To the next boy I fall in love with: a primer

Hi, so you’re the guy, huh? Interesting. It’s funny because I tend to have a type, and you’re nothing like it. I don’t think I would have guessed you’d be the guy. But here we are.

Look, I know. I am a lot. I come off as one thing when really, I’m something completely different. It’s gonna take you a while to get through the layers. And just when you think you know me, the earth will shift beneath your feet and more will be revealed. It’s gonna take me a while to figure you out, too.

I don’t really know what you like about me, but if it’s what has attracted the others, it’s my mouth. I’ve got a big one and I like to talk. I don’t know what I look like right now. That changes week to week. Am I still wearing red lipstick and giant hoops? Or have I moved onto something else just as ridiculous?

Ok, so you weren’t expecting me either. Because I’m not like most people. I don’t give off a super feminine vibe. I’m more gay man in drag than woman. I’m extra cocky. My stories are always inappropriate. But for some reason, that first day/night we met, by the first hour in, you had a funny look on your face. You looked like you’d been hit over the head with an ACME anvil. Little birds tweeted above your head and you had a silly smile on your face. How do I already know this? Because it’s what always happens. Don’t feel not special because it happens to everyone, feel special because it happened to you. I don’t suffer much gladly.

Ok, so, let’s go over some preliminary warnings. First, I have strong opinions. You will too, or else this will never work. We won’t agree on everything, but I’ll like your ethos enough that I’m willing to tolerate whatever discrepancies we might come across. Tolerate is the wrong word. I appreciate you for who you are.

Second: it doesn’t matter who you are, you’re not Mark Ronson. But don’t worry. That isn’t so much of a problem as long as you let me reserve a tiny bit of my heart for him. He’s a harmless indulgence. That’s just 14-year old me who will always carry a flame for him. Because he’s what she always wanted: a nerdy Jewish boy who was artistic and foreign. I’ve learned a lot since then, but what you’re getting to understand is that she doesn’t go away. I’ve kept her with me this many years because she never felt safe, and I’m learning to mother her in a way that allows her to exist without taking control of the me I am now. Trust me, you don’t want her running the ship. But also, part of the reason why current me loves you is because 14-year old Vene figured out something about 14-year old you that she wanted, too.

Third: ugh, I am so sorry. If I love you, I might not be able to control it. I’m working on that now so that when we meet, I don’t idealize you, just to tear you down later. You have to realize that I don’t have a strong foundation upon which to build relationships. It was never really modeled to me. So I’ll probably initially find your interest in me suspect. I won’t want anything to do with you. And then you’ll do something unexpectedly adorkable and I will turn into a smitten kitten. It’s gross, but it isn’t the worst thing in the world. Smitten Kitten Vene writes sappy stories and romanticizes wildly. She doesn’t want you to save her. She just wants to enjoy you. This vast imagination of mine will come up with fictitious stories about our future lives together. That part is harmless. Just go with it. Indulge me.

Fourth: I’m going to test you. Not quiz you. But test your boundaries. Hit you with pot shots. Look for weaknesses. I’m going to look for reasons to run away. I don’t want to be tied down to anyone. I will buck. I will bolt. But only if I don’t feel safe. Safety to me is my primary need. I never really found it in anyone else, so I hoard the safety that I create for myself, and letting you in on that part of me requires that you show me in advance that you can be trusted. If I love you, it’s because I trust you.

Fifth: you have to be really strong with boundaries. But you can’t compartmentalize. You have to be able to tell me when you need time to do other things. But I have to be able to feel like I’m not forgotten when I’m not around. I will want my independence, too. I will still be going to shows and movies without you. I will take trips with other people. I will have adventures that will test the very boundaries of propriety. I need to know that you’re out there living a fulfilling life at the same time but we can always come back to each other without jealousy or suspicion.

Sixth: you have to tell me what not to write about. And it has to be fair. I’m going to write about you. But I’m going to try and make an effort to keep a part of you just for me. In the past, I’ve always prioritized my writing over my intimacy. But with you, if you’re worth it, we’re going to put things in a lockbox. Don’t abuse the lockbox and it will always remain closed. I’m bad with secrets, but I’ve managed to keep some really important ones.

Seventh: that list I keep…of everyone who came before? Don’t think of it as intimidating. Think of it as lessons learned. I’ve been prototyping myself since I was 36, trying to work out the kinks. Have I fucked up? Dear God, yes. Do I have regrets? A few. But then again, too few to mention. Have I broken hearts? I think maybe one. But honestly, most of the guys who came before who meant anything, I drove away by being crazy. Maybe that was for the best.

Eighth: don’t poke the badger. I know I don’t really have an accent and I appear to be a functional white girl, but inside of me there will always be a bit of a crazy Latina who can fly into a rage. So if I’m not still wearing the red lipstick and the giant hoops, know that I will always wear them in my head. You have to remain cool and collected for both of us sometimes. It might not sound fair. But in exchange, I will delight you in my light speed imagination and ingenuity. You’re just going to have to laugh at things and shake it off. I promise to be as levelheaded as I can, but I cannot carry the weight for the both of us. I’ve tried that in the past. And it only led to ruin and heartache for me.

Ninth: if I’m cooking for you…you know it’s real. But don’t expect me to do chores. I don’t care if I’m 75 when you are reading this, I don’t think I’ll ever be more than a terrible slob.

Tenth: way to go on the sex stuff! Keep up the good work.

And last, look, I don’t know what I’m doing. I live half in reality and half in the clouds. I’m gonna fuck up. I probably already have. But I promise to learn. And if you promise to forgive and see the good in me, I’ll always reward you with my devotion. We’re going to fight. We might even break up more than once. But I’m not interested in fighting. I don’t do it because of some dysfunctional need for chaos. I do it because my heart is so strong-willed. But when it calms down, maybe weeks later, it allows my mind to see reason. Sometimes the greatest gift you can give me is distance. Put me on a shelf. Leave me there to lick my wounds and come back to you. And try and forgive me. We’ll figure it out from there.

I can’t be your everything. That’s too much to ask of me. But I can be yours. And if I love you, well, goddamn it, you better be worth it, is all I can say. Good luck, buddy. Now you know. I’m going to keep you on your toes. But you’re nimble and quick-witted enough that you can handle it.

Thanks for choosing me. Let’s knock this one out of the park.

Tucson, AZ

P.S. Thanks for never calling me “Baby.” I’m nobody’s baby.



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