Love makes it easy to feel like a woman. When you’re in love, your heart races. You flush. You feel small and fragile and precious. Even if not ten seconds ago you were the vicious orchestrator of a corporate takeover, or the alluringly charming Don Draper-ette at a client pitch, when you are in love, you become a girl again. Someone to be treasured, protected, held close. Call me a hopeless romantic, or a traditionalist, but that is how it’s always felt like to me.
When I’m in love (or, rather, “in love”), I feel like a girl. I feel the vulnerability, the longing to be held. I feel the desire for companionship, for care. I also feel a need to be the companion, to care for. Being in love awakens both the mother and the lover in me, the stirrings of the domestic woman that modern feminists would cringe at. I feel girlish, which comes from the low German ‘gor’: “child.” I feel like a child, like everything is new and to be wondered at, that I can be terribly brave and yet awfully bashful by turns.
Love makes it easy for me to feel like a woman…but it doesn’t make it easy for me to be one. When I’m “in love” is when I realize, oh-so-acutely, that I have no idea how to play out this part of the script. Anything I say either sounds too calculated or too thoughtless. Anything I do looks either like I planned it three months in advance or else did it without even consulting common sense. I do something then wish I hadn’t, or don’t do something and later wish I did.
Most of all, I have to wonder at how other girls manage this and make it look so easy. They smile, they wave, they walk with poise and grace, and they never seem to skip a beat when they speak to a boy. One moment, a girl can be blushing by my side, pointing out a crush and giggling nervously; the next she can be chatting with him about the weather, or a class project, or some piece of news from the grapevine, looking as natural as if she felt absolutely nothing at all.
I’ve never understood how a girl could hide all those things. I can walk around school with Dengue Fever and no one would be the wiser (except maybe for the rash), but afflict me with an attraction and I am an absolute mess, a bundle of nerves, an overloaded processor freezing, hanging, skipping, and crashing by turns. I become temporarily schizophrenic, and with one personality surprising the other with its wants and needs and desires, and while I always feel like one personality makes more sense…I find the other one is very good at making sure she gets at least some of her way, at least until I’ve noticed she’s driving us straight into disaster. Sometimes I don’t even notice then, and I get…crushed. Mortified. I could sink into the floor with all the recollections: awkward flirting, crossed boundaries, “I like you-s” I wish I could take back.
The only consolation is that mortification cures “love,” or at least staves off the symptoms enough for me not to show it. The disappointment (and embarrassment!) at my behavior, the pain at being rebuffed…all of these are as effective as a bucket of cold water in cooling the fire of my ardor, even if they don’t necessarily silence the lead singer of Letters To Cleo singing over and over in my brain: “I want you to want me! I need you to need me! I’m begging you to beg me!”
Eventually, even she falls silent, and I move on. Sometimes quickly. Sometimes slowly. Always, not without a new lesson, a new scar, a new reason to facepalm and wonder when I’ll ever get this right.
I take that back. Love does not make it easy. Or maybe love does. But “love”? “Love” makes it even more difficult.
(Stay tuned for Part 4)