Before a first date I always think about all the things I still need to fix. I have a cavity in one of my teeth. I gossip. I need to lose weight and have more money in the bank and learn how to be a person who makes their bed every morning. I think about how I can’t always remember all the names of my step-cousins and step-uncles or whatever at extended family gatherings. I think about all the things I will be embarrassed to tell him, should we ever get to that point. The unfinished business of my single life.
For a long time I liked being alone. No one was there to complain that my work habits left me with too little time and attention for them. No one judged my Cosmo subscription. No one had a claim to form opinions about the way I decided to be. I belonged wholely to myself.
Of course, it’s better to be in a relationship when life really starts happening. Humans need humans. But I always thought I would figure all of that out after I reached some fuzzy destination of “being ready.” As if working on yourself is some finite task with a clear ending, a finish line you cross and then you’re just ready. Dressed in a laurel wreath I would suddenly be whole enough to deserve love, flick the switch ‘on’ and I’d be a relationship person.
It took me a long time to learn that some problems don’t get fixed. Life is not a linear saga of getting better and better without relapse. You work on yourself and you hope for the best, but you only get better — you don’t get perfect. At each and every point in life, asking someone to love you is asking someone to love a deeply flawed person.
When we think about other people, we acknowledge that this is normal and expected. No one wants to fall in love with a robot. We find the minor flaws of the people we love cute. We find their major flaws to be annoying and human and aggravating — but we aren’t shocked that they have them to begin with. Everyone has something. There is a standard amount of baggage or depravity or issues that everyone has. It’s life, and we deal with it and we learn how to love people anyway.
The unexpected and enormous task is to ask this of someone else. How do you let someone see you when you’re exhaustingly aware of every achingly sub-par thing they are going to see? How do you ask for grace when you are used to earning things?