Saturday, March 3, 2012

Relationship Time Of Death

It was a warm spring day and I sat in the back of the the church on the bride's side. Besides the obvious issues of attending mass for a long lapsed Catholic, the groom was my ex-husband.

Eight years earlier we had stood outside and exchanged vows. Six short months later, on a much sunnier day, we were divorced. And I really didn't think of it much after that.

A year before this day I had returned from Tennessee to boring Tim's house. I had met my ex's girlfriend almost by mistake and we had oddly become friends. I was the one she came to with odd questions about her perspective in-laws, odd questions about what happened during the first marriage and weird shots she couldn't stomach drinking.

She had specifically requested that I be there. So on a bright sunny Friday (as opposed to our foreshadowing, rainy, record setting cold wedding day) there I was in church sitting next to Tim.

Most people can tell you when they knew they loved someone. This is not one of those stories. Quite the opposite. This one of those stories where you know it's over.

We were half way through the mass the the pastor's homily got to me. He said in their pre-martial counseling he has asked the couple to list three reasons why they loved each other. His list included how good he felt being around her, her clearly defined goals and her excellent communication (he's my ex and I think he has selective hearing on this communication thing). She included how happy he always is to see her, that he always does the right thing and that he keeps his temper in check when they argue (this last one made me laugh because I found it to be one of his more irritating qualities).

And that's when it hit me. I had no reasons why I loved Tim. Because quite frankly I didn't. We had dated 5 months on the first go around. And 13 months on this try. Way longer than my standard rule of "if you don't know in a year you're never going to know."

And I had not one reason left. I used to think he was a hard worker and that we wanted similar things out of life. But now not so much. Way not so much.

Most women will tell you going to a wedding with a date is usually a romantic thing. My ex took me to his sister's wedding one month after we met, introduced me to his entire family and then sometime late in the night told me he loved me for the first time. This was not like that at all. Even though Tim had to know I was nervous beyond reason (see the old in-laws after 8 years? good times) he never once told me I looked nice, or held my hand or really anything. And as the priest kept talking I followed his gaze across the aisle to another woman's low cut dress. And rather than being upset I silently chuckled to myself, "More power to you buddy. If you think you have a chance with her by all means do."

Later in the night as the DJ announce the last dance he asked me to dance. And as the new bride exclaimed, "Holy crap. Tim and Jennifer dancing? This has to be a first."

And a last.

Monday, February 2, 2009

I Want to Sleep on a Twin-sized Bed

I want to sleep on a twin-sized bed. A strange wish for a woman of 36 I know. And I just don't want to sleep on a twin-sized bed alone. I want company. As with most things in my life the universe had to tell me twice (well maybe three times). And it all started almost twenty years ago.

I've told the story to two different men ( I guess one could say too different men also because they are like day and night) and gotten two different responses.

But it's about a third man at least in the beginning. Almost twenty years ago I started seeing my college boyfriend Doug. But I still lived in the dorm and he had entirely too many weird roommates (apologies to John, Greg and Eddie). So there was a choice to be made. And for some odd reason a guy well over six feet tall choose to sleep with me on a twin-sized bed. And not just now and then. All the time, every night for an entire semester. I'm not sure how it really worked but it did.

And then I moved to Nashville to be with him and our furnished studio had a full-sized bed. And the following year we bought a house and a queen-sized bed arrived. And three years after that we returned to Michigan and a huge king-sized bed arrived.

And then we were done.

Doug and I didn't make it as a couple but we're still great friends. I've known him half my life and no matter what happens we always want the best for each other. A few years ago we were out catching up over dinner. And he said to me, "Remember sleeping on that tiny bed together? It should have been miserable but I don't think we were ever happier. And as the bed got bigger I think our relationship got worse." And I thought about sleeping on the far edge of the king-sized bed for the last few weeks, so far away that I couldn't even touch him. He was right. The bed was a metaphor for our entire relationship. "What you need," he said, "was someone you really would sleep with on a tiny bed."

A few years later I was enjoying the post sex afterglow, snuggled under someone's arm. "This is really nice," he said. "What's really nice?" And to my surprise it wasn't the view or the decorating. "The bed." And that's when I started with the squinty look. "This is a queen size right? It's nice; you're not so far away. We had a king and I spent the whole night trying not to touch her." And then I told him my bed size theory.

What I really want is someone to sleep on a tiny bed with again.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Happy Belated Birthday

I meant to write this weeks ago but my life got in the way.

The last time I would talk to Rick he made it very clear that we would not be getting back together. Ever. And while I chewed on that idea (and it took me a long time because I didn't care for it) he decided to try to make me feel better. He chose the topic of the top things he would always cherish about our relationship. This struck me as odd for a lot of reasons. First: the last and perhaps only time anyone had used the word cherish in reference to me since my wedding. And we all know how that ended.

His list was surprising. It involved a trip to the local bookstore. I really should have let him buy me something in hindsight. And I still think of him when I go there.

The second thing was the smell of my hair on his pillow. By this point I was crying. I don't remember what the third thing was.

I never told him the things I would never forget. I turned the conversation to something else. He had a lot going on in his life and I was worried about him in a strange role reversal.

But two weeks ago, on his birthday, I called. Got his voicemail and left my usual message.

And then it hit me. There were two or three slightly smaller things that I had always adored about him. And one huge thing that we didn't ever say or do but probably affects every relationship I've been in since him.

First the smaller things. And if anyone ever tells you the little things don't matter I call BS. The devil is in the details as they say.

I've never been much of a morning person and apparently my boss had told Rick this in no uncertain terms. But every morning we spent together was a good morning for me. He would get up and take a shower and then for some unknown reason put on a robe and get back into bed to cuddle with me. Just to ask if I had slept well. What was I going to do that day. He would tease me that I didn't seem tooo crabby in the morning. Ten minutes just for me.

For years I wouldn't have been caught dead in my glasses. Most people don't even know I wear glasses even though I've had a rather thick pair since the late 80's. He always wanted to see them and I always said no. Until we went to the bookstore.

And this ties in with item two. No matter where we went or what I had on he always said, "you look beautiful." And I always squirmed at the idea. I'm not great with compliments. But he always told me. Time and time again. I never believed him until the very last time. We were over; he had been very clear. I had stopped by to check on him because I was worried. And right before I walked out the door there it was again. I always thought he told me I was beautiful because he wanted something from me. But that day it occurred to me that he really meant it.

But the biggest thing I took away from our relationship was to never hold back. I had been halfway "in" with him and I had lost. And while he sometimes questioned the seeming reckless abandon with which I threw myself into my subsequent relationships I did not. It seemed illogical to him that I would risk so much of myself so often. But I had lost him because I had held back. And I have honestly never done that since. I don't question if I tried hard enough or what I could have done either.

He's a big poker player and I hope he understands that now when I play this game I play all in.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Early 90's Flashback

It was a hot day in July and as usual we were hanging outside in the garage having an impromptu party. Barbeque, music, some cult classic movie we had seen a hunrded times on mute, cigarettes and assorted other vices. I was, as usual, told I was overdressed.

The iPod was set on random and with more than 10,000 songs perhaps random was an understatement. And then there it was. The song that would make me 18 all over again. I threatened the life of Jay who was just about to press the skip button and ruin my moment. He knew what the song was but did not know its personal significance. Probably because he had been 13 at the time.

I had my four minutes uninterrupted with the volume on high and managed to not break out dancing when Melissa looked at me with that, "I know what this is about," look. And all I had to say in reply was, "Mix tape."

"Oh my God. I know exactly what you mean. I LOVE mix tapes. I swear I've kept every mix tape any guy has ever made me. Even my stupid ex. There's nothing like a good mix tape." And this is when the men started looking at us strangely. I don't usually engage in girl talk but this was an exception; I had flipped into full girlie mode and it appeared I had at least one girlfriend going with me.

The mix tape was becoming a long lost art in some ways. "I don't see what the big deal is," said Jay,"you can burn a whole CD in like 3 minutes now. It used to be hard picking out the songs to make the tape sides come out even. Now it's just too easy."

Melissa and I exchanged looks. "I would kill for a good mix tape right now." "Yep."

The closest thing to a mix tape I've gotten lately was when Paul gave me all his music to load on my iPod. Close but still no mix tape.

Downstairs in a battered box that traveled with me on both 700 mile moves is a cassette tape with a yellow cover. The first song is Alive by Love and Rockets.

Just because it was easy didn't mean it wasn't worthwhile.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Tell Me Something Good

"Tell me something good," was the request. So a happy story for Turkey Day.

I'm not sure how the topic came up. I do remember where we were however. It must have been January. We were in the throes of winter and I was in the middle of that warm, fuzzy in love phase with Paul. I was laying on the bed, smiling at the ceiling.

And out of nowhere, "Do you make wishes at fountains?" I turned to face him with that scrunched up face that was universally undersood to mean, "Huh?"

"Do you throw coins in fountains and make a wish?"

"Well for a while I didn't. Didn't seem to be working so I stopped. Amusing question though."

"So when did you stop?" He might as well have asked, "When did you become so cynical and jaded?" But he's a nice guy.

"I don't know. Maybe when I was 25 or so. Right around the time the insomnia started I guess."

"And when did you give it another go? What made you start wishing again?" he was clearly on an inquisitive mission and I was going along to see where it took me.

"It was Wes. On our first date we walked past a fountain. It seemed like we passed them a lot for a while. He always gave me a coin and told me to make a wish. But apparently, since my wish never came true, it doesn't work for me."

"You think? Maybe you've been doing it wrong."

More scrunched up face on my part.

"You need to find someone who will wish your wish with you." he said simply.

And as I looked at him and smiled he continued, "I would wish your wish with you."

It was things like things like that, things that could make your day. Little things and everytime I saw a fountain I would remember. And I would wish for his wish instead.

My favorite fountain was closed, Michigan winters are rough on wishing I guess, so I drove past it to an indoor wishing spot. Threw my coins in the fountain and made my usual wish.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

G(u)ilt Gifts

It was the time of year I dreaded for multiple reasons: freezing rain, crowds, holiday hell and as a final topper another year older for me.

But that's not the only reason, the guilt gifts either appear or are spurred on by this time of year.

Upstairs, spread out in small jewelry boxes randomly placed around the room, are several pieces of very nice jewelry. And to the casual observer it would be just that. But if one takes a closer look and really pays attention; it's clear that these are not the gifts of any one giver. Some are white gold, some are yellow, some are my birthstone, some are merely pretty. But all are guilt gifts.

The first guilt gift came from Rob. I have a terrible habit of starting to date someone right around the holidays and we had agreed christmas presents would not be exchanged. But three weeks later is my birthday. And here's where the foot met the banana peel that time.

He would call on his way home from work and announce that he was at the mall, a dreaded location for most men. "I'm at the mall. What do you want?" The question was alarming on every level to me. It put the onus on me to determine both the tone of the gift (romantic, practical, silly) and the price (how much of a gift did I deserve). And you know the anxiety that comes when you know that nothing you can say will affect a good outcome for you? Well put that here. "What do you want? There's Williams Sonoma, Parisian, Banana Republic. What do you want?" The obvious answer was that I didn't want to be having this conversation but I had already started it and was floundering to get out of it.

"I'm sure whatever you get me will be fine."

"No, really. What do you want. I have no idea." Which was heard by me as, "What do you want? I have no idea and I don't want to even try to think about it. I'm not even going to attempt to put any thought into buying you a birthday present."

"Well whatever. I'm sure you'll find something I'll like."

"If you don't tell me what you'd like I won't buy you anything." Which I thought was some sort of crazy bluff. Laugh with me not at me please.

And nothing was exactly what I got.

I remember at one point during the ensuing argument saying, "And you thought nothing was a good idea?" "Well, that's what you said. I didn't think it was a big deal."

Newsflash: it's always a big deal. Even bigger when it's going to hurt my feelings. Assume it will always hurt my feelings just to be on the safe side. My thinking that you give a crap will always be a big deal. And when I finally decide that you definitely don't give a crap it will be an even bigger deal.

I think I got my point accross.

On Valentine's Day an overly gradiose present appeared; a ruby and diamond pendant. "I screwed up your birthday so I thought I should get you something nice." Mixed feelings on that one for me. It was lovely. But he only bought it for me because he felt guilty.

We barely made it until the end of the month. I tried to give the guilty present back but he refused. "I bought it for you because you deserve nice things. Keep it. Wear it."

A day late but not a dollar short.

The next guilt gift would come the following year on my birthday. Because he had pulled up lame on Christmas I got a pair of amethyst earrings. "I hate buying you jewelry but I really felt like a jerk because you went to so much trouble on Christmas for me." Somehow not the sentiment I was looking for. But hey, earlier in the evening I had been bawling my eyes out at a 5 star restaurant in downtown Detroit so go figure. We didn't make it to Valentine's Day.

The third and final guilt gift came from someone who I thought would never set foot in a jewelry store. Come to find out, he has an account there. Perhaps he has lots of guilt. Once again someone forgot my birthday. Nothing. Unless you count a Rueben at a dive bar. and no, I don't.

On Valentine's Day he sat a box in front of me and then sheepishly walked away. A tiny box. any woman knows that box. The really small one that rings come in. And for a moment I had a panic. Please not THAT ring. No, not ready for that one. But it wasn't. It was my birthsone in a setting eerily similiar to my wedding ring that his best friend had repossessed when I asked for a divorce. "I hope you like it. I feel like an ass because you do so much for me."

Well three points for honesty.

Iwanted to yell and scream. Wouldn't it be easier to stop on your way home and buy some flowers every once in a while? Stop and buy a card, there are stores full of them. Something small just because. Something that you saw that you thought would make me smile. Write me a letter.

And then maybe you wouldn't have to dig yourself out of some huge hole.

By the end of the next month he was done too.

I have mixed feelings on those pieces. And almost every time I wear one someone notices and compliments me on them. "Oh, that's so nice." And in my mind I think of the spirit in which it was given. Somehow takes off some of the shine. But on every first date I wear one of them. Both to remind me that someone once loved me and of my failures.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Do you really think

Late in March I had had enough. It was so bad I could see it coming and was desperately looking for an excuse to rid myself of another Mr. Boring, aka Tim. We were five months into dating and I had actually gotten out pen and paper to make a surprisingly long list of things I was missing out on by staying with him. The top five included going anywhere that required me to be more dressed up than jeans and a clean sweater, the symphony (or anything with any amouint of culture including yogurt which he detested), romance, stimulating conversation of any kind and toe curling sex. And I was really in the mood for claasical music.

Eventually he said that taking me to a friend's birthday party was "too much trouble" because my ex-husband was planning on attending and he had asked Tim not to bring me. Needless to say I was not amused. But I was dressed up for a night at the bar ( I couldn't let the ex and his new victim see me looking anything less than stellar). So I was all dressed up and free. Free to go to the nearest bar and drink my way out of my funk.

Typically after a break-up I speed dial through my Blackberry and dredge up men from the past for recycling. But I really wasn' that upset about Tim. I was more upset that my ex thought he was going to tell me I couldn't go somewhere.

I walked into the bar and ordered my usual drink; in the midst of taking out my aggressions on the poor lime there was Rick. And as usual he honed right in, "You're here alone aren't you?" Sometimes I just wanted to smack him. This was one of those times. And it was about to get worse.

I should have walked away. I was was in no shape to deal with him. But I didn't. Nope. Sat down to have my arse handed to me.

He wasn't up for polite conversation. Really, let's talk about politics, baseball, the economy. Anything. But no we were going to talk about my reason for being at the bar. Alone. On a Friday night.

So I quickly outlined the last five months of my life with Tim. Ran into him at a bar. Really had wanted to leave that night too- before Tim saw me. But I was sitting between him and the mens room and He was between me and the door. I was doomed. At first I had hoped he would ignore me. He was my ex's best friend after all. He stood up in our wedding. But he walked right up and started chatting and several rounds later he admitted that he had always been jealous of my ex for talking to me first the night we met. Tim, my ex and another friend had all been sitting at the bar that ill fated night I met my future ex-husband. And as the saing goes, flattery will get you everywhere. Fast forward- we had settled into a comfortable boring. I t was a relationship I could deal with but I was bored to tears. If it was like this in five months what would it be like in 30 years?

"And you thought this would make you happy?" he asked with a perplexed look. "What possessed you to think this was a good idea in the first place?"

"Well, some parts of it were a lot easier. I didn't have to explain the whole get married and get divorced in the same year deal. He knew the baggage (well most of it) and still liked me." To me this seemed logical.

"Your ex-husband's best friend seemed like your best choice?? Really? That was a recipe for disaster. When did you become so desperate??? What the hell were you thinking?"

For me a lot of people's opinions have very little weight. But this was Rick. I considered him a friend, at times I had considered him to be a lot more. His opinion had weight. His comments hurt.

My feelings were hurt. My answers were brushed aside.

"Sometimes I think you don't want to be happy Jennifer. The choices you make, the things you do. You're a smart girl but you don't choose things that will make you happy."

At first I was indignant. "WHAT? How could you say that?" I was upset but I would try to hide it for a few minutes more.

"You make dumb choices. You fall in love with people who clearly cannot work out, who can never give you what you're looking for. You can't possibly beleive that these guys are going to make you happy."

And I had two points; 1) I know that I'm responsible for my own happiness and 2) I really didn'yt see it that way. Sub-point 3 which remained unsaid- I fell in love with you once- what does that say?

And at this point I was upset. Visibly upset to those who were looking, unfortunately he was staring accross the bar. And before he realized it I was pissed off trying to hide the hurt.

But he didn't get it.

"When was the last time someone kissed you and made your knees shake?" he asked. I thought for a minute without answering. And then I lied, "I don't remember." In truth it was with Rick but that wasn't something I was willing to admit. "You need someone who can sweep you off your feet," he replied to my lie.

"Easier said than done. Do you think this is easy for me? Do you think I like this?" I was still upset and he was finally getting it.

"Well what makes this so hard? Explain to me what the problem is here."

I quickly cataloged my current list of faults. Some of them were huge life issues; others were just things I didn't like.

"So you think that all those things are going to matter when you meet the one? Do you really think that your problems are going to be that big of a deal if he's really the one for you? Do you think he's not going to love you if he knows you're broke, you've been disowned by most of your family, that you have bad problems with anxiety?

Yep. That's exactly what I thought.