So I woke up recently and found myself in a relationship. If you ask anyone who’s been around me for the past few months, they’ll tell you that it’s actually been a long time coming and probably happened gradually without me noticing.
But what I know is, I went to bed one night and everything in my apartment, save the dude in my bed, was mine. The next morning I woke up and there was a second toothbrush casually left in my bathroom for future use, an extra large sweatshirt and LSU t-shirt in the suitcase moonlighting as my second dresser, a bag of spare clothes hanging from the hook by my closet, and a second laptop lying on my floor.
“Oh my god, I’m surrounded.”
I didn’t know what to do with this encroachment into my space. I actually considered calling to tell him that he forgot his toothbrush, just in case he, you know, needed to brush his teeth that night; but then I was afraid he actually did just forget it. Because this would be worse. Even though I didn’t ask for it to be there; didn’t want it to be there, now that it was there, I felt like it was partly mine and if he took it back, I would be losing something. So I didn’t call.
I just stared at it like an unpopped whitehead on my boss’s forehead every time I went into the bathroom and let a whole day go by without any mention of the toothbrush. I saw him at work and tried to check his teeth without looking like a psycho; they looked clean. I kissed him in the elevator and his breath didn’t reek.
“Maybe he didn’t leave it on accident?”
Another day went by without mention of the toothbrush and then I started to freak out for another reason.
“Why wouldn’t he at least say something about the toothbrush?” I asked a friend who was trying not to laugh.
“What do you want him to do, conduct a ‘toothbrush leaving ceremony’?”
“Shut up. Seriously though—wouldn’t you at least alert someone to the fact that you were going to leave a very personal, very ‘marking my territory’ thing in their apartment?”
“He probably got tired of having to remember to bring it back and forth. And what do you care? You’re not seeing anyone else anyways.”
“I know, but still. He’s the one who wasn’t sure he wanted to be in a serious relationship and now he just gets to leave his stuff all over my apartment?”
“Why don’t you try leaving stuff over there?”
“Because he lives with three other guys and I’m pretty sure the apartment hasn’t been cleaned since they moved in three years ago.”
“Ok, I don’t think it’s the stuff at your place—it’s because he’s in your space. Not your physical space, but your mental and emotional space.”
My friend was right. Right around the time of the toothbrush, a shift occurred in our relationship. Well, it’s probably more accurate to say that a shift occurred in me. Before the toothbrush, if he had walked away, I would have been fine. I would have been a little bummed, but it wouldn’t have been anything a bottle of red wine and a night out with my girls couldn’t cure. Post toothbrush, I wasn’t so sure that was true.
It’s weird that a cheap piece of molded plastic can hold such great significance, but in that moment, all of the fears and disappointments of my past failed relationships rested on its tiny bristles. I wanted security, an ironclad promise that I wouldn’t get hurt, a guarantee that if I was going to invest emotions and energy, these scarce resources would not be squandered. The toothbrush didn’t seem strong enough to carry the weight of these obligations.
So again, I didn’t call. I avoided communication for more than 24 hours and then, being the smart guy that he is, he called and told me he was coming over and that we were hanging out. And we ended up having a great night, and weekend, and now everything is fine. And normal. Even when we had “the talk” it was handled as casually as dinner reservations.
I heard him refer to me as “one of the girlfriends” of his friend group, so I interrupted him with, “Wait, so am I your girlfriend?”
He responded with, “Well, yea.” As if to say, “duh.”
To which I said, “Ok, so you know you have to let me know this stuff, right?”
“I know, sorry.”
And that was about it. For someone who is as big of a looney toon as I am, you’d think we’d kick off our official start date with a long, in-depth conversation where one was pulling on the other to negotiate more satisfactory terms of the agreement. But alas, my craziness went out with a whimper. I don’t doubt there’s more to come.