Grown-up Love and Nostalgia

Romance has always been really hard for me. People would hit on me and tell me their friends liked me as a joke throughout middle school and high school. I was the weird fat girl. I had a friend or two, but I was not a romantic resource for anyone. By the time I went to college, I wasn’t sure what to do with dating. If anyone was even nice to me, genuinely nice, they had me pinned. I fell in love in my freshman year. The summer of my Sophomore year, he married the fiance he’d had the whole time and moved away. He broke me. Everyone I met had some plot. I was paranoid of men. I dated a few, but there was never the connection like with my first love.

Five years later, I met my second love. The first guy to make it past not being my first love. I could trust him and he worked his way under my skin. It took time but I gave that to him and we started to get close. We were talking about marriage and babies and meeting families. He died the day before I was supposed to meet his family. I met them at the funeral. Even the most trustworthy, the ones who love me back, can make me hurt.

And that happened over a year ago. Most of the guys I’ve tried dating have been cut out at not being one my first two loves. Even if I get past that, I’ve found there are more grown-up concerns involved. If you fall in love and marry young, before you see the real world, you have a partner through thick and thin. If you wait, you have to see everyone as a worst case scenario. What do they want from me? Am I even a person to them? Will I be able to be happy with them in my life? Is there room in my life for them? Are they worth more to me than what I’d be sacrificing? Will they lie to me? Will they leave me? Will they die on me?

I know pain now. I know how much pain romance can cause. What if I’d been with my second love longer? What if we’d been living together when he died? What if we’d been married or starting a family? I’m told my situation was easy. It hurt so much, though. I don’t think I could handle losing an actual spouse.

So I swear off love sometimes. I hide myself away and try to build a life alone.

But then I watch romance stories. Most of them aren’t realistic. The people are usually attractive and healthy. They don’t want to show the poor or fat or unable to hold a job people. They don’t want to show the broken people. And when they do show them, it just reinforces how I feel about love. It hurts and there’s so much risk. I’m already so broken. My pieces never quite fit together again.

But some of those stories, the Ghibli romances and the disney princesses, they make me remember what I thought love was. They make me remember what I dreamt about as a girl, before they even started all the cruelty in middle school. I remember the days before I knew anything about life or about people. I remember the days when I thought there was love out there for me, that good things would happen and I just had to be patient.

And after a weekend of animated romance films, I wonder if there is a prince out there for me and I wonder if I’ve turned away from him thinking he was only out to hurt me.

If he did exist, I probably have.

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