Dear Anonymous Exes:
I don’t know why I’m writing this letter. Maybe being surrounded by the plague and therefore constantly reminded of my own mortality has enticed me to look back on my life and start listening to Tori Amos albums again. Maybe watching my oldest child race toward that arbitrary mark of adulthood, the eighteenth birthday, has forced me to see my life through a wiser, more nostalgic lens. Certainly, my recent mental health struggles, rooted in ABA therapy in childhood, have made me scour my past for “aha!” moments to reflect on from my new perspective.
This new perspective is rooted not just in the arduous process of undoing or at least, learning to live with the way my personality was grafted onto me for the convenience of the adults in my life, but also from the stability of a relationship in which my partner and I have grown together and weathered personal changes and life’s traumas. As a romance writer, I constantly get asked if I draw on things from real life. I do, but not in the raised-eyebrows-wink-wink-research way people assume. It doesn’t take a ton of research to know whether or not you’d like to write about specific sex acts; emotional conflict has to be mined from personal experience to ring true. It’s all well and good to describe hurt or new love or anger with those words. It’s another thing to go back and in time and remember a specific moment when you felt a specific brand of one of those things.
As I struggle through this point in my career, wondering if there’s still room for me to write romance or if I still care about and enjoy the genre as much as I did when I started, where I’m going from here, I’ve been thinking about you, exes. Here are some messages to you, in no specific order, with no identifying markers and the continuity on shuffle:
You are in your forties. Please, do not buy a skateboard.
I will always consider you one of the loves of my life. I don’t know why I left you for a guy who’s considering buying a skateboard in his forties but after seeing the way you treated your partners after me, I’m so glad I did.
I shouldn’t have dated you. I was in love with your ex-girlfriend, not you. I just fundamentally did not understand my own sexuality and it caused me to misdirect my affection. Sorry I hurt you.
Okay, now that I think about it, I’m not 100% sure you’re actually going to buy that skateboard. Please, please tell me you’ve given up your shoplifting habit.
I know you had sex with the upstairs neighbor.
Dude, that was my first breakup. I’m sorry I cried so hard. I bet you felt terrible and you were really a nice kid.
The moment I met your parents, I knew we weren’t going anywhere.
After you broke up with me, I saw you from the window of my bus on the way home from work and I cried.
It was weird that you chose to dump me while I was asking you a question about Froot Loops.
You were too old to be dating a seventeen-year-old.
I should have lost my virginity to you.
Turns out, I’m not a terrible mother after all. I mean, I’m definitely not the mother you would have wanted for your children, so everything turned out for the best.
You smelled like a wet dog.
Hey, was that you in Red Lobster in 2008 waiting to go on a date, looking like you just got done painting houses? Pull it together, yo.
She’s out of your league, bro.
Your opening line was hilarious but I shouldn’t have gone home with you.
I can’t believe I let you break my heart.
I didn’t leave my watch at your place because I wanted an excuse to see you again. I left that watch at your place because I didn’t want to have to see you again. I just bought a new watch, bro.
In the future, don’t brag to the person you’re dating about how badly you treated all the people you dated before.
Your IG is ridiculous. We get it. You’re rich. Just like your parents.
Your IG is ridiculous. We get it. You have abs.
Your IG isn’t too bad. But your kids are ugly as hell.
You’re wrong about blowjobs being unhygienic but honestly, my neck has never been so relaxed in the early stages of a relationship.
I’ll admit it, I checked up on you out of curiosity. I’m so proud of the you that I knew years ago. I’m not gonna go digging but please don’t be a fucking Trump supporter.
I shouldn’t have lost my virginity to you.
Remember that time we were going to get groceries and you said, “Do you have the keys?” and I said, “Yeah,” and then we immediately started having tear-our-clothes-off sex on the floor right in front of the door? That was probably the coolest thing I’ve ever been able to pull off, in terms of smoothness and sexiness.
Why the fuck do you keep running into me right when we’ve both just noticed someone else’s fart? It isn’t my fart!
Your Crazy Ex You Probably Still Tell Horror Stories About
PS. If I see you on a skateboard I’m gonna circle the block to make various demoralizing remarks, loudly.