There have been a number of things that I imagined as a child that didn’t quite turn out as I expected. Expectations that were quite often set by films. There wasn’t a magical transformation between the ages of 14 and 17 in which I blossomed into a slim and beautiful woman worthy of a slow-mo sexy music intro in an early 00’s male-lead rom-com. I’m not a talented tortured artist type whose depression is important because it makes you take me seriously. Depression makes me burst into tears in the middle of the day for no reason rather than contributing to anything creative*. I’m not adopted nor have I developed any variety of superpowers, I’m utterly lacking in that ‘something’ that makes a children’s story heroine. When you are an adult you can buy anything you want at the supermarket and eat biscuits for tea if you like; this isn’t entirely untrue, getting drunk and eating three meal-sized portions of food from McDonald’s has happened but I ‘treat’ myself to raspberries these days because that stuff is expensive. To name a few things… But there is one thing that I got nearly right, but I’m quite happy to have been a bit off the mark.
When I was 11 I didn’t have a very high opinion of myself, something that dropped lower and lower as my teens progressed*, so much so that I couldn’t imagine ever meeting someone that would want to marry me. I wasn’t really someone super invested in the whole wedding fantasy thing, which I feel is more of a rom-com trope that it is real life, but from a young age I had that downer of a thought. This story doesn’t end with a wedding, this isn’t a pre-Frozen Disney princess film, but it turns out good. It is a pretty stupid thought to have and maybe if I could talk to the littler me I would tell myself that. “Dude you seen how many ugly people there are that are married and made babies? That could be you, you serious nerd!” That or something a bit less Anna Kendrick-y, because–let’s face it–I would have some serious emotional ground to cover to prepare myself for the ensuing 12 years. I don’t doubt that everyone would. Even if it is just to prepare for the embarrassment of drunken events.
I think that the thing is, love always seemed so special and rare so why should I get that? I was right and wrong. And I’m glad to be both. I’m a romantic. Kisses in the heavy rain, holding hands, getting sad at train stations when you say goodbye and looking into the heart of the TARDIS so that you can get back to them and defeat the Daleks together. You know, the cheesy stuff that films say are real but your very cold and unromantic world says aren’t. Getting slowly older, and less of a teen, without having as much of a whiff in the direction of such things was difficult. Couples that had been together since before I was born were divorcing. Just like my grandparents (both sets) many years earlier. There were always ends. And there still are Brad and Ange, Chris and Anna, little things that make you doubt.
Turning 20 was a bit of a landmark. I wasn’t interested in waiting around for love anymore so I gave some to myself*. Then a bit more. Then I found that self-care didn’t just mean the ‘be nice to yourself’ stuff but also the ‘stop eating white bread’ and ‘stop hurting yourself’ stuff. I guess ‘stop hurting yourself’ might seem obvious, but we hurt ourselves in many ways. Thoughts more often than not. When I turned 21 I had lost a few fucks and a couple of stone. Loving came more easily to me because I realised something I wish that every 11 year old girl could say about themselves: I am worthy of love and I’m pretty darn great.
Now the turn of events is pretty cliché. I’m not going to tell anyone that you have to love yourself before you find love somewhere else. Because we all deserve love, with the exception of neo-Nazis and people who walk slowly side by side with their friends on a busy pavement, nobody has to earn it. But learning to love and care for yourself is more important, other people die, or worse, go bald. Self-love is very difficult. Sometimes I doubt if things have really changed that much for me when I feel sick looking at myself naked and pinching at my flesh. But those feelings don’t linger like they used to. Part of this could change, if you aren’t well you can’t help the way you feel about yourself (hence, everyone deserves love even if they don’t think they do). Yet day by day, week by week things are much better. Bad thoughts come, but they don’t stay as long.
I knew that I would fall in love fast. Luckily I had a couple of false starts before the real thing. I got a taste of what it shouldn’t be without making any real investments. So as it happened I kept pausing, “Is this for real?” It was after 10 days together that I really knew. Not 10 continuous days, it was a little under a month, but 10 times of seeing one another. I knew because the words were pushing my tongue against my teeth. I was hearing them when they weren’t said. I felt them sweating out my palm. Of course though I couldn’t actually say them. Don’t be so crazy, I’m a writer not a performer. They were too precious. What if I said them wrong? They could break me.
But they didn’t. So now I get to say them everyday, thank you for my cup of tea – “I love you.” I like holding your hand- “I love you.” My face hurts from smiling too much when we are together- “I love you.” You bought me pyjamas with personified sushi on them – “I love you.” You made me sad but I forgive you- “I love you.” You’re my best friend- “I love you.” So few words that mean so much. And much more than I had hoped. They wrote the poems, painted the pictures, made the films and sang the songs but it is but better than all of that. It’s funny, weird, exciting but ultimately right. So right.
I’m glad I was proved wrong.
(*I’m OK though.)
(*Seriously I am OK now.)
(*No not that kind of love!)