Julie Peterson on Love, Loss, What She Wore -- and What She Ate

Categories: Candy Hearts

Sometime in the ensuing months, a good friend had me over for brunch. We moved in a circle of friends who appreciated overdressing, and so I wore a Watteau-backed bridesmaid dress in burgundy polyester brocade. I was suffering from breakup-related-grief-induced diarrhea and lack of appetite. He gave me some Imodium and I passed out face-down on his bed from a combo of bacon, drugs, and champagne. Things were looking up.

On my first date with a man who would become my husband, I was pretty nervous and I put a lot of thought into my outfit: turquoise corduroy jeans and a purple velour pullover sweater with a skinny lavender belt around the hips. Yes, it was 1984. I was too nervous to go to a real restaurant, so we agreed to have fast food in the car and talk. I had a Jack-in-the-Box Chicken Supreme. I wish they still made that sandwich, and not just because it makes me think of a zaftig hen in a beehive hairdo and a fuchsia lamé gown.

I have learned that everyone perceives and defines the romantic love thing differently. That doesn't mean lovers aren't wrong to deceive or betray each other. It doesn't mean there aren't great big jerks in the world, or that, even in a committed relationship, you have to put up with everything. But it does make understanding and forgiveness easier, when you're ready for those things. It also means that when you're growing old with someone, a shared fondness for coconut may play nearly as vital a role as trust or communication.

My first boyfriend died in 2000. I continue to have mixed and bizarre feelings about both him and his departure from the world of the living. I've found that a tangential, clueless-white-girl participation in Day of the Dead helps me with this. Each Halloween, as trick-or-treaters swarm our driveway, we have supper outdoors with another couple, an annual meal that's an ephemeral altar of foods my ex enjoyed. Thousand Island dressing is gross on salad, but I like it with corn dogs.

And our two guests have birthdays right around then, and one of them also really likes Key lime pie.

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