What Part Of "In A Different City Every Week" Is Giving Away My "Relationship Tentacles," Asswipe?

Don't hate Tatiana because she's beautiful.* It's summer and she, mere mortal like the rest of us, has invested an excruciating number of its precious hours in the courtship of a dude who turned out to be a total dick! And just in time for her agency to step in and remind her she is officially "fat" by the standards of September's New York Fashion Week. In today's Modelslips, Tatiana re-learns that lesson about why it's a bad idea to look for dudes immature enough to think you're perfect, because if you're sufficiently close to perfect — and Tatiana is, bless her heart — you'll have them fooled for long enough to get high on that oxytocin-sired hallucination of soulmatehood and consequently, become understandably alarmed when they abruptly shake off your hand and ask to use your phone to call another girl. (Wait, seriously Tatiana? You fell for a dude without a cell phone?) (And who exactly decided "9/11 was an inside job" was the new pickup line?) Anyway, after the jump… what happened when Tatiana tried to take a romantic European vacation with her pen pal, The Guy. (Feel free to call him "The Boy"; he was born in the late-'80s.)

*Hate her because you have to Google her literary puns!

The Gallstone Of Rouen
By Tatiana

I would be dropping by today with a jaunty rumination on my work life — I shot a fascinating catalog this week, let me tell you — but I'm afraid I've had something on my mind that has so angered me and colonized my thoughts that I've found myself motivated to rant at length to strangers in bars and to thrash out incendiary e-mails at times when a sensible person would be sleeping. I am afraid this current rage prevents me from mustering the wherewithal to make irreverent fashion commentaries or impugn the good reputation of any of the variety of hardworking artisans I encounter at work.

My problem has a name. A man's name.

My dating life as a model is one of the topics I'm least inclined to broach, but that people seem to take the most interest in. While ordinarily I wouldn't write about my personal life in public, I'm anonymous, I'm prepared to camouflage the identities of the wicked, and fundamentally I think tackling the common assumption that — how was it put recently? "Girls who look like Jessica Alba typically do not get jilted" is worth the airing of dirty laundry.

I do not look like Jessica Alba, but nonetheless it is, I regret to inform you all, absolutely no easier to convince a guy to treat you with love and decency and even basic respect when you're 5'10" and have decent facial symmetry. This month has proven to be a horror of horrors.

There was the hipster who tolerated my hand on his knee in three different bars before going outside to make a phone call and inexplicably greeting a woman with a kiss on the mouth. "Uh, that's my girlfriend. Sort of," he explained. There was the funny guy from the party who, as soon as he had my e-mail, started sending irritatingly entitled missives with subject lines like "So: When are you coming to see me, Tatiana?" There was the dashing Serb who walked with me on the shores of a lake, and took my hand while he explained how 9/11 was an inside job. There was the writer in his mid-thirties who, all of five minutes after meeting me at a nightclub, held me close and whispered in my ear, "I wanna put a baby inside you."

Assholes, jerks, and weirdos like these are the reason my father forwards me headlines like Study: 1 in 4 adults in NYC have herpes
with the winning reminder "Let's be careful out there, Tati!"

But above all, there was the guy I'm going to call The Guy. The Guy is the cause of 99% of this indignation; I can't figure out if I'm primarily hurt that he managed to anger me so, or angry that he managed to hurt me so, but I've been some non-shelf-stable combination of the above for over a week now.

The Guy and I had been carrying on a torrid epistolary relationship for the past few months while I traveled to various of the world cities where fashion is practiced. E-mails were sent. Handwritten letters with carefully selected philately were exchanged. Cells buzzed with txt msgs five and ten times a day. Phone bills were obscene; our conversations no less so. [Torrid" is one way of putting it. "Florid" might work better. But you know, context. -Moe]

It was a mistake, I now realize, to ever wager so much on the character of a boy I'd not yet slept with. And who was 20.

When he and I both turned up in Paris — partly to see each other, partly to work, partly to travel — we promptly remedied that first error. We visited the Musée D'orsay, we took in a concert, we sat in many charming cafés, we went to Sacré Coeur and Sainte-Chapelle and Shakespeare and Co. and then got tipsy with local students on the banks of the Seine. We stayed up all night talking, just like we had done earlier in the summer, when an ocean separated us. And it was wonderful.

It lasted two days before, after a distracted performance at a dinner I'd cooked, he said he was thinking of getting out of town. Just going somewhere; it was summer, he was footloose, he didn't want to be "bogged down" with me and spend more time in Paris when there was the whole of France out there to explore. In fact, maybe he would borrow my laptop and look up some train schedules right now, while I did the dishes? In fact, maybe he would grab his bag and go to the train station and catch that 11:20 departure for a cool-sounding little town in Normandy. Maybe I could meet him at the weekend in Rouen?

I went with him to the station while he assured me that nothing was wrong.

In Rouen, The Guy was half an hour late to meet me at the station — which to my mind, speaks to a certain disinterest, a certain conflict, perhaps even a certain period of talking-oneself-into actually going through with the meeting. He was petulant, spacey, bored-seeming; his every gesture seemed intended to communicate the fact that I was the worst company imaginable. When The Guy wasn't grabbing my hand as we walked down the cobblestone streets, he was telling me that holding hands made him feel like "too much of a couple." The second afternoon, he borrowed my cell phone to call the architecture student he'd hooked up with the night before my arrival.

At dinner that night, he remarked, for probably the fifth time, that traveling alone was "really fun." After an opera, he said I had "relationship tentacles" that were reaching out to ensnare him — an old saw about my supposed transference of affections directly from the last guy I dated, a man The Guy never even met. The evening I left for Paris, I had to ask him to walk me to the station; he stood on the platform, tolerated a kiss, commented that the beer I'd had with lunch was still on my breath, and headed back into the melee with a cheerful "See ya!"

Shy and never at my best in person, I did my usual thing and sent him an irate e-mail. "Narcissistic," I wrote. And "Relationship tentacles?!" And "Neurotic. Unable to concentrate. Flighty. Refused to fuck me." Baudelaire had his Spleen of Paris, I was thoroughly in the mode of the Gall of Rouen.

I received back a missive that included a charming anecdote about how he used to fight with his mother a lot when he was a boy. And the line "I have issues with women." And the line "Maybe I'm gay? I should probably investigate that some day."

And then: total radio silence. The Guy who'd sent me dozens of texts a day, e-mails several times weekly, phone calls on the days he didn't e-mail, letters every few weeks, for two months just slunk off into the French countryside. I wish I could say it hadn't so disappointed me, but when the most promising romantic connection you've had in months — seriously, 99% of the guys I meet present a comparable level of interest to the conspiracy-theorist Serb and the writer-creep and the entitled-funnyman and the it's-complicated hipster, which is to say, zero interest at all — is with an extremely intelligent, worldly, funny, hot, good-in-bed dude you can take to the opera who then just up and hightails it, it hurts.

Before he left Paris again for good, I wheedled five hours and a handful of explanations from him. The man who insisted I re-read The Blind Watchmaker the night we met suddenly found me "too intellectual." My favorite author was someone he, personally, found "pessimistic and dry," and it spoke volumes about my personality that I attached a "talismanic authority" to the author's works and persona. ("So," mused a friend, "if you liked Ann Rice, you'd be too much of a bloodsucker?") I have the wrong color hair and I'm an atheist lacking in appreciation for life's mysteries.

Then he borrowed 20 Euro to get a bus to the airport and walked out of my life.

I hate men.

I've been reading some Anne Carson lately, and I came across a quote that made me shudder:

"There is something profoundly uneventful about a man-made lake, like the self-knowledge of a radical skeptic."

As you might have guessed, I am pretty skeptical. I consider it one of my finer traits: my mind wants to poke holes, to slaughter cows, to draw back green velvet curtains, and I suppose I find it ultimately satisfying when the inevitable disappointment clicks into place. I felt exhilarated at 13 when I determined the religion whose ritual and canon had given me such solace as a child (so many rules! so many complicated rules with so much at stake! It was like a puzzle challenge, staying holy), rested on the false premise that there was a God and a heaven to aspire to. I felt glad to have engineered my own sucker-punch. Woolly thinking seems to me a failure of imagination, a failure of brains — a failure to do our greatest evolved traits the service of proper use, and I try to root out my own whenever I notice it.

It was actually only on reading that Carson line that I realized it is possible that my woolliest trait of all — my inexhaustible ability for false consciousness, for convincing myself that what I want is actually perfectly expressed in what he wants, my apparent mania for replying in kind when I'm told that I'm loved — is not only annoyingly ineradicable, but, just perhaps, persistent precisely because of my avowed skepticism. After all, a skeptic is always asking, are you sure? The essence of my problem is that I never am. It's tempting to think that maybe he is.

Which I guess is a roundabout way of saying that being reasonably smart and self-possessed and even having had the matter of one's beauty put to a (sort-of) "objective" test and given a Pass! is no guarantee that assholes won't come calling, and that one won't spend far too much time entertaining them and their deep, unsearchable issues.

I'm reduced to do-as-I-say: Next time someone irksomely seeks out your affection and shies away from your arousal, next time someone uses your phone to call another girl, next time someone who seems perfect on paper acts indifferent in person, don't wait for him to have the presence of mind to figure out that the romance is doomed. Just run the other way. Fast. And to the lucky folks who are not just coming out the other side of an asshole entanglement? Next time someone more recently burned corners you at a bar with a half-hour story of slights ("He said sleeping with me was like sleeping with a relative!"), grin and bear it. And then maybe buy us a drink and do a quick visual check to — yes, absolutely — confirm the absence of any relationship tentacles. That would make us feel much better.