Thursday, August 21, 2008

Saudade

Alexandreena asked me what was Chapter 7 in the book "He's Just Not That Into You".

It occurs to me I have never blogged in detail about my break up with X. Perhaps just to maintain some anonymity but there is now so much detailed information on here that if any of my friends find this blog, they'll know it's me. So without further ado...

Chapter 7 is called "he's just not that into you if he doesn't want to marry you".

The subtitle for the chapter is "Love cures commitment-phobia". Given that X is now engaged, as much as I have trouble believing in "love", I have a feeling it may be true. For men, anyway.

This book was life-changing. I read it just after we broke up and, not that I needed the justification for ending our relationship, but it did provide me with some extra self-confidence for having made the right decision.

We broke up on Labour Day 2004. I had given him an ultimatum. Propose or I will move on. When I had moved from Toronto to Vancouver in 2003, we had already broken up once. Labour Day 2002. He had flown back from Vancouver and we spent the weekend with friends at a rented cottage. He had been living on the west coast since 2001, earlier if you count co-op terms. And I was getting tired of the long-distance relationship. I wanted to be with him but I was reluctant to move out there without a job and rely on him financially. If he changed his mind, I'd be screwed. And I figured, after 5 years of dating, if he wasn't ready to propose, then we were wasting our time.

We broke up that long weekend and he called me every day for weeks begging me to reconsider. I did. I requested a transfer to BC. And I got it. Because I'm that good. Seriously though, I wanted to get my own place. To take the pressure off our relationship. To build my own social circle and life. But he said not. He wanted us to live together, to save up for a down payment. He said he would propose after a year. Looking back on it, I was both feet in and he was one foot out.

I waited a year. Our anniversary came and went. My birthday, Christmas, New Year's, Valentine's. In the spring of 2004, we went to Mexico together. By that time, our relationship had become mostly platonic. I had intended to go by myself because he went to Vegas the week before. But he wanted to go and offered to pay for the trip if I waited for him. How is a girl going to turn that down? We had fun. Relaxed and snorkeled and ate and drank. When I got sunstroke on our last day there, I made him go to dinner by himself. Why should he miss out on the best seafood restaurant at the resort just because I was sick? I certainly wouldn't have. He said "oh that's too bad, I was going to propose tonight." I laughed and said "that's not funny!" Yeah, we were that couple.

He had joked around at other times too. Saying it would come when I was least expecting it. Like when I was sitting on the toilet and had run out of paper. He would hold me hostage and exchange my hand for a roll of toilet paper. That way I couldn't say no. But when it came time to looking at houses, he was borderline panicked about what we could and couldn't afford. He wouldn't even go to open houses. I think that was when I started to realize we might not have a happy ending. Hence the ultimatum.

In the summer of 2004, I was working in north coastal BC and had been rotating up there for several weeks. I was promoted as a result of taking on the position at short notice and I was rapidly learning that I was far more capable than I had ever dreamed. I was managing people, responding quickly to requests for work and information, liaising with government officials and dealing with irascible men who I knew pictured me naked often. The ones that didn't treated me like the daughter they never had. It was an eye-opening project for me. Of course, it took a toll on my personal life but I was 26 and ready to be "successful" at any cost. And it was fun. I enjoyed the challenges of living and working "up north", away from the resources of big city and home office.

And, the men were men. If I needed a platform built, I just had to turn around and a carpenter was sawing and nailing pieces of plywood. If I needed a sampling utensil, the metal worker was soldering an aluminium can to a long narrow stainless steel handle. If I needed something shipped to Vancouver overnight, the site manager was placing a call to Air Canada cargo and instructing one of his guys to load the coolers in the van and drive. Things got done. Not always quickly or with a minimum of political fuss. But they got done. I was slowly realizing that the same could never be said for X. I'm not sure when I realized that he was never going to be the man I needed him to be.

He flew up to see me for the long weekend. It required not-so-gentle persuasion on my part. That I was off for the weekend, that I had a rental car, that he could stay with me in the rented house. That we'd be alone and that I wouldn't get unexpectedly called into work. We drove to Alaska. It was probably the best road trip we have ever been on.

Wait, it might have been the only road trip we have ever been on. We stayed in Stewart overnight and then drove through Hyder to the old abandoned mines the following day. He told me later that he was going to put the ring in his belly button when he was lying in bed but then changed his mind. He has a phobia of people touching his belly button.

If you drive north from Hyder, you won't be disappointed. There are mountains and glaciers and rock falls. You will need 4 Wheel Drive, even in the summer. Labour Day long weekend was chilly enough for layers. It was really a beautiful drive. We stopped countless times to take photos and just look around. There was nobody around for miles. We finally stopped at an old mine site about 2 hours up the track. I was happy, we were both happy. It was beautiful and breathtaking. We took lots of photos. One of him standing in front of the mine entrance.

One of me jumping up in the air with the glaciers in the background.

Okay fine, I'm not actually in that one but I don't have the photoshop skills to edit myself out of a photo.

I knew this was it. This was the highlight of our trip.

After this, it was all downhill. Literally. We were just going back the way we came.

He said "so, do you want your ring now?"

I told him I wasn't sure what he was asking me. "Well, I didn't have time to buy you the ring I wanted". Never mind that I had been to Spence Diamonds, picked out a ring, given him the jeweler's business card. "I'll only give it to you if you promise not to show it to anyone else".

"You know, this isn't very romantic."
"Yeah, you're right. I'll stop."

Then he had to pee on the glacier. Because boys have to pee on glaciers, right?

I felt deflated. A little in shock. I wanted to say, as we were driving away, "are you sure there isn't something you want to say to me?" But I said nothing. The drive back to Stewart was very quiet. He told me later that he was totally freaked out by the drive back. The chasm that dropped away to nothing on his right hand side. It reminded him of family vacations in northern Ontario when he spent the entire drive thinking he was going to die. When I asked him why he didn't say anything, he had no explanation. I would have let him drive.

We drove for several hours before he said anything. After 7 years, you get comfortable with silence. Eventually he said, "sometimes I wonder why I do the things I do." It was so clear to me then that this was never going to happen for us. That he didn't want to be with me. That he wasn't ever going to be ready to marry me. That, even though it was important to me to declare to the world that we were ready to move forward with our lives, all the things he said he wanted too, a house, a puppy, a garden, he wasn't actually ready for. At least, not with me. And when I try to remember, I don't think I ever heard the words "I want to marry you" come out of his mouth.

He tried to propose again. We stopped at a provincial park overlooking the Skeena River. I burst into tears. It wasn't how I pictured it. His proposing out of desperation. I told him not to make it harder for both of us. He held me and cried with me.

He slept on the couch that night. I could hear him crying through my own heartbroken tears. I moved out when I got home from that rotation. His friends told him I was only doing it to get attention. I had hoped he would want to fix things when I got home. He didn't even try. When I signed a lease and started packing, he told me that he didn't want me to go. He cried. When I finally moved out, he said "I'll miss your car."

Yeah, I know.

We stayed friends. For over a year, we hung out together, had dinner together almost every day, socialized together, talked on the phone at least once during the work day, were constantly on MSN. He recorded Oprah for me and I watched it while doing laundry at his place when he was out playing basketball or soccer.

Oh that's another thing. Less than 6 months after we broke up, he bought a condo for roughly the amount that we were planning to spend on a house. So much for his financial fears. I even found the ring and the receipt later. It was under $50. Which would have been fine if he had proposed properly. I wouldn't have let him buy me a "real" ring. If he had said "I love you, will you marry me?", I would be wearing that ring today.

He also started playing the guitar and being more adventurous with his cooking. It was like he was finally free to figure out who he really was. It took him two years to admit that he was afraid to talk to me. Afraid of change. That, if I hadn't bailed on the relationship, that we would still be stuck in unhappy.

His mother told me once that X develops obsessions with things. The Blue Jays, Wrestling, Star Wars, Pearl Jam. They would last for years. Approximately 7. When we were 21, I told him that he couldn't break up with me after I turned 27 because then I would be an old maid. After we broke up, my mother reminded me of this. I was still 26 when we broke up. My birthday is in November. It has lasted just under 7 years. My parents no longer pressure me about marriage and kids. I think it has become taboo. Now, I doubt I will ever get married. Certainly, I believe it's overrated. Relationships end.

I thought I was moving on as quickly as I knew how. Turns out it has taken years to get over him. All those other guys that came right after were just me punishing myself for not being good enough. Maybe I'm still doing that.

Maybe I'm not in love with Grey. Maybe he just makes me feel alive when he's bad to me. Because the only feeling I've become comfortable with is pain. Happiness inevitably leads to disappointment.

I just remembered, we did go on one other road trip. We went to the Okanagan Valley over the Victoria Day weekend in 2006. He had already started dating his now-fiancee but he didn't tell her he was going with me. He tagged along at the last minute, which is so typical of his bandwagon-jumping style. I let him come on one condition. That he would drive when I wanted to have a glass of wine at dinner. We had a really great time. A relaxing, platonic, argument-free time. That was the best road trip we have ever been on. I miss his friendship but I know I will never get that back. There's a word for this in portuguese. Saudade. Sadness for happy memories.

But I'd rather be alone than be with a man that needs to be told to drive.

3 comments:

Asshat said...

I think you dodged a very slow-moving bullet. Obviously, it wasn't meant to be. And who proposes marriage with an excessively full bladder, anyway?

Elusive Butterfly said...

I missed you Asshat :)

Alexandreena said...

You did the right thing. I can't even imagine how hard it must have been, but you did the right thing.

The men I thought I was going to marry and with whom I was engaged for a whole month is now engaged again. And it's tougher than i thought it was going to be. But I know I did the right thing too.