Are these stories exaggerated to (a) make me appear more interesting / mysterious / fascinating? (b) make the relationship appear to be more than what it truly was? or (c) make the breakup seem more historic and tragic than it really was? No, yes, and sometimes.
Part 1: The 1980s
1. First girlfriend accuses me of only being attracted to her because she's a "fallen women" and says it just won't work. She disappears and may have become a lesbian. As far as her status as "fallen," she was only 21 - way too young to fall. I was 18. Anyway, her accusation was spot-on.
2. My next girlfriend - a real college girlfriend - leaves me for a sorority but not before starting my frustrating pattern of relationships with women who LOVE Annie Lennox way too much begins.
3. Okay, this one was so close to being a relationship that I'm going to allow the rosy spectacles of memory make it as if we dated and consummated and all that. This made-up relationship pretty much ended when she ended a phone conversation with "I have to go mail a letter." It was 11:00 am. On President's Day.
4. She sleeps with another man in my bed. Or at least I think she does.
Part 2: The 1990s
5. We only dated for a few weeks. It ended in the Barnes & Noble in Roseville, MN. She ordered me - commanded me - to believe in ghosts - right there, hovering around us in the bookstore! She couldn't accept that I could not see the ghosts. She ended it. Or I ended it. Don't remember.
6. My first California girlfriend leaves me because she needed to move across the country to hook up with some high school dude she met on the Internet. Oh and just to reiterate re: #4: It was a postal holiday.
7. The next one is a blur. I believe we broke up five times. At least one of those times was precipitated by her saying the worst thing anyone has ever said to me. No, I will not tell you what she said.
8. Back in Minnesota, I'm a T.A. with too much time on my hands. The girlfriend-who-wasn't-really-a-girlfriend needs to talk. She explains to me that she can't continue to date three guys at once and has to make a choice between me, the guy who looks like Eric Stoltz, and the guy who looks like Ed Begley, Jr. She chooses Stoltz. She later marries Begley. In between, she gets drunk at my wedding and says to all 162 guests - in a rambling but entirely-audible-over-the-intercom toast "It could have been me."
9. I got her Scooby Doo slippers for Christmas. I made her a mix tape. I thought that would be sufficient. It wasn't. On the plus side, she did wean me off my annoying habit of trying to "save" the women I dated.
10. I marry #10. We're together in one form or another for 8+ years. The breakup here is probably the least interesting one of them all ("growing apart," etc.) . It's also the most painful (2005 = the year of too much therapy) but I'll say this: It wasn't my idea; we're still friends, and there was too much Annie Lennox. Anyway, this relationship extends into the mid-2000s and takes us from Minnesota back to southern California.
Part 3: The 2000s to today
11. This is where it starts to get interesting (or ridiculous, or even sad, depending on your point-of-view). Also, almost everyone from this point on is a Facebook friend so I'd really better be careful. My first post-separation relationship ended because... because I was only separated and not divorced. Completely legitimate reason, although I brazenly said then that it didn't matter.
12 and 13. These relationships were occurring simultaneously, sort of. Or at least there was enough overlap that it would be unfair to put one chronologically ahead of the other. So, there are a few ways to interpret what happened but really it comes down to this: One of them liked the show Lost too much and the other one felt I fell in love too easily. Or maybe it was that one of them liked my friend more than me and the other one lived too far away. Or was it that one was an ROC (relationship of convenience) and the other a lesbian. Or was it because
14. Yeah I blew this one. She said I had "too much of an ego." Me? Just because I wanted her to hear my mid-90s-west-coast-hip-hop-influenced rap My Name Is Ali?
15. Would you believe only seven months passed between #10 and #15? Okay, this was interesting. And she refused my friend request so there's no need to hold back: I broke up with her because I didn't like her and she reminded me way too much of my sister. She also seemed weirded out by my request to download a couple hundred of her albums onto my iPod. She had the Zombies box set! She said no to that request too.
(Free advice for all of you: Do not break up with someone - even a half-Jewish someone - right before Christmas, especially if her birthday is the day after Christmas. She won't be happy.)
16. In a cruel irony, my longest post-marriage relationship ends when she moves to Minneapolis, the very place I didn't want to leave six years earlier (right after 4 other people close to me hightailed it away from California for the Midwest. Bastards. See how it feels in JANUARY.)
17. I'm not exactly sure what happened. I do know I kept falling asleep at inopportune times.
18. I should probably not say anything at this point.
19. My first breakup via email (she was the sender). Somehow I make it to the post-email texting era before I'm involved in an ermail breadkup. Again, too soon for a lot of details but this one piece of information should be enough: The subject line in her email was The Death of Hope.
20. We get in a fight. A huge screaming argument. I cry for only the fourth time since 1983. She takes a picture of me crying because she thinks it looks funny. (Postscript: I saw the picture. It did look funny.)
- One person shows up on this list twice and probably doesn't realize it.
-If you know me well enough to do the math, #1 to #10 took me 21 years. #11 to #20 took me 4 years. Progress? Or the opposite of it?
-15 of the 20 are Facebook friends. I need to stop being so nice.
-Two of them managed to get me to take care of their cats, well after the breakups. Which explains the presence in my home - to this day - of Ringo and Lily, those loveable balls of fur.
They dumped me 9 times.
I left them 4 times.
It was mutual on two occasions. I don't remember - twice.
I shouldn't be so flippant. There were good times. I mean this with all my heart: I had some amazing memories with every single one of you. Except #5.
For the rest of you - a lovely song by my most famous Facebook friend (if you get headaches easily, please don't watch. That's some shaky movement):