Okay, so it’s a long essay of a rambly, highly personal Montaigne variety, but I think it still fulfills the criteria of personal and artful (there are some artful bits to it, particularly the end).
But yeah, fairly personal for me, relying heavily on my own experiences and how I learned from them, which is like an essay too I suppose.
Love is a mystery that has troubled the human mind for countless generations.
Love is one of those undying themes in literature, alongside death.
Sometimes the two even interact, counteract and play off one another.
Who can dismiss the power of a tragic love affair in fiction?
Orpheus and Eurydice, Tristan and Isolde, Romeo and Juliet. Those classical tragical couples became the inspiration for the tragic love stories that still appear in popular culture and fiction today.
Some might even say that it is starting to feel like beating on a dead horse, but as long as it sells, it will still be produced in some form.
And that’s when I have to take a step back and think of my own relation to the tragic love affair and to the very word itself. That four letter word which can burn itself into your heart and mind, twist your perceptions of the world and make you act like a fool.
For that reason, for the risks involved I tread with caution around love. I have had my own love affairs, very chaste compared to most people, I’m certain. But what makes me careful is that when I look back I see so many errors made by myself, all in the name of love.
Or in some cases, what I thought was love.
“You’re in love with the idea of being in love.” A movie quote I cannot place right now and I am not even certain if I am even remembering it right, but for me, I can see that was true.
I had very strange and romantic notions of what love should be and how it should feel, placed in me by all the books I read in my lonely hours, all the movies.
In 8th grade I once put it into my head to have a crush on a classmate only because it felt like the proper thing to do. Those feelings, those fraudulent emotions grown inside my own head nearly lasted for a full semester, though I never really approached the boy. I never really felt the need to, for I never had any true feelings, so I never suffered like teenagers normally do when they have a boy they like who doesn’t like them back.
Not much later, maybe another year or so, the same routine was repeated somewhat but this time with a boy I got to know online. I had the same kind of…feelings like we should be in love. So I decided I was in love with him. The lack of a face helped me grow this idealistic image of what the boy looked like which meant that I really was in love with a fantasy. Like a character in a story. He sent a photo, which did not match up to my inner imagery, but my mind refused to acknowledge it as the truth, up to the point where I actually got to meet him in the flesh once (oh, if my parents had not actually wanted an excuse to travel to NYC that summer it probably would not have come to pass) and that’s when it all crumbled. The story book burned to a crisp in my head and all that remained was awkward familial feelings. I got along better with the boy’s family than the boy himself. And thus that ended as well, the moment we said our goodbyes at the airport.
I feel shameful about that whole affair now and I wish I’d apologized for it.
Then came a time when I had real feelings offered to me in real life, or at least I thought they were offered to me. Feelings with that L word attached, or…again, so I felt. It was a strange feeling, empowering and what could I do but slowly begin to reciprocate. It was even more exciting that the man was several years older than me and I was still a minor at the time.
When the offer came to actually start to date, I jumped at it. Because I still had that romantic view on love and that it seemed quite nice to be in a relationship and I hadn’t yet experienced that, even though I was in my late teens.
Was I truly in love then? I might have been, or at least to some extent. The guy shared quite a lot of himself that you can’t help to feel emotionally and I did like some of the physical contact, which was very chaste, I assure you. That relationship would have made a Victorian proud, but I was content with that. For the few months that relationship lasted, when what feelings I had carried inside me slowly leaked out of me and I began to find that physical nearness, the intimacy disturbing, almost repulsive at times, when my inner Victorian’s idea of physical boundaries felt violated. Still, anyone who has had a proper relationship with another person would laugh at the complaints I had back then.
And perhaps suggest I was going for the wrong kind of person…or gender perhaps.
Ah, but that would have made my life much easier, to be certain.
But at the end of the day, I think what truly was to blame there was the lack of proper, true love on my end. I was still a child and unable to match a grown man’s yearnings and needs both emotionally and physically.
And then it happened again, not more than a year later. I was offered the feelings of another person, someone closer to my age, and I thought that maybe this time, this time it would be the true thing. I would feel the right kind of love. I educated myself on the interests and family, as if a deep knowledge of a person automatically means you love them as a lover.
Though I do think I was closer to that elusive Love thing then. I did feel something more true than I’d felt before, though how deep it was…
Well, we met several times. We had some nice, intimate times, though it was still on an almost Victorian level. Our kisses quickly turned chaste and never moved beyond that, though it was nice just having a hand to hold and arms to hold you. It was nice to have a friend you could be that physically close to and wait…Surely you aren’t just friends with someone you hold hands with and hug, not if it’s a boy?
At some point, it became clear to me that he was not a lover, he was not a boyfriend in my head. I teased him like I did my brothers and when he began to express desires to be closer, so see each other more I panicked and broke it off in a rather shameful way.
And I probably deserved the lasting hard feelings he had towards me.
After that, Love was ever more elusive to me. I felt fed up with it to be honest, though I did have…What I thought were crushes. But when I look back, I wonder if I was not merely desperate for another boy to marry so I could exploit that for a green card. Desperate to think that any friendly interactions and attention meant that the person had feelings for me.
Yes, I admit it. I was once that obsessed with moving away from where I live.
Eventually I gave up on it. I realized how silly it was. I finally, finally began to grow up.
It was only then, when I cast away my childish notions of what love is supposed to be, who you are supposed to experience it with that I became open to other possibilities.
I began to ponder and consider and along the way, along my twists and turns among the people I encountered along the way I actually fell in love for real.
And realized that I’d never known the full scope of feelings involved when you truly want another person, the whole package of them, inside and out. Their soul and their body. And I’d never truly felt that burning pain when your feelings are not mutual.
What is the most frightening is that thin line between love and obsession, I do fear I may have toed the line, if not outright crossed it on several occasions.
It was a hard love to step away from, a hard flame to quench, but I eventually realized it had to be done. For my own sake.
And for the sake of the other relationships I still had. And along the way I had learned another hard lesson…That you can feel love for people you are not in love-love with.
Yes, it’s strange, but I had never actually thought about loving other living things that are not a boyfriend/girlfriend/partner. Never learned to attach the word “Love” to them. I never thought it would be okay to love a friend, to touch a friend in an asexual manner. I actually had not thought hard about loving my family, as sad as that might sound.
I allowed myself to feel love for my cat, I had to grudgingly admit I had some love for my brothers and perhaps also my parents, my other close relatives. And I realized it was okay to love a friend, because it did not have to mean something that could forever complicate that relationship.
It is still a hard word for me to use though, so I hope the friends I have who have that L-word offered at them realize what it takes for me to use it. That they mean enough that I dare use it.
But my journey, which not only showed me the right people I can feel a deep love-love for, not only taught me about the different forms of love also left me with a strange fear. It has left me slightly spooked by feelings that could imply that I love someone as more than a friend. Because I know what that kind of love can do to me and I know the pain of those feelings not being mutual.
So, I focus on the familial feelings, the friendly love. Which on a day like this, on the day for Love and lovers everywhere, feels a bit strange.
I know some send cards to people who are not their partners, who are just their best friends and family they treasure. But it feels like those people are in a minority.
And here I sit, not missing a lover in my life per se, but watching these people who hunt for the perfect date and the perfect gift with a sense of puzzlement.
Why are they exposing themselves like that, when Love, The Love can end so badly?
When it can leave you so open and vulnerable. Open to tragedy beyond words.
Though, I can still see how a relationship would be nice. I can still feel jabs of envy at friends who have found someone that treasures them deeply enough to call them “girlfriend”.
I think I still would like that for my own. But it is hard. A hard thing to find. Like a precious gemstone or a golden nugget at the depths of a mine.
Maybe I will find my nugget, my precious gemstone, or maybe it will just be a piece of pretty rock. What matters is that this person, the pretty rock will find me too and that we will enter the relationship on equal terms, acknowledging the flaws of the other.
We will be adults about it, not the silly tragic lovers of the stories.
Because it is the tragic love that has the most tragic consequences.
I do not want to be the Romeo or Juliet, I want to have something steady and dependable. Not a burning, consuming fire, even if it might feel like that at first. A radiator might look boring, but it provides heat in a more constant, reliable way than a fire.
But perhaps that is what everyone ends up with in the end. And that is why the tragic couples still rule our imaginations, because somewhere, somehow, it is something we all want a taste of at some point in our lives. Even if it’s just a story.
I feel like I already had my own tragic love story, so I will happily settle for a reliable radiator, who will humor my whims, while I offer the same to them. Someone I can talk to and share every part of me, just like the other can talk and rely on me.
I will not deny the power of the grand love affair, burning fast and hot on this Holiday of Love. But on an emotional level I will still feel puzzlement at its lasting power, because tragic love hurts. And ends.
It is better to have a love that lasts, even if you only have the love of friends and family. That is the kind of love worth waiting for.
Perhaps someone should have told that to Romeo and Juliet.