Monday, November 29, 2004

Mars/Venus: Breakups

That last post started me thinking about my long joyous history of being dumped. Most of it makes me laugh now when I look back and remember the drama with which the "relationships" ended, but I also look back with gratitude because sometimes my best lessons came as a result of the worst dumpings.

When I was in high school my boyfriend of 6 months, R, dumped me because I wouldn't do it with him but his "friend" D would (back in the day when being a freshman was waaaay too young for that kind of stuff. How quaint). I called and cried my little heart out to Steve, the senior class president, my svengali, and secret, unspoken, never-gonna-happen crush. I mean, Steve SHAVED. There was no way he was looking at 15 year old me twice. He was a Man. R was a Boy. I was in awe of his 5 o'clock shadow, his Monte Carlo with cool wheel rims, and his very earnest advice to ensure I would be class president all four years of high school. (It worked, btw).

Anyway, Steve was very kind, listening to me snuffle, snuffle, sniff, wail at 11pm (a call I could only make by being very quiet and sneaking back downstairs to use the phone when my parents were asleep). After about an hour of me wailing, "but I don't get it! He said he looooooved me!" Steve told me that I needed to meet his cousin N, who loved playing video games at the mall arcade. He was (awmigawd!) a sophomore, so he had a learner's permit and could totally pick me up at my house in his mom's car. I was still inconsolable, but figured I'd go since Steve was telling me I should. Well, one week later, N and I went to the mall, he bought us a Papa Gino's pizza, and then asked me out. He was dreamy, and he fit the perfect high school bill of moving onto the next person because you are at that age of constantly "chasing the new." The concept of a deep, abiding and comfortable love with one person over decades is something you imagine you want, but what you actually want is the constant rush of someone liking you, giving you butterflies, and always being NEW. Ah yes, N and I had a glorious high school romance that lasted for 5 blissful months--until he went to the beach for a week and cheated on me twice with some girl from New York... Story of my life!

I laugh now when I look back on high school and beyond, where I thought that being dumped was the worst thing to happen to me up until that point. Every single person reading this knows the feelings I'm talking about: rejection, sadness, grief, insult, disbelief, pain. And yet, the further away those feelings are chronologically, and the more intensely they were felt at the time, the funnier--and more educational--I find them today.

I look back on the R dumpage, and think "well, thank god he dumped me before I got convinced to do anything with him!" Bullet dodged. As I look at the N cheating/dumpage, I think about the lesson I learned and that has helped me to this day: honesty is the most important quality in my personal relationships. Anything else can be taught or learned, but you can't teach a man fidelity, honesty or integrity. He either has it or he doesn't, and you really need to find one WITH it. Yeah, everyone deserves a pass for messing up once. Good people can mess up once. But they don't mess up twice. On MessUp #2, what you have is a person with a bona fide dishonesty problem, and you need to be glad you found out sooner rather than later. N went on to marry another girl from our high school. Which didn't stop him from continuing to enjoy the attentions of others... Another bullet dodged.

In college, my boyfriend was a generally sweet guy who talked the talk of supporting me in my achievements, but who grew distant and moody any time I seemed to be doing "better" than him. No amount of me explaining that people in a relationship are on the same team, and a win/loss for one is a win/loss for both did any good at stopping the moodiness. I started to wonder if this might just be something I'd have to live with as part of his constitution. Until I got accepted into graduate school early, and his first words were, "But that means you'll be in a different city. What am I supposed to do while you're down in DC?" No "congratulations/I'm so proud of you/I knew you could do it." Nope. He then said that if I insisted on going to DC, then he would have to break up with me. Cue the high-schooly crying fit, the call to the parents, the drama of the rejection, the disbelief that this seemingly wonderful man just could not have support for me as his first impulse. My dad made me laugh by saying, "I want you to hang up this phone, consider yourself lucky for a moment that you didn't marry this man, then call him up and tell him that I say he is an A#$%^&le." I didn't make the call, but I did end up feeling lucky to have seen this side of him before we actually took the plunge. Yet another bullet dodged.

I guess what I am saying by way of detailing all of these now-ridiculous melodramatic episodes, is that sometimes what you think is the worst experience of your life turns out to be a valuable lesson without which you cannot move forward. How many people do we all know who date the same type of people, make the same mistakes, put up with the same disrespect, feel the same pain on breaking up, and yet just keep doing it over and over again and again? And then have no idea why they are still single, or in an unhappy marriage, or whatever? They see the pain of the situation as something to escape from, rather than as something to learn from. Yeah, as sad as it is that N and I didn't get married, live in that little town, and have tons of babies playing pop warner football while I worked as a bank teller on Main Street, the sadder thing is that he to this day has never figured out that the endless rush he keeps seeking from new and different women has always been there with his wife, has always been available in his marriage, if only he could open his eyes to see.

He obviously was not dumped enough.

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