Junior year, I was losing fights with acne, schoolwork, and my love life. But then I started working out and following my dermatologist’s orders. One day during a heat wave, I wore a wife-beater (and my newly clear skin) to school, and the ugly duckling became a swan. I started writing silly plays that caught everyone’s attention and pissed a few people off. With my boosted confidence, I man-whored it up all the way to mid-June. When school ended, my parents drove me to Connecticut, where I met the other people with whom I was to spend a month in Paris. There was Matt, who liked The Grateful Dead and smoking weed. And John, who liked The Grateful Dead and smoking weed. And Dillon, who liked to sleep when he wasn’t listening to The Grateful Dead or smoking weed. And nineteen girls to the eight guys—a promising ratio for a man-whore like me.

One of the girls seemed very reserved and slightly prudish (weird, since she was from San Francisco), spoke French very well, and was oh-so-beautiful. I’ll call her Alex, which is her real name anyway. On the flight over to France, I used my usual technique for snagging women (goofy but covert flirtations), but she resisted, in a way that convinced me that she was shy.

We were to stay with French families while in Paris, and boy did I luck out: the Bachette-Peyrades (or Parrett-Barretts, or Perry-Masons, or whatever) had a nice place five blocks from the Champs-Elysees and a son who was very helpful with our requests for hash. The only problem was the mother, who must have been nice sometimes, but not when I was around. So I often found reasons to leave the house, a lot of which involved Alex.

I didn’t even know her very well, but something had me more hooked on her than I’d ever been on anyone. As Alex was from Cali and I from NYC, anything between us needed to happen in the four weeks we had in Europe. Her roommate had mentioned that Alex was available and that someone should go for her, but when I told her I wanted to, said that Alex wasn\\\’t “really into sex or anything.” Then, that usually turned me off. But not in Alex’s case. I said, “I don’t care. I like her a lot, on a different level. She’s not just gorgeous, she’s awesome too.” I was doing things I never though I’d do, like writing Alex a poem in my horrible handwriting. I don’t write poems. She liked it, but I feared I was falling into The Friend Zone. We exchanged screen names and e-mailed a lot even though we saw each other every day in class and on program excursions. Sadly, nothing ever really came of it. With a hug at JFK, I left Alex to forever inhabit her Friend Zone. I told her that I had “feelings” for her and that even though romance wasn’t going to blossom between us, she was still the coolest person I’d met on the trip. But then things got weird.

The characters in the plays I had begun writing were usually my friends, and a month in France had given me new colorful and silly models. Of course, my character and Alex’s got it on at one point. Also, my character in that play was an asshole who was cheating on four women at once and who made nasty comments about them. This did not please real-life Alex, and by “did not please,” I mean “set off”—nothing could have prepared me for the shitstorm that came after she read the first section of my play. I explained that it was just fiction. I apologized profusely (even though I hadn’t really done anything—she still had my nuts in her hand). None of this worked, and Alex stopped talking to me.

I didn’t know how to rectify the situation, so I simply let the relationship dissipate. Then, after a month and a half, I decided that I didn’t really care if she still thought she was right or not, and I wrote her a short but sweet email for her birthday. She responded, and we finally began talking again on a regular basis, with no real arguments. She was back to being the girl of my dreams. A year ahead of her in school, I became Mr. Advice on the SATs and APs. Sure, it wasn’t what I wanted, but it was something. Then she went off on me again.

One afternoon in spring, I was offered a job I’d at Sports Illustrated, and boy howdy, was I happy. Yes, I just said “boy howdy;” that’s how I felt. I figured I’d share the good news with Alex. I was quite giddy when I placed the call, but by the time it was over, I was not. I’d expected a “congratulations” but heard only a groan and “oh no, Justin, really?” Then she went on and on about the Swimsuit issue and the objectification of women. I didn’t care what she said; she had clawed at my good mood until it was gone. I finally got good and mad at her, yelling at her and hanging up on her. Not so satisfying with a phone that didn’t flip open and close, but whatever. I figured she would be annoyed, but she wasn’t, and apologized later for raining on my parade.

Around early June, she started annoying me in ways that had nothing to do with Feminazism. Example: I mentioned liking Pinky and The Brain when I was younger, and asked her if she ever watched. She replied that she didn’t watch crap, and then mentioned how much she used to like Full House. Yeah, okay. And even before then, in France, she once asked me why I always talk about myself. When I asked if she had a list of my flaws to share that day, she said that she just didn’t like it when guys were arrogant. Me? Arrogant? I guess sometimes… But it wasn’t her place to say it. As enamored as I had been, that really got to me. Although she apologized for that, she still manages to do really annoying, snobby shit on occasion. Such things made me question my perpetual crush on her.

Alex is just a confusing girl. There are times I want to stab her and times I want to hug her. Well, I always want to hug her. In a perfect world, we would have made out up and down the Seine and every time she’s come East since then. But the world isn’t perfect, and neither is Alex. She pulls on my heartstrings and gets on my nerves, and I’m sure she will for years to come, seeing as she’s migrating to New Haven next fall. How many (future) Yale students does it take to piss me off, turn me on, and fire me up all at once? Just one.

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