Single In The Suburbs, Installment 124

Ethan’s just mentioned his girlfriend to our writer. Was Sara misreading his signals all along?

By Sara Susannah Katz

To read the entire series of articles from the beginning, click here.

n our last installment, our columnist was trying to get to know Ethan a bit better after fabricating a repair that she could have easily fixed herself. After being quizzed about the “Jessica” tattoo on his arm, Ethan drops a bombshell on Sara by mentioning his girlfriend! Have Sara’s flirtations with Ethan all been in vain? Read on…

Sunday, 9:45 p.m.
Wait. Did Ethan just say GIRLFRIEND??? Oh, God, you have got to be kidding me. I’m such an idiot.
I barely know this guy, and now we’re having “issues.”
Of course this man couldn’t possibly have been single. He’s intelligent, warm and good-looking. Guys like that don’t stay on the market very long. What on earth was I thinking?!?

As I’ve probably mentioned before, I’m not quick to anger; I’d sooner kick myself than direct my frustration toward another person. But before I can stop myself I say, in an unmistakably snarky tone: “So what did your girlfriend think when you came home from my house with tomato sauce on your face instead of money?”

Either he didn’t hear me or he can’t believe I just said that because he asks me to repeat myself. My heart is palpitating now.

Ethan seems like an insightful and perceptive guy, so it doesn’t surprise me when he sort of squints at me and asks me if there’s “something wrong.”

“I’m fine.”

“Did I say something wrong?”

OK. This is awkward. I barely know this guy, and now we’re having “issues.”

In an uncharacteristic move, I decide to answer him honestly. “Actually, I’m disappointed. That you have a girlfriend, I mean. I’m sorry if I was sharp with you.”

Now he’s smiling. “Wow. This is really great.”

“Great? Why great?”

“Because I had a girlfriend, Sara. We broke up. The day after I met you.”

I ask Ethan if he might like to have a beer and sit in the living room. Something is unfolding here. It’s scary and exciting and I want to savor every second of it.

I hand him a cold bottle of Stella Artois and gesture toward the living room. The dogs and cats follow us into the room and arrange themselves on the floor and furniture. Ethan notices the sudden assemblage of animals and says, “Looks like I have an audience.”

“They’re interested in hearing what you have to say. So am I.”

The story, says Ethan, is that he and Tamara were together for two years. They met online, things got serious quickly, and after six months she moved in. The main problem, he says, is that she wanted to spend most of her time on her laptop.

“Workaholic?” I ask.

He shakes his head. “She wasn’t working. She was chatting. She had something like 316 Facebook friends. And honest to God, sometimes it seemed like she was chatting with eight or nine
I’d felt profoundly lonely when I was married.
people at the same time. Friends, relatives, ex-boyfriends. That was her whole life. I started feeling ignored. Neglected, you know? She didn’t want to do anything. Not have sex, not even watch TV. When I first met her, she was...” He stops to find the right word. “Effervescent.” Tamara and Ethan were always on the go — hiking, antiquing, cooking classes. “She even got me to take salsa dancing lessons.”

He describes it as their “honeymoon period” and it ended exactly one week after she moved in. After that, all her adventures seemed to take place online. Ethan was on his own. “I thought I’d never be lonely again once she moved in but it turned out I felt more alone than ever.”

I understood exactly what he meant. I’d felt profoundly lonely when I was married. It’s a miserable feeling, one that happy couples really can’t fathom.

Ethan sets his bottle down on the coffee table and falls back into the couch. “Sorry. That’s probably too much information.”

Now he wants to know why my marriage broke up but I’m not in the mood to share my long, sordid tale. At least, not now. I tell him that I’ll save that story for another time but that “Craig and I are better friends now than we were when we were married.”


At this point, I must say that Ethan’s little “hmm” sound worries me. It wasn’t a sound of interest or amusement. It wasn’t a little conversational filler or even an expression of disbelief. In that little sound, which sounded no more significant than a grunt or exhalation, I swear I could hear volumes.

What I heard was: I don’t think it’s possible to be friends with your ex. I’m suspicious and, in fact, I’m already jealous. So if you’re planning on dating me and you want to stay friends with your ex, you need to know that this is going to be a problem for me. And for us.

Could I have imagined all that? Certainly. But I don’t think I did.

Sara Susannah Katz is a writer in the Midwest.

Read Single In The Suburbs, Part 125

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