I was flipping through channels recently. I stumbled on “Ghost of Girlfriends Past.” Its a cheesy movie about a cheesy guy getting a glimpse through the holes of his cheese as he relives the experiences that shaped his journey in adult relationships. It was disturbing. I watched as life shaped a distorted view of love for the hero. I watched him react to pain, hurt, insecurity in the only way he knew how and it served to hurt him worse. He grew up to be a player. He drank to escape. He was crude. He slept around solely for physical gratification. He pretended to be on top of the world, he was miserable.
I flashed on my life of dating. There was a girl in 4th grade. I will call her Cheryl Lopez. In fourth grade we guys would bend our legs and walk around squatted down. We would say we were kids and hold hands with girls and call them mom. It was a way to hold hands with girls. It worked. I never got to date or kiss Cheryl. I was placed firmly in the friend zone. In a few years, she would be popular and date only jocks (I was a round kid). I think that instead of thinking about that as a success, ie I had made a friend that I would talk to for decades after that, occasionally. I thought of it as a failure. I thought I wasn’t good enough, or macho enough, or manly enough to be of interest to her.
There was another girl, I will call her Sherie. I got up the nerve to ask Sherie to be my girlfriend. I walked over to her house and hung out for hours with her and her friend. I wanted to finally get to kiss a girl. I never asked, I never tried. When I got home, she called and said her friend thought I wanted a kiss. She said I could come back. I was embarrassed. She asked why I didn’t ask. I felt stupid. I didn’t go back. Instead of learning to be direct and open about what I was feeling or my needs, I learned that my hopes and desires were embarrassing and shameful.
In middle school, I was attracted to two girls at same time. I had been ‘going out’ with Vickie (not her name) for a whole week. She would kiss, but that is all. I thought I was supposed to deserve more and when Wanda suggested she did more, I went with her. Problem was, I didn’t tell Vickie. I wanted to be liked. Instead of learning to follow my heart and not my boy parts, I learned to ‘cover my six.” I learned deceit. I learned to hide.
In high school, Tracy broke my heart. We dated for quite awhile. She was returning to her home town for Spring Break. She broke up with me just in case this cute guy from a year before would ask her out. I learned I was not worthy of sticking fast too.
In college, Tammy said she had to keep me a secret from her parents because they liked her ex boyfriend so much. When I finally met the parents, she ridiculed me for not being outgoing and enthusiastic about her brothers basketball game. I learned that I was worthy of being ashamed about and I was not good enough.
I got married. We hid our disagreements. I escaped into alcohol. When I tried to stop escaping, I was rejected. There was no time and no desire to work on learning to relate. I learned I wasn’t worthy of hard work. I learned that my opinions and feelings were unsatisfactory. I learned I was bad and wrong. I reacted to that and proved it to be true.
I am scared of what I learned. I am fighting my false teachings. I want to learn love. I want to receive and give it. I want to be who my heart says I am. I want to rejoice in love, in God, in life. I want to be all of me and have that be enough—not for someone else, but enough for me.
In the movie, the love of his life asks him to choose, “Stay and stay forever where you want to be, or leave and leave forever.” HE left. I left. I want to stop leaving who I am and be very real.
I am Spartacus.