In preparing for Sharon's and my second serial yard sale, I went to my mom's house to excavate some items of interest from my old room, to sell. I found a lot of those kinds of things (books, household things, vintage clothes, regular clothes, knick-knacks and bric-a-brac), I found a lot of things to throw away, and I found a lot of memories lurking in corners and hiding in boxes like mice.
I thrilled at finding old postcards and letters from the girls I talked to all.the.time (many of whom I still talk to with some regularity) on old-school boards like EstroNet and ChickClick. We'd set up a lot of postcard and letter exchanges, so I have awesome words from awesome ladies from awesome places all over this awesome world. I tweeted about coming across such items from Ashe and Lara. I felt like an archaeologist, finding these 9-10 year old pieces of paper in near-perfect form.
I was less than enthused, but equally amused, at finding high school paraphernalia, mostly prom and senior year photos. Senior year was NAGL* for me, I'll just say that. Well, actually, by the end of the year I looked better, but I will say that short hair does not suit me well. At all.
Then I found the letter.
It's exaggeration to call it a letter; it's really a note, at best.
It's from my worst boyfriend, hands down. The guy gave me his used PSX with crappy burned games for my birthday, after he bought himself a brand spankin' new PS2, which had serendipitously come out right around my special day. The guy kept me waiting for around 3 hours, outside and eventually inside his apartment when his roommate came home) while he smoked pot with the next-door neighbor, the night before we had a SUPER early flight to Florida with my mom, when mom and I had paid for his ticket. The guy said to an utterly beyond-comprehension-upset me, after we both learned that the barn I'd been working at had burned down and 19 of my equine charges had perished, "Hey, you probably just need to try some weed to chill out..." The guy belittled me and mocked me at every turn after his initial charm had worn off, whether it was about school or work or life or whatever. The guy, when I was hanging out with him and his roommate very early in our relationship, made inappropriate remarks about a) his ex-girlfriend doing b) a sexual act I won't name but it rhymes with "MuttMex" with no regard for c) me, his girlfriend at the time, until roommate came to the rescue with "Not cool, dude." The guy bumped into me on an escalator at Oakland Mall and knocked my stupid Mrs. Field's cookie frosting-side-down onto the stupid floor and refused to buy me a new one. Oh, and the guy pushed me - hard - into his coffee table once when he was stoned and getting angry (and I know that's not a natural response, but from an already-angry guy it doesn't seem too off-base).
All these things, plus all the things I can't or won't mention or go into detail about, add up to the guy being Not a Good Dude (NAGD?).
Needless to say, I didn't remember this note/letter/whatever at all, when I found it, given all the horribleness I just transcribed. Niceties like that in a sea of shit tend to either stand out like a narwhal's horn or drown in the muck. Obviously the latter was the case.
So I read it. I didn't recognize the handwriting immediately, as most guys' handwriting seems painfully similar to me in a sloppy, weird way. It's four small pages long - about as big as a 4x6 photo, and stapled together in the upper left corner. A weird, grimacing 'smiley' face graces the cover, with a sloppy border drawn around the edges, and the words: "A happy letter! (in whispered tones) I think the smily (sic) is a bit scary however. ENJOY!" cower under the grimacing, neon-yellow face, faded a bit from time or anger or constipation.
The inner pages of this possible Tijuana Bible are purple, and swirly, and Hello Kitty, and princessy.
Who in the world is this from? I thought.
(any and all spelling or grammatical errors - yes, even (ESPECIALLY) the 'hasen't' - in that block of text are solely the work and responsibility of that guy)
I went through quite a range of emotions after finding out the author of the note. A rainbow of them, starting with raging red and ending with violently unhappy violet.
Mostly I wondered if I'd been wrong about him. If he was maybe not such a terrible guy. If maybe my 20 year old psyche had erased the happy parts of our relationship and left me with the unsavory parts looping in the background like on a DVD menu screen in a sick highlight reel. If maybe I'd done something wrong, and if maybe I'd been doing the same thing wrong ever since.
There were times when we were dating (for the eight months or so we dated) that I actually physically hated the guy, even though I told him I loved him and I sometimes believed that.
On the other hand, I can think of two periods in the time I knew him when he was nice enough to me - not exceedingly or cloyingly nice, but the kind of nice boyfriends should be to their girlfriends. Neither period lasted very long, and the transition to and back to assholery was not seamless or invisible enough to render me confused and clueless. The first was, of course, the pre-dating. We didn't pre-date very long: we were probably boyfriend/girlfriend within a week of meeting, having met on match.com or nerve.com/personals or one of their ilk. He was very sweet at first; called me 'bean,' which I thought was the cutest thing ever, he took me out to dinner, he made me dinner, he cuddled me. But the mask fell and he grew acerbic, caustic, mean, rude. I didn't like going places with him, or being around him, or talking to him. I hated the very sound of his voice, and I hated his face, and I hated him. I don't remember why or exactly when we broke up - but if my backwards-composite recollection is semi-accurate (I started dating another guy around Thanksgiving 2001, I'd gotten the job at the bookstore in October and I think we broke up about 1-2 weeks after I started work there, so let's say mid to late October is when we broke up, which makes sense because my birthday would've been a few weeks earlier and I would've been still pissed about that whole mess: minus eight months (that part I am sure about) means we started dating in February, which sounds right because the more I think about it, the more certain I am that we met each other a week or two after Valentine's Day, as I know I didn't have a Valentine's Day with an SO until Nate and I started dating in 2004. WHEW. So anyway, we've established that it was about mid-February to mid-October, 2001. Back on track...) but that letter definitely came after the initial glow had faded dully, because the 'cranky' comment means I was starting to realize what a greedy, selfish, cantankerous bastard he was. My makeshift timeline correlates that it was after the 'honeymoon' period of the new relationship, before shit got really bad, but bad enough that he felt he needed to write me a letter to tell me he appreciated me.
The other period of nice was right at Christmas. This I remember very vividly because he'd been back in touch with me shortly after I'd started dating J, and in the interest of keeping friends close and (fr-)enemies closer, I'd agreed to trying to be friends with him. Only his interest wasn't so altruistic. He knew I'd been dating J - I'd been nothing but honest with him about it, and sometimes he'd ask how it was going, which I assumed was just par for the course in the trying-to-be-friends-with-your-ex game. What I didn't know, and didn't assume, was that he wanted me back, and bad. He sent me flowers. He sent me notes. He sent me a box of Mrs. Field's cookies to make up, quite belatedly, for the one that had suffered a most tragic death on the escalators** - nevermind that they were not the frosted kind, but some mix, half of which I didn't eat because they had nuts in them and I abhor nuts and he SHOULD HAVE KNOWN THIS! For EVERYONE who knows me knows this about me! In short, he wooed me. And on Christmas Eve, at midnightish, he begged me to let him come over and plead his case, and I stupidly agreed. We sat on the couch and he begged me to take him back, saying how broken and torn up he was without me. I listened to him, with an empathetic ear (something that is a curse most times), but I did not take him back. New boyfriend notwithstanding, I didn't want Andy back, even though he'd made quite the valiant effort and I had to admire his tenacity - especially as he'd told me countless times that he never re-dated someone, and here he was, trying to re-date me, to no avail. And when I said no, he got angry. He didn't get angry that night, he said he understood and he left, but he got angry the next day and the day after that, and he kept it up.
I have NEVER regretted standing firm on my decision to not take him back, even when the relationship with J fizzled and I was alone again. Until now, until reading that letter - which is excessive amounts of confusing to me, since there is nothing in the letter that tells me that he was The One That Got Away. Two months into it, he was already telling me that I was too patient with him and went out of my way to do nice things for him and he didn't deserve me.
So what's making me worry about every decision, every choice, especially romantic, I've made in the past seven and a half years? What's making me doubt myself?
Was it that my relationship (harrowing, chaotic) with him set the precedent for all my subsequent ones? Am I destined, nay, doomed to try too hard for all the wrong people? Am I terminally, lethally patient with people to whom I should not even give the time of day, much less hours of my thought and effort?
I'm not blameless, obviously. I'm not trying to paint a self-portrait of myself in the mantle of a martyr, an innocent caught in the crossfire. I fought with him, I yelled at him, I cried or sulked to get my way sometimes. I am not, never have been, and never will be the perfect girlfriend. I get bitchy, I want to be left alone sometimes, I don't always clean up after myself, I play my videogames and music too loudly, I don't always want to do what you and only you want to do, I get snarky. I'm a person. It's what we do. And once the copper shine of his persona acquired the scaly green patina only time can give it, I could have left, should have left, and I didn't, so anything that happened past that point was at least partially my issue.
But why did I stick it out? Why do I still? I recently wasted another eight-ish months on wanting this one guy who'd come back into my life with a bang and a boom last year. Since reconnecting, we never got together because he was more into playing cat and mouse games with me and leading me on and trying to decide if he wanted me or his ex-girlfriend. But I kept on keeping on. Oh boy, did I ever! I tried once or twice or three times to give up, to let go completely, but something drew me back again, and again, each time with renewed hope: fruitless, devastatingly naive hope. I put effort - a lot - into him, and into me as well. He wooed me with the right words in the right phrases: "I'm not as cocky now as I used to be, back when we first met" and "I really appreciate things more now, the little things, people in my life." Of course I bought it all, I bought it all like Carrie Bradshaw buys shoes or like I buy Ramen noodles on sale at Kroger (ten cents, dudes.***)
I have learned nothing.
It would seem.
After I bought into his Ramen-noodle-like charm (cheap, tastes good at first, fills you up fast but you feel dirty and sick with yourself later) and he bailed on me to hang out - as friends, mind you - three days in a row, I told him goodbye, in no uncertain terms. I unfriended him on Facebook. For the second time. And then I saw him at a show where a million of my friends were, and he spoke words to me, and I was there with a guy I like now, for whom I also might try a little too hard, be a little too patient, go a little too far out of my way to be nice. And it confused the hell out of me. So much so that the next night, at another show with my friend Bonnie, after long talks about men (and two beers), I texted him, asking him why he'd been civil to me. He said he was merely saying hi. And I told him not to; that we were not friends, that we would never be friends, and I didn't want him to talk to me anymore because I couldn't handle the game anymore. So far he hasn't. I have mixed feelings about it. Maybe if I'd tried harder, stuck in there longer, been a little more patient.
F that s.
I obviously haven't completely learned my lesson, and will probably get burned repeatedly until I either give up completely on everyone ever, or until someone proves to me that they know how to not take advantage of people. But I'm getting more careful about it; trying not to fall down flat for the users, the losers, the abusers. I might trip, but my balance is improving.
Are you wondering what happened to That Guy, the first one? I have no idea. We tried to be friends, on and off for the next couple of years. He started dating another girl and insisted we meet (another semi-creepy thing he did; he wanted all his exes to know each other and hang out, probably in hopes of a threesome or some such act), and she and I actually got to be pretty good friends and still are. But then the old hatred/desire to not ever be around him resurfaced and I made myself scarce. And he found me every time (damn myspace, livejournal, AIM, email, etc.) but I refused every advance. My MO with him was, if you didn't make a good boyfriend, you won't make a good friend either. He got mad, really mad, and we exchanged a few strongly-worded emails before he faded away into the ether. Last I heard he had a new new girlfriend and is living in Florida.
I'm really sorry, Florida.
*Not a good look
**I still have an unhealthy fear of escalators, and this is one of two reasons for it
***I was at a Salvation Army the other day that was selling them for 25c. There are so many things wrong with that sentence, no?