A not-so-little-known fact about me is that I don’t think I believe in unconditional love. I tend to tell people this and get looks as if I’ve just said I don’t believe dinosaurs existed, or that I believe fossils are the bones of the wicked who perished in the flood. I usually get responses like, “Not even between a parent and child?!” That’s not what I mean. I wholeheartedly believe in unconditional familial love. What I doubt is unconditional romantic love.
It comes from a place of having never experienced it, I think. I’ve also never really seen it. Our country has a divorce rate of, what, 60%? I’m also in my mid-twenties, which means I’ve seen a lot of failed relationships and not a lot of strong, lasting unions in my social circles. It isn’t that I think I’m not deserving of love, either. I sure as hell am! It’s just that, well, I don’t know if it’s even possible. Do people really stick by each other through Bad Things?
Up until recently, I believed I was too “crazy” to be loved. I’ve always vacillated between being too much and not enough in relationships. I’ve been told that I’d be great, if only I found my thing, my niche, my talent. I’ve been broken up with for being “too volatile,” too emotional. I’ve been left in a sobbing heap on my bed because I “should be with someone else with anxiety problems.” After G. broke up with me, I made sure to tell every guy I met how crazy I was, what a mess I could be. I made darn sure to tell them they could leave, that I was expecting it, because I was SO CRAZY that I knew they couldn’t handle me.
And then, a few things happened. Most importantly, I realized about a month ago (finally) that I’m not crazy. I’m a little overanxious at times, but it’s a product of my past, my childhood, my environment. And also, I met someone who doesn’t think I’m crazy, either. And no, he’s not “someone with an anxiety problem” who “understands my crazy.” It was like years’ worth of weight was lifted off my shoulders.
But then came BRCA2. I struggled for years with believing I was “too crazy” to be loved. I let that go, but now I’m struggling with this. Before being tested for the mutation, I told myself that if I tested positive, I’d resign myself to being alone. What guy would stick around for all of this, you know? And even if a guy wanted to, is it fair to bring someone else into this? Is it fair to expect another person to stick by me while I go through twice-yearly screenings, full of false positives and terror and biopsies? Is it fair to expect a man to stay attracted to me as a woman if one day I’m me, and the next I’m different and scarred and unnatural? Is it fair to expect someone to put up with me when I’m stuck in bed after surgeries, unable to lift my arms to cut my own food? Is it fair to expect a marriage to work, when I’m in my 40s and, instead of hitting the alleged female sexual peak, I’m smack-dab in the middle of instant menopause? I have trouble conceiving of a man wanting to deal with this, or being able to.
And then, just the other day, I heard about Christina Applegate’s engagement. A fellow mutant (although on the BRCA1 side), she’s gone through a mastectomy and reconstruction, plus an actual bout of cancer. I knew she’d been dating someone, but now they’re engaged, fake boobs and all.
And it made me think: maybe I’m wrong about all of this. Maybe part of it really is that I don’t think I’m worth going through all of this with, that there is a part of me still listening to all the boys of my past. Or maybe, just like I realized I’m not actually crazy, I’m going to be proven wrong here, too.