I’ve only been dumped once in my life. His name was Kevin, and he was a short guy with a personality that tried to overcompensate for it. We met at summer school, in between my sophomore and junior year of college. It should have been a fun summer fling, but he strung me along through the fall while he went off on Semester-At-Sea and cheated with Heather, a girl we had privately made fun of in class. Heather was not the sharpest tool in the shed. Looking back, I think I was more enamored with Kevin’s family than I was with him – four brothers and a stay-at-home mom who lived in the suburbs. His life was such a departure from my only-child-of-divorced-working-parents existence. His older, funnier brother, who showed up at my 21st birthday party with a cardboard cut-out of Kevin, was probably a better match for me. But I was loyal to Kevin until he called my sorority one night ship-to-shore, to inform me that we were through.
Before and after that incident, my modus operandi in college was love ‘em and leave ‘em. Unlike my husband, who dated the same girl for six years throughout high school and college, I was non-committal. I had relationships, but none lasted more than a year and I was always the dumper not the dumpee. I had a textbook fear of getting close paired nicely with my party girl persona. It was the 1980’s, a time for a woman to focus on her career — biological clock be damned! Who has time for love and success? Besides, my parents met in college and we saw how well that worked out. The ugly break-up with my first serious post-college boyfriend (also vertically challenged) only solidified my belief that independence was the best track for me. If you don’t open up, you’ll never get hurt.
And then I met The Sneaker. On paper, this looked like it would last three months, tops. He was four years younger than me, shy, and a teetotaler. When we first met, I actually said to him, “Are you flirting with me? Because if you are, it’s not working.” That could have been the end of it, but we kept bumping into one another (or, if you believe in fate, The Universe kept putting us in the same place at the same time). On our first date he took me to the nicest hotel in Los Angeles. He was charming, funny and tall. I had never been treated so well. Naturally, my first instinct was to screw it up. When we hit the three-month mark, I broke up with him, citing all the logical reasons it would never work. He was too young, I had career goals… he was too young. He took it in stride, but for me, our week apart was pure torture. Was it a week? It’s hard to remember because that was sixteen years ago. After we got back together, it was still sometimes torture wrestling with my old demons. But the spell had been broken. I had finally met someone I knew I could trust and I didn’t want to let him go. So I married him. Now, whenever we give each other a gift that turns out to be an unlikely favorite, we call it the “sneaker”. But he’s the original sneaker — a total surprise and yet, exactly what I wanted.