Once upon a time, our pal Julie Klausner went on a date with a man she’ll call “Rob.” This relationship is among quite a few quite vividly covered in her new nonfiction book, I Don’t Care About Your Band, which is out today. Just now! This is where you can buy it on Amazon. Go ahead, we’ll wait. You should know that this book’s subtitle is “What I Learned from Indie Rockers, Trust Funders, Pornographers, Felons, Faux-Sensitive Hipsters, and Other Guys I’ve Dated.” Highly descriptive, and also accurate! Anyway, back to Rob. We were quite taken with this excerpt because she manages to both memoir and meta-memoir simultaneously-a neat trick. Let’s all hold hands and read together.
We went to a glorified diner called Bendix, and it wasn’t a date, because I had a boyfriend. Rob wasn’t initially attractive to me, but because he was so gooey and determined, I grew fond of him quickly. I think there’s something beyond the grass being greener that fuels one’s attraction to men who exist outside of a relationship you’re in. It permits you to twist the reality of meeting what’s merely a self-centered guy who wants what he can’t have into a self-congratulatory progress tale. You think to yourself, “Well, I’m different now-I’m girlfriend material-so, of course he wants to be with me. If only I weren’t in this dumb relationship with a guy who’s already proven he wants to be my boyfriend, I’d be in the throes of what is an oyster-like world of pearl-paved streets. Dumb Guy Who Loves Me! Doesn’t he realize how explosively the universe has changed since I’ve been cooped up being loved within the confines of reality?
After Bendix, and its ensuing meatloaf, Rob walked me home and kissed me. And as soon as he did, I felt every last cell in my body rush with guilt. I am too inherently neurotic to ever cheat on somebody without treating myself to a concurrent crucifixion, so the day after I was kissed, I broke it off with the guy I was dating so I could legitimately fall for Rob….
My on-the-marketness was like an unsolicited homework assignment for the guy who, twenty-four hours earlier, was falling over himself to charm me with compliments lavished over too-expensive loaves of meat. I saw his behavior flip a bitch. Clearly, Rob was freaked out that I’d actually gone through with the steps I had to take in order to date him with a clear conscience, and now he felt responsible for my being available.
After that, we would get together for what I suppose are technically dates to a twenty-two-year-old, which is how old I was at the time, but since he was thirty-one, I can’t really call what we were doing “dating.” We were hanging out and hooking up….
We would always sleep at my apartment. He was superprotective of his space, and also, as it turned out, paranoid about being seen with me around his friends, because, he explained, he was concerned they would “gossip.” That’s a double-threat of sorry-ass. It was quickly becoming clear, even to a self-congratulatory progress tale in her early twenties, that there was no fucking way in the world Rob wanted to be my boyfriend. He’d invite me to see one of his shows, then he’d have me meet him a block away once he got offstage, so nobody would see us leaving the theater together and speculate that we were an item….
I’d never had the experience of being anyone’s secret lover-the girl who hides in the garbage can or shows up wearing a false mustache. “Dating” Rob was the closest I’d come to being with a guy who cared more about what his friends thought than the girl he was screwing felt. I didn’t get that at all. Why didn’t he just fuck his friends?
I chewed him out over that “wait for me around the corner” bullroar, because even with the self-esteem of a twenty-two-year-old, I was never a doormat. It had been a couple of months already-what was he hiding? I didn’t know that this is just how some guys are, and that you should avoid them, like people with tattoos on their faces or relatives who want to borrow money. I just couldn’t reconcile the way Rob was with the way he changed after I no longer had a boyfriend.
Then 9/11 happened.
Hey, don’t you love memoirs? What other genre can footnote an unprecedented historical atrocity as a plot point in a fuck-buddy story?
“He made me wait for him around the corner, the asshole! Then planes hit buildings and people died just because they came to work that day, and it smelled like burning tires below Fourteenth Street for a month and people who believed in God all of a sudden had to defend their certainty after bearing witness to something so uniquely sensless and chaotic and cruel. I mean, yeesh! I can’t decide who’s a bigger jerk-Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or that prick I was dating!”
Anyway, I remember being uncertain whether to call Rob that day. Like everybody else who lived in the city, I was getting concerned emails and phone calls from everybody I knew, and I remember being unsure if it was OK to get in touch with the guy I was sleeping with, or whether that wasn’t too forward. As in, maybe, if I wasn’t casual enough, he’d make me wait for him two blocks away next time….
This is the compromise I made about contacting Rob during what I decided, because I am Einstein, was an unusual circumstance. I sent him an email message with the subject header “ARE YOU OKAY?!?!?!?!”
There was nothing in the body of the text. That kept me mysterious. I sent that message off to Rob and patted myself on the back. I thought my email was a great balance between concern about whether my friend with benefits was all right after a terrorist attack, and nonchalance, which I figured would, one day, make him treat me better. Among the unfathomable multitude of things I did not know at the time is that a “friend with benefits” is like a unicorn that shits cupcakes-fun to imagine, but not actually real.
Julie Klausner is not going to tell you right now that things with Rob don’t actually, in the end, work out very well. No, not at all! I know, right? That’s the sneaky way we have here at The Awl try to get you to buy her book.