Less Than Butterflies, No. 8
You know who you are, and I know that you’re reading this, as you often make a point of telling me that you read this column. Actually, it’s less so a point that you’re keeping up with my sexual escapades and more so getting in your digs. But I appreciate it, regardless. Anyway, I’m going to tell you a story and explain something to you here that I would never have the nerve to explain to you in person. But before I do, let me just say one thing:
This is not in any way a grand gesture.
Please don’t mistake it for one. I just have things I need to say that I don’t think we could discuss in person. And truthfully … what’s the point? It’s not like any of it changes anything … not like it really matters. But I think at this point, you know me well enough to know that there are some things that stick with me until I say them aloud—or, until I put them in writing, in this case. It’s not about spinning an outcome. It’s not about needing or wanting anything. It’s just one of those things that I can’t fully process or make sense of (if there’s any sense to be made) until I can organize my thoughts in writing.
I also want to say that I know this is extremely unfair and selfish of me to do right now. And, for that, I really am sorry. You have enough going on. But the real point I want to impress upon you is that this (again) isn’t about any normal crazy white girl shit. It’s not about expectation or anything like that.
I just believe that omission is as bad as being dishonest. So, instead of writing a story here the way that I normally do, I figured I’d just address you. Because, like I said, you’re going to read it anyway, and at least this way it doesn’t seem so much like just another story. But, for the sake of being friends, and having a friendship that I truly enjoy, it does need to be said. And I know that that’s literally the exact opposite of how you deal with things. So, as helpful as this may be for me personally, I am (again) sorry that it’s a selfish thing to do.
So, here’s the story. Don’t freak out. It’s literally just me needing a catharsis. And since you’re gonna read this anyway, I may as well just address you.
Once upon a time, there was a young man named Anthony who dreamed of what his life what the man he was going to marry would be like, and what it would feel like to be so in love with someone that loved him back just as much. For years, he spent his time acquiring deep infatuation for men that would inevitably treat him like shit and leave him hanging out to dry. And all the while, through all the bad dates and late night booty calls, Anthony found that with each unwarranted dick pic or it’s-not-you-it’s-me, he died just a little bit on the inside. For you see, only one time in his life had he ever been with anyone who made him feel the thing he’d been imagining the feeling of his entire life:
Each time the person who caused this would come near, or hold his hand, or kiss him atop the head, he could feel wings fluttering inside his tummy. Just that boy’s very smile could wake them up and set them bouncing about inside of him until it nearly tickled. And in his journey to recreate that feeling, Young Anthony found that this seemed less-and-less possible.
However, the days of longing stares and nervous smiles have ceased. It wasn’t all at once. Fast, yes; but like a quick decrescendo more than an abrupt slam on the brakes. In the place of those stares and smiles now were only filthy messages on Grindr and unwelcome hands grazing his body in bars he didn’t really want to be in. And while, for the purposes of getting off, he often welcomed these substitutions, it was never what he truly longed for.
But Young Anthony is a different person now.
I am a different person now. I’m cynical, at times; and I know that butterflies are just scientifically a symptom of the body’s fight-or-flight reaction; and I’m drunk a lot; and I am tired—no. Exhausted, really. I feel like Sex and the City’s Charlotte sitting at a cafe table as she kvetched to her friends, “I’ve been dating since I was fifteen! I’m exhausted. Where is he?” That’s how many men I’ve been through looking for one decent one who isn’t going to pee on me, or tie me up (that story is for next week), or fetishize my weight, or kiss me and then never speak to me, again.
… and that’s just a few.
Still, I guess somewhere along the way, through all of the white noise that Tinder pings have faded into, I’ve lost sight of the butterflies. And it isn’t because I don’t want them. It isn’t because I don’t miss the feeling. It’s almost as though they just seem so far away that I’m not sure I quite remember what they felt like when I had them. It’s a bit like not being able to see the light at the end of a tunnel, but feeling the heat the entire trek through. Recognizing that feeling now would be hard … or, at least, that’s what I thought.
Then, when I least expected them—maybe even forgot about them—as I was lying there still as I could be while watching a movie with you—someone I’d long-since given up on—those tiny little butterfly feet began to dance around inside of me. From a long dormancy they woke and, as if no time had past since their last adventure, they began to flutter around inside of me.
And it wasn’t a special occasion. It was just us hanging out like we do. You needed a friend, and I was happy to be that friend for you.
It was shocking, at first. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be sick or if I’d eaten too much. But as the movie played over us, you, Ezra recited every last word in broken tandem with the cast. All the while, those butterflies flew around overzealously. It felt like the first day of school mixed with getting a birthday present sprinkled with the relief that follows a sneeze.
But I couldn’t help it. And I wanted to. I really fucking wanted to be in control of what was happening inside of me. Yet, it was endearing and cute and you seemed really comfortable. Which, for the record, I think is really saying something considering how uncomfortable you pretty much always are. And, if I’m being honest (after all, I’m already past the point of no return), all of that scared the living shit out of me.
Why? Well … you’re like one of my closest friends. I have a lot of friends, but not a lot of close ones. Certainly not ones that are easy to be around, that aren’t after something I have, that are almost completely free of drama and histrionics.
Ezra, you came into my life as a Tinder match-turned-friend that not only rejected me, but then had the nerve to be my friend afterward. Granted, that was my doing, which is why, for the first time in my life, I wasn’t mad about that. I embraced it, actually. Because for as long as I can remember, I’ve had a bad habit of catching feelings for my friends. My first love was my oldest friend in the world; and now I have to be the best man at his wedding … to a woman. But in order to settle the flames that burned when he inadvertently broke my heart, I had to put space between us. Hell. Most of my boyfriends have been people that started off as friends; and in each case, when the page has turned and that chapter has ended, I’ve never been enough of a grown-up to keep the friendship going after.
And that’s another reason I’m not totally uncomfortable saying all of this. It is a bit different with you. I like being your friend a lot, and I haven’t yet behaved that way in this situation. And trust me when I say that the timeline for that has come and gone. And maybe that’s because I barely knew you when you told me you weren’t ready to date anyone (the nicest of the rejections I’ve received in my life). Or maybe it was because you’re actually just a really good person who I think makes me a better person with your friendship. Maybe I’m just drunk too much and have a nasty habit of self-sabotaging. (Truthfully, I think we both know that it’s that last one). Whatever the case, I have somehow gotten really comfortable with just being your friend. And even that freaks me out.
I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop and for me to launch into hysterics. And, yet, that moment has not yet manifested. Granted, some might argue that I’m having a mental breakdown now, and that this column is me going is symptomatic of that. After all, how many sane people use their platform of 12,000 people to have a discussion with their best friend about their feelings? But the fact of the matter is that to be as freaked out as I am, I’m not actually freaking out.
…do you see the difference? Does that make sense?
Yes, I’m insane. Like … the real kind. And for a while, I couldn’t figure out why I’ve been behaving so rationally to something I—even just a year ago—would normally be devastated over. But then I did figure it out. And it was that night, after eating lukewarm takeout and singing along to a musical we’ve both seen more times than we can remember.
It’s just that I actually think you’re a really special person.
I know, I know. That’s not exactly the most eloquent way to put it. But I’m not sure how else to put it. Because I realize that the things I seem to like most about you as my friend are all the opposite things of all the opposite people I’ve ever felt something for. Because as I sit here thinking about all those opposite people—exes and sex partners and unrequited emotions and best friends and even strangers in bars who tell me I have a beautiful voice and then don’t speak to me for nearly a year after (not bitter, Taylor Kyle)—I cannot even think of a single reason as to why I had feelings for them in the first place.
But, I do know what I like about you. You’re smart; and you don’t take my shit; and you are kind of wonderfully weird. But you also are a person who doesn’t do things they don’t want to do. And despite the fact that I, yes, forced my friendship on you (you’re welcome), you saw it through anyway. And even now you are taking the time to get to know me without my normal, habitual forcefulness playing much of a factor into it. And you don’t write me off as vapid or high-maintenance (although, I know that you do acknowledge the latter) or annoying and loud. You just let me be me. No pretense. No show. No facade. Just me.
That, too, frightens me. I’ve never been someone who waltzes around in their ‘eat me’ short shorts with their hair up and scarfs down chicken tenders and cookies and white wine in front of someone I like—or even my closest friends—and yet there I was the other day doing just that.
I’m comfortable. Probably too comfortable. Which, not to sound like a broken record here, is saying something for someone who—like you—is generally uncomfortable.
Because I live my life in front of people. With my job, with Pride, with my books, even with this column. And some of those people really like me, and some of them cannot stand me. And both of those things are okay, because I’m not playing a role in front of them. I am the person they see. I’m just not always up to being that volume of that person at all times. And you provide a very lovely respite from playing that part. No makeup. No watching how much I eat or drink. No worrying that I’m bitching too much about boys or my mother. And that level of comfort for me is very difficult to come by.
We’re different people in a lot of ways—like … vastly different. You are quiet and like to be alone and you don’t have the sort of highs and lows that I do. You’re walled up. And as much as I may not understand entirely why, that’s who you are. I wouldn’t change that or anything else about you (except your profile picture. It’s not your best. But I’m digressing). But it’s that part of you that somehow brings me down to ground zero (or, at least, my version of ground zero, which is still well above sea level). It’s that part of you that reminds me of how much joy there is to be had in just lying around in short shorts, scarfing down carbs, and talking through the entirety of a movie with someone who doesn’t expect anything of you—that just enjoys your company.
It’s that part of you that brought back my butterflies. So, thank you for that.
And here I am trying to tell you about why you’re great, and I’m simultaneously finding some way to tell you why I think you’re great. I don’t try to be this self-involved, but it always seems to be the case. I’d like to chalk that up to anxiety, honestly. Regardless, I’m sorry about that. And I’m sorry that you are having to get all this weird honesty seemingly out of nowhere and while you’re dealing with your own problems. But I promise I’m almost done. I just want to say a little more.
All the men I’d ever fallen into bed with shared one thing in common:
I’d never fallen for them.
On my quest to revive that feeling of butterflies in my tummy, I’d always come up short. It had always been just that: less than butterflies.
We never did that, thankfully and for lots of different reasons that don’t require reiteration here. And in not doing so, I came to yet another realization.
Maybe the secret to letting those beautiful creatures loose inside me was to not fall in bed with someone at all, but to let them get to know me well enough so that the butterflies felt comfortable enough to take flight.
So, thank you for taking the time to get to know me, in spite of how different we are and in spite of how much I can be at first glance. And thank you for the cookies and the laughter and, of course, the butterflies. And know that this isn’t me expecting anything of you or trying to change anything. I adore our friendship because you are one of the only people in my life who is pretty much down to do whatever I want to do because we have very similar interests (and then some that are not so similar).
But most importantly, thank you for helping me grow up some; and thank you for the lesson that continues to accompany that progress.
You’re going to make someone very happy someday—I don’t need tarot cards to tell me that. And I’ll be so happy for you then. I won’t be surprised, though. Because, it’s as I said before … I just think that you’re a really special person. And sometimes I think that you don’t know how extraordinary you are. Especially now. And a lot of this is coming from that place that I think you deserve the reminder. Granted, I probably won’t remind you that often, because that’s not who I am as a person, but I’m doing it now. You deserve to know. And you deserve to hear some nice things about yourself that maybe not enough people tell you (although that could just be me being presumptuous). Mind you, now I’m just kind of like, “Okay … soooo … now what? I gotta do this all over again with some other dude?” Like … that’s a lot of work. I may just become celibate. Or at least feelings-ibate. I’m too slutty to be celibate.
So, again: I’m sorry to drop all this on you. I don’t really need or want anything. I really didn’t mean to make you feel out of place or weird or put you in an uncomfortable position. I don’t want there to be any sort of rift in our friendship, and I certainly don’t want it to become cumbersome. All of this is coming from a really positive place, and I feel like if we’re going to maintain this wonderful friendship we have, you have a right to not just know (because we both know that you know), but to understand it. And also, it’s kind of just like Paulette says: I just felt like it had to be said.
So, don’t be fucking awkward about it. Jesus. Face value, babe. Face value. And, if you take anything away from this, I hope it’s the reminder that you are cared for, and that there are plenty of people in this world whom you make smile, and some (“for better or worse”) whom you give butterflies.
Anyway, that’s it. Sorry this was so fucking long. I’ve never been able to say anything succinctly in my life.
Love ya long time.
Anthony + the Butterflies (#dibsonbandname)
P.S. Please don’t hate me until after we see Hamilton, please.