Sometimes you don’t need to put an ocean in between two people for it to feel like they’re worlds apart.
The Pilot and I met in early summer, 2015. Our first date was actually pretty bad but, as it turns out, I’m not a big believer in foreshadowing. It wasn’t like, BAD bad…he didn’t insult me or do anything stupid, it was just…not fun. We met at a bar in the city and we had a few beers and talked for about an hour. Conversation was OK; he talked a lot (read: almost exclusively) about his career, and we touched on a few other first-date basics: where we grew up, where we went to school, etc. We left that bar and went to one more place for a quick night cap, and then he walked me to my door and the date was over…there were no fireworks, and chemistry students would have no need to study us, but I chalked up the lack of Gilmore Girls-esque banter to first date jitters, and I thought that, if he called me, I’d see him again. He’s also 6’4” (6’5″ if you ask him) and, as it turns out, that’ll get you places.
I’d been on like, a million dates that summer sans a love connection, so I wasn’t really expecting anything serious to come from the mediocre date I had with The Pilot, but he texted me the next day and asked me out again and I agreed to see all 6’4” of him for drinks the next week. Our second date was at a beer garden; we sat outside, had a few IPA’s and actually talked about something other than flying jets (cooking, actually – which is a surefire way to get straight into my heart) and ended the date on his rooftop deck. It was a really good date, and I remember telling my family and friends that I was excited about the new guy I’d met.
Fast forward a few months and The Pilot and I were firmly in what my high school self would call “boyfriend/girlfriend” territory. We were seeing each other several times a week, talking every day and making plans to do things down the road, like weekend trips and concerts. I was happy, because I thought that he and I were on the same page. As it turns out, we weren’t even in the same damn book.
I was happy, because I thought that he and I were on the same page. As it turns out, we weren’t even in the same damn book.
I’m leaving quite a bit out, here, but the bottom line is that he never settled into what my high school self considered “boyfriend/girlfriend” territory…and if he settled into what his high school self considered “boyfriend/girlfriend” territory well, his high school self was what my high school self would have definitely called a “raging douche bag,” which was my absolute highest insult at age 16.
Over the course of the next 10 or so months, he ran the gamut of relationship offenses: failing to call when he said he would (minor), frequently cancelling dates to hang with his friends (not as minor) and kicking me out of his house during snowpocalypse with no car and no ride home for disagreeing with him during an argument (not minor at all). I should have called it off after I found myself trudging half a mile to hail a taxi in the biting cold and snow in my (now ruined) Tory Burch flats (may they RIP), but, I didn’t. It wasn’t easy dating someone who flew across the Atlantic every other week and I’d invested a lot of my emotional energy into making the relationship work. I didn’t want to give up on it, even though we spent more time as fighters than lovers, and I didn’t want to walk away, even when he came home one day to tell me that he’d volunteered for a 75-day combat deployment without so much as shooting me a text beforehand, which should have been the last sign I needed that he just wasn’t in the relationship the way I needed him to be, but instead of getting out, I just kept plugging away at “us” the way I would on a brief I had to write or an assignment I needed to finish. In true lawyer fashion, I approached the issue like it was a puzzle I had to solve…I strategized constantly, searching for a way to make the pieces fit. And, in true lawyer fashion, I had no intention of walking away until I’d found the lynchpin; the one piece, the specific cog that I could plug into the broken-down machine that was our “relationship” that would magically, simply fix it.
He wasn’t in the relationship the way I needed him to be, but instead of walking away, I just kept plugging away at “us” the way I would on a brief I had to write or an assignment I needed to finish. I approached the issue like it was a puzzle I had to solve, and I strategized constantly, searching for a way to make the pieces fit. I had no intention of walking away until I’d found the lynchpin; the one piece, the specific cog that I could plug into the broken-down machine that was our “relationship” that would magically, simply fix it.
I know it’s (not at all) hard to believe, but no amount of grunt work on my end ever made any real difference in our situation, and man did I put in a lot of work. Between trying to talk things through, trying to back off and everything in between, I used every goddamn tool in my bag. You’d think that it’d be easier to get the square peg into the round hole with a big enough hammer, but, let me tell you – it’s not.
I spent the last half of 2015 and the first half of 2016 focused on improving my relationship with The Pilot, despite no signs from him that he genuinely cared whether we worked out or not. There was the occasional apology for a cancelled date or drunken mistake offered over a home-cooked dinner that I devoured like it was my last meal, but the promises to quit repeat offending were always broken after a few days, and I’d find myself hungry for validation and penitence once again.
Relationships will – of course – have problems that will require solving, but a relationship itself shouldn’t be the problem that needs the attention. A relationship should force you to learn, but it shouldn’t feel like going to school – there shouldn’t be a string of tests that you have to “pass” in order to feel like you’re successful, safe or sane. They shouldn’t make you feel like you’re failing when you disagree with something, offer a contrary opinion about an issue or make a reasonable request. To be honest, I’m still working out what a relationship should look like (my post-Pilot track record hasn’t shown much improvement in my IQ in that department and I realize that my relentless “work” to try and improve our relationship quite successfully did the exact opposite), and I know the relationship that needs my attention most right now – during this time of upheaval and transition – is the one I have with myself, my goals and my ambitions which, to be honest, aren’t crystal clear quite yet…but, despite having a long way to go, I have learned a few things, and I know exactly what I won’t tolerate, from myself or anyone else, no matter how tall they are.