Six months before I stood in my boss’ office trying to lie my way out of why I wanted to work at Victoria’s Secret, I was standing in my bedroom, trying to figure out what to do with a bag from Victoria’s Secret. Inside of it was a set of lingerie, which I’d gotten for my long distance girlfriend, Karen, who was supposed to be visiting in a few weeks. But now, thanks to a variety of reasons, that was out of the picture. Minutes earlier she’d called to say that it was over between us–and to ask if I could mail back her pillow.
The weeks that followed sent me to a darker and more existential place than I’d ever experienced. I found myself questioning not only who I was, but what I was doing with my life, and why, for the life of me, I couldn’t get a rebound girlfriend.
Yet, amidst all this soul searching, the only question I didn’t seem to ask was, “How did I get here in the first place?”
So before we get to the existential breakdown that led me to a job at Victoria’s Secret, I’m going to finally answer that question: How did I get there in the first place? Or, because it’s the internet: How to Lose a Girl in 10 Steps.
Step 1: Cast a love spell on a girl in the sixth grade
It all began with an apple.
I was in love with a girl named Charlotte, and when none of my normal sixth-grade methods of seduction of worked on her–i.e. Forrest Gump impressions and talking about my paintball gun–I decided to resort to a higher power: witchcraft.
I don’t remember how I got the idea, or from whom I learned about the book of spells in the school library, but I checked it out and ended up casting one that involved eating the same number of apple seeds as there are letters in your beloved’s name. Nothing complicated, nothing creepy–which is probably why I assumed it was ok to tell someone about it.
This was perhaps the biggest mistake of my life.
Overnight, I became known as Johnny Appleseed, and kids would make gestures of throwing apple seeds into their mouths as they passed me in the halls. It’s silly to think that an event like this could change your life, but it did. I never really felt “in” with my classmates again, particularly my female classmates. And after a year or two, this notion transferred itself to women in general. It was like playing soccer after losing one of your teammates to red card: I always felt at a disadvantage with the opposite sex, and sought any way possible to level the playing field.
Step 2: Amass a library of sexual self-help books
Because my parents are science dorks, the first place I looked for answers to my problem was books. And because I was a teenager when this urge began, it was books on sex. No, I wasn’t having any at the time, but I got the sense that girls could pick up on a guy’s bedroom knowledge the same way bears can smell a Snickers wrapper from across the forest.
So, I had to have some.
But now, looking back, I recognize it for what it truly said, “Hey girl, you better run for your life.”
My quest for this information began in the Walden Books in New London, CT, where I very nervously purchased a copy of the K.I.S.S. Guide to Kama Sutra. This gave way to my buying of The Big O: How to Have Them, Give Them and Keep Them Coming, which eventually gave way to Satisfaction: The Art of the Female Orgasm; The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Tantric Sex; The Multi-Orgasmic Couple; How to Make Love All Night and Drive Her Wild; and, my personal favorite, The Illustrated Guide to Extended, Massive Orgasm.
By the time I graduated high school in 2005, my collection had grown to 10 books, as well as one DVD set. Pointing these out to girls, I always thought it bespoke a certain passion, something along the lines of, “Hey girl, I can play your body like a fiddle.” But now, looking back, I recognize it for what it truly said, “Hey girl, you better run for your life.”
Step 3: When this doesn’t work, become a country music artist
Everything changed the first time I saw Tim McGraw on TV.
Almost overnight, I owned a cowboy hat, a guitar and a pair of Diesel Jeans, and began working on my first album, a project I called “Real Men Wear Pink.” This is how I went to on to write such still-available-if-you’re-interested hits as “Cowboys Make the Best Lovers,” “Petrosexual (The Car Lover’s Song),” “The Declaration of Independence,” based lyrically and structurally on the Declaration of Independence, and “I’m Strait Like George (But I Ain’t Urban Like Keith).”
Country music is also how I ended up in Nashville in 2005, as a business major at Belmont University. A year later, I was working in a studio as an assistant to a producer when I met a songwriter who introduced me to the world of pickup artistry. “I just pretend I’m Jack Sparrow when I’m on stage,” he told me, adjusting the seagull feather in his hair. “It’s a trick called peacocking. And women just eat it up.”
I was in a daze after listening to him talk for three hours, and when I left the studio that evening, I went immediately home and ordered a book he’d told me about called The Mystery Method.
Step 4: When this doesn’t work, become a doctor
If I thought my sex book collection repelled women, I underestimated just how much they’d recoil upon seeing Neil Strauss’ The Game on my bookshelf. It also didn’t help that, in an effort to peacock, I’d taken to wearing the same outfit every day. This included skinny jeans; a white, button-down shirt; a black skinny tie; a wedding garter on my right elbow; a red bandana on my left wrist; multi-colored tape on my fingers; and black eyeliner.
This lasted until the second semester of my junior year. Call it growing up, or the sheer terror of looking at myself in the mirror, but I decided it was time to do something more stable with my life, because that’s what women really wanted: a man who could provide.
Years later I’d recognize this behavior for what it really was: fear.
This is how I ended up changing my focus to pre-med, adding both biology and chemistry minors to my English Literature degree. Sure, it added an extra year to my undergrad, but I liked the way it felt to tell people I was going to be a doctor. They seemed to look at me differently as if I was wearing a BMW on my head and house in Nantucket on my shoulders. “YOU HAVE WHAT WE WANT,” they seemed to say. And I did.
Or at least I thought I did.
Step 5: Transfer this unhealthy need for acceptance to every relationship you enter
In a lot of ways, I don’t think my story is abnormal. Making decisions based upon what you think will make you more desirable to women is pretty run-of-the-mill for straight men. Most of rock and roll–most of anything, for that matter–wouldn’t exist without this impulse. I just took it a little too far.
My cousin once referred to me as a chameleon, that I changed with whatever situation I was. I’m not sure if she understood that women were the reason behind this, but it probably was pretty obvious. In high school, I canceled a trip to England because I was concerned my girlfriend would cheat on me while I was gone. The colleges I looked at were based on their proximity to her, as well–or were the same schools she was looking at, even if I had no desire to go to them. I can’t tell you the number of times I bailed on friends or family to hang out with girls–not because I really wanted to, but because I needed the reassurance they still liked me.
This same behavior followed me to college, and what women I did convince to date me were privy to two speeds: jealous and painfully clingy, or callous and closed-off. There was no emotionally-healthy middle ground back then. Just two extremes that couldn’t figure out what they wanted.
Years later I’d recognize this behavior for what it really was: fear. Fear of being vulnerable in a situation where I could control so little. But that was still a long way off. My life hadn’t fully been put on its head yet. Namely, because I still hadn’t met Karen.