Updated: Aug 6
It was the morning after Halloween and I’d just spent my evening how I spent most weekend evenings in my early twenties; getting way too drunk on drinks I couldn’t actually afford and going home with a man with whom I wasn’t actually interested. The only difference between most weekends and this weekend was my slutty Cub Scout costume.
Halloween night was a beautiful 75 degrees and clear skies, so I took advantage of the nice weather, threw on some shorty shorts, combat boots, and tied up the Cub Scout uniform top I’d found at Goodwill. I was young and wild and free. Until I woke up to a 40 degree temperature drop, pouring rain, and a man who did not even offer me an umbrella for the walk home. Then I was just young, annoyed, and freezing.
Worse than clearly doing a walk of shame through upper Manhattan, I knew upon arriving back at my apartment after an evening of debauchery, I would have to face the man with whom I would have preferred to spend my evening -- my hot doorman.
Thanks to a friend who grew up Gossip Girl level rich, my first apartment in New York City was the nicest place I have ever lived to date (for less than $800/month). As a broke actress from rural Missouri, I enjoyed a penthouse apartment on the Upper West Side with a cleaning lady, a terrace view of the Hudson, my own bathroom, laundry in-unit, original art on the walls, and a doorman.
Not only was I living a true Cinderella story by going from being a public-school educated Midwesterner to an Upper West Side penthouse dweller, I also had a young, buff, perfect butt-having, sweet-smiling-at-me, Eastern European, studying medicine full-time but also a full-time doorman doorman.
Our relationship was symbiotic in that I was thrilled to have live-in eye candy who also read textbooks between door openings, and he was thrilled to talk to someone unjaded by the city under the age of 52. We’d stand in the foyer for hours talking about everything from my acting career, to his studies, my family, his family, where I grew up, where he grew up. How moving to New York was for him versus my experience. He was the son of a Balkan war refugee and didn’t speak English upon his move. I was a Bible Belt refugee and didn’t even know what the Balkan wars were.
There was a serious crush developing between me and Hot Doorman when, one evening my roommate, who had lived in that apartment his entire life, caught us chatting and beckoned me to the elevator. Was I in trouble for something? After a long awkward silence, he finally said “MJ, you can’t fuck the doorman.”
I would like to say I didn't need to hear that, but I definitely needed to hear that.
The closest thing I’d ever had to a doorman was a Wal-Mart greeter. How was I supposed to know “home staff” etiquette?
Over the course of the next two years, things between Hot Doorman and me remained platonic with more-than-platonic tension. He got to know me pretty well just by opening my apartment lobby door.
He knew things like when I (repeatedly) accidentally bulk ordered toilet paper from Amazon. When I was running late for an audition or work/that I am always running late. That I was going to get another cup of crappy coffee from Dunkin Donuts because I had not yet developed certain parts of my New York pretension. That I was going on dates with other men and how I avoided discussing the dates with him.
The morning of my slutty Cub Scout walk of shame, I stepped into the foyer, shivering, and trying not to make eye contact with the Hot Doorman who OF COURSE had to be on this shift. I went upstairs, took a very hot shower, and collected myself for the 8 hour babysitting shift I was about to do for some billionaires on Park Avenue. I walked back downstairs, in jeans and proper layering this time.
I spent the entire day fretting over whether or not I’d just totally ruined any potential I wasn’t supposed to want with Hot Doorman by being a total train wreck, clearly doing a walk of shame. And also, definitely concerned I would hangover throw up in a Park Avenue fancy toilet.
Two years into our strange but kinda fun dynamic, the day arrived. My roommate told me he was going to start a grown up life with his new girlfriend in his perfect, rent controlled apartment, and I would have to go live like an actual broke actor/babysitter.
I approached Hot Doorman with bait I hoped to God, after 2 years of subtle flirting with me, he'd take. “I’ve started the new apartment hunt..."
“You’re moving out? When?”
“Can I take you out in September?”
HE TOOK THE BAIT!
Hot Doorman wanted to ask me out after two years of getting to know me and my walk of shame frequency?! HALLELU!
I was so nervous for our first date. I had spent the last two years being stoked on this guy. What if outside of work he actually sucks and my Hot Doorman fantasy implodes?!
Fortunately, that is not what happened.
On our first date, he wore a fitted cream colored sweater and turns out, Hot Doorman was even hotter when not wearing a derpy coat with 80 buttons that made him look like a Tower of Terror ride operator. I could not stop touching his biceps.
He took me to drinks on a rooftop beer garden in Astoria, complete with dinner at a Southern style restaurant, which was very thoughtful, even though Missouri isn't actually the South. I learned he prefers fruity cocktails, which I found hilarious juxtaposed against his large muscles. He learned I still hadn’t figured out my alcohol intake limit, so I was definitely drunk by the time we got to dinner. I was embarrassed but he seemed unbothered.
He’d drive me around the city and nerd out on the history of city planning, the architecture of bridges, and how all of this contributed to New York’s exceptional economy. I would get turned on by his actually having interests outside of work and appreciation for subjects I knew nothing about. Also his car was so clean. Swoon.
Over the course of our relationship, I found that chivalry was not dead, at least not among Eastern Europeans from Queens.
He took me to a really nice seafood restaurant on Long Island, and then to the Long Island Sound where we made out extensively. Much to my own surprise, I told him I wanted to take things slow. He said that was absolutely fine and would wait as long as I needed to feel comfortable.
Although he “wasn’t a texter,” he texted me everyday to check in and see how I was doing. When he was working, he’d ask if I was around the neighborhood babysitting for other billionaires and would I like to meet up?
We’d meet a few blocks down so as not to reveal anything to the residents of my previous home and his workplace. I thoroughly enjoyed living out my own New York soap opera quasi-scandal in those moments.
He showed up to one of our dates with Ibuprofen because I told him earlier in the day my cramps were out of control. Another week, I couldn’t hang because I had a friend in town, so he offered to take us both out. He picked a fancy restaurant in Williamsburg and covered the bill.
Did this guy have a flaw?
Dating Hot Doorman was unlike dating any other man I’d met in New York City; he actually tried. Furthermore, he wasn’t doing all these nice things because he was a narcissist or to "get in my pants." He seemed to genuinely care about me, despite my sort of being a mess. It was wild.
I want to tell you this story ends with Hot Doorman proposing to me in the apartment foyer, us honeymooning in Montenegro, and having beautiful bi-lingual babies with great butts, but it doesn’t. Instead, I broke up with him, kept seeing a total fuckboi for a few more years before I got my relationshit together, and now Hot Doorman is married to someone else.
Sometimes it takes years to realize the impact someone had on our lives. Looking back, I see that Hot Doorman offered me something I could have never learned without him mirroring it so beautifully to me; Doorman actually liked me more than I liked me.
By liking me so much, he showed me I really didn’t like me at all. By treating me so well, he showed me I didn’t even treat me well. By respecting me and my body, I realized I didn’t respect me and my body, and I certainly didn't require that of the men I was seeing.
It sounds horrifically cliche, but I know I pushed him away because I didn’t think I was worthy of him. I didn't think I was worthy of the relationship he was offering. I also had some serious shit to work out in regards to my sexual partner choices. But you'll have to wait for my book to get all the deets on that ;)
I know that someone else loving me will never save me. But all love teaches us something, even if it's that you hate yourself so much there are actually men who are too good for you. Learning how much I needed to learn to love myself, before I could ever receive exceptional love from another exceptional human is not something I ever expected to learn from any man, let alone my doorman. But New York is full of unexpected and unprecedented experiences, ya know?
Since Doorman, I’ve gone to therapy, read a lot of Pema Chodran, and fallen in love with two different Europeans (I have a type). I have committed to creating an amazing, rich, new narrative for my life because I want to be living fully and healthily whenever the next “Hot Doorman” comes along to enrich it.
I know living in the past -- the what ifs or the timing was just wrong-- is not useful for staying open to possibilities in the present or future. And still, more often than I’d like to admit, I’ve found myself walking past my old home hoping to say “thank you” to the person who liked so much of me at a time when I couldn’t say the same for myself. But then deciding that’s pretty weird so instead I’ll just write it in the New York Times.
If you’re reading this Hot Doorman, thank you. I’m sorry I called your coat derpy.