I hate dating. I hate it with the fiery intensity of ten thousand exploding suns. Dating is a lot like a job interview; it doesn’t matter how good a boyfriend/girlfriend/employee you might potentially be—there is a script, a dress code, and certain dance steps you have to know if you’re going to do it right. The difference between the two is that dating doesn’t require a resume.
It totally should. Actually, forget the resume. What it needs is a list of references. How cool would it be if you could make some phone calls and find out how you can be expect to be treated? The closest to references any of us gets is the way he or she talks about their exes. If there is consistent badmouthing going on, expect to be badmouthed when you become the ex. It’s a simple formula, but it never fails to astound me how few people put it together. Lord knows I never did.
It should have been obvious. My habits and quirks were constantly compared to his—and if I ever did or said something similar, I was expected to explain how and why I wasn’t him. It was exhausting, and not once did it occur to me that she would probably be doing the same to some other poor dude or dudette in the future. I wish I’d had an opportunity to speak to those exes, and I wish I had the opportunity to talk to any upcoming boy or girlfriends. I wouldn’t badmouth her, per se; I’d just advise caution. And the potential suitor wouldn’t have to take my word for it, either. There are a number of witnesses who could help build a clear picture of a future with her. Hopefully he or she could learn from our mistakes. Likewise, I wish that my girlfriends could have had access to that kind of information.
In case you’re wondering: yes, I am talking about a very specific ex. She is one on a short list (a very, very short list) who won’t talk to me anymore, and for the life of me, I can’t tell you why.
I know that I’ve never really handled a breakup well. What I don’t know is anyone who has. When you’re breaking up, whether you be the breaker or the breakee, not only is it excusable to act like a real fuck-knuckle, it’s expected. In fact, there is no way not to be a fuck-knuckle. If you yell, it’s frightening and stressful. If you cry, it’s pathetic and stressful. If you are calm and rational, it’s coldhearted and stressful.
Mourning can last for a short period of time, or it can last months, even years. But there comes a point, as in the case with any loss, that you have to take one step and another just to get on with life, because it’s getting on just fine without you. But even then, a little thing, like a song or a stray toothbrush, can send you back into the emptiness his or her absence has left you.
Then one day, you’re okay again. And if you’re really lucky, you can remember the relationship with fondness, but without wanting to go back. But what do you do if your former partner doesn’t? It doesn’t matter how independent or free-thinking you are; you will always see yourself in the reflection of the people around you. But even if dozens of people think you’re swell, what does it say about you when one person to whom you’d once devoted your soul seems to hate you?
The time I spent with her was a very, very important period of my life, and it kind of pisses me off that she doesn’t feel the same. Or maybe she does, and my departure is still an open wound. I don’t know, and I’ll never know, and it’s not fair. Sometimes it makes me angry; sometimes it makes me sad; but most of the time, I just don’t think about it.
Yesterday, she and I weren’t on speaking terms. Tomorrow, we won’t be on speaking terms. Yesterday, I didn’t care that we weren’t on speaking terms, nor will I tomorrow. Before we met, I’d never known she existed. When we were together, I couldn’t imagine life without her. And now, she’s just another chapter.
Last night, I dreamed that we had lunch. It was nothing special, just an open-air noodle place I’d been to once in Boston. She was so happy, and living a rich, fulfilling life. I never asked if she was in a relationship, and she never told me; there was no romance between us or any yearning for said romance. Our lives had intersected for one brief moment so long ago, and that was it, and that was okay.
I woke up at peace, but that didn’t last. Instead, I got a little pissed off that this had never occurred in real life. After a little while the anger turned into melancholy. And now, the memory and emotions of the dream have faded into mere facts and images in the back of my mind. I’m grateful for the time I spent with her. I’m grateful for the time I’ve spent with all of my girlfriends, my friends, and now, my wife. Love builds people, and lord knows I’ve had enough of it.
So I hope my ex is happy, I really do. And I hope that she listens to the bands I’d introduced her to, or reads a book I’d turned her onto, or snickers at a private joke she and I’d once shared; and I hope this makes her smile a little.