The Ex-Files: Curtis the Turtle – A Cautionary Tail

Meet Curtis.

Curtis wasn’t a guy I dated. Curtis was a GIFT from a guy I dated.  We’ll call my ex “Kevin.”  This was a relationship that lasted 3 years, but sadly, was already one year past its expiration date.  And much like rotten milk, there really wasn’t much purpose to keeping it around.  But as we often do as females, I ignored that nagging, bitchy, inner mean girl voice telling me: “Girl what the hell? You gotta bounce. This relationship is some bullshit that needed to end 6 months ago!! Just be single already.” (I think my inner voice listens to a lot of Beyonce.)

First, let me preface this post with a few words of wisdom—I know we all like to see the lovey-dovey side to our relationships…but let’s keep it real. A big part of all relationships is The Art of Negotiation. There are small, trivial, daily negotiations that we don’t even notice in day to day life (Example: Is your lazy ass finally going to the do the dishes tonight? Or: “I refuse to hang out with your stupid cousin who always makes the house smell like weed!).  And if you aren’t bringing these “mini battles” into your conscious awareness, the underlying issues in the relationship are bound to fester.

If you’re willing to give in too easily and not advocate for the things that hold value to you, simply for the sake of keeping the peace with your partner, you are slowly surrendering all your powers of negotiation.  Sadly, this is what I had been doing with Kevin, until Curtis came along and broke the cycle.

Kevin and I had been living together for 2 years… and I had been pushing to get a puppy for several months. My “female brain circuitry” was sounding off an alarm — that the relationship had grown stale and needed “movement.”  Kevin had made it clear he “wasn’t anywhere near ready for marriage” and I accepted that fact.  I fell into the same erroneous belief most of us females subscribe to – I figured I’d just “wait it out” in the hopes he’d “feel ready” sooner than later.

Without an engagement prospect on the horizon, I felt a “Fur Baby” would be a good interim step. It would bring us closer as a couple, give us responsibility practice as parents, and allow us to nurture something we both loved and cared for together as a team.  What a beautiful concept right? But unbeknownst to me, Kevin had other plans.

So we started negotiations one night at the dining room table. I came prepared, and presented my arguments.  But I was no match for Kevin.  His retorts were rapid fire, and decimated my pleas for “Operation Puppy” before we even got a chance to dig into our pasta.

“No way” Kevin said. And then came the barrage of excuses — “It’s too much work, We’re not home enough, Pets are dirty, I have allergies, I like a clean home, It’s too much responsibility, Its expensive, Some breeds are too aggressive, Its sad when they die, I don’t want to deal with barking…Why don’t we just get you a fish?”

With each shot fired, I found myself growing more and more discouraged, and yet, I offered no rebuttal. I found myself rationalizing his reasons and accepting them. Most likely because I knew the relationship was already on shaky ground and I didn’t want to create another seismic disturbance to push things into the danger zone.  I ceased my side of negotiations completely.  I didn’t put up a fight for what I wanted.

So I sighed and just stuffed my face with more pasta. Eating my feelings had become routine and unfortunately, my waistline started reflecting the increasing frustration I was feeling in the relationship.  I had given up my power and my subconscious mind, er “Inner Beyonce Voice” knew it. It bothered me intensely, yet I still wasn’t ready to take action.

My birthday came a couple of weeks after we had the “Negotation dinner.” I was feeling sad that I wouldn’t be getting the gift I truly wanted.  So we go out for my birthday, and then Kevin tells me he’s taking me somewhere for a surprise.  Could it be? Would we be going to the shelter or breeder to pick out my fur child?! My excitement starts to build…

On the drive over, Kevin looks over and says: “Well, I’ve been thinking a lot about how you want a pet really badly. So for your birthday, I thought I’d make that happen.”

I am so happy at this moment that my eyes are literally filling with tears of joy. Not only because I’m finally getting my puppy, but because Kevin is showing me he truly cares and is, for once, putting my needs ahead of his own. My little heart is fluttering thinking this is a pinnacle moment in my relationship. I am feeling super loved and appreciated by my man.

Annnnndddddd then he pulls into the parking lot of “Reptile World”. My heart sinks.  Wait a second…There is no fur to be found anywhere in this pet store.

“Surprise!” Kevin says…”Your pet is waiting for you inside. A Leopard Tortoise. We won’t be getting a dog but it’s the perfect compromise! I even picked out a name, Curtis.  You are all set!” (He slaps me on the shoulder).  Come on aren’t you excited?! Let’s go inside and get him!”

As we’re walking into Reptile world, my mind is spinning. I am simultaneously grieving the loss of my fur baby while attempting to process my new job title as a Turtle mother.  Whatever that looks like. I am still in shock but of course, I smile, play the part of the grateful girlfriend and show how appreciative I am of this “perfect compromise”

“Wow a turtle. Aw thanks so much honey, you are so sweet.”

I can barely drown out the shit talking going on in my head from my inner voice: “Oh hell no! Girl are you fucking kidding me? A turtle? This mutha fucka got you a turtle?! And you ain’t saying shit?! I can’t with you!”

Long story short, we took Curtis home. It didn’t go well.  Kevin’s OCD reared its ugly head (that will be a whole other blog post) and I watched in horror as he examined Curtis and said he looked “dirty.”  Kevin then proceeded to scrub his shell with a Brillo pad until my newly found “reptile mom instincts” kicked in, and I swept in to save him.

Curtis looked completely traumatized. He stayed in his shell for TWO DAYS until I had a panic attack that he was dead.  We took him back to the pet store and thankfully, he poked his head out, showing he was still alive and well.  Poor Curtis.  He was just scared shitless of Kevin and that horrific scrub down.  Kevin told Reptile World the turtle was a “dud who never comes out of his shell”. We ended up giving him back to the store.  I’m thankful Curtis got to go back home and put this horrible trauma behind him.

Comical Cupid Relationship lesson: I broke up with Kevin and moved to Las Vegas shortly after Curtis left our lives. This was an action I had wanted to take for several months, I just needed a catalyst to finally make the leap.  The Curtis experience showed me that I’d become too complacent in this relationship.  Trying to be the “cool, easy going girlfriend” had chipped away at my power status and caused me to become accepting of situations where my needs weren’t being met.  A turtle was in no way, shape, or form a “perfect compromise” for my desire for a puppy yet, Kevin felt comfortable pushing for it.  He saw that I had gotten so “go with the flow” and he figured I’d be accepting of pretty much anything he proposed. I realized this had been happening repeatedly, and Kevin didn’t have my best interests at heart.  He only wanted things on his terms, and Curtis was a perfect embodiment of that fact.

So thank you dear friend, for being the metaphor of what was wrong in my unhealthy relationship and finally making it click for me. That, and allowing me to see I was dating someone who felt it was normal to scrub a turtle with a kitchen sponge.  (Inner Voice – Yas! girl I’m glad we dumped his crazy ass!).

Leave a Reply