TFW You Step on the “Text Messages with your Ex” Landmine

I got a new phone this past October, just before I left for a two week sojourn in Germany and the UK. It was supposed to be faster and have a better camera than my previous phone. It had a lot of improvements and features I expected, and a few I didn’t… like all the text messages from my old phone. It seems that in transferring all my contacts, apps, and photos, I also transferred thousands of exchanges between myself and friends and family and exes.

I’ve said it in past posts, but I’ll say it again: text messages and emails with your exes are emotional landmines. Even when you think you’ve got them all safely contained, you stumble on one unexpectedly, and boom! Some part of you get obliterated in a cloud of smoke and verbal shrapnel. mobile.revolution

In this case, I had stumbled on an exchange between myself and Clark. It had been just about a year since we had dated and then not dated, and a few weeks since we had crossed paths and decided to start anew with a different tone. And then there they were — every text message sent from our first to our last.

One thing I’ve gotten very good at is moving on after something ends. With Clark, it was difficult, largely because we ended abruptly.  I had allowed myself to fall fast and hard for him, knowing that eventually, I’d hit the ground and that it might hurt. The ground came up on me faster than expected.

Lights on.

Lights off.

Thud.giphy (6).gif

I didn’t linger long on or pine for the sweet moments we shared. I stood up, shook it off, and pushed forward… with a visible emotional limp that would handicap me in what came next: a real relationship.

And then I read the texts. All of them. Separated from the exchanges by a year and a serious relationship, I was now a detached 3rd party — a voyeur looking into someone else’s relationship. I was sad for the couple in front of me. There was so much joy and promise in them. The chemistry was palpable. Then the final “hey. You up?” from her which triggered the break up email from him, and then a month later she said: “hey, I have mono. Pretty sure you gave it to me. #SoThisIs30.”

Now that we’re safely just friends, I’ve been tempted more than once to delete them all — especially the ones where he calls me beautiful or says how much he’s looking forward to seeing me or talks about kissing me in the ocean. I don’t want those around when I’m trying to forget that at one time, I thought I might have found a forever guy. And then I read this one and decide to keep them, because this is a good reminder of how I want to feel with each new “something”:

You can never tell if things are going to work at the start, but if we get to be our best selves for a while, then it will have been worth it. You make me smile. 

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The New Jewels in the Jewelry Box: Considering a Gem of an Ex

It was the patriot cluster of red, white, and blue that caught my eye as I walked past my office’s mail/copy room. The lone envelope in my mailbox was stocked with enough forever stamps to take it to the moon and back. When I saw the return address, I smiled warmly as I thought this was just like him. He never wanted to let me down or disappoint me. He would do whatever he had to to make sure the USPS wouldn’t fail me.

Inside the envelop, wrapped thoughtfully in a paper towel was my missing earring. A giant peridot-like stud that he had given me for Christmas and that I had left at his house weeks earlier, before we decided to part ways. The post of the earring had been bent in transit so it lay flat against the crystal  (or perhaps he had bent it before he sent it? Another precaution so it wouldn’t poke through the envelope and get lost en route? That was also just like him.) I started to try to unbend it… it wouldn’t budge. Just then, my boss walked into my office.

kate-spade-new-york-blue-faceted-small-square-stud-earrings-product-1-19644834-0-774214613-normal
They’re kind of the perfect earrings

“I have a jeweler who can fix that for you.”

“I have a pair of pliers.”

“You’d better heat it up then. Wouldn’t want to break it.”

That would have been ironic. I dropped the earring into a cup of boiling water and sat at my desk. I played our time together through my head as I let the metal warm.
Had he been different, had those earrings been different, I might not have asked for it back. Given how long we had been seeing each other when he gave them to me, they were the gift I least expected. Not only were they jewelry (remember the ex boyfriend who refused to buy me earrings?) they were the exact pair I had been stalking at the Kate Spade store near my work. It seemed that at only two months in, he had already figured me out.

And maybe he had since day one. Our first date had been 5-star, after all. He had worn a suit and tie. I had worn my favorite Milly skirt and red patent heels.  A refreshing change from the oh so many swipe-started first dates where I almost didn’t care if I had shown up in sweat pants.

The relationship that came before him had been defined by a lack of communication. Ours had been defined by intimacy — we had been open about our relationships past and our fears entering this one, about our personal short comings, and about the road blocks we had faced that  had in turn made us strong. We lusted after each other for the superficial things, but admired each other for the things that mattered. We weren’t afraid to take the risks that come with opening up.  He was the first guy I’d dated who ever showed any genuine interest in all the parts that made up my life — from the gallery to my family to my sport to my blog.

I took the earring out of the cup and bent the post back into place.  I’d been carrying around its mate in my purse and immediately, I popped the reunited pair into my ears. When he and I broke up exactly two weeks earlier I didn’t cry. When we broke up, I don’t know that I felt the feelings that make you want to cry. I don’t know that I felt anything but relief — I wasn’t making him happy, and let me tell you, being unable to make someone happy can be exhausting.

Later that night as I went to put the earrings into my jewelry box, I cried. Running through it all — from start to last text message — I realized just how final our good-bye had been and I was sorry for that. But at least I had this new favorite pair of earrings, and to always wear with them, a cache of warm memories and lessons about life, love, and Legos.

 


Author’s note:

In something of an ironic twist, about two weeks later I lost the earring again, at an art fair. This time, it is clearly for good. Lesson learned: somethings are just not meant to be.

Ghostbusting: Considering The Disappearing Boo

Dating these days is like something out of a made-for-TV Halloween special. When we’re coupled off, we have our “boo.” And when we want to extricate ourselves from something perhaps in need of an exorcist, we ghost.

casper
As a tween, I had a crush on Casper (well, on Devon Sawa.) But as a grown-up, being Caspered isn’t so friendly.

Over the summer and again in November, the New York Times committed a good amount of print space to the act of ghosting, or the childish act adopted by grown-ups of giving someone the silent treatment… permanently. But as any Millennial and older knows, if by the time you’re 30 you haven’t been ghosted by someone you’re dating and/or ghosted someone you’re dating, then you haven’t really dated.

The November New York Times Modern Love piece on ghosting followed the progressing mental stages of a woman who had just been ghosted by a guy she had been seeing for two weeks. I couldn’t entirely tell to what degree the piece was satirical (two weeks? And she’s flipping out? I don’t even add a guy into my contacts until week four, let alone make an emotional investment at two… especially in this age of the disappearing boo…. jeeeez). But her piece made the point that the silence forced on us by the ghoster is a trigger. We look in the mirror and ask, “What’s wrong with me?” And then we find 1,005 answers (some valid, some hogwash) to that question.

When I was a tween, I had a crush on Casper the Friendly Ghost (well, I had a crush on Devon Sawa, to be clear.) But as an “adult,” being Caspered isn’t so friendly. Being ghosted is just like any other kind of break-up — it can lead us to believe we are unloveable.

Being ghosted by someone we’ve just started dating is highly insulting and yet, when there’s no relationship to break-up from, sometimes it really is the most humane way to end it. Like ripping off the band aid, or a single shot to the head.

When he or she just isn’t that into you, sometimes silence is the clearest and kindest message. Sometimes there just isn’t much to explain — this thing just doesn’t feel right.

“Thanks for your voice message,” Chris said to me in a text. “Most people don’t show that kind of courtesy. Maybe we can be friends?”

Chris is a guy I had a handful of working day midday dates with. I was just out of a long term relationship. He worked in a building a 5 minute jaunt from my office and lived in a rented house 15 minutes from where I lived. He liked outdoor things and to read books, real books as opposed to a Kindle. Sometimes, we ran into each other in the Wednesday Farmers Market. When we sat down to lunch or a coffee break, it was a pleasant hour or so. But when we parted ways, I just didn’t feel it. He sent me a text to plan a second “real” date. I called him to say, thanks, but I wasn’t ready to start dating again. A partial lie — had he been a little different, had things felt a little different, I would have been ready to date again.

“Yes. You can never have a shortage of good friends!”

“Great. How about friends who make-out. You have gorgeous lips.”

“Don’t push your luck, buddy.”

Chris and I never hung out again. But not because someone pulled a disappearing act. We wanted different things and paid each other the courtesy of sharing that fact.

But had I ghosted him, would he have been surprised or hurt? Probably not. It wasn’t a relationship. It was a few public sightings, exchanges, and some dates.

Now, Ghosting a longer-term partner? That’s just cowardly.

Ghosting a friend? That should be a one-way ticket straight to hell.

Because here’s the thing: Once you have a measurable past with someone, they deserve to know that you don’t want to have a present or future with them. 

You can leave out The Why, because The Why is only important if you want to try to fix things. But tell them good-bye. Friends and girlfriends/boyfriends have earned certain rights, and one of them is the courtesy of a break-up.

Even a post-it note break-up is better than a ghosting.

post it break up

 

 

The Dates that Teach you to See Differently

Is that my date? I said to myself. Is that my date LEAVING before I even get there? Am I being stood up? Does he think I can’t see him under that umbrella??!?!?  I pulled the parking stub out of the muni-meter, threw it on my dashboard, and clomped the half block to the steps of the Met.

This was my first time in heels since tearing a ligament in my knee exactly one month and 7 days earlier — I was already regretting the decision.

Pause. Set scene. Flash back to a year ago this August:

I had cashed in a sick day to catch-up on medical bills and made the decision to rain check dinner with an old flame in order to make time in my weekend for a first date. This move was out of character for me — when I give someone space on my calendar, I don’t bump them for “a better deal” — but in this case, it was a choice between looking back and moving forward. Even though dinner with my ex promised to be platonic (and fun), my gut told me I should move forward.

It was in an effort to move forward, after all, that I committed to a one-month, full-paid membership on “How About We.” I gave myself 30 days of open waters fishing. What got caught in the net was a tall, sharp-witted, Ivy-League, UES-inhabiting “Construction Worker.” The Village People stand-in showed intelligence and a sense of humour in our exchanges — he didn’t get thrown back into the sea.

Meet me at the Met
Meet me at the Met

The Met museum would be the site for this first rendez-vous, and as I made my way to 5th Avenue and 82nd, it occurred to me that I didn’t really know what this guy looked like.

What had won me over was a sense of humor and obvious intelligence. The handful of profile pictures gave me no real sense of his appearance, other than that he was brunette and tall enough to see the top of my refrigerator. That wasn’t enough to help me pick him out in a crowd.

I found a parking spot off Madison on 82nd. I sat in my car waiting to purchase my parking ticket, when I stepped out to see a vaguely familiar man in blue gingham walk right by me, half looking at me out of the corner of his eye.

Oh, god. Please let that not me him. 

I was reasonably sure I was being stood up, but I was a few blocks from a friend and knew I’d be able to muster a plan b if Mr. High Rise had pulled a runner.

Oh, no. It’s him. I let out an audible sigh as the man in the blue gingham and the umbrella walked towards me in the Great Hall, hand out-reached and a sheepish look on his face. That’s right, bud. I caught you. I assumed his showing up meant I had at least earned a check in the “looks” column, and for that I convinced myself I was flattered.

The truth is, generally, I don’t like museum outings as first dates. To me, walking around the hushed galleries, swapping insights, is an intimate experience. Gut told me this was a bad idea, especially when our pre-date phone conversation went something like this:

“You live on the upper east side? We could meet at the Met.”

“The Met?”

“The Metropolitan Museum of Art.”

“Errrr….”

“You’ve heard of it?”

“Yea…..”

“You’ve been there?”

“Maybe? When I was in college?”

Standing in the great hall, staring up at a seemingly friendly giant who had absolutely no preference which way we headed, I suggested we move towards Greece. As we fumbled our way around the Museum, we fumbled our way through each other’s back stories. I thought I knew that museum about as well as well as the back of my hand, but as we walked together, we happened onto nooks and collections I didn’t know existed. Meanwhile, he impressed me with simple but insightful reminiscing — the tile work here reminded him of the tile work in this hotel in Egypt. Did I know this pattern stood for this, etc.

We were ushered out with the final museum patrons.

I could go on about the rest of the night, but I’ve already gone past what I’m pretty sure is most blog-readers word count attention span. And so I’ll hurry to a conclusion:

Despite the facts that he wasn’t my type, he almost stood me up and a few other warning signs, we dated for nearly sin months and broke a lot of rules together (“Stay Out” signs were recommended suggestions.) For the most part, I forget we ever happened, but standing in the Met last weekend, wandering through the Charles James exhibition and some of the other wings, I flashed back to our first meeting and realized: There are people you meet in your life, and people you date who teach you to see differently, who literally show you new things about yourself or about the places you thought you knew.  But sometimes, to let yourself see, you have to go against your better judgement and accept the consequences of being just a little more enlightened.

Upgrade Available. Click to Start

Men should not only go to, but should be like gyms.
Men should not only go to, but should be like gyms.

“Men should be like gyms,” a Park Avenue Power Lawyer, breast-cancer survivor and mother of 2 grown children advised me. “Conveniently located.”

This is a rather good criteria, and it’s true that of late, real estate has been a deciding factor in romantic endeavors. When I discovered the guy I started dating last summer had an apartment on the upper east side, a stone’s throw from the Met, a block from my favorite Italian market, across the street from my doctor, and directly above a restaurant with the best gnocchi on the planet, I was sold.

Mr. UES had a small handful of things going for him, but the location of his apartment — the fact it wasn’t in Brooklyn and came with the opportunity for a proper pied a tere in my most frequented neighborhood — persuaded me to ignore the inclining that this was a poor match and thus helped lock him in as my one and only.

It was sinkholes like this on the road to my ex's apartment that killed my beloved car
It was sinkholes like this on the road to my ex’s apartment that killed my beloved car

As our relationship progressed into the winter, I made it a habit to bypass public transportation in favor of driving to his apartment. For the last 10 years, I’d been driving my first car. It was a compact SUV, invaluable in schlepping artwork around the Hudson Valley and I’m convinced it could drive my favorite routes through Manhattan by itself. I knew its time was limited, but it was a car built to last… and it would have, if it wasn’t for my ex-boyfriend, the Major Deegan and global warming.

If you were living anywhere in North America this winter, you’re well aware of the havoc the cold and snow inflicted on the roadways. The drive to his apartment was riddled with sinkholes, most of which were hidden by poor street lighting and other vehicles. The drive to Mr. UES’s apartment on snowy winter evenings bent the underbelly of my beloved FreeLander in half.

And then, in the coldest heart of winter, we broke up.

Not only did he refuse to buy me earrings for Christmas and never took a duster to his furniture, he broke my car.

With my 4-wheel companion for the last decade deemed irreparable, I started shopping for a replacement. It was time for an upgrade.

It was the day I settled on a Ranger Rover Evoque that I met the foreign athlete turned PhD engineer and agreed to dinner. A new car. A new boyfriend. It felt like upgrades all around. Needless to say, I got over the broken car and the broken heart in the time it took to sign the paperwork.

machine fail
Transportation Upgrade Fail

Not. So. Fast.

2 weeks into my new car, and it was being towed out of the supermarket parking lot on a flatbed. A part was faulty. I couldn’t get it out of park. 2 weeks into life with a loaner car, and 4 weeks into our romance, Le Monsieur showed his true colours.

I was paying for a car I didn’t have and I had already ended two relationships before the end of the new year’s first quarter.

It seemed my upgrade came with a virus.

But luckily, viruses usually can be treated. Just in time for my 3rd month’s car payment, the dealer called to tell me the new part had arrived from the UK and was replaced. I could come pick-up the car whenever I was ready.

So now, a few months later than I planned, I have my new, twice upgraded car. It’s a silver Ranger Rover Evoque with black leather interior. It has a push start and heated steering wheel. The panorama roof comes standard. The soundtrack heavily featuring songs like “Diva” and “Bad Girls,” and “Fancy” is driver-supplied.

If you ask nicely, maybe I’ll take you for a ride sometime…

Upgrade complete.

Panorama sunroof: check. Bad ass playlist: check. Feeling pretty cool behind the wheel of my new car: check.
Panorama sunroof: check. Bad ass playlist: check. Feeling pretty cool behind the wheel of my new car: check.

 

 

 

 

 

The Worst Break-Up Ever

90sbffThe worst break-up I ever survived was not with a boyfriend. It was with my best friend.

When I got my college freshman room assignment, the first thing I did was shoot an IM to my teammate, Suki. We were only slightly better than acquaintances, but we lived in the same area, trained at the same fencing club, and were both going to be spending our next 4 years at Columbia together. Great news! We were assigned single rooms a floor apart. We spent our summer preparing for college life by becoming bosom buddies. By the time orientation week started, we were thick as thieves, bonafide best friends.

As the year unfolded, our bond as friends grew stronger. There were few things we did apart. This was our first big mistake. We were always invited to things as a set, and when only one of us were invited to things, we’d usually bring the other. While we were each on different academic courses and had a handful of friends that didn’t overlap, for the most part we were peas in a pod, attached at the hip — one person to the majority of the outside world.

Nothing could possibly come between us. But 19 year old girls can let anything come between them, and in our case, it was 2… make that 3 boys.

What exactly happened over the course of a year and half is less important than the fact it culminated in me calling her a slut, she locking me out of our shared dorm room and both of us flushing our friendship down the toilet. She had picked boys over our friendship while putting other relationships at risk. I take loyalty very seriously. There was no option for recovery.

We had timed our break-up well — a week before reading week, 2 weeks before finals, and a month before we called it quits for summer recess. We lived together, but she had an upperclassman friend who would let her crash at his place on week nights. I’d go home on the weekends. Without coordinating it face to face, we had worked out how to avoid each other.  There was a mural on the wall behind our beds — something we had started working on one sleepless night when we didn’t feel like studying but never really finished — I took a sponge to it.

I sat in a kind of quiet depression through that summer. I was fragile and jaded. I had confided in her in a way I had never confided in someone before — she knew all my secrets. How could I trust anyone — friend or lover — again? I lashed out at friends that tried to push us back together. Perhaps a few other relationships fell by the wayside. The collateral damage was almost too large to measure.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that 9 out of 10 boyfriends become ex-boyfriends. But best friends, those are supposed to last a lifetime… so when best friendships come crashing down, we’re left feeling abandoned, betrayed, and wounded in a way no significant other can ever effect us.

Of course, a decade later you get the benefit of saying “things happen for the best.” And for us, the end of our friendship was probably the best thing that ever happened to us both. She found true love outside our complicated polygon. We found our unique identities. I moved on, and while I’m more cautious about who I let into my life, years later, I learned to trust again.