When do you show your crazy flag to the person you are dating? Timing is key, especially considering what brand of crazy you are working with. At the beginning of my relationship, my strategy was to throw all of my awesome at my new man. I figured I needed to build up a big reserve of goodness before I hit him with the flip side. I have these OCD-esque eccentricities, which are my "customs." Starting with my strengths seemed to be the smart approach, since I knew I needed some cushion for when my customs started to leak out.
Basically, I am a dude in a lady package. My dude-ness really won Boyfriend over. We enjoyed a host of activities: watching cartoons, debating over Superman vs. Batman, discussing comics, playing video games, watching sports, having push-up competitions and wrestling. Now, the wrestling could turn into tussling, which could go the fun way or it could take a different turn, since there are times when I do not know when to stop and there's the fact that I am... freakishly strong. But everything was really good between us and we were enjoying that newness stage. That newness feeling is just amazing and it's during this time that we just liked looking into each other's eyes, just because. The only "bad" thing about that ooey-gooey stage is that your man really pays attention to you.
One day we're eating some M&Ms and he gives me three. I asked him if there are any more and he says, "No." So, I proceed to put one on the right side of my mouth, one on the left side of my mouth and then bite the third in half, equally distributing the last one. It was yummy and even! Boyfriend says, "I think I've seen you do that before with Cheez-Its and Sour Patch Kids. Have you?" I fess up that this is my "evens" custom and say, "I like evens." I do: Evens make me feel good. Now I was on his radar and there was no going back.
We were hanging out all the time and we'd walk all over the city exploring -- we were broke and it was fun and cheap. When we'd be holding hands, I typically drifted to his right and he figured that I preferred walking on his right side. Not just his, but everyone's -- I'm just partial to the right. Boyfriend would swing me over to his left side and hold me there at times. He would say, "Try it." I did it for him, but it was icky and just wrong. I'd glide back to his right after a little time spent on the left and it was fine. Sometimes Boyfriend would block me from getting over to his right side and it turned into our little game. You could catch us running around the streets of Manhattan with him trying to cut me off and me making a beeline for buildings, so I could get over to his right. We would dodge people, jump over dog leashes and cause quite a stir. It was great fun and we'd just laugh and end up giggling. I was just so thankful that Boyfriend laughed with me and not at me. Of course there was some mocking -- he was entitled.
I still had my cushion and things were good. Boyfriend was sleeping over more and spending some weeknights -- besides weekends -- over at my place, and we were two peas in a pod. (See? Even.) One evening he caught me doing one of my customs. I never intended to tell anyone about this custom -- not him, let alone you. It was my fault; I was just so foolish to let my guard down. I thought he was engrossed in a video game and I was in the bedroom putting clothes away when he saw me. His voice came out of nowhere and he says, "Did you just twirl?" I about jumped out of my skin. I said, "No, I don't twirl. That was a spin... a turn. I don't twirl. There's a difference." He gives me a look and I told him that if I find myself making a half-turn or full-turn in the course of the day, I have to counter-turn in the other direction to make it even. So, if someone behind me called my name and I turned over my left shoulder 180 degrees, then talked to them or waited for them, then turned back to center... I would have to equal that on the other side. The great thing is that I'm flexible enough that I don't have to complete my counter-turns immediately, but definitely by the end of the same day.
Boyfriend was kind of awestruck and said, "Ange, that is strange." I agreed that I am weird. I also informed him that the turn he'd just witnessed was one of those moments when I just owed myself a full spin. Mentally, I keep track of what I owe and I'd just felt wrong at that moment, so I repaid myself with a counter-turn. To his credit, that custom was accepted, and if he ever saw me do that again, he never let on. What really warmed my heart is that sometimes Boyfriend would spin me in the house, just for fun. He would spin me several times in one direction and then stop and when I said, "Spin me the other way"... he would! What a good man.
Boyfriend and I decided that it was time to move in together, which made me nervous. With constant exposure, how could I keep more of my customs at bay? I wasn't going to be able to hold back anything anymore. His messiness was already going to ramp me up. Sadly, things went from thin to thick quickly.
From the start, he devoured everything in sight, left a trail of dirty socks and sticky everywhere. He made Oscar Madison look like Felix Unger. My response to the disappearance of food was to label food, which didn't work at all. I made the suggestion to him that if he was unsure about what to take or if he wanted some of a particular specialty item, he should contact me. Seriously: Phone a friend, reach out and text, just use the technology, please! That's what it's there for. (Okay, well... not exactly.) That didn't go over well. I didn't help the situation that I would shadow him around the apartment, dashing here with a coaster and elsewhere with a placemat. To add insult to injury, I would pass judgment on how he "cleaned." I would say, "Hmm, not going to go with a Brillo Pad there, huh?" Then I would reclean whatever he had handled. The apartment ended up being a landmine of rules, and it wore on him.
And then one night, I came home and I was standing outside the door to our apartment and I just knew that something was wrong. My senses were heightened and the temperature of the air felt different. I knew that something had trespassed on my fortress of solitude. I took a step inside my lair and immediately smelled some sort of cleaner. I dismissed the smell, figuring that Boyfriend had mopped. (He liked to do that, it was one of his things, and I couldn't give two shakes about the floors.) As I stepped further into the apartment, my head starts to spin -- and not in the good way. I'm slightly dizzy and feel like the wind has been knocked out of me. Boyfriend has REARRANGED THE WHOLE APARTMENT! I go ballistic and start running around and heaving furniture left and right. Then I see Boyfriend and I look at him like he's a stranger. He looks crestfallen. I start growl-yelling, "What were you thinking?! How could you do this?!" Then I spit out, "I. Thought. You. Knew. Me!!!"
He went from looking beaten, to annoyed, to defiant. And then I knew. I knew that he'd known that I would be pissed. He'd just hoped that I would handle it better and maybe be an adult. Sorry Boyfriend, afraid not. I was irate, sprouted about five more crazy flags and went further. I just tore him up from the floor to the ceiling and was very unladylike. He threw up his hands and told me that home was starting to feel like "work" for him. He said, "I don't know if I can do this ..." and he walked out.
I just sat there and I was nervous. I'd thought that I was trying to change, but it either wasn't happening fast enough or I wasn't trying hard enough. My customs had helped me through tough times and stress in the past, but Boyfriend was my future.
I was terrified because I could lose him and I had never thought about what that would look like, feel like, taste like. And it just couldn't be. To me, Boyfriend was written in my life with permanent marker, and I guess I banked too much on the fact that he would just be there. You can't do that. There has to be work and effort put in. So I just sat there and I waited.
But he came back. We sorted it out and naturally... we got married. We did the whole "love is patient, love is kind" (love is bitchy and routinized), "to have, to hold" (to spin, to turn)... Happily Evenly After.
Love breaks rules and the true love that I found has eased my fears, helped me to change, grow and relax more. But Husband has shown me patiently and lovingly that some rules (and customs) can and should be broken. It's Husband that makes me even.
For more by Angela Gray, click here.
For more on becoming fearless, click here.