Remember that time when I wrote that I was trying to turn over a new leaf and take things more slowly when I met someone?
Yeah, that was a big lie. I mean, I didn’t think it was a big lie at the time. I honestly thought that being in contact with a guy I’d just met multiple times a day qualified as “going slow” because I didn’t yet know anything about his previous relationships.
Oh well. Baby steps, people.
More on my inability to be cautious later. (Preview: I may be coming to terms with it.) But this previous relationship discussion thing, that I am starting to think might be a problem.
I once asked a friend who had been dating someone for a few months about his previous girlfriends, and she said she didn’t know. I was completely shocked.
“How could you not know?” I asked. “Haven’t you talked about your past relationships yet?”
“No,” she said, casually. “It hasn’t come up.”
“Really?” I said. “How could it not have come up by now?”
“Well, the length of time since my last serious boyfriend is not something I’m eager to discuss,” she admitted.
Point taken. And, were I not someone who discusses this–equally unpleasant–personal statistic on a regular basis, on the internet, I would feel the same way.
But the reason I was so baffled is that this is a conversation I tend to have almost immediately when I meet someone. Perhaps it is one of the things, as my NY best friend S was speculating about recently, that prompts guys to make casual comments about meeting their families or buying a TV that we can watch together–before they disappear in about the time it takes to view an MTV reality show. Without commercials.
As in, it is symptomatic of my general tendency to prematurely escalate the intensity of things: a tendency that, as we know, causes said things to crash and burn and me to exist in a perpetual state of hurt, vulnerability and overall self-pity.
(Sorry, it’s the end of the semester, there are several other things I should be writing, and I have a cold. I’m feeling dramatic.)
Anyway–that’s all I thought it was. Or, why I thought it was a problem. More for what it signifies than what it reveals: I’ve always considered it useful to know what a potential interest’s romantic history is. It lets you know where they’re at, what they’re capable of. Perhaps whether they are or aren’t emotionally available. (Whether I go so far as to make use of this information is another story, but hey.)
But then I went out with a guy who told me quite a bit about the women in his past. A lot of them. And I began to wonder if this was information I really cared to know.
He told me one story in particular that involved kissing a girl’s neck. It was a long, complicated and–to be fair–amusing story, in which said kissing did play a crucial role. But a couple of dates later, when he kissed me on the neck, that story was all I could think about.
I mean, it’s not as though I really would otherwise have thought that I was the first woman whose neck this man had kissed. But still, the awareness of him having done so was not something that I needed in my head.
Similarly, it’s not like when you meet someone you really think you’re the first person that they’ve ever been interested in–that they’ve ever felt smitten about, or held hands with, or kissed tenderly on the forehead. But when you’re in that stage, it’s kinda nice to at least pretend that you are.
It’s like Alex Blumberg’s wife wanting him to tell her that he thought she was the only person in the world he could love, rather than one of a hundred thousand: it’s not that it needs to be true, but it’s a nice–and generally pretty harmless–illusion to hang onto in the moment.
And it’s difficult to do so when you’ve got visual images that prove otherwise.
Obviously the romantic history conversation is not one that can be postponed indefinitely. At a certain point it does become strange not to divulge the outlines, at least, of one’s past relationships.
But, until then, perhaps it is wise to avoid the subject. And, as much as possible, extend the time in which we pretend that the past has nothing to do with the present.