I steal from every man I date.
This isn’t what you think.
I am not rifling through pockets, or stuffing heirlooms down my underpants.
I am much more selective than that.
I am not looking for tangible things. I am searching for experiences.
I was 35 years old when I fell in love for the first time, recently divorced, suburban mother of two small children, unable to even use a GPS. I was sheltered and fearful.
Let’s go freediving, he said. And, all I heard was that this beautiful man that I was dating wanted to take me on vacation.
I think I’m going snorkeling, I told all my friends.
I wish I could say that we lived happily ever after that trip. The reality is that he dumped me on the plane ride home.
I wasn’t very graceful in the water. I couldn’t equalize my ears. I returned home heartbroken, but determined.
Since then, I dove down 120 feet in the middle of the ocean on one single breath. I’ve explored wrecks, and speared fish. I’ve become a mermaid. I don’t miss that ex-boyfriend.
You’re not strong enough to do what I do, the next one said. He was a competitive triathlete. I used to carry his bag and watch him race.
You look silly when you run. You can’t swim, he would say. I always believed him.
I signed up for my first sprint triathlon the month we broke up. Four months later, I was competing in a half ironman. I beat this ex-boyfriend to the finish by 25 minutes.
I fell in love with an artist next. He was passionate and kind. We burned bright but briefly. I watched him paint and I ached to create something. When it ended, I felt tender and bruised. I wrote it down. I applied to a summer writing program and got accepted. I’ve been published. There is a book on the shelf of my library with my name in it.
The most recent heartbreak was a surfer who travels the world. Nomadic and free-spirited, he was never going to love me or stay. I accepted this because he gave me dreams of water and passports. I am heading out of my own country for the very first time next week. I am going on a surf vacation to a third world destination.
Some people would say that I don’t know who I am, that I simply take on the interests of the men I fall in love with in order to please them.
I don’t believe this. I am just drawn to men who embody my own dormant dreams.
I am always searching for love, above all other things. And, it is what I offer these men, in the beautiful bend of my body, in my curious mind, in my generous laughter. When things end, and these men can’t or won’t give me the love I hoped or expected, I don’t have bitterness. I simply pocket a souvenir.
I slip a tiny bit of their passion into my jacket pocket and I head out to my next adventure.
I steal from every man that I date.
I am a thief and a chameleon.
These are not such bad things to be.
Love has propelled me to the bottom of the sea, across finish lines, inside classrooms, atop of mountains and to locales I have yet to even imagine.
I truly believe there is a man out there, somewhere, who is going to be my best friend. This man will let me roll over in bed each morning and lick his hipbones awake. He is going to marvel at how someone as traveled, experienced, and accomplished as I will be wants to make a home right there beside him.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Tambako the Jaguar/Flickr