Sex and the Ivy


Filed under: Dating/Relationships, Love, Summer Guy — Elle May 22, 2007 @ 2:43 am

This weekend at Dartmouth, I was hanging out with Cece and a pal when we got to discussing her boyfriend. She’s spending her quarter in Hanover on exchange while he’s staying in San Diego and being exceedingly attentive and understanding despite the distance. At one point, I had the urge to tell her, “You have the sweetest boyfriend ever, Cece.”

But I didn’t. Cece is one of my best friends from home and her current boyfriend is my ex-boyfriend from high school. Complimenting her on her great catch seems incredibly odd, when I was the last girl to date him. But then again, the guy she’s with today is not at all the same person I was in love with at 16 and I consider him more a friend (or even, the boyfriend of a friend) than I do an ex. It’s like he’s this entirely new individual who I’ve re-met and re-integrated into my life.

It’s different with my last significant relationship. Try as I might, I’m not able to say that Summer Guy’s my friend, but “ex-boyfriend” doesn’t quite fit either. The latter sounds like such a write-off, and he means so much more than just a blip in my romantic history. On the other hand, I don’t treat or deal with him in the same way as I do my other friends. While I never get into fights with pals, we bicker and argue and vow to not speak. We also go through long periods of regular phone calls and IMs. I have spoken to him more often than I have spoken to anyone else in California, including my mother and my best friend. He is the only person during my entire time at college who has flown to Boston for the express purpose of visiting me. He is one of only two people whose presence I actively yearn for (the other being my mother). Yet from 3,000 miles, I do not nurse hopes of a romantic reconciliation and would be more than wary of dating again even if we lived in the same city. So what am I left with?

It is easy to tell my friends I love them. I say it on the phone, as a goodbye, over email. I mean it, certainly, but when I tell Summer Guy that I love him, it means something more than a response-by-reflex. I love him like I love my best friends — deeply and unconditionally. But he is not my best friend either. My best friends are two girls from California I consider sisters and two Harvard friends who have stuck by me since freshman fall. These are people who have seen me through intense times of change and tumult. How can I say my love for him is the same as my love for them? And yet, it seems quite fitting. After all, I share with him a unique understanding I share with each of them. Cultivated over time, it is something that can only be felt, not articulated.

There is no one else in my life like Summer Guy. The almost frightening truth is that he is irreplaceable. Thus, I don’t want to call him my ex-boyfriend because he is not just my ex-boyfriend, but I don’t want to call him my friend because he is not just my friend. And so I guess the best I can do is say that he is someone I love very, very much.

20 Responses to “Ex-Boyfriends”

  1. Alishan Says:

    New reader here. After spending a LOT of billable hours reading the archives, I have finally caught up and think your writing has progressed into something really great. This piece is well thought out and articulate. Also entirely too true for the drama that is my ex-boyfriends, friends, etc.

  2. Susie Says:

    Wow, I almost cried reading this. EXACTLY how I feel about the someone I love very, very much. Ex-boyfriend sounds so harsh, and friend just doesn’t describe the depth of the relationship. I always struggle with what to call him. I’m a big fan of your blog…don’t let anyone get you down; you’re an amazing writer.

  3. Sam Jackson Says:

    Excellent piece, but on a less serious note, I think you missed a prime opportunity to invent a new word. ;P

  4. iva Says:

    nicely said.

  5. hkk Says:

    how about some details on greenkey?

  6. Penn Says:

    A great, thoughtful post. I have been in your situation before. It’s not easy.

  7. improvement Says:

    This is better than the usual vapid writing I’ve come to expect. If you add more entries like this and less about subjects like losing condoms inside your vagina, you might eventually build some credibility. Good work.

  8. Goss A. Says:

    Only tear-jerkers qualify as non-”vapid”, huh? Mushy.

  9. improvement Says:

    No, but this one happens to be the first non-vapid post I’ve seen here. It’s possible others could also be non-vapid, but I haven’t seen them. I also didn’t think it was a “tear-jerker,” just less vile than posts about when Lena lost a condom in her enormous vagina.

  10. M Says:

    While this post didn’t make me cry, it did make me think/sigh/relate. And as for condoms lost in vaginas…well, it happens more than you’d think. Speaking of thinking, that’s what people should do before they post comments.

  11. Rileyluver Says:

    What happened to Riley?

  12. Rebecca Says:

    Condoms lost in your inbox?

    Hmph - try piercings. Never again.


  13. The Sorry String Of Love Says:

    [...] gives me butterflies when I look at him”. An example of someone professing this type of intense love is Lena Chen on the Sex in the Ivy Blog (/Sex and the Ivy Blog [...]

  14. ¡Blog Chicks para todos los gustos! « el bLoc Says:

    [...] sexuales en Harvard y que ha sido criticado por lo explícito que es; también habla de temas como ex novios, depresión y hasta [...]

  15. Sarah Says:

    I usually use the refer to my ex as a “former boyfriend.”

    I think that it’s a little better than ex-boyfriend

  16. Mikko Kemppe - Says:

    Yes, the love we feel in our hearts for our ex’s never dies. For some it may become buried deep in their hearts, but
    I congratulate you for ending the relationship with love so your heart is free and open to attract new love.

  17. Kloncke Says:

    Hey Lena — it’s been a while, and I hope you’re doing well. :)

    Just wanted to say, since I’ve been experiencing similar situations lately, that there’s one person I refer to as my favorite lover. I know the word “lover” has been smeared with sarcasm and mockery for the majority of our generation, but for me it’s actually very useful. Doesn’t necessarily imply sex, but some sort of loving connection…one that doesn’t exclude or trump other loving relationships in my life.

    Not everyone is comfortable with the word, I realize, especially if it’s a situation where you have one or many former/present lovers as well as a partner/boyfriend/girlfriend. (In which case it often seems more convenient to call the person a “friend” or an “ex,” even though that’s not how you actually feel about them.) But in the same way that our best friends don’t have to feel threatened by our other friends, I think our partners can learn to accept and even appreciate our lovers, who bring so much happiness into our lives and help make us better people.

    I know you wrote this post like two years ago, and have maybe figured something out in the meantime that works best for you. Whatever life’s brought you, I hope you’re smiling and happy these days.



  18. Anony-fa-mous Says:

    “..he means so much more than just a blip in my romantic history.”

    I’m reading this from Uganda and I’ll tell you that as a young woman, I couldn’t help but be struck at how we all go through similar episodes in our lives.
    Thank you for sharing.

  19. Soomin Says:

    I absolutely agree with your theory….
    i miss my ex/(boy)friend…but hes no more you see
    i love your writing! keep it going!!

  20. Carrie@RelationshipRepair Says:

    You’re exactly on the mark. Not every relationship can be labeled and some love never dies. It makes me feel bittersweet thinking about past loves. Each love touches our heart and makes us a different person.

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