A few years ago my friend Pat gave me Mets tickets for my birthday. It was my first birthday since getting together with my girlfriend Amary and I asked her to come with me. I was excited. We had been dating for about a year at this point.
At the beginning I wanted to introduce her to all the things that I liked. Men have this instinct and I’m not exactly sure why. “Babe, you haven’t seen the Bourne movies? Are you serious? Okay, what are you doing Saturday? We’re going to watch all three. Yeah, three, because that Jeremy Renner one is bullshit, babe. This is gonna be epic.” I’m not sure where this instinct comes from, this idea that by giving her my list of favorites she could somehow know me. Part of this fantasy for me was getting her on board with sports. I remember when I used to go to a bar in Williamsburg every Saturday or Sunday morning to watch soccer – this was before the games were so readily available on cable and when I was very, very single – and I saw this couple watching together, wearing matching jerseys. The guy was clearly more into it than the girl but they looked happy. I thought, yeah, when I get a girlfriend, we can be that.
Years later, now that I had a girlfriend, I thought, yes, Amary will watch the Mets with me. She won’t be into it at first, but I’ll tell her about the players, take her to a couple of games and, slowly but surely, she’ll get into it. It’ll be cool. It’ll be one of our things.
So when she sent me a text the morning of the game as I was getting off the subway saying, “Look, I just don’t think I can go tonight. I’m just not going to enjoy it. I’m sorry!” I was kind of upset.
I texted back. “So, you don’t want to go?”
“No, I just wouldn’t enjoy it. Sorry!”
“Why didn’t you tell me that before? I asked if you wanted to come and you said yes.”
It’s embarrassing in retrospect to have been upset as this is somewhat on the order of, “Sorry, buddy, we’ll go to Chuck E. Cheese another time.” “But you promised!” I see that now. Now. But at the time, in the early goings of the relationship? Look, after not only dating but online dating in New York City, I had become extremely sensitive to anything even remotely resembling ghosting. Cancel on me? Day of? That’s a red flag, sister. And why did it take her so long to tell me she didn’t want to go? What else was she hiding from me? My God, who is this person?
We talked it out and I eventually stopped acting like I had fallen off my skateboard and got picked last for kickball.
Also, this game was in April which means the weather is schizophrenic. Sunny one day, hail the size of golfballs the next. The night of the game it was raining sideways. It was just light enough to keep the game from getting called and just heavy enough to be a legit rainstorm. It was cold, too, and had my friend Pat not brought an extra hooded sweatshirt, I would have frozen.
After the game I went straight to my girlfriend’s apartment.
“How was it?” she asked.
“It was fun. It’s good to catch a game.”
“Look, I’m sorry that…”
“Eh, don’t worry, if you had come to that game you would have been really miserable. Seriously, like, we would have broken up. It was that bad. It’s cool.”
Were I a therapist, I could say something along the lines of conflict is an opportunity for growth or some shit. I’m not one, though. However, this was the first appearance of one of my girlfriend’s hang ups. She feels pressure to be the cool girl and she hates it. It’s a concept that wasn’t invented by Gillian Flynn – I’d say Donna Pinciotti from That 70’s Show and Uma Thurman in Beautiful Girls best exemplify the trope – but perhaps best captured by her in Gone Girl:
“Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.”
My girlfriend had wanted to be up for anything for so long. She had taken me to two Nets basketball games. Once for Christmas, once for my birthday. She stood with me at a Moth StorySlam for hours despite it aggravating her back. She had come to countless improv shows. And now, she was trying for one more. She knew that I loved going to Mets games but like a wobbly legged triathlete yards from the finish line, she collapsed. She had found her limit. It was baseball.
“It’s boring,” she said. “It takes hours. I have literally no interest.”
“Even if I bought you lots of drinks? You could bring a book.”
“I can drink and read at home and there won’t be any baseball there.”
“So, you really just can’t stand baseball?”
I still tried. Amary’s friend Sam loves the Mets. She goes all the time. She went to playoff games last year. Sam’s boyfriend Nick also loves baseball.
“What if we did a double date with Sam and Nick?” I asked.
“I just wouldn’t enjoy it.”
So, we’ll never watch sports together. On the other hand, we went to Europe together last year and it was awesome. I think I can let the matching jersey fantasy go.
I think that when you see that someone was putting up with something for you, though, it makes you wonder. How much of the stuff that we did would you rather not have been doing? And I don’t need her to be the Cool Girl. I know she’s not the Cool Girl. Christ, my girlfriend’s a vegan runner who likes Malbec, long walks, and books. She’s not going to pound a tall boy and win a chili dog eating contest. (And her thoughts regarding threesomes and anal sex are beyond the scope of this essay.) I need to know who she is and what she actually wants. We still work on it.
“You know you have to tell me when you don’t want to do something, right?”
“Yeah, I’m working on it,” she said.
The other day I said, “hey you know what could be fun? Seeing that dumb Aubrey Plaza movie about the wedding dates.”
“Um, yeah, you could do that!”
I met her for lunch near her office by the helicopters tours of the city.
“That would be fun, taking a helicopter to see the city.”
She’s getting good.
A couple of months ago, I went in on some Mets tickets for Pat with his wife for Father’s Day.
“So, we’ll get seven?” his wife Stef asked.
“No, only six. Amary’s out,” I said.
“Really? Not even for one day to hang out?”
“Nah, she just wouldn’t enjoy it.”