Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine memory lane: I'm counting on a heart I know by heart

I'll give credit up front: this is an imitation of this New York Times piece.

Except where she is concise, my post, oh, it is long. It's just that once I started writing, it felt so good. It's been a very therapeutic process, writing this one.

Sorry about the length. I could've included about 14 or 37 more, but then some of you would fall asleep and others would think I was a trollop.

6th Grade Crush
You were the only African American in my 6th grade class, and so I suppose you stood out for that. But we’d just moved to the US a year prior, and I’d always been in the minority and not thought about it. I had the biggest crush on you.

You were so funny, gregarious, charming – popular. And I was so very shy, with my big glasses and lack of understanding of American culture.

You called me once to ask about homework – and I thought it really was about homework. You asked me if I thought I was pretty, and of course I said no. At our 6th grade graduation, you signed my autograph book with “P.S. You are pretty.”

I assumed we'd go to the same junior high, and I hoped you'd be in my classes. I never saw you again.

The Marine
We went out for about three months the end of my senior year of high school. You looked beautiful in your uniform, and acted with such authority when you stopped my friend Kristin and me in our attempt to see if we could get a broken cassette tape all the way around the inner loop of the embassy. We’d grown up in embassies; how did we know we weren’t supposed to run through the halls?

After not having a boyfriend for most of high school, you felt like such a prize.

You were gorgeous, and 21 with a job! So grown up! You weren’t allowed to date me until the day I graduated – one of the prior marines had caused a scandal with an ambassador’s daughter – and the funny thing is, the bulk of our relationship consisted of you coming over to our house and sitting with me in my parents’ living room.

You married young, and divorced young – I know this from reconnecting with your ex-wife, a high school friend of mine, at the Delhi reunion. You were sweet and kind and lovely to me, and I hope life has treated you well.

The Southern Trophy
After two and a half traumatic years at UNC, I came back from a semester in Rome skinny, happy, and determined to clench my teeth and get through my last fucking year of Chapel Hill. We met one of the first days of class, and you pursued me hard.

You wouldn't have noticed me earlier in college, when I was heavy and miserable.

You were tall and handsome and oh, so Southern. You were fascinated by the War of Northern Aggression. You took me to Old South wearing a Confederate uniform – and all I focused on was the fact that I felt beautiful in a hoop dress.

I’m not proud of myself from back then. I was hanging on by my fingernails. Maude later said you were my Southern trophy - proof that I could finally fit in.

I moved to DC and so did you, and we talked about getting married when we were 24, at which point we’d be grown up. Ultimately, I broke your heart in a million pieces. We had nothing in common, once we were out of NC. It was for the best; we’d have been divorced within a year, tops.

The Marine Biologist Mountain Climber
You were so intense, so outdoorsy, and so different from me. You weren't my type, but you were cute and you pursued me intently. And you made me bagels and taught me that sex was magic, despite my insane uptightness.

Your grandmother had, for some reason, given you a tremendous stash of condoms and Mentos, and we tore through both at a ridiculous pace.

We traveled by bus (after bus after bus) from Ecuador all the way down to Santiago, where we parted ways so you could do a stint as a white water rafting guide. We didn’t talk about marriage, but we did talk about opening a guest house for backpackers together. You made me a mixed tape that I still have.

I loved you intensely, I really did. I was just young and immature. Plus, I still cannot imagine spending my life with a man with no footwear beyond hiking boots and Jesus sandals.

The Gay One
I was 24 and lost and and scared of getting old (seriously) you were 28 and had a great career, and acted like you always knew what you were doing. I was a little in awe of you. I was in the Peace Corps and lived three hours away, which is maybe one of the reasons you chose me, although I’d like to think you were actually attracted to me in some way as a person.

I thought we had really boring sex because you were Catholic.

We went out for a year, and though you were very good to me, I broke up with you because I just didn’t think you loved me enough – and you didn’t. I spent six months certain I wasn’t smart, pretty, accomplished, whatever enough. I was so relieved to learn that it was my gender.

I’m sorry I went through your private photos and papers when your maid, who is the one who broke the news to me (Why didn't you ever tell me?), offered. I really had just come over to collect the detritus from when I’d left abruptly. You were fine with me coming by; I'm sure you never imagined Lourdes actually felt closer to me than you.

But I have to say, you were clearly having more fun as a gay man than we’d ever, ever had. And I know you were struggling; Catholicism didn't do you any favors.

And no, I didn’t know that your CD of Liza Minelli collaborating with the Pet Shop Boys should’ve made me suspicious.


The German

You won a Green Card in the lottery and promptly moved to San Diego - your life dream. I'd moved to San Diego to escape myself, and surprisingly enough, I hated myself just as much on the West Coast as in DC.

I’m sorry that I hadn’t already had a shit-ton of therapy and a bottle of antidepressants when we met.

You were and still are smart and funny and incredibly stable. I loved you. I loved your family - particularly your mom - despite their Teutonic rigidity. For a while I genuinely believed that we'd get married in the centuries-old church in your childhood village.

I saw you all the summer before I got married, and it was clear you've married someone who suits you well. You have a beautiful family, and you all seem happy.

When you dropped me off at my hotel, you asked if I thought we'd have gotten divorced if we'd married, and I said, very honestly, "Back then, absolutely. Now, I think we'd be fine."

I apologized to you for making you so miserable when we were together. You said, "It's OK, Lisa. It's not like you were having fun and coming home and trying to make me unhappy."

I'm so glad we're still in touch. I'm hoping our families get to meet this summer.

The One Who Was The One Until He Wasn't
We met through mutual friends, and then re-met six weeks later. I suggested you kiss me around midnight. You drove me home past noon the next day.

My dad was in the hospital following a suicide attempt at that point. Several weeks later, he got out, and then tried again. The night of our one-month anniversary, you drove me around to various motels in Falls Church, waiting for a call from my brother saying they'd traced a credit card charge.

The first time you met my dad, you and a large policeman and I all arrived at the motel door at the same time. He opened the door, in his underwear and T-shirt, loopy on whatever he'd just ingested, and I introduced the two of you.

Instead of running, you loved me all the more fiercely. For years I would say you saved me. You were my superhero.

We fell so immensely, crashingly in love, and if you'd asked, I'd have married you in the first month or two. I believed you were The One. You and my dad were very similar. You got along so very well.

After a year, we broke up. I initiated it, but I still loved you. We got back together. We broke up. We couldn't let go. I didn't want to be apart, I wanted it to work - I just didn't know how to even start a dialogue, and we weren't happy.

I angsted much of it out early in this blog; no reason to rehash here. I don't even know how long we were officially together, but it lasted for over five years. And by the time it was over, I was shredded. Devastated. Dysfunctional.

I still dream about you. I want so badly for you to love me, I work so hard for it, and you are always just out of reach. I awake with a sad ache. I believe you actually represent my dad in these dreams.

The Dementor
We dated for a couple months, not more, which is bizarre considering your impact on me. We continued to see each other after you moved to New York, and in fact, when I saw you last year, we realized we'd known each other for six years.

We weren't in love, and weren't together very long, but it was intense. I won't deny you made my skin feel like it was covered in red hots. And I will never see abs like yours in person again.

But the truth is, it was your damage that locked me in. You have deep brown eyes, and they are smart, and they are angry. You've lived through hell. And nothing surprises you.

You and I can both be very judgey, but we never are where family is concerned. We have shocked people who have overheard our dinner conversations - my dad's most recent suicide attempt, your sister's stint in jail.

My friends felt sympathy for me; you could actually empathize. And give really helpful advice.

My Husband
By the time I meet you, I'd had the shit-ton of therapy I'd been needing. I'd actually processed and learned from mistakes and traumas. I had enough self-worth to believe that someone wonderful could actually love me.

From the very start, you made me feel safe - something I desperately need. People can make you abjectly miserable, but nobody else can make you happy. And so, I wouldn't say you make me happy; I'd say I'm at my happiest with you.

You look and sound like a big, conservative Southern gentleman. You have a seersucker suit that you wear with saddle shoes, for Pete's sake. I love how you look in your pinstripe suits. And yet you're so very liberal in your politics and your world outlook.

This is an irresistible combination for me.

You loved me from almost the beginning, and you were so steady and certain - and I was not. I'd been burned; I was scared. You made it clear you weren't walking away - ever. I still adore and envy your certainty, your ability to make quick decisions without wavering or second-guessing yourself.

You make me laugh. You think I'm funny. I am never, ever bored when I'm with you.

When we fight, it is ugly. We've had a couple come-to-Jesus moments. And still, you have never question that we are meant to be together. And even though postpartum I was mentally dividing up furniture, and I can't promise it won't happen with the next baby, in truth I cannot imagine myself with anyone else.

You are physically and emotionally one of the biggest people I have ever met. You have the broadest shoulders, which is lucky, because you've taken on more than I know you ever imagined with me and my family, and sometimes it must feel like a Sisyphean task.

You also have the hugest heart. And I'm so very lucky it is mine.

44 comments:

  1. Lovely post Lisa..I'm trying to work out who the Marine and Delhi friend are :) It was after I had left AES....so I missed all the gossip (A Marine and the ambassador's daughter???? Would that be the ambassador's daughter who was in my class???)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just sent you a message on FB - you do know the Delhi friend. I don't know which ambassador's daughter - I think it was before my time there, although now it occurs to me that you were in Delhi before me. Maybe you do know her!

      Delete
  2. This made me cry at work. I could chalk it up to the fact that I'm PMSing like a raging bitch, but mostly it's because this was just lovely and made me think of all my past loves, too. All the crazy lunatics they were (and are)!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, sorry, Moosie. I hate crying at work. There's so much emotion tied up in past loves, isn't there?

      Delete
  3. Happy Valentine's Day Lisa. You have a huge heart just like Nick, I'm so glad you have one another :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Big hugs to you, Heather! Thank you!

      Delete
  4. That was incredible, beautiful, sweet. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I really enjoyed this!

    And this:

    "You loved me from almost the beginning, and you were so steady and certain - and I was not. I'd been burned; I was scared. You made it clear you weren't walking away - ever."

    Reminds me so much of my beginning with my fiance.

    Happy Valentine's Day!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so glad! And I'm so glad you have that - it's such a good feeling.

      Delete
  7. "I wouldn't say you make me happy; I'd say I'm at my happiest with you."

    I love this. And am SO glad that you have it. Happy Valentine's Day!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, lovely Jess. I hope you had a wonderful Valentine's Day with yours!

      Delete
  8. beautiful. especially this line, it's put so perfectly - And so, I wouldn't say you make me happy; I'd say I'm at my happiest with you.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Awww, made me cry too. I love your love stories! Hope you all have a wonderful v-day!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much! You know, I love writing about relationships, I just don't have as much room to anymore.

      Delete
  10. I love this! Sorry I don't comment much anymore, but I'm still a faithful reader every time you post :) My 1985 work computer won't let me comment on blogger anymore, and I usually forget by the time I'm home.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hugs to you, Tia! I hope all is going well for you. And that they upgrade your work computer soon. :)

      Delete
    2. They did today! Hooray!

      Delete
  11. The last one made me tear up! So sweet!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Aw, I just really enjoyed reading this -- journey of your love life. Thanks for taking the time to share.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, A.K. I really enjoyed writing it.

      Delete
  13. This was so wonderful, Lisa. You inspired me to do a post of my own: http://girlwhocraves.blogspot.com.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I absolutely loved yours, Amanda. As I said, you're a beautiful writer.

      Delete
  14. You give me hope that I won't be miserable and alone forever. Thank you for that. Because right now...yeah. you give me hope. Thats all I can say.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am glad. You won't, you definitely won't. It felt like it for me for the longest time, and it is so hard to keep faith, I know.

      Delete
  15. Lucky, lucky you. I will continue on with your persistence in hopes that I find the one I am happiest with too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know you will, Stacey. You're a beautiful person, inside and out, and just so kind and loving. You will.

      Delete
  16. I just went through every emotion ever. Thank you for sharing these. I wonder where your 6th grade crush is now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Grace. I wonder, too, actually.

      Delete
  17. ...and another thing about Nick, when somebody gave him a weird giant blue electric fuzzy thing, he actually put it on over his suit at the office party. I bet the giver knew he'd be a good sport and put it on, and that's why they gave it to him.

    I love yer stuff. I bet he's never bored with you, either.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He got it in one of those Santa swap games at their Christmas party, but he was the perfect person, because he actually would put it on and walk around in it.

      No, I don't think he gets bored with me. Exasperated and exhausted, yes. But not bored.

      Delete
  18. OK. What is it with the gay guy? I had nearly the same experience, except my gaydar did go off and ALL my friends insisted I was crazy. He wasn't GAY. No way. Um. Yeah. He is. He was living with his boyfriend (roommate) then and still is to this day.

    I actually believed my friends because 1. I was 23 and impressionable; and 2. Why would a gay guy ask out a woman? (Still don't have the answer to that one!)

    SO happy for you that all those different people lead you to Nick!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was angry for a long time. Relieved he was gay (it wasn't me!) but so mad that he'd strung me along - why ask a woman out if you are a gay man??

      But now that I have years of hindsight and compassion I really believe that being raised ultra-Catholic, he was struggling very hard against being gay. I read some of his diary pages and he was tortured.

      Unlike you, I have never had any gaydar. My friends were like, wait, he loved opera and show tunes?!! But you know, so did my dad. And he was very athletic, but he could also talk about Renaissance art and orchids. I thought it was a fascinating combination.

      Delete
  19. I simply loved this -- what an insight into your life. So many adventures. So much story. So much love!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Dana. I have so many more - which is what happens when you're almost 40 when you marry. You really rack up the boyfriends. :)

      Delete
  20. this is a beautiful post, lisa. i loved every word and getting a glimpse of your life at so many different times.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, Carly, you are so sweet. Thank you.

      Delete
  21. Ah fab post! I may copy you and do one too, when I find the energy to post again!! Still reading you by the way, but commenting with my shitty internet connection requires more patience than I have ! xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Miranda! Hi! You have a new baby, a little girl, (and a crappy internet connection). Nobody is expecting you to post or comment right now. Enjoy your family and your lovely and enviable view!

      Delete
  22. I really loved reading this. If I were to go back and sift through all of the dysfunctional, passionate, and co-dependent relationships that led up to my husband, I doubt I could have done it as gracefully as you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Miss Dallas. I was surprised at how good it felt to go through the process, probably because so many years have gone by. One friend reminded me of an incident with an early boyfriend...which I'd totally forgotten. Time, it turns out, really takes the edge off and can make one so much more generous.

      Delete

Tell me about it.