We’re in a crisis. Please at least define the relationship
When I was 17, I thought I was ready for a relationship. How difficult would it be? (At 15, I had a manliligaw who called me every day on our red telephone.) My teenage self believed love was overanalyzing unanswered chat boxes, rereading unsent letters, listening to sad songs and doing a lot of waiting. I suffered these delusions—these cheap imitations—because I badly wanted for it to come, to be it. I thought this was love—the extent, the brevity of it—because it was all I had, it was all I knew. My praiseworthy behavior was fueled by the idea that if I kept up this performance, I would deserve it—as if love were to be earned.
Fast forward to 2019, it was “modern love.” Fresh from a relationship—his, not mine—I coddled this sweet man. The thing is, I knew it was a terrible idea from the very beginning.
I was cold and he drove all the way to my favorite Starbucks Reserve to bring me his black cover-up; I kept it for a few days, and I felt all sorts of saccharine. (It revolted me.) I cooked for him—I never cook—while we watched an exasperating season of Insatiable; it was crude and problematic. He drove me home in his beat-up car while he ranked every Star Wars film from best to worst. (I fell asleep during Star Wars; why does every guy have to be obsessed with this franchise?) I scrolled my way to his very first Instagram post; it was a quaint photo of his dog. Telegram was sacred, where we laid out our vulnerabilities and our goals, where he was acquainted with my brief episodes.
My thoughts were infiltrated with his presence. Did he find me pretty? Should I post this new Tame Impala single to impress him? What was his favorite episode of Black Mirror? Will this Uniqlo U shirt fit him? Did he notice I cut off an inch of my parched hair? Was that tweet too obvious?
We talked about everything—except the possibility of a future (together). Every second with this man was spontaneous until I had to lay out the inevitable, and I was defenseless. After months of doubting—was he into me, was I being hypersensitive, why did I feel resentment—I was done. When did love become so complicated?
Contemporary philosopher and The School of Life founder Alain de Botton perfectly described unrequited love in his book On Love, “The arrogance of wanting to be loved had emerged only now it was unreciprocated—I was left alone with my desire, defenseless beyond the law, shockingly crude in my demands: Love me! And for what reason? I had only the usual paltry, insufficient excuse. Because I love you.”
It’s A Situationship
Are you in a situationship? This more-than-friendship-but-not-a-committed-relationship facade is not necessarily bad, until expectations are unmet and feelings go AWOL. TBH, I am tired of retelling these hurts and being told—most especially as a woman—bakit ka kasi umasa? As if it wasn’t a mutual (mis)understanding. As if I was the only person culpable of this complex web of heartbreak you don’t even know if you can justify.
My well-meaning friends mention the possibility of online dating once in a while, and I always have to say no. I may be identified as a prude but I don’t mind. Will I thrive in an environment where there is no accountability, where ghosting is the norm? Frankly, I don’t want to waste my time. (After all, I am nearing my 30s, and I am trying to make healthier decisions.)
Why proceed when you can’t have clarity? Nayyirah Waheed said it best, “Someone can be madly in love with you and still not be ready. They can love you in a way you have never been loved and still not join you on the bridge. And whatever their reasons you must leave. Because you never ever have to inspire anyone to meet you on the bridge. You never ever have to convince someone to do the work to be ready.”
During the heydays of Tumblr, Chuck Palahniuk was asked how he makes sense of life’s comedic tragedies. He responded, “Nora Ephron said it best in Heartburn when she described telling a story so that she used it, she shaped it, instead of the story using her. By mastering a past event, you can use it to make people laugh. And that mastery gives you some sense of control. You might not be able to control what happens to you, but you can control your reaction to it. And you can control the resulting story and use it to your benefit. If nothing else, just the retelling and reexamining of the past exhausts your emotional attachment to it.” I am exhausted, but I am healing.
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Art Alexandra Lara