I’m bored. I feel bad about it, but there it is. I’m bored with Luke.
Maybe it’s because the rest of my life is so exciting, in terrifying (sometimes awful) new ways. I am a soon-to-be sophomore in college. I’ve taken my first college-level courses. I’ve made it through a hellish year of ROTC. Because of said hellish year, I’ve avoided the freshman 15 and in fact have dropped a few pounds. I’ve failed my first class in the history of ever, and still managed to keep my GPA reasonably high-ish. I’ve gotten a new job for next year during the school year. I have a full-time job for this summer. I’m a freakin’ grown-up. It sucks, but I’m there, and there’s no turning back now.
Luke is living at home, taking some computer tech classes and selling vacuum cleaners door to door. He’s grown a tiny beer gut and has the same floppy teenager hair he’s had since I’ve known him.
I try to spice things up. I introduce biting to our necking sessions. He responds by sticking his tongue in my ear and I barely manage to avoid punching him in the nose for that.
I try to think about the future. Someday when we’re both grown-ups, we can go to the World Series together. I tell him about it, in great detail. We will watch the whole season so we know every player and all his stats. We’ll take a road-trip to the chosen stadium and we’ll be in the stands– maybe the nosebleeds if we’re low on money, but we’ll go. He seems excited.
And then he fails to do his computer tech class homework and drops out. He doesn’t like selling vacuums either. “It sucks. Get it? Bwahaha.” I get it. But I don’t laugh. He quits selling vacuums.
I dump him. (Afterwards, I sit on my parents’ deck and cry so hard I shake for hours, but I never tell him that.)
He’s heartbroken, and he cries for weeks, sometimes in my presence, sometimes not. He keeps asking me why. Why, why, why over and over again. I won’t tell him.
It seems the worst kind of awful to tell him that I dumped him because I was bored.
I’m Team Edward, for you Twilight fans. For the Buffyverse, I am totally, totally Team Riley. (Go ahead and hate if you must.) And, surprisingly, I’m Team Gale in the Hunger Games… Guess that’s my violent streak coming out. And if you’re into Veronica Mars, I’m Team Dick, just because. (Really, I’m Team Anybody Who Isn’t Piz.)
I hate love triangles, actually. I’m an avid reader, but I tend to avoid Young Adult novels because of the love triangles. They make me uncomfortable.
“Come on. Don’t you remember what it’s like to be a teenager and want everything?” asked a friend of mine a few weeks ago when this discussion came up. Her argument has always been that humans’ natural state of being is to appreciate the sex appeal of lots of people at once.
“I remember undying devotion to my One True Love,” I responded, only a little bit sarcastically.
My M.O. was always full-on devoted monogamy. That’s partly due to my upbringing, partly due to my personality (a little shy, quiet, and secretive– and thus incapable of flirting in any real capacity), and partly due to the fact that I just didn’t have a bunch of different guys to choose between all the time.
Did I ever feel a pull in two different directions? Yeah. But nothing good ever came of that. And back then, I never, never would have admitted that I was attracted to two men at once because quelle sin, duh. I just ended up with two pissed off guys and a grapefruit-sized ball of guilt in my guts– and nothing even happened.
And so, natural state of being or not, I can’t ever be ok with not being able to choose between two men. Whether that’s because I can’t imagine it, or because I can imagine it, and it’s the most horrible thing ever, I can’t quite decide.
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.
I’ve never been a great beauty, and I’m not saying that to fish for compliments, so don’t. I’m not terrible to look at, but my hair leans toward “ashy” (which I think is the polite way to say “mousey”). I have thunder thighs (even when I’m relatively thin, which is not always, as I lean toward the chunky side anyway). My skills in fashion, make-up, and hair are fair-to-middling at best. All of this I know, and all of this I am ok with.
But there have been some exes who made me feel more than average.
Joe loved my eyes. He’d wax poetic about them… badly, sort-of-rhyming, and without any kind of meter, but still “poetic.”
Shane told me I was beautiful all the time– my hair, my face, ya know. Then after we broke up, he made an off-hand jab to the effect of, “You’re actually not that great. I was just saying it to make you feel better.” Oof. Part of this I’ll blame on the fact that I dumped him and he needed some revenge. But part of it, at least, I have to accept as truth.
Luke’s compliments never went much past, “You’re purdy,” but he meant it from his heart.
And Matt? Well, Matt was probably the most convincing, but that’s likely because he had the best chance of getting in my pants, and when you want to get there, you spread the compliments on pretty thick, unless you’re dumb or something.
So if beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I guess I have to tell you I’m beautiful. I have pretty eyes and soft hair and a lovely smile. At least if you’re trying to sleep with me.
Stumbling upon an ex’s online presence always turns into trying to decide whether you’re their one that got away or they’re yours.
— Tyler Oakley (@tyleroakley) September 25, 2013
I think I’ve come to the conclusion that unless I’m currently dating you, I’m definitely your one that got away.
— Tyler Oakley (@tyleroakley) September 25, 2013
Do I have a one that got away? Hmm…
For a while it was Luke. I think Luke was my hardest break-up, even though I was the one instigating the whole thing. Luke was just so good, and I didn’t have a great reason for not wanting to be with such a good guy. So, yeah, I had regrets, and I thought, maybe, just maybe, he was the one who got away.
But then he ended up with someone who’s way better for him than I ever would have been, and she is happy, and I would have been miserable, and that’s the honest truth.
Shane’s the other one, but I’m not sure how much of that is based on reality and how much of that is based on the fact that we saw each other in person for a total of maybe 48 hours ever. It’s the Titanic romance. It’s pretty easy to have a perfect romance when it spans the course of days. I mean, we were long-distance daters for longer than two days, but does that really count? I don’t know. Maybe not.
So Shane’s the one that got away– or maybe just the fantasy that got away.
Oh, and I’m pretty sure I’m the one that got away for all the exes. Yep. Pretty sure. (Humble too.)
I admit to actual full-on teenage crushing when I saw Joe, before I even spoke a word to him, or he to me. He was beautiful and I wanted him, even if I didn’t really know what the wanting was all about. Perfect curly blonde hair and a beautiful, blinding smile and biceps. Yeee-ah. The butterflies were definitely happening.
Weirdly, I got butterflies with Luke, too, but they were different. With Joe it was all about the teeth and the hair and the muscles, but with Luke it was about the laugh and the way he could tell a joke with only body language and how he never failed to laugh at my jokes either. And instead of, “God, I’d like to bite those biceps,” it was more like, “I would hang out with you so hard and then I would enjoy the shit out of you.”
So attraction: It’s weird. Of course I was attracted to Luke. There were still butterflies. There was still delicious anticipation when I knew I was going to see him soon. There was still electricity between us. But it wasn’t so… visceral? That’s the wrong word. Because it was still a physical reaction– actual sensations of tingling, people, I’m not kidding.
It wasn’t more than what I felt for Joe, because there was exactly none of the desire to, you know, mark him with my teeth or anything, but it wasn’t less either. It was about connecting and loving and being delighted to find out exactly what he would say or do next.
I’ve said before that maybe Luke and I should have stayed just friends, and that his declaration of lurve sort of hit me from left field, but I’m not sure the Just Friends thing would have worked either. It was too much. It was wanting to know literally everything about him, and that would be creepy for a friendship, right?
Anyway, maybe it was the inevitable that happened with Luke. We couldn’t be Just Friends– well, firstly, because he was in love with me, and secondly because I guess I was in love with him, too, in a way. I think I was his biggest fan, and if that’s not happening in an actual fan-to-star relationship, or a lover-to-lover relationship, maybe it just doesn’t work.
I don’t think you should commit to someone, really, until you’ve seen them at a low point. Morbid as it seems, low points are what define us.
Joe didn’t get to see my low point until he was about to head off to college on the other side of the country. The second day of my sophomore year of highschool, I stepped out of the minivan to walk into the building and stepped off the curb and right onto my ankle. I was wearing adorable little canvas sneakers and little bitty khaki shorts– I remember because I never wore those shoes again and I wore jeans for weeks afterwards to cover the ace bandage. (Good thing flare jeans were in back then.) My ankle swelled up and turned purple by the end of the day. It hurt like a bitch.
Joe didn’t make much of it, good lad. He must’ve realized that attention-seeking was not my bag and a softball-sized purple ankle was doing nothing to help me blend in, and I hated the whole situation. He just checked my ace bandage to make sure I wrapped it right and then chivalrously carried me up the front steps of his parents’ house so I could come in and see their new kittens later that week. So I guess I passed that “low point” test… except that he was gone about a week later and we sort of broke up by default just because we stopped talking to each other. Hrm. I’ll not blame that on my low point, though.
The first time Shane came to visit, I was on my period. He was staying in the den in the basement on the pull-out couch, just next to the downstairs bathroom, which happened to be the one I stumbled to sometime in the wee hours of the morning in search of fresh feminine hygiene items and Midol. There may have been quiet whimpering, but I tried not to make too much noise.
The next day he admitted he’d been awake for the whole thing. I was mortified, but explained the situation as delicately as I could and then blocked it from my consciousness by sheer force of will. Later that day we played some badminton in the yard and he kept asking me if I was ok, and I kept assuring him that I was fine, and I didn’t realize until much later that it must have been the midnight whimpering that set off his concern. Oops.
Still, I think I passed that one, too, because I ended up with an awkward kiss and a fantastic tickle fight.
Luke probably saw more of my lows than any of my other exes, by virtue of the fact that we spent the most time together, by far. He came to visit me once when I was sick. My mom ushered him into my darkened bedroom and he sat on the edge of my bed and murmured platitudes while I prayed to God he wouldn’t look at my hair and I wouldn’t throw up on him. He didn’t stay long and I think we were both fine with that. But he never shied away from my sickness or tears or even my foul, horrible moods.
I’m sitting here wracking my brain for a low that Matt might have seen, but all I can think of are the tearful, screaming fights and I guess that’s enough of a low. Maybe the phrase should be, “in sickness and in health, and also in snotty, red-faced rampages.” (Of course, he’s the only ex I ever rampaged at, so maybe some of it wasn’t me. Just sayin’.)
I’m glad they stuck with me through my lows– gross, bloody, and hateful though they were. Anyone who manages that gets some hindsight props from me. Hear that, boys? Fine job.
For a while when I’m in a new relationship, I remember every interaction. It sounds a little stupid to say that I guess– probably everyone does that. But I’m talking in the range of 6 months to a year before I start forgetting fights and conversations and kisses and day trips here and there.
But everything fades with time, I guess.
I don’t remember much of what Matt and I fought about, besides the old stand-bys of, “You are not being supportive,” and, “You don’t pay enough attention to me.” (Both of those were Matt’s complaints. I don’t remember what I picked fights about. Probably about how he picked fights too much, because I wanted to be able to look back on that period of my life and appreciate the irony. Yeah.) I’m sure they were world-stoppingly important at the time, but hey.
I don’t remember the middle names of three out of the four exes. I only remember Shane’s middle name because he signed it on his letters all the time and it was as much a part of his name as his first and last.
I sure as hell don’t remember their birthdays.
I don’t remember Joe’s favorite food or Luke’s favorite song or Shane’s favorite book.
But I remember the way all of their hands looked– the color and texture of the skin, the shape of the thumbs. I remember what Matt smelled like. I remember how Luke liked to be touched. I remember the cadence of Shane’s voice. I remember Joe’s laugh.
And maybe it’s not that important that I can’t remember all the little things Matt and I fought about, or the name of Shane’s sister, or Luke’s GPA. Because I’d rather save room in my brain for their hands and their scents and their laughs.
I am dreading my High Fidelity conversation with Luke, mostly because it was a one-sided break-up, and the side doing the breaking up was mine.
“So… what’s going on?” he prompts.
I sigh and shift uncomfortably. “I wanted to talk to you about why we broke up… I guess.” I breathe through nerves and nausea. “So, um. What do you think?”
He stares for a minute, then gets flustered too, because he can see I am. “Uh, er. Well, I don’t know. I guess it just wasn’t working.”
“Oh hell,” I grumble. “Just say it. It was my fault. It was all me. I dumped you and broke your heart. I am a horrible human being. There. I said it so you don’t have to.”
He’s quiet for a minute, then says softly, “I wouldn’t have said that.”
“Gah. I know you wouldn’t because you’re nice and I’m mean. We have established that already.”
“Hey.” He tentatively touches me on the shoulder, and then pulls back. “You’re not horrible. You’re not mean. You broke up with me, but that doesn’t make you either of those things.”
I give a wobbly smile, though I’m dangerously close to tears.
He makes a noise half-way between a shriek and a laugh. “Do not cry. I mean it,” he says. “Listen, why do you even want to talk about this? We were so young, and we’re both happy now. We obviously turned out ok.”
I turn around for a second to compose myself, then back to him. “You’re right. Of course you’re right. You have your wife and the boys and you’re happy now.”
He grins. “Darn tootin’.”
“Oh sorry, I forgot you like to swear… um… Fuck yeah.”
I laugh, then am sober again. “I’m sorry I hurt you.”
He sighs and hugs me. “We really don’t have to talk about this.”
“I want to,” I say, lying through my teeth and into his shirt.
“Ok then.” He pushes me back so he can get some eye contact. He never does that. Shit. “Why?”
My stomach drops. It’s the question I could never answer for him, and the one he kept asking, over and over. My ears ring and the room tilts. There’s not a good reason. There never was. I tell him, “I don’t know,” on a hoarse whisper.
His eyebrows knit. “You don’t know?”
I swallow hard and will myself to fucking DO THIS. It was my idea, after all. “I was unhappy with everything. With my whole life. School, living away from home, not being smart or likable, having no friends. It really was the worst time in my life, and I just needed to change things.”
“You were unhappy with me?” he asks. He’s not looking at me anymore.
“No!… I mean, well… Yeah, kind of, I guess. I just felt… stagnant. Like maybe the reason I was so unhappy was that I couldn’t grow up or something. And you were part of that. You made me feel young, and naive, and like I’d never get past the horrible in-between-ness of teenager and adult.”
I giggle-snort. “Yeah it was, I guess. Sorry.”
“You know what I think? I think maybe you were just growing up a little too fast for me.”
“You never grew up,” I tease with a grin.
“Well. True,” he admits, and pushes his Gothy dyed-black floppy hair out of his eyes. “But maybe you wanted to and I didn’t, and I was holding you back.”
“Not on purpose.”
We sit in companionable silence for a few minutes. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The only tears so far have been mine, and that’s a switch from when I broke up with him. I decide to tell him everything. “I wish you had been my first,” I say.
He chokes on his own saliva. I thump him on the back. “Like first time? For, you know, sex?” he manages.
“Yeah,” I laugh. “The thing I regret most about us, I think, is that we didn’t sleep together. Is that horrible of me?”
He considers for a moment. “Weird. Not horrible.”
“I can live with that.”
“So… you broke up with me because you were really sad and life sucked, and you wish you’d slept with me when you had the chance… Did I get that right?”
“Oh don’t gloat.”
“I’m gonna gloat.”
“Fine,” I say with mock annoyance. “But don’t you bring it up ever again. I just thought you should know.”
“I will take it to my grave,” he promises. “Thanks for telling me, sweetheart.”
And we never talk about it again, but I’m glad he knows. It’s something I never wanted to take to my grave.
I wish I’d said…
To Matt: “I’m not broken. Go find someone else to fix.”
To Joe: “What the hell are you doing with Bianca? Tell me the truth.”
To Shane: “I’m scared. I’m scared of everything. I’m scared of what my friends think. I’m scared of what my parents think. I’m scared of what this could end up being. I’m scared of how much I love you.”
To Shane: “We should probably kiss right now, while we have the chance.”
To Joe: “Too much saliva, buddy.”
To Luke: “If you stick your tongue in my ear one more time, I am not responsible for the damage I inflict upon your person.”
To Luke: “Thanks for being my best friend. Really. You are my best friend.”
To Matt: “I actually don’t like any of the Saw Doctors’ songs. Not a one.”
To Don: “I love you.”
To Shane: “I’m sorry.”
To Luke: “I’m sorry.”