In college I dated a guy who I thought was the bee’s knees. The year was 1998. Grunge had given way to neo-hippie fusion a la Madonna. Desert raves and ecstasy were in vogue, and I’d ditched a perfectly handsome pre-law major to chase a boy with dreads who played congas in the Venice Beach drum circle.
On our first date we had sex. I don’t remember saying yes, but I definitely didn’t say no. I was nineteen and he was twenty five—a man as far as I was concerned. And he knew where my clitoris was. Not like the other college boys.
I became totally smitten with him, head over heels in love because of the way he fucked me. And because of our emotional intensity. He was my ecstasy, my world. And I assumed the feeling was mutual.
I chased him all the way to India where we stayed together for a few weeks. Eventually he told me to leave. That there was another girl he wanted to see. That he would always follow his desires and he would always do what he wanted.
I told him I loved him.
“It’s okay to love someone,” he replied.
And he was right. It is okay.
I was wrong. Because what I felt for him wasn’t love. It was desperation. The feeling of falling in love isn’t love. Real love is vulnerability. Real love is being able to say “I love you” and not caring if you hear it in return.
Twenty years later I am working out this karma once again. I’m dating the same type of man. Wild, artistic, adventurous. A gypsy with wanderlust and a penchant for variety.
The old me would have steered clear because of how badly I remember hurting. But I’m not nineteen anymore. I know he didn’t hurt me. I did. Because I expected something in return. I thought it was up to him to give me what I was incapable of giving myself—my own self love.
I know my gypsy man is dating and sexing other women, but I rarely think of them. Because when we are together, we are the only two people that exist. And when we are apart—I am. Because I know that I complete myself.
When we have sex I give myself to him completely. And when he leaves—I give myself to me. I am able to love him deeply and fearlessly, even for just one night. Because the next day I know I don’t need his love—I need mine.