The Vital Thing To Do Before, During Or After A Relationship

April 14th 2015

Story originally written and experienced: February 13th 2013

“Why are you so against it?

“I’m not against it.”

“You basically are.”

“I’m not against it, I’m just…okay without it.”

He didn’t understand.

Bennett was sitting

Across the                table from me

At a miniature Mediterranean restaurant on St. Mark’s place, unable to process the blasphemy I just relayed.

“Be without a relationship? But…why?!” I could see him stirring inside his head whilst spinning his hummus with a spoon in one hand and anxiously gripping a napkin with the other. “It’s love, Olive. It’s fucking—love! It’s a great thing!”

“I’m not saying it’s not a great thing! It is, without a doubt, a really great thing.”

“So what’s the problem?”

“There is no problem.”

“It is. You’re always pushing it away.”

“Okay. I push it away sometimes. But. I really think that if I found…someone…a scenario…worthwhile. I wouldn’t. But until then, I’m fine.

“What do you mean?”

“That’s what I mean. I’m fine. When did being single become synonymous with being sad? I don’t like that. I don’t get it. I get finding someone, liking them, maybe loving them eventually and if things work out, having the pleasure of having a kick ass companion around for everything. But. What’s wrong with feeling fulfilled before that?”

“But don’t you want to find someone?”

“I mean yeah, I’d love to find someone, I would. But. Not because I feel pathetic being alone, or because I don’t know how to be alone, I want it to be because I want them. Particularly them. Just them. Not because I need them to fill a blank in my life or complete the social norm of where a romance is supposed to go. Because I’m fine.

He didn’t understand.

It was hard for me to talk to him about things like this.

Anyone, really.

But especially him.

Thing is.

He was a notorious, serial monogamist.

Most notorious for his recent and spontaneous break up with his girlfriend of 4 1/2 years, trading her in for his secretary, primarily because she seemed a little more convenient and cute.

They were on the rocks anyway, he’d tell me.

But wanted to make sure he had a back up first.

Because quite frankly, he had the complete incapacity to be alone.

His words. Not mine.

Dinner was fine. And dinner was fun.

We didn’t fight or anything.

Just agreed our romantic necessities were prioritized quite differently. And with bodies full of baklava, called it a night and

parted                              ways.

Then I got on the subway.

 Took it

1 === 2 === 3=== 4=== 5=== 6 === 7=== 8 === 9 === 10 === Stops.

Got off the subway. Walked five blocks. Grabbed my keys. Climbed up the stairs. Opened my door.

And saw Charlie on the other side.

“Hey!”

“Hey.”

“Welcome home, you’re getting back late, where were ya?”

“I grabbed dinner with Bennett on St. Mark’s.”

“Awesome. How was that?”

“Interesting, actually.”

“Interesting how?”

“…I’m going to change into my pajamas, and then I’ll tell you?”

“Deal.”

One oversized shirt from some charity event, small shorts from high school and a side bun later, I was curled up in her comforter and ready to tell her everything and all.

Okay, I'm ready to chat.

Okay, I’m ready to chat.

 

“So dinner with Bennett. It was interesting. Go.” She prompted.

“So we’re sitting at dinner and we’re talking about a lot of shit, and then he brings up being single.”

“Does he even know what that is?”

“Right? Exactly. So he starts hounding me about why I’m single. ‘When will I not be?’ ‘What am I afraid of?!’ and it just made me feel like I was doing something wrong, and I didn’t get it.”

“Doing something wrong? If you want to be single, then be single.”

“Yeah, I mean it’s not like I’m a die-hard advocate of boycotting relationships, not at all. I think they’re great, and I’m sure I’ll want one again at some point, but there’s just something I need to do first.”

“Like what?”

Know myself. On every level. In every way. Completely uninfluenced. Feel attractive on my own accord and not because someone told me so. Practice loyalty and not because it’s obligatory. Wear my hair the way I damn like it and not because it’s someone else’s preference. Figure out what I enjoy doing most, and then recruit someone to join me afterwards. Form opinions. Strong ones. That I decided on my own. Things like that. I mean my god, truth be told, I don’t even like Dave Matthews Band that much. But I pretended to for a while. I don’t dislike them. But when I realized my appreciation for their music mostly came from wanting to be accepted by someone else, it just felt fabricated. I don’t know. I think there’s something so fantastic about fusing ideas with someone else’s. But. I need to figure out what mine even are first.”

“I mean, I definitely agree. Do you think it’ll take a while?”

“Maybe. Maybe not. I’m not a lost puppy, it’s not like I have no idea who I am. But this just makes too much sense to me. To do this. To have my work nights be mine for a while. Just so that I know for sure that regardless of if I have romantic company to hang out with right afterwards, I’d have a fulfilling agenda either way—working out, making a meal, writing, a decent list of friends to have a Mediterranean dinner with. I actually read this article once

And it scared me.

This girl was talking about how she was in back-to-back relationships for years and years. And it wasn’t until she had this small lull when she wasn’t in one, that she’d find herself waking up on Saturday afternoons, without the slightest clue of what she wanted to do.”

“What? How is that possible?”

“Yeah, she said she had spent so many consecutive years and months catering to someone else’s schedule, friends and preferences, that her Saturdays were usually spent as an accessory to someone else’s plans. And that fucking terrified me. Waking up on a Saturday and being so far removed from myself, that I don’t even know how to fill my day?! Maybe she was a weird case. I don’t know. Anyway, a majority of my friends are in fantastic relationships. And I really think that’s why.

It’s because they figured themselves out first.

And then a person appreciated them for definitively that.

And when their significant others are away on a business trip or live far away, they’re not panicking over not having plans. Because they know what they like to do and have other people to hang out with. And if things don’t work out? They’re sad, of course. But.

They’re also fine.

They’ve still got other company, hobbies, and things to do, and I just know they’d never have an empty Saturday or an opinion that wasn’t their own. And being that way is so cool. And so vital.”

“This actually reminds me of a saying this girl told me back in high school. It was something like ‘good couples stand face to face, but the best ones stand back to back.’ Essentially, the one’s that are all-consuming and can’t focus on anything else end up missing out on other things. Big time. But the one’s that are back to back? Still pay attention to the things that are important to them, and without a doubt, have a person they can indefinitely lean on.”

“Goddamn that is so on point,” I said before we both fell asleep.

Then I woke up the next morning.

Got on the subway.

 Took it

1 === 2 === 3=== Stops.

Got off the subway. Walked eight blocks. Scanned my ID. Took the elevator. Grabbed notes from an old meeting. And wrote this on the other side.

That’s the way I want to be. And I will be. I’m going to make money, save it for myself and use it on myself. So that way, when I decide to do relationshipy things again, I can sit across the table from that person, with more money in my pocket, my hair the way I like it, a definitive music taste and a guarantee I’ll have a fucking fantastic Saturday with or without them around. But also admitting that, if they could join me on a Saturday…and they happened to be…someone…or a scenario…that felt particularly good or right.

I’d know then.

And only then.

I’d feel a little more than fine.