I thought the one benefit of quarantine was that I wouldn’t have to see the people I hate.
Five months into the pandemic I was asked to do a comedy show over Zoom. Despite having worked as a stand-up comedian pre-pandemic, up until this point I had politely declined any live streaming shows. It didn’t feel right to tell jokes into my empty apartment for an audience on mute.
Missing the high of the stage, I agreed to do a particular show: a comedy dance show. I am never short of dance moves, even when audience members are in short supply. The walls of my apartment had been known to request blindfolds.
I immediately started planning my dance numbers. One of my favorite drag queens, Lady Red Couture, had recently passed away, so I planned a dance number to her song “Extra Value Meal” and choreographed a performance with many fast food-related gags—including, but not limited to, eating two Big Macs while hula hooping.
A couple of days before the show, I was tagged in a promotional post on Instagram. I looked at the line-up to size up my competition. And that’s when I saw the judges included one I was unfortunately too familiar with: Greg. Crap.
Greg, my former crush, the one who consumed my world and lived rent-free in my mind for years, would be one of the judges. Our relationship was pivotal, and was the reason for several big changes in my life. The first time I was ever on a plane was to visit this man. It felt like a movie and it felt very adult.
We hooked up once, resulting in an apology for “giving me the wrong impression.” This conversation took place on a bridge. At the time, I had been watching a lot of Sex and the City, so naturally I thought it was true love.
I spent the better part of a year chasing him in-between states and exchanging near-daily text messages and inside jokes. The last time I had talked to Greg, he had accused me of having “some unhealthy delusions about our relationship.”
I would have preferred “you’re crazy”—it’s more to the point.
Greg strung me along for a year before giving me the kindness of breaking my heart. But more importantly, he made something snap inside me. A big component of my unrequited love was that he didn’t think I was funny, and, therefore, not qualified to be a real girlfriend.
In my post-heartbreak rage, I submitted a writing packet, which led not only to my first job in comedy but many jobs that I have strung into a career. I had spent the last four years working my ass off to prove to him that I was just as good a comedian as he was.
After months of COVID, when I didn’t even get to see my best friends in the world, this man was going to be (virtually) in my living room. And he was going to have to tell everyone his opinions on me pulling Whoppers out of my bra to disco music.
Should I drop out? No. Maybe he would drop out? I crossed my fingers. He didn’t. Crap.
This wouldn’t be your average embarrassing run-in at the DMV or a random party. He would be in my living room. He would see everything. My crappy David Bowie poster and that, despite two job promotions, I hadn’t redecorated or switched apartments since I was 24.
I cringed at the thought of the “me” who had loved him. The girl who drank an entire bottle of 7-11 strawberry Boons Farm and texted him from a friend’s phone that he should love me because “Elizabeth is perfect she is a big fan of Lady Gaga.”
It seemed like a super-compelling argument at the time.
After two days of fretting, Taylor Swift songs on repeat, wardrobe changes, and exhausting all my friends, the show came.
We saw each other in those tiny Brady Bunch-esque Zoom boxes before the show streamed on Twitch. It turned out it wasn’t that different than seeing each other at a party. We didn’t speak directly to one another, but engaged with those around us.
As I sat in my apartment, while also in a virtual room he was in, I felt okay. I was grateful to have the moment between us, as scary as it had seemed. It felt nice. And after months of being away from other people, it was amazing to be experiencing regular human emotions again. Even if it was about someone I hoped to never see again.
I danced. He scored me. A perfect ten. And made a very awkward comment about my silhouette looking lovely in sequins, which made me feel like I won the break-up.
He gave me the kindness of treating me like a contestant he was rooting for, of scoring me more than fairly, which frankly I deserved after the airplane credit card debt and my broken heart.
Maybe, just maybe, he understood who I was now. I was no longer the girl in love who jumped for him at a moment’s notice, I was his peer. There wasn’t a confession that he was still madly in love with me. There wasn’t the regret in his eyes I would have liked. But there was the professional confirmation I needed from him all along. Finally.
I was crowned the winner, and I got the confirmation I wanted all along:
I am very funny. And I’m a hell of a dancer.