The curious case of the missing rose-colored glasses
Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.
~ TS Eliot
The heart is an odd thing. It requires oxygen, circulation, and the rhythmic pumping of blood. Though no larger than a clamped fist, without it there is no existence. It can be resuscitated and surgically performed upon, but it is still a mystery to the surgeon and philosopher.
In the gap of just over a month, I’ve fallen for a friend, who became a boyfriend, yet I find myself uncertain of my next step. Do I move forward or backward? Are the things I admire about him – the way he protects his friends, the way he thoughtfully analyzes situations, his dedication to his graduate studies – enough to supersede the things I dislike about him – his seemingly emotionless reactions, his constant sarcasm, his overly protective nature – ? His response, when I recently said I needed time to think about us, was a nonchalant “I figured that.” Is this a breakup or … a fade-out?
OK, you deserve a recap. It’s been a while, I know.
I have been friends with Madhav since November last year, when we met and quickly friended each other on Facebook after a Diwali event. However, I had a crush on Vikram, his friend. Vikram and I had a sweet first date in the rain, about which I delightedly wrote a blog post that he discovered. However, it was not simply the blog that divided Vikram and I. It also became clear, through his continual rebuffs of spending time with me (“I’m going to a party with friends”; “I’m sorry, I just woke up”) that I was no more than an adventure, a girl to kiss and keep secret, hidden from friends. And after emailing Vikram a pseudo “breakup note” (because there was nothing to break up), his nonchalant response was indicative enough: I meant little to him.
Single but sore at heart, I spent one long morning cuddling with Madhav on the couch. I moped, complained that I wasn’t wanted. He told me, of course, that I was wrong. And somewhere in that muddle of self-centered self-despair, I realized that maybe, instead of wanting his friend, maybe I wanted him. We were curled together, his arms around me, his face resting on my neck. So I asked him to kiss my ear. That’s exactly how I said it too: “You know … I’d really like you to kiss my ear.”
“What?” he asked, incredulously, “No, you just want that because you’re feeling unwanted.” He refused, but that little request started us thinking, hearts racing.
We were friends at the beginning of that bright morning, and curious daters by the end of it. A few days later, he was already calling himself my “boyfriend,” and a week later we had gone on our first official date, to a Gujrati Indian restaurant.
As someone I had spent nearly every day with in the last three months, sometimes for hours a day, Madhav has been someone I know and trust, and the transition from friends to more was an easy decision. We fell into the life of a couple very quickly, from shared dinners to events with friends and multiple phone calls and text messages during my conference trips. And from the beginning he knew about me, my blog, my former boyfriends, and my anxieties.
But just as quickly as I began to fall for him, I began to question the path my heart had taken. Dating him, I knew, was an experiment, as most dating experiences are. Madhav had revealed a kinder, gentler side of him to me when we began dating, a side I had never noticed as a friend, when I became frustrated at how he made snide, cutting remarks to other friends. I couldn’t respect a man who openly lived by the principle of selfishness. Yet I was also attracted to that transparency. Continuing to date someone with contradictory values was a curious exercise in patience.
I had faith that I would continue to see a softer side of Madhav, but as that hope faded through the weeks, I reconsidered. Had I witnessed a mirage, or was I too quick to judge?
The last few days, in our space apart, I’ve been writing, taking camping trips and going on long walks with friends have filled in the time. My life, in all other areas, has been phenomenally blessed. And dating Madhav has brought me a sense of calm centeredness that I haven’t felt in a long time. Being a relationship seems to suit me, as clearly independent and nomadic as I can be. Caring for someone else gives me a sense of purpose, whether as a teacher, daughter, sister, friend, or girlfriend.
Yet I may have I assumed too much, too soon. An unflattering epiphany occurred during one of these walks: I just as quickly jump in as I jump out of relationships. The last year has been full of relationships ending in fewer than two months.
“So,” I announced to my friend, “I’ve either got to slow down the beginning or the end of relationships.
And I think I’ve got to slow down at the beginning of them.” Maybe if I took those two months to actually learn a man and see him as he is, those rose-colored glasses will fall from my eyes and, faced with the reality of the man in front of me, I will be able to make a clear choice between love or friendship.
Maybe time and slowness is what I need. Or…maybe I just need a new pair of glasses through which to see the world.