ICYMI, here’s part one, about the first guy this week who did this.
I don't have enough exes to really have a consistent pattern of if/how we interact once we're no longer together. Mostly, we've lost touch or not really tried to keep in touch, but as the natural order of things and not due to explicit malice. There's the one upon whom I wouldn't urinate if they were ablaze, but mostly it's civil or it fades away.
I wrote about how he, a white man, told me that he could never tell his family we were dating because I'm black. I had never met any of his friends or anyone important in his life. When we were out and ran into someone he knew, he didn't introduce me. I wish I could tell you that I put my foot down and walked away like a Strong Independent Woman, but I was still trying to make sense of things when he cut me loose. After it was over, I vowed to never be anyone's secret ever again, and I also didn't particularly want to be his friend.
We were in situations where we would run into each other after the breakup, and I didn't do well with that at all. I actively avoided running into him, I made no contact, I blocked him on Twitter; the whole bit.
That may sound silly, but here's the thing about Twitter: when we were together, he was against it and had never used it. He playfully mocked me for tweeting "all the time" and I took it in stride. I told him how much I enjoyed it for the humor and activism and opportunities to connect with people I may not otherwise connect with, but that of course no one needs to be on Twitter and I get that he's not into it. It just wasn't a crucial thing to me and he seemed set against it; so imagine my surprise when he suddenly started tweeting toward the end of our time together.
Cut to the aftermath and the blocking, and he contacted me after a few months had passed. Not only did he want to talk and to be friends, but he wanted me to unblock him on Twitter, telling me how much he enjoyed it and thanking me for introducing him to it. He thanked me for clearly articulating why certain Halloween costumes on white people are racist or appropriative in a way that he finally understood (in an article I wrote on the topic). He thanked me for educating him on racial issues and told me he had even opened up to his sister after the fact about having dated me.
He said he had learned so much from me and he wanted to thank me.
He wasn’t in a recovery program that included making amends or anything -- he just thought it would be nice to pop back around to say how much I had taught him. Though he’s expressing something positive and even complimentary, it stings. I wasn't applying for the position of Teacher or Twitter Coach in his life. I would hope that people in any relationship DO learn new things from each other all the time, provided that it's voluntary and mutual. Still, no matter how much you needed the lesson(s), to treat someone as your teacher after you discarded them as your girlfriend when they still wanted to be the latter is shitty.
Maybe I'm particularly salty because it keeps happening, and I feel guilty because it’s ostensibly a good thing that makes me feel bad and I blame myself for my response. But I’m being real about my hurt because I think it’s attached to being attracted to people who discard me as I help them, and part of my pattern that gets me to this place with this type of person is that I put them and their needs ahead of my own, so I want to avoid doing that even in the aftermath.
Someone telling me they've learned SO much from me as they say goodbye feels like they're giving an acceptance speech at an awards show or something else that's highly impersonal. In each of these cases, when I hear, "Thank you for helping me with X and for opening my eyes to Y and for showing me Z," it burns because I don't have anything to thank them for, which highlights the imbalance I perpetuate.
Do I get petty and say, "I'm so glad you feel that I've enriched your life to the extent that you can no longer be around me but will take these new tools and be better for someone else" or “Thank you for all the times you didn't help me with anything?” I could always fall back on, “Thank you for this shittiness that will no doubt make me stronger in the long run despite sucking now.” ...but no.
I simply thanked him for his gratitude and that was it. As more time passed, I worked through much of my sadness at the way things happened between us. We exchanged the occasional text or phone call, and I genuinely felt able to be friendLY, if not exactly friends. I had unblocked him on Twitter and although we don't interact there, I occasionally check out his tweets, which is how I recently came so see him publicly professing his love for a new girlfriend, and the lovely picture he posted of them is how I learned that she's also black.
There's a certain dating logic that says if someone tells you they won't do something you can add with you to the end of that statement. Pizza (his identity-protecting code name) couldn't not openly date a black woman, he wouldn't openly date this black woman. (I'm pointing to my chest right now.) Or maybe he truly couldn't and he really did learn so much from our experience that he's grown immensely. I'm thrilled that I could do the dirty work that his current girlfriend prospers from.
“Maybe one day someone brown will come along that he feels compelled to jump that family race hurdle with, and I am just not her.” -- That’s what I wrote about him right here a year ago. And so it has come to pass. Really glad I could be of assistance. And he has even made a point of expressing his gratitude to me, which does nothing about the fact that I’m alone.
That's the bottom line. It emphasizes how unwanted I feel. There's tangible evidence of my value, just not as someone to love. I know that it doesn't make me worthless if I can help someone else and they don't care for me romantically, but I wanted to be something else to him.
I'm grateful that I didn't lose it when I saw their picture, because it could have been one of those moments when my heart and gut reaction tell me how not yet reconciled I am with something in my life. I absolutely did check out her profile and her timeline out of curiosity though, and I read more of their lovey-dovey posts in awe.
Those are the times when I hate the internet and all social media. I just don't need this kind of access to my ex's new girlfriend's life. I know some people stalk profiles and such as common practice, but I'd rather not know. Or if I do find out about something, I want to get my information from the horse's mouth, not just see the way it looks online. So I called him. I really wanted to know if there was a specific reason for this huge shift. He told me once again how much he'd learned from me. We had a fine, friendly conversation, and I would be an egomaniac to think everything that's changed about his life over the past year is due to my influence, but he did emphasize his gratitude to me yet again.
The selfishness in telling me how much better your life is without me while also telling me how I’ve specifically enhanced it really bothers me. Pardon me if I don't jump up and down for your separate joy.
And here's the rub: there is joy. I am happy for them. Of course I'm happy for these guys who appreciate my help and then bounce. I do want Pizza and his new girlfriend to be happy together, because I want everyone who’s in a relationship to be in a happy one.
I can see that beyond the hurt there’s a lesson is to be there for myself the way I am for other people, and I'm workin' on it.