One of the loneliest, most challenging activities and times of day for singles who’ve not yet met their JDate Beshert is climbing into that big empty bed, late at night, all alone. But that need not be the case. You see, even when I don’t have a current romantic partner, I’m never alone at night in my bed. Why? Because joining me are the living memories of my past failed relationships. Think of them as the singles version of the ghosts of Chanukah past. On cold, dark nights, I can almost hear their plaintive cries echoing off my walls: “We need to talk,” “I love you, but I’m not in love with you,” “It’s not you it’s me,” “What was I thinking?” or “Oh, would you mind shutting the door on your way out?”
If you’re already feeling down that you can’t even get a date, much less a lover, you need something to bolster your self-esteem. And what better for that than nightly visits from the ghosts of failed relationships past? You can relive, over and over again, in excruciating detail, every sad example of how you blew it romantically, which is why, after all, you’re now alone, climbing into that seven-mile-wide bed with the only person you’ve ever been able to please, the only person who truly understands you, the only person willing to put up with your many flaws and inadequacies – yes, you guessed it—yourself.
Just to prove to yourself that your inability to maintain a lasting relationship with a woman is not a random thing (that it is, in fact, a lifelong pattern of behavior), the evening’s first ghost/memory of relationships past is invariably one of your earliest, pre-pubescent relationships – say, Diane, an older woman. She was eight and I was seven. I was nuts about her, but the feeling wasn’t mutual – a pattern that would repeat itself again and again throughout my dating life. Of course, when you’re seven, there is no booze, drugs, therapists, or understanding male friends to help dull the pain. So instead of simply cutting my losses and walking away with a shred of dignity, I kept annoyingly trying to win Diane over until I eventually drove her to the point of calling me a jerk, an idiot, and a creep – to which I responded, and quite cleverly I thought in my seven year old mind, “Takes one to know one.”
Diane’s ghost fades to high school ghost Maureen. Truly lovely. So lovely, in fact, that I could not bring myself to even approach her. I felt unworthy. So I did the next best thing – the back of my house bordered the back of hers, and I watched her sunbathing through binoculars. Okay, so it wasn’t a traditional romantic relationship, but for a lonely 16 year old, it was plenty romantic. And she only caught me once.
Maureen ghost’s glare lasts only momentarily until the Rhonda ghost appears. Rhonda, age 22. Non-stop, steamy, pulse-pounding sex for hours every day. Hey, come on, the law of averages says they can’t all be dysfunctional disappointments.
I try to concentrate on the Rhonda ghost for as long as possible, but she is usually edged out of my mind by either the Kathy or the Emily ghosts. Kathy wanted someone with more income; Emily wanted someone more communicative. Occasionally, when I’m really in the mood for beating up on myself, the Kathy and Emily ghosts will hit it off, and walk off together, arm in arm, bad-mouthing me and giggling as they’re replaced by the next relationship that didn’t work out.
A reasonable person might ask why I torment myself this way, night after night, with the ghosts of my failed relationships. I think it has something to do with that old joke about why do you keep pounding your head against the wall – because it feels so good when I stop. When I wake up each morning, the ghosts are gone. It’s a clean slate. I’ve reviewed and learned from my life-long relationship mistakes the night before and am ready to face the new day – and the day’s new women – fresh and with joyous optimism. I am ready to make brand new mistakes, have new relationship ghost scenes play out, and learn even more lessons about romance. It’s my own singles version of The Lion King’s “Circle of Life.” And I hope to get it right, eventually.