Just Say ‘No’ to Love


A/N: I wrote this a few years ago with the intention of making it into a full-length novel so while a lot of it is based on my actual feelings and experiences as a child and young adult, my personal story deviated once I became an adult and this woman’s adult life dramatized for comedic effect. Never got further than a few chapters I didn’t love as much as this portion I’m sharing though.


 

 

I’m sick of love.

The subject has been explored and beaten to death in so many mediums;  poetry, books, music, movies, theatre, art, and even, for some stupid reason, science.

It’s tired.

Why are we so obsessed with this feeling which makes perfectly sane individuals act so irrationally?  Why would anyone let a pretty face launch 1,000 ships to war?  Why would anyone kill, maim, or die over a fluttering heartbeat or stirring of the loins?

It’s all very stupid.

So, today I take a stand.

Today, I turn my back on silly longings and all other heart-related matters.

Today, I just say, ‘No,’ to love.

What could have driven me to such measures, you ask?  You’re probably guessing right now that I’m one of the many bitterly single, no-longer-in-her-prime types.  You’re half right.  Single, sure. Bitterly? Not really, but we’ll address that. I am still in my prime though, and watching it pass me by like a cab in San Francisco; you know the driver sees you, but hell if he’s going to even look your way let alone pick you up.  I’d swear twenty-four wasn’t all that long ago, and now I’m pushing thirty with little to call my own in the way of worldly success, aside from my little house in the woods and a few house plants. Still, there are worse fates than singledom.

But to really understand my refusal to partake in any more of life’s more foolish sentiments, I’ll have to take you back a ways…  Way a ways.

My first love was named Luke.

He sat two tables over from me in third grade.  I used to stare at his ink-black hair and blue-green eyes and to hell with the rest of the world and everything in it.

Laugh if you must, but nine-year-old me took it all very seriously.

To say that I was obvious would have been an understatement.  I was hopeless.  I’d leave little love notes in his cubby with Linda Ronstadt song lyrics scrawled in them, signed ‘Your Secrt Admyrer,’ and pretend like I didn’t know that he knew just who was responsible for the poorly written crimes of passion.

They were, of course,  passed around the playground for all to snicker over.  At least at that point he was still too embarrassed to call me on my stupidity.

I kept right on puppy-loving him until we were in sixth grade and puberty started to make kids much more mean.

I suppose he just got tired of my moon-eyes. Or maybe it was that three years of everything from Linda Ronstadt to Brian Adams and Cindy Lauper finally pushed him over the edge, but he found a way to make me never want to look at him again.

My sister was four years older so that meant everything I had, I had second-hand excepting my socks and my underwear.  So, when it came time to start wearing a bra I got to pick it out.  I thought it was really very pretty with a little white bow in the middle and little white pearls in the middle of the bow.  Needless to say, I was more than a little excited about showing it to the other girls in the bathroom the first chance I had.

The major trouble with bras (other than the fact that they’re torture devices if your boobs are larger than a gnat) is that you have to get used to them, and it takes a while.  At first they itch and pinch, and a girl can’t wait to get them off after about half an hour.

The second day of wearing my new pretty white bra to school, I excused myself to the bathroom and removed this irksome article, then unceremoniously stuffed it into my backpack when I thought no one was looking, and, like any eleven year old, forgot about it.

When lunch time came, I hurriedly ate my cottage cheese and salami sandwich, then rushed back to the classroom to leave a little note for a certain someone before anyone could see me.  The deed done, I casually made my way to the playground where a group of my classmates were huddled around a mud puddle.  I walked over to see what was so fascinating, expecting worms at least and, if luck held out, maybe a fight.

As I approached, the crowd of children parted to make way for me.  Still unsuspecting, I walked all the way into the circle.  Luke (bestill my tween-age heart) grinned up at me from where he squatted, and I flushed, feeling sick to my stomach that he’d even acknowledged I was there.

As I looked down to avoid his eyes,  I noticed what he was doing, and really wanted to be sick.

My pretty white bra, with the pretty white pearls delicately sewn on the pretty white satin bow was in his hands, only now it was brown.

Stuffed with mud, he flung it at me amidst gales of laughter and shouted, “Quit leaving me notes, Mud-Jugs!”

I hid myself in the bathroom for the next hour in tears with the mortification that can only come from youthful cruelty, and that little moniker followed me for the rest of my public school career.

Yes, to some of my oldest friends I am still ‘Mud-Jugs.’

Of course, at such an impressionable age, my first dirty little experience with boys didn’t help my head space concerning love matters. However, high school was when my career of hatred for the subject became fact rather than assumption, and it was a revelation in the form of a football player named Sean.

Skinny little running back Sean, with sandy hair and a shy smile, was in my biology class in sophomore year and in English in junior year.  I’d moved on from secret notes with ripped off lyrics by this time, and was well into writing my own soppy poetry with titles like ‘Love’s Delights,’ and  ‘My Soul Mate;’ all flowers and smarm.  Sean was the unfortunate subject of these travesties and instead of risking giving them to him directly, I submitted them to the school paper anonymously.  Safer that way.  I still had all the cards.

I’d grown into a pretty kind of girl by that point.  Still too geeky and bookish to be cool, but pretty enough to be noticed by a cute football player with a shy smile.  I dated other geeks in my circle for short stints, but all my friends knew I cherished a little flame for only that short little running back.

My senior year, I wanted nothing more than to go to the homecoming dance with Sean.

I wished on stars, said prayers, and observed all superstitious rites in the hopes that nothing would jinx this dearest of ambitions.

The dance drew near, and still nothing.  I threw myself in his way in the halls just in case he didn’t have an opportunity before.

Nothing.

I began to be desperate.

My best friend suggested I just ‘grew a pair’ and asked him myself.  Maybe he was shy.

With a week to go and no date, this didn’t seem like a bad idea,  so I waited for my chance after second period, and with cheeks burning, stomach churning, and much stumbling over words, I finally got it out there.  I invited my crush of three years to a school dance where he’d have to be seen with me publicly.

To my utter dismay and amazement, the answer was, ‘Yes.’

Actually it was, ‘Okay,’ but that was as good as, ‘God Yes! HallelujahCanIHearAnAmen!’ to me at that point.

I was euphoric!

Maybe, just maybe, I’d stumbled (and stuttered) into a little secret. Maybe guys liked confidence. Maybe it didn’t matter that I wasn’t popular and perky. Maybe I was something special anyway. Maybe I’d make my own way as a woman who looked to the future and saw what she wanted and just reached for it because she could, and to whom obstacles like social hierarchy meant nothing.

It was a turning point.

The night of the dance came and Sean came to pick me up in a car with some friends going stag… which was… okay, it was annoying. Being the only girl in a car full of rowdy jocks would’ve been bad enough, but I’d really hoped it would be a bit more date-y.  Still, I felt lucky to be going with Sean when I’d pined for so, so long, and I let it go without comment.

Corsage pinned, hair liberally hair sprayed, and high heels on my feet, we walked out to the car.  I slipped into the back seat followed by my date, and as I was about to thank the boy driving, out came the flask. In stunned silence, I watched them pass it around, and when it came my way, all I could do was shake my head and hope that they wouldn’t think I was a snob. A snob that they should just kick out because there were plenty of pretty girls in satin and chiffon that didn’t have sticks up their asses. I wasn’t going to take the stick out, but I really hoped that procédure d’approbation tacite was enough.

Around it went again and again until we reached the school parking lot.

We all exited the car and as I was fixing my skirt I noticed the boy who had driven whispering to Sean.  They both began to laugh and the driver finally turned to look at me.

It was of course Luke.  Purveyor of mud and pet names.

“How’s life, Mud-Jugs?”  he tittered with a leer.

Mortified (again,) I couldn’t speak.

Sean came over to me giggling and took my hand.

“Man, these jugs ain’t mud,”  he laughed and squeezed one to prove it.

I let go of his hand and punched him right in the gut.

Needless to say, I was dateless that night.

And so history has proven to me time and again that any time I really dig a guy, I’m bound to suffer some public humiliation in relation to him.

The same happened in college right up until last year with one of the worst possible people, a co-worker.  The mail room cutie, Sam.

Sam was the guy I’d been flirting with for months when he first started, thinking him sweet, funny, and sensitive.  When I asked him to dinner and he accepted I was ecstatic enough to tell everyone in the break room at lunch.

And everyone in the break room (but myself) knew that Sam was out and proud.  I got another nick name that day. The word hag is involved.

Oh yes, have the laugh at my expense, but in this city it’s not so hard to make that mistake.  My girlfriends say one must always assume gay and one’s never disappointed.  Sam, who has become a very close friend, says all I need is to look at the shoes.

I say screw it all.

What exactly do I gain for my efforts except more self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy? When did I lose myself in the pursuit for a warm body to snuggle with? Why do I always feel like I’m the problem instead of the solution? Why do we as a society still insist that being paired off means anything about value?

I’m changing the rules in my own life.

So tonight I’m going out with the intention of being my own solution. And I’m getting drunk. Piss drunk if I can, and I’m going to pass out in my bed with my dog. This is not self-pity. It’s a celebration of liberation.

Forget pick ups and sex. Forget plus-ones at the fifty frikkin’ weddings I’ll be invited to over the next summer, and well-meaning friends and relatives that tell me the risk of birth defects increase exponentially after age thirty-five. Forget white dresses and flower arrangements. Forget my bitchy co-worker in the next cubical that can’t understand why I won’t date her felon cousin who’s just out a few months early for good behavior. I don’t need it.

I can watch sunsets on my own. I have mastered the table for one and single movie ticket. I eat the whole bucket of popcorn. My radio is always on a station I like. No one hogs my covers, or farts loudly in bed, or leaves the door open when they’re on the toilet. I clean no one’s skid marks or pizzle overspray. No one keeps track of where I go and what I spend. I can eat the entire Whitman’s Sampler box if I want without embarrassment. I always get the last piece of pizza. I get to watch whatever I want (and let me tell you, it’s never football) on TV, and if I ignore the growing pile of laundry until I’m on my last pair of underwear, no one complains. Also, I never have to shave my damned legs if I don’t want to and clothing is always optional when I’m home.

If someone had told me early on that saying ‘no’ to love and romance meant I didn’t have to hide or be ashamed of my vibrator, I’d’ve sent the concept packing years ago.

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