I have been dating for over 15 years now. That’s more than half my life. More than half my life spent worrying about how I look in my underwear, how many chins I have when I laugh, or if my fall-themed lipstick is too “Rachel from Friends circa 1995.” (It isn’t, by the way. I look faaabulous.)
But if I’m being honest, I don’t know if I can really count anything before college. I was just a kid. Counting those boyfriends is akin to guys measuring their junk starting at the spleen. So let’s say, I’ve been dating for about 12 years. And during those 12 years, I’ve had my share of boyfriends. Most of those relationships lasted about three months, but some made it to about the eight-month mark. Some of them were with friends, some with guys I met on a dating site. Some were quite good, some downright awful. But they all had one thing in common–an expiration date. No matter what I repeated in my head to convince myself that “Current Guy” was the one for me, there was always a nagging voice in the back of my head, whispering, “Jane. Jane, get real. This isn’t going to last. You know it. I know it. Your waitress at Denny’s probably knows it. What’s wrong with you? Why do you keep postponing the inevitable break up?” That voice was pretty long winded. But she was right.
I spent 12 years dating guys that were either great on paper or that I was naturally attracted to. If he fell short in either category, that was when the saleswoman in me came out. Oh, there’s no spark? Well, that can grow! You have so much in common! Or: So what that he barely talks and never laughs at your jokes? He’s so hot! It’s no wonder those relationships fizzled out. I thought, for 12 years, that I would never find love.
And then, at the young and nubile age of 30 (shut up), I met someone. Our relationship started in the most romantic of settings–a dark and dingy bar in downtown Dallas, where we were both three sheets to the wind. We’d met through taking an improv comedy class, not from some online recommendation. We made sense on paper. And we made sense in the bedroom. And for the first time, that little voice was silent. Not a peep.
The first month and a half was a whirlwind. I was 30 years old, in the prime of my life, and falling in love. Oh, and it was winter. The holidays are scientifically proven to be the BEST time of the year to fall in love. There is quantitative data on this somewhere, I’m sure.
And then he got a job offer. In Oklahoma. Three hours away. But it was a real job, in the field he studied in college, and he had to take it. We were determined to make it. We would show them! (“We” being me, and “them” being the married, procreating people on my Facebook newsfeed.)
And then, as quickly as it crescendoed, it all came crashing down. I can’t really say what happened, but I suspect that at some point after moving, he pulled away. Shut down. And sensing it, I did, too. So when I visited him in Oklahoma last weekend, only three weeks after his move, there was nothing left. Going through the motions was awkward and dishonest. I knew it was over the minute I stepped out of my car to greet him that frigid Friday night in the country. Within 24 hours, I was on my way back to Texas.
Now, I would like nothing more than to say I looked like a young Demi Moore in Ghost, delicately crying with star-shaped eyelashes in the moonlight, as I drove back home. But the truth is, I looked more like a swollen-faced Tobey Maguire, with fat, man-like tears hitting my oversized sweatshirt, snot streaming from my nose and pieces of tissue stuck to my face. It was not pretty.
I got home close to midnight and spent the next 36 hours in my room, save for trips to Black-eyed Pea and Denny’s for meatloaf and hashbrowns. And mashed potatoes. And french toast. And chicken strips. I was in mourning, okay?
But eventually, I had to drag myself out of bed, wash my hair, put on makeup. Eat something grown in the ground and not in a lab. Re-enter the world. And instead of finding the world a cold and miserable place like my depressing drive home from Oklahoma, I realized that there was a modicum of hope inside me.
Nan was the only person I dared talk to during my 36-hour hibernation, and after listening to me bawling on the phone for over an hour (which I’m sure sounded like a drunk person, whose first language wasn’t English, screaming into the phone), she told me something that was like a small speck of glitter on a dirty club floor. On my breakthrough of having loved, she said, “At least you know it’s possible. You didn’t think it was possible before.” It’s true; I didn’t. But now I know that I’m capable–of loving someone completely, of not picking them apart every second of every day, of just being happy to be with them.
I’d say that for a lesson that great, 12 years isn’t that long to wait.