The first man I ever fell in love with was eight years older than me.
He was on probation for stealing a video game, and his fingertips smelled like cigarettes and shellfish, having spent most evenings washing dishes at a seafood restaurant. “Cuz it’s fun just chillin’ with the boys, smoking cigarettes in the back,” he told me.
I began to realize how important it was to be with someone who wasn’t dependent on me (or their mom), but who chooses — every morning when he kisses me on the forehead, and every night when I give in to his questionable Netflix suggestions — to be with me, and I with him. Most of my life, I wasn’t sure if I ever wanted to get married — probably because it seemed impossible to be able to stand someone, anyone, for the rest of my life.
But now I understand that when you have a bond that’s multi-faceted, and you’re with a partner who’s your equal, your best friend and your very own beacon of smoldering grins, you’re willing to drop the paranoia of who will leave first.
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His failed marriage didn’t make him defected, but a man who had been through some stuff and had been forced to grow — and that was refreshing.
He took me to museums and talked about politics deeper than a 16-page article, and at first I worried that he was too smart, too cultured for me, but once I got over my insecurities and learned to find my legs on this equal ground, I felt brighter to form opinions about his opinions, and more inspired in my own writing to see the artwork he was creating.
My next boyfriend and my next and my next after that were all very good men, with great senses of humor and warm spirits, but they were also some version of lazy, dependent and unambitious. I had to pester them to go back to college, or to pay their parking tickets, or to basically be the person I wished they were. The easy, therapist-approved explanation for my being attracted to men like this is that I like constants.
But the one thing I never wanted to change was their loyalty, or their need for me. My parents were divorced when I was 10, my mother died when I was 25, and there was a lot of dropping the ball and surprise developments in between.
These are the reward-heavy risks I learned were worth taking.
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She is more likely to meet a Jeff than a Zuckerberg.