Through These Eyes: On Romantic Masochists & Inactive Facebook Users


You didn’t intend it to go as far as it did, unless, of course, it turned out well, in which case you planned it all along.

We risk our hearts when they’re on the line. We risk big. We risk closing ourselves off and missing the opportunity to find him, or otherwise risk being “too available.”

I risk both, and more. Add to the mix that I’m incredibly “picky” and the prognosis puts my chances at everlasting romance equal to the odds that we’ll see a sequel to The Passion of the Christ.

My condition isn’t uncommon. Those who suffer the collective call themselves “romantic.” Those who consider it bullshit prefer “crazy.”

Being a romantic means wishing for perfection but wanting volatility, hoping for happiness but thriving on heartbreak. “Lifelong” sounds great, but “Until” feels better. Deny it all you want.

Romantic writer Leopold von Sacher-Masoch aptly put it, “Your madness is nothing but a demonic, unsatisfied sensuality.” (Guess whose name the word “Masochism” comes from…)

“He’s so cute,” says a friend. We’re looking at a stranger’s Facebook profile, and yes, the man on screen is cute: he has a scruffy, chiseled chin, wears baseball hats, and does manly things like off-roading and hunting.

My friend and I review his profile and are pleased to see that he isn’t active on Facebook. Last post: two weeks ago, an impassioned two-sentence commentary on the Vikings and Packers. This is reassuring because active Facebook users are more annoying and conceited than inactive ones (I am an active Facebook user).

“Oh, look, we have a mutual friend,” my friend says. “…you.”

I don’t know 90% of the “friends” I have on Facebook so this means nothing and my friend and I go about our day.

A month passes and the off-roading inactive Facebook user messages me. He says my posts about my tragic love life are funny and that he’d like to take me on a “real” date. This excites me and I think of him incessantly for two days, when finally I message him back, “Oh sorry, I’ve been really busy…” and accept his invitation.

Our date goes perfectly. He calls me afterward to say he had a great time and I’m already thinking of white picket fences.

The day after our date he texts me a funny picture and follows up with, “When will I see you again?”

We schedule Date Two.

Two days after our first date he texts me a funny picture and “good morning” and “good night.”

As he does the next day.

And the next.

And the next.

And the next, and with increasing frequency.

I cancel our second date.

I debrief with friends and tell them about how clingy he was, how desperate his texts made him sound, and about how disappointed I was to lose such a potentially great guy. I end with that terribly ironic, compliment-fishing, whiny comment, “I’m going to be single for the rest of my life.”

Not long after my encounter with the off-roading inactive Facebook user I go on a date with a lawyer, himself a masculine inactive Facebook user. Our date goes well and we schedule Date Two.

The lawyer doesn’t text me incessantly, and at first this is reassuring. He isn’t desperate. He isn’t clingy. But, the more I think about it, I’m worried. Why isn’t he texting me? Maybe he’s busy or maybe… maybe he didn’t really like me, as in, really really like me. Maybe I did something wrong. Because he‘s an inactive Facebook user I can’t know whether or not he’s busy, and I dream up awful scenarios of my having done something embarrassing during our first date, or that maybe he’s heard a rumor about me. There’s something wrong, right?

With the lawyer not reaching out, I want to text him myself, and the desire to do so grows uncontrollable. I want him to want me, and, ever the peril of the narcissistic romantic, I want him to tell me. Thankfully, I don’t succumb to my madness.

Our second date goes well, but in the time since our first date, I’ve become so engrossed in the idea of unrequited infatuation that I’ve built him into an impossibly perfect man. I’ve constructed in my head someone way out of my league—someone I could never have—to rationalize why he doesn’t like me. Our second date, then, is a disappointment. He isn’t perfect. He is who he was on our first date—the guy I wanted only when he was new, when there was no expectation of him wanting me back…

Maybe it’s that we play both roles when our hearts are on the line, at times romantic, at times crazy, but always masochistic, forever wanting what we can’t have.

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