Can you cheat on a memory from a past relationship?
I sat in Bryant Park eating a freshly made waffle with hot fudge, whipped cream, powdered sugar, and strawberries while I watched the line for the ice skating rink grow ever longer. It snaked around the carousel and in between the pop-up shops and food stands. My friend arrived back at our table with his own decadent waffle and noticed me staring at the would-be ice skaters.
“Let’s finish eating and get in line,” he suggested. I shook my head.
“It’s crazy long! I’d rather just walk around. And keep eating. We haven’t tried the apple cider donuts yet.” He shrugged and accepted my logical reasoning, but that wasn’t why I had refused.
A year earlier I had gone ice skating in New York City for the first time with someone who I can refer to as one of the few great loves of my life. It had been in Central Park, not Bryant Park but as I watched this line and saw couples gazing adoringly at each other, kissing, adjusting each other’s knit hats, it was like being transported right back to that day.
Which made me think. When something is long over why can certain places and things still evoke the feeling like you’re cheating on a memory?
In high school I watched many an episode of Friends and Seinfeld with boys on whom I had mad mad crushes. I can literally remember the exact episode of Seinfeld I watched with a guy whom I adored the first time he introduced me to his parents and we all sat in his living room and watched together. But after things ended—and they didn’t end well—did I stop watching those TV shows? Hell no.
So why did this have to be any different?
I asked one of my besties once what she did with jewelry from past relationships because I was torn about the meaning behind wearing a necklace from an ex-boyfriend.
“I think it’s OK to wear it,” she had said, “as long as you’re only seeing it as a piece of jewelry you like and not attaching any past or destructive emotional attachment to it.”
“But isn’t it just asking for trouble?” I had challenged. “If you wear it just because it matches an outfit and you’re out with your new guy and he says ‘hey nice necklace, where’d you get it?’ ”
This made her pause because like me she was uncomfortable with the idea of telling a lie about where the necklace came from, but we both knew that announcing to a new boyfriend that you were wearing something from an ex-boyfriend just seemed awkward and rude. I mean if I complimented my boyfriend on a sweater he was wearing I don’t necessarily want to hear that his ex-girlfriend gave it to him for his birthday last year. So maybe a white lie is okay? Or is it best to just put that necklace away in the box under the bed along with ticket stubs, letters, and pictures you can’t look at anymore? Avoid the whole scenario?
I suppose the sentimentality of a gift is one thing but to assign such emotional leverage to something as broad as ice skating started to seem kind of ridiculous. We also walked all over Manhattan hand in hand, should I not do that with anyone else ever either? We ate out at tons of restaurants all over the city, including at all these pop-up food stands in Bryant Park. And here I was chowing down without a second thought. I have to remember that moving on doesn’t erase or sully these memories. They’re still my memories to keep however I wish. But if I keep restricting myself under the belief that I’m being unfaithful to these memories, how will I ever really make any new ones? This time with the right guy who besides all the trips, dinners, flowers, and even ice skating, will most importantly not hurt me or let me down in the end.
Tomorrow I’m going to go back to Bryant Park. I might get in line to go ice skating. I might not. But I’m definitely gonna have another waffle. And maybe a donut.