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My dear friend, my precious sister, this is never what you intended.
I know because it is never what I intended, either.
You are worthy of all the beautiful things in life. Most of all, the pure, reciprocated, soul-filling love you’ve been searching for in what seems like all the wrong ways.
You didn’t want to be just another swipe right among all the others. Another “Hey, let’s meet up for a drink” on a Thursday night. Another “What are you doing tonight?” text that comes just a little too late, but you reply anyway. I can feel your heart racing as you see their name pop up on your phone, and I can see the smile on your face as you fall victim to the game you never wanted to play—because in so many ways you are the same as me.
How did I go from a little girl dreaming of Prince Charming to a woman who, at one time, would go home with a stranger if they made enough eye contact and I’d had enough cranberry-vodkas? How did the line between being used and being loved become so blurred? I never wanted to be used. Most people don’t. I wanted to be loved. To be understood. Most people do.
It doesn’t happen at once; it happens in a million little ways to a million different women.
It was my first boyfriend who dumped me when I was 12 because I was too shy to kiss him. It was the guy in high school who got upset that I wouldn’t have sex with him and had his friends pelt me with spit wads in the hall. It was the person I decided to give myself to, who refused to use protection because it “felt better” that way. It’s being told all the right words by someone, by many people, who hold your hand and kiss you softly and then one day stop calling after you have given them everything. It’s being made to feel like being taken out to a nice dinner deserves a physical payment or like the only way to get their attention is to give them everything. They make the chase so sweet, but they don’t stay long enough to taste the salt of your tears.
It happens over years, each experience building on another until one day nothing seems to make sense anymore. The yearning for love has been replaced with the obligation for sex, because, can someone really love me without it, we wonder? If I let them into my body, will they let me into their heart?
Then, slowly, women like us start to feel unworthy, like there is something fundamentally flawed in us, like we are broken and unlovable. We are called names like slut and whore by those who see our behavior. They laugh and say we should have known better.
Maybe, like me, you have felt ashamed. Maybe you have taken steaming hot showers trying frantically to scrub the feeling off of you. Maybe you have cried alone in the bathtub. Maybe you have awoken to a tear-stained pillow, promising yourself you won’t do it again. Maybe one day you decide to put a stop to it all and build walls around your heart and your body, to not let anyone in.
You decide to give up on love, because it hurts so badly, because not worrying about anyone is so much easier than worrying if they will ever call again and the heartbreak of silence.
The pain and the shame and the times you have been lied to in gorgeous words. Times you have been told promises that made your heart race but didn’t last—this is never what you asked for. As much as you blame yourself—and maybe you should have known better—it is not your fault.
Remember this: even when you have been made to feel like you are never going to have what everyone else seems to in their perfect pictures or wedding invitations or relationship status updates, you are not alone. There is someone out there who will hold your hand and kiss you softly and make you pancakes in the morning, over and over again. There is someone who will tell you words that come from the heart—maybe not exactly the right words because they are raw and messy, but they will be beautiful just the same. Your smile was meant to be delighted in by someone who sees your magic. You will know their soul, and it will feel different than any contrived cliché you’ve felt before.
One day, you will find someone who will expect nothing of you other than your honest, chaotic, unapologetic, vulnerable self—and they will give you theirs in return. Wait for that person who values your time and respects your body.
My dear, what I’m saying is, guard your precious heart. Don’t give in to the noise of that which is not meant for you. Listen to what people are saying to you in the silence between their words.
It’s not going to be easy in a world of people who seem so willing to settle for so much less. One day you will meet someone, and it will all make sense.
Wait for that person.