I once fell in love with the perfect boy. Of course, he never texted me back.
I should have listened to my friends, who told me to kick him to the curb. Instead, in a classic Thomas-abuses-introspection move, I took his lack of a response to heart. I would sit on my couch, book in one hand, phone in the other, and think: “did I say something wrong or come on too strong?” or “maybe if I were smarter or hotter he would text me back” or “why am I even wasting time on boys anyway?”
This last thought sprung from my intense value of independence. While I love the friends and mentors in my life, I also cherish my ability to be alone. I once spent an entire birthday weekend on my own in a hotel room in the middle of nowhere reading books about mental illness; I have entertained myself for days with pop music and novels and writing with almost no human contact. So my desire for this boy struck me as out of character. Yes, I have always loved human interaction, but I have also always considered myself a complete and whole person, even without a boy in my life.
After even more introspection, listening to Ariana Grande’s empowering hit “Into You,” and consuming a copious amount of peanut butter straight from the jar, I came to a realization: I could still desire this boy while maintaining my independence. I could like him and still take pride in my hard-won academic accomplishments, my many extra-curricular activities, and my passion for mental health and social justice. Indeed, resisting my feelings only intensified them, a good old lesson on mindfulness and its importance.
But the problem remained – he would not text me back. With this conundrum came its own burning question: how much do I respect myself? I could wallow in bed for days, listening to melodramatic Selena Gomez songs while eating barbecue pop chips by the bagful and staring at my phone. I could scroll through this Facebook profile and our texts, pinching the fat on my shoulder and wishing it would disappear. Or, I could listen to the wise advice of my friends both online and offline, honor the expectations I have for healthy relationships in my life, and move the fuck on.
I lost 100 emails last night. My online life from June 2 to August 17 disappeared. They all vanished – my messages from this blog, all the Goodreads comments I wanted to respond to, and several miscellaneous writing-related items. I spent the whole day in mourning, trying to get Yahoo! to fix it, rolling around in bed lamenting all these lost connections, those meaningful words and thoughts. But, just as with the boy in my life, this wallowing made me miserable. I wanted to treat myself with self-compassion, and to do so, I needed to move on.
Moving on does not mean erasing my feelings or putting on a brave face all the time while saying “screw men, they are all patriarchal robots anyway” (though, trust me, I love dismantling oppressive gender roles). Just like the loss of those emails will sting for awhile, this boy’s lack of a response will hurt too. But instead of looking at his social media pages, waiting for him to contact me, or trying to to justify his absence, I can continue to dedicate myself to my research, my service, and my writing. Instead of mourning those emails and my idealized, nonrealistic image of this boy, I can practice gratitude for the wonderful friends and opportunities in my life. Instead of getting angry at myself for my feelings or at him for not responding, because he may have a decent reason preventing him from doing so, I can direct my frustration toward toxic masculinity and how it produces so many men who fear expressing their emotions, toward the stigma that pervades mental illness, and other subjects I care about.
This year, I apply to graduate school, a goal I have worked toward since freshman year, since the age of eight, really. I could get into multiple schools; I could get into zero schools. Perhaps this boy will never text me back, and ten years from now, I will look back on this with a smile on my face and the smallest hint of wonder. About 15 months ago, I got into my first car accident and freaked out, afraid that I had just ruined my life. Little did I know then, as I stood on the side of the road panicking in a full suit, that I would write this post – with calmness, with the acoustic version of Ariana Grande’s “Into You” playing in my ears, with curiosity about what will happen next.
I still feel kinda awful about all those lost emails, so if you messaged me anytime in the past few months, please resend what you wrote and I will do my best to reply. I hope you are all doing well and would love to hear your thoughts if you have any similar experiences or advice on coping with boys, technology going haywire (well, I did delete them on accident, so the responsibility lies on me), or how to cope with adverse circumstances. Thank you for your love and support, it means the world to me!