My father's first introduction to Jay* came in the form of a postcard. It was the summer before my Junior year of college. I was home in Connecticut, and Jay was off exploring Europe. His second week away, he sent me a postcard from France. In the postcard -- which was intercepted by my father, of course -- Jay channelled his inner Nicholas Sparks and compared me to the beauty of Mont Saint-Michel. Completely false and cheesy as f*ck? Well, sure. My father's wet dream? You betcha.
Sweet, considerate (albeit a bit clueless at times) and caring, Jay was a wonderful boyfriend, and my father considered him a part of our family almost immediately. Within a few years, my dad was “accidentally” referring to Jay as his son in law, even though I told him it made me want to pee my pants in terror.
Cutting out the middle man (me!), my father himself would invite Jay to our family functions and holidays. They Skyped each other. A photo of Jay (oh yeah, I was in it too...) lived on my dad's refrigerator. When I brought Jay home for a visit, the two of them went off on man dates. BFFs! Which was awesome...until it wasn't.
After college graduation, Jay and I moved in together. Cohabitation proved to be more difficult than I had ever imagined. I was working as a freelance writer, which meant I spent most of my time pacing around in my bathrobe like a loon. Jay got on my nerves for no reason at all.
I'm not sure when I first realized that Jay wasn't the guy for me, but I know I spent a large amount of time -- over a year, at least -- trying to pretend it wasn't true. Jay was sweet, he meant well, and he loved me. I wanted that to satisfy me. But when my old college roommates started getting married and my father repeatedly made it obvious he expected Jay and I to do the same, I started feeling a bit claustrophobic.
Ending things with Jay was by far the hardest thing I have ever done. I have a difficult time dumping scumbags, let alone someone who had done absolutely nothing wrong. While ending things with Jay was terrible, telling my father about it was nearly just as bad.
I had already been split up from Jay for over two months before I got up the nerve to tell my father. This was easy to hide, because work had taken me back to up Connecticut, and away from Jay and our life together down South.
“Dad... Jay and I broke up,” I said cautiously, over lunch. He knew we had been having problems.
“What? Is he alright? Can I call him?” was my father's initial response. Practically the next thing out of his mouth? “Don't you bring home any assholes. You have a tendency to do that.”
He was right. Unfortunately, I must have some DNA code that reads “being an asshole” as synonymous with “having the ability to create a puddle in my panties that you could sop up with a loaf of french bread.” Jay aside, many of my boyfriends have been pretty awful.
Over the next several months, I would have to tell my father repeatedly that no, Jay and I weren't getting back together, and no he couldn't Skype him, or email him, or call. Yes, Christmas and birthday cards were fine.
But, to me, what is hurtful about the situation is the fact that I'm dating someone else now, and while my father says he likes my new boyfriend, he hasn't opened up to him. And no, my new guy is not an asshole -- although he can still soak a pair of panties in four seconds flat.
In the past 8 or 9 months we've been together, my father has seen him exactly once. Before I brought him over, I had to ask my dad to please remove the photo of Jay and me from our refrigerator. We had already been broken up nearly five months.
I believe the reason my dad is having such a hard time getting over my ex is because he sees a lot of himself in Jay. Just like Jay, my sensitive, thoughtful father has never exactly been super driven --something that is becoming increasingly attractive as I get older. I worry that through my rejection of Jay, my father perhaps feels a bit rejected himself.
Or maybe he just can't get over Jay because Jay is genuinely a great person. It was the high quality of his character that made it so difficult for me to end things. But unfortunately, thinking someone is a good person is not a large enough reason to stay with them. My father was probably grateful that it seemed I would end up with such a nice guy. And maybe one day I will regret not staying with the type of guy who would research the Consumer Reports rating of my coffee before I put it in my cart. Only time will tell.
Have you ever had to break up with someone you probably didn't deserve in the first place? Have your parents ever held onto an ex long after you let go?
*Name changed because I'm trying to not be such an asshole when I write about people on the Internet.