Are past loves like past lives? Can you revisit them? --And what can they tell you?
By susan mernit on March 17, 2009
BlogHer Original Post
Although I doubt I had a past life as an Egyptian princess or a cousin to Dorothy Parker, I have no doubt that the people I love and am close to now share traits with those from the past. Had I simply remembered why Marshall Marx was a bad relationship choice in my freshman year of college, I might have also realized that Michael the programmer was an equally bad choice to have three dates with when I was a middle-aged, post-divorce single (in both cases, it was not only the 1970s glasses that should have tipped me off, but the basic fact that they each were unable to talk to people).
Even though I don’t think channeling unseen entities from my past life as a peasant in Hungary 300 years ago is going to help me navigate sex and relationships any better, I do believe that looking back on my dating and friendship past lives makes me more insightful and smarter about what I’m doing today. Or, to put it another way, better I make some new mistakes, rather than the same old ones over and over.
You see, I am old enough now to recognize, that when it comes to both to boyfriends and best girlfriends, I have a habit of repeating myself. As daring or adventurous as I may be, I have themes that kinda repeat in my close friends and lovers.
My BFF Chef BJ is not so different in many ways than my best friend in college, the sultry Martina (name changed), whose head for business was always trumped by her bod for sin, as Melanie Griffin once famously said.
My BF A has more than a little bit in common both with my college flame, the future English professor J, whose idea of a good time was lounging around playing the Stones and reading Edmund Spenser’s “The Faerie Queen” aloud while drinking sherry-spiked tea or B&B.
The delight I feel today in the company of smart, beautiful women like my friends C, V, P and AVF has some true connections with how fun it always was back in the day to hang with my amazingly pretty sister N, whose beauty was matched by her sharpness, whether the mesmerized fellas hanging round got that or not.
And the fun I have with my anarchist friend C, my kickass mountain woman pal Amy, my buddy DZ and my home girl and business partner Lisa is a lot like what I felt planning adventures with my writer pal Barbara B in Brooklyn, when I was just out of college. Our forays around the city to visit Russian Brighton Beach, Mexican Sunset Park, and punk/Puerto Rican Loisada are not dissimilar to the scene and culture surfing my friends and I do now (except that now we explore new cities in different states en pack.)
Another feeling that hasn’t changed that much is the great love and tenderness and amusement and joy and anger and rage I often felt—all at the same time—for my little year old son Zach, who just didn’t stop crying and waking up every few hours till he was at least three (he got so frustrated cause he couldn’t do all the things he wanted to). I sometimes feel exactly the same things now, when I talk with my marvelous, smart and hard-working grown-up son Z, who’s managed to remain one of my favorite people on the planet not only because he’s my child, but because that same appetite for experience and learning (still) fills his heart.
In other words, while remembering my past lives from 200 years ago just gives me a headache, remembering people I’ve cared for in the past and understanding what they have in common with those in my life now just totally rocks.
The interesting exercise, IMHO, is to look at your past relationships, and look at your friends and lovers now and see what the lines are you can draw. Do you friends and partners come in types? Are there themes you can recognize? And if so, what are they?
My favorite friends are all unique, but I can see them in related ways. It’s not that they’re the same, far from it—but I do discern some themes.
- The man who wants to change the world, at least a part of it- I’ve dated or been close friends with more than one person who’s organizing principle was fighting racism, addressing social equity issues, or revitalizing their community; these themes speak to me.
- The smartass, sincere smart guy—As a former New Yorker, I also respond to those super-smart smartasses, especially the ones who are kind underneath the verbal whiplash.
- The beauty with brains: After a bunch of early years feeling I needed to prove how smart I was (like someone might miss it?), my friends who are comfortable with both beauty and their super smarts continue to win my admiration.
- The smarties and the geeks: My people. Always. Even if I don’t watch BSG, collect Girl Genius comics, catalog rocks/taxonomies/heirloom seeds, or obsessively create fermented wild yeast starter dough, people I am close to do those things, always.
- Survivors, every type: So many of the people I have been close to and/or admired have overcome all sorts of very real obstacles to become who they are and/or accomplish what they have.
- Fish out of water: There are always people that no one else really likes, who don't have the many friends, that I meet and think are wonderful, usually because they show me a private self. I try to manage my tendency to become smitten with these types. Is their transformation that thrilling? Or just in my imagination?
Back in 7th grade, when I went down to the elementary school playground, sat on the swings and so sweetly kissed my classmate Paul Cullen, it wasn’t a remembered past life memory that made that kiss so sweet, but that first innocent connection. And yet, when I started falling in love with A last year, it was amazing to recognize that while I loved him for the person I was getting to know, he also embodied bits of others I’d admired and cared for, my very own past life regression.
How do people you love and are close with today echo others from your earlier life? Are there types of friends you choose or click with over and over? Share in the comments, please.
Great posts from around the blogosphere this week
Lipstickeater: A Tale of two sisters
“My sister refuses to do corporate power drag for her day-job as a lawyer. For her, dressing close to androgyny is not a magic skin to force and power. Instead, she piles on a pound of eyeliner and steel-black eyeshadow. She’ll rarely wear her hair up—it’s always gently teased and flowing out like Cindy Crawford circa 1992. And then the stilettos. I’ve watched her in action in the courtroom and it’s pretty impressive: she is a sharp and thunder-voiced woman who displays great poise, calm, and logic in face of her opponents. When she combines these traditionally “masculine” traits with her overly feminine style, what you get is not androgyny but a dark, empowering femininity.”
Mimi in New York: The Real World, Venice Beach
“…I'm feeling the pinch. I'm really feeling the pinch. I've been feeling it for a long, long time and I'm so over people telling me I need a nice, stable, steady, secure income. I know I need a nice fucking stable income. We all need a nice, stable, steady, secure income, but a writer in a recession is like a tragi-fucking-comedy. It's like adding job insecurity to job insecurity to get added recessionary jobless hell. I've been trying to get a nice, stable, steady, secure job for about four years. You think I'm applying to serve you your morning latte for fun?”
Living somewhat dangerously: In which various verbs happen to me (NSFW)
"Hey, can I booty call you?
This instant message had appeared on my computer screen the previous Saturday night, and it was from Big Jake. We’d had sex a few weeks previously at a party at which I got so unbelievably drunk — Suffice it to say I had sex with Jake, and I was sorry I was not sober enough to enjoy it (or, who knows, not enjoy it). This was just before Christmas, and of late we’d been in touch."