The Less I Know the More I Want You
It probably says bad things about my capacity for intimacy that the people I have most desired are those I never got to know.
Illustrations by Joel Benjamin
I have a lot of friends who are freaking out about not being married yet. They appear to be channeling all of their existential anxiety into that one goal, perhaps because it is easier to have a container for one's anxiety than let it float freely. They seem to feel that if they could just put that piece of the puzzle together, then everything, in all areas of life, would be OK.
Romantic comedies often end with a wedding. But what about after? What do you do with a lifetime of longing, the forward motion of love-anxiety, once you've hit your target? Does it just become existential anxiety again?
I think the velocity of pursuit is an addictive state. It's often why the people who rejected us, or whom we perceive rejected us, are the hardest to get over. When we get rebuffed in the moment that occurs right before we touch the love object—or when we are spurned in the peak of an early-stage love high—we want to get back there forever. We might not even really miss the person. We might just miss the feeling.
The other day I saw my hot neighbor Edward making out with a woman by her car. Edward is an eternal boy—sun-kissed and scruffy. Rumor has it that the only furniture in his studio apartment is a futon bed. I've never seen him without a board of some kind—surf or skate. I totally want Edward. But more than anything, I think I want to be Edward.
It was very early Sunday morning, very postcoital, and I knew this woman wasn't his girlfriend. I knew it because Edward is in no way the type to have a girlfriend. Also, I've seen a lot of other women come and go from his apartment. But the way that he had his arm gently around her waist, and the electricity and spit between them, made it look to me—in that one moment—like they were each others' forever.
In the book The Evolution of Human Sexuality, Donald Symons writes, "The partner with the lesser emotional investment in a relationship controls the relationship." The woman had her arms wrapped tightly around Edward. I noticed that she was holding on just a little bit tighter than he was. I also noticed that he was the one who stopped kissing first. When she got in her car, she looked back to see if he was still looking at her. He wasn't.
All week, after witnessing the postcoital makeout, I pretended I was this woman. On Sunday night I felt the anxiety of wondering whether he would text or not. On Monday, I pictured her semi-hopeful for a text; Tuesday, growing impatient, checking her phone all day. Wednesday brought the reality that it might not ever happen, and the depression that comes with a rejection. I felt her wondering how he could not desire more of the sex that had led to that kissing moment, which seemed so beautiful and romantic. Thursday was empty and listless. Friday, like: Fuck him, he's an asshole. Saturday, nostalgic for the Saturday night before. Sunday, just saying "fuck it" and texting him.
I have no way of knowing whether or not this was her experience. I haven't seen either of them in a week, so maybe they are huddled together on his futon. Maybe he is texting her every day. But this is the narrative I projected on them, perhaps to ease the sadness I felt when the moment of beauty they shared was not mine.
Recently I made a list of every person I have ever kissed. Most of them were more than just kissing: oral sex, fucking, fingering, or at least rolling around in our undies. But I wanted to look at the full count of everyone I've ever engaged with romantically. I looked at the people on the list with whom I felt the most obsessed. I put an asterisk next to them. I then looked at the people whom I initially pined for, but then quickly grew lukewarm. Next to them I placed a dot. Then I looked at the people I have loved, but for whom I never longed, burned, or crushed in a dramatic or poetic way. Next to them I put an X.
The first thing I noticed was that everyone who got the asterisk of obsession had only been a brief fling: at most a three-night stand. I then noticed that the people who received a dot—those for whom I felt an initial longing, which quickly fizzled—were those whom I had admired from afar or felt uncertainty regarding their affections. Once they made their strong feelings for me clear, or we engaged in a relationship, I was like, eh. The weirdest part was that no one with whom I had been in a long-term relationship got the asterisk or the dot. They all got the X of companionate love—deep love, even—but not that butterflies feeling.
It probably says bad things about my capacity for intimacy that the people I have most desired are those I never got to know. I'm not talking about a gradual loss of attraction. I mean the dissipation of a fantasy. Once someone becomes real, it is hard to turn them into an escape. Once the forward motion of love-anxiety has dissipated, I am left again to grapple with death-anxiety, life-anxiety, and worst of all, myself.
The poet Octavio Paz writes, "Each minute is a knife blade of separation: How to trust our life to the blade that may slit our throat? The remedy lies in finding a balm that heals forever the wound inflicted upon us by time's hours and minutes... Almost from the moment of birth, humans flee from themselves. Where do they go? In endless search of themselves... is there no way out? Yes, there is: At certain moments time opens just a crack and allows us to glimpse the other side. These moments are experiences of the merging of subject and object, of I am and you are, of now and forever, here, and there."
I would love to live in the moment of a kiss goodbye, a beautiful makeout after a night of hot sex, with someone whom I like just a little bit more than they like me. I don't want to ever grapple with the knowledge that I like the person more than they like me. I don't want the pain of waiting for a text as days go by. I simply want to feel my own want of them on an electric level, feel it in that kiss, forever. I want everything to be that kiss. It seems unfair to me that a kiss like this is not sustainable or eternal. It seems unfair that fantasy isn't reality.
is a never-ending existential crisis played out in 140 characters orless. Its author has struggled with consciousness since long before thecreation of the Twitter feed in 2012, and has finally decided the timehas come to project her anxieties on a larger screen, in the form of abiweekly column on this website.