I was 12 when I first started obsessing about love and all its possibilities.
I'd come home from after-school drama rehearsals, and my brain would whiz over being rejected by the first boy I ever liked. Not over how good I was at singing, or how I was bullied because how good at it I was, or how I was just one of three brown people in my grade, or how I was the only one in my social studies class once to score an A+ on a paper. No, it was the love thing that always got me.
I'd come home and cry myself to sleep because I thought I'd never find true love, which was a cycle I'd repeat throughout middle school, high school, college and even now.
I was born in Long Island, New York, in a town called Manhasset, where the average person's problem was trying to figure out if they should buy a David Yurman bracelet with a turquoise stone or an amethyst. My extended family is a mix of doctors and dentists with their own private practices, some self-employed businessmen and a couple of lawyers.
Don't get me wrong; I was no Rockefeller. But I had a nanny, a flashy car and a big backyard. (I also grew up not knowing the value of a dollar, or how to make a bed or cook a simple meal.)
Now, you might be thinking, "Poor her with her petty problems, sinking comfortably into the cushion of her BMW convertible and wondering if she'll ever find a 'perfect' man." But, hear me out.
One night, my uncle threw a dinner party in his gated community and invited all the big people he knew. Champagne and oysters were catered. Men wore suits, women wore cocktail dresses and the whole thing was just as stuffy as you'd imagine it to be.
They were discussing where one can find the softest polo shirt around, celebrity news and other things that didn't really matter. And the whole time, I was suffocating, thinking to myself, Don't these people ever want to talk about real problems? Abstract ones that may not really have an answer, like world peace or the pursuit of love and happiness?
Finding love has pitted me to the point of insanity.
I couldn't make their problems my problems. I was morally opposed. I needed a real problem to solve. That's where finding love came in.
Now, lacking in any "real" problems, I am very fortunate. (And when I say "real," I mean problems people all over the world consider problems, like finding a job that pays enough to get by on or how to get access to healthcare.) But finding love has pitted me to the point of insanity. And, in my opinion, philosophizing to the point of insanity is very much a real problem.
I owe my ability to think critically about these things to the opportunities I was given growing up. Most of the world isn't blessed with a big home, a loving family and the means to afford a good education. Because financially privileged people have these opportunities to expand their knowledge, they can fall into the trap of being too smart for their own good. They become too smart to get out of their own heads about a problem that probably doesn't need as much attention as it's being given.
So, I constructed a mega-real-problem of my own, one I use to very much define my existence and purpose.
A study conducted by Arizona State University suggests there's actually a correlation between wealth and the search for happiness or true love. Researchers found that children whose parents earn more than $150,000 a year were twice as more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression than children whose parents didn't earn that much.
Psychologist Suniya Luthar told The Daily Mail,
The children of affluent parents expect to excel at school and in extracurricular activities and also in their social lives. They feel a relentless sense of pressure.
And oh, did I bend under pressure. Pressure got me to score straight-As and gain admission to a great college.
In the same vein, I also felt pressure to bring home to my family the very best person I could bring home. I suffer from a cruel kind of anxiety about finding the perfect love. Often, you can find me crawling into a dark hole where my thoughts on it don't make any real strides, but just move in circles.
The obsession with finding the perfect love has forced me to turn down some men who weren't perfect, but good enough for me. Most normal people will take "good enough." Not me. I am on an endless quest for a man who has it "all." A man I'm not only proud to bring home to my family, but also a man they're proud to see me with.
I am on an endless quest for a man who has it 'all.'
The problem is, it'll take quite a man to knock my family's socks off, but I don't really have a choice. I've been raised to weigh the value of a man the same way I weigh the value of any other commodity: I want to be proud to be seen with him, the way I'd be proud to be seen with a real Louis Vuitton bag over a fake one.
When it comes to finding love, I'm not so much concerned about the way I feel when I'm with a man as much as I'm concerned with what people will think of me when they look at him and me side by side. The man I choose needs to be a man worth showing off.
Technically, I could bring home a tatted-up artist with dreadlocks (hey, I have tattoos myself), a rich guy who isn't that great-looking or a great-looking guy who isn't that rich. But it would come at the expense of being forever judged by the people in my extended social circles whom I'm forced to see more often than I'd like to.
It's tough having a problem like mine, a problem so round around the edges that I'm not even sure I'll ever get to the bottom of it. That's because there's always something bigger, better, shinier, richer, more good-looking and more worth showing off.
I hope I don't come off as braggadocious by talking about materialism. I am, however, trying to eradicate the stigma often tied to those who grew up with money to spare. We, too, have problems, and they are our problems for the sole reason that we've been raised to see the world in a way different from most.
Manhattan therapist Clay Cockerel says,
Even when you say: 'I don't have to struggle for money,' there are other parts of your life. Money is not the only thing that defines you. Your problems are legitimate.
Cockrell is right. Love defines me (or lack thereof, I suppose). And I still haven't solved my problem.