We need to talk.
When I was younger, I was always taught that patience is a virtue. My father, my mother, my teachers—all of them would reinforce this lesson daily in a stunning variety of situations.
“Your brother is using that toy right now. You need to be patient and wait your turn.”
“I know you’re hungry, but we need to be patient and wait for your father to get home.”
“Just be patient and wait until the bathroom is open. And for the love of God, get your hand out of your pants.”
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was learning possibly one of the most important life lessons a person will ever learn, a lesson that would enable me to successfully manage a number of difficult situations in my future.
Without patience, waiting in the self-checkout aisle at the grocery store behind a technology-illiterate senior citizen might turn into an all-out brawl. Every “funny story” my friend Ariel tells would throw me into a fit of anxious hysteria as I wait for a punch line that never comes. And there’s no way I could hold on for an entire week to see which corny plot device the writers of Glee decide to throw at us next time.
Now you might find yourself wondering, why am I telling you this? Why am I preaching a lesson that you most likely learned in first grade, along with how to read a thermometer and why little boys can’t grow up to be mommies?
Well you see, my child, while I am sure that you see the importance of waiting your turn or holding it until you’ve reached a toilet, there is one area where you don’t seem to understand the concept of delayed gratification:
Your love life.
It seems you are among a class of young women whose impatience betrays itself in a curious way. And no, this isn’t a conversation about saving your precious flower until marriage. This is a conversation about love.
You are in love with love—more specifically, the process of falling in love. You relish the early stages of a relationship—the flirting, the texting, the ferocious sexual tension—and get a giddy thrill out of the opportunity to experience them with a new fella. And when it doesn’t work out with that fella, you can’t wait until you get the chance to try again with someone new. And it’s often the case that you don’t wait.
Yes, mere weeks after a relationship ends, you often find yourself getting serious with someone new. You seem to jump into relationships faster than Lady Gaga releases painfully danceable singles. Frankly, I’d be impressed if I wasn’t so terrified.
You see, my little man-eater, jumping from one relationship to the next can have some unforeseen consequences. But don’t just take my word for it. Listen to these tales of young women whose impatient hearts led to more disaster than the combination of newlyweds and reality television.
Miss J had been dating Mister C for a year and a half and, to put it simply, they were in love. C was the butter to to J’s muffin, the toast to her jam, the hotdog to her bun. Their affection and devotion were so strong and pure that 9 out of 10 doctors recommended the use of protective eyewear when gazing admiringly at the young couple.
They had talked about marriage. They were never fully serious, but you could tell they were each imagining the big day and hoping their genes combined to produce attractive children. And for a while, it seemed like that was the inevitable ending to this collegiate fairytale.
But, as is often the case with these stories, that fairytale ending would never come. C graduated a year before J, and the distance brought all of their differences to the forefront of every conversation. C wanted to live in the city; J planned on a life in the suburbs. C wanted to raise the children Jewish; J wanted to raise the children Baptist. C was team Edward; J was firmly team Jacob.
Eventually it all became too much, and J decided to end it. Tears were shed. Belongings were returned. Their friends worried that no amount of Kleenex and chocolate ice cream would ever heal the holes in their young, fragile hearts…
…which is why people were more than surprised when J had a new boyfriend almost immediately. The two had been friends for a while through the school newspaper, and newly single, J saw potential for something more. And so it was that less than three weeks after ending her relationship, J was blissfully spooning someone new.
But when she excitedly told her friends the good news, they looked more shocked and disgusted than an Italian-American watching The Jersey Shore.
“How could you?” they asked. “You broke C’s heart, and now you’re throwing a new guy in his face? Don’t you have any compassion? Any shred of decency?”
Yes, it seemed that every mutual friend she and C had gave her the death-stare as she walked around campus. Some flat-out refused to talk to her for over a week. She simply didn’t understand.
“All I did was dump my boyfriend of almost two years, who’s off on his own in the working world away from all of his friends, and then almost immediately jump into a new relationship that almost certainly popped up in his Facebook feed and reminded him of how alone he is,” J reasoned. “Is that really so bad?”
I’ll leave that one up to you.
T was bored. Bored with her job and bored with her classes, yes, but most of all bored with her boyfriend.
The two of them had been dating for about 5 months, and T couldn’t really see it going anywhere. Their sex life had never really gotten off the ground and his flakiness infuriated her. To top it all off, he’d been letting himself go recently, and the idea of his rippling midsection lying next to her in bed was beginning to give her nightmares. She came to the conclusion that things needed to end. Soon.
But the timing never was right. First it was his birthday, and then she was too busy with midterms. Weeks passed by, and their relationship remained, like that rotting banana that I kept forgetting to take out of the fridge.
And then she met M. Tall, masculine, fit—he looked like the type who not only knew his way around a bed, but knew his way around the kitchen counter, the backseat of a car, and possibly one of the back areas of the campus library as well. T was intoxicated by his machismo. She knew in her heart and the depths of her loins that this was the man for her.
T and M started talking regularly. They’d hang out in the student center and wittily banter for hours. Occasionally they’d grab a bite to eat after classes. T’s phone was full of text messages from M that all ended with infinite less-than-threes. Yes, it looked like the start of a beautiful relationship.
There was only one problem—T had never actually ended things with her boyfriend. But he was no fool— he noticed the melodrama playing out right in front of his eyes. And he was madder than a Real World cast member after two drinks and a mild roommate dispute.
The entire dorm could hear T’s boyfriend screaming at her that night. She had disrespected him. She had strung him along while she was off with someone else. And what could have been an amicable breakup turned into deep-seated bitterness and hostility, as well as some minor property damage.
“But all I did was start dating a guy I liked while I was still with someone else,” T reasoned. “Is that really so bad?”
Oh child. If you only knew.
When you put your needs ahead of everyone else’s it can wreak some pretty nasty havoc. Hearts can be crushed, reputations ruined, friendships tested —and all because you couldn’t wait the extra month or so to pursue that sexy beast from History class.
Jumping from one relationship into another, you not only run the risk of a messy rebound, but you often hurt the guy who was so faithfully yours for the duration of your relationship. And that, my friend, is about as cruel as punting a baby kitten.
Yes, patience comes in handy at many points of your life. It helps you sit through class for three straight hours and end a relationship without unnecessarily hurting a boy or driving him into a murderous rage.
Incidentally, it also helps you plod along through my articles until you get to an important life lesson.
Let’s give a nice round of applause for patience.