‘Have a good life’ is less of a brush-off than I thought

My ex-boyfriend is getting married.

I’m grappling with my feelings on this. Not because I’m grappling with my feelings for him — no; those feelings long ago warmed to nothing more than friendship . . . and today, not much of anything. I certainly don’t “hate” him — that would require me to feel much more strongly about him than I do. I don’t really feel much of anything about him, in fact.

The truth of the matter is, while we dated for more than two years, we were never in love. In the four short months in which I’ve known Spencer, he consumes so much of my daily brain power, thinking of the face I’ve probably seen just hours before — the way his eyes crinkle when he smiles; the tiny cleft in his chin; the way I feel when he takes my hand, pressing his palm flat against my own. I feel . . . happy. Loved. Secure. And beyond that? Excited. Giddy with the possibilities of it all. Eager for life and everything still to come. Happy to be a freshly-minted 25-year-old, a woman who found a man who makes her smile so much and so often.

P. was not that man. Though both technically “adults,” our relationship was childish — built more on an initial friendship than anything. At the time, I needed someone there to lean on; and at the time, he was there. We outgrew each other, plain and simple, and maybe things wouldn’t have gotten so ugly in the end if I’d been brave enough to face that. But I wasn’t.

Regardless, he’s getting married this month. Of the four men I seriously dated in six years, he’s the one I would have least expected to learn was tying the knot. Coincidentally, he’s also the youngest. I wish he and his new wife happiness, because I have no reason to wish them anything but pleasant things. Life is hard enough without carrying a grudge. And as I said, my feelings have fizzled and become so muddled toward P., being unhappy about his marriage would require me to care about his marriage.

I mean, it’s not that I don’t care. I’m not rude or heartless. I just mean that I don’t care care. I don’t care in the I-can’t-sleep, up-all-night, sick-to-my-stomach way. Not even remotely. In typical fashion, I’m just thinking that P.’s marriage means time is marching on — and I’m thinking about what all this means for me.

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Books boys convinced me to read

I’ve been fortunate to have loved a few boys who adored reading. Whether for entertainment or purely educational purposes, it would be rare to find them without a dog-eared paperback in their car or backpack. And though those relationships have — ahem — ended, the book knowledge they imparted lives on.

Like any devoted bibliophile, they would often try to convince me to pick up their favorite books. Some of them I will admit to actually enjoying! And some I read about twenty pages of and promptly decided they were going to put me in a coma.

But the overall experience of spending time with a book they considered important was in some way valuable — just like the relationships themselves! Sure, there’s a lesson to be learned in everything.

Now, before I go any further — if any of my past boyfriends happen to stumble across this post, I hope they won’t take offense to my thoughts (and occasional gentle ribbing). I don’t harbor hard feelings, and I appreciated their bookish tendencies! This is merely an exploration of the books shoved into my hands over the years. I hope they know I wish them well! Well — most of them, anyway. ūüôā


Books Boys Tried To Convince Me To Read

(Some With Success; Some With Utter Failure)

korgi Korgi by Christian Slade

Oh, the first of the many graphic novels a boyfriend convinced me to read! Korgi is the story of a young girl named Ivy and her — yes, you guessed it! — pet corgi named Sprout. They live in a world called Korgi Hollow and life is great up until the time when all these insects and monster things threaten the pair of them. Sprout is there to save the day, of course!

I have to admit to liking this one. I have a not-so-secret obsession with corgis, which is what Boyfriend knew, so he picked this one up for me.

And I have to admit that as much as I’m loathe to admit it, just typing this has made me feel sad about him! He so shared my love of books — it was ridiculous. If only we’d shared thoughts about many other things. But moving right along . . .

zen_art_motorcycle_maintenance Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig

This classic, originally published in 1974, has garnered some seriously glowing comments. One reviewer on Amazon called it “the most influential book in my life beyond the Bible.” I mean, whoa. A very sweet, awesome guy who would eventually become my boyfriend recommended it on our first real date, and I couldn’t have been more eager to pick it up!

Except . . . it was all downhill from there. No matter how much I wanted to like it, there was a total disconnect for me. I’m wondering if I tried to become engrossed now, at 24, I’d dig it more than I did at 20. I’m thinking the answer could be yes. I might return and see if I can find my own Zen one of these days.

catcher_in_the_rye The Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger

Ah, Holden Caulfield — anti-hero to the masses! As at countless other high schools across our great nation, The Catcher In The Rye was mandatory reading during my formative years — just for the grade-level above me. One of the boys I idolized and would later “date” (I use this term quite innocently) once told me this was his favorite book, and that was all the prompting I needed to grab my own copy when I was around sixteen.

I remember devouring it quickly, somewhat shocked by the content. I wasn’t any literary innocent, but the cynicism and wonder of New York through Holden’s eyes was a little bit strange. I don’t remember much of the plot now; in fact, I recently gave the copy I’d had on my dresser since high school away. I guess it’s just one of those books that faded into oblivion for me.

maus Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History by Art Spiegelman

Spiegelman’s classic graphic novel depicting his parents’ horrific experiences in the Holocaust is a profoundly moving take on World War II. The same comic-loving boyfriend made sure I was exposed to this one, knowing as he did my love of history and reading. I was shocked to find myself in tears by the end of it, and many of the book’s images have stayed with me in the years since I finished it.

on_the_road On The Road by Jack Kerouac

Another modern classic handed to me in high school! I tried unsuccessfully to read it at the same recommendation of the high school boyfriend, but couldn’t begin to process Kerouac’s “fictional” look at a group of friends making a cross-country journey toward . . . something. Enlightenment? Freedom? Youth? Happiness?

I gave the unread copy I had away only to purchase another one last spring. A coworker and I were talking about the “modern classics” — those books everyone claims to have read, but probably haven’t. We were both surprised to find On The Road on that list of books we’ve always wanted to read but haven’t — and, I’m sorry to say, I can still count it in that category. My hardcover has been sitting on a bookshelf gathering dust. I’m still interested to read about Sal Paradise and his motley crew of lovers, travelers and dreamers . . . and just might find myself in the mood for it soon.

bury_my_heart_wounded Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West by Dee Brown

Okay, I’m cheating a bit with this one — because the guy who suggested it was never technically my boyfriend (I just desperately wanted him to be). My raging high school crush brought everything he said, did and enjoyed into laser-sharp focus, and it’s impossible for me to forget the image of him hunched over after school with Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee clutched in his hands. While the rest of us were barely getting through our required reading, here he was reading something serious and historical and important. Needless to say, he seemed light-years above all the other knuckle-headed boys I knew!

The image of him with the book, and his tiny smile when I asked him what he was reading, is such a solid, visceral recollection that, years later, I would find myself running my fingers across a copy of the book in our history section at the bookstore where I worked. That dusty copy brought the memory close to me, fragile and personal.

enders_game Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

I have to admit that I was totally into this one — until I suddenly just wasn’t. I started it around May or June, read about sixty pages and promptly put it aside to grab some chick lit! It’s not my usual fare at all, and sometimes I’m willing to branch out . . . but after the boyfriend who suggested it and I broke up, I considered my casting it aside as an act of rebellion against the entire relationship! And I feel good about that.

I need you so much closer

death_cab_for_cutieI’ve had boyfriends introduce me to all sorts of music — artists I probably never would have listened to, or appreciated, had I not sat in their cars as songs blasted through our open windows or let the tunes lilt over us on lazy Sunday afternoons. To me, these artists are synonymous with the relationships — and when I think of a man I once loved, I invariably hear the opening chords of Death Cab For Cutie.

Yes — Death Cab is my Break-Up Band Du Jour.

First, their songs are just . . . sad.¬†And melodic. The lyrics are haunting, and they have a tendency to bury themselves in my skin and reappear at strange, unexpected moments. And despite being years removed from the first time I fell in love, I can still close my eyes and let “A Lack Of Color” or “Title And Registration” basically incapacitate me. It’s easy to feel confused and heartbroken anew with the same soundtrack blaring in the background.

So, despite the fact that I want to bawl my eyes out every time their songs pop up on my iPod, why do I keep listening to them?

Well, I love them, first of all.¬†Their music is complex but straight-forward — filled with simple tunes constructed in a unique way. The lyrics seem to pluck right at the heartstring I most don’t want plucked at a particular moment — and remind me why it is I fell in love with their songs — and¬†one man — all over again.

Would I have become so attracted to their music if I hadn’t been introduced to them by someone else? Probably not. His presence in my life — and his absence since — has shaped me far more than I would typically admit. And the music he exposed me to has been my companion since he left.

Is that the rock-hard truth here —¬†that I listen to his music to feel close to him?

This is the part where I’d probably curl up inside myself, shake my head furiously and deny it — probably spouting out a snarky comment or two, rolling my eyes and babbling self-righteously about how I’ve “moved on.”

But that’s dishonest.

So I’ll just play “Transatlanticism” a little louder, burying the¬†speakers deep inside my ears, and go on with¬†the day.

An unassuming jean skirt, or . . .

I may be a bit of a packrat, but I am generally pretty good about getting rid of clothes — whether it be because they no longer fit, they’re out of style, I just don’t like them, I’ve ruined them in some way . . . you know. There are a million reasons to get rid of old clothes, and only a handful of reasons to keep them.

Since the end of a particularly heart-breaking relationship several years ago, I’ve generally been able to pack up old things and place them in a nice little “boyfriend box” — a stash of momentos from past relationships I keep under my bed. I’m sure my current significant other isn’t thrilled about its existence, but I think he understands that some of that stuff . . . some of that just can’t chucked out. Whatever the reason I have for keeping old dog tags, photos, cards and printed e-mails (yes, I have printed out plenty of e-mails!), they’re all together in one common place, gathering dust out of sight but oddly still¬†within¬†reach.

Except for the clothes.

For years, I’ve tormented myself with constant reminders by keeping around old tops, skirts and sandals purchased when I was a completely different person — physically, emotionally. Even though I routinely go through all of my clothes and pack of bags of them to give to charity, there are a few items I just couldn’t bring myself to give away. Until this weekend.

img_4783

Exhibit A

I know — it’s an unassuming, albeit short, jean skirt. Probably not that trendy. Definitely doesn’t really wrap around me quite the way it used to . . . and it’s incredibly wrinkled from the years I’ve had it shoved in some dark,¬†cold recess of my closet. But I bought it on an important day . . . and wore it on an important day. But three and a half years later, I don’t need the jean skirt anymore.

I got rid of a lot of other clothes, too — clothes I thought I would have to save forever, just “because.” I read somewhere (or heard somewhere?) that if you’re emotional about having to part with something material, take a photo of it — you can keep the picture forever, but you don’t have to worry about the stuff taking up space in your house — and your heart — anymore. It’s just stuff.

To paraphrase¬†home organizer extraordinaire Peter Walsh, “Will you choose the stuff, or will you choose your life?”

Needless to say, I’m choosing my life.

So, goodbye to . . .

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Exhibit B

img_4788

Exhibit C

Exhibits D & E

Exhibits D & E

Not something you can easily part with

high_school_musical_3_poster My mom had David Cassidy. Friends had Rick Springfield, New Edition, New Kids on the Block and Michael J. Fox. My sister and I lovingly adored Hanson, ‘NSYNC and, occasionally, Devon Sawa and Jonathan Taylor Thomas (oh yes, J.T.T.!). And now, in yet another chapter of “teenage rites of passage,” my 12-year-old cousin has Zac Efron, the Jonas Brothers and “High School Musical.” It’s hard to believe we’ve already gotten to that teen-crush stage, but I’m happy we’re able to share some of that heart-pining misery!

Now, I’m 23 years old — not exactly beyond the realm of school-girl crushes. And I still have a few! Start up a friendly chat about John Mayer, James Franco or James McAvoy and I’m right there with my latest spate of celebrity gossip. Either I really dig boys with “J” names in general or I’m never beyond the realm of ogling a cute guy.

Do we ever really get beyond the realm of ogling a cute guy?

hanson

We still love Hanson!

And even though Hanson has been out of the limelight for ten years or so, my sister and I have religiously followed their careers, marriages, children and various other activities since I was 11 — and she was 8. Eight years old! That’s not something you easily part with.

And my mom reminded me in 1997, as she reminds me now, that these fads come and go — all young women need someone to screech and squeal and discuss at slumber parties and walks around the mall. Take the Beatles as Exhibit A. Does anyone really get over their first-time-discovery love of the Beatles? It’s pretty much impossible.

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