Exclusive Evil - My Modern Love Reject
By popular request.
I wanted to infiltrate The New York Times, but didn’t have a cancel culture op-ed in my back pocket. So I went for Modern Love. It didn’t work out, but I think the results are interesting. That, and I promised to release this a month ago.
If you enjoy it, share the wealth. If you don’t, spread the disease.
By Dennard Dayle
This won’t get too serious. A good laugh says more than a sob story, it just takes a little curation. How about…
In detention, I teamed up with a girl that liked Toonami more than I did. My standards started and stopped there, a rule I should’ve kept later on. Naturally, we stopped talking when she called Superman dumb. While she smelled nice, Superman was still very important to me.
Bad start. None of my stories really work until sex gets involved. Let’s jump a decade ahead.
At Princeton, I entertained a girl that said I looked like Ludacris. She was the first, a fact I avoided admitting with military discipline. A good joke always worked to reset the topic. My jokes weren’t good yet, but I was willing to make as many as it took. Then we stopped talking when she called Superman dumb. While she smelled nice, Superman was still very important to me.
Wait, that’s not right either. Shaggy dog stories are only fun on my end. And people are tired of superheroes. I’ll eliminate love stories involving Superman, which narrows mine down by half.
My first real girlfriend didn’t compare me to a rapper. I was a writer and she was an engineer, but we had enough hormones for it to work. While we shared what maturity allowed, I avoided a lingering question: how often bees came up around us. I overhead more chatter about honey in that year than the rest of my life. It was like everyone else had cue cards. I don’t know if she noticed, but I got The Truman Show vibes.
We split a few months in, because it was college. A day or two after that drama, another student told me a local in-joke: our friends called us “bumblebee” because I was Black and she was Asian. Then he waited for me to laugh.
I worked on making new friends after that.
Bleh, that’s a downer. And there are enough racial guilt-trips out there. I’ll pick a lighter angle. Something uplifting for the people.
During my year editing articles for the company behind the financial crisis (it rhymes with Pandered & Stores), I went out with four different Virginias. None went well, but each Virginia after the first felt like an inside joke with God. My mother loved it. She poked fun at my Virginia “inclination” (that’s Baptist Jamaican for “fetish”) at home, church, and Memorial Sloan Kettering. While her strength waxed and waned, she kept an eye on the nurses’ name tags, searching for English authors. We had a private diversion from horror, all the way until the end. I still miss her.
I think I nailed “light,” but now we’re missing the intellectual aspect. The creativity. From what I see on the shelves, nothing’s fresher than writers writing about writing. Let’s talk about my MFA.
At Columbia, I met another writer. I didn’t have a choice. They’re like roaches up there, scurrying out of dive bars whenever someone turns a light on. That said, we didn’t have much in common. Two people can enjoy word processors and mechanical keyboards, but their motives to abuse them for a living vary. Specifically, she wanted to decolonize slipstream literature via post-diasporic narratives tinged by magic with a k, and I think writing’s fun.
One theme emerged: we didn’t like to talk much. There was plenty of volume, since we talked at the West Wing/Gilmore Girls machine-gun pace that makes normal people want to power-drill their ear drums. We just avoided topics of substance, since they led to arguments of substance. No one needed that.
A year and a half in, she asked for help with a small problem. I agreed. We both had misgivings, but overcame them by ignoring them. In an abstract, grand strategy sense, our relationship worked perfectly.
We committed what some reactionaries would call “marriage fraud.” It wasn’t. I’d defend myself further, but the family lawyer says that’s all I can write without him quitting. Suffice to say, I would never commit marriage fraud, and if I did, it would be justified. And unprovable beyond a reasonable doubt in a United States court of law.
I’ll worry about ICE later. We’re finally getting authentic. It’s easy to write something real, but not everything real is authentic. No matter what the dictionary tells you.
After marriage not-fraud, I took some time to recover. It was a long month, but I believe in doing the work. Then I hopped on Hinge to find someone interested in the fun parts of love. Preferably without sad filler to drag down the experience. The day I understand what draws other writers to that, humanity will merge into the orange goop.
Next, I met someone that loved that Evangelion joke. This, at a glance, looked like the perfect fit. We had the same hobbies, edgy opinions, and jus soli U.S. citizenship. We passed all the physical and political tests most people carry, but never admit to. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a natural way to bring up my history of marriage not-fraud.
Which was fine, for the first date. And month. Three calendar pages in, I had a genuine problem. The worst kind: a self-inflicted problem resolvable with ten minutes of honest conversation. I would’ve had an easier time fighting Superman.
Dissonance built up until I ended things without a real explanation. If I was a coward, I’d have done it with a text message. But I’m not a coward, so I didn’t. I ended it…some other way. Gentlemanly. The way your favorite ex did.
That one makes me look bad. Let’s change gears.
Once, I got catfished! A hilarious and clickable breath of fresh air. Finally, a date I could turn into a tight five without anyone shifting in their seat.
I waited at one of those dessert bars that were cool for fifteen minutes. My date appeared late, hugged me, and asked where I wanted to sit. The conversation quickly turned to me resembling her pictures more than she did. She then shamelessly explained catfishing as her technique for filtering shallow people. I took notes for my act while she thanked me for not being shallow. I said that I was very shallow, but wanted macarons. And she laughed, because I’m good at that. Impossibly, there was something like a spark.
Then she asked for my story, and I left. Funny, right? Her pictures looked fit, but then she wasn’t! Can you imagine?
Back to my screwups, then.
I met another comic book fan on Hinge. She liked everything but Superman, so the rule doesn’t apply. She also resembled her pictures, and her pictures were my type. The first sign of a disaster. Everything she said made me laugh or think, which was the second sign. The third was my involvement.
Believe it or not, I’m capable of learning. I brought up my marriage semi-fraud nice and early, but in a funny way. She smiled and told me she understood what it’s like to be used. I tried making a joke, and she told me it was okay to cry. I did, igniting a connection that lasted two entire weeks.
I swear to God, one of these has to be worth telling.
This goes against nature. I’ve written, spoken, and danced for people. But there are always jokes, narrative arcs, fight scenes, headspins, and jokes. A world of options less suicidal than exposing your neck to strangers. Madness. Romance columns are written by AI or elves, in direct defiance of God.
My current partner would disappear if I wrote about her, and I’d deserve it. She told me her cohesive, structured, and relatable story in confidence. And I tried listening, instead of filling the air with protective chaff. Her honesty made my story feel like a joke, which I liked. Her story was big enough to fill the whole relationship, and I could just throw in punch-up and dialogue passes.
Then, for some reason, she asked for my story. And I bobbed, and weaved, and told her how a French Diplomat named Genet had once tried to win a popularity contest with George Washington, failed to pull America into the French Revolution, given up, and become a New York farmer. Hilarious. But she asked again, so I compromised with a story about a Furious 7 movie date. My date had sneered at Tony Jaa, asked “Why do they have to be in everything?” and expanded on that theme until I raced Vin Diesel out the theater. I held for laughter.
And she asked again. I was trapped.
I’m not an idiot. I know I have the open mic version of the disease afflicting men since the first caveman told the second he was fine. Deflection. I’d say the disease is stronger in Jamaican men, but it’s an international contest predating the Olympics. And since love makes everything a little worse, it makes deflection terminal. When everything bounces off you, nothing sticks. I’m surprised anyone I’ve dated even knows my real name.
But she wouldn’t let me get away with it. So I cleared the air on marriage fraud, racial nicknames, cancer hospitals, cowardice, macarons, false starts, and Superman. I told her about my father’s reign as the family intergender, all-ages boxing champion. I talked about preowned Onion anthologies that seemed to hold all the happiness in the world. I laid out the life that’s felt like a parody of one for longer than I remember. Then I waited for her to leave, which she didn’t. I’m still not sure why.
That said, it might not work out. I’m not convinced she really gets Superman.
Addendum/Postscript/Whatever: We split a month after I submitted this. Which was, despite any growth, a perfect punchline.