I imagine some people aren’t wholly consumed from birth with the idea that they will find a soul mate and live happily ever after, but I am not those people.
I’ve had to watch more than one of the exes go through an incredible loss. Mostly I just tried to be available, and didn’t know what to say, but if I could go back and tell them what I know now, I might have said something like:
Dearest heart, I am so sorry you have to go through this. I wish, more than anything, that I could take away the suffering for you.
I’d been thinking about dumping Shane. Read More
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.
I may have mentioned before that Luke and I were good kids. Weird, yes. Loud, yes. Probably annoying, too, but as far as high school kids go, we were good. We weren’t mean to other kids, we didn’t do drugs or drink, we didn’t vandalize things.
“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.
I have some bad habits. I mean, yeah, sure, there are the not-so-bad ones, like leaving my shoes on the living room floor and scraping my spoon on my teeth when I eat and failing to wash my hair more than twice a week…
And then there are the biggies. One of those is my horrible habit of the push-away.
In my defense, I don’t realize I’m doing it when I do it. (Fine, it’s not much of a defense.)
Here’s the scenario: I know something bad is coming– a break-up or a fight or a stressful life change– and I don’t want to deal with it. It makes me uncomfortable even to think about it. And so, I pick fights about stupid stuff. I get grouchy and distant. I am bored. I am cranky. I do my best possible impression of a person who wants to be all alone forever and ever, and, indeed, who deserves to be all alone forever and ever.
Then maybe it won’t hurt so much when the bad thing I know is about to happen actually happens because I will have already distanced myself from the person I love, via my funk-pants shenanigans.
When Luke came with me and my family on a beach vacation a few weeks before I started my freshman year of college, I was in full push-away mode. When he got out his guitar and noodled around with it, I sniped at him for not playing any real songs. When he went for a jog with me on the beach because I forced him to, I got mad at him for making me run through the sand. We went up to run on the road and then I got mad at him for making me run in the heat. The whole week was like that– him trying to keep up with my swinging moods and me doing my utmost to make him hate my guts, all without my conscious knowledge.
Luke was a better-than-good guy, and managed to stick with me through that hellish week, and even another year after, but God, I don’t know how.
Of course, you know the ending to this story. College sucked, my whole life sucked, and I eventually dumped poor Luke. My bad habit tried real hard to make it easy for me, though, and scare him off before that ever happened.
So, if I love you and I ever start doing the push-away, now you know– I’m probably being a giant ass because I love you so much I can’t stand it.
I think I was about 12 years old one winter when we went to visit my grandparents in South Dakota, land of mythical things like Wall Drug, Dinosaur Park (a park on a hill with “life-sized” dinosaur sculptures), and Mount Rushmore.
I’ve heard before that the “air is different” in certain places around the world. That’s certainly true about the Midwest. Something about the expanse of sky, maybe, or the cold, or the wide open spaces makes the air seem magical, almost. And, of course, many things about South Dakota seemed magical to me as a child just because my grandparents lived there: the wild turkeys in their front yard, the deer in the back yard, the choke-cherries growing in the ditch– even well water and septic tanks seemed strange and wonderful to me.
In this magical land, anything was possible. We went on outdoor adventures and didn’t have to go to school. There was a park called Storybook Island where you could climb on anything you wanted, and there was an entire museum dedicated to rocks (and if you’ll kindly remember back to your childhood, you will recall that there is very little cooler than rocks, especially pretty ones, when you’re a kid).
So it didn’t seem at all odd to find some magic when we were driving along the road in South Dakota, the whole family in the van, and me in a back seat by the window. We passed by an old blue truck, and a boy about the same age as me in the passenger seat met my gaze with his ice blue eyes, from under the brim of a cowboy hat. It must have only been a few seconds, but to me it seemed like the world stopped and all I could see was this boy. I was a little too young for lust, but something in my guts pulled and I felt connected to him, completely, for just that moment.
He was out of sight shortly and I shook myself back to reality, but somehow I always thought I’d meet him again, and we’d feel that same magnetic pull when we locked eyes, and we’d make friends, and, eventually, this story would come up, and he would say he remembered it too, and he felt the same thing, and of course that would mean we were star-crossed or fairy-dusted or something and we would live happily ever after.
To my knowledge, I’ve never seen that boy again, but you never know. South Dakota is a pretty big place, after all. Lots of magic to go around.
I’m not sure I believe in karma. It seems a little like wishful thinking. But I do believe that life teaches us the lessons we need to learn– sometimes the hard way.
Judgmental about fat people? I sense fifty extra pounds coming your way quick. Dismissive of chronic pain sufferers? Here, have a 2-week long back spasm.
Think of girls who date assholes as utter bimbos unworthy of your sympathy? Enter the asshole with whom you shall fall deeply in love.
Matt was that asshole. And I was that dismissive, superior harpy, screeching about the fact that only girls with really low self-esteem date assholes, and they should get ahold of themselves and just quit doing it. Duh.
The thing is, assholes don’t wear name tags identifying themselves as assholes. They can be sweet and charming, and often are at first. Hell, Matt was sweet and charming sometimes in the very midst of assholery.
I’m fairly certain all my friends knew what he was, and probably my family, too, but if I knew, I certainly was not going to admit it. I was not one of those simpering doormats with tits-for-brains that would ever date a man like that… Except I did, and it wasn’t because I was a doormat or a bimbo or any other combination of factors that were necessarily my fault.
It was because I fell in love. It was because I saw good in him.
And, the thing is, I like that about myself– the ability to see good in people. It doesn’t make me dumb or passive. It makes me compassionate. It makes me able to learn lessons like this one, so that now when I see someone dating an asshole, I feel the empathy of experience for her.
Oh, and, also, if karma does exist, I would like to say that I have nothing but pure sympathy for those members of the population afflicted with bacon allergies. May I never have to walk in those shoes to learn that lesson.