Essay / Jordan Upshaw / November 2016

Thanksgiving Breakup

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I didn’t really date in high school. Social awkwardness and sarcasm as a defense mechanism doesn’t exactly equate to teenage boys falling all over you. By the time I was a junior I’d kissed exactly two people (one was for a school play) and been on a grand total of four dates. So when a senior boy asked me out I decided I might as well get some dating experience in before college. Let’s call him Dick.

Hey, some people are named that.

Dick was a conventionally attractive baseball player, tall, good bone structure. He was also fairly dumb and casually sexist but I did my best to overlook that. Two months into the relationship I went to California for a four week writing program. While I was gone he started texting his ex again, drunkenly called me by another girl’s name several times, and lied about getting a lap dance at a strip club. At the same time he also told everyone back home I was probably cheating on him. His evidence? Some of my friends there were… BOYS! Dun dun dun duh! No, I didn’t break up with him when I got back. I stuck it out until Thanksgiving.

The day before Thanksgiving, a Wednesday, Dick called to inform me that he was going to hang out with a girl who had a crush on him. Now I’m not someone who doesn’t want her boyfriend being friends with anyone who has a vagina, but I also wasn’t stupid. When your boyfriend has a track record of shadiness and has spent the last several weeks texting a “cute and flirty” girl every day, you can put the pieces together. So when I suggested that maybe he could try not hanging out alone with this girl in her bedroom, I was suddenly a crazy bitch who didn’t trust him.

He hung up the phone on me (cool, mature) and I started crying. I admit I wasn’t with him for the right reasons. It was 40% I’d gotten attached to him, 20% his friends, and 40% if I broke up with him everyone would think I really had cheated on him. But even so, this revelation had blindsided me.

I’d already promised Dick’s mother that I would be there for Thanksgiving dinner and it was too late to back out. So I stayed up until 3:00 AM baking chocolate chip cookies with my then fourteen year old little brother and trying not to cry. I strongly suspected he was going to dump me but God damn it, I was going to bring cookies and be disgustingly sweet and make sure his family fucking loved me first. As it turned out, his plan was to pick a fight with me and get his family to hate me first.

From the moment I got to his house it was a battle of wills. I gave his mother the cookies, she and the rest of his family raved about how good they were. He tried to say he didn’t like them and she called him out. I upped the ante by helping cook dinner. I chopped potatoes while he sat next to me texting The Other Woman and occasionally smirking down at his phone. That got my goat. He again accused me of not trusting him and I shot back “You’ve never given me a reason to” a little too loudly.

The rest of the evening, I went out of my way to be sweet and helpful. Dick went out of his way to pick fights with me. Every time I shot him a glare or gritted my teeth he proclaimed “if you have something to say to me just say it” and his family stared at us. He apparently thought he could get out of driving me home by getting drunk so every time he poured himself a glass of wine I gulped it down first.

I’m pretty sure his family figured out something was going on after a while. This was Thanksgiving 2014, a time before Trump, so dinner conversation was blessedly unpolitical. Instead his aunt kept complimenting me for being so “sweet and helpful,” his mother tried to get him to eat my cookies, and his very drunk uncle attempted to lighten the mood by taking off his clothes. He was cool.

Just before we left I was sitting on his couch, sad and tipsy. Suddenly his giant French mastiff—who had always hated me and never let me pet her—jumped onto my lap and rested her head on my shoulder. Dick and his family were shocked. She stayed there, letting me hug her until I could leave. Dogs fucking know, man.

When we got to my house my little brother was waiting on the front porch with an ax. Dick asked him what he was doing. My brother replied “Chopping wood.” with a deadpan expression, while clearly not chopping wood. Dick announced he was leaving and my brother bitch slapped him across the face with his hat. I couldn’t help myself; I just started laughing and didn’t stop.

 

thanks

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