I’m not sure I know how to love.
Let’s jump back a decade. I was in high school, homeschooled, and more awkward than a rucksack full of penguins. You think I’m weird now?
You have no idea.
Since I was coming of age, I had naturally developed a crush on one of the girls from my church. And likewise, since I was coming of age, I decided this feeling must be ‘love’.
And this is what ‘love’ meant: Gazing upon the object of one’s affection from afar, trying to make eye contact while simultaneously trying to avoid it, constructing complicated multi-stage professions of admiration in my head, and doing fuck-all about it in real life.
And this went on for probably four or five years. Lingering around waiting for a chance to talk one-on-one. Tossing crumpled up balls of paper in a grade-school attempt to get her attention. There may have been an incident involving enciphered e-mails of dotage. Even at the time, I was aware that I was being creepy, but looking back now, I was waaaaay creepier than I realized.
The funny thing was, I didn’t have any clear idea of what romantic success was supposed to look like. There was no sexual interest, or little enough that it barely registered. I might have dreamed about marriage, but only in the way that toddlers dream about being astronauts and firemen. I couldn’t even have told you what a ‘date’ would look like, or why it would hold any appeal. I think I just wanted her to return my interest and for that to be all. If she’d actually wanted a relationship, it would probably have been the worst thing that could possibly happen.
Then I went off to college. Over Facebook, I did my best to mend the friendship with the girl from high school, which I did with heaping spoonfuls of passive-aggression. Here’s a basic summary of how that would go:
Me: “Hey, I’m just writing this message to apologize for being such an asshole back in high school.”
<Wait 30 minutes>
Me: “WHY HAVEN’T YOU RESPONDED I SAID I’M SORRY WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT FROM ME WOMAN?1?!?!?”
I don’t think I’ve heard from her since, which is probably best for all involved.
My next affection obsession lasted only about two years. My rate of infatuation was apparently radioactive, decreasing at a steady half-life. This time, I had the good sense to fall for a girl who lived six hours away, where she would be safe from the ravages of my crippling insecurity. I’d learned better than to call the feeling ‘love’, but I still thought it was some pretty serious biz. Despite various awkwardnesses, our friendship survived college, she married someone sensible, and we still keep in touch from time to time.
From thence, I fell into the only relationship I’m allowed to actually call a ‘relationship’. I remember saying ‘I love you’, but if I’m honest? I think what I loved was being wanted. Being liked. Being validated. She deserved better than that, and to the best of my knowledge, she got better than that in the long run.
After that collapsed (about 10 months…my romance half-life again), I went through a dry spell, punctuated only be interests of the moment–girls who held my attention for a week, a day, for the moment before they walked out of sight.
Next came a bit of a kerfuffle. Allow me to relay the details in Middle-Schoolese:
OMG, so she’s dating this one guy, right? But he’s like, lol, maybe you should date this other guy (that guy’s my friend), since you hang out so much. And my friend’s like, that’s weird, right? But then she broke up with the other guy and starts hanging out with my friend, and he’s like, what’s happening, I don’t even know what’s happening, and then he goes to Europe for like a month on break and she’s still around and I’m like, I’ll figure out what her deal is to help out my friend, only then we start to hang out and like each other, and then my friend comes back, and I’m like, sorry, bro, and he’s like, nah, it’s cool, but now that he’s back I can see they’re all like, you know, and then I’m like, it’s cool, you should go be with my friend, and they were, and I was totes okay with that, except the times I, like, wasn’t.
The whole thing would have been rather tawdry, if we weren’t all so fucking celibate.
And that marks the last of my Great Interests to date. It’s been some four years since, and once again, I seem to have only momentary attractions. The most significant of these barely amounted to more than a hobby.
There’s still some part of me that clamors for a relationship, but just as in high school, I don’t know what that’s supposed to look like. Perhaps it’s just cultural programming.
The things I’d want to do in a relationship aren’t any different than the things I do with my friends. When I look back at the interests I had earlier in life, I wonder if I was really just looking for friendship the whole time.
One of my Facebook friends posted an article about ‘aromanticism’. The inability to feel romantic attraction. While I’m not be ready to give myself such a label (bold life statements made on this blog are generally retracted the following week), the article made me realize that I don’t know what ‘romantic attraction’ actually is. And I don’t know if I feel it. Or if I ever have.
And I know that sounds like I’m broken down inside, looking for that perfect someone who can fix the aching void inside of me. But honestly? I feel less broken than I ever have in my life.
I feel like I’ve stopped looking for this mythical beast called ‘love’. This invisible force that everybody wants, everybody’s looking for, and nobody can seem to find.
I never know how to end blog posts like this. They either trail off or end in a too-conveniently-wrapped-up closing paragraph. so I’ll try just leaving some closing thoughts.
- I have healthy friendships with members of the opposite sex now. I feel that trying to make things about ‘love’ have only ever hurt the people I’m close to.
- Maybe more people feel this way than everyone realizes. Maybe they need someone else to explain these feelings so they can point and say, See? I’m not alone.
- Being alone doesn’t have to be the same as being lonely. Friendships don’t have to be consolations for being single.
- I should have waited to post this until Valentines Day. Dang it.