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I Fell In Love for the First Time at 28

I Fell In Love for the First Time at 28

On what it’s like to discover love for the first time in your late twenties

 

 

“Aw, there’s someone out there for you!”

“Just keep putting yourself out there!”

“You’ll find love soon, don’t worry!”

“The right person will come at the right time!”

 

Hearing these phrases made me want to throw up. In my opinion, the worst thing about being single is your (well-meaning) coupled friends trying to cheer you up. It’s the pity hidden in their pouty side glances, in the deep breaths they take as they (the haves) prepare to encourage you (the have-not) to climb out of the low, low depths of being alone. As if singlehood was a death sentence, as though being in love ensured your happiness—100% guaranteed. I didn’t buy into the fantasy; I’ve seen way too many seemingly happy relationships fizzle out on my Instagram stories feed.

 

Besides, at that point last year, finding love was the least of my priorities. As a late bloomer who came out of the closet at 20 and started dating at 23, I didn’t have the suave ease at flirting that my other friends who’ve dated since high school possessed. Compounding things was how I was about to enter the highly judgmental and often superficial world of gay dating—it felt like leaping unarmed into a pack of hyenas. Years passed, and the fact that I was in my late twenties without ever having been in love ceased feeling like a personal failure. After what felt like an endless string of bad and sometimes degrading dates, I decided enough was enough.

 

I was 28, NBSB, with no money and no prospects.
And I was enough. 

 

I stopped actively dating and instead channeled my energy to developing my relationships with my friends. And lo and behold, my confidence and sense of self-worth improved. Sure, there were nights I felt extra lonely and maybe even lacking, but that wasn’t anything a brunch date with my girlfriends or a hearty laugh care of the group chat couldn’t fix. I fell into a strict routine where I’d only permit myself to open my go-to dating app every Saturday for one hour and one hour only—I called it “maintenance swiping,” a way to put myself out there in the most non-committal way possible. I was 28, NBSB, with no money and no prospects. And I was enough. 

 

And then, I met him.

 

I guess my annoying coupled friends were right after all: sometimes when you least expect it, the love gods will throw you a bone. He was a Bumble match that stood out; we immediately clicked, and we made plans to get coffee over the weekend. It was a first date for the ages: coffee turned into dinner, which turned into drinks, which turned into an endless stroll around Cubao X as we both refused to let the magical night end. What struck me was how easy falling in love was—loving may consist of hard work, but falling for him felt as natural as two magnets finding each other and coming together. Two months later, we made it official—I was 28, in my first relationship, and felt like I was on cloud nine.

 

As an overweight and effeminate gay man, the world has often made me feel like true love was something that just wasn’t meant for someone like me.

 

It’s funny, the contradiction of discovering your first love at the “ripe” age of 28. In many ways, it felt like a second puberty. We were teenagers all over again, riding the giddy rush of joy every time we held each other’s hand or made each other laugh until we couldn’t breathe. We were both relationship virgins, so we dove headfirst into love totally inexperienced yet eager to savor it all. At the same time, we were no longer children. At 28, I understood that his late replies weren’t a personal attack; he was just busy at work. and it didn’t diminish his feelings for me. And the same went for him—he had a clarity that I found so refreshing and sexy. He refused to play mind games, instead making it a point to clearly communicate how he felt every step of the way. It was nice, both feeling every new emotion so intensely yet being grounded by the maturity that comes with experience.

 

I was floored by how much he could love me, and by how much I could love him. As an overweight and effeminate gay man, the world has often made me feel like true love was something that just wasn’t meant for someone like me. So at first, of course, I put my best foot forward, making a concerted effort to suck my stomach in and minimize my feminine tendencies. But as time passed, I realized that there was no need to shrink myself or conceal any of my softness around him. He not only accepted me, but celebrated me for who I was—flaws and all.

 

We were teenagers all over again, riding the giddy rush of joy every time we held each other’s hand or made each other laugh until we couldn’t breathe.

 

Finally, as cliché as the saying goes, I saw firsthand that to be loved is to be changed. Months after our first date, friends would joke that we had begun to look alike. I guess somewhere along the road, we started trading pieces of our personalities. I’d hear my laugh echoing out through him, and he loved how I quickly adopted his penchant for watching films and immediately logging it on Letterboxd. But beyond the shallow, I saw how love transformed us both for the better: I grew to understand his passion for routine and discipline, and made a concerted effort to be more selfless like he is.

 

Of the many great nights we’ve shared together, one stands out clearly in my head: as he was driving me home from a work event, Joni Mitchell’s A Case of You came on shuffle. And as she crooned about how love means touching each other’s souls and pouring out of each other, I turned my head to look at those kind eyes I've grown to love. I realized my friends were right again: despite my misgivings that I’ve aged past love and it wasn’t for me, the right person arrived in my life at precisely the right time.

 

 

Art Alexandra Lara

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