Dater X: V-Day & The L-Word

Valentine’s Day is juuuuust around the bend, and in unusual circumstances for me, I can actually celebrate it this year with, GASP,  a man. I’ve always been a fan of Valentine’s Day, even at my most miserably single, because as a person who loves a lot (and always really, really hard), I bask in any excuses to show my friends and family how much I care about them. I give flowers to my sister, chocolates to my mom and send all of my friends really mushy GIFS of cats in red ribbons and scenes from “Love, Actually,” because that’s just how I roll. Sure, in some ways Valentine’s Day is just a “made up, Hallmark holiday,” but this world needs more love, so February 14th seems like a good place to start. Anyway, I digress…

Over the past couple of weeks, my boyfriend has made it no secret that he’s falling in love with me/in love with me already. He’ll say things to our friends like, “I love this girl and she knows it,” and to me, “You don’t know how hard I’m falling for you.” I usually just smile or say “Oh yeah? That makes me happy,” like an asshole, but I know and he knows that I feel it, too — I’m just scared of making it real. Saying “I love you” out loud has never been scarier to me, and I think it’s because I genuinely mean it and don’t want to ruin a good thing by moving too quickly. If I admit that I love him, that makes me more vulnerable and thus open to being hurt. The bad thing about taking the next step is that you’re higher up if and when you fall.

I’ve been spending about 75 percent of my free time with Tim, and things are just completely different from the first time we dated. We’ve matured, opened up to each other, and have both accepted that who we were almost five years ago were not even close to the same people we are today. Obviously no relationship is perfect. I still have trust issues, he has a temper sometimes (though never with me, even when I spoiled the ending of “American Sniper” — oops), and there are certainly still things we have to work on as a pair. But I’m stupidly happy. With that said, we were together this week when I dropped my first L-bomb.

We’d been watching the worst “horror” flick ever, “Ouija” (I do NOT recommend it), and when it was finally over, I started ragging on him for his sub-par movie choice.

“Oh come on, it wasn’t that bad,” he said. “You flinched a couple of times. Besides, we got to spoon for two hours, so you really have nothing to complain about.”

“That movie was awful and you know it,” I said, swiveling myself out of my little spoon position to face him. “I love you, but –”

And I caught myself. I turned bright red, got hives all over my neck and buried my face in his chest.

“YOU DO?” he said, sounding like he was Charlie discovering a golden ticket. “I knew it!”

“I do,” I said. “I love you … but your movie choice sucked.”

As scared as I was all along to say three tiny words, I felt like a weight actually lifted off my shoulders when I said them. I meant them.

I’d forgotten how nice it feels to say “I love you” to a man and actually mean it. So, as Valentine’s Day approaches, I’ve been thinking about why this love makes me so afraid of the future — a future that I’ve now begun to think about with him in it. Is it because I’m used to being single and I’m afraid I’ll fuck this up? Is it because I’m scared of getting hurt again? Is it because I never WANTED to fall in love with him, but did anyway? I don’t know. But what I do know is that, in the wise words of Johnny Depp: “You can close your eyes to the things you don’t want to see, but you can’t close your heart to the things you don’t want to feel.”

This Valentine’s Day, I’m going to embrace all of those feelings: the happy, the giddy and the fearful. I’m going to spend three days with a guy who gives me butterflies, but at the same time, makes me feel like I’m free falling down the side of a cliff — and I can’t wait. We’ll eat, we’ll drink, we’ll tell each other “I love you” and be happy about where we’ve found ourselves. This Valentine’s Day, I won’t be surrounded by wine and girlfriends and “The Notebook.” I will leave the comfort zone I’ve been in for the last half a decade and be with someone who I know can hurt me. Wish me luck.