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Independence is a zipper-jean catsuit Add to ...

The Essay is a daily personal piece submitted by a reader. Have a story to tell? See our guidelines at tgam.ca/essayguide.

I’m afraid to say goodbye to my zipper-jean catsuit.

I still remember the day I bought it. It was a Saturday in June, 2010. The night before, I had just said no to the whole shebang with my ex. I was 26.

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I was on my way to bigger and better things, I told myself, and I needed a statement outfit to launch my new singlehood. It makes me feel like one of Charlie’s Angels.

A lot of people say the best relationships grow from friendships. Adam and I started as friends, though we first got together on a date. Our story began the way all great love stories have since 2006 – Plenty of Fish brought us together.

Back then, I never thought to check the heights of the men I’d decided to meet, since I’m 5 foot 3 and just assume the world is taller than me. I showed up to our pre-date (the date before you decide to try going out) in a pair of four-inch platforms. Adam is 5 foot 5, so I stood there feeling like a towering lighthouse.

When he called again, I offered my friendship rather than live another episode of the Jolly Green Giant. He accepted. That was 2008.

For me, that year was the Sahara desert of dating – an eternal drought when it came to acceptable prospects. I was a woman with a great job and a good head on my shoulders: I refused to settle.

Meanwhile, Adam was going through breakup after breakup and my heart panged for him every time. As I watched him try to find the most positive aspects in each of his dating prospects and to make each relationship work, he seemed to grow a centimetre or two.

Suddenly, on a humid night on a midtown patio in 2009, I wasn’t towering over him any more. We were seeing eye to eye. One thing led to another, and the guy who always wanted to get married and the girl who never thought she could got together.

That was the summer I decided it was time to let go of Mama and Papa bear and get my own apartment. I needed to find my own way in the world.

Adam helped me unscrew my bed and pack it up. When I was terrified at the thought of spending nights alone, Adam made me write a list of all the things I could do when I felt scared. Calling him was No. 1.

In a lot of ways, he was the type of guy my parents had always been encouraging me to date – driven, career-oriented and serious. He was the Mr. Good Enough that Lori Gottlieb urges women to settle for.

Before my landlord gave me the keys to my bachelor apartment, I thought Adam was my end. But the second I’d moved my bed in, things between us began to change. It hadn’t just been the height of my shoes.

I wanted a couch that was small and stylish. Adam thought I needed a grandma sofa – one with plush leather and wide cushions. I’ll never forget the night we spent three hours stomping around Ikea – at odds with each other about my couch.

As the months went by, and my comfort with my apartment and my state of independence blossomed, the connection Adam and I had seemed to dwindle.

Perhaps a couch is just a couch. But when Adam suggested I give it up and move in with him, I plonked my heels in the ground the same way the Road Runner does when he’s on a ledge yelling “meep meep.”

My couch was and still is the throne of my castle. I wasn’t about to give it up for just any prince, especially one who didn’t respect my need to have it in the first place.

Sometimes my girlfriends who still live at home wonder why I gave up living in my parents’ house – where I had my own wing – for the sake of what my father calls a “rat cage.”

Had I said yes to Adam in 2010, the “rat cage” would be long gone. I wouldn’t be living in a bachelor with crooked cupboards and a schizophrenic shower. I’d be in a fabulous condo with granite countertops and reliable water temperature.

Sure, I gave up a lot to live alone. But I try not to think about it that way: It’s an investment.

Sometimes I think we women should give ourselves more credit. It’s hard opening up jars and drilling holes with our frail little hands, but when push comes to shove we can. Besides, if I’d said yes to Adam, I’d have given up the opportunity to get closer to what all of us aim for – the One.

As much as I forced myself to believe Adam was the One, every time I looked at my deep purple couch I was reminded he wasn’t.

The breakup is now a blur – three months of fighting, crying and repeatedly saying goodbye. Our friendship-turned-romance didn’t end like a Nora Ephron hit, more like a sad Nicholas Sparks tale with the bang of the movie Crash.

All I remember is the day I bought my zipper-jean catsuit, which now hugs my 28-year-old body a little too tightly. Threads tatter from it. Soon it will be time to say goodbye and give it to Goodwill.

Until then, I’ll let it hang in my closet as a trophy and as a simple reminder that as Adam gets married this summer, and meets his happy ending, I still have the chance to meet mine.

Alexandra Gelfenbein lives in Toronto.

 

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