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November 21, 2013

The Spies Who (Tried to) Love Me

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Photo Credit: jennifer robbins/the licensing project

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NOT ALL OF THE CIA men I dated treated me so cavalierly; some had severe boundary issues. A few months after I'd broken up with Sam, I was stranded in my apartment one night during a horrible winter storm when my new office flirting buddy, Jeremy, called. "Whatcha doing?" he asked with his endearing Minnesota accent. "Just hoping the office will be closed tomorrow so I won't have to scrape the ice off my car," I said. "Oh, you won't have to," he announced. "I was just at your apartment and did it for you."

How gentlemanly—a former Midwesterner with a fondness for flannel, scraping the thick ice off my beat-up Honda. Jeremy went on to comment that I "looked so peaceful reading Us Weekly, all snuggled up under the blanket on the couch." But I hadn't told Jeremy my unlisted address, and at the time, Google-stalking was in its infancy, meaning that he'd not only done surveillance to find out where I lived, but he'd also watched me through my third-floor apartment window with night-vision binoculars.

In the CIA, following a girl isn't considered stalking—it's all in a day's work. I found it sort of sweet that Jeremy used his CIA skills to do something nice—albeit creepy—for me. I could handle a well-intentioned stalker if it meant my windshield was clean. But in typical stalker fashion, Jeremy became very clingy, very fast, and our relationship didn't last.

After Jeremy, I found real love with Bobby, whom I met on the first day of a specialized training class. He oozed ambition and had bright greenish-gray eyes. Within a month, we were head over heels in love. For two years, we valiantly attempted a "normal" relationship, but with espionage training and hopping on planes from one overseas mission to the next, Bobby and I spent so much time apart that it eventually took a toll. During 72-hour windows when we were both in D.C. at the same time, we'd discuss the future. "How many kids do you want?" I'd ask. "I don't know if we should," he'd reply. "We may be stationed in Afghanistan or Pakistan. I'm not sure kids are an option for us." Naively, I thought perhaps we'd get married and the CIA would station us together in some family-friendly locale. But Bobby would never be satisfied working without the possibility of gunshots ringing in the background. With both of us facing an overseas deployment a month before my 30th birthday, I knew we needed to end it.

Over six years at the CIA, I grew increasingly frustrated with my espionage life. I'd lost good friends because of the lies I was forced to tell. I'd return home from a mission to an apartment in desperate need of touching up. Exhausted from a 16-hour flight, I'd drop my luggage onto the floor and turn on the TV, where, ironically, Alias always seemed to be on. Jennifer Garner's undercover-agent character never had to contend with jet lag and clandestine meetings with misogynists telling her that she had "veddy nice teets for an American girl." Working alone overseas was exciting, sure—but it was also isolating and paranoia-inducing.

Even though I'd been lucky enough to be involved in several prominent covert operations, I knew that I would never call the CIA home. If I wanted a genuine relationship and a more normal career, I needed to leave. A year after breaking up with Bobby and the agency, I settled into a new life as a writer and occasional improv comedian in Los Angeles.

It was during one improv scene that I met Jeff, a dashing and musically gifted guy who also belonged to my comedy troupe. We quickly started dating, and to my relief, there were no lies, no quick jaunts to war-torn countries, no additional girlfriends. Two years later, we married. Still, I don't regret my years with the CIA. If they hadn't frustrated me both personally and professionally, I never would have found my way to Los Angeles, where I met my true match—and learned that funny, honest guys are much sexier than spies.


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