I pulled back the drapes, my drapes, white and wilted. Fog lied ferociously across the glass. And lonely, little drops of condensation were flung about. Ignorant, because they weren’t alone, but part of a larger collection of one morning. I was intrigued that I could do that myself. It didn’t take the breath of two bodies: one slightly cigarette scented and the other certain. It didn’t take sex. It didn’t take a whole night’s sleep of spooning and swaying under shoved down sheets. Just me. In the middle of my bed. Without trying.
Blink 182 says that no one likes you when you’re twenty-three, but what I think they meant to say was that no one’s single when you’re twenty-six. When you’re twenty-six everyone you know is in a relationship – whatever that might look like. It may be facilitated over Facetime and once a month visits that involve trains and planes. Maybe it’s two individuals that have seemingly melted into one being and only operate in declaration as “we.” Perhaps it’s a relationship with a man that still isn’t your boyfriend, despite months of dating. Maybe it’s your friend whose boyfriend has become your friend too and they’re the ones that are waiting for you at the finish line of your half-marathon with a balloon. And then there might be your guy friend who kind of has a relationship with his cat. Whatever it looks like, I realized, as I went through my mental catalog of my closest friends my age, no one is single when your twenty-six. And I was one of them, for now, but absolutely frightened. When did everyone decide to be all vulnerable and emotionally brave? Was I out of town that weekend everyone I know took their vulnerability pills?
Dating someone is getting to know them, and loving them is accepting them for who they are without trying to change them. And what if, getting to know a person includes the discovery of a void of something very important to you? And the presence of a thing unnecessary in nature, but as damaging to trust in a relationship as the act of throwing a bowling ball made for a large handed man at your skull? While you were sleeping?
There are zero Google searches for: (I know because I tried. Twice.)
“What to do when your boyfriend that makes the bed and hides your naked mole rat stuffed animal in places, like on your chandelier, when you go to work before he does, also lies, sometimes?”
No, not the, “I’m sexting bitches and hoes” while you’re sitting there painting your toe nails, kind of malicious lying, but the harmless (as stated) dishonesties about: whereabouts, and times, and events, and consumptions of food and beverages and who knows what else. Harmless in their individual nature, and purposeless, but compiled together form a heavy heap against intimacy. And as a lady who knows the most important things to her in a relationship, (honesty, sense of humor, mutual love for corn dogs) even I can see the potential for defeat here.
And then there’s this thing called emotional bravery that isn’t as easy to define, as let’s say, French fries. Is it risking what you’ve got – blood, wounds, pasts, ideals, bed space and telling fear to suck it, for someone that has traits that borderline on one of your deal breakers? Is it waiting to have sex with them for nine months because they’re a virgin? Or is that stupidity? Is it letting them slowly share your life with you because they are caring and funny and love you and see you for who you actually are? Is that what everyone else I possibly know has found or is striving for with their cat?
The answers are there. I can find articles online that support this predicament either way. Studies about how lies damage relationships and trust, even small ones, studies about how small lies are actually better for relationships, articles backed by extensive University research and others written by a manipulated housewives in Missouri.
One of my professors has a theory that the subject matter of a couple’s first fight would be rooted in every other argument they had for the entirety of their relationship in some way. Where is the line between compromises that accept someone for who they are and compromises that compromise your own character? Is that what is important, the willingness to work on whatever it is? To follow through? To put toothpaste on my toothbrush when you brush your teeth before me in your very small underwear? Do the lovely things, the caring things balance out those discrepancies?
“I feel okay about this right now,” I tell him, post lie-caught, post phone-confrontation, post midnight-meeting, finally.
“But I took two Xanax, so I might actually still be mad in the morning…”
I’m not scared to be alone. It’s easier to be alone and avoid the Land of The What If’s. And not feel the feelings. And not meet anyone’s parents with my hands that are perpetually clammy and a little bit sticky. And not wonder if he’s where he says he is through text messages with kiss-y face emoticons. It’s easier to make-out with a stranger, but know that Lena and Cheetos are waiting for me when I get home, to operate on a rotational basis with love and favorite coffee shops, and everything else. To not surrender to uncertainty and show the bits of myself that are uglier than those hanging things at the back of your throat. It’s safe. Risking that all, giving up Lena and those hot Cheetos, recognizing the potential for disaster, but being willing to confront it anyways, that’s emotional bravery.