The Ghosts Of Boyfriends Past
It is my sophomore year of college circa 1985. I’m driving my lemon of a Ford Mustang on the mean streets of La Habra, California at 3 a.m.
What is an intelligent girl of 20 doing out at such an hour with her frizzy hair in a scrunchie, her glasses covering bloodshot, tear-stained, crusty eyes, wearing sweats and moldy UGG boots driving surface streets at 80 mph?
Spying on her boyfriend, that’s what.
He’s a USC football player with the body of Michelangelo’s David and a phalanx of football groupies that swarm him like 40-something Cougars at an Abercrombie & Fitch hiring day.
I’m erratically driving to his parent’s house to see if his truck is out front because if it’s not that must mean he’s knocking boots with someone else.
I’m madly, gut-wrenchingly in love with him.
I’m like Anna Karenina ready to jump on top of train tracks if I find him with another. I’m also a spy on the level of Hercule Poirot…well, okay, maybe more like Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther.
I’ve picked locks, looked under beds, been on stake-outs, tapped phones, looked in suspicious shoe boxes, steamed open letter envelopes all in the quest to catch my lover with another.
Then when I found the evidence I’d…what? What would I do?
Would I make a grand speech about morals, values and character, which I had aplenty and he, incriminatingly, did not? Would I walk with great dignity, head held high out of his assholic life and go on to be courted by princes, movie stars and plastic surgeons who would keep me gorgeous until I died at 108? In my sleep wearing nothing but the Hope Diamond and a smile?
Or would I throw myself at his feet and beg for love, sniveling, crying and when he tossed me over his shoulder and carried me outside of his apartment locking me out, would I fling myself at the door, weeping, tearing at my flesh with unabated snot rolling down my face?
I think you might be able to figure out which scenario is most likely.
So let it be known my “Hubris” – i.e. certainty I was the better partner in that relationship, above rebuke, took a major hit when I found a letter from my former love two days ago.
Henry brought our Christmas boxes in from storage and with them a box of mine marked “Letters.” He thought I might enjoy looking through them. (Sweet Henry).
I found my college sweetheart’s letter mixed in with all of those Christmas cards from my aunt Joy.
These are the stories I tell about getting over an ex-boyfriend:
He cheated on me. (Yes, I had that fling with the boy in my scuba diving class, but that was just a reaction to my boyfriend’s cheating).
He made me feel insecure about my looks. He told me I had cellulite. (Yes, I said he had a big nose, but that didn’t count because he wasn’t insecure about it!)
He was mean, I was sweet, he was this, I was that … a rat a tat tat.
Here is an excerpt of the letter I found. He wrote it a few months after we broke up twenty-three years ago. Can it be?:
“Happy birthday. How old are you? 18-years old seems like yesterday. You are even more beautiful than that girl I gave a carnation to years ago. I think of you. You are so alive. At times I miss you, but you’re always close by. Stay true to your quest for greatness. Let nothing stop you. Nothing can…. when there is a need to feel overwhelming calm, think of me…and rest your head on the warm unwavering love and strength of my faith in you….”
Oh, dear. Memories came flooding back. Him writing “I love you” with his fingernail on a carrot stick he slipped to me at a tense family dinner.
Him pretending to give me a cigarette lighter for my 19th birthday when I didn’t smoke, then slipping a gold chain around my neck.
Water skiing side-by-side on Parker Dam. The two of us hugging and crying while listening to Chicago’s You’re The Inspiration on my bed at my mom’s house my freshman year. His heart hammering in his chest under my ear the night our relationship ended.
Here is the story I forget to tell: We fell in love when we were immature kids. We grew up together over the course of five years. We had just as many wonderful times as bad times. He loved me the best he could. I loved him the best I could. It ended kindly.
So for this holiday season, and hopefully longer, I’m setting aside my righteous indignation. My victimhood. My need to be right, therefore superior, and am remembering my long ago first love with affection, gratitude and wishes that he’s as happy as I am today.
I’d love to hear the stories you tell about the people in your life and the stories you’re willing to let go of.
And for those of you struggling in the dating world like I did opt-in below: