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Sunday, February 11, 1990

Somebody loves me, and that somebody is me.

There was a certain point in my teen life where I was no longer found entirely repulsive by boys. Having spent so many of my preteen years being teased and bullied by my classmates, I saw this change as both a new beginning, and proof of my self worth. So, for the first days and weeks of any new "relationship", I would live in a euphoric stupor. Someone likes me, life is worth living, la la la. And then these feelings would be over, until the next boy came along. Lather, rinse, repeat.

A good example of this happened in Grade 7. Right before lunch on a Friday, this boy in my class hands me a note. I head to the bathroom and unfold the piece of paper, which reads:
I think your cute.
Now, at age 12, I'm already a grammar Nazi, and the first thing I notice is the use of incorrect homonym of "you're". But the second thing I see is YAY! SOMEBODY LIKES ME!

Thus began a weekend of limitless bliss. I take the note everywhere, showing it to strangers, even. I think to myself, I'm not disgusting, I'm capable of being liked (hey, the bullying had been pretty bad; as far as I knew, I was disgusting). But I was now so happy; I still remember how good I felt.

It hadn't occurred to me on the Friday to write the boy back. On the Sunday I compose something like "I like you back" but with correct spelling, and hand it to him the next morning. He had assumed the delay in response had meant a lack of interest. And in a way, he was right.

A few weeks of note passing ensued. The boy wants to see me after school, or on the weekend, but I refuse. You see, it was enough for me to know that he liked me, and it didn't need to go any farther than that. As you could guess, the relationship didn't last. It seems you're supposed to actually spend time with the person you're dating. Go figure.

As my years and experience progressed, I didn't get much better. Each time, I didn't necessarily want, or need, to see my boyfriends all that much. Once a week was fine, even if they went to my high school. The rest of the time, I preferred to sit at home and fantasize about being with the person. I'd relish the images and feelings of love (or what I thought was love) that I'd created in my head, and go to sleep smiling.

But, teenage boys being themselves, they needed a bit more from me. Namely, attention (though probably other stuff too that they never had a chance to ask me for). I was actually quite crushed when I got dumped, but another boy would come along soon enough to help distract me again.

Cut to my early university years, and maybe I'd gotten a little better at relationships. Or maybe too good; I spent all of first year with my boyfriend, to the exclusion of anyone else. It was so good, I was so happy, I had visions of marriage, even. And then it all changed, because I was 18, and what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be was in flux. So the relationship ended less than a year in.

I was in a similar situation a year later. The same happiness, the same utopian dreams of a married future. It lasted five months.

It was around this time that my mother said to me, "Gillian, you're in love with being in love." I think she said this as an offhand remark, not caring if I was paying attention. But it stuck, it really did. I thought about it, and realized that she was exactly right. I was addicted to the ignorant bliss of the start of a new relationship, but didn't want anything to do with the guy once that feeling was gone. All these years, I'd just been getting off on the "somebody likes me". Holy cow.

So I stepped back from dating for a few years, not wanting to unduly hurt people by dumping them after a few months when they turned out to be less than perfect. In fact, I never really stepped back on the relationship bandwagon as much as I was once on it. Knowing my weakness for the early relationship daydreaming, I tried my best to counter it with cynicism and bitterness, with moderate success. It hasn't always worked; even now a boyfriend will do something human and fall off the pedestal I'd subconsciously put him on. But at least I'm aware of myself when it happens.

What I've learned most of all from this is the folly of putting so much importance on having a boyfriend, or having someone like me. Have you heard that cliche about needing to be happy in yourself before you can be happy with someone else? I totally buy that. I've realized that there is nothing good in waiting for boys to make me feel good about myself. It makes sense not to; I mean, do others think better of me when I have a boyfriend, versus when I'm single? I hope not. I certainly don't think better of friends when they're in relationships. Though I might think less of them if they're choosing bad relationships over no relationships at all. There's no shame in being single.

My Valentine's Day message for anyone who will listen, then, is that if you're alone, be happy alone. Don't base your self worth on whether somebody loves you, but on whether you love yourself. If this has to be a day about love from others, think of the less fickle types, like the love of family, friends and pets. The feelings they give you may be less euphoric, but they last much, much longer.

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