I went to Dawn’s tonight, after one of my necklaces broke in the fitting room at American Eagle yesterday, and we had Thai takeout and strung beads and caught up on each other’s lives and friends’ lives. When my ex was mentioned, and we started talking about his new fiancée and reasons why they are probably a better match than he and I were, I said,
“The first time I saw a picture of her, I noticed she’s got pretty big boobs. And I wanted to ask him if she lets him stick his dick in between them – because I never wanted to.”
“Eeeeewwwwwwwww!” Dawn squealed. “I just can’t think of him as sexual, at all. Ew. Sorry.”
I laughed. “Neither can I! Honestly, I see pictures of him now, and it’s like, I don’t know what I was thinking. I hardly even recognize him as someone I was sexual with. But then, I guess I kind of wasn’t.”*
“I know,” Dawn said. “Sometimes I look at some of my exes, and it’s like, what was I thinking?!”
“At least with my other exes though, maybe they were assholes or treated me like shit, but at least I can still see what I was attracted to.”
Before I can continue, I have to give you a quick description of each of the five great loves of my adult life, so that you can come to the same conclusion that Dawn and I quickly came to while drawing up this comparison between my ex-husband and my “other exes.”
Great Love #1: I was 19 and he was 23. He was 5’8″, stocky, with brown hair and blue eyes. I was his rebound chick, his gateway drug to whoredom. He once told me, “To get over someone, put as many bodies between you and that other person as you can.” He taught me a lot about sex and life, and about being self-righteous in the face of adversity. He was the first man I ever said “I love you” to, and ultimately, he broke my heart by continuing to put bodies between himself and his ex. I took a few months to get over it, and we’ve been best friends ever since.
Great Love #2: I was 20-21, and he was 18-20. He was 5’6″, chubby, with brown hair which usually hung over his blue eyes. I was his mistress for two years, and his last call every night, except on nights that he was with his real girlfriend. Ironically, he taught me devotion, as well as how to experience the whole spectrum of emotions, from elation to devastation, sometimes in the course of a single day. I did most of my young sexual experimenting with him – finding out what I liked and didn’t like, taking risks, fulfilling fantasies -and he broke my heart, well, repeatedly. We tried to stay friends after we’d declared it over, but eventually his girlfriend found out he had cheated on her, and, to put it nicely, we lost touch.
Great Love #3: I was 22; he was 25. He was 5’7″, stocky, with brown hair and brown eyes. We were each other’s summer fling, before I took off for my year in France, though we agreed that if I hadn’t been leaving, there was something there that would’ve been worth pursuing. He treated me with respect both in and out of the bedroom, and I liked who I was around him: both his intellectual equal, and, at times, a cutesy, ditzy younger girl. He didn’t break my heart; at the end of the summer, I got on the plane like I was supposed to, and my heart broke. It may be unfair to call him a “great love,” as we never got to that point in the few months we spent together, but he did make an impact on me, and we remain close friends.
Great Love #4: My ex-husband. I was 22-25; he was 15 days older than I was. He was 6’2″, skinny, with flame-red hair and ice-blue eyes. He was sensitive and emotional, and held me up on a pedestal as his perfect little wife. He didn’t want to know anything about my sexual history or my sexual attraction to (or love for) anyone but him. I felt trapped, like the best of my life was behind me. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I broke his heart. And you know the rest.
Great Love #5: Doug. I was 25-present (28); he was 21-present (almost-25). He is 5’7″, stocky, with brown hair and hazel eyes. He’s taught me patience and acceptance; he has a calming influence on me, even though he too can be a live wire. Our bodies interlock like puzzle pieces – not just in the bedroom, in every way: in the way his belly fills the curve of the small of my back, or the way the side of his face is exactly the size of my cupped palm. In other ways, we are polarized: I am quiet and bookish; he is boisterous and athletic. What I lack in common sense, he fills in for me, and, well, I tell him how to spell words so he can play Scrabble with me. And you know the rest there, too.
“But Marie,” Dawn insisted. “The whole reason you liked [ex-husband] is because he was exactly the opposite of all those other guys. That was the attraction.”
I almost disagreed, but then, “Wait… Really?”
Maybe she had a point. After a few failed attempts at love with guys who were obviously my type, I must have subconsciously told myself that my type were all jerks. So I let myself be pulled in the opposite direction, crafted a different sort of love for someone I hadn’t been initially attracted to, thinking that this kind of guy would respect and care about me in a way his shorter, chubbier, darker predecessors hadn’t. And maybe he did. Except that he also underestimated my intelligence and undervalued my personality quirks in a way his those other guys – those “jerks” – never would have dared.
I’ve known all along that Doug is the polar opposite of my ex-husband, and that I probably chose him for just that reason, but I hadn’t given enough credit to the possibility that my ex-husband was the polar opposite of something too – and that he too was chosen for a reason. It makes sense. But I have to say, it feels good to be back on track.
And because this is a lot to take in for one night, I want to leave on a lighter note: Andrew (my nephew/Dawn’s son/Great Love #6) is learning more and more words every day. The problem is that he isn’t necessarily learning them correctly. Dawn told me that today in the car, they passed a taxi, and Andrew said, “Takitee!” But the best one? If you ask him where the fog is, Andrew will point out the window and say, “Fuck over there!”
*My ex and I didn’t have sex (vaginal intercourse) before we were married. Neither of us was a virgin going in, we just kept putting off the first time, waiting for “the perfect moment,” until the pressure got to be so great that the only qualifying moment was the wedding night. I later told him, during one of the ugly fights we had right before we split, that if we had had sex before marriage, I probably wouldn’t have married him. We were that incompatible.