Meet a seemingly nice person through mutual friends who also recently moved to Los Angeles. Over ramen, get lost in his/her eyes and lose all track of time as you talk about food, adventures, camping, comedy, and all the other things that you mutually love. Allow them to be nice to you, passionate about their work, and enthusiastic about your interests and general personhood. Insist to your roommate the next morning that your perma-smile has nothing to do with your date, that you’ve just had a lot of coffee and whatever shut up. Narrowly avoid dropping your phone in the toilet when she/he texts to say she/he had a lovely time and can’t wait to see you again. Breathe.
Go for a long ride on the back of his/her motorcycle along the beach as the sun sets, feeling a familiar fluttering in your stomach. Tamp that feeling down as hard and fast as possible because it’s probably just from winding roads and it’s only your third date and the last time you felt like that your heart broke into a million pieces and you haven’t quite put them back together yet. Encourage yourself to be “rational.” Try to find all of his/her flaws that will justify making this a quick fling, such as their slightly younger age or their financial stability or their extreme emotional availability.
In a whirlwind of PMS, accidentally start weeping over fish and chips as you tell him/her about your childhood goldfish that died on vacation and how you buried him on the beach at low tide even though you’re not really that sad about it and haven’t thought of Joe in over a decade. Realize you’ve never told anyone this story and that you somehow feel you can tell this person anything as she/he gives you a non-judgemental side hug and a handful of napkins to dry the tears that are inexplicably leaking from your eyes. Wonder if they think you are insane or amazing. Wonder if you are insane or amazing. Wonder if the two are mutually exclusive.
Tell yourself and anyone who will listen that love isn’t real, that it’s just a bunch of hormones and chemicals in your stupid monkey brain and that anyone in a relationship is just kidding themselves if they think it means anything because really they are just afraid to be alone. Expound upon the merits of solitude and independence and convince yourself it’s anti-feminist to fall in love. Write about how all things end and there’s no point in trying because everyone just leaves each other eventually anyway. Do not acknowledge your need to unpack this in therapy or its relevance to your life or your past in any way. Re-join Tinder just because you can.
While enjoying bahn mi’s, break up with him/her for giving you Ice-T’s first album on vinyl because it is the most thoughtful, perfect present anyone has ever given you and how do they know you so well so quickly? Immediately decide they are trying to lock you down which you’re not into for 100 reasons but mostly you are just not ready for a boy/girl friend because you are new to this city and don’t want to associate your entire identity and experience of this new place with one person as you did in your previous relationship. Also suspect that maybe he/she is just fucking with your head because why wouldn’t they because you probably don’t deserve love and also who gives Valentines presents anyway? Kiss them passionately “goodbye” because you are fully, definitely unsure of this decision. As if it will help, mention that in another dimension you might have fallen in love with them but that you just want to be friends.
Agonize over whether you are setting healthy boundaries for your emotional growth and well-being or building walls because you are afraid and insecure. Watch “Frozen” for the first time while babysitting, and burst into tears upon realizing you are literally being such an Elsa right now, building ice walls between yourself and all the wonderful things the world has to offer. Explain to your three-year-old companion that she will understand someday, and encourage her to be more like Anna who is clearly the more badass sister who isn’t afraid to love and saves the day but somehow gets the shaft as far as fame and recognition go which also resonates with you. Seriously, does anyone realize there are fucking 2 princesses in this movie and the annoying, boring one is getting all the attention? Place this in the back of your mind for future rants.
Go out of town to see your family for a few days and realize you kind of maybe very much miss him/her. When you return, casually ask him/her to meet you at a comedy show, and then casually invite them to sleep over afterward as though nothing has changed in the preceding week. Act offended and confused when he/she balks at this emotional 180, and then act aloof when they agree. In bed that night, ask if they read that New York Times article about the science of falling in love, which they haven’t. Do not explain or elaborate. immediately change the subject back to a lack of decent pizza options in Los Angeles and agree to go on a pizza tour.
Invite her/him to your birthday party, making it clear that your parents will be in attendance. Actively refuse to facilitate an introduction because he/she is not your boy/girl friend and the pot cookie is kicking in so you’re extremely paranoid about the greater implications of him/her meeting your mom and dad because everything is so deeply steeped in MEANING. When he/she leaves the second most thoughtful, perfect present you’ve ever received on your front porch, decide that it might mean something but that it feels terrifyingly okay. Decide that “Storage Almost Full” is as good a reason as any to re-delete Tinder but that it doesn’t mean anything.
Confront your reluctance toward complete monogamy and your desire to flirt or make out or potentially sleep with other women/men even though you like being with this man/woman. Wonder if maybe this time things could be different. Discover the simple beauty of free, honest, open communication when discussing this idea with her/him, and when he/she is okay with the idea of an open relationship, because he/she is a progressive human who is not like your ex in the slightest, feel the desire to stray fade, just a bit, with the knowledge that the door is open. Relay this conversation to your best friend to make sure you’re not dreaming and tell her you might be in love only haha just kidding. Realize that this might actually be true.
Go camping together for the weekend in Joshua Tree, fulfilling a years-long dream you’ve had to camp with a lover in a place you’ve always wanted to visit. Briefly freak out and consider cancelling the trip because Saturday is her/his birthday and does this make you a couple now and you like being single because it’s safe and do you really want this and what does this all mean? On the advice of a friend, decide that nothing has to mean anything and to just enjoy the time for what it is, which is pleasant. Breathe. Surprise yourself with how much you enjoy being together in a concentrated period like this, and how easy it is. Around the campfire, tell him/her about your deepest darkest secret that not even your best friend knows and experience an immediate rush of freedom and relief. In the middle of the night when you get a migraine from too much hiking in the desert sun, they will bring you water, Aleve, and a granola bar and massage your temples without you even asking. When he/she falls asleep holding you in his/her arms, practice whispering “I love you” into their chest just to see if it fits. When she/he says, “what?”-- pretend to be asleep already.
Spend a few days or maybe even a few weeks thinking about if and how it would change your relationship to divulge this truth, and whether you want it to. Continue to grow closer to him/her as you ever so slowly melt your ice walls and allow yourself to be just a little vulnerable when talking about your goals, hiking up mountains, eating insane Korean food, making art projects, and drinking coffee together in comfortable silence on your porch swing. Write an essay generalizing the specific details of your months-long courtship just to be sure that you’re sure. This love feels so different than it has in the past that it’s easy to dismiss it as something else until you realize that the difference feels amazing. Recognize how self-sabotaging it is to hold yourself back from an opportunity to learn and grow and decide not to be afraid anymore. Publish your essay online and send him/her the link. Breathe.