I fall in love so easily, I think. I’m sitting on the floor next to a beautiful boy, playing with his hair. I’ve only known him for two months, and I know that I love him. I know it in the way that my face lights up around him, and the way I always want to be holding and being held by him. I know it in the way that my heart breaks every time he tells me that he’s not used to people being sweet to him the way that I am. He tells me that he feels like he can let his guard down around me, that he can be himself. I feel honored to get to see him this way, honored to be trusted. He is beautiful in his vulnerability. My heart aches, knowing that he’s letting his defenses down, opening himself up to being hurt and trusting that I won’t. I know that I love him as I run my fingers through his hair and hold his heart in my hands.
“I fall in love too easily,” I say. I’m talking to a close friend of mine, regarding a recent conversation I had with my then-boyfriend. The boyfriend and I had been discussing opening up our monogamous relationship to include sleeping with other people. “I can’t spend time with people, and watch them come, and learn their dreams and hopes and fears, and laugh with them, and kiss them, and discuss the tragedy of the human condition with them, and not fall in love with them,” I tell her. “I think that would be torture. I can’t be in a relationship that allows me to sleep with people but never love any of them.” She nods along, and tells me it’s good that I know my boundaries on this, and that I should be clear about them the next time I discuss this topic with my boyfriend. She says that if I know that, then I should be firm about my position. She’s right, of course. We keep eating our burritos, and the conversation moves to other things.
I’m sixteen, and I’m flirting with someone who isn’t my (monogamous) girlfriend. He’s witty and clever and his devious banter makes me feel alive. The way that we play off of each other feels electric, it feels like he lights a fire under me that makes my brain work faster, makes me rise to the challenge and give as good as I got. Friendly banter isn’t inherently romantic, so this should be fine- except I care. It happens naturally and all too easily. I care that his English grade is slipping, that he struggles with social cues and continuing to get along with our friends, that his father is cruel to him. I sit next to him when our friend group goes to restaurants and when he offers me one of his headphones, I take it and walk in step with him so we can listen to his music together. I’ll never tell him that I love him, he doesn’t need to know. I buy him a burrito so that he doesn’t have to miss out on our friend group’s hangout time, and defend him to the people he just can’t seem to get along with, and listen to him complain about my favorite teacher. It seems impossible not to love him, this problem child who’s so smart and understands me so well.
I’m crying in the middle of a sex toy store. I’ve definitely cried in more inappropriate places, but I’m still somewhat embarrassed. Matie, the owner of Self Serve, tells me not to worry about it, that I’m hardly the first person to have hangups about sex or to need to cry about them in her store. I’m talking about my abuser, and about how scared I am of falling in love with another person that wants to use me and hurt me. I tell her that I’m a person who loves so easily. I’m terrified of being abused again but I feel like putting walls up would hurt me even more. I don’t want to lose my gift for love. Even while sobbing next to the lube display, that’s what it seems like: a gift. To be able to love easily is to be able to fill your world with tenderness and caring. It is to always have something to want to fight for.
Matie tells me a story about a researcher who discovered that the key to love was vulnerability, and was pretty mad about it. She didn’t want to be vulnerable- of course she didn’t. Nobody wants to get hurt. To love and be loved, you must be vulnerable. You must open yourself up to pain in order to let the connection in. You must let yourself care. I care so deeply, so strongly; I don’t know how not to be a passionate person. I walk around open to the world, open to caring, and loving, and being loved, and being hurt. I love easily, and freely, and often. I like to think the world is that much of a better place, to have that little bit more love in it.