June 24, 2014
I was 22 and very much in love. But the guy I was in love with was in love with me—and another woman. And he was boomeranging between her, a gorgeous, aspiring model in New York City, and me, a short, bookish creative-writing graduate student in the Midwest engaged to someone else (who wasn’t particularly a nice guy, but that’s another story). The guy I was in love with was in school with me, and I couldn’t believe he was picking me over her—I didn’t yet have self-esteem—so despite my misgivings over how out of control it all felt, I broke off my engagement to my fiancé. And he broke things off with his model girlfriend.
Now it was just the two of us, seeing each other.
Or that’s how it was supposed to go—until I discovered he’d spent New Year’s Eve with her. I was in another city visiting an old roommate; he was on a road trip to see his friends. But she was apparently among the friends he was seeing, and he’d “forgotten” to tell me. They’d started seeing each other again—unbeknownst to me.
In hindsight I shouldn’t have been surprised. What’s that saying? A leopard doesn’t change his spots. But wasn’t I a leopard, too? Yes, I didn’t sleep with him until I’d broken it off with my fiancé, but there was a gray area there somewhere, and I stood right in the middle of it. When I finally severed our connection—he told me he couldn’t make a choice between her and me, so I told him I’d make his choice for him—I felt unburdened. Heartbroken, yes. Calmer, too. Finally, a chance to be alone. No fiancé with anger-management problems. No philandering boyfriend. Just me. Hello, Jhoanna, nice to meet you.
And then the phone calls came.
“I just wanted to let you know I was thinking of you.” The message on the answering machine was plaintive. He sounded deflated, exhausted. I called him back.
“Don’t do it,” my roommate warned. I started dialing.
“Are you still with her?” I asked. He sighed. Yes, he was, but he was sick to his stomach from missing me. He couldn’t sleep. I hung up the phone. I was exhausted, too. We had made the mistake of signing up for the same classes in the new semester, so I couldn’t exactly avoid him. I was seeing him twice a week.
He looked like shit. Bags under his eyes, shirt untucked, a five-o’-clock shadow on his face. Usually one to move discussions in a thoughtful direction—and I thought this before we were even involved—he hardly had much to say. Sometimes, I caught him staring. When our eyes met he’d give me a nod, a tentative smile. I tried not to respond. His loss, I’d say, even if I didn’t believe it. He wrote me a letter on two pages of yellow loose leaf, line after line a declaration of love and regret, the stuff of movies. I can’t stop thinking about you, he scrawled. It felt like he meant it.
I was touched. Wow, he is really hurting so much. And also this: Wow, he must love me so much. Because that’s the way I thought back then. The level of post-breakup pain has a direct correlation to how much you’re loved.
Cue the Twitter-verse:
C’mon Paula. Take him back already.
Get her back boo! #Getherback
Man. This made me cry. I pray they can work it out. #fixitjesus #GodRestores #robinthicke #getherback
After listening to @robinthicke new single #GetHerBack, I’m rooting for him to win Paula Patton back!
So is @robinthicke’s whole new album really about @PaulaPattonXO??? If so, you doin’ the right thing son...#GetHerBack!!!!!!!!!!!!! ^_^
As you may have heard, pop singer Robin Thicke’s trying to get his wife, actress Paula Patton, back. (Or, rather, #GetHerBack ). He lost her sometime early this year—not that she was “his” to lose in the first place—somewhere between the misogynistic video he filmed for “Blurred Lines,” that frustratingly catchy date-rapey hit song he recorded that turned him from an R&B crooner known for being madly in love with the woman he met in high school to the suited louche posing for a pic with his hand on the backside of a blonde woman who’s very much not his wife—the wife he met in high school.
Perhaps that photo did get to her. Or perhaps she got sick of the posturing. When asked about the controversy over “Blurred Lines” in Elle magazine, her husband said this with a straight face: “People say, ‘Hey, do you think this is degrading to women?’ I’m like, ‘Of course it is. What a pleasure it is to degrade a woman. I’ve never gotten to do that before. I’ve always respected women’.” He also told The Independent that he wrote the song for Paula because, “She’s my good girl. And I know she wants it because we’ve been together for 20 years.” How romantic.
This past February, Paula dropped him like a mike. “We will always love each other and be best friends, however, we have mutually decided to separate at this time,” they told People magazine in an exclusive statement that made it seem like they were both on the same page. No blurred lines there.
Or maybe he still sees them everywhere. Now Robin Thicke has shed the sneer and swagger and traded it in for naked vulnerability. He has named his new album, “Paula,” and the first song is, yes, the transparently titled (and hashtag-ready) “Get Her Back.” (That he seems intent on doing so as part of the release of his new album is surely a coincidence, isn’t it?) “All I wanna do is make it right, make it right, is make you smile tonight,” he intones. The video for the song is a stark contrast to its peppy vibe (more blurred lines again): mournful, black and white and shadows with Thicke bearing literal bruises and wounds. The level of post-breakup pain has a direct correlation to how much you’re loved, right?
Maybe when you’re 22 and you don’t know any better and had just extricated yourself from a woeful engagement to a man with anger issues only to look to another guy with a girlfriend. Or maybe when you’re 22 and you don’t quite know who you are and haven’t yet figured out that love isn’t measured by insistent voicemails, anguished letters, sleepless nights, and longing stares across a room.
Or maybe not at all. Certainly not when you’re a 37-year-old man who admits to having screwed up his marriage to the mother of your child.
I don’t know when exactly my thinking changed. But I know that one day, when my ex followed me down the hallway and into the women’s bathroom during a break in class to tell me once more that he “just had to talk” about what happened and how he “couldn’t stop thinking” of me, I was done. (Yes, he was still with his girlfriend.) I wanted him to leave me alone so I could go wash my hands in peace. I wanted him to leave me alone. It was suddenly clear to me, under that harsh fluorescent light amid all the other women giving him the side-eye as they left the stalls, that all his angsting had nothing to do with me, or with loving me. He was making so much noise, so to speak, he wasn’t even listening to me. He couldn’t hear me. Who needs love like that?
Listen, I get it. I was weaned on movies that trumpet grand romantic gestures. Many women—and men—have been, too. I dreamed of meeting my own personal Lloyd Dobler from Say Anything, someone who’d hoist his boombox above his head in the middle of the night to let me know, via a Peter Gabriel song, that he adored me. I wanted a Patrick (well, a Heath Ledger, actually) from 10 Things I Hate About You who’d hijack the P.A. system at school to serenade me. Or a Harry who met Sally and ran the streets of New York fast to find her because “when you find the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, you want the rest of your life to start right now.” Ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no river wide enough, ain’t no valley low enough, to keep the love of your life from you. How else do you think we’ve arrived at a time when asking someone to the prom demands a Hollywood-ready storyline and a film crew (or an iPhone) to document the entire thing?
Dating’s hard. Marriages, harder still. Twenty-one years after that crazy semester with the angsty ex-boyfriend, I don’t claim to be an expert. (To his credit, he finally did back off after that bathroom incident. And apologized to boot.) I don’t know what the best course of action is for a woman, famous or not, who has a husband loudly and publicly lobbying for a reunion. I’m sure she doesn’t care what I, or anyone else outside of the marriage, think. Nor should she.
But here’s my two cents. I suggest Robin Thicke turn down the noise, turn up the therapy, and repair, repair, repair. Privately. Or move on. Cry her a river. Quietly. You are not entitled to “win” her back. Your campaign is no courtship, it’s creepy. Not to mention opportunistic. Take heed of one Twitter user, who advises: “Robin Thicke needs to stop trying to profit off of the relationship he ruined #GetHerBack #MoreLikeLoseHerFaster.”
And to Paula Patton I say this: If you must, take your husband back only if you really want to. If you really think it’s for the best. (That wouldn’t be my choice, but I don’t have to live with the guy and his music.) Not because he has an army of hash-taggers taking up his cause. Not because he’s got a (misinformed) audience collectively sighing “aww.” Not because he’s made a gesture so grand, it threatens to suffocate you in its wake.