I, Mari, take you, New Boyfriend, to begin a relationship with me.
Why we don’t get a tax break for the bravery it takes to do this is beyond me.
Why don’t I get to pick out a gown and invite my friends to celebrate the fact that I never got jaded enough to stop all this before I met you? The fact that, hundreds of men, possibly sitting on toilets, have swiped away my face with fingers covered in Dorito dust?
My tender, hopeful face: my pug nose, my mom’s eyes, and the deep line in my forehead from years of focus—out there for the inspection of any man with a Hinge, Tinder, OkCupid, Bumble, or Raya account—I think there might have even been a stint with Coffee Meets Bagel. My little face, swiped right and left, rejected and accepted, scrutinized and screenshot, yet still hopeful, still wanting you, still praying that you’ll like this smile—the one you’ll easily bring out of me.
Your face out there too: a face whose scent I now know, whose beard turns my whole face red. You’re standing in the t-shirt I now sleep in. You look warm, capable, inviting. I hate the idea, too, that women have probed that precious face without love for you, then flicked it away with their pointer fingers.
I hate the ones who didn’t write back, the ones who took 12 hours to text, the ones you were intrigued by, whose intrigue disappeared when they asked you “How was your day?” for the second time. I hate that you weren’t treated like a precious shell you find at the beach: softly touched, smoothed, rolled around, then proudly displayed.
But, of course, there were those who took care of your soul before I got to meet it in this lifetime. There are the women who lit the pilot light for your inner fire, the ones who ordered you soup when you were sick, the ones who celebrated your birthday in the years when September 14th was just a blank white box on my calendar, filled with an appointment or dinner party. Did they buy you the shirt I love, or introduce you to the wine we share, or send you the song that we danced to in the oven light of my kitchen?
I’ll take it from here, ladies, thank you for your service.
Promise me you’ll make our relationship brand new, that Via Carota and Little Branch won’t be haunted by the ghosts of exes in tight jeans—the ones who can still effortlessly bring out the side of you I’ve yet to see, the ones who would know your handwriting anywhere and keep the cards you wrote them in a designer shoebox under their beds, the ones who would break you if you ran into them in the detergent aisle of the bodega.
Promise me that the trips upstate are ours alone, that this fall you will look at an apple orchard or a pumpkin patch as though it is a thing you’ve never seen, that Storm King will have sculptures you swore weren’t there before, when you were running down the hill in October with someone you thought was me.
Promise me you will enter and explore my shadows with contemplation that you reserve for a walk in the woods. That you’ll untangle all this insecurity with bold hands, creating a clearing in the wilderness for us to sit in, and let the light stream in. Sweep away the cobwebs, chop the cluttered branches, clear the weeds, then start pouring the honey. Let our love be enough, and cover it with sweetness.
I promise to step into your wilderness with bravery, and a lantern. I promise I won’t tell you this place is too dark or too scary or too intense. I’ll put on my hard hat. I’m ready. Let’s go in.
Will you promise to create a dream world with me—a new language, new rituals, a different city? Will you fill my body with memories, of lying on the floor listening to Mazzy Star on the first snowfall of winter, of suggesting we turn left down an alley in Buenos Aires, of the fourth Christmas we spend together and decide that our gift to each other will be a puppy?
Will you let me unfold, rather than compare me to a projection that you may have created within a few days of knowing me? I only have a few good stories and you’ve already heard them twice. I only have five great outfits. You know my presentation and my performance very well. Will you get to know my essence?
I promise to journey to the depths of who you are and love you far beyond how good you look in a sweater, the impressiveness of your nightstand books, the dreams we have where we are the less anxious versions of ourselves.
Some day I will hurt you. Some day I may snap. Some day you’ll realize how irritable I can get at the airport. Some day you’ll have to remind me for the tenth time. Some day I’ll forget. Some day you’ll say the wrong thing.
Then, can we remember to be brave? Can we remember how many times our broken, tired, weary hearts had to keep on beating? Can we remember how many fingers swiped us away, how people left our apartments for the last time, and we didn’t realize that they were simply removing themselves so we could find each other?
Can we remember how it feels right now, at this strange sacred time when I don’t know your favorite color but I would break my lease for you? Can we remember this thin veil between comfort and risk—when We are still so fragile and new, but made of We, who have triumphed over years of wondering if we’d ever get it right?
Promise me we will. Promise me bravery, promise me September, promise me safety, promise me thrills, promise me dreams, promise me You, promise to text me later tonight.
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This is my favorite thing you’ve ever written, Mari! I met my husband on “Plenty of Fish,” and this could have been written about us nearly verbatim. You have such a gift of making the ordinary feel extraordinary. Thank you for sharing your inspiring words with us!
So beautiful! I felt a lot of this at the beginning of my last relationship. It’s such a hopeful, scary, vulnerable, wonderful place to be, and though that relationship didn’t work out, I hope to feel all of those things again next time. Also, I love …
In my first relationship, I remember feeling like I was going to throw up all the time at the beginning...it was just so scary! And a friend told me, "Some day you'll miss this feeling." I think about that a lot--there's really no feeling quite like it…
Oh Torey, my heart goes out to you during this season of healing (and I'm imagining some walking on wobbly feet, sort of like a baby giraffe). I can already tell that you have bravery inside and I will send my most sparkling wishes for future healing s…
I tried to imagine receiving this in your own hand on special hand-made writing paper. What a gift that would be. What a treasure. To open your heart in this way seems to be at the center of your creativity. I take in your words and hope to apply the m…