Do people negotiate relationships like they do employment contracts and rental agreements? I think we should … you are embarking on an agreement with another human being that requires a shared understanding of expectations and boundaries.
“At that party, you said we could have an open relationship, did you mean that?” I asked.
“I don’t remember saying that, but I believe you,” he said. “I was drunk. If you have sex with someone else, I will say I love you very much, but we have to part ways.”
“So, no open relationship,” I asked again.
“I will say I love you very much, but we have to part ways.”
At the time, I was making some side income with my radio acting. Those of you just tuning in might not know, some of my money comes from morning radio shows, posing as a distraught wife or girlfriend to act out a scenario. DJs counsel me through while another paid actor, hired as my significant other or botched date, improvises with me on the air.
It pays well, about $40 per show, and a taping takes about 15 minutes to a half hour. I am given a scenario the night before with an alias, a time to expect a call from the radio station and, most times, a business name to drop at some point during the call. A credit union. A lawn mower company. A local or corporate business that paid to have their name dropped during an emotional, yet scripted, confession on morning radio. I do it and it is easy money. Sometimes we have multiple takes, but there is no pressure because it is all pre-recorded– but always packaged as live, on the air. Listeners call in, passionate and opinionated, weighing in on the romantic kerfuffle but don’t realize I am a single girl in LA, most likely lounging on my bed with a book and three dogs by the time the call airs.
I hooked my roommate, Frank, up with the gig because he is a stand-up comic with a quick tongue and a dry delivery. Often we are booked together. One morning, we booked two shows in a row. The first call was about a first date he thought went well and wanted to know why I never called him back. The big reveal is after (my character) shows up to a Weezer concert to meet him for the first time, she discovers he is wearing tight, leather pants and is embarrassed and turned off. As you can see, scripted morning radio ain’t Hemingway.
“Who is this?” I asked after the DJs cued me and we were recording.
“This is (insert random middle American radio station). How are you doing today?” they asked as if we hadn’t been chatting the last five minutes off the air.
“I am only on my second cup of coffee. What do you want?” I asked.
“Well, we are just calling about [such and such] who took you out on a date and claims you never called him back,” the DJ responds.
I break out laughing. “Oh yeah, he wore these leather pants that were more like ‘Pork and Beans’ than ‘Pigs in a Blanket’ if you get me.”
They laughed. It was in another time zone, so the sun had not yet risen in Los Angeles. Frank vehemently defended himself under the alias and we went on for almost 15 minutes before they thanked us and disconnected the call.
The next call was in 20 minutes in another state, so I had my cup of coffee and checked on my boyfriend, who was still asleep in my bed.
This call was about how I pestered an attractive man on the phone until he turned cold. The reveal is that I really just want to take him to a family reunion; kind of like a movie I saw once with Debra Messing called ‘The Wedding Date’. I took the call and they asked me to describe how I had contacted this guy after one unsuccessful date. It is all improv, so I described how I pinged him via text, Gchat, facebook, etc. and he never got back to me.
They got Frank on the phone, really in his boxers and a t-shirt in the next room, and the improv moved to a place where the DJs (a male and a female) felt sorry for me and offered us both a limo and dinner before my family reunion. It went on for about 20 painful minutes until the call ended. Then Frank and I convened in the living room.
“See, I didn’t like the first call. I felt like I really had to get defensive as this fucking loser, but that call was just pathetic,” he said.
“Yeah well, I was the pathetic one. I had to channel the whole post-Huck scenario for material,” I said. Huck was the boy from Milwaukee I fell for in writing school in June. He broke my heart twice by July.
“Don’t tell me you were using real stuff! I don’t want to know the pathetic [StarFire] when the first call was the cool [StarFire],” he said.
“Well, they are both me …,“ I said before refilling my cup of coffee and checking in on Michael. He was still asleep. I was feeling hot and nauseous. After a show, Frank and I get restless. There is an adrenaline rush with improvising in general, but we are encouraged to work ourselves up to a domestic spat (“The more dramatic, the better” they always write in the summary email) which is always my favorite part. You need at least half an hour after a call to decompress. I crawled into Frank’s room and sat on his daybed.
“Now I am amped,” he said, sitting next to me in his loafers and a pair of khaki shorts.
“I don’t feel well,” I said, leaning back.
“Do you want something? I have pills,” he said.
“Xanies,” he said.
“Eugh,” I sputtered, “alright.” I broke the pill in half because everything hits me so God damn hard. I am always impressed with how many pills or drinks people can ingest when I am forced to remain economic with my dosage. If I don’t watch the units I consume, I could get sick or worse, pass out.
I climbed back into bed with Michael and felt the fuzziness of Xanax rub against me. My body was humming like a guitar string and all the nausea disappeared. It was the morning we were going to Planned Parenthood to be tested for STDs. It would be a load off of my mind, especially considering the amount of unprotected sex we had.
A few weeks earlier, Michael was outside a bar talking to me about it. “So, I was thinking, if I get a disease like herpes or something like that from you, I would be ok with it. I mean, I think its worth it. And even with HIV … they will find a cure soon anyway, so that’s probably fine too.” I chuckled obviously because he would feel differently if I actually did transmit a disease to him. I know if it was the other way around, I would never forgive him. And as for HIV/AIDS, we all thought there would be a cure soon when we were 23.
On the way to Planned Parenthood in Pasadena, I felt the winter sunshine burn through my coat. My brain was blocking out all the shadows and doubts in the world and tuning into the classic rock station on the radio. It felt good to be with Michael. On Xanax, I didn’t believe our age difference was a problem. I didn’t think there were any problems. Everything felt like it was locking into a perfect fit, so I did the unthinkable: I changed my relationship status on Facebook and linked it to his profile.
Facebook is such a dangerous place for a person like me. I am an exhibitionist by nature, an entertainer, therefore creating my own virtual platform is already too easy. The smarter performers separate their personal lives from their “persona”. Sadly, my personal life is my persona.
The other factor about Facebook is the way information aggregates- it really feeds into an obsession where my thumb and brain are constantly searching, scrolling, perusing to collect more data- no matter how useless, trivial or violating. In general, I would agree that I have a Facebook addiction because it has reconfigured my mind to mark and advertise any moment, thought or event just before the minute, moment and memory expire. If I am unable to mark it, I feel less control over time. If we were sitting at a cafe and discussing this over coffee right now, we might have a deeper conversation on the matter. I would agree with you that time is not necessarily real. Time is an illusion. Social networking invigorates the best and worst parts of man; impulse and discussion. However, right now I am talking about relationships, xanax and Facebook- so … another time.
This particular Planned Parenthood has a back building devoted only to STD testing off the street and behind the clinic. Michael and I parked the car and sat in a waiting room with a few other couples, mostly Hispanic teenagers wearing spiked bracelets and glitter eye shadow. We were both taken in around the same time but to different rooms and different nurses.
“How many sexual partners have you had in the last year?” “A lot”
“Do you use condoms?” “No.”
“Do you use intravenous drugs?” “No.”
They took a sample of my urine, saliva and blood and I sat to in the waiting room wondering how close I had played my luck this time around.
Meanwhile, Michael’s questions were a lot simpler. Although, when asked if his sexual partner used intravenous drugs, he thought about cracking open the door and calling out the question to me in the waiting room.
“Of course not,” I said, later. “Like heroin? Come on.”
“Well, I don’t know,” he said. I realized much of what Michael knew about me at that point had to do with this blog and a glamorized version of my dark side.
We got our HIV results at the end of the visit- both of us were clear. And later the rest of our tests came back clear as well. Lady Luck was still on my side, at least for another hand.
For the rest of the afternoon, Michael and I decided to make love. Since I posted this blog, I learned that we did not make love, rather I fell asleep when he went down on me. (I assure you this has nothing to do with his skill but the thick, heavy influence of Xanax) The incident required more than one discussion on how insensitive I was and how hurt he was. I fell into a deep, self-medicated sleep. A 6-hour nap. I missed phone calls and emails. By the time I woke out of my drug-induced coma, it was dark outside.
“I am worried about the dogs,” I said.
“We will go walk them, just lay here with me for a second,” Michael said.
I curled into his arm with my cell phone and pulled up Facebook. The spell was broken. My brain was back on its feeding frenzy.
“Oh fuck, I changed my relationship status?” I said.
“Yeah, baby. Remember? I asked you if it was because of the Xanax but you said you wanted to do it anyway,” he said.
“Well of course it was because of the Xanax. It is an anti-anxiety drug. I felt anxious about our relationship until I took it,” I said.
He laughed in his way, leaning back and covering his eyes with the inside of his arm before sighing, “Baby …”
“Oh well,” I said. “It’s out there now. I am your girlfriend. Good luck!”