I met someone I like. It's a much more complicated and scary thing than I expected.
At the very least it's been surreal. It's not difficult to write about relationships retroactively, or write about them with intensity while they're falling apart. What's been strangely difficult is writing about one in any meaningful context while it's all going really well.
I still think of Jordan a lot, and that's been strange to process. There was part of me that felt very guilty for having real feelings for someone else. There was something in my head that still resisted the idea that I even could be with someone else in a meaningful way. Everyone else was supposed to be a placeholder; I'd live my life adventure and eventually we'd meet back up and live out our lives together. On some level I don't think I ever anticipated I'd move on.
There's a lot of weird baggage like that I had no idea I'd have. I wanted to wait before meeting anyone because I wanted to be "past" everything I've been through in the past couple years. I wanted a clean slate, but I guess time doesn't work that way; I can only build off of what I've been given, good or bad. I've been very fortunate that this boy has been patient with me.
I wanted to be okay by myself, to know who I was and to be sure that if/when I ended up with someone, they didn't put any limits on who I am. I didn't want to lose the identity I created, that's a hazard I face in relationships. I am very sensitive to the Pygmalion Effect.
In the past, if I like people I find myself getting lost in them. I don't really understand why or how I lose myself, but I stop being what it is that I am and end up trying to be what I expect they want me to be. I become a kind of doll. I don't think anyone I've ever been with has ever wanted a doll, either. They liked who I was and were probably very confused how that girl disappeared into something else. I think it's because I cut myself off socially; I only have them and their expectations and perception to draw from, and that becomes a vicious cycle.
I am a collection of things I like about other people. If no one else is around, I become a collection of one person's perceptions about me.
I've known that about myself for a very long time, but I'm only just now realizing that being a collection of things I like about other people also means that I am what those other people like about me. I think that's how I ended up becoming that blank doll. I would focus so heavily on what they liked about me that I wouldn't be able to see it any more, and then it would disappear, and we were all a bit confused.
I'm inconsistent and impulsive, I have this ephemeral projection that exists in different ways around different people. The idea of another relationship made me panic. I like to connect with people, I like to in a very deep way and I know it means I walk a lot of gray areas. It makes me worried that I'd accidentally be shitty to someone I'm in a relationship with. I saw it happen with Jordan and I don't want to do it again.
Looking back, the way I deified him has become to fade and I have become a lot more understanding of how all that broke down. I still want the best for him. I just don't want to know what happens in his life any more. I don't really know if he reads this or any of his friends do, but I guess he has the option of not knowing or knowing, depending on what he wants. That's a weird portal to know exists.
Now there is this new person, and I swear he's a little magical. I've been afraid of my malleability, how quickly I can change from one kind of person to another, and of the risk of me becoming lost, or turning into something I'm not. Relationships make me feel like a circus tiger, even if it isn't what the other person wants. I spill into this mold called "girlfriend" and it takes me out of the current I've been working so hard to be part of. That scares me the most, but it doesn't seem like that threat exists here. So far there's been a strange level of what I suppose is just being understood, but in a way I haven't encountered before.
I've been at a loss when it comes to describing what I like about this raccoon-of-a-human other than I like how he is, which is not exactly defined by who he is. When we talk about who we are, we usually mention our job, where we're from, our age and so on. None of that particularly interests me, and rarely do I think those definitions matter much. You are who you are, but how you do it is a much more interesting question.
He seems so self aware and empathetic. He is curious and smart and very odd, he's aware of how he feels and thinks critically about it. We can talk about anything. He's interested in what I do and he has faith in it. He's interested in who I am and complements it well. We're analogous; in a way, I feel better understood through knowing him.
The person I am when I'm around him, I think, is close to the way I think I am deep down, or at least the way I like to be. I am still a capricious monster, but around him, I am not a doll. I don't feel any need to impress this person. I don't feel the need to protect his feelings, so I tell him what I am thinking and feeling even if it's dark or potentially unpleasant. It's not hard to be honest. I'm still susceptible to the Pygmalion effect, but in this case it's become an advantage.
It's hard to balance the knowledge that the chemical release of love is temporary, that this feeling will be diluted by reality, with the understanding that I can't assume I know how this will end. I am not sure how long this will last or if it's meant to, but I'm looking forward to the shapes it takes. I'm looking forward to seeing the people we become, whether or not those people can continue a relationship. You can do a lot of harm, and a lot of good to another person once you've been intimate. We fear how things end, but I think I've figured out that it's not endings I'm afraid of, it's hurt. People who get hurt become bitter, and cynical, and it becomes more difficult to be open the more often it happens. I don't know if or how this ends, but I do know that we care about each other in a way where we won't leave the other one hurting.
Typical of me to try and write something light and fluffy about love and come up with that kind of dark sentiment, but my mind works a lot through those reciprocals. I understand things by their contrasts, and my ability to understand the loss of last time comes from learning about this new beginning and vice versa. Whatever it is, it makes me feel very good, and I'm grateful to have it.
If there is an ending, I really believe it won't be bitter, we will still be ourselves. It's a nice hope to have.
Kind of interesting that we pick the shortest month of the year to celebrate love, don't you think? To me, Valentine's day is a big barrel of bullshit that we drag out of the basement every year in order to stress people out so they start sniffing out consenting genitals like a truffle seeking boar.
Love is a big hairy beast, my friends, and it's not looking out for you, single, married or otherwise. If you're interested in cultivating a relationship with someone, avoid love, it will certainly avoid you. This point and the others I'm going to make over this month are the reason why I'm with the same person I've been with for so long.
Like many things in modern society, I disagree with the importance we place on relationships, even though I fit comfortably into the mushy trope of a monogamist. I've been with the same person for almost eight years at the time of writing this. I'm happy and I don't plan on leaving him, but that second condition is contingent on the first; fuck til death do us part, because that, like most of our concepts about love, is dumb. Don't be with someone because you feel obligated; that will cause a downward spiral that usually dips neatly into a pit of flesh eating lava bats..
Now, we place a great deal of value on love, and it's gotten us into some trouble. It's not that love is a bad thing; from an evolutionary standpoint, it's the thing that has gotten human kind out of the cave and into the rocket ships. Caring about people, and their survival, feeling accepted, these are all skills that promise a strong number of our species will survive, which is great, especially when it comes to survival in a world of competitive resources. A world devoid of love would descent into some Hunger Games-esque apocalypse where we sacrifice people because being a society of complacent sociopaths is the next logical step if you're not into sharing. And in a way, that's magical, but that's not the whole story...
Bitter Truth, #1 Love and Relationships are unrelated.
In western society, we are allowed and encouraged to choose who it is we get to spend our life with, which in my western-culturally raised view, is awesome. That being said, that's not true everywhere in the world and there's some logic to that.
There is such thing as love, by the way, and it's the bee's knees. Consequently, the lifespan of a queen bee is about a year, which is a good approximation for how long the feeling of love lasts, given that's typically the release span of the chemical oxytocin, which makes us all snuggly with people in what we typically associate as love. Over time this chemical wanes, as its primary function is to make us feel bonded to others. Once the bonds have been created and your lives/resources intermingle, there's less reason for you to keep producing the chemical. As I mentioned, there is evolutionary incentive to make us stick together in groups, let alone couples: One of the most simple is so bigger, stronger things don't murder us in droves.
Relationships, on the other hand, or more specifically marriage since that's typically a relationship meant, originally, had a bit more to do with economic security. Families unified with one another by pairing up people, and by this action, they solidified their family lines, gained more labor and ensured more babies (infertile women could be effectively ousted from marriage, thereby screwing over their family and being murdered because that's how we rolled for awhile), which by the way,making tiny child laborers was a huge deal back in the day, hence the prevalence of polygynous cultures. Again, this was somewhat of a no-no for the church, who transformed the child-labor aspects of a relationship into the servants of god part.
I'll talk more about the hirsute feelings-monster named Love a little later, though. For the sake of this article, I'm restricting to the scope of love as a chemical incentive brought to you by nature, and relationships are a social incentive brought to you by cultural constructs, mostly lineage preservation. Therefore, they have nothing to do with each other. Keeping this in mind, our ability to choose our mates is now in our own power, which was more or less a gift from the christian church, as they were cooler about marriages with no babies and less cool with everyone fucking each other.
What does that mean for modern day you? It means that when you're looking to settle down, you shouldn't be looking for someone to love, no offense to the Beatles. You can start out that way, sure, but love is a self-sacrificial phenomenon. People who are in love aren't themselves, because they'll do, say and be anything for that person lighting up all the reward centers in their brain. Love is fine for brief relationships and it's okay to have and enjoy those, but it's important to realize that if you're looking for someone to spend your life with, loving them is about as relevant as having the same blood type. Helpful in times of organ failure, but pretty much moot beyond that.
You want to marry your best friend; not in a 'should have known it all along, you are hereby released from the zoneth of friends" kind of way, but by recognizing that you have similar outlooks about what's important in life. Who gives a shit if you both collect seashells or dig Matthew Mcconaughey films, if you don't find yourselves sharing similar ideals about what the big abstract concepts like being successful or (especially) being happy means, it seems unlikely that you'll get very far.
A blatantly unhelpful article I read recently stated that the best thing for any relationship is for the people in it to be best friends. And in other news, a lot of fish live in the ocean, but some live in rivers and bowls. I realize the advice I just shared is no different in terms of how broad it is, so maybe this is the part that I can help clarify with; don't decide to get into a serious relationship *just because you love someone*. Love is there to make you want to be near someone because being near people is safer. Barring a zombie apocalypse, there's more things that will come up in your life that will require a relationship built on more pragmatic and less sparkly endeavors. It's fine to have those relationships forged in love, by the way, just realize that love isn't the glue that holds your relationship together, it's a catalyst, like a boulder careening down a hill behind you as you flee from being crushed to death. At some point, you'll jump out of the way, and you'll have to have real conversations, and real reasons to have them.
Because eventually, your inflatable raft of oxytocin will crash onto the deserted island of relationship, and when you spend that much time with one another, you're going to need more than a chemically induced selflessness to get you through building your first coconut hut together or learning how to catch fish with your bare hands. Think about what makes you hang out with your friends; how to spend time together, even as your lives change. Building a relationship on the idea of love is naive, and arguably dangerous. You can't expect it to do anything once it's gone, or expect it to last forever because you want it to. Love is incentive to create a relationship, but what you're actually doing is creating a lifestyle that needs to accomodate two people instead of one, and doing that requires the same social skills any other kind of relationship, working, friendship, etc, is built on, so if that's what you really want in life, the best place to start is by learning how you deal with everyone who is already around you.
More bitter truths about relationships will be added casually as I think of them. Thanks for reading! Follow me in the non-creepy, social media way via these little icons, because a picture is worth a thousand words, or at least 140 characters.
About A Blog
I'm a Denver Comedian, occasional cartoonist and person of interest to someone, probably. These articles are really too long.