The Men We Think We Have Loved

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I want to start by saying this is not a man hating piece, so that is what you were looking forward to reading, go elsewhere.

We learn what love is through our parents, family, teachers and community. Of course there are those who are not even that lucky. If you came from dysfunction then you will fall for dysfunction. Take that from me. It is the best lesson you can take away from this essay. I have been doing a lot of self reflection lately. I am just coming out of a relationship, so that tends to make you think about where you are in your life. You have to build a new identity. That takes a lot of mindfulness, which I practice daily. I do not always succeed. These reflections have made me look at my life based only on romances that I have had. I am 44 and I have been in love five times; each are in a different stage of my life, so it has been interesting to look back at “what was I thinking.”

So lets begin this journey with my first real boyfriend. He was older and white trash, which mortified my mother. However, she was even more mortified by the bruises. He like to throw me around and hit me. He left hickey rings on my neck so everyone knew I was owned, but not in the BDSM way. I loved him and after awhile I quit asking why I was being beaten. I was not a virgin when I met him, but he taught me everything I know about having real sex. Looking back now, I did not love him. How could I? It was the sex. It is usually women holding their vagina hostage, but not in this relationship. So number one, not love, just naivety.

I spent several years after that just sleeping around. I never cared to get attached to any of them, or any man after the experience I had with number one. Yet, number two came along. I won’t go into detail about how we met, but do let me say this: I walked into this guy’s apartment and before I could even get all the way in the door I turned to my left and saw him relaxing on the sofa. There were two things that happened at that moment. I looked in his eyes and I fell in love instantly. I just knew he was my soulmate. The second thing I saw in his eyes was his soul. It was broken, he was broken and no one even noticed because he was so happy on the outside. But I knew and I knew he was lost to the world and there was nothing I could do about it. All that happened in about forty-five seconds. We saw each other for a year. I loved everything about him. His looks, his smell and even his hacky sack skills. On the eve of my twenty-first birthday, my cocaine dealer let me sit at his house all night and snort all the coke I wanted. I went home about 7AM the next morning. I had to work a few hours in the morning so I got dressed and went. I wasn’t there long before my kitchen manager came to me and said I had a phone call. Something was off, I could tell. I picked up the phone and a good friend of mine and this guy was on the other end. He desperately asked me if I was okay. I said yeah I’m cool, tired but ready to party tonight. He said I have been looking for you everywhere. He said everyone is looking for you. Then he said “I’m so sorry.” I said for what? He said you don’t know? Know what? The man who I would have given my soul too killed himself just after midnight. He sat on the train tracks less than a half mile from me, drunk on Jim Beam, and about an hour into my twenty-first birthday he let the train do its work. I was devastated. The tears filled my eyes until I could not see. All I kept saying is “he’s gone.” However, as devastated as I was, I was not surprised. I mourned this man for a decade. So number two was love. It was that special tingly love you have in your early twenties when the world is laid out before you and the future is bright. I still love that guy, and would give my right arm for just ten minutes with him.

After number two, I went back to my whoring around. I stayed drunk for several years. Long story short ( and it is a great story) I met my baby daddy(I love saying that). A month later I left my town and moved to the Midwest. I was fifteen hundred miles from home coming off a coke habit. The first week I was there I got pregnant. After three months we knew things were not working out but we both wanted our child to have two loving parents. He was broken too. I tried to fix him but it did not take. The baby was born and we moved back and forth between here and there. We had been together for three years and most of it was shit, because baby daddy was a piece of shit. I swore I loved him and I needed him. Our last fight was the last we ever saw of him. Right after he put a fist through a door instead of my face, we knew it was done. He wasn’t an unintelligent man, so when he turned and said to me “You are not in love with me, you are in love with the idea of a family.” I felt like a ton of bricks was dropped on me. First of all, I realized immediately he was right. So guy number three was not love at all, at least not the kind anyone needs. This was my mid twenties.

I promised myself that I would raise my son way differently than I was raised. I would not date or even entertain the idea of a one night stand. I spent every moment in school, working, and parenting. My son came out a little bruised but with a good childhood burned in his memory. In my early thirties, I started writing poetry and posting on MYSPACE (remember that oldie but goodie). I became a part of a network of poets from all over the country and a few outside of the US. We read each other’s poetry and commented, expressed feelings and critiqued one another. Many of these poets are very successful these days getting their poetry published. So guy number four was in this group. He and I had read and chatted about poetry for two years. One night however, the college basketball team that I love (GO UNC) had just lost the championship, and this guy called me to rub it in my face. I have no idea how he got my number. He lived a state away and we talked for a few weeks, then I went up there. I was so infatuated with him. But I was moving even farther away and it just could not work. The day I left, we both stood there crying. A beautiful friendship upended by emotions and sex. So was it love? I think I loved the fact that someone loved me for my mind. Looking back however, it was no more than an infatuation of his excellent and superior skills of writing.

Life moved on. My son and I moved out of state for a year and when I came back I was still just as devoted to my son as ever. By this point I am in my mid forties. So guy number five arrived in my life in a weird way. It was all weird really. Things were good, until they were not. I love this guy almost as much as guy number two. He made me feel like no man had ever made me feel. I felt alive again, something I had not felt in forever. There was respect and trust. He told me I was beautiful and sexy and was just perfect. He has beautiful eyes, but no lost soul in them. Things just recently ended with him. Though he was at fault for some things, I was mostly to blame for the ending. But as much as I am broken, I found out that he was broken too, and he wasn’t interested in being fixed. The more he pulled away the more I wanted him, but you know how that goes ladies. It backfires every time. I am going through the grieving process. I am still working through denial. I have so much sadness. It feels like my heart has been ripped from my chest. So do I love guy five? HELL YES. I have lost him. He was a great lover and friend and I would do just about anything to go back to when we met.

My reflections took me through my love life. As of right now, I could care less about men. Then I think, do I want to spend the rest of my life not having sex? Of course not. No matter what people say, sex always has emotions tied to it. That scares the shit out of me. This heartbreak is going to take some time to heal. If I am lucky, I will still have my fifties, sixties, and possibly my seventies to find love again. At my age though, I think it is better to find a companion. You are together but not beholden to one another. I, like many of us have, am beginning to rebuild that cruel wall that was so easily demolished by guy five. Trump’s wall is not even a footnote compared to the wall I am building. It will be impenetrable. No man will ever get inside again. Too much? Not if your love life has been pulverized . So, as I said at the start, I am doing a lot of self reflection. I have so much to understand, and a lot of self improvement to be had. Maybe in my fifties, I will look back to this and laugh my ass off. So ladies and germs, take some time to reflect on all of your past relationships, not just the romantic ones. You may find that you do not know yourself as well as you think. Please remember to not dilly dally too much in the past. Stay mindful.

Wishing you all the best of luck in love lives. Remember love doesn’t come to everyone, so if it has come to you, then feel honored. The universe chose you. To those that have not found love, I guess I should say keep trying. But be grateful that your heart hasn’t been reduced into a million pieces.

As always read, subscribe, comment and share. Would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

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