Preschool Romance, As Overanalyzed by an Undergraduate Junkie

My first kiss came along at the age of three — that’s not a boast, trust me (the next one didn’t come along for another eleven years, and it was hardly anything to boast about, either). I don’t even remember it, if I’m honest. The only existing proof of its occurrence is a grainy VHS that my preschool teacher somehow managed to procure (it’s unclear what she was doing taping three year olds at play, or if that’s strictly speaking even legal).

So my parents found the video some years ago and decided to show me; it’s only about fifteen seconds long, yet somehow still succeeds in being deeply unnerving. There’s this agonizing moment on camera where you see me…well, agonizing over whether or not I should go through with it.

We’re just sitting there in the classroom, her and I, and there’s no indication that anything unusual is about to happen, save for the look on my face — which is clearly indicative of the distinct, intense anxiety you can notice when looking closely at people in bars.

Now it might just be that my lens of perpetual self-loathing discerned it as such, but I swear you can all but see the little cogs and gears whirring furiously in my as yet undeveloped mind (which mind hasn’t truthfully made a whole lot of progress in the way of development with respect to the female gender, twenty years on).

My eyes keep darting back and forth between her and whatever it is I’m doing. You can tell I’m bouncing my knees nervously under the table, and there is zero doubt in my mind that my hands were sweating profusely at the time (I know this because, under similar circumstances, they still do).

Then eventually something in me snaps or clicks or whatever, and I go for it. Nothing was graceful or suave about it. I just kind of put my little sweater clad arm around her little polka dot clad waist, close my eyes and plant one — nothing fancy (again, there’s little in the way of progress with regard to my approach, despite having two decades to refine it).

And so she just kind of sits there, accepting it with all the poise that I would imagine it’s possible for a toddler to summon, and it’s tender and brief and ever so sweet….then I pull away. We both smile, turn back to our respective activities, and carry on living our lives.

Here’s why this gets under my skin. See, I’ve been known by pretty much everyone who knows me well to be what is commonly referred to as a hopeless romantic. I’m less than crazy about this (the term, not its use to label me), because it seems reductive and simplistic to me. It suggests that the subject has no choice or say in the matter of his or her condition.

The word “hopeless” implies a very literal absence of something which is nothing if not abundant in the heart and mind of a true romantic, vain, masochistic, self-destructive hope. As an effort to rectify this discrepancy, I am proposing a more accurate — if admittedly less discreet — alternative, the romance junkie, a term I find to be more fitting for the following reasons:

  1. Whereas the hopeless romantic has a mere predisposition for infatuation, the romance junkie is someone whose very identity is singularly and uncompromisingly reliant on it as a standing presence in their lives.
  2. The junkie is someone who willfully decides to derive pleasure from one thing alone, pursuing it accordingly, consciously, and without regard for detriment imposed on the self or parties involved.
  3. It illustrates the mental picture of an individual whose only loyalty is to his or her image as a lover, which is what a “hopeless romantic” really is. The need for intimacy and affection is symptomatic of the ego’s relative insatiability, not a desire for genuine connection or friendship.

I’m aware this is not an especially flattering image to self-ascribe, and that you won’t be especially apt to relate or agree with what follows as a result. That’s OK, because the role of a romance junkie (while rarely boring) is also not what you’d call desirable.

Nevertheless, it is very commonly assumed in today’s morally bankrupt world of fast encounters and loose arrangements (it should go without saying this is directly correlated to persisting themes in popular culture over the last, say, half a century, but we won’t delve into that) so I’m not ashamed to identify as one…and if someone reading this happens to, neither should they.

To the point, then. I see this video and myself in it, and it doesn’t take long to discover that the only real difference between the boy on camera and the man watching is a significant disparity in quantity and breadth of cajones lying plainly in favor of the three year old.

I’ll be the first to admit I still get anxious as bloody hell around pretty girls, let alone beautiful women — if you don’t already know, take my word for it, there is a marked difference between the two. And the most frustrating thing about the video (apart from seeing my technique in action, which is a unique form of torture no man should ever have to bear) was seeing for myself just how deeply rooted and far back my addiction to romance goes.

Granted, there was a certain pleasure involved in witnessing the joie de vie of two star-crossed toddlers sharing their first encounter (presumably, at least…I’m not entirely sure how shall we say active either of us was in those days). I will also concede that there was some affect inspiration evoked as a result of the kiss’ ephemeral beauty and simplicity, along with the bizarrely adult composure with which it was promptly succeeded.

At day’s end, though, the most compelling mindfuck of all was realizing that I’m still that kid, somewhere inside.

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And there’s a strange comfort in that.

2 thoughts on “Preschool Romance, As Overanalyzed by an Undergraduate Junkie

  1. Do you really think that the need for intimacy and affection is merely a symptom of ego for romance junkies? I definitely think that’s part of it for everyone seeking love, because there’s always a certain amount of pride and validation in the initial pursuit, but I think there’s more going on there. I recently watched an interesting talk by a clinical psychologist named Sue Johnson, and she makes the argument that love is actively sought after, because romance “leads to” love, which “leads to” the belief that somebody will have your back throughout the worst of the worst. That dependability in a romantic partner has such a powerful positive impact on several downstream processes in the human mind/body – stress management, immune response, resilience, risk of heart attack, sleep patterns, career success. Do you think that romance junkies are distinct from people seeking lasting love? Just curious about your thoughts 🙂

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    1. Compelling contributions, as always — although I expect nothing less from the likes of you!

      First, keep in mind that I have the idiotic tendency to generalize in my writing. That is, I will all too frequently make broad, sweeping statements about a person or group of people based on conclusions that I have drawn about myself. This is, in addition to being deeply unprofessional for a writer, outright dangerous (for reasons that should be pretty immediately apparent), but you should know that it’s almost always done without the intention of offending or instigating. In short, I don’t think things through near as well as I ought.

      Now then, let me be excruciatingly clear in saying that I am ALL FOR love! I’m a lover, man, through and through — never doubt that shit. The admittedly vague point of the article was to illustrate, in some way, my propensity for pursuing romantic endeavors that needn’t and shouldn’t be pursued. Again, my generalization worked to my disadvantage, in that I made it seem as though every romantic is as hopelessly afflicted by ego as myself, but the ultimate message was merely that someone’s longing for a fantasy romance doesn’t necessarily equate to a desire for genuine love — which, in this case, happens to be me.

      I’ll end by contradicting myself. I think there’s a certain level of hopelessness required in finding lasting love these days, because we’re all so goddamned cynical and paranoid and lustful that it’s near impossible just to hold someone’s attention for more than a few weeks. So really, the romance junkie is the only thing keeping the human race going, if you think about it. The research you’re citing sounds fascinating, and totally dead on. I shall have to look into it further.

      The truth is that it was my ego under the microscope — as it were — in that piece, and I should’ve been more explicit in stating that. Better late than never, I suppose. Even so, I appreciate very much your calling me out and bringing a discussion to the table. I yearn for comments on my work! So please, do keep them coming.

      Bottom line: we should all be so lucky as to hold your attention, if only for a moment or two. Girls like you keep my addiction alive, and for that, I can only offer my sincere and unashamed gratitude.

      You da best, boo. Got love for ya always!

      – Dre

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