Sketch by the inimitable Kelcey Vossen.
Oh, what a difference a year can make.
This revelation comes to me after days of racking my brain deliberating on how to welcome you, my dear readers, to the inception of the surefire shitshow that is 2017. I was aiming for an aspirational, heartfelt post, a mission made impossible by the fact that I am currently on a crazy Asian voyage that has left me with bout of food poisoning and confused all my emotions like a bunch of legumes haphazardly tossed onto a skillet. And so, I decided to do what I do best and deliver you a step-by-step disaster that inspired a pivotal change in my mindset over the past year. Since the best of us learn from the mistakes of others, I hope it will service you better than any heartfelt BS ever could.
The refined individual I am, I spent last New Year’s 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee, testing out the various gourmand delicacies coined by the wunderkinds of the California marijuana industry. After ringing in 2016 at a gas station in a deep, chocolate mushroom-fueled conversation with two construction workers, I woke up feeling like my brain had been smashed by a double-decker. Determined to distract myself from the pervasive sense of misery, I popped open Raya and scrolled through my new matches. There, in the midst of a fresh batch of Burning Mans and emaciated artists, was a guy who stood out for his eerily normal vibe and what appeared to be distinctly Slavic decent.
Further research revealed that he was, indeed, Russian. Not only that, but he also happened to be a writer, and not of the Dbag Dating kind, but of the kind who had written a script that later went on to become a romantic comedy that any self-respecting Millennial is familiar with. In short, he was a cute, successful, Russian comedy writer who resided in New York City, a combination so unlikely that it seemed as though Cupid himself had decided to cut me some slack and deliver me a pre-packaged soulmate.
Combusting with excitement over my life-altering 2016 discovery, I decided to take a proactive approach and messaged him first. The object of my interest, whom we shall call Sasha Levinsky, responded immediately, which I took as an invitation to jump in full force, bombarding him with enough questions to make a Thai monk get chatty. I pretended that I wasn’t a creepy stalker and asked him what he did. He pretended to be too modest to give me the details, suggesting that I Google him for full credentials. I did as told and immediately stumbled across a Variety listing of a 7-million-dollar house that he had just put on the market, which I felt obliged to compliment him on. He pretended to be mortified. I pretended to be nonchalant. This charade continued until I finally yielded a drink invitation for the following week, noted it on my calendar and began mentally picking out my sexiest turtleneck. FYI, I could have written half a book proposal with all the wit and eloquence I used to cajole this date, but let’s not dwell on that.
Fast-forward to D-Day, which greeted me with a snowstorm that would have deterred any normal human being but rendered me even more determined to go through with our plans. After all, we were Russian – if Eugene Onegin and Tatiana could survive the brutality of the winter, so could we! Not big on chivalry (again, like Eugene Onegin), Sasha asked me to meet him at Orient Express, a West Village bar exactly one block away from his house. Despite the proximity, he arrived fifteen minutes late, looking exactly like he had in his photos – cute and slightly arrogant in the way that “normal guys” have a tendency of looking these days, especially when they tap into success. He had a faux modest act to go with the nice guy image, which he maintained for about thirty minutes before he started casually slipping in the humble brags.
First came the autobiographical recount of the innumerable celebrities he had worked with during his years of television writing. After tarnishing the names of some of the most commendable female comedians, he moved on to his portfolio of ex-girlfriends, who all, coincidentally, happened to be the daughters of very famous people. He served me their names and accompanying relationship summaries one by one, altering them with amuse-bouches of bullshit about his innate modesty that had stood in the way of their relationships. I kid you not there may have been something in there about breaking up with a girl just so he wouldn’t have to accompany her to the Grammys (Speaking of which, Cry Me a River.) At some point he may have realized that he hadn’t asked me a single personal question, because he decided to cut straight to the chase.
“Have you ever been in love?” he asked, quite dramatically.
“Of course. Have you?” I replied, fully expecting an affirmative response. After all, if he had felt necessary to divulge every detail about his exes on our very first date, and they all seemed like such great women… He must have at the very least loved them, oui? He established intense eye contact and shook his head.
“I think I just haven’t met the right person yet.”
Yes, I realize now that the signs were there. In fact, not only signs, but flashing neon arrows, pointing to the fact the person in front of me was a ginormous, egocentric waste of time. Yet, in that tiny booth in the back of Orient Express on a blizzardy January night, Sasha Levinsky seemed like the man I had been waiting for 29 years. My mind began spinning as I imagined us falling in love (him for the first time!) and becoming writing partners, the William Masters and Virginia Johnson of the comedy industry. Despite our growing fame, we would preserve his aura of under-the-radar modesty, staying out of the public eye with the exception of the occasional paparazzi shot of our irreverent walks in the West Village.
It was the first week of the new year and I was already losing it. Oy vey.
Speaking of my writing, Sasha had read Dbag Dating and decided to voice his opinion.
“This blog of yours.. It’s kind of funny, but you’re not exactly doing yourself any favors. Just saying.” Just saying? Just saying?!! That was hell of a thing to say! I began defending myself, explaining that it was a creative outlet, and that all the characters were anonymous, and that I didn’t make fun of anyone as much as I did of myself. Surely, as a comedy writer and person who had worked with Mindy and Tina and Chelsea, he would understand? Nuh-uh.
“You know, I don’t usually date Russian women. We just don’t have much in common,” he informed me. I assume that he meant that there were not enough Russian celebrity daughters in his immediate circle. He also admitted with zero shame that he hardly even spoke any Russian, despite having being born in Ukraine. “I adapt well,” he said with a smirk. I added ‘teaching him Russian’ to the to-do list of our impending relationship, somewhere right under ‘teaching him how to love’.
It was getting late and Sasha had yet to walk his dog. He asked me if I would like to accompany him. I have no idea why, but I was still under the impression that date was going well. Sure, he had rambled about his exes, dissed my writing and insulted our shared heritage, but we were about to walk his dog together through a blizzard! Prime bonding.
At his apartment, we were greeted by a tiny, fluffy Pomeranian, the type of dog that most men only go near when it belongs to their significant other. Yet Sasha seemed to have quite the kinship with little Feather Duster, even dressing her in a knit sweater and little boots to brave the cold. He offered me his arm and we walked around the block, with me glowing at him and him keeping a strong focus on Feather Duster. Back in his lobby, he called me an Uber, an anticlimactic ending that I mistook for a gesture of love. I texted him a euphoric message to thank him for the cab but received a response.
Jittery from the spell of love, I barely slept all night. At 6am, I called my mother and my best friend in Paris to inform them that I had met The One. Both seemed skeptical, advising me to wait and see what happened next. I imagined them biting their words as they watched us on E! Network, busting out self-deprecating nerd jokes on the Red Carpet at the SAG awards.
By noon, it was me who was biting her words, for Sasha still hadn’t texted me. In fact, he did not text me that afternoon, or evening, or even the following day. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, our Slavic prince had ghosted, a predicament that shocked no one other than yours truly. Not only did it shock me, but it also upset me on a level that was completely disproportionate to scale of the event itself. I wanted to know why he had ghosted, a mission that entailed me calling friends, guy friends and even my own brother to ask for potential reasons. Nobody offered anything constructive other than the good old “He’s just not that into you”.
At some point, my Parisian bestie couldn’t handle it anymore. She told me I had outdone myself on the crazy scale. “Marina, I don’t care why he didn’t call you. What worries me more is why you liked him. Because, from what I understand, he was a complete dick to you. Don’t you have any self-respect?
And this is how in January 2016, a meeting with a man named Sasha Levinsky served as a catalyst of a major life change called Liking People Who Like Me. It took a year, but I am now reaping the benefits, Asian food poisoning and all.
Come to think, this is probably the best thing Sasha Levinsky has ever done, because, to be honest, his movies kinda suck. Just saying.