AM I THE LAST HOPELESS ROMANTIC ON EARTH?

 


AM I THE LAST HOPELESS ROMANTIC ON EARTH?

I have this dream of being whole.

Of not going to sleep each night, wanting.

But still sometimes, when the wind is warm

or the crickets sing . . . I dream of a love

that even time will lie down and be still for.

— SALLY OWENS, PRACTICAL MAGIC




I first started having what most people would probably consider casual sex (sex without our technically being “together,” though to be honest, I don’t think it ever felt totally casual by any means because I can’t pull that off) after the breakup with Everett that I couldn’t shake, probably because the breakup seemingly lasted for centuries. From what I’d heard, casual sex would be a good way to shake it. I remember thinking it was really cool that all these people wanted to sleep with me and that we could sleep together—just sex, no strings attached, just like in the movies!


And it was the worst. I’d gone from having this relationship with someone I was crazy, stupid in love with to having mediocre sex with people I hardly knew, hardly cared about, who hardly knew and hardly cared about me. It felt hollow and sad every time. But I kept trying to make myself do this thing I thought I was supposed to do, trying it on for size, even though it never, ever fit me.


So I ignored the gut-punch I would feel every time I got out of the bed of someone whom I didn’t really want to be with, or whom I thought maybe it’d be nice to be with but we “weren’t labeling it.” I turned off parts of my heart and brain, which are two of my favorite—and most vital—parts of myself.


And then one day I was just done with pretending I was too cool for it. Maybe it was almost throwing up on a girl I almost slept with whom I didn’t care about, to the point where my body physically revolted and caused me to nearly puke on her face, maybe not. Either way, I just couldn’t do it anymore. It no longer seemed worth it to try to be someone I’m not, especially when I love all the things that I am. I love how intensely I love people, especially despite my background. I think it’s an incredible gift to meet people you connect with and want to give all of yourself to, to be able to risk that much of yourself to go all in with someone, because why the fuck not?


I know it’s so much cooler to meet someone at a bar and fuck them in a bathroom stall and never speak to that person again, because who cares. And I know people who do that, and I love them to pieces because they’re exploring and it’s working for them. But I just don’t fucking want to hook up with some guy or girl whose jokes aren’t that funny, who makes me feel like he or she is not sure about me, and who won’t give me a straight answer about what we are to each other, when that would make me feel a lot better because I’m a human person with feelings. I don’t want to respond to their stupid, half-assed texts that they probably send me while they’re crapping. I don’t want to come to your place for a “chill hang sesh,” or hear you call me your “friend” when we’ve had our faces on each other’s junk. But I had friends telling me this was what you do, this is what dating is, stop expecting more, and honestly, I’m just so fucking over people telling me the right way to do things. And let me tell you, people love telling single people the right way to do things.


If you’ve ever been the Single Friend who complained about how everyone sucks and no one is worth dating, you’ve had at least one (if not, like, four hundred) coupled friends telling you, “Stop looking! That’s when love finds you.” And if you’re like me, you want to go over to that person’s house and knock everything off their shelves for sport. I get what they’re saying: they’re trying to tell me not to focus on it like this goal I have to achieve or else my body will explode, and that’s solid advice. But telling people who understandably want to find love and happiness that they can find those things only if they erase them from their brain is fucking dumb for so many reasons.


Telling yourself not to look for love is like telling yourself not to look for food or air or water or clothes that fit you perfectly. Sure, maybe those things will find you, but since they’re all wonderful, you probably want to really put in the effort to find them. But here’s the thing: Implementing a strategy on how to find love, even if that strategy is to not look for it, IS STILL LOOKING FOR IT.


So now you’re off on a quest to let the world know, “I am not looking for love (but by my saying that, I totally am, FYI),” which is just as much of a plan as making a secret Pinterest board for your future wedding while you’re single.


Telling people who actively want to find love that they should stop wanting to find love so they can find love is like telling a depressed person they can be happy only once they don’t want to be happy. What the shit is that? It makes zero sense.


Again, I get it, I’m not an idiot; I know what they mean. In general, it’s great if people can just focus on who they are and making themselves happy and learning to be happy alone. Those are all great pieces of advice, but they’re also notoriously hard to implement.


Why is love the one thing that you’re supposed to just happen upon with zero effort? If you wanted to get a great job, no one would tell you to end your job search and chill in Starbucks until someone tapped you on the shoulder and offered you one. They’d tell you to ask around and put in the time, because that’s how you get what you want. What about all of the people who found love because they were looking for it? There are tons of people who put out online dating profiles or agreed to a setup or braved a singles mixer and found someone they loved.


We all want love. We do. It’s what makes us people with hearts and feelings and access to so many romantic comedies. And sure, maybe some people found love by releasing their need to find it, and that’s great. But stop telling people that they need to actively change who they are in order to find love. Because even if you do find love that way, changing yourself to find it means your partner may not have fallen for the real you anyway.


I am ready for meet-cutes at all times. I’m eternally aware of strangers on the street holding hands. I notice everyone’s ring finger every time I see them. I get excited when the clock reads 2:14 because that’s Valentine’s Day!!! My favorite number has always been two. I see hearts in rain puddles and shapes of leaves. I live for the moments when someone is saying something, and there’s something about the way their mouth moves or their eyes light up that makes you think, “Man, I love this person.” I look for love. I’m proud to admit that I want to find someone incredible to share my life with, and I can’t wait to meet them. The worst that could happen if I do all of these things and continue my unrelenting search is I go through life alone, but still living every minute as the romantic weirdo I know I am deep down. And if you’re reading this and you’re like that too, if it’s any consolation, that makes two of us.


Why can’t we respond to someone’s cute texts right away? Why can’t we say yes to dates instead of playing coy? Why can’t we sleep with someone as soon as we want to? Because if we do something wrong, we might mess everything up? Nonsense. Whenever I start thinking that way, I remind myself, “If this person is really your soul mate, you can’t text them too much or too soon or be too much for them. If it’s right, there’s nothing you can do wrong.”


If you go in fearlessly from the start, yeah, you might get hurt and it might not work out. But at least you really experienced how wonderful it was, for however long it was wonderful. And then, years later, if you’re still together, your “We said ‘I love you’ after three dates” way was the right way for you. But you can get to that point only if you trust that what you feel is real, for now at least, and go all in.


But we don’t think like this anymore. Guys don’t set out to date the girls they want to marry. If anything, I’ve actually heard the words “I can’t date you, you’re the girl you marry,” which, like, wow, what a backhanded compliment, thank you! I’ve also heard, “You’re third-wife material, like after I’ve made all my mistakes and realized I want something truly great.” Cool, I’ll definitely be sure to remain single until I’m sixty and you’re single again! Won’t move an inch! LMK!


And because we’ve all been taught guys want girls who are chill and don’t “think like that” (yeah, god forbid you want something real and admit that openly), we lower our expectations because, again, we want to be chosen. And in that way, without our even knowing it, it becomes a contest for who can withstand the most. We know trying to change someone won’t work, so we’ve created a work-around for this, which is supporting our partners while they treat us like shit, and being so so patient while they hopefully magically become better people. Which is totally different from trying to change someone! It is! Because obviously trying to change someone is so stupid, haha, for sure. And we’re not doing that! We’re just providing the emotional labor and the tools and the insight and a place for their pain and rage to go, holding anything they need like an unpaid therapist, so they can magically change on their own. Please. It’s the same thing.


And to make things even worse, some couples will tell you that your horribly unhealthy situation is how they met their husband, so now you’re putting up with being treated badly and his shutting down and not being ready, because “what if that’s your story!!!” And one lady at work said her husband was horrible to her for three years until she nursed him back to health and now they’re soul mates. And let me just say, lady at work, keep that shit to yourself. I’m so glad it worked for you, but telling people your exception-to-the-rule story can be dangerous for other people, especially when they’re in pain and their story might not work out positively at all. After Everett yelled at me on the phone, I shut down. I couldn’t be with anyone who would yell at me and hang up; I thought it was a black-and-white indicator that we weren’t compatible. But then someone told me, “Eh, couples fight! People yell. It’s fine!” and maybe she’s right, but I wish I hadn’t listened to her and thrown myself back into dating Everett, who wasn’t compatible with me for so many reasons, because I had every right to think, “Yeah, yelling is a dealbreaker for me,” even if some random girl felt like yelling was normal and everyone yells, who cares.


But we put up with it for so many reasons. The possibility that our story isn’t perfect, that people aren’t perfect, that our person is just having a rough patch and it’ll smooth out soon, and because, if you’re in your late twenties, you’re running out of time. We tell people there are specific set-in-stone ages they have to be somebody, find somebody, or else they’re fucked, and it’d be cool if that stopped.


When I was a teenager, my dad once told me that “if a woman is thirty and no man has ever proposed to her, there’s something wrong with her.” I remember thinking, “Yeah, maybe she had you for a dad.”


Timelines are bullshit. The whole “your date ability ends at thirty, so you’d better get married” shit was created when we lived to be, like, sixty years old max and you could have babies only until, like, thirty-one. Now people live past a hundred and have babies at forty-six. Why are we still keeping these notions going? To keep people, especially women, scared and settling, eager to marry someone who is good enough for now, this will do, the store’s almost closing and it’s better than nothing? Just so they can take the next ten years to figure out this is exactly what happened and then they’re thirty-eight and divorced and shit, what now? Because you did everything right, you stuck to the timeline, damn the cost, and it should’ve magically worked out and it didn’t.


I see happy couples on the subway now and think warmly, “I’ve had that,” like I’m ninety years old and that was eighty years ago. But it often feels like that’s how long it has been since I’ve met someone truly great who honestly seemed like they could love me properly. Or even simply seemed like they wanted all the old-fashioned rom-com shit I want.


Last winter, a guy emailed me telling me he was hoping he’d show up on my Tinder during Tinder Live, my comedy show where I go on my Tinder account live on stage, which Frank Conniff from Mystery Science Theater 3000 told me he describes as “like Mystery Science Theater 3000, if the movie could talk back,” which is the best description. I laughed it off. He later wrote me an email formally stating he was a fan of the show and had a crush on me and knew I was a hopeless romantic and he was too and he’d love to take me on a date sometime. My heart immediately melted like frosting made with coconut oil, which, if you didn’t know, is very melty. I often feel like the last hopeless romantic on the entire planet, so meeting another one was like spotting a hot guy at Forever 21. You’re kind of like, “Um, what are you doing here? Obviously I’m glad you’re here, but also what are you doing here? I thought you were a myth.”


Because he’d made the declaration that he was a romantic, as such a small percentage of people seem to be, I innately trusted it. And I looked up his Twitter to see a photo of him and checked out his Instagram and saw that he was actually cute, so I was excited and hopeful that he didn’t fall into the common category of “he’s hot but his brain sucks and his mouth’s not good.” (Seriously, if I could use “find and replace” on my exes, I’d erase almost all of them. Unrelated, I also think Napchat is a good idea for an app. It’d basically just be a place to co-nap with friends so you can wake up together, like, “Oh, hey, what’s up?”)


So later when I agreed to a date and he asked me about all of the things I liked to do and said he would make a plan (!!!) for us based on that, I was ecstatic. He asked me for a list of things I loved and then said he’d spend the week thinking of some elaborate, wonderful thing for us to do together.


Later, when the plan (which was delivered to me three hours before we were supposed to meet up) turned out to be “Yeah, I couldn’t think of anything. You just wanna walk around in the blizzard outside?” my face dropped and I threw my phone into a nearby toilet. (Not really, because phones are expensive, but in my mind it happened.) And this man told me he was a hopeless romantic! I’d finally found one and he still thought this was good??? Listen, you can date however you want to, but come on, you claim you’re a romantic and wanna take me for a great night and then you treat me like a blind date from Craigslist with feet for hands?


Am I the last remaining hopeless romantic in the world? I’m nearly certain I can’t be, and it’s very likely you’re reading this, going, “Me! I am too!” And if that’s the case, I would hug you for eternity if I could because it is not a chill way to be right now.


Most of the time, whenever I tell men I’m a hopeless romantic, they look at me the same way they do when I tell them I have food allergies: It’s not a deal breaker, but they’d rather it wasn’t a thing. And you know what? Me too, in both cases!


I swear there were years of my life when I dated guys who brought me flowers every time they saw me and sent me love letters in the mail and wrote poetry. Or drew me as a cool little cartoon or took me to this incredibly romantic out-of-the-way spot so we could sit there and look at the stars and trees and feel like we were inside a rom-com. And then at some point, things changed. My hunch is, as soon as “Netflix and chill” became an option, a lot of guys were, like, “Whoa, we don’t have to put in any effort at all? Rad.” And we went along with it in an attempt to be Chill Girls who didn’t need all that stuff anyway.


But for some of us, um, we still need them, and not having them is increasingly feeling like a freaking rip-off. To those who think you don’t want these things, I point to: literally all TV/movies/music. So you mean to tell me you can watch the early seasons of The Office and be, like, “Eh, what Jim and Pam have is amazing, but I’d prefer drinking bad beers on a couch until he touches my boobs and then says, ‘Let’s hang again next week?’ Really? If so, that’s totally okay, but if not, and you’re feeling like “Wait, we still have romance in TV and movies and music, but not in our real dating lives? WTF?” Then hello, welcome, grab a seat.


I don’t know when a date went from a beautiful, elaborately planned evening designed to steal your heart and prove how much they liked you to “You wanna come chill on my roof?” because that lazy bullshit is not working for me.


Why did we stop wanting dinner and a movie and maybe flowers, because why not flowers?! When did we stop thinking that courtship was too time consuming and everything romantic comedies waxed on about was just a dumb fairy-tale concept, instead of our expectation for romantic love?


I’m tired of pretending I’m cool with what evs. I’m tired of pretending that laziness can replace thoughtfulness and still be acceptable to me. I want it all, man. I want someone who asks me out to make an actual plan, whether that plan involves a jet or a stack of nickels (money is not the issue here), then picks me up at my house and takes me on an actual date full of adorable surprises, not for any kind of financial display necessarily, but because they want me to know that they know I’m special and worth it. I want sweetly curated Spotify playlists and texts in the middle of the day that say cheesy shit like “Hi, I miss you and you’re gorgeous and very smart and have a lot of nice jeans, bye.” I want someone who will be the kind of boyfriend my friends will describe as “Oh my god, he’s like a human version of The Notebook,” instead of as “the guy who asked you to chill on his roof at eleven p.m. and who frankly scares us.”


A few months ago, another guy asked me out; then, on the day of what would’ve been our date, he said, “Let’s just figure something out.” Which sounded like “Maybe we can have a drink and you’ll decide if light groping in a back room is a kind of date.” And my romantic self said, “Enough.”


I told him that we could go out when he had a plan. He never rose to that hilariously simple and reasonable request, and it felt not only fine but good. Because I hadn’t sat passively, hoping he’d become someone he never indicated he could be. And sure, you could argue that I could’ve made the plans, but I’ve done that for so many years and I don’t want to. It’s as simple as that! It’s not a gender thing, but I want to be courted. I want to be swept off my feet, to be impressed. I want to be bowled over with how romantic someone is and how much they want to make my night and my life more special and incredible and phenomenal than it was before they entered it.


And I know, I can feel it in my bones that this person is out there for me, and for you if that’s what you truly want.


And they will make all our exes look like fucking jokes.






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