Open Letter to the Men I’ve Casually Dated

To the Men I’ve Casually Dated:

I would ask how it’s going, but I already know. I know because I’m not afraid to look you up, or say hi, or meet you for drinks, even. I know because keeping up with you doesn’t torment me. I’m glad to know you’re doing well; I’m glad you’re there to Like my Facebook status, I’m glad we never made it to the point of no return.

What we had wasn’t epic, it wasn’t eternal – but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t special. We swapped stories and spit; most times, we shared more than that. Beds. Meals. Toothbrushes. We met each other’s friends, but not each other’s families. That was good enough, wasn’t it? Great, even. We devoured each other’s details; we ate up the minutiae like every date was Thanksgiving. My mind felt fatter every time I left you; it was pregnant with wonder. You never gave yourself away and I’d think, “As it should be.”

Of course, it wasn’t perfect. You’d hurt me once in a while; you’d neglect my birthday or our rendezvous would become infrequent; then nonexistent. We became too indifferent to argue about anything. I wanted to hate you, but I’d have to love you first – and we never quite got there, did we? What a relief.

Don’t get me wrong. I considered it in the most casual way possible. I really Liked You. But saying, “I Love You,” and meaning it, that’s heavy. We were too fun for that. We Liked Each Other Too Much. Seems silly, seems like a copout, but we couldn’t love each other because we liked each other. ‘Like’ is a pompom, it’s a firework. It’s celebratory and exciting. But love? Love is a tattoo. Love is a 16-car pileup. Love is a scar. Permanent; crippling; ugly.

We never made it there, but that’s okay. We made it to other places. We made it to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Rockaway, Queens. We made it to my futon, where you made me watch Trailer Park Boys for the first time. I loved it. We made it to unmarked bars, to outdoor screenings of Casablanca, to the beach. We made it to the underside of bridges. We played poker, we played bocce, we played phone tag. We made out in the rain and in the middle of sidewalks for so long that it went from clichéd to avant-garde and then back again. We got kicked out of places together; we got locked out of places together. That certainly counts for something.

You taught me what People I Loved couldn’t – that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. That I don’t have to regret my choices. Sometimes, I made pretty good ones – like dating you. I learned that dating should feel good. It shouldn’t cause your teeth to gnash; it shouldn’t wrack you with anxiety. You taught me that the default after the regression of a relationship isn’t complete and utter destruction. It can be a friendly text, a ReTweet, a thumbs up when one of us accomplishes something we’ve been working at for years.

Thanks for giving me memories, giving me your friendship, giving me hope. I’m always rooting for you.

XO (Drinks soon?),

Steph Thought Catalog Logo Mark

image – Paul Henri Debrante

More From Thought Catalog