DISCLAIMER: When I set out to write this, I didn’t want it to be emotional, because who wants to read a love letter to a boyfriend, right? I don’t. I hate love letters unless they are written in nineteenth-century prose and recited in a British accent by someone devilishly handsome, like that revolutionary radical guy in Les Miserables, who is the only good part of that movie. But an intrinsic feature of Art is its inability, its refusal, to be controlled! It lives!
Therefore, this post gets a little gross. I’m sorry.
But not that sorry, because I’m still posting it.
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Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of my first date with my boyfriend. This is significant not only because my current relationship is the longest I’ve ever had, but also because it’s the only relationship I’ve ever had. Not a typo. I’m 26, I didn’t have a boyfriend until I was 25, and–as I informed him long ago–I won’t be kissing him on the mouth until I’m 27. Just kidding. Mouth but no tongue. Just kidding.
While I don’t want to give away too many details about my unromantic history (I’ll get there eventually), I will say that wearing Adidas sandals with socks every day is one way to ensure a lackluster dating résumé, if you were wondering. But aside from that, the simple truth is that I just didn’t ever really feel “it” with the malefolk who, for whatever reason, asked me out. The (5.5) dates I went on (reluctantly agreed to) over however-long-it-was (three years) all left me with the same intuitive sense that something wasn’t quite right. I always felt sort of like how I feel after watching Girls–as in, I should be liking this, but I feel a little bit ill and probably won’t sleep well tonight. (So as not to appear ungrateful for the meals and one cup of Starbucks coffee that I got out of the deal, let me state for the record that my feelings were not caused by any inherent deficiency on the guys’ part, all–well at least three–of whom will make someone very happy one day. Also, so as not to appear like I’m hopping on the anti-Girls bandwagon, I will concede that Lena Dunham utilizes the “grotesque aesthetic” with aplomb.)
What I’m saying is that I’m a huge turd a lot of the time, so it’s nothing short of a miracle that I met, liked, and was liked in return by my boyfriend. At the risk of sounding gross, I liked him almost instantly–and not just because I was a little buzzed and he reminded me of a more handsome Gideon Yago. I liked him because I am essentially a narcissist, and he was (and is) the closest to my male equivalent that I’ll ever find, I’m pretty sure, since I don’t get out much. I’m kidding, but only about that last part. We’re “two peas in a pod”–except I have better taste in TV shows. (“I just wrote my critique of Breaking Bad. It’s impenetrable.” “If you make me read it, I’m going to be impenetrable too.”)
Being with him has been the best part of my life so far. It’s been better than my hot streak as “Most Improved Bowler” in 7th grade, better than those three months of my life when I could fit into a size 4, and even better than all of 1997, a year that I previously held up as being the best year for everything, from Matchbox 20 to Old Navy performance fleece. In fact, being with him has been better than anything I had previously imagined or expected, and I’ve been dreaming up romantic scenarios for years, which has a lot to do with why I almost didn’t pass math for two consecutive years of high school. Our story began much like a classic fairy tale: Girl meets Boy at the Las Vegas Playboy Club (R.I.P.), Girl tests Boy’s knowledge of Chevy Chase movies from the mid-1990s, Boy and Girl eat cornflake-crusted French toast at 4 AM, which Boy pretends to like for the sake of Girl, who stuffs her face while asking, “This is like, really, really good, right?”
Since then, every day has been different, a surprise in a way. But what has surprised me the most is the relationship learning curve. Before my boyfriend, I had to tend to only myself. There was never anyone else. For twenty-five years, there was never anyone else. I distinctly remember saying to my mom only weeks before I met him, “I don’t think I ever want a boyfriend. I want to be in control of my day. I want to just come home from work and not have to talk to anyone, just eat dinner, watch TV, and sleep.” Ah, a 25-year-old with the soul of an 80-year-old man. So, for me, part of the past year has been an exercise in learning how to work with and around someone else and, more than that, actually want to. I learned that it’s okay to not start your day at approximately 8:35 AM every Saturday and that you can eat crap on occasion. Even cold pasta. With your fingers. I learned that doing nothing all day is okay too, and that it can even be enjoyable. I learned that watching cartoons isn’t the end of the world. I learned that YouTube can be tolerable in moderate doses.
I also learned that every moment of every day isn’t always going to be like the moment when you first saw him (or her). A lot of moments are, but there are also plenty of others that are ugly, tense, passive-aggressive, insecure, teary, moody, and constipated. This is common knowledge to the majority of the world, but most of what I had previously known or thought I knew about relationships came from exactly two sources: my mom, who scoffs at the notion that relationships take even the slightest bit of effort, and my Facebook newsfeed, which averages no fewer than twelve declarations of love per day. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that I was convinced that a break-up was imminent after our first argument, which occurred a couple months into our courtship when I mistakenly drove us over the Brooklyn Bridge and blamed it on his inability to use Google maps efficiently. In the awkward silence that ensued after our nine seconds of thinly veiled bickering, I panicked. It’s over! He’s going to end it here and now! But he didn’t, because he’s a mostly sane person, and also because he had moved on long before I had even started my internal panic (which is another thing I’ve learned about men in general, but that’s a different blog for a different day). What I know now, or what I believe now, at least, is that arguments don’t really put dents or punctures in a good relationship as much as they patch them up and hold them together. This is why I pick fights.
But the best surprise of all is this: I found out that life really is a little better when you have someone who is willing to pick a booger out of your nose, and take a special trip to Wal-Mart on vacation to buy milk of magnesia, and cook you dinner filled with everything you like, even those tiny pickles, and spend time with your family even when that means sitting around the dinner table for two hours, and call you back after you irrationally hang up on him, and walk around until you find a restaurant that can seat you right away because your blood sugar is low and you don’t consider bar-seating real seating.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for single-hood and independence and autonomy and gettin’-it-done-for-yourself and all that. I was that for a quarter of a century and I wouldn’t trade a minute of it. All I’m saying is that life feels a little different now, a little fuller–and not just because I consume about twice as many calories daily.
So, to You: thank you for loving me, supporting me, tolerating me, pretending to listen to me, actually listening to me, running with me that one time, agreeing to watch Magic Mike even if we ultimately couldn’t because the On-Demand feature was broken, introducing me to Middle Eastern food, wearing the yellow shirt because I like it, surprising me all the time, teaching me more, and making the last 365 days the best ever.
Most of all, thank you for being you. My beau.