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Chapter 17: Lowball
We last left our heroes (never gets old) speeding away as fast as possible from Abby’s date with Parker – a man she is very not interested in but acts like dating him is the greatest thing ever [Ariel says: It’s all the delicious Chinese takeaway!]– on Travis’s motorcycle, a man she has just had sex after he lusted after her for months but Abby acts like she has no idea he’s interested. Abby, you guys. This fucking guy.
Travis drives around, deciding he’s going to put in his “last-ditch effort” (again, apparently) when he drops her off at her dorm. He practices it again and again in his head, making sure what he says will be “direct, something Abby couldn’t ignore, or pretend she didn’t hear or understand.” Good fucking luck, man. Abby’s the most oblivious character I’ve read on Bad Books, Good Times, and we’ve seen characters who heard someone running and then realized they were running.
Of course, they can’t just talk about their feelings. They have to preface it with a bunch of pointless heteronormativity first.
“I don’t understand you, Pigeon. I thought I knew women, but you’re so fucking confusing I don’t know which way is up.”
I thought people acted like just one thing, but they act like many things!
“I don’t understand you, either. You’re supposed to be this school’s ladies’ man. I’m not getting the full freshman experience they promised in the brochure.”
That’s a very honest college brochure.
Travis walks Abby to her door and asks if Parker kissed her. She points out that it’s none of his business, although Walking Disaster has somehow come up with a scenario in which, yeah, it sort of is his business a little bit, since you two just had sex after two months of platonic bed-sharing and cuddling.
“Why would it give you peace of mind to know if I’m sleeping with Parker?”
“How can you not know? It’s obvious to everyone else but you!”
“I guess I’m just an idiot, then.”
I just want to point out that Abby said this, and we can all go home now. [Ariel says: Why doesn’t Abby just write these posts for us then? She doesn’t get to call herself an idiot, only we do.]
“I know we’re fucked up, all right? I’m impulsive and hot tempered, and you get under my skin like no one else. You act like you hate me one minute, and then you need me the next. I never get anything right, and I don’t deserve you… but I fucking love you, Abby.”
Travis counts the ways.
“I love you more than I’ve loved anyone or anything, ever. When you’re around, I don’t need booze or money or the fighting or the one-night stands… all I need is you.”
Now, that’s a fucking Hallmark card if I’ve ever heard one. [Ariel says: Except for the fact that as we learned in Beautiful Disaster he only seems to be fighting more now that he has her love.]
“You’re all I think about. You’re all I dream about. You’re all I want.”
She didn’t speak for several seconds. […] She blinked a few times.
I cupped each side of her face and looked into her eyes. “Did you sleep with him?”
To be fair, he has established his case about why knowing would give him peace of mind. But at the same time, PFFFT. This fucking guy!
Travis tells Abby to call Parker and tell him she doesn’t want to date because she’s with Travis now. No, Abby has not actually said a word yet, but that’s apparently not important. Abby tells Travis she can’t be with him
“the fighting, the gambling, the drinking… it’s what I left behind. When I’m around you it’s all right there for me in an irresistible, tattooed package.”
Yes, I do see now how sleeping with him was going to solve that problem then. [Ariel says: We should make sure Abby’s vagina can’t also cure cancer.]
Travis says that he’ll change anything himself to be with her, but she says she doesn’t want him to change!
He says he’ll do anything she asks and she asks for his phone, which she uses to call Parker to tell him it’s over. So Travis basically did the same thing again and Abby did the opposite thing, because fuck reasons, this story really has to move along.
She had called Parker. […]
She continued, “I can’t see you at all, actually. I’m… pretty sure I’m in love with Travis.”
HAHA WHY FUCKING NOT. Story’s gotta get going already! Also, this is an awful way to break up with somebody. [Ariel says: It’s also a horrible way to tell someone you love them.] Holy shit. Over the phone at 3am? It’s a good thing there isn’t a single likeable character in this story, because that’s fucking cruel.
They race home to celebrate their new relationship status. Carnally. Except remember when Travis symbolically smashed his condom bowl last time? Oh man! What a pickle!
I’m not sure what’s worse about this. The perpetuation of what is really a very, very unreliable way to have unprotected sex without risking pregnancy as a legitimate option? A romantic portrayal of unprotected sex, like “WE ARE SO IN LOVE WE MUST EXPOSE EACH OTHER TO ANY STDS WE MIGHT HAVE”? God, these fucking guys. Literally.
The next day, Travis is super overprotective of Abby, which I bet none of you saw coming. [Ariel says: I know right. It’s just so out of character.] It even causes issues in their new relationship! Such twists and turns in this plot!
Walking into the Red with Abby on Halloween (which it apparently is)[…] I hugged my girlfriend to me [Ariel asks: Is that a typo from our end or from the book? IS HE A PIRATE NOW LIKE THE GUY IN THE COSTUME??] side, grateful that she wasn’t one to dress up as Prostitute Barbie, or a football-player-slash-transvestite-whore (what) [Ariel says: That’s what I go as every year], which meant that the number of threats I would have to make for staring at her tits or worrying about her bending over would be kept to a minimum.
Honestly, I do understand where Travis is coming from, but by this point it’s so hard not to read everything in this book as, “slut shaming, slut shaming, heteronormative social constructs, slut shaming, slut shaming…”. Although let’s not forget Travis’s ironic crusade against sexual assault! Otherwise how would we know he was really a good guy?
Knowing about the two sexual assault incidents the year before, it made me nervous to let Abby and America walk around alone. […]
“[I’m going] To find the girls. You remember what happened last year to that Heather chick.”
Yeah, that Heather chick getting raped was totes messed up, bro.
No, seriously, this is why I find Travis’s position against sexual assault tacked-on and not particularly genuine. It’s certainly a good thing that he does care about this – I’m not arguing against that. But Travis’s dialogue is constantly oozing misogyny and objectification, even when he is talking about why sexual assault is bad. So, PRO TIP FOR WRITERS: Make sure your word choice doesn’t contradict the characterization you’re trying to accomplish! If you’re writing a progressive character who hates homophobia, maybe don’t have her use the word “gay” to mean “girly” or “shitty”! If you’re writing a character who is concerned about sexual assault, maybe don’t have him refer to victims of sexual assault as “chicks”! This is a pretty easy one to not fuck up if you think about what you’re writing for more than two seconds! Try thinking about what you’re writing for more than two seconds!
Of course, Travis sees two guys buying Abby and America drinks at the bar. Of course, they’re “short”, “thicker in the middle”, and “sweaty”. Of course, Travis causes a scene, gets in an argument with Abby, and ends up punching a guy in the face so they have to all leave the bar. Because I honestly don’t know what this book would be about if it wasn’t about the same problem again and again! (Except two chapters from now we learn the answer to that question, and the answer is “somehow even more contrived and stupid”. Get excited!)
The night ends badly, and Travis stays up all night wallowing in his misery.
Travis goes to Abby’s apartment in the morning to apologize, where Abby is all “you’re not a piece of shit, you’re amazing”, and Travis is all “I’m not good enough for you”.
Abby does, actually, make a very good point:
“It doesn’t matter who buys me drinks or who asks me to dance or who flirts with me. I’m going home with you. You’ve asked me to trust you, and you don’t seem to trust me.”
Travis asks Abby to tell him she loves him, because he needs to hear it. Which, on day two of the relationship after a bar fight, is what we in the business call “a red flag”.
How much I needed her terrified me. I couldn’t imagine love was like this for everyone
It’s not. This is called a codependent relationship. It’s extremely emotionally unhealthy. This is called romanticizing abusive relationships, Jamie McGuire. Ten points from Gryffindor.