Thursday, January 29, 2009

Getting A Kiss (And Other Things) Right

When I was a college junior and beginning to seriously consider having my first boyfriend (yeah, yeah, I was a late bloomer, OK?), I consulted with my friend Jordan—who is also my harshest critic and one of my dearest, oldest friends. I was worried—no, I was beside myself with anxiety—about having just held hands with this guy that I liked before he even said anything definite about wanting to be a couple.

Oh. Em.Gee.

I wrote my friend saying I will never let that guy get near me again until he knew what he wanted and backed it up. Like a “real man”. In that letter, I detailed in righteous indignation (“How dare that confused man touch me!”) all my reasons for my decision.

In response, this is what that biyatch friend of mine said in a letter to me:

“So what if after HH he changes his mind? It’s not like he took your maidenhead, dammit! So what if he’s playing safe by not saying anything? Crucify him if you want. But does he have to marry you just to HOLD YOUR HAND?”

I thought, And why ever NOT???

For a good many years, my frame of mind was always, Why waste my time being with a guy (going out to dinner, watching a movie, hanging out and eating fish balls at one of the UP fish ball stands) if I can’t imagine marrying him? All my romantic decisions were hinged on the question of whether or not this was the guy I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. (Which actually explains why I had my first boyfriend at the marriageable age of 20. Ack. And why every romantic relationship I had been in felt like a marriage. Doube ack.)

I looked upon every little romantic gesture as a major step leading up to happily ever after. And so everything that I shared with someone in the name of romance, I also did in the higher name of forever-and-forever. Everything was BIG. INTENSE. OVERBLOWN. OA.

I tell you, I had sleepless nights over that hand-holding thing (“with someone who wasn’t even my boyfriend!”) as if I had surrendered my “virginity” to a complete stranger in the Sunken Garden or something.

If the safe, sweet little gesture of holding hands kept me up nights, you can just imagine what kissing did to me. Somehow, every kiss was invested with all my hopes and dreams and images of our shared genes (“Ooh, we’re going to have cute kids!”)

In the beginning of my last relationship, when I found myself replaying over and over in my head at a client presentation the kiss of the night before, with my throat suddenly as dry as the Sahara and my needing to get up for yet another glass of water and not hearing nor caring about what anyone in that room was saying because now I also pictured the little chapel on the hill (or the beach) and heard the vows (lines from a Pablo Neruda poem—but, of course) and saw the children and the preschool and the---waaaaahhhh!—I began thinking, Surely there must be another way—a saner, cooler, healthier way--of going about this.

For far too long, this almost insane reaction to a kiss has been the cause of my downfall. I just lose it. I forget that I had plans, that I actually have things to do with my life. Sometimes, I even forget my name. I don’t know, but my brain seems to short-circuit when I am in that early stage of a relationship where your lips are so busy making contact that if you didn’t come up for air you could actually die. So that no matter how impossible the situation or how potentially messy, I always think (in some kind of delirium, now that I think about it), Oh, it’s all going to work out. It’s all going to be perfect.

It’s not that I wished I’d rather be casual and flippant about things, especially with something as mysterious as a kiss—that is, when much of our physical responses to it are still a mystery to most of us--because I honestly don’t think that’s possible, even for the most cold-hearted play-yah. While I would never delude myself into thinking a kiss could actually be “wala lang,” I wished that it didn’t have to spell the meaning of life for me, that I didn’t come undone every time. I prayed (dear God!) that I could actually manage to share this form of physical expression without feeling that I folded up my heart, wrapped it with my soul and Fed-Exed the whole package to the other person. (Do you realize how expensive the minimum Fed Ex package costs?)

I just… wanted…to be able to bet on a little kiss without feeling that I put every. Friggin’. Thing. On the table.

That right there was my problem: I didn’t know how to make anything mean something without it having to mean everything.

Jordan laughed out loud at that line over the phone tonight. I said, Oh, that’s funny?

It is, he said, still laughing. Wow, it took you sixteen years to get that!

(Yes, he can be pretty smug, too. Especially now that he’s a Jesuit.)

My God, sixteen years. Sixteen years for me to get that I don’t have to marry the next guy whose company I really enjoy. Whose life story fascinates me. Whose corny/crazy jokes make me laugh. Sixteen years for me to get that even if all we share together is one season or one year or just one afternoon conversation—or yeah, OK, just one kiss--and never see nor speak to each other again, it is enough. It is neither less nor more than anything, not even my longest relationship. It just is. Whatever we imbue with attention and honesty and consideration is valid and precious and worthwhile, no matter how short or seemingly small it may be. People, relationships, events are fine, are perfectly valid and legitimate, just as they are. They need not be anything more—or less—than that. So I do not have to turn them into anything “more”.

Sixteen years for me to get that a moment need not lead to anything else, to anything “bigger” or “more important”. That this now, this time that I’m sitting at my desk tonight writing this is enough, is precious and grand in itself—even if I never post it or if no one else other than me gets to read it. It need not be anything other than what it is.

"Trying just to focus on the good...I'm tired of diving for the pearl," Glen Hansard of (the Irish band) The Frames sang in "Song for Someone". I've been playing the song over and over for the past year, as if by repeating the lines, I'd get it.

Focus on the good, focus on the good....I'm learning, Glen, I'm learning.

“Strive to be happy, my friend,” Jordan wrote toward the end of that letter, dated August,1993.

I called him tonight, yanked him out of his Jesuit duties (whatever those were), to tell him that I am happy. In the real, honest-to-goodness, can't-take-this-away-from-me-EVER kind of happy. Finally.

I would have kissed him, too, out of this sheer, sane, hard-fought yet surprisingly easy, no-drama happiness (sixteen years in the making!) if he were right there in person. But thank God (well, thank Jesus) he wasn’t because I might have started thinking, So what if he’s a Jesuit and that we’re not each other’s type? I’m sure it’s going to work out. It’s going to be perfect.


Cris said...

"I didn’t know how to make anything mean something without it having to mean everything."

And...I don't know how to accept that something can mean everything and not dismiss it as nothing. haha

Lami said...

Hehe..."Life"... There you go, that explains it all ;)

emotionally inept said...

this is your first post i've ever read (after a good friend recommended your blog).

after reading this entry...i'm now a fan!

i love how honest and straight forward you write without the outlandish stylings of most writers! they're so honest that each word is absolutely relatable! you give your two cents without sounding all knowing.

unless its not yet obvious you had me with this entry alone!

Lami said...

Oh, wow, thank you! ;) *grin and blush* Your comment made my day, haha! ;) Very kind of you to drop a note--thanks! ;)

emotionally inept said...

just returning the love!

your blog made my day too... gave me a sense of not the only neurotic woman on earth!

i look forward to your future posts!

ps. do you offer writing workshops?

Lami said...

Ay, no...madami tayo, girl ;) We're just beginning to come out of the woodwork, mwahahaha... ;)

Yes, I give writing workshops when I'm not ranting in this blog or twirling my hair while staring into space. Email me: ;)

KenBeeMakalintal said...

I can so relate to this...

Lami said...

Hello, Brins. Thanks for dropping by :)

Lawin said...

Love it, love it, love it. But that should really come as no surprise now, eh? You made me swing back and forth between crying and laughing a whole lot more than I have in some weeks.

Thanks for letting me peek.

The view is tremendous.

Lami said...

Lawin! ;)

Thank you, thank you, thank you for dropping by and for leaving that lovely message ;). Ka sweet uy ;)

Really? "Crying and laughing"? Hmm...may kwents 'jan, ah...;)

Really appreciate your telling me that, though :) :) :).

Anonymous said...

hey peej :) liked this laugh out loud funny post. I read it already a few weeks back. It, uh, kinda sounds like me too hahahaha yikes! but trying trying. At least you learned the lesson na. I'm still getting 'there' ;) If only like one woman said she feels like a woman but thinks like a man, whole di va! Much love from the island. See you soon, oks? -peejit

Lami said...

Peejkins! ;) So nice to hear from you HERE ;).
Yeah, we're learning how to be whole. That yin-yang thing is so hard pala to live out. Concept-wise, ganda, keri. As for executing it? Good luck! ;)
Mwah-mwah! Can't wait to see you, isla girl! ;)
Thanks for dropping by! ;)

Crazy said...

Not everything has to mean the world, Dear astigirl, it can be nice just be, just live the moment. Of course if this moment can give birth to other so valuable moments, that makes it better. And who knows where it can lead in the end ?

from the rain drop to the river, you can find yourself led to this "everything" you stopped wishing for some while ago... :)

Don't stop dreaming, just stop anticipating your dreams, they will come in their time... ;)

Maybe soon... :p

Lami said...

Ganda ;). And very very true ;).

And just to reassure the other dreamers--no, I have not stopped dreaming, nor will I ever. To paraphrase a line from "Dead Poets Society" (o, diba, may mas de-dreamer movie pa ba jan? Hahaha!): Only in dreams can humans be truly free. And I don't want to be anything but totally free ;).

cecilia said...

I had no idea, this was in your head all that time. In a way, it now all makes sense what philosophy was running the show when we used to say,:"di ba chaka?". I often wondered why it was so much fun, picking on chaka guys. Now I get it, it was to narrow the gate, to lower the probability of falling for just any one when you're still learning to fall for yourself. All in good time, I think 16 years means you're ahead of most people! U r Astig girlfriend!

Lami said...

Oh, poosh! ;) Thank you, girly dearest ;).

"...To lower the probability of falling for just any one when you're still learning to fall for yourself." I love this! So well said, Cecilia. Mwah! Thank you for dropping by, girlash...;)