I recently had an epiphany about romantic, expressive men. And for a bonus, I also got the elusive relationship closure that so many of us seek. It was a surprise gift from the universe. . .and my unsuspecting husband, Tony.
On New Year’s Day, I ran into a lover from my deep, dark past. He, his grown daughter, my husband and I sat for about thirty minutes socializing, very quickly catching up. Meanwhile, Former Lover kept, as they say, making eyes at me.
This was not an affair that had ended well. But it had ended so long ago, I no longer hurt to see him or speak with him. We are both plumper, a tad greyer, and definitely more lined, but it felt like we had just seen each other the last week. We chatted and joked briefly, and then my husband and I climbed into our minivan and sped away.
That was not the closure. Former Lover had been a man who, met years after I lost my virginity, had actually woken my sex drive. Our connection, though doomed, was immediate and ridiculously hard to define.
He was a musician and an artist. No matter what time of day or night, he had some instrument of creation in his hands, a drum stick, a worn nub of charcoal, a guitar, maybe even a teapot. It was not the Art or the Music that seduced me as is cliche; instead, his sheer joy while lost in his work and play was impossibly attractive. Oh, and he was. . .is British, for all you Anglophiles out there. I know, a sexual awakening, creative Brit? Aren’t they supposed to be uptight and cold? He wasn’t. Former Lover was prone to saying things about his heart beating faster or not being able to think straight when I was near. And when words failed him, his body never did.
Much later, a short year into my relationship with my husband, I was uncomfortable and feeling insecure. I knew he loved me; he tells me so every day, in those exact words.. But. . .something was missing. We had more than a few conflicts over the fact that he doesn’t give physical compliments very often. And if he does, they come across as forced or awkward. “Uh, well, don’t you look cute. . .” At first, I just thought he was not verbal. But, no, he was voted most talkative in his high school. He can articulate. In fact, he fully compliments my cooking or my intelligence all the time. And one of his greatest assets his how much we talk, late into the night.
I then suspected that maybe, though attached to me, he didn’t really find me sexy or even pretty. I figured, he was a practical man who had made a practical choice and had married the smart, talkative, nurturer, instead of the empty, distant model. He would get perturbed, annoyed and then angry with me for voicing these thoughts. But I periodically have had trouble shaking this sinking feeling.
I said to him, “There have been men in love with me before, a number of them who wanted to marry me. I KNOW what it feels like to have a man want me.” And this wasn’t it.
I reflected back on the men who had loved me, some of whom I had loved in return. All of them had been expressive about their love and their desire. They would tell me how gorgeous my eyes were when they gazed longingly into them. One man used to sigh into my then long, curly hair and go on and on about how he wanted to one day die in it. (Not as creepy as it sounds when you are in the middle of being loved.) One used to tell me I had the most delightful ass on the planet. Another, as I mentioned, described how pit-pattery he felt. I believed every single word from these men. It was the passion they exuded, the eyes that seemed only for me, that made their musings true. They openly and verbally reacted to my attempts to look nice when I dressed up, to my natural appearance, and my very smell.
NO, I am not a raving beauty. But these were men who knew how to make me feel like I was.
And my husband isn’t one of those men. Yet, that expressive passion I enjoyed from former beaus, even my ex-husband and Former Lover, is how I have always felt about my man. Tony. He drives me insane with desire: His smarts, his goodness, his love making, his very being. (To gain a picture, he somewhat resembles Clint Eastwood from the early Dirty Harry days. In fact, I had never found Clint a sex symbol until I fell in love with my husband.) Whatever this former lover awakened in me, my husband puts to bed in the very best way. He is the sort of lover every woman wants-gentle at times, considerate, but with just the right amount of manhandling to get his way. I compliment him all the time. I’d finally come to believe that inside, My husband feels the same way, when once, frustrated at my insecurities, he shouted, “You are the best thing that has ever happened to me.” Enough Said.
So. . .a few weeks after this reunion, you might suspect how I’d react to receiving an effusive email from Former Lover. (He knows people who know me.) In it, he expressed how much he was still feeling toward me, and easily tossed out these words: “My relationship with you was the most honest, intelligent, intuitive, erotic, and fulfilling of my life. You got into my psyche more deeply than anyone ever did.” He went on to express how he wished we had married all those years ago, issues be damned, and gone and lived the last two decades together. In less than so many words, he was secretly seeing if I was “available.”
Nice to hear 20 years later, eh? Do you wonder if I was tempted? He was off to Central America in a few weeks. I could easily jump on a plane and restart my life all over again.
I was stunned. Angry a little at the tardy sentiment. Envious of once again hearing such fine words. Irritated that he thought it appropriate to interfere in my love cocoon. But also tickled pink. Tickled, tickled, tickled.
Though Former Lover hoped I’d keep all this hush-hush, I immediately told my husband, full transparency. I was uncertain how he’d take it.
In stride. His first comment: “See, you still got it, Baby.” Well, hmmm. Okay, yes. After how many gained lines and pounds? “This guy sees you after 20 years and thinks to himself, ‘I want some more of her. I made a grave mistake all those years ago.’”
I also told my husband how sometime earlier last year I had written an amends to this Former Lover-we both owed one to the other for blowing up quite a lot of our world when we imploded as lovers. I had tried writing before years before, but now, in Al-Anon and working a 12 step program, I felt the need to do so, with full responsibility. I’d written a heartfelt note, but suddenly my computer frizzed as it can do. My words of contrition all disappeared. I saw this as a sign to keep my mouth shut and mind my business.
Tony tells me this: “Making an amends is for you. God knows you did so with good intent, and cleared your mind. It doesn’t matter that the guy didn’t receive it. That this guy surfaces only months later, we run into him accidently, and now he is ‘resmitten’ with you, gives you a sense that what had happened years ago was real, true emotions on both sides. Doesn’t that feel good to know now?”
There’s the closure, especially since I can respond with an amends now.
Here’s the epiphany: All the men who have loved me in the past have been EXPRESSERS in various ways, artists, writers, musicians, even a stand-up comic. They dealt daily in the world of sharing what was inside their hearts and souls. I had veered away from men like Tony-business and math-minded, practical, relatively conservative. In college, those practical guys had been the ones who seemed too preppy, they peed in the ice machines, and date-raped women in their fraternity houses. (How’s that for a childish generalization.) I stayed away from them. But somewhere in my middle age, I got sick of the liberally slanted men. Getting a divorce from my son’s Dad, an artist who had taken over a decade to figure out a career where he could actually contribute money to the household had left me cold. And all my other boyfriends-even this Former Lover in question- had spent their lives stumbling along, too, leaving all the heavy lifting to their wives or girlfriends.
Opening my mind, once I was single again, I found this trustworthy, practical, dependable Man, Tony,( . . .and yes, a former frat boy,) who has trouble verbalizing his attraction and his love for me in more words than “I love you, Baby.”
I had sacrificed the oh, so easy sway of big, fat words, for the strength of a solid man’s man. And I’ve only benefited.
Those loving words in the former lover’s email were very pretty. But also extremely simple to say, and not do for that guy. My husband finds it much easier to do than say. He understands commitment in a way no one else in my world ever has- takes care of his part of our world and then spoons me to sleep. He also stands in the greeting card aisle for hours, reading all the cards to find one that says what he cannot.
The other night, my oldest son met his Dad for a movie. After the film, en-route to somewhere else, he had a crappy flat tire on a major highway, and couldn’t get the spare loose. Whom did he call? Not his artsy-emotional Dad whom he had just left, but his step-Dad, Tony who quickly gave him directions to wait in the car safely till he got there.
This stoic man is the love of my life; I’m his, and we both know it.