Partners in Crime and Romance: Or, Me and My Dork

Surprisingly, I’ve ended up in a relationship. Even more surprisingly, we’re planning on making it permanent, once I’m back in the states (I’m currently studying abroad). He’s my best friend, and I can’t wait.

I met him while working at a scout camp. I was nineteen and he was seventeen. I thought he was cool, but so not my type, because he was younger, a redhead, my height, always happy, and he talked A LOT. I was pretty sure I wanted a tall, dark, and brooding type, after all.

Two years later, we meet again, back at the same camp. He’s my buddy, so I run right up to him, shouting his name, and give him a big hug. As you do. Honestly, I think the change might have started with that hug. But I was too dim to realize it, when I was a girl barely past her teens who’d come out the other side of a domestic violence case, a manipulative Friend With Benefits, and working at a call center. And we were just friends, as I kept telling myself every time we worked together. I kept my head down, and did my work.

What really made me realize I was falling for him was the dumbest thing ever. I overheard him and a couple other people talking about the best way to get to know a girl. And then they changed the subject once they realized I was there. My suspicious mind went into overdrive, wondering if this meant one of these dear boys had caught a case of feelings for me. The naturally following question was, “If they did, which one would you prefer?” One was only barely eighteen, another was too much of a doormat, and then there was the redheaded goof who talked too much. 

My brain had a horrible “Oh no” moment. I did not want to fall for another guy. It only ended badly. I was a mess, and nobody wanted to deal with that. Besides, two years age difference. Even if he was hilarious, cute, immensely likeable, and he had good taste in music. I was determined not to go through that again. 

As the very smart girl I was, I tried to ignore it. I thought about it as little as possible, keeping my distance from him, refusing to mention his name even in my mind. I was sure I could make this awful little crush go away with sheer willpower. Because I was smart like that.

Maybe a week later, a group of us went out stargazing. Somehow in the dark, he and I ended up lying right next to each other. His arm was touching mine, and my nerves were going crazy. Maybe it’s ridiculous and cliche, but I completely forgot about my plan to make it go away.

However, I was still determined not to act on it. Because he was a nice guy, really friendly to everyone, and there was nothing else in it. We hung out, took long hikes, and listened to music together. One of our friends told us we should date. I looked at the ground and didn’t say anything. While on a hike, we were sitting right next to each other. He tried to point something out to me, I couldn’t see it, and he leaned in closer to show me. I wanted so badly to just kiss him, but I didn’t. I wasn’t going to make an idiot of myself. We stayed up late listening to music, and took a walk in the full moonlight out to a hill overlooking the camp, talking about everything and nothing, eventually cuddling up together for warmth. Just for warmth. Nothing else in that. Completely platonic (I am dense). In fact, I didn’t have any clue that we were thinking anywhere along the same lines until he kissed my forehead, and told me he was dumb because he’d never kissed a girl. And, grinning like an idiot, I smoothly offered to rectify that.

First kiss on a moonlit night in the mountains, complete with a fantastic view. I’d say that was a pretty good way to do it.

It wasn’t a real thing, though. Over the course of the summer, we kissed a few more times, went on a couple dates, had one amazing makeout session, and that was it. I was craving more, with my depression hitting me so hard. I was addicted to him. He was a crutch. We lived on opposite sides of the state. It wasn’t right. And when he started acting distant, I decided that I wasn’t going to beg. It wasn’t so much heartbreak as it was a slow dissolve, but that didn’t mean it hurt any less.

I moved on. Went on a few other dates, got diagnosed, started both antidepressants and therapy. I was still crazy about him, and really didn’t want anyone else, but he obviously wasn’t interested, and I needed to be better. For me, not for him. I started dealing with my depression and the self-esteem issues I have in relationships. I started college. I applied to my school’s study abroad program. I was still hurt that things ended the way they did, and I really wanted to ask him why, and what was wrong with me, but I knew better.

Fast forward three years, and out of the blue, he starts messaging me on Facebook, talking about the new Avenged Sevenfold album, and how I needed to listen to it. We started talking again, and I was quickly getting right back where I started. Especially when we got started in a battle of classic rock puns. Plus, I was planning on moving closer to him already (again, not for him), so I figured the timing was getting better. And then he told me he was going back to camp. I’d been ready to trade up camp, finally, for a higher paying job, especially as I was getting ready to leave the country. But, I realized, this could be my last chance to figure out why. And maybe–just maybe–I could work it out, this time. Because I didn’t want anyone else.

I was moving out of my apartment that summer, so, the first weekend, I headed down the mountain to start on that. Then I got a text from home, saying to let him know if I needed help (turned out he was in the same city, staying at his friend’s for the weekend). After much second-guessing and agonizing over it with my roommate, I invited him out to dinner and ice cream with us. Throughout the evening, I couldn’t stop laughing, and he and I talked all night long, before falling asleep cuddled up on my couch. 

This was quickly becoming like the summer three years ago, but I realized I could live with that. Now, I was more mature, had years of therapy behind me, and I would be living near him after I got back from studying abroad. I could work with that.

The next weekend, I was going to a play my sister was in, and I invited him to come. Somewhere during the play, we ended up holding hands, and continued afterward, when we went to Denny’s with the cast, some of whom were friends of mine. Awkward questions about how long we’d been together abounded. Especially with my dad introducing James as my “not-boyfriend.” 

As I was finally driving him home, very early in the morning, still holding hands, we talked a lot more. And then, after three years of waiting, he asked me to be his girlfriend. (And as it turns out, the reason he’d stopped talking to me so long ago was because, for various reasons, he thought he wasn’t good enough for me. That was something I never would have guessed.)

This redheaded goof who talks too much, is two years younger than me, and is my height is everything important that I’ve ever wanted in a guy. He’s honest with me, goes to concerts and on random adventures with me, and he makes me smile so much my face hurts, and then he laughs at me for it. Being around him always makes the world a little brighter. He takes my abrasive sense of humor in stride, and is always there to support me when things go to hell. And, we’ve been apart for months, and our relationship is still strong. I’m crazily in love with him, though I’ll never admit it to most people.

I’m leaving Europe in less than a week. Maybe I should be sad to be leaving that dream behind, but it means getting back to my redheaded dork, and on to more adventures. The first on my list is an engagement, as neither of us wants to let the other get away again.

I was pretty sure I was never going to find a guy I could stand long enough to want to marry. Even if I did, I was pretty sure he’d lose interest as soon as he saw what a hellish place my mind is. But he’s always there to assure me that he’s not going anywhere, and that I’m stuck with him as long as I want to be.

To those of you out there who are sure nobody could ever want you, I know that life is hard. Everyone tells you nobody can love you if you don’t love yourself, or conversely that only love can save you from yourself. Don’t listen to either of them. Try to love yourself, definitely. Seek the help you need, and do your best to become a you that you’re happy with. Don’t see your significant other as your knight in shining armor, but as the reliable sidekick who always has your back. Because this is your story, and you’re the hero. You have the power to save yourself.

Thank you for your time, friends. I wish you all the best.

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Another Time, Another Place, Another Eyeroll

Here’s a rare thing. Mac talking about L-O-V-E! Yes, I may be a month late on the subject. But, hey, that’s how I roll.

Love is in the air!

How ’bout a fight to the death with boffer swords instead?

I’d never admit to anyone that I’m a closet romantic. But I have been for as long as I can remember. I usually don’t like stories in any medium (but especially books) that don’t have a bit of romance in them. Sure, it’s annoying when it’s the main plot, but as a side plot, Mac can die a happy girl. And, of course, almost everything she writes has the dreaded R-word. Sometimes too much.

And it makes me want to scream, which is why I’m a closet romantic. I absolutely loathe that part of myself. That’s the girl who gets twitterpated far too easily—the bubbleheaded bimbo who willingly listens to whatever the current object of her affections has to say and agrees with it all, no matter what an idiot he is. Some giggly little brat I don’t even know. But oh, how she loves the drama of it all! The wind in her hair, the whoosh of a cape. The beauty of a love confession. Stars in her eyes, too much air in her brain.

But it’s one of those things I can’t change, no matter how hard I try.

And, you know, at least I get that Twilight was idiotic. It didn’t appeal to my romantic senses, even at my most obnoxious.

Never mind how that didn’t stop me from breaking up with Boyfriend 1 (who was socially awkward, and came off as obsessive) by inventing another guy, who I really considered myself in love with, and wished so badly was real. He was, of course, the hero of all my stories at the time. Say it with me: Gary Stu.

I eventually got over my Stu, and realized what a stu-pid idea that was. And then, in came Big Crush (and later Boyfriend) 2! So much more aloof than 1. Taller. Classier. A better speller! Of course, I was head-over-heels, and my romantic side went crazy. She took over almost completely for two years, and I became the aforementioned giggling ball of a single-digit IQ whenever he was around. Our “relationship” lasted for a month, before he dumped me for one of my best friends.

1 made me feel good about myself—except how he always had his arm around me, making me feel like his Siamese Twin (we even looked alike! Same hair and eye color, within inches of each other’s heights). 2 made me paranoid, because I was never entirely sure about him. I knew he could be a jerk, so I was half-expecting him to give me a big “April Fool!” any second. He was so attractive and so popular among our crowds (AKA the haunted house workers and the down-to-earth drama geeks), while I felt like an awkward outsider, that I was sure he could do better. So why was he settling for me?

Between 1 and 2, I’ve got my share of problems. When I see guys and chicks holding hands or with their arms around each other, I want to tell them to get a room, at the very least. When a guy tells me I’m pretty or asks me out, my initial reaction is to take it as a joke. And just the thought of going on an actual date (I’ve been on a grand total of 2) is terrifying, because what if my idiot romantic side comes out? And I absolutely loathe common human courtship rituals.

Then again, there is hope. Big Crush 3 (who I’m still hung up on) never was even remotely likely to become a boyfriend. He’s six years my senior, and you can very obviously tell—partially because I look about 16. But I got my feelings out of the way and told him, just like a practical, logical, cool-headed chick should. Part of me thinks it was stupid, because things have been awkward between us since, but the other side feels it was the right thing to do. I tied the romantic up in a corner for that one, and pressed on. No heartbreak, no tears. Facing what I fear.

But it’s been over a year since that momentous day. No new Big Crush (the only kind of crushes I really get). And the only guys who want to be around me are buddies from work, my dad, and my male best friend, who is whiny and emotional and very, very annoying (who also claimed he was in love with me). Then again, not many guys ever really wanted to be around me. I have some kind of antisocial vibe going on that drives them away. I have discussed this phenomenon repeatedly with friends.

Still having the romantic side, of course, I do want to fall in love. But it’s terrifying, at the same time. I know it won’t be Happily Ever After. Love takes work, blah blah blah. With me, though, all those little pet peeves about a person (even someone I love) tend to build up—a massive mountain of disappointments that will finally break, leaving me hating those whom I once professed to love. I’ve yet to find a return from that. Time doesn’t fix it.

Worst of all, I’m scared I’d end up like my mother—a crazy woman married to a fantastic guy, but she doesn’t see it, and all she can do is complain about him behind his back—in front of the kids or anyone else who happens to be listening. Taking everything from him, but returning practically nothing.

Between all that, I wonder why I don’t have a boyfriend. And a guy at work bet me I’d be married by this time next year.

Not unless hell freezes over, it would seem.