Why is it so hard for me to write about The First? No, not because I took his name from that of the Big Bad on Buffy. Maybe because I instigated our bad breakup. Maybe because your most romantic moment is when you swear you respect and enjoy each other so much that you’ll stay friends no matter what. Maybe because last time we spoke he made it clear it was to satisfy some stupid conscience on my part, unnecessarily; and he didn’t feel too much connection. The First was my own Mr. Wonderful, a fantasy brought to life. As a lover he was generous, energetic, skilled, and enthusiastic; he was a brilliant, funny, quick and kind friend. He used to say I was “the whole package.”
I thought I’d tell this story as a switcheroo. You’d think The First was the one I married, the current, delicious Mr. Fresh.
The First was perfect for me, where I was at that exact moment. He was only “separated,” and most women on Match didn’t want that. He and his wife were still under the same roof, planning to tell the kids in a deliberate, responsible, professionally approved way. After five years of counseling, his wife announced she was throwing in the towel on a Monday. By Thursday he had an ad on Match. On Saturday we talked for an hour. On Sunday, we had a dinner at which we swapped credentials as train wrecks, matching our lack of readiness for anything serious, surprised to see in the other a similar intensity and needs that might test close enough for a few rounds of fair play. We were so vulnerable, both easy to reject. The First and I were both wounded and aching to start to heal under another’s loving eye and hands. If it’s just us, we said, no one will get hurt. Before the check came I said I would like to kiss him. “Where did you learn to kiss me?” I recoiled in a shock of new, weak delight.
That kiss took place exactly 18 months after I held Gavin’s elbow and heard his last gasp. The First had perfect timing.
Marshall’s timing sucked. After two unreturned calls, I decided that He was Just Not That Into Me. I forget sometimes that I have grown. I figure that I am still 12 years old, with the emotional maturity of a 4 year old. I must have misread our heated signals over Mexican. Yes, he traveled a lot for work, but he probably was still in his complicated international relationship and I was not a good person, particularly in my situation, to intervene.
But Marshall was patient, biding his time in the wings. When I was ready to dump The First, five torrid weeks after it had started, Marshall was ready to roll. It wasn’t simple, but it’s been an easy year and a half, and he is now the gentleman known as Mr. Fresh.
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