I have what can probably be considered a regrettable dating history. It’s comprised of numbers upon numbers of people with whom I had, at best, a tenuous connection, sometimes physical, sometimes intellectual, rarely both at once. It is comprised of weeks, or days, or months, or in a few cases, years. It is comprised of instances of misinformed longing, fear and convenience, cat and mouse games, unrequited “love,” mutual disgust in the guise of lust, and abject self-loathing.

I spent 5 years tangled in the first long cat-and-mouse, hot-and-cold game of my love life, with someone I still consider one of my best friends and closest confidants because I can call or text him at any, ANY hour of the day about any, ANY thing and he will answer me (eventually), even though he lives three time zones away. I still remember the first day we met, and I have countless journal entries devoted to the analyzation of every minute thing he said to me and that happened over the course of our confused friendship.

8 years embroiled in the second, most recent, and hopefully last, cat-and-mouse, hot-and-cold game of my love life, with someone I will never, not ever, willingly speak to again so long as I live and breathe in this world, because he repeatedly, repeatedly, broke my heart and broke my heart on top of my broken heart. Number of second chances I gave him: five or six – too many, by any count. Number of times he went back to his ex when we’d stop talking: five or six – too many, by any count. Number of ways this still hurts me: countless.

8 months with a man who sought and took advantage of every opportunity to belittle me and everything I did, wanted, and stood for, and who once told me, with the excuse of being half-asleep, that I should just drive home, get in a car accident and die. A man who owned pleather pants. Number of good stories I have about this guy: none.

2.8 years with a man with seemingly no direction or greater goal in life, a man who was and remains my polar opposite in most everything except a few mutually-appreciated bands and artists and a place of employment. Still. Why we broke up: I’m pretty sure we secretly hated each other.

One-night stands. Two-night stands. Week-long stands. Month-long stands. A dizzying array of men with whom I spent limited amounts of time.

After that, they all fall into measures not of time spent (wasted?), but of worthiness, or romantic deeds done, or ills brought upon me, or their utter, lamentable, exacting sameness to the others.

Countless guys met on dating websites. A few I thought I’d basically fallen in love with based on our tragically long conversations online. Countless guys who were friends of friends. The occasional handsome stranger flirting with me at my job of insane and improbable longevity, or at the bar I was once known to frequent. Countless guys I let use me, because it was easier than doing anything else. A few I used, because it was easier than doing anything else. Countless guys whose names, first and last, I’ve forgotten. A few whose faces I’ve forgotten and couldn’t pick out of a lineup. Countless guys I’ve stopped talking to. A few I haven’t.

-Five years younger than me, ten years older than me: the lower and upper age limits of my dating.
-One guy who threatened to commit suicide when I broke up with him. I spent the evening sitting on my mom’s lap, crying, being too young to recognize emotional turmoil-based hyperbole, not knowing what to do. What he actually did: got over it.
-One lonely, frightening Arizonian date-rape that I could have prevented with an ounce of good sense, had I had any at the time; he tried to call me to apologize in the following days, but somewhere along the way I’d found the good sense I’d lost in the first place and refused to take his calls. Years it took me to identify the above situation as it so clearly was: far, far, far too many.
-One guy I refused to see any longer, for two reasons: he had a mom butt, and he called me “vaginaface” as a term of endearment. Things I regret about this: none.
-One guy I dumped for one, secret puerile reason: the nature of the bend of his penis. What I actually told him was the reason for our breakup: I just wasn’t into him. The two were not mutually exclusive or independent of each other.
-One guy I cheated on, one time, which horrified me as I never want(ed) to be the kind of person who betrays someone’s trust like that. Casualty of war: one rockin’ gnome.
-One guy who dumped me while I was in the hospital, trying to recover from abscessed tonsils, because he’d met someone else online who he liked more than me. In the course of our angry ‘breakup’ texting, he said he KNEW he’d be with her for a long time. The reality: they were not.
-One guy who broke up with me because we ran into a girl he’d dated a few months prior to me, and he still had feelings for her and “thought he still had a chance.” The reality: he did not. He later contacted me and gave me the “I regret treating you like that, can we try to be friends again?” spiel. I related that I regretted letting him treat me like that, and we could certainly try to be friends if he would accept that I would likely be a huge, possibly the hugest, bitch possible. We are not friends.
-One date with one guy who I didn’t want to date further because his laugh sounded like either a hyena or a minor character from Big Lebowski whose name I’m not even sure I know. What’s most upsetting about this: that I can’t remember the character’s name.
-One polyamorous guy with whom I had two separate and equally imprudent run-ins. Things I learned about myself: I’m bad at sharing and should not be asked or expected to do it.
-One staunchly Christian guy I dated who once started a conversation with “I’m worried about our future” and then told me it was because I was going to hell and he was not. What he is now, and claims is a by-product of our short and extraordinarily contradictory relationship: an atheist.
-One guy I would have dated, who was in the process of getting divorced when we met, who insisted that our startlingly quick friendship was integral to the recovery from his divorce. The sad truth: I was not.
-One guy who moved 730 miles away shortly after we met and started dating, who I’m pretty sure broke up with me because I was crabby on a trip down to visit him. That I paid for. We maintained a strange and mutually-desperation-based text, phone call, and revealing-photo flirtation for awhile, with me feeling increasingly guilty and upset about the nature of our “friendship.” In a startlingly honest but years-too-late confessionary week, he told me that a) he’d loved me but didn’t realize it until after we’d broken up b) I was “marriage material if anyone was” c) if I ever wanted to “give a guy a second chance,” to let him know. I never let him know, because I don’t (tend to) give second chances.

Six times I’ve said I love you. One time on the first date. He bought me pastries from Astoria. I had to.
Three times I meant it. Astoria guy was not one of them.
One time within the last month and a half.

I’ve had ample more than the 28 first kisses purportedly assigned every person. I’ve had amply more than what naturally came after my amply more than 28 first kisses. Use your imagination. I’m a grown-ass woman.

I’m not ashamed of my regrettable past, for the most part. Admittedly, there are few parts I look back upon fondly; other than the one who I still consider a best friend, I speak to very few of the people I stupidly and willingly gave months of my life. Regarding the ones with whom I am still “on speaking terms,” our contact is pretty much limited to awkward bar conversations or the occasional, equally awkward Facebook comment.

There are truths in between these truths here.

What I have is a dating history, a past. I have dated, I have occasionally loved. I have acted crazy, I have been acted crazy upon. I have done stupid things and had stupid things done to me. I have hurt and been hurt: physically yes, but more often than not, emotionally or mentally. I have been mean. I have been greedy. I have been selfish. I have been kind. I have been generous. I have been selfless. Everything that has happened, for better or worse (mostly worse), has brought me to what and where I am now, which is happy.

What I need to remember is this:

(Almost) everyone has a dating history, a past. They have dated, loved, acted crazy, acted crazy upon, done stupid things, had stupid things done to them, hurt people and been hurt by others. They have been mean, greedy, selfish, kind, generous, selfless. Everything that has happened has brought them to what and where they are now, which is (hopefully) happy.

No one I could love, would love, or do love is exempt from this. I once told Sharon that you can’t help that the people you love have a history. I’m slowly, slowly, slowly learning to take my own advice. You can, and should, forgive it, forget it, and when possible, ignore it, because you are not their past, you are their present, and their future if you’re both lucky. Just as wisely, you can, and should, forgive your own past – forgetting might be impossible, ignoring might be impractical, but at the very least, forgive it.

Go do that.