Listen up friends and strangers — I’m blunt, I’m honest, I talk too much, I over share. I’m aware of these facts. But, I can’t help myself, nor do I really want to. If you ask me what I think, I’ll probably tell you. So don’t ask unless you want to know. “How do I look in this shirt?” “Uhh you are wearing a Hawaiian shirt and you aren’t a 55-year-old man with a receding hairline and pot belly, so not good.” If you ask me how many people I’ve slept with — I’ll tell you the truth. I won’t tell you a lie because I’m afraid you will think I’m a slut; if you think less of me, you are probably just a prude who doesn’t know how to have a good time. So that’s your problem, not mine. Yeah, I’ve slept with a bunch of dudes. It happened, some of it was awesome, some of it was terrible, some I just don’t remember (classy right?) and sometimes it takes me awhile to remember a dude I’ve slept with’s last name. Like now. For the past 3 minutes, I’ve been trying to remember Christian’s last name (a hot New Zealander I had a fling with one blisteringly hot night in Nicaragua) and I still can’t remember. Oh well.
People say I over share too much; people say I shouldn’t be so honest with partners about my past; people say a lot of shit. But fuck it, keeping that stuff intentionally to myself, just feels like lying— or a secret. It makes it more powerful. And I just can’t do it. And frankly, I don’t want to do it. I know a lot of people who disagree with me — but that’s just who I am.
The EX Factor
Another thing that I get shit for is that I’m still really good friends with a lot of people I’ve dated. I’m sorry I still have good relations with people who are important to me! Kill me, okay! Many of my past romances have become friends that I have an interesting past with and as far as I know the just-friends-now feelings are mutual — if my menfolk friends are secretly still in love with my 5’1 spazzy splendor, it’s news to me (I mean I get it, I’m really fun — but it would still be news to me). If something is in the past, it’s in the past for a reason, like we didn’t like dating each other.
I get a lot of people saying things like, “Oh I don’t know how you are friends with your exes” and “I could never …” My mother has always said she thinks it’s wonderful I’m still so close with my exes — honestly, I just don’t know any other way to be. I figure if I loved you, then I’ll probably love you for life in some way, and I want you in my life. I probably cared about you because you are an awesome person — and just because we aren’t fucking anymore doesn’t make you a not-awesome person. Sometimes, it takes time and work to get back to friendship — but, I find that it’s worth it. Most guys I’ve dated have been fine with the fact that I’m still in close contact with my exes. All but one. The big ex. The last one. The one I have no desire to EVER be friends with in the future. The one that turned me from a blunt, honest girl to a big, fat liar.
The Good Guy
One thanksgiving, a boy I barely knew, let’s call him Trent because he really liked NiN, asked me to hang out. I wasn’t really interested, but I was single, what the hell right? Couldn’t hurt. I mean this guy wasn’t my speed at all. First off he was blonde, he looked like Mr. Plucky All-American (If you aren’t tall, dark, kinda weird looking, waifish and brooding — keep moving) but the worst part is — he was terribly earnest. For my sarcastic self that “aww shucks” quality was an ultimate deal breaker. How do you talk to someone who isn’t ironic or sarcastic?! (I had no clue). But, I figured, why not at least hang out? So, I did.
As we sat on our mutual friend’s worn-out carpet, drinking cheap Taaka vodka out of Solo cups, the chalice of bad decisions, he told me about himself: he was just an all-American boy who wore his heart on his sleeve, he didn’t play games, when he liked someone he let her know, he was just a “good guy.” He said it several times — “I’m just a good guy.” Huh? Sounds boring. After a few more swigs of vodka he admitted he dropped out of college, and no he didn’t read books. Who doesn’t ready books!? Are you stupid!? As we sucked down more and more of the clear burning liquid, we laughed, we giggled but still I wasn’t interested. And I told him so: You just are not my type. You are too blonde. Too normal. He just laughed and promised he would show me good guys weren’t all bad. I looked at him incredulously — and kept drinking. After hours of intoxication, the group of us were sprawled out on the stained carpet. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed something that changed everything — his shirt had risen up, revealing the bottom of a tattoo on his torso. What is that!? He lifted up his shirt and I saw the sexiest thing I’d ever seen — a Da Vinci tattoo of a skull. DA VINCI?! Oh boy. He likes art, he knows about art. He has art on his body. His unbelievably sexy body. God, that thing is sexy as fuck. How did I not notice — he is sexy as fuck. I wanted him. It was all I needed to tip the drunk and wanting-to-fuck scale. An hour later we were making out; an hour and a half later we were in bed together. Within two weeks, he drunkenly told me he loved me, and 30 days later we still hadn’t gone 24 hours without seeing each other. We were done for.
Back It Up
Only weeks prior to meeting Trent, I had moved out of the apartment I had lived in with my ex-boyfriend of two years (let’s call him Thom because he really likes Radiohead). Thom and I had broken up two months prior to Thanksgiving, but I had only just moved out. Thom was (and still is) a lovely, very eccentric but passive boy, but I was Thom’s first girlfriend — and he was incapable of communicating about anything — and well — he wouldn’t sleep with me. Fun, right? I begged, I pleaded, I bought expensive lingerie, I yelled, I got romantic hotel rooms, eventually I stopped trying. A gal can only take so much rejection! And after almost two years, I cheated on him (judge away). I just wanted to kiss someone who wanted to kiss me back. So, I did. After it happened, I immediately told Thom. He wanted to stay together, I wanted to break up, but we didn’t — I thought we could make it work. But nothing changed, it happened again, I told him and I ended it.
Eventually, when I got together with Trent, I told him everything about the stunted, emotionless, sexless relationship I just gotten out of. I needed to purge my past sins, to wash away the guilt I still felt for not being the girlfriend I had wanted to be. I felt like he had to know all my past wrongs. I clung to Trent harder than I had to anyone in my life. Trent told me all about his father he would die for, a rough childhood with a mother who left him at the age of five, and a step mom who had beaten him. In turn, he clung to me. He told me all he ever wanted in this life was to love someone deeply, and to be someone’s boyfriend. He told me he had so much love he wanted to give me. He told me knew how to treat a woman right; that he would do anything for the woman he loved. And I believed him. Our claws were deep within each other. It only made things more intense when we realized our physical connection was mind-numbingly off the charts. I didn’t even know sex like that existed — and I’ve had a LOT of sex. I finally had love, passion, feelings, emotion — and nothing was ripping it away from me.
Our love was blinding and all encompassing. So much so, I ignored the red flags that kept popping up, like when Trent said his exes hated him and that none of them talked to him anymore (he told me they weren’t friends with him because he had been such an amazing boyfriend and so good to them that they couldn’t handle it when it was over. Yeah, he really said that. Who says that?!) Or when three weeks into our relationship, he told me he wouldn’t date me if I still talked to Thom. Or when he referred to girls he knew as “cunts.” Or when he went through my phone as I was driving, trying to see if I had been texting or Facebooking any guys. Or the first night, when he said he didn’t read books! All should have been cause for alarm — but, I was in too deep.
Down the Rabbit Hole
In case you totally couldn’t have already seen this coming — Trent and I turned out to be a match made in hell. For the next year, I oscillated between the highest highs I had ever felt and the most devastating despair imaginable. Trent feared I would slip into my old patterns, feared that I would cheat, feared that I would leave him, feared that I would lie to him and he became increasingly controlling. The emotional abuse started slowly, gained more power and eventually turned into an unstoppable bullet train. It got to a point where we were breaking up and making up daily. But for the life of me, I refused, I REFUSED to let go.
About a month in, I slept at the old apartment I shared with Thom because I got stuck at a party without a car. All hell broke loose: I was accused of cheating, called names. It was the first time I saw his rage directed at me. I tried to explain to him nothing happened — “Uhh, we didn’t even have sex when we were together, you know that!” But, he told me that this is what a terrible person would do — and I eventually agreed with him. I felt like a terrible person. I was a terrible person.
And the next nine months pretty much went like this:
We date for three months. Trent finds out that I emailed Thom a two word email, “You alive?” to check if he is okay. I get dumped. We break up for three months. But we still talk constantly and I do everything in my power to be with him. But he doesn’t want to be my boyfriend. I am beside myself, crying every day. One night, during the break up, I think Trent is hooking up with someone, so I get sad and make out with my friend, whom I have a past with (let’s call him Bjork because he really likes Bjork). I feel like a cheater, but I decide not to tell Trent if he asks if anything has happened with anyone — and he does — constantly. In my sadness, I decide to move to New York for the summer to work and to get away. A month before I go, Trent tells me he was just scared, he loves me desperately and we get back together. Then, before I go, Trent drunkenly accuses me of making out with his lesbian friend (I hadn’t). We break up. We get back together. I go to New York. When I arrive, Trent hacks my email, finds out I kissed Bjork when we were broken up — flips out, dumps me, calls me a cunt and a terrible person a lot. I beg for forgiveness at being such a horrible, terrible person a lot. He has begun to bring up my confessions to him about my past and to use them as examples of why I should not be trusted now, why I can never be trusted. My previous candor, for which he once praised me for, becomes my noose. It gets to a point where I am terrified to go out for fear a man will speak to me, Trent will find out and I’ll get called a slut or dumped. So I don’t go out. I don’t get drunk. I try to be perfect.
He was my addiction. Every time he pulled his love away from me, I ran faster to it. I could not stop myself. Everyone around me could see I was an unhealthy situation. All my friends saw it. My family saw it. I saw it. But I couldn’t let go. He became the reason I breathed. When he was mad at me — I couldn’t even eat. My weight dropped to 93 pounds at one point. I knew he was cruel to me, but I’d forget the verbal attacks with a simple, “I love you.” So why did I stay?! Despite the abuse, I felt more loved than I had in my entire life. When things were good he would scoop me up in his strong arms and make me feel safe. When I was is his arms — it felt like home. I’d never felt that before. He wrote me sweet words, sent me love songs and spent an entire week making a music video for me – a love poem of sorts. He talked about marriage, travelling the world, and taking adventures together. Despite the many long term relationships I’d been in, he was the first person I met that I could see spending my life with. And did I mention the sex was amazing? ‘Cause it was. Stupidly amazing.
A Night to Remember
When I finally got back to Los Angeles after my time away, everything felt different. Trent was still angry at me for leaving — and I could feel the rage in him. It all seemed like it was leading up to some boiling point, and then five days later, on a hot Thursday night, it did.
That night, I decided to pretend everything felt normal, felt good. We were finally back together! I surprised him with a date to the Malibu Winery to see Buster Keaton’s The General. It was perfect: A romantic location, twinkle lights, wine, Haribo gummi bears, gourmet sandwiches, Buster Keaton — I dreamed of a man doing this for me. But there was something wrong. The entire ride to the winery I felt like I was walking on egg shells yet again, treading lightly, fearing I would do something that would prove to him that I really was a monster. But, I stuffed those feelings away, put them back, way back where all my anger towards his treatment of me hid, so that everything could be just fine that night. At one point during the film, he leaned his massive body towards me, brushed his lips against my ears and whispered, “I love you. This is wonderful. Thank you so much.” I looked away, tears welled up in my eyes, and it took everything in me not to start sobbing. I felt loved and completely unloved all at the same time. His kind words embraced my body, but I knew real love didn’t make you feel so empty inside.
Later that night, we lay in a bed fashioned out of an old futon. I could feel tension mounting between us. My confusion and sadness was as tactile as the cheap cotton futon cover I was laying on. Fear was engulfing me, yet again. But, still, I said nothing. I smiled, I cooed, I praised. And then once again he started, “I just feel like something happened in New York. I feel like you are keeping something from me.”
Finally, I let out what I had been keeping from him. I couldn’t take hiding it anymore. “Okay fine, I didn’t want it to upset you, but Bjork texted a friend of mine to say hi to me.” Bjork the mutual friend whom I had kissed in our three months apart. Bjork, the man whom Trent constantly asked about. Bjork, the man whom I had not spoken to or heard from in almost three months. Instantly, the guilt that had weighed me down ever since my friend offhandedly mentioned this text — lifted.
His response dumbfounded me. He bellowed, “I am done with you. You are done. Get out of my apartment; I never want to see you again.” I did not move. I did not breathe. He continued, “If you lied about this — I know there is more.” There was no more. I had avoided doing comedy shows if there were men in them, I had avoided going to get drinks with male family friends because he told me it was wrong to get drinks with a man who wasn’t him, I had completely cut off a male friend that I cared deeply about to pacify his fury that we had once slept together, I had only gotten drunk once in the two months I was gone because if I did, he refused to speak to me since it reminded him of the time I was drunk and called him a name. But none of it mattered.
And then I snapped. I screamed: “I CHEATED ON YOU!” I wanted him to be in pain. I wanted him to feel the heartbreak his words made me feel. I wanted to destroy him as he had destroyed me, and that was the only way I knew how — by lying.
Immediately I saw his face contort, he came at me and I yelled. “I’m sorry — that’s not true — I lied. That was a lie.” And it was. But, the damage was done. He didn’t believe me. I had confirmed everything he had ever thought about me. I had given him everything he wanted: to prove that I was a cheater, a whore, a cheating cunt whore. And he told me so. And he told me — he didn’t love me anymore. And all because of a fucking text message.
His hands were around my throat, I screamed in his face — “Kill me! Kill me now!” I wanted my outside to match my insides — bruised and bloodied. In one moment, I felt love, hate, contempt, turned on, lust. I felt everything for this man from head to toe. I felt alive and yet dead inside. I was off my fucking rocker.
Happily Ever After
That night was the beginning of the end. I began to see how bad things had gotten. When I told the truth it was taken as lies, and when I told lies it was taken as truth. Everything was topsy turvy. I had allowed myself to love a man who called me a cunt when he wanted to hurt me, who told me my past made me a whore. I allowed myself to be with a man who threatened to sleep with other people to hurt me, who constantly told me I was a terrible person. I allowed this man to throw my past in my face. I allowed him to turn my openness and free spirit into a weapon — and all for the idea of “love”. I wanted so much to love and be loved in return that I was willing to sacrifice myself. And I almost did. Luckily, I am not locked up in a closet somewhere, acting like a girl who laughs for no one else. It’s been painful, but I got out and I am finding myself again.
I know I lied to myself for a long time about that relationship. I pretended what I was going through was fine and wasn’t chipping away at me. It got to a point where I no longer recognized myself. But someone can only make you feel like nothing, if you let them. And I let him. Through all this, I found out that secrets and lies eat away at your soul but so can the truth if you know you aren’t following it. At the end of the day your own truth is what matters.
I’m Meg. I’m free-spirited, I’m spazzy, I’m a loud mouth, and I still tell it like it is. When my guy friend asks me about his outfit I say, “John your sweater is a woman’s sweater and your shirt is way too small.” I tell strangers that funny story about that night I got drunk and made out with seven chicks at Pride Weekend, and I still don’t remember the last name of that dude I boned in Nicaragua. All of which kind of makes me — awesome.
Meg Swertlow was born and raised in Los Angeles. You may have seen her as Peaches in a very moving episode of Joan of Arcadia back in 2004. Maybe not. She decided to put her illustrious catering career on hold, and for the past four years has been writing about fashion, movies, TV and the stupid things celebrities do for Entertainment Tonight’s website ETonline and The Insider’s website, TheInsider.com. She interviews Top Chefs, Project Runway designers and some other folks. For the past six years, she has been performing improv, stand up and sketch around Los Angeles. You can see her doing shows at the Comedy Store, The Palms, UCB, various indie shows and with her iO West house sketch team Mr. Worm. Her two-person sketch show will be on June 20th at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theater in Los Angeles. Previously, she has shown people the true way to happiness in her one-woman-show, “The Irresponsible Girl’s Guide to Having It All.” The lil’ ball of energy co is also an expert at cartwheels, eating mac ‘n’ cheese and being 5’1”. Meg is new to Slack Lust, but is very excited to a part of the amazing publication!
**Above photo was taken by Jeff Ellingson