COLUMNIST PAUL NAKAYAMA RUMINATES OVER HIS INABILITY TO FIND THE ONE WITHIN THE PAST DECADE AND COMES UP WITH A FEW PRACTICAL LOVE LESSONS.
It’s hard to believe, but this is my 10th year writing The Awful Truth. I joked around with my editor that I was probably the most veteran employee at the company.
“So,” she asked, “in a decade, what have you learned about relationships or love?”
I opened my mouth to answer and instead, changed the subject to sports. If I were going to be clueless in a conversation, it would at least be regarding something I didn’t care about. When I started working on this column, I was an idealistic 28-year-old. I thought I’d definitely be married with kids in a 10-year span. But one minute, I’m watching marathons of 24, and in the next, I’m effing 38.
So, I thought about it. Why didn’t it work out with some of the great loves of my life, or why haven’t I found The One? (And by The One, I don’t mean Keanu Reeves, though at this point it’s better than nothing.) I stared at a blank page on my laptop in hopes of writing out a clever answer. My head started to hurt, so instead I watched five seasons of Mad Men. You probably think that I’m single because I’m addicted to television. You’re not wrong, but there’s more to it.
Half procrastinating, half ruminating, I started organizing a bunch of names into columns as an exercise. Column A: Girls I liked. Column B: Girls who liked me. Column C: Girls from A and B that actually dated me. And in doing this, the answer revealed itself before me — like with dating, I was overthinking things.
I remember my friend telling me about how this girl had sent him a one-page letter from summer camp. Prepubescent boner on full alert, he promptly replied with a five-page gesture, full of wit and passion. She wrote back with another one-pager, saying mostly that camp sucks. This is pretty much the analogy for how I chased girls whom I thought I saw a chance with, seeing signs when there were none. In modern terms, it’s the same as texting a girl, getting a nebulous response a day later, and thinking, “She texted back … there’s a chance!”
Making a small thing seem like a big thing was my thing. I’d break up with girls that offended me in minor ways because I would think, “If she’s capable of that, what else is she gonna do to me?” For example, I called it off with this one girl because she made me eat a spoonful of mayo in front of my friends to prove my love for her. I did it to save her face, but oh, did I loathe her for that. Come to think of it, she made me eat the Devil’s seed, and I’m glad I dumped her.
As I get older, I realize I’ve become a little superstitious. I believe in jinxing myself. I’ve seen enough great opportunities go sour because I couldn’t wait to tell my friends about some girl and how we made a connection. You know, boasts that would end with “Well, I wouldn’t call her my girlfriend … yet.” And sure enough I never did. To me, luck is now a big part of whether it works out with someone. Even if she’s the right girl, it’s just good luck or bad luck as to whether you met her at the right time. So if luck is a factor, least I can do is shut the hell up and not jinx myself.
Another thing I used to do wrong was fall for girls for all the wrong reasons. Just because she can sing her ass off and give me goose bumps does not mean we’re meant to be. Otherwise I’d be in love with Mariah Carey, and she’s insane. Or just because she thinks video games are art and shares my opinion that “Bioshock” is a masterpiece of modern storytelling does not make her Mrs. Right, though technically it makes her right. Sadly, it wasn’t from self-realization, but rather Chloë Grace Moretz’s 12-year-old character in 500 Days of Summer that taught me that nugget of wisdom.
In writing this piece, I had a High Fidelity moment. I considered talking to all of my exes to suss out where things fell apart — you know, what the common thread of my failed relationships might be. But they’re all nice girls — too nice to call me a dick to my face — so I sat and thought on it. As you’ve already guessed, the common thread is me. If there’s any hope for this trend to end, it’s got to start with that. So, finally, the following is a list of things that have caused problems in the past that I will take to heart.
Be honest with how I feel. Not be jealous, or if I am, not be Real House- wives-y about it. Learn to enjoy her interests every now and then, unless she’s into S&M. Don’t dance unless there are strobe lights or it’s dark. Never dress up as Pocahontas ever again. Forcing a schedule on love seems to almost always ruin it, but taking it for granted is a slow death. Don’t be mean to girls who enjoy mayo; they’re people, too.
This story was originally published in the Summer ’13 issue of Audrey Magazine. Buy your copy here.