A love, regrettable but not regretted

I have a confession to make.

For eighteen months now, I’ve been lying to you. Okay, not really lying, just not telling you the whole truth. You’ve been reading about my mental health struggles, my family, my husband’s recently discovered autism, the difficulty handling everyday tasks, the stress and the chronic anxiety and the antidepressants.

But there was this one big thing that made life so much harder than it needed to be. I’ve hinted at it before, naming it The Boulder. Such an apt name, don’t you think? A rock you lug. Or can’t move. Or need to blast away in order to move forward. An obstacle. Something whose sheer volume can’t be overlooked. Something heavy. The parallels to the burden in my psyche are endless.

But I’ve reached the point where I can talk about this. Finally!

And I think you can relate with this one. You’ve been in love, right?

Yeah, it’s that unoriginal.

So, here goes: there’s this man I love. He’s not my husband.

(Yes, my husband reads this blog. Yes, he knows about that man. No, he doesn’t mind. Really, I promise you, he doesn’t. He’s weird that way. We both are. Yes, I love my husband. I’m still here, aren’t I?)

Where was I? Ah, that man. You might have noticed the present tense. I can’t put him in the past. I can’t say “I loved” him, although he’s very far away from me in every possible sense, not really present in my life anymore, and not really willing to be. But still: no past tense. Love doesn’t evaporate just because you haven’t seen someone in nearly a year. Love doesn’t care if said person causes you so much pain you want to physically vomit. Love doesn’t care about any contradiction, apparent or real.

In short, love is a huge asshole.

And it doesn’t like being neatly defined. So here I am, unable to put my love into a neatly tagged box. Sure, I loved that man. (How did that past tense slip in? I might as well leave it.) Was I in love with him?

(YES, my therapist will tell you. Don’t kid yourself, Frau Arka. You were head over heels in love. You were heartbroken when he left. We spent half a year talking about him in every single therapy session. You wanted to roll into a ball and disappear. You’re still talking about it, aren’t you?)

(Yes, my husband knows about all of this. We kinda live together. He wouldn’t miss me crying for weeks at a time, now would he? I told you. We’re weird.)

So, the answer, I regret to admit, is yes. Yes, I was in love. And he was my best friend for a while. And a bit of a teacher, in more ways than one might think. And a bit of a student. And partner in crime. All of this and more.

Was I any of these things to him? I have no clue.

The point is: today I can talk about this. Today, I am not ashamed. I had feelings. I have feelings. My feelings are valid.

This man didn’t want to be loved by me. At all. My feelings – which, let us savor it, I am not ashamed of anymore, not one tiny bit! – were a thorn in his side. A burden. He’d rather have the fun memories (we did have a lot of fun together, a good amount of burgers, a saturation of nearly-unreal sunsets, and a lot of music). But we don’t always get what we want in life, and boy, did he get a whole lot more than he bargained for. He got complications. He got the ultimate complication: me.

I am, indeed, a lot more than people bargain for. Take this any way you want. Ask my husband. I assure you, I am. I’m also a shy person’s nightmare: if you’re in my life, I’ll probably put you in a book, and you’ll surely appear in a blog post.

Why am I writing all of this?

The short answer is: because I can. And the fact that I can is glorious in itself. Two years ago, I’d have thought, “Who are you to dare have feelings for a younger, attractive man? You’re hideous and fat, and so beneath his league. Everyone is going to laugh at you. Everyone would ridicule you if they knew what you dared desire! You’re not worthy of having feelings!” But writing about this helps me realize this is only my self-deprecating internal monologue. Talking to my friends about it and receiving their reactions shatters the self-hatred. And putting it out into the world makes it real.

I’m here. I don’t loathe myself anymore. I can talk about this.

You, my dear reader, are my license to feel.

And I can only smile at how far I’ve come. The latest person I fell in love with is my not so humble self.

Marianne Moves On

Author: Barbara Schnell

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Romance, Contemporary Romance, Women’s Fiction, Humor

Type: Novel

Summary: Small-town girl Marianne decides to leave her sheltered life and domineering mother for adventure in Los Angeles. Boy, is she in for a shock. She sees a naked man on stage; she gets HBO! She also falls in a serious case of ‘like’. The guy wants to get married. Should she? Well…

Why I liked it: it is a sane, funny, no-stupid-misunderstandings, no ridiculous plot twists, no unrealistic sex-god-six-pack men romance, with real characters and a refreshingly different, relatable, independent heroine.

And now for the chatty part!

I was barely one page into Barbara Schnell’s “Marianne Moves On” when I found myself chuckling. Schnell’s writing style is light, witty, and enjoyable, and the book is humorous in an intelligent way. Even if you didn’t have a domineering mother, you’ll feel for Marianne and understand her plight, but still laugh at the absurdity of the mother-daughter relationship and at the way Marianne deals with all her new experiences.

Marianne is a refreshing example of a heroine who is young but mature in her thought process, inexperienced but strong and fully capable of taking care of herself. She may not know exactly what she wants in life, but she goes about her relationships and her career in a breezily pragmatic way. She has fun and allows herself to get carried away at times, but she still doesn’t lose her focus. Having spent my twenties in a haze of insecurity, depression, and uncertainty, Marianne is the young woman I wish I’d been.

There are no explicit sex scenes in the book, but Marianne goes about discovering sex in the same not-taking-it-too-seriously way she does everything. This was a breath of fresh air. Instead of the unrealistic soul-rending passion of some romances, never mind the explosive orgasms some heroines are lucky to have even when losing their virginity, Marianne is not too excited about her first sexual experience and resolves to practice more, because practice makes perfect! This is how peoples’ sex lives really work, and finally, finally an author wrote about it in a way that still made it very interesting to read.

Another plus point: no stupid misunderstandings. This is one romance trope I absolutely can’t stand: the “he thinks she doesn’t like him, she thinks he doesn’t like her,” and the whole thing is not resolved for many thousands of words for no humanly understandable reason. Schnell stayed away from that cliche, and it was a job well done.

If you absolutely need a lot of drama and tears or overwhelming emotions to enjoy a book, maybe this is not for you. But: I am a very, and I mean excessively intense person, and there’s passion, tears, drama aplenty in my books. Still, I enjoyed Marianne’s adventure very much, and if I did, then chances are you’ll enjoy it too.

Grammar, syntax, style: nearly flawless, very few errors, and good use of commas (this is one of my pet peeves–why do people hate commas so much?). It doesn’t get much better than this for a self-published book. The only criticism I have–and I’m being a pedant here!–is that sometimes (rarely!) you’d have a full paragraph of sentences starting with “I,”– I did this, I did that, I went there. It was just a little tiring, but it didn’t detract from the overall quality of the book.