Remember that one time you ended up going out with that guy who had an unsettling obsession with Adolf Hitler – the man, the historical figure, the pop cultural icon?
No, you probably don’t. Because you, my friend, are endowed with one (1) better functioning brain than the oft-suffering author. Actually, my brain is kind of okay — I can rest on my laurels when I say that having it helped get me into Sarah Lawrence College. But when it comes to the perilous combination of men and dating, something just went batshit wrong somewhere in there. Thus my story.
How many proverbial “red flags” does it take for one to realize that a certain intra-personal entanglement we loosely call a “relationship” is a no-go? Two? Three? Well, with this particular specimen, who for purposes of anonymity shall remain T., there were so many of the damn things you would have thought I was being chased by a torero. But I digress…
I met T. on OkCupid (RED FLAG #1). Sure, he seemed odd, and dark, but much less in a Transylvanian way than in a charming, “literary” way. And what right do I have to bat away an eccentric anyway — it’s like the pot calling the kettle black. So I reached out to T on OkCupid et voila, the details of the encounter were sorted out. He chose some mildly agreeable Sasha Petraske artisanal nectar in your fancy cocktail w/ hand sculpted ice kind of affair — so off on a good note. No one ever gets killed inside high-class cocktail bars.
He was odd, and dark, with two beady black-brown dots for eyes to boot, but also vaguely emanated a discreet charm. Kind of like what you imagine the devil must be like. I figured he must be an actor or a stage performer of some sort. But I was mistaken. He was a Religion major at Hunter College (RED FLAG #2). I found that oddly compelling too, like I had finally met someone from the same flock, the eccentric intellectual.
Things progressed, and on the 4th date, he decided to take me back to his place. We rode the F train to whothefuckknowswhere Brooklyn (RED FLAG #3), where he spun a yarn about being a priest as we walked past a rectory on the way there. The truth would be no less disturbing.
As we were entering the subterranean illegal basement apartment converted from a boiler room that he called home (RED FLAG #4), somehow Hitler came up in conversation. Hitler, always followed by the usual refrain of “how terrible…” or “how horrific…” in common parlance, took on a sinister new role here. “Actually, no one ever really knows who Hitler really was in person,” T. said. And it made me reflect for a moment, as I myself responded that Hitler was not a topic I was readily well versed in. I brushed off this extremely off-color remark as we made our way deeper into the inner sanctum.
DON’T EVER DATE EASTERN EUROPEAN MEN (RED FLAG #5) WHO ONLY EVER WEAR THE COLOR BLACK (RED FLAG #6). It is 98% likely that this type will also have no internal nervous system to vouch for and a Polish theater poster emblazoned with, but of course, Adolf Hitler’s fat stylized mug hanging in a predominate location in his dank apartment (RED FLAGS #7 – 100). Yes, dear reader, topping the top ten lists of red flags if Letterman ever did one, would be “HITLER PARAPHERNALIA” — what most would consider a unicorn, a rare specimen. Well, the unicorn was staring me straight in the eye.
You must be thinking that this would be the straw that broke the camel’s back; that it had gone too far. We needn’t mention the black leather jackets that lined his closet like corpses — remnants from a past gig as a bootlegger. Well, there you would be wrong, dear reader. The author, a total novice to dating at that point in her career, decided to shrug it off and proceeded with the danse macabre. What followed was a six-month black hole into what disappeared any commonsensical reflex I may have possessed. He met my family. We made plans. We went to the cinema.
It took six months for me to figure out that I totally hated this man’s guts. That epiphany reached me like divine rays of sunshine after I realized that this guy could quote passages from Mein Kampf at length. I had to cut it off.
I decided to sweeten the blow with soft-serve. I ordered a Mr. Softee with rainbow sprinkles for myself, and one with chocolate sprinkles for him, and we walked through the park. It was a civilized thing, this parting.
Weeks later, I received a package from him, the contents of which for all intensive purposes could have been cordoned off and labeled exhibits as seen on Law & Order: SVU. He returned a tee shirt and a pair of leggings I had left at his apartment, which would have been not so freaky had he not wrapped my tee shirt betwixt one of his own black Banana Republic button-downs. Like it was some kind of metaphysical gesture, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. A note in the same package also alerted me to the presence of “some sketches” he’d made that he thought I should have. My heart softened thinking of some artistic impulse in him, which I had not seen or known about during our rapport.
That Helen Hunt moment in As Good as it Gets where Greg Kinnear draws her in the bathtub never happened, however. The “sketches” were pictures of lawn gnomes and duck sculptures scrawled by his brooding hand. The artistic output of a kindergartener would be more titillating.
So please, dear reader, take my cautionary tale to heart — though I did go on to love and lose a whole lot more, and the jokes about the cold-blooded dial tone I had dated did eventually ebb among family circles, there are times when restraint, tact, and general common sense will do a body and mind good.