Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Things We Learn...

One of the peculiar things about serving as President of the Young Democrats is the knowledge that you must be careful what you blog. I learned that lesson right out of the gate, which explains my unusual quietness on this blog. On political matters, especially, anything I write can have unintended blow-back on the Young Democrats of Georgia. Yes, people understand that you can have separate opinions from stances you must take as a leader, but when you're the titular head of an organization, the caution you must use is magnified. Hence, you have not heard a peep out of me about this year's exciting Democratic primary for President.

That is not going to change, at least until we have a nominee. My only comment will be that we are blessed to have two excellent candidates vying for the nomination this year. Our cup truly runneth over.

Today, I want to reflect on a personal situation and the lessons I've learned from it. I have come to the unmistakable conclusion that I have horrible judgment when it comes to choosing who I want to date. It seems that a cute face and a messed up soul will win me over every time. Yet, this affliction does not carry over into my friendships. My mother has often remarked that I have surrounded myself with really good people as friends. I couldn't agree more. I seem to have a knack (hopefully I'm not jinxing myself here) for picking quality people for friendships. Quite often, I've been pleasantly surprised by the caliber of my friends, especially when hard times hit. I've had a disappointment here and there, but the vast majority of the time, I've been proven to have decent judgment about people.

Not so much when it comes to dating. I have recently completed the drawn-out denouement of a dating relationship that really ended New Years Eve. Yes, it is the end of February, so what was the problem? It's really twofold: he led me on for most of February, and then I just refused to be dumped via TEXT MESSAGE.

I suppose starting at the beginning is best. JHA first contacted me in the search for a missing mutual friend. The friend ended up in the hospital, but that's not important to the story. Turns out the missing friend was partially a ruse. JHA was looking through our mutual friend's facebook page, and apparently thought I was cute. When I was mistakenly told that JHA was a raving Republican, he went with it as a way to meet.

We met on Halloween at Amsterdam Bar. Talk about foreshadowing! We hit it off, and he revealed that the GOP thing was a ruse, and that he was supporting Hillary Clinton for president. By that time, I didn't care because we'd hit it off. He also told me that he was indeed HIV+, which is something he'd hinted at in emails. He only seroconverted last summer, but he seemed quite calm about it and discussed it matter-of-factly. Not an ideal situation for me, but certainly not a deal breaker.

Anyway, romance bloomed, at least on my end of the deal. I honestly don't know anymore if there was anything there for JHA. I started to feel things that I had not felt in almost 10 years. I had honestly wondered if I was capable of feeling that rush of excitement that so often comes with "new love". With JHA, I felt it once again, and it was nice. Almost addicting. Those brain chemicals are pretty sweet.

The relationship never became physical. For those of you who know me, that is probably surprising. This area was the first hint I had that JHA had not dealt with his HIV status as well as I previously thought. He wanted to take things slow, and mentioned "after Christmas" as a good time to revisit defining our relationship more clearly as well as moving on the physical stage. The goo-goo-ga-ga brain chemicals made me completely OK with that. He was spending a couple of nights a week sleeping over, so I didn't have that feeling of alienation that a sexless dating situation would have over time. Besides, I thought that this could last, so why be hasty?

Of course, that was silly of me to think that it would last. First, when he first met some of my friends at Blake's, he went on a crying jag at the bar over the way one of my friends "spoke" to him. Apparently, he felt that he'd been degraded and talked down to. I didn't see it, but I played the dutiful, supportive boyfriend type. He later fled the scene to hang out with his other friends, which ended up being translated into doing cocaine with them. I didn't know this for a week or so until he revealed that he REGULARLY does cocaine, but nothing like he did in college.

I should have fled at this point, but I didn't. I have no idea what I was thinking, honestly. An active cocaine habit? That's not cool. He swore he only did it every 2-3 months, and he didn't deal it (I asked). Things got even more weird around Christmas, when he left me at a Christmas party to hunt down his ex to "collect" $100. I'm not even sure that was real. He refused to discuss past relationships, although he insinuated that his ex had infected him with HIV. JHA was also full of stories about condoms just "breaking" on him all the time. Having quite a bit of experience with condoms, only ONCE has one broke on me, and you definitely know when it's happened. My guess is that in reality, JHA was high on cocaine at his brother's wedding (where he says he was infected with HIV) and barebacked with someone. Maybe his boyfriend at the time, maybe someone else. It was obviously the wrong person if that is indeed where he got infected. Anyway, JHA knew this ex's passwords to banks, email, etc.....and he checked them REGULARLY. Another major warning sign that something was not right.

So high on brain love chemicals, I went merrily along with all of this, and spent a considerable amount of time putting thought into JHA's Christmas gift. We had had a conversation once about his flagging faith, which was mostly tied up in his HIV status. He figured that if God existed, He wouldn't allow HIV to exist. So I found a book written by an HIV+ man and his reflections on God. It's an excellent book, very moving. I also got him a tie and a bow tie because I knew he loved bow ties. His gift to me? He reached in his backseat and grabbed a mixer that was left over from gifts he'd bought his cousins. And yes, he actually TOLD me that.

He met my mother while she was here for Christmas. We had dinner at my place, and it was pleasant. My mother said afterward that she liked JHA better than my last serious relationship because that guy had been all over me like a cheap suit. But she had a word of caution. She told me that every time he spoke to me, he had a little dig. It wasn't major, but it was noticeable. She did not like the way he spoke down at me or the way he always tried to have a little dig at me. She told me that she realized that we both share the trait of wanting to please the men we are with, even to our own detriment. She told me to be careful, and not to take abuse from anyone. I basically ignored these comments, but it turns out that my mother was quite observant and absolutely correct in her observations.

Then came New Years Eve. I admit that I am a bit silly about my NYE superstitions, like if you are with the one you care about at midnight, it is good luck for your relationship the coming year. But I made clear to JHA that this was how I felt about it, even after he told me that was stupid, because he was with his ex last NYE, and that did not last. However, I was supposed to meet him around 11pm at Wild Mustang to ring in the new year. I was at a Young Democrat house party before that, and about an hour before I was to meet up with JHA, he sends me a text message to not meet him. He had been reading the book I got him for Christmas, and he needed space. He SWORE this was not a break-up, but he needed room to evaluate his life and where he was going. He also promised to call me the next day. Needless to say, he has not spoken to me since.

Oh, he'd text message me, and sometimes email. He never called, claiming he'd had to go to the hospital for strep throat. I sincerely doubt that is true. First, even with HIV, you don't have to go to the hospital for strep. Second, if it WAS true, if he were a man of his word, he would have called me as soon as he was able...or at least texted me. He did neither. I had to text him, asking what had changed that he couldn't keep his word. One thing I cannot stand is for people to lie directly to me, and jerk me around.

Of course, I blamed myself for this "break" that he never could define. He claimed he'd stopped smoking, but seeing him later in January at a bar, he was smoking like a chimney as usual. He claimed a lot of things, I have found, few of which turn out to be true. JHA's behavior toward me was that of a person who'd stepped in dog poo and couldn't get it off his shoe. My patience grew thin.

The finale happened on his birthday. This happened to be a day that was pretty stressful for me where several things happened at once. One of the biggest stressors involved YDG, so I didn't want to vent to anyone in the organization. A president needs to keep up his image after all! But that left very few options for me. My mother's job situation had not cleared itself yet, so I didn't want to vent to her. The only person I trusted to vent to was JHA. He'd been helpful in previous situation where I needed a sounding board, so I texted and asked if I could call him. I should have just called.

His answer back was "no". His reason? It was his birthday, and he shouldn't have to "deal with anyone's sh*t" on his birthday. Any other day, he'd be glad to do listen. But not on his birthday, and it was SELFISH of me to even ask. He also used the excuse that he was in his "best friend's" office and couldn't talk. This best friend is someone I think JHA has a real thing for because he talks about him ALL the time, and spends whatever moments he can with him. JHA is not this friend's cup of tea, so nothing is happening there. JHA would probably give his left nut to change that.

In my world, this kind of behavior by JHA is reprehensible and unforgivable. You don't treat people you claim to care about in this manner, even if it is your birthday. Had the shoe been on the other foot, I would have taken the call, realizing that a friend (let alone someone you're supposedly dating, albeit on a "break") would not call me on my birthday unless the need was very real. But I have found that JHA is quite self-absorbed, and his ability to show empathy to anyone is virtually non-existent. He only considers how something affects him. He couldn't care less how it affects someone else.

So I was really hurt, but I did get an opportunity to vent later that evening. I felt much better, but was still pretty stressed, so I went by Amsterdam for their $3 Long Island Tea special. I was reading one of our local gay rags and sipping my drink, when a piece of cake was placed in front of me. This "piece" of cake was whatever was left over because it was mostly icing and was smashed all over the plate. It was also pink. I asked what this was, and the bartender told me, "It's what's left of 's cake. He asked me to give it to you." At this point, I saw him heading out the door with his gaggle of bar friends with a paper tiara on his head.

Here is how I interpreted this "jesture". First, he obviously saw me come in, although I did not see him. He chose to not even say "Hello" or "kiss my a$$", but instead sent me remnants of his birthday cake to show me that he'd: a) had a party, b) not invited me, and c) wanted to be sure I truly understood a) and b). It was a cheap, tacky stunt that was cruel to boot. I have no idea why he wanted to rub my face in his now-obvious contempt for me, but he did. Now I was just pissed. And a little drunk. So I went on a drunk texting/calling binge. JHA always had his phone with him, so I wanted to tell him live what I thought of him. He never picked up or answered my texts. Sober, I'd take the hint, but considering his behavior earlier in the day combined with this latest stunt, I paid no heed that telling him what I thought of him was not going to happen that night. Many of us have been there, and I was embarrassed the next day that I'd done it. I even apologized in an email to him.

That didn't matter. He read me the riot act on email, telling me that I was "obsessed" and "scary". That turned out to be the last real communication I had with him. Right then, I called another friend to go with me to the JJ Dinner the next week. The last thing I wanted to do was spending what should be a fun night with JHA. I did wait until about an hour before we were supposed to meet for JJ and basically texted him the same message he'd texted me on NYE. I figured he deserved a taste of his own medicine. Considering that Hillary Clinton was going to be at the JJ, I hope this disappointed him, but that's probably a pipe dream. He texted back saying that it was OK, and besides, this wasn't going anywhere, so we should "just call it".

Yes, he was trying to dump me for good via TEXT message! I have never encountered something so cowardly and just LOW RENT. How much more trashy can one be? I wrote him back that if we were over, I deserved a hell of a lot better than a text or email. I demanded it. I'm a grown man, and I should be treated like one. You text a trick you never want to see again. Not someone you've dated. Trashy! Just TRASHY!

So we had some terse email exchanges where he went on his kick of "write me at my gmail, not at work". I figured he was just being an a$$ as usual, so I wrote BOTH places. Never in my time knowing him had he ever answered his gmail, so I figured if I needed a response, I had to write work. This, of course, irritated him. I finally got him to agree to a time for us to meet in person, which I intended to be the last time we'd ever speak. JHA had proven himself to a self-absorbed jerk with a cruel streak, and I deserved MUCH better.

Of course, JHA backed out of that meeting too, reitering how creepy I was for my drunk dialing and texting on his birthday. I had nothing more to add, having already acknowledge that I was wrong and apologized. I hadn't behaved like that since the last time I was awash in the brain love chemicals, except now I had the sense to be embarrassed about it later. The last time he'd stayed over, he took a towel and one of my tshirts for the gym, and I told him to just mail them to me. I certainly have no desire to see him.

Since that last email exchange, I have purged him my email, my phone, and even defriended him on Facebook...which you Web 2.0 folks know is the ultimate "You are Dead To Me" statement. LOL!

The message I take home from this, and that I want to share is that when it comes to dating, we often disable our "jerk radar" or "jerkdar". When you have the quality of friends that I do, you need to give those friends permission to grab you by the collar and tell you to RUN AWAY when they see you trying to date someone tragic. Friends will stick by you, and they generally do have your best interests at heart. I know I will try to listen more carefully next time, and empower my friends to intervene early when they see me going merrily down a path of potential emotional destruction. That lesson almost makes the experience with JHA worth it. Almost.