To unmatch my ex, I first had to match him. Let’s call him Khalid – why Khalid? Because I have always liked that name, and it’s ironic because according to a google search, it means “eternal” and he was as much the opposite of eternal as can be. Also, I figure a Muslim pseudonym is appropriate because he was a Muslim man. (For the record, I am not. Muslim, or a man. This is, for non-desi readers, a capital P Problem for many of us brown people.)
Ok, so Khalid. Khalid and I met 3 years ago, when he was the age I am now (no this is not a math problem – math is actually easy, love sadly is not). I say this because I remember what he was like at 27. And I know what I’m like at 27 (ie: what I’m like, right now). And he is now 30. And 24 year old me was vastly impressed by his 27 year old man self, and 27 year old me is completely unfazed by his 30 year old self as he exists in 2017. And that is Lesson 1: seeing his face, I suddenly realised that after the age of 22, age is virtually irrelevant to how much a person has grown, will grow, or what they are capable of. After 22, it is a fucking free-for-all. Some people will continue growing, some will experience a second spurt of intellectual/philosophical self knowledge, some will plateau, some will continue steadily on, some will deteriorate, most will follow some combination of these paths, and some will have already achieved enlightenment (please note: Khalid has not achieved enlightenment). So when Khalid’s beautiful (and I mean beautiful: we’re talking chiseled jaw, perfect hair, eyelashes that perfectly frame deep Piscean eyes that promise everything the ocean has to give, lips to die for, a chest you could melt in, and shoulders that so so offered the myth of masculine reliability ever so convincingly)
popped up on my Tinder, along with his age: 30, I was not impressed. 30. What does 30 mean to me? 30 is the age my dad was when I was born. HAH! I burst out laughing, Khalid as a father is an absurd thought. Not that he wouldn’t make a great dad, eventually. But who knows, maybe my dad was just as clueless at that age. Maybe that’s just what that age is. For men. Anyway, I was not impressed. But I did note his handsome face – and, I noted a little viciously, that he was using the same profile pic from when we first met. (So was I. but I have other more recent pictures up, and he didn’t and this in my mind made me of course an infinitely better person – this is just how one thinks of an ex that was a significant ex. He was a first love, for me. I was a “mostly nothing, bit of an ego stroke” for him. I’ve come to terms with that.)
Anyway, I was curious about whether he had swiped right on me or not, so without really thinking about it, I swiped right. :O! Lo and behold, Khalid with the face of a Pashtun angel prince, had indeed swiped right because we were an instant match. I laughed. And this is lesson 2: my mind did not run with wild stories of how much we were still meant to be together – I was just curious (we fit like a single hand and a dick attached to the same person – it makes sense. It works. It “fits”. The universe agrees with a certain chemical balance existing between the two of us but it’s not really what love is all about in the end). If you’re curious about the kind of things I thought about this man at one point, I am dead serious when I say he was my first love – you can hit “Cinderfella” on the right hand panel to pull up a lovely list of tragic (in retrospect: hilarious) poems I wrote about this dude. But! I was impressed with myself. I did not have ridiculous fantasies of us reconnecting – what did I feel? A memory of the possibility of chemistry. Curiosity. A genuine curiosity about who he was now. A selfish ego-stroking curiosity about if he had indeed right swiped me. A self awareness to know he had probably right swiped me for the same reason – to see if *I* had right swiped him first (recall: I am aware of being an ego stroke for the Pashtun angel prince, so this makes sense: he wanted to see if I, the equivalent of a hand for his lust, was still available). And 0 hate. I had no hate. I actually generally find it difficult to hate the men I have loved – I get exasperated, angry, I feel used and discarded for a bit when they invariably break up with me, but I never hate them. I just get very very very internally upset for a long time. But anyway, point is: I wasn’t even upset when I saw his face. I felt slightly wary due to how things had ended: 0 closure, no conversation really, practically a ghosting – but I also knew I was not my 24 year old self. So: going into this eyes wide open was also a part of lesson 2 – I knew a right swipe meant. nothing. I mean I’ve known this always whenever I’ve right swiped anyone, but here was a man I once had feelings for. REAL POETRY TRAGIC FEELINGS for. And. now I did not. Woah. Weird! This sense of genuine curiosity about someone’s life is something I want to bring with me to future right swiping/date setting when I eventually date again (at 30. Good God, he’ll be 33 by then, but will he emotionally have aged to 18? WHO KNOWS?! only time will tell.)
Ok so rewind: Something I said in the last paragraph was about chemical balance. What I said was: “The universe agrees with a certain chemical balance existing between the two of us but it’s not really what love is all about in the end”. This is really important because chemistry is *a thing* in my life. It is a *real thing*. When Khalid and I first met, we had a five hour conversation – it started at a small Second Cup, and then continued at a resto in Toronto’s Little Korea. We finished the conversation at around 1 or 2am, and this gentleman prince angel offered to walk me home or to the edge of whatever sidewalk I preferred in case I did not want a random stranger man (ie: himself) to know where I lived. Well *Southern accent* my my my, my little feminist heart was just a-flutter. *blush and giggle and bat my lashes*.
He ended up walking me home that first date. I stopped first at the edge of the little road to my house, and then I said what the hell, walk me home, so he did. We hugged at the little path leading up to the front door, and I had no plans to kiss him, but he sort of held me a bit and I looked up, and he leaned down and it was a glorious first kiss. And I knew he had initiated that, in my heart, I could feel he liked me.
“Call me?” I said.
“I will” he lied, and I walked back into my house.
Khalid was an abysmal caller and an abysmal texter. Hmm. Or I was a dumbass at 24 too. Probably a mix of both. Anyway, our whirlwind dating was beautiful and romantic – I’m talking late night adventures around Toronto’s local castle Casa Loma, Christmas in the Distillery District – the boy even drove me to my parents’ place once (in Hindu/Muslim life, this is like, a *big deal*. He didn’t come inside the house, but my mom totally knew something was up when she saw my huge ass smile as I walked in the door) Anyway, Khalid was not very good at making plans. He was not very good at initiating plans. He was not even very good at showing up on time (we’re talking 30-40min late every time, without fail.) But Khalid also was deeply romantic, loved my poetry, made me laugh, and showed me things around the city. He also treated me to dinner almost every single time, which I found kind considering he made way more cashmoneys than me – and also because I was sick of men thinking that just because I paid for half the meal, they could choose to not take me seriously. So for the time in my life, this made some sense to me. And the chemistry. The chemistry was… let me tell you boys and girls and people of all genders: random white ladies in the street stared beatifically upon our faces as Khalid helped me down from a particularly steep curb once. The world was all blessings towards us. It was my first time dating a brown man (and I am also brown), and the universe, in a word, capital A Approved this. We were a striking couple, indoors and out. That chemical balance that the universe so rightly Approved?
Led nowhere. LED NOWHERE – we lay beside each other one night about two months in and I said “you know if… if you have feelings for me, it… is ok to tell me you do.” “I think I do…” he said softly. I turned to him with my razor tongue and witch eyes (I couldn’t help it, I suck), and I said “Say it then,” So this idiot did because it’s easier for a man to say “I love you” when commanded, it turns out, than saying no. But really, I’m the bigger idiot in this, because I said it back. And two weeks later I applied my mind reading skills as every woman has to, and gently told him he didn’t have to say he loved me, that night, and that I understood, but that I was still interested in seeing him if he felt love could grow – this is at the point in my life where I thought that I don’t know, men actually thought about their feelings and didn’t just act from a place of selfishness, greed, and complete lack of regard for another person’s feelings. Needless to say, we didn’t last long.
BUT ! Chemistry! What the hell happened?! Nothing – I was a needy bitch and he had the unfortunate combination of suffering a tragic loss in his family and was also was socialised as a man so chemistry went nowhere in the end. It turns out, more than chemistry, you have to WANT to keep a relationship going. Both people do. Both people do despite the ups and downs and uselessness of general human nature. And that was ok. I loved him. I wanted to continue in my needy codependent way. He didn’t love me. Fast forward to 3 years give or take a few months annnnnnd his face pops up on Tinder. Here is a man I know to have chemistry with. Physical, sexual, romantic, call it what you want – we had it. We probably still have it. But I also KNEW him this time around. I knew his bullshit. I knew mine too. We’re both a little older a little wiser a little more beaten up but maybe a lot more resilient. And… I suddenly knew. I knew with a clarity – and this is lesson 3, part 1: that yes we both liked each other. Let me backtrack: for me, whenever a relationship ends, I’m always convinced I didn’t matter to the other person. There are a lot of reasons for this: I’m self sacrifical in love (bad. don’t do this. I’m working on it.) I was bullied mercilessly growing up and always thought of affection as earned even though I cognitively knew people just liked each other or didn’t (again: affection isn’t earned, that’s not how love works but like years of conditioning will do that to you) . I have always been dumped after falling for a dude. But seeing both our faces pop up like that under Tinder’s blessings of “It’s a match!”, I just knew this moron liked me. And I liked him.
I loved him. not in that moment, but that I used to love him. And at one point, he liked me too. And the chemistry had been real. We had something real. It was real. Ok. But I felt no butterflies. I felt no apprehension swiping right on his handsome face. I felt no elation when it popped up as “It’s a match” – I would have felt no disappointment had nothing popped up (indicating he hadn’t swiped right on me). So this is lesson 3, part 2: The chemistry was real, and also it doesn’t matter that it had been real to the ultimate longevity of the relationship.
I’m coming out of a second Muslim boy affair – let’s call this one… Reza (Also, Hindu ladies, just… sigh, be careful. Also Hindu men: don’t fuck over Muslim women or Sikh women or Christian women by pulling this nonsense where eventually you’ll just go with the girls your parents pick from your own communities because none of you have a spine anyway). Reza and I also had chemistry. I thought what we had, had been real. And I was again similarly stunned/devastated/nonsensensically spiraling into heartbreak when it ended. Did he even like me? was a stupid question that kept circulating in my head ad nauseum.
Looking at Khalid’s face reminded me in a second “of course they did.” And I realised that whatever chemistry I had with Khalid and Reza became uncomfortable when I started seeking them out for validation of my essential worth, that neither of these men could or should define that for me, and that I never again had to worry about if someone liked me or not – I’d know. And then I could just believe it. And not stress. Chemistry isn’t about winning someone’s affection or approval. I knew this when I right swiped Khalid because I had no interest in winning his approval… but the universe did whisper a small fleeting thought in my ear: “It was good, wasn’t it? Parts of it?” And I smiled.
And then I messaged our man Khalid, the handsome pashtun prince! Something absurd I think – “Wow you’re 30 now!” (genius line, I think so) “How’ve you been? Also I’m not taking this as serious interest ofc, just more so “how’s an old flame doing/can we reconnect in a friendly way”” Or something like that. And then I said to myself, he has 24 hours to reconnect as friends. And that was it. And this is lesson 4: Boundaries are important. I know what my worth is. He has 24 hours – why 24? because I’m comfortable with 24 hours. Because I do these days exactly and precisely what is comfortable for me, and an ex that ghosted who I’m curious about doesn’t deserve more than 24 hours, that’s why, and ultimately, my body decided on that time frame. 24 hours. no more, but also no less. I didn’t want to reconnect with him…. or approach reconnecting with him from a place of fear. I didn’t want to feel at 20 hours suddenly panicky. I did a bit at 20 hours because I deal with generalised anxiety, but I talked myself down and waited. I realised I couldn’t wait to unmatch this fucker. I knew he wouldn’t respond but… I didn’t care! My boundary was for me – my real self. not my anxiety-induced self. And definitely not for the moron that let me go once already (because even if I was a codependent needy bitch at that time in my life, I still added value to his life #beyonce #upgradeyou). Look, my 24 hours was for me. It was mine. It was my comfort zone being defined. It was something I chose from a place of curiosity and not fear.
Lesson 5: :O Someone I have chemistry with could choose to disrespect whatever arbitrary boundary I had…. and I could leave without it being a reflection of my self worth.
24 hours came and went. Tinder told me I had officially sent the message not 23 hours ago, but “yesterday”. I smiled. I felt a sudden wave of intense sorrow. I smiled again, and I unmatched him because I owe him nothing and he owes me nothing and chemistry will come again – as it did with Reza, and I don’t need to feel anxious about a damn thing.
So final lesson: How I approached Khalid is exactly how I need to be approaching any potential date I feel any chemistry with. Every boy is a motherfucker on some level (and to be honest, every person is, period), but you just have to know what you’ll tolerate, what you can live with, and what you cannot live without. I am excited to date again – in 3 years, when I’m 30, Khalid’s age now.
And I know at that time, I will be me in a way I have never been before. Chemistry will change for me too – there is better for me than what Khalid or Reza offered. And there is better for them too than who I am right now. Chemistry will always be around – but how and if it leads to love needs care and respect and kindness and trust and all that other shit.
And people surprisingly show you exactly who they are in a very short amount of time.
Khalid didn’t message me back in 24 hours. The universe whispered in my ear: “Chemistry is real, and so is his fuckery, now what will you choose?”
And it turns out, I am starting to always choose me. 🙂