Last night I went to a party and met my ex-boyfriend Ted’s new girlfriend. I was totally thrown by this experience. Ted and I have been broken up for a year and a half, and have recently become friends. We have a lot of history together and we enjoy each other’s company, so it was natural that we would fall into friendship after a some heart-healing time had elapsed. Going into the party last night, I knew he was going to be there and that he had a new girlfriend. But I didn’t know that she was going to be there. And I was completely unprepared for how much it would hurt to see them together.
No one came over to tell me that she was there. He had come alone, we had talked, and then a little later, I glanced across the room and realized that someone was standing next to him, exuding a proprietary air. In that click of time I knew who she was and I felt light-headed (okay, that might have also had something to do with the amount of vodka I consumed within the first hour of the party). I had no idea that I would feel that way, that I would be so totally awash in emotion. I understand now that this is in part due to the fact that seeing her, meeting her, was a completely new experience for me. Ted was my first and only long term boyfriend, and so I’ve never been in the situation of meeting my former love’s new interest.
I managed to avoid them for awhile, carefully timing my movements around the apartment to times when I knew they were caught up in conversations with others. The moment of face to face meeting came when I was in the kitchen, pouring a glass of water. I turned around and they were both standing there in the doorway. People stood, blocking my other route of escape, and so I stuck my hand out and said, “Hi, I’m Marisa.” We chatted for a bit, talking about nothing. Our words carried unsaid messages back and forth, and in lower moments, I found myself saying things that would establish my history of intimacy and shared experience with Ted, and would somehow exclude her. I knew I was doing it, and I was ashamed of my actions, even as I continued to take them. It was with shaky relief that I ended that conversation and walked away from them.
I’ve done some thinking today about this experience, and have come to realize that by the age of 26, when it comes to emotional experiences, new ones don’t come along everyday. I’m trying to appreciate the newness of this particular one, trying to view it with some manufactured distance, so that it doesn’t swamp my tenuous grasp on my own worth. I’ve also been working from the inside out on making sure that I archive an image, a two-dimensional representation of these feelings, so that I can find away to make them work to my advantage someday. But there are also the moments when it feels fresh and hurtful, a muted version of the breakup pain from a year and a half ago. I am grateful that I am not with Ted anymore, there were things in our relationship that were deeply not right, and yet, it hurts.