I’m pretty convinced of it. I desperately want to believe
that such a thing exists, but I’m immediately suspicious whenever people
claim to have found it. I think they’re deluding themselves.
Don’t get me wrong. I think love is out there — I’ve gotten to play the
game myself a couple of times. I just don’t think love is perfect.
It’s not all goodness and light, chickadees and rainbows. Love at first
sight — the happy, Davey Jones eye-twinkle, babytalk love — is a crock.
It’s lust that somehow manages to make the successful transition to an actual
relationship without too much agony along the way. I think love is made
up of lots of compromise, patience, friction, and the reluctance to just
bag it when the going gets rough.
Even to me, my words sound a little harsh. Although a lot of the last paragraph
is paraphrased from the writings of love guru Leo Buscaglia, it nevertheless
has the stink of the charred hair of someone who’s been burned. I must be
frank — I have been.
I haven’t been burned by love. The couple of times I’ve really felt it,
it’s been good. It wasn’t easy, though — not instinctual, not always enough,
not meant to last forever. Instead, I’ve been burned by the desperate, incessant
search for the elusive perfect love. I’ve been burned by silly romantic
notions and the delusions they create. I’ve been burned by my powerful longing
to love someone, a longing which usually strips me of rational, critical
thought and puts my self-esteem out on the corner to be flattened by a passing
bus. I’ve been burned by people who thought we should just be friends (but
didn’t mean it); by people who just plain blew me off; and by myself all
those times when I saw in someone just the things I wanted to see, only
to be soon enough reminded that I filled in too many of the gaps with my
Like most Americans, I’ve been crippled by all the fodder that our culture
has spewed out on the subject of love. From Shakespeare (or, dare I say,
popular misinterpretations of his work) to Big Top Pee-Wee, with
stops just about everywhere along the way, we are trained to think that
love is easy, to think that conflict and loss are plot complications rather
than real dangers that can rip us apart from each other. We’re trained to
believe that Lois Lane can truly love a big lunk who rarely has a conversation
with her, and that Tony and Maria could love each other truly enough to
die together after one dirty dance and a date in a dress shop. How can images
like these, and every single notion perpetuated by pop music, possibly prepare
normal human beings — man or woman, gay or straight, young or old — for the very real emotional risks and hurdles presented by intimate, romantic
interaction? We are trained that love is both chaste and hot, that sex is
both our right and our shame, that relationships are both the final goal
and the eternal prison, that we should be true to ourselves yet sacrifice
our identities to win another’s affection. What are we to believe? How are
we supposed to muddle through all this fiction? No person has a team of
scriptwriters to identify the one perfect life mate, and that bites.
I’ve not had a lot of luck with dates and relationships and romance. I freely
admit that. I’ve had enough luck, though, to know what I keep missing. Who
can say whether it’s been the successes or the recurring snubs that keep
my foolish romantic optimism alive? I could see a case for either.
In the past, I’ve been lucky enough to feel the flush of infatuation, the
tinglings of burgeoning romance, and the hills and valleys of real love.
("Real love" is a separate entity from "perfect love,"
but that’s a diatribe for another day.) I’ve gone into these episodes with
my head overflowing with all those visions of domestic bliss by which I’ve
been conditioned my whole life. It makes me feel as if I’ve come so close,
so why couldn’t there be the possibility that I just haven’t been lucky
enough yet? The myth might still exist.
At the same time, I know that I’ve been disappointed or hurt a lot in the
past (and certainly will be in the future). At those times, it’s been the
notion that something better must be lurking out there, just waiting to
finally make me happy again, that keeps me going despite the disappointments.
I can be as rational as I want, and keep telling myself that no Prince Charming
is really going to charge in on a white steed to whisk me away to dreamland;
but it’s a tempting enough fantasy to keep alive when there’s little to
keep you company except for the mindcud being churned out of the television
set. I’ve needed the myth to exist.
I could probably write a book about all the reasons I’m such a freakish
loser when it comes to dating. I could probably write a book about why I
think I’m so bad, when I’m probably no more awkward or clueless than anyone
else. What it boils down to, though, is mostly the realization that when
I’m dealing with another person — with his own feelings, scars, and hopes
— I lose control of the situation. In other areas of my life, I’m often
a wonder to behold — confident, intelligent, insightful, forward-thinking,
and efficient. Put me in the same room with someone, though, tell me it’s
a date, and I begin to babble and blather like a moron. I just have no instincts
with interpersonal relationships, and that forever puts me at square one
in that giant Candyland race for love. It can be hard enough to read other
people, but when you have a personal stake in the matter, all the possibilities
for disaster are magnified on an often overwhelming, paralyzing scale. I
never know whether or not someone finds me attractive, and my instincts
fly much further out the window if I’m attracted to that person. If you
throw the possibility of real love into the equation, it gets even worse.
Despite all the dates in all the situations I’ve had, I don’t know how to
act, how to present myself, how to be charming, how to be appropriately
frank or coy. If the whole process is a search, then I’m armed with welding
goggles and soundproof headphones, the map long since discovered to be a
I keep trying to find love, heaven knows. When you get right down to it,
I have entirely too much pluck to give up. As dejected as I get from time
to time, I keep looking, and I keep clinging to the notion that I’ll find
the right guy one day. Maybe not the perfect man, but that’s okay. Perfection
is for movies and television and the simps at American Top 40. I want reality — I
just want the good kind. I want to beat Michael Tolliver’s rule and have
the great job, the fabulous apartment, and the hot lover all at one time,
because I’m worth it, damnit!