Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Hanks for the Memories

Two years ago this month came Negroni Season, a terrifying installment in the incredible true tales of The Worst Boyfriend in the World. It has been three years since the first installment, Crazy Like a Foxwoods. (We'll be wrapping this up in the year 2024.) Now it's Negroni season once again—so let's dive back in to learn what came next!

What kept me going during the first year of living together was the belief that if the Boyfriend could just quit drinking for good, as he occasionally attempted to do, we’d be home free.

And, even though my "Sober Sundays" initiative never took off, somehow that’s what actually happened. The Boyfriend got help and got sober. We moved out of our 300-square-foot West Village studio to a roomy Brooklyn apartment that had a shady backyard and fig trees. I quit smoking. He got really into the slow food movement and talked a lot about growing kale. We went to movies and to the farmer’s market and to museums. We cooked elaborate meals. We split the holidays between our respective families and went away for long weekends with friends. We were gripped with indecision over what kind of dining room table we should buy to best host dinner parties. We watched HBO on Sunday nights.

In short, we became exactly like every other annoying couple that live in certain Brooklyn neighborhoods. (You know.) And I couldn’t have been happier about it. So this is what normal feels like!

A few years went by. When my friends freaked out about their significant others, I felt decidedly unruffled: after all, I’d already passed my Big Relationship Hurdle. Once, during a snowstorm, we passed an elderly man and woman holding hands while making their way down the street. The Boyfriend whispered, "Don’t you think that’s going to be us one day?" I did.

But before we took the next step—into the inevitable baby making and mortgages and retirement plans and death—we both agreed that what we really wanted was to get a dog.

The Boyfriend and I both love dogs. (Oh my god I know, right? So much in common!) But we parted ways when it came to the kind we should get: I wanted some sort of shaggy, floppy-eared rescue mutt. He was dead set on a chocolate Lab—bred from the same bloodline of his previous dog (he was very concerned about proper breeding and in this respect was very much like his mother, but that’s another tale for another time)—and we had long debates on what we’d name it. I gave in on the Labrador argument, but I held tough on the name: Hank, after a character from one of my favorite novels, one that I had given the Boyfriend early on in our courtship.

Hypothetical Hank became a member of our household: "This is the dog park we should take Hank to," one of us would say while passing a particularly nice leafy stretch. Or, "Let’s call him Henry when he’s bad." "But Hank would never be bad!" And so on.

But then, what seemed to be out of the blue (but which never really is, I suppose), the Boyfriend got real down. He stopped going to therapy and support meetings. He started watching an inordinate amount of Adult Swim. He grew quieter, grouchier and stopped sleeping at night. I’d wake up and most often I'd find him sitting at the living room window, blowing cigarette smoke down towards the yard where he never did plant any kale. And then came the day that he told me he thought we needed a break.

He’d been offered a job for the summer in a northern seaside town, and he thought he should go. “I need some time to be on my own,” he said. “I need to clear my head.” He didn’t want to lose me, he stressed, but he thought if we were to continue on forever, it was an important step for him to see what living truly independently—free of alcohol and me—was like.

It was a weird summer. We saw each other only a couple of times and spoke infrequently—and when we did we agreed not to “ruin it” by talking about anything of consequence. When he invited me for a visit at the end of August, the Boyfriend surprised me by announcing he had made a reservation at a fancy hotel right on the ocean. I remember these as a very nice couple of days—we laughed a lot, ate well and slept easily.

And so, as fall came on, I did not expect to find a letter in my mailbox from the Boyfriend explaining he wouldn’t be returning to New York and that he thought it best we went our separate ways permanently. It was two pages long and written on heavy cream-colored paper that looked expensive, and the envelope had an X-Men stamp on it. I couldn’t get over that stupid stamp. Did he make a special trip to the post office to buy it or did he order a pack online? And who the fuck puts a comic book character stamp on a motherfucking break-up letter, anyway? Who sends a break up letter after so many years together? And, within the Marvel universe, doesn’t he prefer Spider-Man? Why was this information that I knew? And so on.

Anyway. I did all the things that one does when they get dumped and unexpectedly heartbroken: a dramatic (and ill-advised) haircut, excessive drinking, a joyous reunion with cigarettes and a lot of 'but what do you think he meant by an X-Men stamp?' deconstruction talk with patient friends.

A friend had seen him while on vacation with her husband. Of course, I grilled her: were there signs I didn’t see? Was there another woman? Women? Men? She told me that when she and the Boyfriend had met up for coffee she had come away convinced he was absolutely going to come back to New York, to me. Two glasses of wine later she admitted she thought he was planning to propose.

“He said he was getting a dog but he told me specifically not to tell you. I assumed he was going to surprise you with it when he came back,” she said. “Didn’t you guys always talk about getting a dog?”

I quit talking about the stamp.

By December, when the Boyfriend called to wish me happy holidays, I had regained some semblance of equilibrium. I concentrated on being as chillingly polite and unaffected as possible.

“So,” I said, “Did you get a dog yet?”

“I did,” The Boyfriend said. “He’s lying at my feet right now.”

“Sounds nice,” I said. “So what did you end up getting?”

There was a pause. “A chocolate Lab,” he said.

“Oh sure,” I said brightly. “No surprise there! Ha ha ha!”

The Boyfriend laughed too, a little uncomfortably.

“He’s a good boy,” he said.

“What’s his name?”

A longer pause. “Hank,” he said.

“Really,” I said. “Hank.”

The Boyfriend cleared his throat nervously. “Well, yes. Hank.”


“Consider it an homage,” he said.

An. Homage.

(It’s possible I might be missing key parts of this, by the way. My brain, bless it, tends to quickly wipe a lot of uncomfortable things clean almost immediately—bleep bloop—in a way I always appreciate even at the cost of good storytelling.)

“So… how old is Hank,” I asked.

“He’s about 8 months,” he said.

I’m terrible at math—just terrible!—but I do know how some numbers work. Like how you get the puppy from the breeder when it’s about 12 weeks old, and also how we had broken up just a few months ago.

“So hang on, when did you get him?”

“Hmmm,” he said. “Late July, I think.”

I considered this. “Oh,” I said. “He was there in August when I was visiting?”

There was a much longer silence. “He was,” he said.


“Well,” he said. “I sort of felt like I wanted to have this nice weekend with you, and if you knew about the dog you’d probably get the wrong impression. I didn’t want to hurt you.”

“An impression like… that you had no plans of moving back to New York?”

“Uhhh…,” he said. And sighed. “Yes,” he said.

I don’t remember how that conversation ended. (Thank you, brain!)

I suppose I should admit now that this wasn’t even the end of our relationship. Because a couple of months later, we got back together.

In better news, Hank was indeed a very good boy and never ever needed to be called Henry.

Evelyn Everlady is the pen name of a young professional woman in New York City who has moved waayyyy on and can laugh about all of this now. Photo by Pete Markham.

39 Comments / Post A Comment

melis (#1,854)


saythatscool (#101)

@melis Never get a Labrador. You ever notice how many of their owners go blind, Mel?

melis (#1,854)

okay at the end of this series (which I assume my cyborg grandchildren will be reading based on the lag between installment) are we going to find out that they are STILL TOGETHER? Because I really think I am going to need Jolie to hold me if that happens.

saythatscool (#101)

@melis I'm gonna need some video if that happens, my love.

Bittersweet (#765)

@melis Oh lord, I hope not…unless "has moved waayyyy on" translates to "has come full circle and settled."

barnhouse (#1,326)


@melis I can't even handle it. Also, I want to watch a reality show about this relationship.

SidAndFinancy (#4,328)

@saythatscool: Like the audio system in your van, STC, you have an 8-track mind.

jolie (#16)

@Bittersweet SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. She wants me to hold her, why are you melisblocking me?????

Brunhilde (#1,225)

@melis I can't believe it's been two years and she hasn't even bothered to let us know what happened to the damn dog.

"I'm into this slow food stuff. It's just more honest."

Also, “I need some time to be on my own, I need to clear my head.” translates, roughly, to "I want to fuck somebody else."

And another thing: Never trust a man that insists on a dog from a certain bloodline. That's a little too close to being ok with racial segregation.

City_Dater (#2,500)


Oh yes. Rescue or Just Shut Up About Where Your Dog Came From.

His desire to acquire a close relative of his previous dog is creepy. Like in the next installment he'll be proposing to the author's cousin.

portmanteautally (#1,015)

@ReginalTSquirge @City_Dater

My horrific ex did the same thing. INSISTED we had to have a German Shepherd from the same bloodline as his previous dog when I wanted a rescue mutt. I think it was a secretly anti-semitic statement passve-aggressively directed at my culturally-Jewish-but-religiously-agnostic self.

I eventually capitulated, but the Shepherd we got was from a rescue organization. As you can tell by my profile pic, he's fantastic. I kept him after I had to cancel our wedding two days before it was scheduled when I found out that instead of going to PhD classes and his job (AT A CHURCH) he was really spending all his time snorting coke off strippers' asses at the Yellow Rose.

I don't know how I would have made it through without that dog. He's old and gray now and my wonderful husband (who I look at as my reward for surviving that load of shit) loves him to death.

Poor Hank, saddled with that asshole.

Ham Snadwich (#11,842)

@Reginal T. Squirge – I think all the Nazis who escaped Nuremberg went on to become dog breeders, to hear some of these people talk. Although it was extremely satisfying to have our rescue pit bull outperform a bunch of $2000 purebreds at the obedience class we took her to.

Bittersweet (#765)

@Ham Snadwich I'd teach my purebred corgi to do a Heil Hitler salute, but her legs are too short.

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

When will this be made into a movie? I have a deep need to go to a matinee and shout warnings at the screen.

laurel (#4,035)

@dntsqzthchrmn I'm thinking a sitcom? How I Dumped Your Father?

laurel (#4,035)

My (im)patience in anticipating the next installment of TWBitW has been AMPLY rewarded. In fact, my heart is beating fast with a profound sense of recognition and empathy/outrage.

I dumped my best friend of a decade because she stole my hypothetical dog. I'd picked out breed, coat style, coloring and name and talked about my hypothetical dog incessantly (and no doubt annoyingly) for months. One day the BFF surprised me by introducing me to her new dog: same breed, coat, color and name. I never spoke to her again.

GailPink (#9,712)

And this is why I stay out of relationships.

saythatscool (#101)


That and your smell.


anagithens7 (#233,358)

an interesting one… better be single LOL

In short, we became exactly like every other annoying couple that live in certain Brooklyn neighborhoods. (You know.)

Oh, believe me, I KNOW.


freetzy (#7,018)

Was a good dog? "Was"? WAS!?! What happens to Hank? Does Obama eat him?

sox (#652)

@freetzy The Worst Boyfriend in the World just got custody is all….right?

LBfromBufaD (#233,359)

I feel like I dated your boyfriend, but in the late 90's, and he was less communicative.

caw_caw (#5,641)

I loved this, but I'm a little sad we've gone straight from Negroni season to A Dog's Tale.

I think we missed the "He called my mother a bitchface" and "Invested in a coconut farm in Vermont" chapters.

I read Negroni Season every few months. It's my 'Remembrance of Things Past.'

@Nicole Cliffe@facebook Also, seriously, fuck that guy.

Annie K. (#3,563)

@Nicole Cliffe@facebook And not in a good way either.

oudemia (#177)

@Nicole Cliffe@facebook Oh, for real. I actually said, "It's Negroni Season!" a couple days ago.

C_Webb (#855)

@oudemia I say it pretty often, but mostly just to crack myself up.

@oudemia Every time my boyfriend says "I think I'm going to order a Negroni," I say, "Oh, you definitely should. It's Negroni season!" And then I laugh to myself. After 4 years of this, he thinks there is an actual Negroni season and I live a life filled with joy.

Oh dear god I need a negroni.

Jillsy Sloper (#12,648)

Straight Man?

Pela (#222,698)

Oh my god I just want to give you a huge hug right now.

"So, after my knife wounds all healed up and my mother got out of traction it was a calm fall. Then one day my boyfriend showed up in a tremendous cybernetic war suit with his old girlfriend Kimberly. They were drunk on Old Fashioneds, and levelled my house with a series of plasma bursts. My skin flared, bubbled and burst as the hot ionic stream engulfed me. My mom farted briefly, then ignited like a fading sun. Later, he destroyed the world.

Anywaayyyyys I'm long past that now! And that wasn't even the end of our relationship! We got back together two months later!"

sheistolerable (#180,103)

It took me three installments of this to figure out that THESE ARE ALL THE SAME GUY. God bless you, honey!

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