Think back to the 90s and early 2000s, the white picket fence dream when we still wrote letters to say "I like you" and "I love you". It was both easy and difficult to express emotion in youth. Difficult because of nerves, and easy because of lack of emotional baggage to drag us down (for those of us who grew up without life-altering abuse). I asked a friend how she managed to drag the words "I love you" from her subconsciousness and paste them on a heartfelt post of mine on Facebook. "It's real hard!" She answered. Often she abbreviates it to make it cute but less relevant. But, she added: "The world needs more love in it, and if we don't say it, nobody will know it."
Now back to the past, when I was around 16, I had a major crush on a boy three years my senior (one of only two such crushes in my life so far). My best friend decided to tell him that I liked him. I was furious of course. She took away from me my choice to express my emotion or not. I went with the flow though and wrote to him a letter about my feelings. I was surprised when his reaction wasn't a negative one. In fact, he ended up inviting me to the school dance. My hopes were still humble though. So many pretty girls, older than me and then there was me, the nerd. It started off well, yet halfway through, he took me aside and told me that he'd only invited me because he needed to show up with a date in order to impress and potentially make jealous another girl he was really into. In retrospect, I see now that he was as big a nerd as I was and that two nerds apparently made a cool date.
In the moment, I wasn't surprised...I would have been surprised if he'd told me he liked me. I thanked him for his honesty but reminded him that he'd invited me and that I wouldn't appreciate being left alone. After all...He'd invited ME...I hadn't asked to tag along! Yes, yes of course, he replied at that time. But he still went off and left me alone nonetheless. I made the best of the situation by allowing another "nerd" who'd declared his feelings for me more than a month earlier, also by letter, to dance with me. He was alone, so was I...what would have been the point to deny the chance. I was always pragmatic in that way and it's something that has helped me a lot not to fall apart several times in my life where I would be rejected. I was hurt though...deeply...and for a long time. This boy eventually got together with the girl he coveted. They stayed together until their last year of High School. She broke it off with him before the last school dance. We still talked, now and then...he did apologize before he left school. I accepted it...we were all just a bunch of kids anyway...but it was a late apology...as the saying goes too little too late.
Fast forward into my early thirties, already well into the next decade of that new Millennium. Not another teen story would be an appropriate title. A friendship had developed with someone I should have avoided and yet for many reasons could not have resisted at the time. Curiosity led to a conversation and a subsequent invitation to join him at a weekend metal-rock festival somewhere in the middle of nowhere. I didn't have the equipment needed and no time to procure it so he offered to share it with me: his tent, his cooking utensils and some of his food. I felt much obliged. It was a whole group of his friends and their friends...such as festival dynamics usually go. It started well of course and the atmosphere was sexually charged. Young people, music...freedom. I liked him and he liked me. We had pretty good (though not mind-blowing) sex and fun chats around the fire. It didn't take longer than the first night for things to degenerate. I went off alone a few times, since I didn't like all the bands, but was not interested to be alone permanently. An argument arose as he felt hindered by my presence. I was blocking him from catching other women. I was taking up space in the tent and what if he wanted to have sex with someone else in there. Lastly he dramatically asked me to set him free!
"But YOU, invited ME! I had retorted. What did you expect? A harem? I came here not just to see a bunch of bands and fuck around, but to be with YOU...in your company. If you wanted other women, why didn't you go alone?"
"I felt sorry for you." Was his reply.
In retrospect, people have a really hard time reading the subliminal messages given off by others, and often a hard time interpreting even the direct messages, and then there are those precious ulterior motives. We have entered the virtual era...no more words on paper, no more face-to-face dynamics as the norm.
How he had managed to interpret my enthusiasm at going to a festival with him as a pitiful cry for help out of a boring and dull existence is still a mystery to me.
It hurt a great deal, not only those last words but the entire notion that I wasn't anybody special but just another means to an end. Just like I had been the perfect date to impress another girl, I had been the perfect tent companion to attract others to his tent...like those fat, green flies on feces. I suppose I'm also to blame for wanting something that this person was not willing to give from the very beginning...
As love stories go, it takes two (and these days perhaps more) to make the story. Unrealistic expectations can be deemed arch enemy number one to a happy ending...effortless infatuation next in line...ulterior motives third best shot at hurting a person deeply. Last but not least: failure to express emotion or put another way saying one thing and thinking/feeling another.
Most recently, another top tier hindrance to intimate relationships has turned out to be failure to listen. Even in the very early stages of an acquaintanceship, the failure to read a message properly, to internalize the sender's expressed needs is so prevalent in borders on absurdity.
"Please, let's not rush!"
"Yes, yes of course!"
Fast-forward one message later: "Don't forget to dream about me!"
Of course nobody wants I love you anymore...because it's mostly about immediate, self-gratification, not about an attempt at deeper emotion. And of course nobody wants to say it anymore either, unless you get a prenup with terms and conditions signed...because it ends in emotional litigation where there's a clear winner and loser.
So how does this story end? Well...it doesn't. Love and sex are a tango to a tune that changes yet never stops...or perhaps stops when we don't want to hear the music anymore.
Sex surrenders to love and love embraces its seductive companion in the hopes to tame its flame...the snake eating its own tail.