In this week’s Hola Papi!, the advice column by writer, Twitterer, and prolific Grindr user John Paul Brammer,a reader writes in with a short questions that’s perfect for this Valentine’s Day Eve.
Buckle upbecause while the question is loaded the answer is ~FEELINGS~.
If you want his advice, just email him at [email protected] with your question. Just be sure to include SPECIFICS, and don’t forget to start out your letter with Hola Papi!
How can I keep believing in love if everyone leaves?
Hi, Empty. What a depressing letter. My favorite!
I wish I knew more about what was going on with you. Are you feeling unlovable right now? Did you lose someone important to you? I won’t know until I light the candles and perform the ritual to see inside your head. That could take hours.
For now, I’ll just tell you a story that has nothing to do with romance, but a lot to do with loving and losing. It might help.
I went to a small middle school in a tiny town. It was one of those places where everyone in the elementary, middle, and high school fit into one gym. Everybody knew each other, and I knew everybody. But nobody liked me.
I was a weird kid, Empty. I struggled to interact with other people. I kept to myself. I drew weird doodles in my books. I sucked at sports. I got made fun of for my body (acne, glasses, duck-footed, fat), and for my noticeable strangeness. The works! I reached the sixth grade not knowing what having a friend was like.
Then Fran moved in. My school wasn’t far from a reservation, and Fran had transferred from his school there to mine. We had first period together. I remember that. But I don’t remember why we started hanging out. Fran was athletic, funny, and popular. But he liked being around me anyway, and I liked being around him. He was my very first friend.
He’d come over to my house and we’d play with water guns. We’d walk to the arcade after school and play foosball. He stood up for me when people made fun of me, and I loved every minute of being around him. For the first time in my life I thought, so this is how it feels. I was loved.
I’d never been loved by someone other than my family before. But here was someone who loved me because they wanted to. I never loved myself more than in those days, Empty. Because at last I realized I was capable of being loved. There were things to love about me.
Fran didn’t like school very much. He was chronically absent. I’d anxiously wait at my desk every morning, fidgeting and hoping he’d walk through the door. When he showed up, those were good days. When he didn’t, those were bad. Then he showed up less and less. Then he stopped coming altogether. Then he was gone.
I did not handle Fran dropping out and moving away very well, Empty. When he left, everything went with him. I collapsed. I stopped speaking. I stopped eating. I couldn’t believe how unfair life was. It had given me something, then taken it away.
I sealed myself off from life. I thought that was a kind of revenge, in a way. Or at least it was a way for me to exert some control. The game wasn’t fair, so I wouldn’t play. That is one response to loss. It sounds similar to the route you are tempted to take now.
But that course of action didn’t do much for me besides make me bitter and unhappy.
We tend to think of love as something we can possess, Empty. But I’m not sure love works that way. If it did, we could amass it, store it, and be buried with it. I think love, by its nature, wants to move. It wants to travel. That’s a beautiful thing, I thinkthat we are more like conduits and less like vessels. Love is for sharing, not having.
I saw Fran again in the high school I ended up at years later. And oddly enough, we never said a word to each other. We never even acknowledged each other. But by then, I had made several friends. There was love in my life. It didn’t need to be Fran’s love. I never “had” Fran’s love. Fran and I shared it, and it was wonderful to feel it, and then we parted. That was, and is, enough for me.
But if I had never opened myself up to love again, what would have happened to me? Would I have chased him down the hall under the mistaken idea that he was in possession of the love I needed to feel good again? I’m glad I didn’t have to find out.
I hope you don’t close yourself off to love because you’re afraid of loss, Empty. Loss is inevitable, one of the few aspects of this reality we are certain of. But we don’t lose love. Love is too powerful, too big, too mighty to own.
And as long as we’re open to it, there will be people we can share it with.