Let me preface this blog with a warning: If you have ever dated/courted me, you may not want to read this. Because I’m bout to talk about the things you’ve taught me… and the manner in which you imparted your lessons.
About five months ago I went through a really, really bad break-up. Near the end of our relationship, we were having Skype conversations where I would actually start hitting myself in the face and ripping out my hair. I once went to the shower, turned the water up until it was scalding hot, took my loufa and start scrubbing my skin as hard as I could. It was a toxic relationship, and it was eating me alive. I wasn’t myself. It brought out the worst in me. He’s not a terrible guy, but he was terrible for me. By the time he wanted to work on us, my heart had shut off. It was a bodily function as natural as puking when you drink too much. Your body says, “This is too much alcohol. TIME TO EXPEL.” Your body goes into survival mode and takes over for you. Well that’s my heart did. It said, “We’re done.” And I couldn’t even make myself try again. My heart wasn’t in it anymore and, like the body expelling vomit when it’s had too much alcohol, my heart expelled all feelings of love that I had for this person.
Gruesome, I know. But bodies do some nasty shit.
I got so mad at myself during that relationship. I was experiencing fuckery that I had vowed to never go through again. I was having deja vu. And I kept having a flashback to a specific moment from a previous relationship:
I was dating this guy, and I was in LOVE. I was in love so hard. I was in it for the long haul. And it seemed pretty mutual. We said romantic/terrifying things to each other like, “If this doesn’t work, it will break me.” I mean, this dude made me so happy. I still can’t quite figure out why. To properly describe our realtionship, here was my happiest moment with him:
It was nearing Christmas. He asked me what I wanted as a gift. I listed a bunch of stupid shit: a hug, a slow dance, food, a high-five. I said, “Just don’t get me anything. Make me a CD. Don’t spend more than $5.” So that was the deal. We weren’t gonna spend more than $5 on each other. (We were both poor as F-holes.) When it came time to exchange gifts, we went to my room in my college apartment. I plugged in the multi-colored Christmas lights that were hanging around my room, and we sat on the ground in the glow of the Christmas lights as we exchanged gifts. I don’t know what I got him, but I do remember my present from him. It was a CD! I was so happy! He didn’t spend money on me, and I knew I would be listening to that CD all winter. “Put it in! Let’s listen to it,” he said. I put in the CD, and the first track starting playing. It was a slow ballad that I’d never heard. “Get up,” he said. I stood up. He held out his arms to dance with me and said, “Merry Christmas.” We slow-danced, illuminated by the Christmas lights while it snowed outside. That’s one of my favorite memories of all time.
Clearly, I thought this guy was the one. I had never felt this way before. So I made room for him in my life. I made little sacrifices for him. I didn’t like the thought of spending every night together, so we decided that I would have Mondays and Wednesdays to myself in my bed. But then I found out he couldn’t sleep on the nights when we were separated. I took a deep breath and said, “Fuck off” to my paralyzing fear of intimacy, and I decided to spend every night with him. There were times when I would be really tired, but he wouldn’t be able to sleep. Sometimes to help him out, I would rub his neck, and sometimes I would “rub his neck”.
And this is the moment I kept coming back to in my most recent relationship: there was one night when I couldn’t sleep. I started to put the moves on my man. But as I started to do my sexy kissing, he said, “I’m not really horny,” and he rolled over to go to sleep. I sat there in his dark room and I felt like somebody had just swung a sledgehammer right into my stomach. I thought to myself, ‘What about all the times I wasn’t in the mood? What about all the sleep I lost over helping you fall asleep? What about me surrendering all my personal space to you?’ The shift that happened inside of me was so monumental that it was audible. I couldn’t talk myself out of this downward spiral that I was riding, and I just started crying in his bed. He asked me what was wrong, but I was inconsolable. I couldn’t be helped; there’s no helping someone who’s just realized their life isn’t what they thought it was. A simple “there, there” wasn’t going to assuage me. He kept trying to get me to talk about it, but I just sat there on the edge of his bed, trying to drown us both in my tears, repeating, “I gave away too much. I gave away too much.”
It ended shortly after that. I was a hot mess for a long time. And then I resolved: I will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER put up with that again. I know the red flags. I know what I deserve. I won’t settle for less ever again.
And the Universe heard me make this promise to myself and it retorted with, “Oh, reeeeeaaally? PROVE IT, BITCH!” And a few years later, It sent in ___________ as my test: “Will you really stand up for yourself this time, or will you put up with it all over again?”
Obviously, I failed the test. It was worse than a 7 out of 47 math test score. It was a -5 out of 47. I did so poorly I was booted from the class. It was taught by Bob Marley. It was called “Stand Up For Your Rights”. He said, “GET OUT, MAN” [read with Jamaican accent].
Since my last break-up, I’ve been on a hiatus from dating. I feel like I need to make a rulebook for myself: Shit I Won’t Put Up With. Or…. The Moment to
Walk RUN Away. This isn’t a metaphor. It’s real:
James’ Rulebook for Dating
Violate these rules at your own expense. But James… DON’T VIOLATE THESE RULES.
1) I will not put up with derogatory comments about my body, my voice, my talent, etc. (If it’s a joke, and I’m not laughing… then it’s not a joke.)
2) I will only date people who are Team James. (When you date someone, they should always be in your corner. They should support you in the pursuit of your wildest dreams, because they want to see you happy. They can put aside their own insecurities and support you because THEY BELIEVE IN YOU.)
3) I will communicate honestly. (“I feel under-appreciated when you don’t thank me for washing the dishes.” “I am grateful to have dinner with you tonight.” “I’m not ready for that.”)
4) I will not sacrifice my career for a man. (“Some women choose to follow men, and some women choose to follow their dreams. If you’re wondering which way to go, remember that your career will never wake up and tell you that it doesn’t love you anymore.” ~Lady Gaga)
5) I will not settle for someone to avoid feeling unpretty and lonely. (I work really hard to be a good person, and I deserve the same from a partner.)
6) I won’t date someone just because they think I’m pretty. (That’s selfish of me.)
7) I will never do long-distance again. (It’s extremely hard. Some people can do it; I’m not one of those people.)
8) I will take my time. (I rush things, because I get excited. We won’t spend every night together if I’m not ready. We won’t move in together if I’m not ready. I won’t say the L word too soon. I won’t sit on it on the first date.)
9) I will not date someone with a nasty temper. (Temper tantrums are for children.)
10) I will look for someone who brings out the best in me. (And vice versa.)
11) I will know the difference between a compromise and a sacrifice.
12) I’ll know when to stay and when to walk away.
Right now my current mantra on dating is: if you aren’t the sweater I need to have, then I’m gonna pass.
I was once told my standards were too high. To that person I say: see the last five years of my life.
I’m still optimistic. My biggest dream is still to be proposed to with a flash-mob of my friends dancing to “What Makes You Beautiful” by One Direction. I still make the same wish every time the clock hits 11:11. I still have a lot of faith in the idea of all-consuming love. I still believe that two people can be married forever and be happy with each other forever. I don’t care if animals don’t do fidelity or whatever that stupid biology argument is. It’s bullshit. I’m not just another victim of biology; I’m a romantic god damnit.
And I believe in love.