In a few weeks I’ll be 32 and a man has yet to stand outside my house with a boombox over his head playing “In Your Eyes.” Life in the city can be loud, but I don’t think I could have missed him. I periodically check.
“You want me to do what?” asks my husband, “Who even says ‘boombox’ anymore?”
“Well, it doesn’t have be that exactly,” I explain. “You could do something else, maybe play a different song.”
I am a modern woman, after all.
Except, maybe I’m not. Because what’s really unsettling about all of this, is not so much that no one has Lloyd Dobblered me, but the fact that I still want to be. That I am in my thirties and still holding on to these tangible gestures of love feels discomforting. A friend tells me that he and his wife read poetry aloud to each other in bed and my heart strains to keep up with my quickened breath. I want this. I want to read and be read to. And when it doesn’t happen, when I’m not compared to a summer’s day, I am quick to tell myself it’s because I am not lovely enough or temperate enough. I wonder if perhaps I were prettier or funnier, if I were sweeter, had longer legs or straighter hair, would it bring forth love in other people?
I am beginning to understand that the very asking of such a question is the real rub: I don’t love myself enough.
Like Oliver, I hold out my bowl, begging, pleading for love. Please, sir, I want some more. Love me more. Cherish me more. Hold me closer. My bowl is cracked and any affection ladled in simply drips out the bottom. It can be refilled endlessly, from an endless supply, and it will never be enough. My heart is bottomless.
My looking at other people to reflect my goodness sickens me. And that someone’s rejection of me could cause my eternal summer to fade is offensive to my core.
As a writer, I have always woven big fantasies in my mind, wanting my life to play out like some weighty novel. What is any great story, though, without a strong central character? The heroine has to be self-possessed and self-assured at a cellular level or she becomes uninteresting, inauthentic, she gets lost on the page. By seeing my life in verse or on the big screen though, I have taken into account too many other characters, ones deserving of far less attention. I should be singularly focused on my own development and not let it be conscripted by heroines already written. I want to start living my life off of the page, to accept myself in the here and now.
Having met my husband when I was 11, I don’t remember what it feels like to actually fall in love. I was too young to appreciate this sacred and subtle process.But I have the chance now to experience it with depth and meaning. I am starting to fall in love with myself and it is no less special. I have so much warmth, so much passion, so much loving kindness and instead of looking for only external repositories, I need to focus them inward.
Until now, I have mistaken solitude for acceptance. I do much on my own, whether it be reading in a coffee shop or walking through the art gallery, and I have congratulated myself on my independence and my ability to spend time alone. But even standing in front of Nude With Clasped Hands the other day, a sensual painting of Picasso’s first love, I am thinking about Fernande. I wonder what it feels like to have one’s beauty and soul inspire such art, instead of thinking about Picasso and the strength, conviction and acceptance it takes to create such a masterpiece.
But how does one go about loving themselves completely? How does one gain strength, conviction and acceptance to create their own masterpiece?
I still have much to learn, but I think it’s about letting go of the fantastical and grabbing hold of reality. For me, it’s about seeing myself as I am, seeing what’s right here in front of me, instead of some fanciful notion of what I hope to one day see. To love oneself truly, madly, deeply, means never questioning one’s beauty or wit. It’s an unshakeable faith in your own worthiness of affection. It’s about charming yourself with yourself, so much so that you automatically believe that any rejection of you is another person’s tremendous loss. It’s someone else’s loss because I’m lovely and funny. I’m pretty and sweet.
I am trying now to lose myself in moments, to chase away my insecurities so there is nothing separating me from the present. I want to savour the delectableness of each and every moment and what I bring to it. Home alone, I blast Peter Gabriel and dance around the room, hands over head, hips swaying, curly hair bouncing.