Friday, September 24, 2010

The Men in My Life

Someone recently asked me: What were you like during all those years of marriage? I shouldn't think that I was too different from how I am right now. My ex-husband might disagree with that statement, but that's why we're divorced now, isn't it? The fact is that he's one of the many men in my life who has shaped me, my ideas of love and the woman I am today. Truth be told though, he wasn't the only one. There were many people who came before him and several after, all of whom have been influential to my thinking.

Exhibit A) My father. I have never met a more hard working, dedicated, loyal man than my father. He is the definition of a good provider, protective, strong, dependable, generous and kind. He loves my mother and I (and my brother too) with such an intense, fierce, passionate spirit that I swear he wouldn't just take a bullet for me. He'd stop that bullet dead in its tracks like Superman with an oncoming train. My dad's heart is overflowing with pride and although he is not an outwardly emotional man, nor known for often verbally expressing sentiment (so unlike the daughter he raised...) he feels things deeper than I'd wager the majority of the rest of us do. Every night, my father kisses my mother before dinner and thanks her for a wonderful meal, whether it's a holiday feast or if she just ordered pizza. He holds doors open for her and for me. He still calls her his bride and they'll be celebrating 37 years of marriage this winter. His example to me is that there are men out there who will not break your heart, who will be faithful, loyal and devoted to their wives until their dying breath, who would go to the ends of the Earth for the people they love and who will protect and provide for their families with every fiber of their being.

Exhibit B) My grandfather. I wasn't fortunate enough to know him for very long as he passed away when I was six years old. The few memories I have of my dad's dad are interlinked with the stories that have been passed on through my parents. He is the root of my Italian heritage, my attitude and my appetite. From him I learned that tomato gardens are God's way of smiling at us, meatballs and pasta are the perfect meal, and babies don't stay little for long. Kiss their teeny tiny toes while you still can.

Exhibit C) My Poppo. Growing up, I only saw him on Sundays in church and then back at the house for bagels. He had the same routine each week, eating his bran muffin and stirring honey into his coffee. When I was living in Europe, I called home at exactly the moment I knew he'd be sitting down to brunch with my mother and I could almost smell the sesame seeds through the phone. I often hung back and watched the little dance he and my mother would do without fail while walking from church service to their cars. She'd step onto the sidewalk and he'd head to the street side of her. No matter how close my mother was to the curb, my Poppo would try to get the outer edge on her. From him I have learned that gentlemen always treat a woman like a lady. Had there been a puddle, I am certain he would've thrown a trench coat over it to protect her delicate feet.

Exhibit D) My brother. It was recently witnessed by several hundred people that I caught the bouquet at my cousin's wedding. This was all in good fun until my brother caught the garter. The DJ asked my cousin to throw it again. My brother jumped even higher and caught it a second time. The DJ asked my cousin to throw it yet again. My brother body checked two guys out of the way, landed on a small child and dove under a table to retrieve the garter a third time. It was quite the commotion. Why did he do this, you ask? It's not because we have some freaky Alabama relationship so get your mind out of the gutter. He just didn't want any other guys going up my skirt to put the garter on me. His attitude was that if he caught it himself, everyone else would keep their hands off his sister. There is video of the entire incident and honestly, it was one of the funniest things I've ever been part of in my life. That being said, if you can get over the ick factor, there's an inherent sweetness to what he did for me. My brother is all about honor, integrity and respect and I love him for it. (Still, not in a creepy Alabama way though. No offense, Southerners!)

Ahhh, and now for the boyfriends. Are you ready folks? Let's see who makes the short list!
I am going to seriously narrow it down here and list the four most influential boys that I've dated. I say boys because honestly, none of them were old enough / mature enough to be called men at the point that I dated them. (Some of them still wouldn't earn the title now!) Here goes:

Boyfriend #1: My first love. I was fifteen years old when we met and I suddenly understood what Shakespeare was talking about. All that nonsense written in Olde English instantly clicked in my head and I began thinking in iambic pentameter. The trouble was that he lived four hours away and being fifteen years old, neither of us could drive. We were left at the mercy of our parents taking us across state lines and I only saw him in person a handful of times. That didn't matter to us though. We wrote letters just about every day and talked on the phone whenever possible. I actually had to get a part time job to pay my mom back for use of the long distance plan! Granted, I earned $4 an hour and I'm relatively certain that our calls cost more than that but we were so in love that nothing else mattered. He introduced me to the exciting and energizing experience of falling in love for the first time. Sadly, he also introduced me to the worst heartbreak of my young life when he stood me up for the prom. I had turned down literally dozens of offers from guys who wanted to accompany me to the most important dance of a girl's life but I knew he'd come through for me. I knew he would. And then...he didn't. Sad to say that this Cinderella was left without a prince on prom night and spent most of the evening sobbing hysterically in the ladies room. My mom found me a last minute back up date but it wasn't the same. I wanted my Romeo, my one and only true love, the man for whom all love letters and sonnets and poems were written. The stuff of 80's power ballads and John Hughes movies. From him I learned that what's meant to be will be and what's not will leave a lasting impression on your heart forever.

Boyfriend #2: My college sweetheart. I often tell the story of the boy who saw me getting off the bus on a field trip one day and asked me for a quarter. This was the age before cell phones, mind you, so at my father's insistence, I never left home without fifty cents in my sock. I handed him the quarter and he replied "Thanks. My mom told me to call home the moment I met the girl of my dreams." Insert gag reflex here. We sat next to each other during Titanic the musical (if you can believe someone ever produced such a thing) and he held my hand as the ship went down. The next night, he called my dorm room and asked if I wanted to come over and watch Casablanca. We kissed and that sealed the deal. He was my boyfriend for the next two years. Who knew twenty-five cents was really so valuable? The thing about him was that he was (is) a genuinely good guy. He's not perfect by any means (neither am I) but he was just such a good person. I think that being with him actually made me a better person. He was kind, caring, considerate, sweet, thoughtful and romantic. We eventually broke up for a multitude of reasons but he's one of those ex'es I can talk to on facebook and not feel any resentment towards. Proof that good guys do not necessarily finish last.

Boyfriend #3 / Husband #1: This one is hard for me to talk about because normally once you're divorced, the only stuff you can remember is the bad stuff. The days when I worked fourteen hours and he sat home with his PlayStation and then asked ME what was for dinner. The times that he stayed out drinking all night instead of coming home to bed with his wife. While I acknowledge those moments that eventually led to our demise, they weren't always the case. We fell in love for good reasons and stayed there for as long as possible. Until one day, we weren't anymore. I was twenty years old when I met him and we were unofficially engaged six weeks after. He formally proposed with a ring and my parents' blessing after eight months and one short year later, we were married. Of course, if my twenty year old daughter ever comes up to me and says she wants to get married, I will smack her upside the head, lock her in a tower and cut off her hair. Oh if only I knew then what I know now. Right, right, that old country song. Still, if I told you about the boy who wrote guitar solos for me, built a bed for us to sleep on, sang to me until I fell asleep, always let me have the last piece of dessert, and said the most entrancing things like "I can see our future children in your eyes," you woulda fallen for him too. Oh, plus there was the English accent and dark, brown, chocolatey eyes. His jet black Beatles hair flopped around his face in such an endearing way that I couldn't help but love him. What I learned there is that if you're not careful, if you don't talk everyday, if you're not both fully present in your relationship, then love is not enough. You have to be willing to work at it constantly, to put in the effort time and time again, to make your bond together a priority above all else. If you don't, no one else will.

Boyfriend #4: The one who came after my marriage. It shames me here to admit that there wasn't as much time between separating from my husband and jumping into a new relationship as there should have been. I know now that being single for a while in between is a blessing, not a curse. Yet it had been so long since I felt wanted, felt desired, felt needed, felt special, felt anything that when this man whom I'd been friends with all my life professed his undying love for me, I could not stop myself from falling straight into his arms. It was exactly what I thought I needed at the time, and precisely the wrong thing to do. We had an amazing romantic connection unlike anything I'd ever experienced before but it ruined our friendship instead of strengthening it and if I had it all to do over again, I'm not so sure I would. He paid more attention to me than my husband ever had. He was generous to me and gave me everything I could ever think to ask for (and so much more that I never even dreamed of.) He was absolutely taken with me and I wonder now how much of our relationship was me being in love with him versus me being in love with the idea of being in love. I so desperately did not want to be a failure at anything and coming off of a divorce made me feel like a failure. Therefore, when my relationship with him started to tank, I ignored all the signs and warnings that came my way. I simply didn't want to see anything that could possibly cause us to crumble because there was no way I could handle another failed relationship. Anais Nin said "That which I cannot love, I overlook" and this became my mantra. I still wish that he and I could be friendly with each other or at the very least civil but I know that would be asking too much. So the most recent lesson that I have learned is that it is better to be single than be with the wrong person.

And that's where we are today.

Copyright Kimberly Spice 2010

4 comments:

  1. I was wondering if "Boyfriend #1" was going to make it in here. I forgot that you guys were four hours away from each other...for some reason I thought it was only an hour or something.

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  2. It hits home to read what you wrote about your ex husband/divorce. I agree 100% about both being fully present in the relationship. In my case, we weren't and it caused resentment that couldn't be fixed. I definitely feel like he has shaped apart of who I am today..for good reasons and bad. I'm still growing and learning about myself though and because of him, I am certain about most things that I want and don't want in a husband.
    Great entry! Thanks for sharing! <3

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