Coming into adulthood there are a lot of confusing things you have to learn to navigate. Budgeting quickly becomes top of the list when you realize you can’t buy a whole new wardrobe every week just because you don’t know the difference between laundry powder and flour. It occurs to you that leaving your dishes in the sink to spawn a variety of fungi and bacteria is not so much a science experiment as a social experiment to test your roommates’ patience. And you have to choose between leaving your windows open constantly so you wake up shivering and covered in mosquito bites, or leaving them closed until your room begins to smell like muddy socks and stale bread.
But the worst thing you have to learn to deal with is relationships.
Moving out of home puts you in constant contact with people you have previously had no exposure to; roommates who have no concept of personal space, classmates who can’t comprehend what the ‘group’ in ‘group assignment’ is actually referring to, lecturers who love their subjects so much they make little jokes you only pick up on when you’re watching the lecture on catch up for the third time the night before the exam, and random people in the street who don’t understand road rules, walk on the wrong side of the path, and look at you funny when you get on the bus. Personally, I’m learning to deal with these people. It’s the other elusive type that messes with my head: romantic interests.
Now, as previously mentioned my dating experience is diddly squat. Nada. Zilch. The one and only boy I’ve ever had a crush on was one of my very good family friends. People kept telling me for years that we would date, that we should date, that it would be cute if we dated…. I don’t know whether I actually liked him back then or not, but I do know I was determined not to date him because other people said I should. I’m stubborn like that.
By the time I realized I might have had a thing for him one of my other best friends was head-over-heels, stars-in-her-eyes, practically-drooling-when-he-walked-by, in love with him. I knew it. She knew it. He knew it. Actually, EVERYBODY knew it. The problem was that they were oh so very different. Friends, but opposites. He was science, she was arts. He was sports, she was dancing. He was David Attenborough films, she was broadway musicals. It couldn’t possibly work.
But then, he and I couldn’t either. We were too similar, we’d known each other too long and it would have been awkward.
At the end of the year a group of our friends went camping, and by the end of the week they were a couple. It made no sense to any of us, but for some reason they worked. After all, opposites attract. Now when I found out about this it was at a Christmas party and my friend – the girl – approached me and apologized and checked that I was OK with their relationship and… To be honest, I was fine. Utterly.
Now, I’ve decided that there are two possible conclusions to draw from this. Either a) I never really had a crush on him (I just wanted to want someone) or b) I can compartmentalize the hell of of everything and I’ve just sectioned my feelings off from the rest of my brain. I’m inclined towards the former….
My search for love didn’t end there, of course. I moved towns and was suddenly deposited in the city; a small, not overly-attractive fish in the big sea. I was terrified. I AM terrified. For the first few weeks, every guy I talked to was a possible relationship. To some, that may seem like an insane approach, but I’m sure there are many of you who completely agree with me: everyone you meet is an opportunity for a new relationship – romantic or platonic! I blame Hollywood: women are constantly exposed to men who approach them in a coffee shop and compliment the book they’re reading and men are confronted with sexily clad women offering to buy them shots in smokey bars. It’s completely unfair to both sexes!
But that’s not my point.
After all these years – of crushes, of feelings, of daydreams – we are all just those same, innocent primary schoolers aren’t we? Asking ourselves if we like that person or if we Like Like them.