I shouldn’t be overly surprised that my anonymous blog would eventually present me with a conflict of authenticity. When I began my blog, I thought I’d be a funny, sarcastic mom like Dooce. Later, I contemplated a transformation, self-actualization angle, but then Kelle Hampton Bloomed. The other educators who paved the way for teacher blogging leave mine fields of rubber rooms, pink slips, non-re-elects, and five-to-ten with good behavior.
Little hope of being a pioneer of anything. Lifestyle make-over, spiritual awakening, career overhaul, sex re-assignment. Name it. Someone else got there first.
Every day I think, “Tomorrow I’ll write something for publication” and then I scribble in my journal and dig myself deeper into the pattern of apathy and lethargy. The momentum of stillness. Shit, how do I know what’s ground-breaking, prosaic, trend-setting, unique, or middling until I write it?
Start where you are, the mentors all say: It’s the end of another school year. My 14th. The last two weeks feel like a relationship where you both know it’s over, but neither one of you has felt up to having “the talk.” Everyone is hoping that they’re doing enough to pull off a D.
My ex, Donny, and I were in The End Times so obviously that when one of us started a conversation, “the talk” hung in the air like something going bad in the fridge (or maybe the garbage disposal or the trash? Anyway, definitely in the kitchen). Imagine my surprise when he showed up on a Wednesday worknight with take-out and a movie rental which transitioned into mutually initiated, neighbor-banging-on-the-wall-screaming-“SHUT UP!”-sex. Then “the talk.” Over the phone. The next day. He called me in my classroom.
“But what about Wednesday night?”
“You had my favorite UCLA sweatshirt,” he said. “Anyway, I think you had a pretty good time too.”
I am still embarrassed over the extent to which I lost control of my emotions and the volume of my expletives, in my classroom, ten minutes before the start of Open House. He was pretty clever about not only how to get his favorite sweatshirt back, but when to initiate a dreaded phone call. It had a built-in expiration.
I think the killing blow was his smugness. Or the fact that he was right. No, it was that he beat me to the punch. I’d carelessly (intentionally) shoe-horned us into a 7-month relationship that should have been a one-night-stand. And I did have a good time. I couldn’t justify my bitterness, which pissed me off even more. Donny never promised anything, never said “I love you,” never kept a toothbrush at my place. The disputed sweatshirt was not a gift. He hadn’t left it behind. I’d worn it home when I was cold.
He never moved anything into my apartment except DNA. He once came to my house for a sleepover and handed me a magazine I’d read and left at his place with the accusatory, “You left this at my apartment.”
Today, The New Yorker, tomorrow The Knot?
Okay, fine, it was Us Weekly. What’s your point?
I wanted my indignant rage, but I didn’t get it. There is satisfaction in being the wronged party that I couldn’t feel with Donny’s rejection because we were wrong from the get-go and I was the one who should have broken it off. The only humiliation more demeaning than dating beneath me was getting dumped beneath me.
I still work with Donny, though I see him infrequently. We teach in different departments and don’t have friends in common. If we end up chatting in common areas, coworker witnesses’ frozen smiles say, “Please don’t let this get weird; but if it does, please don’t let me miss it.” Donny told me a story last week in the sign-in/mailbox room that ended with “I knew you of all people would get where I was coming from” (I did, but not for any of the reasons he’d hoped).
The ignominy and anger I once felt is as absent as the passion. There was never much of the latter. He was a place-holder-boyfriend for me, and I served a similar purpose for him. Although he was a tad more prudish than I about his holding places. Even my wall-pounding angry neighbor could tell I was theatrical.
Donny and I each married and procreated with the next person we got into a relationship with. His bringing her to our school’s prom less than two months after the Open House phone call hurt my pride more than my heart, but I couldn’t tell the difference at the time. It felt genuine, tangible, bona fide.
The phase I’m going through in my life right now is symptomatic of my journey into middle-age (though I looked it up, and I’m still two years too young to be middle-aged. Whew!). I’m intensely conscious of my transition from sexual being to invisible woman, a transition men don’t automatically have to make. Being married doesn’t erase my past. Monogamy is a choice, and it’s jarring for someone who enjoyed the game as much as I did. I feel like an essential part of me is slipping away and I can’t stop it. Donny is an artifact of that part of myself. I’ll always have that unspoken intimacy with him. If I know men, and I think I do, when he sees me, sometimes he probably thinks of the parts of me he’s seen very, very close up. I’m grateful for his discretion and for the balm of time, marriage, and children. Simultaneously, there is a side of me that would get a salacious thrill if he were to whisper to a colleague, “You know I hit that, right?”
The fact of another person in my present who recalls the me who was naked and single and 29-years-old corroborates her existence. And from angles even I never got to see.