All Hyped Up on Love

Though I may only be a 20-something, I’ve been through quite some pop culture and trends.

I grew up on everything from TGIF, Sister Sister, The Adventures of Mary Kate & Ashley, Full House, The Secret World of Alex Mac, Figure it Out, Clarissa Explains it All, and Rugrats to All That, Hey Arnold!, Saved by the Bell, and Boy Meets World. By some strike of fate or stupidity, my mother eventually allowed me to watch MTV and Friends (where I appropriately flooded her with questions), and some ex boyfriends introduced me to shows like Alf, long after they were off the air.

I convinced myself I could sing just like Mandy Moore – breathy and incredibly too dramatic and all. Outside, with that same recorder I used to interview people with, I’d belt out a Mariah Carey with the neighborhood kids, who at one point, all got together and formed a band, The Butterflies. I always wanted to ride places in my dad’s truck because it had one of those new CD players and if I was careful not to scratch them, I could listen to The Beatles, the Beach Boys, The Temptations, Elton John, Eric Clapton, and Jim Croce while we were driving around town. He’d always serenade me with “My Girl” and hearing it still makes me smile today, though I’m positive I prefer his voice over the original. With my belly button visible, I danced in front of the mirror to Britney Spears, I cried over a Backstreet Boys song when Mr. Curls didn’t show up to my seventh grade birthday party, and I lost my virginity to “I’ll Make Love to You” by Boys II Men.

Being an early bloomer who sprouted out of training bras and into the real ones the summer between fifth and sixth grade, I was amazed with my new curves and unsure of what to do with them. I did, however, notice the looks older boys gave me. So did my mother. I can’t count how many times she left me at home because I refused to change into something more age appropriate, and then I’d call her on her cell phone that was the size of my forearm, and beg her to come back and get me in my jeans and unflattering t-shirt. I wore the platform shoes like The Spice Girls, I braided my hair with a colored strand, I wore glitter on my eyes, and though I thought Abercrombie was cool, even at a young age, I realized how ridiculously overpriced it was. I also didn’t enjoy being choked to death by cologne ten steps before the store front.

I lived, breathed, and loved all of these hypes.

They came, they served a purpose, and they left. I was onto the next band, the next technology, the next style that would fade faster than I could begin to afford it. It took until junior year in college for me to stop caring so much about hypes or what’s hot and to focus more on what I wanted instead of what was new.

This week, to keep my spirits up and to lower my peeking stress level, I’ve been listening to 80’s music. I wasn’t alive in the early 80’s, but some of my youngest memories involve my mom dancing in hot shorts to Michael Jackson or Fine Young Cannibal’s “She Drives Me Crazy” while cleaning. Because my office is in the process of moving, we’re all packing up and my “You Make My Dreams Come True” Pandora station proved to be exactly what we needed. As the songs were playing, I’d notice how certain songs remind me of men I’ve loved or guys who have introduced me to a band I didn’t know. Some of the other women in the office would start singing and then proclaim who they were dating when that particular song came on. Somehow, the best of the 80’s translates into the best and the worse of men of the 80’s for those who lived through it – or discovered the music later on.

Listening to the stories while pouring what I owned into a large Staples cardboard box, I wondered if love is one continuous hype.

We’re sucked in early with fairytales and if we’re lucky, by watching our parents verbalize their admiration for one another. I didn’t really go through the “boys had cooties” phase, I was more concerned with my kindergarten boyfriend, but all of my friends were repulsed by the opposite sex (funny thing is, they’re all married now, and I’m happily not). Once that period comes to a close, we transition into middle school where holding hands and doodling our names with hearts and “forever-ever-and-ever-and-always” seems like the only important thing in the world. High school introduces us to sex, college we have a lot of sex, and in our 20’s we discover what great, incredible sex is, and wonder what we were thinking (or who we were doing) the years previous.

For most, it is one date after another, one relationship after another, one bed and then another, one romance and then ten more. The personalities change, along with the clothes and the mannerisms, but the men essentially are all the same, each time – we get ourselves all hyped up on love. And when it’s good, when it has promise, we’ll go as far to think we’ll never feel it again. That this feeling, whatever it is, is impossible with another man. We’ll get so dead-set on this hype that we’ll become depressed thinking he is the end-all-be-all and we’re doomed if this doesn’t work out…or worse yet, if we screw it up.

If that was the case, Buffy the Vampire Slayer would still be making shows. So would Dawson’s Creek. We’d all still be listening to LFO, eating Dunkaroos, and wearing those god-awful acid-wash jeans (keep in mind Williamsburg is excused from this analogy). We’d all carry mobile phones that don’t fit in our bags and our dial-up internet would greet us with “You’ve Got Mail!”

Things change, so do people. We fall in love and we fall out. We think he’s The One and then we want him to be the one who never comes back. We are addicted to our pair of skinny jeans until our bodies grow some curve, some place, and they don’t fit anymore. We buy into something until it becomes a commodity and we got for a cheaper alternative. Much of life is a hype – but the one thing that remains consistent is me. I’ve been through all the hypes, all the love, all the coming and the going, and I’m still who I am. I’ve adapted and learned, grown up and become a woman, and while I don’t forget the trends I trended through, I realize I’m always going to trend through something.

And if a particular style doesn’t look right on me or a musician doesn’t get me moving, or a man doesn’t hit the spots I need him to hit – I rest easy knowing the next hype is closer than I think.

Make-Believe Boyfriends

When I was a kid, I played a lot of make believe.

From cops and robbers with my next door neighbor and Mary Kate & Olsen detectives (forgive me, please) with my childhood best friend to Peter Pan & Wendy with my pre-school playmate – I was always imagining a world outside of my own. And, when my friends and I took a more classic approach and played “house” – I refused to be anything but the girl because well, I am a girl, after all.

I can remember full days of pretending to be something else – a princess, a mermaid, a singer, a movie star, and of course, a reporter. There was something magical and wildly entertaining about escaping from reality and entering into a new realm where I could be free to explore and to capture a persona I didn’t actually embody. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy a great dress up (even today!)?

As we get older, the masks we put on and the roles we play change, and while it’s not make-believe, per se, we present ourselves in different manners depending on what the time or situation calls for. We can turn on happy-and-enthralled while at a networking event, or super-duper professional for work, or pseudo-interested for a date that’s going all wrong.

And sometimes, if we are clever enough to trick even our most difficult critic, ourselves, we can pretend we’re in a relationship when we’re not. We can even call them non-dates and non-relationships and non-love because we’re calm, cool, and collected about the situation. We can even have sex without terms or conditions or without saying the infamous three words or without spoken expectations.

But – in terms of love and well, dignity – is it ever healthy to play make-believe with a man? Or is it better to send Mr. Non-Committal back to where he came from?

I can’t say I’m in the situation where I’m seeing someone I want to call my boyfriend or I want to be exclusive with. But, I will admit, without giving names or specifics, that I’ve dated a few guys that could have possibility in this big, beautiful city. Somehow, though, my relationship with myself is currently trumping all of them. Call me selfish and self-absorbed with this journey, and I’ll nod my head in agreement – but somehow, the getting to self-love is helping me grow in leaps-and-bounds, without requiring a man in the mix.

Though, as I’ve been going on non-dates and kissing non-boyfriends – I’ve thought a lot about the relationships we go through as single ladies that never “technically” (by Facebook standards, anyways) ever become official. Does a lack of a title or commitment make them less important or influential? Or is a label something we place on a courtship because with commitment comes a promise that we can depend on?

I’m not sure if actually becoming a pair as opposed to just mimicking one, truly changes the relationship – but I will say that playing make-believe with love doesn’t result in a happy ending…in the long run. But at the beginning, before happily ever after, I think a period of pretend is necessary.

The reasons for make-believe and dress up in the first place – where it be as a little girl or a 20-something woman – are to test the waters and try something new that you enjoy. How do we know if we will ever be a famous celebrity if we never act? Or how can we be sure we’d accept the princess lifestyle if we don’t give it a whirl in our minds? (I doubt any of us would decline putting on Kate’s shoes, though). The same goes with any new courtship with a dude – if we don’t act like we’re in a relationship, without the title or the supporting documents, we can’t be sure we really want to be part of an “us” with them.

At some point, the talk we all dread bringing up needs to be addressed – but when you’re just starting to get to know someone, why rush? Before I started this journey, as soon as I started remotely liking a guy, I was damned-and-determined to reel him ‘em and put a “taken” bow on his forehead (and profile). I wanted to do everything and anything in my power to make sure he made me his girlfriend so that I wouldn’t risk losing him to another chick.

But now, instead of letting myself get lost in the rush and the romance and visions of our kids and what my last name would be – I step back, I enjoy his company, and most importantly, I just take it slow. I picture in my head and feel what it would be like to be by his side, on a permanent basis, and I figure out if I want to move to the reality of a relationship or if playing pretend for a while is all I really need. While I do want a committed relationship one day, there is no need to be Ms. Committed when I first meet someone.

There is no hurry, no reason to worry – because if during playtime you realize you don’t want to be a fairy princess or a famous musician or a girlfriend – you just take off the crown, put down the mic, and let go of his hand…and go back to you. But if you do happen to enjoy it, while playing make-believe, that magic you feel reminds you that anything is possible.