Casualties of Love

Love is a many splendored thing.  Love lifts us up where we belong.  All you need is love!

…Right?

Now, don’t get me wrong.  Love is a wonderful thing, and I truly believe that only ideas and actions based in Love can be truthful.  But somewhere along the line, especially for us English speakers, it seems that we all forgot there’s more than one type of Love.  It’s not just Love is what you feel for that person who gives you a raging boner– after all, that could just be infatuation.  No, there are so many different kinds of Love.  Love for your country, Love for your family, Love for an animal, Love for Ingrid Michaelson (or any musician– but how can you not love her?).  The list goes on and on and on and on.

But we get particularly caught up in this idea of romantic Love.  And I get why.  Who doesn’t love that new relationship energy, when everything is puppy dogs and kitten rainbows? And, as someone who’s libido is straight up going to waste at the moment, I get the sex part too.  But Sex is NOT Love.  I think sex can be super, extra special if it’s with someone you Love, but sex is just sex.  You don’t have to fuck someone to Love them, and you don’t have to Love them to fuck ’em.

But, hey, if we’re all consenting adults, what’s the big deal?

Perhaps there isn’t one.  But this entry is dedicated to all my fallen comrades.  To the once ostentatious dreamers, who have  given it all up for the chance at domestic bliss.

I first started to realize I was actually losing friends to Love back in college.  I moved in with a new roommate, and one of my close friends quickly fell for her.  It was messy, their get together, since she was in a long distance relationship at the time, but after a lot of angst they became a couple.  And suddenly I only saw my roommate every other morning, when she came by to pick up clean clothes.  This phenomenon, the first way in which we lose people to Love, is something my friends and I have coined “Girlfriend/Boyfriend Island:” that period of time when a relationship is new and you can’t get a hold of your twitterpated friend, by phone or any other method, and they literally seem to have run away to an island somewhere.

Fortunately, this stage usually wears off, but it can take up to a year and for some, it doesn’t seem to wear off ever.  But once you’ve gotten your friend back from the Island, you start to notice that they spend more time hanging out with other couples than they do their single friends and, as a result, you’re seeing a lot less of them.  This is where you actually start to wonder if your friend has been body-snatched, because something just isn’t right.

The length of this Couples-centric stage depends on the person.  For some, it’s transitional like the Couples Island, but for others it’s a lifelong shift into the world of coupledom and coupled privilege.

But none of this scares me.  None of this is why I think there are true “casualties” in Love.  Remember the couple I mentioned before that got together when I was in college?  Well, they’re still together, got married last year, actually.  I went; it was a lovely ceremony and I was genuinely happy for them.  But it was a mournful day, too, because of what they both gave up in being together.

A few years after they’d gotten together, after college graduation, we were all living in the same city and the lovely couple invited me over for dinner.  We had a nice time, but I noticed something… off, about them both.  Namely, neither of them had anything to talk about.  I must’ve gotten asked 10 times over the course of three hours, “So what’s new with you?” I was confused.  Sure, they’re both responsible people, working to save money and, in her case, working towards her doctorate.  But something was missing in both of them.  A certain spark I didn’t see anymore.

He used to be the biggest dreamer of them all.  The stage, the lights, the audience– he was going to be a star.  Now he’s content to sell furniture to snobs downtown.  Her love of school was always legendary, but being a foreign language student, she once had plans to travel all over, live in different parts of the world, soak up the culture.  She’s abandoned all of that now, because her husband doesn’t speak anything besides English.

I was torn.  Here were two people who I cared about very deeply, and they seemed to be truly happy together, just being domestic.  Yet, I could still see the tattered dreams under their feet, and I sincerely am not sure whether to be joyful for them or to mourn was has been lost, possibly forever.  Both of these once vibrant people had become mellow, predictable and, at times, kind of boring, as a couple.

I know Love comes at a cost.  I know because I’ve had to make that kind of choice before: Marriage or my future?  Before I came out, I was dating a straight guy.  It was long distance, and we were together for four years, but I ended things towards the close of my freshman year in college.  It wasn’t for lack of Love.  It was because I saw my future shriveling up before my eyes.  He wanted me to move to another country and marry him as soon as I was finished with undergraduate school.  And while I Loved him, and wanted nothing more than to be near him, I couldn’t make that leap.  I couldn’t throw away all my possibilities.  Without him in the picture, I could do anything after graduation! I could join the Peace Corps, or go to graduate school, or travel the country making money as a street musician– anything was possible.  But with him? My destiny was set.  I would get married, be a mother, and settle down.  No changing the world, no Jules Verne type adventures, just predictability.

To this day, I still Love him, but I chose Possibility.

I say this all with one of my best friend’s weddings looming before me.  In a few short months, I’m supposed to give a fabulous toast to their Love.  But what do I say when I feel like I lost my friend to the relationship he’s in?  Back in the day, when it was just him and I, we were going to take on the world together– and change it.  We sat on the subway talking about every grand thing we were going to do, and there was no ceiling as far as our dreams were concerned.  He was exuberant and opinionated, to the point of being bossy at times,  but I loved that he was just unabashedly him, and no one could stop it.

Or so I thought… Then, one day, he disappeared to Girlfriend Island.  Two years later, he still hasn’t come back.  What kills me, though, is that he is not the same person.  Where he was once loud and proud and in charge, now he’s meek and accommodating.  I’d call him a house-husband, since he does all the cleaning and the cooking and caring for the house, but he’s also supporting his fiancee with his full-time job while she dicks around in graduate school.  Perhaps it would be more accurate to say he’s been house broken.  Where he once spoke of changing the world, now all he can think of are linen colors for the wedding and babies for afterwards.

And then they went a got matching tattoos.  Not little ones, either.  Enormous, colorful, sure as hell expensive, matching tattoos.  I mean, for one, this is but one way to guarantee it won’t work out.  Relationship tatts are generally a terrible idea.  But I think what got me is that, once upon a time, my BFF and I said that after we’ve known each other for 10 years, we’ll get some kind of inside-joke, correlating tattoos.  We’ve known each other for 8 years.  He and his fiancee? Not quite 2.  Suddenly, I don’t want that tattoo anymore.

So on the surface, my friend seems happy.  And if he’s happy, I’m happy for him.  It’s just a little hard to swallow that he’s happy and everything is utterly perfect when, for one, all his friends are her friends and he doesn’t have any of his own where they’re living now, and, more the point, he is literally a vastly different person since they got together.  I mean, he went from extrovert, always being the center-of-attention, to being some kind of doting, lovesick wallflower.

And so I take this moment, to pause from the seemingly endless celebration of coupledom, to mourn our fallen comrades.  To mourn the opportunities lost, the dreams abandoned, and the personalities forever altered in pursuit of “The One,” a fictional concept there to push the idea that you’re not perfect just the way you are.

Well let me tell you–you’re perfect and complete, exactly as you are.   Whether you’re single or in a couple, don’t give up on yourself for another person.

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