When I first started writing this column, one of my friends asked me if I really had enough content to fill 14 weeks of stories. He looked at me skeptically, I think secretly hoping I would say no so he could continue to not think of me as a slut. He’s square like that, and I tend to overstate my sexual history when I sense my conversational partner is more conservative than I am.
In response, I laughed and said of course I did. He looked unsurprised. But he doesn’t read my column. He doesn’t know what it’s about. He doesn’t realize that to me, romance can be anything. He’s a hopeless romantic and a serial monogamist. He can’t imagine anything romantically meaningful blossoming outside of that narrow lens. Or at least, that’s what I gather from knowing him.
I used to like him, on and off. We’ve been friends for a long time, and in a way, that’s both repulsive and alluring to me. He reminds me of my first boyfriend, which is a pretty clear indicator that we’d be horrible together. But my attraction was never about being together; it never is. I begin every romance thinking about the end, because I can only really enjoy something if it’s ephemeral. Some might say it’s a strange and depressing way to look at things, but in defense of my philosophy I ask you this: Why are the last few weeks of school always the most fun? Because you know it’s ending.
Needless to say, this kind of mindset is the furthest thing from compatible with someone who only sees romantic value in something he thinks could last forever. I suppose that’s why he refused to have a platonic slumber party movie marathon after I drunkenly pitched the idea to him at Spudnuts. He said he had to be up early, and I laughed and told him it was OK — I knew he’d never say yes anyway. Then he sighed and said it was really because he couldn’t promise it would stay platonic, and it wasn’t the right time, not now. If you’d have asked me sober, I would agree completely.
I want to be clear — I don’t think there’s anything wrong with idealized romance or monogamy. I haven’t exactly been successful with casual flings or open relationships myself. But it seems limiting to me to assume that monogamy is the only condition that can be romantically meaningful. For me especially — I’ve had just as impactful of encounters in a two-night stand as in an eight-month relationship. Hell, I see romance in my relationship with the sports I used to play, in my relationship with myself.
Conversely, I’ve seen would-be romantic scenarios as a minor expansion on friendship. For example, the last guy I dated I liked more as a friend than a lover. That’s not a new dynamic for me — a majority of the people I’ve hooked up with register more on the friend scale. And somehow with all of these people, sex has only made me feel like closer friends rather than lovers.
My mom tells me I should be with more people I feel passionately about, people that I don’t just feel comfortable with. I’ve had much healthier bonds with people I thought of as friends, relationships where I can enjoy myself and other people instead of just the one focal other. But then again, I should probably take her advice with a grain of salt anyway. She also tells me I should date my very square, hopelessly romantic friend.
I’m starting to think that love, in the quintessential “first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage” sense, is unconscionably overrated. I’m happiest loving myself, my friends and random other things: grass lit at golden hour, a really hot Pop-Tart, a surprisingly good conversation. There’s meaning in all of that — the meaning I give it that is — and it can move me just as much as interpersonal romance in a much healthier way. So no, Mom, I don’t think I should date more passionately — not right now at least. There’s too much else out there to love to focus it all on one person. And yes, friend, I most certainly do have enough for 14 weeks. All that and more. For me, love is an endless subject matter.
Rica Maestas is a senior majoring in cognitive science and narrative studies. Her column, “Cuffing Season,” runs on Wednesdays.