When I was little, I used to daydream about the kind of romance I would have when I was “older.” My inspiration for these fantasies came from TV shows and romantic comedies where the girl always got the guy, or the guy always swooned over the girl and they somehow ended up together in the end. It’s funny how, years and years later, now that I’m finally “older,” the behaviors I’ve become accustomed to do not resemble my younger self’s imagination in the slightest. The actions I used to long for started to appear childish and, more to the point, seemingly unattainable, so I had no reason to expect or hope for them.
I used to dream about my future boyfriend coming to my house late at night, when I was almost asleep. He would stand on my front lawn and toss pebbles at my window until I opened the curtains, just so I could come outside and kiss him goodnight.
I used to imagine romantic surprise dates, where he would pick me up and we would go to the park or the beach, and just lay out to count the stars, talking about our goals and aspirations.
I would picture a rose mysteriously left on my porch for me to find later. Hand written notes stuck in my purse just to put a smile on my face. Boys who would go out of their way to open my door for me, who would actually ring my doorbell when they picked me up instead of a “here” text. A boy who would show up with flowers, and not because he was saying sorry.
Whatever happened to the wonderfully simple yet sigh-worthy gestures I had once wished for? Now that I’m “older,” I’ve settled for canned lines and sloppy drunken kisses. Hands where they shouldn’t be on my body because I barely know this boy, but there’s too much alcohol running through my veins for me to care. The dreams of pebbles pinging against my window have been reduced to 2am texts filled with typos that amount to “come over.”
Instead of romantic surprise outings, there are fights about where to eat because no one can seem to make a decision. Instead of sweet notes, I’ve tolerated the name-calling of “slut” and “bitch” from boys who were either too insecure to let me be in the vicinity of any other males, or who could not let me graciously decline their offer of sex with no strings attached.
I used to imagine a deep personal connection, where I knew every detail about him and vice versa, but instead I found myself trapped in my own mind, unable to reach out and try to learn about him, because I was actually scared of what I would find. And he knew little about me, simply because he didn’t ask.
I was not that naïve; I also used to picture tearful arguments with the one I loved; they always ended with a mutual understanding and a closer, stronger relationship. But I never imagined myself constantly wondering if all of this was really worth it. I never thought I would stop my stubborn personality from bringing up issues that really mattered to me, just to avoid yet another fight.
I stopped asking questions just so that I wouldn’t have to hear any more lies. Flowers only came when he was trying to win me back. And I took him back, again and again and again.
How did my standards for romance drop so low that I ended up with boys that I could only handle being with if I shut down my emotions? I no longer knew how to open myself up to another person; bodies colliding and hands gripping limbs was nothing more than physicality that could not truly fulfill me. Somehow I found myself in a place where the only way I could stop the drop in my stomach and the tears from falling was to stop feeling. I kept my eyes open and looked past him when we kissed, because closing them and letting myself feel would be too painful. Any time he said something sweet, it left me with a sickening twist in my stomach and a sour taste in my mouth, remembering all the girls who had heard him say the exact same words that at the time I thought were reserved only for me. I felt him on their bodies whenever he was on mine, his lips opening theirs the way I knew by heart.
I didn’t deserve this hollow chest and ache in my soul. I shouldn’t have to compromise a deep connection just so I wouldn’t have to deal with the pain I’ve been subjected to. The little girl I once was knew much more about romance than the empty woman she became. That little girl knew exactly what she wanted and the type of man she should be with. I deserve flowers on my doorstep. I deserve butterflies when we kiss and untainted “I love you”s. I deserve safety and loyalty. I deserve to feel worthy of a movie-type of love.