Nas Who talks about how sometimes, commitment can be the wrong move.
“You’re the one. You’re the one I’ve been searching my whole life for, and I’ve finally found you.”
She said it with tears in her eyes, and it was cheesy and filmic, but we had those moments sometimes. For my part, I was desperate for validation (more on that in future, I think) and prone to similar melodramatic declarations. It was incredibly meaningful for me to get positive reinforcement like that from a girl who so rarely gave any. Two nights later we were at each others’ throats again. My relationship with Birgitta was rife with difficulties, for which both of us were to blame at different points. Our insecurities fueled each others’ increasingly overemotional reactions, and we catered to all our own worst fears about relationships. Despite that, I love her like no other person I’ve ever met. I say that in the present tense because, the other night, one of my closest friends asked me if I was over “it” yet, and even though I said “Yeah,” we could both hear the lack of commitment in my voice.
In my short life I’ve committed to very little: not to school, or family, or work (until fairly recently), or a career, or a particular lifestyle. I’ve been on an eternal teenaged path of ‘finding myself’ without ever calling it that, so when she asked me to–she needed me to–commit to her, I was really doing something I’d never done before, and I was doing it all the way. She needed me to make it through a difficult, mostly sexless leg of our relationship so we could then be together forever after. Maybe I’m too young and immature to make that sort of promise, but I tell you now that when I said to her I’d wait it out and marry her, I fucking meant it.
Then things just slowly cooled down. We maintained a (very public) conversation about how much we loved each other while her family kept us apart, and then one day she told me we shouldn’t anymore. And then she slept with a guy I’d introduced her to and called me to tell me that he was The One. In two weeks we’d gone from completely committed to one another to arguing about our mutually poor senses of self-worth.
I don’t blame her. She’d worked herself into a situation she didn’t have the social skills to escape from yet, so she chose the absolute surest way to take apart whatever we had going for us. That broke my heart, but it also changed me for the better, because I started making commitments to things other than her–to myself, for one thing. I committed to looking after myself, to being more careful with my heart, to my writing and my career (which are finally becoming the same thing), and to figuring myself out and knowing what I want and why I want it. In the process of getting here, I set some very high standards for myself. I promised to never hurt anyone the way I’d been hurt–if I could help it–and to try my hardest to be as honest and forthright as I could. If I needed to break up with someone, I’d tell them. If I wanted to date them, I’d tell them, too.
I eventually followed up Birgitta with Anne, with whom I was open about wanting to date her, wanting to see her, and then wanting to break up because it wasn’t going to work right then. And when I met Joanna, I was open about wanting to date her, too, and because that’s not what she was looking for, I made peace with being her friend. Except I still kissed her one drunken Sunday evening and followed that up by making out with someone else–right in front of her–because it made me feel good about myself.
It was arrogant, thoughtless, and stupid. I do not feel like a “Good Man” for doing it. In fact, while there may not have been giant thumping hearts and cupids all around us, I did pretty much exactly what I said I wouldn’t, and got myself into a situation I escaped in a way that would’ve hurt me if it’d been the other way around. Maybe that’s me being really hard on myself, but maybe I deserve it. Sometimes to be a Good Man, you’ve got to hold up those standards no matter what. And if you fuck it up, well, you’ve got to learn to live with the consequences and commit to never doing it again. Again.
Photo by tacit requiem/Flickr