On the Guest List

Being brave isn’t something you do for yourself; it’s what you do for others.

When J told me that he had a fiancée—when he casually mentioned she okayed me coming to the wedding—I knew it wasn’t something I could back out of. Pragmatically, I was fine with the entire situation. I have never been jealous when he tells me about her. I don’t imagine them kissing and burst into tears or become disgusted. I haven’t had those kind of feelings for J since shortly after we broke up. But in the weeks leading up to his day of matrimony, my stomach began to tighten. It was anticipation of what I’d imagine would be an awkward day, and I definitely wasn’t looking forward to it. There would be no dancing or catching a bouquet. This was simply a favor for J.

I systematically wrote out the card and placed a personal check in the slot on the left side. I did this while filling a flask that I knew I would need. The night before I didn’t eat dinner, and I stayed up too late talking to friends.

On a sunny, humid Saturday morning, my friend came to pick me up and escort me to the wedding as his date. We also brought J’s and my old neighbor with us. I had cigarettes, good music, and liquid courage. I could do this just fine.

And guess what? I did.

There was no dramatic outburst at the reception, where I wept in the bathroom stall. I didn’t ignore his new wife or make things uncomfortable. I even had a ten-minute conversation with the bride’s grandfather; he told me about his dialysis while he forced me to eat grapes, because I wouldn’t eat anything else. I smiled big. I schmoozed everyone. Even J’s mom. It was just about all I could take, and then, luckily, it was an acceptable time to leave.

When I got home, I was met with indifference from my boyfriend. He was upset about something unrelated, and without the emotional stronghold I needed, because I had been brave for just a little too long, I crumpled into my pillow and I cried. I cried on my drive to my friends’ house after my boyfriend left to get food. I let my emotions overrun me the second I walked in their door, and when I got home, I bawled again for an immeasurably painful time. Not even my sister’s calming familiarity could soothe me. On the other end of the phone, she reminded me that I’ve always been this way. This emotional. And I knew it was true, but I couldn’t stop the outpouring. I eventually did expunge my tears, because there was nothing left in me, but it wasn’t because I ceased feeling awful inside.

There’s nothing pretty about being brave.

It feels raw and draining to pretend everything is okay and that I am not a human with normal emotions—that even though I haven’t felt romantic love for my ex fiancé in six years, it still wouldn’t rock my entire core to see and hear him say “I do” to someone else.

He and I once had picked out our own venue, standing hand-in-hand blissful that he would get to ride in on a quad, and I could have my barefoot outdoor wedding. I had tried on dresses and asked my sisters and niece to be my bridesmaids. I had the perfect ring, and I was making my guest list.

My braveness the other day was just a symbol of everything I am lacking in my own life: I do not have a husband. I may not ever. I probably will never bear a child from my own womb. J’s old promises to me were now wrapped in my own tissue paper and sitting on a table for a woman I don’t even know to tear open and write me a detached thank you note in a month’s time. And that’s it. That is all I have to show for almost six years of dedication to a man whose wedding I attended on Saturday.

Being brave felt like it was for everyone else, but perhaps it was my own stupidity. I don’t regret that I went, as I know it made J smile that I was there, but that really was the only reason why I went. To support him. He’s never been much for friends, and although we are ex partners, we’ve always been able to be pals. Yet, everyone I’ve spoken to about this past weekend has wondered how I even made it onto the guest list. They told me they would never be able to do what I did.

Does that make me foolish or does that make me brave?

Sometimes I don’t think there’s a difference.

I Love You More

Several months ago, as I was sitting at my desk at work and looking out the window into the trees and sunshine, I drifted into thought that, admittedly, had nothing to do with aviation or training manuals. I was thinking about the concept of love, more specifically, the difficulty of finding a fine balance of it in a romantic relationship.

With my ex fiancé, we’ll call him “J”, we used to always say ILTFOOY to each other, and because we were really silly, we said it like this: “ilta-fooey“. It stood for “I love the fuck out of you”. We loved each other fiercely. Both being Pisces (our birthdays were one day apart), we could easily conjure up a fantasy existence in our living room, holding each other so tightly that our bodies actually quivered.

Our love was real and very pure. The problem was that J was more possessive with his love of me. He refused to share me with anyone, and I don’t mean sexually, I mean, like, I couldn’t have friends, or wear clothes I liked; I couldn’t attend parties, and I couldn’t form bonds with other humans. Period.

In my last relationship, the words “I love you” never spilled from my partner’s lips. And I waited. Two and a half years. At first I thought he was hesitant or fearful to say it. The more time that passed, however, I started to realize that maybe he just didn’t love me. Maybe he didn’t know how.

Being pulled into a disproportionate relationship, where all the love was on my side, made me miserable. It hurts more than anything to constantly feel like you want to express yourself with all of the affection welling up inside of you, but you can’t. I was ball-gagged and bound in my own relationship, which resulted in a skewed perception of myself and the constant wondering of what was wrong with me?

I’m terribly afraid that I’ll never find that balance. It seems like such a delicate thing. Any gust of wind can just swoop it up and carry it away. At any moment. That’s what relationships feel like to me, because I was involved in so many wrong ones. Will I ever get it right?

In the short period of time that my gaze fell upon the glistening snow, as we were deep into winter in New England, I realized that I am used to loving more. J’s love may have been more exclusive and intense, but I loved him so unconditionally that I still do to this day and always will. My love for the last guy was ineffable in the truest sense, since I could never express it to him.

Would I rather love more or be loved more?

Thinking about it, I had decided that I’m probably always going to be the one who loves more. I just made myself content to believe that. But, in revisiting that thought today, I really want to know what it’s like to be loved with the same level of compassion and respect as I give. A mutual, reciprocal connection. I never want to fear that I am being loved less. Thought of less. Fantasized about only occasionally.

I want heavily-panting, passionate, heart-exploding love.

I’m always going to love intensely. It’s up to the future love of my life to ascertain whether he can step up and match me.