Once upon a time, there was a little girl with big blue eyes and French-braided blonde hair in a church's preschool room. There was also a little boy with a brown bowl-cut and long, long eyelashes. They were In Love. They talked about their wedding; how many kids they wanted. (Him, three boys. Her, none.) He was going to be a mechanic. She was going to be a vet, and was already resigning herself at the tender age of four to being the breadwinner of their two-to-five-person family. (She had always been a little pragmatic about life.) They played together every day, except the weekends, which always went by far slower than they should for someone who has just learned to tie their shoes, and still doesn't know how to swim or ride a bike. Monday would come again, and she would build with blocks and cuddle stuffed animals and he leaned intently over the Fisher-Price orange and yellow car's hood. It was bliss.
Until one day, when talking about their upcoming-upcoming-upcoming nuptials, the little boy uttered the words that froze the very still-warm and un-jaded blood in our little blonde practicing veterinarian's veins: "Well, I'd either marry you, or Sarah."
The cherubic child glanced across the room at the towering red-headed girl with the short and flippy hair, currently engaged in bullying another little girl for the rice table's shovel. "Ick," she said, and with that, slapped the boy right across his long-lashed face, stomped away, and vowed, "Never again! And NO MORE MECHANICS!"
I've never been great at sharing anything I particularly like, be it cardboard building blocks or a living and breathing man. It's one of my tell-tale only-child hang-ups. It was (hilariously, in hindsight,) awkward for the next 10 years of my life, as Alex, our fickle long-lashed wannabe-mechanic, and I shared the same pediatrician. Every grown woman's worst nightmare is to see an ex when they look like shit-- now imagine being aware of this sentiment at the age of 7, and hacking up a lung, stricken with bronchitis, as your spurned crush, covered in a particularly attractive and blistering rash, glares at you from across the waiting room replete with rocking horses, puzzles, and Highlights magazines. My mother would always point him out, and say, "Look, it's Alex! Why don't you go say hi? You used to play together all the time!" She just didn't get it. And I never forgot Alex, or that feeling that came over me as his statement sunk in and I looked across the room at Sarah, Carrot-Top's Miniature Preschool Bully.
Fast-forward 9 years later, and I was in a long-term relationship with what was by all accounts a highly unsuitable man. The problem was, I was 16, and bored, and really couldn't give more of a fuck that the only reason I was staying in the relationship was the fact that I honestly couldn't be bothered to work up the energy to dump him. That was, until New Years' Eve day, when I made the most influential discovery of my teen years until the one two years later in which I found same highly unsuitable man on a gay dating website. (THAT was the pinnacle of maniacal glee of my teen years.) Said boyfriend had been at my house the previous night, and had asked to use our home computer to check his Myspace page. (Ah, yes-- it was in THOSE days.) I had dutifully logged him in so he could Myspace away, remarking aloud that I didn't know he had a Myspace page. "Yeah; it helps keeping in touch with people I went to school with and don't see much anymore." (He was already a college graduate, if this clears up the meaning of the previous word "unsuitable.") I filed that piece of information away, and the next day, typed his name into Myspace's search bar to add him as--wait for it, because I was so excited-- not just my Myspace friend, but as my Myspace boyfriend.
Imagine how quickly that bubbly teenage naivety turned into a sickening feeling of betrayal when I found his public Myspace page, in which he chronicled the process of "soon ending all these girl problems", with helpful comments and a cheer-leading section from the woman of his affections. Who was decidedly not me. In fact, I was the problem. The problem he had been inside of the night before. Which didn't seem like too much of a problem to him at the time.
I got raging drunk at my best friend's New Year's party that night, in preparation to do What I Must the next day, because my very sophisticated 24 year old boyfriend was throwing a very grown-up New Year's Day party in his apartment with the missing slats in the Venetian doors and the posters taped to the walls. A party that his older brother was driving in from Rochester to attend. A party at which I was supposed to pretend to be 18 and going off to NYU in the fall, like I always told his friends I was. (He was the one who actually propagated this rumor in the first place. I played along because I was a theater geek in need of practice, and plus, I already liked the beer that his friends brought over.) A party at which I was supposed to be as sophisticated and sexy as possible. Because doesn't every college grad want to show off his six--...eighteen year old girlfriend?
So I woke up the next morning, shook a hangover off, got dressed up in something that showcased what was already some pretty phenomenal cleavage for someone so young, and picked one of my best friends up who was also invited/was my emotional support. We walked up the back stairs and into the apartment, party already in full-swing, and my boyfriend quickly spotted me (I think I was in something teal?) and waved me over to where he and a guy who sported the same red hair and could only be his brother were standing, holding bottles of Honey Brown. His brother and I shook hands as he said, "Hey, it's so nice to meet you." And then, turning his gaze to my soon-to-be ex-boyfriend, added, "I've heard so much about you."
"So nice to meet you, too," I told him, and as soon as he relinquished my hand, turned to my unsuspecting boyfriend and dropped the A-bomb with all the aplomb of a particularly trigger-happy ARA member-- "Oh, I saw your Myspace page. I know all about her. It's so over."
I swear time briefly stopped as I spun on my heel, grabbed my smirking friend's hand, and flounced out, leaving my stunned now ex-boyfriend to explain to all of his slack-jawed and still guests exactly why his trophy girlfriend had just dumped him. I will say-- it was deliciously empowering to my 16 year old self's confidence after being steam-rolled both metaphorically as well as physically by the same man for the past 6 months. I wish every woman could have a bad relationship they didn't care so much about with a shitty revelation like that, just so that they could have that One Shining Moment of Self-Redemption. He called every day for a month straight, begging to be taken back. I haven't talked to him since that New Year's morning over 5 years ago.
I've spent most of the day cooling off so I don't say anything totally off-base. But this is what I do need to say: It's not my fault, and it's not my problem. If you want to blame anyone, take a good and long look in a mirror and ask yourself why. You knew full-well. So man up and live with it. I'm not thrilled, either. Did you ever think of that? Did you ever think of the situation you were putting me in, the same situation I lived in in the reverse? And that's more than a little perverse.
It's only taken me 21 years to figure this out, but in the end, it's not, in fact, about what I want; in fact, I want remarkably little from you, if you had taken the time to actually ask me instead of jumping to conclusions. It's about what I need that you can't give me. I need someone who will be there when they say they will be. I need someone who would rather eat bull's balls in public than break a promise when they make one, because "I promise" needs to mean something more than a placation. I need someone who values me without having to look elsewhere to find what I'm missing. I need someone who accepts my flaws, quirks, sneezes, moles and all as much as I accept theirs. I need someone who isn't going to think that the red-headed terror of the sandbox is as much of a catch as I am and can't decide between the two of us. And therein lies the fundamental problem-- since I came back, I've been slowly realizing that you either can't or won't give me what I need yet. A "break" would imply that we were less than already broken, and I'll be honest and say that I've been feeling like it's been shattered beyond some major dedicated repair for awhile. So thank you for finally turning me loose. I hope that you find what you want and what you need, too.