Monday, December 14, 2015

This Is What Jen in Love Looks Like

Eric at work told Whitney, "Jen seems so happy. She is smiling so much more."

Today my friend Will said to me, "You look younger every time I see you."

I said, "This is what Jen in love looks like."

I remarked to someone recently that we had been dating almost two weeks, and she seemed visibly surprised that we had been publicly canoodling in the balcony of Baldwin Hall at a recent Lyceum event.

I suppose it might seem sudden from the outside. But I have dated a lot since my second marriage ended. And then I stopped dating for a long time. So, I have been very, very single for two years, and completely date-free/celibate for 11 months of that time.

I've known for a very long time that unless I met someone with whom I could have at least as interesting conversations as I have with my small circle of friends, it wasn't going to have long-term potential. Most of those friends have openly said to me that I was never going to find what I wanted online, and they were right. I wasn't wrong about guys who go online to date pursuing sex-- I was just not meeting any of the guys who aren't motivated by sex because they don't go online. Or maybe those guys are really as rare as they seem, because Darren is definitely a first.

But back to conversations: We talk for hours. The first Saturday night we hung out, we talked from six p.m. to midnight without pausing much except to show each other videos and play songs for each other.

I was going to write about meeting Darren's parents for the first time. Except that sentence is misleading, because, as it turns out, it wasn't the first time. I went over to meet them on Thanksgiving before I went to work. I walked into the living room and saw Darren's dad and sort of squealed, "Hi!!!" and turned to Darren and said, "Darren, I LOVE your parents!" And I hugged his dad and then hugged his mom. They worked as para professionals in the junior high when I taught special ed (and far beyond me). I always loved and appreciated how kind they were to the kids and also to me. They personified helpfulness. I remember when Darren's dad told me about a particularly difficult kid, "If you need ANYTHING, you just call me."

So, we sat in their living room and caught up on all of the kids we knew and where they had ended up while Darren sat and watched us like a tennis match. It was love.

Darren knows everything about me, or at least the most everything I've had the chance to share with him so far. And I know a lot about him. And some of what we know about each other isn't pretty or perfect or even nice. We have shared deeply humiliating things with each other, regrets, fears.

One of the things I've been really aware of is the ways in which I chose separateness in past relationships. Ways in which I realized that gaps were enlarging between us, but played love chicken and let it happen. Love chicken is when you wait to see if your partner will point out the distance, will point out the gaps, will point out the times you chose to stay up instead of going to bed at the same time.

I am also guilty of having believed in the past that some behaviors or ideologies would change, in spite of the fact that there was never any indication apart from my hope that this would happen. I can't blame people for being who they are if I never fully accepted them that way and always hoped that they would change. That isn't fair to anyone.

I have learned over the years that I like being single. But right now, I am radiating happiness. Having someone I can say anything to and talk about teaching, grant writing, JC Penney, the Mormon Church, leaving the Mormon Church, religion, death, life, disappointment, grief, brokenness, strength, meditation, hope, hopelessness, giving up, despair, The Killers, The Cure, John-5, Go Down, Moses, God's Debris, love, sex, heartbreak, God, grace, our parents, our siblings, Tosh, Sting, friendship, integrity, acceptance-- I mean, everything. There isn't anything I can't say to him. I have said everything to him. We have cried in front of each other. I grip his beard in both hands and ask him sometimes, "Are you really real?" I am forty-six. I know how rare this is.

He goes to the hardware store with Chris. He goes out for breakfast with Sam. I slept in til 9 a.m. on Saturday morning and when I got up, he was cleaning the kitchen. "Do you mind if I help you with the cleaning?" he  had asked me a few days before, when I confessed that I was a nonconvertible slob.

"Are you kidding?" I said.

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I know I'm gushing. According to Marsha at the JCP jewelry counter, I'm glowing. And I don't even care, I am unabashadly gushing. There has been so little romance in my history that I really stopped believing in it. That was hard to let go of, but then, after awhile, I was able to embrace my life without it. And I think it is really essential to be able to do that. Because it makes you so rock solid that it doesn't rock any of the foundations of who you are to be able to say, "I found someone who flips my heart inside out, and that's so rare, and I'm so lucky."

If I am actually in a coma, please make sure Christian is taking care of his blood sugars.