I woke up this morning and focused on something in my room for a few minutes while my mind brushed off the haze. I have two photographs of me with my girlfriends. One of me and seven girls. And a different of me with three girls. When we’d taken the pictures a couple years ago almost everyone was single and now in both of them, I could cross off half as either married or almost married.
I didn’t even realize how much our group dynamic had shifted. Sometimes life moves in such small, natural increments, that you don’t even recognize when your entire world has changed.
A year ago this weekend, my ex-boyfriend had asked me to go on the annual camping trip with his friends at a lake (despite that we had broken up a couple months prior). They jet ski, water ski, barbeque, it’s pretty much the perfect weekend. He and I hadn't exactly been acting broken-up since the break-up but I knew if I truly did not want to be in a relationship with him, this was a turning point for me, I needed to stay no even to the fun things. I also knew I wasn’t strong enough to. So, I reached out to a few close girl friends, begging for their help to keep me busy that weekend. I needed to be on lock down. By nature, I’m a pretty strong person, I’d never made a request like this before of anyone in my life and I was disappointed when my friends all said they were busy.
I could feel myself slipping.
So I reached out even further into my extended network of friends – a girl I went to high school with, RACHEL, who now lives in San Clemente. I’d seen her and her boyfriend recently at the Labor Day party I threw and they had invited me to see their new place. I called her and she excitedly said the offer was definitely still open, they knew of some fun parties going on that night and she couldn’t wait to show me around their cute little town. And best of all, a lawyer friend of mine, AMBER, responded to my Call to Arms text and said she was needing the same thing – she’d been fighting with her guy and she needed to get away asap. This was exactly the strength in numbers I needed.
My ex threw a fit. This camping trip was his birthday celebration. And in truth, as weird as it’d be see twenty of his friends that knew we were broken up, I still wanted to go. But I didn’t want to let down my friend who I’d just made plans with. He couldn’t understand why I’d prioritize some girl’s feelings who I hang out with twice a year over the feelings of the guy I dated for two years.
I started to waiver. I was never good at telling him no and I did want to go camping with him. Even if it wasn't the smartest idea, it was the one I wanted to make. So I started trying to undo all the plans I had made.
I tried bargaining with Amber, which is a joke, she's an Ivy-Leauge lawyer and I'd previously told her that under no circumstances was she to let me go. The girl was not budging. All afternoon I dwelled on ways to wiggle and worm my way out of it, like a crack addict needing her fix. But Amber was dead s
et on holding me accountable. Then, right before she and I were supposed to meet up for San Clemente, with me all but conceding, she called me and said she’d just broken up with her boyfriend and was no longer in any state to go. I asked her if she needed company and she said no.
I hung up the phone and it took me about three minutes to throw clothes, a swimsuit and sunscreen into a bag and nose-dive into my car.
The lake was three hours away but I’d figure out the directions later. I just was excited to be on the road, headed in his direction. In the meantime, I needed to deal with my wonderful San Clemente friend, Rachel, who’d offered her place to stay. I couldn’t tell her I was going to see my ex, I had specifically told her that’s what I needed help not doing. So I said, “Amber can no longer go because of her break-up and I don’t really feel up to driving down there by myself this weekend.” Which was true. I felt like driving up to Buena Vista instead… I just didn't mention that part. I felt guilty canceling but I figured I could always go another time.
About a month later, I found out Rachel was pregnant. It was this crazy feeling. Rachel’s always been the party girl, it’s a fact you take for granted. If I had gone up there, it would have been my last time with her do the irresponsible bar scene. Tequila shots at house parties. No responsibilities. And suddenly with no warning, that time was over. Now, a year later, she is in full Mommy mode with her newborn son, now engaged to her boyfriend and I still haven’t seen her since that day I flaked.
It was a lesson to me that our lives aren't going to stay like this forever. This age is such a transitional period for all of us. People are marrying and having babies left and right. And as much as my single girlfriends and I despise the same ol' singles scene, I try to appreciate our time out together. Because even though Happy Hour feels so far from our Happy Ever After, we really aren’t. These moments are precious and fleeting and when they’re gone, they’re gone forever. We'll be in a new stage of our life looking back on this one time in our lives when we were unattached and responsibility-free and wishing we'd appreciated it more.
I’m glad I went camping that weekend. I had a great time with him – which I knew I would. Having fun together was never our problem. But that decision was in fact a turning point for us that weekend, a gateway into setting a pattern in place to continue dragging out our relationship.
The annual camping trip is going on this weekend and this time, I was not invited. A lot can change in a year. And now that he and I have finally stopped playing “Exes With Benefits,” you never know where a year from now I’ll be.