A long time ago, in a far away land called Rochester, NY, there lived a boy named Rico. Rico was charming and funny and a good dancer. You might not think having a boy who is a good dancer matters, but in 2005 when Chris Brown was the king of the radio, dance moves mattered. Don’t judge me. Anyways, Rico was the man. Okay, so Rico wasn’t the man, but the idea of Rico was the man.
I remember the first time that I met Rico. I was fresh off of a breakup with another hispanic guy (I went through a really serious Latino phase) and I met Rico in a blockbuster in Orlando. (If you’re under 15 years old, Blockbuster is a store where they used to sell movies for you to rent. “Renting a movie” means that you pay somebody to borrow it, and then return it to that store. Or if you’re me, you never return it and have $578 in late charges.)
I remember my best friend leaning over to me and saying, “Leah, those guys are hot and they are totally checking you out.” And she was right. They totally were. I went outside to make myself “alone and available,” a move that I would now call “dangerous and stupid.” As planned, Rico followed me out.
We chatted in the parking lot and went on to exchange numbers, and the rest was history. But not like good history, where we build homes together in 3rd world countries or adopt puppies or find a cure to cancer, but more like bad history, as in what we will all tell our grandchildren about when we reference Trump Vs. Hillary.
Rico was smooth, y’all. He somehow convinced me to buy him groceries and pay for his phone bill. Or maybe it wasn’t that Rico was smooth, but more that I was a gigantic idiot. Or maybe both. Either way, our relationship was kind of like when you realize that your cookies and cream ice cream has no cookies in it, and is more just cream: misleading and devastating.
I remember my mom once telling me, “You don’t love Rico, you love who Rico could be.” I remember rolling my eyes, mainly because she was right. You see, Rico had these shining moments where he was brilliant and kind and thoughtful. In those moments, he was the best boyfriend that you could imagine having.
He knew how to make me feel like the most beautiful, most important woman in the world. But in the moments where he wasn’t like that, I was a shell of myself, left feeling insecure and alone.
Do you ever feel like men have this radar sensor that goes off the second that you are seriously considering dumping them, and when you’re about to pull the plug they do something insanely romantic? Yeah, that was my entire relationship with Rico. In those moments of resolve, Rico would show his could-be traits and I would change my mind.
Those small glimmers of hope would get me through a few months, and when I would have doubt again, I wouldn’t think about who Rico was being, but instead of who he could be. Those shining lights of his true self guided me through the choppy waters a year of dating him on and off, and always convinced me to let him back in. Rico was kryptonite for me.
He was my weakness. Except he wasn’t- the idea of him was.
Long story short, Rico and I broke up while I was at my best friend’s wedding. Seeing her walking down the aisle to meet her man made me realize that I didn’t see that future for Rico and I. We haven’t spoken since. He’s reached out a few times, but I haven’t responded. It’s not because I’m mean or because I hate him, but because that chapter of my life is closed. It doesn’t need to be reopened. (A whole other blog entry that some of y’all desperately need to read. July, perhaps?)
I’ve met a few other guys since then- one that I’ve dated recently- that had these extreme personality traits. He was either amazingly attentive or astoundingly absent, with no middle ground. That’s really tiring on the mind and soul, and if you’re anything like me, you spend hours over-analyzing everything that they do, or even worse, everything that you do.
There’s nothing exciting or mysterious about being on the receiving end of the sentiments of somebody who has no idea how they’re feeling, ever. In fact, it’s kind of impossible.
So what do you do when you are in love with a person who doesn’t exist?
First thing first, you ask yourself why you don’t think that you deserve an actual, real person who has the traits that you’ve fallen in love with and exhibits them on a daily basis. Secondly, you ask yourself if there is anything that you are doing that enables him/her to act like this. And thirdly, you go get peanut M&M’s and soft pretzels because you will need them to get through this.
So here’s the thing, and this will be hard for some of you to grasp because you have been telling yourself otherwise for days, months, or even years now, but it’s the truth:
You cannot date potential.
Dating potential is like buying a size 4 jeans when you’re a size 12, and telling yourself that you’re one day going to fit into them. Maybe one day you will. Maybe you will stop taking my diet advice, and you will trash the M&M’s and soft pretzels and you will become America’s Next Top Model or something else that I will never quality for because pizza.
But right now, today, where you are, those jeans don’t fit. They don’t look good on you, they stifle you, they make your belly button do that awkward bunchy thing, and most importantly, they don’t make you feel good. You don’t feel like you in those jeans.
Why do we try to force ourselves into things that aren’t made for us? We try to get into things that don’t fit us, convincing ourselves that either 1) One day, we will fit into this or 2) One day, this will somehow fit for us. How much time are you wasting with ill-fitting relationships? How much longer will you allow yourself to try to figure out a person who doesn’t even have themselves figured out.
People are growing, everyday. People are transforming from caterpillars to beautiful butterflies, right before our eyes. Congrats, butterflies of the world! We are happy for you! But your happiness for them should never compromise your own happiness.
Do you know that it’s totally okay to want a mate who has already gone through their caterpillar to butterfly transition? It’s not selfish or unrealistic to want a lover who knows what they want, and who goes after you in a way that makes you feel valued. It’s not silly of you to desire a stable, constant relationship in which you feel important and full of purpose.
But if you want that, you need to let go of the “idea” of your mate and actually date people that line up with that idea.
Glimpses of greatness- both in yourself and in your mate- aren’t enough. We want to be there for people as they grow and as they begin to define themselves, but supporting them and being their entire support system are two completely different things. Learn the difference before your entire life is built on their growth process, which will undoubtedly be full of highs and lows.
And lastly, be able to recognize the needs and desires that you have, and don’t be afraid to say, “This isn’t what I want.”
We feel like that’s selfish, when it’s actually the opposite. Knowing who you are and not compromising yourself is one of the best and most empowering things that you can do for the people around you. Don’t enable somebody by sending the message that you will stick around, no matter how badly or absentmindedly they behave.
But whatever you do, don’t trash the M&M’s and soft pretzels. And if you are going to, please inquire for my address. I will eat them.
Leah Barterian works as the Youth Program Director at Grace Christian Church in Metro Detroit, Michigan. She is extremely passionate about singleness, Red Wings hockey, social equality, and late-night snacking. She loves baked cheetos, puppies, and laughing at videos where people slip on the ice. She inexplicably hates black beans and humidity. Follow Leah on Twitter and Instagram @Leahbarterian. Explore Leah’s blog HERE..
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