EVERYWHERE young lads are lifting the bar on romance – first Justin Bieber’s ‘Titanic’ date for Selena Gomez (who hadn’t seen it since she was a little girl… feeling old yet?!) and Liam Hemsworth dishes out for a black diamond pendant for Miley Cyrus’ 19th birthday at the end of last year.
They are tough acts to follow but even the timid declarations of love by my friends’ teenage boys on Facebook always make me go ‘nwwah’.
Still, a part of me is waiting for the tide to turn, for the moment those swelling emotions crash into reality and it all comes asunder.
I’m not a complete cynic. Hell, I’ve written a romance (okay, it has the word ‘ferals’ in the title, let’s ignore that for now). I’ve definitely swooned in my time. One boyfriend declared he would marry me on our second date, “if only a church were open”.
He had me at ‘marriage’.
But fast forward a year and a couple of break-ups and we found ourselves drinking at a nightclub in a strange, new town. We were trying the town on for size, since he’d been offered a job there.
It was the fresh start our relationship so desperately needed.
We were discussing his new job when he shouted over the bass, “She’s moving here too.”
I was sure I had misheard him. “She” was someone he worked with. “She” was the woman he’d been seeing when he wasn’t seeing me… and, I believe, sometimes when he was.
In the dark of the club, it dawned on me. He was never going to change and this would be my life – clinging to this man like he was some sort of inflatable raft.
But something remarkable happened in that moment. It all fell away, all the exhausting to-ing and fro-ing, all the miserable interludes peppered with intense remorse. It all melted away and I felt a bit like Katie Morosky in The Way We Were.
I smiled at my suddenly ex-boyfriend and sank into the crowd where, in honour of this revelation, I danced.
I danced to celebrate, to agitate (he thought I was being moronic) and to prove to myself I could do it on my own.
Sometimes, when I need to pool my strength, I take myself back to that defining moment that has become less about him – or her – and more about what I’m capable of.
Reading Caitlin Moran’s ‘How To Be A Woman’ and her Morosky moment, I wondered just how many capable women fall into the trap of seeing themselves through their partner’s eyes. Diminished in the hue of their partner’s critique.
Moran wrote of her teenage love: “But I am absolutely determined to be in love. I figure this will probably… knock the edges off me. It’s love as a lesson, and a penance. I don’t think Courtney will kill me, so he will, therefore, probably make me stronger… I believe in feeling bad for love. I think it is, somehow, glorious. I am stupid. I am so stupid.” (p146)
And I couldn’t believe the similarity in our mindsets – the urgency to dispense of singledom, like a man’s virginity, and be invested in a relationship, any relationship, no matter the fallout.
Could it be a rite of passage for young women to have their hearts trampled underfoot?
It’s true, I find it hard to pick a female friend who did not invest in a relationship that was unhealthy for her. We’ve all done it and maybe that’s not a bad thing.
Only after the wretchedness did I begin to take affairs of the heart seriously. I played recklessly with emotions – mine and others – flitting through rocky courtships and worse until I hit my iceberg.
Needless to say, I began to gauge more carefully what I would and would not tolerate.
But what of our underlings who have these gentleman lovers straight out of high school? Might they never learn the invaluable lesson that hearts mend despite the awkward grasp of ill-equipped partners? Do they even need to?
Germaine Greer once described an older woman’s love as tender, deep and warm – very different to the passionate but fickleness of young love.
“The older woman’s love is not love of herself, nor of herself mirrored in a lover’s eyes, nor is it corrupted by need.”
Have you had your heart hurt by an incompetent boy?