As a senior in high school I received many accolades, but nothing will ever stand out as much as the title of “Most Likely to Die a Virgin.” Mean-spirited as that may seem (it was not), it was all in good fun and received more laughter from me than anyone else. I was, as I well knew, quite the goody-two-shoes and lacked the dating experience of all of my peers. Regardless of my inexperience which remains as such (in comparison to others my age), I consider myself to be very lucky in love. Of course I didn’t realize this until much later in life. Admittedly it doesn’t hurt that in retrospect, romance disasters tend to be a lot more comical and less mortifying. Still, my love life lacks the deadbeat scum and heartless Lothario types who seem to be present in almost every gal’s tale. For this, I am grateful.
Here is what I’ve come to know: dissolved relationships, unsuccessful dating and unrequited love don’t necessarily make one’s love life less fulfilling. How can you fully realize the good in your life without it being tempered with the bad? Surely these missteps don’t seem ideal at the moment of heartache, but to me they are essential in molding a person, defining one’s taste and overall resilience. Fairy tale romances make for great movies but in real life they’re a bit of a bore. I wax poetic about Romeo through the aquarium, but I prefer my own love life to be a little less sappy and a little more silly. Super mushy romance, from any other’s lips but Romeo, makes me uneasy. Besides, I’m glad I didn’t find the love of my life straight out of high school. I thought I wanted my first boyfriend to be my only, my last – I’m not sure what I was thinking. I would have always been wondering what I was missing out on, even if I had it all. Instead, I found Matthew, the love of right-then: that was, and still is, good enough.
If you have followed my blogs since the OD and LJ days of yore, you probably know more about my romantic interests than I would like you to admit. Joey Daniello, my first real crush, was the topic of numerous high school dear diaries, regardless of his lack of interest (to my knowledge) in me. I will always be grateful for choosing such a nice boy to have a crush on, even if we were polar opposites in several different ways. Crushes can be just that: a compression of your insides, excruciatingly painful and nauseating. If you choose the right one, it’s less of a crush and more of a tickle – teeny little butterflies that bring a flush to your cheeks and make you stumble in your speech. My crush was more of the latter, thanks in part to his sincere and sometimes awkward compliments, warm smile and…well, he acknowledged my existence and that was a first. I never dated Joey Daniello and even lost my chance to tell him just how I felt about him. But I’ll always be grateful for the love that never was, because he made stepping into the dating world just a little less scary.
Then came college; it was a fresh start, new people, no plaque on the wall proclaiming my status. Right off the bat I made a bold decision to wear my heart on my sleeve and my thoughts on my tongue, confessing my feelings to every boy I ever liked or found attractive, whether in writing or passing. I proved to myself that regardless of the outcome or response, sharing a fondness of another is rarely an unpleasant thing – simply pay the compliment and walk away. It opens the door for a reciprocal divulgence, while still maintaining a secure and shameless exit if they don’t feel the same way. After all, only a complete jerk would react badly toward a simple compliment; I wouldn’t give them a single thought, let alone find myself attracted to someone like that.
With my newfound, somewhat manufactured confidence came my first relationship. It lasted for four years, which is probably far too long for a first relationship at such a young age. Still, I have no regrets. We had ups and downs and stand-stills; we were in love and then we were not. I learned a lot about myself as an individual and a companion; I learned about what I can and cannot tolerate and which actions of mine were also intolerable. I realized that I was settling, he was settling and we were too young to do so. Contentment with mediocrity is unacceptable, especially when you’re in your early twenties and in your first relationship.
So I dated. When I say “dated,” I don’t mean your normal kind of dating…I don’t even know if I’m capable of such a disconnected ritual. I tried and failed; I have a hard time finding myself attracted to someone I don’t know yet. I tend to rely on developing crushes on acquaintances or friends, or worse, fictional characters (Romeo, Romeo). After Matt, I ended up dating a good friend of mine which was great, got complicated, ended in tears, became a close friendship again, ended in tears. Even my dating becomes too serious; I’ve been told on more than one occasion that I’m not a girl you can just date. I don’t even know what that means. I still can’t even talk about it too much because I get sad and angry, in that order. If you break my heart, how can you be mad at me for mending and moving on?
Other than that (up until now), there were some little flirtations and odd occasions here and there, as well as what has been called a “neither here nor there.” I’m not one to look back with regret (that may be a little bit of a stretch) but I’m also not a fan of loose ends and self-doubt. My only real regret is ever letting myself feel for someone who was already bound to another. Even as I write this, I feel a tad uncomfortable. Although I kept my feet firmly planted on the ground and my steadfast hands at my side, my mind leapt over a self-imposed boundary and tangled itself in what-ifs and maybes. Despite my daily mental lashings, I became whom I always loathed – a girl who had a crush on someone else’s boyfriend. (No, I’m not talking about Bobby; my feelings manifested only recently, long after either one of us was tied to another.)
My regret is tinged with shame, because it’s only half regret and not the fully dedicated “shame on me!” regret that it ought to be. I guess it’s because this particular fondness made me that much more dedicated to holding out for exactly what I wanted – no more settling, ever. It’s this person that made me stop doubting myself because he made me feel worthwhile, even if only as a friend. I never fancied us together but began idealizing bits and pieces of our friendship as an outline to the future me and future him, whomever he may be. Our relationship was a lovely mix of utter childishness and adulthood – pandas, cookies, forts and playgrounds, art, music, design and conversation. As my great-grandma would say, we belonged to the mutual adoration society. Maybe for a moment I mistook it for something else. Thankfully, he remains a cherished friend of mine, albeit distant in miles. I’m still a card-carrying member of the society; I hope he is, too. Good friends are hard to come by.
When you find a good friend who transitions to a possibility of something more, it’s natural to hesitate. Hesitate I did, for a plethora of reasons. I was not only afraid of ruining our friendship, I felt guilty. I knew that by dating Bobby, I would be risking a friendship or two, as well. In addition to all of that and then some, I was dubious about being in another relationship. I didn’t think I was ready for that, and wouldn’t commit until I was absolutely sure. The longer Bobby patiently, silently waited, the more I became aware of my feelings for him. It was plain to see how much we cared for one another, but I resisted almost by routine. I was no longer afraid of ruining our friendship, because our months of living together in New York demonstrated just how compatible we are, on all fronts. I was perfectly content with being single (you get a lot of work done!) but the idea of being in a relationship with him kept feeling more and more charming. The only thing that was still keeping me back was my fear of other people’s reactions. Once I realized that, I let go and moved forward. I was sacrificing my own happiness for people who wouldn’t have done the same, and rightfully so. Now I am happier than ever, even when I’m down. Having a Bobby in your life is just all around wonderful; ask my friends and family. He’s a little pocket full of sunshine. I adore him, through and through. That’s as mushy as I’ll allow myself to be!
It’s more than likely my current state of contentment that has me looking back with fondness; I have been known to wallow and weep about love and boys on more than one occasion. From time to time, it’s nice to make my thoughts into something a little more concrete, for present and future analysis. Now that I’ve aired my dirty laundry, there’s a paradoxical feeling of lighter shoulders and a heavier heart. Both are fleeting, like a momentary lump in your throat that always shows at the mention of a prominent figure from your past, who is at present, a ghost.
Still, they’re friendly ghosts – even the one who bears a grudge against me.
p.s. I couldn’t sleep last night, so I wrote this in stickies (at 5 AM) to clear my head and make room for rest. I’m sorry for being so verbose and scatterbrained in this post…I’ll try to keep the words to a minimum, in the future!