The sun’s hitting my face as it shines through the window of his bedroom, the morning after our first night together. I pay attention to the details, hoping to capture and remember every moment. I’m looking at the tops of buildings outside, and feeling the warmth of the sun’s rays on my skin, and the weight and heat of his legs entwined with mine, and I’m completely present, my senses fully activated. I feel so alive in ways that I’m not used to.
And then I go home and I’m alone, ambushed by a brand new swirl of sensations. That rush of the ever-powerful cocktail of chemicals that comprises the cocaine-esque “falling in love” feeling: testosterone, dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, oxytocin, vasopressin. It’s an overwhelming amount of hard-to-pronounce physical sensations for one human being to experience all at once. There’s nothing more terrific. Or terrifying. The easy, even normal, thing to do would be to get swept up in it all, relive it again and again, and fall into a world of fantasy and heart emoji. I don’t let it get that far. This isn’t the first time I’ve “fallen in love.”
I feel the emotions, savor them, and move along. I return to living the life that I love. I try not to think about him, but God knows it’s almost impossible. The neurotransmitters have already created a link between this person and these feelings. Still, I try not to let it derail me. This time around I’m doing things differently.
My goal is always to live a full, balanced life. If I’m drinking margaritas and dancing in the clurb at night, the next morning I’m eating oatmeal with blueberries and meditating. But when it comes to love, it’s almost impossible to compartmentalize. The feelings are so intense and they follow you everywhere. But you get to choose how you handle your emotions. Your thoughts and energy should not go one hundred percent toward one person or thing. If your life was a pie, your romance should make up one slice. It’s so easy to get lost in a fairytale and lose sight of your individuality. You wake up one morning and think, “What was my life like before this person?!” But when you make somebody your everything, you’re leaving nothing to fall back on when it ends. And worse, you’re stifling your own growth and evolution. Don’t stop doing you just because you’re doing someone else.
Look at Taylor Swift. You might think she’s obsessed with love and lovers, but boss lady has to be spending at least eighteen hours a day running her empire. Interviews, performances, photo shoots, video shoots, meet and greets. Her world isn’t all white horses and wildest dreams. That’s a misperception. The reality is, she prioritizes her work, her family, and, yes, her squad. As does another empire-owning diva, Lady Gaga, who nailed it on the head when she said, “Some women choose to follow men, and some women choose to follow their dreams. If you’re wondering which way to go, remember that your career will never wake up and tell you that it doesn’t love you anymore.” And now she’s killin’ it on American Horror Story AND married to super hottie actor Taylor Kinney. You go Mother Monster!
Having this empire state of mind, if you will, means you continue to focus on getting what you want and having it all, while at the same time experiencing and accepting the drug-like side effects of falling in love. Falling in love is normal and healthy and beautiful and incredible, but it shouldn’t be a deterrent for self-actualization and fulfillment. Real love is the union of two whole people coming together as equals and best friends and partners and fuck buddies. Love is not a power struggle, or a desperate clinging, or a dramatic on-again-off-again rollercoaster.
A few years ago, one of my best friends Michaela told me something her dad used to always tell her: “Don’t play hard to get, BE hard to get.” I’ve remembered and referenced that ever since.
There’s a big difference between playing hard to get and being hard to get. Playing hard to get is pretending to be something you’re not. People who play hard to get try to act disinterested or distant in order to get somebody to pursue them. It is a short-term plan to manipulate somebody into being interested in you. It requires effort and planning and is ultimately going against yourself, because you can’t say how you feel or ask for what you want. You have to pull away because it’s the only way they’ll give you attention. People play hard to get because they don’t think that being themselves is enough. They think only their aloofness can earn a guy’s attention, instead of their own awesomeness.
Being hard to get is being your best self. You’re secure enough and comfortable enough with yourself to show that to the person right off the bat. Take it or leave it. Being hard to get doesn’t mean being a bitch, it means being selective and willing to be single for as long as it takes because you know that you deserve somebody who understands and accepts you fully, quirks and flaws and all. Being hard to get means being obsessed with your life, not just your bae. You love being with him, when you’re with him, and when you’re not, you’re focused on the rest of the pie: your career, your friendships, your family, your wellness, your spirituality, and your other interests. It’s not about purposefully making yourself busy to distract yourself. It’s about loving the totality of your life. Being hard to get means accepting nothing but respect. If the person you love puts you down, you let him go. As Samantha Jones said, “I love you, but I love me more.” Being hard to get doesn’t mean carefully waiting a while to respond to a text message. Waiting an extra twenty minutes isn’t going to make anyone fall in love with you. Life is so much easier when you stop overthinking and just do what’s natural for you to do.
On the flip-side, being hard to get means not being reckless. You shouldn’t go ahead and tell the guy you can’t stop thinking about him and are experiencing a rush of testosterone, dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, oxytocin, and vasopressin after one date. Because you don’t know yet if he’s worthy. Just because you’re falling in love with him, doesn’t mean you’re giving all of yourself to him right away. You don’t even know him yet. The majority of your perception of him is a mix of fantasy and projection.
If someone is obsessed with me right off the bat—like, while we’re still messaging on the Tinder app, not even via text message—I’m over it. I’m immediately turned off. Because I know that what they’re feeling isn’t about me. How can it be? They don’t know me at all apart from how I’ve curated my image on social media and carefully constructed our virtual conversation. They don’t know my mind, the fundamental me. That comes with time.
When somebody says “I love you,” I want them to say it because of who I really am inside and not just because of my witty responses and amazing photogenic smile.
Nothing can prepare you for falling in love. It doesn’t matter how wise you are or how much armor you’ve built. Being hard to get doesn’t mean you’re invulnerable. Even bosses aren’t immune. Falling in love will always be a fully enveloping total body experience. But just because you feel it, doesn’t mean you need to act on it. You have a choice to let those feelings interfere with other aspects of the incredible life you’ve created. Love is a total curveball, but it should be an incredible, positive curveball, taking your life into a higher gear, not driving you off the road. In a city of eight million people, I’m not going to settle for the first one I see. I want the one who’s hard to get, too. Someone who’ll be a boss with me. I want a mutually beneficial pairing where we help each other grow in all aspects of life. Somebody kind, respectful, confident, funny, sexy, and open minded. Someone who understands and accepts me fully, weird spelling of my name and all.
(That was an inside joke for you. You who know who you are. *insert winky face emoji*)