"Do you have a boyfriend?"
I wish I could tell you how many times I have been/will be asked this question. My family knows the answer, so they don't bother anymore. But everyone else -- almost friends, estranged relatives, manicurists, waxers, cab drivers, the man who makes my beet juice, and even the occasional homeless man -- comes right out with it. I've learned to be nice. I cock my head to the side, smile wide, and try to look like a Disney princess when I say no. And even nicer when they tell me that I am pretty and should. But I'm tired of it. So no, Lady Who Paints My Nails Contrasting Shades Of Black And Purple, I do not have a boyfriend.
In fact, in my entire 27, almost 28 years, I have never had a boyfriend. Catch that? Never. I have never introduced anyone to my family. I have never had that conversation where we decide, yes, we should try this. And only a handful, by which I mean one, has ever seen my monogrammed pillows and strange decorative accents. I don't show my childhood soccer trophies to just anyone.
No, I am not a nun. Yes, I have sex. But I do not have a boyfriend. I have situations. I have dates. I have text messages. I have boys who ask to come back to my apartment, to which I politely say, no thanks. Actually, I say, I have to leave now, so I can go home and be up to run in the morning, but thanks for dinner and stuff.
It's not that I've never wanted a relationship, or that I never want one. In fact, I wanted one last weekend when I had to attend a party where the freshly mowed backyard was filled with linked hands and women -- my-age women -- who looked like they'd swallowed basketballs. I was there by myself -- or something like that.
I was there to visit my friend who happens to have gotten married a few years ago and now lives in a cute town by the beach with her cute husband and dog. Watching her made me think for a second that it would be nice to have someone to hold my glass of sangria for me while I tried to re-tie the laces on my sneakers. Or just someone that didn't make me wonder whether or not he'd answer my phone calls.
But instead I seek out these amorphous situations. Or as I like to call them, the Call Me Maybes. There is the Call Me Maybe who is casually traveling the world to return when he feels like it; the one who could never be around because he was busy training and my favorite, the one who bounces from the beach to his bar and is only done working when the sun comes up (and I am asleep).
The alternative, the Call Me Way Too Muches have never been able to hold my attention with their dinner reservations and normal schedules. They try. They always respond. And within a few months I am bored and back trying to resuscitate a Call Me Maybe.
There is never a reason to dismiss the Call Me Way Too Muches, except that I have a fear of getting close, letting people in, and then having them leave me. There's also the acute case of ADD and fear of being tied down to anything. I've never had the same job for more than a year. I've never renewed a lease. And I've only recently made peace with owning furniture that requires a moving van.
I ended it with my last Call Me Way Too Much after I made the mistake of asking what he ate for lunch. I was curious or maybe just looking for a reason to get out, and I knew he would respond because he always responded. He responded approximately five times a day.
I got a nicely composed paragraph that mentioned chopped salads. I decided to see what this was all about. I went to a place that made chopped salad and stood in line with men in collared shirts and ties, some with wedding rings, others just vaguely cut from a J. Crew catalog, and immediately felt claustrophobic. I left the salad place, stopped answering Call Me Way Too Much's requests for dinner, and emailed my favorite Call Me Maybe.
I wasn't sure that he would reply because of some of the things I'd said/done. I know, I wasn't supposed to care when he didn't call me for weeks at a time, because he was busy and wasn't this just supposed to be light. Somewhere I did -- emotions are weird. But I wasn't sure I could articulate what I wanted, so instead of simply picking up the phone and telling him, I went the mature route and sent a series of passive aggressive text messages. He did respond.
It was a window that I climbed right back into. He had time before he had to go to work one night, we had a drink, and soon after we returned to the familiar, dizzying pattern that somehow I both love and hate.
I like that there are no expectations. I like that he allows me to be selfish and there is no accountability. I don't like when I start to miss him. Odds are this is what he likes about me, too, and maybe what he doesn't like. I don't know if he will ever be more than a Call Me Maybe. Or if I will ever be more than a Thursday night distraction. And I'm still not sure what I want: a relationship? Not really. A challenge? Probably. A distraction? Definitely.
I wish it was as simple as strangers seem to think: You'll meet a nice boy. He will hold the door for you. And you'll like him enough to want him there all the time. But it's not -- not when there are endless options, relationships that start and stop with a .com, and stubborn Before I Do lists.
So no, I do not have a boyfriend. I have a Call Me Maybe, whose phone number I've deleted for the 22nd time. It's not mature. But I don't know how else to prevent myself from slipping back into a pattern that I am not sure I want to be in.
I tell myself that when/if he pops up on my iPhone screen again, I will be far too busy to answer. Or that when I get bored and lonely, I won't go through my email to find his number. I want to be sure. I want to stop hoping that there is something there. I want to think that it is nothing.
I'm not yet. But I also know somewhere in the back of my mixed up head that maybe that just isn't good enough.