Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Ex Factor

As I drove across the Courtney Campbell Causeway this morning, I couldn’t help but smile. In fact, it’s the first time I had woken up smiling in quite some time, and that is why I remember it so well. With the sun beginning to crawl across the Tampa skyline, even my mild hangover really couldn’t put a damper on my mood. I simply rolled down the windows, turned up the jams, and embraced the Movin EZ sound that is “Journey.”

There was a slight haze around the details of the previous night’s events, but I did know that there were revelations upon my awakening. I had spent the previous night with a good buddy of mine* (*who we will call Mark for all intensive purposes) that had fallen on some tough times as of late. He had just broken up with the girl he had intended to marry for reasons I will not discuss here, but believe me when I say he was well founded in his decision. As I sat across the table from him, I couldn’t help but notice how well he seemed to be handling the whole ordeal. I mean, if I had been in his shoes, I would have been one giant blubbering mess. But not Mark.

Mark had never been the type of guy to see the glass half empty, and believe me there had been times his glass was bone dry. Usually a victim to his own curiosity, adventurous spirit, and one too many shots of Jose Cuervo, Mark had endured stories so crazy you really only see them in sitcoms or Judd Apatow films. If a Friday night didn’t end in the drunk tank, or standing on the side of the road drenched in the rain in a “I HEART SOCCER MOMS” t-shirt… well, how legendary could it have REALLLLLLY been?

As we took toasted our first round for the evening, I made Mark promise me that the night wouldn’t end with me getting to make “one call” to my parents while wearing an orange outfit. He simply smiled, and said I “was on his time now, bitch… and here’s to a night that goes down in infamy. Cheers!”

Oh, I forgot to mention one “small” detail. Did I tell you Mark and I used to go out??

In the days where I still wore cowboy boots as a band costume, Mark had been a freshman at the University of Florida. I would go up and see him on weekends, or he would make the trek down to Tampa. Anyone who has ever attempted this fete knows the way this story ends, and my story was no different. The relationship lasted… maybe 4 months. Long distance relationships were never meant to be practical or permanent, and usually ended in one person’s sacrifice to be with the other. Having just pledged a fraternity, and loving the college life, Mark found less and less time to come see me. And I wanted less and less to do with his drunken fraternity brothers ways. Neither of us wanted to compromise. I think the final straw came when I drove up to surprise him at one of his fraternity’s events, only to find Mark standing at a ping pong table lined with cups of beer… wearing women’s lingerie from Wal-Mart. As I helped carry Mark home in his drunken stuper at the end of the night… I knew it wasn’t meant to be.

Years later, while I was attending FSU I visited Gainesville for the annual FSU UF Football game. The results of the game were not pretty, and neither was the night of partying after it. This was the first time I had gotten a chance to meet Mark’s then girlfriend (now ex fiancé) Chrissy. At first, Chrissy had seemed open to the idea of Mark and I hanging out, but an hour of pre-drinking later I guess she changed her mind. Mark was sworn to never talk to me again.

And that brings me to last night. Since ending his engagement with Chrissy, Mark was on the Apology World Tour, mending all the bridges he had been made to burn during their several-year relationship. While he expected many to tell him to F@$% off because of the way he had just cut all ties, what he was met with was actually quite the opposite. Most were standing there, holding a cold beer for him, saying.. “Welcome back dude.. we’ve been waiting for you.” It’s hard to stay mad at someone like Mark, as he is genuinely just a good ole’ boy. Mark and I could never date again, mainly because we were just so different.. but that didn’t stop us from remembering why we were such great friends. He was always a good relationship counselor; self esteem booster, and all around good time. He makes sure the people around him are loving life just as much as he is, even when the situation dictates a far different mood. After all, life is too short to spend worry about the next time someone will come along and break your heart.

After two hours of dinner, drinks, and discussion, I decided to crash at Mark’s place.. only because the 40 minute drive back to Lutz seemed like a bad idea at that time of night. Mark graciously enough gave me his bed, and he slept on the couch.. because well, that is what friends are for. When I woke up a few hours later to a mild hangover, I walked out into the kitchen to get some water. Mark was standing at the coffee machine, making himself a cup before he got going to work. As I started to recount the previous night’s events with him, he put his hand to his mouth to tell me to keep the noise down. That’s when I noticed the extra body on Mark’s second couch. Walking into the next room and with a look of sheer amazement on my face… I was like..

“Dude, you hooked up with a chick on your couch… while an ex gf of yours got to keep the bed?? That’s awesome.”

Me, being the guys-girl I am, was already going for the “high-five” before Mark spit out the words….

“… it’s Chrissy.”

I pulled back in sheer disgust like someone next to me had barfed, retracting my offer for the high five.

“How.. What… When… HUH???”

“She showed up in the middle of the night, hammered.. wanting to talk to me. I couldn’t kick her out.”

“Does she know I’m here?” I asked.

He nodded, and began to explain the series of events that took place while I got my 5 hours of sleep. He told me how he had rationally explained to her, that it was just two friends that were both going through crappy times, and had more fun feeling crappy together.. than apart. During their two year relationship, she had never really understood that he and I really were just friends, and that I never really was ever a threat. Mark told her that despite our history, there was no real chemistry there anymore.. just a great friendship. And that absolutely nothing would have happened between the two of us (well, three if you count Jose ). The hour long conversation between the two ended with her getting the second couch, and Mark getting 2 hours of sleep before having to head to his seminar.

The night’s events really got me thinking. Mark and I really did have a great friendship. Sometimes, it’s just better to see things for what they really are. Maybe ex’s can still be in the picture, so long as they remain in the background and don’t pull the future out of focus. Even I have found myself tortured by this concept from time to time. Maybe if two people already know how their chapter together ends, they can still be a part of one another’s lives? Clearly there is a reason their storyline didn’t develop into something else, so why would an ex infringe on the other person beginning a new one? It’s perfectly normal to be curious about how the other person’s doing and what’s going on in their life, but to keep rehashing up an old tale that doesn’t end happily ever after… well, that’s not healthy for anyone.

I can honestly say I don’t wish bad things on any of my ex’s. I don’t keep in touch with most of them the way I do Mark, but… that’s because I realized some of them I really had little in common with, and that sometimes the past is just better left in there. We didn’t have the same goals, the same desires, the same “likes” and dislikes. And the rest of your life is a long time to spend with someone you may not even like all that much. For the select few like Mark, well.. they get a free pass from banishment. Not only will he never stop me from moving forward in my life, and finding someone that is perfect for me.. but he’ll be the first to congratulate me when I get there. Or my go-to shoulder until I do.

Mark hasn’t been the leading man in my book since high school, but it hasn’t stopped him from playing an intricate part in how I view relationships. You should always be best friends with the person you are with; the chemistry is just a bonus. Sure, Mark may have been a shitty boyfriend for me, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t perfect for someone else.. so why would I keep him from moving forward in his own pursuit of happiness? Besides, he makes a hell of a wingman and drinking partner. I wish him all the best, and know that if anyone breaks my heart he’ll be one of the first paramedics on the scene. If only other people knew our secrets, there’d be a hell of a lot less jealousy, and a lot more healthy relationships.

I’m not sure whether it was the wind in my hair, or the smell of the bay, but there was a permanent smile across my face. Whether it dawns on you like the sun, or hits you like a hangover… enlightenment is good however it comes to you. So when it does, embrace it, learn from it, and keep on keeping on. There’s nothing wrong with bringing ex’s along the journey, so long as they don’t detract you from getting to your destination. You wouldn’t drive across a bridge in reverse, so why live your life like that?.. After all… if you do.. you could miss the amazing sunrise right in front of you.


Shane said...

Good post!

I could never be friends with any of my exes for a very simple reason: I can't take anyone seriously anymore after I've seen them naked.

John Merino said...

why do people post such retarded crap comments?? Is he trying to say something or brag about something here? this must be the tenth comment ive seen like this and its retarded! Sorry if I sound like an ass but people who leave comments that are completely pointless piss me off, cant even get proper feedback...

Rui said...

The ex factor, loved the title.
What can I say?!
Been there and done that.
I can honestly say that all of my previous relationships have at least ended in friendship, love and passion where gone but in the majority of the cases friendship remained, in some cases till this very day.
Is always a good thing when you can go to an ex whatever and have a good time, remembering the old days, talk honestly with one another.
I even find it surprising to see how honest we can be with each other after parting ways, we can be more open and honest with each other than we ever been in an entire relationship, it’s sad but it’s true in most cases.
Now Mark almost resembles me, I to have my wingman situations, and surprisingly enough it happens more and more has I grow older, with me there’s and entire gallery of situations from ex-girlfriends, friends that I haven’t seen in years to people that I just met.
They say that I’m a natural good listener and adviser, all of this people find in me a way to let go of the stress and find some happiness in what sometimes are crappie life moments, although unlike Mark I never share my problems or secrets with anyone, in a way I’m like a priest what you say to me stays with me and maybe is knowing that what gives people the freedom to share their lives with me, like Mark I can also be a good drinking partner although I have my self-imposed limits, believe me you wouldn’t like me when I get drunk (almost sounded like a scene in a Hulk movie ) but really I’m the worst kind of person to be around with when I’m drunk.
Not only will I stop paying attention to what a person is saying but sometimes I change the theme of the conversation to another one that simply doesn’t have anything to do with what that person was saying to me, just to give a few examples one time I was listening to a ex-girlfriend, she was like “You know, I feel like I’ve been used and then thrown out like trash, he said I was is entire world and then I caught him in the bed with another girl” and I’m like “Did you ever heard of the great discrepancy? Did you know that over a million years of geological history has disappeared and no expert in the world can find an explanation?” in another case I found a old buddy of mine and we started to talk and he was like “Man I’m tired of this #$cking country, my boss is an idiot, just because he married a rich bitch he thinks he can walk over people like they’re nothing, and this #$cking taxes, every year they go up like crazy, our politicians spend money on stupid projects that don’t do the country any good is like they think that #$it is going to rut an so they start spending money like is christimas all year long. What do you think man?” and I’m like “That girl over there sure is hot, damn look at that body, wait here a moment I’m going to talk to her” is like #$%tting on another person head.
There’s a problem when I get drunk, people around me for some reason don’t realize that I’m drunk, in one occasion I was the designated driver, and Jenn I have to tell you I stole allot of years from the people that where in the car with me (some years ago I worked at a private driving school where I had to teach people how to control the car in every situation so basically a car to me is like just another part of my body) I started accelerating that baby like there was no tomorrow, in the curves I didn’t even used the foot brake only the hand brake, damn it look like a scene from Fast and the Furious, the people in the car, guys and girls screaming their lungs out, even one of the girls that assumed herself as a true gothic she started praying to Jesus and Mary, the guy at my side started crying like a baby and kept saying he was going to die, but I was on a role nothing was making me even slow down a bit, until we arrived at our destination, everybody jumped from the car and started screaming at me, I honestly don’t remember half the things they said.
Ever since then I created a limit to how much I drink, because honestly I could have killed all of us and being drunk just isn’t for me.
And there where also those situations where I could be talking to an ex-girlfriend and we started drinking to forget the problems and usually the “…this night is going down in infamy” to me was waking up in the morning with my ex next to me, and every time that happened we had to have the Talk.
Damn the Talk was always a painful task to go through; we had to put the facts strait, don’t get me wrong there was never a moment where we would wakeup not knowing what we had done, but the fact that we had done it always brought issues to a chapter long closed.
But returning to you Jenn, you’re right, there is allot of jealousy in relationships, most people don’t have in their heads the concept that the person they are with had a life before they had met, and it is that past that hunts and destroys most relationships, I cant even begin to tell you how many times I’ve seen boyfriends or girlfriends telling their partner that if he or she continued to talk to their ex’s that the relationship was over.
I personally love to keep in touch with ex-girlfriends to simply talk with ought any strings attached, is like that old saying “Learn from other people mistakes because you wont live long enough to make them all”, and so talking to ex’s, friends that I haven’t seen in a long time is always a good and stimulating event.
Is like you say, many times the true revelations in life, the ones that matter seem to come from simply talking to people that are and where important in our lives.
Thanks for sharing these events of your life with me Jenn I really appreciate it, it’s always good to know that we are not the only ones that think like this, that we are just as sane or even more than any other person.
I wish all the best to you.