It was dark, there in my Pit of Despair® and I wanted it that way.
My first boyfriend, J, whom I knew was The One and who loved me with every beat of his 14-year-old heart and I loved him and we were going to spend the rest of our lives together because our relationship had already consumed my very soul with its fire and passion (which to that point had amounted to energetically holding hands during the Saturday matinee at the Chris-Town Theaters), had just done the unthinkable and broken up with me.
(I realize that I just dated myself, but at that miserable junction in my life, dating myself seemed like the only viable option I was ever going to have.)
I was bereft, hiding in the dark and crying for hours into my pillow because I knew that my tears were the only thing that could extinguish all that fire and passion so I would quit feeling as if I were being roasted alive, flame by searing flame.
I always did have a flair for the melodramatic.
I was a bit surprised when my mom ventured into my Pit of Despair® that night. Her style had always been more hands-off, so I was even more startled when she sat on the edge of the bed where I lay sobbing and started talking, almost as if to herself.
She related a long story about how years before she had broken up with the boy she had thought was The One, complete with theatrical love letter-burning in her own Pit of Despair®, which of course was ridiculous because everyone knows that mothers don’t break up and they certainly don’t cry over boys and they don’t know doodly about fire and passion.
I never stopped to consider how someone with no fire or passion wound up with five kids.
But she kept talking, and offered the most useful piece of advice, ever: “You feel horrible right now, but I promise that you won’t feel horrible forever. This will pass. But if you do something stupid now to get J to like you again, the embarrassment will last forever.”
And wonder of wonders, she was right. I know now: if you weepily telephone your ex-beloved’s home 24 times a day until his father changes their number, 36 years later your all-consuming love for J (whom your father had accurately classified as a “nimrod”) will have all the sepia-toned quality of your great-grandparents’ wedding pictures but you will still feel the sting of humiliation as if you had just speed-dialed this morning.
So emotions are like radioactive isotopes: They have varying half-lives. Laughter is like a soap bubble in that it lasts just a minute, but leaves a residue of rainbows; your humiliation will be showing up on carbon-14 dating when the dinosaurs walk the earth again.
In fact, the only emotions with a longer lifespan are the pride and admiration I feel for mom and dad, she of the great advice and he who recognized a nimrod when he saw one.
Because they recently celebrated their wedding anniversary, a testimony to a fire and passion that, so far, has a half-life of at least 60 years. With no Pit of Despair®.
Ahwatukee Foothills resident Elizabeth Evans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears monthly.