both sides of a breakup

She Didn’t Tell Her Family She Was Dating a Woman

Illustration: by The Cut

In “Both Sides of a Breakup,” the Cut talks to exes about how they got together and why they split up. When Nadine and Zoe, both 28, met through work, Nadine didn’t realize Zoe was flirting at first. Then she was all in — but she still didn’t tell her parents. 

Nadine: I work in music for a PR firm. In 2016, my boss sent me the demos for Zoe’s EP. The first thing I remember was, “Oh, this sounds like the soundtrack to Girls. I like it. I’ll do it.”

Zoe: I was assigned to Nadine and she was a super-big fan of the music. She was getting all the assets together and pitching my music to all the different websites out there. I liked her. But at first, I thought she didn’t like me. I think she thought I was annoying. But also, it’s my EP. It’s everything I have, and it’s my debut.

Nadine: She was very annoying as a client. The founder of the indie label who signed her was very passionate about her and had very high goals for her, but it takes time to grow as a new artist. I probably wasn’t getting the things they both wanted. And Zoe worked in the music industry, too, managing some indie labels for a distributor. I could feel the frustration with me. I would go, “Am I even needed here? Do you even need a publicist?” I really found her to be too much. I would roll my eyes when she would check in.

Zoe: The first time I met Nadine was in a subway car. We’d been on Zoom calls and we followed each other on Instagram. But I noticed her and walked up and was like, ‘“Oh, are you Nadine?” And she’s like, “Oh my God, hi!” She recognized me, obviously.

Nadine: She was really adamant about reaching out and being like, “Oh, want to get a drink somewhere?” The first drink we ever had — our first hang — was at Heavy Woods in Bushwick. I was intimidated by her. She wanted to be friends, and I didn’t really think that publicists could be friends with their clients. But I had just moved here. I was trying to make friends, too.

Zoe: That night we bar-hopped. Then she went home and cooked and texted me what she had cooked. We were talking a lot. We were both pretty funny. It was kind of flirty, but I was like, are we just being funny? Also, to my knowledge, Nadine did not identify as queer at that point.

Nadine: We would text a lot. I was like, “Okay, she’s my friend!”

Zoe: I was thinking about her all the time. It got to a point where a bridge has been crossed and I can’t go back. I either have to make it known and go for it or it’s going to bug me forever. So at my next show, Nadine came. It was really fun. We stayed out drinking and then went home separately, but I ended up drunk on my stoop. I texted her and I was like, “By the way, I’m flirting with you right now.” And she was like, “I know. That’s your brand.” I was like, “No, I’m intentionally flirting with you.”

Nadine: I responded back, like, “Oh, one, I don’t date clients, and two, I’m not gay. So I don’t know if this will work out.” And then that was kind of it. It got a little quiet.

Zoe: She kind of shrugged it off. Then the next day, I didn’t hit her up. But I think she hit me up and said, “Hey, what’s going on?” I was just being kind of short. I’d put myself out there and was a little embarrassed. I just remember being like, “Well, yeah, it’s gonna be a little different now — I have feelings for you. And that makes things awkward.”

Nadine: I was like, “Okay, there’s a shift in dynamic here.” I kind of stayed away from her because I wasn’t trying to cross any boundaries or anything. I was also not sure about my feelings for her. But then, when I stepped away, I started missing her.

Zoe: A few nights later, I was still sad about her. I had gone out with friends and drank and got home and was working on music, trying to distract myself. She sent me a thumbs up on Facebook Messenger, which I don’t know if you can do anymore. I just sent a question mark back. She was like, “Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to send that.” I felt really sad for a second. Then I thought, “She is showing our messages to someone right now.”

Nadine: I was at a bar with my friend Amber, and we were doing shots. I don’t like or do shots. But I was doing shots with her that night. And I was showing her this conversation with Zoe. It was via Facebook, and I accidentally sent a thumb. Then she knew I was up.

Zoe: I don’t know how it all unfolded, but basically she was like, “Can I come over?” And I was like, “Yeah.”

Nadine: I fucking called the car to her house and it was game on.

Zoe: ​​When she got there, I was like, “What’s up?” I think she was kind of talking about nothing. I was just letting her talk. But we were laying in bed, and I was like, “So, can I kiss you, then?” And she said yes.

Nadine: It was great. I loved it. I had no expectations going in, and I had never done anything like that. I was like, “Cool! I do this now.”

Zoe: We barely slept. I probably naturally woke up at 6 a.m. to the sun. I’m sure she was also thinking a lot of things. I didn’t think much because I was exhausted. But she was like, “I gotta go.”

Nadine: I walked home to my apartment where I called every single one of my friends and said, “I just slept with a girl.”

Zoe: We basically started dating after that. I don’t think there was really any in-between period. We just started hanging out more and more and hooking up.

Nadine: We just kept hanging out and hooking up. For some time, I was like, “Okay, I’m dating this person.” Then, one night in bed, about two or three months in, I told her I loved her. I said it first. She did not say it back. I couldn’t tell if I had said it too fast. I’m just one of those people who’s not going to wait for the six-month mark. If I love you, I love you — and I want to tell you that. But I think she was still sussing me out, which was pissing me off.

Zoe: I knew I was on my way there, but I knew I didn’t feel that way. I can’t remember what I said. Maybe I pretended to be asleep? I don’t remember. Whatever my reaction was, I didn’t say, like, “Thank you.” I think I was probably just like, “I have very strong feelings for you, too, but I’m not there yet.”

Nadine: I was still hoping eventually that she would come around, which she did.

Zoe: She made me feel great. I never had any complaints, really. It was just very easy. I felt very natural. I just hadn’t had that in a while — where I was like, “This is literally fun and easy and feels normal.”

Nadine: All we did was sit in bars on Wyckoff Avenue. Drink all day. Listen to music or go to shows. I’d sleep over. Or she’d sleep over, and we’d go out and eat fried-chicken sandwiches.

Zoe: About eight months in, Nadine had not told her parents that we were dating. And I didn’t really care, which I thought was weird. I was like, “Why don’t you care if you love this person and see a future with this person and you’ve been with them for eight or nine months now?”

Nadine: She gave me a lot of shit for it. We fought about it a lot. I get it from her side. I think maybe she felt hidden or something. But I was also trying my hardest to navigate this — I was just dealing with being queer or figuring that part of me out. I didn’t even know how to tell my family. I just know it really bothered her, though. And I think that was probably a reason why she ended it.

Zoe: This, I think, was when I decided we should break up: There was one night when Nadine got really drunk. I was in my room, very into whatever music I was making, and also was very drunk. When I woke up the next morning, I texted Nadine. I was like, “Morning, how are you?” She texted me back, “Are you fucking kidding me right now?” I realized she’d texted me a ton last night — like, “Please, I’m drunk, can I come over?” — and I hadn’t answered because I didn’t see it. She ended up on this train and fell asleep and woke up at the end of the line. She told me that and was like, “I’m scared,” and I didn’t answer her. I think she tried calling me. I don’t know how I didn’t see any of it. But that was concerning to me. Like, why was I messing around in my room for five hours and not checking to see what my girlfriend was up to? I felt horrible. I felt like I was hurting someone. I thought, I don’t see a future with this person, and I don’t think she sees one with me either. I think it might be time to end it before it gets bad.

Nadine: She would get pretty drunk and be a little mean to me, and I started noticing that and I didn’t like it. I guess I should also say that I never really saw a future with Zoe. I literally in my head kept saying, I’m going to stay in this until I’m not having fun anymore. At that point in time, all we were doing was sitting in bars, and I didn’t want that to be my life. I couldn’t sustain the drinking. I just couldn’t do it.

Zoe: In the past, I’ve usually ended things by being an asshole so the other person dumps me. I used to do that when I was younger because I was immature. But I was like, I can’t do that to this person. So I was like, “Let’s get dinner, and let’s meet at my place first.” When she came in, I brought her into my room and immediately started tearing up and crying. She’s like, “Oh my God, what’s wrong?” I said, “I don’t think that we should date.” She was definitely very calm. It was a lot of me crying and being like, “I don’t see a future with this. I can feel myself starting to be mean to you. And I don’t want to do that.”

Nadine: I didn’t cry when I was there. She did. I was in shock. I was like, “Okay, I understand. Thank you for telling me.” I couldn’t have been more level-headed. And then, because I was so level-headed, she was like, “Well, do you still want to go to dinner?” And I was like, “Yeah, no.”

Zoe: I mean, I was hungry. I felt bad! We were going to get dinner, so you’re probably hungry! But I guess, looking back, you probably aren’t hungry anymore because I just dumped you. But also, it’s a moment where it’s like, this is probably the last time I’m going to see this person for a while and I want to spend more time with them.

Nadine: I just got up and I texted my friends. I took the L train back into Manhattan to see my friend Melissa. On the subway ride there, I just remember being like, “You’re 29 years old. You weren’t even gay before all this and this girl just broke up with you. And you just don’t even know what you’re going to do.” I went through this whole thing where my identity shifted and then it was pulled out from under me by the person who changed it. I was freaking the fuck out.

Zoe: A lot of people were super-shocked because they’re like, “I didn’t even know you guys were having problems.” Which I guess we weren’t. It was just like, This isn’t right.

Nadine: Word started spreading that Zoe had dumped me. But her friends all reached out and were so nice. They were like, “Hey, I heard what happened, but please know you’re still our friend.” Those motherfuckers took me to Six Flags. I was in such a shitty headspace that I rode every huge scary ride just because I was like, “Fuck it, who cares?” I thought it was so kind of them to take me. They were so supportive. I really thought I was going to lose all of them in the divorce. I don’t know how Zoe felt about all that. She and I didn’t talk for six months. I didn’t want to see her. I didn’t want to talk to her. I didn’t want to hear her fucking name.

Zoe: I don’t think we really started talking again until it was her 30th birthday. She had a joint party with three of my friends. I was so excited to see her because I missed her.

Nadine: I had planned a big birthday with Zoe’s very good friends, who I still consider mine, at Royal Palms, the shuffleboard club in Gowanus. Funny enough, I had brought the boy I was dating at the time to that party.

Zoe: We didn’t talk the whole night, really. Of course, drinking commences.

Nadine: I got wasted. The boy I was seeing went home.

Zoe: I Facebook messaged her — because I had deleted her number — saying “Did you leave?” Then she walked out of the bathroom. I was like, “Well, this is embarrassing.” We ended up going home separately.

Nadine: She reached out again when I got home. I just said, “Come over.” We ended up talking and crying on my stoop. I don’t think we wanted to get back together, but we still had feelings for each other and still loved each other to the core. She slept over. When I woke up, I just saw her tuft of red hair and was like, “Oh, shit.”

Zoe: We were friends with benefits for eight-ish months, maybe.

Nadine: It was kind of something we would joke about — like, we had an oopsie. It was maybe once a month for three months. It fizzled out pretty quickly. I was fine with the breakup. But I was like, “Why are you sleeping with your ex?” I really didn’t know. I was taking things day by day at that moment. We decided we could be friends. But then she started liking someone else and talking about her to me. I wasn’t fully moved on yet, so that was still pissing me off.

Zoe: When I have crushes on people, everyone knows.

Nadine: It really wasn’t until I started dating someone else that I could move past it. And by dating, I mean I had a crush on this boy and he was emotionally unavailable. But I still found I was able to like someone who wasn’t her. That got me past it.

Zoe: I think at the end of the day, we were just meant to be best friends. Best-friend soulmates.

Nadine: I consider Zoe to be family at this point. Straight up. She says it all the time — we were meant to be best friends. And I agree. When we started hanging out again, we realized how much we missed each other.

Zoe: I think, at some point, we both realized that the first anniversary of our breakup was coming up and we decided to start celebrating together. We called it the Dumpiversary.

Nadine: It’s not like we sit there and talk about our relationship or what we’ve gone through. It’s just an excuse to be together.

Zoe: This year, we just went out and drank all day. We went back to Heavy Woods. We did karaoke and she sang “You’re Still the One” to me.

Nadine: She’s trying to get me to go to Trixie Motel next year, but I’m not shelling out $500 a night for Trixie Motel.

Zoe: We’re trying to figure out what to do. We’re looking at Margaritaville, but it’s $360 a night. I’m trying to get our friends to pay for it, honestly. Like, “Donate to the Dumpiversary Fund! We have provided so much light to everyone’s lives in our friend group!” Because that’s the other thing— she’s very good friends with all of my friends now. She still lives down the street. She’s just a staple.

She Didn’t Tell Her Family She Was Dating a Woman