Real stories about dating and relationships in New York City. Truth is more interesting than fiction.

Constructing a Life

He was a decent guy. I mean decent in all of the traditional ways. He was close to his family, socially aware and seemed to be full of genuine goodwill towards his fellow man. Plus he was cute as hell, a drummer and spoke perfect French (yeah, I’m enough of an elitist – I’m learning to love that word- to find that a turn-on).

He was also a .

I just never figured out who he was lying to, me or himself. He seemed like the kind of guy who needed to believe his own lies. Who couldn’t just go around willfully saying untruths about himself. But if he actually believed all of the things he told me about himself when we first started dating, well, that’s really sad.

He was closing in on 40. In his early and mid 30s he had had a moderately successful career in a very narrow and random part of the nonprofit world. Like so many people, he backed into a job that he was good at and flourished for a while. Then September 11th happened and all of the nonprofit money in the city dried up for a few years (unless you were working in services that could be directed towards rebuilding Lower Manhattan or survivors) and he found himself shit out of luck.

He spent the next few years searching. He started down a few different paths but none of them felt right.

By the time we met he’d found a new career for himself, one that he wasn’t in love with, but that he was OK with until something better came along. And he was looking for that something better. And he seemed emotionally well-balanced and happy and healthy. At least that’s what he said. That’s how he acted. At first.

Then one night, about a month after we started dating, he had a total meltdown in the middle of the night. I’m not joking, a total meltdown.

At that point I was already starting to suspect things weren’t as he painted them. There were plenty of clues. His import/export job was a retail gig (I don’t think there’s anything wrong with working retail, btw. There is something wrong with lying about it). He never came out and told me, but it was kind of obvious from the hours he worked. And his apartment was a cry for help if ever there was such a thing. He knew I was coming over, he’d invited me out to dinner in his neighborhood days before. But it was filthy. And it looked like it had been decorated by a legally blind frat boy.

And, well, this is going to make me sound cold, but he was just so and needy. In a way that guys in their late 30s in who are from just aren’t. NY guys just aren’t made that way. Not the ones that I’ve been dating for the past couple of decades.

So one night we were up late, in my bed, both suffering from a bit of and we started to talk. I brought up something important to me, something that was on my mind that was causing me stress. He ignored it and then the next thing you know he started talking about how everything in his life was shit and he had nothing and could barely stand to live the life he was living and that went on for a while while I tried to figure out the appropriate reaction. I wanted to show him that I cared, but as so many of the things he was saying were coming out of nowhere I was overwhelmed. Plus a little scared.

At some random point he got up and quickly dressed and left.

We never saw each other again. We played phone tag for a week. He kept calling me at times when he knew I couldn’t talk, when I’d be at work (and I never answered my cell at work). I kept calling him at times when I thought he could talk, but he never answered. I just felt so bad about it all. I don’t know why I felt bad. I hadn’t done anything wrong. But I did, I felt bad.

A year+ later he called me. I didn’t recognize his name when he told me who it was, he had to repeat it and give me a little “remember me?’. He apologized for the way things ended. He didn’t apologize for constucting a false identity for himself, but still, I felt like the apology covered that too. It was nice. It was the first time a guy has done something like that for me.

Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if he was just honest with me when we met. That he was still searching, floundering really. Still figuring out his place in the world. What if he was honest about the fact that everything in his life wasn’t peachy keen? Instead he put on a show. And that show had an over the top, tragic ending.


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2 to “Constructing a Life”


  1. cjw666 says:

    Real sad that. Don’t beat yourself up (if you ever feel inclined to), you did what you could and he was the one had to find his own salvation. The trouble is, there are quite a few people out there like that (male and female). They construct a life in their head that they aspire to and then try to believe in it – not necessarily to fool anyone but themselves. It’s a pretty sick society when a lot of people just can’t face reality because it’s so shit!

  2. lisaq says:

    Trying to be something, or someone, you're not just never works. There's no way to keep up the facade over time. It takes too much energy.

    Not wanting needy & clingy doesn't even come close to making you sound cold. It's just makes you normal…and honest.