Conner looks right through me while we talk. Through me to the two blonde girls he’d rather be speaking with. Unfortunately for him, he is drunk and boring. The girls are having fun with my friends. Conner is doomed.
To be fair, Conner isn’t my first choice of conversation partner either. I’d much rather be talking to the shorter of the two blondes. Probably the same one that Conner wants. But I hesitated. Sam didn’t. And when I saw him walk up to her I cursed myself. Flawless skin, a fit body, and narrow blue eyes – I am kicking myself for hesitating.
Still, I’m not about to jump in. Lots of groups of friends immediately pile on as soon as one talks to a pretty girl. They step on each other’s toes and cut one another down to win her attention. That’s gross. Sam had the courage to walk up and talk to her. I didn’t. Good for him. Now I get to talk to Conner.
“So…wait….you live here!?” Conner asks for the fourth time.
Ugh. I deserve this.
I turn around to see how much longer I’m expected to play defense against Conner. Ben is making out with the taller, curvier blonde.
“Oh god no, my virgin eyes!” I shout, covering my face. “Look away Conner, it’s heinous lust!”
Ben and the girl both laugh and resume making out.
A minute later Sam leans in to kiss the shorter friend. She pulls back. They talk for a minute, then hug. Sam walks over to me.
“Boyfriend.” he says.
Makes sense. “Good man,” I reply.
My group of friends has a rule. No kissing girls with boyfriends. Living in Vegas, it is on the table far more than I wish were the case. But it’s just not worth it. Regardless of how beautiful the girl is, regardless of how much you hit it off. They made a promise to be faithful to one another. We decided it isn’t worth it to be the one who facilitates breaking that promise.
The good news is I have officially fulfilled my bodyguard/wingman duties. Both Conner and I are free to roam to our hearts’ content. Conner immediately starts talking to the shorter blonde with the boyfriend. I doubt Conner has a rule against making out with girls with boyfriends. I also doubt he’ll get the chance.
Before long, Ben walks up and extends his fist towards me He drops his car keys into my hand.
“We’re getting out of here. Car is in valet. You good to drive?”
“Pick me up in the morning?”
“Yes, but it’ll cost ya.”
He smiles and walks out holding the tall blonde’s hand.
For the next half hour, the girl with the perfect skin, my friends (sans Ben), and I all dance like lunatics. It’s awesome. Even drunk Conner joins in.
When Avicii goes off stage I plop down on a couch next to the girl with the boyfriend.
“So I hear you have a boyfriend!”
“Haha, yeah. I’m not hiding it, but I don’t feel like I need to wear a nametag that says so.”
“No I get it. You’re here in Vegas. Want to have fun. And dudes just walk away if you wear it on your sleeve.”
“Well the good news is I don’t kiss girls with boyfriends, so we can be buds and I won’t even run away from you!”
She laughs. We do the usual get-to-know-you dance. She’s from Canada (very polite). She’s a teacher. She makes me laugh. I know I can’t kiss her so I’m careful not to get too touchy. But I enjoy talking with her.
We chat about my move to Vegas. How I moved back home from Brazil and then drove across the country. I feel her gaze on me the more I talk. I’m flirting. No harm in it though. I have my line and I won’t cross it.
“So is your friend coming back anytime soon?” she asks.
“Probably not, the plan was to reconvene in the morning. I think you’re homeless…unless you are cool sharing a room with the two of them.”
She calls up her other friends. It’s 4AM and they’re passed out. She officially has nowhere to sleep.
“So this is damn random,” I say, “but it would appear Ben’s bed is open tonight. You’re welcome to crash there. Unless you prefer one of the couches here.”
“Would that be all right?”
“Sure. We got your back.”
“This is your nightgown,” I say tossing her a Red Ghostbusters tanktop.
“Oh joy!” she laughs, pulling it over her head. It fits her like a smock. She’s a good sport and doesn’t complain.
She and I will be bunking in the same room. Everyone else has their own area, but Ben and I took the room with two queens. That’s the open bed, so that’s the one she gets.
She slips into Ben’s bed. I hit the lights and get into mine. I rustle in the sheets. I want to talk to her. I want to kiss her. But I know I can’t. So I just lay there and wait for a sleep that I know is far off.
Thirty seconds pass in silence.
“….so where did you go to school?” she whispers.
My heart leaps. This is a crossroads. I could grumble “American University,” and then roll over. She’d get the message and we’d both lay there quietly, pretending like we were asleep.
But I’m not tired. I want to talk. And honestly, I want her to like me. So I give a longer answer.
“Well I went to undergrad at American. I didn’t give a damn about making money so I studied philosophy and Spanish. I loved the subjects and I’m the type who just does what makes me happy. Which was neat because instead of interning and looking for jobs, I graduated while studying abroad for the third time.”
“Where did you study?”
“Twice in Costa Rica and once in Madrid. That’s where I came into my own. I know you won’t believe this, but before I went abroad I was the shyest guy you’d ever met. I got sick of it. I wanted to get away to somewhere I could reinvent myself. So when I got there, I’d ask strangers directions everywhere – even if I knew where I was going. Just so I’d get used to talking to people.”
“You!? Shy? I doubt it.”
“Yeah everyone says that. But it is true. I used to have these year long obsessions over girls I never even had the guts to speak to. And if they ever talked to me, it’d simultaneously be the best and worst moment of my life.”
“That’s really sweet.”
“Ha, not really. Like you, sleeping in the bed next to me…wearing my clothes, talking to me…I’d have to please ask you to leave so I wouldn’t pee myself by accident.”
“Awwww well please don’t do that.”
“I’ll try my best, but I promise nothing.”
We go on like this. When the conversation dies down for 30 seconds, I thought-scream at her not to go to sleep. Almost responding to my telepathy, she whispers a question whenever I think the conversation is over.
After an hour the sun is peeking through the blinds. I sigh and bury my head in my pillow.
There is a moment of silence. The longest between us yet. Bed time I guess. I’lll be sleeping till 3pm at this rate…
“Okay, I’m going to regret it if I don’t do this…”
She rolls out of her bed, steps across the gap between our beds, and slides into mine.
“Noooooo why are you doing this.” I say making room for her. “You’re making this impossible.”
“Do you want me to go?”
“Ughhh, obviously not. I like you and you’re gorgeous. You can stay here, but it has to be cuddle only. I seriously can’t kiss anyone with a boyfriend or I’ll hate myself.”
“Deal,” she says.
Except it’s not a deal. She turns and holds eye contact and leans in to kiss me. I pull away.
“I know this sounds crazy, but even though I want to, I won’t. Honesty is the most important thing to me. I told you and I told myself I wouldn’t. It’s important that I don’t.”
She holds my gaze.
“Listen. Yes, I have a boyfriend. But things are on the rocks. He’s been especially bad these last few months and I’ve thought about breaking up with him often. I just couldn’t. I want this.”
“I appreciate your honesty. So now I need to ask you to answer with that same honesty: are you going to call him in the morning and break up with him?”
I know she’ll tell the truth. We just talked about how important that is to me. I’m hoping she’ll look me in the eye and with utter conviction say, “I’m going to call him in the morning and end it.”
“…no…” she says.
I shake my head.
“Then we can’t hook up. But I appreciate and respect your honesty. So get over here cuddle buddy!”
We spend the rest of the night talking, sleeping for maybe an hour at 7:30.
The next night she shows up looking hot as hell.
At the Avicii party she wore a long, flowing blue dress that covered her from her neck to her knees. Elegant, but not exactly show-stopping.
Tonight her top is sliced full of holes. Her toned stomach is showing and shes wearing a mini skirt. I laugh when I see her.
“C’mon! What are you trying to do to me!?”
“This outfit. You’re using your Jedi mind tricks on me!”
“I know, I’m the worst. You like it?”
“You look great. Tell me: do you still have a boyfriend.”
She looks me dead in the eye.
“I’ve decided I’m going to break up with him next week.”
I turn to Ben. As always, I’ve told him everything. “Frederika, meet my conscience. Jiminy Cricket. Tell him the plan and we’ll find out if it breaks our rule.”
She approaches him with the gravitas of a prosecutor making a closing argument.
“So I can’t do it right away. But I called up my best friend and had a long talk. It is definitely in the works. We’re going to break up within a week, two at most. I just need to do it right.”
“I dunno…I’m clearly compromised. What’s the ruling on the field, Ben?” I ask.
He shakes his head no.
I collapse on her.
“You heard the man. No can do.”
She looks at me frustrated. But she gets it. We dance for a little and Ben leaves with her friend.
“So I guess it’s time for extreme cuddling version 2.0?”
She comes back to our place. I give her the same goofy ass Ghostbusters shirt. She climbs into my bed. We talk a bunch.
She tells me more about her boyfriend. How he cheated on her multiple times. How he has been emotionally manipulative. How he pushes to move in together when he senses she’s going to end things. I realize how scary it must be for her to think of breaking up. This is the only guy she’s been with for 4 years. Even when it sucks, life without him is a scary unknown.
I want to tell her that she is beautiful and cool and can do a thousand times better. I want to tell her that she could close her eyes, spin around and find a better guy in five minutes.
But I know I’m not going to be the guy she dates. I don’t want a monogamous relationship and I’d hate for her to break up with her boyfriend expecting to pick up with me. Even if he’s a deadbeat jerk, it’s not right to encourage her to leave him while I lie next to her in bed. After all I’m biased. All I want is for her to say she’s going to dump him in the morning so I can grab her and kiss her.
So I don’t say much. I don’t tell her to dump him. I listen.
She doesn’t try to kiss me. We fall asleep for an hour or two. In the morning I drop her off at her hotel. She tells me I’m amazing. I’m stunned by how vulnerable she is willing to be. I’m a total sucker for honest affection.
I squeeze her on the leg by her knee. “I really like you too. I hope whatever you decide to do with your boyfriend makes you happy.”
We hug. She gets out of the car. A minute later Ben hops in and we drive home.
She flies out that day.
Less than a week later I have a text from her. Her boyfriend had been treating her poorly – again. Only this time, she told him it was over. She literally packed his bags for him. And she booked a flight to Vegas. I’ll be seeing her tomorrow.
She visited last weekend with her family. They asked to meet me. For 10 minutes, I was grilled with a literal list of questions, including “What are you intentions with my daughter?” “If you could be any world dictator, who would you be?” “If you could be any fruit what would you be?” and “What’s 7 x 8?” (take her out to a pool party; Kin Jung Un – because I could convince people I am a stellar golfer and be friends with Dennis Rodman; Avocado – cause they’re the healthiest; I can’t do math). We had a great time. She even fact-checked this post
What I learned…
I feel a bit silly breaking the fourth wall like this and not just letting the story speak for itself . . . but it is important. I try to learn from the hard decisions in my life. I spent a LOT of time reflecting on this. Here’s what I took from the experience.
Define your lines beforehand – Some people will read this story and not understand why I didn’t just kiss her. After all, she was clearly willing. Other people will read it and think I went too far. After all, her boyfriend most certainly wouldn’t be happy with her laying in my bed. Why did I do what I did?
Because I thought about it a LOT beforehand. Ben and I were faced with a similar situation and we talked for two hours about how to handle it the next time. We decided that flirting up to kissing was okay, but we didn’t want to help girls break promises to their boyfriends. We didn’t want to forever tarnish relationships. I can guarantee that if I’d gone into that situation without a hard line, I would have done whatever felt right in the moment (hint: it would not have been cuddling).
Nothing feels as good as maintaining your integrity in the face of temptation to cave – In the moment, you lose sight of that. I certainly did. It’s always easier to lie, to break, to go back on your word. I walked up to my line, peered over, dangled my foot over the edge. But I didn’t cross it. I’m glad I didn’t.
Have an external moral compass – Every time I was tempted, I thought, “How are you going to feel about telling Ben in the morning?” I saw him shaking his head disappointedly. That snapped me out of it. Who can you imagine in times of moral distress that will reset your focus to do the right thing?
People respect those who have high integrity – In her own words “I really want to kiss you, but I have to say it is so amazing and attractive that you won’t.”
Don’t be Conner – Drunk and rambling the same questions is not a good look.
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