Bolstered by the Mantis

February 23, 2017


What follows is technically a work of fiction. But I suppose it bears mentioning that sometimes fiction lets us cut a little closer to the truth.


Show up. Be nice. Wear the magic black tank that flatters in all the right ways.

You are bored or indifferent. You are anxious or grumpy or tired. Google your date in the cab on the way, where you learn he has two children. He has yet to mention them. Wonder how, if ever, they will come up.

Show up. Be nice. Greet a person who in no way resembles his photos. Resist the urge to bolt because Buddha probably wouldn’t.

Drink past friendly and straight into weird. Hope your grin looks sincere and not like an aggressive badger. Three vodkas deep, your date’s eyes morph into one cycloptic orb, which is kind of a relief, because now you don’t have to choose which one to focus on. Eye contact can be tricky.

Show up. Be nice. Same old black tank, same stories with the well-practiced punch lines. But this time, it is different.

You smile without effort. You laugh for no reason at all. Spend an easy eight hours together. Blink and there goes a workday, an entire night’s worth of slumber. You are seen, heard, counted. You feel like you, which is a feeling you’d forgotten.

Picture your spawn. Map his natal chart. Call all your friends and even a few blood relatives. Cross your fingers and knock on wood, but know in your heart there’s no need for superstition. This has wings, which means you do, too.

Exist, for a heartbeat, in that magical place before attachment. Maybe two weeks, three weeks, four. One night, as you’re falling asleep, he breathes into your hair and whispers that he loves you. He isn’t quite conscious, but still, this must count. Wonder how you ever got so lucky.

“For the first time,” you tell a friend, “Everything feels like an answer instead of a question.”

And then, so slowly you almost don’t notice, start to feel bad. Grow restless or suspicious or defensive. Read into pauses and in between lines. Respond to every doubt with three decades’ worth of anger. An ally would surely understand. You know it isn’t fair, but then again, neither is anything.

Doubt your shape, your status, your sense of humor. Feel those wings that you grew start to shed. There you are, taking screenshots of inspirational quotes. There you are, checking your horoscope again, like somehow it might change.

Take a little longer than you should to respond. Attempt to reclaim power you’re not sure you had.

In your spare time, read a book about animal mating habits. You are bolstered by the mantis and its head-biting ways. You remember the lobster. You ponder the wolf. You look in the mirror and you’re still a person.

At a party, a friend describes you as “good at relationships.” Make a mental note to take up a hobby. Serial monogamy has granted you nothing. Knitting, at least, would yield hats.

The very next day finds you watching him leave. He forgets only his hat. Irony, you think, is phenomenally irritating.

“Sounds like you dodged a bullet,” says everyone, which proves how little your own friends know you. What you wanted was to get shot.

You are haunted by a lot of things, but this one the most: You didn’t know, the last time you kissed, that it would be the last.

You are left with songs, with nicknames, with memories ripe for dissection. There are movies you will boycott. Streets you will avoid.

“Why didn’t we…?” You wonder aloud, to a room full of no one. Fill in the blank a thousand ways. You cannot distinguish between truth and myth. Perhaps it’s for the best.

In your youth, you forgave everything. Wish you could remember how.

Show up. Be nice. Grab your coat; the seasons have changed.

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  • Your writing is a piece of heaven. I am so envious of your talent!

  • This was great. I recognize a lot of myself in this post. You are a very talented writer!

  • Caroline, you are one of my favorite writers. And I relate to this post so much. Thank you for sharing.

  • I’ve always wanted to knit

  • This gave me goosebumps. I love your writing! Thank you for posting this.

  • Keep writing. You’re good.

  • Thank you for that beautiful text, reading your posts is always such a pleasure !

  • I loved reading this. It hits home in a painfully honest yet beautiful way.

    Thank you.

  • “Sounds like you dodged a bullet,” says everyone, which proves how little your own friends know you. What you wanted was to get shot.”

    now THAT is a great couple of sentences. but sorry things are rough. your writing is way better than inspirational quotes, and very, very real.

  • Relatable, witty, and well written. Keep writing! <3

  • This is so beautiful. Also heartbreaking, because I can so relate, but great.

  • Amazing

  • What a beautiful, truthful piece. I’ve been experience the online dating game for the last few months, and you hit the nail on the head.

  • Love this! When I procrastinate writing I generally screenshot inspirational quotes (and scroll through cat instagram accounts…), so I’m impressed by your “unnecessary” writing as a procrastination tactic. P.s. Great title!

  • You are such a beautiful writer! I cannot wait for your book.

  • You are a gem ✨ In all the ways.

  • Trying to learn how to date after my divorce. This perfectly sums up all of my cyclical emotions and makes me feel less weird. Thank you Caroline!

  • Lovely piece.

  • I love the sound of your writing and also I really like that you often teach me a few words and idioms (I’m French)! Thanks! Go on! (but not with the heartbreaks mind me)

  • I needed this. Thanks for writing it 🙂

  • shit caroline. this is beautiful. we all have felt this way before.

    “Serial monogamy has granted you nothing. Knitting, at least, would yield hats.”

    YASSS. keep writing lady.

  • Caroline! This knocked the WIND out of me. In a good way. Every single sentence. Wow. So relatable. You are gifted.

  • This is wonderful. Thank you for sharing this.

    It reminded me a short story by Lorrie Moore, which I think is called ‘How’. It’s in The Collected Stories book and it’s brilliant.

  • this is brilliant and beautiful and I hope you post so many more things.

  • this was so beautiful and raw. please keep on writing!!

  • This is honest and true and needed. As a fellow 30-something year old woman steering through the choppy waters of dating in a one-woman canoe, it is helpful to hear the stories of others who know the same thoughts, feelings and tiny heartbreaks.

  • This was perfect. I especially liked this: “Hope your grin looks sincere and not like an aggressive badger.”

  • Hi Caroline,
    This is beautiful. I feel these things too. Thanks for the reminder that we’re not alone with our experiences, the wonderful and the painful. I love your work and can’t wait to keep reading!

  • This helped me feel less alone in the crush of heartbreak today. Thank you for that.

  • Beautiful. Give us more of this, Caroline.
    Ps upon you recommendation I bought Oprah’s What I Know for Sure.
    Looking at it right now 🙂
    Thank you.

  • wow. I got goosebumps reading this. Especially the line about the final kiss. How true that is.

  • I love how you write! So spot on.

    cXx, len

  • Mariana,

    Beautiful and so relatable which makes it comforting. Thank you.

  • Caroline, so happy to see a post.
    You have an incredible talent, do keep writing always!

  • Caroline! I can’t tell you how connected to that piece I feel right now. This literally happened to me 5 hours ago. I hate the feeling of once again being so sad and back to the drawing board and missing those great times. The worst part is is that you know you will be that much more guarded and defensive at future love 🙁

    Sending hugs and needing some myself!

  • Every once in a while, I stop by here and read a few posts and I feel…at home. It’s amazing to see your own thoughts and experiences expressed in these really beautiful ways (because sister…above this comment section is my life).

    Also…I picked up the knitting. At least my knits and purls make sense 😉

    Thanks, Caroline <3

  • I wish this piece never ended, but it was beautifully concise. Loved this.

  • This is so very relatable. I especially loved the line “Attempt to reclaim the power you’re not sure you had.” Relationships always seem to exist on that power imbalance, one way or another. Thanks so much for writing this.

  • Caroline, this is exquisite.

    What novels do you read when you feel heartbroken? Asking for a friend.

  • Jessica,

    “Knitting, at least, would yield hats. The very next day finds you watching him leave. He forgets only his hat. Irony, you think, is phenomenally irritating.”

    How lovely.

  • Going though the same thing right now. Thank you for this! So well said ❤️

  • This is beautiful (she says between tissues). Looking forward to more!

  • “You are seen, heard, counted.”

    Thank you for writing.

  • This is beautiful, plain and simple. Can I also ask – who did the artwork?

  • This is one of the most relatable pieces I’ve ever read. And a reminder that for better or for worse, everything is cyclical. Thank you. x

  • Wonderful! Cant wait to read your books!

  • This is so great. Needed to read this right now. Always good to remind myself I’m not the only one grabbing my coat.

  • Thanks for sharing, my day is made =)

  • This really resonated; thanks for writing and sharing it.

  • You are very talented!
    I wish you a happy new year. A year, in which your talent can unfold even more and in which you have many happy moments and continue to walk to the beat of your very own drum

  • Ever read something and wish you’d written it? This is that for me. So freakin’ good.