At dinner with Scotte, I mixed curried rice with raita while he munched on a colorful food bowl of sorts. We talked about a music festival he’s attending in March, this great philosophical book he’s read recently (and strongly recommends), and then we both shared stories from our most recent travel adventures. He asked me questions about family and school and things and he also made me laugh a lot… looking at him (beautiful brown eyes and a gorgeous smile), I thought: I really like you, Scorpio, and I feel completely comfortable around you! I totally could have dated you. But I didn’t say any of this, of course… I already had a boyfriend. We were just friends, catching up over dinner downtown.
At dinner with Adam (another friend I made while using the app), he poked at this fried cauliflower thing (very yummy, I tried it) and I ate so much of the falafel and hummus on my plate that he complimented me on my appetite (ha!). We talked about concept albums and recording methods; discussed how we capture these melodic ideas that come to us at random and how we then HATE them so soon after recording them as we’ve changed so much again and our sound has, of course, changed with us. He asked me lots of questions and made me laugh, too — just like Scotte had. Adam’s got this straightforwardness and spunky-ness about him that I really like. I thought: I can tell you’re really seeing me right now, and I can also see you very clearly. I could have dated you too, dude!
Boyfriend was texting me all week, saying he couldn’t wait to “get” with me, dress me up in this, take me shopping for that… these are, in case you’re wondering, not the kind of texts I like getting. I preferred our first-week texts, when he’d talk about reading books and riding bikes and way more interesting things than what he’s fixated on now.
Reflecting on the last three weeks (that’s all it was!), he was never very interested in what I like most about myself: my travel adventures, my dogs, and my art (in words and music). He’s consistently shown zero interest in learning why I love doing what I do, placing (instead) an increasingly heavy amount of emphasis on how nice I look, how nicely I could dress for him, and how good I could make him feel.
He’s “joked” about wanting to shave my legs (no) and my head (no — been there, done that) and has insisted on calling me kitten although I’m obviously a rabbit. These are the things I haven’t told you, you see, because I was laughing them all off as we went — these unpleasant and tiny little red flags, isolated here and there and there (also) and there (too).
Well he came to visit me last night, and as he was driving down from Chattanooga, I was drying sheets, washing dishes, and boiling basmati rice with bay leaves in the kitchen, thinking to myself: I kinda wish he’d change his mind. This just isn’t right and I know it. Something’s off.
I let him spend the night anyway, and while he kept his arms tight around me and kept on saying he loved me, he didn’t say anything that really mattered. Nothing of substance. He didn’t ask about the music, or the terrible coffee mug situation, or say anything about the short story and character sketch I’d emailed him days ago… he didn’t even ask how I was feeling slash doing (one of the most BASIC of questions). “How was work?” That was his only question, and soon after asking me, he was kissing me quiet. Please understand: I LOVE hugs and kisses and cuddling and all of that, but not like this. You know what I mean?
I, however, asked him lots of questions, because I WANTED TO KNOW HIM BETTER; his answers were usually brief, without much detail.
The most interesting thing I ever learned about him is that he and a friend dug a hole in his yard once, on his birthday, and planted a baby pomelo tree. This was years ago. He didn’t know what the fruit tasted like back then and it turns out that he doesn’t like it. The tree, however, is tall and wide and flourishing now, and his mother lets a Chinese neighbor come by with a bag every now and then to pick all of the pomelos he wants. I thought that was really lovely. I wanted him to tell me more things like this and talk less about how much he liked my ass. A BUTT IS A BUTT! WHO EVEN CARES!
Anyways, when we left the house together this morning (I was heading to work, he was heading to Mississippi for a wedding), he kissed me goodbye and said: “See you Sunday.”
I smiled up at him but already knew that he would not.
I need to go back and explain something.
On Christmas day, my best friend Charlie and I stayed home together. It was a hazy morning for both of us. He moved furniture between rooms while I used the new steam mop downstairs, marveling at how awesome it was.
We decided to go on a walk before cooking lunch, so I walked upstairs to grab a coat, my legs sort of moving toward my room without me really knowing how. I tried not to think about it too much, afraid I’d mess it up — the walking.
In my room, in my closet, I looked at all of my clothes, eyes scanning right to left. I changed my mind about the coat. I either decided I didn’t need it after all or I just couldn’t decide which one to wear.
Regardless, I left the closet and then went to leave the room, but I paused suddenly, gazing at this one plant friend of mine: Flourish.
Earlier that morning, two of the dogs had been playing near Flourish, and the little one had fallen backwards into the plant, getting wrapped up in its tendrils. Watching from my bed (it was still very early when this happened), I worried that the plant was going to get hurt, but the pup disentangled herself and left the room without further incident. I cannot tell you how relieved I was.
Well back upstairs in the room now, I moved closer to the plant and took one of its leaves with my left hand. “I was worried about you for a while,” I whispered, and then it finally clicked for me, and I felt like crying…
Here’s what clicked: I was the room itself; the girl in the room, taking care of the plant; the plant being cared for; and every other plant in the room. It was as if, by the very act of caring about something else, I was being cared for. Everything was connected, and I was a part of that connection. In other words, I wasn’t nearly as lonely as I’d always thought I was.
Downstairs (a little later), I told this to Charlie. He cried over hurting his body with so many substances, and I cried with him, because I’d been hurting my body and soul, too… just in other ways. Including boys.
I told my friend about my misgivings re: James this morning, mentioning he’d jokingly referred to me as his property and his little housewife and that he’d even voiced wanting to tattoo “Property of (his initials)” on my hip.
“No,” she said simply, looking at me. And that was all she needed to say.
Because I knew, then, that it wasn’t my girl hormones or some preemptive fear of losing him that was moving me to break up with him… it was my gut instinct, my intuition. I’d just been drowning it out with “but he’s so smart and affectionate and quirky and different” — and he is. James is great in a lot of ways. And for a girl who wants all of that + a bag of “implicitly submissive to and domestic for her man”, he’ll be a real dreamboat.
But I’m definitely not that girl. I won’t be wearing an apron and coddling children and saying “yes” all the time, dying to spend every free second I’ve got with a man. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to do any or all of that — it’s just not what I want. Not at all.
I’ve spent three full years painfully breaking through layers of childhood weirdness and societal bullshit to figure out WHO I really am and WHAT really matters to me, and I’m not giving up my strong sense of identity and independence or my clarity and peace of mind for a warm body next to mine. No way, Jose. I’m sorry, but it’s not a worthy trade.
I’d rather work and travel and write stories and make songs and have meaningful conversations, like the ones I’ve had with Scotte and Adam and Shelby and Frank and Emilio and Rodger and Jarrod and Cate and Charlie and Matt and Christina and Jon and Kiley and Bec and etc etc. My friends have kept me sane. They’ve asked about music gigs and writing and school stuff and Spanish and have given an actual shit about stuff like the best mug in the universe crashing to the ground, and some wonderful mystery friend even REPLACED it with an exact replica!
Look — it’s simple: There’s got to be actual depth to a romantic relationship (any relationship, really) or it’s DUMB. Dumb dumb dumb. Forget about it, all about it, fuck it, dumb.
I am so sick of this superficial, physical bullcrap. It’s fine if you think I’m pretty (and if you’re looking to date me, I honestly sorta hope you do — you’d need to find me cute, at least), but that better not be the main reason you’re dating me.
If we’re talking percentages, enjoying a person’s looks should compose maybe 20% of your why. The other 80% is the real heart of it, and if looks are taking up the majority of your why, you stink. That’s how I really feel about it.
So am I getting back on the app now to madly pursue the next “one”? HECK NO. I’m not ready for that. Granted: I may get back on the app someday, but I’d honestly prefer to take some time apart and then hope that something will develop naturally. Like at a cafe. Why can’t I just meet somebody nice at a damn cafe already?!
In the meantime, while I’m passively waiting (AGAIN), I’m going to keep living life just the way I like it: visiting cafes in oversized sweaters, dipping my bare feet into cool rivers, riding my shitty old bike that I love more than any dumb new one, and being entirely myself; not some hazy, soft, and bendy version of me.
I’m driving my friend’s car from Birmingham to Colorado Springs in March (she’s moving out there) and it’s going to be a really grand solo trip. A real ADVENTURE! I’m excited as heck about it because the timing couldn’t possibly be better.
Am I happier with a companion? Of course I am. You and I both know that. I fundamentally need that kind of relationship — it seems to flip this essential switch in me that keeps the depression manageable. I’ve learned this about myself, and while I used to consider it a weakness, I now understand it to be just another condition of stability and happiness (like being warm, and feeling safe, and knowing a latte or burrito’s nearby).
But fundamental needs aside, I’m not settling. I don’t care if the dude’s fine as Childish Gambino or funny as Seth Rogen — I’m not changing for ANYBODY. If I fall in love again and the other person loves the actual CONTENT of me and not just the fucking COVER of me, that’ll be nice… VERY nice. I’m cautiously looking forward to it.
But I’m beginning to believe that nothing will ever actually last. And my boundaries are obviously so delicate and fragile right now, like the tendrils on Flourish, that I need to spend more time developing them before I venture out on another limb (inserted a clever little pun there… ha!).
Another funny/not-funny thing before I go: During our brief time dating each other, I liked to surprise James with cookies and cups and rocks, and I also shared a few pieces of writing with him (a character sketch and a short story). I even handed him a heart-signed copy of Jinx (and then watched him toss it into the back of his car — it didn’t even make it onto the seat). Jackass.
Well he never surprised me with anything or read anything I wrote, and when I broke up with him earlier, he said very little in response but did include this: “Read my story anyway.”
He was referring to something he’d written back in high school that he’d shared with me via email. Very one-sided, eh? That seems to be the case recently.
And is it embarrassing — publicly reporting on all of these failed relationships? I guess it should be, but it isn’t. Although I may keep the next guy or gal (I’ve just about given up on guys) a secret until we’re a solid twenty years into our relationship.
When I shared my character sketch in class last week (the one James never read), the class gave their thoughts on it: The character, Marie, seemed emotionless, detached, depressed, thoughtful, sad, numb, lonely, elsewhere. They were all somewhat correct.
Mr. Braziel, though, offered this gently, looking me right in the eye: “I think she just feels things differently, more intensely, than the rest of us do.”
I’ll share Marie’s story with you guys later this semester, once I’ve actually written it.