When I was asked to write a column about being a young single in Charleston, I immediately thought, “Why me?” I realized, though, that it’s a narcissistic question and much like fishing for compliments. Some of the best advice I’ve ever received was that when a gift is given, it’s best just to say thank you. So I did, and here I am.
I’m a 21-year-old student at the College of Charleston, studying creative writing and basic life survival skills. This is my fourth year in Charleston (I’m a Florida transplant — go Gators!) and I’ll be the first to admit that I know as much about love and dating as anyone reading this column, maybe less.
I’ve got the theory down pat, I’ve read He’s Just Not That Into You, and once in a while I find myself staring slack-jawed at an episode of Dr. Phil. But I’m no more qualified to give advice or come to startling conclusions about relationships than any other average Joe. I do, however, have a lot of experience in almost every facet of the guy/girl universe and a talent for telling my secrets to anyone who’ll listen. As a soon-to-be graduate student in poetry, I learned early on how to spill my guts on paper, pass it around a room, and watch my peers tear it apart.
Besides this being my first-ever column, I recently had my first turn at being dumped. I always laugh at the word because it sounds so middle-school. But, in my case, it’s the most appropriate choice. The squirrelly loser boyfriend obsessed with online role-playing games who I’d been looking to leave by the roadside beat me to the punch. After a year of dating him, I was suddenly consumed with an urge to get the fuck outta dodge.
The streets of Chuck seemed suddenly sinister, as if my ex and his new girl were lurking around every corner, just waiting to rub their hand-holding and shit-eating grins in my face. My gangsta-rap-on-iPod-blast-plus-huge-sunglasses approach wasn’t doing the trick. So when my friend and ex-pat Charlestonian, Cooper (a boyfriend that never was, due to distance and circumstance), mentioned that he’d just moved to Brooklyn, it was game on.
I borrowed fashionable coats and scarves from my friends from the north and pictured Cooper and me strolling through Central Park holding hands like a good-looking couple in a DeBeers commercial. I wanted to wander around MoMA until my eyes went fuzzy — anything to feel fun or smart, and wanted.
And we did. We did all those New York City things that a girl and a guy would look cute doing, especially while bundled up in huge coats and pom-pom hats, pink noses and all. We were the couple that made people want to throw up on the subway due to excessive PDA. We ate romantic, red wine-fueled dinners in Little Italy, giggling and kissing each other’s foreheads at every opportunity.
Cheesy, I know, but it worked! I was so caught up in my New York fantasy that the only time I thought about my ex was to laugh at the fact that he was probably slipping his underage girlfriend Smirnoff Ices at Tonik’s college night while I sipped champagne in Manhattan.
And then it was over. A $35 taxi ride to LaGuardia and the fairy tale turned into a delayed flight nightmare that even a brand-new issue of Rolling Stone and an ice cold Diet Coke couldn’t temper. Then I noticed a huge poster, part of a travel agency’s ad campaign, that read, “Cheat on New York City.”
I got the hint. I wasn’t going to be able to cheat on my life, and cheat on Charleston, forever. Cooper is not my boyfriend, no matter how much we pretend. I moved to the Holy City almost four years ago, loved it from the start, and I still do. I don’t get to punk out every time something goes wrong, and I’m going to have to deal with the occasional ex around town, no matter how awkward. I don’t have the time or the cash flow to hop around the country on airplanes trying to deal with the fact that someone didn’t want me anymore.
A walk around the Battery or an hour with a book and some iced tea on my front porch, that’s romance. Charleston has been too beautiful for too long for some asshole to ruin it for me. This town may not be big enough for the both of us, but it’s going to have to be.