“It will never be true. Things have never been okay with us. Maybe if I’d paid attention, I would have seen that on our first few dates. Maybe I would have noticed his possessiveness; maybe I would have seen the way he wrapped around me, made me his entire world, his obsession. Maybe I would have felt the wight he placed on my shoulders, one tiny stone at a time.”
— Amanda Grace (But I Love Him)
Having evaded the drama of romantic relationships for twenty years, I wasn’t sure what a first date should look like. On television, the main consensus seemed to be that first dates were awkward affairs generally encountered in one’s teenage years. I thought back to my teenage years, which were almost entirely consumed by school, reading, writing, and loneliness. I remembered girls talking about crushes and gossiping about boys. Unrelatable, for me.
My first date with Rudolph ended up being at a fish fry. Nothing says romance like hastily prepared church dinners in a basement packed with extroverted conservative Christians. Lucky for me, I was entirely ignored, even by Rudolph himself. You see, Rudolph was also an incurable socialite. So he interacted with literally everyone in the church–except me.
Then he took me outside, held my hand, and explained that he was sure I was “the one,” the girl who would make his male Christian fantasy come true. I nodded and thanked him, but made no reciprocal gesture. He told me that God had called him to be my husband.
Then we went to the main part of the church where we knelt and prayed for like two hours in the pews. Because I was a good Catholic girl, I had my obligatory one-sided conversation with the Christian deity.
Rudolph told me what he liked about me. He said he had first seen me during one of the Newman Club dinners, talking to no one and quietly praying before I ate. He said it was cute and endearing. He asked what I liked about him. I racked my brain for a suitable response, then said I appreciated that he was straightforward. He seemed to accept that without noticing the struggle I had gone through to find a quality I honestly appreciated about him.
On the drive home, he held my hand and rambled about geography and zip codes. When we drove past a prison, he described the time he was almost arrested because he stupidly decided he was going to check out the prison in the middle of the night. I mustered my best fake laugh.
I really wished he would keep both hands on the steering wheel instead of insisting on clinging to my hand. I was pretty sure our relationship was becoming a safety hazard.
He took me home and parked the car in the driveway. We got out and I started to move toward the house, but he began talking again. Oh, ok. So I would need my social mask a little longer.
He said no matter how hard he tried in school, he struggled with low grades. I nodded. As a straight A student, I could not quite empathize, but I could sympathize. He said it was because he was an idiot, and I assured him he was not, citing the numerous topics he had encyclopedic knowledge of. He talked about how he had a hard time making and maintaining friendships at college, because he saw himself as socially inept. I felt guilty for not being a better girlfriend, for being unable to reciprocate his feelings and being unwilling to admit that I could not.
He said he was ugly and he didn’t understand how I could like him. I said I did not think he was ugly. He said he aspired to be as heroic and selfless as Trump someday, and I listened with horrified fascination as he went on about how the Democrats were pure evil and the Republicans were the soldiers of God. He elaborated on the wrongdoings of queer people and lamented the sins of politicians. We had to have been out there an hour before he began to panic that my father would be angry if I didn’t go inside soon. I seized the opportunity and backed away, waving.
I put on my best smile and told my mother I had a wonderful time. I think I even mustered a convincing blush. That night I lay in bed staring at the dark ceiling, wondering why since I had started dating I felt even more alone, and even more trapped.
Post 60 in Socially Unacceptable: The Daily Life of a Queer Schizophrenic Wreck (2022)
This is an autobiographical series about my life, something I have wanted to do for a long time. I intend to add new content daily.
For the whole series, follow this link.