When I was 17, I fell in love. Now, I’m not going to sit here and try to communicate that feeling through the black and white strokes of a keyboard, because I would fail. If you’ve never been in love, there’s no imagery I can use, or comparison I can make, that will help you understand. If you have been in love, there’s no need for explanation because you already know. And if you’re not sure, consider yourself in the former category, because it’s never a question. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I knew, or provide any type of spatial details, but I do remember the shift in emotion. One day, I knew that I was at the center of the universe, and the next day my world was revolving around her, with the degree to which I felt alive becoming dependent on the amount of sunlight she provided. However, as it is with any drug or intense emotion, the hangover is adversely proportional to the high, and when she had sex with one of my friends something died inside of me (innocence, I assume). A broken heart is unlike any injury that I have ever known, emotional or physical. It’s an ache that never goes away, a brick in the pit of your stomach that represents a lack of everything beautiful.
That’s when I started sleeping around. Now, I’m not trying to excuse my behavior, and I’m not blaming her. Being a teenager suffering from the emotional retardation that afflicts most adolescents, I was guilty of a number of character flaws that led to our demise: namely, jealousy and a wild insecurity also known as ‘being a little bitch’. Nevertheless, my slip into whoredom didn’t start all at once. I had never been that guy before, but as it is with most endeavors that stem from the human condition, practice makes perfect. In a year, I was good. In two, I was better. I broke hearts. I lost friends. I actively went after girls who had boyfriends, taking a twisted satisfaction in subverting their long established loyalties. And yes, I see the glaring irony in that, but I let my inner animal a little too far off his leash and he started to take control.
As a result, I gained all of the character traits that I had been lacking as a naïve adolescent (confidence, charm, sexual fitness), but it came at the cost of compromising everything about myself that I found admirable. Without even knowing it, I had become something that I despised, someone deserving of a good beating. Luckily, I had a friend willing to give me the necessary wake-up call and put me back on the right track before I completely lost myself.
Even with all of the drugs, alcohol, and superficial bullshit I experienced in college, the memory of that first love is still just as strong. The girl, I barely remember, and what she tore out of me I may never get back, but being a romantic isn’t about reclaiming innocence or chasing an ideal. It’s not about flowers, or poems, or treating a girl like a princess. Being a romantic is about showing your vulnerability with the foreknowledge that you will be rejected, insulted, and embarrassed. It’s about knowing that you will have to deal with heartache after heartache, yet having the personal constitution to keep getting back up, and the depth of faith to keep believing that you’ll find someone who will make it all worthwhile.
Romantics aren’t immune to carnal instinct. They’re inundated with the same incessant stream of sexual desires as everyone else. They’ve just learned how to say no, either from past experience, or from fear of losing something greater.
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