I wrapped it up and sent it
With a note saying “I Love You” I meant it
Now I know what a fool I’ve been
But if you kissed me now I know you’d fool me again.
Last Christmas, I gave you my heart
But the very next day, you gave it away
– Wham! Last Christmas
Christmas can be a difficult time of year. The emphasis on joy and family makes loneliness and sadness so much more acute that it can become painfully unbearable. Love becomes somehow more necessary, and there is a greater chance of feeling deficient or broken without it.
I’m lucky, Christmas has always been a happy time of year and I love it. My Christmas excitement starts bubbling up to the surface in mid-November and I become almost irritatingly exhilarated and giggly by the time Christmas Day comes around. But there was one year that was different. One Christmas I did give someone my heart, just for them to throw it away, if not the next day then certainly within the next week.
It was a teenage love that broke my heart at Christmas. Young love is different from the way we seem to love as adults. It burns with an intense passion that isn’t restricted by caution or prior heartache. We haven’t built shields or developed scars. We don’t hold back to protect ourselves. Not yet anyway.
I had been with this particular boy for a year and a half when we should have known that it was over. We were just too different to last outside of the closed and isolated world of school. He had been a great first boyfriend, but he wasn’t a great love. He was good looking and sweet, and he had a car (a significant point in his favour considering I lived in the middle of nowhere!) With him, I felt comfortable enough to begin my slow, early sexual explorations. But where I had itchy feet and a restless need to see and do and know everything, he wanted to stay at home and play video games. He would laugh at my curiosity and seemingly endless desire for knowledge, just as I would laugh at his ignorance and lack of interest in, well, anything. When I left school, I should have been ready to break up with him as it was clearly the time to move on, but it didn’t work out like that.
Instead, when I chose to go travelling during my gap year, we reached a common crossroads between choosing to make it work while I was away or breaking up, and realised that we wouldn’t survive a long distance relationship. But we made this decision in July and I wasn’t leaving until March the following year. The relationship now had an expiration date, but what do we do in the meantime? In the end, we somewhat randomly decided to stay together until New Year’s Eve. We’d kissed for the first time at New Year’s Eve two years previously and, in a typically teenage notion where relationships can have defined beginning and end points, he felt that there was something romantic about us being together for exactly 2 years…to the minute.
So we stayed together for those 5 months. Initially nothing changed, but as the deadline approached, everything began to look different. I could tell that he was pulling away. He was less interested in what I was doing and what I wanted to do. He was generally less interested in me. We didn’t have sex as much, we didn’t kiss as much, we didn’t really even speak as much. I should have just left him.
But knowing that every moment I spent with him was counting down until the end made me a bit crazy. I clung to each one with a passion that I hadn’t really felt for him before we’d planned to break up. I couldn’t leave him early, I’d be missing out on those precious last few weeks together. I’d made him too important. It was tearing me apart to see how he was losing interest and I couldn’t stop trying to win him back. I thought I loved him. Every time he kissed me, my heart would swell with the possibility that maybe he would change his mind. Making the most of being with him became more important than being rational. I did anything that he wanted, I made myself miserable to make him happy.
It wasn’t a fun Christmas and it wasn’t a fun New Year. I poured my whole self into stopping him leaving me, but he did anyway. Just as we’d planned. He wasn’t kind enough to just break it off when he clearly wanted to as there was a ready-made end point waiting for us, and I wasn’t strong enough to see how much it was damaging me and just walk away.
It took me a long time to realise how twisted the whole process was. It took me a long time to stop looking at New Year’s Eve as my anniversary of being single. It look me a long time to realise how much better I was without him, how he’d held me back, how he was never right for me anyway.
At 19, I wasn’t as strong as I am now and I didn’t know myself at all. If I were to be in that situation again, I would tell him to fuck off – be with me or leave me, don’t torture me with this mid-ground crap. It didn’t give us a last few months together as we’d thought, it just soured the end of my first love in a way that I am sad to recollect. And I knew, I *knew* what I was doing was stupid and desperate and destructive, but I’d built him up to being the best I could get. I thought that when I lost him, I might never meet anyone else who loved me like he did, and as it turns out I was right. Thank God!
I am always intrigued by first loves because I think they define who we become and how we love later. Sheryl Crow wasn’t lying when she sang that the first cut is the deepest and these scars form the first permanent landmarks on our hearts.
For me, hindsight taught me to respect my own value. Back then, I didn’t know what I was worth or that I deserved to be treated better. I thought that I was lucky to have him. Once I realised that this wasn’t the case, it changed the way I approached all relationships – friends, family, lovers, colleagues. I know now when what I’m doing is making me happy and when it’s too much work. Sometimes a struggle is worth it because, despite what I like to believe, it’s not reasonable to expect to be happy every day, but I have learned to recognise a losing battle.
I am now fiercely protective of my happiness and well-being, and I have this old Christmas heartache to thank for that. It almost makes that ruined Christmas worth living through!
This reminiscence of teenage heartbreak was inspired by the title of Wham’s Last Christmas for Exhibit A’s Christmas erotica meme. There have been so many great entries so click here to read them all!