When I was a ten-year old at summer camp in New Hampshire, my social life was minimal. I had some moderate popularity with the girls in my bunk, but the boys, not so much.
(Except for one, a hopelessly nerdy kid from the Upper West Side named Gabe, who wrote me letters during the school year that may be the most romantic snail mail I have yet received.)
There was one girl, though, who all the boys liked. She had shiny, stick straight brown hair that parted in the middle, like Winnie from the Wonder Years, and fell to her shoulders–all untangled and effortless.
Eventually, she chose one boy–Diego–on whom to set her sights. And, in the storied tradition of those pre-teen summer-camp liasons, he asked her, next to some bush they’d probably poison themselves making out in a couple of summers later, to be his girlfriend.
That afternoon, laying quietly in the cabin during the after lunch rest period, I watched her sit on her bed and read. And, vividly, I remember thinking: “How could she possibly be so focused on that book? How could she possibly be thinking about anything besides having a boyfriend?”
I swelled with envy. Both notions were so foreign to me: that, to begin with, you could even be desirable enough for a boyfriend. And that, if you were, you could spend a single second not feeling ecstatic about it. I didn’t understand.
And, to be honest, I still don’t.
This is what I was thinking about last night as I lay awake, unable to sleep. I wasn’t sleeping for a lot of reasons: for one, I’m an insomniac with a minor addiction to nightly doses of Ambien or Nyquil. For another, it’s been not only an emotional few weeks (the fire is finally under control, or so the yoga teacher thinks), but a busy few, too: the conference I help plan starts on Sunday. Not to mention the fact that I anticipated having to get up at 4:45 this morning to drive my dear college friend A to the airport (after her restorative, blissful weekend visit)–a wake-up time that equals a surefire means of preventing meaningful rest.
But also, there was a boy to think about. (An admission that compels me to qualify: I have, within the last 72 hours, cried about D. I am not over it. Nor am I that girl who goes from one relationship to another in three weeks–I am the girl who winds up alone for years between serious entanglements. At least, I think I am that girl. My point is only this: don’t worry, I am as wary as you.)
And as I allowed thoughts of him to enter my sleepy head, I tried to remind myself of what S had said right when D dumped me: that the hardest part of breaking up with someone is parting, not so much with the person, but with the expectations you’d built for the relationship.
And I tried to tell myself that this problem could be minimized if you were to keep those expectations in check: if you were to shoo away those thoughts of what it might be like to be with someone new (or, in D’s case, someone less new) and pick up a novel instead.
And then I thought: just as I will never be able to feign genuine or artificial insanity to be more attractive to certain men, so I will never be able to protect my perpetually open heart by not thinking about someone I like.
Which, perhaps, may be alright in the end. The reality of relationships, after all, is hard. The fantasy? Now that‘s the fun part.