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The Dating Diet

By |2008-12-11T09:00:00-05:00December 11th, 2008|Entertainment|

By Anthony Paull

We’re plunging like bargain-basement prices in post-election recessionary America. It’s Jake and me, and we’re spiraling down a dark, air-free tunnel where we feed on the other’s edible soft spots, wallowing in what is currently wrong with our relationships. Each of us hasn’t had sex in a week – that’s the major issue. My boyfriend, he’s been on tour with a Grateful Dead spin-off band, and Jake’s man dumped him for a younger model who squirted perfume on him at a mall kiosk. So far, this is the third major disconnect for Jake this year; his legion of exes, it just keeps expanding, exacerbating his inability to sustain monogamous relationships.
You see, Jake wasn’t left behind just because his boyfriend found someone better. No! Jake’s boyfriend was fed up with the way Jake collects exes like beanie babies, storing them on his mental book shelf, even when he’s dating someone.
In his defense, Jake says he only keeps his exes on-call for “pointers.”
The problem is these “pointers” come with swinging balls attached, leading to a casual fling rather than sound advice. And even though this has taxed each of Jake’s relationships, he refuses to let any ex go, stating each holds a piece of what he’s looking for in a real man. With each piece in hand, Jake feels he’s assembled Mr. Right. “The good thing about ending a relationship is you can keep the good without the bad,” he says.
For example, Jake’s ex-boyfriend Tim, a raging alcoholic with a wet diaper fetish, is a really sweet movie enthusiast who will cuddle Jake for hours, watching whatever Jake chooses. And now, at the commencement of their movie marathon, Jake can send him home without having to deal with an itchy rash for waking up beside a puddle of pee the next morning.
And his other ex, Harry, the hot surly one with chronic bouts of depression: things are heavenly between him and Jake now that they’re over. When Harry’s in a manic phase, he spends all types of money on Jake, racking up credit debt on pricy bottles of white wine bearing French names that Jake can’t pronounce. And since they’ve broken up, Jake can have these spontaneous shopping sprees minus the baggage attached. He no longer contends with Harry’s mood swings or needs to make sure Harry showers the week it takes him to recover from bottoming out.
“But isn’t that part of a relationship? Taking the good with the bad?” I ask. We’re talking over scorched cups of coffee, and Jake has already found his next ex: the guy he’s text-messaging in a caffeine craze as we chat at an indie coffeehouse where they use magazine stacks as chairs.
“Forget the bad,” Jake scoffs. “Who needs the drama?”
“True, but relationships can’t be perfect all the time,” I remind him.
“When it’s my time, they can,” he says, informing how he has a separate ex for each occasion: movies, sex, fine dining, family gatherings, dancing, even going to the Holocaust museum. “They add up to a perfect guy with no strings attached and no drama. I’m sick of dating. I don’t need a new boyfriend.”
“Really? Then why are you texting this new guy?”
Grimacing, Jakes emits a hushed bark, continuing to check his Blackberry for a new message from his new man. Me, I’m pondering where we went wrong in this love-starved society. Why does each of us feel entitled to the perfect love, the perfect life, even when surrounded by domestic chaos, environmental crises, and financial let-downs? When are we going to teach ourselves that love isn’t fair?
Who knows? Maybe we’ve been spoiled, riding the reality-TV illusion that every person must have the perfect crib, the perfect car, the perfect nose attached to the perfect boyfriend’s face, in order to feel happy. The shiny, happy people on TV, they edit out the dismal parts; we’re spared the ugly side of beautiful pseudo-celebrities who can’t afford rent once their life is canceled due to a ratings slump. We change the channel when we realize the happy newlyweds get divorced.
The truth is we’re screwed. The stock market is crashing, house prices are plummeting, and more people are finally getting a grip on the reality that we can’t afford to eat a designer meal every night and we can’t afford to buy a designer outfit for every stupid, designer occasion either.
And maybe that’s not so bad.
Hard times, they remind us to be humble, grateful for the small things, like that rushing sensation in your heart from being waken by a lover’s kiss in the morning. Recessions, though tough, implore us to think twice before wasting our lives away with the delusion that a happy ending comes devoid of problems at the beginning. When we take the reality out of the TV, no matter how much we lie to ourselves, nothing is perfect in life and our intimate relations are no exception. Boyfriends come with bags, tempers, flaws, diseases, and foul family members. Still, we can’t run after each fight and every tragedy. Like the erratic stock market, relationships contain volatile times, but as Americans, we’ve come to learn that those who stand strong are the ones who truly endure.

About the Author:

Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.
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