“I’m going to try to never write about you,” I whispered to the boy whose shoulder my head was on two nights ago.
Well, here’s the thing, though! One of the hundreds of incredibly good reasons I’ve been so wary of letting myself feel the feelings I’ve been feeling for this boy I’ve been seeing is: I don’t know if I can be with someone and still write these kinds of things. I’ve always had this problem. I think it’s pretty common.
From fourth grade on, I kept a detailed, multi-volume, sometimes illustrated (oh man, what a gay little nerd!) diary where I mostly talked about my crushes and occasionally stuff I’d bought or eaten. I would do a full-body involuntary shiver of embarrassment if I was forced to read any of it now, but it was a document of my life and in its way kind of awesome, like all diaries. And in 11th grade I stopped writing in it. Why? Well, part of it was that all the stuff I’d been recording could now be told to my first serious boyfriend, who was so fascinated by everything about me that he would happily listen to me ramble for hours about a comic book or a dress I’d seen in a vintage store. And another part of it was that it’s hard to write about relationships when you’re in them. When you’re happy, that’s boring, and when you’re sad, it’s sometimes hard to pin down why you’re sad, especially if it’s the kind of slow encroaching sadness that you don’t even realize is sadness until you’re sort of caught in its patterns. Like, for example, the pattern of humoring someone who, it’s become clear, is way more into you than you’re into them, which is what was happening with Chris during all that time I wasn’t writing stuff down.
Toward the end of high school I wrote two or three entries in a rainbow-bound journal about how it felt to be cheating on Chris and then I didn’t keep a diary again until the spring of sophomore year of college, when I broke up with Nick. That diary is the only one I still have. It’s about Theo and moving to New York and I wrote in it furiously, constantly, ridiculous things, real ‘deep thots.’
“The first thing is to be honest, really honest,” my 19 year old self had decided. “Not to tell the version I’d like someone to read, not to gloss over details to make myself look better to an imaginary audience. The second thing is not to write a sordid confessional just for the sake of doing so, just to feel cleansed somehow, so that it ends up boring and trite like all wannabe-salacious memoirs. Fuck fuck fuck I should not have had that coke, I have to work in five hours ….” You get the picture.
Oh here’s a good part!
“Fucking boys. I wish I was better at shooting people down … being pursued should make me feel good, and instead it makes me feel persecuted. Also it makes me mistrust boys — are they ever sincere when they say they like me, or do they really only wanna fuck me, and the more sophisticated/analytical types justify it by convincing themselves they really like me?”
Good question, 19 year old me! I wish I could tell you!
There are pages and pages of this kind of stuff and then the last few pages are like this: “I wish William would call … I must be strong and eliminate him from my life as soon as possible …” (two pages later) “This is the crippling self-destructive feature built into women that’s kept us from achieving our goals for years, despite our obvious superiority. I am so smart to have figured this out.” (Two pages later) “I sort of don’t want to ruin my good mood by writing.”
The last entry starts like this: “August. Oh, being in love. What a rough development in my life. How will I ever get anything done?”
Okay, yes, in the six years that elapsed between that August and this past one, I did accomplish some stuff. And I did write about William, a little, but we fought about it when I did, even when it was stupid stuff like his opinions of the season finale of Project Runway. But I didn’t write about our relationship until it was ending.
“Writing about a relationship while you’re in it, especially in a public forum, always kills it, unless you’re Calvin Fucking Trillin,” I wrote recently. But is that really true? It’s hard to say what kills things sometimes. (“You should be password protected.”)
I want to be able to write about what’s happening right now, but I want just as badly not to jinx it, because what’s happening is, mostly, good. Terrifying, though! Maybe one of the things that’s terrifying is this sense that I have to choose between analyzing my experiences or just having them. The impulse to tell and tell and tell is, for now, gone, but that in and of itself scares me. And so I find myself (okay, I know, I know, sorry!) wondering: is it possible to care about someone else without giving up any part of yourself?