It's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. This cliche implies that loving means getting, having. What of those that give, but don't get love to lose in the first place?
I've had nothing to lose my entire life. I've loved, and loved hard. I've loved people not in spite of their flaws, but because of them, seeing them in full and loving everything that makes that person who they are. Even the ugly bits. And yet, for all the love I've been willing to give, no one has been willing to take it. I have a sad, tortured history of loving people who don't want me, dating people I don't particularly like, and feeling very much alone.
This isn't to devalue the love, warmth, and companionship I receive from friends and family, but there is a certain kind of warmth and companionship that one can't get from friends and family. I'm not just referring to sex, though that's certainly a large part of it. I'm talking about the kind of intimacy that one person can have with another that's second only to the intimacy you have with yourself. I'm talking about having that one person (or select group of people, as I've learned from polyamorous friends) that knows you better than anyone else, who wants you in their life in every way - emotionally, physically, intellectually, spiritually - and wants to share themselves with you in full. I have never known that. Even a little.
What I've learned recently, though, is that there is not only variety in types of relationships, but in forms of solitude. For most of my life, I've been plagued with the "knowledge" that no man is interested in me. Danny, the first boy I ever kissed in kindergarten ran screaming and crying into a bathroom stall the second my lips touched his. Andy was too cool to give me the time of day. Joey made fun of my weight with his friends even as he spoke to me nicely in private. Mohammed saw through my thinly-veiled attempts at getting close to him and laughed in my face. Achyut never acknowledged my crush if he ever knew. Mike accepted my invitation to be my junior prom date, but cancelled at the last minute citing "ex-girlfriend drama." I took a friend to senior prom, someone I wasn't secretly attracted to, to spare myself a similar disappointment.
Having not dated in high school, in college I decided to give more guys "a chance." After all, I was no prize, right? Why should I hold out for someone I'm desperately attracted to, when the male equivalent of me could be out there? Someone nice who could grow on me. Thus began my brief dating career. There was The Leprachaun when I was eighteen - a 30 year old Columbia law student who picked me up on the subway, and to whom my freshman year roommate compared to "the Lucky Charms guy" because he was short, wore glasses, and had a shock of red hair. He seemed nice, and we exchanged numbers, but the age difference and his method of pickup made me uncomfortable despite his pedigree. Also, I wasn't attracted to him in the slightest. Still, I "gave him a chance." A long night of boring conversation and an animation festival that consisted mostly of porn cartoons later, I bid him goodnight sans kiss.
Howard hit on me at a party I attended with a friend. Also, older. Also, drunk. Both of us. We exchanged numbers and had a lovely chat on the phone. I was hopeful. But when we met for our date in the sober light of day, it was clear that there was no attraction on either side. We went through the motions, because we were both nice, and there was even a perfunctory kiss at the end of the evening - my first, at 22 - but we never spoke again.
I tried a blind date through Drip Cafe in NYC, and ended up having a horrible date with a 45 year old mama's boy cellist who wore a hair piece, talked non-stop never letting me get a word in, and traveled with his cello at all times. It sat next to me at the table. Yet after all that, he let me down easy saying that it "wasn't going to work." The date went so badly, and I felt so badly about myself that I impulse-purchased a painting from a street artist in an attempt to salvage meaning and purpose from an otherwise wasted afternoon. The painting still hangs in my room.
More recently, there's been the occasional random hook-up. The cute math teacher I made out with at karaoke who picked me out as the drunkest among my friends. He wanted me to go home with him, but I didn't. We exchanged numbers, but he never returned my call. This past birthday, my 29th, there was much drunken making out, which was fun in the moment...but not terribly meaningful.
So, my romantic history is riddled with ambivalence and disinterest (and alcohol, it seems). Either I like him and he doesn't like me, or he likes me and I don't like him, or he's drunk and his judgement is impaired, or I'm drunk and he's trying to use that to his advantage. I've felt a solitude caused by believing that no sober person that I like would ever want me.
Lately, though, I've begun to feel a different kind of solitude. Men that I've been interested in have been interested in me...but for whatever reason, due to circumstances beyond my control, we haven't been able to follow our impulses and see where they lead. I suppose I should be grateful. For the past couple of years, I've begun to feel a comfort in my own skin to which I've always aspired. I've been more confident, and I think that has something to do with the increased interest in me. So, I'm proud of that. Also, it's nice to know that someone you like likes you back. To know that you are wanted, even if it goes no further. To know that if it happened once, it can happen again. All good, hopeful things.
And yet, this feels worse than the solitude I'm used to. Wasted potential always makes me angry, and that's what the past couple of "prospects" have felt like. Possible relationships stunted before they ever have a chance to begin. To quote one of my favorite books (Everything Is Illuminated, by Jonathan Safran Foer): "...everything was coming out the wrong way - not the opposite, but worse: close." It's bad enough to feel lonely, to feel that no one wants you - but to have a chance at happiness teasingly laid before you, an irretrievable dangling carrot, only to be denied you, feels like a hard slap.
As I've been thinking about this the past couple of days, a lovely song I'd never heard before has been coming up over and over again on one of my Pandora stations. Almost Lover, by A Fine Frenzy. It's as though the Music Genome Project had been monitoring the goings-on in my life as well as my taste in songs.
Goodbye my almost lover
Goodbye my hopeless dream
I'm trying not to think about you
Can't you just let me be?
So long my luckless romance
My back is turned on you
Should've known you'd bring me heartbreak
Almost lovers always do
Listen to the song here.