I’ll be blunt: Dating a fellow lawyer—especially one from the same firm—is an epically bad idea. I understand the time-honored “don’t shit where you eat” principle. But that’s not the precise problem I’m having.
Let’s rewind to only a few short weeks ago. On a cold, snowy night in January, I silenced my anxious pessimism, swallowed my doubtful resolve and allowed myself to fall for Carson, the firm’s new-ish corporate lateral from a few floors down.
The honeymoon phase was stunning. I adored every second of it. How could I not? Despite signaling the unexpected red flag of being a single dad, he practically rode a white horse to the office and read my whims telepathically. But that only lasted a few minutes, and I’m now realizing that his daughter was just a baggage smoke screen concealing Carson’s real underbelly.
I’m quickly noticing that Carson possesses the attributes that make me hate all other lawyers—and, incidentally, myself (though I haven’t gotten to that in therapy yet).
He is a sanctimonious, argumentative, prestige-obsessed, snarky know-it-all. Since that’s usually my role in a relationship, I’m beginning to understand why I’ve had so little luck in the dating department. In fact, I’m actually starting to sympathize with all of the non-lawyers who stopped calling me after our fourth date.
In an attempt to find some clarity (or, alternatively, create a record of evidence for when I inevitably dump him), I’ve been keeping a running list of things he does that I hate. If nothing else, it’s somewhat cathartic.
Here’s the short list:
- He exhibits an unfulfilling lack of sympathy on the two things I complain about most: How much I hate my firm and how little free time I have. I constantly suffer from the female equivalent of blue balls. When I get all worked up into a frenzy recounting a firm-induced grievance, his only response is, “Yeah, I know. I work there, too.”
- He feels the need to play devil’s advocate about everything. I’m sure partners love him for it. But I find it absolutely infuriating when I’m simply trying to explain the spoiled and immature thing that my younger sister just did, and rather than nod sympathetically, his response includes the phrase “assuming arguendo . . . .”
- He constantly instigates what I like to call “issue-spotting fights.” It’s amazing how a spirited debate can spiral into the kind of screaming argument that ends with me throwing a dish against the wall when he decides to interject, “But that’s not the real issue. This is the issue.” And usually such a debate will occur over something as inconsequential as which sushi restaurant I’d prefer to stop at on the way home.
- My two least favorite law school classes were business organizations and federal income tax. As such, I chose litigation to decrease the chances of future exposure to the infinitesimal nuances of corporate law and the tax code. Yet look at whom I’m dating. A friggin corporate tax attorney. Which means I listen to him preach ad infinitum in a professorial tone about things that make me want to throw up.
- He went to a far more prestigious law school than me. In fact, he went to a better law school than all but perhaps 300 of the American law students that graduated in 2005. Which is fine, but it leads to unimaginable awfulness, such as:
- Whenever I tell stories that involve my law school days, he interrupts after tangential details and points out that his school was “different.” And by “different,” he clearly means “superior.” As in, “Do you mean to say that you received a class rank after every semester based on your grades? Thank God they didn’t do that at my school.”
- He interrupts during minor points when I’m talking about my day and somehow finds a way to link it back to his law school. Such as, “Wait—you’re in front of Coar for that case? Oh man, a buddy of mine from school clerked for Coar.”
- Conversations like this:
Him: “Were you on a law journal?”
Him: “Which one?”
Me: “Um, my school basically only had one.”
Him: “Really. Mine had several.”
- The other day, he bitched about an associate that he’s working with on a deal. Apparently, the associate had the audacity to act like a know-it-all, notwithstanding the fact that he graduated from a lesser law school. As in, “Here’s the thing: He got his J.D. at Kent. I mean, seriously? Who is he to tell me that I’m wrong?” Problem is, Kent jumped ahead of my school in the rankings the year I graduated.
With the above examples of suffocating pompousness and Order of the Coif-derived infallibility, Carson has proven himself over and over again to be exactly the same as all of the lawyers at my firm (and every firm) whom I despise. Not to mention, none of our stars align. Our signs aren’t compatible, I hate his last name and our birth orders conflict being as we’re both oldest children. Control issues!
However, the real tricky part is that there’s one very, very important distinction between Carson and the roster of assholes clogging up my firm’s carpeted halls with their disgustingness: I am massively, arrestingly, devastatingly attracted to him.
There’s even a sense in which it turns me on to be challenged by a worthy opponent.
In my defense, if the aforementioned non-lawyers had called me after the fourth date, I’m sure I would’ve lost interest shortly thereafter. There’s nothing hot about having to spend the rest of my life editing or dumb-ing myself down in order to get along with a guy. I really can’t imagine being long-term attracted to anyone for whom I have to patiently explain the jokes on The Daily Show. I don’t want to have to search for the layman terms to describe my day. Being a lawyer is miserable enough, so isn’t it nice to lament it to someone who already speaks the language?
Carson’s other saving grace is that—when he’s not unintentionally insulting my legal education and patronizing me—he treats me perfectly. For God’s sake, my mom loves him so much that I almost started drafting this list of my complaints just to persuade her to actually take my side for once. The day she took an overly dramatic beat after my tirade about his didactic nature to say, “I’m sorry, but he really seems to like you,” was the day I came closest to throwing myself off the el.
Before you go running to comment on my relationship paradox, I’m fully acknowledging here and now that this tale of two cities is also plagued by my own insecurity. It’s just that I don’t know how much. What if he isn’t pompous at all? What if it’s just my ego that can’t tolerate losing a battle or two?
Which means I really don’t know where that leaves us. I’m either working with a full deck (two people with looks, considerateness, intellect, spark and a legacy for our future children at two excellent schools) or we’re on a rudderless collision course. For once, I’m truly stimulated by a guy. Yet, all the attributes that make him a good match for me infuriate me.
Last week, I shouted to him exactly how I feel, and he laughed and called me spoiled. It was almost as if he had a death wish and was asking me to dump him on the spot. But my paralyzing fear of making an irreversibly bad decision leaves me with no choice but to adopt my least favorite course of action. The one that involves patience and a lack of rigidity.
In other words, I’m going to have to just wait and see. And hopefully, I won’t throw any heavy, glass objects at him in the meantime.