February 21, 2011

The Plan B

In my late teens and early 20s I worked very hard to change my life.  I had been a pretty miserable kid, caught between warring parents, angry grandparents, teachers who were irritated by a bored and academically advanced kid and, later, a pissed off and turned off teen.  I attracted the attention of the bullies, hung out on the fringes of the different cliques, and eventually made friends with a few beautiful misfits who needed a chubby, insecure side-kick with whom to go out on the town.

The few boyfriends I did manage to land didn't last long.  I always ended things clumsily within weeks of accepting invitations to "go around".  As soon as they became too familiar to me I became nauseous at the sight of each of them.

The only boy who I didn't reject of course, of course, rejected me.  Regularly.

We were perfectly matched.  He hated his father, and I mine.  For very different reasons, I thought at the time, but as it turned out the reasons were pretty much the same.  I just couldn't see it.

We never talked.  Seriously.  We could exchange smoldering looks from across a bar, and when we danced he made me weak in the knees.  But I can count the conversations we had over the course of our relationship (years) on a single hand.  He dumped me often and hard, and always the same way.  By disappearing.

God, how I loved him.

After him, and in between him, I compared every man I met or dated with him.  They had his lips, or spoke with his cadence.  They bounced when they walked, just like he did.

Years later, and even after I'd ended things forever and married someone else, I confessed an ongoing problem to a friend: When things got rough with my husband, and at the time they were tenuous at best, I would imagine what it would be like to see this guy again.

I was pretty sure that we had known each other in past lives, and that he would be a carry over into my next.  Kindred spirits of a sort that couldn't work things out and were doomed to forever enter each others' lives until we got it right.

When I thought about how things would be good, that we would be a perfect fit like an old pair of perfect Fluevogs, she laughed.

Oh, she said,  Michael calls that your Plan B.

Her partner had this theory that everyone has a secret Plan B.  Someone they had broken up with who would swoop in and make everything that wasn't okay better.  Regardless of how they had behaved in the past, doomed relationship, the Plan B would be way better than the current beau.  Way, way better.

Of course, reality is much less enticing.  My Plan B had a pretty harsh drug habit.  He always insinuated I might be cheating; that couldn't be further from the truth.  The chances of him changing were ... slim.  Okay ... none.

My friend and her boyfriend had a good point, and I abandoned my Plan B and concentrated on my good, solid Plan A.  Imperfect, for certain.  He was unsure about us, too.  But he was the first man I dated that didn't remind me of Plan B and I was pretty sure we retained the potential to make a good life with each other, regardless of our struggles.  I persevered all the way through his grad school year, with us apart and his living the college life.  It included a semester overseas -- Paris in springtime of all places -- for which I joined him.

He persevered too, we talked a lot, and together we survived.  Paris most definitely helped.

I FB emailed my no-longer-Plan-B last year, because he was out there and connected to so many of my friends and I hated the thought of being surprised.

He replied, Karen who?

To which I replied, Ah.  That is so you, my love.  And left it at that.


  1. Why is it the men we find so compelling are the ones who make us work so hard just for that little treat they toss our way once in awhile? What is it that makes these self-contained weapons of mass destruction so addictive? When I was a kid, I had a crush on Mr. Spock from Star Trek. Yes, the man with no emotions. That didn't bode well. Is it the feeling of conquest, that the prize is somehow more worth it when emotional bloodletting is involved? In my early 30s I dated a guy that I was completely addicted to. After about a year of dating, he threw a birthday brunch for himself and I helped. He had lots of out-of-town friends in for it, and as they came in, I introduced myself (he would never introduce me). As I held out my hand to shake theirs, I watched the blank expressions on their faces and realized he'd never mentioned me to anyone. I felt like a cliche.

  2. Ooooh, ouch.

    I can't lie. My husband only told his family about me right before we moved in together, over 6 months after we met. Turned out that was his thing, though, not about me, as it is usually. Of course I took it pretty personally.

    I'm lucky if only because I have this guy who keeps giving it his best, or a rendition of that when what I consider his best is different than what he is capable of ... I know what I mean by that but I don't really know how to explain!

    I loved being single, but hated dating with a passion. Funny that.

    I loved that you loved Spock. Me? Robert Redford (The Way We Were), Chachi (uh huh) aaaaand Johnny Depp in 21 Jump Street.

    What can I say.

  3. "The Way We Were." Ahhhh. "Why her? Why did you have to go to HER?"

    I'm glad your guy appreciates what he has. He's lucky to have someone who appreciates the effort.

    I do like being single, although it means I have to work harder at having a social life. But after a bout of being pissed off that nobody was ever available to go out, I did manage to see a play with one friend and have dinner with another. And realized that they bored me. Really, really bored me. And as I ask people to do other things, I hear that it;s too late or they;d rather sit on the couch because it;s been a long day, etc. So the lesson is that at least when I do something alone I enjoy the company. I went out last night and danced my butt off for three hours to a band that did a Bee Gees tribute. I don't know any of my friends that would have enjoyed it as much. It was heaven. But yeah, I'd really like a boyfriend. If I could go straight to that without the dating, I'd be happy.