Mourning my husband has led me to thinking about past relationships. I've been in love a few times, or thought I was. My relationships just don't last that long. I'm not going to enumerate all the assorted dates and crushes, but I want to analyze the times I really thought I was in love.
First love, age 24, the one I lost my virginity to. If you think that's late, hey, it was Kansas in the 1970s and I had been raised a churchgoer. I was holding out for True Love, although not necessarily for my wedding night. Now you'll really laugh. He was 29 and also a virgin. Both of us lived with our parents. That was also not unusual for that time and place. Most young women lived with their parents until they got married. He worked for pay on his father's farm, so it wasn't like he was freeloading.
Not going to use real names here; I'll call him Keith. we met at the church we both went to. He had been dating a friend of mine, but she dumped him. We had been at some church do at my parents' house, and everyone had left but myself, Janet (who lived with us), Keith, and another guy. Somehow, Janet and the other guy wound up making out in the living room, while Keith and I sat in the dining room by the fireplace and talked. For hours. Not long after, he called me for a date and we started going out.
At first we seemed very compatible. He was easy to talk to, and we had our Kansas backgrounds and church in common. I felt like this was probably The One. So I set about losing my virginity. I had no clue how to seduce someone, but I really wanted to. Each makeout session, I let it go a little farther - until I scared myself and called a halt. To his credit, he stopped when I wanted him to. The first time we went "all the way" it was plain mortifying for both of us, since neither of us knew what we were doing. We learned by practice, like everyone does. It got good. Very good. We could barely keep out hands off each other.
My life has a sound track. At the beginning of this relationship, the chorus of Barry Manilow's "Weekend in New England" really fit:
And tell me, when will our eyes meet?
When can I touch you?
When will this strong yearning end?
And when will I hold you again
He had two habits that I hated. One was smoking cigarettes. My parents both smoked heavily and the smell always choked me. Kissing someone who smokes is just plain disgusting. Tastes just like a dirty ashtray smells. The other habit was smoking pot. I never did drugs, never saw the point. The danger seemed to be so much greater than any possible enjoyment. So I asked him if he would just not smoke either one around me. He agreed. He did try to get me to smoke pot, but I just wasn't interested. Frankly, I've had enough trouble with my lungs; I had no urge to deliberately inhale foreign substances.
Things were good between us for a while. We had a lot of fun. We went out regularly, usually every weekend, and he called me every day - which I thought was too much because he'd run out of things to say and then just stay on the line silently. I always had to say, "Well, I've got things to do, goodbye." Sometimes I wondered, if I was really in love with him, wouldn't I want to stay on the line just listening to each other breathe? But I found it irritating.
Then he started this really lame mind game. Every couple months after we'd gone out and had a good time, he'd tell me that 'we shouldn't see each other for a while' because he had 'things he needed to work out.' Weirdly, he kept calling me every day after one of these pronouncements, and we'd go out on schedule the next weekend. I couldn't figure out what he was trying to do.
Finally, after one very romantic date, we were sitting on the porch and he turned to me with a tender smile like he was going to kiss me, and announced, "We shouldn't see each other for a while. I have some things to work out."
It was like someone threw cold water on me. Suddenly, I was looking at a stranger, and not a particularly attractive one. Then he admitted he'd been high on nearly all of our dates and was high right then, and found it funny that I couldn't tell. I don't remember the rest of the conversation. I was shocked and confused, as it had never occurred to me a person could fall out of love instantly like that.
Of course he called me the next day. This time I told him that I didn't know how not seeing each other was going to help him work his things out if he was going to call me every day. I asked him to call me after he got done. He actually skipped calling for a few days, and I was startled at how relieved I was. Then he called to set up that weekend's date like always. I asked him if he had worked out everything he needed to. Carelessly he replied that he had, as though he'd forgotten all about that. So we went out.
I felt nothing for him. I thought maybe I was just still angry. I thought the feeling would come back. It didn't. We went out for another couple of months, and finally I admitted to myself the feeling wasn't coming back and I really didn't want to see him anymore. Without the feeling, I started noticing a lot of things I hadn't picked up on. He really wasn't very bright, and had no ambition whatsoever. When I talked about my writing, he'd always say, "I could write a book." Yeah, right.
Very gently I broke up with him. His reaction was "But - but I love you!" He hadn't said that to me in months and months. I stood firm. For the next five years he'd call me every few months and ask me out. I always refused. Finally he stopped. Was he really in love with me? Maybe, but he didn't understand me, and he certainly didn't respect me. Was I really in love with him? It felt like it at the time. It might have simply been the right time but the wrong man. Or maybe I was just in love with the idea of being in love.
Many years later, I heard about him through a mutual friend. All he did was smoke pot. He'd rent a cheap apartment and work at a meaningless job until he'd accumulated enough money to live on for a while, then he'd quit the job, stay home, and smoke pot until he ran out of money. Man, did I dodge a bullet!
And at the end, these lyrics fit: Bob Dylan, "Don't think twice"
So long honey baby
Where I'm bound, I cannot tell
But goodbye's too good a word, gal
So I'll just kinda say "Fare thee well"
Now I'm not saying that you treated me unkind
You could have done a lot better but I don't mind
You just kinda wasted my precious time
But don't think twice, it's all right