Nothing will make you feel more desperate than a sad song that speaks to your soul.
For me, that was “Streetlights” by Kanye West. It was 2008 and his groundbreaking album 808s and Heartbreaks released right as I was going through the most significant breakup of my adult life. Before I even played one song, I knew by the title alone the album was going to smack me upside my head. And it did, but not in a way that put some sense into me.
At this point, we had been exes for about a month and I was doing a pretty good job of respecting boundaries. No calls, no texts, no pop-ups; give her the space and time to miss me was my strategy. The only problem was, I had no idea if it was working. She too was not calling, not texting, and she damn sure wasn’t showing up anywhere I was at, at least not on purpose. This caused me to question my approach, no matter how dignified it was, because at this point, dignity was not what I was going for, I needed to be effective.
After about my 100th listen to “Streetlights,” I decided to step up my win-back efforts with a bold move.
I got my hands on a hard copy of 808s. (This was in the years before we all streamed our music, so physical copies of an album was still a way people consumed music, and this was especially true for her, a woman who was slow to adopt new technology.) I wrapped it up, gift-style with a note on it that said, Track 8. I miss you. Love, Jozen.
When I dropped it off with her doorman, I felt like an NBA player who just hit a game-winner. In my head, I would not be waiting long for her to call me or text me and say she received the album, listened to the song, and she missed me too. Then we would make plans to meet for dinner, talk about all the things we learned in our time apart, and get back together new and improved.
The reality was I didn’t hear from her until Kanye came out with his next album, which was two years later. And it wasn’t intentional. We ran into each other at a party, and by this point so much time passed, it wasn’t awkward nor heavy to see each other. It was actually cordial, so much so I actually asked her if she ever received the album with my message.
She chuckled, shook her head, and said, “Yeah.”
“Obviously it didn’t work,” I said.
“No, it actually upset me.”
“Yeah, I didn’t need an album to miss you,” she said. “You were already missed, but when you did that, it just made me angry because it was more about you.”
I always knew by going the route of Lloyd Dobler in “Say Anything…”, not only could the plan backfire, but I would have to be okay if it did. Giving her a copy of the album with the note was the loudest way I could make a statement and if it fell on deaf ears, I would have to keep it moving. I also knew I couldn’t follow up to confirm if she received it, so I always assumed the fact that she never reached out was maybe because the doorman was hating on me and never gave her the album. But the idea that my gesture upset her never crossed my mind until our conversation.
As a fan of romantic-comedies, I grew up on this idea that a grand gesture could make up for my fuck-ups. Real life examples of men behaving badly and asking for forgiveness with flowers in hand also didn’t help. I wasn’t taught how not to do damage so much as I was taught how to do damage control. Every man is going to mess up, I learned, and if I got caught, I was taught I could bounce back if I was willing to show my ass in the name of love.
People like the old me and Offset eventually learn the hard way this ain’t how to do it. When I saw the video of Offset bum-rushing Cardi’s performance to take him back in spite of all the mistakes he made, I was triggered because this is exactly the type of thing men are told might work. We’re told patience is passive, space is for astronauts, and public displays of embarrassment are endearing, but none of that is true.
One grand gesture is never going to get your person back. The bigger the apology, the more it’s about you pulling off the apology and less about the other person. These bold moves of grandeur, especially for others to witness, are more theatre than romance. If it fails, then hey, at least you have created an illusion of effort for others to see. Right?
The best apology doesn’t come from pride, it comes from heart, and nothing takes more heart than reckoning with your self-destructive actions and giving the person you hurt time to heal, time to figure out if what you did was unforgivable or they can work through it enough to give you a second chance. Of course they may choose to move on without you, but at least you keep your dignity and whatever respect the person still has for you in tact.
Originally published at Until I Get Married ®.