This is Day 9 of a 21-day effort to see the good in what might, at first, look like an irredeemable drag. Its name comes from a classic bit of dialogue uttered by actor Kevin Bacon in a classic film of my generation, Animal House.
It goes without saying that your primary relationships don't work out until they do. Or, until one does.
On the other hand, I really can't accept the idea that all of one's previous relationships, at least, those that didn't end because of death, are failures by dint of their ending. No, they didn't work out, if by "work out" you mean "last forever" (again, the widowed exempted); is that to say there was no good in them? Or even no good in the act of being dumped itself?
Honestly, there was not ever much good that came out of the ending of most of my relationships. Whether I clung on until the bitter end (and the shameful examples are both legion and incredibly dull) or walked away from something I had not much attachment to in the first place, there was little I gained from the experience of the break itself. For most of my life, I maintained my bizarrely binary form of primary relationship: toxic attachment or none at all. (Hello, Adult Children of Alcoholics!)
That is, until the end of my time with The Surfer.
There were some weirdnesses to our relationship from the get-go, we knew each other through mutual friends and yet met online, there was an oddly jarring three-week break about a week into the proposition due to a long-planned trip without cell access, but overall, signs were good. We'd both been shrunk. We'd both had long-term, live-in relationships. There was age-appropriateness, a new thing for me since The Youngster. We liked enough of the same things, aligned on the fundamentals, yet had a distinct areas of expertise. Significant Areas of Overlap, as I like to say. Plus, things were good in and out of the sack, and our respective friends didn't recoil in horror upon seeing us together.
So I didn't even see the detachment happening. Not until it had been in progress for a couple of weeks. I did note some moodiness and irritability, but I was used to this: I date smart dudes, and depression is the cost of admission. Besides, there he was, as attentive as ever. Just...moody.
But at what I now put at three weeks into The Shift in Winds, I got that Tug. You know the Tug: that thing in your gut that pulls upward a little bit, to let you know it's there. And that something is most likely rotten in Denmark.
It was at this juncture that I did something kind of, okay, completely new to me: I asked what was wrong. And in a way that left no doubt I expected a straight answer, no matter what that answer was.
Whatever veil or fog had been there vanished with his words: his feelings toward me lacked the depth he thought should be there. His exact words. Meaning, he did not love me, nor did he think that any loving of me by him was imminent, if in the cards at all. In the parlance of a soon-to-be-released book (which I read weeks after the breakup, cover to cover, standing up at Borders), he was just not that into me.
I sat there on the other end of the line, taking it in: the words, this scenario, our tone. It was so civilized, this question-and-answer method. Perhaps this was a new, grown-up kind of relationship. Perhaps...
We talked some more, and agreed to go out the next evening, as planned. Because I am so goddam civilized. And modern. Look at me, being modern! Playing things by ear, seeing where they go. No expectations, no demands. Communicating. Compromising. Downshifting to neutral. Brilliant.
This newfound state lasted less than 48 hours, when I found myself at my thrice-weekly session with Warren, the Forrest Gump of personal trainers. We were used to gossiping at length about his relationship predicaments; now that the tables were turned, our conversation was quite brief:
Forrest Gump: What are you going to deeeew?
the communicatrix: I don't know.
Forrest Gump: Well, what does your guuuut tell you to deeeew?
the communicatrix: (beat) Break up with him.
Forrest Gump: (shakes head, adjusts weight on quad machine) I always say, you cain't go wrong if you go with your guuut...
Hard to argue with logic like that.
I drove straight to The Surfer's, put my few belongings in a little lunch sack, and that, as we say, was that. No long, lingering death of what was a perfectly good relationship. No mutual torture sessions. My therapist, who had braced herself for a long, cold winter, was stunned speechless when I gave her the news the next week.
The mourning didn't last long, either, largely, I suspect, because I'd taken responsibility for my own happiness. A few weeks of crying, a few weeks of hostility, a few months of, um, recreation, and then bam!, in walks The BF.
You can feel bad about being dumped, or about things ending badly (because let's face it, seldom do they end delightfully.) That's mostly what I did, all those years. No harm, no foul.
And then maybe one day, you can take all the heartache from all those breakups and turn it into learning. Something useful, in other words, something to really and truly be thankful for. In my case, there was definitely an assist from many years of shrinkage that I was ready to put into action. So I would like to thank my shrinks for that.
But I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank every single one of you who dumped me. Even if I took it badly. Hell, especially if I took it badly. Not just because it made my present relationship with The BF possible, but because it made the me I am today possible.
You really do learn more from your mistakes. That is, when you're finally ready to learn from them...