Saturday, October 19, 2013

Ugly

Inspired by an anonymous old friend, I decided I might try telling some of my old stories on this here blog.  Since this one is already written and edited, I'll start with the text of the story I told at the Storytelling event I performed at a few weeks ago.  Just imagine me standing up and telling this story in front of a crowded coffeehouse.

Action photo of me storytelling!

  Ugly 

After my shower I find Nikole lying on the bed, curled up on her side in the fetal position. What’s wrong? I ask. She won’t talk to me.

We were having a great weekend, staying in the small German village where she grew up. We’d been to her brother’s wedding. We’d gone swimming, snuggled on the couch, had lots of great conversations. And after an awkward trip to the small village pharmacy, where I’d very publicly bought condoms, we’d even enjoyed some afternoon delight. We were having a great time.

So why the abrupt change in her mood? Then it hits me. “You read my journal, didn’t you?”

My journal was a record of all my thoughts, impressions, and adventures in Germany. Officially, I was in Germany to study the syntax of modern Germanic languages at the University of Stuttgart, but my studies took an entirely different turn when I met Nikole.

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She was a German grad student who was preparing to take her masters exam in English, and was looking for a native speaker to practice her English with. In exchange, she would help me practice my German.

The first time we met we talked for three hours. She was impressed with my German and admired my Nebens√§tze. Although we enjoyed the conversation, neither of us was smitten from our first meeting. She told me later her first impression of me was, “Oh, he’s harmless.” The second time we met we talked for 4.5 hours, and a conversation that started out in the library moved on to McDonald’s, and eventually ended up at the Irish pub.

For our first official date, we went back to the Irish pub a week later, on St. Patrick’s Day. We got drunk, went back to her place, and continued our conversation horizontally.

The next day, I would write in my journal, “I guess now you could say I have a girlfriend. I really like Nikole. She’s smart, funny, and affectionate. She’s so cute. This morning she told me I have a wonderful body temperature. No one’s ever told me that before. I’m not even sure what it means, but I like it.”


Nikole had once heard a theory that people learn a foreign language best in bed, and this proved true. My German reached a whole new level once I started sleeping with a native.

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For her birthday in early May, I wrote her a poem-like thing where I quoted all these things I’d written about her in my journal. She liked it.

But she wouldn’t like everything in my journal. In addition to a record of my experiences, my journal was also my therapy, where I wrote out all my hopes and fears and anxieties. Sometimes I wrote about doubts I had.

As Nikole lays there on her bed, not talking to me, my mind races through all the things I wrote. A knot forms in my stomach. There were the times I’d wondered if we were going too fast. The times when I went back and forth between apathy and excitement toward her. And there was the time I talked about how Nikole was not the type of girl I was usually attracted to. She didn’t have that “cute American look” that my previous girlfriend had had.

Yes, I’d kept a written record that compared physical attributes of two of my girlfriends. It was a stupid move that I would pay for for the next 2 years. After Nikole read that, she was convinced that I thought she was ugly.

I did not think she was ugly. She big bushy curly black hair that I liked, cute nerdy glasses that turned me on, and adorable facial expressions. And not to put too fine a point on it, but the sex was great, too. More importantly, we connected on an intellectual level that I never had with any other girl.  Nikole gave great conversation. But after she read my journal, Nikole didn’t see any of that. She thought I thought she was ugly. She no longer trusted me.

It is perhaps ironic that she read my journal, violated my privacy, and yet she was the one who lost trust in me. Over the next two years, she would obsess about what I found ugly about her. Her nose? Her skin? Her ass?

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A year later, I come home to find Nikole once again laying on her side in the fetal position on the bed. This time it is our bed, in our apartment, in the U.S. town where she’s moved to so we can be together.

She has decided that we are not right for each other. We are not going to end up together. Despite this pronouncement, she makes no move to end the relationship. I do not take it seriously.

One time we are out shopping when we ran into Ann. Nikole knows that Ann was a girl I asked out a few years ago. Nikole studies Ann, and compares her to pictures of my ex-girlfriend, and other girls I’ve been interested in. Nikole goes nuts trying to find a common characteristic, something that defines my “type.” But I didn’t have a single “type”. I’m attracted to lots of different women. But I’m in love with her.

After 8 months of hearing from Nikole how wrong we are for each other, I am finally convinced. “Ok,” I say. “Let’s break up.” That night I sleep on the sofa bed, but when I wake up in the morning, Nikole is sleeping next to me, snuggling up. I guess I wasn’t clear enough, so I say, “As of this moment, we are broken up.” Then things get real ugly. The phrase “fucking asshole” is hurled at me with a slight German accent.

After the dust settles, and Nikole moves out, she still won’t let go of the ugly issue. She sends me an email. “Now that we’re broken up, can you please tell me what it was you found so unattractive in me?” I refuse. Of course I’m ready to end things with her, but it isn’t her looks that I find ugly about her, it’s her insecurities.

The punchline to this story is, ever since we broke up, whenever I see a girl with big bushy black hair, nerdy glasses, and adorable expressions that remind me of Nikole, I think, “Oh, she’s cute.”

2 comments:

asplenia said...

Ouch, I can imagine being Nikole. But hearing it from this point of view really underscores how much it is about the insecurities.

Tim said...

Yeah, I'm surprised at how many women who hear this story empathize with her. My theory is that men don't obsess about whether they're attractive as much as women do. I've had several relationships where the woman was not initially attracted to me, but fell in love anyway. It didn't bother me.