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 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.
You already know about Bianca. Bianca was the other woman before I really put the pieces together, and before Joe said the worst thing he ever said to me. This was mostly because I hated Bianca.
I have reserved my hate for a very small number of people in my life. Others have earned my stink-face and my dislike and my annoyance, but never my pure hate (partly because hating takes so much energy). One former supervisor and one former coworker have earned my hate. (And they were truly horrible people and totally deserved it.) And the only other one I can think of is Bianca.
Anyway, Bianca was always the other woman because even before I saw her dragging Joe off for heart-to-hearts and trying to flirt her way between us, I identified her as my competition. My much skinnier, smaller, cuter competition, damn her. It didn’t matter that she was grumpy and whiny and generally unfun. She was little where I was distinctly large, and her hair was flat and straight where mine was poofy and disobedient, and she was always the damsel in distress where I was always Cinderella smirking from her sooty corner. And sometimes Cinderella doesn’t feel like singing duets with the goddamn little birdies anymore. Sometimes Cinderella wants to kick fireplace ash in Bianca’s stupid face and then yank on her dumb, perfect hair. (Very mature, Cinderella.)
Shane’s other woman was Sarah. He told me about Sarah immediately. They were best friends, and they had a relationship that went far beyond any stupid boyfriend-girlfriend stuff (like what we had). She was his sisterly soulmate or some crap. Sarah was beautiful. Sarah was smart. Sarah hung the stars in the freaking sky. I never met Sarah, but I bet she had wings and a halo.
Perhaps most dysfunctional of all, Matt’s other woman was his mother. He’d hoisted her up on a pedestal from his earliest childhood, vilified his dad (who honestly didn’t seem all that bad to me), and would only claim his mother’s heritage (she was half Irish) and not his father’s (he was first generation Cuban-American). Everything he did was in tribute to his mother. He was chivalrous because his mother would be ashamed if he wasn’t. He butted in to everyone’s business because that’s what his mother did. He worried and fretted over her constantly (not that she didn’t perpetuate it by flipping out about everything).
After we broke up, he called me for some reason or another and in the course of conversation told me that our break-up had made his mother cry. Then he paused dramatically, like I was supposed to say something like, “Well in that case, maybe we should try again.” I didn’t. Neither did he. We just let the dramatic silence linger for a minute and then mutually decided on a nope. Or maybe mutually decided that Matt was better off with his one true Oedipal love.
So, I guess sometimes the other woman wins.
“So, Shane, what would you say went wrong between us?”
“Are you pulling a High Fidelity on me?”
“Yeah. Answer the question.”
“Well… I think what went wrong is that I voiced a concern and you jumped all over it, like, ‘Whew, glad you brought it up, I feel the same way, ‘bye.'”
“Wait. True that you’re being harsh, or true that’s how I was?”
He laughs. “Maybe both.”
“I was a teenager. It was uncomfortable for me to be weird.”
“I get that. Why do you think I brought it up?”
“Huh. Guess I never thought about it like that. You sure were upset that I agreed with you, in that case.”
“Well I thought you’d put up more of a fight.”
“I should have.”
He pauses, then sighs. “Me too.”
“So what about in college, when you told me what we had didn’t really count anyway?”
“God, you remember that?”
“Broke my heart.”
He winces. “Sorry.”
“Then why did you say it?”
“You confused me. We confused me. You know? I’ve never had a relationship like the one we had. You already admitted it was weird. It was way weird. So maybe I just couldn’t reconcile what we had with what everyone else seemed to have.”
“You didn’t just say it to hurt my feelings?”
“Maybe a little.” He grins sheepishly. “You broke my heart, doll.”
“Guess we’re even then.” I smirk and smack him lightly on the arm.
He headlocks me and gives me a noogie for that, then releases me and kisses my cheek. “I’m sorry.”
“Me too.” I pat his knee and we’re cool again.
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.”
- His hair — that beautiful, beautiful curly blonde hair
- His lovely smile
- His shoulder rubs
- The way he kissed the back of my neck so very softly
- His love letters
- His love poems (He wrote really good ones. I’m picky about love poems.)
- His slightly bawdy sense of humor
- His stories (fiction and non-fiction)
- His reactions to everything — I always knew just how he felt
- His floppy hair
- His love notes, always featuring cartoons
- That he was friends with all of my friends
- His openness
- His concern for his family
- His car (shallow, but true)
- The way he held me, like I was cherished
It was the height of summer when we met in person for the first time. He came to my house and hung out with me for the day, then spent the night on the pull-out couch. Read More
I am, perhaps, the only human being on the face of the earth who tortures myself so thoroughly with what-ifs. I’ve always done it, from the very earliest times I can remember.
Not always bad what-ifs, necessarily. Some were lovely what-ifs. What if I had a unicorn and we could fly away at night, and touch the moon, and then make it back before dawn so no one would ever know we’d gone? What if I had the power of healing touch, and could take away pain and suffering with a hug or a pat? What if I wished so hard for a little black puppy that it just suddenly materialized in front of me, wiggling and yipping?
See? Good what-ifs. (There were bad ones, too, but I’m making a point, here.)
In my adulthood, sometimes I still get the what-ifs…
What if one of my exes showed up randomly on my doorstep one day?
What if I opened the door and Shane was standing there in his black fedora, staring at me, all gray-eyed intensity? And then he smiled and asked if he could come in and chat.
“Well, uh, sure, I guess,” I’d say, and I’d make tea while I made sense of my spinning brains.
What would I need to say to him? What would I ask him?
I think I’d start with, “I can’t believe it’s been… gosh… probably fifteen years, I guess, since we’ve talked.”
“Long time, huh, doll?” And he’d wink and I’d smile because he always called me “doll” even though I never gave him permission and I pretended to hate it.
We’d catch up on all the small talk things like what we’re up to and who we married and how life is. He’d tell me about his students (because of course he’s a high school teacher now– and somehow that just makes total sense). I’d tell him about my writing– and maybe he’d be jealous of that because we were both writers, once, before we knew you could be a writer for a living.
And then we’d probably get stuck because he’s a Bible teacher and I’m a bawdy humorist. He teaches young “ladies and gents” (that’s what he’d call them) how to live a pious life, and I teach 30-year-old women new and interesting swear words. He kept the faith. I fell away.
Things would get quiet and weird, and he wouldn’t know what to say anymore because all we had left, in his mind, was being brother and sister in Christ, and I’m not really in Christ anymore, am I? No, now I’m in gin and f-bombs and liberal-leaning politics. We’re unrelated. And I’m un-relatable.
I probably wouldn’t tell him that I’d love to hear one of his lectures, and I’d love to see how he gives his students room to try out their voices and their opinions. I probably wouldn’t tell him that I think what he’s doing matters and is important and is good, because I’m not sure he’d take the compliment. After all, we disagree on so much now.
But I would tell him that I’ve missed him and that I’m proud of him and that the time we had together changed me forever, for the better, and that I think about him. I would tell him I’m sorry for hurting him– that I was young, and, as far as excuses go, I guess that’s a pretty good one, but I’m still sorry.
And then he’d say goodbye, probably forever… and probably with a smile and a hug and a wink, because he’s polite and just a little suave, and that– I bet– will always be true.
There are so many memories to pick from with these guys. Let’s hit some movie memories today, because I’m in a movie sort of mood.
Joe’s movie is not a movie, really. It’s a show: Beavis and Butt-head. I never even watched the show, but it’s the only movie-ish thing I can associate with Joe. That is not a compliment. (Joe was Beavis. That is also not a compliment.)
Shane’s movie is definitely the original Indiana Jones trilogy. (The fourth one I just like to pretend doesn’t exist.) I hadn’t ever seen them before I knew him, and I watched them because of him. As I watched each one, he gave me commentary on them (over email– we were long distance) and lamented that he couldn’t be there with me to see me see them for the first time. He had a little bit of an Indiana Jones complex, I guess. He wore a fedora, as we discussed previously. I think, though, that he always had the heart of a scholar. Maybe that’s why he liked The Last Crusade best– I think it’s the most scholarly of the three.
Luke’s movie is Monty Python and The Holy Grail. For some reason, our entire band of high school friends were fixated on that movie. We watched it over and over and quoted it even more. We thought it was the height of hilarity. Luke usually instigated the Monty Python shenanigans. No one could ever do anything without him piping up with, “I’m not quite dead!” or, “Your mother was a hamster and your father smelled of elderberries!” or the classic, “I fart in your general direction.” Yeah, we were some classy kids.
Matt’s movie is Rudy because he made me watch it with him and proceeded to cry unmanly tears through pretty much the whole thing. I sort of just sat, perplexed, because it was the dumbest movie I’d ever seen. I did not cry. I barely managed not to gag and roll my eyes. This, perhaps, should have given me a clue that our temperaments were not suited.