Wednesday, April 27, 2011

old loves

What is it about recalling long-ago love that causes such delicious pain? Why do we hang on to our happy-sad memories, cling to thoughts of past love affairs, muse about old lovers with fondness and regret, even when we are perfectly happy with what we have now? Is it some twisted form of self-torture? Is it an example of our eternal ingratitude; is it sign of our grasping greedy times?

Recently, I heard news of an old boyfriend. He sounded much nicer than when I dated him. It seems he has grown up and changed (not so surprising, since it was almost 20 years ago that we dated!). Since part of the way I had gotten over him, all those years ago, was to remind myself of what a jerk he was, this news of his seeming kindness and stability was somewhat disturbing. I found myself wondering what he is like now, and I caught myself remembering some of the good times we had, long ago. Then I felt guilty, because that seemed treacherous. I love my husband, I think he's gorgeous in every sense of the word, and he and I just fit. I can't imagine being married to anyone else. So what's with the daydreaming of lost love?

I am remembering what it felt like to be infatuated. That silly, idolising, heady sort of love. That immature, not-always-self-respecting, slightly-obsessive sort of love. It usually ends in pain for someone, but it is exciting and exhilarating and it mostly happens when you're young. It seems to me that what this is really about is me being nostalgic about my silly, giddy, anything-is-possible youth. These days I am middle-aged, my right knee keeps hurting, I am getting jowls, and my husband rolls his eyes at most of my jokes, but back then I was a fresh-faced, willowy strawberry blond who was smart and passionate and funny, and it seemed like the world was just unfolding in front of me in all its wonder.

My ex-boyfriend seems to have turned out to be a decent enough sort of man. I'm glad he has made a good life for himself. I remember the fun we had together, but I also remember that he didn't make me feel adored; there was no constancy. We were wrong together. We didn't fit.

I remember my long-ago love with a certain fondness, but it is like a garment outgrown or worn thin. It used to be my favourite shirt, but now it is shabby and faded and I can hardly remember why I liked it so much. I fold it and put it away at the back of the cupboard. It is only a rag now (but I can't quite throw it out).