The Trials of a Closet Romantic

By Chaviva Freedman

It’s a Friday evening. I’m sitting at a table with a close friend of mine. We’re not the only people at the table. There are men and women that we both don’t know, but we chose to sit here with the mantra of, “hey, let’s expand our horizons!” A guy approaches the table, sits down and immediately begins to flirt with my friend. I start to get this feeling that I’m becoming the third wheel. Before I know it, I realize they’ve been talking to each other for much of the meal, and I suddenly feel more awkward than ever before.

When I reached my twentieth birthday, I became plagued with many life questions. What job am I going to find when I graduate from college? Where am I going to live? Are my relationships with my family and friends going to remain the same? Above all, there was one question that stumped me every time it crossed my mind and honestly, it scared me: Who am I going to spend the rest of my life with? By the time I turned 21-years-old, that last question came faster and faster until it eventually found a very comfortable place at the forefront of my mind.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand the natural “circle of life,” if you want to quote The Lion King. Boy meets girl. Girl meets boy. Eventually four options emerge from the meeting:

  1. Boy and girl become friends.
  2. Boy asks girl out on date.
  3. Girl asks boy out on date.
  4. Boy and girl never speak to each other again.

I pretend like it doesn’t bother me that I never experienced a guy having romantic feelings for me. Most of the time, I don’t even think about it. But then there’s that moment, in the middle of the night, when I’m laying in my bed, wondering about choices I’ve made in life when these thoughts start to creep in. Why does everyone I know seem to be in a relationship? Where do all these people meet and where can I find the location? Is there something wrong with me? Is it my weight? My clothes? The way I choose to style my hair? Am I coming on too strong? When is it going to be my turn? Will it ever be my turn?

Now, I’ve had my fair share of crushes. I’ve also had my fair share of what I like to call the “2:30AM screw up,” where I lay my feelings on the table without thinking of the consequences until the next morning. I know what the answer is going to be each time, and yet I feel like if I don’t speak my mind, I will forever hold my piece. Every time it backfires, I get heartbroken and start to think that there is not one person out there that will match my insights on life and become my equal partner.

Maybe it’s the closet romantic within me. Maybe I expect the pretty boy sitting across the room to look at me and see the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen. Maybe I expect him to fall in love at first sight. Maybe I’m clouded by vanity over brains, even though eventually the brains and heart are the most important qualities to me. Maybe I’m just looking for that Carrie Bradshaw or Bridget Jones moment found in the classic romantic comedy. But is it a bad thing that this is what my heart tells me to do? I don’t think so, but it’s hard to be an optimist in this area of life when you feel like you’re the only person in the world who’s never been on a date, let alone never had a boyfriend.

When I look in the mirror, I don’t see myself as a particularly attractive woman. I struggle with my weight every day. My teeth aren’t as white as they could potentially be. My sensitive skin has multiple zits. My brunette hair isn’t naturally straight and I’m not planning to dye it blonde anytime soon. I’m not always the outgoing girl that every guy seems to automatically want. That’s my reality. Although I’m not looking for someone to feed me compliments 24/7, I’d like to think a guy will like me for other redeeming qualities aside from my looks. It just seems that wherever I go, I feel like my personality throws guys off and I can’t seem to shake it. When I try to tone down my usual tendencies, I start to think that I’m becoming an artificial version of myself. I eventually drop the act and go back to what works for me.

On the outside, I look like a confident woman who isn’t afraid to say what’s on her mind. On the inside though, I’m scared that my (lack of) dating streak is going to become permanent. It’s why I’m penning this. I feel like I’m the woman we all feel bad for when we realize the truth about her dating life, and it’s taken me a little while to get to this point of realization.

There’s always this lingering thought in the back of my head that says I need to become like every other girl I see in my college classes. But if I did that, I’d dress like the entire student population and start going for the same guy as every other girl who has spotted him from across the bar or the street. I’d lose my individuality if I do that. I’d lose the artsy, hipster, avant-garde side that plans what cool event I’m going to go to next week rather than trying to figure out what month is going to work for me to take my entrance exams into grad school. I’m not saying that it’s bad to follow the crowd and all be the same – it just doesn’t work for me.

I’m starting to think that it’s time to let go of the romantic comedy that I’ve built up in my head. I realize that G-d has a different plan that I don’t know about. So what if the guys I’ve said my feelings to didn’t reciprocate? It doesn’t mean that this is the end of the road and I’m going to become the lone single Orthodox Jewish woman everyone sees in their synagogues. I’m learning that time is a great indicator of when good things happen in life. Eventually my own Prince Charming (or if we’re going with the medical anecdote, a Dr. McDreamy type) will sweep me off my feet and drive off into the sunset. All the loneliness that I have in my heart will go away and I know that things are going to turn out great for me.

So maybe I should keep a little bit of the romantic comedy alive for a bit longer. I just need to remember that while my imagination is in the clouds, I need to come back down to reality every once in awhile. I will learn to find myself before taking on this step of my life, and I can’t wait for it to occur.

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