The Red Flags I Mistook For Idiosyncrasies

“You don’t love someone because they’re perfect; you love them in spite of the fact that they’re not.”
M Yashna
M Yashna

Although I’ve never read My Sister’s Keeper, variations of this quote have been cropping up like the carpenter ants in my college dorm. After all, everyone needs to be loved “in spite of” something or other. Maybe he wipes his Cheeto fingers off on his jeans and she always insists on waiting for the booth. I myself walk too fast and curl the pages while I’m reading. Imperfections, flaws, quirks, idiosyncrasies – call these what you will, but I’m here to tell you that they are not always cute. Sometimes they are ominous and deserving of a pensive evening stroll. I tolerated my now-ex for over three years because of his “idiosyncratic” red flags, listed below.

1. He never revealed his pain.

For any man who has allowed himself to cry, only to have his tears become tampons and rhinestones and strawberry daiquiris in the eyes of a woman: I am sorry. I can only hope that there is an alternate universe in which my gender is afraid to cry, lest we be seen as “butch.”

Tears are obviously not the only indicator of pain, but my SO never truly exposed an Achilles’ tendon. I knew they existed. Every time I broached a touchy subject – his hard-drug-enthused adolescence, an ex – he just became chummy. “LOLZ whatever” became the response to anything even remotely emotional. I recognize this now as the reddest of flags. If you have every La Dispute lyric memorized, you must be feeling something, no?

2. He was incapable of flattery.

I understand that a lot of boyfriends cannot give eloquent, spur-of-the-moment praises of their beb’s intoxicating beauty and wit. I did not expect this of mine. Near the tail-end of our relationship, however, I would have been happy even with insults. At least then I’d know he was taking notice of me.

3. His “roughhousing” was more than roughhousing.

I understand: you do not cry, and you do not like Shrek. Or any other animated family film, for that matter. I can sort of deal with this. But other people are just that – other people – and not Bobo dolls. If you are playing with my kid cousins on the trampoline and they say you’re being too rough, you do not tell them to “man up.” If we are having a playful scrap and you (accidentally?) push me so hard that my head makes an audible thump against the wall, you do not stare at me dopily before asking “Why did you do that?

4. He was a brat to his mother.

Now, I am NOT AT ALL suggesting that a poor relationship with their mother makes someone a lost cause. One of the greatest male friends I have has completely broken ties with his, and he treats his girlfriend like a Katy Perry-Princess Ariel hybrid (so, like, really well). In this case, while my ex’s mother was not especially mild-tempered, she also made completely valid points about his carelessness. Points that he brushed off by calling her names.

Not a quirk, people.

5. Speaking of carelessness…

An old co-worker still owes him half a grand, and he has made no legitimate attempt to get it back. I received my birthday present five months late because he didn’t feel like tracking it down through UPS. He bought a kitten while living with a friend, became obsessed with it for about two months, then forced the mother of the house to pay for its shots and neutering before he left it there altogether.

6. He smoked pot multiple times a day.

I will not love you “in spite of” the fact that you caress your bowl when you pack it. I will not. You are unemployed and smoking away money for traveling and concerts and other, more memorable things. Dependence on marijuana is very real, and claiming otherwise while you are high just makes me laugh. TC mark

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