When I met James, I thought he was a total catch. He was smart, educated, he owned his apartment (not an easy feat on the Lower East Side of Manhattan), and he was a talented musician who fronted a raucous 10-piece gospel/soul band. The first time I ever saw him was as an audience member, and his onstage persona hypnotised me. He had a flamboyance that reminded me of a rock star. It was an instant crush.
Back then, I was a very different girl than I am now. I was 24 and had just moved to New York City to pursue my dreams of starring on Broadway. I was overweight, as I had been my entire life, and while I felt great about my talent and intelligence, I had never felt good about my body. Multiple tortured attempts at weight loss never resulted in the slim physique I’d dreamed of since childhood, and my self-esteem wasn’t terrific. I was young, hopeful, and romantic, albeit a little damaged.
James’s band had back-up singers, and that was my in. After months of campaigning, I got my first gig singing with them. The whole night, I stuck by James like glue, and he took me home. We hooked up, but we didn’t have intercourse, because he wouldn’t let it go there. He said he probably shouldn’t get involved with someone who was going to be in his band — but of course, he waited until after we’d already fooled around to say that. Still, I was sure this was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
For the next 10 months, James swung me back and forth so many times, I developed a kind of emotional whiplash. He’d be all about me one day, and the next time I saw him, he’d give me a speech about how we could only be friends — because, you know, the band. But whenever I would start seeing someone else, he’d come knocking, saying how much he missed me. And the whole time, he made sure our sexual relationship never progressed to anything that resembled a satisfying situation for me. Meaning: no orgasms for Samia.
While that was going on, I made myself as indispensable to the band as I could. I worked harder than anyone else, way beyond my role as a backup singer. I would carry equipment and help figure out logistics. I did whatever I could to prove my worth to this guy. I thought if I showed him all the ways I could be useful, he would fall in love with me.
Nearly a year after we met, things seemed to be progressing. James asked me out to dinner at a sexy, upscale Thai restaurant — we were going on a real date, I thought. I wore a new dress and did my hair, thinking he was finally falling for me.
But I soon found out that he’d only asked me to dinner in order to explain why we could never be together. He looked at me and said, "Samia, I’m really superficial, and you’re not…you’re just not…" He trailed off and shrugged.
"I’m not what?" I said. I waited. He said nothing. "I’m not…hot enough for you?" I grabbed my purse and stood up, shocked and fighting back tears as I ran out of the restaurant.
He followed, sputtering excuses about how that’s not what he meant, and when I put it like that, it sounded so ugly.
Ugly, like me. I cried on the street and let the asshole hug me.
After that, I started dating someone new who got serious about me really fast. And of course, James’ response to watching me slip away was completely predictable: He tried to get me back. This time, he said he’d been too scared to admit how much he cared for me, and he was ready to take things to the next level. And we finally had sex. (Holy hell, that took forever.)