A piece I’ve been working on for 2 years finally made it into the ethers, although it was made very gender-specific through revisions on Quarterlette. Because I just love this piece so much, I wanted to publish it here in its original lengthy and less gender-specific version…..
ORIGINAL: Why they don’t love you, why you love
There are two reasons why they don’t love you and neither one matters.
The first reason is because she doesn’t, he doesn’t love you. This is the reason that breaks our ego. They don’t love us simply because of who we are, or because of who we can’t be.
Because they want to love someone smarter, thinner, more cultured, with more hair on their chests, with a larger record collection, with a less alcoholic father, with less baggage; someone who is hot, someone who is less hot than they are. someone who expects less but wants more, someone who loves dogs and hates cats, someone who went to a big state college, someone who knows who Faust is, someone who puts bear posters in their bathroom and wears a fez while driving.
They can’t love us because we aren’t enough, not attractive, well-spoken, graceful, artistic, passionate, or laid back enough; we look terrible in skinny jeans, we forget to shave our legs on Friday nights, we wore board shorts to dinner one time, we talk about our exes too much, we’re getting our MFAs, we aren’t Jennifer Lawrence or Ryan Gosling, we love too openly, we won’t go to CrossFit with them, we use big words to make ourselves feel superior. Because we don’t make them feel love.
This reason is dangerous because it makes us think we can and must change ourselves to save our egos, to find love. Because he didn’t love the way I chew on my hair when I’m nervous, the way I say um to fill space, the way I stand pigeon towed at concerts, because he didn’t love this, no one will. Because she doesn’t love my weird random patch of back hair, my need to plan out every activity on my google calendar, my lame puns, my videogame friends, my lazy eye, my lazy life, because she doesn’t love who I am, no one will love me and who I am.
I could tell you that you are wrong; that someone will love your stubbly legs and your use of the word nefarious in everyday conversation, but you won’t believe me, not yet. Because right now all you can remember is that they didn’t love you because of you.
The second reason that they don’t love you is maybe because they can’t. This reason does damage to our sensibilities. If they don’t love us because of us, we try to change ourselves. If they can’t love us because of themselves, we want to change them, we think we can change them.
Maybe they are heart broken and unable to imagine loving anyone the way they loved him, or maybe they are just broken, lying flat on the floor waiting for the world to end, maybe they can only love alcohol right now, maybe their band is taking off, maybe they have to find themselves eat, pray and fuck style, maybe they can’t afford to take the risk of love right now, maybe they are incapable of love.
You must think, you will think, maybe I can fix, help, guide them, maybe I will be the one to change them. I could tell you that you won’t be, that of course they are the only ones who will decide they can love, but you won’t listen because you’re too busy saving love, saving hope, trying to mend a wing that is dissolving in your hand.
Really though whether they don’t love you or can’t love you all that matters is that there is no love and what you do with that fact.
You have two options.
You can stay. You can stay curled up on your January-frozen hard wood floors, starring at the spot he last stood. You can repeat the anguish to yourself every day, remind yourself how much it hurts, tell yourself it will never go away, know that it will never go away, that you have invited heartbreak in and it has made your heart its permanent home, you can update your miserable status again and again with yet another Smiths song, you can stay in perpetual lovelessness.
Or you can move, not necessarily move forward but just move. Go to the clubs and make out with a MILF, take a improv class no matter how clichéd it feels, take aimless walks along the lake on days it is too cold to do so, tell a story out loud, get drunk at a Cubs game and puke in an alley, have sex with that friend you shouldn’t have sex with, go to AA, move in with your parents and start making candles to sell on etsy. Move, do something.
At the end of the day you may find yourself back where you started, back on that cold hard wood floor. Or you may find yourself on a different cold hard wood floor looking up at a cracked ceiling with new legs wrapped around yours. When you move you don’t know where you’ll end up, but if you stay you know exactly where you will be in a month, in a year, tomorrow. There is safety and extreme sadness in that knowing.
I could tell you to move but it doesn’t really matter what I say. If you want to stay, you’ll stay. If you want to move you’ll move. No matter what though remember that you loved. That is perhaps the only thing that does matter.
We live in a world that prioritizes being loved, glorifies the act of being sought after and revered. We forget often that there is no magic in being loved and not loving. We forget all the importance of our lives is not in who loves us but in our ability to love. Loving and not being loved back doesn’t mean it wasn’t love, it means something mattered to you, something meant enough to you even if it was just for a moment, a summer, a marriage, that you loved it, you gave those words and that meaning to it.
The reason they don’t love you doesn’t matter, the fact that you loved does.