Tales from the bull market: the Tuesday-Thursday boyfriend
A magic, grotesque, hilarious decade in San Francisco: the skies above the Bay were the color of money, plummeting in vast skyscraper-sized pillars from headwaters in Japan and Saudi Arabia to the best-connected of the technorati, to the fortune-seekers and rent-seekers and identity-seekers flocking to the Bay once more to celebrate its most time-honored self-deception of changing the world by getting really, really, exceptionally rich.
Real San Franciscans grumbled while collecting fat payroll taxes to squander on their inept and occasionally criminal local government. Transplants marveled at their apparent genius in between networking at orgies and riding private buses to their distant offices in suburbia. A lot of great bars and restaurants opened up. And behold, a thousand thousand stories unfolded to make a reader grimace, and scroll in fascinated disgust, and turn to their colleague remarking something like “Yep, sounds about right.”
Let’s take a moment now, the morning after, processing hundreds of thousands of layoffs in a week and the simulaneous collapse of the crypto mania (gn), staring down the maw of a recession that makes grim promises to winnow the viable from the merely minimum-viable, to appreciate some of these signs of the top.
The Tuesday-Thursday Boyfriend
My girlfriend had a roomate on her floor of a nice little house in Nopa. Several roommates, actually, because a savvy landlord had turned each room of each half of each floor of the old Victorian into a bedroom, including living rooms and dining rooms, turning the interior of the house into something resembling a collection of prison block and, by the simple expedient of nailing some openings shut, approximately octupling its total occupancy1.
One of these roommates was - listen, I never liked the term “fuckboy”, or “fuccboi”, or whatever. Call things what they are, say I, rather than burdening them with some gendered pejorative. Must it be a “man-bun”, rather than just a bun? Must it be “mansplaining”, when “condescending jerk” describes the perpetrator perfectly well? This guy, though, was a fuckboy. Or fuccboi. You could have mounted his stuffed, glass-eyed head in a museum of natural history above the term for future generations to learn from, and occasionally I considered doing just that.
He was a salesman, at Salesforce. At early-mid twentysomething he was earnestly engrossed in how much money he was making, how much money other people were making, how many girls he was fucking and how hot they were, how many girls his boys were fucking, and likewise how hot they were (with hotness here gauged on the peculiarly specialized kind of scale that all tribes develop - I kid you not, my girlfriend worked with entire teams of mid-twenties marketers who went out for Botox together on their lunch breaks to optimize for this scale) and also how much he was drinking, where he was vacationing this month and who was coming to the mansion Airbnb’d for the vacation, etc.
He hit on his roommate, my girlfriend, as a kind of joyless duty: if she wore a dress, he was compelled to remark on the fact of her wearing a dress as a sort of suggestive commentary all on its own, never pushing the envelope to compliment the various charms accentuated or exposed by the dress, or any possibilities or lame jokes suggested thereby, etc. He never did it once he was aware I had entered the picture, which rather than recognizing as right and proper Respect Between Men I found further irritating, like he wasn’t even committed enough to his own principle of vanilla hedonism to risk a little encroachment on Another Man’s Turf.
Unlike the generally chill and laid-back inhabitants female inhabitants of his half-floor, he maintained a strong relationship with the nest of girls upstairs who hosted parties on a weekly basis, many hard heels on hard floors and a gazpacho of empties, cigarettes, and vomit in the porch’s flowerpots and conversations shouted into the night on the topics of valuations and stock options and ski mountains and the reputed merits of various large-company CEOs, like a miniature pantheon. He had a tin-can phone system rigged from the girl upstairs through his window, which they both seemed extremely pleased about as a creative and twee and Wes Andersonian, though I’m not sure they ever actually heard anything given the problem of the closed windows’ panels absorbing the strings vibrations, and mostly they just resorted to texting arrangements for the next party.
He took, I swear, hourlong showers. It’s not gender-normativity, it’s simple practicality! A short-haired man in a house of four long-haired women all trying to hustle out to their highly renumerative jobs. What could he possibly be doing in there?
I’m heaping infamy on this guy, but in person he was generally pleasant. He had a pleasant and adorably earnest long-term girlfriend - at first. Their pleasantness and earnestness is what made the whole situation sad. You could see that he was probably from a nice place where he had been raised to be pleasant and decent and committed, and had met his girlfriend. And now here he found himself, untempered by any kind of hardship or trial in his pleasant and high-achieving life, dipped headfirst into a molten stew of status and achievement and money and attractiveness and competitively selective sex, everybody having more of all of it than he, apparently, at Saleforce, and you could just watch his sweetness be rapidly blown away like a marshmallow Peep in a wind tunnel.
He dumped the pleasant girl who came to visit on some weekends. He had a new girl in his room the following night, blithely explaining to his roommates that she was “way hotter” and also “more fun”. The women of the half-floor, through the ancient and probably-not-up-to-any-sort-of-building-code-adopted-since-the-earthquake walls of the Victorian, judged her to be an enthusiastic but poor actress.
The new girl was a saleswoman, at Salesforce. She came from serious wealth. She partied more glamorously than he. She dined at restaurants more expensive than he knew restaurants could be2. She stayed over during the week, and cluttered up the single shared bathroom counter with precious imported beauty-enhancing substances. She and he occupied the shower even longer, than he had, incredibly, managed solo before, which inconsideration impacted the half-floor both in the extra occupancy time and also in the startlingly amplifying acoustic properties of the surrounding tile walls, which phenomenon I was never present during the week to observe but was assured rendered phone calls and Facetimes with grandmothers and nieces, etc. practically impossible in the rest of the half-floor for the duration of the performance.
They dined out. Not nightly, but perhaps Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday. In itself this isn’t unusual - many cities’ residents dine out nightly at their local eateries, regular cooking being rendered impractical by the cities’ tiny apartment sizes, lack of kitchens, and/or the sheer deliciousness, cheapness, and variety of the local cuisine - but San Fransico is not one of those cities. Plus, I recognized the restaurants they were dining at and the frequency of the dining and knew something of the compensation structure for their roles, and was also assured by my girlfriend that he, solely, was covering the checks for these regular outings and their bottles, not cups, of wine, As Befits A Man, and so what, exactly, was the deal here, like was he secretly wealthy and choosing to live in a garret to satiate the common young-wealthy desire of authentic slumming experience? And was this why they rode, not Uber Pool, not Uber X, but Uber Black, exclusively, to their dinner dates? But if he was already so rich, why then all the career-oriented cupidity rather than the serene confidence of the already wealthy?
He vacationed with her. Their clique of Salesforce salespeople reveled in their apparent success and ability in the Caribbean, the Sierra Nevada, New York City, Arizona. He bought her expensive tokens, taking cues she laid down like tarot in front of his infatuated eyes: clothes and jewelry in amounts that rapidly accelerated into the thousands.
He began to look, in my occasional estimate, a little drained. His peacock swagger was diminished in occasional mid-hallway ‘scuse-me’s. His enthusiasm to tell me about his escapades and triumphs was diminished. He did not tell me, but did tell the girls of the half-floor, that she had begun to show him rings she liked, rings that even he, a limitless estimator of his own potential earnings, recognized to be out of his reach for now and maybe forever.
A strange crack appeared in their relationship. His basketball league had switched from previous seasons’ Monday-Wednesday to Tuesday-Thursday and suddenly, she didn’t want to go to dinner anymore. A week went by. Two weeks. When he wasn’t playing basketball or receiving takeout deliveries, he languished in the kitchen, not speaking of his pain at her sudden withdrawal so much as demonstrating it. I shrugged - San Francisco residents develop, among other dubious talents, an ability to render themselves indifferent to others’ suffering at will, and it does come in handy sometimes.
Then the fatal Instagram DM, with the chilling opening from a stranger: “Bro -“.
The stranger was a salesman, at some other Software-As-A-Service3 company. He’d had a falling-out with a girl he had begun a relationship with, and in a fit of bitter work ethic had apparently done some serious social media sleuthing, and discovered the reason he had only seen this girl on Sundays was because she was seeing another guy, apparently seriously, but “- bro -“ not just one other guy but two other guys, both of them seriously, like intermingled with each other, and not in a cool and ethically polyamorous way. And he, the roommate, was merely the Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday boyfriend.
The Monday-Wednesday-Friday boyfriend was a salesman - at Salesforce, in another of its many arms, and much more highly placed - and apparently predated both the Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday boyfriend and the Sunday boyfriend that she had, in an Icarus-like demonstration of both hubris and a kind of admirable purity of intention to flap those wings to their absolute goddamned limit until their goddamned feathers melted fell off, picked up, the Sunday boyfriend, representing the kind of apogee she must have reached in her quest to boyfriend-maxx her way to whatever life she must have been dreaming of. And the Sunday boyfriend, on discovering this, was less bitter and more just flabbergasted at the magnitude of the project he had briefly been a part of, and contacted the other days of the week’s boyfriends to compare notes, like, “bro”.
The roommate, though, he was destroyed. He seemed to have found, in this girl and the lifestyle she represented, the kind of target at which he could aim his aimless ambition. He had found what wealth and success and consequently being worth something were supposed to look like. But the small-time predator he had made himself into had been consumed by a greater predator. He confronted her, over text message. She declined to respond, and from what I heard he essentially just ate himself over the ensuing months. My girlfriends’ roommates developed actual concern over the apparently twenty-plus pounds of weight he lost4.
Personally, I’m still impressed by my brush with greatness. It’s like having personally heard Patrick Bateman reciting Sigma male affirmations to himself in the mirror of a shared bathroom, or stepped past Kate Trask on her way to extort some hapless brothel client. It’s not just the greatness of the individual, though - because in what other place and time could this Icarus of steady relationships rely on such a rich stream of marks? She was a predator perfectly adapted to an environment, and I would pay a small sum of money to see her full Google Calendar, which I am sure is color-coded and meticulous.
Her wings never melted, by the way. She went out on top. She’s married, now, to the Monday-Wednesday-Friday boyfriend. She co-owns his house, but the ring is probably worth more.
I never found out how legal this was; the San Francisco city government was too busy extorting poor local families for violations over “curb cut” rules that had been committed by decades-previous owners in the past and committing graft to enforce mass fire code violations.
I also never found out what these people were actually selling. Having had a mini-career at points in the past, helping clients violate Salesforce’s terms of service by abstracting their use into the single user or “seat” I programmed to read or write data in and out of its walled garden, I was and remain mystified by the value the company was apparently able to extract from companies like my clients, as evidenced by the pay implied by the restaurants at which extremely junior people like these regularly dined.
Software-as-a-Service as opposed to Software-as-a-what, by the way? A farm implement? I know the evolution was from a software product in a shrink-wrapped box on a shelf to software service on a server on the internet, but, like, seen many shrink-wrapped software boxes lately? And so does this descriptor actually distinguish a type of software company, or is it just the kind of acronym that’s mostly useful in making its speaker feel like they’re informed about and therefore in control of a situation they don’t really understand, like FAANG, whose inclusion of Netflix has been preposterous for almost the whole bull market run but which inclusion persists because people like to be able to confidently express their membership among the Wise by uttering it, the more casually the better?
Having always assumed the vanity use of performance-enhancing substances, which nerds always seem to turn to when they become wealthy enough to afford them and want muscles, I advised them to be more heartened by the apparent cessation of substance use than concerned.