Height really can be just a number.
“Guys, I have a problem.”
My girlfriends were over at my one-bedroom apartment in Santa Monica for an end of summer dinner party on an August evening. We were standing around my breakfast bar eating and drinking, and I admitted it: “I’m in love.”
“Oh my gosh! This is amazing, Moll. Who is he?”
A few of them knew who he was. He was my best friend and our coaching program classmate, Carlos.
He was hard to miss. He was what you would call a “provocateur.” The life of the party, the funny guy with a good heart. He was searching for something like the rest of us, and we’d become quite close over the last four months. But there was another small detail about us.
He was 5’4″. I am 5’10″.
We met in San Francisco when our coaching program began. He came into the program late and received a special announcement and introduction. The teachers were big fans and spoke highly of his martial arts practice. When the session ended, I promptly went up and introduced myself.
“Hi, I’m Molly. Very cool about the martial arts. I actually run a summer camp. Maybe one day you can come to teach our students.”
“Sure,” he said. He could feel the desire underneath the odd offer I had just made.
“Also, I’d love to connect with you…summer camp or not.” There it was.
He said, “Yeah, I’d like that.”
In the next few months, we quickly became good friends. We shared Ubers from SFO back to LA. We talked about taboo, dark things. We were two misfits, the odd ones disguised as normal people who had finally found their mates.
“Stay with me in the community house next month. It’ll be fun,” he suggested.
“No, I can’t, I’m committed to my girlfriends – we always rent an apartment together.”
A couple months later: “Come to the Chicago retreat; it’ll be fun.”
I sent him my flight schedule. “Fine. I’ll come.”
“Hurry up and get here, this dinner is boring…without you,” he texted.
He was 5’4″ and I was 5’10″ and we were falling in love.
There was not a single doubt that he was my best friend. Everything felt okay with him. I didn’t hold any part of myself back. He made me laugh in a real way. He had an incredible, dynamic range of emotions I didn’t have access to. His expressions and sensitivity were so attractive to me. He wasn’t the Chad or Brad of my former life that I was always bored to death with. I wanted to be around him; I wanted him in my life.
Back to August in my apartment with my girlfriends, telling them all about how I was in love: “Moll, this is amazing! But what’s wrong?”
“Well, first, he’s my best friend. I don’t want to ruin the friendship…it’s important to me, our connection. And also, well, he’s much shorter than me. He’s about 5’4”.”
The shoe drop.
“Molly, what’s going on with Carlos?” Our mutual teacher sent me this text midday, out of the blue.
“What are you talking about?”
“Why is he acting crazy?”
“I don’t know.”
I headed over to his apartment. He was behind the counter, and I went up to where his high-top chairs were.
And there it was. Smacked me in the face, the answer to her question. I couldn’t deny it anymore. I was absolutely in love with him.
After I left his apartment, I texted my inquiring teacher. “I figured it out. I think I have feelings for Carlos.”
She replied but there was no text, just a link to a video entitled, “Ignoring Desire Will Torture Your Partner.”
She was right. I wasn’t just torturing him; I was torturing myself, too. It wasn’t so easy, though. He was 5’4″ and I was 5’10″ and now I was tortured by how much I loved him.
I remembered back to my college roommate Liz’s words. “Women can’t date shorter men. It doesn’t work out. It’s just not accepted in society.”
While I considered that statement, if I was really being honest, that wasn’t what was eating away at me. The real question my heart was asking was: Could I really date my best friend?
I had only ever dated men I hated, resented. Men I thought were total idiots. I dated them to date them because, well, you were supposed to date and get married. Life rewards the “wifed up” woman. So, I dated on society’s terms and my heart was never fully in it.
The thought of dating someone I really loved, respected, wanted to get to know, wanted to explore life with, someone who quite literally had become one of my favorite people…that’s what I was tortured by. His height was an excuse to not follow what my body and heart really wanted.
He was 5’4”, I was 5’10”, and I gave in.
He came up below my shoulder and we fell deeply in love. I was all legs; he was all force. He loved me with his entire heart. I loved him with all of mine.
I moved into his apartment and we created a little home. I wrote him love notes and he brought me take out. I cried in bed when things got too intense and vulnerable. He wouldn’t stop loving me even when all I knew was to push him away.
He was 5’4” and I was 5’10” and we loved each other at our worst.
We taught our classmates at my women’s intensive. He was a skilled jokester. He knew how to land precise strokes and inject humor and play into my rigid spots. He saw me deeply; nothing could get past him. I loved him gently and completely.
We scootered around Venice Beach together. When I told him I wanted to move back East, he said he’d come, and we drove across the country together.
He knew my breakfast order and my code words for what I really wanted. “Babe, are you hungry? Do you want a quesadilla?” meant “Can you order me a bubble tea?”
I knew when he was withdrawing, when he was afraid I was going to push him away and hurt him again. I didn’t make his life easy; loving me was an extreme sport. I was always testing if he’d stay. And he always did.
He was 5’4″ and I was 5’10″ and we were pushing the boundaries of our love.
I claimed him in public; we were always touching – I didn’t want to break contact. He grabbed me around my waist from behind and buried his face in my back.
I brought him home to my small-town family. He introduced me to his. His mom was a tall, beautiful woman. It all made more sense.
We announced we were moving to New York and all of our friends came to help us pack. To say goodbye. To share reflections and gratitude for our relationship, our bond, our connection. How we impacted and inspired each of our friends.
He was 5’4″ and I was 5’10″ and our love was contagious.
We spent one final Thanksgiving together. He got an offer for his dream job in San Francisco. I wanted to continue to build the life I moved to New York for.
We cried a lot. We fought; we hurt each other. It was easier than admitting how painful the ending would be. We tried to hold on but life had different plans and it was time to let go.
He was 5’4″ and I was 5’10″ and now we had to learn how to fall out of love.
“Molly, are you sure you guys are done?” My old coach came to visit from San Francisco and we were chatting over avocado toast in the West Village.
“Yes, Ali. We’re done.”
“But are you sure sure?”
I looked at her with a piercing gaze. The question I was tired of being asked. The question that didn’t help me in this “letting go” process but the one everyone seemed to want to ask. She had been with me through it all and coached me in all of our difficult spots. She was a true sister on my path, so I entertained her discourse.
“The love you guys have for each other is completely blinding. Everyone can feel it when they enter the room.”
I took it in. It got into my heart and I knew she was right but hearing that reflection is a lot.
“Ali, I can’t go back. You just have to understand. It completely takes me out when I open my heart to it. Our love is so much to feel and it’s just… over.”
He was 5’4″ and I was 5’10″ and our love had changed others.
“He misses you so much, Molly. You’re all he talks about still.”
And even our couple’s therapist tried to reconnect us. “You can’t just walk away from the relationship like this, Molly. You can’t just drop a deeply loving, intimate relationship like this.”
He was 5’4″ and I was 5’10″, hoping if I closed my heart, it would make it easier.
The world kept turning; our lives never stopped being lived. I met someone new. I’m not sure if he has as well. But through the tears, the sadness, the pain comes the thought that can always make me smile. I have loved and I have been loved.