I’m not the first person who’s made alcohol-induced errors in judgment when it comes to men. But the number of errors I’ve committed in this arena would challenge the math brain.
It’s stupid at my age to fixate on the past. But I can trace where I am now to alcoholic excesses that started over 30 years ago, and that makes it hard to let it go.
The first major incident occurred in high school, when my partying was an issue for a boyfriend who I liked quite a bit. It reached a head one night at a party when he pointed at me across the room and in a very, shall we say, firm voice said, “You: smarten up!”
Unfortunately, I didn’t, and we broke up not long after that. In the ultimate case of Dumpee Syndrome, I rued his loss for 10 years. I did get past that eventually, and from what I know about him, I don’t think we would have been right together. While he has an attractive lifestyle that includes a wide circle of friends (including one of my best friends), he’s still conservative and I’m still wild at heart, a combo that would have caused ongoing problems. His wife seems lovely and easy-going, and she’s perfectly coifed and exquisitely dressed. Lovely though I am, I could never have been that wife.
I made a bigger debauched blunder at the end of my senior year of high school. The senior class, by tradition, descended on Cape Cod over Memorial Day weekend each year. Cape Weekend was hardly an official school event; kids brought coolers of alcohol, took over motels, and did enough damage that now no one under 21 can reserve their own room down the Cape.
My four girlfriends and I we were staying at the same motel as some guys who I’ll describe simply as popular. I knew some of them well but had never had a reason to talk to others. One guy in particular—Julian—showed an interest in me. We’d been in school together for six post-elementary school years but had never spoken.
Once we did, though, we hit it off. Each night, after spending the evening with our friends, he and I would slip away together, walk on the beach, and talk. I can’t remember what we talked about, but I do remember him lying back on the sand and my head on his broad chest, his arm around me, with the stars above and the sea roaring at our feet. We never kissed, but it was the most romantic and special time I think I’ve ever spent with a guy.
On the last night, we were gone a long time, and his date came looking for him and found us together. She scolded him, and he followed her back to join the others. She wasn’t his girlfriend, and he could have done something so he could be with me, but I was left alone on the beach instead. I wasn’t happy.
I went back to the motel, located the party room, and proceeded to get loaded enough that what followed was a blur, except I do remember making out with one of Julian’s friends. (I barely said two words to him, but he was cute and popular and blond, so cut me some slack.)
I wondered the next day if Julian could put what happened in perspective, holding out hope that I would hear from him once we got back to town, that the lovely times on the beach would outweigh a moment of inebriated stupidity at the motel. But he never called, and when I asked him to sign my yearbook at our end-of-year event, his note was frosty.
I currently have a casual acquaintance with Julian, who’s married, naturally. (I brought up the Cape episode once, and he professed to have no idea what I was talking about.) Unlike my finger-pointing boyfriend, though, I do think Julian and I would get along. When I talk to him, I’m reminded of how comfortable I felt with him on the beach. And I can’t help but hear echoes of the same words I said to myself the day after Cape weekend: I blew it.
It’s not Julian I’m self-flagellating about per se (I do not covet my neighbor’s wife) but the Julians I might have attracted had I not spent my prime mating years so pickled. It’s a mistake I can’t undo, and there’s no silver lining to it, which makes the magnitude of the regret just that much greater.