My relationship with Tom ended this morning. Tom’s a handsome thirty-something. He’s old enough to get double-booked for weddings and young enough to want a meaningful relationship with a 24 year old (LOL). That’s me; the arm candy. I’m the girl twirling her hair under a baseball cap thinking about existential life issues and Moleskin notebooks. Meanwhile, he probably sees me twirling my hair and thinks I look innocent and stupid. Maybe I am; distracted, playing up the pretty-young-thing who smiles, sucks dick and eats popcorn. It’s awesome being the woman who cheers beside the varsity stud. I’m a (team) player, I guess.
I should mention it wasn’t his fault that I wanted to it; it was mine. The relationship shouldn’t have gone on this long. You see, I like the sports culture to an extent: I crave the attention of rugged types who take risks, play basketball and hold sentimental value towards sneakers. I enjoy physical activity from time to time (usually when I’ve got excess energy to have sex or run around the park, but that’s it). The only sports icons I know are Dock Ellis, Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth, Mohammad Ali and Chipper Jones – and that’s only because I grew up watching American television.
So yeah, sports and I are cool. We don’t hate each other; we complement one another when the timing is right. Looking back, if I had known in advance how much Tom jerked off to sports, I would have mentioned right away that I don’t care about sports. Instead, I rambled on about Mike Tyson’s face tattoo on our first date. So understandably, he thought I was on the same level of loving sports as he was.
Around the time I had met Tom, my life fell apart in the hype of PSLs and post-season baseball. I was desperately looking to secure a steady income. I was chain smoking and very distracted by sex. I gave off the vibes that I wanted to use a relationship as a crutch to hold the weight of my first world problems. I didn’t mean to come off this way, but I was vulnerable and more sensitive than usual. I was craving consistency in a routine that was inconsistent. He texted more than I did and it was definitely satisfying to have someone regularly text me while abusing the winking emoji. (Side note: Is he an old person trying to do a young person thing, or an old person being an old person? IDK.) Consequently, every text sounded pervy and maybe that’s why I liked him. He was safe, predictable and a stereotypical sports dude. Go Jays! Come TOgether. Whatever.
Dating Tom was simple. Unlike my regular, more complicated flings, he didn’t ask questions about things I cared about, like grammar, existential issues, gender constructs or how weird the Internet is. When I told him I write for a women’s blog, he dropped the subject altogether. He smiled when I mentioned I was unemployed, as though he wanted to take care of me, pay for my drinks, and we’d live happily ever after in a fantasy sports league. I amused him with silly questions about sports, and he rewarded me with hand holding. Everything felt easy being the cute girl learning about sports. I didn’t have to analyze anything he said because he wasn’t the complex, misunderstood type I usually chased. Tom liked sports. Plain and simple.
A week turned into a month. He took me to a pre-season Raptors game, bought me popcorn and squeezed my leg affectionately when we scored. Like a coach, he gave me pointers over dates. He recommended I join a fantasy sports league if I wanted to make “real” money. We bonded over things like knuckleball pitchers and retro Jordan sneakers. Now and then, he’d tell me about his personal life, which was mostly related to sports. He played on an intermural league on Tuesdays and a co-ed league on Wednesdays. Birthdays, dinners and weddings filled up the time between games. His schedule was flexible to the changing tides of winning and losing teams, and now he was looking for a young thing to share memories with, eat popcorn, fuck and buy jerseys with. I was his big wet sports-loving dream.
Over a month in, things got serious. At the Real Sports Bar, Tom called me “sexy girl” in public and I coughed up my beer a little. When I told him about a job opportunity, he replied, “Good girl” like he was Dan Aykroyd and I was Vada in My Girl. Then, the winking emoji’s escalated. I started lying more and telling him I was watching sports when I wasn’t. If I didn’t respond to him, he’d send me pictures from his seat at the Rogers Center to get a prompt response from me and I’d text back, “Oh cool.” Sometimes I’d add a winking emoji to make one-word replies sound flirty. One afternoon during the post-season, he wore bright blue socks to match his Blue Jays t-shirt, and I felt like vomiting. With his arm around me watching baseball, I stared at his bright blue socks against the table. He smelled like a senior boy I made out with when I was sixteen: a musky combination of Axe and Tommy Hilfiger. Barf.
That night, the game went downhill, and so did our romance. The Jays lost, and we decided to watch an action movie (non-sports related, thank God). As we settled in on the couch, it was clear Tom and I had different priorities. Turned on by the Blue Jays’ defeat, Tom attempted to put his hands down my pants to get his mind off the game but I wanted to watch Cliffhanger, so I pushed his hand away playfully. Pretending to be the young, fun girl on the couch was exhausting when there wasn’t any popcorn. He persisted, still horny from watching seven hours of baseball. I lazily let him touch me while I tried to concentrate on Sylvester Stallone’s bad acting. He tried to make out, and I suddenly hated him. It was the first time we were doing something that wasn’t sports related, and now he wanted to fuck. I was just sitting on a couch, desperately trying to watch Stallone climb a mountain in a t-shirt. Can’t a girl watch Cliffhanger without being interrupted? Apparently not.
After the movie, I wanted to leave, so Tom called an Uber and kissed me goodbye. Around the corner, I told the driver to drop me off so I could walk home. I didn’t want to be the sexy girl who loves sports anymore. I was living a lie. Walking through Christie Pitts, I debated texting him the truth, “TOM, I HATE SPORTS ;)” but resisted the urge. If I let it go any further, we would be in a serious relationship glued together by basketball, baseball, hockey, soccer, and football. I was a fraud. A sexy toddler exhausted from abusing winking face emojis. I needed a nap. Somebody get me a soother and maybe some more popcorn. I was having an identity crisis.
The thing about pretending to be somebody else is you lose yourself in the process. I’m not a team player; I’m just a player. Tom was handsome, but we had nothing in common. I like Drake, complicated things I can’t fix, and walking long distances with no clear destination. I didn’t want him to buy me things or take care of me. I led him astray. He was himself, and I was an imposter. Tom liked sports and the needy version of Sarah, the Sarah I couldn’t be anymore. I texted him the next morning: “I’m sorry.” I lied.
So Tom, if you ever read this, I’m sorry that I stole your basketball (I forgot to remind you that you left it at my place) and stopped responding. I didn’t have the heart to tell you that I’m not the person I made myself out to be. You like a lot of sports, and I just ate a lot of popcorn and got carried away. And your socks creeped me out. But that doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or that you did anything wrong. You’re great, and I mean that. But I’m not great and maybe one day I’ll mail your basketball back to you, when I’m ready to be a better person. Although it might be hard to mail a basketball, I’ll do it for you. Even if it means gift-wrapping a basketball in three years, when I move again and you don’t remember who I am.
I’m a player, not a team player. Sorry.