Throughout my semi-adult life, especially after a few breakups, I approached dating as an extreme sport. With a level of complexity that would be a little over-the-top even if I was supporting the human race propagation thing solo, I filtered and sorted my potential partners, examining them with a severity normally reserved for DNA analysis. Had they ever done drugs? How long ago? How many partners before me? Why did those partners not work out? A million and one questions that scared off, I’m sure, a fair number of suitors that would have been perfectly adequate. It got to a point (and I wish I was kidding) that I literally made an online form to fill out for a date with me. It wasn’t that I was vain, that I thought I was deserving of such a lofty obstacle course, but rather I didn’t want to waste my time and that of someone else by struggling through a dinner with no conversational commonality. As a beautiful Jehova’s Witness boy told me my Sophomore year when he broke my heart – “Dating is for people who are interviewing people to marry. I’m not going to marry you because we’re not religiously compatible, so what’s the point of us dating one another?” At the time, I thought he was right.
Through the bumps, bruises, and heart-wrenching splits that ensued the next decade or so, I began to get an inkling that maybe my approach needed a little work. I was coming off as a bitch to people that genuinely interested me, people who didn’t stick around long enough for me to explain my unorthodox methods. Instead, I put out a long explanation of me as a person, but I kept a healthy handful of absolutely-nots. My ex came into my life through one of these explanations on yahoo personals, and though neither of us was really emotionally or mentally ready for a major relationship, it happened anyway. Seven years later, I found myself sitting on a bunch of boxes in a new city, new state, and new home where I knew absolutely no one. I decided to throw caution to the wind and bust up all but one of my absolutely-nots – drugs were always the one hurdle I could never clear.
I ended up having a handful of pleasant make-out sessions in the cab of a truck, a man who had a young son – it was the very first time I’d kissed someone with a child. I took up with not one Navy guy, but two, as well as a Navy woman, entering into a threesome for the third time in my life and becoming involved with military members for the very first time. After two days of many-hours long skype conversations with a handsome gent stationed fully across the country, he offered to fly me out to him only a week later and I accepted. I warmed his bed, did his laundry, and flew home after three days of the most crazy lengths I’d ever gone to for a first date.
There was one, however, that stole my heart so completely that my former absolutely-nots vanished off the radar altogether. Here he was, four years older, divorced, a smoker, unemployed, and a handful of other bothersome things that, on paper, would have scared me away from the man that is the greatest love I’ve ever known. I discovered him, and his body, like a house of hidden passages and made a commitment to tread slowly and keep an open mind. Here, this tiny circle on his lower lip where a piercing once threaded through – later, in more intimate moments, I’d find its twin elsewhere. Astride him and sated, we’d talk softly and my surprised fingertips would discover the wound in his chest where the improbable bullet had made its passage. I’d listen as his marriage, and subsequent divorce, were infinitely more complex than any knee-jerk scenario I could have imagined in my shallow checklists. The fingers that laced so sweetly with mine – these had saved dozens of lives while ending a single one, in one sad but necessary order in international waters. I’d trace tattoos with my nails as we lay half-asleep, and hear the stories of each that were as embedded as ink. This house, this soul’s home, is my partner now, and I still breathlessly explore each new room as it is revealed in my explorations.
It’s a pity that I spent so long building up walls that I forgot to add windows. Older, wiser, and calmer, I know that I still have more to learn than I can possibly fathom, but I am eternally grateful that love was the first place I truly learned that whatever will be, will be.