Tag Archives: Marriage

Marriage

It’s Okay To Be Strange (Alone and Together, Part Fifteen)

For several years in my twenties, I worked as a waitress. Every night after work I walked to the bus station downtown, then rode the rest of the way home. It was usually late at night and I loved it. At night, the city was my friend. It kept me company. It listened to my thoughts as I walked.

It still does.

Often on those walks I would smile without realizing it. It was the only time during the day I would do that.

Most of those nights, I followed the main street all the way downtown, but one day, wanting to take my time, I decided to go a different route. So, I went through the park instead. There, I stopped on a footbridge and looked at the water for a while. I thought about the man I saw at the park several years before and how jealous I was that he was alone and how much I wanted to be like him.

Maybe, I thought, I finally am.

When I got to the bus station, a thin man wearing old work clothes opened the door for me.

As he did so, he gave me a very big, very genuine smile. I smiled back. He said “Hello,” and I said “Hello, how are you doing?”

“Fine,” he said. He kept smiling and looking at me. Then he went through the door and left.

I didn’t know the man and I never saw him again, but somehow, I knew what he was thinking anyway. He was thinking, Isn’t life good and aren’t you glad?

When he stopped to say hello to me, I had been thinking the same thing. Maybe he could tell.

As I waited for the bus that night, I lay on a bench  alongside the bus shelter outside. Exhausted from work, I stared at the side of the building.

That wall is beautiful, I thought.

And that was the way I was all that time I was alone: thoughtful, and a little strange, and everything was meaningful to me. And that is the person I want to know forever and never let go.

Being Alone Is Good (Alone and Together, Part Fourteen)

Toward the end of my college career, I got rid of my car. It had been giving me all kinds of trouble, and so had the one before that, so one day, I left it at my dad’s house, telling him I’d come back for it when I was ready.

I never did go back.

Getting rid of my car was one of the best decisions I ever made, because after that, I started taking more walks.

At first, I just walked to the bus and back to get to the restaurant where I worked. Over time, though, I realized that even though technically walking was exercise, I actually liked it.

I decided to do it more.

After that, I started taking long walks down a trail near my house almost every morning.
My perspective changed. I saw the city differently. I began to love alleys and bridges, and understand them. I felt independent.

I had more time than ever before for uninterrupted thought.

Several years went by. Then, during my second to last year of college, I dated my good friend’s ex-boyfriend. His name was Chris, and she didn’t like him anymore.

The three of us hung out together a few times, going dancing and to bars. Then one night shortly after they broke up, I hung out with him and his other friends without her. We went to a bar and I don’t remember how it happened or why but suddenly, we were kissing.

It was the first really spontaneous kiss I’ve ever experienced.

After that, we went on a few more dates. I stayed at his house, which was nice. It was the first time I’d ever dated someone with his own house.

It made me feel very mature.

He had parties and even though I didn’t really fit in with his friends, I liked trying. We went to Las Vegas and he gave me mono. Then, after a month or so, I got bored.

One time, we went to a club with his best friend from childhood named Claire. I flirted with Chris in front of her and told her that I thought he was a really great guy on the off chance she’d want to steal him from me.

Six months later they were married.

And then, it happened. Somehow, not long after breaking up with Chris, there was  a change—an important change, more important than any change in my life so far and that I had been waiting for for a very long time:

I learned to like being alone.

The way that it happened was strange. One day, I was visiting some friends—a married couple from my church—a couple that I thought was very cute and very happy together, always—but instead of being cute and happy when they were at home, they bickered the whole time and nagged.

It was horrible. It was, truly, a horror show, and worse than that, an embarrassment to everyone there.

I thought to myself, This must be the way relationships really are, when no one is looking—and even, sometimes, when they are.

For the first time, I realized that what was making me miserable to want might also make me miserable to have.

And, for the first time, too, I decided I was ready to be cured.

And, for a long time after that, I was alone.

When I think about it now, it probably wasn’t as long as it felt. It was probably only three years altogether—-one before I met my first husband and two after I met him. But a great deal happened during that time.

I was lonely, but I didn’t mind. Because of the shyness I’d fought since high school, I had few close friends, and those that I did have, I didn’t really like. So I decided that as long as I was getting rid of boyfriends, I might as well get rid of other kinds of friends, too.

And so, that is what I did.

I am going to be better than everyone, I thought. I am going to be really alone.

I took up jogging, and I walked more, too. I watched television. I read a lot. I caught up on all the schooling I’d ignored for the past five years.

I learned a lot, and I enjoyed it. I was always selfish—even before then I was selfish—but I became even more selfish than before.

I didn’t even have a pet.

I realized that it is a lot better feeling like no one listens to you when you don’t have to listen to them, either. I realized I could be happy, even when I was lonely. I realized that depression and loneliness are very, very different things.

These were my revelations.

And so, I enjoyed my independence. Of course, I always had enjoyed it. I just hadn’t realized it until then.

For several years before that time and for about one year after, I lived in apartment with a roommate who was also my sister, and I loved it. Not because my roommate was my sister—because of the apartment.

It was right near my school. It was small and cheap. And it was the first apartment I ever lived in. Being there made me feel like a grown-up.

One night soon after I moved there, while I was getting ready to go to bed, I turned off the kitchen light. The moonlight from the little window above the sink came through, streaming across the linoleum and the counters. I stopped for a minute, staring. It was dark. It was beautiful.

And only I ever get to see it that way, I thought to myself that night, because only I get to turn off that light.

It made me feel so independent.

It felt the same way it did right after I graduated from high school and moved away from home and I went to the supermarket and shopped for my own food for the first time in my life. I loved doing that.

I think I still do, even after all this time.

Love Is Just a Feeling (Alone and Together, Part Thirteen)

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Halfway or so through college, I met Sam. Sam was a nice person, and he could have been a good friend. I met him at a college event and we went out for coffee afterwards and on a couple of unofficial dates after that. One night we stayed up until about three a.m. talking about philosophy and literature.

He was a nerd, and I liked him a lot.

On our last date, I told him I was taking birth control. He was a rigid Catholic and he reacted more strongly than I expected.

He never called me again.

About two months later, I passed him in a hallway at school. I just glanced at him for a few seconds, but the feeling I had after seeing his face was so strong that I realized I’d been in love with him all the time I’d known him, and all the time since as well.

And so, that was the day I learned how easy it is to fall in love. It just took a couple of conversations, really, and it happened without my even realizing it.

Maybe it’s better not to realize it sometimes.

But I learned something else, too. I learned that love is just a feeling, after all.

It’s just a feeling, and that is all.

It’s Okay to Have Fun (Alone and Together, Part Twelve)

During my spring break that school year, I decided to take a trip. I took a week off work and drove to the Oregon Coast.

I went alone.

During the days, I lay on the beaches and during the evenings I went to the bars. I met people. I met a woman that liked to fight and I accidentally insulted her. I met an awkward boy that bought me a lot of drinks. I sang karaoke. I danced, and not badly. I looked good. I practiced not being shy.

I enjoyed my independence. I did what I wanted to do. I learned a little more about who I was, and who I wanted to be.

I had fun.

Sometimes, I realized, it’s okay to just have fun.

Don’t Fall in Love with Your Brother (Alone and Together, Part Eleven)

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After Mike, I didn’t have a real boyfriend for a long time. At the time, I was a good Christian girl and I didn’t want to do anything that was against the bible. But I was lonely.

Very, very lonely.

I did date a few people, though, here and there. I remember one date I went on that was especially nice.

His name was Jason, and we met at work. Jason was one of those people sometimes described as “effortlessly charming.” He smiled a lot. (I should try that sometime.)

He was happy, but he was also deep and intense. What could be better than that?

On our date, we went hiking. After we were done, we sat on a little cliff that overlooked the river and talked, and not just a little.

A lot.

We talked about how much we hated phony people and how college changes your beliefs and your perspective of the world and how we both wanted to resist some of those changes. We talked about how we hated hippies and vegetarians and how we refused to ever wear visible name brands on our clothes.

It was a nice conversation.

After that, neither of us wanted the night to be over, so he drove us to another trail and we took another walk. At a spot under a bridge, he kissed me.

It felt like I was kissing my brother.

We didn’t go out again. Several years later, he married a vegetarian.

When It’s True Love, You Have to Turn the Car Around (Alone and Together, Part Ten)

Image from the law of attraction book list featuring all major law of attraction authors at lawofattractionproject.com

After a few years of dating very little, I met Mike. I don’t know why, but after five months dating, we got engaged.

I was twenty-one.

One day, we were taking a walk through a park, and as we did so, I saw a man sitting on a large rock near the beach. He wasn’t doing anything important—maybe just eating a sandwich or something. But he was looking at the water, and it seemed to me that he wouldn’t rather be anywhere else, with anyone else—that he just wanted to be alone.
I used to do that, I thought as Mike and I walked by. Back when I didn’t have a boyfriend.

Back when I was strong.

I was jealous.

I never forgot that feeling. I wished so much that I was him, but I couldn’t be—not yet.

I still didn’t know how to be alone.

I didn’t get married that year. I broke up with Mike, and that was difficult. But I remembered something my dad once told me about the woman he fell in love with that eventually became his first wife.     He said that he tried to leave her once and drive away, but after a little while, he realized that he just couldn’t go any further. So he pulled the car over to the side of the road, got out and took a walk. When he got back in after an hour or so and started driving again, the car was pointing back the way he came.

“That’s when I knew I was in love,” he said. “I couldn’t leave, even when I tried.”

That was good advice.

After I left Mike, I didn’t want to turn the car around. Not very badly, anyway. I knew that leaving him was the right thing to do. And after I got over the hard part of remembering what it was like to be alone, I didn’t miss him too much anymore.

Leaving has always been pretty easy for me, actually. Not just romantic partners, but friends, too, and family. I never felt like I couldn’t leave someone anytime I wanted to and be fine with it.

Until now.

Friendship Is Number One (Alone and Together, Part Seven)

During much of high school, I was miserable. I had depression, and to make matters worse: I really, really wanted a boyfriend. I told myself to stop wanting to be with someone, but I could never do it. I spent all of my high school years and most of my college ones, too, craving something I knew I couldn’t have and wasn’t ready for.

Still, I needed it. I wanted it so much. I wanted affection, but even more than that: I wanted a friend.

My sophomore year in high school I went on a date with an intelligent boy named Cory.
It wasn’t an official date. We just went to the library after school in his car and didn’t study at all. We talked about a lot of things that sounded smart like history and politics. He said that he was reading a book about Abraham Lincoln, and I told him that he was overrated. (I think I got that one from my dad.)

It was a great, real conversation. And for me, at that time and maybe still, great real conversations were the best thing in the world, and the most rare, too.

I don’t know how rare it was for Cory, though; he  never called me again after that night. Of course, I should be glad he didn’t—eventually I would have made a fool of myself and it probably wouldn’t have lasted anyway.

Still, I am jealous of anyone who can walk away from the chance to have more of what we had that day.

I don’t think I ever have since.

Love Is Not Art (Alone and Together, Part Six)

During my freshman year of high school I went to a dance with my huge crush, Arnold, but our relationship never really got off the ground. It ended with the dances.

At the first of those, we had a great time. We danced with our group of friends and acted silly and, altogether, it was the best night of my life thus far. Then, he got mad at someone and he asked me if I wanted to go outside for a while and take a walk, but the chaperone told us we couldn’t. So we stood in the corridor near the front door of the building for a while until a song that he really liked started playing. “This is my favorite song,” he said. Then he asked me to dance with him right there in the corridor, and we did.

It was so romantic.

A little while into the song as we were dancing he almost kissed me. He pulled his head back a little to look me in the eyes but I was too shy to do the same. If life were a Judy Blum novel, I would have turned my head and had my first kiss right then.

I have regretted that ever since.

Life is not art, I learned that day.

And romance definitely is not.

At the time, my relationship with Arnold was one of the most meaningful things in my life. Looking back, though, I don’t even care that it happened except for one thing: For the rest of my life, I will always remember what it was like to believe that I’d found my soul mate, to believe that there was someone out there who understood and loved everything about me, and was or wanted to be just like me, not just my other half but part of me, and that if I had him I would never need anyone else at all.

And sometimes, even now, usually at night in my dreams, I can even pretend that he really was, and that for a while it was perfect and complete.

Don’t Want Too Much (Alone and Together, Part Five)

The second time I fell in love was in junior high school. There was a boy in my grade named Arnold, and he was strange and fascinating and very intelligent, too. He did the splits in the middle of math class. He was left-handed.

I think I still love him even now.

He loved me, too. He was the one who started our flirtation by writing “I like you” in disguised handwriting and putting the note in my locker. I knew it was him because I saw him looking over my shoulder one day when I was doing my combination. Also, my friend told me it was him.

For the next three years, I was obsessed.

It was hard.

That was the next thing I learned about love: try not to want it too much.

Try very, very hard.

Don’t Settle for Eyes That Don’t Glow (Alone and Together, Part Four)

The first time I fell in love I didn’t even know it. It lasted about two weeks. I was in the fifth grade, and his name was Tom.

I met him at a weekend summer camp, and for two days, we were together constantly. He saw something in me, I knew, and even then, even before I knew what it meant, I saw something in him, too, and it was real.

One afternoon, while we were sitting in one of the cabins with some other people, just talking, a boy that was there saw him looking at me and said, “You are looking at her as if you love her.”

Tom didn’t say anything. He just nodded in a sort of thoughtful, pondering way. I didn’t say anything, either, but I looked at the look that was on his face right then and thought, “That boy is right. He is looking at me in a way that no one ever has before.”

At the time, of course, I didn’t think of either myself or of Tom as a person in love. We were too young for that, I thought. But I did make one decision that day that I never forgot.

I will never marry anyone who doesn’t look at me that same way, the way that he is looking at me right now, I told myself.

And that was the first thing I learned about love.

It’s Okay to Be Sad (Alone and Together, Part Three)

For the first twenty-six or so years of my life, I was sad. Mostly. Maybe you weren’t. From what I hear, not everyone is sad as much as I am or used to be. Some people are even cheerful.

Good enough for them.

But there are good things about being sad, too, I’ve noticed. One of them is that you learn about yourself very quickly. You learn about what is good for you and what isn’t. You learn that you have to protect your happiness because at any moment it could leave and when it does, it is hard to get it back.

You learn to love yourself, and to take care of yourself, and to do so no matter how other people make you hurt.

You learn to be alone. And even though it took me twenty-six years to learn that—to really learn it—it was worth every minute of the wait.

Love Is All You Need—Sort Of (Alone and Together, Part Two)

The next time I saw David, we left for the cruise to Alaska. Before meeting each other in person, we had discussed going on a trip together, but we didn’t decide for sure until a few days prior to leaving.

We were glad we went.

We talked all night. We saw many beautiful things. We laughed a lot. And on the third night of the cruise, we said “I love you” for the first time.

It was a perfect, romantic evening when we said it. There was a formal dinner, and we sat next to each other instead of across the table, holding hands during all four courses and staring at each other and talking about how we felt and kissing and embarrassing the waiter and later we even got a professional picture taken in our nice clothes.

The picture was worth the $40 they charged.

After dinner, we went to the bar and danced for hours. It was an eighties theme party and I taught David some Michael Jackson moves and he taught me some salsa moves and we looked ridiculous and very happy. One very drunk off-duty staff member asked us if we were on our honeymoon. We told him we’d just met.

He was surprised.

Later, during one of our salsa dances, David dropped me on a dip. I laughed and we tried it again and when we got it right, the other dancers cheered.

It was a bit of a cliché. The whole night was a cliché, actually, and that’s what made it so great.

After the cruise, David didn’t call me right away. He had gotten sick on the last day we were there and anyway, he said later, he needed some time to think about everything. At the time, I was living with some people I didn’t know very well and trying to find a job in this unfamiliar city and, too, I was lonely. When David didn’t call me right away I was disappointed and I wondered if he had changed his mind. I wondered if I’d scared him away. I cried.

It was hard.

Then, after four days, he called me. I was on a bus and I couldn’t hear him very well, so I told him I’d call back later. By this time I thought he probably didn’t love me after all, but I wasn’t sure. So, the next day I called him back and when we talked on the phone, I told him that I needed a notebook that I left at his house, and that I would come over that night to get it, and would he leave it on the doorstep if he wasn’t going to be home? I decided right then that if he wasn’t there when I came over, he probably didn’t want to see me again.

But he did want to see me again.

He was home.

After he invited me in, the first thing he said was, “Why have you been avoiding me?” And the instant he said that, I knew that everything was going to be okay.

I smiled. I said, “Why have you been avoiding me?” But what I was thinking was, He does love me, then, after all.

I knew he loved me, I thought. I knew it. Now, we’ll probably get married and for the rest of my life, I will remember this moment.

And, though we’re still not actually married, I still believe that I will.

At that time, though, the relationship was still new, and it was still scary at first not knowing if he’d change his mind. That part was wonderful for a while.

But I am glad it is over with now.

For David’s birthday the first year we were together, I surprised him with a candlelit dinner and wine and I made a toast and said, “I don’t need anything else now, because I have you.”

And even though it’s not true, it is.

Your Instincts Are Probably Right (Alone and Together, Part One)

My name is Mollie Player. My husband is named David, also Player. He didn’t give me that name, though; I took it from him. But he didn’t mind.

He is a good person, and a good friend.

I haven’t known my husband David for long. I have only known him for about three years, depending on when you’re reading this, and since I am now—depending on when you’re reading this—about thirty-three years old, and I never met anyone that made me happy as a partner before I met him, there was a long time before I knew him that I was alone.

This is the story of those times.

It is also the story of now.

A few years before meeting David, I bought a house in my hometown. For a long time, I lived there by myself. After I got sick of that, I moved to El Paso and got married. That didn’t work out, but I made the best of it: I didn’t move back home.

I moved to Seattle instead.

I didn’t make this decision lightly. Guessing (as it turned out, correctly) at the importance of this decision, I thought very hard about what to do.

First, I thought about going to Japan or Korea to teach English. I decided against it, though, when I realized it would be hard to find people to date there. After that, I considered just traveling around the U.S. for the entire summer—maybe even to Alaska—taking any decent job I could get until I figured out what to do next. I decided against that too, though, not wanting to put off my career any longer. I needed to find a job I really liked, I decided, and a city I really loved.

I didn’t want to be unhappy anymore, and I didn’t want to be alone.

That is when, all of a sudden, I remembered Seattle.

As soon as the idea crossed my mind, it seemed right. It wasn’t too far from my hometown and family, but it was a beautiful place with the weather just like I like it and it was big enough that I could find a good job eventually, too. So, that night, I made a profile on a dating website and started looking for a boyfriend there. Two weeks went by, and then, it happened:

I met David.

At first, since I was still living in El Paso, we just wrote emails. One day, very early on in our exchange, he ended one of his letters with a heart icon, and when I saw that, I knew he was feeling the same way that I was already. After that, we had some long phone conversations and then, about two weeks later, on the first evening of the first day I was in Seattle—the day I moved here—we met in person.

Six days later, we were on a seven-day cruise to Alaska.

On our first date, I wasn’t sure if I liked him. I even told the friend that I was staying with in Seattle that I didn’t think it was going to work out. “He’s too thin,” I told her. “He’s too happy.”

Then, on our second date, I fell in love.

It hurt so badly.

He wanted to see me again the next day, but I told him I thought we should wait a while.
We waited two days. On our third date, the fifth day after we met, while we were walking through a park on the way to his house from the bus stop, he said that he was glad that I had decided not to see him the other day even though he’d wanted to see me. He said that he had needed some time to figure out his feelings. Neither of us had brought up the subject of our feelings for each other yet, and I was surprised that he didn’t mind saying something like that so soon.

At that moment, I knew I could trust him. I knew that he was honest.

I was right.

This Is What It’s Like to Be a Woman (Alone and Together, Part Nine)

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For two years, I was obsessed with a man named Jack, and I hated feeling that way. It was difficult. I knew things could never work out between us. I was serious and driven, while he was irresponsible and unintellectual.

He was outgoing. He was the life of the party. He was from California.

He wasn’t right for me.

During the entire two-year period of our relationship, we went on only one official date.

It was wonderful.

We took a walk in a park by the river between two bridges with the city behind it. I told him that this was my favorite place in the city and by the look he gave me he knew I was saying I loved him, and that whenever in the future I was in that same place, no matter when it was, I would always think of him.

The next day, he broke up with me.

I cried the loudest and the longest I had ever cried in my life. The dorm was mostly empty but I’m sure a lot of people heard me anyway though no one asked me about it later.

That was nice of them.

After that, I felt different. I felt older somehow, and, for the first time, really mature.

I had become a woman.

I was nineteen.

The best things in the world come from pain.

This, THIS, Is Love (Alone and Together, Part Thirty-Six)

Don’t misunderstand, though: I enjoy the times I’m not alone, too. As it turns out, finding a life partner is not all that overrated. If anything, it is underrated.

It is the greatest joy of my life.

But then again, I suspected it would be, as do we all before we have it.

I love to look at David. I love to see him. He loves to touch me.

He is supremely good.

We are together almost constantly.

“When you can read a book, read a poem, take walks together, that is love.”

That is what my dad told me one time.

“When you can be alone together,” he said, “That is love.”

He was right.

We are companions. We are happy. This is love.

And this is what I want everyone to have.

So, please. If you are reading this right now, please take my advice—some of it, probably not all, because every situation is unique and I wouldn’t want to lead you astray, not ever, because I love you and I care about you and I want you to be happy so badly.

I want it more than anything else.

But please, if you are reading this right now, do what I’ve told you to do, over and over in this story and in other stories I’ve written, too: Be happy.

Make yourself happy.

You can’t be responsible for everyone else in this world, but you can be responsible for that.

***

And so, dear reader, that is all that I have to say.

Except: thank you. Thank you for listening to me. I wanted to tell you how I felt about all of this, and what I experienced, and I wanted you to understand.

And, of course, I wanted you to get something out of it, too.

So, if you did—if there was anything in this letter you agreed with, or didn’t agree with, or liked or didn’t, and by agreeing or not agreeing or liking or not liking, there was something you learned that you didn’t know before, or at least not all the way—I would love to hear about it.

This letter, after all, is not just for me.

It’s for you.

I hope that someday, we can meet each other. We can keep each other company, and be together, even while we’re alone.

I hope that someday, we’ll be friends.

. . . But Make Sure You Marry Someone Nice (Alone and Together, Part Nineteen)

And there is another reason I’m glad I got married, which is: I learned a lot. One of the things I learned from being married is the most important piece of advice I can ever give anyone who is not already with someone, and it is this: marry someone nice.

But I learned something else, too. I learned that I didn’t want to be alone anymore. And, I thought, I didn’t need to.

I’d done that already, and it had been a success.

Dear Reader (Alone and Together Prologue)

Dear reader,

This is the story of how I met my husband. It is also the story of before I met him, though, and it is also the story of now. Now is as important as anything, after all.

Now is really the end.

But even though my husband and I have found our ending together, and it is as wonderful as I’d always hoped and more, for me, it isn’t enough. You see, I want our story to be about more than the one little happily ever after that is us.

I want it to end with you.

Which is why this story you’re about to read is not a story at all. Instead, it is a letter.

A letter to you.

I wrote it that way not because I didn’t know how to write it as a story (even though that is much harder, I admit)—I wrote it that way because I wanted you, dear reader, to be a part of it, somehow. I wanted you to know what I know. I wanted you to understand how good things can be. I wanted you to be happier than you’ve ever been before.

I wanted, in other words, to give you advice.

Not just advice, though—good advice. Really good. The kind that you’re always, always glad you heard. The kind that you tell other people about later, and for a long time. The kind that you believe in, and listen to.

The kind that you take.

Of course, you might think this seems a bit presumptuous. Why, you may ask, should I listen to this person that I don’t know about something I already understand and have experienced, namely, love? And my answer to that is: don’t.

Don’t listen to me. Just read my story and the lessons that go along with it, and then, if you want, you can take the advice and if you don’t, don’t. But let me be clear about one thing: never, not ever, would I mislead you on purpose. After all, I care about you, dear reader. I think of you as, not just as a reader, but as a friend. As a very good friend, in fact, one that I have known for a long time and would like to help, a little.

Of course, I don’t actually know you. But that has never stopped me before.

You see, even though I might not really know you yet (though I hope that I will someday soon), I love you, dear reader. I love that you are such a passionate person, that you are trying every day to find meaning in the world. I love that you care about other people, and, more important, that you care about yourself.

And I know all this about you already, just because you’re reading this now.

More important than all that, though, I love you because God is in you, and even if you somehow don’t see that right now, please understand that there is someone out there who does, and that is me. And there are probably a lot of others who see it, too, and I bet if you asked them, they would tell you themselves.

So, because I know these things about you, and because I love you, for the duration of this book, I’m going to think of you as a friend.

I don’t have enough friends. Neither, probably, do you. So, instead of reading this as just a story, indulge me, please, just a little: read it as a letter from a friend. (A very long letter, that is.) And if you can’t do that, read it as if it were a stack of letters that you just discovered that were all written to you but that you didn’t know about until just now. (A really well-organized stack, that is.) (Organization is important.)

One small apology, though, before I begin: even though it is written for you and to you and with you in mind all the time, this book is, essentially, about me. And for that, I am sorry. My dad was a writer and he told me a long time ago to never write about myself. “The personal pronouns are the most offensive words in the English language,” he said.

I can’t follow his advice, though. I am the only subject I’ve ever studied and the only thing I really understand.

Hopefully, though, if we are anything alike, that won’t matter so much in the end.

Love at First Sight Is Real (Alone and Together, Part Eight)

In college I fell in love for the third time. This time, it was love at first sight.

His name was Jack.

There was only one problem, though, which was: we argued. The first day we knew each other, even, we argued.

It was the first week of my freshman year of college. We were just getting out of a class and were walking down the hallway when he said my name really loud and with affection as if we were already good friends. I said his name back, and we started talking and after that, we were friends. Later that night we saw each other in the commons and somehow we got on the subject of television. He said that television was wonderful and I said that it is pointless and uninspiring.

He was right, of course.

Our first semester, we met at the commons almost every night. A little group formed around us and it was the most fun I’d ever had.

It was the first real group of friends I’d ever had, too.

Jack saw how shy I was and he liked to tease me about it. He would talk to me in his loud, confident voice like a big brother would to a little sister, which no one had ever done to me before.

Jack and I were never actually a couple but we were never just friends, either. We never kissed and only held hands once and we only went on one date. But he will probably remember me forever as his first important relationship and I will remember him that way, too.

I still want to kiss him just once.

I remember the day I realized I was in love with him. It was the first time I ever knew I was in love with anyone.

That day, we hung out together in the school library, talking but pretending to study. I don’t remember how the subject came up but suddenly he said, “You have to stop caring so much about what people think of you.”

He’s right, I thought. I do care too much about what people think of me.

I was ashamed.

That was the next thing I learned about love: It makes you believe everything the person you love says about you. It challenges you.

And sometimes, it makes you ashamed.

Looking back, I realize that after being extremely shy all my life, by then, I had made real progress in this area. But at the time, I didn’t see how far I’d come, only where I was right then.

It was like he was speaking into my soul.

No one had ever done that to me before, and it was exhilarating.

That night, as I lay in bed and thought about our conversation, the word “love” came into my mind for the first time in connection with any man. I knew right away that that had to be what it was.

Still, it was a surprise.