A day after our breakup, my ex became publicly enamored with a news anchor he’d never met. (His excessive tweeting about it eventually led to the two of them meeting, though I don’t know much more about it.) Given the context of our breakup, I felt betrayed but also, something else. That something else was rage.
I, a real person who’d spent the last year being more than a decent girlfriend, was forced to consider that e-flirting with a television personality was more pressing than honoring the dedication I’d had for the relationship. I’d lost to a fantasy. And of course I did, right? In a fight between Girl Whose Vomit I’ve Cleaned Up and Beautiful News Anchor Who Could Conceivably Do No Wrong, who do you think would win? I had no ill will toward the news anchor — I imagine she’s very much an average woman, just like me. I’m sure that she works her ass off, that she has a period, that sometimes she cries, that she’s had her heart broken before, that she gets cranky on occasion. I’m sure she’s someone’s Girl Whose Vomit I’ve Cleaned Up. I’m sure that beneath the composed veneer is a real person.
Which is why I was upset, I guess. I hated the idea that looking at someone else from a distance was better than looking at me up close. Because it’s easiest to pursue the shiny and new rather than pursue intimacy with a person you’ve already begun discovering. Committing to the latter, sticking it out and really knowing someone, is the hardest thing some of us will ever do.
My ex and I were right to part ways, and I can’t fault him for salivating over an attractive, successful woman. We all have fantasies. Some aren’t superficial, either. Some fantasies involve one specific person. Every time we picture our futures with a lover, it’s a fantasy. Imagining how your boyfriend will plan your future engagement, and what you’ll name your future children, and the future house you’ll all live in — it’s imaginary. It’s also ignoring that your partner is a living, breathing person independent of your dreamworld. I have to wonder if mentally painting the portrait we want for ourselves takes us out of the actual moment, impairs us from enjoying what’s right in front of us, gives us delusions about what our lives should or shouldn’t be.
Having a rigged idea of who you’re supposed to end up with and worse, attempting to find them within some societally-imposed timeline… how are these things conducive to building and sustaining a healthy relationship? It’s good, before committing to someone, to think that you might have some sort of future together, but how will you ever know without working on intimacy first? And how can you work on intimacy when you’re already keeping someone at arm’s length by having preconceived notions about the kind of person you’re meant to be with and how they do or don’t meet your expectations?
I’m not proposing that we ban all fantasy, and even if I were it wouldn’t be possible. What I’m proposing is that we live in the moment a little more, that we try hard to remember that our fantasies involve real people who are equal parts flawed and fascinating and that they deserve to be treated as such, and most of all: that if we get deep enough, if we become truly intimate with someone, there will be an endless supply of shiny and new and unknown inside of them, more than we’d ever know what to do with.