Still Calling


A couple of months ago, I wrote about making mead with my ex. I generally have refrained from writing about how we split up (Lord knows I did enough oversharing on Facebook at the time) but a Philadelphia news item appeared in my feed recently that stuck in my craw, triggering a new emotion I call “weirdenfreude” and I… I have to write about it: A tie and a double win — both Brewvitational firsts:

The Inquirer’s annual Brewvitational competition for local craft beer held its eighth edition Thursday, capped by its first public event — Taste of the Brewvitational — at the Reading Terminal Market…The winners were Saint Benjamin Brewing Co.’s Franklin Abbey Dubbel and Forest & Main Brewing Co.’s Antebellum Saison. It was an especially big day for Saint Benjamin, because the Kensington upstart took first place in the lager category with Pilsner Prosim.

Before my ex and I broke up, we had partnered with another couple to open our own brewery. We’d all been brewing for years, and had gotten to the point where we were starting to get consistent quality and flavor. Ryan (one of the partners) had invested in pumps, a lot of stainless steel, sack upon sack of malted barley, and enough hops to put an army to sleep. We were all busy crunching numbers, researching incorporation, visiting existing breweries, visiting potential locations, testing recipes for replications, the whole shebang. It’s no cheap thing opening up a brewery: you’re talking at least $1 million in outlay, and that doesn’t even count the thousands you spend in fees and free product as you ramp up.

Philly has a pretty stupendous brewing scene, and we weren’t the only ones planning a brewery. The owner of what became Saint Benjamin, Tim, became a friend of ours: I even did an article about the fledgling operation for the local sustainability rag. He was quite a bit further along with his plan than we were with ours. He also made really shitty beer.

I have never been the jealous type so when Tim asked me if we were polyamorous like him, because my girl was flirting really hard with him, it initially rolled off my back. We were the type of couple that would go to a party together, flirt with everyone else as if we were single, and then go home together (“by surprise”). But when she admitted not only that she had a huge crush on him, but that she had discovered she too was polyamorous and that the only way to save our relationship was for me to give her permission to sleep with the guy, I was… not happy. And let me be clear: it’s one thing to tell a potential partner from the get-go, “I’m polyamorous”. I get that. But you don’t get to do that almost seven years in, when you’re, y’know, engaged.

That said, I was in love and a doormat who didn’t want to lose his fiancee. This will be surprising to most of the people who know me now, but I ALWAYS wanted to get married. So we agreed that while she wouldn’t fuck our competitor in particular, we’d go on OKCupid and find outside partners to have sex with. We were also friends with a polyamorous couple that was already involved with Tim, and they offered to help “guide us through the transition”. It turned out, later I heard, that was for self-interested reasons.

Without going into all of the details, this ended very badly. Our engagement met its demise at about 4:00 AM in a mutually drunken screaming and shoving match on my front porch. I’ve never been physically violent with a woman before, and nearly five years later I am still ashamed I laid hands on her, even if it was what my therapist called an understandable incident, and not part of a pattern.

Philly became a lot smaller after that. I stopped going to the neighborhoods and bars where she might show up (adios Fishtown, nice to have known you, Johnny Brenda’s). I withdrew from my favorite running club, because the mutual “friends” and the new beau she was presumably screwing (all in a big stinky polyamorous pile, presumably) were members. I stopped going to parties we were both invited to. I stopped volunteering at Philly Homebrew Club, because she showed up at every event and would go out of her way to make eye contact with me. It was emotional bullying. And then, naturally, she became a co-owner at Saint Benjamin: meanwhile, I couldn’t even find work driving a beer truck. It was humiliating, and I grew bitter and hate-filled. I am not exaggerating when I say I had to sell my house and move away from Philadelphia to put my life back together.

I do not entirely remember when I got the news that Tim had summarily and abruptly fired my ex, but if you want to talk schadenfreude, I was a walking example. And, like the nosey and vindictive son-of-a-bitch I can be, I set about trying to get the whole story. A drib here, a drab there: the picture that formed (and this is mostly hearsay) was that my ex was putting in long hours at the brewery, while simultaneously using her CAD and design skills on her down-time to put together what would be their taproom. Like me, she’s obsessed with old buildings. As part of her grad work, we explored Philadelphia (a legendary brewing city back in the day) with a fine-tooth comb looking at (or for) old breweries. With Saint Benjamin sited in the old Finkenauer Brewery she must have been in pig’s heaven working out how to make the room look as authentic as possible. Knowing her foodie pretensions, she was also probably involved in planning and sourcing the menu. I cannot even begin to imagine the hours she must have put in, only to be be dismissed (and, presumably, bought out) the minute she became inconvenient.

But when I saw the article above -and I can’t explain why this is- I began to feel bad for her. Not that I forgive her for what she did to me, because lord knows I have some permanent emotional scars even if I did dodge a bullet (if I’d married that miserable cod, I’d be just as miserable myself). And not for nothing, she more than brought this predictable result on herself, because a lot of us warned her that her business partner was a fucking asshole, a womanizer, and a self-interested user. But that’s what happened: she got used and chewed up by some self-interested douchebag, and then got dumped in the garbage can once he got all he could get. It was a mean, low-class, and shitty thing to do to someone, especially someone who had thrown away her entire previous life for something/someone she obviously believed in. He wins awards, she gets nothing.

But still: weirdenfreude. That feeling when you rejoice in the misfortune of others, but at the same time kind of feel bad for them. I don’t have to like my ex to recognize that she got shafted.

Sorry you made bad choices, kiddo. I sincerely hope things turn around for you. But as you figure out your next steps, take a little advice from me, for once: stay the FUCK out of Nashville.

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