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Dark Anecdotes Of A Dating Idealist: Expectations Vs Reality

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When I was 23, my friend and I lived in a tiny apartment in the Upper East Side where we shared an inflatable mattress and used our oven as a heater. We had a tiny TV and all we could watch was Dexter, 27 Dresses, and 500 Days of Summer. The latter was the one we watched the most. I felt tremendously comfortable with the idea that love was to be seen realistically and without expectations in order to have control over who hurts us. Maybe it’s my unresolved daddy issues, but knowing that if Tom had just let go of his romanticized idea of love, he would’ve never been hurt by Summer.

Ever since then, I thought I had a pretty good grasp on what not to do when I found myself liking someone. I’d always have the upper hand and vowed to be like Summer Finn in all relationships. Staying true to this, I regularly walked away from people I thought I loved. I felt comfortable being the one who left. It’s who I’d been for most of my adult life and what felt safest. I treated men with apathy and indifference regardless of how I felt about them. I will admit I like feeling longed for. It was my way of avoiding becoming Tom Hansen.

One day, I was working in a slimy little Mexican place in Los Angeles when a boy asked if I’d like to be in a music video. I wasn’t by any means impressed with this line and was surprised to find he’d left me his card in spite of how rude I’d been. After countless gestures (that I mostly didn’t care for), I finally met him at his house one evening. I showed up in an obnoxiously conservative dress, making ridiculous demands. But as the night progressed, I realized he was no ordinary man. He was gentle and compliant. I was an instrument he quickly learned to master and he was sheet music that I could read but never play. We slow danced. I sat on the kitchen counter as he struck all the right cords. When we were together it was like a song being continuously written. But when we weren’t, it was like shouting as the music fades and the room goes quiet: abrupt, vulnerable and mortifying. The clock was ticking and my grand exit was due. Unable to compromise on our differences, we parted ways like rockstars. 

Over the next few months, I’d seek him out like a song on the radio, moving on from one station to another. He’d come and go, always playing in the background, making sure I wouldn’t forget him. After staying silent awhile, I left for good. I moved back to New York but he sought me out. We spoke of kids, our craft, our good moments, and our bad. I never told him how I felt, but I think he knew. I wanted to belong in his world, but his was a tempo I could never match. Two more years passed and I became what I’d been fearing. I was Tom Hansen: full of expectations and romantic notions.

We saw each other recently. I drove to his house ‘intoxicated by the promise of the evening.’ It was nothing he promised, though he was reckless with his words and actions. He kissed me and the room filled up with our past and a new song began to play. We spent a day and a half together that felt like we’d just unpaused four years prior. I was back in his arms, vulnerable and fragile. We spoke for hours, as our bodies formed melodies and our paths seemed to finally be in perfect harmony. It seemed like the right amount of time had passed and he was ready for me.

That was the last time I heard from him. I’ll never understand why a man would go through all that trouble to amuse himself. It’s cruel. Why put forth all that effort? It’s a question I’ll never have the courage to ask. I want to give myself credit and say that I am growing up. At the very least I now know that I do want romantic love and there is nothing wrong with that. I can take that away from this experience.

In the last scene of the movie, Tom meets Autumn and it’s implied that she’s his next love interest. I like to think that she was the right person for him all along and Tom gets the ending he always wanted. Because if I am now a Tom, I have to know that one day I will get my Autumn.

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Penelope Hernandez

Penelope Hernandez

Lover of all desserts. Yogi by day, night life connoisseur by night.