Today I noticed on facebook it was the birthday of an old boyfriend, which got me remembering stories about other old boyfriends, and all the dips, bumps and smacks in the face on the road to finding love. Between my wonderful first and last loves, things were not so wonderful despite and possibly because of my desperate longing to get myself loved.
At 18, while attending community college, I met my first beau, who was funny, warm, sweet, generous, a bit adventurous and prone to take me out to candle-lit Italian restaurants. Coming from a life with an abusive father, my boyfriend was a darling refuge, plus he gave me the best gifts of anyone I’ve ever dated, even a new stereo one year. We rode fast in his Oldsmobile 442 all over the Jersey shore area, and although we eventually broke up after I went to the Midwest for college, I couldn’t ask for a better entry into the world of men. He’s happily married now, and we wish each other the best.
What happened next was a mixture of betrayal, apathy and oh-I-like-her-better-ness. I dates guys who told me:
- “Hey, did I tell you that I got back together with my old girlfriend last night? Isn’t that funny?” No, it is not funny.
- “I was three hours late because my dad’s truck broke down, and then a friend’s water pipe broke, and I need to leave early to give my dad a lift home” when really he was perpetually late and/or leaving early because he was dating someone else who kept him at arm’s length because she had trouble trusting him.
- “I really like you, but I’ve always seen myself with a tall, thin woman. I know it’s my problem, and I’ll work through it” a week before breaking up with me because I wasn’t tall or thin.
- “You’re great, really, but I kind of like your friend more” about 22 times.
- “We could go to bed, I could go running, or I could read a book — it’s all the same to me, so you choose.”
- “Oh, did we plan to meet last night? Sorry, my old girlfriend is back in town, and I must have forgotten about you.”
- “I’ve always seen myself with a woman with bigger breasts.”
- “I do love you, and I love her, too, so I want you both to be my wives at the same time.”
- “That girl? No, she’s my sister/cousin/best friend’s wife. Really.”
- “I have a date with Marla, but I could meet you about midnight if you’re free.”
- “So just need to give you a head’s up: I’m still in love with my old girlfriend, but hey, we can hang out.”
- “I don’t believe in monogamy. Want a pancake?”
- “Did I forget to mention that I’m gay? Soooorrrry!”
By the time I met Ken, when I was 22, and got involved with him a year later, I felt too old to date anymore. It also took me a long time, actually about five years, to get it through my head that he wasn’t about to dump me and head for the hills at top speed. 30 years later, all those old boyfriends have turned from a sign of my destiny into plot turns in a farce. Farces are stories in which everything seems like it’s going to hell in a hand basket only to land on a happy ending. I eventually got myself loved, and even more so, learned (and am still learning) how to love. If I had to do it all over again, I would certainly have dated less and read more good books, but I also thank the stars for all the long-ago detours that brought me here.