Ryan and the Technicolor Wardrobe
Short Stories and Essays

When I dated my first girlfriend, I dated her because she was cute, fun, and because she actually wanted to date me.  I’m not trying to say that she didn’t have any attractive or noble qualities, I’m admitting out how shallow and immature I was.  We didn’t date for long, we had fun, and then it was over (honestly, there’s not much else to the story, except that thing with the scar, and granted, that was post-break up).  Clearly, I didn’t know what I was doing, but it’s okay, I was 18 at the time, so my standards, or lack there of, were common among guys.  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had friends talk about their “lists” or their “deal breakers” and “red flags”.  I don’t exactly have a list of  traits that I’m looking for, but that doesn’t mean that I’m back where I was at age 18, where I was just  looking for a cute girl that would give me the time of day.  While my friends have a list of specifics, I have more of a broad template.

During my sophomore year in college, I met a girl who we’ll name Josie (since I don’t know any Josies).  I met her at a club meeting and even though we had some mutual friends, neither of us were aware of this at the time.  We talked for about 2 hours and the topics ranged from small talk pleasantries (what’s your name? where are you from?) to literature and jazz.  While she and I had different tastes, there was some sort of connection that we had.  Even though she had never heard of Pavement, she was intrigued to hear about them.  Even though I wasn’t familiar with a lot of the authors and books that she liked, I was more than eager to hear her talk about why she loved them.  We were geeking out together and it was an amazing feeling.

We became good friends after that and it lasted throughout college until she moved away for school.  We kept in contact for a little while but eventually we drifted.  I remember when she came back from an East Coast trip, a few months after we met and everyone asked her how it was.  She told most people about the weather and how it was fun, but when I asked her about her trip, she told me how excited she was at how late the museums were open out there.  I did eventually fall for her at one point but she never felt the same way.  Our boundaries were always good so I never felt like she was stringing me along and I respected that.  As we got to know each other better, I realized that we weren’t a good match, which isn’t to say that I discovered things about her that I didn’t like.  Though our friendship, I learned a lot about myself and most importantly learned that the “connection” we had provides far more amazing feeling than just some pretty girl laughing at your clumsiest jokes.

I’m glad that I never put her up on a pedestal.  I don’t view her as “the one that got away” or as someone that I would drop everything and move for (as a friend, she’s asked me), and I’m careful to not compare girls I’m interested in to her.  We are better as friends than we would’ve been as lovers.  I just search for a “connection” where I can talk to someone for hours on end without having an agenda of things to talk about.  Honestly, I can’t say that every girl I’ve been interested in or dated over the past few years, has offered me that same sort of connection. So while I can’t say that I’ve avoided the meaningless “she’s cute and she likes me” trap that I like to believe I’m too mature for, I know better to settle for a relationship that doesn’t offer me that stimulation.  I understand that it might not come right away, but if it doesn’t show up at all, it is time to move on.

I have a bit of a bittersweet view on love.  I have a picture in my mind of a muggy afternoon, the air conditioner is broken, there’s nothing good on TV, and there’s nothing particularly exciting going on in life.  It’s just you and your significant other and the “No, I love you more, no, you hang up” phase is nothing but a distant memory.  There’s no work stories to share of stories about your friends and family.  You’re both tired and all you can do is talk and try to connect.  All you have is each other and your ability to enjoy each other’s company with nothing else to aide you.  I don’t find this as a depressing idea.  I’m just a firm believer in the adage of “all you need is love.”

As much as I’d love to have a list of specific traits that my girlfriend/wife will have, I just feel like being able to have “the connection” will trump it all in the end.  While I will absolutely admit that I would love to find someone before I hit 30, I know deep down that I’ll be happy to dismiss that silly goal if I know that I’ll be able to feel that connection for the rest of my life, because you can manufacture “having a good time” and I believe you can even manufacture “romance”, but you can’t manufacture effortless conversation and feeling understood.

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