The art of the never-boyfriend
The electricity of a pseudo-relationship — cosplaying as boyfriend and girlfriend for a little while — can be exciting. It’s also sad.
Tinder was one of my favorite ways to meet people when I studied abroad in Paris. By meet, I mean date, and by people, I mean men.
So when I visited my best friend Alyssa (real name) in Dublin, where she was studying, I soon matched with Conor (fake name).
Conor was tall and pale, with thick, dark eyebrows. He cared about journalism and international politics and art and pop culture: all the things that make a person interesting.
There was also something about him that felt uncannily familiar: in many ways, he reminded me of me. And when you’re alone in a foreign city, the comfort of being with someone comfortable carries inordinate weight.
We met for the first time at a dive bar and got very drunk. Then we had tacos before going to a pub with live music and we danced to quite a good cover of “Riptide” by Vance Joy.
He then took me on a late-night walking tour of the city. I thought to myself, Damn, Rach, you’re in a rom-com! The next day, we met for coffee before my flight took me back to France, far away from this stranger, whom I suddenly thought may be the love of my life. We made out on a bench at St. Stephen’s Green and said goodbye.
Over the next month, this man held all my attention. We’d Skype every night and talk about our dreams, our fears, our worries, our lives. We called each other “babe” and I missed him when he went to sleep. When a guy I’d previously been seeing returned from a trip back to the US, I told him it was over because of my new guy from Dublin. (That particular man is actually the Diarrhea Ghoster.) My family teased me when I announced that this could be my future husband.
He came to visit me in Paris. We had dinner reservations and museum plans and wine nights on deck.
And we had a terrible week together.
The day after he arrived, I came down with something resembling the flu. Conor had to explore the city by himself, which angered him, since he came all this way for a week of romance. He accompanied me to the doctor, and embarrassed me by speaking boisterously in the quiet French waiting room, as older Parisian men scowled at our collective uncouthness.
He was not my future husband, nor would he remain a potential boyfriend. We had been wrong about our initial connection — we were not good together after all.
I haven’t seen him since he left my dorm that January morning at 4 a.m. to fly home to Ireland.
Conor is a never-boyfriend: a romantic partner with whom you’ve shared an intense connection, but things ended before they developed into a real relationship.
I barely knew him. But the electricity of the connection clouded my judgment and convinced me that maybe he and I were meant to be. Until we had a terrible week and I was no longer interested.
The electricity of that kind of pseudo-relationship — cosplaying as boyfriend and girlfriend for a few days — is often exciting to the point of intoxication. The drama and grandeur of that quick-burning flame can become addictive.
But that’s all it is. A weak flame waiting to be blown out at the first sign of trouble. I didn’t know Conor was a never-boyfriend at first, but once we spent some days together, there was an undercurrent of wrongness: a couple that clearly can’t be a couple. We both could feel it, and when he left, we knew this relationship would never progress beyond the initial intensity.
I will admit to maybe having more such endeavors in my past than most. I like connecting with people, learning about their wishes and fears and neuroses. Many men, it seems, like sharing those things.
A never-boyfriend requires zero commitment or responsibility. You can get bored and leave and return months later. It’s an emotional attachment that never rises to the point of reality.
Now that I’m a 20-something adult, with a grown-up life and friends who are married and dishes to do and a newsletter to write, I find myself less and less interested in the idea of a never-boyfriend. That excitement doesn’t entice me anymore — now, it seems sad, like a romantic cheat code to get that excitement and intoxication without anything more.
So I’m no longer interested in that type of relationship.
But I still love the sweatshirt Conor gave me. We don’t resent each other; nobody is hurt; we don’t miss each other. If one of us is ever in the other’s city, we can meet for a drink.
And such is the ongoing art of the never-boyfriend.
THIS WEEK’S OBSESSIONS:
And Just Like That (HBO Max)
I have so many questions.
Why is Miranda being like that?
Literally, what the fuck is going on with her?
For the love of Cynthia Nixon, why is America’s favorite girlboss out here blowing up her life over Che Diaz, the worst character on television?
I love and admire the work of EJ Dickson, and so I must give her credit for trying to defend the character in this piece for Rolling Stone.
Carrie lives in a beautiful apartment she has owned for decades, and her younger neighbor is being an asshole by having parties late at night. Why does Carrie care what this neighbor thinks when she wants to ask her to quiet down?
I’m currently living through my own psychological torture with my neighbor, where I am forced to hear her having sex regularly (that was actually the premise of the first draft of this week’s newsletter, but I… didn’t have anything to say beyond the fact that I was mad).
Why does Charlotte dress like she’s a housewife in Mad Men?
Why isn’t Charlotte wearing Lululemon?
WHY DOES CHE CARE THAT MIRANDA HAS A HUSBAND?
That is all I have to say for now. Still, I am obsessed with this show, no matter how bizarre and off-point its plot may be.
Everybody’s Best Friend (Spotify, Apple Podcasts)
Thomas Doelger and Kendall Edwards have been two of my real-life best friends for like 15 years and are two of the funniest people I know. I hit the jackpot growing up with them and our other hometown friends, who are all ridiculously funny and talented. If you listen to their podcast, Everybody’s Best Friend, you’ll get to hang out with them, too.
They talk about pop culture, share extremely passionate and sometimes poorly researched opinions about said pop culture news, have wildly spirited debates — they are currently in a multi-episode feud about Ariana Debose which involved Thomas accusing Kendall of having “bad taste” — and feature “Hot Mess Express” stories of embarrassing (and often drunk) shenanigans from themselves or friends.
I don’t recall ever feeling sexier in a pair of regular underwear than I do in the Skims products I recently purchased. I was influenced by Cameron Rogers, @FreckledFoodie on Instagram, an influencer whose recommendations I cannot stop myself from taking.
Here’s what I bought:
Making my bed
Against my better judgment, I’m not usually a bed-maker. But, this week, I started a new job (yay!) and decided it was time to level up my cleanliness. And so I’ve made my bed every single day. While it doesn’t make me automatically feel like I have my shit together, it’s definitely helped, and for that I’m grateful.
That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next Sunday.
Read last week’s issue: On making bolognese alone