In movies, sometimes there is a scene where the male lead is teaching the female lead to do something. Swing a golf club, shoot an arrow. Whatever the task, he is required to stand behind her, and hold this sweet spot just under her ribcage, maybe whisper something in her ear. The first time someone grabs you like that- you don’t know him. He is maneuvering behind you to something or other and uses your waist to push your twelve year old body aside. And it’s not romantic- and it shouldn’t be. It doesn’t matter. You’d just thought certain kinds of touches dictated an unspoken want- a brush of fingertips, the adjusting of a tie, with romance being a completely unavoidable side effect. Romance isn’t your favourite book genre- but you’ll skip all the fight scenes in an adventure novel in favour of long, waxing passages from the female protagonist about the male protagonist's hands, or something else mundane; his eyes, his elbows. When you develop your first boy-crush, you don’t imagine making sunday pancakes in a golden hour kitchen, or kissing him passionately while the rain comes down hot and heavy like the warm innards of a gutted animal. You have one specific fantasy; he is wearing a black tuxedo- and you, a long red dress. He is twirling you around an empty ballroom- unspeaking,unsmiling, looking into your eyes. This, admittedly, is dramatic for a nine-year-old.
In the fantasy- you were always a better dancer than you were in real life, able to maneuver glossy floors in the fancy black high heels you saw once at Payless. There’s a flaw though- whenever you imagine him coming closer, connecting his lips to yours, you feel panic build in your chest. And you have to shake your head like an etch a sketch, start the daydream all over. You’d thought of love burning in like a comet- throwing your life, morals, relationships, completely off kilter. Someone pointing across the room at you- “That one.” Romance consumes your life in ways that are both mortifying and naive. Every attractive stranger at the grocery store has no flaws and is perfectly romantically compatible with you. Every calloused hand meant to brush yours walking side-by-side. “Sorry- I didn’t mean to-“ “It’s okay.” And you wore converse for years because of how they’d look creased leaning up for a movie tip-toe foot-pop kiss. They hurt your feet- no arch support. But you’d crack your feet into them anyhow, sidewalk-salt hardened canvas- until they were falling apart. You felt they still hadn’t been put to their proper use. The first time you love a girl- you spend an entire car ride half- knocked out on Gravol imagining the two of you making dramatic confessions to one another to the soundtrack of your dad’s oldies playlist- that seems to loop over and over the duration of the eight hour trip. And the first time you look at a girl- in the way you’re really not supposed to, her hand is curled around the thin neck of a wine bottle, tipping it into her mouth until her tongue and lips are purple. “Want some?” And you’ll forget warnings about people you barely know and liquor bottles you haven’t opened yourself. “Sure, yeah.” And she’ll laugh when your whole face goes pink. “Not a red fan?” “No I am, it’s just- really strong” “Uh huh” She doesn’t kiss you, and you don’t make eye contact for more than a few seconds, but you’ll feel a whole future stretching ahead of you- a one year anniversary- a tearful parting as she goes off to college, a recounting to family and friends that long distance can work if you really put the work in. “Oh hey, have you met my boyfriend?” “Nope.” And before you were of loving age- all your great romances took place in small moments your mind kidnapped and fed until they were full grown. A boy in your class who looked at your face under a frog-dissecting magnifying glass and declared it a “cute nose” becomes your on and off again third grade boyfriend, with on being when he looks your direction and off being when you forget he exists. And you’ll write him love letters in your journal, something you’ve seen girls do on Disney channel. A+B A+S A+J And you know you hold love like a wound, pressing it too close into your stomach until you pass out, until it comes out of your mouth, hot and red. It’s all so embarrassing, when you are in love- observing mundane acts begins to feel like an intrusion. She is there, chewing her salad, and you love how she chews her salad, but she doesn’t know you love that, and if she did, would she even be okay with you seeing her chew her salad? Not that you have a weird thing for people eating. And it’s okay, it’s young, it’s romantic. It’s fine. You’re in the bathroom mirror slapping yourself in the face and “Why did you do that?” And “Why do you have to make everything so fucking weird?” Your reflection, predictably, doesn’t answer, just shakes her head, crosses her arms. And you know, you look like sex, but can they talk about something else please. you saw the moon once and it hung high and clear like it was on a string in a middle school production of fiddler on the roof. Can they talk to you like all those people on tinder who say they hate small talk but only really want to ask you if you think aliens exist. You wonder how much romance is abour performance- how many girls look up from under their eyelashes because Cameron Diaz did it in a movie once. How many couples with hands linked would rather let go because it gets sweaty to hold on so long. You love like a backseat driver, futively shouting at your heart with no real control over where it goes. And how much of it is loving anyway and how much is wanting to. How much is hearing a song that says baby and imagining you had someone who wouldn’t flinch the second the word fell out of your mouth, unbidden and sincere. And once, in eleventh grade, you came home from a late night drenched in Ontario rain water, which smells like pennies. Poorly applied makeup making its agonizing crawl down your face. And you looked into the vanity in your bedroom and the mirror that wouldn't stop tipping over and thought “I wish somebody loved me.” And the thought hadn’t crossed your mind until then, love as care was something to be doled out by the spoonful from parents, sparingly from peers. Not that you’d ever been great at accepting it. You wanted someone to give you a sweater that was not yours, to wipe your face with a warm cloth, to look at your discheleved state and love you anyhow, to watch you put on your big socks and tight bun, and curl up behind you in bed, arm hard and heavy around your waist. After that, it happened more. “I wish somebody loved me.” In the unsettlingly humid girls washroom, the curb where you’d run for the bus a second too late, the sheet of black ice covering your driveway. Laying on your back, feeling like everything inside you had broken in four places, you wish for it, like a comet, like clear sky chemtrails. When you get love though, you find yourself plowing through it like a bad cold, shaking your head and drowning it in electrolyte infused liquids to drain it from your system. And maybe you aren’t ready, quite, to pull out your heart, to present it wholly, and say “Just take it if you want it so bad, All the red is okay because at least your hands will be warm, and if they aren’t you can have mine” and “I’m not using them anyway.” And you know that the truth is you are scared of love tearing through you, of it leaving you in a crumpled taffeta dress mouthing along “I do” with its’ bride. And you’ll tell them to go, to bestow their red-wine blush and cute nose onto someone with smaller thighs and a better brain. But love is building you a dresser and putting on your favourite movie. Its’ wondering what you’re up to today and if you ate breakfast. And there’s no floor length gown, you are still a bad dancer. And it doesn’t feel like time is suspending, or your life is being upended. There is no harsh burn, no aching thaw. There is no knife cut tension or hand brush that makes the world briefly spin backwards on its axis. It feels like being completely done with the dishes by the time you put the cookies in the oven, and not sweating enough to make your hair dirty while you run to class. You love like a girl, warm and soft and often performative. Tucking a stray piece of hair behind your ear and looping one ankle over the other. You hold people in your body and your mind, in all their quirks and complexities, in all their salad-eating ramshackle glory. So you look, so you are; Sweat stained sweater, dirty finger-nailed, greasy haired, good old fashioned lover girl.
-- Acadia Currah (She/They) is an essayist and poet residing in Vancouver, British Columbia. Their work explores her relationship with gender, sexuality, and religion. She is a leather-jacket-latte-toting lesbian, her work seeks to reach those who most need to hear it. Their work has appeared in The Spotlong Review, Defunkt Magazine, Otherworldy Women's Press, The South Florida Poetry Journal, The Autoethnographer, and The Fiddlehead.