I never thought that I would fall out of love. But when I did, it hit me hard.
He had been so demanding.
“You have to call and make that dentist appointment.”
“You have to reschedule the plumber for next week.”
“When are you going to finally file your tax return?”
“When are you going to cancel that subscription? It’s a waste of money!”
“Here, translate this hastily written, but VERY IMPORTANT document.”
Every day now.
How did this happen? In the beginning, I could do nothing wrong. I was so impressive, it seemed. I got so much praise for doing so little. Everything was fun, and I felt so special.
Until today, on this nasty, gray morning. I already had a headache thinking about everything he wanted from me. Even if I did it all flawlessly, it wouldn’t matter. There would always be more. While I was still in bed, I gave in. I cracked. I finally did it. I downloaded the app.
The temptation has been there for months. How badly could it hurt to just look at some other options? He knows that I’m not going anywhere; I’m still in it for the long haul, no matter how tedious and thankless things get. After all, I’m financially dependent on him. Just a few swipes couldn’t hurt, right?
I picked an old, stand-by picture that makes me look about ten pounds thinner, finalized my profile, and took a deep breath.
I had no idea how thrilling it would be, or how addictive it would become. Within a matter of hours, I felt like I had tumbled down a rabbit hole.
Duolingo French. The infatuation was instant and overwhelming. It wasn’t even lunchtime, and I’d already reached level six. He even offered me a LinkedIn Badge! Whoa there, hoss. Who even does that on the first day? I was so energized. That whimsical, playful sensation of discovery was back, and it was like water in the desert. My attention was undivided.
After a while, I was amazed by my lack of remorse. What would German think? After so much time, after all he’s done to help me and support me? Well, for now, he can just deal with it. I have needs.
Things were so exciting with German in the beginning. He was aloof, distant, and a bit intimidating; not conventionally attractive, but fascinating to me: the Benedict Cumberbatch of languages. This made his initial warmth all the more surprising and satisfying. I was hooked. Hell, I was entertained just reading candy bar wrappers. I bought books and magazines that were far too advanced for me, just to skim them and dream of the day when German and I would be together for real. I felt like everything was possible.
As distracted and obsessed as I was, of course, it was still an overwhelming time. These heady, early days with German coincided with a long, mournful breakup with Spanish.
Spanish and I had been together for many years. It was automatic. We started going out in middle school and just never broke up. When it was just the two of us, we got along wonderfully, and I could really be myself. Out in the real world, however, it just didn’t work, and we couldn’t bring ourselves to acknowledge it. No one else seemed to think that we belonged together, and over time, I felt that he was even a little embarrassed by me. In the end, I had to face the fact that the sunken cost fallacy had kept me holding on long after I should have let go. We just weren’t going anywhere together. Costa Rica might have worked out; not everyone rolls their R’s there, and I might have found a job with my environmental science degree. At the end of the day, though, I’m a blonde, slight introvert who loves cold weather and can’t dance.
I tried to juggle them both for a while, but Spanish knew it was over. He saw me and German cuddled up, watching Run Lola Run and The Lives of Others, gazing at Klimt pieces in the Neue Galerie, and feeding each other brunch at Loreley on the Lower East Side. I suppose I really did embarrass Spanish. I completely failed to understand a Catalan waiter at a Tapas bar, and the owner of a bodega reduced me to ashes when he told me, in English, that he’d been in New York City longer than I’d been alive and did NOT need any help from me. When the time came to register for my next semester’s classes, we parted for good.
With Spanish out of the picture, German I spent more time together. We wrote essays, read some poetry, and even listened to some weird hip-hop music. He was coy and kept his distance, but when he heard me give directions to some tourists from Frankfurt, something about those directional prepositional phrases changed everything. He finally saw me as long-term material.
When I moved in with German, things got very serious, very fast. We barely spent any time apart. He was so impressed by all of the things we could finally do together. Interviewing for jobs, getting bank accounts opened and insurance policies set up, even handling medical emergencies… it was all such a thrill! I felt so cute and smart, even while screwing up adjective endings at the immigration office. Apartment hunting was rocky, but it brought us even closer together. And the best was yet to come.
We started translating. It was so intimate and tantric. The interdependent creative process was like nothing I’d ever experienced. It made me feel alive.
Well, until recently. Now he wants it ALL THE TIME, and I’m just like, “Can we please take a break for one day?” I get chafed.
So, now I’m having an affair with French. Let me tell you, as self-assured and eccentric as everyone thinks he is, he’s a hell of a good time. It is all food and fashion with this guy, at least according to his Duolingo profile. He’s into some weird stuff, like random numbers that don’t seem to follow any rules and sticking hyphens in unexpected places, but my God, he’s smooth.
Then reality sets back in.
I’m finally out of bed, and I realize that I have to make a choice. German will be back any minute, and I can picture exactly how he’ll come at me with his fussy demands.
But, if I actually dated French, would things be any different? We’d drink lots of wine, eat tiny portions of exquisite food and do a lot of shopping. That could be amazing for a while, but it wouldn’t last forever. Eventually, we’d have to go to the doctor and register with the authorities and face the bureaucracy, too. Plus, he’s critical. I’m just a beginner, but he’s already cringing at my diphthongs and lamenting my inability to differentiate between the 20 different ways to pronounce the vowel E. He’s kind of playful about it right now, but everyone has their limits. People change.
So, I’m going to put the smartphone down. I’m going to try to inject some spice and fun into things with German. If I’m honest with myself, I really haven’t been trying very hard lately, either.
I’m going to order tickets to the Schaubuehne. I’m going to take him to Potsdam for a bike ride, and we can go to the Allied Museum. I’m going to get us a Groupon for a beer tasting, and I’ll even make homemade Spaetzle, God’s gift to vegetarians in Germany. I’m going to download that hilarious Moritz Matthies audiobook about the meerkats at the Berlin Zoo, so we can listen to it while we sort the recycling and de-calcify the electric kettle. And I’m going to start watching Tatort with him again- finding the plot holes in Germany’s longest running crime show was always one of our favorite ways to wind down on a Sunday night.
This may not be the last of my play dates with French, but I have to try to make it work with German. Who knows, maybe one day the three of us can all be friends. We could take a trip through Switzerland and revel in the cheese. I know that German can still be cold, aloof, and sometimes even downright ugly to me, but we’ve built a life together. I have to fight for it. I know we can still have fun.