I had many boyfriends before I met my Chinese-American boyfriend Andy. It’s not a secret, especially not to Andy. We’d been friends for a year before we dated, and dance partners for six months before we kissed. At practice, he’d listen to me moan about my then-relationship’s death spiral into misery. He saw multiple exes on the dance floor as well. None of it seemed to bother him. Or so I thought.
Until the night I was getting ready for a party. “Which earrings should I wear?” I asked, holding up a different one on each ear.
“Where’d you get those?” Andy responded, pointing to silver and onyx hearts.
I had to think about it. “Tank Lord, maybe,” I answered, referring to the cavalry officer I dated many years ago. “He was color blind, but insisted he loved the color red.”
“So why did he get you black earrings?”
“Color blind, remember?” I sighed. “He was mad when I told him they were black. Argued with me for hours. I never did tell him what color his ‘red’ truck really was.”
“They looked tarnished. Here.” Andy held out his hand. “I’ll clean those up for you.”
I handed the earrings over without a second thought. Why wouldn’t I? Andy routinely and thoughtfully carted off my bags of dirty laundry to his condo’s washer and dryer. Laundry returned neatly folded in a basket. He’d washed my car, and even shampooed the interior when Commando Cat peed all over the seat. I expected my earrings to show up in a few days, all clean and shiny.
I never saw those earrings again.
I don’t know what Andy would have done if I had demanded them back, but I couldn’t. Asking for their return would imply that I still valued them — perhaps for sentimental reasons. Which I absolutely did not. Since Andy clearly didn’t like the thought of those earrings, I was fine with letting them go.
The same went for a silver necklace with my name in Arabic, a black dress, and a golden necklace with my initials. After that, though, I quit telling Andy the romantic provenance of any items in my jewelry box or closet. Unfortunately, we were dance partners when my last ex had given me a black purse and a diamond and ruby ring for Valentine’s Day. The ring I hid in the bottom of a drawer, but the purse was my favorite.
One day he picked it up and pointed to a scratch on the leather: “I can get that out for you. I’ve got some black polish at home—”
I snatched it back. “It’s fine.”
Another time, he fiddled with the zipper and frowned: “I think the zipper is going. I could get it replaced—”
I yanked my purse away. “It still works.”
When we shopped for a dress for his friend’s wedding in Hawaii: “Here, let me hold your purse while you try that on.”
I gave it to Andy without thinking, then ran out of the dressing room two seconds later. He was already on his way to accessories. “What? It’s all banged up. I’ll just buy you a new one and they can throw this away.”
I wrestled my beloved purse away from him and went back to the dressing room.
Andy glowered at the purse all the way to Hawaii. And when the metal grommet that held the strap to the bag broke on our second day on Oahu, Andy tossed it in the trash with pleasure. He ignored my insistence that my purse could be fixed and hustled me to the Kahala mall. You never saw a more animated straight man among the handbags of Macy’s. He found and offered me every black bag the store carried, and then insisted on buying my new favorite.
Andy whistled as we drove away from the mall.
I scowled. “Happy now? You’ve marked me, okay? It’s like you’re a dog and I’m a fire hydrant.”
Andy laughed and patted my leg. “That purse looked like it was from the nineties, honey.” He whistled some more.
When we got back to his parents’ house, Andy’s dad was waiting for us. Jay held out my old purse.
Andy’s mom called out from the kitchen: “Your daddy find it in the trash and fix it!”
Andy’s whistling stopped. He grabbed the old purse and inspected it. Sure enough, his father, a retired engineer, had repaired or replaced the grommet. Andy’s face fell, but what could he do? He’d never be able yell at the familial patriarch, and certainly not for doing something thoughtful.
Andy handed the purse he’d always hated to me, and disappeared into the bedroom. I thanked Jay. Jay nodded, and disappeared into another bedroom. Andy’s mom found me in the living room, doubled-over, silently laughing.
I explained, and she shook her head. “Maybe Daddy should have left in trash, yeah?”
“YEAH!” Andy yelled from the bedroom.
I left my old purse in Hawaii. That Christmas, after Andy and I got engaged, I gave my Boyfriend-Stealing Baby Sister the ruby and diamond ring from my ex.
Later, Andy asked me why I’d given up the ring. I was floored. “Are you kidding? I gave it away before you could THROW it away!”
Andy said, “Oh, I don’t care about any of that stuff anymore. After all, you’re marrying ME. I win. Those other guys lose. Hahahahaha.”
And just like that, all my possessions with a past were safe again.
Too bad I had already gotten rid of them.