A Christian Boy Broke up with Courtney because of GNOMES
We all know that a particular demographic of Christians hate Asexuals, but did you know that they also hate GNOMES!? A Baby Ace Courtney story time.
Courtney: Hello everyone and welcome back. My name is Courtney. I am here with my spouse, Royce, and together we are The Ace Couple. And listeners, I hope you are prepared for today, because today is the day that I finally share this story of the time a Christian boy broke up with me because of gnomes.
Royce: What kind of gnomes are we talking about here? Garden gnomes, Scandinavian gnomes, D&D gnomes, Svirfneblin?
Courtney: Svirfneblin! [laughs] Why, yes, we are running a campaign of Out of the Abyss for a group of our ace friends right now, but no, we’re talking about gnomes as just like a non-specific concept. I couldn’t explain to you what they look like, I remember little about what they allegedly do, but this story is just complete and utter nonsense. So we’re gonna have fun. I’m gonna have fun telling it. This was, of course, a travesty of my teenage years. At the time this happened, it was like the world was ending.
Courtney: But now, so many years removed from this, it is hilarious. It is absurd. And there are some elements of it that are just, like, ludicrously asexual. Like, they are so peak ace that I– I– I’m excited. So I just want to dig in. So, for those of you listeners who have been with us for a long time, or if you’re one of those listeners who found us more recently but decided to start at the very beginning of our backlog and go through all the episodes in chronological order – I know there are some of you out there as well – then you are probably familiar with the story of how Royce and I met. I think episode– Was it two or three of our podcast?
Royce: Episode three, back in October of 2021.
Courtney: Yep, episode three we shared that story. And every time I tell people that story I have to sort of set the context so that people know exactly how wild and weird and out of the blue it was that we technically first connected online because shortly before this happened I did not have a computer or internet. I did not have electricity in my home. I read by candlelight for fun. So the fact that I met someone online is such a shocking, astonishing thing. And it’s really not these days. We meet a lot of people these days who have met and started relationships online. It’s a lot more common, of course. But what I have failed to tell the listeners is that I did technically meet someone else online many years before you, Royce. And thus is where our Christian gnome breakup story begins. And it was just so, so, incredibly asexual.
Courtney: So, there was this website called Hot or Not. And at this time I did have at least intermittent access to internet because I was still in school. So I needed internet for schoolwork, I was around computers during the day and whatnot. And you know it’s– it’s earlier, it’s an earlier era of the internet, so online dating is not as big or common as a thing, and it’s sort of the infancy of a lot of the social media sites that are now just a big part of our everyday lives. Like Facebook was pretty new to the general public at this time.
Courtney: And it was actually this website, Hot or Not, that not only seems like a predecessor to Tinder, but it also, like, directly inspired Mark Zuckerberg to basically create Facebook. Like he was inspired by Hot or Not and made like a Hot or Not clone right before or alongside Facebook.
Courtney: So Facebook also – in the early days – had, like, a Hot or Not application on it where people would, like, go on to Facebook to play the Hot or Not game…? Question mark? I don’t know if you could call it a game. But when I found out that this was a thing where you are essentially just given a photo of a person and you are to deem whether they are Hot or Not, my little baby ace brain just exploded because I was like, “How are you looking at a photo of a person and just having an answer? How can you rate them? What–?” And like, by this point in time, I’d already been given the impression by others around me that people do just say like that person’s hot, that person’s not. Like I knew this was a thing people did, but I didn’t understand personally how to do that, because I don’t have that.
Royce: So you hadn’t, at this point, reverse engineered like the aesthetic algorithm of the majority.
Courtney: That was exactly what I did. Because I would– I’d recognize the patterns in the things that, like, my friends around me would think were hot. My grandmother was also, like, very, very explicit about the men that she found to be sexy, so I would, like, pick up these little, like, “All right, so that feature on a person is allegedly sexy. This feature on a person is hot.”
Royce: So, according to the rubric that I have at hand, this person is a 7.5.
Courtney: This was literally.
Royce: This was math homework.
Courtney: This was– I was testing myself. I was like, clearly other people have some internal metric that I don’t have, so I have to see if I have it correct. So I literally– I was not trying to meet anyone. I was not trying to date. I was not enjoying the pictures that were brought before me. I was– I was testing myself. [laughs] And so I started going through this Hot or Not, and based purely on what I think the average individual would think was hot, or at least conventionally hot. Because obviously individual people have their own types when they have, you know, aesthetic attraction like that, or romantic, sexual attraction like that. But I didn’t. So I was like, “All right, conventional wisdom says this person, yes, is hot!” And I would see if I was correct, like if other people agreed with me that that person was hot because I was just trying to match their sort of level.
Royce: After you did this, after you hit the button, what did the next screen show? Was it– Was it just a simple hot or not, or did you see, like, the ratio?
Courtney: I’m trying to remember, to be quite honest, because I’ve at various times, like, remembered that this was a thing that existed. So I’d try to, like, google it and be like, what were the different iterations of Hot or Not across different years? And I think it even changed at one point shortly around the period of time that I started doing this. And this wasn’t a thing I did often. It was like, I sat down for a night to try to do this. But I think there were sort of two different utilities to it. I think it would give like public percentage amounts, but there was also kind of a Tinder-esque, or pre-Tinder-esque, iteration where if you did deem someone to be hot, but they also got your photo and deemed you to be hot, and you were like in close enough proximity to each other, then you’d actually, like, see more information about them. And you could, like, connect through other social media that way.
Royce: Yeah, I think a lot of dating sites do that– I was about to say nowadays, but my concept of how dating sites work is dated by about a decade.
Courtney: Yeah, about! [laughs]
Royce: Obviously Tinder took this to be its entire deal, swiping left or right.
Royce: But I mean, OKCupid had a thing where you could just flip through some pictures and like little snippets of profiles, like small bits, and decide very quickly on them.
Royce: And if you matched, you would get some kind of connection notification.
Courtney: And this– It didn’t have any personal details, it didn’t have a profile. It was quite literally like you give Hot or Not your photo and it will show it to people. And then if you sit down and you click through photos, it will feed you photos. And so I sat down for like a night to do this, just to see if I was onto something, to see if I cracked the allo mind. [laughs] And someone that I thought the average public would consider to be conventionally attractive– First of all, I was right, most people did. [laughs] But also he thought I was hot. [whispering] And then we started talking online…
Courtney: Now, this was way scarier at the time than it is now to talk to strangers online, because at the time I did not know anybody who met anybody else online. I did not know anybody who was actively attempting online dating. My only preconceived notion of talking to people online was a combination of you go on to one of those just, like, open chat forums that aren’t anything in particular and every single person is just like age-sex-location and nobody ever gave their actual, real age-sex-location. And you weren’t supposed to follow the whole conversation. It was coming so fast through the feed that, like you might pop into a DM with someone.
Royce: See, early internet, I was not aware of those expectations.
Courtney: Oh my gosh, the amount of time I spent, like, staring at ASL being like, “What does this mean…?”
Royce: Oh, I saw it once and asked what it meant, and I was like, “Okay, I’ll give my information to people online. What’s the problem with that?”
Courtney: Younger Courtney was very much an observer of culture, Very much like– [laughs] I am trying to learn your ways so that I can assimilate. So I would see people like– They’d be like, “ASL?” And I thought for the longest time that they were calling me an asshole, and I was like, “Why is everyone calling me an asshole?” But then I was like, “I’m never going to figure this out.” And like you didn’t just google things at this time, so I wasn’t googling like, “What is ASL?” Like, maybe I could have asked Jeeves at that time. I don’t know if Jeeves was around yet, that I was doing these experiments, but like, just searching for information was not as obvious.
Royce: I remember I think this was in seventh grade history class where we were preparing some kind of, like, presentation, and someone spoke up into class and mentioned that you could find images really easily on Google Images. [Courtney laughs] And the teacher was like, “Oh really? Hey, class, just so you know, there’s this thing– It’s called what was it again? Oh yeah, like Google images.”
Courtney: Didn’t Google Images come to be because people wanted an easier way to find, like, a dress that Jennifer Lopez wore? I’m pretty sure that’s a thing, like-
Royce: I have never heard that.
Courtney: I have the dress in my mind’s eye. Like, I can see the dress that launched Google Images. [laughs]
Royce: Well, there is a very quick article on GQ called, “How Jennifer Lopez’s Versace dress created Google images.”
Courtney: Yeah! It’s like a green one with, kind of, cutouts.
Royce: With leaf print, yeah.
Courtney: Yes, yes! It also made an appearance on a recent season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, where trans contestant Kerri Colby wore it for Night of a Thousand J-Lo’s.
Royce: Oh, the year 2000…
Courtney: Oh, the year 2000!
Royce: What a time it was.
Courtney: What a time. So yeah, like– So those old chat rooms with, like, the ASL. And I was like, “Why is everyone calling me an asshole? I don’t understand.” But then I was like, “I don’t think they’re actually calling me an asshole, I think there’s something else here.” So the way I reverse engineered this was I started saying ASL to other people, and after I did this a few times, I was able to be like, “Oh, every time I say this–” I use this input, I receive this output. It is consistent. And then I was like, “Oh, okay!” That’s how I figured out what that meant.
Royce: It is so much easier to just say, “What does this mean?”
Courtney: I– Yeah. [laughs]
Royce: It wasn’t all that weird being a kid in the early 2000s and being online.
Courtney: You know– And so– Like– So, that was the one frame of reference I had for talking to strangers online was that, which was also me just trying to reverse engineer what is this culture? What do people mean when they say this? How do people? But then my other frame of reference was like the– the TV show To Catch A Predator. Like, do you remember that? Do you know how much, like– how heavily they drilled into you that if you talk to someone online it’s going to be a sexual predator? Who’s like–
Royce: I only knew about that show in jest. Like I heard people joking about it.
Courtney: Oh, not me. Like, that show was on, like, at my house regularly. Just like in the evenings in the background all the time. So, point of the story being, I had no intention of meeting anyone going into this. And turns out when I have no intention of meeting anyone online, that’s when I meet people online. Of the two sample sizes we have here.
Royce: So 100% of the times you did not try to meet someone online, you met someone online.
Courtney: Yes, I can only imagine what would happen if I was actually trying.
Royce: Yeah, would it be crickets, or just too many people?
Courtney: I don’t know. Probably the latter, if I had to guess.
Royce: Depends on how weird you’re being. Because when you try, you really try.
Courtney: Yeah, I don’t know though, because, I mean, a lot of our friends claim that I have chaotic fae energy and that I just attract weird to me. So I feel like– and that happens even when I’m not trying to be weird, if I’m trying to downplay my weird, the strangest things will still happen to me. More on that later in this story. But, point being, I sat down to test myself on Hot or Not, and I accurately did guess that this guy was hot, but he also guessed that I was hot. He was probably using it in a different way than I was. And so we started talking, and he seemed pretty decent, and we lived in the same city, and so he was like, “Let’s– let’s meet up sometime.” But I can’t just meet someone online. It has to be in a public place. I need to bring a friend for safety. He also brought a friend for safety, by the way, which is precious.
Royce: Yeah, that’s surprising. I was– I never pushed back on anything like that, obviously, but the first time someone told me that that was the thing that you do when you meet people online, I was like, “Huh? Interesting.”
Courtney: And this guy was like– I don’t remember exactly how tall he was, but he was like 6’3, 6’4, lifted weights. And I was like 5’2, a hundred and two pounds.
Royce: I had so many– I had multiple first dates that were just at my apartment.
Courtney: I know! And I mean that was a little bit later than this period of time.
Royce: True, true.
Courtney: And it was a slightly different landscape of expectations for meeting people. But this is right off the heels of To Catch A Predator. We can’t be too careful.
Royce: We don’t meet an online person outside of a public space, was still very much a thing. I mean a few years before that, when I moved into, like, a shared housing situation with three roommates, friends of said roommates were like, “You got a roommate on Craigslist? He’s going to kill you in your sleep.”
Courtney: [laughs] But you didn’t!
Royce: I didn’t do that.
Courtney: You didn’t kill him in his sleep. So that’s– that’s nice of you. You could have if you wanted to, and you didn’t, and that speaks a lot to your character. [laughs]
Royce: Actually the funny opposite was, of the four roommates, the other roommate of mine who I was closest with, who happened to also like share a wall with me and live on the same level of this old house that we are renting, one night came in from the bars drunk and must have accidentally like bumped one of the gas oven little knobs–
Courtney: Oh no.
Royce: And woke up later that night smelling gas and was like, “Oh my God! I killed Royce!” [Courtney laughs] And just, like, ran into the kitchen and, like, threw open the door and, like, tried to fan out the house and–
Courtney: Oh no! Well, I’m glad that he also did not kill you. But yeah, so we literally– we were like, “All right, we are going to meet in person just to make sure that we are real people, we are who we say we are.” I don’t even think the phrase catfishing was in the popular lexicon yet. It probably was a couple years later. But like that’s the idea, like, we want to make sure we weren’t catfishing each other. So we decided to meet in the mall food court, the– the Sioux Empire Mall. The– The– What was that ridiculous statistic that some of my friends and I from Sioux Falls have been making fun of? There was like a big tourism boom, that it was like this is one of the greatest tourist attractions in the country because of all the people who come here.
Royce: Were they– Were they vastly overestimating the number of people that visited the mall with no–
Courtney: It’s a bad mall.
Royce: No records–
Courtney: It’s not even a good mall.
Royce: No actual data to back it up?
Courtney: And they’re like, “This mall gets as many visitors for tourism as some of the national parks do.” And it’s like, Mall of America is four hour drive away. No, it is not. No, it is not. But yeah. So we decided to meet in the mall food court and it was such an awkward meeting. It was absurd. Because I brought my friend for safety, he brought his friend for safety. We met each other, looked at each other and we were like, “Yep, that is the photo that I saw of you. You are the person you say you are.”
Royce: I am really curious what had to be going through that dude’s head. [Courtney laughs] Because you said this is– was a big guy.
Courtney: Big guy, yeah.
Royce: I don’t know if we’re talking like Christian persecution complex, but like, I don’t think I ever felt unsafe going on a date with someone that I met randomly online.
Courtney: I don’t know, I don’t know, don’t know what to tell you. But that was one of the things, like, he– like, “Oh, he lifts weights and he’s tall.” I was like these are things that society has told me are hot, so that is why I was able to accurately guess that he was. [laughs softly] But this meeting, I kid you not, lasted like all of 60 seconds. We did not hang out from that meeting. This was verifying that you are a real human. You do look like your picture, great, well, talk to you later! And then we just, like, left and parted ways. It was so bad that my friend that I brought for safety for the remainder of our relationship – that went on for like a year and a half, we were dating for like a year and a half – she called him Awkward Man.
Royce: So you– [Courtney laughs] you basically did the 2000s era of, like, a two factor authentication. [Courtney bursts out laughing] You got– you walked up in person, and got your little confirmation code and then just left.
Courtney: [Still laughing] Yes, that– that is what happened. And I mean, she really did not let him live it down. She honestly would not ever use his name after that. Like if she knew that I was hanging out with him over the weekend she’d be like, “How is Awkward Man?” Like that was just his name for her after this. But no, I mean, for the most part he was very nice guy, very sweet, funny, allegedly hot. And so that– that was just like the most asexual way you could happen into a relationship.
Courtney: But the thing was this relationship for a period of time worked so well for younger ace me. Because we never even had a conversation approaching the concept of sex. And I assume he was probably, like, a save yourself for marriage kind of a dude. Just based on everything that I learned after the fact. I assume that that was the case, but we never even had that conversation to be like, “Yes, I am saving myself for marriage.” Like it was just not a topic. And it was great. And we were– We were dating each other for like– It was over three months before we even like, kiss, like even a peck, even though we were hanging out all the time, we were having a really good time with one another. And so, like, that was perfect for me.
Courtney: And mind you, I did not technically grow up Christian. My mom was not, my grandmother was not. I think I was– I was technically baptized, but that was mostly to wrap in the, like, ceremony and paperwork to get, like, a godparent who would be my legal guardian if anything happened to my mom. So like that, I think, was more the point of the baptism than a religious reason. But I did live in an area where pretty much all of the people around me were very Christian. So as a kid, I would have, like, friends take me to church if I ever spent the night with them on a Saturday, then I’d just have to go to church with them on the Sunday. So like, I knew all of my friends’ churches, and I would occasionally be at all of my friends’ churches at various points, but I never had my own church or anything.
Courtney: But it was this kind of like passive Christian thing where, like, if someone asked, I’d be like, “Yeah, I’m a Christian,” for whatever that meant at that time. So like that was probably a thing that he had asked. I never went to his church, now that I think about it. Which maybe should have been my first red flag, for someone as religious as he was. So there came a time– And let me tell the end of this first, because at the time I had no idea where this was coming from or why, but he broke up with me, like, completely out of the blue. Things were going well, we were seeing each other all the time, having a lot of fun, and he just, like, broke up with me randomly. And I was like, “Why? What is going on?” And I kid you not, he told me that his youth pastor thinks that I’m a witch and I was like, “What?!” [laughs]
Royce: I want to know this youth pastor’s religious lore. Like, what is the concept of a witch in this person’s worldview.
Courtney: So– And here was the thing too. Like, I knew Christian, like that was established, but I did not know much about, like, what kind of Christian. So after all this was said and done, I dug into it a little bit, and I believe if I’m remembering correctly, that he went to a Born Again church. And I was like, “Your– Your youth pastor thinks I’m a what…? Have I met this guy? Who is this youth pastor? And why?” And he was like, “Please don’t make this harder than it needs to be. I really did not want to break up with you, but I have been having these conversations with my youth pastor for months about this.” And I was like, “Months?!” So he was– When this was all said and done, I think he was trying to, like, have conversations with his youth pastor about me for like a year without me knowing. And the consensus from the church was that I’m a witch, he should have nothing to do with me, I am just a temptress, I will bring evil magic into his life. And he was like, “But I love her! And I don’t want to break up with her!”
Royce: Which– the evil magic part may not be entirely unsubstantiated, because we’ve spoken of the fae energy.
Courtney: I didn’t know of the fae energy at this time! But listen, I was like, “Where– where is this coming from and why?” And he was like, “Don’t pretend like you don’t know.” And I was like, “No, I genuinely have no idea where this is coming from.” And he was like, “It’s the gnomes.” I was like, [wheezy laugh]
Royce: “Excuse me?”
Courtney: “The what now?!” He had to explain this to me. Because this was such a nothing thing to me that it did not cross my mind. It was just a silly, frivolous thing that happened like a year earlier. It was– it was around like November, December maybe, like, starting to get to the holiday season, and my mom at the time delivered newspapers, like early, early in the morning, before dawn, and I would very often at this period of time help her. So I would get up at like 2am, go down to the newspaper, collect all these papers, and like, drive around and toss them out. And I don’t know why I just explained what delivering newspapers is. But– And at the time, like, the radio didn’t play music at that period in the morning. Like before dawn all you had was talk radio, and you had some very bizarre talk radio stations. And so like one of them that I know we’d occasionally listen to was like Coast To Coast AM and sometimes they’d have like conspiracy theorists, and they’d have– you know, they’d have people who had alien encounters. And they’d interview these people on these early morning radio shows.
Courtney: And there was one guest who was talking about the existence of gnomes, and how gnomes are real, and they’re– they’re these tiny people, and they’re very shy, but if you can attract them to you and if you can befriend them, they will do household chores for you.
Courtney: And I was like, “That sounds wonderful.” And I did not think that these gnomes were real. There was not a bone in my body that took this literally, but the way this guy was talking about the gnomes just seemed so precious. It was like, “Oh, you can hang little, like, pastel colored lights in the bushes outside your house and the gnomes like it.” And– and talking about all the little things the gnomes will do for you if they like you. And I was like, “This sounds darling!” And this guy, like, wrote a book about these gnomes, and how to– how to attract them to you, and how to befriend the gnomes. And so I was like, “Well, I want to get this book because it sounds cute.”
Courtney: And so we were - as all teenagers in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, at the time – just like frequently bored out of our minds, and so our idea of hanging out was really just like driving around for hours at night. Like, we didn’t go places or do things for the most part. So we were just driving around one day and we drove close to our local Barnes and Noble, and I was like, “Hey, can we stop at the Barnes and Noble? I want to see if they have this book.” And he was like, “All right, what book are you looking for?” And I was like, “It’s a book about gnomes.” And I explained to him what this guy was talking about on this Coast To Coast radio show. Now that I’m thinking about it, I don’t know definitively that it was Coast To Coast AM, but if it wasn’t that it was something similar. And I was like, “I want to attract the gnomes. I want to befriend little gnomes, so they’ll do little chores for me. That sounds great.” And so we he’s like, “All right, we stop at the Barnes and Noble.” I go in, I use one of their little computers to check their database. And they didn’t have it and they didn’t even stock it. Like, I don’t even know where I would have found this book because I couldn’t even order it from the Barnes and Noble at the time. And so I never found the book. I never got the book. I never read the book. And I never said a single damn thing about gnomes ever again for the remaining like year of our relationship.
Courtney: But this instance religiously tortured him so profoundly that he was regularly seeking counsel from his youth pastor about his girlfriend, who is a witch. [laughs] And so, naturally, my heart was broken. I was devastated. I was utterly shattered. I thought for sure that this was the man I was going to marry. We’d been together for so long already. We’d never had an argument. We’d never talked about sex, which was fabulous for me. He even gave me a ring at one point, like a promise ring, but it was way too big for my finger, so I wore it around a chain on my neck. And I wore that thing like every day. It was ridiculous. And so, like I definitely did at the time try to, like, beg and plead, and be like, “No, I promise, I do not literally believe that gnomes exist. I am not actually trying to summon gnomes to me to do household chores. I am actually Christian.” And I don’t think I’ve ever defended the fact that I was Christian before this point. But I never really had a reason to, because everyone’s just like, “Oh, yeah, sure, everyone’s just at least vaguely Christian.” But like, I was like, “No! I am Christian! I promise. I love Jesus and I own a Bible,” that I got from the same Barnes and Noble I tried to get the gnome book from. [breathy laugh]
Royce: See, when I was about probably– you haven’t mentioned your age, but probably around that same age in school, I suddenly realized that all of my, like, certain friend-group were notably agnostic or atheist and often feisty about it.
Courtney: I mean, I had a couple of those too. I kept my friend group as eclectic as they could have been in that town, in that year. But yeah, in the end I just remember this being such a dramatic time. Because, I mean, obviously my emotions were very high and very dramatic. But him also being, like, “I have been consulting my youth pastor for so long about this, and this is such a hard decision to make, but I can’t let you tempt me any longer!” And I was like, “No, no, I promise I’m actually Christian.” But like he was like, “No, the decision has been made.” And he went to a completely different school. He was also, like, a little bit older than I was, so outside of our very intentional let’s hang out times, like I would never just casually run into him.
Courtney: So that was pretty much that. Although, like a year, maybe two later, the very first time I ever actually ran into him in public after that was also hilarious because I had just gotten done with a metal show– [laughs] and so I was, like, in the most dramatic, like, gothiest outfit I could possibly be in. Just like hair teased to high heavens, like, ridiculous makeup, like, the whole nine yards. And it was just like after the show, like, the other guys in the band and me, like, we just stopped at a gas station to just, you know, get some drinks, get some snacks, before we were going wherever we were going after that. And he was just like at this gas station in the middle of the night. And the look on his face. Like, this needs to actually be like a scene in a television show, because it was such a like– like, “You are so alluring, but I mustn’t! But look at you, but no!” Like he was doing this whole, like, back and forth thing where he was like, “Courtney? You look…” And I was like, “Oh God, here it comes.” Like this– this is the guy who broke up with me because his youth pastor thought I was a witch and now I am dressed like this. I haven’t seen or talked to this guy in at least a year. And– and he was like, “You look beautiful, but I mustn’t let you tempt me!” And it was– It was this whole weird– Like I saw the internal religious conflict going on. It was outstanding. It was so melodramatic. It was ridiculous.
Courtney: But I hadn’t changed my phone number at this point, so we just, like, parted ways. I was like, “Yeah, just got done with the metal show. See you around, I guess.” and I was already in another relationship by this point also. I think I have shared before on the podcast that I had a really awful policy for myself that if I was single and someone asked me out that I would give them a chance. And that also possibly came from this weird mix of being conventionally attractive, so I knew a lot of people were attracted to me, but I also knew I was not attracted to anybody at all whatsoever, period. And so I was so afraid of this stigma of, like, people perceiving that I might think that I’m out of their league or that someone was, you know, beneath me or– or that they’d think I was turning them down for, like, superficial reasons. So I was like, sure, just give everyone a chance. So I was rarely single from this point out, for a while, while I had this rule in place. So I had already been in another relationship. But he, like, texted me later that night and was like, “It was so good to see you again.” But by this point, just to spite him, I became the leader of, like, my school’s Bible study. [laughs] Because I was like, “I’ll show you who’s not Christian!”
Royce: Okay, let’s back up a little. [Courtney laughs] How soon after the breakup did you make this decision? Also, your school just had a Bible club?
Royce: I guess that’s probably not that uncommon. My school just wasn’t very large.
Courtney: I mean, it was probably like the year, or year and a half. Like I joined it because one of– one of my friends was, like, one of the– one of the leaders of this, and so he had like invited me to come to it. So when he invited, I was like, “Yeah, sure I’ll come.” But then he graduated at the end of that school year, so then I took over as the leader. But like the leader of this– Like there couldn’t be a teacher, like, leading Bible study or anything like that at the time.
Courtney: So like, as the leader of this thing, like, I was basically giving, like, Bible lessons to people and no one should have let that happen. Absolutely no one.
Royce: Because you’re a witch.
Courtney: Because I’m a witch! And I didn’t actually grow up going to church. So like, I hadn’t heard most of the sermons. Like, I did get a Bible from Barnes and Noble once and I read it. And it was unexpected, I guess, for someone who didn’t actually grow up going to church regularly. But I was also, like, doing the cool hip youth pastor thing, where I was like, “I’m going to make my lessons cool and relatable.” But like the only lesson I remember doing–
Royce: So your relatable lesson for Sioux Falls [Courtney laughs] is…
Courtney: Well, when you put it that way, it sounds ridiculous.
Royce: For the school children of this Sioux Falls high school, your relatable biblical story is…
Courtney: [laughing] So while I was reading my Bible one night, because I had to prove to my ex, who thought I was a witch, who– correction, whose youth pastor thought I was a witch. Since I had to prove to him without telling him or showing him at all, just to passive aggressively secretly spite him, I was like, “I’m so Christian, I’m reading Bible, look at this.” I found a passage that just, like, smacked me out of nowhere. It was like, “And then the bears came down from the mountain and devoured all the children!” [laughs]
Royce: You got flashbanged.
Courtney: I did. I did. I got a big ol’ surprise there while reading my Bible. And so I was like, “Well, that was interesting. I’m going to do an entire lesson about this passage. And how it’s comic relief.” [laughs] They ate it up, though. I mean, if I wanted to start a cult, I could. And I accidentally almost did once, but that’s a different story. A story that if I told to my Christian ex-boyfriend he might have a heart attack. [breathy laugh] But I digress. So he had texted me after seeing me after this metal show, and was like, “It was so good to see you again.” And he was like, “Thanks, what have you been up to?” So I was like, super casually, like, “I’m the leader of my school’s Bible club now.” [laughs] And he was like, “Oh, wow, really that’s great.” And I’m like, “Yeah, he’s– he’s going to be regretting his decision now.” I look witchier now. I look a lot witchier than I used to, but I’m acting more Christian than I used to.
Royce: I was going to say what was your wardrobe like during this period. Because you went through a few different wardrobe phases.
Courtney: While I was dating him, it was pretty exclusively things that were purchased and decided by, like, other people. Like my grandmother would take me shopping once a year and that was my clothes. So it was– It was probably– It was a lot more normal than it became. It’s a lot more normal than it is now.
Royce: I’m trying to remember when I stopped wearing color.
Courtney: There was one period of time, while I was still dating him, that I did get bangs and my hair was very long and black. And so, like I think he also mentioned that at one point. Like, “I already knew about the gnomes, and then you did that to your hair.” So like it was a whole thing. It was– It was wild.
Courtney: But the weirdest part of this story, though, is the fact that I was like, “I can’t believe I got broken up with because of gnomes, even though I don’t believe in gnomes.” That was such a silly, frivolous thing that happened so long ago. And yet it just– it ate away at him. But, just like, a couple months after this breakup happened, it was snowing profusely, like, so much so that without shoveling the driveway, like, driving my car out would be a struggle. And I could not physically shovel snow at the time, and my mom certainly couldn’t physically shovel snow some time. And I just like mentioned this off-handed at school one day, and a guy whom I had never talked to super personally, someone I had never been friends with or dated or hung out with in any way possible, someone who is essentially just an acquaintance to me, decided to just show up at my house and start shoveling my driveway and sidewalk.
Courtney: And I did not ask him to do this. I did not expect him to do this. I wasn’t even, like, saying this specifically to him. This was like just off-handed in a group of people. And so he showed up and, like, shoveled my driveway. And this guy was also, like, from a very, very wealthy family. Like so wealthy that I didn’t know what to do with myself when he then– Like, I mean, he shoveled my driveway, that was very, very nice and unexpected. And he just– Like, I was like, “How do you know where I live?” Like how did that even happen? You’ve never been to my house. But then he, like, invited me on a date and he, like, took me to his family’s, like, country club. And all the, like, butlers there knew his name and he had a tab and shit. And I was like, “This is– [sharp inhale] Oh yeah, I don’t think you have any idea how poor I am and I don’t know how to exist around you.”
Courtney: So I think about this instance with this guy so often, that a couple of years ago– I thought for sure I knew and remembered what his name was, but a couple years back I tried to search him up, see if he was on Facebook or any other social media thing, and his name was not his name. I had somehow mistaken his name for some other classmate, a different, totally unrelated person that I recognized. And so then I could not for the life of me figure out who this person was, and so I grabbed– I only have a yearbook from one year of my high school because they were expensive ,and I don’t even know how I managed to get that one. But I tried searching for names in that thing to try to figure out who this guy was, where he came from, and not a single name stood out to me. Nothing rang a bell. So this mystery person, who came and shoveled my lawn and whisked me away to a lavish, expensive, extraordinary dinner experience and then just essentially disappeared out of my life– We did not continue today, nor do I recall us breaking up, nor do I recall any other instance of us actually hanging out after that fact. And now he just doesn’t exist. And was seemingly never a classmate of mine. So that motherfucker was a gnome! I did it! I attracted him to me, and he took a liking to me, and did household chores!
Royce: Check’s out.
Courtney: Seriously, who is that guy? [laughs] And then, you know, I mean, after all this, I was very displeased to find out that nobody else who asked me out or wanted to be in a relationship with me was nearly as celibate as Christian boyfriend was. So like, that’s a weird thing. Because I’ve heard some Christian aces say, like you know, earlier on in their teenage years or early adulthood they just– they maybe thought that they were just like really good Christians, or they were really good at taking the lesson of celibacy, or they were just saving themselves for marriage. And I can totally get where that comes from. Because, for me, who was not actually super religious and then passive aggressively became religious for a very brief period of time before dropping it… dating a super Christian boy, like, really worked for me. And that could have worked for many more years.
Courtney: That could have been– Like I was so happy at the lack of sex, the lack of discussion of sex, just hanging out and having fun. So it is kind of weird. Because for as much as, like, purity culture does persecute queer people, including asexual people, and we have done an extensive series on the way right-wing religious Christian organizations in this country do target asexuals specifically and by name– As much as there is that persecution, there are certain times, certain places, in certain personal situations where, like, it can really work. And you can kind of almost use it to be a chameleon in that sense. Because you don’t have to come out as asexual if you’re dating someone long-term who has no interest in discussing sex.
Royce: Yeah, it can be safer than some other orientations for a time, but had you continued dating into adulthood, I feel like there would have been a drastic shift.
Courtney: Could have been! Could have been.
Royce: Part of that is just assuming that this person had very little capacity for communication.
Courtney: That’s probably true. Considering how long he hung on to this gnome thing before actually doing anything about it. And the fact that the breakup did come over text.
Royce: The fact that there were multiple long-term ongoing conversations with a third party that were never brought to your attention.
Courtney: And I also found out later that he was also having these conversations with the friend of his who was also his safety friend from that very first meeting. Where he was consistently going to him and being like, “I don’t want to break up with her, but she’s an evil temptress.” [laughs] How dare she try to summon garden gnomes to do her chores? Of all the reasons that a Christian person might break up with you, maybe this is the silliest, but if any listeners out there have a sillier story, please share it with me. We can revel in the ridiculousness together. [laughs]
Royce: Garden gnome specifically is a weird one because that’s like not even all that pagan, it’s just silly.
Courtney: It’s a little pagan, it’s a little silly. But it’s also been so weird now– You know, I’ve also mentioned before, the last several years I’ve been learning Swedish. I study an aspect of Swedish history as part of my broader work with Victorian hair jewelry and Victorian hair art. And I have been to Sweden to do research and to– you know, like, just– In exploring Swedish culture more, like, gnomes are so present in that culture. Like, that is such a common bit of lore. Like, their version of Santa Claus is pretty much a gnome. And gnomes are all over the place. And it’s just– To have been broken up with because I wanted to read a book about how you can attract gnomes to your house, and that crossed a line, I was like, “You can’t ever visit any of the Scandinavian countries, it will be too triggering for you.” [laughs] So anyway, now I find gnomes hilarious and I accidentally love them now far more than I ever would have if this didn’t ever happen. Like I bought a couple of gnomes for our house and they’re sitting upstairs in one of our rooms.
Royce: You also say, “Oh, my gnomes,” occasionally.
Courtney: Well, that’s– that’s– that’s where this all comes from. I– because of the fact that you believe in gnomes, therefore not Christian, therefore must break up with you, you are witch. And then I tried to do the passive aggressive Christian thing for a bit and then it didn’t work anymore. Then I was like, “Well, I say oh my god, but I don’t actually really believe in a god.” But I was– I had a revelation one day. I was like, “You know what I do believe in…? Gnomes.” When I say OMG, it stands for oh my gnomes. And then– then then I just realized that’s actually just very fun to say. It is more fun to say oh my gnomes, then oh my god. [laughs] And it’s more applicable to my life. So there. But it’s also– There– there’s gotta be maybe it’s that alleged chaotic fae energy that our friends attribute to me, but I think that was the first time that I was genuinely and seriously accused of being a witch.
Courtney: But that’s just like a regular occurrence in my adulthood now, and I’m really not. But occasionally I do look around our house, and look at my profession, and look at just all of the everything, the way I dress these days, and I just wonder to myself, “What Christian gnome boy would think if he saw me now?” Because let’s see, we have our vampire portraits hanging in our dining room. We have lots of general, like, skull and skeleton type decor. Lots of antiques and antique books. I have an entire room of hair, so I have so many people’s hair. If I was actually a witch I could do so much damage with all of this hair. [laughs] And in doing artwork and jewelry with hair, I have had people literally– I think you were with me at this one, because this was one of my first conventions, where the guy came up in like a Disney villain voice, and he was like drumming his fingers together, and he was like, [making a voice] “If I give you the hair of my enemies, can you make me something truly evil?”
Royce: That was like at Crypticon right?
Courtney: Yeah. [laughs] And I was like, “Nope!”
Royce: I mean horror convention makes sense.
Courtney: Yeah, can’t– Can’t make evil things with hair. Can’t or won’t. I’ll leave that up for interpretation, I suppose.
Royce: Many, many people ask if our house is haunted.
Courtney: Many people ask if our house is haunted. The last time we attended a housewarming party, I wore maybe the least gothic thing that I own. It was like my zebra striped caftan and a big black and white, like, feathered sun hat. Nothing screams gothic about that at all. And we had a stranger we’ve never met before come up to me, and like, ask if I practice the magical arts. And I was like, “What about me right now is screaming that to you?” Because, yes, I do get that question all the time, but normally it’s in a very different context! We also had the guy who tried to sell us exterminator services. The bug guy who came to our door one day. He also asked if I was a witch. That was a good story. Do we have time? Should I tell that story?
Royce: Yeah, we can end on that story.
Courtney: Okay, let me try to remember this. So I absolutely loathe door to door salespeople. I really, really do. And I try to give them as many chances to not bother me as possible. Coming up to our house they will pass small, like, concrete statuary of skulls and snakes. This should already put them on guard. They will get to our door and they will see our doormat says “Go Away.” Then there is our no soliciting sign. That doesn’t just say no soliciting, it literally says, “No soliciting, Really it’s annoying.”
Courtney: And if they pass all three of these obstacles and they still ring my doorbell, then Courtney gets to have a little fun. I get to mess with them. And so I started, several years ago, playing a little game with myself. Because I also, you know, I worked from home even long before the pandemic started. I have a studio. So if they’re coming during daylight hours, during a weekday – which is usually when they come – they’re also like, not only are they not abiding by all of the warnings that I was so carefully placed for them, but they’re interrupting my workday. They’re interrupting my flow. So I decided that if they deign to arrive on my front porch, I will not be cruel to them and I will not specifically ask them to leave, but I will be aggressively weird to them. I will be so weird to them that it has become a game to see how fast they will leave on their own volition. And some of them leave really fast, really fast.
Courtney: But one day we got a guy. First of all, he’s riding a hoverboard around our neighborhood. Like, this is how he’s going door to door. He’s not even walking, he’s riding a hoverboard, he’s got a clipboard [laughs] and a pen. And he’s riding a hoverboard door to door. And he’s trying to sell pest control services. But we have made friends with our bugs, in our house. And so when he comes to our door he tries to go on his little speech and– There are some spider webs around our front door at this period of time, but like some of them are masterworks of art. Like I think at this time we had like an orb weaver web. That was just gorgeous. And he was like, “Yeah, well, when we come out we’ll spray all this down, we’ll kill all these bugs, and we’ll clean out all these cobwebs.” And I was like, “How dare you?! Leave my friends alone!” He was like, “Your friends?” And I was like, “Yes! They’re my friends.”
Courtney: And he kind of, like, did a double take and didn’t know what to say to that, so he kind of just, like, kept going with his script. Like I could tell that they made him memorize a script for his sales pitch. So he just, like, kind of continued to try pressing on. And every time he would mention, like, killing a bug, I would tell him that I don’t want him to. And at one point he does double back and he’s like, you know, “What do you mean they’re your friends?” And so I started telling him stories which were absolutely true.
Courtney: I have, for the most part, also technically not lied to any of these door to door sales people, but I started telling him stories from back when I worked at the zoo. And we had some of these, you know, little creepy crawly guys. We had Madagascar hissing cockroaches, we had giant African millipedes. And I started sharing some of my stories that I had interacting with, and taking care of, and teaching about these creatures. And how with the millipedes how I loved feeling their legs going all up my arm in waves. And with the Madagascar hissing cockroaches, how I had to snatch it back out of the hand of a boy who tried to eat it when I made a poorly timed fear factor joke. And then– I just– I got, like, really sad and somber as I relayed the very regretful story of the time I accidentally gave a cockroach a heart attack, which absolutely 100% did happen, and I still feel bad about it.
Courtney: I was going to present these cockroaches for an audience, and this cockroach I had was sleeping and I went to pick it up, and it– Like, it woke up, it jumped higher than I think I’ve ever seen one of those guys jump before, fell down, rolled over on its back and just died. And I felt horrible. And I had a crowd of kids behind me waiting for me to pull out the next creature. So I’m, like, literally crying and trying to not let the kids see, but I’m also really sad and upset. And so I was, like, telling him this story and how, you know, all insects and arachnids are friends of mine. And I’m wearing, like, a black dress. I was very often wearing a black dress at this period of time, probably had dark makeup also. And he just had, like, this moment of revelation where he’s like, “Wait a minute, you’re friends with spiders and you’re dressed like that. Are you a witch?” [breathy laugh] And I just started cracking up, cackling. I actually did think this was very funny. But I was like, [exaggerated laugh] “Yes.” And he’s like, “Well, gotta go.” And he left on his hoverboard [laughs] with his clipboard.
Courtney: And it was such a good interaction that I had called my mom after this to tell her what just happened. Because I’d shared multiple stories by this point with her of the door-to-door salespeople that I scare away. And she just thought it was a riot. She lived pretty close to us at the time, just a few blocks away, and so she was going to the grocery store later that day and, driving down a nearby road, saw the guy and he’s impossible to miss. I mean, he’s got a clipboard and he’s riding a hoverboard. So she knew that this had to be the same guy. And she was like, “Well, hey, Courtney has so much fun messing with these door-to-door salespeople, why don’t I get in on that?” So she, like, slowed down and pulled over and rolled down her window and she’s like, “Oh, hey, you!” And she’s like, “I think you talked to my daughter earlier today.”
Courtney: And the way she describes it, she’s like, “Oh, yeah, he came up so excited as if he thought that maybe he was gonna get another sale for the day.” And he’s like, “Oh, yes, yes, ma’am, I’ve talked to lots of people today, and which one is your daughter?” [laughs] And she said, “Oh, she’s the witch up the street!” And then she started cackling and drove away after that and did not wait for him to respond. And so she calls me after this, she’s like laughing, crying in tears and hysterics, and she’s like, “You’re right. The look on that guy’s face was priceless.” [laughs]
Courtney: So I think of all of these situations where I have put out an admittedly witchy persona, and it all started with the Christian gnome boy. That was the start of my witch arc that I still live in to this day. But also just like lately– Well, not even lately, just in general I have the weirdest interactions with people in public, even if I’m not wearing anything outlandish. Which I have mentioned before, that, like, pre-pandemic, I would get in a full ball gown to, like, go to the mall.
Courtney: And so I would wear very, very unusual eye-catching things. But there have been a couple instances lately where, since the pandemic, I’m not trying to do crowds, I’m not trying to talk to people, I’m not trying to stand out – if I leave my house it’s for a very specific mission, that I don’t think I’ll have to talk to many people – but every time I do, someone just utterly bizarre finds me and comes to me and starts having the strangest conversation possible to me.
Courtney: And I have not been able to explain this, because I thought every time this happened before it was just because I’m attracting the attention, because I look weird, I’m wearing something outlandish. But I went to a protest recently – Free Palestine, by the way – and a guy picks me out of the crowd when I am wearing the least descript thing I could possibly throw together, and this man just started singing opera to me. Out in public. In a group of people. He came to me to sing opera at me. And I was like, that doesn’t happen to most people, but this is what I expect when I go in public is interactions like this.
Courtney: Or I went to the post office to check my PO box recently and this elderly guy who was already done at the post office, he’d already gone back to his car he sees me come, pull up, park. And he gets back out of his car and follows me into the post office, follows me to my PO box, and he starts asking me questions about my hair. He starts asking me questions about hair art. And at one point he started just like singing the Star Spangled Banner…? In the middle of the post office? To me?! These are the only two times I have been in public in the last month. How does this happen? He also very clearly saw me, and– with my mask on, by the way, so most of my face completely obscured, he very clearly thought he saw me and thought Native American – which is interesting because this was like an old white guy and normally I don’t get that assumption from old white guys – but he was talking about how he was a veteran and how he hates Veterans Day.
Courtney: And when I– He was asking me questions about hair art, and when I told him questions about hair art, he actually, like, gasped and jumped and flinched back in, like, an exaggerated cartoony fashion. Like, I’m speaking to real-life anime characters. And he did this repeatedly. And he started just like talking about my Indigenous hair, and how it’s hair of the valley. And how it’s different from his hair, because he’s essentially just leasing the land, but my hair– And I was like, “Whoa, this is a whole lot.” But then he started launching this into a story about how he doesn’t think kids should have to say the Pledge of Allegiance. And he started reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, like, to illustrate his point about how kids shouldn’t have to say the Pledge of Allegiance. He put his hand on his heart and rolled his eyes and started reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. And then talking about how they shouldn’t have to learn the Star Spangled Banner or sing this. And so he started singing the Star Spangled Banner in the middle of the post office. As he’s following me. And I had a package at my PO Box, so they put a little key in my tiny PO Box that I had to go all the way around to the other side of the PO Boxes to put the key in the big lockbox where my big package was waiting. He was walking with me this whole way. Like, he was just glued to my hip.
Courtney: This wasn’t for the public, this was just for me. So he starts singing the Star Spangled Banner. He starts talking about how special my hair is and the hair of the valley, which I don’t even know what he meant by that. I really don’t. And it was just the most utterly– I’d say, it’s the most utterly bizarre thing, but this is normal for me. These are the people that come to me in public, regardless of how I look, regardless of how I’m presenting. And so when I share these stories with friends of mine, when I’m like, “Well, you’ll never guess who just had the weirdest interaction with someone at the post office.” Everyone’s like, “Yeah, that sounds like something that would happen to you.” Some of our friends have just decided that these are the gnomes. The gnomes are coming to me. Every time I have a truly astonishingly weird interaction with a stranger, it’s just the gnomes coming to say hi and to remind me that they are still here. And I think that’s as logical an explanation as any at this point. [laughs]
Courtney: But all this to say, now you know the story of the time a Christian boy broke up with me because of gnomes. And the gnomes that have been coming to me ever since. I hope you all enjoyed this silly little story time. I want to say that next time we’ll share a weird dating experience of Royce’s, but I don’t think you have many weird ones.
Royce: Not that I could really talk about it in all that much detail. I didn’t date a lot.
Courtney: I did. See if I can scrounge up any other odd stories. Gnomes know I have plenty of them. But in the meantime please give us whatever the things are: the likes, the comments, the reviews, the ratings. You know the deal of whatever platform you’re on right now better than I do. And we will talk to you all next time. [singsongy] Goodbye.