I thought about calling this post “Julio Iglesias Can Suck It,” because it’s about all the girls I’ve loved before, and how one in particular impacted how I viewed relationships for many years.
I had a really productive therapy session this afternoon. I brought something up that has been impacting me for almost 32 years, and I was thankful that both my therapist and Jenn gave the the space to talk about this. It’s something that changed my outlook when it happened back in the Fall of 1988, and I’m finally able to let it go.
I met Mandy in the Spring of 1987 at the Music Educators All-Eastern Conference in Baltimore, as we were both selected to sing in the All-Eastern Choir. We instantly clicked, and this developed into a long-distance relationship that continued through our freshman year of college (me at Ithaca, her at Plymouth State in New Hampshire).
During the Summer of 1988, she went to Detroit to do an internship, and the plan was that I’d fly out for a few days in August before she went home. A month before I was supposed to head out, she called to tell me she was going home. Even though I wasn’t going to Detroit (and hadn’t yet bought my plane ticket), we still had our phone calls, and I still sent letters, as we had always done. When I got back to school, I noticed that our communication was not as frequent, but nothing prepared me for what came next.
It was a Saturday night in October…my friend Steve also knew Mandy, and I mentioned that I hadn’t heard from her in a few days. Steve reached out, and that’s how she broke up with me – she asked Steve to tell me that she didn’t want to see me anymore. No reason why, no explanation…..nothing.
I was already having trust issues (part of which were buried because of the sexual abuse), and this made me question myself…was it because of something I did or said? Was it because of my color? Was it something else all together? At this point, I went into a deep feeling of self-loathing, and truly feeling like I wasn’t good enough to be in a relationship with anyone. I’d had a previous girlfriend while in high school, and the prejudice of one of her friends had a major impact on our breakup. I truly lost a sense of self. As I was 18 years old (and my frontal lobe wasn’t quite developed yet), I did not react well at all.
As I went through the rest of college, I was afraid to date, and there were certain girls that treated me like I was not worthy of their time. As I went into my 20’s (aka “the Fuckup Years”), I was dating one girl, and simultaneously pining for another girl (Francesca), who I felt treated me like I wasn’t good enough for her. The mistakes I made? Ouch. Then I got into a pattern of dating girls who treated me as less than equal, as I had endured that from my dad, and I had accepted this as normal. One of them actually said to me that “she was the smarter one in the relationship,” and I didn’t have the self-esteem to walk away.
As I’d become less trusting (and simultaneously more arrogant), I had a humongous chip on my shoulder. When I was married to my ex-wife, I had told her about what had happened in my previous relationships, and she used to tease me about Mandy, right down to changing the Barry Manilow lyrics at my expense. Between this and the religious browbeating, this was when I started to hit the wall. I truly believed that I was incapable of feeling like an equal to anybody.
There’s an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond where Raymond couldn’t understand why an ex-girlfriend broke up with no explanation. That resonated with me, especially when his wife Debra helped him find closure. It wasn’t that he still had feelings for his former girlfriend…it was the feeling of getting an answer.
Fast forward to my therapy session today…although I’ve worked extremely hard over the last year to get in a really good headspace, I felt like I needed to address this issue that has always been tucked away in the corner of my mind…and I’m really glad that I did.
I got insight today that gave me a new perspective. To use today’s lingo, I was “ghosted” by Mandy. The reasons that she said nothing did not fall completely on my shoulders. We were both 18-year-old kids (whose frontal lobes weren’t yet fully developed), and she was either too scared to say anything, or just didn’t know how. I took the feeling of rejection so brutally hard all those years ago, and I didn’t believe in myself as a result. It feels like I can take that monkey off my back that I’ve let slightly eat away at me all these years.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve made a point of reaching out to a lot of people from my past – people that I hurt and people who I felt hurt me, all the way back to junior high. It wasn’t about any type of payback, and although some of the conversations were a little bit odd or slightly off, it was good to say the words that I wish I’d said years ago, but that I didn’t think I was good enough and/or too scared to say. The results have been mixed, but I don’t have the fear that I always felt in the past when thinking about reaching out.
I’m at a point now where I can see and better understand what happened, and although it would be very easy to kick my own ass for all the self-loathing and mistakes for all these years, I’m finding the ability to forgive myself and let it go. I don’t need to know why Mandy did what she did, because it’s a reflection on her, not on me…..and although I’m still not there yet, I’ll get to the point where I can truly forgive her.
This ex will no longer factor into who I am, and how I feel about myself.