The night I broke up with Mr. P, my best friend M had made the commute from the Upper West to the Lower East to keep me company since I knew no one at the party except Mr P’s sister. She arrived ready to dance and drink whiskey while I sipped on my hot tea, fighting the onset of an awful cold.
When the clock struck ten, two hours past the time Mr. P asked me to arrive for his friend’s birthday, I gave up hope he would show and any sadness I felt turned into bitter hostility. Too angry to move, I sat firmly in between his brother-in-law and an old friend, both of which expressed concern for Mr. P. In return, I shrugged an innocent grin, attempting to disguise my frustration. Seeing my blatant annoyance, M grabbed my hand and made me dance in the little black dress that was wasted on the evening. It’s your birthday weekend! she reminded me. You should be enjoying yourself!! I couldn’t help but smile and groove with her demands, especially since she wouldn’t let me even if I tried.
After a few songs, I returned to the table to hydrate when I caught a glimpse of Mr. P entering the bar and significantly intoxicated. He stumbled his way to me, muttered halfhearted apologies and laughed at his lateness. I responded with silence and rejoined M on the dance floor who mouthed: Are you okay? I shook my head No but continued to sway my hips, so M continued too, and there we grooved without saying a word, though saying everything, as best friends usually do. When the music faded into Adele’s Someone Like You, we looked at each other and it was clearer than it had ever been before that the last straw was breaking, or passing out on the bench at a dive bar downtown — either way I wanted to look at it, the answer was there. I’ve never been one to let pop culture define much of anything for me, but the words rang too true and too bittersweet for me not to take note. M hugged me and we danced and sang the whole song before I tapped Mr. P awake to try to talk some sense into him. Or at least give him the option to make up for his mistake. When he denied my offer, I refused the relationship.
I wish I could say that was that and I’ve easily moved on and let go of him without much hesitation at all. I wish I could declare my complete independence and that I’ve started dating someone I’m crazy about. I wish I could say I never think of him or respond to his emails or calls. I wish I could say I’m stronger than what I really am, less prone to stinging heartache than I’ve been before. But the truth is, that song still makes me sad. And it’s not the only thing that does.
When I stumble across places we frequented together or when I find something funny I think he would like. Or when it’s cold in my room or my family asks about him or I run into a mutual friend who still, four months later, didn’t realize we split. And for a while I was letting all of those things, all those places, all those reminders keep me from doing or going. I’ve gradually started reclaiming my New York and the stuff I love by dissociating it with a relationship or with the idea of a love that never was nourished enough to bloom. Recently though, those steps forward have become more like long, strong strides.
When discussing an upcoming solo ski-tubing trip with my friend K, she mentioned hand-warmers and I was instantly brought back to last Christmas when Mr. P bought $100 worth of hand-warmers for his family members. My immediate reaction was to express my distaste for them and how they bring back visions of a happy Mr. P I sometimes miss. Being the practical gal she is, K attempted to convince me that something meant to keep me from freezing has little to do with a sour relationship and a lot to do with survival on a mountain. A few hours later when I caught the train to the gym, I thought about K’s valid point and then chronicled some of the things I’ve stopped doing since I broke up with Mr. P simply because the actions remind me of him: cooking stir-fry (his favorite), wearing lingerie (no one sees it but me), buying yogurt (we used to sit together on the couch in the mornings eating it), wearing the coin necklace he gave me that I love and I even feel odd glancing at my Blackberry on the subway because it’s something he always did.
Really Lindsay? You don’t do all of those things because of some guy? Seriously? It’s time to do things for you.
And so after my run, I stopped by the grocery store for rice, peppers, chicken and yogurt and I went to the Victoria’s Secret semi-annual sale because one of my 50 things is investing in matching sets. When I got home, I put on my new lingerie, sported the charm I love and cooked enough stir-fry to last me for days. He may have dictated my life while he was part of it, but now that he’s not, any ownership of memories or things, places or dishes have now switched back into my hands.
Mr. P taught me some great lessons but probably the best one is something he never sought to teach: how to stand up for what I want in love. He knew his weaknesses and his inability to emotionally commit, and when I finally saw it too, I realized how little I stand up for myself when I’m deep into a relationship. And that was my greatest downfall – I was so busy trying to find someone so perfect that I did everything I could to be the perfect person they wanted, and forgot about what I really wanted in my pursuits of happily-forever-and-ever. I let things that have nothing to do with a man have everything to do with him. I allowed myself to compromise what really mattered in my heart just to hold a fraction of his. And the pay off was nothing special or different – it was just another story to tell, another failed courtship to put in the books and build myself up from. Another reason for my friend to drag me out into an anonymous crowd to dance away my aching as I try to forget the shadow in the corner.
Adele may hope to find someone like her ex and a part of me wants to find parts of Mr. P in someone else too but the main thing I’m looking for is a man who is someone like me. Someone who is thoughtful and considerate, mature and ambitious. Someone who doesn’t need fancy dinners but likes them, someone who wants to travel and create a home at the same time. Someone steady and stable but surprising in the ways that matter. Someone equally as romantic and dependable, stubborn and generous. Someone who is no where close to wanting a relationship but still believes in the powers of fate he’s yet to understand.
Someone who is looking for someone like me.