Saturday, January 23, 2016

Modern Love

I am probably the worst person to talk about romantic love. When I brought up the idea to one of my best friends, she said "You should talk about it on your blog!" I wasn't convinced. 

On Thursday, the New York Times announced that finally their podcast of the Modern Love section of their Sunday edition was available. If you're not familiar with Modern Love, I'm sure you've read that incredibly famous article "To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This" by Mandy Len Catron where she talks about a study of 36 questions designed to bring people closer together and share intimate information, and thus perhaps leading to a romantic connection. 

Each episode will be read by a familiar voice, such as that of Jason Alexander, and followed by a catch-up talk with the writer. 

During my (sometimes) two-hour commute to work in Miami, podcasts kept me company in the car and distracted me from my chronic motion sickness. One of my favorites was a French podcast from France Culture called Les pieds sur terre. Over the summer they featured a block of episodes dedicated to love and sexuality, my favorite was the episode about women who were engaged but never made it to the altar, for one reason or another. The stories were so personal, so intimate, I was immediately hooked; I loved hearing other people talk about their conflicts with love and how everyone makes their own rules. 

Every five years, I get a crush on someone (really, I counted). The truth is, I hate the feeling of it, the uncertainty, the giddiness, everything just throws me completely off. As a control freak of all things in life, the thought of tying your feelings with those of another person with this little ephemeral bow, gives me more anxiety than it does pleasure. The endless text message analyzing, the waiting for the other shoe to drop (as it often does), and constantly thinking about someone else, it can feel both so amazing and so scary and uncertain at the same time. 

I've never understood girlfriends that spend months still mourning the loss of their love. My jaded attitude towards it has notoriously made me the girlfriend that tells you the truth, I'm not the girlfriend you talk to when everything is ok and the butterflies are going, I'm the girlfriend you call when it goes wrong, so I can bring you back to reality and get you to stop making excuses and take off the love goggles. In turn, I miss the best parts of the stories, the meetings, the kind gestures, the witty banter. 

Until one day... I wasn't. I stared at texts, I asked myself tons of questions, I couldn't focus on most days, I still remember a metro ride in the Spring where I felt like my entire body was made up of tiny bubbles, and mostly: I hated it all. The day it all came crashing down, I read one last message and I immediately thought I'm finally free. The couple of days that followed were less simple, I felt like I had wasted so much time and didn't know what would follow, I worried this feeling would linger, after all the times I was a snob to my girlfriends, would I, too, spend days mourning? and at the same time, I didn't want to respond in the way I often do: erase the person completely. Thankfully, I managed to do neither.

As it turns out, my greatest sadness has been feeling like I couldn't salvage the friendship that once filled me with such joy. In wanting it to be something else, I lost what it was. As we get older, we realize that there are less and less people that we will meet who will just get us, and it's heartbreaking to lose one. 

Lately, I've been thinking about "types" and the little details that make us like people and the turn offs we simply couldn't live with. Over drinks with my friend and her boyfriend, we tried some psychological tests (mostly to determine whether or not I would pick a husband over cats... I can't tell if cats won):

Him: Ok, what's a turn off in a man?
Me: Someone.... hmmm.. who doesn't cook!
Him: If you could choose between having a cat and a husband who doesn't cook, which do you choose?
Me: The husband
Him: Even if he doesn't cook?
Me: Hmm yeah, but can we have a cat or no?
Him: Ok what if.. something else, what's another turn off?
Me: Someone who... doesn't do much, like just sits around playing video games

After a couple beers, I was given the verdict of this exercise, "This says that you're someone invested in the outside of things, how things look, and that you're willing to accept it as long as it looks perfect and you're not embarrassed publicly" Hmph

I always like the same type of guy: intelligent, well read, witty, shares my mean, dark sense of humor, autonomous, mature, driven. And my biggest turn off is childish guys, clumsy and irresponsible. We are so quick to put people into little boxes, making the little details of their personality such a determining factor in whether or not we can love them, is it possible we're closing ourselves off to someone kind, smart in their own way, unpretentious, and a little clumsy? When everything you like about someone reads like a work resumé, are we looking at it from the wrong side of things?

We are plagued by these absurdly romantic, unlikely stories of love and it's easy to let ourselves be influenced by the way everything is supposed to look and happen. Even the influence of our parents can help this image, how they met and fell for each other and created us out of their love (my own parents, having one of the craziest stories I've ever heard). How to keep ourselves from creating fantasies in our heads? How to avoid bringing ourselves down when it doesn't work out? Telling ourselves that we simply were not enough?* How to stop playing Adele on a loop and crying? (Les Feuilles mortes is my kryptonite) I certainly don't have the answers to these questions, but thankfully, there's an app that keeps you from texting exes while inebriated, for those with less self control. 

With time, and age, I've watched myself go through an incredible change in my attitude towards love. I've had endless boozy nights talking to girlfriends and guy friends about the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of love. I nod sympathetically and enjoy hearing all of it, the cute stories, the questions, the unfortunate and awkward run-ins, and the doubts that plague us both during and after it all happens. 

Even if the uncertainty of love still terrifies me, I'm no longer Bad News Betty, I'm more "Come over, I'm making dinner, tell me everything!" Diana and that, I love. 

*But I do have an answer to this, you ARE enough.
**Love as referenced to by this article, does not necessarily mean relationship, neither does it mean overwhelming love, but rather all aspects of being attracted to someone, in an emotional and physical sense. 

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