I avoided telling my family about my most recent break-up, as they would simply roll their eyes and say: here we go again. But I'm telling you: this one was different. In fact so different that he was IMAGINARY (well sort of).
The guy I broke up with insisted I call him my boyfriend early-on, even though we hadn't yet connected in-person (although we had met earlier in life). He now lives on the West Coast and I live on the East Coast. I couldn't accept at that point that he was a real boyfriend so instead I set about to both call him my imaginary boyfriend and then to actually construct one (you know with pillows and what-not and I slept next to him and ok yes, I even talked to him and occasionally kissed him good night. There's nothing wrong with that...).
And he became known to us affectionately as IBF. And IBF cemented a kind of secret language between me and him (the real guy) which was sweet, intimate, fun and helped smooth some of the rough edges created by the distance. I know you think I sound a little (uhm) off. But please let me explain -- when geography separates someone whose aim is to court you, there are a lot of things one can do to become closer. And to be clear, my intention was to eventually replace IBF in favor of an RBF. That said, in retrospect, I had no idea what I was in store for and what I was going to be up against. In fact, I am not sure either of us could have anticipated what was to follow as we both were excited about the makings of an initial, almost magnetic attraction.
Here's the story: I reconnected with this guy on Facebook. We went to school together (but didn't know each other well). He had been married and is now divorced with kids. Warm and tender --- he was those things plus smart, communicative (or so I thought), athletic, ambitious and hot, all of which is a dater's ideal profile. At the start, we exchanged a few FB msg's which were characterized by that rapid-fire excitement that can happen at the beginning of a relationship and then we quickly graduated to regular Yahoo email and then to text and then (OMG) we elevated the relationship to talking on the phone. So this virtual connection was actually moving it's way along into reality and it was an exhilarating, upward trajectory and inspiring at every turn. And when we finally got to the "phone stage" -- let me tell you: we talked and we talked and we talked and then we TALKED some more. (We must have logged in close to 100 hours of phone time over the course of our 2 month getting-to-know-each-other period). A strong connection was made. And we both agreed this sort of thing rarely (if ever) happens and we must go with its organic flow. Indeed, I got completely swept up in it and he indicated to me many times that he felt the same way and that in fact this could potentially be the start of a great romance.
Finally I said how about we get together. (My friends encouraged this as they were beginning to note I was essentially having a relationship with "a phone"). And he agreed that we could meet though he was less concerned about it than I was. So I had to nudge a bit. And thus we planned to meet. First over the summer (that didn't work out as he had a work conflict, ok that's legit), then a visit to NYC coming in Friday leaving Sunday (sounds good by me) that got can cancelled due to a family emergency (which while incredibly disappointed, I did actually understand and in fact we grew yet even closer from it). And oddly, despite a great talk, I didn't hear from him. (He kept saying he was gonna come, he was gonna come visit). And finally after one full week of radio silence (turns out, he was dealing with the on-going family emergency and embarrassed to reach out to me as a result of it), I reached out to him. Yes, we had another solid conversation -- full of more direct communication; I felt proud of the exchanges, think he did too and my friends actually applauded the effort and thought that this thing as a remote as it seemed -- based on the distance and how long it was taking to connect live -- might actually have some legs to move forward.
Then the idea (his idea) was to (uh-huh) reschedule. He begged me to get out my calendar and to set aside some dates for a visit. (Nota Bene: By this point I had to make him squirm just a little). And of course I had grown a bit weary and a tad impatient from this push/pull of the plan-making and said hmmm maybe we should take a break from this "meeting thing". (After all, I did get some cold feet from the previous series of cancellations but he pressed on and confidently insisted on it saying that he almost showed up to surprise me!). He then asserted, "I have to see you. Clear your schedule for a weekend that works for you; I'm coming to NYC -- you're stuck with me. It'll be fun". So I checked with my inner circle think tank and we approved this was good-to-go and that I had gone this far, made the investment -- that it was still worth checking out and having an in-person meeting. Thus a new date was established for 2 weeks away and the weekend schedule (ahem) cleared. And I high five-ed myself and my IBF (tee hee); I was very much looking forward to sharing that first meal with him and to toasting our good fortune with a Stella Artois, a Ketel One Martini or a glass of Iron Horse Chardonnay -- in fact I couldn't wait. I was euphoric; it actually felt like Christmas in October!
Cut to: Friday, his expected arrival, the same time of day for his ETA as the previous cancellation and guess what? He C-A-N-C-E-L-L-E-D by text! (Read: this is NOT a typo). My jaw literally dropped. Crestfallen, I felt like the bully at the grammar school playground had punched me hard in the stomach and knocked the wind out of me. I was all at once speechless and aghast. He said he was having problems with his ex. (There were custody issues that are painful and hard and nothing I would wish on my worst enemy). And that he would come Saturday INSTEAD of Friday. So of course I am waiting, waiting (and continuing to try to be supportive of his complex situation) and waiting (I did reach out a few times but to no avail) fully ready to re-meet this person that I had immersed myself in emotionally, mentally and intellectually.
AND to BOOT, I did not hear from him -- NADA; in fact, I N-E-V-E-R heard from him. And as of this writing I STILL haven't heard from him. Abysmal, unacceptable -- all those things, right? After all the various dark clouds of upset, brain fog and confusion passed, the anger and disgust started to set-in big time and it grew exponentially. And then something happened, a visceral click occurred: I snapped out of the make-believe and into the real -- for me, he had officially crossed a line. Such lines I am learning are personal and are drawn in the sand at different times for different people. And my line had arrived so I wasn't going to question it, but instead seize the momentum of this epiphany. And I gathered my senses, picked up my BlackBerry and my courage and did (finally) text him -- to inform him that we are done here and that I wished him the very best. (Upon reflection, I should have just simply written in Gossip-Girl-text speak: "WTF!").
And so you would say the man is scared, the man is a jerk and the man is I dunno pathetic? But looking at this openly, maturely and clearly: He is actually none of those things. He canceled (third cancel) because he got into a tight jam with his ex-wife which created an aggressive ripple effect and thus I got caught in the tidal wave, whipped around and forced to ride the turbulence -- just call me the collateral damage in this game of finding love. The thing is I know the guy cares for me in his heart. (And strikingly: I was having an almost full-blown relationship of sorts with a man I hadn't EVEN so much as held hands with or kissed! In fact, I BROKE UP with someone that I NEVER even DATED to begin with -- an ABSOLUTE first!). In my gut, I know he ultimately wants to do right by me. But somehow wanting to do right by me and only trying to make it happen just isn't enough -- ya gotta SHOW UP dude -- as Woody Allen says: "80% of success is indeed showing up". And when he (IBF aiming to be RBF) finally does summon the courage appear and to man-up if you will, I am sure I will more than likely be onto my next boyfriend and I know for sure he won't just be virtual or imaginary but 100 percent genuine -- for real!
Kim Jacobs lives and works in New York City and is on hiatus from dating imaginary boyfriends.