“I honestly don’t care about that at all. I think you’re really cool and I still want to date you.”
He had known all along. He had always known. I had explained it to him. I had showed him articles. I had opened my wounds and let them bleed for him. But I had never allowed myself to buy into the belief that it was too good to be true. Yet there I was, standing in his bedroom, tholding back tears as he looked at me with sheer disappointment after a failed attempt of intercourse. “You told me you didn’t care…” I muttered, weakly. “Lara it’s not a big deal. It’s late, I think you should go… you have work tomorrow.” I grabbed onto him, wrapping my arms around him. I buried my face in his chest, silently begging him to tell me it was going to be OK. Begging him to tell me it would go back to the way it was. It was a whole three seconds before he begrudgingly wrapped his arms around me. Then he immediately pulled away. He kissed me. I felt nothing. “Get home safe. Text me tomorrow.”
That was the last time I ever heard from him. I spent days analyzing every single thing I had ever said to him. I read and re-read our texts looking for clues. But deep down, I knew why. I just didn’t want to admit it to myself. In a lot of ways, I didn’t blame him. Dating is hard enough without the added baggage of a malfunctioning vagina. The thing is, it’s a hell of a lot easier to imagine dealing with something than it is to actually deal with it. And when push came to shove, he ran.
The first time someone runs from you, you’re left standing staring off into the distance wondering how you got to this point. The second time someone runs from you, you begin to accept it as a reality. But the third time someone runs from you, you start to become the runner. You run away from everyone before they have a chance to run away from you.
Running became a part of me. I no longer knew how to stand still. I was absolutely convinced that there was some part of me that it made it impossible for others to love me. What was I doing wrong? Why was this happening to me? Was sex really that damn important? It seemed as if it was. Feeling sorry for myself became a pastime. I spent so many evenings after work lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, trying to imagine what it would be like to be unbroken. I had accepted that I had this condition, and that it hurt me physically. I had accepted the fact that I had illnesses that caused me to experience incredibly painful sex, and I had accepted the fact that it might always be painful. But I didn’t know how to accept the emotional pain. It ate away at me, a little more each day, until I felt as if I had nothing left.
“I don’t think I’m lovable.” It scared me the first time I realized that was how I felt. It scared me how true it seemed. There were no ifs, ands, or buts, that was it. I was not someone that other people could love. And no matter what I did, what I read, or what I told myself… the thought lived in the back of my mind, haunting me. Looking in the mirror became something that I began to dread. It had become nearly impossible for me to accept compliments from anyone.
Before I even knew what was happening, I had completely closed myself off to any and all romantic prospects. I had imagined my future, and in it was only me. And it felt too real.
Six months later, I was sitting on my bed drinking red wine after a yoga class. I was feeling extra zen that night. I got up the courage, and downloaded Tinder.
“Hey what’s up, gorgeous? We should get drinks sometime! Only since we both like Harry Potter though. ;)”
It was a simple enough request, yet for some reason reading it made me want to crawl back into bed and never leave. If he only knew, I thought. If he knew, he would never call me gorgeous. I unmatched with him four minutes later. 30 minutes later, I had deleted Tinder. And two hours later, I found myself still in bed, hiding under the covers and asking myself what the hell was wrong with me. For the umpteenth time, I went over the last two years of my life, trying to figure it out. It wasn’t like I didn’t want to go on dates, flirt with guys, or potentially call someone my boyfriend. I wanted that. I wanted that so badly. And it wasn’t like I hadn’t been on dates before, flirted with guys before, or called someone my boyfriend. It’s just that everytime I imagined a date, I imagined their faces. The faces that said more than their words ever could. I imagined the faces of all the men I had told and all the texts that were left unanswered. The faces and unanswered texts that all screamed to me, “I can’t do this. I cannot love you.”
I quickly fell into a predictable pattern. I would convince myself that I wanted to date someone. I would find someone, steal their affection, and then immediately cut them off. I was cold-blooded. Each time I would convince myself that it would be different. It never was. I made it impossible for anyone to love me. I expected them to let me down so completely, that I gave them no other choice in the matter. I left them before they could leave me. And in an effort to shield myself from pain, I shielded myself from affection of any kind. My walls were built up so high around me, that it would surely take an army to break them down. And I wasn’t willing to let anyone try.
It has taken me nearly two years to realize that everyone has baggage. It can be big, it can be small, it can even require several moving trucks. And with the right person, it won’t matter. With the right person, they will help you unpack. They will lessen the load a little bit each day until it becomes a manageable weight. And then you’ll carry the weight together.
If nothing else,having this illness has taught me to look at what really matters in a person. It has taught me to appreciate the way someone’s eyes crinkle when they’re laughing too hard, and it’s taught me to appreciate the childhood memories that tell more about a person than a tweet ever could. It’s taught me to look within to find true beauty, and it’s taught me to always be on my own side.
It’s now been almost two years since the day I was diagnosed. In that time, I have had many failed attempts at dating. But I’ve also met people that couldn’t care less whether or not I can have sex, or if I take my heating pad with me everywhere I go. And those… those are the people I choose to spend my time with.
They say that you find love in the most unexpected places. They say that when someone loves you, truly loves you, nothing else matters much. They say that at the end of the day, there’s a lot more to a relationship than just sex.
And today, I finally believe them.