The sorrows of a youthful reader



Illustration by Lissa Mathis

Dear Stacey,

What is your take on love at first sight? I have felt the same astonishment since the moment she came into view. That moment was when I knew what love at first sight really meant—a complete stranger was standing in the front of the room encompassing everything that my soul needed. I had yet to even learn her name and she commanded my full attention without even knowing it. I have now shared a friendship with her for many years and observed all of the wonderful qualities of her that drew me to her. Regrettably, I have kept my feelings for her closely guarded ever since that day. She exudes grace in all that she does. Her faith and love for family inspire me to be better every day. Her beauty still makes me blush and gives me butterflies. What should I do? Can I ever confess these feelings for her? 

Sincerely, 

Keeping every little longing effort youthful

Dear Youthful,

Are you a woodworker? Because you just built a pedestal to rival one made by Wendell Castle. It sounds as if you are having a crush and it is not of the delicious orange variety. Let’s start with answering your question directly and then I’ll elaborate.

Is love at first sight possible? Sure—and read very carefully here—I think it’s very possible to see someone and be immediately attracted. However, I think it’s more likely that one determines the attractive person is indeed a nice person, and that there is also mutual chemistry. It’s possible that chemistry translates into a relationship, and that relationship becomes the big, giant “L-word” that everyone on this planet wants to experience. 

However, to illustrate the point that physical attraction is often misguided, let’s do a college throwback. I remember spotting a guy during freshman entry exams. He had olive skin, piercing green eyes, gold hoops in each ear, and a thick, dark chocolate mop top. Bear with me—it was the nineties. He was that kind of good-looking where you know things are not going to end well, and, yet, you go for it anyway. 

He ended up being in my English class. When he managed to show up, I found him to be halfway intelligent. Other things I remember about this English class were two assigned books. One was Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther. Spoiler alert: It’s about a young man who falls for a young lady who is already betrothed to another. He winds up killing himself because he can’t deal with all the unrequited love business that he basically brought upon himself. 

The next novel was George Eliot’s Adam Bede. Here’s the quick and dirty summary with more spoilers: Adam is a carpenter. So, much like you, he’s very capable of building grand pedestals. Adam loves Hetty, who is beautiful on the exterior, but a rather awful person. Hetty loves Arthur. Arthur puts a “bun” in Hetty’s “oven” and abandons her. Hetty goes slightly crazy and accidentally kills the baby. She eventually gets transported from England for her crimes. After all of that drama, Adam winds up with someone more suitable for him in the first place.

These books about unrequited love sound really romantic, don’t they? Is there a sarcasm font?

Now, let’s return to college boy. In addition to his very nice penmanship, excellent make-out skills, and ability to save lives during the summer as a lifeguard (yes, I’m listing these descriptors because they are absolutely ridiculous), the young man on whom I was fixated was ultimately one of those bad-boy types. He still had a girlfriend at home, was managing to sleep his way through my entire friend circle, and also enjoyed smoking weed and watching porn in his spare time. But, hey—he was pretty, and ain’t “love” grand? 

Let’s break this down: 

•I made a lot of excuses for this person and placed him on a pedestal because of his good looks. I thought I could “fix” him.

•This person was only interested in getting one thing from me—sex. When that was not on the table, he was no longer interested and even called me “a waste of time.”

•By focusing solely on this poor excuse for a person, I missed out on a lot of other opportunities with equally attractive men who actually did have interest in me. 

Reddit and other assorted Internet trolls call this term “oneitis.” The trolls also affectionately refer to women like me as “alpha widows,” but that’s a subject for another time. More conventionally, it’s known as putting all of your eggs in one basket. Full disclosure—I can’t discuss baskets without thinking about Silence of the Lambs and getting the hose again. So, let’s make a pact to never get hosed, Youthful. 

Here are some questions for you to ponder. If you have truly developed the friendship that you describe above, you should know the answers. Are one or both of you off the market? If yes to either, then this is absurd. Stop this destructive train of thought before you wind up hurting yourself and a lot of other people in the process. Find a single, emotionally available person who likes you as much as you like her. End rant.

If you are both single, what’s stopping you? The worst she can do is say no. You probably already know what I’m about to say, but I’m simply delighted to have an excuse to use it. 

Life is short, Youthful. Shit or get off the pot. 

Stacey Rowe is a freelance writer based in Rochester. She can be found on Twitter and Instagram as @thestaceyrowe and at staceyrowe.com.

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