Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Essay: My History of Heartbreak

Every Wednesday, I have an essay on any topic that catches my fancy!

At the time of this writing, my spirits are low as I recall the shades of getting heartbroken. (It doesn't help that I just read the excellent short story "All The Little Gods We Are" published in Clockwork Phoenix--damn you John Grant!) Recently, my friend Mia has taken interest in my love life--or lack of one--and one of the questions she's asked is who is my crush. Now the word "crush" was never a term I took lightly, either in the past or the present. Occasionally, I break out of character and joke about it but for the most part, I save it for those special occasions. In many ways, I'm just like any guy, easily swayed by a pretty face. (What's weird about me however is that I was never attracted to breasts which a lot of guys obsess over, hence there was never really a time when my eyes will drift below the neck.) But those attractive women, I don't call them my crush. Usually I use that word for people I can envision sharing a future with--although for the record, I've been a bachelor my entire life and well, I've never gone out on a date (although it's not for a lack of trying, which I'll explain later).

When I met the first person I would call my crush, I had an epiphany. One doesn't fall in love with other people solely based on their looks. Yes, brains and personality matter! I mean by the time you hit puberty, every teenager has this idealized woman and more often than not, it's a celebrity of some sort. For many of my classmates, it was probably Pamela Anderson. (I'm not a breast-guy so honestly Pamela Anderson never got a bleep in my radar--if we're just going to use Baywatch as a scale, I was more attracted to Alexandra Paul.) But when I realized that my crush was my crush--and this wasn't a love-at-first-sight thing because the first time I met my crush, I barely took notice of her and filed her away in some almost-forgotten memory--one's standards ceased to matter and you realize that she might not be the prettiest or smartest or -insert adjective here- woman in the world but fidelity stops being an issue and you feel that hey, I probably found someone whom I can spend the rest of my life with.

Now that epiphany wasn't easy to come by. For the record, my crush was pretty, but she wasn't drop dead gorgeous. As I said previously, when I first met her, I didn't think much of our initial meeting. The realization that I wanted to ask her out on a date came later, when I discovered her wit, her charm, and the fact that we had common interests. (I've been skeptical of physical beauty ever since.) Unfortunately, while I saw things in that perspective, the same can't be said for my crush. I wasn't flat-out rejected but was subject to evasive tactics such as not being available to answer the phone (and ended up talking to the over-protective father), declining to meet you outside of their school's gate (I went to an all-boys school which had an all-girls school across the street--and this charade is common in the Philippines), and refusal to accept your gifts (even when you were getting drenched in the rain as you offered the present). Eventually, I took the hint and went through the process of getting over my crush.

I never thought I'd recover during my heartbroken period. I couldn't sleep because my dreams were full of what-ifs and what-could-have-beens, her face the last image I recall whenever I woke up. I couldn't read my favorite books or watch anime because they reminded me of her (here's a tip to those who are recently heartbroken: find a new hobby!). As for my general mood, I was perpetually haunted by my apparent failure, thinking that I only had one-shot at finding true love and I blew it: I would never meet someone like her again. At that point, my one wish in life was to die right then and there, hopefully as a martyr as my crush would realize her error during my death throes.

Did I mention that this all happened during summer break? There's probably nothing worse than having free time and spending it sulking. Eventually, I got a summer job, distracted myself with an old friend who resurfaced in my life, and then moved on to college.

It was during my freshman year that I met crush #2. On one hand, I was relieved that the belief "I would never meet someone like her again" wasn't true (or rather yes, it's true that you'll never find an exact duplicate of the person you fell in love with, but it's not true that you'll never be attracted to someone else ever again). On the other hand, I over-compensated for my previous failure and I ended up the clingy courter. Suffice to say, after three weeks of meeting my new crush and befriending her, she didn't want to see me ever again. Here came the escapades of my crush dropping the phone on me, tearing my apology letter into several pieces, and ignoring me completely whenever I stumbled onto her. More depression and heartbreak ensued although it was easier to cope the second time around.

Of course me being a persistent fellow and never letting something as failure get in my way, that doesn't mean I gave up. I thought hey, I'm a freshman, there's still three years to go before we both graduate. It took around a year for us to be on speaking terms again and the remaining two years was spent hoping for more. If there's anyone who was impressed with my "fidelity", it was the mutual friends of me and my crush (more of her friends than mine really). I mean some people in our batch have gone through three sets of boyfriends/girlfriends during those four years. And it's not like there was a lack of pretty girls on campus.

A year or two after graduation, me and crush #2 occasionally keep in touch. At first, I was still quasi-courting her (to which a mutual friend said "Charles! We've already graduated!") but eventually, I came to realize that we've both changed. She's not my crush anymore and I don't think a relationship beyond friendship would work between us. Of course having gone through all that, one sort of feels invincible. I mean I seem to have survived the worst--what more can fate throw at me? After four or so years of mentally not being a bachelor (because I was constantly concentrated on my crush during all those years), my psyche attuning itself to reality took some getting used to. Great, I had all this free time and money, not needing to worry what gifts to give my crush, or scheduling my time so that I can meet her during her available hours. It was a problem, but a good and welcome one.

These days, I still consider myself "shy" although I'm sure many people will think otherwise (or rather "shy" is the last adjective they'll think when describing me). It's also surprising what my attitude is towards the whole incident--I've learned from my past experience (i.e. things not to do) but at the same time not letting my negative experiences affect my future relationships (i.e. actually making new friends).

Back to my friend Mia, she's asking who my current crush is (and is not the person I jokingly referred to as my crush in an old blog entry) and what the current state of our relationship is. To which I respond there's nothing--mainly because my crush currently has a boyfriend ("Mia, do we really want to be having this conversation in front of your boyfriend? Who happens to know where I live...") and I won't go around "interfering" in other people's established relationships. When I first saw Babylon 5, I could really relate to the character Lennier ("I'm happy for Delenn and Sheridan") and that pretty much describes my state of mind (minus the part when Lennier goes rogue). First and foremost, my current crush is a friend so the interest I'll be looking out for is hers rather than mine. Mia asks me what that's like. Well, it's frustrating and there's a part of me that knows this path would eventually end tragically for me. On the other hand, well, love isn't just about sex or marriage or courtship. If worse comes to worse, one person's tragedies is fodder for stories.

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