“I just want casual,” I say, twirling my hair around my finger in a way that I hope seems relaxed, playful. “No rules. No obligations. No silly commitments. No promises that we can’t make.”
The words come out of my mouth easily, but only because I’ve rehearsed them in my head a hundred times. I’ve never been a good liar. But this time I mean it. This time I’ve thought through what I want. This time I’ve really listened to my heart, to my mind, to all the little signs I’ve ignored in the past telling me that what I really need is to be on my own right now.
“I think this is for the best,” I say with confidence, “I’m just not ready to make any type of commitment.”
The conversation goes the same, me letting him in on the secrets of my wandering heart, me telling him that I’m not quite ready for love and that I’m not sure when I’ll be, me explaining that I don’t want a relationship right now and insisting on casual.
Because casual is good, right? Because casual makes sense.
But I’ve never been a casual type of girl. And I’m not sure I know how to be.
I’ve always been the head-over-heels girl, the all-in girl, the girl who isn’t afraid to hold her heart in her hands and freely give it to the man that treats her right. I’ve always been the strong girl, finding confidence in vulnerability, in letting good men in.
I’ve always been the girl that believes in love and that fights for it.
But now I’ve found my heart on a different path. It’s not that I don’t want love, because I’m sure when I peel back all the layers of myself, I do. It’s that I don’t want love right now. For the first time in a long time, I’ve found comfort in my solitude. I’ve found passion in my career. I’ve found happiness at every turn I’ve made on my own. And frankly, I’m too selfish to let anyone into my life right now.
So what am I doing? I’m doing casual.
I’m pretending that I’m okay with easy-going encounters, laid back text messages and dates that may or may not mean anything. I’m acting like I don’t care and that I’m not interested. Not interested enough, that is.
I’m holding hands, I’m kissing, I’m smiling and enjoying myself. But then when it gets too far I’m pulling away because I don’t want to cross the line. I’m acting like it might mean something, but not letting it mean anything.
I’m feeling confused.
I know that what I want is to be independent, to not have strings attached anywhere, to not fall into the arms of a man when I can list a million and one reasons why I’m not ready. And I’m not ready.
I’m not ready for love, for a relationship, for anything that entails the slightest bit of serious.
I know this, and yet, I can’t help but enjoy another’s company. I can’t help but want to go on dates, to dance with boys, to get drinks and talk about our lives and spend silly moments together. Is that so wrong? It’s not like I’m leading them on; I tell them upfront where my heart is.
But I can’t help wonder, when I close my eyes at night, if I should even be doing this at all?
See, what I’ve never understood is the point of casual. What is the point of engaging in something that doesn’t mean anything? In spending time with someone when you know a relationship isn’t what you want?
Are you trying to trick yourself, trying to make it so that one day you’ll change your mind? Trying to convince your heart that ‘pretend love’ is real love?
Because it’s not.
I told myself I could do casual. That because I don’t want a boyfriend, I could just date guys and have a good time. I could go for pizza and laugh and kiss and enjoy their company. I could be happy and they could be happy without all the complicated rules of being a couple.
I thought it made sense—fun without all the commitment.
But then I started panicking when a guy got too close, when he tried to take too much of my attention, when he started wanting to spend more time with me, even under the guise of, ‘taking things slow.’
It started to not make sense anymore—spending so much time with someone but not having a label. There was no security, no promise, no guarantee that he’d be there. It started to feel fake. To feel pointless. To feel like we were messing with each other’s hearts. And if we could never fully commit, then what were we doing?
We were pretending. And I can’t pretend.
I can’t have this halfsies, this sort-of-love, this relationship without a relationship because it’s not real. I can’t act like I understand this whole ‘casual’ thing, like dating for mere fun and nothing else makes sense to me. Because it doesn’t at all.
I’m fearless when it comes to love, and I’ve always been. I’ve never been afraid to jump in, to give my heart away, to trust another person. But maybe what I need to realize is that I can’t do that right now. So in the meantime I can’t settle. I can’t settle for casual.
I don’t understand casual. I can’t do casual. And maybe that’s okay.
Maybe I just need to give my heart some time. Let it construct and reform on its own before letting anyone get too close. Maybe it’s not about leaving the door halfway open, only allowing someone step inside partway, but keeping it fully closed until I’m ready.
Maybe I’ll never be a casual girl.
But maybe that’s nothing to be ashamed about.