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On Welcoming a New Lover While Acknowledging the Old

March 27, 2013

Red shoes might seem divine in South Africa, but what about Stateside?

Opening up your life to a new lover is like wearing a new pair of shoes.  You aren’t sure if you like the color, the size, the shape.  You aren’t sure if they are really ‘you’ after all.  And they don’t quite fit right.  Perhaps they squeak in protest when you travel.  Perhaps they cramp your style.  Perhaps you can never find them when you need them.

He hasn’t learned your quirks yet; he doesn’t carry raisins with him because he knows you get cranky when you don’t eat.  You can’t read him like your favorite Nabokov novel yet; you haven’t figured out what it means when he rubs his wrists, though you know it is important sign of some high emotion.  The energy needed to learn and love someone new is astoundingly high.  His family truths, his needs and fears, the names of his friends, the way he takes his coffee in the morning.  Allowing him to know you, deeply, and still like you, maybe love you, is equally exhausting.  And part of you whispers that he can’t be worth it.  He can’t compare to the last lover, the old comfortable shoe, tattered and trashed, and therefore worthy of nostalgia.  Little does the new lover know what ghosts of the past he has to surmount, live up to, not emulate, or fight, to stay in your closet.

Lovers in Florence.               

Impressions of what were………..

I remember a lover who was a foot taller than me.  At concerts he would sometimes duck his head down to my level to see what I saw.  He shuffled us forward until I too could see the mop-headed bass player.  I loved him for that.

He told me that he refused to love me.  Then he cried in my arms and I comforted him like a little boy, kissing his forehead instead of his mouth and telling him it would be alright.

He held me as I cried about loving another, and then I did the same for him as he mourned his similar loss.  We were together because neither of us could go back, only forward.

I remember sitting at my desk when he came into the room and placed his hand upon my shoulder.  And I loved him so much, even his fingertips upon my bare skin was enough to send a frisson of energy, of love, of fear, of expectance through my body.

He told me liked getting stuck in traffic as long as I was in the car with him because that way we got to spend more time together.

                The moment I realized that he was boring.

We went to Legoland, in downtown Chicago, and shared our first kiss while making helicopters out of children’s bricks.  It was our first and only date.  It was too easy, and I mistrusted our nine year age difference.

When I snapped at him, verbally wounded him with sharp needle claws of almost true barbs, he stood back, and simply took it.  I learned to control my anger, because I didn’t actually like hurting him, and he refused to fight back.  He never fought back.

I remember the boy who first made me understand why anyone could think sex is better than chocolate.

I remember him climbing a tree at a picnic party by the lake, and my friends quietly judging him.  And I wondered why he couldn’t be suave, why he couldn’t be normal, why, just this once, he couldn’t be someone I could be proud of in public.

I keened like an animal when I lost him for good.  I was something inhuman.  I was terrifying to myself.  I couldn’t speak.  I had no face, only blotches and patches and wet slicks.  I shocked myself and I couldn’t stop feeling.  Everything.  Raw.

I remember him taking the longest showers.  His water consumption rate must be higher than the entire Kingdom of Jordan.  And he sang.  He liked the acoustics of his voice against the tiles.

We called each other our ‘significant otter.’

Lovers in Paris.

I remember my Irish-American boyfriend teaching me Chinese words in the mornings. We would lie together in his attic room and let the sun beams work their way across the wooden floor.  Dwai.

I remember my Palestinian-American boyfriend teaching me to love my body.  He read Our Bodies Ourselves and he was afraid to touch me because he embodied the patriarchy.  He made me roses out of construction paper because he knew real roses would freak me out.

I remember my WASP, blonde boyfriend had a green velvet smoking jacket, a killer body, and was, in retrospect, kind of an ass.

I remember my Serbian-American boyfriend introducing me to his ENTIRE Serbian extended family in Belgrade. They showed me so much kindness.  They thought we were going to get married and have kids.  I knew we were not.

I remember my French boyfriend drinking hot chocolate out of a bowl and insisting it was normal.  He liked light operettas and Mamma Mia.  I liked plays about madness and Sweeney Todd.  We didn’t last very long.

I remember my Jewish boyfriend’s baby brother sitting deliberately between us in the movie theatre.  The film was Robots, my boyfriend was very frustrated, and the buttered popcorn smell stained my fingers for hours.

A kiss in a graveyard- Venice.

Being kissed on a hot roof in Los Angeles.  Doing the delicate dance of drunken desire in London.  Being asked via text message by the man in the other room whether or not we were going to make love that night in Amman.  Recording our version of Hallelujah three days before breaking up for good, and crying together in that dusty, small music room in Chicago.  Watching the stars fill up the night together in the Negev desert and feeling small.  Being propositioned by a drunken girl who thought I was a lesbian and had pissed moments before behind the dunes on the Tel Aviv beaches.

I remember,                               I remember….

These stains of memories rise and fall within my consciousness.  They flit and dart, wound and mend, comfort and antagonize.

I remember, I remember…. And yet I also must forget.  So how do you greet a new lover when the shadows and ghosts of the old leave rough patches in your psyche?  When in his smile you see the smiles of lovers past, how they were, preserved at age eighteen, twenty, twenty-four?

“Last night I dreamed of X again. / She’s like a stain on my subconscious sheets. / Years ago she penetrated me / but though I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed, / I never got her out, / but now I’m glad.” – Tony Hoagland, A Color of the Sky

You see a ghost of the boy who was, with his stick up morning hair, moodily looking over Millennium Bridge.  You feel another’s hand sit upon your waist every time you wear a certain dress.  You see your first lover’s eyes in the brown eyes of the current paramour.  And when he criticizes you, you react not to him, but to the potentiality of him, the position of HIM – the lover, the boyfriend, the one who has broken your heart and mended it, and loved you and it all to pieces again.  Your perceptions of his actions are informed by others; you have your own unique context into which he is unknowingly placed, poor bugger.  He is not an individual, he is an archetype in your mind, and the sins and strengths of the others weigh his actions down.  Does he cook as well as lover number two?  Are his massages as heartfelt as lover 4?  Do his eyes crinkle like paper when he laughs at you sideways in the driver’s seat of the car?

How to greet that new lover when the shadows of the old ones whisper and sigh in your ear, your eye, your mind?

Keep hold of the good and the bad both, equally.  The ones that are gone are gone for a reason.  They too had faults and flaws along with their beauties.  Acknowledge loss, mourn it, and move on.  There is no such thing as one ‘soul mate.’  There is no one right person, or one right way.  Each relationship adds complexity and nuance to your understanding of future relationships.  Know too that this new individual before you has his own stains of women past, that he too has been wounded and cherished.  And approach this relationship, as with all new relationships:

With hope.  With reverence.   With respect.

And with no small amount of joy.

They just got married, and now rode the merry-go-round by the Eiffel Tower. Paris is for lovers indeed….

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 27, 2013 2:35 PM

    IDK, I do believe in soul mates, or that moment when you “just know” this is the person you were meant to be with. I was lucky enough to find that with your Uncle Matt and I do hope someday it finds me again!

  2. March 27, 2013 3:57 PM

    So my dear you need to send this to GQ or Esquire.

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