The best gift I ever got from a boyfriend was a shoebox.
A shoebox covered in a collage of cool magazine ad tear-outs of couples (in lieu of wrapping paper).
I have no recollection of the gift originally presented inside the box, but I love that goddamn clipping-covered shoe box and will treasure it always. Partly because it took a lot for him to show affection and partly because it was a handmade, one-of-a-kind thing. I'm sure he didn't see it that way. And he would probably be shocked that I saved the thing. But it reminds me that he felt the love. And that's a good thing.
It seems only fitting that since then I've repurposed the shoebox to store mementos from past relationships (or near-relationships), like a real keepsake box. Well, a keepsake box that used to hold some dude's sneakers.
I skew sentimental about certain stuff, so have saved notes and cards and a few ticket stubs and the like. In the past, when I've been in a dry spell of singleness, I've pulled the box out to remind myself that I am loveable. But mostly I keep it because having those little relationship artifacts helps me remember the people *I've* loved.
I recently decided to brush off the box and look inside again after a long period of neglect. I was surprised at some of the stuff I found in there.
A few of the souvenirs:
- A "Should I marry _______" list.
I remember at the time I wrote this list, I was terribly confused if I was with the right guy or not. We'd been dating a couple of years, and were even engaged for six months, but I'd told him I needed time to think. Funny thing is, I wrote the list out in a laundromat, which seems tacky and careless in retrospect, but, hey, it's when I had the time, OK? So get off my case. (Why does hardly anyone say, "Get off my case" anymore?) Rereading the list made me chuckle. Not because it was frivolous or anything, because it wasn't, but now I see *so* clearly it was the wrong place for me to be (the relationship, not the laundromat—although I really hate laundromats).
- A card from my first boyfriend after our first "wet kiss."
OK, I won't even mention what age I was when this went down, because I was an embarassingly late bloomer due to my incredible shyness. I was petrified of dating and guys, although I really wanted to have a boyfriend. This first boyfriend of mine had been really patient with me as I learned the ropes of dating, including stomaching my insensitive hints that I might not be that attracted to him. Anyway, his patience won the day and he was so thrilled that he'd melted my ice cap, he sent a note of celebration via snail mail (somehow very fitting, actually).
- A short story co-written over email
When I was first crushing on a certain coworker back in the day, I somehow came up with the scheme that we'd write a short story together over email, kinda exquisite corpse-style. We took turns writing one paragraph at a time and did a little ping-pong exchange like this until the story took form. I have to say, there was something strangely erotic about the back and forth of it. And I believe it a major reason we eventually became a pair. After we finished the tale, we performed it together in a live reading to a handpicked group of coworkers on Valentine's Day inside of our VP's empty office. I think the French call that "romantique," but I'm too lazy to Google it to confirm.
- Emails of apology
When the internet was relatively young, I "met" a hilarious lad via our online journals (now often referred to by the terribly unattractive term "blog"). While he and I lived in different countries (yes, I said countries), we somehow decided to give things a go romantically. Unfortunately, the road blocks seemed to be endless and one big misunderstanding left me with an unused plane ticket and a broken heart. We smoothed things over as friends and remain friends still, but when I revisted our emails during this ex box archeological dig, I was incredibly touched. I had forgotten small details and how sweetly he apologized and expressed his affection. I have to say, I got a little misty-eyed.
- A photo in an airport
I'm going to start to sound like a blog ho, but I met this particular feller via our online journals as well. And since he was another long-distance dude (at least within state lines this time), it seems fitting that one of the only mementos I have from our relationship is a crumpled photo of us in an airport. We look totally ecstatic. I think it was "day two" of being in the same place at the same time. I remember my sister took the photo and she thought I was crazy to be dating so far from home. The Southwest terminal was full of our nervous, infatuated energy. Apropos that it was mostly past baggage that got in the way of that connecting flight.
- Emails from a missed connection
OK, I can kinda, sorta reveal the *real* reason I was dusting off the box. I know, I know, you saw this coming, but there was once another potential paramour who I'd met via our online writing. (Take-away: Do your English homework, kids!) He recently reappeared in my inbox (pleasant surprise, I must say), so I wanted to revisit our notes of several years ago to retrace the steps. To read my younger self writing to his younger self was really entertaining and eye-opening. I had to cringe a few times at my cloyingly chipper tone, but I also grinned a few times at an occasional witty turn of phrase or three.
So what have we learned from all this? Mostly that while as cute and loveable as that former me could be, I'm very glad I'm the older, wiser me now. And it's nice to have a shoebox that will always remind me of that.