Baby What a Big Surprise

OK, so the other night I was drinking some wine, listening to music and decided what the hell, I’d Google an old boyfriend’s name. After all, that’s how a different old boyfriend found me recently. Seemed easy enough. So I plugged in his name, this man who was a big wig at a large retail firm in Minneapolis when I knew him back in the mid 1990s. I figured he was still there, but I should’ve known better, given his all-out balls-to-the-wall mover and shaker attitude. Sure enough, I learned he landed the CEO position at a very large retail chain last February. I found video of him being interviewed by every major news and financial news network, photos, press releases, you name it. Obviously I hadn’t paid attention to the retail financial news this past year. Right, like I ever did.

It was fun and a punch in the gut all at the same time. Fun because I once intimately knew this man so many people clamber to talk to, who’s a major player in a Fortune 500 company. A punch in the gut because I remembered what our relationship really was – uneven, needy, desperate at times from both our sides.

An extremely competitive man, he thrived on being better than me while at the same time trying to turn me into a woman he could play with and manipulate. We pushed and pulled each other in opposite directions, each needing something from the other that we weren’t able to give, yet convinced each of us had it in ourselves to be the other’s better half. He smothered me in attention, never letting me stray far from him in public places, showing me off yet hiding me. In private, he was subtly cruel, acting as though my failure to read The Economist was a major character flaw. I, too, was cruel, stringing him along like a puppet when he was most vulnerable, which wasn’t often, but often enough that I learned how to play him. He was a narcissistic and demanding Henry Higgins and I was a stubborn and emotionally shrewd Eliza Doolittle. Oh yeah, we were healthy.

The last time I saw him, he came here to where I live. He was on a business trip to Pittsburgh and his brother had tickets to a Buffalo Bills game so he figured why not squeeze Lynn in between the two. I had moved away from Minnesota and had just started dating the man who is now my husband, but he was visiting family in Texas at the time and so it was just me and a big decision to make.

I met the man for dinner. I showed him where I worked. We talked for hours. A healthy, adult talk now that I think about it. In the months since we’d said goodbye and I was away from the negativity and manipulation that we were both guilty of, I’d grown some balls, learned that I was not a doll or some guy’s trophy. Maybe that’s why the conversation felt more even. But the night was waning and it was inevitable that he’d suggest I go with him back to his hotel. Sleeping with him again after all these months had its appeal, I don’t deny that. Surprisingly, well maybe not so surprisingly, we treated each other in bed the way we should have treated each other in all other aspects of our relationship. Great sex was the only thing that kept us together for as long as we were. But that evening in my little town, I told him no, and it remains one of the single best decisions I ever made in my life.

Sure, he’s got millions, but he had millions when I dated him, too. I loved his Corvette, but otherwise the money didn’t mean the same to me as it did to him. When I saw him in the videos, I heard the joy in his voice. He’s doing exactly what he loves and does well: eating up and spitting out the competition. I wish him well. I truly do. I’ve learned and accepted that individually we’re not bad people. Put us together and we were poison.

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