How I Became Best Friends with My (Then)-Boyfriend’s Ex

dater-diary-embed-my-ex-is-my-bffA month after I started my blog in 2010, I took the bus from JFK into the city. As I got on the bus in my Jessica Simpson slingbacks (ridiculous, I know), the driver took zero pity on me and took off. I went crashing with my bag and my floppy hat right into the aisle. I looked up and locked eyes with a blue-eyed hunk who simply asked, “You alright?” before helping me to my feet.

I didn’t know it then, but that was the day I met my very first New York love, Scott.

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Oh, Pretty Lady

Pretty lady, you’re so lovely tonight. You’re twirling and whirling around in my head, and though I can’t reach out to feel your effortless magic, I bask in your beautiful shine. Pretty lady, you encompass all of my wild dreams and you are so much more and so different from who I pictured you’d be. Pretty lady, I tried to envision your stare so many times, I swore I tasted your kiss on the rims of wine glasses I toasted with cheap substations of you. They never measured up, they could never compare. Pretty lady, I’ve been wondering when you would show up in those tall heels with those long legs and that look. With your look — the most enticing one I’ve ever known. I’m so glad I had the courage to talk to you.

Pretty lady, you were worth the chance.

Pretty lady I love the way you dance. In my mind, on that floor, in these streets. I love your words and the way you use them, both as daggers and as dreams, sharing and inspiring with each careful, calculated, caring phrase. Pretty lady, I long to caress that simple curve on your hip that leads to places I constantly crave. To places I need to explore, places I need to savor, places I aim to know as well as my own. What’s behind those eyes of yours? Those intense depths of matter — piercing right through me, tearing into all the pieces I thought were shattered. Turns out they were never quite broken after all. Pretty lady, your games aren’t games but tantalizing, exciting, alluring puzzles that make you into the imperfect masterpiece you were created to be. Created for me to
cherish. Pretty lady, you challenge me with one glance, with a single sentence, with the way you hold your fork, with how you show what you feel without saying a word.  Pretty lady, where did you come from and why did you decide to lay here with me, right now on this lazy afternoon watching the planes take off over the skyline? Have you been in this city all along?

Pretty lady, you were worth the wait.

Pretty lady, I hope you will say yes. I hope I get out everything I need to say, everything I feel and all that I want for you. For me. For us. For those babies I can’t wait to meet. I hope I can tell you how you’ve changed my life since that day we met at that dark bar on that summer evening, when you were wearing the dress. That dress I couldn’t wait to get off of you. Pretty lady, don’t start crying until I ask you, don’t touch my face how you do  — in that way you do — or I will not be able to resist you. Pretty lady, let me be the man to give you those things you thought were impossible, let me prove to you that yes, there are men. There are men like me who love women like you.

Pretty lady, you were so worth the highest price.

Pretty lady, you wear white so right. You were made for that dress and if I don’t stop sweating, your hands are going to fall right out of my grasp. Pretty lady, just keep looking at me, just take one step in front of the other. Just keep moving. Breathe my darling girl. Don’t you know I love the way you walk? I can’t believe there are only moments before I can call you my wife. Pretty lady, you have never looked more stunning — even if the cake is all wrong and the colors are a little off, and your uncle showed up embarrassingly intoxicated. I don’t see anyone but you on this day, at this time, when you say those two words I want to hear. My baby, you’re so lovely. You’re so full of life.

Pretty lady, I’m so in love with you.

Pretty lady, dream this little dream with me — the one where we make it after all. It’s the one you wrote on ruled paper with pencil, just in case it could never be true. Pretty lady, let’s go to places we’ve never been and meet people who live differently than us. I want to watch you experience something, some land, some life for the first time — I want to see the surprise and the encouraging intrigue light your eyes. Pretty lady, let’s make memories we will tell our kids and take photos their kids will show their friends about their crazy grandparents who dared to change the world. Who loved each other against all statistics and figures. Who chose love when it was easy, and more importantly, when it was not.

Oh, pretty lady, you will be worth whatever I have to do to find you. So don’t give up on me, my love, and I won’t give up on you.

I Miss Me More

On Christmas eve, just before I sat down to a lovely meal prepared by my father, I received a text from Mr. Possibility.

I was expecting a message of some form from him around the holidays — maybe even a call. I didn’t know what style it’d come in or if it’d be bittersweet or heartfelt. Since much of my 2011 was spent with him, it was difficult not to think of him in my memories of this year – so naturally – he would contact me at the holidays. But standing in my childhood bathroom, curling my hair and sipping on cheap wine from a Southern grocery store, seeing his number (no name, it’s not saved anymore) light up my iPhone wasn’t a screen I wished to view.

Knowing my friend L would soon arrive, I took a deep breath in, decided my hair was pretty enough and went to my bedroom to read what he wrote. I sat down on my bed next to bags of clothes and the four shoeboxes from my shopping spree and looked over at the blooming rose my father left my bedside for me to see when I returned to North Carolina. I smiled at the sentiment and cursed myself for being even semi-taunted by a man who would never measure up to my thoughtful, loving dad. Trying not to remember how Mr. Possibility laid on this very bed, on these same sheets, with the room radiating with the intoxicating smell of summer just a few months earlier, I read what he had to say.

A won’t stop talking about you. Or how she wishes you were here for Christmas. She wants to come to your house. It’s so cute. 

Well, that wasn’t quite what I expected – but somehow, it hurt more. It wasn’t a message about Christmas or the magical feelings this season brings, but about his niece. His adorable niece who I fell in love with. As much trouble as its been to let go of Mr. P, it’s been just as much work to separate from his family – especially the two little girls I grew to feel like an aunt to. They even called me that when we’d visit a few times a month: Aunt Lindsay! You’re here!! 

Before I had a chance to respond to his text, I noticed a voicemail from his sister, that really was a Christmas wish and a sweet “I love you” from four-year-old A. I played her sweet voice a few times before typing “She misses me!” to which Mr. P responded, “She’s not the only one.” It was then that L’s car pulled up and I left my phone far out of reach, far away from where I could be tempted to say things only wine and twinkling lights could make me silly enough to believe.

The eve came and passed, and I managed to refrain from mentioning my tension or how my heart felt frozen when I heard A’s voice or thought about the family I had grown to love along with the man I loved, was moving on from me too. The closest of relationships share those dear to our hearts and when the affair ends, so do those family ties. As much as I had enjoyed and cherished becoming part of his clan, I know that with the passing of time, phone calls lessen and memories of a temporary Aunt will fade when a permanent Aunt is in the picture. But those – those – are the thoughts I simply can’t entertain. Or at least that’s what I tell myself.

On Christmas Day, my mom and I felt a little antsy being stuck in the house with non-stop musical tunes and my grandmother’s sweet (and sorta irritating) ramblings, so we went for a drive. I wanted to see the mountains I never get to gaze at and she wanted to see me – so we drove around winding roads, catching up, laughing and doing our very best to avoid the topic of my departure – it’s a subject that isn’t friendly after spending a week together. As we’re going along the old highway I used to speed down, she asked me how I felt about Mr. P and the phone call from the previous night. I told her my grievances, how I feared my ability to really let go and love so unconditionally again and how though I knew I made the right choice, I felt like I was giving up a part of the me I created in New York so I could discover the life I really wanted.

She then asked bluntly, Do you miss him, honey?

Without much consideration and with little hesitation, I said: Yes, but I missed me more when I was with him. She smiled the grin that says: I-know-I’ve-been-there-too and reached for my hand. I was as honest as I could be and the truth laid flat in the winter air – as much as you can love someone, if the relationship just isn’t right or the person is selfishly motivated, you end up losing more by staying with them. And while I miss the companionship, the talks, his family that started to feel like my own, the shared dreams and intimate connections that I’d never share with this blog – if I would have not stood for what I needed, I would have ended up needing to really find myself again.

The best kind of love is the kind that brings out the best in you. It’s the kind that soothes your soul while it startles it. It entices you to be a better person and to believe in yourself more, while still being selfless with the person you’re committed to. Love is patient and it’s kind, but to find that perfect rhyme – you can’t sacrifice your happiness. And that person who cares, that person who is right, would never allow you to do so. Just like they would never let you miss out – or start to miss yourself – by being with them.

Less than a mile away from home I said, Maybe he showed me he loved me by letting me go Mom. Yeah, he misses me. His family does too. I miss all of them. But if we continued, we would have ruined whatever we ever had or any chance at friendship. So maybe he loved me enough to let me go. Right?

Without skipping a beat or missing the right turn into our street, she said, Or maybe, sweetie, you finally just stood up for what you deserved and he knew he couldn’t give it to you. It’s time to stop missing him, stop missing yourself and go out there and find someone who you’ll never have to miss. 

Amen, Mama. Amen.

The Wisdom to Know the Difference

The mirror that I get ready in front of each morning hangs on the back of my door, surrounded by things I love. Photos of people I know and those I aspire to be like, quotes from calendars four years old and fortune cookies that wished me well, notes from my friends and family, postcards from places I’ve never been — they all are taped and tucked in the edges of a cheap white-framed mirror that came with the first apartment I had in New York.

Maybe mementos are as much a part of my design scheme as the color purple, which captures my attention more than any other shade, for a reason I don’t understand (I hardly wear purple!). I like to be reminded of things that make my happy and as a writer, nothing touches me more than encouraging or engaging words of others, or photos that speak more than any blog could detail. One of the items that I’ve kept around since before college is a bookmark my dad gave me when he was sick and could only express himself through gifts — his own voice too weakened to speak. With a fuzzy beaded tassel and a rainbow in the background, it read the serenity prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

It’s most well-known as the mantra of Alcoholics Anonymous, but the hope goes for anyone who is trying to overcome anything — where it be a dream passed by or a relationship gone dry. The latter for me, is the most difficult right now.

I hate still writing about him and I hate more that the emotions that invoke me the most to type on these pages are the ones I try to hide from everyone who knows me best. They are the hidden wounds I only let out at nighttime when I’m alone in my room, listening to my roommate play piano and sing with her adorable boyfriend, wishing that things could have just been different with Mr. P. Finally, I’m mature enough to realize that our demise had nothing to do with me and I don’t blame myself for the ending, nor do I want to return to a dysfunctional, one-sided relationship, but it’s my own thoughts-of-what-could-have-been that keep me awake at night and require under eye creme each morning.

Accepting that you can’t change another person, that you can’t love them enough to make them love you in return, that you can’t hold so tight that they see you as irreplaceable, that you can’t turn someone into a better version of themselves, no matter how many letters you write, emails you send, voicemails you leave or love you make with them — takes serenity. It requires constant mental reminders that you’re worth more, that lack-luster anything is just that – lacking of the beautiful luster that comes from a partnership worth the work. Letting go of someone who never latched on to you emotionally can make you feel like it was impossible for someone to fall in love with you, but that’s when that courage comes in. That’s when you have to be brave enough to realize that while this person wasn’t right for you, no matter how much you believed they could be, if history proves anything, it’s that once we love someone, we can always love someone else. It often gets better and stronger every time around.

But only if we are wise enough to realize the difference between what we can change and what we can’t. In every relationship, it’s the different between knowing you can only control yourself and your actions, not a guy’s decisions and his emotions. And if he isn’t giving you what you want or what you deserve, your only option is to walk away, even if that’s the hardest task of all.

Outside of my favorite pub in midtown east, a tad tipsy from cheap white wine and Blue Moon, I looked inside to see my favorite girls laughing and bundling up in their coats and scarves and then outside to the city that makes me feel at home, and though I was tempted to text the only man I’ve loved in New York, the frustration and the trouble that always comes from contacting him, kept me from pushing send.

Because these women always keep me laughing, these streets breathe new life into me, and I’m lucky enough to know the difference between the things that are good for me and the things that are bad. And since no one I care about would ever try to change me, I can’t expect to change someone I once (and let’s be honest, still do) cared for deeply, it’s not what is best for me or for him. But I can change myself and my perspective – simply by looking at all that I have around me. The serenity is there, if I’m brave enough to look for it.

And maybe someday, there will be a someone who will bring that same serenity, without having to change either of us, at all.