Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Ghosts of Boyfriends Past: James

A friend of mine coined a term in college: Freshman Mulligan. For those of you (like me) who are not up on your golf terms, a mulligan is a free do-over. Basically, if you mess up your stroke, you can take it over again and the bad one isn't counted on your score-card.

A freshman mulligan is a relationship in your freshman year of college that is a really terrible idea, but you're a freshman, so you get to date someone else and pretend that the old one never happened.

James is my very messy, complicated, unfortunate, regretful Freshman Mulligan.

The day i moved into my freshman dorm was the day that my parents decided to separate. My first care package from home, in October, contained a letter from my mom. Tucked in between the funny stories from home and the advice about college life were a few lines about her marriage. They were in therapy, but she didn't have much hope for a future.

Obviously, i was not in any condition to get into a serious relationship. So obviously, that was exactly what i did. James was a kid i'd known for two or three years from church events. He was really sweet and gentle, like a teddy bear. I knew that he was safe and loyal and easy, that being with him would be effortless, that i could take shelter in his affection without risking my heart. I liked him, but i knew from the start that this would never be a serious relationship.

There were other issues with our relationship. He was far more conservative than i, and constantly disagreed with me on things like my desire to get a tattoo, or my bellybutton ring. Also, he very much wanted to find a good Christian girl in college, settle down and get married, and be a pastor. I am not cut out to be a traditional pastor's wife, and he wouldn't be anything but a traditional pastor, his facial piercings and Chucks notwithstanding. I was seventeen and hurt and vulnerable and terrified, and didn't want to think about marriage just yet. But even before we started dating, he was thinking about how my first name would sound with his last one. Even before we started dating, he was thinking about the kids we'd have.

We dated for barely four months before i was strong enough to cut it off. He'd known it was coming, but was still bitter and angry and jealous, convinced that i was dating a mutual (flamboyantly gay) friend. He said nasty things behind my back and through text messages, he got very angry whenever he saw me with my gay "boyfriend", and he brooded all over campus for the next three months. And then he started dating a fabulously beautiful blonde athletic genius. They got married two years later.

A friend of mine once asked how James, who was of average intelligence, charm, and looks, had managed to land two of the most attractive girls in our graduating class. I can't speak for his wife, but i can say that while James may have been pretty nondescript and a little annoying, he was nice. And he was safe. And sometimes, that's all you're looking for.

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