Tonight she’s jet lagged and I’ve smoked, by myself, too much hookah and we are ready to get to our homes and be dizzy and lightheaded in our own beds. I back my car out and shout out to her, a friend I haven’t seen in eight years, maybe even longer, thank you. Thanks, I say. I’ve missed you.
It’s weird. We told our stories and spoke our mind and, at the heart of it, what came from us was relatively the same. The same disappointments and silver linings, the same blind and long-winded hope. The same parental perspective on romantic commitment. Standards, we argue, that have always felt too self-serving and impossible to meet.
You see, neither of us has ever wanted to listen to our mothers. Not when they’d talk of slowing down, of spacing out our romances, of being reasonable with our love. Not when they’d make a case for independence because marriage really is difficult and enough never is enough.
We also didn’t want to believe our fathers. Our fathers who said a man’s upbringing must match our own, that essentially boyfriends only turn into husbands if their class is in no conflict with our own. Our fathers who waited intolerably for us to come to terms with their truth. And because we just weren’t convinced or ready to listen, ready to block so many opportunities out, it was our fathers who we shied away from. It was our fathers who we defied but silently admired, loved but feared would never approve.
We both can say we get it now. We’ve outgrown our resistance, those relationships of heat and romance, of torment and deliberate naivety. We’ve outgrown the storyline that because we’re open and inclusive and accepting that there’s nothing about us too impossible to love, too impossible to commit to.
We realize it now, sadly we see it looking back. We see that we always were a bit resented by our boyfriends, that when we gave our heart and stood against our parents, the men we were loving were quietly refusing us or, more specifically, our lives, our privilege, suffering to see how they would ever be approved of by our families, how they would ever fit the image of our impossibly fortunate lives.
Isn’t that incredible? We echoed each other. How incredibly modern of us, we said, mocking our situation and the conformity that was bound to become us. We didn’t love our exes for their status yet what they swore off in us was our own. And we overlooked that. That’s the kind of women we’ve been. We’ve made a romance out of our own differences, out of our own disillusionment and denial.
And even though my girlfriend’s love took place in Egypt and mine began in Canada, it’s easy to tell we loved the same men with the same defiance. We loved men of revolutions, who lived in squares and fought in packs, who weren’t about to fall into our reality, no matter how comfortable we made it for them. They were men threatened by everything other than their own idealism, and that idealism was the energy they lived on, an energy we knew our families would never warm to.
It’s obvious this still surprises us. It surprises us that there are men who won’t let themselves love us for long, that there are men our lives won’t intimately include, and that this can be a consequence of money, of growing up in different homes, with certain expectations and familial pride, certain luxuries and reservations. It humbles us that although we are seen as women who can have it all, we can’t. We can’t hold on to those who punish us for who we are and where we’ve started out.
But this is good for us to know. Isn’t it? This is good for us to feel. It’s good that we are learning the fine dance of give and take, learning that the consequence of having one thing is that it can forever keep us from having what else we desire for ourselves, too.
What surprises us most is that we are becoming more and more like our parents. It surprises us that we are choosing to be safer, to be emotionally realistic, as if it might suddenly be wise to fall more in like with everyone and less and less in love.
Still, for all the realism that’s snuck up on us, you can tell from our eyes, from the way we speak, that my friend and I are vulnerable still to the boyfriends who opened us to new ideas, to the idea that maybe love isn’t what we are always after. We have begun to see their point. Maybe it’s not love we are looking for, maybe it’s the lessons.