Sorbet Series 5: Whole Damn Bunch

I went out last night, and on my way to my destination, I passed this place:

Gatsby’s Pub.

Being the English teacher, currently Gatsby-obssessed person that I am, I took this as a positive sign. I also used it as a reflective moment. Gatsby met his downfall because he couldn’t move on from the past, and I think that continuously focusing on the past could impede my enjoyment of the present.

Therefore, I am going to conclude this series now. However, because it’s such a crazy soap opera, I’m going to share the events that followed (and preceded) my break-up with Tom. If you know me–the fairly average, normal person that I am–the fact that all of these events happened is crazy and unexpected, but they did.

I broke up with Tom at the end of August, and I left for my European vacation shortly thereafter. There is no better “sorbet” than travel! At no point did I miss him, and the brief contact we did have reminded me that I was better off. The weight was off my chest. I had obviously clung too tightly for too long to something that was clearly over. Our breakup was very friendly and mature. Our relationship had faded into friendship, and we kept in touch. I even saw him a couple of times when I visited my hometown. We exchanged pleasantries over bagels, and I could keep my conscience and mind clear because I thought I had an understanding of why we ended. I thought he just couldn’t handle a relationship.

At the beginning of December, I learned he was in another relationship. Finding this out was beyond painful for me because it made me reevaluate why our relationship ended and made me question what I had believed.

Enter Daisy. Daisy had actually been Tom’s personal trainer all summer when he started to get his head back together. I had actually suspected something and even asked about it, but in an attempt to avoid being “that girlfriend,” I dropped it. I got in touch with him and asked him about it and made sure that they had started dating after we were over. I was still bothered, but I made myself let it go.

A few weeks later, Tom sent me a text at 3AM wanting to talk. Suspicious, I started wondering why he would want to talk to me, and eventually I googled Daisy’s name and found her twitter feed. They had broken up, and she was heartbroken. As I scrolled back through the months, I learned–because she lives her life online–that they had started dating in July, nearly a month before we broke up! Wanting to reach out to someone and help her to get over this man, who had obviously lied to her from the beginning, I sent her a message, and we became friendly. I’ll be honest; I thought we were friends.

I helped Daisy through her breakup with Tom. I found her charming–she was energetic, supportive, friendly, and encouraging. She gave me a lot of advice on running and diets, and I sincerely thought we were friends. However, if you know Fitzgerald’s Daisy, you know that this is a woman who lives for herself and her own comfort. She uses people as she moves through various stages of her life, but at the core, she is looking out for herself. I noticed this through the things she would put online. Throughout our friendship, she was more concerned with the reality show that was her life rather than thinking about how her words could hurt or affect other people. At a certain point, I decided to hold her at arm’s length.

Because, admittedly, I had let her in. I think it’s difficult not to–bonding with someone over the end of a relationship can create a fast friendship. I forgot, ultimately, that I didn’t really know her, but the things she said to me (“You’re my soul sister!” “You’re better than my therapist.” “I’ve never seen such beautiful shirts.”–that last one was a lit reference) made me feel really special and like a true friendship was there.

I learned a lot of interesting things about the end of my relationship with Tom. My favorite was that he used my car to take Daisy out! The deception on so many levels in that instance is astonishing–I thought he had lost his license, and I also thought he was faithful! At some point, Tom found out that I was talking to Daisy, and started sending both me and her crazy messages. I felt like we were partners in crime.

Eventually, Tom went back to the gym where they had met, and Daisy texted me for support and encouragement not to talk to him. I responded, but I could sense something was strange. In the original Great Gatsby, Daisy remarks that there is nothing better for a woman to be than a “beautiful little fool,” and this Daisy certainly lives up to that expectation. She would present a certain aspect of her life to me forgetting that she was still living her life publicly on Twitter. As someone who spent years teaching students about audience, it floored me that an adult could be so oblivious.

She tweeted that she had a “great chat” with her ex at the gym, and then suddenly started talking about getting flowers at the gym and being in love and romance. The synapses in my brain started firing, and I realized that she had probably reunited with Tom. At this point, I decided to end our friendship. I wrote her an email saying that we had helped each other through something, but it was time to move on.

We later got into a conversation over text about who she was dating, and she denied it was Tom. Yet, at the same time, she is tweeting, “I hate when I think I’m getting a text from my boyfriend, but it’s really his exgirlfriend instead.” Being smarter than a 5th grader, I called her on it, she called me a stalker, and I told her that I didn’t trust her, so that was that.

Honestly, if that had been it, I wouldn’t have even cared, but what she did next is astonishing. She sent me an email the next day telling me how much she cherished our friendship and saying the was tweeting lies to try and catch me being a “stalker.” I ignored her email. The next day, her “boyfriend” sent me an email through Facebook.

Despite the fact that she was in fact back together with Tom, Daisy created a boyfriend named Jake Grossman (I’m using the name because it’s already fake!). Jake emailed me to say he would do anything to help us preserve our friendship.

You know at the end of Scooby Doo the criminal always mutters, “I would have gotten away with this, if it weren’t for you meddling kids!” Well, Daisy would have gotten away with it… if she only knew how to spell! Or, perhaps, if she were messing with a non-English teacher.

Jake told me that Daisy and Tom had no contact because he was her bodygaurd [sic]. Because Daisy worked as both a lifeguard and personal trainer, I had noticed her consistent misspelling of the word “guard.” And here it was again. Laughing that someone would go to so much trouble to maintain contact, I forwarded the email to my friend Jordan Baker, and Jordan gave Daisy a piece of her mind.

The next day, Daisy called me multiple times and left rambling messages telling me I was crazy and needed therapy and that Jake Grossman would call me if I really needed proof. I ignored her calls but could not stop myself from looking at her Twitter feed. It had become my favorite reality show, so I especially appreciated it when she created a fake twitter name for Jake Grossman and they chatted lovey messages to one another.

This is probably where I am going to look like the crazy person, but I don’t care. I still look at her Twitter. As I mentioned above, it became my favorite reality show, a guilty pleasure. Also, it became a good contrast for me–we all like to know who we are, and sometimes the best way to do that is by knowing who we are not. I enjoyed analyzing and criticizing the way she created this life around herself, where she consistently played the ultimate victim. I enjoyed feeling superior.

Here’s what went down:

Daisy and Tom got back together and got engaged less than a week later.

Less than a week after that, she broke up with him and began pursuing another relationship, declaring her love for this new man while desparaging Tom for being pathetic.

It’s too bad because I honestly think they deserve each other.

After all these events originally happened, I posted the following quotation that appeared in my second Sorbet post.

“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy-they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”

At that point, I sincerely felt like the human collateral in this whole situation. I felt used by both Tom and Daisy who were allowed to skip off into the distance happily.

One of my other lit-minded friends replied to my misery with this Gatbsy quote:

“You’re worth the whole damn bunch of them put together.”

Knowing and believing that, here’s my take on the whole situation:

1-I think cheating is disgusting and cowardly. Before you move onto a new relationship, end your current relationship. It’s not that difficult.

2-Don’t look back. I’ll write more on this later, but it probably wasn’t the best idea for me to reach out to someone else who dated Tom because it dragged me back through all kinds of stuff. (Though at times it was nice to learn what really had been going on during the end of my relationship.)

3-Even though her twitter feed is hilarious, I need to stop looking at it. That goes along with this whole “don’t look back” philosophy. Guess I’ll have to return to Real Housewives or Bridezillas.

4-Being friendly, open, and supportive and living your life with integrity is never wrong. Ever. Even though I felt used and tossed aside, I need to remember that these qualities I have are admirable. I did not go into this situation to hurt anyone.

5-Be open. Sharing this ridiculous story with my girlfriends has opened up my friendships. No one wants to be friends with a perfect person. We need to know our friends struggle and have weaknesses. I have an amazing support system.

So, my comparison did not work out perfectly. Tom and Daisy aren’t sitting in their house conspiring over fried chicken. Tom is alone. Daisy is onto her next victim.

And I… I am happy.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned.

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Sorbet Series 4: Know When to Fold ‘Em

I think a difficult aspect of any relationship is knowing when that relationship has run its course. Every relationship has its unique quirks and rhythms, and it’s difficult to discern whether a problem is bump in the road or a sign of the end. Even though I learned a lot from my relationship with Tom, and I would like to think that if I saw similar patterns in another relationship, I would know enough to exit immediately, I cannot discount the love factor. I look back and see so many red flags in my relationship that I overlooked at the time because I truly loved him.

Tom secured a new, better job at the beginning of December, and for about a week, everything seemed to be on a positive path. He was calmer and happier, excited for new opportunities, and I was looking forward to putting our relationship on the forefront after, understandably, dealing with some stress due to his job difficulties. Unfortunately, life would have other plans.

If you know The Great Gatsby at all, you know that some of the major themes of this iconic work are driving and drinking. Partygoers drink until oblivion, metaphors of “good driver” and “bad driver” represent people’s morality, and some of the most pivotal moments of the novel occur when people drink and drive. One of the most pivotal moments of my relationship occured when Tom chose to drink and drive. And though many people make this choice with no ramifications, Tom got pulled over. In his state, he would automatically lose his license for seven months for a first offense in addition to paying thousands of dollars in fines and spending time in court and in educational classes.

In my mind, drinking and driving is inexcusable. Though I don’t want to comment on my own choices, I know that after my experiences with Tom, I will never drink and drive. I know that many of my friends and acquaintances have probably had a bit too much and chosen to drive home. Not every drunk driver is a deadbeat who has no consideration for other people on the road; in fact, I think most drunk drivers are people who made a stupid decision that would eventually cost them a lot, both literally and figuratively.

Tom’s job depended on driving. If he lost his license, he would lose his job along with, he felt, his reputation. He watched his carefully constructed world potentially come crashing down, and he retreated into survival mode. Honestly, I can respect that. I am very similar. When I make a bad decision and subsequently have to deal with its ramifications, I also retreat into survival mode. At some point, I will probably write about the months I spent in survival mode while at my old job.

Being in survival mode and dating someone in survival mode are two different beasts. I felt myself caught in a stressful and damaging situation. I needed to respect that Tom had a lot to grapple with, but at the same time, I wanted to assert that I still deserved certain things from our relationship. Though I consider myself a strong, independent person, I knew that I wanted and needed to support Tom through this issue, and I allowed his needs to overshadow my own.

When I think back on these moments, I am reminded of Martin Seligman’s experiments on learned helplessness. Seligman connected dogs to electric shocks; some of the dogs could control the duration of the shock while others had no control over their treatment. These dogs learned to put up with the shock; they lay in their cages passively waiting for the pain to pass. Even later, when that group of dogs was placed in a situation where they could end the shock treatment, they instead dropped to the ground and waited for the shock to end.

Similarly, as my relationship progressed, I learned that Tom was almost like Seligman’s electric shock. I had no control over the outcome of our conversations, and instead of learning to assert myself and my needs in our relationship, I was like a dog that plopped down in his cage and waited for it to be over.

Whenever I approached Tom with a concern or a need, he would lash out at himself. He would berate himself and panic that he had ruined everything and that he didn’t deserve me. Because I felt so bad for him and the situation, I comforted him. I didn’t realize what he was doing and what the situation was doing to me.

Why did I stay? I think there are a number of reasons. One, I loved him. Period. Two, I had previously run from every other relationship after a matter of weeks if the guy showed any smidgen of weakness or dependency, so here was my chance to prove that I could deal with a real problem. Three, I enjoyed my time with him; we were fantastic friends who had a lot of fun together. Four, I wasn’t sure if the situation was a problem or an endpoint.

Tom and his lawyer kept delaying his trial. He refused to talk with me about the particulars of his case (yes, a huge red flag in hindsight) because he was “so embarrassed.” He pushed the case back month after month, and every month when I thought we would at least have some resolution, so I could make a conscious decision about how to move forward, the case would get pushed back again.

In the interim, Tom got laid off. The company made cuts; they had no knowledge of his situation, and their choice to downsize actually preserved some of Tom’s dignity. He could leave the company, collect severance, look for another job, and have an excuse for not driving after he returned his company car. 

He spent December through May in a depressed state. The former workaholic who always maintained an extreme and unhealthy control of his life now had to deal with the mercy of the court system and the perils of looking for a job. He gained a lot of weight, and after losing his job spent a lot of time hanging with friends. Slowly, he started to return to the land of the living, and when he ultimately lost his license in May, he seemed to take it in stride.

In June, he joined a program at his gym to jump start weight loss and get back into shape. He devoted himself to this program, working out for hours every day and cutting back his meals to the bare minimum. In the meantime, I had quit my job and was planning to leave the country for Korea. We talked a lot about my decision, and he assured me that after he fulfilled his obligations to the State, he would join me in Asia.

I had a very, very difficult summer. I left my job and my apartment, he didn’t want me to move in with him, so I had to move back to my childhood home, and I started to feel like an afterthought in my own relationship. I asked a lot of my friends for advice.

“How do you know when it’s over?”

It’s a question that’s difficult to answer. I even talked with Tom in July, confessing that I thought our relationship had run its course, but he assured me that all relationships have their ups and downs, and together we could weather the storm.

I was profoundly unhappy, but I couldn’t figure out why. However, a message from one of my students kept ringing in my head.

I wrote a lot of letters of recommendation this past summer. My students would meet me at Barnes and Nobles and share their insights about their high school careers and their hopes for the future. For the most part, these meetings were fun and full of banter. I loved getting to know my students outside of the classroom.

One meeting was a bit different from the others. This student came into Barnes and Nobles with red eyes and a weary look, and before we could begin the college chat, she told me that she had broken up with her boyfriend the night before. Though I will not betray this student’s confidence, I will tell you that I learned something profound from one of my students.

She said, “Miss D., I couldn’t stay with him and be the person that I always thought I was.”

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The Present

I had a conversation with my stepdad last night about the Sorbet stuff. He said, I’ll know that I’m really over it when I don’t need to talk about it, and the healthiest thing for me to do right now is live in the present. Don’t think about the past, don’t worry about the future. Savor the present.

I want to still explore the Tom & Daisy situation but less in a “dwelling” way and more in a connective, helpful way. A way that if a stranger stumbled onto this blog they might find insight and advice rather than vitriol. So stay tuned for more Sorbet.

For now, the present.

I’m listening to Crosby, Stills & Nash. I do live in the past in my music taste–thanks Dad!

I’m drinking some Starbucks coffee from the breakroom alternated with seltzer water.

All I can smell is the hair goop I used this morning.

I’m click-clacking away on my computer… And my iPhone!

And what I see?

The overall view! Lots of post-it reminders.

Office paraphernalia and some little decorations a coworker made for me.

I keep my friends close.

I love reminders of my life in Germany.

And there’s this guy. He just speaks to me right now.

But what’s more on my mind…

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Sorbet Series 3: Know When to Hold ‘Em

Know When to Hold ‘Em

For the majority of my life, I have been the “single friend.” I have never really minded it. I liked being the third wheel, and I always had enough friends around me that at any given point a different couple needed a third wheel.

It’s not that boys hadn’t been interested or that I didn’t date. I did date. I just had this “thing.” Once something got serious, I decided that I didn’t like the guy anymore. Normally within the first two weeks. Suddenly, something wasn’t right or he was too needy. It was generally the “needy” thing. I had been the caretaker in my family growing up, and I didn’t want to be burdened right away with some guy’s issues. And they always seemed to have issues… right away! Like there were these guys just hanging out, living life, and waiting for some girl to come along and fix them.

I also made some bad choices and made myself available to unavailable guys. Believe me, I’ve thought about all of these things: the fear, the bad choices, the majority of my adult life without a boyfriend, and I’ve moved beyond that. But, when I met Tom, I was still in the midst of grappling with some of those decisions and feeling very wary of men.

Tom and I met through a mutual friend and got into a discussion about our love of traveling. I had just returned from Germany and was planning a month-long trip to Australia and New Zealand. He had just won a trip from his company and was planning a week in the Caribbean. Imagine my surprise when he called me a few days later to invite me on this trip! Always one to take any opportunity to travel, I said yes.

We went to the Cayman Islands and stayed at the Ritz Carlton. Accustomed to staying in hostels and on friends’ couches, the Ritz was beautiful and overwhelming. We drank chilled glasses of Pinot Grigio poolside, and I did my best to dissuade him from pursuing me. I didn’t like him.

One night, we were walking on the beach, and he tried to kiss me. I freaked out. I was so angry that yet another guy would see me as some girl he could just kiss, especially after sharing with him everything that had happened. I was pretty cold to him for a few days, but he was still very kind and open to me, and eventually I realized, “Oh crap. I think I like this guy.” I didn’t know how to change my mind and have a serious discussion about it, so instead, plied with alcohol, I returned the kiss he had attempted a few days earlier.

That still wasn’t all. We came back to the US, I panicked again (usual MO), and it took a few good conversations with friends to realize what I was doing. I actually sat myself down and had a logical discussion with myself. (I told you I was a relationship Athena!) “Heather, you’ve only ever run away from nice guys, and where has that gotten you? Just give this guy a chance.”

So I did. I liked that he was self-sufficient. That he wasn’t 100% needy right away. I still left for a month to go to Australia and had a blast with my friend Tara. We had amazing conversations and I felt an awesome connection with him.

I live my life with no regrets, absolutely, but there are two things especially I would highlight about this relationship that I will never, ever regret.

1. I am worth being someone’s girlfriend. I wasn’t his best friend, his relief from something else. I was 100% his girlfriend, and I was worthy of being loved and loving someone else. I know a lot of people that don’t know who they are without being in a relationship, but I needed to find myself in a relationship, and I did. And I’m a pretty awesome girlfriend.

2. I felt myself fall in love with this man. I know exactly where I was when it all just clicked. We were sitting at the front corner table of a restaurant in Delaware called Culinaria, sharing stories about our days, and I felt my heart just burst. I will never, ever regret that. Ever.

We had a few pretty good months. There were normal stresses in there, and probably some issues that are red flags in hindsight, but I was happy. I was also learning. I had never been in a relationship before and understanding some of the give-and-take is a natural part of that experience. Tom got worried in November because he thought he was going to lose his job, but he made it through the layoffs and actually secured an even better job.

I was thrilled for him, but what I didn’t realize was that this happy news would only last for a few days.

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Quick & Dirty

I probably won’t have a lot of time to write today between work, homework, running, and class, but I thought I’d leave you with some fun.

Lots of lit on my mind all the time, but how about a little guilty pleasure movies?

I’m rocking a Sandy-at-the-end-of-Grease outfit today! Not that I understood that movie as a kid at all–did anyone!? Sadly, it might still be over my head now! 🙂

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Good Things Lately

I realize that I look a bit obsessed and overly analytical if all I ever post is stuff about my past, so here are some good things lately.

10. I am 28 years old. I love growing older. I feel wiser every year. I know this year is going to be magical and amazing.

9. For my birthday, my friend Janelle offered her services as a personal shopper. Prayers answered! She also brought me flowers. 🙂

8. My work friend Kevin brought me Starbucks to celebrate my birthday. He also gives me chocolate every day. He’s just one of the many awesome people that I’ve met in my few months here.

7. I am in TWO weddings this summer. In both weddings, the Maid/Matron of Honor is named Liz. I think that’s really cool.

6. I am taking a more balanced approach to exercise and weight loss than I ever have before, and I feel amazing. I have some public goals (Chicago Half Marathon in May!) and some secret goals, but I’m proud of myself.

5. I think I get on my mom’s nerves–well, sometimes it’s intentional, but overall, I really love having the time to spend with her and getting to know her more.

4. This past November, I got to see my oldest friend get married. I was her Bridesminion, which was awesome. Now, we talk once a week. I don’t know what my life would be like without our conversations.

3. My friend Sarita sent me cookies and a scarf for my birthday. I may have scarfed down those cookies like there was no tomorrow (thanks PMS), but I’m wearing the scarf today. I feel so loved.

2. I reunited with a friend I lost. It’s amazing, and we talk all the time like we’re teenagers in puppy love or something.

1. I have a crush… and it’s really, really fun!

There are so many more things, but I’ve gotta get going. Freshman comp tonight!

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Sorbet Series 2: Name Change

Recently, I’ve realized that I manage to connect almost every situation in my life to The Great Gatsby. It’s a bit strange.

In this case, however, it’s appropriate. I mentioned before that I’m going to change some names to protect the idiots, and this quote inspired my chosen names:

“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”

This is a story of Tom, Daisy, and me. Obviously, you need to be cautious of a first person narrator. We always taught our students not to take everything the narrator said at face values; a narrator has his or her own motivations and feelings. I am no exception.

I also want to address my reasons for writing this series. One of my favorite people cautioned me not to spend too much time spreading negativity, and I completely agree with that sentiment. If you know me, you know that I am an optimist. I tend to look on the bright side of every situation and create positivity in my life.

I have also recently realized, though, that I still have a very childlike sense of the world. I still believe in right and wrong, and though I have in no way done everything perfectly, that sense of justice permeates my life. When I have messed up, I believe that I deserve to be punished, but for some reason, I do not extend those harsh judgments to the people around me.

I don’t really get angry. It’s strange. And I can’t think of the last time I’ve been intentionally cruel to someone. When I do think about it, the only clear and concise example I remember is from third grade. I managed to be one of the “cool kids” at camp one summer, and my friends and I tortured this other girl. When I think about that, I just hope that wherever that girl is, she is the hottest, most confident, most beloved person around. But since that time, intentional cruelty is not something that has entered my life, so when I come into contact with it, I am always a bit shocked.

And I also tend to believe that good people deserve good outcomes and bad people deserve bad outcomes, but perhaps Tom and Daisy aren’t bad, they’re just careless. Unfortunately, I was a victim of that carelessness.

Ultimately, this series is not meant to put me on a pedestal of perfection or condemn others as awful while spreading negativity, it’s about thinking and considering. I like neat endings, and life doesn’t always provide them.

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