An Overdue Confession
My always-optimistic outlook has had me lying to myself.
At the end of summer, I was so gung-ho on this idea:
I’m giving up boys for 3 months!
Renunciation, like my beloved Buddha! (Or my Catholic friends from college who would give up soda or chocolate for lent!)
You know this feeling, right? Maybe you’ve given up carbs, sugar, coffee…
It seems so right! You are so sure!
Inevitably you realize why the fuck you’ve got an issue with the substance at hand.
Joseph Goldstein, my favorite Buddhism teacher, calls renunciation, “The End of Addiction.”
This reframe is crucial for me because what I’ve realized in the past month and change is that I’ve been, in fact, nursing a low-level addiction. I say low-level because it’s not ruining my life, but that tall, bald glass of water is my equivalent of another person’s morning coffee. I want it. I need it. And I get verrrry cranky without it. But honestly? I don’t like anything having a hold over me like that.
The man-fast started off strong, my sister. I’d really had my fill of guys. I was cycling from one smart, cute guy to another. But no one was scratching my itch.
I needed a break. I wanted to recalibrate.
But it’s like those mornings after a crazy night out in college. You honestly believe you will literally never have another drink again…until the following Thursday night, of course. The strictest phase of my man fast lasted about that long: a week.
But wait. Let me tell you about the most recent man I’ve been struggling to renounce.
So, in June when my last boyfriend and I were on a 3-week break, I went on Bumble for the first time. I was kind of annoyed and wanted to revenge-date someone new. (I know – what your girl lacks in maturity she makes up for in honesty! Plus, I do like to lean into my freedom. After being shacked up for 26 years, it’s pretty fun to be single.)
My first night on Bumble, a guy, who went to my college, exact same age, swiped on me.
He was super tall, shaved head and athletic: My specialty in college.
I swiped back. “Did we know each other at Columbia?” 🧐
No. He went to Columbia for grad, not undergrad. But we went to high school together!
I was super excited to reconnect with him. In high school, he was “that guy” with the convertible red Jeep Wrangler with a ton of friends. Homecoming King. I’m sure you had a version at your school. Our version was also sweet and lovely, which I know is not always the case.
So…we went on a (great) date. At the very end he says, “You haven’t brought it up, but you remember what happened with us senior year, right?”
And then he tells me about how one day after school we found ourselves backstage at the school auditorium (I was Maria in West Side Story that year, so I was probably at rehearsal) and another boy wrapped us up in the theatre curtains as a joke…and starring in our own version of 7 Minutes in Heaven, apparently, we made out. 😇
We never talked about it again. Well, not until 32 years later, on our Bumble date.
Truthfully? I have zero recollection of this, which kind of speaks to my legend status. But I do believe him because he is infinitely more reliable than I.
So, you see, there’s this “meant to be” quality to our reunion. But when I decided to give my ex-boyfriend another chance after his own failed attempt at renouncing me, I encouraged High School Guy to move on and do his own thing. But then when ex-boyfriend and I broke up for the last time on August 19, it was High School Guy I called that night and High School Guy I went out with…on August 20!
I wasn’t alone for a day. 🙃
BTW, I’m very conscious through all my shenanigans. It’s not like I’m saying I’m finally in love and my beloved and I were “meant to be” since high school. I know my impulses are off base right now. But I also need some manwich in my diet because otherwise I’m not learning and growing. I want to understand my wiring better so I’ve slowed the whole process down and I’ve taking notes on my natural impulses.
I landed somewhere surprising.
My divorce has been punishing.
You may never get to hear about how truly punishing it’s been. I’m proud of how I’ve handled it, but there are moments when it’s deeply…unnerving, to put it mildly. I notice that’s when I miss my ex-boyfriends. That’s when I may flirt with someone I’m not really interested in. I’m reaching for men as a shield, because I feel emotionally unsafe.
Energetically, it reminds me of the first time I felt deeply afraid of someone in my own family. Incest is just a different version of your family member turning against you, isn’t it? My cousin’s internal rage was transformed into a heat seeking missile aimed at me every day after school, and my parents simply didn’t have the bandwidth to protect me. I’ve done years of therapy and work on this topic and tbh, I rarely even think about the sexual abuse on the day to day. But capital T trauma leaves a long trail energetically and I believe, as adults, we replicate milder versions of those traumas so we can finally get a different outcome and settle our nervous systems. So here I am on the other side of yet another man’s rage. And like little Atoosa, I keep reaching for external protection…for a stronger man to make me feel safe. But today, I’m big Atoosa and there’s only one (wo)man who can protect me and that (wo)man is me. It’s an inside job, so to speak.
I’ve always dated big, strong athletes prior to and after my marriage. I understand the little girl in me was seeking their safety. Ironically after years of dating college athletes, I married a man who fit a very different prototype. I know now this has been my invitation to provide safety for myself. Message received. (But hopefully I can still date big dudes because they’re my favorite! 🤩)
So here’s what I need to say out loud.
It’s true that I’ve never been more centered, joyful or peaceful in my life.
Admitting this feels important. Historically, I’ve always been very strong publicly and privately. Think about it, my editor’s letters were a study of courage, perseverance and empowerment. But for the past few years I’ve been avoiding some truths. Despite my deepest desire for the most peaceful conscious uncoupling, two years later, my reality is far from that. I am so uncomfortable… I suspect this is a universal feeling when going through a divorce. I just want to name it. In this era of glossing over anything that isn’t Insta-perfect, here is one area of my life that is anything but.
I’ve been trying so hard to be equanimous for my children, that I haven’t made enough space for the truth of my own discomfort. Any legal process is stressful enough on its own without being on the opposite side of the case from the person you’ve spent the bulk of your life on the same team with. Challenging times are easier with a partner and yet divorce renders one partnerless. So many people latch onto the first person they meet when they leave such a long-term partnership, but we all know those relationships never work and I just can’t bear to make another long-term…ummm…learning experience.
Make no mistake. I am no victim. I have always been, and continue to be, a survivor.
But I can’t unsee what I now see.
I will not be ready to seriously date until I’m officially divorced. Yes, High School Guy is wonderful. He is hot, 6’4” and strong like I like ‘em. He’s also super steady and reliable…the guy who wants me to text him when I get home…who checks the weather for the city I’m traveling to…he sends the 6am Good Morning ☀️text…the one who remembers everything about my calendar and asks how it all went. Yes, he is someone’s dream come true. But right now, I couldn’t tell you if he’s mine. Right now, every man is just a potential bodyguard.
I need to my own protector. Once and for all. I got this. 🙌🏼
Atoosa Unedited is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.