Lately, I've been obsessed with the website My Very Worst Date. It's incredibly entertaining reading about these situations people got themselves into and what some people think is acceptable behavior. Most of the stories have a couple of things in common: they are first dates, they haven't met before the date (internet or a blind date), and after the date someone becomes too clingy and all communication has to be cut off. My very worst date was none of those things.
My very worst date happened with my ex. We had been dating over four and a half years and things were quickly unraveling. Summer was approaching and since we were both working out of state (on different sides of the country), I just tried to suck it up and naively thought things would be better after the summer was over. We were fighting every single day but we put that aside to have one more date before we went separate ways for the summer.
Some of the details really stick with me, like the fact that I drove and that we went to Macaroni Grill for dinner. We had been seated at a table in the middle of the restaurant, surrounded by other diners. We had ordered and were picking at the rosemary bread when everything shifted.
A little bit of back story is necessary here. A couple days before this day, I had been inducted into an Honors fraternity for engineers. Inductees were chosen based on their grades and we all went through an initiation process, culminating in an initiation ceremony. I was very proud to be a member, even though it wasn't much beyond resume filler, but I was one of the youngest members and I was excited to be part of it.
Anyway, sitting in the middle of this kind-of Italian restaurant, he asked me about the initiation ceremony. And like any good initiation ceremony, it had been a sworn-to-secrecy sort of event. So, naturally, I made some sort of joke about how it was a secret and I had sworn not to tell (which was true). And suddenly, it was like some sort of switch flipped in his brain.
He starts talking about how, in relationships, you shouldn't have any secrets from one another. Thinking this was still some sort of light-hearted discussion, I responded with how absurd I thought that was. I don't think you should actively try to hide things from one another, but some stuff you just shouldn't HAVE TO tell each other.
Things start to get more tense as he begins to lose control of the volume of his voice. While he's not yelling, it's quickly heading that direction and I become very aware of the people around us glancing over. He starts going on and on about how we have different views about relationships and how he can't believe that I would WANT to have secrets from him and how it isn't healthy.
Now maybe this was my mistake in thinking there was any room for debate in this conversation, and that it was a conversation rather than an excuse to yell at me for something yet again, but I kept trying to argue my point because there was no way in hell I was going to tell him everything. Although I didn't say it, but if he thought I was going to, he was crazy.
This initiation ceremony has now become a huge symbol in our relationship and neither of us were going to back down. He was insecure because he had never been invited to join the fraternity. His grades weren't good enough and it was just another slap in the face as to how his younger, female girlfriend was better than he was. To me, I was protecting everything I had never told him. To this day, I can think of dozens of things I haven't told my husband, not because I'm hiding it, but because he just doesn't need to know. And if he ever did, I would tell him. And there's no way anyone could expect to make me feel bad for this belief.
Anyway, people are starting to stare and I finally realize this isn't a debate or an argument. No matter what I say, no matter how correct or how rational, he refuses to listen. After yelling his point home a few more times, he quiets himself and tells me that either I tell him what happened at the initiation ceremony or we're done.
It felt like the air was being knocked out of me when I realized he was giving me an ultimatum.
I excused myself, with my purse, to the restroom. Once inside, I just started sobbing, panic stricken, because I had no clue what to do. Once I calmed down, I called my mom because I was so lost. She told me she couldn't tell me what to do. To this day, I'm still a little bitter that she just didn't tell me to hide in the ladies room until she came to the restaurant and took me home. I just wasn't strong enough to walk out on my own. I was only 20 years old and we'd been together so long that he was all I knew.
This is the thing that bugs me most, thinking back on this story, is that I should have just left him. I should have just snuck out of the restaurant to my car (because I drove!) and left him in the restaurant. When he would have finally gotten ahold of me, I would have told him that I choose the option where we're done and ended things.
But I wasn't that strong, so I went back to the table once my eyes went back to normal. It wasn't brought up again and we ate our food in awkward silence.
Once dinner was over, I drove him back to his parent's house to drop him off. But before getting out of my car, he wanted an answer. In a great twist of irony, I had one of my greatest ideas to date. I knew what his grades were. I knew he was never going to be asked to join this fraternity. I could tell him about the initiation ceremony, but he'd never have any way of knowing if it were the truth. No one else in the fraternity would tell him.
So I lied. I created an elaborate, fake ceremony and he bought it, hook, line, and sinker. He wanted to know one of my secrets and all he did was create one more.
After that, I did my best to avoid him until I left for the summer. We managed to have one more gigantic fight before I escaped, preventing me from saying good bye to my mom, and I finally realized that I couldn't handle all his drama anymore. Fortunately, the summer work experience introduced me to a wonderful group of people and they helped me realize how strong I could really be.
And for all the crap he'd given me, I dumped his ass over the phone two days before he came back to town. People ask me sometimes if I feel bad for dumping him the way I did, but I think back to times like the one in the Macaroni Grill and I really don't feel bad at all. At least I understood that I should probably feel bad, he never showed any remorse for all the bullshit he put me through. And once I was free, you cannot imagine how good it felt to twist the knife whenever he tried to weasel his way back into my life.