Ten years ago, my boyfriend, Greg, and I are lying in bed on a lazy Sunday afternoon when he says he needs to talk to me about something.
My mind instantly goes into overdrive. OMG. He’s cheating on me. He has an STD. He’s breaking up with me. Maybe all three!
Thankfully, it’s none of these things, but it’s the last thing I expect to hear.
“You don’t make me feel special,” he says.
Whaaaaaat?! I think. As the shock takes over, my heart breaks.
Over the past year, I’ve done all kinds of things to make him feel special. I’ve written him love notes that I hide in his dresser and in his bathroom (not under the toilet seat). I’ve cooked him dinner when he’s the far better cook. On his birthday, I gave him specific hard-to-find gifts that he’d casually mentioned months earlier in conversation. I’ve even folded his laundry despite the fact that he possesses the one quality I find sexiest in a man: He can fold a fitted sheet.
I’m truly perplexed, so I ask him, “I’m not sure I understand. What do you mean?”
“I don’t feel desired,” he says.
As a born problem-solver, I jump into action. I tell him how sexy he is and shower him with compliments.
He looks at me and says, “Robin, I don’t want you to just tell me. I want you to show me.”
This is tough for me. I’m a writer. My love language is “Words of affirmation.”
His love language is clearly “Physical touch.”
I understand where Greg’s coming from. He always makes the first move and he’s really good at it. I, on the other hand, never do. It’s the one area of my life where I can be incredibly shy.
Not just because I’m afraid of rejection, but because for years I was bullied by groups of guys who mocked me for my appearance. In high school, the hockey team called me “Big Head” because of my trapezoidal nest of dark curly hair. It was the ‘80s. Everyone had a lot of hair.
But the real stinger came in college when 60 guys bullied me around the clock telling me I looked like a man. For years, I thought I was painfully ugly and not desirable. It took a long time for me to feel comfortable in my own skin, to feel sexy and to trust men.
The truth is I trust Greg and I really don’t want to lose him so I tell him, “I’ll try.”
He says, “Thank you, but just know that you don’t have to try so hard.”
He gives me a devilish grin, we kiss and I take his words to heart. Then, that night I Google all kinds of stuff about making the first move. I scan Cosmo articles about things I can say and do and I contact a friend who’s a sex educator. I can’t help myself. I need to be informed. Nancy Drew is on the case: “The Case of the Brokenhearted Boyfriend.”
Prior to this night, my idea of something seductive was black shiny pants, below-the-knee Fuck Me Boots with a titillating one-inch heel and an irresistible black sleeveless mock turtleneck from Ann Taylor.
A few weeks later, I invite Greg over on a Friday night so we can make dinner together. I’m excited to make my apartment look great and really set the mood because tonight I’m going to do something I never do.
I get out of work late and race home to find all of the windows in my apartment open. It’s the dead of winter and I live along the river, so not only is it a frozen tundra in my place, but it’s a g-ddamn ticker tape parade. Receipts, papers and who knows what else are now wallpapering my floor, my coffee table and any other surface area looking for some love.
I slam the windows shut and madly straighten up my place. Greg will be here in about 20 minutes. I want to feel relaxed, confident and sexy going into this night. Instead I’m a whirling dervish.
It is absolutely freezing, but I need to change because part of this whole plan involves a sexy outfit. Prior to this night, my idea of something seductive was black shiny pants, below-the-knee Fuck Me Boots with a titillating one-inch heel and an irresistible black sleeveless mock turtleneck from Ann Taylor.
But tonight, this Robin is turning into Batman. I put on a black sexy demi-cup bra that lifts my boobs, Laverne & Shirley, perfectly. I step into a sheer, black thong – something I loathe wearing, but somehow feel confident in. Then, I complete my outfit with the pièce de resistance – a black apron (‘cause black is sexy) with several illustrated cows scattered on it (decidedly not sexy). Peppered across the apron is a very provocative message that reads, “Moo hot to handle.” Nothing says “let’s do it” more than puns.
But Greg and I have the same sense of humor, so I know he’ll appreciate it. Hell, he might find me hotter because of it.
I size myself up in the mirror and am amazed by how confident I feel and how good I look. I channel my inner Stuart Smalley and say, “You’ve got this, Robin. You’ve got this.” Then, I imagine how the evening is going to unfold: I’m going to throw the door open and say, “Hi,” as I give him a come-hither look. He’s going to be so stunned that he’ll grab me, kiss me passionately, and we’ll go to town till the cows come home. Then, we’ll make dinner together. This is going to be great!
I glance at my phone and realize Greg will be here any minute. I sprint over to my living room to light some candles and just then, I get a foot cramp. Shit! These happen to me every now and then and they hurt like hell. I hobble back over to my bed to arch my foot and put all of my weight on it. The pain is not going away. I keep pressing down on it and multitask, lighting a candle on my nightstand.
Also, I’m shivering. Not just because it’s bitterly cold in my apartment, but because I’m cold ALL. THE. TIME. I’m the type of person who when someone wants to put a ceiling fan on, I ask for a sweatshirt.
I turn away from my bed to grab a fleece, limp two steps over to my dresser and am struck with a second foot cramp.
“Fuuuuuuuuuuuck!” I scream as I drag myself back to the bed. Leaning over my duvet, I put all of my weight onto the balls of my feet while they’re in a high relevé. For the next few minutes, I try to rub out the cramps, but the pain is not subsiding. My second toes, as they’re wont to do, are spreading apart from my big toes. This is not an attractive look.
Finally, I hurl myself onto my bed and try to massage out the cramps while I lie on my back in happy baby pose. I frantically rub my feet, but nothing helps. On the verge of tears, I push down as hard as I can on both feet, and then, as though there’s a camera in my apartment broadcasting this anything-but-steamy shit show, I hear my buzzer.
“Are you fucking kidding me?!” I yell.
I stagger over to my buzzer, compose myself and hit the “talk” button.
“Hello?” I ask.
“Hey, babe. It’s me,” he says.
“Come on up!” I say with forced enthusiasm.
As I look down at my feet, I think, “If I cockblock myself with these fucking foot cramps, I’m going to be livid.” Finally, I feel a little bit of relief in the right one and I put my heel down on the floor! Yes! I can definitely pull this off with one foot cramp. Sweet!
I hear the elevator arrive on my floor and then there’s a knock.
I turn off the light, pull the thong from out of my butt crack and swing the door open about halfway. I don’t want my neighbors to see all of this moo hot to handle-ness. Covered in goosebumps, I try not to shiver and rest my arm alongside the door. “Hey there,” I say.
“Hey, what’s going on?” he says as he looks at me quizzically up and down.
“Come on in,” I whisper trying to be seductive.
He gives me a quick hug and a kiss before walking past me. I stagger behind him in the hallway. Shit. This is not off to a good start.
He walks into my living room to find the lights out and candles burning. As he throws his jacket onto my bed, he asks, “What’s all this?”
I limp up and stand behind him with my arms wrapped around his chest. “It’s for you,” I say. Then, I turn him around and try to kiss him. He kisses me back in an almost obligatory way. There’s no passion, no excitement. I start to panic and begin to unbutton his shirt, but he pulls away.
“Sorry, I’ve had a long week and I’m really tired,” he says.
“Oh,” I say trying to be understanding while feeling completely rejected. I don’t want him to know that, so I spring into caretaker mode. “Well, why don’t you have a seat and I’ll get you something to drink.” Then, I do the one thing I know is going to absolutely kill whatever mood I’ve tried to create. I flip on the lights.
I’m humiliated. I feel like a complete failure, but I chalk it up to his just having a bad day. Then, I try to initiate a few weeks later and then, again. Each time I try to be more natural, but no matter what I do or don’t do, it doesn’t help. He still doesn’t respond. I’m hurt and I’m confused.
A few months later, when we break up, I’m not entirely surprised, but I’m still crushed.
It takes me a long time to get over him. I spend countless hours questioning what I could have done differently, finally accepting that I didn’t do anything wrong. I tried to get out of my comfort zone for the man I love. It was pure, genuine and done with the best of intentions. It just wasn’t right for this particular guy, and someday, when it works for the right person, he will love me for me — even if sometimes I try a little moo much.