New York, as well as the rest of the world, is celebrating Derek Jeter this week. From his Gatorade commercial to #2 Yankee jerseys everywhere you look, the streets of Manhattan are paved in Jeter. It seems only yesterday was 1996 and he was being honored as the VIP Rookie of the Year.
It got me to thinking about other milestones of 1996. Betty Rubble was finally immortalized in a bottle of Flintstone Chewables. One of my favorite Miss USA titleholders, Ali Landry, won the Miss Universe evening gown preliminary, but lost on the big night to a super charming, hair flipping and surgically enhanced Miss Venezuela. Charles divorced Diana, and I ended my first of three major relationships.
In 1996, the New York Yankees gave us #2, but I had my own #2 that year as well. I decided to take the advice of the new Miss Universe, who when asked what she was going to do after winning, gave the answer “Eat! Eat! Eat!”. It had been a long time since I had a meal of flirtation, connection and love, so I immediately got back into the dating saddle post-breakup.
My 1996 #2 man was Mark. I met him three days after my break-up. My Ex’s father insisted I take his season tickets to the Boston Symphony, so I grabbed my best friend and went to Carnegie Hall that early Autumn evening. At intermission, I noticed a very handsome man in a blue Brooks Brothers suit checking me out. He started a conversation. We met after the concert and had a drink. We had dinner the next three evenings.
It was official- I had just found my first Transition Man.
I dated Mark for what was an amazing six months. As amazing as it was, there were simply too many issues that would render this relationship a short story and not a full-length play. We mutually ended it. I’d like to think our story was like a Barry Manilow song from fifteen years prior; we simply had the right love at the wrong time. At the time I was angry, as was he. And at the time, Mark knew it had to end in spite of not wanting it to end, as did I. There were just so many, many reasons why it would never, ever work out.
As New York and the world continued to celebrate the storybook ending of Derek Jeter’s career, the most impossible and frankly miraculous thing happened on an early Autumn evening in my world- I ran into Mark.
We had a drink, and enjoyed a conversation. Lots happened in eighteen years- good and bad. We both experienced a broken heart more than once. We experienced loss, and we experienced some major successes. With eighteen years of age on us, the anger of the past melted away, and the focus on the positives of our past relationship was forefront. Mark said that he thought of me often, as I of him. He acknowledged that he had gained a few pounds since his marathon days in the ‘90s, and I told him he was still a handsome devil. He then said something and did something that took me back to 1996 faster than the YouTube video of Jeter’s single in Game Six of the World Series that brought the score to 2-0 over the Braves.
“You look better now than you did then, and you looked great then. Your chest is still up! I always loved your chest!” he said smiling as he leaned in and gave me a kiss. With that, our 1FineD8 was over, but 1996 lingered in my head and put a spring in my step for the rest of the night.
Cher sang that she would turn back time IF she could find a way. Cher was well aware of the fact that there is that is no way. Eighteen years lost is exactly that. It would be simple to dwell on the loss of what could have been the relationship of a lifetime, but what my 1FineD8 with Mark reminded me of was the gift he gave me in 1996- a gift better than any World Series Pennant. Mark was the 1996 MVP of showing me that I still had it.
A good Transition Man serves as a distraction from the mess you left behind, but a great Transition Man is like an alarm clock- he will awaken you to all the great attributes you possess that your last relationship caused you to doubt.
The 2014 version of Mark may have earned a few lines on his brow and gained a few pounds in his midsection, but the sparkle in his eyes- that 1996 sparkle when I walked into a restaurant or to his office to meet him- remained unchanged. I wasn’t on a quest for any reminders or validation, nor do I really require that regarding my attributes, but I admit it was a really nice feeling to get one. Even the most confident people benefit from a reminder that someone out there thinks they are just the greatest.
If you ever have an opportunity to grab a beer with a former fineD8 from years ago, I recommend it. Enjoy the time travel, and enjoy the memories. Keep in mind, Derek Jeter isn’t going to win an MVP Rookie Award again, Alicia Machado will not win Miss Universe again, and Betty Rubble will never again debut in a bottle of Flintstone Chewables. You won’t go back to what you had. Whatever you end up with, be it a friendship, a new beginning or simply a moment of reconnection honoring what you once had, you really can’t go wrong.