(Okay, before I start, let me reassure anyone who might be ready to smack me upside the head for being an idiot that I’m not talking about getting reinvolved in your past romantic life. I just mean seeing the person in question again, long after the fact. Please, I’m not that big an idiot. It took me a fairly long time to realize it, but it is a very good thing that my relationship with this particular person ended.)
One friend of mine recently questioned why I bother to still see this guy at all. After all, the relationship crashed and burned, he turned out to be an utter shite as a boyfriend, so why even bother? Well, a couple of reasons. First, he was a huge part of my life while I lived in the UK, and I like maintaining connections to that life. Second, and more important, I think it’s good, sometimes, to keep that connection even if the romance doesn’t work — there were very good reasons why I had to fire him from the “boyfriend” job, but with enough time and distance he’s actually become a good friend. We had a lot in common in some ways, even though “fidelity” didn’t appear to be one of them. (He’s not the only ex I stay in touch with — one or two were truly despicable people, but some of them were good people even if not good boyfriends and/or not the right person for me.)
I would’ve laughed in disbelief, once upon a time, if anyone had suggested that I’d have a slew of ex-boyfriends that I stay in touch with. (Don’t ask me for the technical definition for a “slew”, I’m not quoting numbers.) I was very much a late bloomer in the romance arena, with my first date coming after I’d graduated from high school. Oh, there were a couple of incidents earlier— I remember getting an anonymous note in Grade 6 that said “I love you. Don’t be annoyed” (to this day, no idea who sent it), and there was a guy in youth orchestra with a crush on me. (He was younger —hey, I was a cougar at the age of 18 and didn’t even know it!) But nothing of substance, really.
At some point, though, I finally stopped being a geek with thick spectacles and morphed into a girl that guys apparently found attractive; at first, of course, I had no idea what to do about this as I had no experience of any kind. So I got involved with one guy, for sure, that I wouldn’t have given the time of day to, had I been a little less naive.
I can see I’m going to have to spill the whole story. My whole romantic history, laid bare. Well, maybe not all of it — let’s say, those people who were significant enough to last at least a few months, but no explicit details of any kind to be shared. (This is a family blog, after all. Message me privately if you want the real scoop.)
First up (in my oh-so-naive youth) was ... oh, let`s call’im ... A. Much older (more than 10 years), significant especially when you consider that I was a very, very naive 19-year-old. (Or was I 20? Can’t remember if it was just before or just after my birthday that we got together.) Thought I loved him; thought, actually, that I was going to marry him when I finished university. Put up with all kinds of ridiculous crap that I wouldn’t stand for 2 minutes now, so at least I’ve learned something in the intervening 20 years; the line he always used that made me crazy was "When you're older you'll feel differently" (he trotted this out any time I disagreed with him). First (and only) guy I’ve brought to a big family Christmas; everyone had me married off by the end of the day and I swore I wouldn’t bring anyone home again unless it really WAS that serious. (They’re all still waiting.) Lasted about a year, give or take.
Next up ... B. 2nd year university. Very sweet, smart, funny, and probably could’ve been a fantastic relationship. Except that I think he was still hung up on his ex-girlfriend (who lived down the hall from me in residence) and I had a huge crush on someone else (a male friend of mine, unfortunately perpetually with girlfriend). Bad timing all around, really. (Hmmm ... wonder what’s he’s doing now? Oh, wait, he was an Albertan, so never mind.)
Then there was C. Summer after 2nd year university, part of 3rd year. Adorable and sweet and (unlike the other guys I’d met while at uni) working with a paycheque and able to cook. Thought I was the most beautiful woman in the world and the love of his life. On occasion he also thought I was a dangerously radical feminist pinko commie tree-hugger, but the arguments were good-spirited and a lot of fun. I don’t remember actually why I broke up with him, but in any event it probably wouldn’t have mattered whether I did or not; I’m 99% sure I spotted him several years later in the Pride Parade in Toronto.
Let’s see ... 4th year uni. D and E, who were sweet, shy and geeky, and cocky, brash and certifiably insane, respectively. (Guess which one I liked better.) D I got involved with mostly because he liked ME so much; I find it’s very pleasant to be adored. But I probably shouldn’t have, because I knew I was never going to return that adoration. E ... well, the tables were turned, definitely, I adored him but he sort of just tolerated me until he met someone else. Pity, really, he had the most fantastic blue eyes I’ve ever seen.
Moving on .... F. First English guy I got involved with (not the infamous ex that I saw in this past trip). Think I went out with him mostly because I was still enough of a London-virgin to be bowled over by the posh British accent; to be told that he “fancied me like mad” (instead of, oh, “you look hot”) won me over. But that languished and died when I met ...
G. The infamous ex. Fell fast and fell hard for him, and we were on-again/off-again for years. Broke up once because I learned he’d cheated on me while I was travelling in Europe (yeah, that’s the news you want to get on the phone from your boyfriend while you’re sitting on a roof terrace in Paris – I had to give him some credit for coming clean, though). Got back together, inevitably, when I went back to the UK, despite my best intentions to the contrary; apparently I didn`t think having my heart broken once was sufficient and I went back for more, finally coming to my senses when he (you guessed it) cheated on me again. No phone call this time (he wasn`t going to tell me); I found letters he’d written to two other women. Dumped him immediately; relapsed occasionally afterwards but finally managed to get over him altogether (although, even then, it was very bizarre going to his wedding). It took a while longer, though, before I could honestly say we were friends.
But we seem to be, now, and I’m quite glad about that. He was a lot of fun as a boyfriend, but fundamentally terrible (I am not willing to share with other women, and he didn’t seem to understand that); he is, however, a good person in many non-boyfriend ways, intelligent and interesting to talk to. He’s going through a tough time at the moment, and I actually feel bad for him; even a few years ago I’d probably have been just a little bit vindictively pleased by the karmic payback, but it seems I’ve gotten past all of that.
Back in Toronto. Let’s see ... H. First younger man (6 years, more significant for 20-somethings than it would be now) of what was going to become a trend. Adored him — we clicked on every conceivable level and could talk, literally, for hours on end. Not my choice to end it (one of the few) but he appeared to freak out about the idea of an actual relationship. Plus he got transferred to Winnipeg and I wasn’t inclined to follow.
Rebounded with I. Much nicer guy than you’d actually know from the way I treated him. Oh, I liked him well enough, and we had fun, but I was still hung up on the previous guy and didn’t really give him a fair chance. (Sorry, dude ... if I knew where you were now, I’d apologize in person.) Although my friends didn’t like him at all, so maybe he wasn’t as nice a guy as I think he was; did they see something I didn’t? (Wouldn`t be the first time.)
Then there was J. Lots of positive things about that one, very cute and smart and fun to hang out with. Serious chemistry. But, as a downside, an arch-conservative who thought that, if we got serious, my job was to follow him around the country as he got transferred for his job. I don`t think I'd ever choose to do that, no matter how much I liked someone, but the fact that it wasn't even up for discussion (just an expectation that his life and his decisions automatically became mine, and I had no say in any of it) made it an absolute deal-breaker.
Who am I up to? Oh, yes, K. Falls into the category of “lovely guy but just not for me”; I don’t think I treated him TOO terribly but I probably should have called it off sooner than I did. Incompatible views about what we wanted from life, at a very fundamental level, which means we’d never have worked. (He also probably voted Tory, which is a deal-breaker.) At any rate, he’s gone on to be happily married and have children, so he’s darn lucky that things didn’t work out with me.
L was a complete departure from the earnest, be-suited, corporate types I’d hitherto usually become involved with. Nothing resembling a career; he managed to support himself but God knows actually how. Really interesting way of thinking and looking at the world, which made for some fascinating discussions (and I’m a sucker for a man who gives good argument); smoked an astonishing amount of marijuana and still functioned. Really, really liked being with someone who wasn’t a corporate wage-slave, and if he’d been a starving artist or poet or musician I could’ve respected that (I don’t care how much money someone makes or how “successful” he is, if he’s following his passion); however, the complete lack of ambition to do anything OTHER than smoke pot got a bit tiring.
Went back to the corporate type (well, government corporate type, which is a slightly different breed) with M, after an embarrassingly long break from the world of dating. Don’t ask me why the break, exactly; I got busier and busier at work as I kept getting promoted, I stopped paying much attention to a social life as my friends all started to get married and have babies and drop out of my day-to-day life, and I seemed not to have a lot of enthusiasm to try very hard to meet new people. I also didn't notice the lack so much as I had some lovely substitutes for a dating life with close gay friends. Anyway, with the government guy — we connected on so many levels it seemed fated, at first (not that I actually believe in fate); it was as if someone had flipped an “on” switch for me and brought that side of my personality back to life.
Why didn`t it work? Well, I gave up when I realized just how connected he also still was to his ex-wife — I don’t mean they were actually still sleeping together, but it seemed nearly as bad that she was doing his grocery-shopping and his laundry, watering his plants, and making him dinner at least once a week. I finally called a halt to it when I learned he’d gone on vacation with her; I’m still not quite sure what the deal was there (they’d been divorced for years), but I do know it was better not to be in the middle of it. (Still a little bitter about it, though, as I think there was a lot of potential for us, if he’d only stepped away from the ex far enough to see it!) He resurfaced briefly a few months after I broke it off, ready to pick up where we’d left off — no, worse, acting as if we’d never “left off” at all. It didn’t fly; I didn’t take him up on it.
I think that's it. Oh, there have been other random dates and flirtations and guys who have been around for a short time, but those are the ones I`d count as having “mattered”. Mostly good guys, actually, so I’m pleased to see I’m smarter about these things than I was at 19 (or 20, whatever).
If I could just hand-pick pieces from all of them and mix them together to make a composite guy, I might just have the perfect man. (Actually, I think I may already know the perfect man, but since he's gay that doesn't do much for my love life.) Since that’s not possible, I’ll have to see what’s out there in 2011 — there's no one around to kiss at midnight as 2011 rolls in, but perhaps I can change that next year.