In “Both Sides of a Breakup,” the Cut talks to exes about how they got together and why they split up. After meeting at an event, Grace, 44, and Rashid, 46, dated for about a year.
Grace: We met at a food festival. We’re both the types of people who spend money to wait in long lines for trendy “It” burgers. We made fun of ourselves about that right away — within like five minutes of meeting we were being self-deprecating and laughing so hard it was hard to swallow.
Rashid: I think she said, “Look at us losers!” It was really funny and disarming. I mean, really, we were too old to be there. Two 40-somethings waiting 20 minutes in line for a bacon cheeseburger with like, truffle mac and cheese on it. I’m ashamed. I’m very ashamed. And I’d go back any day.
Grace: I was with my sister and he was with some clients, and we all ending up hanging out at some little table with our tiny burgers, with artisanal ketchup on our faces. I loved Rashid’s humor and wit — and I was really attracted to him.
Rashid: Grace was a very pretty girl and very sweet. I liked her smile. I liked her eyes. I was not necessarily looking to fall in love at that moment in my life, but my heart was open … So I gave her my card and told her to email me or text me. I regretted that move because I should have been more proactive and asked her out on the spot. It was a lame move on my part. Again, what a loser!
Grace: I emailed him and we made plans for dinner. Our exchange about where to eat was so much fun. We were both unashamed foodies. After about 50 suggestions, we landed on a place. It was a little Italian place on Bleecker that’s since closed.
Rashid: She loved my dinner suggestions; that was a very good sign.
Grace: I’m not going to pretend I didn’t Google stalk him first. Before our date, I learned from his Instagram that he was, apparently, a single father to a young daughter. I didn’t know the backstory, obviously. I could tell that he was very successful. His daughter looked about 5 years old and incredibly cute. None of this turned me off. I was eager to hear his stories; his life seemed interesting to me. Much more interesting than mine. In fact, I think I was insecure about that. I’ve lived a pretty ordinary life. Never been married, no kids. I’ve been in the same job since I graduated college …
Rashid: I talked a lot on our date. I told her my life story. My ex-wife was sick, at the time. She struggled with addiction and mental illness and back when I met Grace, she was getting long-term care at a facility. We had been over for two years, and I’d been raising my daughter alone for those two years. It was a heavy thing to talk about and still plagues me today, since my ex-wife and I have our daughter — it’s an ongoing battle and an ongoing living hell, if I’m being honest. I still loved my ex but I also had a lot of anger toward her because I felt like she hid her sickness from me until we got married and had a child, and then she unleashed it at the worst possible time. Now I know that’s not how addiction and mental illness work, and I know this was all beyond her control, but as someone living through it, I had a lot of unresolved resentment. At the time, it just felt like I was living in pain because of her. I think Grace was overwhelmed by all this information. I left the date feel like I’d talked too much about myself.
Grace: I left the date feeling like the most lame, vanilla, one-dimensional person. This man had a full life, a rich life. I was sure he’d never contact me again. I also wasn’t sure if I was generous enough in the way I listened to his stories and responded. It all felt slightly above my emotional pay grade.
Rashid: I liked Grace a lot. She was cool and Zen. I loved how level-headed she was. I didn’t kiss her that night but I knew that on our next date, I would want to …
Grace: Fast forward to about a year later! Because Rashid travels so much for work — he’s a talent agent — we would go weeks at a time without seeing each other but whenever he was in town, we had a lot of fun together. Great meals, a few really special weekend trips out East and upstate. I really enjoyed getting close to him. And I trusted him … he always called and texted when he was on the road. I seemed to have his full attention romantically, which never made sense to me because, well, look at him!
The biggest, and I guess, only, issue was that he didn’t want to mix me with his daughter. He kept it super compartmentalized. I could understand why, but after a year together, something about it didn’t feel right. My friends were constantly asking me if I’d met his little girl and I just felt stupid that I hadn’t yet.
Rashid: Okay let me just say, I have no idea what I’m doing as far as single parenting. It is all new to me. There is zero guidebook. Especially for my particular brand of family situation. I just follow my gut. And at the time, my gut said that my daughter didn’t need any confusion in her life and introducing a new woman could be very confusing. My daughter struggled with a lot and missed her mom a lot, and her happiness was extremely fragile. My only priority is to protect my daughter and I thought in keeping my girlfriend away from her, I was protecting her. It was all in the name of protecting my daughter’s feelings and state of mind.
Grace: Oh God, it was just so awkward. I was like begging to meet his daughter. On one hand, I knew it had to happen — and soon — for us to truly have a healthy relationship together. And on the other hand, I really understood his anxiety. I sympathized with his fears and his inner-conflicts. I really did! So it was like: do what’s best for me (which was, enmesh myself with his life and his world so that we could have something long-lasting and sustainable) OR do what’s best for him (which was, be extraordinarily sensitive and patient and do everything according to his comfort zone, not mine). We talked about me meeting her so much by the end that it just became a point of contention.
Rashid: I was stubborn. But I had made up my mind. I didn’t want my daughter to meet Grace. It just felt wrong. It was not personal to Grace, not at all. That was the hardest part to explain. No one would be a better role model, or even a stepmom. Grace is perfect. She’s kind, generous, socially conscious, bright … all of that. But I wasn’t ready to present her to my daughter yet.
Grace: I gave him an ultimatum: Integrate me into your family life or I’m walking. I think another driving force behind this was that I was 41. I would have happily been someone’s stepmother — I told Rashid, many times, that I was prepared for that — but if that wasn’t going to happen, I wanted to become a mother on my own or with someone else.
Rashid: She was pushing me a little too hard. I just couldn’t figure everything out right then and there, so I told her that she should probably move on. This all happened at a coffee shop in Dumbo. The pressure got the best of me and I was quick to let her leave. I regretted it for a few days, but then I felt like it was probably the right thing to do.
Grace: It was weird. I loved him. We had recently started saying I love you. But the breakup was not terribly painful for me. I adored him, and I still do. But I wasn’t going to win this battle and I was tired of fighting it. Looking back, I think we both subconsciously wanted to be friends more than anything at that point. Friends without any tension or pressure.
Rashid: I’d say it was amicable. We both moved on quickly. She met someone new. I met someone new. My girlfriend has kids and I think that was a good thing for me. We did integrate our families and I didn’t feel so nervous about it. Instinctively, it felt more right.
Grace: We are friendly now. A coffee once or twice a year. Lots of likes on social media. I still haven’t met his daughter in real life. But that’s okay. I’m dating someone now. We’re trying to get pregnant. I think we’ll get there. I look back on dating Rashid fondly. He’s a wonderful man who restored my faith that handsome, wonderful, single men do exist in New York City. He just wasn’t the one for me.