Jan 30, 2013

Waiting for my (wrong) man

This is another long-delayed response to a reader question sent in while AAP was in mothballs. After all this time, I hope it offers something useful.

Hello AAP-
Basically I met a crusty yesterday on the train. We were on our way to the beach to see the 4th of July fireworks. He was with his other crusty friends and I was by myself. I saw that he was staring at me but didn't think much of it... anyway, fast forward an hour later, we all get off to go to the beach and he left his friends behind so he could talk to me. He gave me his number, and we started talking about music. Pretty much we have very little in common but this guy was very, very likeable, funny, SMART and polite. The way he expressed himself so eloquently was very attractive. He had a lot of tattoos (some legit, others homemade) and then I got to asking him about his scars on his arms (they looked like the kind you get from shooting up too many times) but he said they were caused by mosquito bites (there really aren't THAT many mosquitoes in NYC this time of year). So I got to ask him what he does, and he told me he's pretty much a hobo. A few gigs here and there (he's in a band) and he also makes and sells his own art. He stuck around till I met up with my twin sister and then he told us to wait for him outside while he went to the restroom. Basically the plan was that he was gonna ditch his friends and hang with my "crew". As soon as he went to the bathroom my sister said, "ewww this guy is not your type, he looks like a friggin drug dealer and he stinks (which he didn't) so lets ditch him.". We left him behind, and I felt SO BAD for doing that! You see, the difference between my sister and I is that I don't judge people based on their appearance and she does so our groups of friends are very different.

I am 21 years old, currently going to NYU. I'm not rich by any means and I can only afford to go to school because of scholarships. What I do have in common with this guy is that we both had an alcoholic parent and our childhood environments were less than ideal. I don't really follow any subculture. The music I listen to is mostly mainstream (Nine Inch Nails, Marylin Manson, Alice in Chains, Nirvana, etc... is as mainstream as I get). He recommended some songs to me but to me, it's just sounds like a bunch of NOISE (no offense). His lifestyle choices aren't very healthy. He drinks a lot, smokes a lot (I have asthma, he told me he would quit) and we just seem very different. I really, really like him, and I've been trying to learn more about this crusty subculture but they don't seem to have a very good reputation. The back of the card he wrote his number on was a business card for LESC which stands for Lower Eastside Service Center which by the looks of it is for people who are in rehab/detox. I really don't know whether to pursue this relationship anyfurther because I have no idea what I'd be getting myself into. I have enough problems as it is (mom suffers from depression, dad from alzheimer's, and I take care of the both) and I don't want this to become a burden...

Sorry for the friggin novel I just wrote but I would really, really appreciate your advice!


PS: By the way, he's 28 years old so there is a 7 year age difference.I believe that he's 28 but he looks like he's been to hell and back for a 28 year old. Sorry if this comes off as a stupid question but I've never seen a crusty in his/her 40's/50's. Is it something they grow out of? Why do they disappear? What happens to them? Many thanks.

Dear MD -

I'll answer your last question first: They either clean up, go to jail or die.

Although, like you,  I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt, regardless of their appearance - likely because, in the distant past, I tended to look a little shady myself - I think your sister might have helped you dodge a bullet here.

I'm sure you were accurate in your description of him. Many addicts are smart, funny & charming because they were all those things before they made that first, critical error: Thinking they were going to be the one who dabbles but doesn't get hooked. After that, all the smarts, charm and humor get focused on one or both of the following goals: securing drugs or securing money to buy drugs with. Period. I know this because some of the smartest and funniest people I've known were addicts, and very verrrrrry few of their stories ended well. Eventually the charm and humor fades and the intelligence becomes something shifty and unsavory.

I might catch some hell from some self-identifying "Crusties" but the truth is, a good percentage of people who call it their "punk subculture" are really, beneath the CRASS t-shirt and the tattoos, junkies and/or addicts on the edge. 

You even know that he clearly lied to you with his "mosquito bites" bullshit, but he still knew how to keep you talking and how to get you a bit closer. He was willing to so easily ditch his "friends" because he (and likely they) are always on the lookout for a new source of $ or dope. If you had let him into your life, I can promise you that within 24 hours your ipod would be oddly "missing" and he would have some fresh mosquito bites. And then you're both off to the races with him charmingly and perhaps even tearfully promising that it will never happen again (but it will,) and you going through a laundry list of attempts to help/fix/change him (which you won't.)

The bigger question is: Why were you attracted to this guy in the first place? Luckily the answer is pretty simple: Because his energy was so familiar. You said you grew up with an alcoholic parent (exactly the sort of useful information I rarely get in reader questions) ... so guess what? That means you're wired to seek out these sorts of people. The kind of people who will supply the chaos that the children of alcoholics & addicts often mistake for love and relationships.

I hope you threw away the card and ran screaming in the other direction.

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