dear hilary: the love equation

Dear Hilary,

I have another question for you. This year, boys have been a huge distraction.

When I decided I like a boy, it begins to consume my thoughts and actions. I change the direction I walk to class just to “accidentally” run into them, I scheme ways to end up in situations with them, I make sure to get to math class early just so I can find a seat beside them. I do irrational things all the time. Maybe it’s infatuation or lust, but then why does it feel so real then? It just seems impossible to shake this frame of mind. I want to stop obsessing, but at the same time I like obsessing. Is any of this natural? Is it unhealthy? Or maybe it goes deeper, and I am just desperate to be loved and treasured. Even so, my heart is aching from these boys- this is something that seems so silly but has such a legitimate weight on my heart.

A little obsessed

Dear A little obsessed,

You know what I can’t stand, really, truly, cross my heart shoot me ten times before you make me … ? Settlers of Catan type games. I’m terrible at them. I lack all the strategy. And that makes me mad. And then I do something stupid, I don’t want to admit it, or I do, and I basically just end up feeling pissy. Not a fun time. I like cards, I like charades, I like 20 questions that I turn into 20,000 questions, I like Mafia and a thousand other ones. But make me settle villages and stuff, and I’m sunk.

So last year this boy that I really liked brought me to a friend’s house on the water, and a funny group of us – maybe five or six people – sit down to play … yep, you guessed it, one of those bridge-building farm settling monasteries and something about blocking other people’s castles games. I wasn’t jazzed about it, but I played the whole game.

And not because that’s the polite thing to do, though my mother did raise me to be polite. I did it to impress the boy. I did it to keep his attention. I did it with some well-timed doe-eyed looks in his direction, a wink or two. I can only imagine if I could see myself I would laugh – here I am, making faces at the game in my head, and then whenever he makes eye contact, holding on for dear life to those brown eyes and hoping he’d look just a bit longer.

In the love equation in my head, playing this game + batting my eyelashes + walking by his office by the mailroom in my work outfit + some well placed comments about German philosophy + drinking a second cider at the bar on a Thursday night x my hope squared = LOVE.

I think most of us do this, just as you describe your own love equation to me – if you sit here in math class + walk past them and if you use the Pythagorean theorem to calculate just where they might get coffee after school that day… maybe that’s how you get them to see you. Maybe that will = LOVE.

I want to separate out how real your feelings are from whether your changing seats in math class or walking in a different direction has a tangible effect on a relationship. Your feelings are real; you are attracted and interested, and honestly I’m going to hazard a guess that some of it is infatuation, some of it is exploration, some of it is longing, some of it is that delightful butterfly feeling when you recognize how wonderful and lovely someone is, and there is a whole lot more feeling that can be easily categorized. That will all be real no matter what you do or don’t do on a given day of the week or a given Saturday night game night.

And yes, honey, I think some of it is maybe a little bit much. I liked the feeling of liking someone so much I wound up playing games I didn’t like and changing how I walked and what I wore and what I talked about (though I love German philosophy). When the excitement of adventuring into romantic feelings becomes the trump card in your (even small) decisions, I think it’s good to take a step back. Changing your behavior won’t make anyone like you more or notice you more – it won’t satisfy those longings to be treasured and appreciated and loved, it won’t do much of anything.

Remember Sugar real love moves freely in both directions.

Love moves freely. It moves when not constrained by constantly monitoring behavior, input and output, looking for an equation that will finally work. It moves when your longing to be more of who you are meant to be, your longing to lean into the true and beautiful and good of your life, equations abandoned, is where all your energy is going.

Resist the temptation to take my words and make them another voice in your head that calculates the way towards those boys or that kind of love, dear one. You can’t force contentment and the growing wings as a way to get those boys to notice you. You can’t ask your heart to long for the good/true/beautiful so that the boy in math class sees you – that’s no different from calculating which seat.

Instead open up your hands and heart and start asking the question – what are those lupine seeds I’m going to scatter today (thanks, Miss Rumphius)? How can I do one more thing to make this world a little more beautiful? Who are the people right here, right next to me? How do I make their world a little more beautiful? 

We don’t have to play Settlers of Catan. We don’t have to change seats. Real love is on the move already. You and me, together, we can just open towards it.



5 thoughts on “dear hilary: the love equation

  1. Oh, how I relate to this. So many times I have done ridiculous things simply to cross paths with a crush. I’ve added a class and spent an entire semester sitting through horrible lectures simply because a guy I liked mentioned wishing he knew someone in the class. Another time I faked not being able to find my car key (which was in my pocket) so a guy I liked could drive me home. Crazy times, but they do make for great stories. I love your heart and perspective on this though! So full of truth, lots of which I had known at an earlier age. Good stuff!

  2. Oh, I remember these days so clearly. You’re right that part of the thrill is the thrill itself, the excitement of the uncertainty and the little paths we take to move us closer to that razor-sharp edge between not-knowing and knowing. But that excitement pales in comparison to the truer, deeper things of love.

    And yes, yes, to Miss Rumphius. 🙂

  3. I loved this!!!! I relate to this!!!! And I have learned all these the hard ways as I’ve crushed on one boy or another my whole “crushing on boys” life!!! And yes, I, too, played a game with someone and his friends when I didn’t want to. I also ate green beans with his family when I hate them!! Oh Lord!!! Hahahaha!!!

    Thanks for sharing this!!!! It was painfully funny and yet hopeful and sweet for true love that moves freely!!!

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