Unrequited love is my specialty.
It began when I was in preschool. I would draw hearts around the yearbook photos of boys I liked but never talked to. Apparently my three-year-old self had a stalker quality to my infatuations. If you’re looking for evidence, just go through old photo albums. The hearts abound.
But as I grew, to choose the unrequited path offered a sense of security.
I think we are all familiar with this technique: we choose the ones that won’t love us back because it protects us from the tenuous possibility of rejection by simply assuming that it will happen as an inevitability.
It started with the boy across the street, too much a sibling to be anything remarkable. Then my heart moved to various “cool boys” in middle school, the ones who talked back to teachers and wouldn’t look twice at the uptight teacher’s pet. In high school, I got into the sick habit of only liking boys who were spoken for. Later, their newfound availability would render them undesirable. Not dislikable, but certainly not crush-worthy.
This habit followed me into college, with the addition of my repulsion towards any guy who showed slightest interest in me. My response? “Why?” or “You must be mistaken” or “Thanks but I’d really rather not.”
My affinity for liking the unattainable turned into a preference for being the unattainable myself.
It was safe in my cocoon of defense mechanisms and fantasies. I told myself I was just waiting for the right person to come around but now I have to wonder: how could I know they were the right one if I never let anyone close enough?
Cue every cliché possible, preferably with “Miss Independent” by Kelly Clarkson playing in the background. Because that’s what happened. When I finally let down my defenses, I fell and I fell hard.
We all know how first loves typically turn out, unless you’re one of the lucky 5% that pulls through to the other side. But now I find myself back in my previous pattern of unrequited love. And what is the draw? What is so striking about this pattern that causes us – as I know I am not the only one – to hold onto the fantasy of someone that has left our affections unreciprocated?
Is it because of that safety I longed for a s a teen, that security of rejecting myself rather than letting someone else take a turn saying no?
Is it because there is some part of us, some deep soul-like core, that knows more than our minds do, that knows a connection is real and worth fighting for?
Is it because we are all slightly deranged?
My opinion fluctuates between these theories with the speed of roadrunner and the mercurial nature of Hades’ hair in Disney’s Hercules. The result is a complete exhaustion in trying to referee the war between my head and my heart.
I’m sad to say that my heart always wins.
Isn’t that a sad thing to say? That there is shame in letting your heart rule your mind? Isn’t that supposed to be a tenant in most religions? Compassion, empathy, the works. So why is it in this case that my sin lies in the very thing that so many would praise in different circumstances?
I write this not because I know the answers but because I want to know them. I certainly don’t think I am alone in these patterns. I can name a few friends who have even dabbled in this Modus Operandi, even if they haven’t committed their heart to it as strictly as I have. And to all those who know what I am talking about, I plead for a new regiment to still the humors in my heart that drive me through the course of unrequited love on a daily basis.
Unrequited love is my specialty.