A brief reflection of last year in love and lust, after “divorce”, in San Francisco at the height of Tinder et al.
March 1st, 2019 marked year one of me living outside of my marriage and consequently my ex-husband’s one full bedroom, rent-controlled (base rent of $1,600) apartment in the Mission District of San Francisco, California. I think it’s worth noting before I go further that we were married in the sense that we signed a paper to legally bind us so that I could have access to health benefits since my student health insurance was a joke, and we were already engaged so we figured it made sense.
When March 1st, 2018 began, it was my first day living in my new home, a room ($850) slightly larger than a walk-in closet with a loft bed, among three strangers. Because my divorce took me by quasi-surprise, as in we had issues but believed it would be ok, my new housing options were limited. All I could afford at the spur of the moment as a poor Master of Science student was a very humble abode was a mere 4 blocks away from the aforementioned dwelling.
I digress. This year has been hard, to say the least, and at many points, it was quite painful learning and actually doing, a thorough post mortem on what was supposed to be my life-defining relationship, not just a teacher or a passerby relationship. Many nights were filled with tears, self-loathing, dwelling, self-pity, hate, anger, denial, desperation, insomnia, mania. My ex-husband said a lot of hurtful things to me, and I will never un-hear them. I know I have been guilty of saying things when I’ve been upset, but this was not him being upset, this was him telling me finally, what was on his damn mind, emotionally speaking, after years of bare minimal communication and dialogue about needs and expectations.
I had wanted to go to couple’s therapy, and he said “Why should I go to counseling for YOUR problems?” He was incapable of being on my team or sussing out the needs and expectations that I had, with his that were extremely different and dynamic, always changing without informing me until I had to poke it out of him. He was close friends with an ex-lover who now married to a great man, still held onto him in a way that made me feel uncomfortable, but at the time, I did not know their history. It wasn’t until a string of police shootings and my open criticism of many things regarding systemic racism and how protests are necessary sometimes, that caused her to dislike me; it made her feel uncomfortable that us people of color can’t just turn the other cheek. I told my then husband “What if we have children that have my brown skin and they encounter problems? Will you and L then allow me to defend our kids and their right to exist?” Apparently, I was too angry and not enough peace and love. Regardless, this woman turned rude and started to gossip about me to their friends in front of him and he never once stood up for me. He always chose her and told me he would continue to do so. Anytime I thought I had missed him, I reminded myself of how I didn’t miss having a partner that valued people like his ex over his own partner. I didn’t miss having a partner who thought I would be a bad mother, and couldn’t even care for a pet dog.
He was almost 5 years older than I was, and I had met him at 25 on OK Cupid. Our relationship ran for over 4.5 years. I will share that we did not sign a prenup and though I could have taken him for a large sum of money (he works at Google as a software engineer), I chose not to. Despite that he never thanked or acknowledged me for that, I am doing so now for myself and will be returning to this topic in the future.
I digressed again. Big time, Sorry. Where was I?
Right, I was gone, all those four blocks, in the loft bed house. Somewhere in between all this, I went to Portland for PhD interview in Cellular and Molecular Sciences at Oregon Health and science in the middle of a winter wonderland. I used Tinder and Bumble and fell for an economics major who said “Most men are trash” and was “so political it’s obnoxious” but really hot to me personally. Literally one of the hottest things about a human is how politically active they are. He was the first man I slept with after over four years of being with the same person. He was and is a great human and I’m happy we are connected via social media and that I met him.
Ok, after T in Portland, I flew back to San Francisco. I realized right away how much I missed the excitement of a new love, regardless of the shelf life.
This time really, back at the loft: I spent the first night in my new home with a man three years younger than I am. I met him on Bumble and he was smart, handsome and vibrant. I told him I wanted a no-strings attachment and he was game. I was shaken to my core when I found myself developing real feelings for his guy I will call J.
J was 27, I was 30. He was tall as hell. He had this little short blonde haircut and piercing blue eyes; a contrast to my shorter, long black hair, dark eyes, tan Indigenous-Mexican skin. J had grown up in a town a few away from my hometown, and we mused about how much we preferred Northern California to Southern California.
J helped me get my groove back. Though he was not going to be *the* human I would want to try to have a life with again, he helped me see myself in the mirror differently. I’m not sad to say a male helped me with this, as an intersectional feminist and all. In fact, J was a feminist and was very comfortable with his femininity and very wise beyond his years.
I think that in extreme emotional distress, sometimes, we need help from others to be our step stool out of emotional isolation and darkness. We as friends and family members, provide this for them in return because we care about them and know that to doubt and to feel are reflections of human nature at it’s very core. I feel no shame about it.
J and I did not last that much longer as I began to feel too attached, and was shocked and confused by it given that we both had said it would not be anything but casual. Alas, another one bites the dust thinking they can control the depth of their feelings simply because they *want* to.
He had been caring for my pet tarantula, made me breakfast and lunch, always checked in to see how I was doing, and watched “Star Trek: TNG” without complaining that it was too nerdy. Often we would wake up next to one another in the mornings. His window had no curtains, and the sunrise would gently kiss our faces as a kind wake up call gestures. He’d wipe the sleep out of the corners of my eyeballs and kiss me on the mouth, morning breath and all. I always felt a bit self concious about it but he never gave a damn. We’d sleep intertwined, like DNA double helices that were tightly bound.
We’d embrace and eventually move on to use, explore and admire the curvature of our respective shapes until I realized I was super fucking late to lab where I was finishing my Master of Science. It was spring in San Francisco, but the entire time we were together, there was nothing cold, it was nothing but summer.
He taught me about his passions for skateboarding and surfing. Despite our deal to keep it casual, we had too many bliss-filled, oxytocin overload nights were we made hypothetical plans and flirted with promises that seemed intense, as heightened by our concert- MDMA date once.
The fact that J happened to be a lover should not discredit the effect he had on me, rather highlight the rarity that one can meet a good human, who doesn’t end up being your life partner, on a dating app in a city filled with jerk and entitled techies.
J was like an antibody based drug: he activated me, so that I could be attracted to and bind to the realest people around, the energetic, vibrant, kind, responsible, generous and uplifting people that I deserved. It was one of the few times in my life I’ve felt like I was living a healthier version of a Lana Del Rey Song, and there was no turning back from here on out.
J helped me see myself in the mirror in a more positive light, and his energy and bravery was a gift that would never leave me. I think of it as having a smudged mirror, all he did help me wipe it so the reflection would be visible.
With his radiance, youth, optimism, and affection, he inspired me to get the guts to do the things I had merely thought of: learn to ride a motorcycle: actually buy one and ride one in the crazy streets of San Francisco. J inspired me to keep working hard at taking up pole dance and aerial arts despite that I was absolute shit when I started. I found it by applying for a front desk position to support myself, at a Pole and Dance (aerial arts studio) where the badass definition of #womangoals, the founder, inspired me to try it (among other things). I had never tried any physical activity before. I felt discouraged and silly and weak and stupid but I listened to him. I could barely hold up a pizza box or walk in a straight line, and here I was.
To be clear, he was like an actual Southern Californian Sun in my life, but we also had issues. Some were quite big ones that I knew wouldn’t change, so I broke things off with him only once I felt myself getting too attached. I didn’t want any more complications in my life nor for him. He asked me if there was any way to keep seeing each other without asking for more, I said no, even though I wanted to say yes, and I was sad about him for a while. Old me with low self-esteem might have said yes, just to keep him in hopes that he might change his mind.
Growth has been had.
J’s gift was one that kept on giving even long after his absence. Due to my newfound appreciation of skate boarding, it offfered me a chance to be open to meet a guy called T on Tinder, so he could teach me how to skateboard.
I am now in a very serious, happy, long term relationship with my ridiculously talented skateboard photographer I shall call Excellent Question (due to his Instagram handle), where I have reach peak relationship related happiness I never thought possible. I leave that for a future essay.
In a tragic turn of events, one of Excellent Question’s best friends, C, unexpectedly passed away in late January. He was with me in Santa Cruz when we got the call, drove to San Francisco General Hospital, and we went to the ICU where my love got to say goodbye to his friend in a coma.
I broke my spell of giving J his space to reach out to him, because C was also close to J. J was grateful for the information, came to say goodbye to C after we left, and we had made plans to get coffee.
He canceled our plans; he remains fighting his own demons that prevented us from giving things an honest go and out of respect, I did not bother him again to cash in the rain check.
I imagine that I will see him at the Life Celebration of C; I will be accompanying my Excellent Question, and I will hopefully get a chance to thank him for what he did for me. Or, it might be too awkward or wrong place, wrong time. I am unsure. I will play it by ear.
This was just one aspect of the changes and turn of events of the last 365 days. I cannot end this without also acknowledging my mother, my brothers and friends who helped me through the divorce. I am so grateful for them.
A year is, and is not a long time. I have met my best teammate and we are going to Japan in a couple of weeks.
As for my ex-husband, I have no bad blood for him, beyond that he did not appropriately handle himself nor acknowledge his shortcomings, and that I did not receive a better divorce settlement after emotional labor intensive inequalities. I am glad I met a lot of great people through him and learned life’s hardest lessons about love and what I want and deserve. He has been one of my life’s greatest lessons since he could not be my life’s greatest love.
I see him on a mutual female friend’s Instagram, liking her selfies and commenting silly come on’s and I feel nothing. I dream of technicolor cherry blossoms that await me and my love T, in Japan.