Some things never change.
Six years ago I started my first blog to document initial thoughts about online dating after reeling from a breakup (that took longer to get over than the time we actually dated).
I treated it like a science experiment – unbiased, painfully honest blog posts about every date and my day to day shenanigans as I finished my last year of college. I kept every post and actually compiled them all into a book.
100 or so posts in, I met the guy whom I’ve been with for the last five years. I’m so glad I still have my initial thoughts of him, because truly, nothing has changed. I thought he was “the one” five dates in, and five years later that was almost a reality. His kind heart never wavered and he kept my heart skipping a beat the entire time we were together.
I loved him with my whole heart and soul, and even though it’s over, a part of me holds out hope that sometime in the future we’ll cross paths again and keep in touch. I got a glimpse of that last night, driving home from a date with one of my girlfriends, as I drove home, he turned past the intersection I was driving towards and actually drove behind me for a little bit.
I went from okay after a lunch with one of my girlfriends, to bawling my eyes out and music blaring in a matter of seconds. I’m dreading today – moving out all of my belongings from the apartment we’ve shared for the better part of a year. He was my best friend and to close the chapter on this relationship breaks my heart into pieces. I don’t want to forget the good times – there were so many of them. Yeah, we fought; but some of the strongest relationships I know fight hard and come out of it even stronger.
I know I will always love him, but this is the right thing to do now. I may not have seen it coming, but I’m coming to terms with embracing learning to be okay on my own. Since my traumas, I’ve always been uneasy being by myself. Part of that is hypersensitivity, which is a symptom of PTSD; part of it is dissociating from everything I’ve become familiar with in the relationship (like texting him when I’m on my way home from class, or bringing him home leftovers when I go out without him).
Last night I dusted off the book with old blog posts and started re-reading some of the things I had written.
Not tooting my own horn, but damn, the insight I had at 20. I described a breakup like holding a bath bomb. One minute you’re grasping it tightly, the next it’s disintegrating in your hand and you can’t stop it from unraveling. There was one post that stood out to me today. I didn’t write this, but I think it’s applicable more than ever. It’s two parts, so if you’ve made this far, I’d highly recommend both pieces (one is in response to the other). It spoke to me six years ago when I was reeling from a breakup (though not nearly as meaningful as this most recent one was to me), and tonight, different heartache, but equally if not more empowering.
YOU SHOULD DATE AN ILLITERATE GIRL by Charles Warnke
Date a girl who doesn’t read. Find her in the weary squalor of a Midwestern bar. Find her in the smoke, drunken sweat, and varicolored light of an upscale nightclub. Wherever you find her, find her smiling. Make sure that it lingers when the people that are talking to her look away. Engage her with unsentimental trivialities. Use pick-up lines and laugh inwardly. Take her outside when the night overstays its welcome. Ignore the palpable weight of fatigue. Kiss her in the rain under the weak glow of a streetlamp because you’ve seen it in film. Remark at its lack of significance. Take her to your apartment. Dispatch with making love. Fuck her.
Let the anxious contract you’ve unwittingly written evolve slowly and uncomfortably into a relationship. Find shared interests and common ground like sushi, and folk music. Build an impenetrable bastion upon that ground. Make it sacred. Retreat into it every time the air gets stale, or the evenings get long. Talk about nothing of significance. Do little thinking. Let the months pass unnoticed. Ask her to move in. Let her decorate. Get into fights about inconsequential things like how the fucking shower curtain needs to be closed so that it doesn’t fucking collect mold. Let a year pass unnoticed. Begin to notice.
Figure that you should probably get married because you will have wasted a lot of time otherwise. Take her to dinner on the forty-fifth floor at a restaurant far beyond your means. Make sure there is a beautiful view of the city. Sheepishly ask a waiter to bring her a glass of champagne with a modest ring in it. When she notices, propose to her with all of the enthusiasm and sincerity you can muster. Do not be overly concerned if you feel your heart leap through a pane of sheet glass. For that matter, do not be overly concerned if you cannot feel it at all. If there is applause, let it stagnate. If she cries, smile as if you’ve never been happier. If she doesn’t, smile all the same.
Let the years pass unnoticed. Get a career, not a job. Buy a house. Have two striking children. Try to raise them well. Fail, frequently. Lapse into a bored indifference. Lapse into an indifferent sadness. Have a mid-life crisis. Grow old. Wonder at your lack of achievement. Feel sometimes contented, but mostly vacant and ethereal. Feel, during walks, as if you might never return, or as if you might blow away on the wind. Contract a terminal illness. Die, but only after you observe that the girl who didn’t read never made your heart oscillate with any significant passion, that no one will write the story of your lives, and that she will die, too, with only a mild and tempered regret that nothing ever came of her capacity to love.
Do those things, god damnit, because nothing sucks worse than a girl who reads. Do it, I say, because a life in purgatory is better than a life in hell. Do it, because a girl who reads possesses a vocabulary that can describe that amorphous discontent as a life unfulfilled—a vocabulary that parses the innate beauty of the world and makes it an accessible necessity instead of an alien wonder. A girl who reads lays claim to a vocabulary that distinguishes between the specious and soulless rhetoric of someone who cannot love her, and the inarticulate desperation of someone who loves her too much. A vocabulary, god damnit, that makes my vacuous sophistry a cheap trick.
Do it, because a girl who reads understands syntax. Literature has taught her that moments of tenderness come in sporadic but knowable intervals. A girl who reads knows that life is not planar; she knows, and rightly demands, that the ebb comes along with the flow of disappointment. A girl who has read up on her syntax senses the irregular pauses—the hesitation of breath—endemic to a lie. A girl who reads perceives the difference between a parenthetical moment of anger and the entrenched habits of someone whose bitter cynicism will run on, run on well past any point of reason, or purpose, run on far after she has packed a suitcase and said a reluctant goodbye and she has decided that I am an ellipsis and not a period and run on and run on. Syntax that knows the rhythm and cadence of a life well lived.
Date a girl who doesn’t read because the girl who reads knows the importance of plot. She can trace out the demarcations of a prologue and the sharp ridges of a climax. She feels them in her skin. The girl who reads will be patient with an intermission and expedite a denouement. But of all things, the girl who reads knows most the ineluctable significance of an end. She is comfortable with them. She has bid farewell to a thousand heroes with only a twinge of sadness.
Don’t date a girl who reads because girls who read are the storytellers. You with the Joyce, you with the Nabokov, you with the Woolf. You there in the library, on the platform of the metro, you in the corner of the café, you in the window of your room. You, who make my life so god damned difficult. The girl who reads has spun out the account of her life and it is bursting with meaning. She insists that her narratives are rich, her supporting cast colorful, and her typeface bold. You, the girl who reads, make me want to be everything that I am not. But I am weak and I will fail you, because you have dreamed, properly, of someone who is better than I am. You will not accept the life that I told of at the beginning of this piece. You will accept nothing less than passion, and perfection, and a life worthy of being storied. So out with you, girl who reads. Take the next southbound train and take your Hemingway with you. I hate you. I really, really, really hate you.
YOU SHOULD DATE A GIRL WHO READS by Rosemarie Urquico
Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes, who has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.
Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag. She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she has found the book she wants. You see that weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a secondhand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow and worn.
She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book.
Buy her another cup of coffee.
Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent. Ask her if she loves Alice or she would like to be Alice.
It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas, for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry and in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by god, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does.
She has to give it a shot somehow.
Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.
Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who read understand that all things must come to end, but that you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two.
Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilight series.
If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.
You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she’s sick. Over Skype.
You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.
Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.
Or better yet, date a girl who writes.
Today, and every day forward I will always be the girl who writes. The girl who pours her heart out into words because they’re all I have. In the heat of the moment they may come out jumbled and full of daggers, but my heart is good, I promise. I only want the best for those who make an appearance in my life, and more so for those that stay a while. Even though I’m immensely hurt right now, I’m grateful that I was able to experience a love so great, so great that it hurts like something died inside of me.
I know that I’m going to be okay, because re-reading some of my posts, I couldn’t recall names of guys I’d been with because my life’s story has changed characters so many times. I’m going to be okay because the human heart is a resilient organ that keeps on beating, even though every cadence is a reminder that our lives have gone in two separate directions.
This is for anyone reading this post who is struggling with something. If you give it enough time and patience, you will make it out stronger than ever before. I’ve lost myself ten times over, but each time, as overwhelming as the devastation feels at the beginning, it does get better. I do laugh or smile at things that once made me cry until my eyes ran out of tears.
Today I’m not okay, and I’m re-learning to be okay with that.
Sending all my love out into the universe; I hope it lands in a place that needs it, because I’ve been so blessed to be surrounded by unwavering support during all this. I’ve definitely gotten worse at responding to messages and hanging out with a lot of people, but that’s just because I’m trying to process this. I’m trying to put my heart back together, one piece at a time (something even the most beautiful bath bomb cannot do).
All my love,