I used to think the worst way someone could dump you was via text message, or with one of those QR codes for your phone that you scan and says “HEY THERE! LET’S SEE OTHER PEOPLE.”
Both of those are false! The worst way to get dumped is when your boyfriend suddenly gets to choose between starring on the WB next to Ashton Kutcher with a mic duct-taped to his chest hair, or being with you, and he chooses you, obviously. Just kidding, he chooses Ashton, or this wouldn’t be a really awesome story.
I dated Bro* off and on throughout high school and then college in Florida, because we went to the same college. Our love was totally destined for greatness, the same way all high school romances that you try to make happen in college are destined for greatness! Bro first broke up with me September of our freshman year, because, from what I could gather, he wanted to be a big man on campus. Three years later, right before our junior year ended, we decided to make things officially “on” again, sealed by a late night kiss in a sketchy Miami parking lot.
I moved to New York City that summer to do an intensive Latin program for 10 weeks, because I know a good time when I see one. He stayed in Florida to work for a public relations firm. As it turns out, long distance exacerbates things, and we fought a lot, usually about how he would take his female “friend” to the movies, just the two of them, on Saturday nights. I mean, really. Basically, I was up in the city conjugating, and he was down there doing conjug-something.
So, I had an inkling that things were amiss, but still, I was 21 and naïve and whatever. Finally, he called me one night as I was memorizing deponent verbs on index cards while my roommate watched America’s Next Top Model.
“I’m going to Los Angeles. I have an opportunity to be on reality TV,” he said over the phone. I blinked. In the background, Tyra was losing her shit at the fainting girl.
“Uh, what? What show?” I asked.
“Beauty and the Geek,” he said. At the time, this was sadly the hottest thing on TV: an Ashton Kutcher-produced reality show that paired geeky guys with hot but ditzy girls who competed against the other duos to win money.
I said the first thing that came to my mind: “Are you going to meet Ashton?”
“We should break up,” he said.
“Uh…” I said, confused. “It’s not a dating show, right? As in, you can still be on this show and have a girlfriend? And won’t you be back in like, six weeks?”
“Yeah, but you know. It’s L.A.”
I spent the rest of the summer doing the usual breakup stuff: shopping for crap on 34th Street, calling my mom and crying while my roommate brought home strange singers she met at clubs and hooked up with them while I was in the room. Fuck New York.
Once my program ended in August — I got an A; e pluribus unum, bitches! — I went back to Florida to finish my senior year. Bro arrived back on campus with tales of his mysterious trip to Los Angeles that he wouldn’t actually tell anyone about because he had signed a “multi-million dollar confidentiality agreement.” OK. We didn’t get back together.
That January, Bro’s season of Beauty and the Geek finally debuted on national television. I think it was called the CW by then, and that Gilmore Girls had already jumped the shark. I hadn’t really talked to Bro since the epic breakup, but there was no way I was missing the broadcast of the shiz that had been worth dumping me for.
There were mojitos involved. My sister made me my own baking dish full of spinach artichoke dip. We turned on the television, and suddenly Bro was right there, alighting from the limo in front of the Fancy Los Angeles Mansion. It was weird in that way it’s always weird to see people you know on TV.
We watched as Bro sat stiffly for a talking-head segment, his polo shirt buttoned all the way up to his Adam’s apple and his ankles peeking out beneath too-short khakis. He never dressed like that IRL. The little caption said he was an “assistant neurobiologist.” Another lie! I stuffed some more spinach dip into my mouth.
“I’m not goods with girls,” Bro lisped at the camera, gesticulating wildly like an excited Star Trek convention attendee. “I’ve never known what to say to them. I’m too scared to even ask for a girl’s number.” I flung a glob of dip at the screen.
Later in the episode, I watched, kind of bored, as Bro awkwardly cozied up to a busty blonde in the Hot Tub of Manufactured Drama. They fake-suspensefully decided to become Beauty and Geek partners together. It was like amplexus, the mating embrace of frogs, except one frog was totally faking his whole frog routine.
Then, in what has proved to be the sweetest just deserts of my life — my life is kind of dull — Bro got voted off the show in the first round! I forget exactly what happened, but I think his partner, Spaghetti Straps McGee, flunked a trivia question about C++ or whatever. I had only had to endure two episodes of Bro sweating under the Klieg lights in his affected nerdwear. Yay, schadenfreude!
I didn’t really talk to Bro ever again, though he tried to call me a few times after I had finished college and moved to Connecticut. He had taken a semester off college to do the show, and I’m not sure if he ever went back and graduated. Sometimes, I wonder what happened to him. Mainly, I wonder what Ashton smelled like.
*not his real name, although it is an accurate depiction of his personality.