My Own Modern Love
Alexandra James ‘16
After reading The New York Times’ winning essay in the “Modern Love” Essay contest (“No Labels, No Drama, Right?”, by Jordana Narin), I stared at my daruma doll. Now this doll is steeped in Japanese culture. The doll is usually given as a token of good luck with two blank eyes. The recipient must fill in one eye when they have come up with a goal or wish and fill the other eye in when this wish or goal is completed. In addition to the eyes, each doll is colored a different way to represent a different theme for a goal: red for luck, blue for health, gold for wealth, yellow for security, and white for love. It just so happens that this daruma doll I own is colored white.
So, after staring at this white doll after reading about a love that can never be and never end, I realized I never set my own personal goal or wish on this doll. The doll is still blank. I’ve had this doll for a few months and every time I think about setting a goal, I talk myself out of it. After all, it has to be about love. I don’t want it to be something as banal as “I hope I find my true love” because I’ll never know for sure if I have found the mystical “The One”. And yet, after reading “No Labels, No Drama, Right?” I realized I have the perfect goal for myself: have closure with a former significant other, past or present.
Like many twenty-somethings, I really have yet to find full closure with an ex. My first boyfriend was someone that I couldn’t truly emotionally detach myself from for almost a year and over the course of time he has just faded into the back of my brain. Most of my exes end in that way; quickly cutting myself off from them, but constantly getting reminded by Facebook about their activities and wondering where they are now. When I think about them, I think about the last time I did talk with them: most end up with someone hanging up the phone. Some call that ripping off the Band-Aid, and yet I still thought about them like I wasn’t over them. Instead, I forgot about them through distractions, be it with another person or studies or some other coping mechanism. If social media constantly reminds me of my former boyfriends and I can’t help but think about what could have been with them, what can I say about those near relationships I’ve had?
Like Jordana Narin, I’ve had a few personal “Jeremys” (or in her words “the guy we never really dated and never really got over”). Three, in fact.
My first Jeremy occurred in high school. He was dating someone else (a former best friend) and we shared many intimate conversations which eventually turned into something more. We never dated. We only acknowledged to each other that we found the other person attractive. In fact, when he ended up breaking up with his significant other he went for another girl in my high school. I was so confident it would be me; after all, he said he thought I was hot. And yet, we texted and talked up until my sophomore year of college. Why? I’m not too sure. Perhaps it is because we could tap into that lack of closure and pretend that we could continue in this eternal grey zone. Sometimes I think back to this first Jeremy and realize that I was an idiot for making that last as long as it did. But I had no closure and no reason to think that talking to him was unhealthy for me. There was no big fight or asshole personality to immediately snap me out of it.
The following Jeremy stepped into my life during Accepted Students Weekend. I sat near him during a departmental lecture on the sciences and spoke to him afterwards. Later that Sunday, I ran into him again when I tried to party on a Sunday night with my host (a silly pre-frosh idea). Lo and behold, in a semi-drunken stupor we sat on Adirondack chairs staring at the stars. He asked if we could make out. I told him I was with someone. We went to get pizza at Antonio’s. He paid. As fate would have it, we would live in the same freshman dorm but we merely acknowledged our existences through nods. We would only start something my sophomore year; he would admit that he had a crush on me since we had met (the only romantic thing he would say to me). A semester’s worth of make outs, study sessions, and texting would eventually end when study abroad threw a wrench in things. I constantly imagined something more with the second Jeremy, a deeper emotional connection that wasn’t there. A long lost relationship that finally has a chance to bloom (when in reality we barely spoke beyond a superficial level). What was supposed to be closure from Accepted Students Weekend turned into more open wounds. And while my logical side understood that things logistically had to end, my emotional side already made too many investments. Once again, I had no closure.
My third Jeremy is perhaps the unique one. We met freshman year of college. We took two of the same classes. We texted and did homework together. One fateful party, we ended up dancing together and cuddled in his bed. We shared a deep conversation with topics ranging from sex to regrets. And suddenly, the third Jeremy disappeared from my life. The texts stopped and he would no longer sit next to me in class. I was heartbroken and blamed myself. In some ways the lack of closure caused me to lead to self blame. I should have been confident enough to know that nothing I did was wrong, and yet because I was used to lack of closure I needed to find an answer (any answer). How does that make the third Jeremy unique? Two years later and we ended up dating.
I guess if I was using Jordana’s definition, this third Jeremy is no longer a Jeremy. But, he has allowed me to realize that the reason why the other two Jeremys still haunt my mind is because I never was able to date them. I could only work out the incompatibilities and problems (that could have arisen) through thorough thoughts and logic. Because much of this only exists in the plane of my mind, an optimistic part of me will always think that something could happen or will happen. All it might take is the right timing.
Now I realize that this problem is something minimal in my own personal strifes and issues, but at the same time having a Jeremy (or two or three) is a symptomatic problem of our generation. Why is that? Is it because we can Facebook stalk our Jeremys and imagine ourselves as the next feature in their profile picture? Is it because we can save the texts and reread them trying to analyze and savor the emotions behind the emojis and words? Or maybe it’s the constant societal pressure to be untethered (and hooking up) that we place those feelings to the side and try to ignore them until they exponentially grow to the point that we imagine more than what is there: a physical attraction (Jeremy the First) and a doomed relationship (Jeremy the Second).
I am only confident that Jeremy the Third will end in closure because at least I know that we did try a relationship. We tried the label. There is a reason that the label exists. While some might argue about the emotional weight of “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” or “partner” I wonder why don’t people use the word “dating” as a label anymore. I have only heard one couple explicitly say that they were dating and not yet partners. It implies a lovely in-between. An acknowledgement that there are feelings but at the same time not quite there. There’s a space to experiment. A space to be untethered without implying anything more. A place to prevent Jeremys from being created.
Until then, I will place an eye on my daruma doll and hope that one day I can achieve closure with a past or future Jeremy. I don’t know when I’ll be able to put on that second eye, but when I do, I’ll know it’s a step in the right direction.