His name was Steven, too, though obviously spelled incorrectly. Twenty five, a chef, and living in a sick apartment with a rooftop lounge overlooking Brooklyn, he seemed pretty perfect. His photos and text message persona checked off all of my boxes, and my expectations were surpassed in person. I couldn’t be sure that our first night together wouldn’t be our last, but he surprised me, sending a text just a few minutes after I left his apartment that next morning. Hearts for eyes, thumbs up, and a smiley: three emoji, but that was enough.
The conversation flowed from there, and he said he wanted to see me again that very night, but I had plans. He wanted to see me the night after, but I had plans. The night after that, he came to the bar I was at, Metropolitan in Brooklyn. I met some of his friends and he met mine. Then his friends left and my friends left, and we were alone on the dance floor making out to Britney Spears. And then we went back to his place and stayed up talking until 4AM.
The whole weekend was storybook, fairytale, highlight, etc. It’s best expressed through a line in the Mary Kate and Ashely film It Takes Two: “Can’t eat, can’t sleep, reach for the stars, over the fence, World Series kind of stuff.” We cuddled in his bed for hours, listening to mind-blowing lectures by Alan Watts and playing our all-time favorite songs for each other–he chose the almost ten minute long “Konstantine” by Something Corporate. We stared into each others eyes for what would have been an uncomfortably long time, discussing about how weird eyeballs are and wondering the exact location of the soul. We did a lot of kissing, too, our lips like horny gay magnets. World series kind of stuff, indeed. I wrote a blog post that Sunday, about experiencing “that rush of the ever-powerful cocktail of chemicals that comprises the cocaine-esque falling in love feeling.” It was all-encompassing, yet I remained cautious, reminding everyone (but mostly myself): “Don’t stop doing you, just because you’re doing someone else.” But if you haven’t realized it yet, I suck at following my own advice.
In the beginning, I was good. I was chill. But after a week, old habits resurfaced. I would be out with friends and on the phone texting him the whole time. I would leave events early to go over to his house. I would find a way to turn every conversation into one about dating (i.e. him). I wasn’t interested in talking about anyone or anything else. What can I say? Love turns you into a low-key sociopath! Despite knowing better and trying hard to fight it, he consumed my thoughts and I rode the wave of those drug-like emotions.
I sent him my blog post about “falling in love” with him (we lasted less than a month, I can hardly justify dropping the quotation marks)–he was following me on Instagram so I wanted to give him a heads up before he read it. I was mentally prepared for him to freak and peace out. Instead, he wrote back: “Holy fucking shit balls. You’ve captured, analyzed, and summarized exactly how I feel too. Our initial connection is crazy. I, too, have been trying to be hard to get and I’m finding it damn near impossible. Like, I wanted to invite you to work out with my Wednesday morning and it took so much for me to delete your invite lol. I’m so impressed by that essay. You’ve really god some innate awareness for all aspects of your life. That’s amazing. I’m really looking forward to getting to learn more about you and learn more from you. You’re contagious.” I could have cried. I almost did! Never have I found someone who so understands and accepts me fully, I thought. My heart was so full.
And then things cooled way down. Like I knew they would. We went from the highest high to a flatline in less than a month. There was no blow-up or big event, the energy just shifted, subtly at first and then overtly. We took a major step back–well, he did. The heart emojis vanished without a trace, the text messages were fewer and fewer between, promises were broken. We saw each other a handful of times over the next two weeks and sometimes it was great; meditating together at the Shambhala center, competing with each other at ping pong, getting drunk and watching Wheel of Fortune with strangers at Roberta’s in Bushwick before having one of the best pizzas of my life. But ultimately it didn’t seem to be leading anywhere. There was no progression. The conversation was shallow, surface-level. He stopped asking me questions about myself. He stopped putting in the effort to woo me. He’s a chef and he never made me so much as scrambled eggs! Perhaps he guess he didn’t think he had to, since he had me from the start.
It was deja vu, eerily reminiscent of my relationship two years prior. It started with a bang and fizzled out shortly after. But back then I chose to cling to him rather than let him go, even though it didn’t come close to what my idea of a relationship should be. I preferred to be with him and put up with the anxiety and disappointment, then not be with him at all. As Bishop T.D. Jakes said (which made Oprah ugly cry), “When you are a ten gallon person, you want love on a ten gallon level. But if you fool around and hook up with a pint person, then they could be giving you all they have, sincerely giving you everything, but it doesn’t fill you up because you’re bigger than that.” I learned sooner rather than later that Steven was a pint person as well. Which makes sense, because did I mention he shares the exact same birthday as my ex-boyfriend? I should have seen it as a red flag, instead I chose to take it as a green light. I ignored the song playing in my head: I knew you were trouble when you walked in…
I don’t believe in coincidence, I believe in destiny. When I figured out that the same pattern was reemerging, and came to the conclusion that I would remain unfulfilled and unsatisfied, then I recognized the situation for what it was: a gift from God! This was a chance to choose a different ending. This was an opportunity by the universe to test my growth and development in the last two years. After this aha moment, I pondered it for a few days. Of course I did the classic thing where I stop texting him as a test, and like clockwork his tone got sweeter. But that’s just psychological bullshit and I don’t put up with that. This quote I recently came across by an unknown author sums it up perfectly: “Never chase love, affection, or attention. If it isn’t freely given by another person, it isn’t worth having.” And so I ended it. I sent him a long text message over-explaining (as I do) that I wanted more than he did, and although I liked him a lot, to continue hanging out with him would be accepting less than I deserve.
I was on fire after I sent that. Nothing is as liberating as expressing your truth! As they say, “The truth shall set you free.” But it wasn’t that easy. I went back and forth between feeling like Miss Independent and wishing I had just sucked it up, accepted the relationship for what it was. Intellectually I knew it was the right thing to do, but my attachment didn’t fade immediately. (A good lesson to learn in love: let logic lead the way, and your heart will catch up eventually.) I’d be strutting down the street feeling fierce and free, and then something would remind me of him and give my heart a pang: the ping pong tables at Bryant Park, “Flesh Without Blood” by Grimes, my sweatpants that he said made my butt look good, Kiehl’s chapstick. I thought of him often, and sometimes I still do. As Rick Hanson explains in his book Hardwiring Happiness, when you think about something repeatedly, you create a pathway in your mind that allows neurotransmitters to easily go to that thought. It’s like walking through a field of grass, if you cross the same patch over and over you form a trail. I take comfort in the fact that that’s simply how the brain works, and having these thoughts doesn’t mean I should be with him. I chose what was ultimately best and self-loving for me. There are times when I’m lonely that I think I want him back, but what I’m really longing for is that initial buzz, those feelings intricately linked with his image in my mind. So, I may have loved and lost, but ultimately I found my self-respect. And I got a damned good blog post out of it, which has to be worth something, right?