Sounds Like A “Love” Song

“[He] grew up believing in passion and love…”

I always wanted to experience love.

No, seriously. It may seem like the craziest thing ever, but I remember wanting a girlfriend as badly as I’d wanted good grades and a Sega Genesis even when I was younger. I guess I felt there was something special about it: being able to come to someone, and feel joy in their presence, and hopefully bring joy to their presence. To feel something that is neither the love you get from a family member nor the familiarity that you get from a friend, but its own separate, equally special thing.

When you’re a child, it’s not really love. It’s not really “like” either. You essentially become infatuated with someone who catches your fancy either because they’re “pretty” or “handsome” or something about them makes you smile or think about them often. Or maybe, it IS love when you’re a kid — in its purest, most untainted and uninfluenced form. That is, until you learn how to lie and start keeping secrets.

In any case, love — or what I thought was love — was something I looked forward to having at a certain point. I had people in my life who showed me what romantic love looked like when it was done right. My grandparents, for example, in their ‘70s and now 50+ years deep in the marriage game. Aunts and uncles who stayed together throughout my childhood up until one or both of them passed away.

But for a long time, romantic love itself eluded me. I chalked it up to my looks — not an unfair assumption, as I wasn’t the easiest on the eyes in my middle school and high school years (lol) — and perhaps my personality, then as a mostly introverted, often nerdy person. I observed what it was that attracted certain people to others and thought it was almost always surface related. There were things I didn’t have that I needed to have, I felt, in order to get attention from girls and young women. I certainly didn’t have that in high school, and whatever “it” was, it was probably closer to a car than a letterman jacket.

Now that I’m older, romantic love seems much more within reach than it’s ever been, but it eludes me still. I would learn that it’s one thing to “get” someone’s attention and another thing entirely to “keep” it. When you’re not used to the opposite sex gravitating to you or talking to you about more than just work or school, it throws you off. I essentially learned on the fly in my first stint in undergrad, the lessons my homeboys had gotten way, way earlier.

But I also started to think more. Self-sabotage is an art form, and its primary paintbrush of choice is excessive overthought. I felt that I was often overlooked. And so when I WAS looked upon, I asked “why?” And I didn’t ask the young lady “why” — I asked MYSELF “why.” I was essentially talking to myself about myself and didn’t leave much room for others’ opinions about me, even as (admittedly) others’ opinion often formed my self perception. So crushes dwindled or lost interest. Lunch wasn’t a “date,” it was “just lunch.” All the while, I logged my losses and observed my peers’ wins, trying to pinpoint the areas in which I needed to improve to be “desirable.”

Love, or what I thought was love, flirted with me and held my hand and even almost kissed my cheek but pulled back at the last second… yet it refused to be embraced by me, it seemed. So I put my faith instead in the fact that I had seen it manifest for others. If it happened to my friend, if it happened to my cousin, then it was just a matter of time for me, I thought. I watched from the bench as my friends flourished in the game, padding their stats, and I cheered for them, just knowing I’d be ready when Coach Love called me up to play my part.

But then I started to see that “love” was very different than what I’d imagined.

Romantic love took work. Love took effort. Love wasn’t just a ringtone that went off only when you called her. Love was more than just becoming Facebook official (changing your status on Facebook to “In a relationship with ____,” which admittedly doesn’t have the same level of importance that it used to), or getting a girl flowers on a random day, or even burning a CD (this Stone Age reference may throw some of you off, but stay with me) of some of her favorite songs. Love was arguing. Love meant you wouldn’t talk all the time. Love got hard. Love didn’t always have happy endings.

I watched someone close to me essentially choose money over love. And I had no way of knowing that was her thought process but I understood that money and means were important to her. As a result, I felt she chose someone who had that, over someone who could add to more than just her finances. When I saw that happen, I made the decision to never do that myself — to never let what a person had, outweigh who a person REALLY was. To never be so enamored with “things,” that I overlooked being enamored with the person herself.

And there were two couples, too, whom I admired. Like, when House and Cuddy didn’t make it, I knew I didn’t stand a chance.

In all seriousness, I DID know two couples who were pretty perfect matches to me, on surface. They stood the test of time. One couple were two Christians, a man and a woman. I’d known them since high school. We’d had the fortune of being in the same area — albeit not on the same campus — back in Austin. I always thought they got along. She would ask me about him, and he would ask me about her. It never manifested in high school for them, so I was certain college would create a new opportunity for them. She ended up marrying someone else. He did, too, years later. There is no way for me to know what obstacles stood in their way or whether or not feelings changed. All I know, is that I thought they’d make it, and they didn’t.

The second couple was a girl I met at college and her boyfriend, a long-time artist I followed but wouldn’t meet until years later. They were inseparable whenever she went back home. If there were such a thing as Bonnie & Clyde, it was them (sans the bank robberies, clearly). I could tell he loved her dearly, because he made her a part of his art. When you put someone in something you’ve created, it’s like you immortalize them — they’re stuck in that forever. So, too, did I believe that she and he would be together forever. Except they weren’t. In fact, within two years of their breakup, she’d meet and marry someone else. All I know, is that I thought they’d make it, and they didn’t.

They say life comes at you fast; perhaps love comes at you faster.

“[I’m 31 and] still too young and dumb enough to call it quits…”

But seeing those two relationships disintegrate, coupled with my continued analysis of myself and the interactions of the people around me, has caused me to look at love differently. What if this is all just in my head? What if there is no such as a soul mate? What if the two opportunities I had to make something special (both of which I ruined and regret for vastly different reasons), were the only chances I’ll get in this lifetime? What is this missing thing — chemistry? consistency? communication? — that makes love play “keep away” with me? With anyone, for that matter?

Maybe love isn’t what I thought it was. Maybe I’m a fool to still want, as Kanye West when he was still slightly sane once said, someone who “[isn’t] perfect, but made life worth it.” Or maybe I just need to fall out of love with the idea of “love,” in order to fall in love for real.

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