The first time I went out with Joshua, I thought he might be a bit too
young and boyishly thrilled by the possibilities of his own future to
focus seriously on a relationship with a woman. But I decided not to
care. Joshua was a marvelous painter who had great passion for all
things groovy and wild, and he harbored gorgeous fantasies about saving
humanity through art. We debated politics and art, and stayed up until
dawn to explore the contours of our magnificent souls. I was dizzy
with inspiration and head over heels in love.
When Joshua finally gave me the “not-looking-for-anything-serious”
speech, I was too heartbroken to recognize one enormously significant
fact about our relationship.
I made the whole thing up.
I’d known about Joshua for months before he asked me out. In his
art, I’d seen brilliance. In his character, I’d sensed an intensity I
wanted to merge with my own. By the time we finally met, I’d already
created an identity for him, swooning over the parts of his personality
that fit and ignoring what didn’t. On our second date, as Joshua went
on about the great weekend he’d just spent rolling on E, a voice inside
my head whispered, “he is sooo not the man for you.” Yet, when he
called for a third date, I came a’runnin’.
Joshua was talented and smart. But he also vacillated between
becoming a rolling stone no woman would ever tame or staying a complete
slacker who smoked too much ganja and lived on his grandpa’s couch.
Either way, he wasn’t what I was looking for.
But I kept on with him because I saw the potential. In my mind, I
was having an emotionally intense, spine-tingling romance with a
brilliant young man on his way to becoming a master both of the canvas
and of the heart. Apparently in his mind, I was a cool chick he could
hang with when he didn’t feel like tokin’ a bone.
Women do this all the time. ‘He and I have this amazing
connection,’ we tell ourselves. ‘I’ve never felt this way before.’
We imagine ourselves in otherworldly romances and see our love
objects as the embodiment of everything we’ve ever dreamed. We ignore
the red flags flapping at us like cops waving us away from an accident.
The one Great Depression documentary our man caught on PBS, we focus
on to the exclusion of the Ultimate Fighting Champion DVDs in his
bedroom. We forgive him for not having a job for two years because
he’s working so diligently on a book we’ve, suspiciously, never had a
chance to read. We feel sorry rather than turned off when he likes his
booze, his buddies and even other babes more than us. We think he
hasn’t called for two weeks because he’s afraid or insecure or dying in
a ditch somewhere thinking about how much he misses us.
When I was honest with myself, I knew Joshua wasn’t close to being
ready for the kind of bond I wanted, and had years to go before he
might fit himself into the powerhouse version of manhood I’d dreamt up
for him. In my imagination, he was a much cooler person than in real
life. Our fantasy relationship totally rocked.
Still, I had trouble letting go. Every ending hurts because you
think the rest of your days will look like this, going in and out of
relationships like revolving doors. Maybe another love story, a real
connection, is no longer in the cards.
Unfortunately, the scared voice shrieking, ‘you’ll never find
someone,’ is louder than the one saying, ‘this dude is not the one we
want. Move on, doll.’ The not-so-scared voice is patient and centered
in what it wants. It keeps out ridiculous situations and recognizes
people worth bringing into your life. The scared voice fills in the
gaps of a deficient personality and weaves wonderful tales to convince
you this train wreck of an affair you’re in actually leads to
paradise. If we could just tell the scared voice to put a sock in it,
we could avoid these detours into romantic hell on our way to heaven.
I hope Joshua does get off his rump one day to give life to the
spectacular artist and man I know he has the potential to become. And
I hope I can silence my scaredy cat voice, so I can steer clear of him
until he does.