Not long after I broke my arm last year I got a text from someone I’d started talking to when I met the Vanishing Act. Between the boredom and the Dilauded, we struck up a pretty good conversation, and eventually agreed to meet.  I was still a little hesitant and hurt, so we took it slow, but he was so enthusiastic that I let myself get comfortable.

On our first date he wore a bow tie, not for me, but because he wore one every Friday.  He was adorable, he was funny, and he was candid.  I felt immediately comfortable, and even after our date ended up just being dinner and a walk around the mall, I enjoyed being with him.  He brought me home, waited for Hubby, and the two of them hit it off like old friends.  That night I did something I never do.  I made a move and kissed him first.  It surprised us both, but he talked about it for a week.  Our second date was equally as relaxed.  We went on a hike, had lunch by a pond, and took a nap in each other’s arms.

Through it all we talked and shared our mutual geekery, but after our third date or so something changed. When he talked he sounded worried that I’d leave.  I tried to assure him I would not.  All I asked for is the same thing I always ask for, honesty.  I promised him the same.  Even so, our meetings got farther apart.  Then our communication got spotty, so I did what I always do, I tried to talk to him about it.

What I got from the conversation was his refusal to give me any priority in his life.  None.  I don’t consider myself an extremely needy girl, but once in a while I like to know I rank higher than a TV show.  I had known he was a bit self-centered, and I had accepted that, but was I asking too much.  Of course I convinced myself that I was.  I apologized and asked him to make an effort, sure if I voiced my needs again that he would disappear on me.  He even appeared to have taken it to heart.  I got one really good date after that where I almost felt like I could tell him I had started to love him.  I didn’t.  Something inside me said not to.  Something inside me knew I was trying to justify behaviour that I wouldn’t have accepted from anyone, that one night didn’t make everything right.

I grappled with this for a month while I was on a trip to Boston.  During that trip he called me, we texted, and things seemed to be heading in the right direction.   He even said he missed me once, and the part of me that needed to believe it acted like he’d written it in the sky above my head.  We made plans to spend a day together when I got home, and I felt like it was going to be the beginning of something new.

When that day came I waited patiently for him to let me know he was on his way, but he never did. When I finally heard from him he told me he’d spent the day with his ex-girlfriend.  In the texts that followed I tried to explain to him that I was more upset about not even getting a phone call than about getting blown off.  He told me how much he loved her, that an opportunity had come up, and turned my words around to make me look ugly and vindictive after I tried to tell him how I felt about him.  He never realized I’d told him I loved him twice, because he turned it around every time to make the conversation about himself.

It was at that moment that I realized that he was right, I would never warrant a place of any priority in his life.  I had given him the power to step on me.  I had held on to something that looked good on paper to the detriment of my own needs and desires.  I had let him make me feel fat every time he called himself a “chubby chaser” to my face.  I had let him make me feel stupid every time he reminded me of his IQ.  I had let him make me feel inferior by accepting a relationship where he was unwilling to give me a place in his life by allowing him to change plans when something better came up and accepting the excuse that too many other girls had taken him for granted.

The lesson I learned from James was to have some cojones.   I know what I want.  I know what I need.  What I didn’t know is how important it is for me to be able to stand up and either make those things happen or find somewhere where they can. No, it wasn’t his obligation to make me a space in his life if it’s not what felt right, but it also wasn’t mine to stand around and accept that he was the best I would get.  After that text conversation where I couldn’t even convince him that the decent thing would have been to call me to let me know he wasn’t coming over, we never spoke again.  I left that with no closure, feeling unsure about myself or how I handled new relationships.  It would be four months before I’d even let myself think about a date with someone new, even longer before I could accept a compliment without steeling myself inside for the backhanded insult.

I know now that this was a test to see how far I had come from the debilitating lack of self-esteem I had developed as a child.  I thought I had accepted my body and my personality as beautiful parts of my self, but I had only gotten really good at tolerating it.  This was the step I needed to really let it all go, and once I realized how much I had let this kid inside my head, how I had let him crush my spirit, and how little he deserved that power I was able to begin rebuilding the damage that had begun with the Vanishing Act.

No, I haven’t changed.  I’ve just stopped letting anyone else decide who I get to be.

Go now, be yourself.  You’re all you’ve got.

Aloha

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