This is why we’re obsessed with your ex-girlfriends.
Because months or years ago, you saw a girl the way you see me now.
And then the world stopped spinning as you approached her. You smelled her hair, it reminded you of something sweet. Apples, maybe coconut. You kissed her the same way you kiss me now; with the same intensity in your eyes as you pulled away to breathe.
This is why we ask about what she was like.
I watch as your eyes glance down, lips curling with bittersweet memories. How you remembered the way she hated spicy food and slept with a soft snore. You used to sing along to her whenever she sang in the shower. Bon Jovi; that was her favorite. You took her to his concert once and she left with tears in her eyes. That night she fell asleep to Welcome To Wherever You Are. You stayed awake and counted the freckles on her cheeks.
But you don’t tell me this because she was your past, and I am your present. So you look up and tell me about how she broke your heart. How she cried a lot or often locked herself in her room as she hurled insults at you between sobs. You tell me what I want to hear because you think I want to know how much you love me more than you ever loved her.
But we don’t ask because we want to feel better about ourselves. We ask because we want to know if she treated you well.
Somewhere in the past she took you apart like a used car, shifted the mechanics and removed a handful of rusty nails. Then she added bolts and oil where you never realized you needed. We want to know what she changed in you to make you the person we love today.
The stories you tell us about how crazy she was or how often she threw a fit—that’s not what we want to hear.
How did she change your life? I want to know how you felt when you saw her for the first time after you asked her out. The way you stared in awe each time she tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear or giggled at your terrible jokes. How your stomach dropped whenever you saw her name appear on your phone every day at 7AM before you left for work. The moment when you looked at her and decided to move your things in her one-bedroom apartment.
Your ex-girlfriend isn’t our enemy.
Tell me how it felt when you saw her last. Did you sleep that night missing the way she curled in your arms? How did it feel when you wore the shirt she gave you for your birthday—did it burn your skin the way she set fire to your heart? Can you watch Interstellar again without thinking about the smile on her face as she walked out of the cinema?
Still, all of these would be buried within you. Even though you’d see the snow fall and imagine the fight you had when you left her in the cold, forgetting to pick her up. You’d hold my shivering hand but hear her voice shouting at you as you roll up in the car, begging her to get in.
We know there is a corner in your mind where she still resides, as much as you tell us there isn’t.
But if you just realize that we are not afraid of her, maybe you’d feel better telling us about how happy she made you feel on your birthday. How she embraced you when your grandfather died. How much you cried when you realized she wasn’t coming back.
Maybe then we’d see her as human, and not as a static face on a locked Facebook profile.