I wasn't sure if I was going to write about this. Sometimes I fear the smack down from my readers. It's ok. If you need to tell me I'm foolish, I can take it.
What did I do that was foolish? Well. After my conversation with David, I was stunned, amused, hurt and uncertain. Could there be any truth to what he said? Did other guys I've been with find me…unappealing? I clicked through my mental checklist and my memories didn't jibe with David's assertions. That helped, but I still craved reassurance. I heard from (female) friends that I looked good. And it was meaningful. But I needed more. I needed reassurance from a man.
I decided to embark on what I thought of as "project shore up Jamy's self-esteem." My self-esteem was not destroyed, but it was listing slightly to port side. It needed a little pick-me-up. Also, what better excuse to get in touch with ex-boyfriends? I chose Tom (important grad school boyfriend) and the most recent pseudo-ex, Tim, (Mr. separated-but-not divorced). Tim I picked because he's the most recent ex. Tom qualifies because he's one of the few men I can imagine talking to about this and not being embarrassed (except I've managed to talk to who knows how many male imaginary internet friends…though I haven't shared the most painful details with you). Tom is sure to tell me exactly what I want to hear and I'm likely to believe him. So what if we broke up ten years ago? So what if he's happily married? He loves this shit. And so what if I haven't talked to him in six months and this would break my moratorium on contact with him? Desperate times call for desperate measures.
I called Tom and then I sent him an email. I did not broach the topic in the email, I just said I needed the favor of a conversation with him on an inappropriate topic. Even though he's abroad (as it turned out) he wrote back the same day, apologized for not being available and offered to answer via email, though he realized that 's not what I wanted. I told him not to worry and thanked him for his consideration.
Next up, Tim. When we broke up he "felt terrible for me" and I thought, now he can do something to help me feel less terrible. He can do me this favor. I called and hung up a couple of times before I got my act together and left a message.
He called back and we traded a couple of messages before we eventually spoke. I hemmed and hawed and could not say what I wanted to say. Instead, I said, "I need to warm up a little."
Tim started telling jokes. "Ok. A guy walks into a bar…"
I told him two of my three joke s and he stepped all over the punch lines. He started telling a joke about Sam the clam and Fred the fish. I was sure I'd heard it before…that he'd told it to me before. He said, "You've heard it…I won't tell it then…"
"No, no, I don't remember…tell it." It's a long, silly, not very funny joke and I closed my eyes and listened. I laughed when he finished. "You really like that joke."
"I do. I tell it a lot."
"I know, you definitely told it to me before."
"So, J, what's going on?"
I started to tell him the story. Not the whole story. And my mouth went dry and I literally couldn't get the words out until I had a sip of water.
Years ago, before I gave my first conference presentation, my mother advised me to always have some water in case I was nervous and got dry mouth. I've always heeded her advice, but I never needed the water. Now I know what it feels like. Not good.
Tim managed to fill in some of the blanks of the story when all I could do was hint. But he got the picture and he said, "That guy's an asshole. Don't worry about him."
"I know. I know he's an asshole. But it still made me feel bad."
"Guys are stupid. They run away. It's what they do. Don't listen to what he said." He explained and expounded. It wasn't quite what I expected. He said, "You don't think I'm overweight?"
"Good lord no!" I almost shouted. "You're so much more attractive than this guy. Really."
"Oh, well, thanks."
"You're way more fit. He was too skinny."
"Well, I go to bars and women don't look at me."
"Um, maybe that's because you're married?"
"But they don't even look! I would notice. I am a guy."
"Hmm. I don't know what to tell you. I would notice you." I can say that because I did notice him, though he approached me first.
I wasn't quite ready to end the conversation, but he said, "J, I have to go."
"Listen, you're fine. J, there's nothing wrong with you."
It helped, but I have to wonder, when did it become "project shore up Tim's self-esteem"? Maybe it helps to know I'm not the only one.
Grateful for: reassurance.
Drop me a line.