Whoaaa, hold the phone. I know you’re probably about to rage quit the internet after reading that title. But before you go and staple an “A” to my chest, hear me out. I promise that what I have to say is probably a little different than what you expect it to be. If you are unwilling to do so, or consider this an attempt to justify being a huge sloot, please, just click off now. Go watch a nice video about baby ferrets and keep mentally tap dancing around reality. You are more than entitled to do so. As for me, I will never let this column be anything short of 100% real and honest for anyone else out there experiencing 100% real and honest issues.
What I’m about to discuss is something that’ a real problem in my life, but at the same time, has also taught me an extraordinary amount about how complex people really are. If all the “I low key want to die jk but really” memes are any indication, 2016 has proved itself to be a pretty shitty year. For me personally, I saw the ends of friendships and the hardships of trying to do everything on your own, but perhaps the biggest marker of my year has been my seemingly permanent delegation to side chick.
It’s a position about which I have mixed feelings and insights. I’m neither proud nor ashamed, simply because of the fact that it’s not exactly a life I’ve consciously carved out for myself. Rather, I seem to be a victim of happenstance, unaffected by whether or not I’m wearing boom-boom shorts or a hoodie, regardless of if I’m 3 shots of espresso in at work or 12 shots of Fireball in at a show.
I’m not even referring to the baby call me daddy in the backseat of your patty kink that me and every other choker-wearing sad girl seems to have. That’s a whole different ball game stemming from the fact that the older someone gets, the higher the likelihood that they have some sort of long-term partner. Actually, I want to highlight that it’s not just the Bill & Monica stereotype. Whether it’s a one-time cheat or a full-blown affair to remember, I can guarantee you it exists within the 35 and under club, just more quietly. In fact, it’s a trap in which I fall into, more often than not these days, completely unknowingly (i.e. oh hey, look, Facebook says that guy I’ve been Snapping non-stop for the past week is engaged).
So, this godforsaken Thanksgiving of this godforsaken year, I can say I am thankful for one thing – having been the side chick time and time again; something I’m asserting not to be some jimmy-rustling edgelord, but rather to share misconceptions stemming from narrow portraits of sex, relationships, and morality. As painful as many of these experiences have proved themselves to be, I would still take them over walking around the world completely oblivious to the fact that nearly everything in life, love especially, is never as cut, dry, or idealistic as it seems. There are a million sides to every story, and now more than ever, I feel compelled to offer what I’ve learned from mine.
1) It’s the best of times, it’s the worst of times
This is how Carrie describes her affair with Big in season 3 of Sex & the City, which I’ve found to be painfully accurate, albeit for different reasons. For her, being the other woman is her way of enjoying both men of past and present (and probably proving to herself that she’s just as magnetic as Big’s Ralph Lauren-ad wife, Natasha). For me, as a young, work hard-play hard kind of chick, casually dating/hooking up/ “talking” is the most viable option for a love life. It’s a pretty great one in that you can enjoy the company of men while maintaining your independence, or as Queen Lana would put it, “belong to no one, belong to everyone.” You catch some good feels either in your chest or further down, but you don’t have to be up each others’ asses 24/7 like at the start of a conventional relationship.
But keeping things low key also comes with the reality that you’re bound to catch many-a dude in serious relationships trying to have fun on the side, unbeknownst to you or their girl. At first you may not be able to see it. It appears as if he’s in the same boat as you; he didn’t respond to your DM because he was so busy at work, he can’t come kick it tonight because he already has plans with his buddies, etc., when really he didn’t respond because his girl was laying next to him in bed and he can’t hang because Thursday is date night at the Cheesecake Factory. When the mask is inevitably taken off, either through his own fruition or some social media digging, it’s nothing short of shattering. Literally. You may throw your phone at the wall and it will shatter.
This is a point at which I once again found myself recently, and ultimately the tipping point that made me finally write this article. I was at a show alone when I was approached by a guitarist. He told me I was beautiful and we left to go get a drink at another bar. We got the last two seats where we discussed siblings and day jobs over PBRs as I quietly thanked myself for deciding to go out. Clearly not wanting to part ways, we made arrangements for him to stay at my place and meet up with the rest of his band the following day. During our Uber ride home, we sat huddled together in silence, but not the awkward kind – that kind that’s the perfect build up to fucking someone new. And perfect it was until, while still wiping the cum off my back, he called himself a piece of shit. I asked why. There’s a girlfriend back home. Four years.
It’s that bleak realization; what has facilitated your independence, your breathing room, is not his independence, but rather, his infidelity. What tangled webs we fucking weave.
2) But it’s not just within groupie life
Yep, contrary to my last story, I’ve found that those perfect couples you see sharing all the details of their lives together on Facebook aren’t any less likely to stray. This is actually a lesson I learned dating back to Ye Olden High Skewl with the best friend of one of my exes. He was cute in a moody alt boy kind of way, and knew just what to say to get the Abercrombie jeans dropping. Rumor had it he had entire server full of the nudes of every girl in my school and the high school in the next town over. But come senior year, he seemed to had settled down with this hella pretty new girl who was a few years younger.
They were the couple that would lean against the lockers and stare longingly into each others’ eyes. Their prom pictures were like something out of a goddamned Disney movie. Oh, and during that same time he fucked my friend Ashley in the ass in the woods across from the football field. A pinecone incident ensued and I always wondered if the girlfriend ever discovered any of the prickly remanence in his pants later. True to form, it wasn’t long before he was sliding into my Facebook messages in an attempt to make my panties hit the forest floor. Me being young and uncomfortable by this new possibility of being the side chick, I called him out on what he was doing, but in his sly way he managed to make it seem like I was the one who was crazy.
Cut to this summer, not much has seemed to change. If anything, it’s only grown worse. When my sister and I moved into our new place, we were pretty stoked to see the dudes next door were in their late 20’s, total babes, and were into doom. While there was a whole house full of them, there was one that I always seemed to particularly click with whenever we both caught ourselves coming or going at the same time. A real fucking man’s man, he would always step into help if he saw me struggling to carry something or if he saw I left my lights on, which would usually then turn into him asking me more questions about myself while we stared at each other all puppy-eyed. We were feeling some type of way – my sister saw it, the mailman saw it, fuck, the junky on the corner probably saw it.
So what could go wrong? It’s not like dating or fucking could be any more convenient when you live right next door. Well, I won’t try to build too much suspense; he has a serious girlfriend, and I am sad to admit that this is an occasion in which I was fully aware of that fact. I couldn’t really not be since she was always hanging around, giving my sister and me very scary looks. I was pretty perplexed why she felt threatened by me, even despite my eyes for homeboy – she’s pretty much the perfect classically quirky hipster dream girl with the perfect pet pooch to match, not to mention their pictures together on Facebook were all suitable for an engagement announcement.
Eventually, my question was answered.
My sister and I were sitting on the porch drinking one night when my man came out and saw us. Leaning over his side of the railing, he asked if he wanted to come to the bumping going away party him and the wild boyz were going to be throwing the following week. He explained the rest of the dudes were moving out, and the girlfriend was going to be moving in with him. Knowing that things were going to be getting interesting, you best believe I was going to be there in an attempt to feel-out the dynamic.
Despite being surrounded by about forty people and Fetty being dialed up to 11, as I was leaning over the counter of his kitchen bar and speaking to him as he was fully engaged across from me, it was as if we were alone. It had been so long since anyone took any interest in my life the way that he did, and I thought maybe the feeling was mutual given the warmth in his smile. Of course, it didn’t take long for his girl to see what was going on and step in, and, of course, I couldn’t really blame her. I ended up making out with one of his friends of a friend later and hated myself for it. I didn’t give a shit about randies. I was starting to fall in love with this kid.
A few days after the party, I realized I left my favorite giraffe-covered decoy cup at his house and messaged him on Facebook to see about getting it back (I get sentimental about the most asinine things). Somehow, our chemistry spun a simple question into the longest thread of life. We went from talking all night to all day and all night about everything under the sun. It was all so easy, and so unfair. We were both trying so hard to suppress any kind of talk of the bump and grind, but one night, he had a break down, and my feelings only grew deeper since I’m low key a little bitch. Eventually I had a breakdown, not a sexual one, but an emotional one. I told him how much I liked him and he literally dealt with it by trying to play it like Shaggy – “oh, we were flirting?” I was devastated that years after pinecone boy, I was still being made to feel crazy.
After more long and painful DM’s in the following days, he finally admitted that he had led me on and it became apparent that he had no intentions to leave his girlfriend. He basically chalked the situation up to impulse control issues and being overwhelmed by getting more serious with his girl. He told me I’d find someone, but really, there was no consoling me. I knew it was my own fault for falling for him, but I suppose that’s life. The hard part is that although the pair ultimately decided to make like the wild boyz and move out after a dispute with their landlord, they still live in the neighborhood. I saw them recently when I was walking home from yoga. They were standing there perfectly on the street corner, her scarf perfectly fastened, hair perfectly quaffed, the dog sitting like a perfect statue, him with that perfect smile, dressed as the perfect urban woodsman – them together, enjoying their perfect lattes on a perfect Saturday morning. And there I was; sweaty, disheveled, and smoking. I panicked and sprinted into the nearest alley, clutching a fence post as my lungs constricted and the tears formed. But through my hurt and wanting to scream, I knew deep down that I’d rather have no relationship than a relationship where perfection masks deceit.
3) It runs deeper than just so-and-so is a shitbag
While my bitterness probably shines through in my last story because it was so recent, I know intellectually that homeboy isn’t a bad person, although it would be easy to simply write him off as such. We’re people. We form schemas. We like to categorize. This kind of person is x. This kind of person is z. It helps us make sense of both the overstimulation and hard-to-stomach tragedy around us. But, as I also continue to press, we are complex. The problem is when we put these two realities together, there’s a lot that is overlooked.
When you’re the side chick, you’re oftentimes labeled as evil, but also pathetic because you’re deemed as someone lacking “self respect.” I really hate that term, mostly because there’s a vocal contingency that seems to think that everyone should conform to their definition of it. Lecturing women who openly express their sexuality to “have more respect for yourself” also seems to be a popular form of implicit slut-shaming, and I’m fucking sick of it. The time in my life when I respected myself the least was when I was in a serious relationship and thought I deserved to have all of my passions put down and my calls go unanswered for days. This whole stereotype, of course, also completely overlooks the fact that side chicks are oftentimes unaware of their status as the shenanigans are transpiring.
When it comes to the dudes in these situations, they seem to be subjected to a lot of oversimplification as well. When your heart is hurt, it’s reasonable to want to go and turn your key into the side of his pretty little souped-up four wheel drive. But for me, and I’m sure for others, the cathartic phone-smashing method is only really the first step in a long process of healing. My aforementioned ex was an asshole to me, but he’s also bipolar, grew up in a Springer household, and did every drug under the sun – things I have to try not to lose sight of. I’m not trying to say that if you’re cheated on or just generally treated shitty that you don’t have the right to be as mind-numbingly angry as you want to be. Go ahead – be a Samantha Jones and put Richard’s face on fliers across Manhattan to warn the women of New York that there’s a cheater on the loose. Never let anyone make you feel unentitled to your feelings. But, for what it’s worth, one long-term tool that I’ve used to cope with the effects of my past relationship is the acceptance that it wasn’t my own personal shortcomings or pure, unadulterated evil within my ex that triggered certain events, but rather the dominos of life.
4) Last but not least, love is fragile and wavering
I’m not saying everyone cheats and that some don’t stay married for a bajillion years, but chances are there are going to be many people that simply don’t fit into the mold of a traditional monogamous long-term relationship. And that’s okay. The key is getting to know yourself well enough to know if the conventional route is the right one for you before you travel too far to go back, leaving yourself taunted by other diverging paths off the main road.
I’m happy to say I’ve encountered a few self-aware people out there. After years of flirting and liking each others’ pictures, this dude and I finally started to get a little bit more, well, involved. He seemed so unhesitant to act despite the fact that he had a girlfriend, so when I eventually confronted him about her out of worry, he explained that they were in an open relationship and she had banged half of Tool while they were together. But unfortunately, since evolution in the theory of relationships seems to be progressing at a slow rate, these people have been the anomaly, at least in my experiences.
As much as we may try to fight it, we change as people, as do our life circumstances. Chances are, who we grow fond of shifts as well, whether it’s for an hour or thousands. Some would argue that better will power needs to be practiced, but it can also be argued that trying to fight the tides is unhealthy and downright futile. A journey adrift at sea is just as valid a fairy tale as happily ever after. Okay, I guess when you start to more or less quote your own tattoos it’s time to sign off, but it’s an insight I wouldn’t trade for the world nonetheless.