Noncommittal breakups


My generation has yielded a new form of dating. Instead of active courting we’ll send a DM or facebook message. We’re afraid of “catching feelings” but we’ll subtweet intimate details about our ex. We’ve replaced our boyfriends with Instagram “man crush Mondays”. We’ll “talk” for months, no label, no claims, and try to survive heart in hand, wearing our pride on our sleeves. After all, if you’re never someone’s girlfriend, you can never be someone’s ex-girlfriend. Right?

Meeting a guy who doesn't track his followers is refreshing, moving, possibly poignant.

And so I met a man who fit the bill. After a mutual friend's barbecue, we danced, chatted, and sparked. He was hazel eyed and kind. And I was interested. Even though we went to college together, it was like I was meeting him for the first time. He was smart, kind, funny, muscular, and mostly importantly, new to New York. Later that week I invited him (via facebook message, of course) to explore the city with me as a part of my duties as a native New Yorker. We attended the feast of San Gennaro then headed to a bar where we laughed, flirted, and drank. Usually, trouble finds me in my relationships, but here I felt safe after all I was in control, I asked him out, I was courting him, I chose him.

We attended fabulous parties together, had witty text banter, dined at dives, and ordered an assortment of meals on Seamless. One night after ice skating in Bryant Park, we headed to a club, then a bar, and there I felt the my first stomach flip since college. He looked at me and told me I was perfect, as is, no exceptions. I kissed him and thought “I could really do this with him”. The kind of thought that is so easy to float in your head when you're just a few months in or you're under 23. I kissed him harder and we drunkenly looked each other in the eyes for a few minutes. Romantic for us. Painful and disgusting for the other bar goers, I’m sure.

We were perfect. With exceptions. We were both writers. But we never shared our work. You never showed me yours. So I couldn’t show you mine. On my end, I was trying to be all in. There I was, trying to finagle a plus one for several summer weddings not realizing he didn’t even see me fit to make it through the winter.

Eventually, our easy breezy situationship began to come apart at the seams. It’s not that there was no zsa zsa zhu but every time we would get close he would shut it all down. We were a theme park, giddy at the click clack of the rollercoaster, high off of heading up the big hill, we put our hands up, and before the ride could begin, he bailed.

When he was open to me it felt like daybreak, I could feel the warmth of his light on my skin and I couldn't wait for summer. But in no time the light dimmed and everything felt cold and dank. Not even wearing his hoodies could sustain the heat between us. The uncertainty of us left him anxious while I was just trying to hold on to the light.

One December night, I was having a birthday party and after some waffling, he was a no show. Later I found out he was afraid of what it would mean if he was indeed the guy by my side at my party. A week or two later, like every New Yorker he scrambled to make fun, non pretentious New Year’s Eve plans and when I said “I don’t care. All I want is to kiss you when the ball drops.” He responded, “Woah kissing at midnight? That means too much.” We would send each other funny memes and he would stroke my face in the rain, under the moonlight, or in Chelsea and I lived in those moments. The good was sweet enough that I did even notice the bitter. Soon, millennial rules were thrown out of the window (possibly just saved to the cloud) and I did not want to be facebook official. I just wanted him to be present with me. Needy? Maybe. Real? Certainly. I’d bet my Twitter handle on it.

Quick stints to Florida, Martinique, and Virginia separated us and he never once texted me he missed me. I never got angry. I began to expect the rejection. Still the roses, teddy bears, and cute text messages kept coming. I smiled my dimpled smile believing that I would soon see the sun again. By most standards I am beautiful but his anxieties left me feeling ugly. I thought the relationship was beautiful in its unbalance, humor, and grittiness. I thought it was worth the work. You would get mad at me for not getting mad at you. When guy’s night out was no threat to me, you thought I didn’t care to spend time with you. When I said no problem to your desires to stay in you felt as though you were stifling me.

The passionate stares became brief glances with his feet always facing the door while mine were firmly planted, staking my ground to get that tickle in my stomach again. You asked me if I wanted to be in a relationship and I said no. And it was true. I didn’t want a relationship. I wanted you. I wanted to matter. Now, I wanted you to choose me.

I wined and dined him. I wooed and wowed him. I liked him and got left. Maybe you weren’t that in to me. Maybe you needed to get yourself together first. Maybe we never gave it a real chance. Maybe you just beat me to the punch.

I knew our end was only a matter of time so I mourned our relationship for an entire hour (millennials even need instant gratification in breakup recovery). An hour and 10 minutes in a hot guy I know called (his sabotage-y senses must've been tingling) and I was feeling sad (and chatty) so I gave him the rundown. He told me how much of a catch I am or was. I’m not sure. The context feels blurry now. But he kept asking how could I expect to be a catch, if I refuse to be caught? 

My generation gags at defining the relationship. So we were together, we connected, and if we spent more time together, we could have even loved. But maybe we should have tried really dating before breaking up.

Cynia Barnwell