A few years ago, I attended an adult sleep away camp. One of the counselors was in a long term relationship yet fell for one of the campers whose partner was also on the staff. I’m not sure about all of the details, but it was an incredibly public incidence of infidelity with heavy consequences for the couples involved.
At the time, these people were new role models to me. They were smart, savvy, and experienced queers. I was hoping to go to camp and find a community of people who could help me to lick my wounds and build a future after my first, traumatic queer relationship.
I don’t want to say that I was disappointed by the people, because I still have a great amount of respect for them. It was unfair to assume that just because these people were a few years my senior and had dream jobs that their personal lives were just as pristine. In fact, their personal lives were… kind of a mess.
The people I was hoping to look up to in order to find solace about suffering didn’t give me much hope for the future. I became sort of disillusioned with long term relationships, but I was desperately lonely and still wanted a partner. When my heart hobbled into my next relationship, it did so under the impression that it would again soon be broken. And it was.
About three months into my next relationship, my partner ghosted me. We had spent the weekend before picking apples and carving pumpkins with friends. The next week, it was like we had never spoken. My “Good morning!” text went unanswered, and the next day when I sent another text to check in, still nothing.
The heart is a prophet. I can’t be the first one to say that, but I promise I’m not intentionally plagiarizing. My heart foreshadowed this months ago, yet I entered into it knowingly in order to avoid feeling the pain of loneliness. Bad choice.
Shortly after, a barista who had been flirting with me for a few weeks finally asked me out. I said yes, because, duh, the loneliness. He was very kind and asked if he could go down on me within, like, minutes of us making out. That seemed a little personal for who was essentially a stranger who prepared my espresso once a week. I can’t believe I even invited him into my house.
That weekend, I was heading to Florida to spend a week with my parents. While my dad and I were out running errands, I had told him that I had been ghosted. I explained to him how enraged I was, especially because I had been hurt so very badly just recently. He told me something along the lines of, “if you keep turning people away, you’re going to be alone forever.” Which, in retrospect, seems like very bad advice, but my lost and crippled little heart didn’t know any better. When the ghoster showed up at my comedy show not too long after, I agreed to meet up for a drink after the holidays.
For the duration of our entire dinner, I, the ghosted, scolded my ghoster for the pain the silence had caused me. I told the ghoster that I had too much self-worth to let someone treat me that terribly, especially with the knowledge that I had just gotten out of such a bad situation. So I kind of left it at, “see ya never.”
But the next morning, the excuse of the ghoster’s grief and abandonment issues tugged at what was left of the tattered cords of compassion on my heart, and I sent a text asking if the ghoster would want to see me again. We saw each other the next night.
This ghosting was foreshadowing to another kind of ghosting that occurred two years into our relationship and remained through our marriage: emotional ghosting. I don’t know if “emotional ghosting” is already a term, and I’m too lazy to google it, so I’m just going to define it anecdotally as when one partner in a relationship remains physically present yet their awareness of self and their partner gets lost somewhere in between problematic drinking, talking like babies to one another, and eating enough pizza to give Lance Armstrong a friggin’ heart attack. Although, he might have karmically earned it. (Controversial!!)
At a certain point, I realized my partner had emotionally ghosted me, yet I continued on into the relationship. In fact, I remember the exact moment. I was lying in my bed days after I had a set of keys thrown at me and had taken off my ring in order to properly curl up into fetal position and sob. I had been thinking about how little physical intimacy there was between my partner and I, yet, understanding that there’s more to romantic relationships than that. I would certainly get through it on good faith that my partner would come around and I would sustain myself on a healthy balance of cuddling, laughter, and masturbation.
I learned over the next two years how dearly important physical intimacy is to my romantic relationships. That and that my sex drive is astronomically higher than most. I became so very lonely in my relationship, almost as lonely as I had been before I was ghosted. I was so lonely for so long that the only solution that seemed possible was ghosting the ghoster. So I did.
I left my marriage. It was by far the very scariest thing I have ever done. The first three months after leaving were spent ensuring that my dog and I remained alive. The next three months were spent keeping my shit together enough to complete the legal dissolution. It was hard, but there’s no way to describe to someone what it feels like to step off the wrong path and back onto the right one.
When I was a kid, I was obsessed with the Wizard of Oz, so much so that my brother hid it from me and still laughs about it when it comes up. My first crush was The Tin Man. I’m embarrassed admitting that, but it seems relevant to relay my true obsession with the film. When I was in London, Harrod’s was celebrating the 75th anniversary of the movie, and I bought a pair of ruby slippers. DON’T JUDGE ME. Anyway, clearly, I’ve always thought of myself as a Dorothy. It’s like I made it to Oz, realized that it wasn’t that great, clicked my heels, and somehow ended up back at home with my old pals Hunk, Zeke, and Hickory. I know, niche reference. The point is, I’m finally back where I should be, and it was as stupid long journey.
Since I left my marriage, a lot of people, mostly women, have surreptitiously asked me when I knew it was over. I can’t give a definitive answer, because I think that’s a really loaded question. However, I can read you this poem that I submitted to a queer zine. When I re-read it after submitting, well… I’ll tell you more after you take it in.
Fear can help you to stay awake in your own life
Or incite unneccessary panic.
My big fears are actually one big, unidentified object making crop circles in my gut
Fear of intimacycommittmentvulnerability
What was I thinking?
Marriage is attaching myself to a wheel and allowing amateurs to sling blades at me,
Hoping they dont hit me with their sharp ends,
Poking holes in my safe skin,
Letting the brightness out from within.
Marriage is a trap that shackles me to deathly loneliness
Marriage is weakness
Marriage is weight
Oh who the fuck cares
Temporary relief feels like turning awareness elsewhere.
Longing feels like a warm, bearded face to sit on,
To give love to without vulnerability.
If my limbs are the hands of a clock, I can be pointing to any time,
Yet my torso remains the fulcrum, stuck.
Stuck means the people who love me can have a good look at me
But only interpret what they see from the outside,
Like they’re staring at me in my casket.
Marriage is a light switch determined to stay in the off position
And allowing it to stick there is the real culprit.
Marriage can be what’s best for us is also best for me
Marriage can be allowing myself to be weak
Marriage can be my weight on another’s shoulders
Marriage can be holding hands while we undo all of our self-destructive patterns.
Marriage can be freedom.
The fear of stillness can become the joy of presence
If I can learn to breathe through it.
“Hello Christine's fears. Thank you for protecting her. Would it be okay if you let her trust herself today?”
Notice how saccharine it got at the end? It reminds me of a song that Carly Simon and James Taylor wrote together right before they divorced:
Devoted to you
Darling you can count on me Til the sun dries up the sea Until then I'll always be Devoted to you I'll never hurt you I'll never lie I'll never be untrue I'll never give you reason to cry I'd be unhappy if you were blue Taylor later explained that they were trying desperately to save their relationship, but it was over. I imagine they thought, “If we just cliche hard enough, maybe we'll find a deep emotional connection!” It’s like.. Who are you trying to convince, me or you?
Re-reading this poem, I remembered something my nail girl had told me during a manicure on the first day I met her. I told her about how unhappy I was, and she responded, “live your truth or be miserable.” Around the time I wrote this poem, I was watching the haunting and tragically cancelled show, Gypsy on Netflix. One of the lines that hit the same nerve was, “People think being alone is the scariest thing in the world. They’re wrong. Lying to yourself is far worse.”
So, after I read this poem and realized I had been lying to myself was the moment I knew it was over. It was sad. It was hard to accept and admit. I had been lying to myself since the day I lied in bed with high hopes that my long term relationship would be different than the camp counselors’. I don’t know what made me think that, but it was probably just self-deception.
Now that I am back on the right path, I live with my new partner, and nobody I know has any reason to believe that I actually do feel like I’m doing the right thing for myself for the first time in a long time. Fortunately, the only thing that matters is that I believe it. And I do.
Illustration by Shanelle Lewis of www.shopvignetterie.com.