Instead of “I love you,” most times we say, “I hate everyone but you,” with affection. Via text. In emails. Exasperated, flopping on our beds, groaning and hiding our faces in pillows and duvets.
We are truly all the other one has and we act accordingly. We know that. We were born together through Stockholm Syndrome. Our mother humming through the house, anxious and cleanly. Our father, an alcoholic maintaining some of the necessary narcissism of his drinking days. Both overprotective. They bred us to need them, and instead, we needed each other.
It’s shorthand. Neither of us have ever truly found someone who gets us. We’re two sides of the same coin, forged in the same hot oven, misshapen in our different ways.
That’s how we learn to love, by the absence of hate rather than by love’s proven existence. We are two young girls, noticing ourselves for the first time, not so far apart in age. To others, we become blonde vs. brunette, small-chested vs. busty, blue eyes vs. brown, librarian vs. socialite. We are dramatic and intense. We are jealous and loving. We are angry about how we are treated and we don’t know why. We hide with make up or with books. Briefly, we turn on each other because we see mirror reflections and the shame of knowing too much. We grew to fuse together, to only care for each other really, to question anyone who stepped up to us. We are suspicious of love in other forms.
I approach romantic relationships that way too, with an undying immediacy. With delusions of running away together and romance in “us against the world.” The expectation is to find someone who truly understands every crevice and tear and who is prepared to go Bonnie & Clyde. To get lost in each other and disappear from despair and desperation.
I hate everyone but you.
When I am in love, it is everything. It is a rescue. A safe house. A light at the end of a tunnel. I throw myself in, diving head first into the shallow end. I want to find someone who wants to hide away with me in a pillow fort, to drive to Montreal and skip work, to know immediately, ride or die, like Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette in True Romance. To not need anyone else because the world is too large and too full of betrayal to ever be alone.
We argue because when men treat you poorly because of how you look, you excuse their behavior with that’s “just how men are” and “They’re all gross.” You surround yourself with people who speak that way, think that way, act that way. It’s chic to devalue yourself, to play Playboy-bunny-dumb and get bought diamonds, to be a Marilyn.
You are funnier than you think you are. Your five-year plan involves marrying an NBA player. You told me once that I’d be much happier if I stopped dating poor people. Your closet is full of sparkly high heels, solo, without their mates who were left drunkenly on South Beach, wedged in the sand.
And sometimes you resent me for calling you out. For knowing you too well to let it slide, let you portray yourself as someone ignorant so you can fit in. You are young. You won’t pretend much longer.
In school, you always had trouble compromising, paying attention, keeping friendships. You were popular but you’d get in fights in the hallway. You have a lot of people you call friends who are really just assholes you hang out with because they seem like the type of people you have to hang out with. Because they are beautiful like you are. But that’s your secret. You are not like them. You will never be like them. And you know I am the one person who hopes that.
We pee with the door open and slather on pimple cream and burp in each other’s faces. We can say a name and know exactly what the other means. We can be crude, tired, bored, anxious. If I lost you, I am saying, I would truly be alone.
When you say, “I hate everyone but you,” I can see you really mean it. It’s almost an honor.