Two Exes Wasted My Time. So I Sent Them Invoices.

Can the attempt to get paid by men who disappointed me deliver something bigger than healing?

Confident Black woman writing down invoice at her computer.
Photo: Maskot/Getty Images

Days after my 32nd birthday, I sat hunched over my computer typing feverishly into oblivion as the sky darkened outside. It was Memorial Day weekend and instead of being at someone’s barbecue drunkenly two-stepping to Earth, Wind & Fire I was drafting invoices — two invoices — to two men from my past that I had been enamored with. Invoices to reckon with the pain and anger I was feeling. The only shards that I was left with when the romance was over.

Both relationships had soured for different reasons. But sadly, each had the same, predictable end. So, I gathered up all the time I lost as my rage funneled into a foreboding and ferocious cloud. My desire was to tangibly contend with multitudes of regrets.

I filled in their names, how they could pay — my preference was PayPal because I’d get the money instantly — and proceeded to list out my gripes. I mean, line items.

And so, I typed, as the sun set, the cicadas starting to roar, and lightning bugs flitting through the heavy, humid air of yet another Southern summer in Atlanta. Using the template for what I’d otherwise invoice for written work I’d completed as a freelance writer, I filled in their names, how they could pay — my preference was PayPal because I’d get the money instantly — and proceeded to list out my gripes. I mean, line items.

Each one was like an ultimate truth being harnessed, a rebellion thrown out into the world, instead of a tight-lipped, lonely acceptance of bothersome deal breakers. There was the unending emotional labor, the flights, the Ubers and Lyfts to visit each of them out of town because we didn’t live in the same state. Sex — all the God-awful sex I’d zone out during and positions which were more painful than pleasurable. The lingering embarrassment from being dumped via email—while I was traveling internationally—from one of those men. The admittance from the other man that he wished he loved me and that he’d be fine casually dating me forever. For each invoice, I tacked on a miscellaneous fee simply for all the time I invested into them — into us — that I couldn’t get back. The total for both invoices came to $38,000.

I even offered payment plans.

Mariah Carey, the multi-octave diva herself, inspired me in this pursuit. I’d seen someone amusedly tweet that Carey allegedly received a multimillion payment from her billionaire ex-fiancé, James Packer, for uprooting her life and in service of her time that had been wasted.

Carey’s gumption in requesting compensation got me fired up enough to actually do it. I was convicted enough to risk looking foolish and overzealous in asking for what I felt was owed. Many of us look at the embers of a relationship’s end and have nothing but misgivings and fury about the ways we accommodated our partner that availed to nothing but resentment. If all of those feelings could be translated into something tangible, as in money, would it mean something bigger than healing?

I’ll never know because neither man paid my invoice. They didn’t acknowledge receipt of those invoices either. They did, however, look at the email I sent each of them. I know this because I use email trackers. One viewed the email once, the other twice. Weeks later, when it was clear they’d never respond I knew I had to find a way to move on. I had to stop thinking they could nurse old wounds. I had to look toward a different future, one where I’d never be this consumed or dejected when it came to dating and men again.

In honest reflection, I spent too much time willing men to pay attention to me, to treasure me as I felt they should, and not enough time merely existing peacefully as the woman I am.

Two years later, I laugh at the lengths I went to assuage my angst. Now that the invoices are in my rearview mirror, I recognize that men were too central to my world. In honest reflection, I spent too much time willing men to pay attention to me, to treasure me as I felt they should, and not enough time merely existing peacefully as the woman I am. Actively dating had unknowingly become a monstrous toxicity in my life that didn’t need as much space. Men didn’t need to be the center of my universe anymore.

I started investing more time and energy into my career. Working to manifest long-held goals and dreams all of a sudden felt more in reach because I had fewer distractions and more mental space to hold them. I no longer had to compromise my boundless ambition and drive in service of a romantic relationship.

Choosing myself, all those glories and pains, seemed more gratifying. More centered. More true to who I have come to be.

My healing and my peace are important. I began to gravitate toward friends with whom I can actively process inner growth. We supported each other as we healed, instead of constantly talking about dating. I made it clear dating was not a focus for me. I remained open to those I met who were of intrigue, but I no longer put forth the effort to ensure dating was something I actively did. I stopped waiting for the reactions to these declarations. I no longer cared because I already knew it was deemed “odd” for a woman in her thirties to not be hyper-focused on her happily ever after. The last time I went on a date was more than a year ago.

But I also knew there was more out there for me. There was more than squeezing myself into small spaces in order to be more palatable to men in hopes that I will be deemed worthy enough to be chosen. Choosing myself, all those glories and pains, seemed more gratifying. More centered. More true to who I have come to be. And believe it or not, it was those two invoices that set me out on this path to clarity and freedom.

Heart-centered writer writing about travel, food, personal growth and self-discovery.

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