Today, I had lunch with a man I used to date.
We didn’t stop seeing each other because something bad happened.
It was because nothing happened.
Nothing was said.
Kids these days might call it “the fade” or “ghosting,” but what happened with us did not have any sheepish, avoidant intent. It was just nothing.
In June 2013, I moved to Philadelphia from Washington D.C. Amid this move, I had been seeing Jack. Not seriously, but it was very fun, and very interesting. In retrospect, it definitely had potential.
I returned to D.C. during 4th of July weekend that year. My best friend and I holed up at super-expensive, but way overbuilt for the market, hotel that as a result was offering “buy a night, get a night free” on its rooms. Of course, seeing Jack was part of my plans, so my friend actually ended up with her ludicrous suite to herself for the night for the majority of our stay.
I spent the first two nights of the weekend with Jack, one actually with his family going to a Harry Connick Jr. concert for his sister’s birthday. On the third night, the actual 4th of July, I got too drunk (not a hard feat for me if I don’t pace carefully), and ended up asleep at my shared hotel room early in the night — before Jack even got there.
What I heard from my friend the next morning indicated that Jack was quite pissed. And after a few cagey text messages, I got back on the train to Philadelphia. No discussion, no resolution. C’est tout.
I had met my now-husband, Aaron, the day I moved to Philadelphia — June 1st, 2013 — and we went on our first date that night. I had zero expectation that it would be the last first date of my life. Many of my friends, acquaintances, and even family have found it quite amusing/bemusing that I met my husband the day I left D.C.
Our second date was June 2nd 2013 at 8:30 in the morning. He showed up at my house to go running. It was at the end of that date that I asked him out on a date for that weekend, a Rancid Concert at The Electric Factory. When Tim Armstrong opened “Radio” with “Never fell in love until I fell in love with you never know what a good time was until I had a good time with you.”
I knew that that is exactly how I would feel about Aaron. Very much to my own surprise and though he wasn’t “my type”, it did not matter).
He told me he loved me on Rosh Hashanah (in September for the gentiles).
He suggested we get married June 1st, 2014.
We got married September 13, 2014. Just the two of us.
This timeline struck some as “short” and thereby unorthodox. I enjoyed text messages such as, “Congrats… that was fast work. How did it come about so quickly?” from another person I used to date. (I honestly couldn’t imagine why he’d expect an answer to that question), as well rumor mill swirls that it was a “shotgun” wedding. (Not even close).
The truth is, my relationship with Aaron was the most honest, straightforward and therefore compelling, rewarding, and loving relationship of my life — and is why it is my last one.
We did not need time to deliberate or feel the need to “poll the audience.” I have never once wondered where I stood with Aaron or what he thought of me.
Prior to us getting engaged, there was no Geneva Convention-esque deliberations leading up the event involving multiple stakeholders from both of our sides. There was not a staged hoopla with professional photographers planted in the bushes hired at the insistence of my friends who were “in on it” before I was. There was no sharing or creating of engagement ring Pinterest boards. There was no seating charts or cake tastings or bridesmaid drama or quibbling over “entrance music.”
There was just us. And that is how it’s always been.
I had lunch with Jack today because we are still friendly, our offices are close together, and because he is soon moving to another city.
Jack too has tired of the dodging and weaving, games, facades, entanglements of mutual friends and subsequent judgements, and races to “care less” as a means of power-grabbing in a relationship (what relationship has power-grabs, anyway?) and it is one reason he has decided to leave D.C.
Jack is an incredible person, worthy of an outstanding partner.
Yet, the need to be oblique, hold back, “keep our options open,” shirk judgement from our friends, and not be forthright as a means of maintaining perceived control obscures from connecting with many wonderful people in a meaningful way. We create this vacuum of space by worrying about texting or not texting, or calling not calling, or making next moves or not making next moves.
Does it make you feel chic-ly aloof? Or are you in a personal hell of some kind? (And maybe your friends too when sourcing endless opinions in an attempt to free yourself from self-imposed self-doubt).
For me, and for Jack based on our discussion afternoon. It’s the latter. I am relieved I will never have to go through it again, and for him, it’s getting pretty fucking old. I am sure this behavior is not unique to D.C.
Jack has visited the city he’s moving to several times and told me the women there have called him “simple.” It’s another large city, but has a vastly different culture. There “simple” is good: straight-forward, to the point, honest, and (above all) confident. No ego-saving games. Just acting on intuition and what feels right without seconding guessing.
Now that’s attractive if you ask me.
When it comes to relationships, speak up, and speak often. If you don’t get the full story from whom you’re actually wondering about, your ego will gladly make up one to serve every last one of your disaster-fantasies.
If you do not tell someone the truth, you are feeder of disaster-fantasies, or at least invalid perceptions about yourself and your intentions. Sound like fun?
Though I am happily married, I still do regret how Jack and I ended seeing each other. A meek, defensive, petering out of conversation on both our sides isn’t representative of the quality of the people that we are or what we had. There’s strength in vulnerability, and speaking your truth will get you where you want to go a lot more quickly and in an a lot more fulfilling way than trying to look cool by leaving someone’s Snaps unread.
Let’s kill the fade and free honesty. .
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