La Douleur Exquise: Looking for french love in an english world...

Most people spend their whole lives looking for love. Wanting to fall in love. Chasing it. Hunting it like prey. I spend most of my time trying NOT to fall in love. If I am in a weakened state and I slip and fall in it, I try to fall out of it as quickly as possible. Unfortunately this is easier said than done. I am not lucky in love and when it happens, I don’t handle it well. I allow myself some dangerous thoughts like “maybe it will work out” or “maybe he might have real feelings for me.”

Of course, I know this will not be true. You see I am what I call terminally single. It feels very much like what I imagine a terminal illness feels like except instead of waiting to die you just wait for those special dates in the Gregorian calendar to repeat each year and remind you that you’re invisible. The single person’s trifecta: Christmas, New Year’s and Valentine’s Day. This nearly two month HELL is a vicious reminder that you’re as sexually viable as a toilet brush. I’m an party of one in a world where they march two by two.

I was told as a young child that no one would ever truly love me and that I would have no value to men other than my looks. It is amazing how much that has resonated with me and shaped who I became as a young woman. That blatant lie unfortunately became my ingrained template. I couldn’t really “allow” love. I focused on being pretty instead. That was something I could control. Most young women are insecure about their looks. I was insecure about my personality. When relationships failed, I would tell myself that I was not pretty enough, sexy enough or thin enough but the truth was I feared that my real self was showing through and my real self was pushing them away. It was my personal failings and not my appearance that was the problem. I understood that I was the common denominator in all of my failed relationships. I can’t blame anyone else.

I avoid having feelings. Feelings unsettle me. They make me vulnerable. I hate being vulnerable. I set unrealistic standards for my relationships and then I sat back and waited for the poor guy to freak out and reject me. Of course he would because that’s our nature. Unless the person is screwed up and has some sort of savior complex, they won’t try and dig deep enough to save the relationship. It’s easier just to find a replacement. Don’t get me wrong: at the age I’m at now, I understand my worth. I’m smart, beautiful, funny and extremely supportive and nurturing. I didn’t see it back then and because I couldn’t see it, I couldn’t project it. So men couldn’t see it either. Now they just don’t want to see it because the word young can no longer be included in my description.

If I’m honest with myself, I’ve only really ever truly been in love three times. 1982, 1995 and 2014. Oh sure I’ve thought I was in love a few times during the interim years but I realize now that it was a mix of insecurity, a need for validation and infatuation. Love is, for me, like getting the flu. You try to avoid it but if you get it, you get in bed and hope you get better soon.

1982 was sweet and he was my type: tall, blond, smart, clean cut, wholesome and athletic. I was a hot mess but he brought a sense of calm to my life. We were equally matched for the most part. He was smarter than me IQ wise but I was emotionally more intelligent than he was so I’d call it a draw. He made me a better human. I have mostly good memories of that time and he and I remain close friends to this day. We didn’t work because we wanted different things out of life. We were growing apart long before we split but our relationship ran its course and it ended when it was meant to end. I wanted to focus on my career and he was more of a traditionalist. I didn’t want to be a wife at that time. I didn’t want to stay put. I didn’t want to have to take care of someone. I felt suffocated. I wanted to take on the world and I knew that I wouldn’t if we stayed together.

1995 was a turning point for me. He was my type as well: tall, blond, street smart if not book smart, clean cut, wholesome and athletic. It was truly love at first sight. Only time I ever felt that in my life. This was a bad flu! The moment we locked eyes, I told my friend who was with me at the time, “there’s the guy I’m going to marry.” We were not equally matched. He was better looking. More successful in his career. Made way more money than I ever would. He was just an all around talented, more insanely cool person than me. He pursued me with an intensity that was intoxicating. I literally felt like the hottest woman on the planet. He was the first guy to think that my job was sexy. I had a very non-traditional job which very male-dominated at that time. He ultimately shattered what was left of my trust in men. I never wanted to fall in love like that again. 1995 was already married with a child and I had no idea! I got played. It ended the moment that information came to light. I was devastated! We exchange pleasantries when we run into each other every 5 years or so. He’s remarried now and he seems happy and settled. It took me about 15 years to not get butterflies every time I saw him or anytime his name was mentioned. I think that’s because I was caught up in the ‘what if’ scenario because when we parted, I said “if you ever get divorced, look me up” but he didn’t. I wasn’t the one for him. I think he was just in lust with me.

The not so great flu of 2014 is a different story. He was not my type. Not physically anyway. He wasn’t an academic and he was far from street smart. He was and still is, naïve and somewhat insecure about things he shouldn't be. He has irrational boundaries. He’s not tall or athletic. He's skinny and hairy. He’s not what I traditionally go for. He is, however, a compelling man and he's very wholesome and clean cut which I place a high value on. He’s very successful in his profession. He’s gifted. He's honest. He’s generous. He's smart. I was never really attracted to him though. When he made his big move on me, it was a lightning bolt moment and it changed everything. The end result was that it really pulverized my self-esteem. I fell hard which was totally unexpected and my feelings were unrequited. For him, it was just a casual hookup. For me it turned to more – it was like carnal astral projection. I was a nervous, anxiety-ridden mess pulling him close and pushing him away all at the same time - which is probably what scared him off. I can be intense. Through it all though, I managed to convince myself it could work in some alternate universe. We were not equally matched. I became increasingly aware of just how far out of my league he really was. He’s truly an exalted being - made special because he was the first man I'd completely trusted in over 15 years. He had this quiet confidence about him which was so rare and so sexy I can’t even put it into words.

2014 had a piercing gaze and when he looked at me, the background blurred and I could only see those intense eyes of his. I think what drew me in was the way that he looked at me. He didn’t see my flaws or if he did, they didn’t seem to matter. He liked me for my personality! He looked at me like he loved me well before we became lovers. I don’t really know why. Probably it was unintentional or I imagined it. Maybe he looks at everyone that way. Maybe these are some never before seen flu symptoms!

Why he chose me, I'll never know. Maybe it was liquor logic or boredom? Or he was horny or lonely? Or he was using me to get me to help his career? I’ve taken to convincing myself it was fate. I believe in fate because of him. I am not an airy fairy person so it’s weird that I think this. Note that there is zero evidence to support my rogue fate theory from his side. Yet I continue to think it. It is a force of nature that swarms around me all of the time. Why were we lovers? For what purpose other than to cause me unbearable pain? If I drown in a seemingly endless torrent of tears, will that cleanse me of this lie they call true love?

2014 dumped me in a text message. His text was casual, light hearted and ultimately the most painful words I’ve ever read:

“Hey, I’ve been thinking a lot about this. I really like what we have currently but I want to go back to just being good friends. I hope you understand and this doesn’t make anything weird – Don’t know why it would! You are an amazing friend to me and I appreciate everything you’ve done. Have a great weekend!”

Have a great weekend he said, knowing full well it was my cousin’s memorial the next day. Yeah I had a great time watching my aunt and uncle grieve the loss of their son while my heart drained itself of its blood. Fun times. I was crushed and angry. I'm still angry. How could someone so sweet, honest and kind be so insensitive as to tell me to have a great weekend at a time like that? How could my friend – remember he was my friend long before he was anything else - be so callous and cold-hearted? This is why I hate falling in love. This is why I am passionate about falling out of love. Falling out of love is empowering. It’s much harder to fall out than in. Falling out takes stamina, willpower and personal growth.

It’s been well over a year since I got that text and I’m still waiting to fall out. I keep thinking that I could fall at any moment, hit my head and get amnesia and forget that he ever got to me. Forget how his mouth felt on me. Forget the sound of his heartbeat. Forget the smell of his skin. Forget the touch of his hand. Forget that I am in love with him. I will do it though. No man is unforgettable. No man is flawless. The chinks in his armor will eventually reveal themselves to me. It will take the time it takes but I will cleanse myself of thoughts of him and then stick a fork in me: I'll be done.

What holds me back though, I think, is an unnerving and persistent thought that haunts my every waking moment: I know that he and I will always be unfinished business. We will always be in each other’s lives and every now and then, I catch him looking at me the way he used to look at me. In those moments, the air is sucked out of my lungs, I get a knot my stomach and I know I’m not imagining the connection between us. It exists…of that I am sure. One of my closest confidants believes this as well. She is even more convinced than I am. I was hoping that she would talk me off the ledge and tell me I’m nuts but instead she pushed me closer to it and told me if I jumped, he would catch me. I am not going to jump. I no longer have the courage to jump. I don’t want to get any more broken. If he is going to catch anything, it will be an STD from one of the people he’s moved on with. A flu in his pants, you might call it.

In addition to the things that hold me back, what gnaws at me is that we never really had our shot and everything was severed so abruptly just as we were hitting our stride. It feels like my skin is permanently scorched in all the places that he might have touched me. My mind is filled with unfettered fantasies of the moments we might have had. Of the nights we would have shared. Of the adventures we might have gone on. Of the things we might have accomplished together. He’s that rare someone that I could really talk to and open up to and trust but that's been lost. I still admire him or rather, the idea of him. We would have been an unstoppable couple…in my head.

I didn’t want him for a lifetime. I just wanted him to wish that we could have a lifetime.

In French, the way you say ‘I miss him’ is Il me manque. Literally translated it means “he is missing from me.” That’s how it feels. Since we’re friends, we run in the same circles. We know a lot of the same people. Our paths cross far too often. He is missing from me. A part of my heart is missing from me.

Am I crazy? YES, I am. He effortlessly moved on and he did so with women, that if all else were equal, could not hold a candle to me. He recently told me that he can’t even “really remember being with me“ but that he “doesn’t rule out something happening between us in the future.” What now? WTF does that even mean?! That hurt almost as much as that fateful text. He was just so casual when he said it. It felt a little bit like someone throwing a stick for a dog to fetch. So here I am, on all fours. Panting. Wagging my tail. Wondering if I should chase his dumb stick (pun intended). I don’t. Instead I’m waiting, wanting and hoping to fall completely and irrevocably out of love with him. Bring on the sweet immunity!

So what’s the takeaway from my cautionary tale? Well, if there is one, I guess it would be - don’t be your own worst enemy. Be fearless. Be better. Be smarter. Don’t let the cruel musings of tormenters determine your path. Don’t put your career first if it’s at the expense of all else. You have not fallen for the wrong person - that wrong person just doesn't see how great you are. Right or wrong, someone will always judge your choices but it doesn’t matter. Believe in fate. If you believe that you can find true love with this person, or that person, you probably can. I can’t but YOU can. You know that fairy tale that we all had in our head when we were little girls? Take it and design your own dream. Find a prince. Don’t allow anyone to diminish you, and don’t be so afraid of letting someone experience who you really are, that you don’t experience who you really are. Trust me, once you put that mask on, you will be forced to wear it the rest of your life. Regret is a dish best not served at all.

On a lighter note, Happy New Year!

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