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The Ghosts of Boyfriends Past

April 3, 2009

Lately, courtesy of Facebook, I have been spending quite a bit of time revisiting my past. Some of it has not been terribly pretty, but, mind you, the wardrobe has rocked. I have reconnected with old friends whom I’ve not seen or spoken with in 25-30 years, and I now meet regularly with a group of people who went to the same junior high I attended in 9th grade. These evenings are always a strange cocktail of margaritas and memories.

There is a certain ease in being around people who were there when you were at your most insecure and awkward moments. You can’t pretend or put on airs for the people who saw your bucktoothed grin before the orthodontist and Bright Smile got a hold of you; who fought the same battle against acne armed only with Neutrogena and Clearasil; who watched helplessly and laughed raucously as you puked up the Mickey’s Big Mouth beer you were so coolly drinking only moments before.

Not all reunions are all sunshine, tequila and salt. There are, to be sure, the bitchy girls who grew up to be the bitchy women you knew they were going to be. They are the ones who, with a glance, or an aside comment, remind you that you are 40lbs heavier than your fattest day in high school and you are suddenly possessed with the burning desire to haul them off by their dyed hair and bitch slap them silly. Others are a complete surprise. People you never really had much in common with in your youth are suddenly fast friends in the adult world. The bygones of high school are bygones and you’re damned if you can remember why you weren’t best friends years ago.

The oddest moments, by far, are the ones when you encounter an old love. When you run into an ex, particularly one from a heart-wrenching teen-aged love affair, you are forgiven if your palms sweat and you get a case of the butterflies. These are the great romances that shaped your adult love life. A few weeks back I saw a range of emotions fleetingly cross the face of my old boyfriend, Chris, when he found himself seated at a bar with Yole, his first slow dance, moi, his first “serious” girlfriend, and Angela, his prom date. We were like a living timeline of his puberty. And in our collective middle age, I am sure a good reminder of why he’s now dating beautiful young men.

At dinner the other night my new/old friend Stacy broke the news to me that in her early 20’s she had dated my high school great love and heartbreaker, Andy. He was not the only boy she and I have had in common (I was quite the harlot in my youth and Malibu is quite a small town). But in this case I was simultaneously amused and bitterly jealous. My adolescent imagination had always figured that once he was finished with the girl he broke-up with me for, he had pined, for at least a decade, lived a wretched existence full of regret for the mistake that leaving me clearly was – and it was only because I had left the country and he didn’t know where to find me that he hadn’t come begging forgiveness and reconciliation. Never mind that by this point I had embarked on my decade long tour of the Boys of Europe and was madly in love with Alan the Englishman or was it John the Cypriot? Now, 25 years later I find out he was dating the girl down the street instead! The fates conspired, did they not?

Lest he feel singled out, Andy is not the only beau my adolescent fantasies consigned to a life of being single, living in their parents’ basement and delivering pizza for Domino’s while wondering what their lives would have been like if they had just stayed with me and, of course, trying to figure out ways to woo me back. Having never met any of my ex-beaus’ wives or seen their homes, I have no real evidence to the contrary and so as not to torment them, I order from Pizza Hut.

Of course on the flip side is running into the hook-ups and one-night-stands that were better left forgotten. I have received Facebook friend requests that have, more than once, had me muttering to myself or messaging an old friend with “Did I sleep with him?” in the desperate hope that the answer is “No!” The insecurity of adolescence mixed with cheap liquor did not always make for good judgment, and thank heavens the drugs make for poor memory. I am also frequently grateful for the ignore function, with the click of a button I can continue to repress certain memories and the truth remains denied another day longer.

It is a good thing that I have a husband who finds the twists and turns of my trip down memory lane fairly entertaining, if not enlightening. He’s had the chance to meet a handful of my former beaus including Chris and Jim (the boy to whom I donated my virginity) and the odd one-night-stand and is always amused. Of course I’m afraid that this means that I too will have to be magnanimous when I finally meet his high school sweethearts. Or maybe not, he’s always been the better person and I’m still a bitter adolescent girl.

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