I think just about every one of us can claim at least one black sheep in the herd of boyfriends. My mom calls them “The Unmentionable.” I’ve had a couple of those – and all three of them owe my ex-husband a debt of gratitude for erasing any ill feelings I might have still been harboring over their misdeeds. My PTSD caused by last year’s events have all but erased my memories preceding 1997 and induced the occasional facial tick. Thank God for Todd, who was there to remind me that not all men are unmentionable… that trust doesn’t have to be fleeting. Otherwise, I'd have been destined for spinsterhood.
How many times did you wait anxiously for Rico Suave to call, only to finally go out with your girlfriends who have threatened to disown you if you don’t…and then bump into him in the club? I once stood outside a nightclub with my so-called boyfriend’s best friend, who was telling me what a great girl I was, and that I deserved better than his buddy. Now there’s a red flag. Whether it’s the flag of decency or the flag of “How about you give me a chance,” it’s still a flag. How many times have you been stood up? How much did he cost you? And I’m not just talking about money, either, though that’s a big BIG flag.
I was inspired to meditate on this meaty little subject a couple of weeks ago, when Todd and I were down at his other house trying to take care of some unpleasant business. He’s got squatters. Squatters who don’t pay rent, who refuse to leave, and who claim their rights to live there under Maryland law that requires an owner to give them (whether they have a lease or not) 30 days to vacate the premises. Squatter #1 arrived uninvited with Todd’s cousins, with whom he shared his house, but he did not leave when they did several months ago. He has been asked to leave numerous times. Instead, he moved in Squatter #2 – a baggy-clothes vagrant girl who decided it was also okay to acquire a puppy to keep her company in this new party house. She was also of questionable status, given that she was sharing a bed with Squatter #1. Squatter #3 is the “official” girlfriend of Squatter #1 and apparently she needed a new place to live too. But see, Squatter #1 doesn’t have a job (that’s according to the State Police officer who came to our aid) so whatever he’s living on – those two chicks are providing. Which just kinda left a bad taste in my mouth. You know, the kind of sour taste born of flashbacks to an earlier life. So, without further ado, my personal compilation…
Good guys do not:
Have several ambiguous female friends always hanging around him. This covers those that are overtly hostile toward you, AND the ones who treat you like a long-lost sister. (A side note on the chicks: don’t ever let your guard down.) Also, a sudden need to leave a bar or party where some girl is crying on the other side of the room. (Explanation on this one was: she was a friend he went to an event with one time, so he had “no idea” why she was so upset to see us together.)
Say they’re going to call you, and then never do. Or, it takes them a week to do it. If he really thought you were all that, he’d have called you within 24 hours. I briefly dated a really nice, mature guy who I met – get ready for it – in a Hoboken bar back in my NYU days. Back then, when I was at the very mature age of 21, I used to say you don’t meet a decent or lasting relationship in a bar. There may be a great deal of truth to this overall; however, one of my dear friends met (and later married) her husband in a bar and they are still happily together with two beautiful children 21 years later. The guy I met asked me for my number, I gave it to him figuring “whatever,” and he called me the very next day – on Superbowl Sunday – to have lunch with him that afternoon. We did, he was very appropriate, paid for everything, walked me back to my subway station and thanked me without ever laying a hand on me for meeting him again. It lasted a few short months and fizzled… but the point is – he always called when he said he would. And he never said he would if he wasn’t.
Make a date with you, and not show up. This happened to me twice. Once, with a guy I had known a long time as a friend. And I was dumb enough to make another date, which he did show up for, but he was so not worth my time and anxiety. Hey – I was 22. The second time it happened – a long-term live-in Unmentionable, told me he was going across the street to grab some pizza before we went to a Superbowl party and – did I want any? And he jumped in a car with his buddies and was gone. That incident was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. I walked away from that 3 ½ year relationship with no pizza, but my dignity intact – because I finally woke up and realized his worth.
Mooch off of their buddies, or especially you. A guy with no place to live is a guy who will eventually want to move in with you, and it won’t be because he’s sure you’re “the one.” Ditto for a guy with no reliable transportation. He will eventually want to borrow your car, and before you know it you’ll be asking him when you can have your car – with the perpetually empty gas tank. It might be reasonable if he’s paying the rent and the car payment, but my guess is – he’s “saving” his money so he can buy his own car in 10 years or so.
Ride the unemployment train with no scheduled destinations. This goes along with the mooching theme…. if he aint working, and he aint independently wealthy, boyfriend be looking for somebody to take care of him. Who’s paying the rent? Who’s paying for food? You don’t want that job, trust me.
Is mysterious about where he is most of the time. Again, it goes without saying – he should want to be with you. If he can’t tell you where he’s been, he’s been somewhere you don’t want to know about. And it’s probably with someone you don’t want to know about.
Deny responsibility. Red flag: blaming everyone else for their problems or lack of success, money, happiness, etc. Imagine living this for 12 years. Imagine that you are always the culprit for everything. Think you could do it? Doesn’t matter how long – you need to get out, before your self-esteem disappears like a plane in the Bermuda Triangle. Another red flag: never apologizing for anything. (Careful though: any apologies that are offered should feel genuine.)
Degrade you, insult you or put you down. If he doesn’t think you’re perfect in every way – he doesn’t deserve you. There is a man out there who will. Incidentally, any man who tells you you’re “fat” needs to be crushed by an elephant. And don’t EVEN stand another second in front a man who calls you a whore. There is never an excuse for unkind words – not even in anger.
Hit you. Hit is really a catchall word that covers any kind of physical behavior that is not loving. I say “behavior” because it doesn’t have to be kicking, pinching, smacking, or shoving: it can be punching a wall next to your head, or throwing objects at you, or even throwing a full pot of your homemade soup across the kitchen. Once is enough. If you didn’t see it coming, don’t beat yourself up over it. If you’re having trouble escaping, get help. But don’t ever fool yourself into thinking that that little bruising pinch on the nose was no big deal, or that he didn’t really mean to spit in your face. You know it won’t end there. The statistics prove otherwise. By the way, this is where apologies of any kind are unacceptable. He can never be sorry enough for hurting you. Ever.
Lie to their children about who you are. If you’ve been dating a guy for a while and he decides it’s time to meet the kids – great. But if he insists on telling them you’re a “friend” and systematically refuses to touch you whenever they’re around, treats you more like a sister, and allows the children to continually verbalize their wish that he and “mom” get back together – it’s not only disrespectful, he’s not really committed to you.
Give up all paternal rights and responsibilities to their child. This is NOT a good sign. ‘Nough said.
Lie. About anything. Even something as small as joking about being an Iraq vet, and by the way, please don’t make any sudden movements around him. (Yes – this really happened.)
Hate their mothers. There’s that sage advice about the importance of how he treats his mother. His relationship with her is like the Cliff notes to his relationship with you. If you remind him of his mother, you gotta hope like hell he likes her and never, ever told her to “get the f--- out” of his house.
Come on really hot and heavy right away. What’s the rush? Yeah, I’ve met enough guys I was instantly attracted to and the feeling was surprisingly mutual but – don’t ever let your hormones choose your love life. Different for guys. Testosterone says right here, right now…. but a good guy has self-control and treats women with respect… he wants to get to know you – because as the saying goes, “a marriage without friendship is like a mansion built upon sand.” No relationship with a guy I couldn’t be friends with ever lasted. Let’s put it this way – to quote my nana – “Take it a day at a time and it is always best to be friends first and really like a person. Love and like are very close but you must first like a person to truly love them. You can love but not like and that never works.” Truer words were never spoken.
Of course, not all relationships will last – good guy or not. However, how he handles himself if it turns out to not be a match made in heaven also makes all the difference. We all know that guys have their own timetable on maturity, but ultimately if he can still treat you with respect and be a friend (eventually), he’s earned a gold star in my book.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.