I played one of those internet quiz-games not long ago. This one was pretty simple: type in your birth-date, and it would tell you what song was number one on the charts the day you were born. I got a good laugh when mine came up with the Fifth Dimension’s “Wedding Bell Blues.” You know, the song where the woman is cajoling her lover Bill to marry her? And repeats, “Am I ever gonna see my wedding day?”
Wow, says forty-something-first-time-bride. Prophesy much?
The truth is, I started running into trouble with romance early on, and I had especially bad luck with movie dates. When my sixth grade “boyfriend” K. wanted to take me to a movie for my birthday, my parents agreed, as long as his mother went too. She and his little brother went in to the theatre ahead of us to sit down while we got popcorn. The theatre was dark, previews running, by the time we wandered in. I picked a row and settled in as K. hissed, “No, are you sure?”
“Yes, it’s fine,” I whispered back.
I’d inadvertently chosen seats right behind his mother and brother.
I wish I’d had a chaperone, or maybe a weapon, on my first solo movie date when I was fourteen. My crush—let’s call him “Toad”–called me up out of the blue, and my folks agreed I could meet him at the theatre. He was late (probably, I later learned, because he’d just come from some other movie with some other girl). And he was an oversexed lech. Yes, teenage boys have raging hormones, but no one else I ever went out with repeatedly pushed my resisting head toward his lap. Toad couldn’t keep his hands to himself and kept trying to put mine on his unzipped crotch. I’d never even been kissed. “Creep” doesn’t quite cover it.
In the ninth grade, my longtime chorus buddy P. asked me to go see Dune. When he and his mother arrived to pick me up, P. awash in cologne, I wondered if he was thinking something other than “buddies.” I shrugged it off. Searching for seats inside the theatre, we spotted someone waving: it was A., a tall, handsome tenth-grader who was in chorus with us. A. had come to the movies alone, so I—innocently, I swear—suggested to P. that we sit with him. Only after I was sandwiched between them, passing the movie vocab sheet that had come with our tickets back and forth between a strangely jubilant A. and a rather sullen P., did I realize I’d screwed up, yet again.
Not all my dating misfortunes involved the cinema. There was the time my high school boyfriend M. and I decided to go parking on the covered carport of an empty house for sale. In his sliding over to my seat, he knocked the gearshift of his Honda Civic into drive, so that when he restarted the car to leave, it jumped forward, the front wheels rolling over the lip of the concrete parking pad. Did I mention the Civic had a front wheel drive? A few friends, his father, and several policemen later, we managed to pull the car out. The irony was, we’d spent the evening just cuddled up, talking.
Several memorable star-crossed mishaps were food-related, like the time I was scheduled for a second date with a fellow I really liked, got food poisoning, and had to call and cancel. Talk about great timing: I hadn’t thrown up for something like 10 years before that, and I wouldn’t barf again for another 20. But we never had another date. Or then there was the really sweet, lovely dinner-and-a-show first date I had with J., which was probably as perfect an evening as you get—except for that awkward moment I bit down on a sharp object in my salad and had to extract a metal lettuce-crate staple from a mouthful of chewed romaine. Try that trick next time you’re looking to impress someone.
And that just takes us through high school.
♥ ♥ ♥
I don’t remember who said it, or wrote it, or when, but somewhere along the way, I was introduced to this idea: the common denominator in all the dates that went awry, the relationships that didn’t launch? Me.
I’ve lived most of my adult life (thus far) as a hapless romantic. It became, over time, a significant piece of my identity, being the single woman with all the crazy dating stories. Now that I’m getting married, the shift in my sense of self sometimes feels strange, almost alien.
I certainly had my fair share of not-so-true-love dates and near-disasters post-high school. There was the awkward dinner date that sent me straight to retail therapy, and the “Oh, did I mention I’m into poly-amory?” moment. And there was the time a guy asked me—while my date for the evening stood in the next room, ten feet away—if I’d be interested in “being asked out.” Wow: both ballsy (in the next room) and cowardly (asking if I want you to ask? Really?). He’s the same guy who recently expressed frustration that he keeps meeting nice women who seem good prospects, but then they bail, and he doesn’t understand why. The former profile picture (still visible in an album) featuring his screaming face superimposed over a woman’s naked, spread-eagle genitalia might be a factor. But I think that falls in the if-you-don’t-already-know, I-can’t-help-you category.
I myself have encountered puzzling problems (what do you mean, you can’t sleep until you fully void your colon, even if that means sitting for an hour before you come back to bed?) and painful puzzles (did you really just proposition me a) one month after you broke things off, and b) one hour after you told me men would flock my way if I just lost five pounds?). I’ve encountered the truly perilous (capsizing in a canoe and losing first an oar, then my car keys—and finally the boat) and the deeply poignant (a friend suffering from post-traumatic-stress-disorder after an agonizing divorce).
But I wouldn’t trade any of my not-so-true-love moments (okay, well, maybe except for losing the boat). They’re instructive, after all. Big red flags waving in the wind are helpful signs: Caution. Think twice.
There are a lot of reasons not to couple up with someone, a lot of reasons not to marry person X or Y. Some of those reasons are pretty universal: don’t marry someone who abuses you, physically or verbally. It’s probably a bad idea to attach yourself to someone who lacks self-awareness, or who can’t love you as you are. Some reasons are a bit more individual: it wouldn’t work for me to couple up with someone who can’t see his own misogyny, or someone who’s a great person but who comes with weighty baggage I’m unable, or unwilling, to carry.
There are a lot of good it’s-not-so-true-love reasons not to pair-bond, not to marry someone.
Their being of the same sex isn’t one of those reasons.
♥ ♥ ♥
In the wake of the recent Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality, I’ve seen a lot of love, and a lot of hate, on the interwebs. One of my favorite comments came from someone named Rachel, on a public thread I’m not sure I could find again if I tried. Rachel said “I’m not gay married, I’m married.” Yes. Yes, yes, yes. Love is love, peeps.
If you are one of the folks who can’t or don’t or won’t understand the difference between constitutionally guaranteed human rights and your own personal sense of what is right and wrong (and you are entitled to that sense, but you must realize the whole world need not follow your personal ideals, any more than they will all love brussel sprouts just because you do)—please, work to get over it. The best explanation I’ve seen comes from lawyer Jessica Eaves Matthews, who writes:
“Those railing against the decision of marriage equality as a basic constitutional right are confusing the idea of constitutional (i.e human) rights with certain types of behavior (the stuff they call “sin”). But human rights are inherent in all human beings and US citizens – not doled out based on who is behaving “well” and who isn’t. All US citizens should have the equal right to pursue life, liberty and happiness, regardless of the “sins” they commit. The only behavior that should curtail your constitutional rights is if you commit a crime (a felony) and are convicted. But even then, criminals can still marry, have kids, own property, work and live in our communities. The only things they can’t do is vote and carry firearms. If committing a sin was a barrier to receiving basic constitutional rights in this country, we would all be in big trouble, not just the LGBT community.”
Unless you are equally prepared to argue that a judge should not, because of religious objections, marry someone because of other “bad behaviors” (based on a biblical definition of such), such as anyone who’s ever gotten divorced, had sex out of wedlock, eaten pork—then stop. Just stop.
If you don’t, almost no one is going to qualify for marriage. Ever. Even you. Seriously. You know I’m right.
How many of us have been in a committed relationship with the same person for over 50 years? I’m guessing not that many. These fellows are my heroes: Jack Evans and George Harris, who met at a party in Dallas in 1961 and have been together since. Now 85 and 82, they were married in Dallas on Friday at the Records Building. George had this to say: “Love is everywhere, and that’s a great thing.”
It is, indeed. Fifty-four years. Fifty-four years by choice, without any legal bind, or tax benefits. Just love. Show me what’s not true about that.
That’s the way forward. Walk on.
2 thoughts on “Not-So-True-Love Tuesday: The Way-Back / Way Forward Edition”
I don’t really think we fail at love, we just get better at finding our true loves! Sometimes it takes a lot of searching, but then, some people are worth the work. Nice post.
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That’s great way of putting it–every loss is a gain, because we keep learning. Thanks for reading!