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30 Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know by the Time She's 30
By Pamela Redmond Satran
HyperionCopyright © 2012 Condé Nast
All right reserved.
Chapter OneOne old boyfriend you can imagine going back to and one who reminds you of how far you've come.
BY GENEVIEVE FIELD
I'm about to make a big promise: This item, the very first on The List, can bring you lasting happiness in love, and self-acceptance, too.
Of course, I only know so in retrospect, which is too bad because I really could've used a little love wisdom back in 2001, when I was thirty-one and guiltily wearing a diamond-studded platinum engagement ring I feared I didn't deserve. I was tortured about love back then, in part because of my rocky romantic history; if you'd told me then that that history had made me a better person, not a less love-worthy one, I'd have told you to have another drink.
I'd been in a couple healthy relationships, sure. There was even a high school sweetheart I sometimes thought of as my Mr. Almost—a lanky, towheaded basketball player I could've ended up marrying in an alternate universe where only his kindness and hotness and devotion to me (not his political views, antithetical to mine) mattered. But since then I'd had high-drama and often misguided relationships, and now I was having real doubts that I could be the happily-ever-after bride my fiancé, Ted, saw in me.
It wasn't that I was having doubts about him. I was crazy about Ted, had fought off a bunch of art-school babes for him. After all, he was funny, sensitive, wildly creative, and he had the softest brown-eyed gaze I'd ever stared into. So yes, I longed to start a life with this man and, yes, to have his babies. And yet lately I'd been staying up later than him, sometimes hours later, lying in the dark on the sofa in our tiny apartment, watching the shadows of a gingko tree flutter on our white brick walls. I told myself it wasn't getting married I was worried about; it was everything else. It had been an epic year. I'd quit (with a fair share of attitude and no parachute) a big-deal job at a business I'd cofounded with my now ex; I'd had a cancer scare and contemplated my own mortality for the first time; the World Trade Center had been attacked (and was still smoldering less than a mile away from our home); and I was planning my wedding.
"Genny, come to bed!" Ted would whisper from the other side of the bookshelf that separated our "bedroom" from our "living room." And I would. And he would take off my tank top and press his beating heart against mine and I would feel better—until about 3 a.m., that is, when I'd awaken from some apocalyptic dream in a clammy sweat, thinking those thoughts again: What if I can't control the future of my marriage any more than I can control the future of this planet? What if I have a midlife crisis and cheat on Ted the way Married cheated on his wife—with me?
Oh, let me tell you about Married. He's my version of The List's "one who reminds you of how far you've come." He'd been out of my life for eight years by the time I got engaged (I'd been in college when we had whatever it was we had), but he'd been weighing heavily on my mind ever since Ted and I decided to marry. God, in school I'd been obsessed with him—this married older man who acted anything but married. He said his wife had fallen out of love with him and was probably seeing someone else too. I accepted this justification unquestioningly, then split ways with my disapproving roommates and rented my own place so I could be alone with him every opportunity we, or rather he, got. He would only come after dark, hiding his motorcycle in the bamboo thicket outside my fence and glancing over his shoulder as he crossed my threshold. (Did I hate the secrecy or thrive on it? I think both. Isn't it always both?) He delivered his kisses like drugs, and I accepted them, swam in their chemical glow. It was only when he wasn't there that I thought about his wife. Where was my conscience as we sped through the rain on that bike, laughing? Where was my self-respect when I snapped at him to "stay with me tonight!"? Could I lose my bearings so easily again?
One evening, about a month before my wedding, I sat down with a new but close friend, Ashley, and recounted this ignoble chapter in my life: my inability to stop myself, Married's many lies, his wife's pain when she learned the truth. "Can I do this?" I asked Ash. "Can I be trusted with Ted's heart when I've been such a shit?"
My wise-beyond-her-years friend then said something I've never forgotten: "You can't change your past, but you can change your mind about your past."
Excerpted from 30 Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know by the Time She's 30 by Pamela Redmond Satran Copyright © 2012 by Condé Nast. Excerpted by permission of Hyperion. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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