An essay on why love can wait, for now.
At just twelve years old, I already knew what it felt like to be desired. I remember laying wantonly in my bed, propped strategically among my assortment of cushions. I could sense piercing eyes boring holes into my flesh. The intense gaze surrounding me, all around me, leaving me no choice but to wallow in my pitiful state of being hopelessly, desperately wanted. “You can’t make me do this, boys,” I lamented. “You can’t possibly make me choose. I love you all. Maybe I’ll just have to have all of you, then…”
Then my mom yelled for me to come down for dinner and I wordlessly excused myself, leaving my posters of Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston and Jake Gyllenhaal to spar for my affections.
I always thought love had a face, had a name.
When I was twelve, I was confident I had love all figured out. Love was tousled hair, honed jawline, Hollywood smile. Love was foreign accent, long fingers, silver cufflinks. Love was when I blew a kiss at him as he lay flat on a magazine cover. I always thought love had a face, had a name. With every new film that came out, every new rock band that burst onto the scene, every show that arrived on TV, I found more and more of love’s faces. As often as I could I’d pay love multiple visits, finding a tree in the school yard to focus on while I bumped into love at a film premiere in New York, or followed love around as a tour bus groupie, or caused love to stop in his tracks when he passed me by at his favorite cafe. Love always had a face and a name, even when - especially when - these changed.
On Facebook, there’s a post I made from 2011 when I was about 12 years old. It’s a 50-question survey about what my ideal type of guy was. I don’t think I’d ever felt more certain about anything in my life.
- Do you need him/her to be good looking?
Ans: That'd be good of course, but being funny and sweet is more important.
- Preferred age?
Ans: Not younger. Either my age or older, but not like 10 years older XD
- How about piercings?
Ans: I'm fine with whatever...but not too many.
- Mushy or no?
Ans: A little. But no self-written poems please LOL
- Thin or fat?
Ans: In between!
Ans: DEFINITE NO.
Ans: As long as he's not addicted
- Plays bass and/or acoustic guitar ?
Ans: yes ;)
- Sings very good?
Ans: I’d like that :)
Ans: Yes...he has to love reading...comics or whatever.
- Poem writer?
- Speaks 20 languages?.
Ans: German! That's sexy xDDD haha but not 20.
- Loyal or faithful?
- Good kisser?
- Loves children?
Five years later, I had a boyfriend who was a heavy smoker, retched at the sight of children and seemed to want to eat my nose whenever we kissed. At least he enjoyed reading comics. In the two and a half years we were together I cried more than I ever thought I was capable of, but if there’s anything I learned from The Notebook, every relationship worth fighting for comes with lots and lots of crying. The word ‘soulmate’ appears exactly 50 times in our chat.
Me, 10:58pm: if u had to choose one for the rest of ur life
10:59pm: and never taste the other one ever again
10:59pm: ramen or burger
Him, 11:59pm: Burger
11:59pm: Burger is life
Me, 11:59pm: :”) truly my soulmate
Him, 11:59pm: You got that right
People often asked me if he was my type. Not exactly like what I imagined, I’d say, but these things can change. Anyway, what does it matter? I’m in love with him. Love, as usual, had a face and a name, but finally, at long last, I didn’t have to imagine anything. I didn’t have to imagine us shyly exchanging first glances at the school bus stop while waiting for the rain to let up. I didn’t have to imagine him winning a stuffed bear for me at the carnival, or me sneaking out of the house at one in the morning to sleep in his bed, or us chewing our food in silence, frantically scrambling to think of new things to talk about.
Sometime later I found myself in another relationship. He spoke the “sexy xDDD” German language, was a “poem writer,” and played a bit of acoustic guitar. For both of my relationships I saw the Facebook questionnaire warping and twisting in my mind to fit their characteristics and behaviors. Even nearly a decade after I’d made the post, I found myself going back to it and trying to see if I was a tween prophet, or simply a young, clueless romantic.
Once again, love had a new name and a face. He gave great hugs, told even better jokes. We played video games together. He distracted me from my anxiety about moving halfway around the world to attend college, the fact that some social gatherings paralyzed me, and that whenever alone, I spent so much time looking at myself in the mirror that by the time I’d lost 20 pounds from not eating enough, I just thought my eyes were playing happy tricks on me.
One morning in 2017 I was sitting in a lecture hall, bored beyond all measure. My first boyfriend sat next to me, immersed in an online game. I knew better than to disturb him, so I decided to do my part as a disgruntled student, and to give a big F.U. to the droning teacher at the front I logged on to the Internet’s most absorbing, vaccuuous black hole that I hadn’t visited since my early teens: tumblr. Within the first few minutes of scrolling I stumbled upon a gif of an old flame. Below it, the link to an external article with a titillating headline.
Stop what you're doing, stat. We have a very important announcement to make — it's basically breaking news. We might have just cracked the code on what it takes to become the girlfriend of the one and only Tom Hiddleston. Of course, it's not foolproof, but these very simple steps might get you that much closer.
You Must Love to Dance
You Must Follow Your Heart
You Must Embrace Your Intelligence
You Must Like the Whispering of Sweet Nothings
You Must Believe in Equality & Important Causes
You Must Love Life & Want to Have Fun
You Must Be Yourself
As I was reading this article from Bustle.com, I was subconsciously checking off what qualities applied to me and what didn’t. I don’t know why. Being well into the second year of my first relationship, I hadn’t been in a celebrity-obsessed state for a long time. But upon reading this article, my reflex response was, oh wow, I hope I have what it takes! I thought I’d long gotten over this phase of daydreaming about being together with Hollywood A-listers. Why would I bother fantasizing about them when I already had a love that was real and right in front of me?
“Just Follow These 7 Steps”. Sounds easy enough. I hope Tom Hiddleston doesn’t mind that when I found out my first boyfriend had picked up smoking behind my back, I started doing it too so that we’d suffer the irreversible damage together. Kind of falling short on the last step there. And maybe the third as well.
When I answered the questionnaire nearly a decade ago, I was sure beyond a shadow of a doubt of all 50 answers I gave. As sure as I was each of the 50 times the word “soulmate” was exchanged between me and my first boyfriend. As sure as when I told my second boyfriend that we had to end things because I had issues I needed to work through on my own.
Campus romance is such a cute aesthetic. I’ve definitely dreamed of it more times than I can count.
So the dreaded singlehood is upon me, I guess. I’ll have to go back to imagining interlocked fingers, good morning texts and being the little spoon. And in college, I can feel a tangible, physical pressure crushing the atmosphere around me -- a pressure that has everyone scrambling to find their own love with a name and a face. A love who gives them encouragement, gives them flirty text messages, waits for them after class and walks with them to their next one. Who wouldn’t want that? Campus romance is such a cute aesthetic. I’ve definitely dreamed of it more times than I can count. But I think I might want to emerge from my time in college having gone through a slightly different love affair.
Don’t get me wrong, love still has a name and a face. But on top of that, love is strong and has so much to offer. She stands up for herself. She gives great hugs and always makes her friends laugh. She is honest. She listens. And she is as desirable as ever, but right now she doesn’t need someone else to tell her that.