Baby dolls and Barbies turned into Backstreet Boys and Bon Bons. Sleepovers and truth-or-dare transformed into cell phones and driver’s licenses. Crushes became lovers. Bubblegum was replaced with Mike’s Hard lemonade. Worries of missing a curfew outweighed stress over class. Kids grew into adults, while parents tried to remain young at heart. High School prepared us for college, but being away for school never prepared us for the big world we’d eventually dive (or be pushed) into. Broken hearts and tear drops intensified into Merlot-induced waves of anger, depression, and hopefully, acceptance.
And like became love.
I can remember moments during middle school, when the boy band or the boy in the band – had all of the power in the world to overtake my every thought and fill up pages in my notebook. Mr. Curls served as the main obsession during my three-year span in junior high and more than I cared about classwork, fitting in with the popular girls who were allowed to wear mini-skirts, or the boobs I wasn’t sure how to handle yet – I wanted this dude to like me. And I wanted him to not only care about me – but I wanted the whole school to know he picked me, he was with me, and no other gal could steal his attention. While today, I’m sure young ladies and lads update their Facebook status at the ripe age of 12 years old, in my time, saying you were together meant you held hands. Preferably down the hallway between class change or at the mall, while my mother waited in the food court for us to finish our “date.” I scribbled we’d be together forever on my composition book, but really – I just wanted to know that someone, especially him, liked me.
If we all stopped focusing on the love, on The One, on how wealthy a man is, how clever or witty he is, how strong his background or his lineage is, how well he takes care of himself, and where he sees himself in five years -would relationships be much easier? What if instead of contemplating the prospect of a relationship itself and determining if there is a future, we just focused on whether or not we liked the guy? And if he liked us?
How have we all forgotten the importance of falling into like?
Of all the men I’ve dated – Mr. Buddy aside – I haven’t been friends with them before we decided to make our relationship official. Whatever relationship we developed was never based on a mutual understanding, share interests, or a history of experiences together that eventually turned into something more. Instead, from the moment I met them, spent a few days getting to know them, or going on dates – I was more or less ready to try out the girlfriend role. The title of friend never interested me and while I may have liked who they were, it was never as much of a priority as my ability to love them, and they love me in return.
Somehow, between being a boy-crazed pre-teen and a 20-something wading through the dating pool of Manhattan, I lost sight of getting to know a person and turned my priority on getting to know a boyfriend.
I won’t discount the importance of passion, intrigue, and mystery when meeting someone who could grow into a partner. We all, regardless if we claim to be interested in the nature and intensity of love, want to have a great story to tell when an outside source asks us about how we met our significant other. Perhaps Harlequins and rom-coms have destroyed our ideas about what encounters should be. Maybe we all believe they should be romantic and by chance, where both parties involved instantly have a connection, and in the very best scenario, one of the two or two of the two, just know the other person was always meant to be theirs. My parent’s story has swayed me into the mindset that a man should gaze at me with endearment, find me the single most beautiful creature he’s ever known, and chase me into the great unknown endlessly, just for a chance to be by my side.
While those stories are wonderful and ever intriguing, maybe a cardinal mistake I’ve made is not taking the time to really get to know someone before I started dating them. To figure out what they are really like, what makes them tick, what brings them happiness, which parts of their personality they hid away at the beginning to entice me to stay, and who they are when they aren’t enthralled with the idea of me, but me as my most honest self.
Though I make a sincere attempt to never regret anything, in hindsight, a lot of unnecessary pain with Mr. Idea and others, could have been avoided if I would have been their friend first. If I would have figured them out before figuring them into my life. If I would have taken a step back and made an effort to determine if they are someone I would chose as my friend, before being faced with the decision of having them as a mate.
I’m well-aware we don’t have the opportunity to control who comes and who leaves our lives, or how we feel about them from the initial meeting – but instead of ruling out all of the maybes because they don’t have that spark or that thing that I’ve always thought I needed, perhaps I should try being a friend. Try falling in like before I let myself fall in love.