There’s a scene in the movie Notting Hill that has always stuck with me. Hugh Grant’s character is trying to climb over a gate to gain late-night access to a public garden and when he comes bumbling down, he blurts out, “Whoopsidaisies.” Julia Robert’s character’s starts laughing and asks, “What did you say?” And then comes the evasive, inevitable and unconvincing response: “Nothing.”

Nothing is rarely ever nothing, and is usually, almost definitely, something special and endearing. Sometimes our most private behaviors will launch themselves into public view without warning. Fissures in the walls of our minds occasionally allow our unconscious motivations to leak into awareness. Sigmund Freud called it unheimlich, while fellow psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan called it “The Real.” No psychoanalyst myself, I call it “When I Think of Ex-Girlfriends, I Tend to Remember the Moments of Awkward Beauty More Than Anything Else.”

When I’m with a woman, these moments manifest themselves as quiet confessions, secret habits or curious rituals that go on when she thinks nobody is looking. They are the treasures discovered during deep intimacy, the tiny universes that are revealed when she allows herself to rest in vulnerability, a quick glimpse into the hidden life of another person. I love this stuff!

I’m not alone in admiring the quirky side of a woman’s personality and to prove it, I’ve contacted some experts in the arena of female behavior: my friends from Michigan. This motley crew of dudes told me that not only do they remember some peculiar incidents concerning former and current lovers, but that these moments often become favorite and defining memories.

— Javan’s ex-girlfriend worked as a photo correction assistant at a woman’s magazine and airbrushed wrinkles, covered blemishes and embellished the color of eyes. The best parts of her job, she would say, were to hide any scars on a subject’s hands and delete out the tear ducts on close-ups. She used to characterize these two duties as “noble.”