“Sorry we’re late. We were having a vent sesh.”
Two mid-to-late 40’s female public relations firm employees shed their scarves and jackets, making more noise by throwing all of their lunch break field trip luggage onto their desks than you might imagine was possible based on your past accessory removal experiences. A shorter blonde one, Paula, apologized to this wing of the office for not returning from her lunch break in a timely manner. She watched Hulu clips of last night’s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and yelled at me about leaving the automatic date/time stamp on emails that I printed out while she was on the clock, so no apologies necessary, Paula.
Spring semester of 2012 I interned at a prestigious public relations firm. It wasn’t my major nor the career path that I was looking down the barrel of, but I was rejected from a promising internship with Four Seasons in early January that year and reacted to the rude form letter email (after getting dressed up and trekking to THREE interviews for the position in downtown Boston) by desperately sending my resume to every single open internship position available in the entire city via my college’s job board. It felt good and spiteful and freeing. A boy said he didn’t like me so I’m rebounding. And by “rebounding” I mean making the first move on 18 different guys whom I’ve never met and laying in bed until I get an email from one of them.
The hottie who was the MOST HOT a.k.a. the one who gave me approval first was this PR firm. I accepted and spent two 7-hour days a week for a semester in a sleekly decorated Mad Man-esque office, halfway not caring and halfway forlornly realizing that I will never be a “detail-oriented” chatty office gal.
My favorite part of the job was the promise of podcast and music listening. This was the first job I’d had that allowed the employees to tune out with headphones during work. It makes everything better. As long as you have a conversation to listen to that isn’t the one you would be having instead with your wealthy co-worker who is 30 years your senior and doesn’t understand how you could possibly not enjoy True Blood, your human spirit can glide through crises like a knife through soft butter.
This internship started at the same time as – to this date – the most traumatic boy issue I have ever stumbled my way through. I liked a guy. I really, REALLY thought that he liked me and wanted me to be his girlfriend. And thus at age 20 I felt the confidence for the first time in my life to break my “guy always makes the first move” rule. It turned out that he didn’t like me.
This sad, frantic courtship lasted only three weeks, but to me it felt like the entirety of middle school and high school compacted into one efficient emotion hoagie. We saw a midnight movie together. He paid for my cab home. He let me sleep at his place when I was too drunk to get home – two weekends in a row. He put his arm around me at a party and whispered, “you’re perfect.” We stayed up until 4:00am on our air mattresses talking about Degrassi: The Next Generation and he said that he felt so connected to me right away that we must have known each other from a past life.
I sat him down the day before we were going to travel to upstate New York for a weekend with a group of mutual friends and asked him what this was. He said he just wanted to be friends, my world was crushed forever, I smiled and pretended like it was cool and profusely apologized to him for making him uncomfortable, and we agreed to pretend like it never happened and promised to proceed through the travel weekend like adults.
It did not proceed that way.
He slyly weaseled his way out of sitting next to me in the car. He kept “playfully” volunteering me for shotgun so that he wouldn’t have to sit next to me. He went out of his way to avoid sitting being near me in the theatre where we were performing and seeing shows. I tried my fucking hardest to be jolly and carry on conversations and smile and laugh at things he said to keep some shred of “coolness” alive, but I was failing.
The night took its Lynchian turn when he slept with another girl – a stranger whom he’d met at a party in the town that we had traveled to – in the apartment that our group was staying in that weekend. Both Friday and Saturday nights. Audibly.
Meanwhile, I laid downstairs, constantly repositioning myself under my small blanket in the cold unfamiliar February-affected room, hearing him make some other girl happy. Some stranger.
The peak of this experience was when he arose from his sleeping area, where this girl laid, and walked over towards me. His backpack was near my sleeping area, and he had to reach into it to get a condom. He then returned to the girl and fucked her.
There is rejection. There is a guy saying, “Sorry, I think we’re better as friends.” And then there is a guy not only rejecting you, but also within 24 hours of that verbal rejection, fucking a stranger in front of you. You know, just to really drive the point home.
Before this black hurricane of trust issues for the rest of my life blew all of the remaining twigs off of my self-esteem hut, I listened to one song on my iPod over and over at my PR internship because it made me think of love and happiness and just how great a relationship with this guy could be: Teddy Geiger’s “For You I Will (Confidence)”.
It’s the worst. I get it. But hear me out. I hadn’t heard it since 8th grade, which was the last time a crush had been this exciting for me. And in my wretchedly dim and wide-eyed emotional state, the song not only filled me with the purest hope about what was about to happen with my dating life, but also brought me back to the headspace of me at thirteen, before I knew all of the cynical things growing up and going to college had taught me. Everybody around me was always talking about how terrible guys are and I didn’t want to believe it. Young, doe-like Geiger was on MY side. At the end of the music video he jumps into a pool! HE’S TAKING A CHANCE ON LOVE!
My first day returning to the internship following that weekend was Valentine’s Day. I sat down at the computer to crop some scanned magazine clippings for a PowerPoint and turned on my iPod. I scrolled over “For You I Will (Confidence)” and instead went to a snarky podcast. Just as I was settling in, trying to trick myself into momentarily forgetting about the last 100 hours of experience that had added itself to my life against my wishes, I heard my name.
“Elizabeth?! Are you talking about Elizabeth?!” Paula shouted to a co-worker from her cubicle.
I ripped out my earbuds and answer the beckon. “Yes? What?”
“Is it Elisabeth Hasselbeck who’s leaving The View? Or the other girl?” Paula continued shouting to someone that was not and still is not intended to be me.
As introspective and out of the ordinary that I try to make myself believe that I am, I really do, deep down, desire a ‘me’ that is great at office chat and cares about The View and irons my clothes as if I don’t believe that that’s an old-timey bullshit thing that normal people don’t do anymore.
TAKE ME ON A VENT SESH WITH YOU, PAULA!