prompt: exhale, title: breathing exercises in misc. flash fiction

  • Feb. 23, 2021, 12:49 p.m.
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  • Public

When you’re young and everyone’s so inexperienced and insecure, it’s a minefield trying to talk to whoever you’re dating about your exes. Are they going to feel like you’re comparing them to some idolized “one that got away” that they can never equal? If you go the other way and stack up all of their faults, are you saying that they have those flaws too? Does a clock start ticking in their head, waiting for the day when you’re going to talk about her or him just the same? It is a mess. To be fair, it’s a mess in the way everything about being young is a terrible mess but still.

The author Terry McMillan, who broke into the wider public consciousness with her third novel “Waiting To Exhale”, based her fourth novel “How Stella Got Her Groove Back” loosely on her own experience falling in love with a much younger man. When they made the film of it, there’s even a deleted scene where Danny Glover plays a much older man hitting on her, as if to say she isn’t going to “settle”, she’s going to “win”. In real life, the real younger man McMillan married eventually ended up coming out of the closet as gay and divorcing her. Life isn’t as simple as the books or the movies. Whether he knew his truth from the start and married her to slam the closet door or he figured it out along the way, I imagine they both have one hell of a story for whoever each of them is married to or dating now, though. Hopefully, they both can laugh a little anyway.

When you’re older, though, as they both are, as I am now, happily talking about exes is more like war stories. We’ve all dated “the crazy one”, we’ve all been someone else’s “the crazy one”, we have a far better understanding of how screwed up the human condition is. It’s not about saying “you are like this person” or “you aren’t like this person”, it is more “holy crap, let me tell you about this thing I somehow survived”. It’s like the movie “Jaws” where they compare the scars, we’re all just in such awe that we’re even alive for all the tumult we’ve absorbed, we just want someone to listen to our stories. It’s not about judging you, it’s about explicating our life truths.

There’s a freedom you get when you can admit that we’re all as human beings more than a little bit self-absorbed. I’m not talking about you when I’m talking about myself, I’m… talking about myself. And it’s fine that you’re doing the same. For better or for worse, I am the only point of reference I will ever know, can ever meaningfully speak for. It’s okay to let your guards down, now, everyone understands we’re not judging each other, we’re just talking about ourselves.

You can relax now. You can exhale. You can stop for a minute and just breathe.

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