Another contender for my Best Worst Boyfriend would be The Diminutive Russian. The year was 1993. I had recently arrived in DC for my college internship and was heading to Habana Village in Adams Morgan to meet some friends. Little did I know at the time how much impact the bartender at that salsa club would have on my life.
I went to order a drink and spoke to the bartender in Spanish. He got very defensive and said, “I’m not Spanish. I’m Russian.” OK. My mistake. We started talking and he asked me to stay around after my group left. I wondered how I would get home, but he said that his friend would give me a lift. (Oh, to be 20 and not even think that I would be getting in a car with a psycho.)
He was interesting and had a bit of mystery to him. The Diminutive Russian was dark and handsome, but very short for me, and I towered over him by at least five inches in my platform sandals. His friend showed up, and as we were getting ready to leave, a girl walked in to the bar and kissed The Diminutive Russian. Huh? I was confused, but didn’t say anything. He told me that this girl surprised him from out-of-town so he was going to hang out with her that night.
“Is she your girlfriend?” I inquired.
“No. We’re just friends,” he replied.
I gave him my number, and his friends drove me home. He called the following night and we went out. I should’ve recognized the warning signs, but I didn’t. Over the next several months, The Diminutive Russian continued to claim that the girl, Kristen, wasn’t his girlfriend because she was married. I believed him — partly because I wanted to and partly because I was 20 and didn’t know better.
Within a week after we met, he started making comments about my weight.
“You’re so heavy.” I was a size 8-10.
“How much do you eat?”
“You really need to start watching your diet!”
If some guy said that to me now, I would laugh in his face and tell him to lose my number. But, at that age, I reacted much differently. I lost 25 pounds in 8 weeks on The Diminutive Russian Diet Plan. He was like my own unhealthy Jenny Craig!
Despite how he treated me and how much he made me cry, I fell hard for him. We spent a lot of time at Habana and The Vault after-hours, drinking, kissing and dancing. I remember many a night when we would have sex until the sun rose. The Diminutive Russian also had an intellectual side, and we would get into deep conversations about international relations and Oscar Wilde’s works.
Most of his friends were Russian and too intense for me. A lot of them were interested in things (cocaine, threesomes, etc.) that were not of interest to me. At The Diminutive Russian’s birthday party, no one informed me that I was supposed to be part of his present and hook up with a girl right in front of him and his best friend. The fact that the host of the party turned on a lesbian porn movie, and his girl, Olga, started rubbing my legs should have tipped me off. But, I didn’t initially realize that something was amiss because I had been drinking. Once I figured out what was going on, I told The Diminutive Russian that I wanted to leave, and he seemed (thankfully) as offended as I was by his best friend’s plan.
One would hope that type of thing would have been an isolated incident, but it wasn’t. On my last night in DC, we went to Trax with an old friend that was visiting from Russia. When we headed back to The Diminutive Russian’s studio, I assumed that his friend would let us have fun on the floor while he slept in the bed. He did not, and I suddenly felt another set of hands on me. I yelled at the friend to get off of me, and the two of them started screaming in Russian at each other. I’m happy to report that the friend went back to bed without further protest and this didn’t turn into a bad Lifetime movie, but it was still another odd night with The Diminutive Russian.
When I returned to college for my senior year, we stayed in touch and saw each other when we could. In one call, he said how much he missed me and that he was sending a plane ticket for me to come down to DC the day after Christmas for a party that he was hosting. He asked me to stay with him through New Year’s, and I agreed, provided that Kristen (the ambiguous girlfriend) wasn’t going to be at either event. He insisted that she wasn’t.
In my infinite wisdom (note sarcasm), I told my parents that I couldn’t bear to be apart from The Diminutive Russian for another semester and arranged to take my last four classes at GWU. My parents thought that was very unwise (understatement), but supported me nonetheless.
On December 26, 1993, I arrived at the Diminutive Russian’s doorstep with my luggage. The Russian party was a huge success, and I worked coat check as he managed the floor. It felt like we were finally a couple, and I was even beginning to stand up for myself around him.
“You need to eat more. You are too skinny,” he commented after the party.
“Really? I doubt that you’ll ever stop criticizing me no matter how much I weigh. You just want to control me, and that needs to stop!” I replied.
On New Year’s Eve, I arrived at Habana in a tiara and red dress. At midnight, The Diminutive Russian kissed me, and everything seemed perfect. My bliss was short-lived, though, as Kristen showed up at the bar at 2am. She walked up to The Diminutive Russian and they started making out right in front of me! I did my best to hide my tears until I left Habana. I had nowhere to go other than his apartment so I went back there and called my parents, sobbing hysterically.
I wasn’t sure if the evening could get more bizarre, but it did. At 5am, The Diminutive Russian returned to his place – alone – and acted as though nothing had happened. I stayed with him in his apartment, and I was glad that I did because I learned a lot that night.
The Diminutive Russian had lied to me about his relationship with Kristen. Yes, she was married, but much to my surprise, so was The Diminutive Russian! He was in a green-card marriage with an old girlfriend. Kristen was in a marriage with an older man for security. And, Kristen and The Diminutive Russian loved each other, but I was his girlfriend who he really liked. (If you are confused at this point, imagine how I felt at the time!)
I left The Diminutive Russian’s place the next day. He and I talked a few times after that, but we never dated again.
In 1996, we ran into each other at the original Ozio. Out of boredom and nostalgia, The Diminutive Russian and I ended up spending the night together. I just remember being there with him and wondering why I ever was so attracted to him in the first place. Three years later, I was in a much different place, whereas he was doing exactly the same thing with his life.
The following night, I had a date with another guy. When I got home at the end of the evening, I had 23 voicemail messages from The Diminutive Russian! Yes, 23! I broke out into a huge smile, knowing that if only for one night, The Diminutive Russian felt about me the way that I had felt about him in 1993. I wasn’t sure what the Russian’s next move would be, but for once, I didn’t care. You never know when you are over someone until you just are. I finally was and sure slept soundly that night!