The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Every 21 days, after continuously coaching myself that there is necessity and beauty within the gift of singleness, a gift I now can undoubtedly say I possess, the pang of reality that I was indeed in an enduring and unwavering state where love and romance were practically alien would strike like a thief in the night; intruding on all my makeshift certainty and fleeing with my (newly found) peace in its possession.
That was, until about 6 weeks ago- recent, I know. But hear me out.
Since I was a little girl, I was consumed with the idea of love; I can recall watching completely age-inappropriate movies with my family and having my interest abnormally peaked by every scene that I was forced to watch through the spaces between my mother's fingers as they fought to preserve the innocence I so dearly now miss. An innocence that I, at the time, was so desperate to shed. I get it now.
The cinematic sounds of lips interlocking mingled with heavy, lusty breathing in conjunction with adlibs of sweet nothings first defined what I believed love to be: the erotic. The sensuality and intimacy of physical touch. I’d spend hours consumed by, “Flavor of Love,” and, “I Love New York,” only to leave dumfounded when the seasons concluded and the eligible bachelor or bachelorette would end up right back where they started: looking for love.
I think my budding rationale tried to warn me that pleasure had no relevance to adoration and emotional devotion. Nevertheless, in 2006, my brain just couldn’t fathom the way that passionate public displays of affection only led to multiple seasons of dating competition shows rather than an exemplification of the nuclear family.
“They just kissed with the lights off and got naked, what do you mean they’re not in love?” I’d ask any adult who could contain their laughter long enough to listen to a first-grader philosophize love, romance, and where the longevity of the erotic lived between the two.
And after about 5 minutes of what I considered to be intense debating, they’d all sigh and say the same thing: “That’s not love, baby.”
Of course, after hearing this my brain would implode with a series of follow-up questions; the most prominent being: “Then why the hell is it called for the LOVE of New York?”
I’m getting off track here. The point is, I was obsessed with the idea of love as I understood it to be; comically overdone PDA, undressing in the obscurity of a dimly lit room, and of course, being the last woman standing in the race to win the heart of none other than Mr. Flavor Flav himself.
Love was getting the last oversized clock that Mr. Flav had to offer, and I longed to feel chosen and deemed deserving after clearly proving my worth the way those girls had. I wanted what was on VH1 Monday nights at 8 p.m., because to an impressionable kid with divorced parents, that’s what love was.
Needless to say, a lot has happened between 2006 and 6 weeks ago. I mean, between the arrival of the menstrual cycle and the introduction of heightened estrogen levels (accompanied by the boys who delighted in their side effects), I’ve practically lived at least 4 lives within the last 16 years.
Initially, I thought loved lived in the erotic. I think this changed sometime within the last 6 years when I realized I experienced the same euphoric feeling I did in bed as I did each morning when my taste buds were met with their routine first sip of Dunkin Donuts coffee for the day.
I knew I loved coffee, but I knew the strong similarities between the feelings I had toward a caffeinated beverage and that of my first boyfriend was…strange to say the least. Love couldn’t be defined by the erotic, not when the erotic was being stimulated every morning for the price of $2.75. Coffee did (and does) make me extremely happy though.
Love didn’t live in the erotic, so where was it? The 3.5 years that I’ve completed in college have shown me that it didn’t always live in men either. After countless attempts to embark on connections that surpassed the physical and conquered the emotional, I found myself overwhelmed with failure and the fear that I’d never experience love and romance in the way I’d always longed for. I’d never feel like Hoopz did when she won season 1 of Flavor of Love.
The first was sweet but talked way too much, to the extent he couldn’t recall what was fact, fiction, and what had been retold for the 4th time this week. The next always coincidentally acted funny near my birthday and Valentine's Day. I really like that one that followed, but he refused to commit to anyone but himself and the loopholes that lived at the intersection of lies and conveniently left out details. The next was a perfect southern gentleman; his only flaw: a vocabulary that only spanned the height and width of an iPhone.
All these brief encounters left me single and increasingly frustrated. Why could none of them bring me the romance and chivalry that I’d always dreamed of? Was I not pretty, intelligent, and just the right amount of edgy with my facial piercings and colored hair?
When would I encounter the shit that my mother shielded me from?
I spent years wondering this- that is, until 6 weeks ago when I decided that I would treat February as the most romantic month of my life. I committed myself to implement all the things I associated love with into my daily routine; day one consisted of a hair appointment and a cocktail-heavy dinner with one of my best friends, followed by a solo trip to crumbl cookie. On day two, I cooked myself a divine salmon in the company of my favorite Sweet Red. Day three, I got my nails done, and so on and so forth.
As the days went on, I felt not only happier but savvier and full of serotonin and dopamine. In my daily journals I began to philosophize why, in my current solitude, had I never felt more romanced and adored than I did at that point in time. Was I my dream man? Were my countless attempts at romantic encounters and talking stages destined for failure because the only suitable spouse that wouldn't piss me off eventually could only be seen in the mirror?
Maybe (yes), but more importantly, I found that romance lived in the indulgence of the aspects of life that make us feel special. Whether that indulgence is initiated by yourself or an external source is merely by chance and choice; you can wait for it, or you can take it by the balls and make it your bitch.
I chose the latter. After 13 days of being the best lover I’d yet to experience, I was met with a man who on paper, was everything I could’ve ever wanted; he looked the part, he talked the part, and unlike any other before him, he was romantic without having to be asked. He went out of his way to curate a depiction of his appreciation for who he’d perceived me to be in the most careful and chivalrous way possible.
I loved what he did, but I could not earnestly say I’d the same appreciation for who he was, and what we had the potential to be in relation with one another.
So it’s with great grief that I now remind you that life is matriculated beyond the contents held by onyx-colored ink on paper. Rubric-styled prerequisites mean nothing in the absence of the spine-chilling, sweaty palm passion that I’ve grown to appreciate.
Dapper appearances, heavy applications of smoldering cologne, and emotions told in raspy tones laden with the colloquial language that even runaways like me feel at home were not equipped to compete for a heart that after 16 years, had finally cracked the code and achieved a long-awaited meeting with the contents within.
In treating myself the way I’d always wanted to be treated, (flower pickups from Trader Joe's, door-dashing iced coffee so that while leaving the house, I could act surprised and squeal, "Aw, for me? You shouldn't have!", wearing skirts with tights every chance I got (even to class), drinking red wine with all evening meals, showering by candlelight, and riding around with The Five Satins blaring through the speakers of my Nissan Sentra) I had unknowingly withdrew from my pursuit of the love that I determined to only be achievable by way of relationships.
I’d fallen in love with romance and the seclusion in which I’d reached it.
I can recall sighing in bliss one night as I watched, "Gilmore Girls," with my fourth glass of wine of hand and realizing that it wasn’t men, it was romance. The way I was feeling wasn't by way of the sexually erotic, and it wasn't sexually eroticism or monogamous relationships that defined romance and intimacy: it was sensuality.
It was whatever stimulated the senses. That was what I deemed enticing. That was what I wanted all along, and who better to deliver it other than me? The only person outside of the divine ruler that would undoubtedly never flee.
For the first time since about 2013, I was content. I’d abandoned the desire for company, embraced the concept of romance, and determined that there was a Mount Everest-sized disconnect between being alone and being lonely.
I’m proud to declare I am, in fact, the former.
Unfortunately for he who should’ve been my knight in shining armor, I’d already deserted the castle on the back of my own white horse. I don’t know if or when I’ll ever return to my state of waiting; as the power I’ve found and the peace it’s brought are both way too precious to so quickly let slip through my fingers. Unlike the slightly parted fingers that exposed me to the erotic in 2006, I’ve got a death grip on romance; we’ve only just begun.
In romanticizing my life, I’ve lost the desire for monogamy and commitment. I’m my primary lover, and all other parties are simply guest stars in the sitcom that is my 21st year on earth; visitors that though I enjoy while I’m in their presence, still do find myself relieved at their departure and the subsequent restoration of normalcy and routine that I really only obtain (and maintain) in -you guessed it- singleness.
When you realize you love love itself rather than desiring to be in love, you can enjoy people as they are without the pressure to squeeze an intensity out of them that they more than likely, don’t have the capability or capacity to deliver. You also realize that you can appreciate actions without appreciating the executor of said actions. I loved what he did, but as a non-transactional woman, the expectations these gestures projected upon me were unappealing and matters in which I had no interest (i.e, not romantic).
More than anything, by the time he found me, I was tired. Tired of being deep with people who had only just scratched the surface level of self-discovery. Tired of the disappointment that followed encounters with people teetering those lines of anonymity. Above all, tired of talking; until him, I didn't recognize that any instance of verbalizing my feelings and the obligation to listen and respond to the depictions of emotions that existed in monogamous encounters, in reference to any situation even a hair away from lighthearted is simply not an activity I have any interest in as of now.
Maybe I’ll return when the self-awareness is fully developed and the identities have finally been found. Maybe he’ll return when I’ve built up enough stamina to speak and listen, and maybe then, I’ll be ready to incorporate relation into romance.
But as for now, I’m ecstatic to be alone. There’s an undeniable sense of safety and security here that I just know the contestants on, "Flavor of Love" hadn’t the privilege to experience. I may not ever get an oversized clock with my name on it as a token of one's affection, but the intangigble gift of singleness and the ability to ward off the demons brought to the desperate is one I don’t take for granted; dare I say it, I’m the victor.
I can recall a time when I questioned whether chivalry is dead, never once stopping to consider that we could’ve made our acquaintance by way of me, also never considering the fact that it’s self-sufficient women like me who scorn the hopeful hearts of men who, by their best efforts, fight tooth and nail to prevent its extinction.
I'm hopeful that both of these stories will conclude with the happiest of endings; this is a romance, after all.