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.
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.
Astigirl: A Grown Girl Living On Her Own Terms by Tweet Sering | NOOK Book (eBook) | Barnes & Noble®