Joe and I did not have the kissing thing quite down. Most of the time, I got bored with it quick and sort of just hung around not to hurt his feelings, and then scampered off gleefully when it was over. He was my first boyfriend, my first kiss, and I was only fourteen, and I just assumed this was the way it was supposed to go. Read More
I spend a lot of time on this blog thinking about what I said and did and wishing I might have said or did something a little different. I also spend a lot of time trying to decide what I’d say now if I had the chance, and what better chance than Valentine’s Day? In honor of the occasion, here are the Valentine cards I wish I could send my exes.
When I was about 11, I was absolutely convinced that I should have had an older brother. I needed one. He would protect me from all the evils of the world and I would not be the oldest (and, to my mind, most neglected) child in the family anymore. Of course I knew it was impossible, but I wished really hard for an older brother. Prayed for one even.
I read romance novels. Disparage if you like, but really, what’s not to love about romance novels? You get to experience the joy of falling in love, the pain of heartbreak, the many facets of love and you’re guaranteed an ending that will not make you want to drown yourself in the nearest body of water… Read More
When I started dating Joe, I was new at the whole dating thing. I guess I’d always figured that when you date someone, you’re their biggest fan, all the time. It never really registered completely that you can love someone and still absolutely hate what they’re doing in some moments.
“Fail quickly.” Have you heard this new entrepreneurship buzzphrase? The idea is that you try something, and if it works, good on ya, and if it fails, you figure it out quick, let it go quick, and move on to the next thing quick.
I’m so not good at it.
I can’t claim to have any misgivings about hindsight, really. This entire blog is written in hindsight. I know that, necessarily, as you age and grow, you learn things either from an experience, or from navel-gazing about that experience very thoroughly. (No one’s ever accused me of not being thorough enough.)
But sometimes I wish I hadn’t learned some things.
I wish I hadn’t learned about negging. It colors my memories of so many of my interactions with Shane. Was he a pick-up artist? I highly doubt it, (1) because that was in like 1996 and it wasn’t even a thing yet, and (2) because I think he was a good guy and wouldn’t have done that on purpose even if he knew it was a thing… but now I have a label for it.
I wish I’d never experienced a hurt so complete that I never want to talk to an ex again. (Looking at you, Matt.) I especially wish it when I realize that’s how Luke and Shane must have felt about me on the few occasions when I tried to rekindle a friendship. Double hurt for the price of one.
I wish I’d never known that Joe thought of me as a passing fascination.
In some ways, I even wish away the wisdom of my older years, because it leaves my memories of my “firsts” (first love, first kiss, first time) muddied, confused, and a little yucky.
So sometimes I pretend that I don’t know things.
I pretend I don’t know that Matt was manipulative and narcissistic– it makes those memories seem charming rather than scary.
I pretend I don’t know that Joe wasn’t really that into me– it makes my first love seem worthy of the depth of feeling I gave to it.
I pretend I don’t know that I hurt Luke and Shane, probably deeply enough that they’re completely done with me, in the sense that they don’t even devote a second of their time to remembering me fondly (or at all)– because then I don’t have to feel hurt that they’re lost to me, or guilty that I did that.
In general, I think a lot of the “rules” of personality typing are bogus.
Some of that is because I’m a twin, so astrology makes no sense to me. My sister and I have exactly the same astrological sign and we are two very different people. And the birth order stuff? Well, when you’re a mere minute younger than your older sister, turns out that birth order doesn’t really matter much.
Also, the birth order thing hasn’t really demonstrated itself sound in my relationships. Joe and Luke were firstborns, like me (well, sort of– we’ll say I’m a firstborn for purposes of this discussion). That means we should have always been fighting for the leadership role in the relationship. Not the case. I was all too happy to let Joe take the leadership role, and with Luke, he bent over backwards to accommodate my every whim. No power struggles.
Matt was a younger brother with an older sister. According to the science, this means we should have been a great match, since I am an older sister with younger brothers. But, oh the fighting. To be fair, I can’t say it was really a power struggle. Most of our struggles came about because he needed me to give him more attention– and that certainly fits with the youngest kid personality stuff. But shouldn’t I, as an oldest child, be good at dealing with the neediness of my partner, then?
Apparently not. Matt and I did not make it. And a good portion of the relationship was a hellish spiral of drama about all the stuff I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) give him that he needed in order to feel loved.
So, for me, it was back to the drawing board on all the personality tests that tell you your “ideal match.” And first item on my list was “not an asshole.” That’s probably a more important qualifier than birth order anyway.
Joe was my first boyfriend, and my first kiss. The first kiss wasn’t much to write home about, and subsequent kisses were a lot of me trying really hard to enjoy it, but not succeeding… although he was pretty good at necking, I’ll say that for him.
I didn’t really discover the joy of kissing until Luke. This was possibly because mine and Luke’s first kiss was tentative and light, and much less intimidating than a full-on French from the beginning. There was a lot of teasing and exploring and slow, slow progressions along the way. He pretty much let me have the lead, and I was good with that.
We went on a lot of hikes, but the short loops would take us hours because every time we were alone on the trail, we’d stop, and lean, and touch, and kiss. The game was to see who could make who shiver with delight, and the winner was both of us, pretty much every time. Hundreds of those breathless Sunday afternoons have all grouped together in my memory like a rabble of quivering butterflies.
I’ve said before that I wasn’t attracted to Luke the same way I was attracted to Joe, but I guess chemistry isn’t all about attraction– at least physical attraction. Maybe it’s more about how well you can read the other person, and how much energy you put into finding out what will make them shiver.
When you break up with someone, everyone wants to focus on the heartbreak– you know, the despair over losing your best friend or partner in crime or whatever, all the implications of going to every social event for the rest of your life all alone (because obviously you will never find anyone else), the endless hours of weeping into a half-eaten gallon of rocky road ice cream. Read More
Joe’s superpower was making me forget about all of his less attractive traits and habits (wrestling, smoking, writing terrible poetry) by flashing that big blinding grin at me. It was like the Men in Black pen blinky light thingie that melts your brain a little bit every time you look at it.
I think Shane’s might have been negging, before negging was even a thing. He told me, after he met me in person for the first time, all about how I was lovely, of course, but my sister’s hair was just a little shinier than mine, and her voice was just a little sweeter. Not that I don’t agree, but I probably shouldn’t have had to hear it from my boyfriend. But it didn’t make me hate him– it made me want to try harder to impress him, and also made me love him a little more because he said nice things about my sister, even if they were sort of at my expense. I’m not sure if that’s my psychological damage coming out to play or his– maybe a bit of both.
Luke’s superpower was niceness, which sounds like the lamest superpower ever, but I mean this guy was nice. Like, he was even nice to me in my teenage years, when my greatest aspiration was to be a badass with a bad attitude. Nice was not high on my list of Things To Be, but Luke never, ever, ever, not even once snarked back at me when I prodded him with my meanness.
Matt doesn’t get a cape. He gets a red t-shirt with “ASSHOLE” printed across it real big. Maybe that’s not quite fair. It’s possible that his superpower was butting in to other people’s lives, telling them how to live, and then bargaining, bribing, and cajoling (with God, if necessary) to get what he wanted.
It’s possible that my superpower is long-lived bitterness. Oops.
What I can promise from what I have learned:
I promise to tolerate your taste in music, and even go to a concert with you now and then. (Be grateful. I suffer because I love.)
I promise never to spit in your face when I am trying to demonstrate the latest vocal percussion sound I learned (and that one time was totally an accident, by the way).
I promise not to make jokes or assertions at your expense. “I was only teasing,” is not a good enough excuse.
I promise to try to love your crazyass family, because every family is a little crazy, but I do not promise to buy in to the crazy.
I promise to take your compliments gracefully.
I promise to write you love notes.
I promise not to neglect my other relationships, because you shouldn’t have to be my bestie or my therapist or my critique partner.
I promise I will always think it’s sexy when you load the dishwasher. (I do not promise sex in exchange for loading the dishwasher, although your chances do increase.)
I promise to try to be supportive, even if you’re being kind of a dumbass.
I promise to laugh at your jokes, no matter how stupid.
I promise to keep learning and changing and improving– even if that brings up the possibility of growing apart, because at least it’s growing.