“Will you at least be nice?”
“Tracey. I am being nice.”
“Paul!” I said in exasperation. “You’re acting like you don’t like him!”
“Oh, he’ll KNOW if I don’t like him,” he replied and took a sip of his drink, looking over my shoulder to see if there was anyone less annoying to talk to.
“Jesus,” I sighed.
All around us our friends were drinking and catching up in the patio area of a bar located on the outskirts of our town. The venue had been moved by majority demand and now instead of the small intimate gathering I’d planned, we’d ended up in an expansive space with a band, dancing and a huge outdoor courtyard with heaters and picnic tables. I didn’t mind the change though, because now I felt I didn’t have to be in hostess mode and besides, we’d had a really great turn out so the larger setting actually made sense. Everyone was hugging each other and laughing and taking pictures and screaming, “Oh my god! I didn’t know you’d be here! What the hell have you been up to?!” The Seventh Annual Hometown Holiday Drinks was turning out to be quite a success.
If I do say so myself.
“We’re going to sort this out right now,” I said and grabbed Paul’s arm. I began to lead him to one of the tables.
“Fine,” he acquiesced. “But you might not like what I have to say.”
“Whatever,” I grumbled.
Ugh. I wasn’t sure how much more of this I could take.
One of the (many) things I admire about my friend Thalia is that she is very discreet about her relationships. She doesn’t gab about every single detail from start to finish, like a lot of us, myself included, do. She prefers to let her opinion of the guy come to her without outside influence. And if there is an issue that she needs advice or perspective on, then she will discuss it with a few trusted friends. But for the most part, she keeps her business private and sorts things out herself.
This is an awesome best practice and one I would like to employ in my life moving forward.
Except I hadn’t.
In chronicling my heartbreak over the breakup up with My Boyfriend last year in this blog, our whole messy situation was now public. With friends, family and strangers formulating opinions with only a very small sliver of information. I did not understand at the time I wrote those posts how they would come back to haunt me.
Now I do.
Here are some of the responses I’ve received from readers, some who I know, many who I don’t, when they’ve read I’m back together with My Boyfriend:
“That guy’s a dick.”
“What an asshole.”
“Are you sure he’ll stick around this time?”
“He doesn’t come across in posts as loving you at all.”
“Is he still in that punk-rock band? Well. He’s probably cheating on you then. You know musicians….”
“You’re back with him? But he makes you crazy.” And then followed up with, “I mean, more crazy. Than usual.”
One of my favorite holiday traditions is the annual Pre-Christmas brunch in Sausalito which occurs a few days after my arrival in California. In attendance are five members of my family and me. And this year of course, My Boyfriend. As I sat there and rung my hands in anxiety as my family was re-introduced to My Boyfriend for the first time in 27 years, I realized, this was the first time I regretted something I’d written in this blog. Because it was affecting someone else’s life.
Not only was My Boyfriend having to re-meet everyone in my life, he was facing an uphill battle as they all knew he had broken my heart the previous year and witnessed, in excruciating detail, the intense sadness I’d experienced.
I watched him as he chatted with my family. He seemed at ease and the conversation seemed to go smoothly. My family is not a judgmental group at all – but I wished they didn’t know the ins and outs of our past situation. I wished I hadn’t told them, and everyone, everything.
The brunch turned out to be fantastic and fun and later my Dad’s Wife sent me an extremely kind email saying how much they’d all enjoyed getting to know My Boyfriend again and that he’d fit right in. While reading the note, I found my anxiety lessening a bit.
But the night of Hometown Holiday Drinks, it was back in full-force. I don’t talk to all of my hometown friends on a regular basis and many of them stopped reading the blog a while back or are really far behind, so their last impression of My Boyfriend was him being the cause of me last year to fall apart, drink too much Bud Light, put my clothes on inside out, and read the entire Twilight Series.
This is, naturally, hard to forgive.
I became increasingly agitated as the night unfolded and as I watched My Boyfriend making an effort to try to win my friends, who also hadn’t seen him in 27 years, over. My friends love me very much and are fiercely protective of me, so this wasn’t initially going as smoothly as I’d hoped. And I felt terrible. If I hadn’t written all that, no one would know about our re-connection and subsequent break up and he would not have to work so hard. It was heartbreaking for me to watch him being so sincere in his efforts, and know it was of because me that he had to put in such effort.
One might say: “Well, he did those things, he broke your heart. He should be accountable.”
My answer to that is: “Yeah, he should. But only to a select few people in my life. And to me. Not to my whole freakin’ hometown.”
The music was streaming through the open doors of the bar so Paul and I sat next to each other on the bench of a picnic table so we could hear each other.
For those of you who don’t know Paul, he and I have been friends since 5th grade. Despite the fact that we don’t speak that often, we have a very intense connection and I think I can speak for him, when I say we are very important to each other. He is family. So it was imperative to me that he be supportive of my relationship.
I took his hand and began to speak quickly. “Listen, I know the breakup last year was horrible. I can’t get into why things have changed, but they have. And I need you to know, he is a really, really good man. He is kind, patient, he treats me like a queen and he loves me very, very much. Please give him a chance. He – ”
“Enough,” Paul said and pulled his hand away.
“I have concerns,” he said gravely, as he reached for his drink.
I reached for my drink as well. “I see.”
“The thing is…,” and he began telling me his concerns.
And after a minute, I burst out laughing.
“Are you serious? That’s what you’re worried about?” I said incredulously.
“TRACEY. I have been with my husband for twenty years. I KNOW what I’m talking about.”
“Okay,” I said, nodding. “You’re right. Please continue.”
And a few minutes later, he finished up.
“Thank you for being honest,” I said. “I really appreciate you saying all this but I promise you, none of the things you’re worried about are issues for us. I promise.”
“I just want the best for you, Tracey,” he said.
I smiled at him. “I know you do. And I can assure you, he is the best for me. I could not ask for a better man.”
“Well then.” He paused for a moment to place his drink beside him. He took a deep breath and pulled me into a tight hug. “You have my blessing.”
I hugged him back hard and breathed, “Thank you.”
Then we stood up and walked arm and arm back to the party. And I probably have never loved him more than at that moment.
As the night wore on, I saw people start to soften towards My Boyfriend. I watched them as they watched us interact and I could see they were slowly realizing, “Yes, he loves her. Yes, she is in good hands. Yes, this is a good thing.”
I actually didn’t realize, while I was going through it, the reason for my anxiety during the trip was because of all that. I’m sort of an uneasy person by nature so sometimes it’s hard for me to know what I’m freaking out about. It was only, as I mentioned, after a few days passed, and I was back in NYC. It was New Year’s Eve when it hit me and since My Boyfriend was now also sick back in SF and therefore not going out, I called him to talk about it.
“Honey,” I said, “I’m sorry you had extra pressure on the trip to make a good impression. Because of the blog. And all that.” I reached for a tissue and blew my nose.
He laughed. “Tracey, I knew what I was getting into when we got back together. I knew I was going to be with a woman who writes a blog about her life. And I knew what you had written about me. I knew I might have to redeem myself in everyone’s eyes. But I also knew I would have to create new relationships with everyone in your life, no matter what. I mean, it’s been a long time. So the blog wasn’t really an issue.”
“So you weren’t more stressed about it because of what I wrote?”
“Not really? The stress would have been there no matter what.”
“Oh,” I said and frowned to myself. “So all that anxiety was just in my head?”
He was diplomatic in his answer. “I appreciate you worrying about me. It shows you care.”
I then exploded in a coughing fit that lasted for about two minutes. When I was done, I whispered, “Are you still there?”
“I’m still here,” he said.
“Besides, Tracey,” he added. “I’ll win them all over in the end.”
“Is that so?” I said with a laugh. “With your natural charm?”
“Ha. Maybe not that,” he said. “But once they see it’s my goal to make sure you’re happy and taken care of and show you every day how much I love you, they’ll see it will all be okay.”
“Oh,” I replied. “Well, okay then.”
“Yes. It will be okay. I promise.”
Then I reached for my mug of tea, but I was smiling so hard I had to pause a second before I could take a sip.
Because I probably have never loved him more than at that moment.