I haven’t posted in weeks, not because I have been intentionally neglectful, but because the post that has been floating around in my brain feels impossible. I’ve started and trashed a ton of times. While venting this frustration to some friends, I summarized what I wanted to write about, and after thinking it over for a few days, I’ve decided to just go ahead and post what I told them, so that it is at least out there. I need for this post to be outside of the confines of my anxious brain. When I have something rattling around in my brain and know that I need to spit it out to Mike, as messy as it might be, I warn him that I need to word -vomit. So here goes:
When Mike and I met, he was polyamorous, but not seeing anyone, really. He had a friend who used to be someone he dated, but they had pretty much ended before we met. He hadn’t had a date in 4 months, and I wasn’t looking for serious, so it seemed like it was going to be fine: someone to hang out with once and a while, but casual. I had naively thought that knowing he was on a different wavelength would keep me from getting too invested, and thus, keep me from getting hurt. And then, we ended up liking each other way more than expected, and got so close. And it was so easy. Except for the poly thing. I understood it and had no problem with it from a theoretical standpoint, but to think about it in practice was another story. I was falling in love. And so was he. He wasn’t seeing anyone else, so that wasn’t an issue, but there were questions to work out and insecurities to face that are different from relationships between two people who are only interested in monogamy.
Over the course of our relationship, Mike has fielded a LOT of questions. It comes down to this: when single, we both had assumed that we wouldn’t find someone who would check all the right boxes, but our solutions were different. It worked for him to have several relationships that each fulfilled different needs. I had just assumed that I would find someone to date, maybe, but no one would really ever “get” me. When we met, we didn’t have a roadmap for working it all out.
He seemed nervous because he was increasingly comfortable with monogamy with me. I have a big fear of comparison and am terrified of not being “enough.” There have been times where the general feeling is “holy shit, I’m so happy I can’t breathe, but I still don’t know what to do with this feeling or that feeling.” We’ve worked through a lot of it, and continue to do so.
For me, the hardest part is that in some ways, I’m figuring it out on my own. There aren’t many cases where someone polyamorous chooses to be in a monogamous relationship, so there really aren’t a lot of people saying “yeah, I’ve struggled with that, too, and here is what helped me.”
There are advantages to Mike having the experiences he’s had. It has helped our relationship in ways. Having to explore my own reactions and feelings has been really helpful. He has since adjusted his label to ambiamorous (which, admittedly, I made up), because he is not strictly poly, where he is only happy in multiple relationships, but is capable of being happy and fulfilled in a wider range of situations, from some polyamory to monogamy. And he knows that I have no desire to ever open our relationship, and he doesn’t consider that a problem.
So that’s what I want to write about: about figuring out a relationship that really doesn’t fit into most boxes. But I don’t know how to do that without ending up with people either 1. Thinking less of him because polyamory is still largely taboo, or 2. Giving me a long list of reasons why we will fail.
What I have learned in trying to figure out how to write this damn post is that while our situation is pretty unique, the experience of working through something as a couple is really common and vital to the health of any relationship. Couples everywhere work through challenges like blending families, religious differences, or a million other things. In each of those cases, there tons of reasons that a relationship might fail.
At the end of all of that, my conclusions are this:
- I am ridiculously happy in my relationship, and that does not depend on anyone else approving of it.
- Anyone who thinks less of it, or especially of Mike, can go to hell.
- Anyone who tries to give me crap about it better be prepared for me to respond.
- Our relationship is very healthy. We have pretty effortlessly worked out a lot of things without it ever feeling like work, and when we do need to slog through a tough conversation, the overriding desire for both of us is to come to a conclusion where we are both happy and know we are loved by the other person.
I guess that is it, for now. I’m happy. Mike is happy. And my brain feels less stressed out by having all of this on the outside of my head. If you have questions, I’ll answer them, as best I can.
And maybe, someday, I’ll tell you about the dinner party with my grandmother’s crystal.
A year and five days ago, I went on one of the worst dates I could have ever imagined. The guy was unattractive as he pounded beers, talked about how much he hates his job and hates the place he lives and hates that he has no friends, but nothing was as unattractive as when, at the end of the date, he made a homophobic joke about merchandise in a store window. It is the only date I was ever on when I texted my sister and had her make a rescue call. In retrospect, I should have just ended the date with a “no thanks, I don’t need your negativity!”
I was so tired of bad dates that it made me twitch, so I decided to take a break. No more reading profiles, no more awkward coffee dates, no more waiting for a text that might not come. Clichéd… so clichéd.
Three days later, I was up well past my bedtime, had already put my glasses on the bookcase, and I get a message:
Ok, Mike, I guess I will take a look at your profile, but I don’t know… an hour later, having read what has to be the longest profile in the history of dating sites, as well as answers to questions, I figured that if I was interested enough to read that much, there is enough to respond. Except, I was tired. Like, really tired. I had no idea how to muster up the charming sweetness I tried to have in messages. So that is nearly exactly what I said:
I wasn’t sure that the little smiley face at the end was going to make up for my complete inability to flirt, but I went with it. I had said I was done dating, but he said he wasn’t looking for serious. What harm was there in having someone who lived in the same little town, who could meet for dinner once in a while?
Our first date was July 29, 2015. At a tavern downtown, I walked in and was greeted by a huge smile and a white and orange Hawaiian shirt. I sat, terrified that I was going to be too nervous to be interesting. And then suddenly, it was three hours later, and I was fascinated by this guy. We left the restaurant and walked up and down the main street, flirting and laughing and oh my god, why won’t he just hold my hand already!? We got to his car, and he asked if he could kiss me. Swoon. Finally. He walked me to my car, and we stood there, talking, and he kissed me. I was not ready for this date to be over. So it wasn’t. We ended up sitting in his car for a few more hours, never running out of things to say, always smiling, wishing that the clock would stop. Our first date was seven hours long.
But we didn’t have “serious” on the horizon. He had other commitments, like his show, which was just getting started. I had just started a new job, and was looking for a place to live, trying to get settled. A short while later, date three or four, maybe, there was a moment after he reacted unexpectedly to something I said, when I thought, oh no, I’m in trouble. If this keeps up, I’m going to fall really hard.
I swear to you on my mother’s life, I did not expect the next year to go like it did. I couldn’t have imagined it. I had dreamed about it, but never thought it would happen. Not to me. Falling in love like this was something that happens to other girls. Prettier, thinner, funnier, braver girls.
All those clichés, the annoying ones that keep young actresses on a steady diet of rom-com roles, happened. Have you seen Trainwreck? That part when she and her new boyfriend become that obnoxiously new, starry-eyed couple who make eyes at each other in restaurants, kiss in the freezer section, and all that stuff? Yeah, that’s us. AND I LOVE IT. I’ve become one of those women.
There have been hard moments, when I’ve had to deal with insecurities or have a conversation I would like to avoid. But in each and every one of them, his response has been nearly perfect.
When we got to the point that we were serious, I made a very conscious choice to not keep a running catalogue of all the things he has ever done “wrong,” or when he has done something to really upset me. Instead, started another list: romantic things he has done, and moments of sweetness. I didn’t want to overlook those things, and I wanted those things to be what I think of when I am upset. I wanted to remember, even when it was tough, that I have someone who loves me, and whom I love very much. Ugh, that is a cliché right out of a relationship expert handbook, except I started it without it being suggested. Can’t I just be normal?
In truth, there have been two times that I have been upset, and one of them was so minor that now, I can’t even remember what the cause is. But I would make Hallmark roll its eyes over the list of sweetnesses.
The last year has been one surprise after another. Meeting people, going places, doing things: all great. What has surprises me more, though, is how easy it is to be with him. He is my home, no matter where I live. He is the first person I want to see in the morning and the last person I want to see at night. He makes me laugh, encourages me, and believes in me, even when I struggle to. He is every damn cliché in the Guidebook for Lovely Boyfriends and sometimes I think my heart and head will literally explode.
I do have a list of things he does that annoy me to the point of giving him the stink eye. In its entirety:
- He leaves cabinet and microwave doors open (though he has mostly stopped leaving he dishwasher and kitchen drawers open, so there is hope).
- He squeezes the toothpaste in the middle and sometimes gets spit splatters on the faucet when he brushes his teeth.
- He likes everything too loud.
I mean, ugh, men can be so annoying… meh, who am I kidding. He does the dishes without asking, so I totally don’t care about the toothpaste.
I cannot believe how lucky I am. I know that people say that all the loveliness of a relationship changes and often lessens as it gets older, but that is the cliché I hope desperately to avoid. So far, I still think he is the best thing since peanut butter.
Today is our anniversary, and we are going back to that same tavern. Despite having woken up next to him this morning, and having gone to work, holding his hand nearly the whole way, and having kissed him about two dozen times before I went to my office, I can’t wait to see him. I never expected him, or us. But holy hell, I couldn’t be happier about it.
After dinner tonight, my dad was flipping channels and ended up on an episode of Extreme Weight Loss. I hadn’t seen it before, but the premise is familiar: take an obese person, give them a crap ton of personal training and resources and let us all live vicariously through their weight loss while we sit on our butts and shovel in the Oreos. We only caught part of the episode, but rather than inspire me to use the gym membership I’m paying for, it made me want to pull the blankets over my head and give up.
This week’s subject, at her heaviest, was only 34 pounds more than I am now. She was 40 pounds lighter than my heaviest weight.
They kept showing her initial photo: a sad expression on a puffy, droopy face, her stomach huge and far past the “muffin top” stage, her thighs stuck together… How tragic it is to look that way, they inferred. How grossly unfortunate that a person exists like this. Once she loses the weight, then she might be pretty.
I shifted in my chair. I kept watching, wanting to see how she turned out, regretting every bite I’ve eaten in six weeks. In the end, she beat her goal by a few pounds and everyone in her reveal audience cheered.
I wished that it hadn’t been so long since I’d eaten dinner because I wanted to throw it up (don’t freak, I haven’t thrown up in almost a decade). Instead, I messaged my bff.
My best friend since fifth grade, she is no newbie to handling my body image issues. She was there when I was a big-boobed size 7 in sixth grade, convinced I was enormous. She was there when I was a size 24, and every minute of every day as I’ve tried to shrink. She reminded me that people are stupid and told me I’m beautiful. We never agree on the latter, but she seems determined to be wrong.
“Be kind to yourself,” she told me last night.
I’m so exhausted of being told that to look like me is to look disgusting, ugly, and unfathomable. I’m so exhausted of having to try to drown out that persistent thrum of society that tells me in a million ways that the bigger I am, the less I am worth. I’m so tired of being told that if I want to be “normal,” or happy, or pretty, or desirable, I have to become half of what I am now.
I know that there are women who are confident in how they look, women who are anything but thin who work what they have, and do it well.
I am not one of those women. I am not a Melissa McCarthy, who boldly tells anyone who gives her crap about her size to kindly fuck off. I wish I was bold and brave like that, but I’m just not.
I’ve been seeing someone for a few weeks. It’s kind of casual and nothing official, but tomorrow is our fourth date. Near the end of our last date, he said something that very nearly got him slapped, had he not quickly explained himself: “You’re like a 70’s porn star; you see what you want and you go for it. That kind of confidence is fucking sexy.”
Me? Confident? Are you kidding me!? I am anything but confident. What I am is a decent actress with just enough pride and vanity to keep her from throwing up from nerves. If only he knew what was going through my head while I tried desperately to act like I was chill:
I like your arm around me. But please don’t squeeze too hard and realize how soft my hips are.
Your hand on my arm is nice, but please don’t notice how my batwings hang like drapery.
Kiss me again. But don’t open your eyes because I don’t want you to see how fat my chin is and how undefined my jaw is when my head is at this angle.
I won’t be the one to take your hand when we walk down the street, no matter how much I want to, because I worry you won’t want people to think we’re “together.” So please take mine.
I am not confident. I am tired.
I scrolled through Facebook as I walked to the bathroom to take a shower. Another friend posted another picture of her abs. I undressed in the bathroom and reached around to the back of my shoulder to scratch a mosquito bite and had the misfortune of seeing myself from the waist up in the reflection in the mirror.
I saw the stretch marks on the back of my arm, the result of my arms changing in composition as I built muscle faster than the skin shrank. I saw the roll where my boob pulled the flesh from my upper rib cage down, and the stomach that had a permanent muffin top shape, even when not wearing pants, and the way that my stomach protruded in the front, making me look about 6 months pregnant. I thought about how a picture of this hot mess would have such a different response than my friend’s did.
I saw the same things that made the TV audience feel pity. I tried to remember that I’ve made progress, but instead, all I could think is “this is the body I worked hard to get? Are you fucking kidding me? All that work, and this is it. Seventy goddamned pounds and this is it. I’m never going to lose enough to be anything other than fat. Gross.” And I felt tired. So tired. Tired of living in a body with an improperly working thyroid that makes weight loss damn near impossible. Tired of feeling like I won’t ever be small enough to be pretty. Tired of the looks I get as a fatty. Tired of feeling like I have to spend so much energy trying to ignore the messages society sends.
While in the shower, I thought about texting tomorrow’s date. I wanted to tell him that I hoped he’d be the first: the first (straight) guy to tell me I’m beautiful, or the first guy who didn’t lose interest after a few weeks, or the first guy to introduce me to his friends. I’m not confident that those things will ever happen. A little part of me hopes that they will, because I’m an eternal romantic, but if I’m honest, I’m really, really tired of hoping.
Dear potential date:
Honesty is the best policy, they say, and after roughly six months of reading profiles and wading through opening lines that are thin variations on “hey, you have nice lips and I like your curves,” I am exhausted. Too much time has been spent on trying to highlight my assets and make my flaws sound fun and quirky, and it got me nowhere. And by the way, that picture is one of 47 I took that night in an effort to find an angle that hid my hips, the wobbly lipstick line, and the stray sock that always seems to be lurking on the floor. I am also sick to freaking death of reading about how you really love Foo Fighters and Shawshank Redemption (seriously, ALWAYS Shawshank Redemption!), and are searching for a woman who embodies every line of The Beach Boys’ California Girls while effortlessly looking like 1995’s Pamela Anderson and who accepts you just as you are.
Because really? Who are we kidding. This is not Melrose Place. If you’re old enough to get that reference without heading over to IMDB and are still (or again) on the market, there is at least some element of your profile that is equal to putting lipstick on a pig.
If I’m honest in my profile, it would read something like this:
I’m an acquired kind of pretty, which is the nice way of saying that an internet website identified my celebrity doppelganger as Philip Seymour Hoffman. I have generally decent hair, nice eyes, and freckles in the summer. I hope you’re a boob guy, because if you’re in it for a good booty, you aren’t gonna find it here.
My backstory will scare the crap outta you if you listen long enough: I grew up in a great family that was damaged by a dysfunctional church. I still have lots of friends there, so don’t bash it, but know that it screwed up my head. I took a long time to finish college and even longer to find out who I think I am. At the age of almost 34, I have seen way more heartache and trauma than most of my peers. I sometimes take meds to make my brain work properly. And the ringer: I’m an ex preacher.
There are good things – lots of them – if you are one of those fabulous men who knows that women are people. To start:
Most importantly, I am really good at loving people. Sometimes they make me insane, but I still love them.
I can really cook.
I am exceptionally smart.
I am passably funny.
I won’t bug you with a million questions while you watch the hockey game, or demand that you stop watching it to do some stupid little chore because hello, I’ll be watching too.
When I sing with the radio or while I cook, I am fairly good at it.
I am low maintenance and pretty easy to please.
I am really good at being a friend.
There is more, but hopefully you get the picture.
There are things that will annoy you: I never eat all the grapes I buy, I leave socks and water glasses all over, and I text too much. I will gripe at you about your music being too loud and be supremely annoyed at the sound of you eating yogurt.
Here’s the thing, though: I am not asking for you to be Benedict Cumberbatch. God made one of him to prove to humanity that there is such a thing as perfection, and sadly, some pretty English lady got to him first. Since you are most likely as human as I am, I won’t ask you to spit polish the chrome on your hubcaps either. It doesn’t bother me at all if you’re going bald or are pudgy (uh, you’ve seen my hips, yeah?) or can’t make grilled cheese without a toaster. I don’t expect you to have a perfect past, but I do expect you’ll put effort into the present and future.
I’m not looking to be the newest Mrs. Anybody any time soon. Right now, I’d like a reason to put on a stupid dress once in a while, someone whose name makes me smile when I hear it, and is a steady make out buddy. That’s about it.
So if that works for you, let’s talk. But I’ll warn you now that I am the genuine kind of awkward when we start, and will sound like a total dweeb for the first eighteen months or so.
With complete honesty,
On paper, Brian was just right: very intelligent, not bad to look at, and an astoundingly successful career for someone his age. I hesitated at first because he is a few years younger, but everything else seemed to override the age difference. We’re both liberal Democrats, and we agreed on almost everything, with a little variance on the issue of guns. Before our first date, we spent hours every day texting and talking on the phone about everything or nothing and anything in between. He drove over an hour to get to the date, and it lasted eight hours. Though not the best, he was a pretty passable kisser.
At one point that night, while we sat in the car talking for hours, I asked him which Hogwarts house he’d be in. He laughed and said he’d never seen or read the Harry Potter series because “it’s a story for children.” I’ve heard this before, and have converted a few people into fans of the tale of The Boy Who Lived, so I wasn’t too terribly disheartened. The date ended around 2 a.m. and I didn’t even regret it when I woke at 4:30 for work the next day.
Things were going well, and a few weeks later, we had another date, this time, I drove north and we hung out all day, all night, and into the morning. As we sat in the pub near his place, I mentioned that I wanted to see the new Cinderella movie and he laughed. He asked how old I am, and gave me a hard time about wanting to see a fairy tale. I don’t care how old I get, Cinderella is my favorite fairy tale and Kenneth Branagh could direct a kindergarten play and make it look masterful.
I’d had a good time on the date, but as I drove home, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t right, that there was something missing. After about a month of conversation and a few dates, the initial chemistry had already morphed into something else. Since I’m generally moronic when it comes to emotions, it took me a while to figure it out:
He’s a Muggle. Non-magic folk, as Hagrid would say. Not a bad person or anything, but he doesn’t believe in magic, in that mystery and whimsy that intangibly moves in and between people.
And that doesn’t work for me.
Once upon a time, I would have settled for a Muggle who, on paper and initially seemed to be such a good match. It may not be what I had dreamed of, but I didn’t have much hope of ever finding what I wanted either.
“How old are you?” He laughed.
I am old enough to not rush into anything, but far too young to give up on the life I dream of. I’m old enough to know that fairy tales are the truest form of every story. I’m old enough to know that I have to be my own fairy godmother, too old to chase down just anything like the stepsisters, but too young to become bitter, like the stepmother.
I believe in magic. Passion. Chemistry. Slow Blake Shelton songs and bombastic P!nk anthems. Dancing. In the person who makes you smile without realizing that you’re grinning like a fool. I believe in the person who knows just how and when to kiss you. I believe in the person who drives you so crazy you could shake them but who, simultaneously, you can’t do without. The person you keep coming back to, like a boomerang. The feeling you get when the right hands run through your hair or touch your cheek. I believe in kisses that feel like coming home.
I don’t believe in perfect. I don’t believe in instant. But I believe in magic, and I’m not going to settle for less.
“All at once the world can overwhelm me.
There’s almost nothing you could tell me that would ease my mind.
Which way will you run?
When it’s always all around you
And the feeling lost and found you again,
The feeling that we have no control?”
-Jack Johnson, All at Once
A few weeks ago, I started communicating with a guy I’ll call B, and we exchanged messages for probably two weeks, and I liked him, despite the unlikelihood of me picking him out of the bunch. He’s a few years younger, for one, and, perhaps more intimidating is the fact that he’s more attractive. He made the first move. I thought it was going well, and then he stopped. I was a little bummed, but it’s not like I can force someone to communicate.
Yesterday, he messaged me and said he was sorry, had gotten really sick and kind of receded until he felt better, and wants to keep getting to know me. Seems fair, because I don’t want to be bothered when I’m sick, either. We texted for 4 hours last night. He asked me out, and I said yes. We have plans for dinner on Sunday, since I have plans with Brandon and Grant on Friday and he has plans for Saturday.
I’m excited. And terrified.
Melissa asked what I was going to wear, and I have no idea. Because my body doesn’t make any damned sense anymore. I’ve lost so much weight and my body has changed so much fat into muscle (with a long way yet to go) that I am more awkward than a middle schooler. I don’t know what to wear anymore.
Two weeks ago, I met with my trainer for the first time. When we talked about what I do, and where I want to be, and he said “You’re doing everything right. Why am I here?” To which I honestly replied, “Because I’m bored with it and need someone to show me new things and help me keep at it. I’m only happy when I’m miserable.”
It’s like he was sent by Satan himself to give me the most horribly, wonderfully miserable routine possible. Balance work on the Bosu ball. Hill climbing. The pull up machine. Um. Do I look like I do pull ups? To paraphrase the great John Pinette: I don’t do “ups.” Up defies gravity, and gravity is a law. I obey the law!
But because when it comes to the gym, I am happy when I am miserable, and I do it. “Don’t go by what you weigh, go by how your clothes fit. You can weigh yourself once a week, if you feel like you have to,” he said.
Well, OK, Ryan, after one week, I’d GAINED three pounds, and after two, I’m back where I started but now my work jeans don’t stay up even with a belt and while my shoulders are starting to look like real shoulders, the increase in upper muscle means I have bat wings like never before. So now I can’t wear my magenta dress to the gay bar with the boys on Friday because it’s sleeveless.
And I have no clue about what to wear on Sunday for my date with B.
My body has been changing for 18 months now. It is exhausting. Totally and completely exhausting to constantly have to reevaluate how I feel about my body. It’s overwhelming to try to find continual acceptance of it. I’m forever noticing that my left thigh is thinner than my right, but my right ankle is thinner, and some days I have cheekbones but other days, my face seems puffier, and on and on.
Tonight, I am weary of it. I’m anxious about meeting B and disappointing him somehow, despite the fact that he has seen pictures. While freaking out at the gym, Brandon tried reassuring me that the things I don’t like, like my bat wings, are “just battle wounds.” He’s incredibly accurate, but it’s a war fought entirely with myself. The wounds are deeper because they are self-inflicted.
I’m trying to not be too anxious, but I’m losing that battle at the moment. Even though B texted me about two paragraphs into writing this. It’s both nice and more pressure.
Before I think myself in too many more circles, I’m going to leave this here, and text B and listen to Jack Johnson for a little while before I fall asleep. And try to be kind to myself.
I was fourteen, awkwardly overdeveloped compared to my peers, quiet, and poor. He was fifteen, adorable, and probably the most pursued boy in my church’s region. I’d been warned by the other girls that I wasn’t allowed to like him, but I did anyways (frigging hormones!). It was a daily misery, knowing that I wanted what I would never have.
Until November 14, 1995, when he told me that he “maybe liked me, but wasn’t really sure,” and said that kissing me would probably help him decide. I was floored, and the kiss was over as fast as it started. It was too fast to decide if I liked it or not. So later that night, we tried again, and wouldn’t you know, neither of us hated it.
That was the beginning of years of a relationship that shouldn’t have happened like it did. It happened in secret, apart from everyone. I wasn’t good enough, in the eyes of outsiders, to be paired up with such a golden child. So we met in secret. We didn’t act like we were together. We didn’t flirt or hold hands – in fact, we went out of our way to make it look like nothing was happening. Young and naïve, I was convinced that if I was thinner, prettier, more popular, that it would be different. I thought that if I went farther than I was comfortable with, it would make him happy, and maybe then he would like me.
It didn’t work out that way. Instead, we found ourselves the middle of music camp scandal, and then it was off and on again until finally, I said it was over. I was so brokenhearted. I had come to love him over the years we were together, and I felt used and manipulated. I was bitter and angry and I stayed that way for a long time.
Whenever we ran into each other in the following years, it was like someone sucked the oxygen out of the room. We never knew what to say. How to act. Thankfully, it didn’t happen too often.
Leap Day 2012, a full 13 years after we ended, he called me. He said that he wanted to apologize for the way things happened. He wanted to finally tell me that he had, in fact, liked me, and that he wishes he had been bold enough to say so. He asked for my forgiveness.
I never thought that day would come. Truthfully, I had spent hours and hours over the years rehearsing the vile things I would say to him. But instead, I found myself apologizing as well, because I had known better. I accepted his apology, even though I never expected it, and wasn’t prepared to.
I’ve heard thousands of sermons on forgiveness. I’ve preached on it myself. But no sermon, no lecture, or Bible study, or other interaction was as profound a lesson in forgiveness as that one. To forgive and be forgiven for one of the deepest hurts of my lifetime… I still struggle to articulate it. It was freeing in a way that I never thought would happen.
Tonight, a few friends independently commented on something he posted on his blog. They bristled at it, and I found myself kind of defending him. Not that I was agreeing with him, but I had a bit of a need for them to know that he is “good people.” I was a little protective of him. We aren’t really friends now, though we have talked a few times.
As I walked around work tonight, I wondered why I had defended him. I could have let people think whatever they wanted to think. But then I realized that there is something different about the first boy a girl loves. Because I’ve been forgiven, and have forgiven him, I’ve come to see that time differently: not with so much harshness and bitterness, but with a kind of sad, beautiful tenderness that understands that we were both so young, so fragile.
Pigs may have flown tonight as I defended him. The devil may be wearing a parka and dear stalker as I come to realize that in a small, different way, I’ll probably always love him. Not because of any relationship we have now, but because of what he once meant, and what we learned together, and out of respect for the character and courage it took for him to make that phone call. Forgiveness is what makes love possible, even after the biggest hurts. Do I wish that we had done things differently as teenagers? Absolutely. But the beauty of forgiveness – and love – is that it can heal wounds that are deeper than we could ever fathom.
Apparently, CJ and I were a firework: fast, intense, hot, and over too soon.
I honestly don’t know what happened. On Saturday, all was well, and he was sweet and charming, telling me that it was so good to see me after a long day at work, that I am the best person he’s ever been with, that he so enjoys spending time with me… And then today, when I asked about seeing him this weekend, he just said “we need to talk.”
And then he broke up with me.
His reason was that he likes being alone more than in a relationship. That while he does like me, and all those previous things are still true, he just wants to be alone. According to him, it’s too much for him to handle, so he’s bowing out.
I am kinda crushed. It was a short relationship, no doubt, and one that did seem to go from zero to sixty super fast, but I can’t go from sixty to zero without feeling it.
I hate the it’s-not-you-it’s-me speech, because it never feels that way when you’re on the receiving end. What it sounds like, instead, is “you aren’t enough to change the game.”
It probably doesn’t help that it came after a long, crappy day at my new job. A job I’m grateful to have, but that I hate, and where half the people I work with seem to be either terrible employees or jerks.
Today is not a good day. Not good at all. I’m doing all I can to not just crawl into bed and cry. I’m trying to not let myself think that I’m doomed to this horrible job and perpetual loneliness for forever, but anxiety makes that hard. I’m trying to not think that this is another joke the universe is having at my expense. I’m trying not to think about how a few days ago, I was so happy about how things were finally seeming to come into place after a really long, shitty few years, only to find myself heartbroken and humiliated.
Today is stupid.
One night, seventeen lifetimes ago, my college roommate and I found ourselves in a spectacular moment of heartache and wistfulness about former loves. We were up quite late that night, discussing all of the charming attributes we missed about our exes, and at some point, I ended up tossing and turning enough that my bed had scooted across the tile dorm floor and I was nearly under the desk. Since then, being “under the desk” was a shorthand phrase for longing, pining, dwelling on the sweetness of the guy one of us couldn’t stop thinking about.
I have been under the desk for days. Only this time, it’s not an unrequited crush or selected memories of an ex; this time, it’s CJ.
I’ve tried to play it cool and not be a huge dork about it, but I think I have given up. I’m not cool – think Amy Farrah Fowler from The Big Bang Theory, but with fewer pieces of wool clothing. I mean, one of the best things about this adventure is the ability to be myself in every moment, no matter how honest or risky, and have it be OK. So I am going to give myself the freedom to embrace my dorkiness and to just have fun.
In honor of Steph and the nights under the desk, here is my partial list of the things that I find endearing or charming or funny or otherwise wonderful:
~ He pays attention to and remembers what I say. He knows my niece and nephews names, which uncle I’m closest to, and my high school mascot.
~ He does sweet little things, like notices when I’m cold and gets up to bring me a blanket, or knows to bring me water instead of pop.
~ He does a pretty decent Eddie Vedder impression that never fails to make me laugh. He’s also a good singer, though I don’t think he has realized that I hear him when he sings under his breath.
~ Our level of desired affection is the same. He doesn’t complain if I want to hold his hand, but he doesn’t make me uncomfortable with an overabundance of PDA, either.
~ We have the same favorite lullaby. I got a piece of wall art from my niece and nephews for Christmas what has the phrase “You are my sunshine” on it, as well as their signatures. It’s one of my favorite things ever because it is the song I sang to them as teeny ones. When I showed CJ, he said it was his favorite because his mom sang it to him. I know it’s not an uncommon song, but I still think it’s sweet.
~ He makes seeing his family a priority. Bonus!
~ Let’s be honest: it doesn’t hurt that he’s a good kisser.
~ We don’t have to talk all the time. Sometimes, we just watch Jimmy Fallon and eat cookies. And that’s cool.
~ We seem to have a rhythm of being together that works. In true INTJ style, I can’t put my finger on why, but we fall into it.
~ It didn’t seem to phase him that my life has been turned inside out lately. Instead, he’s supportive, encouraging, and thoughtful. He’s mindful of it without dwelling on it.
~ I love the sound of his voice, the grayish edges of his irises, and the softness of the backs of his hands.
~ We spent part of our New Years morning talking about all the reasons we don’t want kids, from the silly to the significant, and never once did he look at me like I was a freak for any of the reasons I cited.
~ He just makes me smile. A lot. A lot a lot.
If you read this far, I’m impressed. I know it’s early on in the relationship, but so what? Part of the fun of relationships is the optimistic goofiness that happens at the beginning when everything is new. We aren’t the magic of movies and sitcoms, and it’s certainly not so revolutionary that it’s nothing you’ve seen/heard/experienced before. Maybe that is the magic, though: that ability to take something as mundane as cake pops and New Years Eve on TV and experience them as something altogether new and vibrant simply because of the person sitting next to you.
These little bitty moments of romance when he takes my hand while we walk or lets me have the better parking space are delightful, and I am having an incredibly fun time with it.
In the words of my therapist, my “brain doesn’t run on jet fuel, it runs on rocket fuel,” by which he mean my brain runs hotter and faster than average. It can be a good thing, like when I catch on quickly in school, but it can also be a bad thing, particularly when my super fast brain tangos with my anxiety disorder. Anxiety is perpetually asking what could go wrong? and my hyperthinking brain comes up with answers at warp speed. This is why I sometimes refer to myself as Super Anxiety Girl: able to jump to the worst possible conclusion at any time!
Just a couple of posts ago, I wrote about how horribly online dating has been going, and the responses from my friends were either a. It has been just as awful for me, or b. It worked for me, so keep trying! Figuring I had nothing to lose, I kept at it.
There was a profile I’d noticed a few times, but he had made the first contact. At first, the interactions seemed stunted and awkward, but I kept talking to him, and eventually, we fell into some good conversation. CJ asked me out just after publishing that post, and I said yes. A lunch date wasn’t too much commitment, I figured, and so despite all my previous online dates going terribly, I shaved my legs, consulted my bff about which skirt to wear, and carefully decided on Yves Saint Laurent Glossy Lip Stain in Vintage Rouge. My hopes were admittedly not sky high, having been let down before.
The food was so-so, but holy crap, we clicked. What was supposed to be lunch turned into 3.5 hours and only ended because I had to go pick up my mother. We giggled. Our knees kinda sorta touched under the table. He sweetly asked permission to kiss me before he did, and the kiss wasn’t bad at all. I smiled the whole way home. I hadn’t been gone from the restaurant for 20 minutes when he texted and asked if I wanted to hang out that evening. I said yes, and when he texted me his address, it turned out he lives four blocks from me. We ended up watching Harry Potter and Comedy Central and talking until 3:40 AM.
The next few days, we texted, hung out after he got off of work, and it is weird how well we both seemed to fit together. He’s 35, has a reliable job, owns his home, has a stable, normal family who lives in town, is kind, funny, sweet, a good kisser, and doesn’t seem to mind holding my hand. We kind of fell into each other and I wish I could explain it better than saying “we just make sense,” but that’s honestly how I feel. Somewhere along the way,very early on, we decided we weren’t going to see anyone else, and a bit after that, we decided that it suited us to use the boyfriend/girlfriend labels.
In a few weeks, I went from hardly talking to him to feeling like I’ve known him for forever. One night last week, I had to drive from northern Illinois to Detroit and back in one marathon drive. Twelve hours on the road, not counting the hour and a half I spent stopping for gas and delivering the packages to the Chrysler plant. I was happy when he called me after he got off work, but I never imagined he would stay up literally all night to talk to me while I was on the road. At times, we didn’t even talk, we just were there, silent, miles apart, but still together.
All these things are wonderful, right? Right.
Except that this relationship is different than all of my previous relationships. It’s less complicated, more intense, faster, deeper, scarier than any other relationship I’ve had. And that’s where Super Anxiety Girl swoops in.
On Monday, CJ and I spent the day in Chicago, my favorite place at my favorite time of year. He traipsed around Macy’s, Millennium Park, and the Magnificent Mile with me, in the rain, no less! When we got back to his place that evening, we talked and watched TV, and in the midst of the conversation, we ended up in a weird place. I’ve fallen a bit farther than he has. Not that he hasn’t fallen for me at all, but he’s more cautious. I told him that I didn’t expect us to be in exactly the same place, and that’s the truth. I told him we can slow down and take things easier. It had seemed so easy for both of us to fall into the relationship, but we responded a bit differently.
I left his place and almost cried while I drove home. The next day, I barely heard from him. The day after that, Christmas Eve, I didn’t know what to think. Were we over? Had it ended that quickly? What had I done to screw it up? Was he lying when he said that he liked being with me/that it was unexpectedly “right” with me/that I was beautiful, smart, and vibrant? Did I misread every kiss/every hour of handholding/every “thinking of you” text he sent me? Was I too much of myself too quickly, and that turned him off? When he talked about going to a Bulls game or a theater show sometime, was he just blowing hot air? But more than anything: What is so very wrong with me that makes me so undatable and undesirable? A million questions a minute, each worse than the preceding question, and it didn’t stop for nearly two days.
Looking back on that conversation now, I see that it wasn’t as catastrophic as I felt it was at the time. Truthfully, it was going too fast for both of us. Slowing down is a good thing. But slowing down doesn’t mean ending. Being in slightly different places doesn’t mean not being together. I have come down from the proverbial ledge on that one, but it was a tough few days of questions without talking much to him. However, we’ve texted since then, and we’re good.
We were originally going to see each other Christmas night, but he rescheduled for tonight. Then, tonight’s date was rescheduled for tomorrow because he works at the airport and there are flight delays. It has been an epic feat of cognitive behavioral skills to keep myself from over thinking the reschedules. I know that flights are delayed, and that means he has to stay. It’s not that he doesn’t want to see me.
It has all happened really quickly, and it has been really intense. It scares me. It’s nothing like my previous relationships, yet I’m terrified that history will repeat itself. In the past, whenever I hit a rough moment in a relationship, the guy bailed. I wasn’t ready for someone who would stick around through it. As smart as I am when it comes to many things, relationships are where I feel like I hardly know my head from an acorn squash. The cues that everyone else seems to pick up on fly right over my head, and all my intuition is useless.
Dating CJ has been so much fun, and endlessly exciting, even if it’s hell on my nerves. I’m honestly glad he said something about needing it to slow down because I didn’t realize then that I needed the same thing. I hope that this lasts for a while, because I really like him. It is completely new territory for me, but oh sweet mercy, I hope it works.