The day that I launched The Love Detox, I received a message from “London” (he of the one-week whirlwind British romance), who spotted my announcement on Facebook. In it, he expressed condolences for my breakup, offered words of detox encouragement, and then ended with:
But there’s just one thing I’ve learnt, you can’t really stop yourself from ‘falling’ in love. Even worse, is that it happens when you least expect it. So my friend, best of luck with that one.
I’m guessing in order to up the odds, you’ll be moving into a nunnery soon then?
To which I replied that yes, if the outfits sported by nuns were a bit more flattering, I would get me to a nunnery, and quick. Because, he was right—it’s hard to stop yourself from falling in love, short of hiding out in a cave (or convent) and I would therefore need all of the help I could get. Love happens. And for some of us, it happens a lot. Like, a lot.
I am three years old, and my family is touring Fort Knox, where you can pose in a cannon and take part in all sorts of other creepy, war-trivializing activities. I was wearing a fetching ensemble of pink corduroy overalls topped with a bright red hoodie (thanks, Mom!) a combination which must have been irresistible to the random five year old blonde boy nearby, because without any warning or previous interaction he walked over, took a fruit roll-up out of his mouth, and laid one on me. We stood there—drawn together by an unspoken mutual love of strawberry ice cream and purple crayons, perhaps?—and kissed while our parents laughed and took pictures. I know this, because I grew up with a photo of that moment rattling around the giant box of photographs my mother was always intending to organize into a series of albums.
These sorts of things, in varying degrees and situations, have continued my entire life. I was not searching for a partner when I met my ex-fiancé/ex-husband/ex-boyfriend-who-I-thought-was-my-forever—ironically enough, I had made a vow before each and every one of them that I just needed to learn how to date, take more time for myself, and stop doing the “serious relationship thing.” I wasn’t successful, as you know. When I’m least expecting it, men tend to fall into my lap—or, onto my mouth, as was the case with my Fort Knox admirer.
Which brings me to a conversation I had last weekend with my lovely friend Angie—she is one of those centered, funny, beautiful souls around whom you feel both energized and soothed, like the human equivalent of a particularly yummy yoga class.
We were discussing the fact that like every time before when I’ve announced that I’m swearing off men, all sorts of interesting options have popped up—and by interesting I mostly mean really pretty, as well as the offer of a trip to Spain. But, this time I had announced to my closest family, friends, and the Internet at large that I was taking a break, and put a timeline to it. And as everyone knows, once it’s online, it’s permanent. So, I’ve stuck to my guns, but have wondered often about the importance of balance, and where exactly that fine line between healthy growth through willpower and hiding out, exists. Because, for me “sticking to my guns” has manifested as me essentially squeezing my eyes shut, clamping my hands over my ears and trilling “La La La La I can’t hear you, I can’t see you, you don’t exist, La La La La,” which isn’t exactly an empowered response to a situation.
“You’re doing this detox to grow, and ultimately to alter your relationship to relationships, right?” Angie asked, over sweet potato fries.
“Yes, exactly! Which is why I’ve been questioning the wisdom of sticking my head completely in a sandbox for one year—I’ve been really intent on not putting myself in any situation where I could be tempted to pursue something with someone, rather than allow myself to choose not to pursue something. To choose another way, rather than running and shrieking every time a handsome man who also happens to like food comes within forty feet of me.”
“Right—this is about you learning a new way of being, not just cutting yourself off from temptation. That’s where the growth and power is; how you choose to handle a situation when it arises.”
Angie is very wise.
Let me be clear: I am still on the no love/relationships/dating/men as romantic interests wagon. But now that I am a month and a half in, I’m realizing a few things. Like, I’ve never just been friends with someone I’m attracted to. First of all, that’s insane. Second—nope, I can’t get past the “that’s insane” part. It’s completely crazy, and sad. And it would probably be a really good growth opportunity for me—what would it feel like to have a romantic possibility off the table, but be able to learn about someone through an entirely different lens? It’s a geography I’ve never explored, but am eager to.
Because, at the end of the day, this Love Detox is about me redefining my relationship to relationships—both with myself, and with men. And the growth will come from consciously choosing to honor my decision—and myself—rather than throwing it and all caution to the wind because I feel drawn to someone, or taking the opposite extreme route and quarantining myself for a year.
The growth will come from opening my eyes, removing my hands from my ears, and just breathing while I make a new choice. Growth will come from learning through experience that I can trust myself to put that fruit roll-up right back in someone’s mouth, while saying: “No, thank you. I have a date with a heavy piece of artillery and a camera,” before ambling off to admire the strong fort that my previously pink corduroy overall-swathed self built.