The linguist and I have been seeing each other for about six weeks. Over that time, I’ve grown to like her more and more. Our personalities complement one another beautifully. She’s organised, rational, practical, level-headed and kind. I’m chaotic, dizzy, effusive, sensitive and warm. She’s a steady hum in my slapdash existence and I’m an excitable gurgle in her well-oiled machine.
There’s only one problem. Dating someone awesome invariably throws your own awesomeness – or lack thereof – into sharp relief. The linguist is far more intelligent than me. She sheds facts like skin and I have to lumber along after her scooping them all up and trying to make sense of them. Who was that philosopher she mentioned and what was his theory? Everything I know is just strings of loosely related words with no glue to hold them together: Napoleon, Alsace, Waterloo, Saint Helena. My head’s like a library with half the books missing.
She’s only a year older than me but seems more grown up in every sense. When she asks me for advice about her job I feel like a fraud. What do I know? How can I help? She’s preparing for the Olympics and I’m still messing about with a frisbee in the back garden. It’s like a parent asking their child for advice on how to park the car. You do it to indulge them, not because you think they’ll have anything worthwhile to say.
She has more experience than me in the bedroom. On our first tonight together, I feel like she keeps shifting and sighing and telling me to do this and that. Eventually I slither out of her in a huff and give her such an earful she ends up in tears. When I recant the story to a friend she says, “but isn’t it a good thing if she tells you what she wants?” and I know she’s right and feel guilty all over again.
My insecurities stack up one after another – too stupid, too immature, too badly paid, rubbish in bed – until they form a hard, defensive shell around my heart. I get drunk and criticise her, pushing her away like some sad old woman trying to chase a butterfly out of her garden. “If you keep pushing me away,” she says, “eventually it will work,” and I feel the truth in her words and am utterly despondent. Of course I want the butterfly.
In the end, I ask her for two things: reassurance and time. “It will get better,” I say, “but it takes me time to be able to trust someone. I’d be really grateful if you could give me that.” And so she does. She sticks around and she tells me I’m “magnificent” and “captivating” and “gorgeous”. This time I don’t scoff or groan or roll my eyes because I need her words to land. I need to believe that maybe, in her eyes, they’re true.
How does the saying go? Feel the fear and do it love her anyway.