Notes to Bad Boyfriends 

Things could have been much worse.


Having recently survived our 10th wedding anniversary, my husband tells me that he’s going to write a book about marriage called, “So, I Have to _____ You the Rest of My Life?”

“You’ll open it up,” he says, “and there will be only one word inside: ‘YES.’” He laughs. “And then the back cover will say, ‘Deal with it!’”

While he’s finishing up his bestseller, I’m hard at work on a project of my own. An old-school letter writer, I’ve saved several trash bags of mail in the attic corresponding to color-coded ribbons by person and place. I’m also a borderline hoarder of stationery with more Post-it notes and postcards than notches in my bedpost. And so, in an effort to both clean out my desk and apply the principle of positive thinking that suggests one write “thank you” on each bill, including those to the Internal Revenue Service, I’ve decided that a new generation of letters is in order. Not to pen pals or congressman, not to my teen self, my senior self or my yet-to-be reincarnated self, but to a certain order of human that had a direct impact on my personal evolution. Genus: Ex-boyfriend, Species: Bad.

Why spend time writing letters to creatures such as these when there are bills to pay and books to write? To find closure, to seal the deal, to put a stamp on it. To decode the pattern and find the common thread, the one that runs through me, even still. To get in at last, the final word — in writing — even if the addressee is unknown.

I need only deviate slightly from standard block form.

Dear Fill in the Blank:

Hi! How are you?? I’m writing to thank you for changing my life! Remember how you whipped out three things on our first date and the only one I wanted to touch was your gun? How, after dating for three months you never learned how to spell my name, how you read my stories and told me I really needed to travel, taped underwear models to your walls because you thought they looked like you, pretended not to recognize me even while running from the police, went to Hooters instead of returning my call, told me I drove a shitty car when I told you that I loved you?

Well, I’m writing to thank you — to thank you for making me the stunningly incredible woman that I am today. Sure, there were bad times, but we had our good times, too. For example, if you hadn’t been exactly who you were, there’s a chance I’d be with you still. If you hadn’t left me — or made me leave you — I would have found nowhere else to go. You gave me something to push against, something to become better than. While cracking open my heart, you formed my character, straightened my spine and toughened my skin. You illuminated the darkest parts of me, the ones that needed light the most. In the end, you gave me not only something to work on and laugh about, but also world-class material. To rewriting the famous quote by Tolstoy: “Happy relationships are all alike. The terrible ones will give you something interesting to write about for the rest of your life.”

So, thank you, bless you and Godspeed. I hope you learned as much from me as I learned from you. PS: Can you send me a forwarding address?

While I lick the envelopes shut, sealing a few with a kiss and cursing the others, my husband reminds me again that water always seeks its own level. This is a sweet pill to swallow, the one that brought me to him. And so now it’s time to write the next frontier of thank-you notes: living acts of gratitude both to him and my son, who remind me on a daily basis that not only are boys red-blooded human beings, but I am too.

Follow Valley Haggard online at valleyhaggard.com.


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