Oh dear. I am quite absolutely, positively, unequivocally, deeply, terrifyingly in love.
It seems that after years of patience I have found myself a guy that I actually like. He blows my socks off; he is delectably woke, astutely adventurous, furiously intelligent, and stoically kind. His heart is so pure. He wakes up each morning with the world on his shoulders; he’ll challenge his white co-workers’ subtle misogyny, and he’ll weep in my arms over the Baldwin essay he read, the racism he is complicit in. He brings me breakfast in bed. He holds my hand in public, and makes me me cups of tea while I study, and rubs my feet when I’m stressed, and teaches me computer programming, and listens to me when I rage and rage and rage about how fucked up America is. He’s lived all around the world – Ghana, Spain, Turkey – and he’s even bought an airplane ticket to spend Christmas in Scotland with me.
He treats me like a fucking queen.
We met at a party, although that’s not the point of this story. Earlier that day, I had had a difficult conversation with an ex who used to mean the world to me, but suddenly… didn’t anymore. He had been pestering me for attention, and I’d told him for the first time to fuck off. It felt… different. Quite suddenly, the heartache that had plagued me for years was replaced by impulsive repulsion. The point of this story is not how I met my new man, but how I stayed single long enough to really truly fall in love with myself, to the extent that I realized that no sex was better than bad sex; and that crawling back to people who aren’t good for me won’t help me grow.
Because the year I spent alone in San Francisco was the least lonely year of my life. I filled my time with friends, misplaced make outs, and found a community in laughter at pathetic men who wanted to use me. Come Autumn 2016, I would wake up each morning in my gorgeous downtown SF flat, and I would feel myself in my body. I’d bike up massive San Francisco hills, and be so grateful for the thighs that had always been too large; suddenly, they brought me to the summit of mountains. Those thighs let me dance, let me seduce, gave me friendships and power. Instead of going on tinder, I’d fill my time with cooking dinner for friends, organizing parties, dancing and dancing and dancing. My rejection of bullshit relationships made me a new person, awash with vigor and independence.
I learned that it’s not enough to say that you love yourself; you have to actually fall in love with yourself. You have to make your own heart beat. You have to catch sight of yourself in the mirror, and think “Well damn, who is that super hot girl staring back? Today, it might as well be me.” You have to walk down the street with your favorite song blasting in your ears, and appreciate and dismiss the lecherous stares of the men who devour you with their eyes. Go dancing for yourself. Watch them watch you. Own the room. Own yourself.
Being celibate in this city of easy sex taught me to spend time with myself. I began to deeply enjoy my own company. When in a relationship, I used to love waking up and making gorgeous food for my lover; but instead, I made myself my favorite pancakes. I’d invite my friends over, and we’d giggle and watch shit telly together until way past our bedtimes, and fall asleep in a pile of duvets; I’d make them my favorite pancakes.
I call this piece “Carbs”; as modeled by my platonic bae Mimi Xia
So that night, at that party, when I saw my man dancing, and he asked if he could have my number and buy me dinner and would I mind if he drove from South San Francisco to Berkeley several times a week to see me, my “yes” came from a place of deep security. Because my existence isn’t compromised by him. And when he puts his arms around my waist and my heart somehow escapes my chest, or when he looks at me with those stunning complex deep blue eyes, eyes like the Atlantic ocean, eyes that hold me and challenge me, eyes that I get completely lost in; well, I don’t get lost. Because I know that if (heaven forbid) he woke up tomorrow and finally realized what a total dork I am, or if his silly little electric Fiat got run over by a petroleum truck when he drives too slow on the bloody motorway, or if he did something pathetically stupid (like deciding he wanted to shag someone else); I could kindly show him the door, and I would survive. I’d be okay.
Which means I can tell him when he pisses me off, without fear that he’ll run. And I can confidently communicate my needs, because I already know deep in my bones that I am great, and his opinion of me – even his being with me – is a nice supplement, but won’t make or break me. It makes it okay when he doesn’t text me back for hours on end, because my life is so rich and full without him that anything he does for me is a glorious addition, not something I need. I hope never to need him, because my life is my life and his life is his, and there is simply nothing sexy or romantic about co-dependency.
So when he disappears for a weekend to hang-glide off cliffs (yep he does that), or hid away for days in a lab to build a machine that will reduce inefficiency in fish farms (yep, he does that too), I go back to making pancakes for my friends and appreciating my thighs for helping me bike up Berkeley hills. It is truly lovely.
Kahlil Gibran is a Lebanese poet who wrote a poem which has since become my philosophy on relationships. In the second stanza of “On Marriage”, he writes;
Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
In my opinion, it is impossible to “eat not from the same loaf” unless one is truly in love with oneself.
My friends notice the pathetically goofy smile smothered across my face every day. They’re probably bored because I bring him up in every conversation; he just inspires me on so many levels, and I don’t know how else to process it. But the crux of the matter is that while our relationship is gluttonously healthy, and yes, we are deeply in love, our own individual independence and self-assuredness makes us able to revel in our time apart. So if you’re newly single, or just bored of being alone – don’t be. If you’ve been asking me what the secret is to finding such a wonderful partner, here it is – stop bloody looking. Take a deep breath, look at yourself in the mirror, and enjoy what you see. Become deeply thankful for your wonderful self. Be patient. Don’t forget that there are seven billion people in the world, and they aren’t all shit. So don’t settle. You’re too good for that.
(If you need a strutting playlist, you can find some of my favourite tracks here – https://open.spotify.com/user/thekoepplingers/playlist/2nDEUjs4XyPPu5vqcQsK6Z)