Today was also my college friend Clare’s birthday. She used to live in the City before she moved to Indonesia for a year to do research on some trees. She’s back now, but living at home in Minnesota so I don’t get to see her. But I texted her today to say happy birthday and it reminded me of a conversation we’d had just after you and I started dating.
In fact, that reminds me that Clare is actually the reason I started dating you, and the reason we worked out so well at the beginning. Do you remember the first night that we met? When I asked for your number? It might not seem it, but you were the first guy I’d seriously approached in months. And all because of a conversation Clare and I’d had earlier that week.
Clare and I’d met up for dinner at some little Mexican place. She was at Columbia for grad school at the time, so we were up on the West Side. Over margaritas I told her about my most recent hook-up, some guy I’d met at a bar a week or two before. We’d met that night and I’d gone home with him. Then that was it. Not even a date, not that I expected one. But even when I went out with guys I ended up sleeping with them after the first or second date and then they’d disappear. As Clare pointed out to me, one night stands didn’t lead to relationships.
Relationships? Was that what I wanted? Was I ready for another one? At that time, I’d been single going on eight months. Eight months to get over my ex- of a year and a half. Was that enough time? It was. I was ready to move on. I wanted something serious, something lasting.
But that wasn’t Clare’s only piece of advice. Now that I’d determined I didn’t want to have any more one night stands, I needed to set some ground rules. And Clare knew just where to start. We pulled out a notebook and began.
The rules were pretty simple, actually. Clare and I laid out maximums for each date, limits for how far I could go.
First Date: Nothing, not even a kiss, you have to keep them guessing and wanting to see you again, a little footsie under the table is totally fine, but you have to keep that shoe/sock barrier
Second Date: You can kiss, but no making out, and you have to watch your hands, nothing below the belt, not even a little butt squeeze as tempting as it might appear
Third Date: Make Out, your hands can do a little exploring, but nothing under the pants, and OTPHJs (Over the Pants Hand Jobs) are strictly prohibited (and gross)
Fourth Date: Hook-ups are allowed, blow jobs, hand jobs, whatever, but no sex, no sticking things in something else
Fifth Date: Sex.
Like I said, pretty simple rules. After we’d written them down, I made a pact, in front of Clare and myself and my love of a good frozen margarita, that I would no longer have one night stands. Instead, I would abide by these rules we’d set down and find someone to date seriously.
The following weekend, as luck would have it, I met you. I guess Clare’s rules really did work, although I fudged them a little bit. I had to count our first date as two dates. (We had coffee which counted as the first and then dinner right after was number two. Changing venues separated the dates, at least that’s the ruling I made. That’s why I could kiss you at the subway. And you’ll notice that when I did, I didn’t grab your butt. I put my hand on the small of your back. The rules working in my advantage once again.)
There was one more conversation I remembered as I texted Clare today. You and I had been dating for a few months when Clare and I had this discussion. We were talking about broken hearts. I had never had one. Clare had. Naively, I said that I wanted to have my heart broken, at least once, so that I could feel the whole spectrum of emotions. How can you go through your life without experiencing the gut-wrenching sadness of a love lost? I joked with Clare that one day when I did have my heart broken, I’d be sitting on my couch with her, stuffing my face with ice cream and weeping into the carton. Then all of a sudden, like an Alzheimer’s patient on the rare lucid day, I’d snap out of my sadness and turn to her and say “Now I’ve really lived life.” And then I’d go back to crying.
That’s what I texted Clare about today. I told her I’d had my heart broken. I haven’t yet hit that moment of lucidity, though. I don’t feel any more fulfilled in my emotional life.
The worst part is that that day when Care and I talked about broken hearts, I honestly thought that I’d never experience one. We’d been together for a few months and were in love. I couldn’t see that coming to an end. And the strange part was that this thought that we’d never end didn’t come from my overwhelming love for you, but from the unwavering love I thought you felt for me. I never thought you’d be the one to end things, not back at the beginning. So even if we broke up, it wouldn’t be my heart breaking but yours.
Somewhere in the last year our roles shifted and I didn’t even realize it. I became the one who loved you more, the vulnerable one, the one ripe to have his heart broken. When did that happen? When did I catch up to you? When did I surpass you? Or did you just stop running one day?
I guess when it comes to love, the hare’s the winner by losing.