The Girl Who Lived In a Shack


I’ve met a lot of great women through, I really have. I would say at least 90% of the ladies I’ve been out with have been sweet, attractive, and utterly likable people. My problem is, it keeps being the other 10% that I ask out for a second date. Why? No idea, you better ask my shrink. Piece of advice though, she charges by the word and has, let’s say, a liberal perspective on the merits of falling asleep while someone else is talking.

The first woman I had a long-term relationship with that I met on Match was definitely one of the good 90%. She was very attractive, wore glasses (official It’s Not A Match quirky turn on), had a great sense of humor, and was generally irresistible. She also lived six blocks from me and for some reason enjoyed the pleasure of my company, so things were off to a promising start.

There’s always a thing that, after you break up with someone, you look back and realize “oh, I’m an idiot.” Something that, at the time, you justify and explain away and decide not to worry about, mostly because this person is willing to let you see them without their clothes on and allowances must be made for such behavior. But then, after you separate, you slap your hand to your head and wonder how you couldn’t have seen it coming. In the case of 90% Nanette, it was this statement: “Oh, I don’t call back.”

We had just returned from spending Christmas with our families, and she had been distant. I would call her, she wouldn’t call me back, then I’d wait for a few days and call her again. Maybe I’d get her, maybe I wouldn’t. But the whole time she sounded pissed, which was confusing, but such is the life of one who tries to date women. When we returned to New York she yelled at me for not calling her enough over the break. I pointed out that in fact I called her plenty and it was she that didn’t call me. Her response: “Oh, I don’t call back.” She just doesn’t. Never has. How I had dated her for several months without noticing this I don’t know, but she explained that it’s not the woman’s job to call a man back. Men are just to call her until she eventually picks up. Because she’s a princess living in a castle and the entire world is a fairy tale and her hair is made of gold and unicorn eyelashes. I told her plainly that was the stupidest thing I’d ever heard. Apparently that was almost something she didn’t do – get told that she was an idiot – because she didn’t care for that one bit. This was when I should have known that I wasn’t dealing with a 90% Nanette, but actually one of the crappy 10% Tinas. A woman with an opinion about gender roles and the telephone that predate the actual invention of the telephone wasn’t gonna work for me. But we talked it out, I looked past the obvious (mostly because because of that whole potential for clothes being off thing), and we moved on. Mistake.

A few months later, entirely out of the blue, 10% Tina sent me an email saying we were through. No real reason was given, because after all she was a 10% Tina. The only thing she said was that she wasn’t good at discussing such things in person so we wouldn’t be doing that. No talking, face to face or otherwise, would be going on. What can I say, she liked restrictions on communication in general. At the time I was young and delicate, and it hit me pretty hard. I tried to talk to her, but she refused. It was all very confusing and awful and I felt bad for a few months. Yeah, I said it. Months. I was listening to a lot of Nick Drake and Elliott Smith in those and oh how the cigarettes were smoked. The cherry on the cake of the relationship happened one day when I saw her on the street in our neighborhood and she pretended not to see me and walked right by. That one hurt for sure. She was downgraded to a 5% Phyllis after that. But then, maybe a year later, it all changed.

I ran into her roommate in a bar and after pretending to care about catching up, I asked her the big question: so…what’s up with 5% Phyllis? That was when she uttered the one sentence that fixed everything, that turned this into one of the great dating experiences of my life. The roommate said…AHEM…”after she broke up with you she moved in with a guy who lived in a shack.” How do you know you’ve won a breakup? When within 90 days your ex is without running water or indoor plumbing. When her mailing address becomes “Next To The Big Oak Tree With The Knot In It.” When she has to throw away her electric toothbrush because it draws too much on the generator. AWESOME.

The way the story goes, she broke up with me and for a while dated a guy who was married. But who hasn’t really? Then she met this fine gentlemen who entirely swept her off her feet, which was wonderful until he announced that he was morally opposed to modern conveniences of city living, so had built himself a shack. AND SHE LIVED IN IT WITH HIM. I could never figure out where this shack was located exactly, but when you get a gem like this you don’t go looking too hard for fault lines. The point is, I was upset at her choosing against me when a few months later she would also choose against a toilet and working faucets. Luckily she probably didn’t run into the problem of not calling people back again, as it’s hard to place a call with your phone is plugged into a tree stump. She was nuts and I was scott free! All because of one beautiful sentence…

“After she broke up with you she moved in with a guy who lived in a shack.” I’m considering it as a tattoo.

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Image – Samat Jain