I realize it isn’t Valentine’s Day yet. I’m the type of person who thinks we should celebrate love every single day, with general acts of decency and kindness, rather than saving all of that energy and blowing it all in one day. But I do appreciate Valentine’s Day and figured you should get this kind of musing beforehand. Also, I’m stuck in my house due to the Wrath of Nemo, so I figured I should get this published now while I can’t go anywhere.
I’ve been dumped hundreds of times. I’ve been told I’m not someone’s type, I’ve been called fat, weird, dumb, bitchy, snobby, weird, awkward, crazy, ridiculous, stupid…you name it, someone’s thrown it at me. I didn’t have a successful, happy relationship until I was 26 years old.
The key to finding love
is fucking up the pattern on purpose
is skipping a stitch,
is leaving a tiny, tiny hole to let the cold in
I put up a pretty cool front of “I love every little thing about me with zero apology” but that was not always the case. When you want to be loved, you’ll do stupid shit. Some girls make bad decisions with their sexual energy. I spent a lot of time making bad decisions with my heart. Going after the wrong people because I honestly thought that was all I deserved. I deserved shit because I thought I was shit. Sometimes I still do. It’s hard to undo 25 years of self-abuse, okay? It won’t happen overnight, or even for a few years. I just have to keep hoping one day it will dissipate.
My journey to self-acceptance and self-love didn’t start until I was 24 and got dumped through a Facebook email the day after Valentine’s Day. We hadn’t been together for very long, only about 4 weeks. We weren’t even officially exclusive or anything. But he had put me into the position that this was something that would course that trajectory.
It’s not that this guy really knew who I was in that short amount of time. I mean, no way could this guy know that I participated in online LARP (google it) or that I was writing a series of novels that concerned creatures closely akin to but not necessarily vampires/werewolves or I had been fat or that I was now recovering from undiagnosed eating disorders or that my ideal evening involves cooking vegan food, sweatpants, and Netflix. Hell no.
I needed to be the everygirl – jean shorts, cute tight tank top, effortless hair that tumbles all the way down, a bit of makeup, and high heels. Oh, and don’t wear your glasses, even though without them you can’t really see when you drive.
When he emailed me that day, I couldn’t actually be mad. The email was entirely too sweet to harbor any bad feelings. One line that stuck out to me said “You’re a wonderful girl. I just don’t think you’re the girl for me.”
I immediately decided to go off men for a little bit. Because completely swearing something off always works.
This is a pattern I’ve dealt with time and time again. I start liking a guy, they seem to return my feelings, and then they suddenly go off the grid. I’ve talked about my past relationships on here, but I don’t really go into that much detail. Needless to say, there’s not a lot of detail to be had. I treated myself like crap so I allowed other guys to treat me like that.
I realized I deserved more than what I was getting. I should just be myself, wholly and completely. I needed time to be okay with myself, by myself, and whenever an opportunity presented itself I should throw everything true and raw and real and beautiful and human about me into the universe and see what I get. So for a year and into the summer of 2011, I did just that. I had one or two dalliances, but one of them treated me like shit and the other one was just too similar to me that it negated any mystery or growth, so I got bored.
Also running through this is an intense feeling of inadequacy that still haunts me. Whenever something good occurs in my life my instant reaction is to assume A) I don’t deserve it or B) run like hell in the other direction. For many many years I lived in a pushmi-pullyu of “I want to be loved but I’m scared of what that means.”
So. Here are some things I’ve learned in my lifetime about love.
Be patient, dammit. You’ve got your entire freaking life here. Slow your roll. When you’re 17 you’re not going to find the forever-and-always love unless you are preternaturally blessed; I’ve met people like that, so I know they exist. I’m 27 years old and there is no way I’m getting married any time soon, for a myriad of reasons, yet people still feel like asking me about it all the damn time. Maybe you should calm the hell down and let me not panic about one more thing I feel like I should be doing as an adult.
The patience thing also extends itself to babies. I am in NO way ready to have babies. If you are, then go ahead and pop out some babies. My uterus is closed for the time being. I’m not saying that’s forever. But at the moment, nooooope. I’m too selfish and got too much stuff going on in my life to have kids. I’m at least glad I have the self-awareness to acknowledge my total lack of parenting skill. I’ve already got some babies in my life that I love dearly and one of my favorite parts of that relationship is being able to give the babies back to their mommies when I’m done playing with them. (Also, if you’re under the age of 21 and you want to have babies because the babies on Teen Mom are so cute, please don’t. You’re still a child yourself.)
Also, I am not going to lie – I still get grossed out by poopy diapers. That feeling may factor in to my lack of desire to have babies. For the first five months they are pooping machines.
You’re going to learn what love is not. Love isn’t someone galloping in on a horse and saving you from the dragons, or painting the sky in smoke signals telling someone how much you love them. Love is not someone victimizing the other, or ‘educating’ the other from a higher pedestal. A pedestal is the same as a cage.
Love is a text message. Love is little things throughout the day. Love is remembering favorite flowers/chocolate/movies. Love is a look. Love is allowing breathing room. Love is tolerating your girlfriend when she gets bronchitis and spends the holidays hacking up phlegm and trying not to sneeze directly ON you. Love is all of the ugly nights when you cry.
Love will break your heart. Love will bring you to your knees. But if something happens in love that ends a love, just know that it’s preparing you for a greater understanding of yourself. That old song and dance of “just wait and love will come when you least expected” horseshit is true!
It’s good if your partner shares some of your interests, but maybe not all of your interests. You can start to like things your partner likes, of course. But you’re probably not going to completely adore EVERYTHING they like. And they’re not going to like everything you like. But most of that stuff doesn’t really matter anyway. Find common ground on the things that really matter. And if you suddenly are totally and entirely obsessed with something your partner does (and it’s a recurring motif in every single relationship you’re in) you might need to reexamine who YOU are. Really? You’d never skied a day in your life and now you’re retweeting everything X-Games because your douchy boyfriend works at a lodge? Oh, I see what you did there. Know what your interests are and remain interested in them. Always retain your self-hood. The right person will love you for your independence.
Sometimes love hurts, and sometimes it’s an accident. Communication, people. Talk about what’s bothering you. It’s very hard. Sometimes you want to think “I DON’T WANT TO TALK, I JUST WANT TO STARE AT MY PHONE BECAUSE THAT’S EASIER THAN NOT KNOWING WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF I’M HONEST. OOH INSTAGRAM UPDATE.” Trust me. I do it more than I should, and every time I’ve actually spilled about what’s going on with me it feels like a giant weight has been lifted off my shoulders.
Also, sometimes a joke can be taken in entirely the wrong context. Asking for an explanation can mean everything. I’m not as gullible as I used to be but I do take things very seriously. At times, that will mean I’ll feel like the lowest of the low about something that actually didn’t even happen. I know, I need to ‘lighten up.’ But when that happens, it’s mostly due to those undercurrent feelings of fear about being abandoned rearing their ugly demonic heads. Usually a good talk helps.
This accidental stuff does not, however, extend itself to physical altercations. If your partner rolls his eyes at a story you’re telling, it’s probably not a huge deal. If he slaps you, then it’s a huge, enormous, get the fuck out of there right now deal.
“The Game” is horseshit. I had a friend (key word there, “had”) who insisted on playing every single game in the Rulebook. She was like Barney on How I Met Your Mother but without the suits. Also, her fail rate was a lot higher. A few of her rules?
1. Don’t tell anyone you’re sexually inexperienced. It’ll scare guys off because they’ll think you’ll get too attached. (I’m not going to get into a discussion about my own sexual activities, but let’s just say I treated my virginity like Cher Horowitz. “You know how picky I am about my shoes, and they only go on my feet!”)
2. Don’t call until 3 days later. If you call. Usually, you should wait for the guy to call you.
3. If at all possible, tell drunk guys at the bar who your father is. Because God forbid they’re attracted to you on your own merits.
Yeah. I’m not friends with this person anymore.
My point with this is, you’re going to make a ton of mistakes. A ton. You’re going to fall for the wrong people, and they are going to shatter you. But you should, because if you never fail, you never have an opportunity for growth. You’ll start figuring out exactly what you want and that list will become richer and more detailed the more you put yourself out there and get vulnerable. You’re never going to find love until you are vulnerable. The cracks are where the light comes in.
Find someone who loves you simply, without apology, and accepts you wholly as you are. But first, you have to love yourself fully. I’m still trying to do that, but if I’m being honest, sometimes those demons are still enough to bring me to my knees. Rumi says “If you haven’t met the Devil yet, look in the mirror.”
Being yourself and confronting those demons can be scary. But the love of someone who accepts you exactly who you are? It’s worth getting uncomfortable.
“When we hold each other, in the darkness, it doesn’t make the darkness go away. The bad things are still out there. The nightmares still walking. When we hold each other we feel not safe, but better. “It’s all right” we whisper, “I’m here, I love you.”…For just a moment or two the darkness doesn’t seem so bad.“
– neil gaiman
the darkness does not go away. the darkness becomes more bearable.