love in any season

The New York Times published a Summer Love collection in 2015 documenting the stories of summer romances in the city. I read it for the first time this summer, and it made me think of my own summer love, which, I think, is safe to say was my first.

The sub-header sums up how I feel in one succinct swoop: “Some of the stories will have happy endings. Others will merely end. Love, after all, is complicated, in any season.”

I was freshly seventeen when I met M, a childhood friend of The Officer (see here and here and here), for the first time. When I pulled up to a party in my neighborhood just to say hi to The Officer, with no intentions of going inside, M leaned in my car, thinking I was someone else. He realized his mistake and introduced himself, and I coolly did the same, because the girl he thought I was was someone I didn’t at all find pretty. I thought nothing of it, besides initial anger that he thought I was her. How dare he.

I ran into The Officer and M at a concert that summer and saved M from being nearly assaulted by a friend of mine (whom I wrote about here when I analyzed her relationship with her ex). M had actually texted me off his own phone, claiming our friends should meet up so we could all hang out and I could see The Officer, who was, according to M, “too scared to text me.” Again, I thought little of the interaction. Then, the next winter, when I came home for Christmas and went to a football game that’s basically a hometown reunion held in an NFL stadium and its tailgate lots, I ran into The Officer and M. While The Officer was annoying me, pining for attention, I talked to M and realized I was kind of attracted to him. I even schemed a ride back from him and his group, claiming that it was easier for me to be dropped off in my neighborhood than with my friends a mere fifteen minutes away. But I really just wanted to be around M a little longer, even if it meant I had to ditch my friends, fake flirt with The Officer, and talk to M while he wasn’t looking.

The spring began and we started to talk while we were both away at school, him in the Northeast and me in the South. We started with conversations about The Officer and why he and I didn’t work out, and then we slowly but naturally moved into discussing our own lives. I listened as he talked about his major, his family, and his fraternity, and I told him about me. We laughed about our failed attempts to find relationships at school, an ironic foreshadowing of what was to come.

Sober FaceTimes that were several hours long and drunk calls ensued. A few jokes that we should have been the “couple”, not The Officer and I, were made, and, eventually, we started to flirt more and more. The drunk calls went from innocent and funny to definitive, “Let’s see each other when we’re both home this summer.” These affirmations came from both of us, and, a few times, I found myself rejecting guys at school to go home and talk to M. I was sad to leave school in May, but I was excited for this possible summer fling.

In late May, M came over when I was home alone, and we watched something on TV while trying to avoid the elephant of sexual tension in the room. Nothing had happened yet because M felt wrong hooking up with me, someone a good friend, The Officer, used to love. (M knew that The Officer once professed his love to me on my birthday and said he used to be obsessed.) I felt paralyzed. I knew that M and I liked each other and had genuine chemistry, but I didn’t want to break up their twelve-year friendship over casual sex, even if it was with someone I liked. Finally, I told M that I’d understand if he didn’t want anything that summer, but he shouldn’t hold back because, due to us being thirteen hours away from each other for the majority of the year, we’d never date, and The Officer and I had truly never been dating, just stuck in an awkward stage of talking. “The Officer and I have never even done more than kissed, and we never dated. He never met my friends or even my parents,” I told M.

That, coupled with the fact that The Officer was moving out West in June for the summer, and the prospect of a low-key, no strings attached arrangement, was enough for both of us to proceed. “What is this?” M asked me, both of us caught between guilt and attraction. “I don’t know,” I said, internally panicking. “Let’s just hang out and hook up and see where it goes.” We kept things pretty quiet, so as not to advertise it to The Officer. That night we were making out on my living room couch at my mother’s when my father unexpectedly showed up and, in a panic, I made M sprint out of my dark house. My father definitely knew what was up, but neither of us acknowledged it. M and I laughed about it for months.

In the next months, we hooked up a lot. I was home alone all the time when my mother was at work and he came over. On the weekends, we did our own thing, but still texted and snapped all the time when we were off partying with our separate friends or at our jobs. It was easy and fun, the first time either of us had consistently been sleeping with the same person.

At a concert at the beginning of June, we snuck off to the lawn area and sat down, drunk off live music and cheap liquor. “Let’s lay some ground rules,” M said matter of factly. “What are we doing here?” Uninhibited, I told him I wanted exclusivity. It’s wrong to sleep with more than one person at the same time, something I still hold to be true. He agreed, and we continued, joking about our hookups and kissing even though I’m sure more than one person pointed and laughed. At the end of summer, he would tell me that hearing Love, a hit from the performer, live and kissing me was one of the best moments of his life.

Exclusivity made us more than just friends with benefits. We had a connection beyond sex, and it manifested itself in a way that I was equally surprised and scared by. Sneaking around when I was home alone turned to dinner out on my birthday, and lunch and ice cream dates. He always paid, except for once when I insisted after fighting him over the entire entree. It wasn’t about money, though. I would later explain to him that while I loved our dates and fancy dinners I would’ve still been with him if he brought me a pack of gum for my birthday.

Summer came to an end, and we both moved back to school. We said our goodbyes, mine tearfully. I will never forget him walking out of my front door, holding my hand, and turning around to say, “Thanks for being the best first girlfriend ever.”

It was the most endearing, heartbreaking thing I’d ever heard. Just like that, my first love had slipped through my fingertips.

But as the New York Times so wisely says, “Love, after all, is complicated, in any season.”

xx

instantblonde

 

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a great read on fraternity life

I went to an SEC school where Greek life had a strong presence. My sorority was a big part of my life while I was there, and I met many, many men in fraternities.

Some fit all the stereotypes – entitled, alcoholic, misogynistic. Others, though, were some of the most kind-hearted, generous, and sweet men I’d ever known.

But more that I knew were truly great people. This article is one I found shared on Facebook, and normally most things I find through Facebook are trash, but this is a great read.

Fraternity life gets a bad rep in the media, but I believe it’s not always deserved. This piece describes something that I think we all forget in this crazy heyday of headlines: as the author says, “It’s about teaching our sons to respect women.”

If boys aren’t raised to respect women, who are they growing up to be?

Thank you, Amanda Unfiltered, for a fresh, needed perspective.

xx

instantblonde

the officer iii

It’s over two years since I last posted about The Officer. God, that feels like so long. I can’t believe he’s been in my life long enough for me to write about him for two years.

Catch up here first and then here.

Since he was last documented here, I went off to school almost a thousand miles from our hometown, where we met at sixteen. This added distance gave me intense clarity. After our initial goodbyes in August, he continued to reach out to me and check in, drunk call, or try to make me laugh.

With the flood of new guys in a new state- region, even- I realized the problem: The Officer was an excellent person and we are great platonically, but not at all romantically. We had identical senses of humor and he listened and understood when I often cried to him about my parents’ messy divorce, since his had gone through the same thing. I enjoyed his presence immensely, but, at least from my point of view, we had no chemistry. I didn’t feel any sort of attraction or spark. And at this age, chemistry is not something I can sacrifice in a relationship. Isn’t someone who you enjoy talking to and being with, even if they’re of the opposite sex, just a friend? Why try to stretch it into anything else?

Beyond that, too, there was the distance, which had widened as he stayed at school in the Northeast and I moved for my education, as another dealbreaker.

When I was home for the holidays, I went to an NFL game, a longstanding tradition of rowdiness and reunions in my city, with friends. I noticed my cousin, who went to school with The Officer, tailgating and said hi. The Officer, hammered but more so than everyone there, was with their group and was all over me. My disinterest and embarrassment towards his attention confirmed that there was nothing more than friendship.

So, having slowly decreased our communication over the fall and after the awkward situation at the football game, I finally met him at lunch to talk. I had only requested water when I told him the news.

“You’re genuinely one of the best guys I’ve ever met,” I told him, “but we’ll never be romantic. I value you as a friend and I hope we can always be close, but it’s not going to work, ever. And I’m grateful for all the times you listened and made me feel better and made me laugh. But it’s how I feel and you should know, finally.”

He was clearly upset, and I wish that I could say I was too, but I was more relieved. It felt good to have finally defined how I felt after years of ambiguity and what he may have thought was stringing him along. I was guilty, too, for using him as a sort of emotional punching bag, but I vowed to return the kindness he’d showed to me, always being a shoulder to cry on, to someone else. He barely said anything, but he thanked me for being honest.

This spring, he occasionally reached out to me, mostly to say hi or make me laugh, which I appreciated. This summer, he moved out West for the Navy, and, from what I hear, is doing well there.

I know it’s not an epic love story or anything heart wrenching, but I needed to document this. I want to remember feeling so accomplished, because I had kind-of, maybe just broken up with someone for the first time and it wasn’t a dumpster fire. I’d also secured a good guy friend after he’d gotten over his anger towards me, which I understood.

We keep in touch here and there and I know that whenever we’re in the same city we’ll see each other. Just as friends, though.

phoebejoey
[via marieclaire.com]
xx

instantblonde

the disappointment of growing up

The most heartbreaking part of growing up, I think, is not pulling away from your childhood home for college move-in day or losing your first love or watching classmates  fall into drug addictions. It is realizing your parents aren’t the people you idolized as a child.

If you are lucky, you might have only flaws to discover: your mother has massive credit card debt or your dad chain smokes cigarettes.

If you aren’t, though, you might feel like I do right now. Your heart will ache with the disappointment of someone not being at all who you thought they were, but that someone isn’t a lover or a friend. It is a parent, whom you looked to for every basic need for many years of your young life, that doesn’t remotely resemble the person you saw in the audience at your dance recitals or you hugged goodnight at every bedtime.

It’s the hurt of being shielded from many harsh truths as a child and being exposed to them as an adult, as if your attachment to your parents will have lessened so the realities will sting without such vigor.

Your parents’ failed marriage will be no shock to you. The secrets that emerge after their bitter separation, though, will rock you to your core. The brokenness of each of your parents, oddly enough, didn’t slip out from the facade they called their lawful union.

Or maybe it was always there, but the illusion of a happy family kept it under the surface. Neighbors noted, “But they seemed like the perfect couple.” Seemed. Perception really is reality.

I think the silver lining here, at least for me, is that these realizations, though heartbreaking, forced me to be independent, to grow up, and to take a more forgiving and less idealistic view at life. People, even our parents, are deeply flawed, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t have a valued place in our lives.

xx

instantblonde

recommended reads

An excellent mentor of mine, Mrs. M, who has known me since high school, sent me a list of books to read over a year ago.

As I was cleaning out my space to return home for the summer, I found her list. Trying to be less cluttered, I knew I had to file it electronically so I could have it forever.

Mrs. M is a phenomenal person. Professionally, she is at the top of her field in our region and has been recognized nationally for what she does. Personally, she is also a joy. She is tough but kind and sincere and funny. I hope I am as graceful, accomplished, and elegant as she is. I would not be where I am today without her, and I want to impact as many lives as she has and still is!

Regardless, I chose to put the list here because I don’t want it getting lost in my notes- another thing I’m dreading cleaning out. I trust her recommendations immensely, and I know that the following titles will not disappoint.

Without further delay, here it is:

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Without Shame by Katherine Russell

Unfortunately, that’s all I have for today. Here’s to hoping for a good end to your April.

xx

instantblonde

 

what i want to be

I am at a stage of life in which we are all figuring out what we want to be. We’re circling options for relationships, majors, jobs, careers, and destinations.

All of this decision making has made me want to crawl into fresh sheets and never leave. It’s a lot of change in a short time and it’s the types of changes that have serious life consequences. They’re heavy, consequential, important choices.

But among all of them, we sometimes lose the values and traits that make us real. I think it’s easy to get enveloped in the mess of growing up and leave who you really are behind. It got me to thinking about what I want to be as a human being, and I wondered how people would describe me and if it would compare to how I would want to be described.

This is what I landed on:

Wild, unfiltered, unapologetically loving.

Isn’t that just the most beautiful description you’ve ever read? I just love it. It took my breath away when I read it. (It’s from a Huffington Post article which you can read here.)

I want to be all of those things. Wild, maybe even bordering on a little reckless, and absolutely enamored with being alive.

My friends would say I’m pretty good at being unfiltered. I am not afraid to say what I think. Saying what I feel, though, is a different story. I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve and I disguise my emotions sometimes.

Being unapologetically loving is, to me, such an act of bravery. To be able to care so freely without fear of getting hurt is something I desperately want for myself.

This year, almost half over, has brought immense struggle and change and heartbreak. But at the end of the day, I’ve learned more about myself than ever, and probably the best revelation of them all is deciding that I want to be those three things.

xx

instantblonde

merry christmas

Though I am not a practicing Catholic at all anymore, my Aunt C sent this to me after my grandmother passed in August. I saved it into my notes and have been reading it once in a while for a little reminder.

After losing DJW, this has been something I’ve been reading more and more. I thought I’d preserve it here.

A Gentle Reminder from Pope Francis

This life will go by fast.

Don’t fight with people, don’t criticize your body so much, don’t complain so much.

Don’t lose sleep over your bills. Look for the person that makes you happy. If you make a mistake, let it go and keep seeking your happiness.

Never stop being a good parent. Don’t worry so much about buying luxuries and comforts for your home, and don’t kill yourself trying to leave an inheritance for your family. Those benefits should be earned by each person, so don’t dedicate yourself to accumulating money.

Enjoy, travel, enjoy your journeys, see new places, give yourself the pleasures you deserve. Allow dogs to get closer. Don’t put away the fine glassware. Utilize the new dinnerware; don’t save your favorite perfume, use it to go out with yourself; wear out your favorite sport shoes; repeat your favorite clothes.

So what? That’s not bad. Why not now? Why not pray now instead of waiting until before you sleep? Why not call now? Why not forgive now? We wait so long for Christmas; for Friday; for Reunions; for another year; for when I have money; for love to come; when everything is perfect…look…

Everything perfect doesn’t exist. Human beings can’t accomplish this because it simply was not intended to be completed here. Here is an opportunity to learn.

So take this challenge that is life and do it now…love more, forgive more, embrace more, love more intensely and leave the rest in God’s hands.  Amen.

“Why not call now? Why not forgive now? We wait so long for Christmas; for Friday; for Reunions; for another year… for when everything is perfect. Everything perfect doesn’t exist.”

Wishing you all the ability to lose perfection and embrace what we have, right here, right now, this holiday season.

xx,

instant blonde

P.S. Previous Christmas posts: 2015, 2016.