I could see the contempt in her eyes. She only half-listened to me telling the story of how I’d reconnected with my past love. As I continued to speak, I didn’t let on that I noticed her shifting eye contact every so often from mine to stare pointedly at another friend across the table who’d already heard the news. If her capital-L Look could talk, it would’ve screamed with disdain, “Can you BELIEVE this shit? Why is she being such an idiot?!?”.
After spotting her Look two more times, I kept my face neutral and wrapped the story without much detail. Her forced congratulations and smile had only the faintest tinge of restrained sarcasm.
It’s that Look that still haunts me.
I know I should not care. I should float onward in my pink cloud of happiness. I should tell myself to dismiss the opinions of
assholes someone who does not truly know me or the extent of our story. I should laugh at the ridiculousness of small people with big attitudes.
But the hurt still lingers.
She wasn’t the first to fling cynicism in my direction and I know she won’t be the last. It would’ve been impractical to expect 100% support from everyone in my circle when I revealed this plot twist. I counted on some backlash. I knew there’d be raised eyebrows, a few snide comments, and more than a little rehashing of the relationship’s blemishes. Those with whom I was most afraid of sharing the news? They shocked me with their immediate acceptance and genuine delight in my joy. Others that I didn’t even fathom as a potential risk have been the ones to blindside me with sarcasm, negativity or in worst cases, both. Luckily, the latter of the reactions have been the exception.
But as exciting as it’s been to tell everyone the news, it’s also fucking exhausting to feel like I have to don medieval armor and go to war to convince people that I’m sure our love is what I want. I shouldn’t have to do that. Not for anyone.
The most difficult days have been when my emotional shield is not very strong. In those times, when I’m feeling vulnerable and don’t have the ability to raise my heart-fists for protection, I simply want someone to say (and mean) that they are happy for me. When my feelings receive yet another unasked-for slap, that is when I struggle the most with this entire scenario. On these very bad days, I’m lucky that I only have to pick up the phone to feel the balm of his love cover my bruised heart.
We, as humans, we judge. We size up one another’s lives, loves, jobs and kids. And for what? To compare their stuff with our stuff? To make ourselves feel better (or worse) about what we have (or don’t have)? To voice our own assessment of someone else’s life choices, so that we can be “right” by our own definition of the word? At the end of the day, what is the end result of all this comparison, other than unneeded and utterly destructive self-criticism? Or on the flip side, is it belittling others purely for personal pride? It’s absurd, yet we are all guilty to some extent. I only wish I were brave enough in the moment to ask these judgy people if their love stories were completely without trials and tests. If they managed to somehow never screw up a day in their lives. Or if they’d never gone through a period in which they struggled mightily with their own demons. Because I’m damn sure that they are no better or worse than I. No one is immune from life’s face-plants.
The only conclusion that I keep landing on is this: I cannot live my life or make my decisions simply to please others. I need to accept that in what should be a time of celebration, not everyone will be genuinely happy for me. Instead, I should focus on how blessed I am to have the love and support of the large majority of my crew. And of course, revel in the love of a very good man who feels like he’s won the lottery every time he makes me laugh. Which is often. Lucky me.
Judge me if you want. I still win.