Why is is that when relationships end, we look back, and torturously idealize, and rewrite, the reality of our actual stories?
At first, I told myself that my story sounded like this:
I met him on Bumble, and set my expectations low, per previous disaster app dates.
He picked an Irish pub to meet at, likely from a hint I not so subtly dropped about backpacking Ireland last year.
He was sitting at the table, with a goober smile and a hellacious jacket, and immediately I was smitten by his dad-joke about it being made of “boyfriend material”.
He bought the first round, but let me get the next, probably because I had already tested the waters with a joke about toxic masculinity (and Republicans).
He talked with me about bad habits, pet peeves, religion, politics, and sex–all things typically off limits, paradoxically sealed the fate of our certain second, third, and fourth date.
He took me ice skating on the Frog Pond, and make a point system for all the times I knocked over innocent bystanders.
He impressed me with his cooking, and we shared a first kiss over my favorite episode of The Office.
He helped my roommates decorate the plastic Christmas tree, and won them over with his anything-but-plastic charm.
He took me to the symphony, I wore a little black dress, rolled my eyes at the stereotype, but simultaneously swooned at the sentiment.
He treated my body like a temple, and taught me to do the same.
But when five months had gone by, and I asked him for more, he kindly said no.
The ending of my story is the only reality that I could not retouch, no matter how often I replayed it. In time, I let myself recognize that my story was not a novel to purify and publish for the masses, but rather an unedited, rough draft, for me, and only me, to consume and feel.
Because, when I met him at the Irish pub, and he talked about all things off limits, I noted a few red flags.
When he kissed me after my favorite episode of The Office, I semi-facetiously asked “How are you single,” and he just laughed it off.
When he decorated the plastic christmas tree two weeks after my grandfather passed, he offered kind condolences, nothing less, but nothing more.
When he took me to the symphony in a little black dress, it was the first time I had seen him in several weeks.
When he treated my body like a temple, I sometimes wondered…I often wondered, if my mind was included in that sanctuary.
And when I told him I needed more, and he said no, he told me that he would be okay, but didn’t ask if I would be.
My challenge to you, brilliant, sharp, courageous women (including myself), is in our efforts to heal, and not rewrite and idealize, is to also not rewrite and villainize.
He made me laugh, when I needed it
Kissed me hard, when I wanted it
And let me leave, when I asked for it
What a thing of beauty, and pain, and grace, it is to leave a place with only affection, and let it remain so.