I can’t help it. I look at my beautiful, defiant little redhead and I know that someday, somewhere, some stupid boy is going to break her heart. And I already want to throttle that boy with every fiber of my being…even though he probably can’t even talk yet.
When I was little, man oh man, did I want a boyfriend. The boy who lived down the street became the target, primarily because of proximity. (Convenience has always been an important part of my life). I used to force him to put his arm around my shoulders as he cringed and made vomit noises.
I had a chalkboard, and scribbling “Do you love me? Circle one. Yes. No. Maybe.” was commonplace. I’d run off to let him find my query. He would circle “Yes”, but then chalk scrawl next to that “in God’s way”… Soooo, you’re telling me there’s a chance!
This same boy is the only person – ever – to punch me in the stomach. To be fair, I was giving him noogies and refused to let up no matter how many times he yelled “stop it!”…until he finally retaliated with his fist. And I learned what it felt like to be punched in the gut. This was a valuable lesson. I’ve had an aversion to giving noogies ever since.
Luckily, my standards improved with age and the boy had to do more than live four houses down to be considered “boyfriend material”.
As my taste in the opposite sex improved, so did my chances of stirring up feelings for someone who might not return those feelings. There were a few disappointments here and there, but I had my heart actually cracked about two or three times that I would consider significant. Significant enough that sometimes mundane things trigger an emotional memory and I find myself taken back to a place in my life complete with pangs in my gut that make being punched in the stomach sound like an appealing alternative.
Take, for instance, a few years back when I was reading “New Moon”. (Yes. Of the “Twilight” series. Shut up.) For those of you who have a life and did not read the series, a quick summary: Bella and Edward break up and Edward moves far away. Bella completely withdraws into herself, barely taking notice of family or friends or seasons passing. She is in that hole. (If you’ve ever had your heart truly broken, you know that hole). Reading about her despair so struck a chord with the memory of my first real, heart-wrenching break up that I found myself blubbering inconsolably on my couch, an utter wreck – completely aware of how ridiculous I must look. What was the matter with me?!? I never even dated a vampire!
This over-the-top emotional reaction may have had something to do with sleep deprivation, seeing that I – a grown woman with a full time job – would stay up reading what was technically a young adult book until 2 in the morning and still have to get up and function as a contributing member of society the next day. But still.
I remember the break up I associated with Bella and Edward vividly. Running out my front door after him in the November cold, barefoot, not able to catch my breath, heart pounding wildly against my chest, in a complete panic. My mother awkwardly following a few moments later with a pair of shoes, which she silently sat on the ground nearby before heading back indoors. The boy looking miserable and embarrassed, trying to escape the situation. Oh, man. Did that suck. Two months of misery followed before he and I got back together only to experience a much more significant – and legally binding – break up seven years later.
Another memory is triggered when I hear Bonnie Raitt belt out “I Can’t Make You Love Me”. The year was 1991, and my 15-year-old self sat out on our covered patio in the rain, boombox in my lap, playing my mix tape over and over in misery. My mix tape was recorded off the radio and, as such, had annoying DJ voice overs at the beginning or end of songs that disrupted my gloom. Or – my masterful recording technique showing – on some songs I would wait until the DJ chatter subsided to hit “Record” so the song would start abruptly on the second stanza. Didn’t matter. The rain would drizzle and I would mope. Pause. Rewind. And mope. Sometimes, my dad would stick his head out the door to ask, awkwardly, if I was alright. I’d nod glumly. He’d go back inside to watch “The Andy Griffith Show” and wish he lived in a fictional and less-complicated Mayberry.
I still have that tape, even though I haven’t owned a tape player in years…
Around this time, I was also going through my “Victorian” phase. You know the “Victorian” phase, right? The phase where you dress like you’re from the Victorian age and attempt to talk and behave as if you live in another century? No? You didn’t go through that phase? Well, I did. And it lasted about two years.
I wondered why no one wanted to date me while I spoke softly (to seem genteel) and said things like “Why doesn’t he wish to be with me?” or “If only I could find a gentleman who would weave wreaths of flowers into my hair whilst reciting Tennyson”. My best friend, Stephanie, gave me – and still gives me – a lot of crap about my Victorian phase. She was convinced that I wanted to date a gay man, and had no trouble telling me so. My mom refers to this as the time that I spoke in my “soft voice”…as in, “Remember? I think that was when you were speaking in your soft voice”. *Cringe* And my sister just laughs if this phase ever comes up. The “Victorian” phase would take up an entire post, so I’ll leave you with just a taste for now.
Thing is, I know that you don’t need a man to be happy. But having a partner to share life’s ups and downs is…well…comforting. And I’m grateful that I found Brian. We might annoy the crap out of each other now and then, but we’re mostly happy.
And, while I want Lola to know that a man does not define her, I don’t want to set her up to be so bound and determined to prove her independence that she misses out on love and ends up lonely, either.
But, mostly – as I watch her sleeping peacefully – I dread the day that she has the giant empty pit in her stomach that won’t go away. The day she wonders why “he” doesn’t love her. The day she doubts her self worth. The day she loses her appetite and hides in her room and cries into her pillow. Oh, my God. Do I dread that day. Because I love this little being so much I cannot imagine anyone or anything causing her pain.
And I realize that is the day that my heart will be broken once again, too.