Once, during my stint in preschool, I fell and skinned my knee. Everyone surrounded me – Ms. Stantinopolous and my classmates and my mom, for some reason. I don’t remember why she was there. What I do remember is a boy named Michael, who parted the crowd to ‘tell me a secret.’ Cupping his tiny hands around my ear and leaning in closely, expertly, he planted a soft kiss on my tragus. It was my first.
After that, I developed an unwavering love for lust. I was four and convinced my twenty-something gym teacher had a crush on me. I was five and my shine for the class clown was fodder for my parents and their friends – he was the boy I knew I’d eventually marry, the boy whose name made me blush. The object of my infatuation has been ever changing, dynamic throughout the years. I balance my affection for many boys with an urgent hunger, one that has remained insatiable.
I am Boy Crazy. Yes, I’m a woman, and the men who I lust after have not been boys for a measurable amount of time. But there’s no better way to describe the girlish affectation that drives me. It’s not about sex. It’s not about titles and meeting my parents and day trips. It’s about stealing glances and fluttering stomachs. Boy Crazy. I’m Crazy for their scent; whether it’s the product of cologne or the sticky smell of their sweat as they stir from sleep. I’m Crazy for their soft, effortless curls or the disciplined tufts of hair that rest on their heads. I’m Crazy for their confident speech or the way their eyes reduce to disapproving slits when they’ve stumbled over their words.
With every failed relationship that has flashed before my eyes, with every pang of heartache, I assume that I’ll eventually become too wounded to engage in this sort of carefree attraction. I’ll become weary or cautious or something. I’ve learned that love is not a mathematical equation, that it is not something I’m owed, that it is not something that sprouts from Immaculate Conception but from consistent nurturing by more than one farmhand. I’ve learned that, when you love someone and you give them your best, your best can boomerang back, it often won’t be enough.
And despite this, despite pillowcases striped with wet mascara and an unrelenting love of Adele, I am still prone to this playful, easy draw. I am all pop song and no ballad, I am flirtatious and disaffected, I find it in me to shoot a smile from across a bar or an email that says, “I’m thinking about you, I don’t care if you know.”
My resilience has been put to the test, to be sure. I’ve stared into the eyes of a person I once loved and found nothing but my own empty face in the reflection. I’ve wept hard and fast and soft and long. But nothing has kept me from appreciating a rough touch, a wet tongue, a strong hand. I can’t pretend to understand why it’s still possible. If I knew the formula for moving on, the chant or the spell or the recipe, I’d share it with my would-be kinfolk. The ones whose hearts are soiled and black, the ones who can’t forgive and forget. I don’t know the variables of that equation, though – just the sum.
I sometimes think that love is too hard, and the adolescent in me wants to drop it altogether – the way it dropped physics class or poison friends. But the adult in me knows that it’ll fall in love again, and again, and again, because it’s impossible not to.