I married my high school boyfriend. I was a teenager hopelessly entangled in the eyelashes that framed his blue eyes, and then love happened. I won’t pretend that our relationship was without obstacles. I have a flair for drama, after all, so nothing I do is free from the colorful moments of my extreme emotions.
But I don’t have a history littered with stories of bad-boy crushes or agonizing tales of time spent with the wrong men that define so many women’s growings up. There were a smattering of crushes, sure, but nothing that makes me shudder or sneaks into my psyche when the lights and my mood are low.
Despite that, I’ve known heartache. I’ve known relationships that reshaped the way I saw myself–unrequited love and lost love and feigned love. These relationships weren’t with boys or men, though. They were friendships with other girls and women. These are the relationships I mourn or sigh with relief about in the same way mawkish actresses do about men in Romantic Comedies.
While all the wounds have closed, something remains like an achey joint that comes before the rain.
When Jessica Smock reached out to me to read and review the latest anthology she and Stephanie Sprenger compiled and edited, My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends, I happily agreed. And then I wondered if my heart could take page after page of lost love. Would these women’s stories reopen my own wounds until the dull ache burned like it once did?
I risked it. I started to read.
I got lost in the stories and absolutely intoxicated by the language. Sentences strung together, so artfully crafted, held my attention and sometimes my breath. Chelsea Schott’s piece “Delilah” kept me up at night in the way outstanding story telling should. I told my mother about it. I shared it with my husband. I wanted to tell everyone because it’s art–gut-wrenching art. Mary Wanser’s essay is so raw I raced through it to see how it would end, and then I read it again because I simply had to. The honesty of Dorothy O’Donnell’s contribution spoke to me as a mother and a human being who savors connections. And with every essay I read, I wanted more.
Within the pages of this anthology, I saw myself as a victim and a villain. I found stories that resonated with me because they felt something like a memory I had and others that made my ears ring in disbelief.
In My Other Ex, the catharsis is palpable–the writers’ and the readers’. The wounds I feared would reopen, the dull ache I worried would grow stronger–did, but the guilt and shame fell away.
While I reeled in the details and profound emotion of this book, I began to feel myself heal.