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Love lessons – a post Valentine’s Day special

Love lessons in Romania

If anybody asked you “how do you love?”, what would you say? You could answer pragmatically or poetically, with humour or with sarcasm or both. Each of us loves in their own, unique way, which we developed through all our experiences, good and bad. And there is always more to learn in love too, as long as we’re alive.  

The way we love today evolved out of all the love past. With this in mind, I thought of telling a few of my love stories.

It is, after all, the day after Valentine’s 2020. What better time to talk about what love lessons we learnt through life?

Falling in love with a little alien boy

uno-sceriffo-extraterestreDo you remember the first time it happened? I really liked the little alien boy in this Bud Spencer comedy. The title translates, in short,  An extraterrestrial sheriff.

The main character, an alien boy, gets lost on Earth and he makes friends with a policeman. I remember the little boy having fever and the syringe needle failing to inject anything. The needle just did not work on him (a bit of a strange scene, now that I think of it…).

I probably empathised with the cute little boy. As a child, I suffered with serious asthma, reoccurring bronchitis, even pneumonia. The nurses in our village would often visit three times a day to inject me with antibiotics and/or antihistamines. Penicillin injections hurt the most. And I discovered that watching telly or reading something or even playing a card game with my brother while getting the injection helped with the pain.

But I digress.

Going back to how I fell in love with the little alien boy, the mirage of the big screen cast its spell on us even in a communist country. Maybe even more so because we grew up in communism. We did not have proper daily television to watch. Every evening, our tv screens spewed propaganda at us. It mainly proclaimed the great achievements of the party and our leader. But it was all a different matter in the cinemas. We could truly dream with the movies.

As I grew up, I loved Harrison Ford a lot, both in Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies. I can even tell you where I watched Star Wars – New Hope. It was at Cinema Parc, located in the oldest park in my home city, Timisoara.

A secondary school love story

My next story to tell today happened in secondary school or Gymnasium, as it is called in Romania.

In Romania, we attend what we call secondary school from the age of about 11 to 14. Now most students in this school I went to were girls. This peculiarity happened due to the fact it was meant to pre-select us for further studying in the High School located in the same building. This High School qualified students as infant and primary school teachers. Thus, most children sent here by their families were girls.

After this slightly complicated incursion in the Romanian schooling system, the important fact is the following. In my class, my year, we were more than twenty girls and only three or four boys. That meant that there weren’t many of them we could fall in love with. Sure, rivalries between girls were not a rarity.

The new boy who looked like Alain Delon

But in our last year of study in secondary school a new boy got transferred to our class. His bright blue eyes and tanned skin gave him a bit of an Alain Delon (photo below) look. Yes, we all used to watch French movies too in cinemas back then.

Alain Delon love lessons

This new boy happened to like me and I liked him. We always chatted and spent time together. Then one day we were both down with a cold and excused from physical education class. The teacher allowed us to spend that hour in the classroom and study, which we didn’t do.

Back in those days, a boy had to officially ask a girl to be his girlfriend. My colleague was very nervous all that hour. I could tell he was trying to say something which never came out of his mouth. But I was prepared to wait and be patient with him.

How my possible first boyfriend messed up

It would have all been fine and I could’ve waited for him to ask me to be his girlfriend on another occasion. We were still chatting a lot and walking together after school.

However, one day I arrived at school with this cute white hat on my head. One of my friends greeted me and she said, all excited:

“You look so cute, wait until your future father-in-law sees you” (yes, we were silly like that – calling boyfriend’s fathers that already).

“What do you mean by my future father-in-law?”, I said, not most pleasantly surprised.

“Well, you know, his father, your boyfriend’s. We all know he is your boyfriend now, he told us.”

That angered me. My beautiful blue-eyed boy could not muster the courage to officially ask me to be his girlfriend. Still, he found it suitable to go around boasting that he did. I was so upset with his behaviour that I did not want any of it any longer.

I grew distant towards him, and later that year, in winter, I had my first boyfriend in my parents’ village. This boy danced with me at the village disco, then he asked me to be his girlfriend. We kissed for the first time at the New Year’s Eve party. I was 14 and he was 16.

Years after, we were best mates in our inseparable group of teenagers.

Romantic ideas in teenage years

My love life in teenage years was fairly… uneventful. But I learnt things which later I came to value.

Love lesson 16

At my 16th birthday party, with my mum and brother, at a time when I was probably dreaming of getting married.

Long story short, from the age of 16 until just before I went to university, I had a boyfriend in my parents’ village. We started deeply in love, and I highly romanticised that relationship. I saw us getting married, having children, altogether with me going to university and carrying on with my writing.

Now, that relationship could not have lasted, and when it finally broke, I cheerfully moved on. He was a nice, steady, reliable young man. But all he wanted in life was to grow his crops, raise his farm animals and have a few children. He would have never left his countryside house and life. I would have never been happy as only a countryside wife, with a husband not interested in reading, in arts, in travelling.

Plus, I loved going out, socialising, spending time with friends. He took me out, but then very rarely danced. Of course, he got bored before I even started dancing and having fun with my mates. Drinking and exchanging a few words with the other grumps could only last for so long.

But as a teen, I believed in one love for life. The ideas going around in the Romanian society at the time said that a woman will always love the first man in her life. They also used to say that, after a long relation with the first man you ever made love with, everybody considered you a slut if you moved on.

I did move on. Still, the threat of people thinking less of me because I had slept with my countryside boyfriend haunted me for a long time.

What was expected of me

Let us just skim through my university years, touching couple of important points.

In those years, I lived my first deep drama of unrequited love which shook me deeply. In my head, still full of romantic ideals, I failed to see people and relationships for how they were. Looking back, it feels like a time of friendships, of explorations, and of very little love lessons learnt.

I painted fairy tales with a tendency to almost seek to feel hurt. Traumas of my up-bringing swam deep inside and it took me a long, long time to catch them and look at them properly. It took me until recently to do so.

After my deep suffering in love situation, I started going out with a colleague in my year at the university. We shared similar intellectual interests and attended various groups together. Chemistry wasn’t great, we didn’t match at all intimately, but I misjudged things. I nearly married this boyfriend, because I thought that was what you do when you graduate.

We would have been miserable together.

I did many things in my life because I thought they were expected of me. This pattern started to break only in my 30s, after the first year far away from home, as an Au Pair in the USA.

How I asked a young man out

Now let’s break all this heavy side of adult love life with something more fun.

I only asked a man to go out with me once, and this happened in my first year working after I graduated. Too shy to make the first move, I never really felt attracted to pushy, cocky men either. Unfortunately, boys in my generation in Romania learnt that being pushy was the way forward.

They were never taught that no means no. But that’s another matter to discuss another time.

As a beginner teacher, I could barely afford to rent a flat in the city. Owning a computer was a dream which came true only a decade later. But I have always been attracted to computers, the vast possibilities of internet learning and communication. And without one at home, I used to spend time in internet cafés, just like everybody else in the early 2000s in my country.

I met this very attractive and intelligent young man, working in the internet café where I usually went. He helped me print some poems for a big weekend festival I attended. Then we chatted about literature and sci-fi movies.

When they played Stalker, an artsy movie by Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky, at a local cinema, I asked him if he fancied going. The cinema played an artsy, niche movie on Tuesday evenings. He was interested in sci-fi with a difference. And he said yes.

Just to steady my nerves, I invited a friend from the writers’ group too. She invited another friend. We ended with the four of us going. My young man from the internet café felt very confused, as he later confessed.

Was this a date? Was it just mates hanging out?

During the movie, he suddenly lit up and said he had read the book from which it was adapted. There was his opening: he offered to bring the book the next day, maybe over coffee. Of course, I said yes. We dated for about seven months afterwards.

I didn’t enjoy dating as an adult

With this, my fun love stories to share from my life as an adult end for now. Some bitter love and life lessons follow for about a decade.

I dated a poet mate of mine in Bucharest in my early 30s.

I didn’t enjoy dating later, when I moved to Bucharest and worked there as a journalist. Life pace got so much faster, and I rather slid deeper and deeper in hopelessness. The fact I carried with me some negative approaches into which I had been educated did not help. In my childhood years, when I struggled to make friends, my main caretaker thought they were protecting me by teaching me I was just too good for those kids. This arrogance did not suit me. Applying a fighter’s stance as a shield when relating to others didn’t either.

I was vulnerable and hurt, a disillusioned romantic who expected the worst, while dreaming for the best. And I put on a fierce face which made me look quite arrogant, argumentative, and possibly cold.

Relationships as vectors

In these gloomy marshes of emotions and misdirected expectations, I met somebody who seemed to understand me. That turned out to be the longest relationship in my life so far. I learnt a lot through those years, but also almost lost myself.

Sometimes relationships act like vectors in our lives. They don’t make us happy, they are not our safe spaces. But they shake us to the point where we are forced to take a better look at ourselves and at life, then reconsider our views.

Possibly the best lesson I learnt in love is that attraction and affection are not enough. People need some common views and common aims in order to build something durable together.

It happens that we are attracted by people who share the same traumas and insecurities as us. We find them in these persons, we recognise what we see in the mirror. Sometimes these shared experiences bring us together, but not always.

Two people who carry the same unresolved hurts struggle to be happy together. Then it doesn’t help much if, on top of that shared, hidden hurt, the two communicate in very different ways. One prefers to show love through action, less through words and romantic moments spent together. The other one prefers to live love in dreaminess too and appreciates most sharing activities with their partner.

Bridges are built only when people can express themselves and make steps to understand how the other expresses themselves. If we always struggle to understand and accept the way the other person expresses and communicates, it will not be a happy love relation.

But we learn in such situations and that is what I did. I took what I learnt and moved forward again to finding the person whom I truly matched.

How about a happy end?

Happy love lessonsThis is a writing with a happy end.

In my 40s, I met that person who is a mirror to me as I am to them in our best traits. We communicate in similar ways, expressing emotion and dreaming together. We are looking for the same type of enjoyment in life. Similar things make us feel fulfilled.

Also, where one of us struggles, the other offers strength.
On top of it all, we love the same movies, the same books, and really love travelling together.

Since I have been with my partner Adrian, I also put order into previous love lessons. I managed to demystify my own perception of my past.

My most important love lessons

To summarise, I’ll make a list with my most precious lessons in love:

  • Nobody needs to earn anybody’s love or trust. This applies to family, to friends, to partners.
    If your partner does not trust and offer you their love, you don’t match. Spending years together with the hope that one day you will fulfil their expectations tends to prove a waste of time.
  • Loving in fear of losing the other person only triggers anxiety and pressure which one day will break you.
    It helps a lot more if you look at what can truly strengthen your bond and take you forward together, as a unit. By the way, having a child only to strengthen the bond doesn’t solve much.
  • Be open and enjoy all the good parts of you two being together.
    Absolute expectations, particularly those planted in us through education and social pressure, will hurt us more than anything. When we make such expectations, we don’t look at the world and at the people around. We fixate on an image in our head.
  • Balance the efforts you put into being together with how they benefit you both.
    If only one benefits, something is not right.
    If both hurt more than benefit, something is definitely not right.
    The efforts you put into the relationship should leave you happy and content at the end of the day.

After more than three years together, I keep learning and discovering new facets to the way I love my partner. And this is the beauty and the miracle of it all.

Now, that I served you this big banquet of love life stories, I would love to hear about yours.

 

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