This weekend, I was running errands in my neighborhood when I bumped into someone I slept with in the last year. (Narrows it down, doesn’t it? Ha!) Immediately, I felt overwhelmingly flustered. In fact, I may have spoken some form of gibberish. After exchanging pleasantries — his sensical, mine, not so much — we went our separate ways, but I found myself weirdly shaken up. It was the sort of thing that I would have previously associated as a sign that I had romantic feelings for that person; my shaky hands an indicator of nervous sexual energy, and the vague nausea in my stomach would have been called “butterflies.” I would have relished that feeling, called it “thrilling.” Wondered when I would see that person in a naked capacity again and, Oh! Did he feel it too? Ah, the mystery. Isn’t that what makes romance so exciting?
Not anymore. This time, it felt unpleasant. I recognized it for what it was — discomfort. It didn’t feel sexy or exciting; it reminded me of the nerves I get when the waxer is about to rip out the most painful strip of pubic hair. Just get it over with. Two months ago, an encounter like that would have motivated me to text a girlfriend, agonizing over the details of his reactions. What did they mean? Oh god, I feel sick. I like him so much! Don’t I? I must, how else to explain my desire to vomit? Did his tone seem flirtatious or aloof? I can’t even tell anymore.
How on earth did I ever think I would find happiness and satisfaction in that?
Almost a month ago, after being on a dating/sex hiatus for about two, I met someone. It was completely random and unexpected. I certainly didn’t expect this guy, when I first spotted him standing at the bar, to be the person who would make me never want to meet anyone else. I was simply intrigued by his vintage suit and kind of poofy hair. Then it turned out that he was a poet and he would be reading from his book. He had an unexpected but subtle, lilting drawl and his words, as cliche as it may sound, felt directed at me. I was blown away.
Normally, I am the “best” version of myself when I first meet someone. Bold, flirty, fun. It’s only after I’ve achieved what I wanted — attention, attraction — that the facade comes down and my insecurities are laid bare. With him it was the opposite. I started off nervous and strangely intimidated. A friend had to ask him to have a drink with us, I was too shy to do it myself. “This never happens to me,” I said before she headed his way. Within 20 seconds of conversing, that nervousness melted away and away went my friends. It was just the two of us. He signed a copy of his book, “Amelia, lovely, so lovely,” along with his phone number.
That night, I felt an excitement unlike any I had ever felt before — it wasn’t anxious, it wasn’t unsteady, and it felt entirely mutual. When I couldn’t fall asleep, it was because I was so excited that we had made plans for the next day and I couldn’t wait. It felt like Christmas morning was only hours away and if I could just fall asleep, it would feel like only a minute had passed and it would be time to open presents. That kind of excitement is rare when you’re an adult. At least it has been for me.
When I look back on so many of the people I’ve been interested in, the vast majority of the energy I felt was of the nervous variety and almost always — like, 99 percent of the time — focused on wondering how the guy felt about me. Unraveling the mystery of him, but without any of his help. Very, very rarely did I give myself the chance to consider how I felt because I was too caught up dissecting how he might feel about me, since the signals were very rarely clear. And every time I was let down by one of those men — either because I was never able to figure out the mystery on my own, or they made it clear that they weren’t looking to share it, at least with me, or the mystery was revealed and it was a total disappointment — I felt a brief heartbreak that was quickly sopped up when someone new came along. That pattern was why I took a break from dating in the first place and why I probably would still be taking a break if I hadn’t met this one.
Every step of this romance has felt utterly instinctive and natural, from the moment I saw him at the bar to the text I just sent him expressing how much I miss him, without fear that the intensity would scare him away. Rules I’ve broken in the past and vowed not to break again, I’ve broken this time and it’s been right. While I’ve had occasional pangs of insecurity, they’re infrequent and rooted in things that have happened in the past, not in the present. Best of all, he knows that about me and wants me to tell him when those insecurities rise up so he can put any of my fears to rest, no matter how ridiculous they may be. I am free to be myself, flaws included.
And that’s where the real excitement lies. Knowing that there is so much more to find out about each other and that we’re both willing and wanting to share it all. That while there is a mystery to unravel, it’s not an impossible one to figure out, since we’re doing it together. And that, dare I say it, is exactly what I have been looking for.