My point: I like to stir things up, and what would be considered "completely normal" scares the bejeebies out of me. For this reason, it makes me a bit quirky -- if not maddening -- when it comes to my personal dating life.
In order to get a clearer picture of my peculiarities, I went right to the best sources. Straight to the experts. The ones who know best. That's right. Them! I tracked down all my ex-girlfriends of the past three years for a journey of self-discovery similar to the expedition led by British archaeologist Howard Carter when he discovered King Tut's tomb in the Valley of the Kings (or something like that). Yes, a true journey into the heart of darkness. You see, some of these relationships ended on slightly less than golden terms. (Note: In order to protect the innocent, all my ex-girlfriends are given pseudonyms of famous historical women.)
Name: Madame Curie.
Profile: Graduate student at UC Berkeley.
Duration of relationship: Nine months.
What attracted me to her: Extremely sexy, in a femme fatale, Hemingway-esque manner.
High points: Very smart. We clicked on the same common interests. I often left silly, romantic poetry in her mailbox, which she hung on her wall. Also, she had a pool table in her living room. I like pool!
Low points: We are both very competitive people. Anything involving competition was taken with grave seriousness.
How it ended: Very anti-climactic. Did the whole breakup thing, but still kept the sleeping-together thing -- which is always healthy and bound to have a positive conclusion -- until she started seeing someone else, which abruptly brought an end to the post-relationship scenario and also our friendship.
Why I was misunderstood: One time, an average pool match quickly ended an evening. Hey! Come on! It wasn't just a mere pool game, but a microcosm of our whole entire relationship. Not only our relationship, but, yes, all relationships in general. Like "winning" the pool game, I wanted a "winning" relationship. My God, that's a lot riding on one game of pool!
How did she rate as a girlfriend?: two stars (out of a possible four).
In order to come clean with Madame Curie, I venture to the bar where she slings canisters of martinis to a neo-trendy, wannabe crowd. I thought I'd make amends by highlighting her here, in an impartial newspaper-column profile about our past relationship. Everyone wants to be in a newspaper column, right?! Well, the answer is actually no!
"You'll just end up slamming me," is her response to the interview prospect. Harrumph! I'm offended! That's just the typical humorless comment I'd expect. How dare she deny me an interview! Who the hell does she think she is, Frank-fucking-Sinatra?
Perhaps this type of scenario was one of the tragic downfalls in our self-created Elizabethan play. My job is to point out the idiosyncrasies of social situations and people, therefore that sometimes tends to spill over into everyday life and, of course, relationships.
"I don't want to introduce you to my parents. You'll just end up making fun of them," was Madame Curie's insensitive response to my request to attend a family function. Hmmm, maybe she was embarrassed that her family function might have resembled a reunion of the cast of Hee Haw?
Name: Susan B. Anthony.
Duration of relationship: 10 months.
What attracted me to her: Besides being cuter than a bug's ear, she had amazing energy and a clear perception of the world. Also, very driven and focused on her artistic pursuits.
High points: She was truly unique and full of brilliant ideas. She worked in the arts and could understand my various temperaments. We also once had sex in an airplane. I like having sex in an airplane!
Low points: Constant phone calls from an old boyfriend caused annoying tension. Guys tend to find the biggest comedic target of all in the most recent ex-boyfriend. It's like on Bewitched. He's the old Darrin; I'm the new Darrin. We both have a relationship with Samantha, but, as everyone knows, one Darrin is better than the other. It's the clash of the titans! Good versus Evil! Coke versus Pepsi!
How it ended: She moved back home to North Carolina (not because of me).
Why I was misunderstood: I'd show up to her house dressed in a bear suit. After the fourth time, she didn't find it funny anymore.
How did she rate as a girlfriend?: 3 1/2 stars.
Susan B. Anthony agrees to grant me an interview. An interview about ... me! How self-indulgent this will be. But she voices concern.
"So, what are you going to write about me?!" she asks in half-curiosity, half-panic. She's hesitant about talking, so I ask her questions, referring to myself in the third person.
"What made Harmon difficult to date?"
She can't think of anything. I insist. She still can't think of anything.
I'm persistent. She's silent. I tell her she's a bad interviewee. Finally, "Harmon was very demanding of my time. Very demanding of my attention. [Pause] Rude to my friends. All of them! I guess that's more of a comedian thing. At the time, I thought it was underdeveloped social skills."
Conclusions: Wow! When it rains it pours! As a performer, I know the stage sometimes extends into everyday life. Through comedy, I often find myself in situations where I receive unhealthy doses of attention. It has drawbacks. I'm quite normal and well-adjusted. Honest! There are just moments I need to be pampered like a large child. A large, well-adjusted child, mind you.
As far as her friends go, there was nothing malicious about it. They were just very different than me. My man Oscar Wilde said, "Seriousness is the only refuge of the shallow!" I live by this credo. I'm not shallow.
I'm just particular about whom I fully expose my naked, emotional self to. I'm vulnerable that way. And where would that get me? I'd become a sad, pathetic little clown, laughing on the outside, crying on the inside. No one wants that, especially on a black-velvet painting.
Name: Eva Braun.
Profile: Schoolteacher. A 25-year-old woman who referred to her father as "Daddy" (no, I'm not bitter).
Duration of relationship: seven months.
What attracted me to her: She was nice to look at.
High points: I got to look at her a lot.
Low points: Everything else.
How it ended: We got into a huge, stereotypical fight at her friend's party. With Susan B. Anthony, I was joking about not liking her friends. With Eva Braun, this was a reality (this is quite therapeutic!).
Why I was misunderstood: This is the most opposite person I've ever dated. A purely physical relationship might be the basis of a great one-night stand, but not an entire relationship. Because she had an emotional range of a Stepford Wife, I made a huge Drama King scene in order to get a register of some sort of emotion, and took one on the chin.
How did she rate as a girlfriend?: 1/2 star.
Conclusion: This is a big moment in the development of my maturity. I'm going to call someone whom I hold a strong grudge against. I'll become a changed man. Picking up the phone, I call her house. The phone rings. A man answers. I make an incoherent comment. I hang up.
Harmon Leon is the author of Republican Like Me: Infiltrating Red-State, White-Ass, and Blue-Suit America.