Love has always been a strange concept to me. It’s a word used so commonly in our daily lives that it sometimes feels like it’s lost all meaning. Love can refer to one’s feelings towards their romantic partner, their family, friends, or even their favourite food. Personally, the topic of romantic love has always been a mystifying concept to me. Even at a young age, I didn’t understand why the boys chased the girls around a lunchtime, or why girls constantly whispered and giggled about boys at the edge of the soccer field. There was one boy in particular that they stared at. I, for one didn’t see what was so great about him. When I asked my friends why they always stared at him, they said it was because he was ‘cute.’ Although I couldn’t see what was so alluring about his mousy hair and brown eyes. I distinctly remember on a hot summer day in grade two, when my friend confessed, blushing, that she liked this boy. I was rather annoyed by this. Everyone liked him for some reason. I couldn’t see why though. He was just so annoying. He knew that all of the girls in our grade (excluding me, of course) liked him, and constantly used that to his advantage. He would chase all of the girls around, threatening to kiss us. Although they did run away, you could tell by their suppressed grins that they secretly wanted him to kiss them.
When I was eight, I transferred to FFCA. For the first few years, one of the students seemed to enjoy constantly pestering me. It wasn’t in a playful sense, he often insulted me, and it genuinely hurt my feelings. I never did find out the reason behind it, but when I told my parents about it, they said, “Oh, he likes you.” Now that bothered me. Every time I told my parents about some boy that had taken to annoying me, they always said that he probably liked me. Though I wasn’t knowledgeable in elementary school, I knew that bullying didn’t equate to affection. Even now, I don’t see why girls are told that boys who bully them have feelings for them. There’s a fine line between playful teasing and actual bullying. Maybe it was because my parents couldn’t see what was going on, but they still didn’t seem to buy it when I told them, in detail everything that he said to me. Thankfully, by the time I was in middle school, we didn’t have any classes together, and I was finally free of him.
In sixth grade, students began taking an interest in dating one another. Of course, the relationships between the students then weren’t exactly serious relationships. It more or less only involved hand holding and maybe a kiss on the cheek. The average relationship lasted around a week, maybe longer if you were lucky.
With dating suddenly becoming a popular prospect, that meant that people constantly asked who you liked during Truth or Dare. For me, that game suddenly became a living nightmare. I had no desire to publicly humiliate myself, so I usually went with truth. Saying that you didn’t like anyone—even if you were honest, ironically enough—wasn’t allowed in Truth or Dare. You had to say who you liked. Even if you lied about it. It was at least something for your friends to tease you about. If you didn’t want to tell everyone who you liked, you could instead say who you would most want to date in your class or grade. For me, choosing between those two options was like asking if I’d rather be waterboarded or have my eyes gouged out. I didn’t like anyone, nor did I have any desire to date anyone, I didn’t even find any of the boys in our grade attractive for that matter. Normally, I would just make up some lie about having a crush on someone outside of school.
At the end of junior high, people suddenly became highly interested in other people’s relationship’s, this phenomenon was known as shipping*. There were two particular students that my own class targeted. They made a ship name for them, and I’m fairly sure that they even tried to get pictures of them together. The two did end up getting together, much to the class’s happiness. I also remember there being an anonymous Instagram account that paired up various people in our school, although the account went into disuse after graduation (although I’ve noticed that shipping still seems to be quite popular in our class).
With the arrival of grade nine came the arrival of a whole new set of students. More people in the school just lead to more relationship drama. One of my friends seemed to have a crush on a different guy every week. While I was mystified by how her affections seemed to shift with the weather, but she was baffled as to why I didn’t like anyone. When she asked if I’d ever liked anyone, and I said no, she was convinced that I was lying to her. Although I wasn’t. She then pestered me if I thought anyone was good looking. Again, I couldn’t answer that question without saying ‘ no one.’ To my relief, she gave up on this endeavour and left me alone.
The situation was even worse with my family. Now that I was in high school, that suddenly meant that they were interested in my love life. They thought that the transition from eighth grade to ninth grade had caused some magical hormonal change in my body and that I would suddenly be fawning over boys. Every family gathering resulted in my grandmother asking if I’d met any ‘special boys.’
To that, I always said, “I don’t want to get married, and I certainly don’t want a boyfriend.” In response to that, my grandmother would set her hand on my arm, give me a sympathetic smile and say, “When I was your age, I was the same way, I didn’t want to get married, but when I met your grandfather . . .” She would always go on some long-winded rant about how I would change my mind, and to ‘never say never.’ I did my best not to snap at her, but it was always so frustrating for my family to act like they knew me better than myself. Just because Aunt Marylin said she wouldn’t get married, but was the first of mom’s siblings to do so, didn’t mean that I’d end up like that. Some defiant part in the back of my head desperately wanted to disprove them. To show them that I wasn’t going to turn out like they wanted me to. I hated having them look at me like I was some confused and lost puppy every time I said that.
Wasn’t my mother the one that told me I didn’t need a husband to be validated? Wasn’t she the one that drilled it into my head that I didn’t have to have a boyfriend? Now she’s siding with my grandmother in telling me that I will want a husband one day. It felt I’d been betrayed.
September 2015 marked the start of tenth grade. By this time I’d grown so angry at my family, that the very idea of romance was repulsive to me.
It seemed rather ironic when I went to see Romeo and Juliet for English class. As I sat, huddled in the bus seat on the way to Vertigo theatre, I angrily ranted to one of my friends about how much I hated Romeo and Juliet.
“They knew each other for like two hours and they decided to get married! That’s so unrealistic!” I rambled, “It was a three-day affair and they literally decided to kill themselves for each other!”
“But it’s true love, after all! Your brain takes a millisecond to decide if you like someone or not,” She protested. She was always the hopeless romantic.
“I know that, but it’s not love! There’s a difference between love and attraction!”
“One day you’ll meet someone and fall in love, and you’ll realize,” She said.
“You sound just like my mother,” I huffed.
Afterwards, I made a blog post on how stupid I found the play.
Grade ten also marked the first time I befriended someone of the opposite gender in several years. Although I quickly learned that having a guy friend often lead to people asking if you were together.
“Are you flirting with her?”
“Those two are just like a married couple!”
“You like him, don’t you?”
“Are you two dating?”
I furiously denied any of these questions, “No, we’re not! We’re just friends!” Although no one ever believed me. Couldn’t guys and girls just be friends? Couldn’t I talk to him for five seconds without someone accusing us of liking each other? Although I knew the teasing was merely a joke, it still got on my nerves.
The next family gathering rolled around, and as I headed across the icy pavement towards my aunt’s house, I wondered if the pestering about my love life (or lack thereof) would only get worse as I aged.
As my grandmother asked how AP English was, my tongue slipped.
“It’s alright, I made a friend there, he—” I realized my mistake as soon as I said it.
“A boy?” My grandmother was smiling.
I didn’t know why, but I felt the heat rising in my face, “I-It’s not like that, I don’t like him!”
“Just you wait.”
I bit my tongue, trying not to say anything. But I supposed that any further protests would just make it worse. Mercifully, she let the topic drop and started discussing something about the declining economy with my parents. I stared at my half-empty glass of water and wondered why my grandmother so insistent that I would change my mind. My love life was none of her business, why did she care so much?
Springtime came early that year. The ice quickly melted, giving way to an annoyingly hot spring. In April (I believe it was April, if my memory serves me right) I went on a trip to Red Deer college for the Alberta One Act Festival.
“Okay, now that I’ve told you who I like, you have to tell me,” She grinned. This all felt so childish, sitting here in the basement of the dorm and confessing who we liked. She’d just told me some long-winded and dramatic story about someone she liked. Although I couldn’t relate, I’d sat there and listened, adding in comments when I could.
She knows me well enough, I won’t get accused of lying if I say no one, right?
I held back a sigh of frustration.
“I’m not lying!” I knew my protests were futile, but I still tried.
“Okay, but is there anyone you used to like?”
“No, not really.”
She rolled her eyes, “I think I know who you like.”
Here we go again. Though she didn’t specify, I knew exactly who she was referring to.
“You love him,” She teased.
I rolled my eyes. It’s been four years since everyone became interested in dating and we still haven’t matured one bit about it. We still tease each other about who we like, Truth or Dare still involved telling everyone about your crush, and relationship drama seemed to have hit a peak this year.
The year finally ended on a hazy June day. That meant two months away from the relentless pestering of my friends. Two months to do whatever I wanted—although I still had to do the summer reading.
I spent the majority of my summer alone, and with a seemingly infinite amount of free time, I did a lot of contemplating. Late at night, I kept thinking about why I was so adamantly against being in a relationship. I knew I’d partially done it just to spite my family, but doing that just seemed so petty. It felt like there was some deeper reason for it. After all,I avoided romance like it was the plague, it had to be more than a sense of defiance.
Some part of me wondered if I was aromantic**, but I knew that I was only in high school after all. As much as I hated hearing it from my family, I could change my mind. I wondered that if I did meet someone, would I even be able to tell if I liked them? Would I dismiss the ‘butterfly feeling’ in my stomach as mere nerves? Would I think that my heart beating really quickly was a side effect of my chronic anxiety? Maybe I was afraid of getting hurt. Maybe I thought being in a relationship would rob me of my independence. Frustrated, I stared out my window at a flickering streetlight. The light brightened for a moment before dying out. I turned away from the now-dim street and glanced at the floor of my bedroom.
Maybe I am in love, and I just haven’t realized it.
What a terrifying thought.
Author’s Notes: I’ve seen a lot of posts about heartbreak and unrequited love on this blog, but I’ve never made one myself. I thought it would be an interesting idea to write about my experience with romance, although it’s taken me a long time to actually write this down. I feel like I’m making a big risk by making this post, since I’m sure a lot of people will get the wrong idea about this piece.
*Shipping: Believing that two people (fictional or real) would look good together in a romantic relationship (I don’t think most of the people in the class would need a definition of this, but I’m still putting it here)
**Aromantic: Someone who has no desire to be in a romantic relationship