Nothing hurts more than loving someone who doesn’t love you back. And yet, nothing makes for bigger laughs. That’s the whole premise of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, after all. I mean it hurts emotionally, of course, unlike gunshot wounds, which hurt physically. Anyway, I’ve lived on both ends of unrequited love. In some ways, it helped me learn more about relationships, and myself. So, who did I love and when? His name was Michael, and he looked like a cross between Hugh Jackman and James dean. We met during my first year of college, in a backpacking club.
You’re wondering how I fell for him. Over the years, I’ve learned it had almost everything to do with me. He was incredibly attractive, funny, smart, and we also got along well. But as he explained, pretty clearly during our first hiking trip, he only dated Christians. Seriously, this guy wouldn’t even listen to Red Hot Chili Peppers. If you know me, my life’s a living NIN album. And yet, being off limits made Michael all that more enticing. That was the first time I’d come across someone I couldn’t have. Sure, I’d been deprived of things before, but I was used to having my pick of people for various purposes. Having the tables turned drove me to the brink of temporary insanity.
Here was my genius plan to win Michael’s heart: Obviously, I could just fake Christianity until he fell in love with me, and then I’d quit. In fact, part of me already knew I didn’t want a longterm partner out of him. A few makeout sessions would do. But I had to have him, for at least a few weeks. It took me a long time to realize my unrealistic desires might’ve caused the whole problem in the first place. I could’ve made out with one of a dozen guys, but I wanted the altar boy. WTF, you say? I guess good girls want bad boys, and bad girls crave the opposite. Maybe I should blame it on that one time I got a Mormon to make out with me. That was a true rush.
So yeah, I wanted to corrupt Michael. Does this even count as unrequited love anymore? It’s unrequited something, for sure. Anyway: Some of my friends even told me, “Jessica, you are so money. Stop chasing someone who doesn’t see that.” But at the time I just said, “Why would someone want to date money?” (I have Asperger’s. High functioning. See my other posts.)
Can you imagine me sitting in a fucking campus ministry for a month of Sundays? It was actually two or three. Don’t get me wrong. I made a lot of friends, mainly because I’m a good listener and an excellent liar. We all went canoeing and hiking on the weekends. We went on camping trips, but only when I knew Michael was coming. We played ultimate Frisbee. Sure, I liked these people, these friends of my crush, but then when they started singing about Jesus something in me clammed up. I would look around and see their innocent little faces turned upward, eyes closed, harmonizing with each other. My brain kept chanting, “Fuck this shit. Get out while you can. Before you burst into flames. Seriously, bitch. Wouldn’t you rather listen to some Alice in Chains? I’ve got some in my car. Come on!” But then my eyes would fall on Michael, and I’d feel better. I would purr, and that’s close enough to a prayer if nobody’s paying attention.
Infatuations and crushes can last anywhere from a few days to a few years. Mine lasted longer than it should’ve, but it wasn’t my fault. No, seriously. You see, if there’s a God, he started fucking with me almost immediately to punish my fake Christianity. Because…Michael and I became very good friends. We went on hikes and runs together, just the two of us, and he told me all about himself. His past, his hopes, his secrets, his fears. By Halloween, I felt like I knew him better than anyone. His friends adored me. They even encouraged our bond. As one of them told me over a campfire, “He talks about you all the time, you know.”
And yet, Michael and I experienced our fair share of awkward moments. For example, I painted a portrait of him for his birthday and dropped by his dorm as a surprise. “Oh,” he said, turning my gift multiple ways. “Is this…me?”
I laughed nervously. “Yeah, I decided to try a little cubism.”
My face started glowing red. “Anyway, so, happy birthday, right?!” I opened my arms for a hug, and he just stood there, so I pretended it was just the beginning of a stretch. “I think I’ll go take a nap.”
He squinted at me. “A nap? It’s like 9 pm.”
“Oh, um. Well, I guess I meant I was going to sleep.”
An hour later, sulking over coffee at a late night cafe, I thought to myself: “Wait, Michael doesn’t know what cubism is?” But I was in love with him, so I shrugged it off.
Sometime after that, I convinced him to take a picture with me. It was so hard to pin him down on his emotions, I thought a couple’s photo would cement unofficial boyfriend/girlfriend status. We strolled over to the heart of campus and horsed around for an hour, taking cheesy pics. This time, he was the one who acted weird: our poses got evermore romantic, until finally he scooped me into him with one arm and planted a sloppy kiss on my cheek. So, you know, a good though unexpected weird. I showed that picture to almost everyone, and they cooed along with me. I made it my screensaver. If Facebook had been around back then, I would’ve made it my profile pic. That’s not crazy, right?
So, that picture seemed to affirm all my hopes and dreams. I’d won. Of course, it felt more like I’d won an award than anything, and that’s probably not how you should feel about a person. Anyway, it was short lived. Soon after that, Michael brought a guest to one of our backpacking club meetings. Her name was Jessica.
Yeah, two Jessicas. I’m not making this shit up. How could I? We had the same first name. We even had similar-sounding last names.
Michael had been seeing the other Jessica for a couple of weeks. She even looked like me. Dark haired, fair-skinned, wispy. There was one key difference though.
The other Jessica one of those fucking Jesus freaks. It was like Michael had gone to the girlfriend store and said, “So, can I get this same model, but with a different personality? Thanks!”
So I suffered through the meeting, and on top of that we all went out to dinner downtown. Despite the disbelief, or because of it, I went along with the club and stared at Michael and Jessica feeding each other chips and salsa. Disgusting, I know. He was holding her hand. Her fucking hand. They were making those cute new-couple faces at each other. One of my church friends leaned in and murmured to me, “Don’t worry. We think this is weird, too.”
That night, I sneaked alcohol into my dorm and got drunk and lay on my bunk bed, telling the ceiling how foolish I felt. Yeah, I got a few texts. A couple of them said, “So r u single now?” But I didn’t care. My mission had been to obtain something I couldn’t have, and I’d failed, and I’d also probably embarrassed myself in the process. That’s when I realized: If chagrin was the worst feeling to come from this, then I was probably going to survive.
After that, a number of people told me they were confused. They thought Michael was dating me, not this new Jessica. It made me feel less crazy, but not better. That took time.
Over the years, I got to enjoy the other side of this situation. From an objective stance, it sure does make life interesting. And here’s what I’ve learned: Don’t be a fucking Dante or Petrarch about your situation. We’re hard-wired to want what we can’t have, and that includes romantic relationships. I’ve had my Beatrice. You’ve had yours, or you’ll have it soon. If your pain inspires some cool writing, that’s great. But don’t oversell it. Unrequited love is funny, when you really think about it. Not tragic, just ironic.