putting the damage on

– Posted in: a not-so-brief history

I realize now that posting this blog on the first of October was a very ambitious and slightly unrealistic goal. True to my nature (a day late and a dollar short), mypixieblog.com is finally LIVE (albeit a few months late). So I’m a bit behind. Much has happened in the last few months since I packed up the apartment I shared with my boyfriend and moved just three blocks away in hopes of starting over. Maybe I should have moved a bit further, but I’ve lived in this town for three years and it’ll just have to be big enough for the two of us, I suppose.

Without boring you with too many details, let me rewind a bit.

a sorta fairytale

I first met Jackson (name has been changed) on Match.com in July 2003. We agreed to meet in person in a loud and crowded bar in the middle of nowhere, New Jersey, because I wanted to check out a band called Unexplained Bacon. Yea, I dunno either. We both pulled up in our matching Civics (though mine had endured significantly more wear and tear over the years), and we clicked instantly. Fireworks, butterflies. I couldn’t believe how many similarities we had in common, from our love of reggae music and our vegetarian lifestyles to a shared free-spirited nature and extended sojourn in Germany. We spent hours at that hole-in-the-wall bar and let our cell phones ring (I’ve realized over the years that you should always have a back-up plan in case the evening takes a terrible turn or you are simply incompatible with your date. It’s much nicer than faking a stomachache in the long run).

I even kissed on the first date, which apparently is a faux pas according to every girlfriend and relationship book on the planet. But it was magical. We made plans to see each other again very soon once our summer concert schedules jived (I went to a few Dead shows while he followed Ziggy Marley).

It’s hard to believe that was more than six years ago, when it seems like just yesterday.

The first few years were wonderful. We went on a road trip, making several stops along the way, including New Orleans (Mardi Gras) and Daytona (Bike Week); traveled to see Michael Franti, the Wailers, Toots and the Maytals, in addition to the many concerts we went to locally; and explored the many vegetarian restaurants the city has to offer. We spent weekends cruising around on the motorcycle, searching for hiking spots or lookout points. We had a blast.

When we first met, the idea of marriage was something I had considered but never seriously, and it was certainly not something I could picture in my imminent future. As the years went on and one by one my friends got engaged, bought houses, and had babies, I couldn’t help but revisit the idea of marriage. And eventually I decided I wanted to try it on for myself, too. In a way, we had already been playing house. I ironed Jackson’s pants and he hung up the shelves; I made omelets on weekends and he returned my library books. We frequented family functions and smiled and kissed our way through rows of people, always consulting with each other about what to get for nieces and nephews, cousins and mothers.

tear in your hand

It’s funny how we go through the motions without the emotions. No one ever questioned our feelings for one another since we seemed so happy together. And for several years we were blissfully nauseating. I’m not sure there was a defining moment when the shit hit the fan, but something changed. After years of Hallmark moments, we decided to put our relationship in cruise control and coast along.

I think it came around the four-year mark. I felt we needed to validate our status as a couple and make it more official. I knew a ring wasn’t coming anytime soon (he had expressed since the beginning that marriage wasn’t in the cards for him. Which settles the argument that NO, you cannot change a man, no matter what you may think. But I digress and more on that later). Moving in together seemed the next best thing, after the whole “shiny diamond” bit, of course.

It took us some time, but we finally found the perfect apartment. This is actually the understatement of the century. While relatively compatible in most arenas, my romantic notion of an old Victorian by the sea clashed strongly with his white-walled Scandinavian contemporary icebox. But there it was—a beautiful apartment in a great part of town. Even rent controlled, which can be pretty hard to come by where we live. We took it immediately and transformed the white walls and drab kitchen to a beautiful living space. We merged our music collections together, invited friends over and filled the apartment with laughter and the smells of home cooking. In those first few months, we took several trips to Ikea, Home Goods, Target, and Bed, Bath, and Beyond to furnish the apartment and buy unnecessary tschotschkes, as I am always inclined to do. Now, surrounded by the relics of our amicable separation, I can’t help but think of the memories associated with each piece of furniture, candlestick, and painting.


The last week of our cohabitation, we made a pact that we would be respectful of one another and try to make the process as seamless as possible. But it was painful watching him dismantle all the pieces of the life we had painstakingly pieced together. There was the glass towel rack that hugged the wall in the bathroom. I remember the day he brought it home and how proud he was that he’d found it on sale at Ikea for $14. Of course at the time I was upset because I had wanted the one for $100 from Target but I had learned to love it over time. Then there was the L-shaped olive-colored couch my parents chipped in for, knowing that money was tight. It was a generous contribution and sure as hell beat sitting in those Poang chairs from Ikea (the one everyone has in their first apartment).

We also acquired a weight bench, which I rarely used except to work on my arms with three-pound weights (just to exemplify the body-builder that I am). When he brought the bench into the apartment, the glimmer in his eyes returned. It’s what I always thought of whenever I would see it. When he resolved to lose the weight he had gained over the years, the apartment became a war zone. Medicine balls, library books with detailed fitness regimes, cookbooks, and weight loss DVDs threatened my every step and I danced around them. I was happy with Jackson’s regained enthusiasm and proud of his fitness goals, so I would never even think to give him a hard time for the disaster area that would become our apartment.

Several of those pieces now reside in my new one bedroom (minus the workout bench, I never had a need for the thing anyway). Actually, there isn’t a single thing here that doesn’t carry a deeper meaning. It’s like a vortex of double entendres in a cluster of inanimate objects.

bouncing off clouds

As I mentioned previously, there wasn’t a definite moment when I knew it was over. But there did come a time when I knew we would either sink or swim. Towards the end of June/beginning of July, Jackson and I traveled to Hawaii. We had tossed around so many different travel destinations, but Hawaii seemed to offer everything we could ask for: idyllic beaches, friendly locals, intense hiking trails, vibrant rainbows… and it proved to be a magnificent playground.

Before we left, I hadn’t even considered the possibility that he wouldn’t propose. It just made the most sense to me logistically. 1) We had chosen Hawaii. Of all the other vacation contenders, it definitely oozed romance. And for some reason, I thought only newlyweds and boyfriends looking to propose came to Hawaii. There goes that theory out the window! 2) We were getting ready to leave just weeks shy of our anniversary. 3) He left a week earlier, which OF COURSE I took to mean he was “setting up.” LAME and LAME. 4) There were odd telltale signs all over the apartment that something was going on. Later I realized how incredibly pathetic I must have sounded, Sherlock-ing together tiny bits of evidence. But it DID seem convincing at the time (I swear, I’m not a psycho). My rings disappeared a month before we left. There were a lot of hush-hush phone conversations, which I have not yet figured out but I digress again. Jackson had taken to selling his photography equipment on eBay. Surely it could all amount to one thing only.

1000 oceans

I don’t mean to sound like a brat. Hawaii was absolutely breathtaking—from the blood orange sunsets to the unexpected rainbows that appeared after a light shower. I never let a moment go to waste. I marveled at the Na Pali Coast, adjusted my eyes to the colors of unfamiliar vegetation, and inhaled the fresh saltwater air. I even admired the native surfers, their washboard abs and golden hair glistening in the sun. When in Rome, right?

But I also have to speak the truth. Hawaii wasn’t a vacation I should have taken. I barely had the money to cover the trip (thank god for Amex) and getting the time off of work was challenging, to say the least. Which is part of the reason I was so devastated at the lack of proposal. So many missed opportunities! I remember the night we found a tiny stretch of beach and celebrated the sunset. We drank wine out of soup cups and giggled when we spilled some on our beach towel. I even wore a dress! And makeup! And then there was the night we went to that fancy schmancy restaurant on the beach on the island of Kauai. A local band played Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” as the waves lapped against the shore. Come to think of it, I think I wore a dress AND heels that night as well. There were just so many romantic moments on that vacation. It would have been perfect.

It’s also difficult to ignore family and friends when they, too, are convinced of one thing. The weeks leading up to my trip, I got a lot of nudging, winking, and reassuring words about how a proposal was coming. One day while at work, I overheard two of my coworkers discussing my upcoming engagement. They didn’t know I could hear them but their conversation was what I thought of as I sat behind a crying kid on an 11-hour Continental flight back to Newark, too doped up on anti-anxiety meds to talk sense into the careless parents.

Going back to work that first day after two weeks in Hawaii was a lot harder since I had been witness to their proposal speculations. As I recounted stories of our helicopter tour, luau, snorkeling, and waterfall hikes, I sensed their roaming eyes on my left hand, the beads of sweat tickling my forehead. I felt I had failed them. And I couldn’t help but think that it completely sucks to be a woman.

On July 4, 2009, just days after we had returned and were 100% jetlag-free, I came clean to Jackson. It didn’t seem fair for me to carry around all of these feelings of resentment and anger. After a full day with his wonderful family, we headed back home to watch the fireworks over the Hudson. I had barely adjusted my seatbelt when I could feel the tears coming with a vengeance. I told him everything that I’d spared him from during the course of our relationship. How I feared I would never get married. That I was destined for a life with 20 cats. How I longed to hold a child of my own. I asked him why he didn’t want to get married to me.

cool on your island

I’ll never forget the look on his face and the way his strong jaw line softened. Hurt. Puzzled. Clearly he had no idea where I was coming from and I could see that I had hit a nerve. I asked him if anyone had pressured him about an engagement before he left. I couldn’t believe it when he averted his eyes and answered quietly. No. Well, why the fuck was I the one forced to carry around that unnecessary pressure?

I guess that was my moment. As much as it would kill me to walk away, there was no way I could stay with him knowing that my fairytale wedding was never going to materialize. As the salty tears made their descent, I thought about what the coming months would bring and struggled with the idea of leaving the only person who knew my innermost thoughts and all my good and bad habits. And I thought of all the little gems I had learned about Jackson over the years. I knew how he took his coffee in the morning and which pillow he slept on. I had seen his fists clench in rage and watched his eyes light up when he played with his niece. He was still fascinating and handsome to me. Would I ever find this again? Would he?

8 Comments… add one
evelina January 19, 2010, 12:54 PM

this is the greatest writing i have read…ever! (it seems ) i am hanging on the edge of my seat and feeling a longing to be sitting with you as you tell me in person…but mayb this is the best way to catch up, and meet you in a better place when we see eachother for drinks 😉
im really impressed with your stength.

Lillian January 22, 2010, 1:07 PM

I am SO PROUD OF YOU for getting this all out. You are an incredible writer and beautiful soul. I hope you get everything out of this experience that you have hoped for. . . AND MORE!! 🙂 MUAH!

Sarah Blackwood January 23, 2010, 6:23 PM

Chars, you are such a talented writer!! (BTW I love how you had little section titles throughout–a neat touch.) Anyway, you wrote all of this with your heart and I definitely felt every single word. I’m so glad you’re putting this out there for others to read/identify with, and you can believe I’ll be going through every single one of them! I love you, girl!! :-)))

nicole January 26, 2010, 10:16 AM

love you sweetie…i’m going to pass this on.

Shana February 9, 2010, 3:17 PM

I went through this with a boyfriend. He never wanted to marry. I totally did. I loved him more than anything and he was baffled at why I would leave. I didn’t think I would ever get over it and I was sad for a long time. But I survived and so will you and you will find someone else.

As for engagement pressure…I get that now. I’ve been with my boyfriend for 9 years and it’s constant. He gets no pressure. At all. It’s really unfair. People don’t realize they are doing it. I’ve finally told them to leave it alone. We are good, we bought a house together, we are happy. Leave it alone. It will happen.

Hang in there. So glad I found your blog!

Andrea February 16, 2010, 3:37 PM

This is a great example of turning something bad into something touchingly beautiful. Even if Prince Charming turned rather into Kermit the Frog in the end, we do have to credit him for helping to unleash such a marvelously written blog.
Keep up the good work, you have a unique talent!

Lindsay @ Just My Blog November 4, 2010, 9:07 AM

What an amazingly well-told story of a time that is clearly very difficult for you to relive. I’m glad I came back in the archives and got to read this. You are a great writer and I will certainly be reading more.
.-= Lindsay @ Just My Blog´s last blog ..I’m sick and broke Super =-.

Pierre December 2, 2010, 9:49 PM

This was such an amazing opening. I cannot wait to read the rest of your blog and see how it all plays out. You have an amazing way with words and paint such a picture as you tell what happened.

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