Dater X: Ghosts Of Thanksgiving Beaus Past

Last year, the night before Thanksgiving, I had a glorious third date with The Architect. Partly because of our easy rapport and partly because so many people leave New York City for the holidays, everywhere we went, it felt like we were the only two people that existed. At the movie theater, rather than fighting people for seats and sitting elbow-to-elbow with strangers, we got the two seats smack-dab in the middle of the theater with no one in a six-foot radius. I remember that he put his arm around me midway through the movie and pulled me close. Later at dinner, rather than the usual 30-minute wait at my favorite restaurant, we were seated instantly at a booth. I remember us making fun of the bizarre turkey centerpiece on the table. Later that night, I remember our first kiss. I described it in my column then as “one of the slowest, softest, hottest kisses of my life.” I stand by that a year later.

I’d saved him a piece of the pecan pie I’d made for my family and, as I warmed it up for him, he said, “I can’t believe you saved me pecan pie. You know it’s my favorite, right?” He said this completely unaware that I’d been mentally cataloging all his likes and dislikes for years.

After Thanksgiving dinner with my family the next day, I remember walking through the door of my apartment, ready to watch “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” on DVD. My phone rang. It was The Architect calling to see how turkey day had gone. We chatted for nearly an hour, and I felt the first pangs that we could actually have something real.

It’s Thanksgiving once again. Only this year, I’m not dating anyone. I know Smiley Face isn’t going to call at this point. And I get that Tall Guy just wants to be friends. Meanwhile, my online dating inboxes are conspicuously absent of promising prospects. (Though I did get a message last night from someone who said, eloquently, “Me luv u long tim.” That’s one for the hall of shame.) I’m actually fine with the fact that there are zero potential lovers on my radar—I know that soon enough, someone will catch my eye. But what’s interesting is that, for some reason, as Thanksgiving Thursday creeps closer, salient memories of men of the past keep popping into mind. Perhaps Thanksgiving is my lucky holiday, but as far as I think back, I’ve always had something promising cooking in the love department on Thanksgiving.

Two years ago, I’d just started a relationship with a tall musician who I’ll call Chin Cleft. We’d been dating for about a month when Thanksgiving rolled around, but he’d already expressed that he saw us being more than a short-term thing. (And, uh, had said during sex that he loved me, though I didn’t put too much stock in that because (a) he was drunk and (b) it’s hard to siphon emotions when you’re close to orgasm.) Chin Cleft was the guy who taught me the joy of text messaging. At Thanksgiving dinner with my family, I kept my phone in my pocket and about once an hour, it would buzz. We kept our flirty banter going all day, as we both spent time with our families.

Four years ago, I had just celebrated my second-year anniversary with my last long, long-term boyfriend—The Scientist. It was my first time spending Thanksgiving with his family and I was shocked by how easily I melded into the dinner conversation. As I won the game of Scrabble after dinner, his parents and siblings each clinked my wine glass with a cheers. I remember feeling like I knew The Scientist in a different way. I felt like his family had welcomed me. And maybe even let me win to give me that experience.

Eight years ago, I was three years into a relationship with Jason (is it weird that I didn’t give him a more veiled nickname?), my high school boyfriend who lasted well into college. He had a strained relationship with both of his parents, so opted to spend Thanksgiving with my family instead. Before dinner, I remember watching him sitting on the couch with my dad, as they animatedly discussed football. I liked the way he looked up to my parents, and made efforts to forge a relationship with them. It seemed so possible then that he could be my person.

Last year, while I was giddy about my first few dates with The Architect, there was also a friend whom I’d been in love with—unrequitedly—for a long time. Two days after Thanksgiving, he came over to my apartment to watch a movie.

I’d saved him a piece of the pecan pie I’d made for my family and, as I warmed it up for him, he said, “I can’t believe you saved me pecan pie. You know it’s my favorite, right?” He said this completely unaware that I’d been mentally cataloging all his likes and dislikes for years.

As we sat on the couch and made “Mystery Science Theater 3000″-like commentary about the sci-fi film unfolding on the screen in front of us, I knew that while he didn’t love me the way I wanted him to, he did love me.

Sure, none of these relationships worked out. The Architect broke up with me on Christmas last year. Chin Cleft and I fizzled out after six months. The Scientist and I made it almost another year before we finally realized that we just weren’t quite right for each other. Jason and I broke up soon after after that Thanksgiving, when being long-distance got to us. As for Unrequited Guy, well, things never even really started.

But remembering these moments when I’m on my own this Thanksgiving doesn’t feel sad. It feels celebratory. It’s nice to remember that I’ve had this much love in my years on planet Earth. It’s nice to remember these truly excellent men, and that they did—and somewhere inside probably still do—care about me. As dorky as it seems, I’m thankful for these memories, and for the feelings of love that exist in them.

These memories also have me feeling optimistic about Thanksgiving futures. Who knows where I’ll be next Thanksgiving, or five Thanksgivings from now? I feel confident and hopeful that some year soon, I’ll be seated at a Thanksgiving table with my green zebra, laughing hysterically at something to the point where neither of us can even swallow a bite of pie.