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My Most Romantic Gesture Was Wasted on Someone Who Didn't Deserve It
But it meant something at the time, and (maybe?) I don't regret it. What's been your all-time most romantic gesture? Or the most romantic gesture ever extended in your direction? An open thread...
Happy Valentine’s Day to all who celebrate. 💝 (I know not everyone does; that in our culture romantic couplehood is over-emphasized and over-privileged; and that for those living with heartache, this holiday is hard.)
These days I’m lucky in love, and I like the holiday just fine, although it’s also no big deal. My husband, Brian, is the bees knees as far as I am concerned—my all-time favorite human. We’ve been together almost 20 years now, married for 18. I got him a card, which I’ll give him later. He probably forgot to get me a card, and will later make one. It doesn’t matter; as he said to me this morning, “Every day is Valentine’s Day with us.” It’s true. At the risk of nauseating some of you: the kindness and thoughtfulness flow in both directions between us all the time, through good times and bad, and I consider myself incredibly fortunate.
But before I met Brian, from my late 20s through my late 30s, I did that common thing where you keep dating variations on the same wrong person, somehow expecting things to eventually turn out different. More than two decades ago, getting myself to the place where I was no longer drawn to men who were bad for (or to) me was a major rite of passage.
More than two decades ago, getting myself to the place where I was no longer drawn to men who were bad for (or to) me was a major rite of passage.
Before I could get there—perhaps it was a part of getting myself there—apparently I had to put myself through hell, the kind of torment that can cure you of your attraction to a toxic partner. It’s a story from which others (especially other women) have taken solace and hope, so I’ll share a brief, abridged version here.
I probably could have avoided my last round with a guy I’ll call “Chris,” someone I was on and off with for years. I’ll skip over the drama here (there’s more about it in my book) and just say that although we were deeply bonded, and often intensely in love, he was a deeply troubled guy who just as often treated me badly. I had the ridiculous, inflated notion that I could fix him (and a few others before him)—that if I was patient and needless enough, he’d change.
That last round of our relationship was conducted long-distance, the kind of arrangement that’s not easy for a jealous guy like Chris. To ease that, I devised what I now consider to have been my all-time most romantic gesture: a system of writing to each other in cheap pocket notebooks when we were apart.
In the times when we were apart, each of us would write to the other in one of the notebooks, then we’d swap books every time we were back in each other’s company, and read what the other had written.
It was 2000, and Chris didn’t yet have a cell phone or email, or even a computer, and it was really expensive to keep refilling this MCI card I had, which we used for speaking to each other on the phone across the distance. In the times when we were apart, each of us would write to the other in one of the notebooks, then we’d swap books every time we were back in each other’s company, and read what the other had written. At the end of each weekend we spent together, we’d each begin writing in which ever notebook we now had in our possession, to trade again next time.
When we started corresponding in that way it was intoxicating and thrilling. We wrote prolifically about our love and longing. Sometimes Chris was so excited to share what he wrote, he called from his place 100 miles away from mine, using the MCI card, to read it to me. It defeated the purpose of the notebooks, but I was too moved by his enthusiasm and ardor to object. It was kind of sweet.
Months later, by the time we’d filled ten or more mini-notebooks, they mostly catalogued our relationship’s demise. Early that February, he confessed to cheating and my heart broke into a thousand pieces. Valentine’s Day 2001 was the most painful I’ve ever experienced.
When we started corresponding in that way it was intoxicating and thrilling. We wrote prolifically about our love and longing…Months later, by the time we’d filled ten or more mini-notebooks, they mostly catalogued our relationship’s demise.
As painful and destructive as that relationship ultimately was, there was a good thing about going that last round with Chris: it cured me of any remaining romantic notions I ever had about us. I suspect that if I hadn’t gone through all that I had with him, I’d have harbored a lingering curiosity all my life about whether things could have worked out between us. Now I know definitively that they couldn’t have. It feels good to have that knowledge, to never have to wonder.
In a way, that last painful round was a gift. It allowed me to let go of Chris, and ultimately, a few years later, make room for kind, sweet Brian, whose gestures of love and kindness arrive and fortify me daily.
Now I want to hear from you about the most romantic gesture you’ve ever either offered or received. Tell me in the comments…
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