As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found I have these old memories suddenly return and haunt me. I teach the importance of looking for the good in the memory and then distracting yourself, which is a very healthy way of dealing with negative memories, but I recently had a memory where I decided I needed to go a step further. The result? A pretty funny story… for my wife. Here’s the back story:
When I was twenty years old, I was yet to have a girlfriend (not for a lack of trying). I had been working at a small movie theatre and eventually a girl from my church was hired. I knew her, but we never talked before this (like good Christians). She also had never dated, but she hadn’t really tried (unlike me). The theatre we worked at was soon shut down and we started finding other reasons to hang out. After two months, I asked her to be my girlfriend and she said… no. So what did I do? Kept hanging out with her (like a winner). After four months of hanging out, I again asked her to be my girlfriend and she said… no. So what did I do? Kept hanging out with her (I wasn’t good at playing hard to get; I was more about playing it desperate… like a guy destined to be single). Around this time, I bumped into a girl I knew from my former high school. She was two years younger than me, but I had always thought she was hot. She was the kind of hot where she wasn’t “popular” because she wasn’t obsessed with boys (the opposite of my wife in high school… a comment I make because it shows I married the popular girl; not bad for the guy who couldn’t get a girlfriend). When I knew this girl, she was dating a guy, but now she was single (score). We ended up going on a date (serious score). A few days later I was supposed to go to Europe on a trip with students and graduates from my former high school, so we arranged to go to breakfast the day of my flight. She was smart, easy to talk to, liked to laugh, and she even insisted on paying for the breakfast because I was going away. She was incredible. So what did I do after I said good bye to her? I called church girl and invited her to hang out while I packed for the hour before I had to leave for the airport. Yes, I’m aware that there are two terrible things in that sentence: I still had to pack an hour before leaving (but I’m a guy so that’s normal) AND I had my first real D-bag moment. I was always a goody-goody and here I was being a serious turd going between two girls… it felt kind of good.
On the trip I hung out a lot another girl who was also awesome (that’s three girls… I was a serious player… in training). This girl had a boyfriend, but at this point I was twenty-one and never kissed a girl so I was as much of a threat as a gay best friend. We did things like we walked around Rome and the Vatican where I dazzled her with my art history knowledge (I wish I was joking, but I really was like a gay best friend… minus the fact I had zero fashion sense). After the trip this girl broke up with her boyfriend. I like to think it was because of me… even though she never contacted me again.
When we arrived home, church girl was at the airport because her best friend was also on the trip and she had come with her friend’s mom. When I saw her I was thrilled… until she avoided me. Talk about a slap in the face. My art history knowledge was no longer a value (not that it really was) and the girl I had spent six months hanging out with didn’t even say hi to me at the airport even after not seeing me for two weeks. I don’t remember how we ended up talking after that, but it turned out she was surprised how much she had missed me, and when she saw me… she got scared and hid (not a great flirting move). Shortly after that, I once again asked her to be my girlfriend and she said… yes.
So what happened to breakfast girl you might be wondering? That really incredible girl who was easy to talk to and paid for my breakfast? A week or so after I had returned home from Europe, she called me and asked, “What happened? I thought you said you’d call me when you got home?” Boom! I had gone from someone who had a D-bag moment to being a serious D-bag. I sheepishly told her I was seeing another girl and she very politely said okay and said good-bye. She handled it really well; it was like she was fine.
Overall, dating church girl was truly a gift from God. It was a wonderful five years… until she dumped me for a woman… an overweight woman who was eight years older than her. To be honest, being dumped by a woman for a woman was a bonus. I just wish my replacement was hot. Was I less attractive than an overweight, older woman? Ouch.
One of the reasons I chose church girl was I had invested a lot into that relationship and I felt a sense of loyalty to her, but more importantly, she was just as naïve to dating as I was whereas breakfast girl had previously dated someone for almost two years and I was incredibly intimidated by that. She was wonderful, but my lack of dating experience compared to hers freaked me out. This instinct paid off and church girl became a fundamental part of my development as a man as she supported and encouraged me through some of the toughest things I have ever gone through including several career attempt flops, my dad’s death, and even our break up (nothing like your ex having to help you through the break up).
So why does this back story matter? Fast forward shortly after breaking up with church girl and breakfast girl is playing in the same ultimate Frisbee league as me and she’s one of the best females in the league (crap). Over the next 14 years, I keep bumping into her and when I see her all I can think is how much of a D-bag I had been when I was younger. So what do I do? Avoid it (like a dude) until a few weeks ago I mentioned the story to my wife and I suddenly realized this choice had a huge impact on my life. If it wasn’t for church girl I wouldn’t have been a youth pastor, which meant I wouldn’t have met my wife, which meant I wouldn’t have become a marriage therapist. That one decision changed my life, yet I still felt all this guilt. I even started having nightmares about it. It didn’t make any sense, but my brain was beating me up for how I acted. So what did I do? I confronted it (like a weirdo).
Sometimes, we can’t just accept a situation; we need to confront it and apologize. It’s now been nineteen years and from Facebook I see breakfast girl has a different last name so I assume she’s married. She clearly moved on and why wouldn’t she? It was two dates. Now, I’m well aware that messaging her makes me a nut job, but what do I have to lose? Someone I was a D-bag to now thinks I’m weird? I can deal with that if it’ll clear my head and I can stop having nightmares.
After rewriting a Facebook message several times to make sure I didn’t say too much off the bat, but give enough to suggest that I’m not some creepy guy trying to hook with an old interest (not that anyone has ever done that with Facebook) I hit send and let it go. For all I knew, she didn’t check her messages… but she did. Several days later she responded, “All I remember is we went out, but we weren’t feeling it.” (Written with exaggerated frustration to be funny) What? “We weren’t feeling it?” We were feeling it; you were definitely feeling it! It was the one time I turned down a girl… emphasis on the one time, and she remembers it as “we” weren’t feeling it? I had one moment and now it was gone!
Right after reading the message I told my wife and she thought that was amazing. This person I was feeling partly guilty and partly darkishly proud ended up shooting down my memory. I had been very interested in her back then and loved the idea that someone had liked me too (especially for someone who had no game). That being said, this response makes for a great story: (friend) “You thought a girl liked you years ago and when you brought it up, you found out you were wrong? That’s hilarious!” Yes, I have a dark sense of humor, but this is pretty funny.
Besides a fun story and a chance to remember why I’m grateful to be married (dating is the worst), messaging breakfast girl was amazing because my brain is now completely free. Sometimes it really is worth sending a note to apologize to someone even if it could make you look dumb or ruin a memory. Fortunately, a clear head is more important than avoiding an awkward conversation or a memory that a girl might have liked you.
This week may you consider if you need to do something to help reduce haunting thoughts.
Rev. Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people