Warning: naughty language ahead!
I’ve loved people in a lot of different ways.
I remember this starting in the seventh grade: I had a huge crush on my best friend, who I knew was gay but would not find that out about him for another four years. I was friends with him and another girl, and the other girl was always just slightly more in his favor, which saddened me a great deal because I wanted to be his favorite.
I don’t remember much about him, but I remember a bunch of things about me; and with (possibly) more clarity on the matter, I can look back and say: well, sure—of course I loved the person who I could share my secrets with, and of course he would show favor to other girls over me because at that time in my life, I was upholding the belief that I was not valuable.
This trend continued for a while, and I wholly self-identified as the girl who is doomed to unrequited love.
I would fall deeply into fantastical lands where pretty and popular men would sweep in to my defense and fight for me! Dote on me! Worship me! Suddenly, I’m five minutes into the most glorious imagining of school crushes getting up on table tops at lunch and proclaiming their undying love for me, before realizing that there was still ten minutes left of silent reading period and I had been reading the same sentence on repeat and understood nothing.
Dragging that sludgy feeling around—the feeling that generally translates to, Wah, no one wants to be with me—became unsustainable at some point.
That mentality became unsustainable because it requires so much energy for its upkeep. Those thoughts need to be fueled and refueled almost every second as life becomes just one big competition: I tirelessly compare myself to everything and everyone, and always come up wanting.
That can be kept up for a couple of years, but at some point, it becomes too much and we begin to shift out of it. We can shift into places just as or even more dismal, or we can shift into places that feel better.
The direction we shift is entirely up to us, but movement will happen. It’s just physics: as time move forwards, change is guaranteed. Sooner or later, fantasies start playing out in real life, however tweaked they are from our visions of how things will be.
In high school, I was the last of my friends to receive my first kiss.
I was almost sixteen, and I was sequestered in a vacant classroom after school with a boy I’d met that day.
We were watching Full House, and since the teenage frontal lobe uses unfathomable logic, he pulled out his penis and asked for a blow job. I told him I’d never done that before, but got on my knees anyway, and then he slammed his mouth on my mouth.
I eavesdropped my way into figuring out his phone number, called him that night and then decided he was my boyfriend for the next month.
We had nothing in common: he was a Christian, I was a-religious; he was a Republican, I was a Democrat; he was interested in who knows what, I was interested in other things.
But I so desperately wanted to be part of that club—the club that proves that I am desirable because I have a boyfriend.
Our breakup was as curious as our beginning, as one day he just didn’t return my call, and then a couple days later I announced to my friends that we were broken up.
I haven’t spoken to him since.
Jared was sad, and I was too. We came from sad homes and had sad lives and sad talks and sad adventures. We went to films and parks and spent a lot of time “watching movies” on couches. We had several LiveJournal accounts that we used to publicly write about our relationship issues, and we anonymously commented on each other’s entries, but never once had a conversation about this in real life.
We broke up six or seven times in two years.
We were two people glued to the insides of a rubber band, directly opposite each other, and no matter how far we walked away from each other, we were bound to the action of snapping back.
My weekends turned into me sitting on the couch waiting for his call, which sometimes came and sometimes didn’t. I ditched my friends in the off-chance that he and I would make plans. I cried myself to sleep most nights and never once told him about it.
I was not happy. But I was desirable. And at the time, that was the important part.
By the time I got to college, Jared and I had exhausted our quota of tears and yelling and sobbing and begging and groveling. We were over and I was onto college dudes.
Here’s something: I often heard adults warn me about guys. They would say something to the effect of, be careful of guys, they only want you for sex.
I think it would have been more helpful if someone had said, just because a guy tells you that you’re beautiful, that doesn’t mean he wants to date you.
I can count on one hand the times someone told me I was pretty in high school. In fact, I remember each time vividly because it caught me so off-guard every time. That wasn’t something people talked about at school. To say you were attracted to someone meant that you had a crush on them, which meant that you kind of wanted them to be your girlfriend and your date to all the school dances.
This was not the case in college.
In college, I was told I was beautiful, gorgeous, hot, sexy, pretty, fuckable…you freaking name it; and I was told those things every day by multiple people.
I didn’t think these people wanted to marry me, but surely they wanted to date me for a couple of months, see how it goes, maybe fall in love, have a drunken falling out two years later and be the subject of many angry love poems. I mean, surely this was the case. Surely. Right?
This is where my pattern of unrequited love started reinforcing itself once, twice, three times over as I befriended guys with pretty blue eyes and pretty green eyes and pretty brown eyes.
I became confused and distraught as they started petering out of my life after I slept in their bed a few times. There was no discussion about any of this, there were just missed calls and unanswered text messages and awkward exchanges at parties.
There were mornings that spanned the time of one calendar year where I would wake up, look at the ceiling and think, today is the day; today is the day that Ray will finally call me back.
He never called.
I was depressed and confused and disconnected.
I gained weight and became a stranger to myself.
I knew this was a problem when I caught myself unintentionally lying. Words would come out of my mouth, without consent from my brain, and as I was speaking them, I knew nothing that I was saying was even remotely true.
My only prayer was that I would find someone who would let me love them.
I started finding people who would let me love them, and I loved just for the sake of loving.
I found people who I wasn’t physically interested in, or mentally interested in, or emotionally interested in. But I knew that they wanted me and I knew that they would treat me well, so I loved.
This sounds like this spanned over centuries, but really, this just describes my first two years of college.
I see so clearly how every single one of these people has had a hand in creating the most fantastic love I’ve ever known—love of self: the feeling of waking up in the morning and opening my eyes and getting to just enjoy being me.
And sure, I didn’t know this love for most of my life, and I didn’t know this love when I started doing this dating thing, and I’m sure I only know a fraction of it now, but this is what I know: my relationships are my most effective mirror. They show me the parts of my insides that I’m not paying attention to, and they teach me to embrace those parts kindly.
Then my third year of college started.
But that’s a story for a different day.
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Editor: Catherine Monkman
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