To the men I’ve loved.
If you were a man I loved, then you are a member of a group of fellows who could not be more different yet certainly have striking similarities. While I clearly have a type here, this isn’t to say you weren’t special and unique in your own ways. To not single anyone out, I am opting for generalizations, so please excuse me.
If you were a man I loved, that means you’re funny. I was drawn to your humor, your laugh, the way your eyes glisten with a smile, the way you lit up when you made me laugh. That’s what I always noticed first about you. If you were a man I loved, then you’re an actor. I have seriously never been interested in anyone who wasn’t on stage at some point in his life. NOTE TO SELF: Since this clearly isn’t working, maybe go shopping in the tech and science fields? Idk. Play to extremes, girl. Live large.
But back to you, boys; You’re actors. That means you’re loud, creative, geeky, authoritative, playful, and unapologetically unique. I am drawn to these qualities and how exciting they make you. And if you had the ability to grow facial hair, that certainly didn’t hurt.
If you were a man I loved, you already know. Even if you were never explicitly told, somewhere, you had an inkling I’m sure, for I’m really not that hard to read. If I made an effort to be around you, reached desperately for any bit of small talk just to keep a conversation alive, made something painfully awkward, was outwardly obvious, or did that stupid thing that I can’t seem to stop where I tease you relentlessly…those were the signs. Those were my attempts of showing affection. Believe me, they are the first line items on my, “Dear God, Why Are You Like This, Please Stop” list.
If you were a man I loved…you never loved me back. And I don’t hold this against any one of you. How can you blame a heart? Yet this doesn’t change the fact that never once have my feelings been reciprocated. We were “just talking,” “just seeing where this went,” “just friends…” I cannot tell you how tired I am of being, “just” anything. If you were a man I loved, you have taken a piece of my heart and unintentionally crushed it. But that’s what love is; You open all of your most vulnerable, sacred places of your soul and bare it to someone, hoping they’ll accept you as you are. And time will wear, and bruise, and crush you…it may shatter you altogether. Even in the most beautiful relationships with the greatest longevity, no human heart is safe and free from this trauma.
All I know is that with every missed connection, with every breakup, with every discovery that of course you already have the perfect girlfriend…and of course she’s an absolute delight…and of course she’s been with you for years… I have broken a bit more and more and more.
So much so, in fact, that I don’t really know what’s left of me anymore. I am sick to death of picking up what little remains of my heart every time I haven’t worked out with one of you, gluing and stapling it back together again, offering it once more, and continuing the never-ending, vicious cycle.
And I’ve tried everything to try to change the situation. Diets, haircuts, new clothes, new makeup, therapists, parties, Tinder, Bumble, set ups, group hangs, “how to’s” and “what not to do’s” and smiling more, and being less assertive, less “bitchy,” less scary, less masculine, less me. I’ve raised a fist to the air and sworn off love altogether, made vows to “wait until I get out of the shitshow that was high school,” or “wait until I study abroad with a fresh slate,” or “wait for the New Year,” or “wait until I have a steady lifestyle” (the most current vow, which, if I actually abided by this, I’d be single for life). I’ve asked and begged those I trust to tell me what it is about me that I’m doing wrong, and wanted to SCREAM at the answer, “It’ll come when you least expect it, sweetie. Have faith.”
No. I’m sorry, but no.
If there’s something in my life I want, I chase it. I don’t wait for it to come to me. I have waited for my entire life, and it has gotten me nowhere. I’m tired of having to paint on a smile as I’m introduced to your fiancé and trying to tell the vindictive, jealous voice buried deep inside my lizard brain to calm down. I’m tired of spending all five years I’ve known you having my mouse hovered over the “unfriend” button, because seeing you on my social media gives me memories that are too painful to contend with. I’m tired of the false flutter of hope when you randomly resurface in my life after years of silence.
The other day, I ran into a whole lot of you in a single 24-hour period. I got overwhelmed and furious at myself and the world again, and I begged aloud in the silence of my own room to any sentient being who would listen to curse me. Curse me with pain. Curse me with divorce. Curse me with screaming matches and tears. Because at the very least, it would mean that though love would forever hurt me, it would be there at all.
Wasn’t it Tennyson that said, “It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?” Give me something to lose. Make it disappear. It would mean a break from everything I’ve been dealt in this hand thus far.
This is hard to write, because I’m not trying to appear as a victim. I’m not trying to blame anyone or anything for my situation. I would never once suggest that I am without serious self-improvement or write any of this to evoke pity. I don’t need that. I don’t need that because I know I’m not alone.
All around me are incredible sisters of mine who are smart, funny, gorgeous, unique, sweet, quiet, boisterous, ambitious, caring, courageous, and astounding. Yet they too are asking themselves daily, “Why not me?” They too are feeling that hollow pain of loneliness, false hope, and profound longing for what they have been denied again and again. And I would be remiss and separatist if I didn’t acknowledge that this is a shared feeling regardless of gender and sexuality as well. Here I am focusing on those who identify as women, however, because that has been the label that I myself have felt trapped within and have noticed has impacted the vast majority of my female friends.
What I need (and I know I can never get) is an understanding of why there are so many of us. I can’t tell you how horrifying I find today’s dating culture, or, as I like to call it, superficial, sex-driven, non-committal bullshit. This is of course another generalization, and if you are a man I loved (most of) you didn’t partake in this nonsense…maybe that’s why you were snatched up so quickly and have yet to be let go of.
Maybe it’s my age, my generation, the fact that I am regionally encapsulated in a small bubble that is about as diverse as a bag of Lays potato chips. But whatever the reason, the only solace (which is a very minor solace) is that at least I’m not alone in my loneliness.
I’m tired, and frustrated, and bruised. If you were a man I loved, I don’t expect you to do a thing to reverse this fact or try and make it better. For the most part, you’re blameless in this. And while every interaction with you is excruciatingly painful, I’ll ignore it, push it aside. I’ll move on and you’ll move on. We’ll stay in each other’s circles until we don’t, and we’ll turn into nothing but faint memories to one another.
But if you were a man I loved, I want you to hear my words. Ask yourself my unanswerable query and raise your children to be better than we all were.
Because life’s too short for games.
Life’s too short for self-doubt.
Life’s too short for pain.