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 driving, erratically, 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 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 and 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.
  • The two of us, water skiing side-by-side on Parker Dam.
  • The night we hugged and cried while listening to Chicago’s, You’re The Inspiration, on my bed at my mom’s house 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.

getting over an ex-boyfriend
                                                        (Hey 19.)

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.

17 thoughts on “The Ghosts Of Boyfriends Past”

  1. Memories, right? My story in a nutshell (gonna be part of my screenplay one day, so no swipesies): met my soulmate when I was 5-1/2 and he was 6. He was absolutely the best friend I have ever had in my entire life. We were inseparable. So many grand adventures and secrets shared; he insisted we become “blood brothers”. We didn’t care about who was a boy and who was a girl till I turned 11. The love bug bit hard. I wore his ID bracelet. Our parents were naturally thrilled since they had grown up together; they had planned for us to marry since I was born. He started going to another school. I got a bad crush on a boy who hated me and I knew would never have anything to do with me, but felt like I was betraying my soul mate and broke up with him. He didn’t speak to me again for years. We moved away. Touched base with him a few times and then we reconnected when I was divorcing the first time (at age 38). By that time, he was completely addicted to anything he could get his hands on, got arrested 1/2 mile from my house for DUI after a 12-hour drive. I didn’t bail him out.
    We spoke only a few times after that. He died in his sleep at age 42, thinking I hated him.
    Me, so self-righteous and indignant; him just HIMSELF, the same person I had always worshipped and adored.
    He is the yardstick by which all future love in my life will be measured.

    Tissues, anyone?

    1. Shannon Colleary

      Jesus Sadie — I’m so sorry for your loss. It sounds like his addictions were his life partner. I went to Al-Anon for quite a while and I just no that no amount of love or kismet can fix that. Don’t be too hard on yourself. xo

  2. Now HOW am I supposed to follow up Sadie?!?

    Long story short. Dated a guy for 5+ years. All 4 years in high school and then some.

    He loved me something crazy. I was kinda bitchy to him. But we hung in there for some reason.

    When I turned 21, I told him to give me 6 months of freedom. To do what I wanted. It was my cop-out way of hoping he’d just disappear rather than being upfront and honest about my dying feelings for him.

    He asked no questions and did just that. 6 months to THE DAY…he called. He said, “OK. I’ve given you 6 months. Can we be ‘us’ again now?”

    I totally broke it off. He was heartbroken for a while.

    He’s now married with kids and I’m divorced with none.

    We caught up through Facebook and 25 years down the line, we now see it was a good decision. He married a wonderful girl and has two great kids.

    He’s certainly NOT the man for me…but I sometimes wonder where life would have taken me if at that 6 month mark we would have gone back to being ‘us’ again.

    Apparently, I tossed out “long story short” somewhere at 6 months.

    1. Shannon Colleary

      Hi Carrie — I often wonder where I would be today if I’d married the boy I wrote about today. He married the girl that came right after me and I know they had one child and probably more. In a very gentle way he let me know we couldn’t be in communication once his marriage began, which was so wise on his part. I was the one who finally ended our relationship because I’d discovered acting and writing and other boys and really needed to figure out who I wanted to be. It took me … hmm… let’s see … 10-15 years? I finally married Henry at the ripe age of 36 and Henry 41. Both our first marriages. (And last if I have a say). We were late bloomers. But I am grateful for my college sweetheart, he taught me I could be loved and could also survive loss and heartbreak. Sounds like you know that about yourself too. Kisses to you.

    1. Shannon Colleary

      Hello Enbankment!! As I recall you helped me through many a crying jag over that boy/man. And yes you are right, Henry is my soulmate. Poor chap.

  3. Shannon,

    I didn’t know you’d been to Al Anon.

    Sadie, I hope you don’t mind me chiming in, however, I know many if not all alcoholics and addicts are often very sensitive people- even hyper-sensitive. I know because I’m in rehab for alcohol right now as I write this, and have heard many, many stories saying the things I’ve always felt since I was a child. That they never felt “normal” or comfortable in their own skin until they drank.

    I guess I’m saying don’t blame yourself. Your love sounded like a beautiful person and I’m so sorry for your tragic loss.

    Shannon- on another note- you are such a talented blogger and you deserved to be on that list that shall not be named! Xo- Heidi

    1. Shannon Colleary

      Heidi — we should both be on that list. I’m going to be pitiful and bitter for a couple of days and then I’m never entering another voting contest again! I’m sending you lots of love right now. You can do this! xoxo

  4. Those days were crazy – but they were also the best to be able to look back on to realize how much was learned and survived. You are the amazing person you are because of all the shiztha (paige word) that you experienced before you found out who you truly are. Thank you so much for sharing yourself with us – we love you for it!!
    And… so thankful you waited for the best guy ever!!

    1. Shannon Colleary

      I definitely saved the very best for last. And Henry’s abs are better than the ex. Right sweetheart??

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