My story like many revolves around a boy, eh more like a successive string of them. I broke one heart. One broke mine; then I stabbed his. The third boy got his heart broken without even my conscious awareness and consequently halted communication with me, and thus broke my heart. However, more important to note than the dynamic between me and each of these gentleman callers was the outcome of them: the gradual loss of my once strong independent spirit. With each relationship, I grew more and more attached to the feeling of being attached to someone: the security of having one person always at the ready to share my thoughts with, be silly with, feel deeply connected to; the fake “need” for this became enormously alluring. What I didn’t realize is that with each relationship, the strong independent nature that I had once been known for would dwindle away and would be replaced with an unhealthy dependency on attention, praise, and the simple desire to be wanted.
The first gentleman was the “perfect” boyfriend in many dimensions of what a perfect boyfriend is qualified as. Our relationship was long-distance but he was smart, grounded, caring, adored me, and we somehow made it work for quite an extensive period of time. Initially, I perhaps naively thought I was head over heels, in love; I felt sure we would marry. My attention after a while started to wane though. After several unsuccessful attempts at breaking it off with him, I finally did so with success in January of my sophomore year in college. In the span of our approximately 1 ½ yearlong relationship however, I stomped all over him. I held the cards; had him strung around my finger. Yes, I was able to maintain my independence with this one, but at a price. Many of my actions while we were dating showcased I had held little respect for him as a person; respect that he did deserve. The breakup was hard for him to muster and although today we maintain a friendship, it has been a long process for him to get over the bond that at one point held us so strongly together.
On the rebound, about two months later I found myself head over heels with a new boy. This time, it wasn’t long-distance; quite the opposite. We spent every waking, and sleeping hour together. We were attached at the hip. He was a foreigner; I found him fascinating. We both held “cultural” things in a similar high regard: art, design, philosophy, food, music, spirituality; on the surface, we were highly compatible. Not to mention, he payed for all of our outings and it is safe to say we experienced nearly half of the area’s culinary highlights.
When we found ourselves separated by distance for a few summer months, I started cracking. I had allowed my strong independence to be replaced by dependence on an individual who seemed equally demanding of my attention and presence. However, now separated by several thousand miles, I began to find the skypes and emails not enough to decrease a potent neediness that had begun to form. A neediness I had not been entirely familiar with previously. Since, he who was so far geographically from me could not fill this undefined void, I began to seek it elsewhere. In our country’s capital for a summer internship, I found myself becoming engrained in the District’s young professionals’ social scene. One evening, at a friend of a friend’s house warming party, I literally opened the door to what would fill that unexplainable void.
Tall, big brown eyes, well-dressed, three years older than me (always am a sucker for the older ones), stable admirable job—conversation like we had always known each other —a text message the next day from my new friend and the rest was history. Those sappy Nicolas Sparks-like novels depicting a memorable summer romance: that was what I had with “DC.”
Don’t worry I semi terminated my relationship with Mr. Foreigner before embarking on this one. I began falling for this summer boy; however, in my effort to protect myself and the hurt that I knew would happen when the summer would end and I’d be on my way home, a nonchalant approach began to overtake my interaction with him. Either I was to fall for him severely (which had the potential of leaving me heartbroken if it wasn’t reciprocated) or I was to adopt the nonchalant ‘whatever happens is whatever; this is just a summer fling’ attitude that would keep my heart safe. It did keep my heart safe but what I hadn’t realized was that I was back to my old tricks of unintentional manipulation. I played mind games I needed to play to keep his attention on me; but more importantly and sadly, I did not allow myself to fully fall into his arms. Keeping my guard up, half my mind was still on foreigner. Guiltily, I knew foreigner and I would both be back in North Carolina together for the upcoming fall semester and for some reason at the time, that felt comforting. DC and I knew we couldn’t sustain a long-distance relationship—we both had mentioned we had tried that with others with not much success. What I failed to take into account is that Mr. DC didn’t have another person, like I did, or so I thought I did, waiting for him post-summer.
We parted that summer with a kiss and promises of life updates every now and then. My heart was not broken. I assumed at the time I had kept my heart safe. A few days prior, Foreigner had informed that he would be staying in his foreign land for the semester for an “incredible life opportunity”. Due to his absence for a few months, he informed me our relationship, whatever it was at that point, could not be sustained. Coloring it with a few very kind choice phrases praising me as a person and that sort of thing and following a few hours long skype conversation, our relationship came to a halt. This time, I was the one heartbroken. I had just experienced a beautiful summer with Mr. DC, yet because I had formed expectations of a comfortable dependency for the upcoming semester, and because I had spent so much time with Foreigner the previous semester (sharing joys, concerns, etc.), I had trouble fathoming how I would emotionally survive the semester without him.
I did it. However, again, with a dependency on both Summer Boy and Foreigner. Still conversing long-distance with them both, I began to feel that the communication in itself would be enough. Due to some realizations, I finally cut ties harshly with Foreigner. To Summer Boy, I promised visiting DC 3 times, never following through. After the third time and having found out I would not even be in the country for Spring of 2012, he halted communication with me–completely, with no explanation. For a week, I moped.
After a few days of this somber mood, I followed Elizabeth Taylor’s wise words: “Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick, and pull yourself together.” Doing just that, I slowly gained an awareness that whatever reason I was ‘not wanted anymore’ was really nothing to waste my time fretting about. Yes, perhaps I had filled my dynamic with “DC” with broken promises, game-playing, and thus, unintentionally manipulated him to a point where he just thought ‘dnough is enough.’ However, despite my mistakes, my worth of my own self could not be compromised because of someone else’s new-found judgment of me.
Moreover, my dynamic with both Foreigner and Summer Boy were not entirely genuine if I am honest with myself. By the end of both, they were based largely off of the dependent nature that can begin to form when one loses sight of one’s self within a relationship. I continued to try to turn to them even when my time with each of them was done. An insecure nature that I had not previously held had taken over; I found myself becoming aware that I needed others’ attention to feel good about myself. This realization started to sicken me; previously, I had always championed independence; I held my own high goals and visions in high school–always pitying the girls who spent all their time with boyfriends.
My real challenge came when I was finally in the DC area to visit relatives in mid January. I made a vow I wouldn’t turn back; I wouldn’t text Summer Boy telling him I was there, Guess what? I was okay. Yes, there were near stumbles but I left DC keeping my word and feeling great.
Yes, there are times I want, or even feel I need Summer Boy. Yes, there are times I want or even feel I need Foreigner. Yes, there are times I want, or even feel I need, that first one.
But when I remember who I am, what my goals are: I’m comforted.
I’m going to make it myself regardless of who comes into my life, whether they stay for a while or only a brief moment. Princess Diana once said, “People think at the end of the day that a man is the only answer [to fulfillment]. Actually a job is better for me.”
Princess, I’ll be following your philosophy.