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(Not) Single Forever
I believe that there’s a point in every girl’s life where she has a desperate, perhaps irrational, perhaps justified (but still legitimate) fear of being single forever. Seventeen years ended my forever. Perhaps the end of forever is temporary as if the pause button was pressed in the middle of life, or perhaps it is forever. All I know is that the music of forever is no longer playing, and I have no way of knowing if it was a surprise ending or if it is just waiting for the play button to be pressed before the theme song resumes.
Looking in the mirror, I saw straight black hair, bright brown eyes widened by thick lines of black eyeliner, plastic-framed hipster glasses, and tan skin. The chin tilted slightly to the left as if asking a question. The serious brown eyes stared into the glass, and I wondered if I was kidding myself by liking what I saw.
It’s so easy to say to a depressed girl that it doesn’t really matter what other people think as long as she likes the way she is. It’s a temporary relief from the never-ending insecurities. Pardon me for wondering if my luckless love life is an effect of my appearance. It’s true that beauty is not everything. But look at it from my point of view. Humans are naturally attracted to beauty whether we know it or not. If I was a model, I would automatically have more opportunities to show off my personality simply because people would be more likely to give me the chance to prove myself a worthy person to spend their time on. It’s one of those program errors of the human brain. We don’t always mean to be judgmental on first look, but we are anyway.
My bad luck with boys began at a very young age. In kindergarten, my neighbor and I were inseparable. Little kids are friends with everyone, right? K and I were no exception. In fact, a little boy plus a little girl equals a puppy love relationship in nearly every math book, like, ever. Okay, not really. I know. I’m a pretty smart kid. I know my math facts, really, I do. But I also know some literary devices, and that was one of them. Just so we’re clear. I’m not a complete idiot.
Anyway, kindergarten ended and first grade began. I guess I don’t really remember as much about elementary school as I’d like to, but I do remember a sloppy first kiss. Imagine the most romantic setting possible, and I’ll one-up you. Picture it…visualize…okay, got it? Here’s the real most romantic setting ever: school bus number six, windows down, dust blowing about, hair gritty from said dust, and two little first graders kneeling on the bus seat together. Now, just wait until I get to the actual kissing part. It was more like a…oh, I don’t know…clash of mouths and probably some teeth. To make it even cuter, imagine a six-year-old me wiping my mouth frantically with my arm, trying desperately to remove the remnants of little kiddy slobber from my face. Yeah, I later realized I’m a complete germaphobe. I’m still not sure if that kiss was the cause or the effect of germaphobia.
Never fear, hopeless romantics. Our story did not end there. We lasted all the way to eighth grade where K and I officially started dating. Well, as official as eighth-graders can be. All we needed was to change our relationship statuses on Facebook. Unfortunately, being practically Amish, I did not and do not have Facebook. Whoops. So, we were not quite as official as we liked to pretend. Okay, let’s take a moment to be honest. He didn’t ask me out. Logically, one would assume that I asked him out, no big deal. Actually, I did not. The truth is that my best friend ran ahead of me in the lunch line and came back and announced that I was in a relationship with K. And that was that.
Since our relationship began with such an act of bold maturity on my part (getting my friend to ask out the guy I liked for me), it was only fitting that I broke up with him some time later in much the same manner. This time the go-between (that same best friend) delivered a note I’d written in science class proclaiming that we were no longer together. Trust me, my heart was breaking. Not really. But the romantics reading this probably want some sort of sappy, teary sob story of a description to stand in as some sort of closure.
K and I had been together practically since kindergarten, and in junior high, there is simply no way that a girl is just going to get over the fact that her ex-boyfriend was suddenly being fought over by love-drunk girls. (Exaggeration. But still.) As soon as I saw how popular K was, I immediately wanted him back. I was pretty much one of those big-headed cartoons sputtering indignantly about the unfairness of life.
Freshman year wasn’t much better. The new guy of my affection was S. This love affair was marginally worse than the one K and I had shared. I kept a note in my pocket boldly asking him out. It’d be safe to bet that he never saw that note. In my defense, he was always talking to his friends in the one period I was brave enough to consider delivering it to him. Every single day that note was in my pocket during that class period. But rejection is just not something that helps anyone’s (particularly junior high girls’) self-esteem.
It was only fitting that I later found out that S had liked me back when I had liked him. I could’ve literally banged my head on a wall when I found out except 1.) a bruised face probably wouldn’t really help change my status from “single” to “in a relationship,” and 2.) I’m not much for pain without any gain. I just couldn’t believe my luck. Stupid gutless freak that I was, I chickened out of being forward and speaking up about my feelings.
On the bright side, I learned lessons from being single for so long. I learned about dealing with unrequited young love and rejection. I suppose I wouldn’t change anything about those years of my youth for fear of changing where I am now, but in the moment all I could think was “Wow, this really sucks, dude.”
The guy of my dreams from the remainder of freshman year through most of junior year was J. I have this terrible habit of reading into things way too much. I make words appear on blank pages by sheer will power. No girl wants to believe that everything that happens during every interaction with the guy she likes means nothing. But, to be honest, everything that happened with J was really, truly nothing. Well, nothing more than polite friendship. I hate those stupid blurry lines between flirting and friendship. Let’s just say that my feelings got tossed around a lot during that time. It was basically the emotional equivalent of throwing every thought during those three years into the blender and pushing the button. All I got was mush. Tasty mush. But still just mush.
Then came the guy I was sure was perfect for me. M was so deliciously unique. The thing everyone should know before getting attached to M’s character is that he may or may not have lied from the very start. Apparently the line between fact and fiction is also very blurry. M saw me at an honor band, and he told his friends about me. I had met his friend, KS, earlier and had thought him ridiculously genius in the humor department. At a track meet, I saw KS, and he told me that M thought I was beautiful and said I should look him up on Facebook. Well, I borrowed my friend’s computer and Facebook account to do some heavy-duty stalking. As I clicked through his pictures, there was something vaguely familiar about him. I did not remember him from honor band but rather from district group speech contest. I had been waiting to perform outside of the ensemble acting room when a guy and a girl sharing a Nightmare Before Christmas Snuggie swooped in behind me, hugged me, and continued on their merry way before I could say “Whoa, freaks. Um, boundaries?” Imagine my shock when I recognized the guy, the girl, and the Snuggie in one of M’s pictures.
As dumb as it seems, I took it as some kind of Sign. Yes, Sign with a capital S. I mean, how do such things even happen? Well, along came solo/ensemble contest, and I finally met the mysterious and intriguing M. We hit it off…or so I thought. He managed to slyly ask for my number, and when we departed that night he picked me up as he hugged me and spun me around. We texted that night. By then, our friends were joking about us getting married, and he joined right in. At the end of night one, I was thinking he was perfect. He was witty and had genius book and song recommendations. How could I stop myself from falling? I didn’t even try. I believe whole-heartedly that we as humans owe it to ourselves to not be closed off, to not have reservations that may be the difference between happiness and unhappiness or existing and living. Such technicalities drive me insane. And of course my own stupid beliefs beat me up and left me broken in one of those dark, sleazy alleys.
M played me for almost a year. I hadn’t seen him for months, but I was trembling with excitement, knowing I would see him at either speech or honor band. What I didn’t expect was a girl to come up to me and say, “I’m supposed to tell you that M has a girlfriend.” I was mortified. M didn’t care enough to tell me himself? Was I so clingy that he thought he had to send someone to tell me? As far as I was concerned, I’d never truly let on that I liked him. I was confused and embarrassed.
I’ll save everyone the days/weeks/months of despair and hurt and betrayal. I later heard that he never had another girlfriend; his best friend supposedly agreed to go along with the lie. Recently, M defended himself, saying it was never a lie. I can’t even help the little pricks of hurt that poke me in the stomach when I hear his name.
By now it seems like guys just don’t like me. I would agree for the most part. The difference between that assumption and the truth is one minor detail: the guys I like don’t like me. There have been plenty of guys who would’ve invested a few minutes or hours or days or weeks or maybe even months. They all ranged from socially awkward to downright creepy. A few of them I was actually fond of, but I’m the kind of girl who is apparently very particular. I tended to find unbearable flaws as soon as they started liking me back.
Never fear, romantics. Your part of the story is yet to come, so stay tuned. D overlapped with M. Last summer, I tackled my second year of detasseling corn. (Don’t ask. It’s Iowa. We just got the kern and infamous reputation for being the “nobody to end all nobodies” state going for us.) D was unremarkable at first, but the first time I worked with him, I was intrigued by the way he was all rough and tough, yet strangely, unexpectedly sweet. I was convinced he was finally the one I would be with at least for a while. I don’t catch breaks, though, remember? We were hot and cold. I thought he liked me at moments, but I knew he liked another girl, so I was an uncertain train wreck for about a month. I finally decided to be best friends with him. I later found out he liked me all that time. Too late, though. As soon as I found out he still liked me, I made up my mind that that was in the past.
Throughout many of the ever-changing crushes, MC has been a constant. He is the one person who is so wonderful that I can’t even try to not like him. He isn’t ridiculously sexy, but he is gorgeous in an odd way. He is the one person who has deserved my love, my affection, from the very beginning. He hasn’t disappointed me.
MC is smart and musically talented, quietly funny, and very sweet. Even so, I would never date him, for fear of ruining the sweet innocence that encompasses him. He is too perfect for someone as damaged as me.
MC is not, however, the romantic part of this story. I have not added glamour to his character by portraying him as something he is not, but somehow he manages to make a perfect fictional character. He is something of a dream, unintentionally fictional, except he is real—his skin solid under my fingertips, something I remember from the brief moments when my hand touched his arm.
As I said before, he is not the romantic figure of this story. The guy I have finally settled down with (if you can call it “settling”—it’s been an insane whirlwind) is hardly perfect. J has drugs and alcohol in his past, he didn’t graduate high school last year as he should’ve due to abuse he suffered by his stepfather’s hand, and he has a tattoo which my parents definitely do not approve of, but somehow he is perfect. He is the first one to treat me well. He is the first one to make me truly believe he loves me. I can see in his eyes that he would give up his life for me. I sound stupid and cliché, but sometimes, when a girl is in love, all she can think of to describe what she feels are a bunch of recycled words and phrases. J has a past full of violence, and I know he's picked fights before, but instead of being scared of him, I'm grateful to have someone who will be able to protect me, someone I feel safe with. I feel even safer with him now that I know how he is. He never pressures me to do anything. The only thing he has ever asked me for is to cuddle. The total winner part of this relationship is this: Most guys want sex. It's just how they are. J has never, ever, ever even brought it up. So one time I did. He just looked at me sideways and said, "Not everything is about sex. We don't have to have sex or do any of that." It was around that time that I fell in love.
J dropped the drugs and alcohol when I asked him to, and it is the biggest reason I trust him. I sound stupid and naïve for believing that he would give it up for me, but if everyone could see the honesty in his eyes, they would have no choice but to believe him, too. The sincerity is nearly palpable, and his best friend (who he lives with) and my best friend are dating, and one or the other of them would’ve been sure to tell me if he was sneaking off to get high or drunk.
While we were walking in the city he lives in, there was someone with a gun. Okay, I probably wouldn’t have been shot, but still…it was terrifying. He was definitely within shooting distance, and he was pissed. Like, really, really, really pissed. J walked me to my car, shielding me with his body. I could feel his heart beating when I hugged him goodbye, slightly faster than usual. Since then I have no doubt that he means it when he says, “Baby, I will never let anyone hurt you.”
J reads into everything way too much, always wants to know everything, and is altogether annoying, but somehow it doesn’t even matter. It’s so easy to get upset when I’m not with him, but somehow it all fades away when I see him, swoopy brown hair above blue-green eyes, a smile lighting up his face when he notices me noticing him.
Somehow, no one else matters. It doesn’t matter that I still love MC, because that love is completely different. I love MC without being in love with him. It doesn’t matter that I think other boys are gorgeous or that I go to movies with guy friends. It doesn’t matter, because none of those boys compare to what I have with J. J is mine, and mine alone. I’m the only one allowed to touch him, the only one to call him “baby.”
I may have terrible taste in boys. I may have bad luck with boys. But I win. I got the boy.