A Short Study in Love: Redux

“Why haven’t you found a nice boyfriend yet?”, they ask.
They all ask.

I always joke that I went to the Boyfriend Tree and that they were all gone so I have to wait for the next harvest. A joke, yes, but the men in my life have all been fruit — they ripened, decayed, then were absorbed back into the earth, or devoured. Distant memories or horrible tastes in my mouth.

In them were lifetimes, futures unrealised.

Men I could’ve lived with
and didn’t.
Could’ve married, could’ve had children with,
and didn’t.

At times, looking back, I would hate them.
I spent a long time hating them.

Not an outward, verbal hate — I think only a few of them suffered passive-aggressive lashings during the swan songs of our relationships, when I felt betrayed, let down, abandoned — but the kind of hate that sits seething in my stomach, crashing against the coasts of my soul, every painful pulse asking, “What did I do wrong? Why am I never good enough? Why isn’t anyone proud to be with me when they’re with me? Why do they always come back and say sorry? Am I even worth it? Will I ever be worth it to anyone? Am I broken? Am I too much work?”

You get the idea — the kind of hate that simmers for so long that you end up transposing it on yourself.

And I’m no angel in all of this, of course. I swing between fight or flight when I look into the eyes of men I like — go all in on them, or run for the fucking hills. Of all the puzzles and challenges in my life, the nature of the well-balanced, healthy human relationship seems to be the raid boss I am never quite geared for.

I am not simple.
I can be rather terrible, actually.

I can be equal parts stand-offish and needy. I can been eyes-blazing-with-fire jealous, although that comes when I can sense the end is near — it’s mostly a final battering ram to cracked and tumbling walls. I am aware of my baggage, and struggle daily to not allow it to become the dictator of my mind — a mind which I know deep down is soft, squishy, and sensitive, and capable of real-life adult love.

You don’t realise you’re the kind of woman that is replaced by younger women until it happens. It sneaks up on you. You’re left with your heart in your hands, in shock because you never considered yourself not-young until you compared yourself to the fresh-faced new girlfriend of your ex-boyfriend.

“She’s probably 10 years younger than me,” you grumble, examining the dark circles under your eyes and the wrinkles slowly forming where you smile.

And was he even your boyfriend, really? Probably not — just a guy who liked to tell you how much they like fucking you. That’s not a relationship. That’s as empty as someone saying they enjoy talking to you about sport — they’re just interactions with no depth.

And is it replacement, really? Probably not — although it’s hard to get past that feeling, that niggling, that you were a car that was OK to drive in for awhile, but the dude got bored your classic exterior and sputtering engine.

And is age the issue, really? Probably not — it’s a nice fallback excuse, but in the end, I am not easy. I require effort. I am a product of my experiences. I am a veteran of the war of abuse. I am a caged animal that’s suddenly been let out into the world to fend for myself, and I struggle to not hold onto the bars of my former prison, just because it’s a familiarity that I know.

This can not be fun to deal with.

I am great at parties, though. For the record.

The experiences I’ve had, though, make me richer. It’s hard to be mad when I feel more intelligent, funny and better in bed than I’ve ever been. I am complicated and flawed, but I am a unique goddamn snowflake. I’ve had my time hating myself and the world and everyone else and it was boring, quite frankly. And exhausting. I’m sure at least one of my forehead almost-wrinkles exists purely because of the stress cause by criticising myself. I’m not as pretty as I’ve ever been — or at all, I feel, most days — but my brain and my heart and my soul are overflowing with creativity, hope, relentlessness and love.

I’m learning to be around people who soothe my everything without even trying, people who were made by the universe to deal with me and me specifically. Of the billions of people in the world, there is always at least one that will be a puzzle piece that sits snugly in the crevasses of your imperfections.

I’m sitting on the edge of the pool of love, dangling my feet in it, testing the water.

“Will you stay with me, darling?,” he whispers, hardly awake.
He’s falling asleep and doesn’t want me to leave.
Nothing he says feels wrong or bad or scary. There is no little whispering in my soul that maybe this isn’t what I think it is.

I’m still afraid, a little bit, but it’s OK.
Rome wasn’t built in a day,
and you can’t build a foundation on a closed heart.

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