The Nonsensical Story of Attraction

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He had this funny way of smiling.

His bottom row of teeth would show instead of his front ones, and his eyes would almost completely close. He wore one of those thick silver chains all the cool boys completed their outfits with. It gleamed in the sun, along with his safety patrol badge. I could see him at his patrol post while I was at mine – he was physically close enough to make stupid faces and gesture wildly to, but to me the distance felt like miles and miles.

When he’d beckon to me with a head nod or a finger, I’d abandon my post in an instant. This was so unlike me, with my obsessive need for rules and order. I would move towards him without a thought in my brain, like a moth to a flame, or a raccoon to a big mess of trash cans. I didn’t plan what I was going to say when I got to him, but I knew just sharing eye contact and a few words would be enough to set my heart ablaze. His face reminded me of a koala bear’s and for no good reason, it consumed me.

I was in fourth grade and I was attracted to a boy for the first time.

This same song and dance has happened pretty regularly since my grade school days, and the changes this attraction causes in me are always the same: I come across a guy and become overwhelmed with a feeling I can’t control or comprehend. I see a face (or more recently a pair of shoulders) and its owner becomes imprinted on my brain.

Sometimes I explain these feelings to friends, and they (along with my brain) say, “Him? But why?” And there is no reasonable explanation – science? Hormones? Magic? I’ve learned in recent years to stop wasting time trying to figure out why it’s happening and just go with it. Because being inside of it is one of the best feelings I can think of.

The first time you see him (or her), you catch that spark from a brief moment of eye contact. The idea may simmer subconsciously for a few days. But then you find yourself thinking about him. In my case I find myself dreaming about him.

The dreams always go a little like this: I’m somewhere new and exciting with a bunch of friends, usually in outdoor landscapes that resemble every place I’ve seen in childhood all mixed together, and then the friends disappear and I’m alone with him. We’re walking together, sometimes climbing up shit together, driving together, smiling into each other’s faces. And then he grabs my hand. I feel instantly safe and warm. Then I usually wake up, because our brains never let us have any fun, do they?

The next time I see him in real life I feel a strange closeness and comfort with this dude, even if I don’t know that much about him. Depending on how well I know him, I dial it back one to maybe one million notches. But at this point the feeling is palpable. When I hear his voice crossing the threshold, my heart seizes until the moment I see him. And then it relaxes into a pile of mush.

Listen: at this point, let me clarify that I am not here attempting to describe any lofty concept like love, companionship, soul mates. I am talking about pure primal attraction – a feeling of wanting to consume another person. Even if you have nothing in common with said person (as it so often happens for me).

You talk to this person and even though you really are interested in what he’s saying, you can’t string the words together because your mind is focusing so much on the shape of his mouth, the way his nose moves as he talks, the shape of his eyes, the line of his jawbone. When your bodies touch, accidentally at first, it sets off a jolt of electricity and an image of this infinitesimal moment of time is committed to memory. For me, the first time they laugh at my joke or smile at my sarcasm, something stirs throughout my whole body. It’s a giddiness mixed with a body high. I find myself sashaying through his line of vision without meaning to, subconsciously channeling Queen Bey to reel this man on in.

In 2015, it’s cliché to say that everyone has a type. But there may be some truth to the pseudoscience. If you write down a list of all the people you can remember having this wild, unbridled lustful passion for, you’ll find weird similarities. For example, every boy I’ve gone for has had a big mouth. I mean physically, though I do often find myself in company with a garrulous sort of guy. But that’s where the similarities end.

Some boys have been creative, left-brained feathers blowing in the wind; others have been logical, near humorless soldiers of order. Some listen to obscure and experimental music by unknowns; some listen to the radio. (Gasp.) No matter what the person looks or sounds like, the feeling they evoke inside us is the same. And we come to crave it. I enter this person’s house and I feel like I just took a sip of coconut water after days of thirst. I feel the sun’s rays warming my body. Mama’s coming home.

It’s interesting to note also that just as rapidly as this feeling appears, it disintegrates into an apathy that is impossible to ignore (at least in your own head). Now this person before you smiles in that crooked way, and the asymmetry bothers you. You pick out the imperfections. You wonder what happened to that mystical haze that wrapped you both in its glimmering fibers. I’m imagining a sort of bedazzled cobweb set-up here, slowly decaying and breaking off in the distance between two people. You wonder what you saw in this person, and if you’re me, you put your hat and coat on as you tiptoe out the door, arms full of apologies that attempt to graciously circumvent and address the issue simultaneously. You spend time alone on the couch at night and you wonder if it’s possible to regain that initial feeling of attraction with a person you now feel so little for. If you’ve found that this is possible, hit a bitch up. Maybe you go through a hermetic period of avoiding eye contact and making new connections. This too shall pass.

Then you catch eyes with a dude out in that wide, wide world of ours and so freely does that heart jump around in its cage. You’d forgotten how easy it was. And it starts all over again.

Photo by Emily Long

 

Finding What I Deserve

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I consider myself to be a strong, independent, and successful woman. My family and schooling were structured around having high standards, where resilience and self-respect were essential components of daily living.  These ideals enabled me to thrive as a young adult: leading various organizations, serving on panels, and even attaining the post-grad goal of my dreams.  I did everything right to become a person who I, and others, respected, yet still lost myself in two disparaging relationships.

Being in long distance relationships made it easy to overlook signs of disrespect, lack of effort, and subsequent belittling from the people I dated.  They weren’t physically there, so anything upsetting could be ignored by hanging up the phone or going out with friends.  At the time, it didn’t feel like a sacrifice.  Once I left for school, the first boyfriend became verbally abusive and accusatory.  He eventually cheated on me as revenge for things he imagined I did.  The second boyfriend would take long unannounced breaks from communicating with me, but became passive aggressive the minute I went out with friends who made the time for me instead.  Because most of my friends were single, it took me a long time to realize other couples weren’t like this.

I had hoped that in opening my soul to someone, I could be honest about past experiences.  I thought they would accept me, since my actions helped shape me into the person they claimed to love.  Instead, I was often judged and criticized for my past.  Dating jealous guys engrained the ideas that my innocent actions were unacceptable, I should feel ashamed for being myself, and that explanations were required for my social life.  It taught me that honesty frequently backfires, and omitting details of who I was with or what I did, was often easier than arguing.

While I had doubts that this was how love was supposed to be, my persistent personality and emotions clouded my judgment.  I had been training for a career in medicine throughout this, learning to do everything in my power to preserve the best quality of life for someone.  Why wouldn’t I put the same degree of effort into my relationships, if it meant there was hope?

As it turned out, I encountered elderly patients who were kinder to me than my first boyfriend, even when they couldn’t fully comprehend who I was.  I knew a couple with severe dementia that could barely communicate with each other, but they held hands from their respective wheelchairs, smiling for hours.  They found a way to portray their love, even in the most extreme circumstances.  Yet when I was living abroad, starving, sick, and alone, in rural Ecuador, my second boyfriend realized our e-mails weren’t transmitting properly, but made no effort to find out if I was okay through other mediums.  These scenarios happened so frequently, that I didn’t expect better treatment.  It had become my “normal”.

I’m not saying I’m completely blameless for the demise of my relationships, but I failed immeasurably by not committing to an honest one with myself.  I allowed myself to believe these relationships were the most I deserved for years and that I had to put everything I possessed into preserving them.  When you do that for long enough, the priorities and standards that were once pillars of your life lose significance.  By the time I finally realized my current life, my current love, was less than I deserved, it was humiliating.  I couldn’t understand how I could act so rationally in professional ways, yet accepted so little for myself personally.

After a few months of therapy and a lot of sunlight, I finally shed the burden of unrequited love. I felt lighter having acknowledged that this “personal failure” didn’t have to define me. My family and friends filled my life with so much love and positivity, that I started to feel like the only things I lost by becoming single, were feeling alone and disrespected within a relationship.  I began to succeed on my own, and felt their debilitating actions crumble behind me.

My struggle to leave negative relationships doesn’t make me a weak individual.  It doesn’t define me as being unsuccessful or unintelligent.  If anything, it means that I am a hopeful person, willing to believe people can change, and that it’s worth offering those opportunities.  It’s an admirable quality that I shouldn’t discard just because the wrong people took advantage of it.

I know now, that the right people won’t.

 

 

Defining True Love

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I never expected to meet the love of my life my freshman year of college, much less that we’d be living together a year later. I definitely didn’t mean for this to happen. Really, I just wanted to hook up with Riley. I don’t even think Riley meant for this to happen. Somehow though, this is where we ended up.

Our relationship hasn’t been perfect. Riley has managed to screw up every single relationship milestone.

Did I get some big romantic gesture when he asked me out? No. Laying in his dorm room one evening, he muttered, and I quote, “you know you’re my girlfriend, right?”

Did the first “I love you” come at the perfect moment? Not exactly. Six months into the relationship, standing outside in the cold, I had a nasty stomach flu and had just finished puking up the last of my spaghetti dinner. “You know I love you, right?” Yeah.

If he ever asks me to marry him, I’m fully expecting the proposal to be “you know we’re engaged now, right?”

Living together hasn’t exactly been perfect either. I’m not the easiest person to live with, and most of our time is spent with me nagging him about something. But I don’t think it’s too much to ask for the dishes and laundry to be done, the house to be clean, the fridge to be full, and the bills to be paid—preferably on time.

But we’re learning, slowly. We switch off doing the dishes now. I set up automatic payments for our bills. Sometimes Riley even cleans and does his own laundry. Even though it’s hard sometimes, it’s worth it to be able to fall asleep with him every night—usually me much earlier than him—and wake up with him next to me every morning—which usually means me setting a million alarms on my phone and getting up much earlier than I’d like to so that I can wake him up. I love him just the same, even at the sound of my alarm at 6:20 on a Monday morning.

Sometimes being with Riley is the most annoying thing in the world, and sometimes it’s the scariest. The thing about college is that nothing is permanent. I have no permanent home, jobs, friends, anything. College will end and most of the people that are in my life now will graduate and go their separate ways.

What will that mean for me and Riley?

I’ve spent hours going over that question in my head, and the honest answer is that I don’t know what I’d do without him. And that scares me even more. Part of college is learning how to be independent, and I’m not so sure I’ve done that yet, or that I’ll be able to do that with Riley here as a crutch. Part of it is also figuring out who you are and what you want to do with your life.

But there are moments that I know it’s all worth it. He’s not just my boyfriend. He’s my best friend. We support each other, push each other, and love each other. He’s adventurous. I’m timid. I worry about everything. He has never worried about anything. I’m responsible. He’s getting there. We balance each other out. And honestly, for every quality he has that drives me nuts, I have ten more that drive him up the wall. And for some reason he’s still here.

One of my less flattering qualities is that I tend to be very impulsive and indecisive. A few weeks ago, I called my grandma to see how she was doing. Her husband had passed away a few weeks earlier, and the funeral was the next morning—I couldn’t go because of school. However, my grandma, as sharp as she still usually is, forgot that.

“It’s going to be so nice having all of my grandchildren here tomorrow. I never get to see you all together anymore and it just means so much to me that all of you are coming tomorrow.”

I panicked. The thought of seeing all of us made her so happy, how could I tell her that I wasn’t going to be there? So I found myself going along with it. It wasn’t until I hung up the phone that I realized, in horror, that I either had to call her back and explain to her that I was not home and that I had lied to her, or I had to drive the 6 hours home and go to the funeral.

I called Riley. We arrived at my house in West Virginia at 2 in the morning.

I’m also a pageant girl, so Riley gets to be a pageant boyfriend sometimes. If you know anyone dating a girl who competes in pageants, be nice to him. He’s dealing with a lot. While I’m preparing for a pageant, sometimes I become a really ugly person. I’m usually a little hungry, stressed, and exhausted, and every single one of my weird, awful insecurities comes out. I’m too fat. I’m too skinny. My singing voice sucks. I’m going to embarrass myself in front of an entire theater full of people. Riley dealt with a lot of tears and a lot of screaming while I was preparing for my most recent pageant in November.

And yet he still showed up to the pageant to cheer me on, wearing a shirt with my face on it.

Love is different for everyone, and this is our story. At some point, you realize love isn’t a fairy tale. I’ll probably always be a little bit neurotic. Riley will probably never give me the perfect romantic moment, and he will definitely never live up to my standards of cleanliness. And even though we realize those things about each other, we still love each other at the end of the day. And maybe that’s what real, true love is.

 

What I Want My Sister to Know About Love

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I solemnly pulled another tissue from the box bedside and handed it to my sister.

After all, one of the unofficial responsibilities of being a big sis is emotional support during breakups. Even if those breakups are constant…and with the same person. I admired my sister for standing strong and ending an, albeit positive at times, ultimately volatile relationship. Cheering her on, I assured her that she had made the correct choice. I explained that she could move forward, her life would now be more stable.

Tearfully, her eyes met mine, as she cried out, “But love’s not supposed to be stable! It’s messy, and passionate, and complicated.” Speechless at the time, my mind has since been full of chatter on this matter. I certainly have had my string of complicated romantic situations. And I have yet to find that passionate but secure love story I was promoting. Could she be right?

In the media we are buried with the emotional baggage of complicated relationships. Plot lines stretched with the friends who become lovers, long-distance relationships gone wrong, the brother’s girlfriend ending up with the relative during Thanksgiving, and so on. But what about the fairytale? There is something to be said about the couple who find each other randomly at a bookstore or who meet through a group dinner and just don’t stop joyfully dating.

Yes, love is complicated because life is complicated. However, just as life can be good, happy, simple, and calm…so can love. When a relationship is difficult, sometimes it feels like we are working so hard that it must be right. It’s like hitting the gym five days a week to guarantee results. Pain is gain. But sometimes pain is just pain and when you’re in a relationship it can injure both parties involved.

Relationships may require work, but they don’t always have to be boot-camp. All love is different, and there may be difficult moments, but at the end of the day your relationship should make you feel happy. It may be hard to believe, but it really could just be simple as that.

 

 

Following In My Mother’s Footsteps, Sometimes

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Blue Ivy flicks her wrists, her hands waving wildly– she woke up like this, too.

Since birth, we’ve absorbed our mothers’ influences, perhaps without intending to. Our mothers are our first models for being women – we use their lives and choices as faded road maps for our futures. We copy their beauty routines, we adopt their policies on how to maintain our homes. How many times has a friend asked you, “why do you keep cereal in the fridge?” Or, “why have I never seen you without earrings on?”  And your answer is, “is that weird? Well, that’s how my mom always did it.”

But when we reach our twenties or even thirties, it’s imperative to become conscious of these inherited traits. This is when we begin the selection process: what qualities and practices am I going to continue carrying on, and what am I going to let go of? We can’t blindly accept (or blindly reject) everything they’ve done. On Gilmore Girls, Lorelai rejects everything her mother, Emily, tries to instill in her, while her daughter, Rory, drinks in everything Lorelai says.

We have to pick and choose which decisions to follow and which missteps to avoid in order to find what’s right for us. There are both positive and negative kinds of baggage we carry with us from past generations, but we don’t have to carry all of it forever, especially if it hurts.

When I was young and didn’t have control over my movements, my mom dragged me to Publix every few days. When those sliding glass doors swung open, I usually begged her for a quarter to get a shiny sticker or a necklace made of aluminum and black string. Then, we’d line up at the scale and weigh ourselves before starting to shop. I remember weighing the same as my mom by the time I was 12 or 13. By the time I reached high school, I was beyond her 135-pound frame. And I remember thinking that now I must be fat. My mom weighed less than me and was constantly talking about the need to lose weight and her dissatisfaction with the way her clothes fit. So if I weigh more than her, shouldn’t I have these same worries? Though she reminded me I was built like my father and therefore made of kryptonite, it still seemed to me that loving my body was near impossible.

My mom’s hang-ups about weight and appearing tiny were probably passed down to her from her mother, another even smaller woman. But do we have to perpetuate these negative body images? When I put on a little weight, I don’t have to punish myself in the aisles of Publix. I can forgive my body for its fluctuations. And I can forgive my mother for unconsciously passing these feelings onto me.

Our mothers were once young, scared girls just like us. And for many, they turned into women in a time when women weren’t given equal rights and freedoms. Their role models were valued for the way they kept up appearances, both of their homes and their bodies. Today we’re lucky enough that multiple waves of feminism have already rolled through and shaped our culture. And we use what we’ve learned to make informed decisions about what traits from our mothers we can leave behind.

Of course not everything our mothers pass down must be thrown aside. My mother has taught me more about how to become an adult than anyone else in my life. She taught me the value of money and the importance of self-reliance. She’s an expert on Russian literature and French cinema and I pass her recommendations onto friends as if they’re fact.

She is also an unrelenting source of support for me when times are toughest. Who else is going to listen to you cry about things that make you sound like a spoiled brat, without telling you you’re a spoiled brat? And when she does tell you you’re being a spoiled brat, why does it feel more like a compliment than an insult? Because you’re her spoiled brat. She created you out of her own body, and she loves you more than anyone else ever can or will.

I often find myself thinking, I’m almost 26 now. My mother met my father when they were 25. Where is my great love? As Robin Pecknold sang in the Fleet Foxes song Montezuma, “So now I am older than my mother and father when they had their daughter. Now what does that say about me?” But then I remember that I cannot walk in their footsteps any longer; I must make my own path.

I regard my mother’s timeline with caution, and I make decisions about my own that run at times both parallel and counter to hers. I do want to meet a man and travel the country with him like my parents did, but I do not want to center my life around a man. I do want to make enough money to support myself independently, but I do not want the coming and going of money to become a source of emotional pain and strife. I do want to value intelligence over physical appearance, but I don’t want to deny myself trips to the salon and mall to make myself feel good. I do want to appear attractive, but I don’t want to abide by standards of attractiveness set by men and magazines around me.

The relationship between mother and daughter is one of the strongest bonds. The older we become, the more often we look in our mirrors and at photographs and realize we look and sound just like our mothers. There is joy and comfort in that realization, like we belong to a tribe of people who instinctively understand us. But what about learning from their mistakes, shaking off their worries and continuing on our completely new, completely unique path in life?

There is joy in that, too.

(Photo by Emily Long)

 

Why They Don’t Love You

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There are two reasons why they don’t love you.

The first reason is because he or she doesn’t feel it. This reason breaks both our heart and our ego. They don’t love us because of who we are or who we can’t be.

They want to love someone smarter, thinner, more cultured, with a larger record collection, with a less alcoholic father, with less baggage. Someone who is hot, who is less hot than they are, who expects less but wants more, who loves dogs and hates cats, who went to a big state college, who knows who Faust is.  This is dangerous because it makes us think we can, and must, change ourselves in order to find love.  We think, because he didn’t love the way I chew on my hair when I’m nervous, the way I say um to fill space, the way I stand pigeon-towed at concerts, than no one will.

I could tell you that you are wrong, that someone will love your stubbly legs and your use of the word “nefarious” in everyday conversation, but you won’t believe me…not yet. Because right now all you can remember is that they didn’t love you.

The second reason that they don’t love you is because they can’t. This reason does damage to our sensibilities. If they don’t love us because of us, we think we need change ourselves. If they can’t love us because of themselves, we want to, and try to, change them.

Maybe he is heartbroken and unable to imagine loving anyone the way he loved her, or maybe he is just broken, lying flat on the floor waiting for the world to end. Maybe he can only love alcohol right now, or he can’t afford to take the risk of love. Maybe he is incapable of love.

You might think, maybe I can fix him, help him, guide him; maybe I will be the one to change him. I could tell you that you won’t be – that of course they are the only ones who can change themselves. But you won’t listen. You’re too busy saving love, saving hope, trying to mend a wing that is dissolving in your hand.

Really, though, whether they don’t love you or can’t love you, all that matters is that there is no love and what you do with that fact.

You have two options.

You can stay. You can stay curled up on your January-frozen hardwood floors, staring at the spot where he last stood. You can repeat the anguish to yourself every day, reminding yourself how much it hurts, telling yourself it will never go away. You can update your miserable status again and again with yet another Smiths song. You can stay in perpetual lovelessness.

Or you can move. Not necessarily forward, but somewhere. You can go to the bars and make out with someone new, take an improv class, take walks along the lake on days it is too cold to do so, tell a story out loud, have sex with that friend you shouldn’t have sex with, go to AA, move in with your parents and start making candles to sell on etsy. You can move. You can do something.

At the end of the day you may find yourself back where you started, back on that cold hardwood floor. Or you may find yourself on a different cold hardwood floor looking up at a cracked ceiling with new legs wrapped around yours.

When you move you don’t know where you’ll end up, but if you stay you know exactly where you will be in a month, in a year, tomorrow. There is safety and extreme sadness in that knowledge. I could tell you to move but it doesn’t really matter what I say. If you want to stay, you’ll stay. If you want to change, you’ll move.

No matter what, though, remember that you loved. That is perhaps the only thing that matters.

We live in a world that prioritizes being loved, that glorifies the act of being sought-after and revered. We forget that the importance of our lives is not in who loves us but in our ability to love. Loving and not being loved back doesn’t mean it wasn’t love, it means something mattered to you, someone meant enough to you even if it was just for a moment, a summer, or a marriage.

The reason they don’t love you doesn’t matter. The fact that you loved does.

 

 

The Happiness and Heartbreak of a Summer Romance

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Last summer was my last one as a college student before officially graduating in December and making my way into the scary real world. I knew I wanted to make it memorable, and coming from a tiny town in Oklahoma with an incurable case of wanderlust, I knew I wanted to venture out and explore more of the world. I had the opportunity to study abroad in Italy for a month, and then to work at my dream internship in New York City.

My aunt and uncle were generous enough to let me stay at their house in New Jersey that summer, and I commuted into the city each morning. Things seemed to be going my way and I didn’t think it was possible for things to get any better. That’s when I met him.

Let’s call him the boy from New Jersey. Our first date was in a local diner called Raymond’s that served the best French toast imaginable. We clicked immediately. We had the same interests in books, music, film, art and we shared a passion for writing and going on road trips. I learned that he had gotten his heart broken not too long ago, was in a band, had his own radio show and was obsessed with Neil Young. I knew I liked him instantly, but being as paranoid as I was, I still had apprehensions about the situation. What if he was an ax murderer? What if his plan was to hook up with me and then never call me the rest of the summer? He proved me wrong on both.

We knew that my stay there was limited so we spent as much time as we could together. When we weren’t hanging out, we were texting each other and I found myself thinking about him. It might be cliché to say it, but it felt like a dream. We stayed up late at night and shared our deepest secrets. We spent Fourth of July weekend together. I snuck him around my aunt and uncle’s house when I was supposed to be house sitting. He showed me around the town he grew up in. We drew in my sketchbook, and listened to the new Amen Dunes record while lying side by side on his bedroom floor. Before I left, he gave me one of his first demo tapes that his band made and I gave him my favorite bracelet that I made in middle school.

On my last night there after one of his shows, we went to a place that I now call “our spot” and talked for hours. He told me to come back. At that point in my life, my future was uncertain and I had no idea where I would be several months from then. He was going through a lot of things too and I knew he had his own path to continue forward on. A huge part of me wanted to be selfish. I wanted to tell him to wait for me; to not fall for someone else after I left. Deep down, I knew that would be unfair so I didn’t say any of that. Instead, all I could do was bury my face into his shoulder and cry.

If I stayed, I knew there was the possibility of being in a real relationship with him. But sometimes life has a way of sweeping us under the wave just when we’ve made our way to the top of it. I think that’s what makes short-lived relationships just as heartbreaking as long-term ones; sometimes even more so.

Summer romances are fleeting, magical and bittersweet—and they never get to the point where the relationship becomes mundane. With “almost” relationships, it feels like being stuck in the past or some kind of strange time portal. To me, it felt like we separated right at the height of the honeymoon phase. One of the worst things about it is you’re always left wondering, “what if?”  What if I had dropped everything and stayed? What if we could be an actual couple? What if we could celebrate our birthdays, Valentine’s Day and all those other silly holidays together?

We agreed to stay friends and keep in touch by writing letters. Opening my mailbox and finding an envelope with his name on it never failed to make my day better. Sometimes we sent each other things, like books, paintings and mix tapes— I keep them all in an old chocolate tin under my desk.

Sometimes I get scared that I’ll never see him again, or scared that when we do finally see each other again that he won’t feel the same way about me anymore. After I got back, I had moments where I was consumed with sadness— missing him, crying, and wondering if he had already forgotten about me. But at the same time, I realized how happy I should be— for the memories I made and for the lessons he taught me. After spending so much time being in unhealthy relationships in the past, he showed me that I shouldn’t be afraid to let my guard down and what it felt like to be genuinely loved even for just a few, fleeting moments.

In a recent letter to him, I told him that I still had feelings for him because I really “like” him. But I realize now that’s a lie. I love him. I’m not exactly sure at which point I fell in love with him – if it was on our first date or if it was on our last night together in a field in the middle of New Jersey.  All I know is that I did.

 

 

Wanting What We Can’t Have

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What is it about not being able to have something that makes it so much more appealing?  This concept isn’t limited to relationships. Swearing off carbs?  I’m sure a jumbo bowl of spaghetti would sound pretty enticing.

Bottom line? The unattainable is instantly more attractive. And frankly, why wouldn’t it be? If something is easy to get, it can sometimes become boring causing us to lose interest fairly quickly.

Take this scenario for instance. You’ve been on a few dates with a new guy, and things are going pretty well. You can always count on him to text you throughout your work day, which is nice and keeps you entertained. Eventually though, you start to find his texts a little annoying. You grow tired of keeping up with the incessant small talk, and start to think: “How many forced ‘haha’s’ do I really have to throw in before I can just admit that his lame attempts to be funny are not working?”

Then, one random Tuesday night, you’re refreshing your Twitter notifications and it hits you: that guy hasn’t texted you all day. Unusual, right? You ponder it for a little, but then shrug it off and figure he must be busy.  It’s no big deal.  But a couple more days go by, and still nothing. What’s going on? You couldn’t possibly text him first – that’s just completely unheard of. More importantly, however, why is this bothering you so much? Previously, you were getting annoyed with his constant texting and consistent effort to actually – oh I don’t know – show that he was interested? Of course, now that he’s pulled a disappearing act all you want is for his name to show up on your phone again to remind you that he still cares.

Sound familiar?

It’s these kind of situations that demonstrate how much we enjoy the chase, regardless of whether we care to admit it or not. Of course, it’s not only women who fall victim to this way of thinking.  What about that guy who treated poorly when you guys were “together,” a.k.a. hanging out occasionally but never actually putting a label on it? He may have shied away from commitment then, but as soon as he knows he can’t have you anymore he comes running.  He then goes on to insist that he wants to date you, doesn’t care about any other girls, blah blah blah. And guess what?  You might give him a chance, only to see the pattern repeated once you’re together and the chase is over.

So what can we learn from all of this?

It’s pretty simple. Wanting something for its true value, and wanting something because it’s out of reach are two VERY different things. The more we can be honest with ourselves about what we truly want and our true intentions, the less time we’ll waste chasing something that was never important to us in the first place.   Another phrase for this? Growing Up.

 

Embrace Being Smitten

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A friend of mine is seeing a guy from her hometown, and she’s so smitten. Smitten is a dumb word that I rarely feel is appropriate, but I can’t think of another way to describe the excitement I know she’s feeling. Too bad she’s hiding it behind a slightly smug, slightly sheepish, no-teeth smile

You know. The smile you use when you’re really happy about something, but you don’t want people to know that you’re happy about it. Maybe it’s because it’s a little embarrassing, or because you have to brag about yourself in explaining why you’re happy, or because you’re nervous that happiness will be fleeting and you don’t want to invest too quickly.

Hers had a little of all three.

She gave me little hints throughout the day. Talked a little bit about him as we got ready at the gym. How she had a nice time with him. How they went to her cousin’s hockey game. How they made out in his driveway.

She spoke quietly. More quietly than she normally would. Like she didn’t want to jinx the happiness. Or maybe she doesn’t quite believe it yet.

Those fluttery feelings at the beginning are the scariest. It’s so hard to admit to yourself that you’re excited. There’s such an urge to play it down, pretend you’re not invested, just in case he isn’t.

I’m so happy to see her happy, but I’m sad to see her trying to hide it from herself. Because that’s really what we’re trying to do in those moments. We tell ourselves that this is fine, it’s nice. But it’s nothing to be ecstatic about.

Except it is. It is something to be ecstatic about. That pure, raw, innocent joy is so rare after you’ve been hurt or after you’ve hurt someone else. And by our 20s, most of us have been one of those, if not both. Probably multiple times.

I want to grab her shoulders and tell her to feel it. To gush to me about how excited she is. To allow herself to embrace the giddiness and smile with all her teeth. To pause while walking and just think,“he is making me happy.”

She doesn’t know where it’s going to go. Of course not. But the heart knows happiness and the heart knows heartbreak. Ignoring the happiness does not make the heartbreak easier if it comes, but it makes the love a little less bright while it lasts.

So be smitten. Feel the love. And encourage your friends to do the same.

It makes the now better.

 

It’s Never Just a Crush

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I know it’s getting really bad if I’m sitting next to my phone and I sense its presence, detest its stillness, loathe the screen’s darkness. I mentally will the phone to ring, beep, light up – any sort of notification from him will do the trick.

And the trick is this: when I see or hear from him, I feel like I just got high. I feel energized, like I could eat a whole pie and then run a marathon and then dance to Beyonce’s “7/11” four times in a row. But there are times when my texts go unanswered, and even if the response comes a timely 30 minutes later, I spend every second of that time obsessing. Why hasn’t he answered? He’s always on his phone. What did he think when he saw my name pop up? Is he waiting a few minutes to seem less eager? Is he eager? Would I like him if he was eager?

If my communications go hours without responses, I can convince myself our relationship’s progress has come to a screeching halt, he no longer wants to spend time with me, I’m a silly girl for overstepping my bounds and assuming this man wants to hear from me, and so on. And the second he calls, this delusional and rather bitchy voice in my head disappears. I continue on with life, all rainbows and sunbeams. Because he called. He wants to hang out with me. He seems to like me.

It’s a vicious cycle I put myself through on the reg, but this weekend I found out I’m not alone when I picked up a book of Dorothy Parker’s short stories. “A Telephone Call” is several pages comprised entirely of a crazed woman’s internal monologue and prayer to God to get a man to call her. At one moment, she decides he hasn’t called her when he said he would because he got tied up at the office. Another moment, she’s praying to her Heavenly Father to kill the poor bastard, because that would allow her to focus on the good times they used to have together. The story ends without him calling her, which made me angry, but also made me smirk. Because whatever he’d tell her if he did call doesn’t matter. It’s the compulsive doomsday stream of consciousness that is so compelling and relatable.

It’s 2015 – why are we sitting by phones waiting for boys to call? Why do we base so much of our self-worth on what one dude thinks of us? And why do we read into every second he’s not calling as a string of signs he’s not into us? Having a crush is a gut-wrenching, stressful trauma that we go through on a regular basis throughout much of our lives. If we’re lucky, these crushes turn into happy, mutually supportive relationships. But oftentimes we’re stuck in that limbo where we don’t know if he likes us, or if we should tell him how we feel. When it graduates to an official crush, the suffering begins: the endless doubt and worry and self-deprecation.

But is there an alternative? Is there a way to like a guy, get to know him and not simultaneously go out of your mind? Would we even want that?

As Lauryn Hill once sang, “When it hurts so bad, why’s it feel so good?