I Can’t Forget – or Forgive – My Past
I saw her looking for something in the health foods & medicine section of the grocery store. I was walking by slowly, purposely scouting the area trying to remember if I had gotten everything in my cart that I had come to the grocery store to buy. Ahah! I remembered something that I needed in the health foods area. This took me to the aisle in which she was studying the shelves – for what, I don’t know. I politely excused myself as I had to walk in front of her, picked up my item, and then excused myself once more as I had to walk in front of her to get back to my cart.
I behaved as I usually do when I find myself in public in the general vicinity of a woman I find very attractive: I made sure not to make eye contact and try my best to catch a glimpse of her, without looking like I was trying to catch a glimpse of her… or at the very least, without allowing her to see me trying to catch a glimpse of her. During this whole few second moment of my shopping experience, I could almost see myself from an outsider’s perspective and I yelled at myself in my head to stop acting like an idiot and just move on to the register to pay.
Still, I turned my head as I walked to catch one last glimpse of her, this woman with her girl-next-door-look, long brown hair tied back in a pony tail, completely unassuming, but just something about her that made me look more than twice. And again, I tried my best to make sure I looked like I was straining to figure out if I had forgotten something from my mental list of items that I should have written down, while looking in her general area at the shelves, and then directly at her before turning my head to pay attention to where I was going.
Just something about her, I thought. I don’t know what, but really, it doesn’t matter, you idiot. She’d never be interested in you. Plus, what on earth would you even say to her. “Uuuuh, hi, I think you’re cute and there’s something about you that made me do a double-take. How are you today?” Yeah, I’m sure the store security would be on me within seconds after that smooth-talking introduction.
Anyway, so after all that has passed through my mind, I actually do remember a couple things that I forgot and then go back to pick them up. Then saunter my way to the check-out with the shortest line. I’m standing there just waiting my turn, noticing the ridiculous magazine covers for the ’beauty’ magazines and tabloids and making sure I don’t get too close to the person’s daughters who are being a bit rambunxious in front of me while waiting for the lady to finish scanning what their mother had bought. I move back a few inches to give them some room to roam around then do my usual waiting-in-line routine of scanning the people in line, scanning the people walking around the store, scanning the magazine racks and then rinse and repeat.
Then I feel that someone has taken their spot in line behind me. I turn around out of courtesy to make sure I am not too far back into them, as I was not aware of them until now and didn’t think I needed to worry too much about anything behind me, when I notice… it’s her. My gosh, miss girl-next-door with the long hair in the cute pony tail who reminds me of someone… or something… or some time in my life… is standing behind me. I do my best to keep cool and calm, since she obviously has no idea this is all going through my mind and it would no doubt freak her out if I all of a sudden start acting like some grade school dweeb who keeps turning around in class peeking over his shoulder and giving a goofy smile to the cute girl behind him. Oh wait, that’s right, I did that. And I remember that didn’t make a good impression then, I am positive it won’t make a good impression now. So I go back to my people, rack (magazines, not boobs), rinse and repeat routine.
During one of my magazine rack rotations, she comes into my view again. She picks up one of the magazines on the bottom shelf and then takes it back with her to her cart to read while waiting. I don’t catch which one it is, since as soon as she came into view, I did my best to look somewhere else for fear of all that was on my mind about her would somehow transfer to her subconscious, just from my gaze meeting hers. But I do note that there is an Easter edition of some magazine with a religious theme in the general area of where she grabbed the magazine. Hmmm, I wonder if she took that one. Says a lot, considering probably 99% of the other women I see in here are usually grabbing for the tabloids or the so-called beauty mags. This got my brain working even more overtime.
And then I had this really weird feeling come over me. For a short moment, couldn’t have been more than 1/2 a minute to a minute, I had this sense of confidence come over me. It was like a flashback to years ago when I was in great shape and had complete confidence in what I looked like, yet, unfortunately not complete confidence in whom I was as a person, at least with respect to the defintion society gave to a good, ’cool’ man. Yet it was a slight confidence nontheless. Something I had not felt around an attractive woman in a long time. Most of the time – which is to say, all the time – I would simply go through my she’s-way-out-of-your-league-she’d-never-be-interested-in-you-so-stop-thinking-about-it -youre-a-loser routine in my head:
* Even if she wasn’t she’d never be interested in you
* Even if she was, she’s probably a liberal or smokes
* Even is she isn’t, didn’t we already agree she wouldn’t be interested in you?!
* Snap out of it and get back to what you’re doing and leave this poor girl alone with any thoughts of even thinking you were good enough to talk to her, let alone look at her
But this time, that didn’t go through my mind. I felt different somehow. I felt like the confident man I am inside when I am not thinking about how out of shape I have gotten over the last year. I felt like the confident man I am when I believe my delusions that women are interested in character and morals and principles in a man. I felt like… ahh… then it hit me… she reminds me of Amy. Or, at least, how I imagine Amy to be. I had just gone, in my mind, back to a time in my life when I was talking to Amy online and on the phone years ago – yet never met or seen her picture. Somehow, my mind associated everything with that time period, including how I felt in public, since I was in the greatest shape of my life back then and never felt insecure in public – at least with regards to my looks. And all the feelings and emotions of that ’relationship/friendship’ came roaring back within me within moments. Until I forced them back down deep again. She’s not Amy, you idiot. So stop acting like you might be standing next to a girl for whom you held a huge, silly online crush. Just load your items on the conveyor and pay and leave so she can do the same.
So, I did. Doing my best to not look up at the cute girl who reminded me of Amy standing right behind my cart skimming her magazine. Sure, I could catch her out of the corner of my eye when I looked at my cart to grab the items. I do have peripheral vision afterall. But no direct looks. Who knows what my eyes and face would give away were I to look at her while thinking of Amy and having all those goofy feelings, emotions and memories welling up inside me. Best not to even put either of us in that situation. So back to finishing with the items, making polite small talk with the POS operator and bagger lady and then wishing them a good day.
I then walk away out the door hoping I gave nothing of my inner thoughts away with my behavior, and yet also hoping I didn’t come across as a cold jackass who looked like he was going out of his way to not pay attention to the miss cute girl-next-door with the long brown hair in the pony tail… who brought back thoughts of Amy…
And it didn’t hit me until I was done loading the groceries into my car and then returning the cart, that she was right behind me in line and I could have seen her walk out the store and caught one last glimpse of her. But, alas, as I scoured the parking lot for her long brown pony tail, she was no where in sight. Probably for the best anyway. In case she did notice my lousy efforts to catch glimpses of her in the store, she would definitely feel weird catching me trying to look at her in the parking lot. I’d rather walk away with her thinking nothing of me rather than her thinking of me as some lunatic stalker.
But on the way home, I was just lost in thought about all of this. Here was my past coming back to affect me with some woman I’ve never met nor ever seen before. I haven’t talked to Amy in years on the phone and not in over a year on e-mail or IM, yet here she is still affecting me in my every day life. Well, not her specifically, but the memory of her.
I also was thrown for a loop by how I felt, albeit momentarily, when standing in line in front of this woman. I know how certain smells and songs can take us back to times in our life. I know there are certain smells that remind me of little league baseball as a kid – which end up making me feel the nervousness I felt when riding to the games. I know there are certain smells that remind me of women I have dated. Certain perfumes or skin lotions send chills down my back sometimes and make me mushy in the stomach, because they take me back to certain relationships with past girlfriends. And, of course, certain songs take me back to many different times in my life and affect me in different ways.
But this was the first time that I was affected in this manner. I wasn’t taken back anywhere. There was no sweet smell to remind me of anyone. It was almost like my body and mind and subconscious were reacting in a way they felt I would react were I in Amy’s presence: calm, confident and innocently attracted to this woman. Yet, it obviously was not her. And it didn’t last. My she’d-never-be-interested-in-you mechanism kicked in after a delay. But, at least for a moment, it happened. I was a different person… or at least, I felt like a different person. A new man. A better man. A confident man. All because of the memory of someone I have never met and being in the presence of a woman I didn’t know.
Then I got to thinking about all that went on with Amy. I really had it bad for her. I know now that it is impossible to fall in love with someone one only knows online and on the phone… really it is only possible to fall in love with the idea you create of whom is the person you’re talking with. You can’t really know someone without actually spending time with them, because you never know if what they are telling you is the complete truth. Trust me, I’ve had plenty of women lie to me about themselves online. Which is why I now trust no one. But, back then, I had not been burned at all and my image of Amy and who she was inside was just wonderful. Her intelligence, her personality, her vulnerability, yet strength, independence and sharp wit and, most importantly, the way she would never back down to me on anything when we debated anything. She challenged me. And I challenged her. Yet at no time did I feel we were belittling each other or disrespecting one another. It was always a respectful debate of ideas and thoughts on topics. And then of course when I would have her beaten on a topic, she would flatter me with saying I was cute when I was upset and flustered. I’d go from completely aggravated to completely jello in her hands.
She seemed to be everything I had wanted in a woman. Well, save for not ever having met her or known what she looked like or spent any time with her, and only creating a vision of whom she was based on what she shared with me… yeah, other than that, she was “perfect”!
That’s what was probably roaming around in my subconscious while standing in line and seeing miss cute girl-next-door. Of course, upon further reflection of all of this, all the facts came back and the romanticizing of the situation went out the window. I started to remember little things that I so admired about Amy, yet made me feel so ashamed of mistakes that I had made in my past, that probably doomed any future I could ever have with a woman like Amy.
You see, she was a virgin and intended to stay that way until she was married. She also had standards like everyone else, but one of them was like a stake to my heart were I vampire: she wanted to marry a virgin. Since I was not a virgin, this meant that no matter how much we got along, how much she may say she ’loves’ me and reciprocates the feelings I have for her, there is nothing I can do to measure up to the man she wants to be with.
At that point, I would be forever ashamed of my past… and myself. And at that point I knew that no matter what my intentions and what my principles and what my morals I had started out with young in life, I had proven to be a weak person and had ruined my future.
And for that, I couldn’t forgive myself. And, after this afternoon’s experience at the grocery store, I realize that I still cannot forgive myself.
I grew up telling myself that I would not have sex until I was married. And I was not ashamed of that position at all. And I wanted to find someone who shared that view. But, not once, but five times I gave in to weakness. (Yes, I actually just went back and counted how many women I have been with in my life. Pretty depressing to remember how many times I have failed.) Each and every time, with each and every woman I resisted temptation. But only at first. When the true test came, after first saying no, I gave in to temptation. I proved myself weak. And no matter what I do now and what I say now or what I have done recently or what I do in the future, nothing will change the weakness of my past.
And that weakness still defines whom I am now. And no matter what I do or say, I cannot change that.
There is no born-again status when it comes to this weakness, especially when I am looking for a woman with certain standards for a man. It doesn’t matter that I have not only held my current standard, but also lived up to it for the past 5+ years, including within a 3 year relationship. If I met a woman tomorrow who wanted a man with morals and principles and who had proven his strength in those morals and principles his entire life, I wouldn’t be that man. 5 different times in the past I have proven my weakness and have proven that I am unfit for this woman. 5 different instances in my life where I just had to be strong so as to be the man she wants and deserves and does not have to ’settle’ for. 5 instances of my life that ruined the future that I wanted. 5 times I allowed myself to be weak, for instant momentary pleasure. 5 instances where my character was tested… and I failed. 5 experiences I can never take back…. and I can never forgive.
And this is why I’ve taken myself out of the dating pool. I can’t forgive myself. All my young life, I have wanted to be the man that my girlfriend and wife deserved. I wanted to be the man she wanted, she desired, of whom she was so proud that she would never speak ill about me… the man she did not have to settle for… in any way: intellectually, financially, emotionally, spiritually or physically.
And I blew that. I can’t claim to be the man she wants and deserves, when I have not been that man my entire life.
Sure, ’we all make mistakes’, some say. But my mistakes continue to haunt me.
I can’t forget them. Or forgive them.
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