I was sitting in my sister’s garage in Jacksonville Florida late one night. The air there is thick and lays heavy on your shoulders and you can taste the humidity. I sat on a chair in the middle of her empty garage. I watched the palmetto roaches run from one hidden spot to the next as I sat for hours talking to Alex.
During that conversation he asked me about my past relationships. Specifically, what I had done physically with other guys. Now, having grown up and met in a very religious setting, we both had strict moral codes we were supposed to abide by and it actually wasn’t unheard of to have these kind of talks especially if you were serious with someone. I can count on both hands the number of discussions just like this with half a dozen guys I seriously dated in college.
The topic always made me wary. I would choose my words carefully and gloss over situations because I honestly didn’t think it was the current boyfriends business. If he wanted to know my standing and beliefs in God, that was one thing. But to put past mistakes and intimate situations under his scrutiny – I knew was wrong.
I told Alex breifly of my past, making sure he understood I was not perfect and I had made mistakes. He didn’t want that version. He began pressing me for graphic details of intimate nights with my previous boyfriend. At this point I was crying with embarrassment and shame. Who wants to talk about intimicay with an ex?! Who wants to know the things he was asking?!
He flat out asked if we had sex. I lied. I said no. It wasn’t any of his business, I thought. And I knew he would be mad if I told him the truth. I didn’t want him to worry about something so meaningless and trivial to me. I never thought about my ex. Why should Alex worry?
After I returned to Portland from Florida, I decided to move. I left in a fit of romance in the middle of the night and drove to Utah to be with Alex. But that one conversation in the garage only spawned a thousand tear filled conversations on the subject once I lived closer.
We had almost nightly fights about my past relationships. Usually they started with soft, encouraging words. He told me he just wanted to know everything about the person he was going to call his wife. Past and present. That seemed fair. I wanted to know too. But then conversations would morph into loud accusations as he claimed I was lying about the nature of my sexual encounters because I wouldn’t be graphic enough. A few times he made me reinact the acts with him to show just how far it’d gone.
It was humiliating. I felt like such a piece of trash. I couldn’t believe he was still willing to marry me. I was beyond grateful to him for still wanting me after all I’d done and how impure I was.
Let me pause this story to explain how just 5 months prior to this exact scenario, I was living in my dream city in Portland, embarking on new adventures everyday, meeting tons of new friends, and the happiest I’d ever been in my life. I was carving out my place in the world and knew exactly who I was and loved every inch of myself and my life. I would not have recognized this crying girl with no shoes on begging Alex to love her and berating herself daily for mistakes she made almost ten years ago.
After these arguements and more revelations about my colorful past emerged, Alex almost always called off the wedding. He’d throw my stuff in the garbage and say he didn’t want me. It would takes hours/days of pleading and crying and more discussion to move past it. I can’t remember now how many times I pulled our wedding announcements out of the trash bins and carefully smoothed out wrinkles and dog eared corners.
My family thought everything was dandy. They had spoken to Alex and met him. My father sat with him in a Mexican restaurant as Alex asked for my had in marriage. Wedding plans were coming along and everything was set. Flights were booked and venue paid for. This was the only issue we argued about. One tiny thing. I thought for sure he would move past it once we were married. Surely he wouldn’t call his wife a “slut”. Not the mother of his children. He would move past it, I’m sure. Just a matter of time…