The Moment I Knew My Love Life Had To Change

 It’s a pattern: Man tears me down, I feel bad about myself, then work extra hard to please him.

It started happening the night it rained bobby pins. 

There I was, thrusting my hips and making the appropriate noises while gazing up at a white ceiling that crowned azure walls. The hustle of San Francisco’s Nob Hill district reverberated through the room. I hoped it hid my yawn. 

The man didn’t seem to notice. With him, the act of sex was more akin to setting a clock than expressing physical intimacy. He was obsessive, and succumbed to aggressive meltdowns when I didn’t meet him. I don’t recall his exact words, but I remember my mind drifting to three lines from Ezra Pound’s poem “Francesca”: 

I who have seen you amid the primal things

Was angry when they spoke your name 

IN ordinary places 

I love poetry, and this poem stuck with me. The possessiveness of the speaker frightened me, but it also provided insight into the men I often chose. Maybe he’s scared and insecure, not cruel, I’d rationalize. 

During this time, I was woefully stuck in my own head. My dating requirements were purely surface-level. I didn’t know why I felt this way, but this man believed he knew. “You’re selfish, Giana,” he explained, patronizingly, one day. “You only think about yourself, all the time.”

No, I’m not! I wanted to fight back. I give to the poor even when I’m broke, I always share my food, I’ve offered to pay on every date, I drop virtually everything when a loved one seeks me . . . 

However, I lacked the will to fight back. Instead, I said, “Oh,” then fell into a pit of self-loathing for not defending myself. It’s a pattern: Man tears me down, I feel bad about myself, then work extra hard to please him. Soon, I find myself involved with someone whom I quietly hate. 

I thought about this all while he performed that night. Thrusting. Moaning. His eyes were bloodshot. He reminded me of a cartoon monster. Suddenly, I noticed that my hair was falling out of its Pinterest-sought updo. 

No! 

My hair that night

Learning and perfecting an updo, such as that one, has always brought joy. It was part of a morning routine I had with my mom as a child: brushes, pins, hairspray, and the delicate perseverance of the craft brings back sweet memories.

At that moment, my happiness felt threatened. 

One by one, bobby pins fell out of my hair, trailing down my face, and falling into the darkness below me. I felt overcome with a desire to save them, my hair, and overall appearance. If I could fix my hair, maybe I would like him more.

The bronze pins cascaded around me until none were left. 

I laid awake in his bed that night, contemplating the excuses I could create to call a Lyft and leave. Instead, I stayed and silently searched for my bobby pins. When I eventually drifted to sleep, I toured restless dreams where the skies rained those same pins. 

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

I pride myself on being a free spirit in the romantic realm, but last winter I reached a breaking point. I kept dating men I knew were cruel, but convinced myself that I just needed to give each “a chance.”

The night I spent surrounded by those azure walls, I knew I needed to make a change. Maybe I didn’t need to dive into monogamy, but I knew I needed more substance. I could not spend another night parading a smile that did not match my racing mind. 

As I woke up the following morning, I felt motivated. I stopped seeing him. I told myself, nearly every day for months on end, that I needed more. I needed to share my time with someone who made me curse the clock for moving too quickly. I wanted someone whose stories lit up my night.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Five months after that night, I experienced another cascade of bobby pins. I couldn’t tell you the music playing, the color of the walls, or the thoughts that undoubtedly interrupted my bliss. My focus was on him. I couldn’t stop staring at the furrow in his brow, or admiring the passion in our contact. 

We laid side by side afterwards. When he spoke to me, all he said was “hey,” but it was enough to make me (temporarily) forget every piece of prose I have ever read. For the first time in months, I wanted my own story. I felt happy, but calm. I drifted asleep next to him, and cursed the clock for rushing our time together. 

When I awoke, I realized my bobby pins had fallen out. I grabbed them, perfected my hair, and left. 

Later I realized my hair was a mess, and I had left most of the pins in his bed. Briefly, I pictured their taut, ribbed frames scattered amongst his possessions. 

This made me happy. 

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