The One that Got Away

Posted: August 7th, 2006 | Author: | Filed under: Friends and Strangers, Husbandry | No Comments »

If there is one thing I am proud of myself about, it’s having gotten hip when I did to the kind of man who is fit for marryin’. Sure, there were other men in my life who at times I toyed with playing house with, but in my heart of hearts I knew they weren’t right. Some guys are fit for dalliances (even year-long ones), but not for reading the paper with over breakfast when you’re 65. Mark, thank God, is.

In college my friend Ben was my best male girlfriend. He was smart and sweet and even pretty damn cute. We’d while away long boring Gambier, Ohio afternoons in his room in the slightly dorky co-ed “society” he was in. I’d bemoan whatever romantic foible I was entertaining my psyche with at the time, and he’d listen, help me strategize, and then we’d analyze his crushes.

We were no fools though. Hot-blooded collegiates that we were, each of us at times considered the other as a potential girl/boyfriend, or at least a one-time conquest. But never at the same time, thankfully. And neither of us ever said or did anything in the times when we were feeling curious/smitten with the other—probably out of fear that one awkward kiss had the power to ruin a great friendship.

It worked out for us that those “what about him/her?” episodes made up the minority of time we spent together. Mostly, we watched a bad game show where kids did things like crawl between the pieces of bread in a 10-square-foot peanut butter and jelly sandwich in order to win cool prizes (the name of which I can’t believe I’ve forgotten), play drunken air guitar to ACDC, and lounge around chatting idly and snidely about nearly ever other person at our rural 1,400-student college. Ah, Ben.

Of course, the guys who I spent most of my time interested in were compelling to me because they were either A) not interested in me, B) clannish in that I-never-outgrew-boarding-school way, C) insensitive and immature, and D) cute. (At least they had one redeeming quality.) All in all, the social dichotomy between them and Ben served me well. The guys from the football fraternity were fun to swim in the fountain with (there was no fountain–that’s just my metaphor for hijinx). And Ben was fun to philosophize and gossip with in the sober light of day.

At one point in our senior year some smart gal got hip to all that Ben had to offer, and suddenly he became one of those guys who held hands with his serious girlfriend while walking down Middle Path. In what seemed like no time, we grew apart. Understandably, he had a new confidant, and she was probably not too keen about him spending time with me. I learned from the alumni magazine a while back that he married that woman not long after graduating, and at the time at least, they lived not far from where I do now.

Thinking about him tonight, more than I have in over a decade, I can’t help but be nostalgic. But I am happy that his memory doesn’t bring me a feeling of regret, which it might if I were single. It would be easy to label him “the one that got away,” and dozens of other gals from Kenyon probably do. In my teens I just didn’t have the foresight that his wife had to snatch up such a wonderful guy, such a keeper.

Thankfully, on my own timeline, I managed to smarten up and find a keeper of my own. When Mark and I go to his college friends’ weddings I always have a moment of realizing that some of the women we’re with look at Mark as the one that got away. It’s one of the things that makes me squeeze his arm a bit tighter when the bride and groom are exchanging their vows.

Lucky for me, I’m the one that gets to turn down the page of the newspaper at breakfast 30 years from now, and see him there.

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