Don’t Be The Tiger

This week’s memoir assignment at Write on Edge was to write about a memory of yourself with someone else, as other people help shape who we are through their words to us, their actions, or their lack of action.

I wrote this to stand on its own, but it’s also a continuation of a previous memoir piece (the first RemembeRED prompt I ever responded to), which can be found here. I decided to write more of this story even though U2’s “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses” tells it better.


My boyfriend, if you could call him that, sat on my bed. When we weren’t “doing shit,” as my friend from across the hall so colorfully called making out, it was painfully obvious this relationship of convenience was neither a relationship nor convenient.

I willed him to kiss me so I wouldn’t have to think about it, but he started talking instead.

“I don’t understand why you hang out with me,” he began tentatively.

Huh, that’s not a question… I held my breath and waited.

He went on, “Say you’re hanging out with a tiger…,” he paused to see if I was following.

“Uh, yeah?,” I already knew where this was going, so I nodded, urging him to get to the point.

“You say you want the tiger to stay, but it’s sort of awkward with a lot of silences.”

I gave him more silence, so he continued, “Then a cheetah comes around. You come alive. You’re friendlier and happier. You talk and smile and laugh. So why do you bother with the tiger at all?”

There wasn’t going to be any doing shit tonight.

Apart from that, it was hard to decide what annoyed me most about this conversation: how dead on he was, how stupid I felt for not breaking up with him after his girlfriend had visited weeks earlier, his hypocrisy, or his unnecessary use of metaphor.

Ironically, if I hadn’t been the most inhibited version of myself with him, I would have called him out on the last two. Are you saying you think I like Mark and Ron better than you? Are you aware of the irony here?

Instead I continued his metaphor, “No cheetah has ever been interested in me.”

I’d overcome my overpowering inhibition when with him and gave voice to my most embarrassing truth. And it didn’t seem to hurt him, or make him angry, or even make him pity me, because he simply didn’t buy it.

“I find that hard to believe. Am I just someone to be with until a good cheetah comes along?”

You really don’t get it. I don’t believe anyone else will ever be interested in me. Your attention intoxicates me.

But I had to force myself to speak again, so all I could get out was, “I don’t know, but isn’t that pretty much what I am to you?”

Only a week before, he’d said he didn’t know the real me. He expressed surprise I hadn’t told him I loved him yet. Before the big cat discussion, I think he told himself I loved him but just couldn’t say it. Or that I was holding back emotionally and if I would just let go…but now he was visibly upset whenever I smiled at, laughed with, or talked to a cheetah.

While he was surprised I didn’t love him, I didn’t see how anyone could fall in love under these conditions.

I was looking for a sign this relationship was good for anything beyond taking my mind off the cheetah. But now he wasn’t even doing that anymore. He actively reminded me of the damn cheetah.

He always insisted I wasn’t a substitute for the long-distance girlfriend who had reportedly agreed to see other people. Something about his vehemence about this and the way he wouldn’t give up working on me suggested he was auditioning me to replace her. Or just trying to get in my pants. But his motivation wasn’t important. Either way, he was right, I wasn’t my best self with him.

I don’t know what he needed, but I needed a cheetah.

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12 Responses to “Don’t Be The Tiger”

  1. CDG
    Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 11:33 am #

    The Big Cat Conversation

    It sounds like a self-help title. Though in all seriousness, it says a lot about how we are when we can’t be our best selves. Or ourselves at all.

    • logyexpress
      Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 6:02 pm #

      “Gazelles Who Don’t Know When To Run”

      This relationship was both a spectacularly bad idea and a critical lesson in recognizing spectacularly bad ideas.

  2. julie
    Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 2:54 pm #

    “auditioning me to replace her”. Get out of there is all I can say. Great conversation piece that held my interest all they way to the end.

    • logyexpress
      Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 6:06 pm #

      Thanks, Julie. I chose this person/event because he gave me the exact dialogue I needed to explain how I was with him. It seemed to fit perfectly.

      Even though he bruised my ego with his girlfriend shenanigans, I always sensed I had the better end of the deal–the truth. He was open with me about his girlfriend yet never told her about me. I did not envy her.

  3. JT
    Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 4:24 pm #

    This is sad in that it reminds me of a similar story from my youth…I wasn’t a cheetah either.

    • logyexpress
      Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 5:58 pm #

      Well, we never established what I was in this scenario, but looking back on it, I think I was a gazelle that narrowly escaped.

      Tiger clearly wasn’t my cheetah, but presumably he was his girlfriend’s cheetah. I bet you are someone’s cheetah. It is just painful looking for a cheetah who also sees you as their cheetah. Oh good lord this metaphor is exhausting me, but I brought it on myself! Thanks for reading, JT.

  4. Renee
    Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 5:36 pm #

    This line says it all “Either way, he was right, I wasn’t my best self with him.”

    You did find your cheetah, yes?

    • logyexpress
      Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 6:54 pm #

      Hi Renee! My husband asked me the same thing last night after reading this-I’m your cheetah right? I was never very enthusiastic about my ex’s choice of animals for this metaphor, but yes, I found my cheetah. Although I might prefer to say my husband is my panda. Since I love pandas.

  5. Melissa (@melrut01)
    Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 6:19 pm #

    This is a great story. I think these “practice” or “placeholder” relationships serve a purpose. A forced reflection, which ultimately leads to action by someone. My college experience had a few tigers, too… one in cheetah clothing….

    • logyexpress
      Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 6:56 pm #

      Thanks, Melissa! I’m inclined to agree with you. I don’t think I would have been ready for my cheetah without the tiger. Or whatever. I always hated this metaphor!

  6. May
    Thursday, September 1, 2011 at 6:02 pm #

    I love the ending here. I needed the cheetah too! And I needed to not have the cheetah to know it! Nice piece. I totally relate.

    • logyexpress
      Friday, September 2, 2011 at 6:07 pm #

      Thanks, May! This was definitely a learning experience! Good to know I’m not alone in my cheetah preferences.

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