I fell in love for the first time when I was 18.
They say love is blind. It must be, because the first time I saw Seth he was wearing purple corduory pants.
I felt sorry for him, and his pants, and so I started paying attention to him.
I have come to realize that this is the first step on a slippery slope for me.
We lived in the same dormitory complex. I saw him around the cafeteria. He often brought a book and ate alone. We also had an anatomy class and lab together.
By the mid-term, I was saving a seat for him in the front of class because he had an earlier class across the campus and was usually a couple minutes late.
Thanksgiving Break, he asked me home to meet his parents (I declined because another guy had asked me out first, and then stood me up so I spent the holiday alone and miserable…. the bastard). Christmas Break, he asked for my home address so he could send me a Christmas card. He followed through on his promise. My parents were appropriately charmed and curious at my new beau.
We started dating when we got back for the new semester in January. Valentines Day, he sent me pink carnations (because red roses were considered too sexy for our Christian university). Presidents Day, he finally took me home to meet his parents. On my birthday, I kissed him for the first time. It was his first kiss, ever. It was my third.
Wait, hold on… you say…. whaaaaat? You hung out with the guy for four months, and then you dated him for two months, and you are only now kissing him in March?
Also… no first kiss is ever that good.
What can I say? We were both true-blue believers at the flagship university for our shared religion. I personally knew girls who refused to kiss until at their wedding.
Other aspects of the romance no doubt seem rushed up. I mean, we met in August and he wanted to take me home to meet the fam in November. That’s because we couldn’t have sex until we were married, and so what was the point in waiting?
Turns out, there are TONS of reasons to wait to get married.
Also, turns out, his mother hated me.
Cue the Monster-in-Law. Hey, at least in this scenario I’m J-Lo.
I don’t say this about a lot of people, but that woman was a real piece of work.
Worst part was that she never did anything straight forward. She always came at me sideways. Sarcasm and sabotage while still keeping her saintly hands clean.
Here’s an example. He was a local; I wasn’t. So unless I wanted to hang around an empty dormitory (which is hella creepy, BTW), I needed to fly home over the breaks.
We had a long weekend every Easter at our university because the administration didn’t want to promote the sinful nature of most Spring Break festivities. So I was all set up to fly home when Seth called me and asked what flight I was on.
He tried to act surprised when he said that his father was going to be on the same flight and that he wanted to make sure we could sit together.
My family is well-off, but in a country bumpkin kind of way. His family was rich in a bubble-hadn’t-burst-yet kind of way that was largely an act to show up the neighbors.
So, yes… I was Elizabeth Bennet and he was Fitzwilliam Darcy. How very droll.
With some of that fancy-dancy money, his father upgraded me and sat us both in first class. He said it was because I deserved a treat after having to deal with their family, but I knew he was going to give me a talking-to and wanted the privacy.
Looking back on it, I actually feel sorry for Seth’s dad. He probably didn’t have much of a choice, and he faced the very real possibility of having a crying, psychotic teenager on his hands, stuck there with him for hours. Best case scenario she locks herself in the lav.
Truth is, I get the “we’re worried about you” talk all the fucking time. Some of the time it’s good advice; most of the time it isn’t. It’s just nosy Nellies being bossy.
When I sense the lecture coming on, I have a coping strategy. I focus on my breathing and make sure that I don’t squint (I’m a bad squinter when I am concentrating). I set my face in a smile that is pleasant but not insipid (I practice in front of a mirror beforehand). I put my hands together in my lap and straighten my spine. Then I listen to every last word they have to say before I open my mouth.
Who knows, maybe they have something worthwhile to say. Usually it’s…. “you’re going to embarrass me, or the family, or yourself.” Or sometimes… “you really need to consider your abilities and your limits because someone isn’t going to be around always to rescue you.” Or my favorite… “other people have told me that you offend/scare/annoy them.”
And there’s only one answer I offer in response: “Okay. Information received.”
When my heart is on the line, I also have a question: “And what does he say?”
My second former mother-in-law tried this on me once too. She pulled me aside to say that she thought I dressed too scantily (when I showed up for a date with him) and that she was going to tell my father that we were sleeping together before marriage.
“And what does he say?”
“Oh, I haven’t asked him. This is between us.”
“Which is the perfect way to get me to agree to something that neither he or I wants.”
Ultimately, I agreed to the following terms: she backed the hell off, and if my parents ever called her, she would give them an earful. I agreed because I knew my parents would never ever ever call. They, like my former father-in-law, saw the situation for what it was: a second chance for two adults who had already been around the block.
If you want to doll it up, you can refer to this scene where Mr. Darcy’s aunt (and to-be future mother-in-law because she wants him to marry his cousin, her daughter… and let’s say it…. ewwwww) comes down hard on Elizabeth Bennet to bully her into not following her heart and accepting Mr. Darcy’s (second) proposal of marriage.
A word to menfolk: do not discuss Jane Austen flippantly with your lady. She will go ninja on your ass when you fail to remember all the names and details.
This particular scene produces very strong emotions in women, because we have all been there: back up against the wall but not willing to give up on love.
At the risk of sounding like a mean-spirited Bob Dylan lyric, I am tired of fighting for love. I wish love would start fighting for me.
Long story short, Seth and I had a wonderful summer together (I attended summer school in part to be close to him). He drove me to the airport in late July and gave me a book to read on the flight. He’d written a note in it that I didn’t see until after take-off. He pulled me into a hug that lasted longer than was comfortable, at first. After a bit, it became a deeper connection, and when he finally let go of me, I felt like I was floating on a pillow of love as I boarded the airplane.
Then I read the note.
It was not a happy note.
Getting your heart broken anywhere anytime is horrible. Getting your heart broken on an airplane, long before the advent of cell phones, surrounded by strangers on a red-eye flight where everyone just wants to sleep is beyond horrible. It is, simply put, hell.
When I finally made it to an airport payphone four hours later, his mother was all too happy to tell me that Seth had just left on an extended trip to Bali or Bermuda or the Bahamas or wherever the fuck white boys who can’t stand up to their moms travel.
He was probably actually just down in the basement, where I’d actually let him get to second base over the summer. Lonely and licking his wounds, like I was.
Serves him right, I guess. It just makes me sad to remember.
“Oh, sweetie, I’m sorry,” she purred. “Didn’t he tell you? I guess he didn’t want you to worry. Such a good boy, my Seth. Anyway, I’ll let him know you called when I hear from him. Toodles!”
Every time I called, it was the same story. He was somewhere having the time of his life and “I’m sure he’d call you if he wasn’t so busy with all the silly parties on the island.”
But he won’t be able to hide behind his mother when we’re back at school, I thought.
I happened to know for a fact that his parents paid for his room and board for a second year at the dorms where we were both staying, because he pinned the receipt to his bulletin board as some kind of declaration: “I love you and I’m not going anywhere.”
Let me pause for a moment and say that men are delightful creatures when they try to profess love and commitment. My ex-husband, in happier days, made sure that the guest room I stayed in had the shampoo and conditioner I liked. He made a big deal about it when we went shopping for camping supplies (because, well… that way we didn’t have to deal with the frowning). Women think it is cute, so keep it up, fellas.
Turns out, just like with the musical chairs we played on the flight I shared with Seth’s father, if you throw enough money at problems, most of them go away.
OH! OH! I didn’t mention this before because I Swear to Goddess I just remembered… his dad kept mentioning his checkbook on that flight together. Things like, “Well, I’m glad I have this checkbook in my pocket” and “It’s always good to travel with a checkbook.”
I wonder how much money I could have made if I let him buy me off. As it turns out, I got diddly squat plus a broken heart. Should have taken the money. Shut up Bleachers.
So, yeah, his parents had Seth transfer to a university closer to them and further from me. He wrote me a letter an inch thick. Honestly, I didn’t read a word of it because A) I knew it would hurt and B) it wouldn’t change a damn thing.
Funny thing is that the paper it was written on… was purple. Like his corduory pants. Purple didn’t mean anything to me back then. Now it does. And then I was watching this episode of Will and Grace and I wish I had read the letter after all.
What does that mean? I have no clue. I know that he finally married and reproduced but that doesn’t indicated anything. So did Oscar Wilde.
Honestly, I don’t understand love now anymore than I did back then.
My heart is still broken BUT I can see a day when it won’t be. I have faith in that day.
Until then, I refuse to rush into another relationship just like I have every other time a man has broken my heart.
Because, let’s be honest once more, I wouldn’t be in my current predicament if I had guarded my heart at a vulnerable time in recovering from my post-divorce broken heart.
Hey, I know I have a bad track record here, but there has to be a first time to do it right.