I’m that girl. I pick over my leftovers.
Not only the ones that have been left cold on my plate or that I pack up to go, but also the men who I have dated, broken up with and changed their names in my phone to a warning: “Don’t Call Him, Don’t Pick Up, Girl Bye.”
There’s just something about that familiar-boo-thang that makes dating a bit less stressful. I prefer someone I already know, even if it’s just a little bit, than someone completely new, with whom I’m starting from scratch. Getting to know someone is not easy, especially after 30. I’m still trying to remember details about my own life, much less someone else’s major and minor moments.
Oprah once said, “Everyone meets their partner by the time they’re 30-years-old.” Ok, so maybe that wasn’t Oprah, maybe that was a friend of mine, or something I made up in my mind to ease the pressure of having to meet someone new, play that awful game of pretending like their quirks are adorable (and not annoying) or that whole getting to know them thing. Either way, there is a certain level of comfort in the ambiguous quotable. Because that means whoever “The One” is, I’ve already met him and I don’t have to get to know him.
It’s this type of mentality that has me doing something most of my friends shake their heads at me for: digging through my past boyfriends like leftovers and trying to get them old things back.
“You know there’s a reason you guys broke up,” my homegirl Lauren said to me when I told her I called my ex, Korey.
“We did, but, I wasn’t patient with him, so…” I was always making excuses for Korey and any other guy I dated and broke it off with. I look at situations and try to find where I could improve or have at least tried harder to salvage the relationship.
Oh, you’ve met Korey before. He’s the ex-boyfriend who I found in my roommate’s room at 3 a.m. He’s also the guy who disappeared early in our relationship. And in case that wasn’t enough, Korey is also the ex who doubled as an ex-con. Needless to say, Korey’s not that great on paper, but there were other qualities of his that would give me all the warm fuzzies. Things that would make my fingers involuntarily search for his name in my phone, which as of our latest breakup, was changed to, “Korey The F*ck Up.”
I tapped his name and my phone seemed to hesitate. Maybe I should have used that as a sign, but instead, I patiently waited for him to pick up. And he did.
“What’s up ma ma?” Korey said in his thick New York accent that was laced with the Caribbean sunshine. I loved the cadence of his speech. It almost sounded like he was singing.
“Hi Korey,” my lips parted into a smile. Memories rushed back into my head. I thought about the lazy Sunday afternoon Korey and I decided to stay in bed. We were sitting on the bed, head to foot, and while I furiously typed away at a deadline, he scrolled through his Twitter, calling out hilarious headlines that we’d both belly laugh at. His giant hands rubbed and cupped my feet.
My heart immersed itself into the feelings I felt that Sunday afternoon. I forgot about Korey standing me up on our first romantic getaway. I forgot about him stumbling into my roommate’s room at 3 a.m. Instead, everything came up roses.
“You know I miss you, right?” Korey asked. He sounded like he was smiling too.
“I do know that,” I laid back into my pillow.
“Cocky ass.” We laughed.
Before I knew it, Korey and I were making plans to have dinner. Dinner was his choice.
“Be ready at 6,” Korey said before hanging up.
Like a fool, I assumed he was honest and serious about his request and I was ready right at 6. I sat on my couch, flipping past episodes of “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” and “Martin.” And then 6:30, 7, 7:45, 8:15. I dialed him four times. The first time, it went straight to voicemail. I thought maybe he was on the train. The second and third times, it rang and went to voicemail. The fourth time, straight to voicemail again. I started getting hot and sweat beads fought one another for a space on my upper lip.
I started remembering all those times Korey didn’t show up for the plans we made. Tears welled up into my eyes. I started to text Lauren, but quickly deleted the message. The last time she and I talked about Korey, she told me that I better not come running back to her in tears over Korey reminding me why we broke up in the first place. More hot tears streamed down my cheek.
There’s always a reason you break up with people, but sometimes that reasoning doesn’t stick. Many of us go back to our exes because we want that old thing back, but is it ever a good thing?
I know plenty of married couples who got together, broke up, made up and ended up married. I also know people who have gotten together, broken up, just to stay apart because they just didn’t work. There’s no formula here. You just have to decide if you’ve matured since the breakup and if your former lover has matured because that’s the only way going back is going to work. Otherwise, you’re just inserting yourself back into the same situation that you didn’t like before and what’s the point in that?
Feelings are not facts and when you think back to how your ex made you feel when things were good, your reaction of wanting to start over is exclusively based on the fantasy of your feelings that isn’t real.
Korey wasn’t the best ex to go back to and I learned my lesson–remember why you broke up in the first place. Always. That will always be the reason you break up again if you go back. But time apart (and away from the heated moment that it was over) heals the heart and allows for an open space for your reunion. Just like you remember why things fell apart, you should also remember what it was that brought you two together. Maybe that thing is stronger than what severed your ties? Who knows? It’s all up to both of you to determine if it’s worth it or if either one of you is still playing games.
Korey is clearly still playing games and that’s exactly why he’s a leftover who never made it off the plate.
Do you leave your exes in the past or have you ever tried to get that old thing back?
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