There’s nothing like a good love letter… although in today’s case it’s more likely to be a love email. I once saved nearly all the love letters/emails from past boyfriends/love interests/high school crushes. I had a fantasy of writing a book about the love letters compiled during my life. It would be an interesting window into my relationships – a cool chronicle of how many relationships one woman can screw up. However, in a cleaning hissy fit at my condo – spurred by my parents moving out of my childhood home last fall – nearly all of my adolescent love letters went in the trash. Not sure why I pitched those and not the more recent ones.
There’s just something about first kisses. When, where, how and why they happen can tell you a lot about a person. They can also tell you a lot about what the relationship might be like. Usually imbued with all sorts of anxieties, they can send tingles up your spine, set your loins on fire, or totally turn you off. I remember my first kiss … I was fifteen – his name was Bruce. We both worked at the local grocery store, but went to different high schools. I think I only wanted to “go out” (we were so innocent in the early ‘90s) with him because I didn’t want to be “sweet sixteen and never been kissed.” I think that was the first time I realized that I could wield power over a man. I remember breaking up with him soon after that – a scene that rolled out on my parents' front lawn. I couldn’t give him a good reason; I just didn’t want to “date” anymore. But back to the kisses …
So you know that old expression, “when you fall off, get right back on that horse”? Well, that’s what I’ve been trying to do for the past two months since Frank f*cked me over by standing me up for his ex-wife at his National Guard unit’s homecoming. But this “single-time-around” has been a lot harder for me to get back in the dating scene. I’m not sure if I’m unmotivated or if I have shut down because I was burned so badly. Maybe it’s a combination of both.
So after all the crap that Frank put me through in the past month, you’d think I might have a bad opinion of men. Well, I do, but for only the ones who have screwed me over! There are still good men in this world, I see them every day. Now judging “good men” and “good relationships” is an inexact science, as I can only see them from the outside. I can only adjudicate what’s presented to me because I’m not privy to what happens behind closed doors, so these comments are based purely on my perceptions. My friend Renatta’s fiancé Claudio is one of the “good ones.”
So now it’s been three weeks since that fateful night at the Armory when I went to pick up Frank and he disappeared into thin air. After several emails to his sister, I finally heard from him. Here was what he wrote – mind you this email came two weeks after I was supposed to pick him up. [Note: he must have written this email on a phone, as it is filled with spelling and grammar mistakes.] “I start off by telling you I am sorry. My ex was also at the welcome home. I looked for you, but she found me first. She is very angry, and threatened to make a big scene, so I left with her to diffuse the situation. I didn’t expect you, so I didn't think it was an issue. I don't expect u to believe anything I say, just wanted to end the mystery. You r a talented and beautiful lady. It is my loss.” Seriously? Seriously! Receiving this email was more emotionally disturbing to me than the actual night when he disappeared. I guess I was in shock that night, numb to any emotion except devastation. In the two intervening weeks I had time to process what happened and came to the conclusion that he had some sort of mental break own and couldn’t deal with being home and confronting me. The actual explanation was more frustrating and maddening than what I had thought. I was fuming – practically steaming out my ears – as I read the email.
Sometimes, and often at the most inopportune moments, a fine line appears - the line between “life” and a “Lifetime Movie.” I've been known to be overly dramatic now and then - heaven knows I've had my share of drama. In fact, I spent most of my childhood with my mother saying, "Oh, don't be so dramatic.” However, this latest episode takes the cake! The last few weeks I had been anxiously awaiting Frank’s return from Afghanistan. I’d scrubbed, peeled, and waxed myself. Cleaned the house and made room for him in my bureau drawers and medicine cabinet. I psyched myself up for his return. Last Thursday I heard a local news story that his unit was returning that evening. Originally he said I could pick him up Friday night, so I emailed to check on the new arrival time. He wrote back saying, “We’ll be there tonight! Come get me.”
On a recent vacation to DC with my BFF Kathleen (yes, we’re that geeky about history that we take holidays in the nation’s capitol), we swung by the Jefferson Memorial for a visit with our friend Tom. Kathleen and I are both fans of this complicated and multi-faceted man; however that’s not the point of this blog. One of his quotes, written in bronze on an interior wall, really hit home about something I’ve been marinating on for a while – change. The quote reads, in part: “As [man] becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, [man] must advance also to keep pace with the times.” I feel like this captures the journey I’ve been on for the past couple of years. As I’ve become more enlightened and my circumstances have changed, I have advanced and evolved as well. Or at least I’ve really tried to advance and evolve.
Reuniting is a strange phenomenon. In my case it’s loaded with shaky expectations and lots of unknowns. Frank is returning from Afghanistan in about four weeks. The past 11 months flew by really fast, but now the last month is going to drag with anticipation. He’s hit the part in his tour where they are transitioning their duties to the replacement unit, so he is feeling very superfluous. This is the worst thing for a soldier in theatre. He now has time to contemplate his situation and think deeply about where they are in their life and where they are going.
The subject of mentoring has been on my mind a lot lately. It’s been one of those things that when you hear about it once it sticks in your mind and then you keep noticing it everywhere. It began in early December when I started a new job and my boss gave me a New Yorker article about a surgeon who was skeptical about the idea of having a mentor (he thought he was at the top of his game) until he tried it, and then realized it helped him become a better surgeon. He likened it to coaching. For nearly 20 years of my life I’ve coached figure skaters, and 12 of those years were spent with one particular student. I first met Heather when she was 9 years old – a tall, emotionally fragile girl from a divorced family. Heather would cry every time she couldn’t land a jump. I thought, like most skaters, she was frustrated with herself and mad that she couldn’t do it “right.” Years later she revealed to me that she cried because she was worried that she was disappointing me because she wasn’t able to land her jumps correctly. Nothing could have been further from the truth. I was, and still am, proud of her. (Now 21, she skates professionally with a big touring company.)
What does it mean to be highly evolved? In particular – a highly evolved man? Last month Frank wrote to me, “I worked on my brief last night till 2 am. Then read Cosmo for an hour. What smut that is. It gave me some tips on how to enjoy your masturbation, and encourage use of toys and household objects. I'm going to seek out more of these to become super educated on your body.” I laughed out loud. I couldn’t picture my Frank, manly and buff plumber/Army Major, reading a “smutty” woman’s magazine. When I told Kathleen, she laughed too and then said that he must be highly evolved in order to feel comfortable reading it. Hmmm… highly evolved? I needed to think about that one.