My best friend just flew into town for a week-long layover on her way home from her own version of an Eat Pray Love-trip around the world. We've been calling her international adventure the, “Oh-shit-I'm-almost-thirty-travelogue-for-late-bloomers-in-the-midst-of-an-identity-crisis.” I mean that with no judgements! I'm about to pack it all in to search for some much needed clarity in Marfa, Texas. That trip isn't for another couple of months though, and before I can get there and suround myself with turquoise, group meditations, and Marfa's mysterious “ghost lights,” I had a serious romantic problem to talk about—one that only a recently zenned-Out world traveler could help me with.
We were walking our other's friend's dog down Henry Street from her house in Brooklyn Heights to mine in Carroll Gardens. But before we even got to Henry Public for a mid-walk drink, I told her my dilemma and she had started doling out advice.
We sat down to martinis with the puggle snuggled between us and she said, “You know once I was sleeping with this great guy and we were laying on his bed. He had the most beautiful handmade quilt. I thought it was some kind of heirloom or something. I complimented him on it and he told me that his recent ex—the woman who broke his heart and drove him to his alcoholic bottom—had sewn it for him. I realized then that I would never give a man bedding as a present cause sooner or later they'll just fuck another lady on top of it.”
All I could think was: “Whoa. You said it, sister.”
I asked her how long she thought I should be holding onto the objects of my exes. I mean, it's not like I'm wearing my old engagement ring around my neck or anything. (For the record, I gave that back, because its the only decent thing to do.) No, my hoarding is more along the lines the time when I recently picked my laundry up and found an old pair of boxers at the bottom of the bag. I had totally forgotten about those boxers, and now I think fondly of the owner—there's no hard feelings between us. So I just instinctively put them on. They're my size and make for the perfect sleeping shorts. Is that so wrong?
I think maybe it is, because several nights later I woke up in the middle of the night, panicked. I was sweating and wearing an old lover's underwear. Is this why I wasn't getting laid?
Even worse, underneath my bed is a box of memorabilia from the “big” relationship. He's English and when we dated we kept everything because we thought we might need it to show to the kind folks at immigration when we applied for his green-card. This box doesn't just contain all the internationally stamped loved letters written from that three-year period, but even more mundane things like champagne corks from anniversaries, match books from our favorite restaurants, the proverbial camera booth photos, and most perverse—a prescription for plan B.
I asked him once if he kept any of this sort of stuff, and he told me a firm “no.” He had gotten rid of it all a few months after we broke up. Is it any wonder then that he's now in a successful relationship? Are all these mementos holding me back?
The thing is I just can't get rid of them. I don't read those love letters—too painful and too much like reading my diary from age 13—but I like that they're there under my bed, and that they're evidence of a life well lived, of risks taken, love had and hearts broken.
Back at the bar, my old friend finished our pseudo-therapy session by saying, “You know in India, I bought my new man a belt. It's a beautiful leather belt and I know he'll have it forever. But I almost stopped myself from buying it. I thought about how someday another woman would be unbuckling this belt...the belt I bought for him. But then I thought, fuck it. So what?!”
The great thing about getting older is recognizing that everybody's got baggage—emotional for sure, but also just actual baggage—full of the “stuff” we've all accumulated along the way.
Follow Lacy Warner on twitter @laceoface