Summer in New York

To whomever it concerns,

Bittersweet. That was the way my friend Christopher had described it to me as we sat in the middle of New York City. Bryant Park, specifically. He defined what I had been talking about and wondering myself. He asked me why I loved the person I did when it brought me both joy and sadness.

“Something to wallow in,” I said.

I loved him. More than I could say, more than I can even write about now. I thought I had fallen in love before — but not in this way. I’d fall for cities and people.

I’m originally from Los Angeles, but New York City has always been my dream. I graduated college and planned on moving to a different area code. In the middle of June, I landed in Manhattan.

In college, I had one serious relationship. That relationship consumed most of my undergrad years and taught me what I did not want in a relationship or partner. It also brought me the most defining heartbreak I had up until that point — until the following year.

I dated a little, as in by the third date we would fuck then never speak again. It was hard for me to find intimate moments with people I had no attraction to beyond their exterior. It’s also very hard for me to want to continue seeing one person, as I’m easily distracted and have what you may call a terrible case of what if there’s someone better out there? syndrome.

Later in that same year of the disastrous heartbreak with my long-term college boyfriend, I tried to be more open to dating. During that time, I found someone — or rather they found me and everything changed.

I actually had met him before, but unfortunately, we didn’t have much time together; he was only visiting New York. I wouldn’t see him again until the next fall. Unlike most sudden affinities, this did not go away. Immediately after our initial interaction, I realized how much I liked this person. And for the first time in a long time, it wasn’t because I wanted to fill my empty spaces of time with someone. It wasn’t about their appearance, but because of them. Their entirety. It felt too good to be true.

But by the time we started talking frequently again and became physical with one another, I began to realize that I was falling deeply in love with a person who would never feel the same way. By December, I finally admitted the way I had been feeling after too many tequila shots in a bar far away from him.

I was told, “I’m not looking for anything right now.”

He had missed the point completely. My expression of love for him was not to convince him that I should be his girlfriend. In fact, I didn’t even want to be his girlfriend. It was to tell him, “You’re something so important to me and losing you in any way at this point would absolutely tear me apart.” In other words, I can’t stop thinking about you and I don’t even want to try not to and I just want you to know that.

But he didn’t understand, and I’m not mad about it.

I fell madly in love with someone who I can now call one of my dearest friends. I could barely keep eye contact — if he ever looked at me the same time I looked at him I couldn’t linger on for more than ten seconds. I would be swallowed by what was between the two of us.

I felt as though I could be around him forever; never tire of seeing him, hearing him, or feeling him. I still can recall exactly what his hair would smell like after he showered and the way his skin felt in the sun. He was always so warm. And if he walked into the same room as me, the Frank Ocean’s line “Wish we grew up on the same advice and our time was right,” would play in my head.

We graduated from our university and as we separated I left him with a three-page long letter confessing my love. Not because he hadn’t heard it before, but because I wanted him to have it in writing.

Then, I started to look for new cities to live in. I spend the beginning of June in Spain contemplating my future. I then end up across the Atlantic back in the states in New York. I go there to meet up with my possible Brooklyn roommate. I always loved the East Coast, so I figured to try it out for a bit. While I was in the city, the boy who I had fallen so in love with was also there. Perhaps against my better judgement, we decided to meet in Lower Manhattan.

We spent the entire day and then the following evening together. I had never felt so deeply for someone as I looked over my shoulder to him lying in Central Park next to me. He was so close yet so far away. Although everything seemed perfect in that moment I knew as soon as I would
leave the city, it would all be gone.

I’ll never forget our night in Brooklyn, and I’ll return to this memory for the rest of my life. We shared a few drinks, some more of our thoughts on similar interests, and then we walked in Domino Park for most of the evening. It was so warm, around 75 degrees at midnight. The clouds had slowly rolled in from the south and as we looked up at the Williamsburg Bridge and over the water onto the Manhattan skyline. It was beginning to drizzle but we didn’t mind. We continued to walk along the river and share the evening. I remember slowly reaching for his hand as we stood side by side gazing at the traffic. It was the hum on the water that consisted of a few boats and the ferry that takes you back and forth from the city to the quieter streets of Brooklyn. I remember the way he grabbed my hand back and as we started to kiss in the summer rain, my heart swelled and sank even more.

I never wanted it to end. In the separated seconds of pressing our mouths to one another, I felt the sadness of everything when we stopped. As he looked at me and as I saw the lights of Manhattan behind him, I wanted to scream at him, “How can you not feel the same way?”

I mean, we were in New York, it was summer, it was raining, and we were kissing. If this wasn’t enough of a magical package of the best feelings to convince him we should be together, then I knew there was no convincing that could work. It was the way he felt. And although I respected it, I didn’t understand the way he could compartmentalize his feelings and moments with me into categories labeled “platonic.”

A few days later, I left New York. I haven’t seen him since.

But before that, I met with Christopher to have coffee after a morning of suffering a serious hangover. As we sat in Bryant Park, he asked me about this person and the past two nights we spent together. He asked me why I let myself fall in love with someone who showed no real want for me.

I couldn’t explain it. It was like I was addicted to it. I was so in love with him but also okay with the pain it brought me. I knew that no matter what I did or said, I would never be to him what he is to me. Once again he described our latest interaction as “bittersweet” because despite the happiness, it did not come alone. The sadness still lingered as I recalled his words of disbelief for my feelings for him and unreciprocated actions and words of affirmation.

That last night with him in Brooklyn was the closure I needed; he could only give me these small doses of intimacy that were not consistent with the rest of our interactions.

Although I have never stopped loving him, I have finally stopped wishing things would change. He still hinders my ability to want or try to be with other people — that’s not anyone’s fault but mine. I don’t want to see another sunset without him, I don’t want to go back to the city and know he is not there. But I will. It’s the only way I can go on without feeling as if I was carrying a brick on my chest.

I still haven’t spent a full summer in New York, but the days I visited in June felt like an entire summer wrapped up into one. Although I am still in my early 20s and have so much life ahead of me, I can’t help but think I will not feel this way about another person for a long time. As I try to date even now, I subconsciously look for him in other people. I wonder if he is doing okay. I’m not sure if he’ll ever read this, and even if he does I still don’t know if he would fully grasp it. But this was something I wanted to share. An open letter, an opening heart.

I wonder if I open it enough this love will pour out of me as easily at it seeped in. Maybe it’s to share with others that it’s okay to fall in love and be sad about it. Maybe it’s to finally put it in writing. I don’t know. What I do know is that it was all real and it was all on purpose and that’s the best thing I could have asked for.

 

Love,

Dev

 

All photos by Willow Gray. 

 

Being His Manic Pixie Dream Girl

Dating in your early twenties is anything but simple. Complications of fuck buddies, falling in love with your friends, trying to figure out who the fuck you even are… it’s no walk in the park. As a 22­-year-old woman, I’ve had an especially difficult go at it. 

I keep finding myself in a box, playing out versions of the same scenarios time and time again with every person I date. It feels as though I am continuously auditioning for the tired role of Manic Pixie Dream Girl in these men’s lives.

What is a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, you ask?

It’s a title you may not be familiar with, but I’m sure you’ve seen it in most of your favorite indie films. Most commonly known as the one-dimensional female protagonist, the MPDG’s main plot device is to help the “lonely boy” lead character rediscover his love for life and love itself. 

The term was first coined by film critic Nathan Rabin, in which he stated that a Manic Pixie Dream Girl is the female character who “exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer ­directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.” 

For example, consider Sam from Garden State, Summer from 500 Days of Summer, Ramona from Scott Pilgrim vs World, and Claire from Elizabethtown. All of these women have, in some way, helped their respective male leads through their respective hardships by finding their purpose in life and the true meaning of love. These women are the catalysts to the character development of their male counterparts. 

The men in my past relationships have made me feel the same — as though I exist only to advance their personal ambitions, with little to no regard of the fact that I might even have my own.

In my past relationships, whether we ended up dating or not, I found myself constantly taking on the role of teacher. My outspoken personality, openness in my sexual explorations, ambitious goals, and inappropriate kind of humor has peaked interest and garnered attention. 

So, what usually happens is that I spend a few weeks on dates with these men and I can genuinely say I teach and share with them experiences about love, life, travel, relationships and sex. I’m not saying I teach them how to do these things, but I do provide a different perspective on these topics. Not only that, but as someone who studies and works within the art world, I spend a lot of my time exposing these men to the deeper connections we have with art, music, politics and people. Despite these interactions, I’m always left feeling empty-handed and overworked. I feel like a toolbox used exclusively to teach and to educate, to better these men so that they can move on to serious relationships. After all, a Manic Pixie Dream Girl doesn’t stay around for long.

MPDGs have an expiration date based on their tolerability and by the level of how much “help” the man needs. They function as the mechanism which allows the men to reach their goals of heroism. This, of course, is based off of all that they now “know” and have experienced. Despite taking on this laborious role, seldom is credit given when it’s due for the development in the man’s character. Because of this one-­dimensional skew in the MPDG complex, the viewer is invited to forget about these women’s (extremely understated) relevance. 

The worst part is that at the end of the relationship or dates, it was THEIR love story, not yours. The MPDG doesn’t get to talk about her experience in the relationship because she isn’t considered a part of the relationship. It’s as if our perceived fundamental purpose is to care solely about others. I am putting myself in this box not because I believe that I belong there, but because I have been placed there. I’m not guessing that I am this character; I’ve been told. 

One person in particular comes to mind who treated me this way: T******.

We had talked for a few months and I quickly started to really enjoy all the time we spent together. However, I could tell that he had projected the MPDG complex onto me and looked at me the way Tom looked at Summer.

He admired all that I was and all that I did. He loved my art and the way I spoke. However, things ended very soon after they started because I was “too much” for him. A week after we stopped talking, he got back into a relationship with his ex that he had complained about during the entirety of our relationship. I ran into him a few months later at a bar, only for him to pull me aside and thank me for all I had shown him. Although the gesture was sweet, all I could think about was how despite everything I was and wanted to be for him, he decided to be with someone who was nothing like me. He got a taste of me before fleeing back to his comfort zone of predictability. 

There was also J***.

J*** and I saw each other on and off for the first few weeks. Things didn’t really work out, but we ended up staying friends. One time while we were out, I bluntly asked him why he thought it didn’t work between us. He told me that “although I am very unique, no one wants to date a girl who seems wavering in her actions.” In other words, because I was constantly working, trying to meet new people, going out — adventuring, one might say — it didn’t make for a dependable or serious partner. 

People think that if you use copious amounts of glitter on your eyelids, dye your hair pink, and unironically listen to The Smiths  — you shouldn’t be taken seriously. Audiences see these types of women as “a good time” but not “a long time.” Because just as easily as hair dye fades, so does the Manic Pixie Dream Girl complex. After a few weeks, these men will realize that it isn’t a show; this is who you are. Yeah, you’re weird — but you’re also so much more, but they aren’t willing to dig deeper. They have already experienced as much as they could handle, not knowing how much more you had to give.

We must stop the perpetuation and idolization of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl in films. I am not going to change who I am, but I will be more aware of the roles I audition for. I will redefine my strong female character, not as the stepping stone of men, but instead, as an intricate and evolving lead character.

I am not an accessory. I am not a muse. I am my own artist. 

 

 

Gif via Giphy/Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. 

Photos (in order of appearance) by Francesca Lacono and Dariana Portes.