The following essay was read aloud at a “Grown-Up Story-Telling” event at Aeronaut Brewery in Somerville, MA on July 26, 2017.
Things are so precarious at the beginning of new relationships. Something that feels exciting can easily be deflated by a bad kiss, a Ben Carson bumper sticker, or an admission like “Yeah, I don’t know, I just don’t like many books written by women.” Any of these offenses can instantly kill the sizzle that has built up over a couple of dates. While most people end up getting dumped unwittingly, not knowing what they did that made things fizzle out, sometimes you need a grand gesture to stop a relationship in its tracks. In that case, I have a suggestion for you. Recently, my budding relationship met an untimely death due to a rather unexpected culprit: a Yelp review.
I was not expecting to receive six texts in quick succession from a guy I was casually seeing on the afternoon that I drove with three friends to see a folk concert at Tanglewood. As we stopped at a light in Lenox, I tore my eyes away from the verdant mountains rising in the distance and the white clapboard Colonial houses to peek at my favorite crutch, my iPhone. I immediately panicked when I saw many messages in response to the simple query I had posed: “How’s your weekend so far?” I figured that a series of sad Drake lyrics awaited me, like “Please don’t hate me,” or “My life is so complicated right now,” or the favorite of fuckboys everywhere, “It’s not you, it’s me.”
I vowed not to review the texts until I was no longer in charge of a moving vehicle, so I nervously found a spot on the grassy lawn to leave the car. Out came the coolers, quilts, and picnic baskets, and the four of us made our way to find a spot on the lawn before the Indigo Girls, Joan Baez, and Mary Chapin Carpenter took the stage. I was slightly annoyed that these messages had arrived the night of the concert. After all, I had come to Tanglewood to loudly and wine-drunkenly belt about how much closer to fine I was. Heterosexual anxiety has no place at an Indigo Girls concert, yet here I was, panicking over texts from a boy. As we spread out the quilts, unwrapped our cheese and baguettes, and opened up our bottle of wine, I bravely decided to look at my phone. After all, if it truly was a series of rejection texts, I had everything I needed to soothe potential heartache: three friends, wine, and girl-power music.
My friends Jo, SarahEmily, and Kelly continued to chat as my expression grew more and more befuddled. They all looked up when I let out a snort. “So, is he breaking things off?” Jo asked.
“It’s a Yelp review,” I responded.
“What?” cried SarahEmily in disbelief.
“I mean, things were going so well until THIS,” I exclaimed, jabbing at my phone. Any romantic sizzle that had built up between us vanished into the night air, because this particular Yelper had chosen to leave me an all-inclusive review. There were details about our apartment, my hosting abilities, and my sexual prowess. Also, it was 3:45 in the afternoon, which in my mind is entirely too early in the day to receive a text that includes the words “my penis.” Can’t a girl enjoy a picnic dinner at Tanglewood without getting sexted?
To be fair, this feedback was not entirely unprompted. When he had stayed over the weekend before, I had joked that it would be funny if people left Yelp style reviews when they spent the night, like “Sex was meh but had a Tempur-Pedic, 7/10 would sleep there again,” or “Dick was bomb but cat is mean and will bite your toes in the middle of the night, 5/10 just go to your place.” It was funny. It was theoretical. It was not what I was expecting a week after the event, simply in response to the question “How was your weekend?” Timing is everything in comedy, and the window of opportunity had simply passed for this joke.
But before you jump down my throat and call me a comic snob, I also have to say that some parts of the review seemed like a little nitpicky. Take this line, for example:
“Her extra toothbrush and contact lens case was greatly appreciated. However, she did not specify which was her toothpaste which at 2 AM was a bit disorienting and confusing.”
Buddy. This kind of feels like you’re splitting hairs here. Just pick a toothpaste and use it. I am not going to forcibly eject you from my bed because you use my roommate’s tube of Colgate. You could have probably sampled every product in our medicine cabinet if you had so desired and I still would have invited you back.
Then there’s this sentence, where the practical and the sensual parts of the review mix uncomfortably with nary a transition word: “The physical experience was pleasant.”
Excuse me? Pleasant? Pleasant is best used when referring to a sunny morning, a flight attendant, a public park. Pleasant sex sounds kind of awful, like a step above “fine,” certainly not “amazing,” and just on the same level as “meh.” There’s certainly no sizzle in pleasant. I think the Yelper in question probably meant this as a compliment, but it came off shady as fuck.
Then there was the wrap up, in which I was numerically graded, which felt a little worse that I thought it would: “Overall, I would rate the experience as a 9/10. Bonus points for living on Electric Avenue. On the negative, the song does get stuck in one’s head which is why I did not give it a perfect score.” Phew, the toothpaste debacle did not cost me too many points.
But dude, are you seriously taking points off my rating for my ADDRESS? It’s not as if I live on Dick Road, Beelzebub Street (an actual place in my Connecticut hometown, by the way), or in Trump Tower. There are worse places I could live, my friend. Also, it’s not as if I sang the song as a lullaby or used it for dirty talk, like “Hey, if you rock down to my Electric Avenue, I’ll take you higher.” Ooh, that’s actually not so bad. I may use that one.
As I read the review aloud to my friends, they decided to help me craft a response. Jo, my roommate, helpfully suggested that I include that he left the toilet seat up in the bathroom, but continuing the yelping cycle felt too petty for my tastes. Finally, I decided to type out something glib: “Thanks for the feedback! Next time, I’ll change up the location to secure that coveted 10/10.” Then I turned my phone off and enjoyed the concert in peace.
After this incident, the sizzle between us, if it was there in the first place, is effectively dead. Despite my high grade, I fear my dear Yelper is turning into a Ghoster. I have not seen him since receiving this feedback. I have just been less into it since this fiasco, and he has been curiously noncommittal, which I don’t understand: who avoids seeing a person whose bed and bedroom skills they’ve deemed a 9/10? I am left to conclude that he inflated my grade, which, as a teacher, I simply can’t stand for. I may never know exactly why things fizzled out between us, so instead, I’ll offer you this story as a cautionary tale. The best way to kill any sizzle in a budding relationship is to numerically quantify your opinions in the form of a Yelp review. Perhaps in the course of love, if the most vibrant adjective you can conjure to describe your hookup is “pleasant,” you should not say anything at all.