To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

You might not know this about me, but I’ve been blogging for a long time. It started as a teenager, when I got my first unsupervised accesses to the internet via high school computer classes and libraries. Oh yes, I had a Teen Open Diary (if anyone remembers those!) and have been through various platforms, blogging styles, blog types since then. I am a writer, and I get so much joy out of writing. Lately I’ve been feeling in a bit of a rut, unsure of what – if anything – I was itching to say. Sometimes I think my writing should have a point. There should be a lesson, or a message, something I need to say or that someone else needs to hear. But more and more I’m moving away from that idea in favour of saying whatever I want, whenever I want, because as much as I enjoy sharing this blog and letting people know what’s happening around me … sometimes I want to write and share a story without actually having a story … if that makes any sense.

Which brings me to the subject of this blog: Letters written, never to be sent.
In almost every blog I’ve ever had I’ve done some form of this, addressed to someone in a way that any one reading may or may not know who it’s about. It occurred to me today that I haven’t done this in a long time. It also occurred to me, after publishing my last post, that I haven’t done this since those relationships ended. And that actually, out of fear of some invisible repercussions, I haven’t written anything about those people (other that factual statements) for fear of ……… what, exactly? In a conversation recently with boyfriend we talked about one of my exes and I commented that it has been 4 years since we broke up, which hit me in all kinds of feels. Time moves and then it doesn’t. Which means I haven’t checked in with a lot of feelings about any past relationships in over 4 years, but probably much longer. I think it’s time I do that. So in honour of Valentine’s Day next week … an ode to those who I have loved (or lusted, truthfully).

Disclaimer: Obviously, what follows is a representation of my thoughts and feelings on events in my life. While I always strive to talk factually about things that have happened to me, I am still human and thus subject to potential biases, like we all are. I accept that all relationships are between two people and thus I am accountable and responsible for my actions during these times in my life. I accept and acknowledge that I am not completely innocent in the end of any relationship, and that my feelings about the events leading to the end of a relationship may colour the language I choose to use as I talk about it. What follows is only one half of the story, in some cases very long and private stories. 

A: You were my first crush. My transition to high school was so weird and awkward as I struggled with a new name, new people, new freedom. You made every other day of grade 9 worth getting up and going to. You were there for the most formative classes of my high school education (English, Law, Ancient Civilizations), the ones that absolutely form the crux of my current identity and passions. I adored sharing our first creative writing assignment (I still remember most of the story we wrote), being your murderous defendant in the mock trial (you got me acquitted even though I was guilty!), the time we saw an attempted murder trial in Toronto, when you lent me your shoulder during the gruesome parts of Gladiator in ancient civs, and that my first introduction and subsequent falling in love with Shakespeare is wrapped up in memories of you. You were always authentic, kind, caring, and compassionate in a time when kids can be cruel and no matter what anyone said about me, or “us”, you treated me as a friend the whole time. We lost touch after high school but I think of you fondly from time to time. I may have been destined to be a writer but you were definitely there when I fell in love with the written word.

D: You were my first boyfriend, at a time when our parents said neither of us were allowed to date, period. Your mom didn’t approve of me, and I think perhaps my parents only tolerated you. Our “dates” were your church youth group on Friday nights, even though I’m not at all religious, and we made the most of it and our time at school. You moved your locker to be near mine, even though we didn’t have homeroom together. We dated for 2 and a half months during 10th grade, before you broke up with me by leaving my necklace and a note in my locker. I cried all the way home that day, and still can’t stand to watch the movie Grease because of that weekend. Somehow we managed to stay friends (though I suspect running in the same friend group was part of it). You dated my cousin after me, and still I missed you. You were my first kiss, and though there are many more firsts we said we wished we had shared it wasn’t meant to be. Every once in awhile you pop up to wish me a happy birthday, but I need to leave that time in my life behind for good. I once told you I loved you, but I didn’t know what that was at the time. I loved you in the way a 15 year old girl full of puppy love can. Though our time together was short it was memorable, it was notable, it was important.

M: You were in the wrong place at the right time. D invited you to our movie-date-not-a-date because he was scared of his feelings for me, whatever they were. I was absolutely chomping at the bit to get back together with him, whatever the reason. So there I sat in the movie theatre – him on my left, you on my right, both of you with a hand palm up on the arm rest and me unsure of what was happening. A week away from 17 was a scary time. You kissed me at the snack bar and I was so incredibly confused. D caught us kissing later and that was that, apparently. We were dating. You were my first real experience with lust. I wanted you and was willing to break all the rules to do it, which is not who I was then (and still not who I am now). To you I was a notch in the bedpost, but I was so blinded at the time I didn’t see it. At the 11th hour I made the right choice, though part of me still questions it. You are the only person I have broken up with in which I was the dumper, not the dumpee. I only broke up with you because D made me a better offer. I’m certain you don’t remember me at all.

S: We first met when I was 15. You had a blue mohawk and had come to my country high school town from a distant land to visit your then-girlfriend. I was so wrapped up in my crush on D that I barely paid you any mind. My best friend kept in touch with you and reconnect us, via email, at 17. You would have been 20 then. We emailed back and forth for 3 months, not making much of a personal connection but we didn’t care about that. Writing to you was a creative outlet I was still wrapping my head around but I was enjoying it. That all ended that April when my grandfather died … and you were the shoulder I leaned on.

After moving past his death we did actually get to know each other, and I met you again a year after that, now a very different meeting. I took my first visit to your country (and my first solo trip ever) that summer, where we shared one of the greatest memories of my life (so great that I tattooed a reference to it on my leg). You told me that you would want us to somehow live together before thinking about marriage. You proposed anyway that September, over the phone. We saw each other whenever we could; we shared one highly illegal year of you living with me, which saw you absolutely break my heart at the end of it, and we broke up. I used the few months we were “on a break” to completely change the course of my life and we decided to give it another go, even though I was putting more physical distance between us. This time when you would visit we got a taste of what living together might be like … sort of. I threw us for a loop when I suggested poly for the first time. I embraced it and tried to be good and honest about it … I think you intended to do the same, but it never came across that way. We got married for a whole host of reasons, and though I wasn’t entirely sure it was the right choice, I understood the logic and necessity of it so I did it. I don’t regret it. I think, however, that being married fundamentally changed our entire relationship dynamic and not for the better. I know I made things harder for us going through recovery during all of this. I know you tried your best to understand but you never really could.

In the end you let your friends, who were strangers to me, feed you lies about me … because you believed them I knew there was no hope for us any more. The best thing for me, for you, for us was to stop fighting to make it work. I fought for so long to keep us going … and it was in those moments that I realized you never should have to “fight” to keep a relationship going. And I was clinging so hard to the idea that we were going to be the ones to make it, the ones to actual prove long distance can work. It worked until it didn’t, and our relationship wasn’t a failure by any stretch of the imagination.

In total we were together for 13 and a half years, and I am forever grateful for everything you taught me – good and bad. You showed me love, compassion, kindness. You challenged me on so many levels. We shared inane conversations about nothing and deep discussions from politics to religion to history to breaking down the motivation of characters on Game of Thrones. You embraced my desire to learn about love and passion and sexuality and helped me figure out what I wanted and needed in a partner, and how you could never be truly it. You showed me that it was okay that one person not be 100% of everything I needed, and you willingly walked the path of trying to figure out what we needed. In the end we were better off as friends, though I’m sorry continuing our friendship just wasn’t in our cards.

C: Though there is no way for anyone to tell based on one letter who I am talking about, I will always respect the community in which we grew together, and your desire to choose how you are identified in said community. Not everyone has the luxury of living every part of themselves out loud, so I will not use the actual first letter of your name.

You were an accident. I shouldn’t have been on that site. I shouldn’t have come across your profile. I shouldn’t have been intrigued by your message. I shouldn’t … I shouldn’t … I couldn’t … and I’m so glad I did. If S was my Ying you were definitely my Yang. You were older, supposedly wiser, and I was absolutely intoxicated with the idea of it all. You were lust that turned to love, and I didn’t know that was possible. You were forbidden, it was  carnal, and it was primitive, until it wasn’t. It was almost as though you were made to fit every gap I had with S … every interest, every fandom, every intellectual discussion. There were caution flags all over you and I ignored every one, which was both the best and worst thing I could have done. Looking back the smart thing to do would have been to walk away at the first sign, that June, but the lure of the adventure was too strong. I should have realized that it meant things would end the same way, but at least I got to experience things I had only ever dreamed of. The worst part about our break-up (aside from going through my first true heartache so late in life) was the months of worry and self-doubt that you never actually loved me. Some days I still believe you were more in love with the idea of me, of what I was and could be to you. It is the present you made me for my 28th birthday that convinces me otherwise, because it must have been love that made you take on such a wonderfully insane endeavour, and I will treasure it always. Despite what you may think, or what others have might convinced you is true, I speak very highly of you in the community and of most of our time together. Because of you I will always be weary of promises never asked to be made that sound too good to be true.

K: When I met you I was mostly disillusioned with the whole idea of romance and love, but I was still hopeful. Online dating was still pretty new to me and the last few months of being dangled along was souring me on the whole experience. I decided to throw caution to the wind and start being more open to the process, to say yes more than I said no. You were the first profile that I happened upon after I decided that … so where a few months ago I might have passed, this time I didn’t. We barely talked before that first date. And that first date was … well, awful feels like too strong a word, but definitely not the first date to tell your grandkids about. Our initial messages showed we would have a similar understanding about marriages ending, though yours was much fresher than mine. When we met for our date you were barely a month out of yours, and that is usually the Biggest Red Flag ever. You spent a lot of time venting about it, which I get … here was someone who could understand. I don’t remember saying much during this point. We did get to talk about other things briefly … you had just come from your weekly Magic event, though I had no idea what you were talking about then. We got talking about hockey, and even though we’re rivals I finally saw someone whose hockey passions matched my own. We were there for a few hours and I was so. ready. for. this. date. to. be. over.

But you asked to walk me home, since the buses weren’t running any more (yay Sundays!), and I said yes – which I’m still not sure if that was smart or dumb. On the way home we talked about other things, and I found out that we both have a passion for writing. You got me talking about ideas for novels I have and I could not shut up about it. As we got closer to my apartment you confessed that you had thought about kissing me since I first walked into the coffee shop and then you asked if you could. No one had ever asked to kiss me before, so I said yes. To say it didn’t go well is a bit of a understatement, and I went inside and immediately told my friends that it was a bust. And the next day I couldn’t stop thinking about you, so you came over on a Tuesday and we ordered pizza and watched the first game of the first round of the playoffs – Leafs vs Boston. And you left and again I told my friends it just didn’t go as I had hoped. But I kept thinking about you, and I kept inviting you over. A couple of weeks after our first date you held me as I cried, watching my hockey team blow another lead in another game 7 to lose the series, and you didn’t judge me. By the end of the month you spent the night for the first time. By the 2nd month you called me your girlfriend and I gave you the spare key to my apartment. By the 3rd month you came over and you didn’t leave. By the 4th month we said “I love you” for the first time. By the 5th month you officially had moved all your stuff into my place. Now we are a wonderful family of us and cats, about to add an exciting and terrifying new person to the fold.

Before I used to think that I would be with one person forever. We both know this is not true. I now believe that, for some people, we are destined for multiple loves, which can take so many forms. I love the idea of growing old with you, but I accept that the future is utterly unpredictable, so there is no telling how much time we have left together – we may truly grow old together, we may not make it to our 50s, we may only have a couple of months left. What I do know is that I have treasured every moment I have spent with you, and I will treasure every moment I have left.

To Those Nameless Ones: You may not warrant entire paragraphs of waxing nostalgia, but you were important. I’m struggling to remember all of your names, but that could be baby brain kicking in hard. You were all moments in time. Some of you appeared only once or twice, some of you were around for longer. You’re tied to important discoveries in my life, namely forming the basis of understanding polyamoury and sexuality. You were stepping out of comfort zones, trying new things, exploring myself in ways I didn’t know needed to be understood. You are the high school crushes, the friends from distant lands I met on forums, from local communities, men I dated after my separation, and everything in between. And not writing a bunch doesn’t mean you weren’t important (some of you are insanely important!) but just that you are harder to put into words, harder to pinpoint all the ways you shaped and changed me. Some of you continue to, some of you probably haven’t thought of me in forever, and I’m certain many of you don’t remember me at all. I remember, and I haven’t forgotten.

And thus concludes our thrilling tale. Maybe I’ll do this again in 5 years and see how my thoughts and opinions have changed. Maybe I’ll have someone new to add.

~ J

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