To All the Boys I Thought I Loved Before

I love the To All the Boys movie series on Netflix. While I wish I actually read the books instead of just watching the movies, I don’t have much time to read young adult fiction novels nowadays. lol I love Lara Jean & her close, dynamic relationship with her sisters though. Every year for the past couple of years, I’ve had a Sister pre-Valentine’s Day celebration where we have a romantic-comedy movie marathon with a heart-shaped pepperoni & mushroom pizza, paired with brut rosé. In celebration of the newest release of the 3rd movie, To All The Boys: Always & Forever, & with Valentine’s Day only a couple of days away, I decided to write this open letter to all the boys I “thought” I loved before. Fair warning, despite my outward demure & innocent demeanor, my love life has never been perfect. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in the past, & I’m using this letter to finally confess & apologize. I hope that my letter comes across as raw & vulnerable, yet still heartfelt.

Number 1: Thank you for accompanying me to prom, being my 1st kiss & my 1st boyfriend, & I’m so sorry for breaking your heart.

I knew you liked me immediately from the way you’d stare at me in silence as I walked into Biology class to take a seat. You sat behind me but didn’t say anything to me until a few months before the school year was over. I could tell that you were excited when our teacher decided to change seating arrangements so that we sat at the same table. Thanks for accompanying me to my Senior prom. I probably would have skipped it all together if I didn’t get a date, but it actually turned out to be a really fun night.

I’ll finally confess how taken aback & scared I was when you asked me to be your girlfriend after we had only been talking for a week. Then, you told me “I love you” only a week after that. I really wasn’t ready for a relationship, & I wasn’t ready for any of the intimate things that you wanted from me. I was just too scared to hurt your feelings.

I’m really sorry for wasting your time that Summer. I knew you got a job just so you could afford to take me out on dates & buy me gifts. The reality was I was only 18, & I just didn’t see a future for us. I didn’t want to leave for college still dating my boyfriend from high school.

When you finally confessed that you failed your classes & needed to repeat your Junior year, it was the last straw for me. I already graduated & was so ready & excited to move away for college for the next 4 years. I wish I hadn’t been such a coward & broke up with you in person. You deserved more than the email I sent you. You wanted to marry me & asked if you should wait for me, & I said no. I’m so sorry that my honesty broke your heart. I hope you found someone who was equally obsessed with you to love you in all the ways I knew I could never have grown to.

Number 2: Thank you for showing me what love is not, & I’m sorry for emotionally cheating on you with my TA.

I knew you wanted me immediately, but I soon found out that your intentions were always only to feed your own ego. You knew that every guy in the dorm wanted me, so you just wanted to be able to say that you won out of all the competition. From the way you looked at me when I’d walk by to the way you’d direct your attention & questions to me when we were in a group, I guess I was just intrigued by your persistence.

We started dating only a week after meeting. In retrospect, I should have taken way more time to get to know you to ensure that we were even compatible. I had no idea who you were, & what I slowly learned about you over time didn’t make our connection any stronger.

Thank you for respecting that I was still a virgin & wanted to save myself for marriage, but the honest truth is that I was never sexually attracted to you. I’m sorry for all the times I insulted you, got frustrated with you on road trips, & for that day I put hands on you, because I reached my breaking point. Physical & mental abuse is inexcusable, & I hope you found it in your heart to forgive me.

I wish that you had been honest & upfront about your issue with the distance between us, because you lived in SoCal & I lived in the Bay Area. You should have told me that you wanted to break up with me EVERY SINGLE TIME you went home to your family for the holidays & Summer. It would have saved us both a lot of trouble & heartache.

While you admired my intelligence, I hated seeing you cry & resent me every time I’d get better grades on my homework, exams, & classes overall. I didn’t want to pretend to be someone that I wasn’t, & that’s probably why I fell for my TA. I could never be the type of girl who would dumb myself down to make a man feel better about his own intelligence. I knew that I wanted someone on my level who could carry a deep conversation. I’m still so sorry for emotionally cheating on you with him & for playing intramural basketball with him the following year, just to spite you after you cheated.

While I don’t blame you for actually cheating on me the Summer after that, it just seemed so cliché that you chose the blond Canadian lifeguard at the gym you were working at of all people to cheat with. I knew that having to see her visit you on campus every couple of weeks was my karma. After you got married & divorced shortly after, I convinced myself that she was only in a relationship with you to get a Green Card. I do forgive you for cheating on me. We had two long, hard years of lessons to learn from each other. I hope that you have a happy & fulfilling life with your new wife & kids now.

Number 3: Thank you for having breakfast with me after class, & I’m sorry for using you to get over Number 2 & Number 8 over a decade later.

From my understanding, you were using me to get over your exes both times too. Your ex from high school even made fake Facebook accounts to lurk me, which I told you about & you handled. We were honestly just two hurt souls trying to find comfort in each other, while neither one of us knew we would ever go the distance. The way you never wanted to be tagged on anything with me on social media was a huge clue that it was time for me to walk away. Not to mention that you slept with our mutual friend in the bathroom during the same party we were all attending. I still can’t believe you flew from LA to the Bay just to see me. Even though the spark died for me a decade ago, I still had fun drinking mimosas & catching up with you. I’m proud of how much you’ve grown over the years. I hope that you finally healed your heart & found someone you love who truly loves you in return.

Number 4: Thank you for jailbreaking my iPhone & the late nights we’d spend playing Guitar Hero. I’m sorry for not walking away, when I knew you weren’t ready for a relationship & were juggling too many options.

After dancing together at the toga party, I tried to keep my distance from you. You were good friends with Number 3, & while I successfully did not go back to your dorm with you that first night. I still succumbed to my own loneliness a few weeks later. We both knew we were never meant to be together. I could tell you weren’t over your ex & had a lot of other options, but I still prayed in hopes of getting you to choose me. And for that I’m truly sorry. That last time when were supposed to hook up, I took my friend crashing her car into mine as a sign from the Universe that it was time to finally stop & let you go. I hope you healed from the hurt your ex caused you. You deserve the free will to choose who you want to love & be with. You were a great guy, just not the right guy for me.

Number 5: Thank you for introducing me to your family, & sorry for holding on to the illusion of the happy family we could have created together for way too long.

You were the perfect man that I always imagined I’d marry in my head. I’m sorry for blaming you for not living up to my expectations & resenting you for not wanting me forever the way I wanted you. Nothing was your fault. You chose me for a time & trusted me, but you knew that we couldn’t go the distance. After our terrible Valentine’s Day weekend, I knew you were breaking up with me that day, which is why I didn’t call you to wake you up that morning or confirm when you were coming to see me. When both of your back tires blew out on your way to break up with me, I knew that it was your karma for not being honest with me sooner.

I knew that you still loved your ex, & I was jealous that you were still such close friends with her. While I appreciate that you apologized for breaking up with me so that you didn’t have to feel guilty about dating someone else soon after, I wasn’t honest with you regarding my actions. I never told you that you were right. I did delete all of your friends off of Facebook that day. It wasn’t a Facebook glitch. I chose to lie to your face with no remorse & took pride in my pettiness.

I knew how much joy you took in collecting your ex girlfriends, so I did what I did knowing that if you found out the truth, you would never collect me too. I was young, angry, upset, & vengeful. Now in hindsight, I have no idea what I thought deleting all of your friends would really accomplish besides hurting your ego. Regardless, I’m so sorry for doing that to you, because of my own insecurities & holding onto a dead end relationship. I’m sorry for all the on again off again years that followed as well. I hope you & your current girlfriend are happy & build a happy life together.

Number 6: Thank you for teaching me that I don’t need to be in a relationship to be happy, & I’m sorry for leading you on then making you out to be the bad guy.

I’m sorry for using you to get over Number 5. I thought you were generally attractive, but you weren’t able to hold a conversation or mentally stimulate me ever, which is why I was avoiding being vulnerable & intimate with you. Eventually it made my skin crawl when you’d touch me, which is why I always made sure to keep my distance from you whether it was in a public or private setting.

I just liked that you were in the military & never around, because when we were together, I was so bored. My heart hadn’t healed, nor was my heart even in the new relationship we were trying to build. I knew that you could see yourself marrying me, but going through with that would truly have been my worst nightmare.

When I found out that you got a massage with a happy ending the week before you were supposed to come home to see me, I was honestly relieved. I didn’t want to be seen as a bitch who dumped her boyfriend because I wasn’t attracted to him anymore & thought he wasn’t smart enough for me. I’m so sorry that I wasn’t upfront & honest with you about how I felt. I forgive you for getting the massage, & I’m so sorry for breaking your heart. You, your wife, & your son seem to have built a very happy life together, & I wish you all the best.

Number 7: Thank you for teaching me to respect myself, & I’m sorry for not leaving sooner & meddling in your love life for way too long.

We were only supposed to have been friends. I knew immediately that you were still hung up on your ex, & even though you knew she couldn’t be who you wanted her to be, you still had hope that you could get back together & work on your vulnerability. I did truly forgive her for cat-fishing as me, & I’m glad that she seems to have found her happiness with someone else.

After that ex, I knew when you started dating the real estate agent who had a fiancé that you were just more & more bad news waiting to happen. I knew you were planning an exit strategy when you started making new “friends”, & I knew that you must have asked one of them to be your girlfriend before you told me about it that night.

I’ll finally confess that it was me who DMed your new girlfriend from that fake Instagram account. While I knew that I didn’t want you, I was so jealous that you were closer to getting your happy ending than I’d ever be. I had become a monster, who I was ashamed of, & I’m so sorry for my actions. I was so relieved that she was able to forgive you, & I knew that seeing her come visit you in Oakland & you visiting her in Hawaii all over social media was my karma.

I was glad when I finally had the strength to walk away from you, & I was even happier when you finally moved away to Hawaii. I learned & grew so much as a person, because of what you put me through. I’m sorry for using you as a shoulder to cry on when I didn’t know where my next relationship was going.

I know you’re still trying to heal from your last relationship & deciding what you want. You have so much potential. Keep growing, & please stop settling for ABGs. You deserve someone who is kind & still has a brain. Stop chasing girls who just look good & are only after you for money & all the things you can buy for them.

Number 8: Thank you for teaching me how to unconditionally love someone, & I’m sorry for desperately holding onto you, when I knew in the back of my mind that you never wanted be mine.

I couldn’t write this blog post without including you. Though it doesn’t even apply to you, because I don’t “think” I loved you. You’re actually the only one who I knew that I loved. I’m so sorry that it took us breaking up for me to admit that. I didn’t want to be the first person to say “I love you”. Because of the conversation we had before becoming exclusive, I convinced myself that saying those three words & eight letters would be my complete ruin.

Our relationship was so incredibly intense & scary. Without even trying, you always brought out the best in me. Everything that I lack as a person, you inspired me to improve & work on every single day. You admired & appreciated my intelligence. You supported my hopes & dreams. You made me feel strong & perfect. I still remember when you pointed out that billboard by the Oakland Coliseum to me as I drove us back home after you met my parents. If you only knew what I see in the mirror… I still can’t believe how beautiful I am in your eyes.

Our connection was unparalleled mentally, physically, & spiritually. No one has ever loved me in the way that you did. It was amazing how comfortable & safe I always felt in your presence. There were so many nights when I would lay there in your arms, breathless, heart-pounding, & thinking “I love you” over & over again until I fell asleep.

Did you know that I wasn’t even supposed to go on the camping trip that we met at? If you only knew how much I hate sleeping in a tent & freezing my ass off… lol But I know now that choosing to still go camping & us finally meeting at dinner was fate. I don’t believe in love at first sight, nor have I ever thought anyone was even remotely attractive immediately upon meeting them. But you had me so enamored that I needed to discreetly text my sister, begging her to switch seats with me. But she refused to take one for the team & I was stuck sitting next to the Raiders guy. lol

I still think about our conversations after dinner walking back to the campsite, laughing about Echo & “Samantha” while gazing up at the stars, sitting together in the trunk of your car & letting you teach me about CBD & THC, & pointing out the boulders walking down & back to the lake. That weekend was amazing. I just wish you had stayed through Monday.

I know that you’re still trying to hide your darkness from me. I knew that you were entertaining a lot of other women when we met & I came into your life. I knew you weren’t ready to give up your single life just yet, so when you didn’t call or text me after I gave you my number in the weeks after camping, I took it as a rejection. Your hesitation about us was the only reason I booked that trip to Hawaii to visit Number 7.

After you ignored my first Facebook message, I decided to try one last time & asked you to text me, sliding into your Instagram DMs. lol I was so happy to finally have your number, & we texted back & forth all day. We had two amazing dates that first week, then you ghosted on me after you got back home from your trip. Then a full month went by & despite my better judgment, I still wanted to see you at the Halloween party. Dancing with you all night was so much fun, & when you told me the next day that you didn’t even consider yourself a dancer, I appreciated that you danced all night just to be near me. I also respected that I took you home, & you didn’t try to take advantage of me while I was drunk & high.

After our first break-up in December 2019, I could tell that you were trying to cut out all of your other options, which I appreciated & was why I stayed with you for as long as I did. I’m still so sorry for what happened in November. It wasn’t right of me to try & control your free will, nor is it ok ever ok to be a “messenger” to ensure that other parties are aware of a situation. As an Economics major, I assumed that people deserve to have equal knowledge to make informed decisions. But the bottom line is real life is not Game Theory & not all choices in life are quantifiable, because people deserve to make their own choices.

Despite the messiness in the wake of our breakup, know that I will always look back fondly on our relationship. You taught me what true unconditional love feels like. While our communication still needed work, I will forever compare my new love interests & suitors to the love I received from you. As scared as I am knowing that no man may ever be able to measure up to the love that you tried to consistently give me & what you taught me about myself, I’m still so grateful to have met you.

I haven’t gotten in touch with my spirituality in over a decade, & I thought I stopped believing. But I still see signs, synchronicities, & reminders of the love we shared all day, every day, which renewed my faith because you were honestly a gift & a blessing from the universe. While I only had you in my life for 13 months, I knew that I loved you for 10 of those months. I still thank God every day for bringing you into my life, & I will continue to pray for you, because I truly want you to be happy, even if you’re happier without me.

I’ve finally learned my lessons in love. I respect myself enough to walk away from anyone who isn’t willing to give me what I want, knowing that I deserve to be the one & only woman in a man’s life. I’m not going to repeat my past toxic cycles any longer. To all my exes that I hurt, I’m so sorry from the bottom of my heart. To my exes that have hurt me, I forgave you a long time ago & I wish you only the best.

Writing this open letter gave me a glimpse into how Hamilton must have felt writing the Reynolds Pamphlet that ruined his political career. As I’ve said before, my love life has never been perfect, & I am only human. Love isn’t all flowers, champagne, & chocolates. Love is hard work.

If you’ve been unlucky in love, I encourage you to examine your own past loves & relationships. Don’t hide your past away – choose to learn from it. That way, when true love finds you, you won’t mess it up the same way I did with Number 8.

I hope you all have a Happy Valentine’s Day! Even if you’re not able to spend it with someone you love, I hope you spend the day loving yourself.

XO Denise