Actually, I would imagine none of them know each other, but they have all been living in my head. I, however, did walk into a bar, Kingswood, last night, after having a moment of dyslexia (thinking it was between Greenwich and 9th, not 6th) and having to take a cab rather than let the West Village further confuse me. At the door, a cute guy named Lawrence said, “Rachel, right?” I, of course, was suffering from manesia and didn’t remember him, though he was very nice and I got inside and Nichelle told me he’s Sarah Ultragrrl Lewitinn’s brother. (Sorry, Lawrence!)
The party was quite the scene. It could've been overwhelming, but there were lots of familiar, friendly faces. So I met Lilit Marcus, my editor at The Gloss, said hello to Marty Beckerman and surveyed the crowd of, oh, most of the NYC blogging scene and was talking to Amelia, my editor at The Frisky, when someone taps me on the shoulder, and it’s my ex. I was totally caught off guard; I expected to run into him on the Lower East Side, while at The Meatball Shop or walking to The Slipper Room, not at some crazy media party. I was surprised that our mutual friend, who is much closer to him than to me, didn’t mention she was going, though I also failed to ask her. So I just stood there trying to figure out what to do. It jolted me how good he looked, and also that I didn’t fall apart. I’m more teary now than I was in the moment. And there were a million things I could’ve made small talk about, like his friend’s 600-page book that’s been getting lots of buzz, restaurants I’ve visited, any number of shared little jokes but all of it seemed pointless. All I kept feeling was the rejection radiating from him, and none of that was mitigated by his smile or his text last week telling me to “stay awesome.” This may sound obnoxious, but I have a lot of friends, I don’t need more. Or maybe I do, but he’s not among them. I just don’t operate that way, and am still trying to sort out my thoughts about my own role in that relationship. I wish I were able to handle having a friendship with him, because he's a good friend, a great one even, better than a boyfriend, dare I say, at least better than a boyfriend to me. Maybe I'd have been better off never trying to go there, but I couldn't have known that.
After at comedy I met this girl who’s I think 24 and had dated this guy for “not that long” – a year and a half. I almost laughed because my barely three-months blip should be nothing, not compared to all the things people around us have gone through, and yet suffering isn’t really subjective like that. As Stacy Morrison writes, "Everyone has pain in their life. It all counts the same."
Which brings me to…I’ve been reading Stacy Morrison’s memoir Falling Apart in One Piece: One Optimist’s Journey Through the Hell of Divorce. She was with her husband for 13 years and their son was under one when he decided he wanted out of the marriage. Obviously my almost-three-month relationship came nothing close to that, but why I wanted to read it is that I thought we had the potential for something long-term. I put more of myself than maybe I should have into the relationship and wanted to see what (now former) Redbook editor Morrison had to say.
In what could have been a morose, bitter tale, she simply told their story and how they’ve negotiated, haltingly, at times angrily, being co-parents. At the very end she writes:
I will never be a hundred percent sure why Chris and I broke up. But I am finished with those questions, even though strangers and new friends can’t help but ask them, even now, because they still need their magic, their prayer, their proof, their certainty that if they can put the end of our marriage in a box, they can keep divorce from coming to them. I’m done with certainty, at least in this one area of my life. It took me more than a year before I could accept all this vagueness as being the most I, and we, would ever get to know about the end of Us. I didn’t get the answers I thought I neededæthe answers that would keep us together, the answers that would make me look good, the answers that would hide all the messy, unhappy stuff that lives inside even the very best of marriagesæbut by being unafraid to see the ugliest of things, I have laid my whys to rest. They won’t haunt me anymore.
Then, I also got from the library Marion Winik’s book of essays-as-commencement-speech-advice, Rules for the Unruly: Living an Unconventional Life, after reading an interview with Dylan Landis, and it made so much sense (except for the prince part):
Even if things seem to have worked out for me at this point, I certainly remember what impatience feels like; for me, it was always combined with a deep longing for love. Put them together and you get a wicked case of desperation, which was the fuel that sent me zooming around like a nut for so many years. I know every cure for this that doesn’t work, and one thing that does. It’s sometimes called faith, though you might just call it extremely embattled optimism. Because it’s definitely not a tranquil faith, a religious faith, or even a faith that anyone would recognize as faith. The feeling I’m talking about is a fierce, messy thing, a faith with gritted teeth and ADD. It has one prayer: Someday my fucking prince will come.
Poor dear brokenhearted people, I’m telling you because I know. You can’t make someone love you. You can’t make someone stay. You can, unfortunately, make them feel sorry for you and want to flee. And anyway, you don’t want the love you have to chase down and hog-tie. One day, it will show up on your doorstep. All the love you can handle, waiting for you with a bouquet.
And that will just be the beginning of your story.
It's really not that I mind being single; part of me loves it because I like making my own schedule and I also have plenty of demons to fight that are easier to do alone, or at least, I'm used to that. At the same time, I like being able to become someone slightly different when I'm with someone in that full immersion way. I like learning about what makes people take, observing them, getting inside in some way. That is ultimately what I'm after and while that rejection felt and continues to feel pretty fucking awful, I know that there is nothing I can do about it except move on, starting immediately.
There's some lines in "Love Lee" from that new Bettie Serveert album I like a lot:
I came across some monsters
That I never knew I had
And once I got to know them well
They didn't seem so bad
But they altered my life
I don’t want to be “in love with my loss” as Morrison writes about one woman. I just want to learn from it, and I learned last year that out of sight out of mind is the best way for me to handle rejection. Not out of sight, oh wait I’m going to suddenly be nice to you after breaking your heart. It’s not that I blame anyone for wanting to get away from me—I do plenty of the time—but when it’s so abrupt, it’s better for me if it’s final because otherwise I’m too caught up in the person in extremely unhealthy ways. I already care(d) too much about T, to my detriment, and that’s what I heard at the end: you are too much, too intense, too needy. And maybe I need to work on that or maybe I need to look for someone who appreciates that passion. I know that the kind of relationship I want is one where we are mutual fans of each other, in addition to being friends and lovers. I want someone I can support and vice versa and am an avid follower of the couples I know who model that.
I’m thinking about this song “Beeswing” by Richard Thompson that Mary Lou Lord sings, and at the end, he picks up from what the girl of the song has said to the narrator, and he looks back with regret and sings:
Oh she was a rare thing, fine as a bee's wing
And I miss her more than ever words could say
If I could just taste all of her wildness now
If I could hold her in my arms today
Well I wouldn't want her any other way
I’m not comparing me or my ex to a bee’s wing, or to the girl in the song. I'm not that fragile (I hope), though maybe I'm not as tough as I want to be when it comes to emotions. But I think the through line, from Marion Winik to Stacy Morrison to that final line of the song is about the fact that there’s no one else we can be but ourselves. The girl in the song had said that to the narrator, "And you wouldn't want me any other way," but he tried to change her and she, wisely, escaped. Of course it would be a sad life to never have anything about you altered by anyone else; then we might as well live locked away in a hut all alone. But there are things you can change, things that are worth exploring, and other things that are essential to who you are. That difference is one I struggle with all the time but think that maybe the whole point of that relationship was for me to stop looking outward for validation and start looking inward a bit more.
For me, part of why the rejection hurt me so much, aside from what at the time felt like its suddenness, though in hindsight I can see was building and probably there from the start, was that it felt like, “Here are all these things that are wrong with you.”
And some of those are things I can and am working on, but the heart of it are not things I can work on because they are just, well, me. I sometimes think it would be so much easier if we could just change, magically morph into whoever someone else wanted us to be, if that would lead to this mythical thing called happiness, but at the end of the day (a very long day, admittedly), I wouldn’t want to be with someone who doesn’t want me. In some other universe, I could do that chitchatting thing, but it’s sortof meaningless right now. Maybe I wind up sharing the minutiae on Twitter or in my journal or just to my fluffy new pillow (yes, I do talk to my pillow sometimes). I try not to have regrets but certainly if I’d known that was the trajectory of our relationship there’s a lot I would have kept to myself; I never would’ve shared as much of myself physically and verbally as I did and part of me wants to say I will be that much more cautious going forward.
But who knows? I have no idea who I will wind up dating next. I have hopes and ideas and possibilities but I can’t make assumptions about what anyone thinks about me and right now I’m focused on righting a lot of wrongs of the past year outside of my personal life and taking care of my health and home and finances and friendships and family and repairing so I can enjoy myself rather than hate myself to the extent that I have in the recent past. That’s what I’m trying to privilege and when I have those low moments and think that contacting my ex will help me through them, I know I have to resist, to fight them because that’s a pretty disastrous road to head down.
I don’t hate my ex; I’m not even mad. He did what he needed to do to take care of himself, and that’s what I’m attempting to do too.