The first time a boy ever seriously told me he loved me, it was January of my freshman year and I was sitting in my dorm room in Alice Lloyd. We were not dating at the time, so you can see how this would come as quite a shock.

Illustration by Megan Mulholland

I do not believe in love at first sight, but I do believe in fate at first sight, and that was what happened with this boy at a party during syllabus week my freshman year. He was blackout drunk and, admittedly, not the most attractive person I’d ever seen, but I was somehow drawn to him. I knew this would be something.

We started hanging out a couple days a week, and eventually it grew into a relationship. We were official for about three days before he broke it off. This was directly after Fall Break. A few days later, he begged for me back, and I accepted (stupidly). We were engaged in an emotionally volatile relationship until after Christmas, upon which time he broke up with me (again). Here is where we find ourselves rather confused on Observatory Street.

After much deliberation, I reluctantly agreed to get back together with him (AGAIN), because I would never be able to forgive myself if I didn’t at least see what a relationship would be like with a boy who loved me.

He broke up with me in April.

This boy grew up in an upper-middle class suburb of Detroit, with two loving parents and two siblings with whom he was very close. He lived a fairly normal childhood. In my head, I compared this with my own childhood: dealing with an abusive father, consequently being raised by a single mom and constantly moving to new cities depending on who my mother or father married. I didn’t understand how I could still believe in love at all; but, even more than that, I didn’t understand how the boy was the one who couldn’t handle a serious relationship out of the two of us.

The second time a boy ever seriously told me he loved me was Welcome Week this — my junior — year, in the bathroom of a house I was living on the couch of. He also didn’t realize he had said it. You can see how this would also come as quite a shock.

This boy and I also experienced some kind of fate at first sight, when I met him sophomore year right before Thanksgiving, after being invited to his apartment to play a drunken round of Cards Against Humanity by a mutual friend. We became friends quickly, texting around the clock and seeing each other quite often, and at the start of winter semester, we made our relationship official.

In August I told him I loved him.

He didn’t say it back, but I didn’t say it to hear it back — to be validated. I said it simply because I wanted him to know that someone loved him, wanted him to know that I would be there no matter what. He didn’t say it back, but he also didn’t run, and that was all that mattered to me. We had a conversation about it, and he said he just wasn’t ready, so I waited.

This boy grew up not having much money in Illinois. His parents had him while they were still in high school. He has to pay for his own out-of-state tuition.

I always thought I wanted to date someone “normal” — someone who grew up with the kind of childhood I want for my kids: pleasant, normal, with a loving family in one place, but it is through these relationships that I realized it is often the most “normal” people who are the most unstable. Without the hardships of childhood, you don’t know how to deal with the hardships adulthood brings. I’ve realized it’s not the normality I want for my children, but the love that is so often associated with it.

This boy and I have now become that couple in some respects: on a recent grocery shopping trip, we both unknowingly bought a bag of Swedish Fish for the other. As he hugged me in the aisle, I thought to myself how lucky I was to be loved by someone “abnormal;” how delicious it truly is.

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