About a month ago one of my professors, also a friend, met D for the first time at a reading in Santa Fe.
The following day I ran into her in the basement of the student center and eagerly approached, seeking validation.
“He’s cute, right!?”
“Yeah, totally. So it’s going well?”
“Yeah, really well.”
“So now you’re trying to find everything that’s wrong with it?”
I frowned, legitimately bewildered by her comment. I thought for a second–was I looking to find things wrong with him, or with us?–and quickly concluded that in fact, no, I wasn’t. Somehow, I was actually managing to enjoy that things were indeed going well.
They still are. But now, as he and I edge up to our three month mark, I absolutely know what she meant.
The explanation for this is that there is something you may not know about me–something that I, periodically, rediscover about myself and each time experience the sort of startled confusion I expect you will as well:
I’m a secret commitment-phobe.
I know. This is likely not a category into which you would normally place a person who considers insta-relationships a form of amateur sport: who is, sometimes within days, willing to wager that another person is a potential life partner; who thinks nothing of introducing a guy to friends after a few minutes and parents after a few weeks.
I know. I’m eager. But once I’m actually in something, it usually sputters out before I have a chance to even consider the idea of commitment.
S reminded me of this over dinner the other night, during which I grasped to articulate anything that might be wrong with D–only to realize that everything I said was actually a good thing.
“He’s just kind of the opposite of anyone you’ve ever dated,” she said. In other words, it’s not that the fact that I know how he feels about me is bad–just that it’s not something I’m particularly used to.
“I might be secretly terrified of commitment,” I admitted.
“Yeah,” she said. “I think you might be right.”
She asked how I dealt with J–my long term ex, the only other person to whom I’ve really, truly, ever committed. I told her that I have no clue. Also, that I was nineteen.
“I had no idea what was going on,” I said. “All I knew was that there was a lot of pot around and that my boyfriend was a minor rock star who took me backstage at shows. I thought that was cool.” I literally have no recollection of how things with him got serious.
(A realization that, if nothing else, should make me more sympathetic to my grandmother’s response when I once asked her why, at nineteen, she married my grandfather: “I have no idea.”)
For the record, I’m sure I did love J–in that first-love way that means I always, in some capacity, will. I just, apparently, had not yet developed the highly elaborate set of neuroses about men and relationships with which I currently am beset. (You see? Before craziness comes innocence–I’m not sure we are ever without one.)
Now, of course, it’s another story. And as happy as I am to be with someone, especially someone wonderful who treats me extremely well, I am also properly terrified of it: what if this is the right thing? What if it isn’t? How will I know? (This is the point at which I hear my brother R weighing in, accusing me of my “typical over-thinking.” I have no defense besides saying: at least, both of us are consistent.)
On more than one occasion various girlfriends have asked me, with some combination of jealousy, frustration and awe: “Is there anything wrong with D?” The best answer I’ve come up with is that he sometimes forgets to put the toilet seat up.
Give me a little time, and I’m sure I’ll have a more satisfying answer. He’s pretty great, but no one’s perfect. Nor is any relationship–at least, any relationship longer than three months.
I should enjoy the “perfect” part while it lasts, I know. It’s just that the fact that this territory is so darn unfamiliar, it’s sometimes hard. Forgive me. I think I can get used to it.