S and I didn’t put much thought into Valentine’s Day this year. In the past, we’ve gone out and stayed in, so knowing which direction plans for this day can go each year is always a wildcard.
“Do you think our Valentine’s Day plans are boring?” He asks just nervous enough, but still hungry for my response. “Not really. I like our plans. We’ve both had so much going on at work, so a chill night in sounds perfect to me.” His tone is relaxed now. “I just haven’t really thought about it.” Nor had I.
The truth is we had talked about our plans for Valentine’s Day. A couple weeks back we decided that we’d have a quiet night in – cooking low-carb pizza and having some champagne. We try not to drink during the week, so the fact that this day happened to fall on a Wednesday made it a treat in itself.
We settled on a simple bacon and cheese pizza. The crust consisted of cream cheese, egg, mozzarella cheese, almond flour, and we topped it with a low-sugar pizza sauce. We typically do pepperoni and sausage pizza, but we forgot to put pepperoni on the grocery list. Whoops! Not that this should be considered creative at all, but we decided on bacon when we realized our mistake. There’s always bacon around here though.
I tend to be a big cheeseball, so you could argue that I would expect a surge in romance on this day. Maybe it’s because we’ve been together for going on seven years, maybe it’s because we’re both thirty-one years old now, but this day is hardly considered romantic or important to us. I’ve written about this previously – check out that post here – but what about the other 364 days of the year?! If you’re going to be cute, warm and fuzzy, just surprise me with your heart.
We had some good pizza, crispy champagne, and each other… we’re full.
S refuses to go to Alaska with me during winter. I’ve been haunted with the biggest urge to ski recently, and home – yes, Alaska – has the most gorgeous views you’ll ever see. Snowy peaks and bourbon… Wine by the fire… I think a ski trip back home could be a sexy time.
Mountain views have always held a high position in the romance category for me. Taking in the sight of nature’s first castles with that special someone has a way of inspiring a love at its most peaceful. Massive and majestic… range upon range… mountains stand as a representation of the best and worst relationships in their makeup and existence alone.
(us on our way back to Anchorage from Seward in Alaska, summer 2014)
I picture us in a scene from some GQ magazine shoot taking place at a modest mountain resort. Warm lighting enhance our grins as we settle into broken-in leather chairs. With a Maker’s Mark (neat) in my hand and a tequila soda in his, we’d enjoy some of our favorite tunes and make the most of our chilly backdrop. S genuinely hates the cold – I’m not a big fan either – but as I write this I’m realizing this is a vacation fantasy I’ve had for quite some time now.
Snowy peaks and bourbon after a few hours on the slopes… I was never the best skier but it sounds therapeutic at the moment. Some of you may think that sounds awful, and S would agree, but the rest of you are already picturing yourselves in a similar setting. A workout, views, drinks and a little romance? There’s no way this wouldn’t be a trip to remember.
*goes to drawing board and checks available air miles*
Why must romance plateau after moving in with one another? “We hang out all the time” was his counter after I hinted at wanting a date-night in the near future. Lying in bed, and keeping my voice at a neutral tone, my twisted face is hidden in the darkness as I process his response to my inquisition. I’m a self-proclaimed cheeseball, so the slightest touch of romance shared between the two of us completely satisfies me for a long while. Do I keep asking for a date? Do I wait around and sulk? Should I take the initiative, plan a romantic day, and lead by example? I guess I could, instead of waiting around like some pissed off Disney princess. Restaurants and creative, thoughtful nights on the town are more than appreciated, but there’s nothing wrong with a simple walk in the park on a beautiful day, or a day of exploration together in the city. Maybe he just doesn’t get it… a classic case of the romantic and the non-romantic.
Booze stripped our judgment and wisdom while we attempted to get our respective points across to one another. We both consumed high percentages of alcohol that night, and probably shouldn’t have driven home. “Is he serious? I know I’m making perfect sense, right? Who gives a shit; he’s being a sensitive queen right now.” Part of me wished I could hear what was going through his head in between the audible explosions we were triggering. Thank goodness for roommates that’ll take you on a walk down the street at however-many-hours-past-midnight to make you vent; expelling any venomous thought that remained. On this particular night – filled with dark, inquiring clouds – there would be no understanding, reasoning, or love. Was this part of love? Blinded by the event of our first big fight, the only thing we felt that night was the air tunnel our parted bodies forged beneath cold, wrinkled sheets.
Actions speak louder than words. I found this to be the case when it came to my experience with a long distance relationship. Bloomington and Indianapolis are an hour apart, and by the end of our first date back in Indianapolis, I knew I had to see him again; let’s call him S. Some reservation set in because I had never been in a relationship before, and was not confident with my feelings about dating a guy that was an hour up the interstate. Long distance is relative to those in a relationship where the majority of time spent is apart; i.e. different towns, hours of driving, or in some cases plane rides away. Luckily for S and I, we only had an hour separating us, and spent most weekends together. I considered this hour to be long distance, and a challenge over the nearly twenty-two months we were in different zip codes.
Traveling one hour may not seem like much to most, but there were factors in my life at the time that made the distance between us – 48 miles to be exact – seem greater. I did not have a car, and I didn’t want him to feel like he had to make the drive for me. Was I worth it to him? What if he found someone in Indy that he could spend every night with… someone he didn’t have to pick up from the airport because they had to take a shuttle from another town… Insecurity would eat me alive when we were apart. The state of my life – a struggling student who was barely making ends meet working two retail jobs – had me intimidated by the success he had already reached. This self-induced inadequacy lingered in the early stages of our courtship, and would visit frequently while we remained in two different locales.
Adding to my insecurities was the presence of social media, and its ability to monitor activity. Grindr is a popular hook-up app that displays guys based on GPS location, and allows you to chat and trade pictures. I set S’s profile as a favorite early on, and as a result I could now see when he was online; even when he was back in Indy. This would drive me insane because we had talked about the end of our bachelor lifestyles, and being serious about building a future. Seeing the little green dot in the corner of his Grindr profile picture, after saying goodnight, would cause my blood to boil. I was more curious than I was jealous, yet I never brought any of this up to him. Something anchored me inside, and told me to ride the wave; see where this thing goes.
Distance has the power to breathe life into any piece of negativity your mind will allow. Each month I would grow more confident with myself; realizing we were both making sacrifices to make this relationship work. There was strength found in the many grey areas of mixed thoughts and emotions that clouded my mind Monday through Friday. The biggest lesson from my experience with a long distance relationship was to not over-think little things, and to take one day at a time. All the dark emotions in the beginning were a result of the new (love) feelings I was experiencing, and trying to apply these updates to oneself absolutely cannot be done over any short period. It’s a scary thing to let the universe bring what is meant onto oneself. Had I not yielded to this – let go and let love – realization, where would I be? Where would he be?
It’s the wedding day of one of my best college friends, and I am leaving her reception early. The only obstacle between me and this date is the bride’s mother. Leave it to me to overbook myself, and schedule a date the night of a friend’s wedding. I manage to escape receiving every ounce of understanding and well-wishes from the bride and her mother. “You’re going to be in more trouble if this guy doesn’t pan out! I love you, good luck honey.” Mrs. S was one of my Indiana moms; always looking out for me and treating me like one of her own children. As I make my way back to the hotel in downtown Indianapolis, my mind reels as I scroll through mental images of he and I’s past encounters during our college days. Wild and free, we ran in the same social circles but somehow managed to not cross paths; actively avoiding friend’s pitches for blind dates. “You have to meet my friend! You’ll love him!” was a common exclamation heard as a gay male in college with a healthy number of female buddies. I hate blind dates. The gesture of being set up by your friends is nice, but ninety percent of the time, they miss the mark. He and I never saw each other regularly, but there were two drunken hook-ups after a night at the bars, and my pursing him (unsuccessfully) for an actual date.
We had not been in contact for a couple of years now, and ended up reconnecting shortly after I moved back to Indiana just a few weeks prior to the wedding. “Did I choose the right outfit? Did he look at my good Facebook pictures?” These thoughts make me seem like a clammy teenager, but I had lost about forty pounds since the last time we physically saw each other, and I was actually nervous. Nervous was never a present trait when it came to me and dates. What was it about him? “I’m parking” was the text message that came through. I’ve changed from slacks and a tie to dark, slim jeans, a black tank top, and my favorite mustard cardigan. “I’m here.” I grin as I get on the elevator. Not knowing how this night will go, the peaks of excitement are that of which I’ve never experienced entering a date, and the elevator ride feels too long and too fast all at the same time. This level of stage fright was intense, but not unwelcome.
Turning the corner and walking into the lobby, I spot him. Have you ever put together a soundtrack to your own life? Okay, maybe that’s a little cheesy, but I own my cheese… all of it. I’m not sure what song was playing when our eyes met, but I knew it was a song we would both know; whether that be in this moment, or in the future. My nerves vanished, the roller coaster, stomach tumbling sensation remained, and my confident strides turned into weak, timid advances. He wasn’t that string bean of a boy I once rolled around with back in college. In front of me was a man… a comfortably familiar man that I was meeting for the first time it seemed. His fitted jeans paired with a blue button up shirt, his milky skin, and his scruff… man, that scruff, caused my smile to gain at least an inch or more. The hug we shared was both inviting and telling. His body spilled his nerves onto mine, and I could sense it would be a night to remember. Looking into bright brown eyes, I let out a simple “…hello” as shared sparks continued to exert their influence.