Bye-bye, boyfriend. Literally, as opposed to figuratively – as in, he flew back to Ireland and I waved goodbye.
I mean, we are still together, emotionally if not geographically. Why is this so hard to explain?
We had a great week and a half with lots of fun, thrifty activities, sunny outdoor adventures and shameless over-usage of Yelp. We cooked, we ate out, went to see live music, hung out with some friends.
For a blissful 12 days I got to pretend I was part of the “normal” group of people who call themselves “taken” “off-the-market” or, more simply, “in a relationship.”
In the last year, we have seen each other for an accumulative eight weeks – he has visited New York four times and I have flown home once. So for the other 44 weeks of the year, we are effectively “alone” or “apart” or “single-but-not-single.”
No holding hands, no dates, no flopping down on the couch and cozying up to the average TV series that you pretend to watch, but is really only on in the background as you lovingly gaze at each other like goons.
For those brief periods of togetherness, there are indescribably heightened levels of absolutely everything. More excitement, more nervousness, more obsession, more tears – the list goes on.
You love harder, bicker harder, argue harder and then make up like your entire existence depends on it. It’s like you become part of a bad Miley Cyrus movie that you tell everyone you hated but you secretly loved (I’m thinking specifically about "The Last Song" and the four hours I spent bawling afterwards. Judge if you must.)
As I looked around my bedroom, restored to its usual mess but without the giant suitcase of man-clothes spilling onto the floor, I became inconsolably weepy. The bathroom sink looked neglected and hollow without the shining bottles of aftershave and “beard-tonic” (which, apparently, is a thing – who knew?) and the kitchen became a useless clinical shell without the homely aromas of his special brunch “huevos” to wake me up.
With the constant upheavals of long-distance adjustment as the most important person in your life continues to make dramatic entrances and exits, I used to look at people in “normal” relationships with envy.
They see each other every day, never have to consider time differences and don’t have to spend thousands of dollars that on trans-Atlantic flights. But if there is one thing that this seemingly insane lifestyle choice has taught me, it is not to take that person for granted.
As I sit down on my bed in my horribly silent room, I decide that people in “normal” relationships are wimps. Try not seeing each other for 85 percent of the year (I used a calculator for that) and spending that 85 percent scrimping and saving every cent for that glorious 15 percent.
Try waking up at 6 a.m. every day to Skype for half an hour while he’s on a lunch break. Try having to wait for five or six hours for them to wake up even though you really need someone to talk to “right now.”
People who live together and share groceries and leave the toilet seat up and don’t “have to make an effort” around each other – please, spend some time – and I mean a long time – apart, and rediscover why you actually like each other.
I’m really beginning to tire of that annoying old phrase that everyone always pipes up with as some merry consolation, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder!” with a friendly shoulder rub while in the other hand they text their boyfriend about picking up a Chinese.
But it’s true. Absence does make the heart grow fonder, and more appreciative, and more excited, and more grateful for precious, precious time.
Perhaps I’m biased. Growing up, my Dad always worked in Dublin from Monday to Friday, and would come home to Waterford (back then, before the “new roads,” a three or four hour drive) on the weekends.
Also, because he works in the travel industry, there were often painfully long periods of time where he would be abroad, and Mam would be stuck at home with two year old me for company.
This lessened as we got older, and he managed to swing working from home a little more, but it was only last year that they began to live together full time, 24/7 – aged 52. Still together and alarmingly happy, they are a real team who can handle absolutely anything – granted, watching Mam freak out as Dad decided his permanent residency granted him permission to “reorganize” the kitchen was absolutely priceless.
As I begin the next eight-week countdown to when I’ll be in Ireland for Christmas and can see my beard-tonic wearing man again (for such a ridiculous item, it smells incredible) I look back on the 25 years my parents spent in a state of semi long-distance too.
While I don’t think that if they had lived together that whole time that they’d be divorced and only communicating through my brother and me, there is a part of me that attributes their closeness to that time spent apart.
So I sit back at my desk and well up at the influx of texts telling me about how jet-lagged he is, and how Dublin is rainy and dull, and prepare myself for the next stint of my relationship with my iPhone. But I hold on to that tiny device like a lifeline, like an old-school playground contraption connecting two cans of Heinz beans by a shredded yard of twine and imagine that it’s linking me back to him, and back to Ireland.
I will, undoubtedly, still glower at couples on the subway who sit holding hands and secretly hope they’re going home to aggressively take each other for granted and watch Netflix in separate rooms because long distance is so much more romantic than “boring” or “normal” relationships.
However, as I wrap myself in a blanket hiding from the impending polar vortex and watch six hours of "Charmed" re-runs while eating my burnt attempt at huevos, I realize that I would kill for “normal.” But glamorizing and romanticizing my “abnormal” situation will have to do for now.