Warning: This is not another drippy Valentine’s piece, nor is it a bitter, angry, scathing anti-Valentine’s Day contribution. It’s not about love or love unrequited. It’s about missed opportunity.
Reflecting on missed opportunities has nothing to do with the happiness in your current relationship. You can be extremely happy with your currently relationship (I’m extremely happy with mine, for example, so you can put down the knife, darling) and still wonder what might have been – or just wish that the process of getting where you are hadn’t been so laden with pain. Probably the most foolish sentiment ever to misrepresent itself as wisdom is the statement: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” This is pure, unprocessed horse manure. How many diseases leave you stronger for having ravaged your body?
Breakups are evil. I don’t mean the ordinary, went-to-college-in-different-states-and-drifted-apart or got-bored-and-separated-amicably type of breakup, but that simmering, seething, lots of yelling spiteful venomous things at each other, gut wrenching, stick-the-knife-in-and-twist kind of breakup that we’ve all suffered. Saying that you’re stronger for that kind of experience is like saying you’re stronger for having survived smallpox. You’re not stronger. You’re a shadow of your former self, withered, wrecked, and scarred.
Missed the better roads
I admit I bear my share of scars. I don’t wear them proudly, and I wish I didn’t have so many. It’s not that I’m not happy where I am (did I mention I love my soon-to-be-wife very, very much?), it’s that I have a pretty good memory for unpleasantness. I really wish I could have ended up exactly where I am, but by a much less tortuous road. More specifically, at each “disaster point” I had a choice to race ahead or put on the brakes. By not braking, not only did I eventually crash in spectacular fashion: I missed out on all the better roads along the way.
Using myself as an example of What Not to Do in Love, I will reach back in time and revisit some of my own lost moments. Some were relationships that ended for no apparent reason, some were relationships that never happened, and some were women I barely knew. But each of them left a deep impression of Missed Opportunity. In chronological order:
Nancy: My first love. It seems so retro now in our thoroughly pornified society, but in those days only the “bad” kids dated in junior high, while for the rest of us, dating began at the first dance in the fall of 9th grade. You were smart, pretty, and kind, and you were the one I was going to ask to that Freshman Fall Dance, but I moved three days before the start of high school. And if I’ve always crushed on green-eyed brunettes, you were the source of that crush. I hope you’re well.
High School: An awful time in every way, except for three little gems, one I worked with at the local bakery, and the two girls who sat in the back row with me in AP English class. I really should have asked one of you out, but I was overwhelmed with the awfulness of my life. I still tremble to think of all time I wasted crushing on stuck-up bubbleheads, when the three of you were right there in front of me. Even if all of you had said no, at least I would have been rejected by sweethearts, instead of the soulless airheads I chased after.
Rachel: College is a wonderful and precious time of life, and I squandered it on three women, as vapid as they were average. You, on the other hand, little brunette dazzler with violet eyes to die for, were sensational, gorgeous, funny, intelligent, every man’s dream. We worked together at a pizza place, even went out occasionally. But I was so sure you were way out of my league I never asked you out. You can’t imagine my pain when I ran into you years later and found out you had been waiting for me to ask you out! I still cringe at the thought that had I worked up the nerve to ask you out, I might look back on my college years with fondness instead of a string of unbroken miseries.