I told her I didnt want “butterflies” …
…that feeling you get when you meet someone who sparks all those feelings that have lied dormant. She couldn’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want that.
Who *doesn’t* want to fall in love??
I think she assumed I was being too cynical, logical, or that I was too afraid of emotions. Maybe she thought I was trying too hard to be independent. What she didn’t understand is that I *have* felt those fluttery, I-can’t-breathe feelings … and they were the cause of all my heart breaks.
The first time I was 18. It was just like the movies. A sunny, hot evening in June, when the sun stays up past 8pm. I was at a festival dancing my heart out with about 200+ other people. Then I saw him. We locked eyes and somehow, in that moment, I knew we would be “a thing”. I hadn’t thought about it consciously, but looking back I know I made that decision in that same instant. All the signs were there. My heart had sped up (not just because of the music), my stomach felt like a dance party was happening in there too, and there was an instant familarity in his gaze that I felt like part of me already knew him. We got each other’s number by the end of the evening and ended up dating for the next 8 months. If you would have asked me at the time, I would have told you there was no doubt we were meant for each other.
As it turns out, sex, adrenalin, and fun dates only last so long. Soon the novelty wears off and you discover that people aren’t always who you expect them to be. Niether do we resemble the characters which we put on display for the world. Eventually real life sets in, butterflies disappear, and masks come off. We are left staring at someone we don’t recognize — whether our partner or the reflection in the mirror — and discover that none of it feels very authentic anymore.
The second time those rom-com type of feelings assaulted my person was during back-and-forth conversations through the matchmaker of this century — a dating app. We finally met up and what followed was one of the most beautiful, relaxed first dates I’ve ever enjoyed, complete with a walk along the river at sunset, mutually sharing anecdotes from childhood.
The rollercoaster ride that followed this first date can hardly be called a relationship, much less ‘love’. And, after almost a year of trying to find stability and make sense of all those hard-to-pin-down emotions, and electrifying attraction that was just so hard to resist, I finally had to conclude that, once again, my fluttering friends had failed me. Whatever had existed here still wasn’t love. I had once again mistaken lust, familiarity, and attachment for something deeper and dove head-on in the shallow end.
The third and final time I felt butterflies, it was wildly unexpected. This time the feelings didn’t surface all at once. Rather, in slow, subtle opportunities, which I failed to recognize or acknowledge in the beginning. She was my life-saver, my inspiration, my late-night phone call, my confidant, my partner in crime — my best friend. The first time I felt the gentle sting of Cupid’s sneaky little arrows was a winter morning sitting on the frozen front step of my parent’s house, watching the sun rise above the frosted trees. I held the phone so she could share this moment with me via skype, as we had spent the entire night talking. It was my first time ever watching, just sitting and watching, the sky light up with a new day, and I remember thinking that there was no one in this world I would rather share this moment with. There was no one I wanted to experience life with, in every way, more than her.
After that it took me almost a year to acknowledge that those feelings were more than just platonic. It took me even longer to recognize that the way my eyes lit up when she called, and the way my heart raced at the sound of her voice, was not a typical reaction to one’s best friend. For the first time, butterflies had shown up when I wasn’t looking for them, and without the confusion of a sexual relationship.
I could spend the next few paragraphs describing all the things I felt for my best friend, whether big or small, that proved to me that this time it was more than just infatuation. Suffice to say that this time when the butterflies flew away, instead of leaving a hole they left a peaceful and content feeling of being *home*. This time it was more than lust, and more than attachment. I wanted nothing more than to spend my life caring for her, being next to her, listening to her, and growing old with her. For the first time in my life I’d genuinely fallen in love.
What the movies don’t tell you is that sometimes Cupid doesn’t play fair. Sometimes all the signs are there and everything happens as it should, but only one of you takes the bait. What you don’t see in all those oh-so-irresistible Nicholas Sparks movies is that sometimes while your heart is ablaze the other person’s is only smouldering. Sometimes all they can offer you is their friendship, and you have to let it be enough. I guess that’s where the saying comes from: “if you love someone, you’ll let them go”.
Allow me to clarify that I love my best friend exactly as she is, and though my heart sometimes messes with my head, I would never ask her for more than she can give. I am honoured to have her for a best friend, and truly couldn’t have asked for better — she is sincerely one of the most amazing human beings I have ever encountered.
Yet, I couldn’t help the exasperation that escaped my lips when she asked why I rolled my eyes at romantic comedies and why I always insist that butterflies just aren’t enough. What she mistook for cynicism was actually the mournings of a broken heart that had not yet quite healed. Three times butterflies had led to tears on my pillow, and my heart was still too tender to hope for such feelings again. I’d come to the conclusion I didn’t want butterflies. I wanted love, companionship, and security; I wanted someone to choose me as much as I chose them.
Yes, I want to fall love, but I want a love that I don’t have to let go of…and I haven’t found it yet.