covered in chocolate chips doesn’t exactly do it for me. Then there’s the days she wants to make out in the morning with a huge whitehead on her upper lip from binging on chocolate the night before. “Um… hey babe maybe you uh… can you take care of that before we uh… um I mean have you uh… oh boy!” Thankfully those times are the exceptions and not the rule.

The “D” Word – Recently Amanda asked me if I would be willing to do an Intolerance Test with her. Not sure what she was talking about I asked her to explain what that meant. She proceeded to tell me how you weren’t allowed to have any gluten, dairy, corn, sugar, bread, processed foods, or bananas for 3 weeks. Oh, and no eating out at restaurants either, my personal favorite. “Well,” I said, “as fun as that sounds, I don’t really like doing Diets!”. Then the earth actually stopped spinning for a few seconds and she said “IT’S NOT A DIET! It’s an intolerance test don’t call it a Diet!” Yep, I actually said the “D” word to a binger, my bad.

Not realizing what the “D” word meant to someone with an eating disorder, I had some back peddling to do here. I proceeded to tell her that I would help support her in any way I could without actually doing the intolerance test with her the whole time. I’m willing to try some new recipes and things but giving all that up for 3 weeks basically amounted to torture to me. I’m of the philosophy of everything in moderation.

Amanda used to tell me about her experiences with trying to cut out sugar and desserts and how that would just lead to more bingeing. So I wasn’t so gung ho about this intolerance test to begin with. She would always say that it’s better to have some of her favorite foods around just in case the cravings came on and she could try and hit them off at the pass before full bingeing mode kicked in.

So a few days later she started her “intolerance test” and the fun began. I really should have seen it coming. It hit me like that magical visit from Aunt Flo each month. When you take away sugar and all the deliciousness of most foods away from a binger, it’s not a pretty picture at first. Luckily that only lasted a couple days.

I was surprised that she even wanted to try it, given her history of trying food restriction, and I was honestly skeptical of the whole thing. She eventually settled into it though and seems to be hitting her stride now. She really is handling it amazingly well. It speaks volumes for her recovery that she is able to stick with it, and I am so proud of her for that.

So #Blessed – One of our closest friends, John Reardon, was the catalyst for our relationship. He is always saying to me how blessed Amanda is to have me in her life. I can literally feel Amanda’s eyes roll back in her skull and cringe every time he says this or texts it to me. But like, it’s true. Some of you know or have experienced what it’s like to be in a relationship where you don’t feel supported by the other person OR their behavior just seems to trigger you into doing things you shouldn’t. When you find the “right” person, they should lift you up and encourage you, not trigger your bad habits and addictions. I think, (again, key word, “think”), that I lift Amanda up instead of triggering her, and that’s why John always says how blessed she is to have me in her life.

I am also so blessed to have Amanda in my life. Her love and enthusiasm for life are infectious and I am so inspired by her. So much so, that I agreed to learn a duet tap dance with her for the May recital with the dance studio she’s teaching at – in front of an actual audience. I have mixed feelings about this decision, but it’s all happening now, so I’m just gonna go with it. I was also inspired by her to write this post and put it out there to you all. All of her passion and love for life make all of the craziness of her ED seem so insignificant.

“The uniqueness of a person is made up of the insane and twisted as much as it is of the rational and normal.” Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul

You see, Amanda and I are both a little twisted and insane, but in a way that supports each other. And for that, we are both so blessed.

Seriously Though! – Dating a woman who is recovering from an eating disorder isn’t as scary as it might seem. As I started out saying here, the key is really all about honesty. Like Amanda always says, “everyone has their shit” that they are dealing with – some more than others. But if you’re honest about your shit, it makes all the difference in the world. Hiding your shit really only makes things worse in the end.

So ladies and gents, if you think that hiding an eating disorder or an addiction from the person you are dating is a good thing, or the safe thing, I want you to reconsider. I strongly encourage you to share your shit with your partner. It may help explain some of the crazy shit you do from time to time. I know that if I didn’t know what Amanda was dealing with, I would have been out the door a long time ago. Knowing what she’s going through allows me to be more compassionate with her when she’s acting like a crazy bitch. Seriously though!

I don’t try and heal Amanda. That’s not the intention here. You are honest not so your partner can help fix you, but to bear witness to what you are going through. I’ve dated, and was even married, to women who were a closed book and would never reveal what was really going on, not even to a therapist. They carried a lot of extra baggage around to basically try and save some face. It eventually catches up to all of us at some point. I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m thankful everyday for Amanda’s honesty – even when things are rough between us – because it’s the foundation of our relationship and the reason our love is so strong to this day.

Let me just remind you – like I remind Amanda often – of the second agreement of The Four Agreements: Don’t make assumptions. You cannot assume what your friends or your significant other will think if you open up to them about your issues. Never assume. And if you open up to them, and they make an ass out of you, then seriously though, they are NOT worth your time.

Well, I think I covered all the ground I wanted to here. I’ve been trying to come up with a good way to close this all up, but I’m a little stuck, so I’m just gonna let Bob Marley do the talking.

bobmarley

Lots of aloha from Hawaii,

Johnny

Next Week’s Posting:

I’m not sure but I’m sure Amanda has something good to say

Advertisements

I Didn’t Sign Up For No Husband

I’m dating someone who kills three-inch cockroaches that I find in the shower, while I scream and cry from the kitchen.

I’m also dating someone who gets annoyed when there are waterspots on the silverware and mutters obscenities under his breath when I forget to dry the forks with a towel.

I don’t always know if the pros outweigh the cons.

When Johnny and I first moved into our apartment on the Kona side of the Big Island of Hawaii, I was just soooo overwhelmed. I was coming off a seven year relationship with New York City where I was used to cooking for one, drinking for two, and everything I ever wanted was always just out of my reach.

I was used to leaving at least an hour early for work (you never know how the A train is feeling), packing a bag to last me all day long (a direct result of that A train commute from Washington Heights), and coming home to my roommate and my cat at the end of the day. I’m not alone in this lifestyle – there are many, many, many others like me.

Even when I dated in New York, I was still cooking for one in my Washington Heights, Astoria, or Upper East Side apartment. Rarely did my boys come to have dinner at my apartment – it was too much of a commute. We ended up out to eat, or we cooked at his place.

Needless to say, moving in with Johnny – a man I fell in love with basically yesterday (aka a mere six months ago), and pooling our money together for a weekly grocery trip, monthly rent, and insanely high utility bills – overwhelmed me, and that’s putting it lightly. Suddenly, I felt like I had to report every expense, every thought, every idea to him because everything was now being shared. It wasn’t just my bathroom to dirty up with excess foundation powder and toothpaste spots on the mirror – I now had to share all my private spaces with someone else.

A recipe for disaster, if you know me at all.

But I tried to make myself a good little girlfriend anyway. I cooked a few dinners for the two of us, hoping to impress Johnny with my skillz. We don’t like the same things so, that was definitely a short-lived endeavor. I tried to keep my side of the closet tidy – and you would think that this would be simple, considering I wear the same pair of jean shorts and the same four Lululemon tops pretty much every day – but alas, just as my closet in NYC always was, it’s still a disaster, right now, as we speak. I tried to fold the towels nicely, to organize our three spices nicely, to tidy up the fridge nicely, to be a good, nice, helpful girlfriend person.

It did not end well.

It ended with me wanting to leave. Leave the apartment, leave Johnny, leave Hawaii. It was not what I signed up for. I’m not really the housewife type. I really like drinking beer in my underwear in front of Friends re-runs, like, I’m just not as domestic as I tell men that I am when I first meet them. They say you create your reality with your own words, but, it’s been like five years and lying about my domesticity still hasn’t come to fruition so…

Moving on.

After many vent sessions with my friend Rachel, who I met here in Hawaii, things came to a head and I was done. Through. Over it. But Rachel wouldn’t let me give up until I wrote Johnny a letter. Even if I didn’t read it to him, it could help me unload how I was feeling, since I’m better with written word than spoken.

It kind of went like this:

“Johnny, I have cried every day, I feel lost, I hear myself sabotaging our relationship, I ate all the Milano cookies, etc., etc. etc.”

Mmmmm, not so helpful. Rachel made me continue.

Four pages later, the letter ended like this:

“I want a boyfriend – not a husband. I want to have fun, and do things, and explore Hawaii, with my boyfriend. I don’t want to talk about rings, or engagements, or marriage, or opening a dance studio, or being together forever, anymore. I just want to live in the moment with my boyfriend and have a grand old fucking fun ass time. I miss having fun – being silly – making rash decisions – having sex in the middle of the night – laughing like hyenas. I want to be involved in a happy, ridiculous, spontaneous, sexy, head over heels in love relationship with you. Not a marriage, a relationship. I know we have it in us somewhere. If we stop taking things so seriously, well, actually, if I stop taking things so seriously, we can find it again. So before we conquer whatever we set our sights on, let’s go back to crazy, silly, stupid love and enjoy the freedom of Hawaii.”

“I want a boyfriend, not a husband.”

That’s what I told Johnny two and a half months ago. I wanted a boyfriend – a boyfriend who I can mess around with, make stupid decisions, be crazy, ahhhhhh like all that crazy stuff! Let’s be crazy! Let’s be unhealthy! Let’s be reckless!

Well.

Fast forward to right now. Last night actually. This is what I realized last night when I was sitting at dinner with Johnny and our friend, Lino.

I’ve had enough boyfriends. I’ve had my fair share of wounded boys, and depressed boys, and inconsiderate boys, and confused boys, and lazy boys, and rich boys, and insecure boys. That’s what they’ve been. Boys. When I wrote that blog post back in October to my exes, it was called “Dear…Boys”. Because I’ve only ever dated boys.

Now, I’m dating a man.

And although I say I didn’t sign up for a husband, I think it’s fair to say that I actually didn’t sign up for anything. I boarded a plane to Honolulu last August planning on finding myself, spending time alone, recovering, healing.

Well. The minute I did all that inner work, the minute I took the time for myself, and I let go of ex-boyfriend baggage and hating myself, I had room to let love in. I didn’t really ask for it, but I guess someone upstairs decided that I was ready. So, love just happened to be presented in the form of a beautiful, hilarious, hard-working man from Portland named Johnny.

IMG_4143

And today, here I am, just now realizing that he’s so much more than I ever give him credit for.

I’ve come to look at Johnny in random moments realizing that he is exactly what I need him to be. He’s a man. Note that I said he’s what I need him to be. I didn’t say, he’s what I need. There’s a difference. I’ve come to appreciate the wholeness of myself – realizing that I do not need a man to complete me – but if I’m going to spend this much time with a man, I need him to be, well, Johnny.

A man who is sure of himself, but not cocky. A man who is secure in his own body, but not arrogant. A man who has a sense of humor, but does not use it to mock me. A man who compliments my beauty and talent, but isn’t cheesy about it. A man who can take care of himself, but is willing to let me help sometimes. A man who can hold a conversation with anyone, but also come home and laugh about the idiocy of tourists at work. A man who can make me laugh so hard I spit up my coffee, but can also fight back when I attack him with hormonal fits of PMS and sugar-withdrawal.

What I’ve come to see in my own relationship, is that I’m dating a man. And really, I don’t know that I ever need to date a boy again.

At this time in my life – as my weight fluctuates, my clothes don’t always fit, my skin breaks out when I binge on sugar, my emotions are roller coasters, and my money comes and goes like the waves on the beach – sometimes non-existent completely – I probably shouldn’t be dating anyone at all. I should be developing a strong relationship with myself, accepting who I am, and exploring who I’d like to become.

At this time in my life – when I’m too busy sorting out the mess in my head to sort out the mess in my closet – I probably shouldn’t be living with anyone, much less someone who I’m dating.

But you know what? I started breaking rules the minute I knew how to climb up on to the counter and open the cookie jar. I’m not going to just stop breaking them now, just when things are starting to get interesting. I’m slowly learning how to duck, catch, and throw back the curveballs that life continues to hurl at me, and I certainly didn’t learn how to do that by following the rules.

So here I am, dating the man who cries. The man who stands in his underwear and his socks and plays the one song on the ukelele that he knows over, and over, and over, and over again. The man who is covered in tattoos that my grandmother commented on at Christmas.

I’m dating the man who isn’t afraid of love, my PMS (most of the time), or spicy food. I’m dating the man who knows what’s healthy for him but eats Cheeto’s anyway. I’m dating the man who likes to dry the dishes, must have soft Egyptian cotton sheets, and never forgets water and a camera when we go hiking even if I do.

I’m dating a handsome man, a confident man, a sexual man, a hilarious man, a compassionate man, an empathetic man, a strong-as-hell man.

I’m dating a man who can take care of himself. He doesn’t need me. I don’t need him. And that’s why it works.

I write all this out to you this week for three reasons.

  1. If you are in a committed relationship, or an amazing friendship, sometimes it takes a moment of slowing down, and stepping back, to look at a person we love with new eyes. Look at their face again, learn the shape of their body again, listen to their laugh again – as though for the first time. Find the gratitude for who they are, and the love they bring into your life. Thank them, love them, remind them of how awesome they are and how happy you are that you found them. There are lots of greeting cards out there that will do this for you, but I find, that writing little post-it notes of my own and leaving it on Johnny’s Cheeto’s works just as well, if not better.
  1. In this day and age, there’s a lot of Elephant Journal and Glamour articles written about “following your gut” and “listening to your intuition”. We’ve learned that if something doesn’t feel right, to flee, to ditch, to move on. It’s so important that we listen to our instincts, yes, but sometimes, I think we confuse our intuition with our fear. Is our gut telling us that something isn’t right and we should flee immediately so we don’t get hurt? Or is our ego telling us that we aren’t good enough to hang around and overcome this obstacle, so we should abort this mission before we get bruised? There’s a difference. No one ever made it to their end goal without a few bruises and disappointments. It’s okay to feel the fear, sit in it, and stick around until we can really be calm enough to listen to our intuition. Don’t let fear do the talking. Allow your gut to speak to you, yes, but only when you are in a state where your gut is calm, and capable of making a decision based on love. Had I left Hawaii two weeks after moving in with Johnny when things got hard and he repeatedly asked me to dry all the silverware, I would feel like I left something behind that I never got the chance to see through. The man wasn’t slapping me across the face and yelling – he was simply asking me to do something that I don’t like to do. This is not a reason to flee. And I’m so happy that I didn’t flee.
  2. An attitude of gratitude. Our significant others, and our friends, and our mothers, and our brothers, are not perfect. Everyone has something that will annoy you. But everyone in your life also has a capacity to love, laugh, and learn. The more we accept our loved ones for who they are, and who we get to be when we are with them, the less heartbreak and frustration we have to deal with in the long run. When I am with Johnny, I can poop with the door open, I can watch TV with a clay mask on my face, I can call him and remind him that I need tampons while he’s at Costco. This might not be what every lady is looking for in life, but for me, it’s pretty great. I eat chia seeds – I poop – it’s okay – he still loves me – the cycle continues – I’m grateful. I’m grateful for who I get to be when I’m with Johnny, and my best friends, and my family – and that’s 100% authentic Trusty. No fronts, no fakes, no fascades. All me – flaws and ugly laugh and bedhead and all. And I’m so grateful for that. So I encourage you to find that gratitude this week, and all the weeks to come. Find that gratitude for the lovely heart that your closest friends hold within them, and find the gratitude for the fact that they are willing and open enough to share that lovely heart with you all the time.

You know, it’s funny. Johnny offers me more encouragement, more support, and more love than any boy I have ever dated. And yet all this time, I keep trying avoid seriousness and commitment in order to keep our relationship light and silly and free. And light and silly and free is great, right? It’s great and it’s fun and it’s what makes life enjoyable.

But today, I accept that it’s totally okay when our relationship is serious, or rocky, or sensible at times. Sometimes it’s about bills, groceries, and paychecks, sometimes it’s about taking the day off to spend all of Sunday on a boat. Sometimes it’s about who forgot to put gas in the car, sometimes it’s about lying in bed all day watching The Office and gently joke-arguing about who will go pick up the takeout this time.

It’s serious and ridiculous and silly and emotional and rocky and smooth and up and down and amazing and confusing. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Because at the end of the day, I found myself a good, strong, handsome man who left fear in Portland when he moved to Hawaii and spends his time being brave, loving, and supportive in our relationship.

IMG_4151

I didn’t sign up for a husband. I actually didn’t sign up for anything when I boarded that plane to Honolulu.

But what I got, without signing anything, is exactly what I wanted, even if I didn’t realize it until I was already living it. I’m grateful, I’m humbled, and I’m can’t help lovin’ that man of mine.

I bet you totally feel the same way about someone in your life! Go hug ’em, text ’em, kiss ’em, call ’em, and remind them how grateful you are for their love in your life! Muah!

Next week’s posting:

Another Guest Blog!


An Emotional Letter to Every Man I Ever Dated

Dear…Boys,

All of you. From the gay one, to the rich one, to the very taken one, to the older one, to the younger one, to the douchebag, to the stoner, to the one who just couldn’t fall in love with me, to the chef, to the tap dancer, to the soccer player, to the reality tv cameraman…

Thank you.

I would not be where I am at this very moment, which is, quite literally, in paradise, if it weren’t for all of you.

If you had complimented me when I wanted you to, it would have taken me that much longer to figure out how deep my insecurity lies.

If you had held doors for me and carried my heavy bags around New York City for me like “a true gentleman would”, it would have taken me that much longer to figure out how independent I can be.

If you had told me you loved me, it would have taken me that much longer to fall apart. Which means it would have taken me that much longer to arrive here, in this moment right now, when I can tell you thank you.

Since I’ve arrived in Hawaii, which is where I’m writing you from by the way, I have done so much work.

The work I’m speaking of is not the type of work you do. It’s not numbers on a computer or running a restaurant, although I respect you for that and appreciate the nice dinners you bought me because of it.

The work I’ve been doing here is different. It’s emotional. It’s spiritual. It’s mental. It is feeling the pain that I have allowed each one of you to inflict on me, accepting that pain, and forgiving you.

I’ve sat on cliffs and thought through the time I found your porn addiction on my own laptop.

I’ve laid under a sky of stars that you can’t even fathom and thought through all the names you used to call me. The “crazy”. The “bitch”. The “mess”.

I’ve swam out in the ocean with fish you’ve only seen in storybooks and thought about the bender you decided to have – cocaine, Grey Goose, and all your boys – the night that you were supposed to help me pack my car up before my Christmas show contract.

I’ve thought through it. Felt the anger. Felt the hurt. Felt the memory. Felt that shit.

And let it go.

Of course, there are still things I haven’t conquered. For instance, why I allowed myself to be taken to a hotel room during your hockey tournament only to have to hide out for three days so no one knew you were cheating on your girlfriend. But that’s not really on you. That’s on me.

Why I allowed myself to be treated like an object – someone who you could dress up, pay for, and show off at company dinners – feeling like your own personal doll who you could bring along when you needed me and forget to call me when it was poker night. But that’s not really on you. That’s on me.

Why I allowed myself to believe that your big plans to go back to school, get a degree, put a ring on it, and move to New York City were real. Even though my gut told me it was never going to happen, I moved to another state to be with you anyways. But that’s not really on you. That’s on me.

I take responsibility for staying in situations that my gut told me to leave. My instincts have always been there. I chose to ignore them.

My friends saw it. My mother saw it. My boss saw it. But I stayed. I loved. I loved you hard.

What I’ve learned in the past six weeks is that although all of you are great comedy material, and you’re great topics of conversation when I go to unlimited mimosa brunches with the girls, it’s not all your fault that it all ended up the way it did.

I had control over most of the situations I was put in with you guys. And I stayed. I stayed and thought loving you would fix everything.

You see, I fucking love a good project. What can I fix? How can I help? Who can I save?

All of you were great fucking projects. I’ll help you through that addiction. I’ll save you from your girlfriend. I’ll warm your cold, money-hungry heart.

Projects are great distractions, aren’t they? Projects could help distract me from all the work I should have been doing, on myself.

I’m quite the project. I’m sure you all knew that once you jumped into bed with me and discovered my insecurities. I’m sure you found that out when I was too afraid to eat in front of you on a date but would binge on your Nutella when you went to work the next morning. I’m sure you knew all of that when I picked you apart, nagged at you, told you every little thing you did that was wrong.

You may not know this, but all that nagging? The picking? The criticizing? All that shit is a reflection of me. All that shit I didn’t like about you? That has something to do with shit in myself that I don’t like.

I don’t like my own procrastination, but I sure as hell don’t mind bitching about yours.

I don’t like my own addictions and habits, but I sure as hell don’t mind telling you how bad yours are.

Fuck, man.

It was never my responsibility to fix you. And I’m sorry that I expected you, in return, to fix me.

Throughout all this work I’ve been doing, I’ve been journaling. Brooke, my sister from another mother, has been buying me fucking journals for six years as gifts and I never used any of them. Funny how I’ve filled three of them just since I’ve been here.

I’ve never done what I’m about to do before. Shared my journaling. I mean it’s the secret stuff that comes right from the brain – raw and real. But I’m gonna let you see what I wrote about some of you in my journal. Ain’t no names. Ain’t no nicknames even. I just used pronouns.

This work that you will read below, is what is changing my life. Opening my heart. Letting light in.

This is what I’ve learned:

“He didn’t want to live his life loving himself so how could he love me? He is a direct reflection of me. He didn’t care enough about himself to love me too. That’s not enough love to go around. Basically it’s not that he didn’t want me. It’s like that thing that Emily always says when we’re working together. On planes, you gotta put the oxygen mask on yourself before you can help someone else. It’s the same in life man. It’s that he couldn’t figure out how to put on the oxygen mask first in order to move on to me. He was just like me. We took our energy from each other, instead of investing it in ourselves. We tried to complete each other instead of ourselves. We were each other’s addiction. Porn and food aside, we used each other to escape. I absolutely used him as an escape.”

“You couldn’t love me enough. And I deserve to be loved as much as I love myself. Which wasn’t much then. You could only love me as much as I loved myself. I couldn’t control when you loved me more or less. I couldn’t get compliments out of you. But that’s because I needed your validation so badly instead of stating to the universe that I was beautiful with or without you. The porn addiction would have been there with or without me. Binge eating would be there with or without you. Another person cannot save you from addiction. They can take you to rehab. They can offer an ear. But they cannot just heal an addiction because then THEY become the addiction. And when they peace out, leave, disappear, you’ll need to find something else to fill that void with until you admit that you’re using addiction to fill the void.”

“It’s not that he didn’t want me. He couldn’t give me what he didn’t already posess. There was barely enough love for him. He spread himself too thin by offering me any at all.”

“I am so thankful to have experienced the love I had with you. It was never about you not finding me sexy. You just had blurred vision as to what was right in front of you because you were too preoccupied trying to figure out why you weren’t happy. Why you weren’t living fully. I pray that you start living. I pray that you find self-love.” 

“I forgive you for being a direct reflection of me. I accept that you did not intentionally hurt me during our relationship. I believe that I am going to love myself. Only then will I attract more and more and more and more and more and more love to me – whether it be men, women, friends, strangers – all kinds of love. I will attract love. I will attract love. I deserve love. And so do you.”

“He really tried. And when he tried I didn’t believe him. When someone tells you you’re beautiful, believe it. When someone tries to love you, believe it. When someone offers you love, trust it. You might get hurt, but it’s better to trust than to skepticize. At least if you end up getting hurt, you felt something spectacular first.”

I still have work to do, boys. I’ve conquered the big ones – literally, no pun intended – the two and a half year relationship, the whole dating a man who didn’t know he was gay thing, also the 8 month relationship with a man who just did not…love me. Now I have to move on to the smaller stuff. The verbal abuse. The objectification. The general douchebaggery of dating in NYC.

But again, that’s for me to deal with. I allowed myself to be treated that way. I stayed. I listened. I allowed it.

So this letter is about pure forgiveness. Letting go. Accepting what has happened. Everyone thought this blog was gonna be about you guys. For years, I made my life about you guys. You were what I talked about at girl’s night out. You were what I used in musical theatre class when I had to sing to someone who hurt me. You were what I used as part of my incredible self-deprecating humor skills.

And you’ll always be there to talk about, sing to, and make fun of. But not in the same way.

What has happened will no longer define who I am. I accept that I am fucking awesome, but not fucking perfect, and there will be a man who comes along and sees that, and accepts that, and he can choose to stay and experience it, or he can choose to move on. Whatever he chooses to do, will not define me. It might hurt in the moment if he chooses to move on, but it will not define me anymore.

I deserve someone who accepts all of my shit, will allow me to work on it by myself while dating me, and doesn’t try to fix me. I deserve someone who will allow me to love him as hard as I love. I love people hard, man. I don’t hold back. I have a big heart and I wear it on my sleeve and one day a man is gonna come along and fucking love that about me.

I say one day. But today’s the day, actually. He’s here. He’s real. It’s all happening. I’ve met him. Which is a story for later.

But for today, let me say thank you, boys, for all of it. All the laughs, all the cries, all the shit.

Everything that has happened in the past ten years has gotten me to this point. I would never be able to appreciate the good if I hadn’t had the bad.

And if I didn’t take the time to let you all go, and forgive you for all the shit, I wouldn’t have any room in my heart to let someone new and amazing in.

I encourage you to do the exact same thing as I’ve been doing. Do the work dude. It pays off.

Much love to all of you. Seriously – even if I waited eight months for you to say “i love you” because the girl shouldn’t say it first and I never got to tell you how I felt about you – let me say it now.

I loved you. Some of you, I will always, always love. Always in my heart. No regrets. Thank you for the good times and the bad times. The laughs and the cries. And all the shit.

Sending you healing and love from the Big Island of Hawaii,

Amanda

aka Baby

aka Sugar

aka Mandy

Image

To my blog readers: I encourage you to journal. I encourage you to write letters to exes and never send them. I encourage you to write down random trains of thought. I encourage you to think through the pain of past relationships and feel it and have a good cry and try to see why it still makes you so angry. I encourage you to find the reflections of yourself in other people and notice why it bothers you so much. I encourage you to forgive. I encourage you to remember the good times and laugh and get goosebumps. I encourage you to let go. I encourage you to do exactly what I just did.

The sooner you take the time to let go of the past, the sooner you can truly feel, and love, in the present. And trust me when I say, the most amazing thing, that thing you have been waiting for your whole life, could show up at any moment, once you’ve done the work. Do the work. Let the shit go. Feel it. Forgive it. Let it go. And get ready for one hell of a ride.

The payoff, is beauty. Love. Respect. Growth. Sex. Support. Amazingness. Gorgeousness. Belly laughs. And of course, someone to lay underneath the stars with and kiss.

Next week’s posting:

A Sensible Recap


How Dating A Gay Man Shaped My Twenties

Glitter and Be Gay: A Blog Post

Living With Men Who Love Us, But Do Not LOVE Us

Image

There are a lot of women in this business who have grown up around gay men. We danced with them. Teched shows with them. Helped them come out of the closet when we were in high school with them. We went to college with them, had them over for holidays, brought them on family vacations. And now they are our roommates and dates to weddings and best friends. We love them like they are family.

We are not meant to date them.

However.

Sometimes, when we are all young, these same men haven’t figured out how to open the closet door to a happy, healthy, open life. And sometimes, they are well on their way to figuring it out, but they aren’t ready to open that door yet. And to this day, some of them are still not ready. And they are still trying to take us out on dates.

Our vision of straight men become real skewed in this biz. In college, we eyeball the straight dudes in any of the performing arts majors and then slowly, one by one, watch the majority of them come out of the closet. Depending on where you went to college, if there’s not a lot of straight options, you latch onto whatever option there is. Then, you automatically assume you need to keep his ass on a leash, because this could be your only chance at love for the rest of your time on this earth. And all of a sudden, you’re dating assholes, arrogant lacrosse players, and boring dudes just because they are straight.

DANGER DANGER.

This is not going to end well.

Over the years, these crazy things start taking place when we meet straight men because we aren’t used to having them around. We start dating men who are already spoken for, men with porn addictions, and men we meet while cocktail waitressing (which for your information, is not really dating. It’s more like, they just come to see you at work and take you home afterwards. But whatever, sometimes, when you’re 21, that’s good enough.) We allow all these men into our lives because we are hungry for the attention we are not getting from the gay men surrounding us every day. We will take the attention with whatever consequences it comes with, even if it’s keeping our relationship with our bar manager a secret, or it means we are traveling to the Bronx for a good lay. And I think a lot of it stems from feeling unwanted by the closest men to us in our life, who just happen to be gay.

It’s a special life that we lead. We are so loved by these gay men in our lives. They care for us. They hold us when we cry. They tell us to dress up and take us to dinner. They help us pick out beautiful Christmas gifts (and Hannakuh gifts!) for our mothers. The listen to us bitch, they make us laugh until our bellies hurt, and they tell us we are beautiful even at the most hungover brunches. They take us for drinks when we are in over our heads and they tell us we deserve better. But at the end of the night, after a wonderful day or a delicious dinner, we go home alone. Because although they love us, they do not LOVE us, or want us, or crave us in any other way beyond friendship.

Image

A few years ago, while living with one of these special gay men who cared for me, lived with me, and helped me dress fabulously for first dates, my ex-boyfriend came up.

I don’t know if any girl is ever ready to hear about her ex-boyfriend’s college sexcapades with a man.

But, ready or not, I learned about them over a casual pitcher of Sam Adams Cherry Wheat in 2009. You see, four years after a heartbreaking split with my first love, I was living with one of the first men that my ex-boyfriend slept with. There we were – smack dab in the middle of 109th Street, two blocks west of Central Park – a man and a woman who had slept with the same man.

Only, truth be told, he got farther with the ex than I ever did.

Look, I wasn’t surprised. I always suspected. I was always teased in high school about dating him. But to finally hear it straight from the horse’s mouth, was so freeing. I was so thankful to know that it wasn’t my fault.

Turns out, it wasn’t my fault that he didn’t want to hang out every day after school like every other couple did. Turns out, it wasn’t my fault he didn’t want to touch me under the covers when we watched a movie on the couch. Turns out, it wasn’t my fault he didn’t call me every day when he went away to college. He didn’t want me. He didn’t miss me. But not because I was me. Turns out, he had his own shit to figure out.

He was gay. All that time, he was gay.

But I didn’t know that. For sure. Until four years later.

The newfound closure that came with that Cherry Wheat, came four years after the fact. And those four years after the fact were some of the most influential years of my life. From the age of 18-22, I carried around body confidence issues and self-esteem issues that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. And honey, once you have them, they only get worse.

Because when you’re 17, and you get to sleep over in your boyfriend’s college dorm room for the first time, you expect things to go DOWN. Maybe he never wanted to hook up in the car. And maybe he never wanted to sneak away from the pool party. And maybe he never wanted to go down your pants backstage while you teched the high school musical. But the dorm room, he’s gonna be so into it there. So you shave things you’ve never shaved before and you wear the laciest pair of underwear you can find at H&M. You have butterflies all day, imagining steamy positions and loud outcries of pleasure.

And then you get there, and your boyfriend just wants to go to sleep.

With pajamas on.

And you lay awake next to him cursing at yourself for everything you’ve done wrong. You make a mental list of all the things you are not. You are not sexy. You are not attractive. You are not irrestible. You curse your boobs for being small and your hair for being big and curly. You stare at the ceiling, thinking that although you can shake your ass in dance class, you’re just not a sexy girl.

When he breaks your heart the summer after you graduate from high school, you enter your freshman year of college with insecurities that your new musical theatre friends don’t have. They know how to flirt with all the baseball players, and they get asked to sit with them in the cafeteria, while you go back up for another helping of the taco bar.

And when a boy even glances at you during the next themed party that you show up to, accessorized with your freshman fifteen and the new plastic bangles you stole from Claire’s, you end up in his room making out, without him even having to use a pick up line. Which is basically a foreshadowing all of the slutty things you’re about to do when you move to New York City, including a series of one night stands in your early twenties with some very questionable subjects.

When you’re in a relationship where you’re just not wanted, you’re not craved, it really sets you up for some major setbacks in relationships for the rest of your life. That first love, that first relationship, it trained me chase men. To work hard to make them want me. And to settle for less than the best – every single time I meet a man.

To this day, anytime things feel easy with a man – comfortable, relaxed – it feels wrong. And boring. I have always gone after men who do not want me. And that’s what feels right to me.

Until now. Because once you become aware of a complex you have – for instance, the way I use food as a drug, or the way I always end up with men who do not want me – you can never go back to ignorance again.

Awareness is a very powerful thing, my friend.

Once you are aware, the only way to go is up. Up, up, and away from what’s been holding you down. You are finally able to begin a courageous upward journey towards making it less of a problem than it was yesterday. And doing the best you can to live your life in the meantime.

Listen, you never know people’s stories. You never know what they’ve been through, what they’ve been lied to about, or what has destroyed their heart.

Things like dating a gay man can ruin a young girl, on the inside, for a very long time. I had no idea how much it affected me, or dictated the men I chose, or controlled my self-esteem, until I got older and wiser.

It affected the reason I binge, the reason I dressed sluttily all the time, and the reason I was outspoken. Respectively, those things were comfort for the pain, cries for attention, and shields from judgement.

I hated that ex-boyfriend of mine for many, many years. There was red, hot anger that would cause my chest to tighten when I thought about him. I never felt that hatred for another person in my life before. It was ugly and it enveloped me.

But now, I do forgive him. It was a slow process. However, I’ve learned that half of my gay friends dated a woman when they were younger. They were too young to know what they were doing to their girlfriends. No one knew. It was never a malicious thing. It took me, being best friends with my gay men, to understand that. I was just another one of the girls who helped the boy come out of the closet.  I was the Grace to his Will.

I wish we were friends now. Our situation is different than the Will’s and the Grace’s of the world, but as long as I can let go of the hurt, and the anger, forgiveness will be enough.

To the gay men in this world: Don’t forget to remind those girls who helped you come out of the closet how much you love them. Those chicks loved you for all that you were, and all that you are, despite what you did to their hearts.

To the women who dated the gay boys in this world: Try your best to forgive the boys. They had it just as hard as we did, if not harder. Keep those friendships close and help each other grow up. Together. The boys never meant to break your heart, or lie, or make you feel unwanted. We all figure things out at different times and you happened to be there when they were sorting all the new things out.

To everyone else: Show compassion to everyone you meet. There’s a reason people are scared to trust. There’s a reason they binge. There’s a reason they’re dating that asshole right now. You might not understand why they are the way they are, but that’s what is so beautiful about compassion – you just offer it up without a reason or an answer.

And no one ever complained about feeling too much compassion.

*Friends, if you find out later in life that someone you did date was cheating on you, please take the time to get tested for HIV and other STD’s. I told my gynecologist immediately when I found out my ex-boyfriend had slept with other men during the time we were together and he set  me to be tested right away. It’s better to be safe than sorry. You owe it to yourself and your sanity to get tested. There are free clinics in most cities and by googling “free HIV testing”, you can find options in your area.

Next week’s posting:

Let’s Have A Kiki


On Dating and Dieting in Show Business

Dating.

Actually, the combination of dating and eating. Sometimes, it doubly affects those of us in the entertainment industry.

Isn’t it crazy how…

When you date a person who could care less about food, all you do is wish they understood your love for food – whether you’re eating in their absence, or as you eat in right in front of them?

So that when you say, “baby, let’s go get ice cream”, and they say, “nah, i’m not hungry”, something inside of you clenches up. You feel guilty, embarrassed, sad, and mad all at the same time. Guilty and embarrassed for asking and wanting ice cream. Sad that they aren’t just like you when it comes to food. Mad that it even matters.

But THEN…

When you date a person who loves food, you’re half pissed and half happy that it gives you an excuse to eat more food. And you feel guilty and embarrassed for loving the person even more because they want to eat when you want to eat. You’re sad that it matters to you so much. Maybe even mad that this is such an important thing to you when you look for a partner.

So the good news is, when it comes to dating, you’re damned if you find someone who’s hungry and you’re damned if you find someone who’s not.

AMAZING.

A prime example is when I first met Stallion last year. My 37-year-old, very sexy, very funny, emotionally unavailable Italian-American boyfriend of 8 months. I wrote this about him in a file I had started on my laptop named “My Fucking Memoirs”:

October 9th, 2012

I met a man who eats ice cream out of the actual half gallon container and lets me put sprinkles and whipped cream on it. He eats it with a fork. I love him. He understands sleeping in and not showering and clothes on the floor. Like seriously thank you for your time. It’s about time. I have never seen him in a shirt and tie and I don’t really want to because his jersey shore wife beater style is so much better for me. I hate businessman. I don’t want to date businessman. They don’t know anything about girls like me and I have no interest in hearing about their lives. Like their lives are not anything I want a part of except their money and even then I just don’t want to have to unbutton that many buttons just to thank them for the expensive dinner I shouldn’t have eaten cuz it was covered in truffle oil and special fucking sheep cheese and shit that I now have deduct from my Weight Watchers points that are strictly meant for Nutella.

You may notice I was going through a phase where I just didn’t like to use punctuation.

You may also notice that I felt so comfortable around Stallion because he loved food. He would never turn me down when I wanted to eat. He could eat and eat and eat just like I could. You see how much I fell for this man just because he was the kind known to eat dollar pizza as an appetizer before we even went for dinner?

Food links us to people. It is a social activity, especially in New York. And especially in what we do for a living. You audition all day – you go to happy hour. Your friend returns from a year on the road – you go for dinner. You had a great callback – you celebrate with a cupcake. You had a bad callback – you treat yourself to a cupcake. We convene over coffee, lunches, and drinks whenever there is a birthday, engagement, or good-bye party. It’s what we do.

The most social eating of all though, comes with dating. The first date is normally some drinks. Dinner if it goes well. And this happens for a few dates because let’s be honest here – I live in New York City. Here, we have to be extra careful when we meet these people out on dates – we have no idea what level of crazy we might be dealing with. We’ve seen Law & Order: SVU and we aren’t trying to bring homeboy back to the apartment right away. It might be cheaper to grab a bottle of wine and a Trader Joe’s Penne Arrabiata and cook for two at home, but honey, I am a starving artist who doesn’t always have the opportunity to go to the fancy places. Why would I not want someone to take me to the 90 dollar dinner, with drinks, at the newest, darkest cocktail bar below 14th Street? It might be the only time we get to try said cocktail bar before it’s turned over into a new hookah bar featuring Spanish/Chinese/African/American Bistro fusion food with a Thai Mexican flair.

And so, if you’re on any sort of diet regimen during all of this time when you’re trying very hard to figure out if this OkCupid situation is a bust or not, you’re also counting calories, only drinking clear liquor, and turning down the most delicious chocolate cake you’re ever fucking seen during your dates because, surprise, surprise, you have to be in a leotard and tights for A CHORUS LINE call at 10am tomorrow.

That’s a lot of things to focus on when all you really should be doing is going for drinks with someone who might make you laugh, or tell you’re beautiful, if you could just get out of your head for a few minutes and enjoy the moment.

When I was watching my weight, aka, what I’ve been doing every day since I’m 16, I was so fucking concerned about the fact that if I wanted more than one beer on a date, I’d have to pay for it at the gym the whole next day. This automatically made me focus on all the beers I couldn’t have, instead of the cold, frothy one right in front of me. So I missed out on the great conversation, and the taste of that nine dollar beer that this gorgeous dude was buying me, because my mind was pre-occupied. I was racing to come up with excuses as to why I wouldn’t want an order of fries in a few minutes, or why I was about to switch to Bud Light for 99 calories.

And people wonder why my ring finger is naked.

HELLO. I’VE NEVER GIVEN ANYONE THE TIME OF DAY BECAUSE I’VE BEEN TOO WORRIED ABOUT THE CALORIES IN A FUCKING BEER ON A DATE.

But listen! In this career, sometimes that’s life.

Where do we draw the line between going out and meeting Mr. Comedian With The Blue Eyes for some drinks and tapas, or going home and going to bed, knowing that we have to be in shape for an audition every day in March? Because the summer season is fast approaching and this is the month that determines whether we have to wait tables for a summer or if we get wigged and costumed for a summer. 

At what point do we get to stop going crazy about having dessert on our third date with Mr. English Accent With The Tattoos but then feeling like we should say no to a nightcap because we have to take ballet at 9am with that teacher who is also choreographing HELLO DOLLY in July?

It’s so hard to say.

Do I have all of the answers? Well. Kind of.

First of all, obsessing over it is definitely not the answer.

But how the fuck are we NOT supposed to obsess over it?

As my gay husband, B, is always telling me, we have to live in the moment.

However, as I used to constantly whine back to him, dieting does not ALLOW us to live in the moment. Because we are always planning, planning, planning the next thing we can or cannot have.

Soooo, what am I telling you to do exactly?

Stop dieting?

Well, I mean, that’s what I’ve done. That’s what has gotten me here. But you don’t have to. Live your life and take what I say and use it in whatever capacity you want to as you continue your own journey.

But in regards to living in the moment, let me say this.

If you go on a date this week, or next week, or if you are already dating someone wonderful, or even mediocre, could you please try just this once, to go out with them and simply…have a beer? Sit and listen to them while you sip that beer, and really focus on what they are saying.  This will actually keep you from thinking about the next beer, or the french fries, or the pizza you want to binge on when you get home from this date, that you have already assumed won’t end well, even though you don’t even know that yet. Because guess what? You just sat down to the FIRST beer. And he JUST started telling you the whereabouts of his apartment in Brooklyn. And you’re trying to figure out what the hell he means when he says he takes the “G Train”. And if you engage with him as he lights up about his rescued dog and his orange bike that he’s had since college, and you continue to ask questions to really find out a little more about him, you might notice that the first beer disappears a little less quickly. And the second beer might just come along because you’re having a really nice time. And it might take an extra long time to finish the second beer because now he’s asking YOU a bunch of questions. You’re so busy telling him about how much you love to sing covers of Amy Winehouse with your band that breaks up once a month that rehearses in Brooklyn (nowhere near the G train obviously), that you haven’t even had time to finish your second beer before you both realize this has been really nice, and it’s getting late, but perhaps you can do it again another time when you both don’t have early mornings. And you might just find yourself smiling on that very local train ride home. And you might not even remember that the pizza is in the fridge, and you might even just go to bed, perfectly content – not hating yourself (or your diet, or your career choice) for the amount of beers you had on the date with Mr. G Train.

Just try it.

It could be just the thing you need to re-vamp everything that you’ve trained yourself to do for all these years.

It could be a small attempt at living in the moment.

And it could be really awesome.