“I know what I’m doing,” I shouted at my mom (probably with a shitty, teenage know-it-all tone).
“All I’m saying is, if it’s meant to be, it’ll be. That’s all.”
It in this case was the relationship I had with my then-girlfriend in college. We were both going abroad to London that year—the only problem was that she had planned to go during the Fall and I had planned on going during the Spring.
My mother, who has been married to my father for over a quarter century, spoke to me as if she knew about relationships. Calmly, she explained that I shouldn’t feel any pressure to change everything and that not seeing her could make us grow closer. When I tried to explain that it would effectively be a year without us seeing one another (as if she couldn’t figure that out on her own), she simply gave me a polite smile and reasoned that it wasn’t as if we were going to be on different planets.
Of course, I knew more than she did (and still do, about everything) so I pushed ahead and made my decision.
I decided to completely change my plans. Re-arranged my course load, figured out where I’d live when I got back in the Spring and switched everything with the appropriate people in buildings with titles like “Registrar” and “Bursar”*.
What happened, or at least the series of things that happened, led me on the path to becoming the single man I am today. In fact, those events were the last time I was ever not-single, if that’s a thing.
As you’d expect, this girl and I broke up before we even got to London. And so there I was, essentially alone, in a foreign country surrounded by joyous groups of friends that I did not know from my own college.
As you might even more expect, the two of us ran into one another during one of the first days of orientation at the main Syracuse London building. Even more naturally, we wound up going for a few drinks, staying out late, going back to my place and doing some sexual activities.
I was pretty drunk and pretty excited to be in the company of any woman at that point (especially hers), so I remember saying some of the most pathetic shit imaginable that night. Drunken promises of joint activities that I had no intent of following through on, up to and including going to breakfast that next morning (gasp!). Honestly, if it meant she’d have stayed that night, I think I’d have agreed to bomb a religious building if she’d asked.
The next morning came and it was like a stranger was in my bed. My brain, still swimming in a sea of cheap vodka and beer, slowly restored itself as I sat up and saw her sleeping next to me. Whatever it was that I had felt the previous night was gone and a sudden dread had taken its place. Maybe it was because I was realizing there was a reason we had broken up… Or maybe, it was the fact that I was mildly obsessed with an adorable brown-haired girl I had met on the group flight over… Or maybe I was simply giddy with the prospect of living in a city like London and doomed in by that illogical male ‘what else is out there?’ fantasy…
Truth was, it was likely a combination of all three, with a heavy emphasis on two and three. I was certainly feeling myself that morning as I sloppily got dressed, hurried her out of my apartment and quietly sat next to her on the subway (fine… TUBE). We rode in silence back towards her apartment (fine… FLAT) and then sat in a little bit more of that same silence in her “favorite” bar (fine… PUB).
All the while, I wracked my brain to come up with the nicest, most concise, easiest way to explain to her that, despite the fact that we had hooked up just hours prior and that it seemed as if we were going to give it another shot, I had little to no interest in doing anything other than sexual activities with her and would prefer it most if I could seek the sexual company of other women.
Here’s what I came up with:
“So… I was thinking… and I realize, this isn’t easy to say, but I guess… I just think it’s best… if we… I mean, I just think that, you know, going forward here while we’re in London, I sort of want to be a free agent.”
“A free agent.”
The rest of the conversation, thankfully, I’ve forgotten. In thinking of that moment, it’s without a doubt the most ridiculous/embarrassingly stupid thing I’ve ever said to a woman on so many levels, I don’t even think it’s worth any of our times to list them.
Quite rightly, she wasn’t pleased with what I had to say. And, even more naturally, I wound up going on to hook up with exactly one (yes, just one) more girl until the final four months of my college career (detailed in amazingly humorous fashion, here!)
And so while I’m sure there were other things that I’ve done that were more indicative of why I’ve stayed the way I am, I felt like this was the best story I had to describe how I got there.
*Are those words, in those forms, ever used in any other facet of society? I’d guess not.