Once upon a time — or shall we say, a year ago —, if you had asked me to describe myself in three words, I would have said, “Single. As. F*ck.”
I had never been in a serious relationship, and being single was a major part of my identity.
I prided myself on being independent; I went to the movies by myself, and I sometimes third-wheeled my friends’ dates while wearing sweatpants and no bra.
I often wondered what it would be like to be in love, but I didn’t necessarily feel the need to take action to find out.
My mom told me love happens when you least expect it. I figured that, like most advice my mom gives that makes me roll my eyes, this would probably end up being true. And, it was.
I met my boyfriend over a year ago, at a party my friend had begged me to attend. I was living in Boston that summer and had come home to Maine for one week.
A guy I knew back in high school was hosting a party, and I knew that meant I’d have to talk to people I hadn’t seen in a while and tell them what I was “up to.”
Starting to understand why I didn't want to partake?
I showed up reluctantly, and once we got there, my cousin pointed out a boy I didn’t recognize and asked me who he was.
It was basically the setup for the beginning of a romantic comedy.
I looked at him for a second, said, “I don’t know,” and walked away, thinking nothing of it.
It ended up being my future, now current, boyfriend.
We talked later that night (when I was in the kitchen taking shots by myself -- I was REALLY single, remember?) and we hit it off. There was an instant connection.
Now, a year later, we’re living together in New York City.
I don’t have to wonder what it’s like to be in love anymore — because I am in love. And, yes, it’s wonderful and amazing and life-changing and blah, blah, blah. It’s also confusing, and sometimes weird, and did I mention life-changing?
It doesn’t just change your life in the sense that it opens up your heart in ways you didn’t know possible and all that sappy bullsh*t (which it does), but it also changes your life in the literal sense.
My life went from being about only having to look out for number one, doing whatever I wanted and being in charge of taking care of everything for myself, to suddenly having this partner-in-crime who was always there to help or be helped.
Basically, my world turned upside down. I was head-over-heels, which was, quite honestly, very disorienting.
These days, a woman has two options in life: to be the single girl or the relationship girl.
Each has her own characteristics: The single, wild girl stays out all night and doesn’t give a f*ck about anything; the stable, relationship girl has her sh*t together and prefers to stay in with her bae, watching Netflix.
So, when the single girl suddenly becomes the relationship girl, what happens (cue: "Miss Independent" by Kelly Clarkson)? I had a bit of an identity crisis when it happened to me.
After the honeymoon phase faded and my head came down from the clouds, I suddenly had the scary idea of becoming someone I didn’t want to be. I did everything with my boyfriend, and I wanted to do everything with him, and that terrified me.
Did this mean I had changed? Had I lost part of my identity? My independence? Was I betraying my independence by allowing myself to want and rely on someone else?
After freaking out a little, I calmed down and realized I was being too hard on myself, blowing things out of proportion. Yes, aspects of my life had changed, and part of me had changed, as well, but ultimately, I was still a strong, independent woman.
So, what's different now that I’m a “relationship girl?" Here’s the truth (and it isn’t that I’m now boring, organized and constantly content): For starters, sometimes, when I use my Spotify account, someone is already logged in and using it.
When I’m having a bad day and want to shut out the world and everyone in it out, there’s someone there who forces me to open up to him and cry on his shoulder.
Sometimes, the beer I bought is mysteriously missing from the fridge. Sometimes, I get a free back scratch before bed.
Sometimes, I wake up to someone snoring in my mouth at 3 am. Also, Valentine’s Day no longer seems like the most dreadful day of the year.
There’s someone in my life around whom I can be 100 percent myself, including when I'm not so enjoyable. I have another person to buy holiday presents for and I also receive presents from another person.
My aunts and uncles no longer ask if I’m still single. Now, they ask how my boyfriend is doing and insist on knowing every single detail about him and his entire extended family. I have someone who enjoys doing favors for me.
Mostly, I have another best friend.
In short, life is different now, in both good and annoying ways. You could say the same thing about any sort of change in life; that’s just the way it is. Ultimately, I’m still the same girl, but now, someone stands next me and appreciates the girl I am.
It’s not fair to make women choose between two binary identities, and it wasn't fair of me to put that pressure on myself. I can be in a relationship and still be independent.
Spending all of those years on my own benefitted me by forcing me to appreciate my independence. Now that I’m in a relationship, I’m happy to have a partner in crime, but I still try to ensure I set aside “me time.”
It’s important to spend time with yourself, and sometimes, I miss just being me. Myself and I used to spend a lot of quality time together.
The same goes for my platonic friends. Nobody likes the friend who can't hang out, talk or respond to texts because he/she is no longer single.
And, it’s okay that I look forward to my boyfriend coming home at night, and that I want to wait to watch the next episode of "The Wire" with him so we can enjoy it together.
Just because I know how to take care of myself doesn't mean I’m not allowed to let someone else step up to the plate and give me a break.
I don’t need a man to complete me — only you can do that for yourself.
But, it is nice to have someone who inspires me to do and be better every day.