In case you just tuned in, Tuesday was Valentine's Day. ...or as I like to call it, "Being Single Awareness Day". Because unless you turn off all radios, tvs and internet sources (especially Facebook) and don't actually leave your house, it is difficult to not be barraged by how wonderful it is to be loved by your husband/wife or boyfriend/girlfriend. For those of us who don't have any of those, we can feel like odd man out and it's difficult to NOT be aware of the fact that we are single.
So this year I'm single. But that hasn't always been the case and as I look back at all of the men (and boys) that have passed through my life. I am overwhelmed by a wave of gratitude. While these relationships have come and gone, they have all taught me valuable lessons that have made me the woman I am today. I like that woman and so I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank some of those men (and boys) for helping to make me the woman I am today. (Some names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.)
To Luke: In 2nd grade I gave you a love note. You corrected the spelling of your name and gave it back to me. You may have missed the sentiment, but I didn't miss the lesson. It is you that I thank for the opportunity that I had to compete in the city-wide spelling bee in 7th grade.
To Vance: In 7th grade you gave me my first kiss. That's a big deal in a girl's life and I have to say, "Well done." All subsequent kisses have been sought after because I enjoyed the first so much.
To James: We only ever went out once, but it just took the once for me to get the lesson you had to teach. You said I was indecisive and you were right. It is because of you that today when someone asks me where I want to go to dinner or which movie I want to see, I no longer simply defer to whatever it is that they want to eat or to see. If I have an opinion, I voice it. No longer do I eat in restaurants I don't like or see movies I don't care about because I said, "I don't care". "I don't care" is no longer in my vocabulary unless I really don't care. Thank you for giving me the courage to voice my desires.
To Richard: You were my first real love. You were the first man to buy me flowers. You were the first man I really danced with dressed in taffeta and fancy shoes. You were my first real boyfriend. You were the first man I ever thought of marrying. You were also the first man to teach me that I wanted a man with drive and ambition in my life. I want a man who is not content to sit back and watch life pass him by. You helped me to realize that because that was not the man you were. After a few years, the paths of our lives changed and we parted company. But for a long time after, you were in my thoughts. You were the first man to tell me you loved me. Thank you for that.
To Seth: You taught me how the other half live. You took me to restaurants nicer than I'd ever been to. Your car was the fanciest I'd ever ridden in. You showed me how to interact with people in a way that was respectful of myself. You taught me that having expectations of others was okay. You also taught me that a man can, at the same time, be caring and callous. In many ways your affluence showed me how little I care about those things. The fancy meals, sexy car and big house didn't make you a wonderful person. No amount of money could ever have made me love you. You were kind and sweet to me, but no one else was immune to your judgement. Whether someone was fat (which I was at the time), trading with a "3-handle" (at a time when you were approaching your 30s) or "damaged goods with baggage" (divorced with kids), you never failed to point out what you perceived as their "flaws". Your emotional cruelty to the people around me taught me about your "flaws" and the damage that is done with words. Thank you for helping to make me more empathetic and understanding of the ways we are all imperfect.
To Ian: Thank you for being my friend. I am not the same person I was more than 10 years ago when we met and you have played a big part in that. You have shown me that a man and woman can be close without being intimate. From the start, ours has not been a relationship based on eros (passionate love), but instead on philia (friendship). Before I met you, my world was very black and white. You taught me that the world is, instead, shades of grey. We have spent many an evening huddled over a few (or more than a few) "adult" beverages discussing everything from life and love to home maintenance and how we really do need to get back to the gym. Nowadays, we are a bit older (and hopefully wiser) and our time together is more likely to be spent at a neighborhood restaurant rather than a smoky bar, but it is time that is important to me and I hope will always be something that I will have in my life.
To Sam: We met under interesting circumstances at a pivotal time in my life when, for me, being alone was definitely preferable to being with a man who was not right for me. I can say with all certainty that in the brief time that we shared I learned that I do, indeed, have "deal breakers". If you had asked me in my 20s what my deal breakers would have been, I would have been at a total loss. Whether it was because I had so little regard for my own wants and needs or because I was so desperate to be loved, I often spent time with men that I knew were not right for me from the start. I am thankful that that fate did not befall our relationship and that I was able to recognize my need to get out before any hope of a friendship was lost. From you I learned that I can't date a smoker. I'd never dated one before, so I didn't know how I felt about it. Now I do. You also reinforced for me that I need a man who is actively involved in life and the great big world around him. I want a man who sees every day as a great adventure and is prepared to get out and truly experience all that life has to offer.
To Troy: I hope that I am able to put into words what you have meant to me and how profoundly you have changed me. Meeting you was like a blind man witnessing a sunrise for the first time. He may have been told how beautiful it would be, but until he saw it for himself, no words could adequately describe the utter awe he experienced at that moment. You were the first man who truly fed my soul in a way that I hadn't known it hungered for. You showed me that discussing the difficult times is the only way to get through them and that a fight doesn't mean the end of the relationship. You shared with me your home, your family and your spirit. It is because of you that I have a fire for adventure burning inside of me. It is because of you that I have criss-crossed this country astride my very own motorcycle. It is because of you that I have the courage to be single right now and to trust that the love that I long for and deserve will come along some day. You showed me that I am funny and clever. You showed me that I should embrace the parts of my personality that I've always been told I should try to cover up. You showed me that whether I fail or succeed, I should always take a chance on myself. You cared for me because I am strong and weak, brave and scared, serious and silly. You taught me to recognize these traits in myself and to see them as gifts that I should treasure.
You also taught me that sometimes I need to leap even if I can't see the spot where I'll land. I wish I would have taken those chances on us in the beginning. I wish I would have said "I love you" every time I thought it instead of being scared that you couldn't say it in return. Maybe if I had dared to take that chance on us, things would have ended differently for us. Maybe not.
I hope that we will be in each other's lives for a long time to come, but if that is not in the cards for us, I hope you know that I love you and I wish you success and happiness in every endeavor you choose to undertake.
Most sincerely and with much love,