I’m a regular reader of the Guardian, and a couple of weeks ago I happened to come across a call for readers to submit stories about “their summer of love” romances. I was bored at work with time to kill, and I had just celebrated eight years with my boyfriend and felt compelled to submit my own story about the summer of 2013.
I thoroughly enjoyed typing out the full story about my wild summer of 2013 and was really excited when I finally hit the ‘submit’ button, although I instantly regretted not having saved what I wrote, since I entered the text directly on the Guardian’s website. I texted my boyfriend to let him know I submitted the story of how we met and that I would die if they actually published it.
The full story was probably about three pages long when all was said and done, with all of the scandalous details and humor that make for good reading. I was very proud of the piece that I entered and also felt nostalgic with the sweet memories fresh in my brain.
About two weeks went by, which was just enough time for me to have forgotten that I submitted the story, when I woke up this past Monday morning to an email an editor at the Guardian. I was so stoked that even though it was 7:30am, I woke up my boyfriend, whom was sleeping next to me, to tell him the good news. The editor stated they would need to edit my piece to be shorter in length, and THIS IS WHAT THEY ENDED UP PUBLISHING.
Don’t get me wrong – Its really cool to have my little story and our picture on my favorite news site…it’s actually fucking awesome. But the integrity of the original story was stripped since they had to edit out the bulk of the story itself. They basically just summarized the larger story I originally entered, and added sentences that were not even there to begin with. Like honestly, do you think I would ever use the phrase “…my heart fluttered”? I’m not mad, just disappointed I guess, because the little ditty that was posted sounds corny as hell. Here is the real story of my ‘summer of love’:
MY SUMMER OF LOVE
Before we get to the summer of 2013, I have to provide a bit of background. I moved to NYC in Fall 2012 as a hopeful 24-year old with big dreams. I had saved enough money working as a manager at Hollister and living at home for the past two years, that I didn’t need to have a job lined up before I moved to the city. I planned to pursue writing and/or work in theatre (which I did do, to some extent), but after a couple of months, my savings was running low and I needed an actual job to pay rent. During this time, my college romance of almost 3-years was on it’s last legs. We had been doing long-distance for the better part of the three years we’d been together, and moving to the city was a new start for me.
One of my sister’s friends hooked me up with a job at Highline Ballroom (a now-defunct, mid-sized, concert venue/late-night club on weekends) since she was friends with the owner. I was hired as a server, and my first shift was in early December 2012. I was nervous as fuck – I’d never been a server before, and I certainly didn’t go out to clubs back then. I didn’t know what to expect when I walked into my first shift, dressed in the requisite ‘all black’ outfit that I’d just purchased earlier that day at Forever 21. One of the first people I met was the manager, who helped me with my paper work and showed me around the venue. Immediately off the bat, I found him (and his Italian accent) incredibly attractive, and I probably became nervously shy as I didn’t want to look like an idiot – doing or saying the wrong thing – in front of someone I found hot.
As the days at working at Highline turned into weeks, and the weeks turned into months, I gradually warmed up to some of the servers I worked with and even came to enjoy certain aspects of working as a server. It was really cool to get to see some of the better bands that were booked play free of charge, as I waited tables. Some highlights were once serving Jack White a Stella, and a show I worked where Zedd (who was just beginning his career, and who I am also convinced was high on E at the time) told me I have beautiful eyes. I also always enjoyed doing hospitality for the bands, because that usually meant left over booze after they’d cleared the greenroom at the end of the night.
It was a fun job at times, or at least the kind of job where you and your coworkers have fun together, as you commiserate about how shitty the job can be and support one another through all of the personal struggles everyone brings to work each day. All of us servers were around the same age, and this was a temporary job as we pursued various other passions – music, makeup, acting, etc. Someone was always crying in the ladies room pre-shift, or having a break down in the back hallway by the lockers. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…
As the job wore on, it also became evident, that it wasn’t going to be enough to cover my rent and bills. There were some weeks with 3 or 4 dark days (this means no shows scheduled and therefore the venue is closed) and I’d only have two shifts that week. Some concerts (seated jazz shows, for example) I could make bank in tips ($250 a night was a good night for me… I know some servers reading this right now will scoff at this, but for me, that was a great night). Other shows (hip-hop, standing-room-only shows, for example), were absolutely atrocious to work, and I might walk away with only $25 in cash tips. Please keep in mind that I was also only making an hourly rate of $5. Yes – you read that right: $5….
On the shitty nights, when we’d all busted our asses and chased after tables who tried to leave without paying, only to make $30 in cash tips, we (the servers and a couple of bartenders and bar-backs) would all go out to one of two local watering holes on 14th Street: McKenna’s, where they had a great buy-1-get-1 special until midnight, or Woody’s. What else are you going to do with $30 in tips? In NYC, that is basically enough to buy maybe two days worth of groceries, but after such a rough night at work, buying a few rounds of drinks so you could forget how shitty your life was for a while, was a much higher priority.
Early on during these group outings, I remember trying to casually get more information on the hot manager. “Do you know if he’s single?” I’d casually ask one of the servers who had been working there longer than me. The response, or general consensus rather, was that he was most likely hooking up with one of the bartenders (** he denies to this day that there were never anything other than friends, to which I still say “Sure, Jan”***). Anyhow, this was not the response I was looking for, but then again I was still in a relationship myself, at the time. My sister’s friend, who had set me up with job, also inquired if there were any hot guys I worked with. I told her “not really, apart from one of my managers.” She had worked for the company at one of their other venues before having a baby, so I asked if she knew who the Italian manager at Highline was. Unfortunately, she’d left a few months before he’d started, so she had no idea. It seemed impossible to get the information I was looking for…. I needed to know more about this man!
By late winter of 2013, I had broken up with my ex-boyfriend for good, started fostering two feral cats (yes, they were legit feral and one hid under my bed all day), and I was officially struggling to make ends meet on my shitty server’s salary. I was literally going hungry, because I didn’t have enough money to pay rent and buy groceries, so I became pretty emaciated living on a bag of frozen peas and some rice one week, and a loaf of Wonder bread the next. It’s comical now to look back on, but there was nothing funny about only having enough cash to buy either coffee creamer or a roll of paper towels because I couldn’t afford both. I already had to call my parents a few times to help me with rent, and I couldn’t bring myself to tell them I also didn’t have enough money for groceries either, so I just made due with what little I had.
It was around this time that I started having brief conversations with the hot manager as I lit candles during pre-shift, or, if there was a lull in work while the concert was in full-throttle, we would chat in the service station at the end of the bar. How I cherished these brief interactions! I would replay them in my head long after the fact, wondering what he thought of me, or if he might find me attractive as well. He asked me about my writing and the blog I kept at the time, he asked me what I felt about the Lesbian slam poet we had performing one night – he generally seemed to take an interest in what I thought and felt, and I really appreciated that. He would later admit that he read my blog from start to finish, going back several years in entries, because he wanted to know more about me and my life. At the time, I didn’t think he’d ever like a girl like me… short, quiet, nerdy, not exactly a ‘cool’ girl, and certainly someone who never went to clubs or parties (back then, at least….).
How could he? He worked in nightlife where he was surrounded by hot women – whether it was the bottle servers who were signed with modeling agencies, or the burlesque dancer who performed in nothing more than sequin pasties and a G-string during late nights. Never in a million years, did I think that he would like me when I physically compared myself to the other girls working there. But this was just my 25-year old lack of self-esteem getting the best of me. Self-doubt is a real bitch.
I was absolutely elated one night, when he asked me if I’d like to start hostessing during the late-night parties, in addition to serving during regular shows. I definitely needed more money, and it would be a chance to wear a sexy dress and heels instead of the regular black jeans and boots I wore while serving, and fucking loathed. He later confessed he asked me work late-night because he wanted to get to know me better and spend more time with me, but back then I was convinced he knew I was poor and just felt sorry for me.
Keep in mind that through all of this time, I was still convinced I had no chance with him. Also keep in mind that I was newly single, and finally making up for lost time. My last relationship had also been my first, and I’d never had the opportunity to be single in such a big city with so many hot men. I’d also never really been on proper dates, since my ex boyfriend and I met as two broke college students . NYC was my oyster for a few months, and I was living it up. Until the dating scene got the best of me and chewed me up only to spit me out again.
It was really easy to meet people as a single woman, working in a concert venue/nightclub, and I threw myself into the dating scene. But I quickly learned, that many New York men are dickbags, and became disillusioned with the whole scene just as quickly as I had initially been intoxicated by it. I got pissed when a guy I was casually dating didn’t text for almost an entire weekend when he went to a friend’s wedding with a date who was really pretty (I stalked that bitch on Facebook and my heart fell thinking of them hooking up). There was the hot Israeli musician who did sound check at the concert venue, who took me out for drinks and bragged about all the hot models he’d banged at the Day & Night brunch parties. That left a bad taste in my mouth. There was the the shaggy, blonde-haired French guy that I went on several dates with who just disappeared into thin air after I was unable to see him one night. That one almost destroyed me for some reason….
I think a lot of the turmoil and angst also had to do with how depressing my life was for a while there. I lived alone with two foster cats that wouldn’t even let me pet them. I barely made enough money to pay rent and feed myself and was shelling out what little cash I did have on expensive food for the two foster cats who both had digestive issues (explosive, insanely smelly diarrhea). I would come home from working at the club to an empty apartment at 2 a.m. and often cry because of how stressed I was over money and how lonely I felt at night. The one constant I did have to look forward to each week, was getting dressed up to work as a hostess and see the hot manager, even if it was only as we stood next to each other at the podium in the lobby of the venue chatting.
Towards the end of Spring 2013, Christian (yes, he has a name) would often ask me if I’d like to grab a drink at the end of my shift, once I was cut for the night and before taking a cab back home to Brooklyn. I remember this literally being a magical experience (even though we’d basically be screaming into each other’s ears to have any sort of conversation over the insanely loud club music) as we stood at bar-left and each had a gin and tonic or glass of Prosseco. I remember one particular evening, a remix of Lana del Rey’s ‘Summertime Sadness’ blasting, as confetti dropped from the rafters, and drunk club-goers squeezed around and in back of us passing by. That’s when it really hit me – I had butterflies in my stomach and a major crush on this man.
He would later admit that just as I thought I had no chance with him, he also thought he had absolutely no chance with me. We both had crushes on each other from day one but both thought it would never happen for whatever reasons we told our selves. A couple of weeks after this magical moment at bar-left, he finally asked me out on a date – well, at least it kind of sounded like a date?! It was a bit unclear, since he told me I could bring a friend or even two friends. I remember we were standing at bar-right during pre-shift when he casually asked if I’d like to go on a sailboat tour of New York Harbor, and then added that I was welcome to bring a friend. I was quite confused in that moment – did he want or expect me to bring a friend? Maybe he only wanted to be friends with me and that’s why he suggested that I bring a third party? I said ‘yes’ to the boat trip right on the spot, and then pondered as to whom I could drag along, if anyone. After thinking it over for a day, I decided that this was MY chance to make a move, and determined I would bring no one – I wanted him to myself.
The night before our first date, happened to be the 4th of July, and we both happened to be working at a Verboten party (a rave, for those who are un-familar) that the venue had booked. Now, this particular event happened to go from about 10pm to 6am, and every patron is either rolling balls on MDMA or drinking their ass off. It is already a really difficult party to work if you’re into this type of music and scene, since you cannot partake in the fun and games. It is also extra hard working events or parties that fall on national holidays – it seems like everyone but you is out celebrating and having a good time and you start to feel really sorry for yourself.
As the night wore on, I guess several of the other servers and bartenders were also feeling sorry for themselves for having to work on this particular night, because several rounds of shots and/or drinks made their way from behind the bar to service station at the end of the bar for us to knock back on the sly. By the time the lights came up and the patrons had left, I was pretty fucking buzzed…or drunk, rather. I had to keep it together enough to do my receipts and tips checkout with Christian, before taking a $25 cab back to Brooklyn, as the sun was coming up and it was already hotter than the hubs of Hell. I remember I ordered a burger from Bad Burger, a 24/7 burger joint in Williamsburg, because I was drunk and starving after a long night of working. I got home, devoured half of my burger, threw the other half on the floor for my foster cats to enjoy, and passed out, fully-clothed and with my makeup still on, on my couch.
I woke up at high-noon, my mouth as parched as the Sahara and reeking of Jameson and Fireball. I was pretty fucking hungover, and all I could think about was how sloppy I’d been the night before. I prayed my manager would still even want to take me out on a date, and knew I had to redeem myself by looking extra good. I remember enlisting the help of my fashion-savvy sister to help me pick out the perfect date ensemble that afternoon: I wore a strapless, navy blue bodysuit and seersucker shorts from American Apparel, and a cool pair of wedges my sister loaned me.
I called both my mom and my cousin as I walked from the subway at 14th street to the Gansevoort Hotel, where I was meeting Christian. I confessed to my mom that I was going on a date with my older manager, but swore up and down that I was not going to so much as kiss him, lest things turn awkward at work. I believe I also told my cousin the same thing… I’m not sure who I was really trying to convince though: them, or myself…
The date went down in history as the most perfect date of all time. We had a gin and tonic each on the rooftop of the Gansevoort hotel, than took a chartered sunset sail around New York Harbor, during which Prosecco was freely doled out by the staff. When the boat docked again around 9:30pm, we were the last ones off the boat and pretty tipsy. We took a cab across town to a wine bar, where we had a charcuterie and cheese board and wine, then after that, we took another cab downtown to a second wine bar, Another Room. It was here that we started discussing painting, friended each other on Facebook, kissed for the first time, and Christian told me that he was a painter himself. He asked if I’d like to go see some of his artwork, at his apartment, which conveniently happened to be a short, three minute walk from this wine bar. Now that is clever planning!
I was on a roll myself now – high on adrenaline, wine and those butterflies in my stomach. The last few months of dating had been so shitty and had broken me down so much, that I really felt I had nothing more to lose at this point. I felt liberated! ‘Fuck it,’ I thought to myself. Whatever happens, happens. And so I went over to his apartment (to see his paintings, of course) and then I spent the night.
Because nothing in my life ever goes smoothly, because I never seem to have any actual down time, and because I am a glutton for punishment, I awoke in his bed to an 8 a.m. phone call from my sister, wondering when I was coming over to help set up for my niece’s first birthday party. We got up, he hailed me a cab, and I hightailed it back to Brooklyn, where I was gainfully employed running errands in the all-ready-86-degree weather. I was slightly hungover and had my baby niece in tow, booking it down Bedford Avenue, pushing my niece in the stroller, with a shit load of helium balloons trailing behind us, as I secreted red wine from my pores and still felt high on happiness from last night. I was elated when he texted me later that day to say he had an amazing time and couldn’t wait to see me at work later that night (yes, we both worked another party that same night).
It’s hard to believe that eight years have gone by since this particular summer. Like all couples, we have had our fair share of ups and downs. Lots of water has passed under the bridge over the course of eight years – there have been some pretty heated fights, a near constant level of insanity on both parties’ behalf, a lot of love, some general hate thrown in for good measure, a ton of fun and memorable moments, the stresses of daily life and work, and a lot of personal growth for the both of us. Eight years seems like a century sometimes – I mean it has been most of my adult life. But it also seems to have passed by in the blink of an eye. It’s crazy to think that fate brought us together in that shitty fucking venue, and even crazier to think that the feelings of attraction were mutual at first sight on the day we met back in December 2012. Every time I hear a song from the summer of 2013, whether it’s Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’ or Lana del Rey’s ‘Summertime Saddness,’ I am immediately transported back to bar left, sipping on my gin and tonic, screaming over the music to be heard, and falling in love all over again.