So I’ve just broken up with the man of my dreams and I’m in the City of my dreams. I’m not sure what I expected from that trip to New York, but I can assure you, my experience far exceeded anything I could have imagined. Mostly because I was totally and completely blindsided by what I assume is maybe normal for people living in New York City, but not so much Hollister, Missouri.
Mattie Jo Makes a New Friend
First things first: Alcohol. Although I had turned 21, six months prior to Spring Break in NYC, I really didn’t drink that much. Mostly because on the weekends I would leave to visit my boyfriend who lived five hours away. And he didn’t drink. So whatev.
I did, however, get super drunk on my actual birthday. As one does when they live in a sorority house with a pool of white girls just waiting to get you black out, vom-faced, ass-cheeks-out-Paris-Hilton style schwasty. I remember ending the night at a real, actual place called Boogie Bubbles. This frat bro told me how much weight he’d gained in muscle in the last three months within the first two minutes of our conversation. I think I told him I didn’t care. Then I threw up in an industrial sized trash can (You know, the kinds janitors use). Anyways, I was of course getting wasted because I was 21, but also because I was really mad at Catholic for not coming into town for my birthday (I know I’ve made Catholic sound totally dreamy and flawless, but that’s because I have a selective memory. Also #breakupgoggles). But yeah. What kind of asshole boyfriend doesn’t come to town for their girlfriend of two years’ twenty-first birthday? Or any birthday! He did this, obviously, because he was the only Catholic on the planet who wasn’t really into drinking. So he obviously didn’t want to come support me getting wasty-faced. Even though THAT’S WHAT YOU DO WHEN YOU’RE A BOYFRIEND. Whether you want to or not it is your duty to support your girlfriend on her completely excusable white girl wasted celebration. But he didn’t. Fucker.
So I’m in New York and I can drink alcohol. GAME CHANGER. Also, I spent a lot more money. But I had so much more fun.
Things they don't tell you in church: drinking is super fun you should try it.
If you’re in New York City, you might meet Broadway stars. And you’ll talk to them like they’re your best friends because alcohol makes you even more outgoing than you already are! I don’t know why Jesus wouldn’t be down with that.
Here's me on this trip being really excited about Staten Island.
And also the skinniest I've been since anorexia.
Having real night life experiences also meant I was kind of a terrible house guest. Something people who don’t live in the City need to know about the City: Late night public transportation is really unreliable. Trains come about every 52 minutes or something. So you usually have to take a car to wherever you wish to sleep. Which costs A LOT of money. Especially if you’re staying in Washington Heights. Which is very far from the most happenin night life scenes. This is why actors get vastly (comparatively) more boring when they move to NYC. We don’t have time or money to go out. This is also when you activate your OkCupid account and only go out with guys who work on Wall Street #Survivor
Now that I’m a New York dweller, I am SO grateful/apologetic to the people who let me stay with them for entire weeks. For free. Listen guests, we like you, but you’re just inconvenient if you’re sleeping in our small shared living space. We can tolerate it for a few days but anything more is rude. You should look into Air BnB.
That being said, my hosts were saints and I was rude. I would stay out really late, past my host’s bedtime, and have to wake them up to let me in. My hosts told me I should just start getting home before 11pm and this wouldn’t be an issue. But I was 21 in New York on vacation so I didn’t feel the urgency or consideration to comply. So, if the clock struck 11 and I was still out and about, I would simply trust the universe to find me a place to sleep. Mother I’m sorry. I know you had so much faith in my decision-making. But given the circumstances, I’ll just blame Catholic for making me so emotionally unstable and clouding my otherwise really pragmatic judgment.
The Tree of Knowledge
So one night I am out with some friends and it’s past 11pm…ya know what these details don’t matter. Here’s what does matter. I got to talking to this really good looking dude whom I had met through some mutual friends. We’ll call him Model. Because he was that HAWT. This was A WEEK after my breakup with Mr. Wonderful. The sad part is, Model wasn’t the first dude I had “noticed” since my breakup. I definitely madeout with the hottest (only) straight guy in the musical theatre department the same night Catholic and I parted. Yeah…I would like to say these things happen because I’m so magnetic men just NEED to be near me. But that’s false. It’s mostly because I am an excellent flirt. And an amazing kisser (credit 17 magazine).
Well we’re chatting and I’m like kind of freaking out about how I don’t have a place to stay that night. I was not in any way, shape, or form looking for a handout DIRECTLY from Model. I was thinking maybe he had friends nearby I could stay with (lol). Go home with someone I had met 10 minutes ago? NO WAY. I wouldn’t do that for another two years (KIDDING. I’ve never done that…). But I guess he thought I was asking because he totally offered. “I mean my room is really small. But you can have the bed and I’ll make a pallet on the floor.”
"REALLY?!?!" Had this totally beautiful, seemingly nice mutual friend just invited me to stay with him? I wasn’t going to sleep on a bench outside Central Park? OH JOY (clap hand emoji)!!! I know what you’re thinking. This is a really stupid idea, MJ. You just met this guy and you’re going home with him? In New York City? DANGER ON SO MANY LEVELS. Well, you’re not wrong. This was a stupid slash dangerous decision. But guess what? I was single and starting to learn something very integral about my personality: I’m GREAT at stupid slash dangerous decisions.
But guess what? I was single and starting to learn something very integral
about my personality: I’m GREAT at stupid slash dangerous decisions.
So we’re on the subway and guess what I learn about him? He’s a Christian! Yeah! I mean like the real deal. We connect on it immediately. See, he’s not a serial killer. He loves Jesus. This was actually a huge relief because after I got over the excitement/relief of not having to sleep with the Toppins lady (you know, from Mary Poppins with the pigeons), I realized I had just agreed to go home with someone I didn’t know. Oops. Well now that I knew he was a Jesus-lover, it was safe to say he wouldn’t be interested in my goodies. This is a real thing. As soon as Jesus-loving men sense my sexy, they put me in the “no wife zone” and I stay there to rot. Just a little lonesome “boy crazy” floozy with all the other girls who were slut-shamed in youth group. Anyway…We get back to his apartment.
We’ve had so much to talk about and we actually stay up really late chatting. Which is inconvenient for him because he has to work in the morning. It’s also really a bummer we’re hitting it off so well and he just has to love Jesus so much. I wasn’t ready to try my luck with another one of those for awhile.
BUT THEN. Detail.
He’s got a girlfriend.
Yep. Oh. Oh okay. Well. That’s…weird. I mean not that I thought he was exactly trying to sleep with me but like. Damn. What are you going to tell your girlfriend about this? You were just trying to be a hero? But I suppose that was none of my business. Until he asked to kiss me.
Ahh yes. Fucker tried to kiss me. In all of New York City I had managed to go home with a spiritual player.
I coined this term in high school to describe guys who really love Jesus but also really love BJs. They’re supposed to love Jesus more than BJs but they’re sixteen so of course they do not. And they end up using their Christ-Centered sex appeal to lure young ladies (like myself) in, get what they want, then put you in the “no wife“ box. It’s very cruel. But common.
So Model here, was a spiritual player. Thing is, he probably couldn’t find any girl in Manhattan to work his disciple-magic on because women in Manhattan don’t give a shit about religion. In fact, if you even mention Jesus within the first, idk , year of dating they will probably peg you a conservative weirdo and run away. This is unfair. But real.
He, however, had conveniently stumbled upon a broken hearted, attractive, damsel in distress from Missouri. I was Spiritual Player GOLD. In the perfect position to make terrible choices because I needed to feel loved. And affirmed. See, I still hadn’t quite made it out of the “men and God determine your value” mindset (God determining my value is a GREAT thing. But that was largely accompanied by ways to be more appealing to the God-loving members of the opposite sex. So these ideas were often synonymous in my head). I was vulnerable and easy to manipulate and sexually suppressed.
So Model is literally STARING ME IN THE FACE asking me to kiss him. Just a kiss. “You have a girlfriend.” Yes but see he was thinking about proposing soon and he couldn’t possibly do that without knowing FOR SURE that he didn’t want to be with anyone else. And he was SO taken with me and BLAH BLAH BULLSHIT.
I know you all would like this story to end with me slapping Model in the face, running into the streets of New York in his giant T-shirt with my clothes in hand, and sleeping on the ground before I went anywhere near that asshole again. But that only happens…well I don’t know when that would ever happen but in real life. Humans are rarely ballsy heroes in these kinds of situations.
I eventually said yes. Because here’s another thing they don't tell you in church: sometimes you will be uncontrollably attracted to awful people. The formula for asshole aversion is something like:
Raised by great parents + go to church + read approximately five dating books/year = zero daddy issues + fall for a great guy who likes to do small things like always get the mail for you because you will always forget slash be too lazy too get the mail.
But this is not true. Sometimes you have the best dad in the world, go to church regularly until you are 23, read all of the dating books provided to you (a lot) and you still end up attracted to emotionally unstable manipulators. The difference between me and, I suppose, many of the other girls with which I grew up, is I engaged those attractions. FULL FORCE cuz I’m still not 100% convinced life isn’t more exciting when narrated by a Ke$ha song (this is a half joke).
Anyway. I kissed Model. This guy with a girlfriend who wanted to propose but thought maybe I would be the girl to change his mind? Look. I’m not saying I was in the right AT ALL. But also maybe this kid had some life spectrum experiences he needed to have before jumping on the marriage train. And by maybe I mean obviously. He proposed a few months later. They’re still married I guess.
I tried to tell that girl. I really did. I felt pretty bad about it. Especially because it’s not like the affair ended there. I developed feelings for Model. And he didn’t exactly stay away. But once the excitement of engaging in a situation I had only ever thought existed on shows my mother loved (Young and the Restless) wore off, I realized what it actually was. Him getting the best of both worlds (Proverbs 31 wife and well, me). And me being a total asswipe of a person. So I cut the cord and tried to do the right thing.
I made some choices.
Twenty-One and Terrified
I could have fit into that “young and married”* life all my friends back home have. I could have continued “digging deep into my faith” and feeling really superior about knowing the difference between transubstantiation and consubstantiation. I could have guilt free sex by age 22 (which was the actual motivator, lets be real).
But perfect Catholic boy and I broke up. I was on my own. I didn’t have a “blueprint” for life anymore. Which is super fucking terrifying. I mean clearly I was in no position to be trusted with that kind of freedom. But then again, maybe I was? Maybe I just had to trust myself to jump with abandon into this thing called The Real World (which actually does exist, Mr. John Mayer. It’s that place that isn’t small town, JC obsessed, Missouri), and not die (This is a metaphor. With jumping meaning taking risks to do things I never thought I would do in order to have both awful and amazing experiences. And dying meaning becoming one of those addicted to snorting laundry detergent homeless prostitutes). Did I trust myself? I had to.
The idea of trusting oneself is very antithetical to how I grew up. I was taught humans are inherently bad. We need God to make us good. On our own we’re just a bunch of reality-TV obsessed, cursing mongrels (Christians are very obsessed with terrible Television i.e. 19 Kids and Counting. They just curse less). But what if on my own I’m actually really wonderful? That when I made decisions and had to take responsibility for them, it actually made me a greater person? What if I did shit things and decided how I felt about them (cue A WHOLE NEW WOOOOORLD)? The alternative was nailing my feet to the ground because the Bible Tells Me So. My culture tells me so. Because I have a map of what life is supposed to look like. I guess…I guess I just want to be able to tell my daughters, in full confidence, that I made some shit decisions in my twenties and it didn’t ruin my life. And it didn’t ruin my rapport with JC either.
When it comes to decision-making (although now with a good night’s rest and making it to the gym in mind cuz #adult), I say “do it for the story.” I want to experience the entire spectrum of life.
Well, I have many stories. And I’m currently on the “sightly addicted to wine” section of the spectrum. But I’m sure I’ll get through it.
* There is nothing wrong with being young and married. It is simply a life choice just like any other. And if you don't make it, you feel very set apart from your now young and married friends because you often share very little in common. Once again, not bad. It's just life.