One of the few rules our high school Writer’s Craft teacher (a wild-haired, string tie-wearing cowboy poet) believed in was to not title pieces overarching, concept words. I agree: it’s very dangerous to call a story ‘Loneliness’ or a poem ‘Hatred’. But what about when your subject simply is ‘Love’?
(In case anyone’s interested, I spent that class submitting an episodic story about a group of multi-racial, sexually diverse teenagers, who I pushed into university in the then-futuristic year of 2005, and eventually into marriages, political careers and war traumas in the 2020’s.)
I have an inkling that no culture has made a bigger deal about love than our own. It is the fuelling sentiment behind pop songs, movie endings and apprehensive first dates. In the past, social connections, financial security and procreation were openly accepted as the reasons to wed. But, while these justifications still exist, nowadays, especially in the West, we would shudder at their bluntness. Instead, we talk of love. Where big white weddings used to be displays of the bride’s family’s wealth, now, in order to justify the 5,000 dollar dress and all the ice sculptures, each ceremony needs to have an epic love story behind it. Half of them end in divorce.
Wow, that’s cynical.
I was once in love. My entry into the world of dating was so abortive, so disappointing (my love life was DOA, as the song from Friends would have it) that told a friend, “You know, when I meet a guy who I like, and who likes me, and actually wants to date, then that will just have to be love!”
Funnily enough, that’s how it went down.
Well, first there was a drunken make-out. Then we forgot each others’ names. Then he convinced me that, despite being in different cities, we could actually date. By the time he visited me two weeks later, we were using the ‘L-word’, as in ‘I think I’m falling in L—’.
He was beautiful in an otherworldly way and we had enough in common to always have something to talk about, but enough different that we could challenge and learn from each other. Over time, our differences became more apparent and I realized that he had repressed parts of his self in order to better fit with my friends and family, he so wanted to be part of my world.
I can’t compare from experience, but, as bad as a break up is when one side does something shitty like cheating, it’s almost worse when despite loving each other it just stops working. Scary thing is, sometimes love isn’t enough. We broke up and I tortured myself by misremembering us as a perfect union and dwelling on everything I could have done differently. We got back together and I tortured myself in a new way by doing everything I could think of to make it work. I think partially, although I loved him, I also loved the idea of being in love and didn’t want to let it go. Perhaps I thought that I wouldn’t meet someone like him again for awhile, if ever.
We broke up and I was right. In the years since, I have not been in love. But that’s okay. If I had been in a couple, I wouldn’t have met the guys I did, some I ended up dating, some who became friends and still others who were destined to become funny, embarrassing stories. Your twenties are for sowing wild oats anyways. I’m the type of gay guy, midway between a twink and a bear (I often have facial hair, but no belly, guys!), who gets ignored in his twenties, but when we’re all 36 I suspect I’ll be a catch.
But love often doesn’t happen when it’s convenient.
Speaking of love and embarrassing dating stories: I haven’t had a guy blow it with me during a pre-meeting IM chat in quite awhile, but one did last night. He recounted, in OCD-detail, how the last guy he met didn’t respond to his last text messages. It wasn’t so much that it made him look desperate as it was boring to hear about. I told him a funny first date story in which I was drinking and he said, “Oh, you got sloppy-drunk on a first date? I would wait until the fourth or fifth.” I thought, ‘Well, excuse me, Miss Manners. My copy of The Rules: Gay Dating Edition hasn’t arrived yet!’
I explained to him that my two longest relationships began with me not only having a couple drinks but (gasp) making out with them! In contrast, I’ve gone on countless pleasant, afternoon coffee dates and never seen the guy again. There are no rules. But the kicker came when I asked him if he had been in love. He said no but wished he had. He then asked me and I typed, “Yes. My ex boyfriend and I were very much in love. I think about him all the time and still miss him”. To which my new friend answered, “Whoa, rub it in much?”
After I picked up my jaw off the floor I wrote, “He broke my heart. I’m still getting over it. That was in no way showing off.” Then he felt kind of bad. Turns out, there are some rules: don’t make someone’s break up story about yourself if you want to get a first date. But I can see where he was coming from. Prior to having fallen in love, I was totally jealous of anyone with any kind of love story. And even though now I’ve seen it from both sides, and I am admittedly bitter about the dating world, I still seek love. Although the guys I have the most in common with always want to just be friends, and the guys who come from totally different backgrounds and I don’t know what to say to are the ones who want to date, I still, deep down, think someone I could love is out there.
And in the mean time, while searching, I’m going to have fun.