When small men begin to cast big shadows, it means that the sun is about to set. -Lin Yutang
This post is inspired by my tyrannical boss, Donald Trump’s latest assault on women, and the guy who took my virginity.
10 years ago, I met a boy named Waldo Winners(anagram). Though I’d learned how to play ‘baseball’ in high school, I waited for the home run. Waited for the cracker jacks with the free toy .
Enter Waldo: blonde, swimmer, International Relations major. Hot. Smart.Sweet apartment. Free booze. Friends with all my friends. Hark! The angels sing.
Before anything remotely romantic happened, I asked him if he was single. I’d seen him hanging out with a pretty, dark-haired girl. Let’s call her Paris since she was abroad the majority of this story. “Nah, we’re just friends,” he chuckled.
We kissed. We more than kissed. I wanted to be desirable: no more of the high school Mathlete guys turned down at dances. So I omitted my V card. My first time in 2 words? Awkward. Thrilling. Thanks to the inventor of tampons, there was no Carrie post prom sheets. I did, however, have a post coital panic attack in his bathroom. Indoctrinated to see sex as both sacred and shameful, I’d crossed over to the upside-down like Eleven on Stranger Things.
“Are you ok?” he knocked eventually.
“Uh… my contact fell out!” Maybe he thought I was taking a massive dump.
We spent almost every night together. Ordered Thai. Drank his favorite Lipton green tea. Jammed to Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Crammed our friend’s room with newspapers floor to ceiling. Starred on youtube’s nipple muffins, a non pornographic portrayal of pure, sober, idiocy.
When it was just us, Waldo was sweet and doting. While I brushed my teeth, he’d mouth “Olive you” instead “I love you”. He generously paid for everything. He came from a family whose forefathers had the privilege of examining Barbara Bush’s vagina. Gyno-gold.
7 months flew.
In groups, our dynamics changed. Just little things at first. A lack of attention. Don’t be clingy, I thought. A message from an upset girl on his laptop. Don’t snoop. A lucid nightmare he cheated on me with someone we had just met. Just a bad dream. I shook it off. Whenever I got upset or brought up my concerns, he’d laugh it off or make me feel looney. What’s worse, lookin’ jealous or crazy? (Thanks Bey). He was so good to me behind closed doors. I had no official proof of wrongdoing. Fine, he was a flirt, but who was I to change him?
On one of our rare nights apart, Waldo drunkenly attempted to piggy back a mutual friend. He broke his jaw on the pavement. I spent weeks playing nurse. You know that SATC episode when Big gets heart surgery and opens up to Carrie at last? When you think: YES! She’s FINALLY getting the love she deserves. But as soon as Big feels better, he’s back to emotionally withdrawn. Like a hamster trapped by centripetal force, no matter how hard I worked, I’d wind up in the same place.
Then there was Paris. Her semester abroad ended and she came back to Boston. It wasn’t a big deal when he’d spend time with her, or walk her home after parties: he still came home to me. I respected their friendship. “She’s cool with us, right?” I’d ask. He’d flash that crest white strip smile. “Yeah, of course. But I think she likes me. I don’t want her to feel bad. Can we tone down the PDA?” I only ever saw Paris when we were out. She seemed like a nice girl. Small sacrifice. “Sure!” I nodded eagerly.
One week later, my guy friend sat me down. He’d been in the car with Waldo. He looked grim. “I don’t think they’re just friends.”
As usual, Waldo had a quick defense. “Why do people talk behind my back? They just make things up,” his voice trembled. “This always happens to me.” I didn’t want to believe him but he was on the verge of tears. My anger faded. I patted him on the back: “You can be honest with me.”
His eyes stared into with mine: “Cheating is disgusting.”
Two weeks later, while Waldo was out of town, I got coffee with Paris’ best friend. We ran in the same 20 strong circle, but had never gotten a chance to catch up one-on-one. 5 minutes in, I blurted out: “I’m so glad Paris is cool about me and Waldo…being together and all.”
“What?” she put down her coffee cup.”Since when?”
“Since she left Boston…”
“Huh?” I put my coffee cup down.
“He’s been with Paris. Since she left Boston.”
My chest bumped like a dryer with shoes in it.
“I’m calling her now,”she whipped out her 5 pound cell phone.
Me, Paris, her best friend, Waldo’s now ex best friend assembled for the grand inquisition. The four of us painfully unraveled a cunning web of lies. How he’d been in bed with me while in a long distance relationship with her. How he played upon our sympathies to keep us from finding out about each other. How he knew exactly what to say, when to say it, and never got caught. (God knows how many other women were involved. Pure luck I am STD free. Get tested annually.) The magnitude of his deception was sick and impressive.
During all this chaos, he called me. I let it go to voicemail, then played it for the group. Waldo made silly voices, chirped about his amazing trip back home in Minnesota. “See you soooooon!”he drawled. Click.
Welcome to the super shitty reality show nobody wants to be on. We made more calls. When the shock subsided, the breadcrumbs connected. Much later, we found out how he had done the same thing to another group at BU. We were not his first.
That night, I wrote him a message on Facebook: “I know what you did. Stay away from me and my friends.” That night, I rode the green line alone. Dear reader, that moment was my lowest to date: my virgin suicides. I wanted to hurt myself just to feel something.
Thankfully, I went home instead. The dam burst while my mom and I were alone in the kitchen. I started to cry and couldn’t stop. She instinctively guessed what had happened: “jiao cai liang chuan” (1 guy. 2 boats.) For an old school asian lady, this was a huge breakthrough. A silver lining in the grey beyond.
In the following years, I self-medicated with my favorite drugs: far-too-fast love and promiscuity. I jumped headfirst into relationships and took no time for myself. I was determined to exorcise his existence out of my head and scrape the touch of his hands off my body.
Shortly after World War III, Waldo had sent me an apology email about being an alcoholic. Delete. I never talked to him again. Until last year.
Before Ecuador, I wrote him a message about forgiveness. It took me a decade to feel ready. He responded: “you didn’t deserve the things I did to you.” Alas, the truth.
I let this experience break me for a long time. How could I have been that naive? How can I trust my partner to stay faithful? Not just with strangers, but with friends? What if? What if? What if?
Only time, therapy, and decent men have tempered this fear. I couldn’t forgive him for the longest time because I could not forgive myself. We co dependents struggle with guilt (What did I do wrong?) and shame (What’s wrong with me?) in its extremities. What is co dependence? (Link to must read book recommended by my therapist.)
Remember: the signs of a sociopath, alcoholic, abuser, are not always obvious from the get go. You don’t go from kittens and fairies to Rihanna post Chris Brown mug shot. It builds up. Explosion inevitable. Falling debris.
To all the survivors: it’s not your fault. You did NOTHING to deserve it.
To all the beautiful souls who support us by listening, loving, enlightening: THANK YOU.
To the countless others who still have no idea what consent, sexism, nor feminism means: FUCK YOU.
Fuck you Waldo Winners. I forgive you too.
P.S. Waldo turned 31 this week. I hope you’ve healed enough to stop damaging others.