Less Than Butterflies, No. 24
“I have been dating since I was 15. I’m exhausted. Where is he?!”
— Charlotte York
This entry in the Less Than Butterflies column series is not a story, per se. Rather, it is an innocuous statement to all the men I’ve ever loved, all the men I’ve ever fucked, all the men who have ever put their hands on me, and all the men to come.
This past year, I fell in love with someone who — quite frankly — has hurt me without meaning to do so. I’d like to say I fell in love quickly, but it seems as though it didn’t. I’d been nursing these feelings for months on end without ever knowing I was letting them grow — without knowing they were there to begin with. It wasn’t until we shared an intimate night together and a wonderful weekend with one another that I truly realized what was happening and how long it had been going on without my cognizance.
I’d fallen in love with a man I did not find physically attractive, that I’d never have considered a true contender to spend my life with, and that I really wasn’t sure I even liked that much.
But in truth, he was, and remains to be, a wonderful man; and he was my very best friend by the time I’d realized what happened. It’s important that I say that, not because I’m afraid he’ll read this. Rather, it’s important I say that because I don’t want anyone to think badly of this nameless, faceless man. He’s a good person, with a giant heart that he shares with so many people — some worthy, some not. I don’t think I’d have fallen for him in the first place if he weren’t so wonderful. He is giving, and kind, and funny, and a wonderful friend who keeps me calm when I am all but ready to throw up my hands and give up. He makes sure that his people are taken care of, and he jumps hurdles to ensure that they’re happy with him. He does so with me, especially. And I don’t take that for granted. Every single check he’s picked up, every last night he’s spent with me either on the phone or in person while I was upset, every last smile he’s greeted me with — those things do mean something to me. In fact, they mean more than just something. They mean everything.
This isn’t a man-bashing column. This isn’t me picking fights. This is me genuinely and earnestly trying to say something I’ve been trying to tell him and that he’s given me every opportunity to say. But because of who I am — I haven’t been able to say it to his face. Maybe that makes me a coward. Maybe not.
As of late, he told me that he didn’t think I was being honest with him about all of my feelings — and he was right. So I tried to be more honest with him about those feelings, but like I said, I never could quite get them to be honest as I was talking to him. I was embarrassed and I was ashamed.
Why? Because that’s how all the men before him — reaching all the way back to my father — have made me feel about my emotions all my life. That’s not his fault, of course. I know that; and I hope he will know that I don’t say that as a means of blaming him for my issues that were conceived long before ever meeting him. It’s just one of those things that needs to be said; because even though he and I are both aware of this, others who may read this may not be.
So I’m going to use this opportunity to be more honest with him. He may read it. He may not. But I know now (as I revise the final draft of it) that I feel immensely better having had the opportunity to get these things out of my system. And, yes, I’m going to do this in writing, because that’s the way I know to do it best — and about that most of you are already well aware. I do hope he’ll understand that I’m not saying these things out of anger. Quite the contrary, I’m saying them because I have so much palpable, uncontrollable love for him. I’m saying them because I have to — and because this is the only way I’m ever truly able to be honest. Right here. In writing. In this column. Every single week.
Be advised, however, that this column — while specific to him — is not only for him. This column is for every single man that I have ever given my love to, and even the ones with whom I’ve never made it quite that far. That’s because while the more specific details of my relationship with this man may not be applicable to each and everyone of you, many of the issues I had to confront because of the rest of you were very similar. If not in circumstance, they were so in the emotions they brought out of me. So, dear men — the ones I have slept with, the ones I have let put their hands on me, the ones I have been raped by, the ones I have had crushes on, the ones who told me I wasn’t good enough, that I was too fat — but especially so the ones that I fell in love with: this is for all of you. Read it as if you are the man I address in this next line:
You asked me to be honest about how I was feeling; so here goes. And I don’t want you to be upset with me for this, because I’ve tried saying these things to you every other way possible (on the phone, on Facetime, in texts, in person), but I haven’t been able to do so. And I know we had put this to bed just the other night, but it’s kept me from sleeping in my own because I know I haven’t been honest with you as much as I should have been. So I need to do this. I need to get these things off of my chest before I implode into a showering dust of my own bitterness and self-hatred. And when I’m done, I hope that we can then really try to be best friends as we were were just before that fateful September night, right before everything changed. So, again, here it goes:
Your fat jokes gave me a complex about my weight. I know they weren’t meant to hurt my feelings, and that you thought I was in on them, too. I’m not angry about them now. But looking back, I realize that I was, and that every single time I heard one, I had to fight back tears or take a breath before I could respond. After each one, I would skip a meal, or snort cocaine, or pop an extra Adderall that day, or stick a toothbrush down my throat over the bowl some filthy toilet. When I tried to tell you that they hurt my feelings, you told me I was being too sensitive and that we should be allowed to joke with each other like that, because that’s what friends do. But do you know that you’re the only friend I’ve ever had in my entire life who has made a joke about my weight? Do you know that I thought about those comments every single time I had to eat in front of you — in front of anyone, for that matter. Do you know that I thought about that time you said to a mutual friend of ours right in front of me that you’d never sleep with me, and I thought that it was because I was just too fat for you? I didn’t know why I cared then — we’d only just begun to get to know one another — but now I do; it was because for some reason, I felt like I needed to be validated by you. Because maybe, just maybe, even back then I wanted you to love me before I ever knew that I loved you.
And now, not even a year later, I’m 50 lbs lighter than I was when we first met. And I’m not upset about that part. I’m not, really. I’m hot as hell, now. But I wish you’d have just said you were sorry, then. Because even that thing from so long ago still eats up at me all of the time. It was enough to make me wonder, even now, if it was my weight that categorically thrust me out of line with the people that were good enough for you to have sex with, to fall in love with. Is that the thing that’s wrong with me that keeps you from looking at me as a person worthy of your affections and attractions?
I used to think it was; but now I don’t think so. I mean … it didn’t stop you from putting your hands on me that night. It didn’t stop you from holding me; it didn’t stop you from running your hand between the back of my pants and the skin of my ass at that godforsaken dive bar we went to after partying all night. It didn’t stop you from grinding your ass against my pelvis, and it didn’t stop you from reaching over to hold my hand. Most significant in my mind however is the occurrence most recent: it sure as hell didn’t stop you in that weird, giant booth near the bar right before you told me you had to throw up when you slipped the fingers of each of your hands between those of my own and spread my knees apart with your legs and slipped between them and leaned down and tried to kiss me.
Do you even remember that? … Honestly. Do you?
And I don’t think my mind is ever going to let me forget it; and that’s because I wanted to so badly. I wanted to feel wanted by you, even when you were as messy as you were that night and I had to control my own Molly roll to make sure that you didn’t dehydrate and die and that I didn’t leave you with any kind of memory that would have made it seem as if I’d taken advantage of you. That’s why I didn’t let you kiss me. I wasn’t going to do that to myself — putting myself through the agony of thinking it meant something you’d say later it didn’t and having to feel rejected by you once again.
But that’s just the problem, sir. Deny it all you want — it did mean something. You can blame it on the alcohol or the Molly, if that makes you feel better. You can say that we all do things we shouldn’t do when we’re fucked up; but any person anywhere will tell you that in that state, we aren’t making choices we wouldn’t make when we’re sober because we wouldn’t want to. We’re making choices we wouldn’t make when we’re sober because we’re too afraid to. Those are mutually exclusive causes. The night I crawled up next to you in bed, laid my head on your shoulder, let you wrap your arm around me while I traced circles on your hip and your nipple and you ran your fingers over my shoulder and moaned quietly as you gritted your teeth together — I made a choice. Maybe it wasn’t the right choice. I even apologized, and you told me not to be sorry.
You made a choice, too, that night. I made a choice that I probably would not have made if I’d been sober that night, but I made it because I wanted to and my inhibitions were down. And, in turn, I unlocked the Pandora’s Box I’d been hiding in my chest for most of the time I’d known you. It was so well hidden, in fact, that I didn’t even know it was there to begin with. And I can say with certainty now — in hindsight and with weeks worth of thought — that it was a decision I wanted to make for a very long time, but I was too afraid to let myself make because I wasn’t ready to be rejected by you.
I may not have known early on that I had these feelings for you; but one thing that I always have known since the moment we met that if this were to ever happen — if these feelings were to ever come to be — that you would reject me. I do not fit into the aesthetic that pleases you from one person to the next. Or, at least, that’s what I thought for a long time. I thought that it was my weight, as I said before, or that it was just that I wasn’t the kind of guy’s guy that was attractive to you, or one of the twinks that parades around in circles around you vying for your attention. I thought it was because I wasn’t conventionally beautiful. I still don’t know what it is — and I kind of, in a very sick way, want to know. There’s a part of me that needs that closure. But I think hearing that reason might actually kill me. It might actually push me over the edge of my own insecurities. Because, as it stands, you’ve at one point or another slept with or have been attracted to or have had feelings for all of your other friends. And let me be quite frank:
I’m a fucking supernova in comparison to most of them. I am the funniest person I — and most other people — know. I am hyperintelligent and quick-witted, and insightful. I am talented in ways that shock even me sometimes. And despite what your own jaded, convoluted, bigoted ideas of beauty might tell you, I am fucking gorgeous. Since just this evening (that’s less than 12 hours ago) I’ve had exactly twenty-five different men try to sleep with me on Grindr, 15 Tinder matches, a couple at a Halloween party try to invite me to have a threesome with them, one of my closest friends ask me to go home with him, another man ask me to dinner, and a stranger tell me I am the most beautiful person he’s ever met in his life.
I’m. A fucking. Snacc.
And I should feel like one. Because I am beautiful; and the fact that I have slept with 103 men in my life should tell you that men really like me. And, honestly, it isn’t just about the sex for them. I mean … the sex is great, don’t get me wrong. I literally rock men’s worlds because I’m really good at it. But it’s all the other stuff, too. It’s my laugh. It’s my jokes. It’s my smile. It’s the way I twirl my hair and bite my lip and stand my right foot up on its toes when I get butterflies in my tummy. It’s the way I make them feel important and heard because that’s how I treat people.
It’s how I’ve always treated you.
What I have to offer that I do not give to those men — I don’t know that most of them could handle. I don’t know if you could handle it. Because it’s a lot of fucking love; and I think that’s really where this all has come to its inevitable impasse. I have spent my entire life shelling out love to people I thought deserved it, only to have it sloughed back into my arms to the point that the serving tray is now spilling over and there’s enough to give the population of Brazil.
I don’t want to be presumptuous here — but I think that’s exactly why you can’t accept it. You can say over-and-over again that you just don’t feel that way about me; and I will believe you. Because right now, I don’t think you do. I think that if you did, this would be easier. But your actions have spoken volumes in comparison to your words. And those actions, they actually are those of a person who loves the person for whom they’re performed. I should know. My entire life I’ve wanted someone to give me the goodness that you’ve given me; and I have gotten every other thing from every other person until I met you. And now I’ve gotten the thing I wanted all along — even if incompletely; even if it’s stolen from another or fleeting and momentary. It brings me so much joy. Spotty, yes. Punctuated, of course. But joy, nevertheless.
I think something about that terrifies you. I think it terrifies you to even entertain the thought that I might actually be able to make you happy, or that you might have the capacity to love someone like me — someone so vastly different than what you’re used to. I can say that with a great deal of certainty because that same terror is the exact bolt of lightning that struck me in my stomach when I finally came to the realization that I was having these feelings for you. And I struggled with it like a sinner trying to escape the ninth circle of hell. I struggled with it because it’s not what I wanted. It isn’t what I planned. It isn’t the future I pictured when I thought about finding someone who really made me feel safe, and whole, and at home. Yet, that night — for the very first time in my entire life; with years of neglectful parents and asshole boyfriends and an absent father and men who had raped me and left me feeling dead inside and out — that night that I laid in your arms and kissed you on your chest and listened to you breathe and absorbed every last stroke of your fingers against my skin into my memory, I finally was able to exhale. And I thought to myself, This is where I’m supposed to be.
I hate that right now. I hate it so much. As my heart crumbles and descends to the pit of my stomach to weigh it down with dread like sand in an hourglass, this love begets hatred. Not for you. I could never hate you. I don’t even hate what has happened. I feel this intense loathing because I’m out here feeling this way all alone. And I know — because I felt that way the last day of September — that it isn’t a matter of you not loving me. I know that you do, even if not quite the way I do you. This is all a matter of the fact that you won’t let yourself. Instead, you choose to perpetuate a cycle of vicious and heartbreaking tragedies in your own life and to numb them with substances and hollow friendships that are not what they once were. And sure, I may not have the history with you that those friends and loves do — and I’m never going to. I came into your life well after they did, and each year that I know you, they’ll always have known you longer — known you more. But that, as well, is not something I can control. I’d have come earlier if I could have; believe me. But I’m here now for a reason; even if neither of us know just yet what that reason is.
Although, I do know that this isn’t the reason. It isn’t so that I can exist in this misery and self-doubt and conscious thought spiral of what it is about me that isn’t good enough for you.
I’m plenty good for you. I know that for a fact, even if that knowledge falters at times and leaves me in doubt and tears and heartbreak. Because I am the brightness of the day, and the comfort of the night; the warmth of the summer, and the crispness of the winter; the quench of water, and the passion of fire. And I am as certain as the tides will roll to the shore and as embers burn to ash that no matter who loves you in your life, no matter how much they love you, or in what way, or for whatever reason, it will not ever be the same as the love that I have for you.
I know I’m saying ‘love’ a lot. And I’m sorry if that makes you uncomfortable. But you did ask me to be honest; and that’s all I’m doing.
This isn’t a letter of expectation. One of hope, maybe; possibly even one of defeat. A sheet of copy paper with words scribbled across it that has transfigured into a white flag of surrender. But I do have hope — even at surrender — that when you do realize that I’m not making this all up in my head, that when you can do the very thing you’ve asked of me — and you will; I know that much — that it isn’t too late. I hope that someone else won’t have swept me off my feet that I won’t ever love nearly as much but will have settled upon because enough time has passed and I’m complacent in taking the next best thing. I hope that you won’t deny yourself the fervor of these feelings, because you deserve them. From the worship I lay down upon the ground you’ve traversed, to the feeling of wanting to come home because it finally feels like home, to the excitement of waking up to foray a new adventure or to lie in bed and let the world pass by just to soak in another moment that is sure to end sometime, I hope you get to have that with me. Not for my sake.
Because, sir, I knew this that night I realized I was right where I was supposed to be:
Even before we’d ever met, before we’d ever crossed paths, it has always been you.
And it saddens me to think you might deny yourself that happiness, that love. Because you deserve — more so now than ever — to know love and happiness without a sell-by date; and that is what I want for you. And it may seem like you’re happy now, and that’s amazing. I hope you are. Though history will soon repeat itself, and we’ll be back at square one. And I’ll be your friend then, and I’ll listen, and I’ll do whatever you ask to make it better for you. Just know that to deny yourself a real opportunity to be happy because it isn’t what you thought it would be, or because you’re afraid of what others might think or say is stupid. Because guess what.
True love — true happiness — true success — they are never what we expect they will be. And as for all the things people might think and say: they’re already thinking them; already saying them.
I should know.
I’m the one who has to stand there and correct them when they ask. Caught somewhere between a half-truth and a half-lie, I have to tell them that we’re just friends, nothing more. And we are — I know that. I’m not delusional. But this has not been just a friendship since that lone September night. I don’t know exactly what it has been, because this is all uncharted territory, but I know it’s been a friendship and then something else. Something weird. Something I can’t explain. And try as we both might, it never will go back to being just a friendship. Some lines you can’t uncross. Some walls can’t be rebuilt. Some fabrics cannot be sewn back together once they’ve been cut.
And right now, we’re a little cut from our own cloths. But the beautiful thing about that is that even if we can’t ever go back to being what we were before, we can still be sewn together to create something far more beautiful … no matter what that something is.
When you’re ready, be something beautiful with me. When you’re ready, take a breath, close your eyes, open your own Pandora’s Box that rests deep within you, feel my love, and take a chance on the thing you would have never expected to be the very thing you’d been looking for all along. Because none of this is coming from nowhere, honey. All these actions — all these things you feel the need to explain with reaching rationalizations … they’re coming from somewhere. Every touch, every almost-kiss, every thought you wish you’d kept in your head rather than on your lips — you’re putting them out there for a reason; and that reason isn’t a drug or a drink. But you’ll figure that out when you’re ready. Or you won’t.
I just hope it doesn’t take you seeing someone else who already has it figured out with me wrapped around their finger for you to get there, because I don’t want you to suffer this pain with which I’m living. You deserve so much more. So very much more.
But then again … so do I. And though I have waited to be loved my entire life, I have never let that stop me from moving forward with my life, reaching for successes, garnering acclaim, making mistakes, learning lessons, or anything in between. I will not now, nor have I ever, wait in the wings for any man. I stand in the spotlight, because I’m the goddamn star. And while my heart may have been yours before it ever pumped its first beat, that does not mean it can’t be stolen by someone who treats it better while you aren’t paying attention to it. Ask any of the other men I’ve ever loved.
The only difference is that I loved them a helluva lot less than I love you.
But lastly, just know this: I told you just the other day that if circumstances were to change, I would fight for you. But I’m telling you now that I don’t think I will. I’m done fighting for men; and I refuse to do it for you unless I know that you would do the same for me. I’ve been fighting for the love of men for as long as I can remember; and in order for you to ever take me seriously, I need to stop doing that. But that isn’t why I won’t fight for you — and it isn’t because I don’t think you’re worth fighting for — I do. I honest to God do.
It’s just like I said before: I deserve to be loved by a man who thinks I’m just as much worth fighting for. And someday, in the future when things are just as different in our lives as they are now from a year ago, I hope that you’re that man. Because I think we could be really happy.
More than just happy, even.