For some reason this phrase has been on my mind lately. Not for any sensible reason. I don’t feel that it defines me at all to anyone and I can’t think of an ex I let “get away.” I’ve also never heard anyone I know personally use these words. The only place they seem to come up is in fiction, most specifically romantic comedies. And fairy tales. (Probably in romance novels as well, but I’ve never really read any.) Is it a construct? An overly romanticized concept that might move a plot line along but never actually happens in reality?
Along with the absence of the phrase in my friends’ love lives, I can’t recall any of them even referring to an ex in any sort of overly-regretful way. It seems most exes are exes for good (if there is such a thing) or at least sensible reasons. When the topic comes up onscreen, however, the characters converse; they discuss “the one who got away” in glowing terms: “Cindy was so amazing. Why did you let her go?” Or “Max was so great. What happened to him?”
With the somewhat current usage of (reliance on?) the vaguely annoying (and oddly powerless) “Everything happens for a reason,” we can all write off the ending of any relationship as the best for both people. As was recently pointed out to me by one of my detractors (critics?), I never refer to any of my past, less than successful (failed?) relationships. (Well, the possible exception could be “Scared Sexless,” from ages ago. I ‘m sure my detractors will hate that post, too, and find some way to twist my words into misandry.) I’m not much of a regretter. While I don’t subscribe to the “everything happens for a reason” school of thought, I do believe that my relationships ended in a rather mutual fashion. In other words, both of us reached the conclusion that things weren’t working at more or less the same time. So while there were varying degrees of heartache and angst, feelings of love on the part of both parties slipped away as opposed to being abruptly cut off. (Obviously these exes may disagree. You are all free to contact them and ask.) So none of my friends have ever wondered how I let any of these guys “get away.” And I doubt any of their friends have harassed them by saying “I can’t believe you let Abby ‘get away’.” Of course, no one says this to the dumped one, only to the (perceived) dumper. It would be callous to ask “Why the hell did you accept that breakup?” And I can’t imagine anyone saying “You deserved to be dumped.”
But man, in the movies, we’re always pulling for our protagonist as his/her exes’ friends give him/her hell for letting said protagonist “get away.” They work behind the scenes to ensure that the star-crossed lovers will ultimately be reunited. And we know that, in the end, our underdog will eventually get his/her girl/guy. Unfortunately life is far messier and, while there are plenty of happy endings, they usually don’t come about in a tidy, 90-minute way.
Yet I find myself fantasizing about my exes’ friends asking them, “Why did you let Abby get away?” I can’t realistically believe that being reunited with any of my past “protagonists” would be a good idea. Or that the relationship would be any more successful now than it was previously. Could it be because if life were a romantic comedy, everything would be resolved in a neat 90 minutes? And that I’d be guaranteed my happily ever after? Maybe if I grow my hair long enough I can drop it out the window and a handsome prince will climb up and rescue me…