Not All Happy Endings
Not all happy endings begin as fairy tales. And not all fairy tales have happy endings. Contrary to popular belief, if it looks like a duck, sounds like a duck, and smells like a duck, it could just be tofu.
This is not, will not, be a love story. It will be a story of boy, meets girls, dates, is happy, but has no happy ending. It will be a story about how all stories begin: with romantic comedies, Japanese comic books, and my mother’s old Redbooks. It will be about how everything I’ve seen or read or heard or experienced has somehow influenced my expectations and ambitions in relationships and how, for better or worse, the myths and fairy tales that we’ve woven about love have created the environment in which we try and carve our initials next to someone who would have us and be happy with us and love us in return. But, and I stress, despite all evidence to the contrary, this will not be a love story.
In the short time I’ve been on this Earth I can’t recall a time when I wasn’t in some way or form, girl-crazy. I remember when I was a child my parents would always go to this local bakery every Sunday and their daughter happened to be my age and in my class. I’d go with them to hopefully see her outside of school. While my parents were picking out breads and biscotti I would try to find her, usually hanging out with her father behind the counter, coloring or reading or helping out. I can parse out the phases and stages of my life based on the girl I was in love with at the time. In first grade it was the baker’s daughter. In second grade it was the quiet bookish girl who went with me to our Gifted and Talented classes. I remember the anguish of sixth grade when my then longest-lasting crush had to move back to Japan with her family. And in eighth grade I remember the exact same feeling when my next crush also had to go back to Japan as well. I remember all the silly stupid little things I did to try and stick out, catch these girls’ attention, and if that didn’t work, antagonize them to the point of frustration and being chased around the playground.
I believe there is a specific time in every person’s life when they begin to realize that a whole different set of emotions and attachments can exist outside of the family and friend zone. When like turns to like-like and, later, when like-like turns to love. It is a pivotal moment that changes how we view people as more than just strangers or friends but potential partners and lovers. It wasn’t like in first grade I would see this girl in her tiny white apron and imagine our future together and start naming our kids. It’s just that I probably realized much sooner than most that cooties didn’t exist and that sometimes I’d rather spend my time with a girl than with my best friends. Because of that I’ve spent the greater portion of my life chasing after ‘the one’. I’ve looked at classmates, coworkers, friends, in high school I even spent Saturday nights at my local Barnes and Noble, hoping to find a cute girl in the same aisle as me. Perhaps we’d reach for the same book at the same time, or I could help her get one that was particularly high and out of reach. I stopped that in college, around the time when I realized that, were I to actually meet someone like that, the demographic age group of the store would have probably meant I’d be arrested. After that I became a veteran of online dating. My thumb has logged miles of swipes and my phone has a permanent thumb smear running across its screen.
I first started ‘dating’ in 7th grade. She was sweet and cute and at a full foot shorter than me, I just wanted to hold her and protect her and keep her safe. It was a simple and innocent little relationship. For the longest time I was too afraid to even hold her hand. The day she told me she was moving to California, she gave me her bracelet with her name on it. That day I finally mustered up the courage to attempt to kiss her. I was so nervous, I closed my eyes when I got close to her. My heart was racing, my palms were sweaty, and I thought the world was going to end. Then I noticed how…pointy (?!) her lips were?
Oh my god I had kissed her nose.
And not even a gentle peck. I had misjudged the distance and speed of my trajectory that I full on mouth-butted her cute point little nose.
And she couldn’t stop laughing. This was the funniest thing in the world that she had ever seen. I had aggressively made out with her nose.
As most childhood romances go, my first girlfriend left me a very long time ago to grow up and become a woman in a land far, far away (California) while I stayed here and, ever since then, kept chasing after that feeling, that rush, of being in a relationship.
It’s not like I ever thought of myself as some sort of Romeo or anything, either. I never had women hanging off my arms. I was tall, dark (for an Asian), and awkwardly funny. I learned very early on that a good sense of humor could make up for a lot. For one, it made me interesting. Fun to be around. I had stories. Being a storyteller was always something I wanted to be, to do, and most of my stories were either to draw a girl or were about a girl. But apart from the stories that I made, the stories that made me were almost always the same.
I grew up in the heyday of romantic comedies. If you were watching TV or at the movies you couldn’t avoid Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in not one, not two, but THREE pictures. I saw all of them. Along with the saccharine sweet Love Actually, the highly influential and cruelly manipulative (500) Days of Summer, the iconic High Fidelity, and countless others that seemed to provide the formula for successful, happy, lasting relationships. As a young and impressionable child I also grew up reading past issues of my mother’s Redbooks. At the time it felt like I had somehow stumbled upon the Holy Grail, the roadmap to a woman’s heart. I was reading the bible of relationships with women by women. Every ‘5 signs of a(n) (un)happy relationship’ was for me either a to-do list or a do-not list. Every gripe that they listed was a character flaw to be avoided and every aspect that they lauded was something to be replicated. I didn’t quite understand it or why it felt so exhilarating, but as a young man I decided maybe I’d pay attention to their (in my eyes) uncomfortably raunchy and lewd sex tips too. Not that I had any reason or opportunity to act on those tips in particular. Then in middle school a friend introduced me to manga, Japanese comic books. Did I read Dragon Ball Z or Naruto? (Popular boys’ manga about warriors and fights for Earth’s salvation.) No, of course not. I read manga about seemingly unassuming, plain, simple guys who somehow found themselves the object of countless girls’ affections. I read impossibly impractical and implausible plots about a struggling student who ends up running a girls’ dorm and is surrounded every day by beautiful young women. I read about a high school boy who dreams of becoming a famous director but is sidetracked by his fervent obsession with finding the girl in strawberry print panties who flashed him on the school rooftop. A serial manga of short story collections specifically centered on high school romance plots played every fantasy, every wish, and every picture-perfect relationship I ever wanted.
So here I was, here I am, a young man who grew up watching romantic comedies, thinking about Redbooks, and expecting Japanese manga. I know, I was doomed from the start.
Word count so far: 1395